Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Let there be light

So much brightness
London, ON
January 2017
For more yellow-themed Thematic, head here
Sometimes when I'm bored, I stop what I'm doing and stare around the room. I look for the tiniest details - the color of a wall, the texture of a fixture, or even the feel of the light coming off of a bulb. It almost doesn't matter what it is: Simply being able to drink it in in all its mundane glory is more than enough to satisfy the itch.

This explains the otherwise strange-looking photo you see here. I noticed this spotlight lurking in the rafters of Budweiser Gardens. Far below, the London Knights were busy winning another game. While everyone else's eyes focused downward, mine were in a decidedly different place. I'll likely never understand my need to diverge from the crowd, but you won't find me fighting the urge, either. Some of us were meant to follow a different path.

Your turn: What do you do when you're bored?

On finding enough room to live

"Time and space - time to be alone, space to move about - these may well become the great scarcities of tomorrow."
Edwin Way Teale

Monday, February 20, 2017

Thematic Photographic 401 - Yellow

Toronto, ON
February 2017
It's been a while since I chose a particular color for a Thematic theme, and given our collective need to find brightness amid all the greys, I thought I'd start with yellow.

This particular yellow-themed shot would be a happy pic under any circumstances. But it's the context that makes me smile almost a week after I took it. I was at a conference, and a colleague and I arrived a bit early to the breakfast buffet in the brightly lit hotel corridor just outside the actual conference room where the event was about to be held. I'm pretty sure we were too early, and in retrospect I think the hotel staff members weren't anywhere near finished setting up by the time we walked into the nearly empty area.

But the carefully scooped balls of butter were beckoning my lens, even if I shouldn't have been there in the first place. One staffer, in particular, stood just across and watched quietly as I composed and took the shot. He smiled knowingly at me as I put the phone away and reached for the fruit plate. Sometimes, rules were made to be broken.

Your turn: Take a picture of something yellow. Or something that suggests yellow. Or simply evokes this week's theme, yellow. Post it to your blog, your social media page, or wherever you hang out online. Leave a comment here letting everyone know where to find it, and visit other participants to spread the yellowy happiness far and wide. We'll be celebrating yellow all week, so feel free to play again - or even bring a friend - if you're so inclined. For more info on how Thematic works, head here. Happy shooting and sharing!

On making the first move

"The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity"
Amelia Earhart

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Blue morning in Brantford

Trackside, 7:22 a.m.
Brantford, ON
February 2017
Using a smartphone to shoot first light through the smudged windows of an early-morning train isn't exactly a recipe for photographic perfection. But photography - and life, come to think of it - isn't as much about perfection as it is doing the best with what you've got.

So as I stared out the window and wondered what it must be like to live beside such a busy railyard in a southern Ontario town best known as the birthplace of both the telephone and hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, I thought less about the photography thing and more about the feel of this place. And in the blue-ish early morning light, I realized this was the photo I was supposed to take all along.

Your turn: Who lives here?

On fear of living

"Some people are so afraid to die that they never begin to live."
Henry van Dyke

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Waiting for her train to arrive

Catching up
Toronto, ON
February 2017

Thematic. Favorites. Here.
The scene: Toronto's Union Station. We're in the waiting room of this sprawling, crowded, chaotic place. At least I think it's the waiting room, because the station has been under construction forever and you're never quite sure where they'll stick you as you wait for your train to arrive.

I've come here with some colleagues, and we're all on our way back to London after a work thing. While the rest of my team quietly sits and waits for our boarding call - aka normal behavior - I restlessly pace the area, looking for things to record with my smartphone's camera. Why the smartphone? For all its limitations - no zoom, the horrors! - I figure it's a lot less obtrusive to shoot in a public place than the full-on, "real" camera I have in my backpack. So smartphone it is. Gotta love spontaneous shooting.

I can't help but notice the people around us. Each one has a story, and I try to avoid capturing their attention as I stare around the area and try to read the scene. I keep coming back to this woman with the large-ish headphones on her head and the time-worn, taped-up laptop perched expertly on her lap. What's she listening to? Death metal? Post-punk? Hip hop/jazz fusion? What's she doing on that laptop? Emailing her board of directors? Setting up lunch for her team? Breaking into the White House email server?

Whatever she's up to, she's clearly got this Via Rail/road warrior thing down, and as much as I risk crossing the line by surreptitiously pointing my tiny lens toward her, I can't resist. This is the signature memory of the 15 minutes spent here with my colleagues, so I line up the shot and take it.

She never even knew I was there.

Your turn: A photo that pushed your personal comfort zone. Aaaaaand...go!

This same photo in my Instagram feed....here.
Two ladies chat (January 2007)
A stranger's sojourn by the sea (January 2007)
Strangers among us (December 2011)
A conversation among friends (August 2014)

On remembering to laugh

"The most wasted day of all is that on which we have not laughed."
Nicolas Chamfort
So let's laugh, shall we?

Monday, February 13, 2017

Thematic Photographic 400 - Favourites

Soaked, for now
London, ON
July 2015
This entry marks the 400th Thematic Photographic since it all began right here, on June 4, 2008. We've covered a lot of photographic ground in the ensuing 3,172 days (or, if you will, 8 years, 8 months, and 5 days) but one thing has remained fundamentally clear - why we do it in the first place.

Thematic isn't a competition. It isn't formal. It isn't rigid. It's a simple excuse to get out into the world and shoot stuff we wouldn't otherwise have shot, then share it with others. It's designed to help us push our own photographic bounds, to encourage others to do the same, and to have some fun along the way. Life is serious enough as it is, so a little pixellated fun makes as much sense today as it did then.

Thank you for coming along for the ride: I can't wait to see what everyone has in store for the next 400 weeks.

Your turn: This week's very special Thematic theme is favorites. Or, if you're Canadian, favourites with a u. However you spell it, I hope we'll use the coming week to share our favorite pictures. Comment here letting everyone know where to find your work, and drop by other participants to share your own thoughts. If this is all new to you, here's a primer on how Thematic works. Otherwise, have at it, and thanks again.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

On the difference between opinion and fact

"Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts."
Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Friday, February 10, 2017

Jammed again

Scraping the bottom of the jar
London, ON
February 2017
We all have comfort foods, and one of mine is, strangely, jam or jelly. I think it derives from when I was a munchkin in the hospital and they served it in those plastic-and-foil disposable packets at mealtime. I especially liked the marmalade, and for some reason these little packets became something to look forward to every time the food cart rattled it way across the overwaxed floors into the 6th floor paeds ward.

Strange what we remember, no?

So to this day, I seem to linger over jars of jam at breakfast. I'll often take a couple of jars out of the fridge and plop them on the kitchen table, only to ultimately choose to shmear something else on my bagel. But eating it isn't necessarily the point: Somehow, the mere act of having it nearby is enough to bring comfort before I finish off and head out into the world.

Eventually, however, every jar reaches the bottom. A photo before it hits the recycling bin is a lovely reminder of why a seemingly innocuous breakfast treat deserves to be remembered in the first place.

Your turn: What's your comfort food? Why?


Wednesday, February 08, 2017

On understanding the early riser

"I've always liked the time before dawn because there's no one around to remind me who I'm supposed to be so it's easier to remember who I am.'
Brian Andreas
Maybe this helps explain why I wake up before sunrise as often as I do.

Monday, February 06, 2017

Thematic Photographic 399 - Hat trick

Mannequin challenge
London, ON
January 2017
Since we focused on the things we wear on our feet last time, I wanted to shift to the very opposite this week and point our cameras a little higher. This week's theme, hat trick, celebrates the things we wear on our head. Or, in this case, the thing's we'd like to wear on our heads, but can't, because there's a pane of glass between here and there.

The perils of shopping mall display case photography. And the challenge of shooting fast and spare before store employees figure out what you're up to.

Your turn: Take a pic that reflects this week's "hat trick" theme - or find one you may have posted online - and then leave a comment here letting everyone know where to find it. If it's got a hat in it, or even suggests the very possibility of a hat, we want to see it. We'll be doing this all week, so repeat as often as you wish and feel free to pull in a friend. And if you're new to the Thematic thing, click here and all will be explained.

But wait, there's more: Next week marks a very special Thematic milestone - our 400th since we first started this craziness all those years ago. Because I'm a fan of big, even numbers, I'd like to share our favorite photographic moments. Just wanted to get it out there a bit early so we could all start thinking about what our favorites have been. It's going to be fun!

On making ourselves just a little squirmy

"Life begins at the end of your comfort zone."
Neale Donald Walsch

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Costco on a snowy night

Getting to the meat of the matter
London, ON
January 2017
The scene: I've stopped into the Costco gas bar on my way home from work to feed some dino juice to my somewhat beloved Henrietta (I name my cars. I'm odd that way.) As I'm filling the tank, I notice one of my tires is a little low, so I ask the attendant (they still employ humans here, bless them) if there's an air pump nearby. No, she answers, but the folks at the auto and tire centre in the Costco store next door should be able to help me out.

So once I'm done with the fuel thing, I pop into the store, explain my plight, and hand over my keys so they can take a closer look at the tire to figure out why it isn't holding air. The friendly mechanic says it'll take around 45 minutes. I thank him and head into the abnormally quiet store. As we've just done a grocery order, I have nothing to do and nothing to buy. I ask myself - silently, of course - how much trouble I think I can get into with the camera on my smartphone. Plenty, I figure.

So with a sly smile and a spring in my snow-covered-boot's step, I pull the smartphone out of my pocket as my eyes begin searching for anything of interest.

At first glance, it might seem like there's nothing worth capturing in a place dominated by concrete floors, steel shelving, institutional lighting and piled-to-the-ceiling merchandise. Then there's the fact that this particular store looks a lot like any other Costco in any other town. It's easy to see why most folks would leave their cameras at home.

But as my brain processes the target-rich world around me, I find myself wishing more folks would grab their cameras alongside me. For anyone who takes the time to slow down and ponder the possibilities, there's good stuff beckoning at every turn, the kind of everyday-ordinary that we see all the time but never really think about.

On the surface, this is a simple picture of packaged meat. On further reflection, it's a glimpse into 45 minutes on a cold, snowy night I wouldn't trade for anything.

Your turn: Where's your next adventure going to be?

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

On looking out for others

"Watch carefully, the magic that occurs, when you give a person just enough comfort, to be themselves."
Harper Lee (Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird)

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Monday, January 30, 2017

Terror hits home. We hit back.

By now, news of last night's mass shooting in a Quebec City mosque that ended with six people dead and a right-wing suspect behind bars has gone global. In the ideal world, these things don't happen here, in a city barely two hours from where I grow up, in a place I visited for work, in an everyday kind of neighbourhood that looks shockingly like mine. In the ideal world, these things don't happen at all. To anyone. For any reason. But we've all come to appreciate that the world is far from ideal.

There are so many things that gall me about an atrocity like this that I hardly know where to begin. But the one theme that keeps haunting me is that it could have happened anywhere. Even in my own city. My own place of worship. Or school. Or wherever.

We were in synagogue this past Saturday to watch our daughter recite the passage she originally learned for her bat mitzvah. A week earlier, we were on stage to watch her and our youngest son sing in the choir. They're simple moments, really, milestones in the lives of kids and the community that helped raise them. And as we've done since we moved here, we've gone to this extraordinary place filled with extraordinary, caring people because it adds a certain je ne sais quoi to our lives, an element, a spirit, a certain something that makes this place feel that much more like home. I'm not an overtly religious person by any means, but being part of a broader community somehow makes life warmer, sweeter.

It isn't any different no matter what faith you follow - or even if you don't follow a faith at all. I'm guessing the members of the mosque in the suburb of Ste-Foy sought pretty much what we all seek - togetherness, welcoming, reflection, validation, even refuge. And to be gunned down like farm animals because they dared to attend prayer on a Sunday night is an affront to anyone who values the things that make Canada so extraordinarily special. The gunman didn't just attack a group of worshippers in a single mosque. He attacked all of us.

Which is why I was heartened by London's reaction to this tragedy: Hundreds of members of the community - including the mayor and leaders of all major congregations (including mine) as well as their members - attended a rally today in front of the London Muslim Mosque. The event echoed similar gatherings at mosques across the country, a raw, poignant message from Canadians of all stripes and backgrounds that hatred isn't going to win here.

I don't know if there's enough security in the world to categorically reduce the risk of future attacks to zero. I'm guessing such a world wouldn't be all that liveable. But I do know that fomenting mass hysteria and encouraging unfounded stigmatization of identifiable groups isn't the answer. The socio-political quagmire that seemingly deepens by the hour in Trump's America may very well raise the temperature of zealots on both sides of the border - indeed, the government there perversely used the shooting to justify its just-announced immigration ban. But that doesn't mean that we have to sit around and allow any of this to happen.

There's no such thing as an ideal world. But a kinder, gentler one, where my neighbours stand up for good in spite of everything that swirls around us, feels like the kind of place I'd love to call home. Thankfully the light seems to outshine the dark.

On the card game of life

"You don't have a right to the cards you believe you should have been dealt.
You have an obligation to play the hell out of the ones you're holding."

Cheryl Strayed

Sunday, January 29, 2017