There is a joke among photographers that the general public’s taste in images can be summed up in two words: sunsets & kittens. The appeal of the colourful and cute seems to be constant and worldwide.
I took this photo last week at a park on the west side of Saint John. It was mid-afternoon, although the sun was already sinking rapidly. The tide was high and for once there was only a light breeze blowing off the Bay of Fundy. We walked out to a path along the edge of the cove, drawn by the loud booming of the waves crashing against the bouldery beach and echoing against the rocky cliffs. I shot this image into the light, which meant losing most of the foreground detail to the strong contrast. The low sun, partially screened by clouds on the horizon, cast an almost metallic light across the scene. I decided to enhance these golden tones, and yesterday I posted it on Flickr.
And today, I’ve discovered that the image has become a sunset — it has already been added to one gallery of sunset photos — and it has attained a level of popularity well over that of my favourite photos.
I think I’ll go look for some kittens.
Photo taken on January 6, 2011
Someone drowned at this beach. It happened just over a month ago, when there are no lifeguards on duty — the beach had officialy closed for the season the weekend before — but it was a warm sunny day and the beach was crowded. The Fisher Lakes are deceptively deep, and you can get in over your head if you go far from the beach. He was only under for 5 minutes before other swimmers pulled him out, but it was too late.
As I’m remembering this incident — this tragedy that happened so quickly — I’m watching the live feed of the Chilean miners emerging one-by-one after having been underground for 69 days. It is a miracle that they survived and have lived to see this day of freedom.
But some do not survive. That is the tragedy: that what might be possible does not happen, that someone drowns so close to shore, that 25 people died in a West Virginia coal mine, that so many accidents cost so many lives.
I would like to hear that safety comes before profits. I would like news reports to say a tragic death could not be prevented, that the safety record is 100%, that the season of fatal injuries has come to a close.
Taken on November 1, 2009
Despite the wind warning, rain warning and tropical storm warning, all we got yesterday was a stormy day. Hurricane Earl turned east and landed closer to Halifax. Still, locals flocked to Saints Rest, the nearby “big surf” beach to watch the storm surge. And emergency officials followed them, asked them to leave, and closed the access. We were headed that wayto take pictures, expecting a show of impressive waves, and were disappointed at having to turn around. We went to another local park, in a more sheltered area, to find modest breakers rolling up the rocky beach, and a few spectators in bright raincoats. A local who was out walking her dog shook her head. “What is everybody doing here?” she asked. “There is nothing to see. It just looks like any other day.” Yes, I suppose that’s true, but like everyone else, I wanted the excitement of being out in (the edge of) a hurricane… without, of course, the excitement of a near-death experience!
Taken on September 4, 2010
This rocky bit of shoreline has seen a lot of history. By tradition, this is where United Empire Loyalists landed following the American Civil War. An estimated 15,000 Loyalists arrived in what is now New Brunswick between 1783 and 1785, the majority landing here to found Saint John. They weren’t the first to settle here; this spot is just around the corner from a traditional Wulstukwuik (Maliseet) and Mi’kmaq trading spot and the site of Fort LaTour, and a number of Acadians had settled in this region as well. Those who had lived here before were displaced, having no “title” to the land.
As the young city became a properous port, this became Market Slip, where ships lined both sides of the pier selling fresh fish and other goods. Photos from the 19th century show a sea of masts and carts clustered around the area, and a line of warehouses that were later included in the development of the Market Square shopping centre in the 1980s (just to the left of this photo).
Now there is a boardwalk and hotel along the old pier, a mall with a line of cafes and restaurants, a summer stage, and a popular beach volleyball venue just above the high tide mark. The fishing boats from a local Mi’kmaq community dock just around the corner on Long Wharf, dwarfed by the huge cruise ships that bring hordes of tourists in the summer and fall. It’s a far sight different than what the Loyalists may have envisioned, but it still thrives.
Taken on June 26, 2009
Why are we fascinated by desert islands? I know it’s a popular writers’ theme, allowing for a wide variety of plot twists and outcomes, from good (“Treasure Island”) and bad (“Lord of the Flies”) to silly (“Gilligan’s Island”) and bizarre (“Lost”). But I’m sure the desert island appeal goes deeper than the role of adventure playground. Desert islands also turn up in personality profile questionnaires, such as “what would you like to have with you on a desert island?” Perhaps this hints closer to the truth.
How many of us have stood on a beach, mesmerized by the ceaseless motion of the waves, and felt that time is standing still? Imagine being on a tropical beach with no abrupt change of seasons to remind you of the passing of time. And if you suspend time and live only from day to day, enjoying each moment as it happens — and of course have your basic physical needs provided — then you would have no worries, no stress. It’s an attractive fantasy, as old as the Garden of Eden. But I think the old TV show “Fantasy Island” had it right: you can dream for a while, to be refreshed and learn something important about yourself, but then it’s time to wake up, to leave the island and make the most of your life.
Taken on April 29, 2010
Living here, perched on the edge of the bluff, you can watch the sea coming and going all day. You can watch the container ships, the tankers, the fishing boats and cruise ships following the tide in and out of the harbour. You can watch the harbour seals and porpoises, the gulls and eagles trolling the shallow shores. You can watch everything that moves all the way to Nova Scotia on fine days, but on foggy days you might not even see the beach. And every kind of weather, be it rain or sun, snow or storm, will beat against your windows. And as the tide rises and falls and marks the rhythm of the days and seasons, you will be always be there, watching.
Taken on April 29, 2010
This small sandy cove along the Kennebecasis River used to be a busy beach in the summertime. I remember we used to take our bikes, or sometimes we’d walk, taking the path that cut across the field and through the woods. The water is not too cold — not nearly as cold as the Bay of Fundy. It used to be a full service park, with a raft out on the water, and an ice-cream truck. I even took swimming lessons there one summer. Now there’s not even a privy or a garbage can, but people still go there. It felt good to see a few people there the other day, spending a warm afternoon at the beach, just like I remember.
Taken on April 6, 2010
In the Maritimes, we’ve become used to hearing about fisheries quotas, disappearing species, the threat to livelihoods that depend upon the sea. A warm dry July has even brought a (temporary) end to salmon fishing in New Brunswick, as the fish need to stay cool in the deep pools, and they may overheat if harrassed and driven to shallower water. Of course it’s not as bad for us as for Newfoundlanders, who lost 90% of their livelihood when the bottom fell out of the cod fishery. But there are reminders all around us of how vibrant the fishing industry used to be here. This weir, its net bedraggled on the rocky shoreline, is one example of a rich resource people used to take for granted. No more.
Taken on May 31, 2009
This small beach is at the end of Ragged Point Road. The point to the right is Boar’s Head, where the Kennebecasis River flows into the St. John River. From the comfort of your beach chair, you can look out across the river to the communities of South Bay and Grand Bay. In the winter, there is no beach here at all. I remember visiting this cove in the spring when the ice was breaking up. Even though it was many years ago, I can remember seeing the sheets of ice pushed high up to the edge of the road, and hearing the boom of the ice as it cracked and collided with other ice sheets. When I recall the bitter cold of winter, I can better appreciate our less-than-tropical summers. Now all we need is some sunshine!
Taken on June 4, 2010
Today the sky is that deep blue that draws you outside. The air has that cool after-rain freshness that is perfect for taking a long walk. I feel a need to go for a hike; I’ve been too long at the computer lately, I need to stretch my legs. It’s been too long since I’ve wandered the beach, collecting seashells and watching the gulls dance. It’s time to take a day off, to throw time into the arms of the wind, and let the ceaseless murmur of the waves shut out the rest of the world.
Taken on May 31, 2009
I remember coming down to the Bayshore a couple of years ago. There is a beach here, and access to the breakwater where you can walk (on slippery sharp rocks) out to Patridge Island at low tide. They had started building houses on the bluff overlooking the beach, and heavy rains had carved a channel in the sandy bank, undermining one of the new foundations. I suppose seafront properties are prime real estate, but who owns the properties when the sea takes them back?
Taken on April 29, 2010
The south end of Saint John is a peninsula. It separates the deep-water harbour — the mouth of the mighty St. John River where container ships and cruise ships dock — from Courtney Bay, where Marsh Creek flows out to sea. At the point of the peninsula, tucked between the barracks and the former site of the Lantic Sugar Refinery, is a small rocky beach. The remains of wooden piers still stand where fishing boats once docked. At low tide, you can walk past the jagged rocks and low forests of seaweed, and find a smooth sandy beach. And then you realize, standing on that beach, with the sea water lapping at your feet, that your head is under the high water mark. Breathe deeply. You are standing on the ocean floor.
Taken on May 31, 2009 & July 11, 2009