Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Saratoga Beach: More than just dogs!

While I never tire of photographing Maggie, and certainly took dozens of shots of her during our recent mini-vacation at Saratoga Beach, Vancouver Island, she was not the only target for my lens. It is a beautiful place, full of beautiful scenes of beach and ocean, of flowers and birds and driftwood and boats and shellfish and  mountains and white puffy clouds in a blue sky.  And dogs.  Of course, dogs - Maggie, and the poms (Lexi and Cosmo) and local dogs and tourists' dogs.  But the beach was big enough that one could avoid interaction with dogs or tourists or locals if one wished.  Nature, however, was not to be avoided and brought such a sense of tranquility and joy - like the slice of joy I felt watching the flock of gulls in the photo above, lifting off from their resting place along the shore.

Or observing the herons, who love to fish in the shallows at sunrise or sunset and sometimes midday too:

And the crow, who hopped up on the bow of this colourful rowboat/planter just in front of our deck:

See the beach and ocean there?  Yes, our cottage was That Close to the beach.  When we stepped into our cottage and looked out the wide patio doors, beyond the huge partially covered deck, this was the view we saw:

My friend Pat and I, along with her poms and my sheltie,  were staying at The Breakers Beachfront Resort - it's an older,  no-frills resort but the cabins are clean and well-equipped,  the beds comfy, the prices reasonable, and the views stupendous.  It was my second visit there, and it won't be my last.

We spent much of our time walking the beach with the dogs (you didn't really think there'd be no dog photos in this post, did you?),  The poms love the water, and even Maggie braved the waves once or twice:

Is there fishes in there?

You put your right paw in,
You put your right paw out,
You do the hokey pokey and you shake it all about!  

Mama!  Help! There's a wave chasin' me! 

The sandy beach is a dream to walk on, and walk on it we did. 

Walking on the beach.....or not.
Cosmo takes a minute to just enjoy the sun on his face.

Here, Mama!  I'll illustrate this point for you!
Walkin' on the sandy beach! 

But to the north is the estuary of the Oyster River, and this provided different scenery, a more pebbly beach, flowers, mergansers,  and large old tree stumps.

There's an RV Park near the mouth of the river, with a channel where campers can take their boats out to sea.   It was there we saw a mink catching small crabs and hauling them back to his home in the rocks.

By the time we returned to the cottage, the poms were all pooped out, and ready for a towel drying and a snooze on Pat's lap:

If there was food to be had, Maggie was willing to take a break from the beach - even resting her chin by Auntie Pat's knee in hopes of cajoling her into sharing her sandwich:

A girl works up an appetite with all that runnin' on the beach, y'know! 

There was so much more to see:  beautiful sunrises to wake up to, snow-covered mountains turning pink in the setting sun, cruise ships gliding silently through the sea, and other people's dogs fetching sticks along the shoreline -

And, of course, there was always my beautiful, beautiful girl who had the time of her life and made me smile at her joyfulness, her confidence, her poise.

A vacation full of favourites - good friends, a sandy beach, and my dog by my side.  It's the stuff great memories are made of.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

The best gift a dog mom could receive....

The best gift that a mom could receive is the knowledge that their youngun' - be it human or furry - is happy and confident and feels safe.  My human child, an adult for some years now, has grown into an amazing woman and while I won't say I never worry about her, I no longer feel responsible for her wellbeing, her happiness, or her safety.  The critters, however, are another matter.

As a 'mom' to a seventeen year old cat in kidney failure, and a rather anxious and fearful dog around 8-10 years old with severe allergies,  I worry about them constantly.  But I also marvel at their resiliency, their intelligence, their ability to communicate their needs, and their sensitivity to my moods.  And each time I find myself smiling at something they have done, or sighing with exasperation when they become demanding little tyrants, or drifting off to sleep with one or the other snuggled up against me, I am grateful for the bond that we have.

This past week my anxious, fearful, barky Maggie gave me an incredible early Mother's Day gift.  We spent the week at Saratoga Beach, up island, sharing a cabin right on the beach with my friend Pat and the poms. I had been worried it would be too much for Mags - sharing space, living with other dogs, being somewhere new.  Instead, Maggie was in heaven - relaxed, happy, quick to learn, moving from on leash to long line to off leash with the delight of a four year old working her way through a candy store.

I have hundreds of photos from the week, of course, but those will take a while to prepare.  And so I shall share just a few - some images of my happy, happy girl who gave me the best Mother's Day gift ever: a brief glimpse at the dog she will become over time - happy, confident and feeling safe. We're back home now and she is her somewhat edgy self again, but now I know there is a happy inner pup who only needs the right environment and the right approach to let that puppy out to play.

Happy Mother's Day to all you dog moms- may your critters share their joy with you.

C'mom. mom - Let's go!

Mom, I've been dragging this long line for awhile now, and it's getting
kinda heavy with the sand and water!

See, I can stay really well without you holding the leash!
Okay Mags, we'll try you off leash - 'Away' ...'Stay'.......
Can I 'come' now?
Here I come!

I'm runnin' so fast, I left two of mah legs behind!

Hi. Mama!  I'm here! 

I loves this beach!
Can we lives here forever?

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Blooms and Bloopers

The more photography I do, the more critical I become of the photos I take, and the longer it takes to correct the 'flaws' I see in them.  It's not unusual for me to take a couple of hundred photos on a hike, and post only half a dozen.  This was true of a hike yesterday to the beautiful Jack Point/Biggs Park near Duke Point ferry terminal in south Nanaimo.

I always love this fairly simple five km hike (three loooong flights of steep steps notwithstanding), for there are always beautiful seascapes, tall trees, bird life, and fascinating rock formations that make me think of dinosaur fossils.

On yesterday's hike, there were also masses of spring flowers in bloom: camus and seablush, monkeyflower and buttercups and paintbrush and chocolate lilies, as well as orange hawkweed about to bloom.  I took lots of photos, with and without dogs.


Camus and Sea Blush

Meadow of Sea Blush

Monkeyflower near a sandstone basin

But yesterday's photos also provided good examples of photographic bloopers.  Some bloopers are easy to fix. A photo with a slanted horizon , for example, can easily be improved by rotating it slightly, and dull colour can be brightened with the click of a key:


After two clicks - one to straighten the horizon, one to brighten

Others, where too little attention was paid to properly focusing the picture, are not salvageable even with the 'sharpen' tool available on many software programs.  None of the ones I took of chocolate lilies came out well - my camera was on autofocus and the settings weren't appropriate for closeup work:
Blurry chocolate lilies

But the ones that have me whacking myself upside the head are nearly always the ones that include dogs.   I become so intent on catching a great shot of the dog before he/she moves, that I forget all about watching the background.  That's why there is a tree growing out of my friend's head, when simply moving over a foot or two would have altered the background and provided a tree-free head.  Wiggly uncooperative poms caused me to miss a great photo op here, though using the crop and clone features of my photo-editing software, I was able to remove offending tree with some success:

Before - a tree grows from Pat's head

After a bit of cropping and a bit of cloning

And of course,  even without people, dog photos can be challenging.  Maggie made me laugh with these ones:

Wait a minute, mom - there's a good smell here!

Oh, wait, what's Auntie Pat doing?

Auntie Pat, are there treats in that bag?

YAWN!  Modeling is so tiring! 

Hahahaha - I love giving my mama a hard time! 

But my very favourite blooper of the day was this  next one - I was so intent on getting a nice shot of Maggie with flowers and seascape, that I failed to see a leprechaun-sized Pat placing a mini-Lexi on Mag's head.  In reality, she was well behind Maggie - probably 20 feet away, but up a hill, and thus the 'perfect' positioning of  Lexi above Mags without either Pat or I realizing what was happening. There's no fix for this.  I guess we'll just have to make sure we go back again next spring - and make sure Pat and the poms are standing behind me!