Where has the time gone?

I went back to look at some of the first photos I took with my camera, as it’s been just about a year since I acquired it. Some of those shots remain my favourites and as I looked back on them, I realized that I was just spending time learning how to take a picture. Not how to use the camera, how to fancy up the shot, just simply how to take a photo. Up until I acquired this camera, I took pictures for a purpose – to chronicle an event or vacation, to document a moment in time. As a scrapbooker, I took photos that I could put into a story that would translate into a good scrapbook.

The first photos I took were under the watchful eye of my hubby who has a much more artistic view of the world. My idea of a good picture is one I like, all based on emotion. Tim can look at a picture or a house or anything really and explain what the elements are that make it appealing, how it works, how it doesn’t work. As much as I appreciated that he had a stronger aesthetic experience and therefore a valuable opinion, he encouraged me to go back to listening to my gut and take photos the way I liked because ultimately it is my hobby and we both benefit from my enjoyment of it. Over this year, I have found that there are photos I take that I don’t like that he does and vice versa. Many people I have shared my photos with also have very strong reactions to photos one way or another, and that has taken some getting used to. I don’t know that I’ll ever be completely comfortable with either praise or criticism, but I do take something from those opinions and go forward.

In some ways, I can see how much my photography style has changed and evolved. And yet, looking back, the simplistic photos of the “early days” still appeal, so perhaps what I like has remained the same and how I achieve it has been the area of growth. Who knows?


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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.

The Tree Project

I’ve just learned a wonderful lesson in blogging – photos can and do disappear between creation and deliverance of a post…oh well.

On October 1st,  I began a wonderful project photographing the tree at the end of our street. Quite simply, it is the most amazing tree in the neighbourhood. Some years ago, a stately tree sat on the front lawn of the local school and that tree overshadowed all around it, but it became diseased and was removed. So, although my favourite tree does not actually receive as much attention as it is not on a main street in front of a public building, it is worthy of a month’s worth of photographing.

It started out just with a few leaves considering changing colour and over time, it became something spectacular. Without a doubt, the fallen leaves also proved to be great photo subjects.

And then, on Thanksgiving weekend, with the children home from university, the tree came close to showing all its glory.

A couple days later, it was there….a grey overcast day with a wonderful showing by the tree.

After the beautiful weather of Thanksgiving, though, the skies turned grey consistently and there was a great deal of wind. So before October was done, the tree’s beauty had all been blown away.


The big picture

I am a big fan of macro photography. This statement would not be a surprise to anyone who has looked at my blog, seen my Facebook page or seen more than two photos I’ve ever taken. It most certainly is not what I envisioned as my main interest when I took up photography a year ago. I literally fell into it after a comment by a Black’s employee. This nice young man suggested I buy some filters, rather than a lens, to try out macro photography. Since a “real” macro lens is around $800+, he thought I should spend a whole lot less to see just how much I did or did not like macro photography. So, I ordered 4 filters online for a whooping $14.95 and gave them a try. I was hooked within a day.

The downside of this, of course, was that I have not spent time working on other types of photography. When I told Laura that I was going to be taking photos downtown this weekend, she suggested I take some “big” pictures – landscapes and buildings, that kind of thing. So, I did. I snuck in a bit of macro (I mean, really, when a bee just flies into your shot, and you get a shot of his wings moving, what can you do?) but I tried to broaden my view. I took over 130 photos and came out with a few that I can live with but I also came out with an understanding of the importance of framing being equally important in “big” and “little” photos.


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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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My first photo project

I have been reading a book by photographer/author Tom Ang and one suggestion that resonated with me was the idea of taking on a photo project. The timing worked well as there is a tree on my street that is phenomenal and I always wondered about how quickly the leaves turn, what the process looks like, etc.

So, on October 1st, I began taking shots of the tree. I have, as Ang predicted, learned a lot while doing the project. For instance, it is important, when documenting change in the form I am, to take your shot from the same spot each time. This is something I did not really realize until the last few days of shooting. The same time of day would be great, too, but work tends to be unpredictable and therefore I have had to take some shots early and others late in the day.

I have taken less joy from taking shots of the whole tree and much more enjoyment from doing close up shots of the leaves.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing; learning (again and again) that I prefer the world closeup to the big picture.

So far, these are some of my favourite shots and some shots of the tree progressing through its fall wardrobe. I will figure out, some time after all the leaves have fallen, how I want to present my final “project”. It probably will figure itself out.


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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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