Monday, November 30, 2009

Bloedel Floral Conservatory, QE Park

Faced with economic uncertainty, the Bloedel Floral Conservatory is slated to close for lack of operating funds. It has been many years since we have gone inside to view the exhibit.

(MacMillan Bloedel Floral Conservatory, Queen Elizabeth Park, Vancouver, BC)

Here is an except from their official website:

"The Conservatory is one of the most popular attractions in Vancouver and is open daily, rain or shine. A modest fee is charged. It is dedicated to the wonders of the natural world with an emphasis on plants and birds. As a matter of fact, over 100 birds of various species call the Bloedel Conservatory home and free-fly within its spacious dome. It was constructed through a very generous donation from Prentice Bloedel in 1969. That same donation enabled the Park Board to cover the main reservoir atop Queen Elizabeth Park."

You can obtain more detailed information from HERE (<-- click link)


The first week of every month is my busy week. Tomorrow (1st Tuesday) is my photography meeting where we will have our group Christmas dinner and Wednesday (1st Wednesday of each month) is my car meeting where we have a Christmas social and are expected to bring pot luck to share.

With this in mind I decided to do a short post and stop at Queeen Elizabeth Park on my way home to snap a few pictures of the "Dome" . When I arrived in the parking lot the fountain was doing its aerobatic dance. While I set up my camera and tripod getting things ready the water suddenly stopped which was going to ruin my shots. I waited a short while in the cold 5c air and it started up again - lucky for me (and you)


Other than the sound of falling water it was quiet but as I watched the water dance and slowly ebb up and down to a rhythm of its own, I could imagine the music of a symphony going through my mind.


First all the jets were pushing the water up, then some stopped, then the middle one did its job. It was all so hypnotic not knowing what it was going to do next


Moving water is not the best subject for timed exposures as it creates a blur which invokes action.


The Bloedel Conservatory is on the highest point of land in Vancouver. This is the location for Vancouver's drinking water. There is a reservoir at the top which has been covered by a cement parking lot, when I was a youth the reservoir was open to the elements and surrounded by a fence. The locals call the area of Queen Elizabeth Park "Little Mountain" . There used to be a road running east to west which went "over the top" of the mountain with a little parking lot which had a commanding view of the city. It was a very crowed place on summer weeknights and weekends with all the cars having "steamed up" windows. The occupants presumably were viewing the submarine races. When the Conservatory was built, they closed off the road to use as a pedestrian area, cemented the top of the reservoir and relocated the parking to the top.


All of these images were taken with a Nikon D80, 18-135, AF-s G-ED DX
F stops were all set at F8.0, but shutter speeds ranged from 2 sec to 7 seconds. While I have higher quality lenses it is just easier to carry one. This is the only DX lens I have. All my other ones will work with full sensors.

I tend to use F8 a lot as that is usually the sweet spot of most lenses. The temperatures are getting colder and it is hard to hold the metal of the tripod for any length of time with hands devoid of clothing. I have a cold weather tripod which I have covered with pipe insulation. Make sure to bring a flashlight so you can actually see the controls of your camera. To trigger the shutter I usually use my remote control OR self timer so as to minimize camera shake upon releasing the shutter. I also "lean" on the tripod to weigh it down, or sometimes I just hang my camera bag on it


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Night Photography

Irondad (Musings of an Intrepid Commuter) (<-- click link) recently asked me a question about a mannequin in a window and what settings I used to take the photo. Unfortunately I was on my way to a Ukelele meeting (as an observer and backup singer) and I was more interested in taking video and only had my small point & Shoot (P&S) and cell phone in my pocket whist I was walking towards the cafe. I am always on the lookout for Blog material so it occurred to me to take photos along the way. Back in the film days I used to burn a lot of B&W film and spent considerable time processing them in my dark room. Digital cameras are easier and more cost effective. I don't know if this will make sense to anyone who is not a photographer or advanced amateur but I do have professional grade equipment (Film based) which mostly sit unexercised in a drawer or camera bag somewhere, but I usually carry more than one camera with me. Most often my Canon G10, and to protect it I also have a small Canon SD780is which I use as a sacrificial lamb. The problem with P&S cameras is that they are disposable. When they break they are not worth fixing. I dislike the fact that plastic gears are used to open and close the lens and I do turn my cameras on and off a lot to conserve battery power so I decided a while back to have another small less expensive camera which I can turn on and off to my hearts delight and save the mechanism of my better camera. On my Nikon dSLR I am able to leave it on all night or all day without draining the battery, and there is no opening or closing of the lens except that you cannot easily pack it in your pocket.
What I am trying to say in a long winded way is that when Irondad asked me what settings I used, I cannot say with certainty as I have no control over the exposure function of that P&S which does all the thinking for you. The exposure values flash on the screen as soon as you achieve autofocus lock (half button press). I have been noticing that the SD780is shoots wide open at F3.2 and the shutter was probably around 1/8" or 1/4"sec
I don't use my Nikon very much but tonight decided to ride down to False Creek to take a few night shots using a couple of different lenses. To give you an idea of where I was and a glimpse of the light conditions (or lack of light) here is a short video which sets the stage.

This started out as a standard definition video 480p using a Canon FS200 flash camcorder but reduced to 230p for uploading to YouTube

For timed exposures you need a very stable tripod. Tonight I am using a Manfrotto 055 tripod. It is medium duty but very stable and I also use it for my Toyo View 45A (4x5 view camera) without any problems. For motorcycle use I mounted a tool tube and carry a Manfrotto 714B. It is very small and will fit completely inside of a backpack without protruding.

(Manfrotto 055 tripod)

In order to establish a baseline for comparison I first used the kit lens on my Nikon D80 and took this first shot

(Nikon D80, 18-135 AF G-ED: 4.5 sec @ F7.1)

I am still not used to the digital F stops. In pre digital days it would have been: F2.8, 4, 5.6,8,11 & 16 . The sweet spot of the lens is between F5.6 - F8, so I manually selected the midpoint of F7.1 . Your lens is generally sharpest at this setting and sharpness drops off on either side.

I decided to change the lens and took another shot of the same scene

(Nikon D80, 60mm AF micro Nikkor D2.8: 6 sec @ F8)

The 60mm AF micro is a Prime lens and outperforms the 18-135 AF G-ED. I tried to change the white balance to Incadessant from Auto WB but while in the field, I did not notice any difference on the camera's screen. There is mixed lighting in the photo

I decided to try the same shot using my Canon G10 in manual mode. The problem with P&S cameras is that you cannot select a specific focal length (except for the new Canon S90). I know that the Canon G10 is great in daylight with Iso below 200, but this is the first time that I have used it for night exposures

(Canon G10: 6" sec @ F 5.0)

I decided to photograph a section of the Cambie Bridge with the apartment buildings on the left

(Nikon D80, 60mm AF micro Nikkor: 8" sec @ F8)

Here is a similar shot using the Canon G10 with a wider view to see how it handles the shadows with direct lighting on the bridge

(Canon G10: 5" sec @ F5.0 WB set to Tungsten)

I pointed my camera to the left away from the bridge where there was less ambient light and used a much longer exposure to compensate

(Canon G10: 15" sec @ F5.0)

and to finish off this series of photos, I mounted my 20mm AF-D Nikkor for this last shot

(Nikon D80, 20mm AF-D: 3" sec @ F8.0)

Life is full of compromises. Sometimes it's not convenient to take your best camera with you because of weight, size or convenience and we end up using our cell phone camera because that's all we were able to stuff in our pocket. Remember: a fuzzy picture is better than no picture. Happy photographing to all of you. If you have any questions, just ask.


EDIT: I forgot to mention: The Nikon D80 was set to ISO 200,
the Canon G10 was set at ISO 100, & the SD780is was set at ISO 200
The Canon FS200 was on standard mode, without using slow shutter.
The D80 and G10 were tripod mounted. The FS200 and SD780is were handheld

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sunday with my cell phone

Recently Steve (Scooter in the Sticks) (<-- click link) wrote about how deficient the photos were from his new Apple iPhone. So with this challenge in mind I set out to document my ride with photos taken with my Samsung Omnia multi-media phone, model i910. My phone has Windows Mobile 6 and can play many different types of video and has a very capable 5mp camera on board.

(Samsung i910 Omnia)

I take all of my photos at full resolution then downsize them using an Image Reducer freeware program able to process whole directories at a time. Very seldom will I crop, merely just downsizing them for web display.

Finally the rain stopped. We have been receiving torrential storm after storm for the past 3 weeks. Today we had a narrow window of opportunity to roll the bike out of hibernation. The roads were still a little wet with lots of mushy leaves on the ground. I decide to just take a little ride around our University of British Columbia which is on the western part of the city and winds along the ocean.

(Samsung Omnia i910)

From home, I take West 41st avenue west to Marine Drive where the speed limit changes to 80 kmh (50 mph). After a few miles you get to some twisty sections then you come around the corner and head downhill towards the beach area at Spanish Banks. The parking lot is nearly deserted this time of year. Temperatures are a pleasant 7c (45f). I pity those poor souls down in the southern climes who sweat and cannot live without their necessary air conditioning. There was a little spitting rain and there was no need to turn on my heated grips nor wear my heated vest, unlike those poor souls in Alberta where the temps (with chill factor) are dealing with lack of heat in the -5c range.

(Samsung Omnia i910)

In the background you can see Vancouver shrouded in clouds. If you peer a little to the left you can get a small glimpse of the mountains where it appears to be raining. Grouse Mountain is directly opposite the main city, and to the left will be Seymour Mountain. From the city centre you can be on the ski slopes and downhill skiing in a mere hour with a commanding view of Vancouver below.

(Samsung Omnia i910)

There is still a lot of pooling water around, especially on city intersections where the leaves have clogged the storm drains. Sometimes they create little lakes 2-3inches deep. You have to be very carefully to not find yourself going too slow in one of these lakes. When it is raining you cannot see these hazards for the wet roads make them invisible.
This particular phone actually has an autofocus lens, while others have "fixed" focus which is not as good. There isn't much zoom as it is digital only, not optical but it is fine enough if you are stuck for the camera in your pocket is better than the one at home. A fuzzy picture is better than no picture at least this is what I always say to myself.

I head over to Kits Beach (Kitsilano) to find a photogenic spot to pose my mighty V-strom DL650 (Wee) before the light fades. It is only around 6pm and I notice that darkness comes too fast this time of year.

(Samsung Omnia i910)

I was lucky to have found a spot in a nearly perfect spot with a city backdrop. There are many apartments in this area and parking is difficult. Immensely more difficult when you also have to fight for those wanting to get to the beach in the summer.

As I look over the incline towards the city I snap another photo with my cell phone.

(Samsung Omnia i910)

If it weren't so cloudy I would have captured a beautiful sunset with the warm glow of the sun reflecting off those buildings in the downtown core across the water. That's Kits Pool in the foreground and the treed area straight ahead is Kits point where we have a Maritime Museum. In order to get into the downtown core you have to travel over one of three bridges: Burrard Street Bridge, Granville Bridge, or Cambie Bridge.

My camera also contains a video recorder which records in 3g2 format. I downloaded a 3g2 to AVI converter so you can view using WMP.

i910 weekitsbeach.avi

(Samsung Omnia i910 video recorder)

Earlier when I was riding in the Jericho Beach area down by the Yacht Club I noticed a beautiful BMW 1200GS doing some manueuvers in the parking lot. Of course, like a magnet I had to head over in that direction. I passed the Beemer and looped to the other side of the the parking lot and stopped, and nodded at the rider. We introduced ourselves and I found out that Bruce is a new entrant to the riding scene having ridden for about 3 years. He took a riding course and purchased a C50 which he rode to Alaska on the Top of the World highway (I think this is the Dempster). He also took a bike tour to the Baja Peninsula last year with a local BMW dealer. I've always wanted to have one of those GS's, oh well, we can still dream . . .

Anyway, let me introduce Bruce to you and I hope that he makes it over into our Blog community. I really like the colour of his bike. We probably talked for over half an hour and he told me he likes to read Riepe. When I mentioned Twisted Roads his eyes lit up and I was proud to say that I know Jack "r" . Of course, there may be times where it is probably better not know Jack, especially on Duval Street in KW where his reputation is MUD.

(Bruce & his BMW 1200GS)

. . . and of course, my mighty V-strom Wee in the background

All of my photos on today's post were taken with my Samsung Omnia i910 cell phone camera with Autofocus. There is 8gig on board memory, with an additional 8gig micro SDHC card installed.

Disclaimer: This is not a testimonial of the cell phone/camera's capabilites, nor is it a sponsored ad for profit. I do not sell phones nor do I have any vested interest with any dealer who sells phones. I am happy with its performance and it performs very well

Friday, November 20, 2009

Vanukes: Vancouver Ukelele Circle

I've had a few comments lately about our active lifestyle. No, not active in walking, jogging or going to the Gym and working out, but active in the sense that we seem to be always out and enjoying life. Between car clubs, riding get togethers, weekends away and exploring our great part of the country and going to other events then you could say that we are always on the go. Photography has been my hobby since high school when I was a school photographer. I was so stressed to find additional time a few years ago that I stopped going to my photography meetings and only recently rejoined. My schedule now has been reduced to a point where I could undertake a new project. For the past few months I have been attending the monthly meetings of the Vancouver Ukelele Circle at Our Town Cafe at Kingsway & Broadway, Vancouver, BC which is on the 3rd Tuesdays of each month at 7:30pm

(Our Town Cafe, Vancouver, BC)

Of course I also have a conflict with my photography group where we have a dinner meeting starting at 6pm. Meetings are actually every Tuesday. A formal meeting on the 1st Tuesdays of the month with attendance taken and some sort of presentation to do with antique and collectible cameras. Yes, I am a (former) camera collector and a member of the Western Canada Photographic Historical Association. (<-- click link)

I leave my office at around 5pm in Coquitlam and it takes over an hour to reach the restaurant on the West Side of Vancouver. We talk about cameras and other stuff, have dinner and I rush over to the Ukelele meeting usually arriving a few minutes late. Tonight I decided to skip the dinner and arrive early. I managed a parking spot a kilometer away and window shop along the way


I dislike having to pay for parking. The city is cash strapped so a few years ago they stuck meters everywhere and extended the meter hours to 8pm. Free is better but you have to park farther away


While walking you are more alert to your surroundings. I noticed this patriotic mannequin peering out the window


Eventually I make my way to the restaurant and order a soup & sandwich for C$6.99 + VAT. It is already busy here with most of the members occupying the tables. I love music but have never taken the opportunity to learn how to play any instrument. It is Mrs Scoot that is learning how to play the Ukelele. It is sort of like a small guitar but with only 4 strings, instead of 6.


Meetings are structured for the 1st half with sing alongs lead by Ralph Shaw, Vancouver's King of the Ukelele. You can find more information on the Vanukes: Vancouver Ukelele Circle Website (<--- click link) or read about the activities from Ralph's blog (<-- click link).

About half way through we stop for a beverage break and the second half of the meeting is "open Mike" . Anyone is welcome to put on their performance and if it is your first time then the rule is you will receive a "standing Ovation". Ralph is well known throughout the world for his unusual style. He enters competitions and gives workshops all over the country. Here is a sample

I give moral support and sing along to the music using their official songbook. I must say that there are many talented people here and makes me wonder if I have the ability to learn how to play an instrument, or just continue to sing along with my wonderful voice. I love music from the 40's, 50's and early 60's, anything with a melody and words that make sense.

Here is another magnificent performance from last Tuesday which mates a cello with a ukelele to the words of "Here comes the rain again" (Eurythmics). I wonder if you will recognize it

Last week I was also invited to a Jam Session. It was a sort of drop in affair never knowing who would turn up. I was in the middle of the action with my new toy. I purchased a professional PCM recorder, Olympus LS-10 capable of recording better than CD quality music. I now had a chance to do over an hour of recording and produced my first music CD. Nothing special, just some music of the 60's with guitar, drums and castonets from artists who just like to play music.

Did I mention that I love music ? I hope you liked those performances because I thought they were great.

Monday, November 16, 2009

A bit of . . . White Rock, BC

I had a request for a few pictures of White Rock from Sonja M (Two-Wheelers Revisited) . Being the Tourism Ambassador that I am, I am happy to oblige.

(White Rock pier, Semiahmoo, USA in the background)

White Rock is a seaside community about 40 kms south of Vancouver. You head southbound on Hwy 99 and take the last exit at 8th Avenue which leads you to the main street into town. The 8th Avenue exit is the last exit before you reach the US/Canadian Peach Arch border crossing.


The main drag is about a couple of miles long and directly across from a long and flat sandy beach. There are two business sections along the beach separated by a long hill. On the southern end you will find small cafes and a few fish & chip vendors. There is nothing more delightful than devouring an order of fish and chips while walking barefoot along the sandy beach in the summer and breathing in the salt air, which somehow makes the fish and chips taste better, and perhaps an ice cream cone for dessert.

On the northern section you will find more upscale restaurants and gift stores. The Pier is found inbetween


Over the years the Pier had been restored. Back in the early days there was a dance hall at the end of the pier where people of the previous generation used to come on a Saturday night and dance the night away. Today it is a place to walk and enjoy the fresh ocean air.


Now instead of a dance hall you will find a Marina for the White Rock yacht club


I believe that it is legal to go crabbing here. At high tide the crabs congregate under the pier and I have seen people throw their crab traps over the side and tie their tethers to the handrails waiting for their dinner to take to the bait. Many of the homes are terraced up the hill and look south towards the water. Housing is very expensive with prices rivaling Vancouver.


The beach is separated by the railway tracks which run the full length of the beach. A lot of visitors don't heed the warning signs of impending trains. The rocks protect the railway tracks during the winter storm season. As you notice, there is a first nations wood carver on site today.


While most of the beach is sandy, there is a small buffer section of gravel and large rocks. With the outgoing tide there is left behind many tidal pools


It is relaxing to walk the pier and stop to gaze at all the wildlife


This day was not a warm day and there were not that many brave enough to be walking about on the beach, except for our 2 feathered friends


During the summer many come here from the city, have a meal and just walk about enjoying a day of freedom. It is not easy to find a parking spot on a warm, sunny day.


When I think of White Rock I think of the pier and the business'es along the beach, but the main business area (city centre) is up the hill and away from the water. And yes, there really is a White Rock and perhaps the next time I'll go down there and snap a photo for you


Friday, November 13, 2009

Lake Abert, Oregon

Last year while on our way to the Oregon Outback Scenic ByWay (Hwy 31) we found ourselves heading south down Hwy 395 just 30 miles north of Lakeview and discovered a beautiful place


It was a beautiful sunny, warm day as we stopped to admire the cattle grazing amid the while salt deposits


The landscape was captivating. Sand, sage brush, the white salt deposits, and open range cattle. It looked like we had entered another land


There is not much traffic along this section and eventually we found a place to pull over and spend some time


We later found out that this was the last remnants of a great inland sea from another age which covered a large area


It turns out that this lake can stretch for over 30 miles in all directions depending upon the time and year and amount of rainfall. I am nearly positive that we had travelled over 20 miles down this gravel road


And looking both directions (North & South) Abert Lake extends farther than your eyes can see


I was very tempted to transverse the rocks and sand to make my way down to the water but decided against it for I noticed lots of Lizards wandering about. I know that this is a very arrid area and I was worried about poisonous snakes lurking & shorts and sandals are not adequate protection. Not to mention that we seem to be in the middle of nowhere if medical attention was needed.


I'm not sure how far away we are from the ocean but there are lots of seagulls about


We read somewhere that this was a great sea loaded with salt. With the water having no place to exit it gets depleted through evaporation which leaves the salt behind. Right now the water levels are very low and only so much salt can be precipitated into the water solution, so I would imagine that the water should be very saturated and salty tasting.


Since I didn't get a chance to taste the water I'll never know how it tastes


But I will the next time I visit again . . .