An early, July, Saturday morning in Edmonton finds me with my camera at play with haze and light.
Quote to Consider / Inspire: “Elegance is a virtue. Elegance is simplicity. I learned about elegance … because one day I was in Japan and saw a totally empty house and then a small detail … like a flower arrangement or painting. And, the rest is empty. This is elegance … because … there’s only one detail that you can pay attention to. Elegance is about getting rid of all the superfluous things and focus on the most beautiful one (paraphrase, Paul Coelho).”
Listening to: Cloud Cult’s ‘You Were Born,’ from their album ‘Light Chasers.’
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.’
A summer image, looks west from Baseline Road at 17th Street to Edmonton’s skyline; it appears as silhouette. To the left and right are various petroleum-based industries – the road is known also as ‘Refinery Row.’
Quote to Consider – “Just put on the lens and go.” – Miroslav Tichy
Listening to – Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Open All Night,’ as first rendered on his Nebraska album – a rockin’ boogie on an electric guitar and the voice of Bruce, those two instruments, nothing else; the song is quite different from piano and band boogie as it is rendered on his ‘Live in Dublin’ performance. Also, listening to ‘The Candid Frame: A Photography Podcast’ and Ibarionex Perello’s interview of Stacey Pearsall and the subject of Military Journalism and the Veterans’ Portrait Program.
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.’
Timber, pushed down, lies strewn throughout a farmer’s field, a first step in clearing the land. Timber has also fallen across the structure of a homestead house yet has not crushed it. The house and a water-filled dugout suggest that a previous owner, another farmer, had initiated and abandoned a similar project in an earlier era. For now, timber will be gathered for burning; a winter or spring burn will reduce these trees and this homestead house to ashes, the land becoming ready for another use.
Quote to Consider – “I really believe there are things nobody would see if I didn’t photograph them.” – Diane Arbus
Listening to – Ibarionex Perello’s ‘The Candid Frame’ – episode 238, an interview with Sara Jane Boyers, Jesse Cook’s ‘Ocean Blue,’ Shadowfax’s ‘Move the Clouds,’ Agnes Obel’s ‘Fivefold,’ U2’s ‘Song for Someone’ and Sigur Ros’ ‘Glosoli.’
The Place Where We Are Right
by Yehuda Amichai
From the place where we are right
flowers will never grow
in the Spring.
The place where we are right
is hard and trampled
like a yard.
But doubts and loves
dig up the world
like a mole, a plough.
And a whisper will be heard in the place
where the ruined
house once stood.
I have been listening to an interview with Parker Palmer and Courtney Martin, this morning. The interview is presented as a podcast by Krista Tippett in her ‘On Being’ podcast/broadcast and is entitled ‘The Inner Life of Rebellion.’ The extrapolation as it relates to photography is to consider how photography is an act of rebellion … likely such a question has been fodder for Susan Sontag in her book, ‘On Photography.’ Susan Sontag’s book and this ‘On Being’ podcast are both worth attention.
Images – A Sunday afternoon’s photos in January, toward Watt Mountain.
Listening to: Hang Massive’s ‘Once Again;’ the week has also brought some time travel in terms of music – ‘At the River’ by Groove Armada, ‘Friday I’m in Love’ by The Cure and ‘Push the Button’ by the Sugababes. I’ve also had a go at Zoe Keating’s ‘Into the Trees’ album – ‘Seven League Boots’ often adds transition in ‘On Being’ podcasts.
Quote to Consider – “Skill in photography is acquired by practice and not by purchase.” – Percy W. Harris; “I am not interested in rules or conventions. Photography is not a sport.” – Bill Brandt
One aspect of photography that has grown into practice is the matter of recognizing the opportunity presented by the derelict car in a field along the highway, the abandoned farmhouse and former granaries, that thing that you come upon in your travels that you may not ever see again. The challenge is to make time for it, to engage fully in seeing it, to name it, to grasp what it is and what has been its narrative, to share time with it. The choice becomes that of photographing it (… or not) and there are choices in editing that honour the subject and the image, to find its best way(s) of being seen. The image, in its being shared creates opportunity; what has been witnessed and what has been created, not only allows others to see something more of the world, but serves to encourage (or perhaps compel) exploration of that thing witnessed through your camera and lens.
Some of this is about that key teaching from Robin Williams, as professor Keating, in the ‘Dead Poets Society’ in the first poetry lesson – ‘Gather ye rose buds while ye may,’ the import of which was his solemn admonition to his students – ‘seize the day’ and ‘make your lives extraordinary.’ Carpe Diem is about seizing the day as much with any of life’s opportunities as with the opportunities for images that can be created with a camera.
In Banff last week, perhaps owing to summer heat or day/night air pressure differential in the mountains I found myself not always sleeping through the entire night and chose to get out with my camera for landscape photos in pre-dawn dusk. Before leaving for Banff, I had reviewed Maciek Solkulski’s Google+ page for winter sunrise shots he had taken at the Vermillion Lakes in Canada’s Banff National Park. Maciek, an Edmonton photographer, is one half of the podcasting duo of the Shutter Time with Sid and Mac podcast. From Mac’s Google+ page I was able to review maps of where the Vermillion Lakes were in relation to Banff. And, so, before dawn, two days in a row, I got out to the Vermillion Lakes for morning images; these are presented here.
Listening to – Elliott Smith’s ‘Between Bars,’ ‘No Name #3’ and ‘Angeles,’ Gerry Rafferty’s ‘Baker Street’ and The Waterboys’ ‘Fisherman’s Blues’ – all songs from Good Will Hunting.
Quotes to Inspire – (1) “The photographer both loots and preserves, denounces and consecrates;” and, “Life is not about significant details, illuminated (in) a flash, fixed forever. Photographs are.” – Susan Sontag, ‘On Photography’
For perhaps five years, each time my wife and I took our son and daughter out to enjoy a meal at High Level’s Boston Pizza with friends or on our own we would gaze upon what has become a familiar painting on the wall above the cash register and waiting area – Jack Vettriano’s Bonneville; the painting celebrates the work, the interest and the observation of what it is to break and set different land speed records in various vehicles. Beyond this, there was that movie … Anthony Hopkins, as actor, played the role of Burt Munro in a 2005 movie, ‘The World’s Fastest Indian’ (Indian, here, referring to the Indian motorcycle). Burt Munro was a mechanic/inventor/racer from New Zealand who raced motorcycles. He set a world record at Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats. My wife encouraged me to go. She and our daughter would remain at the hotel and lounge at the pool cooling themselves in Utah’s summer heat (close to 100 F most days). They would remain cool, rest and read their newly purchased Barnes and Noble treasures. I would investigate Utah’s salt flats.
From Midvale, I steered our rented 2012 Toyota Rav 4 toward Salt Lake City and then follow directions from our Tom Tom GPS to Utah’s salt flats, then to the Bonneville speedway and to Wendover, Utah and the B-29 Bomber Base where the crew of Enola Gay were trained in World War II. By day’s end, I would have photographed the salt flats, Bonneville and Wendover; I would have had a flat tire and need to double back to Wendover to have the tire repaired; and, I would almost run out of gasoline on the return drive home. Doubling back would allow me to investigate more fully the B-29 Bomber Base and discover a goldmine of remarkably maintained American-built cars from the sixties and seventies – both at Wendover, Utah.
Here, one of the final rewards of the day was the evening cloud-work after the sun had crossed the horizon.
Shout Out – a big thank you to Maciek Sokulski (‘Shuttertime with Sid and Mac’ podcast) for articulating good best practices for working with Adobe Lightroom.
Quote to Consider/Inspire – “This freezing of time – the insolent, poignant stasis of each photograph – has produced new and more inclusive canons of beauty.” – Susan Sontag, ‘On Photography’
Listening to – Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Highway Patrolman.’
Gardner Hamilton was interviewed by Edmonton photographers Carey Nash and Kelly Redinger, who have created the ‘Lonely Photographers’ podcast. While talking essentially about street photography, Gardner provided distillation about what photography is and about the key attribute making one a photographer – 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. Gardner goes on to articulate the process of framing the shot, composition, about the need to be stealthy, about timing and moment – all skills needed for taking and making the shot. You make yourself vulnerable to a shot. You stop yourself and with your camera move into the shot and work the shot. The photograph becomes a gift of ‘seeing something’ for the first time.
In a drive to Kananaskis two weeks ago, there were many points of ‘recognizing a shot,’ those shots that could be taken, those points of becoming mentally aware of photographs that were available – frost covered, harvested farm fields at sunrise south from Peace River as shadows stretched across land, something not usually accessed by me in my usual travel times; bright yellows of hay bales and patterned swaths on farm fields west of Calgary; cattle ranches along rolling foothills in autumn colour moving into the Rocky mountains; shadows cutting into forested Kananaskis mountains along snowy ski trails high above in the last hour before sunset. These images were available in that drive – the choice really became about whether or not to pursue photography along the way versus waiting for the photography that could occur at destination. The images that follow are Kananaskis images, photography at destination – the three final ones are shot at night during full moon.
Listening to – ‘Crash’ and ‘Way Behind Me’ by the Primitives; then it’s on to the Kingsmen’s ‘Louie Louie’ and Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Pink Cadillac’ and ‘Radio Nowhere.’
Quote to Inspire – “The Pictures are there, and you just take them” – Robert Capa