Confessions of a Ballerunner

Essays on Sports, Arts, Culture, and Life

Archive for the tag “sepia”

The Four Seasons living in Ottawa: Winter

Well, it was a winter that won’t soon be forgotten. A truly Canadian winter from the days of our youth when the snowsuits were hauled out in November and didn’t come off until April. Even the hardiest, most winter-loving among us have to admit to wondering when that meteorological villain dubbed The Polar Vortex would finally release us from its icy, unyielding grip.

On the positive side, with all that extreme cold, we almost broke a record in Ottawa for longest number of skate days on the Rideau Canal. The protracted deep-freeze also ensured that the ice surface was in pristine condition for just about the whole skating season. The ice was so smooth at times that you could be forgiven for thinking you were skating inside a hockey arena on synthetic ice and not outdoors on a natural rink. What a pleasure it is to skate to work in the morning, get out for some fresh air during your lunch hour, or enjoy a romantic pas de deux with your significant other under the stars at night – especially if there is light snow falling…

There was also plenty of snow to be had this past winter, too, much to the delight of skiers and snowboarders. The cross-country ski season started in December and went right through to April. We are so lucky in Ottawa to live so near Gatineau Park. It’s only a 20-minute drive from downtown Ottawa. Although it is but one of many outdoor recreational sports I engage in, skiing in Gatineau Park is easily my favorite winter activity. There’s nothing like leaving the city behind and winding your way up through the heavily wooded Gatineau Hills for some unparalled aerobic exercise and mental relaxation. No matter how I feel when I leave the city, I always feel amazing after an afternoon of skiing in Gatineau Park.

The photos below were taken this past winter while out skating on the Rideau Canal Skateway or cross-country skiing in Gatineau Park. They were all taken on my iPhone and then edited later in Photoshop. Normally, I would use my SLR camera for photoshoots, but it’s too bulky to carry around when you’re doing sports! Although it is no substitute for a good SLR camera (which you can do so much more with when shooting in manual mode), I was impressed by the quality of the images I was able to get from the iPhone’s camera.

Winter may be harsh at times, but it is truly a beautiful, magical, contemplative season, as eloquently and convincingly argued by Adam Gopnik in his 2011 CBC Massey Lectures series, “Winter: Five Windows on the Season”. I highly recommend listening to the podcast or reading the book. You will gain a new appreciation and perhaps affection for winter.

At the National Arts Centre looking northwest towards Parliament

At the National Arts Centre looking northwest toward Parliament

Skating under the bridge at Patterson Creek to the Rideau Canal

Skating under the bridge at Patterson Creek to the Rideau Canal

Skating after a fresh snowstorm on the canal near Dow's Lake

Skating after a fresh snowstorm on the Rideau Canal near Dow’s Lake

The natural skating oval of Patterson Creek

The natural skating oval of Patterson Creek

Skating near the Bank Street Bridge with Southminster United Church in background

Skating near the Bank Street Bridge with Southminster United Church in the background

Taking a break under the bridge

Skating under Bank Street Bridge

Cross-country skiing through the mist along Ridge Road in Gatineau Park

Cross-country skiing through the mist along Ridge Road in Gatineau Park

The impending storm: descent from Huron Look-out

The impending storm: descent from Huron Look-out

Climbing the Fortune Parkway in Gatineau Park

Climbing the Fortune Parkway in Gatineau Park

The serpentine ascent up the Fortune Parkway to the Lake

The 1.5-km serpentine ascent up the Fortune Parkway to  Fortune Lake

Tough slog up Fortune Parkway

My sister taking a break from the tough slog up an icy Fortune Parkway

The bench at Huron Shelter where skiers take a break from an ascent up Ridge Road or collect the courage for the ride down!

The bench at Huron Shelter where skiers can take a break from the ascent up Ridge Road or summon their courage for the wild ride down!

Last skier out of the park

Nightfall: the parking lot at P9 was abandoned and in almost complete darkness (save for the glow from my headlamp and the lights in the distance from the ski hill at Camp Fortune) after I finished my late afternoon ski in Gatineau Park.


Historic street detail and vintage fashion: the marriage of sepia and conte

After a heavy 2 days of mind-numbing data-crunching and technical writing, I inevitably had to have an artistic release…

The photo below was taken at dusk in the Byward Market in Ottawa and transformed into a sepia monochrome in Photoshop while leaving the restaurant’s red door and sign intact. I’m hoping to use it in a larger drawing/mixed media project for a good friend’s upcoming wedding.

Along Sussex Drive, Ottawa

Since the aforementioned technical report had a tight deadline, I had to reluctantly forego my lifedrawing class this week. To make up for the loss of this focused evening of drawing, I thought I’d pick up my conté crayons (which we don’t use in this class; rather, just charcoal) and attempt a more loosely sketched interpretation of a vintage, early 20th century black & white fashion photo (I just loved the overall ethereal feel to this fairy-like photo) from my go-to drawing companion, Style Book. I applied various dilutions of an India ink wash for the background shadowing effects.

“Fantail feathers, a silk and lace strapless dress with a very large fan for effect, New York City, 1918.” [ref: Style Book by Elizabeth Walker]

 Now, on to the next technical report!..

A Vintage Victoria Day Long Weekend in Ottawa

What a beautiful long Victoria Day weekend it was here in Ottawa. Sunny and hot, the outdoors just beckoned. And so, I grabbed my borrowed Nikon digitial SLR camera and headed out on my bike, eager to see what sort of vignettes I might be able to capture.

Since I am a scientist-type, who is also mechanically-challenged, I ended up taking a ton of photos in a bid to experiment with various angles and distances thanks to my new friend, the 50-70mm range of my lens. 😉 That said, I neglected to notice that I hadn’t reset the ISO to 200 from the previous evening’s 800. Of course, by the time I was able to mentally connect my unusually pale blue-white sky (despite playing with the aperture and shutter speed settings) with the faulty ISO setting (i.e., ‘faulty’ for bright sunlight conditions), I had completed 3/4 of my bike route. With the hot, bright noon day sun beating down overhead, it was time to seek shade and hydration. So, no re-shooting of these scenes; rather, post-production editing in Photoshop would be the prescription for treating the problematic lighting.

In the process of playing around in Photoshop (which is so much fun, even though I have only the most rudimentary knowledge of this complex program at present), I decided that it would be cool to try creating a nostalgic or vintage feel — as some of the photos lent themselves well to this — and so transformed the images into a sepia monochrome. It kind of reminds me of those old family heirloom photos of simpler summertimes spent lounging at the cottage and/or by the seashore… (Sigh)

[Above: The storied Rideau Canoe Club overlooking Mooney’s Bay. This is THE place to be for all things paddling and especially recreational dragon-boating & the hugely popular Tim Hortons Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival.]

[Above: Buoys dotting Mooney’s Bay like a pearl string necklace.]

[Above: Dock along the Rideau River in Old Ottawa South]

[Above: My photography teacher was right: If you wait long enough for something to happen, you’ll probably get an interesting shot. This kayaker appeared out of nowhere while I was engrossed in photographing the various angles of this dock. He was paddling quite fast so I only managed to grab three frames of him. There were a lot of paddlers out this day along the river, canal, and bay. I was envious.]

[Above: Again, another example of ‘good things coming to those who wait’ — or maybe it’s ‘patience is a virtue’. In any case, I was busily following the Canada geese around when this seagull swooped into the scene like a light plane coming in for a landing.]

[Above: One of my favourite little laneways by the Ottawa River in Old Ottawa South. The house on the corner with all the windows is charming. Exactly like what I’d picture a lake house to look like with its big veranda (not visible) in the front and stone pillars — and of course, lovely tree canopy and stunning views of, and access to, the river. Very Canadiana indeed!]

[Above: Playing with my friend, 50-70mm lens range, to shoot this row of verandas. Now this is really getting to know your neighbors!]

[Above: An interesting little Zen garden along a canal-facing laneway in the Glebe. I thought the juxtaposition of the large, imposing head sculpture and Buddha figure (slightly obscured in the opposite corner) with the birdbath was unusual. The garden is quite unique compared to the more traditional English ones lining the rest of the laneway.]

[Above and Below: Pretoria Bridge from the Colonel By side.]

[Above: Traveling under the busy Pretoria Bridge on the Colonel By side. Lots of runners, walkers, in-line skaters, and cyclists travel along the canal path through the short tunnel every day as part of their daily commute or exercise or leisure routine. Pretoria Bridge is also a busy thoroughfare above for vehicles crossing the canal between Coloney By and Queen Elizabeth Drive. When boating season opens, you can expect to see the occasional large boat stopping traffic on the bridge as it navigates through the narrow waterway below.]

[Above: This was actually shot a couple of weekends ago. Each spring, an old school fair sets up shop across from Dow’s Lake to coincide with the Tulip Festival and the Victoria Day long weekend. It is definitely a throwback to simpler times. Didn’t spot any ‘carnies’ though.]

[Above: I knew I had to go and shoot this carousel after seeing the wonderful series of teaching photos my photography teacher had shot at night to illustrate the cool blur effects from varying the shutter speed. I went during the day, around noon, so it was very bright out. I can still hear that nostalgic, old school, tinny keyboard music playing that serves as the requisite, happy soundtrack for the young horseback riders on the merry-go-round. The magic of the carousel also makes me think of Adam Gopnik’s delightful, must-read book (Paris to the Moon) on living and raising a young family in Paris, in which he would take his young son to the Luxembourg Gardens — which has a much beloved carousel — to play.]

[Above: The Canal Ritz on a Saturday morning before its terrasse becomes packed to capacity with lunchtime diners or people looking to enjoy an ice-cold drink under a parasol. Definitely a popular summer spot during the day and at night with unbeatable views of the canal and all the pleasure boats, kayaks, and canoes plying the canal waters.]

[Above: Bit of a grainy image shot in the Courtyard of the Byward Market at dusk. The Market is another summer hot spot.]

[Below: What better way to end a long weekend than take in a fabulous fireworks display. The light show took place over Dow’s Lake and marked the official end to the Tulip Festival. It was about 15-20 minutes long, but worth it. So great to see so many people and families out enjoying a simple pleasure. Some people had even set up lawn chairs or blankets in the grass; others sat or leaned up against their bikes while some little kids took in the show from the comfort of their Fisher Price wagon. It was a bit challenging to shoot, however, as I haven’t quite figured out the technique and logic to shooting night shots. Hopefully, I’ll learn since I am particularly drawn to atmospheric night scenes and black & white photography.]

P.S. Good luck to all the runners in town this weekend for Ottawa Race Weekend! I hear the weather is supposed to be good. 🙂

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