The smartest doggie - an old blog.

I don’t believe in reincarnation, but if I did, I would have to say that Einstein came back as my dog.The above picture was taken a couple of years ago.That is Keisha, on the right.We taught her a lot of tricks when she was a pup herself, and she remembers all of them.What’s amazing though is how she uses the things she has learned to communicate with us.
In the above picture, for example, she is saying, “Please.”We would hold a treat and say to her, “Say please,” so she would sit pretty and get her treat.What was really cool though was that she learned to generalize.Her Please trick became a way of asking for things.Hold something that she is interested in and she asks for it ever so nicely.Toy, treat, baby, whatever.
What is funny is that she uses the same technique to communicate with the two other dachshunds we have at home.Smudge (our male) will have a toy she wants.Why struggle when you can ask?So she goes up to him and says, “Please”.Now Smudge comes from the other end of the gen…

Pale tiger swallowtail butterfly

I have to say that, outside of going to a butterfly exhibition, getting good photographs of butterflies tends to be a venture of chance.  Going to places that are likely to attract such insects increases those odds significantly.  It helps to be aware of the lifecycle and over-winter habits of these creatures, and if you are looking for a particular species the more knowledge you have the better.

I find late spring and early summer tends to be the best time to find these four-winged treasures.  Yes, its true, butterflies have four wings, like most insects.  Flies and beetles have only one pair but most other insects have two pair.  It just so happens that butterflies beat their wings in tandem; all of them going up and down at the same time.  Not all insects fly like this; the dragonfly alternates its fore and hind wings.

Since butterflies are nectar feeders they are most commonly found around flowers.  However, butterflies will also take juice from cut fruit and even will take water…

All challenges accepted.

Seagulls are ubiquitous in nature.  There is a great irony in the name as saltwater is not a necessary part of their existence.  Many are landlocked, generations never even seeing an ocean.  In fact, the closest many come to salt happens when a french fry goes astray at an outdoor eatery.  Landgulls would also be a falsely descriptive moniker as they are common around all bodies of water.  The term gull by itself is apt; the dictionary clearly defines what a gull is and does not place it over any particular surface body.

Gulls are instantly recognizable by both sound and sight.  Identifying them by species is another thing entirely because of the various plumages they have.  Some gulls have a juvenile stage and an adult stage, but some go through four different phases before reaching maturity.  When trying to identify a gull, my first step is to narrow down the likely varieties based on range.  When we were in New Zealand we would see red-beaked gulls and black-backed gulls.  Alberta…

Erratic behaviour?

Hopefully, you got my pun.  The term erratic is often used to describe someone's behaviour that is unusual and unpredictable.  However, it is also a geological term referring to a large rock which seems out of place, usually an isolated feature.  Erratics are post-glacial relics, prominent signs of a retreating mass of ice.  Sometimes boulders will fall onto a moving glacier and will be carried along with the flow and then deposited.  Other times these enormous testaments of mass movement are literally plucked from the rockface, being scoured by the eroding embrace of the ice.

I have always had a fascination with glaciation, both alpine and continental.  I grew up in southern Ontario where there are tremendous numbers of glacial artefacts.  Drumlins, kettles, eskers, and endless deposits of moraine cover the landscape.  I remember going on a school field trip to explore some of these features in Grade 9.  I was in awe at their majesty and still am inspired when I see evidence of …

How shutter speed affects motion.

Understanding shutter speed is one of the cornerstones in photography.  Shutter speed is one of the main controls over blur - caused by motion instead of focus condition - and it has a significant impact on the outcome of the shot.  Fast shutter speeds reduce the effect of movement on an image while slow shutter speeds enhance it. 

The exact way in which shutter speed affects a photograph is highly dependent upon the situation and equipment.  This is highly conditional; there are a tremendous number of parameters involved in what the outcome will look like.  Without putting specific numbers on it though, suffice it to say faster shutter speeds produce less blur due to motion and slower shutter speeds produce more.

A good example of a parameter relates to the speed of the pinwheel-like spinner above.  How fast is it actually going?  This is important because, if it were perfectly still and the camera was on a tripod a 30 second exposure would produce an image with crisp edges.  The sp…

Cloudy days are best for portraits.

My favourite time for photographing is in the morning on a sunny day using a fill flash to hide any disparaging shadows which might fall upon my subject.  There are issues with this scenario though. The need to arise early is a chief concern, especially if your location requires significant travelling.  Then there is the temperature issue; it doesn't do your subject much good if they are clad in enough clothing to effectively bury them.  Then there is the weather factor, as the sun isn't always in a charitable mood.

These are all reasons why I find cloudy days excellent for shooting portraits.  The sun does not produce harsh shadows.  Foreground and background lighting tends to be even.  Fill flash is always a welcome addition to a shot, but it tends to be ineffective when the subject is not close to the camera.  In order for fill flash to work in the above shot, I would need an external, more powerful unit than the built-in one on my camera.  With the cloudy day it wasn'…

Know before you buy - a research primer.

I recently bought a Zeiss microscope through eBay.  I like to look on the Canadian site because prices are listed in CAD not USD and shipping is straight forward.  No risk of delays or border taxes.  It was listed for sale at $600 Canadian.  I was watching it and let the sale go.  No one else bid on it and an opportunity was presented to me to purchase the thing.  I know Zeiss optics are good, even old ones, and put a bid in for $400 thinking it was low and would be rejected.  To my surprise it was accepted and I had a contract.  I paid the money and my purchase showed up a week later, all shipping included in the price.

Feeling like Christmas had come early, I tore open the shipped box with great enthusiasm.  Removing the device carefully from the packing materials that enshrouded it, I carefully set it on a table and installed the two oculars which were packed separately.  All the objectives and eyepieces were in good condition.  It was then that I noticed something was missing - t…