I tend to judge my holiday season by two main things: the quality of the company and the quality for the food. It sounds like kind of a terrible system when the company and the food are both consistent and consistently amazing every year. However, by this standard I have never had a bad Christmas. I have had a few slight “bumps”, like when my friend James was so sick one year he couldn’t get out of bed to open his presents, or when my sister was in Alberta on Christmas. But I still got to see James over the holiday break, and I got to talk to Jenn on the phone, so I didn’t miss out too badly really.
The really nice thing about this standard is that it keeps me from getting disappointed when I throw my back out over the break and can’t go take pictures—especially when my wife gives me a brand new circular polarizer for Christmas!!!!
The back is fine now and I’ll be heading out shortly with camera in hand, but at the moment I don’t have anything to show for myself this week. But before you sink into the depths of despair allow me to offer one of my favourite “learning experience” images of 2009. I call it “The Serene Emergency”.
First, the tale. I was at the farm and had a hankering to play around with longer exposures. I had recently been introduced to the work of Guy Tal and came across a stunning photo of his called “Cold, Quiet Night” (see it here). This 5 hour exposure blew me away, not only with its astonishing beauty, but also because I frankly didn’t even think it was possible to have the patience or imagination to spend 5 hours taking a single photo. I have always thought of photography as capturing a single moment – a fraction of time. Guy’s image transcends space and time for me. This photo feels like the past, present, and future made into a singular whole. It is simply an astonishing piece.
Around the same time I was going through the journal archives of Wayne Simpson and re-discovered an image of Lake Huron from his all too brief Ontario days. His image 340 Seconds of Silence is one of the most serene images I have ever come across. I have seen a lot of images from all over Canada, but few have, for me, ever done this province the justice that Wayne does. This image reminded me of something I have always known – I live in a beautiful place, I just need to keep developing the skills to bring it to life in photos.
Which brings me to The Serene Emergency. There is a tree up at the farm that I just love the look of. It stands alone just opposite the farm house. It is perfect for the kind of long night shot that Guy Tal captured . . . sort of. I went out early and set up my tripod, got my composition down, focused, and waited for the stars to come out. I triggered the cable release and waited patiently for 2.5 hours as my camera gathered up the precious little light in the night sky. And then . . . the fire truck drove down the road between me and the tree. Yup, that’s a fire truck making those funny Christmas light blips across the bottom of the shot.
I love this shot – not because it’s perfect, but because it reminds me that you can’t control everything; that “perfect” is neither real, nor important; and that even an emergency can have some serenity within it.
Happy New Year!
P.S. You can now click on the images to see a larger version.
P.P.S. I can’t forget to mention that my post title, if you’re not sure, is a play on the title of Public Enemy’s amazing 1988 album “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back”. My favourite track (later performed with the metal band Anthrax) is “Bring in the Noise” — enjoy it here.