Fibrocartilaginous What?

Most people know that one of my best friends since the summer of 2005 is my black lab & greyhound cross, Zeus. I adopted him shortly after I graduated from university and moved to Kapuskasing, ON for my first job. I took him to the vet right away to make sure everything was ok with him and she assessed him to be around 1.5 years old and as healthy as can be. Since then he’s become an avid traveler taking flights from ON to BC, drives to and from Saskatoon, basically following us around the country as we moved for my job.



So picture this.. we’re living in Toronto in September 2011. It’s a beautiful evening in late summer and I take Zeus out with his Chuckit and a tennis ball to the field close to our apartment building that we would typically go to. I throw the ball a few times and Zeus sprints to get the ball, bringing it back to me. Then on one throw he was sprinting to get the ball and as he dropped his head to grab the ball, his rear right leg slipped outward on a leaf. He gave a yelp and dropped onto his bum but tried to get up and couldn’t. By this time I dropped the Chuckit and ran to him. I helped him stand up but his rear right leg could not hold his weight and he kept falling over. He didn’t appear to be in any pain but for all intensive purposes, the rear right leg seemed to me to be paralyzed.

I tried to keep a cool head and grabbed my phone to call the vet. It was past his office hours but I knew that he would have a phone number for a 24-hour clinic in his office voicemail message and so I called them and told them to expect me. Since Zeus couldn’t walk without falling over, I lifted his 70 lb (32 kg) body up in my arms like a deer and carried him for half a block to our apartment building, got him loaded into the car, and drove downtown to the 24-hour clinic.

After a brief wait, the vet took him to the back for around 20 minutes and then came out to tell me his initial assessment was that the injury could either be a fibrocartilaginous embolism (FCE) or a slipped disk. He said he was leaning more towards the FCE because there wasn’t any pain and an FCE causes neurological damage. However, since he was just the on-call vet, he said the neurologist would inspect Zeus the next day and make his recommendation… so yes, my dog had a neurologist! The neurologist gave a very similar assessment and since we didn’t want to pay $2,000 for a special type of X-ray to be sure, he said we could take him home but for 3 weeks he could only go outside to do his business and then back inside. We went to see him after the 3 weeks and Zeus had shown significant progress by then so the neurologist was almost certain it was an FCE but asked us to wait another 2 weeks before letting him play again.

What is FCE Anyway?

To understand FCE, you have to understand some anatomy of the vertebral column. The vertebral column consists of numerous small bones called vertebrae that are linked together by joints called intervertebral disks. The disks are similar to the joints that connect arm or leg bones together in many ways. They allow flexibility between vertebrae so that you can arch or twist your back voluntarily just as you can flex and extend a knee or elbow.

The disks are unique as well. A joint of the appendicular skeleton, say a knee or elbow, has a capsule which secretes a lubricating fluid. The bones are capped with smooth cartilage to facilitate frictionless gliding as the surfaces move during flexion and extension. The disk is nothing like this. It is more like a cushion between the end plates of the vertebrae. It is round (hence the name disk) and fibrous on the outside with a soft gelatinous inside to absorb the forces to which the bones are exposed. This jelly-like inside material inside is called the nucleus pulposus and it is this material that makes up the fibrocartilaginous embolus.

The vertebral column provides a bony protective case around the vulnerable spinal cord. The spinal cord is the cable of nerve connections that transmits messages to and from the brain and controls the reflexes of the body. The spinal cord is fed by a network of spinal arteries. In FCE, somehow the material from the nucleus pulposus enters the arterial system and is carried to the spinal cord where it causes a blood vessel obstruction: an embolism. This area of the spinal cord actually dies. The process is not painful but complete recovery is not likely. Whatever neurologic loss has occurred within the first 24 hours is likely to be permanent, though at least the condition does not get progressively worse.



One of his favourite things to do at the park: chase squirrels!


Proud of himself after clearing the surrounding area of squirrels

So, after 5 weeks of almost no activity, he was ready to go to the park. We passed some squirrels along the way and Zeus insisted on showing them he was doing well by chasing them up their trees. We proceeded to the dog park and he spent a good long while running around and chasing some doggy friends. I still had the 70-200mm lens that I had rented for the Toronto Zombie Walk from my previous post so I got some great photos of Zeus at play.


He loves to chase


Getting a little too bossy with his buddy


We taught him how to share!


Zeus: “I love you dad, thanks for bringing me to the park!”


Squirrel: “Is that crazy black dog gone yet?”

Although he gave us quite a scare when it happened, it’s been over 3 years since his FCE happened and he’s doing very well. Next month he will turn 10 years old and even though his body is getting old and giving signs of slowing down, he still has the mentality of a 1 year old puppy and is always ready to play. He’s still one of my best friends and looking into his brown eyes each morning inspires me to get out of bed and get started with my day!



July 2013 at Pier Park in New Westminster, BC

Toronto Zombie Walk

Just before moving away from Toronto in October, 2011, I attended the Toronto Zombie Walk with a photography group I was a part of there. The TZW was started in 2003 and has been scheduled for the week before Halloween:

The zombie walk started one gloomy Sunday, a week before hallows eve in 2003. A handful of the living dead rose from their graves to wander the streets of Toronto in search of brains.

The plague returned every year, and the zombie count grew into a large and deadicated legion of the undead. Not only did the plague hit Toronto, it hit New York, Vancouver, Ottawa, Melbourne and numerous other cities around the world. In 2006 The Toronto Zombie Walk joined forces with the Toronto After Dark Film Festival, to ensure zombies have an enjoyable evening of flicks to see after their flesh eating endeavors. 2012 marked our ten year anniversary and we hoarded in over 10,000 people!


In anticipation for this photography event with the group, I had rented a 70-200mm zoom lens to get up close and personal to all the “zombies” that were walking around. The zombies all met at the Trinity-Bellwoods Park in downtown Toronto. From talking to a few people, normally they just start the walk along a pre-determined and permitted route around downtown but this year was special. The creators of the walk, who were obviously big fans of zombies, were getting married before the walk, in their zombie outfits. Let me be clear… the groom, the bride, wedding party, minister, and everyone else involved in the wedding were all dressed up as zombies and hence a zombie wedding took place. It was pretty much like a typical wedding except there were moans and groans from the watching zombies as the ceremony went on. Once they were declared zombie-man and zombie-wife, the walk was on with them in the lead!

I’m not a crazy fan of zombies although I enjoy watching the occasional movie like Zombieland, or a show like The Walking Dead. I read in a blog post after the event that there were over 6,000 zombies in attendance for TZW 2011 which is pretty awesome. The coolest thing is that a lot of zombies got into character and at one point I had my face in my camera and the lens zoomed in to 200mm and one of the zombies actually lunged at me. This was early on in the day and I hadn’t yet gotten used to them getting into character so I, of course, was caught by surprise and ended up falling over backwards right onto my ass! I have to say though, being surrounded by 6,000 zombies, especially since most of them had some awesome makeup on, was a little bit nerve-wracking!

I’ve included a selection of my best photos in this post but for the full set of my favorites from that day, click HERE to link to the set on my Flickr page.




By far my favorite photo capture from the day





These zombies stayed in character on the public transit system… awesome!





Meetup – Olympic Village

Meetup Olympic Village_03_2012-09-28

Nikon D300 w/ Nikkor 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 30 sec, f/11, 22mm – 3 image panorama

The latest meetup I attended was at the Olympic Village in False Creek, basically around Science World. Once again this was part of the low light and long exposure meetup group and so we met up just before sunset and went about picking our spots and setting up. Of course just as the sun started setting and we were getting the beautiful pinks, purples, and orange colours in the sky, an artificial light started rising out in full view of our sunset shot which can be seen in the first photo; I guess they were filming something and needed the light but I was still able to get a shot I’m happy with.

This meetup was yet another perfect opportunity for me to play around with some panoramas. I realized that now that I was getting more into the lower light shots that I was going to need to get myself some ND filters which are currently on order courtesy of eBay!

At one point I was really close to the water where my camera was sitting less than 40cm above the surface of the water (5th photo below) and after I took the series of photos for the pan, I glanced over to where some photographers were and noticed the heron that was just hanging out, enjoying the night, and watching the silly photographers.

Meetup Olympic Village_01_2012-09-28

Nikon D300 w/ Nikkor 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 4 sec, f/32, 42mm

Meetup Olympic Village_02_2012-09-28

Nikon D300 w/ Nikkor 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 10 sec, f/18, 24mm – 3 image panorama

Meetup Olympic Village_05_2012-09-28

Nikon D300 w/ Nikkor 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 15 sec, f/10, 18mm – 5 image panorama

Meetup Olympic Village_06_2012-09-28

Nikon D300 w/ Nikkor 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 2 sec, f/5.6, 105mm

Meetup Olympic Village_07_2012-09-28

Nikon D300 w/ Nikkor 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 10 sec, f/9, 26mm – 4 image panorama

Meetup – 9 O’Clock Gun @ Stanley Park

It was a pretty busy summer this year so I didn’t get to attend too many of the scheduled meetups. The next one I was able to attend was the first meetup of the low light photography group which was at Stanley Park to capture the 9 o’clock gun firing.

I got there with plenty of time to set up my tripod and gear and started taking photos as the sun was setting and the blue moon. This locale is such a great place to take photos of downtown Vancouver as well as see some of the industrial container shipyards that always seem to draw my eye whenever I take a walk downtown during a coffee break. I’ve also been pretty keen on panoramics since I took a short course on it and wanted to combine the long exposure with some pan techniques.

Of course I was talking and being social with the organizer, Barry, so I did actually end up missing the firing of the gun and thus did not get the shot with the fireball coming out of it. However the event wasn’t a bust because I was able to meet some great new photographers and capture some stunning shots of this beautiful city I call home.

Meetup Stanley Park_01_2012-08-31

Nikon D300 w/ Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 1/50 sec, f/8, 165mm

Meetup Stanley Park_02_2012-08-31

Nikon D300 w/ Nikkor 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 0.6 sec, f/11, 105mm

Meetup Stanley Park_03_2012-08-31

Nikon D300 w/ Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 @ 25 sec, f/22, 35mm

Meetup Stanley Park_04_2012-08-31

Nikon D300 w/ Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 @ 25 sec, f/22, 35mm

Meetup Stanley Park_05_2012-08-31

Nikon D300 w/ Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 @ 25 sec, f/13, 35mm – 6 image panorama

Meetup – Lighthouse Park

When I moved back to Vancouver I really wanted to get out there and take more photos of the city and the beautiful nature so close to the city that I’d been away from for the last 7 years. I’ve been so busy in general since I posted my first photo post about buying the D300 (see here) that I haven’t had a chance to post some of the great photos I’ve been able to capture.

I ended up joining the free site,, and more specifically I initially joined a group called Vancouver Photowalks. The site is just like the name states: a place where people can organize meetups about anything they wish and connect with people with like interests. In my case I was looking for a group of people to meetup with on a semi-regular basis and just go out and take photos of interesting things. To me this is a great way to meet people with a variety of photography skills and perspectives and is a good opportunity to learn as well as develop my own photography.

The photos in this post were taken on the first meetup I went to which was at Lighthouse Park in West Vancouver. The meetup happened on April 22, 2012 and it was great to get out, go for a short hike, and take some fun photos.

Meetup Lighthouse Park_01_2012-04-22

Nikon D300 w/ Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 @ 1/250 sec, f/1.8, 35mm

Meetup Lighthouse Park_02_2012-04-22

Nikon D300 w/ Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 @ 1/400 sec, f/2.8, 35mm

Meetup Lighthouse Park_03_2012-04-22

Nikon D300 w/ Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 @ 5 sec, f/22, 35mm

Meetup Lighthouse Park_04_2012-04-22

Nikon D300 w/ Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 @ 10 sec, f/22, 35mm

Meetup Lighthouse Park_05_2012-04-22

Nikon D300 w/ Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 @ 15 sec, f/18, 35mm

Meetup Lighthouse Park_06_2012-04-22

Nikon D300 w/ Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 1/200 sec, f/8, 112mm (4 image panorama)

Making the Switch to Nikon

Well here we are in the New Year of 2012 and it’s been over 3 months since I’ve posted on my site. Most of the blame goes to a ridiculous amount of work that came my way since we got back from our Italy/Lebanon trip this summer and the remaining 5% of the blame was just pure laziness. I have quite a few posts I need to catch up on but for now I’m going to talk a bit about my photography.

As some of you know I’ve been playing in the DSLR world for about 4 years now which started with the purchase of a Nikon D70s and then led to my Canon 40D which I have been using for the last 3 years. I’ve had a lot of fun with DSLRs over the last few years and experimenting with various lenses trying to figure out what I like to photograph. Although I haven’t really norrowed down on a specific type of photography, I am definitely at a stage where I am ready to start investing in some hefty glass. That being said I thought I would take this opportunity to switch back to Nikon since I have some friends and family (you know who you are) who are Nikon shooters. Since I started out with the D70s I am still very familiar with the Nikon system and set out to get myself some gear.

I ended up buying a Nikon D300 just this past week with only 3,500+ shutter actuations which is pretty freakin’ awesome for a camera that was released in 2007. I decided to get an Nikon 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 VR which was a similar range as what I was shooting with the 40D. I know I said I want to get some good glass but those are expensive and until my “hobby fund” has enough cash in it to get some good glass, I’ll make due with this lense and also borrowing from my Nikon-shooting family & friends 🙂

For now I wanted to share one of my first photos I took with this camera which was taken in front of the Horizons restaurant on Burnaby mountain near the Simon Fraser University campus. In the picture are myself and my dog Zeus who is ever-patient with me and the best puppy in the world!


Nikon D300 w/ Nikon 18-108mm VR lens, f/3.5, 3 second exp, ISO 1600

Hiking & Waterfalls – A TPMG Adventure!

Yesterday morning I met up with 6 other members of the Toronto Photography Meetup Group (TPMG) for what was to become a day of shooting waterfalls, rushing to shelter under rock outcroppings from torrential rain , slipping and sliding in the mud, good hiking, and fun times!

So we started our day with a stop at Grindstone Creek Falls. We parked and got our butts down to the base of the falls, each person deciding on the perspective they were going to shoot the falls from. I wanted to get up close and personal so I was closest to the falls but off to the right a bit. The weatherman had mentioned there would be some light showers in the morning to a 1mm buildup. Well what happened about 20 minutes into the shoot was pretty much what I would call a torrential downpour. We rushed to pack up our gear and found a rock outcropping that we got close and cozy under until the downpour went away; the pouring rain was also accompanied by some crazy lightning.


Canon EOS 40D w/ Canon EF-S 17-85mm IS lens, f/14, 1 second exp, ISO100


Canon EOS 40D w/ Canon EF-S 17-85mm IS lens, f/22, 0.8 second exp, ISO100

As the torrential rain abated, we quickly made our way back to the cars and decided to wait out the remainder of the rain in a Tim Horton’s coffeeshop. Almost 2 hours later we moved on to Tiffany Falls where we had planned to shoot Tiffany as well as another falls (can’t remember the name) weather permitting; it didn’t and so we were happy to get some photos of Tiffany Falls along with some flowing water shots downriver from the falls.

We spent quite a bit of time here and this is where I finally discovered what a neutral density (ND) filter is used for. I don’t own any of them but one of the group members was nice enough to loan me one so I could get some of the great shots that I got; the ND filter is definitely going to be something I buy in the next little while. Next we headed to Stephanie Falls which is located around the Ancaster Heights area according to Google. On the way down to the falls, which started just off the side road in front of a “No Dumping” sign, we saw several deer just chilling in the post-rain sun.


Canon EOS 40D w/ Canon EF-S 17-85mm IS lens, f/32, 4 second exp, ISO100


Canon EOS 40D w/ Canon EF-S 17-85mm IS lens, f/32, 3.2 second exp, ISO100


Canon EOS 40D w/ Canon EF-S 17-85mm IS lens, f/32, 5 second exp, ISO100

Our final stop was supposed to be the falls around the Morningstar Mill and so after a half hour drive along the QEW, we got to the mill. There was a great sounding/looking waterfall at the base of the mill but there was no easy way for us to get down to it. We spent a good hour and a half trekking back and forth through mud and foliage trying to find an easy way to the base of the falls but alas were not able to. We continued on in the opposite direction because our group leader (you know who you are!) had heard there was another waterfall further down. What ended up happening is that we found the road again about 3km from our cars and had all had enough so we headed back to the cars.

All in all it was a great adventure and was nice to finally be out at one of these TPMG events!


Canon EOS 40D w/ Canon EF-S 17-85mm IS lens, f/22, 2.5 second exp, ISO100


Canon EOS 40D w/ Canon EF-S 17-85mm IS lens, f/20, 2.5 second exp, ISO100


Canon EOS 40D w/ Canon EF-S 17-85mm IS lens, f/22, 0.6 second exp, ISO100


Canon EOS 40D w/ Canon EF-S 17-85mm IS lens, f/22, 3.2 second exp, ISO100

Toronto Island

Ever since I moved to Toronto in last August and found out about the Toronto Island, I had wanted to find my way over there and take some nice sunset shots with the city silhouette as well as a really nice night shot with all the lights of downtown. Some of my favorite type of photography is landscape and night shooting so back on October 14, 2009 I hauled my camera gear and tripod to work with me with the plan to head downtown after work and head over to the island.

I had checked the time the sun was going to set and managed to get the last ferry across before missing the sunset window. The ferries are on a seasonal schedule but typically in the summer they will make a round-trip in 30 minutes which includes disembarking, boarding, trip across the water, disembarking, boarding, and trip back across to the starting point.

As I got off the ferry I got my bearings and started a brisk walk to find the spot where I wanted to set up my tripod and start taking some photos. I walked over a bridge and made my way down a path to the lake shore where I found a bench and a nice open area to set up my tripod. There were some ducks swimming nearby so I took a few handheld shots of them with the sunset before putting the camera on the tripod and taking my city-scape shots. Anybody who has ever taken sunset or night shots knows that once you’re set up and have taken a few practice shots, it’s a waiting game to get the light that you want and get those shots. I’m very proud of the shots I got that night and hope everyone reading this blog likes them as well.


Canon EOS 40D w/ Canon EF-S 17-85mm IS lens, f/7.1, 10 second exp, ISO200