Travel Planning – At it Again

So for the last few years adventuring around the world has been on hold as I became a graduate student at University of Toronto in Mechanical Engineering. However with that wrapping up and the prospect of re-entering the workforce its time I sneak in a “small” vacation before life gets busy once again. Which comes to the topic of travel planning, as I’m a bit out of the game and the board has changed quite a bit since my last great adventure involving an airplane.

A bit to small for my current journey but none the less effective

For one, I used to use a travel agent, Megan Weir, at Ottawa Adventure Travel before they got bought out by Merit ( ) and she was able to help me plan trips as she understood the market offerings and my highly spontaneous travel hijinks. Conversations like “I know it’s Thursday but find me a trip to the tropics leaving tomorrow afternoon/evening” and tight budgets… $1000-1500 / week + flights top (with the exception of the Africa Trip which was closer to $2500/week). And being last minute there were always deals and not being too picky we would navigate the current offerings and land at a suitable action/culture/relaxation balanced adventure.

The London Eye

This time I’m alone in the planning department and mainly using the internet (vs. all those brochures which I got constantly piling up on my kitchen table when I was always travelling). A few things are different, first I don’t have the same access to travel agent’s resources, and I’m hopefully flying using points (that I have amassed over the last decade or so… being last minute traveller I’ve never actually managed to use them before).

Now if the London Eye photo don’t give it away, my destination is again the United Kingdom, an odd choice given they are currently embroiled in Brexit, but my brother is currently working over there and I want to go visit. Also on the potential docket (because I’ve been to London twice now) is popping in an Ireland Island or Scotland trip (or both!) depending on how flights work out and tour dates.

Back when I travelled with Contiki across all of Central Europe, however being +35 now they are off the list of potential tour operators.

Why Tours you ask? Well I’m again travelling solo on this trip, and I’ve found when doing so its best to travel via tour. The main advantage is you can enjoy the trip and let someone else deal with all the logistics. There is also the safety aspect, on a tour you are travelling with others and if you go missing someone will notice (I use the analogy of walking in the woods and breaking your leg… although now I just point to the movie 127 hours as a reason not to “go it alone” in unfamiliar locations). vs. travelling alone where no one really knows what you are up to on your adventures. So I’m leaning strongly in that direction for part of the trip.

Fun side note: I get lost a lot, because I tend to walk/hike/bike around locations and “tourist” maps are not particularly accurate… although for this trip my brother is going to set me up with a UK Phone plan for the time I’m there so I’ll have GPS and with luck enough data to send a play by play over instagram/twitter @EmberSkyMedia

Copenhagen Mermaid
Copenhagen Mermaid

When travelling with others we tend to free-style trips where we decide in the moment where we want to go and what do we want to see. This method requires a bit more work (split between 2 or more people) but allows for changes in the plan to adjust on the fly which comes in handy when weather and outdoor activities are involved. My most outrageous free-style trip was with my younger brother and I traveled 2 weeks in Europe with little more than 3 flights booked and accommodation on the first and last day of the trip. We ended up backpacking / hostel across three countries. You can relive our adventure starting here. We will be freestyling the Southern England portion of the trip and the current plan is to See London/Brighton/Salibury and maybe squeeze in Bath.

Tower Bridge in London

But back to this current planning… Ireland/Scotland. Well to put it mildly I am currently the only family member who hasn’t traveled to Ireland at some point and time. Similar to my Master Degree with me being the last one in the family to get an advance degree I though the symbolism would be fitting. Also the fact that I’ll likely not be travelling to this part of the world in the near future with sights on Thailand / Indonesia once I have some funds saved up from working at whatever new job I find… yes planning for the future.

The Dark Hedges (ooooo… spooky!) near Monea Castle in Northern Ireland

Scotland on the other hand is where my family originated before emigrating to Canada (Donaldson / Hay / Raw Clans) with the rest being from Ireland – Trust me, we have quite a “family tree” archival scroll stashed away. While I have been to Scotland before with the family, that was almost 20 years ago, and I was not of legal drinking age despite everyone insistence that I could actually order a drink (my parents LOVED that…). So going as an adult will be I feel a different experience, not that I plan to drink myself under any tables… but I’d like to taste some Scotch Whiskey in actual Scotland.

Dunstaffnage Castle near Oban, Scotland from my Father’s Walk of Offa’s Dyke

Besides those two destinations there is England, or London/Southern England to be perise. For that portion I’ll be visit my younger brother and bouncing back and forth to various day trip destinations that he is recommending to me; he lives there so I’m relying on his advice as he and his fiancee have been doing various weekend getaways. So locations like Brighton, Stonehenge, and some stuff in London are on the list to be negotiated in the coming weeks via Whatsapp.

There is a reason I’m the Photographer and not the Model… LOL

So for travel planning my starting steps is to check out websites, now I have travelled with a few companies before;
– Contiki but they have a 35 year old cap, and I’ve unfortunately crossed that threshold.
– GAdventures (back when they were called Gap Adventures) but they don’t really have the tours I’m looking for and seem to be a bit more pricey then I last remember.
– Busabout has a few plans, looks like they may be cooperating with Haggis and Shamrocker depending on the country. Its not quite like their Hop-On Hop-Off tours but there is some promise.

I’m sure there are other companies as I broaden my initial search, with luck I’ll find something that is enjoyable and a bit active without requiring a marathon-esque training program beforehand. Of course it doesn’t matter what company I pick I’ll likely end up with my usual hijinks of taking the road less traveled and try to experience the “true” essence of a location; local foods, and not just what they sell to the tourists.

I’ve also need to contact the flight point people and determine the ideal arrangement of flights. Fortunately I have some flexibility in that as I can stay with my brother for free in south London (or south London?… not entirely sure on where his new place will be). But I do need to make some choices “now-ish” as a few things are dependent on when I leave and return; but the plan is to be back home in Canada before any potential Brexit occurs… just in case.

Posted in Home and About | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Flickr Account Deaths…

So a lot has changed in the photography world but one noticeable change has been Flickr’s severly limit free accounts. In reality it was inevitable and I’m not surprised it happen, although the way they handled it was surprising.

Despite the fact that my father and I had paid for Pro accounts for a long time, we had long ago relished back to free accounts. To put it mildly we saw a significant drop in views from our posts and the photography community that had grown around Flickr had long moved to facebook.

Yahoo (who owned Flickr) has not be a big mover and shaker in the marketplace of online images, and Flickr really hasn’t changed over the years and became scattered when other social media competition rose up, like and Twitter/Facebook and now Instagram. In addition we had our own site ( and the now defunct to show our portfolios and images along with more in-depth content.

So with Instagram taking off, Flickr became another Social Media Zero (before “Social Media” term was coined) to fall. Its still around, but all the free accounts, including our own have been limited to 2000 images (or whatever the limit was…). I’m sure this move reduce Flickr’s costs significantly, and perhaps even boosted review as photographers scrabbled to save their online portfolios and upgrade to paying packages. But the majority I suspect having long moved off the platform let it lapse.

So moving onward and upwards with the trends I’ve opened a Instagram account etc. I thought about the handle for a while (that hashtag name) and given I’m working on a new more multi-media company (film, photography, astrophotography, art, and maybe even some music) in addition to occasional updates to this site when I board an aeroplane more immediate updates will be Ember Sky Media #emberskymedia on Instagram / Twitter / Facebook / Youtube etc. as much as I can manage them.

Because Flickr is dead and Social Media 3.0 is just around the corner…

Posted in Home and About | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

MegapixelTravel update

Over the past number of months, there have been no uploads to the MegapixelTravel blog. That doesn’t mean that Graeme and I (and our cameras) haven’t been busy.  In addition to his day job, Graeme has continued his interest introducing short films and movies and on October 23rd, his indie movie “Ragnarock’s Cabin” was released for it’s first public showing at the the Mayfair Theatre in Ottawa. It is now available on-line or for purchase at Vimeo On Demand:  For my part, buying property in Greater Napanee, Ontario and attending to all of the details of such activity has kept me busy.  We both intend to add more entries to the MegapixelTravel blog during the dark days of winter.  – Ron

Posted in Home and About | Tagged | Leave a comment

Kanata Badminton Club 2014 AGM

Kanata Badminton Club 2014 AGM

Traditionally, the Kanata Badminton Club’s Annual General Meeting has been held in Tommy’s restaurant at the old town center. This year, the meeting had to be delayed a couple of months while renovations at the restaurant were underway. Happily, the renovations were finally completed and we could have our meeting.


As a club with about 140 members, the club operates during the winter months utilizing the facilities of two local schools in Kanata, Ontario. Since the City of Kanata amalgamated into the City of Ottawa a few things changed but the Kanata Badminton Club still operates much the same as it did many years ago when I first became a member. Over the years, my ability to see the bird has diminished somewhat and, with each passing year, the entry players seem to be a bit younger :-).  It’s a community based recreational club and it’s still a fun way to survive the winter months.


Kanata Badminton Club Executive 2014 – 2015

This year’s executive should have an easy year as usual even though it will once again be a year with some changes :-). Maybe, my play will improve and I’ll be moved back to the competitive red level again!

Posted in Home and About, Ottawa | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Sir John Carling Building Demolition – Ottawa, Canada

P1070802.MOV.Still001July 13,2014 – Sir John Carling Building Demolition – Ottawa, Canada

It was a dull, dreary, overcast morning with lots of rain threatening from the south but, after 2 1/2 years of planning and preparation work, the planned implosion demolition of the 11 story Sir John Carling Building went ahead as scheduled and in only about 14 seconds the 11 story building became a contained pile of rubble. I was happy to have the opportunity to be there for the event and to assist Front Page Media Group in the documenting of this event. Unmanned GoPro cameras were stationed at various locations to capture the event from as many angles as possible.

The above high resolution video was taken with my Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 4K Mirrorless Micro Four Thirds Digital Camera from a prime location offering direct line of sight of the whole building. I left the camera filming after the explosions to capture not only the initial explosions that started the demolition process but also to capture the billowing cloud of dust that moved across the field toward our position a safe distance from the explosions. A pretty unique experience and the first of its kind in Ottawa, Canada. If you view this high resolution video at full screen size, you can see an employee scurrying to get to the safety of the cab of his truck before the billowing dust quickly closes in around him.

Posted in Home and About, Ontario, Ottawa | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Haunted Walk Ottawa – Time Traveler Trail

The Haunted walk has a new trail for the time-travelers among us, its called the Time Traveler Trail and it focuses on Ottawa’s past when Ottawa was Bytown and riots and pistol fights in the market were more common than Beavertails. Guided by Steampunk attired guides prepare to set off on an adventure in time.

P1070745 P1070744

The new walk has already gathered the attention of the Whovians in Ottawa, as the Society of Doctor Who made an appearance to take the walk through time.P1070732 P1070738Our guide was quick to take us back in time with the help of their timely-whimey device.

P1070748- ShunkThe tour was full of great historical stories about a time when Ottawa wasn’t as tame as it is now, in fact traveller’s beware, time travel can be hazardous to your health and you could end up finding yourself in a duel as a way of solving slanders and slights!

A duel was the way to settle disagreements in the past, although what these two had against eachother we will never know.

A duel was the way to settle disagreements in the past, although what these two had against eachother we will never know.

Also this might be a cleverly disguised Dalek, just saying…

P1070765 - Dalek

Along the route we had a chance to seem some clearly historical signs, some on purpose and others by time traveler luck?P1070761 - Cropped

P1070751-CroppedP1070764 - Cropped Finally as the night drew dark (7:30pm tour rather than the weekend matinee 11:00am tour) our Time Travel energy grew low with the fading light and we got to see some of Ottawa’s premier buildings in their evening glory.

P1070776 P1070786


In the end, all by Steve (poor Steve) made it back to our present time alive and well about 2 hours after we headed off on our adventures through time and walking distance.

Posted in Home and About, Ottawa | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Canada Day 2014 – Kanata, Ontario

Canada Day 2014 – Kanata, Ontario

Graeme and I took a short walk around the Kanata Canada Day 2014 activities, met some people whom we have known from past events and activities and met some new people. Lots of things happening during the day and, if the threat of blustery weather passes by (appears to be heading off north of the city), it should be a great night for the fireworks. (Kanata weather)

When we arrived at the base of the toboggan hill, the Holy Trinity Catholic High School Rhythm and Blues Band were setting up on stage under the direction of Neil Bateman, so, while waiting for their performance, we just wandered around.
Of course, our cameras were busy when the band did arrive on stage.



We did consider stopping at the Lemonade stand but Dan Robidoux and his group had a better offer. It was pretty tough to walk past a free draw for a bike and also get a free bottle of cold water and a free carabiner, all from the same booth. So, of course, we stopped; filled in a ballot; got some water; and ended up with a green carabiner and a red carabiner. Now, I’ll have something green for next St. Patrick’s Day (LOL)

014_0945-Lemonade  014_0943-Hudson

Although I would love to win a bike, it would have been even nicer if the vehicles on the other side of the pathway had been up for grabs. Each Spring, for the past few years, I have traveled hundreds of kilometers of rather rough gravel forestry roads in Northern Ontario while conducting breeding bird surveys and other surveys. For that, a big, high clearance muscle truck would have been awesome (gas economy notwithstanding).

014_0940-Ballot-Box 014_0939-big-truck 014_0938.Prowler-jpgWhen the temperature outside is above 30C who could possibly be thinking about curling but, there, right in the middle of the heat, was the Huntley Curling Club of Carp, Ontario tent complete with brooms and a bit of black ice to show the next generation how to sweep -:).


I wanted to see how the USA would do in the World Cup match on television today so had to head home pretty quickly but not before stopping at the large soccer ball that marked the display promoting the FIFA World Cup Soccer Event which will be coming to Canada (and Ottawa) in June/July 2015. (FIFA WOMEN’S WORLD CUP website)


IMG_66401-EVA2EVA should be ready to compete after another year of practice !!!

(see EVA, the Cockapoo, in training for FIFA)

For those reading this blog on Canada Day who might still have time to get to Kanata for the evening activities, there is plenty scheduled

(see official Canada Day in Kanata website)

If attending fireworks, take a moment to review our on-line fireworks photography tutorial before heading out with camera in hand.


Ron & Graeme Hay.

Returned late in the evening to listen to the stage group “Amos the Transparent” which is a Canadian rock band from Ottawa, Ontario, featuring Jon Chandler, Chris Wilson, Dan Hay, James Nicol, and Olenka Reshitnyk.


014_0986-fireworks 014_0987-fireworks

Posted in Home and About, Ontario, Ottawa | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Westfest 2014, Westboro, Ottawa, Ontario

Westfest 2014, Westboro, Ottawa, Ontario – Today was the first of three days of Westfest entertainment in the Westboro area of Ottawa. (Official Westfest festival site: All of the Mainstage performances are FREE! thanks to the generous sponsorship support that the event receives.

014_0535-music  014_0544-mc

Tonight, I was able to enjoy the performance of George Leach  whose album “Surrender” won the 2014 Juno Award for Aboriginal Album of the Year sponsored by APTN. (George Leach offic1al site)


I do enjoy photographing performers doing things other than playing music

014_0541-band  014_0560-base  014_0550-band

Two more days of entertainment. Click on schedule image to enlarge.

014_0567schedule  014_0540-guitar



Posted in Canada Explorer, Ontario, Ottawa | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Bled, Slovenia

Bled, Slovenia

The town of Bled is located in northwestern Slovenia (location). It borders the glacial lake known as Lake Bled in the Julian Alps. The lake has one island, Bled Island and the main building on the island is the pilgrimage church dedicated to the Assumption of Mary.  It is a 17th century church with parts dating earlier than that.

The town of Bled and the adjoining lake are very popular places for tourists to visit in this part of  the world and, like many tourists, we enjoyed a walk around the lake with its many flower beds and assorted collection of wildlife.

Posted in Home and About, Slovenia | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ivanhoe Lake Provincial Park, Foleyet, Ontario

Ivanhoe Lake Provincial Park, Foleyet, Ontario

Well, we made it from Ottawa to Ivanhoe Lake Provincial Park without incident. Leaving Ottawa before sunrise made for a pretty early wake-up call but would also allow us time to stop a long the way more often and also allowed us time to get the tents set up before dark. The new lake side boardwalk and docking area in Temagami was nice to see and as good as any a reason to stop and stretch our legs. After a short leg-stretch stop, we were on our way again soon to reach Timmins in time for a short lunch break.



Quite a bit of road construction along the way but, for the most part, the skies were blue and the winds were light – no fog, no rain, no snow! Along the way we saw moose at two different locations along the highway and black bears at two other locations. When I see moose and bear grazing along the ditches in broad daylight I usually assume that the bugs are plentiful in the woods. Such was the case. When we stopped at the campsite to set up our tents, the mosquitoes and black flies were quick to find our bare skin – out came the DEET before we went for a short walk along the shoreline. The Bonaparte’s Gulls were along the shoreline again and park staff indicated that they had seen some birds picking up sticks along the roadway so that it would appear that these gulls are in fact breeding in the area. Other wildlife spotted during our short walk included Tiger Swallowtail Butterflies, Red Squirrels, Cedar Waxwings, a Yellow-Rumped Warbler (a.k.a. Myrtle Warbler), many fast flying Dragonflies and a small blue butterfly.


Since it was Friday night, the restaurant at Ivanhoe Air was open, so, with tents set up, it was off for supper before getting into the sleeping bags for a few winks before the 4AM alarm would go off.

Posted in Bird Survey Outings, Canada Explorer, Ontario | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment