A Maritime Menu

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For those of you who have been to the east coast of Canada, you will know what I mean when I describe it as charming.

 

 

 

 

No matter which Atlantic province you find yourself meandering through, it is pure charm.

 

 

 

 

From the misty shores of St. Andrews, through to Saint John, Moncton and Truro you travel through bush conditions not unlike the west coast, with awe inspiring coastal views of the Bay of Fundy, and Hopewell Rocks.

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Just past Halifax you will arrive in picturesque Lunenburg and the coastal feel returns with the enchanting Mahone Bay, and sunsets at rustic Blue Rocks. Spend a few days exploring the area nearby and maybe head farther west down the coast. 

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A day trip to Peggy’s Cove and Halifax, then leaving the area through Dartmouth, and Sheet Harbour on the way to Antigonish.

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The coastal highway is slow but you stumble upon worthwhile scenery, from enormous boats in backyards, brightly painted houses in historic villages, to dramatic cliffs.

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From Antigonish, head up to Baddeck to the Alexander Graham Bell museum and marvel at his immense intellect and endless inventions. Equally impressive is his wife, Mabel who was deaf and inspired Alexander, and organized the business end of his life, along with family, home, and well, everything else.

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Continue by circling counterclockwise on the Cabot Trail- for the best views! Travel as far east as Meat Cove, (there is no farther East in NS) then circle down to Ingonish and stop at the Glenora Distillery for the best seafood you will ever eat.

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Then reluctantly wave goodbye to Nova Scotia and cross the 12 km bridge to PEI. EC book (61 of 242)

By the time you settle in Cavendish, driving through Stanley Bridge past the French River’s colourful lobster shacks, and spend a day or two in Charlottetown, you will never want to leave. It is best to do PEI last, we discovered and book at least a week. 

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Sit on the abundant red sand, visit some ‘Anne’ sites, explore the rolling hills dotted with immaculate farms, coastal villages, sand dunes, rock formations and lighthouses.

 

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What we learned most from our East Coast trip is that three weeks isn’t enough, and we need to go back. We only saw a small portion. Perhaps a month on Cape Breton, a month on PEI, a month to explore southern Nova Scotia, would be enough… 

 

and then we need to get to Newfoundland and Labrador! 

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Windows and Doors (and Margaret Atwood)

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Windows and doors have been drawing my attention lately. Windows play a role in a recent Margaret Atwood series entitled ‘Alias Grace’. The main character, Grace refers to a Scandinavian tradition based in folklore of letting a person’s spirit ‘out’ immediately upon their death, by opening a window. 

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When Grace’s friend dies she forgets to open the window and as a result becomes inhabited by the trapped spirit, which causes her to behave uncharacteristically, to say the least. Of course when reading a Margaret Atwood novel, you are never quite sure if this apparent haunting is a lie, an excuse, or actually happens to explain the plot. She likes to keep her readers guessing. 

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When I was on the west coast this spring, and the east coast this summer I became obsessed with photographing interesting doors and windows. Windows can tell a story when the glass mirrors back the sky or a charming little town. Windows can give you glimpses into other people’s lives.

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There is a fence on Mayne island made entirely out of doors and windows. Adding the concept of ‘fence’ increases the already numerable metaphors and symbols arising from windows and doors.

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Doors can serve as a tool for entry, or a barrier. They can lead to an unknown world such as the land of Narnia or be a portal to the outside world.

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They can shield us, protect us, close us off, or open us up to new beginnings.  When we open a new door, literally or figuratively, we enter into the promise of a new beginning. This can make us vulnerable but also has the potential to change us in ways we can’t imagine.

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And if we can’t open a door, we are told there is always a window that may provide access. Windows can symbolize entering and exiting, perhaps in a more furtive way. A window can be an opportunity for escape, allow secret entry, or symbolize exclusion from the world.

 

A window can be a portal for restless spirits, it can allow one to observe the world but choose not to take part.

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In Margaret Atwood’s book, the closed window is integral to the central mystery of the story, is Grace indeed guilty of murder, or is she merely a pawn of a trapped spirit, evil coworker, or fate? 

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Both windows and doors suggest choice, autonomy, opportunity, new beginnings but can also represent confinement, disengagement and isolation.

Figuratively, we can close a door and open a window, we have an open door when we  welcome others in, or have a foot in the door when we may be given an employment opportunity.

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People can blow our doors off or beat a path to our door or be a better door than a window. We may go window shopping or be window dressing or have a narrow window of opportunity.

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Windows and doors are widely used in literature to symbolize a vast array of experiences and emotions.

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So, are you coming in, or going out, and will you use the door, or maybe sneak through a window?

 

 

 

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Fairy Light Fail

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I have been admiring online photo art created with tiny little lights called ‘fairy lights’. I want to create interesting scenes in the dark with people’s faces lit up by these magical little lights.

I also want my photos to have BOKEH: Photography life website explains: “Bokeh… is one of the most popular subjects in photography. …Bokeh makes photographs visually appealing, forcing us to focus our attention on a particular area of the image. 

So, when this photographic technique is done right, the light looks like unfocused soft shapes in the background. You get this effect by having a very shallow depth of field, and hope that background items will create faded, interesting, light shapes which you can’t really see until you download the picture. I unknowingly created this effect a few times, long before I knew what it was. You can see Bokeh in the above photo, and in these three photos.

So, I bought fairy lights online, super cheap, yay! I love a bargain! Unfortunately, super cheap lights are also super dim. I bought 34 metres worth and they couldn’t light up anyone’s face if they were 34 kilometres long. They would struggle to light up a glass jar, plus they are on heavy black cords that are impossible to mask, and they tangle impossibly if you look at them sideways.

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Nevertheless, determined, I tried with small items first wrapped in lights, and then added candles hoping they would throw some extra light into the picture.  I didn’t research technique or camera settings,  surely I could surely figure it out on my own!

A little darkness is hard to find in Alberta during the summer solstice and days following, dusk doesn’t start until 10:00 at night so all of my photo attempts happen after the rest of my crew has gone to bed. But, last night I convinced my daughter to help me out by being my model.

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Imagining beautifully lit etherial photos, I set up stringing the lights in a row down our fir trees so that as you looked past her softly lit up face you would see, in the background, you guessed it, BOKEH!

Well, not only is her face NOT softly lit, there is no Bokeh. You can’t see the lights in the background. The closest I get to Bokeh is from the neighbour’s yard light. What you can see, is not in focus.

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Almost there?

Being of ‘that’ age, I don’t trust my eyes to manually focus the camera anymore so I need to figure out how to auto- focus, even when it is dark.

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Interesting-, but heavily edited

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No discernible focus

Perhaps I will need to do some research on Bokeh, lighting, camera settings for photography in the dark, and maybe some shopping  for better fairy lights before my next attempt.

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Okay, they can sort of light up a glass jar but nothing else,

so in this jar they will stay.

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Island Life

     I wonder if I could live on a small island? Would I miss the big city? Would I find it claustrophobic or isolated?

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     We ponder the possibility now and then, when we are exploring ‘What Next?’ scenarios, as couples do when the kids have flown, and retirement beckons.

     When I was teaching in a small town in northern Alberta, I got more than one speeding ticket heading into Edmonton for the weekend. But I was young then, and craved the city energy and night life.

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     I have aged and changed and perhaps life on a small island where everyone knows each other, and a cup of coffee at the bakery takes all day, would suit me well. I know it would suit my husband who was raised in a small town.

 

     I recently spent a week on Mayne Island. If you have ever taken the Ferry from Tsawwassen to Victoria you will have passed by Mayne Island. It is the first island on your left. You would have seen the lighthouse, the rocky shores and the picturesque bays as you passed through Active Pass.  In summer you may also have seen Orcas on their route through the pass. I saw a pod of whales from the balcony of my friend’s house and I could hear them splashing and blowing.  Amazing.
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     If you ever land on Mayne Island, you could walk down this path through giant trees to a spectacular ocean vista featuring Georgeson Island.

     I recommend you then eat at the Bistro at Bennett Bay and peer down the long pier to see tiny islands dotting the horizon while eating plump shrimp with curry. 

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     If you stayed a week or so, which I have been fortunate enough to do twice, you could stroll through Mt. Parke park where the moss is so spongy and the light is so soft, you may contemplate laying down for a nap.

     Take a Kayak down to Pigott Bay, on the way you would be impressed by a sculpture made of bottles, and a certain tree stump will stop you in your tracks. 

     Then you could drive down to Dinner Bay to experience the Japanese Garden. The garden, created to honour the Japanese families who worked and lived on the island between 1900 and 1942,  is a peaceful gem that radiates serenity. 

     I suggest you spend a peaceful afternoon at the shore, perch on a rock near the water and breathe in the sea air.  Perhaps an otter will walk right by you as though you aren’t there, or an eagle will land nearby. And if you go in the Spring you will be delighted by the random wild splashes of colour; yellow daffodils, purple rosemary and pink blossoms. 

     I believe island life would be less stressful, a slower pace than life in Calgary.  If I was lonesome for the open Alberta skies I could always stand on a hill and watch the barges, sailboats and ferries glide through the pass, DSC06026or head over to the Georgina Point lighthouse and see the lights of Vancouver reflected  in the distant sunset. DSC06189

     It is intriguing to imagine life in a different time zone, elevation, and barometer reading than where we currently reside.

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     Life on such a tiny island would be idyllic, or would it be isolating? Now that you’ve had a tour. What do you think?

 

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Still…, life.

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I have been learning still life photography. I invested about 15 dollars buying three cardboard panels at Michaels to use as backdrops/reflectors, one black, and two white. I also bought three very small vases and since then, three batches of tulips. Tulips are cheap and accessible right now, plus they seem ‘Springy’ and hopeful, so tulips are in most of my attempts.

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My goal is to set up mini-stories to invoke  a feeling, and then trying to capture the light in a way that is pleasing to the eye.

Sounds simple, you say… not so simple, I have discovered.

 

 

 

I am determined to use natural light, but light is illusive. Too bright and you get shadows, too dark and there are no highlights. Direct sunlight illuminates flaws, blurs soft lines and diminishes colour. Light from the side works best on a foggy or cloudy day, morning or evening light is optimal.

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Too Bright

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Too Dark

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No Apparent Focus

I set up my pictures on a sideboard to the right of a large window. Most days I am too lazy to set up a tripod and feel my hand is steady enough, but after numerous attempts where the focus is undetectable, I eventually use a tripod, or at least a flat surface.  I have also tried a remote shutter for a sharper focus. 

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Morning light

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Evening light

Inadvertently, I have learned more about tulips, specifically related to photography. Pale colours can look etherial, soft, and delicate. Dark colours look flat and photos can lack in definition. 

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Red flowers are the worst, hard to photograph in any light. Tulips with two colours are the best. White and purple, pink and white, or pink with yellow are more photogenic than flowers with just one colour.

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One must work fast with tulips! Blossoms droop quickly when out of water, and as they get old they open up wide and the petals fall off. You can rejuvenate young tulips by cutting the stem shorter and refreshing the water. If you touch petals they get wounded and look plasticky, then die. Tulips don’t like snow, they will stay perky while in the snow but bring them back into the warmth and it is game over.

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I also photographed some silk flowers. But they looked just as fake as they are…

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Fake Heather

At the risk of sounding cliche, tulips remind me of people. A good friend once pointed out that we are all “Utterly fragile self-conscious approval seeking organisms with feelers going out every which way, and silly little hopeful smiles on our faces.”

Not unlike overly-handled tulips out of water, I would now add.

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My daughter said this week, “You know mom, even the most together looking people I have met have issues or problems.”

Yes.

Still…, life.

We are all fragile.

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Tulips in Snow

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Post-Snow Tulips

Posted in Photojournal | 5 Comments

What is it about birch trees?

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I love trees, all trees, but my favourite are birch trees, particularly white birch trees. 

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I have been out hunting birch trees to photograph. White birch, also called paper birch, aren’t as easy to find as one might think. There are many sparse scrubby patches near Calgary but most fully grown birch trees reside on people’s lawns.

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White birch are native Albertans, they hate shade, and love burned out or cut areas to grow away from other species of trees. They are a hardwood but are rarely found in groups large enough to use commercially, in Alberta.                         

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Why do I love them?

Perhaps it is because they stand out among other trees with their random dramatic markings and snow white peeling bdsc03802ark. They make a breathtaking contrast when surrounded by autumn leaves. 

 

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Maybe it is how the young ones grow optimistically in dense groups of saplings with no branches to speak of – withstanding cold and the fight for nutrients. 
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Perhaps it is because as they mature a branch may fall off, or a wild animal may take a bite of their bark, or there may be weather trauma, and as a result a black slash or hole will form on the birch tree’s trunk. The white bark will not replace itself. These striking marks and scars are what make a birch tree beautiful as they age. 

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What a lovely way to think about aging. Consumer society would like us to think differently. There are literally 20+ products I should put on my body before I head out in the morning or go to bed at night. These expensive cremes and oils will improve the look of my eyes, shrink my pores, plump my lips, make my hair shine, diminish my wrinkles, hide my laugh lines, improve my skin clarity, darken my brows, disguise my greying hair, and yes, conceal my scars.

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As I age I will try to embrace these imperfections, instead. The scars are what tell my story, they are the traits that perhaps, make me beautiful. 

 

 

 

Dedicated to Mary Ann, on her birthday, who loves birch trees as much as I do… and has one of these photos on her wall.

 

Posted in aging, Alberta Autumn, Alberta Canada, Alberta Spring, Alberta Winter, Canada, Forest, Photojournal, Seasons, trees | 1 Comment

Deep Freezing in Alberta

I haven’t been out taking photos much lately. dsc00097We are experiencing a deep freeze. We have a lot of snow sticking around with more promised for tonight.

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This is desperately hard for the homeless who may be kicked out of shelters all day long, or worse- staying out overnight. I also feel for teachers faced with indoor recess for weeks on end,  outside workers who get laid off, or those who have to work outside all day. Many seniors are home bound afraid to drive or fall when walking. It is impossible to stay warm for long regardless of how many layers you wear.  Being stuck outside can actually cause your death. 

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Temperatures have been a consistently frigid this winter, recently below -10 Celsius for an extended length of time with no Chinook in sight.

In Calgary a few times each winter a warm dry wind will blow down the east side of the Rocky Mountains providing a blast of warmth for a day or more. These occurrences are called Chinooks.

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As a child I remember going to school bundled up in snow pants, parka, scarfs and mitts in the morning, and then walking home dragging my winter gear behind me after school. There would be huge puddles to wade in as the snow melted so fast the storm drains couldn’t keep up with the volume of melting water.

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Even though Calgary is sunny throughout the winter, Chinooks raise our spirits and make Calgary winters liveable. They provide relief, optimism and hope that warmth will come again and stay. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wind chill can make a -10 day feel like it is -30. Today we went for a walk and even though it was ONLY -19 and we wore our snow pants, the -28 wind chill hurt our faces within about 5 minutes. A Chinook would be lovely, but we are told we will be in the deep freeze for at least another week. 

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We will cuddle up inside and long for an early spring.

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Here’s hoping. 

 

 

Posted in Alberta Winter, Canada, Chinooks, Photojournal, Seasons, winter | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Path Promise

     Paths lead you, they take you on a sojourn, a saunter, a stroll to a different space. “Follow me,” they say, “Take my lead and you won’t regret it.”

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     Paths are metaphorical, choose-able; they open doors for you, or close them. You can choose the wrong path, a path less taken, an unpopular path, a wise path. Paths can denote a course of action, leave you in a rut,  be a new approach, a clever strategy. Paths can change your trajectory, be a conduit for communication, they can be a person or a network; follow a different path and your life may change.

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     Paths are literal, physical, earthy, a trail laid down for travel.  Paths are irresistible to photograph when the light is right.

     This bridge can be found on a bike path in Burnaby, Vancouver. I photographed it first in the fall, and then in the spring demonstrating that even physical paths can take a different tact, without going anywhere.

     There is a boardwalk on the Roger’s pass called ‘Giant Cedars’. There are few places on earth more peaceful. We are usually in a rush to get to our coastal destination, and although for years we sped by,  now we stop even if just for a short stretch. The light is filtered lace creating a luminous green landscape with raindrop jewels. The cedars have been providing oxygen for hundreds of years, breath-taking personified.

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       One feels grounded on a wooden pathway, grounded in nature and safety, and in respect for the builders. The hollow sound your shoes make on the wood, the evenly spaced solid boards, the carefully measured wooden curves, ramps and stairs that beg you to walk by slowly, notice, gaze, and inhale. The aroma is bewitching. Oxygen at its best.  dsc03505

 

     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A wooden path in Invermere is called the Dragonfly Boardwalk. This footpath drags you away from the beach. It is not a long walk, but well worth it as you will be captivated by the pure number, colours, and varieties of dragonflies that flit across the shaded wide boards in the marshy undergrowth.

        Winter paths urge you outdoors to ski, snowboard, toboggan, walk briskly on frozen ground, and then rush home to have deep conversations by warm fires with hot chocolate at your fingertips. 

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      Autumn pathways are especially appealing with the crunch of leaves amidst the brilliant foliage. A corridor of colour awaits you. 

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Paths make us mindful, slow us down, bring us back to nature. They invite and challenge us, promising adventure and change. Paths call us to take time away. 

Come walk with me.

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Posted in Photojournal | 7 Comments

Black and White

It has been a black and white week.

The US Election was divisive, even in Canada, and certainly brought out black and white thinking in most everyone. Lets not talk about that right now, shall we? Let’s just stick to photography.

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‘Wonderland’ by Jaume Plensa, in

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downtown Calgary, Alberta

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I found the below black and white photo in my father-in-law’s album. He took the photo, but when I asked him for details he couldn’t remember who the people were, or what the story was behind it. He has now passed away so it remains a mystery. He didn’t remember anyone getting hurt and could only remember that it was on a bus trip near Banff.

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To be clear, this is a real bear. A woman seems to be showing her shirt to a bear, with a baby bear visible in the background. I have questions! What the heck is going on here? How did this not end VERY badly? Is that the mother bear? It defies imagination!  I will resist drawing any conclusions about the situation (or drawing parallels to the election). I just don’t know everything there is to know about this situation. 

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Cameras used to be able to shoot in two modes: black and white, or in colour. If you shot in black and white you could develop it in your basement if you knew had a dark room. You could purchase black and white film which allowed you to create hundreds of subtle tones using the shades that lie between white and black.

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Now cameras, at least my sophisticated DSLR camera, shoots in colour. Black and white has to be created in post processing, in an editing program.  

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I think we have lost something. The careful discernment of pressing the shutter once you had the perfect shot in your sights rather than taking 50 pictures of everything. The wait while the film was developed at a shop, and the anticipation of opening up the photo envelope to see what you captured. The excitement when even one picture was exactly what you hoped for. The pictures, printed, that you could hold in your hand and pass around. 

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We also lose something when we think in black and white. We spout easy answers for complex and difficult questions. We rush to believe everything we read and see rather than looking deeper, checking our sources. We judge and draw conclusions and rapidly share things that cause fear or hate. We dismiss others and categorize them instantly. We ‘delete’ people haphazardly like sifting through 1000 photos and inadvertently  deleting the best one of all. We cling to people who are comfortable and chime our ‘accurate’ point of view, rather than really hearing the others and attempting to understand their lives. 

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What do we lose? A chance to understand each other deeply, an opportunity to share our fears and hopes, to be vulnerable. We lose a chance for connection, compassion, a blending of colours, a richer experience together on this planet.

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We lose each other. 

Posted in Photography, Photojournal | 8 Comments

Chasing Fall

Autumn, is a season of death. 

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Kananaskis, AB

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Calgary, AB

Frost kills the leaves of the low shrubs and obliterates the last vestiges of beauty from the flowers. The demise of summer comes with an astonishing farewell painted in florescent hues.

‘Au revoir’ in shades of orange, red and gold. An ‘arrivederci’ that astonishes with its brilliance. 

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Near Calgary, AB

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George Elliott said, “Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.” 

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Turner Valley, AB

This year I was able to chase the season, like a bird, to experience successive autumns with my camera: Sooke and Fernie BC,  Turner Valley, Kananaskis,  Canmore,  Calgary,  Cochrane, and Black Diamond in Alberta, and Stratford, Elora, Kitchener,  St Jacob’s  and other locations in Southern Ontario, and it was indeed delicious.

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Near Calgary, AB

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Sooke, BC

Throughout my journeys, I didn’t lose sight of gratitude both for the freedom of retirement, and the gift of beauty I was witnessing.

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Kananaskis, AB

These are some of my favourite photographs of fall 2016 – consider it a comparison study.

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Fernie, BC

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Canmore, AB

“Every leaf speaks bliss to me. Fluttering from the autumn tree.” Emily Brontë

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Canmore, AB

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             Near Black Diamond, AB

Ontario WAS bliss. Don’t get me wrong, the gold and oranges of Alberta are stunning. However, they don’t compare with the maple trees of Ontario, the 24 degree temperatures in late October,  and the leaves that fall directly beneath the tree rather than being blown far away. 

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West Montrose, ON

 

 

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Stratford, ON

I am longing for just one more look at these colours, but now that fall is over in Canada I will resist the urge to chase autumn into the United States. I have pressed a few red leaves, and have my pictures to pour over and delete until I narrow the volume down to the best samples of colour and crisp details.

This bird has landed at home, for now. 

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Benmiller, ON

“Autumn, the year’s last loveliest smile”. William Cullent Bryant 

Autumn certainly smiled on me this year with an abundance of colour and time,

both gifts I cherish. 

Posted in Photojournal | 6 Comments