Every Day I'm Photoing #55 (What I Do edition)

Regular visitors to this site may think that my photography is limited to wandering around the streets of this city and taking pictures of garbage and people (but not garbage people - they're up too early). But every so often I pull out lights and backdrops and do some grade-A professional headshot-style photography.

For example: this is Jill, who needed headshots for her new job. One speedlight, a looming bat of an umbrella and a portable backdrop.

I took a lot of shots of Jill, but she looked most relaxed with her head at a slight tilt. So there you go.

And Rolli! I shot him at The Artful Dodger with a combination of window light and a softbox (note the square catchlights in his eyes) on a stick. And a camera. I used one of those. Cameras are so useful for those moments when you want to take a photograph.

My first impulse with portraits is to blast the subject's face with light and banish all shadows to the land of wind and ghosts, but I let the edge of Rolli's face fall into shadow, because mystery. We also wanted to imply that he could snap off his chin and throw it with deadly force at his enemies.

Do you want to wear a lycra bodysuit and a harness and do a superhero pose on top of a building? Because I'll photograph that bidness.

And this is hard to see, but you're looking at a man dressed up as Darth Maul suspended from a 21-story building. You probably want context. Perversely, I refuse to deliver it.

Okay, it was for the Easter Seals Drop Zone charity event. People were rappelling down the face of Hill Tower in downtown Regina. I rappelled at the end of the day and discovered that I wasn't afraid of heights, but the harness, which had been used all day, smelled like the concentrated panic of dozens of spandex-clad adventurers. Not too pleasant.

A note on all the gear: Jill Pacholik shot with an Olympus OM-D E-M5 and Olympus 45mm f1.8. Rolli shot with a Fujifilm X100S. Drop Zone guy #1 shot with a Fujifilm X100T and Sneakers Darth Maul with the E-M5 and Panasonic 35-100mm f2.8.

Every Day I'm Photoing #54

Sometimes the best you can hope from the world is a bit of texture. It's like that spike of ketchup on the grey greasy fries of existence.

But as always, there's more going on than texture. There's Jenelle, making puttanesca sauce on the barbecue somehow. There's a false owl, set atop the patio umbrella to intimidate stray pigeons. Then there's the unexpected symmetry of windows above and below the balcony. Yeah, that's okay.

Every Day I'm Photoing #52 (Mike Yesterday edition)

This is Mike. He lives in Yesterday. Yesterday is a place where the sun is out and the weather is just warm enough, where a fresh beer has just been placed on the table for you and there's a snake to hang out with.

Not far from there is an alleyway with a puddle that's just been disturbed and a truck that waits for someone to emerge from a hidden doorway.

Good old sunny inaccessible Yesterday. I think I left my keys there.

Every Day I'm Photoing #51 (Morning Edition edition)

This morning I was a guest on The Morning Edition to talk about restaurants (let us say, the restaurant scene) in Regina. Anyway, while I was waiting for someone to come and get me, I poked around the lobby and discovered that the CBC building had a scale model of itself on display. A tiny CBC!

And inside this tiny CBC building is a legion of tiny broadcasters making tiny content for their tiny audience. News, I imagine, about insects and mice and the fake trees out front. What a great gig that would be.

Remembering Stacy

My friend and former colleague at MamaPop.com, Anastacia Campbell, committed suicide yesterday. She was an exceptional human being: warm, imaginative, funny as hell and just a bit demented. My Facebook timeline is a flood of sadness, memory and gratitude.

During our time at MamaPop, Stacy appeared in a few of our video roundtables, which I put together every other week. I'm still tracking some of them down. But here's one of them: the "Imaginary Friends/Wish They Were Real" Edition, featuring Stacy in a pair of pink goggles. She shows up at the 1:35 mark to talk about friendship, good hair and Perfect Strangers

And here's the possibly more coherent group lipdub of Miley Cyrus' "Party In the U.S.A."

If you're struggling with depression and thoughts of suicide, stop before you do something drastic and talk to someone. Schmutzie's post on suicide is a wonderful resource and I urge you to go there. And remember Stacy, because she is only memories now, and she should be here with us.

Every Day I'm Photoing #50 (Grrrr Edition)

Let me be frank: I don't like this picture. It raises my hackles so much that I misused a colon in the previous sentence. I'm willing to betray my years of Englishing to express my dislike and even drop a comma splice, that's how much I don't like this picture. I hate the drooping leaves with their off-colours in the background, I find the foreground fussy, and this guy refused to open his eyes properly (probably because the concrete dust was bothering his eyes. Why isn't he wearing safety goggles?). But there you go.

These are the kinds of images that I file under 'missed opportunities'. I wanted to capture the man hunched over his machine, with concrete dust and smoke billowing out behind him. But I tried to be stealthy and sacrificed a better composition. And in truth, I tried. I moved around to the opposite side, but by that point he realized that I was trying to shoot him (sometimes I ask before I take someone's photograph, but I didn't want to distract this guy while he was handling heavy equipment) and was giving me a weary look, as if to say This job sucks and you think it's entertainment, asshat. So off I went.

Every Day I'm Photoing #48: Bullet Dodging Edition

I'm posting photos because otherwise I'll put up my essay on the Fantastic Four movie. So please accept these images of the world's least inspired water fountain.

This fountain is just a big dark rock outside the Salvation Army with a halfhearted burble of water.

The stick is new. I doubt it's official, though.

This one looks like a bear! Very considerate of this complex, constantly shifting liquid shape to present itself in an ursine configuration. I almost feel bad for casting judgement on this thing.

The Other Day I'm Photoing #47 (Leonard Eyes Edition)

This is Leonard the Friendly Snake. He's good at staring into the lens at the right moment. He lives at the Prairie Dog offices.

Also in the picture: my hairy knuckles, which Leonard probably mistook for underbrush.

If you're curious about the brute material conditions of this photo, I took it with my Fujifilm X100T with the aperture set to 2.8. This particular photo demonstrates the characteristics of the 23mm lens when you get in close - the out-of-focus parts of the image take on a glowy, hazy quality (also note the abrupt transition across the focal plane, which I'm not a big fan of). I applied a bit of dehazing to up the contrast and generally get the most Leonard out of the image that I could muster. 

Every Day I'm Photoing #45 (Fashionable Infrastructure Edition)

My city is becoming so fashionable lately that even the infrastructure is getting all haute. For example, this fire hydrant has decked itself out in a black crepe scarf:

And this potted plant is sporting an asymmetrical hipster haircut.

What's next? Bollards with waxed moustaches and knitted caps? Streetlights that blink on in the evening and peer at you through your bedroom window? Wait, that sounds like regular infrastructure.

Every Day I'm Photoing #42 (Longboard edition)

"Hey," said the first one, "Wanna longboard there?"

"Yeah," said the second one, dropping her longboard to the pavement. They had longboards.

They longboarded off on their trusty longboards.

A few minutes later they complicated the narrative by returning with sport bags and hockey sticks. Were the longboards in the bags? They weren't saying.

They left on their feet, having outgrown longboards.

a very short essay about my relationship with a coat tree

There's a coat tree in my office, a chipped and dinged affair of brown aluminum rods and bent metal strips. It was here when I moved in. At first it stood between the bookshelf and the filing cabinet, precisely the right spot for me to stop and remove my coat, hat, bag and whatever else needed removing that day. After a while, though, the coat tree's position began to irritate me. One leg stuck out into traffic, and it was impossible to swing a chair around to facilitate curious and collaborative co-workers without either moving the tree or lifting the chair over the desk. Eventually I pushed it to the other side of my office, where it now stands between my extra chair and a drafting table.

It seems faintly embarrassed to be there. It's also angled in a way that I'd never noticed before, so now it leans a few degrees toward the wall, its metal branches visible above my monitor. I never hang my coat on it now, and when I do it feels like a charitable act. After all, I have to step out of my way to get to it, negotiate a stubborn chair and enter the negative zone of the room, the corner that dwells in the blind spot that exists in every room.

The blind spot is most notable in living rooms, and it's usually occupied by a little end table with a couple of books and some bric-a-brac or an African-inspired sculpture on it. It's the part of the room that escapes recollection when you try to picture it, a corner of inexplicable darkness and otherness protruding into the cozy space that you've unconsciously and mistakenly believed to be yours. I imagine that the negative zone is the overlap between the bright, clean room you know and an unseen but intuited room that you cannot enter.

The upshot is that I can't hang up my outerwear without contending with the unheimlich, and most days that's more than I can handle. Who wants null space and angst-filled geometries before you've even had your first coffee of the day? I just throw my coat on the filing cabinet now. Which looks pretty lousy.

But the truth is that coat trees are a natural fit for the negative zone in a room. It has a form inherited by nature (trees, duh), but with none of the cozy associations of other tree-inspired objects. The umbrella reminds you of shelter, of running from a storm and finding relief beneath the branches of a tree, of that transition from being victimized by the elements to being a witness to them, fascinated and superior. By contrast, the coat tree is weird. A coat hanging from a branch is redolent of abandonment and violation, an image uncomfortably reminiscent of an impaled corpse, a flayed skin or a victim of a hanging. Let's face it, everyone, coat trees partake of evil. They belong in the corner.

shadow on the sidewalk

In high noon sun I spotted an insect by its shadow on the sidewalk, keeping pace. It took me several seconds to find the actual creature, chugging along a couple of feet in me, sturdy, oval and grey like a bullet with fins. It shook with effort as it flew, wobbling, climbing and dropping as if the air were a rugged path cut through uncertain terrain. And who knows, maybe it is. I'll never experience the air the way that insect does, never struggle to keep myself suspended above the ground, transposing a line in shadow along an unspooling concrete surface. That's one for the bugs.

doubles

Today I saw two men approach me walking abreast down Albert Street. From a distance their proximity suggested that they were walking together, but as they grew closer, the relationship between the two grew harder to parse. One was a goateed white man in his thirties; the other, a young First Nations boy of fifteen or so. The older man was speaking to someone on his phone, striding along with an agitated, purposeful step; the other seemed to be almost strolling. For a moment it was almost certain that the older man would outpace the teenager and continue on his way, resolving whatever problem he had with the person on the other end of the phone; but they continued to walk abreast, keeping perfect pace with each other. I stopped to watch them for a minute or so, just to be sure. Were they friends? Or two strangers engaged in an increasingly awkward walk? Were they just doomed to walk side by side until one of them put on  a burst of speed or dashed across the street?

Later on I was gazing at a complex pattern on a glass pane when I realized that it actually consisted of two stains on panes of glass several feet apart. For a moment the stains made a complete and harmonious picture, but it could be deranged with the slightest movement of my head.

I have no conclusions to draw from this.

the first day of autumn

On my way to work this morning the cool air and slanted, vacant light announced the end of summer. Leaves still thrived on certain branches, but limp yellowed fans were already beginning to show. Summer had slipped away unannounced and well ahead of schedule, leaving behind an echo of heat and an army of wasps. Straddling the edge of the sidewalk lay two grocery bags of rotten apples that someone had left there, perhaps abandoning them as they abandoned some idle hope of compost. I took several photos and found later that the camera had focused on the handles of the plastic bags and left the apples slightly blurred and unmolested by focal planes. It was the best morning of the year.