How to take really cute photos of a dog

Step 1: Start with a really cute dog. (This isn’t rocket science after all)

Step 2: Add a neutral to nice background. (Hint: check weather forecasts)

Step 3: Get the dog to do really cute stuff. (Helps if the dog will actual do what his/her pets (humans) say)

Step 4: Have impeccable timing. (This step is all on you.)

Really, I’m not actually kidding about step 1, 2 and 4.  Step 3 is optional depending on how cute the dog is.  My friend’s dog is really cute (see evidence below).

Adorable just standing there

Adorable just standing there

Adorable even when sitting

Adorable even when sitting

So, Step 1 is covered.  We chose a nice off leash park and this was our 3rd attempt at the weather. It was the tail end of winter, so lots of browns and greys – pretty neutral. But even then, it can work against you:

Watch out for the Tree!

Watch out for the Tree!

At first glance, Chubby looks great – wonderful shot in mid lunge. But there’s the tree. So, Step 2 was partially covered.

However, Chubby was aces at Step 3:

Shake, Chubby, Shake!

Shake, Chubby, Shake!

There was a reason we chose to do this photo shoot BEFORE Chubby got his hair trimmed.

However, I didn’t forget Step 4. You can get some great action shots if you are in the right place, at the right time, and the dog listens to his owner.

Action Shot

Action Shot

And, the piece de resistance:

Bet I can make you smile!

Bet I can make you smile!

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From my journal: What the beginner yoga teacher was really thinking

Yoga classes are many things to different people. Some people come to sweat without the annoying “and one more!” of an aerobics trainer in their ear. Others love the balance and harmony that yoga brings to their spirit.  For some, it’s a break from their hectic modern, plugged in lives.  For the novice teacher? It’s 60 minutes of frantic mental gymnastics and acting cool.

I’ve done a lot (a lot!) of presentations before so I wasn’t really that nervous when I offerred to fill in for my injured yoga teacher one day. Plus, she was going to be in the room, so if anything went really off the rails, I knew she’d bail me out.

This was the first time I would be teaching a) a group of yogis who actually knew what they were doing and b) for a whole 60 minutes. Let me walk you through the sweat-dripping experience (and it wasn’t hot yoga).

I had a routine lined up and had just finished week 4 of the 200 level training so we had been running through poses and sequences ad nauseum to date. I remembered to tell the students they would need a strap and a couple of blocks (normal yoga props for all you non-yogis out there!) – all good so far.

First 5 minutes: put them in savasana and start their meditation. Crap! forgot MY strap and block – quietly run out of the room and grab some for me…DON’T drop the block…sit back down and make sure everyone is still breathing..Damn! I’m not wearing a watch and the teacher’s ipod is blocking the clock…quietly get MY iphone out of my bag and place unobstrusively behind a block.

Next 15 minutes: run through my kneeling sequence with them, remembering to look around and make sure everyone is ok.  WHY do they keep looking at me??? The downside of the kneeling portion of the class is that they are all facing you with these lovely looks of expectation and there is no where else to look except BACK AT THEM.  Which is why I forgot one of the poses and then I forgot what it was called.  Oh that’s why they are looking at me, I can just DO the pose and they will follow. On the other hand, when you aren’t facing your students and you hear a big THUD, be careful how you twist your own head to take a look (ow!).

Next 20 minutes: Teachers, the biggest clue that you are not cue-ing the moves right is when people start to fall down. I’m not saying you are doing anything wrong, but generally, there’s something you can do better at that point. So, when one of the yogis sort of fell over and had to put her hand on the wall, that should have told me to slow down or maybe go and stand in front of everyone rather than making them turn their heads to see me!!  Ah well, noone was hurt; lesson learned.

At this point, for all you math whizzes, I should be just past the halfway point in the class. So, as I look at my iPhone and see that I’m only 25 minutes into the class, my heart starts pounding faster (OMG, what am I going to do with them for an extra 15 minutes) and my mind starts to go into overdrive (longersavansanaattheendandmaybethrowinsomeomsandmaybesomethingelse??)

If you recall, my teacher was in the class and while everyone was resting in child’s pose, I look over at her and she gives me the big thumbs up!!!!  and I give her the face of panic!!!

All bets are off now, I pull out every single routine I can think of in the standing section and hold every pose extra and make them do every pose 3 times. I also notice that the class continues to face you in the standing section so you don’t have the chance to surreptitiously try the routine before you teach it!!! grrrrr (lesson learned – throw in a bunch of stuff where they are looking up or back or to the side)

By about 10 minutes to the end, I haven’t lost anyone, I haven’t made too many verbal flubs but I still have 10 minutes to fill.  I’m wishing I knew my arm balances better because those take a ton of time to do. Alright, so we’ll do a longer than usual meditation.  The class is great, they do all the breathing exercises and I keep checking my iphone’s clock just in case – time runs differently for the teacher than the class.  But when the students go really really still and quiet, I start to wonder if they have fallen asleep. I start to be afraid that the next sound I hear is gentle snoring. Then I start to panic that they are all totally bored and can’t wait to get out of there!  Quick! wake them up! make them do “om”s…..


My favourite photos from Spirit Bear Lodge – part 1

This post is going to be about the bears because when you call yourself Spirit BEAR Lodge, you pretty much make the point that the bears are the highlight. There are grizzly bears, black bears and the spirit bear. On the trip I took, we mostly saw grizzlies and we, unfortunately, missed the spirit bear 😦  I can’t say I was disappointed with what we did see though! People tell me that if I want to see bears, just come out to the town dump and see the poor bears that have been hooked on junk food just like us.  I say that seeing bears in their own habitat on their own terms is as different to the “town” bear as astro turf is to a meadow.  The fake stuff will do and is less expensive, but you know it ain’t real.

Black bear mother

Black bear mother

Young juvenile grizz - pretty thin, but eating

Young juvenile grizz – pretty thin, but eating

Approximately 5 year old Grizzly looking for salmon on the shore

Approximately 5 year old Grizzly looking for salmon on the shore

Very large male a very long way away

Very large male a very long way away

Sunning bear not sun bear

Sunning bear not sun bear

Is that a salmon I see?

Is that a salmon I see?

dum, de, dum, de, dum

dum, de, dum, de, dum

Salmon!

Salmon!


Letters to strangers – the timid shopper

It was refreshing to see someone politely ask someone else to move a bit so they could reach something on the shelf.  Really, common courtesy is not common anymore, so good for you for not bashing your way into the checkout line to reach that 1 chocolate bar that you wanted!  I would suggest however, that when you ask someone to excuse you and move out of the way, it might be more effective if you did so louder than a whisper. And then, when that person either doesn’t move because he’s a rude boor or just didn’t hear you, it is perfectly acceptable to ask again, just a tiny bit louder so that you are, oh, I don’t know, audible. Then, may I suggest that if he did shift out of the way, even if it isn’t too far, if you have line of sight to that candy bar, go for it.  Just because it means that you will be putting your face near his butt is not a reason to hesitate since you have already skipped the entire check out line that will go right past this shelf anyway and left your basket in the middle of the floor. And I’d like to give a shout out to the shopper behind the guy who is “blocking” your path to the candy bar who reached down and picked up the candy bar for you, turned around, asked how many you wanted and went back to get the 2 others and handed them to you.  She was far more compassionate than most of us who were just wondering whether you were scared to reach in and grab it or if your tight skirt prevented you from bending down that far.

 

 


Spirit Bear Lodge – An overview, a teaser and what you need to know

I shared my photos with a number of friends (partially cuz I like to share, partially to reassure them that I don’t just work and ride my horse and that’s it) and the most common question I got back was “where was this?”.  Us poor Canadians really don’t know what’s in our backyard. So, first, it is here www.spiritbear.com and second, that is located here.  And the second most common question was about how I did this. I like to call it a Canadian safari.  You go to some place that you wouldn’t normally go to, people organize you into groups, they take you out to see wild animals and scenary, make sure you stay safe and are well-fed and you take photographs.  Of course, that description takes all the romance and adventure out of it.  An alternate description would be: you embark on a journey on little planes and boats to access a remote corner of the world that only a David Suzuki or a Richard Attenborough have gone before, put your life into the hands of experienced and well-trained guides, trek out into wild habitats to see large, potentially dangerous animals on their home turf, endure sometimes harsh conditions to get that perfect shot to bring home to show your friends. And, depending on your previous life experiences, it could be either the former or latter!

As you can see from my other posts on this subject here and here, what you see and the photos you get are truly magnificent.  Here’s another one for your teaser:

 

umpf! Got one!

umpf! Got one!

 

What You Need To Know:

The staff at the lodge are great. They know your name. They are friendly and professional and personable. They are also sneaky when planning a birthday surprise.

The food is very good, indeed! You don’t have a lot of choices – this is one place Starbucks has NOT found (although they do have locally roasted coffee up there), but the chef does not give you any cause for complaints. Plenty of food at all meals and I dare you to find a meal where you can’t find something you like. Breakfast is both continental and hot, cooked food. (mmm, bacon!) Lunch is a plethora of sandwiches (apparently the egg salad goes fast), snacks, fruit, veges, juices, pop and water. And Dinner always has a fish and meat option with plenty of sides a vege main. No choice in desserts but I’m not complaining at the carrot cake, strawberry shortcake, etc, etc.

The guides and boat captains are all extremely competent, friendly, professional and approachable. It must be tough to be all of that, all the time and watch out for wildlife at the same time – so hats off to them. Those that are First Nations are very willing to answer your questions and share stories with you.

Photo gear – see separate post coming up 🙂

Gear – their packing list has been well thought out and you won’t go wrong to follow it. The only alteration I’d make is that if you have your own waterproof boots that you are comfortable walking in on uneven, rocky shorelines, bring your own. There was only a couple of places that I preferred the lodge’s rubber boots over my own gear (if I had brought it!).  One strong suggestion if you have any type of walking issues (stability and balance) is to bring a walking stick.  Even one is helpful in a couple of areas we went.

Misc – you are on the boats a lot. If you are at all prone to seasicknesses, bring your own stuff for that. I was lucky and had perfectly calm seas the entire time I was there.

Lastly, I will say that they take care of you once you are there, so once you’ve packed and started your trip, don’t worry about anything else!


Letters to strangers – the absent cashier

Hi there, it’s me. One of dozens of people you cashed out today. I know your job isn’t particularly stimulating. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if you stood there longing for an irate customer with inventive language to just give you something different to do. I see you’ve even prepared your entire cash station with plastic bags just begging for someone to come and ask for one. Which is why it puzzled me when you made no move to use those bags until I asked.  You didn’t even reach for my purchases in the carry basket until I made it clear I really wanted to pay for them. And even then, you limited yourself to a total of 1 word in the entire transaction and that was “swipe” – thank goodness I knew you were referring to my credit card. Although then I was puzzled again when you didn’t ask me to sign the bill since it was a swiped, non-chip card. But that’s ok. I get it. You probably had laryngitis from being uber-friendly to all the customers who came before me. Catch you next time…:)


Was I ready for the Spirit Bear Lodge?

Those of you who know me personally…..which constitute the majority of my readers here….know that I obsessed about this trip I took (www.spiritbear.com) in this post. So much so, I had writer’s block here just before it started. So, was I ready for it?  Yes and no. The practical details of it I was ready for. I’m pretty agile, little boats don’t bother me (much), uneven ground is ok, and I still bounce (a little) when I fall. So most of the physical part of it was a snap; except for my camera equipment. I know perfectly well what possessed me to buy a camera (plus lens) that weighs more than more laptops these days, but I never realised that I needed to train so that I could carry it – even short distances!  or that my arm would start to ache after 2 days of lifting that thing (I highly recommend a tripod).

But my biggest complaint (other than that the bears didn’t get my memo that I would be there between 1000 am and 2 pm for their photo shoot every day), was that the beauty and grandeur of the last and largest temperate rainforest on the planet would give me a sinking feeling when I came back to the city and my life and job. Not once were there disclaimers about “this vacation may cause all forms of TV/internet entertainment to look dull and flat” or “your vision may be impaired when viewing all other, formerly majestic scenery” or even “may cause productivity to go down as you spend your time daydreaming about your vacation”!

The main attraction of Spirit Bear Lodge is, of course the white spirit bear with other bears coming a close second (blacks and grizzlies). But I was delighted by Stellar sea lions (the largest of the eared seal family), astonished by the lion’s mane jellyfish (the largest jellyfish in the world), over the moon about seeing humpback whales (not the largest whale) and completely chuffed to snap photos of bald eagles and ravens.

Was I ready for this trip?  No.  Would I do it again? Yes, in a heartbeat.

More photos coming soon….

Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary

Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary

Korich Bay

Korich Bay

Carter Bay

Carter Bay


Spirit Bear Lodge – the last photo

I recently posted a blog that had me wondering if I was physically up for this trip (more details of the trip to come – stay tuned!).  But for this shot, I would have crawled through the forest, sedge and dead salmon. As it turned out, this was my last shot before I got on the boat to take me home.

"Friendly Bear" at 12 feet away. Young, 5 year old sub-adult Grizzly. Approximately a ton or so. Seeking salmon, dead or alive.

“Friendly Bear” at 12 feet away.
Young, 5 year old sub-adult Grizzly. Approximately a ton or so. Seeking salmon, dead or alive.

 


The Sense of Places

People used to say that cities had a vibe or feel. New York was one of those that everyone said feels different from anywhere else. London, Paris and Rome – all iconic world cities that were supposed to have their own character and feel. But to me, it’s not a “feel”, but a smell. When I get off a plane in Beijing, as soon as I smell the air in the airport, I know I’m in Beijing (very similar smell to Hong Kong, but more “mainland”). Its a certain something in the air that you never sense anywhere else. I associate it with a mix of Chinese spices and preserved food (like those mushrooms!) and humanity.

I recently was in Vancouver, the city I grew up in, and of course, I always associate it with the mountains and water, but as I was walking around the city and what I really remember is the musty smell in the air mixed with the fresh sea air. It’s a combination of the slight tang in the air with the damp that is captured and held in the wood of the buildings and the vegetation.

I used to think that I just didn’t “get” the vibe, but for me, it’s the smell.


Letters to Strangers: the impatient bus driver

Dear Mr. Bus Driver, why didn’t you wait for us? We were right at your door after having run for half a block and had time to take a breath or two before you drove off. In fact if there hadn’t been a curb, you would have run over our feet as you pulled away. Perhaps there is an operational rule entitled “when you can wait for passengers and when you can’t?”  Perhaps you had to hurry to meet your replacement driver as you were going off shift?  or maybe you had just had enough of people running to jump on your bus.

I do know that there was another bus coming up not far behind you, but my aunt was running for you so I couldn’t just leave her, could I?  Plus I had no idea where I was going so I kinda had to keep up with her.

Anyway, I hope to catch you again,

Joy