Remembrance Day 2020

Dad, August 1943, Age 16yrs., Montreal. Likely his first enlistment photo after leaving Oba to join the RCAF and before he received his first official air force blue uniform.

As part of my fall trip this year I had planned to visit the town of Oba in northwestern Ontario. Ever since my father mentioned this town and the role it played in his life I have felt the need to visit. This was to be a homage of sorts to my late father who spent some time in this town in 1943. Dad spent some weeks here working in a lumber camp in order to earn enough money to travel to Ottawa and enlist in the Royal Canadian Air Force and then head off to war.

My original intent was to visit Oba to see if anything remained in the town that would have existed when dad was there. I wanted to get some insight into the place and the time in history during World War II and what it all must have been like for a boy/young man 16 years of age passing through here on his way to join in on the making of that history.

Oba, Ontario circa 1941
Oba Circa 1941

Oba lies about 80 km. due south of Hearst, Ontario as the crow flies. The only way to get there in 1943 was by rail. The town is situated at the junction of the Canadian National Railway line (CNR) and the Algoma Central Railway line (ACR). The main employers in the town were the railways and several lumber camps operating in the area. The town had a beautiful train station, built in 1911, and was the only northern Ontario train station to have a corner tower. At one time there were three hotels operating in the town, stores, and a school. The population apparently peaked at about 300 people.

Over time the arrival of diesel locomotives and the mechanization of the logging industry led to fewer jobs and the town began a rather rapid decline.

Oba is still a rather difficult place to get to. All passenger rail services on both lines have been suspended since 2015. I headed south on highway 583 from Hearst until the highway ends and from there on in you are traveling on gravel logging roads. There is a distinct lack of signage on these roads to provide direction. I found a logging truck pulled over at the side of the road and the driver provided instructions as follows “drive exactly 69 kilometers south on this road and then turn right and go another 23 kilometers and you will be in Oba”. Those directions and the GPS worked pretty well (There are a lot of branch roads leading off the main logging road.)

Logging is still very active in the area as evidenced by the many loaded logging trucks heading up the main road. I would suspect that most of the people employed in logging would now be living in Hearst and surrounding area.

Once in Oba I met a CNR employee working in the rail siding and the local postmaster. The CNR employee was quite helpful and knew quite a bit about the history of the town. He pointed out the location of the three hotels, two of which were still standing and one that had been recently demolished. His best guess was that these were built around 1930. He also provided information that there are only three full time residents left in the mostly abandoned town. Quite a drop from the approximately 300 peak population. Most of the buildings that remain standing are only seasonally occupied, used by hunters and fishermen. He also directed me to the old part of the town which lies south of the railway tracks along the Oba River.

One of the former hotels in Oba
Another of the former hotels, the third lies demolished directly beside it
One of the last remaining houses along the main street fronting the railway tracks

This is where I bumped in to the postmaster out and about on his ATV. He operates the local post office out of one room in his home and is one of the few permanent residents left in the town. He also knew a fair bit of the history of the town. He provided the information that the old train station (boarded up since 1989) had only recently been demolished in 2004. One of the projects he has undertaken is to try to document the occupants of the small local graveyard as several of the graves are marked only with a simple cross.

Looking across the railway tracks from where the train station used to be, the former hotel in the background

I visited this graveyard and it was here that I experienced an epiphany of sorts.

The predominant monument in the graveyard was a large timber upright log with one side carved flat and inscribed simply “Died War II, Cliff Grant, Doug Grant, Ernie Louttit, Joe Louttit”

Riverview Cemetary, Oba, Ontario, September 2020
Riverview Cemetary, Oba, Ontario, September 2020

The postmaster advised that these were two sets of brothers from Oba. The Louttit and Grant names appeared on several of the other gravesites so I assumed these to be the parents and relatives of the deceased named on the monument.

I imagined my father having spent some time in that train station and possibly one of the hotels during his arrival and departure from Oba. I imagined him having conversations about his plans for travelling to Ottawa and enlisting. I can also envision those conversations leading to those in town that had already enlisted, or were about to enlist, a conversation that would no doubt include the Grants and Louttits. A conversation that would not yet have included the tragic results described below.

(I later did some research in to those names on the monument and was able to find out the following information)

Private Clifford Joseph Grant, died August 28, 1944, age 23 years.

Served in the Canadian Army, Lake Superior Regiment (Motor), R.C.I.C., Military Service Number: H/45710

Buried in Bretteville-sur-Laize Canadian War Cemetery, Calvados, France

There are no details surrounding his death but his unit was involved in the later stages of the Battle of Normandy, the capture of Caen and the push south to close the Falaise Gap.

Bombardier Thomas John Douglas Grant, December, died June 08, 1944, age 25 years.

Served in the Canadian Army, Royal Canadian Artillery, 3 Anti-Tank Regiment. Military Service

Number: H/45602

Buried in the Beny-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery, Calvados, France.

There were no details surrounding his death at the time, but his unit was involved in the D-Day landings at Normandy.

After the war the details of his death were discovered. A June 5, 1945 article in the Toronto Star reads: “Nazis Machine-Gunned to Death Captive Soldier in Cold Blood”. The information regarding his execution for “no apparent reason” was provided by another member of his unit who was captured at the same time as Grant, (Gunner William Glasspoole, 3 Anti-Tank Regiment) and survived as a POW until being liberated in 1945.

This article also mentions that a third brother, Martin Grant had also enlisted and had been wounded in battle July 1944, and survived.

Corporal Ernest Thomas Louttit, died August 9, 1944, age 37.

Served in the Canadian Army, Lake Superior Regiment (Motor), R.C.I.C., Military Service Number: H/45896.

Buried in Bretteville-sur-Laize Canadian War Cemetery, Calvados, France.

There are no details surrounding his death but his unit was involved in the later stages of the Battle of Normandy.

Joe Louttit:

Unfortunately I was not able to find any information regarding Joe Louttit, perhaps it was an abbreviation, nickname or the available records are simply incomplete.

(A memorial page for Ernest Louttit mentions a cousin, James Louttit who was a member of the Engineering Corps and died in Scotland during the war. The page also mentions Edward Albert Louttit, a WW II veteran who survived the Normandy Invasion but gives no indication of being related.)

The stories of the Grant and Louttit families brought home to me the tremendous impact that the war must have had on the relatives and friends left behind in this small remote northern Ontario town. A small northern Ontario town that could not even bury their sons at home, whose remains rest in war cemeteries an ocean and a continent away. Repeat this scenario over 45,000 times (Canadian WW2 deaths) in towns and cities all across Canada……

I ended up coming away from this place with much more than I had anticipated. The stories of ordinary men who made extraordinary sacrifices during extraordinary times.

The more you learn about the sacrifices that were made, the people who made those sacrifices and the places they lived, the more you appreciate the importance of Remembrance Day.

The freedom to explore and discover that we now enjoy came at a very high price.

Some Gave All, Lest we forget…..

Mattawichewan River, near Oba, Ontario

Private Arthur Leopold Patterson, Remembrance Day 2018,

Every Remembrance Day my thoughts inescapably turn to all the veterans that have so proudly and honourably served our country and whose sacrifices have guaranteed us the freedoms that we enjoy today. I am most proud of my son, father, aunts and uncles, and grandfather – all have served in Afghanistan, World War 2 and World War 1 respectively.

Recently when going through some of my mother and fathers belongings I discovered a small treasure trove of items dating back to my maternal grandfather’s service in World War 1.

One of the things that has been on my mind lately is the fact that family histories can be so easily forgotten and when our elders slip away there is no one left to tell the stories. Storytelling and passing history and information on to succeeding generations is an important part of the culture of many ethnic and aboriginal groups and it seems to me we are losing touch with this tradition.

(There are many questions that I would like to ask my mother and father regarding both sides of the family tree, but unfortunately it is too late for that.)

So here I go, for his Remembrance Day I am writing down the story of Arthur Leopold Patterson (15 October 1889 – 15 October, 1962) from what I have been able to learn from the information found in a box of old photos.

I was lucky enough to find one photo of Grandpa Patterson in uniform and another photo that listed his Battalion number, the Queen’s Own Rifles, 166 Battalion CEF . That information led me to where there is a wealth of information and photos detailing the history of the battalion. This in turn led me to the website for Library and Archives Canada.

Grandpa Patterson in uniform, Toronto, early spring 1916 (approx)

(For anyone looking for information regarding a relative who was enlisted during WW1 the entire service records for all enlisted personnel have been digitized and uploaded here. There were 56 pages of information about my grandfather, all scanned copies of everything on his file during the time of his service from enlistment to demobilization – a fantastic source)

Grandpa Patterson’s civilian occupation was listed as “Draper”.  From what my father told me he installed commercial draperies in store windows etc.

He served 2 years in the military reserves with the Canadian Engineers, he was a drummer in the regimental band. He probably saw the posters below and decided to enlist.

Enlistment drive poster for the 166th Battalion

At 26 years of age and standing all of 5 feet, 2 1/4 inches tall and weighing in at 140 pounds he enlisted as a full time soldier (rank – private) and was taken on strength February 28, 1916 with the Queen’s Own Rifles, 166 Battalion CEF, (Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force).

His enlistment terms: “One year or duration of the war + 6 months”

According to his service records the overseas pay rate for a private in 1916 was $20.00 per month. This was raised to $34.00 per month by the time he was demobilized and discharged in May of 1919.

The battalion web site has a fantastic high resolution panoramic photograph of the battalion forming up on May 31, 1916, Exhibition Camp, Toronto. Grandpa Patterson would likely be in this photograph as it was taken after his enlistment and before his embarkation date. I haven’t been able to pick him out yet – very difficult when they are all in full uniform and wearing their uniform caps.

Exhibition Camp, May 31, 1916 Queen’s Own Rifles 166 Battalion, Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force

He embarked from Halifax with the 1st half of the Battalion on October 13, 1916 on the R.M.S. Olympic, a sister ship to the Titanic fitted out as a troop carrier during the war.

R.M.S. Olympic, sister ship to the Titanic, in wartime “Dazzle” camouflage paint

He disembarked on October 19, 1916 at Liverpool, England

Once in England Grandpa Patterson was hospitalized for ten days (December 09 – 19, 1916) suffering from influenza. The hospital is listed on his medical records as Raven’s Croft Military Hospital, Seaford, Sussex. (Ravenscroft mansion, originally a girls school, requisitioned by the army in 1914 for use a military hospital)

Not a trivial illness back then, by 1918 influenza (Spanish Flu) had killed an estimated 100,000 soldiers. Perhaps Grandpa’s early contraction and recovery from the illness in 1916 contributed to his developing an immunity? He was certainly in the wrong place at the right time during the height of this pandemic.

He was transferred to #12 Reserve Battalion and then the Canadian Army Service Corp and served in France and Germany transporting troops and supplies to the front and returning with the dead and wounded.

He returned home and was officially demobilized (discharged) on 24 May 1919.

For his service he received the British War Medal, and the Victory Medal.

Perhaps the most poignant find in that old box of photos were a collection of four postcards he mailed home to his father while he was in Germany during the war.

The Post Cards

“This is the bridge we came over the Rhine on” Art

“This is the town we are stuck in some burg eh. the cars generally have the motor with two trailers of course we ride for free on them.”

“Hello Dad, received your Christmas Parcel today, Dec. 19th everything was in the best of shape and I thank you very much for same. Can’t say when we will get home but I suppose it will be someday.” Art

“Feb 13 1919 The last souvenir I have from Germany”

Grandpa Patterson was a part of history that is very hard for me to imagine given the very comfortable times that we live in and the absolute horror that WW1 was. (From my father’s recollection Grandpa Patterson was exposed to Mustard gas at one point during his service and may have suffered some lasting effects from this – the medical records on file do not show any hospitalization, however.)

He was one of the lucky ones though, and came home, got on with life, married and raised three beautiful daughters and greatly enjoyed his time at his cottage on Rice Lake where he was known to catch a fish or two…

The Wedding

Grandpa Patterson on the right and looking rather dapper, holding my mother, approx 1927

Grandpa Patterson, 1949, 172 Rosemount Ave., Toronto

At the Rice Lake cottage

Boating on Rice Lake

A Rice Lake muskie, almost as big as the old soldier

Working in high fashion at the cottage


Life’s a beach, a favourite swimming spot on the north shore of Rice Lake

Grandpa Patterson remembered, one of the many brave souls who made a difference….

Happy Canada Day 2018

There are many reasons to celebrate Canada’s birthday and it has been my usual habit to post a pretty picture to illustrate the natural beauty of this great land.

Another reason to be proud of this country is the people who helped make it great.

With my father’s recent health issues we have been going through some of his things and coming up with some amazing finds about the father I never knew (because we children were not yet even a twinkle in his eye).

Dad, Portrait before going overseas

Dad, Portrait before going overseas, one of the “in case you don’t come back portraits”

Dad was born and raised in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan one of ten children and also spent summers working on his maternal grandmother’s quarter section farm in Alvena, about 40 miles northeast of Saskatoon.

At the ripe old age of 16 in 1943 he decided it was time to enlist and he wanted to learn to fly so joining the RCAF became his immediate goal. He made his way by train to Oba in the wilds of northwestern Ontario. Oba was just a train stop about half way between White River and Kapuskasing but it did have a lumber camp in the bush that was hiring.

Five weeks of working in the lumber camp as a “peeler” (not that kind…., stripping the bark off the logs was his actual job) earned him enough money to travel to Ottawa. There he would join his twin sisters Helen and Carol who had already enlisted and proceed to the RCAF recruiting office.

Here comes one of my favourite stories that he has recounted many times and always with a slight chuckle and an unmistakable mischievous twinkle in his eye:

August 10, 1943

RCAF recruiter: “Son, you don’t look to be 19, sorry we can’t take you”

Dad: “Well sir, I am 19, here look I have my driver’s licence and everything.” (Driver’s licences apparently did not have a date of birth on them in Saskatchewan back then)

RCAF recruiter: “Sorry son, I still don’t think you are 19, we can’t take you”

Dad: “Well sir, there’s a Navy recruiting office right across the street and I am pretty darn sure they will take me.”

RCAF recruiter: (Shrugs his shoulders and rolls his eyes) “Sign here son, welcome to the RCAF.”

The New Recruit

The New Recruit, the second of the “in case you don’t come back portraits”, likely pinned on his mother’s wall or his yet to be wife’s.

May 25, 1944

After basic training Dad started flight training and completed 21hrs. 30min. total flying time in the Harvard single engine type trainers which was the basic training plane for most WW2 fighter pilots.

Dad, Pilot Training May/June 1944

Dad, Pilot Training May/June 1944

June 27 1944

Pilot training was cancelled, apparently the RCAF did not need any more pilots at this point in the war.

Dad’s question to his commanding officer: “Which course will get me in to action the quickest?”

Commanding Officer: “Gunnery school, we need gunners.”

Dad: “Sign me up.” (Also followed by about ten of his classmates)

Dad, RCAF Service and Pay Book

Dad, RCAF Service and Pay Book

Dad, Pay Book, Wills pages

Dad, Pay Book, Wills pages, How many first jobs require you to make out a will and list next of kin?

Oct 7, 1944

Started gunnery training on all 6 of the various gun positions on a B24 Liberator heavy bomber.

November 27, 1944

Completed 62.50 total hours flying and target practice time. Promoted to Flight Sergeant during training, graduated top of his class 86.3% average, earned lead gunner status, chose the tail gunner position.

(Dad said he liked this position because if the shit hit the proverbial fan all he had to do was rotate his gun turret and bail out the back end of the plane)

Some interesting notes from his flight log book:

Oct 24, 1944

“First flip with skipper” (Flip = flight or mission, Skipper =  Sub Lieutenant Vic Stuart)

Nov. 04, 1944

“Flew at 27,000’, nearly froze”

From there it was on to England for further training while awaiting deployment instructions.

Deployment time saw him attached to 99 Squadron, a joint RCAF/ British RAF squadron and deployed to Kolar, India (April 25, 1945), and later Duhbalia in Bengal (May 29, 1945), Kankasanturi, Ceylon (July 02, 1945), and final base of operations in the Cocos Islands (July 24, 1945).

The Cocos Islands are a tiny speck in the Indian Ocean south of Indonesia and west of Australia. The islands were just large enough to support the length of runway needed for takeoff and landing of the big B24 Liberators. Pilot and navigator both needed to be spot on with location and fuel consumption as ditching in the shark infested waters surrounding the islands was not an option.

The B24 Liberators were put to task bombing Japanese supply routes in Burma and shipping lanes around Indonesia. The bomber group came to be known as the “Burma Bombers”.

The B24 Liberators were put to many varied uses in the Pacific Theater. In Europe the German Luftwaffe fighters and anti-aircraft fire took a terrifying toll on the heavy bombers flying their missions.

Most Japanese fighter planes were only equipped with .303 calibre machine guns whereas the B24’s had ten .50 calibre machine guns. Dad always said the Japanese fighters had to get within 300 yards in order to be effective with the .303’s but he could start firing when they were 1,000 yards away. Japanese fighter pilots knew this and generally steered clear of the B24’s. Ground based anti-aircraft was not nearly as well established as in Europe.

Some of Dad’s missions included shipping strikes and even ground strikes at low enough altitudes for Dad to be able to see the devastating effect his twin .50 calibre machine guns had on enemy ground personnel.

Another of Dad’s stories: (Being the lead gunner in the tail position he had one of the best views available of any of the crew so he was in direct radio contact with the pilot on missions in order to pass on relevant information.) Returning from a successful bombing run Dad spotted a group of Japanese VAL fighters keeping a respectful distance and tried to talk his skipper in to going after them. His skipper declined, even though he knew the VAL’s would be outgunned, they could outrun the heavier bomber.

Ten total sorties totaling 128.55 hours were completed. One mission had the crew in the air for just under 24 hours loaded with sea mines and extra fuel tanks in order to drop the sea mines in Japanese shipping routes in the South China Sea.

Some more interesting notes from his flight log book:

May 29, 1945

“First Op. trip, Ack Ack, Moulmein, Burma” (First operational bombing run, ran in to anti-aircraft fire)

Aug. 7, 1945

“Special Duty, Supply dropping area N.W of Singapore, Malaya. Intercepted by two VAL aircraft (first fighters)”

The most important entry from his flight log book:

Aug 14, 1945

“Standing by to attack Japanese convoy, (peace delivered)” (peace delivered was crossed out and replaced with a bold) “WAR OVER”

Dad, Log Book "WAR OVER"

Dad, Log Book “WAR OVER”

Aug 20, 1945

“Special Duty, Supply dropping area N of Singapore, saw seven enemy aircraft”

(It would appear that even almost a week after the war had officially ended things were still a little tense in the area)

The last operational entry in his log book:

Set 9, 1945

“Supply dropping, Changi Airfield, Singapore, successful drop, large British convoy in harbour, part of occupation force”

Just one story of one young boy who quickly grew to be a man, one of the greatest generation who helped make Canada one of the greatest nations.

Back from the war

Back from the war

More Bald Eagles

Well time to hit the road again to see what the eagles are up to on the Nipigon River.

The owner at The Lodge has authorized me to offer a 25% discount for any last minute bookings for the Red Rock-Nipigon Eagle Photo Safari. Call Ray Rivard to confirm available spots (807) 886-5603, mobile (807) 621-6342. Package details here:

Would love to show a few more avid wildlife enthusiasts what northwestern Ontario has to offer!

Click on any photo to see a larger version.

Bald Eagle

Juvenile Bald Eagle

Bald eagle, immature

Bald eagle, immature, I think he spotted the photographer

Bald Eagle, adult

Bald Eagle, adult, youngster checking his landing technique

Bald eagle, immature and adult

Bald eagle, immature and adult “face time”

Bald eagle, immature

Bald eagle, immature, crowded airspace with more incoming

Bald Eagle

A crowd of ravens attempting to intimidate a young bald eagle (Didn’t work)

Bald eagle, immature

Bald eagle, immature

Bald Eagle, Juvenile

Bald Eagle, Juvenile, striking a pose

Of course if you get tired of the eagles, there is always the scenery….

Sunrise at Red Rock

Sunrise from The Lodge at Red Rock

Nipigon River

Nipigon River

Jessie Lake

Jessie Lake


The long and winding road, near Nipigon



Inverted Eagle

“Ninja Eagle” If Bruce Lee were to be re-incarnated as an eagle this would be him. (Bit of a story to go with this one)

I have been watching and photographing eagles on the Nipigon River for five years now. Eagles are usually territorial and spread out over large areas based on available food. When an excess of available food presents itself (such as a salmon spawning run) they tend to congregate in large numbers in small areas. As such they need to develop social skills and a hierarchical system. The abundance of food means that each meal is no longer a life and death survival issue so they generally tolerate one another to a certain extent. They still seem to like to challenge one another though and one of their favourite games is to try and knock the other eagle off of the fish they happen to be feeding on.

An eagle feeding on the ground is at a huge tactical disadvantage to an incoming eagle in the air. The eagle on the ground knows this and the general rule is to put up a bit of a fuss, squawk a lot, and then get the h___ out of the way or you are going to get seriously hurt.

This particular eagle has figured out a unique defense to this problem. He would crouch down, precisely time the arrival of the incoming eagle, leap in to the air and go completely inverted to present his talons to the incoming eagle. Tactical advantage is now almost equal, the incoming eagle still has an airspeed advantage but our Bruce Lee eagle has the advantage of surprise. This seemed to work well for him, I watched him do this three times before getting this shot as it happens lightning fast.

Bruce would then finish his acrobatics by completing a somersault and land back on his feet, straighten his feathers and finish eating his lunch.

Look at the picture and realize that this eagle stands about 2 ½ feet tall and has a wingspan of about 7 feet. Look again (particularly at the wing feathers) and you can see that he appears to be able to control every feather individually in order to accomplish this pretty amazing maneuver.

Nature never ceases to amaze me……

Bald Eagle, Adult

Bald Eagle, Adult

Artist & Artisans Show & Sale presented by A Gift of Art

I will be exhibiting at Newcastle’s 9th annual Artist & Artisans Show & Sale presented by A Gift of Art. The show runs this Saturday and Sunday, July 9-10, 10:00am- 4:00pm at the Newcastle Memorial Arena.

I will be showing a video promoting the Red Rock-Nipigon Eagle Photo Safari , for anyone interested in wildlife photography, bald eagles in particular.

Juvenile bald eagle landing at sunset

Juvenile bald eagle landing at sunset

Recently I have been printing some of my images on canvas and I will be bringing some of the results to the show. The prints are made with archival inks on canvas specially prepared for ink jet printers. This provides photographers with another option for displaying their work as the canvas print can be stretched and mounted in the same manner as a painting done on canvas.I have been playing with my own custom made wood framing for the canvas prints and have developed a double frame that is constructed from four separate frames. The first frame is a simple pine frame to stretch the canvas on. This is followed by a support frame that attaches to the stretcher frame and two outer frames surround the image.

Support frame, inner and outer frames assembled

Support frame, inner and outer frames assembled

Frame parts dyed and finished

Frame parts dyed and finished

Corner detail, double splined mitre joint

Corner detail, double splined mitre joint

Front view, finished frame

Front view, finished frame

The same image, tradition framing, matted and behind UV glass.

The same image, tradition framing, matted and behind UV glass.

Great Grey owl on canvas, custom maple frame

Great Grey owl on canvas, custom maple frame

Barred owl, black and white on canvas, custom oak frame

Barred owl, black and white on canvas, custom oak frame

Hummingbird, Early Morning Light, on canvas, custom oak frame

Hummingbird, Early Morning Light, on canvas, custom oak frame

Moonrise, on canvas, custom oak frame

Moonrise, on canvas, custom oak frame

Should be a good show, lots of artists displaying their wares, an ice-cream truck outside and some talented local musicians performing, come on out if you are looking for something to do this weekend.

Bald Eagle Photography

I will be at the Toronto Outdoor Adventure Show at the International Center this Friday, Saturday and Sunday (February 19-21, 2016). Along with The Lodge and Nipigon River Adventures we will be promoting The Red Rock Nipigon Eagle Photo Safari, a 5 day all-inclusive wildlife photography package.

Package details and videos are here:

The package is a unique outdoor adventure and photography workshop. You will have the opportunity to watch bald eagles in their natural environment as they feed and interact during the fall salmon spawning run. You will on average be only 30-35 feet away from the eagles so the sights and sounds are quite spectacular. You will learn how to set up and shoot from a simple effective blind, undetected by the eagles you can observe and photograph natural behaviours and interactions between the birds.

Some interactions can get quite intense:

Bald Eagle, Adult

Bald Eagle, Adult

Our setups work! This eagle was photographed from a distance of 5 feet and was not aware of the photographer….

Bald Eagle, Juvenile

Bald Eagle, Juvenile

The package has been designed to accommodate any level of photographer from beginner to professional. Instruction is available based on your experience level. Shooting from a blind and from close proximity means you can get great shots with very basic equipment (A 70-300mm telephoto zoom will work just fine)

Forecast is for a rainy wet weekend, perfect for an indoor show, drop in and see us, booth 637, Nipigon River Adventures.

Bald Eagle, Juvenile

Bald Eagle, Juvenile, dropping in on a rainy, foggy day

Remembrance Day 2015

As we freely  travel around this great country of ours we are reminded of the great sacrifices made by so many during the two world wars through the many memorials and monuments erected to commemorate these events.

There are also some far more obscure reminders that are slowly fading from memory, and their former physical presence torn down or naturally decaying.

Just back from a trip to northern Ontario I had the chance to visit one of these places.

One of the 40 Canadian prisoner of war camps was located In Red Rock, Ontario and operated between 1940-1941. This particular camp also had a satellite labour camp in the bush about 25 miles north of the town of Dorion on the Wolf River system. The camp was a logging camp and prisoners were sent here and put to work.

There was little chance of escape from these camps as they were so far in the bush there was no place to go and basic survival would have been a key issue. The other side of this is that they were treated and housed so well few or none wanted to escape, an interesting read about his here:

Little remains of the camp today, the buildings are all gone, the clearings slowly growing over. I found a few remains from the cookhouse, old tin cans, a piece of the an old cook stove, some broken bottles and dishes.

The camp itself was located on the top of an escarpment, a small tributary of the Wolf River flows over the escarpment at Talking Falls. A truly beautiful small waterfalls with a straight drop cascade of about 70 feet that you can actually walk behind. I was told that the remains of a log structure visible in the first photo was once a sauna. The stream then flows out in to a series of ponds which apparently holds some very nice brook trout.

Seems these POW’s were dropped in to a little bit of paradise.

Talking Falls

Talking Falls

A couple of alternate views of the falls:

Talking Falls

Talking Falls

Talking Falls

Talking Falls

In retrospect a far cry from how our POW’s were treated. (An uncle returned weighing only 75 pounds on being liberated and barely surviving after forced “death marches”)

So on this remembrance day I am very grateful to the greatest generation who fought for our freedom and have provided us with the opportunity to explore such beautiful places.

Lest we forget.






New Camera and Hummingbird Yoga

I have been breaking in a new camera, testing it out on one of my favourite subjects before a fall trip. These little hummingbirds are endlessly fascinating to watch. Energetic and feisty, and packed with quite a bit of attitude inside such a tiny package. I watch and photograph these little birds most of the summer.  Photographing them at very close range I have come to able to identify most of them as they are all slightly different in size and markings.

The new camera is a Sony A7R2. This is Sony’s latest model and is 42.4 megapixel mirrorless camera. Lots of very positive reviews so I thought I would try one out. I have basically been an Olympus user all my life and use a pair of Olympus OMD EM1 cameras.

What impressed me most about this particular camera is the fact that is very similar in size and layout to my Olympus cameras and the fact that I can customize the buttons so it will work in almost the same way as the Olympus camera. Bonus is that I can use all of my older Olympus OM lenses on it with an adapter (manual focus though).

Initial impressions are that the Sony engineers have really done their homework on this one, very impressed so far. Will be putting it through its paces in Northern Ontario shortly.

Here is a few on the first results. For those that are interested these are the full resolution images just slightly cropped from 2:3 to 4:3 format (Takes a little off the sides to better fit paper sizes for printing)

The thing about a 42.4mp camera is the incredible amount of detail it is capable of capturing. These pictures are taken in my backyard where I can control the lighting and background better. It is hard to tell from images resized for the web but on the computer at 100% I can see the back of my house and count the floorboards on my deck – in the reflection of that tiny little eye! Awesome!

Juvenile male ruby throated hummingbird

Juvenile male ruby throated hummingbird

Juvenile male ruby throated hummingbird

Juvenile male ruby throated hummingbird, first red gorget (throat) feather showing

Juvenile male ruby throated hummingbird

Juvenile male ruby throated hummingbird, stretching

Juvenile male ruby throated hummingbird

Juvenile male ruby throated hummingbird, streching the other way

Juvenile male ruby throated hummingbird

Juvenile male ruby throated hummingbird,
yoga position

Juvenile male ruby throated hummingbird

Juvenile male ruby throated hummingbird, resting after all that stretching

I think the little guy stretching must have spent some time outside someones window watching yoga lessons (not mine though). Most of the hummingbirds I have seen do this stretching do it very quickly like everything else they do. This little fellow was working at a very slow and relaxed pace.


Barred Owl at Sunset, canvas print, exhibition details

I will be exhibiting at A Gift of Art’s annual Artist and Artisan’s Show and Sale at the Newcastle Memorial Arena Saturday and Sunday July 11th-12th, 10am-4pm.

A Gift of Art is a not for profit charitable organization whose main purpose is to support and promote local artists and artisans. You can check them out at their website

The organization was founded in 2008 by Ann Harley who has invested much of her time, money and inexhaustible energy into creating a wonderful community and artist resource center. A Gift of Art originally started with 22 artists and has now grown to over 100. The new location is 187 King Ave E, Newcastle in a renovated circa 1850’s house. There are two full floors of gallery space as well as space for workshops, art lessons and children’s art camps.

I have been fortunate enough to have been involved with this organization from the beginning as one of the original artist members and currently serve as a volunteer member on the board of directors. Highly recommended as a great place to visit and shop if you are in the Newcastle area.

This weekend show and sale is an open show featuring many of the artists from A Gift of Art and is also open to other visiting artists. Some talented local musicians will be entertaining throughout the show.

One of the pieces I will be exhibiting will be a custom framed photograph of a barred owl. This image has been inkjet printed on archival canvas and measures approximately 15”x20”. The canvas has been gallery wrapped on a 1 – 3/8” thick pine frame. The gallery wrapped frame has in turn been inset into a custom handmade birds-eye maple frame accented with walnut splines at the mitre joints. (Woodworking is another pastime and I make my own frames)

Framed canvas print, barred owl at sunset

Framed canvas print, barred owl at sunset

Corner detail, bird's eye maple with walnut splines

Corner detail, bird’s eye maple with walnut splines

The image itself was taken in a local conservation area in late winter at dusk. I had been following the owl from about 10:00 in the morning. It was a very bright winter’s day and the light was quite harsh. The owl was quite inactive and slept most of the morning and afternoon. A few awkward roosting spots added in to the mix resulted in not many real excellent photo opportunities. Late in the afternoon the light was getting better and the owl started to move about and went in to hunting mode. The owl investigated a few different places where it was probably hearing mice or moles moving under the snow.

Barred owl, preening claws

Barred owl, preening claws

The owl then moved to a very nice position and sat and watched the setting sun for a while. Perhaps contemplating the night’s hunting that lay ahead.

A couple alternate images at the same location

Barred Owl

Barred Owl at sunset

Barred Owl

Barred Owl at sunset, profile view

The final printed image shows the setting sun and trees reflected in the owl’s eye. The owl picked a very nice perch with a snow covered background. Low light conditions required a large aperture setting which renders the background nicely out of focus. The low light and nice background gave this image a painterly quality which seemed to lend itself well to printing on canvas.