Monday, April 30, 2012

Thematic Photographic 194 - Strong Lines

Sweet start to the day
London, ON
April 2012

This week's Thematic theme, strong lines, should give us an opportunity to get back to basics. For the next week, if you take a photo that's dominated by strong lines, I hope you'll consider sharing it.

Why lines? Because they make us stop what we're doing and turn our heads. Because they can define a scene, set a limit and point us in the right direction. Because they aren't wishy washy. They just are, honest and concrete. Which is what I've always felt photography - and the broader storytelling art - should be.

Your turn: Shoot a photo that reflects this week's theme, then post it to your blog or website. Post a link in a comment here to let everyone know where to find it. Visit other participants to share the Thematic joy. Already got something online? That's fair game, too! This is all part of Thematic Photographic, our weekly photo sharing, exploration, non-competitive learning/enjoyment opportunity. If you're new to Thematic, just click here.

About this photo: I keep coming back to jam. Sugary stuff speaks to me, I guess. Click here and here for more.

On life and chaos

“Life is nothing without a little chaos to make it interesting.”
Amelia Atwater-Rhodes, Demon in My View

Brothers and sisters

Faith for the future
London, ON
April 2012

I thought I'd round out this week's faith theme (click here for any last-minute submissions*) with this scene captured after a recent outing to the park. These are our two youngest kids, and they're close enough to each other that this kind of thing isn't unheard of. Sure, they can get on each other's nerves, but more often than not they figure it out together. Little man always knows his big sister will be there for him.

Watching them on this bright spring afternoon, I had faith they'd always have each other's back. As a parent - their parent - nothing pleases me more.

Your turn: The first three words that come to mind when you see this image are...?

* New Thematic theme launches tonight - 7:00 p.m. Eastern. What will it be? I'm open to suggestions.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Doing it by the book

Ancient words
London, ON
February 2012
Click here for more faith-themed Thematic

With all the talk about ebooks - I even wrote about them last week - I still can't imagine a world completely devoid of paper-based literature. I'm no Luddite and I'm patently tuned into the real world, however. I know the market for books is rapidly and inevitably shifting toward bits and not bindings. But somewhere along the margins, there are places where I suspect the electronic form may have a tough time shoving paper aside.

Like here, in the middle of a synagogue, my synagogue. Given the whole can't-use-technology-on-Sabbath thing, I don't thing prayer books (aka siddurs) on iPads will ever be a viable substitute for the well-worn example you see here. I'm guessing the rabbis of tomorrow are in for some serious debates as they argue back and forth about what constitutes "work" and what the big man upstairs would want.

I'm guessing he (she? Am I going to hell now for even mentioning this?) didn't anticipate iPads when these rules were drawn up. But wait, he (she?) is supposedly all-knowing, so maybe I'm wrong. And maybe I'm still going to hell, but at least I like this picture, as it reminds me of quiet reflection in a world that doesn't always give us enough opportunity to do just that.

Your turn: What do we lose when we lose paper?

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Going viral

Quiet few days here at the old blog corral thanks to a monumentally miserable head cold. Or is it the flu? Does it even matter? So for now, I'll be hanging out in the corner doing my best Barry White impression. Back to the tea...


“Don't you think it's better to be extremely happy for a short while, even if you lose it, than to be just okay for your whole life?"
Audrey Niffenegger, The Time Traveler's Wife
Yup, I do. You?

Friday, April 27, 2012

Holding the weight of the world

Union Station
Toronto, ON
December 2009
Click here to join this week's Thematic
For some reason, this particular picture, taken at the very front of Toronto's main railway station, reminds me of a temple. Maybe it's the columns, or the reverent, high-ceilinged attitude of the entire building. Whatever it is, you don't just walk through this place. You seem to experience it.

Whenever I'm here, I always try to slow down a bit to absorb even a small piece of it. I'm sure I get stares from folks rushing to make a train or a meeting, but I'm guessing if they had a bit more time they'd be staring up and around, too. Because eventually you run out of trains to catch and meetings to attend, and you're left wondering what you missed as you rushed from one to another.

Your turn: Do you have a building in your neck of the woods that makes you stop and think?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

On the perils of silence

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
Martin Luther King Jr.

Bridge over troubled water

Please don't fall
London, ON
April 2009
About this photo: It's Thematic's faith week. Click here to share yours.

My wife hates this bridge, cringes every time we drive over it, holds the door handles tightly in fear of a 137-year-old structure that she worries can't keep a modern car filled with stuff - and us - from ending up in the murky river below.

I can't say I blame her, as on the surface it doesn't look like much. But still I take this route whenever I can. Because the experience of driving over the concrete deck "structure" just a couple of blocks north is hardly an experience at all. As long as this lovingly maintained span is with us, we'll be connected to history in some tenuous manner. The day the Blackfriars Bridge is replaced - a day I hope is a long time coming - is the day we lose that connection.

If the price for crossing it is a few butterflies in my stomach, that's a small price worth paying as long as we've got this remarkable piece of engineering history in our midst.

Your turn: A piece of history that touches you is...?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

On faith, a brick, and your head

"Sometimes life is going to hit you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith."
Steve Jobs

Lunatic fringe

Four corners
London, ON
February 2012
Please click here for more faith-themed fun.

If you've ever hung around a synagogue, you might have noticed that folks wear prayer shawls during services. They're called tallit, and as you can see they have these neat-looking fringes - also known as tzitzit - hanging off of them.

I'm probably the most heathen Jew on the planet, yet I rather enjoy the physical trappings of the religion. They go so far back, and have been witness to so much of our history, that it's difficult for me to look at them and not appreciate their significance. That and they don't talk back or try to run away when you attempt to take their picture.

Your turn: Got any other garments or clothing that mean something to you?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

On choosing limitlessly

"If you limit your choices only to what seems possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want, and all that is left is a compromise."
Robert Fritz

Monday, April 23, 2012

Thematic Photographic 193 - Faith

Get me to the church on time
London, ON
February 2012

I've chosen faith as this week's Thematic theme not because I'm some kind of religious zealot - I'm not - but because I suspect the world would be a somewhat better place if we all believed in something. Whatever that something is is virtually beside the point. What ultimately matters, as far as I'm concerned, is that we take the time to look beyond ourselves, to aspire to something greater than whatever it is that currently surrounds us, to build community, to repair the world.

So as you mull over how to interpret faith, feel free to take it in any direction you wish. Because the fact that we can believe in anything is a wonderfully human gift. And celebrating our differences is a similarly wonderful privilege.

Your turn: Share a faith-themed photo on your blog, then leave a comment here letting folks know where to find it. You can also share stuff that you may already have posted previously. Repeat as often as you wish, and feel free to pull in a friend. If you're new to Thematic Photographic, click here and all will be explained. Thanks!

To future discoveries

End of an era
Kennedy Space Center, FL
April 2012
Photo Credit: Ben Cooper, collectSpace

I rarely share photos I haven't taken, but I'll make an exception this time out. Of all the pictures that have crossed my screen in recent weeks, few tell a story as powerfully as this one. Ben Cooper shot it as the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft N905NA carried Discovery (OV-103) away from KSC for the final time, and as America's most travelled shuttle orbiter took climbed out on its last-ever flight, this photo more than any other captured the sense of emptiness over what comes next for human space flight in the U.S.

I'm looking forward to seeing Discovery when we visit her at the Smithsonian. More than that, I'm looking forward to seeing the next chapter in exploration, and lament the fact that there's going to be a period of quiet before that chapter begins.

Your turn: What first three words come to mind as you see this shot?

Please note: This photo wraps up our Thematic theme, silhouette. Last-minute submissions still being accepted here. Pop by at 7 o'clock tonight when we launch our next theme, faith.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

RIM's future. My present.

I had another neat TV moment this weekend: I chatted with CTV Kitchener's Federico Cahis earlier today about what could come next for Research In Motion now that the BlackBerry maker has hired a law firm to examine its options.

My $0.02: The fact that they brought in a law firm and not a bank makes me think they're leaning more toward restructuring than a sellout. Which, if you've been hoping the home team pulls out a big win, represents a rare piece of good news. No guarantees, of course, as the firm, Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy, recently shepherded a major health care client through a $4.4 billion merger, but generally speaking, you bring in the bankers when you've completely exhausted every other option. This suggests there are still a few options left to explore.

Video is here.
Story here.

There's something very comforting about popping into the studio on a Sunday afternoon for a quick interview. I always leave the building thinking how lucky I am that I get to do this.

Telegraph Road

Distant, yet somehow connected
Somewhere in SW Ontario
March 2009
To share your own silhouette-themed photo, please click here.

We all know what they say about it being all about the journey and not the destination. I suspect they're right. Sure, you get in a train or a plane with the intent of going somewhere. Otherwise, what's the point? But between now and then, here and there, you've got a whole bunch of time that's yours to enjoy.

So will you put on the noise-cancelling headphones and eyeshades and sleep it all away? Or like so many minivan-bound kids today, do you spend it immersed in some movie on your smartphone, tablet, laptop or DVD player?

As much as I value the technologies that make long trips seem that much shorter, part of me still cherishes the very simple act of sitting by the window and watching the world slip by. We see things we wouldn't see closer to home, glimpses of places and lives very different from our own. We feel what it's like to be strangers, however briefly, in distant places.

It's been three years since I sat on a westbound train and thought about what awaited me when I got home, yet I can still feel the warmth of that late winter afternoon every time I stare at this shot. I was far from home, but the lovely scenery flying by my window reminded me how connected I really was.

Your turn: How do you get more from the journey?

On the different degrees of blindness

"The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision."
Helen Keller

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Oh Mr. Sun, Sun, Mr. Golden Sun...

Goodnight sun
London, ON
June 2011
About this photo: Thematic. Silhouette. Here.

Shooting the sun is a tough one, as the big ball of gas can play all sorts of tricks on my poor, astronomy-deprived camera. There are many scenarios where the green-hued auto-everything setting just won't do, and this is one of them.

I was sitting by the side of the field watching our little man play soccer. It was early in the season, and he was getting used to the challenge of running back and forth across a gigantic field, trying to stay ahead of the play. I tried to capture as many pictures as possible because this seemed to be one of those experiences of childhood he'd want to remember later on. But there are only so many soccer-themed pictures that anyone can take, even if storage and battery capacity are virtually unlimited. Before long, they all kinda start to look the same.

So I pointed at the sky and realized the setting sun was putting on a little show of its own. With Earth Day dawning tomorrow, I thought I'd nod toward the thing that makes the planet - and all of us on it - possible. Thanks, Old Sol.

Your turn: What does the sun mean to you?

Sparked by our national broadcaster

CBC Spark is one of those jewels of radio that reminds me why I fell in love with this medium in the first place, and why it remains so vital to me. On the surface, the show focuses on the intersection of technology and culture. More personally, this is close to where my own journalistic sense has always been, so it's no surprise that my iTunes library always has the latest podcast loaded up (subscribe here).

So, disclosure: I'm a huge fan. And lucky me, I got to be on the other end of the mic for their latest episode, #179. I spoke with Nora Young about a fascinating initiative called PeaceConnector, a service that connects strangers in conflict-ridden parts of the world - think an Israeli teenager and a Syrian protestor, for example - in ways that might have been unthinkable before social media rewrote the rules.

The podcast is available on the episode page here. Or, if you're old school, tune into CBC Radio One over the air tomorrow (Sunday) at 1:05 p.m. local time in most time zones across Canada, or 4:05 p.m. on the west coast. My bit starts at about 35:45 in.

More soon. Lots of journalistic fun brewing from my kitchen table these days.

Friday, April 20, 2012

On dreams and reality

"If you want to make your dreams come true, the first thing you have to do is wake up."
J.M. Power

So I guess I'll wake up.

Your turn: What's your dream?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

River at night

Quiet waters run deep
Laval, QC, November 2010

When the planet spins too quickly for me, I like to get away. It's a luxury I can rarely afford, as my schedule these days is often impossibly jammed. But if I can grab a few minutes to yank myself off the grid, I try to find places like this. They remind me to slow down a bit. Maybe soon...

Your turn: How do you slow down? Why?

For more Thematic silhouette, click here.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Never forget

6 million is a number so large that it's unfathomable. I was analyzing timelines earlier this evening, milestones from the Holocaust, numbers of dead transposed over corresponding dates on the calendar. Thousands shot in a field. Tens of thousands gassed in the backs of trucks. Hundreds of thousands marched through gas chambers, then burned to ash, as if they had never existed. Because they were Jews.

The numbers continue to boggle, as does the inhumanity. The years haven't erased the monstrosity. Nor have they answered our questions. Or the one question that stands above all.


I'm guessing if we knew the answer, we wouldn't have to continually remind ourselves, "Never again." Because if we truly believed it couldn't ever happen again, we wouldn't feel the need to be as vigilant as we are, wouldn't feel the need to teach our kids at a too-young age to watch out for those who would single them out because they're different, who would hurt them. Or worse.

Sadly, it has happened since, and it'll happen again. Because we never learn. Because simply saying "never again" is no longer enough. Because the ingredients are all around us, masquerading in forms that may not be wrapped in swastikas and Zyklon B, but whose ultimate aim - removal of others from the face of the earth - is no less insidious. Or real.

Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, starts tonight. Today and every day, I simply can't forget.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Thematic Photographic 192 - Silhouette

London, ON, April 2012

This week's theme, silhouette, celebrates the fact that for the first few years of my photographic existence, I had as much ability to properly expose film as a Syrian dictator can appreciate and leverage democracy. Unlike said dictator, I eventually figured it out. Sort of.

I've come to appreciate the simplicity of a silhouetted shot because it strips things down to their simplest levels - and I'm about as simple as they come. Watching my son at the playground on this late spring afternoon, I realized even a stripped down snippet of the moment can somehow capture the joy of a life that continues to teach me new ways to look at the world.

Funny how parenthood can work sometimes.

Your turn: (First, please accept my apologies for the day-late launch. I was a little distracted. Thanks.) Please share a silhouette-themed pic on your blog, then leave a comment here letting everyone know where it is. Visit other participants and participate as often as you wish. If you're new to Thematic, our weekly photo-sharing activity, click here.

Monday, April 16, 2012

On seeing little things as big things

"Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things."
Robert Brault
I know I should have posted the new Thematic earlier tonight. I know I probably should have done a lot of other scheduled stuff before the sun went down.

But it was a windy day that segued into a windy evening, and after dinner, the kids went outside to fly their kite on the front lawn. We watched them play, Noah flailing the kite until the wind caught and held it above his head, Dahlia in her puppy-themed toque, making sure her little brother didn't wander onto the road.

After dinner, there was a walk to the store to get extra batteries for the tools in my toolbox I'd later need to hang our daughter's mirror. My wife and I turned it into a mini date-night, a rare few minutes alone under a threatening yet stunningly beautiful sky filled with fast moving, darkening clouds.

Back home, we carefully hung her mirror, my ladies quietly laughing at my ineptitude with power tools.

In the end, the mirror ended up right where it needed to be in the middle of her wall. A tired little man drifted off to sleep, followed not long after by his satisfied, much loved dog. It wasn't a big news night, just another evening in the life of our family, another small sliver of time stuffed with another chaotic assortment of activities.

Little things, on the surface. Big things to us.

Your turn: What does a little-big moment look like to you?

On leaving our own trail. And Mondays.

"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

I'm generally not a Monday-hater. Every day is a blessing, after all, and it seems silly to arbitrarily darken one day in seven simply because it marks the beginning of the work week. But I'm also a realist: We're surrounded by people who deliberately paste dark clouds on the day because they'd rather the weekend would never end.

Fair enough, as I like my rest just as much as everyone else. But at some point, you just have to stop brooding and get on with the act of getting on. Because if we don't get back to life on Monday, we'll simply end up tarnishing Tuesday with the same brush.

Better to follow Mr. Emerson's guidance and figure out how and where we intend to leave that spanking new trail. When we've been gifted with another day on this planet, we owe ourselves no less.

Your turn: Where will your trail lead today?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Like a rock

Measure twice, shoot once
London, ON, March 2011
About this photo: We're celebrating single people of all stripes this week. Click here to find the Thematic entry that launched it all. No animals were harmed in the making of this week's theme.
Curling is a big deal in these parts, and we were pretty lucky to have the national championship, known as the Brier (oops, the Tim Hortons Brier, because nothing is immune from corporate sponsorship, but I digress) come to town last year.

We went, of course, because how often do you get to see ginormous rocks thrown with crazy precision down a meticulously maintained ice surface? And how often do you get to see a completely unique sport culture - no refs, honor system, seriously - unfurl right under your nose? It was a total scream to attend, and since then I've been itching to visit one of the numerous rinks that dot the landscape.

I grabbed this shot as one of the players helped his team line up its next shot. I could almost feel his concentration burn a hole in the rock, and the arena was so quiet we could almost hear the rest of his teammates discuss their options.

A nice change from the usual games that dominate the sports real, no?

Your turn: What's your favourite alternative sport? What makes it special?

Saturday, April 14, 2012

On learning a Titanic lesson, 100 years on

"Life is a shipwreck but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats."

Forgive my all-too-obvious indulgence, but this seemed especially timely today. I wonder what other lessons this ship continues to share with us...any guesses?

He flies alone

Destination unknown
Detroit, MI, December 2011
About this photo: Thematic explores single people this week. You're invited to do just that, by following your mouse here.
I don't know where this man was going, but I do know that shooting a low-angle shot on the moving sidewalk that runs between terminals at Detroit Metro Airport may not have been the most practical thing to do.

Then it dawned on me that I was in Detroit and should probably be putting the camera away altogether. But I had already taken the shot, so the damage was done.

Your turn: Where is this gentleman going? Why?

Friday, April 13, 2012

There is no "I" in team

London, ON, November 2011

For some reason I've been a little more pensive than usual this week, and have spent ample amounts of time churning weighty issues like life, the universe, and everything. This week's single person theme (head here for more on that) has made me wonder about whether we're ever truly alone.

And the answer I keep coming back to is, no, we're not. Sure, we can be single. We can spend the bulk of our days focused on individual, disconnected work. We can travel to distant places and be as far away from friends and family as planetary dynamics will allow. But somehow we're still connected. And we're still connected because humans need to be connected.

I woke up early this morning to write. For the past few hours, I've sat here in my darkened home office, surrounded by absolute silence. My usual spigots of external connectivity - Twitter, smartphone, email - have been blessedly dark as the rest of my world gets some well deserved sleep. Thanks to that silence, I was able to go heads-down on a pile of work that needed to get done. And as the sun rose and I put the finishing touches on another article, I looked at it and realized I wasn't the only one here. Sure, I wrote the thing. I came up with the idea, pitched it, researched it, typed it, reread it a bunch of times and shaped it into a hopefully cohesive piece of work.

But I didn't do it on my own. I have a wife who endlessly encourages me to pursue a path that some may call a little ridiculous. I have kids who get that their dad sometimes has to disappear in the middle of dinner. I have friends who chat me up wherever they find me and help me validate that my ideas actually connect with a real-world audience, and editors who let me pitch and write about all sorts of out-there topics.

I've never played football, but I imagine it's a lot like the picture above. This receiver might be completely alone on the field, a split-second away from crossing the line to a cheering crowd. But just out of frame is an entire team that got him to where he is right now. And when he spikes the ball in the end zone, they'll be just a few seconds behind, ready to share in the celebration. He knows they're right behind him. He knows he needs them - on this play and every play to come.

The sky has now turned bright and the house is beginning to stir. I may have been holed up in here for a good chunk of the night, but I was hardly alone. Indeed, I wouldn't be able to achieve any of this if I weren't surrounded, day and night, by those who care enough to support and guide me - whether they're standing in front of me or not.

Your turn: How are you not alone?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

On the true definition of hardship

"When I hear somebody sigh, 'Life is hard,' I am always tempted to ask, 'Compared to what?'"
Sydney Harris

I read someone's status update recently and I had to laugh. This person's music player had stopped working, and we all learned what a great tragedy it was to go for a run without tunes.

I stifled the urge to say something in a comment, because when someone's perspective is skewed such that a busted iPod is enough to spark wails of sadness, there really isn't anything anyone can say that can open this person's eyes.

Five years ago today I learned of a friend's passing at a ridiculously young age. A friend's sister now battles cancer as her family rallies around her. My own extended family has been similarly touched by the shadows of this disease.

If my iPod breaks, I'll either get it fixed or I'll buy another one. Because stuff is always easily replaced. People aren't.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Kids who defy gravity. Next Oprah.

Out of frame
London, ON, April 2011
About this photo: Thematic. Single people. Here. Just because.
It's easy to walk past a skateboard park and be dismissive of those who spend time there. Between the graffiti, the grubby clothes and general slacker-like demeanor, this isn't the wholesome ideal most of us associate with life in the burbs.

But that's the neat thing about assumptions: Percolate them long enough and we might realize how wrong we were in the first place. Which is how I came to appreciate this place and the kids who hang here.

I won't become a skater boy anytime soon, and I'd still rather my kids focus on things like homework than ollies and backflips. But for a few minutes on a Sunday afternoon, I got to see a little more deeply into this fascinating place where experienced hands help newbies, where everyone learns to push themselves just a little bit further through relentless trial and error, where the definition of community seems to take on a new and unexpected form.

Funny what you can learn just by hanging around for a bit.

Your turn: What's he thinking?

Facebook buys Instagram. My $0.02.

So Facebook bought Instagram for $1 billion. In the overall scheme of things, it's not an earth-shattering event. As I write this, the Pacific Rim is under a tsunami alert in the wake of an 8.7 magnitude earthquake off of Sumatra. As the world waits for news and ponders the eerie similarities to the 2004 quake/tsunami, it's hard for me to think a software-driven business deal that allows folks to share pictures from their smartphones ranks anywhere near this.

Closer to home, two motorists died overnight in a violent head-on crash barely 10 minutes from my house. The planet indeed moves in funny, often unfair ways, and we have little control over how the script plays out.

Perspective aside, I wanted to share some of my coverage of the Facebook/Instagram story. Not because it's earth shattering, but because it isn't. Because it's another step along a path that, bit by bit, is rewriting the way we communicate with each other. Which when pondered in the context of a global-scale natural event like an earthquake, maybe isn't so trivial after all.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The free spirit of the sea

Marching to his own drummer
Pompano Beach, FL, December 2011
About this photo: Thematic explores single people this week. Not sure what all of this is about? Click here and all - okay, most - will be explained.
Sometimes you come across someone so different from the norm that you just have to stop whatever you're doing and watch him slide on by. Which is exactly what I did as this rather unique man made his way past me.

He wasn't walking as much as he was dancing, waving his arms in wide, opposing circles as if he was doing the front crawl through the air. He wasn't saying anything, but he seemed happy, free, like he didn't much care whether anyone thought he was nuts.

Which made me smile. Because if you're happy in your own skin and your conduct doesn't hurt anyone else, then more power to you. Maybe we'd all be better off if we followed this guy's lead.

Your turn: How do you cut loose?

Monday, April 09, 2012

Thematic Photographic 191 - Single people

He walks alone
Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, QC
July 2011

This week's theme, single people, should be a simple one to cover. Snap a picture with one person in it. Then share. Easy, no?

On the surface, perhaps. But scratch a little more deeply and there may be more to it than we originally thought. What's this person's story? Why is he/she there? What's going through his/her mind? Why does any of this matter to anyone else?

This particular photo has stuck in my mind since I shot it last summer. I used my longish lens to reach out and snag this gentleman's solitary stroll without his knowing I was even there. He seemed to at peace, yet so preoccupied, all at the same time.

I've taken similar walks by the water, quiet moments to myself where I had all the time I needed to figure out the mysteries of life. As I watched this complete stranger work through whatever it was that filled his own life, I realized we all need moments like this. And when we're lucky enough to have them, we don't necessarily need to share the process with anyone else.

Your turn: Take a picture that supports this week's theme, then share it on your blog or website (or simply point to something you may have already posted.) Leave a comment here letting everyone know where to find it. Repeat through the week, and pop in on other participants to spread the photographic joy. Click here if you're new to Thematic. Otherwise, have at it. And have fun!

A (small) river runs through it

Go with the flow
London, ON, February 2012
About this photo: We're slowly bringing this week's theme, mirror, mirror, to a close - though if you really hoof it, you can get a last-minute entry in here. New theme, single people, launches at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Oy, that's tonight!
There's a ravine near our house, carved out of the landscape by a creek that winds its way in between subdivisions of tony homes perched high above the burbling waters. There's no bike path here, no linear park development, nothing that would bring in large numbers of walkers, bikers, and families with kids in strollers. This is the kind of place that spends most of its life ignored by anyone who doesn't live nearby. Consequently, it's a glorious place to come for a solitary walk among the trees, rocks, and water.

Which I did late on a non-wintry winter's afternoon. The sun was casting long shadows through the trees, and I felt the world slowly recede as I walked deeper down the muddy path, the burbling water echoing in my ears. It seemed to be an ideal place to come to reflect, an ideal place to put the world on hold and give my head a chance to figure it all out. I'm guessing I'll be back here more often, then.

Your turn: Where do you go to think? What sets this place apart?

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Mike Wallace dies. Another Mike comes to mind.

Like so many other professions, journalism builds on the accomplishments of those who have gone before. And journalists learn their craft by watching, listening and learning at the feet of the masters. Mike Wallace, the longtime CBS 60 Minutes contributor who died last night at the age of 93, was one of those masters, and I'd be remiss if I didn't mark his passing here.

My connection with him was tenuous. I never met him, never electronically crossed his path. But a friend of mine did. His name was Mike, as well. He grew up a few blocks away from me, and he was a few years older than I was. As I was working my way through journalism school, he was already scouring the streets of Montreal, covering the city for a major radio station, leveraging the craft and teaching those of us following in his footsteps that this stuff mattered, that passion made all the difference between good coverage and great coverage.

One day, I got a call from Mike telling me he had snagged an interview with Mike Wallace. Mr. Wallace was his hero, too, and to call the interview a coup was more than a little obvious. It was huge. And it set the stage for a career that had more such coups stuffed into nowhere near enough time.

Which was how I found myself in my car a few days later, listening to my friend interview one of the giants of journalism. How he more than held his own, how he managed to turn five minutes of airtime into an unforgettable moment for anyone who tuned in that day, how he refused to accept the limitations that conventional wisdom placed on young reporters whose only philosophy was to swing for the fences no matter what their conservative-minded news directors said. In Mike's world, you went for it. Fallout was something you dealt with after the fact.

Sadly, Mike's life was cut far too short by an illness that cared not a whit about his magic with a microphone, leaving those who knew him to wonder what might have been. Mr. Wallace's passing reminded me of of my lost friend, of why all of this is so much more than mere work, of why the world needs more people like these two Mikes, the one I knew and the one I wish I knew.

Over the next few days I'll likely find myself stepping into a studio at some ridiculously early hour. And as I often do before I clip in and watch the clock count down, I'll think of my late friend Mike, and how he opened the door to pushing ourselves further in this profession than any kid from the suburbs of Montreal ever had a right to.

Your turn: Who have you learned from? What did you learn? Why does it matter?

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Best Buy gets busted

CBC Marketplace is a leading national consumer affairs program that sticks up for the little guy by sticking it to businesses that put their needs ahead of ours.

I was privileged to spend some time with them recently, and they included my less-than-kind comments in their year-end Busted episode*. The deal? Best Buy's Ultimate Protection Plan, which in my view is nothing more than a cheesy way to squeeze more money from the pockets of unsuspecting computer buyers.

My mother always taught me to say nothing if I had nothing nice to say. But sometimes it's worth ignoring that advice.

The link to the show is here. The Best Buy segment starts at around 10:40 in.

Your turn: So...ripoff or not? Have you been ripped off by a retailer?

*The show aired last night on the CBC main television network, and is scheduled to air again tonight, 7 p.m. ET, on CBC News Network.

The yellow rose of...Georgia?

Looking forward, looking back
Somewhere on the I-75 in Georgia, January 2010
About this photo: Thematic continues to explore mirrors of all shapes and sizes. You can, too. Just go here.
I usually have about five minutes of shooting time when I'm a passenger in a car. That's about as long as I can last before motion-induced nausea sets in and I'm pretty much photographically done for the day. So I've learned to compose and shoot quickly before the world turns green.

In retrospect, this particular shot could have used a little more time in the oven. The more I stare at it, the more I realize the composition isn't quite there - likely because I grabbed it so quickly - and I probably could have spent a bit more energy cleaning it up afterward before sharing it here.

But that's the thing with photography - and, I'm guessing, any other medium that involves creativity and personal expression: It doesn't always have to adhere to an invisible set of rules, and it doesn't necessarily need heroic efforts afterward to make it perfect.

Because perfection is a moving target, anyway. And this picture tells a story of a bright afternoon in the car with my family, when the kids were reflecting on a vacation just-ended, the trip home, and whether we could turn the car around and head back to the beach. I doubt I'd remember the moment as well if I had taken the time to PhotoShop the living daylights out of the shot. Some things are best left well enough alone.

Your turn: Is perfection overrated?

Friday, April 06, 2012

In Flight Entertainment

Screenful of solitary fun
Seven miles up over the eastern seaboard, December 2011
About this photo: Thematic's mirror, mirror week continues. Follow your mouse this way to take part.
You've got to feel for Air Canada. In between overlapping labour strife involving pilots, ground workers and the occasional flight diverted by drunken-then-fired-RIM-exec passengers, it's been a bad year for our national carrier. So the fact that the seatback screens on our flight weren't working wasn't enough for me to raise enough of a ruckus to merit an F-16 escort and an unscheduled night in the pokey fending off advances from my new best friend Bubba.

Still, it was a bit of a letdown, as I had been looking forward to anesthetizing myself with old episodes of The Ropers, The Littlest Hobo, and the Beachcombers. I always wanted to know what happened to Relic, after all.

So I played the fuzzy-self-portrait game, instead. And in doing so earned enough stares from strangers and flight attendants that I just had to steal a furtive glance out the window to ensure we hadn't picked up a missile-carrying Viper off our port wing.

Ah, the joys of commercial aviation in the post-9/11 era. How do you cope?

Thursday, April 05, 2012

On finding the beauty of the good

"Don't waste yourself in rejection, nor bark against the bad, but chant the beauty of the good."
I think this is a great way to end a shortened week. Some days, it seems we're surrounded by malevolence, by those who by default seem to put their own needs ahead of everyone else's, who seem to have forgotten the simple rules we all learned in Kindergarten. But then I inevitably cross paths with someone who reminds me that keeping ourselves above the murk is entirely within our control.

Indeed, it is.

Light the way

Deerfield Beach, FL, December 2011

To some, they're basic headlights, forgettable appendages at the corners of forgettable, appliance-like cars that do little more than get us to work and home every day. To me, they're a little bit more.

First, a car isn't just an appliance. Rather, it's an enabler. It gives my family mobility and potential, connecting them with the places they need to go, the people they need to see and the things they need to do in order to lead a meaningful life. Second, it keeps them safe, allows them to move through their day without worrying they're about to be stranded far from home or left in a ditch. Or worse. It's more than just a hunk of metal. It's an integral part of a busy family's life.

Sounds a bit idealistic, I know, but I make no excuses for the way I see the planet.

And the lights? They help us see the way, keep us out of danger, keep us visible to others. These, too, are so much more than the simple sum of their parts. Funny how we can find meaning virtually anywhere if we take the time to ponder the possibilities.

Your turn: Something plain...that isn't really. Please discuss.

To participate in this week's mirror, mirror Thematic theme, please click here.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Give me some skin

Detroit, MI
December 2011
About this photo: Thematic. Mirror, mirror. Here. Just because.
Hang around an airport long enough and eventually you'll find something compelling to shoot. Not that airport photography is the wisest of activities these days. In our post-apocalyptic, 9/11-influenced security-mad world, taking pictures in an airport could easily earn you a few hours of scintillating conversion in a badly lit interrogation room.

But when an old jumbo - actually, a 747-400 - presents itself right outside your window, you can either do nothing out of respect to the cop-a-feel-in-the-name-of-security crowd, or you can grab the camera, hold your breath and figure you can talk your way out of whatever comes next. I think you know which way I lean.

Every time I look at this shot, I wonder if the Boeing engineers who designed her ever appreciated what a wonderful piece of art they managed to create. Indeed, art happens everywhere so long as we choose to look in the right direction.

Your turn: Where else have you found art in an unexpected place?

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

On living. Well.

“Don't be afraid of death; be afraid of an unlived life. You don't have to live forever, you just have to live.”

Monday, April 02, 2012

Thematic Photographic 190 - Mirror, mirror

Only in a Jeep
Deerfield Beach, FL, December 2011

I've selected this week's Thematic theme, mirror, mirror, because I've always found shooting reflective surfaces to be especially challenging. Do you focus on the surface of the object? Or what's being reflected? Or both? Or neither? How do you expose properly? I never answer every question, but I always seem to get drawn into the process more deeply when there's a mirrored surface involved.

I'm hoping you'll shoot into mirrored surfaces over the next week, too, because the results are often eye-opening. And the process of getting there is so rewarding.

Your turn: Shoot a mirror-themed pic, then post it to your site - or simply share something you may have already shared. Leave a comment here letting folks know where to find it. Pop by other participants to share the goodness. Pop by here if you're new to the Thematic thing. And have fun. Because without fun, there is no point.

On spreading light

"There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it."
The question, then, is simple: Which one are you going to be?

Prancing horses don't prance

Screaming yellow
Laval, QC, July 2009

We're wrapping up Thematic's branded week (click here) with a closer look at a Ferrari Testarossa that used to live in the parking garage of my in-laws' building. It was in fairly rough shape, driven by a mullet-wearing, leather-clad, middle-age-crisis kind of guy who barely knew how to drive stick and probably should have stuck with a Buick LaCrosse.

Sadly, the car looked lovely from 50 feet away but betrayed years of indifferent care the closer you got to it. Broken, condensation-filled lights, misaligned body panels, scratches, dents and dings everywhere, haphazardly applied bondo filler that looked more at home on a 78 Corolla sedan than on a 12-cylinder supercar from another era. Even when he started it up, the sounds were heart-wrenching. And engine badly out of tune, a gearbox that spent its time being crunched and ground to within inches of its life instead of meshing smoothly on some mountainous back road.

Depressing only begins to describe it. But it is bright yellow, which is as happy a way to start the week as I can imagine.

Your turn: Clearly this car belongs to the wrong guy. It deserves an owner who cares. So who should be driving a car like this?

One more thing: New theme launches tonight at precisely 7:00 p.m. Eastern. I'm still on the fence about a theme, so feel free to suggest something. Anything. Bueller. Thanks :)

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Such a pretty tail

Going to the islands, mon
Miami, FL, January 2011
About this photo: Thematic. Branding. You're all invited to share in the photographic joy. Here.
I spend more than my fair share of time in airports. If I have to be away from home - which I generally loathe, if we're being honest - then an airport isn't a bad place to be. Tons to do, lots to see, oodles of memories to bring back. It's a bigger-than-life kind of environment that never fails to offer up something new. If you're paying attention, that is.

Take this 737, for example. It's owned by Cayman Airways, and I found it at the gate as we waited to board for the flight home. Sure, the 737 - aka Fat Albert - is the most popular commercial jet of all time, so it's not like it's a phenomenally unique scene when one's parked outside your window. But if you stare at it just so, then wander back and forth to get it from a different angle, and squint your eyes a bit, you might just see something new.

Which is just what happened on this otherwise uneventful morning in a faraway place. I'm glad I squinted.

Your turn: What ordinary thing are you going to squint at today?