Month: January 2012

Beaverlodge Grain Bin – Spring Light

Beaverlodge Grain Bin - Spring Light

Last February, my wife’s aunt was struggling with cancer at the Grande Prairie hospital. She went in during the Christmas break and remained there until May when she succumbed to the disease.  In February, when this photograph was taken I was making time to be away from the hospital to see what was happening in the world.  I got out toward Beaverlodge, Alberta. This photograph impressed me as one landmarking a period of time in which the intensity of light grows greater, day-by-day as we move forward from winter into spring – there’s something of ‘hope’ in it. Again, its subject is another grain bin; but, it sits upon a field that soon will grow black as snow melts into earth and then will grow green with as it’s planted and left to respond to the sun.

Again, listening to Liz Longley sing her song, Unraveling about her grandmother from her album Hot Loose Wire.

The chorus:

I’m the only daughter of her oldest son

I knew well before her spirit was gone

And her life is a thread woven into every part of me

She is unraveling, she is unraveling.

Quote to Inspire: “A good snapshot stops a moment from running away.” — Eudora Welty

McNaught Grain Bins

Grain Bins - McNaught Homestead (near Beaverlodge, Alberta)

Enjoying this photograph of two grain bins at the McNaught Homestead … reminded of Bill Brandley’s conception of texture within a photograph being that of ‘visual touch.’  Liking the colour, glare and overexposure.

Listening to T-Bone Burnett sing River of Love from his Twenty Twenty: The Essential T-Bone Burnett; pointed toward this album in Stocki’s Rhythm and Soul broadcast, an album I purchased in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Quote to Inspire – “It can be a trap of the photographer to think that his or her best pictures were the ones that were hardest to get.” – Timothy Allen (quoted by Digital Photography School)

Parting Ways – 2000 GMC Sierra

Tomorrow, after a day of school between 4:00-5:00 p.m., a salvage company will come to my house and tow away my 2000 GMC Sierra half-ton pick-up truck. Today, I checked with my wife and she agreed to my signing off the vehicle to my insurance company – the truck has been written off. The truck, a former Cargill elevator truck, has an ever-running small Vortec V8 engine and has had nothing but synthetic oil and regular maintenance through its 286,000 km history. The transmission has been upgraded to allow for the hauling of a motor boat during summers by its previous owner. While not a top of the line truck, it has been a presentable vehicle in terms of shape, chrome and gleam – at twelve years of age there is little rust.

I liked that.

The truck has required some mastery to drive. A two-wheel rear drive unit, without a load in the box, the light back end on icy winter roads takes a while to get to cruising speed. All season passenger tires on the front have made the steering a bit sloppy, as well.  Coming down the three kilometre hill from Twin Lakes, Alberta toward High Level in heavy snowfall has been more of a skiing event than rolling forward with steering, brakes and engine.  I’ve mastered much of that; but, obviously not enough to avoid last week’s buck.

With photography, I’ve appreciated having windows on all sides of me in the cab and the immediacy of light which well allowed me to sense direction, colour and intensity in considering possible photographs. Tonight, I have looked back through the past two years for photos of my 2000 GMC Sierra and found these four.

Quote to Inspire – “When I think of why I make pictures, the [only] reason that I can come up with just seems that I’ve been making my way here. It seems right now that all I’ve ever done in my life is making my way here to you.” – so says Robert Kincaid, in the movie and novel, The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller; notable to me, not as romantic, but as photographer and GMC truck owner is that Robert Kincaid, a National Geographic photographer enters and leaves Madison County in a forest green 65 GMC pickup. Good schtuff!

Listening to Lucinda Williams from her album World Without TearsRighteously, Ventura and Bleeding Fingers; reminded that Sarah McLachlan adores Lucinda William’s album, Car Wheels on a Gravel Road.

What Happened Here ….

Early Fifties Two-door Sedan - Blue Hills

Car photography especially of early fifties vehicles, for me, derives from my learning to steer a car and then to drive one sitting next to a favourite, older cousin in his copper brown and white 1951 Mercury four-door.  Strong-arm steering meant that effort was needed to guide the Mercury down dusty gravel roads. These drives usually followed Sunday get-togethers of my family from Edmonton with his in Rimbey, Alberta. The event, recalled to memory is that of a late spring or early summer drive, following an evening meal and Walt Disney.  I might have been nine or ten years old when I first took the wheel for some good, adventure-filled times before saying our goodbyes, parting company and returning home in an hour-long drive to Edmonton.  Always, my aunt, uncle and three cousins would wave to us from their porch as we left. Our families might see each other again in a month or two. Those were good times.

My starting point for this photograph is curious. I am unable to determine the make of this early fifties two-door sedan. Given that this Blue Hills’ farm and its woods have seemingly been left as if in the middle of things, its abandonment indicates something unfinished in not just one life but in the lives of a few. Here, what is sacred is often about the conception of ‘what-has-happened-here.’  It associates to memory that will not fade and cannot be left. With this image, just as in no-trace camping the art is to pass through an area without disturbing it, this photograph presents the necessity of capturing something seemingly sacred without disturbance – reverence and respect are needed.

Listening to the Dave Matthews Band from the album Stand Up and the childhood/teen reminiscences of Old Dirt Hill, a song that recalls my go-cart, our garage and back alley … and friends at Easter break in Edmonton in grade 5 – 1972 … what a week (and to be grounded part-way through).

Quote to Inspire – “A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you the less you know.” —Diane Arbus

Saturday’s Afternoon Drive

Wife at school, prepping; daughter at dance, dancing – this Saturday seems to be mine, a day before me to use at my discretion, and, certainly not a day to pass in front of a computer screen. A breakfast out takes me to the Flamingo Restaurant where my Photo Plus magazine becomes object of discussion between fellow Canon photographer (my cashier) and me; I point him to the Zinio iPad app as the best means to download the Photo Plus, easily, here in High Level.

Onward – my outerwear consists of several items purchased over the years from Mountain Equipment Co-op – ski pants (10 years old), Salomon winter trainers (new, this year) and a down-filled jacket with hood. Set for warmth at -22C, today, I point my GMC Sierra (without grill or driver’s side headlamp) toward Fort Vermilion and La Crete. Music is part of what this Saturday afternoon is about – Sirius Satellite Radio allows for tuning into folk music on Coffee House, news at the top of the hour from CBC and BBC, jazz music and an interview with the bass player working with Miles Davis. Comedy does not attract my attention, today. I had had thoughts of listening to Sid and Mac’s Shuttertime Podcast; but, their podcast is good to digest while out on a walk around High Level … I let the podcast wait.

In Fort Vermilion, Shirley’s Snack Shack allows for purchase of coffee and something unseen before, a Reese’s Peanut Butter chocolate bar. The truck rolls south on the Red Earth road. The first photographs are of a red, mid-sixties, FORD, three-tonne grain truck; the vehicle remains active – it has current plates and tires are full. The next photographs are of cattails, at the northeast corner of a massive field – land, newly broken and newly farmed; the wind stirs the cattails enough that Automatic Exposure Bracketing, while tried, will not allow for HDR results.

La Crete has Quality Motors to check out, a used car lot and a new Subway restaurant. Moving southward from La Crete, Buffalo Head Prairie is next.  A chain of hills loom in the distance, a blue backdrop to this settlement and extends to another thirty kilometres away called Blue Hills. Along the way, different untried back roads are taken and they return to the Blue Hills highway.  A derelict farm house is discovered.  Doubling back, a place to park the truck off the highway is found; there, two relics from the fifties are found among old disused farming machinery (Massey Harris is the emblem on a seed drill, not Massey Ferguson). With so much left scattered around, the farm seems to be left medias res (in the middle of things); has there been a family death? There’s a story of a car that drove onto the Tompkin’s Landing ferry many years ago; its brakes failed and one or all occupants of the car drowned.

The final part of the journey involves crossing the Peace River over an ice bridge at Tompkin’s landing; signs are there to direct vehicles and to advise of a maximum speed of 10 km/h for crossing the kilometre-wide river. Another forty minutes in night’s darkness with only a passenger headlight to alert oncoming highway traffic of my presence sees me home before 7:00 p.m..  Supper is grilled cheese sandwiches.

Listening to Miles Davis from his Kind of Blue album and So What; reminds that I first seriously listened to Miles Davis within the Finding Forrester soundtrack … Bill Frisell is also there with Over the Rainbow and Under a Golden Sky.

Quote to Inspire – “While there is perhaps a province in which the photograph can tell us nothing more than what we see with our own eyes, there is another in which it proves to us how little our eyes permit us to see.” — Dorothea Lange

Plymouth Savoy Still Life

Plymouth Savoy - Colourful

With this image, I’m beyond camera in post-processing toward this colorful result.  The Plymouth Savoy plays its own part in longer term decay among this still life.  I like it.

Listening still to www.ckua.org and Hole in the Wall by the Bobby Blue Band from their album Year of Tears.

Quote to Inspire – “Light glorifies everything. It transforms and ennobles the most commonplace and ordinary subjects. The object is nothing, light is everything.” — Leonard Missone

Visual Treasures Before You

Weathered Shed and Rusted Alberta Plate

With photography, there’s a subtle contemplative side which must be settled into and found; then, ‘click’ you’re in … amid revelations of colour, texture and visual treasure, all sitting there, before you. Right?

I’m looking back through my McNaught Homestead photos again this evening – this image surfaced in terms of colour, form and texture … and thoughts about what I’d do with it, anew.

Quote to Inspire – “I see something special and show it to the camera. The moment is held until someone sees it. Then it is theirs.” — Sam Abell

Listening to www.ckua.org ; it’s Friday night and Liz Mandeville belts out Corner Bar Blues from her Red Top album.

Capturing Experience As Fact

Moody - Plymouth Savoy 2

At an age when wearing glasses assists me in my day, my experience of working with a camera through to editing an image often is about revisiting subject and context to see what else is there; it is actual re-view (review). The process is similar to gleaning feedback in using a personal journal. And, in journaling, one point of revelation has been sorting through the conception that memory, perception, thought and even feeling are only what they were on the day that they occurred. In that portion of experience in which they occurred they were what truth was – they became the facts in response to Life’s events for that duration of time. Without a record, the memory that is carried forward can shift, adjust and change over time … with new thoughts, feelings, perceptions and influences – memory is or becomes malleable. Just like a journaling process, creating a photograph isolates the truth of ‘what was’ for the duration of time in which it occurs. What is also valuable about a journal and photographs produced by the photographer and camera is that you can revisit subject and context to see and appreciate more of what else was there. The journal and photograph inform you and other readers/viewers about the personal narrative of the writer/photographer. The feedback of what else was there, that you now see, informs future action.

Listening to Neil Young’s Old Man and reminded that Lizz Wright also sings this song; there’s not so much experientially that separates us, the older and younger; it does seem to be a father-son song and the son’s revelation of greater similarity than difference.

Quote to Inspire – “Photography, as a powerful medium of expression and communications, offers an infinite variety of perception, interpretation and execution.” — Ansel Adams

Sifting Photographs and A Drizzled Day

Plymouth Savoy - McNaught Homestead

I’m sifting photographs on my computer, tonight, aiming to locate photographs taken of the road among mountains between Grande Prairie and Banff, Alberta, a trip taken this fall in early October. To refer to them will allow future planning of High Dynamic Range (HDR) shots; but, photographs have been shifted between my C: drive and L: drive within the past three months and am having no luck, tonight. Sifting at a later date will yield them.

A photograph has caught my eye, a reward for my look-back – a photo of an early fifties Plymouth Savoy dragged into the woods behind the McNaught homestead, home to Alberta artist, Euphemia McNaught. She’s had some intention in dragging the vehicle to where it sits among Aspen willows spaced with what appears to be regular rhythm as you look across the car from front to back and diagonally from driver’s side to passenger rear. This back drop changes in colour with the seasons – whites and blacks in winter, greens in summer and the reds of leaves in fall.

Those who discover and view the vehicle orient themselves to still life juxtaposition, a car oxidizes among the regular cycle of life and death of plants and greenery; the scene is a treasure in terms of colour, shape, context, season, light and themes of still life. The day amidst its drizzle did get cold but not before two hours had gone by looking through my camera lens at the car, its situation and the play of light.

Listening to U2’s One, tonight from the U218 Singles album.

Quote to Inspire – “You don’t take a photograph, you make it.” ~ Ansel Adams.

Looking Up – Time for Macro

Winter Greenery - Along a High Level Photowalk

Again, today – out and about on a photowalk … others’ fresh perspective has me looking up and looking at things. Green needles of a conifer remind and point towards spring … loving the colour and background, here.

Listening to U2’s Mysterious Ways … the subject and content of the lyrics are something good to unravel, in their unraveling.  Coldplay’s In My Place, is up next, reminding of U2, Paul McCartney, Coldplay and the Verve’s Richard Ashcroft (Bittersweet Symphony) and the world-wide Live 8 concert and the Gleneagles decisions made by G8 leaders … some good, that day!  Brian Adams kicked things off in Toronto followed in the day by The Tragically Hip and Great Big Sea.

Curious Quote to Inspire – “In photography there is a reality so subtle that it becomes more real than reality.” – Alfred Stieglitz

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