I have been intrigued to find success in creating night time images from handheld shots using wide open aperture and ISO 6400; stabilization must have been accounted for and become the forgiveness factor in this camera. Good!
Listening to – liking Martyn Joseph’s new album, ‘Sanctuary;’ enjoying the tribute to Robert F. Kennedy in ‘Bobby’ and the instrumental work in ‘Sanctuary’ that reminds of songs from Martyn’s album ‘Thunder and Rainbows.’
Quote to Consider – “You’ve got to push yourself harder. You’ve got to start looking for pictures nobody else could take. You’ve got to take the tools you have and probe deeper.” – William Albert Allard
Six kilometres distance is my morning walk around High Level. I am plugged in, listening to a podcast that opens out a little further my understanding of the world.
Words from a podcast interview catch my ear – “The greatest mysteries are the simplest ones. Those are the ones that we confront every day. I had a conversation once with a priest – I was travelling and went to confession in this very remote place, and suddenly he said, ‘Well, we don’t know what God is, do we?’” These words recall assertions made by John O’Donohue and Miester Eckhart – ‘God is only our name for it.’ I recognize the voice and am surprised to hear this same assertion being alluded to.
At -27C I am out of our home, on the road, bundled in layers of protective warmth and I have my camera. Good! My listener’s ear is attending to words offered by Martin Sheen, and, so begins this ‘On Being’ interview with Krista Tippett.
Within the walk, Martin describes his early days at home among his father’s family and then as an actor who is nourished by way of a soup kitchen. Further on Martin opens-out how his son’s film, ‘The Way,’ came into being. Emilio Estevez, Martin’s son has directed the film about a father, Thomas Avery, whose son had begun the pilgrimage of the Camino de Santiago, but getting caught in mountains after dark and in fog may have fallen to his death. Thomas, played by Martin, takes on his son’s mantle of intention (that of seeing the world instead of just reading about it) and takes on the pilgrimage on his son’s behalf. Walkers and hikers will recognize the poignancy of this film for how it works with the matter of identity and community associated with a shared or common road. This film explores being upon Robert Frost’s ‘road less traveled.’
The eight seasons of ‘The West Wing’ series are recalled and the role of President Bartlett is under girded by Martin’s social activism and social conscience; Martin often is acting with an interior sense of what the President ought to do and this sense is buoyed up by brilliant dialogue and action provided by Aaron Sorkin. Martin’s personal evolution pulls him all the way back to Catholicism and to anchoring works of Thomas Merton.
The podcast is a good listen, a listening that I repeat. ‘On Being’ employs a listening strategy to anchor the interview within the listener. The edited interview is stellar – music, transition, clustering and flow of ideas. The uncut, un-edited interview is also presented as a second podcast, for a second listening – ideal for my longer morning walks. The second, uncut podcast interview holds other nuggets to be mined, revealing something more of interviewee and interviewer.
My morning – I have my camera with me, and, I stop and start, walking and listening my way around High Level. These images are those captured during my podcast listening.
Quote to Consider – “No place is boring if you’ve had a good night’s sleep and have a pocket full of unexposed film.” – Robert Adams.
Listening to – in addition to ‘On Being’ podcasts, recommendations from Steve Stockman (Stocki) from 2015: Jason Isbell’s ’24 Frames,’ ‘Hudson Commodore,’ ‘Flagship’ and ‘Speedtrap Town;’ Glen Hansard’s ‘McCormack’s Wall,’ ‘Grace Beneath the Pines,’ ‘ Paying My Way’ and ‘My Little Ruin;’ Jack White’s ‘We’re Going to Be Friends’ from ‘Another Day, Another Time: Celebrating the Music of Llewyn Davis.’
I like this grain shed image. The shed resides perhaps halfway between Dixonville and Manning, Alberta. You can see it from the highway. It’s about a kilometre in on the East side of the highway. The image works with perspective, environmental condition (fog), light, colour and texture. The image has also been about editing and finding best rendering of a High Dynamic Range (HDR) shot. The weather is curious, something not seen every day. Fog, as precursor to winter snow, hangs, waiting … holding off.
A darker image, it recalls several scenes from Sinclair Ross’ novel, ‘As For Me and My House.’ The novel was required reading in Dr. Bruce Stovel’s Canadian Literature course in his second term at the University of Alberta, a narrative that holds one rendering of the Canadian experience during the Great Depression.
“The dust clouds behind the town kept darkening and thinning and swaying, a furtive tirelessness about the way they wavered and merged with one another that reminded me of northern lights in winter…. The little town cowered close to earth as if to hide itself. The elevators stood up passive and stoical. All round me ran a hurrying little whisper through the grass. (p. 100)
This narrative has moved around the world and received acclaim for holding features of Canadian experience and culture that become what is considered Canadian identity.
Quote to Consider – “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to the body and soul alike.” – John Muir, his essay, ‘Nature Writings’
Listening to – Leem Lubany’s ‘Wild World,’ Brian Houston’s ‘Next to Me,’ and Bob Dylan’s ‘Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door.’
Two summers ago, my wife, daughter and I enjoyed two weeks on Oahu. We rented a car, a Ford Fusion, for the time and used it to take us on day trips exploring Oahu. In the second week we returned for perhaps the fourth time to Haleiwa, part of Oahu’s North Shore. Exploring, shopping and photo gathering were elements of that day. We’d each finished an ice cream cone and were buying t-shirts for my son when sirens of fire engines moved through town – one, then, five minutes later another.
To the north, a plantation, perhaps a mile away was burning and dark black smoke was billowing in the air.
When traffic had returned to its steady flow we got into the car with the intention of returning to Honolulu for the evening. Traffic had slowed, returning to an ambling pace. As we headed away from Haleiwa the idea to see the site of the fire attracted my curiosity. I took a right from the main road and followed a one-lane backroad toward the fire. I thought better of it; the backroad to the plantation was narrow and blocking traffic would be a problem.
I stopped our vehicle, got out and looked back over my right shoulder to see these wind turbines with a rainbow coming down in the midst of them – an opportunity for a photograph had presented itself. I attached my 70-200mm lens to my Canon 60D, zoomed in and captured these images. I posted the image on this blog maybe eighteen months ago, an image edited on my laptop while waiting for clothes to dry in the laundry room of the Marriott Hotel in Honolulu. The original posted is the third image above. Yesterday, I explored this sequence of images and found a few others to share. My thanks to Mark Kurtz for drawing my attention back to these images.
Listening to – Parov Stelar’s ‘Room Service,’ Nitin Sawhney’s ‘Firmament,’ the Gotan Project’s ‘Santa Maria (Del Buen Ayre)’ and Quantic & Tempo’s ‘Sabor.’
Quote to Consider – “In photography there are no shadows that cannot be illuminated.” – August Sander
“We never see another person’s experience; all we see is their behaviour (R.D. Lang).”
I have had some alone time travelling in the past few weeks and been able to engage in uninterrupted thought work – some intersecting of ideas has occurred. I’ve listened to a 2007 John O’Donohue lecture on the creative force of the imagination and key ideas as starting points about our inner lives – in his words, “I always think that behind every face there is a secret life and that humanoids are the strangest creatures that you’d ever meet because so much is contained within the human body. A human face is one of the most unusual things in the world. On such a small canvas such a variety of presence can appear. And, behind every face there is a secret, hidden inner life … if friendship means anything it means in the presence of the other you begin to see who you are in how they reflect you back to you.”
Within this same time frame I took in a photography workshop offered by Joe McNally – ‘The Moment It Clicks.’ As I listened and watched Joe work to produce different portraits there was recognition that the photographer does what John O’Donohue proposes; ultimately, the photographer reflects the subject back to him- or herself. I have wondered, though, if portrait photography is really a dance of interrogation; I have wondered if shared vulnerabilities result in trust and a richer portrait. And, is it the photographer’s leading interrogation about the subject’s narrative that produces the best photograph? Or, is it something more mutual that does so? I am wondering if the good portrait photographer leads the subject in the relationship that produces the portrait? It is possible that subject and photographer would share a context of silence in portrait making.
John O’Donohue’s words highlight some of this – “No two humans inhabit the same world, internally. We all inhabit the same world physically. But, internally, each world is completely different.” On the side of the photographer and on the side of the subject, what follows is starting point. “… No one else sees the world the way you do. No one else sees it from the perspective that you do. In no one else is the same narrative building as there is within you. And even though similar things have happened to you as with other people the context that they find in your heart and mind and narrative is different from everyone else. Your inner world is completely hidden from other humans.” So, within portrait photography interrogation has the opportunity to work on both sides co-creating a reality – that of photographer and that of subject. Relationship and moment are captured and recorded as the shutter button is pressed.
As the week rounded out, I found myself among this theme, again, being explored and brought to life in Ben Stiller’s film of James Thurber’s story, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.
Images from the Road – a derelict church in Woking, a La Glace homestead, the road at night and sunsets.
Quote to Consider – “If you’re having difficulty finding a natural or intuitive expression in a portrait session or having trouble identifying with the person you’re photographing, look into their eyes carefully and see if you can find your own reflection there. Discover yourself looking at you. Then, ask your subject to look into your camera lens and find their own reflection, and be prepared to make the portrait.” – Shelby Lee Adams, ‘Find Your Reflection’ … seems follow-up from the aphorism, “The more I know me, the more I know thee.” – Buber-esque and good, good schtuff!
Listening to – Jose Gonzalez’ ‘Stay Alive’ and Thomas Merton’s ‘The Seven Storey Mountain.’
The ground, seeded, transforms from dark, dirt black to green growth reaching its pinnacle of dazzling yellow before being harvested. I have driven through some of Alberta’s farmland in the past two weeks and Canola does seem the farmer grown plant of choice, this year, its yellows colouring and brightening what, in winter, had been a darker and more dreary landscape. I had hoped to catch Canola surrounding these Warrensville Westeel grain bins in the past two or three years, never returning to the site/sight until a week ago.
The Canada Flag painted on the side of a grain bin forms a landmark for travellers nearing the hamlet of Guy, Alberta. On Alberta highway 2, as you climb from the valley holding the Smoky River going north you’ll find the grain bin on your left two or three minutes along; for many the flag and shed serve as time marker for journeys northward. From this point, I can be at my doorstep in High Level, Alberta in three hours and forty minutes.
In addition to the broad reach of Canola’s yellows in these images, immensity surrounding the grain bin is also part of things; looking ahead through the miles a cumulonimbus cloud will later offer its weather, wind and rain, as something to be managed within our drive home. These images remind of photographs in which grain fields, mountains and breathtaking cloud work coalesce and immensity is the dominant feature within the image. I hadn’t considered it; but, the fact that a Canadian Flag has been painted on the side of a grain bin holds associations for the farmer – perhaps pride in being Canadian; it may also aim to have others consider the key role grain farmers play in Canada’s economy; or, perhaps the notion has something to do with being in the heart of Canada. What’s also there is perhaps something political … perhaps something like the assertion, ‘we are all Canadians first and foremost.’ The question intrigues – what was the point of origin for the idea of painting a Canadian flag on a farmer’s grain bin?
Quote to Consider – “A photograph is the story I fail to put into words.” – Destin Sparks
Listening to – Murray McLaughlin’s ‘Hard Rock Town,’ The Who’s ‘I Can See For Miles,’ Bob Dylan’s ‘Buckets of Rain,’ Steve Miller Band’s ‘Fly Like an Eagle,’ Ozark Mountain Daredevils’ ‘If You Wanna Get To Heaven,’ Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Radio Nowhere,’ Link Wray & the Wraymen’s ‘Rumble’ and Bruce Springsteen’s rendering of a Pete Seeger tune ‘We Shall Overcome.’
Outside on Saturday afternoon, I was mowing grass on day 1 of our summer break. Daylight filtered through a light smoke haze. Looking from the yard of our High Level home southward plumes of smoke were notably dark and heavy … and very close to town. In a wildfire advisory I was to read that only ten kilometres separated a wildfire from High Level. Air tankers roared through the air all afternoon and into the night soaking the blaze with water until 10:00 p.m.. Later that evening, in driving out to the point nearest the fire on the highway I witnessed a DC-3 air tanker moving through smoke arcing out of a water-dropping run – crossing the highway from right to left and climbing as it turned to its left and northward to the High Level airport … a sight that would have made an extraordinary photograph. I pulled off the road onto a temporary turnout and took these images. In one I aimed to capture the sun as a solid orange disk as seen through smoke; the image I present here is one result I am happy with though it is not what I intended.
Listening to – Willie Nelson’s cover of ‘Just Breathe’ with his son Lukas and Willie Nelson’s cover of a Coldplay tune, ‘The Scientist,’ featured in the Robert Downey Jr. film with Robert Duvall, ‘The Judge.’
Quote to Consider – “It can be a trap of the photographer to think that his or her best pictures were the ones that were the hardest to get.” – Timothy Allen, ‘On Editing Photos’