Tag Archives: focus

The Pitfalls of Nature Photography

Now that I have been out and about, enjoying the spring weather, indulging in a little quiet time, communing with nature and taking photos, I could not help but notice that my hobby does have its share of pitfalls.

In trying to capture the perfect shot, I often feel like a secret agent, trying to move in on a subject in stealth mode, intensely looking at the world through a viewfinder.

But in doing so, and in being so focused, I have occasionally lost track of the intricacies of the physical world around me, including time and space. From a health and safety perspective, it concerns me a little, given my tendency to occasionally be a bit of a klutz.

Yet even when faced with these challenges, I don’t seem deterred. The rewards of capturing a great nature shot are worth every bump and bruise.

Also, Mother Nature has a way of keeping photographers on their toes by changing the perfect conditions with little advance notice. It can get a little frustrating but I’d like to think that this is part of the thrill of the hunt when perseverance leads you to that shot that made it all worth it.

Here they are, my top 10 pitfalls of nature photography:

10. Losing track of time
It has happened that in the process of evaluating the composition and the lighting, taking a test shot, evaluating the result, making adjustments, taking another test shot and repeating until I think I have captured the best photo possible, before I know it, an hour has passed. It’s delightful to lose myself in the creative process when I have unlimited time on my hands, but it is quite another matter, when I am on my lunch hour and due back for a meeting at 1:00 sharp.

9. Wearing the wrong shoes
A subset of #10, sometimes I get so enthralled in my photo shoot, not only do I lose track of time, but I lose track of space and distance and find myself farther away than I originally planned. It is on the long walk back and dealing with a blister that I realize that I was not wearing the right shoes for such an undertaking. Continue reading

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Deleting Without Watching – The Madness and the Guilt

Remote A couple of weeks ago I did the unthinkable… I deleted 25 shows from my personal video recorder (PVR), without even watching them!

It is not because the shows weren’t good. In fact, some of them were shows I enjoyed quite a bit. Unfortunately, it came down to one simple fact: there just aren’t enough hours in a day.

The sad part is that I am a seasoned veteran when it comes to binge watching: game show marathons, “Bewitched” marathons, “The Nanny” marathons, “Dallas” marathons, watching an entire 24 hour rotation of MuchMusic (once, back in University, …I dared myself), and the list goes on. Television has been a passion since I was very young, as well as a good companion to a “latch key” kid (who also happened to be an only child).

I was one of those kids who pushed up the national average for the number of hours that kids watched TV. I could have easily put in 3 hours per evening during the week and on the weekends, cartoons in the morning and family programming in the evening. It is probably no surprise that the first book I learned to read was the TV Guide.

However, my conundrum is this: I seem to have the willpower to not fall into the time trap of hours of video games on my iPad, cute cat pictures on Instagram or chain watching YouTube videos (unless they are vintage Price is Right episodes, in which case all bets are off). However I really have to exercise tough love with myself when it comes to watching television. A few endearing characters, clever writing, a storyline to make me laugh or think… I can easily get hooked.

September and October brought us a new raft of shows to watch and even though I thought I made careful choices to ensure I wasn’t painted into a corner, I still seemed to be drowning in programming. Continue reading

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My Grown-Up Christmas List

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAs we get into the home stretch for holiday and Christmas preparations, one cannot help but notice the Christmas music playing in shopping malls, in stores, on the radio and in every television commercial. One in particular that I have been really enjoying is “My Grown-Up Christmas List”. Composed in 1990 by David Foster and Linda Thompson, the tune is a timely reminder that Christmas is not just about consumerism but it is about kindness, good will, respect and generosity of spirit. Check out the lyrics, it really is a pretty song!

However, on a much less serious note, I find myself reinterpreting the song, time and time again, thinking how life would be so perfect if life’s minor annoyances were eradicated. This my friends, is my grown up Christmas list:

-Perforated products such as paper towels and toilet paper that will actually tear off on the provided perforations.

-For tissues to not explode in the washing machine.

-For the safe return of socks that have gone missing from the laundry.

-For TV networks to not conspire and load up Sunday evenings with some of the week’s best television shows and create a scheduling nightmare for my PVR.

-Football games that run long and exacerbate the problem of recording the multitude of programs I need to record on Sunday evenings.

-Cling wrap that actually clings to what you want it to cling to, not everything else… including itself. Continue reading

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Top 10 Signs You Might Be a Writer

How do you know when something is your calling?

I believe anyone can probably list off the top of their head 5 to 10 things that they enjoy and that they think they can do pretty well. But what is that one specialty that is absolutely yours?

It took a lot of searching and stock taking over the years, but when the answer was finally crystal clear, signs, such as the following, were my validation and reminder of my purpose in life.

The fact is that the signs were always there, but launching a career and earning a living were the obvious priorities, to put food on the table and to keep me in cool shoes. But with retirement from my day job just a few years away, there is no doubt in my mind how my golden years will be spent.

For your consideration, here are my Top 10 Signs You Might Be a Writer.

10. Losing track of time

The old adage “time flies when you’re having fun” is correct and also a sign of the type of work for which someone may have a calling. For me, there is no greater gift than when I can spend my whole day at work (or a whole day off from the day job, working on my own writing projects), focused on the written word whether that means writing, editing, proofreading or doing light translation. Honestly, I will put my head down, get into the writing bubble, and with the exception of a bathroom break, the next time I look up it will be lunch time and the next time after that it will be quitting time… a definite sign.

9. Writing tools are the best gifts EVER!

For the last few years, my birthdays and Christmas wish lists have contained items to help me capture blog and story ideas on the fly and convert them to works for you to enjoy. It never gets old for me, even if it means a pack of printing paper, a box of pens, fancy notebooks, or building up a reserve of printing cartridges for those times when the cartridge runs out minutes after the nearest Staples store closed.

8. Your brain is always processing characters and plots

My inner voice seems to start most sentences with “Hey, what about…” constantly pitching ideas, characters and story ideas to me. The trick is to capture them with any of the gifts received in #9, and save them for future reference.

7. You accidentally call your family by your characters’ names

When creating a fictional world, writers need to develop a very strong connection to their characters in order to convey the traits that make them complete, living, breathing and believable characters. The occupational hazard is that their personalities establish such a strong presence in our subconscious that their names may become as conveniently accessible as those of our own loved ones.

6. Your video recorder is often full Continue reading

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For The Love of Running

The completion of my first half-marathon last fall is an achievement for which I am extremely proud. But from the moment I crossed the finish line, I have been positively stumped in determining the next goal for me and my running.

Unless someone is just incredibly gifted genetically, anyone that has trained for a half-marathon will attest to the time commitment one must make to get there, supported by organization, discipline, a goal and a plan. And sometimes the plan can appear so daunting, just getting started can be a challenge.

It is bad enough that we just wrapped up the winter-that-never-ends (here in Ottawa), during which time I did not see a sidewalk in what seemed like forever, so I hibernated in my cocoon of pillows and blankets while clearing the PVR or watching Netflix. Then the guilt of not running set in.

But with spring’s recent arrival, I got my first run of the season out of the way a few days ago (better late than never, I guess) and I was pleasantly surprised. The full routine of stretching I started doing in recent weeks, in anticipation of that first run, really helped as nothing hurt for this first 2 ½ km run, but clearly cardio capacity needs to be rebuilt.

I was happy to be out there, finally out in the fresh air and sunshine, already in shorts and t-shirt, bypassing the running jacket and running pants due to my late start. It was a wonderful day, but throughout the run I kept asking myself the question I had been asking myself since last fall: what is my goal?

Throughout my running life, I always had that one race ahead of me, or a tangible goal whether it was to run a longer distance, to beat my personal best time or to recover from an injury in time for the next big race. Running without a set goal seemed foreign to me.

Even among my group of friends who are runners, the goal always seemed to serve as an ice breaker in conversations: “What are your plans for your next race?” Or if someone was sidelined by injury, “When do you hope to be back in training for that next race?” Or travel-loving runners talking about the next destination race and figuring out the logistics of accommodations, meal planning and the completion of their pre-run rituals.

Without a doubt, running races is a big part of the process and helps many of us remain focused and on-target for a distance or a time, but at the moment, Continue reading

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The Positive Side of “That Ship Has Sailed”

ShipI cannot remember exactly when I picked up on the phrase “That ship has sailed”, but over the course of my 40’s, it became one of my favourite mantras as the years went on.

The first few times I heard the phrase from my elders, my enthusiastic young ears picked up on a sense of regret and perhaps even a negative sentiment which remained with me for years. As someone who tried not to live with regret, the expression was banished from my vocabulary.

I believe that as we get older and when we really start wrapping our head around concepts like the transience and the fragility of life, how nothing is permanent and the reality of how we might not have the boundless energy we used to have, we find ourselves making choices.

This is not to say we do not still have a world of possibilities in front of us or the potential to tap into them. It is about being clear about the list of things we really want to pursue in life, and in choosing to reserve our energy for those things that mean the most. You could call it “picking your battles” for goals and dreams.

I find that the option to make choices (and the option to change them if I want) brings a sense of peace and calm. Continue reading

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The Guilt Of Not Running

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESShortly after the major milestone of running my first half-marathon last fall, I have to admit I really enjoyed the month that followed. With training on the back burner, I fully enjoyed the free time I reclaimed: more time for writing, more time for staying on top of errands and housekeeping, and of course eating anything and everything as my metabolism was still cranked up high and quickly burning up anything I consumed.

Then the post-run party is over, replaced by holiday parties and more “fun food”!

Then when the holidays are over… Winter! Ugh!

When it comes to winter I am not a sports enthusiast:

– Despite many lessons in my pre-teens, I skate about as gracefully as Bambi on ice. Sorry, Rideau Canal.

– When I was a kid, my dad was in the ski patrol. We were out on the slopes at the crack of dawn every Sunday. You could say that before age 12, I did enough skiing to last me a lifetime and it would be true, especially given that I was not a fan of the cold and snowy part.

– Contrary to popular belief, Canadian kids are not born with hockey sticks in their hands. Besides, I was always picked last for team sports like that, so I sublimate that lifetime of trauma, by attending as many cheery musical theatre performances and uplifting operas as I can afford.

– I tried curling, I understand the game and really enjoy the wardrobe options (Google: “Norwegian curling pants” and click on the “images” tab) but I prefer my exercise in short spurts.

So what about my first love in sports, running?

In theory, if properly dressed for it, running can be performed in almost any kind of weather. I say in theory because I know my limit is around -20 degrees Celsius. Below that, my lungs are not happy in the days that follow, but that’s just me. The fact is that I have enjoyed running on sunny and bright but less “crisp” wintery days. Continue reading

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