Tag Archives: photography

Of trolls and photography.

Trolls are people who specialize in aggravating other people, for often no reason at all. They sometimes do it to provoke a reaction from other people. I often wonder if these people are sick and do not know it.

Of course most people are familiar with trolls on the net. In any forum one can read their posts which are often aimed at some people or other, hoping for a strong reaction. I had my run-ins with them too, but rarely in the real world. Until last Sunday.

I was taking pictures in the botanical garden with a friend when suddenly we saw a heron land on a wood box near the pond. These boxes are used by birds for nesting purposes. The heron was not far from the shore of the pond but as we approached I saw a woman taking two chairs, one for her head and the other for her legs. The nerve she had.

We rapidly approached and prepared to shoot the heron when the women left rapidly, coming back less than 5 seconds later. She then asked us if we had taken her picture. My friend replied that since it was a public space we could but that we did not. I chimed in, asking her tongue-in-cheek if she was famous. She replied that I was presumptuous to ask such a question. I replied that if she were famous then I would take her picture and ask for her autograph. My friend listening to me was smiling broadly. She left and I thought that it was the end of it, but no, like a bad dream she returned.

She said to me that we had really disturbed her, really. I turned around and said she could easily take two chairs and she could install herself a few feet away from us as there was plenty of space. I then told her that if she was so unhappy she could call security or launch an official complaint about us. I was hoping that she would see how ridiculous she was.

She replied that no after all, she would not lodge a complaint. I felt better. But again she said we had disturbed her. At that point I thought that perhaps she was not quite right, especially after she left and returned 10 seconds later with the same lament, that we had disturbed her. And what about us being disturbed by her?

I finally lost it, cursed her and shouted at her and reminded her again that we were in a public space, not in her living room after all. After my outburst she finally left and I hope I never see her again. My friend was laughing at all this, remarking that he had never seen me so angry.

I realized much later what she was, a troll. I should have ignored her instead of trying to reason with her. Something like that happens to me once or twice a year. For some reason taking pictures is not seen as a nice activity by trolls who love to comment on how we “harass” wildlife. I think that from now on I will harass trolls!

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Face to face with an owl!

It was a cold Sunday morning but at least it was a dry cold; the sun was shining and there was no wind. I felt great. I knew that on a day like that most people would simply stay indoors, but not me. I love photography and love a challenge as well, and taking pictures in -20 degrees Celsius or -4 degrees Fahrenheit for my American readers is certainly a challenge.

I was in the botanical garden, a place that I know well as it is barely fifteen minutes from where I live. There one can find foxes, raccoons, groundhogs as well as all sorts of birds, including large birds such as hawks and of course, owls.

I had previously seen owls in the garden, but all were seen from afar as they tend to stay in high in trees or they are well hidden sitting on a branch inside a conifer. I had previously seen a barred owl sitting on a branch not too far from me and I had taken some nice pictures but the owl was in the shade. This time it was different.

I had walked for well over 90 minutes with nothing to show for. Of course in winter just going for a walk let alone walking 90 minutes in freezing conditions is good for one’s health, but not having taken a single picture and going home empty-handed is bad for one’s morale. And waiting for the bus with nothing to show for is even worse. I was now in the last moments of my stay in the garden and I knew it. I was ready to cry uncle and leave as there are limits to my patience as well as my stamina. I was entering an area called the alpine gardens. I looked around the area and thoroughly searched it visually as well as physically, no small feat as the area was slippery. I then decided to return home by going by the same way that I had entered, a rarity for me as I usually do the opposite. For once it served me well.

I was walking towards the path when from afar my eye was attracted to something on a branch. It looked like an empty beehive with its characteristic gray color. I decided to use my lens and zoom in on the object and it was then that I realized that it was not a beehive. What I saw was a beak, a small yellow beak. I looked at the rest of the image and discovered that it was a small owl called a saw-whet owl.

Immediately I was seized by excitement, followed by fear. I was too far to take a picture and I imagined someone walking towards it and forcing it to flee. I started to walk towards it slowly, taking pictures at regular intervals. I did want something to show for. But as I got closer I was able to see that the small owl was not moving as it seemed to enjoy the sun. It was opening its eyes and did sway its head to locate the birds around it but it looked content to remain as is, sitting on a branch in the sun.

I was finally able to get so close to the owl that I could have petted it on the head. That close. For over thirty minutes I took pictures from every angle possible and still the owl would not move. I believe that it must have eaten soon before as I discovered in looking over my pictures a drop of blood on its body.

About towards the end of my stay a walker arrived behind me. I was torn between showing him my discovery and just seeing if he was going to discover the bird by himself. He walked by the bird without seeing it. I was not surprised having long thought that most people walking are simply not there, the body being there but the mind is away.

Having had my fill of good owl pictures I left the owl in the same area as I had found it, happy that in spite of frigid conditions I had seen a bird that people rarely see in broad daylight. Now only if that sort of thing happened every day….

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Looking for the Grebe.

Grebes are freshwater diving birds that can be small to medium large in size. Apart of being excellent swimmers, they can also run short distances but tend to fall forward due to the feet being placed further at the back. These birds have narrow wings, responding to danger by diving rather than flying.

Another photographer had told me about this bird that had been found in one of the ponds in the botanical garden but to locate it on a body of water early in the morning is no easy feat. This grebe in particular was called the Pied-billed grebe, the most common grebe in Eastern North America. Unfortunately it does not exhibit many colors, being rather dusky brown in appearance.

Here we were, my friend and I, scanning the pond for this elusive bird. It was only after walking around the pond that we noticed a bird right in the middle of the pond. Now, I as a photographer had my 300 mm lens while my friend had his 420 but still, the bird was too far off. We had to wait.

We stayed close to the shore and waited for the bird to move closer and finally it did by diving and reappearing at the far edge of the pond near the shore. We walked quickly near the area and proceeded to set up our gear. We did get lucky as the bird plunged and appeared very near us, giving us the opportunity to capture some good pictures. It was just unfortunate that the skies were cloudy. A dark bird with an overcast day is not the best combination for a good picture.

This bird does not stay very long, and sure enough, a few days later it had disappeared from the pond, leaving the usual ducks there. I was glad that I had seen it but my pictures would have been better had there been some more sun.

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Ethics in photography.

As I have previously said I like to take pictures but strictly as an amateur. I just love trying to capture animals in the wild, big and small. But when I do it, I always to it in a safe way and more importantly, in respecting the animals independence. I especially do not use artificial means to get the pictures that I want. I do not try to attract the animals.

Last week I had met a photographer that I knew who told me about his new app which reproduces the songs of birds. When the song is played the chances of attracting that bird are higher. I immediately told him of my disapproval of that method. He reacted rapidly by saying that he only used it if after a while he did not see any birds. I supposed that I half-believed him. But now I know better and I have lost all respect for him.

This week I meet the same guy but I noticed that he was behind me, having arrived later in the area. I had walked in that area before and he was nowhere to be seen. Suddenly I began to hear bird songs out of the blue. I turned and saw him with his phone, calling the birds. Evidently he lost patience rapidly and used this gadget to attract the birds that he wanted to see.

Instead of confronting him I simply ignored him and continued on my way. It was obvious to me that he did not understand the harm he could be doing to the birds in the area.

A bird that is attracted to the song will exert energy to come and see what it is all about. This energy will have to be replenished sooner or later. If many people use these apps this will simply amplify the problem. It is akin to using bait to attract bears as one cook I knew used to do in a wooded area where he worked. Of course he had great pictures of bears rummaging in the area but at what cost to the bear? And the danger to humans in the area?

There is no difference to me between someone using an app to attract birds and someone giving seeds to them, or feeding the ducks or the foxes or bears. Except that using an app is not illegal while feeding wild animals is. It may not be illegal but it is unethical to say the least.

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A rainy morning.

Sunday is the day that I prefer best, the day when I always try to take pictures at the botanical garden. Unfortunately, cloudy and drizzling days are never my best days. Taking pictures in the rain sucks. In this case, after two days of rain, I had decided to take pictures today despite the weather. But first, I had to take the bus. Once again, because it is Sunday, buses are running on the weekend schedule, meaning do not be in a hurry. Taking my bike was out of the question as the skies were very cloudy. Riding in the rain is an experience that I hate.

I was waiting therefore for my bus, the 197 on Rosemont street. I was alone as on a Sunday morning at 07:30 there are not many people. Most people have the good sense of sleeping in on Sunday mornings. Facing me on the other side of the street was another bus stop, for the bus going in the opposite direction.

As I was looking in a distracted way at the other bus stop a woman appeared, walking slowly and shuffling her feet. From across the street she appeared to be well dressed. I continued walking slowly on my sidewalk waiting for my bus. I then saw the woman slowly walk over to my sidewalk and walk directly towards me. She asked in a small voice,” Do you have change so I can eat?” I replied in a matter-of-fact no, I did not. This was a lie, but my policy is never to give to people who ask for money. In her case, I was more right than I am usually.

She must have been in her 60’s as her face was quite wrinkled. I quickly looked at her clothing and her shoes and found them to be very nice. The shoes were not cheap I was sure. She did not look malnourished to me. What she seemed to me was someone who was afflicted by drinking too much alcohol. She looked unstable physically.

I suppose that she was probably waiting for people to appear so that she could ask them for money. It was not for food, I was sure of that. Her walk indicated to me that she may have indulged just before asking me for money. The strange thing was that just after this I could not see her on the street. She seemed to have vanished in a few minutes. She probably did not live far and probably had the habit of waiting for buses to appear so she could ask people. As the bus was not coming she decided to ask me.

My morning at the garden was short as by 08:15 it was drizzling and by 09:45 I was out of there. Intermittent rain is probably the worse as you never know when it stops and continues. With only two good subjects today, a heron and a hawk, I could say that I should probably have done like most people today, remain in bed.

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The passionate life.

I love photography. It is more than love, it is a passionate affair with cameras and taking pictures. You have to be passionate to get up at 05:00 am to take pictures, or going atop a mountain when it is very cold and your fingers are freezing. I find that my passion makes me more alive and points me in the direction of a more fulfilling life.

But I wonder, how many people live a life full of passion? Not many in my opinion as most are too busy making money. Of course one can be passionate about making money, but this is a passion that in the end can ruin you. It can ruin the most important things in life namely, your mind and your health. And once those are gone you can say goodbye to making money.

Of course money is important, but once you have enough then what? I find it foolish for people to spend their lives trying to make money and then say that they will indulge their passion when they retire. By that time of course they could be dead or be in so ill health that it won’t matter anymore if they had passions as they would not be able to live them. Time is a cruel master.

It is better not to crave money too much. Indulge your passions now, especially when you are young and not old and decrepit. Once your mind is gone you won’t remember that you had a passion for something anyways.

People with a passion will try to indulge in it over the weekends and holidays but this lacks permanence. It is rather like tasting a favourite dish only once a month. You are not satisfied and you crave to have more of it. In then end you could become quite frustrated with this whole affair of living your passions on off days. Why not make all of your days off days?

Yes, I know that bills must be paid. But it makes sense to simplify our lives and not needlessly work to pay bills that are not essential to our well-being.

Let us make a decision now; that we won’t work more than it is necessary and that we will devote most of our free time to the pursuit of our passions, and not the pursuit of a fat bank account. No one will care on your deathbed how much money you made and how much is in your account, apart from your heirs of course. On my death bed I want to remember all those days that I took pictures in sub-zero temperatures. It will warm my dying heart.

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Walking in the footsteps of others.

I am an avid photographer but I will admit that winter in the eastern part of North America is no picnic. The snow and the cold can be taxing and your perseverance and endurance is often tested, as well as your equipment of course.

Naturally when I am walking I always look if someone else has walked in the same area that I am walking. It is always easier to walk in the footsteps of another person as they make my walking far easier and of course I exert less energy. Even the animals of the wild will do the same thing. I often see foxes quickly running on paths made by men instead of wading through deep snow. But of course, if I walk in the same paths that others have opened for me I will probably see what they have seen and nothing more. One could also add that a sense of adventure would be missing in walking in the footsteps of others so at times I will eschew the easy path and will try to open a new path. I know that it will cost me more in time and energy but I always hope that in doing so I will be rewarded by seeing something that others have not seen. Often just this act of opening a different path leads me to new discoveries, as for example discovering birds called cedar waxwings eating berries perched in a tree. Had I stuck to the usual path I would not have seen them, a missed opportunity.
In our lives, we often do this, picking the easy road and letting others dictate our path. At times we are simply too lazy.

Perhaps we should be more adventurous and pick our own paths. We might have to exert ourselves more but at least it would be more interesting and of course, it will be our paths and not the paths of others. We would be following our own genius and no one else.

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