Friday, June 24, 2011

G20 Photos and Stories

It's a lot of sharing in one day, I'll admit, but if you're less into cupcakes and a little more hard-hitting or edgy (oi, I sound like a judge on So You Think You Can Dance...), here's a link you might want to follow. A photographer (professional one) friend of mine Evan Mitsui works for CBC (I think he's now heading up Toronto's still photography department?) and has some of his images as well as his stories featured in this CBC piece about the G20 fun times had by all. Check out his stunning portraits. The man has talent.

My Guts are Made of Icing

If you haven't been able to tell from all my shots of butterflies, food, architecture and paper cranes, I am a distant photographer. As I mentioned before, I'm still working on getting my lens in the faces of strangers.

However, yesterday I did the unthinkable. I actually walked in to one of -shire's most fabulous French inspired bakeries and, after ordering a croissant sandwich and an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie, dropped off a mysterious package. No, not planning on blowing up the bakery, not unless they discontinue their dark pain au chocolate. I think they ought to buy and frame some of my enlarged Parisian prints for their new space, and told them as much. In politer terms, of course. A letter complete with apologies for being so forward to suggest such a thing. With photographic samples. My husband was waiting outside with the engine running so I could make a quick getaway. I felt like I had just stuffed my pockets full of macaroons and roasted almond shortbreads and tried to make a slick escape. I think I would behaving far less anxiety about this whole scheme if Canada Post had just delivered the package instead.

In any event, it got me to thinking about baked goods, in particular, cupcakes. I hate them. To be more specific, I hate the icing. It's always reminded me of the stuff they use at the dentist's office to polish your teeth, only with more sugar. Now, I do realise they have made significant advances in icing technology, so that it ain't what it used to be, but I just can't bring myself to do it. I do, however, have an innate girly attraction to cupcakes. I think they're precious. Looking.

Last year, when I was on vacation all by my lonesome, I went so stir crazy bored I started making cupcakes. Weird flavoured cupcakes. Mocha cherry. Blueberry lemon cream. Orange cranberry chocolate. Caramel pecan. I fed them to my coworkers, none of whom died. I even once set up a cupcake bar with a choose your own topping sort of deal. It was that day I discovered that many of my coworkers share my loathing for icing. I felt less alone in the world, and that perhaps hours of therapy had been avoided thanks to the revelation in the cupcakes.

My cousin had cupcakes for her wedding cake. I thought I'd share the photos with you since they were so gawsh durn purdy. I think if I think about her wedding and the cupcakes right now I can distract myself from having thrust myself on an innocent bake shop. I feel like I've given my number to a boy I like, only I stuck it in his desk at school and he hasn't found it yet-- excited and terrified all at the same time. Things behind the lens are much more comfortable! Maybe I need a cup of tea. And a cupcake.

Photos of Dead Guys

No, no, don't run away. It's not those creepy Victorian death photos. Not at all. This is a quirky share! Thought you might enjoy this particular photo blog. Do have fun!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Food Fight

One of the greatest thing about the Japanese, strange as it may sound, is their love affair with food. And it ain't the same kind of love affair we North Americans have with our food. I picture Guy Fiori from the Food Network and how he plunges into the biggest plate of fried something and think that THIS epitomizes the North American love affair with food. It's big, it's enthusiastic, it's messy, gooey, and typically involves cheese.

The Japanese, on the other hand, will travel to an entirely different prefecture (that's province to us Canadians, state to the 'Mericans) for a bowl of noodles that is purportedly different from another prefecture's bowl of noodles. Or a mushroom. Or a kind of tofu. Or fish. Or flavour of ice cream (cherry blossom ice cream!) It is an elegant, subtle, and quiet love affair with food. And don't this love affair always get caught on camera! The Japanese are always photographing their food. When my friends and students come back from vacation abroad, one of the first things they show me is their pictures of what they ate. It's brilliant.

I didn't photograph my food nearly enough while I was in Japan, and now I'm kicking myself for it. If you've ever been to an izakaya, which is a kind of Japanese restaurant, you'll know the kind of spread they put out, and how each little dish is a work of art in itself, right down to the fried chicken and giant tater tots called croquet, which is not a Japanese word, no, but they have borrowed from the French to make the giant fried ball of potato sound delicate. How I wish I had shot the food more-- and I certainly will, in November, on our trip  back. Check in with me after my trip to Japan. I'm hoping to have more photography than I know what to do with.

But this nostalgia (and a trip to Subway) ignited another little photography project that hasn't been quite as successful as others... Let me explain. Have you dined in one of Canada's fine Subway establishments as of late? Our favourite Subway (yes, we have one) is downtown ~shire and has the look of an industrial loft. Exposed brick, hardwood, beams, steel, concrete, it's swank. And it's a Subway. I wish it were my living room, only without the sandwich bar... Or would I have the sandwich bar? Convenient, no? In any event, they have these framed pictures of FOOD hanging on the concrete and original exposed brick walls, square images matted in white and framed in black. A loaf of bread. Grains. A cut apple. Cucumber. Lettuce. Red onion. Cheddar cheese. So gorgeous, and SO simple.

Now, these images are decidedly different than the ones you might take in Japan. This is raw food, just chopped, unprepared, at its finest. The Japanese have a knack for the beauty of the finished product, but I was rather drawn to these images of nude food. I thought, hey, I can do this.

Wrong. Ish.

While I was busy basking in the confidence of my supposed photography skills, it failed to occur to me that I lacked any manner of food skills-- cutting, to be precise, and arranging. I could not, for the life of me, cut the onion and get the rings to layer or stack or bounce the way they did in the Subway images. My husband informed me that while I was pondering the failure of the onion, my cucumber had transformed into some new kind of antibiotic. I tried to get a slice of lemon to stick to the kitchen window so I could get the light coming through it, but it just slid off. (My husband has not asked why the window is smeary and smelling citrus fresh...)

 I need a pro. Not even a chef, or a cook, but one of those people who just chop all the food in the kitchen. A fruiter. A peeler. A chopper.  Someone who can arrange my naked food in style (hah! no, I didn't write someone naked who can arrange my food in style, or someone who can arrange my food in naked style, which would be somewhat provocatively ambiguous...) And that just ain't me (I mean, I am not a pro chopper, not not provocatively ambiguous). I hope our local Safeway doesn't get its knickers in a twist the next time I show up, because I won't just be shopping. I'll be photographing the bins of red bell peppers and heaps of apples and forests of asparagus and the mounds of jellybeans. Cheating? Perhaps, but hey, I never pretended to be handy with a knife.

But the thing is, you can do this, too. Seriously. Break out the cupcakes, the muffins, the rounds of cheese and the bowls of lemons. Run your knife through a couple of loaves of rough, homemade bread. Fill a jar with jellybeans and jujubes. Make your favourite salad. Pour a bowl of olive oil. What could possibly look better in your kitchen than the inspiration for dinner? If you're not so handy with a knife, like me, then shoot your dinners when you go out. The Japanese do it. Why can't you? Hit one of those fancy-schmancy bakeries that do the princessy cupcakes or the French pastries. Go to the deli with the hanging sausages and giant cheese wheels, the fishmonger to get the salmons and the mussels and the clams. Get the herbs and the spices at the farmer's markets. Hit the bulk section and get the candy. There's nothing saying you can't shoot someone else's culinary work of art and have it on your kitchen wall. And they don't have to be big, either. Grab a collection of 4x6 white frames from the dollar store and create a gallery on your wall. Imagine the variety of textures and colours you can have... not to mention, it might be inspiration for dinner. Or to break your diet. Choose accordingly.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Shooting on the (butter)Fly

I have yet to work up the courage to photograph people a la National Geographic. Not that I am on the hunt for naked people or anything (I'm pretty sure that during the first week of university, with all the newbies in town, I could find plenty of people running around campus without clothes... though perhaps that would not be as poignant as a NatGeo nudie...) but I am rather envious of a friend of mine's ability to snap the most colourful people, most notably, the folks she snapped while in Peru. I have a couple of theories about why she gets away with snapping people without them posing and/or hurling rotten fruit at her for her presumption slash gumption:

One, she has a giant lens and is so far away from her victims subjects that they have no idea they are being photographed. Two, I think if she is espied snapping without permission, that they assume she doesn't speak English. She does, perfectly well, but there is a false, invisible language barrier that people put up between themselves and others that prevents them from experiencing things they want to, or in this case, chewing out the brazen photographer. Two and a half, perhaps she doesn't care if they do feel like hurling rotten fruit, is not so self-conscious, and shoots regardless of what the opinion might be. (And this, I think, is the point I am most jealous of!) Three... and I hate to say it, but I think a lot of people assume that people of her particular culture are born with a camera in their hand. Not so, not so, but who am I to pretend like stereotypes don't exist and feed our perceptions of others and/or (mis)inform our own actions?  (And YOU thought you were going to read a fluffy blog entry on butterflies! Whoops!)

Meanwhile, I, on the other hand, am terrified that people will get angry with me if I try to shoot them without their permission. Or pose. And therein lies the Catch 22-- I desire consent, but consent often results in posing. Perhaps I need a bigger lens... Start buying some prints, people. Mama needs a bigger lens to stalk capture poignant images of unsuspecting folks on my urban photo excursions.

Which is kinda why kids are so much easier to photograph. They are so unassuming and not as self-conscious as we are... or if they are self-conscious, it is a very endearing, photograph-able self-consciousness, not the kind of self-consciousness that prevents this photographer from shooting candid portraits on the fly. They (the children) have been instrumental in capturing some of the best butterfly shots, wouldn't you say? In my attempt to keep my subjects anonymous, I've zoomed in on bits of them rather than on a portrait... in the case of the butterflies, the focus has been those adorable little hands the butterflies cling to.

Butterfly Girl was shot last year. I was on my way out of the butterfly house with a few really lame snaps that I think I deleted the majority of when I got home. This little girl was standing rather shell-shocked near the door, hand thrust out as if she were afraid a single breath would disturb the butterfly sitting on the tips of her fingers. I think she was even more dumbfounded when I asked to photograph her-- or rather, photograph the butterfly. It wasn't until I got home that I realised she was wearing a butterfly dress. How perfect.

This year, for the life of me, I could not get the blue butterfly to open its wings. When they are closed, the butterfly is the colour of bark. Beige, boring, cardboard-coloured bark. Opened, of course, the wings are a brilliant blue or purple. It wasn't until a very enthusiastic little boy approached and  with uncharacteristic gentleness encouraged the butterfly to rest on his fingertips did it finally, finally, finally open its wings. Snap, snap, snap. Butterfly Boy was more than happy to let me photograph his achievements.

In the meantime, I think I may make it my mission this year to shoot some urban candids: that is, to photograph people without their consent. I'll let you know if I survive the endeavour.What are your thoughts on shooting people without consent?

In the meantime, if you thought to come and just look at some pretty pictures of butterflies, hit the gallery here. All the butterflies (and their little dragonfly friend) are available for purchase at the webstore.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Fowl or Fair

One of my earliest memories involves waterfowl... swans, to be precise. My mother, sister and I had gone to the park armed with a loaf of bread to feed the ducks. I don't ever remember doing this on any other occasion, purposefully going out to feed the ducks. But here we were. I remember standing at the edge of the pond, clutching that loaf of bread, wondering why my mother and sister were slowly backing away. I turned around to see a trio of swans, wings spread, descending upon me, hissing for all they were worth. I can't recall how old I was at the time, but I must have been very small, because those swans seemed so much larger than me. I hurled the loaf at the birds and hightailed it out of there.

Flash forward to Ueno Zoo in Tokyo. They let the Canada Geese roam freely around the zoo. I would like to point out that they may be called Canada Geese, but these particular birds do not sport the stereotypical  world renowned manners of a Canadian. I was wearing sandals, and had my toes viciously pecked by those geese. Had the Japanese visitors not been watching the white girl getting attacked by the birds, I would have punted them like a football-- the geese, not the Japanese visitors, although punting the latter for nonchalantly watching the attack was awfully tempting.

Now, we walk our dog across the river from -shire's largest public park, complete with its own duck pond. The Canada Geese migrate here every spring and nest. There seem to be more goslings than ever this year, and all it took was a loaf of bread to get the flock to gather. My husband distracted the mama and papa geese while the wee ones gathered round for their photo shoot. Do not attempt shooting a flock o' goslings on your own: you will require a partner, if not a team, to disperse the bread. By the way, if you ever attempt such a shoot, never mind feeding the babies, feed the parents. Trust me on this one. The parents are not afraid to get in your face. The little ones will get close, only less with the hissing and pecking. So there I was, surrounded by about fifty or sixty goslings (and the odd golden-eye duck) all clamoring for a piece of bread, when my husband calls out for me to turn. There, coming down the hill toward me like the Mongol hoard, or some medieval army swarm (imagine Braveheart, only with fewer kilts), came another hundred or so goslings and parents. And we were out of bread.

My next piece of advice is entitled: How to Survive a Canada Goose Attack When You are Out of Bread. The answer: hissssssss back for all you're worth. The geese will not respond to your energy a la Cesar Milan. Hiss, baby, hiss. And mean it.

And, I shall close with a piece of news I read today that may make you laugh or cringe. Evidently the Canada Geese in New York have become such a nuisance that New York is going to cull them and dump them on generously donate them to feed the poor people of Pennsylvania.  Waste not...

Photo Caption Contest

Announcing our very first photo caption contest! (Thanks, Scott Blundon, for the idea!) Winners will receive a 5x7 of the duck herself as well as a 5x7 print of their choice from Aimless Photography. Simply submit your caption with the image on our Facebook page by July 1st and our panel of experts will decide which has the least lame duck caption. Submit as many as you like! Just keep it clean.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Nature Blog

Thought I would share this blog with you today, done by a guy who's into nature. For the outdoorsy, or those who admire it from a porch or the window of a mountain resort, you'll like this. Nature. A reason to get a macro. Hah! One of these days I'll share some of my own nature stuff (done sans macro), but until then, enjoy his.

P.S. If you're not into that whole English thing, you can read his blog in Japanese and German. Woo hoo!