Category Archives: A Place for the Arts

“Against the Odds”

"Against the Odds" - Duffins Creek

“When you do or think or feel something, do it with passion. Let it come from the heart. Put your heart and soul in it. And when you do, you will feel a river flowing sweetly through you and especially through your entire life. Life has much more meaning that way. ”
― Angie Karan

A painterly image I made yesterday, based on a photo of two trout swimming upstream at the Whitevale bridge, north of Pickering, Ontario.

What struck me was how the body of the dark fish flowed with the water, or did the water flow with the fish? As I processed the image, the flow of colour, from warm orange tones and larger river rocks at the bottom to cooler blue tones and multi-coloured pebbles at the top began to become more noticeable, yet the dark body of the fish dominates the scene. The entire image speaks of movement, energy, and overcoming. I’m really pleased with how it turned out.

Nikon D300
Tamron 70-200 mm f/2.8 @ 70 mm
1/100 sec, f/5.0 ISO 200

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“April Sunset at Burleigh Falls”

“April Sunset at Burleigh Falls”

“As the soft spring sun begins to set, an ethereal light strikes the trees and boulders on the far shore, setting them ablaze in gold. The dark, cold, meltwater rushes by in a mad dash through ancient rocks. Intent on the calm of the lake below, where they foam and swirl, momentarily, then merge with the now still waters that preceded them. The day ends, in peace, and light, and water.”
– Ed Lehming

To stand on the shore and bear witness to these kinds of fleeting events fills me with joy. It’s the primary reason I spend so much time outdoors. To be able to capture a moment like this, to reflect back on it, and recall that experience once more is a blessing.

I knew that the spring rush this year at Ontario’s Burleigh Falls was going to be extraordinary. This was prompted by a Facebook post by a fellow photographer, where he rendered a wonderful black and white image that made me determined to see for myself. The light in the morning was wonderful but I was not fully prepared for the effect of the setting sun in late afternoon. Generally, I stop here in the summer, on my way home from camping, and the sun tends to be quite bright.

The position of the sun at this time of year bathes the shores in gold and lights up the whitecaps with soft tones of gold. The effect lasts only moments and is gone. I was overjoyed to have witnessed this and to be able to photograph it to share.

Nikon D200
Tamron 17-50 mm f/2.8 @ 17 mm
1/10 sec, f/32.0, ISO 160

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If we were having a coffee…

Burleigh Falls Spring Rush

“Sometimes the waters of our spirits are churned and murky, and it is difficult to tap the reservoirs of our innate wisdom and knowledge. But the waters will settle as we do. Quietly and gently encourage yourself to go inside. Clarity will come.” ― Sue Patton Thoele

If we were having coffee…I’d tell you this week had some major ups and some major downs. On the up side, one of my photos, which I cross-pollinate on Twitter and Facebook has had +16K views! That really messed up my WordPress stats, but was it emotionally refreshing and extremely validating. The post, and effective use of tags, allowed me to reach out to a larger audience who provided me with positive feedback about my work and writings. Now I settle into the normalcy of a gradually growing following of engaged and encouraging readers.

Yesterday, had the opportunity to travel north and visit, after a 4 month absence, the artist co-op I belong to, appropriately named A Place for the Arts, where I am able to show my work in a gallery-like environment, connect face to face with other creatives, and discuss photography and life, in an art filled and coffee scented creative space. While on the way there, I stopped at Burleigh Falls and made several photos of the raging spring melt waters, both in morning light and at sunset, when I returned home, which I will post on my blog over the next few weeks. The photos inspired me to do some digital painting work (above). So, artistically and creatively, I’ve been riding a high wave that carries me forward, slightly out of control, but it’s exhilarating.

Conversely, I’ve had to deal with some unpleasant and recurring life issues that I don’t really want to get into now, but which have been emotionally and spiritually draining. I’m happy to be able to connect here with other creatives, to see me through those times, through shared experiences, words and images.

While I would not consider my current situation as ‘murky’, knowing that the waters eventually settle bring me peace and hope. How’s your week been?

Nikon D300
Tamron 70-200 mm f/2.8 @ 70 mm
1/10 sec, f/32.0, ISO 200

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“Study in Wood #5” – Bryant Park, New York

Study in Wood #5

“Every tree in the forest has a story to tell. Some of them were burnt but they endured the fire and got revived; some of them were cut, their barks injured, some people pick up their leaves to make medicines for their sicknesses, birds used their leaves to make their nests, etc. Upon all these, the tree is still tree!”
― Israelmore Ayivor

This ancient sycamore, in New York City’s Bryant Park, certainly would have stories to tell. I have no idea how old it might be, but someone planted it behind the New York Public library many years ago and it has borne silent witness to a multitude events and changes in its long life. This old wood has weathered time and endured, its bark rough and creased with age, unlike its younger companions with their smooth, mottled bark, so typical of the fast growing sycamores, planted in neat rows in this urban park.

Pieces of bark have fallen off, been broken off, revealing the bright layers below, or clung tight to the tree, growing dark and gray with the patina of time.

As the quote above says, every forest has its story to tell. I look on these gnarled old trees and decaying stumps, thinking back to when they were young saplings. These are the survivors, having outlived other lesser trees, every year marked in their rough and ragged bark.

Nikon D300
Tamron 70-200 mm f/2.8 @ 125 mm
1/320 sec, f/9.0 -1.0, ISO 400

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“A Walk Among the Cedars” – Seaton Trail

Walk Among the Cedars - Secord Forest

“Solitude is the soil in which genius is planted, creativity grows, and legends bloom; faith in oneself is the rain that cultivates a hero to endure the storm, and bare the genesis of a new world, a new forest.”
― Mike Norton

Solitude, sweet solitude, the place where I flourish, dream, recharge. I crave the quiet places, the forest trails, the meadows, and riverbanks. Each experience is such a part of me, and I a part of them. As I walk, stand, or sit, the majesty of nature, even the simple things, fill my eyes and mind with wonder. I am in creation, not merely a visitor, but a part of it. It fills me with joy and peace. Time ceases and I merely ‘am’.

For all the time I have spent walking the trails and photographing my surroundings, this one image fully expresses how it “feels” to me. I get emotional looking at it, since it puts me in that place I love so much. Not this particular location, so much, but how I feel when I’m in nature, overall.

The image has all the elements I experience on a regular basis when hiking near my home, the leaf covered path, the flowing forms of branches and leaves, sun shining brightly above and through openings in the canopy, and the dark spaces as well.

This photo was made a few short weeks ago along the Seaton Train, near Whitevale. The ice had just come of the trails and it was a beautiful, mild, late winter day.

iPhone 5s back camera 4.15mm f/2.2
1/40 sec;   f/2.2;   ISO 32

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“Solitaire near Glasgow”

Solitaire near Glasgow

“To my mind, a picture should be something pleasant, cheerful, and pretty, yes pretty! There are too many unpleasant things in life as it is without creating still more of them.”
― Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Happy Easter!

I wanted to try something new, something that satisfied the creative in me. I love paintings and have many friends who are extraordinary painters. My gift is photography, which offers me a similar outlet, but rather than spending time in front of the canvass, I spend my time walking in the trails, forests, and cities, always looking for interesting scenes to photograph.

This past week I was working with some of what I would deem my ‘secondary’ files. The images that I had envisioned, but did not satisfy me as I processed them. I ran these images through various filters and plugins, looking for the ‘vision’ of the photo to emerge. In this case, one of my favourite ‘solitaires’ or lone trees.

On the day I made the photo, the sky was filled with soft and interesting clouds, the wheat had just emerged to greet the early spring air, while patches of snow still remained in low areas. The photo alone did not meet my expectations, that is, until I ran it through one of my filters to create the wonderful image above. As I’ve said before, I wish I could paint, but since I can’t, at least I can create the image as I would have painted it, if I could.

Nikon D300
Tamron 70-200 mm f/2.8 @ 70 mm
1/250 sec, f/8.0, ISO 250

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“Golden Splendour” – Wendat Pond, Stouffville

“Golden Splendour” - Wendat Pond, Stouffville

“Any patch of sunlight in a wood will show you something about the sun which you could never get from reading books on astronomy. These pure and spontaneous pleasures are ‘patches of Godlight’ in the woods of our experience.” ― C.S. Lewis

With spring just around the corner, this is the time of year where I go looking for signs of life re-emerging. The light is soft and indirect and casts wonderful shadows. I find myself looking at things differently. Textures, like those in the flowerheads above abound and make for interesting compositions. So, as I wait for signs of green and the first small flowers to appear, I’m happy to have these beautiful sights to satisfy me, as they were last year’s beauties.

Nikon D300
Tamron 70-200 mm f/2.8 @ 200 mm
1/160 sec, f/6.3, ISO 250

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“Chelsea Water Towers” – New York

“Chelsea Water Tanks” - New York“He has made me wary of chronological snobbery. That is, he showed me that newness is no virtue and oldness is no vice. Truth and beauty and goodness are not determined by when they exist. Nothing is inferior for being old, and nothing is valuable for being modern.”
― John Piper

One of the first things that I noticed while walking around New York was the wooden water tanks that topped most buildings, whether old or new. There are slight variations, some are metal but most are wood (which is apparently cheaper to build), of varying ages and roughly the same size, about 10,000 gallons. They seem like such an anachronism in this vast modern city. Yet, as I researched them, they are a very practical solution to an infrastructure that can’t deliver sufficient water pressure to buildings over six stories tall. In fact, there are 12,000 to 17,000 active water towers in service throughout New York and more are being built or replaced every year.

The towers work a bit like a toilet, whereby, when the tank level gets low, a valve is tripped and water is pumped into the tank from pipes in the building’s basement. Health concerns have been raised recently, since the water simply sits, untreated in heat and cold and can stagnate. Also, a layer of sediment builds up in the tank, which needs to be cleaned out annually, and is often overlooked. Out of sight, out of mind.

The image above shows both types, the wooden tanks in the foreground and a large steel tank on top of the condo. Once you notice them, it’s hard to tune them out, since they are such a unique feature that seems to define New York City.

Nikon D300
Tamron 17-50 mm f/2.8 @ 31mm
1/400 sec, f/10.0, ISO 400

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“Fire Escape” – Church Street at Vesey, New York

“Fire Escape” - Church Street at Vesey, New York

“Even in its darkest passages, the heart is unconquerable. It is important that the body survives, but it is more meaningful that the human spirit prevails.”
― Dave Pelzer

Situated on the north-west corner of the World Trade Centre Plaza, I’m sure this building has some stories to tell, as it sustained some damage during the 9-11 attacks and has a clear view of the Plaza itself. I did not think of the building’s story as I stopped to photograph it. Though I’ve had time to reflect on that since.

The way the light played off the walls and created shadows is what first drew my eye to this image. There is also the structure of the fire escape that really brings this image together. I made a large print of this image, which hangs on the wall in front of me as I write this. The lines draw me in and keep me scanning all the fine details and subtle shade gradations. It seems to capture the ‘feel’ of New York, as I experienced it. It’s also quite a contrast to the ultra modern World Trade One and the Oculus, which are directly behind me and to the right as I made this image.


Nikon D300
Tamron 17-50 mm f/2.8 @ 31mm
1/250 sec, f/8, ISO 400

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“Pebbles in Melting Ice” – Duffins Creek

“Pebbles in Melting Ice” - Duffins Creek

“Ice contains no future,  just the past, sealed away. As if they’re alive, everything in the world is sealed up inside, clear and distinct. Ice can preserve all kinds of things that way- cleanly, clearly. That’s the essence of ice, the role it plays.”
― Haruki Murakami, Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman

A temporary reprieve from the cold of winter, hinting at a more prolonged thaw and the promise of spring ahead. Ice can preserve but the inevitable cycles of nature will eventually free those things locked away for winter.

In the image above, thawing ice reveals its treasures, slowly and wonderfully. The pebble tops emerge and just enough of the structure below is visible, yet the presence of the surrounding ice is undeniable. More could be revealed by breaking the ice, but that would affect the underlying order below. So, it’s best to leave it to emerge in time. Surely, this scene will re-freeze before spring comes to last but the glimpse into the promised warmth is welcomed.

Nikon D300
Tamron 70-200 mm f/2.8 @ 125 mm
1/320 sec, f/9.0, ISO 250

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