A Different Life

A Different Life in the Cuban Countryside

I’m not sure if it’s growing up on a farm and now living in a city, or if it’s a symptom of a hectic life, or if it’s just another “grass is greener” kind of thought, but living here looks like a beautiful life to me. I’m sure it comes with its own struggles and frustrations. I wonder if the owners would be surprised to know that I sometimes dream of living there.

Taken in central Cuba.
40mm, f2.8, 1/4000 of a second.

Little Flashes of Light

Fireflies in a Manitoba Meadow

These fireflies seemed to like the swampy areas, but as the night went on they spread out to fly through the trees and around the meadows.

Taken in central Manitoba.
21mm, f5, 13 seconds

Summer Sunset

Saskatchewan Summer Sunset

Just posting a quick warm photo of the beautiful province where I grew up: Saskatchewan. Spring is pretty much here and these are the evenings we have to look forward to soon!

135mm, f16, 1/25 of a second

Warmth in Winter

Guanayara Cuba Pool in the Rainforest

Being Canadian, this was a strange winter. Going to Cuba was an interesting adventure and I could spend years exploring this mountainous rainforest, but when the cold air hit me at the Edmonton airport I knew I was home and everything felt right again!

On this tropical hike it was sometimes raining on us, sometimes sunny, and sometimes a bit of both. Either way it was warm and misty and incredibly beautiful. This pool was deep with a waterfall feeding it – the perfect spot for a swim.

Taken in Parque Guanayara, Cuba
18mm, f8, 1/100 of a second

Mossy Stream

I got back from my first ever trip to the east coast a few days ago! I already want to go back, but catching up on real life is important too. I’m not finished going through the photos yet, but this one stood out to me. I’ve always loved the fairy-tale richness of mosses, mushrooms, and small streams. They’re the backdrop for a thousand story lines, and at the same time a peaceful place where nothing needs to happen.

Mossy stream early in the morning in Fundy National Park.
f11, 6 seconds

Abstracting II

On a warm idyllic autumn afternoon in a provincial park on the BC coast, I was exploring and taking photos, as I do. The warmth from the sun and the contrasting coolness of the forest was so peaceful. In photographic terms though (as is often the case in life), the details were a problem. There was really high-contrast harsh lighting and because it was pretty late fall, there were brown spots in a lot of the leaves. In this case I made that all go away to communicate a peaceful feeling. By using a wide aperture and purposely mis-focusing, I could communicate what I was actually feeling, instead of focusing on the exact details of the scene.

Below is what the shot would have been if I wanted things in focus – in this case a much worse photo.

Teaching Photo Classes

Just finished teaching another “Mastering Your SLR” class yesterday and it went great! I’m always nervous leading up to a class, love the teaching it as it’s happening, and completely crash, drained of all energy, afterwards. After a four hour nap right after class, a huge supper, and then a full night’s sleep I’m pretty much back to normal. I’m sure most of the students are pretty drained too – it’s a full day of working your brain pretty hard. But students of all levels are leaving the class pretty excited about the new-found abilities and choices they have when creating their photos. It’s fun to see their process of discovery, and it inspires me too.

Now for the composition class on Wednesday (there’s still space!), and then I get a little break from teaching until we set up the next classes in a month or so.

The photo is from Blackfoot Lake Rec Area this past fall.
14mm, f4, 1/80 of a second

This Post is Not Good Enough

This feeling is predictable and it has very little to do with photography. It goes on: “I’ve already taken all my best shots. I might as well quit now. What’s the point of going out trying to get more photos? My photos aren’t that good anyway. And even if I do take good photos, why? Does anyone care? I’m not saving any lives, or improving anyone’s living conditions.”

In the morning light, my brain isn’t as critical as in the dead of night. I start developing some photos I missed from a trip last year, and I actually start to like them. I realize maybe I’m not horrible. But even on good days, the negatives linger in the back of my mind, waiting for their chance to work their way into my thoughts.

I think this is something a lot of people struggle with – regardless of their profession or hobby. Ignoring the negative thoughts sometimes works for a bit, just so I can be productive, but the problem is that they have an edge of truth. So then I have to take a step back, try to be objective, and decide whether I’m on the right track. Find the things that are good and true and believable.

I think adding to the beauty of the world is important, and I have the ability to do that. I might even be able to pique interest in the world around us. I think a sense of wonder and curiosity can make life immeasurably better. And even though this isn’t necessarily saving any lives, I think it adds to the net good of the world. And I’m satisfied with that.

A cedar forest in Pacific Rim National Park.
12mm, f4, 1/40 of a second

Arbutus

I grew up on an acreage in northern Saskatchewan. We had a massive yard and a massive garden, I think partly because we were not wealthy and the garden provided much of our food, but also because my parents loved plants and trees. Many of our plants were your average garden plants — potatoes, carrots, beets, broccoli, tomatoes, beans, squash, peas, etc. I had to do what felt like a lot of gardening as I was growing up, and I remember not really liking it (as any kid is likely feel about chores). But I also have a lot of fond memories of the sun-warmed dirt between my toes, of throwing the sun-greened potatoes at the aspen trees growing around the garden, and of eating the fresh fruit and veggies right off the plants.

We also planted trees. At first they were mostly fruit trees that we’d expect to produce, like a few varieties of apples, chokecherries, cranberries, and whatever would grow in that harsh climate. Over time though that expanded to more challenging trees like plums or more decorative trees that were just for the beauty of being. We got a Swedish Nut Pine, we tried varieties of maple. All of us kids also learned about all the trees in the woods around us. We knew where all the stands of birch were (there weren’t many) and the one little group of balsam fir was a highlight that we built a little trail to. We would climb the jack pines and find the perfect white spruce or black spruce for a Christmas tree. I learned to love trees.

I’ve tried to increase my knowledge of trees over the years, but I haven’t done well. Living in the city with the pressures of jobs and bustle of life it’s hard to keep up with that sort of thing. Last month in BC I went on a few hikes with interpretive signs that taught me a bit more about Douglas Fir, Western Hemlock, and Red Cedar. But one tree stood out to me more that anything else: the Arbutus menziesii, commonly known as Arbutus (ar-‘byoo-tus). They have a striking bare yellow trunk sometimes covered with curling red to purple bark. They’re a broadleafed evergreen — even in late October there were flowers on some, and bright red fruit on others. They often have twisting gnarled trunks with clusters of leaves at the top. They are a beautiful tree. But they’re often overpowered by the cedar forests they’re growing in. They tend to be here or there on the warm south-facing rocky slopes where the forest isn’t too thick and they have a chance. I never saw forests of Arbutus.

I guess this is a post for my parents, who I thought of a lot as I was searching for these trees. I was thinking they would enjoy planting a small forest of Arbutus. Not that it’s practical or makes any sense at all, but I think they’d like these trees. They seem like they’d be a bit of a challenge to grow, and would pay off in beauty. Maybe they could even get them to grow out in Manitoba, although I’m pretty sure the winter would kill them.

One thing I really wanted to accomplish in BC was to get a photo that did justice to the Arbutus tree. I’m not sure I succeeded, but I gave it a good shot.