Category: School

Forgiving, Handheld Aurora

Northern Lights - Aurora Borealis, High Level, Alberta 1

Northern Lights – Aurora Borealis, High Level, Alberta 1

Northern Lights - Aurora Borealis, High Level, Alberta 2

Northern Lights – Aurora Borealis, High Level, Alberta 2

Northern Lights - Aurora Borealis, High Level, Alberta 3

Northern Lights – Aurora Borealis, High Level, Alberta 3

A successful capture and rendering of the Aurora Borealis on an evening’s walk a month ago – surprised to find that my Olympus camera is this forgiving with a handheld shot – ISO 8000, f/4 and 1/3 of a second.

Words to Inspire / Consider – “The more ridiculous you look while taking a photo, the better that photo will probably be. Photographers can’t be afraid to get into strange and awkward positions to get the shot they’re after.” — Pei Ketron

Listening to: Junip’s ‘Line of Fire,’ The Tragically Hip’s ‘Poets’ and ‘Scared’ and Springsteen’s ‘American Skin (41 Shots)’ done by Jen Chapin & Rosetta Trio.

Stabilizing Forgiveness

Christmas Lights - Town Hall, High Level 1

Christmas Lights – Town Hall, High Level 1

Christmas Lights - Town Hall, High Level 2

Christmas Lights – Town Hall, High Level 2

High Level Public School - Gym Entrance

High Level Public School – Gym Entrance

High Level Public School Walkway

High Level Public School Walkway

Lattice Work of Trees - High Level, Alberta

Lattice Work of Trees – High Level, Alberta

REW Memorial Pool - High Level, Alberta

REW Memorial Pool – High Level, Alberta

Senior's Centre - High Level, Alberta - 1

Senior’s Centre – High Level, Alberta – 1

Senior's Centre - High Level, Alberta - 2

Senior’s Centre – High Level, Alberta – 2

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

Wildfires Held

Wildfire - Hutch Lake, Alberta, Canada - 1

Wildfire – Hutch Lake, Alberta, Canada – 1

Wildfire - Hutch Lake, Alberta, Canada - 2

Wildfire – Hutch Lake, Alberta, Canada – 2

Wildfire - Hutch Lake, Alberta, Canada - 3

Wildfire – Hutch Lake, Alberta, Canada – 3

Wildfire - Hutch Lake, Alberta, Canada - 4

Wildfire – Hutch Lake, Alberta, Canada – 4

Wildfire - Hutch Lake, Alberta, Canada - 5

Wildfire – Hutch Lake, Alberta, Canada – 5

Wildfire - Hutch Lake, Alberta, Canada - 6

Wildfire – Hutch Lake, Alberta, Canada – 6

Wildfire - Hutch Lake, Alberta, Canada - 7

Wildfire – Hutch Lake, Alberta, Canada – 7

Wildfire - Hutch Lake, Alberta, Canada - 8

Wildfire – Hutch Lake, Alberta, Canada – 8

Wildfire - Hutch Lake, Alberta, Canada - 9

Wildfire – Hutch Lake, Alberta, Canada – 9

Wildfire - Hutch Lake, Alberta, Canada - 10

Wildfire – Hutch Lake, Alberta, Canada – 10

Wildfire - Hutch Lake, Alberta, Canada - 11

Wildfire – Hutch Lake, Alberta, Canada – 11

Wildfire - Hutch Lake, Alberta, Canada - 12

Wildfire – Hutch Lake, Alberta, Canada – 12

Wildfire - Hutch Lake, Alberta, Canada - 13

Wildfire – Hutch Lake, Alberta, Canada – 13

Wildfire - Hutch Lake, Alberta, Canada - 14

Wildfire – Hutch Lake, Alberta, Canada – 14

Wildfire - Hutch Lake, Alberta, Canada - 15

Wildfire – Hutch Lake, Alberta, Canada – 15

Wildfire - Hutch Lake, Alberta, Canada - 16

Wildfire – Hutch Lake, Alberta, Canada – 16

Wildfire - Hutch Lake, Alberta, Canada - 17

Wildfire – Hutch Lake, Alberta, Canada – 17

The school year is complete and I am settling into summer bit by bit. For the most part we have a smoky haze surrounding us. Ten kilometres south of High Level, Alberta a wildfire burns and tonight’s most current report is that fire is being held. But, there are sixty wildfires in our region, some threatening communities; residents in the community of North Tallcree have been put on evacuation alert. We are not quite a tinderbox, but our forests are dry and we’ve had little rainfall.

Yesterday, I drove out to Hutch Lake, 20 kilometres north from High Level and saw that forest on the east side of the highway was smouldering; air tankers and helicopters slinging water were dropping water on the fire. I was able to photograph a team of the smaller Amphibious Airtankers as they dropped water on fires and skim across Hutch Lake loading water into pontoon tanks.

Listening to – Gillian Welch’s ‘Red Clay Halo,’ Billy Bragg and Wilco’s rendition of Woody Guthrie’s ‘Airline to Heaven,’ Badly Drawn Boy’s ‘A Minor Incident’ and Bob Dylan’s ‘Shelter from the Storm.’

Quote to Consider – “Nothing happens when you sit at home. I always make it a point to carry a camera with me at all times … I just shoot at what interests me at that moment.” – Elliot Erwitt

Rattling Warmth

Courtyard Melt - High Level, Alberta 1

Courtyard Melt – High Level, Alberta 1

Courtyard Melt - High Level, Alberta 2

Courtyard Melt – High Level, Alberta 2

Directed to our school courtyard, these images bear witness to a curiosity of weather. In twenty-four hours our boreal winter temperatures have moved from -35C to 0C, a change most noticed by way of intense wind rattling houses. There has been melting that has occurred at night in the wind’s warmth. Remarkably, this same weather system has stretched eight-hundred kilometres from us in northern Alberta all the way to Edmonton in central Alberta, the wind, there, breaking railroad traffic arms and causing the LRT not to run. For us, at school, in our courtyard this extraordinary night melt has produced the following sculptures.

Listening to – a friend of Brian Turner (Bachman Turner Overdrive) play a self-sculpted tune in my office at school, the end of a parent meeting establishing goodwill – this parent, playing upon my Larrivee L-05 and our special needs students enjoying the show immensely … a good, good moment, the best kind.

Quote to Inspire – “… photographs alter and enlarge our notions of what is worth looking at and what we have a right to observe.” – Susan Sontag, ‘On Photography’

Sitting, Waiting, Wishing …

Seats - Valleyview, Alberta 1

Seats – Valleyview, Alberta 1

Seats - Valleyview, Alberta 2

Seats – Valleyview, Alberta 2

Around Alberta, perhaps especially in the north with its longer distances travelled to school, along the highway you’ll discover structures parents have created for their children in which to wait for the school bus. The structure might be a five by five, closed-in shack with windows on the sides to watch for buses; the shack allows students respite from wind and weather while waiting. Here, two bench seats have been pulled from a car or truck to create a place to sit and wait for the school bus; the seats may be also departure point for people waiting for a ride … perhaps when thumbing a ride. I found the pair of seats on the road between Valleyview and Grande Prairie, on my drive home with my son’s effects. He’ll be home from University today, after touring British Columbia with the University of Alberta Mixed Chorus. The colour-work of tinting images reminds of Dan Kameka and his work with farm machinery and farm structures – the Sexsmith grain elevator comes to mind, an eight foot image in Grande Prairie’s Trumpeter Hotel … the first place I encountered Dan’s work.

Listening to – Chris Whitley … ‘Dust Radio’ still captivates my hearing lyrically and in terms of its sound structure; I’ve heard two versions, one unplugged and one from the ‘Living with the Law’ album – liking both … unplugged is what drew my attention.

Quote to Inspire – “Quit trying to find beautiful objects to photograph. Find the ordinary objects so you can transform it by photographing it.” – Morley Baer

ATTO – All That Time Off

Our school year is complete.  Mandated and extracurricular tasks and obligations have been seen through to good conclusion. I continue to be amazed at all the work all teachers engage in in moving students onward in their academic learning as these same students move into, through and from of the hormone jungle. Our final days at school have been about pushing through, getting what needs done, done and sharing in celebration and play with students.

Our year-end school riot, outdoors, held so much fun – a supremely significant high point to the year – water pistols, pies in the face (for staff and students), izzy-dizzy, wet/slippery tug-of-war, shin cracker, fire engine pull, music and more music and most fun was the make-shift water slide (a rubber 100’ x 50’ tarp with fire truck pumper and two fire hoses soaking students and staff in summer sun); staff and students shared laughter and smiles abundantly … what an extraordinary day! Stats on the Animoto of the event are sitting at 180+ viewings within one week – our year-end riot was a hit and definitely memorable.

Beyond the riot, the final days were about pushing through, getting year-end tasks done; then, there was a sacred congregational task to be completed last Sunday at Hutch Lake, Alberta. Frank McCourt, author of Angela’s Ashes and ‘Tis also wrote a book about his teaching life in New York City.  In his book, Teacher Man, he references the acronym ATTO, meant to mean ‘all that time off’ that non-teachers look at as the perk to teaching and as something perhaps as an ill-gotten-gain. The reality is that there really is all that time off.  But, for me and any other teacher the time is something used to catch one’s breath mentally and physically. It’s a time to move the teacher’s self from back burner interest and to step out and seize hold of Life and to breathe Life into interests, intentions, goals and endeavors.

The house that needs fixing, the taxes that need submission, the mail that needs opening … all those things that have been put off so that a rich school year may be had by students – these are the things that now must get done. Yesterday, summer’s reward was there.  On his Soul Surmise website, Steve Stockman (Stocki) provided the world with his top ten album picks for the first half of 2012. The reward specific – Stocki pointed me to Matthew Perryman Jones and his Land of the Living album, intelligent, well-crafted lyrics with a voice richly reminiscent of David Gray; truly manna.

The photographs presented here are ones taken on a drive northward from High Level, Alberta towards the Alexandra Falls just on the other side of the Northwest Territories border. I had freed myself for an afternoon and got into the car with my Canon 60D. Most shots are macro shots of colour amongst greenery.  Two shots are photos of the aftermath of a forest fire that had raged on North of us a few weeks before.

Listening to – Matthew Perryman Jones’ Land of the Living album – The Angels Were Singing, Cancion de la Noche and I Won’t Let You Down Again;  the melody from Stones From the Riverbed catches my interest.

Quote to Inspire – “Beauty can be seen in all things, seeing and composing the beauty is what separates the snapshot from the photograph.” – Matt Hardy

Drift and Blur, A Teacher’s June …

A teacher’s year end contains the drift and blur of one week’s movement into another, the flex and flux within a sea of ever-changing tasks – it can be a time with little demarcation of days and weeks; there’s only more and more and more of school until that one morning when you wake up to find void in all that’s made up your previous ten months vocation. You note absence of routine, absence of schedule and absence of bells. From frenetic to calm and then to taking hold of your life – the first two weeks are hardest in this transition.  It’s the initial unwind and decompression from the year you’ve lead students through, a time to settle in, settle down and a time to settle upon summer plans. But, we’re not there yet. Now, teachers count number of sleeps until school is done. Now, teachers whet their appetite for summer with barbecues and games of golf. Now, few teachers are reading books of interest. Many are marking assignments and tests late into the evening. Many are thinking through how best to help students review for finals. All are working through how to balance what has been taught against what remains to be taught within the time left. Those teachers with experience have managed time well, met all curriculum outcomes and are turning their focus to helping students conclude their year well – helping them to recognize what they’ve achieved and to anchor this self-knowledge within their self-esteem.

Within a few weeks, staff will cluster at year-end dinners and barbecues; they too will be looking at all their year has held – the successes and the challenges; and they’ll work to put issues to bed and leave them behind in the year that was. Already, we’ve held an awards night, a night celebrating staff’s years of service to students as well as recognizing notable within jurisdiction school achievements. Of all the times in the school year, this time, this month of June highlights the busyness of planning and of culmination; we’re heading toward threshold. Student behaviour is at its most extreme in June, something more significant than the student behaviour we see in December’s anticipation of Christmas. Warmer weather, extended hours of sunlight and the approaching end of what’s been normal for students through ten months, all can serve to escalate things in the worst of ways for students – fighting, skipping, withdrawal from school. It’s June. It’s that critical month in teaching when it’s so important to hold fast to your goals that lead students to their year end and yours. And, it is about each student.  June is the month that contains the final moments in a year of transformation for adolescents. In June, the cocoon rattles and shakes, eventually bursting upon the threshold of that moment in which a school year and grade concludes and students are set free into their summer and their next year’s endeavor. It’s a birthing process.

Photography – the images presented here are ones in which I’m investigating what can be done with macro photography.  The initial set of images are those taken in and around farming equipment on display at the High Level Museum.  The others come from locations in Fort Vermilion, Alberta – an old building  (to be demolished), grave markers at the Anglican cemetery and dandelions outside the cemetery.

Curious Quotes – (1) “Nothing isolates one person from another person as the species of their perception.” – Boris Pasternak; (2) “Stress is a perverted relationship to time.” – John O’Donohue

Quotes to Inspire – (1) “I never question what to do, it tells me what to do.  The photographs make themselves with my help.” – Ruth Bernhard (2) “It pleases me to take amateur photographs of my garden, and it pleases my garden to make my photographs look professional.” – Robert Brault

Listening to – Can’t You Hear Me Knocking (Rolling Stones), California Sun (The Rivieras), Let It All Hang Out (The Hombres), Louie Louie (The Kingsmen), Pink Cadillac (Bruce Springsteen), Sultans of Swing (Dire Straits) and Back in the Saddle (Aerosmith).

Kudos – Northern Actors’ Guild 2012 & Grease Production

Early Fifties Chevrolet - Parksville, British Columbia

Early Fifties Chevrolet – Parksville, British Columbia

Summer ends – the year is 1959. Grade eleven students return to Rydell High School as seniors, sporting opinions about school, staff and each other. In this final high school year, they are top rung, the school is theirs and they’re able to assume power and status as seniors; they’re a force to be reckoned with. Girls cluster with girls. Guys ‘hang’ with guys. The senior year is about next steps – next steps in and beyond high school, next steps in terms of courtship and couple-hood, next steps …. A new girl enters the arena of school, Sandra Dombrowsky and the social equilibrium of year twelve becomes flux, teetering several relationships toward daring next steps, more permanent next steps.

So begins the musical of Grease with its notable characters – Danny Zucko, Rizzo, Frenchy, Kenickie, Doody and others. And, our student actors have concluded twelve months work in grappling with all that’s involved in bringing this narrative to Life and doing so musically. For our student actors, the coming-on of confidence was notable and palpable within the last few rehearsals. And, it was most notable between the first and last night of performance with student actors coming-into their own and enjoying the business of acting out the Lives and potentialities of their characters. For these student actors, connection and response from the audience was found, understood, seized and used to bring off a performance worthy of any metropolitan theatre. They found their way to an excellent performance and standing ovation last Saturday night. In helping this student endeavor along my role was to capture a series of threshold moments moving the troupe from its final three rehearsals through to three live performances. The images I’ve provided the group draw mainly from their final performance in which they were most in sync with their characters, each other and enjoying it all. I also contributed a print from the first cattails series a few weeks back – I printed it out and had it framed in Peace River by Jill Plaizier of Custom Frameworks; she was able to handle a quick turn-around time and to create a beautiful framing of the print that accentuates its colours.

Tonight, while I do not have permission to display student photos on the website, I do wish to celebrate them and their accomplishment with this photo of an early fifties Chevrolet that’s undergone the kind of transformation that Kenickie’s 1940 Dodge Sedan goes through in the film version of Grease; Kenickie and pals begin this section of the musical with “… It’s Systematic … It’s Hydromatic … Why … It’s Greased Lightning.” For me, tonight, I’m at the other end of the project.  I’ve edited some six hundred photographs of the two-thousand or so taken.  I’ve created an Animoto and DVDs for each cast member. I’m providing them each with photos of their best night.  And, I’ve got them a print to frame for hanging upon school walls.

Listening to – while there has been the Grease tunes like Greased Lightning, Grease and You’re the One that I Want, there’s also been David Lindley’s Mercury Blues and then the curiosity referred to by Jimmy Paige as one of those songs that pushed him forward in his guitar work – Rumble by Link Wray and the Wraymen.

Quote to Inspire – “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

A Slippery, Melting World

A busy week has me posting photographs almost a week beyond date of image capture. Last Friday’s photowalk took us through High Level’s southern side, a slippery, melting world, a world of water splashing and flowing and soaking through. Photographers captured freeze-frame splashing, the results of big chunks of ice being thrown into puddles.  Others’ photographs were more about water’s ripple and reflection, water moving and water that’s settled.  Beyond this, water misted in the spray generated by vehicles traveling among wet, wet High Level roads.

I used my Sigma 10-20 mm in two ways, first to distort line and shape of subjects close by and secondly to photograph landscape traveled through.  The subjects photographed include an RCMP three-quarter ton truck, playground equipment at Spirit of the North Community School, a bog-runner truck … in development, the curbside view of Quality Motors (our local Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge Dealer) and the Extra Foods Gas Bar (part of the Canadian Superstore chain).

Listening to the Steve Miller Band – Rock’n Me, Take the Money and Run and Mercury Blues from the Fly Like an Eagle album;  other songs have included Murray McLauchlan’s Hard Rock Town and Ryan Adam’s Chains of Love.

Quote to Inspire – “Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still.” – Dorothea Lange

First Light’s Drama Reflected Earthward

Thursday was a photographer’s morning. A warm change in weather brought colourful, early morning, sustained, sky drama of first light reflected earthward among clouds. Entering school, I set-up my camera, deposited my camera bag and moved out our east doors to click and capture the following images.

Today, being considered is a newer used vehicle. With one household vehicle being all-wheel drive, a fuel-efficient car might be smart (perhaps a VW Golf or Passat). Another consideration would involve spending a minimum of money on a vehicle that is 4×4 and wouldn’t be too much of a loss if it were to break down; here, I’ve owned three early 90s Nissan Pathfinders and they worked for me along the corduroy roads in and out of Wood Buffalo National Park through six years. And, in the back of my mind is the surety I encountered driving a Chevrolet, 2500 series, manual transmission with 4×4 in a snow storm travelling down Alberta Highway 63 from Fort McMurray to Edmonton early-on in the 90s. The overall sensible choice may be a 1999 Toyota 4 Runner with 309000 km that should run for a few more 100000km and can be purchased in a private sale in Peace River.  This vehicle should provide safe travel in and out of 4×4 throughout all seasons, no matter who was driving it.  It would hold the road well.

Listening to Canadian Melissa McClelland sing Victoria Day (April Showers and May Flowers) from her album of the same name.  Other songs standing out this morning have been Snow Patrol’s Lifeboats, Ray Lamontagne’s I Still Care for You and For the Summer.  Jack White has featured among the Raconteurs in Steady as She Goes.

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


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