Wednesday, December 29, 2010

* Snow Dog Holidays *

Christmas long weekend was an eventful mix of shopping, celebration, food and a Snow Dog Winter
Party. That's right, I had five friends and seven pups of all breeds and ages hang out at my house and the ravine Monday afternoon. It was an absolute blast, watching the "pack" bond, argue over toys and determine dominance. Mr. D and Ryley were arguing over spending time with Kiara . D and Kiara met first, in Dani's backyard and they had time to bond in my car on the way to the ravine. Ryley came next and the poor boy couldn't get close to Kiara without Mr. D talking back to him (seriously, Kiara girl, how do you get all the boys - teach me a trick or two!)

We enjoyed an hour and a half long walk, roll and race in the dog park before crashing on my living room floor with my new espresso machine and goodies. We ventured on a second walk once Stephanie K. arrived with two more beautiful dogs in tow!

More on this (and a slideshow) at the end of my post! First, for a brief look at the first part of the long weekend.

Kiara and I spent the 25th running in the ravine and then enjoying Christmas dinner at my parents' house. Turkey for her, veggie quiche for me and a long photoshoot trying to determine the best lighting settings for a dimly lit night and Christmas

Doggie Gingerbread Cookie! Ahh, Ferrero, how sinfully sweet.

Kiara, exhausted, peering through a window (left)
Lilo, Steph W's puppy, a few days before xmas, posing with Starbucks (right)

This year, our gifts to each other were donations to Charity - together, we donated to Hope Mission's Christmas dinner (for the homeless), groceries for a local Christmas hamper for less well to do families, The Support Network (suicide prevention, advertising department), Edmonton Down's Syndrome Society, Edmonton Inner City Children's Project society, the Stollery Children's Hospital) and Engineers without Borders.

Nevertheless, Xmas eve and Boxing Day were shopping days galore; all my boxing day finds bought me a brand new Nescafe Dolce Gusto, machine, the $100 alternative to the $1000 machine I really want (Silvia Rancilio, from Leva Cafe). No, it's not manual, but this machine does have 15 bars of pressure and creates a smooth blend of a latte, americano or cappuccino from an automatically brewed capsule. Of course, it won't replace my Biglietti I use every morning, but it's a nice addition to my caffeine machine family!

Also on the list of purchases is a Canon printer (not the colour laser duplex that seems to cost an arm and a leg), steam mop (for all Kiara's hair) and Janice and I's annual sweater and jeans (and desk calendar) spree at West Edmonton Mall. Other purchases include David Busch's A Quick Snap Guide to Lighting to help my photographic flair and a telephoto zoom lens that I am still debating I should add to my very bare camera bag. Image stabilized 70 to 300 mm, are you worth $500?

Hmm, a month with only two weeks of tutoring and more free time than I've had all year, and what do I do - study my photography course, run with puppy and shop!

Hey, I'm in Marketing; I have to be the ultimate consumer :)

Below is the best part of Snow Dog Party - the ravine run with Kiara, Mr. D, Aola, Ziza, Zoey, Ryley - Watson just came for a brief hello later on. It's a slideshow of the best of many snaps I took, to try to capture the snow in a light that's visible and not dark and gray! According to my instructor, a neutral density filter will help me!

(Facebook users, just click here to view or click View Original Post at the bottom of the "note". Just one click to see all the action! Be sure to click into the slideshow to see the photo titles).

Thank you to all the guests and puppies who came -and don't worry if you missed it, there will be more Snow Dog parties in the new year! Happy New Year's eve (almost) everyone! Thank you for reading my blog in 2010!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Winter Magic Photoshoot

Fort Edmonton Park's annual Christmas Reflections event was a magical experience for three twenty-something's who hadn't been in a magical winterland since their 6th birthdays. Pam, Janice and I wandered the streets of a century old Edmonton, from the 1805 to the 1905 replicas. Anticipating the sleigh ride to be a joyful experience, we shivered, huddled and felt our toes burn from the -25 degree extreme, stinging cold. Sitting still in brutally cold weather was a chilling experience, despite our 6 layers, two pairs of gloves, toques and scarves! (I must remember winter socks next time!)

Ditching the sleigh for our own two feet, we breathed sighs of reliefs and dashed from one replica house to the next, stopping for Christmas carols, warm old fashioned cookies and roasting our toes by the bonfire. Between the three of us, we had three digital SLRs and six lenses.We must have looked like an amateur photography club, carefully setting up our shots, waiting for the perfect light and trading course tips and techniques. I'll have to add photography to my list of growing, increasingly time consuming and expensive addictions - coffee, travel, blogging, studying, writing, photography! One day, they will meld together into a fascinating, integrated life plan.

Claude Monet claimed "The most important subject in your painting, is light. It's on strength and reflection that one finds a way. So, we must dig and delve unceasingly".

Photography, is, of course, the Greek word for "drawing of light"; and draw we did, "unceasingly" in the midst of a wintery wonderland in the Park. Using the ISO lighting techniques, angles of light, and the six composition rules I've learned thus far in my course, I attempted a Winter Magic photoshoot. Be warned that this is an amateur, inexperienced attempt to capture the magic.

(Facebook users, just click here to view. Be sure to click into the slideshow to see the photo titles).

Appreciating the magic may have to make my list of New Year's goals - despite Edmonton's biting weather, I will find the winter, holiday, warmth among friends that are crazy enough to venture with me, to seek adventure in the cold. Thanks, Pam & Janice!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Warm & Fuzzy Photoshoot

As the Mcgill semester (and others) come to a close, I am taking "Secrets of Photography", a six week online crash course in photo composition and design, to let my artistic side flourish. Just six little rules and a few ISO settings in Week 1 and already, I am addicted. Let's add photography to my list of expensive, addictive habits - cappuccinos, travel, blogging, martial arts, languages, yoga - and of course, the Aquarian, manic, intense, desire to always learn.

Following my six week adventure, I will take a four session course in-person, where I plan to bring my 10 best photographs and learn more technique. So many amazing techniques to learn, so many posts I'd love to write - and so little time. Each week, the course instructors allow us to choose 2 pictures to post online and have critiqued.

This week I have chosen a theme, in contrast to our depressing, snowed in weather out of doors - an indoor photo shoot. "Warm & Fuzzy" is my attempt to showcase the comfortable parts of winter - pillows, blankets, coffee & puppies. Please click "Show - info on the top right hand corner of the slideshow to display the titles.

Facebook Users, please click View Original Post on the bottom of the "Note" or, click here. Just one click and you'll see the whole photo shoot!

(Note: my 2 best photos here are "Peaceful Slumber" and "Dean and Deluca New York", both of which my instructor confirmed have good technique - this fuels my desire to pursue amateur photography!


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Luminario - Winter Snapshots & Japanese Lantern Festival

Luminario, the Japanese light festival at University of Alberta's Devonian Gardens, just west of Edmonton, was a simplistic, but elegant display. At first, I was disappointed by the lack of colour & culture, expecting to be educated on the lanterns, their significance and the role of the Japanese dancers who were featured on the advertisement, but were nowhere in sight.

Lanterns were made of paper bags and white candles gingerly placed in the snow to light up the winding path. No colour, no culture.

Then, as we watched the lights and chatted, I was gently reminded that perhaps it's best to go to events like these with no expectations, and just enjoy the experience.

Instead of Japanese dancers, we were greeted by cheery, Christmas carolers and much needed hot cider. Despite having on my merino wool MEC base layers, hat, gloves and jacket, I was still freezing (mostly my toes, actually - I think I need winter socks; definitely new boots anyway!)

The fire pits located at various intervals were definitely a warm welcome. We huddled around the fire, talking to others who ventured the -20 degree weather (no wind, thankfully!). If you take a close look, you can see (through the wintery frost, a group of us huddled, watching the carolers in reindeer like, lit-up headdresses.

The quality of these photos is why I can't wait to get started on my online composition course, Secrets of Better Photography, by Metro College. I just can't wait until my 4 days off at Christmas to blog, take pictures, and learn!

Below, a word from Kiara...

"Hey! I thought I'd poke my long Labrador nose into my mom's blog post and interupt, as I do in her daily, off-line life. We got to roll around in the snow and take some awesome pictures. It took forever to try to make the snow look bluish, but mom's taking a photography course to learn more about colours and how to catch me when I get waaay too excited and roll around faster than her camera lens can handle. I'm a whole fifteen months old now, but I still love visiting Santa - see below. This year Santa wouldn't let me sit on his lap - even though I'm well within my weight range (really, I wish I could eat all the food I want, but all of my human family just won't let me...some rambling about hip dysplasia or something). There were sooooo many puppies waiting in line with me; it was a blast!"

Frame 1:"Ok, Santa, I guess you can grab my leash"

Frame 2: "Mmm---you have candy? cookies? treats? Ok, I'll sit still and salivate"

...3 seconds later

Frame 3: "Oh, c'mon, mom, snap that picture already - I'm getting boooorred!"

As I put together my first December entry, I can't believe we are nearly halfway through this month! Stay tuned for Candy Cane Lane, Fort Edmonton Park's Christmas Reflections and some end of the month holiday fun at my place, coming soon.

Here's to a few weeks off studying, a few days off working, and Happy, photo-blogging Holidays!