Thursday, July 21, 2016

I've Caught The Bug

This week's article was not published in the South Shore Breaker...apparently they had too much content and my column got dropped...a bit of a kick to the confidence! However, a friend contacted me by email to let me know she enjoyed my bug article in the Bedford paper. That was news to me!  I have included my article below, with all the photos I sent in with it.
published in the Bedford-Sackville Observer - July 20, 2016
Feeling waspish is to readily express anger or irritation. Synonyms are irritable, touchy, testy, snappish, cantankerous, moody, crotchety, crabby, grouchy. My husband is smart enough not to call me any of those things, but waspish probably could be an apt description of me sometimes. Although Im never waspish when I'm busy with my camera.

A while back, I shared a little story about finding an insect wing when I was vacuuming. I took the wing and photographed it, and added some inspirational words. A couple of days ago, I discovered the type of insect the wing came from. 
an obliging wasp poses on our back door
Our cat Myrtle was pretty excited at our back door, so I went to take a look to see what was happening. I thought she might be seeing our resident squirrel at the bird feeder. But no, a wasp on the back door had caught her attention. I decided it called for some camera time, never giving a thought to the fact that I might get stung. Its well known that a camera protects the photographer from all sorts of mishaps. But seriously, some risks are worth taking and I decided that taking pictures of a wasp was worth the risk. 
By now you probably think I am a crazy person. After all, not too many people think its fun to take photographs of bugs. If you want to practice your skills at close up photography, nothing beats a bug. Most insects move quickly, so you will be forced to learn the details of your camera so well that it becomes second nature to change the settings. You will develop patience and learn to anticipate their behaviour so you can set up a good shot. 
quick insects are a challenge - capturing two at the same time is a bonus
Some insects are slow movers, which will present a great opportunity for you to experiment with depth of field. You can practice with your camera to compare having the whole photo in focus, or just parts of the image. Best of all, when you are photographing insects, you learn so many things about nature that you would never know without such close up contact.

Did you know that the eyes of a grasshopper are more than one colour? One of the grasshoppers I photographed had eyes that were a pinkish hue at the top, changing to green in the middle and then yellow at the bottom. If you get up close and personal with a grasshopper, you can see them make all kinds of interesting gestures and they let you get pretty close as long as you move slowly. Grasshoppers can be bad news for farmers, but the symbolism of a grasshopper is a harbinger of good news, and messages of glad tiding.
Blow me a kiss! You can capture some interesting poses with grasshoppers
Did you know that there are spiders that are so tiny that dozens of them would only take up the space of a quarter? Ordinarily, I have a great fear of spiders. Im not sure when or why I developed such an intense dislike for them. I have tried photographing spiders to try to change this feeling, but so far it hasnt worked. However, I did find a batch of baby spiders while out and about in Chester and took a photo with the trusty pocket camera that I try to always have with me. It has a microscopic setting that takes excellent photos with just the press of a button. The camera does all the thinking for me and stacks a series of photos into one image, meaning that pretty much everything is in focus.
itsy bitsy spiders spotted on a post in Chester and captured with a point and shoot camera
I bet there is no one around who knows ticks like I do. Taking macro images of ticks forced me to face my fears and learn their behaviour. Lots of people think ticks fly through the air or hop, but they dont. They climb onto the tips of blades of grass and raise their front legs when they sense motion close by. They will grab on with their arms if you get close enough to brush by them. Would I ever hang a photo of a tick on my wall? Of course not. But it was an interesting exercise and learning experience to photograph them, nonetheless.Of course, the stars of the insect world are bees and butterflies. The best time to photograph them in your garden is when it is cool. They slow down and you can easily capture them in wonderful poses. Bees and butterflies also add life to the flower photos that gardeners so love to take. But flower photography is something we'll focus on another day.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Country Living for a City Girl

published in the South Shore Breaker - July 13, 2016
I never thought one of my life experiences would be washing a baby birds behind. But it was, and I did. 

When we moved from Ontario to Nova Scotia eight years ago, we moved to a very secluded property in the country. Our friends from back home often asked us how we were dealing with our lives in a different province, but really our adjustment was not so much living in a different part of Canada but in changing lifestyles from the suburbs to country living.

We thought we were living in the country when we lived in Ontario. We were living on the outskirts of a small town with a population of approximately 3000 people. Our home was on a one and a half acre lot in a subdivision that had paved roads and buried hydro lines. We did deal with nature, or rather our dogs did. We experienced porcupines and skunks many times. When I look back on it now, I know that wasnt real country living and I can't imagine why we ever thought it was.

our guineas went everywhere - even the roof of the house
We moved to a country property in Nova Scotia with a half mile long gravel driveway that ran from a gravel road. We lived on the top of a hill, and anyone that lives in rural Nova Scotia knows that there certainly werent any buried hydro lines. The wind on the hill mostly kept the bugs away but we did have screened in porch that came in handy now and then. We learned all about ticks before our furniture arrived, and that was a crash course we hadnt been anticipating.

We now live in town on one of the busiest streets in Bridgewater, so I guess you can figure out that we never did become truly comfortable with living in the country. 

But I would never trade or take back our seven years in the country because we learned so many things, and had so many experiences that we would have missed.

We picked apples from trees that our neighbours said must have been about 100 years old and I made home made applesauce. I held a hummingbird in my hands after I rescued it from our shed. We rescued countless birds from our wood stove after they fell down the flue. I learned to drive an ATV, and my husband became an expert with a backhoe. We created huge flower and vegetable gardens, and a koi pond that was six feet deep and fifteen feet long. Woodpeckers and grosbeaks showed us how they raise and feed their young. We watched foxes, hawks, eagles, and deer. And we raised guinea fowl.

two batches of guineas just after they were released to free range
We received advice about country living from our neighbours, and one piece of advice was that we needed guinea hens to deal with the ticks. We learned that its easier to raise day old chicks than to buy mature guineas since they tend to stick around more if you raise them from a young age. One of my first experiences was trying to capture the baby birds as they were racing around a barn trying to stay out of my way. Picture a city raised girl who is scared of dirt and spiders down on her hands and knees in a barn trying to catch keets in her hands. That provided a lot of entertainment for a few people, let me tell you. We learned the tricks of keeping the keets under a heat lamp until they got older and stronger. I kept sickly ones in a pouch by my side to keep them warm. And then following another piece of advice about sickly keets, I washed their little bottoms in case they were "stopped up". Washing bird bums made me wonder if the people giving us advice were just having fun with us city folk.

Raising guineas also gave us first hand look at the cycle of life. One day as I headed to the coop, a hawk rose from the ground just a few feet in front of me and took flight. I was overjoyed at this close up experience...until I looked down and saw a half eaten guinea at my feet. We kept the wildlife well nourished over the years. Foxes and hawks enjoyed some fine dining on our behalf.

a mature guinea perched on the railing of the coop
Our seven years in the country had trials and tribulations and enlightenment and growth. How else would I have learned to wrangle a weasel out of our living room in the middle of a cold February night? But well focus on that another day.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Roseway Beach

One day several years ago, when we first moved to Nova Scotia, we took a full day trip on the Lighthouse Route. Towards the end of the day, we found Roseway Beach. But it was late and the sun was going down. We were tired and had a long drive to get back home. I took a quick photo (which I can't find at the moment) and I told myself that we would visit again soon. Several years went by and we never made it back. Until yesterday. It was a perfect July day for dog walking on the beach. It was overcast and chilly (16C) and windy. Not so perfect if you like to sun tan or swim, but we weren't planning on either of those activities. Here are some photos I took with my point and shoot camera before the battery died. I was never a boy scout, so "be prepared" with a back up battery was not included in my plan.
the sign indicated a piping plover nesting area, so we didn't let the dogs run off leash
the person to the left of John and the dogs was sitting in a chair huddled with a hoodie and blanket
we were dressed in jeans and jackets, but there were 2 women in bathing suits who had just finished swimming
if you look very, very closely you will see a black dot in the water at the upper right....a surfer wannabe
looks gloomy, but it was a lovely day for a beach walk!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Lupin Love

Article published in the South Shore Breaker - July 6, 2016 - Lupin Love
Whether you want to call me a "come from away" or a "here by choice", the fact is that I wasnt born in Nova Scotia. After living here for eight years, I am still a relative newcomer. If you were born here, you take lots of things for granted that I find charming. Whether youre a newcomer, or a tourist, I guarantee that you love the month of June because that means that lupins are blooming. If youve lived here all your life, you may take them for granted or consider them weeds. I just consider them gorgeous.

When we lived in Ontario and vacationed in Cape Breton, I purchased many packets of lupin seeds but I never was able to get them to grow. However, in Ontario they are blessed with ditches filled with orange daylilies...something you dont often see here.

When we moved to an acreage in Nova Scotia, one of my goals was to have our fields filled with wild lupins. I worked for several years and finally got them growing in our garden. Much to my chagrin, after several summers the lupins self seeded all over our gardens and I slaved away trying to get them under control. I wasnt so thrilled about them in the garden after that. Instead of sowing seeds, I was pulling seedlings. Isnt life ironic? Sometimes its best when our prayers go unanswered. I think theres a Garth Brooks song about that.
But I still love to see fields of lupins. Recently, some members of the Bridgewater Photo Club headed out on a field trip over towards the Fundy Shore. Five cars filled with eager photographers headed out on the journey. The car I was in had three other photo club members, lots of camaraderie and laughter. Despite information on the cars GPS and a paper map that told us there was a through road, we came across a "road closed" sign and found ourselves doubling back and covering the same ground. At this point, we were so far behind the others that we became a one car field trip instead of a five car convoy and our outing became more leisurely. We made a few stops, had a great lunch by the shore, and captured some wonderful images. One of the great things about travelling with other photographers is that no one thinks its strange to take pictures of rusty chains, or coiled ropes, or any weird thing that you might find. I did capture all of those things on our trip, but one of my favourites of the guessed it...was a photo of some lupins with the Fundy in the background.

Lupins in Halls Harbour, overlooking the Bay of Fundy
Almost home towards the end of the day, we passed a lupin field that was a photographers dream. I couldnt stop thinking about it so two days later I was up and out the door at 6:30 in the morning, determined to find the field and capture an image. No car filled with laughing friends this time, just me and my coffee and my camera. I was stopped along the way by a rooster and his brood of hens who decided to stand their ground in the middle of the road, changing the joke about "why did the chicken cross the road?" to "why are the chickens standing in the road?" I mused about my past life when morning commutes had me travelling on 6 or 8 lane roads to get to work. Thank goodness those days are over and my biggest problem is facing down some chickens. The field was further away than I remembered but I eventually reached my destination. The next challenge was how to capture the beauty of all those lupins into a one dimensional image. I tried a few things and a few different angles but when I got home my computer showed me that Ill need to keep practicing. I did manage to get the rising sun into a starburst behind some lupins, which I was happy about.
early morning lupins in Maplewood, Lunenburg County
My lupin mission was accomplished, so I toodled down some backroads towards home and stopped at a field in Barss Corner to photograph some cows that were standing near the fence. I approached them slowly and talked to them in a gentle voice so I didnt spook them. It turns out that cows are good listeners. Maybe I should send my husband for some lessons!
contented cows and good listeners!
Back into the car, it occurred to me that this was the second time in less than two weeks that I was travelling the backroads near where we used to live. Could I be missing the country more than I thought? I was feeling thankful that living in Bridgewater meant I could have the best of both worlds....easy access to the shore and beautiful beaches that I love, as well as just a quick trip inland to get my country fix.

Just a day after my solo excursion to the country in search of the lupin field, I was in the car just minutes from home and spotted a field just covered with them. Sometimes the best places for photographs are in your own backyard, so to speak. But thats a focus for another day.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

PEI Bottle Houses

a portrait of Edouard T. Arsenault inside one of his bottle houses
We all have our unique likes and dislikes. I have always been drawn to stained glass. I have a small collection of old bottles. A few years ago, I read about the Bottle Houses on Prince Edward Island. So when we decided to take an impromptu trip to PEI on Monday, visiting the Bottle Houses was top on my list of things to see...well, it was actually a short list as the only tourist stop I wanted to make was this one! The rest of our time on PEI was devoted to seeing the natural sights...fields, beaches, sand, cliffs, etc.
the first PEI bottle house was built in 1980 and used 12,000 bottles
This is the first house built by Edouard T. Arsenault. It was built in 1980 and used approximately 12,000 bottles. He had seen a postcard of a tourist attraction on Vancouver Island and decided to build a house of bottles himself. Although there is no stained glass involved in the construction of these buildings, they have that feel about them when the light shines though the bottles.
inside the first house
This structure was re-built by local bricklayers in 1995, as severe structural damages had resulted from the annual spring thaws. The same bottles were used in the reconstruction, as well as the same basic design.
the second building was built in 1982 and used to be the souvenir shop
Edouard used approx 8,000 bottles to construct a second building in 1982. 
detail from inside the second building
This building was rebuilt in 1993 because the foundation needed to be repaired, but the roof and central cylinder were maintained. This building was used to sell souvenir items until the current shop was built.

EDNA, the Spirit of Wood

EDNA, the Spirit of Wood, was created in 2011 by Bill Gallant from Summerside. This Manitoba Maple was the largest tree on the property and it was brought down by heavy winds in 2010. The name EDNA was chosen in honour of the oldest sister of Edouard Arsenault. She passed away at the age of 99 years the week the sculpture was being created. 
the pond is situated in the middle of the three buildings
The gardens surrounding the bottle houses are beautiful.
inside the chapel - even the pews were constructed using bottles

Edouard started building the chapel in 1983 and used approximately 10,000 bottles. The chapel was completed with pews and altar. The chapel had to be re-constructed in 1998.

Here are a few more photos...can you tell I was enchanted by these buildings?

Of course, the buildings can't compare to the natural beauty that the province has to offer, but it's nice to play tourist once in a while!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Finding Your Inspiration

published in the South Shore Breaker - June 29, 2016
We live in such a beautiful part of Nova Scotia, Canada, and even the world, that it's difficult to understand sometimes why a photographer or artist might run out of inspiration. But it does happen. Sometimes we just get stuck creatively. I have a bulletin board beside my desk that is filled with cards and photographs, things to help feed my artistic soul. Some are just doodles I have done, some are some inspirational photos I've put together, but most are cards and photos from other artists who inspire me.

One of the cards is an image of a tree and birds in flight (two of my favourite things to photograph), a creation called "January Morning" by photographic artist Kas Stone (the card is shown in the above photograph of the newspaper article). Kas is a local photographer who has a studio in Dublin Shore, and she's also a member of the Bridgewater Photo Club, so I can get a fix of her beautiful images quite often.

Kas earns a living by selling her images and conducting photography courses at the NSCC and workshops at her studio, so those are pretty obvious motivations for her to get out and take photographs. She does have to pay the rent and put food on the table! But I got to wondering what inspires someone who inspires me.  

Kas gets her inspiration from other photographers, as well as printmakers, potters, musicians, writers, and other artists focusing on landscape and the environment. Aside from beautiful scenery, Nova Scotia is blessed with many, many talented and creative artists. Take a look around. Visit galleries, and your local library and museums. Join a club of like minded people. Inspiration is everywhere.

We may sometimes take the beauty around us for granted. But one thing that Kas has discovered over her years photographing landscapes is that she makes her very best photographs close to home in landscapes that she is intimately familiar with. She prefers locations that she can experience repeatedly in all seasons and weather, high and low tide. She doesn't consider it a hardship to go out with her camera in storms, fog or snow. In fact she finds her best images usually come from these so-called ‘bad’ conditions.

I mentioned that Kas is a photographic artist. To most people the word photographer suggests someone who takes pictures of real things and places. But Kas agrees with whoever it was who said that "reality is highly overrated", so she uses techniques that transform her photographs into more artistic works, sometimes straying a long way from the original reality that was captured by her camera. Her hope is always to evoke memories and emotions which will connect with people who share her love of our beautiful natural spaces. 

Today I'm sharing two images that are special to Kas. The first image is "Breakers" and was taken in February 2014 at Little Harbour in Lunenburg County, the day after a fierce midwinter storm and just 3 months after she moved home to Nova Scotia from Ontario. She was thrilled to be back on the Atlantic coast, so it seemed appropriate that she celebrated Valentine's Day by slithering around the seaweed with her camera at the edge of the ocean. This is a favourite spot for her to go for pictures of waves during a gale, because at low tide it reveals a group of jagged rocks.
Breakers by Kas Stone (
The second image is called "Above and Beyond" and was taken in early April this year at the Rissers Beach boardwalk. It has deep meaning for Kas because Rissers Beach holds a special place in her heart. It was her home base during her scouting trips while she was researching her move back to Nova Scotia. It's just a five minute drive from where she now lives, so she walks the beach-boardwalk loop almost every evening to clear the cobwebs after a day's work. Being able to go there so often gives her the opportunity to explore the same location with her camera in various conditions. This image is an example of how inclement weather can transform a familiar place into an unfamiliar one and make it more interesting for photographs. In this case, fog obscured the usual background and made the scene mysterious with the yellow winter grasses more saturated.
Above and Beyond by Kas Stone (
Since Kas earns a living doing something she also loves to do as a hobby, she sometimes finds it challenging to achieve a balance between the artistic and the business parts of her business. She usually interprets a scene in different ways, the more realistic images that tourists prefer, and the more creative interpretations that typically appeal to other artists and that she finds personally rewarding.

Perhaps we can take a lesson from this when we're out with our own cameras. When you see something that inspires you to take a photograph, take a look around and try to create several different images from the same scene. Learning about other artists
can be inspiration for us to focus on in our own photographic journeys.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Black Rock Sea Monster

Sea Monsters are not just in Loch Ness.

Several years ago, shortly after we moved to Nova Scotia, we took a day trip to the Fundy Shore. It was in the off season so nothing was open and we couldn't find anywhere to eat, but I did take photos and blogged about it. One of the photos I took was an altered road sign that I thought was charming...the road sign was converted to a dragon. I have a very small dragon collection at home, so you may understand why I thought the sign was so interesting. I've been through my photo files and my blog, but I can't find the old blog post at the moment.

Last Saturday I was on a field trip with several other people from my photo club and we came across the sign. But now we're into the tourist season, so there has been an addition.
can you spot the monster? (not the one on the sign)
Can you spot the sea monster? (now that I know what the sign refers to, I can't call him a dragon any more)
The Black Rock Sea Monster 
I did a quick online search and found some information about the Black Rock Sea Monster. You can click here to read a newspaper article published by Ashley Thompson in the Yarmouth County Vanguard on July 24, 2015. I have also included the article below:

The pine carving of a dragon began as a figment of Black Rock resident David Taylor's imagination.

“I'm always doing something like that,” said Taylor, looking out into the bay from the backyard of his home.

The creature, now a mix of pine and fibreglass, first dropped anchor in the Fundy tides eight years ago.
It quickly became a spectacle for young and old to behold, garnering enough attention for a mock highway sign with a sea monster icon to be posted along on the shoreline street leading to the community's lighthouse.
All was going swimmingly until the dragon – serpent, sea monster, what have you – was beheaded by the fierce waves that blew in with post-tropical storm Arthur last July.

Taylor, who has been carving for 40 years, took to the water in his boat many times to search high and low for the dragon's missing head. He even travelled as far as Advocate hoping to catch an unusual glimpse of green churning in the tides.

Having no luck, Taylor decided to make a new head for the serpent for the sake of the community.
“I had to replace it because people in the Valley had been bringing their kids over to see it and they missed it,” he said. “I think it's great for the kids.”

Taylor assumed the original face, if it was ever found, would be a mere semblance of what it once was after it was battered around the bay. He recently learned this was hardly the case.

“I can't believe it. I expected it to be in pieces,” said Taylor.

Kings County couple David Carey and Diane Clarke spotted the head July 18 in a cove near Scott's Bay.
They saw a curious glint of green while walking along a beach and then paddled into the cove in a kayak to investigate.

Carey originally thought he'd found a treasure to sell as folk art at a flea market, but his mother - Kentville's Alice Carey -  knew exactly where the odd find belonged after reading about it in a local newspaper.

Alice Carey, a long-time acquaintance of Taylor's, knew one Black Rock resident in particular would be thrilled to learn of her son's discovery.

Sure enough, it's the dragon,” she said. “It came back home.”  

The Careys personally presented the dragon's missing head to Taylor July 23, calling the special delivery their good deed for the day.

Taylor already has a plan for it. “I'll keep it for a spare I guess,” he said with a grin.
Sea Monsters are not just in Loch Ness