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
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
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’
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
The week’s end and our weekend have each held several endeavors, ones that have engaged me fully and used my mind and imagination fully. And, I’ve found that a mild cold has morphed into a productive cough and that I now have a prescription for antibiotics to see through to move me clear and past sickness. When I’ve been able to I’ve sat down with time for editing images, for looking through former results and for reviewing other’s image work. Our time in Jasper National Park in April, 2015 has been source for many of these edits. Have a look.
Listening to – Edie Brickell & the New Bohemians’ ‘What I Am,’ Concrete Blonde’s ‘Joey,’ Alanis Morisette’s ‘You Learn,’ The Dream Academy’s ‘Life in a Northern Town’ and U2’s ‘In God’s Country.’
Quote to Consider – “To me, photography is the art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place … I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.” – Elliott Erwitt
Sun streams down over a mountain through morning’s mist – condensation and wood smoke – into the community of El Tizate. It is morning, perhaps the last day of our time in El Tizate – we wait for our tour bus; I look out at the world through my camera and lens – rewarded with this extraordinary scene to my foreigner’s eye.
Listening to – three songs from Casting Crowns: ‘Just Be Held,’ ‘Broken Together’ and ‘Follow Me.’
Quote to Inspire – “Poetry’s commitment to concreteness … parallels photography’s commitment to pure seeing. Both imply discontinuity, disarticulated forms and compensatory unity – wrenching things from their context …, bringing things together elliptically….” – Susan Sontag, ‘On Photography’
The following blessing is something that’s opened-out and extended back recollection of my father and his shaping, steadfast hand. It’s his birthday, today … and these words – John O’Donohue’s words, ‘For a Father’ – recall him to me.
“The longer we live,
The more of your presence
We find, laid down,
Weave upon weave
Within our lives.
The quiet constancy of your gentleness
Drew no attention to itself,
Yet filled our home
With a climate of kindness
Where each mind felt free
To seek its own direction.
As the fields of distance
Opened inside childhood,
Your presence was a sheltering tree
Where our fledgling hearts could rest.
The earth seemed to trust your hands
As they tilled the soil, put in the seed,
Gathered together the lonely stones.
Something in you loved to inquire
In the neighborhood of air,
Searching its transparent rooms
For the fallen glances of God.
The warmth and wonder of your prayer
Opened our eyes to glimpse
The subtle ones who
Are eternally there.
Whenever, silently, in off moments,
The beauty of the whole thing overcame you,
You would gaze quietly out upon us,
The look from your eyes
Like a kiss alighting on skin.
There are many things
We could have said,
But words never wanted
To name them;
And perhaps a world
That is quietly sensed
Across the air
In another’s heart
Becomes the inner companion
To one’s own unknown.” (‘For a Father’ in ‘Homecomings,’ To Bless the Space Between Us, John O’Donohue)
Listening to – U2’s ‘Kite’.
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
Late on a November Saturday afternoon, wraith-like, wisps of wood smoke drift over winter’s fallow field near Fort Vermilion. A homestead’s woodstove produces an intense dry heat, welcome warmth in the midst of a cold, Alberta winter. The day, a first opportunity to work with a new prime lens, a Canon 50mm – f/1.4 lens; my wife has encouraged me to begin my work with it. The image is one of the first images with the lens.
Listening to – Coldplay’s Mylo Xyloto, In My Place, Major Minusand Yellow.
Quote to Inspire – “The photograph is completely abstracted from life, yet it looks like life. That is what has always excited me about photography.” – Richard Kalvar
Currently, our forest region has 27 fires burning – fourteen are out of control, four are being held and nine are under control. Our temperatures have been hot this week reaching +30C and higher in our corner of Northwestern Alberta. At least two smaller communities have been evacuated, threatened by fire and smoke. One fire has a 15000 hectare involvement. The photos presented are of recent water bombing and water slinging operations in the La Crete area – the state of emergency, there, has been lifted at noon today.
Listening to – Shawn Colvin’s All Fall Down and Walter Trout’s Turn Off Your TV.
Quote to Inspire – “When I shoot a scene I often shoot a hundred frames sometimes over a few hours or days, before I begin to get a real handle on what I want in the frame and how I want it there.” – David duChemin