Snow: can this be May?

May 27th, 2013 | 2 Comments »

Folk wisdom in Canada says that it is safe to plant tender annuals after May 24. Why that date? Because it’s Queen Victoria’s birthday. (Don’t ask, it makes no sense….)

Generally, this is a safe guideline. But day before yesterday, on May 25, it snowed. It was cold — almost freezing, in fact. And we lost power for 16 hours. Not fun.
Snow on the windshield: unbelievable! Yup, it’s May 25.

In the garden, Daphne ‘Carol Mackie’ was in bloom. The photo below isn’t great. I’m including it because of the snowdrops — that’s what those big white blobs are.

Carol Mackie needed a winter coat yesterday. It was 2C.

It snowed for a while but mostly it rained. We didn’t receive a full 40 days and 40 nights of it but the downpour was more than enough to fill the pond to overflowing.  Water thundered over Glen Villa’s magnificent waterfall, built sometime around 1880 to provide power for a sawmill, long since gone.

The amount of water was impressive. Normally, water comes over the central section of the waterfall, but there are two side channels for the overflow. There’s a third channel that handles run-off from the fields above the driveway. All of them were full.

Naturally, despite the cold, the rain and the snow, I went out with my camera to capture the moment.

I use a Canon Eos 7D, a brute of a camera that I love.  I can speed it up or slow it down, change settings until the cows come home. Most point and shoot cameras offer a similar range of choices, but few people take advantage of them.

Muddy water pours over the waterfall. The chocolate tint shows how much sediment is
washing down the stream and into the lake. Not good.

Which is a shame. Photographing fast-moving water offers interesting choices. Do you want to slow down the shutter to show the water as a blur, or speed it up to stop the drops in mid-air? The photo above gives a general sense of the scene. It is dramatic. But compare it with this one:

Water splashes down the waterfall.

By speeding up the shutter, I stopped the motion.  The effect is familiar: endless commercials (milk being poured into a glass comes to mind) use the trick. But familiar or not, it works.

Water is thundering over the Cascade, but it doesn’t look like it is moving.

The effect is similar in this photo of the Cascade, a construction near the front door of our house that was one of our first garden projects after we moved in to Glen Villa.  Individual drops of water appear frozen in mid-air, even though they are falling and splashing.

In the photo above I took the opposite approach. Slowing the shutter speed to 1/20 of a second  blurs the movement. Note too the contrast between the fast-moving water and those huge boulders that aren’t going anywhere: an interesting tension that adds to the drama.
A blur of water coming over the waterfall
Shutter speed is only one aspect of photographing moving water. Consider as well the angle, or point of view. Do you want to shoot the water straight on or from the side?
Playing around with your camera takes time but it’s fun to discover how a single scene can change as you change the settings.
It isn’t easy to say which photo is the best. It depends on what you are aiming for.

I wanted to show the force of the moving water and the power of nature. Which photo/s do you think shows that best?

Thinking Big

May 21st, 2013 | 2 Comments »
Recently I saw a photo of a giant yellow ducky floating in Hong Kong harbour. Called Spreading Joy Around the World, it's by the Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman. And it is BIG: 54 ft, or 16.5 metres, tall. The artist said it was intended to make people feel happy. It worked. It made me smile. It also set me thinking about the impact of size in a landscape. At Glen Villa, the Big Chair always brings a smile. From a distance, it’s hard to appreciate the scale. But once someone


An Artist’s Garden in Spring

May 19th, 2013 | 1 Comment »
An article about Glen Villa, entitled An Artist's Garden in Spring, appeared this week in the Montreal magazine Urban Expressions.  Written by Donna Nebenzahl, the article is lavishly illustrated with my photographs of spring flowers. I particularly liked the big spread that shows the linden tree, with muscari, or grape hycinth, blooming in the grass. Urban Expressions used a different photo. I like this one, too. The link takes you to the article but doesn't show the excellent layout. Too bad, because the balance between text and photos showed the photographs at


The Darling Buds of May

May 14th, 2013 | 1 Comment »
Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate;   Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, And summer's lease hath all too short a date.                        --- William Shakespeare Shakespeare's Sonnet 18 provided the title for H.E. Bates' novel. I never read The Darling Buds of May. Never saw the British tv show, either. But I've seen the buds themselves. Rough winds may be shaking them. but they are blooming gloriously


Praise for Glen Villa: Site and Insight

May 12th, 2013 | 2 Comments »
A few weeks ago, rummaging around on the internet, I came across a blog written by Allan Becker, Garden Guru. Since he was a fellow Montrealer, I emailed him, suggesting that as neighbours of a sort, with common interests, we should get to know each other. Allan responded quickly, with some good advice. Thanks to him, I modified the layout of this blog to make my photos larger. A random photo, having nothing to do with the content of this post. Except that it's pretty. Can you identify the flower?


Memorials, Memory Posts and Columns: Commemorating the Past at Glen Villa

May 7th, 2013 | 2 Comments »
What makes a good memorial? This question continues to occupy my mind, and not only because of the memorials I saw recently in Washington, D.C. and wrote about here.   For more than two years I’ve been thinking about a creating a memorial to my mother who died in 2010 at the age of 97, after a full and estimable life.   Already in the woods at Glen Villa now are memorials to other family members. I call these memorials memory posts, and for me they commemorate the lives of people who were