Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Invisible Chickadees

Did you know that chickadees can turn themselves invisible? Yes, it's true. I can speak from experience!

Today I went to one of my favourite parks, Happy Rolph's Bird Sanctuary. It's a favourite spot for families in the summer, with a petting zoo and duck pond and lots of room to run. In the winter, though, it's usually devoid of people. The animals are tucked in a nice cozy barn, and the playground is abandoned.

The ducks are still there, even though it is completely frozen over this year. An attendant comes around with buckets of corn to feed them, and if they want to swim around duckily, they can fly a few dozen meters north to Lake Ontario and play among the ice floes.

But the chickadees... Ah, yes. I can hear them as I walk quietly through the woodland, up the hill from the pond. They cheep and twitter in the trees, so I know they're there, but they refuse to show themselves. They do it just to torment me, I'm sure! The chickadees at home, and even the ones in Alberta, all did the same thing. The chatter among themselves but as soon as I get close, blink! And they disappear! They would occasionally show themselves, just long enough to string me along, then disappear again! Darn chickadees! How can I not be insulted when I only see them when they come out to moon me? (See his little birdy butt there?)
Well, that's okay. I had a very enjoyable walk on a beautiful day, I got some fresh air and exercise, got some nice shots of seeds and frozen pond drippings, and I got to watch the ducks bob around with chunks of ice
and I got to hear the chickadees tweeting invisibly in the bushes.
At last! One brave little soul showed himself high up in the branches of a bare tree. I quickly focused in, and managed one shot. If you look really closely, you can see the chickadee right in the middle of the photo.
Now wasn't that worth a whole afternoon?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Kathy's Kitchen

As all my Facebook friends know, I spent some time this month at my dear sister's house in Edmonton. Kathy and her husband Dale are always very kind, generous and gracious hosts, and I love staying there. I am able to get the rest I need, and without the pressure of day-to-day duties, I have the time to do some experiementation with my camera. Still Life is not a genre I have worked in very much, but with a recent new thread on one of my favourite photography sites, I was willing to give it a try. (http://www.digital-photography-school.com/)

Kathy loves her kitchen. It is a beautiful, with burnished hardwood cabinets, gleaming appliances and a marble floor. Even more than that, it is a place where Kathy happily spends her time with her great collection of kitchen gadgets and small appliances. It is a place of love that is imbued with the ideals of "family".
Kathy's array of cooking utensils is particularly impressive, having been collected during her world travels in her role as a highly respected doctor, university professor and lecturer. She and Dale have also collected a variety of wine glasses and other beautiful items. All of these became potential subjects as I turned my attention to arranging some of these interesting items for a Still Life composition.

I spent many happy hours in selecting items to photograph, and finding ways to arrange them. I had no "seamless" for backgrounds, just a narrow length of cloth. I had to be very creative in my locations in order to make use of the natural light from the windows, and controlling the light was a real challenge.

In the end, I was able to come up with quite a few shots that I was pleased with. The experience alone was worth the many hours I spent on the project, and I learned a lot that I can continue to apply when I get more opportunity to delve into the field of Still Life.

I had a lot of fun with this shot - which took me about five hours to accomplish! I call it "Marching Kumquats". I hope you like it!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Ah, January already!

Ah, January already. The holiday season comes and goes as fast as a rollercoaster, with the various icons and yearly events whizzing by so fast that it is hard to enjoy them. After the BIG DAY, there is (hopefully) the brief respite, a few days of peace and contentment, when the housework slides, cooking is unnecessary thanks to the fridge full of leftovers and platters of cookies, and there is time to watch the movies that were this year's additions to the collection.

But too soon, too soon, it is time to take up our usual routine, go back to work, send the kids back to school, clean out the fridge (what did this used to be, I wonder?) and buy fresh groceries. The half empty rolls of wrapping paper are gathered up and stashed for next year, the turkey platter is back in it's place in the drawer at the bottom of the stove, ready for Easter.

And now, the part I always put off till last. Time to take down the tree. I like to wait until I'm alone in the house, so I can linger over each item, wrap it lovingly in tissue to store securely in its plastic box. The garlands are getting shabby, they will be replaced next year. I pause to dangle the "Baby's First Christmas" ball in front of my unseeing eyes. I'm seeing a beautiful baby girl, now in her twenties, entranced by the coloured lights and jingle bells, just as I was when I was a child.

I remember a favourite decoration from my childhood Christmas trees. It was a set of mirrored balls, each a different colour. I liked the silver one best, which looked for all the world like a miniature disco ball. Long before there was such a thing, of course. I loved how it would spin on its little string, reflecting the lights and casting splashes of rainbow on the walls and on my face, like a visible expression of the child's wonder of Christmas, that tickly sensation in my tummy that was "the Christmas feeling".

My own children have their own favourite ornaments. A few years ago, I was considering whether or not it was time to get rid of all the cheap, dollar-shop decorations from years gone by and upgrade to classier, more elegant designs. There was loud protests over that proposal! Although they were just cheap, gawdy little baubles, with worn paint, faded ribbons and showing their age, with plenty of chips, nicks and scratches, to my children they were favourite memories, and a connection to their own childhood Christmases, just as the disco ball was to mine. I could not take that away from them.

So here I go again, packing up the memories, our family treasures, and lovingly storing them away to be brought out and marvelled at another year. I don't know what this year will bring, but it will probably bring good and bad, ups and downs, sad times and glad. And next December when I dig up our treasures again, I will enjoy once more the trip down memory lane, which is decorated in red and green. I'm looking forward to next Christmas!