Wondrous gifts

Dupont quote

I just finished watching the last episode of Tales by Light, a series originally produced by National Geographic but released in Canada on Netflix.

The series follows several different photographers (mostly of nature), and at least in the first season, spent a lot of time discussing their personal journeys of exploration and processes of photography, a subject close to my heart.

Although my personal interest is in nature photography, with a dabbling in other forms such as sports photography, the final episode of Season Two was particularly poignant, focusing on Stephen Dupont‘s exploration of death.

A documentary photographer, Dupont has covered many war zones and had developed something akin to PTSD from his years surrounded by carnage and mayhem. To cleanse himself, he set out to explore the more honoured rituals of death and the celebrations of lives lived.

I have no intention of photographing war zones, but one thing that struck me in Dupont’s episodes was a comment he made about photography and his reverence for his subject matter. The comment epitomizes my approach to photography, and I feel blessed to have heard it described so eloquently.

I’ve always seen photographs as gifts. You do not take them; they are given to you.

I agree and am eternally grateful.

Nap

I am routinely blessed by my subjects, who give me their time and patience as I fumble to capture a moment.

Urban jungle

Despite being the urban capital and largest city of Canada, Toronto is much more than a collection of steel, concrete and glass. Sure, we host the CN Tower, Rogers Centre and a vibrant business core, but we also have a wide array of green spaces, where within minutes of almost anywhere, citizens and visitors can leave the social world behind and relax with Nature.

This past week, I spent a full day exploring such sections of Toronto, wandering along Taylor Creek Park and down the Don Valley Trail. Here’s some of what I saw.

With the walk home, my entire circuit for the day was 18 km (roughly 11 miles). Enough to leave my camera full, my body exhausted and my soul refreshed. All proof that you don’t have to journey to the hinterlands to experience Nature; it’s all right here if you but look for it.

Documentaries can change the world

Save

Just when you thought it was safe to go back near the water, SeaWorld announced that it will phase out its world-famous—and more recently, infamous—killer whale shows. The decision comes after months of pressure from community and animal-rights groups outraged by scenes depicted in the documentary Blackfish.

To further show the power of documentaries, however, the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently announced that it would phase out the use of chimpanzees in biomedical research, transferring its remaining test subjects to an ape sanctuary.

NIH officials have given numerous reasons for the decision, citing the weakness of animal models for human disease and technological advances that make such animals less necessary. Many, however, suspect the government agency is bowing to pressure from community groups fearing the post-apocalyptic world highlighted in the documentary series Planet of the Apes.

In particular, the actions of former laboratory test subject Koba scared the shit out of everyone.

There is no doubt that this trend of documentaries changing animal policies will intensify. For example, it is anticipated that the 2016 release of Ice Age: Collision Course will prompt the U.S. government to change its policies regarding the Scrat…whatever the feck that is.

Lost in Austin

Although I was in Austin to attend the amazing screenwriters’ conference attached to the Austin Film Festival, I did manage to make my way around town with my camera (and cell phone).

Sadly, it was not until the day I left that I discovered the amazing trail around Lady Bird Lake (formerly Town Lake). Next year, I will be back with a vengeance to record the trail and its astounding diversity of flora and fauna.

See also:

Ron Scubadiver‘s Town Lake photos

Pierce Wanderings Town Lake Kayak photos

Living Outside the Box Town Lake photos

Kelly Phillips‘ Town Lake in January photos

The moochers of High Park

After a couple of hectic weeks actually working (yeah, that money thingey…how weird, eh), I finally managed to get the camera back out, trekking across town to catch a little oasis of green in the midst of the big city: Toronto’s High Park.

Seems the fauna have been waiting for me, because even the relatively belligerent red-winged black birds were willing to see if I had food to share.

Souls before sentience

As human beings, we tend to make a lot of noise about sentience. The challenge I find, at the deepest level, with this is that we seem to equate feeling with awareness in its broadest sense.

To me, feeling focuses inward, toward me, whereas awareness focuses outward, on what is out there. Thus, I’m more interested in soul. Not in the religious sense of who goes to heaven, but in the sense of unity with the greater universe.

One look into the eyes of animals tells you, humans are not the only ones with souls. What do you think?

Sunny Toronto – Part Two – Critters

Not a ton of animal photos from this trip as my interest was more beach, people and places.

That being said, I was excited to see the adaptability of some of the local critters, including the nesting habits of sparrows at the local water treatment plant, which itself looks like something out of a Bond film, and the sheer joy of some dogs playing at the water’s edge.

Enjoy.