Hip To Be Square #TBT

1200px-Kodak_Instamatic_100

This was the first camera I owned. Well not that one exactly, but this type. I received it for my ninth birthday in, gulp, 1963.

I don’t believe it came with a manual as it was so utterly basic. There was no focusing, no exposure settings, certainly no filters. Framing choices were limited to square.

It was case of: point, shoot and hope for the best.

Perfect for an enthusiastic nine year old!

June just got camera f

This nine year old me does not look very excited, but I was. Our class went on a thrilling school trip to the Flamingo Park Zoo, in distant and exotic Yorkshire! However, as you can see I was always going to be more comfortable behind the camera, rather than in front of it. Or maybe I was just worried my friend was going to drop my new treasure …

tigers at Flamingo Park Zoo f

A picture from the first roll of film I ever shot, again at Flamingo Park Zoo. There were also a lot of photos of flamingoes …

Perhaps because of this early viewfinder, I always “see” my images as squares, even when using a rectangular viewfinder. Square format came back into fashion during the Polaroid era, and now Instagram has brought it back. That’s nice — makes it easier to find frames!

However, I do like to think I “invented” the one and only thing you could do to vary my square photographic universe — the “groundbreaking” Diamond Shot.

june in a box

Me and my first Canadian dog, Finlay, taking a break while tree planting in northern BC — a photo made using the exciting Diamond Shot method.

cactus diamond shots

A pair of cactus-themed diamond shots taken on a road trip to the Mexican desert.

pontiac-2 f

A more conventional square shot of some roadside repairs being done on the car that took us (unbelievably) to Mexico and back to northern BC again.

The good old Instamatic, although technically rather stunted, was super portable. It travelled with me through schooldays, university, and moving to Canada.

It’s portability, in the end, proved to be its downfall. While tree planting in a particularly gorgeous spot near Mount Robson, I decided to bring the camera with me to the top of a “run” so I could get a photo of the view. Sadly, the only place to carry it was in my tree bag, where it got wet from the peat moss meant to keep the trees moist and alive. As I advanced the film for the last shot, the lever made a sort of grinding noise from the particulate matter in there.

Still, the film did come out, and this is the very last photo on the roll. Great view, right?

McBride-4f

It was a sad goodbye to an old companion, but that Instamatic had been a trusty friend for almost twenty years, so I really couldn’t complain. Plus, well … wet peat moss …

After some brief flirtations with Canon and Minolta models, I finally settled on an Olympus OM-1 film camera to replace the old Kodak. No automatic features, but tons of fun to be had playing with f-stops, film speed and exposure length. I’m still using an Olympus — now the digital variety. I’m on my third model after “killing” the first two, both times without the aid of wet peat moss!

Ah, they really do not make ’em like they used to.

june cabin in winter

Last bit of nostalgia. The little cabin I built and lived in by a creek in northern BC, circa 1978.

Calendar cover 2019 blog new

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The Crow Calendar is Coming

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You may (or may not) have been wondering where in the blogosphere I’ve gotten to for the last few months.

Well, puppy training is surprisingly time consuming … and then there has been my City Crow Calendar project.

The puppy training and the cat/dog peace treaty are both, by the way, going well.

geordie-and-edgar

But for a while it looked as if there wasn’t going to be a calendar this year.

First, there was the Canada Post dispute over the summer. I was worried that it would linger into to the busy mailing season and I’d have to hand deliver each and every calendar. Time to start Geordie’s sled training!

Happily, the dispute was settled by August. But then I thought maybe I’d left it too late.

Requests and queries started coming in. When will the 2107 calendar be ready? It did sell out by the beginning of December last year, so I guess people were anxious that they might have missed it already.

So in mid-September I finally got into calendar creation mind set.

Narrowing down the 12 images to feature is tough. From the thousands of crow images on my hard drive, it took at least a week to narrow it down to the dozen.

I could have been done then, and have the calendars already printed, but …

I had this lingering thought in my head that I’d like to give people more than just a calendar. I’d like to make it even more of a “crow-promotion” by adding interesting little facts about crows for every month. I also wanted to add some extra photos to help tell the “crow story”. I decided I could do this by using the little bits of vacant real estate on the calendar left by the grid spaces in each month that don’t have dates in them.

It wasn’t too hard to come up with “crow facts” for every month, although it took quite a bit of tweaking and editing to get them concise enough to fit into the little calendar grid boxes. It took a little bit more time to pick out the extra photos.

feb-2017

I thought I was finally finished last Friday, but then I found that the reason that more sensible people don’t make these cute little additions is that it’s a technical nightmare!

I won’t bore you with the InDesign technical reasons why this is such a fiddle, but suffice to say that I spent hours this week going over it with a fine tooth comb to get the weensy boxes of text and mini photos to align perfectly with the grid part of the calendar.

bored-dog

Geordie waits patiently while the crazy woman mutters at the computer screen.

Finally I decided that my nitpicking was going beyond the rational, so Geordie and I took the file off to the printer today. It is now, I am happy to report, out of my hands.

I expect it to be back into my hands early next week when it will be available to order online. I’ll be sending out a newsletter when they’re actually available, just in case you’d like to get your hands on one.

UPDATE: The City Crows calendar is now available for order on my website. 

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www.junehunter.com

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Black and White World

Raven Departure

 

I love colour. I really do love colour.

But there is something very beautiful in a landscape stripped down to shades of black and white.

Stark and simple.

Here’s a little photo essay on a lovely world almost devoid of colour.

 

Calligraphy in the water at Hastings Sanctuary

Calligraphy in the water at Hastings Sanctuary

 

Pair of ravens at Bowen Lookout, Cypress Bowl

Pair of ravens at Bowen Lookout, Cypress Bowl

 

Snow, trees and sky. Mount Washington, Vancouver Island.

Snow, trees and sky. Mount Washington, Vancouver Island.

 

Raven call

Raven call

Raven reverse.

Raven callback.

 

Garry oaks on Hornby Island

Garry oaks on Hornby Island

 

Raven tracks

 

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Fluffy raven at Bowen Lookout, Cypress Bowl, West Vancouver

 

Winter Tree

Tree skeleton

 

Raven acrobat. This is tricky, especially in a brisk wind.

Don’t try this at home.

 

Winter skyline with raven.

Winter skyline with raven.

 

George says hello in black and white.

George says hello in black and white.

 

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Ghost Raven

Whenever I go up into the mountains I’m hoping to see ravens.

They are actually part of my fitness program. If I ever feel like just sitting all day at the computer, I remind myself that if I don’t keep my knees in working order, I won’t be able to get up those mountains and therefore will not see those ravens.

So, ravens = fitness incentive.

On Saturday it was raining in Vancouver and you’d swear that the North Shore Mountains were non-existent.

But, as my father-in-law used to say, “If you don’t do things in the rain in Vancouver, you won’t do anything at all”.

So, we put the snowshoes in the car and headed up to Mount Seymour.

About halfway up the mountain a thick mist descended. By the time we reached the parking lot it was impossible to see more than a few feet ahead.

The chances of a raven sighting seemed pretty remote, given that I could hardly see my feet to put my snowshoes on.

But, just as we got kitted up and ready to head to the trail, I spotted an ethereal silhouette ahead of us.

A ghostly figure in the fog and snow.

A ghostly figure in the fog and snow.

I was pretty sure that this would be our only raven sighting for the day.

We headed off through the woods, stopping for a snack and break at First Lake. Just as we headed off again, I saw our ethereal raven land on the top of a tree by the lake and give a few mist-muffled calls.

Phillip at First Lake

Phillip at First Lake

We carried on to Dog Mountain. Normally this spot affords the most awe-inspiring panoramic views of Vancouver. On this day it offered a blank whitescape and a biting wind. After a couple of quick photos of the non-view, we prepared to retreat into the trees away from the gale.

The non-existent view from Dog Mountain on Saturday. You can just faintly see the raven flying just above the small tree in the centre left.

The non-existent view from Dog Mountain on Saturday. You can just faintly see the raven flying above the small tree in the centre left.

And suddenly, there he was. Like magic, our ghost raven became corporeal for a few moments. He landed on the snow beside us.

It was really gusty out there.

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The upswept punk look

The upswept punk look

I whipped off my mitts, dragged out the camera and was able to take a few shots of him before he turned around and wandered offstage again, back into the realm of mist and mystery.

Taking Leave

 

Magic.

More than enough motivation to keep my knees fit enough for further mountain expeditions.

For new raven portraits, visit my website.

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How to Keep Your Cool

As usual, the birds have the best idea. When the temperature soars, head for the water.

I’ve been employing my own “beat the heat” strategies, most notably, getting up at 4am to get all of my “active” duties out of the way by early afternoon. It’s just too hot to be in the studio after 2, but getting up very early means you can have a lot of things done and dusted by noon! Of course, it does mean going to bed around 8pm, so not so great for the social life …

When it’s really hot, I love to watch the birds having fun with water in the garden – in the birdbath, the sprinkler and now in my new “mister”, purchased this week. Note: the mister is also great for spraying on yourself!

Here’s a selection of some of the visitors to the garden “water park”.

Sometimes a moment in a bath is the only peaceful time you get to yourself all day ...

Sometimes a moment in a bath is the only peaceful time you get to yourself all day …

And sometimes you just can't get the place to yourself. Sigh.

And sometimes you just can’t get the place to yourself. Sigh.

Best to get your feet wet first before plunging right in.

Best to get your feet wet first before plunging right in.

This little chickadee was waxing quite operatic at the birdbath.

Singing at bath time is traditional!

This little golden crowned sparrow had a sticky bit of rhododendron bud stuck to his foot, so he hopped in the birdbath to rinse it off.

This little golden crowned sparrow had a sticky bit of rhododendron bud stuck to his foot, so he hopped in the birdbath to rinse it off.

Everyone ends up at the birdbath

The birdbath gets some very elegant visitors.

Crow Stands on Birdbath

… and some very handsome visitors!

... and some just very, very happy visitors!

… and some very splashy visitors!

 

Hummingbird in Sprinkler

And some visitors prefer the lawn sprinkler!

May everyone stay cool and happy this weekend. And remember to put some water out for the birds if it’s hot and dry where you are. If you don’t have a birdbath, a plastic plant pot tray with some water in it will do. Just change the water daily.

To see my collection of bird prints, visit my web site.

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spa crows

Crows enjoying the pools near the Royal Museum in Victoria. It was a very social and happy affair that went on for hours.

Here’s Hank

First there was Eric. Then there was Hank. Now there are Hank and Eric and Vera and Eric’s mate and some babies. That’s a lot of crows for a small area, but they seem to have worked out a way to keep things civil.

They key is that certain rules have to be adhered to. Eric and his family have the run of the front street and the large poplars at the end of the street.

Hank and Vera rule the back garden and the alley. They still seem to be tending to a nest in a big tree in the alley.

Hank is responsible for feeding Vera while she's nesting.

Hank is responsible for feeding Vera while she’s nesting.

Harmony exists as long as no-one forgets to cross the unseen borders. If they do – holy moly, there is trouble.

The other day Hank was on his usual perch on the neighbour’s roof when Eric came a-calling. After all, the back yard used to be Eric’s domain, so I can see how he might be confused. I was photographing Hank at the time, so I was able to catch the instantaneous transformation from relaxed, rather gormlessly sunbathing crow — to puffed-up (look how big and scary I am!) tough-guy crow.

On the left, Hank is in relaxed, sunbathing mode. One second later, sensing intruders into his space, he's in tough crow mode.

On the left, Hank is in relaxed, sunbathing mode. One second later, sensing intruders into his space, he’s in tough crow mode.

I can easily tell the difference between Hank and Eric because Hank has a rather distinctive “over beak”. His top beak curves over the bottom slightly. They engaged in a few minutes of angry cawing and a touch of dive bombing action before Eric relinquished the territory to Hank.

Hank Close Up

Ruler of the backyard.

It’s lucky the trouble was short lived — because Hank really seems to enjoy just hanging about and soaking up the sun. Here he is later that day doing some more sun bathing on the studio roof. He likes to relax with his beak open and wings spread out. He’s a real West Coast, laid back kind of crow.

Wings spread, beak open - I think it's like dogs panting, it must create some sort of cooling effect.

Wings spread, beak open – I think it’s like dogs panting, it must create some sort of cooling effect.

More wing spreading.

More wing spreading.

He probably does yoga when I’m not looking. Actually, I think I may have caught him a hula hoop practice in this picture.

Check out that hip action!

Check out that hip action!

I am getting quite fond of Hank and he is getting less nervous around me, and therefore a more willing model for my photographs.

If you’d like to hear more about what goes on with the local crows on a daily basis, check in at my Facebook page. 

I post lots of pictures there and keep you up on latest in the ongoing crow soap opera.

And if you’d like to see my collection of crow portraits for sale, check out my website.

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Winsome

 

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Look out – Crow!

Dive bombing crows are in the news again.
A scary experience for pedestrians, but it may help to know why they do it.

Incoming

Imagine this. You and your sleep-deprived spouse have just had triplets. A few days after they’re born they have the mobility capacity of toddlers — combined with the burning desire to see the world and the “I-can-do-it” attitude of teenagers!

They’ve got the keys to the car but have had no driving lessons.

They don’t know anything about “stranger danger”.

Is this food?

Is this food?

At the same time, they’re loudly demanding food and attention every moment of the day.

You’d be kind of wild-eyed too. You’d be prone to acts of desperate bravado to keep danger away, just until the kids get the hang of the flying business and the basics of urban survival.

 

Please may I have some more …?

If I just jump and keep flapping everything will be OK, right?

If I just jump and keep flapping everything will be OK, right?

If you know there are worry-crazed parent crows in your neighbourhood, I hope you’ll try to forgive their seemingly aggressive behaviour. It will pass soon, once the kids are just a little older.

In the meantime, give them a wide berth — or use an umbrella for protection. Maybe soothe their frazzled nerves and offer a bribe by dropping a few peanuts.
Try to put yourself in their shoes/claws for a minute.

Crow Family Moment

www.junehunter.com

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Just Another Day

It started as a normal Monday in East Vancouver. The dawn made it’s spectacular appearance (an hour late due Daylight Savings).

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Birds began to reappear in the sky, taking their posts for the coming day.

Dawn bird

Eric and his family arrived at their spot — in my garden, waiting for the first peanut handout of the day.

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I was thrilled to see the first downy woodpeckers had returned from whichever winter destination they’d chosen.

Downy Woodpecker male

I noted that the house sparrows were collecting nesting material. And giving the pine siskin some interior design ideas at the same time.

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Suddenly, trouble in paradise.

Eric and his family of crows dove into the lilac tree where all the small songbirds like to be.

I thought the crows had suddenly and unexpectedly decided to start dining on full-grown sparrows and chickadees.

But no — the crows had spotted a juvenile Sharp Shinned Hawk darting into the lilac.

No doubt the hawk had certain designs on the songbirds, snack-wise.

Sharp Shinned Hawk

The hawk fled, pursued by Eric, his family and the neighbourhood watch committee of concerned crows. They flew around the neighbourhood all day.

Hawk soaring, crows cawing.

Hawk on High

A crow keeps a wary eye on the hawk from the top of street sign.

 

So, now we have a new kid on the block, adding to the daily excitement. Another hazard for smaller birds, like the bald eagles and ravens that already cruise the skies. But another thrilling ingredient into the mix of wildlife that calls East Vancouver home.

Counting Birds in Fog

Bundled in my stylish plaid dressing gown, I climbed to the top deck of our house first thing this morning to participate in the annual Great Backyard Bird Count.

As I surveyed a sea of fog, things did not look promising.

The february sun takes on the fog

A pale February morning sunrise.

I could hear a lot of frantic crow activity, although it was hard to see where it was coming from, or what was causing it. Suddenly a raven burst out of the fog into a patch of blue sky directly above me and, just as suddenly, disappeared — followed by his retinue of angry crows. I could hear the chase continue in the distance – to the west, then north, then off to the east – all hidden by thick mist. Sentry crows called from vantage points all around, offering helpful advice to the chasing committee.

A crow bursts out of the fog in pursuit of a raven.

A crow bursts out of the fog in pursuit of a raven.

Another group of crow sentries in the lombardy poplars.

A group of crow sentries in the lombardy poplars.

One of the crows decided it was time for breakfast, landing on the hydro pole with a snack in beak – forcing a quick exit by the pole’s previous tenant, a starling.

A crow and a starling seems set on a collision.

Crow arrival, starling exit.

While the foghorns continued their mournful calling down by the Second Narrows, all of a sudden it was a full-on scorcher where I was. There had been a clear winner in the sun vs. fog battle.

The northern flickers I’d been hearing came into view, landing on the hydro wires in the alley. The family of three was clearly enjoying the sudden warmth.  One of the flickers luxuriantly spread a wing to soak up the sun – or perhaps he was just showing off his finery to the others.

Sunworshipping.

My feathers are prettier than your feathers

 

The flickers flew off and were quickly replaced by another sun worshipper — the collared dove that I’d heard eerily hooting in the fog earlier.

Sunbathing collared dove.

Sunbathing collared dove.

The lilac in the garden was full of the usual suspects – house sparrows, song sparrows and chickadees. I even spotted the first golden crowned sparrow of the spring in our neighbour’s plum tree.

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Eventually I was so hot I had to come inside – another first for the season.

The sun lights up the scarlet coral bark maple and the lime green moss on the studio roof.

The sun lights up the scarlet coral bark maple and the lime green moss on the studio roof.

Turned out to be a perfect morning the great backyard bird count.

Not too late if you haven’t done yours yet.

GREAT BACKYARD BIRD COUNT

Owls, Crows, Rooks and Poetry

Occasionally the most ordinary of days is transformed out of all recognition.

It started with a dawn trip downtown for an early morning physiotherapy appointment (tennis elbow: even less fun that it sounds).

Post-appointment I popped into the Vancouver Art Gallery to drop off one of my bracelets, ordered by the gift shop. It was still so early that the gallery wasn’t open yet, but my friend was there so we went out for a quick coffee. Already the day was on the upswing!

After coffee, I decided to go back once again to the gallery with her to take a photo of my work on display in the shop. As we reached the entrance it was hard to miss the massive crow commotion going on in the tree just outside. My friend immediately guessed it was the barred owl that she’d seen several times over the years, usually in the evening. I guess this time the owl had pulled an all-nighter, because there she was, high in the tree, with about two dozen crows flapping around and cawing furiously.

Crow-owl stand-off.

Crow-owl stand-off.

 

Quite a large owl with big, soulful eyes, she was a breath-taking sight and not at all something you expect to find in downtown Vancouver on a Friday morning. Miraculously having my camera with me, all other plans for the day were put on hold.

Barred Owl at VAG

Barred owl on branch

The crows came and went … and came back again. The initial twenty or so dwindled to a skeleton crew of two dedicated owl harassers. For about 15 minutes even they left and all was quiet. Then they were back and the furious cawing resumed. Mostly the owl was able to ignore the hullaballoo and, secure in a particularly dense part of the tree, she seemed to nod off for a while. Then a crow would get too close and she’d make a lunge for it. Crows would explode from all sides of the tree. The owl would relocate to another branch and the game resumed.

The owl finally found a spot where the crows couldn't get too close.

The owl finally found a spot where the crows couldn’t get too close.

The Barred owl attempts to get some shut-eye in spite of the crow racket.

The Barred owl attempts to get some shut-eye in spite of the crow racket.

During the course of this I spoke to many people who were curious about the goings on – a couple who came equipped with binoculars, people who worked in the gallery, tourists, school children going in to see a show, a nice man from Ireland. Opinions were exchanged, stories told.

The Irish gentleman had a particularly memorable corvid tale. Back in Ireland, his aunt lived in a cottage close by a rookery. The rooks were very noisy and she tried to get rid of them by smoking them out – and in so doing, burned her own house down. The ultimate in “why you shouldn’t be mean to crows” stories.

Then a woman came to join the conversation and I noticed she was wearing one of my pendants. I commented on that and it turned out that she has several of my pieces and is a poet. She told me that she loves crows. We exchanged cards. Her name is Daniela Elza and her newest collection, milk tooth bane bone, explores her fascination with crows. I have just read a wonderful review of it here. I am seeking a copy immediately!

She also has a wonderful blog called Strange Places.

So, it was a day of multiple wonders – owls, crows, rook stories and poetry. Who could ask for more!

An hour of looking up into the high, high tree branches has left me in need of a new string of physio appointments, but so worth it.

Barred owl and tree trunk

Looking down