Monday, October 31, 2016


We write poetry because we are members of the human race, and the human race is filled with passion.
Robin Williams in 'Dead Poet Society.'

Photography is generally translated as 'painting with light' and certainly the only way we see is by the energy of light waves/particles as it falls upon the things of this world and they are reflected back to our eyes. We can be reasonably sure that the real solid world exists but how we experience it can vary considerably: daylight, moonlight, starlight, filtered through overcast, sunrise and set, reflected, high noon glare.... the list goes on. So it is quite possible to view and photograph the same subject not only from different angles but in different light. Each light communicate its own essence.

Heather and I seized a brief afternoon break between rain and cloud to walk a familiar trail in Ruckle Park. This time we reversed our usual direction and chose a trail that passed higher up the hillside. At this time of year the sun was already low on the horizon and glaring off the surface of the bay. The bright reflected light sent a brilliant glare low through the forest, creating long shadows. Drama! I did not resist the call and say to myself “Too simple, too dramatic, too easy!” Light like this is an occasional gift and we should gratefully accept it when offered.

I take my camera along and use it just about every day and often in the same familiar places. It takes up time, even in the processing that comes after, but like learning to sing or any other skill, repeated practise is a necessary part of mastering it. Native ability counts for a lot, but doing it regularly, challenging oneself, always striving for more complete expression, is the only possible path.

I find that I am always pleased with my photographs when they appear and that sense of being gifted by something greater is with me, but only if I am truly pushing into new territory. Things can stale quickly if I simply follow a set of rules and do not constantly seek a fresh vision.

The other day I was talking to a photography friend about the role of technical knowledge, and I agreed that was important, but maintained a feeling for one's subject comes side by side with it. We all know people who have their cameras ( or their voices, musical instruments, pencils, pens and brushes etc.) down pat, but have little feeling, empathy, 'charity' or passion. As in all parts of daily life, going deeper in all aspects works best. “The human race is filled with passion”.

Seeing the figure below balanced on a log provided a focal point, and gave a sense of scale.
A human figure in landscape invites the viewer to feel themselves part of the scene.

These two photos are of the same scene, but present differently. The more traditional one below is satisfying to the eye because we have been trained to see this way. The one above seems strange, it is so symmetrical. In the end though I prefer this one if only because it was a challenge to break with tradition, and is a challenge too for the viewer to see differently.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Little Rivers of Canada. A new blog for a new project.

If  you visit the list of companion blogs on the sidebar to the right you will find a link to a newly created blog that will handle the background stories behind a writing project I have begun and will hopefully keep me busy writing, researching, drawing and photographing for some time. While a glossy publication or film presents the final product it could be interesting to follow the process of discovery that lead to it.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Pauline Johnson. Canadian Poet

The song my paddle sings

Be strong, O paddle! Be brave, canoe!
The restless waves, you must plunge into.
Reel, reel,
On your trembling keel,
But never a fear my craft will feel.

We've raced the rapid; we're far ahead;
The river slips through its silent bed.
Sway, sway,
As the bubbles spray
And fall in tinkling tunes away.

And up on the hills against the sky,
A fir tree rocks its lullaby.
Swings, swings,
its emerald wings,
Swelling the song my paddle sings.

( partial quote)
E. Pauline Johnson ( 1862 – 1913 )

Pauline Johnson was a Canadian poet who lived over one hundred years ago. She was also a Metis, and had the heritage of two peoples from which to draw upon in her life and poetry. Even so, her writing like others of her time, would become lost in the rush that came later. More cerebral and more stylish modern writers have all but obliterated her from present day awareness. She had something though that we miss today, and this poem appeals to me in a direct and visceral way.

It seems very simple, the rhymes obvious, and the thoughts expressed seem suited to an unsophisticated mind. But then she calls it “the song my paddle sings” and taken as a song, where simplicity of expression, repetition, and appeal to emotion are important elements, it works extremely well. In fact it has been set to music.

The poem appeals to me because it concerns itself with a canoe and a rushing river within a Canadian setting. It speaks to my own lifelong experiences. It expresses old fashioned virtues like bravery and love of the land that are still Canadian qualities, buried though they may be by the busy city life most of us endure today.

I attended the burial of an old friend the other day and this poem came unexpectedly to mind. Like all good works of art there are layers of meaning involved which can open for us at times like these. I read it in that context as the turmoil of death, the racing rapids, followed by the calmer passage down the river and the gentle song of the landscape to see her on her way. Perhaps its clarity of expression leaves it open for readers to find their own feelings between its lines.

I imagine Pauline paddling her canoe in Lost Lagoon, which is now overshadowed by the city of Vancouver, and chanting the verses aloud as she created the story-path she was paddling down. The dip of the paddle, the ripple of the water, the great red sunset across the straits to the west. The call of the loon, the call of her ancestors at this magical hour. The song her paddle sings.