Ottawa

Spring has Sprung

Ah yes, spring is back. And so back it just stopped by for 15 minutes and we skipped over to summer weather. From the forecast, its a short respite, but the warm temperatures are welcome after a very cold winter. And how can we tell besides the warm weather?

For one, the daffodils are out. This shot was taken along the Rideau canal. The entire banks are covered in daffodils.

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And the canal, which in the winter months was the place to skate, has been filled again. Fish are in the water, and before the boaters come in, I spotted this guy paddling down the canal towards downtown. A great way to spend a warm afternoon.

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Changing of the Guard

As Spring arrives, so does the honour guard at the Canadian War Memorial in Ottawa. This tradition starts April 9 (the anniversary of the battle of Vimy Ridge) and continues until November 10. It was initially instilled a number of events from youth with no respect for those who fought for their freedoms. From Wikipedia:

Dr. Michael Pilon, a retired Canadian Forces major, observed and photographed a group of young men urinating on the war memorial on the evening of Canada Day 2006. Two teenagers later issued apologies and undertook community service, while another man, Stephen Fernandes, 23, of Montreal was charged with mischief by the Ottawa Police Service…The incident, along with the common sight of persons skateboarding and riding bicycles on the memorial’s podium, prompted the posting of sentries at the site, though they are only present between 9 am and 5 pm from 9 April to 10 November.

The guards are there continually, except for that day in October, when another loser shot a sentry in the back, then made an attempt to storm Parliament Hill.

It was a short-lived halt. You see, we Canadians are tough and stubborn, and don’t let such idiocy and slow us down.

Now that Spring is here, the guards are back. Each lunch, I walk by the memorial, and when timed right, I hear the bagpipes as the change of the guard occurs. On this occasion, I was front and centre for the change.

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This year they have included the huts as well, as you can see in the back. I learned this is to prevent any other loser…er…person from getting up behind the guards.

I have been to the Arlington cemetery as well, where they have an honour guard.

It it a great tribute to those who keep us safe.

Its been a long time

A hundred years ago, a lot happened. The first world war for one. Over the next four years, there will be a lot of marking of poignant battles. Recently, the anniversary of the second battle of Ypres – the first test of mettle of the Canadian troops against a German gas attack, the assault of British troops at Gallipoli.

Today, a protest of the Armenian genocide by the Turkish (then of the Ottoman empire). On Parliament, there was a demonstration. Clearly, after 100 years, this hasn’t rested with these people. I went up to the Hill to see the protest, and was surprised at the turnout. So much so, that a large police presence was on hand. As you can see in the photos below, organizers set up two separate areas – one side for the Armenians to protest and display their anger, and the Turks on the the other side, expressing their opinion that the genocide didn’t happen (or maybe to the extent claimed).

Again, the beauty of Canada, both are equally allowed to say what they think, and the entire demonstration was peaceful (that I saw and haven’t seen any other altercations).

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Turkish Canadians give their opinion.

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No mans land to keep opinions, and emotions apart and guarantee a peaceful demonstration.

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Armenian side of the story.

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A colourful display, protesting past atrocities.

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Under the Bridge

Its getting warmer! As March moves in, the temperatures rise, and its no so bad being outside again.

Today I made my way down by the Rideau Canal locks. It’s still a bit icy in some spots as I made my way down to the Ottawa river. So I doubled back and went under the Plaza bridge, which traverses the canal. This is a really neat place – not creepy like some bridges can be. One one side is the canal, the other a seemingly art deco set of stairs and lights, and as a bonus, the remnants of the original Sapper’s Bridge, built in the early 1800s.

I always like the look of the bridge from underneath. It has that hidden city look to it, and the straight lines and angles merge well with the curves of the bridge arch and openings.

I had my trusty X100 with me, and with all the monotone colours of cement and snow, put the camera in B&W mode and took a few shots.

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The wide view looking south towards the National Arts Centre. The canal is to the right.

 

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A closer view of the stairs. Curves and lines in grand designs.

 

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If you look at the other photos, there are little archways. This is shot from one of those, looking north. The building on the right is the Chateau Laurier. I love how this photo looks like it could have been taken in 1915 as much as 2015.

 

Winter in Ice

Its that time of year – freezing cold, snow and ice, and…Winterlude! An annual festival to get people out of their warm houses and into the fresh air and take in the beauty of winter.

Over three weekends in February, events take place outdoors. Skating on the canal, snow slides, snow sculptures, various wintery demonstrations and the highlight, the ice sculpture competition. This is where teams from around the globe (yes even warm locales) come to Ottawa to create works of art in ice.

Being downtown, I was able to go check the ice sculptures at lunch time, and avoid the throngs of weekend crowds. Some highlights are below.

Ice is a difficult thing to photograph. A lot of detail is lost in its translucency, and really, each piece could garner a dozen shots each to show the detail. Night time is the best viewing, as LED lights add an extra dimension to the work.

All photos were taken with the Fuji X-T1 and the 10-24 f4 lens.

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Skate

Here in Ottawa, one thing in winter that everyone looks forward to it the opening of the Rideau canal for skating. Touted as the world’s longest skating rink (yeah, there are a few others, but not as practical), its eight kilometres (almost 5 miles) of skating on the canal. Its a prelude to Winterlude, the annual winter festival.

Cold temperatures arrived and were sustained, and finally, the canal was open. I endeavoured on Friday to skate the length of it. I did it, pitifully being out of shape and practice, in about 45 minutes. The ice was in fine shape, and kudos to those who make it usable (there is a team that floods and cleans off the snow).

During my efforts, I took a number of breaks. This one I took the time to take out my X-Pro1 and grab a shot of the Pretoria bridge. The lighting on it was fantastic.

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Icy Wonderland

This weekend saw a wintry blast of snow, followed by a few hours of freezing rain, followed by a flash freeze as the temperatures dropped to -15 Celsius overnight. Ottawa is in the grip of winter with the promise of an overnight temperature of -30 Celsius on Wednesday.

The snow is great, but the freezing rain followed by a deep freeze means tough going for cars and people as everything turns to ice, and salt not doing a good enough job of melting the ice away.

The upshot is the trees and everything else is coated with ice. On a sunny, but cold, day like today, I braved the -22 windchill to venture out and get a few photos with my X100, which held up well in the cold. I can’t say as much for my fingers and face.

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The good news is that with all this cold, the Rideau canal skateway will be on its way to opening soon. Now it just needs to warm up a wee bit, or at least drop the wind so lunchtime skating can begin.

Crossing

I take a camera with me every day. These days, the original Fuji X100 is the convenient choice. Light, small, and with its case, safe in my bag with books and other sundry.

Most days, I take pictures and its blah. Nothing. Boring. Or there is nothing that strikes me as interesting.

Some days, the image just appears in front of you. This was the case with this. The angle on the Laurier bridge with people crossing, and the low clouds called to me. And as I was framing it up, I ran the risk of losing the people on the bridge. Because shortly after, its like everyone left. See, I always take a few shots of any given thing in case the first one wasn’t right, or I missed something. In this case. I got it at the right time.

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After

As with each year, I attend the Remembrance Day services downtown Ottawa. More so important this year, given all the happenings recently, and it being the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Great War (something I’m totally fascinated with and have read many books on).

For a change, the weather was really nice; sunny and warm (usually cold and damp) as if the gods above said, “have a nice day, you all deserve it”.

Since the installing of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, it has become a custom after all the dignitaries have left, to have everyone come up, leave their poppy and have a personal moment of reflection. While we typically will do this, this year I suggested we not, again, given the recent events and overly large crowd (estimated at 55,000). On our exit, I took the time to take this shot, with my X-T1 and 10-24 wide angle lens, showing the masses swarming the memorial.

We Canadians are very proud of our armed forces, what they do, and how they represent this country.

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Things have changed

Its been an interesting few days, as the eyes of the world focused in on Ottawa and the events that occurred. Living here, and working not a block and a half away from the entire thing, I was front and centre for it all. The building where I work was on lockdown, and I watched from my window as the police gathered, and dispersed to make sure the streets were safe.

Quite. A. Day.

One of the things that I love about the city, and country, is our freedom and openness. As I mentioned earlier in a post, I enjoy walking up to Parliament Hill, and being able to wander the grounds, and be near the building. It is, after all, where things happen. And I liked seeing what the protest of the day was. I have a few photos of various protests. The beauty of the country and city, is that there is freedom of speech, and the freedom to protest whatever you believe in. For example:

The protest against abortion (or something like that, it wasn’t fully clear), but the entire front of the lawn was decked out with pink and blue flags.

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And just last week, a small protest about the cancellation of the mail being delivered to homes by Canada Post employees. The protest was surprisingly small, and I only knew of it through some online media which I don’t even recall. There was more media there than actual protesters, but the guy talking was some pissed and shouting his cause.

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And finally, this guy, who is there every day. He has his signs, his chair, and rain or shine, he is there for what he believes in. Most people I’ve seen ignore him or at least read the signs. But he has his rights, and he’s exercising them.

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Now, I may not agree with their protests, but its their right, and freedom to say what they need to say. That’s the beauty of this awesome country.

But after Wednesday, that bit has been stripped away. Today I walked by the Parliament buildings and the gates were closed, two RCMP per potential opening, and no one on the front lawn, not even old man gay marriage.

The city will stay on alert for a time, just in case some other nut-job tries one on in the same fashion, but I suspect that this freedom that was there before may just not be the same again. Too bad.

Ironically, the same morning as the shooting events, I got off the bus a few stops early, and decided to walk by the Parliament buildings, just because I like to be near them. Its Canada; its history. On my way, I happened to see “old man gay marriage” walking towards his “job” of giving his opinion. Knowing I had the above photo, I thought this would make an interesting post. Little did I know, that an hour later, it would most likely be his last walk there for some time.

Things have changed.

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