(mostly) daily photoblog

Archive for May, 2010

Photo assignment: Father’s Day is only three weeks away.

I’m photographing some Dads with their kids for a Father’s Day (which is June 20th, by the way) slideshow.  While I was waiting for some fathers to show up, I took a few shots of my son.  He’s recently taken on modeling (check out Please Mum) and is having a lot of fun with the camera.  This is the look that he’s perfecting right now – the “I know you’re paying attention to me, but I won’t give you the satisfaction of thinking I want your attention” look.

I have to be careful because those precocious looks can be my undoing.

Pentax K20D; Pentax M SMC 50mm; f1.7; ISO 100; 1/2000 sec.

Come and play with me

I took piano lessons when I was young.  I think, if memory serves me correctly, I took lessons from when I was in third grade until the eighth grade.  After the eighth grade, my family moved from Saskatchewan to British Columbia and piano became an option.  I chose to not continue.  While I took lessons, I hated to practice and the lessons themselves, well, let me tell you how I felt about the lesson by telling a quick story.  Once, in a moment of juvenile stupidity, I ran my hand down the page to smooth out the pages.  Part way down the page I realized that I was trying to smooth out the staples holding the book together.  I shredded my hand and was never happier because I had just given myself a reason to not practice and miss a lesson.  Ha!  Take that Mrs. puts-on-her-makeup-with-a-spatula-piano-teacher.

Now, my daughter is taking lessons and I’m left wishing that I’d taken my lessons more seriously.  I listened to her sight-reading pieces while playing with her Grandpa Buster this weekend and felt so proud of how well she’s playing and jealous that she’s playing so well so quickly.

Pentax K20D; Pentax M SMC 50mm; f1.7; ISO 400; 1/100 sec.

When I left you I was but the learner. Now I am the master.

Lord Vader, here, is mounted to my dashboard.  My son and I refer to the minivan as “The Executor,” a Super Star Destroyer made specifically to act as Vader’s flagship.  I am 36 years old and I have a Star Wars obsession.

Funny.  I thought that the first step in fixing the problem was admitting it, but right now I’m just jonesing for a Star Wars fix.  I think I might go watch “Empire Strikes Back” for the 53rd time.  Or maybe one of the animated series.  Or maybe…

Pentax K20D; Pentax M SMC 50mm; f1.7; ISO 100; 1/800 sec.

(Why am I celebrating) Post 100!

I wonder when it was that we (let’s say North American society) decided that it was essential to celebrate all things with “anniversaries” and “graduations.”  As a high school teacher I get to hear about the one month anniversary between students so often that I’ve stopped pointing out that “anniversary” actually means something to which one returns on a yearly basis.

I’ve also encountered at least one (my daughter) kindergarten graduation with another one (my son) on the way this June.  Not that I don’t find joy in the milestones of my children but a graduation is the act of conferring on someone a degree.  I know that it’s a beautiful thing to see a bunch of six year olds smiling as their moms take bad photos of them singing some cute rendition of a song that has little to do with “graduating” and everything to do with being cute, but it feels a little like we want to attach gravitas to everything we do.

Can’t we just take joy in something that is wonderful without tacking on a weighty title?  Can’t we just love what we do and see and leave it at that?  Why is it not important enough that my son is moving from kindergarten to grade one that we have to make it a “graduation?”  Why can’t my students make their way from one class to another without some kind of iTunes soundtrack making their lives into a living t.v. show?  Why is it that we take the “pomp”out of everything by attaching “circumstance” to anything?  Did that last sentence even make sense?  I don’t know, but I certainly feel like we’re trying to make every moment in our lives bigger than it actually is.  But, hey, this is just one little blogger sharing his ideas with you.  What do I know?

Pentax K20D; Pentax DA 18-55mm AL II; f8; ISO 100; 1/320 sec.

Always know what’s being locked in, or out.

Recently I’ve become enamored of locks and chains.  Perhaps it’s the fifteen year old boy living inside my head who still loves firecrackers and matches and the painful comfort of bruises (yes, I poke my bruises, don’t you?) who wants to get past the lock and chain to find out what’s so valuable that it has to be chained in.

The lock and chain below belong to my kids’ school yard.  It is meant to keep vehicles, not people, out of the yard in which children play.  I get it.  Safety.  I don’t want to see some errant Mom, frustrated by the lateness of her children, accidentally hitting the gas instead of the brake and careening into a bunch of children playing tree tag.  Good lock.

The lock below, on the flipside, is on the same grounds as the lock above, but I’ve never once seen it locked.  It is a lock on a dumpster.  Presumably it is there to deter Dads from throwing away their McDonald’s garbage before their kids see it, and make the school pay for the disposal (uh, not that I’ve ever done that).

If I were you, I’d expect to see more lock photos in the coming weeks.  I seem to be on a bit of a kick here.

Pentax K20D; Tokina 28-70mm

Fishing makes me want to fish…

When I see someone fishing, fly-fishing, trolling, whatever, it makes me want to fish.  When I was a kid I used to fish from a boat.  My Grandfather’s boat.  He would wake up early and check the weather and then wake me up to get me on the boat.  At ten years old I had so little consciousness at 6:00 a.m. that I’m surprised I didn’t fall into the lake and drown, but had so much respect for, and fear of, my grandfather that I got up and went out with him.

We’d sit on the water in the boat and say nothing for an hour.  The sun would come up and the lake would light up beautifully and the fish would ignore us, or not, and we’d fish.  The only breaks in silence would be a loon on the lake and the water lapping against the boat.  Grandpa would start the engine and tell me to hold on to the rods and we’d troll and hope to get some fish.  If we didn’t, we’d be back on the lake later in the day.  Truthfully, we’d be on the boat later anyway, whether we’d caught fish or not.

When I see someone fishing now it makes me long for the fishing trips of my youth and their silence and peace and unspoken understandings.

Pentax K20D; Pentax DA 18-55mm AL II; f 7.1; ISO 100; 1/250 sec.

I don’t remember how to post anymore

I don’t know what to write.  Sorry.

Pentax K20D; Pentax DA 18-55mm AL II; f7.1; ISO 100; 1/320 sec.

What Mama means to my kids

The picture above pretty much illustrates why I love my wife.  It also illustrates why I’m jealous of my wife and her relationship with my kids.  When my kids need comforting or hugs or cuddles or just have to breathe normally they need their Mama.

She’s an awesome Mom.  We’re all lucky to have her in our lives.  Happy Mother’s Day, honey.

Pentax K20D; Tokina 28-70mm; f6.3; ISO 100; 1/250 sec.

Empty fields means empty kids.

When I was in my first year of teaching a decade ago I was idealistic and academic.  I taught English to grade eleven and twelve students and was content, maybe arrogant, enough to believe that the only way students would become better humans was through academics.  I offered time after class and after-school sessions for exam prep.  I inspired students through my passion and enthusiasm for literature, and even let them read books with swear words (because it was relevant and would help them relate) in them.  Students loved me and some even began to learn how to read and write better.  Some wanted to know what I thought they should read beyond what they were assigned.

One major stumbling block, as I saw it, were organized sports.  Rugby, basketball, volleyball, soccer, football, they were all culprits in taking students’ minds off of what was really important – learning.  There was nothing to be learned by throwing a ball around or hitting others at full strength and speed.  Schools should be places of learning, and the community could work out the sports.  And if they couldn’t do it, well, it wasn’t my problem to work out.

Now that I have children, a daughter who’s nine and a son who’s six, and I teach student leadership I realize how short-sighted and naive and ignorant I was ten years ago.  Kids love to play.  And, shockingly enough, kids learn so much while playing.  My kids have learned confidence, patience and teamwork.  They’re learning that their dad is a bit slow and out of shape and that they have to play nice with me or I get hurt.  I’ve learned that life has to be experienced not just read about.  I’ve learned that if our fields and gyms are empty, so our kids will be.  And I learned all of this from experience in the field (sorry about the pun).

Pentax K20D; Pentax DA 18-55mm AL II; f9; ISO 100; 1/640 sec.

Why does French have all the cool words and phrases?

Let’s start with the fact that this coast shot is in Nice, France.  Nice, pronounced like “neece”, but also one of the nicest coasts I’ve ever seen.  The Mediterranean is truly beautiful and impressive – I’ve spent the bulk of my years on the Canadian west coast, very near the Pacific and I’ve never seen blue water like I saw in Nice.  So their place-names are cool, but what about those other phrases and words?

How about “l’esprit d’escalier”?  It means, literally, the spirit of the stairs, but what it actually means is that moment when you think of a witty comeback or remark on your way down the stairs, when it’s too late to unleash your massive wit against your defender.  How cool is that?  A phrase that encompasses one of my most frustrating moments (and there have been many of those moments).

Or let’s try the words connaitre and savoir.  We have the word “know” and it’s supposed to cover all ways of knowing.  But the french have two words (that I know of – ha!  see what I did there?) to convey two different meanings.  Savoir is a verb that means to know a fact or something committed to memory.  Connaitre is a verb that means to know someone.  It implies familiarity and intimacy.

Okay, so maybe that’s not all the cool words and phrases, but there’s a couple of my favorites.

Pentax K20D; Pentax DA 18-55mm AL; f32; ISO 100; 1/10 sec.

Railways are Mysterious and Romantic

Ever since I was a little Canadian kid watching “The Littlest Hobo” (a Canadian television series about a German Shepherd who helped people and traveled around Canada via the railway lines) I have wanted to ride the rails.  There seems to something very idyllic about traveling slowly through my country while someone else is in control.  Railways make me think of “From Russia With Love” and “Murder on the Orient Express.”  Or “O Brother, Where Art Thou” or “Polar Express” or “Strangers on a Train” or “Trainspotting.”

Come to think of it, I don’t understand my romantic feelings about railways at all.  Hercule Poirot solves a murder on a train.  James Bond is nearly murdered on a train.  Ulysses Everett McGill is trying to escape prison and is tossed off the train because his fellow prisoners can’t run fast enough.  Alfred Hitchcock’s strangers meet and plan the murder of each other’s problems (a problem wife and a father).  “Trainspotting” with Ewan McGregor, as Mark Renton, is a film about a bunch of strung-out heroin addicts.  “Polar Express” and “The Littlest Hobo” are really the only positive inclusions and both of them are obvious fictions meant for younger audiences.

I take it all back.  Railways suck.

Pentax K20D; Pentax M SMC 50mm; f2.8; ISO 100; 1/2500 sec.

Chucks are my favorite, most hated, shoe.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved Converse All-Stars.  I associate them with all things cool and I have owned a few pairs.  The ironic thing is that I hate wearing them because I find they’re unbelievably flat, and aid not one bit in holding up my arches (man I feel old when I write that).  I would get home, take them off and feel a great sense of “aaahhhh…”  I love Chucks but I hate them.

These Chucks were worn by Tim Neufeld, of the band “Starfield,” who I saw last night at Harrison Resort.  Chucks belong on guys in bands, or hipsters (who probably don’t wear them because they’re no longer ironic) or high school students.  Not 36 year old dad-teachers.

Pentax K20D; Sigma 70-210mm; f4; ISO 1600; 1/8 sec.

Tinkerbell is my secret girlfriend. Shhh…


This little beauty lives in my classroom and has taken on a life of her own.

Here’s the story: three years ago a student asked me why Tinkerbell was mounted above my whiteboard.  I answered, without thinking, that she was hot and she had a “badonkadonk.”  Yeah, not my proudest moment.  Badonkadonk?  What the heck was I thinking?  Probably nothing, as is often the case.  My students thought it was hilarious (lucky I teach high school students).

Now she’s the unofficial mascot of my classroom.

Pentax K20D; Pentax M SMC 50mm; f1.7; ISO 100; 1/50 sec.


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