Oh Canada, Part Trois

The journey continues!

After two days in Ottawa, we then drove back to Montréal where we were going to stay for two more days. This time it was during the day so I was able see the Canadian countryside.

Canadian Countryside

Now before I boarded the airplane to go to Canada, I tweeted out I was heading to Montréal. My best friend @nlaramie sent me this South Park link about French Canada. I laughed my ass off. I know South Park exaggerates quite a bit, but still I was intrigued to see what Montréal had in store for me.

Many people say the Montréal is like the Paris of North America. I've never been to Pairs, France so I couldn't tell you if this is true or not. What I can say is Montréal feels like a European city that has been transplanted into a western city. First off, everywhere you go people speak to you in French. Everyone also knows English, but French is the official language of Montréal, so they usually greet you in French first. I thought is was awesome that people were all around me speaking French, and yet it didn't seem too difficult to understand. Sorta like this. French was everywhere. On street signs. In menus. After awhile I was getting the gist of it.

Montréal was originally named Ville-Marie, which was the settlement that started in the location after explorer Jacques Cartier first discovered the land for France. He named a nearby mountain, which sits in the center of the city today, Mont Royal or Mont Réal as written in that time period. Over time the mountain became known as Montréal, then the island, then the finally the city. Yes, Montréal is actually an very large island in the St. Lawrence River.

View from Mont Royal

In the main part of Montréal there are skyscrapers that give it a very modern feeling, but in the Old Montréal part of town there is much different feeling. The streets are narrow and made of cobblestones. The buildings look old and regal. The streets are exceptionally clean. I thought many locations look like  movie sets stuck in time. It is very much the must see tourist location in Montréal.

Old Montréal

Movie Set?

 Old Basilicas and monuments are everywhere.

Notre-Dame Basilica


The best way to get around in Montréal is their Metro subway.


On the way to the Metro we discovered the the Underground City, which is a giant mall built completely under ground. It runs for many blocks. I couldn't tell you how many because you lose total perception as you walk under buildings and traffic moving overhead. You can't see all that but you have to imagine that it is above you.

Underground City

I could tell the people are highly active in Montréal. I don't think I saw anyone looking obese. Mainly because people walk everywhere in the city. Also I saw a lot of bicycle riders on the streets. There are even bike rental locations on the streets. You can rent a bicycle at one of many locations. You swipe your credit card, take the bike and then return it to another rental location when you're done riding.

Bicycle Rental

Also with more bicyclists there needs to be places to park all these bikes. There are bicycle parking spots on sidewalks. Not sure how or what you need to pay to park there.

Bike Parking

Overall I loved Montréal. I definitely would want to return in the near future. I hear it can get really cold there in the winter. So cold that the river freezes over. I would like to see that. Two days there was not enough time.

Leaving Canada was much easier than coming into the country. I had no holdups at Customs. I guess bringing camera gear back into the U.S. is not a major deal.

For the short time I had in Ottawa and Montréal, I really enjoyed it. I never looked at Canada as being a foreign destination. Hey, you need a passport to get there. I may take a holiday to Montréal or Ottawa again in the future.

Maple Leaves

This story may not be done just yet. I plan on posting at least one more about interesting things I saw while my six days in Canada. Stay tuned.....


I did have some more to post about my brief trip to Canada, but I got back to work and then got sick. Too much time passed for me to finish my posting so I will just do it here and now.

I enjoyed going to Ottawa and Montréal. I wished I had more time to experience and see more sights and sounds. I definitely plan on returning hopefully not for work and I could take my time seeing both cities.



Oh Canada, Part Deux

Ottawa is the capital of Canada which is in the Province of Ontario. It is a very clean and friendly city that was built along the south bank of the Ottawa River. The Ottawa River separates the Provinces of Ontario and Québec.

Being the capital of Canada, Ottawa is filled with museums, embassies, statues, and of course government buildings. The most impressive was Parliament Hill.

Parliament Hill

Parliament Hill is the where the federal legislative branch of Canada's government comes together. The government body consist of a Senate, a House of Commons, and the Canadian monarch, which for some reason is Queen Elizabeth II. The monarch is represented by an appointed Governor General of Canada. Plus there is a Prime Minister that advises Her Majesty. I am not going to even claim to know how that system works. What I will say is that Parliament Hill is highly accessible. People are allowed to walk all over the grounds. You can walk right up to the building. Take all the photographs that you wish and not even be bothered by a single security officer. Also every morning there is a huge public demonstration of the changing of the Ceremonial Guard.

Ceremonial Guard

The Ceremonial Guard is modeled after the United Kingdom's Queen's Guard. The Guard wears the familiar uniform of bright red jackets and large fuzzy black hats. The changing of the guard is a must see event on Parliament Hill. The front lawn is where the ceremony takes place. It is really cool. There is a band with bagpipers playing songs as the guard members march back and forth over the lawn. It is very much for show, but in many ways feels important and exciting.

I really like Parliament Hill. The age of the buildings and the architecture gives it a regal feeling. You also feel that the grounds actually belong to the people. After the changing of the guard, I thought it might be frowned upon to walk on the grass but there were people out there having picnics, laying on the grass, and even doing yoga. I wish I could have gone inside for  tour, but we didn't have enough time.

One last thing about Parliament Hill, at night there is a light show that is projected on the front of the building. The tells the story of Canada as a nation. It is pretty impressive. Here are a few photos

Parliament Hill at Night

Parliament Hill at Night

Like most capitals, Ottawa has its fair share of Monuments and statues

Canadian War Memorial

Tomb of the Fallen Soldier


Not all capitals have canal locks though. This is Rideau Canal that was created to get boats from the Ottawa River to Lake Ontario. I've never seen canal locks work before. I thought it was very cool. It also helped that it was a beautiful day.

Rideau Canal

I still have much more to tell about this trip, next stop Montréal. So stay tuned to the exciting continuation of Oh Canada!!


Oh Canada!

"Who has a valid passport? If so do you want to go cover sports in Canada?"

That was short email I received a few weeks back. Naturally, I jumped all over it. Not knowing the location or even what I was going to cover I said, yes I will go.

It was soon after I discovered I would be following the UNLV Men's basketball team as they played four exhibition games in two Canadian cities, Ottawa and Montréal.

At first I was confused by this because basketball season doesn't start until November, and why are they going to Canada in the first place? As it turns out, the NCAA allows universities to send their basketball teams to other countries to play exhibition games in the summertime offseason every four years. Why every four years? Well I didn't get a concrete answer to that question. Was it to give the kids something to look forward to if they stayed in school? Was it to promote college basketball in other countries. Was it to do reverse scouting, as in showing potential foreign players what USA basketball has to offer? I don't know. The only answer I got when I asked was, "It helps teams be competitive".

Moving on.  I now had to prepare for a six day trip to two cities in Canada with four basketball games in four of those days. Traveling by airplane can be stressful as it is, but I had more to worry about than the average traveler. Imagine yourself taking a flight somewhere. You may choose to check your baggage in hopes that all goes to plan. The airlines are pretty efficient, right? Well, you've heard stories about bags getting lost in random cities, but that has never happened to you. So you check your bags and hope for the best.

Now, imagine you have to bring a very heavy video camera with you. You don't dare check that. It is the whole reason you're going. If it was lost in checked baggage the whole trip would be a waste. Plus to check it you first have to disassemble the camera and place it in a heavily padded case. So the camera becomes your carry-on item. You also have to bring all the accompanying gear like batteries, microphones, cables, laptop computer, recording discs, etc, etc. I had to plan ahead and bring anything I could think of that I might need while on the trip. All this gear becomes your secondary carry-on item. Hmmm... I am missing something. Oh yeah, my clothing and necessary items that is usually packed into someone's luggage. What could I do? I decided to pack my rolling suitcase with all my secondary gear and the minimal amount of clothing and toiletries. I jammed that thing full. It usually fits in the overhead on a plane, hopefully I can wedge it in because it is busting full.

My plan is to place my rolling suitcase in the overhead compartment, and my camera will also go into the overhead with a sandbag cradling the lens. Yes, I am also bringing my Steadi-bag on the plane. Yet another carry-on. This makes me that jerk who takes up more overhead space than is allotted to him. Whew! I feel exhausted just thinking about how I prepared for this trip. Let's get to the airport.

I did have to check something. I was also planning on bringing a tripod with me. It never stops!!
Although, I had a heavy duty case for the tripod, and if by some chance it was lost on the trip I could make due with still having the camera. That was the most important part.

So the sports anchor and I are at the airport checking it for our flight to Montréal, Canada. I am making him carry-on the editing laptop and some of my gear is also in its case. He checks a bag, and shows the woman at the counter his two small carry-ons. Then I check the giant black heavy duty plastic case that is housing the tripod, and show her my "two" carry-ons. She throws a peculiar look at me as I show her my camera and my rolling suitcase. She then asks, "is that luggage under 22lbs?" What?!! My camera is definitely over 22lbs, and I am positive that all my gear I packed into my suitcase is also overweight. So with quick thinking and without a pause I said, "I think so." Then I "Hulked Up", and lifted my bag over my head as if it was as light as a feather. It is a good thing I have been working out. She bought it!! Ha!

From there, getting through security was as expected with no problems just taking some time. We got on the plane. I placed the camera in the overhead, and jammed my suitcase in another overhead spot. The flight left on time. We were now heading Montréal on a 5 hour flight with a prepaid meal. The flight didn't feel that long and soon we were on the ground in Canada. We picked up our check luggage and everything was going smoothly, until Customs.

At the Customs checkpoint I was told I needed to declare my "commercial goods", meaning my camera gear. They wanted to search through all my luggage. The Customs agent asked a ton of questions about my purpose for bringing all this gear into Canada. So I told him the truth about the my station wanting me cover a basketball team in Canada. The agent said that he remembered checking the team the day before and then he said something to me that had my heart in my throat. He was holding my passport and he said to me, "Are you planning on taking this equipment with you?" In that moment and by the way he phrased the question I thought he was suggesting that my equipment was going to be confiscated. I'm sure my eyes widened and I asked what he meant by that question. Then he repeated the question emphasizing that I plan on taking the equipment back home with me after my trip. I replied, yes. He then said he would be right back and walked away with my passport in his hand. He entered a one-way mirrored room. My heart was pounding because I thought I forgot to fill out some type of paperwork before getting on the flight. I was just hoping the trip wasn't going to be a bust.

Fortunately, after a few minutes the Customs agent returned. He searched through all my luggage. He then gave me back my passport and I was on my way. Whew! I was so relieved. I am not sure what I could have done different to avoid being searched.

From there we picked up our car rental and headed to Ottawa, Canada's capital. The first two games were in Ottawa with the last two in Montréal. The drive took about two hours and seemed quick.

To find out what else happened on my Canadian adventure you're going to have to wait for part two. I didn't want one single post to be too long. Oh come on! The next post will have more stories and photos will be included. I will probably post it in a day or two. Stay tuned...


Going to Chicago

Tonight I'm taking the red-eye to Chicago. I have some great activities planned with my best friend Nick, including but not contained to...Six Flags, Wrigley Field, trip to the zoo, and a legendary barbecue. My last visit was in 2003. This return has been long over do.

So as I collect my (mid-flight) comics, prep my Cubs gear, and pack my bags, you can eagerly wait for my next post that will surely include many photos and possibly a real story.


Avenger Type Weekend!!

I thought this weekend was going to be just like any other.
I would go to the midnight showing of The Avengers, write my review, and then maybe see it again.

I was way off.

I did go to the midnight showing, and you would think I would be super tired on Friday while I was at work. Instead I was filled with energy because I was able to convince my station to allow me to cover a charity event involving famed Marvel artist John Romina Jr.

JRJR, as he's known, decided to attempt to break the Guinness World Record for Most Sketching and Signings in 48 hours, which he set himself 10 years ago. This time he is going for 50 continuous hours. People can get him to do personal signings of their comics or get personal sketches all for a donation to the charity Heroes for Jordan.

I am a big fan of JRJR, so to meet him personally and interview him for the news was a great day for me. To my surprise, I also met his niece Jordan whom was also at the beginning of the event. She is the girl that encouraged JRJR to do something like this 50 hour non stop signing session in the first place. She was diagnosed with brain cancer at the age of two. She is now 12, and has survived all the tremendous cancer treatment. Her ever continuing medical bills are insurmountable, and without the help of donations her family couldn't possibly pay for all them.

I was very happy to help them get some news coverage for their charity event. After meeting John, Jordan, and her family I felt connected to the event myself. I've been watching live on UStream the whole weekend. I also decided to go back to the event that was on the Las Vegas Strip to meet John again and maybe get some of my comics signed. I was surprised on how many of the people involved with the event instantly remembered me and how gracious they were to my efforts. They told me that many people told them that they saw my story about the event on television and that encouraged them to come to the event. I felt great. That is exactly what journalism is about. Connecting people.

I was always intending to donate to the charity, maybe get a few of my comics signed. I was very overwhelmed what did happen.

John signed my Amazing Spider-Man issue 600

He signed and personalized an amazing poster of his art.

Signed poster by John Romita Jr

He did a personal sketch of the Hobgoblin

JRJR sketching Hobgoblin for me

I was interviewed live on the UStream about why I wanted to help the cause Heroes For Jordan, while I waited for the sketch. (time filler)

I also bumped into a some more volunteers of event at a local comic book store. I was covering Free Comic Book Day, which is somewhat tied together with the JRJR event. They were happy to see me, and I was given a small token of appreciation for my efforts.

JRJR signed Uncanny X-Men issue 300

Another great John Romita Jr. find today!! #FCBD

All of these signings and sketches are worth just a few dollars, but to me they are priceless.

Before I was a fan of John Romita Jr. the artist. Now I am a fan of John Romita Jr. the man.

John Romita Jr is such a great guy. Half through his quest of 50 hours of sketching and signings

He is very humble. He is not wrapped up in his celebrity. In this era of mega blockbusting comic book movies he uses his celebrity to promote generosity. He is still going strong. He will continue until 2 pm PST today. You can check it out here, if you'd like.

I donated to Heroes for Jordan and if you would like to donate also, I positive that Comic Oasis will have some items for sale from JRJR's record breaking event.


A Day, A Photo: 365 2011 Completed

I've completed my photo a day project, and I can barely believe that I actually did it. It started out strong. I wanted to work on improving some of my skills as a still photographer. I wanted to try new out new techniques. Somewhere along the way, I just wanted to finish the damn project.

As the project is now over, it is time to look back at what I have accomplished. I must have shot over thousands of photos this year. Posting 366. (more on that later) Now I am going to take you on a journey throughout the year, through each month. Discussing what I was thinking as the year passed along. Let's begin.


I started this project as a suggestion from a friend to help me build on my ever growing photography skills. I had dreams of practicing depth of field, portraits, lighting, colors, time value, yada, yada, yada. In January, you can see how I much I really tried to accomplished this.

1.18 - J.P.

1.22 - Spider-Man Attacked


I soon discovered that coming up with ideas for photographs was a lot harder than first thought, and it was only month two. I also had a problem with my work schedule. I was on the nightside shift, not giving me a lot of time with daylight. So I tried my best to take advantage of nighttime photography

2.10 - Light Speed

2.4 - Take Off


I think I really found my stride in March. I was cruising along with low light photos, and Las Vegas provides a lot of neon lighted opportunities. Also I started to attempting a simple photography trick, levitation. The trick is in deed very simple, but lighting needs to be nearly perfect for it to work.

3.7 - Levitation

3.20 - R2 D2


As Spring approached, I was able to take advantage of the increasing daylight. Hence I also was participating in more outdoor (non work related) events, including to a trip to Atlanta, Georgia.

4.22 - Mariachi

4.3 - WrestleMania


I had a lot of great ideas to do still life or product shots this month. Most days it didn't work out so I had to scramble to make the photo a day deadline. This month had a lot of of days devoted to the Sahara Hotel Casino closing.

5.20 - Ghost Surveillance

5.7 - Final Days of The Sahara


I think as June came along, I was struggling to find anything interesting to photograph. Pretty much all of these photos are just something I saw that day. It is a good thing I own cats. You may have noticed there are a few cat photos throughout the year.

6.12 - The Airborne Toxic Event

6.6 - Light Reading


Summer arrived so one would think there would be tons of photos ideas. Not here. The first part of the month was rough. I tried to capture lightning, and fireworks with poor execution. In the middle of the month, I started looking for light art opportunities, and I was looking forward to a vacation back home. There would definitely be photos to take in Montana.

7.10 - Lady of the Night

7.27 - Over the Hump...


Montana was spectacular! No problems finding photographs for that week. It was harder to decide which one would make the cut. I also wanted to document the extreme heat Las Vegans had to experience.

8.3 - Mammoth Hot Springs

8.4 - The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River

8.19 - Pool Day


I think a got a second wind after I purchased my new Mac Book Pro this month. I started to really work on textures and lighting.

9.7 - Slight Texture 9.24 - UNLV Game


This month seemed to flyby. Good photos were everywhere I went. Monsoon season provided great weather with flooding, clouds and lighting. Then there was football games, flag football season, fighter jets, holidays.... it was a plethora of photography.

10.13 - Thunderbird!

10.15 - Injured Reserve


Even though there are some good photos in this month, I think I was getting to the point were I just wanted this project to be finished. I believe there was a lot of "fauxtography" within this month.

11.18 - Lights Arrived!!11.3 - Desert Oasis


I got one final burst of endurance as I saw the finish line ahead. I was excited for the holiday season because I could rely on holiday photos being great ideas. As the final week approached, it got increasing more clear that I would finish this project. Shooting those last few photos was very easy.

12.17 - FESTIVUS!

12.6 - Open Wide


I am glad I attempted this project. I am definitely proud of myself that I actually completed it. There are so many things that I will start and despite my best efforts I never finish them.

Friends suggested that I continue going, but I remember the mid year frustration and I think I will take a year off. Maybe I will make another attempt in 2013. If you want to check out all the photos from 2011 go to my Flickr site.

I would like to thank all my cats for always being there when I needed a photo idea. Maybe I will start a Cat Photo of the Day website. I am now more obsessed with taking my camera everywhere I go, that is for sure. I may not take a photo every day, but at least I will be ready.

Oh yeah... I almost forgot. I have a total of 366 photos for 365 days in the past year. Way back in January, I had an idea that for special events throughout the year I would occasionally post more than one photo a day. I did it only one time. Ooops!

Happy 2012!!!!