_Don

Powerful sunshine and solar panels

We had our first real snowfall of 2021, and winter really. Its a testament to climate change that here in Ottawa we can get to mid-January before any significant snow and still not be very cold. When I moved here 30 years ago, it was snowing and on the ground in November and stayed until late March/early April; the temperatures were easily -20 celcius or colder throughout January. Here we are January 18, and its the first really cold day at -6 celcius, and the lowest it’ll go is -8.

I don’t mind as much, as the older I get, the less I like the cold.

So after a snowfall of officially 21cm, the sun came out for a spell. As it went down, I was surprised to see the solar lights come on. It was cloudy most of the day, and a good layer of snow covered the solar panels that charge the batteries. Good panels!

The charge only lasted about a half hour though, but it gave me a chance to snap a few light beams from the lamp projected onto the snow.

Fall photos

What is it about autumn, trees and the need to take pictures of the leaves?

The event happens every year without fail, yet people continually take and post photos of the leaves. I do too. Or at least, I thought I did. Looking through the archives here, I had to go back five years to find some pictures. Although I do look at the trees and think, I gotta get a picture of that, then never do.

It must be just the colours. We go from brown and grey of winter to lush green for the summer. The fall burst of oranges, reds and yellows, especially against a crisp blue sky, is just so inviting and fun.

So, here are my obligatory fall photos…so far….

Hip shots

As I usually preface, Ottawa is far from a hotbed of railroad activity, and when the chance comes to see a train, I go for it.

With the local line near my house, I can hear the local freight run up to make a delivery, knowing it will be back in about 20 minutes. This gives me enough time to find a location to watch it return.

Nearly all the time, it is the same consist of cars, only the actual number potentially varying. I don’t usually take a camera because, well, its always the same. This particular time, I decided to take one. Just because. I chose the Fuji X-100T and it accompanying telephoto extension.

The place I like to see the train gives a good view of it coming and going. For the best shots, I should bring the X-T1 or X-Pro2 so I can affix a telephoto lens for best angles. But time is of the essence to get in position (yes I could actually plan this a bit better too).

So when I’m in the spot, a chain-link fence limits my shooting. I set the exposure as best I can and then reach over the fence and shoot continually to hopefully get something decent. I ended up with this as the best one:

Still not as crisp as it could be; good enough for Instagram. Notice the fence in the bottom right corner. This is cropped in to remove as much of the fence as possible.

And, some shots just are not usable. Like this one, that better focused on the fence rather than the train:

Given that the consist was nothing special, and it was more of an exercise in just using the camera and seeing the train, not a big deal.

Not every shot is a keeper.

The result

As mentioned in the previous post (yes, its been a while to follow up), I was waiting on some trains in Brockville.

While waiting, railfans who knew more than me, probably because they had scanners, showed up to wait on the trains. Yay! I was going to see *something*.

The first train rolled by, heading towards Montreal. I thought I would be all artsy, and try capturing the old luggage trolley in the shot. Kind of a old/new thing.

New power, old ways.

Not bad, I guess. I would have liked a few more locomotives in the lead. I figured that was it and relaxed to watch the train go by. Then the DPU (Distributed Power Unit) came along, and I quickly snapped it. The DPU is a way to help in moving the train to put less strain on the couplers and better apply the air needed for breaking, especially in winter. Its all remote controlled.

With that train gone, the wait was on again. There was a VIA train from Montreal scheduled but it was about 30 minutes behind schedule. I was told there would be a couple of freight trains in the morning, so I kept waiting. The VIA site was giving updates. I figured I’d waited this long, what’s a bit more. Then hope appeared on the horizon, as the signal changed.

A railfan’s ray of hope – a green light.

It eventually showed up, and being on the platform, I had a great view.

VIA trains now have locomotives at both ends. Saves time on turning the train. With it stopped, the end unit was in full view. As it departed, I got the end locomotive; an older but classic VIA locomotive.

End of train. Note the red placard in the coupler.

As it left, it was getting close to 12:30 and I figured maybe it was time to head home. I looked out over the signals, and sure enough, a green showed. Maybe one more. Soon after, the railfans came back (they had left after the last freight), so I knew something would show. Shortly after it did.

Again, only one locomotive in the lead. There was a DPU, but I elected not to shoot it.

After that, the railfans left and I figured it was time to head back to Ottawa.

Given the general lack of any interesting trains in my area, the three I did see were a nice change. Search through this blog and you will see a number of shots of the typical freight one can expect.

And railfanning is a bit like fishing. You go out to see what you can catch. Some days are better than others, but its the thrill of the waiting that is half the fun.

Waiting…

I recently purchased a new-to-me (used) car. A Volkswagen 2014 Jetta TDI. My previous Jetta was in slow decline, and as I needed new winter and summer tires going forward, it was time to look for something new.

Of course, with all the current social distancing stuff going on, where is one to go? To watch trains of course!

I drove down to Brockville and hung out at the VIA station for the morning. I had tips that there would be a few trains in the morning. As usual, there is a lot of waiting for something to happen. The visible signal lights indicated something was coming, it was just the “when” part that needed filling in.

To pass the time I walked up and down the platform and looked around and snapped various pictures. Most were just throw-aways, or test of different features on the Fuji X-Pro2. These were a couple interesting ones though.

An apartment building across the street. Possibly a hotel back in the day for travellers taking the train.
Accidental art. Paint splatter on the ground in a shelter, framed by shadow.

May flowers

As the warm weather arrives, that means it’s time to start planting. Some flowers and veg are scarce, due to the pandemic and people just plain hoarding things (formerly toilet paper, victory gardens are the thing now).

We did get some flowers to brighten up the back yard and draw the bees and birds. A splash of colour after a cool, wet and house-bound spring is a welcome view.

New kids in town

Ahhh spring. And with it comes warm weather and little creatures from their burrows.

Here in Barrhaven, in the ‘burbs of Ottawa, there are many rabbits in the area. Over the winter there were three that frequented our backyard, to eat up any spilled bird seed from the feeder. At least one of them was my friendly bunny.

Last year, a little baby rabbit frequented our yard, and became so used to me, that he (or she) would hop over and ask for bird seed. Of course, I could not resist, and gave him some. He would sit a foot away and eat the seed while I sat there. If I moved, he bolted. So while not totally trusting, it was enough to allow me to be that close. He had a shock of red fur between his shoulders, so I knew who he was.

Fast forward to now, and in the neighbours yard, new bunnies have emerged. Whether they will be as friendly remains to be seen. But there are no dogs in our yard, so the bunnies like the sanctity.

When I saw the newlings, I grabbed my longest lens and got this shot of the little guy. We figure he is about four weeks old. We’ve seen two so far.

Small baby bunny in the grass.

Lemon fizz

It’s been a week of using my macro lens, the first time in a long time. When I started with photography, my plan was to get into macro and closeup photography. It didn’t really work out that way. After watching a couple of idea videos on YouTube, I’ve been really gotten into getting that angle.

These shots are somewhat cliché, but something I’ve always wanted to do. I was making a drink (I’m on a fresh lemon in my drink phase) with fizzy water. Soon as I saw the bubbles, I put the glass in the afternoon sun and went to town.

Loving the sun

When sun comes streaming into the house at the end of the day, the plants point to the sun and soak it up.

I pointed my macro lens to the happy leaves. The light brings out the details in the leaves. These images are straight from camera with only slight adjustments to the structure to pull out extra detail.

Both pictures are also lit with only sunlight. In exposing for the leaves, the background naturally dark due to the fast shutter speed helping to pop the subject to the foreground.

Basil leaves
Pink Splash plant

Guitar strings

With the sunny afternoons, I’ve been putting items in the sun – the brightest light available – and working with my macro lens.

Here is my acoustic guitar around the sound hole and strings. The strings I use have a coating on them to help them stay “fresh” longer. You can see what looks like the string is shedding its skin. I never noticed this until this picture.