Pictures by Walter

A View With Every Picture


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A Winter’s Month – January 2010

Nikon D300s

A New Year, with two new photographic toys Santa had very kind left at Christmas. A New Nikon D300s with a Sigma 150-500 Zoom.  It had become apparent that I needed a larger zoom than the 28/300 for some of my animal shots at zoos.  Unfortunately (if I recall correctly) there were not many third party lens for Pentax fittings.  I was contemplating buying a Sigma 150-500 for Canon but a hint was dropped to forget that.  Christmas revealed why.

January 2010 (at least in West Lothian) started off with a lot, and I mean a lot of snow, along with a big freeze.  Yet the sun did shine – it shone but not a lot of warmth.  To test my new outfit I took my normal walk to my place of work getting to know the camera and lens.  This took me from Craigshill to Almondvale and the (then) new Civic Centre where |I was employed in Legal Services, West Lothian Council. Susan, Sid and I headed off to Linlithgow – which shuts down over the festive season, and had a walk around Linlithgow Loch to feed the birds.  It is a nice walk round the loch (see WalkHighlands) and popular, even on the 1st of January.  Being a loch there are lots of waders as well as gulls.  Most popular are the Mute Swans and Ducks (Mallard, Tufted Ducks etc.)  Regretfully we had to wait until we got home to have a warm soup – as I said Linlithgow closes down at Festive Season.

Where else would one test out the combination of large Zoom lens  and new camera – Edinburgh Zoo sprung to mind.  In a previous blog I mentioned that we were once members of the Society but no longer.  However the Zoo was the ideal place to test the outfit and I captured (to my mind) some great shots of Tigers, Lions etc.  I forgot to mention that Sid had purchased a Nikon D300s and Sigma 150-500 from Jessops in Edinburgh.  I thought he would have twigged and brought it with him to the zoo.  Silly man forgot them, mind you that was the last time he did so. Nowadays he carries the D90 and D300s with a small zoom and the 150-500.

I did not realise it at the time, but the year that started off so well would soon become the year from hell as far as my personal life went.  My mother lost her battle with cancer and soon after my partner was fighting for her life against pneumonia.   In all 2010 was a year of change and led to a bigger change in 2011.

Video/Slide show “A Winter’s Month”


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Wandering with a Pentax K200D – 2009

In 2008 I had two cameras – A Pentax K200d to act as a Second body to my K10D it eventually became my main camera of choice.  It was rated as a beginners camera but had weatherproofing.  However, by 2009 I owned 6 DSLRs.  I had bought a Canon EOS 50D, EOS 500D, Nikon D90, Nikon D300s.  I was spreading my wings testing the myth about which is the best camera.  Whilst I still retain the Pentax K10D, Canon 50D and 500D I no longer have the Pentax K200 or Nikon cameras.  I had fun that year taking 13,900 images, learning to cope with RAW files and Lightroom – having given up Photoshop as far too complex for my simple needs. The breakdown per camera is:

Pentax K10D – 4021 images, Pentax K200D – 2800, Canon 50D – 1974, Canon 500D – 1915, Nikon D90 – 1508 and the Nikon D300s – 571, a total of  12965 pictures the remaining 931 taken with unknown cameras. As you can see I preferred using the Pentax K10D closely followed by the  K200D.  The Canons came second and the Nikon last.   I still have not solved the which is best dilema as I use Pentax, Canon and Nikon for different tasks.

Anyway I digress 2009 I took the K200D on my travels around the UK as it was lighter then the K10 and a lot lighter than the Canon/Nikon. My Partner (Susan) and our fellow Intrepid Sid had fun traveling around Scotland, Down to York and looking through the images brought back the adventures.  My highlights were – Photographing inside St Giles Cathedral (actually the High Kirk of Edinburgh), Catching the moment the 1 o’Clock gun was fired, our trip to Inchcolm Island in the River Forth and my night shot of the Forth Bridge (rail bridge) at night from North Queensferry Harbour, at the time the bridge was undergoing a lengthy restoration and paint job – started in 2002 and finished in 2011.

I’ll leave you to enjoy (or not as the case may be) a short video of my wanderings with the Pentax K200D


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The Jacobite – A Memory from 2005

from Amazon for reference purpose)

During recent data housekeeping I came across a memory from July 2005.  Earlier that year I had bought my first ever Digital Single Reflex Camera (DSLR). It was a Pentax  *istDS, a 6 megapixel DSLR as a step up transition rom Pentax SLRs.  As a relatively new digital camera user I refrained from using RAW images.  on 31st July 2005 Susan (at the time a work college)  took a trip on one of the most scenic railway routes in Scotland.  Long before “Harry Potter” and flying Blue Ford Anglias the line from Fort William to Mallaig was famous as the “Fish Line”. Built to facilitate the transfer of the fish from the busy port of Mallaig to all points south.  In its

Ex-LNER K1 – 62005 “Lord of the Isles”

heyday in the 1960’s Mallaig could bost to be the busiest fishing port in Scotland.  However all that changed in the 1970s. Overfishing led to depleted stocks and a  four year ban on herring fishing was enforced.  The railway line was in constant threat of closure despite the importance of the new tourism industry.  In 1984 the then Scotrail introduced a steam hauled train from Fort William to Mallaig – which continues to this day as “The Jacobite” under private operator West Coast Railway. However, the whole route known as the West Highland Railway covers from Glasgow to Mallaig or Oban.  This was our first outing as a couple and we left Livingston by Car at 6 am a two hour drive to Fort William driving across Rannoch Moor, through Glencoe to Fort William.  If my memory is correct we had not booked a seat on this train, we learnt from that and have since always booked seats.  We were lucky as there was two seats available and we got on.  Mind you we spent most of the time on the outward journey standing the the space between the coaches, with me popping me head out with camera getting pictures of the scenery as we made our way to Mallaig.  My only disappoint was the fact that the engine, ex British Rail, 62005, K1 loco was travelling Tender First.  Still I would get shots on the return of the train crossing the Glenfinnan viaduct loco first.

Travelling behind a steam hauled train adds to the adventure  – the scenery is always superb in good weather and travel by normal train is a lot cheaper than by steam hauled, but a lot less romantic.  I took 193 photos on that trip and relied on the camera to produce the results.  As I said at the beginning I rediscovered the images and edited them using Lightroom CC using the skills I have gained in 13 years.  I selected 39 images to make into a small photo video omitting 1 image, that of my companion on that day – she is now my partner and this is dedicated to her Susan – it was a perfect day to start our adventures together.


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Canadian Adventure – Butchart Gardens

Without doubt our 21 day combined Canadian/Alaskan Adventure had its moments and its disasters. However, we would not have willing missed the experience.  Our final adventure fell on a day of national celebration “Canada Day”.  This was not the first time we had visited a tourist hot spot on such an occasion. We landed in Amsterdam in time for “Queen’s Day” in 2012 – or rather “Queen’s Night” the evening before the day.  Amsterdammers can certainly party and so can the Canadians.

We had book a coach trip for our final day to visit “Butchart Gardens” and Victoria. took the ferry to “Vancouver Island” from Vancouver (Tsawwassen) – Victoria – (Swartz Bay) an approximately 90 minute trip.  Once on the island we made our way to Tod Bay and Butchart Gardens.  Being a public holiday the gardens were extremely busy but we managed to make our way round and visit the centre-piece “Sunken Gardens”, “Rose Garden”, “Japanese Garden” and “Italian Garden”, plus other smaller garden areas. Time, as it usually does flew past as we meandered our way around the attractions.  All to soon it was time to make our way back to the coach and to Victoria and party time (no photos taken – too boisterous and busy)

 

Video of Butchart Gardens

 


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North to Alaska

Departure – Canada Place, Vancouver

We took a break from our Canadian Adventure to go on a 7 day (There and Back again) cruise to Alaska via the “Inside Passage” departing from Canada Place Vancouver.  Our ship was the Holland America line “Nieuw Amsterdam” (New Amsterdam).  We had arrived earlier and as a result we had to wait, but the good news we were one of the first to board, the bad news it was a long wait for our luggage.  I shall say right off I will never sail with Holland America again. The cabin was fine, the food was excellent and the crew very polite.  However, what you pay is not the final price, they add on hotel service charge, and a service charge for a drink.  We are used to all inclusive with complementary drinks with meals, no hidden surcharges and gratuities left for us to decide on.  It did not help that they confiscated my dress  sgian-dubh (ske-an do) an imitation knife which is part of my highland dress outfit and the KILT pin.  As this was my formal dress my partner and I felt reluctant to attend the two formal evenings.  As a result of that we ate our meals in the Lido Restaurant and had a great selection of meals around the world.  Really loved those salads.

Our fist night cruising allowed us to explore the ship, the shops and go to a show (the only one we did go to).  The show team were very talented, but the volume was deafening.  I do stage photography and am used to shows, but this really was loud and yes it was colourful.

Juneau

The first port of call was Juneau – the State Capitol City.  (Following from Wikipedia) Juneau, Alaska’s remote capital, sits in the state’s panhandle, at the base of 3,819-ft. Mount Roberts. It’s a popular cruise-ship stop, reachable only by boat or seaplane. A tram carries visitors 1,800 feet up Mount Roberts to an alpine area with hiking trails, wildflowers and views of Gastineau Channel. This is also the site of the Juneau Raptor Centre, dedicated to local birds.  A port that has four cruise liners in is going to be busy.  While nearly all passengers headed for the Mount Roberts Tramway or other tourist attractions we opted to explore the city and visit the museum, which was very interesting on local history.  We wandered around the town making our way back to the dock plaza and the Mt. Roberts tramway station.  It takes about 5 minutes to get to the station at the 1,800 foot point. Feeling hungry we partook of lunch – very nice it was too.  Making our way to the Ranger Station we asked if there was a circular trail that would take about an hour to walk.  There was indeed, and we were advised to take the right hand as that would be easier for us going down the large flight of stairs rather then climbing them.  (We were glad we took that advice).  The views at that level we good, they got even better as we climbed up the trail.  The Ranger had given us a map and there was a point marked “Father Brown’s Cross” which was a 1/2 mile up from the Alpine loop trail we were on. In for a penny in for a pound, we plodded up that extra 1/2 mile.  Those kind souls coming down gave encouragement to stick to it as the view was worth it.  I’ll let you decide if it was.

We thought it was, and very pleased we were to have taken the time and energy to get there.

Skagway

Our next stop was Skagway: Skagway is a compact city in southeast Alaska, set along the popular cruise route the Inside Passage. It’s home to gold-rush-era buildings, now preserved as part of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. The White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad runs vintage locomotives past the famously steep Chilkoot trail and offers sweeping mountain views during its climb toward Canada.

If it was not for the modern traffic I would have thought we had stepped back in time.  As the blurb above states “gold rush era buildings each one with its own story.  Even new builds have to comply with “the look”.  Gateway to the Chilkoot trail Skagway had an unsavoury reputation thanks to one Jefferson Randolph “Soapy” Smith II.  We strolled up and down “Main Street” like many tourists and the spirit of “Soapy Smith” lives on with retailers enticing customers into shops with free charms.  Two routes to the Klondike Goldfields originated from Skagway – The main being the Chilkoot Trail, the other the White Pass Trail (aka The Dead Horse Trail).  Each have their own bloody history and tales of woe.  It was at Skagway  the second highlight of our adventure occurred, again it involved a train journey up the White Pass on the White Pass & Yukon Railway.

Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve

The second highlight on the cruise – Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve is a vast area of southeast Alaska’s Inside Passage, a coastal route plied by cruise ships and other vessels. Stretching north of the town of Gustavus, the bay is flanked by high peaks, including Mount Fairweather, and glaciers like the huge Grand Pacific Glacier. Bartlett Cove is the starting point for forest and riverside trails. Wildlife includes humpback whales and puffins.

On our Canadian Adventure we walked over a minute part of the Athabasca Glacier here we stood on a ship looking at nature in the raw. In fact we saw 3 active glaciers out of the seven: Margerie GlacierGrand Pacific Glacier and Johns Hopkins Glacier.

We stood on the deck listening to the sound of silence being disturbed by the groans and creaks of the living glaciers as the slowly moved their way to the sea. On 4 occasions we heard a deep rumble vibrate through the air.  We later found out from a passenger on another ship that was the Margerie Glacier Calving. Alas we never saw a calving.

Ketchikan

Ketchikan is an Alaskan city facing the Inside Passage, a popular cruise route along the state’s southeastern coast. It’s known for its many Native American totem poles, on display throughout town. Nearby Misty Fiords National Monument is a glacier-carved wilderness featuring snowcapped mountains, waterfalls and salmon spawning streams. It’s also home to rich wildlife including black bears, wolves and bald eagles.

According to Wikipedia: Ketchikan has the world’s largest collection of standing totem poles, found throughout the city and at four major locations: SaxmanTotem Park, Totem Bight State Park, Potlatch Park, and the Totem Heritage Center. Most of the totems at Saxman Totem Park and Totem Bight State Park are recarvings of older poles, a practice that began during the Roosevelt Administration through the Civilian Conservation Corps. The Totem Heritage Center displays preserved 19th-century poles rescued from abandoned village sites near Ketchikan. We never saw any of them due to the fact that it lived up to its title as “Rain Capital of Alaska”.  We did enjoy a light snack as we wandered around the city before returning to the ship for our journey back to Vancouver.

Alaskan Adventure Video

 

 


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Canadian Adventure – Jasper to Vancouver (RMT)

Our Locomotives

The Icefield Parkway trip was the base line on which I would compare with the other excursions on this 21 day combined Canadian/Alaskan Adventure.

Our domed home for two days

So far we had flown out to Banff via Toronto, Calgary from Glasgow.  Then the coach trip through the rockies, all in the first 4 days.  Today’s adventure was Part 1 of a 2 day journey on one of the great railway trips in the world. We were travelling on the Rocky Mountaineer on the “Through the Clouds” route from Jasper to Vancouver. A two day sojourn from the Rockies to the plains all in the comfort of a domed rail coach. We had opted for the “Gold Leaf” service as opposed to the Silver Leaf service.

We arrived at (the now opened) Jasper railroad station where our two large cases were whipped away – the last we would see of them until we got to our hotel room in Kamloops.  As the time approached for boarding and departure the excitement mounted in the station waiting room – Finally with the ringing of

A Toast to a good journey

a bell and the traditional time honoured call “ALL ABOARD”  we made our way to our allocated seats in our allocated coach.  Our personal coach crew of two chefs and four lovely ladies were introduced and drinks were served for the departure toast.


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Canadian Adventure – Jasper Wildlife

Downtown Jasper

Here we are in Jasper – Jasper, an alpine town in Canada’s Alberta province, is the commercial centre of Jasper National Park. Amid the snow-capped Canadian Rockies, the park has glacier-fed lakes, forests and rivers. The Jasper SkyTram climbs to the summit of Whistlers Mountain, with views of downtown. The Jasper Yellowhead Museum and Archives presents exhibits on the fur trade, railway and early exploration of the park – ready for a day’s exploration and adventure.  We set out from our hotel – Chateau Jasper to walk into town.  It was not too bad a day weather wise.  Our first stop was to find the railway station to familiarise ourselves with the procedure to board the Rocky Mountaineer train.  Alas it was closed – we had not realised that the station only opens on the days that the Rocky Mountaineer departs/Arrives.  The line is usually freight only.  Mind you we took the opportunity to get a photo in front of the old steam locomotive on static display at the station – I would have loved to be on a train hauled by that engine.  As we had the morning to explore we wandered around the town, bought some gifts and Susan enjoyed a fresh made Banana Split, I forget what I had (no evidence exists 🙂 ).  After a nice morning we headed back to the hotel to meet our scheduled tour and exploration of the environs of Jasper and see the wildlife as well as the views.

Jasper is surrounded by mountainous peaks, everywhere we looked a mountain was there, after a while we blanked them out. Hard to believe but true.  It was a case of not being overwhelmed – however that cannot be said for scenery we saw on the coach trip.  On thing we learned right off is the meaning of “Bear Jam”.  Usually it is traffic jam or delays caused by accidents, on this tour is was delays caused by Bears, Elks, Long Horned Sheep and Mountain Goats – all came under the cry of Bear Jam.  When and wherever a bear was spotted near the roadside or along the treeline the traffic slowed and came to a standstill. Windows rolled down and cameras produced.  As that great bear “Yogi” once stated “Everybody loves a bear BoBo” or was that picnic baskets?

The mountains looked high from Jasper but they really took on a different aspect as we traveled alongside/up and down them. It was not that long before the cry was uttered “bear on right hand side” and sure enough there was a black bear merrily walking through the trees.  He was travelling relatively fast, nonchalant with not a care in the world, Sauntering along -was he heading to food, a date with a she bear only he knew, we just grabbed the opportunity to grab the odd picture or dozen.  I certainly took some odd ones. We and the rest of the bear jam, watched the bear amble along for some time. Eventually our driver guide decided it was time to find some Osprey nests.  Along the way we passed through part of the rainforest devastated by fire in 2008 and still struggling to recover. As someone who lives in Scotland I found it hard to accept what my eyes were telling my brain.  Complete destruction – having been involved in fighting a few house fires I am well aware of that raging beast – but not to the scale that was obvious here.  Thankfully there were signs of recovery, but, as our guide said, “It will take a wee while yet”.   The devastation was only outdone by the pleasing sight of a lake set in the mountains.  Alas the nest did not appear to be occupied.  However, this did not deter our driver./guide as we continued our tour for another hour, spotting Elk, Black Bear, Long Horned Sheep and Mountain Goats (all of which had the proverbial <name of animal> Jam.  Only in Canada can one have wildlife so close to a road and drivers stop), before returning to our hotel for the evening.

Elk
Click to see full gallery of images)