Shy Moon

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I captured this photo of the moon tonight. On first inspection you might think “Hmmm… Another moon photo.” and, of course, you’d be right. However, I’m rather proud of this one because of the method by which I captured it. First of all, it’s with my cell phone. Ever tried to take a photo of the moon with your cell? Big fuzz ball of white right? So how did I magnify it? Well, with my binoculars of course!

That being said, it was not an easy task. It took me about half an hour to find a good strategy but I was determined to succeed. First of all, binoculars are not light… Especially when you’ve been holding them in the air for a long time. My arm was shaking all over the place. Then, trying to hold the phone camera lens over the eye piece AND train the binoculars on the moon at the same time is insanely difficult.

Finally, I found a way to support the binoculars on the deck rail. This helped tremendously… Although I still had to keep them trained on the moon. The above is the result of all that. “Why not just use a camera with zoom lens?” you ask? For starters, I didn’t have one with me. Also, it was kind of a cool (albeit mildly painful) experiment. :) Ta-da! My early September moon!

Summer Vacation 2014 – Third Leg – Prince Edward Island

Finally, I have some time to get to writing about Prince Edward Island which was, after all, our ultimate destination this summer. We stayed there for three days. I’ll say right off, it is a lovely island – very scenic and quaint. Getting there across the 12.9 km Confederation Bridge is quite an experience as well. I’ve never seen such a long bridge! We stayed on the West side of the island not far from the North Cape which, although very nice, was not the most convenient place from which to see the island. The furthest we traveled East was to Charlottetown – a two hour drive. This means, of course, that I need to go back to see the East. I was most drawn to the area around Cavendish (not Cavendish proper as I found it too touristy). It reminded me a lot of Southwestern Ontario with its rolling hills and valleys. We did stop to visit the home where Lucy Maud Montgomery was born and we also went to Green Gables which, I think, was the highlight of my daughter’s visit to the island. Cavendish was a one day trip. The other two days we spent one in the North Cape and the other in Charlottetown. The North Cape was very rugged with beautiful red sand beaches and lots of lobster trapping. Charlottetown is a beautiful and historic city – it was the birthplace of Confederation – with lots to see and do.

My favourite photo from my trip to PEI is the one below. It was taken near the cottage I stayed at on a small inlet off of Cascumpec Bay. The land on which the boat is resting in the photo is covered with water when the tides come in.

boat on shore

The rest of my photos are a combination of the North Cape and of Charlottetown – and, of course, a shot of the Confederation Bridge. I forgot to bring my camera memory card when I went to Cavendish (oops). Enjoy. :)

Summer Vacation 2014 – Fourth Leg – Riviere-du-Loup

Okay. So I lied. I am not going to stick to chronological posts. I just can’t. As beautiful as PEI is – which I will fully cover in my next post – nothing can top my experience from yesterday and I just can’t wait to write about it. The quick version of the story is that I went whale watching. Need I say more? Well, I will anyway because a few details would be helpful. A few months ago, when our summer vacation was in its early planning stages, I thought that while we were in PEI we could go whale watching. What I didn’t realize, until I did some research, is that whales don’t really come by PEI. It’s either Newfoundland or on the St. Lawrence River. After some searching I discovered that from the South shore of the St. Lawrence, there are many whale watching cruises leaving out of Riviere-du-Loup. As luck would have it, we had to drive right by there on the Trans-Canada highway between Quebec City and PEI. I found a company called AML Cruises and (somewhat blindly) booked tickets. I thought well, at worst it will be a nice 3 hour cruise of the St. Lawrence. After all, there’s no guarantee you’ll see any whales, right?

Wrong. I went out on that cruise thinking, if I’m lucky we’ll see some Belugas but not much else. Belugas were actually the only whale that I knew for sure traveled in pods down the St. Lawrence and could be seen very far West. I really, really hoped – especially for my kids’ sakes – that we’d see at least one Beluga. Well…the irony was that we didn’t see any Belugas…but we did see whales. Oh yes we did. The most numerous whale types that we saw were the Minke whales. According to the cruise director, who was quite knowledgeable about whales, Minkes tend to usually stay below the surface for up to 20 minutes between breaths. He was surprised to see them spending more time at the surface. It was fine with all of us on the cruise, that’s for sure. Minkes are smaller whales and reach up to about 24 feet (on average). We actually mistook them as Orcas at first but were quickly corrected. We watched them as they came up for breath and then dove again in an arch. They don’t, however, bring their tails out of the water. Here is the best shot I got of a Minke. It was swimming not far from our boat.

Minke Whale

On the cruise we went East on the St. Lawrence and reached the Saguenay River where the fresh waters of the St. Lawrence mix with the salt waters of the Atlantic. There was actually a visible line as we moved from one water type to the other. The salt water was a deep, dark indigo whereas the fresh water was more of a green/blue. The Minke whales were in the fresh waters closer to the marina but we were in for a surprise once we reached the salt water. There were several smaller cruise boats (Zodiacs) already there and they were watching something. Suddenly we spotted and heard a huge spout as a very large whale surfaced to breathe. I was actually surprised as to how loud the sound was as it blew the water out of its blow hole.

Blue Spray

The cruise director excitedly announced that what we were watching was a BLUE WHALE! Apparently it was an adolescent, so smaller than a full-grown Blue…but who cares? At the very same time, the director also spotted a Humpback further out. Where the heck was I supposed to point my camera? I decided upon following the closer whale, the Blue, and hoped for it to dive and raise its tail out of the water. Dive it did and it brought that glorious tail high into the air as if it were performing for us. My kids were screaming and jumping up and down with delight. You could hear the entire cruise “Ohhhhhhhh!” at the exact same time. It was an absolutely amazing experience! What a majestic creature!

Blue Whale

As if seeing one Blue whale wasn’t exciting enough. We couldn’t believe it when the cruise director announced that there was another, larger Blue in the same waters that was full-grown. He estimated it would be about 30 metres (98 feet) in length given the size of its tail. It gave us the same show as the smaller Blue. I could have died right then and there. My life was complete. :)

Blue Whale Tail

If you are ever in a place where you can take a whale watching cruise, DO IT!! Do not miss this experience.

Summer Vacation 2014 – Second Leg – Quebec

After leaving Georgian Bay, we headed to Montreal. The drive there, according to Google, is about 6 hours. I think we made it in 8 or 9 hours due to stops and highway construction. Now, I like Montreal. The old part of the city is particularly lovely and there’s great shopping on Rue St. Catherine. However, our sole purpose for being in Montreal was to take the kids to the amusement park, La Ronde. They were so excited they could barely breathe (except when they were sleeping soundly in the back of the car as we bounded down the less-than-exciting 401). So, we stayed in a hotel on St. Catherine St. only minutes from the Ile Sainte-Helene where La Ronde is located. There was no sightseeing. We got to the hotel, slept, got up and went to the park. I did get a coffee at the Presse Cafe, which makes fantastic coffee and croissants, so that helped me feel a little more enthusiastic (very little) about spending hours and hours at an amusement park. Needless to say, I took very few photos at La Ronde, just one of their beautiful Ferris wheel. The kids absolutely loved the park and I enjoyed watching them have fun.

La Ronde Ferris Wheel_sm

The city next on our agenda was far more my speed as a vacation destination. We left Montreal late in the afternoon and headed to Quebec City. We had a beautiful hotel walking distance from the Old City, the Hotel Royal William. After a wonderful dinner at La Piazzetta, we slept, and then got up refreshed and ready to spend the day in Vieux Quebec. We walked from morning until evening and enjoyed every moment. It is a GORGEOUS city, it is historic (400 years), and it is bustling with activity. There are shops, cafes, street performers, horse-drawn carriage rides, and tours everywhere. I must have taken a photo of every darned street in the old city but I just couldn’t stop myself. Don’t worry, though, I’ve chosen just a few of my favourites to post here. In the end, I was really sad to leave and am already planning to spend more than one day in Quebec on my next vacation…more like a week.

Summer Vacation 2014 – First Leg – Georgian Bay

Hello all! I’m here in Prince Edward Island and have finally had time to take a breath and go through the hundreds of photos I’ve taken in the last week. I can tell you that it’s quite an overwhelming undertaking. However, I did divide them into the different legs of the journey which made sifting much easier. We have crossed four provinces and have driven almost 2,300 km in a week. We’ve visited my Dad in Georgian Bay, taken the kids to La Ronde in Montreal, toured historic Quebec City, made a quick stop in Fredericton, and are finally resting a few days near Alberton, Prince Edward Island before heading back to Ottawa.

Georgian Bay is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful places in Ontario. My Dad and his wife are fortunate to have a lovely cottage in the area of Honey Harbour. Although they don’t look out onto Georgian Bay itself, they have a gorgeous view of a smaller bay that is relatively quiet and sheltered. Although the skies were overcast all weekend, it did not stop the kids from swimming. They had a choice of going in off the dock or splashing in the sandy beach area. Aside from 1000 shots of them jumping into the water and searching for fish in the shallow waters, I spent the rest of my time taking nature shots.

The most frustrating thing in the world is to try to take a photo of a Loon. I swear that they purposely taunt me by appearing just close enough to shore that my zoom lens can barely make them out or by popping up right next to the dock when all I have with me is my cell phone. Then, just as I’m about to take the shot, they dive under the water and, after what seems like an eternity, pop up again 6 miles away. So, you’ll forgive me if the shot I’m displaying here is not entirely crisp but it’s the best darn photo of a Loon I’ve ever taken.

Loon Georgian Bay

The other photo of a bird I took was purely out of curiosity. I wasn’t sure what it was. It was soaring like a Hawk but was far too large to be a Hawk. It seemed much too graceful to be a Turkey Vulture, and yet, that’s what it turned out to be. I had never realized that Turkey Vultures have beautiful silvery wings, but as it dove and soared over the cottage, I could see them glistening in the sun. I’m rather glad that, due to my distance from the vulture, I wasn’t able to capture a clear shot of its face. You can, however, see the red around the eye and the yellow beak if you look closely.

Vulture GB_sm

The Muskoka Chair is kind of a cultural icon especially in areas North of Toronto. It is the Canadian version of the Adirondack Chair. There are subtle differences if you look closely. It seems almost like a faux pas if you have a cottage and don’t have one of these chairs. The well crafted ones are very nice and are quite comfortable. I liked the secluded location of this one in the photo and thought, if I had time to myself, I’d like to curl up in it with a good book and enjoy my surroundings.

Muskoka Chair GB_sm

Of course, I have to include a few of the flora as well so here they are – Lily Pads and Daisies.

I’ll return soon with stories and photos from Quebec. :)

Change of Scenery

Hello dearest readers. At the end of the work day today, I’m off on vacation! JUST A LITTLE EXCITED. I’m going up to Georgian Bay and then off out East to Montreal, Quebec City, and Prince Edward Island. Soooo…I’m planning on taking a million photos…give or take…and I will be posting as many as I can here. A change of scenery is always inspiration for a photographer. It may also inspire some creative writing…you never know. 

This past week has been quite pleasant and relatively relaxing as lazy summer days tend to be. Even the kids have (more or less) taken it down a notch and enjoy their time outside. We went looking for rocks along the shore of the Rideau River. They love tossing rocks into the water which provided me with the photo of the ripples in the water. We ran through fields of clover which smell so lovely. And we spent time in my backyard having water balloon fights and running through the sprinkler where I discovered that my wee rose-bush had actually produced some lovely flowers. As always, it’s the simple things that I enjoy and love to try to capture in photos.

collage_24072014

See you next from Georgian Bay.
– Your soon-to-be roving blogger. :)

European Evening

People in North America are kind of obsessed with Europe. Probably partially because many of us have roots there and partially because it’s so old and beautiful. We don’t have old here…well, our old is several hundred years. European OLD is several thousand or at least a thousand years. Although I think many of us can appreciate good, modern architecture, I don’t know anyone who would scoff at – in fact most would embrace – the overwhelming and distinct historic architecture and culture of Europe. I remember being in Greece and realizing that I was walking the streets that people had for nearly 7000 years. That’s quite a feeling.

If any part of Canada is ever mentioned worldwide, or particularly in American magazines, it’s always either Montreal or Quebec City. Why? Because the old parts of the cities are like walking into an old European town. Here in Ottawa we have a little bit of that. Ottawa is much smaller than the above mentioned and has a lot of mixed architectural styles crammed into that small space. However, the Byward Market area – down near the Chateau Laurier – is where you’ll get most of the old European feel. Most of the buildings there date back at least a century or maybe two.

Last evening I had the pleasure of dining down in the market. I went to The Grand Pizzeria which is a nice little spot on George St. – with an outdoor patio – right across from a beautifully done, two-story pub called The Aulde Dubliner Pourhouse. I took this shot from my table which happened to be right under a lovely Elm tree. I actually felt transported to Europe. Can you see why?

The Grand Pizzeria

Over the last few days…

A few photos.

I’ve been working very hard on my front garden over the last few weeks. It’s had a terrible weed problem in the past but I’m hoping to keep it in the past. For all my hard work I’ve bought myself a little wind chime to hang in the apple tree. It makes a lovely sound and makes me smile. Another thing which makes me smile is the great haul of raspberries I’ve got from my backyard garden this year. The photo below is just what I picked today. JOY!

I’ve been spending a lot of time near water as well this past week. Ottawa has many beautiful places to do this. Along the Ottawa River near Remic Rapids, there’s a talented artist named John Ceprano who creates sculptures out of rocks there. Also, a lovely park called Brown’s Inlet, has a sizable bond with quite a few ducks. I had never seen a Wood Duck before and was impressed with its colours.

The Demolition of the Sir John Carling Building

Anywhere you look in the local Ottawa news and social media you’ll see this story. Everyone who witnessed it has their own story and I thought I’d jot down mine and share it with you here.

First, a little history. The Sir John Carling building which was located on Carling Avenue near Dow’s Lake in Ottawa opened for government offices (Agriculture Canada) in 1967. It was vacated in 2009 after years of neglect and concerns about asbestos. In subsequent years it has been prepared for demolition. Although many objected to the demolition because it was considered to be a heritage building, only a small portion of it was saved.

Location of Sir John Carling Building

A specialized team came up from the United States to set the charges and do the demolition. The building was prepared to be brought down by a series of explosions (362 Kilograms (800 pounds) of explosives) which would create an implosion and reduce the building to 40,000 tonnes of rubble. 1

WELL…

When I read in the paper that this would be happening today, I decided right then and there that I HAD to be there to see it. It was, after all, going to be the biggest demolition in the history of Ottawa. How can you miss that? The only issue was that the demolition was planned for 7 am which would mean that our family had to get up at 5:30 to dress, drive over there, park, and claim our viewing spot. And we did it!

Sir John Carling Building

A spot of sun shone on the building about 20 minutes before detonation.

We and a whole bunch of other people! I was surprised by the crowds.

The crowds I could see from where I was sitting but there were many more on all sides of the building.

The crowds I could see from where I was sitting but there were many more on all sides of the building.

Of course, about 10 minutes before blast off time, it started to pour. But that didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits. Everyone was pumped and BOY we were NOT disappointed. Without further ado, here is my own video. :) Enjoy!