Loss and sadness

Yesterday we received word that a close family friend had passed away and it made me reflect on the ideas of loss and sadness. 

“The walls we build around us to keep sadness out also keeps out the joy.” – Jim Rohn

This quote sums up my belief about grieving and loss and the sadness you feel – you have to let it in or it will simply keep knocking at your door.

Just after Thanksgiving weekend, 2004, my father passed away. It seems to me that although the sense of his presence was greatest at that time, I still think of him almost daily. Whether it’s because I see or hear something that would have brought one of his strongly worded comments or I miss having the opportunity to talk to the that person who made me believe, even for a moment, that I was amazing. The song that makes me think of my dad is Josh Grobin’s “You Raise Me Up” because, well, he did raise me up. As the song says, sometimes when I need to, I just stop and think about what he would have said…. “Then I am still and wait here in the silence, Until you come and sit awhile with me”. I appreciate that this is a religious song, which neither dad or I were, but he was a person who guided me and definitely helped me to walk on stormy seas. And yet, he was not a regular part of my life for many years. I grew up without a consistent relationship with my dad and moved across the country shortly after we reconnected in the early 1980s. It was really after his cancer diagnosis in 2003 that we began to make our strongest connection. As our family moves through some difficulty times these days, I know that we all wish dad were here to help guide us back to the path that we should be on (or kick some butt as the case may be).

I miss you, Dad.

In January, 2009, our family was shocked by the unexpected death of my beloved father-in-law. Although his age, 81, might suggest that his death should have been expected, he had been the proverbial picture of health. Dad was one of the most giving, caring people I have ever known. His presence literally filled a room and he had a personality that attracted people to him and his stories. This man could remember every person he had ever met and if he was in your town, he’d call you up. He made people know that they mattered.  I miss you, Dad.


“Sadness flies away on the wings of time” – Jean de La Fontaine

I have learned that sadness does fly away, but sometimes it returns. Today I thought a great deal about my dad as I went through a medical test to see if I had any signs of his cancer. I wished we could turn back time and he was the one taking the test. Because I am confident, had he taken it at my age, he would still be here.

So, to both my dads, thank you for all your brought to my life. You are two of the most influential people in my life even today.

Love ’em or hate ’em?

I find that people have strong reactions to insects. The fact that I love to take photos of insects is somewhat surprising in that, as a friend pointed out recently, I am allergic to bees so what am I thinking taking photographs of them – and close up photos at that? As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I usually don’t go looking for the insects and especially not bees; they simply show up.

I like insects because they amaze me. Spiders work diligently to create intricate webs and they are accomplished “hunters” of prey. Bees are very important to the lives of my favourite subject – flowers. All insects are fascinating to look at though it is extremely difficult to do so in their natural setting because they are busy….being insects.

I probably would not have taken any interest in insects if it weren’t for Kyle. His master degree focus involves ants and his project from fourth year that involved creating a “bug box” totally captivated my interest. I no longer kills insects unless it is absolutely necessary, although I am not THAT person who insists that everyone adhere to that ideal. I see the value of insects in a totally different way and therefore I appreciate them in a totally different way as well.

Yet, let’s face it. People either love ’em or they hate ’em. Children are most often firmly in one camp or another; adults usually can manage to keep their hatred to a low roar, but often children can be heard screaming and scurrying from anything other than the smallest of insects.

So, I fully understand that the photos in this post will not be for everyone. All I expect is an appreciation for what they bring to our world. Think honey.  

Enjoy. Or not.

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The world outside

This weekend we closed the cottage. Having grown up in landlocked Alberta, the world of cottaging was all new to me when I moved here 28 years ago. And sometimes, it still feels foreign. Out west, people go “to the lake” or “the cabin”. Here, the family cottage sits on a river and “the cabin” is the small, winterized building on the property.

The first time I ever saw the cottage was in the winter of 1982. Tim and I had come to Ontario to spend Christmas with his family and friends. For New Year’s Eve, we were going skiing and stopped at the cottage on our way. We must have cross-country skied in, which would have been a first for me. I don’t remember much, except the quiet. It was so peaceful.

The cottage is still a quiet place in the winter, and often times during the week in the summer. The weekends, though, are a different story. The river is like a thoroughfare, transporting people at such a pace and with such frequency you can forget that gas is extraordinarily expensive.

The cottage has become a place that allows me to take some of my favourite shots because of the slower pace. Up and away from the river, even the insects seem to slow down. This weekend, I spent a significant amount of time photographing a bee and although I was very close to it, the insect was so intent on its work that it never seemed to be bothered by me. Perhaps the fact that I held on to the stem of the flower, preventing it from swaying in the wind and ruining my shot, also allowed the bee to be more productive. It was a win-win.

The photos below are ones that I took throughout the spring, summer and fall “up north”. The cottage life may not have started out familiar to me, but the many photo opportunities it provides offer an appeal that is wholly unique.


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Photo contests

This summer, I decided to enter a couple of photo contests. I shot pretty high, I have to admit. I went with My Shot through National Geographic and Cottage Life’s annual photo contest.

The National Geographic entry was not about me classifying myself along side some of the world’s greatest photographers; instead, I have other people’s submissions and have found comments among the entrants to be helpful and insightful. My Shot allows you to enter one shot per month and then the editor’s look at all the entries and decide which are the best ones to be shared. It’s amazing to see the range of subjects and types of shooting abilities that are of interest to the editors. It encourages me to look at photography differently. And the entire National Geographic website can cause me to lose hours on the computer.

The Cottage Life photo contest entry came about because I looked at the type of work that was being submitted and felt that my work was similar in that it was not polished and glossy, but rather the work of someone interested in learning more about photography, while trying to capture the essence of an experience like cottaging. Admittedly, I also entered this contest because many years ago, I entered a poem and photo in a Cottage Life contest and was chosen as a finalist. (It was about cottage shoes and Tim had an unbelievably beat up pair of shoes which I wrote an ode to. It was a lark to enter and I’m confident it was the state of the shoes that won the judge’s eye!) I am hoping that luck may strike again.

My next goal is to submit photos to a Mississauga News contest. I have an idea about what I want to capture about Mississauga and it would be interesting to see how the vision plays out.

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Photo editing

Initially, I planned on only using photos as they came out of my camera; I was opposed to the idea of photo editing. I thought that it somehow took away from the idea of photography. I got over it.

It happened simply enough when I had taken a shot that I wanted to lighten up. The shot captured a lot of elements that I was looking for and had not yet achieved in previous photos. Laura had loaded Picasa on my computer for a project several years ago and suggested I try using it. The results are below.

The photo on the left is the “original” – untouched by Picasa’s magic. In Picasa’s editing feature, I pressed the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button. That little button changed the way I perceived photo enhancements. Quite simply, I liked the photo more. And really, that’s what photography is about for me; creating pictures I like to look at. It’s wonderful when other people like them, but my primary goal was be able to look at something pleasing and know that I created it. Even if that meant that the process included a computer program.

I still prefer the idea of taking the perfect picture all on my own (and when I do, I’ll let you know). In the meantime, I enjoy having tools to allow me to edit it, shape it into something more pleasing.


Life in closeup

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Originally, this Daddy Longlegs was hanging out on a hummingbird feeder. I kept thinking about how much work that took as the feeder hangs from the eavestrough at the cottage. I took a stool out and tried to capture a few shots.

By moving the feeder to a railing, I was able to get better shots. Interestingly, at this point, the insect used its legs to “feel” the camera. That was cool. Sadly, the legs did not register when I took a shot, but that’s okay.

That’s something else I am learning about photography: experiencing the moments is often better than capturing them.


Favourites slideshow

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Sometimes looking through the lens in closeup, you don’t know what’s about to come into view. That is one of the best aspects of photography and macro photography in particular. The unexpected moments, the things you were not actually focussing on.

The way to miss those moments, I find, is to try too hard. Think too much.

These photos represent some of my favourites to date. Tomorrow, I might pick different favourites; but for today, these are what I chose.