There are times when a year is simply a year, and times when a year is a lifetime.

I enjoyed a coffee with a visiting friend yesterday morning, and as we sat talking it became apparent that I have changed completely during my twenty-sixth year on this earth. What follows is a non-exhaustive list of changes: one new apartment, one new car, two new jobs, one successful transition to part-time student, an undisclosed number of shoes purchased, thousands of pictures taken, one blog started, and one wellspring of creativity awakened.

This is undoubtedly my quarter-life crisis, a relatively new buzzword so significant that even the great American poet J. Mayer discusses it. The notions and concepts of the quarter-life crisis aren't exactly new, but the spreading acknowledgment of this phenomenon at least gives a name to the feelings of insecurity, loneliness, confusion and shifting identity that characterize my generation.

Like any crisis, there are a number of ways I could have emerged. I am in the enviable position to say, without hesitation, I am satisfied with whom I have become.

My newly awakened creativity has manifested itself mostly in photography as I challenge myself to grow artistically. My photographic style and influences is a topic for exploration at a later date, but one of my recent undertakings has been a series of black and white portraits. This is the latest addition to the series. I like how most of the picture is energetic and crazy, full of stark contrast between the black and the white, while the knit in her sweater is softer in colour and texture and provides an anchor for the rest of the frame. Without the sweater as a foundation, the picture would appear unfocused and undefined.

I'm beginning to realize that the first quarter of my life has been spent building that foundation on which my inner artist can finally be unleashed. And unleashed it will continue to be.

29.4.08. Cropped to 3X5, boosted contrast and exposure, reduced lowlights.


i threw a brick through a window

It is a strange and uncomfortable feeling when you realize everything about you can be labeled. My intentional meandering through the alleys of Kelowna? Not only does it have a proper name (Photowalking), it actually has its own Wikipedia page. Some selected quotes:

"While closely related to Street Photography, photowalking is differentiated by the main impetus being to photograph things of interest rather than people specifically. It is also often done as a method to practice and improve one's own photography skills rather than a with specific focus on documentary photography...Photowalking is also a form of exercise as it can take the photographer over the course of several miles as they wander a particular site or neighborhood."

Although inherently true, this description makes it sound like the latest trend among the Lululemon set, in essence giving photowal...my new past-time the same cachet as scrapbooking or hot yoga. So much for my daring urban excursion.

Fortunately, I can find some some shreds of originality and/or personal growth.

Why do I like this picture? For one, it is quite different from my other pictures thus far. The most obvious difference is that it is shot in
portrait orientation, rather than landscaped. I like to use negative space, and it's a lot harder to do when the frame runs up and down. The picture obviously wouldn't work in landscape, so I was forced to adapt, and ended up with a better result because of it.

I like the idea of a passageway where you can see the end, 'cause I find myself uneasy when I get into something without a clear goal in sight. I like that there are lights stationed along the path. I like that gate has been opened for me. I like that, although the alley is narrow, there is no ceiling. The the floor and walls may be fixed, but the sky really has no limit.

That means a lot to me right now.

8.4.08. Slightly decreased saturation.


another time, another place

Vancouver is one of my favorite places to visit. I will usually make a point to go 4-5 times a year, whether for shopping, a concert, a hockey game, or just the world's best Chinese food. It's also pretty accessible; from Kelowna, a round trip can be done in a single (albeit long) day by car if need be. Plus, my sister now lives in Tsawwassen if I need a place to stay (or another excuse to go).

And always, the first stop is downtown.

This reduced size doesn't really do the picture justice; it becomes much more dramatic in full pixels. It's a very busy scene, as you would expect on Robson Street, but that busyness is somewhat tempered by the colours: all of the greys and greens create a surprisingly calm scene with little accents of red and yellow to liven it up. I think the reason I like this so much is that it captures exactly what Vancouver feels like: lively and serene all at once.

Vancouver does a very good job of blending nature with city. In this picture you can see a tree standing proudly in the right side of the frame and trees stretching down the block on the left. But my favorite part is the tree reflected in the windshield of the car at the bottom, almost hidden in plain sight.

8.9.07. Cropped to 3X5, slightly increased exposure.


beautiful day (reprise)

Update: I am, in fact, being punished.

The day after I complain about the weather, it snows. In Kelowna. In April.

God has a very dry sense of humour.

19.4.08. Cropped to 3X5.


beautiful day

This has been a terrible spring so far. It could be simply that it rains every time I have a day off, but I'm pretty sure March came in like a lion, stayed a lion, and then roared into April also as a lion.

Of course I am exaggerating a bit. There has been the odd nice day here and there. Last week I actually saw a couple sitting at a picnic table along Beach Ave with a cooler full of food. There have been more dogs and their owners out and about, and the parking lot at my building is suddenly full of red and white plates, which is a more accurate barometer of seasonal change than the sharp pains in my knee.

I had been saving this picture in the hopes that I could loudly announce the arrival of an Okanagan spring, but I am sick of waiting. I took this picture in the all-too-brief period of warmth we had in early March. At the time, Quebec and the Maritimes were getting pounded with snow, and I found great satisfaction in the ripped sign advertising snow removal. Now I feel like I'm being punished for my smugness.

I suppose I might deserve it.

However, I am going to move forward believing spring is finally on the way. I handed in my final paper this morning, and my first trip of the traveling season is less than 3 weeks away. I am nothing if not optimistic.

5.3.08. Cropped to 3X5.


a different kind of blue

I have cardboard boxes staring at me. I'm quite sure all have experienced (or will experience) the post-moving period where you unpack most of your things, organize your new residence to a reasonable level of functionality, take a deep breath of satisfaction...and shove the remaining boxes into an unused corner where they languish for several months. I've been in this flat since mid-December, fully operational, but I haven't put up all my pictures, found a home for my CD collection, or done any of the other little things that say "I'm finally moved in!" So far, nothing has proven a worthy impetus to actually get it done.

I have a few things up including Audrey, some menu boards from the former employer, and a series of framed artworks made by an old friend. I've still got some ideas that have yet to come to fruition, including a wall of black & white portraits
, but I'm pretty happy with my decorating strategy. Especially for my first try. Eventually I'd like to display some of my own photos, but it's hard to be objective. I don't think I have yet taken a picture that belongs on my wall. At least, I have not yet taken a picture that would match the colour schemes I have going on. This may be a situation where I need to decorate a room based off of a picture, but it would be like building an outfit off of a pair of shoes. Which I have not done. Ever.

Although I love this picture, I can't help but think of it belonging in a guest bathroom. It's kind of cool, something you would notice and admire for a moment, and then promptly forget. It has very rich, deep colours that would match nicely with navy and bright yellow towels. Not to mention it just LOOKS like something you would purchase from Home Outfitters. This urban street scene, complete with cracked and broken signage, is just enough city for a thousand suburban homes.

The problem is, I am becoming a photographer whose work belongs in a guest bathroom. Not exactly what I aspired to be.

I suppose it is a little more versatile than I give it credit for. Because of the dark, rich colours, it makes for a terrific wallpaper on your computer desktop. It's been on mine for months.

17.12.07. Cropped to 3X5.


a sort of homecoming

A lot has gone right today. I was comped my americano at the former employer on my way to university this morning. I attended my last class of the semester, and discovered that our final is actually a take-home exam. I received resounding YES to a proposal at work from all the right people. I found the greatest movie ever at Future Shop for only $12.99. I saw a part of Kelowna I had looked at, but never had seen. And the rain stayed away long enough for me to capture it.

The low hanging spring cloud sulking over the city provided a tenor eerily similar to the Dublin portrayed in the aforementioned film. Although I've lived in the Valley for eighteen years, I've never walked through the alleys downtown, and with Hansard & Co. in my ears I set out to discover what was behind the facade.

As I walked behind familiar store fronts and in between restored brick buildings, I was struck by a few things. First, there is an awful lot of graffiti downtown, but it is all the same three tags: a bloated 'OK', 'anon' with a question mark underneath, and something completely unintelligible. We may have few hoodlums, but they are prolific.

Secondly, the alleys are much cleaner than I remember them being. A few years ago, the downtown became a dumpster-free district modeled after a successful project in Seattle. This was hugely contentious when first implemented, but has been such a resounding success that Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary are all in various stages of their own programs based off of Kelowna's template.

Finally, I realized that my dismissal of this town as uncultured and inauthentic was a little bit naive. Make no mistake, Kelowna is a beautiful city; there is lots of vibrant colour downtown,
but my view of my city was largely that of a tourist. When I walked off the maintained sidewalks, I found a city awash in muted grays and reds and blues, walls textured by time. I found brick walls in multiple shades as doors and windows were filled in. I found beaten signs proclaiming long abandoned business ventures. I found chain link and razor wire protecting two plastic chairs and a rusted snow shovel.

Then the burdened skies relented, and splatters appeared on my glasses from the rain which had been holding back so generously. I booked it to my car, and left the city for the first time.

8.4.08. Cropped to 3X5.


even better than the real thing

I went to the theatre tonight. My parents have season tickets to a local actors studio and, prevented from attending themselves, passed the tickets on to me. What struck me about the play wasn't necessarily the singing (solid), the acting (great), the make-up (phenomenal Chelsey, just terrific), or even the technical aspects of the production (minimalist). If you've seen The Fantasticks, you will know that the entire play takes place on a platform, with comically pedestrian props and sets and a small cast. Yet it was one of the most enthralling shows I have ever seen.

The play breaks many of the classically-acknowledged rules of theatre; the narrator interacts with all of the other characters, the entire cast breaks the fourth wall regularly, and the most compelling character doesn't utter a sound throughout the entire production. And I loved it. The story-line is rather commonplace, but the unconventional presentation transforms it into something spectacular.

Watching this play was like watching a two-hour long metaphor for my artistic journey. You see, the first thing you learn as a budding photographer is the Rule of Thirds. If you've never heard it, the rule is this: a picture can be divided up into 9 pieces by two horizontal lines and two vertical lines, and by placing objects in the frame along these lines you can create tension and energy, resulting in a more interesting image.

I like this picture because it playfully skews this rule. The dock runs straight along the top horizontal line, while its shadow generally follows the bottom horizontal line. You can also divide the picture in thirds by creating a V from the bottom right hand corner of the frame by following the break between water and beach for one arm, and the upper line of the dock shadow for the other. Finally, I like the contrast of three major colours in the blue water, the teal dock and the grayish-brown beach.

The Rule is followed to a degree, but ignored where it became extraneous. A standard lakeside landscape becomes something fascinating. Could it be that, sometimes, a bent rule can yield something fresh? Something fantastic?

5.3.08. Cropped to 3X5, boosted contrast and saturation, reduced lowlights.


one step closer

I forgot to set my alarm this morning. Wednesday is my day off, so it really wasn't a big deal, except that when I finally woke up I had that lazy, headachey feeling that comes from sleeping in too long. Compounding this was a nagging feeling of guilt brought on by a conversation the night before. The headache was fixed by a haircut and a coffee; the contrition required a pair of Gerbera daisies.

Today was also my designated cleaning day, a task I abhor on my best days. As I savored my lunch, delaying the inevitable, I got the urge to shoot something. Like my new Chucks.

I am a bit of a shoe guy, but not exclusive to one brand or style; rather I keep a close eye out for updated and interesting takes on classics, especially in colours that I don't already have. Chuck Taylors were on my List of Shoes To Purchase One Day, so when I found these on sale (and in red!) I snapped them up right quick. Next on the list: Jack Purcells.

Lately I've been really fixated on colour in my pictures, and I expected to highlight the red of the shoes. I really didn't like the way it turned out at first, so I tried desaturating the picture to get a cooler, weathered look, and I think it works much better.

The view off of my deck isn't very picturesque, but the late afternoon sun does highlight the seams between the blocks in the wall. It makes for a background that is interesting but not overwhelming. And I didn't have to leave the house, saving valuable time that I could invest in scouring my bathtub. Super.

2.4.08. Cropped to 3X5, desaturated colour, slightly warmed temperature.


daddy's gonna pay for your crashed car

A group of coworkers and I have formed a book club of sorts. We've been going through 'The Four Loves' by C.S. Lewis, and I use 'going through' rather liberally. More often then not we end up on tangents far removed from the initial subject at hand, but I've come to relish these evenings. The group is an interesting cross-section of our company, stretching over different departments and across management lines. It is a refreshing break to talk to each of them without the confines of bureaucratic restraint that seep into a workplace, no matter how hard you try to avoid it.

What I have really begun to appreciate is the different perspective each person brings to the table, and that by this I am forced to really examine what it is that I truly believe and why it is I believe it. I've found that by surrounding myself with different perspectives, I've actually become closer to God as my faith is solidified; first by testing my own beliefs, and then again by having to put these beliefs into words and explain them to others. And this is where I segue into the next part of this message...

...with a picture illustrating perspective (see what I did there? Oh yeah).

This has to do with work only inasmuch as I was waiting for some coworkers when I took the picture. I was using part of my day off to help them shoot a video in City Park, and this sign kept grabbing my attention while I was waiting for them to arrive.

The sun created a cool backlit effect on the signpost, and cast long shadows from the trees. It was incredibly fortunate the tow truck driver happened to be sitting right there. Few other vehicles would be so easily recognized by their blurred silhouette in the background, and the narrowing of the road into the distance draws the eye from the foreground to the back, subconsciously attaching the meaning of the sign to the truck. The sign is obviously the focal point of the image, but its legitimacy and significance is greatly enhanced by what is beyond it.

19.3.08. Cropped to 3X5, boosted saturation, slightly warmed temperature.