Sunday, October 26, 2014

Show you Care

Why don't we honour our cops?

Ready to put up with my ramblings? This has been on my mind and I want to express it.

Last week’s terror attack in Ottawa triggered this post. While any terror attack, whether carried out by a group or a single extremist, whether it results in the loss of thousands of lives or just one, is to be deplored, that’s not my message. Only one person who mattered died (the gunman died too, but his death was unimportant) but the bad news is this is not going to be the last such attack. This was inevitable: Canada’s support of the world’s fight against extremism and terror has not gone unnoticed. I certainly don’t think we should cower in fear or back down, I think this event should add to our resolve to wipe out terror organizations that threaten the globe. The message should be, “you don’t poke a sleeping lion”.

I watched the public reaction to the death of Nathan Cirillo. There was news coverage around the world. The Queen expressed her condolences. Parliament gave a 5 minute standing ovation to the Sergeant-at-arms who stopped the bad guy. Thousands of people stopped what they were doing, stood on overpasses and at the side of the 401 to pay their respects as the hearse travelled from Ottawa to Hamilton, that road has been designated as the “Highway of Heroes” and a laudable tradition has developed to honour the sacrifices of our armed forces members in defence of our country and our way of life. I fully support that expression of solidarity. But in my mind, it raises another issue. Two, actually.

Why does the public not express the same outrage when a police officer is killed in the line of duty? Yes, the law enforcement community acknowledges and honours the sacrifice of a fellow officer, but why doesn't the public? Just like the armed forces – more, perhaps – these people stand between us and the bad guys who would do us harm. Is there a line drawn somewhere, defending our country is more important than defending individuals? Dead is dead, doesn't matter whether it was directly at the hands of a terrorist or a criminal or in an accident while trying to defend us, dead is dead.

We need to recognize and pay homage to the sacrifices of our police officers, our firefighters, any other emergency service personnel, as much as we do to a soldier who was struck down in the performance of his or her dangerous duty.

I know a lot of police officers. And a few firefighters. And some selfless EMTs. They all deserve to be recognized for what they do and especially know that we are proud of them. Go shake a cop’s hand. I dare you.

My second message is this: drive through any small town in the US and you will see homes bedecked with flags, streets lined with symbols of American patriotism. Drive through an equivalent Canadian neighbourhood and, oh, look, there’s a flag! One. There are lots of reasons I prefer being a Canadian to an American, but this isn't one of them. Why are we not committed to our country as they are to theirs? Are we not proud to be Canadian? Why don’t we say it more? Yes, we can add “please” and “thank you” but we have to stop being apologetic about being citizens of such a great country.

To start with, fly a flag. I do. I dare you.

Still a cool pillow...

Remember the pillow I had printed with my granddaughter's picture on it? I just uploaded a bunch of new images to RedBubble, and some of them would make dandy pillows!

Pretty cool, huh? Picture this in an appropriately colour-coordinated room. In fact, it'll look great on my green leather couch and I'm going to order one!  

Check out my RedBubble portfolio here. They make all sorts of fine art products, from framed prints to canvas prints, even posters, greeting cards and Tote Bags

Shooting Stars (again!)

Linda called me last Thursday and said she had heard about a huge solar flare, which of course should result in dramatic Aurora Borealis. It happened to be a clear night, so I "girded my loins" and went out at around 1:00 am. I tried a couple of spots and ended up on the public beach across from the old 12-Mile Lake Historic Church (kicking myself right now. Why didn't I think to see what I could shoot with the church in the foreground? Damn. OK, on my list...)

Anyway, no Aurora. At least, not visible. So I shot a few milky way setup shots, then settled in for a 90-minute, 180 image sequence for Star Stacking. PS: didn't get to bed until 5 am... had to upload the pictures to see how they came out!

Here's a Milky Way image. The red lights are on a radio tower probably 5 or 10 km away. When you enhance the image in Lightroom (or ACR), the green glow of the Aurora appears but as I said, it wasn't visible to the naked eye.

Here's a stacking sequence. 170 frames, actually: I miscounted. But as usual, there were too many stars, so I had to go back to rework it, then I applied some Topaz magic. I may be way out of line here, but to me, the tonality of this image, including the pastel transitions in colour particularly in the water reflection reminds me of Lawren Harris (Group of Seven). Maybe that's why I liked it. Click to blow it up. Comments would be welcome.  

Here's another image that I took the same day. I was driving back from Toronto and had a bit of extra time, so I revisited the spot where I shot the massive oak tree a month ago. I took a few interesting shots there, but one jumped out at me.

What I saw was the back lighting on the grassy stuff in the foreground and the composition of the way trees take the eye into the middle where the sun is. It's a 5-shot HDR. It was a nice enough image but I decided I wanted some texture, so I opened it in Topaz Impression and after experimenting, used the "Caveman" preset. By the way, I stopped down to an aperture of f/11 to get the sun's rays (which I then proceeded to soften with the brush strokes! Oh well!). 

I was just South of Kirkfield, still had some time, so I said "let's go see what's doing on Carden Plain". Not much. I drove up a different road and came across this old farm building, that screamed, "Take an HDR, take an HDR", so I did.

While I was shooting that picture, along came a tractor and since I didn't know how the driver would react about having his picture taken (and since I had my long lens on), I shot one from far away.

Don't critique the picture! Just setting the scene, OK? 

Turns out that Leo (that's his name) and I had a great conversation! See what I mean about not being afraid to approach people and talk to them? Here's the gist of it:
This is Leo. He's 71 years old and for 45 years, while he was farming his 1300 acres on the Carden Plain, he also drove a transport truck at the same time. He's thinking of selling, Real Estate people are after the property. He can be a very wealthy man. He wanted to set up three solar farms a few years ago but was stopped when it turned out that his property was home to an endangered species [the loggerhead shrike].
We talked about how his kids aren't interested in farming, how Ontario has designated parts of the Carden Plain as a Provincial Park, how the nights are quiet and really dark there, about the 12 feet of snow at the top of the hill behind him last winter, how his neighbour, who has 200 acres offered him $130K for a 100 acre parcel adjacent to her land, he laughed and said he would give her double that (per acre) for hers but she turned him down, and more that I can't remember.
As we went our separate ways, I asked if I could take his picture. He said, "sure, as long as you think you won't break your camera!".

I used Topaz Impression to add texture to this bright sunlit portrait. I started with the "Cave Dweller 3" preset. I stepped back a bit but I had my 70-200 on board, with the 1.7x converter, so this was about as wide as I could get (OK, cropped a little). Does he look 71 to you?

Revisiting an image

Last June, I shot a picture of this person after a conversation with him, including discussions of his prison tattoos including the teardrop one on his cheek. Today I read a thread on FaceBook about someone who shot (pictures of) homeless people and he posted an example which was outstanding. To make a long story short, I revisited this image and re-edited it to put it on a black background and make it much contrastier and darker.

It reminds me of Yousuf Karsh's photo of Ernest Hemingway. You need to look at this one full-sized. Click the picture to blow it up. 

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