Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Mar 29/10 Little Cymbals

Mar 29/10 Little Cymbals, originally uploaded by susanvg.
Daily Shoot: Make a photograph today of something that produces a unique sound. Try to communicate that sound to the viewer.

Brass on brass
Rings out
in dulcet tones
echoing to distant lands
where craftsfolk
Fashioned these
to link together
east and west

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Bass of the Stairs

Bass of the Stairs, originally uploaded by susanvg.

It was our annual Montreal Recorder Society concert, originally part of Play the Recorder Day of the ARS. We have one string bass player (she is also a recorder player) who plays in Flutissimo. It adds a nice deep sound to our ensemble.

Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life. ~Berthold Auerbach

Mar 27/10: Sidewalk

Mar 27/10: Sidewalk, originally uploaded by susanvg.

We took a drive through a few small towns in eastern Ontario. I was struck by how few people were out on the sidewalk. Walking through Maxville, we came across this mural of the town in 1906. People were out and about. We live in a culture of cars. We saw people drive up to the LCBO (liquor store), charge out of their cars straight into the store, then out again and back into the car with their purchases. No more strolling down the street and chatting with a neighbour. The car becomes essential as the local grocery stores and pharmacies close, driven out by the larger chain stores in a nearby town. The cores of these towns have been gutted of the conveniences of local stores.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Mar 26/10 Viger Station

Mar 26/10 Viger Station, originally uploaded by susanvg.

One thing I love about my daily photographing is it often piques my interest to learn more- not just about photography, but about my subjects. I have long admired this building (shot from my car window while I was stopped at a red light). I had spent most of the day in a meeting without photo ops and the rest of the day was not likely to provide many possibilities. In the recesses of my brain I thought I remembered that this had once been a station (Daily Shoot: Think of a subject that starts with either the letter "D" or "S". Find it, and make a photo!). Later in the day I started researching.

This is what I discovered. This was once known as Chateau Viger. It was built for the CPR (Canadian Pacific Railway), with the station on the lower levels and a grand hotel above. When it was built, (1896-98), Old Montreal was still the hub of the financial district and the proximity to the port, as well, made it an ideal place for a station. As the city centre moved further north and west, the station was abandonned. The last train to leave the station left in 1951. The future of the building is still undecided.

Friday, March 26, 2010

March 25/10: Black and White

March 25/10: Black and White, originally uploaded by susanvg.

The daily shoot assignment was to photograph in black and white (though I admit to removing the colour later). I thought it appropriate to shoot a building that was built in black and white times - when colour photography was rare. It was black and white times in other ways. Politically people were polarized with those who believed in more progressive ideas, stalked and blocked by those who were "red-hunting." Much seemed to be black and white - with right and wrong answers what counted in education - getting it "right".

Colour crept into our lives with colour photography reflecting the more varied ideas, the multi-coloured immigrants (both in skin tone and alternate dress) and the changes in education that encourage thought, decision-making and questioning.

Mar 24/10: Bicycles

Mar 24/10: Bicycles, originally uploaded by susanvg.

We have had yoyo weather, one day deliciously warm and sunny and coming up, a precipitous drop in temperature. Bicycles were lined up outside this local bicycle shop, ready to start the season. Some hardy folks cycle throughout the winter, but I prefer to wait until I can grasp my bicycle's handles with ungloved hands. It won't be long now.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Mar 23/10: angles

Mar 23/10: angles, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Thanks to red lights I capture a few photos as I drive by. This bright yellow structure stood out and yet, reflected the angles of the masonic symbol. It's interesting to see how play equipment has changed. In my childhood there were metal jungle jims and wooden swings, often hanging from sisal ropes. Each year safety norms become more stringent. The climbing structure that was in the school yard where my children played, first lost the top part of the structure (too high, the students might fall) and then was replaced (it was built from treated wood). Now bright plastic structures seem to be ubiquitous in playgrounds ....until the next safety hazard is declared.

Daily shoot: Look for angles today: 90s, 45s, or any other combination of angles that make an interesting composition.

Mar 22/10: Under Cover

Mar 22/10: Under Cover, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Daily Shoot: Set an alarm for a random time today. Any time. When it goes off, pick up your camera and find a photo near where you are.

I tried to stick by the rules - but, after all, rules are made to be broken. As I spent most of the day in meetings, with no opportunity for photographs, I grabbed my first random moment outdoors to capture these wisps - straw folk hiding what's underneath. I wonder what will grow here when the straw is gone and the sun warms the soil.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Water Drops 2

Water Drops 2, originally uploaded by susanvg.
Snow fell
as it touched the branches
leaving a string of pearls

March 21/10: Spring

March 21/10: Spring, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Tulips are incredibly hardy. I moved into my home almost 25 years ago. I never planted tulips in the back but a few come up year after year. Our unseasonal March weather has left and snow is falling today. It won't last, but it will slow the growth of these flowers. When the weather changes, they bide their time until they feel warmth again.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Mar 19/10 Growth

Mar 19/10 Growth, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Spring is in a hurry here. The shoots are pushing up and multiplying daily. While it is delightful to walk in lighter clothes and shoes, it is disconcerting to see the temperatures break records daily. It is the warmest March on record.

Each year the shoots hold the secrets of forthcoming flowers. Soon this bed will be blanketed with blue as the scylla burst forth. Change and growth - that is spring.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Mar 18/10 Advertising

Mar 18/10 Advertising, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Daily Shoot: Find something that's so old it's almost timeless and make a photograph of it.

While this ad is of a time - its content dates itself, advertising has been around for a long time. Whether it was the fish mongers calling out their wares or the pictures outside a shop luring customers inside, people have always found ways to convince others that they needed your product. As times have changed, it is hard to imagine building walls painted with cigarette advertising. Here it is not cigarette advertising is not even allowed at events - so sponsorship by tobacco companies is limited. This wall was revealed when the next door building burnt down. It was probably not there long before the neighbouring building covered it as it is barely weathered.

This ad shows its age in a number of other ways - the price certainly is one. Here in Quebec, outdoor advertising must be in French - not the case here. This section of Montreal has always been predominantly English, so when this was painted it was aiming at the local population.

The wall will soon disappear again, to be hidden by new construction (more condos) to replace the destroyed structure.

You can see another example of an old ad on a building here.

Mar 17/10 Echeveria

Mar 17/10 Echeveria, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Daily Shoot: Grab your camera and walk 2 minutes in any direction. Stop. Find a photo worth making from where you stopped and post it.

I think what happens when you start taking photographs is that it opens your eyes. Many years ago, when I forgot to bring my camera to an end of year event in which my daughter participated, she said that it was OK - I could take pictures in my mind. I have never forgotten that. Now that I go everywhere with my camera, I find myself taking many photographs with my mind - sometimes when I am driving and can't stop for the photo op and sometimes when I am walking. I notice more; I see more. Two minutes from my house or two hours from my house, I see things that are worth stopping to appreciate.

As the snow is almost gone here, I am amazed at what survives the winter and immediately gets back to growing. I came upon a patch of "hens and chickens" (echeveria). These succulents look as if they should not grow in our climate and yet they thrive - tenacious and persistent, spreading their offspring all around them. I guess people, too, find ways of survival in so many climates and terrain, living in places that seem hostile and yet we adapt.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Mar 16/10 Flowers

Mar 16/10 Flowers, originally uploaded by susanvg.

It has been the warmest, sunniest March on record for Montreal as these crocuses will attest. The snow is almost gone, revealing shoots ready to morph into flowers. The terrasses are full of people, enjoying their coffee in the sunshine.

I love spring, each day watching for new changes. Some trees are taking on a greenish tinge as the sap returns to breathe in new life. Here and there the grass is starting to grow, adding green to the straw colour. Sometimes I feel that spring is moving from monochrome to colour - so delightful to watch.

Mar 15/10: Trees

Mar 15/10: Trees, originally uploaded by susanvg.

This walkway stretches along de la Commune in Old Montreal. When I walk here, I am reminded of Paris, with its wide open sidewalks and sandy paths beside parks. In summer the trees provide shade and a cool oasis, a place to sit and watch the comings and goings in the old port area. This stretch is farther from the main tourist area; it is more tranquil and welcoming.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Mar 14/10: Portrait

Mar 14/10: Portrait, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Daily Shoot: Sunday challenge: Catchlights in the eyes make a portrait sing. Make a portrait of someone with catchlights in their eyes.

Well - one eye caught the light. I don't often feature portraits on my blog - so I chose my feline subject. Basil is often distracted by what he sees (a tuft of fur in the air, dust in a sunbeam....). He twists his head backwards, upside down - it doesn't seem to matter to him. Sometimes I wonder what he is thinking - or does he think? He certainly knows how to get his needs met.

Basil can always be counted on for distraction with his silly antics. He purrs very softly so you have to cuddle close to hear it and meows quite loud when he is alone in a room so you call him to remind him that others are around. Then he comes prancing into the room grateful for the company. He can still be kittenish at the age of 13 - that's one of the traits of a Cornish Rex.

Mar 13/10: Focus

Mar 13/10, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Sometimes when you look out it's hard to know where to focus - on the closeup or the distance. This sumac, with its graceful branches and bright red berries caught my eye. They offer a feast for the birds, especially as the migrating species appear. But it's hard to ignore the backdrop for the tree - a view over Montreal and the St. Lawrence River.

Sometimes we have to look at the details, sometimes the big picture. And we must always think of the harmony between the two. An adjustment to one alters the other. Too often changes are made locally and we do not think of the impact on the whole - whether it be man-made structures that interfere with the ecology of a place, or changes to schedules that impact programmes. Or changes are made top down without thought to the ripples the changes create for others. We are all interconnected. Let's keep our focus close and wide.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Mar 11/10: Ania

Mar 11/10, originally uploaded by susanvg.

This is Ania, my daughter's cat; she lives in the basement in her large room. Ania came for a night and has stayed for years. She was found wandering on a busy street by my daughter's friend. A tiny kitten, she looked totally lost. My daughter agreed to take her overnight and fell in love. A trip to the vet to have her checked out - the vet said she was probably less than two months old. And so Ania came to stay. She is a very clever feline. She figured out how to open the basement door (it had a lever handle - we had to change it) and spooked my two cats. My old fellows are Cornish Rex with very little fur compared to regular cats. As my spouse and son have cat allergies (and don't react too much to the "upstairs" cats) we can not let Ania upstairs.

The visitor who came to stay - she has won everyone's hearts.

Mar 10/10 Neighbourhood

Mar 10/10 Neighbourhood, originally uploaded by susanvg.

In large cities, neighbourhoods are important. We create a village out of a city and live much of our lives in our closer surroundings. Neighbourhoods tend to reflect the character of the people who live nearby, unlike the more faceless downtown area. This is one of the trendier neighbourhoods, with specialty ice cream, overpriced clothing and shoe stores and places to buy gourmet food items. It also has the services every neighbourhood needs from banks, to a post office, pharmacy, hardware store and grocery store.

I like to window shop around here as there are some interesting boutiques. Not everything is overpriced and you can often find things not found elsewhere in the city.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Mar 9/10 Same but different

Mar 9/10 Same but different, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Daily Shoot: Most of us enjoy some symmetry in our lives. Look around for it today and make a symmetrical photo.

While these two houses were built with symmetry in mind, I am struck by how each owner has tried to make his/her dwelling unique. Different paint, a garden and other touches help express the tastes and personality of the owner, or the series of owners who have lived in these homes.

In much the same way, though the youth tend to dress like their peer groups, they find small ways to express their individuality.

It is the little differences that are beautiful, that give character to people, to places and to things. And it is those differences that give us the incredible diversity in this world.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Mar 8/10: Blue Skies Over the City

Blue skies over our sun-washed city. Glorious happy blue heralding spring weather. Boots sit at home and my feet feel light in shoes. Funny how in fall these same shoes feel heavy after a summer of sandals. It's hard to feel blue in this weather. The birds have started their springtime symphony. It's transition time as the weather may yet swing back to winter. But the sun is out and the weather man announces more all week.

Daily Shoot: Take care of the Monday blues by picking up your camera. Make a photograph dominated by the color blue.

Mar 7/10 Farm

Mar 7/10 Farm, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Country air with bright blue skies and sun warming the countryside. We walked in lighter coats, our step more sprightly. Winter's snow is retreating revealing mud and thatch. The smells of spring permeate the air. Seasons changing.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Mar 6/10: List

Mar 6/10: List, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Daily Shoot: Lists guide an eye in a linear way: menus, recipes, etc. As you're out and about today, find a list and make a photo.

The older I get the more conscious I am of the importance of eating right. I try to make sense of the lists on packages to see if I am making good choices. One thing puzzles me - vitamins and minerals are listed as a percent of the daily recommended allowance. I can't believe that my daily recommended quantities (I am about 5' or 152 cm tall) are the same as for a tall man. I do know that demands for calcium change with gender, age and physical condition, so how could this milk carton state that 250 ml provides 30% of your daily calcium? I wish they would be specific about quantities. I try to get my alphabet full of food from vitamin A to zinc (with the help of some vitamin supplements) but do indulge in some of life's more important nutrients such as caffeine and chocolate.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Mar 5/10: Blood Orange

Mar 5/10: Blood Orange, originally uploaded by susanvg.

There was a time when we would only get a few varieties of oranges. Before my trip to Italy many years ago I had never seen a blood orange. We went to the market in Rome and bought fresh fruit to feast on: fistfuls of cherries, tied in a bouquet, juicy apricots and some oranges. When we cut into the orange we were shocked to see red splotches - not all red like this orange (I'm sure it has been hybridized to look like this). Our first thought was that the orange was diseased. We tasted hesitantly; it was tangier than the naval oranges we were used to, but it was juicy and fresh-tasting. Since that time I have sought out blood oranges. I find these to be not as good as the ones I tasted in Italy. While they are red inside, the flavour is more like the naval oranges. And the marbled colour of the Italian oranges was much more interesting and surprising.

Mar 4/10: Stripes

Mar 4/10: Stripes, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Daily Shoot: Striped patterns have a natural pattern that catches the eye. Find some stripes today and make a photo.

Any Canadian will recognize these stripes - they are on a Hudson's Bay blanket. The Bay, Canada's most prevalent department store descends from The Hudson's Bay Company, which was established because of the fur trade. Land was granted around Hudson's Bay in 1670 to the "the Governor and Company of Adventurers of England trading into Hudson Bay." You can read more about the history of The Bay here.

It's interesting that these blankets continue to be sold, that the pattern hasn't changed. Everything else seems to have its time as commercial interests push us to buy new. They are well made and last for decades. These blankets have a history. They were first produced in 1780 and were often used in trade with the native peoples. At a time when change seems to be constant, it's nice to sleep under a quality blanket with history.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Mar 3/10: Barn

Mar 3/10: Barn, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Daily Shoot: Weathered objects have a lot of character: cracked, rusted, bleached, etc. Give us your best weathered shot today.

This barn (in the middle of Montreal) stands beside the Hurtubise House, built in 1739 on land granted to the Hurtubise family by Paul Chomedey de Maisonneuve, the founder of Montreal, around 1650. I wrote about it once before. I love to see these vestiges of our city's past. This one, at least, has been saved for the future. It is now owned by Heritage Canada. So much has been torn down with whole areas being razed for new projects. It is nice to find these jewels that still grace our city streets.
House in spring
House in winter

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Mar 2/10: Moon over the City

Mar 2/10: Moon over the City, originally uploaded by susanvg.

I tried to catch the moon tonight. As I drove home from rehearsal I saw it hanging low. I changed my trajectory and headed up to Westmount lookout, but the moon had already risen higher. My night shots still need work.

I have always loved radio and remember as a child, listening to Saturday mornings on CBC when there was a show for children. Each week a new story was featured and one Saturday it was James Thurber's Many Moons. I loved that story and have thought of it often over the years. Stories stick with us and sometimes colour the way we see the world. As I saw the moon caught in some branches I remembered Princess Lenore from the story and how she wanted to have the moon. And for a moment I was back in the living room of the house I grew up in, listening and imagining and time stood still.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Feb 28/10 Happiness

Feb 28/10 Happiness, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Crowds cheered; the stadium filled with the home crowd erupted as Sydney Crosby scored the winning goal in the final game of the Olympic men's hockey tournament. Interesting how we identify with a team that in some way represents your country. I was delighted with the win, but do find it odd that these over paid athletes are competing in what once was an amateur event. So many athletes in other sports live near the poverty line.

So many moments over the last couple of weeks to witness happiness among the many medal winners and also among those who reached a personal best. It has been inspiring to watch. Thanks to all the athletes. This is for all of you.