Homestead – Donnelly, Alberta


Here is a black and white photograph of a homestead between Donnelly and Peace River, Alberta – an image receiving attention from bloggers; structure, design and texture attract.

My intention for this photograph initially has been the exterior; but, with photographs of homes and recollection that families inhabit homes the photograph becomes something relating to that business that William Shakespeare points to … ‘all the world [being] a stage [even those floors and rooms of home] … and all the men and women merely players:  they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts ….

Home is where we start our lives and move through our first parts … right?

Listening to Moses from Coldplay’s Live 2003 CD/DVD.

Quote to Inspire: “Photography records the gamut of feelings written on the human face, the beauty of the earth and skies that man has inherited, and the wealth and confusion man has created. It is a major force in explaining man to man.” — Edward Steichen

Edmonton – A Brief Photowalk in a Place I Want to Photograph

31 December 2011 – My daughter and I took my son back to Edmonton to return him to his University of Alberta dorm at Lister Hall on December 30, 2011. The trip allowed for vehicle maintenance at West Edmonton Hyundai, two festive meals with my father, brothers and our families; it allowed my daughter four days with her favourite cousin and for me, time with my son, father and our extended family. At different times on December 31st, I was able to break away from the day’s agenda and photograph Edmonton architecture – not quite a full and satisfying photowalk, but something to whet my appetite for photographing downtown Edmonton.

Edmonton’s High Level bridge is the subject of the first set of shots.  At the bridge, while waiting for my son, before a morning family meal out, I was able to photograph the railway deck leading onto the bridge from the south.  I was intrigued by the leading lines of the road and walkway leading from the bridge on its south side. The bridge’s rail deck is secure from people who would like to walk along it – good!  And, I am interested in the photograph of the rail deck taken by the Edmonton Photowalk group led by Darlene Hildebrandt on October 1, 2011. In returning from the bridge to my vehicle, to go and retrieve my son, I was also able to photograph Edmonton’s Saskatchewan drive as it leads past the University of Alberta’s Arts building and Hub Mall – a memorable place from my past at the University of Alberta.  I met W.O. Mitchell between these buildings late on a Saturday afternoon in the fall of 1981 after a 12-string guitar lesson at Hub Mall’s Guitar Classique and guided him to the South entrance of the University’s Arts building for a talk he would provide to Canadian literature students.

Later, in the late afternoon of December 31st, I was able to briefly photograph some of Edmonton’s architecture – new and old, buildings close to the Boardwalk and EPSB’s Centre High school.  I was caught up in the older architecture and advertising painted onto exterior walls as well as the reflective dynamic of newer building’s mirrored exteriors. The Edmonton I grew up in has become something more incredible and futuristic, something only dreamt of by former Mayors. The final shot (the first shot in the series) is at the east end of the Edmonton downtown core, a older building dating back to perhaps the forties or thirties, a pie-shaped building of four stories, reminiscent of a former age, something my mother and her brothers would have grown up in.  I like the brickwork and lighting of this picture and hope to return to photograph this building in a variety of ways.

Quote to Inspire:  “I am not interested in color for color’s sake and light for light’s sake.  I am interested in them as a means of expression (Robert Henri ~ ‘The Art Spirit’).”

Listening to Unraveling, by Liz Longley on Hot Loose Wire; a song with shared connection and reminiscence – a family member beset with Alzheimer’s ( for Liz this was her grandmother; for me this is my father, the originating photographer in the family I grew up in).

28 December 2010 – Look Back Photos (Edmonton’s Low Level Bridge and Skyline)

One year ago today my intention for photography in coming to Edmonton over Christmas was to capture sense of place. In any visit I had previously made to Edmonton through the years, I spent time on Whyte Avenue looking through Art shops for images of Edmonton – drawings, paintings and photographs. These shops would contain images of the High Level bridge, the train station on 103rd  Street, many images of Old Strathcona (Whyte Avenue) and its various happenings, the Hotel MacDonald, the Alberta Legislature and the Edmonton Skyline – all representing a home I’d grown up in, all representing memory and a desire to revisit former times. In late afternoon on December 28, 2010, I parked my vehicle close to the Low Level Bridge and got down onto the ice of the North Saskatchewan River with tripod and Canon 30D and began clicking away using my Sigma 10-20mm lens.

In an hour and a half I had rounded up forty-nine images of my own, new photographic memories of Edmonton – the Low Level Bridge, the Hotel MacDonald, the Edmonton Skyline. I’d also encountered a disciplined martial artist training against trees, the welcoming smile of a female long distance runner and two University students who thought I’d fall through the ice along the river’s edge … go figure.

Listening to – Beggars & Buskers, by Eric Angus Whyte on the Luddite Sons album (thanks to Stocki for this recommendation on his Soul Surmise blog).

Quote to Inspire – “The key to seeing the world’s soul, and in the process wakening one’s own, is to get over the confusion by which we think that fact is real and imagination an illusion. It is the other way around.” ~ Thomas Moore ‘Original Self’

Christmas Eve – A Kitchen in Readiness for Celebrating Christmas

24 December 2011 – On the afternoon preceding Christmas eve, in scrubbing our kitchen floor, my wife and I moved several wine bottles from the floor to our kitchen counter. Later, a ham cooked in an old, well-used roasting pot (in my wife’s family through generations), became the mainstay of our Christmas eve meal (part of the tradition coming through her family). After singing hymns at a Church service and coming home from time with friends in fellowship, I found myself with an abundance of time and the opportunity to photograph our kitchen in readiness for Christmas. I worked with reflection, light reflected in glass, shallow depth of field and adding accuracy to focal points through the use of the Canon 60D’s live-view mode (I put my glasses on for this). The wine bottles remained in a cluster on the kitchen counter top where the ham roaster was set out in readiness for cooking the Christmas turkey.  Both became subjects in tonight’s photographs and a variety of colours and moods were explored.

On my mind this Christmas, the words – “Be still, and know that I am God … (Psalm 46:10);” these words confront you at the High Level Christian Fellowship Church from the wall surrounding the pulpit.  For me, so long away from Church, practice and walk, it surfaces the idea that it’s alright to rest, to ease up on the reigns of one’s life that can be held so tightly and remove my focus from the doing and busy-ness of Life; amazingly, so much has been provided for in the lives of my family and me … and I am thankful.

My hope for each of you is that you are able to find the rest that this Christmas time affords.

Merry Christmas, all!

On My Mind – Intended Practice for Photography

23 December 2011

With photography, because assets are invested in capturing images, it is likely a good thing to create a system of ‘intended practice’ so that time and resources are not wasted. While image capture can occur anywhere within any environment, determining what images to capture within available time requires good understanding, judgment and planning. These develop noting how success occurred with previous images. Beyond this, such discernment also develops recognizing what possibilities were available within unsuccessful images.

Some photographs are best considered first photographs, images that are test shots or scouting shots, images that allow you to understand the subject and its environment and possibilities for future shots. Working with such photographs acquaints you with what else is possible and becomes your intention for subsequent photographs. Subsequent photographs can be approached directly – “I will go to the site/subject and try such and such.” Or, subsequent photographs can be approached indirectly, returning to the site/subject in the mindset that “If I’m there again I will take advantage of the situation to create this result.”

Because the timeline between initial, scouting photographs and subsequent photographs can be great, record keeping regarding intentions is needed. The record considers the initial photograph – what was happening with light, composition, camera angle and camera settings. And, the record considers intention – what you intend for the image now that you’ve edited it, thought about it and recognized its other possibilities; the record notes conditions that would be present were subsequent shots to be attempted. In both cases, whatever the image is about holds something that draws you back; this is the other important variable about the subject that needs to be articulated and noted.  It is the quality you want to be revealed in subsequent photographs.

While gathering intentions for upcoming photographs does require record keeping, being able to seize the opportunity for that photograph needs to be immediately available, something more than returning to a notebook. A map of the region to be photographed is a good collecting point for intentions in upcoming photographs; a map can be hung on a wall and sticky notes containing brief notes can be attached to it in terms of intended/upcoming photographs. The sticky note can contain information about the upcoming photographs and can point you back to your notebook for intentions.

Snap shots are images taken when someone stands up, clicks the shutter and most likely repeats with little or no intention. Photography, on the other hand, is about seeing and understanding the world through the camera lens with intention. In the next few days I will most likely hang a map of our municipal district on my study wall and use a moleskin and sticky notes to articulate what I would like to see happen in those photographs I take that are beyond the initial scouting photographs.

I M A G E STrinkets and bobbles upon our Christmas tree are today’s colourful subject; ‘bokeh’ is explored.

While Waiting – A Still-Life Image

Still Life – While Waiting

22 December 2011

I’ve been to Edmonton and back quite quickly in the last two days – through a snow storm on the way down and upon slick roads on the way back. I’ve brought my son home from University.

The image I present is one taken, standing in line waiting to pay for items needed in the long, upcoming night drive homeward. It reminds me that the concept of a subject’s duration is the core feature of still-life paintings and photographs.  Perhaps this image taken ‘while-waiting’ adds a new aspect to the concept of still-life. This image is a while-waiting shot – one that gives me something to do while our cashier scans each item of the customers ahead of me in queue. This shot precedes eight hours of driving, a time I would spend with my son listening to music, listening to a few of his ideas and a shared joke or two. And, through those times that he slept I’ve been able to make good headway in digesting a couple of lectures presented by John O’Donohue.

Daylight Winter Images

20 December 2011 – daylight, winter images around High Level, Alberta; we’re nearly at 60 degrees North.  So, sunrise happens quite late (9:00 a.m.) and sunset happens quite early (3:30 p.m.).  Daylight is diminished and there’s more dusk at this time of year.  The day’s images have been about lines, texture, atmosphere and colour – children sledding in silhouette and a fire burning down to coals.

Christmas Lights – Grande Prairie, Alberta

It has been a whirlwind  weekend traveling to Grande Prairie and back, all in pursuit of Christmas.

Of the landscape travelled through, weather’s interaction at the Dunvegan Bridge over the Mighty Peace was shifting mist and cloud against a backdrop of conifers laced with snow – beautiful picture taking weather, mountain weather. I stopped for a few shots, then was presented with excellent colours of the Dunvegan bridge in the two kilometre descent before crossing the Peace River – a snowy, wet world from which the yellows and browns of the suspension bridge stand above the metal grey of the river. With my SUV I trekked down and up a couple of times searching for a safe and easy place to park; no safe place suggested itself.  With an abundance of time (one of these times) I will park at the Dunvegan landing and hike back up the North embankment for about a kilometre with camera bag and tripod and get a few good shots  … one day.

At Christmas, Grande Prairie adorns itself well with seasonal lighting as does Grande Prairie Regional College and the Automobile Dealerships – I like the shallow depth of field in working with the Christmas lights on the Dodge truck image and the bokeh that was found.  The final shot is taken of a farm, well lit, within a dark, dark landscape last night – colourful schtuff.

Canon Lock-up Issue – I did have  lock-up issues with my Canon 60D on Saturday night … it probably had to do with using live view and inexact button pushing with gloved fingers;  I was sorting things through yesterday morning and by supper time the camera seemed to have good integrity with the shots I took of the farm house.  If the problem persists I will most likely re-install the firmware as a means to conquer the issue.  If any of you have experienced a similar issue I would appreciate hearing from you.

Against a Reflective Surface – Christmas Lights

Leaving school, against the blackness of night, I encountered beautiful hoarfrost on an Aspen Willow tree – a reverse silhouette (white against black). I started my pickup truck and used the engine’s warm-up time to explore the silhouetted Willow. Again, the camera is atop the tripod and again I’m using the 60D’s live view to ensure that I find crisp detail in manual focus. I took three shots of the tree – one I include here; the composition needs work but I’m happy to have captured this image. Consideration – my shots are better and more well-composed when I’m warm and taking time to look seriously around the frame to see what’s there and to capture the image; in winter photography I’ll have winter outwear on … something I didn’t have leaving school tonight.

Later, at home, in front of our Christmas tree the recommendation of photographing Christmas lights against a reflective surface came to mind. Our Christmas tree, like most others, stands in front of our window as Christmas beacon to others in our neighbourhood; this evening, I just needed to recognize its beauty and its potential. I put my Canon 50mm prime f-1.4 lens on my Canon 60D and attached the 60D to my tripod; I worked with live view to find focus detail and to establish bokeh (blurring of lights). I turned out lights in our living room and kitchen making all dark except for our Christmas tree and its lights. I began exploring bokeh, using a small depth of field (lens aperture f-1.4) and blurred Christmas lights against the reflective surface of the window. The images I include appeal to me in terms of shape, colour, texture and mood.

Tonight (15 December 2011) – listening to Martyn Joseph’s ‘Have an Angel Walk with Her,’ from his ‘Evolved’ album .

Christmas Lights – Balancing Ambient Light

From school I drove home on streets that are slick, polished ice. They are not quite treacherous, only difficult to begin moving on in a half-ton truck without weight in the box.

So … Christmas lights – I arrived early and had good post-dusk light.  The homeowner did have the Christmas lights on already and clouds feathered against a silver blue sky as background.  I framed the shots taken to include more sky but ended up cropping to balance things out in the images. In terms of setting, I had the white balance set to Tungsten and the blue derived from the sky was more tending to a dark turquoise than royal blue.

The matter of having a reflective surface in the foreground is really the idea that reflection of lights within a foreground surface should artfully double or duplicate the subject photographed doubling the number, size and shape of the Christmas lights. As I thought this through the hood of a vehicle was my first conceptualization of this technique; but, Kyle Thomas has demonstrated that the side of a vehicle can be used artfully to bounce or reflect different subjects … the side of a clean, glossy vehicle should serve to reflect among other things … Christmas lights. The snow does reflect light, but it does so more in an atmospheric glow of the dominant colour among the Christmas lights.

I did use a tripod to steady my 60D.  But, using the tripod is forcing me to think through composition because manoeuvrability of the camera on top of a tripod has some limitations; usually I see and understand the composition as I move toward it and find it. The movement of the camera to the best composition on top of a tripod is more mechanistic and I suppose I have not only to think through the lens but through the tripod structure and its movement, as well. I’ve been using the live view display with the pistol grip to position the camera in terms of composition; then I’ve been using manual focus with the plus ( + ) settings within live view to focus accurately upon the subject.

Tonight, I worked with an ISO of 100 and f-stops between 8 and 11. The duration of the exposures is anywhere from 8 seconds to 30 seconds. I did shoot once every minute or so and can track the sky’s darkening through the pictures. I took fifteen shots tonight, three of which I include here. Point of Consideration – in these town shots the mix of Christmas lights and ambient light combines with street lights that light the roadway, the yard and the house. The effect of Christmas lights against ambient light should be more striking if street lights are excluded; I may need to find a farm in the vicinity that has used Christmas lights well and on their own, away from powerful farm lights.

Other thoughts – I am taking public shots of Christmas lights around town; watching someone photograph your home and its lights must be a bit awkward if it’s not happened before.  Maybe I’ll present a photo of the sight to the homeowner as a positive, goodwill gesture.

The shot I like is the one with grey skies; my daughter and wife like the other two.


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