Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The crappiest sign of all

Where's my pooper scooper?
Toronto, ON
June 2010
About this photo: We're slowly saying goodbye to Thematic Photographic's signs theme. I'm stretching things a bit with this one, only because I laughed out loud when I first saw it. If you've got a sign you'd like to share, it's not too late to go here and do just that. New theme hits the site later tonight.
I often like to play the contrarian. I take few things at face value, and never miss an opportunity to question why things are the way they are.

Which is why this sign brings me such joy. I can see both sides of the issue: As a homeowner, I appreciate signs like this. I hate having scofflaw dog owners litter my lawn with ickies simply because they were too lazy or inconsiderate to clean up after their pets. As a dog owner, I want to do my part to treat my neighbors with respect and kindness. I don't want their dog's poo (thanks, Mike Rowe) on my lawn any more than they want my dog's in return.

But upon seeing this sign, the hooligan in me zeroed in on the Mack Truck-sized gap in this argument. Namely, that the bylaw specifically mentions pet excrements (gotta love that word) but says nothing about the human variety. I wish I could be around - with a camera, of course - on the day that someone decided to test the theory.

(No worries, though, as it wouldn't be me. My wife wouldn't be pleased.)

Your turn: With signs - and polite ones, at that - all around us, why do folks still not clean up after their dogs? Let's wonder together, shall we?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Larry King retires. World yawns.

So Larry King has announced he'll end his show, Larry King Live, later this year. I'm sorry to sound negative, but he is, and will forever be, the penultimate example of someone who has overstayed his welcome.

I felt immense sadness watching him in recent years, as he had been reduced to a pale shadow of a respectable interviewer. He pandered, he soft-pedaled, he let 800-pound elephants stay precisely where they were.

At the very least, his impending departure will open up some room for new talent. Given the state of television and, more specifically, of CNN itself, the sad reality is most of us will never even notice or care. Another dinosaur exits stage left.

Your turn: Will you miss Mr. King? Who should replace him? Why?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Fallout boy

Comforting thought
New York, NY, November 2009

It's been a quiet few days here at Written Inc. thanks to a crazy little bug that flattened me midweek and kept me there until the weekend. I'm not back to my usual self, but at least I'm somewhat vertical again. So it's back to the keyboard I go.

I remember seeing this sign (see here for our latest Thematic theme - surprise, it's signs) and thinking how outdated it all seemed. Didn't we end the Cold War decades ago? Would our kids even understand what this meant if they came across it?

Then I remembered where I was; in a place where the dust from the fallen towers had not long ago blanketed these very streets, and where a war of sorts had presented itself right in the heart of this city. The source and type of threat had changed over the generations, but I guess we'll always want to know that shelter is never really that far away.

Your turn: What's it like in one of those shelters? Let's imagine, shall we?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Short circuit

Three years?
London, ON, March 2010
About this photo: Thematic Photographic is covering the "Signs of our times" this week. If you've got a memorable sign in your archives or in your mind, head here. Otherwise, read on.
I don't know a whole lot about electrical industry best practices. So I'm not entirely sure if three years is an appropriate interval to check the poles, wires, transformers and related scary-looking equipment that keeps our day-to-day lives ticking. But as I stood below this electrical pole on the edge of an otherwise abandoned industrial park road, it struck me as an awfully long stretch of time.

I'd feel better if Inspector 12 - or whoever he/she is - returned before long and updated the little plaque here.

Your turn: Should I be calling the electrical inspection teams in or should I just let it go?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Thematic Photographic 103 - Signs of the times

The President will see you now
London, ON, March 2010

We're surrounded by signs that govern virtually every moment of our waking day. Some might say we're over-signed, that we're governed by a nanny-state mentality that doesn't give us credit for thinking our way down the grocery aisle or around the street corner.

We'll leave those arguments for another day, because it's not like debating the prevalence of signs will ever actually reduce their numbers. Like dandelions, they're with us for the long haul. That doesn't mean we can't have some fun with them, though. So I've chosen "Signs of the times" as our Thematic Photographic theme for the next week because I wanted everyone to have plenty of opportunity to participate and plenty of opportunity to isolate this rather visible slice of the urban landscape.

In my own case, I hung around the hotel lobby for a while before I realized the President of the Entire Free World wasn't going to show up anytime soon. My mistake.

Your turn: Pick a sign, any sign. Take a picture of it. Post it to your blog. Paste a link to it in a comment here. Repeat as often as your poor camera will tolerate. Click here for more background on how Thematic Photographic works.

Earthquake strikes stops

Looks like a quake measuring around 5.0 on the Richter scale with an epicentre just north of Ottawa has given Canadians a whole lot of nothing to talk about.

The earth shook 1:41 p.m. and was felt in and around Montreal, Toronto, Vermont and even here in London. No injuries and no appreciable damage beyond some bags of lentils in an Ottawa convenience store and the pride of an NDP wonk whose press conference was scuttled by the tremor.

I was on my way home from work when it hit - I thought my car was being blown around by the wind at a red light. I'm nursing a worsening cold, and also thought I was simply feeling loopy.

Moment of perspective: unlike Haiti, Chile, Indonesia etc., we all lived to tell the tale. Life goes on...won't be long before the real news of the world - the stuff that matters - returns to its usual rightful place in our individual and collective lives.

Back to my tea and juice regimen. Begone, nasty cold.

Little balls

It's not Parkay
London, ON, Jun 2010

[Click photo to embiggen]

As I look back at more than a few years of photography, I realize I seem to gravitate toward transient locales, where lots of people pass through for a relatively brief period but rarely actually stay for any appreciable length of time. The airports, hotels, beaches and roadways of my photographic life seem to have become adult playgrounds, the kinds of places where I can be myself without worrying too much about what anyone else thinks.

Sure, I get more than my fair share of furrowed eyebrows. After all, a grown man hunched over the butter ball bowl at the hotel breakfast buffet table will always stand out from the crowd. But that's part of the experience for me. As much as I want to bring home a picture worth sharing, I also relish the opportunity to plant seeds of uniqueness in the minds of absolute strangers.

If my little acts of public herd-breaking make even one person think twice about the difference between survival and living, then it's all worth it.

Your turn: A time when you reached out to a stranger. Please discuss.

One more thing:
As much fun as we've had playing with shapes, the week is drawing to a close. As such, this will be our last geometric-themed entry (click here if you still have some shapes you're itching to share.) New theme launches tonight (Wednesday) at 7:00 Eastern.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Strange light from above

In the round
London, ON, June 2010
[Click photo to embiggen]

About this photo: We're slowly winding down Thematic Photographic's celebration of the world of geometry. I probably have a shape or two left in me before posting the new theme tomorrow (Wednesday) at 7 p.m. ET. If you do, too, click here to kickstart the festivities.
There's something to be said for staring up when everyone else is looking ahead. You get the occasional - or not-so-occasional - stare and even the odd scowl, especially when you raise your camera and start shooting.

I understand the stares, but the scowls confuse me. I guess sheep don't want anyone else deviating from the herd.

Your turn: Do you conform or not? Why/why not?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Seasonal slash of light

Windowed light
Richmond Hill, ON, June 2010
About this picture: It's geometric week here at Written Inc., and we're sharing any image with a shape in it. Yes, I know, I really need a life, but humor me, will ya? If you'd like to play along with Thematic Photographic, click here.
I'm easily distracted by out-of-the-ordinary visuals, so when, in the middle of a conversation, my eyes begin to wander a bit, most folks who know me realize it isn't because I'm being rude. Typically, something's caught my eye, and I'm simply, almost subconsciously, exploring it with my eye and wondering whether or not it's worth a picture later on.

Which is exactly how I discovered this stretch of wall beneath a window in the corner of the living room. In any other circumstance, it would be as ordinary as it gets. But with the mid-morning, last-day-of-spring sun streaming through the blinds covering an adjacent window, it became almost magnetic.

Well, to me, anyway. So I shot it.

Your turn: How do you like to welcome in summer?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Days of our fathers

Tomorrow morning, I'll wake up and it'll be Father's Day. And as much as I enjoy having our kids excitedly bounce into our room in the morning, I can't shake the overwhelming feeling that this entire thing is a crock.

Right on, folks, I'm a curmudgeon.

I'm under no illusion that days like this are anything more than manufactured excuses designed to sell stuff. For weeks now - well, essentially since Mother's Day wound down - stores everywhere have fallen over themselves coming up with new ways to market the same old stuff:
  • Wouldn't Dad love to cook eggs in this teflon-coated, high-tech frying pan? (Um, yes, but my wife's perfectly happy to share hers with me.)
  • Let Dad burn his own movies with this DVD burner! (Only if they're legally purchased.)
  • Dad deserves only the very best golf ball cleaner on the market! (Have they ever seen me play golf?)
I've never been comfortable with the forced nature of these so-called celebrations. Society more or less expects us to acknowledge the day in some tangible, material way, and heaven forbid we fail to meet expectations. Consider me not a fan. I like my celebrating to be genuine and spontaneous, thank you very much.

Today also reminds me that, in this year of firsts, it's my first Father's Day without my own father. Not that I needed a reminder in any form - it's with me every waking moment of every day - but having to face it down within the additional context of an artificial, commercially-driven excuse of a day is something I could just as easily live without.

So when tonight turns into tomorrow, I'll count the minutes until our munchkins come bouncing into our bed and begin to color the day happy. And as it should always be, nothing else will matter beyond that moment of indescribable joy. If we're lucky, they'll do the bouncing thing again tomorrow. Because connecting with dad - or anyone else in your family, for that matter - shouldn't need a special day.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Mosaic shapes

Tectonic plates
Komoka, ON
August 2009
About this photo: Thematic Photographic's latest theme is "Geometric", and it doesn't get more geometric than this. Whatever shape(s) you've got floating around your photo archives - or if you're looking for an excuse to get out and shoot some new ones - we hope you'll share 'em here.
We were at our friends' house for dinner, and the evening sun was washing the patio with soft, golden light. Sitting around as the last of the chicken made its way off the BBQ, I found myself entranced by this bowl. The contradicting shapes - angular glass embedded in rounded mortar - were too neat to pass up.

So I didn't. Which meant my wife got to deliver her time-honored speech about why her somewhat obsessive husband insists on cracking out the SLR at the dinner table.

Good thing she likes me.

Your turn: What's the most inappropriate time you've ever taken a picture? Or witnessed someone take a picture?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Thematic Photographic 102 - Geometric

Behind Door #2...
Toronto, ON, August 2008

I've chosen a relatively simple theme this week because, frankly, I've got a lot on the go and I just can't handle any more complexity than I've already got. As we segue into summer here - or winter on the other side of the planet - we've all got enough to think about, so this week's Thematic Photographic theme gets us back to base principles for a bit.

"Geometric" is all about shapes. Whatever shapes you've got, I'm hoping you'll share 'em over the next week. As you can see from my kickoff photo, I'm feeling somewhat square tonight. Bowling does that to me, I guess. Tomorrow may yet bring something rounder...I'm still mulling that one over. What shapes do you want to explore?

Your turn: Post a geometric-themed pic to your blog. It could be a new pic, or one you've had hanging around for a while. Post a link to it in a comment here, then feel free to visit other participants. Much learning, sharing and happiness will ensue. For more background on how this crazy little weekly photo obsession of mine works, please click here. Can't wait to see what y'all come up with.

Me, the BlackBerry Tablet, and the CBC

Most days, I'm an unassuming husband, dad and data geek, commuting by bike to my office across town. It's a pretty cool existence, and for most folks, it would normally be enough.

But "enough" isn't always enough for me. Sometimes, I get calls or e-mails from producers, editors and reporters in faraway places. And suddenly my unassuming existence becomes a little less unassuming for a bit.

I had one of those moments on Tuesday evening. A reporter for the Wall Street Journal - Stewart Weinberg, who I've spoken to often in recent months - had published a piece on Research In Motion's plans for future BlackBerry devices and, most notably, a tablet-like machine to counter Apple's iPad. The CBC, Canada's public broadcaster, wanted to know if I wanted to chat about it on TV.

Before long, I was cruising through my neighborhood, on the way to the studio on the local university campus. I carried my bike into the studio, stashed it in a darkened corner just out of sight of the camera, changed into my presentable-television clothes, and sat down in the chair.

I spoke with Dianne Buckner and Kevin O'Leary, and the interview aired on The Lang & O'Leary Exchange. If you'd like to see it, click here for the June 15th show, then slide forward to about the 47-minute mark.

When I was done, I got back on the bike and cruised back to the house - and back to my normally unassuming suburban life. Some days, I really do have to pinch myself.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Pardon me, Karla Homolka

I've got some pretty black-and-white perspectives on justice, namely the fact that it simply doesn't exist in more cases than we could ever want to admit. Take Karla Homolka, who along with then-husband Paul Bernardo kidnapped, raped, tortured and murdered schoolgirls Leslie Mahaffey and Kristen French in 1991 and 1992, respectively. The two also raped and murdered Homolka's teenaged sister, Tammy, in 1990.

What makes an unimaginably bad situation worse is the fact that Karla Homolka cut a sweetheart deal with authorities in exchange for testifying against Bernardo. She plea bargained to a manslaughter charge and was sentenced to 12 years in prison. Later, the discovery of a videotape of the crimes made it abundantly clear that she was far more than a passive participant, and she was hardly cowering under the thumb of monster.

She was released from prison in 2005 and has since skipped from community to community, moving when local residents find out this cretin is in their midst. She was back in the headlines this week when it became apparent that she could be on the verge of being pardoned for her crimes. National outrage quickly prompted the federal government to announce it would be introducing legislation to make it much more difficult to seek pardons.

Which is my long-winded way of wondering how freakishly inhuman souls like Homolka can ever be truly pardoned, and why we even grant them this right. It's the major-crimes equivalent of saying sorry and letting bygones be bygones. It doesn't work that way in my book, and I do hope there's a greater sense of justice for folks like Homolka in some future world. Because this world seems to make it all too easy for them to get away with murder.

Your turn: If the justice system is anything but just, what comfort can society offer the French and Mahaffey families, and others like them? Why do victims seem to get such short shrift so frustratingly often?

Same corner, at night

New York, NY, November 2009
About this photo: We continue to explore the "night light" theme. If you'd like to do the same, click here for more Thematic Photographic goodness.
There's something to be said for returning to scenes you've shot before and reshooting them under different circumstances. Night-vs-day contrasts are among the simplest, and given my general inability to sleep well when I'm away from home, seemed to work out pretty well on this particular trip to the Big Apple.

While this photo doesn't quite mimic the composition of the day shot (click here for that one), it overlaps just enough that between the two of them, I'm taken back to the same place high above a New York street corner to a time when perspective was precisely what I was looking for.

Your turn: This picture was taken 19 minutes after midnight. Where were all these people going?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Welcome, travellers

Lit-up trusses
London, ON, March 2009

A few years back, the powers-that-be in the burg we now call home decided our 70s-era leaking box of an excuse for a train station just didn't cut it anymore. So they scheduled an implosion and an accompanying block party to herald another major upgrade to the downtown landscape.

The new station (link, another link) turned out to be a perfectly scaled delight, a pleasant and efficient gateway to the city, and a far more comfortable place to transit than, say, an airport. To this day, every time I pass through it, I try to ensure I have a camera because I want to remember what it feels like to be here.

On this trip through, I was on my way home after a long, productive day in Toronto. After a quiet two hours rolling through the southern Ontario countryside, I strolled into the station and looked up. Although I knew this place so well, the ceiling seemed different this time. Indeed, some thoughtful soul saw fit to turn basic reflected lighting into a subtle show of color.


Your turn: Why the small surprises seem to matter most. Please discuss.

Walking alone on a dark New York street

5-storey walkup
New York, NY
November 2009

The scene: It's a late night in early November. I'm at my cousin's wedding in New York City. It's been six weeks since my father passed away, and we've brought my mother here, our first family event since losing him. On the one hand, it's a happy occasion we all very much need. On the other hand, my wife and I find ourselves being there for my mother and others when the tears begin to flow.

After a while, I find the experience a bit exhausting, so I step outside for a quick walk around the corner. I bring my camera because you just never know.

And sure enough, I find a sliver of refuge in my lens, a piece of near-forgotten vertical architecture that could never exist where I come from. I crouch down on the sidewalk - well, as much as I can crouch in my suit - and try to compose the low-light shot. The sickly yellow street light seems to add a mournful dimension not only to the scene above, but to my mood. Still, I take some comfort that I've found a quiet moment out here, and know it's only a matter of time before I'll have to face life once more.

Sure enough, my BlackBerry vibrates mere seconds later with a text message from my wife wondering where I've gone. I turn around and head back in, hoping the next tears we see are joyful ones.

Your turn: Who lives here?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The lights blaze for no one

After everyone goes home
Toronto, ON, December 2009
Quick note: This photo supports our latest Thematic Photographic theme, "Night light". If you'd like to take part - and everyone's welcome to do just that - please follow your mouse here.
Walk through any downtown area in any city at night and you'll be greeted by office buildings ablaze with light despite the fact that no one's home. The eco-geek in me finds this kind of ignorance a little hard to swallow.

The power to keep those lights on has to come from somewhere - usually long-dead dinosaurs - and it bothers me that we're so nonchalant about sucking non-renewable resources out of the planet and then burning them so that we can light up empty spaces. To fritter away such potential for essentially no purpose is, frankly, more than a little galling.

This doesn't stop me from shooting the results, of course. Just because a topic is somewhat disturbing or upsetting doesn't mean it isn't worth recording.

Your turn: The one thing we can do to become a little greener is...?

Friday, June 11, 2010

Painted community

Expressive wall
Toronto, ON, December 2009
About this photo: Thematic Photographic explores the "night light" theme all week long. If it pierces the dark, please click here and share your own photo.
As I first laid eyes on this delightful example of urban art, all I could think of was how neat it would be if more building owners turned over at least one exterior wall to a bunch of local artists. I know that pretty pictures on brick walls don't amount to much in the overall scheme of things. But sometimes it's the small things that make more of a difference in our lives than we may ever know.

Your turn: How does something like this improve our collective quality of life?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Thematic Photographic 101 - Night Light

A fascinating read
Toronto, ON, December 2009

Light takes on a whole new set of qualities at night. While most folks simply turn on their electronic flashes and go to town, I prefer the natural look. I like to lurk in the shadows and shoot quietly. I realize that makes me sound like a bit of a stalker. So be it.

There's a neat quality to artificial light that spills oasis-like into the night. It reminds me of the Boulevard of Broken Dreams, and keeps me heading out after dark time and again. Over the coming week, I hope it inspires you, too. Our new Thematic Photographic theme is a simple one: Shoot lit-up scenes at night. That's it...the rest is up to you.

Your turn: Please share a night light-themed photo on your blog, then paste the link to the entry in a comment here. Then, as the shampoo bottle says, repeat. Thematic Photographic instructions, such as they are, may be found here.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Clouds at sunset

Textured sky
Delray Beach, December 2009
Please note: This photo completes our "Into the Clouds" theme (head here for more.) Thematic Photographic kicks off a new theme tomorrow (Thursday) - so feel free to come back after 7:00 p.m. (Eastern) to see what it is. Eventually, I suspect I'll get the launch date back to Wednesday. In the meantime, thanks for your patience.
There's a certain sense of peace associated with the precious few moments when the sun slips below the horizon and settles in for the night. There's often a softness to the light, a feeling of resonant quiet associated with simply standing there and watching it happen. It never ceases to make me feel small, to make me toss out all the nagging idiocies that bug me during the day and replace them all with something decidedly simpler.

Every time I find myself immersed in moments like this, I silently remind myself that I don't need to wait for a perfect sunset to feel this way. Come to think of it, neither does any of us.

Your turn: Now that we've been sticking our heads into the clouds for the better part of the past week, I'd like to ask you why clouds seem to attract our attention as much as they do.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

They found water on the moon

Delray Beach, FL, December 2009
Photo by Zach Levy

I never know what'll end up on the memory card when I hand my camera off to one of our kids. They each have such a unique view of the world that it's always an eye-opening experience to peer over their shoulders.

In this case, the house was delightfully full of family, and our eldest son, Zach, wanted to record the event in his own inimitable way. As you can see from this shot, he managed to bring home the most delightfully abstract scene of the night.

I could learn from him.

Your turn: This shot reminds you of...?

About this photo: I imagine there's a whole cloudy ecosystem going on in that droplet - go ahead, click the photo to enlarge it. You'll see stuff. Neat stuff. Leave it to my munchkin to find a new way to look at water. If you've got a bizarro cloudy shot to share, just click here.

Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.

London, ON, September 2009
About this photo: Thematic Photographic has been in the clouds all week long. Let's stretch our imaginations for a moment as we contemplate the cloudiness of tea as it begins to steep. I know I'm pushing the definition a bit, but I've never been all that conventional, anyway. If you're into the cloudy thing, too, click here.
I've got a thing for the rituals of tea. Let's set aside the act of drinking it, if only for a moment, and instead focus on how it is prepared. Unlike most things we drink, tea kind of forces you to take a bit of a time out. The world can wait while you let the bag steep, then hold the mug gently in your hand as you allow the warmth to spread through your fingers. Even if you never drink the result, you've already managed to squeeze some quiet joy from the moment.

I guess I'm destined for perpetual life in the slow lane as I watch my tea slowly convect itself. So be it.

Your turn: Tea or coffee or other? Why?

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Where the sea meets the sky

Deerfield Beach, FL, December 2009

When I first took this picture, I thought it was like any of the hundreds I've taken over the past few years, a quiet perspective of a place I've come to love. This was also my father's favorite beach, a place he spent countless afternoons sitting around with my mom and his friends, solving the world's problems under a time-worn Montreal Expos hat.

So as I stood beside the surf in the fading late afternoon light, I felt a certain sense of peace that I was here, and it felt right to try to remember what it felt like with a simple photo.

Now that BP has filled the Gulf of Mexico with countless millions of barrels of blown out crude oil, I see this picture, and this moment, in a very different light. It's only a matter of time before the Loop Current brings the sad trail of oily destruction around the Florida Keys and into the Atlantic Ocean. This beach and so many others now find themselves under threat from a disaster not of their own making.

I've been tweeting semi-sarcastic messages in recent days, all in an effort to stoke conversation and thought. I've deliberately stoked anti-BP sentiment because, as the central actor in this unmitigated disaster, the company makes such a convenient target. Its bumbling leadership makes it even easier to target the villain.

But I'll leave you with this: Why does BP need to drill for oil in the first place? Are we not partially to blame for pumping up demand for oil - think, carefully, of how petroleum-based products underscore virtually every waking moment of every day for essentially all of us - and is BP only responding to market demand?

I'm not proposing an answer or a position here. I simply want us to think about it before we weigh in.

My father, sitting in his customary spot in the middle of his klatsch of friends, would doubtless have found this enough to stoke a vigorous, all-day discussion.

Your turn: So, is BP the only villain here? Or are we also to blame? Do tell.

One more thing: This photo includes clouds. Because we're doing this. All week. You can, too.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

The view from the open road

See the forest for the clouds
Oshawa, ON, October 2009

Highway 401, which runs for over 800 km from the Quebec-Ontario border in the east to the Michigan-Ontario border to the west, is the busiest such road in North America. Since we moved to London, it's played a huge role in our lives as we've driven it countless times to visit family back home.

As with everything in life, some of these drives are planned and happy occasions. But with aging parents, a ringing phone sometimes prompts a drop-everything-and-drive-now moment. And when it does, I strangely find myself reaching for my camera. Keeping it close by during moments like these brings me comfort.

I shot this picture from the passenger seat of the car as my wife drove westbound near Oshawa, just east of Toronto. We were on our way home from our first Montreal trip since my father had died. My mother-in-law was still in the hospital, and we were still numbed from a life's inflection point that continues to shape us. I quietly fiddled with the controls, idly figuring out how I could freeze the world outside as we cruised through it at 120 km/h*.

This particular scene stuck out, because it managed to combine the dark and the light, the ominous shadows of silhouetted trees and thick clouds with the brilliant hope of sunlight breaking through. It was just the kind of dichotomy - in two dimensions - that I found myself wrestling with every time I closed my eyes and thought about what we had lost. Somehow, I needed to focus not on the dark clouds, but on the light trying to burst through

Your turn: What is it about being on the road that prompts deep, personal reflection?

One more thing: This photo supports our latest Thematic Photographic theme, Into the Clouds. Please click here if you'd like to participate. All are always welcome.

* For more out-the-moving-car images, click here, here and here.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Sliver of hope

Find the blue
London, ON, April 2009

It's perfectly acceptable to have the kind of day that makes you wonder why the world often seems to be less than fair. No one would begrudge you going to bed early, then staying under the covers the next morning in a pyjama-clad, belated attempt to keep things from getting worse.

But when the clouds are swirling in every direction and it seems like everything is on the verge of going to hell in a handbasket, don't miss an opportunity to go outside, anyway, and look the chaos right in the eye. Because as this picture taught me, hope often presents itself in the most unexpectedly subtle ways. We just have to take the time to look.

Your turn: Please share your own cloudy vision by clicking here.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Thematic Photographic 100 - Into the Clouds

Water and light
Richmond Hill, ON, November 2009

Hard to believe this is the 100th Thematic Photographic theme. It all started* two years ago tomorrow as a simple way of trying to give my four readers an opportunity to expand their optical horizons, a humble means of spreading the photographic joy. As so often happens in my world, it evolved beyond the original vision, and in the process it took on a bit of a life of its own.

It's been a joy for me, and I hope it's been a joy for you, too. More importantly, I hope it'll continue to be a joy for us all. If you're game, I'll keep coming up with themes. And if you're game, I hope you'll keep coming up with the kind of photographic inspiration that keeps me continually reaching for my camera. This theme thing cuts both ways, after all, and it's because of everyone who participates in this silly little weekly diversion that Thematic Photographic has become something I look forward to shepherding no matter how chaotic the planet professes to be.

Your turn: If you know the rules, you know what to do. If you don't, click here. At the end of the day, it's simple: Shoot, then post, then share a link here. And have fun. Because that's why we're all here in the first place, right?

*, if you're interested in a bit of history.

Oops, almost forgot: The theme...Into the Clouds. Thanks to Johnina Young for suggesting it. If you've got a theme you'd like us to tackle, I'm all ears.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Henrietta gets wet

Glass, steel and water
London, ON, March 2010

I had every intention of launching our new Thematic Photographic theme tonight at 7. But a cantankerous battery in my wife's van had other plans. The Noah's Ark-class rain that's been rolling through the region all day didn't help, either. I probably could have orchestrated all this from the rain-soaked parking lot - as I watched the gentleman from CAA (auto club) give us a boost - by pulling out my BlackBerry and letting my thumbs do the blogging. But I didn't think the good folks at Telus would much appreciate me returning a smartphone that had been slow-drenched because its owner Just Had To Blog.

So you get Henrietta instead. Henrietta is my car. She looks like a '49 Suburban but is actually a Chevy HHR (long here for more.) The reason that I've chosen to share this picture with you tonight - aside from the fact that I simply ran out of time to build a truly thoughtful Thematic launch entry, so that'll wait till 7 p.m. tomorrow/Thursday - is that on this dark and damp day, Henrietta allowed me find my wife and kids in that parking lot and bring them safely home.

I'll always feel just a little bit uncomfortable taking the car instead of, say, spinning along on my bike, but when a car lets me be there for my family, it's a good thing indeed.

Strange how a car can remind me of the things that matter most.

Your turn: Being there for your family. What does that look like to you?

Reflecting on a forgettable year

Glassy surf
Delray Beach, FL, December 31, 2009

I was looking for peace on this cloudy-ish final afternoon of the year when I waded into the surf and pointed my lens back toward shore. The weather, with intermittent cells of dark clouds meandering inland, was questionable enough to keep the beach delightfully free of the kind of crowds that make this sort of reflection impossible.

Anyone who's read me for any length of time knows I have a thing for this place, the spot on the beach where waves go to die. It's a constantly changing, visually and aurally rich spot, a place for folks looking for something come to contemplate what it all means.

As always, though, I didn't seem to find the answers I sought. Standing at the edge of the planet, after all, is no guarantee of an epiphany. But with some creative use of manual exposure - hint: underexpose to avoid blowing highlights on transitionally reflected surfaces like this - I at least came home with a way to remember a quiet moment when, after months of seemingly floating through life, I found a way to haltingly begin enjoying it again.

We'll leave the near-dousing of the camera in salt water story for another day.

Your turn: Where do you go to reflect?

One more thing: This photo wraps up our extended exploration of glassy (click here to submit your own. Thematic Photographic launches a new theme (our 100th!) tonight at 7 p.m. What will it be? Pop back in after 7...and feel free to leave a suggestion here, too. I'm always on the lookout for things you'd like to explore.