I bought a SMC Pentax-D FA 50mm F2.8 Macro lens today from Don’s Photo. That isn’t that big of news. What is news is that I don’t even like shooting macro photography. I really had no interest in ever owning this lens. I bought it because of peer pressure.
I don’t even know how it happened but in talking with Glen, I was adamant that I did not like taking macro photos and the next thing you know, it was brought up that this was a character deficiency and suggested that this would come back later in my life that because I don’t like taking macro photos, I would not be hired by CSIS.
The reason that I don’t want macro lenses in my life is Wendy. I envision us being gone for a six hour hike and because Wendy is taking pictures of bugs and leaves and crap, we would not have left the parking lot by hour four.
So today, I still had no intention of buying the lens but after more peer pressure by colleagues, I bought the lens after I talked myself into it (I must really want a job with CSIS).
It’s not that I listened to everyone before. I bought a great Pentax 10-17 fisheye lens last year against everyone’s advice who told me that I would never use it. They were right, I never used it. Of course last summer was not one of my best. Hopefully I use both of them a little more in 2016.
Last summer on one of the rare days the infection in my leg was under control, I went out walking with Wendy in Mount Royal for several hours we our cameras. We were just taking in the neighborhood and capturing some of the more interesting buildings (there are not a lot) for Bridge City. Two things of note while on that walk. Mount Royal has some of the widest streets in the city which totally messes with the scale of the neighborhood. Mount Royal is for driving. Secondly a week later someone asked me if I was running provincially or municipally against Troy Davies as they had seen Wendy and I out door knocking.
The answer was that I am not running for either but I got a kick out of the observation and question. I was out trying to get some shots on this ridiculous project I am trying and that is to document every neighborhood in Saskatoon of it’s interesting buildings. In the process I am learning a lot about each neighborhood and what makes it tick.
Last weekend I created a shot list of almost 200 churches, buildings, and structures that I wanted to capture in 2016, all organized by neighborhood. This means that if you see Wendy and I out, we are not door knocking or running for office but capturing some of the buildings in the neighborhood for Bridge City. We have probably parked our car and are walking the neighborhood rather than driving it.
By far the worst neighborhood to photograph so far is Mount Royal. Not only is it huge but it has several buildings in it that are worth shooting. They are also evenly distributed across the neighborhood which means that you can’t park and knock off five or six of them quickly like you can in Nutana.
The blandest neighborhood so far is either Lakeview. Mostly residential, not much interesting other than Holy Spirit and the Lutheran church, cookie cutter schools, and the access to their lake is a bit of a pain to get into. There are the McMansion’s but I don’t generally photograph not historic residential. That and the Saskatoon Police really don’t care about me walking around downtown with a camera but I imagine there would be a call if I started snapping photos of people’s homes in the burbs.
Another one is Westview. Gorgeous neighborhood with so much character but other than the park and a nameless strip mall, it has almost nothing of interest in it. It’s weird, I’d like to live in it but it just isn’t that photographic.
Oddly enough, another one that I find bland is Montgomery. It has the VIA Rail terminal in it but not much in terms of great non-residential architecture. The school is bland and there isn’t any interesting other buildings. In the end I have walked a lot out there and haven’t really had a great payoff. That being said, it is a great history lesson for Mark as I grill him on street names and why they were significant.
Perhaps the worst thing to capture are schools in that you can really only ever do it over the summer or on weekends. Some (actually many) of their entrances face the wrong way which means you have limited light to get a good shot before they get overrun by shadows from the homes across the street or you are shooting into the sun. There are also a couple of churches that are that way. They face north and their design and landscaping means their entrance is really, really dark and hard to get a good picture of. That and some are really ugly. If I was the City of Saskatoon, I’d start banning the warehouse type churches that you see in some neighborhoods. They really are atrocious. If churches can’t build something that enhances the neighborhood (and most do), then maybe they should be restricted to the industrial areas if they want to build a warehouse.
Lastly, some of you share my obsession with the architects of great and not so great buildings in Saskatoon. My biggest goal this spring is to find out a list of Saskatoon and Catholic school board architects without having to go into each school. It seems to be a well guarded secret.
According to Flickr, this was my 27th most interesting photo of 2015.
Back in January I was out for a walk on a warm winter day. I captured this with my Pentax K-30 with a 28mm f/2.8 manual focus lens. Flickr seemed to like this more than I did. That being said, Third Avenue United Church is a hard building to photography from the street. The ugly pine tree and overhead wires take away a lot from a photograph of the building.
According to Flickr, this was my 31st most interesting photo of 2015. It was taken with my Pentax MX-1 while walking along 2nd Avenue in March. If I remember correctly, the Google Street View car glared at me when I pulled my camera out which confused me since he was driving a giant camera himself.
I’ll be counting down and posting a new one each day until the end of 2015.
Easy 1.5 – 2.0 km One Way Hike
On Sunday, Wendy, Mark, Oliver, Marley and I drove to Prince Albert National Park and hiked the Kingsmere River Trail at the far end of Kingsmere Road. The first 15 km of the road out of Waskesiu is paved with narrow shoulders but the last 17.5 km is gravel and pretty soft. It’s not a road you would want to drive on after a couple of days of rain. It takes about 15-20 minutes to get the parking lot and picnic area with washrooms.
The trail shares the trailhead with the start of the Grey Owl trail. Take the path for the first 500 metres before you come to a clear sign that directs you to the Kingsmere River Trail and the stairs that take you into the valley.
At the bottom of the stairs you will come to a bridge where you can see the clear water flowing along the Kingsmere River. Once your across the bridge you will see a set of train tracks. These tracks are used for people to move small boats or canoes to Kingsmere Lake. Follow the tracks until you get to a dirt and later rock covered trail. The dirt trail will bring you all the way to the Southend Campground. Once at the campground area, you will have a picnic area, stove, out houses, and bear stands. The campground area over looks Kingsmere Lake, and if you look over to your left you will spot a cabin with a boat, and that is the Park Warden’s cabin.
What do you get for the teenaged boy on your Christmas list. The easy way out is cash and gift cards. We aren’t going to take the easy route out. We are doing this the hard way and come up with a list that any teenager would love.
- 7″ IPS Display (1024 x 600) with ASUS TruVivid technology for better visual experience
- Intel Atom x3-C3200 Quad-Core, 64bit, 1.2GHz
- 1G RAM, 16G Onboard Storage, Bluetooth 4.0
- 2M/0.3M Dual Camera; 1 x microSD Card slot, support up to 64GB SDHC
- Android 5.0 Lollipop
$100 for a cutting edge tablet? I’m okay with that. The Asus Zenpad tablet runs a 1.2 GHz Quad-Core Intel Atom processor, Android 5.0, more than enough RAM to run the latest applications and 16 gb of storage for videos, music, and homework. It also has a .3 megapixel front facing camera and a 2 megapixel rear facing camera
For less then $50, you can get your teen a modern and functional tablet from Amazon. If you get the $49.99 version, it comes with advertising on the lock screen but for only $15 more, it has no advertising, just a fully functional tablet. It’s a great deal.
We gave Mark my Pentax K-30 to him after I upgraded this summer. The advantage of Pentax over other DSLR’s is build quality. The K-50 has over 80 water seals in it. This means that the teen you are shopping for can take it far more places and adventures than other DSLRs. The other advantage is the amazing price. At under $500 (with a 18-55mm lens) it is one of the least expensive DSLR’s out there right now.
The PENTAX K-50 is a mid-level DSLR with fast, advanced functionality, all wrapped up in bold colors. Featuring specifications of a top level DSLR, enjoy a 16 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor, fast continuous shooting at six frames per second, high sensitivity shooting up to ISO 51200, 100% field of view, innovative in-body shake reduction, and an advanced auto focus module with four optional focusing screens, not to mention the PENTAX-original weather-sealing. Also enjoy full 1018p HD video capture, and eye-fi card compatibility for fast and easy image sharing.
At the end of the day, you aren’t buying your teen a DSLR for them, you are buying it for the family time you will spend together shooting it. This summer Mark, Oliver, Wendy, and I went for countless walks, hikes, and adventures together for no other reason than to shoot from photos and see what we could see together.
If you are wondering about available lens for Pentax, check out my guide to Pentax DSLR lens that I wrote this summer.
If you have a smaller budget, this Ricoh WG-4 is a great adventure proof camera. It’s waterproof, crushproof, and has a built in GPS to record where you are when you take the photo. It has a quick f2 lens, 16 megapixel CMOS sensor. It is the perfect option to take into the backwoods, on a long road trip, or just attaching to your pack for a day out. Like all WG series cameras, it comes with a wide series of mounts so it can attached to your bike, car, or helmet. Not only are you getting a great camera but with the mounts you are getting many of the capabilities that a GoPro offers.
If you are looking seriously at a camera for your teen and aspiring photographer this Christmas, check out this post I wrote over at the Don’s Photo blog, it gives many more options than I listed here.
There is a good choice that your teen has an iPod or phone that plays music already. The music is great but one overlooked thing is what do you play it on. Sennheisser headphones are a great bet. The Sennheiser HD202 Stereo Headphones prove to be a low priced alternative to high-end studio headphones. Sure they may be asking for Dre Beats but Sennheisser headphones offer superior sound at a far better price. No wonder they are the number one best selling headphones this year on Amazon.
If you are on a budget (and who isn’t) this Christmas, here are some fabulous looking and sounding headphones by Brainwavz at an affordable price. Already named the best sounding headphones under $40 by the audiofiles at The Wirecutter, they offer one of the best values of this Christmas season. And who doesn’t like a great pair of headphones for a really good price.
One of the most popular and wished for items on Amazon.com. Brought to you by Cambridge Soundworks, this Angle is the latest in a line of amazing and affordable speaker systems. It comes in comes in many color options and is 5.3 inches wide, 2.7 inches high, and 3 inches deep. It weighs 9 ounces, which makes it a lightweight unit. Not only that but it is waterproof meaning that it can go where your teen goes.
Tucom is making tablets affordable for use by anyone, not just artists. This high-quality Tursion drawing tablet is priced just right, so everyone can enjoy the benefits of a graphic tablet. It includes several software utilities, such as PenSigner and PenMail, which allows you to use handwritten signatures, adding a personal touch to what is usually thought of as an impersonal medium. Easy to install and to use,
We gave one to Mark last year for his birthday and he has loved it. It works with almost any kind of Windows XP/Vista/7/8/10 software has allowed him expand is skills and talents as an artist.
From Sean Covey, the author of the international bestseller The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens, this bestselling follow-up book builds upon the legacy of the 7 Habits and shows teens how to make smart choices about the six most crucial choices they’ll face during these turbulent years.
The challenges teens face today are tougher than at any time in history: academic stress, parent communication, media bombardment, dating drama, abuse, bullying, addictions, depression, and peer pressure, just to name a few. And, like it or not, the choices teens make while navigating these challenges can make or break their futures.
You aren’t just giving a gift when you give a telescope as a gift. You are opening up the wonders of the universe. All of Celestron’s PowerSeekers include a full range of eyepieces plus a 3x Barlow lens that provides an increase in viewing power hundreds of times greater than that of the unaided eye!
- Take a look at the Celestron PowerSeeker on Amazon. With it you will be able to explore more of the Milky Way than you ever thought possible.
If he wants to be a rock star, what better way to get him started than with a Squire guitar and amp by Fender? It comes with an electric guitar, amp, bag, strap, cables, and picks. Basically everything he will need to rock out in 2015.
So many parents we talk to tell me that all their kid is sit inside and game all summer. In part because that is where all of the money is spent. Instead of a new Playstation 4 or a XBox One, why not get them some quality gear for the great outdoors? This 2 person tent invites them to get outside, explore the world, and see what else is out there. Whether it is a weekend at a nearby regional park or an overnight hike on a historic trail, give them the gear to go exploring in 2016.
It is a roomy 2 person backpacking tent. It has a Hubbed Shockcorded Aluminum Frame that is strong and durable. The Full Coverage Fly will protect the tent from the worst weather and has 2 Doors and 2 Vestibules for stowing excess gear out side the tent. Each Vestibule has an Adjustable Vent to help with ventilation. And the no-see-um mesh panels on the roof and walls will help keep the tent comfortable. So much mesh that you could leave the fly off for stargazing should the sky be clear. Other features include fully taped Fly and Floor seams, aluminum stakes, sturdy #8 zippers,
When you’re away from home and want to add extra comfort to your cot or sleeping bag, try this ALPS Mountaineering self-inflating air pad. Par of the lightweight series, this pad inflates and deflates quickly with the jet stream foam and rolls up compactly to fit into the stuff sack. The top fabric is tough, lightweight ripstop and the bottom is made of durable polyester taffeta. Another benefit of adding an air pad is that it will help keep you warmer, which is essential to a well-rested night at the campsite. A stuff sack, compression straps, and repair kit are included with every pad.
If they are going to explore, they are going to need to know where they are going at night. For this, they will need a headlamp.
- Four LED headlamp with three white LEDs and one red LED
- Three modes: White (high & low), red for night vision
- Pivots to direct light where you need it
- 80 lumens of light output
- 8.5 hour run time
- Packed with three Energizer MAX AAA batteries
- Water & impact resistant to stand up to harsh conditions.
Everyone has to start somewhere, and for beginning backpackers and campers there’s no better place to start than the Etekcity mini camping stove. There’s virtually zero setup and it’s extremely easy to use with no risk of fuel spills and no priming required. We have one of these and it is the easiest stove I have ever used. You just screw it into the fuel canister, turn it on, use the Piezo ignition system and away you go.
Even if your teen does get lost, he or she can always find their way back home with the D Tour Personal GPS Tracking Device from Bushnell
High-functioning GPS capabilities and a precision digital compass with latitude and longitude allow you to track any course by automatically keeping track of time, temperature, and altitude, along with route, length and speed. Once you mark one of five waypoints, it will also help you find your back to that place, whether it is a camp, a parking lot, or home.
The best selling sports GPS unit on Amazon is the new eTrex 20x is our upgraded version of the popular eTrex 20, with enhanced screen resolution and expanded internal memory so you can download a greater variety of maps than ever. This rugged, dependable GPS retains the ease of-use and affordability that eTrex is legendary for, with an array of compatible mounts for use on ATVs, bicycles, boats and cars. The new eTrex 20x also has the ability to track both GPS and GLONASS satellites simultaneously. It supports geocaching GPX files for downloading geocaches and details straight to your unit.
Other Christmas Gift Guides
- 2015 Edition | Men in Your Life | Women In Your Life | Brother-in-law | Teens | 5-8 Year Old | Explorers and Adventurers | Cooks & Foodies
- 2014 Edition | Men in Your Life | Women in Your Life | Brother-in-law | Teens | 5-8 Year old | Cooks &Foodies | Adventurer
- 2013 Edition | Men in Your Life | Women In Your Life | Teens | Explorers and Adventurers | Cooks & Foodies
- 2012 Edition | Men in Your Life | Women In Your Life | Teens | Explorers and Adventurers
- 2011 Edition | Men in Your Life
- 2000 Edition | Sports Fan | Explorers and Adventurers | Women in Your Life | Really Smart People|Toddlers| Men in Your Life | Geeks & Gadgeteers | Road Warrior
We took a weekend to go to Ogema, Saskatchewan and experience the Southern Prairie Railway. The railway is a tourist one and offers different kinds of rides every weekend. It is the only tourist railway of it’s kind of the prairies. After getting to Ogema a little early and taking a look around a truly charming town, we headed to the train station and looked around. After boarding, we were off to the ghost town of Horizon, Saskatchewan.
Along the way, we were treated to entertaining local history and stories by the host of the trip who both shared a prepared presentation and interacted extensively with the audience. Once to Horizon we were able to go inside a historic Federal Grain elevator while the train turned around and we headed back. The entire tour takes about two hours in a restored Pullman carriage (the restoration of the carriage makes for a great story in itself).
Starting with lunch in the community, the entire afternoon was worth the time and the money. The boys, Wendy, and myself loved the trip and want to do it again in the future.
We did learn one thing on the train and that is the back of the railcar swings quite a bit. The difference in going to Horizon and then back was extremely noticeable. Not a distraction but another neat part of the trip.
You can find out more about the railway at www.southernprairierailway.com.
Brick manufactured at the plant graces the facades of many prestigious buildings across Saskatchewan as well as many other provinces. Face brick was produced until 1960’s, and adorns such prominent buildings as the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City and the Delta Bessborough in Saskatoon. Among many others, the beautiful Gravelbourg Cathedral is faced entirely of Claybank brick as are a number of court houses and other public buildings.
The rare fire brick produced here lined the fire boxes of the CN and CP Rail line locomotives, and of warships in World War II. The fire brick was also used in the construction of the rocket launch pads at Cape Canaveral, Florida. Not only does the brick plant constitute one of the best preserved examples of early 20th century industrial activity in Canada, but is one of a small number of heritage attractions in Saskatchewan to have achieved formal National Historic Site designation status.
The self guided tour cost us $25 and about an hour to complete. There are also trails into the hills south of the site and I wish we had time to explore.
This was a lot of fun for both me but the entire family. We explored for a while together and alone and found all sorts of fascinating sites and facts while on the site. I think it is also a testament to the vision of the community which has worked very hard to raise the money and put in the elbow grease to slowly bring this site back and make it into a National Historic Site. They say they are $2 million into a $6 million project so make sure you visit and then donate. It’s a site that is worth preserving.
Just a quick note for when this post is buried in the archives. The weekend trip was made possible by Ford Canada who gave us a 2015 Ford Focus to use and review. They also paid for a big part of the weekend.
Day 2 with the 2015 Ford Focus saw us say goodbye to Moose Jaw and head south towards Ogema, Saskatchewan. First we had to get a photo with Mac the Moose.
Of course in the most Saskatchewan of things, the photo was photobombed by a CT-114 Tutor, otherwise known as the plane flown by the Snowbirds.
As we made our way south, we stopped in Rouleau, the home of Corner Gas and also known as Dog River.
The set of Corner Gas is a lot smaller than you would think. It’s also falling apart. There were reports that someone was going to turn it into a gift shop or a museum but nothing has been done with it.
We saw the home of the Dog River Howler, the Dog River Hotel, Oscar and Emma Leroy’s house and of course the surveillance bush.
Then it was to Ogema where we grabbed lunch at the Rolling Hills Restaurant, checked out the old Fire Hall and the British American Gas Station. By the time we did that, it was off to the Southern Prairie Railway, a tourist railway that took us from Ogema to what is left of Horizon, Saskatchewan. 14 miles away.
This is what is left of Horizon, Saskatchewan.
A quick summary of what we learned on the trip
- Steam locomotives were slow. Only about 15 miles per hour. No wonder thieves targeted trains. They were loud, slow moving, and predictable.
- Small Saskatchewan towns were placed 7 miles apart because that is how far a farmer could deliver grain in a day back then. Some say it was to refuel and water the steam engines but nope, it’s about grain delivery.
- Driving south of Moose Jaw on Highway 6 was the most isolated I have ever felt. No houses for as far as the eye can see. Considering at one time every section would have had a home on it, it’s incredible to think I was seeing hundreds of sections from on our drive with almost no signs of life.
- You can still get parts for Pullman cars.
- Each top window in the Pullman car we road in was a different size.
- Never underestimate the spirit of rural Saskatchewan to take on impossible projects.
- Horizon, Saskatchewan went from a vibrant rural community to only having two buildings left because of property taxes. The government offered them a hospital but the town turned it down because they were afraid property taxes would rise in town. This lead to the hospital going to Bengough (which is booming by the way) and eventually Highway 13 being moved. This killed the town and today there is only a decommissioned Federal Grain elevator there.
- I was shocked at how well built grain elevators are. They were built out of 2x4s or 2x6s laying flat and nailed together with one foot spikes holding them together. Each board would have 50 to 60 spikes driven into it making them built to last.
- Locomotive collectors are a unique breed who care more about finding a good home for their locomotives then selling them. The on that Southern Prairie Railway bought had to keep the livery colors or the original owner. Coincidently the livery colors matched the owners of the short line railroad that own the tracks.
After we were done, it was back into the Ford Focus and then home. It was shorter to come home via Regina so we did that. This is what I learned about the Ford Focus
- All of the highways we went on were in good condition but some were smoother than others. The Focus gave a nice ride on all of them.
- As I wrote yesterday, the car is quiet on the highway.
- I managed to figure out who was at fault over the Google Maps weirdness, I am pretty sure the bug is with Google Maps.
- Drink holders. It has 8 of them. This is great for travelling with kids. The boys had their Nalgene water bottles with them as did Wendy and I. Yet if you grab a coffee or a drink with a meal, you still need another one. The Ford Focus has them. It’s almost as if Ford engineers travel with children.
- According to Mark and Oliver, the stereo sounds great in the back seat. Ford’s stereo does compensate for road noise and can focus on the driver or the entire car. It was a big hit.
- I looked everywhere for it. The stereo offers me an option to plug my iPod into a line in port but I couldn’t find one. I may have missed it but I think it is a mistake in the stereo menus.
- Handling is fine. I wasn’t rally racing but around Moose Jaw, Saskatoon, and then Ogema, the car handled wonderfully.
Would I buy one? Well Wendy and I talked at length about getting one (probably the hatchback) when we got back to Saskatoon. That should tell you our feelings about the car. It’s a car that is really worth buying.