Friday, July 30, 2010

On the South Nahanni River

~ Photo Series ~ Nahannni – River of Quest and Legend ~

Killing time - I often think of the expression and how swiftly time passes in the out-of-doors, where there is never a moment without something new; dawns and sunrises with mists moving out of the bays.  The sifting of clouds, the way light plays with water and trees, the sound of bird calls.  This sight of flowers, the movement of animals, the magic of dusk and the last slanting rays of color.

Sigurd Olson


This is probably day four or day five.  Who really knows for sure?  Out on the river, you need to be prepared for clouds and rain, sunny and warm, and chilly misty mornings.  And you will lose track of time.

The first few days, while you're adjusting to your new reality, you may wonder "ten more days to go!  How will I make it?"   But then, after a few more days, you wonder "only five days to go.  I really need another week here."

You will, of course, encounter unexpected surprises along the way, too.  Like this rainbow.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

View from the Tufa Mounds.

~ Photo Series ~ Nahannni – River of Quest and Legend ~

View from the Tufa Mounds, looking toward the Ragged Range.

Rabbitkettle Hotsprings and Tufa Mounds
At Rabbitkettle, and other hot springs in the park, water bubbles to the surface from deep beneath the earth, warmed by the same volcanic energy that induced the formation of the Ragged Range. The Rabbitkettle tufa mound is the largest in Canada and a key point of interest in Nahanni. Tufa mounds are created by the precipitation of dissolved minerals, primarily calcium carbonate, from thermal spring water. In Nahanni, this water retains a temperature of 20 degrees C year-round. As the warm mineral water pours from the spring, it radiates outwards over the surface of the tufa mound. Calcium carbonate precipitates out of the spring water and hardens to form tufa. As the calcium carbonate hardens, it forms series of intricate terraces and basins known as rimstone dams and gours. The North Mound, believed to be 10 000 years old, is 30 m high and 60 m in width. The tufa mounds are very fragile and are accessible only through guided hikes with park staff.

Parks Canada - Nahanni National Park Reserve

Monday, July 26, 2010

Little Doctor Lake, NWT, Canada


~ Photo Series ~ Nahannni – River of Quest and Legend ~

Solitude is a silent storm that breaks down
all our dead branches;
yet it sends our living roots deeper into
the living heart of the living earth.
Man struggles to find life outside himself.
Unaware that the life he is seeking is within him.
Nature reaches out to us with welcome arms,
and bids us enjoy her beauty; but we dread her
silence and rush into the crowded cities, there
to huddle like sheep fleeing from the ferocious wolf.

~ Kahlil Gibran

Solitude is pretty much a given on this trip.  Permits to travel the river at the time was 1500 people a year, most in the summer months, of course.  The year I traveled the river, only around 800 permits were actually applied for.  Most are for groups run by outfitters.  These trips are spaced out so you are not likely to encounter any other large group on the river.  Some permits, however, are granted to individuals and small groups traveling the river on their own.  You may encounter some of these people.

The view through the window of the airplane.  Being in a two engine propeller plane, we were flying a lot lower than a jet would, and therefore had a much better view of all passing beneath us.

Friday, July 23, 2010

First Canyon View

~ Photo Series ~ Nahannni - River of Quest and Legend ~
Downstream on the South Nahanni River, there are four spectacular canyons, starting with the Fourth Canyon. The Fourth Canyon has been formed just after Virginia Falls. The Third Canyon has been formed cutting the mountains of the Funeral Range. At the Gate of Third Canyon, the river takes a dramatic turn. The Second Canyon passes through the mountain of the Headless Range, which finally leads to the First Canyon through Deadmen Valley. The depth of the First Canyon is the highest in the park and it has created the most stunning landscape of the park.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Emerald Lake, NWT Canada

Emerald Lake, Nahanni National Park, NWT, Canada

~ Photo Series ~ Nahannni - River of Quest and Legend ~

The river courses through a spectacular reach of canyon walls -- and an equally towering scale of legend. Every paddler who has moved into the Nahanni's vast and exalted solitude has felt the river's enduring claim on his or her soul: a sense that this river is not just a rushing of whitewater through a channel of rock, but the very expression, in rock and river foam, of an ancient and abiding quest.

Legend has hewn that quest in the form of gold. The story is so often told it feels like ancient echoes trapped between these canyon walls: of two prospectors very early in the (20th) century who are said to have explored the upper reaches of the Nahanni and -- some believe to this day -- discovered an incredible lode of gold, then took all the gold they could carry and haul, down the "Dark River of Fear" until it led them to "the Valley of Vanishing Men" -- the site where they were later found, headless, a site known to this day as Deadmens Valley. Join us on this unparalleled adventure -- what filmmaker and veteran canoeist Bill Mason described in his journal in 1985 as "Still the greatest canoe trip in the world -- the Nahanni."

~ Black Feather Wilderness Adventures brochure, circa 1995. ~

Monday, July 19, 2010

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Knight's House Gargoyles

Close-up details of the building seen here…

Knight's House on Flickr

One of Kyiv’s most architecturally unique buildings is empty and decaying and likely to stay that way. The “Knight’s House” at Yaroslaviv Val 1, a phantasmagoria of mediaeval motifs including a castle tower and gargoyles – has been vacant for almost 10 years since its former communal apartments were dissolved and the building privatized.

“This is a gem of Kyiv’s architecture,” explains art historian and conservationist Natalia Musiyenko. “It was originally a luxury apartment block with splendid interiors, built at the end of the 19th century by Nikolai Dobachevsky, but it is suffering from criminal neglect.”

Read more: Kyiv Post

Sadly, there's little incentive for owners to fix up these historic properties. Since there is no property tax in Kiev, once someone owns a building, there is no additional cost to letting it sit vacant. Fixing historic buildings is costly; letting it fall down and selling the property to developers is profitable.

And there's probably a lot less bureaucracy to deal with when building on vacant land too.

Ahh, greed and bureaucracy. They rear their ugly heads again...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Soviet Era Streetcar

As streetcars in Kiev go, this may be a more recent vintage. I've seen some that look much older than this one. But my understanding is that all streetcars in Kiev date from before the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. And since a good part of the 1980's were an era of fiscal decline in the USSR, many may date from earlier than 1991.


One of my Flickr contacts, OLLENA has informed me that this is streetcar was definitely made sometime in the 1960's. Thanks, OLLENA.

Another contact, vostok71, believes these are Czech made streetcars from the 1980's Thanks vostok71.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Independence Square Kiev (HDR)

Ah yes, Independence Square, Kiev. A central focal point of the 2004 Orange Revolution that bought Viktor Yushchenko to power. Well, good old Viktor Y has come and gone, to be replaced by another Viktor Y, Viktor Yanukovich.

Wait! Is this the same Viktor Yanukovich who won…er…lost the 2004 election? Why yes, yes it is. Much was expected from the first Viktor Y, but little came of it. He was often viewed certainly as more democratic than most politicians in this part of the world, but a great deal less effective, which led to less popular, which led to the lowest approval rating any major politician has ever garnered, a measly 2.7% approval. People voted out democratic and ineffective, opting instead for authoritarian and, it is hoped, more effective. Wait! What happened to democratic AND effective? Oh. That wasn't a choice? Oh well.

Photo taken May 2, 2010, during the extended Labor Day (May Day) holiday. I caught this shortly before the square got real busy!

Processing Notes:

This photo is a HDR created from one original photo. This is the original photo.
Independence Square before

I created two duplicates of this photo in Lightroom, setting one photo at the original exposure, one at -1 stop, and one at +2 stops. Why +2? Intuition. It just seemed right.
Created the HDR using Photomatix. I played with the settings a bit, but in the end used the settings that Photomatix had selected.

In the original photo (above), you can see that the buildings on the left and the right are tilting slightly inwards. Corrected this using the lens correction feature (Filter > Distort > Lens Correction) in Photoshop. Setting, -10 Vertical Perspective.

Since this left empty space on the right, the left, and the bottom, used the Photoshop crop tool to return the photo to a rectangular format.

From within Photoshop, I used Topaz Adjust (sold separately) (Filter > Topaz Adjust 4 > Recovery - Highlight preset) to add what I felt to be a more pleasing effect. Then, back in Photoshop, I did a fade on the Topaz effect (Edit > Fade Topaz Adjust 4). Moved the slider from 100% to 40%.

That's all Folks!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Church, Poshtova Square

The Poshtova Square (Ukrainian: Поштова площа, translit.: Poshtova Ploscha, literally: Postal Square) in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, is one of the oldest historic squares of the city.

Archeological finds are dated back to the 4th century A.D.

A crossing of several historic streets such as Volodymyrsky Descent, Borychiv Descent and Sahaydachny Street, the square is located at the Dnieper riverfront right next to the Kiev River Port.

The square is served by the metro (the Poshtova Ploshcha station), the funicular, trams, and buses.

The square received its name from Podil post station that was opened there in 1846. The square was also known under an alternative name as Rizdvo (Christmas) Square, derived from Rizdvo Church built in 1810-1814 and destroyed in 1930s. The square underwent a significant reconstruction in 1970s when the Kurenivsko-Chervonoarmiyska Metro Line was in construction and only the post station was saved. Currently, the post station is used as a small art gallery.

Poshtova Square

Processing Notes:

Photo taken with Sigma 10-20 mm lens, setting 14mm. As often happens with this lens, unless the camera is horizontal, or nearly so, buildings will often have the "falling backwards" look. But you often have to point the camera up, ever so slightly, to capture the whole building.

Fixing the "Falling Backwards" look. Plus other processing adjustments...

1) Go to the lens correction function of Photoshop * Filter > Distort > Lens Correction. Set Vertical Perspective to -27. OK.

2) Use Photoshop Crop tool to make the photo square again.

3) The Lens Correction tool will often distort the original ratios in the photo. With a -27 Vertical Perspective, the top of the building will look too big vertically, and the bottom will look too small. Use Free Transform * Edit > Free Transform. Pulled the center point on the bottom of the photo down to lengthen the bottom dimensions of the building.

4) Used Topaz Adjust (not included with Photoshop), Filter > Topaz Labs > Topaz Adjust. Used the "Enhance Contrast" Preset, then boosted Brightness to 0.8.

5) Save back into Lightroom.

6) Used the Crop tool in Lightroom to make the aspect ratio of the corrected photo as close to the aspect ratio of the original as possible.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Kiev Opera House

The Kiev Opera group was formally established in the summer of 1867, and is the third oldest in Ukraine, after Odessa Opera and Lviv Opera. Today, the Kiev Opera Company performs at the National Opera House of Ukraine named after Taras Shevchenko in Kiev.

Kiev Opera House (from Wikipedia)

Kiev Opera House

Friday, July 2, 2010

View from Rodina Mat.

Up until a few weeks ago, the picture would not have been possible, short of renting a small plane or helicopter. And even then, you'd likely not have gotten permission to fly in this area.

I knew from some of my earliest days in Kiev, that Rodina Mat, the "Motherland Statue" had at one time allowed visitors to go up into the statue. (My wife, a lifelong Kiev resident, in contrast, was not aware that the statue was ever open to the public).

Link to Rodina Mat picture at Flickr. The observation area is where the base and the statue come together.

A few weeks ago, an observation area opened for the first time in many years. Yet, you're not likely to see a big rush to visit, since few people even know about it, and because the admission fee, per person, is 50 hriven, about $6.25. Which is a bit of an expense in a country where the average salary is about $8,000 USD a year.

You must be escorted by a staff member. First, you walk up to the third floor of the museum complex. At this time, you are matched up with a staff member. They even assigned my wife and I a bilingual guide, seeing that I am not too fluent in the local languages.

You are escorted to the elevator, a typical Soviet era one similar to what you would find in most Soviet era residential buildings. Maximum number of passengers is four, or maybe five. (No children under 14 allowed). It's certainly not a heavy duty commercial strength elevator by any means. Although there are six stops listed on the control panel, your guide takes you to the third level. From here you climb up a series of steps, some fairly steep, to get to the first observation area 36m (120 ft or so) up. Your money gets you 15 minutes to view, take pictures, and ask questions of your guide. I'll have more pictures from up here in the upcoming days.

In the left foreground, you'll see some Soviet era military hardware. The large tower is the Great Lavra Belltower, and the other gold domed buildings are all part of the Kiev Perchersk Lavra complex.

In the future, there are plans to allow visitors to go all the way up to level six, which will allow visitors to view from the shield. No mention of when that might be...