New Camera Lens: 420 to 800mm Telephoto.

New toy: a 420 to 800mm telephoto lens, for my Sony A77 Camera. And when you factor in the crop-sensor size, the lens becomes a 630 to 1200mm lens, just like that. It was bitterly cold, yet clear out, and as soon as I got the lens home from the Post Office, I just had to try it out. Our first stop was just down the Kalum highway, North of Terrace, where we pulled over to an open field, and I snapped a few shots of the surrounding mountains, while there was enough light. I took about ten shots before I got the focusing figured out on the lens, but once I got it, the results were unexpectedly great.

The very first thing I realized about using this lens is, you have to be very still with it. You need lots of light to shoot with it, as a handheld lens, or everything becomes blurry. The second issue was the focusing ring, it is very tight. You giggle around a lot while turning the ring, and loose the shot. Lastly, the locking ring had too many turns before it would lock the lens, and you needed that locking ring tight, or focusing was next to impossible. The camera has to be put into full Manual Mode, as the lens has no automatic features what so ever, meaning you have no auto anti-shake from the camera’s electronics. So, you are back to old school shooting with it.

A must, with this size lens, is a tripod. Once the light levels drop off, you need a tripod for clean, no shake, shots. This lens, you are between F8.3 to F16, at the fully extended rang. So your shutter speed become longer during darker times of the day. And as I found out, with lots of wind, you really need to weigh the tripod down to avoid camera shake, as this lens is super sensitive to movement. I tried taking some Moon shots out at the airport, and the wind was pushing the lens, so slightly, but it was enough to blur the shot becuase I was at less than 1/4 shutter speed. So, needless to say, I have no good Moon shots for this post. Perhaps tomorrow?

The lens did do very well at the minus nine Celsius mark, as it did not fog up. I could only shoot for five minutes in this weather, but the camera and lens held up the whole time I was outside, except for me–I was freezing.

Yes Indeed, It Is Rather, …cold.

It is too bad that we could not get rid of the “minus” sign in front of the temperature becuase then I could be praising the Solar goodness of Mother Nature. Nope, it is the other way around, lots of Sun, but the “minus” sign stays; a blusterous minus thirteen outside. With wind, and blinding sunlight, the day looks awesome through the windows, but dare to stand outside, is another matter indeed. However, like the troopers we are, we did our Sunday Drive through the valley, Me, Suz., and camera in tow.

I should point out that records were broken for how cold it is in this section of the North Coast. Where I am, we were lucky in the sense that this is normal-ish, but further inland, the coldness rages on. Even the fine folks on the coastal islands were hit with some awful cold weather too. Enough said, I think you get the point.

Our trip down to the Kitimat Valley. We wanted to follow the Sun. Get those much needed Sun shots. We nearly went three weeks without clear skies, so seeing the big bright orb in the sky again, was a huge relief. Hey, probably one of the rarest religions around these parts are the Sun Worshipers. Those guys are hard pressed, let me tell you. It is truly blind faith for those guys. But, for us, we were driving to the Kitimat River!

She is not much to look at, but the people of the valley like to call her “a river.” It does rip-roar with torrents of water during the spring thaw, I should point out. People come from all over the planet to fish this little river. As you can tell, it is far from being frozen over, as our cold snap is only into its third day.

We hit the Sun at its Golden Hour on the river, as the yellows and pinks colour sunlight started flooding down on us. You only get about an hour of it with your camera. But the long shadows, and golden light, made for some really neat effects; it was worth it, as some of the shots were extremely good. But it was cold, and my fingers were getting numb, so I only lasted less than five minutes at this spot. Fortunately, Suzette kept her car running, as she wanted to enjoy the view from where there was warmth, and I was very happy when I jumped back into my seat to enjoy it with her.

The photo that says, “It is Cold Baby!” I really like the pink to purple colours in the sky, above the white of the mountains. In this shot, we are in Thornhill, BC, just a few kilometres from my place, along the highway. We are looking North, from the West side of the side road. If this shot does not say, “COLD,” then I do not know what would, other then a shot of a bottle of liquid Nitrogen pouring out onto the ground. Remember, nightfall is upon us, and it is getting colder.

Anyway, I went home, and then curled up in bed, letting the warmth cover me. There is work tomorrow, and I am sure getting up will be a chore. Nighty-night!

Our Turn: The Cold Weather is Here.

It is the first day of February, 2019, and I must say, “what a mild winter season it has been so far, for us folks up in the North Coast of British Columbia.” However, this will all end, very soon, as a fidget Arctic System is creeping down on us, fast. The weather prognosticators say, starting tonight, the deep freeze will start, and will last until next weekend. But what really hits home for me, is that I saw temperatures as low as minus 14C on the chart! Right now it is minus 2, snowing, with winds from the North, gusting to 40km/h. A piece of cake, by North Coast standards. But, cold is cold, no matter how you slice it. (I wrote this part while I was on my lunch break)

So, here is where we are at for conditions. It is snowing out, although lightly. There is about 3cm of slush on the ground. It is windy out, with winds coming in from the North. So, add super cold weather to the mix, and all this will freeze. Tonight will be the perfect night to stay at home–this I can predict. So, let me talk about my commute home.

(I am at home now) So, I am driving home. The roads in Terrace near perfect: dry, and void of any snow. Once I got onto the side streets of Thornhill, BC, then is was a different story. When I left the nice and dry road of the highway, and hit the first side street, to my house, I was faced with a nice thick layer of ice on the road. I mean, it was perfect, as the setting Sun’s light reflected from off of it, I have to put on my sunglasses, it was so bright. So, I took the first corner very slowly, at about 20km/h, to make sure I had full control. When I had to stop at the first stop sign, my car’s brakes would not go into ABS Mode (Anti Braking System) and I slid a few metres past the stop sign. So, this had me worried. So I started pumping the brakes at the next top signal. Even the very large SUV, behind me, was having troubles of his own, navigating on the same road.

So the lesson here is that, no matter how good your tires are, driving on pure ice, is still a cautionary tail. You treat the road condition with a huge amount of respect, and HOPE the people driving around are doing the same thing.

 

It is now down to minus 4C, to it is expected to dip below 8C, over night. I am prepared for this. I have an emergency kit, if the power goes out. Plus I have my car, if I need to leave. But, since I have lived here, the whole place seems to be build to handle this type of weather, so I have confidence that all this will be a walk in the park. So, bundle up!

The Church of Usk

As we left the Rupert to Terrace, BC Highway, and headed East, we drove through Terrace, and Thornhill, BC, over to Usk, BC, about a 40km trip. Yes, we did this on Sunday, I am a day late getting this out. Writing a post does take a bit of time. So, anyway, we get to Usk. There is not much to do there. We saw the grounded ferry, parked on the highway side of the river, and we walk over to the Cable Car Tower, and then left. I did shoot some photos, and walked around for a short while. But we headed for the Pioneer Church, on the other side of the highway.

So, let me describe the church. It is, quite possibly, one of the smallest churches I have even been in. It could seat a dozen people, without to much trouble. The whole building might be 8 to 10 metres long, and 4 to 6 metres wide. It is small! The door is never locked, and there is a sign in book to sign. The windows are small, letting in just enough light to see around with.

My inside photo shots were not that great with the low light levels. There is no electricity, so no artificial light, and I did not bring my speed light with me. There was no heat either; it was cold inside.

I was in this church as a kid, but I think for Suzette, it was her first time. This is something you do not forget when you are inside it. It is does leave you with an impression: of smallness. On the other side of the property, there is an memorial for the people who die while working as Loggers, and Tree Fallers. It was quite something to see. 

Split Mountain On the Terrace-Rupert Highway

Nestled between the Shames Mountain turn-off and the Exstew River, on Highway 16 going to Prince Rupert, just outside of Terrace, BC, is what we call Split Mountain. I am not sure if that is the official name, but it looks like the mountain is being split into two pieces. It is an awesome sight, but you need to find a spot where the trees do not block your view. Sadly, at the highway pull-off, the trees are very thick in the park, and you have to look across the river to the South, to see it through the trees. Plus, there is a swamp too, that blocks foot access, so getting that “tree-less” shot with a camera is almost impossible.

If you can find a spot away from the trees, then the view is awesome!

I was thinking maybe a hike along the opposite side of the Skeena Valley, to see it, but then you have to hike through some really think wooded areas to get a clear view. The other option would be a river boat on the Skeena River, but I do not have a river boat. Cutting the trees would work too, but I am sure some would find that wrong. Maybe a few trees?

A viewing platform would be the way to go. Build it in the park, and it only needs to be high enough to see over the trees. I am sure this would attract way more people who would want to see the split mountain, without the trees.

So, when I first saw this, as a kid, I thought that this was the result of a fault-line going through the middle of the mountain, causing it to split like this. When I would fish along the shores of the Skeena River, I remember I could hear the odd rock fall from the cliffs. This would happen at least once a day. These cliffs are very steep, and high. The mountain seems to be about 5-7 kms from the road, so a huge rock could easily be heard. But after looking at maps, and seeing photographs taken from the air, I later realized that it must be a combination of the way the mountain had cracked, and water erosion that caused the shape of the valley. I should point out that I am not a Geologist.

If someone knows, I would be interested in knowing what caused it. But, for now, it is a unique looking mountain, with this giant split through the middle of it. The next time you are out on the highway going from Terrace to Prince Rupert, BC, you should check it out.

Added Two New House Plants to the Team!

In my ever growing plant world, I acquired two new additions, a Barrel Cactus and a Spider Plant! I know I can look after the Barrel Cactus, which is a no brainer, but I was a little apprehensive on the Spider Plant becuase this guy need lots of regular watering, and the soil must be kept moist. However, I have the LED grow light, and my Air Plant and pointy cactus are doing awesome with it, so why not go for more…

First came the Spider Plant, I bought it over a week ago. To my amazement, the plant loves the grow light, and since I transplanted it into a larger pot, it has taken off. It has grown several new shoots in the last few days, and the foliage, 0ver all, seems to be growing by about 2cm since I got it. I think it is happy. In a few weeks, my macrame pot holder should arrive in the Post, and I will hang it in the living room window, with a LED Grow Light over top of it. We will see if it takes to that environment with lots of growth.

Yesterday, I bought the Barrel Cactus, which it looks more like a Ball, and it seems to be very healthy. I will do a pot transplant sometime soon becuase it has roots coming out the bottom the pot into the foil wrapper. And a warning, its thorns are very sharp. This guy must have very few predators out in the wild.

So, four plants, with three totally different needs. The Air Plant I have had now for over year, and is super easy to care for. The tall Cactus, I have had it for just under a year now, and it is still growing strong, and seems healthy. I have not killed them off, so I must be doing something right. Here is hoping the two new plants have long lives as well. Yay to the green thumb!

Weird, I am Awake.

I just thought I had to share this becuase it is rare that my body is “awake” when I am starting the day at 5:00am. Last night I fell asleep around my usual time, about 9:30pm, and had no troubles diving into full on REM sleep. In fact, I do not even remember any of my dreams. But needless to say, when I awoke, the whole worlds seemed to be up with me.

Starting the day was awesome. There was no one else commuting at the same time. I saw one truck on the highway, and he was going East bound, in Thornhill. When I got into Terrace, BC, across the Skeena River Bridge, there where only the “Walkers,” or homeless people, walking the main street (Lakesle Avenue) on my way to fill my coffee mug with the Black Throat Charmer that is served at 5:00am in town.

Once loaded up with coffee, I haul butt to my work place, on the other side of town, in the area called South Terrace. There ahead of me, the freshly built Cell Tower, shining its bright red beacon, pulsating every second, lighting up the mist around it, and it seem to say, “you work here.” Yes, if you love radiation, over several  thousand Watts of it, then you will be at home here. And the work day started. With out a hitch, snag or hick-up.

Maybe I ate something that made the difference? Perhaps I got just right amount of sleep I needed? Maybe the alignment in Four Dimensional Space and Time was perfect, and caused a well deserved ripple, at a quantum level? Maybe, being over fifty years old, my brain does not care anymore, and all seems relative now. It all does not matter; I feel awesome. I wish somehow that this moment could be bottled up and stored for later days that suck. Oh, wait, they have that already.

We will see how far it takes me.

Mother Nature Would Not Let Us See it!

As Mother Nature’s shroud blanketed the sky above us, the Moon and her glory sank into the Earth’s shadow, and all we could do was to imagine what it is she looked like as her reflective light faded, then reappeared again. The night seemed to become thicker with clouds, and yet the air warmed, an odd combination for the North Coast of British Columbia this time of the year. The winter snow was melting in the Skeena Valley, and there was no rain falling from the sky. Yet, we were unable to whiteness the Lunar Eclipse, but for one 3 minute period, when the clouds parted for one brief moment during the first phase of the eclipse cycle.

So, the short story, we saw nothing of significance, but the pretty lights of Terrace, BC, from up on the Bench of Kalum View Drive. Sadly, as much as I wanted to photograph the Lunar Eclipse, all I got were clouds shots. But the day was not a total loss…

The trip to Lakelse Lake, in the early afternoon, was a nice departure from the usual Sunday drive into town. It had been at least three weeks since we were at the park last, and the first thing we noticed was amount of snow that had fallen there since. Only half the parking lot was cleared of snow, though. The lake did have a layer of ice on it, but nothing close to being safe to walk on it, though some had tied, when it was colder the week before. But it was the setting Sun that made the day. Oh, was the Southern sky awesome to watch over the lake, as the clouds moved in from over the horizon. It was warm out at the lake too, a mere 3C, though Suzette was not dawning her two-piece bikini just yet.

The second stop was Onion Lake. Because this lake is a little higher in altitude, it was a little more frozen over, but not enough that I would try to walk on it. There sure was a lot more snow at the summit than there was in the low lands. Many vehicles get stuck on this stretch of the highway during the winter months.

The drive home was fun too. Yes, I am being sarcastic. Drivers on the Kitimat Highway love to speed, or have that “me first,” attitude while driving on it. And part of the speeding fun, is to pass other motorist going up hills, while you are doing the speed limit. My poor car did get sprayed with small rocks as the SUVs sped by me; but all was good, there was no damage.

Dinner at my home: Pork-Chops with veggies and salad. All of this smothered with Cream of Mushroom Soup. I got a passing grade! Then we watched a movie on Netflix, “IO,” 2019. and then left to seek out a view of the Lunar Eclipse. None of us saw the Lunar Eclipse, except for that very brief moment on the hill over looking Terrace.

The Yearning of the Sun

Actually, when I saw the sunrise last week, it felt as if I saw an old friend again, the Sun, but really, the yearning was for the return of summer. Yes, I had that feeling of needing the good old days of summer back, as I saw the Sun rise. Here in the Skeena Valley, you have the winter position of the Sun, which is just 25 degrees above the horizon, coupled with the mountains that circle around us. This leaves us with a very short day period during the fall and winter months. Seeing the Sun sink below the horizon, as the Earth spins, (this happens around 4:30pm in the afternoon), puts the damper on daily life, when you get home from your work day.

The above image is Miss Egghead enjoying the Sun rise in the mythical Cube Land. The image is a render done in Blender 2.8 Beta.

It is normal to have weeks with overcast sky, and days with rain in the valley. During the colder months, snow is the daily routine, sprinkled with ice, as the sky is cloud filled, with moments of clearing, allowing the Sun sneak through. But it is the darkness that creeps in, making the night life some eighteen hours long, leaving some people with the “Winter Blues.” However, with seeking moments like this day, where the Sun shines, getting out and absorbing its rays, is a natural rite.

Also, one more point: This has been an unusually warm winter, so far. We have missed the full onslaught of the Arctic Vortex, but nonetheless, it is winter. The Earth spins it usual way, and nothing can be done about that. However, there is, with out any doubt, less snow, than normal. The Skeena River is still way below its usual level, and the Coastal Mountains do not look that snow packed, as compared to last year. These are just my opinions, not scientific facts. Though, I have read some articles in the media agreeing with me.

May we see more Sun, and less clouds in the coming weeks, without causing drought conditions like last year.

The Offers Overflow-th

As of today, I have had three, count them, three offers of employment in one week. It seems that my skills and talents are in high demand on the Pacific North Coast. The first offer came last week, in the form of a text message from a contact of mine when I was doing side jobs in Terrace, where they need a law office person in their Claims department. Next came an office/supply management position for a trucking company. And today, a rental company needing a service and office person for their Terrace outlet. Have I accepted?

Let me say, the Skeena valley is seeing an up-swing in economic development, more than likely in the wake of the proposed 40 billion LNG project in Kitimat, BC, then compared to the last few years. Nearly every business, and investors, are ramping up expectations of this possible increase in revenue. Even though not one penny has been spent, the region is poised to offer services that otherwise were nonexistent, or limited, just six months ago. Even the Real Estate Market is rising faster than bread in an oven.

With the cost of living and inflation rising, so to is the need of higher compensation to attract labour in the area. Employers are, by their nature, exists only for the profit, and are often resisting coughing up more revenue for labour. When the cost of living inhibits, and geographical remoteness is added, labour is harder to attract. The game of “give and take” is played. Business cry for cheaper labour when services are lacking talent to fill it, and Labour looks elsewhere where the grass is greener; Free Enterprise is a B*@#! when it works.

As for my decisions: I turned them all down. None of the businesses came even close to my current level of employment compensation. They could not attract me, as their offers’ fell far short of my merits. They will need to put more up front, to fill their needs. If a business cannot grasp this simple concept, then they need to find something else they are more suited to do, or relocate.