Thursday, May 29, 2014

From the Highlands to America

The free Kindle downloads are always an unknown, unless the book is a tried and true classic. As I was perusing the titles, I thought this one might fill my desire for a bit of adventure and action after having read a lot of G.K. Chesterton lately.
Zane Grey is a great action adventure novelist who writes the feminine side of the novel really well, and Tommie Lyn is a female author who writes action well and the romantic side of things even better. Had I not known that Tommie was female, I might not have guessed until near the end of the book.
This is the story of a young Highlander in the early 1700's and the life he lead as a poor farmer's son, who was trained to always be ready to stand up for and fight for his clan. He is torn between adventure and settling down, but in the end the decisions are made for him. After a series of tragic events, he ends up in America as a slave. Apparently this type of thing was not uncommon. The adventures in Scotland are contrasted with life in the swamps and eventually in the Blue Mountains where he escapes to. He is torn between loyalty to the ways of his father and doing what it takes to survive, something he is not always keen on doing because he is haunted by images of his past and memories of his murdered wife. Also he is being pursued by a blood thirsty vengeful man from the enemy clan, who follows him to America.  
This is the first of a multi-book series. It might be worthwhile reading the next one as it is well written and the author claims to be historically correct.
3 1/2 stars

Monday, May 26, 2014


This book is another example of short and sweet, interesting and informative for the photographer in you. I am sure that when God said "Let there be light", he had in mind more that 8 types of light, but this book works within the world of light as it relates to photography and how the different types of light serve the purpose of creating good photos.
Below is an example from my collection, taken a few days ago, where a cardinal rule of photography is broken. "Always have the sun at your back", limits what you can do creatively. In fact, all eight types of light that Anne talks about in her book can work to your advantage, or if not managed properly, can make for some very dull photos. I like this little book because I am a contrarian type of fellow and like to break the rules at times. (not the law). It is both challenging and satisfying to push the limits of light and I find that it brings out the artist in me.  
This little book gets 4 stars.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Princess Paulownia Tree

A friend was over the other day and was admiring our Empress tree and said it reminded her of her mom's tree "by the milk house" which was no longer there. She requested that I take a few photos of our tree and send them to her as a reminder.

It is a large, aggressive, and messy tree, its existence only justified by its beauty for a few short days in spring. When the blossoms fall, the monster leaves begin to grow. The limbs stretch out another 4-5 feet and then the mess in the autumn is a continual chore to clean up.

These trees are not native to our area, but were brought over from China during the years when there were many migrant workers building the railroads in Western Canada. The workers would bring their belongings from China packed in the seed pods from this tree and as they unpacked, the seeds would fall beside the rail beds, and flourish. Soon, admirers would uproot the seedlings and take them home for their gardens. They are fairly common in our city.

I sometimes regret having planted this tree, but not right now. Wait until the Autumn and I will be singing another tune.

As you can see below, we have pruned this tree hard over the years but it continues to dominate its corner of the garden, undaunted.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

A Scottish Tale

Many years ago we visited the cabin of Robert Louis Stevenson on the Island of Oahu where it was purported that he wrote Treasure Island and Kidnapped. The two stories are similar in that they are adventures of young men being stranded, but the locales are quite different, one taking place on a south seas island and the other in Scotland.  
Kidnapped is a great story at its beginning and its end, but unless one is very familiar with the clans, the history, and the geography of Scotland, it is a bit cumbersome in the middle. 
David Balfour is a young man who is orphaned and sent to an Uncle for 'consideration'. The uncle behaves strangely toward him and after young David begins to understand the relationship between his deceased father and this Ebenezer, his uncle hatches a plan to get rid of David by having him kidnapped. And so begins the adventure that involves ships at sea, fights at sea, storms at sea, and shipwrecks.  He makes a lasting friend in Allan Breck Stewart who lands on board the ship quite by accident. After the shipwreck, they set out across Scotland, avoiding the 'red coats' who are out to get them on a trumped up charge of murder.
In the end, after much trial and endurance in the wilderness, all is well and Davie gets his just rewards.
I will not criticise this classic other than to say that it was a bit weak in the midpoint of the story, but then again, others may enjoy that sort of thing.
If I speak with a bit of a brogue for the next few days, it is because of having read this book.
3 stars   

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

A Most Humble Bird.

There is not a single bird in all creation that does not have some remarkable characteristic that makes it beautiful and a marvel of creation. The lowly sparrow is actually a very delicate and pretty bird when you examine it up close. My first encounter with a House Sparrow (as pictured above) was when I was a small boy and one of these delicate creatures flew into a large window in our home in Saskatchewan. I ran to the bird and found it in the flower bed, barely alive, panting for breath and its eyes already starting to cloud over. It was warm and its heart was beating rapidly. I examined the delicate feet, the tiny claws, the variegation in the wing colouring, and as I was deciding what to do, it died in my hand from what I assumed was a broken neck.

Sparrows have come be known as nuisance birds, only good for making a mess. I changed my mind again as one year we had a pair of them raise a family of four in a birdhouse just outside our living room window. I was endeared to these birds as I watched their antics, especially as the young came out of the house after hanging their heads out for several days. Even after learning to fly, they hung out around the bird house the rest of the summer. The next year, I was sure that the same four yearlings were checking out the house for their own nesting purposes, as their antics all looked so familiar.

After a boyhood of guns and hunting, I have changed my tune and now could never harm one of these beautiful creatures.

A well camouflaged Song Sparrow at Reifel Bird Sanctuary.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Light on Sumas Prairie

My grandson and I were running an errand on Saturday night and we passed through on No. 3 Road on Sumas prairie. I was so fortunate to have grabbed my camera on the way out of the house earlier.

I LOVE the Fraser Valley!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Recent Spring Photos

I am having so much fun and getting so much satisfaction from my hobby on these beautiful spring days.  The greens are vibrant, and early mornings and late evenings are glowing with warm colours. Living in the beautiful Fraser Valley, I am provided with an endless array of scenes and situations at which to point my camera.  

Friday, May 16, 2014

Book on Photography

Being a hobby photographer and enjoying it very much, I find it helpful to read an occasional book on photography. Many times I have done so and found that the one or two things I have learned and applied have taken my hobby to another level. "Beyond the Lens" is a book of encouragement, inspiration, tips, and examples of Robert Rodriguez's excellent image making. The Kindle version does not show up in colour on my Kindle model, but nevertheless, I can see, even in the black and whites, what he is striving to teach.
What I came away this time, is two things. Know your equipment, whatever the level it may be at, and practise, practise, practise.
The greatest thing ever about digital photography is the fact that it costs nothing but time and effort to do this.
I am finding that both of these tips are helping me. I have been 'out' on numerous occasions already this spring and have come up with some great images. I may never reach the level of a professional like Rodriguez, but I am having a wonderful and creative time trying to get even half way there.
The book is short and sweet, and an easy read, and one should be able to take something out of it that will help on the very next click of the shutter.
3 stars 

Thursday, May 15, 2014


G.K. Chesterton was a physically formidable man, standing 6' 4" and weighing 286 lbs. He had an intellect to match. He was a prolific writer and I have now read two of his more famous books, "Orthodoxy" being the first. His now famous style begins to grate if you read his works too steadily. He would take a common parable or axiom, or saying, and turn it inside out, up-side down, and state that the exact opposite is true. It is truly remarkable how often and how effectively he does this.
In this book, he devotes a chapter to each one, on a list of his contemporaries, and then analyses their philosophy, their art, their work, or their religion and then proceeds to straighten them out. You would think he would have enemies by so doing, but he was a popular fellow and it was not easy to argue against his reasons for criticism.
I found the book a bit obscure in that it was written for its time, making reference to locations, books, news stories, and people of his times. The ideas, which at times are difficult to extract, are timeless, in a general sort of way, but one would have to read the book several times for these arguments to stick to one's memory, or at least this would be the case for me.
Chesterton is quoted often and with glee. His witticisms are similar to those of Winston Churchill, as in his retort to a lady who addressed him as to why "he was not up front" as pertaining to being in the front lines of WWI. To which he replied," If you go around my side, you will see that I am 'up front'". (He was a rather large man who loved his food and drink.)
I believe I will put Chesterton aside for now, having read his two most popular books, and will read something light for a change. My brain is feeling a bit like a wage earner on April 30th, taxed.
2 stars  

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Weeds Have Their Own Beauty

Here is my collection of recent Dandelion photos. I cannot decide which is my favourite, so I posted all of them.

The first early spring crop of Dandelions is always the best. They are lush and colourful, bursting with spring vitality.

The seed balls ensure there will be more to come.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A Unique Concert

On Sunday afternoon we attended a 'standing room only' concert at the Central Heights Church. It was not a church event, but rather a community event that needed a sizable venue. It was the Recycled Orchestra Canadian tour. It was an interesting and unique production and as I tend to address the good and the bad in my reviews of books, movies and concerts, I will get the bad out of the way first as there is plenty of good.
The 16 person orchestra is from Asuncion, Paraguay and the young people in the retinue are all from a community of 25,000 who live on the outskirts of the city, on and in and near the garbage dump. None of them spoke English so there was an interpreter. Naturally, any aspect of the program that was not musical took twice as long, and the orchestra leader loved to talk. The interpreter was not great, nor articulate, which made for some frustrating moments.
The instruments are all made from recycled garbage. One of their mottos is "They bring us garbage, we bring them music". The violins were tin cans and baking pans with wooden spoons used for frets and string supports. A guitar was made from two large candy tins. The base Viola was a recycled oil can. The saxophone was made from plumbing parts. Knowing this, it was surprising that any sound came out of the instruments at all. There was a cheap and tinny sound at times, and obviously the instruments were very difficult to tune to each other, and to keep in tune. 
If one could overlook these aspects of the afternoon concert, there was much positive to take away. The event was a fund raiser for providing a community center for their city, and supplying funds for education for the children of the garbage dump. The fact that these kids were travelling outside of South America and playing to full houses speaks volumes about this wonderful opportunity that has been created for and by them. To find a vehicle to lift people out of poverty and give an opportunity for them to express the music within them, and bring joy to others while doing so is certainly a great accomplishment.  Yes, it was too long and people were walking out, but the chance to see this amazing group of young people and what they have done with so little was worth it.