november sky

November sky

Barren trees with branches reaching
rendered steel by frosty mornings
mourning the lush and luminous summer
now only memory can find

Before the springtime resurrection
before the sun’s glad warmth reviving
before the sap returns to strengthen
darkness turns us inward

Cherish the flame that thrives in shadow
the bitter wind that drives us closer
hold fast, for though the storm clouds threaten,
the sun still rules the sky

Photo taken on November 6, 2009



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!

going around the bend

autumn road

So here we are, on the road of life. Something good may be “just around the corner”, and “turning the corner” is a sign of hope. Yet “going around the bend” can be “a turn for the worst”, perhaps because a sharp bend in the road often precedes an accident.

But no matter how we look at it, turning corners and going around the bend is movement, it’s not sitting still wondering which fork in the road to follow. Right now I’m trying to decide whether to take the safe road of employment, if I can find work that meets the minimum requirements of my household, or taking a new road, trying my hand at freelance writing and part-time work instead. It’s a question of security versus freedom, working for someone else or being responsible for my own keep. I suppose there might be a third route, before the roads diverge: I might test out the freelancing idea while getting my main income from another source, just to see how it works out. I’m not sure if I will “go around the bend” living hand to mouth, but I have to admit that after being home for five months, I’m feeling reluctant to get back to “the daily grind”, working 9-5 for somebody else.

Who knows what’s around the bend? I’m looking forward to finding out!

Come on the rising wind,
We’re going up around the bend.
– Creedance Clearwater Revival

Photo taken on November 1, 2009

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

let there be light


Today is Remembrance Day. I have mixed feelings about this day. On one hand, I think of the awful cost of war, the sacrifice of so many lives, when dreams are crushed and lands laid waste. I think of the war movies I have seen — ranging from Gallipoli to Das Boot — and the almost daily news stories of ongoing conflict, the death of soldiers and civilians, and the hurts borne by those who have returned. We remember them.

On the other hand, I think of the machinery of war. The frequency of violent clashes around the world guarantees a thriving market for weapons and all the supplies needed to maintain conflict. Our culture continually markets war games of all kinds and models violence — and winning by violent means — as desirable and praiseworthy.

How can we remember the sacrifice of war without praising it? How can we work for peace and conflict resolution without dishonouring those who must fight on our behalf when words are not enough? I don’t know the answer, but think it would make a difference if leaders and ordinary citizens could resist the paranoid “us” vs “them”propaganda, begin to recognize strangers as neighbours, and find a neutral space where we can look into each other’s eyes without fear.

Let there be light,
let there be understanding,
let all the nations gather,
let them be face to face.
– Frances W. Davis

Photo taken on October 11, 2010

a walk in the park

a walk in the park

Yesterday we walked beside the sea. We watched a puppy frolic in the park, the waves dance along the shore, and seals basking on the sunny rocks. Besides the treat of seeing seals (too far away for my 50mm lens), we also saw a snake and a butterfly. And we picked 5 kg of rose hips along the way. I was inspired to get outdoors by writing a list of my favourite 20 activities (check out Herby’s post here for other peoples’ lists). As I created a list of things that I could do, and enjoy doing, I realized that I could add a lot more activities to the list, and — bonus — many of them are free!

As I walked, I considered what it means to say that “time and tide waits for no one”. Focusing on uncertainty, trying to peer into the murky future, is an exercise in futility. Of course we would like to know that life’s problems are behind us, but that isn’t going to happen, or at least not while I’m alive and kicking! I need to stop waiting for change, and start creating the change that I want. As Mahatma Gandhi said: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world”. Compared to seeing the future, that should be a walk in the park!

By the way, I received some good news yesterday. Remember that photo contest I was shooting for here? Well, my photo won third prize — check out my winning entry here. Woo-hoo!

Photo taken on November 3, 2010

moonset, sunrise

Have you ever noticed how endings are also beginnings? In the Sound of Music, Maria says, “When God closes a door, somewhere he opens a window.” “When a door closes, a window opens” is a Dutch proverb. And Alexander Graham Bell is quoted as saying, “When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”

As A.G. Bell says, sometimes we’re so obsessed with the ending we hardly notice the beginning. So many of us sigh over the end of summer that we scarcely notice the kids excited about the return of fall and the school year. Barely six months later, we’re eagerly pointing out the signs of spring’s beginning without giving a thought to the end of winter. Births are easy to celebrate, deaths are hard, but I think it’s important to acknowledge both; they will be the landmarks that you see when you look back on your life. Endings and beginnings are linked together, like moonsets and sunrises.

What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.

– T.S. Eliot from Little Gidding (No. 4 of Four Quartets)

Photo taken on October 24, 2010