Saturday, July 30, 2011

Tea & Tales

Each Friday morning, during the summer months, people gather at the Enabling Garden in Guelph to have a cup of tea and listen to expert raconteurs from The Guelph Guild of Storytellers. Yesterday Vince Wall (left) and Sya VanGeest (right) cast their spell with stories from other times and places; stories of magical animals and improbable adventures that took me back to being a child, listening to my father telling stories before bed.

Vince & Sya and their listeners by the Speed River

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Black Swallowtail Caterpillars

A couple of months ago I planted some fennel in our backyard. I'd heard that they are host plants for swallowtail butterflies. I guess it's true! Today I counted six caterpillars munching their way through the fine fennel leaves. Google tells me they are Black Swallowtail caterpillars and that they will go through several instars (stages between molts) before forming a chrysalis.

This guy is in his first instar and is about a 1/4 inch long. He still has some growing to do!

The caterpillar below is about an inch long and is in his third, or possibly fourth, instar. I will be watching them closely to see if I can catch one in mid-molt.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Beaches Jazz Festival

I went to the Toronto Beaches International Jazz Festival yesterday with my buddy Paul De Silva. The event, now in its 23rd year, was always a highlight of the summer when I lived in the Beaches. It still draws big names on the Canadian music scene to perform at a small venue, and huge crowds to the local streets and parks.
Sitting on the lawns of Kew Gardens, we listened to Amy Sky and her husband Marc Jordan perform some of their classic hits such as Marina Del Ray and Rythmn Of My Heart (Marc Jordan); Love Pain and the Whole Damn Thing and I Will Take Care of You (Amy Sky).

Though it was getting hot sitting under a tree, we stayed put for another set with Pavlo, a guitar virtuoso, who grew up on the Danforth, a neighbourhood just north of the Beaches. His Greek-influenced rhythms had me up on my feet and dancing!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Home again

We arrived home yesterday which coincidentally was the day the last space shuttle flight came back to Earth. It felt like we'd been orbiting the planet for a long time but in reality we only clocked 9,000 kilometers or so. After a month on the road it's good to be home.

 Our newly planted hydrangeas were doing well, thanks to the diligent care of our neighbour Cherie.

The abundant blooms attract many pollinators which gave me the opportunity to try out my new lens, a macro attachment for my stereo camera, that I bought at the 3D convention. Here's a bee coming into land on a hydrangea bloom:

Monday, July 18, 2011

2011 NSA Convention

We had a great time at this year's National Stereoscopic Convention in Loveland Colorado. It was a six day whirlwind of catching up with old friends from around the world, attending workshops on new trends and techniques in 3D, and watching hours of 3D presentations in the stereo theatre.

I'm pleased to say that I won two prizes at the Saturday night banquet: an Honourable Mention for my photo of a marmot (see last post below); and the Best Stills Photography Show award for my 5-minute slide show Fresh Perspectives! I had received many positive comments throughout the week about my show, so I had my hopes up!

Here are a few 3D images from NSA this year:
Tanya, Ken, Phyllis & Rich got dressed up for the Saturday Awards Banquet
Mariachi Band playing for dinner guests at Casa Bonita
Lots of action at the Cycloptical booth at the NSA trade show
Mini-train ride at the the historic Lakeside Amusement Park in Denver

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Rocky Mountain National Park

I drove up into Rocky Mountain NP with Dale Walsh, a friend at the 3D convention yesterday. The drive took us from granite gorges, through stands of ponderosa pine to alpine meadows at 12,000 ft. At that altitude a short hike will leave you breathless, as does the panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.

Here are a few 3D cross-views of what we saw...

looking over the continental divide
yellow-bellied marmot in the alpine meadows
bull elk relaxing with his herd of females and fawns
indian paintbrush by the roadside

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Birds on the Way

We arrived at my 3-D convention today in Loveland Colorado. With all the expected workshops, screenings and socializing, I may not be posting very much in the next few days!

So I thought I'd share some of the bird photos I managed to capture on the journey so far.
lark sparrow
western meadowlark
mountain bluebird

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Oregon Trail (part 2)

We continued following the Oregon Trail today, along the North Platte River from Casper to Fort Laramie.

Casper the town didn't exist in 1845 when the Kolmers, my ancestors, camped here before fording the river. Today it is home to a fabulous museum, the National Historic Trails Interpretive Centre, that is well worth a visit.

Along the North Platte River are sandstone bluffs where the wheels of the heavy wagons carved deep ruts still visible today.

Also visible are the names of travelers carved in the same sandstone at a place called Register Cliff. Leaving our mark for posterity is a universal urge. Perhaps it's one of the motivations for me to write this blog!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Oregon Trail

Wagon train trail near Sweetwater Station

Welcome to Casper
3D cross-view of a typical wagon pulled by mules or oxen
We drove off the highway a couple of miles up a dirt road to find the actual trail that my forefathers and mothers traveled over in 1845. Suddenly there it was: two tracks winding through a vast sea of sagebrush. What a daunting prospect it must have been for them just to keep moving on. They walked an average of 12 miles a day for 6 months. That's 27,600 steps a day for an adult; 31,700 for a child!

Today, some 166 years later, their trail has undergone quite a transformation in nearby Casper. The contrast boggles the mind!

Friday, July 8, 2011

South Pass

We drove across the South Pass today, a broad flat plain that straddles the continental divide and provided early travelers with the easiest route through the Rocky Mountains.

One of those early travelers was my grandmother's grandmother, Josephine Kolmer, who passed through here in 1845 with her family on their way to California. They were part of a wagon train bound for Oregon but later changed direction and went to California instead. There she met her future husband, Wilhelm Benitz, who happened to come from the same village in Germany. They settled at Fort Ross, on the Sonoma Coast, where my great-grandfather was born.

As we travel further through Wyoming, I hope to learn more about the Oregon Trail and the hardships these pioneers faced. It's a fascinating part of my family's early history.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Grand Teton

Tomorrow is our last day at Jenny Lake Lodge here in Grand Teton National Park. It's an inspiring landscape of towering peaks and extensive river flats along the Snake River in Wyoming, the kind of place poetic cowboys write songs about.

We've been getting up early each morning to catch the sunrise on the Teton mountain range. The image above is from a place called Mormon Row. They say this is possibly the most photographed barn in America: a least a dozen other photographers were there with me at 5:30 AM to catch the dawn light!

One of the benefits of getting up early is the chance to see some wildlife in action. We noticed a herd of elk that seemed to be moving erratically in a tight pack. To our amazement we saw through binoculars that it was a pack of wolves trying to separate a calf from the herd! In this enlarged photo you can just make out three wolves circling the elk. This was a rare sight indeed, as some rangers have never even seen a wolf in Grand Teton NP.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Bear Jam

When the road is lined with cars and campers it's most likely a bear sighting. Locals call it a Bear Jam. Always keen to see a bear in the wild - there are lots of grizzlies and black bears around here - we too pulled the Prius over to take a closer look.

A mother black bear was looking up at tree, calling her cub down. The cinnamon-coloured cub, just a couple of months old, scrambled down. Mom rolled onto her back to let the little one suckle. Only half a mile from our lodge here in the Grand Tetons National Park, it was quite a sight to see.

Monday, July 4, 2011


Three nights in Yellowstone National Park meant three days without an internet connection and no chance to update this blog! No matter. I got up early each morning and had some wonderful photo opportunities in this huge wilderness park.

Some quick facts about this place. Established in 1872, it was the first national park in the world. It straddles one of the largest volcanic calderas on earth and is still very active with regular earthquakes and 10,000 geysers, mud pools and fumaroles. Yellowstone is also home to the largest concentration of wildlife in North America: bears, wolves, antelope, elk and bison to name but a few of the species that make their home here.

Sitting high on the Continental Divide, Yellowstone NP had its heaviest snow pack in living memory this year. As a consequence, the rivers and lakes were overflowing their banks with the spring run off and many trails were still closed. As well, the roads were over-run with touring cars, buses and rental RVs. But the overall impression was of an unspoiled primordial landscape, a spectacular experience in so many ways.