Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Remembering a life
Montreal, QC, July 2009

A little over a year ago, I came to this cemetery with my father to visit the graves of our extended family*. I had been wanting to make this trip with him for years, but for various reasons, most of them having to do with his failing health, it had never worked out until then.

We lost him barely six weeks after this photo was taken, so in retrospect I'm glad we had this day. It's one of the things I hold on to when I find myself drifting in the nebulous vastness of losing a parent. I simply focus on specific days, events or memories and, for a few minutes at least, I feel a small sense of comfort.

Someday I suppose I'll return to this place. And when I do, I'll have to remember where everyone is, and I'll have to retrace our steps alone. And I'll replay this day in my head as if it was yesterday. And I'll wish I could actually go back and be here with him, if only for a moment.

This life thing isn't always easy.

* Previous entries here, here and here.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Flower in the surf

Chasing birds
Deerfield Beach, FL, December 2008

At once, this photo has both everything and nothing to do with flowers. The nothing is easy: This is a salt water beach. Between pounding surf, mindless surfers and the occasional jellyfish infestation, this isn't the kind of place where a bouquet of anything short of titanium would survive. The everything is also easy, as our daughter's name is Dahlia. And like the flower, she's blooming into one lovely human being.
(Sidebar: She got glasses last week. They make her look like more of a lady than she already is. My wife wrote about it here. End tangent.)
As I've shared previously, it's a joyous thing to watch the munchkins pursue their own art. They're such effusive, creative kids that it's easy to put some tool of creation - whatever that tool may be - into their hands and let them loose. They come by it honestly, thanks to my wife, but they still manage to make the moment their own, and to come back with something totally unique to them.

It was 4:35 p.m. as we wandered through the ankle-deep water, cameras in hand. Late afternoon is an interesting time at the beach, as the lengthening shadows send the sunbathers home, only to be replaced by a smaller crowd of hoodie-wearing folks walking through the surf.

The day was slowly drawing to a close, but our kids were intent on squeezing just a little more joy from the day. Dahlia quietly followed a few seagulls (familiar, I know) and zoomed in from afar to avoid disturbing them. She spoke to them gently, almost willing them to stay nearby, nearly convincing them she wouldn't hurt them. Nearly, because soon after 4:35, the inevitable gaggle of unruly kids (no parents in sight, big surprise) ran through, splashing everyone in sight and frightening the birds away.

No matter. She's the kind of kid who seems able to create peaceful moments, both with a camera and without, wherever she is.

Your turn: Making peace where there is none. Please discuss.

Red rose, not the tea

Two of a kind
London, ON, July 2010
[Please click here for more on Thematic's flower theme]

If flowers have to have a hierarchy of desirability, I'm going to go out on a limb and say roses top the list.

Wouldn't you?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Published - Intel, McAfee and you

Last week, fate tickled me happily with a pretty big journalistic break: My first byline for The Toronto Star. I wrote about it here.

Fate's still working for me, apparently, as the Star published another article of mine - Why Intel's deal for McAfee will shake the laptop landscape - in today's edition. It's the lead article in the Business section, which is pretty neat.

I'm liking this.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Flowers ate my kitchen table

Red petal glory
London, ON, February 2009

[Click photo to enlarge. Click here for Thematic Photographic - Floral]

If you ask my wife, I don't bring flowers home nearly as often as I should. She's right. She deserves more frequent, tangible expressions of how I feel about her. It's never enough to assume your partner just knows: You've got to be obvious about it in obvious ways - like bringing flowers home just because you felt like it - as well as less obvious ones. At once, it's a subtle and none-too-subtle form of non-verbal communication that way too many people seem to misunderstand. Or not understand entirely.

When I do bring flowers home, I try my best to capture them in their pre-tossed-into-the-garbage state. They're perfect for such a brief amount of time that you either commit them to memory immediately or lose their loveliness forever. And since our south-facing kitchen gives us such perfect morning sun, it's common for me to interrupt breakfast for a quick floral-themed (or jam, or...) photo session.

There's method to my madness, as it's difficult for my wife to shut me down when the subject matter is a bouquet I brought home for her. At least that's the way my ham-fisted man's logic sees it.

Your turn: Why are gifts of flowers so important to so many? (Note: this question is targeted at folks of any gender.)

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Color Purple

By the side of the road
London, ON, July 2010
[Click photo to embiggen]

We often think of flowers as delicate things that live behind glass, whose purpose in life is to be purchased and brought home for a special occasion. Yet long before florists with state-of-the-art air conditioned display units dotted the urban landscape, I'm thinking Mother Nature knew a thing or two about painting the landscape with stunning color.

So the next time you find yourself in a desolate corner of the city and come across a riot of color in an otherwise abandoned field, I hope you'll take the time to record it in some way. Because beauty happens where we least expect it.

Your turn: Beauty in a surprising place. Please discuss.

Thematic Photographic 112 - Flowers

Natural sculpture
Thornhill, ON, August 2010
[Click photo to enlarge]

I've been shooting flowers for almost as long as I've been shooting at all. They stay in one place, they don't talk back, and they let you linger for as long as you need to get the shot. I've accumulated enough pictures of these delightfully ornate examples of Mother Nature's artistry that I thought it might be neat to share 'em for a week. Hence, this week's Thematic Photographic theme, flowers (I know, such a surprise.)

Your turn: Thematic Photographic is our weekly photo sharing extravaganza. It's actually quite simple. Just post a flower-themed pic over at your place. Come on back here and leave the link in a comment. Click over to other participants to share the wealth. Rules are here. All Thematic-themed entries are here. Wagering is strongly frowned on, but simple enjoyment is majorly encouraged.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

New hands-free nav alternative?

So this big Ontario hands-free law has been in effect for almost a year, and I still see squillions of distracted drivers yakking away on their handsets when they really should be focusing on keeping their vehicles from turning me into a hood ornament. I'm just that deluded to believe that I'm that important. Yet after a local cyclist was sent to hospital with life threatening injuries this morning after being flattened by a car on a stretch of road I often ride, I'm inclined to feel more than a little anxious that a law that's supposed to protect the rest of us doesn't seem to be working.

Which brings me to this rather facetious photographic moment. I was doing a radio interview from my car. (Long story short, I do radio here because a car makes a wonderful makeshift studio, devoid of barking dogs and pattering feet.) When I got off-air, I absent-mindedly plopped my netbook on top of the dash and snapped this admittedly lame shot with my BlackBerry. At first, I laughed. Then I realized it was anything but funny. For a brief and horrifying moment, I realized there's probably at least one person out there who would actually use a netbook or laptop as an improvised GPS device. Think about it: "But honey, it's got a 10-inch screen!"

There's always one. And that's the problem in a society where we trust others to do the right thing. As soon as one of us fails to uphold our end of the bargain, innocents suffer. This may be a funny-themed photo from my safely parked car, but I fear the moment when my path crosses with someone who just doesn't appreciate the difference.

The injured cyclist's name is Patricia Stacey, and the idiot who hit her has been charged. Thankfully, her condition was upgraded, and I hope you'll join me in praying for her complete recovery. And that her experience snaps the rest of us into rapt attention the next time we turn the key and back our cars - without netbooks on the dash or phones pressed to our ears - out of the driveway.

Your turn: What are you doing to cut the risk of distracted driving?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Happy feet

A spring in his step
London, ON, August 2010

There must be an unwritten rule that dictates that children can get away with a lot more than adults when it comes to what they wear. As an example, I present our son's flip flops. Only the most self-confident adult - especially a guy - would wear something like this in public. Yet for our son, it's a perfect extension of his sunny personality. When he puts them on, he practically skips through the rest of his day. I don't know about you, but it's been a while since I saw an adult do anything remotely skippy-like.

I'm beginning to think these rules need a bit of a rewrite. Maybe we'd all be happier if we wore stuff like this. Maybe we'd skip a bit more.

Your turn: Would you wear these? Do tell!

One more thing: Thematic Photographic continues to explore this week's theme, kids. Head this way to share your own.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Celebrating milestones

That happy glow
London, ON, July 2010
About this photo: It's Thematic Photographic's kids week. Deep down, you know you want to share your own. We'd be tickled if you did. Just click here.
At a certain age, birthdays cease to be occasions of pure joy filled with limitless hope for the future. Someday, the parties will stop - or become less frequent - and the completion of another spin around our solar system's star will be less about being the center of your family's attention and more about wondering how many years you have left.

Yes, I'm pessimistic that way. But on this day, as our youngest son turned 10, none of that mattered. He hasn't reached that transition point yet, and if we have anything to do with it, it'll be many years before he does.

At this particular moment, he sat at the kitchen table, his mother fawning all over him, his brother and sister hovering nearby, waiting for the cake to be cut and shared. The dog wandered around under the table, hoping for a castoff or two. Grandparents were called. Kisses and hugs were shared. Our wish to slow down time for just a little bit once again went unheeded.

It's hard being a parent. There aren't enough moments like this to cushion the worry that every parent holds about the future. So when they do indeed occur, we do everything we can to hold onto them. And to remind our kids that nothing matters more than the family that surrounds you and is there for you whether you're celebrating a happy or a not-so-happy milestone.

I hope he knows he'll always be surrounded, no matter what the day may bring.

Your turn: What is he wishing for? What are you wishing for?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Little man, big sky

Pondering the possibilities
Laval, QC, August 2010

About these photos: Our Thematic Photographic theme this week is kids. You don't need to have little ones of your own to take part. Just follow your mouse here and dive in.
Something funny happens whenever I shoot sunsets: One of our kids inevitably wanders by and becomes part of the story. On this night, our youngest, Noah, joined in. And since I had a second camera handy - actually, it's my wife's, but please don't tell her I scaffed it yet again - it was a bit of a no-brainer to plop it into his hands and let him loose.

Technically, this is a tough time of day for a 10-year-old to learn the ins and outs of photography. The combination of a tiny spot of blinding sun and a much broader swath of fading-light sky makes even experienced photographers shudder. It's a dynamic range nightmare for which I still have no answers.

As I set the camera on auto and gave it to him, I knew the results would be questionable. But that wasn't the point. So as he happily composed and squeezed off each shot, we bantered about how much fun it would be to have this kind of view every night, and how we'd probably never get tired of coming out on the balcony and taking pictures.

Already I can tell he gets it. His pictures ended up quite blurry. But instead of being upset, he thought they looked interesting, the kinds of pictures no one else would take. As I listened to him critique his own work on the tiny camera display, I smiled, outside and in. Here I had been worried about his pursuit of perfection when in fact he cared more about being unique.

The technical perfection thing will come. His hands will become steadier. He'll learn the small tricks of low/lower-light photography. He'll become comfortable toggling out of auto mode and dialing in his own settings. His hit rate will go up.

But for now, he's happy to explore on his own terms. And that's a great place to be. He needs to learn that mistakes are part of the learning process, and instead of deleting them outright, we may want to keep them around to remind us of our journey. And as he continues his own journey into the future, I hope we have countless more sunsets together, and I hope he'll always want to wander onto the balcony for a shoot with his dad.

Your turn: Why is perfection overrated?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Shift this

Self portrait x2
Laval, QC
July 2009
About this photo: Thematic Photographic celebrates all things kid-like this week. If you've got a kid-themed pic kicking around - and you know you do - click here to join in.
Being a dad means different things to different people. Or different things to the same people at different times. However we define the term, there's one aspect of fatherhood that gives me more pleasure than most, namely the opportunity to create memorable moments for our kids.

Since I'm much better at shooting pictures than drawing them - seriously, the stick figure is a stretch for me - the camera's become one of my central tools of being a dad. It's my excuse for getting them to try something new, my let's-pause-and-think-for-a-bit prop, my signal that we can't afford to take life too seriously. So when I pull the Nikon out, they may very well roll their eyes at me, but they still know that we're about to go on a bit of a ride.

On this day, it was Noah's turn to explore the interior of Zayda's car. While his grandfather ran an errand, little man played in the back seat - and I recorded the experience. Like so many of these informal moments in our kids' lives, it wasn't an occasion to get dressed up and pose. It wasn't a marquee event and it didn't merit an invitation and a reply card. It was just a little boy spending the afternoon with his grandfather. And I was lucky enough to be able to record it in some limited way through my lens.

Your turn: An informal moment that's worth remembering. Please discuss.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Where I write about smartphones for a really big & cool newspaper

I've had quite a good day in a journalistic sense. My first article was published by The Toronto Star. The piece is entitled Can staid BlackBerry survive the smartphone wars? and in it, I explore the prospects for the device and the company that makes it, Research In Motion. Mobile users can find it here.

I'm more than a little jazzed by this, as it represents another step along a path I've been following for years. I will share additional happies from my tech journalistic quest in the weeks and months to come.

For now, if anyone lives in the Toronto area and has access to a paper copy of the paper, can I ask that you hold onto it and possibly take a photo of or scan the article for me? It'll be published in papyrus-based form tomorrow (Saturday, the 21st).

Your turn: So what else should I write about? I'm all ears if you've got suggestions.

Thematic Photographic 111 - Kids

Up, up and away
London, ON, July 2010
Please note: This photo launches our new Thematic Photographic theme, kids. For the coming week, we hope you'll share pictures of kids, pictures about kids, or pictures that make us think of life before kids. Whatever you wish, as long as you have fun with it. Read on for more.
When a hot air balloon flies so low that you swear you could touch its basket and count the number of rings on the fingers of its passengers, you know it's an experience your kids will remember. So when I heard the telltale sound of the propane burners coming from behind the tree line, I reached for the camera and told the munchkins to stop whatever they were doing and look up.

We were visiting friends on the kind of perfect summer evening that easily becomes a lifetime memory for a child. As the adults sat and chatted in the back yard, we easily heard our combined broods playing. Everything was right with the world as the air filled with happy, co-operative voices, punctuated by the occasional back-and-forth of a couple of exuberantly sweet dogs.

The balloon dropping to near-treetop level was the exclamation point on an already ideal moment. The kids screamed and waved. The passengers waved back. The pilot kept the balloon in sight for as long as he could safely do so before he hit the burners and returned to higher altitude.

We'll likely never know who these folks are, but for a brief moment in time, they connected with our kids and gave them something neat to hold on to. On this day as on so many others, it was quite the privilege to stand back and watch it all play out.

Your turn: Please share a kid-themed photo on your blog, then leave a link to it in a comment here. Visit other participants to spread the photographic happiness. For more info on how Thematic Photographic, our weekly photo sharing feature, works, please click here. And if you'd like to share a moment from YOUR summer (this one or any other) that's worth remembering, wed love that, too.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Facebook Places = pleaserobme.com

It's been a geeky day, so please forgive me in advance for this mini-rant. But I can't not say something about Facebook's new Places service. Blame my analyst's DNA.

Facebook Places works more or less like Foursquare and Gowalla, and it essentially involves mobile phone-wielding users "checking in" whenever they're out and about. The operative goal is to use online location-based tools as a means of connecting in real life. The revenue-based goal is to allow advertisers to narrowly target folks most likely to bite.

I get the zeitgeist of location based services (LBS) and I completely understand how Facebook needs to find new ways to convert users (500 million and still growing fast) and traffic into hard dollars. But call me cynical: I don't believe a company that's had so much difficulty internalizing the basic concepts of end-user privacy and confidentiality can suddenly be fully trusted to do the right thing as it ups the ante to LBS. We're handing over even more sensitive information than ever, and I just don't feel warm fuzzies over Facebook's ability to keep things fair and balanced for all.

The other basic issue related to LBS - that folks who know I'm taking out a book from the library Right Now will correctly deduce that my house is empty and thus rather vulnerable to burglary - is something we can dig into more thoroughly another day. For now, I'll assume you're not terribly interested in the minutae of my day-to-day, routine travels. So if you bump into me at the grocery, it'll be because of pure happenstance.

Your turn: Do you do Foursquare or any other LBS-type services? What say you?

Intel buys McAfee. Tech world agog.

Okay, so the tech world will continue to spin following Intel's $7.7 billion cash (!) deal to buy security vendor McAfee. But it is a neat inflection point all the same.

I call it the beginning of the Security-on-Silicon era, and despite the fact that the average Best Buy customer usually doesn't give deals like this a second thought, this is one event that, more than any other this year, will have a tremendous influence on the technology we all use in the years to come.

My $0.02. What's yours?

Abstract Blue

Into the clear blue
Delray Beach, FL, December 2008

This is another one of those looks-different-in-pictures-than-it-does-in-real-life moments. The technique is simple: Find a swimming pool. Wait for night to fall. Get folks to go swimming. Lift camera up above the water's surface. Point down. Ensure direct flash is engaged. Focus. Shoot.

Repeat as often as you wish until you get something that your eye likes.

Your turn: It's a hot summer day. What are you going to do to remember it?

Note: For more blue-themed goodness, please head here. New Thematic may or may not be posted tonight. Lots on the go these days...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Headed to sea

Wind power
Deerfield Beach, FL, December 2008

There are days when all we want to do is hop on a sailboat and let the wind carry us wherever it wishes. Standing on the shore watching complete, near-invisible strangers do just that, I felt a slight twinge of green.

Maybe today's the day.

Your turn: Where do you want to go today?

About this photo: See here for more Thematic blueness.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Hardly ordinary at all

A Chrysler to remember
London, ON, August 2009
[Click photo to enlarge. Click here for more on this week's Thematic Photographic theme, blue]

I get a lot of grief, often from complete strangers, for dragging my camera bag around town with me. It takes up too much space. It's bad for my back. I look silly. Everyone's got an opinion, apparently, and no one seems terribly shy about expressing it.

Yet I still carry it because you just never know when an idea will spark out of nowhere. Photography to me isn't something that comes out of a dusty box only on birthdays and other special occasions. It's the story of my life, my family's life, my community's life, and the unpredictable and ever-changing world around us. I can hardly capture any of that unpredictability if my camera's sitting in the closet while I'm out and about.

So on this day, I risked ligament damage in my lower back on an otherwise routine trip to the local supermarket with our youngest son. After we got out of the car, I noticed this pristine blue Chrysler Crossfire - the prettiest marketing failure you'll ever see - parked nearby and thought it might be fun to collect some bits of data on the memory card.

As I set up for the shot, my son and I spoke about why we were shooting something that seemed so ordinary, and why we took the time to remember the little things. He looked through the viewfinder and agreed it didn't look so ordinary when we saw it this way.

He'll do just fine.

Your turn: An ordinary scene worth remembering. Please discuss.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

It all depends on your perspective

Taking the time to appreciate the subtleties of language can make the difference between an ordinary moment and an extraordinary one. It may seem overly trivial to dissect the weather report and debate the differences between "sunny with cloudy periods" and "cloudy with sunny periods." But when you get right down to it, someone somewhere probably chose these words rather carefully, and did so for a rather good reason. So it makes absolute sense for us to slow down and let the words do their thing.

Of course, most of us on the consumption end of things don't bother. We rush through the reading process, barely slowing down to read between the lines. Even if we manage to satisfy ourselves that we gleaned enough data to know what's going on - unlikely, but work with me here - we still miss the color and the flavor. We wolfed down the ice cream, so to speak. And in doing so we sort of tasted the vanilla as we gave ourselves an ice cream headache. But we didn't savor the moment.

So as I look at this sky and remember what it felt like to stand on the ground and what it felt like to be remarkably small and humble as I figured out how to shoot this beautifully memorable chunk of meteorology, I'm glad I enjoyed the proverbial ice cream.

Your turn: So which one is it? Sunny with clouds or cloudy with sun? Why does any of this matter?

One more thing: Blue sky...get it? Thematic's blue week continues. Scroll back to Thursday's entry to participate.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The blue fingers of happiness

There are many moments in a parent's life when you wonder if it's all worth it. The bottomless pit of expenses. The endless sleepless nights. The constant worrying about their todays and tomorrows. The fear that you aren't doing enough for them or setting enough aside for the inevitable long-term therapy.

Despite the clouds that often seem to hang over our day-to-day lives, I'm perpetually amazed by our children's ability to force the sun to shine on us all. It can be as simple as a smile, a hug or an encouraging word, most often delivered spontaneously, just because. However they choose to share the moment with us, it's rarely filtered or dampened by the external world. Instead, it's a reflection of them, before life has had a chance to rationalize the spark out of them.

To wit, our youngest son, Noah. He still holds my hand when I drop him off at school or camp, still wants me to read to him at night, still hangs out with me at the kitchen table over grapefruit juice first thing in the morning so he can tell me about the day he has planned. Still talks to the dog as if he understands every word, then holds on gently for what seems like an age as he silently divines his furry best friend's response.

I dig his spirit. He doesn't have to say a word to light up a room. All you need to do is look at him.

Your turn: Please define "human spirit". I suspect the world could use more of it these days, so we may as well start here, right?

About this picture: We're doing the blue thing as part of this week's Thematic Photographic theme. Scroll down to Thursday's entry to join in.

Pause for slight technical adjustment

I generally don't discuss geek housecleaning issues on the blog, but this one's affecting everyone who leaves a comment. So I'm going to make an exception.

The issue is an odd one: Visitors leave comments. The comments subsequently disappear.

I know this because I get an e-mail every time someone leaves a comment. Over the last few days, I've noticed an increase in the number of "I thought I already posted this..." type comments.

Clearly something's wonky. Clearly I need to descend into the depths of Blogger geekitude to figure it out. For now, I'll repost comments from e-mail - not the most elegant solution, but at least your words won't end up in oblivion. Thank you for your patience while I work this through and move toward a permanent solution.

Your turn: If you also use the Google/Blogger platform and have noticed something similar, I'm all ears.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Thematic Photographic 110 - Blue

London, ON, July 2009
[Click photo to embiggen]

I've been enjoying our color-themed Thematic Photographics, and I hope you have been, too. So in the hope that I don't mess up a relatively good thing, I'm going to continue exploring different slices of the optical spectrum for a bit. Let me know what you think.

Blue is particularly appropriate for summer because it's so closely associated with the season. I've gone down the swimming-pool-cliche road before, so for the launch photo I wanted to share something a little different. This isn't the first time I've played with fountains (see here, here and here for other examples) and I suspect it won't be the last, either. I guess I just have a thing for fast-moving water.

Do you?

Your turn: If you've got anything with blue in it, I hope you'll share it on your blog, then leave a comment here telling everyone where to find it. Head here if you're new to the Thematic Photographic thing. Or directly to your camera if you aren't. Have fun!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Time to make the donuts

Delray Beach, FL, December 2009
About this photo: We close out Thematic Photographic's orange-themed week with this moment from a quiet afternoon spent, alone, with my wife at the end of the planet. New theme launches tomorrow (Thursday) at 7 p.m. It isn't too late to share your own here.
Dunkin Donuts doesn't have much of a presence in the Great White North. For reasons that still defy logic, Tim Hortons rules here, and Dunkin remains the place we go to when we head south of the border.

It's a small thing, this. It's only coffee, after all. And considering the fact that coffee is more a caffeine delivery vehicle than a source of perpetual delight - well, to me, anyway - the brand name on the cup really shouldn't matter to me.

But it does. Because it's something my wife looks forward to whenever we're away from home. And if it matters to her, then it matters to me, too.

Your turn: What's the appeal of a place like Dunkin, or Tim's, or Starbucks, or...? Or is it simply masterful marketing that turns us into drone-like caffeine addicts?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Jammed up, redux

Breakfast is (almost) served
London, ON, April 2010
[Click photo to embiggen]

About this photo: We continue to explore the color orange as part of this week's Thematic Photographic theme. The fun starts here.
I'm cheating a bit by using a slightly different perspective from a shoot I already touched on here back in May. I'm like that, I guess: I often end up with more than one keeper from any given shooting session, and if I like what I see, I have a hard time choosing a favorite. So they all become my favorites.

And the photos from this morning have been among my faves since I first captured them. I love breakfast time, the way the house begins to come to life, the way the kitchen smells, the way the light plays on the table. I've never been a morning person - sleeping in would be my preferred thing, if life allowed it - but wandering into our sun-filled kitchen for breakfast is often enough to turn my sleepy frown upside-down.

On this particular morning, a new jar of peach jam almost begged for some backlit photography. So I pulled out the camera and had some fun with it before I tucked in to my toast and juice.

Your turn: Why does breakfast matter?

Monday, August 09, 2010

Fire in the sky

Arva, ON
July 2010
[Click photo to embiggen]

As much as photography can be used to capture the obvious, I've always been more focused on its ability to freeze moments that would otherwise remain invisible.

To wit, this longish exposure during a Canada Day fireworks display (see here for original entry.) Wow moments like this reinforce why I carry my camera with me wherever I go. Because life slips by fast enough, and I don't trust my eyes to remember it all on my behalf.

Your turn: I've often wondered why we seem to be so universally drawn to fireworks. But I can't quite put my finger on it. Can you?

One more thing: Head this way for more Thematic Photographic orange-ish fun.

Size does matter

Tom Hanks, we found your sign
London, ON, July 2010
About this photo: It's orange week all week long. We call it Thematic Photographic. Whatever you choose to call it, we hope you'll give it a shot. The fun starts here.
One of the joys of digital photography lies in your ability to break free of the traditional cost-benefit analysis that used to accompany every exposure on conventional film.

If you've been shooting long enough, you'll remember loading up rolls of 24 or 36 and then doing the math for each shot. Between the cost of film and development, you thought twice about shooting frivolous images that stood a better-than-even chance of not working out. And my dismal success rate shooting light sources like neon bulbs eventually forced me to stop trying altogether. No matter how much I read and practiced, I just couldn't dial in the right exposure for scenes like this.

Digital makes this conundrum delightfully moot. As long as you have enough time, battery and room on your memory card, you can shoot as much as you want and review and adjust as you go along. It gives you significantly more opportunity to build the kind of muscle memory that allows you to subtly navigate these types of challenging scenarios. All of which means I'm now free to take pictures of whatever the heck I want, without worrying about cost.

My wife, on the other hand, may have a somewhat different perspective on this. But that's a story for another time.

Your turn: How has digital photography changed the way you approach the craft?

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Dead chickens don't run

McNuggets, anyone?
London, ON, July 2010
About this photo: I'm seeing orange this week, so I'm hoping you will, too. Click here to share your own orange-themed vision. We call it Thematic Photographic, and we promise it won't hurt a bit.
There's a chicken processing plant in my town. The second-hand reports of what it's like inside aren't pretty: 100,000 chickens a day, and sights and sounds that would turn us all into instant vegetarians and freak out our children for the rest of their lives.

The trucks that carry the chickens into the plant - the last mile, I guess - look like overgrown Lego creations. After months of seeing them from afar, I finally caught up with one as it turned into the security checkpoint. [Pause to consider security for chickens. There, I'm good.] I happened to have my camera on me (what, you're surprised?) so I ducked over to the side opposite the employees eating lunch on a nearby picnic table and started shooting.

Aside from the stench, I was struck by the absolute silence of the thing. No clucking, no movement, nothing. Either the poor birds had been drugged beyond consciousness for their final trip, or they were already dead. Either way, I'm eating far less chicken these days.

Your turn: Is the humble McNugget's dietary reign destined to end someday?

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Thematic Photographic 109 - Orange

Day is (almost) done
London, ON, July 2010

Oops, I'm a bit late posting this week's new Thematic Photographic theme. Better late than never, right?

I've chosen "orange" as our new theme because summer seems to offer up countless examples of this bright color, and now's as good a time as any to share some of the photographic results. Besides, color-based themes are usually pretty easy to jump into: Just find a match, and go.

Your turn: Post an orange-ish photo to your blog or photo sharing site, then paste a link to it in a comment here. Visit other participants to spread the photo goodness. Click here for more info on how TP, our weekly photo sharing extravaganza, works.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Something wicked this way comes

London, ON, July 2010

[Click photo to embiggen]

Depending on my mood when I look at this photo, I sorta see a flying pig. Which makes something dramatic and potentially scary seem a little less so.

Either way, I'll leave it to you to draw your own conclusions re. what you see in this image and what it may mean.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Shadows in the sky

Signs from above
London, ON, July 2010
About this photo: We're winding down Thematic Photographic's week of shadows, and will be launching a new theme Thursday evening. If you'd like to contribute your own shadowed vision, head this way.
This isn't the first time I've pointed my camera skyward and tripped the shutter (see here, here and here for earlier examples) and I'm willing to bet it won't be the last, either. There's just something soul-stirring about losing yourself in what's going on overhead, and it never seems to get old for me.

I've often wondered why this is so, and the closest I can come to an explanation is this: It's a quick, easy form of escape. The world's a complex, busy, noisy place that often seems to be getting more chaotic by the day. For all the potential of humankind, dark souls continue to pollute the waters for the rest of us.

So taking a moment to stare into infinity and marvel in the beauty that's constantly playing out above our heads has become a nice way - for me, anyway - to counterbalance the less-than-inspirational, day-to-day minutae.

Your turn: How do you escape?

Monday, August 02, 2010

Staring out a hotel window

The road below
New York, NY, November 2009
[Click photo to embiggen]
About this photo: We're sharing shadow-themed pictures this week. You can, too, by clicking your mouse here.
I took this picture at 7:22 a.m. from the window of my hotel room. I had been up for hours, staring out at the darkened street corner, wondering why my eyes refused to close despite my overwhelming fatigue from the minivan-full-of-people drive in from Ontario. As the shafts of near-horizontal light began to paint the dull grey streets a brilliantly textured shade of brighter grey, I got my camera out and wondered if asphalt was worth shooting.*

The kids were still asleep - I wish I knew their secret - so there wasn't a whole lot I could do except watch my little slice of the big city slowly return to life. As the light continued to transform the streetscape, I wondered how long it would take before the traffic returned. As it turned out, I didn't have too long to wait, and a few minutes after I shot this, our youngest munchkin rubbed his eyes, got out of a strange bed in a strange bed and wandered over to the window for a hug.

We watched the traffic build for a bit and made plans for the day that would be. Before long, some of those shadows below would probably be our own as we began to explore this place for the first time.

Your turn: Every street has a story. Care to share one for this stretch?

* I'm thinking it was.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Tread carefully

Vertically unchallenged
London, ON, June 2010
About this photo: Thematic Photographic explores shadows this week. If you'd like to explore them, too, we invite you to follow your mouse here. It won't hurt.
Beginnings and endings seem to mean more to the average person than everything that comes in the middle. We remember what we were thinking and feeling when something first appeared or when it left us. We anticipate the impending arrival of whatever it is, worry about the void it'll create just before we lose, then lament its loss after it's gone for good.

Middles, on the other hand? Not so much. Lunchtime, for example, kind of comes and goes, a mid-day break that, if we mark it at all, we usually do so with rushed indifference before getting back to whatever we were doing beforehand.

I'd postulate that lives follow a similar path, often ignored until they're either over or almost over. But that would be maudlin for the middle of a long weekend, so I'll set it aside. For now.

As far as light is concerned, it's far more fun to play with first thing in the morning and last thing in the evening. They call it Golden Hour, that all-too-brief period when the sun's rays hit the planet at extreme angles. After being filtered obliquely through the atmosphere, it's usually rich with all sorts of warm yellows and oranges, all the better to paint the world in soft, memorable tones.

Which is why this staircase, typically not worth a second glance when beaten into a monochromatic flatness by the harsh midday sun, stopped me in my tracks as I walked past it. I couldn't get the shadows out of my head and couldn't stop wondering about the countless unseen people who have climbed and descended these steps.

As I put my camera back in its bag and continued on my quest to fetch little people from faraway and bring them home, I promised myself I'd try to get out around sunset more often.

Your turn: You enjoy evenings like this because...?