Pandemic Overrules Photography

How can one even think about art at a time like this?

But I do.

Covid-19. Let me just say that I believe that all of the data leads inexorably to the conclusion that this pandemic, caused proximally by a virus called SARS-CoV-2, causing an illness called Covid-19, is extremely serious, and that most jurisdictions planet-wide are under-reacting to it enormously and tragically. The only thing for the human race to do is everything we can think of, including thinking of more things. Even if the humanity of the situation doesn't impinge upon someone, then I will add that if anyone believes that dealing with this more vigorously is too expensive, then we ain't seen nothin' yet, with increasing economic devastation pending if we don't scrupulously control the pandemic to the fullest extent possible, as quickly as possible.

For official information, I keep an eye on these websites:

Photography. Having self-isolated, being in the recommended "stay at home" group, one's days must pass by somehow. A little extra sleep has felt welcome. I have a long backlog of reading and to-do items which so far I am barely getting to, which I think is good.

Let alone the valid question of how I could even be thinking about anything other than the big issue of our time, my photography of course has suffered. I was working on an upcoming exhibition which I seriously doubt will now proceed as planned. I no longer travel far from home, and in fact some people believe that the less the better. In Ireland at the moment, by way of example, they say to take all exercise within 2 km of one's home, and not to do it with people outside of one's household.

So, no travel. That limits my photography (or will it help exercise my imagination?). Occasionally, I was going downtown to Blockhouse Island, staying the requisite 2 m away from people, but have decided against continuing that.

  • Most but not all people respect the 2 m.

  • I see occasional closer contact happening, usually but not always inadvertently (unit-couples excepted).

  • My personal interpretation of the 2 m guideline is that it's for people who of necessity must leave home; much better to stay home.

I don't think it's overly dramatic to say that people die from what feels like minor transgressions, and we do not wish to be a part of that.

So, these are from the recent past, when I was younger and more foolish:

Brockville City Hall, fisheye lens - March 2

I have some kind of personal block with the Brockville City Hall (Victoria) building, whereas many other photographers apparently do not, so the thing to do with that is to continue to work at it, and I did this a few weeks ago, just pre-sunrise, with my fisheye (ultra-wide-angle) lens.

I remember buying that lens, playing telephone tag with a person at Henry's, who left me messages saying that it was special-order and so not returnable, and we eventually had to agree for me to purchase it through a series of voice-mails.

Many have said to me, "Yes, it's a really fun toy," but I feel more fondly serious about many of the images I have made with this lens in the past, including some which have previously surfaced here in this blog.

There is better and better software to straighten out the so-called fisheye effect, an inevitable lens-design limitation at this degree of demagnification, but I have grown accustomed to the look and, with few exceptions, prefer to leave the images as they are.

On another calm morning, still some ice in the inner harbour at Tunnel Bay, I saw something new, in a place I had stood many times before, and indeed from which I had photographed many times before. The new thing is called light.

Tall Ships Landing and Boardwalk Landing, pre-sunrise - March 18

An editing point I have made before (and will make many times again): the scene did not look this way to the eye. But neither did the out-of-camera unaltered photograph look as it appeared to the eye, so I was ineluctably going to do something.

(And when something is ineluctable then there is simply no escaping it!)

Downtown Brockville from Blockhouse Island - March 19

The lesson which I teach, but had to learn again myself for the photograph above, is that I had been at that location many times before, but

  1. had never seen quite that scene, although it had always been there, so that's got something to do with only looking as opposed to more actively seeing, and

  2. had never been there with quite that light.

Outdoor light so often changes. Another of my frequent admonitions is to wait a second, or a minute, or an hour, or a day, or ... come back in different season.

Such photography, apparently static, is often quite dynamic to the photographer. Hesitate for even a moment and I might miss the light.

I also suggest to people to avoid photography in direct sunlight ... except when it works, and there are numerous exceptions (which might or might not form the topic of future blog), such as the following.

Tall Ships Landing, Brockville, full afternoon sun - March 20

A friend wandered by (but not close), and asked me if I owned a polarizing filter, which was a useful memory-jog for me, and added to this photograph's impact. Thanks, Frank.

I have also discussed with friends about the clouds: were they "just there" or did I consciously recognize them and incorporate that into my composition, or did I in fact wait for them to form a shape which complemented the subject?

Well ... which? Ask me in person sometime.

(And what about the lean?)

A photographer-friend of mine and I went for a photo-walk together, about a week before self-isolating became such a clear necessity, and "did" the Prescott Harbour, and the old pilings a bit further to the east.

The Sandra S. Lawn Harbour, Prescott, Ontario - March 11

It was cold that day, and despite being hardy Canadians, accustomed to the climate and ostensibly dressed for the weather, Bert and I needed, as much as enjoyed, a warm restaurant coffee and lunch afterward. Bobby's Restaurant was just the ticket.

Old, disused pilings at Prescott, Ontario

You may remember a photograph of the following tree, shown in a recent ctLow Photography blog, in a blazing pre-sunset orange. Here is the same scene in a deep post-sunset blue.

Winter tree bare branches post-sunset - March 17

The following photograph was meant to be similar, but ... the light does what the light will do, and it wasn't working. I almost abandoned it, and then played with it later in editing, and came up with the following.

A tree post-sunset in a neighbour's yard (thanks, neighbour!), significantly manipulated - March 28

I do care whether you like it or not, but I do not care what you think that a photograph in general should look like. It can look any way the photographer wants it to look (and then you can and should think anything about it that you want to think). I think that I won't describe the editing details just now, but feel free to ask.

Finally, I went down at dusk to a lay-by on the Thousand Islands Parkway, between Brown's Bay and Mallorytown Landing, and found people ... congregating. Oh dear. I hope that no one dies as a result, but people: really? So I drove on just a hop up the road to another lay-by, where I was completely alone.

The skies had hinted at clearing, but they did not, and remained heavily overcast. The day-long drizzle had earlier stopped, but had emphatically restarted again by the time I got there. These were conditions neither pleasant to be out in, nor promising a favourable photographic light.

The only thing to do was to say that I had tried, but to turn around and go home.

So I stayed. I would say that the few following are unusual for me, more subdued, although none seemed improved if I tried removing colour. The location that evening made me think and work a bit harder than I would have liked. But I wouldn't display them here if I didn't deem them worthy.

Nearby island, bare winter branches, at dusk, in the rain (Crossover Island in the misty distance) - March 30

A corner of Chimney Island, and a presumed hunting blind(?) on a rock behind it, at dusk (in the rain)

Another rock in the Thousand Islands, another small structure, lots of cormorants, dusk ... rain

The final image required some self-control for me not to crop it in more tightly. My lighting-coach reminded me, in reference to this photograph, of the term "negative space".

Bare winter tree branches, sky (dusk, rain ... same island as a few photos above)

The light in the preceding four photographs differs amongst them for at least two reasons:

  • they weren't all made facing in the same direction;

  • it was getting darker. (Dusk!)

Again, as last time, may I dispense with the talk about trade. I can still think about photography but in the current context it feels too banal, almost tawdry, to try to solicit business.

(And you can find all about it on my website anyway.

Thanks to my friend Bert for allowing use of the following photograph of some random, scruffy photographer, caught on camera, in the wild.

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