learning the language

Yesterday I went through four memory cards worth of photos looking for gems. It’s time for me to print a few. Since I came back from the island I haven’t deleted anything from them, or even really looked at the many pictures I took while I was away, because the weather was so gloomy gray and so many of them are disappointing. The images went back to late winter, and then into the nonstarter of a spring and blazing summer. I watched the data change for each image, noting the adjustments I made.

I found the day where I waited for my bus from a grassy patch and really—really—figured out what ISO adjustments do as I shot car after car. I found a garbage truck that I shot simply because it reminded me of a friend whose little boy loves garbage trucks. I saw my guru tree, which still had no leaves on May 20 and which had me a little worried. I saw the local antique barn in radiant red and green on a brilliant blue day. I saw the world’s longest covered bridge, which is silver and gray and doesn’t really make a very nice picture even on a good-weather day. I saw a salad I tried to shoot and failed; I don’t know what happened there, but it’s ugly and the best part of the photo is the three scattered torrone boxes I moved out of the center of the shot.

At the covered bridge I learned about white balance. This is the best image I got that day, the one where the greens are truest. It didn’t help the bridge, which I thought was made out of corrugated metal until I got home and read about it. And, I mean, look at this picture. Does it make you want to go inside the world’s longest covered bridge? No, it does not.

I am learning to like learning by frustration. I am learning to like my mistakes for what they have to teach me. It’s taking a while, but I’ve got patience. It’s a whole new language, really. My accent’s going to be weird for a while.

like wild horses over the hills

There’s a book of poetry by Charles Bukowski called The Days Run Away Like Wild Horses over the Hills. In college I did a presentation on him—picked his name at random from a list of writers and took a long, strange trip during the research. And when I have a packed day—or week, the way I do right now—that title slips through corners and angles in my mind, and I hear hoofbeats and see flocks of birds taking to the skies from the trembling ground. I pull my time where I can.

Today, I’m sending you away from here to the sites of two photographers who showed work at the craft show last weekend. I’ve mentioned before that I struggle with photography and over the past months as Heather and I have grown this site from a seedling to a true project, I’ve paid more and more attention to what works for me, and why. I don’t always have words for it. Sometimes I’ll read an analysis of why a person made a certain set of changes in Photoshop and I’ll be stymied because I liked it better before. (Thank the skies for commenters who agree with me and help me see that I’m not crazy.) When I stepped into the booths of these two photographers, it was like the horde melted away around me and I could be alone with the images.

First, Shirley Brigden’s work. You can find a gallery here and just to be me, I’m going to send you straight to my favorite section of it here: photos of the US southwest. Looking at this page of Shirley’s gallery not only takes me back swiftly to my years in the desert, but it also brings to mind how often photographers will incorporate a clear blue sky or turquoise paint against the ruddy rock and earth in photographs of the southwest. Nothing looks quite as gorgeous as blue against adobe houses. Shirley is incredibly well-traveled and she has photos from North America, Africa, and Europe in her gallery. Time will get away from you as you enlarge image after image, but I have one more photographer for you to visit.

Carol Ann Norris tells you straight out: She uses no digital manipulation in her photography. And it is beautiful and compelling, every color as true as can be. I could lose myself for a long time in her European Collection and her Landscapes, but I’ll tell you right now my favorite is this one, called “The Silent Treatment”. Oh, yes. When we were in Carol Ann’s booth, a man asked her questions at length, the sort of questions designed to show how much he knew about photography himself, and no matter how forcefully I sent out brain-waves designed to send him on his merry way so that I could disappear into the racks of prints, his feet stayed planted and his mouth droned on and on.

If the days run away like wild horses over the hills, the minutes are like lightning bugs, here and then gone. And I’ve already spent too long writing this, dreaming about filling my walls with the work of these talented women, simmering in their vision and color. I like to think that when you come by here you want to simmer a bit in something beautiful, too, for a few minutes that might be more profitably spent doing something practical. To hell with practicality, at least for a little while. As I hit save on this post, I do it with those blue shutters and those antique Italian plasters in my mind. It might just change the whole rest of the day as it thunders across the hills.

pictures I never showed you

Take a look at this, my lovelies, my loves:

You don’t need to understand the first thing about the half-math/half-magic that converts Fahrenheit to Celsius. What matters is that all the days—all the days!—are above zero. Zero is freezing. A week above freezing. It’s about time and worth every italic.

I’m looking forward to taking my camera outside now that there will be a little more color in the world. Even soggy brown spring days are better than you-know-what. I scanned back through my folder of photos and these city shots are the ones that have me excited for more.

Something I do love about the bus (amid all the things I detest about it) is the liberty to look at people from behind and see all the things that aren’t front and center about their appearance. Gray hair is a biggie. The curve of their own neck. This girl had a red pin stuck in her backpack and before she got off the bus I asked her if she minded if I shot it. Beneath her green hoodie she wore a colorful headscarf.

I took this one a few weeks ago when I took that picture of the shell. The bus dropped me off on the wrong side of the highway, and I had to walk across that overpass. I’m not great with heights to begin with, but when the sidewalk is covered with black ice and cars are noisily flying below—well. I hold on to the handrail and hope for the best and breathe very deeply when I’m done. 

The Kindness Meter is a regular parking meter repurposed to collect money that people would ordinarily give to panhandlers. Don’t you think it’s absurd that the Kindness Meter is out of order? Even so, though, there’s love. Much, much love. See?

I was on the bus when I saw this scrawled on the building a few days after Valentine’s. I got off earlier than I intended and walked back to the sketchy neighborhood to get this. Then I walked back to the bus stop and saw this one on the other side of the road: 

I want there to have been a scavenger hunt. I want there to be a dozen more of these all around town. I want someone to have swooned while tracking them down. I want them to have led to a warm cup of hot chocolate and kisses and unmentionable things.

I’ve got a spare camera battery now. And those warm days are just in time. 

reverb10: wonder

Prompt: Wonder. How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year?

Reverb10 prompt from Jeff Davis


A grown-up camera. I am still learning; I’ve only had the thing for a little more than a month and I have no idea what it can do, but I practice with it, and I pay attention. I’m learning to see with its eye. 

harvest apples at Veggie Trail Farms

sorting black beans

deskscape during a blackout

autumn walk near the Sportsplex

tarka dhal, major-closeup

harbourfront in Toronto, late October

Prints Charming on Roncesvallesspot the sweetheart

graffiti in Toronto

fresh from the earth at Veggie Trail Farms

 If you responded to this prompt on your own blog, please point me to it in the comments! I’m trying to catch as many Reverbers as I can during this month as a member of the crew.