Moving from fall into winter’s weather the world becomes wet and grey and bleak, weather similar to that which you’ll find on the leeward side of mountains at altitude with its drizzle and snow. For many, the sensible thing is to remain indoors. But, others find it difficult to sit still and you’ll find them active within our northern environment, beyond road’s end carving paths with tow ropes and winches through mud and water, a texture not of soup, but stew, in a vehicle set up for the activity of ‘mud-bogging.’ Here, a seventies Toyota Land Cruiser has in its customization been lifted and engineered by ATS Customs – a vehicle set up for mud-bogging. Had I had this vehicle in Wood Buffalo National park (years ago), the weekly grocery runs in June and September would have been more expedient … accomplishing the two-hundred kilometre trek in several instances took more than eight hours one way; in one trek we needed to create our own bridge over a culvert that had washed out.
Listening to – Dar William’s ‘The Beauty of the Rain’ and ‘Let’s Go Fishing in the Morning.’
Quote to Inspire – “I photograph to find out what something will look like photographed.” – Garry Winogrand
On the drive between Fort Vermilion and High Level, Alberta the clean, stubble-free fields were noteworthy … more indications that harvest is nearing completion. In addition to grain being gathered and hay bales being removed, the fields did look like someone had vacuumed each field, leaving no trace of the summer’s activity. In this image from a few weeks back, at Greencourt, Alberta alongside the highway north farming implements – a Mercury, two Chevrolets, a Massey Ferguson and John Deere – share a field with round hay bales waiting to be cleared off and stored. The older farming implements are on display … perhaps even for sale … perhaps memorial to farming years.
Listening to – Tyrone Wells’ ‘Time of Our Lives.’
Quote to Inspire – “All the technique in the world doesn’t compensate for the inability to notice.” – Elliott Erwitt
585 brake horsepower in a Chevrolet, a car with less weight than a half-ton truck, a car engineered to hold the road at high speed and while cornering creatively, a car Chevrolet distinguishes with notoriety by allowing it to become prop and actor within a movie – The Transformers. This year-old Camaro SS takes a spot on Northstar Chrysler’s lot two vehicles down from its old school predecessor, the original Camaro SS from almost fifty years ago, Chevrolet’s second sports car after the Corvette, a vehicle powered by a 350 ci V8, a car my son and I have ridden in, a car my cousin has owned.
Listening to – Robbie Robertson’s ‘Shine Your Light,’ The Perisher’s ‘Trouble Sleeping,’ and U2’s ‘Crumbs from Your Table.’
Quote to Inspire – “A photograph is the pause button on life.” – Ty Holland
1969-73 GMC Camper Special – High Level, Alberta 2
69-73 GMC Camper Special – High Level, Alberta
This blue GMC (1969-73) recalls a grey, overcast November winter weekend in Rimbey, Alberta and an orange GMC plain Jane half-ton, farm work truck of similar age. Starting in a pasture and working our way onto farm roads, my cousin taught me to drive in his orange GMC, a truck with a three-in-the-tree standard transmission having to be understood and engaged, letting out the clutch, adding gas and listening to and feeling where gears meshed, my cousin coaching in a truck that hopped forward occasionally as we set it in motion, movement becoming smoother in each drive between my cousin and uncle’s farms. I was twelve and away from home – good memories recalled to Life by this blue, GMC Camper Special,; it’s likely that this vehicle could have had a two-tone paint job in a previous Life (perhaps forest green and white). With the even beading of water droplets on the entire truck, it is evident that its owner knows how to detail a vehicle; it’s well preserved.
Listening to – Ray Lamontagne’s ‘Trouble’ and ‘All the Wild Horses,’ Radiohead’s ‘All I Need’ and Arcade Fire’s ‘Wake Up.’
Quote to Inspire – “Which of my photographs is my favourite? The one I’m going to take tomorrow.” – Imogen Cunningham
A 1948 Ford F-100 and my neighbor’s mid-seventies Dodge Challenger sit side-by-each in the Northstar Chrysler car lot – room has been made for them. I’m interested in this Ford. With previous image edits of this truck, I have grown familiar with shape and colour – I know this vehicle visually, a modified Ford, artfully and skilfully crafted by someone who understands possibilities for shape, line and colour, someone who has been able to bring about what he envisioned accurately to a pleasing end state. This Ford is one that could easily find a home among California cars. For me, the Show and Shine has presented the opportunity to meet the owner again, even if briefly, an interaction in which I am able to direct him to older images of his truck on this blog.
Rain is the challenge for photography at this show in shine – my point of learning; rain falls and as the shutter opens and closes however briefly the result is that I’m capturing droplets of rain as they fall – the image looks excessively grainy. I’ll be thinking through how to work with rain in photography. Perhaps precision and detail are not to be aimed at in rain. Or, perhaps the learning is to recognize that rain will present white bits of contrast against darker colours in such images. Wind also featured with the rain, water droplets blowing onto the lens filter creating points of blur within images.
Listening to – U2’s ‘With or Without You’ and ‘Point of Surrender.’
Quote to Inspire – “Success is what happens when 10,000 hours of preparation meet with one moment of opportunity.” – Anonymous
16 Black and White – Cattails, High Level, Alberta
17 Former Highway Construction Vehicles 1
18 Former Highway Construction Vehicles 2
19 Bus Lanes at Night – High Level, Alberta
A cluster of B-side photos remain – Fort Vermilion’s former times Buttertown homes, winter farming scenes (equipment and buildings, deposited in their last left locations, ‘medias res’), icicle lens edits and former MacKenzie highway construction vehicles. It’s this winter’s tail-end, a time to close winter out … and get-on with spring.
Listening to – Edie Brickell & the New Bohemians’ ‘What I am,’ U2’s ‘All Because of You,’ Cat Stevens’ ‘Morning Has Broken,’ Depeche Mode’s ‘Policy of Truth,’ T. Rex’s ‘Bang a Gong,’ Wang Chung’s ‘Dance Hall Days’ and Neil Young’s ‘Cinnamon Girl.’
Quote to Inspire – “Success is what happens when 10,000 hours of preparation meet with one moment of opportunity.” – Anonymous
A few things make today a tougher go – not the legitimate student response to spring’s arrival and the fever it’s engendering, nor is it those minds that recognize that their attitudes are blocked, stalemated or closed with the past six months of winter’s interior Life at home and school; at this time of year openness in perception, thought and attitude itches in angst to break free of winter’s constraints of living. These are all within the arena of Life work in early spring in High Level, Alberta.
At this time of year, it’s too easy to say the wrong thing. It’s too easy to get caught-up in oneself and one’s endeavors. It’s too easy to neglect where one’s care needs legitimate directing. This season is one in which humour can get you into serious trouble while also being a source of tremendous healing and celebration. It’s a time of year when it’s good to have a bonfire that is shared among others, a bonfire that extends the day into the wee hours of the night. It’s a time when strength of body and strength of mind carry you forward into this next season that is spring. At such a bonfire it’s good to have a keeper of the fire, the last man standing for when the last ember dies, someone we know who will see the night through on our behalf when we find that we should direct ourselves home and to sleep. And, perhaps that’s it, the toughest part of today is that of helping one’s body overcome extended wakefulness as the season changes from winter to spring.
The photograph presented here is that of a late fifties flat-deck truck in Nampa, Alberta. In Nampa the historical-agricultural museum is in the process of re-locating. So, farming equipment/implements, vehicles, train cars and buildings are shifting location. Until the new site is completed these items remain scattered throughout Nampa. This flat-deck truck sits in someone’s backyard alongside other vehicles and looks to be in readiness for use. This truck has seen perhaps fifty or so years of service and its structure still has integrity. It seems to be one of the last vehicles standing and seems to have strength associated with preserved shape and ability to function. Its look is that which we’d find in the wizened face, that face of the last man standing – the keeper of the fire – when we need to direct ourselves to sleep.
Listening to Over the Rhine’s Spark, Joseph Arthur’s In the Sun(with Michael Stipe) and U2’s One; other songs have included Eric Angus Whyte’s Beggars and Buskers (of Belfast), Liz Longley’s Free and the Steve Miller Band’s Rock’n Me. My daughter has had me download Young the Giant’s Cough Syrup and Kelly Clarkson’s Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You); Demi Lovato’s Skyscraper has also received download tonight.
Quotes to Inspire – (1) “If I knew how to take a good photograph, I’d do it every time.” – Robert Doisneau; and, (2) “If I have any ‘message’ worth giving to a beginner it is that there are no short cuts in photography.” – Edward Weston.
The Peace River - Dunvegan Bridge and Dunvegan Gardens
On October 1, 2011, as an educator having completed several month-long tasks associated with the September 30th student count and the paperchase associated with ministry deadlines at 11:00 p.m., the night before, the prospect of participating in a Kelby Photowalk was there, was a never-done and was possible. As a late, ‘day-of’ registrant one photowalk I could get to from High Level, Alberta, if I started my drive early enough was the photowalk in Dawson Creek, British Columbia. A five-hour drive would see me there with time to spare; the photowalk would start at 1:00 p.m., B.C. time. This was the photowalk I took part in. The other photowalk that was within driving distance but started much too early after my sleeping hard was Fairview-based but would take in the area in and around the Dunvegan Bridge, the Dunvegan historic site and the Dunvegan Gardens. That photowalk took place, in part, along the banks of the Peace River found in the image presented here.
In reviewing this image today, I note that several features of the river draw my attention. The river winds its way through the huge, open space of the river valley. The valley is welcome contrast to the linear, familiar landscape surrounding High Level in which you can look forward, side-to-side and behind you; but up-down depth of perspective and distance are fixed. Standing midpoint up the valley slope allows good change of perspective – opportunity to look down into the valley toward the river and the opportunity to look along the sides of the valley (almost a hallway of sorts) to appreciate its relief (the land’s wrinkles leading down to the river). This kind of perspective as I enjoyed it from a Kelowna hot tub looking down onto Lake Okanagan is one feature I will emulate if and when I ever purchase a hot tub, enjoying a hot tub’s warmth from a height while looking out upon something below.
The photograph, here, is a high dynamic range (HDR) shot in which colour, texture, relief and light are crisply enhanced, capturing attention. Beyond this, the subject of the image – the river – holds attention because there is natural flow and movement, an indicator of spring’s upcoming arrival. The river holds broken ice and moves along the surface of the water. And, the sky’s blue reflects in the water. All this reminds of former life in Fox Lake, Alberta when each evening I’d trek to the Peace River, enjoy its expanse, then return home. I walked to the river through all seasons. For me, this photograph of the Dunvegan river valley and reminiscence of the Kelby Photowalk seem to point to a richness in opportunity for photography throughout each day and through all seasons.
Listening to – Over the Rhine’s Drunkard’s Prayer album; songs standing out – Born, Who Will Guard the Door and Spark.
Quote to Inspire – “The world just does not fit conveniently into the format of a 35mm camera.” – W. Eugene Smith
Saturday – a new treasure of a car, a 2006 Nissan Altima with 35000 km, a vehicle barely finished being broken in, a definite upgrade from my 2000 GMC half-ton, a vehicle that is clean, well maintained and somewhat regal. The opportunity was there to test out the vehicle and to use the day to travel and to look around at the world through my camera lens. The choice leaned heavily toward going south to the Dunvegan Bridge and Grande Prairie; undiscovered landscapes in and around Peace River were to be considered. The choice could also lean into an eastward drive to Fort Vermilion and La Crete; but, I had been in La Crete twice in the previous month. The choice could also bend westward to Rainbow Lake and Chateh; but, doing so would really require truck or skidoo. Early in the morning, as I steered the Altima toward the highway … the choice became … north.
From High Level, Alberta to Enterprise and then Hay River in the Northwest Territories has you using one highway, highway 35 in Alberta which becomes highway 1 in the Northwest Territories, their route south to Edmonton. On Saturday, I made the -23C drive from High Level to Hay River and back stopping wherever my camera lens found interesting opportunities for image capture. On the Alberta side of the drive, a train trestle on the highway’s west side was the first image. A quarter of an hour later, I arrived at Steen River where a cabin along ancestral land of a Dene Tha’ trap line was the next image. Another hour passed, looking right, left, forward and back into the landscape along the road; often I turned the car around to revisit an area and to find photographs. I got to Alexandra Falls and clouds broke to reveal sun shining into trees, onto the highway and onto the Alexandra Falls. Midday’s light was bright and harsh, but for photographs along my ninety minute walk along a snow trampled path in forest atop the west side of the Hay River gorge below the falls; the walk to me from the first falls lookout to the second and third lookouts. Early afternoon found me in Hay River scouting out potential shots for later. After a bite to eat, in late afternoon the sun worked its way into sunset; several colourful photographs became possible – Buffalo Air’s DC-3s at the Hay River Airport, ships frozen in ice in the west channel below the Great Slave Lake and then photos at the Northern Transportation Company Limited (NTCL) shipyard. The day was colourful and cold, but a good opportunity to see winter’s north by day – one of my never dones.
Listening to – what’s been interesting in the past few days is to listen to CDs; where my 2000 GMC half-ton had a cassette deck and am/fm stereo, the Altima has a CD player. And, instead of listening to satellite radio which would require some hooking up, I’ve opted to listen to full albums on CD, a significant change from iPod playlists and satellite radio. Literally, there have been CDs I haven’t referred back to in more than a decade. Today’s listening has been to a Brian Houston album Mea Culpa and the songs standing out are Hard Man, Dancing with You and Standing Here. I’ve thought of these songs while thinking of another Brian Houston song – We Don’t Need Religion … a good enlightening tune.
Quotes to Inspire – (1)“There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs.” – Ansel Adams; (2) “I take photographs with love, so I try to make them art objects. But I make them for myself first and foremost – that is important.” – Jacque-Henri Lartique