mystery of light

mystery of light

It’s raining today but I don’t want to show the rain. I want to show the black road glistening between white banks still tall from last week’s storm. I want to show the shards of icicles, half buried in the spongy snow. I want to show the chickadee, feathers fluffed against the cold, hopping from branch to branch. I want to show the inner life of the forest, the way the treetops hum and sway in the wind, the sheltered pockets beneath the wide-boughed spruce, the soft fragrance of cedar.

It’s dark today, but I don’t want to show the dark. I want to show the mystery of light.

Photo taken on January 6, 2011


follow the green arrow

the green arrow

Yesterday, I saw a green arrow. Even though I have a good sense of direction, it’s easy to lose your bearings in the woods. So there we were; we were walking through the woods and then I looked up and saw this arrow pointing the way.

Last week, I received an email from an Ontario magazine offering to pay me to use one of my pictures. I had taken this photo in 2007; they found it on my Flickr stream, and it was what they were looking for.

So yesterday, feeling optimistic from the sale of this photo and buoyed up by your warm encouragement, an idea came bubbling to the surface. I put words to that change I have been afraid to face. I said, “What I need to do is start my own business.”

I can write, I can take photos, I can create newsletters and design communication materials. I have a whole range of skills that have to do with computers, social networking, strategizing and brainstorming. Although I will still need some other paid work to keep me going, maybe I can make some money on my own. Maybe I can, for once, be able to set my own schedule and do something I love.

I have a lot of work to do as I flesh out my ideas and figure out my next steps. But here is the green arrow, it says “go this way”. I will follow it even though I don’t know where it leads.

Photo taken on January 6, 2011


Welsford brook

Here in Canada, it’s just another Thursday, but in the U.S. it’s “Turkey Day” (aka Thanksgiving). It’s hard to escape references to the American holiday — it’s everywhere in the newspaper (especially the comic pages) and we even have our own “Black Friday” sales happening tomorrow to mirror the annual shopping attack south of the border.

Even though I am not celebrating Thanksgiving today, I have a lot of reasons to be thankful. I’m thankful that we have a warm dry house while the cold wind scours the ground outside. I’m thankful that we have enough food to eat, and plenty for our dogs and cat, and the chickadees and nuthatch taking turns at the feeder. I’m thankful that I have a loving family and good health. I’m thankful that I can travel, and go for a walk in the woods, and enjoy photography.

Maybe I’ll go and get some turkey from the freezer. Happy (U.S.) Thanksgiving!

to photograph the forest cathedral

in the forest cathedral

As a photographer, I have two goals: 1) to show what I see; and 2) to show what I feel. These goals are sometimes opposites.

To show a scene accurately would mean to show it as if our cameras were our eyes, which can see into every shadow and brightly lit area and where everything has colour and sharp detail. That task can be a challenge in itself, because our cameras do not see in the same way as our eyes, so we have to learn how to expose correctly (and make adjustments on the computer if necessary) and use settings that create as sharp an image as possible. All of these tasks are explained in detail elsewhere, but what I wanted to point out is that photography is about making choices.

Because if you take a photo which is technically correct and visually accurate to the scene, it still may be a boring image. What you choose to capture on your camera is as important as how. And what follows why — why am I interested in this scene? what is it that captures my attention, that draws my eye? Once you have discovered the what and why of your image, then all the how of taking photos will fall into place. For example, with my photo of the trees above, here is an approximation of my inner dialogue:

Why: Wow, those trees are really lovely.
What: I like the way the branches make tall windows of light, like stained glass, all shimmering.
How: If I use a short depth of field (wide aperture) and focus on these branches on the foreground, then the tree branches will blur to show the shape of the windows and the shimmering light.

1) Does the photo show exactly what I saw? No, my eyes only blur like that when I take off my glasses. 2) Does the photo show what I felt? Yes. If I have to choose, getting Number 2 right is the best choice.

Photo taken on November 14, 2010

in the forest, looking up

fall forest canopy 

In New Brunswick, the spruce tree dominates the forest. At one time, the white pine was plentiful, but these tall straight trees were highly prized for use as ships’ masts — shipbuilding was an important industry here during the golden age of sail — and now the spruce trees grow where the white pine once stood. The white spruce has now reached new heights, as a packet of 24 seedlings from New Brunswick were used for an experiment at the International Space Station last April.

I don’t know the difference between the white spruce, black spruce, red spruce and Norway spruce. All I know is that they are by far the most common tree I’ve seen in this province. When you land at Saint John’s airport, you can see spruce trees in every direction, with a few houses and wetlands to add variety. When you drive North to Fredericton, or in almost any direction, spruce trees line the road for hours, broken by occasional stands of birches, maples, oaks and poplars. There are lots of pines and cedars, tamacks and balsam firs, but when you go for a walk through the forest, the trees you are most likely to bump into — fighting those tough lower branches that catch at your clothing — are spruce trees. I read somewhere that New Brunswick is almost 90% covered by trees, and I believe it. Forestry is still a thriving industry, and with 5.9 million hectares of forest, plus about 30 million new trees planted each year, the province isn’t going to run out of trees anytime soon.

Taken on October 11, 2010

last glimpse of fall colour

last glimpse of fall

October is half over, autumn’s colour is fading. Frost has touched the forest, turning the fiery red and yellow leaves dull and rusty. A wild wind dances through the trees, and the leaves dance with it, twirling and tumbling through the air. Many birch and maple leaves have already fallen, leaving bare gaps between the spruces and pines. We can see the sky through the poplar now, while the oak — that strong-willed spirit — is slower to relinquish its crown.

This is not the end of autumn, as some think, but the heart of it. The show of colour gives way to the fall itself, to the crunch of leaves underfoot as they break and scatter and enrich the earth. Walk, walk now as the fields turn brown and the leaves fly. Drink in the last mild days as the colour fades, before the wind sweeps us all into winter.

Taken on October 11, 2010

walking (with dogs) in the forest

I love walking through the woods, and on a beautiful fall Thanksgiving Monday with colour still on the trees and the sky deep blue, who could resist? So I grabbed my camera and we headed to Rockwood Park, along with the dogs — we have two Cardigan Welsh Corgis — one for each of us.

Some might say dogs and cameras don’t mix. It’s true that I don’t carry my tripod or other camera equipment, and I don’t stop at scenic locations for a period of extended shooting. I tend to take the opportunities as they come, which usually means I look around when the dogs find something interesting to sniff. Or sometimes they’ll wait in one not-so-interesting spot, if I ask firmly, for long enough for me to take a couple of snaps. I suppose a part of me (the contrary part) enjoys the challenge of taking photos with a heavy dslr in one hand while holding the leash of an enthusiastic dog in the other.

So I had quite a few blurry photos. And a lovely walk in the woods.

Taken on October 11, 2010