Monday, 27 February 2012

People Watching

In the country, one can enjoy bird watching - but in the city, the best kind of watching is people watching.  I watched a lot of people coping with the fresh snowfall today, like this woman crossing an unplowed road. I like this way the pattern of tire tracks in the snow form a abstract background as she navigates her way across the road.

This woman was picking her way down a winding path that seemed a bit slippery. Her coat looks so red against the rather bleak white and black landscape. 

Later, I saw this woman studying a menu in a restaurant. She looks so thoughtful. I wonder what she is thinking of ordering. 

These two women are waitresses in a Sushi restaurant. I really liked the brightly coloured kimonos they are wearing. It was a cold snowy evening, but it looked like one could feel transported to a whole other place if one went inside.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Snowstorm Aftermath

Winter came back on Friday with the arrival of a big dump of snow and I was unable to drive to my home in the country until Saturday. When I got there, I found a lot of post-snowstorm cleaning up was needed. For example, the steps to my front door were buried somewhere under the snow. 

But I had my trusty blue shovel ready......

....and after about 20 minutes, the steps were passable again. 

The storm left its mark everywhere. I saw this sign at an intersection and thought, it's a good thing everyone knows what it says just by looking at the shape. Sometimes words are not necessary and people understand just from visual cues. Hooray for the power of symbols!

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Light and Dark

The weatherman says we are going to have a big dump of snow tomorrow, but for the past couple of days, it has been lovely and springlike in downtown Ottawa. The sky has been mostly clear and I have been enjoying shapes created by contrasts of light and dark in the late afternoon. For instance, I was interested in the way the light in the sky framed the red sculpture in the narrow space between the buildings on the Sparks Street Mall.  

Sunsets like this are always a treat, especially when the buildings look like sharply-edged silhouettes against a vivid red sky.

The sun is about to go down behind these buildings, but not before creating great long shadows on the ice of the Ottawa river. Cool!

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Tribute to Oscar Peterson

This photo shows a view of Canada's National Arts Centre in downtown Ottawa. I was walking across this intersection when I came across a wonderful sculpture on the sidewalk at the corner. You can just see it in the middle bottom of the picture, at the base of the building.  

It is a sculpture by Ruth Abernathy of the great jazz pianist, Oscar Peterson (1925-2007). The National Arts Centre commissioned this tribute to Peterson to commemorate his 65 years as a musician, composer and recording artist. I really like how casual it feels, just Oscar and his piano sitting on the sidewalk on a busy intersection of the city. And the best part is that there is music playing, as part of the installation. You can look at the sculpture, or sit and have your picture taken with Oscar, while listening to his music being played over loudspeakers in the background. Cool!

Monday, 20 February 2012

Country Sunset, City Sunset

Although it is only the end of February, it feels like Spring is imminent, especially since the days are getting longer and the sun is setting later in the day. When I was at my home in the country recently, I took this picture of the sunset on a beautiful clear evening. I like the way it looks like the sun is being lowered gently by the branches of the trees.

On my return to the city, I also took a photograph of the sunset just after the sun had gone down and the sky was a lovely pink. You can see how the ice on the river is breaking up in this early pre-Spring. In the country, the sunset is viewed over open fields or through trees. In the city, it is viewed behind buildings. But the sunset is beautiful no matter where you see it, city or country.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Recharging My Batteries

On the weekend, I recharge my batteries by doing things I can't do during the week when I have to go to work every day. My favourite activity involves scribbling and drawing, especially with bright colours. I recently treated myself to a new set of pastel pencils for just this purpose. The colours are fabulous - it is a treat to just look at them. 

They are so much fun. The colour seems to jump onto the paper at the merest touch of the pencil. I can't do any serious drawing right now because my studio is closed for the winter, but I am able to do a lot of fast 10-minute or 20-minute sketches just to keep my eye and my hand going.   

A few weekends ago, I watched a movie about a young woman in Victorian England. At this time in history, all upper class young women were taught to sketch and paint since it was considered an important accomplishment among women of "quality". The movie's heroine loved drawing and often spent time sketching the scenery or people around her. I thought about the difference between this young woman and a woman of the same class today, who would probably be more interested in her iPad than a sketch pad. I think electronic technology is great, but sometimes I think people are missing out on older methods of engaging their minds and refreshing their spirits. Long live the simple pleasures of paper and pencil and the lovely hours we spend playing with them.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Sculpture of an All-Time Great

This is a larger-than-life size sculpture of Maurice (Rocket) Richard, the legendary hockey player. I haven't seen this statue for years but happened to walk past it recently at the entrance to Jacques Cartier Park in Gatineau. I have always liked this sculpture because it is so full of action. You can almost feel him skating down the ice ready to shoot a goal. Isn't it great?

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Bird's Eye Views

There is something fascinating about being up high, on a balcony or at the top of a staircase or a couple of floors above ground, and watching people down below. I took this photo when I was on the second floor of the National Art Gallery, looking over a wall at a group of people in the main foyer. They seem to be engaged in animated conversations. 

This photo was taken one noon-hour when some of my work colleagues decided to go  skating in a rink in a courtyard near where we work. I was up in a second floor glassed-in walkway overlooking the courtyard and taking pictures. They didn't know I was photographing them. The man in the green jacket second from the right is my manager Mark, who is from Australia and didn't learn to skate until he moved to Canada. I showed him the pictures later and told him his skating was very good!

This photo was taken from the top of some stairs overlooking a part of the Byward Market in Ottawa. There weren't a lot of people around at this time of night - just the man in the white jacket on the bottom right-hand corner crossing the street. I have always liked this view at night with everything lit up and shiny. 

Monday, 13 February 2012

"The Clock" at the National Gallery

Last week on Thursday, I went to the opening of a wonderful show at the National Art Gallery in Ottawa. This show is "The Clock" by the video artist Christian Marclay. It won an award at the Venice Biennale and is an amazing work. It compiles thousands of film clips from movies, each clip merging seamlessly into the next and each with a reference to time or with a clock or watch in the clip. The video runs for 24 hours and whatever time is showing on the film clip is the same as real time.

So for instance, if this film clip was showing in the video, the time showing on the clock.......

.......would be the same time that was showing on my watch in real time. Then the video would switch to another film clip from a whole different movie showing a clock or watch that would be a minute later. And so on, for 24 hours. It was absolutely fascinating. I watched the video for about an hour and a half and wanted to stay longer but couldn't. It was a popular show and lots of people were lined up to see it. The Gallery is featuring several 24 hour viewings over the next 2 months. Some journalists have tried these 24 hour viewings. Wow! That would be an incredible experience, but I don't know if I could do it. However, I highly recommend seeing even a part of this show if you can. It is fabulous!

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Snowman Family

One of the very few things I like about winter is that people make snowmen. It is amazing how creative some people get. It is definitely a kind of seasonal folk art. Like this wonderful example which I saw when I had to take a detour through the little town of l'Orignal on Saturday. The main street was closed for the local Winter Carnival and I was driving down an unknown back street when I saw this snowman family. I just had to stop, admire, and take a picture of them. Aren't they great? They look so happy.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Ice Sculpture at Winterlude

Ottawa's winter festival, Winterlude, is in full swing. This evening, I visited one of its popular attractions, the display of ice sculptures at Confederation Park. This lit-up giant snowball with the Winterlude logo was at the entry to the park.  

In the middle of the park, the sculptures were in a long open shed with a kind of wooden boardwalk in front. There were lots of people viewing the pieces and taking photographs, so I was in good company.

There were about a dozen ice sculptures on display. Many of them were quite elaborate and must have taken days to carve. There were lights shining on the pieces that slowly changed from blue to pink and other shades in between. I started to realize how hard it is to photograph something that is transparent. 

This sculpture shows a woman with blowing hair. Quite amazing to get all that detail in ice. There are two figures on either side of her, but I don't know what they are.

I decided it was easier to take close-ups of parts of the sculptures. Like this amazing owl perched on top of a tree. These sculptures have been on display for almost a week now and they have obviously already deteriorated somewhat. On some of the sculptures, pieces of ice had broken off and some of the figures were missing legs or hands or even their heads. This owl was the most intact part of a larger sculpture. I was impressed by the detail in the wings.

I also liked this howling wolf that was part of a larger, very elaborate piece. 

This bear was wonderful too - all the detail in his fur.   

But this sculpture of a Viking on a horse was the pièce de résistance. One of the other people viewing this said it had won a prize and I can see why. The reins from the horse's mouth are just strands of ice. Wow! I think the fact that these sculptures are so ephemeral - they will all be gone in a couple of weeks - makes them even more amazing.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

An A-Moose-ing Place to Park Your Car!

I took this picture in a parking lot recently. What a great place to park your car. Lots of Canadian get-up-and-go.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Viewing a Ruin

It was warmer than usual today (for a day in February) so my friend Kristen and I decided to go for a walk on our lunch break. We started going across a bridge from Gatineau to Ottawa, then went off the beaten path just to see what we could see.  

We made a left turn down a road that passed under the bridge. I noticed some interesting ice formations on the water. A chain with some yellow floats had been stretched across the water but the current was pushing it into a curve. Ice had formed around the yellow floats so they looked like ice beads on a necklace on the river's throat. 

We continued down the road until we came to a mammoth ruin of a building. I told Kristen she looked very existential as she contemplated the ruin. A metaphor for something or other!

The ruin was completely surrounded by a chain link fence. We decided it looked like some sort of horrible old prison with massive walls around prisoner yards. But Kristen said it was actually the ruin of an old mill. 

There was a great tall building at the end. The stone walls were very thick. 

As we walked past one of the walls on our way back, I looked up and saw this wonderful bit of blue sky and cloud through one of the ruin's windows. It is always uplifting to see the sky no matter what window you are looking through!

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Favourite Tea Cups

Since I have been suffering with a bad cold lately, I have been drinking a lot more herbal tea than I usually do. When I am at my home in the country, I use my favourite lady's faces tea cups. I found this cup at a flea market in a nearby town, almost 20 years ago. It has a lot of cracks and I think it might be fairly old, especially with the style of lips and rouged cheeks. I call it my Lucille Ball cup.  

One Christmas a couple of years after I acquired the Lucille Ball cup, my daughter Sarah gave me a Baileys gift set with a bottle of Baileys and this tea cup. She was very pleased to have found it because it looked so much like my Lucille Ball cup - winking the same eye, wearing a bow on the side (albeit a different colour), red lips, and so on - but definitely an updated version. This is my Baileys Girl cup.

Here are the girls, side-by-side. I don't use my Lucille Ball cup much anymore because I am worried she is old and fragile and I am trying to preserve her, so I usually drink my tea using my Baileys Girl cup. But it is great to have them both. They look like they have some secret they are just dying to tell, and it makes me happy just to see their faces.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Night Skating on the Rideau Canal

Ottawa is famous for the Rideau Canal Skateway, which it claims is the largest skating rink in the world at nearly 8 km long. During the winter months, thousands of people skate on the Canal and both residents and tourists love it. Some people even use it to skate to and from work every day they can. Most people skate on the Canal during the daytime, but there were still people there this evening when I checked it out. This photo was taken near the Laurier Street bridge.   

Because it was dark, it was hard to tell how many people were on the ice. Often they would appear in clusters that would then skate away into the darkness. And then others would emerge from the darkness into the light. They were constantly in motion. 

And they were obviously having a lot of fun.  

I walked a little further North and took this picture while standing on the ice. Just as I pressed the button, a skater came flying up beside me and fell on the ice. He can be seen on the right side of the picture. On the left, there are a bunch of small concession stands selling all sorts of appropriate goodies to the skaters.........   

 ........such as hot chocolate.............

..........and Beaver Tails. 

Turning in the other direction, one can see the city skyline, including the Parliament Buildings, looming over the northern limit of the skateway. I am not a skater myself, but I can certainly see the appeal this rink would have for people, especially at night. Something very romantic about people gliding in and out of the darkness like nocturnal creatures in flight.