Not long ago, I was challenged to photograph a stranger. Someone I don’t know at all. Not hard for a professional right? I photograph people all the time that I don’t know. But this challenge was different, it was to take myself out of my comfort zone, and approach someone out of the blue, to photograph at that moment. This, if you know me at all, is very much out of character for me.
Between appointments last week, I had some time, and while I wasn’t outfitted for it, I was in need of an escape from the city. Christmas break saw my family in Oro, enjoying the snow and clean air found at the side of Lake Simcoe. Returning to Scarborough served to contrast the beauty of where I was, and where I am. Spying a few fishermen on the ice promised a fresh perspective.
When I lived in Port Sydney, there were always fishermen on the ice of Mary Lake, their huts huddled together as though around a camp fire at night. It wasn’t a past-time I understood, but instead was an annual fixture on the lake, blending into the background of my life. This day, on Frenchman’s Bay, would be a good day for a walk on the ice.
It was by a small hole in the ice that I met Ryan and his Colleague Charlie; Sometime co-workers, and friends. Charlie was introduced to fishing on the Rouge by co-workers, and it was with reluctance that he took up the winter past-time of ice fishing. Bundled in thick, one-pice snowsuits and heavy boots, these men patiently showed me some of the ropes of what they do.
“You’ll find everything here” they tell me. Perch and Trout aplenty. “You can fish a whole lake and find nothing, but in one spot you’ll pull them out all day.” Says Charlie. Ryan sets a bait in one hole, then starts another with his Auger. “Mind the Auger” says Charlie, “It’s sharp”. It has to be to cut through 4″ of ice in seconds.
They use some specialized equipment, Ryan has his Fishfinder setup off of a D-cell battery pack and measures the depth to be 7′. “It gets deeper further out.” Says Charlie. He sets his 2 hooks in his own hole a little further out. He has a weight that sits on the bottom, and the hooks are set on the same line far enough apart to avoid them tangling. I talk some with Ryan and find out he’s from downtown Toronto, while Charlie comes from Stouffville. “Tommorrow” he says, “There’ll be 20, 30 guys out here.” Tomorrow would be Saturday. A weekend hotspot, with a community of its own. A common escape from their urban lives, to a different world atop the thin frozen waters that border the city. The men share a little of how they have made new friends on the ice in its own community, and that born into that community is the competitive spirit to catch the most, if not the biggest fish. A ringing of bells causes Charlie to snatch up his rod. “Fish on” I say, using the only bit of fishing lingo I know.
He pulls out a small colourful fish. I make a feeble guess that it’s a small mouth displaying even more ignorance. He laughs, “It’s a perch. Really good to eat, they’re delicious.” He says with energy. “This one’s a couple of french fries.” “You’ll keep it?” I ask. “Oh yah” He says, “They’re really good.” Ryan drops in some more live bait to attract something of his own.
Not long after, I beg my leave. I have to get to another appointment, but my time on the ice has reinvigorated my day. I remember that food comes from many places outside of a grocery store. I remember that only on the doorstep of the city of Toronto, there is found a different world, with men who still know how to sit patiently in the cold, stoic in their resolve to catch the next big one.
There are moments in life that are bound to come upon everyone. There is no escaping them, no place you can go or hide, and no way to persuade those moments to come at another time. One of these moments is your death. It comes to mind today as I have recently been confronted by my own mortality, and the value of the memories we share with one another. As a photographer, I have the privilege of being a part of and recording some of life’s most cherished moments in people’s lives. Only a week ago I learned that someone who I had photographed recently had died. This is the first person, to my knowledge, that has come to the end of their allotted time. The family was prepared for this inevitability and their fortitude and strength is admirable. Part of why this didn’t hit me too hard was that this person was an elderly person with known health conditions.
Today however was something entirely different. I spend a lot of time photographing babies and children. It was with great sadness and a somber heart that I learned today that a baby I had photographed had died. I am not privy to the details, but I was honoured to have been able to provide photographs for the family. Those pictures will draw to mind cherished memories in the tough time ahead.
In today’s media saturated era, photographs have become something of an overlooked thing that, when critical moments in life involving pain or great joy come along, become priceless and invaluable possessions. Hard-drives and flash drives and CD’s may be able to temporarily store a great many pictures, but they are all “disposable media”. They break, degrade and fade faster than you think, and are dependant on having a tool – computer or otherwise – that can read those files. Bear in mind also that several file formats are no longer supported. Although I feel it is likely that many current file formats are going to remain relevant for a long time, at the rate of accumulation that people take digital photos today, the average person will have several tens of thousands of images to look through, only a few years from now, in an effort to find the one great shot they remember. As one media-savy commentator said recently, “I believe that I will outlive facebook”.
Remember to print those images on quality paper of those people in your life that you value most. Remember also to never take life for granted, every minute you breath is a gift from God and is only one more step to the door that leaves this world for the next.
Toronto freaked out about the inbound snowfall due Wednesday morning. Forecasts called for 20 – 30 cm of snow, and low visibility. So they over did the severe weather alerts, but at least it kept some people off the roads who really shouldn’t drive in inclement weather. Me on the other hand? I went to Joyride to run a couple of errands and found some students eager to capitalize on their snow day with a day of riding at Markham’s indoor cycling facility.
Tyler Dawson pulled some tricks on the coping, while Jackson Morgis aired into a transfer for logo shot.
In Novemeber, Mark and Scott (Co-owners of Joyride) opened up the Joyride FIT Facility, with weights and spin bikes and other training equipment that has already been put to use by Canada’s national XC team. (see here).
Don’t have a bike? That’s okay, Joyride has a line of rental bikes that fit all sizes from the little norco run bike for toddlers, to the 26″ park bikes, with lots of protective wear to keep those hands and elbows in top shape.
I got a little something under the tree this year that always made me curious. It was a 16″ beauty dish, with a portable flash mount, and it also fits my AB800 strobe as well. I got to try it out yesterday with a friend and model from Model Mayhem. You can check out her profile here.
We got up bright and early in anticipation of sunrise being around 7:50 am. The thick cloud layer quickly changed my idea for the shoot. I had hoped to use that dramatic sunrise against the backdrop of an abandoned complex, however with no significant sunrise, I was glad to have the beauty dish with my F58AM connected to a flashwave 2 receiver. I am really loving the control I get, while keeping the specularity of its directional light. Here are a few shots that I thought really worked.