Posted in On Tthe Road on May 24th, 2009 by MadDog
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We made it to Chatham, Illinois by plane, train and automobile. It wasn’t as funny as the John Candy – Steve Martin movie, but it was not without its moments. Nevertheless, we said goodbye to Canada and hello to the U. S. of A.

I’ll be raving on about things we did in Canada for a while until the stun-gun effect of being back in America wears off. Today we’ll have some cute little critters that I shot (no bloodshed) at the Ontario Royal Botanical Gardens.

Here’s one that, despite being a rodent, practically everybody loves. Yes, it’s a sweet little chipmunk. He’s eating some peanuts (unsalted, of course) that I put on the ground:Chipmunk at the Ontario Royal Botanical Gardens

The chipmunks are extremely tame in the park. They will come up and eat right out of your hand.

Here is an interesting colour of squirrel that I’d not seen before. Below the border, in the Midwest we have mostly red squirrels, sometimes called fox squirrels. You can see an image of one in one my previous posts here. Up in Canada, around the area where we were playing, they have black, reddish black and grey squirrels. They may all be just different colour phases. I don’t know and am to lazy at the moment to look it up.

Anyway, here is the prettiest squirrel shot that I manaaged:

Red squirrel the Ontario Royal Botanical GardensI think my aunt had a fur coat that colour way back when. I wonder how many squirrels died to make it. I shouldn’t complain. In my youth I shot hundreds of squirrels (and ate them all).

Here’s probably the most interesting squirrel shot that I’ve gotten so far:

Momma Squirrel at the Ontario Royal Botanical GardensIt’s obviously a female who is raising a litter close by. I did not get this shot at the Botanical Gardens, but right in front of the hotel lobby about five metres from the front door. As with most big cities in areas where squirrels are common, they have adapted themselves well, some would say too well, to city life. Where there are humans, there is food.

I’ll wrap it up now, as I’ve been doing computer stuff all day. I hooked up a wireless system in my brother-in-law’s house so that Eunie and I can have internet access while we’re staying here. It was cheaper to buy the gear (forty bucks US) and give it to him as a gift to respect his hospitality than to get some kind of mobile wireless.

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Salvatore’s in Buffalo – Italian Surreal

Posted in Humor, On Tthe Road on May 23rd, 2009 by MadDog
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It’s late and I’m completely wasted, but I can’t go to sleep until I show you this place where we are staying tonight. Eunie’s a genius at finding interesting places to crash. It’s Salvatore’s Garden Place Hotel in Buffalo, New York. You’ve heard of the Itialian Renaissance? Well, this is the Italian Sopranos:

Salvatore's Garden Place Hotel - Buffalo NYHonestly, it’s fantastic. It is so absolutely over-the-top, that it fascinates. Everywhere you look there is something amazing:

Salvatore's Garden Place Hotel - Buffalo NYThe reception area has one of the most incredibly gauche chandeliers that I have ever seen:

Salvatore's Garden Place Hotel - Buffalo NY
It was all designed by the owner, a wonderfully daffy Italian who certainly knew what he wanted. He also owns a restaurant down the street which is likewise called Salvatore’s. I only wish that I’d remembered to take my camera. It makes the hotel look like broom closet. I had the best meal there that I’ve ever eaten outside of Europe.

Everywhere there are statues. Some are colourful:

Salvatore's Garden Place Hotel - Buffalo NYOthers, which I’d love to show you, are life-sized full figured busty bronze nude females that made my eyes pop. Sorry, this is (sort of) a family site.

Here is a shot through another Italianesque lounge area:

Salvatore's Garden Place Hotel - Buffalo NYSincerely, if you are ever in Buffalo (my sympathy to you), you must stay at Mr. Salvatore’s slendid palace of excess and eat at his excellent and delightfully gaudy restaurant. By the way, the service in the restaurant was every bit as excellent as the food and the live crooner was a practiced blend of Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Junior, Dean Martin, and a few others. Mellow as a nice, stinky Asiago cheese.

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Too Many Tulips – Goodbye to Hamilton

Posted in Humor, On Tthe Road on May 23rd, 2009 by MadDog
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Eunie is packing up for our road trip to Buffalo where we’ll stay overnight and rise early for our flight to Chicago, from where we will take the Amtrack to Springfield (NOT the one that is the home of the Simpsons, but it might as well be).

Please notice that I said that Eunie is packing. I’ve learned from bitter experience  that packing is woman’s work. (You lovely, sweet feminists out there, I beg your mercy. I love you. Women are MUCH more equal than I. I bow in humble respect to you and kiss your precious feet.) I only pack if I’m going somewhere by myself and I’d feel ashamed to ask my wife to pack for me (though I’d be infinitely more likely to have everything I need). A man who is wise enough (I’m old; I know stuff.) to allow his woman to pack reserves for himself the privilege to think of, but never mention, those item which have been inadvertently left behind.

So, I’m taking a few minutes to post some images that I snatched from the Ontario Royal Botanical Gardens. These are only a few. I’ll bore you senseless later with others of my choosing. There’s nothing sadder than an old man chaining you to a chair to show you his flower pictures.

About the only botanicals that were in abundance this time of year were lilacs and tulips. Lilacs get up my nose. I do like tulips, but the rank Dutchiness of the Hamilton area guarantees that you’ll come away in the spring moaning, “Erp!, Too Many Tulips!” to the accompaniment of a soft belch.

Nevertheless, let us press on with simulated bravado. Somebody has to look at these things and it might as well be us:

Too many tulips - Hamilton, Ontario - Jan MessersmithThe trees splitting the scene above is a nice compositional touch. If I had any artistic talent, that’s the way I’d paint it.

This is my favourite shot of the day. A long zoom lens can give you the eyes of an eagle:

Too many tulips - Hamilton, Ontario I was about ten metres from the tulips. The backgound was about a hundred metres away. I really wanted to clear out the little spindly bits in front of the tulips, but I was afraid that I’d get caught by one of the highly dedicated groundskeepers scurring about in their tiny little pickup trucks.

I call this one a ‘calendar shot’. I’m not knocking calendar images. We have to have something to cover up those rusty refrigerator doors. I’m going to have to start doing calendars myself soon, if I’m going to help Eunie keep food on the table. Most of our supporting churches think we’re too old to work any more. Their less-than-polite way of telling us so is to cut off our pay. I say that we’re just getting rolling!

Too many tulips - Hamilton, OntarioHere’s another calendar shot that I hope will soon be earning its keep:Too many tulips - Hamilton, OntarioAnd this . . . THIS!  Is what I mean when I say, “Too Many TULIPS!”

Too many tulips - Hamilton, OntarioAnd so, my friends and those I’ve never met but wish I could, after a couple of Rickard’s Reds over lunch, I’m feeling better than yesterday. I’m once again resigned and full of humility and gratitude to receive with as much humour as I can manage whatever is placed before me in however much time that I have left.

Life is a stone gas, man!

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Posted in On Tthe Road on May 22nd, 2009 by MadDog
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We leave Hamilton tomorrow. My old friend Georges Carillet – I’m sure that he’s reading this – would say that I’ve crossed over to the dark side again. Moody and dark, that’s me. It will be at least three more years before I see my son, Hans, his precious wife, Tamara – the daughter that I never had, and my darling granddaughters, Pippa and Audrey.

A couple of days ago Eunie and I went over to Tamara’s brother’s house for a little family dinner and a few beers. I got all moody and went out the the tracks behind Joel’s house just at the base of the Niagara Escarpment. Of course, I brought my camera along. Little whispers were just beyond my hearing.  I wanted to see if I could discern what they were saying to me. I often hear through my eyes.

Is this a separation from something or a rejoining to something else? Or, is it both:

Is this a joining or a separation?
No matter. If you’re making a crossing, best look both ways:

When crossing, look both waysChoosing not to cross at all isn’t an option:

Cross over or follow the tracks?Never mind. I’ve never been very interested in staying on the tracks. Crossing back an forth is more exciting.

If you’re making a crossing, take a friend:

Cross over with a friendIf you’re taking a friend with you, make sure that he remembers to bring the beer:

Cross over to the other side - bring the beer!Life’s full of crossings.

This is just another one.

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Not Trapped in a Hotel Fire in Hamilton

Posted in Humor, On Tthe Road on May 21st, 2009 by MadDog
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One thing that will really get your attention is a fire alarm blasting you out of a peaceful sleep in a hotel room. That happened to us a few mornings ago. On the day after we arrived, alarms were going off all over the hotel. The staff said to ignore them, as they were testing the system. It went on all day. Two days later, at about 07:00 the alarm came on and did not go off. I stuck my head out in the hall to sniff for smoke. Amazingly, Eunie was sleeping through it. I did see a few people strolling out, so I woke her up and said that it might be a good idea to go outside for a while. She grumbled, but complied. Here’s the small mob milling around outside trying to figure out what was going on:

Guests milling about while the fire alarm blasts insideMost guests were still in the building eating breakfast. I couldn’t stay inside. I’ve got ear damage from gunfire and flying helicopters, so loud noises really hurt. The staff finally told us that someone had tripped the alarm on the third floor. Soon the Hamilton Fire Service arrived:

The Hamilton Fire Department arrivesI think that they already knew it was a false alarm, but they scurried inside with all their gear anyway. “Good practice”, they said:

A Hamilton fireman investigatesEunie stood bleary-eyed out in front clutching her precious Toshiba notebook:

Eunie waits outside in the cold clutching her precious Toshiba notebook

I had grabbed my computer, my three cameras and a backup hard disk which contains our whole life. Eunie forgot her glasses and jewellery. Fortunately, I was spared the hazard of running back into a burning hotel to retrieve her missing items.

All this is mildly amusing, but it’s not the best of the story.

As I stood out in front, I was waiting to hear the grumbling, cursing, blaming, lawsuit threats and the other usual reactions that I was expecting. Instead, it was like a garden party. People stood around joking and smoking and generally trying to out-quip each other. When we were told that some jerk had tripped the fire alarm, the most vicious remark that I heard came from a laughing woman who asked, “When you catch him, we can beat him up, eh?” All of this seemed rather surreal to me, as if I had suddenly been teleported to Munchkin Land. I expected to see Dorothy exit the hotel at any moment in her ruby slippers.

Then it came to me. I’m in Canada.

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Why Ron and Eunie Were Nervous

Posted in Humor, On Tthe Road on May 21st, 2009 by MadDog
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Cute little short posts aren’t my style, but I must show you this shot taken yesterday by our friend Ron Barrons while we were out waterfall hunting. Ron and Eunie remarked to me (more like a complaint) that they wished that I’d stay on the paths. I didn’t know why they were so concerned until I saw this:MadDog on the Edge! - Photo by Ron BarronsI’m standing a half metre from a fifty metre drop striaght down. I was being careful, because I’m not a complete idiot. Also it didn’t seem nearly as scary to me as it did to Ron and Eunie. I did remind myself several times that if my tripod and camera went tumbling over the edge, it would not be wise to grab for it.

At one point I heard Ron remarking rather too loudly that some kid had been snatched up out of the bottom after he jumped to catch a frisbee. I though to myself, “Hey, I’m not that stupid.”

Or am I?

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Silky Water – Hamilton’s Waterfalls

Posted in On Tthe Road, Photography Tricks on May 20th, 2009 by MadDog
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We finally got a day when it was warm enough to go outside without my fingers locking up. We borrowed our son’s car and headed off with our friend Ron, a walking encyclopaedia concerning the Hamilton area, and went off in search of a few of Hamilton’s approximately 100 waterfalls.

The first one that we hit was Webster’s Falls:

Webster Falls - Hamilton, Ontario

Surprisingly, it’s not easy to get into a good position to photograph many of the falls. That is because the surrounding areas have not been decimated for the sake of the convenience of visitors. Most of the ones we visited required only modest hiking to see them, but getting into an ideal position for photography was not so easy. Finally, I was warned by Eunie and Ron to stay on the paths, because I was making them nervous.

I didn’t record the name of this one. I think I’ll call it “Hairy Dog Falls”:

Some waterfall in Hamilton, Ontario
You may wonder why the water looks silky. I used a common technique for slowing the shutter speed to more than two seconds so that the moving water looks blurred while the surrounding detail remains sharp. It involves shooting through a dark grey bit of glass, called a neutral density filter, to cut down the amount of light going through the lens. Since there is less light, the shutter of the camera must be held open for a longer time, therefore the moving water streams and drops blend into a smooth, pleasing veil. Of course, that’s not how waterfalls really look, but it is an interesting effect.

Here is Tew’s Falls, the one that I like best:

Tew's Falls - Hamilton, Ontario
Sherman Falls is also very pretty:
Sherman Falls - Hamilton, Ontario
Grindstone falls is difficult to get close to without getting your feet wet. I didn’t want to soak my new boots, so I settled for this long shot up the little cascade:
Grindstone Falls - Hamilton, Ontario
I think that I’ll pass on the rest of the hundred waterfalls. We’re leaving in a few days and I haven’t seen the Botanical Gardens nor the Royal Ontairo Museum yet.

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