Friday, February 25, 2011

Gear versus vision: nature versus nurture

Among photographers, both professional and amateur, there is an on-going debate about whether gear or the photographer's talent really make a photograph special. It's not unlike the nature versus nurture discussions that rage on about how creative people develop - inherent talent or the way one is raised.

Winter Shadows
Essentially, put any point-and-shoot camera in a creative professional's hand and you are likely to get a "wall-worthy" image. Put the same camera in a talented and educated amateur's hand and you may get a similarly "wall-worthy" image. Put that camera in an uneducated amateur's hand and you MIGHT get a "wall-worthy" image - or not.

On the other hand, put a high quality professional DSLR camera with a good lens on it in each of the three photographer's hands and the results will definitely differ. Why? Because the professional or well educated amateur will be better able to capitalize on the technological superiority of the equipment to express their artistic vision while the uneducated amateur will struggle to master the technology to the detriment of his or her creative vision.

Just thinking....

Thursday, February 24, 2011

In like a lion, out like a lamb?

West Coast Family
Two years ago I took a trip to Vancouver to visit my son and his wife, celebrate my grandson's first birthday and meet my new granddaughter. It was a harrowing trip beginning with a massive snowstorm in New Brunswick that threatened to cancel all flights. In anticipation of potentially dreadful driving conditions, my husband took me to Moncton the day prior to my scheduled early-morning flight, so I wouldn't be late in case the roads were bad.

I stayed at the Holiday Inn and awakened at 3:a.m. to discover a huge John Deere tractor attempting to remove the phenomenal amount of snow that had accumulated in the hotel parking lot over night. Although it was obvious that all flights would be delayed, if not cancelled, the airlines didn't post that information so I and my fellow travellers piled into the hotel's mini-van and made the short but arduous trek to the airport. We all checked in the required 90 minutes prior to scheduled flight time and then sat, and sat, and sat for about 7 hours.

We finally got out of Moncton only to land in Montreal where Dorval airport had been closed for 2 days due to the same storm. Supplies were at an all time low as no delivery trucks could get out to the airport with food, cleaning and paper products. And the staff had had enough. Thankfully I was able to juggle my connections and get out of there after only four more hours.

Needless to say, when I landed in Vancouver I swore I'd never travel in the winter again. While I was gone, snow continued to pound New Brunswick.

Why am I bringing up this ancient history? It's now the end of February again. My grandson's 3rd birthday is this Saturday. My sister's 60th birthday is on Monday. My birthday is next Friday. And, starting tomorrow it is supposed to storm, snow and generally be utterly miserable for the next week!

The old adage about "in like a lion, out like a lamb" regarding the passing of the month of March better be true this year!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Gardening - me? Help from a friend!

An investment in beauty
My copy of Jodi DeLong's new book, "Plants for Atlantic Gardens" arrived the other day and, since then, I've spent every spare moment perusing its colourful and informative pages.

You have to understand - I am not a gardener.

At least, I never was. I failed to comprehend the obsession that others expressed about soil, plant types, fertilizers, pollination, drainage and so on.

My claim to fame has been total ignorance of all things horticultural.

Over the years I've been fortunate to have lived in homes that came equipped with gardens created by other, more knowledgeable, souls. My only challenge has been to not ruin what had already been lovingly created by someone else.

Until now.

My patient, but equally horticulturally-challenged, hubby and I moved to a new home last year set on a small, and sadly barren, lot on the outskirts of Sussex, NB. Not having a clue about where to begin, nor the financial resources to hire someone else to do it for me, I reached out to a friend who would know where I should start. Jodi knows all about these things and generously shares that knowledge through the articles she writes and now in her latest book crafted specifically for people attempting to create beauty in the harsh Atlantic Canadian environment.

Her vivid descriptions of the physical properties and individual personalities of over one hundred "handsome and hard-working shrubs, trees and perennials", together with the beautiful photographs that accompany each, have given me hope that even I can create an oasis of colour and interest that can be enjoyed year 'round.

As I write this commentary, we have just come through weeks of winter storms, arctic-like temperatures, snowfalls that would be the envy of the Alps and now freezing rain and slush. Spring seems eons away, although it's really only a few weeks - at least technically. I will keep reading and learning.

I will be ready, when the earth welcomes us, to choose, plant and nurture species that, until I read Jodi's book, I'd never heard of or knew pathetically little about. Encouraged by her down-to-earth voice in the book, I'm building the confidence to at least TRY. Even Jodi, consummate gardener and author, has had failures to which she freely admits. So, there is hope for a neophyte like me.

I can learn, with Jodi's book at hand to guide me, what are the best potential locations for various species; the soil amendments that may be needed; whether the prevailing wind direction is a good thing or not; and most importantly - not to become discouraged if some of my chosen plants fail to meet my expectations. As she says, "plants can't read" and sometimes just don't live up to their billings.

Soon I will be shopping for plants I now know are truly suitable for Atlantic gardens. Thanks, Jodi, for opening a new vista for me and showing me how to take those first steps.

"Plants for Atlantic Gardens" was written by Jodi DeLong and published by Nimbus Publishing.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

For some reason known only to the sadistic gods above, I woke up at 2:a.m. and that was it for the night. At 4:a.m. Hoover and I were out exploring the latest addition to our snow mountain outside - about 10cm of fluffy, white and sparkly snow - that, dammit, has to be moved. Once again the roof is laden with close to 2' of the heavy white stuff - a "little project" for Joel on this supposedly most romantic of days.

This was last week. There's more since then. Time to "rake".

Did you ever wonder what possessed the early explorers, who found themselves in this area after crossing the ocean from Europe, to actually stay here and settle down? I mean really - choosing winter?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Lifelong learning

Yep - my name is Ceci and I am a lifelong learning junkie. I can't help it. I am compelled to continue learning things. The topics are irrelevant. It doesn't matter to me if they are work related, hobby related or just some new or revived skill (like knitting) - I need to learn as much as I need food, water and rest.

So, I try and set aside at least half a day each week that is for nothing other than learning something. Yesterday it was practicing new lighting techniques for my photography - using off-camera flash with an umbrella light modifying set-up. It took a while to really grasp balancing soft north-window light with a flash but after a while, I think I got it. Would you agree?

Thank goodness for my most patient model, Hoover.

Want to learn more about off-camera lighting techniques? Try the Srobist site at: and check out the Lighting 101 series.

What are YOU learning this week?