Superstructure – Red

Elevator Silo - High Level, Alberta
Elevator Silo – High Level, Alberta

The reds of the silo structure frame and the perspective created looking through it attracted my eye to the silo and elevator structure last Sunday. Then it’s been about the textures within the image and those applied to the image.

Listening to – ‘Songs for the Philippines,’ a collection of many songs for a mere $10.00 on iTunes – a small, small donation to the Typhoon victims of the Philippines. It’s been One Direction’s ‘Best Song Ever,’ Pink’s ‘Sober,’ Paolo Nutini’s ‘Simple Things,’ Josh Groban’s ‘Brave,’ James Blunt’s ‘Carry You Home’ and Pitbull’s ‘Feel This Moment.’

Quote to Inspire – “The photographer is an armed version of the solitary walker reconnoitering, stalking, cruising the urban inferno, the voyeuristic stroller who discovers the city as a landscape of voluptuous extremes. Adept of the joys of watching, connoisseur of empathy, the flaneur finds the world ‘picturesque.’” – Susan Sontag, On Photography

To A Photograph

McNaught Homestead Wheels - Beaverlodge, Alberta
McNaught Homestead Wheels – Beaverlodge, Alberta
Wagon Wheels - McNaught Homestead 3
Wagon Wheels – McNaught Homestead 3
Wagon Wheels - McNaught Homestead 2
Wagon Wheels – McNaught Homestead 2

Gardner Hamilton’s quote, “a [photographer] is someone who does not necessarily go out with a mission, but someone who is [or becomes] mentally aware of when they have walked into a photograph” sticks with me. The quote comes against the question of what influences the photographer’s perception and readiness as he or she comes to a photograph. As we come to the moment of opening the shutter, preoccupations, Life events (digested and undigested) and distractions shape how we are vulnerable to the scene and what becomes the image.

There is duality in how any photograph is arrived at. In one instance, it is Life’s clutter that promotes the withdrawal and escape that produces a photograph – the need to see and experience visually, the new, something other. In another instance, it is the decluttering in dealing with one’s psychological hygiene that creates the readiness, openness and choices that result in the photograph. Beyond this, one’s personal baggage and one’s habits as a photographer can serve as ballast shaping what the photograph becomes or directing the photographer to the photograph, connecting him/her to the image created – that ballast becomes one’s style.

Within past weeks, I have witnessed a convergence of ideas that promote dealing with one’s psychological hygiene in prayer, meditation and journaling. Blog posts of Creatives chronicle the experience of possessing a solid foundation built on healthy psychological hygiene as launching pad for Creative pursuit. The clutter of your ‘stuff’ – your events, your history, the stuff you need to own – needs to be dealt with so you can move on and make creative choices. Krista Tippett has interviewed Sharon Salzberg and Robert Thurman, pioneers in bringing Buddhism to America in her ‘On Being’ podcast entitled Embracing Our Enemies and Our Suffering, a Buddhist take on many things and engaging reality; psychological hygiene is an endpoint, here, too. The convergence has led me all the way back to Ira Progoff and his ‘At a Journal Workshop – Writing to Access the Power of the Unconscious and Evoke Creative Ability.’ I opened this book this morning. We’ll see what happens.

Images – a sunny, snow winter’s day serves to light and sculpt wagon wheels at the McNaught homestead near Beaverlodge, Alberta.

Listening to – ‘Take California’ by the Propellerheads, The Beatles’ 2009 remastered take of ‘Across the Universe,’ U2’s ‘In a Little While,’ Katy Perry’s ‘Unconditionally (Johnson Somerset Remix), Lady Gaga’s ‘Born this Way’ (The Country Road version) and The Beatles’ ‘Let It Be.’

Quote to Inspire / Consider – “Photographs may be more memorable than moving images, because they are a neat slice of time, not a flow. Each still photograph is a privileged moment turned into a slim object that one can keep and look at again.” – Susan Sontag, ‘On Photography’

Meditative Original

Winter Rails at Sunset - Rycroft, Alberta
Winter Rails at Sunset – Rycroft, Alberta
Winter Crossroads - Rycroft, Alberta
Winter Crossroads – Rycroft, Alberta
Yield Sign - Rycroft, Alberta
Yield Sign – Rycroft, Alberta

That day – I enjoyed it. Days away that my wife encouraged when the draw back to work and home was the safer, more familiar choice; listening to her I got a hotel room, stayed put, slept and the next morning, looked anew at the world with my camera. Any camera work is about venturing beyond one’s Life script, that next thing needing done, the next thing needing to be said or listened through, that next place to be. You discover your original self as you come against the touchstone of encountering what is new through the lens of your camera and creating an image – you become more of you in the encounter of learning through seeing once again. Something similar is surely meant when photography is considered meditation.

These images are on a backroad near Rycroft, Alberta returning home.

Listening to – The Lumineers’ ‘Stubborn Love,’ Our Lady Peace’s ‘Wipe that Smile Off Your Face’ and Bruce Springsteen’s ‘One Step Up.’

Quote to Inspire – “The camera is an excuse to be someplace you otherwise don’t belong. It gives me both a point of connection and a point of separation.” Susan Meiselas

Pillowed, Pocketed – Undulation

Golden Hour Hay Bales - Sexsmith, Alberta 1
Golden Hour Hay Bales – Sexsmith, Alberta 1
Golden Hour Hay Bales - Sexsmith, Alberta 2
Golden Hour Hay Bales – Sexsmith, Alberta 2
Golden Hour Hay Bales - Sexsmith, Alberta 3
Golden Hour Hay Bales – Sexsmith, Alberta 3

In the golden hour, when the sun nears the horizon to sunset, I was travelling, leaving Grande Prairie and had driven past Clairmont and Sexsmith just where the divided highway shrinks down to two lanes. To my right was the patterning of snow covered round bales of hay, a regular undulation resembling a pillowed or pocketed quilt. I stopped, got into my winter gear and with camera claimed these shots.

Listening to – Martyn Joseph’s cover of ‘The Ghost of Tom Joad.’

Quote to Inspire – “My photography is a reflection, which comes to life in action and leads to meditation. Spontaneity – the suspended moment – intervenes during action, in the viewfinder.” – Abbas

Blumenort Shop

Farm Shop - Blumenort, Alberta
Farm Shop – Blumenort, Alberta

It is snowing. I have driven out to La Crete, Alberta to deliver the table top of my mother and father’s teak dining room table to Homestead Kitchens, reputable wood workers in our region. It’s likely that the wood needs to be refinished – I have left the job to them and their good judgment. Now, where the drive out was done carefully on roads covered with freezing rain, the return journey is done in light snow flurries. Still, in looking out for possible pictures I come across this farmer’s garage/shop near Blumenort, Alberta and collect a few photos. I’m liking the image.

Listening to – Caia’s ‘Remembrance,’ and then Martyn Joseph’s take on Bruce Springsteen, ‘Badlands,’ ‘Blood Brothers,’ ‘Brilliant Disguise’ and ‘Cautious Man.’

Quote to Inspire / Consider – “Using a camera appeases anxiety which the work-drive feel about not working when they are on vacation.” – Susan Sontag, ‘On Photography’

Time’s Relentless Melt

Plymouth Savoy - McNaught Homestead, Beaverlodge, Alberta 1
Plymouth Savoy – McNaught Homestead, Beaverlodge, Alberta 1
Plymouth Savoy - McNaught Homestead, Beaverlodge, Alberta 2
Plymouth Savoy – McNaught Homestead, Beaverlodge, Alberta 2
Plymouth Savoy - McNaught Homestead, Beaverlodge, Alberta 3
Plymouth Savoy – McNaught Homestead, Beaverlodge, Alberta 3
Wagon Wheels - McNaught Homestead, Beaverlodge, Alberta 1
Wagon Wheels – McNaught Homestead, Beaverlodge, Alberta 1
Wagon Wheels - McNaught Homestead, Beaverlodge, Alberta 2
Wagon Wheels – McNaught Homestead, Beaverlodge, Alberta 2
Wagon Wheel - McNaught Homestead, Beaverlodge, Alberta 3
Wagon Wheel – McNaught Homestead, Beaverlodge, Alberta 3
Wagon Wheel - McNaught Homestead, Beaverlodge, Alberta 4
Wagon Wheel – McNaught Homestead, Beaverlodge, Alberta 4
Wagon Wheel - McNaught Homestead, Beaverlodge, Alberta 5
Wagon Wheel – McNaught Homestead, Beaverlodge, Alberta 5

Last weekend, on walkabout with my camera, I stopped in at the McNaught Homestead, near Beaverlodge, Alberta, an anchor in my growth as a photographer, a place where I had taken one of two photoplayshops with two instructors calling themselves the Ditch Divas, likely in reference to their stopping for photos alongside roadways. The homestead, as with any farm, is an extraordinarily good place to look at how light, colour, shape and background work together as you consider and make a photograph. On my iPod, I was listening to Susan Sontag’s collection of essays entitled ‘On Photography,’ a good text to listening to at different points in your photographic growth. The photos that follow are taken at the McNaught Homestead. I enjoyed the time with camera and subjects.

Listening to – Krista Tippett’s interview with Eve Ensler of ‘Vagina Monologues’ fame; the interview focused somewhat on sexual violence toward women and later focused on moving on or through cancer treatment. Also, listening to Jack Johnson’s & G. Loves’ song ‘Jungle Gym,’ Tyler Bates’ ‘Ventura’ and ‘Mad World’ by Michael Andrews and Gary Jules.

Quote to Inspire / Consider – “To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability … [all] photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.” – Susan Sontag, On Photography.

Half-light & Snow

Buttertown Trail & Homestead - North Vermilion Settlement, Fort Vermilion, Alberta
Buttertown Trail & Homestead – North Vermilion Settlement, Fort Vermilion, Alberta

Returning to High Level from La Crete I chose to investigate briefly the photographic opportunities available at Buttertown, a community just across the river from Fort Vermilion, Alberta. I followed the track through Buttertown finally stopping near this homestead home that may be a century old; it resides only a stone’s throw away from the St. Louis Roman Catholic mission. The moment was quiet, one in which I could hear the wind in the forest, the scrunch of my boots on snow and the occasional drone of vehicles passing miles away. Snow was being loosened from clouds on an overcast, yet moonlit night. What is more, the photograph is shot following sunset and the time is only 6:00 p.m..

Within this image, the track, house, snow and trees recall winter nights walking along less defined paths in what continues to be Alberta’s frontier, its north-central region in and surrounding Wood Buffalo National Park. In those walks, moonlit snow would glow along trails and paths. Most nights would see me cross the kilometre span of Ice Bridge covering the Peace River between December and March. In severely cold temperature, I have walked and encountered northern lights brightening my path with the intensity of vehicle headlights. I have come upon wild horses on trails, not daring to move, shivering, their coats glazed with frost. Two hours hiking would have me out and about looking at the world and move me through ten to twelve kilometres. It was good to move, think and explore.

The tones within the image recall scenes from short stories and novels in which an evening moonlit walk takes a character beyond the safety of home in her or his travel to a neighbor’s home or to town on evening business. Jane Eyre meets the man she’ll later marry, Mr. Rochester by first startling his horse and causing him to fall and sprain his ankle; unwittingly, this is her first encounter with her employer who’s brought her to Thornfield Hall as governess to his child born out of wedlock. Dickens’ story, ‘The Signal Man,’ occurs primarily at night in a cleft of land surrounding a railway switch in conditions similar to those found in this image, conditions ripe for mishap. Many, but not all ‘Ghost Stories’ of M.R. James occur at night in light that obscures perceptions. And, it is perception within half-light scenes that becomes the stage for most occurrences or happenings within Henry James’ novel, ‘Turn of the Screw,’ an excellent ghost story that has the reader consider whether or not the governess actually senses the preternatural existence of others; the alternative is that half-light is playing tricks on her perceptions and that’s she subject to the workings of an overactive, imaginative mind.

In looking into Buttertown, it is actually a name for the North Vermilion settlement associated with Fort Vermilion. The nickname Buttertown came about in the early nineteen hundreds after an incident when some rancid butter had been sold (Place Names of Alberta, Volume IV, Northern Alberta – Merrily K. Aubrey).

Listening to – ‘On Photography’ by Susan Sontag, a selection of essays written about all facets and dynamics of photography, a good listen. Music-wise – I’ve been listening to Dave Matthew & Tim Reynolds concert, ‘Live in Lost Vegas’ – ‘Lying in the Hands of God,’ ‘Some Devil’ and ‘Alligator Pie.’

Quotes to Consider – (1) “To photograph is to appropriate the thing photographed.” (2) “[Photographs] … still want, first of all, to show something ‘out there.’” (3) “[The camera] makes real what one is experiencing … a way of certifying experience … converting experience into an image, a souvenir.” – Susan Sontag, from ‘On Photography’.

Homestead Music

Buttertown Homestead - Fort Vermilion, Alberta
Buttertown Homestead – Fort Vermilion, Alberta

My wife points us to music tonight. At day’s end she’s responding to both of us, each a vortex of thoughts, moving, tumbling, clustering, dot-to-dot, aiming toward productive, tangible result – saturated with the day, not here, not in the now, needing to release the grip of endeavor, to withdraw and to settle. Time away from the pursued pace is needed, time that interrupts the cycle of ‘home-work-and-back-again,’ that kind of quality time that permits fresh aspect and new grasp on perspective, a good thing. Music is our choice tonight for plying away our adhesion, breaking contact with the day that’s been. The music we turn to is longstanding legacy from BBC Radio Ulster’s Sunday show at 8:00 p.m., ‘Rhythm and Soul’ hosted by Steve Stockman; it’s music that’s been on my wife’s iPod this week in and around her classroom. David Gray’s Hammersmith concert, ‘Live, In Slow Motion,’ is the concert video my wife chooses and with our daughter away at dance class we sit down to supper, downstairs, in front of our television and engage this concert, slowing ourselves, listening to a cellist, two guitarists, a bass player, a drummer and David Gray bring music to Life. Allowing ourselves to become vulnerable to lyric, melody, rhythm, sound and silence, we are drawn to familiar songs, songs I’ve fretted in former days – ‘Sail Away,’ ‘Shine,’ ‘My Oh My,’ ‘Silver Lining.’ These songs draw us out to that part of our Lives beyond endeavor. They open-out memory and memories. We move into and travel along new melodies. Engaging with these songs orients us in terms of presence and our present – where we are needing and aiming to be, a reset of sorts.

Homestead – this October exposure is one of a handful of images taken within the golden hour near Fort Vermilion in a pre-winter sunset, winter-ready clouds billowing in regular, heavy patterns across the sky. The linear clarity of homestead lines mingles with the subtle bend in its roof and the regular, yet unique line of each board. It’s old, yet it’s solid and well-preserved. Coloration and luminance chosen in editing work best with the available light and draw me to this photo, again and again.

I am definitely wanting to be out and about with my camera, perhaps with others seeing other ways of viewing the world. My Canon 60D has developed a hiccough, though – three years wear and tear has made the spring ejection of the SD card difficult; it’s also become difficult to set the card back in. Sending the camera for repair is likely to cost one-third to one-half the cost of replacing the camera with another 60D body or its next generation body the 70D. And, then I wonder if I should move to a pro-sumer camera the Canon 7D, 6D or 5D.

    T h a n k y o u ‘ s

– My gratitude goes out to all who are a part of this blog, those of you who add your comments and engage in the dialogue about photos, photography and music.

Listening to – Tyler Bates’ ‘Ventura,’ one of those captivating songs from Emilio Estevez’ film, ‘The Way.’ The post reminds me of several Martyn Joseph songs – ‘The Good in Me is Dead’ from the ‘Don’t Talk About Love’ album and talking with Martyn at the Alexandra Community Hall in Edmonton, Alberta on the eve of the Iraq invasion. Other songs come to mind – ‘Wake Me Up,’ ‘Strange Kind of Friend,’ ‘Walk Down the Mountain’ and ‘Just Like the Man Said.’

Quote to Inspire: “Still images can be moving and moving images can be still. Both meet within soundscapes.” Chien-Chi Chang

Blessing – For the Traveler

Along the Meikle River - Manning, Alberta 1
Along the Meikle River – Manning, Alberta 1
Along the Meikle River - Manning, Alberta 2
Along the Meikle River – Manning, Alberta 2
Along the Meikle River - Manning, Alberta 3
Along the Meikle River – Manning, Alberta 3

Every time you leave home,
Another road takes you
Into a world you were never in.

New strangers on other paths await.
New places that have never seen you
Will startle a little a your entry.
Old places that know you well
Will pretend nothing
Changed since your last visit.

When you travel, you find yourself
Alone in a different way,
More attentive now
To the self you bring along.
Your more subtle eye watching
You abroad; and how what meets you
Touches that part of your heart
That lies low at home:

How you unexpectedly attune
To the timbre in some voice,
Opening a conversation
You want to take in
To where your longing
Has pressed hard enough
Inward, on some unsaid dark,
To create a crystal of insight
You could not have known
You needed
To illuminate
Your way.

When you travel,
A new silence
Goes with you,
And if you listen,
You will hear
What your heart would
Love to say

A journey can become a sacred thing:
Make sure, before you go,
To take the time
To bless your going forth,
To free your heart of ballast
So that the compass of your soul
Might direct you toward
The territories of spirit
Where you will discover
More of your hidden life,
And the urgencies
That deserve to claim you.

May you travel in an awakened way,
Gathered wisely into your inner ground;
That you may not waste the invitations
Which wait along the way to transform you.

May you travel safely, arrive refreshed,
And live your time away to its fullest;
Return home more enriched, and free
To balance the gift of days which call you.

A Threshold Blessing, ‘To Bless the Space Between,’ John O’Donohue

Today, this blessing/prayer for a friend and friends who begin extraordinary travel – that they remain safe throughout the journey and that they are open to what will enrich them.

Images – along the Meikle river, just north of Manning, Alberta.

Listening to: Wayne Watson’s ‘Everything Can Change So Fast’ and Bob Bennett’s ‘Hand of Kindness.’

Quote to Inspire – “A photo is a small voice, at best, but sometimes – just sometimes – one photograph or a group of them can lure our senses into awareness. Much depends upon the viewer; in some, photographs can summon enough emotion to be a catalyst to thought.” – W. Eugene Smith