Saturday, November 26, 2011

Far North Field (January 19, 2010)

Taken on the drive north to Cape Reinga, through the bus window.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Security Guard (October 31, 1997)

I took this Hallowe'en shot in the entrance at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD), in Halifax. The costume was simple, yet effective...

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Alley (November 11, 2011)

I took this picture the other day when I was walking back to my apartment after an early-morning swim. We've been having some delicious autumn skies recently, beautiful direct sunlight that isn't cut through by summer's leftover haze, nor does it feel crisper than glass like the clear sky in full-on winter weather. It's the kind of sunlight that makes you want to turn your face towards it and close your eyes, drinking it in. The colour of the leaves against the sky has been particularly lovely lately as well, though it seems most of the leaves have dropped off over the past weekend (typical sudden changes of season).

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Still Leaf (November 5, 2011)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Dusk Walk (Toronto; July 24, 2008)

These pictures were taking during a walk from Parkdale to Christie Street, on a summer evening in Toronto. I love taking pictures of cities at sunset or in the early evening. There's a moment between light and dark where the effects of shadows are less predictable, almost eerie.

I've always thought that cities look like very different, almost fantastical places when photographed at that time, even scenes that might normally seem mundane can reveal a kind of luminescence, or alternately being shrouded in semi-darkness they take on an air of mystery that might otherwise be lacking. In the picture above, the paved alleyway looks darkly surreal compared to the still-light sky overhead, which in turn is reflected in the water pooled on the ground.

Sometimes the camera behaves differently in these lighting conditions as well. In the picture above this shows in the way the building is slightly blurred, and the reflection in the window is doubled up. It's actually hard to tell whether that's a trick of the camera or something happening with the light. You can see the same thing going on in this picture I posted previously, which was also taken during that evening walk.

This isn't the first or last photo I've taken of a corner shop at night. I'm often drawn to the low-light effect that makes windows--and lamps--glow in an unusual way. Below, the same effect is at work in this photo of a bank at the corner of Christie Street and Dupont. Because of the ambient, leftover daylight, the whole scene isn't as dark as it would be at night, so you can see the details in the building as well as the orb of light already being carved out by the parking lot lamp.

Below: Christie Street. This is one of my favourite pictures of Toronto. Again with the streetlamps, I love how they glow like little planets or stars, how you can't see what suspends them in the darkness, partly because of the contrasts between light and dark that turn the trees into sold black shadows against the still-fading sky.

Below: Davenport Road, as the sun's almost completely set. One of the things I like about this picture is the way the power lines form a shape that seems somehow analogous to the lines along the two sides of the road. Because of the strange semi-darkness the one brightest streetlight looks like either the sun or the moon (or both).

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Monday, August 8, 2011

Katydid (August 7, 2011)

Spotted outside last night on a window ledge: a charming leaf-like insect. The larger family is Tettigoniidae, and a bit of digging brought up the specific sub-family, which looks to be Copiphorinae, "cone-headed meadow katydid".

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Stazione di Milano Centrale (May 17, 2007)

Milan's central train station, or Stazione di Milano Centrale, was a project that began in the early 1900s but was continued and expanded over a long period, particularly by Benito Mussolini (Italy's Fascist leader from 1925 to 1943).

I didn't manage to get a picture of the outside of the station, but here is one I found online. The facade looks more like an over-sized Baroque/Classical mash-up done in poor taste by a 20th century Napoleon, which actually comes close to the truth since the pseudo-regal structure works well as a kind of visual metonym for Mussolini's public works schemes (including transportation systems). It was Mussolini who was said to have "made the trains run on time"--a dubious statement, of course.

I don't know if Mussolini, a fan of extreme efficiency, would have been too keen on the apparent chaos of Stazione Centrale. It seemed to be functioning, but any order that was there looked more like an emergent property than an obvious arrangement.

Like at Heathrow airport in London, they didn't announce there the trains would leave from until fairly close to the departure time. The area around the platforms was a current of human motion, torrents of tourists and commuters flowing towards the next train as its platform number appeared on the information screen, rivulets swirling into eddies of conversation in the bustle of travellers trying to reach the right departure place before all the seats were taken.

And I still remember it was apparently OK to smoke cigarettes inside the station.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

"Your Boat Your Words" (Northland, January, 2010)

Your boat, they will tell you,
cannot leave the harbor
without discipline.

But they will neglect to mention
that discipline has a vanishing point,
an invisible horizon where belief takes over.

They will not whisper to you the secret
that they themselves have not fully understood: that
belief is the only wind with breath enough

to take you past the deadly calms, the stopped motion
toward that place you have imagined,
the existence of which you cannot prove

except by going there.

--Pat Schneider

(Photo: Cape Reinga/Te Rerenga Wairua, Far North, New Zealand)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Hamilton Farmers' Market (July 5, 2011)

I'd been meaning to take some interior shots of Hamilton's farmers' Market for a while, since it was re-modelled and renovated at the end of 2010 and re-opened early this year. The Hamilton Public Library, in the same building and right next to the Market, was also overhauled.

Above: I took this shot from the ramp that connects the upstairs and downstairs sections. There's also a new set of stairs and an elevator, which have replaced the escalators that were used in the past. Above the Market, you can see the new Library through a glass wall.

Above: A stand just inside the glass windows, selling organic fruits and veggies. The windows face York Boulevard.

Above and below: There's a wide range of goods available at the Market, that's one of the best things about it. There are a number of stands selling temptingly delicious baked goods such as pastries, cookies, pies and specialty breads (I try to get my bread here every week). Other vendors offer flowers and plants, for homes and also (in spring and summer) for gardens.

Below: This is a blatant "plug" for Sam's Cheese and Meats, which is where I love to buy deli meat, olives, and of course delicious cheese of all kinds (and they're happy to provide a recommendation for you, if the variety is overwhelming).

Below: In this picture you can see the Library again, with its brightly painted walls and white plastic chairs.

Above and below: More lovely goodies! Loads of fresh fruit and veggies available for prices much lower than those on display at the supermarket. And stalls like this one selling Mexican and South American products (below) are fantastic places to look for affordable specialty foods.

Above and below: British Baked Goods (one of my favourites--includes gluten-free products!) downstairs, and one of several meat counters/butchers in the upstairs section of the Market.

Above and below: Chicken, cheese and veggies are all available in the upstairs section of the Market, along with delicious fresh brewed coffee; this is a great way to start the morning, and I try to begin my day that way at least once a week!

ARRÊT (Autumn, 1999)

I think this is one of the best pictures I have of Montréal--certainly it's one of my favourites (I lived there for three years and took quite a few!). Not because it shows some famous local landmark or typical Montréal "scene", but because it captures something about the place that resonates more sub-consciously for me. A bit like this picture I took in Milan, which shows only a car parked on the street but which for me seems somehow representative of the place as it's seen from street-level.

The photo above was taken from almost directly opposite the building where I used to live on Avenue Coloniale (that building is off to the right and behind me, unseen).

I just love the blurs on the woman walking past in her short dress (or skirt) and heels; I remember those big chunky shoes were "in" at that time. I actually owned a couple of pairs myself--believe it or not! There's an interesting, staggered composition involving the walking woman, the street sign and hydrant, the cable covers, the tree, and a second person walking in the opposite direction on the other side of the street.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Back to the Garden (Summer, 2007)

It's been a beautiful summer so far, following on the heels of an extended, and rather cold and damp, transition from winter through spring. To mark the recent solstice I thought I'd post some picture of the garden I helped to build in the backyard of an apartment where I lived a few years ago.

Above: leaves on a lily plant. I moved a load of lilies from other places (elsewhere in the garden, and also donations from other people's gardens) into one small flower bed by the back stairs. They started thriving pretty much right away.

Above: a lily caught in the late afternoon sunlight. I ended up with a lot of orange lilies and some very striking, blood-red ones as well with what looked like stripes of colour pouring forth from their centres.

Above: luscious green of a sage plant in afternoon sunlight. I love everything about sage--its scent, its texture, the shape of the leaves and its uniquely mossy, slightly muted colour.

Above: another lily leaf, with drops of rain from a summer showing still clinging.

Above: I loved taking pictures of the plants as they grew and changed over the course of the spring and summer. The blue-purple flower above wasn't what I expected; it looked like a little slipper, and the leaves grew low to the ground in curling tangles.

Above: A butterfly takes a break on the edge of a pot containing a rosemary plant.

Above: Lettuce-leaf basil. The basil grew rapidly and the leaves lived up to their name. This year I have about five different kinds (cinnamon, lemon, large-leaf, purple, sweet...), but none of them look as lush as these plants did.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Summer Morning, City Haze (June 16, 2011)

I took this picture from the window of a GO train heading in to Toronto, last week. It was the only shot where I managed to capture the city skyline clearly in the background; I like how the CN Tower is parallel to all the poles next to the highway.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Scenes from The Ocean (May 29-30, 2011)

Last week I travelled to Fredericton, New Brunswick, to attend and present at the annual meeting of the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences (the meeting is known informally as "Congress"). Since the plane tickets were a bit pricey, I decided to take the train (the VIA Rail Ocean) as far as Miramichi, New Brunswick, and then hop on a bus to Fredericton, about 3 hours' drive away. I really love this train ride (in spite of the lack of sleep!), and I've shown various shots from the train in a number of earlier blog posts.

Above: On the train leaving Montréal, Québec, things are looking summer-hazy in the early evening as the train crosses a bridge leaving the Island of Montréal behind.
Below: "Red sky at night"--a sunset, somewhere in Québec, heralding the clear bright day that followed.

Below: Sunrise and we're still in Québec; May 30. Shot through the train window reflection of me with my little camera held close to the glass.

Below: Heading down the rivière Matapédia towards the Québec-New Brunswick border, at sunrise; dramatic fog on the river and in the trees was very beautiful yet also very difficult to capture in low light, through a window, on a moving train, with auto-focus. Of course I tried anyway, and was rewarded with a few eerie-looking shots that actually were in focus. There were some odd effects though, because I used the "spot focus" (picked a spot on the screen and had the camera focus there all the time), and sometimes that created strange blurs.

Below: Pulling in to the station at Matapédia. The sunrise reflecting off the mist makes the sun look like an exploding bomb, with light radiating from the intensity at its point of detonation. This is a regular stop for the Halifax-bound train and I've taken early-morning pictures here before.

Below: Poking my head out for a breather at Matapédia, I'm rewarded with honey-coloured light and honey-scented air as dawn breaks through the mist-borne scent of thousands of unseen wildflowers.

Below: A stunning scene--early morning canoeing by the Québec-New Brunswick border on the Restigouche River, which eventually opens out into Chaleur Bay and then the Gulf of St. Lawrence, a scattering of islands adorning its throat. Finally I caught a picture that wasn't blocked by the trees growing alongside the tracks; also caught, frozen now as eternal salutation, is a greeting waved out by one of the canoe's occupants.

Below: While there isn't a great deal of variation in the landscape in New Brunswick, I loved how the colours here were painted intensely in the bright sunlight.

Below: Possibly the work of beavers. I've always been amazed by the extent of these denuded forests, standing in water; I can't say I really have any idea how this happens, but I'd seen similar environments in Ontario and been told that beavers were involved. It's an intense effect on a landscape, whatever the cause.