Sunday, January 30, 2011


Our city is holding a multi-event festival called Winterlight.  Tonight, my older daughter and I took in their Illuminations show in Churchill Square.  Going over the itinerary, we decided we wanted to take in the Illuminations Choir, stop at a nearby Second Cup for some hot chocolate, then head back out to take in the choir again, and Circus Orange.

We didn't actually have very high expectations for the circus and figured we'd catch a bit of it, then head home.  It was, after all, -20C.

The choir performance was really excellent.  They did two songs, but the second song lasted some 8-10 minutes!  The first song was a powerful demonstration of gorgeous vocals.  The second was fascinating - if somewhat strange. *L*  It actually drove away some of the people listening.  Especially when the sopranos started up and the feedback from the microphones kicked in!  We liked it, though.

There were also three pairs of actors, all in white, including their faces and hair.  They wandered around, with slow, deliberate, motions, while abstract music played on the sound system.  They'd pause to interact with each other, the other couples, and festival goers, all while staying in character, with their dramatic movements and poses.

I'm glad we went for the hot chocolate as quickly as we did, as we actually got seats!  It wasn't long before it was standing room only with people trying to warm up.  Back at the square, people were tightly packed around several fires.  Two of them were inside barrel sculptures.  Two other barrel fires were in special frames with rings around the top that allowed people to come close, but not close enough to burn themselves.  A fifth fire was in a huge, shallow bowl with an inner ring to hold the fire.  The person responsible for adding more wood would actually climb into the outer area of the bowl to feed the flames. I was never able to get close enough to any of these to get good photos, the crowds gathered around them were so tight.  It was COLD! *L*

When it came time for the final performance, the choir gathered again at one end of the square.  My daughter and I managed to be right in front.  They sang one song, then when they broke up, they each took one of the luminaries on poles behind them, then walked off into the crowd.  Turning around, we saw one of the glowing boxes among the trees now had a person on it, dressed in white.  She did a bit of a performance, and there were people dressed in red holding flaming torches and others dressed in black, many with round lights on their torsos (some of them were more to keep the grounds back from the performers).  One of the characters in black was one of the vocal performers.  After a while I realized he was "talking" to someone behind me.  Turning, I saw a clown at the staging area behind where the choir had been.  Things went back and forth for a while, then the black and red clad performers had a bit of a procession through the crowd to a spot off to the side of the staging area - where another staging area was set up.  There was this huge tricycle thing.  Unfortunately, I couldn't see very well, being rather short and somehow managing to have someone tall stick their head in front of me every time!  I had brought my old S3 with me so I could take both stills and video shots and spent most of the time holding it up over my head, hoping I was getting things into the frame.

I ended up seeing more by looking at the pictures and video later on than while I was there!  What I could see, however, was pretty amazing.

At first, there was some entertainment around the tricycle and they worked to get it started.  When it did, it was with flames belching out of a tall chimney and other pyrotechnics.  That was interesting enough, but then the dang thing actually started to move!  Music started up and the tricycle made its way down a section of street that was closed off for the festival, the crowd following along.  At the other end was another staging area where it stopped for a performance.  There was lots of enthusiastic audience participation involved.  Lots of flames and stuff, too.  Then the tricycle started moving again to another staging area.  More flames, though at this point I couldn't see what was going on.  Eventually I could see that some sort of wire frame was set on fire and I went around to get a better view (at this point, my daughter and I got completely separated in the crowd).  From this other vantage point, the clown (who was driving the tricycle) began to make motions, pointing behind the crowd.  Sure enough, there was something else going on!

For this part, I was able to get right in front, where a pair of "snow demons" performed with legs and arms on stilts.  There was another performance as the clown "tamed" the snow monsters, then led them back to the tricycle.  The whole procession moved to yet another staging area and another show, adding another character to the procession.  A performer in white was hooked up to a crane and did an aerial performance, too.

By this time, my camera batteries were getting so cold, I was getting the low battery indicator.  I started tucking it away under my coat to warm them up.  Unfortunately, in taking it in and out, I must have accidentally turned the settings wheel.  I couldn't see what had happened until later on, but the accidental shift had my exposures at 1 second, so I got a lot of crappy shots.

I also got this one.


For an accident, this turned out to be a really great photo!  This is the character the joined the procession from the last performance before the grand finale.

The whole group moved yet again (with a pause as the tricycle "broke down" and after a while, audience members were enlisted to grab a rope and pull it along to help get it going).  Back we went to the main staging area.  At this point, I could only get a few shots or a few seconds of video in before I had to tuck the camera back into my armpit to warm up!  A few times I'd start to take video, only to have the camera automatically shut itself off due to low battery.  I still managed to get a few shots and clips, though.

The grand finale was really something!  The front wheel of the tricycle came off and it, with a woman inside it, was rolled forward and hooked up to a crane.  While others performed on the stage with flames and sparklers (I couldn't really see them due to the crowd), the wheel was raised high above the crowd.  As the woman inside it performed and got it turning, it suddenly began shooting sparklers.  After they burned out, there was a bit of a pause, then the whole thing seemed to explode with pyrotechnics spinning around, while more fireworks were shot off from behind, illuminating the pyramid-shaped City Hall behind them as well as the performer above the crowd.

It was a spectacular performance!  I mentioned we didn't have very high expectations to start with, but the reality more than blew those expectations away.  We spend an hour and a half in -20C cold, and it was worth every second!  We were both so glad to have made the effort to go.

If you want to see a few more photos that I took, as well as some video, I have them at my flickr account for viewing

They don't do the show justice at all.  If you ever get the chance to see Circus Orange, I highly recommend them!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Eddie channels his inner dazzle...

This morning, I set myself down at the computer, and suddenly THIS appeared over my monitor.

Eddy channels his inner dazzle...

What a way to start the day!

Eddy channels his inner dazzle...

I thought the zombie arms were particularly appropriate.

My apologies to the Twihards out there.  We're not fans.  At all.  However, my younger daughter has been seeking more realistic dolls, preferably with articulated limbs.  They're hard enough to find among female dolls.  Male dolls that aren't deformed looking are much harder to find.  This is one of the better ones. 

Even with the sparkly, sparkly chest.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Originally uploaded by amkb

This is Boris.

When we first got our tank with a few Danios, I wanted a pleco. I didn't know what they were actually called. I just like the "sucker fish," as I called them. We got two of them. Wee little things, not quite two inches long. They were different enough to tell them apart, so we named them. Boris and Allister.

Then Boris ate Alistair.

Little by little, he ate our snails, too, though that took quite a bit more effort on his part.

He's now 10 inches long.

Did you know plecos blink?

Did you know they can get this big?

(photo taken by my daughter)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Birds are Back

After a long hiatus, the waxwings came back with a vengeance!  The Mountain Ash outside my daughter's 3rd floor window has been decimated of berries.

The first few shots I took were with the 18-55mm lens.  Unfortunately, I forgot to check the ISO, which was still at 1600 from the last time I used the camera, so they turned our rather grainy.


This photo shows just a few of the birds as they constantly fluttered around, in and out of the tree.


In a nearby willow, more were waiting their turn.  Every now and then, the entire flock would suddenly leave, then zoom back in again.  At one point, while my daughter was watching through her window, one of the birds slammed right into the glass!  It seemed to be okay, though.


After switching to the 75-300mm lens and fixing the ISO (I used different settings as I took the photos) I got a lot more photos.  A few of them have been uploaded to their own set in my flickr page.  There you can see photos from the last time this happened, a couple of years ago.

In just a few hours, the tree has been pretty much stripped of all its berries.  The first two photos above show the tree at about the half-way mark, so you can imagine just how full it had been!

Saturday, January 8, 2011


Originally uploaded by amkb

My daughter was opening up a can and had an accident, slicing two fingers. The other one isn't as bad this one.

Ah, the things that inspire macro-photography! LOL