Monday, March 19, 2018

Thematic Photographic 417 - Dirty

Please wash me
London, ON
February 2018
Photo originally posted to Instagram
Canadian winters are notoriously hard on cars. Road grime makes them relentlessly icky, while road salt tries to return them to dust from whence they came.

And yet, dirt can make for a fun photo - but only if you take the time to shoot it in the first place. Which on this cold February day in the middle of my snowy, messy driveway, I did. Now it's your turn.

Your turn: Take a photo that celebrates, evokes or otherwise reflects this week's Thematic theme, Dirty. Post it to your blog, website, or social media presence, then leave a comment here letting folks know where to find it. Visit other participants to share the photographic joy. Head here if you're new to this - and all will be explained. Most of all, have fun with it.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Shooting strangers...again

Doing just fine
Okeechobee, FL
December 2017
The scene: The Fort Drum Plaza in the middle of Florida's Turnpike. We've stopped here en route to our final destination a few hours south of here. We've been on the road for the better part of two days, and I've been trying to fast-shoot the fleeting moments of the journey when I'm not at the wheel.

I'm admittedly punchy as we finish our last meal of the trip and exit the building on our way back to the car. It's our final stop before we arrive, and we're all feeling pretty good about how easy it's been so far. I spot a lone woman ahead of us, and before my inner filter tells me to leave her be, I'm reaching for my smartphone and stabbing at the camera app icon. I've been doing this ever since we left home, stealing visual snippets of strangers without them even knowing I was there.

I realize I'm probably stretching the line of what is/is not photographically acceptable in this day and age. Sure, it's a public space, so anything should go. But still, I figure most folks would feel a little off if they knew they were on the receiving end of a spontaneous photo shoot from afar.

But still I take the shot. Because it's always been who I am and what I do. Because this moment is part of the story, and will become another memory among many that we're trying to lay down on this much-needed time away from life back home.

As I tuck the phone back in my pocket, I wonder who she is, where she's going, and how much gumption it takes to take on life when your body doesn't want to cooperate. I silently wish her a safe journey and a good life as we leave this place behind and continue on our own way. I hope her story, too, is a happy one.

Your turn: Do you take photos of strangers in public places? Why/why not?

Thursday, March 15, 2018

On ignorance and stupidity

Every once in a while, I like to share a quote that inspires me. I do so because I hope it'll inspire you, too. Yes, I'm just naive enough to believe that words can still change the world.

I find today's quote particularly resonant given the generally sad state of the planet. In light of the passing of Stephen Hawking, it's rather timely. And Dr. King, as he always did, nailed it.
"Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity."
Martin Luther King Jr.
Your turn: Got a quote you'd like to share? Let's start a QOTD collection!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

11 years on...

We brought this little guy, Frasier, home 11 years ago tonight. I've missed him every day since we lost him just over a year ago, and every time a milestone date rolls around, I ask myself if it's appropriate to keep bringing it up.

And almost as soon as I ask the question, I answer it. Indeed, it is appropriate. Because memory isn't merely appropriate; it's actually a fundamental basis of life. Because if we don't take the time to remember the stuff - and the people, and the moments, and , yes, the pets - that mattered, then what exactly was our purpose in being here, anyway?

I'm glad we had him. He was my first dog, and while I'll probably be accused of dog-owner bias on this one, he was a wonderful pup. He had a kind heart, always looking out for us, and he added a layer to our family that we'll always feel even though he's no longer here. And despite the fact that we now have Calli in our lives, I still often find myself looking at her through the Frasier lens, because everything I learned about a good dog's life I learned from Frasier.

Miss you, buddy.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Thematic Photographic 416 - Water

Frozen in time and space
Jensen Beach, FL
December 2017
Originally posted to Instagram
I have a bit of a thing for water, especially when it's in an ocean and it rolls onto a sandy beach as a wave. Bonus points if it's especially windy, or around golden hour, or both.

If you're shooting water through a lens, you never quite know what you're going to come up with. And every shot is absolutely unique, never to be repeated. So you stand there with your feet dug solidly into the soft sand, planted just enough apart to fight off the wind as you scan through the viewfinder for the next wave, the next moment that'll present itself, then disappear, in less time than it takes to blink away the spray from your eyes.

If I lived here, I'd be here every day with a fully charged battery and an empty memory card. But I don't, and am only here for a blink before I have to rejoin the fam. So I shoot fast and try to remember as much as I can from this abbreviated experience. Because the sound of the pounding surf, the feel of the spray on my face and even the faintly salty smell of the crashing waves will have to live in my memories until I can return to this hallowed spot.

For this week's Thematic theme, water, my wish is that you can find that similarly special spot from which to shoot, and think about the stuff we don't always have time to think about. But should.

Your turn: Take a picture that evokes, suggests or supports this week's theme, water. Post it to your blog or social media account, then leave a comment here letting folks know where to find it. Visit other participants to further spread the photographic joy. If this is your first Thematic experience, head here to learn more about our weekly photo sharing insanity. Otherwise, grab your camera and enjoy.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

A sudden burst of at-work photography

Please take oneices
Toronto, ON
February 2018
The scene: I'm attending a work conference, surrounded by hundreds of colleagues from the eastern half of the country. The company has arranged a buffet-style lunch in the lobby outside the auditorium, and we're all lined up, plates in hand, waiting for the teeming, hungry masses ahead of us to load up and move on.

As you might expect when colleagues from near and far reconnect with each other, the noise level is off the charts. The line is moving slowly, which means lots of spontaneous discussions between strangers and friends alike. The line I'm in grinds to a halt near the drink section, and I find myself suddenly inspired to pull my phone from my pocket and line up a shot of the cans.

It doesn't take long for smiles to be cracked as good-natured questions and comments get tossed my way:

"Where's that shot going to turn up?"
"How do I find you on Instagram?|
"Want me to take the picture so you can get into the shot?"
"What are you doing?"

The discussion flows animatedly as I snag three fast frames and then tuck the phone back away. Almost as soon as the moment materialized, it recedes as the line begins to move again and everyone moves in to finish the original task at hand. I pick up the rest of my lunch and melt back into the crowd. I'm pretty sure more than one of my newfound friends thought I was more than a little weird.

I'm perfectly fine with that. Because if a hastily taken photo manages to make others smile, then it's totally worth it.

Your turn: How can photography connect people?

Monday, March 05, 2018

Thematic Photographic 415 - Junk Food

That's so twisted
London, ON
February 2018
I may have been silent here on Written Inc. these last few months, but I was out there almost every day with a camera. And as has long been my habit - or obsession, I'm not entirely sure which - I took many weird photos along the way. Like this pretzel at a London Lightning game at Budweiser Gardens. It was the last one they had, and for reasons I still do not understand I felt compelled to remember how it looked before I brought it back to our seat.

Yes, it had too much salt on it. No, I didn't feel guilty. Some days, you just have to enjoy the moment.

And speaking of moments, this photo kicks off this week's Thematic Photographic theme, Junk Food. What's Thematic? Only the most fun you can have with a camera and an Internet connection this side of Kalamazoo, Michigan. Thematic is our weekly photographic sharing and learning activity. Read on for instructions. Or head here for background.

Oh, and the good guys won the game. Must have been a lucky pretzel.

Your turn: Every Monday, I share a theme (this week's...Junk Food.) Then you take a pic and share it online somewhere (blog, Facebook, Instagram, wherever) and leave a comment here telling people where to find it. Visit other participants to share the photographic joy. Repeat as often as you wish throughout the week. Use the #ThematicPhotographic hashtag and don't be shy. The only rule? There are no rules. Just enjoy.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Where we contemplate playing ball

You gonna throw that thing?
London, ON
March 2018
When we last posted, Calli Finnegan was barely a puppy, and she was just figuring out the subtleties of not peeing on the floor or chewing on furniture or waking up in the middle of the night. Thankfully, she's sleeping better, and she's pretty much house-trained. She wasn't the worst dog in our puppy training classes, and she's gotten pretty good with the sit, stay, come-when-I-call, give-paw thing - when she isn't distracted, mind you, which is often. But the furniture chewing and general mayhem-causing nature of a miniature schnauzer puppy are, shall we say, works in progress.

And yet. I find myself saying those words often. And yet. Also, "But still." And for good measure, "She's so damn cute. She's lucky she's so damn cute. And we're even luckier to have her.

The world can be a challenging, frustrating place sometimes. Working in media, some days it seems I spend much of my day witnessing more than the recommended daily allowance of unkindness. But then I come home to a puppy who doesn't know any better, doesn't know any different, just wants to play and slobber on and lie half-on, half-off her favorite people, her family.

Somehow puts things back in balance, doesn't it?

Your turn: What's she thinking?

Please Note: Thematic Photographic will return Monday evening, 7pm Eastern.

Saturday, March 03, 2018

Is this thing still on?

Speak here
London, ON
June 2017
I haven't written here in a while. Come to think of it, I haven't written anywhere in a while. Sure, I still write. Largely at work. Mostly stuff that gets emailed to large groups of people. Or spoken on-air. Then forgotten.

That kind of writing is all well and good, but it isn't writing. This blog was always supposed to be that space where I could take a timeout from the work world and write whatever came to mind, whatever I was feeling at that moment. Until, sometime last year for reasons I still can't understand, it wasn't.

Sometimes the voice in your head goes silent, and I'm guessing that's what happened to me. I was still shooting pictures, still sharing them on social media (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, largely). But it wasn't the same. I've always been a writer, yet for much of the past year, after checking all the creative boxes at work, then maybe dashing a pic or two into my Insta feed, I couldn't motivate myself to sit in front of a keyboard and write. Life gets in the way, I suppose.

The stark reality of blog-as-writing-space is that things have changed. Virtual spaces that were hugely active in 2004 when Written Inc. first went live have largely fallen silent as bloggers shifted their attention, energy, and time toward burgeoning social media platforms. As audiences drifted, then stampeded, into Facebookistan and Instagramville, blog posts, and the communities that sprouted up around them, became the digital era equivalent of ghost towns, complete with virtual tumbleweed rolling erratically down the main drag.

If the audience moved to another platform, I figured, I'd follow them there. And let's be honest, it's a heck of a lot easier to throw together a photo post on your smartphone with a snarkily-written graf or two, plus some well-chosen hashtags, than it is to sit down at a real keyboard and compose something thoughtful here. I guess I got caught in the world of low-friction creativity and chasing likes.

Yet here's the thing: I still kinda like the idea of a blog. As retro as it now may seem, it still feels like the only tool that lets me do what I've always loved to do, namely write, share, and just be.

I won't abandon my social channels - everyone is now there, after all - but it's time to reclaim my writer's voice. And the best place to do it is here. I hope you agree.

Your turn: Do you still blog? Why? Why not?