Friday, November 30, 2018

Architecture from afar

Structural Appreciation 101
Las Vegas, NV
November 2018
This photo originally shared on Instagram
There's virtue in simplicity, and sometimes all you need to do is look to the sky to find it.

You're looking at some kind of structural flourish at the top of a building adjacent to my hotel in Las Vegas. I'm not an architect or an engineer, so I can't share any more detail: I just knew that I liked how it looked. From where I stood, it didn't seem to serve any particular purpose beyond turning an otherwise ordinary-looking building into something unique. I guess that's what every architect is trying to do in this attention-mad city: Keep ladling on the architectural doodads like pats of butter on a Sunday-brunch crescent roll. Eventually, despite their intentions to the contrary, all these creations start to look, and taste, the same.

In the context of this over-the-top skyline, the seemingly functionless addition did its job: I looked. And I looked again. Eventually, I came back to the window beside the 41st floor elevator bank with my real camera in tow. I zoomed in, and in doing so put the blinders on as I ignored everything else competing for attention in the early evening sky. Suddenly, the lines, shapes, lights, textures and tones all snapped into place, and I knew I had gotten what I wanted.

I stood there, eye glued to my viewfinder, for no more than 5 minutes before I snapped this particular frame. In those 5 minutes, nothing else mattered as I pondered the possibilities and worked the camera until what I saw made me smile. In the middle of a week of non-stop action far from home, I managed to stop time and find a spot that was uniquely mine. I can't help but think this photo is less notable to me than the minutes that preceded its capture. Photography-as-Zen-experience: I could go for more of that. And perhaps soon, I shall.

#las #vegas #lasvegas #nevada #cosmopolitan #hotel #road #trip #travel #travelphotography #travelgram #abstract #photography #building #architecture #architecturephotography #facade #design #buildingporn #architectureporn #steel #lines #canon #canon_photography #canonphotography #life #family #is #everything

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Flat Stanley got smoked

Not healthy. Don't care.
St. Laurent, QC
November 2018
This photo originally shared on Instagram
Often when I'm stressed, I try to take the weirdest photos possible to a) occupy/calm my mind, and b) create a memory of that particular space and time. Flipping through the results later on evokes a feeling I can't quite describe, but if you've ever cherished a large mug of hot chocolate in a cozy kitchen as a snowstorm rages outside, that's the kind of vibe I get. Refuge. Warmth. Home.

I'm odd like that - and in so many other ways - but over the years I've found a little photographic therapy can go a long way.

This particular photo was borne out of a curious mixture of impatience and politeness. Impatience because we had literally just sat down in the restaurant booth and were waiting for the server to return so we could place our order. We weren't there to linger: After days on end in a mirth-filled hospital, we just wanted to eat and be done for the day. So rather than wait for the actual meal to be ordered and delivered, I thought I'd play with the menu instead. A picture of a picture? Sure, why not?

Oh, and the politeness thing? That's tougher to explain. It's incredibly rude to spend an entire meal Instagramming the hell out of your dish as you ignore your meal-mate. Sorry, I can't handle being "that" guy. But I still wanted the picture. Or any picture. Just because. And since I didn't have the time to wait for a real smoked meat sandwich to appear, the menu would have to do.

Photography. Life. It's all the same. The universe doesn't always line up the way we want. The timing may be off. Or we're in the wrong place. So we improvise. We make do. We figure it out, imperfect as it may be.

Maybe this overly flat photo-of-a-photo is less imperfect than I thought. Maybe I'm not talking about photos at all.

#montreal #stlaurent #quebec #canada #yul #google #pixel2 #teampixel #smoked #meat #dinner #restaurant #resto #nickels #food #age #aging #health #cherishit #everyday #urban #street #photography #life #universe #fortytwo #family #is #everything

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Shine the light on me

Warding off winter's chill
St. Laurent, QC
November 2018
This photo originally shared on Instagram
It was a day when my wife and I were on the road well before dawn, spent the day hovering over her dad in a gloomy, window-challenged hospital, then emerged late in the evening to the kind of dark, damp cold that's been a staple of brooding filmmakers almost since before film was invented.

I saw this simple string of lights as we grabbed a quick dinner before heading back for a few hours of fitful sleep. The next day promised more of the same, and I found myself looking for signs of comfort, of home. It was the light that got me, grabbed my eyes and my brain and wouldn't let go.

These are, of course, simple Christmas lights. They aren't even artfully installed here, just strewn haphazardly across a dusty window sill overlooking a parking lot slowly being coated with freezing rain as a major storm moves in. No one in this otherwise nondescript suburban restaurant gives these lights, or the scene out the windows, or each other, frankly, a second glance. This is Montreal, after all, and smoked meat must be eaten, typically one-handed, while scrolling through Facebook with the other.

Yet I couldn't stop glancing back at these tiny lights every once in a while as we chatted and half-heartedly nibbled on our sandwiches. The lights cast a small, warm glow that for a brief moment seemed to banish the darkness that's been following us.

They reminded me I still have plenty of blessings around me, and it's up to me to ensure the light, wherever it comes from, always wins the battle against the alternative.

#montreal #stlaurent #quebec #canada #yul #google #pixel2 #teampixel #smoked #meat #dinner #restaurant #resto #food #age #aging #health #cherishit #everyday #urban #street #photography #life #universe #fortytwo #family #is #everything

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Dying in the middle of a frozen street

Scene from just outside a hospital
Montreal, QC
November 2018
This photo originally shared on Instagram
We stopped at the hospital one last time yesterday morning before we set off on the long drive home. We'll be back soon, because there are still so many unknowns, still too much to do. But I was still feeling the pull of this place as we stepped onto the icy sidewalk. Like we wish we didn't have the weight of responsibility waiting for us on the other end of the highway, like life didn't force us to decide between being here or being there.

As we approached the car, I noticed this single, forgotten maple leaf in the middle of the street. It struck me as a metaphor of sorts, the universe's way of reminding me, here and now, that everything has a season and nothing lasts forever. That even in its final chapter, this withered sliver of life still has the ability to reach out and bestow some sort of meaning on those who, by choice or by circumstance, happen to cross its path.

That it lay forlornly on the street just outside a hospital where countless lives - including my father-in-law's - were having their own sometimes-not-so-textbook chapters written, struck me as somewhat poignant. That I still had the ability to stop what I was doing and record this soon-to-be-lost leaf, in this often-forgotten corner of the city, struck me as an opportunity.

Because as long as we're lucky enough to have the wherewithal to tell the stories playing out around us, I feel we should. We owe it to those whose paths already cross our own.

#montreal #quebec #canada #yul #google #pixel2 #teampixel #catherine #booth #hospital #montclair #avenue #age #aging #health #cherishit #everyday #urban #street #photography #life #universe #fortytwo #family #is #everything

Monday, November 26, 2018

Where time stands still

Formica nation
Montreal, QC
November 2018
This photo originally shared on Instagram
Welcome to the Salvation Army Women's Auxiliary Coffee Shop. It sits in a dimly lit corner of this hospital, and is open Monday to Friday from noon to 3:30 p.m. Outside of those all-too-brief hours, it's a place where time seems to have stood still since pre-drug-addict Elvis.

Peeking through the window reveals a world that no longer exists outside of this institution, yet for anyone unlucky enough to be stuck here, it represents something of an oasis, a place where they can reconnect, however fleetingly, to a life they long ago left behind.

On the surface, it's dusty, with paint that was probably faded when it was first laid down all those years ago, and has only gotten less saturated since then, as if the colors never belonged here in the first place. The worn formica counters wear the scratches and gouges of countless meals, conversations, and moments, as testament to lives lived - well, not-so-well, it's impossible to know.

Yet it feels strangely comforting to stare through the window, this lens into a now-vanished time and now-invisible people. I can't imagine this space being used any more appropriately, and I hope the patients and families who spend too much time here feel some of the warmth I feel as I stand here and drink the scene in.

#montreal #quebec #canada #yul #google #pixel2 #teampixel #catherine #booth #hospital #age #aging #health #cherishit #everyday #urban #photography #life #universe #fortytwo #family #is #everything

Sunday, November 25, 2018

The waiting is the hardest part

Emptiness for as far as the eye can see
Montreal, QC
November 2018
This photo originally shared on Instagram
No one ever wants to be in this - or any - hospital. With the possible exceptions of giving birth and being first in line for the cafeteria's world famous Chicken Soup Extravaganza every Wednesday, this is not a happy place to be.

And last I checked, the typical patient here wasn't having a kid, and I doubt the folks here are soup fans, either. This place deals with the other end of life, and the gloom that seemingly defines this barely-lit corridor feels like a signature, physical proof of the sadness that you can almost feel as soon as you walk in past the cracked, faded paint that surrounds the front door.

Time seems to move more slowly, not just in this area where waiting is quite literally what you're supposed to do, but everywhere else, as well. A skeleton staff covers too much floor, too many beds, too many patients. Some of them are wonderful, doing the best they can with what they've got. Others? Not so much.

So nothing happens in the now, or even soon. Patients and visitors alike learn to watch the clock, and debate among themselves when and how to speak up to get the care their accomplished lives should have earned them by default.

And the dark pall that defines this space remains as pervasive now as it was the day we got here. No one ever said getting old was pretty.

#montreal #quebec #canada #yul #google #pixel2 #teampixel #catherine #booth #hospital #age #aging #health #cherishit #everyday #urban #photography #life #universe #fortytwo #family #is #everything

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Freezing a Thunderbolt in place

Warthog in its element
London, ON
September 2018
Photo originally shared on Instagram
We're still far from home, and I'm still looking for refuge in photography. And if I'm not shooting something in this frozen, sad place, I'm reaching into my photo archives for reminders of happier moments.

And it didn't get happier than this early September day at London's airport. See, air shows are like crack to me, my Super Bowl, Olympics, Stanley Cup, and Tour de France all rolled into one. Despite the inevitable letters to the editor from grumpy old men about noise and frightened cats, there's nowhere else I'd rather be.

One of my kindest friends and I have evolved a bit of a tradition where we basically go to any air show whenever it comes to town. Doesn't matter when, or how busy we might otherwise be. It's an air show, so we go. While we're there, we wander the tarmac, taking it all in as we chat about anything and everything, and eat food truck food that won't earn us any good-nutrition points. And every once in a while, a plane flies by. Other than that, we don't have much of an agenda: Simply being there, in the moment, is more than enough for both of us.

Shooting this fast mover as it split the atmosphere at low level was all I needed in that particular moment. I looked through my viewfinder, camera settings dialed in perfectly, and shifted the lens barrel subtly between my fingers as the Warthog accelerated past. I could feel the rumble of the efficient-but-powerful turbofan engines down the base of my spine as I squeezed the shutter and felt the camera come alive as I tracked from right to left until the pilot was out of sight.

In one aspect it was just a plane in the sky on a grey day. In so many others, it was a point in time that I needed to somehow freeze so that I could recall it with ease months later on a day like today. When the planes were no longer flying, but the memory of them doing so would have to be enough to sustain me.

#ldnont #low #level #flight #AirShowLondon #AirShow2018 #a10 #thunderbolt #warthog #badass #USAF #airforce #close #air #support #aircraft #airplanes #aviation #photography #avgeek #grey #sky #Nikon #nikonphotography #nikon_photography #dslr #london #ontario #canada

Friday, November 23, 2018

Finding inspiration beside a gas pump

Dirty tread
Morrisburg, ON
November 2018
This photo originally shared on Instagram
When you're in the middle of another road trip to a faraway place for reasons no one would ever wish on anyone else, you find yourself desperately looking for tiny moments and spaces of refuge.

Like the rear driver-side tire on my wife's car, which I captured as I waited for the fuel pump to print the receipt. Winter tires make for great mood and texture shots, don't they?

I was working quickly, as I could hear the printer spooling up, and I'm pretty sure the guy waiting in the car behind me was shooting lasers at me from behind the wheel. I managed to rack off one frame before I noticed the paper slowly feeding out of the bottom of the slot and flapping in the subzero wind.

I grabbed it and jumped in the car, never once looking at the receipt or laser guy behind me. I waved furtively into the rearview - I am a stereotypically polite Canadian, after all - and carefully pulled into the busy parking lot and headed for the onramp.

It made my wife, whose hospitalized dad we were heading to see, smile. Which made all the laser-stares, flapping paper and dirty knees from composing at ground level in a filthy highway service stop gas station worth it. Because I'll do anything to see her smile no matter what she's going through now. Of all the jobs I have in my life, that one tops the list.

#morrisburg #ontario #onroute #fuel #random #urban #street #photography #shoot #shooting #tire #rubber #hits #road #trip #highway #travel #car #auto #automotive #carporn #stella #google #pixel2 #teampixel #family #is #everything

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Frosty the doorman

Hold onto this, please
London, ON
November 2018
This photo originally shared on Instagram
I walked up to the car the other day and noticed it was covered with a thin layer of frost. It wasn't an earth-shattering moment by any stretch of the imagination, but it made me wonder about all the small changes that happen within the day-to-day that we may be missing because we aren't looking. Or taking the time to look.

I've always been one to observe the small things - the graphic on the label of the blue-and-white toque I wore as a child, the detail of the fitting that joins two tubes on my bike, the Hershey Kiss-like shape and color of our dog's nose - and I'm sure I do so as something as a defense mechanism. Because the world can be so overwhelmingly complex, chaotic, and challenging on so many levels that I simply can't cope with everything that's coming at me all at once, and from every direction.

So I stare at car doors - and hats, and bikes, and dogs - instead, because in that simple scene, in that single moment, it's all I need to focus on, and it's all that matters. To me, anyway. Because at the core of it all I'm a pretty simple human being, and I like to boil things down to their simplest components so I can digest them properly.

Looking at my social media feeds of late, it's quite clear my photos have taken a turn for the simple, which I'm guessing is a dead giveaway to the kind of life I'm leading now and the things my family, my wife, my kids, now face. I generally enjoy life in the simple zone, but looking at this visual record of the past couple of months, I find myself wishing the pressure from the outside didn't force me to spend most of my time here.

Perhaps things will ease off soon. Or not. And if they don't, there's always a red car, or a wet-nosed puppy, or a dirty bicycle in the basement to take in.

#ldnont #honda #civic #civicnation #red #winter #frost #weather #wx #spontaneous #driveway #shoot #car #carporn #cargram #auto #vehicle #automotive #google #pixel2 #teampixel #london #ontario #canada

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Hurtling headlong into a rainy sky

Toronto, ON
November 2018
This photo originally shared on Instagram
"Okay, here we go. Focus. Speed. I am speed." Lightning McQueen, Cars (2006)

So why am I quoting a fictitious character from a Pixar animated film? Because every once in a while, I close my eyes and hear this scene play out in my head. It usually happens when I'm moving. Or accelerating. Or about to embark on some journey to some faraway place. Or otherwise do something that catapults me in a new direction.

The irony in all this is that I'm not terribly speedy anymore. Sure, I used to ride my bike around my neighborhood like a demon, until I drafted the wrong car's bumper on the way to my then-girlfriend's house and the driver recognized me and called my mom. But eventually the thrill of living on the very edge of velocity wore off.

I still enjoy mashing the pedals and feeling the rush. Or giving Henrietta the Honda 2.0 a little more gas than she really needs as I roll out of a corner. But it's a lot more within reason these days, thanks largely to the merits of maturity, and the weight of responsibility I carry with me wherever I go. Speed is fun, but not if it compromises those who rely on me.

That doesn't stop me from feeling the moment as an unseen pilot up front finishes the checklist, gets clearance from air traffic, pushes the throttles forward, eases off the brakes and lets six figures of thrust zing a couple of hundred bleary-eyed souls into the sky. Because in an otherwise digital and virtual world, where everything is delivered via an app on a screen, where we message each other without ever really communicating, where everyone's connected but no one's really connecting with each other, it's nice to turn off the technology on occasion and feel something analog, visceral, real.

It reminds me that I am very much alive, and very much blessed to be here. If also reminds me we all have a responsibility to do more than simply go through the motions of life. Doc Hudson would no doubt approve.

#ldnont #yxu #toronto #yyz #pearson #international #airport #road #trip #travel #travelphotography #travelgram #aircanada Air Canada #flight #flying #lasvegas #aviation #avgeek #google #pixel2 #teampixel #london #ontario #canada #life #family #is #everything

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Planespotting in the desert before sunrise

In the shadow of the mountains
Las Vegas, NV
November 2018
This photo originally shared on Instagram
It's 6:15 a.m., and I've deliberately gotten to the airport early because I like to linger in these amazing spaces before things get busy. I've found a quiet spot to sit and take in the tarmac outside as it slowly comes alive with the day's flight schedule.

This particular airport, crammed into the side of Las Vegas's strip, carved out of the bare desert and sitting in the shadows of the mountains, is an especially resonant place to spent time. The sky turns multiple colors of the rainbow as the sun gradually, silently, brightens the landscape. The gentle burble of people finding their gates slowly rises behind me, a soundtrack to a day I hope ends with togetherness and smiles for everyone here.

I initially hesitate to shoot any of this because for once I just want to feel a moment without having to record it or otherwise tell its story. I'm beginning the long journey home today, and I want to close my eyes and remember what it feels like to be in this place, at this time, just before I put it behind me and set off for home.

Eventually, though, the storyteller inside me wins the argument and out comes the camera for a few quick captures. The planes themselves remain in the early-morning shadows, but the context around them, what makes this place different from other generic-looking airports, captures my eye.

As I survey the scene and try to come up with compositions that respect it in some way, I wonder who's on those planes, and think about how each and every passenger is on a unique journey. Perhaps they, too, are staring out their windows and thinking about how to keep this moment alive long after they've returned home.

We're not so different after all, then, are we?

#las #vegas #lasvegas #mccarran #international #airport #vancouver #yvr #toronto #yyz #pearson #ldnont #yxu #road #trip #travel #travelphotography #travelgram #aircanada @aircanada #flight #flying #aviation #avgeek #canon #canon_photography #canonphotography #life #family #is #everything

Monday, November 19, 2018

Po takes on Vegas

After all these years...
Las Vegas, NV
November 2018
This photo originally shared on Instagram
If you've followed me for any period of time, you'll know Po. I adopted her soon after our then-toddler son finished his Happy Meal (yes, I'm a terrible dad) and tired of the smallest Teletubby. So she's been hanging off my camera bags ever since, charming strangers in distant airports, offices, and even beaches as my ersatz travel gnome and photographic partner in crime.

I'm so afraid of losing her that I no longer dangle her outside the bag. Instead, she gets her own secure compartment inside, usually buried beneath the power cables, headphones and granola-ish snacks that sustain me when I'm away.

Which explains why I forgot about her until my last night in Las Vegas, which reduced me to an improvised shoot on the darkened balcony overlooking the strip, using my smartphone's flashlight as a fill-in flash to counter the background glitz. The pic isn't pretty, but it doesn't need to be.

That's because Po has never been about the visual. She's more than a little faded, with fraying threads sticking out of places that would embarrass even a fictional, gibberish-speaking, possibly-overdosed TV character. It's what she represents that sticks with me. Home. Family. History. Happiness. Innocence. When I'm moving a thousand miles an hour in a strange place far from home, eating terribly unhealthy food in between fitful snippets of sleep in a sterile hotel room, it's little touchstones like Po that ground me, remind me who I am and why I'm here. She's a slice of my family's story, a piece of us that goes wherever I go and allows me to slow the day down when things seem a tad out of control.

Our son is 24 now and well on his way to becoming the good-soul adult we raised him to be. Someday, he may have a munchkin, too, and I hope he'll find some way to hold tightly to a piece of that little one's childhood for as long as he possibly can. Because the things that connect us often come in all sorts of packages, and introduce themselves to us when we least expect.

#las #vegas #lasvegas #nevada #cosmopolitan #hotel #road #trip #travel #travelphotography #travelgram #photography #canon #canon_photography #canonphotography #po #red #teletubby #life #family #is #everything

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Fan fold fantasy

Remembering when
Toronto, ON
November 2018
This photo originally shared on Instagram
Technology has a funny habit of disappearing without a trace.

That smartphone you stood in line to get and showed off to your friends eventually ended up being slipped quietly into a drawer. Your VCR was unceremoniously dumped onto the back of a dusty garage shelf after the video store closed and Netflix took over the entertainment part of our brains.

Sprocket-feed paper and the dot matrix printers they spilled out of? Same thing.

Sometimes old tech pops up where you least expect it, like here at the gate of the forgotten section of Toronto's major airport where the poor-cousin commuter turboprops hang out. In an airport that's gone largely paperless, I couldn't understand why one gate alone had its very own dot matrix printer.

But it was 6:37 a.m. on a Saturday, and the place was empty, so out came my phone. Except I had barely started shooting when the gate attendant showed up and asked what I was doing.

We ended up having a friendly discussion about tech's temporary nature, and how we don't do enough to preserve it. I'm guessing I started her day with a bright moment, which I'll chalk up as a small win for the universe. Perhaps even humdrum photos have a higher purpose, after all.

#toronto #yyz #pearson #international #airport #road #trip #travel #travelphotography #travelgram #aircanada Air Canada #flight #flying #lasvegas #aviation #avgeek #google #pixel2 #teampixel #london #ontario #canada #life #family #is #everything

Saturday, November 17, 2018

I still need tires, though

Get a grip
London, ON
November 2018
This photo originally shared on Instagram
It's been almost two months since we got the call about my brother, and our universe seemingly turned on its axis and failed to return to its previous position and direction. Indeed, it never will. Because there is no "normal", no pivot back to anything remotely resembling routine.

One of my my go-to responses to crisis is to hunker down and go quiet. It's partly because I need to focus on the task at hand, and because I freaking need my space.

Even at the best of times, I've never been much of a phone talker or serial emailer, often taking my sweet time to return messages - if I returned them at all. Now it's infinitely worse, as I literally don't want to speak to people. It's exhausting to find the words, to not betray what's boiling up below the surface.

There's a small circle of people to whom this doesn't apply: wife, kids, the closest of friends. But everyone else, I avert their gaze and keep walking, hoping they won't draw me in.

Yup, I'm nasty that way.

But the thing is, you can't stop living just because your brain has decided it now hates to communicate with the outside world. Groceries need to be bought. You need to show up at work and be your usual super-productive self. Kids need to be brought where they need to go, and helped with homework.

And, as you can guess from this picture, winter tires need to be bought lest you slide your beloved red car off an icy road.

Tires or no tires, life outside your own continues to move at its own pace, in its own way. At the same time, you don't "get over" trauma, either, and you don't return to the way things were before. But stuff still needs to get done. Which explains why today I'm gritting my teeth and calling around for quotes on freaking tires.

Because no one cares what just happened to you and your family. They, too, have their own stuff to deal with. They probably need to put winter tires on their own cars, too.

#ldnont #costco #car #winter #snow #tire #tires #driving #road #wheels #red #Honda #Civic #CivicNation #auto #automotive #carporn #google #pixel2 #teampixel #london #ontario #canada #family #is #everything

Friday, November 16, 2018

No, technology doesn't beat geography

Tectonic texture
Las Vegas, NV
November 2018
This photo originally shared on Instagram
Rocketing through the atmosphere at nearly the speed of sound, it's easy to assume we've conquered the Earth, that our technological prowess has allowed us to beat down geography and render it irrelevant in our quest to go where we want, when we want, and do whatever we want when we get there.

To a large extent, that is indeed true. Technology lets us pretend that the real world is something Out There. We know it exists, but it hardly touches our day-to-day lives, and is easy to ignore if we so wish.

Fair enough. But what if we take the mega-sophisticated airplane out of the picture, along with all the other doodads of modern life? What if, by some bizarro miracle, we were left to our own devices in the hostile-but-impossibly-gorgeous desert below?

I'm guessing we wouldn't be so dominant, as we seem to think we are from our perspective so far above and/or removed from the rough and tumble of life on our planet. Standing on one of those craggy rock surfaces you see here, it's safe to say we would probably no longer be the modern giants we thought we were. More immediately, I doubt any of us would have the wherewithal to get much of anything done down there, let alone survive and thrive as we might in our traditional urban environments.

I'm hardly the first person to ponder the state of humanity from a window seat 7 miles above the planet. So be it. But as I tossed those thoughts around my brain, I found myself wondering why humans are so arrogant to begin with, and why more of us can't simply respect the universe around us for what it is, without feeling like we need to conquer it in some way. I fail to understand why "conquering nature" is such a cornerstone of the modern human experience.

I'm pretty sure we'd lose any battle against the elements if we were forced to leave our vaunted iPhones behind. I'm not sure why we have to think of it as a battle in the first place.

#las #vegas #lasvegas #ldnont #yxu #toronto #yyz #pearson #mccarran #international #airport #road #trip #travel #travelphotography #travelgram #aircanada Air Canada #flight #flying #aviation #avgeek #google #pixel2 #teampixel #life #family #is #everything

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Sharing perspective from a window seat

Plateau below
Las Vegas, NV
November 2018
This photo originally shared on Instagram
Perspective is a funny thing. From way up here, the landscape below looks puny. Sitting in a plane at altitude, it's hard to get a sense of scale as you stare at the formations below you. The cliff faces you see here are taller than most buildings in my home town, yet I can easily cover them with my thumb. And I'm pretty sure I'm the only person on this 767 having this existential debate with myself at this particular moment.

Even if everyone on this side of the plane was indeed looking out the window, each one of us would perceive the scene differently. Perhaps some of us would think nothing of it, something to be brushed into the past because this damn flight is taking too long. Perhaps others would see the wonder, the geologic history, and wish for another pass to get a closer look.

I know which side of the equation applies to me, yet I smile as I think about the incredible landscape below, and the fact that it tells different stories depending on who's doing the looking, and from where.

Is there a broader lesson in this? I'm thinking there probably is, but for now, it's enough for me to squeeze off a shot and wait for our fast-moving plane to soon offer up another wondrous scene to ponder.

#las #vegas #lasvegas #ldnont #yxu #toronto #yyz #pearson #mccarran #international #airport #road #trip #travel #travelphotography #travelgram #aircanada Air Canada #flight #flying #aviation #avgeek #google #pixel2 #teampixel #life #family #is #everything

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Game over

Recycling, gamer style
London, ON
November 2018
This photo originally shared on Instagram
It's 5:55 on a cold, quiet King Street in downtown London. I'm walking to the Via train station on my way to Toronto for the day for work. It isn't a rough area, but it isn't a part of town where - or a time of say when - you'd otherwise let your guard down. I've had enough near-misses in this 'hood to be justifiably paranoid. So I'm absorbing every detail around me, including the boxes strewn haphazardly across the sidewalk up ahead.

As I get closer, I realize it's the packaging from a Nintendo Wii video game console. For context, this thing was introduced in 2006, and our now-young-adult kids long ago outgrew it. Why it's here is a complete mystery.

So I stop and stare because a) I've got a bit of extra time in the schedule and b) stopping and staring is just what I do. Another weird quirk of mine.

Soon enough, I decide it's photo-worthy. Not because it's an especially aesthetically pleasing scene. Just look at it: Ew. But because I needed a placeholder for the questions that were racing through my head: Who left this here? Why? What's the backstory? Is it a happy or a sad story? Or something in between?

I don't know why trivialities like this stop me dead in my tracks, but I'm glad they do. Adult life is usually so filled with seriousness that an occasional step off the merry-go-round is probably a good boost for the soul.

But it doesn't happen on its own, and as I stood there on the sidewalk shivering in the damp, pre-dawn cold and tucked my smartphone back into my pocket, I made a mental note to look for more of these moments on my next walk. And the next.

Because what is life but a chaotic collection of tiny moments and mysteries, all begging us for a bit of conscious thought before we charge off to our Next Big Thing and forget that they ever mattered in the first place?

The thing is, they very much do.

#ldnont #519london #519ldn #wednesday #morning #walkabout #everyday #urban #downtown #king #street #photography #google #pixel2 #teampixel #nintendo #wii #video #game #retro #yxu #london #ontario #canada

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Bathtub rings in the desert

National Geographic
Las Vegas, NV
November 2018
This photo originally shared on Instagram
Just because you have a window seat doesn't mean you'll have a great view.

Sometimes you're on the wrong side of the plane, facing the sun. Or the plane you're on might have first taken flight right around the time Ronald Reagan was berating Mikhael Gorbachev to tear down that wall, so the plastic windows might be horribly scratched and foggy. Or the tight confines of your seat and an already-overloaded backpack mean you've left the DSLR at home and are shooting with a humble smartphone. Or you're just so freaking tired from all that travel - and all the life stuff that preceded it - that you can't see straight, let alone determine whether the scene really is in focus. Or maybe it's all of these factors conspiring against you.

Never mind all that. Because eventually the plane will turn away from the sun. Eventually you'll find a spot in the window that's just clear enough to see through, and you'll figure out the focus thing just enough to get a reasonable shot of whatever's out there. And then you'll fly over a primordial-looking sliver of the planet that simply makes your jaw drop.

I know shooting out the passenger window of a worn-at-the-edges Boeing 767-300 is hardly the epitome of fine photography, and the results here are meh.

But on this day, over the course of this trip, during this chapter of my life, it hasn't been about the results at all. The process is the thing these days. The act of holding a camera in your hand and thinking about the countless factors of composition and lighting as the world slides far beneath you. The hoops your brain jumps through as you decide what to shoot, how to shoot it, and what story you want that frame to tell. The feeling you get when you realize you've spent the better part of the past two hours doing nothing but this.

And the darkness that's been hanging over you is nowhere to be seen. For now, anyway.

#las #vegas #lasvegas #ldnont #yxu #toronto #yyz #pearson #mccarran #international #airport #road #trip #travel #travelphotography #travelgram #aircanada Air Canada #flight #flying #aviation #avgeek #google #pixel2 #teampixel #life #family #is #everything

Monday, November 12, 2018

Gazing at wonder from high above

Colorful desert
Las Vegas, NV
November 2018
This photo originally shared on Instagram
Flying to Las Vegas last week gave me a lot of time to stare out the window and ponder the wonders and perils of the universe. I can't say I came up with any answers to any of the questions that have been bouncing around my head of late. I didn't solve, fix, or discover anything, either, and emerged from the plane as broken and confused as I've been all along.

But the experience did help me clear my head a bit, if only for a few fleeting hours before we landed and the fun truly began. I stared out the window and saw landscapes I had never seen before. Despite the fact that I was sitting behind the wing of our Boeing 767-300, and thus had to shoot through the exhaust of the left-hand General Electric CF6-80C2 high-bypass turbofan engine, I managed to grab a workable image or two.

This one, in particular, serves as a reminder that there's wonder everywhere. We just have to look out the window to see the kinds of colors and textures that would stop the most cynical among us dead in our tracks. Hey, maybe I'm not as broken or confused as I thought I was.

#las #vegas #lasvegas #ldnont #yxu #toronto #yyz #pearson #mccarran #international #airport #road #trip #travel #travelphotography #travelgram #aircanada Air Canada #flight #flying #aviation #avgeek #google #pixel2 #teampixel #life #family #is #everythıng

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Do not cross this line

Tape for bees
Mississauga, ON
November 2018
This photo originally shared on Instagram
Fun in an airport - the latest in an ongoing series.

The scene: Pearson International Airport, Toronto, Ontario. Early Saturday morning, domestic departures gate area. I left my hotel a few thousand kilometres thataway just over 24 hours ago, only to be stopped 200 km from home by a cancelled late-night flight.

I nasty-tweeted the airline - which makes me feel a bit guilty, because I'm supposed to be a kindly Canadian - and eventually got everything sorted out. They gave me a hotel and food voucher, and after a 2-hour power nap in a room overlooking the garbage bins, I'm back at the airport waiting for the first flight home.

So I thought I'd have a little fun with photography. Unfortunately, the yellow and black tape you see here was placed uncomfortably close to a lovely middle-aged couple. But I really wanted the shot. So I wandered over, anyway, sat myself down cross-legged on the floor, and started working the angles with my smartphone.

I could see the woman was looking at me like I was slightly altered, but the man seemed genuinely intrigued, with a half-smile to match. So I eventually turned to them and said, "Please don't mind me. I do this weird stuff all the time." The guy says in a friendly Aussie drawl, "No worries, mate, looks like you got the shot."

Nice to know there are still good-hearted strangers out there who appreciate the small things. And nice to know there's enough random kindness in the world that we can still share fun little moments like this when we're far from home.

Friday, November 09, 2018

Staring out the window at the airport

Planes at rest at sunrise
Las Vegas, NV
November 2018
This photo originally shared on Instagram
I'm running way ahead of schedule this morning, so I've been slowly making my way to my gate at the airport, slowly drinking in the architecture of this place, slowly thinking about how I want to remember this particular journey, and how I want to share it with my family after I get home.

I may be here alone, but I never lose sight of the fact that being away ripples out through my wife and kids. It throws everyone's schedule off as I disappear, and Debbie takes on even more than she already does to keep everything together in my absence. They wake up earlier, run around more, get less sleep, all because I'm not there.

It's been a fabulous week here. The conference was an incredible experience. I dug deep with my team and we did amazing work that sets the stage for lots of good things ahead. But it's time to come home. And as I set off on this journey with no one to talk to but myself, I realize I'm never really alone, that I carry a small group of remarkable people - my family, my life - with me wherever I go.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Fun in a hotel bathtub

Artful plumbing
Las Vegas, NV
November 2018
Photo originally shared on Instagram
I can already predict what my kids will say when I get home: “Our dad went to Las Vegas, and all he did was take stupid pictures of hotel room bathtub fixtures.”

They wouldn’t be wrong. And it wouldn’t be the first time I turned the lens inward while I was away.

That’s largely because when you’re away for work instead of vacation, you don’t have tons of time to explore. I’ve been trying to take quick walks outside, but I’ve been “on” from before dawn until late at night, then back at it early again the next day. So it’s been hard to squeeze in the time to get away.

To compensate, I’ve been looking inward, stealing snippets of the oddball facets of my hotel room, the hallways, the views out the windows, whatever happens to be under my nose at any given moment as I move from my room to the conference venue and back.

It’s the kind of photography we just don’t do when we have the luxury of time. And it means the weird factor gets cranked up a notch or two.

Which largely explains why I found myself exploring my hotel room - including the bathtub - with my smartphone camera before I tucked in for the night. Is it strange? Of course. Trivial? Indeed!

But looking back at the photo, and thinking of how it ended up being created, makes me realize just how lucky I am to be who I am. If a sign of a life well lived is a tub fixture photography fixation, I’m okay with that.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Shooting glass in an empty hotel corridor

Artfully melted sand, closeup
Las Vegas, NV
November 2018
This photo originally shared on Instagram
I have a love-hate relationship with travel. On the one hand, it lets you explore new places with your mind - and your lens - and it forces you to be way more in-the-moment than if you were lying on the couch at home, eating a bowl of Cool Ranch Doritos while binge-watching Riverdale on Netflix.

On the other hand, I find it occasionally frightening. I don’t do well in crowds. Or with sleeping alone far from home in a strange hotel room filled with strange smells and sounds. I miss my wife and kids, and I miss my alarm-clock dog sticking her nose into my ear an hour before dawn. Travel focuses a lot of change on you in a short amount of time, and it makes me a little queasy at first - at least until I settle into something of a groove once I get there.

So I use my camera as a bit of a crutch, and spend an inordinate amount of time composing and shooting as a means of easing my overactive, non-traveller’s mind.

Consider this as today's Exhibit A. I was meeting a colleague before our next scheduled event, and had arrived in the open area outside the conference rooms a bit early. I noticed the bar was unstaffed because it was late in the day, and since there was no one around to ask for permission, I walked behind the bar and had some optical fun with their nicely stored glasses. I’m badass that way.

I got some stares from passers-by, along with two smiles and a thumbs-up, and as far as I can tell, the hotel hasn't booted me out yet. More importantly, in addition to getting a pretty memorable shot with a fun back-story, I gave myself 5 minutes where I felt a little more normal than I had felt in a while. That's why I shoot, no matter where I might be at the moment.

Your turn: What should I shoot next?

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

When dogs meet cats

Will you please be my new friend?
London, ON
November 2018
This photo originally shared on Instagram
Some days, it's tempting to walk the dog as quickly as possible. But then I'd miss moments like this one, where she dances on her hind legs like a circus dog as I struggle to keep her from pouncing on her newest enemy. On this day, it was the lovely orange/white domestic shorthair cat on the upper-right.

Since this is how Schnauzers are built, I don't worry about it all that much. Simply put, she's bonkers, and her hind-leg dance amuses strangers. And our experience with our last Schnauzer, Frasier, suggests this isn't some puppy-ish behavior that'll she'll eventually outgrow. She'll be like this forever.

Which makes me smile. Because we didn't get a dog because we wanted her to be perfect. We got a dog because we hoped she would complement the admittedly imperfect family that we already are. She's a Levy, warts and all. We can count on her to bark at the wrong time - or constantly - to chew things she shouldn't, and to nip ankles when we go upstairs.

I've accepted she'll never win Best of Show, even if I make up my own competition and hold it in our basement on a Sunday afternoon (I'd give the trophy to that cat, frankly.) I've also come to grips with how she terrorizes the groomers: She's the only dog I know who DOESN'T get featured on their Facebook page. I'm just glad they haven't banned her yet, but part of me expects to eventually get that call.

But I couldn't love her more if I tried, and the same goes for everyone in my fam. We all adore this crazy little ball of fur precisely because of her shortcomings. And accepting her as one of us despite it all is one of the hallmarks of our little family, and a validation that our kids are turning out just fine. Maybe we've been defining "perfection" all wrong, anyway. Maybe it has nothing to do with tricks, or being quiet, or not destroying the house. Maybe it has everything to do with the ripples you leave on the people around you. On that front, she's beyond perfect.

Monday, November 05, 2018


Gear down and locked
Mississauga, ON
November 2018
This photo originally shared on Instagram
Our little family has been on the move a lot lately, so it's only fitting that I start the work week on a plane. I'm heading to a work thing, in a place I've never been before, and the next few days will hold lots of cool challenge and opportunity before my team and I can declare success and head home just in time for the weekend.

As I do every time I travel, I try to tell the story in pixels. When I travel alone, away from my family, the pictures take on a different role. Because we can't be together, I want to tell the story for them, to show them where I am, what I'm up to, and what it feels like. I miss my wife and kids from the moment I kiss them goodbye, but as I shoot and share, I feel like we're perhaps a little closer than Google Maps might suggest. Whatever works, right?

At this moment, our Q-400 had dropped out of the predawn clouds over Mississauga on the way into Toronto Pearson International Airport. The gear was down and locked, the flaps were down, and the sturdy twin-turboprop aircraft was being buffeted by the wind as rain streaked diagonally across the scratched plastic windows.

Add in muddy low light and it was hardly a recipe for photographic goodness. But as soon as I saw this shot, I knew it would rather nicely tell the story of the opening moments of this long trip. My photographer-daughter would, with a smile, call it a lousy picture. But she's learned so well that lousy pics sometimes tell the most important stories both of and for the family lucky enough to share them.

And, yes, I count myself lucky indeed.

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Staring out a hospital window

Mount Royal, then and now
Montreal, QC
October 2018
This photo originally shared on Instagram
This is the late-afternoon view, looking south out of the 8th floor of the Jewish General Hospital. Spend enough time in this place and eventually your soul needs to look outside. I'm not sure why, but heading to the windows always brightens the moment.

This is much the same view I had as a kid when I was a frequent flyer in the now-closed pediatrics ward two storeys down. St. Joseph's Oratory is on the left. St. Mary's Hospital - where our eldest son was born - sits to the right. The Snowdon/Cote-des-Neiges neighborhood spills down the Mount Royal slope.

Except I didn't have a camera back then, and my only option was to remember the scene in my mind. I watched this vista so often, from first light to sunset, and often through the night when the sounds of the hospital kept me awake. It eventually became a scene impossible to forget.

Which is why when I happened upon it again, it seemed so familiar. The photo in my camera perfectly matched the one I'd been carrying around in my head all these years. I didn't necessarily want to be back here - indeed, no one ever does - but at least it felt somewhat like home.

Friday, November 02, 2018

Wet green leaf in a parking lot

Not yet forgotten
London, ON
November 2018
This photo originally shared on Instagram
I found this one rainy morning in the parking lot beside our office, and decided to quickly shoot it before heading inside to start the day. A reminder that all sorts of interesting stuff is happening quite literally at our feet, and we'll never know what we're missing if we keep on walking.

Is a wet leaf on an otherwise unremarkable stretch of asphalt going to change the world? Probably not. Is it a trivial thing? Of course.

But as I finished shooting this temporary, mundane scene, a co-worker called me over and asked what I was shooting. She and I have had this conversation before, and she knows about my little addiction to the everyday. So I showed her the photo, and we chatted for a few minutes about why seemingly small stuff like this matters as much as it does.

Because life is lived well when we slow down enough to appreciate the quiet, in-the-margin moments for what they are. And we lose out on all that color, texture, magic, warmth, whatever you want to call it, when we choose to keep walking.

I'm especially glad I didn't keep walking on this wet, grey day. Not only did it make me happy. It made someone else happy, too. Those ripples. It's up to us to start them on their journey.

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Reflecting on life by the giant orange

OJ, reflectively
Montreal, QC
October 2018
Photo originally shared on Instagram
Normally, trips home to Montreal are a treat - we reconnect with forever-friends, spend time with family, and visit the places that defined our lives growing up here.

But these aren’t normal times, and returning here with my wife to spend time with her hospitalized dad was, frankly, hard. The days were long and unsettled, sleeping fitfully in an apartment far from home, leaving for the hospital before dawn, spending the day and night there, then heading “home” into the darkness, only to repeat the process the next day.

At times like this, you look for normalcy wherever you can. One night as we left the hospital, I realized we weren’t far from the iconic Orange Julep.

Officially, it’s Gibeau Orange Julep, but everyone just calls it “OJ”. This giant orange, plopped unceremoniously beside an expressway off-ramp, has been here forever. As kids the ultimate treat was for our parents to take us here. Back then, servers on roller skates delivered the food on trays that hung precariously off the side of your car. The servers are long gone, and everyone lines up at the front counter. It’s old, kitschy, and ohmygod it’s perfection.

This was where we drove when we wanted to show off our newly minted drivers’ licenses. We kept coming back to show off our cars, our clothes, or even our newest significant others. We’d park in the circular-ish lot, and hang out for hours over slowly-sipped OJ drinks and greasy-spoon-ish hot dogs, grilled cheeses and fries, talking about both everything and nothing at all.

Little did we know it at the time, but we were all writing an indelible chapter in the stories of our lives. So when I came back here with my wife on this dark, sad night, it felt right to linger a bit longer and chat under the fluorescent lights pooling in the puddle-stained parking lot. As it was when we were first dating, it felt like home. Only this time I didn’t have to work so hard to impress her.

Your turn: What place from your childhood have you returned to? What was it like?