Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Some folks can't read

It's all about me
London, ON

April 2012
For more Thematic signs of the times, head here
Few things drive me nuttier than this. It doesn't matter where you are: you can always count on a lineup of indifferent drivers parking right underneath the fire route signs at local malls, schools, wherever their lazy souls decide to take them.

I've long dreamed about what might happen if, heaven forbid, an actual fire broke out. I have visions of angry firefighters plowing their fire trucks like bulldozers through the illegally parked cars as they fight their way into the blaze. I'd probably stand by and applaud, because folks who are so lazy that they can't park a few meters away in a legitimate spot deserve everything that's coming to them.

Your turn: what would you do if you came across silliness like this? (Well, aside from taking a picture.)

Monday, July 29, 2013

Thematic Photographic 254 - Signs of the times

Whatever you do, don't go straight
Blandford-Blenheim Township, ON
June 2013
Whether we consciously notice them or not, signs dominate our day-to-day lives. Virtually everywhere we go, there's a sign to dictate in- and out-of-scope behaviour. Ignore the signs and you run the risk of getting a ticket, hurting yourself, hurting others, or, if you're lucky, getting away with it.

Sometimes when I'm on the road, I think about what it would be like without guidance. Then I shudder a little and return to my reverie. I doubt we really want to know.

For the next week, I'd like us all to explore the world of signs. They may be routine to the point of sub-consciousness, but I'd like to think a little extra attention will help us see them in a new light.

Your turn: Take a photo that evokes or suggests this week's theme, post it to your blog, website or other online home, then pop back here and leave a comment letting folks know where to find it. Visit other participants for additional encouragement and inspiration. Feel free to share multiple shots through the week, and don't be afraid to invite a friend, either. If you're a Twitter user, feel free to spread the joy using the #ThematicPhotographic hashtag. For more info on how Thematic works, click here. Oh, and one more thing: enjoy the process, because fun is what this whole thing is all about. Thanks!

Big bang theory

Fire in the sky
London, ON
July 2013
This shot winds down our most recent Thematic theme, blurred vision. Thanks to everyone who participated. There's still time to share your submission by clicking here. New theme, signs of the times, launches tonight at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.
Ever since we moved to London, we've been making the long drive back to our hometown of Montreal to visit family. Just east of the Quebec-Ontario border, in a town called Coteau-du-Lac, there's a place, B.E.M. Fireworks, that manufactures and sells fireworks. It's right beside the main highway - Highway 20 - and every time we pass it, I get a little chill down to the base of my spine. What if, I think.

Well, "what if" happened last month when a massive explosion flattened the manufacturing facility and killed two employees.

I love a good fireworks display as much as the next person. But it'll be hard to watch the aerial theatrics anymore without thinking of this event, and the lasting impact it'll have on the victims' families and surrounding town. Life comes with risk. Sometimes you see it coming.

On talking - and listening - to animals

"Some people talk to animals. Not many listen though. That's the problem."
A. A. Milne
Winnie the Pooh's creator sure knew his stuff, and his words resonate in my mind rather powerfully as I think about where this planet is headed, and who's doing the drunken driving. I wonder what our furry friends would say if they could talk. I often look at our dog and wonder the same thing. Do you?

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Peeking into the pasture

Blink and you'll miss it
Somewhere in southwestern Ontario
October 2012
Click here for more blurry Thematic
I couldn't replicate this shot if it tried. I was on a Via train on my way to Toronto for a meeting. And as I often do when I'm on the go, I found myself taking pictures out the window to help pass the time.

Instead of using a real camera, I had my iPad. I know it isn't even remotely the purist's choice, but I thought it would be fun to shoot with a camera that was clearly not built for the task. It isn't always about perfection, and sometimes you just want to deliberately muck around with the wrong tool and see what you can come up with.

This one is my favorite from that day. The stolen view of the pasture behind the tree line reminds me there are communities and lives playing out just feet away from the speeding train, and whichever side of the tracks we may be on, we're all connected in some way. In light of recent rail disasters in Spain and Lac Megantic, Quebec, it's a sobering reminder that routine travel is anything but routine.

Your turn: what photo will you be taking next? Why?

Friday, July 26, 2013

On flying through turbulence

"The greater the difficulty the more glory in surmounting it. Skillful pilots gain their reputation from storms and tempests."

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Is Apple's rocket ride over?

It's been a while since I picked up a pen and wrote something for a newspaper or publisher, and I admit, somewhat sheepishly, that I had forgotten how much I enjoyed the process.

Thankfully, I'm back in the writing game. Yesterday was deadline day for my first-in-a-while assignment for the Toronto Star, and the resulting article, Apple's rocket ride drawing to a close, was published this morning.

I stared at the article this morning in our darkened, quiet kitchen. While my tea steeped, I pulled out the iPad (ironic, I know), loaded it up and just let it sit there for a while, the words I had written barely a day earlier now polished and available for anyone out there. I've published hundreds of articles over my career, but this one, my first industry-focused, analytical, op-ed piece in a while, felt especially good. They weren't just words on a page, and I drank them in for a bit before the rest of the day beckoned.

The assignment pipeline is already filling, and I'll have more stuff to share in the days and weeks to come. But for now I wanted to share this one, the first of many, because I'm so glad I'm getting back into what I love to do most. I won't forget the joy of this anytime soon.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

On the power of words

"Words are things. A small drop of ink, falling like dew upon a thought, produces that which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think."
Neat things are happening in my own world of words. Today was a very good day. More soon...

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Thematic Photographic 253 - Blurred Vision

Into the flow
London, ON
July 2013
We've been taught from an early age that sharpness, precision, clean lines and keeping the color within them are all signs of perfection. If we fall a little short on any of these fronts, conventional wisdom would have us toss the results out.

In other words, there's one definition of success, and you're not supposed to argue the point.

Needless to say, I disagree with this way of looking at the world. Who's to say that a drawing composed of mostly outside-the-lines coloring is a failure? Who decided that a lesss-than-tack-sharp photo should end up in the recycling bin?

This occurred to me as I stood on the muddy riverbank and composed this shot. I was in the deep shadows cast by the high forest, and the lack of light was very much an issue for me. I tried to use the fastest possible shutter speed for the light that I had, but every shot that came out was meh. Actually, they were technically fine: sharp waves, nice reflections, the perfectly composed and exposed shot.

But they didn't sing, didn't tell a story, didn't make you wonder where it was all going. I could hear the burbling water in my ears, feel the breeze on my arms and almost feel the magic of this place throughout my body. But the static, perfectly frozen picture did nothing to convey that feeling.

So I threw it into manual, ignored the meter and had some fun with handheld long exposures (hint: get to your Zen spot, then stay there.) Every time I look at the resulting shot, I can hear the water and feel the breeze.

Your turn: Thematic celebrates blurred vision this week, so if you've got blurry, wavy, out-of-focus stuff to share, have at it. Simply upload it to your blog, website or whatever other online service you use, then leave a comment here letting folks know where to find it. Visit other participants, and share your results via Twitter - using the #ThematicPhotographic hashtag - to spread the joy even further. For more info on how Thematic works, click here. Thanks...and have fun!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Storm's coming

London, ON
July 2013
I'll apologize now: it's been a busy day in my little world of media - it even included a relatively spontaneous stint talking about sports on radio. It's quite the kick to get out of my techie comfort zone and try something well outside my wheelhouse. And those butterflies in my stomach when I started? Gone within seconds.

I'll upload a new Thematic later tonight - blurred vision will be the theme. For now, here's a last look at a storm that built literally over my head one day last week. It was a memorable experience to just stand there and watch it form. A little humbling, too.

For one last kick at the cloudspotting can, head here. Otherwise, see y'all later tonight with the new theme. Enjoy!

Not all babies are royal

The world woke to news that the Duchess of Cambridge - Kate Middleton - has gone into labor and has been admitted to hospital in London. Legions of journalists who've been camped out on the sidewalk for weeks are now jostling each other for position, angling to be the first to report what is arguably the biggest news story of the year.

Forgive me for not buying into the hype. Yes, I think it's lovely that the monarchy seems to be back in vogue for folks who are into that sort of thing, and that a new baby will doubtless solidify its future. In a world where bad news travels all too quickly, it's nice to have a good-news story make the rounds for a chance.

But let's get real: it's a baby, nothing more and nothing less. And in a world where according to U.S. Census data an estimated 361,481 are born every day, that leaves 361,480 other babies born into a somewhat dimmer media firestorm. Or 251 in a minute, if you will.

If we're going to freak out over Will and Kate's impending bundle of joy, let's do so simply because they're new parents embarking on the most unpredictable life adventure imaginable, and all new parents deserve a little extra care and attention from their friends, families and admirers. While the royal couple has access to far more resources than virtually any other family, it remains a daunting challenge no matter who you are. Bringing new life into the world should be celebrated - not only for royals who garner headlines, but for so-called commoners who don't.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

As darkness approaches

Almost time for tuck-in
London, ON
July 2011
For more Thematic cloudspotting, please click here
There's a certain beauty in a cloudy sky as sunset approaches. The silhouetted clouds shift from white to greys and blacks. The edges take on a finer definition. The color of the sky adds even more drama to the proceedings.

Like so many other cloudspotting moments - from morning's first orange light to a gathering thunderstorm's puffy towers of white - this is one such moment that will never get old. You can stand in the same place on endless successive nights, looking at the same spot in the sky, and every single experience will be new and unique.

That is, if you let it.

Will you?

Saturday, July 20, 2013

On doing for others

"Life's most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?"
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Good question...

Painting the sky with color

The Rainbow Connection
London, ON
June 2013
Thematic. Cloudspotting. Here.
The inevitable flip side of hot and humid days is that it's only a matter of time before the sky turns dark, the lightning starts and the world gets very wet, very quickly. In our little corner of the planet, summertime storms can be dangerously intense, and we've learned to monitor the weather fairly closely to ensure we always know what's headed our way.

Yet, for all the sometimes-frightening meteorological drama, a little sunshine at the tail end of it all can turn even the most intense storm into a foundation for a sliver of joy. No one can resist smiling when a rainbow appears overhead. And if indeed they can resist one of nature's most remarkable creations, I suspect I'd rather have iced tea and a chat with someone else.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Power to the people

Milton, ON
May 2013
Click here for more Thematic cloudspotting
The temperature's been soaring all week, which when coupled with high humidity is making the region about as comfortable as a tropical forest. Except we can hang out in a Tim Hortons if we really need to.

The topic of the day, every day, is the weather. And I have to admit I rather enjoy it. If we're whining about the unbearable heat, it means the usual litany of bad news has taken a bit of a breather. And after a year of terrorist attacks, mass explosions and unspeakable criminal activity (in other words, the usual), it's nice to focus on something a little more benign for a change.

I've always enjoyed the aesthetic of high-tension hydro towers. I can't explain their appeal, but I can't resist a shot if I find myself nearby.

Your turn: Do you have any photo subjects that speak to you for reasons you cannot explain?

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Detroit goes bankrupt

The Associated Press is reporting that the city of Detroit has filed the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. Here's the tweet, here's the AP Twitter account, and here's the story.

None of this is a surprise, as the city, barely two hours to the west of my burg, has been teetering on the edge of fiscal ruin for months. And this after decades of one of the most heart-wrenching urban declines ever experienced by any city of any size. It is so tragic on so many levels that it's difficult to find the right words to describe what it feels like to witness such a thing.

I've spent enough time in the city, both for work as well as with my family. And every time we leave, we remind ourselves why we're so thankful to live where we live, where the very core of our community isn't at risk of crumbling into the very earth from which it came.

I understand what happens when a company goes bankrupt. And what happens when an individual files a similar declaration. I guess we're all about to learn what it's like when an entire city throws its hands up and says it can't fix the disease that's been eating away at it for longer than most of us have been alive.

May this be the inflection point the city of Detroit - and more importantly, its population - needs to turn the corner and find a better tomorrow.

Your turn: So...what comes next? Will it work?

We'll add details/links below as they become available. Feel free to share links/resources in comments.

On trust, Shakespearean style

"Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none."
William Shakespeare
Sounds about right. Of course, knowing who gets into that circle of trust is a toughie. We always seem to learn a little too late.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Beauty from fear

This photo supports our #ThematicPhotographic theme, cloudspotting.
Click here to share your own
Ever wonder why the sky is often at its most compelling just before, during or after a major weather event? How is it that nature-spawned drama ends up creating the prettiest, most memorable scenes?

I don't really understand the why, but I'm perfectly happy to hang around on the ground with a camera ready to record the results.

What about you?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A dog flies through the sky

London, ON
June 2013
Click here for more #ThematicPhotographic Cloudspotting
I was out for a walk with our daughter when she spotted this cloud and immediately thought of our dog, Frasier. Granted, he just celebrated his 7th birthday, and we're starting to see small signs of him slowing down. But our perpetual image of him is of this bouncy, energy-filled hellion who never fails to fill whatever space he's in.

Age claims us all, of course, and that includes dogs we wish would always remain puppies. Maybe a cloud in the sky is a subtle reminder that it's up to us to remember the fleeting moments as best we can.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Thematic Photographic 252 - Cloudspotting

Tip of the spear
London, ON
June 2013
When I was a kid, I spent too much time lying face-up on the front lawn, staring at the sky and trying to find shapes in the clouds above. I doubt I was much different from any kid at that time. It was, after all, a pre-Internet, go-outside-and-play world where kids weren't hyper-programmed by over-protective parents and the world seemed a little less mean-spirited.

Key word: seemed. I'm sure it was plenty nasty and scary. We just didn't seem to notice it as acutely as we do today. Maybe ignorance was indeed bliss.

These days, I don't lie in the grass as often as I probably should. First, I worry about bug bites. And other, ah, stuff. Second, it would embarrass our kids. Third, I get nauseous.

But that doesn't mean I can't wander around with a camera and point it skyward. As I did on this evening a few weeks ago, just after a major tornado-warning-spawning rainstorm had swept through the area. The sky becomes an amazing place in the wake of a southwestern Ontario storm - or, I'm guessing, a storm wherever you happen to live. So please consider this my challenge to y'all to get outside over the next week to take in the overhead show.

Your turn: Take a cloud-themed pic - remember, how you interpret the theme is entirely up to you - and post it to your blog, website or other online "spot". Leave a comment here letting folks know where to find it, and be sure to visit other participants. New this week: Bonus points for anyone who shares the #ThematicPhotographic hashtag on Twitter and Facebook*. Head here for more background on Thematic. And don't forget to have fun with it. Because fun is what this is all about.

* I can be found on Facebook here, and on Twitter here.

Loblaw buys Shoppers - Canadian retail quakes

I've been somewhat remiss in keeping y'all updated on my writing. I do, in fact, string words together journalistically for a number of online publications - and, somewhat surprisingly to some, I don't always exclusively focus on tech.

For example, I write for The Loop. Most of my work for this consumer-focused site revolves around making smarter purchase decisions, and my articles appear on the Consumer Blog.

Today's piece was an interesting one: Canada's largest retail food distributor, Loblaw, bought the country's largest retail pharmacy chain, Shoppers Drug Mart (aka Pharmaprix in Quebec). The price? $12.4 billion. But behind the ginormous numbers, megadeals like these have an unheralded impact on little folks like you and me. From now on, this deal will touch our lives every time we decide to head down to the store to pick something up, every time we fill our grocery carts, every time we need a prescription filled.

I wrote this piece, Loblaw acquires Shoppers: What it means to consumers, to answer the kinds of questions mere mortals like us might have. It made the site's front page, too: neat.

Your turn: What else should I write about? As a consumer, what bugs you?

On why fun matters as much as it does

"When you stop doing things for fun you might as well be dead."
Ernest Hemingway 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Waiting for the chickens to roost

Mark these dates
Innerkip, ON
July 2013
About this photo: Thematic explores all things grown this week, and you can, too. By heading here.
Things really are different in small towns where farms dominate the landscape and life moves at a very different pace.

This crossroads almost seems to bisect this postcard-perfect town, serving as a perfect dividing line between the rough-hewn old section and the nouveau-suburb development just across the street. I guess even non-farmers like to settle out here. I can easily see why.

Even if you're not into buying chicks, simply seeing a sign like this is enough to draw a smile.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Farmers feed cities

Here's mud in your eye
Embro, ON
July 2013
Click here for more Thematic "grown"
It's hard to get a sense of where your food comes from when your only exposure to it is in the grocery store. A quick trip to the country is often all it takes to realize there's a lot more to the food chain than plastic packaging and a price tag.

On this day, the corn fields that extend throughout much of southwestern Ontario had just taken it on the chin. Severe thunderstorms had just swept through the area, downing tree limbs and flattening crops. This drenched field seemed to beg for a picture, as it quietly waited for the sun to come out, for the water to evaporate, and for life to go on.

I could get used to the cycles of time in a place like this. I think a return trip, hopefully on a nicer day, is in order.

Your turn: When's the last time you were in the country?

Friday, July 12, 2013

On strength

"Scar tissue is stronger than regular tissue. Realize the strength, move on."
Henry Rollins

Thursday, July 11, 2013

What came first? Chicken or egg?

Please recycle
London, ON
February 2013
Thematic. Grown. Here.
Ever so slowly, I've been getting myself back into grocery store shooting mode. There's no real reason for my doing so. I went on a bit of a binge years ago (ah, fruitography), and I guess the mini-addiction never really left me.

I think the advent of smartphones has also helped ease my fears of getting caught. Back in the day, pulling a honking SLR out of my backpack was almost an invitation to being ejected from the store (and in at least one case, I came darn close.) I often used a point-and-shoot camera to compensate a bit, but even that was a bit much. It's hard to hide your intentions when you pull a camera out in the middle of a place where folks don't generally engage in photography.

Enter the smartphone. With a few subtle moves, I can make it look like I'm simply sending someone an email. Or texting my wife to ask whether she wants a carton of 12 or 18 eggs, or updating my Facebook status. I can power on and configure the smartphone, er, camera rather surreptitiously before quickly composing and shooting. It isn't perfect: at some point, someone who's otherwise watching me intently and has half an observational brain is going to clue in. But it's still a lot lower profile than it used to be.

So on this day I shot some eggs. What should I capture next?

More from the grocery store:

Bloomberg Businessweek goes phallic

Never let it be said that editors don't have senses of humor. To wit, the cover of the latest issue of Bloomberg Businessweek that teases the article, The Hedge Fund Myth (aka Hedge Funds are for Suckers. Click here to start the penile fun.

Juvenile? Quite likely. Offensive to some? Um, yes. Sexist? Pretty sure it's a yes.

But here's the thing: success in media has always been about getting folks to chime into your message. Whether it's selling newspapers and magazines, hawking a radio or television show or hyping a website, those who attract the largest audiences will prevail over those who do not.

Size matters. And mundane headlines, story ideas and, yes, cover graphics won't drive size. Swinging for the fences will, and whoever was in charge on this day in this newsroom decided to push the envelope a little. It's crass and crude, but it'll attract readers. Which drives ad revenue. Which keeps the whole thing spinning.

Does it portend a rush to the gutter when it comes to quality? Good question...let's discuss. Either way, that's business in the new media age. Which is pretty much the same as business in the old media age. Except faster.

Your turn: Too far or just right? Where do you stand?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Pretty in purple. Just because.

Sometimes, it's enough to grab a slice of floral perfection just as it peeks above the earth for the first time. I don't think it needs to be more complex than that, does it? (Please click here for more Thematic grown.)

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Touching a stormy sky

After the storm
London, ON
June 2013
Click here for more Thematic "grown"
The big news around here is the surprise rainstorm that descended on Toronto late yesterday afternoon, leaving record-setting floodwaters and more than a few stranded commuters in its wake, including one unfortunate Ferrari.

Another none-too-subtle reminder that despite our propensity to pave the planet with urban sprawl and technology, Ma Nature remains largely in charge. And she has no problem reminding us of that every once in a while.

The storm that hit London last month didn't leave as much water behind, but it still created some drama with a tornado warning followed by reports of a funnel cloud that, thankfully, didn't touch down. I took a stroll with our daughter afterward, because the backside of a late evening storm is always a thing of beauty, and it sure doesn't hurt to experience it with one of the munchkins.

I'm already counting the days to the next storm. You?

Monday, July 08, 2013

Thematic Photographic 251 - Grown

Nature's place of worship
London, ON
November 2012
It's difficult to stand in the middle of a place like this and not feel something in your soul. These trees have been here far longer than we have, and silently give back to the planet in ways drivers rushing by the nearby road would simply never appreciate - if they ever bothered to think about it at all.

I come here as often as I possibly can - but apparently not often enough. It's barely a two-block walk from our house to this ravine, and every time I find myself standing on the hushed forest floor, I wonder why I don't spend more time here.

Good question.

Your turn: Take a photo that suggests this week's "grown" theme - or find one from your archives - and post it to your blog, website, Facebook page, or any related online resource. Leave a comment here letting everyone know where to find it. Visit other participants to spread the photographic fun - and feel free to post additional pics through the week. Each theme runs for one week, and new themes go live Mondays at 7 pm. For more info on how Thematic works, just click here.

Swamp thing

Bogged down
Blandford-Blenheim Township, ON
June 2013
For more in-rough-shape Thematic, click here
Whether this swampy mess is, in fact, a bad thing is entirely up to the observer.

To many of us us - namely, typically neatnik humans who will do everything in our power to keep icky nature out of our homes, away from our vehicles and off of our clothes - this is a pea soup-tinged mess, something that should never be approached, touched or directly experienced in any way.

To the plants and animals that live here, it's an entirely different story, a convergence of richness that the outside world has blessedly not yet paved into submission.

I'd been seeing this out of the corner of my eye for days as I drove past it, thanks to a detour that prompted me to discover a new way to the office. Not wanting to get myself into an accident, I kept the peripheral staring to a minimum. Until I happened to have my camera in the car one day, that is, so I pulled over on the way home and grabbed a few snippets before continuing on my way.

The lovely heron - at least I think it's a heron, or maybe it's an egret - wouldn't play ball with me, so I shot him/her as he/she rested high in a tree. Which is just as well, since this is most certainly a bird's domain, and not mine. I was content to quietly take it in from a distance.

Your turn: Where do you go to get away from it all?

One more thing: We'll be launching a new Thematic theme, "grown", tonight at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. In the meantime, we're still taking submissions for "in rough shape" here.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

When water meets gravity

Thamesford, ON
June 2013
Thematic. In the rough. Here.
With apologies to Frank Lloyd Wright, every time I see a waterfall, I think of his iconic house, Fallingwater. I know there's no logic to it. But still, there it is.

This particular waterfall sits next to the Thamesford Mill, which I wrote about here. It's part of the manmade concrete spillway that once housed the generators that ran the place. Today, like the building that still sits on the adjacent bank, it crumbles due to neglect.

Yet even in its deteriorated condition, it's capable of painting scenes worth capturing, with the ever-flowing water creating similarly ever-changing scenes for anyone who cares to hang around for a bit. Even old dogs can pull off decent enough tricks every once in a while. You just have to show up by the riverbank to take in the show.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

A peanut's hard life

Nuts to this
London, ON
June 2013
For more Thematic "in rough shape", head here
Quick prelude: I know what you're thinking. A peanut? Has he finally lost it?

I hear you. It may seem a little, um, odd, to share a picture and a vignette of a peanut. But I've been doing this sort of thing ever since I started carrying a camera, and I don't think it makes sense to stop now. On any given day, we come across all sorts of tiny, weird little snippets that risk slipping into history if we don't steal some otherwise-fleeting moments to somehow record and reflect on them.

The world moves fast, so bizarro pictures of scented candles, tomatoes, burned out light bulbs, crashing waves, sweet little old ladies, and a mug of tea are my way of slowing things down just a bit. Thanks for your understanding and encouragement. Now, on with the show...

Looking at this forlorn peanut, I find myself wondering what it must have done to deserve the working over that resulted in it looking like this. Did it get into a fight with other nuts in the bag? Did its troubles start earlier, when it was being grown? Did it suffer from some kind of peanut-specific disease? Did the farmer who harvested it have a sudden-onset peanut allergy?

So many questions, yet so few answers. No answers, actually. But that didn't mean I couldn't pull out my phone and take a picture of it. Because that's what I do when I come across stuff that looks just a little bit different.

Hmm, maybe that says more about me than it does about my subjects. I'll have to mull that one over for a bit. In the meantime, enjoy the peanut.

Your turn: What oddness should I shoot - and presumably share here - next? I'm taking requests.

Friday, July 05, 2013

21 years on...

For reasons that still amaze and delight me, 21 years ago tonight I was privileged to marry my best friend. And 21 years, 3 kids, a cat, a dog, two cities and countless life milestones later, she's still my best friend. Even more so.

Debbie is patient, kind and empathetic, all of which makes me wonder how I lucked into convincing her to spend her life with me. I doubtlessly scored a better deal than she did: I'm far from the easiest person to live with, yet she sees through my highly obvious faults and somehow manages to appreciate something even I have difficulty seeing. For that I am understandably and limitlessly thankful.

She's also incredibly lovely. Inside and out. I still stare at her, often for extended periods of time. Just because. And like the kids she brought into this world and has nurtured and guided every waking moment since, she's a good soul, a gutteh neshumeh, who always manages to find the positive in things, people and situations.

We've had a ridiculously charmed ride, so far, but time has a funny way of testing us. Over the years, we've lost friends and family members, to the point that I can no longer watch our wedding video because I can't bear to see everyone who's no longer with us. Closer to home, we lost my dad almost 4 years ago, and her mom earlier this year. So today marks another unwelcome first for Debbie, and as I have with all the other firsts, I wish my husbandly toolkit included a way to make it better.

Alas, it doesn't. I'm only human. We all are. And easy or difficult, I'm glad to have experienced all of these moments with her. Because she always finds a way to make them better. To talk them through in the middle of the night. To walk beside me as I wrestle with the dog's leash following a particularly trying day. To sit quietly nearby on a sunlit morning as we simply welcome the new day. Whatever the moment looks like, knowing she's there is enough for me. I learned long ago to stop questioning why I got so lucky. Sometimes, the universe just smiles on you.

Happy anniversary, sweets. Thank you for making my life whole.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Wounded Warrior, Part 2

Boo boo
London, ON
July 2013
Many words come to mind when I'm asked to describe our daughter, Dahlia. She's smart, kind and incredibly focused. If she wants something, she just goes for it.

Which is what she was doing on the soccer field last night when her face ended up in the same three-dimensional space as a fast-moving ball. Just seconds before the incident that left her looking like she'd been in a bar fight, she was right in the middle of a scrum of onrushing opponents, fighting to get the ball out of her zone.

This is the same field where, two years earlier, she hurt her thumb while playing goalie (link). But now as then, she shrugged it off with her typical never-give-up attitude. And smile. That smile that lets you know she's just fine, that she can take a hit on the outside, but it'll only make her stronger on the inside.

We went  out for ice cream afterward. figuring a little treat would ease the pain. She got stares - I'm sure everyone now thinks we're parents of the year - and just laughed them off. We bantered about the incident, and she spoke about looking forward to getting back on the field with her teammates. We updated the social media world (Facebook - Dahlia's, Debbie's, mine - and Twitter) and felt blessed when so many friends and family weighed in online.

In the end, her team came from behind and won the game. And our no-longer-little-girl found another way to turn one of life's knocks into an advantage and a growth opportunity. Play on, Peanut.

On Ben Franklin's America

"We must all hang together, or, assuredly, we shall all hang separately."
Benjamin Franklin
Such wisdom from such a wise man. If only more of us chose to make these words our own.

If you're American - or play one on TV - please accept our wishes for a joyous, rewarding and restful 4th of July. If you're not American - or have never seen one on TV - my wish for you is precisely the same.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Welcome to the Valley of Death

Laval, QC
May 2013
Thematic. In rough shape. Here.
This could either be a satellite shot of a desert, a close-up shot of an abandoned corner of someone's yard, or something in between. Since I couldn't find anything to give it some scale, it'll have to remain a mystery.

(Though, if we're going to be super-analytical about it, it's a safe bet that I wasn't perched on an orbiting bird, and my rent-a-Cessna-for-aerial-photography budget for that month had been sadly depleted by the time I took this particular photo.)

Whatever its scale may be, this one keeps popping into my head thanks to the historic heat wave that's rolling across the U.S. southwest. Nay, make that much of the U.S. And I'm guessing, soon, the Great White North.

It doesn't matter where you stand in the great global warming debate. You can think it's scientific fact or government-funded conspiracy, but it's hard to deny the blast furnace-like kick in the teeth that awaits you when you step outside to walk the dog in the morning. And if you're stuck in the brutal heat, I hope you're able to find refuge from it before long.

Your turn: how do you beat the heat?

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Preparing to say goodbye

Windows to a murky future
Thamesford, ON
June 2013
For more Thematic "in rough shape", head here
It's a familiar story: historic old building, once a vital pillar of the local economy, falls on rough times and slowly decays while owners do nothing and community members stand by in frustration, wishing they could do more.

The Thamesford Mill is, sadly, playing this same tune and like so many before it, things don't look all that positive.

June 2013
I pass by this iconic structure a few times per week, and it never fails to impress me. Hard by the river at a major intersection on the east side of town, it literally defines this place. Built over a century ago, it's been empty for 20 years, and from the looks of it time is running out.

Demolition crews have already removed a chunk of the building - I'm guessing the storage sheds between the riverside mill itself and the silos behind it. I keep hoping against hope that they won't come back to finish the job, that someone will swoop in, buy the place and miraculously invest in a complete renovation.

March 2013
But we all know that miracles don't just happen. And economic reality doesn't always align with the emotions of a community. If the numbers don't add up, all the sentiment in the world won't keep this place from finally succumbing to the wrecking ball.

Which would deeply sadden me. Because it'll be hard to imagine what this street corner would look and feel like without it, and what this crossroads agricultural town would feel like without its anchor. Something tells me we'll never learn.

Your turn: If a miracle actually happens, what would/could this place become?

Monday, July 01, 2013

Thematic Photographic 250 - In rough shape

Barking up the right tree
Laval, QC
May 2013
I'm not usually one for milestones, but I noticed we've reached 250 Thematics in just over 5 years.

Thank you all for being part of this often meandering photographic journey. It thrills me to no end that something as simple as a photo sharing activity can connect folks around the world in such a gentle way. It adds a whole new dimension to my own shooting, and I imagine I'm not alone in that. I'm deeply grateful for your continued encouragement.

We'll go with textures this week - in rough shape celebrates the imperfect, gritty reality that often greets us as we go through the day-to-day. The world has no shortage of roughness, and over the next week I hope we'll have fun translating its decidedly 3-dimensional form into the 2-dimensional world of photography.

Here's to another 250...are you game?

Your turn: Share a rough-themed photo on your own blog, website or any other online resource, then leave a comment here letting everyone know where to find it. Visit other participants and feel free to drop back in through the week - multiple-sharing is encouraged. Head here if you're new to the Thematic thing, or if you'd like a refresher. Enjoy the show...we'll be here all week!

Polishing the diamond

Final assembly
London, ON
June 2012
You're looking at a Diamond Aircraft DA-40 as it makes its way down the assembly line here in London. I took this shot last year, and sadly the factory where it was made is now something of a ghost town (I wrote about it here) and its future is uncertain following the cancellation of an advanced jet program and major layoffs.

But on this quiet Sunday afternoon, months before any of this was announced, none of that mattered. The final assembly line was crammed with aircraft, and the future seemed, if not limitless, at least somewhat realistic. And this perfectly pristine aircraft awaited its first date with the sky.

We can't always divine the future, but we most certainly can appreciate the present.

One more thing: This particular plane ended up in New Zealand, where it's part of Massey University's School of Aviation fleet. Cool school.

Make that two: This is our final entry in support of the "shiny and new" Thematic theme. There's still time to share yours - just click here. New theme, "in rough shape", goes live tonight at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.