observed by Diane » photo journal for those who enjoy vignettes of an ordinary life

  • Welcome to my photo journal

    Living on Vancouver Island in B.C. Canada Diane loves the scent of forests and rain, the rhythms of the sea, and holds discoveries and stories in high regard.

    Where mornings begin with a drum roll! --Diane M Schuller

    Updated each Monday ... simply an online journal of an ordinary life. Come on in to enjoy a breath of West Coast air.

    What are you reading?

    “The beauty of the written word is that it can be held close to the heart and read over and over again.” ~Florence Littauer

    home-9025I’m so immersed in my photos I haven’t been doing nearly as much reading as usual. Other than a couple of technical books (on Lightroom for instance), I haven’t read some good fiction for a while. I’d love to know where your bookmark is currently resting.

    I’ve mentioned my friend Karen Bass in a previous post, but thought I’d mention her book again for anyone who may be looking for a good read. Karen’s novel, Run Like Jager is classified as Young Adult but I can guarantee it’s every bit an interesting read for adults as well!

    While I’m at it, a fellow dog writer/photographer recently sent me a copy of her lovely picture book, Salty Dogs. Jean Fogle has some fantastic photos of dogs at the beach paired with apt and interesting quotes. This would be a great gift book for anyone who simply loves dogs or those who love being near water.

    The reason for not reading some good fiction lately is definitely not because I don’t have some at hand; no, I have two piles of promising novels sitting in abeyance waiting for me to crack their fresh spines. As an avid reader, I’ve read a lot of really powerful, well written novels (and a few that weren’t so great too). I can never list an all-time favourite or even a top 5 or 10 for instance. That said, here is a sampling of some of the novels I’ve read that do make my list of favourites though I couldn’t put them in any kind of order — each was a favourite for different reasons. (These are simply notes I made on these novels and are by no means any sort of review.)

    The Secret Life of Beesby Sue Monk Kidd: Outstanding. I read and loved this book long before Hollywood got a hold of it. I’ve purposely not seen the movie because I know they could never do the book justice. It’s a feel-good book full of interesting facts on bees, wisdom of life, humour, and intelligence. It’s truly a book every mother and every daughter should read. Kidd writes with lovely descriptive prose and turns of phrase. More importantly, she is adept at characterization and the voice of this protagonist (Lily) is delightful. I loved Lily! She made me smile despite her circumstances.

    A Fine Balanceby Rohinton Mistry: a bountiful epic told in the most richly woven prose. Mistry is an artful wordsmith. Not a dry spell to be found in this book. I learned so much about India, their culture, politics, and everyday life in their different social castes. His writing is so full of imagery and so well wrought that I could smell the streets and see the colour as I read page-by-page. The fine balance was that fine line between despair and hope. A book I can never forget. (I also read it years before Oprah discovered it 🙂 )

    The Kite Runner Illustrated Editionby Khaled Husseini: An excellent book with great storytelling and total involvement in the characters. The protagonist, Amir’s shocking betrayal of his loyal friend Hassan is at the root of this novel’s intensity. Highly recommended.

    No Great Mischief: A Novel by Alistair MacLeod: A really pleasing read. Plain (in a simple/good way) lucid writing which used landscape as a prominent backdrop. A well told story of family, the historical parallels, and the strength of family ties — “always take care of your blood” as the characters would say. I really enjoyed a line used in the novel, which was repeated as the closing line, “All of us are better when we’re loved.”

    House of Sand and Fogby Andre Dubus III: a page turner. The fog, and sand to a degree, are characters in this moving story. I found the characterization of Colonel Behrani exceptional. Constant, and building tension, together with adept storytelling made this an engaging novel to read. I’d classify it as a contemporary tragedy. (I think I’m flattered that Oprah selected some of the books I had already read!)

    The Stone Carversby Jane Urquhart: The unique characters and subject — wood & stone carvers — were dealt with such clarity in this novel. As in past novels I’ve read by Urquhart, she uses the underlying theme of “a trace”. In this case, it’s the trace of the carver on the wood or stone, although I also saw the trace of a man on a woman theme. Each of the characters also had obsessions, which tied in so well with their adventures in life. A detailed, yet enjoyable literary novel.

    Memoirs of a Geishaby Arthur Golden: Beautiful language. What an engaging novel, full of voluptuous prose; an extraordinary story that was hard to put down. His indepth research has made the building blocks of an exquisite story. I didn’t want the book to come to an end and actually remember holding on to the book and not wanting to let it go when I finally did finish it. It flows like gentle ripples on a pond. I was so intrigued by her story and in learning so much about a life of which we all have far too many misconceptions.

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    Oh dear, I could go on and on. See! It’s hard to pick just a few favourites 🙂  What books have you immersed yourself within that inspired you, made an impact, or even altered how you view your life?

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    There, yes right there …

    I see the beauty there within you. Do you see it in yourself? It’s right there.

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    I’m a tad late posting a photo for you to use as wallpaper. This month I’ve waffled about what two to offer you and hope you find the two soft ones I chose to your liking; they’re yours to use and to freshen your days. You are welcome to send others here as well to share in the soft backdrop as most of you are already well into spring (even if we aren’t there yet 🙂 ). Right click to save it and then add it as your wallpaper.

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    A gentle reminder: these wallpaper images each month are being made available for personal use only. They are not to be used for commercial purposes.

    May you have a weekend filled with joy, laughter, and don’t forget to take some photographs!

    PS: Two upcoming blog posts next week will cover tips on photographing dogs (applies to kids too) plus a post on what book helped me make the most improvement in my photography skills.

     

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    Photographing Dogs

    Australian Shepherd by Diane Schuller dog photographer

    As I anticipate the arrival of spring up here, I’m looking forward to the opportunity of photographing more dogs. Last year the most fun I had photographing dogs, besides with my own, was one afternoon when I met a client in Grande Prairie (the nearest small city an hour from where I live). I spent just over an hour photographing her dog, Henry. He was an absolute delight to work with and my client was pleased with the proofs (I wouldn’t want it any other way!), selecting and taking three of her favourites.

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    What are you looking forward to?

    PS: I have updated my “Pets” online gallery by deleting the ones that were up before and replacing them with a fresh batch. Please take a look if you like. To view them (by Carousel, Slideshow, etc) and to change the background colour simply use the toolbar at the bottom of the gallery page. Enjoy!

    Diane is a lifestyle photographer serving Grande Prairie & Northern Alberta. Visit Diane Schuller Photography.

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    Cupcake & Spring

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    Flirt’s “Fantasy Island”: with light lemon icing & smothered in coconut


    I promised more cupcakes from Flirt plus I thought I’d also share a few thoughts on spring north of 55.

    In the blog world and on Flickr photos, everyone has been posting scads of photos indicative of their individual signs of spring — and for quite a while. They include bare streets!! (I wish), grass, budding leaves (what!), and flowers (you have got to be kidding, right!). As you can tell from my comments (hoping my humour is coming through!), we aren’t anywhere close to any of those so I thought it was high time I share the reality of living north of 55. You see, even though we had plenty of snow on the ground already, a huge blizzard raged in last week that added to the snowfall but it was the winds that caused drifts as high as 5 and 6 feet — that is NO April Fool’s joke.

    We still have a few feet of snow on the ground, not a single tree is anywhere close to opening buds, let alone the perennials that are still buried beneath the snow and frozen in the solid earth. Yes, the first crows returned a few days ago and the Canada Geese are apt to arrive in the next week or two. But nesting — not a chance for quite some time yet. We’re beginning to get forecasts of days that will be above zero (single digits) but that doesn’t mean warm overnight temperatures. In fact, it’s uncommon to plant our gardens prior to the third week in May. Even at that we still get overnight frosts and need to protect our young seedlings or tender bedding plants after planting in May. There are a few exceptions to this but that’s primarily people who live in the city. It’s always warmer in the city because of the heat from the buildings and paved streets, not to mention that they don’t get the same effects from the blowing snow in winter (so snow melts sooner in the cities and towns).

    Hansa shrub in my backyard before last week

    Hansa shrub in my backyard before last week's storm -- now it's barely visible

    Thanks to our neighbour, we no longer have to trudge through the deep snow or don our snowshoes to take our dogs for a walk down our driveway (our driveway to the back is approximately the length of two city blocks). On Sunday he nearly got his huge 8-wheel tractor stuck when he attempted to go through some of the deeper drifts but what a relief to be able to go outside and actually walk upright like normal people. You have no idea what a relief that is rather than slogging through deep snow trying to make new tracks each day. Needless to say we are incredibly grateful when he comes by!

    getting plowed out -- but earlier in the winter before the heavy snowfalls!

    getting plowed out -- but earlier in the winter before the heavy snowfalls!

    All that said, there truly is hope for spring! It appears we are right at an important turning point. Hopefully from now on, the days will be warm enough to melt the snow and eventually thaw the ground. Spring is in sight even if it’s not actually here! I soon hope to begin reporting on the true signs of spring up here, north of 55.

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    Wapiti in Alberta

     

    young elk fleeing to safety

    young elk fleeing to safety

    This small group of young elk (wapiti) are in a field near our home. The cows (female adult elk) are kicking out their last year’s offspring and the youngsters are forming their own small herds. I captured this group of young gals just over a week ago as I was leaving home, heading to Edmonton. It was a very overcast morning and I shot from inside my car because they were already beginning to flee at the sight of my vehicle.

    Wapiti is a Shawnee word meaning white rump. Although these photos aren’t the most vivid, if you look closely you’ll see that distinctive white rump. (The photo I linked to below shows the white rump much more clearly.)

    The elk are a large member of the deer family and are extremely dangerous in the wild. The adult cows are highly aggressive all year long and the bull elk (males) are dangerous during their rut (breeding season in the autumn). They do a lot of damage to farmer’s land, trees, and are dangerous for those with horses. We have so many elk in our area and they have no predators so their herds are growing by leaps and bounds (pun intended). Wolves are natural predators but we don’t have wolves in our area. I posted another image of these elk at Flickr if you’d like to see that image as well, especially if you want to more clearly see that white rump.

    (I haven’t forgotten about the second cupcake post but wanted to share this with you before I forget.)

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    Hey There Cupcake!

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    I told you in the last post this would be much more delightful! How’s a cupcake in natural light grab you? I found this amazing place on my recent trip to Edmonton, Alberta: “Flirt Cupcakes”. It’s a darling little spot on Whyte Avenue (a great place for people watching, nifty boutiques & stores, coffee houses, and a variety of places to find yummy food). I’ve sampled some of their little darlings and you must go there if you’re ever in Edmonton. The beauty of their product is that it’s home made on the premises daily, and the icings are so yummy and not all sugary-sweet. Instead the icings are made with fresh and unique things like strawberry or peanut butter (like my favourite in the picture above) … and other delicious offerings. Rick and Michelle are so welcoming and great hosts when you visit.

    I took scads of photos but here is a gallery showing a few (for best viewing use the “Carousel” or “Slideshow” buttons located at the bottom of the thumbnail page). In my next post I’ll include photos of a couple more of my favourite cupcakes from Flirt. Oh maybe I should explain: Rick let me have a taster of one while I was there plus I purchased a box of minis to take to my son and his family. That’s where I got to have a bite of a couple more (Granddaughters are great for offering taste tests to Grandmas).

    Flirt Cupcakes: 10158 – 82 (Whyte) Avenue, Edmonton, Alberta

    Do you have a favourite sweet shop in your neighbourhood?

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