My new small business venture…

Some friends have suggested that many of my photos lend themselves well to greeting cards / note cards. So I am working on setting that up as a business. 

While it is a little late for Christmas cards, I am taking orders for general blank greeting cards now.  Personalized cards can also be arranged.

The currently available designs are below (without the watermark, of course). If there are other images on this site that interest you, please contact me. 

Prints of some of my photos are also available on my photography website.

Please email me at Danielle@dvlesqphotos.com if you are interested in further information or would like to place an order. 

So long Churchill. It’s been fun.

As I start this post, it’s after midnight on Friday (Saturday, technically) and I’m somewhere high up above Manitoba on my flight back to Winnipeg. I should have been in Winnipeg by now, but our flight was delayed around 3 hours – we didn’t leave until after 11 pm and won’t arrive until well after 1 am. It is now Saturday night and time to finish this.

Thursday was an eventful day. No bears (we had white out conditions in the morning), but we did have a dead battery in the vehicle I was riding in. This was on a day with bitter cold winds like nothing I’d felt before. Fortunately, it happened while we were at lunch, so most of us stayed warm inside.

In the afternoon, we went to see the dogs at the Canadian Eskimo Dog Foundation’s facility. There are only around 400 Inuit/Eskimo dogs left in the world and they are trying to preserve the breed – one of the oldest in the world. They are sled dogs – super strong and rugged with a ton of stamina – that can pull a loaded sled fire 10-12 hours without trouble. They are built for strength and endurance, not speed. The foundation’s founder Brian Ladoon, who recently passed away, was not without controversy, but there’s no question they care about the dogs. Although not pets, most of the dogs were really friendly and loved attention. Unfortunately, the bitter cold and wind let me to spend more time photographing the dogs from the warm car rather than with the dogs.

Yesterday was a good animal day. Still no bears, but we saw a few foxes (red and arctic) and some ptarmigan. There was even an arctic fox scampering around in town, just a few feet away from us.

Yesterday was also the day I finally ate it in the snow – twice – and ended up with snow in my boots as a result. While trying to get into position to photograph one fox, my foot went right through the snow. Not just my foot, but my leg was buried up to my knee. I nearly dropped my camera with the $2000 rental lens attached (thank goodness it was insured!). I needed help from one of our guides to get up that time (fortunately, it didn’t scare off the fox). Ironically, I got some of my best photos of the whole trip from that vantage (see the red fox below). Later in the afternoon, the group was calling me over to take a group photo. In my rush, my foot again went through the snow – not as deep this time, but still enough to cause me to fall face forward. When I got up and took another step, I fell again. Thankfully, everyone was too busy to turn their cameras on me and capture the moment (a risk when traveling with photographers). 

This afternoon I met up with a local photographer, Walter Potrebka, who I was introduced to by one of the guys on my tour. We went out to shoot Snowy Owls, like this famous one. Walter says it was one of his best days owl-spotting ever – he saw 15 today, around 8 – 10 of which were while we were out. I thing I got a few pretty good shots. We also saw a fox and some deer, as well as a coyote way off in the distance. 

I’ll admit, I’m disappointed I didn’t get to see more bears from a closer distance (most were just a quick glimpse from the helicopter at 300 feet). After all, that was the purpose of the trip. But I did get pictures of a few bears and I saw and photographed a lot of wildlife and realized I like that much more than landscape. (Now to figure out how to afford the right equipment.) I also really enjoyed spending time with this particular group of people. If you ever have a chance to take a workshop/tour with Leighton Lum (he has some good ones planned), Kelsey Eliasson, Fred Lemire, or Karine Genest, I definitely would recommend them. 

All in all, I really enjoyed the trip and have no regrets. (Well, I may have a few when I step on the scale back home.) 

These two were my favorites of the dogs
Ptarmigan
Arctic Fox
Red Fox
Snowy Owl
Hedwig!

Hey there, foxy…

Today was a productive animal day.

This morning started off with two fox sightings – an arctic fox and a red fox (in different locations). I was able to get some really nice shots of both, tho my photos of the arctic fox turned out surprisingly noisy/grainy for some reason.

After the foxes, we hopped aboard helicopters to spot polar bears from the air. The group split up between two helicopters. Our group saw about 7 or 8 bears (including a mother with cub) and even a trio of moose. It was a cool experience (my second time in a helicopter), but it was also a bit disappointing, especially after we heard from the guys who were on the other helicopter. Our pilot would spot a bear, point it out to us, and then basically fly off after just a quick look. There was no time to even try to snap photos (especially for those of us sitting in the back trying to shoot through foggy windows). Heck, we barely had a chance to spot the animal before we were off to the next one. And when he did circle to get a better view, it was never on my side. Still, it was a fun experience.

In the afternoon, our original plans were thwarted due to unexpected circumstances. But as we were driving along, someone in the group spotted another fox. Our guide tried to get ahead of where she thought the fox was going (while the other vehicle parked where it was) but she was out-foxed (yes, pun intended) and the fox ran across the road closer to the other vehicle as we were walking that direction. I managed to get a few shots, but it was late and dark, so there isn’t much to do with them.

We also learned that a mother and at least one, possibly two, cubs had been spotted in town just around the corner from the B&B where 4 of us are staying. We didn’t hear it, but apparently there were some shots fired (blanks) to scare them off around 5:30 this morning. We did find paw prints in the snow tho – mama’s paw print is bigger than an adult human’s footprint.

The last couple days, especially today, have been a little tough with my Crohn’s. There are only a handful of restaurants in Churchill and the menus are fairly similar at all of them – and they aren’t necessarily friendly to someone with digestive issues. Sure, I could probably make it easier on myself by ordering more selectively, but it would be food that I just don’t like or that is really boring. So I have ended up having a few meals that didn’t sit well with me. Fortunately, it has mostly been at dinner, so I just had to make a bee-line to the bathroom when we got back to the B&B. Today, lunch caused me some problems. Fortunately, we lingered in town a bit before we hit the road, so I was able to take care of things without any impact on the afternoon. My gastroenterologist would not approve. But, other than those moments, my health and energy have held up and I have none of the pain I was having as recently as a couple days before leaving on the trip.

I don’t know the plan for tomorrow yet. Apparently a film crew will be joining us for at least part of the day (our lead guide has been working with them on a project related to polar bears), so that could add another interesting element to the trip.

All in all, despite some disappointment (and a little digestive upset), so far this trip has been well worth the money.

Arctic fox:

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Red fox:

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We made it back safely:

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Moose from about 300 feet above:

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Look at those paw prints! The cub’s were almost as big as my foot.

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Where are you, polar bears?

Today was…

That’s it. It was.

We went out on Tundra Buggies – giant behemoths that must be based on some sort of military personnel carriers – to look for polar bears. We did spot one, and I did get a couple of decent pictures of it, but that was all we had to show for about 7 hours of sitting cooped up in the metal beast with about 3 dozen other people. Once again, the winds whipped up the snow and visibility ranged from poor to nearly white-out conditions. So even if bears were around, we wouldn’t have seen them. A lot of people on the buggy just fell asleep.

Tomorrow should be interesting. I’m told we are going out in helicopters. Eep!

This is a tundra buggy:

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This is the inside of a crowded buggy…

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This was our visibility most of the day:

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But we did see this bear, at least:

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Brrrr….

Greetings from the frozen north – Churchill, Manitoba. And I do mean frozen – temps have been in the single digits with wind chill making it feel like -15° or so. Still, I can’t complain – a month ago, I wasn’t even sure I’d be healthy enough to make this trip (who am I kidding – I told the gastroenterologist that I had no intention of missing it).

I am here with some other folks hoping to shoot polar bears – with a camera. Unfortunately, just before we arrived, the wind shifted to be from the north and the Hudson Bay had a major freeze. To the polar bears, that signals that it’s time to move on, and it appears most of them have.

We got lucky on our first day and spotted two different bears. I got some great photos of the first one. It was getting dark when we came across the second one, and it was a good distance away, so my photos are pretty grainy. We also saw an arctic hare. There were a couple foxes during the day, too, but they were moving too fast to photograph. I did get a picture of one’s butt, tho. (continues below the pix)

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Day two was… let’s call it an adventure. We drove around in blizzard conditions hunting for bears. At times, it was basically white-out conditions. We did spot some ptarmigans (aka snow chickens and related to partridges) and I got some good pictures of them. There were also some other small birds flitting around in some trees. (continues below)

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While we were at lunch, we got word that a mama bear and cub were spotted. We rushed out and did manage tho find them. Unfortunately, they were just too far away to photograph, even with the 150-450 mm lens I rented. Besides, the wind was so strong that my hands nearly froze the minute I left the car (seriously, this weather is intense!). Still, it was cool to see them.

Today was day 3. The weather conditions were better, relatively speaking. Temps were still single digits and the wind was brutal, but the snow wasn’t falling, at least, and the sun was shining most of the day. Alas, still no bears. We got in a few landscape shots and did manage to see a couple arctic hares, at least.

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Tomorrow, we will be on a Tundra Buggy that will be looking for bears in the conservation area / national park (private guides operate in a different area closer to town). The reports are not terribly promising – people we spoke to today saw 10 bears on their trip, but they were all out on the ice already and sounded like they were out of camera range. So we’ll see…

In the meantime, I’ll just soak up some rays while the sun is out…

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An update…

I’ve been quiet again lately. It’s largely been with good reason. Well, it’s a bad reason but a good excuse.

In my last post, I mentioned that I hadn’t been feeling well and had gone to the doctor. At that appointment, my doctor posited a few possible reasons and she ordered a bunch of tests, including an abdominal CT scan which I had a few days later. The following Monday evening, I found myself in the emergency room and subsequently admitted to the hospital. The CT scan seemed to indicate a tubo-ovarian abscess – basically, an abscess on my fallopian tube or ovary – and if that was the case, it could rupture with possibly dangerous implications. Fortunately – or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it – it wasn’t that. But I’ll get to that…

(As an aside, I learned that Monday is apparently the worst day to visit the emergency room. So, if you are going to get sick or injured, try to avoid Mondays.)

Around 11pm, after a roughly 5 hour wait, I finally got taken in to to an exam room in the ER. I would be there for almost 4 hours before being admitted to the hospital. Around 1am, I was wheeled off for an ultrasound, including one that was quite, ummm, intrusive. Around 3am, a gynecologist came by for further examinations (again, quite intrusive, this time with a med student observing). Based on her exam and the preliminary ultrasound reading, she felt I was not dealing with an abscess but likely something else.

I was admitted to the hospital that night and would ultimately spend 3 nights. Over the next couple days, I was visited by multiple doctors, including a gastroenterologist and a colorectal surgeon, in addition to the general hospitalist. I also was subjected to a battery of tests, including an abdominal MRI (which required me to drink a large quantity of a sickly sweet fluid) and a colonoscopy (which required drinking a lot of a very nasty liquid).

Ultimately, it turned out that my Crohn’s disease was active and I had significant intestinal inflammation (so severe the doctor couldn’t complete the colonoscopy). The doctor thinks my Crohn’s has been active for quite some time and that I had just grown used to living with the discomfort. Exacerbating it was a large ovarian cyst, which explains the image on the original CT scan. There also appeared to be some infection, indicated by the fevers I kept spiking. I was given IV antibiotics in the hospital and eventually sent home with two weeks worth of hard core antibiotics that left me feeling even sicker.

I spent the next few days at home, doing little more than sleeping. I suppose it didn’t help that I hadn’t had caffeine the whole time I was in the hospital, so I was probably experiencing a little bit of withdrawal. (I have now been basically caffeine free for over a month, only drinking a small cup of coffee on a couple of very early mornings. Surprisingly, I generally have had more energy than I remember having in a long time, and no afternoon crash.)

I am now feeling more or less back to normal. In fact, I feel better than I have in a long time. But the Crohn’s is still active and, as the gastroenterologist now treating me keeps reminding whenever I say I’m feeling pretty good, I’m going to have to treat it. That means IV infusions of a biologic medication for the foreseeable future. The cyst, at least, was expected to resolve itself within a couple of menstrual cycles (estimated around 6 weeks) and the pain/discomfort on that side of my abdomen has definitely subsided, so I suspect it has at least shrunk. I have an ultrasound scheduled just after Thanksgiving to see how things look and then the doctors can figure out how best to move forward.

For now, I’m in Churchill, Manitoba looking for polar bears. A month ago, I was worried I might have to cancel this trip. So, hey, it could be worse…

Sometimes little things have a big impact…

You never know what someone else is going through in their life. A simple kindness can brighten someone’s bad day, while a minor slight can make their world crash down around them. This is a story of the latter, unfortunately.

First, a little background –

Ever since my ex asked for a divorce in mid-September 2014, just 10 days after my birthday, September has felt cursed. Maybe the curse actually began when we got married the previous September.  Since then, September – my birthday month – has proven difficult for me (with the possible exception of the time I spent in Switzerland, but even that trip had its negative points).

One of the little things I look forward to in September – a sense of normalcy in a month that has often been difficult – is our monthly departmental birthday celebration. For a few years, I was the only September, so I had my choice of birthday cakes. Now there are other Septembers, so we all reach agreement on a type of cake. I am usually fairly flexible with one caveat – no chocolate. I have never liked chocolate and I rarely eat it in any form.  So imagine my surprise when I walked in to our birthday celebration this week and saw not the strawberry shortcake we had agreed to, but a large chocolate cake.

I realize this is very “First World problems” and maybe I should just brush it off. But, as I mentioned, you never know what someone is going through. This has been a really difficult month for me on many levels and so I was really looking forward to that one little bright spot in an otherwise dark month.

This September started off so well that I had totally forgotten the curse.  Over Labor Day weekend, I went on two dates with someone who I had taken a liking to and who I was hoping to get to know better. My birthday (ironically, on Labor Day) started with brunch with a friend who I hadn’t seen in a while, then a visit to the spa for a massage and facial, and dinner with my mom. All in all, probably one of the best birthday weekends I have had in several years.

But that was the end of the positive this September. By that Friday, the person I was hoping to get to know better was out of my life (it came as a complete shock to me and it was particularly disappointing as I really would have liked to at least maintain a friendship). A little over a week later, I got some concerning test results after I went in for a physical. A few days after that, I started running a mysterious, intermittent fever combined with abdominal pain. It has been over two weeks since that started and it may be more serious than I first surmised.

I finally went to the doctor to have the fever and abdominal pain checked out on the day we had our birthday celebration. The visit raised several concerns (and a referral for a CT scan). Blood tests indicate some sort of infection and I am now awaiting the results of a CT scan. During that visit, the doctor had quite a bit of blood drawn to run some tests, which left me feeling woozy. But, as I told first the nurse, then the doctor, and then the lab tech, I was in a rush because I was looking forward to the birthday cake awaiting me.

I emailed the person in charge of cake for the month multiple times, letting her know first that I might be running late and then that I was done with my appointment and could, in fact, make it back in time for the celebration. I then rushed from the doctor’s office back to my office. At least 3 emails were exchanged – at no time did she ever mention there was a snafu with the cake.

I am sure my disappointment was obvious, although few people seemed to care – everyone else got a type of cake they liked, after all. Needing sugar after the blood draw, I grabbed some cookies from my office. “Why are you eating cookies before your cake,” a coworker asked. “Because I can’t eat any of this,” I responded, pointing at the cake. The organizer mentioned the bakery screwed up, so she got chocolate because she knew the other two liked it. She pointed out that she had gotten two fruit tarts (both of which had chocolate in them and both of which had kiwi, which I generally avoid). I reiterated that I don’t eat chocolate which prompted someone to ask if I was allergic – it shouldn’t matter why I don’t eat chocolate, simply that I made clear I don’t eat chocolate. Would it really have been so impossible for someone to at least pick up a cupcake or something more in line with my tastes? Would it have been so hard to genuinely apologize?

One of the other birthday people was stuck on a call that was running late and suddenly was unavailable until 3:15 – when I had to leave to get to another commitment. At that point, it didn’t matter to me – it was clear it wasn’t my birthday celebration anyway. My preferences and feelings had been completely disregarded by all involved.

As I noted, maybe I should let this slide by – it’s very “first world problems” and not a huge issue in the scheme of things. But, in the midst of struggling with the medical issues I am dealing with, and having the type of September I have been having, it was just really hurtful to be completely disregarded in that manner.