28 December 2009

Across with some up

The inside of 90 Sheppard Ave. East is remarkably similar to Metro Ref; it's presumably all of an architectural period.

26 December 2009

Orchid bokeh

On the theory that the bokeh is all the parts of the photo that are not in focus.
I've been impressed by just how long and how resolutely this orchid blooms; it's been blooming away for a couple-three weeks now.

Take a look at amaryllis in the sprawl

09 December 2009

There's nothing anti-shake can do

when the problem is the subway car window rattling.
Not much it can do for the subject, either, but apparently everyone who gets the least bit serious about photography has to do this once.  So here's the evidence that I've succumbed to the impulse.

Elegance in Decoration

The bronze bust/shrine/thing is of, and to, Alexander the Great.

As is the traditional role of fountains, this one spends a lot of time having small children run round and round it.  There's this brief lacuna of time where they can run roun and round in it; the water is out and the lights have not been added.  They're back to running around the outside for the winter season.

07 December 2009

Street Photography

Perhaps I am taking the concept overly literally...


Despite a certain propensity to climb high shelves, Aoife is definately a lurker.

06 December 2009

TOC Bird Walk–Waterfowl and Winter Birding

I saw 33 species of birds in a clearly-identifiable way.

American coot
American crow
American kestrel
American robin
American widgeon
black duck
blue jay
common goldeneye
common loon
downy woodpecker
greater scaup
hairy woodpecker
hooded merganser
house sparrow
lesser scaup
longtail duck
mourning dove
mute swan
red-breasted merganser
red-necked grebe
red-tailed hawk
shoveler ducks
trumpeter swan
white-breasted nuthatch
white-winged scoter
winter wren

Highlights include the (80+) shoveler ducks feeding, which meant they were going round in circles on the surface in small—sometimes single pair—groups with their heads mostly under water, all in bright fresh plummage; the probable bald eagle, flying low over the lake near the visual horizon; the really excellent, yes, I will sit on a bare trunk in sunshine view of the winter wren; the 1000+ greater scaup rafting together; the kestrel eating a vole.

There was much lamentation from the more experienced TOC members, including the trip leader, Dave Milsom, about how the long stretch of clement weather in November had prevented the traditional concentrations of interesting birds inshore.  For all of that, I thought Dave did a fine job leading the trip and rather enjoyed the whole thing.  I should have listened to my hind-brain and taken the scope instead of the large binoculars; it would have been more useful for the seriously offshore birds, of which there were a large number. (The large bins are Pentax 20x60 PCF WP IIs.  They're excellent for duck in the summer, but the focus mechanism really doesn't like being cooled below freezing.  I should probably check how the scope reacts to that, too, before I lug it on one of the winter bird walks...)

Mammals included a coyote (doing a very good "I'm somebody's dog, really, look, they're just back there" immitation as it trotted along the path), two mink, and two muskrats.

28 November 2009


I suspect the really compositionally correct place to take this would have been standing in the middle of the tracks, which was not an option.
The reflecting sections—well, the sections with lights shining on them directly—are what originally caught my eye, and it seemed darker at the time, so they were more prominent elements of the image as I saw it at the time.

Still, I think perhaps this works in some way.

This is the next exposure, processed much darker and rather closer to what I remember the scene looking like.  It certainly brings out the light on the rails better.

24 November 2009

Indoor Plants

My landlady's phalaenopsis having condescended to bloom, I thought I ought to get a picture or two.
On-camera flash, which can at least handle a range under a meter.
Roughly centred on a bare 100W lightbulb for backlight.

23 November 2009

By the wall

The base of the wall around Osgoode Hall. Sometimes I'm glad I look down.

22 November 2009


I think this would have worked better with a polarizing filter; have to put that in the light camera bag. (Enough of that and the utility of the lightness is rather lost, but one does as one can.) Certainly I had not recognized just how shiny all that tile was going to be.

01 November 2009

Past the fluffy stage

Probably flown south by now; the trumpeters don't seem to overwinter on the lake much. (Picture is two weeks old.) But a favourite autumnal image, all the same; what was a ball of fluff in the spring is fit to fly for thousands of miles, now.

24 October 2009

An autumnal giraffe

"giraffe" is one of those words I'm never quite sure I'm spelling correctly; cameleopard would be easier to spell, but there are limits to just how archaic I'm willing to purposefully be.

22 October 2009

Mallard Drake

Whereas with this one, I'm not in much doubt whatsoever. One of the least mistakable birds there is.

Black Duck

Adult female, presumably.

21 October 2009

Autumnal Pond Margin

This one just plain makes me happy.

Cubic Fracture

No surrounding flowers in October, so I can get a clear picture.

18 October 2009


This doesn't quite work; I'll need to go back in a week or two when all the leaves have turned, and I'll pretty clearly need to mess about with focus locking to get the depth of field to do what I want, but at least it's a start.

And yes, the image as a type is somewhere past clich├ęd and getting into the land of "mercy! not again!", but I like the idea of it.

Still Not a Lemming

Most owls look charmingly mad. Snowy owls often don't, I think due to the sheer austerity of their colouration, but sometimes they do, and when they do it can be even more effective as a contrast to the usual look of sullen disdain.

This has been lightly sharpened, cropped a bit, and scaled for web display; everything else is straight off the camera. Having white creatures in dark places with green foregrounds come out pretty close to perfect for white balance and exposure makes me happy.

They Gave Us Dirt!

Merely because they natively inhabit a rocky desolation doesn't mean a polar bear disdains a good roll in the dirt if they can get some dirt. The new polar bear enclosure at the Metro Toronto Zoo has lots of dirt, and here we can see the resulting contentment.

I overheard several comments about how the polar bears didn't look like proper polar bears and ought to be washed while I was taking various bear pictures. Since I wasn't taking polar bear pictures for very long, this must have been a popular sentiment. While it would create a new high-machismo profession of Polar Bear Bathing Specialist, I can't see the Zoo really wanting to pay for it. Easier to just install a bear jacuzzi and sneak in some soap and a risking shower on the way out, probably. Which gives the much lower machismo profession of Bear Enclosure Drain Cleaner but one can't have everything.

10 October 2009

TOC Bird Walk–Toronto Islands Late Migrants

The forecast for today a week ago was, in effect, cold rain and lots of it, side of wind, optional gloom. By the time today actually rolled around, it was a gorgeous fall day; high of 11 C, and mostly clear and sunny. Since this came after a week of rain and otherwise adverse-for-migration conditions, there were a lot of birds to see, in terms of both numbers and species.

Kevin Seymour ably led the walk. Highlights include the airport fence, where the snipe, kestrels, one of the northern harriers, rusty blackbirds, and a plethora of thrushes, phoebes, and catbirds simply presented themselves for viewing, and the lunch stop that included not only passing raptors but interacting ones—a sharp-shinned hawk and a cooper's hawk had words, and another cooper's hawk made a try for a blue jay. The commentary from the blue jay flock was not polite.

In total, I saw 51 species of birds:

American crow
American robin (high flocks!)
black-throated blue warbler
blue jay (group count abandoned when it passed 200...)
brown creeper
Canada goose (group count abandoned when it passed 200...)
canvasback duck
cooper's hawk (at least 3! one trying to eat a blue jay!)
dark-eyed junco
double-crested cormorant
downy woodpecker
gold-crowned kinglet (clouds of kinglets)
great blue heron (2! one immature with an upper bill the blue of hammered iron just out of the fire)
great horned owl (only 1, but it was a complete-with-yikes! experience)
hermit thrush
herring gull
house sparrow
mallard duck
mute swan
norther flicker (yellow shafted)
northern harrier (five!)
palm warbler
peregrine falcon (three!)
phoebe (almost as many as there were kinglets)
red-breasted nuthatch
red-tailed hawk (only 2, but one was eating, from a very visible distance)
ring-billed gull
ring-necked duck
ruby-crowned kinglet (clouds of kinglets)
rusty blackbird (2! in plain sight!)
sharp-shinned hawk (more than six!)
snipe (sitting in a low damp spot in a mowed field, all by itself. Eventually left when members of the drifting-that-way Canada goose flock started trying to pull its tail feathers.)
song sparrow
Swainson's thrush
teal, probably blue-winged teal
turkey vulture (15+!)
warbling vireo
white-breasted nuthatch
white-crowned sparrow (1st winter white-crowned sparrow can have a very ruddy crown stripe...)
white-throated sparrow
wood duck
yellow-bellied sapsucker
yellow-rumped warbler

06 October 2009


I see these guys—just red-breasted; the white-breasted don't like where I'm living—all year, but there's a definite uptick in their presence at the peanut feeder when the weather gets cold. I suppose from their point of view the peanut feeder is effectively just pre-wedged nuts that they don't have to work too hard to hammer open.

05 October 2009

Why is the outside broken?

That's pretty much Aoife's sole area of concern this time of year. It's not warm any more, the wretched, no-good, big mean monkey won't let her out on the balcony at all hours, and the smell-o-vision gets turned off.
You can see that her expression can reflect this concern even on those days when it's nice enough to let her out on the balcony.
And then a squirrel moves along the fence.

So the poor wee creature isn't doing too badly, despite having to evolve some kind of complex theology to explain why I wait so long to fix the weather after she's clearly—so clearly—indicated that it is broken.


It's an interesting mix of leaves a wind storm brings down this time of year.

30 September 2009

Money fails as a value proxy

Over on his blog, Brad DeLong is asking where modern macro economics went off the rails and started ignoring well-understood economic history.

I stuck an opinion in the comment thread. This, though, is a bit too much for a comment.

If the efficient markets hypothesis doesn't hold (and I think you have to accept that it doesn't hold at this point; the Great Recession is a direct result of treating the efficient markets hypothesis as true), money isn't a good proxy for value.

Remember that value is the ratio between performance and price. In economic models, value is usually approximated as price, both because that's a whole lot simpler than attempting to determine value directly and because people have more or less lost the distinction; "what's that worth?" and "what's that cost?" are not inherently synonymous statements, but could certainly be used that way in conversation without anybody looking at you funny. Now, price is important; figuring out the price point to sell something at is a lot of what's involved in commercial success, and the price of money does constrain economic activity, and so on, but price and worth (value) aren't the same thing.

If money is not a good proxy for value -- and if the efficient markets hypothesis isn't true, it can't be -- all the arguments from models related to money break. Some things, like the notion of the velocity of money, continue to work because they're focused on spending, which is safely distinct from what the economy as a system is doing. But on the whole the models are modelling something subtly false of fact and will fail where they fall into the crevasse between the map and the territory.

An economy can be a machine to create general prosperity, or it can be a machine to concentrate wealth. Brad would know better than I which time periods represent which modes in the US economy, but I think it's pretty easy to point out that 1946 through 1970 or so represent a "generate prosperity" period and 2000 through the present represent a "concentrate wealth" period. 1970 through 2000 represent an interesting tussle intended to move the economy away from generating prosperity and toward concentrating wealth.

These two kinds of economy are not the same system, and while I am not an economist, I've never seen any popular or public discussion of economic policy which either directly address the question of what an economy is for, or treated the change from a basically level income distribution to a sharply tilted income distribution as a change in fundamental system (like the switch from steam to diesel-electric in railway locomotives, say) rather than as a side effects in shifts in marginal utility of different skills. Not thinking in terms of system lets you avoid "the purpose of a system is what it does" and treat policy as a question of operating within axiomatic constraints, rather than testing the axioms. (Anyone want to bet that the efficient markets hypothesis was the only busted axiom?)

So I think there's three problems:

  1. not asking what an economy is for
  2. attempting to model in terms of money, rather than value
  3. no systematic attempt to test axioms
This gets to Brad's point about not looking at economic history when creating models, but I think it also gets to a point about really serious social pressure to not question the axioms. Once you're not questioning the axioms, whatever you're doing isn't science.

Science is about knowing how wrong you are. Until it starts being science, nobody's going to know who is wrong; not knowing who is wrong has enormous social utility on both the individual and political levels.

29 September 2009

Down and Out

I don't think I moved where my feet were located to take these, though I did move which way they, I, and the camera, were pointed.

28 September 2009

Oak Leaves

Elevated platforms can be a real help with this sort of shot.


There's a bunch of these high bas-relief sculptures in the wall of one of the entrances to the Queen subway station. (Banks seem to like producing nice walk-through spaces in their buildings.) They're at eye-height for hobbits, and next try I should crouch down a bit. What I get for being opportunistic when walking through at the end of a photography day.
Still, I rather like this one; it's been battered by circumstances, but as an image of foundational Canadian industry, it does pretty well.


26 September 2009

TOC Bird Walk–Shore Birds and Late Migrants, Tommy Thompson Park

For a day that was forecast to have hard rain start around noon, the actual start time (about 16h00) was a remarkably nice break from the weather.

Bob Kortright led the walk; this is the first walk of his I've been on, and his take on the park is noticeably different from that of other leaders of Tommy Thompson park bird walks. This was an interesting change, and I'll be going back to some of those corners of the park.

Based on some of the other birders on the walk, I have a long, long way to go when it comes to spotting birds in undergrowth and thick leaves.

Don't know what the group total was; I saw (meaning, saw it well enough that I either could, or believe I ought to have been able to, identify the bird) 34 species:

American robin
American widgeon
black duck
black-throated green warbler (included a fresh male in goldenrod; really vivid)
blue jay
blue-winged teal
brown creeper
Canada goose
chipping sparrow
common yellow-throat
Cooper's hawk (sitting on a chain link fence by the park's access control point; last bird of the day)
dark-eyed junco
double-crested cormorant
eastern kingbird
Eurasian starling
golden-crowned kinglet (there were ruby-crowned, too, but I wasn't able to confirm any)
goldfinch (plucking thistle seeds, and letting the fluff float away...)
greater scaup
green heron (in clear view, on a dead branch, and it just stayed there)
magnolia warbler
mallard duck
mute swan
northern flicker
northern pintail
palm warbler
sharp-shinned hawk
shoveller duck
song sparrow
white-crowned sparrow
white-throated sparrow
yellow-bellied sapsucker

So quite wretched for shorebirds but a pretty good day all the same.

23 September 2009


Part of the park is in a building. This is me trying to freeze the fan motion (and mostly succeeding) though the sky is a bit bright.

21 September 2009


Emulation of a river

Pigeon for scale. :)

Late Bloomer

Outside, despite the shape of the leaves. Not looking unhappy, either; I have to assume that the urban heat island around Richmond and Yonge is pretty effective.

Toronto Ornithological Club Fall Field Day, Tommy Thompson Park

The TOC does a fall field day every year, and has done since 1934. This year, there was a formal division into groups looking at different areas—Tommy Thompson Park, High Park and area, and Durham Region.

In the interest of logistical sanity, I went on the Tommy Thompson part of this, since that was the easiest of the three areas for me to get myself to.

Despite that, I managed to miss four TTC connections in a row by margins of less than 30 seconds, and got there half an hour late. Fortunately, I knew where the group would have gone, and was able to catch up with the group by 08h30. The group, ably led by John Carley, started at 15 and was down to 7 by 16h00 or so, when there was a collective declaration of it being a day.

Out of the 53 bird species seen on the Tommy Thompson part of the walk, I saw 31:

black duck
bluewing teal
brown-headed cowbird
brown thrasher
Canada goose
canvasback duck
cedar waxwing
double-crested cormorant
eastern phoebe
European starling
great blue heron
great egret
green heron (impressively hard to see when it holds still)
greenwing teal (~60 in a flock, flying; this is very vivid)
grey catbird
herring gull
hooded merganser (juvenile)
mallard duck
mourning dove
mute swan
northern flicker
peregrine falcon
redhead duck
shoveler duck
spotted sandpiper


I'm not at all sure I get this whole aesthetic of rust thing, but here's an attempt.

Garden Flowers

Flowers in handing pots, with the pots located in a small contemplative garden round the corner from an office building.
Flowers with mirrored walls in the middle distance tend to confuse the metering, but I think I got good detail on these.

19 September 2009

The Agora

Even under entirely fortuitous circumstances, this street photography stuff is hard.

18 September 2009

Waterfall with Cabalistic Signs

Kinda hope it speaks for itself.

An arragenement of lenses

Notable, alas, chiefly for having all the smudges and smutch on the glass in good focus, but I thought this arrangement on a shop door was neat.

17 September 2009


Windows are rarely really flat. Here we have a lot of windows being differently not-flat, and I liked it.
I would have very much liked to move to the right, and up a bit, but there was this rather substantial wall in the way. Should try to get an evening-light shot of this view, too.

I've looked at light from both sides now

I'm sure any of the passers-by who noticed me intently photographing the window of an empty store thought I was a bit mad.

On the plus side, I did get the timing right on this one. (There are a number of others where the timing in rather less right. But that's OK.)

Small flowers

About 2/3 of the frame; the left edge of what you see is the left edge of the image as taken.
This one is the whole frame.
Flowers were quite teeny, about 2 cm across in total. Also quite low; I was sitting on my heels to get low enough for these.
No matter how much I wish it were an f1.8 instead of an f2.8 design, I have to admit that there is little to complain about in the rendering from the DA35.

Not a spec of orange

I probably shouldn't find this window funny at all, never mind as funny as I do, but there you go. The thing I use for a sense of humour doesn't seem to be into explicability a whole lot.

16 September 2009

Vegetative Optimism

Flowering quite happily in the middle of September. Which isn't, I suppose, crazy optimistic any more, since Toronto can get well into November before there's a hard frost these days.
As usual, I have no idea what kind of flower this is; it's in a park, and I presume planted, and I think they're pretty.