Sunday, October 14, 2018

I'm Baaaaaack!

I spent the entire summer on a two-month journey in Newfoundland. If you follow my blog, you know I made 9 separate blog posts with pictures and stories of my trip. Am I going back? Yes, I plan to. I'll decide more in a couple of months. I would encourage any outdoor-minded person to make the voyage.
People ask me if I would live there. I would in a heartbeat, if I didn't have medical limitations, and if I had a network of friends there. Just choosing to live up in Minden 10 years ago meant straining my Toronto relationships: spending an evening with friends or relatives meant finding a place to sleep over, but it was do-able from time to time. If I lived in Newfoundland, it would be a whole other ballgame, it would sever them. You can't just pop into town for an evening or a couple of days, unless you have an unlimited airline budget, for one thing. Moot point, though, since for medical reasons I would have to live in St. John's and I'm a 'bay b'y' not a 'townie'. Defeats the purpose.

There are people I know for whom "roughing it" means "no room service". Sure, there are places in Newfoundland for them to live: Torbay Point comes to mind, or urban St. John's. But for the most part, you have to be an 'outdoors-person' as I said a minute ago. At least 3 times, people said to me, verbatim, "you have to love the wind". That's code for actually looking forward to putting on waterproof gear and venturing outside in a rainstorm or venturing out on the water (there's a whole other level set aside for those who like going out in little boats in heavy seas to fish or crab or lobster). It's waking up on a winter morning and saying "oh, good, it snowed! I can go out and shovel!" Stacking and splitting firewood is great exercise. You have to own a Ford F-150 and a trailer for your boat and ATV. 

I'm all of those things, or I was. So are most, if not all, of my motorcycle friends. I wish I were 20 year younger but I'm 72 years old now and fit (oh, wait. That should be an "a" not an "i" in the middle of that word). There are lots of things that are harder for me to do now. So yeah, turning up the thermostat, putting my feet up in a LazyBoy and flipping through satellite TV channels is more and more appealing. But I love it. As an aside, I wish I could find someone who would like to share that lifestyle with me.

You can click on any picture in the blog to blow it up. Most of the pictures are available as large format prints at very reasonable cost. Contact me.

Random musing:
As I get older, the number of entries in my contact list who have "Doctor" as the honorific seems to be growing.

My house is still for sale. 

Mind you, after a trip into Toronto for my periodic visits to Princess Margaret Hospital (nothing new, "see you in 6 months". Yay), I'm questioning my decision to sell and move back towards the city. The theory is to move "when I can instead of when I have to", but is it worth abandoning this lifestyle?

It took me 90 minutes to get from the 404/Major Mac to my first appointment at Bayview/Eglinton. Turns out that Eglinton was completely closed by construction (how was I supposed to know?). The GPS took me on a tour of some of the industrial areas of the city.  From PMH to the Costco at Hwy 7/Woodbine took another hour and a half. 

If you're interested or know someone who is, please contact me. I'm surprised it didn't sell: yes, it needs a new roof but that's a few thousand dollars and one day's work. Yes, it's not far from the highway and the Inn is across the road, but those are advantages, not disadvantages. Especially for baby boomers looking for a place to live outside the city. Our road's the first one to get plowed in the winter. You're not totally isolated. It's a one-storey house so when the time comes that stairs are no longer friendly, no problem. There's a huge garage and your dock on the lake is 100' away. It's only 2 hours from Toronto (Haliburton is at least 45 minutes further and don't even think about overpriced Muskoka where you don't want to be on the 400 any time from Friday to Monday).

The MLS listing is gone but I do have a record of it so email me if you are interested.
Update: as I type this there are thumping hoofprints on the roof as the roofer does his thing. All laminated shingles, plus Ice/water underlay, this should be good for another 40 years! I'm also having him do the garage roof at the same time, might as well. So what's left to do to make this a turnkey house? Nothing!

Picture time!

I think I shot fewer pictures in September than I have in a month in years. The camera was in the shop for a while — I had my vacation in the summer, a chance to rejuvenate and renew; now it was the camera's turn! In the end, not much was done to it (fixed the "aperture control unit" and a good cleaning), and nothing to the lenses although a couple of them will need some work down the road. But after the summer in Newfoundland, I was a bit burned out.

As October dawned, and the colours started to brighten, I was infected with the annual bug. Every year I say "I'm not shooting the colours this year" and every year, I do anyway. Can't help it, it's addictive. For the record, the colours were better this year than last, although not the best I've ever seen. I was selective in what I shot, though.

Algonquin Park called to me three times in the space of a week. 

OK, I lied. The colours were pretty damned good and when the rising sun peeked out from the clouds... 

A rare sighting for me this year. The grey jays seem to have been absent until now and there are far fewer of them around

These guys are really hard to see until they move. I spent about 2 hours at Spruce Bog and never did see a male. 

I was going to save this image for my "Parting Shot" but instead I put it with the other Algonquin shots. This is probably one of my favourite images, deserving of printing large. I am going to do that, as a canvas for above the headboard in my bedroom. If anyone else wants a print of this, get in touch with me and let's do it!

Most of my images are available as prints. I find stretched canvas prints to be very effective and inexpensive because you don't have to frame them. If anything in my blog or Facebook images tickles your fancy, let me know and I'll tell you whether they'll print well.

I happened to look down at this dead leaf in my driveway and saw this mask! I have to wait for more leaves to fall before i can re-shoot the "Screaming Tree" on Horseshoe Lake Road. Hopefully it's still there

As Fall progresses, the red maples give way to the yellows and oranges of the sugar maples. Here's a few ways of looking at them, shot one afternoon around the Haliburton Highlands area.




As I wrote elsewhere, the colour palette of the fall in the Highlands is hard to beat.

The Haliburton Highlands Camera Club held an outing day. Here are a few images to celebrate that day!




And finally, here's a group shot of the club members on the outing, at Snowdon Park.

Let's see what the rest of the month brings! Get those creative juices flowing!

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Thursday, September 06, 2018

Newfoundland Journey 2018 — Phase 9

I'm on a two-month journey in Newfoundland. My goal here is to post some highlights, both in words and pictures, and to try to include some tips if you're planning to make the trek to the Rock.
 You can click on any picture in the blog to blow it up. Most of the pictures are available as large format prints at very reasonable cost. Contact me.

This is the last in the series of blog posts documenting my summer-long trip to Newfoundland. That doesn't mean you won't see any more Newfie pictures, indeed you will! But maybe not in a semi-chronologically organized fashion.

This post starts mid-August. Amin is back and we're based out of Torbay, north of St. Johns. From there we drove back to the West coast, visited Gros Morne, then spent a day around Stephenville and the Port au Port peninsula, then drove via Codroy to pick up the ferry in Channel-Port aux Basques. After getting on the ferry, I never even took the camera out. So the post ends when we left the Rock.

Here are some stats for the trip.

BTW for those who don't know, Amin is a friend from the Haliburton Highlands Camera Club. He drove out with me, spent a couple of weeks, flew home and then back for the last two weeks of the trip. He loved it and would do it again, but was admittedly disappointed in the number of icebergs, whales and close-up puffins he saw. And moose. See below!

  • Total time away: 70 days
    • In Newfoundland:    65 days
  • Total Mileage: 12,525 km
    • In Newfoundland:     8,350 km approx.
  • Number of car problems:     1 (nail in tire)
  • Number of Shutter Clicks: 13,416
    • D800:   10,333
    • D5500:   3,083     
    • Approx. number of "keepers": 8,812
           Not out of focus or poor exposure or composition. Includes images stacked
           for merging as panos, HDR's, but not startrails (I discarded those after stacking).
  • Number of camera problems: 2 (dropped camera/wide angle lens, 400mm doesn't want to autofocus sometimes)
  • Number of times I went out in a boat: 6 not counting the ferry
  • Number of times I ate fish: approx. 15
         Note: this is a significant number since at home I NEVER eat fish
         Note: in Newfoundland, "Fish" means "Cod".
  • Number of icebergs I saw that weren't 15 miles away: 1. And it was just a little bergy bit. It just wasn't the year for them.
  • Number of whales I saw: about 12. 2 or 3 from boats, a few pictures, some tails, no breaches.
  • Number of moose I saw in all that driving: 0. That's zero. None.
  • Number of caribou: also 0. They don't exist. They're just a story they tell people from away.
  • Number of birds: Lots. Puffins, Gannets, gulls, sea birds, shore birds, check out my pictures!
  • Number of disagreements, testy moments: 1. In a Royal Bank who didn't want to serve me because I didn't reveal that I had an RBC client card. I don't count the time I got stopped for speeding because the nice RCM Policeman let me off with a warning!
  • Oh yeah, I forgot: 
    • Number of iPhones I stepped on and broke: 1
    • Number of times I dropped my camera: 1
  • Number of oil paintings I did. One. Not happy about that...
  • Number of charcoal/pencil sketches I did: 4. Really just three because I did the same scene twice. Again, not happy, I should have done more.
  • Number of waterproof rain jackets I bought: 2. Can't help myself!
  • Number of T-shirts I bought: 2. At Cape St. Mary's and a long sleeved one in Rocky Harbour.
  • Number of stuffed animals I bought: 2. I bought a Puffin as a decoy for Elliston and a Moose to remind me that they actually might exist. They're going to my granddaughters in New York. (don't tell them!)
  • Number of times I took out the two folding chairs I brought all that way: Zero. Ditto my light tent and light kit
  • Number of times I got up to shoot at dawn: 1.
It was a fantastic 2 months. I met some amazing people, saw some unparalleled scenery and wildlife, hiked much more than I thought I could, stayed in some great places, enjoyed a variety of weather ("you have to love the wind"!).

Am I coming back? You betcha, b'y.

If you are an outdoor type person, there's no excuse for not visiting the Rock. 


 Newfoundland is serious about their hiking trails. They are unbelievably scenic and extraordinarily well maintained, right down to putting chicken wire on boards crossing wet spots and carving "X's" in the steps so that hikers don't slip in the wet.

OK, now let's do some pictures to wrap up the trip. 

This was at the foot of the cliff where the house I rented was located.

I hiked out on the Cobbler's Path, East Coast Trail at Torbay Point twice: the first time I didn't make it all the way (before I decided that yes, I can actually walk!). This was from the second trip, and I got Amin to shoot a picture of me on the rocks at the end of the trail.  Photo credit: Amin Shivji 

If you look back from there, you get this view of the peninsula. On the right is Outer Cove, on the left, Europe! Here's a Google Map of the spot. 

Looking the other way, here's Amin at the very end. In the distance, can you see Greenland? No?

By the way, there are some very beautiful estates and estate lots on the road to this point. Awesome view of the ocean or the bay or both. We saw a sign offering a one-acre lot for $595,000. The former premier of Newfoundland (Danny Williams) lives there, along with other big names.

Just around the corner is the Ocean Science Centre, part of Memorial University. Very interesting architecture! 

North of Torbay is the northern part of the Avalon Peninsula. Since I like to drive my Subaru as far as I can until I run out of road (I call those rough dirt roads, "Suba-roads") we managed to get to the very end of the peninsula, at Cape St. Francis beyond Pouch Cove.

There used to be a manned lighthouse at this point, we were told by a local, but they tore it down and replaced it with an automated one and a helipad. They fly from here to the oil rigs in the North Sea and for Search and Rescue. The road goes up and down some challenging hills!

Just before you get there, you find this wonderful vista. I did a multi-shot pano here, you can see exquisite detail in a print or a blow-up.  We were told that there are literally dozens of shipwrecks on the rocks in this bay dating back centuries. 

In Pouch Cove itself, there are some slip ramps where small fishing boats are launched. They go up probably 100' on the cliff faces. This old boat is sitting at the top of one of them.

Bird Pictures

We went down to Cape St. Mary's together with Ray Mackey on a fog-less day (for a change!).  I took a lot of images including this one of a hen caring for her chick. 

Amin and Ray on the hike out to the rock where the Gannets nest. It's just to the right of Ray, near the end of the peninsula in the distance. The walk out is about a mile. 

The rock itself. It's late in the season so there are fewer gannets than there are mid-summer. You can blow up any image by clicking on it.

A young Northern Gannet in flight. They don't get that white colouring until they're a few years old 

Typical Gannet pose 

I shot this from on board the Molly Baun II, a tourboat out of Mobile, Newfoundland.

Common Murres, with some Thick-billed murres and some puffins thrown in for good measure. Can you imagine the smell? Shot from the Molly Baun at Gull Island in Witless Bay 

A puffin doing his best to take off after gorging himself on capelin. Also from the boat. 

Harlequin Ducks 

immature Spotted Sandpiper (no spots!) 

Parting Shots

We spent the last couple of days on the West coast, in Gros Morne and Stephenville/Port au Port before heading to Port aux Basques and the ferry home. Here are some closing images...




"One of these things doesn't belong here. One of these things isn't the same"!

I'll probably add another blog post in a while to summarize experiences, add some images and make some more recommendations for your upcoming trip to Newfoundland (you are coming, right?). 

In the meantime, "Long may your big jib draw"!

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Friday, August 31, 2018

Newfoundland Journey 2018 — Phase 8

I'm on a two-month journey in Newfoundland. My goal here is to post some highlights, both in words and pictures, and to try to include some tips if you're planning to make the trek to the Rock.
 You can click on any picture in the blog to blow it up. Most of the pictures are available as large format prints at very reasonable cost. Contact me.

This blog post is a little late. I just didn't feel like sitting down and writing, especially after Amin came back and days were filled with hiking and driving and making pictures.We'd get home and upload our photos to computer, then I'd find myself falling asleep in front of the screen, go to bed and do it all over again the next day. It might also be partly due to working on a 15" screen instead of my 27" at home. I don't really have an excuse for the two weeks I was in Torbay before he got back... except days were also filled with exploring and doing things, I didn't want to waste my days.

So I'm going to cover most of the Torbay portion of the trip in this post, then do one more about the closing days there and before we left our "Island in the Sun" to wend our way home.

...just before we get started, here's some exciting news for my photography friends.

Topaz Labs has REALLY done it this time.

Want to print an image but you've cropped it too much and it's too small to print well? Need to upsize an image?

Topaz A.I. Gigapixel is a standalone application only (it does not work as a plugin or Topaz Studio adjustment) made for batch resizing your images. It uses the power of Topaz's proprietary Artistic Intelligence engine to make sharper and clearer upscaled images than traditional upscaling tools.

They gave me a beta version to try. I did. It works. This is a gamechanger, folks. There's a 30-day free trial, try it for yourself.

Upsized 200% to 3000x2000 Mp

Note: check if your computer can handle it before you buy it. And watch your colour space if you're upscaling a RAW file.

I could tell you more but Topaz can tell you better. Here's the link:

Update: There were indeed some colour space issues and a few others that were corrected between the Beta and the next release (v. 1.0.2, I think). Also this program requires some heavy duty hardware. There's a list of minimum requirements on their website, but I read a comment from Heath (from Topaz) who basically said, "try it". The 30-day trial is free. If it works, it works. Well.

Sharing some 'random musings'...

I'm not perfect (imagine that!). Sometimes I get a little curmudgeonly, like the other day when I went into a Royal Bank because I had some $100 bills that I wanted to change into $20s because stores don't always have change. They gave me a hard time: a Canadian Chartered Bank didn't want to accept legal Canadian tender, negotiable currency unless I logged in with my RBC client card. I refused on principle (I do have one...) and ended up in a fight with the manager before they would simply exchange my Canadian currency for other Canadian currency. A bank. By the way, the teller made a mistake and almost gave me $100 too much. I shouldn't have said anything.

But that's not what I'm writing about here. As I age, with increasing arthritis and so on, I've been having some issues walking, especially on uneven surfaces and downhill. Stepping down is really hard for me and I've grudgingly started using a cane in some circumstances. Somehow that makes me operate at half-speed.

Keep reading, I'm getting there.

The other day, I went to Cape Spear before dawn, to capture the first sunrise in North America (Cape Spear is the easternmost point on the Continent). I'm driving there at 5 am and already seeing lightening skies and the beginnings of a beautiful red glow. I'm late, and to get to where I want to shoot, I have to climb a million steps (another issue. You try it carrying as much extra weight as I do!). Then I have to walk out a meandering path between the rocks, up, and down.

This was about half an hour before the actual dawn 

"Screw it. I'm doing this". And without any difficulty whatsoever, I did.

Do I really have trouble stepping down? Or is it in my head? Thing is, if I can't be sure of a secure foot placement, I'm afraid that I won't be able to quickly take the extra steps to keep my balance and not fall. I've rolled over on my ankle too often.

Not only did I venture up there at speed, but I wandered the rocks for a better shooting spot, carrying, by the way, two cameras, a bag and a tripod. Then afterwards, I walked DOWN the thousand steps back to the parking lot without hesitation.  Maybe it was all in my head. Maybe I'm not as old as I feel sometimes.

Was it worth getting there for dawn? You tell me.

Here's an abstract I did in Topaz Impression from the same sunrise. 

I'm in Torbay.

I told you that I found this great house. And as advertised, Linsey and Peter have not omitted anything in making this place a 5-star accommodation. I did a little iPhone video the day I got here: Click here to watch. Opens in Quicktime player.

This is the amazing house I rented for the month. 

My only suggestion was to go outside and chop down the power, phone and fibre optic lines interfering with the view! LOL

This is the view from the house (minus the power lines, of course!) 

I'm here until August 25th. Amin arrives on the 17th, he has his choice of 3 bedrooms. I've appropriated the loft!

From this location, we can access everything as far away as Cape St. Mary's in a day trip. We might even go back to Bonavista to visit the puffins again. I'm 10 minutes from St. John's airport and only about 15 - 20 minutes from downtown St. John's, depending on traffic.

Quidi Vidi is a quaint little area (read: 'touristy'!) of St. John's nestled in the hills just northeast of the downtown. Old buildings, fishing stages, and the Quidi Vidi brewery where they make Iceberg Beer among others.

Signal Hill is an exceptional place to photograph from. And you meet neat people there!


There are a variety of places to shoot from. Another one is behind those buildings on the right, halfway up the hill. There are trails everywhere to take you out to great spots. 

At the foot of the hill in the above photo is an area called "The Battery". It sits just at the entrance to the Harbour and the streets are narrow and cluttered with cars and people. But the view from across the harbour is breathtaking.

I shot this last year too and I'm not sure which image I like better. Timing is critical — the light in the sky and the light from the buildings have to balance and they only do that for a short time! 

If you turn to the right, you see the exit from the harbour. This large boat was exiting at the time I shot it. 

St. John's is known for its "jellybean houses", each one painted a different vibrant colour.

I'd like to render them differently so that they stand out more. Here's one attempt...

I did this quickly for the blog. Be warned... I ain't done yet! LOL 

As I said, from Torbay I was able to explore other places. Here are a few shots

On the beach at St. Phillips. By the way, there's a highly regarded fish-and-chips shop there, "By the Beach", and yes, it's great!  

Same spot. Some people do other things with rocks! 

Portugal Cove is where you get the ferry to Bell Island. It was too busy, so I didn't go, but I did get this shot from the ferry dock

One night I did get out to shoot some star trails. I went up to Pouch Cove (pronounced "Pooch Cove") because it looked like the perfect dark skies spot. Not bad, but the night was a little hazy. I added some "Georgia O'Keeffe" to make it a bit different. 

As I said, Amin came back on the 17th. We went out to "By the Beach" for dinner, then went to a spot Ray Mackey told us about:

On the way to St. Phillips, we saw these dragon boat racers practicing. I split it into a tryptich

This is the spot Ray told us about. Shooting down on Conception Bay South from the Topsail Bluff.  

To be continued!

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