Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Happy 2016 to all my friends!


My 2016 wish for all of you:

HEALTH

Because if you don't have that, nothing else matters.




When I read what I wrote, I realize that I must really be an old man. Those ubiquitous wishes for prosperity and happiness in the new year ring hollow when one has had brushes with problems of health. As I get older, I realize that you can get past the engine in your car blowing up, your basement getting flooded, your business failing or losing your job and none of that matters if you don't have your health.

I'm a cancer survivor. I had surgery for metastatic cancer in 2004 and again in 2007 and several radiation treatments and medications since. It's been 12 years and I'm still here. One day it's going to jump up and bite me but I'm still here. My father had the same cancers I do and he made it to 89. That's a long way in the future. Maybe I'll make it that far, maybe not.

But that puts a perspective on one's life: sure, I want to be fulfilled and content and not lack any of the necessities but mostly I want to not have to worry about my health for a while longer. Because if I have that, I won't sweat the small stuff.



Speaking of the years going by...

I've been writing this blog since 2006. TEN YEARS! This is my post #345, so about 3 posts per month for 120 months! I don't have a huge audience, a couple of hundred regular readers, more when I have something significant to say. As I look back, I've been pretty consistent and it's pretty clear that my photography, my art, has matured and grown over that time.

It occurs to me that in all that time, I have never made ANY statement about politics. I'm about to break that.

When asked what my politics are, I say that I am APOLITICAL. That means I don't care, one way or another, I have better things to think about. Another way of looking at it is that they are all cut from the same cloth, one is just as bad as the next. But at the risk of alienating some of my readers, I feel compelled to step out and say something now. And the reason is a fellow named Donald J. Trump.

Nothing scares me more than the possibility that this bigoted, racist fascist might get elected President of the United States. At the beginning, you could laugh about him: he wasn't seriously running, he's a joke... but then so was Rob Ford. The scary part is that so many people are taking him seriously – even people whom I otherwise respect – and not only the threat that he might get elected, just the fact that he is running, is probably the most serious threat to world peace since Germany in the 1930's.

The man colours all Muslims with the same paintbrush, all billion-and-a-half of them in the world. He equates them all with violent fanaticism, analogous to Hitler's beliefs about the Jews. The words that come out of his mouth are born in hatred and fear and worst of all, disdain for what anyone else thinks: it's as if no one else's opinion matters. He will cause – he IS causing – a backlash and as some have mentioned, he's probably ISIS's best recruiting tool right now.  

I have always been right-wing. OK, right of centre. I am a firearms owner, I'm very pro-police, the only reason I don't hunt anymore is due to physical limitations. I rode motorcycles, I still drive too fast, but seriously, my American friends and relatives? Seriously? Hopefully you're just having fun laughing at him too, but enough! 


Minden Wildwater Preserve

Everyone knows my favourite place around here is the whitewater. I dropped by there on Christmas day and again after the ice storm on Monday.

It's a very spiritual place. I often go there and take in the serenity and majestic beauty of the rushing waters. Today, Christmas day, I saw this guy at the river's edge. He was lost in prayer, didn't even know I was there. I watched him kneeling motionless for several minutes and took these pictures to capture the feeling. 




There's a Zen word for this. It's "Shikantaza". Look it up.

Then I discovered what he was really doing... as he reached over and took the Neutral Density filter out of his Lee filter holder (in case you don't know what that is, it fits over your camera lens and lets you do long exposures among other things)! Fooled me. Good story? But without the explanation, I find this a very emotion-filled image.

Of course the white water never freezes. But it creates remnants of ice on the rocks and twigs and trees. I call them "Ice Caps" (sorry, Timmies. Different spelling!)


That 105mm Nikkor lens is pretty sharp! 


Same lens. This was handheld at 1/5 second, sitting really, really still! My long range rifle skills came back to me, control breathing, relax muscles... 

This was one of a series of long exposures (tripod this time). All shot in the same place and all different!  

On the way home, I got this image behind my house


A little post-processing went into this one: it's a 5-shot HDR blended in Nik HDR Efex Pro, then treated with Topaz Impression, then I used Topaz Star Effects to bring out the reflections of the ice coating the trees and grass. Click it for a better look.


Algonquin Park

I'm blessed. Not only because Algonquin Park is an hour away but because I can still just go up there when the mood strikes me. It did on Sunday, so I hopped in the car and went. I didn't know what to expect to see: not much landscape for me this time of year, but I thought maybe I could find some foxes to shoot and I was really jealous of the pictures I've been seeing of the Pine Martens. A couple of people told me where I might find them. As you will see below, I did.

The other interesting part is the people you meet. John Marshall was someone I hadn't met before, with his friend Charlene?? (bad with names!). Steve Dunsford, whom I've met before: he owns the Mad Musher in Whitney and does some phenomenal photography in the Park. I'm struggling to remember the bearded guy's name, whom we met while shooting the Pine Martens... and his friend Laura (John just told me: Jesse Villemaire). 

Some of the animals are too unafraid of humans. That makes it possible for people like me to get pictures but it makes me uneasy about whether their reliance on people to feed them will prove their downfall. The story I heard yesterday about the foxes on Arowhon Pines road is that they (or their ancestors, I guess) were sick with mange a few years ago and someone left medicated food for them to nurse them back to health. They got used to people feeding them, which I hear many people do (but have never witnessed).

I saw some photos later of the fox kit I photographed and a sibling playing with one of the photographers. Great shots. I don't think that road is plowed in winter. We got snow today so I wonder if anyone will get up there until Spring. Hope the foxes survive. Here are some pictures:



 




And now... a Pine Marten. I'd never actually seen one until that day! Exceedingly cute, and very very fast! S/he scampered through the trees, occasionally posing for a photo.





Not so "cute" when s/he was showing her teeth, upset at the blue jays who were stealing his/her food! 





I was just going to post one or two pictures but I got carried away. They're so damned cute! Prints are available, so are cellphone cases, tote bags, pillows, even shower curtains if you want! Email me and I'll link you to where to get them.

I just realized I updated my watermark a day or two early! Oops.

Anyway, see you all in 2016. Come join me up in Wawa in October. Details will be on the web page at www.photography.to/gales.htm (if I ever get it finished!).

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