Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Separate Vacations

This is the last year, possibly, when the Brownfoots will be together, under one roof. Next fall, our eldest child begins her life as a university or college student, with a serious possibility of moving away from home to a different city.

Naturally, to mark this family milestone, each one of us is planning a vacation away from one another.

DW hasn't made any definitive plans, yet, and hasn't even settled on a destination. She may go to Cuba. She may go to Mexico. She really wants to swim with sea turtles, but hasn't decided where that will happen.

I, too, would love to swim with sea turtles and would love to join her, but I've already made plans, have already bought my flight tickets and booked hotels. In May, I'm off to South Korea.

Nearly 20 years ago, in January of 1999, DW and I were finishing our second year in East Asia. As January commenced, my contract with Jeonju University ended. Though DW had a contract with another university, her contract was for an additional month, so I spent January teaching privately and packing up our belongings.

DW, in Kuala Lumpur, in February 1999.
We made plans to travel throughout Southeast Asia in February, where we visited Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand, before swinging back up to Seoul for a couple of days, and finally returning to Ottawa. But our last days in Chonju came as January ended and February began.

As we said farewell to friends and students, I was asked, "Will you ever return to Korea?"

I paused for a moment before answering, "Sure. In 20 years."

As much as I want DW to join me, she has no interest in going back to the Land of the Morning Calm. And so I return alone.

A separate vacation.

This summer, DD15 has been invited to join her best friend, and her family, in Greece. I've always wanted to visit the cradle of western civilization but that won't be for a couple more years. So our youngest, who will be sweet 16, will spend a few weeks on a Greek island.

Which leaves DD17, who will be 18 in a couple of months, and had no summer plans. Or so we thought.

Some dear friends, with whom we consider extended family, will visit us at the start of summer. These friends, who have travelled with us through Italy and France, have agreed to take our eldest back with them to Germany. This is an excellent opportunity for our daughter to break out of her cocoon and experience life without her parents.

I'm sure before the summer is out, we'll try to squeeze in another family vacation. But for now, in the foreseeable future, it's separate vacations for us.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Why Speculation Sucks

DW and I love following the news but we hate when a breaking story erupts, one that turns all eyes and ears upon it, and we're left with journalists who fill air time.

News anchors try to speak to reporters on the scene, who are scrambling to speak with witnesses and authorities. Some views are contradictory. Some refuse to provide information, as they are trying to gather it themselves.

Uncredited photo from CBC.
Such was the case on Friday, when an OC Transpo double-decker bus, filled to near capacity during a rush-hour commute, lost control and crashed into Westboro station. Part of the overhanging shelter cut into the upper level, killing two passengers and injuring nearly two dozen more.

A bystander on the platform was also killed.

When this tragedy unfolded, I happened to be a couple of blocks away, at the Westboro LCBO store. I was picking up some wine to take to a friend's house. As I left the store and headed toward my car, only five minutes after the crash occurred, I heard multiple sirens nearby but paid no attention. In the city, sirens are heard all the time.

As I pulled out of the parking lot and turned west, onto Richmond Road, I could see down Mcrae Avenue, to Scott Street, where emergency vehicles could be seen, blocking the intersection. Again, I gave it no more thought, and continued on my journey.

It wasn't until about a half-hour later, when I was relaxed at my friend's home and another friend joined us, late, that we heard the news. We turned on the TV and watched the story unfold.

There were few details provided, though what was known was repeated over and over again. Numbers of casualties grew. Fatalities were announced. We learned the bus driver was a woman. And we learned that police had taken her into custody.

More speculation from journalists. Why was she taken into custody? Was she at fault? Would charges be pressed?

All I could think of, for the rest of Friday night and through the weekend, was of this unfortunate bus driver. Fingers would be pointed. She would be vilified.

For me, I thought, this poor driver. She's going through hell. She needs our support.

When she began her shift, I'm sure the furthest thing from her mind was this horrific accident. I'm sure she didn't climb behind the wheel of her bus, thinking, I'm going to ruin the lives of countless people, both in my charge, those who witness the carnage, and those who know the dead and injured.

Her life has also been turned on its head. She's going to have nightmares, is going to be haunted for the rest of her life. She's going to need counselling.

Now is not the time to start pointing fingers, to get angry. We need to show our support for this poor person, let her know that our city is not on a witch hunt.

We need to stop listening to the reporters who speculate. Let's wait for the investigations to end, for the facts to be assembled, and to look for solutions so that this kind of tragedy can't happen again.

Speculation isn't always right. It is a waste of time, and that's why it sucks.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Photo Friday: Light Illusion

I've said it before: photographing subjects with artificial light has always been my weakness. I either overexpose or underexpose my subject, or I use the wrong type of lighting altogether.

One of the reasons why I joined the Ottawa Photography Meetup group was to learn some photo techniques from some real professionals and to become comfortable trying new things. The model photography sub-group added an extra challenge of using all sorts of lighting and working in different environments with both professional and amateur models.

This week, I attended a model shoot that focused on different light techniques, using different lights with varying degrees of power from all angles—side, foreground, background—and a snoot, which directs light to a specific point.

The leader of our group, Mike Giovinazzo, has a basement studio with countless backdrops and lighting equipment, and has a seemingly endless amount of ideas for subjects, poses, and props. And, of course, is an expert when it comes to lighting.

Jay Ban, a Montreal model who I met at a meetup last year, was our model. She is great to work with, not only because she's a beauty but because she's charming, has a great sense of humour, and requires almost no direction. Mike would explain what he was looking for, depending on the environment he set up, and Jay would handle the rest.

We used several backdrops: a sitting room, a wheat field at sunset, a jungle, and what appeared to be a window.

I liked this setup the best, primarily for its simplicity. Mike hung a sheer white drape and set a large softbox behind it. At its lowest output, it simulated natural light coming through a window.

Mike told Jay that she was in Hawaii, had just checked into the penthouse suite of a hotel that looked out to a beach, and she was checking the view.

Jay did her thing.

I'm still going through my photos. Photo meetups take a long time to process because there are so many photos to sift through and edit. But when I looked through the viewfinder to take this shot, as Jay turned her gaze from the "window" and looked at me, I knew as I pressed the shutter release that this was going to be the best of the bunch.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Throwback Thursday: My First Photography

My very first camera was a Kodak Trimlite 18 Pocket Instamatic 110 with a Flipflash. It came in a flat box with a Kodak-orange lid that flipped open to show the camera, flash, and a single roll of 110 film in a foam casing. The presentation was impressive to a young kid.

You could affix one of several customized stickers on the top, over the viewfinder, and I stuck the white one with the red Canadian maple leaf on it.

My parents gave me the camera for Christmas in 1975 (a few years before Operation: Christmas, or I would have known I was getting it before unwrapping it in front of my folks) but I don't have many images before the spring of 1976. In fact, I don't seem to have any images beyond what seems to be a single roll of film. All I have from that camera are only a few photos in a single paper envelope that I found while rummaging around my basement over the past Christmas holiday.

The camera was very small: as the name suggested, it easily fit into my back pocket, and I would carry it with me to school, especially if my class would go on a field trip and when I attended a bilingual exchange.

Ooh... that bilingual exchange brings bad memories. I'll share that another time.

The pictures include those of my friends from Century Public School, who I apparently captured in the school's playground. I have a couple of snaps of new friends at my next school, Chelsea Elementary, in Gatineau, some of my cousins, Keith and Kirk, in our house in Kirk's Ferry, and of that traumatic bilingual exchange student.

Someone (I don't remember who) took a picture of me. And before you laugh, remember: it was the 70s.

I have a couple of photos of the Museum of Nature (I think those Woolly Mammoths are gone) and of Québec City, where I stayed with my billet. And of the view of Ojai Road, where we lived, looking to the Brown Farm (not related) along Highway 105.

And that's it.

It seems that I remember carrying the camera around, I have some vague recollections of capturing images, but then it seems that when I finished my first roll of film, I didn't shoot another. Maybe I didn't like the quality of the images. Maybe my parents told me that if I wanted to take more photos, my 11-year-old self had to buy his own film.

(I doubt that, but I believe they may have asked me to earn the film through chores, and my lazy-assed-old self said no.)

Whatever the case, I'm glad I found these old photos, and I'm glad that my experience with that old 110-film camera inspired me to keep shooting.

Happy Thursday!