Where am I?

One view

Friday I needed to go in to town. By the time I got to the main road I was feeling like a cured ham due to all the smoke. In fact BC managed to grab the honours for “worst air on Earth”, with the Okanagon area coming in with an Air Quality Index of 415. That’s “extremely dangerous”; roughly the equivalent of sucking the exhaust out of a semi’s stack under full load. We’re doing much better here with about 100 points less than that which puts us in the “very unhealthy” category.

I started out with fairly clear air when I left. Sucked down fumes through my whole trip. Then came back to a lake full of precipitated particles – which have yet to go away. There’s no promise of rain in the forecast, but possibly more lightning which could start more fires. Of course it’s a holiday weekend here, and lots of morons are heading out for some fun in the sun. Despite roads being closed, trails being closed, campsites being closed, evacuation zones being closed, and of course the whole bloody area being full of damn thick smoke. They’ll go anyway and think it no end of fun as they light their illegal campfires and send more of our province up in flames.

Halfway through “fire season” and we’ve had more fires than the average for a whole one. Also set a record for “wildfires of note” (the ones that endanger people directly). I wouldn’t be surprised if this year surpasses the nightmare of 2017 in terms of total area burned and/or damage done.

What does it really look like? I set the Nikon on “daylight” and snapped a shot (no alterations, colour correct, resulting image pretty much what you’d see in person):

This isn’t the worst-afflicted area either.

I’m doing nothing. The air isn’t fit to breath. I’m too old and too broken-down to deal with this stuff. A HEPA filter and N95 masks are no match for it.

Is my sight getting any better? I can’t tell because the world around me has gone into “soft focus” with lots of real “floaters” obstructing the view.

Side note: for some reason I grabbed the Olympus E-410 when I was home. The first picture is taken with that. I don’t think I’ll be doing any photography any time soon, but I have some prepared from this past week before things really went wahoonie-shaped. I’ve been thinking a lot about what equipment I have (four DSLRs with five different lens systems between them?) and will remark on that at a later date.

Re-learning curve: Nikon P610

Almost three weeks since getting my eye ‘welded’. Improvement seems to have stopped. At this point I’m not expecting any more.

Which brings us to the process of re-learning how to do photography when you have one not-so-good eye and one even worse eye. Especially since the latter used to be the good one. Also cameras tend to be designed for “right eye-ers” and that’s the one off the list now.

So with my usual analytical engineering ways I’ve broken the process down into three parts: imagining the image (or “finding something to take a picture of”), clicking the camera (or “actually getting something recorded”), and processing the pic (or “creating the final product”). Each of these has proven to be challenging, to say the least.

Imagining the image:

Big, big problems. Not only do I no longer see clearly but I can’t seem to pick out a scene within what I’m looking at. Before I could see multiple potential images in any given view, and now I have difficulty determining what I’m looking at. This is not some insignificant occurrence, but rather a thing that makes me question if the blood vessels in the eye weren’t the only ones that broke. There is a decided disconnection between what the eye presents and what the brain understands.

For the most part I have worked around this by ignoring the potential scenes of texture and detail, instead concentrating on the more basic form or object view. Not being able to pick objects out of a scene is still a concern, but if they are large enough in context of the view I can usually do it.

Clicking the camera:

I have my two ‘best’ cameras with me; the Nikon P610 and the Canon T100. The Nikon has its problems with focus, zoom, and exposure. Indeed a piece of it fell off the other day but I was able to find it (purely by chance) and glue it back on. It’s old and failing like me, but the lens is incredible and the camera is flexible. On the whole it’s working, even though the EVF in combination with my eye makes using the LCD for framing more attractive (albeit cumbersome). The Canon … not so much so. Not as flexible as-is, changing lenses is a pain and my experiments with the manual Pentax lenses (a favourite way of using this camera) were a disaster due to the changes in my eyesight. This camera relies more on the photographer, and the photographer is now sub-par. I have not had many good results.

Processing the pic:

Disaster. Of the three aspects this has proven the worst. Bringing what I think is a good picture up on the ‘big screen’ has resulted in a lot of disappointment and instant discarding of images. Looking at pictures on the cameras has never been good for me, and is now nearly impossible. The first thing that usually occurs is noticeable problems with framing, focus, and exposure. My left eye doesn’t see the view right, I can not tell at all if it’s in focus (and even look at the wrong place for the focus dot on the Canon), and for someone who could guess manual exposure accurately … Okay 80% of the images just aren’t worth trying to work with. That’s way down from 80% of them being perfectly acceptable.

Then there’s making actual changes. I can usually get the framing & composition corrected on the computer’s 15″ screen, but I’d now like a higher resolution laptop and possibly 17″. Exposure fixing has been a challenge because I’m really unsure of how it looks after I’ve changed it. Thus I have tried to limit things to the 10% contrast increase I know the Nikon requires and little else. Focus? I’ll try the “unsharp mask” off and on and see if it’s noticeable, and that’s about it. In other words processing is even more minimal than usual.

Now here are the best results with the Nikon P610 so far. I honestly don’t know if they are really any good and would appreciate input from people with working eyesight.

Day-Z. Most heavily exposure-processed of the images in order to get the contrast way up to achieve the desired effect. I hope.
Dark water, dark sky. Most dramatic and the effect is not due to processing.
Clear cut. Yes I turned this into B&W/sepia-ish on purpose to enhance the melancholy atmosphere.
Beach butterfly. Most straightforward image.
Paint it black. Distant spotter chopper in our smoke-filled skies. There was no colour.
Cat’s eye. Got to love the quality of that Nikon lens!

The wildfires continue to make everything extra difficult around here, from lighting to just breathing. Waiting it out and practicing with the cameras while I do. I thought about buying some more equipment but there’s really only two items I want and they’re both habitually over-priced. Besides, if I can even use what I’ve got more isn’t going to magically make things better.

I wait for the doctor to say the eye is as healed as it will get and I can go back to doing things, and wait for the fires to go out so I can go back to doing things, the things that need doing pile up. The ugly truth is I need to change my entire lifestyle, but I see no way of making that happen either.

Strange vision

The gray is the sky, the gray is the land, the gray is the water.

My world right now: hazy, out-of-focus, and on fire.

Two weeks after the procedure. Progress seems to have halted. Much like the progress on fire-fighting in the province. 300+ fires burning, half out of control, emergency accommodations full up, roads closed, supplies cut off, and a Premier who doesn’t think there’s any reason to declare a state of emergency. After all it’s not affecting him, and the people who are suffering don’t support him anyway. Gee, I wonder why. Maybe because none of the recommendations from the last wildfire disaster year have been implemented? That could be it.

This is my world. According to the camera (P610) it was in focus. Obviously not. But this is what everything looks like to me.

Eyesight: blurred but better.

Nothing is in focus with either eye at any distance, and both are blurred. Think in photography terms; the focal point is one thing, the sharpness another. For those who think focus is over-rated I say repent your sins before it’s too late. Soft focus and blurred images are horrible, especially when there’s no other choice. I’m told my eyes not only don’t see the same, they don’t look the same; there’s noticeable difference in the colouration. Will it clear up? Only time, and a lot of it, will tell.

Large objects I can make out. I didn’t notice the cloud when I took this, though. (G11)

Photography: exercising futility.

I’ve made some attempts. Trying to get used to using the left eye, just in case. How bad is it? Less than half the shots are even viable as pictures, and of the good ones perhaps 25% are acceptable. It’s hard to say because I can’t even evaluate them on the big screen myself. Hey, maybe I can just get out the lousy Lumix and shoot blurred messes badly composed and incorrectly exposed. It would be easy. Judging by some of the “pro” photos I’ve seen in the past I might even win a prize. But it would be embarrassing and debasing of the principals of photography, as well as betraying to all those who put so much effort to bring the form to the quality it is capable of.

This could probably be good, with the moss and trees and light. I can’t see well enough to make a good initial shot, never mind process it.

What is next?

Hunker down to wait out the fires, and hope we don’t die. Or go blind. Or suddenly need some other emergency procedure.

Kind of blind

A week later. I’ve had laser surgery for a torn retina. As it is now, my left eye is still okay but my right eye has a long ways to go. Amazingly the one affects the other because the brain sees using both. In photography terms the left is resolving 50 lines/mm and the right more like 5. I wear a patch to keep it from getting tired and causing distraction with close vision.

I took a camera with me on my rushed trip (the Canon G11) but did not take many pictures. I can’t see if there are pictures to take, can’t see to use the camera right, and can’t see to process an image afterward. I can’t see other people’s pictures either. The only reason I can type this is by using the left eye only, and knowing how to hit the keys without looking (mostly).

There’s a list of things for me not to do. Basically it involves irritating the eye or getting the ocular/blood pressure up. The problem may clear up better or stay the same. Or the retina could tear again. Or it could happen to the other eye. Once again I’m at Life’s casino playing a game I’d rather not.

But I wouldn’t be me without getting at least one photo out of this. Taken from my motel room window. I’m not sure if it’s any good as it was largely guesswork from start to finish. Besides it’s ‘Street Photography’ and that’s not really my thing.

What do you think?

Homeless in Kelowna. (Most of the homeless there are women, unlike in other cities.)

The Last Picture?

While taking photos of hummingbirds at the feeder I suddenly lost vision in my right eye. The symptoms are that of a detached retina. Today begins the hunt to see if anything can be done about it: the longer the wait the lower the chance for restoration.

My vision has been getting worse over the years. It was never all that good, but at least serviceable. It’s bad enough I’m going deaf, do I have to be blind as well?

This could be the event that forces major changes of life. I’m not looking forward to it. Even dealing with the logistics of getting examined is tricky. Writing this blog entry has been a struggle too; I never realized how much I depend on my right eye and the automatic depth perception it imparts.

Female Rufous hummingbird.

From other cameras

Or Automatic Photography.

This grader has been sitting there for a week; they still haven’t done the first 4 kms! (Dashcam)
Big equipment beside the road. (Dashcam)
Bad choice: someone trying to get down the road in a Ford Mustang. (Dashcam)
Exotic animal in the yard. (Wildlife cam)

Wildfires are all around again. Over 30 just in our district, four of them “of note” (i.e. seriously dangerous). Nothing like the one that destroyed the town of Lytton though. Not yet anyway.

Out at the cabin the sky is clear and you wouldn’t know there was a problem. That can change quickly. The one burning at the next lake over is being ignored because it isn’t close to population. Several people have been asking questions about what seems to be a poor response compared to even 2017. Did we learn nothing from that horrendous year? Apparently not.

I’m too old to fight fires – or political battles – so I’ll just keep doing what I can do, to whatever end.

Road trip.

Drove into town today for supplies. Saw a few interesting things.

Someone got themselves a project (early ’50s GMC).
Someone else’s project (first gen Mustang).
One fine ’69.
Yeah I could use this!
Somebody completed their project. I don’t know what it is because I chased him all over town and he never parked anywhere before I lost sight of him.
The thrill of the chase!

Now it’s time to return to the cabin with supplies, and get back to work!

Canada Day: the good, the bad, and the ugly

Clouds made of smoke.

Canada Day, 2021.

First the good news; one of the missing cats, Hannibal, has returned! I happened to look out the window and there he was sitting on the deck. Appears to be none the worse for his four day adventure, except for an insistence on going out again. That’s not happening, big furry cat.

The bad news; wild fires have broken out all around, thanks to the thunderstorms last night. The air smells of smoke, the sky looks of smoke, and the nearest one is at the next lake over – just five kilometers away.

As seen from above.

This satellite view taken at about 4:30 PM Wednesday off Zoom Earth shows the cloud formations from the two largest fires. The one on the left you can follow the smoke trail down to the Lytton fire, and the one on the right leads down to the Kamloops fire. The shadow on the right is caused be the density of the smoke clouds, and the look white because if reflecting the sun back to the satellite. From beneath they are dark and grey-brown.

Raven lamenting.

The ugly part is that we don’t have much to celebrate in Canada this year. The revelation of the horror that was the residential schools has justifiably put a damper on all the good news, even the advances made against the pandemic. For those who don’t know, these “residential schools” were authorized by the government and operated largely by the Catholic church. For over 100 years, right up into the 1990s, they essentially kidnapped native children and abused them in some delusional effort to integrate them into mainstream society. What they really did was damage and often kill them. Then they tossed them into unmarked graves like so much garbage. The concept alone is appalling and horrific. The way they carried it out is akin to the Holocaust. Really. That this happened under what should have been the watchful eye of a supposed modern-day democracy rather than some ancient civilization or evil dictatorship only emphasizes how horrible it was. I don’t know where we go from here, but the road will be long and difficult.

As always, I concentrate on the little things I have some control over. Slowly work progresses, and I try not to think about the fact it may all burn down soon.

I am tired, I am weary, I am sad.

How hot was it?

We are currently experiencing a historically unprecedented heatwave here in BC. Records are being set daily, including Lytton giving Canada a new all-time high of 49.5C/121F. Here at the cabin we’ve hit 41, which is the hottest it’s ever been here. The heat is supposed to break tomorrow, with thunderstorms. This brings up another problem: lightning. We already have two large, out-of-control wildfires burning not too far away. The smoke cast a haze in the air here this morning. Welcome to Hell.

In fact I’ve only been able to work a couple of hours in the morning before it gets too hot to do anything. I’ve not been going out unless absolutely necessary, and we don’t even let the dogs stay out for long. It’s a case of “just get through this”.

Some bad news: two of our cats have gone missing and the outlook for them is not good. There is water and prey out there if they can find it, but …

MIA: Hannibal, aka Puff-puff.
MIA: Boots, aka Twinkle-toes.

Few photos being taken, due to the heat. But here are a few.

Queen of the Hill (look close).
Robin on the nest.
New flower. I don’t know what it is; never seen one before.
Robin’s egg blue. I quite like this pic.

Beyond the immediate area many things are happening. BC’s state of emergency will finally be lifted July 1, and many rules relaxed including mandatory mask requirements. I will wait until my 2nd shot (on Friday) has had time to take effect before I doff the N95. Unless I have to keep wearing it against wildfire smoke. *sigh* I’m used to that.

Of late

We are finally at the cabin together. It wasn’t easy. Along the way the road bumps took a few casualties among the packed goods, such as reducing a dozen eggs to half a dozen. The jostling alone did the damage, and it took me a couple of hours to clean up the mess once we got here.

First of the flooring upstairs.

The place is far from done. It’s just usable. But my poor wife hasn’t been able to stay out here since 2018 due to one thing or another or even more. The cats are very unhappy about being here, growling and hissing at each other and the world in general. Two of them have “left home”. They should return once they’re hungry. The dogs are fine. They love adventure. I’m not so keen on it myself.

The new china cabinet.

This was the big ‘sticking point’ for being able to fully occupy the place. Fortunately a couple of friends dropped by and help me lift the top piece on to the base. Three old guys that took. Many thanks to Wally and Danny ’cause otherwise I’d have had to build a crane or something. I swear the top alone is 200 lbs.

Of course with the dogs around the wildlife has taken off so no more deer. Probably no more bear or woodchuck or other sizable beasts. Fortunately they are smarter than the dogs, who’d try to play with a wolverine if they found one.

Timmy the Idiot; a yearling buck who kept coming ’round and poking in the ash pit.

The mosquitoes are still here. They seemed to disappear Saturday when the temperature got up to 97 (sorry Celisus; you’re no good for daily living). It’s expected to be 108 tomorrow and Tuesday. This is highly unusual for the area. Inside the cabin it was only 75. Now this morning it’s 60 outside so the windows are open to let the temperature drop. Once it starts climbing again I’ll close up and keep the heat out. It works and it’s cheaper than air conditioning.

Mosquito Patrol.

We’ll be out here now while I continue working. Not sure what I’ll get done, but there sure is a lot left to do. Going to go slow during this heat wave of course, and not planning on going back to town for anything until next Friday.