A Holiday Break


Happy Holiday

I’m taking a short break from this blog and my weekly newsletter, but will be back towards the end of the month ready to start a new year with all of you. In the meantime, I wish you a happy, peaceful, and meaningful holiday (whichever way you celebrate).

If you’re looking for a gift of experience (my favourite kind) for yourself or someone else, I hope you’ll consider these offerings below.

Adventures in Seeing Workshop – 6 weeks of fun photographic assignments designed to pause, focus, and connect. Starts January 5th.

The 50mm Project E-book – This popular workshop has been packaged into a downloadable e-book ($5 U.S.).

See you in a few weeks!


Read More

Writing about your Photographs

“I realized that learning to comment on my work not only made my work more effective but it also helped me understand my work better and solve certain creative challenges. In fact, I realized that there are many types of writing and many uses for writing. Writing is now an integral part of my creative process from start to finish. Making the Visual Verbal is a useful skill that can benefit everyone, including you.” ~ John Paul Caponigro via Scott Kelby

In my workshops, I encourage participants to write about their photographs in the image description – what they saw, how it made them feel, and how they composed accordingly.

This is not easy to do.

So, I was intrigued when I saw the 1K Photography Blogging Challenge at Photography Marketing Masters. Nigel Merrick says that if a picture is worth a thousand words, then we should be able to write a thousand words about them.

I decided to take the challenge with the image below, taken on a trip to Newfoundland earlier this year. Now, let me first say that writing does not come easy for me and I’m a woman of few words in person and on paper. After several attempts, I still haven’t been able to get to the 1,000 word mark; I’m at just over 700.

However, it was a very worthwhile exercise and I wanted to let you know about it in case you wanted to give it a try. You can even submit your writing to Nigel’s blog.


Tilting, Fogo Island, Newfoundland

We woke to the coldest day of the trip so far, and dense fog too. Even though it was late June, we knew that the weather could be unpredictable on this island of rock in the Atlantic Ocean.

I was on a long-awaited trip with two long-time friends to the only province in Canada I’d not yet visited – Newfoundland. One of my friends has family ties there and had spent time working on Fogo Island, where we were staying.

She was our guide and insisted on visiting the town of Tilting, which is a National Historic Site. That’s where we were headed that cool morning. We put on our layers, gloves and hats and set out in the car for the twenty minute drive.

Newfoundland has a strong Irish and fishing heritage. A few hundred years ago, Europeans made seasonal trips across the pond to fish for cod. Eventually, many of those Europeans migrated to Newfoundland (a British colony at the time) to fish year-round.

“It was fish that brought Europeans to Newfoundland, it was fish that dictated the pattern of their settlement, and it was the catching, salting, drying and marketing of fish that laid down the forms and structures of the society they built.” ~ Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage

Fishing was a way of life for Newfoundlanders for hundreds of years until a moratorium on cod fishing began in 1992, due to the overfishing of the area. While fishing is still part of the Newfoundland economy, it is no longer a growing industry.

Tilting was one of the first places where migratory fishermen stopped. It became a mostly Irish settlement and is home to possibly the oldest exclusively Irish cemetery in North America.

Our first stop at Tilting was at this rocky bay. The fog was still thick and the town seemed frozen in time. Since being named a historic site, many of the old buildings and red fishing “stages” have been restored.

These “stages” are where the fish are processed for salting and drying, and they are prevalent throughout the province. The fog showcased them beautifully. I wondered if they were painted red for this very reason, to be seen in the often foggy days from the fishing boats.

I was struck by how the restored building was surrounded by symbols of decay – the two upside-down fishing boats and the snow fence. I composed so that the “fishing stage” was in the upper right third of the frame, on a diagonal, so that the two upside down boats formed a triangle with the building. The eye is led around this triangle, and not out of the frame, giving a sense of stillness rather than movement. If I were to compose differently, I would probably pull back a little, leaving a little more space around the triangle, especially on the left side.

I loved how the boats were left out in the yard to decay. They symbolize the old way of life, and act as a kind of memorial to days gone by, even though time marches on. They had a sense of dignity to them.

The foggy background gives context – the bay, the rock, a weathered and broken down fence, and the small homes of the town of Tilting – yet, being veiled somewhat, they take a back seat to the building and the boats. I wondered who still lived in this town and what they did for a living.

Outside of the frame were well-preserved saltbox homes, the Irish cemetery, and a small museum (with no one in attendance), open to anyone who passed by. We wandered around a pebble beach and looked for heart-shaped stones. We saw a farm with horses and snowmobiles in the yard. There were very few people out on this chilly morning, although we did meet one man named Foley. That name goes back to the original settlers in this area, and there is an operating Bed and Breakfast Inn called Foley’s Place.

The serenity, the beauty, and the history of this place was breathtaking. And, the cool air literally made me catch my breath as I stood on the rocks at the edge of the bay.

All in all, this was one of my favourite images from the trip because it points to the essence of Newfoundland in one tiny frame – the ruggedness of the rocky land and the people, the reliance on water and fish, and the preservation of the past and a simpler way of life.


Related Reading

The 1K Blogging Challenge

A Novel look at how Stories may Change the Brain

10 National Geographic Photographers Give Thanks for the Photos that Changed Them

Read More

Art for Life

cello-143788_640 copy

Public domain image from Pixabay

Music is a type of art that connects straight to the heart for me; something that all art should do. The musician interprets the markings on a page (and spaces in-between) and connects with the hearts of the listeners. Cellist Yo Yo Ma is one such musician.

I want to photograph what I see the way Yo Yo Ma plays his cello.

Recently, I watched the video below – a conversation between Yo Yo Ma and Damion Woetzel, director of at the Aspen Institute on the topic of “Art for Life’s Sake.”

Yo Yo Ma was artist-in-residence for the Aspen Institute in 2013, yet his work for this organization was not so much about being in residence as being out in the world, especially in schools. Here is what he says about being a “citizen artist.”

“I think Citizen Artists engage their communities by asking, ‘What is the largest challenge facing my neighborhood, city or country?’ and ‘How can I, as an artist, contribute to a solution?’” ~ Yo Yo Ma

Yo Yo Ma is a true ambassador for music, education, and art for life’s sake.

I recommend watching the entire (one hour) video if you have the time. Below are a few of my takeaways.

* Yo Yo Ma described how he became the most famous cellist in the world. It was by accident and through hard work.

He wanted to play the bass in school, but compromised with his parents on the cello. Receiving praise for his playing kept him going. Yo Yo Ma put in his 10,000 hours of practice and became very, very good. His love for music grew. But, he still wasn’t sure if playing music would be his life’s work.

He realized that what he loves most is people. Music affords him the opportunity to travel the world and meet lots of people.

* One goal of the arts program at the Aspen Institute is to reconsider the value of the arts in schools. They want to move from Stem (science, technology, engineering, math) to Steam – STEM + Arts = STEAM.

The arts are less testable; less measurable. Yet, in today’s world we need people who have collaborative skills, are flexible in their thinking, and who bring imagination to innovation – exactly what the arts teach.

* Artistic habits of mind involve having the same methodology (goal, vision, value) in everything you do. You keep addressing it, there’s always more, always a higher goal to achieve. You keep evolving, moving towards that grand vision, with everything you do in life.

And finally, this. Yo Yo Ma says,

“You were given a particular voice. Know it. Use it. And, most importantly, own it.”

See also: Sally G – Let it Shine.

Read More