Hopping Mesh – Forward

Best Practices - Photography, Canon 50mm, Canon 50mm Lens, Canon 60D, Canon Camera, Canon Lens, Canon Live View, Journaling, Light Intensity, Photography & Conceptualizing Beauty, Prime Lens, Project 365 - Photo-a-day, Spring, Still Life, Vehicle, Vehicle Restoration
1969-73 GMC Camper Special - High Level, Alberta 2

1969-73 GMC Camper Special – High Level, Alberta 2

69-73 GMC Camper Special - High Level, Alberta

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

That Old, Disused Farmhouse – Skulking Around Former Times

Canon 60D, Canon 70-200 mm 2.8 IS L Series Lens, Canon Camera, Canon Lens, Canon Live View, Farm, Farmhouse, Home, Homestead, Light Intensity, Photography & Conceptualizing Beauty, Podcast, Project 365 - Photo-a-day, Shuttertime with Sid and Mac, Spring, Still Life, Winter

The farming region I knew as a boy is that which lies west of Ponoka, Alberta – land homesteaded and broken by people who received land grants following their participation in the Canadian war effort during the second world war. Perhaps participation in war, an ordeal survived and won as a collective has made this clustering of soldiers who became farmers quite pragmatic with regard to helping each other out, and particularly so in relation to disused items. Word of an item no longer used will make its way around the region and the person who can use that item will connect with its current possessor. Terms will be agreed to, cash or services in kind will trade hands and the item will be put to good use. While I have seen such transaction occur with many smaller things – cars, trucks, tractors and farming equipment – the photograph presented here reminds me that in two instances I have seen houses as big as this one transported to new locations, set on new foundations and made use of.

The photographs draw me back to my childhood as a boy in the sixties and skulking around the old, disused farm house across the way from my aunt and uncle’s home near Rimbey, Alberta. My exploration of the house revealed a wooden basement foundation instead of a foundation made of cement (what I was used to). It also revealed a dirt basement floor and seemed to be used mainly as a cold cellar for canned goods and the like. My cousin and I explored other houses no longer used; they seemed to have been left medias res (in the middle of things).  Beds and dressers would be left in rooms.  The rooms would usually have painted walls, but in some wallpaper revealed tastes of a former time.  Some homes served much like sheds these days where old furniture or clothes that have gone out of fashion can be stored.  Some had floors rotted through, the result of annual flooding. Some homes revealed children’s toys of a former time. Exploration always revealed the lives lived within the four walls of the house.

Moving forward – I wonder about the house in the photograph.  It is huge.  It is well-made.  It still retains its structure. The plant growth surrounding the house cannot be more than fifteen years in the growing. So, whoever left it made their departure quite recently in terms of the age of houses. Thinking back to houses I’ve seen moved, I wonder about why similar efforts have not been taken to add new life and new purpose to this farm house. Surely it could have been used a while back as a house to help a young family starting out.  And, perhaps more importantly, doing so would have been a part of a farm family’s moving forward and their de-cluttering from what is no longer needed of the past. The curiosity is that there is something that holds this house in its present location … and that’s where its story is.

Listening to Shuttertime with Sid and Mac episode XXI and good discussion on the practices associated with landscape photography; I continue to be impressed by the opinions, persuasion, logic and knowledge these two Edmonton-based, Canon photographers possess.   Dave Matthews Band’s Steady As We Go and Dreamgirl, David Gray’s This Year’s Love, Patty Griffin’s Rain, Dar Williams’ The One Who Knows and Mindy Smith’s One More Moment surface as music holding my attention.

Quote to Inspire – “In my view you cannot claim to have seen something until you have photographed it.” – Emile Zola

That Old A&W Shirt and A World Fed

Best Practices - Photography, Canon 60D, Canon 70-200 mm 2.8 IS L Series Lens, Canon Camera, Canon Lens, Canon Live View, Combine (Farming), Farm, Farmhouse, High Dynamic Range (HDR), Home, Light Intensity, Photoblog Intention, Project 365 - Photo-a-day, Winter

Farmhouse, Grain Bins & Combines

Curiosity surrounds this image.  A derelict farmhouse is at geometric center point for farm buildings and as many as four combines from the fifties and sixties – three on the left (one is hidden behind the darker one) and one on the right, in front of the grain bin.  The buildings have not been burnt off the land and the combines no longer work; again, there’s an air of abandonment as well as reverence for what was a family’s starting point.

My cousin, a farmer, in his first decade of marriage would occasionally wear an A&W shirt from its nation-wide hamburger restaurant chain, something likely found and bought from a Goodwill or Value Village or Thrift Store back in the eighties. I’m not sure if his wearing of this shirt was youthful cynicism or if he was making light of the fact that as a farmer he fed the world – all farmers do this … but role/position in what one does for work as farmer sometimes blurs/shifts to the background what farmers accomplish on a global scale. I don’t know if I’ve ever thought about how many people all his grain and all his cattle could keep alive in one year; I wonder if he has?

My cousin and his wife ran a mixed farming operation in partnership with his father and his mother in Rimbey, Alberta, an area of Alberta situated in a golden triangle blessed with the right combination of rain, sun and cloud for their grain crops, an area of the world that supported a sizeable Hereford cattle operation, as well. The Blindman River runs through their property and while summer was an extremely busy season, my cousin likely looked forward to days when friends and relations would visit, allowing him to break away from heavy or mundane routines. On our visits, we’d go back into the wooded ravine and talk. There’d be good-hearted, entertaining, teasing back and forth as we investigated the currency of each other’s lives in playful interrogation.  A good amount of bull-s**t would extend exaggeration into all that our stories could become. On my cousin’s farm, I watched him grow from a boy building model cars, to a youth with a grain elevator job who was dating (… and owning a black, two-door, 1966 Chevelle), to a young spouse, into a farming partner, to a father, and then two decades later into an innovative entrepreneur with patents for frost-free nose pumps.

In recent years I’ve been struck by how close to the land they may actually have been living and how much their success or failure as farmers depended on their ability to rely upon and support their neighbors; help offered and help received is/was really an investment in community and in each other. I am impressed by the humility they exercised in allowing themselves the help offered by neighbors who took care of them and saw them more as family than neighbors. Likewise I am impressed by the care they showed not only to our family, but towards others by putting something positive in their lives when they needed it … even if this was only done by way of good-hearted humour and teasing during an evening board game.

Stories take me back to this era of time when farms such as this one captured in this image were starting points for Canadian families.  One set of Canadian stories about farm-life were W.O. Mitchell’s Jake and the Kid Stories.  The other story that opened out the time toward moving into the fifties was John Grisham’s A Painted House. The farm I know best, though, is that farm my cousin grew up on; and, then I come back to this image and the questions I have about leaving it in this state – it must be memorial, something that draws memory back to what was and who they were that made things happen, feeding the world.

As I’ve searched through my music for songs associated with Canada and with farms I’ve run into Murray McLauchlan, a singer and songwriter whose album I purchased would have been one of the first three albums I ever purchased.  The one that would have pulled my ear to the radio would have been Hard Rock Town, a song I tried to understand in terms of narrative in grade 8, 9 or 10; the other would have been Farmer’s Song, a song that could be sung around a campfire in unison, a song that could be sung in a prairie tavern when everyone’s collected on a Friday or Saturday night.

Listening to – Murray McLauchlan’s Hard Rock Town from his Songs from the Street album and Farmer’s Song, done I think with Murray McLauchlan et al in Lunch at Allen’s Catch the Moon album. Finally, tonight I purchased Ryan Adam’s Chains of Love from his Ashes & Fire album.

Quotes to Inspire – (1) “A photographer without a magazine behind him is like a farmer without fields.” – Norman Parkinson; (2) “Beauty can be seen in all things, seeing and composing the beauty is what separates the snapshot from the photograph.” – Matt Hardy

What Happened Here ….

Best Practices - Photography, Canon 50mm, Canon 50mm Lens, Canon 60D, Canon Camera, Canon Live View, High Dynamic Range (HDR), Photoblog Intention, Photography & Conceptualizing Beauty, Prime Lens, Project 365 - Photo-a-day, Still Life, Winter

Early Fifties Two-door Sedan - Blue Hills

Car photography especially of early fifties vehicles, for me, derives from my learning to steer a car and then to drive one sitting next to a favourite, older cousin in his copper brown and white 1951 Mercury four-door.  Strong-arm steering meant that effort was needed to guide the Mercury down dusty gravel roads. These drives usually followed Sunday get-togethers of my family from Edmonton with his in Rimbey, Alberta. The event, recalled to memory is that of a late spring or early summer drive, following an evening meal and Walt Disney.  I might have been nine or ten years old when I first took the wheel for some good, adventure-filled times before saying our goodbyes, parting company and returning home in an hour-long drive to Edmonton.  Always, my aunt, uncle and three cousins would wave to us from their porch as we left. Our families might see each other again in a month or two. Those were good times.

My starting point for this photograph is curious. I am unable to determine the make of this early fifties two-door sedan. Given that this Blue Hills’ farm and its woods have seemingly been left as if in the middle of things, its abandonment indicates something unfinished in not just one life but in the lives of a few. Here, what is sacred is often about the conception of ‘what-has-happened-here.’  It associates to memory that will not fade and cannot be left. With this image, just as in no-trace camping the art is to pass through an area without disturbing it, this photograph presents the necessity of capturing something seemingly sacred without disturbance – reverence and respect are needed.

Listening to the Dave Matthews Band from the album Stand Up and the childhood/teen reminiscences of Old Dirt Hill, a song that recalls my go-cart, our garage and back alley … and friends at Easter break in Edmonton in grade 5 – 1972 … what a week (and to be grounded part-way through).

Quote to Inspire – “A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you the less you know.” —Diane Arbus