Yesterday was my birthday and I was forced, as I am every year, to consider how much less concern I have for my own birthday than the people around me. Since I don’t put much stock in age, it’s practically meaningless to me.
There is one thing I like about birthdays in general. I think celestial events should be celebrated to connect people with the solar system we are a part of. Solstice and Equinox are my festivals of choice, and they come at convenient intervals. In my mind, birthdays are just a more self-centered version of the real celestial festivals. Oh everyone look at me! I went around the sun one more time. Why wouldn’t we all celebrate together? It a way, birthdays are divisive.
And as I said before, I don’t care much about age. If you are smart and interesting, what care I if you’ve done 16 or 60 rotations? I think most people agree that ageism is a bad thing, yet when we go round once more we expect a special day?
And yet I’m forced, as usual, to swallow my own words. As with all the holidays I don’t care about, this random, meaningless occasion gave me cause to spend time with the friends and family. That is, I contend, the real meaning of birthdays, valentines day, christmas, easter, thanksgiving, and on, and on, and on.
I don’t get out of Toronto much these days. As a kid, I would cruise through Toronto wide eyed, astonished by the height of the skyscrapers, the stylish and eccentric fashion, and the bright signs and lights. With an unbelievable speed my amusement has shifted. On a recent visit to rural Ontario, I found myself charmed by the quaint storefronts, religious billboards, and the general lack of stuff
This shot in particular seemed to catch the attitude of the place. Coming from a city where most people live without cars for want of space, it’s odd to see a place with so many cars they have to park them on the lawn. This particular lawn didn’t just have cars, it had airplanes.
One of the things that I enjoy most about film photography is that you have a limited number of frames. When I step out into the street, I usually only have one or two rolls of film with me and I almost never use more than one. Knowing that you have to pay to process each frame forces you to be highly critical of your technique, composition, and to prioritize your subjects.
Digital is the opposite. I recently bought a 32GB memory card for my camera. My RAW images are about 20MB. That means I can put 1600 images onto a card, and I have several cards. Furthermore there’s no processing cost to worry about. You can shoot ten frames and delete all but the best one in camera.
Film photography better suits my temperament, but having nearly unlimited frames does open up the opportunity to explore some cool techniques. One such method is sometimes called “shooting from the hip”. Like a cowboy draws his six-shooter and shoots from the hip, you take photos in the same way, and without looking in the viewfinder. Most of the pictures are very badly composed, but when the pieces fall in the right place, the perspective and angles can be really different from anything you can find in your viewfinder. Here are a few shots from the hip:To check out more of my photos, view my flickr photostream.
We recently decided to try a cool adventure activity that people all over the world can participate in together: geocaching.
If you’re not familiar with geocaching, basically what you do is go to http://www.geocaching.com and find a cache in your area. Once you’ve found an appropriate cache, you record the GLS coordinates, put them into your GPS or your smart phone, and go find it. The caches themselves are normally waterproof containers containing a log book, which you must sigh, and a few trinkets that can be traded. The rules of geocaching dictate that if you take something from the cache you have to leave something of equal or greater value.
One of the coolest features of the hobby is trackables: small coins or other items with a serial number on them that can be picked up by in Toronto and dropped in a cache somewhere else. When the number is registered on geocaching.com, you can watch your coin travel around the world from cache to cache.
Laura and I had a great time in High Park looking for caches. Some were too hard for us to find. We looked for six and only found two. But we had a great time and we’ll definitely be going back to find more, and to place our own caches.
Check out the video of our adventure:
And of course I had my camera with me so I had to snap a few shots of nature. What a treat it was to get out of the concrete jungle for a day. I hope to get out to high park or one of Toronto’s other major parks at least once a week for the rest of the summer. Heck I’ll go all winter too. Here’s some pics:
On the last Sunday of every month between May and October, the streets of Kensington market are closed to car traffic and fill up with food, music, and people. This month alone there was a rock band, a reggae band, a latin band, and a jazz quartet. Check out some pics:
When the freaks and geeks are out in force, it’s good for taking street photographs. To see more of my street photos, click here.
I recently visited the ROM for my second viewing of GENESIS: Sebastiao Salgado’s ten-year project to capture parts of the planet earth where humans are either in equilibrium with their environments, or absent. GENESIS is the beauty of the planet earth as god made it. Philosophically, it’s a bit of a shaky theory since humans, like all animals, kill and destroy other species to improve the status of our own. There is no such thing as equilibrium when you are a member of an evolving species on a cooling planet. Despite this rather black and white view of life (nature vs. civilization) Salgado has captured some of the most heart-stopping frames I have ever seen. He frames portraits of humanity in epic landscapes and shows the truly shocking diversity of life on earth.
Salgado’s work has been compared to another of my favourite photographers, Edward Burtynsky, who travels the world photographing manufactured landscapes. Burtynsky and Salgado both photograph landscapes but with an interesting ethic: both hold specific environmental convictions and beliefs, but they keep them separate from their photographic work. The pictures are meant to speak for themselves. They approach photography as documentarians. Everyone will take something different away from it.
What I took away from the exhibition was a strong feeling of kinship with the people of every continent as the only species that we know can begin to appreciate the planet we’ve got. I also feel a deep regret at the time I’ve spent at home not exploring every corner of it. I want to walk and meet the people in the pictures, learn how they live, share their experiences, and them move along. Salgado’s images come close to capturing the depth and beauty of an epic landscape, perhaps closer than any photographer I’ve seen. Close but no cigar. The ROM took me as near to Patagonia, Antarctica, Africa, and Alaska as I could get without leaving Toronto, but what I really want to do is pack my bags and go. Genesis is inspirational in the simplest sense.
Click here to see a TIME LightBox piece with many of the exhibition images.
Click here to see Edward Burtynsky’s website. Take a tour through some of his works. He captures the scale of man-made landscapes that most of us don’t get to see in our day-to-day lives.