Small town living…

These days I live about half an hour away from the capital of Canada, Ottawa, in a little town of 5,000. Small and picturesque, Almonte has a river running through it, two sets of waterfalls and miles of green space surrounding it.

For 30 years I lived, studied and worked in the centre of Ottawa, which has close to a million inhabitants and serves as the seat of the federal government. I enjoyed the hustle and bustle and all the culture and diversity that Ottawa had to offer — and before that thrived on the tempo of two other big Canadian cities — Toronto and Montreal. So I’ve always considered myself a big city kind of gal.

Today life in Almonte with its slow unhurried pace couldn’t be more of  a contrast. But there is much to appreciate in small town living.

I’m excited by how Almonte continues to develop into a small hub of creativity as artists and craftspeople open up shops and galleries. The beautiful stone buildings on our historic main street preserve our past as a textile mill town and have been converted into restaurants, galleries and unusual apartments.

The old Post Office was designed by the same architect who built the Parliament buildings in Ottawa and now houses a lovely marble floored restaurant and a new outdoor patio. The clock you can see throughout the town is the original one, which is maintained by a local volunteer. The falls on the river that powered the mills now create our electricity in a green manner.

I never tire of showing off my town to friends from the city and from other parts of the country and the world. This super short video (49 seconds) gives a flavour of one such recent visit.  I invite you to have a look. I hope to capture more of Almonte in future videos.

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Eat, drink and be merry…

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The fondest memories are made gathered around the table.

For those of us who have a bountiful table, may this season remind us how blessed it is to give and share with others. And may we all be guided and surrounded by light and love now and always.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

I’ll be taking a bit of a blogging break as I move from one place to another. Thank you for spending time with me in 2015 here on the blog — and for offering the gifts of your encouragement and support. I am very grateful.

Til we meet again…

 

 

Homemade holidays…

“Homemade. Handmade. Healthy. Helpful. From Here.

The goal is to ensure that my gifts meet at least one of these criteria, and hopefully several. It’s not hard to do, and in fact, is a lot more fun in the process!”

Elena Galey-Pride, Founder, 5H Giving

Sign up to 5H Giving for lots of great ideas to add more meaning to your holiday giving…

The essence of Thanksgiving…

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Gratitude is not a passive response to something given to us, gratitude is being awake in the presence of everything that lives within and without us. Gratitude is not something that is shown after the event, it is the deep, a priori state of attention that shows we understand and are equal to the gifted nature of life.

Gratitude is the understanding that many millions of things come together and live together and mesh together and breathe together in order for us to take even one more breath of air, that the underlying gift of life and incarnation as a living, participating human being is privilege, that we are part of something, rather than nothing. Even if that something is temporarily pain or despair, we inhabit a living world, with real faces, real voices, laughter, the color blue, the green of the fields, the freshness of a cold wind, or the tawny hue of a winter landscape.

To see the full miraculous essentiality of the color blue is to be grateful with no necessity for a word of thanks. To see fully, the beauty of a daughter’s face is to be fully grateful without having to seek a God to thank him. To sit among friends and strangers, hearing many voices, strange opinions; to intuit inner lives beneath surface lives, to inhabit many worlds at once in this world, to be a someone amongst all other someones, and therefore to make a conversation without saying a word, is to deepen our sense of presence and therefore our natural sense of thankfulness that everything happens both with us and without us, that we are participants and witness all at once.

Thankfulness finds its full measure in generosity of presence, both through participation and witness. We sit at the table part of every other person’s world while making our own world without will or effort, this is what is extraordinary and gifted, this is the essence of gratefulness, seeing to the heart of privilege.

Thanksgiving happens when our sense of presence meets all other presences. Being unappreciative means we are simply not paying attention.

David Whyte, 2013

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Summer in the vineyard…

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There’s nothing quite like a wine and food festival as a place to savour the tastes of summer. And one held among the vines right in a vineyard on a warm summer solstice eve is sure to be an extra special treat.

So when my sister asked if I would be interested in going along with her to help shoot such an event, I jumped at the chance. She had been asked by one of her clients to photograph the annual TD Tailgate Party that wraps up the Niagara New Vintage Festival.

My sister operates a busy marketing / communications / public relations consulting business (Winestains) in the Niagara area — one of Canada’s preeminent wine regions – and many of her clients are wineries or wine events. She’s always included photography in her social media contracts, but lately, more and more new clients have been asking for her event photography services.

We had travelled to southern Ontario to celebrate my sister’s birthday and her anniversary. But pro that she is, when the request came in, she didn’t want to let her clients down, so we decided to make a day of it — combining work with our passion for photography with spending time in each other’s company.

She knows how much I love photography and last year I had taken some shots at a Chardonnay festival we attended with her that she liked and was able to use. But being promoted to number two shooter at a wine event was an exciting new experience for me — one I relished and really learned from.

It struck me afterward that event photography is a bit of a mix of street photography, lifestyle photography and still life, all of which I have tried over the years.

You have to be fast, anticipate well, and shoot quickly (and a lot) in order to catch candid moments with good compositions, as you do in street photography. But you also want to show people in their best light, as you do in lifestyle and portrait photography. No odd expressions or embarrassing moments wanted here!

And wine and food events certainly require some set ups as does still life to showcase the “heroes” and the ambiance. At the back of your mind, you must always remember what the client is looking to convey to their audience through your images (a list of subjects and moods can be helpful) and continually aim to capture that.

We came home tired but happy that night. We had such a great time photographing the happy participants as they spent the evening socializing with friends and sampling new vintages and local favourites from all the winery partners as well as the yummy food offered by local vendors.

The next night was set aside for celebrating my dear sister. And celebrate we did! That is another story.

Something universal…

I often find myself deeply moved by the writings of photographers I admire, as well as their photography. I copied this quote from Kim Manley Ort, photographer, teacher, writer and fellow explorer, when I read it, and I wanted to share it with others, who I think will also appreciate it.

Irises

My mission in life is to fully experience and embrace life with my whole self – mind, body, and heart – to really see. I’ve found that photography helps me to do this through fully connecting with and being transformed by ordinary moments. Something universal resonates deep inside – and I feel tender, hopeful, transparent, connected, and present. It is magical and opens me up to how everything (including me) belongs. I hope that when others look at my photography, they see that every moment is worthy in and of itself.

Kim Manley Ort

Celebrating different kinds of love…

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We’re all a little weird. And life is a little weird. And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall into mutually satisfying weirdness—and call it love—true love.

Robert Fulghum

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I don’t love my friends with my heart nor with my mind
this is because, the heart stops, and the mind forgets
i love my friends with my soul
it never stops and nor does it forget.

Rumi

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 Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.

Anatole France

Light impressions…

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However you may celebrate, or not celebrate, may this season bring you a deeper connection to the people you love and the experiences that give you the most meaning. These are the true gifts of the season.

Wishing all of you much peace, joy and love.

Sherry