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The Power of Photography

We live in a very visual world. Every electronic gadget is now capable of recording images and millions of photographs are taken every minute. We are overwhelmed with the noise of new gear announcements every other week — full of marketing specifically designed to lead us into believing buying XYZ will make us better. The volume of this noise can often cloud our better judgement and quickly distract us from the real values and rewards of creating photographs.

I am very much guilty and I routinely ask myself… Why do I do this? Why do I care so much? Why do I spend so much time in this world of photography?

By it’s simplist definition, photography is an art that freezes time. We are recording history. We are documenting. And we are preserving memories. Photography is huge within my family and there is no denying that we all love to share, remember and tell stories. Photography is social. Photography is archival. And photography is priceless because when something is destroyed from flooding, fires, natural disasters — after life itself, it’s always the lose of photographs that stand out as significant.

So why am I writing about this tonight?

Every once in a while I talk with another photography who is capable of summarizing what photography is all about in a beautiful way. I first met Maurice Henri in his hometown of Moncton a few years ago and have since been pushing to have a venue for him to come to the Island and speak. Tonight was that night and he delivered a powerful presentation with more impact than I could have ever hoped for.

Since 2005, Maurice has been building a personal project called Cameras for Healing. Starting with the west African country of Sierra Leone, Maurice set out on the incredible journey to emotionally heal through photographic arts those living with pain, grief, fear, poverty or stress. All in a country that has nothing we can so easily take for granted.

As I feel the need to write this, I also realize my words can’t do his presentation any good. Maurice’s stories were incredibly powerful. Everything from his 28 adopted children through sponsorship, buying equipment for the women to start a sewing business, or his role in building a school for a village. All of his actions, support and most importantly results were started by providing cameras, teaching photography, and giving victims a voice to speak out, express themselves by telling their own stories and finding hope.

I wish everyone interested in photography could have attended tonight. From the violent stories of the sexual abuse of minors, aggressive killings, and the recruitment of child soldiers — the horrific stores were countered with positive ones. For a better understanding of Cameras for Healing, consider watching the following video:

Now that Sierra Leone is well established and on it’s way with a self-running Cameras for Healing program, Maurice has started introducing Cameras for Healing into Hati and Columbia with additional countries also asking for his help. I am already looking forward to hearing a future presentation.

Cameras for Healing Founder, Maurice Henri believes that the power of the photographic image can open the heart and change people’s view of the world. It also tells a story of the relationship between subject and photographer. It conveys what the image maker sees, feels and believes. Using his methods of art for healing, Maurice has helped many children and adults process stress, illness, and grief. He initially developed the Cameras for Healing method of Art & Creativity for Healing in his home province of New Brunswick, Canada in 2002 as an art workshop to help cancer patients and survivors deal with stress. Giving people validation and hope through my photography is what my life’s work is all about.

Either it be Cameras for Healing, Help-Portrait, or major film projects, the art of photography and story telling is incredibly powerful and rewarding.

Which brings me full circle to ask again, what photography means to you and why do we do it? If you have spent any amount of time reading anything on the web or in magazines — you might be tempted into believing that it’s about who owns the most or newest equipment.

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The Best Kept Secret?

Lets not read too much into the title but it’s pretty exciting that I lead off the winter issue of Outdoor Photography Canada Magazine with a introduction-like article in the editors column. This quarterly column is designed to showcase lesser known photographers and I was delighted when the editor contacted me to ask if I would be interested in participating. How could I possibly say no?

Outdoor Photography Canada

Today’s Image – OPC Winter 2013 Issue

Available on newsstands until April 5th 2013, You can find the article in the editors “From Where I Sit” column on page 9. Below are the two images Roy Ramsay selected for his write up.

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2013 :: Day 1

Today is the start of a new calendar. The day many commit to resolutions. Or the day others reflect back on the past 12 months. When I personally look back at 2012, I realized just how busy the year has been with many events still strong in memory.

On the design side of things, I started the year devoting much of my time to TinEye and their many image search products. It was also continued work with Mozilla Firefox. At some point mid-year, that all changed when I started giving most of my attention to some of the leading educational and training websites for emergency medicine paving the way to massive November conference in Las Vegas hosting 1800 EM doctors from around the globe.

For photography away from home, I found myself spending June in Iceland, October in Hawaii and a return visit to Zion National Park where I once again failed to summit Angels Landing.

For photography at home, I was invited to participate in a 75th anniversary PEI National Park book and worked on several commercial projects for Parks Canada and PEI Tourism.

To increase the quality of my prints and to learn something new, I setup a home printing workstation and accepted the challenge of producing high quality fine art prints at home without the assistance of a lab while benefiting from the rewards of being in full control from start to finish.

I continued working with the small Alberta-based publishing company oopoomoo and helped design and release the photography themed ebook titles: A Guide to Yoho National Park, A Guide to Kootenay Plains & Abraham Lake in Summer and Winter, Essential & Advanced Filters, The Creative Use of Aperture, The Tilt-Shift Lens Advantage and Two Weeks in Iceland.

And on top of all of that, we planned a wedding with 200 guests when I married my best friend of 10 years.

I started this blog in 2001 but allowed it to transform and mature many times in sync with my interests and professional career. It has been victim to many redesigns, a couple archive resets, a full rebranding and several topic shifts. 2012 was one of those significant times that was hit with all of the above after I surrendered to the difficulties of maintaining an every day photoblog. A project I kept alive from 2006 to 2011.

Now, here I am a full year after the rebirth and this blog feels better than ever. I’m looking forward to another great year in 2013.

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Hiking in Search of Lava on the Big Island of Hawai’i :: Part 2

After discovering that finding flowing lava in Volcano National Park was not going to happen, it was time to go on a search with fingers crossed. At this point, all I knew was that the Puʻu ʻŌʻō vent was active, it was on private land, and the nice lady at our hotel gave us a mans name who had access to this private land.

Equipped with only a first and last name, my best guess was the east side of Chain of Craters Road. There we were greeted by a team of security to a single private road to homes rebuilt on top of the lava fields. The effort to keep people from venturing out alone was high. I told security who I was looking for and although they knew him, they wouldn’t tell me how to contact him. They said I could watch from “the viewing area” – which happens to be 5km away.

This viewing area had another security guard – who was much more willing to provide information. After 30 minutes of chat and learning how the homes survive without water, heat or utilities, I had 3 possible names that I could hire as guides and within 2 hours, I was scheduled to meet back in Kalapana the next day to start the hike before sundown.

After the 5km one-way hike, I found myself standing face-to-face with the most intense heat wave imaginable burning through my skin. From 10 feet away, it felt like I was sitting an inch from a camp fire.

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Hiking in Search of Lava on the Big Island of Hawai’i :: Part 1

After almost 2 weeks exploring the Hawai’i islands, it was time to finish the adventure on the Big Island with only one goal in mind – the active volcano. Created when 5 volcanoes erupted and overlapped each other, several lava trails are visible when looking at the Big Island on Google maps. As a result, it’s very easy to find a mix of ʻAʻā lava (stony and rough) and Pāhoehoe lava (smooth and unbroken) everywhere you look.

Road Closed Hawaii - Chain of Craters Rd

Today’s Image – Road Closed

A road sign marks where the Chain of Craters Road once was before the 2002-2004 lava flow. An eruption that started on January 3rd, 1983 which still continues today earns Kīlauea the title of most active volcano in the world located on the eastern edge of Hawaii’s Volcano National Park. For a better understanding of the activity and scale, take a look at this map of recent lava flows from the Puʻu ʻŌʻō and Kupaianaha vents.

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Our World is Shaped by the Laws of Nature

For a long time, I’ve struggled with the idea of how humans attempt to control the world around them. With a rapidly increasing population, I could never articulate in words how I truly felt about an over populated world consuming so many resources with an increasingly growing foot print around the obsession of possession. With each new invention and product as technology progresses, we want and buy and discard the old.

The food industry alone is amazing considering the shear volume being pushed through the system and shipped around the world daily. The way we treat livestock and wildlife and our efforts to control the populations of species when nobody is controlling our own. We share this planet with everything nature has to offer but yet we claim a self-appointed authority position. With an end goal of more wealth, when does the human population out number the demand and supply of everything we have grown to depend on?

Humankind as a Geological Force

Two weeks ago on November 16th, Dr. David Suzuki took the stage here in Charlottetown with a very passionate presentation (watch it here), and addressed concerns from a global level to an acknowledgement of the local Plan B controversy hitting many of the points on which I’ve struggled to express myself in any meaningful way.

David talks about priorities and defines all the things that really matter in our lives. We need air. We need water. And although we know that without them, we would die, and if either are polluted, we would be sick, David continues to ask what intelligent animal would use such valuable resources as a toxic dump? How can we be turning our back on what got us here in the first place? We must learn to live within the constraints of nature and stop shoehorning nature into our agendas. Nature is the source of our well-being.

70% of our economy depends on the consumption of stuff. All of that stuff comes out of the earth to ultimately be thrown back into the earth as waste. We elevate the economy above the very things that keep us alive. Humans have become a powerful force – 7 billion strong – and what we do in the coming years will determine whether we as a species can survive. The full presentation can be re-watched in all it’s glory here on the Confederation Centre of the Arts website.

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The Impact of Light & Changing Weather

After spending a week in Las Vegas as part of the website support team for Essentials of Emergency Medicine, we (silverorange) went to Zion National Park for the weekend before flying back home. Several hours after hiking out to Canyon Overlook this afternoon, it still amazes me how quickly it went from solid white, can’t see anything, to clear blue skies with grand views. It could have been measured in minutes.

Part of what I remember from my previous visits to the National Parks in the Southwest is how quickly the weather and light changes. With photography, light is everything. And with outdoor nature photography, that light source is only what mother nature presents on any given day. It’s not Zion, but this next series of images shows Monument Valley over a 17 hour period last November.

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The Many Options of Digital Publishing

Publishing can be easy. With nothing more than a copy of InDesign, independent authors can skip the entire print process saving time and money by exporting a digital file for instant download sales. In the self-published photography world, it feels like the PDF remains the popular choice for those not concerned about DRM. Selling a nicely designed PDF and calling it a book has become very common with the do-it-yourself educators.

Earlier this week a new publication came to my attention when I received a review copy of PHOTOGRAPH — a new quarterly magazine for creative photographers. It already has a running head start for success with a loyal audience to it’s publisher Craft & Vision.

But following that, surveys appeared on social media feeds asking for my preference between PDF and ePub, the sharing of an unfortunate story about Amazon DRM policies, a testing of Blurbs idea of a digital book, and yesterday, KelbyTraining releases their latest ebook as an iPad app. With so many possibilities for distribution, is there a right answer for everyone? And does it matter?

PHOTOGRAPH continues the popular trend of a flat turn-the-page PDF style document. Sure large magazine such as National Geographic are producing highly interactive magazines as iPad apps, but the ability to scroll and zoom in all directions to unlock information can be more confusing than helpful. Maybe even more frustrating than navigating DVD menus.

On the other hand, ePub is the complete opposite and designed for simplicity allowing the hardware to dictate presentation for the best optimal reading experience. It works beautifully for text heavy novels but begins to show it’s weaknesses with books made of only images and diagrams.

With a mixed library of my own containing all-of-the-above formats and also including the traditional and trusty real paper books, it’s hard to claim one file format better than the other. The format should really be decided by the content and how that author or photographer wishes their work to be displayed — even if that means National Geographic or KelbyTraining requiring their audience to own an iPad, NAPP requiring the use of Zinio, or Amazon requiring the use of a Kindle. The consumer will eventually decide which distribution will win as asset management becomes more and more complicated.

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