My Photos

Canada Day in Shawville

Shawville Canada Day Parade 2010

As I’ve said before, Canada Day is a big deal in ultra-federalist Shawville; events take place all day and are well attended. Jennifer and I took photos of the parade, which started at 3 PM: here are mine; here are hers (her blog entry). We shot photos as a team: I used a wide-angle zoom on my digital SLR and she used a medium zoom on hers, so we got different views of the same parade. Which is good, because the parade was awfully similar to the parade we attended four years ago: fire trucks, horse-drawn wagons, antique cars, tractors, ATVs, bagpipes, and community groups — though the groups were not in attendance as much as they were before, perhaps due to actuarial reasons. They even had the same guy doing the same music as before. Maybe that’s seen as a feature.

We were thinking about doing the fireworks too, but once more ran out of steam.

A trip to the Indian River Reptile Zoo

Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake

Speckled Rattlesnake (Crotalus mitchellii) at the Indian River Reptile Zoo.

Thursday was Jennifer’s birthday. As it was also a provincial holiday and Quebec was closed for the day, we decided to mark it by a little trip to the Indian River Reptile Zoo, which we hadn’t visited in five years. It’s a little more than three hours each way, without stopping.

The Indian River zoo has always been a little different from other reptile zoos in Ontario. For one thing, the collection reflects the interests of the owner: if you like rattlesnakes or New World pit vipers, say, you’ll love it; if you can’t appreciate the distinction between a speckled rattlesnake, a rock rattlesnake and a black-tailed rattlesnake, you’ll probably walk around the zoo and say, “Huh, another rattlesnake.” That said, there are some interesting turtles there, as well as Gila Monsters, woma pythons and a black mamba, so if the collection’s emphases are eclectic, they’re at least different.

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Observing sunspots

Solar observing I bought a solar filter a year and a half ago, but I had the bad luck to do so at the height of the solar minimum — i.e., I bought a filter specifically for the purpose of viewing sunspots at the point when sunspots were at their most scarce. Not only that, it was the most minimal solar minimum in nearly a century.

So every so often I would attach the filter to the telescope, point the telescope at the sun, and see if there were any spots. The technical term for what I saw was “bupkis.” In all of astronomy, there is nothing less interesting than using a solar filter to view the sun when there are no sunspots — it’s just a featureless ball.

First sunspot I had since heard that sunspots and prominences were returning as the solar cycle progressed, but I hadn’t had the opportunity to check it out for myself until yesterday, when I finally saw my first sunspot. Just one, and it wasn’t very big. Naturally, I tried to take a photo, which turned out less well than I had hoped: there was a lot of atmospheric shimmer, and it was hard to get the scope into focus with the camera attached. And I had to guess at the right exposure; I was usually too long, and therefore too bright — at 1/50th of a second, the sunspots were washed out, but I had better results at 1/250 s.

But at the very least it gave me a baseline for future attempts. Next time, I’ll try it with the focal reducer, to reduce the size of the sun’s image — it nearly filled the frame, which made it hard to center, and probably bumped up against the scope’s coma and curved field. With the reducer, I’ll have to take even shorter exposures as well.

And who knows? There might be more sunspots next time.

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CPR #2816 at Smiths Falls, in 2004

CPR #2816 at Smiths Falls (2004)

Five and a half years (and two cameras) ago, I went down to Smiths Falls to watch the arrival of Canadian Pacific #2816, an H1b 4-6-4 Hudson steam locomotive built in 1930. After its restoration, CP ran it as a public relations and excursion train between 2001 and 2008; it’s been in storage since. Here, at last, are the photos from my trip to Smiths Falls on June 11, 2004, where I jostled with about a hundred other railfans as we took picture after picture of that rarity of rarities, a steam locomotive operating on a Class I main line.

(One thing I remember from that day was just how quiet a steam locomotive is: at rest, it’s basically a big kettle, pinging away. They’re much quieter than diesels.)

Star trails over Shawville

Star trails over Shawville

Tonight I made my first attempt at photographing star trails, and I think it turned out reasonably well. I was kind of hoping that since I was shooting during the purported peak of the Perseid meteor shower and pointing my camera at the shower’s radiant, I might catch a few meteors streaking a straight line across the camera’s field of view. Alas, none was bright enough to leave a mark on my camera’s sensor. Not that I’m disappointed with the result by any means, though it did take a bit of work to get it (26 manually timed exposures layered in Photoshop, all of which taking place past my bedtime on a work night).

Three views of the Moon

The skies were finally clear enough for astronomy last night, but with the Moon almost full, it was too bright to do any observing or tripod-based astrophotography of anything but the Moon (or Jupiter, which was up later, but by then the skies were hazy). So I photographed the Moon again. But this time I tried a few new things with my lunar photos.

The Moon (Aug. 2, 2009)
The Moon in colour (Aug. 2, 2009)
The Moon in B&W (Aug. 2, 2009)

For one thing, I increased the image’s sharpness. This is apparently considered essential in lunar photography: it really draws out the Moon’s topography. In Photoshop the tool to use would be Unsharp Mask, and when I was farting around in Photoshop CS4 yesterday (the way I learn things), I tried this out on some of my old lunar photos. But in the end I made use of the Definition slider in Aperture, which achieves similar results. The final image (top right), with Definition set to maximum, is indeed a good deal sharper than the original, without too much contrast or too many artifacts.

Once work on that photo was complete, I produced two variants, each of which with only one setting changed. In the second image (middle right), I pumped up the saturation — or rather, I maxed out the Vibrancy slider in Aperture. Vibrancy has been described as Aperture’s “smart saturation.” The end result is similar to my photo of March 9 (which also made use of Vibrancy), enhancing the Moon’s subtle colours.

The drawback is that colour fringing is also enhanced (see the north-to-northeast edge of the Moon), an effect of shooting through a refractor rather than a reflector. My apochromatic refractor is a great telescope, but it’s still an inexpensive doublet (it cost me $680 last fall, but the price has since gone up and it now runs around $830 Canadian; Orion’s EON 80mm ED is the same scope). When dealing with a bright object like the Moon, there’s going to be a touch of chromatic aberration. If I want none at all, I’m going to have to shell out serious coin for a much more expensive refractor, or shoot through a reflector or catadioptric telescope.

But I digress. The third image (bottom right) gets around the chromatic aberration by going monochrome — using only the red channel. Refractors’ chromatic aberration occurs because different colours have different focal points; since blue is the colour that has trouble reaching focus, going to just the red channel should get the sharpest image possible, I think. Besides, I like using single colour channels for black and white photography: it yields interesting results.

(You’ll have to click through to get a better look at these images; you won’t be able to tell very much from these thumbnails.)

Gear for photographing the Moon

Photography gear

If you’re at all curious about the equipment I’ve been using to shoot my recent Moon photos, click on the above photo to see the annotations on its Flickr page.

From left to right: a DR-6 right-angle finder for Nikon digital SLRs, which is mounted on my Nikon D90 digital SLR, to which is attached a T-ring for a Nikon F-mount, which allows the camera to connect to my Televue 2× Powermate with its T-ring adapter, which, in turn, is inserted into a two-inch extension tube, which is inserted into the focuser of my Sky-Watcher Equinox 80 apochromatic refractor.

All of which is completely unwieldy on my now surprisingly flimsy Manfrotto tripod. Time for a better mount. For lunar photography, a computerized equatorial mount is overkill; I can do this with a sturdy alt-azimuth mount that would normally be used for observing. Candidates include Astro-Tech’s Voyager, Orion’s VersaGo and Vixen’s Porta II; heavier-duty possibilities include Orion’s SkyView AZ, Sky-Watcher’s HDAZ, and similar mounts. Time to poke around.

The Moon, magnified

I first tried photographing the Moon with my new 2× Powermate on May 8, but my 80-mm Sky-Watcher Equinox refractor couldn’t reach focus with the Powermate. It needed more focus travel, apparently. (The Powermate’s special T-ring adapter1 hadn’t shown up yet, so I connected my camera to the Powermate using my existing T-ring adapter and the Powermate’s two-inch eyepiece adapter.) I had to make do with this shot instead, taken without the Powermate.

I had the Powermate’s T-ring adapter on order at Focus Scientific (great people; shop there); I picked it up on Monday, along with a two-inch extension tube, which I hoped would allow me to achieve focus with all this gear. I got to test this combination out on Thursday night. As you can see, it worked:

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Astronomical addenda

I forgot to mention that, during the high school observing session, I made one hell of a misidentification. The kids pointed to a bright star in the east, which I immediately dismissed as a plane. Except it didn’t move. It turned out to be Arcturus, the second-brightest star in the northern sky. I should have gotten that, but in my defence, my usual observing sites have obstructed views of the east. I don’t normally see anything east of Spica at this time of year.

Setting up for that session was much easier than I thought it would be: driving to the site and bringing stuff from the car in several trips is a hell of a lot less effort than trying to carry everything in your arms or on your back over several hundred metres in one trip. Who knew? Anyway, considering that we’ve had several offers of open, rural sites to observe from, car-based observing looks like a viable option. Which means that telescopes that would ordinarily be far too heavy to lug to the nearby field are back on the menu. Which means that Dobsonian telescopes — big, lots of aperture, not very expensive — are back on the menu.

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Holiday photos

My grandfather's 90th

What does it say about me that I’m only now posting photos from our trip to Calgary over the holidays? (It’s even worse when you consider that in my case, three months actually isn’t that bad.) Anyway, here they are: 30 photos of my family, all wrapped up in a nice, tidy Flickr photoset. (I’m not in them, as usual: the side benefit of being the photographer.) The photos fall into three categories: Christmas morning at my grandparents’ condo; my grandfather’s 90th birthday party the following day; and a few shots at my brother’s place the evening before we left. That my niece features prominently in these photos should not be a surprise.

(We also visited the Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller during that trip; the photos from that visit are in a separate photoset.)

The Moon again

The Moon

Took another try at photographing the Moon last night, when it was almost full. This one is better than the last one, I think.

This time I shot without the focal reducer, which presented a larger image to the camera, and tried focusing with the D90’s Live View. This didn’t work so well, because a nearly full Moon is very, very bright: it was washed out in the LCD. Because it was so bright, this shot was 1/1600 second at f/6.25 (although I ended up increasing the exposure in Aperture on this one, even shots taken at 1/4000 weren’t bad).

Photographing the Moon

The Moon

Last night, I spent some time taking pictures of the Moon. I think I managed to get a pretty good shot, don’t you? (Click through for some boring technical details.)

This was my first attempt at astrophotography with a bunch of new equipment, including the camera (my Nikon D90) and the telescope (my Sky-Watcher Equinox 80), but also my first attempt at connecting the camera to the telescope via a prime focus adapter (thanks for the machining, Nathan), and my first attempt at focusing through the camera’s right-angle finder. All things considered, it turned out well; the only drawback was that when the focal reducer is added to the mix (a necessity with the adapter), the Moon is pretty small in a short-focal-length refractor, which made for a lot of cropping on the computer.

Photos from the Royal Tyrrell Museum


One of the highlights from our December trip to visit my family in Calgary was the side trip we took to Drumheller to visit the Royal Tyrrell Museum, which just might be the best dinosaur museum on the planet. It was my third trip to this museum, but I hadn’t been there for at least 16 years (and probably more). Since that time they’d added a few new exhibits frontloaded before visitors encountered the older museum; for the life of me I cannot imagine why the new material would be heavy on the T. rex and raptor side of things.

In any event, I’ve finally finished going through and uploading the photos; here’s the set. (Jennifer also took some photos with the D40; they’re available here.) Enjoy!

More fun at Little Ray’s

Black-tailed rattlesnake

More photos have been added to my Little Ray’s Reptile Zoo set; we visited the zoo again on December 20, 2008 (yes, it’s once again taken me forever to process and post photos). Highlights include Jennifer playing with tarantulas and tokay geckos, Nicole playing with reticulated pythons and albino skunks, and tortoises, um, playing with each other. (Interesting thing about that last one: both tortoises were male.) Enjoy!

Wedding photos

Dave and Sarah's wedding (Dec. 2007)

It only took me a year or so, but I finally processed photos from the wedding of Jennifer’s brother before our trip to Calgary. (The wedding itself took place on December 28, 2007.) The happy couple got a DVD of the photos in time for Christmas; the rest of you can see lower-resolution versions here.

At the Canadian Museum of Nature

Daspletosaurus torosus (skull)

Jennifer and I paid a visit to the Canadian Museum of Nature last month. My photos: let me show you them. The focus of the photos is on the new Talisman Energy Fossil Gallery, which is quite a bit different from the old fossil exhibit, and the special Ice Age Mammals exhibit, which was smaller than expected.

Some quick points about the visit:

  1. The Museum was only half open; the rest is being renovated. The half we were in had been renovated first, I think. It was hard getting around, especially from floor to floor.
  2. My comments regarding children at the Biodome are equally applicable: museums are turning into day cares.
  3. After processing a whole whack of photos taken with the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 prime (see previous entry), I’ve noticed that the lens suffers from a certain amount of chromatic aberration, at least on blown highlights when wide open.

Photo delays

I’m behind on posting photos. This is nothing new. In fact, the following photos have been waiting for me to get my act together and post them to my Flickr account:

  • Photos from CPR #2816’s visit to Smiths Falls, Ontario in June 2004
  • Photos from the Shawville Fair last September
  • Photos from the wedding of Jennifer’s brother last December

I leave it to you to figure out which one will get me killed if I don’t hurry up.

Recent photography

Occasionally, I leave my house and take pictures.

Some photos from a walk with Robert and Marilee on their property two weeks ago (Jennifer’s photos).

Photos from the Ottawa Central’s open house last Saturday (see my post on FRN). It was raining, at times heavy, and my kit lens got all spotty towards the end.

Also from last Saturday, photos from our first visit to Little Ray’s Reptile Zoo in years. For this one, I put away the spotty kit lens and used my new 50-mm f/1.8 prime lens, which, you may recall, has to be manually focused with a D40. I shot without a flash, which made for very shallow depths of field (f/1.8, ISO 1600), but I’m quite pleased with the results.

Local miscellany, with photos

A few items of local interest:

Anne McGowan, the principal of ELC, is retiring. Since Jennifer is one of their teachers and I am her spousal equivalent, I attended the retirement party on the 26th, where I put my swanky new camera to use.

Eric Campbell, a local character (and yes, you better believe he was one) who was active in heritage projects, died last week; my friend Robert Wills is assembling anecdotes on a memorial page.

The Pontiac Community Bonspiel wrapped up today; Jennifer played on the Pontiac High School staff team. It was her first time curling, though she’s no stranger to the sport as a spectator. Her team finished second in its division, but before you get too impressed, note that there are twelve divisions and 72 teams in all. Anyway, I was along with my camera today, and here is the photographic evidence.

Moving photos

I continue to move my photos over to my Flickr account. My .Mac home page photos have now been added. Best to take care of it before I let my .Mac subscription lapse, which I’m thinking of doing. I’m also thinking of letting lapse, since I hardly ever do anything with that domain, so, though it won’t expire until next May at the earliest, I’ve moved my Pelee Island field trip photos over as well.

Canada Day

Red flags I stayed home for the fireworks, because by then I was just too sore and tired (though I could still see most of them from the bedroom window). But I did catch Shawville’s Canada Day parade, which was what you’d expect from a small-town parade. Everyone seemed to be wearing red except me. Shawville is arguably the most federalist town in Quebec, and they take Canada Day very seriously. My photos turned out very well, I think.

Thanks to my involvement in the Archives, we’d been invited to a do at the town hall prior to the parade, where I felt a bit out of place: it was a bit more formal, with a lot more politicians — mayors from half the Pontiac, our MP — than I’d expected. I don’t get out much even by Shawville standards.

Two more reptile-related photosets

Belated photo update: I’ve created two new photosets on my Flickr account. This one is a selection of photos from an impromptu OARA field trip two weeks ago; this one is a collection of photos of my snakes engaged in the horizontal mambo. By far my most popular photos on Flickr are a couple of closeups of my corn snakes doing the nasty, presumably due to people using “graphic sex” as a search term, and getting grossed out by the results. Well, tough; here are some more.

On a related note, there are two Flickr groups roughly equal in size with roughly the same mandate: Herp Photography, which I started about a year ago, and Reptiles and Amphibians. Duplication inevitably happens with user-created groups on community sites, but it’s rare to see two of equal quality that do equally well. I wonder if we should consolidate, assuming that we even can.

Spotted turtle survey photos

Here’s something I did during my enforced time offline: I finally got the photos from the 2003 Spotted Turtle Survey online, only two years and three months late (see previous entry). I procrastinated uploading them for the longest time because I had a hard time winnowing them down. I’ve frequently had that problem when trying to pick from too many photos; I think I’m finally over that, though, because I managed to pick the 27 best photos from more than 170. And I think these photos are awfully good even if I do say so myself. (For more on the survey, see my report from the 2001 trip.)

My copyright has been violated

These photos of Eastern Milk Snakes, published on this site, are mine: I took them in 2000. I still have the original, full-size, uncropped images. They have been published without attribution and without my consent, in violation of my copyright. I’m doing something about this. So far, I’m raising a stink on the mailing list where this site was first posted. Hopefully it won’t escalate beyond this, but, make no mistake, I’m prepared to escalate this. I’ve been paid for my photos before; I have to defend my copyright.

Update: I’ve sent him an invoice for the photos — a reasonable step for which there is past precedent (The Equity did it when its rival paper inadvertently published one of their photos). We’ll see how that turns out.

Update: Ian has removed the posts in question; I still have screenshots. He doesn’t see what the big deal is. Unfortunately, most people don’t, as a general rule. He made all sorts of excuses in his e-mail reply, but the simple fact is, he didn’t have explicit permission to reprint my photos without attributing them to me.

It’s extremely upsetting to see your own work published elsewhere as though someone else has done it.

New(ish) reptile photos

I’ve been putting up some of my older snake photos — finally! — and putting them into albums on Flickr. First, our current reptile collection, one photo per critter, with some photos a few years old. (But they’re good photos.) Second, some feeding photos; I’ve got some more of these coming. And third and most spectacularly, photos of the Red-sided Garter Snakes being born back in June 2002 (see previous entry). Enjoy.

More mudpuppy photos

More photos have been added to the Mudpuppy Night album; these were taken Friday night. Strictly speaking, most of these are not mudpuppy photos, but rather of the night’s activities. The lighting was not amenable, the camera’s batteries were draining quickly, and I fell on the ice. Also, I shot in “night mode” and my shots are blurrier — though more revealing — than if I had shot in regular flash mode.

Mudpuppy night photos

A mudpuppy swimming in the frigid waters of Kemptville Creek below the Oxford Mills Dam.

They’re a little late in coming, but I’ve finally posted a few photos from one of Fred’s mudpuppy nights — in this case, from Feb. 7, 2004, when a squadron of herpers from the Toronto/Peterborough area descended on Oxford Mills to see the wonder that is amphibians active at subfreezing temperatures.

Fewer photos turned out than I had hoped: my incompetence with the camera meant that I had the water’s surface in focus most of the time. (But then I was shooting madly like a good news photographer, with similar results: 61 photos taken, six used.)

Me, aged one

I’ve scanned some black-and-white photos of me from 1973 and put them online here. (Black-and-white photos on glossy paper stock scan very nicely.) You’ll notice that one of them is the basis of the thumbnail at the top of each page on this site. It is my deepest regret that it’s been downhill on the cuteness scale ever since for me.

Railroad photo albums

My father’s been visiting since last week, and the three of us have been doing the train thing like nobody’s business. On Saturday we went to St-Constant to visit the Canadian Railway Museum and oohed and aahed over the vintage railway equipment. Unless you are also the sort of person to ooh and aah over such things as a Fairbanks-Morse Trainmaster or a Canadian Pacific Royal Hudson, you wouldn’t understand. As is traditional, I took a whole whack of photos.

Then on Monday we took a ride on the Hull-Chelsea-Wakefield Steam Train. Packed with tourists, many of whom from tour buses — it’s the fall season after all. It’s run with Swedish equipment, from the two locomotives — a 1909-vintage 2-8-0 Consolidation class and a 1960s-vintage diesel, presumably there for backup and support — to the rolling stock. Reasonably comfortable, though the animation was a bit overdone. Track conditions kept the train quite slow: 32 km covered in 90 minutes. Once again, I have photos.

On Tuesday my father and I went off to Lark Spur Line — the largest model railroading store in the area — and came away with a few model freight cars each. Lark Spur is really good for freight cars. We’ve been building things ever since. I was working on a flat car earlier tonight; now Jen and my dad are working on wooden kits of a CPR caboose and refrigerator car.

Still to come: Railfair on Saturday, after which we all may well be heartily sick of the subject.

Murphy’s Point photos from 2002

I’ve been procrastinating again. I’ve been meaning to put some reptile photo albums online for some time, but I wanted to have a homegrown photo-gallery thingy — similar to that for Trails — running in the reptiles section. The hell with that: I’ll use my .Mac web space. To start with, here are photos from a June 2002 field trip to Murphy’s Point Provincial Park.

Between the Flickr stuff, putting up older photos, and the new photos associated with my father’s visit (more on which anon), expect an awful lot of photography in the near future.


As you may have noticed, I now have a Flickr account (my photos). This is allowing me to do all sorts of neat things with my digital photos. So far I’m using an RSS feed to put my reptile photos on my reptiles page, and I’ve got a random photo generator at the top of the sidebar on each page. More as I find uses for all the little features. There’s an iPhoto plugin (see their Macintosh group) that makes uploading my photos absolutely painless.

This isn’t going to replace iPhoto or my .Mac photo galleries, but it’s an easy way to share photos as I take them. The social-networking functions will make this really neat too: I can view my friends’ and contacts’ photos, or search for photos based on the tags that have been assigned (such as snake or trains).

I’m sending out invites. Sign up. Seriously. Free, and it looks like there are good people behind it.

(Note that they’ve been having some DNS trouble over the past day or two, and that outages will affect my pages as a result.)

Healy Pass

Remember how I said that the Healy Pass photos would be up in a few days — back in April?

Ha. How little you understand my inability to choose which photos to use. (Drove Dave nuts at the paper: I’d give him a full card of photos and he’d only want a few — I just couldn’t figure out which ones were good.)

Anyway, they’re up now: 30 photos from Geoff’s and my hike of the Simpson Pass—Healy Meadows and Healy Pass trails (see previous entry).

The trails section has had another redesign, too — replacing tables with CSS elements. It may not look 100 per cent on Internet Explorer, but you’re not supposed to be using that browser any more anyway.

Unless I happen across a store of forgotten photos somewhere, that should be it for photo galleries on the trails section until I go hiking again.

Trails page redesign

It’s been up for a week, actually, but now I’ve finally got enough of the bugs worked out that I can finally mention the redesign of the trails section of this website. In addition to a new layout and appearance, I’ve also finally added pictures from my hikes to Eiffel Lake and Citadel Pass. These hikes took place in 1988 — when I was just a lad of 16 — and the photos are scans from slides.

Next up is the long-overdue page on Healy Pass, which I hiked in the summer of 2002 (see previous entry). It takes me forever to get around to updating the trails section — the Eiffel Lake and Citadel Pass pages were first conceived in 1999 — but I’m hoping to have that done in the next few days. (Really!) There are nearly a hundred pictures to choose from and process, and I’ve been procrastinating that rather big task.

Note: Entries prior to November 2003 did not have categories assigned to them, and are not included in category archives; please consult the monthly archives.