My computer has sat dormant through six weeks. Now, summer’s hiatus concludes. The computer’s card reader accepts an SD card and I upload a first batch of images into Lightroom. I attend to those images pulling me to edit them. I begin work with new and old editing tools and wander the path of image creation, a kind of play, a kind of exploration – seeing what can happen with each edit. Colour, structure, light and shadow – four images, vintage grain trucks, images from a farming heritage museum in central Alberta.
Quote to Consider/Inspire – “If you want to learn what someone fears losing, watch what they photograph.” – Anonymous
Listening to Sigur Ros, their live concert performance entitled ‘Inni’ – Svefn-g-englar, Glósóli, Ný batterí, Fljótavík, Við spilum endalaust, Hoppípolla, Með blóðnasir, Inní mér syngur vitleysingur, and, E-Bow.
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
The day held a meeting and rather than a team of colleagues going, I would attend the meeting alone. I took camera gear with me. I hoped that the day would yield photographs, that I would find myself within the situation of a photograph. Having left early enough, I could scout out possible images; there was no need for haste through the morning’s seventy-eight kilometre drive.
The day held different gifts.
A year ago, a friend related an experience. He’d needed to take a call and had parked his service truck in a farmer’s farm entrance to be off the highway. He’d needed to turn his vehicle around, backing it onto the highway. Before he moved too far, he looked up, forward to find an old truck, perhaps a Ford, from the fifties or sixties. He captured the image with his smartphone. On this day, traveling to a meeting, I was in his neck of the woods, perhaps no more than three or four kilometres from Fort Vermilion and I saw the vehicle he was referring to from the highway. At day’s end, I would return and see if a photograph was possible. With less than an hour of daylight left I was able stop and take a series of shots.
The image above was the image photographed.
I intended to travel from Fort Vermilion to the north settlement after the meeting. At the meeting I asked a friend and colleague about the north settlement. “Would I be able to access or walk in to the St. Louis Catholic Mission church?” She didn’t know. But, the revelation was to find that she lived in the north settlement. Her and her husband’s families had lived in the north settlement through generations. She is someone who knows the stories of the north settlement, of Buttertown. That’s something.
These images are Buttertown, north settlement images.
Listening to – Kate Bush’s ‘Running Up That Hill,’ Peter Gabriel’s ‘Mercy Street’ and Roxy Music’s ‘More Than This.’
Quote to Consider – “The picture that you took with your camera is the imagination you want to create with reality.” Scott Lorenzo
Nissan Pathfinders – my wife and I have owned and driven three of these sports utility vehicles in Northwestern Alberta. We used each to travel in and out of Wood Buffalo National Park on our bi-weekly grocery run, a distance of 200km one way. Most of the time, the Pathfinder was locked in true four wheel drive and careening forward, sliding on any angle but straight along slick, clay-mud, corduroy roads or perhaps creating a first track along snow laden roads. The joke at the time was that we could have filmed a Nissan Pathfinder commercial because of the treatment each Pathfinder received and because of the durability and handling found in its use. And, though the Pathfinder did always find its path, there were humbling times when it got stuck and had to be pulled out – six times in my last year in the park.
A few years ago, travelling with my camera among the backroads in and around Blue Hills, Alberta, I stumbled across an early fifties Pontiac, an old grey vehicle that had been parked among trees and other aging farm implements along the entrance to a Mennonite farm. I photographed the vehicle and did some research. The Pontiac was a sedan, possibly one intended only for Canadian markets – a 1953 Pontiac Pathfinder. A Pontiac buff, having driven my father’s 1969 Pontiac Parisienne through most of high school, I was surprised to find that Pontiac had had its own Pathfinder.
On Saturday, I drove past a service station two kilometres north from Manning, Alberta. An old, early fifties vehicle was displayed on the property, having sat on the site, ready for sale, through these past two years; but, the vehicle has always had a blue industrial shipping container placed next to it, something which has made it awkward to photograph from a stance of adjacent backgrounds and from sunlight never totally surrounding the entirety of the car properly. As I drove by I realized that the shipping container was no longer there and that the opportunity of a good photograph was possible. I captured these images and in researching the Pontiac found it to be another 1953 Pontiac Pathfinder. It was good to spend time photographing the car and then it’s been fun to edit the images, too – each a high dynamic range (HDR) shot.
Listening to – Walter Trout’s ‘Almost Gone,’ a voice that sounds so similar to the Who’s Roger Daltry singing ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ and ‘Baba O’Reilly;’ the song accompanies this rusting relic well.
Quotes to Consider – (1) “I’ve never taken a picture I’ve intended. They’re always better or worse.” – Diane Arbus. (2) “Some pictures are tentative forays without your even knowing it. They become methods. It’s important to take bad pictures. It’s the bad ones that have to do with what you’ve never done before. They can make you recognize something you hadn’t seen in a way that will make you recognize it when you see it again.” – Diane Arbus
In the past few days I’ve wondered if the attracting element to vehicle photography is the coherence of a vehicle’s design, functionality and comfort. Beyond this, is it the style and form of the vehicle that attracts the eye and the impulse to drive the vehicle? Perhaps it is our ability to imagine both how someone will look driving the vehicle or merely the anticipation of how it will handle that attracts the photographer to a vehicle.
For drivers, habit leads us in our vehicle use, our driving. We tend not to consider the system or systems of steps that allow us to drive a vehicle. Unlocking the door, opening the door, sitting in the seat, putting the key into the ignition, starting the car with or without throttle use, shifting from park to reverse and then to drive, steering, adjusting speed with throttle (gas pedal) – these steps get the car moving and rolling. A system of steps ensures safety of self and others, a system of steps allows us not only to propel the vehicle forward, but to navigate while doing so and a system of steps allows us to park and leave the vehicle. For the driver such a system of steps is more habit than an individually considered set of actions that takes driver and passengers from point of origin to destination and back again.
So, is it design, function, form, colour or comfort that attracts the photographer’s eye to a vehicle? Or is it the photographer’s ability to imagine, see and confirm the narrative of habit associated with a vehicle that pulls the eye – the future narrative of a new vehicle; or, the past narrative of a vehicle from another era? Perhaps these questions are starting points for vehicle advertisers. Still I like looking at each dent, chip and window crack in old, rusting relics; vehicle interiors convey much about driver and passengers – much narrative of habit is found in these vehicles. Here, rusting relics are set out in a farmer’s field near Manning, Alberta. In my drive past the site last weekend it was a surprise to see the old La Crete, REO Speedwagon cab and chassis gone; hopefully it’s found a good home and has had the good fortune to become a project for rehabilitation.
Quote to Inspire – “Photography is for me simply a creative passion, the ability to use light and form to capture in a single image – what I see in my own imagination….” – Tim Wallace, car photographer in interview with Topaz Labs.
Listening to – Jesse Cook’s ‘The Blue Guitar Sessions;’ one song standing out is ‘Ocean Blue.’
It’s March. Two weeks ago we were at -28C, here in High Level, Alberta. Yesterday and today Spring’s warmth melts snow. Returning to High Level from Edmonton on a Saturday afternoon, two weeks ago, a Tamron telephoto lens allowed for this high dynamic range (HDR) image capture of these three dormant, rusting relics – trucks not quite ready for salvage, more grist for custom renovation, nostalgic celebration or for parts. The clarity of the Tamron lens is excellent and at 400 metres distance from the vehicles distortion is limited. I’m liking the image yielded, its blues and textures – they remind of childhood play amongst cars next to the shop at my cousins’ farm.
Quote to Inspire – “To photograph: it is to put on the same line of sight the head, the eye and the heart.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson
Quote to Inspire – A story first heard in an interview with Rosanne Cash, last June … interesting. “I had a dream once about confronting art, personified, as a human being, and him telling me that he didn’t respect dilettantes. This dream was about eight years ago and it changed my life. I knew that I had to strengthen my concentration and really focus on what I was doing and commit to this work in a really deep way or else give it up. There’s no in-between. That presence is still with me. I want to please him. It’s off the wall, but it was really powerful.” – ‘Rosanne Cash by David Byrne,’ ‘BOMB – Artists in Conversation.’
Listening to – Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Walk like a Man,’ ‘Tunnel of Love’ and ‘Two Faces;’ then it’s ‘Radio Nowhere.’ The Verve’s ‘Bittersweet Symphony’ has shown in different playlists a couple of times in the past week.
It’s colder today, snow is on the ground and a four-day, November break provides welcome opportunity for rest from pushing hard in these first three months of the school year. A quick drive southward and back home last weekend recalled the following images needing an edit from July.
Along Route 66, nearing the Grand Canyon, restored cars are roadside attraction, the cars of former, American glory days, vehicles that you’d find reconstructed from other donor cars on reality television shows like ‘Counting Cars.’ That person, who in middle-age, is starting to find a surplus of funds in their bank account is the kind of person these cars belong to. For them and you, someone in the family owned one – Dad and Mom maybe, your grandparents, perhaps or maybe your cousin had one; and, if you were lucky that vehicle was the one you learned to drive in, was perhaps the vehicle that became yours (you bought it from another member in your family) and was the car that got you started in Life. In presentation, these Grand Canyon cars are arranged almost as they would be in a Show and Shine; the difference is that their owners are not hovering around them – the vehicles draw potential customers to the service station and to the hotel, a pit-stop and stopping point. Among the vehicles were a 1957 Mercury Thunderbird, a 1958 Ford Fairlane 500, a 1949 Chevrolet Fleetline Deluxe four-door (Police Car), what may be a 1931 Ford Sedan and a 1931 Ford Pickup truck and a 1957 Chevrolet 2-door coupe.
The 1949 Chevrolet Fleetline has me thinking back to Rimbey, Alberta and my uncle’s farm in the late sixties and early seventies. For many years, a mid-forties (1946-48) Chevrolet four-door fastback (blue/black with white roof) sat next to the farm shop. The intention had been to swap pistons from a second donor car and to add a second vehicle economically to a growing family that was becoming more and more on the move. Unfortunately, the pistons were of different sizes and the car did not move again. As kids on visits, my cousins, my brothers and I would pretend to drive to and from different places in this grounded car. A big, big steering wheel, a windshield that may have been two pieces in design, a springy and dusty bench seat and doors that creaked on ungreased hinges were setting to the play of the drive with family. In coming years, the Chevrolet fastback sedan was towed behind the farm’s barley silage silo.
A good, good reminiscence of former times, these.
Listening to – Over the Rhine’s ‘Born,’ ‘Bluer,’ ‘Spark,’ ‘Lookin’ Forward’ and ‘Who Will Guard the Door’ – November kind of music.
Quote to Consider – “Instead of just recording reality, photographs have become the norm for the way things appear to us, thereby changing the very idea of reality, and of realism.” – Susan Sontag, ‘On Photography’
From High Level to Peace River, I made the drive, three hours, right after work. I was on my way to Edmonton to gather my son and his belongings after a year of University and to bring him home for the summer. I booked into a hotel room, brought my gear into the room and returned to my truck to search for a meal. Before I got into my truck I looked across the way to this red 1949 Chevrolet, half-tonne. As a former auto detailer (in a former life), I walked over and then spent ten minutes looking it over. The owner came out and provided the truck’s story – where it came from, how he had restored the vehicle and that he still took it out for a ride occasionally. It had a straight six engine – clean, restored, still capable. The owner, an older fellow, initially thought I wanted to buy the vehicle.
I told him that I was more bent on photographing vehicles than anything else.
He took me into his garage and showed me a 1959 Edsel Corsair – red with white trim and top; again a restored vehicle. The windshield and back window curved around in places where present-day cars have posts to support the roof. I was amazed at the size of the trunk – in area and depth it might actually have held as much as a half-tonne truck box. The car was also about Chrome – chrome bumpers, chrome trim; shine was definitely part of what made this car something. It had old paint, the kind that if it faded you could bring back with polish and glaze. And, I suppose it reminded me of the polishing gleam, the alluring results of those first cars I polished as a young driver and as a lot attendant at Waterloo Mercury.
The evening passed with more talk and the owner knew many of the people I’ve known through the years in High Level and La Crete, Alberta. I think he’d seen me take my L’Arrivee guitar into the hotel because he invited me into the house to play for him and his wife on his Taylor 615 a cherry-wood sunburst with heavier strings. I fretted Rickie Lee Jones’ ‘Starsailor,’ Dar Williams ‘The Beauty of the Rain,’ and Lifehouse’s ‘Me and You.’ I got him to play a few tunes – some country tunes that are becoming difficult with arthritic fingers. By the end of the evening, I had his permission to photograph his red 1949 Chevrolet half-tonne; not a bad evening. I clicked this picture the next morning.
Listening to – Ray LaMontagne’s ‘For the Summer.’
Quote to Inspire – “One of the central characteristics of photography is that process by which original uses are modified, eventually supplanted by subsequent uses ….”
In an open field, displayed for sale, parked next to a 1969 GMC grey and white one-tonne cab and chassis and a dented, yet intact retro green with white, 1957 Chevrolet sedan, sits an REO Speedwagon one-tonne cab and chassis. Further up this same field is a fenced-in area with large storage shed for large farm equipment and a farmer’s mechanic’s shop for working on equipment. Spray-painted on three sides of a smaller building closer to the road is the phone number needed for making contact with the seller of these implements and vehicles. Not a junk yard and not a used car lot, the field does serve as selling point for these vehicles that may be of interest to travellers driving by. This image is the badging as found on the REO Speedwagon with colour and with some desaturation.
Listening to – Ashley MacIsaac’s ‘She’s a Rare One’ performed with Jackie Robitaille.
Quote to Inspire – “A photograph is the pause button on life.” – Ty Holland