Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Dawn and dusk

Yesterday I traveled on our island ferry both at sunrise and sunset and realized once again how productive of interesting photographs these moments can be when many simply put their cameras away . Perhaps they are working from older 'rule of thumb' understandings that a well exposed photograph needs plenty of light, preferably from behind the photographer. With digital cameras however one can venture deep into darkness or peer straight into the light source and just generally mess around with older standard practice. The results can be exciting and expressive.

 The morning sun peers over the hill and lights 
the shore but keeps the boat in shadow.
 How rich that first light is!

The glare of morning light invades
the shadows at Indian Point and Russell Island

The ferry trip tonight lasted from sunset to well into darkness
 but the Samsung digital mini camera just kept right on working!

 The above two photographs were taken with the zoom function 
and as the ferry is vibrating the photos are fuzzy.
 But I find them very expressive.

  In the photograph below the actual light was almost non existent but I exposed for the sky and got a beautiful image of Fulford Harbour and what it feels like to be chugging back to my home island at the end of a stressful day.

Monday, March 21, 2016

The Spring visit.

'Great photographs show not only what something looks like but also what it feels like for the subject at that particular moment.'
Stephanie Sinclair, National Geographic photographer

This is Spring break time in the school calendar and as usual we have had grandchildren staying with us. A time for which we have prepared in advance and now set aside our normal retirement days of frantic activity and focus on our children, once removed.

We walk along the beach at Indian Point one cool, windy, damp day, build and sail boats in the pond and have boat races in the stream, explore Ruckle Park and fly kites at Burgoyne Bay before taking the ferry to deliver children home to their parents. Tiring days, but with so many valuable interactions.

For me it is also an opportunity to record these moments with my camera, to capture not just the facts but the feel of childhood as well.
Some images are 'set pieces' – I pre-planned certain compositions - and others just happened and I was prepared to leap.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Rivers of Canada . Our heart-held land.

Rideau River

In a recent conversation the song my wife will be singing with her choir came up for discussion - “ Little Rivers of Canada” ( 'All the Little Rivers' by Larry Nickel *). We listened to it once more but in truth this song has been invading my mind for the last few months as Heather practices and tries to memorize all those RIVERS. I love it though, as I love so many songs about the Canadian experience of our relationship with the land.

Now, I was born in England, emigrating as a child of four to the Canadian West Coast with my family just after the Second World War, and some part of myself remains British. In that relationship is a love of that half imagined landscape experienced mostly through the creative works of poets, artists and writers, but I have also been grafted onto my new home. I imagine that this is the common experience of so many of us who now proudly identify as Canadian.

We have had an influx over the past few months of many people from war torn Syria and oh, how they must be missing their familiar hills, streets and rivers even as they bless the roof over their heads and freedom from the sword of immediate death and destruction hanging over their heads. But the feel of Canada, this vast landscape, will slowly seep in and provide a strong bond.

Songs like Ian Tamblyn's “Woodsmoke and Oranges “ ( )evoke the spirit of the rugged North Shore of Lake Superior, or of course the music of Gordon Lightfoot or Stan Rogers...., there is a long list of musicians, writers, painters and poets. Our mind-image of the landscape has been shaped by all of them over the years so that it is impossible to separate the real from the imagined. It is a joint enterprise, the land and it peoples, and for those of us who travel or live abroad these are the images that we identify as home.

*The song was adapted from the poem by Bliss Carmen
Rivers of Canada”

All the little rivers that run to Hudson's Bay,
They call me and call me to follow them away.

Missinaibi, Abitibi, Little Current--where they run
Dancing and sparkling I see them in the sun.
hear the brawling rapid, the thunder of the fall,
And when I think upon them I cannot stay at all.

And many verses more.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Daffodil and Narcissus.

'Tis the season and spring flowering bulbs lead by daffodil and narcissus are springing up everywhere. After their long winter sleep they rise once more from their cold bed beneath the earth. No wonder the English word Daffodil has its origins in the flower of the Ancient Greek underworld, Asphodel ( though by some to have originally been the white narcissus).

 It is so easy to photograph a field of yellow or a bunch in a vase on the table, in fact Spring is a challenge because all this new growth and flowers pull me towards yet more repeating images in my digital library. Enough already! I decided to push daffodils a little, photographically speaking, with the underworld in the back of my mind.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Bold Bluff: the hike.

The hiking club found a grey but dry moment between rainy days and hiked from the head of Burgoyne Bay along the southern shore to Bold Bluff in Sansum Narrows. ( You can Google Earth this you know). The trails were running over and very mushy but the twenty or so folks splashed (and talked), clambered over fallen trees ( and talked) and climbed up mossy rock faces ( and talked some more, between gasps and puffs). Not bad for a somewhat elderly crew! ( myself included).

This talky-walky hiking in a natural setting still seems a little strange to me, but I can see its value for this chatty crowd of Saltspring islanders. Some members are newly arrived and here is a chance to get to know their new home and neigbours, and for others it provides a chat hiking-line for old friends. Listening in to the many strands of conversation up and down the line, I am struck by the intellectual topics that get aired. What a clever bunch!

Exercise in the open air, exploration, and talk time!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Blasted Heath.

“We have met the enemy and he is us.” 
from Pogo, by Walt Kelly

On Vancouver Island, as in places even nearer home, there are areas that clearly show the truly negative impact of human beings. High on a hillside was a very large expanse of chewed-up landscape, seeded and taken over by an invasive species, broom. Scattered around were old burn piles of what had once been forest and meandering amidst all this were bulldozed roads scraped down to the hard underlying clay hardpan which defied even broom to make a start. On a wet February day the place spoke so eloquently of rape and abandonment that I decided to document the true nature of the place instead of lifting my camera lens to encompass only the more palatable distant mountains as I had done on my last visit.

To document something requires searching for a truth and to begin with my first impressions were all negative. I noticed the Scot's broom of course, but also some stunted willows, brambles, the occasional alder, and in the midst of all was a bright yellow gorse bush. A couple of cottontail rabbits hopped out of sight in the dense broom thickets, and a flock of robins flew in and out of a young alder. The rain blew sideways in the gusting wind and the surrounding mountains were hidden in low clouds. An untidy, rough, useless sort of place waiting to be turned into building sites.

But then I began to see things differently. The gorse bush was in full bloom, the robins were chattering among themselves and I began to notice the persistence of nature in reclaiming this difficult landscape. The same willows that I had seen growing in the gravel bars of the Englishman River down in the valley below were staking a claim here too amid the clay and boulders, and the Himalayan blackberry vines reached out purposefully toward the mossy tracks. This place with it's many invasive species co-existing with the hardiest of native ones was not simply a place to hate. While one could rightfully decry the logging companies and land developers who caused this slowly healing scare, the ability of nature to resettle even the toughest places was to be praised and appreciated.

In a little while Spring will be in full career, the broom will make this a sea of sweet smelling yellow, alive with bees. The robins and many other birds will be nesting, hawks will drift watchfully overhead and those rabbits, the bane of gardeners, will be happily raising more families deep in the broom. If I can see 'invasive species' but also see beauty in this landscape, the beauty of survival and new life, then perhaps I can also have some compassion for the destroyers of the original forest, for the families cruising for home-building sites in their SUV s, and ultimately for myself, yet another representative of an invasive species.