Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Weird Weather or Alien Invasion?
Vancouver, English Bay

Me I was hoping this weird weather effect was the initial thrust of an alien invasion. I mean ... well ... an invasion from outer space would be pretty cool considering it would answer the "Are we alone?" and "Do aliens look like Milla Jovovich from the movie The Fifth Element?" questions once and for all.

But, as optimistic regarding the abnormal as I am I'm not really a big believer in the whole "aliens stole my baby" conspiracy. I've reviewed even the most optimistic math and, as with most of the space based urban myths, if you don't have a comfortable understanding of infinity you'll get wrapped in the riddle and start to believe that ET is living next door.

The bottom line, mathematically, is that in our galaxy, which is pretty darn huge, there are, right now (maybe) between 5 to 10 planets that have intelligent life capable of communicating across the vastness of space. We are one of those 10.

The other civilizations are no doubt as busy as we are trying to create a unified civilization and have little time to "reach out and touch someone". Even if they could the basic laws of physics say the best that you can do is communicate at the speed of light.

That might sound fast and such but when you need to communicate across upwards of 100,000 light years (the width of our galaxy and as such the worse case distance between two of the 10 sentient civilizations) you have a huge time lag to take into account.

A lag large enough to make the whole "We come in peace." argument pretty much implausible.

Considering that we discovered the number zero less than 10,000 years ago as a species the idea of keeping one goal active, talking to an interstellar species in this case, for 20 times that is kinda funny once you do the math. I hate to burst anyones bubble but if a species is smart enough to plow the cruel vacuum between the stars the last thing they are going to do is visit Bart Simpson.

Consider us the sole owners of this entire galaxy then. A concept I consider even more powerful than the existence of extra-terrestrials.

What these photos actually show is a common weather phenomena magnified by being beside a gigantic body of water called the Pacific Ocean.

Micro climates.

We get a lot of those here on the west coast and these photos nicely capture the micro-climate effect embedded in the low clouds above English Bay here in Vancouver.

Fresh weather. Mist on your face that's come from something that was just born from the warm aqua-green of the Pacific Ocean and is still uncertain as to what it will do next.

The little pockets of inversion that produced the cloud dimples in these shots will, if they are strong enough, eventually merge with the master pressure system and head east. If they decide to stay though they'll often dump their energy as rain or hail on Surrey. Huggles. :)

Sigh. No aliens though or, argh, no Milla.


The weather here is still nutty with yet another 80km/hr to 100km/hr windy night incoming as I type this. That's 5 wind storms in the past 2 or so weeks.

Its been a series of weather patterns that has reminded me of a story I read back in the 1980's. It was one of those "End of the World Because of the Weather" sorts of stories that, back then, was a thrill to read since it was so impossible. But, ... well a few weeks short of 2007 AD it's not so thrilling anymore.

The least thrilling part of the story for me was that when the weather finally goes nutty it does not do so over the course of decades but over the course of months. In scientific and mathematical terms it's referred to as the point of inflection. Basically things just go from getting bad in a slow linear sort of way to sucking in an exponential way.

Things get bad faster than we can adapt is the basic jist of it.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

How Clouds Are Born
The Sunshine Coast, BC Canada

The weather on the north west coast of North America has been crazy this fall. Mix together a mild El Nino in the south Pacific ocean, the regular and ever tempermental 12 year solar sunspot cycle and a healthy dose of global warming and the net effect has been a never ending series of weather systems seemingly on magic mushrooms.

"Is it just me Chester or do these clouds not look like a bowl of the most excellent and twisted Cheesy Puffs?"

"They do Eugene... they do."

The video below was created one lazy October afternoon as a high pressure system, pumped by El Nino, transited north along the western coast. In my opinion the best parts of my latest include the sweet vocals of France's Alizee, the forests of coastal mountain pine drying out and birthing clouds and the roll-up effect the time lapse reveals on the mid-level clouds. This is something that only the distorted timescape of silky smooth time lapse can deliver.

YouTube is all well and good but if you would like a much better view of this latest video click here ->

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Nephews Rock!!

Given the incredible success of this blog I've decided to expand and have drafted the services of a graphics artist who's career I have been following since he was knee high to a grasshopper.

Thanks to Colin for patiently responding in the positive to my eleventy-ba-zillion tweak requests. The new header graphic looks great.

The Fantasy of Black & White Film

As a photographer once and awhile I'll bump into the perfect shoot. The lighting is right. My mood and patience is one with the moment. And everything lumped into the technical is 5 by 5. Such was the day I shot my first roll of Infra Red Black & White film. It was mid August 1996 (or so) and the world of digital photography was still reserved for newspapers whilling to cough up $15,000 for a one mega-pixel camera.

I've yet to have such a moment as that in the world of digital but I'm certain it will come.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

If Ya Wanna Cat Toy Youze Gonna Have Ta Get Past Me
November 2006

Cats rock. In particular when you let their own personality unfold without imposing too much of your own.

That's not to say there's no place for basic discipline. Sometimes Sirrus, pictured in the photo to the right (while guarding her stash of cat toys and looking 4 feet tall thanks to the fish-eye lens effect) will .... loose it.

She's always been a very quirky and infinitely interesting cat and every once and awhile she will find a way to remind me that what rattles around inside her head is significantly different from what bounces around inside my own.

Last evening, just before heading off to bed, she decided that he sister of the past 5 years was threatening enough to warrant "the poofy tail". It was hilarious. Her normally sleek streamlined short-hair cat tail puffed up to three times it size and she slowly stalked her way over to her sister Sheba. Walking half sideways, back arched in that classic Halloween cat pose with this big gigantic tail trailing behind her.

Why? I've no reason. Sheba in fact was half asleep during all this. Snuggled into the spot she always occupies when I'm watching DvDs. With one eye open she watched her sister approach basically indifferent even to 'the Poofy tail!!'. echo echo echo.

It was a pure Sirrus the cat moment. The delightful strangeness of it all.

I once remarked to my cat sitter Odette that one of the charms of felines is just such moments as these. Little peculiar reality bits that are totally unexpected, fascinating and remove the day to day of the boring. Without Sirrus and Sheba my life would be half the fun it is. No question.

Budding Photo-Nut
December 3 2006

One of the great things about digital photography is that you can instantly review the picture you've just captured. In theory the idea is to use this moment of review to refine the shot and, if all hope is lost, delete a junk image. In reality though I tend to keep everything. One of my photos for this year's Christmas card for example was a somewhat out of focus shot that had I been worried about storage space I would have deleted.

A moment of light, flight and motion captured but then lost forever in order to save a few megabytes on a gigabyte sized flash storage card.

Given that external computer disc storage hit the 1 gigabyte per dollar mark a year ago and is now down to the 50 cents per gigabyte mark why delete anything? Toss in the gigantic storage capacity of DvDs (6.4 gigabytes) along with the speed with which you can backup old photos there is really only one reason to delete what, at the moment of capture, you might consider junk - the signal to noise / forest-for-the-trees phenomena.

This is something that the next generation of photographers or media types in general will find even more pressing. Given that we are approaching what is for all practical purposes just about infinite storage where once you would take 1 image the temptation now is to take 100.

This is all good though given that it's this process of framing and reframing the same image that is at the heart of professional beyond-point-and-click photography. One stellar photo out of 1,000 (0.1%) is a goal I'm quite happy with. Given that I'll take upwards of 10,000 photos in a year this works out to 10 or more really cool photos.

The downside though is that you then start to drown in the thousand images that lead up to the one good one. The signal (a good photo) to noise (the 'crap' photos) ratio goes down and all you can see is the forest (the thousand photos) blurred into this one big morass of images. Finding that one cool tree (the good photos), even with photo archive management software, becomes a headache inducing process.

That cool image I mentioned earlier, the one I used for one of this year's Christmas cards, is a good example of this effect. I can't for the life of me find the original. I remember shooting loads of images of a flock of seagulls buzzing the trees on Sunset Beach one lazy fall afternoon in 2005 but try as I might I can't find even one of them. Fortunately I did move the winning image into my 'CoolPics' folder but, sigh, it's a copy, it's re-sized from the original, it's a bit too processed, etc.


Here's a hint for all you digital photo-nuts. When you see a great picture copy it to a separate folder on your computer in its raw format immediatly. Copy it again in your Cool Pics folder and rename the copy to something meaningful. Keep the good stuff separated from the wanna-bees.

Each month I now shoot between 6 and 10 giga-bytes of photos (600 to 1,000) and given that I'll be doing this for decades if I'm not careful I'll wind up creating this big meaningless forest of photos.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Perfect Postcard

Vancouver has gone through considerable and at times very dramatic changes over the past 25 years. Ask any of the old timers and they will peg Expo 86 as the seminal moment in our history that moved Vancouver onto the world stage and let slip the winds of change.

Perhaps the most dramatic change has been to the architectural look and feel of the city itself. Slowly Vancouver has morphed a unique skyline that it can claim as its own. What was once frumpy and pretentious pre-post-modern '60s shtick has, thankfully, been updated into one of the most stunning profiles in Canadiana.

I arrived in Vancouver 5 years after the close of Expo and already the downtown skyline had begun a radical transformation. The change has been most dramatic in what was once the grounds of Expo itself. For most of the decade following Expo the area on the north east corner of False Creek (an inlet in the south east corner of the city) was nothing more than a huge empty lot. 20 years after Expo however this region has been almost completely transformed and now includes one of the coolest mixes of 21st century urban architecture on the planet. Cool enough in fact that Vancouver and what has become known as Yaletown often acts as a stand-in for movie studios looking for a backdrop that gives a nice near-future look to their films.

Given the architectural splendor all around me I'm needless to say searching for the perfect postcard shot of my home town. And, being a bit of slacker, I've decided to replicate what worked in the past before I branch out and do something new.

After all, 'derivative' takes less work right?

Well, not always. As it's turning out even though I have the image I want to replicate finding the angle where it was shot from has turned out to be bit of a struggle.

Here's the image that, as close as I can guess, was taken a few years following Expo-86. My hunch is that it was taken during the spring of 1988 or 1989. My goal then is to find this location and replicate the shot as it is today.

I had this image in my mind's eye four weeks back when I drove over to the middle south part of False Creek. My goal then was to find the matching angle and get the image needed to do one of those funky That Was Then This Is Now comparisons for this blog.

However, after a few hours of roaming the west and mid south shore of False Creek and finding some great and non-derivative angles of downtown Vancouver I had gathered loads of postcard material but not the exact image I had charged myself with finding.

My quest has just begun then and once the weather gets back to it's "regular programming (read civilized) I'm taking a hard copy of this picture and heading out to what I'm pretty sure is the spot it was taken from. The south east corner of False Creek is my guess.

Stay tuned. My guess is the Before and After images are going to be just this side of Night and Day.

Global Warming?

For the past two weeks Vancouver has been treated to some of the most extreme weather the city has seen in years. First it was the November winds and rains that at their peak turned much of the North Shore mountains into muck.

Newton was right in that muck tends to travel downhill.

A gravitationally unfortunate scenario for 900,000 Vancouverites - myself included. What was 'downhill' in this case was our main water shed. What was normally crystal clear and sparkling mountain fed tap water turned into a brown murky soup that came bundled with a boil water advisory that lasted a week and a half. To be honest I've used bottled water since the day I moved into the West-End but the cats prefer the tap water (cats, go figure) and forget having a warm comforting bath when the water looks like someone decided to .... well, you get the idea. Yellow - mellow. Brown - flush it down. Shudder.

Last Sunday, the day before the boil water advisory was finally lifted (Woot! Welcome back to the first world!), the south west coast of British Columbia experienced a "Perfect Storm". Frozen air from the Arctic that had been creeping down the valleys of the BC interior for several days met up with what we affectionately call the Pineapple Express. The two systems had a nice meteorological group hug and blanketed 2,5 million in snow. The Pineapple Express is this torrent of moist, warm southerly air that roars in off the Pacific and gives Vancouver and Seattle much of our winter rain. By itself the Pineapple is a weather phenomena that's all well and good. In particular it's the source of the majority of our drinking water. ... Which is a good thing. ... All that it asks is that you get used to 4 months or so of a near constant drizzle.

When the Pineapple Express bumps into an air mass that's 10' C below zero however ....

Always the optimist I've naturally found the photo opportunities the past few days many and varied.

The first photo in this post is one taken of nearly the identical spot used in the second photo included in my last blog entry. The only difference between then and now being the radical shift from a hazy and lazy fall climate to one that I travelled far and long to get away from.

To the right is one of my favorite apartment window angles and was one that created a shot I took just under two years ago that I've since used for one of my Christmas cards this year. This recent image was a 25 second exposure of the same angle with the orange lights of the city at night giving the composition a nice warm/cold "what the hell's wrong with this picture?" dichotomy.

Brrrr .... Making things even more exciting for us wet coast - winter wimps has been the arrival of sub-zero temperatures and enough of a wind to create a -15'C to -20'C wind chill, ... during the day.

Undaunted by suddenly finding myself flashing back to living in an Ontario winter I ventured out to the Burrard St. bridge this morning to capture some down-town Vancouver images. Here's a post card view of Sunset Beach, the West-End skyline and the North Shore mountains snuggled in the frozen water particulate that most Canadians refer to as snow. We however usually, and laughingly to be honest, refer to it as someone else's problem. :)

As always if you'd like to see a larger view of the image just click on it.

From the forecast ahead it sounds like I'll have at least another week of winter photo ops which, as ironic as it might sound, is actually a very good thing for British Columbia.

A critical problem that global warming has caused for us here in BC is that for the past decade our winters have been mild enough to let the indigenous pine beetle survive the winter chill. Normally the freezing cold winters would kill enough of the beetle larvae (over-wintering in the skin of pine trees) to keep them in check. However, the warm winters of the past decade have let these pests run rampant and as a result an area the size of Prince Edward Island has been decimated. It's a monumental tragedy made all the more apocalyptic if you fly across the coastal mountains. Seeing large swaths of dead forest from 25,000 feet up makes hordes of locusts almost seem like a good idea. Hopefully this Arctic freeze will kill enough of the pests to make a difference in their advance next spring.

Monday, October 30, 2006

False Creek Magic Light
Oct 23 2006

One of the first things I discovered when I embraced photography as a hobby was that taking a picture is, in essence, painting with light. I don't expect that I'm the first photographer to realize this but when that particular realization struck me it radically changed how I looked through the camera's view finder.

Don't get me wrong, I still love to point and shoot whatever the moment brings but as a nature/landscape photographer when I get serious and spend the time to first embrace, then frame and then finally configure a photograph it's all about light.

I was pretty thrilled then when a week ago, as happens two or three times a year, a local film crew setup their lighting gear on Sunset Beach to shoot some exteriors on the other side of False Creek. Night became day and I had a front row seat on thousands of bucks worth of magic light.

This time I opted for high vantage point shots rather than venturing down to the beach for some close ups. The light and the compositional opportunities were pretty endless from 32 floors up and I spent a third of the 104 shots doing that cheesy but fun expose & zoom trick. Having already subjected this blog to the results of this technique I'll skip including any of them with this entry. .... Must ... resist ... must ... :)

Anyway, with a 10 mega-pixel camera I now shoot at a resolution of 3,872 by 2,592 pixels. This is roughly the number of pixels you would find on seven and half 19" LCD monitors running at their native resolution of 1280 by 1024.

JPG images take up roughly 4 MBytes and Nikon's native RAW format (what they call NEF) produces an image that comes in between 9 and 11 MBytes. Thank goodness for 2 Gbyte memory cards. Being able to shoot at such a super high resolution however is a two edge sword. When an image is displayed at it's native resolution I can instantly pick up even the slightest of blurry imperfections. Grumble.

What I've discovered is that when taking long exposure high resolution shots, even when the camera's mounted on a nice solid tripod with a locked down ball style mount, 10 seconds or more of settling time is needed before I should press the shutter on the cable attached remote shutter release. The shot above was taken at an aperture of F5.6 and exposed for 3 seconds with an auto-ISO setting of 400. It was also taken about 30 seconds after I'd taken the first shot in this sequence which turned out to be blurry enough to be pretty much useless. Patience grasshopper. Compose, take 2 deep breaths then click the shutter release cable.

All part of the never-ending learning curve that is any cool hobby. :)

Monday, October 23, 2006

Winter?!?! Oh Nooooo!!!

Just kidding. While the monsoon and fog season has begun here in Vancouver our climate is so temperate that a snow storm is defined as an inch or more of snow that stays longer than 24 hours.

Winter is quite mellow and laid back when he visits Vancouver and prefers to chill on the beach and dust a few mountains if the spirit so moves him. When he visits this slice of paradise he's got anything but a hate-on Nothing like the one he seems to have by the time he reaches the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains and passes over Calgary. Who could blame him actually. :)

So, while it's anything but winter here on the wet-coast it is coming up to the time to start thinking a few months ahead. This year I'm going to try Future Shop's photo services for my Christmas cards.

I've selected three images for the the 36 or so cards I plan to ship (family, friends, work associates and clients). As luck would have it we had a nice winter blast nearly two years ago and I was able to capture quite a few of it's angles on digital film.

The one to the left is my favorite followed very closely by the darker image above. The dark image might seem beyond surreal initially. As a hint it's a high altitude shot from my apartment of the small ferry dock down below. On the right is the gangway out to the dock itself. At the bottom is part of the Sea Wall walk-way including a few intrepid and no doubt chilled walkers.

If you'd like a Christmas card from yours truly leave a comment with your postal address mentioning which one to send and I'll be more than happy to do so.

As allways I'm looking forward to that magic day, perhaps a month or so away, when the clouds will part after a few days of rain to reveal the North Shore mountains sprinkled in snow. I'm already planning where I'll take photos from when that happens and should have a test picture up in the next few days ... assuming the sun shows it's face.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

English Bay Fog

A week or so back a soft, gentle fog rolled into English Bay in Vancouver. It was very much a kiss from the ocean. Smelling of salt and the end of tide it was a crisp hint of the winter to come tempered with the promise of only a few days of snow. Three days of winter or, at worst, perhaps a week of what would be, in hindsight, simple fun.

How can you not love a part of the world that Mother Nature also loves? It's as though she saves her best weather for this particular ground zero. The planet's sweet spot.

Fortunately only a few lucky fools have found this particular slice of paradise. If everyone knew how great a place to live Vancouver was the parking would be horrid.

Here's a few hours of the fog that visits English Bay.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Summer Sun Time Lapse
August 2006

Here's the first in what will be a never ending series of time lapse flicks from yours truly. This one was taken during mid-August from 4:30 PM to an hour or so to after sunset (9:40 PM). I was quite happy with the results but couldn't find the particular piece of music I wanted to include to accompany it. I had this classical track rattling around in my head for a month after creating the video but couldn't' for the life of me recall the artist or the piece.

It's funny how synchronicity works but last week I digitized one my of my favorite classical albums and uncovered the exact piece I was searching for. On the B side of a collection of Pachelbel's works, including his famous Canon in D major, was the allegro movement from Johann Friedrich Fasch's Symphony for Strings in A major. The piece I think has a nice circular rhythm to it that I felt would be the perfect compliment to the spinning of the clock and the relentless motion of the shadows as they skate across my living room's floor.

The clock itself came from the Bombay Company and each hour of real-time was compressed into 15 seconds of wide screen, 16:9 video. Seeing Sirrus and Sheba pop in on-and off during the filming was a total and unexpected bonus.

Next up, 3 hours of fog rolling into and out of English Bay. I just gotta find this rift of music that will compliment the flow of the fog. I'm thinking The Moldau by Bedrich Smetana. Now to find it ...

Monday, October 02, 2006

One Month Anniversary Entry!
Stratos - Vancouver


Congrats me!! One month of blogging under my belt and I'm more charged about the medium then I was when I first started.

Here's a shot of me looking out onto a west coast sunset with one of those pensive "If they discover I'm an advanced scout for an alien invasion armada I'm doomed." sorts of looks. I'd better call the mothership.

"May you live in interesting times".

A fortune or a curse?

Personally I consider that phrase a fortune and, having given the subject considerable thought over the years I would consider it a fortune to be witness to the earth being hit with one of those monstrous, Manhattan sized cometary fragments. Yes, such an event would kick us back several epochs prior to the stone-age (and then some) but being part of a one in a 20 million year event, for a species that is barely 10,000 years into civilized, I would consider to be rather cool. Cool in a way that makes James Dean's "live fast, die young and leave a good looking corpse" motto come out pretty thin.

Anyway, time for some fun with this new media.

I expect that few peope (if any save me) have this net location added to their web browser favorites. But, being the perpetual optimistic, I've long since realized that having an audience for the content is secondary to the experience of creating it.

21st Century Audio System

Alot has changed since I bought my first stereo system in the summer of 1974. Back then a month's wages for a teenager working a summer job bought the basic of the basics which, funny now that I think of it, was a Sony system.

Shown here is my final analogue system which goes beyond the audio-phile standards of even a decade ago by several generations. Shown in the photo is a digital surround sound processing amplifier, 200 CD changer (the gizmo on the bottom), a super VHS VCR, a dual Dolby NR cassette deck, belt drive turntable (on the top), USB 2.0 integrated analoge to digital audio conversion hardware, USB 2.0 analoge, composite and S-VHS interconnect hardware and just over 1,000 GBytes of USB 2.0 wired disk storage. Not shown is the PC the system connects to.

This is my evolutionary system in that I'm fairly certain that my audio listening needs, as they have been for the past 4 years or so, will be fully satisfied via computers in various sizes for the rest of my life. So long analogue ... well, sort of.

I love my iPod just as much as I love my media PC. Having thousands of hours of CD quality audio just a few clicks and shuffles away boggles the mind of even this gray haired geek.

So many changes in so short a space of time. So many changes so fast that, naturally, I'm still a part of the 2 TV channel world and miss the snap, crackle 'n pop of my vinyl records.

When the CD revolution errupted in the 1980's I was one of the first to embrace the new media. I can still remember the first time I listened to the album Brothers In Arms by the Dire Straits on my first generation portable, ... Sony (again), ... CD player. It was a sunny Friday afternoon and I was sitting on my first couch, headphones on, listening to the first track. The sound was beyond anything I'd experienced in the world of vinyl and I was hooked. Hooked to the point of switching 100% of my music purchases to CDs and eventauly loosing touch with my vinyl. A respectable 200+ album collection by then.

The platters were gone but they were anything but forgotten.

For several years now I've been on an Analog to Digital Mission From God and this year I have finally cracked the digital equivalent of the Da Vinci Code!!

Yes brothers and sisters!! There is a way to bring back from the dead those musical memories of old!!

This month, in a series of what I think will be pretty cool blog entries, I'll detail the technical, personal and philosophical details, start to finish, in moving your favorite LP to your favorite MP3 player. It's not as tough as you might think (technically) but it is a process that will set you back $200 or so for the necessary hardware and cables. The price tag will be less if you want to go cheap. More if you want to make the tortuous journey to digital nerd-vana.

Anyway, thanks to all of you who have popped in every once and awhile to read this blog. It's a fun media to express yourself via and one I'd highly recommend trying out. All you have to loose is a bit of time and while time is precious so is sharing with the rest of the world who you are and what turns your crank.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Bay Fog Arrives

It's proven to be yet another hazy and lazy fall day here in Vancouver made all the more beautiful by the arrival of the first blankets of Bay Fog (Hoar Fog for you purists) of the fall. I was able to get some nice stills while taking my car in for a tune-up at my regular dealership just south of the Granville Island market.

Once I'd dropped off the car and got back to start the work day I recorded some cool time lapse as the fog bank rolled in and out of English Bay. Hopefully I'll digest the post-production of the videos into something less daunting and get today's treat up on YouTube sooner rather than later.

Fog? We Don't Have No Stinkin' Fog!

During the winter, from November to February, we'll get persistent banks of bay fog that often shroud the city for an entire week. By that point in the winter while we're pretty much used to perpetual moisture the fog itself is often a nice break from the unrelenting rain. Living high above English Bay has an advantage during this period in that the fog will often be low enough to let winter sunshine pour into my apartment. A cool damp atmospheric blanket that muffles the smells and sounds of the city.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

YouTube Test - Free Hugs

YouTube is a new net-phenomena that hit critical mass during the later part of 2005. It's a pretty nifty site that lets anyone upload videos which are then presented to the masses. People can view the videos, comment on them, add the producer/director of the video to their list of favorites, become a director, etc. and etc. It's one of those "flash of brilliance" sorts of ideas that while not quite, yet, to the scale of Google is something that I expect will, over time, become larger than searching the net.

The core reason for this blog is to publish photos and pictures that distort time. Temporal Distortion, in it's simplest, means to distort the temporal, aka time, axis of our reality through various means.

I love time lapse. Compressing hours of time into minutes of video shows a side of nature reserved for 300 year old Douglas Fur trees.

I love altering the presentation of time just as much via the world of still photography. Compress 500 milliseconds of the life of a waterfall into a single still image and you get the shot on the left.

Water becomes almost milk and what were basic highlights of color and sun sparkle become almost primordial pools of infinity.

In fact photographers call this effect "milky water" and, as with any cool photo, all you need is a bit of knowledge, a good sense of composition and the ability to see multi-seconds of reality blurred into a single moment. Easy right? :)

Tech specs wise this photograph was taken at f/18 using a non-digital Nikkor AF 70-210 f/5.6 lens at 70 mm with an exposure time of 1/2 second. No post production was done on the image. What you see is what me and the camera got. The pretty subject itself is of one of three drippy pools of photo-delight on the north shore of Vancouver where Crypress Mountain runs-off into the pacific via Cypress Creak. I've been there more than once but not yet with the new Nikon. Sometime this week or next though for sure.

Anyway, I digress.

Here's my first test of linking my blog to YouTube. This will be an embedded link to a video I found today that made me feel really good inside. Who can pass up a free hug? Many it seems but once the word spreads it's a hug-o-rama.

To view the video click on the link below. If you are new to the net you may be asked to install Adobe's Flash Player in your browser. Doing this is a good thing in that lots of cool web sites, including YouTube, use the Flash Player.

If you have the Flash Player already installed the embedded link below should work and there's no need for you to go to YouTube to watch the video. All ya gotta do is click twice on the image below and sit back and enjoy.

Macro vs Micro

Trust the big guys to try and change the world, one idea at a time. Nikon does not produce macro lenses they produce micro lenses. These micro lenses perform the exact same function as macro lenses (extreme closeups with tight depths of field) but that's not the point. The point is .... erm .... I've no idea what the points is. Some marketing flash of brilliance (aka more money) that just escapes my simple mind at the moment.

Nikon produces some of the best lenses on the planet (their Nikkor line) and whether it's a macro or a micro lense I really could care less. What I want is a lense that will let me get 10 cm away from my subject and take a nice crisp photo with a super-model thin depth of field.
Wood Eye? You Bet I Would!!

Ack, bad pun aside for some reason this macro ... erm ... "micro" shot of a weathered wooden plank, part of the actual wall on the Vancouver Seawall walk in the West End, reminds me of an owls eye.

Macro photography is a brand new tanget on my photographic journey and in upgrading to the very new Nikon D80 digital (the coolest camera I've yet owned) I decided to go one step furthur and snagged the Nikkor AF 60 mm, F/2.8D Micro lens.

Macro photography will take a good amount of practice and even in my early "oh my god this is just too cool" infatuation phase a bit of pragmatism is sneaking in. Given that at f/8 your depth of field is measured in just a few centimeters (that's an inch or so for my American brothers & sisters) macro photography just begs to be done on a tripod. While shooting this pic today I noticed that even with continuous focus running after the first focus the image would start to magically blur as my center of gravity shifted a few cm. Slap me if, after a few beers, I announce now is the time for some point-and-shoot-micro photography. Yeah .... right.

English Bay Beach - Sept 26 2006
As you can see there's no snow on the mountains yet. In fact that particular part of Vancouver's beauty is still two months or so away. Still loads of time to get down to the beach for some serious tanning four days before the start of October and the arrival of our annual 6 month monsoon season.
With this shot I'm using a macro lense to do the work of a wide angle or zoom telephoto. The photo looks good. The image is nice and crisp and even unprocessed the white balance on the shot is a respectable 6 out of 10 on my overly fussy wb scale. I don't expect the new lense will take over for my 18-200 mm zoom DX VR (vibration reduction) Nikkor but in a pince the result's no too bad.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Free Cat Treats?!?!?

I love cats.

  • When I left home to start my graduate degree in chemistry in Ottawa back in September 1980 I did two things right off.
  • * Rented a 17 inch color TV for my bedroom.
    * Started looking for a kitten.

By October I'd found Jennifer, my first cat who patiently trained me in the ways of the feline and brokered the idyllic life of those of her kind who came after her. Since Jennifer I've proudly shared space with numerous cats 4 of whom I'd consider soul mates. The over-the-top-cute cat in this photo is Sirrus. Your basic domestic short hair, five years old and 16 pounds of fur that has more personality than half the humans I know.

In the previous post the second photo is of her sister Sheba. A long haired, high maintenance cat that defines the word timid. Timid yet her trust of me is so total it's sometimes exasperating. What would posses any creature to hop into a chair this big human is just about to sit on?

These days the phrase "pet owner" has evolved into "guardian" and/or "companion". Politically correct terms which are all well and good but for me a better descriptor of the human/cat relationship is "soul mate". Feeling the twitch and wiggle of a cat's paws as it sleeps and dreams in your lap makes it tough to think these creatures lack a soul.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

You Did 'What?' To The Blog?!?

Ok, Ok, so sue me.


I saw a button that says "Upgrade Your Blog" and guess what flashes through my mind?

Yup. Words like 'Bigger', 'Better', 'Faster', 'Stronger' and with a much better page editor to boot!.

Sigh. I'm such a sucker for marketing.

So far I've found some nifty new templates but no matter how friendly Google makes their blog software (and it's extremely friendly by the way) to get that crisp awe inspiring professional look for my blog site I need to add some crisp awe inspiring professional HTML not to mention design. By hand. The old school way. Ugh. The improved spell checker though is rather killer.

You Through Yet!?!?

Ahhh, nope. Not really.

I mean come on. This is an organic evolutionary thing that will, over time, morph into the penultimate site for not only cool photos of Vancouver and British Columbia but ... well links to cool videos as well.

It's going to be awesome!! Just as soon as I develop the patience and aptitude to edit some 50 hours of time lapsed video, much of it totally cool, into something worth posting on

The idea of publishing my videos online kind of terrifies me. Once posted the videos are exposed to the rabid comments of the millions of YouTube visitors who have no qualms in either trying to direct you to their 'killer' video or comparing your video to that wierd goo that snails leave being. I've done several searches for 'Time Lapse' videos on YouTube and based on what I've found (20 seconds of fast moving but none the less boring clouds) I've a hunch some of my better ones will gain some quick attention.

Ok. Wake Me Up When It's Over Then

I am looking forward to getting the videos up in a "scary, feelings of doom and gloom" sort of way. This blog has been fun to update and apart from my grumblings over the pathetic HTML editor I can't beat the price - $0.

Gotta love those Google guys.

One final note. All of the photos, apart from the 1985 shots in New York, were taken using a Nikon D100 6.1 MPixel digital camera. The photos were marginally processed using ThumbsPlus Pro and resized from their original 3008x2000 24 bit Nikon RAW/NEF format down to 752x500 25 bit RGP JPG renditions. The reason I bring that up is that come tomorrow I'll be upgrading to the Nikon D80s 10 MPixel digital camera. It feels like the night before Christmas. :) Funny how going from a 4 year old D100 to a 1 month old D80s is an 'upgrade'. So much for numbering schemes.

Gull In Motion
Fall, 2005

Is photography an art form? It depends I guess on what you define as art. A question I've been asking myself since my first finger painting in pre-school. "Look mom!! Brown streaky finger printy art of a cow!!" ... "That's very nice Dougie."

Over the years I've accepted two things about art. First, everyone has their own definition of what it is and while it's great when two people agree on a common definition such agreement is not the norm. Second, for me art is the artist capturing an emotional moment and being able to share that emotion with me through his or her medium. Whether it's a digital or analogue photograph, a painting, an addictive tune by the French pop star Alizee or the CBC Radio Orchestra giving a stellar rendition of the second movement of Beethoven's 6th symphony to me it's all art. All of those media can capture the artist's emotion and act as a conduit to share it with me its consumer.

Here's a seagull in full glide-mode over the rich and varied orange hues of Sunset Beach Park, downtown Vancouver, bathed in the warm glow of a fall westcoast sunset. The cool thing about this shot is that apart from the regular digital cleanup and slight sharpening that I do to all my digital photographs no other manipulations were employed. What you see in the photo is pretty much what I saw through the view finder of my Nikon D100. The question is can you feel what I did when I took the shot?

Is it art in other words?

For me, the artist, the answer is an easy yes. Each time I look at this photo I can feel the gull skipping on the end day thermals as she glides across pure golden warmth. I can feel the sun on my face and almost hear the sound of her wing on the wind.

And I worked hard to get the shot. I could feel the moment was perfect, the light was just right and the gulls were having enough fun swooping and climbing to give me enough time, light and their varied antics to get at least one good shot. I pulled out all the technical stops and eventually captured just the moment I wanted - this one.

Art - plain and simple.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Spanish Banks, Kitsilano
Mar 26 2006 6:21 PM

I love sunsets and when a particularily good one arrives it feels like I'm watching God as a painter. The day's nearly come to an end, at least for this pilgrim, and God whips out the paint brushes, a billion shades of red and organge and goes nuts.

What photos never capture though is the flashes of brilliance this painter often displays in the blink of an eye. A zodiacle flair will suddenly appear and then just as quickly fade away. At times I wonder if I've been the only one to see such beauty.

Gulf Island Orange
June 2005

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Burrard St. Bridge, Vancouver
August 28 2006 8:38 PM

Here's a 25 second exposure taken just past sunset. During the last 10 seconds I performed a slow manual inward zoom to give the photo a nifty sense of time and motion. It's a cheezy sort of shot in that nearly every one I take with this technique looks pretty cool yet the image is more effect than substance.

Cheezy but yummy. Sort of the junk food of the "Oh cool" genre of night time shots.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Stuff of Tears
Gone But Not Forgotten

The 5th anniversary of 9/11 is just around the corner. An anniversary I never want to forget but at times prefer not to remember.

Such senseless horror that, for better or for worse, removed in my mind any illusion that all the world in general and the Muslim community in particular needed was a good hug.

The wide-eyed naive liberal in me died that day and I cried till the end of the week. Lost in bottles of wine, cases of beer and CNN 24/7.

I loved New York and still do.

A city that has an organic almost corporeal feel to it 24 hours per day.

As a fan of architecture I fell in love with the Twin Towers to the point that on that day I felt the loss for the buildings first and for the thousands second.

I'd been there.

I'd stood on the observation deck and looked into the heart of Manhattan and then turned 90's west to gaze at a New Jersey caught in the lazy haze of summer.

So here were are, 5 years past that rude awakening and what have we learned?

We've re-learned what we already knew and been shocked to get confirmed what we had once only feared.

Take anything to the extreme, in particular religion, and you'll find paranoid fascism.

We've learned that the world is not all peaches and cream and that assimilation is perhaps the lesser of two evils when compared to the supposed noble purity of multiculturalism.

We've learned that others hate simply because they can't stomach the thought of being more alike than different.

We've learned that one parasitic and cancerous slice of our world will only be happy when we role our ethics and beliefs back to the time of Mohammed.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Holy cow!! Two blog entries in one day? What's next? Three?

(July 29 2006 10:16 PM)

During the final week of July and the first week of August Vancouver plays host to the Celebration of Light fireworks competition. (Web Site Link) It's a pretty spectacular affair with four different countries competing and simultaneously amazing upwards of 400,000 fans lining the beaches of downtown Vancouver. This year the festival played host to:

Czech Republic

Mexico won the festival but personally I think China, shown on the left, delivered the better show. I mean come on. They invented fireworks rights? On top of that, having watched all but one of the shows since 1991 I feel eminently qualified to judge.

Afer years of frustration with taking pictures of fireworks I've finally figured out how to get some pretty spiffy images. As with most things learned via the school of hard knocks in the end the tricks are simple & straightforward:

  • Go digital. If you haven't your missing out.
  • You'll need a camera that can be set to full manual. This is where you control both the shutter speed and aperture setting. When you are shooting fireworks you'll be adjusting both settings, reviewing the images, adjusting some more, etc. If you've never gone manual with your camera or can't then trying to photograph something like fireworks will be more frustrating than it's worth.
  • The camera has to be mounted on a tripod and you'll need to connect a shutter release cable to take the picture without shaking the camera.
  • Volume, volume, volume. With today's digital cameras and large capacity media cards you can shot hundreds of photos during a 25 minutes show. This year during China's performance for example I shot just under 170 images or roughly 7 shots per minute. Out of those 170 I liked 30 or so and out of those 30 I really liked 6.
  • Remember, when you are taking pictures of fireworks you're painting with light. Use the LCD on your digital to review what you just took and prepare for the next image.
  • Try as many different ways of taking pictures as you like. Increase the length of the exposure, fiddle with the aperture, etc. Eventually you'll find the groove and if you are lucky you'll find that groove before the fireworks end.

Welcome to the Temporal Distortions blog site!

I've been an avid still and video photographer for many years now and the ability to use photography to distort time has allways intrigued me. Whether it's a 30 second still photo of a waterfall or a day in the life of my living room compressed into 3 minutes of widescreen video the results never cease to amaze me. I'll use to host part of my collection of time lapse videos but to keep things simple and being a blog-noob I'll start simple and post some of the cooler still photos from my CoolPics archive.

Sunset Beach - Lowtide Rock Seagull
(Taken: Feb 17 2006 - 1:17 pm PT)

Surrounding the downtown core of Vancouver, aka the West End, is the Seawall. A 15 km pedestrian and bicycle walkway that now almost completly encircles what has allways been, in my opinion, one of the coolest places to live in Canada. On the western edge of the downtown core you'll find a series of named beaches running from the Burrard St. bridge (cool photo to come) to deep into Stanley Park. This photo is of the very start of the very first named beaches - Sunset Beach at low tide. A cool rock formation artfully crafted by the city engineers into the shape of a seagull in flight.

What's equally interesting is that during the summer months, usually a half hour either side of sunset, flock after flock of seagulls will head north along the beach towards the North Shore of Vancouver. The food must be better in West Vancouver or something.