Happy Earth Day!

It’s going to take me at least 7 ½ lifetimes to see and do everything I want to on this enormous, beautiful planet. My Bucket List includes every last bit of its incredible diversity.

Looking down on Greenland

Looking down on Greenland

From mountains to deserts.

Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

The Devil's Golf Course, Death Valley, California, USA

The Devil’s Golf Course, Death Valley, California, USA

From coral reefs to forests.

Molokini Crater, Maui, Hawaii, USA

Molokini Crater, Maui, Hawaii, USA

Redwoods National Park, California, USA

Redwoods National Park, California, USA

From glaciers to tropical beaches.

Taku Glacier, Alaska, USA

Taku Glacier, Alaska, USA

Cancun, Mexico

Cancun, Mexico

And not forgetting the cities.

Tallinn, Estonia

Tallinn, Estonia

New York City, New York, USA

New York City, New York, USA

Jerusalem, Israel

Jerusalem, Israel

Or the wildlife.

Prairie Dog, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota, USA

Prairie Dog, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota, USA

Manatee mother with calf, Manatee State Park, Florida, USA

Manatee mother with calf, Manatee State Park, Florida, USA

Black bear cub, Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada

Black bear cub, Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada

Hawaiian spinner dolphins, Kona Bay, Hawaii, USA

Hawaiian spinner dolphins, Kona Bay, Hawaii, USA

So today and every day, let’s all do our bit to look after the Earth for the enjoyment and safety of ourselves and generations to come.

Planting trees on Earth Day, 2012

Planting trees on Earth Day, 2012

Happy Earth Day!

PS. I wonder if Ailsa (of Where’s My Backpack?) and Sue (of A Word In Your Ear) both picked Round as their photo theme this week because of Earth Day, of if it’s a happy coincidence?

Unknown Caribbean island on the way to Jamaica... perhaps someone could identify it for me!

Unknown Caribbean island on the way to Jamaica… perhaps someone could identify it for me!

While you’re considering this awe-inspiring planet we call home, why not sign up and follow my continuing Journeys here at Jaspa’s Journal, or through my websiteFacebook, Twitter and Instagram?

And if that’s not enough for you, there are now three Jaspa’s Journey novels to enjoy as ebooks! Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

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The Real First Rule of Photography… or Lost Opportunities Over London

There are any number of contenders for the First Rule Of Photography. Using the Rule of Thirds to properly compose your shot, for example. Or ensuring the correct exposure. Or something more basic, such as being careful to hold your camera still and straight.

Several smart people out there advise something more fundamental: always take your camera with you. But I recently learned that even this simple rule needs refining…

In March, we flew back to England in a brand new 787 Dreamliner, to visit Rich’s family. Our approach to Heathrow took us on a flightpath we’d never before been lucky enough to experience… right over the heart of central London.

We came in from the northeast, banking over the Tower of London and Tower Bridge in a graceful arc to the right. I got my first ever glimpse of the Shard, so close below us I felt even I could reach out and touch it. Then we were curving around the South Bank towards the London Eye, the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey. And the whole time I could see the whole historic heart of Britain’s capital, right there! What a view it was!

2 - Pride of London coverAnd for me it had an even greater significance, because that one view took in every location from the second Jaspa’s Journey novel, The Pride of London.

What an incredible opportunity to take some photographs – perhaps a single shot – encompassing the whole map from the book. Especially given the Dreamliner’s bigger than average, unscratched windows. What a brilliant way to help promote the Pride of London. And all the Jaspa’s Journey books, for that matter.

Map from Jaspa's Journey 2: The Pride of London. The red dotted line roughly shows our flightpath.

Map from Jaspa’s Journey 2: The Pride of London. The red dotted line roughly shows our flightpath.

And what a terrible time for Rich to decide, probably for the first time ever, to give himself a little extra legroom across the Atlantic by putting his camera in the overhead bin! Even his cell phone was turned off, and so wouldn’t have powered back up in time.

To be fair, we’ve made this particular flight numerous times over the last decade. And although I still love looking out of the window, how many photos of southern England can you take from thousands of feet up in an airliner, right? How were we to know that on this particular flight we’d be treated to a spectacular, perhaps once-in-a-lifetime view of central London?

So my First Rule of Photography is this: Always Take Your Camera With You… And Have It To HandWhen Travelling!

That way you won’t have to feel like Rich, who’s still berating himself over a month later. Especially as he remembered – once we were already on the ground at Heathrow, of course – that the iPad in the seat pocket in front of him included a camera. Not ideal, but it would certainly have been better than nothing.

The one that got away!... Central London from the air (photo by eigen werk, 2004)

The one that got away!… Central London from the air (photo by eigen werk, 2004)

On the bright side, images of that breathtaking view will be burned into my memory forever. If only I could get them out to show you…

Lesson learned - swirls of icebergs off the east coast of Canada, on the way home

Lesson learned – swirls of icebergs off the east coast of Canada, on the way home

Close up of Iceberg Alley

Close up of Iceberg Alley

While you’re groaning at Rich’s error, why not sign up and follow my continuing Journeys here at Jaspa’s Journal, or through my websiteFacebook, Twitter and Instagram?

And if that’s not enough for you, there are now three Jaspa’s Journey novels – including The Pride of London – to enjoy as ebooks! Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

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Circles in Stone – Rollright, Avebury & Stonehenge

Great Minds Think Alike, they say. Perhaps that explains why Ailsa (of Where’s My Backpack?) and Sue (of A Word In Your Ear) have both come up with Round as their photo theme this week. And the A to Z Challenge is ‘O’, too. It can’t be a coincidence, can it?

I love visiting prehistoric sites. Absolutely love it. And of all the differently types of prehistoric monuments, stone circles are my favourite.

During my recent trip to England, I was lucky enough to visit not just one, but three stone circles. In fact, one of my recent Friday photo challenge posts featured a sneak-peek of one these visits, to my all time favourite, Avebury.

Dawn at Avebury, Wiltshire

Dawn at Avebury, Wiltshire

Panoramic shot of the dawn at Avebury

Panoramic shot of the dawn at Avebury

Silbury Hill, another round monument near Avebury

Silbury Hill, another round monument near Avebury

Round barrows beside the Ridgeway above Avebury

Round barrows beside the Ridgeway above Avebury

A relatively 'modern' (450+ years old) dovecot within the stone circle at Avebury

A relatively ‘modern’ (450+ years old) dovecot within the stone circle at Avebury

I also got to the lesser-known Rollright Stones…

The Rollright Stones, near Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire

The Rollright Stones, near Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire

It was already spring in the UK

It was already spring in the UK

…And the most famous of stone circle of all, Stonehenge.

Stonehenge needs no introduction!

Stonehenge needs no introduction!

This was actually my second visit to this iconic landmark

This was actually my second visit to this iconic landmark

Another round barrow, this time beside Stonehenge (with some more on the horizon)

Another round barrow, this time beside Stonehenge (with some more on the horizon)

And I couldn’t resist getting in on the Daily Post’s On Top challenge, either…

A nice view of the surviving lintels On Top of the Stonehenge trilithons

A nice view of the surviving lintels On Top of the Stonehenge trilithons

PS. I promise the full posts on Stonehenge and Avebury are coming soon!

While you’re contemplating the purpose of all these circles in stone, why not sign up and follow my continuing Journeys here at Jaspa’s Journal, or through my websiteFacebook, Twitter and Instagram?

And if that’s not enough for you, there are now three Jaspa’s Journey novels to enjoy as ebooks! Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

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Sun Dog Days

IMG_0161In Southern Ontario, this time of year is characterised by wild weather swings. The day before yesterday it got up to 20ºC (68ºF) and everyone was out in their gardens in shorts. Then this morning we woke to heavy, wet, commute-disrupting snow.

Yet winter is most definitely nearly over, and the flowers are finally starting to appear.

 

But as we look forward to the warmth of spring, I want to share something from perhaps the coldest day I’ve ever experienced. On January 7th, 2014, temperatures in the Kitchener-Waterloo region plummeted to an almost record-breaking -25.8ºC (-14.4ºF). And the brisk wind chill made it officially feel like -41ºC (-42ºF). But at least it was nice and sunny!

This very special set of circumstances led to an extremely rare phenomenon, called a sun dog, being visible both early that morning and late in the afternoon.

January 7th is the only time I’ve ever seen a sun dog. In fact, I’d never even heard of one before that day. Hopefully, these photos will help you appreciate why I’m glad I now have, even if I did have to endure such excruciating cold in the process.

IMG_9170The photo above was taken not long after dawn. Strictly speaking, the rainbow-like features either side of the sun are the sun dogs, while the rest of the circle is a halo.

Rich took the photos below with his phone (hence the lower quality), just before sunset, on his way home that same day.

IMG_0676IMG_0677IMG_0678Both sun dogs and halos are the result of light refracting off ice crystals in the atmosphere. So they fit perfectly with Cee’s Fun Photo Challenge this week, which is Shiny. The halo effect is also spot on for Sue’s (A Word in Your Ear) theme of Round. And I hope Ailsa’s (Where’s My Backpack?) won’t mind me forwarding it as a second contribution to her Clean theme (even though I was at home on this occasion!).

While you’re marvelling at these sun dogs, why not sign up and follow my continuing Journeys here at Jaspa’s Journal, or through my websiteFacebook, Twitter and Instagram?

And if that’s not enough for you, there are now three Jaspa’s Journey novels to enjoy as ebooks! Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

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A Private Viewing of Mount Rushmore

As Ailsa (of Where’s My Backpack?), correctly observes in her photo challenge this week, somehow snow makes everything look Clean. Even the smallest sprinkling can bring a brightness and freshness. And, to a certain extent, the same can be said of seeing a special landmark at night.

This week’s Daily Post theme of Monument got me thinking of the time I visited South Dakota in November, 2009. Our friends all thought we were crazy to visit  The Mount Rushmore State at that time of year, but we were actually very lucky with the weather. And because most people were of the same mind as our friends, we practically had the whole state to ourselves. Including Mount Rushmore itself.

From the extensive parking lots beside the visitor centre, I expect Mount Rushmore is a bit of zoo at the height of the season. But on both our trips up the mountain, we were more-or-less the only visitors there.

We arrived in Keystone after dark, and made a beeline for the monument. We saw only two other visitors that evening, and they were already heading back to their car when we arrived. The mountain was ours!

IMG_1491IMG_1496IMG_1495Bright and early the next morning, we headed back up to Mount Rushmore. This time it was much more crowded at the viewing area. At one point we had to share it with three other people! Didn’t they know we’d booked out South Dakota for the week?!

Doing our best to contain our outrage at this oversight, we nevertheless enjoyed the light dusting of snow had come to rest on the presidents’ faces overnight.

IMG_1522IMG_1517IMG_1503In the photos of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington, the Layering and Patterns formed during the removal of the mountain from around the faces, and also in the natural rock strata, are very clear. Thanks to Nancy (of Nancy Merrill Photography) and Cee (of Cee’s Photography) for providing these additional aspects to my photo challenge submission this week.

IMG_1508IMG_1505As an aside, did you know that even mountains need a clean sometimes? In 2005, the German company Kärcher and the United States National Park Service washed all the grime and lichen off the Mount Rushmore sculptures. So Ailsa, our view of the monument in 2009 was quite literally cleaner than it would have been if we’d been there just over four years earlier! (Click here to learn more.)

Before and after the cleaning (photo by Kärcher)

Before and after the cleaning (photo by Kärcher)

Cleaning George Washington's chin (photo by Kärcher)

Cleaning George Washington’s chin (photo by Kärcher)

While you’re enjoying the big heads in the snow, why not sign up and follow my continuing Journeys here at Jaspa’s Journal, or through my websiteFacebook, Twitter and Instagram?

And if that’s not enough for you, there are now three Jaspa’s Journey novels to enjoy as ebooks! Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

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The World’s Biggest Flag!

Despite still suffering from a mild but lingering case of Jet Lag, having flown back from the UK on Monday, on Friday evening I headed down to the Rogers Centre (aka Skydome) in Toronto for the Blue Jays Home Opener against the Yankees. The game marked the much-anticipated Major League debut of Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka and the first game as a starting pitcher since 2008 for the Blue Jays’ Dustin McGowan.

IMG_0133Sadly, in a drawn out game long on tedium and short on action, the biggest highlight of the night probably turned out to be the gigantic flag rolled out before the first pitch was even thrown!

IMG_0158Just prior to the American and Canadian national anthems, two lines of soldiers and Blue Jays personnel filed into the outfield carrying a snake of material. They just kept coming, until they stretched almost the entire width of the field.

What's this?

What’s this?

It's big, whatever it is.

It’s big, whatever it is.

Then, with the American anthem complete, the two lines began to separate…

What could it be?

What could it be?

Almost there...

Almost there…

…To reveal an enormous Canadian flag. Admittedly, we’d all realised what was coming, and perhaps it wasn’t actually the Biggest Flag in the World, but it was still bloomin’ impressive, I can tell you!

Who'd have guessed?!...

Who’d have guessed?!…

...It's an enormous Canadian flag!

…It’s an enormous Canadian flag!

Some of Canada's medal winners from the Sochi Olympics and Paralympics help hold the flag.

Some of Canada’s medal winners from the Sochi Olympics and Paralympics help hold the flag.

Oh, the Blue Jays lost, by the way. Boo!

There was a baseball game, too.

There was a baseball game, too.

The Jays were actually winning at this point!

The Jays were actually winning at this point!

Masahiro Tanaka's first Major League pitch.

Masahiro Tanaka’s first Major League pitch.

While you’re undoubtedly lamenting the Blue Jays’ defeat, why not sign up and follow my continuing Journeys here at Jaspa’s Journal, or through my websiteFacebook, Twitter and Instagram?

And if that’s not enough for you, there are now three Jaspa’s Journey novels to enjoy as ebooks! Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

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Misty Dawn in Avebury

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks in the UK, mainly in and around the beautiful county of Wiltshire. If you’re familiar with this part of southern England, you’ll know that it abounds with incredible prehistoric sights, including Stonehenge.

I’ve got several posts planned for the next couple of weeks about some of the beautiful places I visited, but this week’s travel theme and photo challenges from Ailsa, Nancy, Cee and Sue have given me an opportunity to preview one of my favourite prehistoric locations. One that I believe rivals Stonehenge itself. Avebury.

At Avebury you really do stand at the threshold of a mysterious and fascinating landscape. Especially on an early spring dawn, when the first rays of sunlight slant across the misty downs to gently kiss the enigmatic stone circle and surrounding monuments.

 

Dawn at the neolithic stone circle at Avebury

Dawn at the neolithic stone circle at Avebury

In the dawn shadow of one of Avebury's massive stones

In the dawn shadow of one of Avebury’s massive stones

The mysterious, smooth-sided prehistoric mound of Silbury Hill, less than a mile from the Avebury stone circle

The mysterious, smooth-sided prehistoric mound of Silbury Hill, less than a mile from the Avebury stone circle

This week’s photo themes are Misty from Ailsa (of Where’s My Backpack?), Backlit from Nancy (of Nancy Merrill Photography), Smooth Objects from Cee (of Cee’s Photography), Contrast from Sue (of A Word in Your Ear) and Threshold  from the Daily Post. And since we’re talking Misty and Mysterious it also fits with this week’s A to Z Challenge, which is the letter M.

While you’re waiting for the full Avebury post, why not sign up and follow my continuing Journeys here at Jaspa’s Journal, or through my websiteFacebook, Twitter and Instagram?

And if that’s not enough for you, there are now three Jaspa’s Journey novels to enjoy as ebooks! Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

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