Friday, May 30, 2008

The Ottawa Marathon

Ottawa has so many festivals and events that it's hard to keep track of them all. One event that I have never attended before this year is the Ottawa Marathon. I had been to other events during the Ottawa Race Weekend such as the 10K run, but not the Marathon.

This year, I was determined to see the Marathon, and see if I could take some interesting photographs. I downloaded the route for the marathon from the web, and planned out where I wanted to be located. With most of the downtown roads closed or blocked, I had to walk from one spot to the next, so I was quite limited in my choices (some of the working photographers had motorcycles to get around). I wanted to see the start of the marathon, and I knew that I could see the runners cross the bridge from Gatineau into Ottawa at Nepean's Point near the National Gallery. After that, I thought that I would have to go to the finish line, and wait for the end of the race, at least for the elite runners.

So, early Sunday morning, I arrived downtown in good time to get a spot close to the starting line. I arrived at 6:15 am -- with time to spare for the 6:55 start of the wheelchair marathon, and the 7:00 start for the main marathon. The number of people at the start line was impressive for such an early time on Sunday, but as it turns out, a fraction of the number out at 9:00am for the start of the Half Marathon. Many runners posed for photographs at the start line, and some for self-portraits.

The first to appear on Alexandria bridge were the three wheel-chair athletes, followed by a pack of elite runners, and other lead runners. They were followed by the main pack of runners, still bunched up from the start of the race, but beginning to stretch out.

I must say that I am very impressed with the number of people in the race. Just finishing a race like this is impressive. I can't imagine running for four hours straight, as literally thousands of people in the race were able to accomplish. The photograph below was at the 10km mark in the race, about 45 minutes after the start. This many people running 10k in 45 minutes is amazing, and I take my hat off to all of them.

I was really neat to see how many people were out to encourage the runners, and how much the runners appreciate the applause. I could see how some runners were literally pumped up by the audience at the side of the road. The audience ranged from photographers to people with megaphones, family members, and just regular onlookers who would applaud every runner who passed.

After the main pack of runners passed the 10K mark, I walked to the corner of Sussex and Wellington to see some of the faster runners pass, and then I went to look for the finish line. However, when I got to Confederation park where the start line is located, there were a massive number of people waiting for the start of the half marathon. Elgin Street was packed with runners, and the park was filled with friends and family. I took some more photographs of the crowd, but then decided that the finish line was too crowded to get a good view. Next year, I'll be better prepared for this end of the race.

It was a great experience to attend the Marathon. I'll mark this race on my calendar for another outing next year. For more photographs of the race, see

. . . Rob Williams

Monday, May 19, 2008

When is a 200mm lens not a 200mm lens?

A couple of weeks ago, I was switching lenses between my 18-200mm zoom and 105mm macro, and I was surprised about how little difference there was in the "size" of the image in the viewfinder. I made a mental note to check out what was going on when I had the time. Thanks to a day of rain today, I decided to compare the different lenses that I have to see how the field of view compared at "200mm". In the process, I found a couple of surprising things.

I have three zoom lenses that cover 200mm: an 18-200mm zoom, an inexpensive 70-300mm zoom, and an 80-200 f/2.8 lens, all Nikon lenses ranging from consumer to professional quality. I compared all three lenses outside, set at 80mm then at 200mm. The 80mm results were quite similar, and although there was a noticable difference at 200mm, it was not as big a difference as I expected. I then tried the same test inside, at much closer focus. At four or five feet focus, there was quite a big difference, both at 80mm and at 200mm. Here is an example at 200mm (please, no comments on my book collection!).

The first image is from the 18-200mm lens at 200mm:

The next image is from the 80-200mm lens at 200mm:

The last image is from the 70-300mm at 200mm:

As I suspected, the 18-200mm lens is wider at "200mm" than the other two lenses. The same result holds at 80mm.

I don't mind, it's just a fact about the lens that is good to know. Modern lenses have quite a complicated design, especially a lens that ranges from 18 to 200mm, an 11x range. No doubt this is one of the comprimises that must be made to achieve this kind of range.

Other surprises:

Along the way, I made a couple of surprising discoveries. First, the consumer-grade 70-300mm lens performs surprisingly well compared to the professional 80-200mm lens. I wasn't making a comprehensive lens comparison, but at first blush, the 70-300mm lens produced a sharp and constrasty image quite comparible to the 80-200mm lens.

A second surprise was the problems I had trying to focus the 80-200mm lens when it is set to 200mm. Using autofocus at close range, the focus was clearly off. Manual focus was successful, thankfully. This is another behaviour that I will have to take into account.

. . . Rob Williams

Friday, May 16, 2008


Today's photographs were taken during a typical evening at one of the Ottawa Tulip Festival's best flower displays, at Commissioner's park at Dow's Lake. At times, people seem to outnumber flowers. One of the most interesting aspects of strolling along the flower beds is listening to the number of different languages being spoken. I guess the pleasure of seeing these colourful flowers in such numbers after a long and snowy winter brings everyone in the city together.

. . . Rob Williams

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Bloodroot flower

Today's photograph is a Bloodroot flower, so-called as you might guess, for the colour of it's root. This was taken in the same woods as the other wildflower photographs in the recent blog posts, part of a conservation area outside of Ottawa. These woods turned out to have a wide variety of wildflowers all in one location. I don't often find this amount of variety in one place.

Normally for wildflower closeups like this, I like to make sure that the flower is in pristine condition, but somehow the missing part of one of the petals doesn't bother me at all. The flower looks like it is in it's prime, and I think the flawed petal is part of what nature is all about.

. . . Rob Williams

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

View from the Experimental Farm

Today's photograph is a view of Saint John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Shrine in Ottawa, taken from one of the roads in the Experimental Farm. I went to this location early on Sunday morning to photograph the road lined with trees in flower. I knew that the church dome was visible from the road but I wasn't actively planning to include it in the photograph. I really got excited when I saw the tree's flowers in stripes on the road but the scene really seemed to be complete with the church's dome. The warm morning sun, the yellow flowers and pollen, and the gold dome combine to give the warm glow of the photograph.

. . . Rob Williams

Monday, May 12, 2008

Parliament Hill in the Spring

Today's photograph shows the Parliament Buildings and Supreme Court building in Ottawa, taken from one of the lookouts on the Alexandria Bridge over the Ottawa River. I love the look of trees in spring with their new leaves and flowers, and the soft evening light makes the trees on the slopes of the hill almost glow.

. . . Rob Williams

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Trillium in the woods

I have been busy over the past couple of weeks photographing some of the wildflowers in the forests, and spring tulips at Ottawa's famous Tulip Festival. While I'm working to process the backlog, I thought I would show some of the work as it gets processed. Today's photograph is a Large Flowered, or White Trillium in the woods west of Ottawa. It was taken with a 12-24mm lens (@24mm) focussed only a couple of inches away from the flower.

. . . Rob Williams

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Recent Work: An outing in the rain

Spring seems to be moving at lightspeed towards summer. New leaves are out, spring wildflowers are blooming, and just this last weekend, the first apple blossoms appeared. Even though there was rain in the forecast, I didn't want to miss anything, so I went out with my camera despite the weather. Fortunately, when I arrived on site, the rain had stopped, and I was able to take some photographs in the wet forest. This outing was much warmer than my winter outings, but it still takes an effort to get out of the house in bad weather. Persistence pays, not just in the photographs, but with a great feeling of spending time in the forest as it recovers from the winter.

. . . Rob Williams