Sunday, April 30, 2006

Dog Problem in Valetta

During my time in Valetta, I had only one really negative experience. On two occasions, when I was wandering off the beaten track, I found dogs that were kept in what I considered very bad quarters. The dogs were being kept in enclosures inside the body of the stonewalls at the base. There were few dogs on the streets of Valetta but there seemed to be quite a number imprisoned within the walls. The doors were metal and barred and only once did I see any of those dogs out for food and water for a short time. All other times the dogs were barking, growling, and snarling behind the closed doors. I did not ask anyone about them and assumed the worse. Perhaps there is a good explanation but I cannot think of any.

Below are two photos of dogs behind bars:

As my personal response, I made two photomontages asking why? In this first montage, I included the Eye of Osiris that is on almost every boat in the harbour.

In the second montage, I included an image of what is probably the most famous hand sized goddess statue found in Malta.

I invite responses from Malta, if there are any readers from there, or notes from any others who know why dogs are kept in dark stone places.

Saturday, April 29, 2006


Here is another little art project that I did in Malta. I made a very small sculpture out of old plant material. I used my pocketknife to make holes in stems and put bits of other stems through the holes to make a new structure out of the old. Having done that, I photographed the little sculpture on paper that was dappled with sunlight through a nearby tree. Observe the result:

Near the old stem was a plant that I suspected was the living image of what the old stem had been a year before. I did a quick watercolour sketch and added ink to highlight the lines and then photographed the mini-sculpture on top of the new painting.

As a final project, I placed the mini-sculpture over a bit of rock that I had brought with me from Canada and placed both on the cover of a sketchbook which I photographed and then changed a few colours with photoshop. The end result is as follows:

I was rather pleased with my use of old plant stems. What do you think?

Friday, April 28, 2006

Ontario April Flowers

Just a quick three photos while I fill out my almost late tax returns. I can't put it off much longer.

Here is an insect's view of a Common Blue Violet, (Viola sororia).

Here is a close up of a flower on a native shrub with many names: Shadbush, Serviceberry, Juneberry, (Amelanchier arborea).

And finally, here is a close up of a wild flower that is not popular here because it is an invasive species from another continent. (It has that in common with most of the human population here, but that is another matter.) Anyway, it is called Butterbur, (Petasites japonicus).

Guess I was in a macro mood today for some reason.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Ontario Dandelion Visitor

Here is a close up of one of our dandelions.

There are three species of dandelion in our area and I am not sure which one this is as I forgot to check. Meanwhile, we had these little bee like creatures visiting about one of every ten dandelions as we walked along the trails today.

Below are two more views of the same kind of insect on another dandelion.

Is there enough information for anyone to make an ID?

There are now 40 wild flowers that are in bloom listed on my wild flower web site and some other wild flower photos too if your are interested.

Monday, April 24, 2006


When one reaches the entrance to Għar Dalam (Cave of Darkness) in Malta, one is greeted by the buzz of bees; many, many buzzes of many, many bees are heard. For those brave enough to brave the buzzing bees, there is a sign.

Looking into the cave, one can see electric lights illuminating the path going toward darkness.

Here is another view from inside the cave looking outwards.

The cave has both stalactites, hanging from the ceiling, and stalagmites building up from the floor. Below is a stalagmite.

According to the write ups, this cave was home to people as long as 5000 years ago, or 3800 years ago according to another account. At any rate, there are remains of pots, and bones of men from ages ago and, from even longer ago, there are the fossilised bones of animals long gone from the island including dwarf elephants and dwarf hippopotami as well as red deer, brown bear, wolf, fox, and giant swans.

As one of my art projects for the day, I made up a photo montage of cave, bones, words and a ghostly figure in the cave.

(Yes the Maltese have an h printed like ħ or Ħ used for the letter when it is not silent.)

Sunday, April 23, 2006

By the Sea

All of these photos were taken on the outside of the walls of Valetta, Malta. First is a shot of some steps that seem to lead to nowhere.

Looking into the water, one sees both the bottom and reflections from around the site.

Here is a photo of a puddle with a shell on the rock, under water, and the sun's reflection looking more like a star in space.

This last photo was really the first of the day. The hour was still early and the sun was not yet up.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Malta Waters/Ontario Flowers

Églantine discovered that if one uses the telephoto lens to focus on moving water one can get some amazing abstract colour photos. I was the copycat here! These are from the harbour waters of Valetta, Malta.


Meanwhile, here in Ontario, spring marches on and the Tamarack (Larix laricina) is blooming.

Églantine and I found this lone Red Trillium (Trillium erectum) growing and blooming on our property last year. It's up and blooming again this year. My camera and I were almost underground to shoot upward to get this photo.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

April 20, Ontario

From my morning walk . . .

Sharp-lobed Hepatica (Anemone acutiloba)

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)

Unknown Moth (Any suggestions?)

Milbert's Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis milverti)

Valetta, Malta, Noon

Watching . . .

Marching . . .

Loading . . .

Waiting . . .

Fire !

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Valetta Walls

First a spring wild flower note from Ontario. Last week I found, or had reported from the Hamilton area, thirty wild flowers in bloom. The names of the flowers and photos of Golden Saxifrage, Field Strawberry, Coltsfoot, Narrow-leaved Spring Beauty, Henbit, and Leatherwood are on my Wild Flower web site. The photos are from Églantine and I as well as two other local wild flower photographers.


Meanwhile, back in Valetta, Malta, I have three photos of the city walls taken from the harbour boat cruise that Églantine and I did. Malta was the site of a major siege by the Turkish Ottoman Empire in 1565. After the battle was won, at great cost, Valetta was built on a high ridge of land where the Fort St. Elmo had been located. The city was named for Jean Parisot de la Valette, the Grand Master in charge of the Knights of St. John who led the battle to defend Malta. Because the knights had "saved Europe Christendom from the Turkish Empire," Europeans helped in the design and building of the new city. It was, and is, one of the "world's great fortified cities." Look at the photos below and think about trying to storm the walls from your 16th century rowboat with a few thousand of your friends. (It was estimated that the Turks lost 30,000 men in the siege and the knights lost just over 8000.)

Monday, April 17, 2006

Ontario Sunsets

I could not resist sharing last night,s sunset photos....


Here is more of my art from Malta. I collected, from the ground, leaves from a Carob Tree (Ceratonia siliqua) and used them to make mini-sculptures.

Here's a closer look at one of the series.

And here is one more with one of the hands that made it.

This last photo is a of a quick watercolour & ink sketch of some more mature pods tht sprang from a cut limb of the tree. Apparently the pods used to be used as feed for animals.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Cape Sorrel

The Latin name for Cape Sorrel is Oxalis pes-caprae. The Maltese name is Haxixa Ingliza.

I just discovered, this morning when I looked it up in my new Maltese wild flower book, that it is not native to Malta in spite of being one of the most prolific flowers in Malta.

It was actually introduced into a Botanical garden in 1811 and escaped and spread not only all through Malta but also all through the Mediterranean.

It looks very similar to Yellow Wood Sorrel (Oxalis stricta) that grows in the U.S. and Canada.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Ontario Spring Signs

I will return to Malta photos, but meanwhile back in Ontario...

Églantine captured this Willow photo.

I found this Choke Cherry.

I found this Tamarack bud but could not photograph it as I wanted. Églantine managed this super photo!