Sunday, February 28, 2010

Canada wins Olympic hockey gold!

Just tweeted this: Canada wins U.S. 3-2 in OT! A dream ending to a dream games. So proud for my country right now. As ever, just more.

Back soon once my kids are finished dancing around the living room. 14 gold medals, Sidney Crosby scores the game-winner, our athletes are true role models. Y'know, we really do love being Canadian.

Ghost country

Canada is a nation of approximately 35 million people. I'm going to guess pretty much all of them are glued to a television, computer screen or smartphone watching today's Olympic gold medal game between Canada and the U.S.

Well, everyone except our dog, who as I write this lies, eyes happily closed, in the middle of the living room floor, tail pointed directly at the television.

I'm going to guess he's not much of a fan.

Thankfully, he's in the minority. For all my disdain of the professional sporting culture that gives birth to steroidal baseball players, philandering golfers and gun-toting and gambling basketballers, it's nice to see some meaning injected back into the game.

Your turn: Why do sports matter to us?

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Waiting for the tsunami to hit

I admit it's somewhat surreal watching live coverage from Hawaii's coastline as they wait for possible tsunami waves from Chile's massive earthquake to hit. In this age of richly interconnected conventional and new media, the resulting spigot of information - from television, Twitter, Facebook, wherever - makes for some insane juxtapositions.

To wit: Canada just won two gold medals mere minutes apart - men's long track speedskating pursuit (Mathieu Giroux, Lucas Makowsky and Denny Morrison) and parallel giant slalom snowboarding (Jasey Jay Anderson) - and, considering the national navel-gazing over perceptions of success at these games, you'd think this would prompt a week-long coast-to-coast-to-coast block party. Yet overlaying extreme success on ice and snow with extreme threats from Mother Nature makes it hard to know what an appropriate response is.

Do we grab the nearest keg of beer and celebrate without regard to anything else that's going on in the world? Or do we put the games on hold while we focus on the very real tragedy that began unfolding with one of the most powerful earthquakes ever recorded (8.8...beyond belief) and continues to spread across the Pacific Ocean?

Life offers up an endless litany of contradictions. Today's technology makes it ever so difficult to navigate cleanly.

Your turn: I think I'm overthinking this. Thoughts?

Friday, February 26, 2010

Hockey Night in Canada

I'm sitting on the living room floor, netbook in my lap, watching Canada and Sweden square off in the women's curling gold medal final. My wife and kids are all here, hanging on every shot while the dog wanders between us and gives kisses when he thinks we aren't paying enough attention to him.

Later tonight, our men's hockey team hits the ice in the semi-final game against Slovakia. I'm not usually one to defer life in favor of something on television, but I'll make an exception this evening given how excited the kids are. If I close my eyes just so, I can remember watching the Olympics with my parents when I was a kid. If I close my eyes just so, I can see our own kids watching the Olympics years from now, closing their adult eyes and thinking about a night when they were kids.

I'll write more later. For now, wherever you are, I hope you're also enjoying some quiet time with the folks who matter most.

Endings, and possibly beginnings

The circle of life
Montreal, QC, July 2009
About this photo: Thematic Photographic explores "The grass is always greener" through next Wednesday. If you've got a grass-themed photograph to share, please click here.
I had come to this cemetery with my father last summer* because I wanted to know where all of our relatives were buried, and I knew my father wouldn't always be around to show me the way.

Sadly, I was right, but I'm still glad I got the chance to explore with him, and to spend an afternoon connecting with him. As I stumble from one milestone in the grieving process to another, it's one of the little things that I hold on to. I've learned that I'm surrounded by a lot of these little things, and every one of them will at one point or another reveal itself to me. I just have to take the time to stop and appreciate them for whatever they are.

There's no personal significance to this particular spot in the cemetery, as the stones behind the tree stump don't belong to anyone we know. But as we walked past this spot, I paused over the stump because the symbolism of a dead tree in this place was too powerful to ignore. I looked for signs of new growth amid the long-since-chopped tree but couldn't find any. Maybe someday the circle of life will show itself here.

Your turn: What is the lesson of this place?

One more thing: Canadian figure skater Joannie Rochette captured a bronze medal at the Vancouver Olympics tonight. Earlier in the evening, our country's women's hockey team struck gold. Yet it is Ms. Rochette's bronze that sears itself into my brain. Because her mom died just after arriving in Vancouver to watch her skate. And despite the fact that the world would have understood had she packed up her skates and headed home, she decided to skate. If ever we needed proof that sport still holds the capability to teach us, in stark relief, the meaning of life, we were reminded of this tonight.

I'll think of Ms. Rochette every time I find myself staring into a dark place wondering what I'm supposed to do next. I'll focus on the things that define me, and I'll dig into them, deeply. Because that's what this hero among us chose to do. Because as hard as it may seem, life indeed does go on.

* I wrote about this day in these earlier blog entries:

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Thematic Photographic 90 - The grass is always greener

Overgrown donuts
St. Thomas, ON, June 2009

We were on our way to the air show* when we ran into the longest, slowest traffic jam we'd ever seen. My daughter and I made the best of it, however, watching the crowds around us and taking in the aircraft flying warmups over the quiet countryside near the airport.

Along Talbot Line (they call roads "Lines" here. Odd, that.) we came across a junkyard filled with old vehicles - a city bus here, a dump truck there - but the most interesting find was this old donut-serving trailer (or is it "doughnot" I never know.) I could practically smell the sinful blobs of fat in their cholesterol-laden pools of oil as we sat there, engine off, waiting for the traffic to get moving again.

(Note to Officer Bob: Yes, I took this while I was technically driving. But we were rather monumentally stuck. So I figured you wouldn't mind if I entertained my daughter while we sat parked in the middle of the road. I knew you'd understand. So Canadian of you!)

Your turn: This photo supports this week's new Thematic Photographic theme, "The grass is always greener." I've chosen this theme because it's winter on the top half of the planet, and we could all use an excuse to ogle some green. So if it's got grass in it, we want to see it. Just post a green grass-themed pic on your blog, then paste a link to it in a comment here. Repeat, if you wish, and feel free to visit other participants to share the optical joy. Please click here for instructions on how Thematic Photographic works.

* More air show pics here, here, here, here and here. We eventually made it in time to meet up with friends and have an incredible day. Sometimes, you need a pause in the action to appreciate how lucky you are to have what you have.

Don't annoy the sleeping child

Tucked in. Tuckered out.
London, ON, July 2009

I'd like to end off this week's "at rest" theme with one of my favorite recurring themes, namely the sleeping munchkin. Practically since the moment they were born, our kids have learned what it's like to have a lens shoved in their face. Whether they're awake or not at the time doesn't seem to have much effect on me. It is obviously way easier to capture them when they're asleep, but even then there's a limit to how much time I've got before I've worn out my welcome.

In this case, little man had fallen asleep the night before his 9th birthday. As I often do before their milestones, I like to grab at least one picture of them, another "last" moment before they move on to the next stage of their rapidly advancing lives. This night was no different. And as I walked into his pitch black bedroom, I did my best to avoid waking him.

I took one picture before the flash that turns night into day roused him and prompted a quick rollover toward the wall. No more sleepyhead photography on this night. No matter, as this was all I needed.

This summer, I'll do the same before he irrevocably moves into double digits. I wish the camera could somehow help me slow down the process just a little, as there's a peace in them that I hope they don't lose as they morph into full-on adults.

Your turn: Quiet ways to mark a child's birthday. Please discuss.

Hidden treasure

Art in an alley
London, ON, March 2009
About this photo: We've been exploring "at rest" for the past week and may yet have one more kick at the can before day's end. New theme launches tonight at 7:00 p.m. EST.
I was walking through the fading light of a late winter evening in our burg's downtown core. I had been in Toronto that day, and after catching an earlier train home, ended up with a bit of time to kill before my wife was to pick me up. Coincidentally, I had my camera with me. So off I went.

I slowly paced the gloomily quiet streets, pausing occasionally to stuff my hands back in my pockets in a vain attempt to ward off the chill. As I walked past a non-descript office building on an otherwise non-descript street, I caught sight of something, and stopped. Against my better judgment, I wandered into the private alleyway - I know, I trespassed. So sue me. I found this piece of abandoned art just sitting there. I had no idea why something like this would end up forgotten in a graffiti-covered back alley, but I was glad I found it before it disappeared for good.

Maybe someone, someday, will share this piece's backstory with us. Until then, I'm content to simply imagine what that story might be.

Your turn: So what is this painting's story?

One more thing: Somewhat coincidentally, the car in the pic is a Chevy HHR - like the one I now drive. Except mine's black. And my wife is much prettier.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Please be seated

Montreal, QC, October 2009
About this photo: We're working our way through this week's "at rest" theme, and I'm hoping you're in a sharing mood. Please see here for details on how you can get involved. (And I promise to stop with the sad-themed entries soon. I can only mope online for so long.)
Barely three weeks after my father's funeral, we were back in Montreal, headed back into the hospital whose shadows had been cast across our family for generations. My mother-in-law, who had been hospitalized since just before the bottom fell out of our world, was still there. The brilliantly sunny afternoon defied our decidedly dark mood as we made our way into the foyer and through the drab hallways toward the elevator.

After a visit that made everyone feel a little bit better about the bad hand of cards we had been dealt, we gathered the little folks and slowly headed back to the real world. As we walked out of the hospital's west-side foyer - an otherwise forgettable vestibule where patients with nowhere to go watch an endless stream of cars picking up and dropping off - the still-bright sun beckoned me to stop and remember the moment.

Sure, the wheelchairs were sad reminders of what awaits some of us. But at the same time, they were empty. Which meant whoever needed them may have found the inner strength to walk on their own.

I guess we make positivity any way we can.

Your turn: Hospital waiting rooms. Please discuss.

Me and my dad

Family resemblance
Laval, QC, August 2009

I've been avoiding looking at pictures of my father because, to be honest, it's been hard. Just when I think I've reached a point where I think I'm fine, I encounter a trigger and suddenly I realize I'm not there yet. The other night it was an innocent comment from another parent when I picked my daughter up from a friend's house. Then it was a particular tune that came up on my iPod as I drove home from work. It could be anything, really. It pops into my head, and then I'm sad.

But I realize I can't avoid it forever. At some point I have to start reviewing and processing the images that have sat unseen on my backup drive, gathering virtual dust since that awful day last September.

That "some point" came, haltingly, earlier this evening. I was flipping through some folders when, without planning or warning, my mouse stopped on this one. It was taken just over a month before he died. He passed away so suddenly that none of us got a chance to say goodbye. Perhaps as a means of preparing myself, I had taken countless pictures of him and my mom over the past number of years. Because we never knew if and when, and I didn't want to be left with nothing tangible. Photos are such concrete memories to me that I felt an archive of views of my parents would bring me comfort someday.

I don't think I can honestly say they bring me comfort, even now. Five months later, it's still too new, too raw. But even if I don't look at them - look at him - all that often or at all, it brings me a strange sense of peace simply knowing that I have them. Maybe someday...

Monday, February 22, 2010

Henrietta at rest

The four-wheeled transport thing is working out pretty well so far. A major winter storm rolled through the region today, so I'm thinking cycle-commuting to work probably wouldn't have been a good thing.

While I don't think I'll ever be fully comfortable with the concept of driving a car to the office - indeed, as soon as spring cleans the roads, I'll be two-wheeling it to work every chance I get - I've got to admit I somewhat like having my own little set of wheels.

Here, Henrietta the (snow-covered) HHR gets her tank filled. She's very efficient, but eventually, even she needs a fill-up.

Your turn: How do you get to work?

Sunday, February 21, 2010


He sleeps everywhere
Laval, QC, August 2009
About this photo: It's "at rest" week through next Wednesday. If you'd like to share your own similarly-themed Thematic Photographic moment, please click here.
It's been a while since Frasier appeared on the blog, so I thought I'd take this moment to catch you up on what he's been up to of late:
  • He sleeps. A lot. Location, as you can see, doesn't seem to be much of an issue for him.
  • He barks. A lot. Especially if he's just met you or if you're a dog person.
  • He smells. That's largely our fault, as he's way overdue for his grooming. But I am, for some reason, not mortified by dog smell. I'm odd that way.
  • He eats garbage. I don't understand the appeal, but if I had a dollar for every time we returned home to a trail of stinkage winding its way through the kitchen, I'd be rich. At least he sort of feels some guilt afterward, as he walks up to us with his head bowed and eyes averted.
  • He steals food. Nothing is safe unless it's stored way high. The latest victim: a bagel that was sitting in the middle of the kitchen table. Oh, and the Ziploc bag of oatmeal cookies that be dug out of my camera bag. I never knew dogs liked oatmeal.
On reflection, this isn't a whole lot removed from his usual state of being. There's something to be said for the predictability of a dog's life, and warts and all he remains quite the charmer and, more importantly, quite a pillar of our kids' lives.

Your turn: What do dogs dream about?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Let the sun shine in

I've never been particularly fond of the driving experience - it's a necessary evil in today's urban landscape, something folks who grew up in villages and experienced their tight-knit communities mostly on foot would never fully accept.

Indeed, I never did, and I drive as much I do because I have to, not because I want to.

So whenever I get behind the wheel, I look for small ways to improve the experience. Like sugar-coating a pill, it's how I keep myself smiling as I lament the fact that I'm piloting two more wheels than usual. My tactics of choice? Lots of good music - G-d bless stereos with aux jacks, MP3 capability and USB slots - and a sunroof.

Most automotive reviewers despise the sunroof. They say it adds weight and complexity. Value-minded consumer advocates dismiss the sunroof - or moonroof, I guess - as a terribly expensive extravagance, the kind of thing that reinforces our collective standing as shameless hedonists.

But here's the thing: it makes me happy. It's an admittedly small and trivial thing, but when I slide that panel open, it transforms my mood. Even when it's closed - as it is through most of a Canadian winter - the bit of extra light that comes in from above is enough to change my mindset.

So when I left the office yesterday, I called my wife, who happily shared that she had had the wondervan's sunroof open on the way home from school. It was a gloriously sunny and warm Friday afternoon, a welcome break from weeks of freezing cold grey during which the car remained hermetically sealed. According to the basic tenets of logic, it was still too cold to have it open, but I didn't feel much need to subscribe to logic on a gloriously sunny Friday afternoon. So I opened it up, dialed up the volume and set off, happily, for home.

As I cruised through what passes for rush hour in this burg, I reminded myself that little things like this make life something to be lived instead of simply survived.

Your turn: What small things are YOU doing to tweak your own life?

About this photo: Self portrait from my BlackBerry. Don't worry, Officer Bob, I wasn't driving on a public road at the time.

Friday, February 19, 2010

End of the road

Permanent rest
Along the 401, somewhere in Ontario
October 2009

[Please see here for more "at rest" thematic silliness]

As we cruised the monotonous route home, I grabbed my camera (don't worry, my wife was driving) and did my best to shoot out the window for as long as I could keep the nausea at bay.

(Note to self: You get sick reading in the car. What makes you think photography at speed will be any different?)

It was a challenging day to shoot. Cloudy conditions force you into lower-speed exposures, which apparently isn't a good thing at 120 km/h. But it's digital, so no one really cares about wasted "film", anyway. So off I went.

As we passed this sad-looking truck, I hoped that whoever had driven it managed to make it home safely. Because these wheels weren't going anywhere soon, and when they eventually did I guess they wouldn't be doing so under their own power.

Your turn: Where's the driver?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Birds on a wire

St. Thomas, ON, July 2009
About this photo: Our Thematic Photographic theme this week is "At rest", and when airmen need to take a break from handling air show crowds, they head for the wing. To share your own restful photo, follow your mouse here.
There's nothing restful about a C-130 Hercules. This venerable design is as tough as they come, with an inside as Spartan as a Soviet-era Army barracks. But when you're hauling precious cargo to and from some of the saddest places on the planet, this is the machine you want around you.

I came across this magnificent plane and her magnificent crew at the air show here last summer. I didn't have a whole lot of time to discuss the missions this crew and their plane had been on. But I knew enough about this plane that it was a good bet these guys all had incredible stories to tell. They deserved whatever little rest they got on this day.

Your turn: Where have these folks been?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Thematic Photographic 89 - At rest

Sleepy girl
Laval, QC, August 2009

I've chosen "at rest" as this week's Thematic Photographic theme because images like this remind me to slow things down and appreciate the small stuff. Our everyday life is so dominated by things that move and attract our attention that everything else seems to fade into the background. And get ignored.

To wit, we had gone out to dinner this evening, and while cameras snapped furiously during the meal as the kids did whatever kids do, the photographic equipment was largely invisible by the time dessert was done. It's in between moments like this, though, that seem to present the greatest opportunity for capturing something different. It may not have the energy of a more conventional moment. But it may yet have an energy, a spirit all its own.

On a somewhat more practical basis, photos of people, places and things at rest are simply easier to take because you don't have to chase a wiggly anything around. You've got all the time in the world.

Your turn: We've got an entire week to share "at rest" moments. Simply post a similarly-themed photo to your blog, then pop back here and paste the link into a comment. For more background on how TP works, please click here.

The information superhighway

Connecting us all
Williamsburg, KY, January 2009
About this photo: We're wrapping up our look at what we did on vacation as the new Thematic Photographic gets set for its debut tonight at 7:00 EST. If you're still in vacation mode, click here. If you're feeling at rest, check back after 7.
We were on our way home from Florida last year, and I had just finished shooting an abandoned gas station (see here, here and here for more photos from that shoot)* and was walking back to the van to reconnect with my family. I was in fast-shooting mode - which happens when I've got no time to compose or even think. I just shoot whatever I can, and let the photographic chips fall where they may.

There happened to be some roadwork happening on the overpass that crossed the I-75, so I grabbed a few quickies before slinging the camera back over my shoulder and heading for, if not home, then the mobile equivalent of it. Because wherever we are, vacation or not, home ultimately revolves around my wife and kids.

Your turn: I play this game with myself when I travel, wondering where everyone's going and why. you look at the highway in the distance, would you like to speculate over where these folks might be headed?

* On our way down this year, we stopped in Williamsburg again. As we got off the highway, I looked to the right and the gas station was gone for good. I smiled, happy that I had managed to save the memory.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Lessons my daughter taught me

Delray Beach, FL, December 2009

Quick note: This photo supports our latest theme, "What I did on vacation." We're in vacation mode through tomorrow (Wednesday), so you've still got time to share your own. The fun begins here.
We'd been to the Wakodahatchee Wetlands before, but this was the first time the kids had gone without their grandparents, the first time I was here without my father. So as I walked across the worn wooden planks of the boardwalk and took in the never-ending spectacle of the stunningly preserved wetlands, I kept flashing back to the last time we were here, and how my father would "suggest" photo opportunities. As annoying as the process often was to me, this time out I found it strange to not have him pointing toward something or other.

So I did what I always do: Listened to my inner voice as I quietly recorded the scene through my lens, saying nothing about my latest moment of darkness to my wife and kids just ahead. It was a beautiful late afternoon, and the sun had come out to paint the wetlands in a gorgeously soft yellow glow: I could suck it up for a bit to keep everyone else from feeling glum, too.

Eventually, my little bit of lens therapy started to help. I lost myself in this amazing place, often falling way behind my family. As we headed out and the late afternoon glow intensified, our daughter pointed to the sky with one hand, jabbed my arm with the other, and told me to grab my camera. I wheeled and fired, barely having time to meter the scene before the magnificent bird at the top of this entry sped out of range.*

I guess she'd been learning my father's lessons after all. The voice of the next generation had stepped in in place of the voice of one we'd lost.

*The bird photo is technically underexposed, but I'm learning, albeit slowly, to not subscribe to the notion that every scenario has one absolutely perfect end result. Had I exposed for the bird, the colors of the sky wouldn't have saturated as well as they did. Had I taken the time to mull over the relative merits of different settings, I would have missed the moment entirely. Sometimes, the voice of your daughter in your ear can put things in their proper, immediate perspective.

Monday, February 15, 2010

On golden palm

In the palm of your hand
Delray Beach, FL
December 2008

Golden hour is that sliver of time late in the day when the setting sun paints the world in shades and colors that have the potential to take your breath away. Things that may have seemed ordinary around lunchtime suddenly come alive as flat whites give way to richly toned hues of yellow and orange. I know that all of this can be explained by the complex interactions of light and atmosphere, but understanding the science of optics doesn't make the impact on the soul any less magical.

In many ways, it isn't so much about the color. Rather, I think it's the softness of the light that stands out. There's a glow, a depth that grabs your eye and keeps you staring until the darkening horizon puts a temporary end to the optical fun. Tomorrow's always another day: Just be there with your camera.

I had been taking pictures of the palm trees beside the pool off and on for much of the day. While the kids swam, I wandered the deck and, in between keeping them from annoying each other - and other swimmers - too much, tried to capture these incredible trees with at least a slight twist on the familiar subtropical theme.

The light gave out long before our kids did, and soon after I got this shot I had to haul them out of the shadowy pool area and get them home. Tomorrow would arrive soon enough for them as well.

Your turn: What does golden hour look like in your neck of the woods?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Why NBC should never, ever cover the Olympics again

Dear NBC,

You may have noticed that Canada's Alexandre Bilodeau won the gold medal in tonight's men's moguls competition at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games (our first-ever gold medal win on home soil...yay Canada!) Or maybe you didn't because you were too busy focusing on American athletes to the exclusion of all others. I get that you're an American network broadcasting to American viewers. But when you pretend that the Olympics are an All-American event, you kinda miss the point of the whole exercise. Just sayin'.

So, about the Alex Bilodeau story. An interesting thing, this, as Alex's older brother, Frederic, has Cerebral Palsy. The skier has long seen his brother as his inspiration, saying if Frederic can overcome his challenges, then there's no reason that he can't give it his all, too. This isn't the faux-emotional, slickly packaged, tape-delay-broadcast silliness that passes for infotainment on NBC. It's real. And it's not really about sport, per se. It's about the meaning of sport. It's a subtle difference, I know, but everything I've seen in your so-called coverage strongly suggests you don't quite appreciate subtleties.

Tonight, Canadians were treated to a moment that'll hopefully help them lead better lives and become better people. I'm sorry your viewers didn't have this opportunity. I'm not saying that NBC sucks - but I'm Canadian, so I'm nicer than some of your viewers. Instead, I'd like to politely suggest that you try to catch the Canadian video sometime (I'm sure CTV will loan it to ya) so you can learn a lesson or two for the next Games you cover. I think the strategy you've used to broadcast the games is starting to lose its golden luster.

Thanks for hearing me out. Have a great rest-of-Games.


CSI: Parking Attendant

Ready for high-speed pursuit
Deerfield Beach FL, December 2008

It's "what I did on vacation" week here at Written Inc. (see here for more), and as you can see, I spent my vacation last year shooing surreptitious pictures of absolute strangers. I'm odd that way.

I'm not sure what this particular officer did to deserve getting busted down to parking duty, but I sure hope he eventually found his smile. After all, despite the somewhat humbling optics of driving a golf cart around and handing out tickets to parking-challenged tourists, hanging around the beach all day can't be an entirely lousy means of employment.

At least he's employed, right?

Your turn: What's he thinking?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

A brief break from the world

In the valley of the shadows...
London, ON, July 2009
About this photo: Thematic Photographic explores "what I did on vacation" through next Wednesday. If you've been away from home - even for a day, or less - please click here and feel free to share.
On an otherwise ordinary day last summer, my son had a playdate at a friend's house. And since the weather was lovely and I had a bit of extra time, I suggested we leave the car in the driveway and walk the few blocks there instead. It would give me a few extra minutes with him, as well as an excuse to fill my camera's memory card on the walk home.

Much to my pleasant surprise, he jumped at the chance. The walk there was typically Noah, filled with endless questions about the way things worked and endless views of the world through the eyes of a little guy. I made a mental note to do this more often.

After I dropped him off at his friend's and turned for home, I detoured through the walking path that winds its way through the protected forests near our street. Well, protected for now, because every few years the developers come out of the woodwork with yet another plan to urbanize this near-forgotten oasis in the middle of the burbs. And after area residents ride up against the threat, a stalemate is declared - for a few more years, anyway.

I'm glad the good guys keep winning these battles, because I can't imagine what our city would be like without idyllic places like this. Whenever I have an hour or two to spare, a quick vacation of sorts to wander through the green valley with a camera and a curious eye are often all I need to recharge my soul. Vacations, after all, need not be distant or lengthy.

Your turn: Do you have a place near you to get away from it all?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The desert under the waves

Wet or dry?
Deerfield Beach, FL, December 2008
About this photo: As part of this week's Thematic Photographic, we're sharing photos taken while we were on vacation - wherever that may have been. Click here to get started.
Sometimes, you find yourself in the right place at the right time, and you end up with a series of pictures that you know you'll have difficulty ever capturing again. I've been wandering around beaches for years, inexplicably shooting down into the water where the waves break, and this was the only time it ever looked like this - reminds me of a desert of sorts.

It's yet another reason why I feel naked when I don't have a camera within arm's reach. I just never know when magic moments like this will present themselves. And I never want to be left wondering what could have been.

Your turn: A memorable example of great timing. Please discuss.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Thematic Photographic 88 - What I did on vacation

Watching the ocean with my big sister
Deerfield Beach, FL, December 2009
Quick note: This photo launches our new Thematic Photographic theme, "What I did on vacation." Please click here for instructions on how this thing works]
They don't always get along as peacefully as we'd like. They're bright, creative and engaged kids, so it's inevitable that they have their moments - with each other and with us. But sometimes, when the stars align, they manage to make our hearts melt.

Mine did as I watched Dahlia look out for her little brother in the surf. She's just that kind of big sister, and as I stood behind them and drank it in, I wished for the ability to capture it in something richer than a mere two-dimensional picture. Capturing moments like this in a bottle would be so much more fulfilling, don't you think?

Your turn: Vacations can take many forms, and I'm sure you've got pictures no matter where you spent your time off. Even if it was a quiet afternoon in the backyard, I hope you'll share it this week. The process is simple: Post a pic on your blog, then paste a link in a comment here. Sharing and happiness will ensue. Click here for more background on this Thematic Photographic thing. And have fun with it!

Life in a northern town

Pick a direction
Wharton, NJ, November 2009
About this photo: We're winding down this week's Thematic Photographic theme, "On the road" with this wistful view from a recent family adventure. Feel free to head here if you'd like to share a pic. New theme goes up tonight at 7:00 Eastern.
We stopped in this seemingly Rockwell-painted town to soothe a little girl's tummy ache. We were in the home stretch of a long drive to New York, and this place couldn't be more different than the urban jungle that awaited us.

I wandered around the service station's parking lot while my wife was turning our daughter's frown upside-down. As always, she got our little one back to her usual sweet self in virtually no time flat. As I strolled back to the car, I thought this might be a place we'd like to hang around in a little longer someday. Sometimes, small places like this burrow their way into your mind in no time flat. I'd like to know why that is.

Your turn: Why do small towns appeal to us?

Monday, February 08, 2010

Where the road slows down

Walk with me
London, ON, April 2009
About this photo: Thematic Photographic. "On the road." You know you want to.
London's Blackfriar's Bridge is a jewel that, sadly, few people here take the time to appreciate. I used to ride it every day on my commute to work and, come spring, I may yet find myself cycling across it regularly once more. While a newer structure would probably carry more cars and not give my wife the willies - she hates when we drive over it - I fear what our city would lose in the process.

For now, this wooden-decked, iron-trussed icon of another era forces us to slow down and enjoy the ride as we move between here and there. We all need moments of reflection, and this is as reflective as a piece of civil engineering can get.

Your turn: Do you stop and smell the roses when you're on the road?

Sunday, February 07, 2010

High speed nap

Peace on the road
Jennings, GA, January 2010
About this photo: This entry supports our latest Thematic Photographic theme, "On the road." Please click here if you'd like to share your own (all are welcome!)
Our kids amaze me with their ability to grab 40 winks in the most unlikely places. Dahlia, in particular, seems to sleep just as well on the road as off. I'm not sure where they get it from: I've never been much of a car sleeper - ever since walking away from a fairly significant highway accident as a teen, I don't easily relax in the car when I'm a passenger. So it brings me a little pleasure knowing my kids feel comfortable enough to nod off when either of their parents takes a turn at the wheel.

When my wife drives, I like to fiddle with my camera. Most of my photography at 120 km/h (yes, she speeds, shhhh) is pretty forgettable. But sometimes, whether I'm focusing inside or outside the vehicle, I manage to snag something neat (see here, here, here and here for past examples of passenger-seat photography.) Lucky me to be surrounded by such willing and able subjects for my admittedly oddball way of looking at the world.

Your turn: What does peace mean to you?

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Gentlemen, start your engines

How many points for a pedestrian?
New York, NY, November 2009
About this photo: Thematic Photographic is "on the road" through next Wednesday. Still plenty of opportunity to share your own roadworthy vision. Just click here to get started.
In the interest of pedestrian safety, I will not condone shooting street views from the middle of a New York intersection. But sometimes the traffic lights conspire Just So to give you just enough time to stop in the middle of a busy road and shoot off a few.

I still don't recommend the practice. But I also don't recommend going through life without sometimes doing things that push your limits just a little.

It's the difference between surviving and living. And I'd rather live.

Your turn: What's going through these taxi drivers' minds?

We interrupt this broadcast...

I need to engage in a quick bit of less-than-pleasant housekeeping, folks. I've noticed a distinct increase in the amount of comment spam over the last couple of months, and as a result I've decided to tighten the commenting process a bit in an effort to prevent moronic postings from hitting the blog. Effective immediately, I've enabled the "captcha" feature, which displays a funny-looking string of characters onscreen that the commenter must manually type in before the comment can be accepted.

While this increases the inconvenience factor for legitimate readers - and for that I sincerely apologize, because I've long believed in making it easy for folks who drop by - I regrettably have to implement it to keep the bad guys out. We'll give this a try and see if it works. Thank you for your understanding.

Additional background - warning, geeky:

Traditionally, I've kept comment moderation OFF because the spammers seemed to target older posts. I simply set my blog to force moderation for all posts 14 days and older, which struck a nice balance and kept things relatively comment-spam-free.

Lately, however, the spammers have changed their tactics: now they go after newer entries. I switched the forced-moderation parameter to 7 days to try to blunt the impact, but when stupid comments started showing up on my newest blog entries, I knew it was time to try something new.

Your turn: Do you have issues with comment spammers? How are you addressing them?

Friday, February 05, 2010


Tracked journey
Toronto, ON, March 2009
About this photo: It's "on the road" week here at Written Inc. Tell all your friends. And send them here.
Travel makes me reflective. I'm not entirely sure why, but perhaps it's because it gives me lots of quiet time alone to think about the minutae of life - precisely the kind of things that usually get snowed under in the course of a regular day.

But riding the rails - or a pair of wings, or taking a road trip - far from home makes for anything but a regular day. And when I'm in between here and there, I like to linger over the visuals of the journey, because nothing ever seems to look or feel the same way twice. So to make sure I didn't miss anything on this particular trip to Toronto, I toted my camera along and let the rails blur under me just as we exited Union Station and headed for home.

Funny how I can close my eyes and feel the moment I took this picture, yet it's been nearly a year since I leaned hard into the train's window, held my breath and squeezed the shutter. Yet given how the rest of the year played out, it may as well have been a lifetime ago.

Photography has a remarkable ability to make time stand still in that regard. There are days I wish it actually could.

Your turn: Can a picture freeze time?

Thursday, February 04, 2010

We're on the road to nowhere

Vandalia, OH, January 2010
About this photo: Thematic Photographic explores "on the road" all week long. If you've got a photo from your travels - near or far - I hope you'll share it. Head here to get started.
We passed through this achingly pretty small town on our way home from vacation last month. The chill we felt through our tightly drawn coats confirmed that winter had clearly settled in here. We knew it would only get colder as we headed further north toward home.

As the kids munched lunch and stretched their legs a bit, I tried to take at least one picture to help us remember what this place felt like. If we had more time, this looked like a neat place to explore for a bit. But as it was, home and reality beckoned, and we didn't have the luxury of hanging around.

The kids finished lunch. We tucked them back into the car and drove carefully through this crossroads before turning onto the highway onramp. Vandalia, Ohio quickly faded in the rearview as we got up to speed and focused on the road ahead. But weeks later, it lingers in my mind for some reason, and I find myself wondering how I can make an excuse to make this a destination someday instead of just a mid-trip stop.

Your turn: A memorable place you've passed through. Please discuss.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Thematic Photographic 87 - On the road

Jennings, GA, January 2010
About this photo: We're launching a new Thematic Photographic theme, on the road, with this photo. Please click here if you'd like to learn how this weekly Written Inc. feature works.
I think travel intrigues me because it gives me a chance to see and experience places that would otherwise remain out of reach. When I think about the kind of things I want to see, however, they aren't always the typical ones that everyone else flocks to. Zipping from one carefully scheduled tour to another on a bus filled with camera- and fanny pack-toting sexagenarians just so I can say I saw [insert name of globally-recognized tourist trap here] doesn't do it for me.

My philosophy is a little different: I see what I see. And it may or may not be iconic in the conventional sense. Either way, what matters most to me is that my family and I derive joy - or a similar benefit - from the experience. Jen, who pens the excellent blog, Cheese in my Shoe, shared this in a comment last week - and it's been resonating in my brain ever since:
"Photography gives us that gift of sucking the marrow out of a moment."
Right on, Jen. And when I'm on the road, I hope that whatever I capture through the lens helps me - and anyone who sees the result - suck the marrow out of that moment. For the coming week, I hope you'll share photos of your on-the-road experiences.

Your turn: Please post a picture taken while you were on the road - feel free to interpret this as liberally as you wish. Paste a link to the entry in a comment here, then visit other participants to share the photographic happiness. Repeat as often as you wish. And have fun, since that's what this is all about. For more info on Thematic Photographic, click here.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

A bottled memory

Our two youngest munchkins take gymnastics at a club near the house. For an hour every Tuesday night, I get to watch them bounce, tumble, balance, flip, and run themselves ragged. It's a highlight not only of their week, but of mine as well, because there's nothing quite as rewarding as watching your kids be active and vital.

I'm sitting here right now, in fact, and as much as I'd like to share flash-frozen pictures of them in flight, the BlackBerry's camera is decidedly too dim-bulbed to do the fast action thing. So a still life of Dahlia's water bottle will have to do.

Yeah, it's as mundane as mundane gets. But someday I hope they look back at this gritty picture taken on a cold, wintry evening and remember it as happily as I will. Childhood memories, after all, shouldn't be forgotten.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Bottled disaster

I grew up in Laval, Quebec, which was - and still is - home to one of the most advanced water filtration plants in North America. As a result, the quality of our tap water was never questioned. We simply drank it, and it was good.

I don't think my parents ever bought bottled water. They didn't have to. Why pay for something that the city provides for free (well, as part of your taxes...)? Maybe it was also a simpler time, because if we wanted water while on the go, we drank it from a fountain. Giant stacks of plastic bottles just weren't part of the grocery store landscape back then.

I admit more than a little discomfort with bringing pallets of these things into the house. So much plastic and wasted resources, all so we can have the ridiculous illusion of fresh and safe drinking water. Maybe I'm being overly dramatic, but scenes like this bug me. I guess I'm fighting a losing battle, as bottled water seems to have become yet another hallmark of modern life that expands our already-overwhelming influence on our planet.

Your turn: Where do you stand on bottled water?

One more thing: To participate in our latest Thematic Photographic theme, "Water in any form," please click here.