A few years back, the Old School House in Qualicum Beach, British Columbia served as gallery for several photographs of Cathedral Grove, including a large, canvas panoramic image photographed within the site. In memory, the canvas must have been huge … maybe three metres by one metre. I am not sure – the image could have been a one-hundred eighty degree panoramic image. However, it might also have been a three-hundred sixty degree panoramic image. The image intrigued in terms of what part of the site would allow such a panorama, then in terms of how the photographer planned and trialed this photographic panorama. There would be considerations regarding time of day, light and the possibility of encountering people during the exposure. Beyond this, the photographer would have needed to edit what, at the time, would have been an extremely large data file and then have the image printed. Finally, the canvas image that I was looking upon placed me within Cathedral Grove to see what’s there.
Our Parksville visit in April, 2019 made it possible to photograph Cathedral Grove at sunrise on three different mornings.
Quote to Consider / Inspire – “The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera (Dorothea Lange).”
Listening to CKUA’s ‘Classic Examples’ – Ron Jones’ ‘Momentum Suite for String Orchestra,’ Sergei Prokofiev’s Piano Sonata No. 7 in B-flat, Opus 83 and Dmitry Shostakovich – ‘Waltz #2.’
April, 2019 – our daughter finishes her spring term at University. My wife and I have spring break, time away from school. We collect our daughter and her personal effects. And, we fly out to Vancouver Island, British Columbia. From Victoria we drive up to Parksville and stay at the Oceanside Inn for a week. These images are from Englishman River Falls and Cathedral Grove. Liking the idea brought out by photographer Adam Gibbs – follow/find the light first and then work to compose your image.
Listening to: Pat Green with Joe Ely’s take on U2’s ‘Trip Through Your Wires,’ Neil Young’s ‘Don’t Let It Bring You Down’ from his ‘Live At Massey Hall 1971’ album, and, ‘This Is Us’ from the ‘All the Roadrunning’ album from Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris.
Quote to Consider / Inspire – “As I have practiced it, photography produces pleasure by simplicity. I see something special and show it to the camera. A picture is produced. The moment is held until someone sees it. Then it is theirs (Sam Abell).”
I watched a vlog of a Nikon Canada event hosted in Edmonton at the new Walterdale bridge, a through arch bridge that captivates with its arch suspended roadway and shape that juxtaposes a curve amongst a backdrop of architectural right angles. The Nikon event had been a means to orient new Nikon camera owners to their cameras. For me, though, this Nikon vlog introduced the possibility of getting an ‘up-close’ look at the Walterdale bridge which has held my attention through the years that it was built.
Last week, in moments away from Christmas, I parked at the Kinsman fieldhouse and walked the Walterdale bridge finding these images. At two points in my walk, first, in looking back at the structure from the northwest corner and then, again, as I viewed it from the hill just under the Queen Elizabeth pool site, this bridge structure reminded of a dream catcher. Perhaps a dream catcher conceptualization is appropriate given the bridge being immediately adjacent to an indigenous burial site just to the northeast between the exiting roadway and the Rossdale power plant.
These images are handheld with ISO set to 6400 on my Olympus EM5 MkII; the camera is forgiving; the images are somewhat grainy.
Listening to: Jerry Colonna being interviewed by Krista Tippett in an ‘On Being’ interview entitled ‘Can You Really Bring Your Whole Self to Work?’
Quote to Consider / Inspire – ‘A novel ensures that we can look before and after, take action at whatever pace we choose, read again and again, skip and go back. The story in a book is humble and serviceable, available, friendly, is not switched on and off but taken up and put down, lasts a lifetime (William Golding).’ A provocative quote in light of visual narrative in photographs.
In our neck of the woods, most people within the Mackenzie County (Alberta’s most northeast region) were impacted by a wildfire that began in May and still smoulders now, in December, despite snow and cold. We were evacuated from High Level as were surrounding communities as wildfire threatened them. These images are from a drive home from Edmonton to High Level. The Thursday before I had witnessed a truck on fire near Valleyview – thankfully the drive was alright and fire consumed only the tractor; it had been carrying dangerous, volatile goods. Here, though, the Chuckegg Creek fire was within its first twelve hours of burn. At the point these images were taken, the fire was 28 kilometres from High Level. Within a week the fire had made its way to within five kilometres of our town. We evacuated. Here, in this May image, RCMP were dispatched to limit drivers driving the highway within fire and with visibility limited by smoke. A helattack crew flew to the area to work with Wajax bottles and to assess the fire. Later an air tanker came to the seen to lay down fire retardant. At August’s end, the fire was more than 350000 hectares large (CTV News, 29 August 2019).
What is also extraordinary is on this same drive I drove through Manning, Alberta on the way home; in hot and dry conditions another three wildfires were being battled by air tanker and water-slinging helicopters.
Here in High Level, on Christmas Eve, my heart goes out to the people and families of Australia as you encounter wildfires and extreme temperatures.
Listening to – Martyn Joseph’s ‘Bobby’ and ‘Sanctuary,’ and, Ólafur Arnalds’ ‘Island Songs’ album. Robert James Waller’s ‘The Bridges of Madison County’ and the New Customs’ song, ‘Chasing Light’ have been within my hearing this fall. Liking the album ‘Cover Art – Calgary Folk Festival’ and finding 100 Mile House singing ‘1952 Vincent Black Lightning,’ Mariel Buckley singing ‘Ahead by a Century’ and the Rembetika Hipsters singing ‘Wicked Game.’ Liking the lyrics of Ben Howard’s ‘Keep Your Head Up’ from his ‘Every Kingdom’ album. I heard Brooke Wylie’s album ‘Part One – EP’ when my daughter was hospitalized and at a geographic distance from me … my wife was able to be with her; the album has a couple of songs for a Mom and Dad.
Quote to consider – “Photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place. It has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with how you see them (Elliot Erwitt).”
Church has been subject matter for many photos this fall. In Fort Vermilion’s north settlement, a metis settlement, I continue to return to the St. Louis Roman Catholic Church every few weeks and stay for an hour or two. Looking at this Church at different times of day and in two different season(s), I have explored how sunlight envelopes and moves around the Church within a day, I have paid attention to weather, vegetation, colour and shape surrounding the Church, and, I have investigated the Church for what different vantage points would reveal of the Church. The photographic rule followed – attend (see) and intend (work to reveal). Sacred, holy ground – a site set aside for worship. At home, I’ve printed a photograph of the Black Church in the hamlet of Búðir, Iceland. This Church is called the Búðakirkja. In juxtaposition to its surroundings (it sits within a lava field, with mountains far off in the distance) and accompanied by a single hotel, it presents as a surreal Iceland image. Sacred. Each Church shares a common timeframe (Life); they stood in the 19th Century and continue to stand. A friend has a wonderful expression for the Christian. Perhaps he’s sifting through mandate or purpose within the Bible. For him, the Christian is ‘Jesus in the doorway’ … being the neighbor, the one welcoming the stranger, in all – word becoming flesh (holy work).
I have framed photographs and cut mats for the first time this fall. Until this fall, I haven’t been able to frame my photographs myself. The aspect ratio of the photo frames from the photo store would never align with the aspect ratio of my photos. It’s been an issue of crop of the photographs. And, once I understood how the crop impacted and enhanced a photo, the crop became more important than the standard aspect ratio offered by the camera or the photo frame – the 1 x 1, the 4 x 3, the 9 x 16 etc.. The resulting prints have rarely coincided with predetermined photo frame sizes and matting. So, I’ve been cutting mat paper, matting photographs and framing photographs for the first time in nearly thirty years of being behind camera and lens. The first image matted and framed was an image created by New Zealand photographer, Paul C. Smith. Entitled, ‘Holding Hands,’ an image of a family walk along a New Zealand beach came together well, a serene image, a stolen moment that became gift to a friend. With successive framed photos I have come to understand why matte photo paper works best behind glass; matte paper prevents a double reflection you would find with a gloss print.
I have also been learning to shoot with a rangefinder camera. The matter of a double image becoming one in the view finder as it comes into focus reminds of my old Canon T70, but is something more subtle to work through, something more to do with ‘seeing.’ And, I’m working with one lens, a prime lens. So, some limitations. But, a different way to compose a shot, a different thinking to compose a shot. Much of this fall has also involved making sure to get out with a camera, regularly. Regularly can mean once a week to once every two weeks.
I’m not sure all the edits work in the images above. Let me know what you think.
Take care ….
Listening to – Internet radio (CKUA, CBC Vancouver, Fine Music Radio and more); I’ve been through Jody Carrington’s ‘Kids These Days’ and working to understand what different facets of social connectivity offer us who work with students and parents as educators; music has been varied.
Quote to Consider – for parent, educator, student … and photographer (and quoted in ‘Kids These Days’). “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better (Maya Angelou).”
We can plan a photograph. We can walk the scene, find the strongest way of seeing, decide best vantage point, apply craft and engage light and shadow. We compose the shot, arranges elements that will become the photo, exclude elements not serving the photo. We look, see, brood, wait and press the shutter button. Another way we photograph is in response to what is seen in the moment. We react to scene, subject or situation in a photo – what Ralph Gibson calls a ‘perceptual act.’ The experience, subjective, is a moment we sustain in ‘taking’ a photograph … we engage the subject. Taking the photograph draws out connection from us, our understanding, our appreciation. In that moment, we respond with camera and write with light. An image is produced. Then, we move beyond it. The photograph records how we see and what we have seen. With a camera, a photographer becomes a ‘stealer of moments.’
By coincidence, the medieval conceptualization of moment surfaced last summer in a twitter feed I follow. “[A moment is a medieval unit of time. Then, as now, twenty-four hours comprised the day. An hour was one of the twelve lengths/portions of the period from sunrise to sunset. An hour had four puncta, ten minuta, or, forty momenta. Averaging with twelve solar hours, one moment should equal ninety seconds (tweet, Fermat’s Library, 26 July 2018).]” While an actual time frame surrounds the conceptualization of a moment, in contrast, the moment that a photographer finds her- or himself within when creating a photograph can be more a subjective entity, a state of presence without sense of time, something timeless. Within a moment, beauty, understanding, appreciation coalesce into presence. The photographer gathers (or steals) the moment, the photograph’s viewer can return to that moment. It is almost as if the photographer halts time’s progress and encapsulates a given moment, putting boundaries around it in the making of a photograph. And, it’s worth considering that the term ‘moment’ derives from momentum, a trajectory of time moving us forward, moment by moment. A photograph becomes a means to contradict time in our return to former moments, through our backward glance, seeing where we’ve been, what we’ve moved through and to encounter again all that was there in that moment.
Gratitude – I am indebted to New Zealand photographer, Paul C. Smith, who surfaced this consideration with his comment about a photographer being ‘a stealer of moments.’ Thank you, Paul for your stunning work and photographic sensibilities. Good, good schtuff! To readers, here, check out Paul’s Youtube videos, Instagram feed and find him on Facebook – it’s worth your time.
Words to Consider / Inspire – “I just want to make a picture [so] that the subject of the picture is essentially my perceptual act. I do not want the subject to support the content. My relationship to photography is the content, not the subject. The subject is merely a pretext. If you take a horizontal frame [landscape] you’re essentially triggering an allegorical or narrative reference – cinema, television, photojournalism. Turn it [the frame] vertically and many tensions are discoverable. I am interested in how we perceive photographs (Ralph Gibson).”
Listening to: Jim Croce’s ‘Time in a Bottle’ and Billy Joel’s ‘This Is The Time.’