Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Take me to church

Up close, personal, and historic
Empey Hill, ON
January 2019
This photo originally shared on Instagram
When you get lost-but-not-really-lost in the countryside, finding the right spot to stop and gather your bearings is key. Thanks to some pretty sweet connected-GPS tech in the car, I knew exactly where I was, and I wasn't exactly worried they'd find me in a snowdrift three months from now.

But the cops had closed the highway because of a massive truck fire, then dumped us off an exit in the middle of nowhere with no additional guidance. I turned right when I should have turned left, and found myself wandering around alone, looking for a way west on some alternate road, preferably with asphalt on it. I needed to stop and figure out where the detour route was, and this friendly-looking church offered a safe place to park the car while I played with my tech toys and plotted my next move.

Of course my mind raced as I carefully parked Stella well off the road. Of course I started composing photos in my head before the car stopped moving. Of course this was going to be far more than a mere blip in a long day at the wheel.

As I walked right up to the Empey Hill United Church of Canada and sized the building up through my lens, I thought about how weird this must look, a strange guy taking random pictures of a building. For a brief second, I thought I heard sirens in the distance, called in to deal with this sketchy-looking dude. Thankfully, the place was empty, and I figured if I was my usual respectful-storyteller self, the greater good of sharing this moment justified my being here. At least that's what I often tell myself to justify an activity charitably classified as trespassing. Well, they DID say "Everyone Welcome" on their sign.

This place was built in 1912, long before any of the technologies that brought me here were even in some kid's dreams. Somewhere along the way, we learned how to expand our horizons. I may have been temporarily lost, but I was apparently exactly where I needed to be.

#deseronto #ontario #onroute #random #country #street #church #street #photography #shoot #shooting #trees #highway #weather #wx #road #trip #travel #car #auto #automotive #carporn #stella #canon #canon_photography #canonphotography #canada #family #is #everything

Related entries:
Lost among the ruins of agriculture
Abandoned farmhouse on an empty road

Monday, January 21, 2019

Where birds gather against the cold

Isn't it more comfortable inside?
Napanee, ON
January 2019
This photo originally shared on Instagram
Way across the highway from the rest stop where I've come to recharge my proverbial batteries, there's this farm that could easily do double duty in a Norman Rockwell painting. Every time I pass this place - often, recently - I quietly tell myself I need to shoot it. But in the typical road trip rush, it never gets done.

On this day, I'm alone, so it's a little easier to convince everyone in the car to wait a few extra minutes while the psycho-photographer shoots random landscape pictures in the freezing cold for no apparent reason. So just before I get back on the on-ramp to continue my trip, I pull the camera out and get to work.

My original intent is to simply shoot the silo. The lines and texture seem appropriate for this grey, sad day, and it's been a while since I zoomed in on agriculture. Only after I zoom in do I notice the gaggle of birds huddled on top of the silo, resting and sharing warmth before continuing their journey.

I guess I'm a lot like them, not destined to be here for very long, doing everything I can to be cozy, comfortable, and rested for the long journey ahead. We're all on some kind of journey, after all, and even if we don't know where our fellow travellers are headed, or what their story may be, it doesn't hurt to try to connect with them in some way before you all head your separate ways, never to cross paths again. Humans, birds, it's all the same.

In the overall scheme of things, it's just a bunch of dumb birds sitting on a building not far from the town where Avril Lavigne grew up. Meaning it shouldn't be worthy of a single photo, let alone additional thought. Yet for some strange reason I can't let it go.

That thought sticks with me for a while as I accelerate up to speed and put the silo, and its resting birds, in my rear-view. Because connections take many forms, and it's up to us whether or not we wish to make them.

#napanee #ontario #canada #onroute #country #farm #photography #shoot #shooting #trees #highway #weather #wx #road #trip #travel #car #auto #carporn #stella #canon #canon_photography #canonphotography #bird #birds #birdsofinstagram #naturephotography #family #is #everything

Sunday, January 20, 2019

A puppy stands guard

Everything okay, Dad?
London, ON
January 2019
This photo originally shared on Instagram
We often ask ourselves why we have a dog. We also often ask ourselves why we got ANOTHER dog after losing our previous pup.

There's no real answer to either of these related questions, because getting a dog has little to do with getting answers to questions. Or being logical.

But when the world spins out of control and a little being with limited language skills, no off-button, non-opposable digits, and a nasty habit of chewing on furniture decides you need an extra cuddle, you quickly realize why. Dog people understand what this feels like.

Deep inside her Miniature Schnauzer psyche, she knows her humans need that little extra. She may not understand the various details, the worry in her people's voices, the phone calls at all hours of the day and night, the strange travel schedules. But she sure has the man's-best-friend thing nailed down.

That face is a lovely bonus. She's lucky she's so cute. We're lucky we have her to lean on.

#ldnont #Calli #CalliTheSchnauzer #LittleMissCalli #puppy #puppiesofinstagram #dog #puppy #pup #actofdog #miniatureschnauzer #schnauzer #schnauzerpuppy #schnauzersofinstagram #schnauzer_planet #petstagram #instadog #dogsofinstagram #instapuppy #pets #life #universe #family #is #everything

Lost in an underground parking lot

Parked amid the shadows
Montreal, QC
January 2019
This photo originally shared on Instagram
Tuesday, 10:25 a.m. on the lowest level, S6, of the parking structure beneath the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal. I've just said goodbye to my father-in-law and am about to hit the road for the long drive, alone, back to London. Debbie's back upstairs with him.

The walk down here was slow, long, and pensive. Did I just see him for the last time? Did he know it was me? Did he know how much I loved him and appreciated the fact that he made so much of my life today possible?

I have no answers to any of these questions. Which likely explains why, even here in the dimly lit murk of a parking lot, I'm reluctant to leave, reluctant to put this star-crossed place firmly in my rear-view. As if by staying I might change the outcome. If only.

As I walk slowly toward our car, I feel the damp air on my face, hear the sounds of slamming car doors and starting engines in the distance, smell that weird mixture of damp concrete and dust that defines these industrial-feeling spaces. I keep looking around, for precisely what I don't know, but I need to create something, now, to record this moment before I forget what it felt like to be here.

I see this row of cars, unevenly parked behind the yellow line. The scene is imperfect, everything within it scratched, smudged, dirty. It reflects how I feel, even if shooting it fails to make me feel better in the moment. I return to our car and slowly make my way up the ramps before emerging into the cold, grey day above.

There will be no light today, no resolution, no solace. But it's still time for me to leave. For now.

#montreal #quebec #canada #jewish #general #hospital #jgh #building #architecture #architecturephotography #grey #concrete #facade #windows #design #buildingporn #architectureporn #streetphotography #google #pixel2 #teampixel #instagood #photooftheday #urban #street #photography #life #family #is #everything

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Abandoned farmhouse on an empty road

Take a look inside
Empey Hill, ON
January 2019
This photo originally shared on Instagram
There was a lot to see during the 6 minutes I spent parked beside a nearly empty country road in the shadow of a clearly empty country church*. This seemingly abandoned farm building was what caught my eye in the first place, a slowly decaying snapshot of a once-vibrant rural-agricultural life, now slowly giving way to modern reality in a spate of For Sale signs.

Whoever built this place so long ago seems to have built it to last. Someone cared, and I feel a small shot of warmth amid the bone-chilling cold as I think about how I'm now connected to someone from an earlier generation whose work has now rippled out to me. It's a tenuous connection, of course, but any connections these days are worth holding onto.

As I move through my mental shot list before losing feeling in my fingers, I think about who would have used this building, where they are now, and why they left. I wish I could see what this place, this community, was like in its heyday. I wish time didn't always have to gradually erase the people, frameworks, and moments we hold most dear.

#deseronto #ontario #onroute #random #country #farm #street #photography #shoot #shooting #trees #highway #weather #wx #road #trip #travel #car #auto #automotive #carporn #stella #canon #canon_photography #canonphotography #ontario #canada #family #is #everything

* See here for more.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Broken tree in a desolate place

One among many
Morrisburg, ON
January 2019
This photo originally shared on Instagram
The scene: I'm standing in a parking lot in Morrisburg, Ontario, looking across the highway at a stand of trees. In the middle of overwhelming life events, I find staring at trees - or crumbling barns, or checkerboard floors, or hamburgers, or old cars, a morgue, or whatever - to be calming, as if looking at random, trivial, inanimate objects can fix the universe. Of course it can't, but as long as you're in the moment, you feel a little better. And that's probably good enough.

I'm originally drawn to these trees for two reasons: 1) There isn't much else to look at out here, and 2) I like the straight-line geometry of the scene. Except when I look more closely in the viewfinder, I notice one of the trees is broken. And not just broken. REALLY broken, like that YouTube video of Lawrence Taylor breaking Joe Theismann's leg on Monday Night Football that makes you squeamish the 20th time you've watched it.

I momentarily consider not taking the picture because it no longer represents my original intent. Then I stop myself, because who says the original intent was optimal in the first place? Maybe there were other stories to be told. Maybe it's OK if you allow things to evolve as they were meant to evolve.

So I stare back into the viewfinder, focusing on the broken tree. I notice it's surrounded by countless other trees. It doesn't stand alone. Rather, it stands protected despite its own rather precarious state.

As I get back into the car and continue toward my father-in-law's hospital room 150 km to the right of this photo, it dawns on me that the community-of-trees metaphor is an appropriate one. Because we, too, are surrounded by a community that stands ready to help, no matter how broken we may be at the moment.

It's why, challenging as life for us may be right about now, I'm thankful to be that one tree among many. I can't imagine what it must be like to stand alone.

#morrisburg #ontario #onroute #random #urban #street #photography #shoot #shooting #tree #trees #highway #weather #wx #road #trip #travel #car #auto #automotive #carporn #stella #canon #canon_photography #canonphotography #canada #family #is #everything

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Lost among the ruins of agriculture

Forgotten
Empey Hill, ON
January 2019
This photo originally shared on Instagram
It's mid-afternoon in the middle of Ontario. I've just left the OnRoute rest stop after spending entirely too much time there doing nothing, because that's what rest stops are for. I was wiped, and the break did me some good.

As I accelerate back onto the highway, I see some smoke on the horizon. I don't give it much thought, as it's a common sight on a super-cold Canadian-winter day. But the plume continues to grow and darken, until it's obvious something's up. As my traumatized brain makes the connection, a police cruiser, lights flashing, passes me at warp speed, its pressure wave shoving me to the right.

Soon enough, traffic stops dead, and as the cops detour us off the highway, I can see an 18-wheeler burning like a roman candle in the distance. I say a prayer and follow the line.

Doofus that I am, I turn right instead of left when we get to the first intersection, and soon find myself alone in the hinterlands, clearly lost. I stop the car at an empty church to get my bearings. As I play with the GPS, I realize I'm surrounded by ruined farm buildings and some impossibly gorgeous landscape.

The angel and devil over my shoulders start to argue. I've got to get home tonight, but I can't help but think the universe has other plans for me today. The devil wins, so I reach into the back seat, grab my camera, and head out for a fast shoot.

The time stamps say I was there for 6 minutes before I packed everything away, got back into the car and turned on every source of heat to thaw out my now-frozen self. Sometimes you need to follow the little voice inside that says adventure must win today. Sometimes you need to ignore the voice of reason and just let those random moments play themselves out.

#deseronto #ontario #onroute #random #country #farm #street #photography #shoot #shooting #trees #highway #weather #wx #road #trip #travel #car #auto #automotive #carporn #stella #canon #canon_photography #canonphotography #ontario #canada #family #is #everything

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Windows 2019

Magic in every one
Montreal, QC
January 2019
This photo originally shared on Instagram
These aren't just any windows, and this isn't just any building. I feel like a voyeur pointing my lens toward them and trying to shoot a photo. But I need to do so for two reasons:

First, photography - especially of things outside the glass - provides a temporary release from the insanity that's playing out inside it, a time-out, if you will, from watching someone you love go through something you wouldn't wish on anyone.

Second, the people in the offices across the courtyard are medical professionals - doctors, nurses, researchers, administrators - who either treat the sick, or look for ways to eradicate sickness altogether. And I hope the folks who come here for treatment, and the families who support them, are able to take a moment to think about the thousands of people responsible for their care, and what it took for them to get there. Because you don't get to sit behind one of these windows (or more likely run endlessly around the floors of this giant complex) unless you're truly extraordinary.

The architecture may be late-90s health-care chic, the kind of building designed expressly to have a donor family's name emblazoned in giant letters above the entrance. But beyond the one-time ribbon-cutting event, this building doesn't exist to wow anyone. Its mission is to create an environment where hope can be returned to those without it. Or compassion and care can be shared with those who may have no hope at all.

My original goal here was to simply shoot the most linear, aligned photo possible. But as I endlessly played with the camera - geometry was never my thing - I realized there was so much more to this scene. I always enjoy when the simple act of shooting a scene manages to open my eyes just a little bit more. My fears of being a voyeur notwithstanding, perhaps I need to spend more time staring out windows, wherever I may be.

#montreal #quebec #canada #jewish #general #hospital #jgh #building #architecture #architecturephotography #grey #concrete #facade #windows #design #buildingporn #architectureporn #streetphotography #google #pixel2 #teampixel #instagood #photooftheday #urban #street #photography #life #family #is #everything

Monday, January 14, 2019

Oratory. Longshot.

Where life once was
Montreal, QC
January 2019
This photo originally shared on Instagram
My father-in-law's hospital room overlooks the interior courtyard of a number of buildings, old and new. No one walks into this forbidding place unless they're certified to repair the witches brew of HVAC equipment that dots the asphalt-pitched roofing below. There is no view to speak of here.

Yet if you stand in the far corner of his room and look out just so, you'll catch a glimpse, way in the distance, of St. Joseph's Oratory looming above St. Mary's Hospital, a snippet of skyline in a place you'd think had none to offer. You have to know it's there, and even then stealing a glance out the window is difficult to justify given what's happening just inside it.

This scene is rich with family and personal history. The oratory is Canada's largest church, whose steps I used to climb, again and again, when I lived in the neighborhood and needed challenging places to run. The hospital below it is where our eldest son was born. This is the view that greeted me when I was a child and stayed in the same hospital my father-in-law is in now.

But none of that mattered on this early morning, as I noticed the glint of winter light off the brick and stole the moment as we took over from the night attendant - and as my wife did what she could to ease the fears of a man whose mind no longer commands the room as it once did. He's never seen this view, and as I took it in, I wondered if he'd even recognize it if I showed it to him on my phone. Likely not, but I'll never know if I don't at least try.

I don't know if it's even appropriate to be shooting here. But something tells me I need to, because the stories we tell now will eventually be all that's left.

#montreal #quebec #canada #jewish #general #hospital #jgh #stjosephs #oratory #church #building #architecture #architecturephotography #dome #facade #design #buildingporn #architectureporn #streetphotography #canon #canon_photography #canonphotography #urban #street #photography #life #family #is #everything

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Kam Shing's iconic floor

Red and white, checked
Montreal, QC
January 2019
This photo originally shared on Instagram
When you look at the world through a funhouse lens, everything is fair game. A simple walk on a street, or, in this case, in the dimly lit basement corridor of a beloved restaurant that was just a short walk away from our apartment when we were first married, often sparks that little voice in my head that says, "Shoot".

After a brutal day facing brutal reality in a brutal hospital setting, this was the most comforting place we could imagine being. We sat around the table with equally beloved cousins, and debriefed the day that was and talked about what might lie ahead. The conversation obviously didn't fix what was still playing out a few blocks away, but it did cushion the shock, soften the edges, humanize the experience we were, and are, enduring.

In between the chatting and nibbling on fried rice, orange beef and Chinese vegetables (kindly save your kosher rant for another time), I got to have a little photographic fun with the red-checkered floor just at the bottom of the worn-down stairs.

Because that funhouse lens of mine never gets turned off, and is always ready to help me interpret the often-harsh world around me. It may not be a conventional means of navigating life, but I long ago gave up any pretense of conventionality.

Expect more weirdness like this over the next few days, weeks, and months, because all of this insanity is churning some deep-seated changes to my creative brain. And if you want to join me for Chinese along the way, there's always an extra seat at the table. We can even shoot the checkered floor together, if you wish.

#montreal #quebec #canada #kamshing #chinese #restaurant #resto #red #white #geometry #abstract #google #pixel2 #teampixel #jewish #general #hospital #jgh #life #universe #fortytwo #family #is #everything

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Empty hospital conference room

Meet here, eventually
Montreal, QC
January 2019
This photo originally shared on Instagram
This is a conference room on the 6th floor of the Jewish General Hospital's Pavilion K, just down the hall from my father-in-law's room. The cool, modern, rectilinear aesthetic contrasts starkly with the ugliness of serious illness. It's an architectural facade, if you will, that neatly, if not completely, masks the immense sadness that pervades this place.

I'd be lying if I said this was easy. It isn't. I doubt it ever will be. What happens next is anyone's guess. It makes you wish we'd never get old, never get sick, never lose the ability to care for ourselves.

Which leaves me, the storyteller, grasping for ways to wrap my head around this, and grasping for ways to cushion what's happening for my wife, our kids, everyone around us.

Simple truth: I can't. And no amount of words or pixels will change reality, or redirect us away from what we fear is inevitable.

In other words, it's a pretty picture. And it does a decent job placeholding the day, the moment, the dread we feel. But that's all it is. To assume anything else is to be naive.

Still, it's all I've got to work with for now. And it'll have to do in the absence of a better alternative.

#montreal #quebec #canada #google #pixel2 #teampixel #jewish #general #hospital #jgh #life #universe #fortytwo #family #is #everything

Friday, January 11, 2019

An early-morning lesson from my daughter

The sky awakens
London, ON
January 2019
This photo originally shared on Instagram
This morning in our house was little changed from any other weekday morning: All of us twirling through the kitchen and front hallway, quickly grabbing our things together as we prepared to head out into a world much bigger and colder than the cozy one we live in here.

Snippets of conversation flashed back and forth as plans were made and times were confirmed. We've evolved this shorthand over the years, and while it may not make sense to an outsider, it works for us - the perception of utter chaos notwithstanding.

This morning was a little different, as Debbie and I will be back on the road later today, headed to Montreal to be with her ailing father. What we find when we get there is anyone's guess, but it's safe to say no one ever looks forward to trips like this. A palpable sense of darkness dominated this morning's discussion as we tried to ensure the kids would be well covered for the next few days. That shadow that's been following us seems to have deepened since my last entry.

As our daughter stepped out into the cold morning air, she stopped in her tracks and called me over. "You've GOT to see that sky." So I did. I had to drop her off near school before continuing to work, but it seemed near-criminal to miss a sunrise like this. So downstairs I went to fetch the DSLR and fast-shoot the scene from our doorstep.

The lesson here is simple: Even amid the darkness, there is light. And you're always surrounded by folks with an innate ability to find that light. Trust them, and don't be afraid to shift directions when they flag a moment. You're never too busy to jump off the merry-go-round. The number of times you get to do this, to find the light amid the darkness, to let your kid be your eyes, to freeze the moment, is tragically finite. Eventually we all run out of sunrises. The question, then, will be whether you took the time to enjoy them.

Thanks to my perceptive kid, on this morning, I did.

#ldnont #landscape #sunrise #orange #red #light #day #night #sky #skies #fire #weather #wx #clouds #tree #trees #silhouette #Nikon #nikonphotography #nikon_photography #dslr #instagood #photooftheday #family #is #everything #london #ontario #canada

Thursday, January 10, 2019

What keeps us warm far from home

Textured heat
Toronto, ON
January 2019
This photo originally shared on Instagram
The scene: A hallway in our Toronto office. I've come here from London for the day, as I do most weeks, to do stuff for work. I get to collaborate with some incredibly smart, creative, kind people, and we get to produce the kind of content a much younger me could have only dreamed of.

The days here are action-packed. If I'm not standing in front of a camera trying to sound intelligent, I'm zinging from meeting to meeting with still more smart, creative, kind folks, trying to figure out ways to help them, too. We never run out of things to do, ideas to hatch, opportunities to follow, and it often takes the entire train ride home to decompress and process the events of the day. It's work that matters and inspires.

Which brings me to this radiator, lovingly crafted by someone long before I was born. It's been warming this place through its various incarnations of Masonic temple, concert hall that played host to rock's biggest acts, and TV studio where some of the country's most iconic shows originated. This place has both made and witnessed history, and now we get to make our own history here.

They don't make radiators like this anymore. An engineer might applaud that fact, as I doubt they're terribly energy-efficient, and they burn like heck when touched. But the sheer loveliness of this thing was all that mattered on a snowy afternoon when I needed to freeze time for a few minutes before the next meeting was scheduled to begin.

To think I would have missed this if I hadn't looked down. To think photography has the power to pause the world for a bit because I just needed to catch my breath.

#toronto #yyz #yonge #street #888yonge #downtown #urban #building #architecture #architecturephotography #design #buildingporn #architectureporn #life #ontario #canada #google #pixel2 #teampixel #InfoTechRG #InfoTech #itrg #workhardplayhard #bestjobever #hiring #life #universe #family #is #everything

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Another reminder that health is everything

Scene from a hospital
Montreal, QC
November 2018
This photo originally shared on Instagram
My father-in-law's journey took a turn for the worse this week. He's back in the ER with an infection of unknown origin, unable to fully relate to those around him. As I write this, we simply don't know what's going on, or what happens next. It's a frightening place to be.

As often as we've gone back to Montreal these past few months to be with him and support him as best we can, the realities of life - work, kids, responsibilities at home that don't disappear when we make an emergency run back to the hospital - make it impossible to be by his side 24/7/365. As we've learned so harshly throughout this chapter, there's no "right way" in any of this. Anything you do will feel inadequate, and you'll always be second-guessing yourself after the fact.

The sad truth of aging amid unpredictably declining health is you can't control the narrative. My accountant father-in-law, so firmly focused on every detail of his life for as long as I've known him, is now completely reliant on those around him. My teacher wife, so fiercely devoted to her parents for as long as I've known her, is unable to fix the unfixable. For all their accomplishments, devotion, sense of right and wrong, neither one of them is able to materially change his precarious situation.

Which leaves me uselessly on the perimeter, taking pictures whenever I can grab a moment, spilling words into empty screens, being there in case an extra set of hands is needed.

I'm under no illusion that these vignettes of mine are anything groundbreaking or helpful. But they've become my selfish way of coping with stuff that weighs so heavily on my shoulders that I'm not sure I can carry it.

Someday all we'll have are images, words, and memories. I hope that someday is far down the road, but I honestly have no way of knowing what comes next, or when. All I can hope is that I'm doing enough for now. That's a question for which there can never be a proper answer.

#montreal #quebec #canada #yul #google #pixel2 #teampixel #catherine #booth #hospital #medicine #medical #age #aging #healthcare #health #cherishit #everyday #urban #photography #life #universe #fortytwo #family #is #everything

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Someone's hand is going to freeze

Lost in the ice
London, ON
January 2019
This photo originally shared on Instagram
On an ice-covered sidewalk at a busy downtown London intersection, a single blue wool glove lies forlornly, its twisted fabric flapping in the biting wind. As I walk past and my conscience pings at me, I wonder who lost it, and whether they've realized it by now.

It's an unfortunate fact of Canadian life: Our winters are generally cold and unpredictable, so we load up on woolies - hats, gloves or mitts (argue amongst yourselves, please), scarves, neck warmers, earmuffs and the like - and hope they make it through the winter.

Because we're too cool in adulthood to tie everything together with strings and loop it all through our coat sleeves, inevitably we'll lose at least something before the snow finally melts.

Because we're Canadian, we always have backups upon backups, extra pairs of gloves stashed in our closets, backpacks, or, rather poignantly, glove compartments. So it isn't like we'll freeze to death if one of our gloves ends up under a delivery truck's tire in the grocery store parking lot. But there's a hierarchy of sorts when it comes to winter woolies. Some of them are treasured keepsakes, gifts from friends that make us smile every time we put them on. While others aren't quite as special.

My wife says putting on a colorful scarf received as a gift from an especially close friend feels like a hug. Losing a woolie from the top of the sentimental pile is always tough to accept. The cheap replacement you snagged from the bottom of the leftover box in the deepest corners of the utility closet may keep the chill at bay, but it won't feel quite like a hug.

This glove looks like someone cared, and I'm guessing it'll be missed. I hope whoever lost it finds a way to replace it with one that's just as special.

#ldnont #life #dufferin #richmond #downtown #random #urban #street #photography #google #pixel2 #teampixel #photooftheday #instagood #winter #weather #wx #london #ontario #canada #family #is #everything

Monday, January 07, 2019

Staring closely at lovely old brick

Historic texture
London, ON
January 2019
This photo originally shared on Instagram
I spend most of my days staring at screens and rearranging words into coherent content, so every once in a while I need to head for the exit and experience the great outdoors for a bit. It's good for the eyes to focus on more distant objects for a few minutes, but it also helps clear the mind and ground the soul somewhat.

On this sunny afternoon, I found inspiration just steps away from our front door. You're looking at one of the corners of our office, at a building that prior to its most recent renovation had been partially hidden behind a newer, less architecturally valuable structure. As part of the process, a number of no-longer-required buildings were demolished to reveal the legacy architecture inside. Now that the jackhammers are gone, the story of these once-hidden treasures becomes apparent to passers-by who choose to look up from their smartphones.

I don't know what stories lie locked inside these bricks, or what chapters of London history the beams and mortar may have witnessed. But it did feel cathartic to stand in the unseasonably warm sun and take it in for a few minutes.

There's something to be said for changing your perspective every once in a while. There's something to be said for looking up instead of down. There's something to be said for giving yourself the time every once in a while to do both of these things.

#ldnont #life #kingandridout #345ridout #downtown #urban #building #architecture #architecturephotography #design #buildingporn #architectureporn #brick #lines #life #ontario #canada #google #pixel2 #teampixel #blue #sky #weather #wx Info-Tech Research Group @nicholsonsheffieldarchitects #workhardplayhard #bestjobever #hiring #family #is #everything

Sunday, January 06, 2019

Before and after days

Architecture as memory
Toronto, ON
September 2018
This photo originally shared on Instagram
I took this picture on September 26 of last year, the day before the world as we once knew it was turned on its axis.

Death changes us in so many ways, but the one that sticks out for me most is the sense of before and after. Everything I do is now divided into befores and afters, delineated by that one, stark date, September 27. And every time I dig up a picture, look up a calendar entry, think of an event in my or my family's life, I view it through that lens.

The scale of it all is humbling, for we all have our own catastrophic dates, our own befores and afters, and we all quietly carry them inside.

The befores, as you can imagine, are simpler, more innocent, even naive. As if they happened at a time when we didn't know any better, had no sense of what lay ahead. Looking at date stamps, I find myself reliving the entire day around it, feeling what it was like to drop my backpack onto the sidewalk in front of Union Station and train my lens on the curved building in the distance, remembering the banter with my then-new-to-me colleagues as we sat on an outdoor patio across from the office and got to know each other a bit better.

So-called "before days" are always better than the afters. You kind of wish you could hit rewind on those date stamps and actually go back in time, but we all know the universe doesn't work that way.

Still, it doesn't hurt to wish, doesn't hurt to linger over a representative photo - or two, or ten - and think, hard, what it felt like the moment it was taken. Memories can't change the path of a life. But they can give you a taste of life before everything changed. For now, that'll have to be sufficient.

#toronto #yyz #ontario #canada #downtown #office #building #architecture #architecturephotography #curved #facade #design #buildingporn #architectureporn #travel #wanderlust #explore #travelphotography #streetphotography #canon #canon_photography #canonphotography #urban #street #photography #lines #life #family #is #everything

Saturday, January 05, 2019

Time ticks for us all

1:15 p.m.
London, ON
December 2018
This photo originally shared on Instagram
I've been doing a lot of thinking about time, and not just because I need to figure out where to hang the lovely, sun-drenched clock you see here.

Like all of us, I'm not getting any younger. Time moves in one direction for us all, at one velocity. We can't buy more of it, and we don't get it back once it's gone.

This particular clock emits a soft ticking sound, a subtle yet incessant reminder of this movement that quite literally paces and defines our lives. I often focus on that sound, wondering if I'm the only idiot who does this.

There are no guarantees around how much of it we get. Some of us get more, or less, than others. For some, their time is wrapped in the sweet fog of a life well lived. For others, not so much. Precisely how much time we've been gifted is never up to us. Nor can we always determine whether that time is charmed - we can't control what happens to us, after all, only how we respond to it.

Within that realm of control, how we choose to spend our time is entirely up to us, as is who we spend it with. Despite what your parents might have taught you, there are no rights or wrongs when it comes to using your time. If you're spending it with people who touch your soul, and you feel better for having done so, then you're on the right track. Any other outcome and you have some thinking - and changing - to do.

Because that thing over there is still ticking.

#ldnont #ontario #canada #time #flies #life #universe #google #pixel2 #teampixel #fog #sun #sunshine #light #shadow #weather #wx #monochrome #photography #instagood #photooftheday #family #is #everything

Friday, January 04, 2019

Comfort food on the road to nowhere

Mama never looked quite like this
Trenton, ON
December 2018
This photo originally shared on Instagram
London is a long way from our original home in Montreal. Most of the 730 km-ish trip is spent on Canada's largest, busiest highway, the 401. Because it winds through Toronto, Canada's largest, busiest city, traffic is always a factor. A normally 9-hour ride can easily become 13-plus if the weather doesn't cooperate and/or someone gets violently ill along the way. We speak from ample experience.

Thankfully they've built handy OnRoute highway rest stops along the way. Stops are planned around our next meal or snack. Distances are carefully calculated, passengers are polled, and time estimates are regularly communicated. And when the fluorescent lights finally loom oasis-like ahead, you can almost feel the atmosphere in the car change from monotony to possibility. We live for those happy moments at times like this.

I'll be the first to admit I don't eat as healthily as I probably should during long drives. I'm not a Type A personality, and tapping my watch as I turn beet-red because we're losing time just isn't my thing. So we don't rush, per se, but we are conscious of time. And I don't have the time to carefully prepare and pack salads and homemade granola. So this time it was an A&W Mama Burger, a bit of comfort food in a place and a time where comfort can be difficult to find.

As I often do during road trips, I look for signature moments, snippets that will later remind us of what it felt like to be there. And this particular burger, on this particular day, cooperated rather nicely. It was almost too pretty to eat.

I won't earn brownie points for nutrition - or, if my rabbi is reading this, for being a remotely good Jew - but on this day that wasn't the point. Photography-as-refuge need not always be circumstantially perfect. Like this trip, this chapter in our little family's life, it just is. And we're doing our best to make it ours.

#woodstock #ontario #canada #onroute #random #photography #shoot #shooting #food #foodporn #instafood #instagood #photooftheday #dinner #lunch #breakfast #delish #eating #eat #hungry #foodgasm #highway road #trip #travel #google #pixel2 #teampixel #family #is #everything

Thursday, January 03, 2019

On ice and life by the river's edge

Life on hold
Laval, QC
November 2018
This photo originally shared on Instagram
Early on a Sunday morning before we pack the car and begin the long trek home, I take one last stroll around my father-in-law's neighbourhood. I've been doing that a lot lately - walking around, reflecting, taking pictures, trying to remember what it feels like to be here - because I don't know how many more times we'll be back in this particular place. My gut tells me time is running out. Next month? Next year? Hard to tell. But the ticking is getting louder.

We had a bit of an ice storm the previous night, so the drive home promises to be a more tenuous affair than usual. I probably shouldn't be walking the ice-rink sidewalks with a camera in my hand, but tradition is tradition, and I'd feel like I had missed out if I stayed in.

I come across this frozen-in-place bush just steps from the river that winds its way through this quiet corner of a usually busy town. It's hard to imagine that just a few short weeks ago, it was covered with leaves, teeming with life. In its current state, it's equally hard to imagine it ever returning to life. But that's the thing about nature: Everything moves in cycles, life often lurks quietly where you least expect it, and everything has its own season. We can't know any more about what lies in store for this now-frozen collection of branches than we might for ourselves. Or those closest to us.

I rack off a few frames while trying to avoid falling down the steep riverbank, then turn back and slowly shuffle my way inside. In my never-ending search for answers to the questions that flood my brain these days, I can't help but think I should spend more time staring at frozen bushes. They seem to have this life-goes-on thing pretty well figured out. And even if they don't, timing-out alone for a few minutes before embarking on a journey is always good for the soul.

#laval #chomedey #montreal #yul #quebec #canada #canon #canon_photography #canonphotography #winter #river #weather #wx #season #nature #ice #frozen #monochrome #photography #naturephotography #life #universe #family #is #everything

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Let them eat cake

Before
Laval, QC
December 2018
This photo originally shared on Instagram
I am obsessed with remembering the trivial. If I've read an article online, I need to save the reference in case I want to read it again later. If I've visited the beach, I need a pinch of sand in my trunk to remind me I was there. And if I've eaten something, I often need to take a picture of it. I can't explain why. It just is.

If food is the fuel of our lives, then food photography is, to me, the story of our lives. Or a key part of it. Food has been a point of connection for me and my wife since we met. We shop for groceries together. I hang out in the kitchen while she turns them into virtuoso creations. We debrief over meals. She laughs at me as I try - and fail - to remember where it all goes when we're done.

This seemingly simple chocolate cake pic is symbolic of a week I'd rather forget. We've been back and forth to Montreal too many times to count of late. While my father-in-law continues to struggle with his health, Debbie struggles to do everything she can for a father she's doted over for as long as I've known her. There are no black-and-white answers. Aging is never easy, and it's infinitely worse when your health fails you and you can't get it back no matter how hard you try. Or wish.

Travel far from home means grabbing meals wherever you can, whenever you can find the time. As we have every time we've returned here, we spent much of the week bouncing between a drab hospital and an apartment with barely-functional plumbing.

Which is how I ended up taking this photo, a singular attempt to find some sense of sweetness amid a chapter that offered precious little of it. It took me three-ish minutes to eat, amid a discussion that lasted another 10 minutes before we had to leave, again, for the hospital. Yet through a lens, I managed to freeze that sliver of time when a slice of cake represented the best thing in our lives, if only for a fleeting moment.

#montreal #laval #quebec #canada #google #pixel2 #teampixel #chocolatecake #chocolate #cake #dessert #food #foodporn #instafood #foodie #cakesofinstagram #cakestagram #foodstagram #instagood #foodphotography #instacake #age #aging #health #photography #life #universe #family #is #everything

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Independent-minded bird on a wire

Non-conformism at altitude
Laval, QC
October 2018
This photo originally shared on Instagram
When you find yourself in a crowd, you essentially have two choices: Follow it, or don't. It's easier to follow. You explain less. You argue less, too, and even think less because the decisions are pretty much made for you. Just go along with everyone else and everything will work out in the end. Or so we've been led to believe.

If you've followed me for any amount of time, you've likely realized by now that I'm not a follower. I blaze my own path, listen to my own voice. I explain myself a lot, because my path isn't always easy for others to understand. I get challenged, sometimes to the point of argument, and even have fewer friends than would otherwise be the case. Sometimes I stop arguing entirely because there's just too much to do, not enough time to explain myself, and most mainstreamers wouldn't listen, anyway.

There's one bird in this scene that grabs my eye, one bird who seems to have the spunk necessary to turn tail, to point in a unique direction, and in doing so dare to defy the whim of the crowd.

That bird has particular significance today. See, I have no interest in sharing the same year-ending/resolution silliness that now pollutes everyone's feeds. Because every day, not just January 1, should be cause for reflection, thankfulness, and kindness.

But this singular bird seems to want to remind me - and maybe you - why the less popular path is often preferable, why turning your back on others and doing your own thing, your own way, could be, for some, a recipe for a life better lived.

Makes sense to me today, and it'll make just as much sense tomorrow and beyond, all thanks to a nameless bird I happened to encounter in a parking lot far from home.

#laval #quebec #canada #bird #birds #flight #travelphotography #travelgram #photography #nature_brilliance #EarthVisuals #artofvisuals #welivetoexplore #natureaddict #naturediversity #ourplanetdaily #unlimitedplanet #birdsofinstagram #animalsmood #birdwatching #bestbirdshots #birdstagram #birding #instabirds #canon #canon_photography #canonphotography #family #is #everything