Saturday, July 12, 2008

Performing on the World Stage

I've often thought that of the attractions of the Internet is that it gives anyone with access the possibility of finally getting their 15 minutes of fame on a world stage. Of course, world personalities and leaders have way more than 15 minutes. Too bad W chooses to always screw it up. Sheesh ... a perfect example of someone acting out their true beliefs under the guise of "humour" ... I'm sure he'd say "I was just joshin' ya." Right.

Sunday, June 29, 2008


Over on Decrepit Old Fool, My friend George recently posted a fabulous article on how to tell a good bike from junk, and how to select a bike for purchase.

Those who know me personally might be surprised that yes, I can ride a bike (even my wife was surprised by that when I mentioned it recently; we've been married nearly 6 years now ... surprise, sweetie!), .... While it was my good ole Dad who taught me how to ride a two-wheeler, it was George who helped me understand what a quality bike is. At one point he rebuilt a bike that I purchased for $10 from a garage sale, essentially just using the frame which, while of high quality, wasn't particularly light. It was much more enjoyable to ride than anything I'd had. My Dad had bought a good bike to get me started (a Raleigh from the era when a decent Raleigh didn't cost a week's (or more) salary,) but DOF got me interested in riding better.

After the bike rebuild, I frequented a local bike shop a few times and did the test rides, although not to the extent that George recommends. It was a revelation when I got on a Fuji bike that was made for smaller folks like me. As I recall, the front wheel was about 2" smaller than the rear. This bike fit me like a glove, was easy to propel, and was smooooooth. (Smooooooth is a highly technical term that I use when I need to impress you with my grasp of physics and mechanics.)

I'm not really in the market for a bike right now, but out of curiosity, I have visited the Fuji Bikes website to see if I could find a contemporary incarnation of that model. Sadly, their website is a mess ... driven obviously by marketing types who use (oxymoron alert!) "lifestyle" design principles rather than common sense. Another reason to seek out a good dealer.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

"Practically Infinity Ants"

Last evening my wife was out front watering the bed of portulaca & peppers (hot), when the 6-year-old neighbour boy from two houses down came by. He showed her a very active ant den, declaring it was a lot of ants ... "Practically infinity ants!"

The world can be pretty amazing when you're six.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Waking Up is Hard to Do

I don't wake up easily. It takes me a long time to become functional, with some sort of hot beverage (tea, coffee) required. Until I'm fully awake, I am prone to making mistakes ... my balance isn't good, my perception seems off, and I tend to clumsy moves.

So this morning, as I went to scoop coffee beans into the grinder, I dropped the container in which I store beans, and I had some sweeping to do. Luckily, the container was nearly empty and I had more beans I'd purchased from Boulder Coffee.

The blend I'd spilled? Boulder's Crash and Burn. Of course.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

What Do We Value?

Watching the CBC National broadcast from 5/14/08, the feature segment was on the world food shortage. The entire segment is highly informative, but the most provocative thing to me was Francis Moore Lappé's (author of Diet for a Small Planet) analysis of the current situation. Her incisive statement is about 7:20 into the segment. Basically, she cites a deficit of democracy, as symbolized by ADM, largest or 2nd largest grain trader, increasing their profit by 65% last year, while rising food prices will push approximately 100 million more people into poverty and hunger or starvation.

I know that statistics can be slippery things; ADM may have increased their profit dramatically through cost-cutting, maybe the gain is measured against miserable results the previous year, etc. Somehow I don't think so.

But this is not about singling out ADM as a corporate villain, though they aren't on my list for a Nobel prize.

What is really at stake is a system that uses even the most basic of human needs -- food -- to concentrate wealth and power in corporate structures that answer only to the mantra of unending and unbridled growth. As Brian Stewart says in the CBC piece, all the signs of the impending shortage were there, but very few were paying attention.

There is some small sliver of hope that enough people will wake up to what real democracy is all about, and that we can avoid food and resource wars and the catastrophe that would be. Real democracy protects its citizens not only from crime and military attack, but also from trauma by institutionalized greed.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Why I Love Film

Some people expend a lot of effort in Photoshop to get digital captures to look like this. GIVE IT UP FOLKS ... JUST USE FILM!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

South Wedge Morning

In early April I started a self-assigned project called South Wedge Morning. South Wedge is a historic Rochester neighbourhood that is undergoing renewal. As such, it is interesting to observe the evolution.

I have no attachment to the district; I don't live there, I simply pass through on my daily work commute. So it was some of the more charming architecture, witnessing some of the renovations as the progressed (or stalled) each day, and the occasional press buzz that stimulated my initial interest.

The idea to make an "unstructured" documentation project really took on a life when I saw it as a way of also meeting a couple of other needs.

First, such a project would get me out of the house (off my fat butt) on weekends. I tend to be inert. Once I am moving, I'm fine, and once I start a project that holds my imagination, I tend to keep rolling. (My wife would dispute this, but "honeydew" lists don't count.) I don't awaken quickly, easily or gently, so lingering over a homemade cappuccino while watching CBC Newsworld on a weekend morning is luxury to me.

But as a habit, that doesn't support physical well-being; I need to be physically moving to improve heart health, promote flexibility and muscle tone, not to mention fighting mental stagnation.

It also doesn't exercise photographic vision; it doesn't add to any body of work. No photographer ever started out fully formed. Even the rare genius needs to work. I have several other photo projects and "goals". Getting myself in gear was increasingly important as I felt I was in danger of becoming permanently stagnant.

South Wedge Morning formed as a very manageable way of moving forward. There is no road map, no list of themes or shots to be checked off a list. I simply want to be an observer and allow the project to define itself ... mostly.

What requirements I do have are:

1. Be there. It is important that I keep working until the work is done. "Done" will be one year or less. If a year passes, that will be it, even if I feel that more could be done. In that eventuality, it would be necessary to do some examination a better define what I am really trying to do.

On the other hand, if I get to a point where I just know it is finished, I'll just stop. The one year horizon is not a schedule, but is a limit.

2. Work only in the morning. The only reason for this is to impose a bit of theme, and some challenge. Morning light is generally pleasant and "photogenic", but if only morning light is available, then some subjects or situations may require some creativity or at least forethought. It also forces that bit about getting my butt moving.

3. Include people and connection to the local community. I would consider a finished body of work without that element to be incomplete and far less of a "success" for me. This will take me into a journalistic role that I have not taken in many years. Even when I did photograph people, it was very limited and not very significant. The simple truth is that to tell a story, I have to have a story. If that story is external, then I have to receive and learn the story. As someone who has practiced telling nearly to the exclusion of hearing, this will be the tough part.

For now the photos will be published on flickr, (you can see the photos tagged with South Wedge here) with selections embedded here when I am motivated to add some text. Once I start organizing the work, I may move everything onto the blog or a separate website.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The Real McCain

I have never trusted John McCain. I had some sympathy when the Bush team Bush-whacked him in Carolina in 2000 (despicable behaviour), but his dumping of his first wife as a result of her horrific accident, his propensity for explosive outbursts, wiped out any respect.

If the Democrats nominated Howdy Doody in 2008, it would be a better choice than John "Pity Me" "100 years" McCain. If you thought Bill Clinton had "issues" ...

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Support a Ban on Handguns in Canada

I know my friend DOF will disagree, but he's not Canadian, so ... :D

Anyway, I can't think of one good reason that anyone needs a handgun. And the arguments of "guns don't kill, people do", and "banning guns only assures that criminals will have them" doesn't wash. I think those who take those positions are intellectually dishonest.

Without banning handguns, there will be no progress. A simple ban is not a complete solution. No one has ever said that. But it is an essential first step.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Java Joe's is No More


Jaava Joe's is no more!

I knew something was up; for months Joe had been scaling back operations, changing things. Over a year ago the cafe hours had gone from 7 days a week, to five, then four, then three. Sue, the luscious lass from whom I typically bought my beans, had once told me more changes were coming. And when I had last been in, Sue was not around, the kitchen was closed. A sign simply stated "new menu coming".

So today, as I walked the market before heading into Joe's, I ran into my friend Gene Olczak. As we chatted, Gene said he had discovered that Joe had sold to Boulder Coffee Company. Hmmm. The space itself, along with the market clientèle, will likely dictate that not much will change. There is another Boulder location in town, I just hadn't gone to it yet ... a grave personal failure, to be sure.

Gene's story (and who can doubt him? He's a freakin' brilliant optical engineer involved in putting remote sensing into space), is that Joe will continue to sell beans just up the street. And that Boulder's beans will "match" Joe's fare. Well, the deal is probably that Joe will sell beans to Boulder; I don't think Joe writes bad deals.

Writing this entry at Boulder.

Sammy Turned One

My great-nephew, Sammy, recently celebrated his first birthday. Well, "celebrated" is stretching it a bit. As with most yearlings, he didn't quite know what to make of things.

Once sister Sophie decided to help, he began to get the picture. My prediction: Next year he will be a little less tolerant of "help".

Kodak Tri-X, EI 1600, Rodinal/X-Tol (3ml Rodinal, X-Tol 1:1) 7 min 52 sec. Olympus OM-1n, Zuiko 50/f1.4.

Friday, March 21, 2008


© 2008 Terry Cioni/Terry Cioni's Flickr

In the media world dominated by byte-sized contractions of "news", sorting out the reasons behind events is normally difficult at best, often impossible. As protests in Tibet and surrounding areas seem to have little context, and the official Chinese line has conveniently incorporated the rationale that the "Dalai clique" is attempting to sabotage the upcoming Olympic games for political gain, one must dig for that context.

While it is naive to believe that the Olympics are free of political purpose for any country, much less the host, I tend to agree that the Olympics should be as non-political as possible, as it can be a tool to foster international understanding, cooperation and tolerance.

So when the Chinese government issued harsh statements that attacked the Dalai Lama as a person, I was taken aback. Clearly, this is the behaviour borne of fear. But fear of what? Why? What is behind the (seemingly) new policy?

A story in the Globe & Mail on 3/21/08 is quite revealing. If this piece is even 25% accurate, then it is clear that the Chinese government is involved in cultural genocide against the Tibetan people, not to mention human rights violation in the areas of freedom of religion and speech, as well as an assault on the environment. It turns out this has been building for some time:

" Many analysts say the current wave of protests can be traced back to two key events in 2006: the completion of the new railway to Lhasa, which has brought millions of Chinese tourists and migrants to Tibet, and the appointment of a tough new Communist regional boss, Zhang Qingli, who announced a "life or death" battle against the Dalai Lama."

If the Chinese government is so sure of the rightness of its position, then they have no reason to restrict the international press and international agencies such as the UN into Tibet and any other area of China.

Short of that, anyone who values human rights and dignity should support a boycott of the 2008 Olympics until the Beijing restores the rights of the Tibetan people and begins to truly address the rights of all its citizens.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Essential Photographic Tool: The canvas field coat


For some time I have been looking for a good, sturdy canvas field coat. I did not want lining or insulation, as I want to be able to layer my clothing. I wanted lots of pockets so that I can stuff in cameras, film, filters, etc. ... you know, all the stuff everyone needs to take on every foray outside the home.

Last weekend I found this, the Poacher's Pocket Coat at Damn, I always thought that J Peterman was a fictitious company only on Seinfeld! Anyway, once I got over the shock of my ignorance, I found it was on closeout sale for $56 instead of the previous $149. Sold!

The pockets (or at least a couple of them) could be a bit bigger, but a 35SP, Leica, Bessa or ZI will fit nicely, even with hoods. The OMs can be stuffed in sans lens shade. The one inside pocket will probably normally house my Zaurus or Moleskine Reporter, aka analog PDA. All-in-all, very versatile and its arrival today was shazaam!!

Taken with my daughter's C4040. There's a bit of moiré. bit what the heck do I know from doing digital?

Oh, and this is yet another "C&C" shot ... Camera & Coat ... or Camera & Canvas, as opposed to Camera & Coffee. :)

Sunday, March 02, 2008

My Greek Goddess

I was introduced to cooking via Food TV Canada. My first exposure to Christine Cushing, was her show Dish it Out; which was not on Food TV. It was a nice little show, and Christine was very good at communicating her enthusiasm for good cooking, while breaking it down to its simplest basics. She went on to Food TV Canada with what I consider one of the best cooking shows anywhere, Christine Cushing Live. In a one hour live format, Christine not only cooked and taught, but fielded calls from viewers. All good things end, but happily Christine is still cooking and teaching. Her latest newsletter embedded a link to this video. She's still got "it" ... in every way. :)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Opening Night at Eastman House

Saturday, Feb 16 2008, George Eastman House hosted a members reception for the opening of new exhibits by Magnum photographers Eli Reed and Larry Towell. The following is an account I wrote up in an email to a friend.

I arrived about 5:45 and the place was already buzzing. The reception was scheduled for 5:30 - 8:00, so I was a bit surprised; fashionably late is not the thing with this crowd!

I grabbed a glass of chardonnay and moved into the crowd, toward the main exibit area. The first Towell photo I saw I was a VERY large print of this photo , hung outside the main exhibit room. At that enlargement size (probably 40" longest), it is quite soft, which truly matches the moment captured.

I wandered around and encountered Eli Reed, whose "Black in America" exhibit is opening as well. A big, engaging man, he was sporting an Olympus E-3, chatting with a GEH staffer and two other folks. I watched for a break in the conversation, but not finding one I moved on to a woman I recopgnized as the person in charge of the artist lecture series, though I couldn't recall her name. We chatted a bit, and I asked her when Towell would be here again. I meant for another presentation, but she said, "He's here somewhere, I just saw him talking to some people over there." Cool, but I explained my real question, and she told me it is March 27. I'm hoping David, who is coming down for birthday dinner on the 29th, can come early and go with me.

Drifting into the main exhibit area, I was very surprised to see that ALL the prints (at least as far as I remember) are printed quite large. The sharpness and tonality held up so incredibly well, and the effect is marvelous. (On the technical side, this is great since I can now give PROOF that I need better lenses!) The exhibit is entitled "The World From My Front Porch", which encompasses a large body of his work, but the main focus is on his family life and the environs of his farm near Bothwell, Ontario. I guess I expected the prints to be smaller, say 8x or 11x sort of in keeping with the intimacy of the subject matter. So the size of the prints was surprising, but it works so well! My own interpretation of the "message" of having the prints so large is that it says "Hey, the record of family life, the rhythms of our home, the land that holds us, is just as big and 'important' as the intense images of conflict in Palestine, Guatemala. It is all of the same piece."

Often I find my senses overwhelmed in exhibits; this was the case of the Adams exhibit, but this time it seemed even more intense. Primarily it was the images and the design of the installation, but also of course the energy of the evening, of all the people.

Eventually I ran into Larry Towell, introduced myself again, though I'm not sure if he remembered me from the last time he was here. He asked if I was a photographer, and I sort of fumbled my response! I should have just said "Yes, though I'm not working on paying work right now", but I stumbled through something like "I used to be pro, but I didn't like the business side", etc. He said, "None of us do."

I wandered through the rest of the exhibit, though again not really studying images, just glancing, as it were. In the second room, the photos from Palestine, Guatemala and Mexico are mounted. This is where I was overwhelmed again. In the middle of the Palestine photos, a tall chain link fence with razor wire had been installed, with concrete blocks and other detritus from the conflict along the base of the fence. The effect is absolutely overwhelming. At this, I soon I "gave up" on the exhibit. It was just too much to absorb, and I felt happy I 'll be able to return several times to really be mindful and receptive.

Soon I met up again with the lecture events coordinator and a colleague and mentioned how much I was struck by the fence installation. It turns out the fence was the idea of this male colleague, but neither of them had seen it in its final form since the opening, so I thanked him and they went off to a look.

I went back to the main lobby area, and finally had a chance to chat with Eli Reed, who was talking with Ann Towell. I compared my ancient Olympus 35SP with his Olympus E-3 (about 40 years apart!), and he was delighted, and mentioned how much he had especially admired the even older Olympus Pen half-frame cameras. Eli moved on, and from there I introduced myself to Ann, who said, "Why does your name sound familiar?" I said the only thing I could think of was that I had written to Larry about Andrew Murphy, a Halifax photographer who had been in need of some career guidance.

As we chatted about my being from Stratford, we dug into places and times. I told her I had lived in London and was familiar with her area. When I mentioned that I had also briefly lived in Wallaceburg, she said she had been born there. Then when I had told her I had worked at Bluewater Camp while at Wallaceburg, her face lit up and she said she had attended weekend retreats there as a child! We tried to place the timeline, and she knew the name of the guy who had owned the camp when I worked there, so this was a really neat connection! She said I could stop their farm by if I'm in the area, which I thought was really gracious.

After Isaac Towell (one of the sons) and I talked Leafs for a bit (he's a fan, Larry isn't), I excused myself to head home. I arrived just as the puck was about to drop. I was already pumped from the evening, then my boys beat the Bruins in overtime.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Film is Not Dead -- Part Deux

My thoughts exactly! Thanks to Matt Bigwood, from APUG.ORG

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Film is Not Dead

Highland Park, Rochester, NY 11/07

Highland Park, Rochester NY, 11/07

Highland Park, Rochester NY, 11/07

Evaporators, George Eastman House
Rochester, NY 11/07

Supposedly Kodak has turned into a digital company, and the world no longer cares about film. But don't tell that to Mary Jane Hellyer, the President of Film & Photofinishing and Executive VP. Over the last year under her direction, Kodak has twice updated Portra, its professional colour negative emulsions, and recently has updated T-Max 400, a professional black & white emulsion available in 35mm, 120 & 4x5 sizes.

T-Max 400 (TMY) has had a somewhat tepid response in the past due to its inability to handle overexposure of highlights. This is quite different from the nicer curve of Tri-X. While Tri-X has a totally different grain structure;indeed, Tri-X is a "traditional" emulsion while TMY is a more modern "T-Grain" formulation. So there was a trade-off.

But the new TMY-2 formulation is much improved. I can't say for sure that Kodak has completely solved the issue of highlights; that would take careful testing and I have only had one roll to play with. The film isn't widely shipping yet. But my casual use of TMY-2 has been a wonderful experience. In addition to its improved tonal rendering, it seems to be a true 400 speed film, not the 250 or 320 speed I find optimal for Tri-X.

Kudos to you, Ms. Hellyer. I am sure your budgets for film R&D are not generous. But you have managed to marshal the still significant brain power and production prowess at Kodak to shine beautiful light in the silver-halide world.
Edit/Postscript, 2/1/08

Fuji is showing a prototype for a new medium format film camera at PMA. Their press announcement emphasizes that as an imaging company "Fujifilm remains true to its heritage and to the acknowledged superior image quality delivered by professional photographic film products."

Compare that to (CEO Antonio) Perez' mealy-mouthed public statements on film, and you get the sense of why many photographers are confused about Kodak and its future. No doubt Kodak must be a digital company, but Fuji clearly has a clearer vision of what imaging is and that there are more photographers than those who must use digital due to the need for speed of delivery, increased production quantity, etc. Hellyer recognizes this, unfortunately she is not the CEO. Yet.

Rangefinder Forum has an interesting and entertaining thread about this. And apparently the camera looks like this.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Update: Gene's R3A & Nokton 40/1.4

Photo: copyright Gene Wilburn

On a stopover at Gene's Sunday morning, I was able to play with the Bessa R3A & Nokton 40/1.4. The grey finish of the camera is absolutely gorgeous. If I were to get an R3A it would definitely be the grey. And the Nokton is certainly smaller than I ever would have imagined.

  • Nokton size and smoothoperation
  • Solidity of the Bessa
  • Brightness of the Bessa viewfinder, and layout of framelines

  • Handling of the Bessa. Its shape feels a bit odd/clunky, especially compared to my 35SP. That might be because Gene had the inexpensive half case on, though. While decent protection, I don't like half cases unless they are luxurious ones such as the Luigi case.
  • While overall the VF is great, I found using it with spectacles not optimum. I'd need to wear my contacts for best results
  • Shutter sound. While not terribly loud, louder than my Olympus 35SP and a Leica. I think maybe the pitch and metallic quality might be what stood out
Sadly, Gene says this sample has jammed three times, so it is back to the vendor for replacement.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Vespa & Leica ... and the Nokton 40/1.4

Over on a new member from central Pennsylvania popped up, citing his blog about the tie-up between his Vespa and shooting Leica. Scooter in the Sticks is a cheerful site which includes some nice photos. And who knew there were electric gloves made for riding in winter?

My friend Gene writes about saying goodbye to his Leica M2 and hello to a Bessa R3A. After acquiring the Bessa, he ordered a Nokton 40/1.4 lens for the new toy. I'm sure he'll have a blog entry (and sample shots!) up pretty soon, but in an email he related how small it is, especially for a fast lens. I can tell he's excited, but I think I may be just as excited as he is. Flickr has a goodly number of images tagged to this lens, and one photographer of note is Ben in Vancouver, aka sockeyed who does good work with it.

This lens is on my list of probable acquisitions once I dive back into the M mount world, but Mr. K of Cosina is introducing a 35mm f1.4 Nokton, so now the decision will be even more complicated. Sigh.

A New Beginning But Without Much Hope

As a member of Leafs Nation, that worldwide fraternity of fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs, I seem to be a glutton for punishment. Today Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment Limited announced the firing of GM John Ferguson, and the hiring of Cliff Fletcher as interim GM. Fletcher, on a 19-month contract, will be in charge of both player personnel and the search for a new permanent GM. This was announced by Richard Peddie, President & CEO of MLSEL.

In my inbox today was a letter from Mr. Peddie with the official announcement of the change in personnel. All I can say is that I am so frustrated with Peddie that I could spit. Here is my open letter to you, Mr. Peddie, which I will also try to post on

Mr. Peddie,

I forgive you for the one incomprehensible (non-) sentence in this letter; I attribute it to poor proofreading by the PR department. That's not understandable for what is supposed to be the top hockey organization in the world, but still I will let it pass.

What I cannot forgive is the fact that you have not resigned your own position. I am sure there are other board members who share culpability for the current failure of the Leafs to be a top performing hockey team. But you, as President & CEO, are the person who holds the buck when it stops. Or should.

Please, sir, resign your position effective immediately and let someone who knows more about hiring and managing talented hockey people run this team. Stick to real estate and merchandising, but please do it with some other unfortunate organization.

It is the fans, the people who literally built Maple Leaf Gardens and supported this team, who are the real shareholders. You may have a responsibility to Teachers and other financial shareholders, but the true moral and ethical responsibility is the Leafs Nation. Our blood is blue right now because we must have ice in our veins to withstand the savage way in which you have run this organization.

A proud Leafs fan, but a sad observer,


Sunday, January 20, 2008

Top of the Chain

What happens when a species at the top of the food chain disappears? If one species of whale, say a species with a relatively small population, were to go extincet, what would be the consequences?

I suspect many, if not most, people would guess that the rest of the food chain, on which the top species was perched, would simply flourish, and that any follow-on effects would be minimal or none.

While it is true that species directly below likely will increase their numbers, a chain of changes will inevitably follow. Rather than speculate about the disappearance of a species of whale, the polar bear or other species at risk, a look at a species that was eradicated from a confined area can serve as a good example.

Wolf eradication in Yellowstone (and surrounding areas) came as a result of ranchers who blamed wolves for excessively preying on their cattle. What the exact number of losses were is probably not truly known, but what is known is that wolf predation on commercial livestock was largely a result of the elimination of bison (buffalo) herds, a primary food source for wolves. At the time, however, hard science, even if it were available, didn't matter. The wolf had been made an object of fear and hatred, to the benefit of a particular economic interest.

With the removal of the grey wolf population, however, the elk population, having also been an important food source to wolves, increased dramatically. The increased elk herds overgrazed various species of vegetation, including pine trees. The loss of enough pine and other vegetation resulted in soil erosion, loss of ground cover for other species, and the loss of food for still more species.

The soil erosion was significant enough to cause flooding problems, further disturbing the ecosystem.

Whatever one thinks might be the specific effects of ecosystem disturbance or change, no matter how refined one's modeling, there are always at least a few unanticipated results. Ecologists are paid to understand ecosystems and provide at least guidance, if not accurate and specific predictions of ecological change. Given that there is no such thing as 100% accuracy, the combination of uncertainty and the lack of immediate consequences presents a danger to public policy making and societal knowledge of ecological issues. This is especially true with matters of global scale. As humans, we focus on our immediate surroundings and what we can see now.

Lake Superior -- Top of a Chain

The example of wolves in Yellowstone is a relatively simple example of how changes precipitate unintended and unwanted consequences. The same principle obviously applies to geologic systems. The sheer size and power of Lake Superior deceives most into believing it is immutable -- that it cannot be moved, cannot be adversely affected by anything but events of a nuclear scale.

I think most people experience Superior through something akin to a drive-by shooting "Stop here! That's a great picture!". So 99% of its visitors are probably caught in the spell of magnitude and beauty. Absolutely this is essential to understanding our planet, our home.

Three times in my life, out of four trips to Superior, I have been able to stop and live for a bit on the shore. These times have not been simply pleasant vacations, but have been "incrementally" transformative, if that makes any sense.

This last trip was a bit longer. Perhaps not long enough in an absolute sense (permanent residence would be appropriate), but long enough to calm my soul while opening it to "small" things that open up a world not often noticed, hidden behind size and power.

The image that best illustrates this, I think, is this photo of moss & cedars growing from pre-Cambrian rockface of the shore. The whole concept of organisms that break down rock -- and granite at that -- has always amazed me. The conversion to soil as a result of whatever chemical action that is employed is remarkable. In this case, it challenges one to consider that the "food chain" is actually inverted. We would normally consider granite one of the most permanent features of this ecosystem, yet it is lowly moss & lichen that reign. Without species that can convert ancient rock to soil, other species such as the cedars cannot survive.

I am not a working biologist, even though my undergraduate degree is in Biology with an emphasis on invertebrate zoology and my strongest interest continues to be aquatic ecosystems. I am sure that I have oversimplified things with this example. So I admit to being a bit of a wannabe, despite my original grounding in the sciences, and I do welcome comments, corrections and any additional input.

Despite feeling that I have missed something important by not having pursued a work career in my field of study, I am encouraged that I can choose to "reclaim" that study as a foundation for the finale of my life, and combine a renewed interest with my experience and vision in photography and my love of the water.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Pukaskwa Part Deux ... Paddling the Calm

The day after the morning mist paddle, the weather was extremely calm and the lake nearly as smooth as glass. While one can never count on the weather holding, I felt very confident that the day would be fine for hours. So I headed out with cameras, water and a snack. I was mentally prepared to be gone the whole day, but was open to staying out only as long as I felt comfortable.

I headed out of Hattie's Cove, the entrance to which is a small "notch" (duh, it's a cove) that faces more or less south. My intention was to go north, past Horseshoe Bay, then proceed to the mouth of the Pic River. Horseshoe Bay is the bay adjacent to our campsite; a trail led past our campsite to the bay, and the latter part of the trail is a boardwalk, as the trail traverses a delicate, sandy ecosystem.

The first photo shows the calm waters on today's trip. The bay is somewhat protected, but when the weather is "up", the surf can be quite strong. The second photo (taken on a different day) shows the surf on a typical good weather day. The log in the foreground is blurred because it is actually in motion, being propelled by the incoming surf. I chose a shutter speed that would somewhat freeze the waves in the background, but that was slow enough to hint at the movement of the log.

Even though the surf on photo two is not that heavy, it has enough energy to shove the tree trunk back.

These dunes are north of Pukaskwa proper, on the north side of the Pic River. One of the park's interpretive programs is a trip to the dunes.

Turning up river I paddled to the ceremony grounds for the Pic River First Nation. Near this pavilion are small cottages and trailers, housing some of the band members during the summer. I definitely want to come back here during powwow days and find out more of the history of this site, the people, etc. Pic River people have been here for thousands of years; there's a lot to be gained by learning.

Coming back in, there is a small island at the mouth of Horseshoe Bay. It was fun to paddle around and make at least cursory notice of the flora. By this time I was so "emotionally relaxed" that I really didn't work too hard at making "good" photos. Being relaxed and not thinking too much normally produces better work for me. But this time I was simply more attuned to being where I was, to absorbing rather than creating. That was a good place.

Heading back in for the final leg, I actually missed the entrance to Hattie's Cove. So I ended up paddling around Pulpwood Bay, casually exploring before returning to the cove.

To say I was exhilarated would be a monumental understatement. The day was topped off with the simple elegance of relaxation in a camp chair .... absorbing campfire wood smoke, a bottle of 2003 Hillebrand Estates Showcase Chardonnay and grilled chicken.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

No Resolutions for Me

My friend Gene has bravely blogged his 2008 resolutions --

I gave up on New Year's resolutions quite some time ago. I have nothing against them, but the concept just doesn't work for me.

It finally occurred to me that the reason may simply be that resolutions are too specific. I am far more engaged by "big" ideas, by the themes of my life.

So this year I feel the "right" thing to do is to adopt one or two guiding themes or principles as focus areas.

The first is consciousness. So much of my living seems to be on autopilot, lived in habit. I want to discover what practices, what strategies, work to let me be conscious and live in the moment.

The second I'm not so sure of, or is not so well-formed. Kindness. Or maybe Ahimsa is the better term.

Yes, the next Superior article is coming. ;)