Apr 25, 2010

Whispers in the Grass

Sometimes the simplest things - dried ornamental grass leftover from last Autumn - turn out to be glorious and spellbinding if we only pause long enough to be attentive.

My new photo gallery, slated to go live tomorrow, is a series of photos of dried grass. When one says that in words it doesn't sound like much. I suppose that's where we get the notion that a photo can sometimes be worth a thousand words :-)

download wallpaper-sized versions of this image here:


Mar 28, 2010

Ian Tyson, Songwriter

Ian Tyson was part of my 1960s and '70s Canadian childhood. He sang folk songs on the radio and hosted a television show. Later, when I embraced pop music as a teenager, he faded into the distance.

In our working class home, my parents listened to the country music radio station as soon as that became an option. By the time I left to attend university in the big city, I never wanted to hear country music again.

It's funny, though, how we become more or less receptive to ideas and influences depending on which stage of our lives we happen to be in. In early 2000, nearly 20 years after I'd departed my parents' hearth, I found myself in an airport giftshop in Colorado, searching for a souvenir to take back to Toronto. A smooth, warm baritone was singing over the PA system and when I asked the store clerk about it, she handed me Ian Tyson's All the Good 'Uns CD.

I brought it home, played it a lot, and turned my definitely-not-into-country-music husband on to Tyson. And then something truly remarkable happened. That CD became my bridge back to country music. Tyson's writing was so good that I was reminded that not everything in that genre is schlocky and banal.

Soon I was discovering the work of Steve Earle and Lucinda Williams (yeah, they've both got issues - but they're often brilliant), and reaquainting myself with Johnny Cash. Fast forward a couple more years and me and my hubby were attending a bluegrass festival in Bean Blossom, Indiana and visiting Nashville, Tennessee.

It's been a fun time since then, and Tyson was an essential stepping stone for both of us. Last September he played Hugh's Room - a great Toronto venue for those who lean toward roots music.

I took a ton of pictures, but the conditions in these situations aren't kind. The light's bad and the performer is always in motion. So the vast majority of shots are a blurry disaster that go straight into the trash. I never use a flash in these situations because I think it's distracting and disrespectful to both the performer and the audience. If any of the photos turn out, therefore, I'm pleased as punch.

My gallery this week is from that shoot. It took place on September 22 - three days before Tyson turned 76.


Desktop wallpaper of the image above is available here:


Feb 7, 2010

iPhone Wallpapers

The TripodGirl collection of wallpapers for the iPhone/iPod touch is beginning to grow. See them here:



Jan 24, 2010

Mother Nature Can Be Unpredictable

Everybody knows beaches look this.

Except when they look like this.

See my photo gallery of Hawaii's Punaluu black sand beach HERE.

In Hawaii, beaches are brown, black, red, and green. Sometimes, things aren't as straightforward as we think.


I'm working on a book about the global warming debate. I blog about that HERE, if you care to take a peek. Right now, it's where I spend a lot of my time :-)


Jan 13, 2010

The Big Picture

I spend a lot of time doing photography. Often, my camera invites others to take a close, intimate look at everyday objects - to notice texture, delicacy, and intricacy.

When I'm involved in a writing project though, when I'm analyzing a subject as massive and complex as the climate change debate, I frequently employ the opposite strategy. I step back. I try to understand context and history. I strive to see the big picture.

It's easy to lose perspective when one is in the thick of things. Imagining how the situation will appear to a disinterested observer ten - or 100 - years hence is immensely helpful.

Certain ideas resurface again and again throughout human history. One of these is the notion that the world as we know it is on the brink of collapse. That the gods, Mother Nature, or our own technology, will wreak havoc - will, in essence, punish us for our transgressions.

Yesterday I read a number of news reports written prior to January 1, 2000 - the day the Y2K computer glitch was supposed to bring the world to its knees. I've long assumed that the reason we didn't encounter massive problems was because lots of time and money was devoted to preventing such an occurrence. But in recent months more than one source has argued persuasively that countries that paid almost no attention to the matter escaped similarly unscathed. [See, for example, the opening pages of Flat Earth News]

Those pre-2000 news reports are fascinating. A cover story published by Newsweek in June 1997 is titled "The Day the World Shuts Down." Readers are told that, by one estimate, half of all US businesses won't have their computer code fixed in time. Three paragraphs later, they're advised:
"It's staggering to start doing mind games on what percentage of companies will go out of business," says Gartner's Hotle. "What is the impact to the economy of 1 percent going out of business?" Or maybe more: Y2K expert Capers Jones predicts that more than 5 percent of all businesses will go bust. This would throw hundreds of thousands of people into the unemployment lines...
A bit later, the article quotes a tech expert saying there are two kinds of people: "Those who aren't working on [fixing the Y2K bug] and aren't worried, and those who are working on it and are terrified."

Another Newsweek story published in late 1998, tells of a San Diego doctor who quit his practice, moved his family to a farm, and began lecturing about Y2K preparedness because he was convinced he could "save more lives getting people to make contingency plans."

Yet another news account tells readers that the "chief economist for Deutsche Bank Securities in New York, puts the odds of a [Y2K-triggered] global recession at 70 percent."

None of the really bad things happened, of course. Not even close. The power grid in big cities did not fail. Nor did large numbers of businesses. Nor did the economy. No matter how convinced the well-educated consultants, economists, technology experts, and doctors were of their position - no matter how persuasive they sounded when quoted by the media - their fears were overblown by a wide, wide margin.

It's important to recognize that not everyone got caught up in Y2K end-of-the-world thinking. In May 1999 Newsweek published an admirable essay by technology expert Danny Hillis who declared: "I have come to believe that the Y2K apocalypse is a myth." He felt "like a traitor," he said, "for breaking ranks with my fellow computer experts and admitting what I really think." In his view, Y2K would cause little more than inconvenience.

Ten years later it's clear that Hillis' sober-minded, quiet assessment was the correct one, that he was the voice of reason in a roomful of alarmists. He ended his essay with an observation that's highly applicable today, when we're being encouraged to believe in an impending global-warming-induced catastrophe:
There are no real experts, only people who understand their own little pieces of the puzzle.

Jan 3, 2010

Blue Turaco - iPhone Wallpaper

This clear-eyed beauty makes an impression when one powers up one's iPhone/iPod Touch.

(Click the image for a larger view. Copy that version to your computer, then sync the photo folder in which you've saved it to your Apple device. See here for more info and here.)

PC wallpapers versions of this image are available here.


Jan 1, 2010

Happy Twenty-Ten!

I call this photo Yakkety-Yak. Computer wallpaper versions are available here. Yesterday I re-cropped it so that it can now be used as wallpaper on the iPhone or iPod Touch.

(Click the image for a larger view. Copy that version to your computer, then sync the photo folder in which you've saved it to your Apple device. See here for more info and here.)

The above image format is challenging for a few reasons. Because personal computer wallpaper is traditionally horizontal in orientation, not all images shot from that perspective do well when cropped vertically. Moreover, when one powers-up one's iPhone, much of the screen at the top and bottom are obscured by the time/date info and the "unlock" slider.

There are currently more than 1,000 photos available on TripodGirl.com. It's not yet clear how many of them will translate successfully to this new format.

Starting this month, though, I'll try to offer an iPhone-friendly version of all newly-released TripodGirl images.

New Year's is a time for taking stock of where we've been and where we're going. It seems to me, with the recent proliferation of iPhones and netbooks, the formats in which I make my images available (first chosen in August of 2007) are due for a rethink.

All the best to you, dear reader, in 2010.