_Don

In the corner of some foreign field

In my previous post, I mentioned the corner of a French cemetery housed soldiers from the first world war, and our tour group was able to locate a relative from the group.

The Commonwealth Graves Commission has done a fabulous job on maintaining the small bit of land here.

On the way back to our transports, I noticed a selection of headstones off to one side of the cemetery, with the same type of headstone and attention to detail on the landscaping. Upon closer inspection, I saw they were Hindu soldiers from the Indian army. There were nine.

A song from Pink Floyd’s The Final Cut came to mind. The song, A Gunner’s Dream, is a WWII theme of a gunner from a bomber that has been shot down. As the gunner falls (or floats on a parachute depending on interpretation), he thinks of how life could be without conflict. Specifically the lines:

In the corner of some foreign field
The gunner sleeps tonight.
What’s done is done.
We cannot just write off his final scene.
Take heed of his dream.
Take heed.

I thought of how these soldiers came half way across the world to fight for King and Country, to end here; and wondered how many, if any, of their families and friends would ever make the journey to this corner of a foreign cemetery to visit their final resting place.

Lost and Found

When I went to Belgium and France in April for the 100th anniversary of the battle of Vimy Ridge, I went with a small group. In that group were a brother and sister of an older age that had a grandfather that fought at Vimy. He died of his wounds and never returned home. They were on a tour a few years back and the tour company/bus, did not manage (or maybe want, I don’t recall) to find the location of the grave of the grandfather. The tour was going to Vimy. So close.

This time around, our group was small enough, and the tour guide compassionate enough to make the effort to find the grave. We were headed to Vimy for the anniversary ceremony, so we planned the small diversion.

The grave was in a small village near Vimy of which I cannot recall. But we had to drive around a few times to find it. It was in a small cemetery that was very out of the way. No wonder the bus driver before didn’t want to get there. The streets were very narrow.

Long story short, we found the location, which, as I mentioned, was in a French local cemetery. We needed to walk to the back corner to find the location. It was incredible. The Commonwealth Graves Commission had kept this small section in pristine condition to that of the major cemeteries.

We took a moment to have a small ceremony of remembrance, which I’m proud to say, my son read that was prepared by the brother and sister. It was very emotional and they were extremely happy to see the burial location. Below are a few photos.

 

Canadian soldiers that never came home.

 

A moment of remembrance.

 

 

Private Leonard Thomas Godwin. We will remember them.

 

Canadian soldiers.

 

French soldiers are also in this cemetery.

Painted Lady

This year, in an effort to help boost the insect and bee population, we planted a number of flowers that would attract butterflies and various bees. Not much has been around, but over the weekend, we had a visitor. A butterfly appeared and was feeding from the flowers. We had the sprinkler on to water the garden, and it seemed liked it was playing in the water.

When it appeared, I grabbed my camera – Fuji X-T1 with the 59-140mm telephoto to try and get a picture of it. Its not that easy to do. They don’t stay in one spot too long. But I did manage a few shots.

We thought it was a type of Monarch butterfly, but thanks to Google and its photo search feature, I discovered it is actually a variant of the Painted Lady butterfly.

The best laid plans

This weekend I planned to catch a train. Typically, there is a train on Sunday that delivers cars to a couple of industries. It’s an out-and-back move so there is always a chance of seeing it twice. It is an unscheduled train, so catching it is always hit-and-miss, mostly miss.

I figured on this Sunday, I would endevour to try to get the train and photographic not once, but at least twice.

The Plan

In the morning, there are a three VIA trains before noon. One at 7:30, 9:35 and 11:00. I know this because my house is right across the street from the tracks. Any freight movement usually happens between those train times. On this Sunday, I planned to head to Fallowfield station, catch the 9:35 come in and go, and hopefully catch the freight train. The station is a mere seven minutes from my house and has the benefits of signals to know when something is coming.

My plan was to get to the station around 9:15 or so, watch the VIA train, then wait on the local. It would come by soon afterwards (it has in the past). Once the local went by the station (and photographed), I would drive out to the rail bridge to catch it on its return to Walkley yard. I checked the batteries in the camera. I have a battery grip which gives me two batteries, twice the charge. The grip battery is gone so I set it to charge. The other, at 3/4 charge, should be good for a short hour of potential shots.

The Reality

As I enjoy my breakfast, I opened some windows to hear if anything went by. The local freight doesn’t blow it’s horn, and is quieter than the VIA trains. Sure enough, at 8:45, I hear a train go by (30+ years of watching trains means I have a keen ear to them coming).

EARLY! Run upstairs, get dressed, grab the camera and head to Fallowfield station. Other moves to Kott Lumber have meant a turn of only 20 minutes. Time is of the essence!

I get to the station and wait. During that time,  I grab a picture down the line heading east to show off the not-level right-of-way.

I wait long enough that the VIA passenger train is due. Okay, no big deal. The local has gone up to Richmond and waited at the passing siding for the via train.

A few minutes late, the VIA train arrives. Being on a platform, I get low and get this shot:

I’m quite happy with this. It’s what I had in mind. I’m also glad its a FP40 rather than the newer P-42s, which are just ugly.

I always question my thought patterns, and I wonder if I heard the train going back to the yard vs. going to the switching work. But as the VIA train approached, the signals turned from red, to flashing yellow (caution) to green. That tells me that something was on the tracks ahead and the VIA train should be careful, to the line is clear.

The VIA train leaves. I wait. And I wait. I wait for what should be the time it takes to return. So after 20 minutes waiting, I wander over to a memorial to people killed in a bus/train collision three years ago, then head to the car. The signals are still red.

I decide to drive over to Kott lumber and the other feed industry to see if anything was done and I misheard the train that went by the house. Its about 10:30. Next VIA train due at 11:00. On the approach to the crossing, the gates and lights are activated. What? The VIA train is coming from Ottawa – the other direction. I get to the crossing in time to see the local returning with its tow of cars. Argh!!! No photo for me!!

Another miss. So close.

CP 150 Train

Over the last few weeks, Canadian Pacific railway has been touring the CP150 train across Canada. Consisting of vintage locomotives from the 50s/60s and old-school passenger cars (CP closed down passenger service, as did CN in the 70s, with the creation of the current passenger rail system, VIA rail).

I’ve seen great photos and stories of the train and the events surrounding it, including concerts and, well, the cool vintage locomotives!

The last stop was in Ottawa, so I was keen to see it. The week before it was in Montreal. Through my network of railfans, I learned it was laying over in Smiths Falls, a CP Rail yard about 45 minutes (by car) from Ottawa. I further learned when it would be coming into town, so I planned to find a spot to photograph it inbound. There are a few locations near the house where I could have caught it, but decided on a side road to give the best sight lines and hopefully less people.

My intel said the train would leave Smiths Falls around 10:30, 10:45. I knew there was a Toronto bound VIA train coming through at 9:30 and 11:00am, so I figured it may try to sneak in between those trains. The run time from Ottawa to Smiths Falls is about 30 minutes.

So I got to my locale at 10:30. Best be there early, scope it out and if changes are needed, there’s time. As it turns out, the 11:00am train came first which gave me opportunity to check angles and exposure.

Toronto-bound VIA.

By my calculations, then, the CP150 wouldn’t be by until about 12:30 (from this train, half hour to Smiths Falls on single track, then CP150 coming east). So I hunkered down for a wait. No one else was around until a little after noon when some guys from Albany NY showed up, frantic that they hadn’t missed the train. No worries, lots of time. They stayed for a bit and went further down the line to check out a trestle a little further down.

I had a medium-telephoto lens on my Fuji X-T1. With extra time, I figured I would put on the longer telephoto lens to get shots down the tracks. I had a bit of time, and there are other level crossings further on, that I would hear the train coming. My position was a bit aways from the car. I considered bringing the whole camera bag with the lens change, but decided against it. I have time (you see where this is going, right?).

I took some shots. Then I took this one.

Down the line east towards Ottawa, showing the not-so-flat right of way.

A second later, I hear the train horn as it crosses the bridge where the Albany guys went, about a kilometre away at about 12:20. Damn. Not enough time to get to the car, change lenses and get to my position.

In bound CP150. Snuck up on me.

Adopt, adapt, improve. I’m going with the telephoto 70-200 equivalent.

It worked out fine in the end. The adrenaline fired up, and I’m sure the image stabilization in the lens helped to obtain the shots.

After it had gone, I was looking forward to the event at the Ottawa train station. It started at 3pm. I got there at 3:30, so see people leaving. Already? When I got there I could see why. A bunch of tents were set up in the parking lot and three coaches were on display. One was the stage and two others. No locomotives. When approaching the coaches, most of it was blocked off for CP employee VIP section. So no once could get close to the coaches, really. No visiting the inside of the vintage coaches and not locomotives. So the best anybody not a CP employee could do was see the coaches from a distance and maybe the show.

My partner complained quite a bit to others listening on the sad event planning. Turns out the locomotives were at the station, but behind the coaches. Of course wouldn’t want to showcase them. The track the visible stuff was on was quite short, but could easily have accommodated at least one locomotive for photo ops and please the kids (and railfans).

There were a lot of unhappy people, and reading the Facebook posts on the event page made it clear; it was a shitty event. We drove around to the other side of the station and found a gravel parking lot to at least get a picture of the engines. I brought a wide-angle lens for some close ups of the train, so this is the best I could manage:

Hiding the star of the day from public view, even though advertised as a feature.

I had to stand on the hood of the car to get the picture. Very disappointing.

I had read of a great event in Winnipeg from railroad blogger Steve Boyko. Check it out. Great shots and coverage.

To end on a positive note, I did get to see the full train, got some fine shots and, as always, fun to watch trains, even in Ottawa where they are as sparse as they are.

All shots taken with the Fuji X-T1 with the 15-55 f2.8 (VIA), 50-170 f2.8 (inbound CP train) and 10-24 f4 (hidden locomotives).

Dieppe at 75

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the Dieppe raid by the Canadian army. Very controversial, as to what was achieved, it is none the less, a key point in history.

The Canadians were tasked with storming the Dieppe beach, obtaining information, and getting out. It didn’t go so well, and was considered a disaster by many historians. Others consider this raid as a testing bed for what eventually became D-Day. No matter what the opinion, it was a key attack.

This year, I was able to visit Dieppe on our tour of Belgium and northern France.

On our visit, the day we were to arrive at the August 19th 1942 Memorial, we were running very late. The day before, we went back to Vimy to see the tunnels and trenches that were not open due to the 100th anniversary of the battle of Vimy ridge. And we had to drop some other travellers of our group in Arras. So we were there over two hours late. From what I could gather, the people at this memorial were waiting especially for us! The woman was very upset at our tardiness, and my girlfriend spoke to her in French and explained our situation. It seemed to mollify her. Her husband, one of the owners of the memorial, was still very welcoming. We soon learned why.

Turns out, his mother was in occupied Dieppe. The day of the raid by the Canadians, leaflets were dropped, saying “stay in your homes, be safe. This is not a raid. We are the Canadian army. We will be back”. The French held to that hope. He said, “and then in 1944, you fulfilled your promise…you came back”. As such, he holds the Canadians in very high esteem, because we came back and liberated Dieppe. Very powerful. The museum/memorial, which is an old theatre, is full of memorabilia, photos, portraits of Canadian infantry. While the old theatre held its own appeal (being a theatre type, and he allowed us to go on the stage and such), I felt both very honoured to be Canadian, and unworthy. I had no connection to the raid or liberation. Its amazing how much this man held Canadian citizens in such high esteem.

We kept our promise. We came back.

That still sticks in my memory. Photos were not permitted of the artifacts (see the link above for more information), but the man allowed me photos of the theatre itself. Maybe on a later post. We went down to the beach. These photos are of our trip down. Its no wonder the soldiers had a tough time on the rocky beach. Just walking normally was difficult; never mind having to run up it with an enemy firing at you!

And what sticks the most with this, is that the men who participated in this raid were volunteers; not professional soldiers. They gave up their lives to fight for freedom.

All photos taken with the Fuji X100T.

On the beach. Rocky, and difficult to walk on.

A soldiers view. How can anyone manage this?

Birds-eye view of the beach.

Reflected bridge

After the fireworks, and everyone left, I took the opportunity to grab this photo of the Alexandria bridge with its lights reflecting in the water of the Ottawa river.

I placed my X-Pro1 on the stone wall and made the long-ish exposure.

The works

We took in the Lac Leamy fireworks competition last night. Typically, this is an international competition over a number of weeks (Wednesdays and Saturdays) but this year, being the 150th birthday of Canada confederation, it is a Provincial competition this year. We took in Ontario last week. For a $10 fee, you can go down by the river where there is speakers to listen to the music that goes with the fireworks. This week, being a Wednesday and having other schedules, we could only make it to a free location to watch Alberta’s contribution.

I brought along the Fuji X-Pro1 with the 35 f1.4 on it, should I get some acceptable opportunities to make some pictures. The view wasn’t the best with a tree partly obscuring the view, so I went for silhouettes and other ambient shots.

La Machine

Over last weekend Ottawa was invaded…sort of.

As a part of the Canada 150 celebrations, a street theatre company, La Machine, came to town from France to put on one very large and expansive show. Involved, were two mechanical beasts – a horse dragon (Long Ma) and a spider (Kumo), operated by a team of people controlling legs, heads and other things.

They were in the city roaming about starting Thursday. Where the show started, with Kumo perched on the basilica near the art gallery of Canada. The story goes (the very short version) that Kumo steals a sacred temple from Long Ma, and he’s come to get it back. The ensuing four days has these two machines roaming the downtown core, engaging in battles. The final battle, where Long Ma gets his temple back, occurred Sunday night.

We popped down on Sunday afternoon to see some of the event. It was pretty cool and really well done. We managed to catch up and follow Long Ma to the War Museum, where Kumo was. They had a spat that send Long Ma running away to recuperate (and later that night, finally win).

All in all some fun. Apparently over the duration of the events, there was near 750,000 people who came to see the action.

Photos taken with the Fuji X-T1 and 16-55 f2.8 lens.

Stay warm

We went for a trip out to Perth, Ontario. About an hour drive from our home in Nepean, near Ottawa. I like Perth. It is a small town with a long history. As it happens, my family was originally from Perth before moving to southern Ontario, so its kind of like coming full circle, living so close.

We took in a tour of Top Shelf distillery, my favourite gin, and went to lunch at our regular spot; a Mexican food place called Mex & Co. (say it quickly to get the play). It not that there are any other places in Perth, we always end up there, and in the summer, the patio is overlooking a canal which makes for a nice setting. I took this shot. I love water reflections.

As we were there, it cooled down as a storm was approaching, and one of the servers brought out blankets if needed. A nice touch. I snapped both pictures with the Fuji X-Pro1 with the 18mm f2 lens.