Banff National Park

I do not remember the temperature, but it was well below freezing. In February of 2005 Margaret and I flew to Calgary and rented a car to tour Banff National Park. We were spending a few nights in Banff and I was told about a very scenic place to photograph called Johnston Falls. Johnston Falls was said to be one of the most popular summer day hikes in Banff National Park. This happened to be the dead of winter but undeterred I got directions and headed out one morning with my camera and tripod. No problem finding the entrance to Johnston Canyon which was perhaps no more than 12-14 miles from our lodging.
Banff had received more than a foot of new snow the night before our arrival so the snow plows had been busy. Parking was not a problem because the car park was partially plowed and I was the only person there. Off I went wearing high warm boots that worked well………until the trail gained a bit of elevation. I slipped and slid until reality set in. My footwear was not what I needed for snow and ice on a trail that went both uphill and downhill. Back to the car and back to town I went. Finding a sporting goods store in Banff, I explained my problem and they sold me some anti-skid detachable safety soles called Icer’s that fit over the soles of boots. I tried again the next morning and the second attempt on the trail was what I had hoped for.
The lower falls comes first with an elevation gain on the trail of about 100 feet. However, to reach the upper falls one has to manage a trail with an elevation of perhaps 400 feet. The Icer’s saved the day and in about an hour I made it all the way to the upper falls whose pictures you see here. There are catwalks affixed to the limestone cliffs that allow access into a deep canyon that would otherwise be exclusive only to climbers.
A.      Johnston Canyon upper falls in Banff National Park, Canada.
B.      A portion of the bottom of the upper falls showing water still flowing below the ice.
C.      One of two climbers on a large portion of the frozen falls.
D.     This is a broad view of the falls as seen from the catwalk.

Omaha Beach, France

Over the years Margaret and I have been to the Normandy region of France several times. However, we had never visited the WWII allied forces landing beaches. December 21, 2017 we made the effort. I am glad that we did. I had seen news reels and photos of the landings but nothing really hit home until I stood at the top of the cliffs of Omaha Beach and looked out over the English Channel.
The Germans were well prepared with about the last 300 feet of water impregnated with underwater wire, posts, mines and other obstacles to stop or slow landing craft. Then the landing craft that did make it to the beach to discharge their troops were greeted by machine gun fire from bunkers and pill boxes along the beaches. When these German forces were neutralized the allies had to fight their way up a 150 feet high cliff while encountering machine gun fire from above.
It was a sobering feeling to stand on top of the cliff at Omaha Beach and try to visualize what the Allied Forces had to endure. This week it is not about the pictures. These pictures are only record shots from poor lighting the day that we were there. While we were in attendance at the memorial in picture A, there was a very moving ceremony before the American flag. Our national anthem was played over a PA system followed by a bugle playing taps.  Of all the sites we visited on that ten day trip this is the one that my mind keeps going back to.  It is all about honor and respect for those that gave their lives so that we can enjoy the freedoms we have today. The viewer must fill in the blanks in their mind as to what took place Tuesday June 6, 1944. Omaha Beach is about five miles long and is only one of five other landing beaches used that day. The others were Utah Beach, Sword Beach, Juno Beach, and Gold Beach.
      Memorial at Colleville-sur-Mer above the high cliffs of Omaha Beach.
      A view of the English Channel from the top of the cliff at Omaha Beach
      WWII coastal German defenses at Longues-sur-Mer battery
     One of the American cemeteries at Omaha Beach. The cross on the right is Cecil Humphrey, Sargent, 38 Infantry, 2nd Division and from Tennessee. The cross in the front center is Joseph Phillipson, 1st Lieutenant in the 821st Tank Destroyer Battalion and from California. I can’t read any more names on the crosses in this photo. I did take time to walk among a lot of crosses and read the names and where they were from. I found some from my home state of Georgia and Margaret placed a rose on the cross.

Great Lesson for Anyone

This picture is not so much about the birds as it is about the memory it brings to me and one of life’s great photography lessons. It was June 29, 2006 when I was on a photo trip with Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris to Svalbard in the Artic.  I recall that there were two or maybe three other photographers near me while we were photographing a colony of Little Auks, Alle alle sitting on the tops of boulders. It was a field of boulders so we were also standing on boulders.
All of a sudden I heard someone lament, “On no! I can’t believe that I dropped it. I can still see it but I can’t reach it?” It seemed that the photographer had filled his compact flash card and was in the process of swapping to a fresh card when he dropped the card that was filled with his pictures. He could see the card 5 or 6 feet down among the boulders but there was no way to move a boulder and his arm could not reach far enough to get the card. What could he do? Several of us went over to give assistance but we all decided that it was impossible to retrieve the card. Again what to do? Perhaps a long pole with something sticky on the end would have worked but we had come ashore on uninhabited Fuglesang Island in a Zodiac. The only solution was to walk away. He would lose the card as well as his pictures.
Now to add insult to injury this was a brand new 512 MB 80X Lexar Professional compact flash card. No it is not a typo. You read it right. It was MB not GB. It was at that time the largest capacity and the fastest card on the market. I do not remember what it cost but seem to think that when it first came on the market, which was only a few weeks before our trip, it was in excess of $500.00. This was at a time when the average compact flash card was about 8 – 32 MB in capacity. A 512 MB card was a big deal and only for those people willing to part with serious money. The card was now in plain view but out of reach. No doubt the card is still there today.
My lesson learned from this man’s mistake was to NEVER change media cards, batteries, or lenses in places where if dropped, they could not be caught and retrieved.

What is it?

OK, I will admit it. I am perhaps a bit of an odd ball with my photographic taste. I have always photographed windows in just about any condition that one can imagine. This picture has been in my photo file collection for sixteen years and has never seen the light of day except by me. Over the years from time to time the picture has been viewed with pleasure by me on the computer screen. I do not recall even sharing this picture with Margaret until now.
Margaret says that I should point out that this week’s picture is not part of the Rorschach test so not to worry. She likes to speculate what the shapes could be, like speculating on the patterns of cloud formations in the sky. So what are we looking at? What about it drew my eye to begin with? This a window in the abandoned tin building of the McKnight cotton gin in Senoia, GA. Senoia is a small town south of Atlanta and about twelve miles from where I live. In the early 1900’s Senoia was mostly a Saturday town for a few hundred people in the farming community. These days the town has found new life thanks to the movie industry, urban townhomes, factory lofts, single family homes, and nice restaurants. The population today is 4,213 which is probably 10 fold or more than the population when the cotton gin was in operation.
The cotton gin at the corner of Gin and Baggerly Streets is long gone to make way for progress. The picture of this broken window was taken November, 10, 2002 in mid-afternoon with my first digital camera, a Nikon Coolpix E5000. Let’s take a detailed look at the image. I like the red color of the window frame but can see by the chipped paint that at one time the frame was painted white as well as blue. This particular day was blessed with a clear blue sky as seen reflected in some of the remaining glass. Look at the glass in the two bottom panels and see the reflection of the plants growing nearby. What you see are not trees but overgrown wild shrubs and brush ten or fifteen feet tall. I find it interesting that each window pane has a unique pattern of remaining glass. Lastly, the bonus was a completely dark interior of the old gin. It is very common to find broken windows in buildings but usually there will be some source of bright light coming from an exterior break in the building. The black in this case now becomes four distinct patterns without any bright light distractions. For my eye, the final composition contains a pleasing combination of red, blue, green, and black shapes.

A Colorful Stroll in an Old Town

This picture was taken on a splendid fall day in Tallinn, Estonia. We are in the upper area of the Old Town of Tallinn on Lühike Jalg Street. We have left St. Nicholas Church and walked through the Danish King’s Garden towards the lower part of the Old Town. On the right side of the street are the entrance door and wall lamps of Napsikamber Bar. I was thankful that the lamps were turned on.
I was using a tripod which allowed me to really fine tune the composition. I repositioned the tripod several times until I had the view I liked best. At first I did not care for the plain grey walls of the buildings on each side of the street so I moved in closer. Then I realized that the plainness of the walls was really an asset because they drew the eye towards the open gate and colorful buildings past the gate. There are no trees in view but the red and yellow leaves on the walkway are most certainly signs that the fall season has begun. I usually do not like clutter in my pictures but in this case the leaves are just enough to provide the “feel” of fall but not so many as to look messy. I was blessed with beautiful puffy clouds mixed with a dark blue sky.
What you are viewing is the final result of an HDR composition using three separate captured files. I may have described HDR before but for those new to the Picture of the Week series, HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. HDR uses software to reproduce a greater dynamic range of luminosity than is possible with standard digital imaging or photographic techniques. The human eye can see a very broad range of light from deep shade to bright sun. Not so with digital or film which have their limit. Look at the bright clouds in the picture and then look at the darkest part of the scene. You should be able to see detail in both. Without HDR that would not have been possible.
I hope this picture makes you feel like you have taken a step back in time as you contemplate what is beyond the gate on this old narrow street.