The wonder of winter, I've talked about it before. There is something magical about winter, even though here in the north we complain about it a lot. But to feel icy wind blowing on your skin, and hot sun on your back. It awakens you. While I moaned and groaned about returning to the snow, it’s better than rain, hail and sleet. And, I have found that if you find the right winter activity, that winter passes by rather easily. What do you do to make winter pass by more easily?
The closeup, you can feel the texture of the ice crystals just by looking at the image. Its called the haptic. The ability to feel within your body even though you cannot physically touch something. It’s one of the reasons that images are so powerful. The body can feel something without feeling it. Its been nothing but ice crystals these days!
Geez, I need to put this up in big letters on my wall. How many times have I not made work with fear paralysis, because I didn’t know how it worked or how it fitted in. I was so thankful in my master’s degree. There were no grades, just rubrics stating how you fulfilled certain criteria. My first semester I took advantage and experimented as much as I possibly could, without the fear of failing. What about you, does fear stop you from making work? PS: This quote is from Todd Hido’s book; Landscapes, Interiors and the Nude.
Moody moody mountains. The one amazing thing about living out here is that you see everything from a distance. You see the snow coming, the rain, and the smoke in the summer. The mountains have a certain ecology that they influence and we are here also influenced by it. Its so cold that I’m craving a chinook. Let me know if you know what a chinook is!
Brrrrrrr, can you say polar vortex? I know it sounds made up, but it’s a real thing and it’s making things freezing out here. So cold that we haven't been out in the past 3 weeks except for some errands here and there. It might explain some of this lack of motivation that I’ve been having for the past few days. What do you do to get you through the cold?
What a crazy December this has been. I had geared up, prepping myself for possible winter hiking, but with all of the hospital and christmas craziness I haven’t made it out to the mountains yet except for that quick trip into Canmore. Well, here it is: I’m missing mountains so here’s a few photos from last year to tide me and you over.
I was weeping in the car. Another lost day in the mountains. “What are you looking for?” asked my husband. “A thin place.” I replied, “There are no thin places here.” Since returning from Ireland to Alberta in 2020 I had lost something very precious. I had not invested in Ireland as I should have. I let my roots linger somewhere near the surface knowing that I probably wouldn't stay there forever as some were inclined to do. What I didn’t realize was that although I didn’t attach myself to Ireland. Ireland had attached itself to me. I had experienced intimacy with the landscape in a way that the mountains here in Alberta would always defy. In Ireland, most of the landscape was easy to travel by foot, and was. Whether it was a farmer checking on his cows or Tim Robinson, well known cartographer and writer who had extensively explored parts of Ireland and had detailed maps about them. There was no way to know this vast wilderness here intimately. I didn't even know where to begin.
I don’t know that I’ve ever had a place to call home. As a young child my family moved around a lot due to my father’s schooling. Once the schooling was done our family continued to grow so we were always upgrading to a bigger place. In 2007, my family left the city that I had been born in and I stayed behind hoping to move forward in some kind of direction.
I don’t know if I can really only blame the location for not being able to call it home. Tonight I realized that maybe I too was part of the problem. Knowing that I would never be in a location long enough to call it home. For about 15 years I skipped from place to place, never really investing in the people, getting to know the shops surrounding me. I had one goal and that was to get through whatever the main thing was at the moment. Sometimes it was school, sometimes a job, I seemed to be always waiting and the directions were not always straight and the destination changed often.
After moving to Cochrane I decided I was done moving. I wasn’t leaving Alberta anymore, I had done a full circle. Arriving in 2010, leaving in 2016 and back in 2020. Alberta seemed like a good place to settle. Driving to the library tonight I realized I had not made a true effort to call this home. I was still waiting. Was I waiting, because I was still renting? What was the wait for? Why had my heart decided it wasn’t going to commit to this place? For whatever reason I decided, it should be time I start investing truly. How does one do that? How do you truly invest in the town you live in? I don’t know but I intend to find out.
Orange Leaves in the foothills. 2021
The leaves crunch under my feet as I walk through the small wooded area near my house. I breathe in deep. Yes, I had forgotten the scent of autumn. It has a particular scent brought on by the leaves changing colour, and falling down to the ground in deep layers. Light and crispy they are easily kicked up as I walk through. This is a new place for me from a recent move, and its been a while since I’ve inhaled this fragrance. Slightly woodsy, but without the depth of smell that bark has. This scent tends to sit on the surface more. I had forgotten. In Ireland, mostly I walked through grassy fields and rocky surfaces.
Limestone rock and grass, Ireland, 2017
While there are wooded areas, they aren’t a focus, as Ireland was mostly deforested a long time ago. Living in the Burren, we relished the limestone craggy moonlike surfaces, and we were continuously hit with the cool menthol air from the ocean. However autumn lacked the same luster and celebration that it does here in Canada. Why bother celebrating autumn in Ireland? Summer simply slips into fall with a subtle tonal differences. Suddenly as you look around you notice that the leaves are gone, but the grass is still green. How did I even miss it? You wonder.
Alberta rose bush in fiery glory, 2021
In Alberta, this fall in particular the foothills were vibrant with colour. Most of the trees here turn yellow instead of red or orange, but the grasses and shrubs are all aglow with the most spectacular colours that would make gemstones pale in comparison. However, its all for a short while until the snow flies.
Photography tips for finding your distinct story and style: why you shouldn't copy other people's work.
I walked into a gallery recently to view a photographer’s work. Within seconds of being there, I recognized that while the photos were “originals”, they were in fact replicas or knock-offs of Peter Lik’s work. For those of you who don't know Peter Lik, look him up. His photography while beautiful, unfortunately has been knocked off more times than I could count. You can buy Peter Lik lookalike photography everywhere, there are people that specialize in it.
While, I do think that it’s good to emulate people that we look up to, it helps us to develop techniques and try on styles. The problem is that you have to break free from that particular style and develop your own style. Everyone has a unique story, perspective, location and goal for their photography. These are questions that you should ask yourself about your photography/art.
1- What is my location? Where do you live? Suburbs, country, city? These all offer distinct insights and perspectives. What do you notice when you walk where you live? What is unique about where you live? You need to train yourself to start looking at the obscure, the unnoticed, the feelings you feel in a particular place, the mood of a particular place. What changes between the morning or evening? When I lived in Edmonton, Alberta, there were a lot of industrial and agricultural structures and I began to photograph these thinking about how they could be viewed as forms rather than the useful structures that they were.
2- Composition: How are you composing your photos? Peter Lik has a photo called “The tree of life.” Go and look it up. If you were in that location, what would you do differently to compose your shot? Would you focus on the intricacies of the bark? Could you focus on the branches instead of the wiry shape of the tree? Are there lumps and bumps on the tree that could contribute to a more sculptural photo? Are you shooting from the ground, from above? (hello drone!) Are you climbing the tree? There are so many different ways to compose a shot. The important thing is that you begin to notice details that others haven't seen. You must explore your locations.
3- What is the goal of your photography? People who knock off celebrity photographers do it for the money. I get it money is necessary, I am by no means advocating that you starve, but money can’t be the primary goal, (it can be a goal) otherwise it infiltrates your photographs. My aim is to make people feel like they’ve entered a different world. My other aim is to get people to have an intimate experience with the landscape. I do this by composing my photos so that the viewer is experiencing a close-up. Sometimes, it takes people seeing something several times, before they begin to like something different.
These are a few tips to get you started, by all means, look up photographers and emulate their style, but make it your own. We need your distinct perspective on things, life, people, places.