Month: November 2014

You Have Enemies? Good.

Someone once told me that a good “About Me” page on a website both attracts and repels. I think this W.C. quote runs in the same vein. It is important to know what you stand for and who your allies are, whether that’s with your business approach as displayed for a potential client to see, or a larger moral stand taken in life (often, the two are related).

It’s important to be able to orate who you are. Telling people how you feel about an idea help them (it will let them know whether you’re interested/uninterested) and lets you make choices and decisions based on what you want to do, instead of what you think will make them happy.

This is a great lesson to learn as quickly as possible if you’re a people-pleaser by nature. Sometimes it can seem so easy to give people the answers they want to hear, “Yes, I can do that.” to things you’re not really passionate about, because it’s the easy answer. When you do this, you don’t speak up for yourself, and you steer yourself down a course you never wanted to be on in the first place. Not only is it not great for you, but chances are the people around you will be able to sense you’re not really happy, and that doesn’t make them feel great either. They also want to work with people who are passionate about the same things that they are!

Figure out who you want to be. Start making choices as if you’re already that person, and pretty soon you will be. People who have similar ideals will love you for who you are, and even your enemies will admire your ability to stick to your guns.

The Correct Way… Does Not Exist

So often we believe that our truths are immutable – that someone else’s logic or beliefs are flawed. But the truth is (if liberal arts philosophy has taught me anything) that everything is made up. Our cultures, socio-economic strongholds, biases, traditions, hierarchical structures, religions, money. It’s all imagination made real in order to assert order on the inherently scary and unpredictable thing that is being alive and having a human-sized consciousness.

That is not to say that those things are bad. In fact, they are necessary and make life more enjoyable and meaningful to participate in. Being part of a cultural flow is one of the most satisfying things we can partake in as humans. On the flip side, all these different ways of doing things can cause a lot of strife when conflicting views of reality clash head to head. I’m a fan of believing that it is possible to co-exist with conflicting viewpoints, as long as basic dignities are observed (taking care of the shared environment, not killing each other… basically, sharing the planet is the same as having roommates in university).

It’s hard to see eye to eye with everyone all the time.

The good news is: you don’t have to.

I’ve seen a lot of people with good arguments be of the mindset that they have to constantly convince everyone around them that theirs is the only way. While it is good to be able to logically and adequately state your position, accepting that there is no ultimate right way is liberating. The world will keep spinning, and we’ll keep finding new ways to do things. Nietzsche knows his stuff, and the next time someone makes you feel like flying into a mad rage with their different technique or opinion, maybe just think of this quote and relax. People are never going to agree on one perfect way of doing anything, and that’s a good thing (It keeps the species alive! Variation, adaptability, and whatnot).

Forest near Seonamsa Temple, South Korea

Nothing in life is to be feared…

I collect a lot of quotes. It was time to start doing something with them. Check back every Sunday for a newly designed wallpaper like this one, featuring one of my photos. If you click the image you’ll be able to download the full-sized one for free from Google Drive.

Sunday wisdom wallpaper feat. Marie Curie and Muskrat Falls (taken last winter, before the start of work on the new hydroelectric dam).

25th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall

On the evening of November 9, 1989, the slow fall of the Berlin wall began. Although official German reunification did not occur on paper until October 3, 1990, it was those Mauerspechte (literally, ‘wall woodpeckers’) who began to slowly chip away parts of the wall in November that started the social movement that would bring Germany back together. 

At the Brandenburg Gate. Berlin, 2007. 
At the Brandenburg Gate. Berlin, 2007. 

I wanted to share a throwback. When I was 17, my friend Marisa and I decided on a whim to grab our sleeping bags, hop on the four-hour train ride from Hamburg to Berlin for the weekend, to visit her cousin, see the wall, der Bundestag (German parliament), the Holocaust Memorial, and Checkpoint Charlie museum.

At the remnants of the wall (a.k.a. The East Side Gallery, a 1.3km long stretch of former wall, where street artists have free reign). I had to leave my mark. I just happened to save some Hello Kitty sticky notes and a sharpie in my backpack.

I remember it was January, and it was really friggin’ cold. I also want to share the fact that her cousin had THE COOLEST KITCHEN. She had some Finnish travellers staying with her, and this is where I learned my first Finnish words (Hyvää iltaa – good evening).

Hindsight fails me, but I can tell you that this place had amazing food. And fresh basil.
Hindsight fails me, but I can tell you that this place had amazing food. And fresh basil.

Five Fast Facts about the Berlin Wall & East Germany:

  • Die Mauer (lit. ‘the wall’. pronunciation = mao-er). If you’re in Berlin, this is what you want to use while trying to ask for directions. Officially it’s ‘Die Berliner Mauer’, but usually Germans will find it redundant if you try and ask for ‘the Berlin Wall’, when you’re already in Berlin. Just ask for ‘the wall’. They’ll know what you mean.
  • The Wall was originally/officially named the Antifaschistischer Schutzwall (anti-fascist protection rampart) by the GDR (German Democratic Republic, a.k.a. East Germany).
  • The wall completely encircled West Berlin from 1961-1989. 28 Years.
  • My favourite German Mauer movies: Good Bye, Lenin!Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others).
  • When in Berlin, you can tell which section of the city you’re in by looking to see if the streetlights resemble little men with hats. They’re called Ampelmännchen (lit. ‘little traffic light men’), and are only found on the streetlights in former East Germany.

So happy freedom day, everyone. Think about this: less time has passed since the wall fell, than the length of time it originally stood for. Sometimes it’s easy to forget, since it’s been histor-ified and museum-ified, but it really wasn’t all that long ago. 

So happy fall of the Berlin Wall Day!

Headshots for Ben Stone

I love receiving calls for headshots. The great thing about Halifax is that there are so many fantastic spots to shoot, one often has no wander no farther than outside your back door (in this case, literally) to find a great backdrop. I love how the teal of the wood here brings out the same colour in Ben’s eyes. 

It was a bright but overcast day. Perfect for shooting with natural light. The two photos above are a good example of how angle and light can really change an actor’s features. The one on the left is how he naturally carries himself, shot in a typical straight-on and slightly above headshot fashion. In the shot on the right, I had him angle his head a bit differently, and shot from a lower angle. The result is a little more villainous, and creates a different atmosphere in the final product.

Height is important.  Typically I go for the above and slightly-down angle, as it’s usually the most flattering, but it’s fun to try out other options as well. If you’re ever shooting someone, never be afraid to ask them to move, or to change your position relative to them to get a better angle. When I’m shooting people who are taller than me (such as Ben), I usually try to get above them, either by standing on a chair, or using the natural landscape to my advantage. Often your subject won’t know exactly which angles suit them (although some actors and models have a good sense from years of practice), and is relying on you to help them. Get comfortable giving friendly directions to your subjects, and I promise it will pay off. Talking also creates a dialogue, which gets your subjects to relax and drop their ‘photo-faces’ (you know, the stock smile they have in every family snapshot). Especially when working with an inexperienced model, directing the shoot often puts them at ease because it takes some of the pressure off of them to come up with different poses. 

Luckily, Ben is an experienced actor, so shooting him was a breeze. He is a performer, co-founder and co-director of the Zuppa Theatre Co. in Halifax. Keep an eye out for their new show, ‘Pop-Up Love Party’ which will be premiering March 2015 at the Lion and Bright café on Agricola Street in Halifax. The play heralds themes present in Plato’s Symposium (what is the true nature of love?) in what is promised to be a ‘multi-sensory’ show. (Psst: I hear there’ll be food!)

 

Michelle’s Crystal Necklaces and Blue Apples Natural Products

I first saw Michelle’s necklaces pop up through my Instagram and Facebook feeds.  I really liked her style of wire wrapping and her choice of stones, but didn’t have any extra cash to throw around for jewelry.  I noticed she didn’t have any professional images of her beautiful work done, and proposed a trade: necklaces in exchange for product photos. 

Amazonite wrapped in copper wire with cassia (a.k.a. Saigon cinnamon) sticks.
Amazonite wrapped in copper wire with cassia (a.k.a. Saigon cinnamon) sticks.

I had brought some natural products with me as props, but was overjoyed to discover that her partner Daniel, who owns and runs Blue Apples Natural Products had a whole house full of stock that I could use to display with the jewelry.  I don’t often get to do product photography, but I love choosing and styling the items together to create artful compositions.

Amethyst with rose-gold wire on a piece of chaga mushroom.
Amethyst with rose-gold wire on a piece of chaga mushroom.
I found this tiny eggplant at the Halifax Farmers market. So cute (and delicious)! 
I found this tiny eggplant at the Halifax Farmers market. So cute (and delicious)! 

Michelle was also kind enough to send me away with a sample of their Ancient Forest Green Tea. Being a tea-holic, I was incensed to try it. It’s unusual for a green tea in that it is partially fermented, and thus has a particularly deep and penetrating flavour. It is harvested from stands of old tea plants in China between 500-2,700 years old.

Authorly Headshots in a Booksellers Café

There is no greater pleasure of mine, than to have friends who are utterly dedicated to what they’re doing. To show love for their craft be in the law, medicine, design, or in this case, writing.

Shannon Webb-Campbell is a writer: author, journalist, editorialist. She is just finishing her term as this year’s CWILA’s critic-in-residence, and is the 2014 Out in Print award winner. She contributes regularly to The Coast, Quill & Quire, and will be releasing her first book of poetry with Breakwater books, called ‘Still No Word’ in February 2015. 

She also has the unique experience of sharing a couple nights in a charming Sackville farmhouse with me for one rainy weekend whilst being in the throes of having seen Margaret Atwood in person. 

We met up for coffee and photos at the Trident Booksellers Café on Hollis Street in Halifax. If you haven’t been, and you love books and coffee, you’ve really been missing out. It is just so damn cozy, and there are shelves teeming with books, and they even grate the nutmeg for their lattés by hand. Really charming. Especially on a rainy day.