Memory Redux…

Swan Lake Feb 2021


Reading Paul’s previous post brought back many memories of my own growing up in Ontario and having the good fortune of having an abundance of outdoors to explore both as a child and into teen and adult years. I’m grateful for being pushed out the door and sent on my way to explore the woods and creeks and in and out of Lake Ontario with never a thought or concern of spending hours and hours on my own or with one or two cohorts, scouting and  investigating old and new terrain.

And I find I’m still happy to spend time in the outdoors, revisiting the thrill of exploration and discovery that was so much a part of that time.




personal significance

I took this photo about a year ago out at Elk Lake regional park. This is not the lake, but a marshy pond close by. I’ve made many photos in this area because I love the woods and lake. But many times the photos I make there don’t really seem to represent what I was experiencing at the time.

But I feel a strong connection to this image because it reminds me so strongly of summer days when I was 7 or 8 years old growing up in a city in Ontario. My mother would send me out of the house in the morning with a packed lunch and the admonition not to return until dinner time. I would wander off quite a distance to a woods with a marshy pond where I would idle away the day exploring and catching minnows and tadpoles. Totally on my own, out in nature. Glorious. Those woods and pond are no more, long ago consumed by the march of suburbia. But the memory of them lives on for me in this image.


Paul’s image from the foyer of the UVic library reminded me of an image sequence I made together with my son’s help in that very library. This sequence was my work for an exercise in a “Personal Documentary” photography course. Since many have remarked at how strongly Robert and I resemble each other, I had asked him if he could act as a stand-in for my younger self in the sequence. Here is one of the images from (I think?) the third floor.

As a teenager I spent hours and hours and hours in the Prince George Municipal Library; it is located about 12 minutes by foot from where I lived. The library tables and lounges seemed to me to be some of the few spots on the planet I could find peace and quiet (I’m the eldest of 12). Libraries and their book stacks are therefore calming places, and Robert’s solid presence here recalls what the library meant to me at his age. And, yes, when I was kid I did carry a briefcase/satchel like that. If you ever need the one there to use as a prop or somethin’, get in touch…

Perhaps the image also speaks to the generosity of my son. Robert was willing to take part in the sequence knowing full-well I was projecting myself onto him. And it reminds me that I must ensure those projections are withdrawn in order that I can see both my boys as they are, and not as my unlived life would wish.


Following up on Mike’s post about the commuter terminal at SFU. Years ago when I got a wide format pinhole camera, I too this picture at the UVic library. Pinhole being what it is, and exposure calculations being what they are, this image in no way reflects the light, open space of the entry. But I like this dark moodiness (library at night is a draw for me), and I think it follows on Mike’s theme of circles, spotlighting and academic institutions.

Circle(s) of Life

Old SFU Burnaby Transportation Centre

Reading the memories Francis shared about busing up and down Hastings reminded me of trips these past 25 years into and out of the Lower Mainland, many starting and ending with the 640 bus at the Tsawwassen Ferry terminal walk-on entrance. And now my oldest son is going to learn to love the Skytrain over the next 12 months as he travels to and from his school located near Gastown. So I’m surprised to realize I’ve been suppressing my own memories of late 1980s / early 1990s transit usage as I bused every day to and from SFU Burnaby. Many years ago long after graduation I spent a warm early-May evening strolling through the quiet campus, my new DSLR camera in hand with a wiiiiiide angle lens, and came across the old transportation Centre where all the buses used to congregate. (The current Centre is now farther east.) The weird UFO vibe and dramatic lines in this scene, stairs heading toward the roadway, the strange bit of foliage, a circle of light, turquoise swimming in the far distance: all caught me by surprise that night. I had never seen this in all my years as an undergrad.

Further Riffs


riffing on the previous post from Mike, the notion of panos from the point of view of commuter on a bus brought these images to mind—panos of a different nature. Having been a frequent passenger of public transit, I’ve always been fascinated by the rolling vista as glimpsed from the window side seat as you’re transported to your destination in fits and starts.

A few years back I was visiting an ill friend in Vancouver and found myself riding the bus along Hastings Street to the East End and back. I became mesmerized by the passing views, having only momentary glimpses as the bus slowed, stopped, picked up/dropped off passengers and continued on its and my journey. People moving, standing, talking, trading, bartering. Quick shots of buildings, signs, graffiti, all in play, interacting, oblivious to my gaze. As we moved along, I pressed my camera up against the glass and more or less randomly snapped as we progressed, some as we were stationary, others as we were moving.




Letting the phone pick up the pieces…

While we’re on the topic of panoramas:

This is one I did in fall 2017 (along Cambie Street in Vancouver). If you sit in a seat on the left-hand side of a transit bus, and then put your smartphone-camera lens flat onto the neighbouring window, the resulting panoramas can be fun and funky. Cars disappear into thin air, trees are squished, and the stitching algorithm makes delightful choices as it tries to connect the scenery flying past the window (let alone the accelerometer craziness as the bus speeds up and slows down and goes around corners). Great fun.

The trick is find a part of bus route where there are items in the mid-distance and far-distance (but not too close and not too far!) such that the stitching algorithm has a chance of making something interesting. I even tried it once on a plane, when flying out of DUB.

Mind you, the smartphone is a power hog with this as the battery gets drained from providing energy needed for all the computation. I lost track of that fact once when having fun, and was wondering why I had only 9% left…


fractured landscape

This is not the first time I’ve used the panorama feature in the iPhone camera. But something like this happened that first time. And when it did I was perplexed and annoyed. So I tried again; failed and again and again and… you get the idea. Eventually I got my perfect panorama image. And I found I missed the random, abstract failures. Now when I use the panorama setting, I’m annoyed when it works as it is supposed to. I want the weird result, and not just accidentally. I strive to create these images purposefully to achieve a varied series of abstractions.

The Coast

South View

I love the drama of the coast. Always engaging. No flame wars, everything real, no distortions, something that wraps around you with a comforting welcome. Occasionally prone to displays of raw power, familiar but ever changing. Most interesting to me on days when it’s presented in a limited colour palette.