Thursday, January 31, 2013

Under his sister's watchful gaze

Vision squared
London, ON
August 2010
Some pictures kinda sit in the archives for a while before you pull them out. There's no real reason for it. If I had to guess, I'd have to blame the twin conspirators of not enough time and a growing backlog of pics to process.

Must work on that.

Be that as it may, I remember this day, 2-and-a-half years ago, rather well. It was a sweltering August day, around noon, and I had taken the kids to watch a family friend play soccer. We hung out on the right side of the chalk lines, absorbing the excitement of the game and enjoying being a part of something so elemental.

I'm not sure what I enjoyed more: watching the game or watching these two banter on the grass. All these months later, they're a lot older and wiser than they were here, but the banter continues.

Your turn: Do you remember specific days from long ago? What makes days like this memorable to you?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

We found the rings of Saturn

London, ON
July 2012
Click here to share your own Soft Light Thematic
Photography gives us the ability to see the ordinary in a decidedly extraordinary way. It forces those of us who are addicted to it to view the world through a rectangle. When I was a kid, it was literally my thumbs and fingers, a ridiculously simplistic means of reducing the world around me to something digestible.

The tools may be a little more sophisticated these days - I date myself when I admit digital photography was a pipe dream when I was a munchkin - but the basic processes haven't changed. That mindset of composing everything in that imaginary (or not so imaginary) rectangle continues to dominate how I choose to see the world.

Strange how that works. And strange how a little trick I picked up as a kid compelled me on this night to pick up the camera and shoot an otherwise forgettable light fixture in this particular way. Maybe I was inspired by ongoing news of the Cassini probe orbiting Saturn (one of the coolest space stories going, btw.) Or maybe I just needed to feel good about life. Whatever it is that makes me take pictures like this, I'm glad the addiction remains strong in me. And in you, too.

Your turn: Can you make a rectangle with your index fingers and thumbs and let us know what you see right now?

On random goodness

"Practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty."
Anne Herbert 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Thematic Photographic 232 - Soft Light

Cat's eyes
Toronto, ON
January 2013
I had such a good time with last week's theme, softness, that I thought I would choose a loosely related one for this week. Here goes:

Soft light.

I know, call me a wild man. But seriously, I was looking through my archives and realized I had been shooting lots of light-themed scenes, and all of them seemed to have a certain sense of softness to them.

I didn't set out to start a bit of an internal trend, but I guess that's the way this little photographic muse of mine seems to be playing out these days. Who am I to challenge, right?

Your turn: Thematic Photographic is our weekly take-and-share-a-photo experience. It's totally non-competitive, and expressly designed to help us expand our photographic horizons. Simply take a pic that evokes this week's theme - totally up to you to decide how to interpret it - then post it to your blog or website. Leave a comment here letting everyone know where to find it. Visit other participants to share the photographic joy, and feel free to repeat throughout the week. The more the merrier. For more background on Thematic, just click here. Thanks..and have fun with it!

I can't believe it's not butter

Like a hot knife through butter
Laval, QC
August 2012
This isn't really butter. It's cream cheese, the way it used to be before they whipped it, stuffed it into plastic tubs and charged you three times as much for it. The delightfully dense bricks of the stuff that used to force you to concentrate really hard as you carved off just enough to cover your bagel, but not too much that it squeezed out the sides when you closed it all up.

We had bagels, lox (oops, smoked salmon) and cream cheese for dinner last night. Coupled with an early morning trip to what passes for a bagel shop here in southwestern Ontario, it all had me feeling rather nostalgic.

There was even virtually no traffic on the road when we went to pick up our order - an echo of what it was like when I was a kid and my parents would send me to the real bakery for real bagels (see my earlier entry, Return to the Dirty Bakery).

Ah, memories. Good stuff.

Your turn: What are you eating for breakfast this morning?

One more thing: We're winding down our week-long look at softness. You've still got time to share your own by clicking here. I'm going to keep the theme relatively consistent into the next week: soft light. If it sounds like fun, drop in at 7 p.m. (OMG, tonight!) to see what we've got cooking.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

On all that remains

"Treasure the love you receive above all. It will survive long after your gold and good health have vanished."Og Mandingo

Saturday, January 26, 2013

On learning through storms

"The greater the difficulty, the more glory in surmounting it. Skillful pilots gain their reputation from storms and tempests."

An afternoon with my daughter

Warmth for the road ahead
London, ON
January 2013
It's an ordinary Saturday afternoon in an ordinary town. I'm running a bunch of ordinary errands with my daughter. To an outsider, this is as routine as it gets.
Yet it isn't ordinary at all. As we sit in the corner of a neighborhood coffee spot and sip our hot chocolates, we're doing something - well, let's call it nothing - that I wish we had more time to do. She's 15, an age when wanting to hang out with the 'rents is a hit-or-miss proposition.

Today she wanted to come along, so here we are, off on  grand adventure that to anyone else seems forgettable, but to us is anything but. I know she'll add today to her growing bank of memories, of days marked not by the spectacular, but by the ordinary. But to her they aren't. And that's all that matters to me.

Your turn: Ordinary things that aren't. Please discuss.

One more thing: I shot and composed this photo and entry on my Microsoft Surface. Getting a lot of interested stares here in the Starbucks. Neat.

Breakfast in the soft morning light

McMuffins, homestyle
London, ON
January 2013
For more Thematic softness, head here

Friday, January 25, 2013

On painting like Van Gogh

"If you hear a voice within you say you cannot paint, then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced."
Vincent Van Gogh
And so we paint...

Would you like a slice?

Celebrate the year
London, ON
October 2012
Cake is soft, so I'm totally using it for this week's Thematic theme ('re all invited.)

I'm also using it because I need a little bit of sweet. Not the sweetness associated with empty calories, saturated fats and the petroleum-based G-d-knows-what that goes into one of these things. But the sweetness that comes from being in the middle of a room filled with good people, all having a good time, because life is fundamentally good.

It is. And even if it takes an occasional dose of something that isn't exactly the last word in health food, I'm good with it. Sometimes you just have to indulge a little. Because life is too short no matter what you choose to eat, and who you spend it with.

Your turn: What are you celebrating these days?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

On the elusive prosperity of kindness

"As much as we need a prosperous economy, we also need a prosperity of kindness and decency."Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg
Indeed. I wonder if anybody's listening.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Soft puppy, warm puppy

Even he skips over the cracks
London, ON
July 2012
Click here for more Thematic softness
First, I must apologize to the good folks who write for The Big Bang Theory. I know Sheldon's favorite song refers to cats and not dogs, but my house has none of the former and one of the latter, so there it is.

There, I feel better. Let's continue.

I haven't written about the furry little man in a while because I'm guessing his usual exploits - eating garbage, napping, barking at squirrels, napping some more, waking us up in the middle of the night, etc. - don't rise above the usual everyday-ness of an everyday life.

But here's the thing: I kinda dig his version of the everyday. He's had enough health issues in his relatively young life that he probably deserves his own wing at the vet, but he doesn't KNOW he's sick. He still bounds out the door for his walks with reckless abandon, still roams the sidewalk from side to side like a deliriously happy drunk, still chases jackrabbits into the bushes like he was born to hunt all day. Of course, he was, but he doesn't consciously know any of this. He just lives every day in his usual bouncy way.

Somewhere buried in this 30-ish pound of soft, warm, quivering fur there's a lesson for folks like you and me. As I walk him every day and see this fast-moving little being at the end of the leash, I need to remind myself what it is about a dog's life that humans like us need to emulate. He's been granted fewer days on this planet than we have, yet he seems to have already figured it out just fine.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

On questions without answers

"Some questions don't have answers, which is a terribly difficult lesson to learn."
Katharine Graham

Monday, January 21, 2013

Thematic Photographic 231 - Softness

A good night's sleep
London, ON
January 2013
I don't have a lot of soft-themed pictures on file, but I'm hoping this week's Thematic theme, softness, inspires me to rectify that. Come to think of it, I hope it inspires you, as well!

I find it amusing that a photo - typically rendered on a flat, featureless screen or printed on photographic paper - has no sense of feeling or texture. And I'm guessing over the next week that that's what's going to be especially enjoyable about this particular theme: the challenge of making the viewer feel something through visuals alone.

I overthink this stuff. Maybe I should just get out there with my camera and start shooting. Who's in?

Your turn: Take a softness-themed photo and share it on your blog or website. Leave a comment here letting folks know where to find it. Visit other participants to share the photographic joyness (I really think this should be a word, btw.) If you're new to the wonder of Thematic, click here and all will be explained. Otherwise, enjoy the experience. And please accept my thanks for continuing to make it such a highlight.

Locked away

Hanging Dudley
London, ON
January 2013
Spend enough time going to school in Canada and sooner or later you'll have a Dudley lock to call your very own. You could probably buy a cheaper lock, but these apparently bulletproof examples of the breed haven't been updated in decades. They work so well that they simply don't need to be.

My own Dudley got me through high school, college and university. I lost track of it after then, but it remains the best $3.25 I ever spent. I'm guessing they're more expensive now, but whatever they're asking, they're worth every penny.

Your turn: What's inside this locker?

One more thing: This entry wraps up our week-long exploration of multiples. Click here if you'd like to slide something in under the wire. Otherwise, pop back after 7 p.m. Eastern tonight. We'll be launching our new Thematic theme, softness, at that time, and can't wait to see what you've got in store for that.

On sharing the journey

"It's not so much the journey that's important; as is the way that we treat those we encounter and those around us, along the way"
Jeremy Aldana

I'm rather enjoying the early morning rituals of the long drive to work, especially the quiet routine of getting everything together by the front door, then stepping out into the cold, quiet darkness. It's easy to feel highly aware of what's going on around me and how I feel as I'm going through the process.

Maybe I'm a morning person after all.

Either way, I thought I'd tweak my quote of the day tradition by starting to toss in the occasional early-morning-themed one. Just because. And this one seemed like such an appropriate means of kicking it off, because a journey isn't simply about getting somewhere. It's also about touching the lives of others we may run into between here and there. Let me know if you like it.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

On being inspired by the wind

"If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day so I never have to live without you."
A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh

The region's been getting pelted by some wild winter weather over the past little bit, with crazy winds, huge temperature swings and unpredictable, intense snowfall. My old hometown of Montreal even had a thunderstorm last night.

The interweb tubes have been filling up with bitter complaints about all of it. Sorry to burst everyone's meteorological bubble if they're bummed by what's going on outwise, but whining about the weather is, from where I sit, a bit of a waste of energy. We can't change it, so we may as well roll with it instead, and enjoy the fact that it makes our world temporarily new and different.

I was running an errand with our daughter this morning, and on one particular stretch of country road we could both feel the wind moving the car strongly to one side. We talked about how cool it was to be out and about on an adventure, and how stunning the horse corrals, pastures and farmers fields looked as the low, wind-driven clouds sped overhead. The sounds were ominous, and the light was spectacular, and we both agreed we enjoyed being a part of nature's drama.

On days like this, Pooh's wisdom has always resonated with me. The world outside the 100 Acre Wood can be a challenging one, but as long as you're surrounded by those who matter most, you can endure pretty much anything. It can be the windliest day imaginable (sorry, it's a Pooh thing) day, but with the right attitude, it can also be a magically memorable one, too.

Which is why I find myself hoping, on this day in particular, for countless more adventurous days like today with my best friend, and the remarkable not-so-little people we created.

Your turn: what's the first thing you do when the weather outside turns nasty? How do you batten down the hatches?

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Carpet bomb

Software for your toes
London, ON
January 2013
Do you ever wish you could cover the entire room with the little sample squares from the store?

I know, I know. I've been getting into the Elmer's glue with a little too much zeal. The perils of interior decorating.

But seriously, future trend here?

(Head here for more multiple madness.)

On the power within

"Do not let the behavior of others destroy your inner peace."
Dalai Lama

Right on...

Friday, January 18, 2013

More than mere toast and biscuits

What's for breakfast?
London, ON
January 2013
My wife already knows when my attention-deficit-addled mind gets hit with an idea. My eyes glaze over as I zero in on whatever it is, and I meander this way and that to take it in from a bunch of angles. More often than not, the next step is to fetch the camera. She's a lovely human being for reading me as thoroughly as she does. And for still putting up with this silliness, day in and day out.

I have a thing for breakfast. High-texture food like toast and biscuits, coupled with lovely early morning angled light through the kitchen window and the comforting vibe of being at the kitchen table with your best friend is a hard combination to resist. I eventually got around to eating this lovingly prepared breakfast. But it's the moment I got to share with her that sticks in my mind. Textured, perfectly lit, comforting.

Your turn: What did you have for breakfast this morning?

One more thing: This photo supports our Thematic "multiples" theme. Point your mouse here to share your own.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

After the fall

Nature's random carpet
Komoka, ON
November 2012
For more Thematic multiples, head here.
There's a certain benefit to bringing one of the munchkins out to a Sunday morning program in a place that's just far enough from home that making the drive twice seems like a waste. In this case, I brought a whole bunch of reading material and planned to just sit in the car and read.

Alas, the autumn-painted forest was too much of a draw for me. So I headed out with my camera and decided to wander around and see what I could see.

A lot, apparently, as it was the kind of crisp, brilliantly lit morning that offered up a new scene around every turn. From the leaf-covered ground to the moldy stumps and bare branches, I probably could have stayed here all day. But soon enough, I heard the laughter of returning children and knew my little time-out was just about over.

Pity that.

Your turn: What do you do when you have extra time on your hands?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Ever crunched a traffic cone?

Tightest slalom course ever
Mississauga, ON
December 2012
Click here for more Thematic multiples
Until the week that I took this picture, I had never crunched a traffic cone in my life. Not long after I shot this, that changed. In doing so, I learned that they really are tough, and they'll stand up to a lot more abuse than you might think. Which is good. I guess. Even better is learning this lesson in a controlled environment.

Still, wherever I'm driving in future, I'll do whatever I can to keep it between the lines, cones or not. It might be fun to drive a car like Goggles Paisano - correction, it is - but getting home in one piece is infinitely more rewarding.

Your turn: What are the first three words that come to mind when you see this line of cones?

On Jodie Foster and the definition of normal

"Normal is not something to aspire to. It's something to get away from."Jodie Foster
Ms. Foster raised quite the ruckus at the Golden Globes the other night, and I'm rather glad she did. Not because I care about her or anyone else's personal life - I don't, because there's plenty of other stuff in my own back yard to worry about - but because it's refreshing to think that maybe, just maybe, humanity will ultimately evolve to the point that no one else cares, either.

You've got to admire those with the courage to stand up and say it in such a refreshing and honest manner.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A day at the beach

Great day for a swim
Port Stanley, ON
August 2012
Thematic. Multiple. Here.
This pic was taken precisely 9 frames before this one, and is shot almost directly into an overhead sun. Not the greatest choice for an angle - reflection off the water makes proper metering tough - but I found it fascinating to encounter two divergent scenes by simply pivoting my heels in the same spot.

That's photography, I guess: small differences in perspective that net major differences in bottom line results. A reminder, perhaps, that it's the little things that matter most, and it doesn't hurt to have a little reminder of that every once in a while.

Your turn: Where's that boat headed?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Thematic Photographic 230 - Multiples

Waiting for takeoff
Port Stanley, ON
August 2012

Click photo to embiggen
There's a certain appeal to pictures of many of the same thing. Sometimes you can see patterns in them. Or sometimes they all look identical. Or just similar enough to attract the eye. Or different enough to prompt discussion. Or something.

Which is my somewhat stilted way of introducing this week's new theme, Multiples. We so often take pictures like this, but don't give them much additional thought. Now, I'm hoping we will. Why? Well, I can't really offer much of an explanation beyond the usual, "because". Because photography, to me, is often about grabbing photos simply because they appeal to the little voices inside our heads that tell us a certain kind of scene would be neat to have in pixels.

In the end, it need not be more complex than that.

Your turn: Take a picture that suggests or evokes the "multiple" theme. What does that mean? Whatever you want it to mean. Post it to your blog, then leave a comment here letting folks know where to find it. Once you're done, visit other participants to share in the fun. Repeat as often as you wish throughout the week, and feel free to trick a friend into it bring a long a friend. The goal is enjoyment and exploration, and I can't wait to see what you have in store for this one. If this is your first time through, please click here for more info on how Thematic works.

We stand on guard for thee

No one to watch
Deerfield Beach, FL
December 2009
Click here for more On The Water Thematic
The long-ago lifeguard in me always stops and stares at the guard towers at the beach. They look so unassuming, but to someone in trouble way out there, the people who work here could be the difference between having a story to tell your friends the next day and not telling stories at all.

I guarded at a pool, so my vantage point was decidedly less impressive - a chair on a 7-ish foot pedestal. This tower would have been a lot sexier. If only I lived close to an ocean or similarly impressive body of water. Next life, I guess.

So in this life, I shoot late afternoon scenes like this. After everyone's gotten out of the water and the guards have gone home. When the only people on the beach are the treasure hunters and stragglers who wander up and down the beach near - but never in - the water. It's a totally different vibe here compared to just a couple of hours ago, all thanks to the sun sinking way too fast in the western sky. Most days, I find myself wishing it would hang up there just a little bit longer. Like many things these days, I wish I had the power.

Your turn: Who works here?

One more thing: We're wrapping up our week-long exploration of "on the water". Click here to pop in a last-minute contribution. Drop back in at 7:00 p.m. Eastern for our next theme, multiples.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

At the end of the breakwater

Where swimmers don't dare go
Port Stanley, ON
July 2012
Click here for more "on the water" Thematic
You'd think a pier or jetty that's blocked by an Alcatraz-like layer of fencing - see here for that - would be enough to warn trespassers away. You'd think wrong, as every time we come here, there's always a fresh layer of graffiti on the concrete. And if you look closely (just click the photo to embiggen) you'll notice some not-so-fresh layers just below the fresh white paint.

I guess we now know why the design team chose white.

Be that as it may, this isn't the typical lighthouse of our childhood dreams, but it'll have to do given the generally sad state of lighthouses around the world. Suffice to say, no one lives here.

Except the birds, who seemed to be having a grand old time on this blustery, summery afternoon. Good thing they don't read signs, either. On second thought, can a gull wield a spray can?

Your turn: I can't explain the ragged-edge effect of the water's edge at the horizon. Maybe a combination of a hot, windy day and maximum zoom on the lens. Either way, I think it's neat, and it makes me wonder what lies just beyond that point. Any suggestions?

On days without laughter

"A day without laughter is a day wasted."
Charlie Chaplin
Your turn: How are you going to avoid wasting today, then?

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Say hello to my little friend

The Swan of Avon
Stratford, ON
August 2012
Thematic. On The Water. Here.
We met her as we walked along Stratford's famous Avon River just before taking in a play. We felt so, so, cultured that we booked the tickets and took an entire evening to drive to this delightful center of stage life. This is something we'd been meaning to do for some time, but just never got around to it. Now that we were finally here, the swans were the topper, as they're somewhat iconic in a place that's already iconic enough.

I'm sure she had no idea why everyone made such a fuss over her, though. She's just a bird. A big, beautiful bird, mind you, but a bird all the same. She knows nothing of theatrical history or the heavyweights in the fancy-looking theatres just across the grass behind her who tread the boards, and those who watch them from the plush seats.

Maybe it's just as well that she's perfectly oblivious to the mystique of this place. Maybe she's perfectly happy cruising the placid waters with her flock mates on a warm summer's evening. Maybe it can be as simple as that.

Your turn: What should we name her?

Friday, January 11, 2013

On success. And bouncing.

"Success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom."George S. Patton

Please don't play in the fountain

Detroit, MI
December 2011
Thematic. On The Water. Here.

When you fly, it's always nice to grab a few spare minutes in the airport to just take in the scenery. If you look hard enough, you just might find something that makes you smile long after you first encounter it.

The world around us is filled with small wonders. We just have to allow ourselves the opportunity to drink them in.

Do you?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

On dying inside

"The tragedy of life is not death, but what we let die inside of us while we live."
Norman Cousins

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Rescue me

Help on the water
Pompano Beach, FL
December 2011
Please click here to share your own on-the-water-themed scene

When a U.S. Coast Guard Eurocopter HH-65 Dolphin flies past at full throttle and lowers a basket to a boat in the distance, whatever you may have been doing on the beach can take a back seat for a while. As I stood in the sand and watched the chopper do its thing, I hoped that it was just a training exercise, that no one was actually in any kind of danger.

Which is a bit of a laugh, because even if this had been an exercise, the very act of hovering mere feet off the water and yanking someone off the deck of a pitching vessel is enough to make even the strongest stomach a little - okay, a lot - queasy. I don't know how these crews do what they do, but I'm intensely glad that they're there.

I never did find out what happened out on the waves that day, as there was nothing in the papers or online in the few days afterward. The optimist in me is going to guess they were honing their skills, ready for the day when the real thing would inevitably draw them back to the skies over the angry sea.

Your turn: Have you ever had first-person experience with emergency services personnel?

Monday, January 07, 2013

Thematic Photographic 229 - On The Water

At rest
Stratford, ON
August 2012

Our new Thematic theme, on the water, betrays the fact that water's played a central role in my life. I learned to swim late thanks to hips that didn't work as they should have. Then I became a lifeguard because I saw it as a way to keep those hips and legs working properly. Which is how I met my wife. Who I eventually proposed to beside a river. And against her better judgment she said yes. (By the by, I was with her on this perfectly lit evening as we walked beside Stratford's Avon River - swans and all - before seeing a play. It always comes back to water with us.)

It's often said we're products of our experiences, and every time I walk past a body of water - whether it's a small pool, a flowing river or a pounding ocean - I think back to my own experiences in and around the wet stuff. And I say a silent thanks that years ago, despite my irrational childhood fears of drowning or worse, I chose to keep going into the water until something good happened. Clearly, lots did.

Your turn: I've shared my on the water story. Now it's up to you to share yours, as well. Take a pic that supports this week's theme, share it on your blog or website, then leave a comment here letting everyone know where to find it. Visit other participants, and feel free to share again through the week. Friends are always welcome. For more background on how Thematic, our weekly photo learning/sharing thing, works, just click here. Because deep down you know you want to. Thanks!

On enjoying life. Or not.

"There is a strange reluctance on the part of most people to admit that they enjoy life."
William Lyon Phelps

I've always wondered why this is so. Do you?

Even birds prefer OJ

Crossing the finish line
Montreal, QC
July 2012
Click photo to embiggen
I wanted to round out our fave pics of the year - you can share yours by clicking here - with this one. On the surface, it's a standard shot of the kind of thing you'd see in an average used car lot, a cheesy come-on to get you to pay attention.

As it is, this wasn't a used car lot. It was OJ - or, more formally, Gibeau Orange Julep, that ginormous orange ball in Montreal that sells food that's not remotely healthy, but you go there anyway. Because it's as much a part of generational culture as anything in this storied city, and it's an integral part of the early days of my relationship with the lovely girl who eventually became my wife.

So whenever we come back to Montreal, we bring the kids to give them a glimpse of life before they even existed. (We've been here before: here, here and here.) And because there are only so many ways to shoot a massive orange ball, I found myself looking for alternatives this time.

The gull made this one memorable.

Your turn: Do you have a place from your teen years that sticks in your own memory? What makes it special?

One more thing: New Thematic theme, On The Water, launches tonight at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Hope you can make it!

Sunday, January 06, 2013

On living in darkness

"Living is a form of not being sure, not knowing what next or how. The moment you know how, you begin to die a little. The artist never entirely knows. We guess. We may be wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark."
Agnes de Mille

NHL lockout ends. The sheep return. Heroes don't.

I grew up in Montreal, so as you can imagine I've had the Canadiens practically encoded in the particular strand of my DNA that's reserved for hockey fandom. As a kid, I was lucky to attend a whole lot of games at the storied Forum, and proudly wore whatever clothes I could find that carried the logo. Sorry, Toronto Maple Leafs, you'll just never do it for me.

So I followed the just-ended NHL lockout with a great deal of interest not because I particularly wanted one side or the other to "win", but because I worried about the scads of other young kids out there wearing their own logo-clad clothes and wondering if their ice-bound heroes should really be their heroes after all. Or whether there would be logo-clad kids in future at all.

And as the league gets ready to play a shortened season, I worry that that sense of admiration has been, to a certain extent, lost. That the love of the sport has irrevocably been compromised by the greed of those who think being a hero is a right and not a privilege. Who think fans like the childhood me will continue to return after each and every labor dispute.

Inevitably, most of the tried and true fans will return. Like the sheep that they are, they're already falling all over themselves with glee that hockey is almost back, cash in hand, ready to pay whatever it takes to once again get inside and see their skating heroes live. Or watch them on TV. Or buy the merchandise. Or buy the advertisers' merchandise.

But what about those who haven't had a chance to become sheep in the first place? The kids who watch or play the game because they love it. Who will never understand why the two sides in this megabuck mess couldn't simply play the game while the lawyers negotiated off-ice. Who will never appreciate the motivations of two sides that have repeatedly come this close to killing the goose that laid the golden egg.

Maybe these potential fans are slowly coming to the realization that hockey is a game that should be played for the love of it, and that maybe it's time to question whether those who play it deserve to be deemed heroes.

Maybe it isn't just the kids, either. Maybe the communities that have paid for arenas to pad billionaire-owner and millionaire-player pockets are starting to do the math and are realizing it simply no longer adds up. Maybe the businesses like nearby restaurants and suppliers whose workaday owners and employees watched their income evaporate through no fault of their own may be looking for another wagon to hitch up to.

Indeed, maybe it's no longer the NHL's birthright to carry that mantel for the next generation. And maybe it's time to question what a hero really is, and whether such an individual - player or owner or league or union rep - would willingly allow such a storied cultural treasure to become so tarnished in the first place.

Your turn: Thoughts?

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Set phasers to...fog

Streaks of light
London, ON
December 2012
Click here to share your own favorite photo of the year.

Take a little bit of fog, mix in some sodium-vapor street lights, a few cars and one oddball photographer with an apparent need to shoot the arcane and you end up with this. I've got a thing for long-exposure shots at night, perhaps a leftover from a childhood spent staring at the sky and wondering where the clouds went when they disappeared from view. Or maybe I just like the concept of "different".

A kindly lady came out of her house as I was shooting this scene to make sure I was okay. Why would she do this? Because I had mounted my GorillaPod to the camera, and had wrapped it around my camera bag, which sat very close to the ground for the obligatory low-angle effect. To compose properly, I had to lie down on the sidewalk (and wouldn't you know it, but it was really cold!)

I suspect I might have looked injured or dead, and I similarly suspect I'd have been alarmed had I looked out my own window and seen something like this unfolding outside. Nice to know I've got at least one good-hearted neighbor. This pic's for her, whoever she is.

Your turn: Do strangers approach you when you shoot?

On diamonds, coal, and persistence

"Diamonds are nothing more than chunks of coal that stuck to their jobs."

Malcolm Stevenson Forbes 

Friday, January 04, 2013

Someone's got a gun

Please don't shoot
Shanghai, China
May 2012

Click photo to embiggen
This is one of my favorite photos of the year (see here to share yours) because it represented one of the few times in my life where I stared through my lens and literally had no words to describe what I saw. Which strikes me as a pretty neat thing.

As best I can tell, this was a film shoot on the riverfront of Shanghai's Pudong financial district. At various points in the shoot, there was a woman wearing a bridal gown, and someone else pulling the rickshaw. It looked like a badly done student project, except the actors and wannabes all seemed too old to be students.

Still, from my perch on a nearby hill, it made for entertaining viewing. Whatever it was.

Your turn: What was it?

Thursday, January 03, 2013

On hockey, loss, and perspective

"How would you like a job where, every time you make a mistake, a big red light goes on and 18,000 people boo?"
Jacques Plante
Mr. Plante is as close to hockey royalty is you can get, so I'll defer to his wisdom as Canada wakes up to news that its World Junior Hockey team lost its semifinal game 5-1 to the U.S. and must now play for the bronze medal.

In a country like Canada, especially during the NHL lockout, losses like this are felt on a somewhat deeper level. And a quick scan of Twitter and Facebook this morning suggests coast-to-coast-to-coast unhappiness at the outcome.

I hate to sound like a killjoy, but in sports someone's always going to win and someone's always going to lose. When the game's over, someone gets a prize and someone goes home empty-handed. Then, before long, there's another game. And life goes on.

Key word: game. Another key word: perspective. No one died. No one got sick. No tragedy was recorded. A bunch of young players represented their country (and incredibly well, I might add) and couldn't win a game. We're all, thankfully, still here to ruminate over the game. And we'll all, thankfully and hopefully, still be around to ruminate over the next one.

Because in the end, it's just a game.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

A look down a Montreal alley

Forgotten facades
Montreal, QC
July 2012
Click here to share your own Thematic fave of the year.
Click on photo to view full-size.
I had come to Montreal's east end on a stiflingly hot and humid summer's afternoon to chat live with our national broadcaster, the CBC. But first I had to find my way from the Metro (subway) to the studios. And as it turned out, the few streets between here and there were in the heart of the city's Gay Village, an area rich with texture and life.

Looking at this particular picture, you wouldn't think it's particularly vibrant. At first glance, it might seem, well, a little depressing. Old, weathered brick buildings, largely forgotten by a city more intent on seeking a good time. But stare into the alleys long enough and you see age in a different way.

Lives happen here, too, except these aren't the lives you'll typically see in magazines. They're not glamorous or picture-perfect, and they're not always pretty. Doesn't make them any less significant, though. Or worthy of being remembered.

Your turn: What is the appeal of ordinary?

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Drinking myself silly in the middle of the mall

Mall walker obstacle
London, ON
March 2012
Click photo to embiggen
About this photo: We're sharing our favorite photos of the past year all week long, and we'd love if you shared yours, too. Just go here.And while we're at it, please accept my wishes for a happy and healthy new year. I've never been one for resolutions or whatever - too predictable and ultimately senseless - but sending good vibes into the universe as one year turns into another has got to be a positive thing. Only goodness for us all, this year and every year. Now, on with the show...
Allow me to be cryptic for a moment. This isn't so much one of my favorite pictures as it is one of my favorite days. I know that sounds odd. But if we're being photographically honest, there isn't a whole lot of memorable surrounding a picture of a Starbucks cup shot on the floor of a mall while I deftly try to avoid being run over by hordes of determined mall walkers.

Instead, this rather ordinary photo reminds me of a really good day. And in that context, it's become one of my favorite captures of the year. Make sense?

It was really simple, actually. Forever 21 was opening its first London-based store in Masonville Place, a fairly large mall located not far from the house. As historic milestones go, it wasn't a big one. Or even a small one. It was a store. Selling clothes to teenaged girls. In the middle of a hypercommercialized space where good taste usually goes to die. It shouldn't have been much cause for anything.

Yet it was. My daughter wanted to be there. All of 14 years-old at the time, she and her best friend didn't want to miss the retail event of, if not their lives, at least the month. And if they wanted to be a part of it, then it was meaningful to me, too.

So off we trooped too-early on a barely-dawn Saturday morning where the ladies waited patiently in an ever growing, velvet-roped lineup of similarly jazzed teenaged girls. Being the worrywart that I am, it just didn't feel right to simply leave them there and head for home. So I stayed. But I couldn't wait in line with them. No. You see, I couldn't dampen their cool. So I found a comfy spot in an adjacent mall corridor and settled in.

I had my smartphone for the ladies to ping me, and my tablet to catch up on the day's reading. Thanks to all this mobile geekery, I was able to text my wife and Dahlia's friend's mom through the morning, letting them know what we were all up to and what was going on. Technology as connector. Neat.

They were there for a few hours as the crowd continued to grow. They got hungry. I brought them breakfast and treats, and then retreated to my comfy chair. With so much free time on my hands, it was inevitable that a little impromptu photography would result. The mallwalkers were not amused.

In the end, the ladies had the experience they had been talking about for weeks. I had an experience I hadn't quite expected. And the memory of that delightful morning is now locked away, for me anyway, in a picture of a coffee cup on a cold marble-like floor. I'm good with that.

Your turn: Ever take a so-so picture of a really memorable event or day?