Moose, Moleskin & Bison

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

Reflection – Rain-soaked and Waxless

One Ton Truck - Edmonton, Alberta
One Ton Truck – Edmonton, Alberta

Of the renderings considered, this image of the one ton grain truck (or perhaps utility truck) from the fifties intrigues by way of its waxless reflection brought out by its being rain soaked.  The image’s colours are late summer’s end-of-day colours.  Night isn’t too far off, the shot taken within evening’s Golden Hour in Edmonton.  John Grisham wrote A Painted House, a growing up novel written about a boy’s witnessing America’s move from the farm (a cotton plantation) to its cities in America’s fifties; this is the kind of truck that might have been found within Grisham’s narrative.  I hadn’t thought his narrative (as autobiographical as it is) might be considered sibling narrative to Jack Kerouac’s On the Road until now.

Listening to – what is seemingly a rural truck reminds of Lucinda Williams’ Car Wheels on a Gravel Road.

Quote to Inspire – “The goal is not to change your subjects, but for the subject to change the photographer.” – Anonymous

Carpe Diem, Conundrum & Mosquitos

Conundrum – how to manage a photo-a-day blog when away from home, computer, software and the Internet. Is it a matter of taking a computer with you? Or is it about caching photos taken during vacation for presentation later on, in look-back fashion? I’m only now sitting down at my computer to review photos, some three weeks later to discover this present gem of an image, a one-ton, late fifties truck that pops noticeably because of the wet reflective surface provided courtesy of the rain. Reflection is a neat thing for adding light to a subject and in so doing, highlighting the subject’s lines and shape. Here, an extraordinary combination of clouds, sun and rain at day’s end allows the opportunity to explore textures, shape, reflection and background. In taking this photo, there was the scramble to the scene (a reasonable distance) in order to make use of the setting, light and background.  And, in this same scene while there has been that aspect of Carpe Diem, there too were the mosquitos within the wet, warm weather to contend with. But, a gem is a gem and I like each of the four renderings of this photo.

In truth, though, it has been hard to sit still at day’s end, the household asleep and to find that I’m awake without the tools for editing photos, writing a post and blogging. The issue is about workflow and what I really value doing with my/our time on vacation.  Photography is intended to assist vacation recall … not what the vacation should be about. Next year, perhaps a laptop … perhaps not.  Perhaps focus will remain on enjoying and capturing our vacation with my camera.

I haven’t withdrawn from my blog so much as I’ve been presented with the separation of vacation from the routines of daily life – sort of a forced withdrawal that’s likely to bring benefits with regard to energy and perspective.

Listening to – Shawn Colvin’s All Fall Down.

Quote to Inspire – “A photograph is a moral decision taken in one eighth of a second.” – Salman Rushdie, The Ground Beneath Her Feet

Tunes – Lunch Break

Sunset & Plant - Fort Vermilion Turnoff, Fort Vermilion, Alberta
Sunset & Plant – Fort Vermilion Turnoff, Fort Vermilion, Alberta

On lunch break between summer tasks, I play tunes my daughter has had us download in iTunes – Smash Mouth songs, Megan & Liz songs and songs from the Glee Cast. She’s had me track down the original of The Zombies – She’s Not There, a song sung on Glee. Another song from the Glee repertoire is Tears for Fears’ Mad World; we find the Michael Andrews and Gary Jules version of the song that encapsulates the theme within the Donnie Darko movie; it contains a straightforward set of lyrics about Life’s absurdity in being there but not there, almost a ghost within a world where you can be seen but not known, recognized but not affirmed, speak but not be understood. Our listen through with iTunes two nights back brought out several songs by The Who which we download – Won’t Get Fooled Again, I Can See For Miles, Behind Blue Eyes, My Generation, Pinball Wizard and Baba O’Riley. My daughter recognizes Pinball Wizard, a song she’s heard, and I wonder where she would have heard it – questions to ask.  For now she’s happy to have our downloads and to have the songs loaded on her iPod.

One lingering photo is this, taken at sunset, a plant with maroon and gold stem and shoots; it sways in the breeze as I try a macro shot. I’m liking the colours despite its movement.

Quote to Inspire – “No, the camera can’t steal the soul.  But it can occasionally hold it hostage.” – author unknown

Listening to – The Who andMy Generation.  Also listening to Smash Mouth’s Walkin’ on the Sun and All Star.

Keeping Moments From Running Away

One use for photography is as a means to revisit the past, to investigate the reality of former times and to hold up to scrutiny the mind’s eye view of significant events held in memory against the reality that photography reveals. Former times often become focal point for memory; we attach meaning and narrative to what has happened to us in significant events and memorable moments. Reaching back to former times with a camera allows for the investigation of visual information within scenes and settings surrounding Life events. Distances, depth, architecture, shape, colour – the visual information within a photograph allows for extrapolation, to see more of the story that was at play. Such camera investigation with editing of images has a settling aspect to it; it establishes more of the facts surrounding events and moves past glory day’s nostalgia to clearer recognition of what comprised scene and action. In doing so, photography locks in the visual information within a scene. While I tend to think of Edmonton, the home I grew up in, and, the events and happenings of years ago, the process is the same when I consider our northern seasons. The dark of winter will bring longing for warmth and breeze of summer’s blue-sky days with clouds stacking and fields in greens, yellows and gold; intensities are there, too – heat, lightning, convection, weather. The photographs here are of such summer days and for those winter days.

Listening to – Alison Krauss/Union Station’s When You Say Nothing At All.

Quotes to Inspire – (1) “Taking pictures is savoring life intensely, every hundredth of a second.” – Marc Riboud (2) “When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs.  When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.” – Ansel Adams. (3) “A good snapshot keeps a moment from running away.” – Eudora Welty

Wilson Prairie Wildfire – Day 3

Day 3 of the Wilson Prairie Wildfire – Friday, July 6th, 2012. In contrast to Thursday evening in which residents were able to move freely into the fire area, Friday saw Alberta’s Ministry of Sustainable Resource Development (SRD) controlling road access so that firefighting equipment could be moved around with greater ease on Wilson Prairie Road. I arrived in the early afternoon to find access to Wilson Prairie Road being controlled. I couldn’t use my vehicle on Wilson Prairie Road. But, I could walk in, staying to the ditches when equipment was being moved through. Two-and-a-half hours walking in and out allowed me to see more of what was going on and how the blaze was being controlled. Dozers were creating breaks/cut-lines and pushing piles of brush together so they’d burn more easily/quickly. Areas of intended burn and back-burn were being created.   One home was in harm’s way and helicopters were being used to sling water (from local dug-outs) to saturate the area in the case that the fire’s path changed with the winds. Air tankers had been tasked to other fires within the region; but, lead planes and Martin Mars water bombers (or the like) were being used to keep a consistent supply of water on the fire. On dust-ridden, gravel roads water trucks moved slowly dribbling water to keep dust down for vehicles moving in close proximity to one another. Later, I was able to drive around behind the fire to two other points to catch the more dramatic perspective of hot, billowing smoke moving upward into the atmosphere and the water bombers flying into fire area to release water on flames below.

Listening to – Adele’s Set Fire to the Rain, a tune played throughout last year’s forest fire that consumed Slave Lake, Alberta (spring 2011).

Quote to Inspire – “I enjoy traveling and recording far-away places and people with my camera.  But I also find it wonderfully rewarding to see what I can discover outside my own window.  You only need to study the scene with the eyes of a photographer.” – Alfred Eisenstadt

ATTO – All That Time Off

Our school year is complete.  Mandated and extracurricular tasks and obligations have been seen through to good conclusion. I continue to be amazed at all the work all teachers engage in in moving students onward in their academic learning as these same students move into, through and from of the hormone jungle. Our final days at school have been about pushing through, getting what needs done, done and sharing in celebration and play with students.

Our year-end school riot, outdoors, held so much fun – a supremely significant high point to the year – water pistols, pies in the face (for staff and students), izzy-dizzy, wet/slippery tug-of-war, shin cracker, fire engine pull, music and more music and most fun was the make-shift water slide (a rubber 100’ x 50’ tarp with fire truck pumper and two fire hoses soaking students and staff in summer sun); staff and students shared laughter and smiles abundantly … what an extraordinary day! Stats on the Animoto of the event are sitting at 180+ viewings within one week – our year-end riot was a hit and definitely memorable.

Beyond the riot, the final days were about pushing through, getting year-end tasks done; then, there was a sacred congregational task to be completed last Sunday at Hutch Lake, Alberta. Frank McCourt, author of Angela’s Ashes and ‘Tis also wrote a book about his teaching life in New York City.  In his book, Teacher Man, he references the acronym ATTO, meant to mean ‘all that time off’ that non-teachers look at as the perk to teaching and as something perhaps as an ill-gotten-gain. The reality is that there really is all that time off.  But, for me and any other teacher the time is something used to catch one’s breath mentally and physically. It’s a time to move the teacher’s self from back burner interest and to step out and seize hold of Life and to breathe Life into interests, intentions, goals and endeavors.

The house that needs fixing, the taxes that need submission, the mail that needs opening … all those things that have been put off so that a rich school year may be had by students – these are the things that now must get done. Yesterday, summer’s reward was there.  On his Soul Surmise website, Steve Stockman (Stocki) provided the world with his top ten album picks for the first half of 2012. The reward specific – Stocki pointed me to Matthew Perryman Jones and his Land of the Living album, intelligent, well-crafted lyrics with a voice richly reminiscent of David Gray; truly manna.

The photographs presented here are ones taken on a drive northward from High Level, Alberta towards the Alexandra Falls just on the other side of the Northwest Territories border. I had freed myself for an afternoon and got into the car with my Canon 60D. Most shots are macro shots of colour amongst greenery.  Two shots are photos of the aftermath of a forest fire that had raged on North of us a few weeks before.

Listening to – Matthew Perryman Jones’ Land of the Living album – The Angels Were Singing, Cancion de la Noche and I Won’t Let You Down Again;  the melody from Stones From the Riverbed catches my interest.

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