Parc Poisson Blanc photos

Here are some more photos from the Parc Poisson Blanc camping trip:

Ice cream was a feature of both the drive up and the drive back.

Glancing right

Given that it took about an hour to get from the boat launch to our campsite, opting to go with one journey with two boats, rather than the converse, was a wise choice.

Reclining with guitar

My jumping co-campers

Much to everybody’s amusement, I took out my collapsible reflector to try and balance out the shadows on faces from the sunset. I think it worked rather well as a form of wilderness light modification.

My friend Rosa composed and shot this portrait.

While daylight brought a string of motorboats, the night was very calm and private.

Because of how far we were from civilization, and the absence of the moon, the Milky Way was clearly visible all night.


Our boat was piloted by a man whose composure while operating motorized vehicles was on par with his trip masterminding skills.

He can also be used as a very temporary bridge across narrow stretches of water.

Montreal spring, by night

Despite being right at the cusp of spring, the nights I recently spent in Montreal were decidedly mild and enjoyable. They made it more than worthwhile to lug around a tripod.

In addition to the sometimes intriguing distortion produced by very wide angle lenses, one useful property is how their short focal lengths allow for relatively long handheld exposures, without too much danger of camera shake. It is certainly novel to be able to shoot at 1/20″ with a lens lacking in image stabilization capabilities.

I think I was the oldest person at this party, by the space of several years. Nonetheless, it was a colourful and entertaining event and a nice counterpoint to the calmer parts of the weekend.

Climbing Mont Royal at night is certainly one of the nicest and most scenic things to do in Montreal. Personally, I think the city is best viewed from above at night, though it can also be quite pleasant around sunset.

I have fond memories of going up in the midst of an intense but very warm thunderstorm with my friend Viktoria, back when I was participating in the Summer Language Bursary program.

I like the interplay of colours here, particularly the orange and green on the stairs and the blaring purple from inside the building.

While Montreal does have a substantial urban core, it certainly cannot rival Toronto for sheer bulk or Vancouver for startling growth. Indeed, whereas Vancouver felt substantially denser when I visited in December than when I was there a few years before, Montreal basically seems like the same place now as it was in 2003.

Rue St. Denis may be a bit touristy, but it contains a substantial variety of pubs and restaurants, as well as some interesting murals and graffiti.

Fondue is actually a very nice dinner option, when you want to have an extended conversation. The need to individually cook each item to be eaten extends the meal in a rather pleasing and natural way.

I have always rather liked the standard architecture of Montreal lowrise houses: with a balcony at the second level and a staircase rising up to it either directly or in a curve.

It is around this monument in Parc Mont Royal that the famous ‘Tam Tam Jams’ occur, along with many other informal social activities. While I was taking these night photos, there was unusual shouting and drumming emerging from somewhere within the darkened trees uphill, along with the noticeable scent of wood smoke.

The distortion from a wide-angle lens does seem to have the commendable property of being able to make a vertical monument look like the heavy foot of some elephant or dinosaur.

The vertical lines here are lens flares, induced by the streetlights that run in front of the monument (and which make it so nicely lit for long exposures, from that direction).

Throughout the Easter weekend, these parks were full of people picnicking, playing sports, and generally enjoying themselves. At night, the area is rather more gloomy and desolate. The few people who you do encounter – often as they skirt along in the shadows – sometimes make you glad for being a relatively large and tall man, with a substantial aluminum tripod at hand.

These trees have a rather menacing look that matches the atmosphere of the area, at least on some nights.

Montreal spring, by day

Montreal has always been a city which I have appreciated. As an undergraduate, I was lucky enough to spend most of a summer there, participating in the Summer Language Bursary Program. The city is a layered and culturally engaging one. I was happy to visit my brother there for the Easter weekend.

The Montreal metro probably has the most character of any in Canada – largely owing to how the design of each station differs substantially. Vancouver probably has the nicest views from overhead track, but Montreal almost certainly has the most to offer underground.

While they are far from flattering, portraits taken on wide-angle zoom lenses can have an interesting quality. This one of my brother was taken in a diner where we were having a late breakfast.

One definite advantage of wide-angle lenses is that they allow you to incorporate people into images in such a way that they assume themselves to be quite outside the frame.

As with Paris, Montreal is notable for having excellent graffiti in places – though it is regrettable that vandals with no skill frequently decide to emblazon their insignificant aliases on the works of far better artists.

Heading up Rue Mont Royal, I encountered a very friendly bus driver who was eating her lunch. She encouraged me to explore the bus storage and maintenance depot around us, despite many ominous signs warning of grim consequences for outsiders who did do.

A firefighter I encountered was equally welcoming. Their approach contrasted substantially with a security guard at the Journal de Montreal building, at the foot of the road, who gruffly informed me that I had no right to be in their parking lot. Their building was boring, anyhow.

The Plateau area, where my brother is living presently, has a wide variety of attractive and interesting buildings. It’s remarkable how they serve as variations on a theme, yet still express such architectural scope.

Even with a rented Canon 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 lens, I could not resist making some use of the superb Canon 70-200mm f/4 L telephoto zoom. Of all the lenses I have owned or used, it may well have the best optical properties.

At the head of Rue Mont Royal, up against the mountain of the same name, there is a park with a stately monument. It is often a nexus for social gatherings, such as the ‘Tam Tam Jams’ which often permeate Sunday evenings with the sound of drum music, for many blocks around.

The same statue, seen from a wider perspective, gives some sense of how it looks in aggregate.

Among the many other spiral staircases of Montreal, this particular one led down from the balcony of a flat inhabited by a friend of my brother to a yard that has become a favourite hangout for cats. We saw at least a dozen lounging there at once, that afternoon.

This insignia adorns a fence somewhere in the slightly ambiguous zone between the park with the monument and the beginning of the McGill University campus.

While not the most attractive of photos, this one amuses me on account of how the car and building blend in a shape like a large clown shoe.

This angelic statue sits beside the largest contained green space at McGill, near the entrance to one of the libraries.

Fountain statue, McGill University

One of three bearers of a fountain within a fountain is shown here.

Here again is the park with the monument. During the Easter weekend, it was an incredibly active place, well populated with many locals taking advantage of the time off and very fine spring weather.

One odd feature of being a semi-regular visitor to Montreal is that I become familiar with bits of graffiti, only to see them subsequently altered, erased, or overwritten.

Tomorrow, I will put up some photos of Montreal by night.

LeBreton Towers

For the whole time I have been living in the LeBreton Flats area, these towers have been under construction. They are out in an open patch of land, with the War Museum in one corner and open fields in most of it. Apparently, the land used to be contaminated, but has had the soil carted off and been re-designated for development. Along with residential structures, another national museum is promised on one of the many billboards that keep getting knocked over and smashed by the wind.

One tower is already finished and has some people living in it, though it is far from full. A second is just a skeletal frame of steel and concrete.

Thankfully for wandering photographers, the fencing around the site is far from complete. Likewise, the level of surveillance. Indeed, someone bolder than I could probably have their run of the semi-constructed tower, if they wanted.

A bit of the ways up Booth Street, there is another significant project ongoing. This one part of the much-touted ‘Economic action plan.’ Between the two, the area north of Chinatown has been in a fairly dynamic state lately.

People are already living in the first tower. Probably, those with apartments facing towards downtown have made the safer choice. While there is a creek and a park off in that direction, the view the other way remains unknown until the plans for the whole area are sorted out.

To me, it seems a bit curious to light the whole site up so elaborately at a time when nobody is working.

The towers are mostly glass and concrete, like most of the high structures in the area. At the top, the first one has a pretty elaborate looking penthouse with balconies, but it seems to be uninhabited still.

The gray rectangular block in the corner here is Canada’s National Archives.

The new towers do seem more attractive than the giant concrete waffles that were put up in previous decades. That said, the nicest housing in this area probably consists of converted two-story brick houses. The condition varies a lot, and they are often poorly insulated (foolish in this climate), but at least they make you more connected with your neighbourhood than living in a big filing cabinet.

Chaudiere Bridge and Domtar Mill

For two years, the Chaudiere Bridge and Domtar Mill were between home and work for me. Indeed, throughout Ottawa’s long winter bus strike (and much of the time in nicer months), I would walk through both most days of the week. The mill is mostly shut down now, though part of it has been converted into a run-of-river hydroelectric station.

While there are still security personnel and vehicles around, most of the mill seems to be shut down and locked up. The area is full of fences, locks, and barbed wire.

I love how malicious this lightning creature looks, striking down the small boy. It is certainly an effective warning sign.

High-pressure steam pipes run all around the complex. At regular intervals there are pressure release systems that vent steam every few seconds.

Both upstream and downstream, there are signs and barriers to warn boaters about the dam.

For several months last year, the Chaudiere Bridge was either closed or taking restricted traffic, because of concerns about its structural stability. Ottawa’s freeze-thaw cycles are brutal on infrastructure, especially roads and bridges.

I have always found bridges to be especially elegant and compelling structures. It has something to do with the mathematics of them, as well as the way in which they serve as an interface between human desires and the natural environments in which people live.

These green struts extend around the bridge, mostly supporting thick steam pipes that run between different parts of the mill.

Most of the metal in the area is corroded to one extent or another. Part of that must be the result of constant exposure to the salt used by the city to keep the roads and sidewalks relatively clear of ice in the winters.

Even on a Sunday evening, the bridge always has traffic. Walking to and from work may have contributed to my increasingly genuine hatred of automobiles. Single individuals, needlessly spilling greenhouse gases to propel themselves around in giant hulks of metal and glass, splashing and killing pedestrians and cyclists alike.

Even in the more remote accessible corners of the Domtar complex, you can see papers and personal effects behind windows. It is hard to tell whether these are active offices, or abandoned workspaces.

The complex is full of interesting structural details – power cables, girders, metal and concrete works built to constrain the flow of the river.

One of the taller Domtar buildings has been converted into an indoor climbing gym. As far as I can tell, this one has just been boarded up and abandoned.

On the eastern side of part of the complex, some sort of big recycling effort is underway. These girders may eventually find their way into something new.

The giant recycling bins themselves are corroded, with peeling paint and sharp edges.

Apparently, there were three previous Chaudiere bridges: 1827, 1845, and 1892.

Morocco photos, part five

Cascades d’Ouzoud plateau

By climbing the slippery canyon walls, you could get a good view of the middle section of the cascade.

Cascades d’Ouzoud from below

I had to spent a very long and uncomfortable day traveling to see them, so readers should be willing to tolerate a large number of pictures of the falls.

Pool at the base of the falls

Pool at the base of the falls

Moroccan plants

It took an hour of waiting in the sun to get five other people together for a taxi from Ouzoud to Azilal.

Watermelon truck

In the hot sun, this watermelon truck had a lot of appeal. Unfortunately, they refused to sell me anything less than an entire melon.

Morocco photos, part four

Sorry to have been so slow in posting these. Life has involved a lot of disruption, moving from Oxford to Vancouver to Ottawa.

Gnawa Festival crowd

Crowd at the Gnawa Festival beach stage.

Marakkesh street at night

Marakkesh street at night

Kashah mosque, Marakkesh

The Kasbah Mosque, in the southern part of the city.

Cascades d’Ouzoud

Cascades d’Ouzoud

Donkey carrying bottles

This donkey had the unenviable task of carrying empty bottles from the restaurants near the falls to the top of the valley.

Morocco photos, second batch

Ali ben Youssef Medersa detail

Some of the detail from the Ali ben Youssef Medersa.

Mosque in Marrakesh

Mosque in Marrakesh. It’s interesting how different they look from the ones we saw in Turkey.

Shine in Marrakesh

Shine in Marrakesh

Moroccan donkey

For some reason, I like the look of donkeys. They seem dependable and worthy of respect.

City walls in Marrakesh

Marrakesh has a large wall around the whole of the old city, as well as smaller dividing walls inside.

Morocco photos, first batch

Koutoubia mosque

The Koutoubia mosque is the largest in Marrakesh, standing out prominently near one corner of the Djemma El Fna.

Marrakesh rooftops

From the terrace of my first hotel, you could get a glimpse of the old city from above.

Marrakesh museum

This is a courtyard inside the Marrakesh museum, which I found by accident while I was completely lost in the souq.

Marrakesh museum

The largest open space in the Marrakesh museum is a great place to have a rest and read.

Ali ben Youssef Medersa

The Ali ben Youssef Medersa is very open for a museum, allowing you to wander all over the place.