Photography ~ Natural Wonders

It’s been two months since I got my DSLR Canon Rebel T3i 600D, and I can’t seem to put it down. One of my absolute favourite subjects in grade nine was biology, and had things gone a little differently, there’s a good chance I would have pursued a career in science. It’s true what they say — that a teacher can totally affect a student’s life, in either a negative, or positive manner. In my case it was disappointingly so.

In the 1970s it was common in the remote community of Timmins for foreign teachers to spend a year or two in one of the schools at the beginning of their teaching careers. Being in the French Catholic system, I had two Haitian teachers (a married couple) in grades seven and eight, whom I absolutely adored, and on the flip side… there was this muscle-bound, blond and bearded uber-French Adonis-type who liked to strut and torture kids. I’m serious… he would sneak up from behind and whack students’ hands on their desks with a wooden yard stick. But the thing he got the most sadistic pleasure out of was in giving what we called “Indian Sunburns.” This consisted of him wringing and twisting someone’s wrist like a dish rag until the skin turned red. He was known as Hercules on school grounds, and I have no idea why he was not arrested, or at the very least, fired.

Anyway… as I was saying… biology was my favourite subject in grade nine, and I signed up for grade ten biology for the following year with great anticipation. Before I go on, it’s important to understand that the French spoken in northern Ontario is very colloquial and particular to that region of Canada. There are accents, and then there are accents. The first day of grade ten biology, we all filed into the classroom to find our seats as we whispered amongst ourselves about the new, and very sombre face sitting behind the teacher’s desk. This guy was tight-lipped, high-strung, and dead serious. I don’t remember him ever coming out from behind his desk. I knew immediately that this was going to be nothing like the lively, inquisitive atmosphere with our bubbly and enthusiastic teacher of the previous year, but nothing could have prepared me for what ultimately happened.

Mr. X began the class, and a number of students shot nervous looks at each other. I think we were all thinking the same thing — we could barely understand a word he was saying. He spoke in a rapid-fire, possibly Franco-African accent (completely foreign to our young northern Ontario ears), and when asked a question, or for him to repeat anything, the response was more rapid-fire patois, only with an annoyed edge to it. I tried really hard to hack it through the first week, but didn’t make it. I just couldn’t understand what the man was saying. I dropped out of the course with a heavy heart, one thing lead to another, and here I am today giving my friends the heebie-jeebies with random [scientific] photos of whatever creepy-crawlies happen to cross my path. Above is a small selection, but if you’re into bugs, you can see some awesome flies and spiders in my Bugs and Stuff Facebook Album. Enjoy!


New Works in Photography

It’s been a while since I’ve updated my website with new work, but I’ve been on a roll this past week. Mostly what has inspired this creative burst was the long-awaited purchase of my first DSLR camera. Years ago I owned a used 1965 model SLR Canon FT film camera. I studied black and white photography and darkroom developing in Vancouver, but when digital came along, the equivalent to what I had was a bit out of reach. And because I considered myself primarily a painter and printmaker for such a long time, I held off making the investment.

My first digital was a Nikon Coolpix 880 (3.1 megapixel), with which I took the still impressive ONR train photo series. Then there was the excellent Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ28 (which I gave to my son last month because every soon-to-be dad needs a real camera), and finally, there’s the small but mighty Canon PowerShot SD780 IS (complete with underwater photography housing kit) that I’ll be taking to Detroit for some cool-in-the-pool fun shots at my uncle’s place this summer. Actually, my website banner is a still image from some experimental video I did while swimming in a lake up north. And now, finally, I have a Canon Rebel T3i 600D. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT!!!

While I’ve already taken a LOT of photos with my new camera, ironically the photos above were taken a few years ago with the Lumix. So why am I posting these now when I have a new DSLR??? Several reasons: 1) because they were lost in the bowels of my computer, 2) I didn’t have proper editing and work-flow software until now, 3) there are some truly wonderful travel pics that I had always intended to do something with, and 4) file folder housekeeping is seriously overdue so that I can get organized and make room for new stuff. Taking pictures is really really fun, but what happens to them afterward… well, you might call it the black hole of photography, where everything disappears into nowhere-land.

So these are just a few of the over 25,000 never-been-seen-by-anyone photos on my computer that I recently dug up. At the same time, I’ve seriously embraced Instagram during all this sorting and culling, excitedly sharing some gems to my Instagram Account, discovering great work by others in the process, and becoming enamoured with the square photo format. Interestingly, 3×3 inch photos were the norm back when I was a kid in the 60s (my mom had one of those old Kodaks with the large glass viewfinder on top). Most photographs need some cropping anyway, but the square lends itself well to composition and artistic considerations.

So… since moving to Windsor in April, my goal has been to get the paints and [square] canvases out, LOL, but I can’t seem to get away from the PHOTOGRAPHY… which in truth was one of my first loves, instilled in me by my late father, Ray. Interestingly, when I look at these photos I see colours and designs that would translate quite well on the painted surface. Life is good.

Image Info:  All photos are from a trip to Havana in 2009, where we stayed at the Hotel Kholy, a former 3-star Russian establishment nestled in a residential area of the city. The derelict hotel is located on the beach (right at the water’s edge) in the nearby town of Guanabo, where we were visiting friends who rent a Casa Particular every year to escape the harsh Canadian winter months.

Orchids, etc.

It was a shock returning from Moosonee where all that mud, ice, freezing rain, and violent river breakup action was happening. By the time I got back to North Bay, it was a sweaty 27C, and everything was GREEN. I just couldn’t get over how extreme the difference was.

Then I headed even further south to my son’s place in Cambridge, and well… it was like entering the Garden of Eden. In addition to the green, flowers were blooming absolutely everywhere! There were the usual tulips, daffodils, and other assorted marvels, but the most breathtaking were the magnolia trees and cherry blossoms on almost every street. Coco and I went for a lot of walks, and I took a lot of photos with my iPhone. What a high!

By the end of the week I was in Detroit for a family reunion on my father’s side, and that’s where the orchids really came into focus. My cousin Dana has orchids all over the house–big ones, tiny ones, pink ones, yellow ones, white ones. I couldn’t resist getting my camera out! I have an orchid at home that I’ve photographed before, but these new photos definitely nudged things to a new level.

Now of all things, and by sheer coincidence, when I got back to my son’s place on Mother’s Day, there was a lovely gift sitting in my bedroom by the window–a huge purple orchid plant. I couldn’t believe it! Sometimes certain themes have a way of throwing themselves at you… like the little store I found around the corner where a lovely Chinese woman sold beautiful orchids that she propagated herself. I’ve never been one to swoon over flowers, but everything just seems to have led to this:

Visit my Facebook page to view the Abstract Orchid and Orchids (and other flowers) albums.

(The square photos were created using the Hipstamatic photography app on the iPhone, and the rectangular photos are captured screenshots of magnified sections of the flowers.)

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