Now collected into a single volume, are four cycles of poems relating to Algonquin Park, including a sequence, unique to this edition, inspired by Tom Thomson. The book is hand-assembled and available in very limited numbers. Price is $10.00 (ten). Also available as Kobo eBook.
With the help of my Squirrel break-time companion and inspiration from Shadow, the coyote, I’ve just published three sequences of poems relating to Algonquin Park. They are in both print (chapbook) and eBook formats.
The chapbooks are quite limited. $5.00 each. Forest-sustainable paper and vintage Irish thread. Be the first.
I have three Grey Squirrels that have suddenly started showing up when I park the tractor for a coffee break. They appear to be older individuals. Besides a peanut or two, they seem to enjoy conversation.
I have just published a sequence of poems set in Algonquin Park, coincidental with the Park’s 125th anniversary.
The poems are based on my almost sixty years of exploring the Park.
This September, 2018, we drove up to spend a few days on Rock Lake on Algonquin’s southeast side. However, our plans were derailed by intense storms that had just wracked the area. Power outages and other hazardous conditions had closed many of the Park’s facilities.
We detoured to Canisbay Campground, the only one still open in the Park. As it happened, I had last been in Canisbay more than fifty years ago, camping with parents and sisters. This recent stay provided time for reflection, and became the inspiration for this set of poems.
The tract has been hand-assembled into ‘chapbook’ form (forest-sustainable paper and stitched with vintage Irish thread), and also eBook. It is the first installment in what will be a series relating to Algonquin Park. A second, longer volume, “Into The Interior,” is underway.
I dropped a couple of copies off at the Algonquin Art Center. There is no set cost, although a donation to the Center would be appreciated (if you can find a copy). Otherwise drop a line to firstname.lastname@example.org
Also available as an eBook, free, yes free, for the duration of Algonquin Park’s 125th anniversary.
November 1. Part 2 of my Algonquin Park series, “Into The Interior,” is now available as an eBook. A printed chapbook edition will be out shortly.
This second poem sequence focuses on a solo 1980’s canoe trip into the Crow River area of Algonquin Park.
When the pizza-delivery man didn’t want to leave, I knew it was time to get this book underway. He made the delivery, then hesitated, apparently surprised and entranced. He gazed around at wild meadows, tall trees, rural hills that surround the farmhouse where my family and I have resided as tenants for the past thirty years. Perhaps, too, he was hearing the burbling of Cold Creek, close-by. After all, it was a hot summer day. In any case, he took his time leaving, slowly driving away down our lane, back into the City from whence he’d just emerged, like a time-traveler popping-in through some Sci-Fi worm-hole.
In retrospect, such reactions are not uncommon. Over the years, tradesmen, curious visitors, even a fireman… all mopped city-weary faces and were ready to steal a little ‘country time’ here.
Many people dream of a place like this. The idea of a small house set within a thousand-acres of fields, forest, wetlands and working farmland, perched improbably on the City’s edge. Of course, those dreamers may not know the half. The risks as well as the rewards of making such a dream come true. Dreamers are beautiful people, but…
They may not know, although sense something of, the countless other life-forms that share this place with its human residents. And of the bonds that grow among species, across what might seem to be unbridgeable gulfs of strangeness, multiplying the possibilities of love, and also loss. How those bonds, strong as they can be, are broken when the City carelessly pushes closer to the edge.
They may not know that by merely stepping out from their vehicle to touch a wildflower here, they risk acquiring a hitchhiking, disease-carrying blacklegged tick. Or being pricked by a West-Nile infected mosquito.
With the pace of change quickening day by day – a major arterial road is being widened along the Reserve’s south border, and city-sized subdivisions are currently rising on the north side, within Ontario’s supposedly protected “Green Belt” – it’s time now to take up the pen and share this place, which has become an informal “Nature Reserve On The City’s Edge.” To communicate something of the reality of this nature/urban dream, at once richer than can be imagined, but also risky and uncommonly perilous. To do so before it fades further in the face of the City’s relentless expansion… before this living dream, and its secrets, are lost forever.
July, 2018. My new book, “NATURE RESERVE ON THE CITY’S EDGE,” is now available in hard-copy format. This book is Book 2 in my NATURAL YEARS SERIES, of which “THE ROUGE RIVER VALLEY, AN URBAN WILDERNESS” is Book 1.
Note, both books are also available as Kobo eBooks.
Specs: 8.5×11 pb format. 161 pages. Approx 24 BW and 12 colour photos. Index.
To order a signed, personalized copy(s) of “NATURE RESERVE ON THE CITY’S EDGE, ” (book is $20.00+$5.00 shipping and handling), send expression of interest to, email@example.com
September, 2018. Encouraged that ‘On Nature’ has expressed interest in the book, and in perhaps sharing it with their thousands of members.
September 15, 2018. I am looking at issuing a special, limited edition of “Nature Reserve On The City’s Edge.” It will be Smyth-sewn, hardcover. All photos will be in colour. In addition, I will tip-in a unique, original 8×10 b&w hand-tinted large-format photo taken on site. This collector’s edition will be limited to twenty copies. Cost will be $60.00/ copy. In order to proceed, I will need pre-orders of ten copies. Of course, with this tiny number they could be gone quickly. Drop me an email to reserve yours.
November 17, 2016.
Hello, thanks for visiting. Since you’ve asked, a little background:
I’ve been active in photography for about fifty years. Most of that time, of course, involved old-fashioned film photography. I had the full range of equipment, from junk snap+shoot ‘brownies’, to range-finders, and finally SLR cameras in both 35mm and medium formats. I did all my own black & white darkroom work, often with makeshift arrangements (ie. closet). I also took countless 35mm colour slides, principally of outdoor nature in areas of the Scarborough Bluffs, Lake Ontario, Haliburton and many more remote locals in Ontario.
I sold and used some of these photos in various publications (including my 2000 book about the Rouge Valley). As important (for me), I’ve used them to illustrate numerous presentations I’ve made to various groups over the years. I presently have several projects on the go that will make further use of these photos, including a book about the Scarborough Bluffs and Lake Ontario.
I watched bemused as the whole film photography scene seemed to disappear with the quick emergence of digital imagery. I adapted and now dapple in digital photography, mostly with cell phone cameras. But I have found that computers play too large a role in digital imagery. I’ve also found – as have many other people – that more and easier imagery does not equal better or more valuable imagery.
I do recognize and value the undeniable strengths of digital photography, particularly for scientific purposes.
A main desirable quality from my viewpoint, is the widely-touted role that digital processes have played in reducing environmental impacts of old-fashioned photography, largely by eliminating film-processing chemicals and water-wastage. Yet even here I question the actual net gain: Over a complete life-cycle analysis, is digital still environmentally more desirable, especially when you consider the warehouses and dumps already full of obsolete digital equipment?
Furthermore, art is an human endeavour. And the proliferation of automated tools and techniques on the digital side, does not seem, at least to me, to equate with what might be hoped for in terms of a new, widespread artistic renaissance.
I’ve been encouraged recently by film-photography’s tenacity. Similar to other aspects of the so-called old-fashioned analog era (say, vacuum tubes in top-end music gear), film imagery is growing into a more than niche activity. The neat thing too, is that tons of what was originally prohibitively expensive gear is presently available to the careful haunter of second-hand shops.
Careful use of modern chemistry, washing aids, resin-coated paper; and, especially, film photography’s greatly downsized reality, all help to minimize its environmental footprint today. Furthermore, small quantities of spent photo-chemicals can be retained on-site until they oxidize and are thus rendered inert.
Anyone getting back(?) into film should have a specific focus in mind, otherwise obstacles along the way will defeat you. For myself, that means embracing the strengths and what were once thought of as weaknesses, of film photography.
By taking advantage of the used marketplace, I’ve managed to get into Large Format 4×5 b&w photography, once an out-of-reach fantasy. I found a 1947 Crown Graphic camera, and a Beseler 45 mxcr enlarger. The Graphic is a great field camera. It’s possible to forego darkroom printing entirely by purchasing a high-tech scanner/printer and digitizing the negatives – a kind of new/old hybrid approach.
In Large Format, a single exposure (resulting in a b&w negative) can take an hour or more of work in the field, and I usually only carry four 4×5 films. Several more hours of close attention in the darkroom, developing and printing, is followed by additional time spent hand-colouring each print (if such is desired)
I have not attempted Large Format colour films, as there are no sources of material or processing in my area. I’ve always preferred the control b&w allows. I should say, however, that a new start-up, New55film, is producing Large Format films; including, apparently, colour Polaroid. Looks interesting. Time will tell.
The time spent obtaining each large-format photo cultivates an attentive mode of procedure that is quite different from the ‘take as many as possible’ and ‘photo-shop later’ modus operandi of too much digital imagery. You want to get it right the first time.
The pay-off, too, resides in the technical capabilities of Large Format films themselves. Depending on the type of emulsion, a single old-fashioned 4×5 negative can contain far more information – more impressions of that elusive First Light – than the most powerful digital sensor commonly available. Resolution, and the nuances of tone and shading, are all potentially far beyond digital capabilities.
Large Format cameras themselves beat out their digital brethren in everything but speed and convenience. Lens and bed ‘movements’ provide subtle perspective adjustments that allow a photographer to capture a scene on-the-spot, as first visualized. In addition, the peculiar properties of relatively long-focus lenses (the norm in large format) create unique depth-of-field effects and realistic out-of-focus tonal shadings.
Although as indicated I’m working only in black and white with large format, this has opened the way to experimentation with traditional hand-colouring techniques. In fact, I was amazed to find vintage tip sheets from what might have been thought of as ‘staid old Kodak,’ suggesting all manner of substances for tinting photos. Wine, tea, coffee… anything may or may not work according to the old Kodak guidelines. Special photo-oils were once available for photo-retouching, but appear to have vanished. I was lucky to chance upon a vintage set of Prismacolour pencils in a junk store. Here are examples of photos I’ve done in November, 2016, and tinted with these pencils. These illustrations are simple cellphone shots of the original 8×10 prints:
Waterfall Algonquin Park:
Colouring process just starting on this print:
Colouring completed: Lane Beside the House,
Meadows and woodlots behind our house.
Trembling Aspen behind the house as evening comes:
Golden Delicious Apple Tree beside the lane:
Fence-row near the house, early November:
Residing for the past thirty years in the Humber River Valley, within sight of the McMichael Gallery – that quintessential Thomson shrine – and canoeing a sizeable portion of Algonquin Park, has been more than slightly conducive to a close study of the works of Tom Thomson.
And, besides having an active personal interest in the artistic creative process, I have been inspired by my late sister Pat Garratt, who was an art historian (University of Guelph). We often talked about Thomson, and art in general. Pat noted that the life of a work of art could effectively come to an untimely end, once hung on a gallery wall. Her point was that art is at least a three-way mystery, dependent upon a viewer bringing new life, new wonder, and new love to the table.
The art of Tom Thomson is refreshed by each viewer who is surprised, often repeatedly, by the strength of communication that can occur in proportion to the depth and authenticity with which artist and viewer has/had contact with the third party – the ‘outer world’ – in this case Algonquin Park.
The loss or other unforeseeable diminution (aesthetic devaluation through undue veneration of urban environments and issues in some looming dystopia?) of Algonquin Park, would thus lead to an impoverishment of Thomson’s art. It would become more of a lonely academic exercise – humans speaking to humans.
Tom Thomson’s muse is certainly found in the Park. And he was undoubtedly predisposed psychologically to ‘be creative.’ His questing, restless ‘aloneness,’ and the temper of the times would have impelled him toward some kind of expression.
Yet many other people, aspiring artists included, have found themselves in similar straits, and have come up empty-handed.
What Tom Thomson had in spades – besides a little talent and luck – was willpower. The ‘will,’ with respect to human artistic creative process, is essentially mysterious, hidden within an individual’s invisible labyrinth. It enabled Tom to channel his energies in new, creative ways with successful, positive results within his allotted time.
I’ve already detailed some of Tom’s everyday gear and procedures. Within that context, it’s appropriate to look more closely at his painterly methods.
It’s immediately noticeable that Thomson liked the ‘shoulder seasons’ best. Earliest spring and late autumn reflected his palette and temperament. These times present obvious challenges to the outdoor artist.
In a recent spring (early May, 2016) we camped and canoed for a few days in Algonquin Park. Although the weather was pleasant and almost bug-free (it’s an art in itself to beat the black-fly hatch-out, usually second week in May), the chill air and water made us wonder how Thomson was able to paint in similar conditions. Exposed fingers quickly were numbed; small-motor muscle control and dexterity were impaired by the chill. To have picked up a brush, let alone focus on painting, would have distracted from the simpler concern of trying to keep hands warm.
Similarly on late fall Algonquin canoe trips, a pair of high-tech neoprene gloves seems appropriate to ward off the chill.
Yet quite a number of Tom Thomson’s sketches depict snow and ice in the bush or waterways.
It’s wonderful how he could create these sketches amid the oft-choatic conditions of a rough wilderness camp, not to mention hand-numbing environmental conditions.
I would assert, too, that these ‘sketches’ were not quickly dashed-off in moments of bright inspiration. Rather, they are the products of prolonged and intense observation. Tips of icebergs, so-to-speak. Results of hours and days of collar-up, hand-numbing, dogged, apparently passive observation and experience, mysterious and unfathomable to the ‘normal’ uninitiate.