Metallic spheres are jumbled into a pile in an architectural or sculptural masterpiece on the east side of the southern end of Edmonton’s Quesnel bridge, a marvel … the kind you would expect to find near or under Seattle’s Space Needle.
What surprised me in my work photographing the structure is that each sphere reflects you back from whatever standpoint you are at. You cannot be out of the picture unless you leave your camera atop your tripod and move 100 feet from the scene. “No matter where you go there you are.”
Listening to and fretting David Gray’s Sail Away and Dar Williams’ The Beauty of the Rain.
Quote to Inspire – “I am forever chasing light. Light turns the ordinary into the magical.” – Trent Parke
The matter of looking around for potential images often happens when I am driving. And, the real work of the photograph is that of stopping my vehicle, safely, and walking the scene to determine best point of view. You need to find what it was that you glimpsed while driving. In winter this might mean walking through varying depths of snow and shooting as snow falls. In summer as this photograph demanded it means descending the river bank to find the right point to capture the image. Having a good look around and doing so through the camera lens prior to the shot help one to find the best shot.
Quote to Inspire – “Photography is more than a medium for factual communication of ideas. It is a creative art.” – Ansel Adams
Listening to – Tim Reynolds’ fretting Betrayal, a song first heard in concert with Dave Matthews.
Are you someone who does this? Do you keep an idea file for photographs you’d like to try? I’ve found myself doing this at times when travel cannot afford the time to stop and snap a few photos. At other times, I will realize that the subject of a shot works but that the conditions may not work ideally. And, if I’m lucky I’ll be able to ask my daughter to write down a note in a moleskin notebook while we drive about location and subject and particulars; the moleskin stays in the vehicle and I can refer back to it. Wildlife photographer, Moose Peterson in an interview on Shutter Time with Sid and Mac (Sidney Blake and Maciek Sokulski) spoke of being encouraged to keep an idea file for photographs and to revisit the file and plan for opportunities to make the shot or shots happen. The bison at Elk Island National Park (east of Edmonton, Alberta) are subject for one set of photographs found here. The bison have been a part of my idea file since I’ve been listening to Sid and Mac’s exploits in repeated and regular photo sessions at the park. For me, in terms of the camera work the learning is about shutter speed. Within the golden hour of sunlight and with the continual movement of the bison in their grazing there is a need for a faster shutter speed in terms of capturing crisp images.
The issue I am grappling with when traveling is that I will often be days or weeks from my photos before I can edit and see images. I am still considering the value of a laptop from the perspective of allowing greater immediacy of editing while traveling. There is learning to be derived from the editing process and it may be that working with a laptop with different subjects will foster good results in second or third visits/photo sessions.
The remaining pictures are catch-all – images that have been kicking around, interesting to look at; the vintage late 30’s sedan, the T-bird and the late sixties Dodge Dart were parked outside Ricky’s All Day Grill and are the work of one person. Imagine being able to say to two of your best buddies, “Hey let’s take a few of my cars for a spin,” and then take them out to breakfast. Cool! Beyond these, there are other renderings of the fifties one-ton truck, a rusting relic.
Listening to – John Mayer’s Queen of California, a song reminding of the Doobie Brothers back in the seventies.
Quote to Inspire – “All photographs are memento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely be slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time relentless melt.” – Susan Sontag
Street photography is something described as an audit of an environment that the photographer places him- or herself in. What’s there? What’s around you? What’s happening? All are questions that receive answer within the images produced and the street’s narrative is built and understood. If you’re actually photographing what’s happening in the street you’re bound to capture people in the act of whatever it is that they do. The street photography that I’ve looked through most recently is that of the Edmonton photowalk led by Darlene Hildebrand back in October 2011. The cluster of pictures from several photographers on that first Saturday afternoon in October present an audit of Life along Edmonton’s Whyte Avenue in Edmonton’s Old Strathcona area. Everything is captured – architecture (doors, buildings, windows); modes of transportation (cars, buses, trucks, bicycles); there’s a sense of space (that within the street and that which surrounds people, their personal space); there’s the colour and weather of the afternoon. Within most of it there’s the art of human endeavor. Conversely, there’s the defeat of endeavor no longer strived for; there are people broken and lost and at wits-end, the down and out. They too are captured in street photography. The photograph presented here is one taken from within the Pike Place Market in Seattle. To a certain extent it qualifies as street photography as it presents information about the environment of the market place – what you’ll find and what people are doing. What is surprising is the participatory element – people are tolerant of photographs being taken; it’s a touristy thing to do. Good. Maybe that’s the thing to think about in street photography – investigating the street by way of participation.
Listening to Bill Mallonee & Vigilantes of Love with She Walks on Roses, Patty Griffin’s Tomorrow Night and Over the Rhine’s Jesus in New Orleans, all from a genius playlist starting with Pierce Pettis’ Everything Matters album.
Quote to Inspire – “Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still.” – Dorothea Lange
The term ‘grunge’ is something I associate with a photographic style in which elegance of form can be sussed out underneath evidence of decay; the elegance and the decay together are, in their juxtaposition, a thing of beauty. Grunge is also a Seattle term denoting a kind of raw alternative rock music that has its origin in this city. Musically, grunge owns guitar work with heavy distortion, dissonant harmonies and vocals/lyrics that must be sussed out. Grunge lyrics juxtapose angst and apathy of youth’s forward look to the rest of what Life offers; in these lyrics the mean of human condition – yours, mine, his and hers – is presented as something sullied, something confined, yet something that must move forward glimpsing more and more of what Life really is about. The lyrics are also about finding freedom within a sullied, confined life. The music and lyrics are the raw energy and angst in response to the experience of disillusionment and one’s discovering personally an identity in the mean of human condition. Together, the grunge music and lyrics expose the elegance and beauty found within our sullied human condition.
The following Seattle photographs were taken on the last leg of the Seattle underground tour, an object of grunge – form and decay juxtaposed. SAM’S was no doubt a store or bar or restaurant; the signage seems to associate to the fifties or sixties in style and was bulb lit rather than a neon sign.
Listening to Grunge – Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit, Joan Osborne’s celebrated song about the human mean, One of Us and Alice in Chains’ Heaven Beside You.
Quotes to Inspire – (1) “A great photograph is one that fully expresses what one feels, in the deepest sense, about what is being photographed.” – Ansel Adams (2) “Don’t shoot what it looks like. Shoot what it feels like.” – David Alan Harvey
If you’ve been around the internet in the past five years, consideration of what comprises a perfect average day has surfaced as a means of designing one’s day so that key features in one’s day are found and recognized, so that Life-long goals are actualized and so that people recognize and master control over what happens within their days rather than being mere do-bodies, going from bed to work and back again with little awareness of time, values, meaning and effort, all of which are invested in each day. For me, what to do about photography and pursuing each next, best picture has been the question of the day … through many months. Photography is an activity that you make time for, an activity that you fit into your day, an activity that must, in precedence, rank equally to other activities in your day if you’re to find successes with it. It’s about photographing things you like to photograph, things you’re interested in. It’s about photographing things you don’t normally have access to in your day-to-day existence. It’s about capturing unique qualities in your subject that you and others may perhaps never find again. And, it’s about recognizing the beauty in things and photographing them. In Susan Sontag terms photography is about appropriating and making the thing photographed, yours. Photography is not an activity easily engaged in. Often the timeframe from image capture through to print and presentation is a separation of tasks that involves days, weeks, months and as I’m still finding, it may involve years. It is work and it is cumulative work – seeing more and more of what the image can become. It is an endeavor engaged in primarily because the print outcome is reward; what is produced is a kind of manna for the viewer to feast upon. In the subjects photographed, while there are seasons and changes we pass through, what’s also beginning to surface as more photographs are created is the commonality or mean of existence, the fundamentals that we need to live and thrive. And, I note my good fortune in not being fully exposed to lives lived in the absence of these basic ingredients of Life.
The photographs presented here are the other photographs, the b-side images that were not ones selected to tackle consideration of a single theme or idea or subject. What’s interesting, though, is the repetition of what is subject within photographs – it’s beginning to reveal commonality among our human needs.
Listening to Young the Giant’s Cough Syrup, (a second night’s acclimatization to the tune), Ulrich Schnauss’ Passing By (from Elizabethtown Soundtrack – vol. 2), the Propellerheads’ Take California, Tricky’s Hell Is Around the Corner, Supreme Beings of Pleasure’s Strangelove Addiction, Moby’s Porcelain and the Gotan Project’s Santa Maria (Del Buen Ayre).
Quote to Inspire – “Photography, like alcohol, should only be allowed to those who can do without it.” – Walter Sickert
Different economic forces press on the development of Alberta’s natural resources. The fall-out can mean that resource development is postponed for better days. Twenty minutes north from Whitecourt, Alberta, down a long, winding hill into a valley, a sawmill sits in disuse waiting its return to operation. In my northward return drives to High Level through this year, I’ve been meaning to capture this image. On Sunday I found myself with time enough to halt my Nissan Altima along the side of the road and allow myself opportunity for looking through my Canon 70-200 mm F 2.8 lens.
Listening to: All This Time, Liberal Backsliderand This Is Usfrom Martyn Joseph’s Thunder and Rainbows album on my return journey to High Level. My trip southward to Edmonton allowed for a six hour listen to Susan Sontag’s collection of essays in an audiobook version of On Photography, a good articulation and wrestling with photography issues.
Quote to Inspire – “To photograph is to appropriate the thing photographed. It means putting oneself into a certain relation to the world that feels like knowledge—and, therefore, like power. A now notorious first fall into alienation, habituating people to abstract the world into printed words, is supposed to have engendered that surplus of Faustian energy and psychic damage needed to build modern organic societies. But print seems a less treacherous form of leaching out the world, of turning it into a mental object, than photographic images, which now provide most of the knowledge people have about the look of the past and the reach of the present. What is written about a person or an event is frankly an interpretation, as are handmade visual statements, like paintings and drawings. Photographed images do not seem to be statements about the world so much as pieces of it, miniatures of reality that anyone can make or acquire.”– Susan Sontag (b. 1933), U.S. essayist. “In Plato’s Cave,” On Photography, Farrar, Straus (1977).
Sunday – photographs that I’d intended to post linger on my computer’s desktop in a file of edited images. The week has been busy with obligations taking me into my nights. The first image is one of a barn located in a muskeg bog, just south of Figure Eight Lake on Alberta Highway 737; it is out of the weather and close to a water source; no house or homestead is in the immediate vicinity. One could have burned down. Or, perhaps the barn is associated with the homestead in the second image; this homestead is treed in and built on higher ground a kilometre further south on the west side of the same highway. In another image an inuksuk has been assembled at the southwesternmost corner of someone’s farmland alongside Alberta Highway 685, stating to all comers that others have stood right there, where they now stand. Within metres of the inuksuk, a heart-shaped wreath is fastened below a ‘no through road’ sign, perhaps inviting people to come and investigate. The next photograph presents a second rendering of the Fairview horses and lamas in spring’s sunlight; there’s a glow of sunlight from the animals. Beyond this, are the other b-side renderings of the Dunvegin bridge, photographed last weekend.
Listening to Tonic’s rendition of Fleetwood Mac’s Second Hand News, then there’s Sister Hazel’s take on Gold Dust Woman and Shawn Colvin performs The Chain, all songs are part of Legacy: A Tribute to Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours’ album.
Quote to Inspire – “I treat the photograph as a work of great complexity in which you can find drama. Add to that a careful composition of landscapes, live photography, the right music and interviews with people, and it becomes a style.” – Ken Burns
A Craft and Vision e-book entitled Creating Depth disclosed some of the subtleties of creating depth in an image. One area of tradecraft considered in creating depth was the matter of choosing perspective that allows the viewer to glean visual information in the three chunks of the photograph – the foreground, middleground (where primary subject is located) and background. I am drawn to this image because of the placement of the subject, the house, as well as the image being one that has depth in terms of foreground, middleground and background. Beyond this, the image draws me because of the subject’s shape, the texture of the house’s wood-slat exterior and framing, because it is comprised of several tones of white towards grey, because there is visual information to be had at all points of the image and finally because this house is a first endeavors building, home to a family making their way in the world. I present the image in different renderings because I find each satisfying.
Listening to Over the Rhine’sOhio from their album of the same name.
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