The difference a leaf makes…

I spend an inordinate amount of time looking at photos online. I also spend a great deal of time reading other blogs. Some photos and some blogs are really entertaining. Others are poorly written, but have a wonderful “voice” anyway.

Often times, I am moved by something someone has written and I will pass it along to people. More often, much more often, I am moved by something I see. Music can change my mood – Laura taught me how amazing music can be. Music  usually creates a more upbeat feeling, but nothing can calm and soothe me like a beautiful photograph. And a beautiful photograph causes me to pause – I think perhaps that is more often the case now that I understand the difficulty in capturing a moment.

Lately, I have discovered that I have captured a few of those moments. Moments that create a calm feeling for me. And the focus of taking photos has therefore changed. Recently, I realized that I wanted to take photos that made a difference to other people and that is still true. This week, though, I took a picture that made me realize that I also have begun taking pictures that make a difference to me.

There is a tree on our street that has been there for a long time. I’m not sure if it was here when we moved here 20 years ago, or if it came after that time. What matters is that it is Kyle’s favourite tree on our street. And so the tree matters to me.  I decided to use it as a subject for a series of photos and the other day, I took a picture of one leaf to use for Kyle’s birthday card. When I saw the photo developed, I felt the calm I described above. It was a realization that beauty is all around and if I look for it – but not too hard – I might capture it. For myself.


Hanging by a thread

I seem to spend a lot of time trying to figure out spiders. Maybe it goes back to my very favourite child’s book, Charlotte’s Web. It was one of the few books I owned, as we were big subscribers of the library. Charlotte’s Web taught me about courage and the idea of being lost in a book. I know that books where animals talk are considered Fantasy, but for me, it was not a stretch to believe the animals had those types of thoughts. One of my very best friends growing up was the dog next door and I talked endlessly to him. I was confident he not only heard me, but understood me.

The only other book I remember owning was Harriet the Spy. I took notes about everything all the time. I wasn’t bothered by being on my own as it gave me time to observe others and I was sure that I knew everything about everybody. When Kyle began to read, he loved Encyclopedia Brown and I felt that series was his Harriet the Spy. And Laura has always loved writing in journals, just like I did and still do. There’s nothing as inspiring as a new notebook.

This particular grouping of shots came out of over a hundred shots and close to an hour of me standing around a couple of spider webs watching them being built. The number of flies already caught in one was phenomenal. And the size of the spiders was shocking. The fact that I had to get so super close to them was not the most comfortable thing I’ve ever done, but I was truly fascinated by the intricate work and detail.

And just for a change, I took a couple shots of flowers.


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Kensington Market

The first time I ever visited Kensington Market was in the spring of 1989. My strongest recollection is being overwhelmed by the smells of the many different foods being prepared. This was slightly problematic as I was pregnant with Kyle and those smells cut short our visit.

September 1, 2010 began a new Kensington adventure, with Kyle taking an apartment in the heart of the amazing neighbourhood. That day taught me about how crazy it is to think about taking a huge truck through the streets of one of the busiest pedestrian areas in Toronto; I did but only because I didn’t know any better.

So, today, I walked through Kensington, taking photos and being distracted by the incredibly diverse shopping experiences. And, best of all, hanging out.


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Surprising results

It’s been the greatest gift in photography to be surprised by the results of getting out and shooting. I have said before that working too hard, overthinking the subject, seems to complicate the end product.

The photos that I love are the ones that were surprises. Photos that were intended to be of one subject, usually flowers, become wonderful insect pictures because something literally flies into the frame. (If I go looking for an insect, I can almost guarantee that either I will come up empty, or the photos will be too forced.) Yet, there are so many ways that I have been surprised. The original subject appears too dark or lacking focus, but then on reflection, I realize that something off centre turns out to be the perfect subject.

The idea that one must take hundreds of photos to get one you like – or in this case love – is true. Very true.


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Back to school – U of T style

The fall of 2010 marked the first time that Laura and Kyle would attend the same “school” for an entire school year. That “school” was the University of Toronto. I spent many hours this past year on the campus and often had my camera ready to capture the incredible beauty of the grounds and buildings.

Kyle has continued at U of T, this year marking the beginning of his graduate work. Laura has begun an exchange year at the University of British Columbia, also an incredibly beautiful campus. They both have always appreciated their surroundings and how those surroundings add to the experience of university life.


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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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I have discovered that raindrops make photography fascinating. Due to their size, it is really hard to know exactly what you will get and even harder to be certain of what might be reflected in the drop.

Back in April, I took a picture of a raindrop and then realized that the surrounding forsythia bushes were reflected in the drops. I was immediately hooked. Due to the above mentioned challenges regarding knowing what is reflected in the drops, this type of subject demands that I simply trust that something good will come of the shot. I look for drops that have colour reflected in them, and then shoot away.

Often times, a raindrop is not caught on the end of a branch, leaf or flower but rather sits right on it. The added texture can make a leaf “pop” in a photo. It is hard to describe, so just enjoy….

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One subject – different seasons

Having such a big, wonderful backyard has afforded me a multitude of photographic opportunities. Using the swing at the back of the garden as a focal point has allowed me to work on lighting and composition as well as show the different seasons contrasted on a similar background.

Beyond the swing, I have been able to spend hours working on macro photography using the various flowers and plant materials in the backyard. The ability to pop into the house and check out the results on the computer is really advantageous as I can make the necessary changes and get back out to try again.


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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.



It has been a week with many moments of sadness. The death of Jack Layton has profoundly affected so many people.

The sadness people feel comes from many places, not the least of which is that the possibilities that Jack Layton represented have stalled. The values that he embodied were ones that people admired and wanted to emulate and his presence encouraged that in others. People felt connected to the hope that Jack Layton represented for our country and the kinder, gentler place that he encouraged us to return to.

And finally, to all Canadians: Canada is a great country, one of the hopes of the world. We can be a better one – a country of greater equality, justice, and opportunity…consider that we can be a better, fairer, more equal country by working together.. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.

All my very best,

Jack Layton