Goethe, Horizons and Thresholds

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Saturday – new horizons await a friend, a colleague and a mentor as he moves on from our school. He is the person who hired me into our school division. And, he’s someone who in action, thought and approach is a character developing leader worthy of Goethe’s quote (below) because he’s able to encourage and bring forth the best contribution people have to offer among our team. He lives this out in practice, “Treat people as if they were what they ought to be, and you help them to become what they are capable of being.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. And, his farewell party – a remembrance and celebration of the impact he’s had on people’s lives – is something I’ve had to miss being a Dad who has needed to bring home his son and his son’s gear from University. My contribution to my colleague’s farewell was an Animoto slideshow, a collection of images taken from various points in his thirty-year career – memorable, memorable times (like the fun we had skidooing and coming upon a saucy lynx that wouldn’t be bothered about getting out of our way). My wife went in my stead with our friends to the farewell celebration.

That was Saturday night, a night memorable also because I wasn’t there yet was thinking about all its goings-on.  The photographs, here, are taken roughly at the same time of night that this colleague’s farewell celebration would have been in full swing.  I stopped in my drive to look around with my camera lens because I know my friend and mentor would want me to. This week has been about offering photography as a contribution to the school’s dinner theater. The Northern Actors’ Guild, our school theater troupe, is presenting the musical, Grease. It’s been fun working with students and staff to create a visual record of rehearsals and headshot portraits for foyer display. Students in high school are at the tail-end of adolescence still metamorphosing into adult form – photography, here, along with the actor’s costumes acknowledges state of change, a step closer to or perhaps into adulthood.  It shocks and surprises – the new state does not always assimilate easily in terms of understanding one’s identity.

Perhaps that is something else that photography is – a record of threshold moments.

Listening to – Over the Rhine’s Spark, Patty Griffin’s Tomorrow Night, Mindy Smith’s Train Song and Dar Williams’ Mercy of the Fallen.  I-Nine performs Same in Any Language and Ryan Adams, his She Wants to Play Hearts. Then there’s Bruce Cockburn’s Pacing the Cage and David Gray’s Tidal Wave which rounds out into Over the Rhine’s Born.

Quote to Inspire – “If your photos aren’t good enough, then you’re not close enough.” – Robert Capa

Dusk’s Golden Hour

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Within a busy week opportunity for travel along former routes of home permits departure from the whirring, buzzing, routinized rhythm and press of town Life. An hour upon the road gathers me to others and I listen and we talk, good, informing chatter. The gathering, done, permits time beyond meeting to slow down and attend to what I see in that dusky golden hour of half-light. My look-round occurs through the lens attached to my Canon 60D. At the Anglican Cemetery in Fort Vermilion, Alberta I begin; many of the grave markers are granite headstones. Others, painted or stained wooden crosses, seem more temporary. Perhaps maintenance of this tentative grave marker highlights practice in looking after those who have gone before us.

I point my car northward toward High Level. My drive from home out to Fort Vermilion has given me windshield time, time to look out from my car’s windows and to note the snowless earth that is warming, thawing and drying. As we move into summer, hours of sunlight will extend backward into earlier mornings and forward into later evenings. Summer solstice will see the sun dip below the horizon at 11:45 p.m. and reappear at 2:30 a.m., the time between being a protracted period of half-light that photographers refer to as their golden hour when the intensity of light drops off and the quality of light and what is lit changes. At its darkest, there will be a gray eeriness. Tonight, I’ve been able to catch cattails within our current golden hour (at about 9:45 p.m. the sun has just dipped below the horizon). Shallow depth of field permits focus and highlight of subject and the generalization of shapes that pattern into the background.

Listening to – two female voices; first, seeing Aimee Mann within my iTunes catalogue sparked curiosity toward her work with Til Tuesday – I’ve purchased two different versions of Voices Carry.  Then, in relation to psalm 23, I was curious as to whether or not Sarah Masen was able to have her album, The Dreamlife of Angels, made available through iTunes.  It’s been about ten years since Stocki first played it on Rhythm and Soul; at the time, a major record deal was not in the offing. But, now her album is something I’ve just found and it’s about time.  Sarah is an intelligent lyricist; her song The Valley references psalm 23, making you think, and a curiously interesting tune called Hope is worth the listen.  What else – The Five Blind Boys of Alabama will feature at Edmonton’s Winspear Centre along with Over the Rhine on June 10th.  Good schtuff … if you’re to take it in.

Quote to Inspire – “You don’t take a photograph, you make it.” -Ansel Adams

An Hour Away

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I have an uncle, my Dad’s younger brother, who was in his career a beloved literature professor at Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. As a professor he was well-liked by his students and he knew what students were about and was able to direct them profitably and constructively in their academic careers. At lunchtimes in Edmonton growing up, Dad would read us letters in which his brother would own to his chagrin in the matter of occasionally having to borrow cigarettes from his students. His students esteemed him enough to forego this trespass – he got along with his students that well. What’s brought him to mind tonight is that he was someone who when sitting still at a task for too long got himself up out of his chair or away from his desk and out into his car and go for an hour’s drive and have a look about at his world; the last car of his that I road in was an early eighties Volvo sedan that he had had repainted a metallic green. He loved a drive as did his mother (my grandmother), his wife and daughter. A good drive was always a means to unwind from a day pressing obligations to capacity; he’d arrive back and he would have shifted his state … the world was better for having gone for a drive.

Yesterday, at day’s end I found that I had been sitting at computers, at school and at home, for more than twelve hours combined. And, I found that there was still more to do, more obligations to students and staff and their various undertakings … the work of the work was to stay at it and complete it. But, I wasn’t being productive, more a body realization than anything else … sitting down and sitting still from my day into my evening was not to be had. I pulled my uncle’s trick, I grabbed my camera bag, tripod, down-filled jacket, gloves and hat, and, I got into my car and steered it east from High Level. Twenty minutes from High Level, yielded the opportunity to photograph Canada geese, cranes, swallows and reflection upon water. The evening also yielded the good fortune of stumbling into a former colleague whose career path has mirrored my own; we probably haven’t chatted meaningfully for about five or six years. In half an hour I heard much about her world – her daughters, her husband and their next steps. I finished out the evening with another hour of photography and returned home.

Listening to – the Steve Miller Band’s Rock’n Me, Take the Money and Run and Mercury Blues;  Murray McLauchlan’s Farmer’s Song and Hard Rock Town have featured as has Ryan Adams’ Chains of Love.  The morning’s walk featured U2’s Magnificent, Eddie Vedder’s Hard Sun among other songs.

Quote to Inspire – “I treat the photograph as a work of great complexity in which you can find the 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

Soul Cage

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On this morning’s walk I chose music over prose.  The brooding plot of D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover in all the consideration before action seems quite bleak and maybe the story is written intentionally so that renewal in physical sensuality is highlighted against the mundane existence of day-to-day life.

Music suited me better in the initiation of the day. Robbie Robertson played first, then Bruce Cockburn and U2, then on to Roxy Music and The Tragically Hip, all on my genius playlist beginning with Sweet Fire of Love. Then, in combination with thought about this photograph Sting begins on a song called The Soul Cages. For as much as the song’s lyrics refer to our humanoid condition here on earth I was drawn to consider whether or not a camera is another soul cage. I’m thinking that a camera is a tool that cages the soul within the photograph produced in that it  encapsulates a moment of time, recording Life status and history in whatever condition we or the world were in – good or bad.

The camera photographed here is a Leica.  A while back, Maciek Sokulski encouraged his Shuttertime with Sid and Mac podcast listeners to purchase an older camera, one that causes you to think about photography beyond the digital means, a camera with which to use your honed knowledge/skills of photography and to exercise expertise and skill in creating good photographs without waste.  This Leica is my father’s from the early sixties.  It is a camera that was used technically in the production of plastic and was used as part of the process to view at a microscopic level the grade/quality of plastics at an Edmonton plastics plant.  It is a Leica without a viewfinder and is something my brothers and I should try out one of these days to see how it shoots. Maybe we will give it a try this summer.

Listening to – Robbie Robertson’s Soap Box Preacher, Amanda Marshall’s Sitting On Top of the World, Jann Arden’s The Sound Of, U2’s I Fall Down, Joan Osborne’s Man in the Long Black Coat and Neil Young’s When God Made Me.

Quote to Inspire – “Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving.  What you have caught on film is captured forever … it remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything.” – Aaron Siskind

Makeshift Autoyard

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Charles Dickens once wrote a novel about an Old Curiosity Shop, a shop much like that of current second-hand stores or thrift stores in which a store owner collects collectibles, curiosities that satisfy our need to discover things that fit the environment we wish to create for our lives. Tonight, day-long, spring snow flurries bring about a look-back through photos. This photograph surfaced as one provoking the curiosities that rusting relics are at that point before restoration in which appraisal and consideration of possibility occurs – questions stir about what needs done, what the vehicle can become, what it will be like to drive and who will drive it.  Possibility is leveraged as much by reminiscence as by future anticipation. Something of this imaginative aspect regarding a curiosity to be purchased is what Dickens explores in his novel The Olde Curiosity Shop – the nature of how we choose what we will put into our lives. Rusting relics in this rag-tag, makeshift auto-yard have me wondering about the curiosity that these older vehicles hold and highlight the necessity of imagination in investigating the possibility of what any of these vehicles can become. For me, the teal blue 1959 or 1960 Chevrolet reminds of a car that my grandfather drove when I was three or four.  I can only recall being transported in this vehicle two or three times in and around Edmonton and then back to their home on Strathearn Drive – a memory that requires some reaching back.

Listening to – Snow Patrol’s Lifeboats, Radiohead’s High and Dry, Coldplay’s Don’t Panic and Kings of Leon’s Closer; the song that’s been on my mind throughout the post has been The Tragically Hip’s As Makeshift As We Are.

Quotes to Inspire – (1) “Photography can only represent the present. Once photographed, the subject becomes part of the past.” – Bernice Abbott (2) “A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you the less you know.” – Diane Arbus

Perspective – Where to Stand

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A cube or a box – the physical structure of the spaces we tend to inhabit for the majority of our days are cubes or boxes. There’s the cube or box of home. There’s the cube or box of work. As human beings it’s important that we find the third and fourth cubes beyond our work environment and beyond the home, the third and fourth elements of our day that balance out contact with work and withdrawal from endeavor. The analogy works forward in terms of thinking outside the box, breaking from routine and locating yourself in activities in the world to gain perspective on your world. Add a camera to the equation and the analogy drills down a step – you’re gaining perspective on the world you live in in much more concrete terms. Photography allows for that look at your broader context. Photography orients you to the beauty you’ll find that’s only minutes away. In fifteen minutes, I’d driven east and found these cattails at day’s end on a warmer spring day well into melt.

Listening to – The Five Blind Boys of Alabama and their rendition of Run On For A Long Time, Feed A Man by Billy Bragg & Wilco,  Shakedown on 9th Street by Ryan Adams, Buffalo by Kathleen Edwards, Fully Completely by The Tragically Hip,  Wonderwall by Ryan Adams, Eh Hee by Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds, You Might Die Trying by the Dave Matthews Band, U2’s Wake Up Dead Man and Jack Johnson’s Rodeo Clowns.

Quote to Inspire – “A good photograph is knowing where to stand.” – Ansel Adams

325 – 152nd Street East, Tacoma, Washington

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One of the bigger treats for me in visiting Seattle, Washington this Easter was something my wife and daughter allowed me to do on the Thursday before we returned to Canada, something that they joined me in. That Thursday morning, we drove from Seattle an hour south to Tacoma and using our TomTom GPS were able to navigate to 325 – 152nd Street East to arrive at the LeMay Car Collection/Museum at Marymount.

Imagine a former convent/school resurrected to become storage and showing site for the LeMay collection of cars and trucks, vehicles of the last one hundred years. At the museum, a docent will lead you through each collecting point on the Marymount property. Not only do rusting relics inhabit these spaces, but you also find that the majority of vehicles within these confines will have received restoration or would have been kept in their original pristine condition throughout their years. Beyond this, imagine that your docent has heart and understands well your connection to cars and knows each car’s history intimately. He’s able to tell you all that you didn’t know about each car. Our docent, Mr. Pierce, led us, this way and that, through the maze of cars parked end to end in each of three buildings, a means to house them all. He was introducing each car to us – what the car was about practically, what had been each automaker’s intentions for the vehicle conceptually and how the car came to reside within the LeMay collection.

And, Mr. Pierce allowed me a kind of grace that only a fellow gear-head would ever let you have … he allowed time to photograph the vehicles and for that I will be forever grateful. At two hours in to my tour my wife went to be with my daughter out in our rental car while I rounded off the tour with Mr. Pierce looking up close at some of the first-ever self-propelled vehicles to transport people around the Americas. In terms of next steps, I’m considering becoming a member at the LeMay museum – they may be able to make use of this old-time car jockey who used to dust and polish cars at Edmonton’s Waterloo Mercury.

Listening to – U2’s Magnificent, Coldplay’s Yes and Radiohead’s All I Need.  In terms of audiobooks, the last two morning walks have been a listen through D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover; it’s been more than a couple of year’s since I’ve been through the book and this audio-recording has a good reader –  Maxine Peake.

Quote to Inspire – “Photography does not create eternity, as art does; it embalms time, rescuing it simply from its proper corruption.” – Andre Bazin (1918-1958), French film critic.

Broad Strokes – Three Dimensions

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Visually, Seattle clusters in broad strokes among three dimensions. There’s the up and down of tall, tall buildings. There’s the Seattle you find more of to your right and to your left, more buildings, more streets, more sidewalks. Seattle extends in front of you, behind you and way over in every direction – bridges curve with the landscape and cross huge expanses of land and water. Seattle is a walker’s city. Distances around the city core are manageable walking distances. Navigating the downtown core is straightforward. The terrain offers up and down, a good walker’s workout. And, fresh air blows up from the ocean through the city. Movie-wise I recognized the city watching an eighty’s movie only last weekend; Seattle is the setting within the movie, An Officer and A Gentleman. And, during our time in Seattle, we were able to see the Lake Union lake cottage set of the house used by Tom Hanks’ character in the movie Sleepless in Seattle; we’d taken the Ducks’ tour and saw many of Seattle’s highlights. The Seattle night photos remind much of U2’s music video presentation of their album No Line on the Horizon and specifically to City of Blinding Lights, a reference more directly referring to Paris, France; the appellation could just as easily refer to the Seattle that I’ve seen at night.

Listening to a preview of Jack White’s Blunderbuss album; it’s holding true to Jack White sound; it’s good and it’s fresh Jack White.

Quote to Inspire – “There will be times when you will be in the field without a camera.  And, you will see the most glorious sunset or the most beautiful scene that you have ever witnessed.  Don’t be bitter because you can’t record it. Sit down, drink it in, and enjoy it for what it is!” – Degriff

Moonrise over Elliot Bay

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Coming to Seattle from just south of the 60th parallel, I had expected the earth’s sunrise and sunset to be more in tandem with what happens for us in our north. I was surprised to find the sun rising much earlier than it was back home. On Saturday, our travel day home from Seattle, Washington to Edmonton, Alberta I was able to gather photo gear quietly without disturbing my wife and daughter and head out quite early to snap photos. While I captured images from Seattle’s downtown, two of the shots I’m liking deal with the moonrise at sunrise across Elliot bay. And, while there are five images presented there are only two images dealt with.  One image plays with different lighting presets and composition while the other, the final one is pretty much straight out of the camera. Our waitress at the Andaluca restaurant caught the sight on her early morning jaunt to work. The sight was rare, something to see.

Quote to Inspire – “To me, photography is an art of observation.  It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place … I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.” – Elliot Erwitt

Listening to Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here album following a documentary on Pink Floyd that explored their reunion for the global Live 8 Concert;  they’d been apart for some twenty odd years … two of those members have passed on. In the song Wish You Were Here that I’m listening to, Stephane Grappelli accompanies Pink Floyd. Interesting!

Seattle’s Pike Market Place

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One feature of our Seattle trip was we were active throughout each day walking, travelling and walking some more. Being active helped us maintain body rhythms and daily routine. We were usually up at seven and on our way somewhere by eight. Breakfast, most mornings, was at the Andaluca Restaurant, a restaurant attached to Seattle’s Mayflower Park Hotel. These morning meals were sumptuous – Brioche French Toast, Hazelnut Waffles, Steel Cut Scottish Oats and Banana Pancakes; a side of pepper bacon was added twice. Coffee was made as coffee should be and our orange juice was fresh. From this restaurant we’d head out to Seattle, its sights and attractions.

And, we always seemed to return to the Pike Place Market at day’s end, from up above, street side or from down below from the harbor. We seemed to arrive each day within the market’s last hour of hustle and bustle as vendors went about closing up shop – a flurry of activity, enthusiasm, good-natured banter with customers and the mingling and flow of people in movement into their evening. The photos presented here capture the Pike Place Market at day’s beginning and at its day’s end.

Notable among the attractions in the Corner Market (across from the Pike Place Market) is the original Starbuck’s (established in 1971) named after Starbuck in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. In terms of the novel’s whaling adventures, this setting for a coffeehouse Starbuck would frequent is appropriate.  The coffeehouse is a short twenty-minute climb up from the harbor piers of Elliot Bay to its location above the harbor, looking out onto the bay. This original Starbucks is the point from which the Starbucks’ empire has grown and it’s a company that has grown equally by way of its service provided as well as by the quality of its coffee. In It’s Not About the Coffee, Howard Behar (former Starbucks vice president) writes about the act of growing Starbucks by way of good leadership that emphasizes the relationship sustained between coffee consumer and service provider (Starbucks’ worker) – the human side of business.

Not only has good leadership and good business grown from this location, but, right across the street the Pike Place Fish Market has become a model for ‘cultural transformation and self-generative learning for organizations of all kinds.’  Their model for transforming an organization from within focuses on empowerment, transforming vision into reality and the conception that any organization has as one of its primary purposes that of making a difference in the world.

And, the business of the day continues, each day … in this very rich starting point … for many good things.

10 Principles of Personal Leadership (from Howard Behar in It’s Not About the Coffee – Leadership Principles from Life at Starbucks)

  1. Know Who You Are: Wear One Hat
  2. Know Why You’re Here: Do It Because It’s Right, Not Because It’s Right for Your Resume
  3. Think Independently: The Person Who Sweeps the Floor Should Choose the Broom
  4. Build Trust: Care, like You Really Mean It
  5. Listen for the Truth: The Walls Talk
  6. Be Accountable: Only the Truth Sounds like the Truth
  7. Take Action: Think Like a Person of Action, and Act like a Person of Thought
  8. Face Challenge: We Are Human Beings First
  9. Practice Leadership: The Big Noise and the Still, Small Voice
  10. Dare to Dream: Say “Yes,” the Most Powerful Word in the World

Quotes to Inspire – (1) “To photograph is to confer importance.” – Susan Sontag (2) “To photograph truthfully and effectively is to see beneath the surfaces and record the qualities of nature and humanity which live or are latent in all things.” – Ansel Adams

Listening to – Counting Crows Omaha and Ghost Train; also listening to David Gray’s Shine.