A sunny, August day in central Alberta saw my wife, daughter (recently returned from Guatemala) and me driving back roads in central Alberta. Clouds were building through the afternoon – there would be a thunder shower this evening. My wife and daughter were content to read through the stop and start and camera work. The timeline was our own, we could stretch the day, we would return to camp after sunset. We could explore. I could look at the world through my camera lens.
Quote to Consider / Inspire – “In the fields of observation chance favours only the prepared mind (Louis Pasteur, 7 December 1854). Other versions of this quote include: (1) Chance favors the prepared mind; (2) Fortune favors the prepared mind; (3) In the field of observation, chance favors the prepared mind; and, (4) Where observation is concerned, chance favors only the prepared mind.
A Studebaker farm truck, a shot found, photographed on a drive from Lake Miquelon into Edmonton on an early August, summer afternoon in Alberta. I got low with a 70-200 mm lens shooting upwards to the truck on a knoll in the highway corner of a fallow field. A Canadian flag celebrates Canada being a nation of 150 years (1 July 2017). From this vantage point the flag hides a RE/Max billboard advertising sale of farm land along the flat deck of the passenger side of the truck. The first edit plays with saturation of summer colours. The second edit is more literal, one true to the scene, true to Central Alberta summer weather and the mix of blue sky and clouds.
Quote to Consider/Inspire – “Don’t pack up your camera until you’ve left the location.” – Joe McNally
Listening to: Bruce Hornsby’s ‘Mandolin Rain,’ ‘Look out Any Window,’ and recognizing that his ‘Go Back to Your Woods’ is a song also done by Robbie Robertson. I’m further along in Sebastion Barry’s ‘The Secret Scripture;’ a fascinating set of narratives revolving around one, one-hundred year old character – Roseanne McNulty – told linking to one shared narrative gathered within this novel; among other things it holds a family ghost story that will give you the willies.
Watching: Visual Flow: Mastering the Art of Composition with Ian Plant (from B&H on Youtube) – a sensibility and set of conceptualizations that meets me well. Another is ‘Star Trails Photography Tutorial: Free Software’ offered by Serge Ramelli. A final one, just watched, is ‘Mentors,’ a photo project giving homage to people who have mentored photographer Sean Tucker as a young man – totally interesting to find the term two phrases in the talk – ‘grieved humanity’ and Eugene Peterson’s book title referenced, ‘A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.’
Planning for class complete, the weekly, notification to students’ parents e-mailed home – it is Sunday’s end. My wife has been planning her week, too. I have taken her out to lunch today. Yesterday, her birthday, she brought to culmination weeks of planning; she organized a friend’s 50th birthday, a spectacular evening drawing together many people. She did well in bringing the event off.
Evening, now, allows my wife and I to settle into a Netflix series. Then there’s time for my wife to read and me a look back through summer photos. Photos, here, are summer images. They are those shot after hours in Canada’s Banff National Park, during a five day conference. Tonight, I’m looking at editing possibilities for the images. I could have photographed the Banff Springs Hotel from higher elevation. Doing so would have avoided branches within the image. I could also have used a telephoto lens to bring the viewer closer (more into the photo). I’ll have a go at it again with this new intention.
I met a photographer at the Banff Farmer’s market. She had photographed first snowfalls – landscapes of trees, snow and unfrozen water; pristine mountain landscapes. Winter images may also be an intention for me. I’ll have to work on that possibility.
Listening to – Cloud Cult’s ‘You Were Born;’ there’s an ‘On Being with Krista Tippett,’ podcast interview with Cloud Cult – the song’s origin pulls at your heart.
Quote to Consider/Inspire: “Art replaces the light that is lost when the day fades, the moment passes, the evanescent extraordinary makes its quicksilver. Art tries to capture that which we know leaves us, as we move in and out of each other’s lives, as we all must eventually leave this earth. Great artists know that shadow, work always against the dying light, but always knowing that the day brings new light and that the ocean which washes away all traces on the sand leaves us a new canvas with each wave.” – Elizabeth Alexander
A few days drive from home, I stop my truck … my eyes have found something. I walk this scene, allowing my eyes to question ‘What is it that is here?’ I set camera upon tripod. I look and frame what I see – ‘click.’ Light’s point of origin directs golden light to and around the landscape it is falling upon – ‘click.’ Light’s absence, its shade and shadow and depth – at sunset, shadows are growing long – ‘click.’ My eyes are finding passage of time – ‘click.’ I’ve recognized something in the landscape and quality of light. I am recalling something – ‘click.’ I manage the machine, my camera, working aperture, shutter speed and ISO – ‘click.’ I am exposure bracketing to seven shots at one-step intervals – ‘click, click, click, click, click, click and click.’ HDR shots are possible – ‘click.’ My intent is not only to capture and hold this moment in memory – ‘click.’ It is to recast reality with the image produced – ‘click.’ Wheat fields that blanket rolling foothills are drawing my imagination to this scene – ‘click.’ Appreciation for what I see builds – ‘click.’ A long-ago memory loosens, … ‘click’ … connecting me to what I now see for the first time as an adult – ‘click.’ A sense of something familiar grows – ‘click.’ My mind resides and works equally in another place – ‘click.’ It anticipates the other side of download, edit and image production, ‘Can I bring the edited image produced close to what I now see?’ ‘Click.’ Weeks pass. I make time to edit images. I remove the SD card from my camera and download it onto an external hard drive. A Lightroom edit begins. In the edit, the surprise of the extraordinary occurs; what my eyes and camera captured weeks ago is now re-seen and more fully seen in the image that has been created. Good.
Images – Foothills Wheat Crop, Manning Canola, Nampa Grain Truck and Spruce Grove Canola.
Quote to Consider/Inspire: “Look for LEICA patterns; Look for lines, edges, intersections, contrast and angles in the shapes, light and shadows of the global and local elements of a photo to create a harmonious composition,” John Kosmopoulos.
Listening to: Molly Tuttle & John Mailander’s ‘Another Side, Tell Me,’ ‘Morning Morgantown,’ ‘Moonshiner,’ ‘I’m Over You’ and ‘Red Prairie Dawn;’ Spencer Elliot’s ‘Torque.’
I was in Iceland a year ago. The time was opportunity to move within and over unexplored terrain, alone. I would respond to it all, feasting my eyes through my camera lens, always working to understand the visual narrative of the land, its weather and people.
The windward-leeward interaction of mountain weather is a visible dynamic in Iceland. Atlantic clouds push into mountains producing rainy, spitting drizzle along their path. On the lee side they roll down, over mountains becoming a moving cloud blanket that dissipates, evaporating in its encounter with sunlight. Iceland’s cloud-work is extraordinary in its shift and shape, its play of light and shadow, its depths and in its interaction with the island. It is mountain weather, weather that can change radically within the space of a few moments. What was seen is revealed, here, as high dynamic range HDR images.
The lighthouse grounds at the Dyrhólaey Arch serve as orienting point for most images. From this crag black, volcanic sand beaches are visible. The Atlantic Ocean shimmers and rolls in. Mist and rain shroud distant islands. And, rays of sunlight stream through cloud and reflect upon the ocean. Inland, mountain snow melts exposing rock, sand and dirt. Lighthouse access is found driving up the side of this mountain outcrop along a steep, muddy, one-track gravel road, a series of switchbacks without road barriers. Poor weather needs a careful driver’s eye to prevent an unfortunate tumble off this crag. With my smaller SUV (a 2006 Ford Escape), the climb and descent were exhilarating as was greeting opposing traffic.
Quote to Consider / Inspire: “I never tried to revolutionize photography; I just do what I do and keep my fingers crossed that people will like it.” – David Bailey
Listening to – two ‘On Being with Krista Tippett’ interviews/podcasts: ‘Carlo Rovelli – All Reality Is Interaction’ and ‘Pádraig Ó Tuama – Belonging Creates and Undoes Us Both;’ ‘The Candid Frame podcast with Ursula Tocik;’ and, Ólafur Arnalds, Atli Örvarsson & SinfoniaNord perform ‘Öldurót,’ a remembrance in music, recalling Iceland.
Summer images remind of other photos yet to edit and look back through. With our Ford F-150 we pulled our Tracer Ultra-lite southward from High Level, camping around Alberta – Edmonton, Pigeon Lake, Gull Lake, Hinton, Jasper, Banff, Nanton and Red Deer. We saw cousins and family. We enjoyed an afternoon, with my father in assistive care – out among the flower gardens. We explored the regions we camped in in a more settled way, always having a familiar, yet temporary, home to return to at day’s end. We got out to the Calgary Stampede and my daughter got me on a sky-lift tram – a first for us both. My daughter attended dance camp. I cycled in Jasper National park along highways and upon cycling / hiking trails – the Maligne Lake canyon and trails 4 & 7. I cycled in Banff National park and up to the Johnson Canyon. I attended a conference with our trailer.
Quote to Consider – “It is always the instantaneous reaction to oneself that produces a photograph.” – Robert Frank
Listening to – The Candid Frame podcast and an interview with Andrea Francolini, an Australian sport yachting / sailing photographer and his charitable work in Northern Pakistan setting up and supporting a school – ‘My First School.’
I returned to my computer late last evening. I confirmed that one of two family iPod Touch operating system updates was complete. My daughter returned home from an evening with friends – I had been waiting up for her. My day had held some writing – a proofread of my son’s resumé. An afternoon’s work would set him up for the world of work in a summer break between university terms.
Completing the proofread, I started on the iPod updates in late afternoon. I needed to allow time for download and installation. The wait recalled the conceptualization and practice of a technology sabbath. In the practice you would turn off all devices for a full day. You would power down all iPods, smartphones, computers, televisions from sundown on Saturday. On Sunday you would power them up after sundown on Sunday.
Sabbath is about this – gathering stillness, taking rest, gratitude for blessings, encountering others without interruption. Connection with family and friends occurs – seeing them, hearing them, enjoying them.
Without sabbath from technology we multi-task on several fronts. We occupy our waiting with other tasks or pursuits made possible by technology. The person on the computer looks from computer screen to smartphone and back again. Breaks at work, while taken with others, can become periods of silence among co-workers, all who stare into their smart phone. Life fills with tech busy-ness. So, for me, I ought to engage in and lead my family in a technology Sabbath … then I return to the computer and the iPods. The update is complete. On the computer I find image edits I have yet to post – rusting relics, images from a month ago in my return drive from Edmonton to High Level.
Listening to – Pico Ayer’s ‘The Art of Stillness’ and Krista Tippett’s ‘Becoming Wise – An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living.’
Quote to Consider – “The question is not what you look at, but what you see.” – Henry Thoreau
Today, my daughter dances refining skills at a dance workshop. My wife has my truck and gathers bottles in a Church-youth bottle-drive. Our week’s sermon explored the intricacy and direct assertion of faith being tied to works – within my week there has been my action and my shortfall. Much of Northern Alberta burns, consumed in wildfire; we’ve donated money to the Red Cross and gently-used clothing to the 80,000 Fort McMurray evacuees. Today, I am chauffeur, more behind the scenes and needed, as needed. Time in-waiting provides opportunity to edit images and is welcome respite … the activity fits the day. Images – a farmer’s field alongside a highway north from Valleyview serves as resting site for older vehicles, those from a few generations ago … used parts, ready for use – for structure or as donor car. For me, each vehicle associates to former lives in memory. What memories stir and surface for you?
Listening to – Dream Academy’s ‘The Love Parade,’ The Beatles’ ‘Twist and Shout,’ Brian Houston’s ‘Next to Me,’ Nilsson’s ‘Jump into the Fire,’ Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Radio Nowhere,’ Link Wray and the Wraymen’s ‘Rumble’ and Tim Armstrong’s ‘Into Action.’
Quote to Consider/Inspire – “I wish more people felt that photography was an adventure the same as Life itself and felt that their individual feelings were worth expressing. To me, that makes photography more exciting.” – Harry Callahan
Leaving school at day’s end yesterday, billows of white and tan smoke filled the blue sky south from High Level. Product at the Norbord strand-board plant burned. An order for evacuation of residents nearest the plant saw RCMP moving home to home asking people to leave the area. Residents were able to return home at noon today. They were to remain on immediate alert in case the currently held 3 hectare wildfire threatened with a change in weather conditions. Firefighters, slinging-helicopters and a water-bomber team all fought yesterday’s blaze from late afternoon until late in the evening.
Listening to – Sleeping At Last’s version of ‘The Safety Dance,’ Chris Garneau’s ‘The Leaving Song,’ Matthew Perryman-Jones’ ‘O Theo,’ Peter Bradley Adams’ ‘Be Still My Heart,’ One Republic’s ‘Ordinary Human,’ Lily and Madeleine’s ‘Things I’ll Later Lose’ and Ross Copperman’s ‘Holding On and Letting Go.’
Quote to Consider – ‘All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth.’ – Richard Avedon
I got out for an afternoon drive on a Saturday late in February. I gathered my cameras and set off for a look around within Alberta’s MacKenzie Municipal District.
From High Level I traveled south. I would cross the Peace River ice bridge through slushy water at Tompkin’s Landing, traveling no more than 10km/h. Before I got there, on the hill descending toward the ice bridge a blue, aquamarine colour caught my eye. The colour belonged to a seventies Ford F-150. Someone had dragged it a ways into the trees. It, like the 1970 Buick GS next to it, had served a purpose and was left there – a rusting relic. Tromping into knee deep snow I gathered photos.
Driving past Blue Hills, farms held livestock, the occasional horse and derelict farming implements. I detoured along back roads behind Buffalo Head Prairie. There, second and third generation families are operating farms that have grown in size through the years. Many families are moving from original homestead homes built in the forties into new homes. The older homesteads stand holding memory’s residue. Next, I drove behind La Crete to the Heritage museum. The museum site holds old buildings from the La Crete area, old farming implements and machinery. The old Tompkin’s Landing ferry that transferred people and vehicles across the Peace River is there. The museum is one I want to return to for photos. And, people are invited to arrange a tour of the site. It might be something to see in early June.
Later, in moving past Fort Vermilion and into Buttertown, I managed to get my truck stuck in snow. I had seen some Buttertown buildings built with Swedish log cut corners. They were likely more than a hundred years old and I had been meaning to photograph them for a while. In parking my truck on a snowy road shoulder, I got too close to the shoulder’s edge and my truck and I slid sideways into the ditch. I did not have to wait too long for help though. A young Mennonite farmer out for a drive with his date stopped. He took some time (an hour or so) and was able to pull my truck back onto the road. And, he didn’t want anything for his trouble. He was just being neighborly. Good on him!
I stayed in Buttertown for another hour or so before sundown and my return home with pictures, better for being out of the house, better for being away from town, grateful for all that my afternoon had held.
Quote to Consider – “Sometimes I do get to places just when God’s ready to have somebody click the shutter.” – Ansel Adams
Listening to – Martyn Joseph’s ‘Strange Way,’ Bruce Cockburn’s ‘Wondering Where the Lions Are,’ David Gray’s ‘My Oh My’ and James Taylor’s ‘Country Road.’