All Creatures Great and Small
at Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park
We know who the great creatures are at Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park. Bucks accompanied by does and even fawns, the occasional coyote. And, flying by, the big birds, hawks, owls and osprey. But what about the far more secretive yet abundant small ones? A diverse group of songbirds make their home at the park in the summer. They migrate up from southern climes to breed and feed off insects and other northern hemisphere delicacies.
In Alberta, Clay-coloured Sparrows’ most common occurrence is in the prairies and parklands, not treed areas. A walk along a park trail can have them flitting out of the grasses every hundred feet. Listen for the insect-like buzzy calls of the male Clay-colored Sparrows from May through July. They can be distinguished from some other sparrows commonly found at Glenbow, the Vesper and Savannah, by their relatively unstriped buff breast. They search out insects in the shrubbery and seeds in the grass. Nesting habitat is typically a shrubby area with wild grass, situating the nest on the ground or in a low shrub above ground. They build open cup nests out of grass, weeds and twigs, lining it with rootlets, fine grass, and hair. This is another reason to keep dogs on leash in the park to avoid disturbing these or any wildlife shelter.
Spring after spring, Mountain Bluebirds return to nest boxes placed at strategic locations in the park. They can arrive in Alberta as early as March while fall migration for many migratory birds is an extended affair from mid-August to late October. Bluebirds can’t resist the open country with occasional trees for shelter offered at the park.
As members of the Thrush Family (such as American Robins) they feed mainly on insects, spiders or other invertebrates, which they glean from short ground vegetation. Nest boxes are paired, with Tree Swallows often taking one box, and the bluebird occupying the other. The former seeks out insects flying high and the Bluebird will not compete with its ground watch. Unlike other Bluebirds, they often hunt by hovering, obviously inspecting the ground below for any potential food item. The striking turquoise blue is unmatched against the prairie setting.
The next time you see an insect at the park think of the food source and protection it is offering our beloved small avian creatures.
For these and other nature sightings at Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park, see also:
Pakistani Dress Elegance
Marina in Magenta and Burgundy
For Pakistani dress elegance, Marina models and describes some traditional and modern styles:
Magenta Shalwar Kameez
My mum had the Magenta Dress made a little over 25 years ago. My grandparents basically had a dozen or so fancy outfits made for my mum so that she would have some nice items to wear for special events and what not. This dress in particular is called a shalwar kameez The kameez was the long shirt that I was wearing with slits on either side. A shalwar is basically a pair of pants that goes with the kameez, I don’t know where the shalwar went for this outfit. The entire dress was hand embroidered with bead work on crinkled georgette. I wore leggings with the kameez because nowadays its okay to mix and match. Some girls in Pakistan wear leggings with fancy dresses. Leggings are similar to another type of traditional shalwar called churidar.
White Kameez with Burgundy Dupatta:
I bought the white kameez from a very popular Pakistani online boutique called Khaadi. This kameez is more traditional, less trendy, and often worn on a daily basis (less fancy- without the embroidery). The Dupatta (long scarf) is, in my opinion, the touch that makes the outfit. My mum had it made from the same designers/tailors that made the magenta shalwar kameez 25 years ago. She had a few others made in the same style to wear with plain shalwar kameez. It is completely hand embroidered! This type of embroidery is called Tilla. Tilla embroidery has a heavy Mughal influence and is done by using a fine needle and gold or silver thread. This dupatta was made using the Karchobi technique. Embroidery was considered a very high art form in the past. The Mughals were all about opulence and art; it still is, but sadly, machines have taken over much of the work of artisans. Here is a really good article on this topic:
The pants that I wore with this outfit are more of a western play on the traditional shalwar. They are more fitted and cropped like capris. The shoes are called khussa, brought last year from Pakistan. The pair that I have are not as fancy, I do have ones that are beaded. Khussa are traditional handmade leather slippers-also heavily influenced by the Mughal empire. More information/history can be found here:
For more on traditional costumes from around the world, see also:
Black and White Winter
Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park, Alberta
Monochrome and a nature park do not always dance together. But sometimes the palette begs it. Take black and white Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park (west of Calgary, Alberta), toss in a fresh dusting of snowfall and the prairie paradise is dressed in it’s grey scale finest. There are trails to discover so don your booties and venture into the black and white world of western Canada’s best.
Meditate on your surroundings and drink in the cold season’s best. Lily Loop will not disappoint as the poplar boughs bend to frame your route. While heading down the drifting path, other sets of eyes may be on you so pay attention if only for the pleasure of sighting wildlife curious about you. It is not every day you are so popular. Moose would be rare in these parts but Mule Deer or White-tails often venture to the edge of a human encounter. And coyotes are always watching.
Fence lines defining natures’ borderless panorama. Meandering trails lure your athletic prowess with deer springing across the landscape, anywhere and everywhere, and spooky poplars with fingers grabbing the sky. And possibly you. All awaits your inquisitive wonder.
Mind the slippery ramble back up the hill to wind up your adventure. All roads lead up at Glenbow park. Before departure, be sure to amble your eyes west, drink in the Rocky Mountains creeping up behind the foothills vista. Can you imagine all of this in monochrome, a black and white Glenbow?
For more on Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park in winter, see also:
The Tao Of The Injured Photographer
Have you ever found yourself choking the dust back; twisted and bruised, wishing you could relive the past 4 seconds (or less)? Was that just my worst nightmare, you whimper to yourself just before, or after, a stream of unrepeatables flow between your lips? And the first steps tell you things may not be like they were for a long time. Cambodia landscape from a ground zero perspective.
Fast-forward two months and there I was staring at a familiar photography tool, a film negative. Although not my own, in one way, it very much was in another. It was more than my creative self, it was myself … my monochromatic inner workings projected back memories of biting the Cambodian dust. Still perfect on one side but the mirror image has a flaw with its repair rippling across the calcified landscape. You know the saying “the hip bone is connected…to the…leg bone” and so on. Well, when they become fractured and disconnected things turn chaotic and what was everyday and taken for granted is the new standard to achieve. Stairs cause teeth to grit and uneven landscapes (any sidewalk or footpath in Asia) are tumultuous achievements. Goals are no longer measured in kilometres but steps. Fear of falling overrides mobility. Heating pads and cold wraps become new bed partners, electrodes pulse and stimulate, soft tissue flexibility test and challenge, handrails and anti-inflammatories become new best friends.
Lying in prone position stretching the hip infrastructure back to health with physio exercises and acupuncture jabs, there has been ample time to ponder how recovery from an injury that affects everyday, the Tao of an injured self, applies to photography, and how to improve photography by following Tao principles. Taoism philosophy advocates staying calm and happy in all circumstances, no matter how arduous life becomes. Life is not full of traps but valuable lessons. Here are some applications to photography:
Be Patient and Grateful – In a country where only time can heal the atrocities of the Pol Pot Cambodian experiment and, even today, survivors of that regime deal with UXO maiming abilities, I nursed wounds that will heal in far less time. Be thankful and optimistic.
Refocus and Practise – Walk forward (ever so carefully) with lessons taken from the rear view mirror. And the side mirrors. Photography has been around for over 160 years. Many things have been tried. Keep your eye on the masters and contemporaries and make your own statement.
Perspective – When your benders will not bend in the usual mode, adapt. With physical limitations adapt perspective. Visual perspective welcomes a new physical perspective. Take less photos and watch for new perspectives.
Body Awareness – With every step a reaction? Have you ever held a static position behind a macro lens, sitting at the computer editing that fab image, so absorbed you lost track of the time passing by and when you came out of the trance your body told you so. Stay absorbed by your passion, mindful of physical messages.
Slow The Pace – Nothing will fine tune a practise of mindful shooting like lack of mobility. Slowing the trigger finger pace, except when being followed by a potential menace. Practise mindful shooting.
Simplify – Walking is a miracle when you examine it closely and walking stairs is even more miraculous. Simplicity surrounded by complexity. Lighten the burden. Take less images, more quality. Same location, vary viewpoint; only one viewpoint, vary lenses; only one lens, vary focal length, only one focal point, vary time or aperture. Come back and perfect. Search for the miracles and give mediocrity a miss.
Envy and Negative Self Talk – Manically destructive. Just as resentful feelings of people who can walk gimp and limp less, so gear and artistic ability envies and all of those other photographic diseases cloud your abilities. Work out the leg stretch exercises and avoid recreating the past, missed shots, if only’s. Accept the present. Stay the course. Learn the gear. Practise and practise.
Be Prepared – A smaller, lighter backup camera saved the day and often meant getting closer and, not surprisingly, more communicative with subjects. Hard drives fail, cameras run ERR messages, battery juice depletes. Create options. Photography is not a chore, if a shot is missed prepare the next time and live without regrets.
Change Your Routine – Selecting a new path enlightens, even if it is not by choice. Handicap facilities, wheelchairs, crutches, canes became routine, and legitimate, for the first time ever. Change can be humbling. Stale routines breed mediocrity. Same old scenes that won favour before, mindless shooting. Less copying, more mindful composing.
For other posts taken while practising Tao through an injury, see also: