All posts by Paul Cipywnyk

Paul’s Photo Tips – Tip 1

I was asked to share some photography tips at an event a few weeks ago for streamkeepers who volunteer in the Lower Mainland area of British Columbia. I thought perhaps I’d share them here on my blog, too, offering a tip every couple of days.

So here goes with tip 1:

Take a class or three. Often camera stores offer free or cheap classes when you purchase a camera. Your community centre likely has introduction to photography courses. Major camera makers like Canon and Nikon offer travelling courses. Take advantage of these.

OK, let me expand upon that. If you’re a newbie, any instruction is valuable. Good photography is a craft, and can be a fine art. Cameras are fine, complex, tools. It takes years to learn, but it’s easy to start down the road with today’s inexpensive auto-everything cameras.

You may not aspire to be an artist, and if you just want to take better photos of family and friends, of activities you participate in, and trips you take, learn your camera and a bit about the principles of photography. It’s worth it!

If you’re experienced, workshops and seminars pitched at higher levels are excellent for stimulating creativity, learning new techniques, and broadening your mind.

What’s my photography learning history?

(I shall now wax exuberant upon my photography education. This may, or may not, be boring for folks. I do hope you’ll follow along, though. . . )

I started out at school in my early teens, learning the rudiments of camera work, processing B&W film, and making prints in a darkroom. I volunteered as a photographer on my high school paper, and at university papers. I read voraciously, subscribing to several photography magazines and buying as many books as I could afford.

As a kid I hung out at the local camera store for hours, bugging the ever-patient staff. They taught me things, let me handle new gear, and gave me great deals, pointing me to great savings on used equipment, and so on.

My first SLR was a Mamiya-Sekor 500DTL. It came with the standard 50mm lens, and eventually I added a 28mm wide-angle and a 135mm telephoto. Flashes, extension tubes, filters, and other accessories were added bit by bit. The Mamiya used the Pentax screw mount,  so eventually I picked up a used Pentax body or two, the models which I no longer remember. I still have the 500DTL and 50mm lens though!

Eventually I moved up to pro gear, laying out significant dollars for a Nikon F2, with 24/2.8, 50/1.4, 55/3.5 micro, 105/2.5, 80-200 zoom, etc. The backup body then was a Nikkormat FT2, eventually followed by an N2000 with a Vivitar Series 1 28-105 zoom.

Somewhere in there I also had a few other cameras bought used and cheap.

I took a couple of photography classes at the university level through the Fine Arts department. The instructors taught me patience, lighting, composition, “seeing” and more.

As a teen I earned enough money doing event photography to mostly cover the cost of my equipment.

Unfortunately, much of my B&W work, and other photography in the mid-70s to early 80s was lost in a sewage backup when I was living in a basement suite. Such is life. I now have multiple backups of my digital files, and keep remote backups on hard drives in a safety deposit box at my bank. Read that last sentence again!

There was a fallow period in my late 20s to late 30s when I was pretty much satisfied with point-and-shoots and casual photography, but the digital revolution drew me back and reignited my passion.

It was just so cool to be able to take hundreds and thousands of “free” photos. Well, not free, you had to buy a couple of memory cards and backup hard drives, but compared to Kodachrome (which was lovely) or Fujichrome (which had its own atmosphere), digital was freeing. You could afford to shoot more, experiment more.

I got my first digital camera, a Kodak DC4800, in March 2001. Since then I’ve gone through a succession of pocketable Canon PowerShot Elphs (you can pretty much rely that I’ll have one of these on me all the time).

My first DSLR was a Nikon D300. I got it in August 2008, and I still use the heavy, solid, semi-pro machine. I love that it can work with my ancient manual Nikkor lenses. I’ve added a Nikon D5200 as a second body, and would love to get a D7100 or its replacement some day. Not to mention eventually getting a full-frame DSLR. . .

The good news is that I am making a bit of money from photography again, covering events like I did as a kid. I’m not interested in wedding or commercial photography, but events, documentary, landscapes and nature/wildlife would be great to make $$ at. 🙂

So that’s where I’m coming from.

And that’s where my tips will come from.

Hope you’ll follow along!

First Shots with New 150-600mm Tamron Zoom

I took a bunch of photos today with the new Tamron 150-600mm zoom (225-900mm equivalent on my DX-sensor Nikons).

Here are a few from the Byrne Creek habitat in SE Burnaby:

Butterfly on leaf

butterfly on leaf byrne creek A slightly different view

Grasshopper Byrne Creek
Grasshopper in Byrne Creek habitat in SE Burnaby

And several from Piper Spit at Burnaby Lake in Burnaby:

Goslings Burnaby LakeGoslings at Piper Spit, Burnaby Lake

Wood ducks Burnaby LakeFemale wood ducks, Burnaby Lake

Female wood duck Burnaby LakeI think female wood ducks are so cute!

Male wood duck Burnaby LakeWhile male wood ducks are quite spectacular

Ducks in lilly padsDuck playing hide and seek among the lillypads

Feather on lillypad

Lillypad blossom

Sleepy duck at Burnaby LakeSnoozing afloat

Dragonfly at Burnaby LakeA common whitetail dragonfly?

All of the above shots were with the Tamron 150-600 on a Nikon D5200 camera. ISOs ranged from 400 in bright sunlight to 1,600 in shade to keep shutter speeds high. The lens was mounted on a  Manfrotto 679B monopod with a Vanguard SBH-100 ball head.

While heavy, this rig is not unmanageable. I think I would have soon tired if the rig had not been on a monopod. It was useful not only for stabilization while shooting, but also to simply stand and rest!

Mandela Quotations Make Up Google Doodle

I’ve typed in these quotations from Nelson Mandela that Google is running as a Google Doodle today. Powerful.

No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion.

People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its 

What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.

Education is the most powerful weapon which we can use to change the world.

For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.

The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time you fall.

Partying with Elders – What a Great Time!

I posted this on my Facebook account several days ago and its gotten a pile of “likes” so thought I’d share it here, too.


Had a wonderful evening last weekend. A BBQ hosted by friends of ours in Vancouver. Lovely old house in an older neighborhood. An evening in a gorgeous, modestly groomed, but more wild, back yard, with many burgeoning fruit trees and raspberry bushes.

We were the youngest couple there, and we’re in our mid-40s to mid-50s.

We’re a “mixed” couple, and so was everyone else. And some were in their 80s and 90s, and enjoying life to the full. Former neighbors, still friends, now living in old folks’ homes but graciously picked up and driven to this communal feast in their former ‘hood..


As the evening eased by, there were smatterings of Korean, Italian, and Japanese in the conversations. Not all understood by all present despite concerted efforts at interpretation.

But everyone was cool with that. We were all happy to be with other convivial folks.

And all were sure to ensure that all were happy.

The food was a wonderful melange of those cultures, and more.

I’m not sure where this post is going, but I have to say that if I make it to 80, I hope I still have caring friends like this bunch of party animals do!

Tamron 150-600mm Zoom Arrives

I ordered a Tamron 150-600 zoom lens several months ago, knowing that the new lens had gained instant popularity and was near impossible to find in stock anywhere. It finally arrived today. I have yet to take it out for a shoot, but zounds, it is big.

Tamron 150-600 zoom
Here it is next to an 18-200mm Nikkor

tamron_150_600_extendedAnd here it is fully extended

For best results, I’m sure a tripod is recommended : -).

On my DX format Nikon DSLRs, this baby will have an effective focal length of 225-900mm. I can’t wait to get out somewhere like the Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary to try it out.

Initial Contacts with Insurance & Restoration Companies are Reassuring

As I posted a few days ago, we had a water line break on our top floor, and water cascaded down through the living room ceiling, and through walls all the way to the basement.

It’s been a tiring week.

However, I’ve been pleased with my initial contacts with the insurance company, The Dominion, and the restoration firm they recommended, Barclay Restorations.

While no work has been done yet, aside from assessing damage and placing several large commercial fans here and there to dry things out, everyone that I’ve had contact with has been prompt, professional and courteous.

Both the adjuster from the insurance company,  and a couple of fellows who came at different times from Barclay, have been on time, and if they were running late, they phoned to let me know.

Tomorrow a few guys are coming by to check how the drying is coming along (it will be a relief to get all those fans shut down), and pull out some lino in the basement that has to go. They will also likely make a few exploratory cuts in walls if their meters detect any residual moisture.

It will be a lengthy process–I’ve been warned it could take several weeks from getting everything estimated and approved, and the work done.

But I feel we are in good hands.

Why Does Canada Post Hate Me? Why?

Canada Post has done it to me yet again. I was expecting an ExpressPost package today and tracking it online. Everything was looking good. As of 9:41 “Item out for delivery.” By mid afternoon I thought I should check again. There was a new entry on the tracking page at 14:09 “Attempted delivery. Notice card left indicating where item can be picked up.”

I was home all day!

They do this to me regularly, only this time, there is also no notice card to be found anywhere. Not in our post box, not on the community cork board, not at the front gate, not on our door. I’ve done the rounds three times over the afternoon and early evening.

So I’ve “opened a ticket” online with my issue. See where that goes, eh?

And no, I wasn’t in the shower, or on the phone, or taking out the garbage at 14:09. I know exactly where I was and what I was doing. I was reading a book in the living room, five meters from the front door, waiting for a project manager from a restoration company to arrive between 14:15 and 14:30 to assess our recent water damage.

I certainly would have heard the doorbell, or a knock, and I had a portable phone beside me, expecting the gate signal to ring.

When Rivers Rebel

There’s been a spate of articles recently about the Fraser River, climate change, and the potential economic impacts on BC’s lower mainland.

We dam them, dike them, divert them, dredge them, suck them near dry, build on them, pollute them. . .

And then we’re aghast when rivers get pissed off and try to break their shackles now and then.

We wouldn’t need billions of dollars to shore up dikes if we didn’t build our cities on flood plains, marshes, and bogs.

But hey, are those articles perhaps looking at things backwards? By traditional measures of GDP, all the work that will need to be done to shore up those seawalls and dikes is going to be a major boost to the economy, isn’t it?

We’ll just borrow more against future generations to keep the pyramid scheme going.

Monday Morning Welcomes Me with a Flood in the House

Oh, joy. Sitting in my basement office working this morning, I suddenly hear water running. And I’m alone in the house.

Run up the stairs, and water is gushing out of the main light fixture in the ceiling in the living room. Grab a couple of buckets and place them beneath the waterfall.

Run upstairs another flight, and find a supply line between a shutoff valve and a sink tap dislodged inside a cupboard beneath a sink in the upstairs bathroom. Turn off the shutoff valve, and then the main water valve in the basement for good measure.

When the supply had popped free and how long that cold-water pipe had been running I don’t know, but likely at least 15 minutes or more. That’s a lot of water.

Fearing the ceiling in the living room could collapse from the weight  of the water, I poked a few holes in it with a crowbar, and placed buckets under those as they began to flow.

The gusher from the ceiling eventually dwindled to a drip, and has now stopped, but water has also found its way through walls down to the basement bathroom, spreading over the floor.

Bucketing, mopping, toweling. . . Drying the carpet.

And not looking forward to assessing the full extent of the damage. The killer is the potential for mold. Once drywall gets wet. . .

I know a good chunk of the ceiling will have to come down and be re-done, but how much of the adjoining walls I don’t know yet.  May also have to pull the countertop and cabinets in the bathroom and redo the wall and floor behind them.


Anyway, I have reconnected the errant pipe, and turned the main water back on, and so far so good.

We were fortunate. We didn’t lose anything. It’s just the PITA factor now. . .

Dealing with Toasty Weather and No AC

I am getting back into the rhythms of dealing with hot weather with no AC:

At 10:30 pm I made miso soup with shimeji mushrooms, yellow string beans from our balcony garden, and cabbage. I steamed a batch of Chinese dumplings, and parboiled a pot of leafy greens.

Better now as the temperature is going down and the windows are wide open, than in the morning when the last thing I want to do is heat up the place. The makings for breakfast and a lunch bento for Yumi are pretty much in place (the rice cooker is on a timer).

The miso soup is still too hot to put in the fridge, so gee, I guess I’ll have to have another glass of wine before I finish tidying up in the kitchen and go to bed :-).

Will the oenophiles out there forgive me if I put an ice-cube or two into a glass of middling white?

Like I said, it’s warm, eh?