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Vimy 101

Throwback Thursday is a thing on the webs and social media.

This isn’t.

One hundred and one years ago, on April 9th, 1917, in a small snow storm, the Canadian army acted as one unit, not under British rule, to take Vimy Ridge. A German stronghold that earlier attempts by the British and French were failures.

It was a true Canadian moment, and shows the tenacity that is Canada to this day. When some loser shot and killed an honour guard at the War Memorial in Ottawa and stormed Parliament Hill (and killed by security), I thought, “fuck you. Canadians took Vimy, you can’t do that shit to us”, and went about my day as usual. You don’t mess with Canadians. Yeah, we are super nice and stupidly polite; just don’t push it.

So last year, in 2017, I went to the 100th anniversary of the battle, where the Canadians not only took the ridge, but held it for the rest of the war. Took it with the “fuck you, it’s ours now, you’ve done enough and we will keep it right” kind of attitude. See, most immigrants to Canada, not only left their country to avoid hardship, persecution and look for a better life, they also had to endure the hardships of an untamed wilderness, brutal climate (winters can be rough, even in the 21st century). They put up with all that, so nothing much more can phase them.

Proud Canadian? Yeah.

But I digress. I was there at Vimy for the 100th anniversary. It was the warmest, most clear day of the 10 days I spent in Belgium/France. There were a lot of logistical issues, and problems. But *I* was there. And to look out over the area where the four Canadian divisions came together and made such a monumental success, make me proud.

These are a few shots from the day. I had only my Fuji X100T and teleconverter. I would have liked something more zoomy for the Vimy Flight flypast, but, hey, what are you going to do.

As the 101st anniversary comes, I look at these photos and remember the soldiers who volunteered for a truly worthy cause, the ceremonies and the trip in general.

Still chasing trains

Today at work, I heard the the train heading up to the Nylene plant. I noted the time and determined a return in five hours, putting it back around 4:30. That is around the time I’m done for the day, so I was hoping to catch the train.

As I was heading to the car, I heard the train hitting the level crossings. I hoped to meet up with it along the way. As it happened, as I came to the crossing at Herzberg road, it was slowly approaching. The speed limit is 10 mph, so it’s not exactly zipping along. As I crossed the tracks, I made a quick left hand turn down Bayfield Avenue to meet it at another level crossing.

I stopped just short of Carling at the crossing and waited for the approach and took a few quick shots.

As it went passed, I thought, since it is going slow, I’d try to meet it at Corkstown Road. From my location, it was about seven minutes away. I had a similar meet before (without camera) and figured I could make it. I doubled back to Carling to Herzberg and over to Corkstown Road. No train in sight, I check the tracks. In the flangways at the crossing, there was still snow. If the train had come, it would have been compressed or gone. A moment later, my suspicions were answered as I saw headlights. A second run-by!

I considered a third attempt down the line, but it was not to be. Still, I was happy to see the same train twice.

As an aside, when giving a title to this post, I considered “Chasing Trains”, but a quick search revealed that I had used this title last year, and the photos were only just a little ways down the tracks from the one above. Just to the left in fact. Same camera too – my Fuji X100T

Beaumont Hamel

While in Belgium, we visited the site/memorial of Beaumont Hamel.

The Newfoundland regiments signed up to fight for King and Country in a time when they were their own dominion, not yet a part of Canada (not until 1949). They sent a contingent over to fight, and on July 1, 1916, at the beginning of the battle of the Somme, they attacked. The Battle of the Somme was the regiment’s first major engagement, and during an assault that lasted approximately 30 minutes the regiment was all but wiped out.

Newfoundland purchased the land and preserved it and it stays to this day untouched. Shell holes and trenches remain. Although not a part of Canada yet, this is truly a Canadian place. The walking paths encircle the battlefield area and one can tour around from the Newfoundland side to the German side. From the German side, you can see a clear view of the Newfoundland position and can see how they had easy sight lines to mow down the opposition. Its terrible.

One of the cemeteries included a number of tombstones next (very close) to each other. I wondered why. I later learned that those this close together indicate comrades who died in close proximity or in the same battle together.

This is a very powerful site to visit.

The calling Caribou – iconic monument

Died in 30 minutes, brothers in arms.

Germany too

While in Belgium and Flanders visiting WWI sites, we visited a German cemetery. Similar to others we would visit, it was in farmland. The vibe was very different (as most cemeteries we visited were, all had a vibe; difficult to explain, but it was there).

The German one was very sombre and low key. Interestingly, there was wifi available here, however, it was very restricted such that one could only access an app that would describe the site. That’s fine. I found it interesting to have that technology to learn about the location, accommodating the next generation to keep history alive.

The Brooding Soldier

The Brooding Soldier is a memorial to Canadian soldiers in Langemark, who fought in the second battle of Ypres. This was the first time the Germans used gas. Of the nearly 6000 Canadians in the battle, 2000 were casualties. They did hold the line.

This is one of those monuments I’ve wanted to see in person for a long time. Our trip to Belgium included this, and it was fantastic to see. The location is in a small village on the edge of farmland. Not only is the memorial here, but a small garden area as well. We went first thing in the morning, and it was very peaceful. Looking around, the entire area was at one time a battlefield, which is a recurring theme in this area.

 

Travel results

In my previous post, I indicated a trip and what I was taking for camera gear – very minimalist. Now that I have returned, the verdict it in, and it was a success….basically.

Having the small Fuji X-100T and complimentary converters was light-weight, and never a burden or pain to carry. Even the small bag proved to be easily accommodating to include sunglasses/reading glasses and a flask of water. The bag, a ThinkTank Retrospective 5, had plenty of room, and the bonus of velcro seals for the opening, meant that I never had to worry about someone reaching in and stealing my stuff, especially when in Paris.

The only downside was the lens converters. The screw on feature was a bit cumbersome, as sometimes I was switching them on a regular basis. And with the 100T, I have to tell it when it was using which converter or not. On many occasions, I simply forgot for a number of shots. At least with the X100F, that is now automatic and certainly a great feature. I tried to keep to one converter for a while, but that never really worked. Again, the screwing it on and off was not very fluid. As for focal length, it worked out fine. A few times I would have liked an ultra-wide lens, and only once a longer telephoto.

The other small thing, if you look at the last post, I had a shutter release button thing on the camera. Yes, I said “had”. As I expected, it eventually came off as there is no to keep it on without gluing it. Each time I used the camera, I found myself automatically tightening it. It may be in the camera bag, I haven’t checked, or its on the streets of Paris near Notre Dame cathedral. I won’t be getting another one. As nice as it was, its too pricey (with shipping) to have to replace or constantly check on it.

Other than that, the camera was great. I brought along three batteries and I could have fared well with two. I was concerned about the overall battery performance, because I haven’t used the camera for a full extensive day and didn’t know the longevity of it, and I have read that it wasn’t great. I don’t know what other people are doing, but the battery lasted a couple days before I needed to switch it out.

I also shot entirely in JPeg Classic Chrome. On quick inspection, the photos came out great. there will be some tweaking, as there always will be, but the images look great.

Stay tuned for updates as I put up photos of the trip.

What to take?

If you lurk around the camera and photography forums, you will inevitably come across the post “What camera/lens/gear to take to location X”, where the person is wondering what type of camera gear they should take to where ever they are going. The worse ones are where they say they are going to location X and will be purchasing gear, what should they buy.

The inevitable answers are a range from take a 16-300 all encompassing lens, to just take two primes, three zooms and three camera bodies, to the question, “what type of things do you like to shoot?”

Ugh.

Its like they can’t make up their mind, so the faceless of the Interwebs will decide for them. My thought is, research the location, decide what you want to shoot, and take a chance with what you bring. Its either that or a veiled question that basically says, I’m going here, who else has been there and what should I expect if I want to take pictures.

Which now sets focus on me. I will be heading to Belgium and northern France for a trip to various Canadian WWI and WWII locations. I decided some time ago, that I would go really simple.

Some background. Back in 2010, I went to England and took a Nikon D700 with battery grip, 24-70 f2.8 and 16-35 f4 lens, even bought a sling bag to carry it. At one point during the trip, I left it all at home. Too heavy. A couple years later, I went back and included Scotland. I took a Fuji X-Pr01 and two prime lenses (35mm 1.4 and 18mm 2.0). I loved the second option. Did I miss some shots? Probably. Does it matter? Not really. I really enjoyed the camera and the 18mm stayed on much of the trip.

So for this trip, I’m going even lighter. Here is what I’m taking with me:

A Fuji X100T, and the wide angle and telephoto converter lenses, extra battery and the Fuji container will have three cards. So that gives me three focal lengths: 35mm, 28mm and 50mm (full frame equivalent) That’s it. I can hear photo nerds concerned. No telephoto!? No ultra wide?!? How will I get the photos?

I might not. Its about the complete photo opportunities as it is lightweight and portable. I’ll get great photos. Its about using the tools available.

I can’t wait to get some shots.

Times are changing

Last week I took a walk near my work at lunch. It was a 10 minute drive to a spot where a path followed a bit of the CN tracks up to Arnprior on the Beachburg subdivision. At one spot, the trail comes very close to the tracks, so I took a little detour up onto the tracks. I knew that the only train through here was on Wednesdays and it was a Tuesday. That and my Spidey senses are always in tune for a train or any train sounds, and the max speed is about 20 mph, so I knew that if something did happen to come, I would hear it well before and have time to get out of the way (and it didn’t stop me from looking over my shoulder constantly…just in case).

At one point there used to be a junction (switch) that would lead up the valley on a different route. A year or so ago, that was ripped out and all that is left is the remnants of where the rails went. I was surprised to see a lot of the track bits still scattered about the location. I figured they would have cleaned it up and sold it for scrap.

Bonus for me, as it made for some fine photo shots with my trusty Fuji X100T. Sad that there is a little less rail traffic in Ottawa. Especially for someone like me who likes trains.

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Textures

A couple of weeks ago at lunch I drove down to the nearby railway tracks. Like those who like the sounds of the sea or rain that takes them to a calm space, being near railway tracks is mine. Growing up I had the Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo railway running near my house, and the CN line wasn’t far away either.

So I went to walk the tracks. These tracks are rarely used – a once a week, up and back run, so its not particularly busy, and the line has a 10 mph max speed. And I have an ear for trains coming, so I wasn’t worried about something coming up behind me.

With my Fuji X100T in hand I wandered up the line, and one picture I grabbed was a spike in the rocks. The contrast of colours and textures made for an interesting composition.

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New Brew

Last weekend I was down in southern Ontario to see a concert in Toronto. As always, I stay with my parents in my home town of Dundas. As a bonus, that weekend also was the grand opening of  a new craft brewery in downtown Dundas, called Shawn & Ed Brewing Company. Its location is in a building that has served as a skating rink, curling rink and warehouse over many decades. So of course, I had to check it out.

It was a popular spot on the weekend, and there was a lineup to try out their beer. I tried out the LagerShed dark and the BarrelShed. The BarrelShed is the beer aged in used red wine casks. The casks are made available from Flat Rock cellars, of which one of the brewery owners is from.

It is good beer, and I took out a “Squealer” (smaller than a growler). The only downside is that with these formats, the beer should be consumed within a week, and once opened, consumed within 12-24 hours. No problem there on both counts. But living in Ottawa, means getting refills is a bit of a commute, so I couldn’t save some for warmer weather. No worries though, as I will be going down to visit family again, and I’ll be sure to bring the empty, and get re-supplied.

If opening weekend is any consideration, it looks like the brewery will be a big success. And I have yet another stop to make when visiting Dundas.

Photos taken with the Fuji X100T. Only could grab a few shots as the place was very full and busy.

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Dark and barrel aged beer sampling sizes.

 

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Barrels for aging the BarrelShed brew, courtesy of Flat Rock Cellars

 

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