The Arctic Hamlet of Pond Inlet

The Hamlet of Pond Inlet, Mittimatalik in Inuit, is a vibrant and growing community in Nunavut on the northern end of Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic.   Poised at the eastern tip of the Northwest Passage, Pond Inlet is surrounded by mountain ranges, glaciers and fjords, and drifting icebergs.  It's a beautiful place.  

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The population of Pond Inlet, currently around 1,600, is expected to grow further once the Mary River Iron Ore Mine is in full operation.  Funding has recently been secured to deepen and expand the harbour in Pond Inlet to allow easier access for freight and cargo ships and that work is expected to begin shortly.

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After crossing Baffin Bay from Greenland, the group is welcomed to Pond Inlet for a community visit.  This was a more structured process than I've seen in other communities, with each person's name checked against a master list both upon arrival and again when leaving, and that was a bit of a surprise.  Perhaps it's always done that way in Pond Inlet.

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Once cleared to enter we wandered around the town, which is a mixture of the picturesque, the functional, and the somewhat dilapidated.  Obtaining supplies is difficult and expensive and the northern climate is harsh on buildings.  There's lots of colour in the buildings and the mountains and glaciers form a magnificent backdrop.

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The walk through the town, winding our way through the streets to the community centre where we had been invited to enjoy a cultural presentation of Inuit games, singing and drum dancing was enjoyable.  

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A young girl in the hockey arena, which is part of the Community Centre.  The arena is well-used, with skating activities scheduled most days of the week.  The sign above the door says a lot. 

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Enjoying the presentation.

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The games are challenging, requiring a serious level of strength and fitness.  None of the pictures I took captured either the skill or the difficulty involved so I haven't included any.  The singing, especially the throat singing done by the women is lovely.  We were all delighted, visitors and townspeople alike.

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After the cultural presentation there was an opportunity to explore the town. Pond Inlet has an active airport which is the way most visitors arrive, road transportation being limited or non-existent.  With a growing interest in northern exploration tourism is increasing, and Pond Inlet provides outfitting services for groups interested in getting out on the land.

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The Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is the most northern Catholic church in the world.  This image was taken from the top of the hill looking down on the back of the church, with the Ocean Endeavour in the background.

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The Crucifix on the hill above the church, a large and visible landmark.  And a closeup of the church steeple.

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I saw few people around the town and that struck me as unusual.  In other communities I've visited people were outside, busy with their lives, and interested in connecting with us.  There were always lots of children around.  But not here.  The town seemed deserted, and I saw only two children outside of the community centre and just one other inside.  When I asked about it I was told the men were out on the land hunting and some of the older children might be with them.  We were also told that Saturday mornings tend to be quieter as people are taking it easy at the end of the work week.  And that may be all there was to it.  But I did wonder if perhaps the people of Pond Inlet no longer want groups of people landing on their shores and wandering through their town. We look, we observe, we're curious, but what, if anything, are we giving back?

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Nunavut is a beautiful part of our country.  I was pleased to have had the opportunity to visit Pond Inlet to see and learn a little more about this land and the people who inhabit it.  I will return to the Arctic again next year.  It is a unique and special place.

 

 

 

 

 

Greenland's Stunning Icebergs

Icebergs are amazing in every sense of the word.  Massive, beautiful and powerful floating blocks of ice, some as large as buildings, others in the shape of giant columns, wedges, or other formations.  Seen up close they invoke awe and a strong appreciation for the forces of nature.  And as large as they are, only 10% of their mass is visible, the rest remaining below the surface.  These icebergs calved from the Greenland ice cap.  They will initially travel north, pushed by ocean currents, and then start their journey south where they'll melt along the coasts of Labrador and Newfoundland.

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The scale is hard to describe.  The smaller iceberg on the left is higher than many buildings; the larger one the size of several city blocks.

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Icebergs assume different shapes and names are given to the various formations.  This one is a "Pinnacle"; the first image is a "Dome".  They weigh between 100,000 and 200,000 metric tons.

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Icebergs remain in the water for months and often years, their shape changed by water, weather and time.  This one now has deep caverns along one side.  On the narrower side at the left daylight can be seen filtering through the cavity.  Icebergs with slots or channels through are described as "Dry-Dock".

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Deep cracks appearing at the edge of an iceberg, indicating part of it may be getting ready to split off from the main section.

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The tiny zodiac with it's driver and ten passengers on the left edge of the image provides scale and shows just how large these ice formations are.  To be on the water, circling closely around them, was an incredible experience.  

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Black-legged kittiwakes sitting on a small floating piece of ice, with larger icebergs in the background.  A few moments later they flew off showing their lovely wings in flight.

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A "Tabular" formation.  Flat on top, longer than it is high, with sheer sides.  It's the length of a city block or more.

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Columnar icebergs, probably once part of larger formations, broken off and made smaller by the elements.  

These images were taken off the west coast of Greenland near the town of Ilulissat which is  the iceberg capital of the Arctic.  Across town lies the Jacobshavn Glacier and Icefjord, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The glacier produces 10% of all Greenland icebergs, with 35 billion tonnes of icebergs calving and passing out of the fjord every year.  

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Ice sheets, calved from the glacier, moving through the fjord.

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While hard to compete with the icebergs the rocks and tundra at the edge of the fjord offer up their own beauty.

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Jacobshavn is a fast-moving glacier, calving vast amounts of ice into the fjord each year.  Larger icebergs can get stuck in the fjord where they remain until they are broken up by the force of the glacier and the continually moving ice.  Looking out across the fjord the vista is a mountain range of ice, moving steadily on its path to open water. 

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The towns along this Greenland coast are colourful against a backdrop of rugged mountains.  And they have these ice structures as part of their landscape.  

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Some smaller icebergs and floes in and around the fjords and mountains.  The beauty of it all can be overwhelming.

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I've been drawn to icebergs for a long time.  Their beauty, mystery and raw power is unique.   As is the soft light and the northern colour palette which I find wonderful to photograph.  I first went to the Arctic two years ago and immediately knew I would return.  These past two weeks along the coast of Greenland, across Baffin Bay and into some of the northern parts of Nunavut was memorable.  This world is beautiful.

Rural Industrial

I've always been fascinated with manufacturing, with the process of creating something, of assembling an object from component pieces using techniques and methods honed and refined over time.  Big manufacturing plants intrigue me.  But recently I've come across small operations, away from the big cities, situated in rural towns.  They are remarkable, specialized businesses, utilizing rigorous and standardized - often proprietary - processes.  And in them I've found the beginnings of a new photography project.  I'm calling it Rural Industrial.

It's different from the landscapes, travel and urban scenes I've photographed to date. These are working facilities, full of equipment, often dark, where a shot is neither obvious nor easy to get.  And before I can even take out a camera there's the challenge of talking to the owner, explaining what I want to do and why, and getting permission to enter their premises and take photographs.  The explanation can take some time; they don't see what I see - that the shop floor, the machinery, the works in process, are beautiful.  And sometimes that particular time isn't convenient for them to talk to me but if it's suggested I come back and try another day of course I do.  Approaching busy owners is definitely not comfortable but it's the only way to get the images I want.

In the last few months I've photographed four rural industrial operations:  a farm services facility, a foundry, a machine shop specializing in parts for local oil rigs, and a heavy machinery repair shop.  Each is different.  Each requires a dedicated owner or owners and skilled staff.  Sometimes it's a single owner, sometimes a family group, and sometimes it's a second or third generation business.

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Fertilizer storage and mixing silos, built in the mid-60's.  The family-run farm services business has replaced the silos with modern versions and these are now scheduled to be taken down.  With the late sun bathing them in colour and then a full moon rising in the background I find them a striking addition to the landscape and will miss them when they're gone.

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A local foundry quickly became a favourite place.  It's a thriving business where industrial products such as tree grates, manhole covers, and specialized parts are cast, and larger commissioned artworks created.  The process is rigorous, time-consuming, and physical.  Making the moulds, firing the furnace, preparing the molten metal, filling the moulds - all part of the process.  

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This shot was taken at the back of the foundry using only the natural light that came in through the frosted window.  The boxes stacked in the corner, and the one on the floor are casings for moulds.  The round object in the foreground is a furnace where metals are heated at intense temperatures and transformed into molten liquid.

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Poured castings in the cooling process, weighted down to keep them stable.

Assorted weights, seen in the background of the previous images.

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Scrap metal to be melted down, with pokers lined up against the wall in the foreground.

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This part of western Ontario was where the oil industry began in Canada, and while it's no longer the "oil capital of Canada" oil is still in production here.  It's done on a different scale, using different methods than the large scale operations, and it relies on the proprietor of a local machine shop to produce and repair the specialized parts needed to keep the wells running.  

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Belt-driven machinery, once powered by gas, is still operational after almost a century of use.  

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Brass tubing to be turned into parts for the oil wells.

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There is equipment everywhere, and it's all in use.  Not obsolete, not replaced with something new and modern.

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There's more I want to photograph here.  And I want to capture the history of this business that was started by a father and son in 1914.  There's much to tell.

The last place is a heavy machinery repair shop.  Trucks, large farm machinery, and lots of parts, both inside and outside the shop.

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Two of the places I don't think I'll be returning to.  The other two I definitely will as there's lots more to capture.  I've found all these businesses exciting to visit and a privilege to photograph.  I'm grateful I've had the chance to learn a bit about what goes on in our rural industrial world.  And, as is often the case, one thing leads to another.  I've now heard about a local blacksmith and a lumber mill that runs its equipment on steam.  I'm thinking both would be worth a visit.

Friendship, Conversation, and Time in the Country

We met in graduate school thirty-seven years ago.  Our backgrounds were different, as were our personalities and many of our preferences.  Our friendship was built on a shared love of learning, a commitment to personal growth, and a deep curiosity.  We spent out time together in conversation.  Long talks, deep and intense, across a wide range of topics.  We talked about the books we'd read, the authors and thinking that had an impact, along with what was going on in our lives.

In the early years our children, the challenge and joy of relationships, and our developing careers were part of our stories.  But always, it was the conversations that mattered, the glue that kept us connected.  We seldom went out - dining, movies, shopping, entertainment - weren't what we did together.  One time, strong in both our memories, we spent an entire day in early spring sitting on lawn chairs just talking.  We simply moved the chairs to follow the sun.  It was pure pleasure. We did travel, to places like Esalen, New Mexico, deep into the Ecuadorean Amazon jungle, and to workshops and retreats that fed our curiosity and hunger to learn which, in turn, provided more to talk about.

Over the decades our children grew up, relationships ended and new ones began.  Successful careers enabled much.  We kept learning and growing.  And at one point, late in our careers, we were able to work together, and that was a joy.  We created something together than was larger and better than each of us could have achieved alone.  And we kept talking.

But change continued, as it always does.  We both moved away, pursuing different chapters in our lives.  And our times together became less frequent.  Sometimes long periods would go by without contact.  But the strength and draw of those conversations remained important to us and we sought a solution.  So every other week, at a prearranged time, one of us calls the other and we settle down for a feast of rich conversation lasting an hour or more.

Recently I went to stay with my friend at her home in the country.  Her home is beautiful, situated in lovely rolling countryside.  She and her husband have created special places throughout the property.  Passing through grasses, a small grove of trees, and up a hill, they found the perfect spot to build a labyrinth.  Modelled on the one in Chartres Cathedral, it's comprised of eleven concentric rings split into four parts, creating a path which leads from the outside to the inside passing once over every track.  The journey to the centre is a slow and contemplative one, and you remain in the centre of the circle with your thoughts and reflections for as long as you wish before retracing your steps to reenter the world.  To walk a labyrinth is a spiritual experience.  We walked that labyrinth, in silence, delighted to be there together.

We woke to the crowing of roosters on a nearby farm.   We ate simple nutritious food, we spent time together, and the days went peacefully by.  There was beauty everywhere.  

The conversations, as always, had strength and meaning.  It wasn't that we had to catch up or reconnect - that was always there - but we both experienced a deep pleasure in seeing each other and simply being together.  The telephone had kept our friendship from slowly fading away but at the end of our time together we knew it was important to see each other on a regular basis.  And we'll now make sure that happens.

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The gift of deep friendship, the joy of real conversation, and delightful time in the country.  Life is rich and full.  I am so grateful.

This Year's Sandhill Cranes

This is the second year I've photographed Sandhill Cranes.  These birds migrate north to nest and raise their young, and this year I followed a pair in Port Franks and another in The Pinery.  They are large and majestic, with plumage that blends with the grasses and wetland areas where they build their nests.  Sandhill Cranes are the only member of the crane family that is now off the endangered or threatened list as their population is slowly but steadily increasing.  In the wild they can live for 20 to 30 years.  

Cranes feature prominently in both Asian and Aboriginal art and symbolism.  They are associated with royalty, balance, grace and longevity.  It is believed that an encounter with a crane can be a powerful experience, pointing the way to the achievement of balance and good fortune.  Cranes are also depicted as creative, with an ability to focus, and as problem solvers and wise teachers.  They are seen as loyal.

Nest building occurs in the early spring when the wetlands are still covered in dead stalks, reeds and grasses from the previous year.  The nest is built close to the water and large enough to keep the eggs dry.  Normally two eggs are laid which will hatch in 29-32 days.

Sandhill Cranes mate for life.  Both parents build and maintain the nest, and both sit on the eggs.  When it's time to change places on the nest a specific set of behaviours occur.  The nesting bird stands up, bends down to the eggs, and moves them around a bit.  The other bird, usually some distance away, starts to walk toward the nest.  Once there, both adults spend time minding the eggs, cleaning up the immediate area and adding grasses and sticks to the nest.  The bird who had been feeding and wandering nearby settles down on the nest.  The other stays for a short while, eventually wanders off, and  then takes flight. 

Sometimes Sandhill Cranes are tolerant of other birds but often not.  I've seen them aggressively chase the Canada Geese away and yet the next day be indifferent, even when the geese are close to the nest or the chicks are near by.  If it's territorial behaviour it's not clear to me what triggers the aggressive mode. 

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Many shots this year were taken from a canoe, and that offered closer and better access.  The birds were not concerned.  They ignored the canoe and its participants, giving us opportunity to photograph them closer than we could have done from land.  Seeing them up close made the experience even more powerful.

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Once the chicks are hatched both parents remain close by.  Neither takes flight, both alert to what's happening with the chicks and on guard for predators.  The chicks, covered in soft yellow down, leave the nest within a few hours of hatching and are capable of swimming.  

They sleep under their mother's wings for three to four weeks.  In their first month they run, flap their wings and eat food provided by their parents.  In the second month they learn to dance and begin pre-flight training.  In the third month they learn to forage on their own, dance, practice take-off and landing skills, and fly with their parents.  By the end of the summer they are ready to migrate south with their parents.  But once they're fully mobile it's hard to find them.  

Cranes are known for their beautiful spirited dancing, something I've not yet seen.  As part of their mating behaviour they leap, run, twist their bodies and flap their wings in powerful movements.  One year I hope I'll be fortunate enough to see that.  But for this year I've spent more time watching and photographing them than the year before, I've seen the nests survive a wet spring and rising water levels, and watched the chicks get stronger and more active over the first ten days of their lives.  And seeing them cross the river, one parent leading and the chicks swimming close to the other parent, was wonderful.  I've learned more about them; It's  been a joyful few weeks.

Sandhill Cranes:  big, beautiful birds.  Symbols of longevity, loyalty, creativity and focus.  Having watched their behaviour I understand why.

The Light is Everything

I've been photographing for a few years now, and I like to think my images have improved. But it wasn't until I started focusing more on the quality of the light that I could see a real difference.  Prior to that I'd tend to go out with my camera during the middle of the day, the mornings and evenings usually taken up with other things.  And the images reflected that.  Many were not interesting.  The light often harsh, hot, or simply not there.  It became clear:  The Light is Everything.

Photography is important to me, a creative outlet that's quickly becoming a passion.  And if I wanted to get better I'd have to pay more attention to the light.  So I made the commitment but it wasn't easy.  Light is something special - I think of it as a gift - and it's not always there.  Weather patterns shift, clouds come in where none were expected, it rains or is overcast for what seems like weeks, and this winter has been one of the greyest I can remember.  The lake didn't freeze, there was little snow, blue sky was a distant memory, and the wonderful soft winter palette of pinks and blues was mostly absent.  And when it does make an appearance it doesn't stay for long.  It's elusive and challenging.  But when you are there at the right time, and you're able to get the shot you've visualized, it is exciting.

A winter shot of a few bleak trees at the edge of Lake Huron.  Nothing much to look at most of the time, but when the light hit them late one afternoon they put on a show.

A group of farm buildings in Lambton Shores.  Again, not much to look at in the harsh light of day, but late in the afternoon they seem to sparkle.  And those old silos right beside that brand new wind turbine tell a story.

Good light often partners with bad weather.  Just before or after a storm front passes through the sky can be striking, with good contrast, dark clouds, and slivers of light.  It's a good time to be out photographing.  But, as always, those peak moments are fleeting.

Last November I hoped to get some pictures of the Supermoon.  The sky was clear that night and it looked promising.  Along with a photographer friend we set up in a field at a spot where, using the Ephemeris app, we'd calculated the moon to rise just to the left of the large silo.

But our calculations were off by a touch, and that beautiful moon rose just a bit further to the right and not over the silo and farm buildings.  An error of a few degrees makes a big difference.  Some scrambling and fast running to get the best shot possible under the circumstances.  I did get the Supermoon, just not where I expected it.

The next morning in Grand Bend.  That amazing moon setting exactly where Ephemeris said it would.  And that light on the lighthouse is from the rising sun.  Light is the magic sauce that makes the difference.

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A shot of the Assiniboine in the Sarnia Harbour, taken just as the sun broke through on a cloudy day.  The light hit the ship and the colours popped.

Two similar images taken on the same day, 16 minutes apart.  The sun broke through the clouds and lit up the buildings, creating a completely different look and mood.

A picture of Sarnia's Chemical Valley, taken at dusk.  Dark, moody, and mysterious.

An oil tanker, the Algoma HANSA, in dock on the St. Clair River.  The sun caught the side of the ship just before sunset.  I think of these scenes as beautiful industrial landscapes.

Another industrial landscape, this one taken in Hamilton at the end of February when the harbour still had a thin coating of ice on it.  Large storage containers, tugboats, and reflections in the water.  Industrial for sure, perhaps not appealing to everyone, but for me it definitely works.

I'll close this post with a Tundra Swan coming in for a landing.  Taken late in the afternoon it wasn't quite "last light" but the blue sky rendered the water a colour that contrasted nicely with the bright white of the swan's feathers, and the shadows provided detail.

It is harder to get out when the light is right.  And that light is changing all the time.  It's also brief, the time of day when the light is at its best is incredibly short.  But good light makes for better images and that's what I'm after.  So I'll continue to be out there, chasing the light and seeing what I can do with it.  The light is everything.

Tundra Swan Migration 2017

It's late winter, early spring and the Tundra Swans (also known as Whistling Swans) are migrating once more from their winter home in Chesapeake Bay north to their breeding grounds in the Canadian Arctic, a journey of more than 3,000 km.  A stop on their migration path is close by and seeing these magnificent birds is something I look forward to each year. There are approximately 160,000 birds that make up this Eastern Migration.

They are large birds, 4 to 4-1/2 feet long, with wingspans of 5-1/2 to 6 feet.  They fly in groups, in the usual V-formation, with birds joining along the way.  When one or two leave a staging area, getting ready for the next leg of the journey, others join in.

They come in to this area over a period of 25 days on average, depending on the weather conditions.  The full journey going north will take them 85 days.  (The return journey south takes longer,  averaging 101 days, because they have their young with them.)  Tundra Swans spend 51% of their lives in migration.  On this first longer stop they remain for some time, resting, eating, and getting ready for the next leg of their journey which will take them to North Dakota and Southern Manitoba.

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These Canada Geese look small when swimming alongside the Tundra Swans.

The swans tend to stay together in groups, either the family group, or groups of younger, same sex birds.  The younger birds can be identified by the brown colouring on their necks and undercarriage; the darker the brown shading the younger the bird.  A bird is fully mature and ready to mate when it is 4 to 5 years old.

Parents and last year's cygnet in flight.  The family stays together for one full migration year.  And previous offspring will often remain close to the family group in the Arctic nesting areas.  

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A younger bird getting ready to land.  They are so graceful in flight but less so as they prepare for a landing, angling their bodies downwards and using their feet as brakes on the surface of the water or the ground.  

A group of swans leaving for the next leg of the journey

Tundra Swans mate for life.  When mature the 4-5 year old males will start looking around for a mate.  The male does the courting and the female does the choosing.  The males start strutting their stuff, showing their feathers, looking strong and powerful.  The females take note.  And this goes on for some time.

A male swan engaged in his courtship dance.  He may have selected a particular female he's interested in and this display is for her.  If she's interested she will give a slight nod of her head.  But that doesn't mean it's a done deal.  There's a lot more dancing and nodding over several days before the female makes a definite choice.  It's a big decision as they will remain together for the rest of their lives.  And Tundra Swans live for about 20 years.  If one partner dies it will be several years before the survivor takes another mate, if at all. 

Getting out and seeing these birds is a joy.  Their migration through this area is nearly over but I'm hoping for one more visit next week, ideally with better light and a more interesting sky to showcase their strength, beauty and grace.  If not, there's always next year.

Great Lakes Freighters in Sarnia Harbour

All winter the city of Sarnia has several Great Lakes freighters in dock for maintenance and repairs in preparation for the upcoming shipping season.  The ships are large and impressive, carrying a range of cargo through the Great Lakes system of lakes, rivers, canals, and locks.  They've captured my imagination and I find myself going down to the harbour to see and photograph them as often as I can.  Learning their stories, getting an understanding of the industry, and chatting  with the crews that work on them has become a great interest.  The fact that this all happens in my own area is a delight.  

These two ships are bulk carriers.  The CUYAHOGA, built in 1943, with a length of 605 feet, is a self discharging cargo ship;  the OJIBWAY, built in 1952 and a little longer at 638 feet, discharges its cargo is manually.  These ships are workhorses.  

The CUYAHOGA and the OJIBWAY

The CUYAHOGA and the OJIBWAY

And the same vessels viewed from the other end on a different day.

This image shows some back end detail of the Canada Steamship Lines ship, the ASSINIBOINE.  It's a newer Self Discharging Carrier built in 1977 and it's also a little longer than the others at 728 feet.  This shot was taken on a cold and cloudy day.  At one point the sun managed to break through the cloud, painting the ship in beautiful late afternoon light.  To me these ships are works of art.

CSL's ASSINIBOINE

CSL's ASSINIBOINE

These next images are from the ALGOSEA, an Oil Products Tanker, built in 1998.  While it's a little shorter than the others at 485 feet, seeing it up close in the Sarnia Harbour it certainly doesn't look or feel small.   This shot was taken just before nightfall looking up and towards one end of the ship.   

The ALGOSEA

The ALGOSEA

Details taken from the side of the ALGOSEA a couple of hours earlier.  The longer I looked the more I saw.  The markings along the side present unique images of abstract art.  And details of the ropes caught my eye, as did so much more.  Hours can go by just looking and capturing images.

Abstract art in unusual places

Abstract art in unusual places

Side detail from the ALGOSEA

Side detail from the ALGOSEA

The ships often have the Granaries as their backdrop and when the light hits those large concrete structures it's magical.  The deck of the ASSINIBOINE can be seen in the foreground on this image.

A shot looking along the deck of the SAGINAW, another Bulk Carrier.  

The size and scale of everything is hard to grasp.

Caring for it all is complex, requiring a unique set of skills and, I would imagine, a particular temperament.

Large machinery, laid out in complex and, to my eye, beautiful arrangements of line, shape and form, with sometimes just a perfect touch of colour.

Looking down at the tug the DEFIANCE which will be assisting these freighters out into the lake in just a few weeks.  A small but mighty vessel with almost the same engine power as the larger ships.  The CUYAHOGA and the OJIBWAY at rest behind.  A cold night, with ice forming in the harbour, but soon the ships will be gone, moving through the Great Lakes with their loads of cargo and their dedicated crews.

Lake Huron's Winter Colours

It's been a mild winter and Lake Huron has been slow to ice up.  And I miss that.  I find the winter palette serene and peaceful.  The many shades of white, blue, pink and purple offered up in layers of water, ice and snow delight me.  It's cold but it's certainly beautiful.  

These pictures were taken over a 2-hour period from 3:30 to 5:30 yesterday afternoon.  The sky was somewhat cloudy with the sun breaking through every few minutes.   The dunes were still visible a little further from the shore, frozen in place and lined by winds that pound the land from the northwest.

That same wind blows sand onto the frozen structures, turning the pure white of the initial formations a muddier shade.

Layers of ice and snow, that will keep expanding out to the horizon as long as the temperatures remain below freezing.  

As the afternoon wore on and the winter sun dropped lower the ice and snow took on a blue cast and the sky and water picked up more pinks and mauves, changing by the moment.

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The ice structures are built up from the constant spray of waves and moving water.  And once the temperature drops enough the build-up happens quickly.  In this area iI's not unusual to see the lake go from a liquid state to frozen right up to the horizon in a couple of days.  For me, it's that time in-between that offers the most.  

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Layer upon layer, all different.  Ice "volcanoes" in front, ice floes at the back, and slow-moving ice in thick water in between.  Cold but beautiful.  Peaceful and serene.  I never tire of looking at it.

Photographing Raptors

I've now had a chance to photograph raptors on two different occasions, and I'm hooked.  Seeing these large, beautiful birds up close is an amazing experience, and I know I'll be doing it many times.  These birds reside on a raptor conservancy in southern Ontario and many were raised there.  Some have been there for years, mating and raising their young.  Birds on site for rehabilitation and eventual release back to the wild are kept from the main group and are not available to photograph, their contact with people kept to a minimum.

Eagles are large.  They are strong, powerful and majestic.  These images of the Bald Eagle were taken in different locations on different days.

Bald Eagle at Rest on a Log

Bald Eagle at Rest on a Log

Bald Eagle Preparing to Land

Bald Eagle Preparing to Land

Skimming the Pond

Skimming the Pond

Those eagles are impressive, but it was the owls that really captured me.  Like the eagles they are strong and powerful, but they also have expressive faces and  beautiful markings.  I had an opportunity to see a variety of owls, each different in its own unique way.

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl in Flight

Great Horned Owl in Flight

Snowy Owl

Snowy Owl

The birds know their handlers and respond to them.  And the handlers treat them with care, kindness and respect.  It's a mutually beneficial arrangement.  The birds are given safety, security, shelter and food in exchange for a life that is less free.  They are well treated.  They could fly away each time they're released, but they don't.

Barn Owl

Barn Owl

Eurasian Eagle Owl

Eurasian Eagle Owl

Great Grey Owl

Great Grey Owl

Great Grey Owl

Great Grey Owl

The hawks and falcons are smaller and so very fast.  Photographing them is an even greater challenge.

American Kestrel

American Kestrel

Red Tailed Hawk

Red Tailed Hawk

I'm not a bird photographer and I struggled to get the settings right.  I took a lot of shots and finally started to get the hang of it.  But there's a lot to learn.  And sometimes I just put the camera down and simply watched these beautiful creatures.

I'll be looking for more opportunities to photograph raptors.  And in the meantime I'll learn as much as I can about them.  

 

 

A Home in the Cemetery

Woodland Cemetery in London, Ontario, is both old and modern.  Established in 1879 and occupying over 100 acres of woodland it houses more than 50,000 graves.  The place is beautiful, with an older section of large and lovely tombstones going back to the Victorian and Edwardian eras.  There is a dedicated area for veterans, marked with identical stones laid out in rows that is deeply moving.  It is also the home of a family of deer.

The deer are what initially drew me to Woodland.  I thought perhaps it was simply an urban legend, not really believing deer would choose to live in a populated city space, and I wanted to see it for myself.  The deer are definitely there, in a group that averages twenty-five or more.  And over the past three years I have gone back many times.  

A Large and Stately Monument

A Large and Stately Monument

Older Tombstones

Older Tombstones

Veterans' Section

Veterans' Section

These are white-tailed deer.  They are reddish brown in spring and turn a grey brown in fall and winter.  The females become pregnant in late October or early November and the fawns - anywhere from one to three - are born in May or June.  The stags regrow their antlers every year starting in late spring and shed them between January and April of the following year.  Their antlers can vary in size and number of points; larger antlers are a sign of maturity, health and vitality.  Apparently the shedding of antlers is not painful.

Alert but not concerned

Alert but not concerned

Stag resting at the edge of the ravine

Stag resting at the edge of the ravine

The deer wander throughout the cemetery and in and out of the ravine at the back, but they seem to prefer the older section.  The stones are larger, the trees more mature, offering more shelter.  It's a beautiful space and I like to imagine the deer sensing the peace and aesthetic of this particular part of the cemetery.

Old tombstones at the edge of the ravine

Old tombstones at the edge of the ravine

The grounds are well kept.  The gravestones are cleaned periodically, and restoration is an ongoing process.  Some stones have fallen, some are broken or cracked, and many lay buried under accumulated dirt and grass.  Recently three students from Western University were hired to unearth, clean and repair more than fifty of these Victorian-era tombstones.  An impressive project, not only honouring the dead but providing us the living with more beauty and a greater sense of the history of the area. 

The deer, while not domesticated, have become accustomed to people.  They will run off but often, if you're willing to wait, they'll remain close by, letting you see their expressive faces, the fur in their ears, their lovely coats and impressive antlers.

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I return often, seeing this family of deer in each season.  In spring the babies are born, in fall the changing leaves seem to enhance the colours of the deer themselves, and in winter seeing them against the snow in that soft winter light takes my breath away.

Fawn born this past spring

Fawn born this past spring

There is something special about a group of living sentient creatures residing so comfortably among those who are no longer here.  It adds something unique to Woodland and I like to think the deer feel it as well.  A mutually beneficial relationship.

The Port Huron Float Down

This is an annual event that's been taking place on the third Sunday in August for 39 years.  It starts in Port Huron, at Lighthouse Beach, just north of the Blue Water Bridge and across the river from Sarnia.  Participants "float down" the St. Clair River to Marysville, 13 kilometres downstream.

It's unauthorized, unsanctioned, unregistered, unsponsored, and gets the media and some people agitated.  But it's a lot of fun.  A boisterous and joyful event - playful, quirky and over the top in its sense of delight and adventure.

So what exactly happens in a "float down"?  Vast numbers of people gather on the shore at Lighthouse Beach with an amazing array of flotation devices.  All sizes, shapes and colours.  Some floating alone, others tied together in a group.  And smaller groups enter the water on the Sarnia side.  The participants are happy, laughing, busy putting their flotation devices in the water, loading their coolers on board (food and drink a necessary part of any serious adventure), and getting their oars in place.

Gathering at Lighthouse Beach in Port Huron

Gathering at Lighthouse Beach in Port Huron

Getting organized on the Sarnia side

Getting organized on the Sarnia side

The event starts at 1:00 p.m.  All motorized shipping and boating traffic along the St. Clair River is shut down between 12:00 and 8:00 p.m. which is annoying to some.  The only motorized boats permitted are those belonging to the Police and the Canadian and U.S. Coast Guards.  This tanker, the Radcliffe R. Latimer, was the last one under the Blue Water Bridge, pushing hard to get out of the river and into Lake Huron on time.

Full steam ahead into Lake Huron

Full steam ahead into Lake Huron

Getting a helpful tow from the Police

Getting a helpful tow from the Police

Well equipped with a barbecue on board 

Well equipped with a barbecue on board 

Looking back at Lake Huron

Looking back at Lake Huron

Recording his adventure - at least the start of it.

Recording his adventure - at least the start of it.

Floating on the Canadian side ... 

Floating on the Canadian side ... 

 ... and strung together

 ... and strung together

Moving down the river on the American side

Moving down the river on the American side

In our excessively monitored, regulated and rule-driven world of today I find the whole thing wonderfully refreshing.  Where else can  you see thousands of people in hundreds of brightly-coloured flotation devices doing something as bizarre as floating down a fast-moving river that is also the boundary between two countries?  Just thinking about it lifts my spirit.

But the river does move quickly.  And the prevailing winds tend to push the floaters over to the Canadian side.  In most years a hundred or so American citizens end up on the Canadian side, usually without a passport or any other identification, with no way to get back.  They have to be "rescued" and transported back to their own country.  This year the winds were unusually strong and a record 1,500 needed "relocation assistance", being bussed back home with a police escort after being "processed" on the Canadian side.  It does take effort and resources but, as everyone knows, we're a friendly country and happy to help out. 

It was a great day.  Good weather, blue skies with lots of beautiful August clouds, and the always incredible blue water of Lake Huron.  Just a bit too much wind.  A scene of wondrous adult play.  Perhaps it is foolish, and probably a bit risky, but there were no fatalities, just a few minor injuries, and some participants who ended up cold and wet on the wrong side of the river.  But in a world that at the moment is darker, nastier, and more fear-based than anyone needs, the Port Huron Float Down is a happy, joyful and playful event.  We could use more of them.  I'm already looking forward to next year.

 

 

The Challenge of Summer Photography

A hot summer.  Mid 30's most days.  Beyond a couple of fierce and impressive thunderstorms in early spring there's been little rain.  The light is harsh and contrasty.  Sunrise is early, sunset so late, and lots of strong unappealing light in between.  Those beautiful intense greens of spring are gone and most vegetation is dry and dusty; in full leaf but no longer fresh and vibrant.  The lake is high, higher than it's been in years and there's little beach.  The kettles at Kettle Point are completely under water and the loss is deeply felt.  Perfect weather for camping or cottage life, or even being at home enjoying food on the patio with friends.  But not so good for photography.

I haven't taken many images this past month.  The camera hasn't been out much.  The beach I love - wild, empty, with loud crashing waves - is now decked out for summer.  Loads of people, each group using umbrellas and beach chairs to lay claim to their staked out piece of sand.  Boats and Sea-Doos racing across the water at full throttle, making a different kind of lake noise.  But it's summer and this is a beautiful beach:  sandy, shallow for a long way out, safe, clean, with waves for the kids to jump and play in.  People love to be here.  And that's a good thing.

I walk the beach often but in summer I seldom take a camera.  But today it came with me.  The beach is narrow, much of the dunes have been washed away, but there were clouds in the sky that  made for interesting lighting.  So I took some images, letting myself get lost in the place and the moment.

The Dunes of Ipperwash Beach

The Dunes of Ipperwash Beach

Old Log Pushed up on the Dunes

Old Log Pushed up on the Dunes

Tall Grasses at the edge of the Lake

Tall Grasses at the edge of the Lake

Summer Clouds and Children Playing in the Lake

Summer Clouds and Children Playing in the Lake

Dune Grasses and Trees seen from the Lake

Dune Grasses and Trees seen from the Lake

I was waiting for a sunset shot to fill out the day but as it often does the sun got lost in cloud in its final hour.  A group of people were still playing in the water and the sky and lake were interesting shades of blue and pink so I took the shot.  A different kind of beauty.

Last Light on the Lake

Last Light on the Lake

It's harder for me to find the beauty I search for during the summer months.  It doesn't mean it isn't there.  I simply have to look for it in a different way.  

Technology, A Smartphone and Final Conversations in a Nursing Home

My mother passed away three days ago at the age of 92.  She spent her last eight months in a nursing home, confined to a wheelchair following a fall that left her unable to stand or walk.  She had very little sight, was legally blind and, like many her age, suffered from dementia.  But this is not a sad story.  Rather it's one of wonder and unexpected transformation, a gift to both her and her family.

All her life my mother was driven by anxiety, fear and a deep distrust that coloured everything.  There was a harsh edge to all that she did.  Why that was so doesn't matter; it's what happened over these past eight months that's important.

Her first two months at the nursing home were difficult.  She was recovering from surgery, she didn't interact, didn't participate, and cried a lot.  But the care was excellent, the staff kind and supportive, and she slowly settled in.  But visiting wasn't easy.  She remained flat, negative and despondent.  And what to say, what to do?  Push the wheelchair around the facility?  Ask if she enjoyed breakfast or lunch?  Time passed slowly.  Conversation was bland, lacking any real meaning.

And then we hit on something that made a difference.  We started using my smartphone.  It started out simply enough.  A phone call to people she could no longer visit.  A few pictures to send to her friends and family.  From there we moved on to short video messages.  She found it enjoyable and became animated and energized as we talked about who she wanted to phone or do a video for.  It turned out she liked being "on camera".

Talking to her sister in England

Talking to her sister in England

The Internet got us to the next level.  Anything I thought she might be interested in we used the phone to search for information.  We learnt a lot about red foxes and sandhill cranes.  And we listened to the sounds they make on YouTube videos.  She was fascinated.  And she thought that having access to anything you want to know in just a heartbeat is magic...which of course it is.  Those first searches on foxes and cranes became a turning point.  She would think about what she'd heard and would often talk about it the next day.  And she'd think of other things she wanted to know about for the next visit.

My mother loved birds, always fed them, and knew a fair bit about them.  She certainly knew a lot of their calls.  There are many bird apps for a phone.  In addition to pictures of each species, these apps have recordings of birds singing and calling.  When we talked about any bird we then listened to the sounds.  Once when we were sitting outside she heard a red-winged blackbird.  When we played the call on the phone the bird answered back.  She was delighted - clapped her hands, laughed, and said "do it again".  We sat out there talking to that red-winged blackbird for fifteen minutes.  After that, she would remind me to be sure to bring that "gizmo" (my phone) with me when I came. 

Red-winged blackbird

Red-winged blackbird

Memory loss and dementia are strange things.  As with most older people, my mother's long-term memory was somewhat intact.  When she would talk about something that happened long ago - her memories from the war, or from her first job at fifteen - we would look it up.  That company she went to work for in Hull, England, was established in 1840 and there was a ton of information on the Internet about it:  its history, social justice philosophy, products, and manufacturing sites.  She couldn't see the pictures but when I read the street address of its main site she remembered going there.  And she remembered some of the products - Brasso, Dettol - from her days on the assembly line.  It pleased her to hear that the owner had a strong sense of responsibility towards his employees.  From there we found a blog called "150 Facts About Hull", her home town.  As I read them they were real to her; she could take in the information because she knew the place, she'd grown up there.

On some days the dementia was dominant.  She would talk about places she'd just gone to on the bus, towns in England that she'd visited, a wide variety of stories.  It didn't matter if these "events" weren't real.  We'd still look them up and often, to my surprise, these places did exist and some of what she'd described - the Cathedral in the town of Beverley - were right there on my phone.

We found pictures of the house she grew up in all those years ago.  And so much more.  And through the "magic" of that smartphone we were able to have interesting and meaningful conversations, something that just wasn't there before.  Sometimes, when it was time for me to leave, instead of being sad she would ask me to take her back to her room because she "had lots to think about".  It was lovely.

During the last six months of her life she became calmer, happier, and more content than I'd ever seen her.  The anger and harshness was replaced with an appreciation and gratitude for what she did have at this late stage of her life.  Her conversations were no longer bitter.  She expressed love for her family, and thanks and appreciation to the staff for their care and kindness.  She was liked by the staff and the residents and I believe she found her place there.

 

Enjoying a laugh with another resident

Enjoying a laugh with another resident

I had a troubled relationship with my mother.  The time we spent together in the nursing home helped us both.  With the assistance of today's technology we did find things to talk about.  We were able to have meaningful conversations which enabled our connection to deepen.  We could both finally see the other.  The day before she passed I was holding one of her hands in both of mine.  She slowly took her other hand out from under the covers, put it towards me with her palm up and hand gently closed and said, "I have a gift for you".  What is it Mum?"  "All my love", she said,  "and I really mean it."

She passed peacefully.  She simply stopped breathing.  She had said the day before that she felt she might be close to the end.  I asked if she was afraid or had concerns.  She said no, none at all.  And then she added that if she did go we were not to be upset.  She'd had a long, full life and was ready to leave.  And that was another gift.

To be with someone at the end of their life is a privilege.  Meaningful conversations draw us closer together, they are important and are worth striving for.  But it's not always easy to find things to talk about.  My cell phone turned that around for me and my mother.  We all have cell phones.  How else might we use them to enrich our time with others?

 

The Intense Greens of Spring

In Canada the winters are long and we wait for spring with much anticipation.  And, after all that waiting, our springs are short with not enough time between the first hint of green in all its lovely shades and the harsher hues of summer.  This year the spring colours seemed more striking than usual.  These images were taken in Grey County, just below Owen Sound, the last week of May.  Spring had arrived and green was everywhere, vibrant and intense.

I was going back to a place I'd visited last year to see if the colours were the same, to hopefully improve on the images I'd taken then, and to find some new locations.

Walters Falls and the Bruce Trail

Walters Falls is a small village named after the pioneer John Walter who established the first sawmill there in 1854 using the power from the falls.  The falls continue to provide power for a gristmill today.  Walters Falls is the only double waterfall in Ontario.  The Bruce Trail - an 885 kilometre trail that runs from Tobermory to Kingston, following the Niagara Escarpment, and one of the few UNESCO World Biosphere Reserves - runs through the area.   

Rocks, Moss and Trees

Rocks, Moss and Trees

Below the Bruce Trail

Below the Bruce Trail

Branch abstracts amid the moss and stones

Branch abstracts amid the moss and stones

This image of the falls was taken last year.  Unfortunately the water was exceptionally high this year and access along the river to the falls wasn't possible.  Disappointing as photographing the falls again this year was one of the reasons for the trip.

Double cascading waterfall at Walters Falls

Double cascading waterfall at Walters Falls

Trees and a Small Brook Along a Country Road

How to find places to photograph?  Never easy, especially when you don't know the area.  And harder to find scenic imagery in the middle of the day.  These shots were taken mid-afternoon in bright sun.  But the greens were lovely and waiting for a bit of cloud cover helped, as did using a polarizer.

Trees in spring along a small brook

Trees in spring along a small brook

Trees and dead branches in the flooded marsh

Trees and dead branches in the flooded marsh

Bognor Marsh

Another place visited on last year's trip.  This time not so easy to photograph.  The light wasn't good and finding a decent vantage point to shoot from was tough.  Another reminder - not that I need one - that nothing stays the same, change is constant, and I need to stop and get that shot when the light and the composition are there because waiting to come back for it often doesn't work.  These are two images from this year that I did like.

Lilly Pads and Blooms

Lilly Pads and Blooms

Bognor Marsh

Bognor Marsh

A couple of days travelling in Ontario with a friend who's also focused on photography is always a good thing to do.  I see new things, revisit a few places I've been to before, make mistakes, learn a bit, and come back home rejuvenated and energized.  I'm now thinking about where to go next.

Toronto … a City I Love

Toronto is a city I love,  I've lived there more than once.  And when I'm not a resident I'm often a visitor.  I know the city well but believe I see it better now that I'm not always there.  On my frequent visits I spend as much time as I can wandering around, seeing what's different - and it's always different.  And I usually have a camera with me.  These images were taken mid-May over a couple of cold and rainy days.  

Toronto Courthouse and the McMurtry Gardens of Justice

Pillars of Justice by Edwina Sandys

Pillars of Justice by Edwina Sandys

Despite being the middle of May, there was both rain and sleet the morning I took this image, and the streaks of rain are visible.

Osgoode Hall and Old City Hall

Old City Hall Clock Tower 

Old City Hall Clock Tower 

Flowering Crabapple at Osgoode Hall

Flowering Crabapple at Osgoode Hall

Some of the Older Places ...

The Rex Hotel, both a hotel and a well-known jazz and blues Bar on Queen Street West, looking somewhat small and surrounded by larger newer buildings. 

The Rex Hotel

The Rex Hotel

The Brunswick House - known as The Brunny - was a restored 1876 tavern popular in Toronto for both drinks and music.  It closed on March 31 of this year.  A building of character but no longer open.  Rexall, a pharmacy, will be taking over the space for its flagship store.  The building is protected as it has a heritage designation.  Rexall will be doing further restoration with plans to open some time next year.

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Another Toronto flagship that's closing - Honest Eds on Bloor.  A huge place that takes up more than a city block.  It's been around forever but the last day for bargain shopping will be December 31st of this year.  There is a proposal for the building, along with adjacent buildings called Mirvish Village, to be redeveloped into rental apartments, a permanent public market and retail space that would be divided into small units similar to the the existing storefronts on Bloor Street.  If the project goes forward as planned it could be a nice addition to the neighbourhood.  But many will miss this icon.

Honest Eds Shopping Emporium

Honest Eds Shopping Emporium

Kensington Market, another popular shopping area that's been around forever.  Development keeps pushing up against its boundaries but so far the Market - with a lot of support from the community -  has survived.

Market Shopping

Market Shopping

Casa Coffee in Kensington

Casa Coffee in Kensington

Toronto Streetcar on the Queen Street Viaduct

Streetcars, the Red Rockets, run on many of the main streets in the city and provide a fast and convenient way of getting around.  The Queen Street bridge with its famous sign has been well photographed over the years.

The Ismaili Centre

A recent and beautiful addition to Toronto is the Ismaili Centre, built on the same grounds as the Aga Khan Museum, opened on September 12, 2014.  The building and it's reflection are both striking and peaceful.  It's simply lovely.

Toronto has much to offer.  It's a city with many distinct areas, each with its own character.  It's an easy city to walk with lots to see just about everywhere.  These two days, taking pictures and spending time with friends, was a real treat.  I'll be back soon.

Nesting Sandhill Cranes

Sandhill Cranes are large birds, 4 feet in height with a wingspan of 6 to 7 feet.  The head is white with a bright red cap, the beak is black.  The body is predominantly grey but the reddish-brown hue they often take on comes from the mud they use to preen their feathers.  They winter in the southern United States, Mexico and Cuba and come north to breed.  Sandhill Cranes can live for 20 years or more.  These images were taken in southwestern Ontario over 4 days from April 30 to May 3, 2016.

Sandhill Cranes mate for life and they stay with their mates year round.  Their habitat is freshwater wetlands, marshes and river basins.  The nest is large, built in watery areas, and constructed from reeds.   Two eggs are what's normally laid; sometimes there's just one, but rarely three.

Both parents take care of the nest, and both sit on the eggs.  The male is always close by, scanning the environment.  The eggs take 28-32 days to hatch.

Watching the eggs.

The first chick is born.  It is able to stand and move around almost immediately.

Checking the newborn and watching the second egg.

Resting in amongst the mother's back feathers while she sits on the second egg waiting for it to hatch.

And now there are two...

Proud parents

A Canada Goose wandered by and stayed for some time.  The parents remained relaxed and unalarmed which meant the goose posed no threat to them or the chicks.  At other times, when birds flew overhead or noises alerted the cranes, they became extremely alert and very vocal.

Hovering over the chicks while the other adult looks on.

The cranes have now left the nest, the parents moving their chicks to new places, where they'll start them on their journey to independence.  The chicks are able to survive alone from the age of two months, but usually remain with their parents for about nine months, migrating south with them in the fall.  Around two they will start looking for a mate of their own and will start breeding anywhere from the age of two to seven. 

Sandhill Cranes are beautiful, majestic birds.  It has been a great pleasure watching them over the past four days and I'll be looking for them again next spring.

The CN Tower by Night and Day and a Reflected Surprise

Last week I had an opportunity to photograph Toronto's CN Tower from a vantage point not available to many and to do so over a period of several hours.  I took a lot of images that night and through into the early morning.  

The first photograph was taken shortly after midnight and and includes both the moon and part of the Rogers Centre.  The CN Tower is lit up, as are the buildings and the Gardiner Expressway.  The city is vibrant, interesting and full of life.

Toronto's CN Tower, the Gardner Expressway and part of the Rogers Centre

Toronto's CN Tower, the Gardner Expressway and part of the Rogers Centre

These next three images were taken from the same vantage point at different times.  The first shows a similar image to the previous one, but without the Rogers Centre and with more of the newly-constructed Sun Life Financial Tower.  Although the CN Tower is prominent, it becomes less so as the sky lightens.  I've shifted the focus more to the Sun Life building and the reason I did that becomes clear in the last shot.

CN Tower at night

CN Tower at night

Not Quite Dawn

Not Quite Dawn

I like the night shots of the city.  Toronto is vibrant, and changing all the time, with new construction everywhere.  But I find the image that really delights me is the last one.  Morning has arrived and with it a glorious and unusual view of Lake Ontario and the Toronto Islands.  Remember…this shot was taken looking north and west; the lake is to the south.  This lake view is new, it didn't exist last year.  It's a reflection in a building that's still under construction.  This building may block part of the view of the city as you look north but to my mind it's given back something better - an interestingly lit building at night and a spectacularly different shimmering lake by day.  Beautiful.

Reflected Vista

Reflected Vista

I'm delighted and grateful that I was able to see Toronto in such a special way and that I had the opportunity to photograph it.

The Northwest Passage

Six months ago I travelled through the Northwest Passage with Adventure Canada on a journey that took 16 days and covered more than 5,000 kilometres of Arctic waterways.  My reason for going was to see a remote part of my own country and to fulfill a long-held desire to see icebergs.  

We started from Kugluktuk, formerly known as Coppermine, travelling east and north through the islands, straits and bays in the Canadian territory of Nunavut and then across Smith Sound and Baffin Bay to Greenland.   

Each day we left the ship on zodiacs to explore the land and visit historic sites and communities. On board, talks and presentations were given by experts in their fields designed to give us a sense of the history and current reality we would encounter on the land.  There was so much to see and hear it was hard to take it all in.

Two Inuit boys in Gjoa Haven

Two Inuit boys in Gjoa Haven

Town of Gjoa Haven, population 1,200

Town of Gjoa Haven, population 1,200

The first community we visited was the hamlet of Gjoa Haven, the only settlement on King William Island.  There was a guided tour through the town and then a cultural presentation in the community centre.  

Sailing through Bellot Strait, a narrow passage only 2 km wide and 25 km long, with sharp rises on either side, that is locked in ice for much of the year was remarkable.  The strait separates Somerset Island on the north from the Boothia Peninsula in the south.  The opening to the strait could be seen for quite some time.  Standing at the front of the ship watching us draw closer was a slow and peaceful experience.

Approaching Bellot Strait

Approaching Bellot Strait

Fort Ross

An outpost of the Hudson's Bay Company, no longer in use, and left as it was.   Looking at the buildings, so small on the land, it was hard to imagine people living there year round.  

Small cabin at Fort Ross

Small cabin at Fort Ross

Arctic Willow, slow growing and very old

Arctic Willow, slow growing and very old

Willow and lichen growing on the rocks

Willow and lichen growing on the rocks

Beechey Island

Large, desolate, haunting, with graves and the remains of a settlement.

Walking along the edge of the island approaching the Franklin settlement at the far corner.

Devon Island, Croker Bay and Glaciers

Grise Fiord

Grise Fiord on Ellesmere Island is Canada's most northern civilian settlement.  It has a population of 130 people.  The community welcomed us warmly, sharing stories about their lives and their culture. It was a privilege to be there.

And the Icebergs…..

They were everything I'd imagined them to be.  Majestic, mysterious and beautiful.

Early morning among the icebergs

Early morning among the icebergs

Sunrise on a stormy morning

Sunrise on a stormy morning

This Arctic journey was everything I'd hoped it would be.  I learned so much - about the far north, the land, its people, and the challenges that come with living in such an isolated and harsh climate.  It is also strikingly beautiful and easy to understand why the people who live there are so attached to it.  The icebergs were just one part of that beauty.  I gained much from the trip and plan on returning to the Arctic next year.

Sunrise on the Bruce Peninsula

These pictures were taken a couple of years ago during a trip to the Bruce Peninsula.  I came across them recently as I was going through some of my older images.  I remembered how frustrated I was with the challenge of making strong images in light that didn't always cooperate.    When I got home I found most of the compositions just weren't compelling enough.

To get to the sites before sunrise meant getting up at 4:00 a.m., driving for 30 minutes and hiking into the forest in the dark to find a spot that looked like it might work.  Then set up the camera and tripod, and wait to see what the light would bring.

This shot was taken at 5:05 in the morning half an hour before sunrise.  

These were taken thirty minutes later at the same place.  The first shot includes the sunrise and I like it for that reason.  The second version, with a stronger foreground and more detail on the right side, taken just two minutes later, is more striking but the sun had risen and disappeared behind a cloud.  Had I looked more carefully, been more thoughtful as I composed the images, I would have been able to get a single shot that included both.  

A different location, a different morning, but still on the Bruce Peninsula.  The sky was hazy and the sunrise obscured:  light is either there for you or it isn't and you just have to get the best shot you can with the light you're given.

Going back through older images is a good exercise.  It was possible to see when I didn't have the camera settings quite right or where compositions could have been improved by moving just a little.  Learning is a continuous process.