Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Low Evening Sun


Low Evening Sun, originally uploaded by susanvg.
The sun sets early; it cast its light almost horizontally and created strongly contrasted lighting. I'm not thrilled with this photograph. It doesn't do justice to what I saw. My photography course starts at the end of January. Hopefully, it will help me to better understand the settings on my camera to get just what I want.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Cleaning the Rink


Cleaning the Rink, originally uploaded by susanvg.
A few years ago, the city installed refrigeration equipment under the plaza near the chalet at Beaver Lake. This means even when the weather goes a bit above 0°C the ice stays hard. The rink is well maintained with plows and zambonis along with shovellers and sweepers so it is a popular spot for skaters. The nearby chalet provides rental skates and more importantly a cafeteria where you can get hot drinks.

IMG_8137

One part of the rink is reserved for beginners, with cones and metal devices which can be pushed while those less steady on their feet learn how to skate. I've never been comfortable on skates, but love to watch as others glide around.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Snacking


Snacking, originally uploaded by susanvg.
A crisp day with many people out enjoying the winter possibilities. I went up to Mount Royal. Skaters, toboganners, walkers were all out enjoying winter. This horse was taking a snack while waiting for customers who wanted to tour the mountain in a less aerobic fashion. In summer the horses pull caleches (buggies) around Old Montreal. Some of them spend time on the mountain in winter, pulling these sleighs.

Working Horse
He's off with some customers
The camera pushes me to walk more, to search out interesting spots to share. Photography can be a challenge in this weather with fingers feeling frosty after a few photos without gloves. I spend time alternating between snapping photos and thawing my finger tips. But the air is invigorating, the festive spirit and sense of fun is contagious. Walking on the mountain always brings me peace.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Snow Laden Branches


Snow Laden Branches, originally uploaded by susanvg.
Definitely a white Christmas in Montreal. Though we have not had a major storm, we have had a fair amount of light snow that keeps falling. Today was our first sunny day in a while. A walk through Summit Park was delightful. Dogs are welcome there and I was one of few who was there without a dog. Many dogs were out cavorting in the snow. Some wore winter attire. This is one park where dogs are allowed to run free in the winter. They obviously enjoy the opportunity to run and play and make friends with other pooches.

Dressed for the Weather         Where's my Boot
Despite the sun the cold nipped at my hands as I took them out of my gloves to snap photos, but the cold air is also exhilarating. A walk on a sunny, cold winter day is a delight.

Shadows on Snow

And the days are getting longer...

Moon Rising


Moon Rising, originally uploaded by susanvg.
Last night I was driving home and saw the most incredible moon. It was hanging low in the sky, huge and golden. I got off the highway to chase the moon. By the time I found a good spot for a photo it was higher in the sky.

With just my point and shoot I tried to get a good photograph -no tripod. I should keep one in the car. This photo doesn't do it justice, but here is the moon, caught in the branches. The water in Lake St. Louis has not yet frozen, so the lights are reflecting on this bay.
Moon in the Branches

Slightly post-processed and cropped from another photo - lots of room for improvement.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Bush Wrapping


Bush Wrapping, originally uploaded by susanvg.
My friend, Jen, opened my eyes to the possibilities of wrapped bushes. Some Montrealers do this to protect them from the ravages of winter. When snow gets heavy it can break branches.

You have to use your imagination when looking at these new formations, This lot seems to be standing around - waiting for a bus? or just chatting (or is that chattering) about the weather. As winter progresses the shapes can change - sagging and stooping.

Here are a few more. What do they make you think of?

All Wrapped Up

My Darling Clementine


My Darling Clementine, originally uploaded by susanvg.
The aroma starts as I begin to peel these little orbs of flavour. Clementines combat winter in so many ways. Their bright colour and flavour act like sunshine - a mood enhancer bringing a smile. Packed with vitamin C they arm us with virus fighting tools. They disappear quickly in my house and quickly get added to the shopping list again.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Winter Takes Hold


Winter Takes Hold, originally uploaded by susanvg.
A cold damp wind blew off the river. The current is strong here. Ice forms and breaks, carried off down the river faster than I was walking. There is something bracing about walking in the cold, bundled up in boots, jacket, hat, scarf and warm gloves. You can dress against the cold, but not against heat. And the joy of coming in to a warm place and sharing a cup of tea with a friend feels all the better after a walk.

Slowly now, the days will get longer, giving more daylight time to enjoy the crisp winter days.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Early Morning Frost


Early Morning Frost, originally uploaded by susanvg.
I woke up to a world painted white. Frost covered the trees; lacy branches tangled like a tatted doily. It was hard to keep my eyes on my work as the sun started to play on the snow. Despite the cold, I threw open the windows to snap photos, always looking for the quintessential shot of winter. Sun, breezes repainted the landscape; by afternoon the frost and snow disappeared from the branches. But winter has taken hold and the ground stays covered. This afternoon's solstice heralds the official start of winter but here we greeted the wintry weather weeks ago.

Ice Carolers


Ice Carolers, originally uploaded by susanvg.
Every year Longueuil holds a Christmas market with stalls selling local wares from jewelry to food to fur hats. Flutissimo played a concert there (indoors but still chilly with the church door opening and closing frequently as people came and sat a while). Unfortunately I never get a chance to really peruse the stalls as I have all my instruments with me.

Coming out of the concert it was quite magical as night had fallen and all the lights from the stall and on the trees were twinkling. Some people were huddled around a bonfire, warming up after time spent shopping.
Christmas Fair

If you read French, you can find out more about the Marché de Noël.

Last year I took some daytime photos, see them here.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Winter Sky


Winter Sky, originally uploaded by susanvg.
Winter skies add colour to an otherwise colourless landscape. The ground is covered in white. Trees are reduced to dark silhouettes. The lack of leaves opens up the sky which shifts in hues as the sun begins to set. Eyes gaze up, catching the last of the light before the long dark night.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Oils and Vinegars


Oils and Vinegars, originally uploaded by susanvg.
This is one of my favourite shops in the Atwater Market, Les Douceurs du Marché. It is owned by two men, who are more than helpful when it comes to selecting items from their enormous selection. One wall is devoted to oils and vinegars. My spouse is partial to olive oil from Greece; here you can find some which specify which grove it is from, much like with wines.

Many Choices

Another wall has every kind of sauce and marinade you can imagine from every ethnic group. You can burn your gut with the hottest hot sauces, enjoy every flavour of salad dressing and sample sauces from around the world. Do you need specialty rice? special grains? any kind of tea? I can spend a long time just admiring the variety. And I do buy. Shopping here always comes with conversation, whether about the origins of what you buy or about politics. Shopping here is personal and browsing is encouraged. It's a must stop every time I come to the market.

Today's basket included some gifts, tea and wild rice.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Recycling Woes


Recycling Woes, originally uploaded by susanvg.
I don't like to complain. But.... the city delivered this massive recycling bin and won't pick up recycling from our old smaller containers. Where am I supposed to keep it? My garage is at the bottom of a fairly steep driveway - I actually park my car in front of the house to avoid this steep slippery slope. This was our first really snowy recycling day. I dragged the container up through the snow (it makes a fairly good snowplow) - my aerobic exercise! Then I brought the recycling boxes out from inside the house and emptied them into the bin. As hard as this is on snowy days, it is positively treacherous on icy days. I avoid walking up and down the driveway. I guess I'll be putting out recycling only when the weather is good.

Shivering


Shivering, originally uploaded by susanvg.
One of my neighbours has two of these lions in front of his house. They sit there in all weather but I am sure this fellow would rather be indoors. He looks like he is suffering in the cold weather. He can't even see who might be coming along.

In the summer his friend suffered from vandalism. Some youngsters thought it was a good idea to push it over. These lions are very heavy; my neighbour had to get a small crane to set it back on its pedestal. I don't understand what goes through people's minds when they commit these acts.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Brockville Station


Brockville Station, originally uploaded by susanvg.
I seem to be taking a lot of pictures out of windows lately as I travel from place to place - a quick snap out of the car window when stopped, a view through the house window (so as not to scare the critter being photographed) and through train windows. This photograph had to be touched up to get back its colours.

The train from Toronto to Montreal stopped at Brockville station. The train itself, split in two there, with half continuing on to Ottawa and half to Montreal. I had time to admire this mural through the window. Many years of events are depicted here. It's how I sometimes feel as I get older, seeing the layers of history in one scene. I drive through the city and remember buildings that are no longer there, walk past places from my youth and remember people and events that happened. It's nice to have that fourth dimension to see, for those are our stories.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Watching the Birds


Watching the Birds, originally uploaded by susanvg.
I was at a friend's to play music and she has a well used bird feeder. I delighted in watching the chickadees and others swoop down and fill up. Her bird feeder also attracts others - big, fat, black squirrels. It was fun to watch one in particular who climbed up a bush, the branch swaying like a hammock. He positioned himself so that he could reach over with his front paws, grab a snack, and then return completely to his branch. Each time he reached, his hind quarters went up as the weight on the branch decreased. Once his weight was back he bobbed up and down as he consumed his prize. It seemed to work for him until one back paw lost its grip. Then the acrobatics began as he maneuvered to get a better grip and finally got all four paws on the feeder. Every so often, my friend sends out the squirrel patrol - her very friendly dog, Schubert. The squirrel (at least temporarily) left the feeder to the birds. I wonder if he knew he had been the source of great amusement.

Toronto Buildings


Toronto Buildings, originally uploaded by susanvg.
I go to Toronto a few times a year and each time I am astounded by the number of tall buildings. Montreal is not a small city (over 3.5 million in the Greater Montreal area) but because of our "mountain" there is a limit on the height of buildings. Toronto seems to like to build high. Across from our hotel they are building a 50 story condominium. Not only is the height sky high, but the prices are too. Toronto is a business city. Montreal is a little more laid back.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Snowy Trees


Snowy Trees, originally uploaded by susanvg.
The holiday decorations I like the best are those that Mother Nature adds. The snow on the trees brightens up the city. The frost on the windows - a magical garden is revealed. The sun adds diamonds to the snowy landscape. November is dreary with its greyness. Once the snow appears there is a sparkle adding brightness to the city.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Snowy Night


Snowy Night, originally uploaded by susanvg.
Taken Dec 7 - our first big storm of the winter. It's funny how people forget how to drive in snow. This photograph was shot through my car window as I was stopped. Even driving, I only inched along as the traffic was jammed. The snowflakes were transformed into stars under the traffic lights. This reminds me a bit of van Gogh's starry night.

Some cars still do not have their snow tires and they skid and slip on the snow-covered roads. The snow continued all day today - up to 30 cm. But it is light fluffy snow - easy to shovel, though not when there is lots of it nor once the plows have come around and compacted it.

Winter is so lovely when you can be inside looking out, when someone else does the shovelling, when you can strap on a pair of snowshoes and just wander the woods. And the first storm always brings a magical feel as everything is transformed. Winter has settled in for now.

Mindboggling


Mindboggling, originally uploaded by susanvg.
Some of my virtual photo friends have been snowed in - here's a little indoor diversion. The rules of Big Boggle: Words are formed from adjoining letters. Letters must join in the proper sequence to spell a word. They may join horizontally, vertically, or diagonally, to the left, right, or up-and-down. No letter cube, however, may be used more than once within a single word.
In the official rules you are supposed to use a 3 minute timer. We bend the rules and play as long as we like making words in French as well as in English.
This board was particularly fruitful.
Here are a few words to start you off:
rages
canters
lice
toot
cats
drag
drags...
How many can you add?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Silent Night


Silent Night, originally uploaded by susanvg.
After I wonderful dinner out, we strolled onto Place Jacques Cartier. In summer this is a popular tourist spot, with the bustle of people, the hustle of buskers and a lively atmosphere. This evening it was quiet, with barely a soul, walking briskly in the chilly evening temperatures. The square is full of holiday lights, some of which can be seen here, reflected in the windows. Music wafted up from the skating rink at Bonsecours Basin. I like the serenity on a winter's eve.

Out of the Oven


Out of the Oven, originally uploaded by susanvg.
We had a family dinner on Saturday - not always easy to organize with people's busy lives and out of town work. It was so good to be together. And there is something about sharing a meal - taking time over food, sharing laughter and stories. I love the inter-generational chatter with guests ranging in age from their 20s to their 90s. And it is delightful now to have assistance with my son carving the turkey, my daughter and her friend making the gravy, my cousin bringing salad. Help was at hand ahead with all the preparations. No "Little Red Hen" syndrome here!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Louis Cyr


Louis Cyr, originally uploaded by susanvg.
Another quick shoot as I was passing by in my car. This is Louis Cyr, Montreal's famous strong man. This sculpture is by Robert Pelletier.

As I was driving I was listening to Q on CBC radio. William Gibson was on and he was asked if the Internet was dumbing us down. I loved his answer. First he said that we are the only creatures that have created prostheses for memory from writing on scrolls to handmade books to printing and on through the various media. The Internet is just the latest prosthesis. With facts on hand we can free our brains to think, to ask the questions we need answered, to think more deeply.

A colleague recently pointed me to Conrad Woolfram's TED Talk on computers and mathematics and how letting the computers do computations we could be free to do the thinking. We have to understand what computation needs to be done, but can give that part of the task over. In this way, students can be doing more mathematical thinking.

So the computer in both situations can make us stronger - doing the low level tasks and freeing our brains for the deeper work. In this odd way there is a connection between what I heard and what I saw. While Louis Cyr is a celebration of brawn; I like to think of the computer as a brain expander.

Early Morning


Early Morning, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Sometimes it pays to be out early. This shot was taken out the front window of my car as I was stopped at a red light. I was on my way to an early morning appointment.

It's one way to start the day with a smile on my face. How can a day go bad when it starts like this! Interesting that it started a day on which I ended an uncomfortable work situation and everyone felt OK about it. I feel like the sun is rising in my life. Making room for new adventures (one of which is a photography course starting at the end of January).

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

From the 1800s


From the 1800s, originally uploaded by susanvg.
Another concert - this time in the Chapelle Historique du Bon Pasteur, now a concert venue, once part of a complex that served as a convent. They were built over a few decades to house the "Sisters of the Cornmunauté de Notre-Dame du Bon-Pasteur d'Angers, who came from France in 1844"   If you want to know more, click here. The buildings have been put to new uses, including the concert hall in what was once the chapel. In this back section there are condos and a seniors' residence.

I love the solid feel of the old stone buildings. Across the street are newer condos which just don't have the same charm. Fortunately, the architects tried to make them fit into the surroundings in terms of size and proportions.

The concert - a delight. A visit with Mr. Bach by Ensemble Caprice. Just the thing to chase away the blues on a blustery grey day.

Reindeer


Reindeer, originally uploaded by susanvg.
These whimsical reindeer stand guard near the many evergreens for sale as Christmas trees. I like the way they are made of bits of wood - not finely crafted - just natural. Last year I featured a caroller fashioned in the same ilk.

The market has been transformed into its winter style. The only outdoor stalls are these tree sellers. A protective structure has enclosed some of the outdoor kiosks so they are now indoors. The market feels cosier - and the always friendly atmosphere prevails.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Cobblestones


Cobblestones, originally uploaded by susanvg.
I like the feeling of walking on history - to step where others from a different time have stepped. With our modern roads new asphalt covers over the old with history's footsteps obliterated. This cobblestone has been witness to a longer history, back in Montreal's past. As I waited to get in to a concert, I snapped this photograph. The car lights flooded the street, testimony to the layers of time in this place.

Yet even this street has only borne witness for a few hundred years. In travelling I have walked on roads much older and stepped where famous people of history have walked.

Here in Montreal, I walk in the footsteps of the people who settled here, leaving their homes an ocean away to live in what was sometimes a very hostile environment. I walk where the sailors have walked as they entered the church where the concert was held, offering prayers for safe journeys. I stroll where the merchants of Montreal walked on their way to Bonsecours Market. Each generation has left its imprint on the city and each generation has, at times, erased the past to make way for the future through demolition and new structures. It is nice to have a part of the city where we can still connect with the city's past.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Cheers


Cheers, originally uploaded by susanvg.
A nice dinner before a concert - life is good. The wine glass glowed from the light of the fake candle. The Bach Festival has started with a lovely rendering of St. John's Passion performed by Arion and Les Voix Baroques. And outside the city turned white with fresh fallen snow.
Snow Fell
Back to the boots, hats, scarves and mitts. But the air smelled fresh and the snow crunched under foot. Daylight seems brighter reflected off the snow and night-time sparkles. The first snows are festive as holidays approach. Snow in March feels wearisome.
Winter Lights

So cheers to all - to an easy winter, to wonderful music, to a festive December.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Cold Day Warm Soup


Cold Day Warm Soup, originally uploaded by susanvg.
Slippery sidewalks make for treacherous walking. So today I stayed home and cooked and caught up on paperwork - but the food was more photogenic than the stacks of paper I sorted through.

The house smells wonderful with cooking smells wafting up the stairs to my office. When I was small, my mother sometimes served me soup with a whole chicken leg in the bowl "chicken in the pot", but since this photo, I have stripped the meat from the bones. I love to have soups- freshly made or defrosted from the freezer. They make a wholesome meal and warm you up on cold winter days.

Paperwork, on the other hand, doesn't quite have that same warming effect. As soon as I sort through one stack, the postman brings more to the house. There is a never-ending supply. Sometimes I feel like I am a processing plant taking mail in, sorting it for various recipients in this house, then dealing with my own, with envelopes in recycling and the important pieces on the continuously growing piles. At least I made a good dent today.

Fairy Lights


Fairy Lights, originally uploaded by susanvg.
Not my best shot - I should have used a tripod, but I was passing these in my car. - yes I parked before taking this photo.
We are heading into the darkest part of the year, with the shortest day being less than a month away. Lights are appearing all over the city. They used to be "Christmas lights" which would appear in December and be gone some time in January. Now they seem to appear earlier and last most of the winter. I like the British term - fairy lights. It makes them appropriate for any season. In many countries, December is a time for festivals and holidays for which light - whether candles, oil lamps, stars... is a symbol of the holiday. It certainly brightens the season, making long dark nights sparkle.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Bus


Bus, originally uploaded by susanvg.
Montreal has a fairly good public transportation system, especially for those who live in the city core. But the car still rules. More highways are being built while the municipalities wrangle over where a commuter train should run. I do admit, I am guilty; I use my car for most outings. I am trying to walk more (this photo was taken when I walked from my home to do some errands) and to take the metro whenever I can to get where I want to go. In today's brisk 1°C plus winds, I was glad I did not have to stand waiting for a bus. And this is only the beginning of our cold season.

Daily Shoot: Illustrate the process or thought of traveling today, possibly by documenting your own travels.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Over the Top


Over the Top, originally uploaded by susanvg.
As I was walking today, I came upon this house. I have seen many houses decorated (too soon, I think) for Christmas, but this one is really over the top. This photo doesn't give the full effect. Some of these giant inflatable decorations are hidden by the ones in front. I am providing some other views so you can see just how excessive these are.
More over the top         Where is the house?
It becomes a case of "you can't see the trees for the forest" It's just one big jumble of stuff. Oh - just give me a few tasteful lights that chase the darkness away instead of all these commercially made apparitions!

Museum of Nature


Museum of Nature, originally uploaded by susanvg.
A trip to the Canadian Museum of Nature which was recently renovated. This new glass addition shines in the light, quite a contrast to the stone exterior. It appears, almost as an illusion - there but not quite there. You can learn more about it here. I discovered that there was originally a tower built but it had to be dismantled in the early 1900s as the soil underneath could not support the weight. I'm not sure how I feel about this addition. It certainly makes moving between sections of the museum easier.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Iron Gate


Iron Gate, originally uploaded by susanvg.
I passed this iron gate on my way to a concert. I love wrought iron. I once spent considerable time at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London just admiring the many uses and artifacts of wrought iron. Now so many fences are just utilitarian steel. They keep people out, but do not have visual appeal. This gate is in front of an art gallery which itself is in an old building in Old Montreal. This part of the city has cobblestone streets (much nicer to look at than to walk or drive on) and the oldest buildings in the city. Like many other cities, Montreal had its share of fires, so the buildings do date from a variety of eras. It is nice to see this gate enhance the building while providing security.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Belle Danse


Belle Danse, originally uploaded by susanvg.
A week full of concerts - what a delight. Tuesday's concert was presented by Ensemble Masques. They were joined by Les Jardins Choréographiques, a baroque dance group. It was an incredible evening of music from the time of Louis XIV, whose court was the venue of many grand spectacles incorporating music, dance, theatre and costume. In many ways it was where ballet started as dance masters were numerous and for the first time they notated the dance movements and gestures.

The dancers were delightful, costumes were sumptuous and the music was lovely. Altogether - a feast!

Coloured Bush


Coloured Bush, originally uploaded by susanvg.
More and more trees stand bare but autumn is still adding some colour to the landscape. This garden reminded me of an impressionist painting. Funny to think of reality imitating art rather than the other way around. There were so many shades of reds and golds on the bush, it was like small brush strokes of many different colours.

Wispy Grasses

But colour is disappearing. These grasses have lost their vibrant greens and now, faded and bleached, they wave in the breeze.