Friday, December 19, 2014

Photo Friday: Photos With Phones

I used to hate taking pictures with the camera on my cell phone. The first flip-phone I had came with a measly 1-megapixel camera. I barely used the feature: back then, I only wanted a device so that if I needed to contact my wife for an emergency or call for help, I wouldn't be stuck. I didn't want to record video, or access the Internet, or play games. I wasn't on Facebook and Twitter was years away: my blog was the only form of social media, and even to this day I have to be pretty desperate to want to write a post on a smartphone.

When my flip-phone died, I upgraded to a phone with an actual QWERTY keyboard that slid out from the back of the device. I had graduated to using a phone to send text messages, and a dial pad wasn't cutting it for me. As a writer, I don't like to abbreviate words if I don't have to. I like full, grammatically correct sentence structure. On my flip-phone, that took forever.

The camera on this newer phone was much better than my old phone: I had 2 megapixels at my disposal. Still, I rarely took pictures with it, would do so only if I needed to illustrate a text message with an actual image.

Only once, when I had absolutely no other camera, I took a photo and used it in a blog post. And I kept the image small.

When I decided that I wanted a smartphone (notice how I don't say "needed"), I was awed by the quality of photographs that I was able to come up with. In previous end-of-year blog posts, where I shared my favourite photos of that year*, I would include some iPhone photos. Sometimes, I shot an image with both my smartphone and my D-SLR, and I'd actually prefer the outcome with the smartphone's 5-megapixel camera.

For a couple of months, I misplaced my battery charger for my Nikon. Because it is the only charger that I have that is dedicated to my D-SLR's batteries, I was beginning to panic: without the charger, once the two battery packs were dead, I wouldn't be able to shoot with this camera. So I've been sparing with this camera, using it only when I needed something more than what my Android camera could offer.

My Android has a 13.5-megapixel camera, but I wasn't about to use it for a model shoot, or night shots of the lights on Parliament Hill.

Still, it's handy to have and does let me get a little creative, as this Friday's photo shows. On my walk, Wednesday, from the office to my car, it was nice to pull my phone from my pocket and take this shot.

I found my Nikon charger. I can now resume carrying my camera bag around.

But it's nice to know that I'm covered.

Happy Friday!

* No photos in this year's best-of photo picks were shot with a smartphone camera.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

On Office Parties

It's been years since I've been to an office party. Though I like to think of myself as a sociable individual, I can be antisocial in certain groups.

I will sit back, the quiet one, speaking only when spoken to, not initiating conversations. In large rooms with few seats, I will wander the room, alone, looking for a few small clusters of people I know. I'll approach the group but not fully join it, unless I'm addressed, invited in. I offer little input, unless called upon to do so.

I last attended an office Christmas party (a Holiday party, it was called, but the artificial Christmas trees and the gift wrap with Santa was a dead giveaway) five years ago. Having arrived a bit late, my wife and I were assigned a seat at a table, and so we sat with people I barely knew and people, who, if given the choice, I would not have sat with. But we were coming from another Christmas party (and that's exactly what it was called), with good friends, and we were loathe to leave it for a corporate event.

I had already consumed enough wine to make my wife the Designated Driver from the first party, and I was eager to continue drinking wine at the large ballroom in the Westin Hotel. With a few drinks in me, I am more likely to engage in conversations with people I barely know.

I don't enjoy myself at staff parties nearly as much as I used to. Maybe it has something to do with age. Maybe it has something to do with the size of the company. Too many familiar faces but few names attached to them, and fewer apparent things in common. You see a person, you may know what department he or she works in, but you're not likely to know what it is that he or she does. And even if you know what he or she may do on company time, you have no idea  what interests he or she holds after hours.

When I was younger, I worked for smaller companies or larger companies that held separate parties for individual locations. While I worked for one of the countries largest financial institutions, the Christmas party was for my branch only, and I knew everyone.

When I worked for a cross-Canada camera and photo-processing store, our party included all of the shops in our district, but we tended to know a lot of each other because we would call each other often, checking on stock. We would sometimes move around to help when another store was short on staff. We attended workshops and sales seminars together. And we all had one interest in common: photography.

Working in high tech, I have my team, I know some of the people from other departments, with whom I interact to obtain the information I need in order to complete my projects. I have a good rapport with these people, but my interaction with them outside of the scope of work is limited. I know some of them have new families. I may know that someone has taken a vacation and travelled. Some, like me, enjoy cycling and photography, or beer. Some know that I write outside of my job. Some have even read my book.

But we don't hang out. We don't socialize. And when we have an office party, I find myself with little to say. Being a shy person, I'm reluctant to approach someone and strike up a casual conversation.

And so, after the last office party, some five years ago, I stopped attending office social gatherings. Maybe it's because, on that last holiday party, I drank too much wine, smoked a little weed (I followed a familiar colleague outside to get some fresh air, and he shared—it was the time for giving, after all), and I lost some memory of events that night.

I don't think I behaved inappropriately, that night, but I never wanted to put myself in a position of being out of control in front of colleagues.

Last night, I attended my first office party in five years. It was an afternoon affair: no sit-down dinner, no dressing up, no dancing. The majority of us stood in the open area of the bistro, where tables had been cleared away. I wandered the room, alone, occasionally stopping near clusters of people I knew, would share a word or a laugh, and move on. My teammates congregated at one point, and I joined them. In this familiar crowd, I'm at my most comfortable.

I had a couple of pints of beer, kept sober. A pint or two keeps me well in control of myself, but allows me to be more gregarious than I often am in such crowds.

I enjoyed myself. I like to think I would attend the next office social gathering, but one step at a time.

I'm shy, and that can make me an antisocial socialite.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

My Darling Clementines

They're fleshy, they're juicy, they feel so good in our hands, better in our mouths.

They open up with the slightest of pressure: wouldn't want to squeeze too hard. Wouldn't want those sweet juices to flow too soon.

I like to peel mine, to separate each perfect, bite-sized wedges at once. But I don't devour them right away. I like to savour the moment, to give them time to breathe. I love their fragile membranes to dry, just a little, so that when I pop them in my mouth, let my teeth crack them open with a gentle pop, what lays inside is so much more succulent.

I love clementines.

I love the early days, when the boxes are first stacked in a prominent display in the grocery store's produce section. The first boxes are the best: you have to get them right away.

Because you know, the first box is the best. Clementines don't stay fresh for long. After a week or two, the miniature oranges begin to dry out. Their juices aren't as sweet.

Later, there's always one, at the bottom of the case that has already gone bad, has turned green, fuzzy, and soft. The others around it follow suit, and before you know it the whole case is spoiled.

My love for clementines is immense, but the love fades quickly. After Christmas Day, I've lost interest.

I yearn for next year.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Music Monday: Breathe

Midge Ure is coming to the Black Sheep Inn on Tuesday, March 3. To celebrate my 50th birthday, I'd like to see one of my all-time favourite artists perform, and I want all of you to join me. Let's pack this great venue and enjoy a great show.

> To get you as excited about this show as I am, I thought I would give you another taste of what you're in for. This is going to be an acoustic show, so I thought I would share an acoustic video of Midge's 1996 song, "Breathe."

Between now and March (with the exception of next week), I will feature more of his songs for Music Monday.

Tickets for the show are on sale NOW!

Happy Monday!