Saturday, November 10, 2018

Do not cross this line

Tape for bees
Mississauga, ON
November 2018
This photo originally shared on Instagram
Fun in an airport - the latest in an ongoing series.

The scene: Pearson International Airport, Toronto, Ontario. Early Saturday morning, domestic departures gate area. I left my hotel a few thousand kilometres thataway just over 24 hours ago, only to be stopped 200 km from home by a cancelled late-night flight.

I nasty-tweeted the airline - which makes me feel a bit guilty, because I'm supposed to be a kindly Canadian - and eventually got everything sorted out. They gave me a hotel and food voucher, and after a 2-hour power nap in a room overlooking the garbage bins, I'm back at the airport waiting for the first flight home.

So I thought I'd have a little fun with photography. Unfortunately, the yellow and black tape you see here was placed uncomfortably close to a lovely middle-aged couple. But I really wanted the shot. So I wandered over, anyway, sat myself down cross-legged on the floor, and started working the angles with my smartphone.

I could see the woman was looking at me like I was slightly altered, but the man seemed genuinely intrigued, with a half-smile to match. So I eventually turned to them and said, "Please don't mind me. I do this weird stuff all the time." The guy says in a friendly Aussie drawl, "No worries, mate, looks like you got the shot."

Nice to know there are still good-hearted strangers out there who appreciate the small things. And nice to know there's enough random kindness in the world that we can still share fun little moments like this when we're far from home.

Friday, November 09, 2018

Staring out the window at the airport

Planes at rest at sunrise
Las Vegas, NV
November 2018
This photo originally shared on Instagram
I'm running way ahead of schedule this morning, so I've been slowly making my way to my gate at the airport, slowly drinking in the architecture of this place, slowly thinking about how I want to remember this particular journey, and how I want to share it with my family after I get home.

I may be here alone, but I never lose sight of the fact that being away ripples out through my wife and kids. It throws everyone's schedule off as I disappear, and Debbie takes on even more than she already does to keep everything together in my absence. They wake up earlier, run around more, get less sleep, all because I'm not there.

It's been a fabulous week here. The conference was an incredible experience. I dug deep with my team and we did amazing work that sets the stage for lots of good things ahead. But it's time to come home. And as I set off on this journey with no one to talk to but myself, I realize I'm never really alone, that I carry a small group of remarkable people - my family, my life - with me wherever I go.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Fun in a hotel bathtub

Artful plumbing
Las Vegas, NV
November 2018
Photo originally shared on Instagram
I can already predict what my kids will say when I get home: “Our dad went to Las Vegas, and all he did was take stupid pictures of hotel room bathtub fixtures.”

They wouldn’t be wrong. And it wouldn’t be the first time I turned the lens inward while I was away.

That’s largely because when you’re away for work instead of vacation, you don’t have tons of time to explore. I’ve been trying to take quick walks outside, but I’ve been “on” from before dawn until late at night, then back at it early again the next day. So it’s been hard to squeeze in the time to get away.

To compensate, I’ve been looking inward, stealing snippets of the oddball facets of my hotel room, the hallways, the views out the windows, whatever happens to be under my nose at any given moment as I move from my room to the conference venue and back.

It’s the kind of photography we just don’t do when we have the luxury of time. And it means the weird factor gets cranked up a notch or two.

Which largely explains why I found myself exploring my hotel room - including the bathtub - with my smartphone camera before I tucked in for the night. Is it strange? Of course. Trivial? Indeed!

But looking back at the photo, and thinking of how it ended up being created, makes me realize just how lucky I am to be who I am. If a sign of a life well lived is a tub fixture photography fixation, I’m okay with that.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Shooting glass in an empty hotel corridor

Artfully melted sand, closeup
Las Vegas, NV
November 2018
This photo originally shared on Instagram
I have a love-hate relationship with travel. On the one hand, it lets you explore new places with your mind - and your lens - and it forces you to be way more in-the-moment than if you were lying on the couch at home, eating a bowl of Cool Ranch Doritos while binge-watching Riverdale on Netflix.

On the other hand, I find it occasionally frightening. I don’t do well in crowds. Or with sleeping alone far from home in a strange hotel room filled with strange smells and sounds. I miss my wife and kids, and I miss my alarm-clock dog sticking her nose into my ear an hour before dawn. Travel focuses a lot of change on you in a short amount of time, and it makes me a little queasy at first - at least until I settle into something of a groove once I get there.

So I use my camera as a bit of a crutch, and spend an inordinate amount of time composing and shooting as a means of easing my overactive, non-traveller’s mind.

Consider this as today's Exhibit A. I was meeting a colleague before our next scheduled event, and had arrived in the open area outside the conference rooms a bit early. I noticed the bar was unstaffed because it was late in the day, and since there was no one around to ask for permission, I walked behind the bar and had some optical fun with their nicely stored glasses. I’m badass that way.

I got some stares from passers-by, along with two smiles and a thumbs-up, and as far as I can tell, the hotel hasn't booted me out yet. More importantly, in addition to getting a pretty memorable shot with a fun back-story, I gave myself 5 minutes where I felt a little more normal than I had felt in a while. That's why I shoot, no matter where I might be at the moment.

Your turn: What should I shoot next?

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

When dogs meet cats

Will you please be my new friend?
London, ON
November 2018
This photo originally shared on Instagram
Some days, it's tempting to walk the dog as quickly as possible. But then I'd miss moments like this one, where she dances on her hind legs like a circus dog as I struggle to keep her from pouncing on her newest enemy. On this day, it was the lovely orange/white domestic shorthair cat on the upper-right.

Since this is how Schnauzers are built, I don't worry about it all that much. Simply put, she's bonkers, and her hind-leg dance amuses strangers. And our experience with our last Schnauzer, Frasier, suggests this isn't some puppy-ish behavior that'll she'll eventually outgrow. She'll be like this forever.

Which makes me smile. Because we didn't get a dog because we wanted her to be perfect. We got a dog because we hoped she would complement the admittedly imperfect family that we already are. She's a Levy, warts and all. We can count on her to bark at the wrong time - or constantly - to chew things she shouldn't, and to nip ankles when we go upstairs.

I've accepted she'll never win Best of Show, even if I make up my own competition and hold it in our basement on a Sunday afternoon (I'd give the trophy to that cat, frankly.) I've also come to grips with how she terrorizes the groomers: She's the only dog I know who DOESN'T get featured on their Facebook page. I'm just glad they haven't banned her yet, but part of me expects to eventually get that call.

But I couldn't love her more if I tried, and the same goes for everyone in my fam. We all adore this crazy little ball of fur precisely because of her shortcomings. And accepting her as one of us despite it all is one of the hallmarks of our little family, and a validation that our kids are turning out just fine. Maybe we've been defining "perfection" all wrong, anyway. Maybe it has nothing to do with tricks, or being quiet, or not destroying the house. Maybe it has everything to do with the ripples you leave on the people around you. On that front, she's beyond perfect.

Monday, November 05, 2018

Vegas-bound

Gear down and locked
Mississauga, ON
November 2018
This photo originally shared on Instagram
Our little family has been on the move a lot lately, so it's only fitting that I start the work week on a plane. I'm heading to a work thing, in a place I've never been before, and the next few days will hold lots of cool challenge and opportunity before my team and I can declare success and head home just in time for the weekend.

As I do every time I travel, I try to tell the story in pixels. When I travel alone, away from my family, the pictures take on a different role. Because we can't be together, I want to tell the story for them, to show them where I am, what I'm up to, and what it feels like. I miss my wife and kids from the moment I kiss them goodbye, but as I shoot and share, I feel like we're perhaps a little closer than Google Maps might suggest. Whatever works, right?

At this moment, our Q-400 had dropped out of the predawn clouds over Mississauga on the way into Toronto Pearson International Airport. The gear was down and locked, the flaps were down, and the sturdy twin-turboprop aircraft was being buffeted by the wind as rain streaked diagonally across the scratched plastic windows.

Add in muddy low light and it was hardly a recipe for photographic goodness. But as soon as I saw this shot, I knew it would rather nicely tell the story of the opening moments of this long trip. My photographer-daughter would, with a smile, call it a lousy picture. But she's learned so well that lousy pics sometimes tell the most important stories both of and for the family lucky enough to share them.

And, yes, I count myself lucky indeed.

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Staring out a hospital window

Mount Royal, then and now
Montreal, QC
October 2018
This photo originally shared on Instagram
This is the late-afternoon view, looking south out of the 8th floor of the Jewish General Hospital. Spend enough time in this place and eventually your soul needs to look outside. I'm not sure why, but heading to the windows always brightens the moment.

This is much the same view I had as a kid when I was a frequent flyer in the now-closed pediatrics ward two storeys down. St. Joseph's Oratory is on the left. St. Mary's Hospital - where our eldest son was born - sits to the right. The Snowdon/Cote-des-Neiges neighborhood spills down the Mount Royal slope.

Except I didn't have a camera back then, and my only option was to remember the scene in my mind. I watched this vista so often, from first light to sunset, and often through the night when the sounds of the hospital kept me awake. It eventually became a scene impossible to forget.

Which is why when I happened upon it again, it seemed so familiar. The photo in my camera perfectly matched the one I'd been carrying around in my head all these years. I didn't necessarily want to be back here - indeed, no one ever does - but at least it felt somewhat like home.

Friday, November 02, 2018

Wet green leaf in a parking lot

Not yet forgotten
London, ON
November 2018
This photo originally shared on Instagram
I found this one rainy morning in the parking lot beside our office, and decided to quickly shoot it before heading inside to start the day. A reminder that all sorts of interesting stuff is happening quite literally at our feet, and we'll never know what we're missing if we keep on walking.

Is a wet leaf on an otherwise unremarkable stretch of asphalt going to change the world? Probably not. Is it a trivial thing? Of course.

But as I finished shooting this temporary, mundane scene, a co-worker called me over and asked what I was shooting. She and I have had this conversation before, and she knows about my little addiction to the everyday. So I showed her the photo, and we chatted for a few minutes about why seemingly small stuff like this matters as much as it does.

Because life is lived well when we slow down enough to appreciate the quiet, in-the-margin moments for what they are. And we lose out on all that color, texture, magic, warmth, whatever you want to call it, when we choose to keep walking.

I'm especially glad I didn't keep walking on this wet, grey day. Not only did it make me happy. It made someone else happy, too. Those ripples. It's up to us to start them on their journey.

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Reflecting on life by the giant orange

OJ, reflectively
Montreal, QC
October 2018
Photo originally shared on Instagram
Normally, trips home to Montreal are a treat - we reconnect with forever-friends, spend time with family, and visit the places that defined our lives growing up here.

But these aren’t normal times, and returning here with my wife to spend time with her hospitalized dad was, frankly, hard. The days were long and unsettled, sleeping fitfully in an apartment far from home, leaving for the hospital before dawn, spending the day and night there, then heading “home” into the darkness, only to repeat the process the next day.

At times like this, you look for normalcy wherever you can. One night as we left the hospital, I realized we weren’t far from the iconic Orange Julep.

Officially, it’s Gibeau Orange Julep, but everyone just calls it “OJ”. This giant orange, plopped unceremoniously beside an expressway off-ramp, has been here forever. As kids the ultimate treat was for our parents to take us here. Back then, servers on roller skates delivered the food on trays that hung precariously off the side of your car. The servers are long gone, and everyone lines up at the front counter. It’s old, kitschy, and ohmygod it’s perfection.

This was where we drove when we wanted to show off our newly minted drivers’ licenses. We kept coming back to show off our cars, our clothes, or even our newest significant others. We’d park in the circular-ish lot, and hang out for hours over slowly-sipped OJ drinks and greasy-spoon-ish hot dogs, grilled cheeses and fries, talking about both everything and nothing at all.

Little did we know it at the time, but we were all writing an indelible chapter in the stories of our lives. So when I came back here with my wife on this dark, sad night, it felt right to linger a bit longer and chat under the fluorescent lights pooling in the puddle-stained parking lot. As it was when we were first dating, it felt like home. Only this time I didn’t have to work so hard to impress her.

Your turn: What place from your childhood have you returned to? What was it like?

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

When a building stops you dead in your tracks

Golden
Toronto, ON
September 2018
Photo originally shared on Instagram
Just across the road from Toronto's main railway/transit hub, Union Station, the Royal Bank Plaza casts a friendly, sometimes-blinding glow on this particular stretch of Front Street. Every time I come here - fairly often lately - the first thing I do when I get off the train is make my way to the street. As soon as I get outside, I orient myself by finding the familiar angular, gold-covered glass facade. I'm sure I look like a rube from the country when I do so - legions of Toronto commuters, all heads-down, rushing to wherever they're headed. And this guy from relatively-smalltown-London, standing quietly on the edge of the sidewalk, looking up.

To most, this is just a building. But architecture, to me, at least, holds secrets of time spent in and around otherwise inanimate buildings and spaces. Look at any building and almost immediately, you'll remember stories of who you met there, what you might have done or shared, how that moment or day felt. Because this particular spot is such a crossroads, the largest multimodal transportation facility in the country, surrounded by the biggest buildings occupied by the biggest companies, I'm pretty sure these seemingly soulless buildings hold countless stories within them. And all we need to do is look up if we want to remember them.

As I write this, I'm sitting on a train speeding through the darkened countryside, headed to Toronto for another action-packed day of work and connection. Soon enough, I'll be back on that sidewalk, looking up, wondering what stories I'll be adding to my own personal history of this place today. I hope at least a few of the strangers rushing around me choose to take the time to ponder their own stories, too. I'm sure they're good ones.

Your turn: What's your favorite building? Why?


Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Smoking by the hospital exit

Not what the doctor ordered
Montreal, QC
October 2018
Photo originally shared on Instagram
The west-side entrance to this massive hospital complex is a busy place. Stand here for any amount of time and life's full spectrum of experiences will play out in all its colors and textures, from beautiful to, more often than not, decidedly less so.

Thanks to decades of construction, this spot looks different than when I was a patient here so long ago. The parking lot and open space is now filled by sleek new buildings, and I have to look harder for familiar hallways. But you never forget childhood touchstones. I still remember this place as if it was yesterday, my parents either carrying me out to the car, or pushing my wheelchair. I remember other families coming and going, or patients simply marking precious time away from the monotony of life on the inside.

And I remember the first time I saw a woman in a hospital gown, gaunt and hollow-eyed. She was probably barely older than my mom at the time, but she looked more like my grandmother, grey-flecked hair blowing in the windy snow flurries as she tried to keep her barely-tied-on gown from turning her into a peep show. She was smoking, and my 5-year-old self asked my mom, loudly, why. I couldn't reconcile the fact that she was doing something unhealthy to herself just outside a place where she was supposed to get healthy.

My mom justifiably shushed me that day, and the adult me still wishes I could reach back in time and leave her be. Or simply observe her, quietly, from afar. So when I saw this patient, IV pole on one side and a cigarette in the other hand, I knew I wanted a photo to remind myself the full spectrum of human experience need not always be pretty. Or logical. It just is, and it deserves to be remembered no matter how old or young we may be.

How you process this scene is, of course, entirely up to you.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Nature's last gasp (for now)

Patchwork
Trenton, ON
October 2018
Photo originally shared on Instagram
While it may seem that darkness is currently winning the perpetual battle for the soul of humanity, may this new week dawn for us all with the realization that history is a much longer end-game than the blink we are all gifted with when we're first created, and the universe remains eminently capable of beauty and kindness all around us.

Just look for it. And share it when you find it. I guarantee it's never that far away.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

They hate Jews here, too

Yesterday morning, my daughter and I went to our synagogue, where she led the Junior Congregation program while I participated in services in the main sanctuary. It was a typical Shabbat service in a typical synagogue in a typical, tree-lined suburb.

Little did we know what was happening at that very moment in a virtually identical Shabbat service, in a synagogue just like ours, in the middle of an almost mirror-image neighborhood. The worst mass murder of Jews in American history. In a Pittsburgh synagogue that could very well have been ours.

And why? Because they were Jews.

I've been living with Jew-hatred my entire life. Almost as soon as I realized I was a Jew, my parents were carefully explaining to me what that really meant. That strangers who knew nothing about you would single you out in all sorts of subtle and unsubtle ways, and it would color your entire life.

For the record, I love being a Jew, and my parents nurtured that sense in our home. I love being part of a community that's been upholding its traditions for thousands of years. I love how that community circles around those in need, how the doors are always open and the light that emerges from inside is warm and enveloping. I love knowing that as I do my thing in my community, Jews around the world are doing the same thing in theirs. We're connected.

And here's the thing: it doesn't stop with Jews. Stand in the middle of any faith-based community and you'll see - and feel - similar stories playing out. It's why I feel so at home visiting churches and mosques, and why I do what I can to learn about their traditions, as well. Because understanding breeds strength. And stands against the forces of hatred that would threaten us all.

And yet, time and again, our being different is used against us, as if we deserve to feel fear because we had the temerity to not be among the majority. I can still feel the sting of being called a dirty Jew by a French Canadian kid who knew nothing about what made me, or my community, tick. I remember the fear when bomb threats were called into our Jewish school, standing across the street in the middle of winter while we wondered why anyone would want to hurt us.

At the age of 5, it was a sobering wake-up call.

And now this, the latest in a long line of attacks against people just like me. Simply because they were Jews. Because hatred won that day, as it did when six members of Quebec City's Muslim community were shot to death in their mosque last year. Because in all of these cases, someone chose to believe the lies perpetuated by others over the years, centuries and millennia instead of taking the time to speak, to connect, to learn.

Anti-Semitic acts have been skyrocketing worldwide - and in our own backyard - for the better part of the last half decade. Is it political? Draw your own conclusions, but it's hard to deny at least some connection between leaders who encourage violence and replay historic patterns of discrimination and the acts of a relative, murderous few whose triggers may have been set off by that same rhetoric. Discuss among yourselves, but we'd be naive to believe hatred happens in a vacuum.

We're blessed here in London to be surrounded by faith-based communities that have reached out in the aftermath of yesterday's massacre. Their words of support and comfort give me and others hope that perhaps tomorrow will be better than today.

But all the dialog in the world won't change the chilling reality that 11 people just like us were murdered because they went to shul on a Saturday morning. Because they were Jews. Or that I when I go to shul next week with my daughter and the rest of our family, the shadow of what might happen, because we're Jews, will hang over us all. It never ends, and humanity never seems to have the wherewithal to learn from history.

The vigils - including a number in our community - are already being scheduled and held around the world. As ever, we'll hear cries of enough, and never again. But nothing will change. Because those who hate will never be part of that dialog. And those who lead will never have the courage to do the right thing.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Where I shoot a stranger's car

The front end of history
Montreal, QC
October 2018
Photo originally shared on Instagram
When you come across a well-loved first-generation BMW 3-series (aka E21) parked on a quiet side street, you shoot it. Never mind it isn't perfectly clean, the paint shows its years and it's got leaves all over it.

This is reality, and it's rare and worth celebrating. It may be just a thing - and one that requires a lot of wrenching to keep on the road - but as I stood on the windy sidewalk and tried to compose the shot, I hoped its owner, someone who clearly loved and maintained this 35-ish-year-old car, knew it still had the ability to make complete strangers smile.

Maybe the world is smaller than we thought it was. Maybe we need to spend more time going for walks outside hospitals when life inside them becomes a little too hard to bear.

Your turn: What's the one car you remember with the most fondness? Why?

Friday, October 26, 2018

When kids turn 24

Birthday boy
July 2018
Dryden, ON
Photo originally shared on Instagram
Ask any parent what they want for their kids and the answer will - or at least should - always be a simple one: A happy, successful life surrounded by people who love them unconditionally. As our eldest, Zach, turns 24 (!) today, we can't help but think that those wishes we first had the day we realized Debbie was pregnant with him, and again the day he was born, and every day since, are coming true.

He may look like me, but everything you can't see, the way he carries himself, his kindness, his empathy, is very much like his mom. My wife may lament the fact that she carried three kids to term, only to have them all emerge looking like little copies of me, but I'm thankful they inherited the best of her, and I'm thankful Zach set the tone for our lives as parents.

In many ways, he was born just yesterday, and seeing the number 24 is surreal, because time can't move that quickly, can it? But as he carefully finds and assembles the puzzle pieces of a life well lived - a career that challenges him, a soon-to-be wife everyone adores, a younger sister and brother who can't get enough of him, communities near and far that are enriched because he's a part of them - we can't help but be thrilled not only by the path he's on, but by the way he chooses to navigate it.

Happy 24th, kiddo. Know we love you more than words can say.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Musings from an underground parking lot

Look both ways, please
Montreal, QC
October 2018
Photo originally shared on Instagram
Whenever I park somewhere, I take a picture. Or two. Or more. Ostensibly, I'm trying to make it easier to find my car when I return later, but beyond that the photos serve as a marker of how I was feeling at that particular moment.

They say it's the journey, not the destination. And to a certain extent, they, whoever they may be, are right. We spend so much time thinking about the "there" part that we forget about how we get there in the first place. Or what it's like after we leave and head for home. Which is something of a lost opportunity, because a lot happens between point A and point B.

As it was, this lot is under the hospital, and we were on our way to see Debbie's dad. It was another early morning among a long series of challenging early mornings - and days, and weeks... - of roller coaster-like illness drenched in overriding grief.

So, all things considered, not a fun journey. But a journey all the same. And above it all, I was - and am - on it with her. Which is why it felt temporarily comforting to compose a weird shot out the car window after we parked.

For a blink of a moment in the middle of so much darkness, I got to have some fun with light, and I got to have a sliver of normality with the woman who not only knows me better than I know myself, but who also needed a reason to hit pause for a few seconds before we headed upstairs.

Finding my car again at the end of the day was an added bonus.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Abandoned buildings and unwritten futures

Empty in the dark
London, ON
October 2018
Photo originally shared on Instagram
It's 6:01 a.m., and I'm walking to the train station to catch my ride to the big city to the east. This stretch of Dundas Street is so quiet I can almost hear the puddles from the overnight rain slowly evaporating into the chilly morning air.

This boarded up building calls to me in my peripheral vision, as if it has a story it wants me to tell. I don't really have the time for it, but I can't resist, because I don't know when I'll be back this way. At this time of day. With this particular combination of weather and mood. And who knows, maybe it won't be here at all.

I quietly think to myself that things change quickly in this universe, and we miss stuff if we let moments like this slide. So I slip my phone out of my pocket and rack off a few frames.

I still don't know what this building's story is. Maybe this place and the beleaguered, once-vibrant street it calls home are on the verge of renewal. Or not. Indeed, no one can know what comes next, here or anywhere.

But as I continue on my way, I smile with the knowledge that I've at least begun the process of telling that story, and I didn't push the moment into some nebulous day in the future. Today was a good day to start.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Everything's temporary

Color, for now
Laval, QC
October 2018
Photo originally shared on Instagram
At 7:32 a.m. on a wet, miserable Saturday, I walked the quiet streets of the neighborhood around my father-in-law's condo one last time before we needed to finish packing the car and start the long drive home. I do this when I travel: Take quick walkabouts whenever/wherever I can to try to remember the story of the trip in pixels. On this grey morning slowly being drenched with an intensifying drizzle, I knew the colors would be muted, the results less than worthy. But once again, I reminded myself it wasn't about the pictures so much as the process behind them. I needed this time alone.

Looking at this photo, shot from the same bridge where as children my friends and I used to ride our bikes until we couldn't feel our fingers from the cold, all I can see is how temporary everything in the frame is. The leaves will soon wither and die. Their reflections in the water below aren't real - just an optical fluke based on where I happened to be standing at that moment. Even the water is temporary, set to be replaced by thick ice as winter moves into this quiet neighborhood on a tree-covered island.

Ephemeral as they are, the elements in this pic still managed to freeze the moment, to take me back to what it felt like when I was standing on that bridge, wondering how I had gotten there, and where I would go next. My wife was waiting for me back at the house, and all I needed to know was that next leg of the journey would be taken with her. Our chaotic, uncertain life these days notwithstanding, that's pretty much all that matters to me. Isn't it funny how one person can make the unfathomable feel somehow manageable?

Monday, October 22, 2018

Sofa queen

A puppy surveys her domain
London, ON
October 2018
Photo originally shared on Instagram
Calli often sits on top of the sofa and scans the backyard for squirrels, rabbits, birds, and any other animal she deems not worthy of being anywhere near our home. Bad dog owner that I am, instead of training her out of this obviously suboptimal behavior, I reach for a camera.

See, she's a Miniature Schnauzer, which means she's made of some pretty strong, stout, stubborn stuff. We've trained ourselves to train her way beyond what we ever thought possible, thanks largely to the fact that she's a smart, aware and incredibly sweet and sassy puppy. We hit the jackpot with her, but we also recognize some things may never change. Like the wild barking whenever she sees animals and people for the first time, and the hours of sentinel-like positioning over the top of the couch as she seeks out new friends to, ah, play with.

And I'm perfectly okay with that. Because while I've hovered closely over her since the moment we first brought her home, I've been watching her especially closely these past few weeks.

Years ago, a friend of mine, in the middle of sitting shiva for a close family member, described her dog as carrying a lot on his shoulders. It's been years since that conversation, but that phrase has stuck with me ever since, because as I've watched our own barely-15-pound furry being these past few weeks, I've realized she indeed is carrying a lot on her seemingly tiny shoulders. She's always been a cuddly girl, but now she lingers longer, plays a little harder, lets us nag her a bit more before she decides she's had enough, if she ever decides at all. She knows something's changed, that her humans need her to step it up a little. And she absolutely has.

Given how unbelievably good she's been as we've rolled with the punches of late, I was perfectly content to let her hang out on top of the couch as long as she wanted. Thanks to those giant shoulders of hers, she clearly earned it, and then some.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

An entire childhood, in one photo

Looking down at my life
Montreal, QC
October 2018
Photo originally shared on Instagram
There's a fun backstory to my laptop's lock screen image. It's an aerial view of the town, Chomedey, where I grew up. I captured it a few years ago as the plane I was in was on approach. It looks south-southeast. Highway 13 is on the right, Montreal is across the river up top, and the house I grew up in is somewhere toward left-of-middle.

I keep this photo front and centre on my laptop because I never want to forget where I come from, and I always want it close by no matter where I am. In this one shot, my entire early life unfolded. My wife's childhood home is out of frame, but where I met her as a doofus teenager is very much there, as are the streets we walked endlessly as we slowly figured out the universe had plans for us.

The picture-of-a-picture, of my old hometown on my laptop screen in the middle of a hospital atrium, tells another story. Of being far from our now-home, navigating uncertain waters as my wife sits beside her dad's bed on the other side of this giant institution. It's a small reminder of the power of photographic touchstones to cut through the chaos and take you back to places that mattered. And still do.

This photo, these places, and how and where I choose to keep them with me: they're almost like building blocks of who I am now. And as I sat in the atrium alone and pondered the meaning of the photo I had just taken, I found myself hoping all that history had prepared me for what lay elsewhere, and ahead.

It'll have to be enough, because soon enough, the laptop gets put away, and real life awaits.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Dying leaves on a cold, wet street

Endings
Montreal, QC
October 2018
Photo originally shared on Instagram
Leaves cling defiantly to life on the cold, shadowy pavement between two rusting, parked cars on a windswept stretch of St. Kevin Avenue.

There are stories taking place right under us, if only we stop long enough to notice them.

Your turn: Look down. What's there?

Friday, October 19, 2018

A picture of a picture-taker

That's so meta
Montreal, QC
October 2018
Photo originally shared on Instagram
I've clearly stoked controversy of late with my decision to post photos of complete strangers in my feed. Good. That's what photography is supposed to do. If a picture makes you think, makes you feel, makes you want to respond in some way, then it's done its job.

So when, during my haphazard stroll through the neighborhood, I came across a guy shooting the fall colors with his iPad, I immediately knew I didn't want to forget this moment. I used my long lens to shoot him from well down the street, and to the best of my knowledge he never picked up on the fact that I was even there. Yet I felt a certain connection to this total stranger. Because something compelled us both to head out, to the same block, at the same time, to seek out the same kind of photographic inspiration.

I was inspired more by his decision to be there than mine because he was following the age-old photographic best practice, namely shoot with whatever you've got. He didn't have four or five figures worth of electronics and glass slung over his shoulder. Just a humble tablet. But still, there he was, out there.

I'm sure his pictures rocked. And I hope, wherever he is, he's having a good time telling his family and friends about the photo-walk he took on an unassuming street on a cold, blustery afternoon.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Autumn color over St. Kevin Ave.

Leaves among the wires
Montreal, QC
October 2018
Photo originally shared on Instagram
On a windy and cold afternoon, I took a wander through the neighborhood around the hospital. The lighting was challenging, and it didn't take long for my fingers to go numb. And, to be brutally frank, the pictures turned out barely mediocre. Because we all need more utility wires in the middle of our photos.

But I'm still glad I took the time, because it was good for my soul to do nothing but compose and shoot anything and everything that triggered me. On this day, the process mattered more than the result, and the real world didn't seem to mind my temporary absence.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Colorful journey - another view

Ablaze
Trenton, ON
October 2018
Photo originally shared on Instagram
Further to yesterday's photo, this one was shot 90 degrees to the left. Color all around us...if only we take the time to stop and appreciate it. Are we really?

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Colorful journey

Scene from a nondescript parking lot
Trenton, ON
October 2018
Photo originally shared on Instagram
On a long road trip home amid a couple of chapters no one in my family ever wanted to write, I found myself looking for small moments of refuge to light the darkness that's been shadowing us. At every stop, I instinctively reached for my camera not because the photography would be epic - it wasn't, because highway rest stops have the aesthetic appeal of a dirty beach towel - but because going through the photographic motions gave my brain something else to do, to think about.

As you can see, the photo is lousy, but taking it made me feel ever so slightly better before I tucked the camera away, hugged my insanely understanding wife and got back on the road.

I ended up with a lot of meh-looking roadside pics, but I'm nevertheless glad I took them. Because sometimes it's more about the process than the result.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Staring at trees with my daughter

Bare, for now
London, ON
October 2018
This photo originally shared on Instagram
Took a photo-walk with our daughter yesterday to capture the fall colors. We must have missed the colors, as the landscape was either still green, or already bare. Was I disappointed? I got to spend a couple of hours with my kid, so no. Not remotely.

As an added bonus, we got to reflect a little at the base of this tree. We couldn't decide if it was dead, or simply awaiting rebirth next spring. Let me know what you think.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Teletubby takes over a hospital

Child's toy in a serious place
Montreal, QC
October 2018
Photo originally shared on Instagram
Linus had his security blanket. As a child, my wife had her thumb. Our sons had blankies. Our daughter had a bunny. I've got my favorite, a Teletubby. Namely, Po. She's been hanging off my camera bags for well over 20 years, a Happy Meal remnant our son quickly tired of and abandoned in the crushed-Cheerio-filled space between his car seat and the seat belt buckle.

Po has been a small source of comfort no matter where I've been or what I've been up to. She's more than a little tattered and faded these days, and because I'm terrified of losing her she is now safely tucked inside a side pocket. But there was no question I wanted her in my bag before we set off on our journey here.

And when she tumbled out onto the table as I set up to do some work in the middle of the hospital atrium, it was a given that photos needed to be taken. I'm pretty sure the moment made complete strangers smile. Another comforting mission accomplished in a place where smiles are often in short supply.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Fast colors in the rain

Scene from a bridge
Laval, QC
October 2018
Photo originally shared in Instagram
Sorry, gang, for not having time this year for decent fall-color photos. This one admittedly sucks, shot quickly before the rain sent me scurrying back inside. It'll have to do for now.

Friday, October 12, 2018

An unusual place for an office

Pragmatic mobility
Montreal, QC
October 2018
This photo originally shared on Instagram
Scene from a hospital (part 4): After spending much of the week wandering the halls of this gigantic hospital complex, I've come to realize how much I treasure photography's ability to make an overwhelmingly chaotic planet seem slightly less so. I've been quietly pulling my smartphone out of my pocket and taking fast photos of whatever the hell I'm seeing or thinking. Later on, I've been just as quietly pulling that same device out of my pocket and reviewing the results - for me, or my wife, or whoever's visiting, or my bedridden father-in-law who's at the centre of this week's grand adventure. And if it brings a smile to anyone's face, I'm good.

Every pic tells a story of the moment it was taken. Seeing it takes me right back to the moment I took it, and suddenly I can feel what I was feeling then. It's weird and powerful. And incredibly welcome when nothing else brings comfort.

The story around this particular scene is an interesting one. This is the giant atrium that defines the entire length of Pavilion K, an ultramodern new addition to this 84-year-old hospital. I stole a small corner of the stage at the edge of this space to rip through some work and send it on its way. The folks who designed this amazing facility also arranged for free Wi-Fi (bless you, Telus) and I routinely came back to this end of the hospital whenever I needed to get stuff done.

The scene reflects a number of truths about how I've felt since the universe first decided we didn't have enough tangents to wrestle with, namely my tendency to go quiet, far away from others, when I hit turbulence. I'm hoping folks understand that some days, I just need to be alone, and this space gave me the option on this day. It sped up the work, and it made me feel a little better about life.

Ritual is a crazy thing, and as I composed this seemingly innocuous shot, it hit me that I was subconsciously telling the story of our life in the simple act of dropping a backpack in the distant corner of a very large room. Strange how that works, but I'm not one to question it.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

A hallway you don't want to visit

I swear I didn't know this was the morgue
Montreal, QC
October 2018
This photo originally shared on Instagram
Scene from a hospital (part 3): I've been here before. Between the ages of 4 and 6, the hospital where my father-in-law now is was something of a second home to me, a place where a little kid with bad hips was lucky enough to get groundbreaking care. I used to slip out of my bed at night and cruise the quiet corridors in a wheelchair before returning to my room where I'd report on my trip to my friend, Dimitri. He had broken his leg and was stuck in traction, so I took it upon myself to be his eyes.

I often came here, to this scary-looking utility corridor that never seemed to have any people in it. I was never frightened, though, because I believed then as now that this giant complex of old and new buildings was filled with folks whose only wish was for me to get better. And even if this particular corridor was dark and abandoned, guardian angels were everywhere, ready to swoop in on behalf of a wandering little boy. It didn't matter how it looked: Goodness was always there, even if you couldn't see it.

Yesterday, I stood at the end of this familiar spot and remembered, vividly, what it felt like to be 4, alone but not quite alone, surrounded by forces capable of turning something that looks foreboding into something far more comforting. Only this time the guardian angels are real, and even when I'm in a place like this, I'm never truly alone.

In adulthood as in childhood, this small moment in a strange yet familiar place reminded me of the power we all have within ourselves to navigate even the toughest chapters. I'm glad I had the 4-year-old me to show me the way.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Looking out on familiar territory

Framed
Montreal, QC
October 2018
Photo originally shared on Instagram
Scene from a hospital (continued): It had been hours since we first set foot in this place where no one wants to be, and it took me that long to realize I had no idea where we were. Hospitals tend to do that: They cut you off from the world outside, offering only occasional glimpses that reconnect you to what's going on out there.

Windows are a rare commodity here, so when I saw the telltale light spilling out from a stairwell, I felt drawn toward it like a moth to a flame. Never mind it was an emergency exit and I had no business being there. Hours later, when some unknown soul decided to prop the door open to cool off the corridor, I quickly wandered into the big, bright space and grabbed an equally fast photo of the world outside, and snuck back out before someone caught me.

Because who knew how long the door would be open, and how long we'd have to enjoy the view?

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

PB&J never really leaves you

Not-so-randomly forgotten
Montreal, QC
October 2018
Photo originally shared on Instagram
Scene from a hospital: I came across this forlorn scene as I wandered the corridors in search of Wi-Fi for my MacBook.

When I was a child patient in this very institution, these little packets of Kraft peanut butter and jam became something of a touchstone for me. In my 4-year-old mind, they represented a rare moment of sweetness and home in a place that didn't always feel like either.

To this day, I stop dead in my tracks whenever I see them. Weird, I know. So you can imagine my mindset as I rounded the corner and saw these sitting, forgotten, in an otherwise empty line of chairs in a corridor. Perhaps the universe is messing with me again. Wouldn't be the first time of late, and definitely wouldn't be the last.

Either way, I hope whoever forgot these here ultimately found whatever sweetness they were looking for.

Monday, October 08, 2018

Heart-shaped leaf in a desolate parking lot

Not quite finished
Laval, QC
October 2018
Photo originally shared on Instagram
My wife pointed this out to me as we walked together across an empty parking lot far from home late last night, then waited patiently while I did my best to get a picture of it.

The universe these days seems to revel in throwing my little family one curveball after another, but she still found it in her to find inspiration amid the darkness. That - and she - is the blessing I'll cling tightly to as we navigate this chapter as a family.

Sunday, October 07, 2018

Everyday carporn on a downtown street

Angled
London, ON
August 2018
This photo originally shared on Instagram
When life is complicated and difficult to navigate - pretty much a constant now - everyday moments through a lens take on even greater meaning to me. Is it photography-as-refuge? Perhaps. Whatever we call it, picking up a camera and spending time doing nothing but painting with light is the kind of catharsis I hope everyone gets to appreciate.

Because while soon enough we're all forced to return to reality, for that all-too-brief time when the only thing that matters is getting the shot, it's easy to leave the weight of the world aside. If only every moment could be so singular.

Saturday, October 06, 2018

Shooting an addict in a strip mall parking lot

Tragic
London, ON
August 2018
Photo originally shared on Instagram
A drug addict, clearly altered, sweating profusely and spitting venom toward anyone who makes eye contact, stumbles aimlessly through a crowded strip mall parking lot.

As I train my long lens on him and shoot a few surreptitious images, I'm reminded why I'm lucky to lead the life I lead, and why we need to do a better job looking out for others.

Note: This photo touched off quite the debate on Facebook. Here's the link.

Friday, October 05, 2018

Morning skies never get old

Hello, Mr. Sun
London, ON
October 2018
Photo originally shared on Instagram
So the sun came up this morning, and I was lucky enough to be around and awake when Old Sol decided to start painting the sky over a cold, empty parking lot.

7:11 a.m. hasn't looked this good in a while, and I'll have to take that as a win, however trivial it might seem.

Thursday, October 04, 2018

When a cookie fails to make me smile

Sweet, sour, and hardly enough
London, ON
October 2018
This photo originally shared on Instagram
For the first time in memory, I cannot write. The muse, the voice, the whatever-you-call-it that fuels my creativity (and my career as a writer) has gone silent. I sit at the keyboard, staring at a blank, white window as the cursor blinks mockingly at me.

I hope it returns soon, because grieving is hard enough without having lost the one thing I've always relied on when the universe decided to the throw me and mine a curve ball.

Even my photography is, to be kind, lame. You'll have to content yourself with this stupid shot of a stupid lemon cookie. It's my favorite, and it's supposed to make me feel better. Didn't work this time.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

One last look at the beach

Erosion in action
Grand Bend, ON
September 2018
This photo originally shared on Instagram
I don't know how many years it's taken Lake Huron to wear these impossibly diverse stones down to the form you see here, but I thought it might be worth a closer look.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Floating on multicolored water

Come sail away
Port Stanley, ON
September 2018
This photo originally shared on Instagram
Everyone and everything has a story, but from the outside looking in - or from far away onshore - it isn't always apparent.

Maybe it's meant to be for me to stand with my feet in the sand, wondering who's out there, where they're going, and why.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Two F-16s and one fast car

Viper on Viper
London, ON
September 2018
Photo originally shared on Instagram
Anyone who's been following me for any length of time knows about my love of anything that flies. And among flying machines, the F-16 Fighting Falcon ranks at the very top of my must-see list. It's a rare designed-to-a-purpose bird that, in its nearly 40 years of service, has managed to remain fairly closely aligned with its original mission.

While its official name is "Fighting Falcon", pilots often call it the "Viper". So when, at the London International Airshow I noticed one of the event vehicles - a Dodge Viper - driving past the USAF Viper Demo team aircraft along the flight line, I couldn't resist taking the shot.

I'm not sure what a V-10-powered sports car has in common with an F-100-PW-229-powered multirole fighter jet, but the name-familiarity alone made it a moment I didn't want to forget.

Go flight!

Monday, September 24, 2018

Thematic Photographic 424 - Green!

Leafy goodness - for now
London, ON
September 2018
Photo originally shared on Instagram
In advance of the Northern Hemisphere going bonkers over the fall colors, I wanted to take one last opportunity to remind myself that green is a color, too, and it also deserves to be celebrated. Mundane and everyday? Yes, that's the point.

It’s also the foundation for this week’s Thematic theme, green. I haven’t focused on colors much, of late, and I’m hoping to change that not only this week, but in the near future. Because there’s something to be said for looking closely at all the shades, tones, and variations of a color and having a little photographic fun with it.

Your turn: So what’s next? Take a pic with green in it. How you interpret the theme is entirely up to you - as long as you enjoy the process, we’re good. Post it to your blog, website or social media account, then leave a comment here to let everyone know where to find it. Visit other participants to spread the photographic fun. If you’re into hashtags, spread the word using #ThematicPhotographic. If you're new to this, head here. And thank you for making Thematic such a highlight!

Flight into the wind

Three birds of a feather
Port Stanley, ON
August 2018
This photo originally shared on Instagram
You can learn a lot about life by watching Canada Geese launch themselves headlong over the crashing surf and into the windy sky.

Good metaphor for a new week, I think.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Red skies at night, revisited

When the sky puts on a show
London, ON
September 2018
This photo originally shared on Instagram
As we stepped out the front door to run an errand last night, the landscape seemed to be bathed in a surreal yellowish glow. It happens every once in a while in our area, and when it does, you'd best look up to catch an especially vibrant sunset and twilight.

Since our house is surrounded by trees, we needed a different venue to shoot the moment. Thankfully I have a deeply understanding wife, because when we got in the car and I asked her to "bear with me for a quick sec," she knew exactly what I wanted to do.

I drove a couple of blocks out of our way and parked in a nearby parking lot, then quickly ran over to the adjacent park and shot some pics of the now-wide-open sky. I was done in under a couple of minutes, and soon we were back on our way.

As we drove on, the sky gradually darkened and the glow quickly disappeared, the moment slipping into the past before our very eyes. I quietly reflected on how lucky I am to be married to someone who appreciates why we need to stop and freeze time every once in a while.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Friday, September 21, 2018

Sit, Calli, sit. Good girl!

Early-morning puppy moment
London, ON
September 2018
This photo originally shared on Instagram
Someone listened especially well on her walk this morning. Perhaps it's an inconsequential thing when measured against the crushing load of seriousness being borne by the rest of the planet.

But in the Zen-like bubble that encompasses me and this somewhat bonkers Schnauzer puppy as we walk the sleepy neighborhood in the early morning, it's enough to make me smile. Perhaps that's sufficient.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Your (stolen) chariot awaits

No shopping here
London, ON
September 2018
Photo originally shared on Instagram
Every time you see one of these on the street, you can be sure of one thing: It's stolen. While some may call it a victimless crime, we all end up paying more for our groceries to cover store losses. And these things aren't cheap.

Still, this one looked kinda neat sitting forlornly on an Adelaide Street sidewalk.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

From the Wright Flyer to Strike Eagles

Tails up, elevators down
London, ON
September 2018
This photo originally shared on Instagram
The traditions of aviation are, to me, just as - and often even more - fascinating than the technology and the physics.

There's an easter egg in this one, and if the sight of F-15s could ever make me tear up, this was the day.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Ladders and shadows

Grab on
London, ON
September 2018
This photo originally shared on Instagram
Metaphors for life, baking in the morning sun behind a half-abandoned strip mall:

  1. No matter what you're climbing, take it one rung at a time.
  2. Cast a giant shadow along the way.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Warthog in low-level flight

Thunderbolt & lightning, very, very frightening
London, ON
September 2018
This photo originally shared on Instagram
The best tool for any job isn't necessarily the prettiest. It's usually found in a dusty corner, scratched, scraped and banged up from hard, honest use, hardly something you'd put on a pedestal.

But pretty doesn't save lives when the enemy is metres away. Pretty doesn't return its pilots home with chunks torn out of the airframe. Pretty doesn't instill fear and respect by simply showing up. Indeed, I think pretty needs a new definition, because every time I see an A-10, I think this is what pretty, in an aviation sense, needs to be.

Saturday, September 15, 2018