The Niagara Escarpment

Posted in On Tthe Road, Photography Tricks on May 19th, 2009 by MadDog
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We went up on the “mountain” today, as it is known in Hamilton. It’s not really a mountain at all, but an escarpment, not that it makes much difference. It’s part of the Niagara Escarpment, a very interesting geologic formation. Here’s a nice panorama shot that I got with the Olympus SP-590UZ. It has two modes of stitching together a panorama automatically in the camera. Both work a treat:

The Olympus SP-590UZ does a great job of stitching together a panorama in the camera.

The above is a much better panorama than my first attempt a year ago. However, it does have a couple of imperfections in the sky. I’ll probably stick to individual exposures and merging them in Photoshop for serious panoramas.

You can’t miss the fact that Hamilton is a steel town:A steel town at 26x optical zoomThough some say it was once hell on earth, today the air is much cleaner. I bet that most of the clean up was not the idea of the steel producers. Ah, well, that’s life:

Locals say that the air is much cleaner today than it was twenty years ago.Some people won’t change their habits unless politely asked to do so.

Hamilton is about 70 kilometres from Toronto. Here’s a beautiful example of the treasures built into the Olympus SP-590UZ 26x optical zoom lens. It’s not the sharpest lens in the world, but it lets an amateur with a good eye take some mind-blowing shots:

Hamilton steel mills, the skyline bridge, and Toronto in the distanceThat’s the steel mills of Hamilton from the escarpment with Toronto in the far distance.

Here’s another similar shot with a foreground frame that is just pleasantly out of focus:Another view of steel mills, the bridge, and Toronto miles awayAnd, here is Eunie practising with her new Canon Powershot A100IS:

Eunie practicing with her new Canon Powershot A100ISShe’s having fun with that camera. It’s not overpowering for someone who just wants to take superb snaps for her journal. Check out her latest post here.

Walking through the neighbourhoods of Hamilton is a beautiful experience. The yards are full of flowers and thoughtful landscaping. Here we see the strong Dutch influence in these beautiful tuilps:

Cheery tulips contarst with industrial drabness - Hamilton, OntarioIf fact, this time of year you would think that you are in Tuliptown.

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Back to Rebel’s Rock

Posted in On Tthe Road, Photography Tricks on May 18th, 2009 by MadDog
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I naturally gravitate to funky little joints with lots of character. Rebel’s Rock Irish Pub in Hamilton, Ontario is just such a place:Rebel's Rock Orish Pub - Hamilton, Ontario

We enjoyed Rebel’s Rock a year ago when we were in Hamilton for a while visiting our son and his family.

Friendly chat at the bar - Rebel's RockLast year I was shooting with a Canon G9. This year, for this post, I’m using my new Canon G10, a superb point-and-shoot camera. It has better noise characteristics at low light levels using high ISO values (1600 in the case of these shots). As the G9 was very noisy at 1600, the G10 is less so. The G10 is also far less noisy than my new Olympus SP590UZ, but has only a 5x optical zoom, compared to 26x for the Olympus. As is my habit, I used the excellent NoiseNinja Pro filter for Photoshop to clean up the noise.

Essentially, I now have two cameras that together set me back about US$800 that will, taken as a team, outperform one Single Lens Reflex camera with two separate lenses. One would have to spend far more for an SLR with lenses of similar capability and you’d still have only one camera. I like the safety factor of having multiple low cost cameras with complimentary capabilities. It also eliminates completely the possibility of getting gunk on the sensor during a lens change, as these cameras are completely sealed.

Sometime soon I’m going to write a post titled “Why You (Probably) Don’t Want an SLR.”

At Rebel’s Rock, you never know when someone will pick up an instrument and start playing:

You never know when someone is going to grab an instrument and start playing - Rebel's Rock
We enjoyed good food and good company consisting of our son, Hans, one of his workmates, Sheila, and our friend, Brenda. I also rather too much enjoyed four pints of Steam Whistle pilsner beer, a very tasty brew, indeed.

Our entertainment for the evening was a local musician, Bill Becker:

Bill Beckers's one man show - Rebel's Rock
My keywords for Bill would be talented, unassuming, eclectic, and brave. It takes a certain kind of entertainer to work a small room where a lot of other things are going on and not seem hurt that people sometimes seem not to be paying much attention. He pulled it off nicely, providing a pleasing and energetic background and often grabbing the room when the opportunity arose. He reduced me to tears with his excellent rendition of Pink FLoyd’s Wish You Were Here.

If you’re ever in Hamilton, a struggling steel town that approaches the culturally surreal, pop into Rebel’s Rock for a break from the humdrum.

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A Community Commons – Victoria Park

Posted in On Tthe Road on May 14th, 2009 by MadDog
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I’m going to have to get out of the neighbourhood and roam a bit. We went shopping for a new pair of Timberland boots today. No luck – they only have them in stock in the fall for some strange reason. I’ll have to try when I get to Sedona.

So, for today, it’s back to Victory Park, a lovely, compact community commons in the centre of the city.

At the base of the statue of Victoria is one the finest of the classic regal lions that I have seen:Victoria Park - the Regal LionAnd here is the great lady:

Victoria Park - the great lady
The modest fountain in the centre of the park is a magical setting to exercise a long zoom lens. The flying rats are always cooperative:Neighbours chatting in Victoria Park

Remember, while in Canada we are always playing the “Spot the Tim Hortons Coffee Cup” game.

It won’t be so difficult in this image:Victoria Park canon complete with obligatory Tim Hortons coffee cup

There are, of course, the obligatory canons in the park. They make convenient trash receptacles.

We’ve spent much of our day communicating with a young teacher at the school in Toledo, Ohio which has been locked down because a teenage boy who aledgedly wrote threats to teachers and pupils in his diary has been missing and presumed to have in his possession a gun. It also appeared that he had stolen a vehicle. The school was closed and threatened persons taken to safe places until the mystery could be solved. We just received word from her that the boy has been arrested in Tennessee.

Many innocent people will sleep easier tonight and there is hope now for healing for the boy. Blessedly, tragedy has been averted.

Until the next time.

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Beware of Dog

Posted in Humor, On Tthe Road on May 9th, 2009 by MadDog
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Some days it’s just harder to write something. Since this journal is primarily a discipline device to keep me in the writing mode, I occasionally jerk at my chains and find that it is a chore to cough something up and get it on the screen. I need a lot of disciplining. Just ask Eunie.* The thing that makes it possible is my camera. As in one period of my life when I never left the house without a gun tucked in my snuggie holster, I now carry a camera wherever I go. Believe me, a camera is better. I now pity the gun toting souls.

I did get one pleasant giggle today as we were walking to a camera store on one of Hamilton’s surreal streets:

Beware of Dog!  Yeah, sure.

What interesting character lives behind the door of this modest house? I’m not talking about the dog. The flowers hand-painted on the chairs are another clue. I could go on and on about the little tickles that I feel in my brain when I contemplate this pseudo-warning, but that would spoil it for you. Just stare at if for a few moments and appreciate the layered humour of it.

A few metres on down the street we came across this nice bit of community art:

An interestingly recursive image on a Hamilton street cornerInstinct moved my hand to my camera. “Very amusing”, I thought, and we remarked to each other how the scene blended the past and the present. How clever.

It wasn’t until I got the image up in Photoshop that I discovered the true cleverness. I realised, somewhat belatedly, that the painting is of the street corner across from which we were standing. Look carefully at the lower right corner of the wall painting. You will see that the painting itself appears in the painting. It is, in a sense, a meta-image. It is recursive. In fact, in philately, this would be called a “recursive.”  A postage stamp that contains an image of another postage stamp (more common than you might imagine) is called a recursive. Some specialist philatelists collect only recursives.  And, yes, if your are wondering, I do have a rather extensive stamp collection. Genetically, I am more pack-rat than human.

Bonne nuit, mes amis.

* When Eunie remarks that I am “trainable, but barely”, she does so with smugness, as if she has accomplished much in the face of great opposition.

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The Great Hamilton Train Wreck

Posted in On Tthe Road on May 8th, 2009 by MadDog
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I spent most of the day wandering from one tattoo shop to another looking — apparently in vain — for an artist to punch my new tattoo into my skin. I found:  (1) entirely too sleazy, even for me, (2) too much attitude, (3) too busy, (4) too chicken, (4) would do it, but was going to a convention. I’m giving up.

However, the day was not a total loss. I discovered a few amusements.

As a worshipper of authority (Uh-huh) and believer that the world would be a better place if our governments were always fully aware of our every activity so that we can feel safe and protected (Yeah, sure), I was supremely comforted to note that my every move was being watched by Big Brother:

Big Brother is watching

As I walked around thoroughly enjoying displaying mildly obscene gestures at every video camera that I spotted, I came across The Great Hamilton Train Wreck:

The Great Hamilton Train Wreck

Quite a nice piece of art, actually.  Here’s the story cast in bronze (click it if you can’t read it):

The Great Hamilton Train Wreck story in bronze

Okay, okay, it was not exactly great  train wreck. It was a train mishap. At least nobody got seriously hurt.

And now, please have a look at this:

The Canadian Football Hall of Fame

And now, because it’s late and I’m getting sleepy, I’ll leave you contemplate the image on your own. Frankly, I can’t imagine how I could think of anything to say that would be funnier than the statue itself.

Excuse me now. I’m going to laugh myself to sleep.

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Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign

Posted in On Tthe Road, Opinions on May 6th, 2009 by MadDog
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Anybody out there but me remember the Five Man Electrical Band? I doubt it. It was 1972 and I was flinging Hueys around in the sky while this Canadian rock band was singing:

Sign Sign everywhere a sign
Blocking out the scenery breaking my mind
Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?

Here’s a YouTube clip from the Mike Bullard Show of the group performing Absolutely Right and Signs. We were buried deep in the anti-Vietnam War avalanche (that’s why I was in the National Guard flying Hueys). The sentiment of Signs burned in my head adding psychedelic flames to the anti-establishment bonfire that was already giving my rebellious nature a fever. Those were interesting times. Anybody out there feeling that way today? I doubt it. There’s a new war raging, new injustices, new infringements on natural liberties and freedoms. Who’s marching now?

Well, you can remove the man from the hippies, but you can’t remove the hippie from the man. Sorry about that. Our son was born in 1969. Does that tell you anything?

But, today’s signs are funny, not serious. On to the first of MadDog’s Amusing Signs of Hamilton:

Custom fitted off-the-rack suits?  I don't think so.
Do you detect an ambiguity here? Eunie says that it means that they will take a sort of tent-shaped suit off the rack and then alter it to fit you. Okay, maybe. I say that they are trying to tell you that no matter what size you are, they already have a suit on the rack that will fit you. Amazing, eh? Simple maths indicate that I’m probably wrong. I hate it that she’s right all the time! I never get to win one.

Could Hamilton be the only city in the world where farmers have their very own library?

The farmers have a special library in Hamilton

This next one is a little hard to read. Let me help you interpret it because there is a bit of in-built ambiguity. Originally, it said (literally) FIGHT WITH THE CANADIAN FORCES. The pictures make it reasonably clear that one is supposed to fight along with them rather than start a fight against them. But, wait! Some fellow anarchist (My Facebook Profile list my political affiliation as anarchist.) has wittily modified the message. It now reads FIGHT IMPERIALISM! RESIST (THE) CANADIAN FORCES.

Hamiltonians Against Imperialism
As a once American (I still have the passport, but probably don’t deserve it.), this seems to me a silly idea. To Americans, Canadians are a source of gentle, warm amusement and . . . yes, admiration. How could anyone become seriously at odds with Canada. The idea is insufferable. To the defacer of this sign I say, “You’re smoking way too much weed, man.”

This next one blew my mind. Could this be REAL? I got a little dizzy. It was as if I had been suddenly warped into an alternate universe where you could hop over to the Kidney Depot (there’s one in every mall) and get whatever you need to fix you up. Did the plane pass through a wormhole over the mid-Pacific and I’m only now noticing the subtle differences?

Get your new kidney here
Alas, no. I’m not so lucky. When, as if in a dream, I got back to the hotel room and began examining the poster, I found the URL recycleme.org. Ahh, now all is clear. The web site features a creepily realistic naked guy (sorry, no naughty bits) who moves in semi-robotic manner and talks to you. He’s got a big zipper down his torso. You can unzip him if you’re into slasher movies.

I didn’t sign up. It’s not because I don’t support the principle. It’s just that I plan to die in Papua New Guinea (not soon, knock on wood). I don’t think that it would be practical to haul my rotting 126 year-old corpse back to Canada to spoon out some decrepit bit that might supply one additional nanosecond of misery to another hapless soul.

Stay tuned for more Hamiltonian surrealism over the next few weeks.

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Up Close and Personal in Hamilton Ontario

Posted in On Tthe Road on May 5th, 2009 by MadDog
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Hamilton has the healthiest looking flying rats that I’ve ever seen:

Hamilton has healthy looking pigeons
Eunie and I took a short stroll around the city centre on Sunday afternoon accompanied by my new Olympus SP-590. The 26x optical zoom on this baby is as sweet as candy. More about that later. We’re staying at a place called Staybridge Suites for the next three weeks. I know it sounds swanky, but it’s actually reasonably priced, especially since our kids offered to spring for half  the cost. We also get a sweet ‘Seniors’ discount. I think it was a mutual understanding that, while we all love each other, having grandma and grandpa living in the house for nearly a month might strain family relations a mite.

Anyway, back to the pigeons. My theory concerning their uncommon vitality is twofold. First, I think the winters are just so unkind to anything living that the sick ones simply don’t make it. It’s the survival of the fittest. Broken feather, forget it, you’re dead. Twisty beak, a goner. A few cooties, sorry Cooie, you’re frozen toast. The other thing is that, despite signs everywhere sternly warning, “Don’t Feed the (######) Pigeons!”, everybody and their brother feeds them. The image above was grabbed from about 20 metres at about half zoom. The little flock was pecking away furiously at a big pile of illicit grain.

A long zoom is just the ticket for candid shots. You are so far away that people don’t have a clue that you are shooting them. It’s a bit like hunting, except nobody gets holes punched in them. I like it much better that way. The holes are so messy. I fell in love with this shot the instant I punched the shutter release:

A lazy Sunday stretch by the fountain in HamiltonIt’s not National Geographic, but it’s got a moodiness that I really dig. I love images that speak to me. Please take note of the Tim Hortons coffee cup. In honour of my recently initiated love affair with Canada, I’m going to attempt to include a Tim Horton product in one image of each day’s post as long as I’m in Hamilton. It will be fun. You can play “Spot the Horton.”

I really like Hamilton. It’s chock-full of people who so obviously don’t care what you think of the way they look. People dress as goofy as they like. It’s a very in-your-face place. I feel very comfy in Hamilton. Nobody gives me strange looks. I walk down the street with my wild Cherokee hair flipping in the breeze under by black fedora and people just grin at me and wink. It’s like I was born to be here. I shot this guy carrying a grandfather clock from about a city block away. Nobody even noticed him. It was like he just had an unusually large wristwatch: (Hey, dude, nice Rolex.)

This guy never goes anywhere without his Grandfather Clock
Hamilton is full of interesting signs. I’ll be showing you some of the more amusing ones over the next few weeks. Here is today’s interesting sign:
Even naughty businesses are folding up their tents in Hamilton
I see several problems with this sign. First, I can’t imagine that this sleaze oozing joint is Canada Largest ANYTHING. What happened to Truth in Advertising? (Okay, okay, that’s an oxymoron.) Next, where’s the apostrophe? I hate this. It should be Canada’s Largest and Best blah blah blah. Can’t these porn people spell? Didn’t they go to school? Finally, I think that if you are going to offer the largest and best TERTAINMENT to the public you should at least offer some explanation of what it is, as most of us probably are not familiar with the product.

Apparently, this of varitey of Tertainment is tailored to adults. Ah, Hamilton, you’re a wild and crazy place.

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