I didn’t expect to leave Peace River after eight months.
There were several competing circumstances, which eventually led to my decision to change jobs. I have now been in my new home, Whitecourt, Alta. about 300 km southeast of Peace River, or 175 km northwest of Edmonton working at the Whitecourt Star, the weekly newspaper in town, for just over a month.
More to come on Whitecourt, though in another post – for now a wrap up of Peace River.
Below is the text of my final column in the Record-Gazette, it sums up my feelings on leaving the town pretty well. Below that, are a bunch of photos from the summer in Peace River, June – until my departure in early September.
From the Peace River Record-Gazette Sept. 10, 2014
Well Peace River this is it for us.
This will be my final column in the Peace River Record-Gazette and this is the final issue I will be working on.
Starting this Wednesday I will be taking up a position at the Whitecourt Star.
Peace River will forever hold a special place in my heart. Not just because this was my first full-time job in journalism but because Peace River is a truly special place.
This is a town where a trip to the grocery store can involve seeing the northern lights, deer, or a moose or two.
It’s a place of immense natural beauty coupled with great opportunity. Not every small-town is like that.
One of the indicators I noticed are the number of young professionals in town who are from town. The number of kids who move away for post-secondary then return to pursue a career here must be disproportionate, compared to other similar sized towns.
What it says, is that even after ‘getting out,’ seeing the world, and living in the city, lots of the youth still want to come back.
That really says a lot about this place.
What is stunning is the self-awareness of the people here as well. Many of the people I talk to understand not only what a gift a place like this is but also the responsibility it entails.
You see that in the community groups that spring up and the ability of the community to fundraise for certain projects.
Urban centres would pay untold amounts of money to have this kind of community spirit and Peace River has it in spades.
It’s going to take a while to digest all the things that Peace River has taught me.
However, to everyone in this community I want to say thank you, thank you for reading, thank you for caring and thank you for being you.
For all of us here at the Record-Gazette, you stay classy Peace River.
– Adam Dietrich
Well that’s it.
Next post will be about Whitecourt I guess.
May started off hot and dry. It was the firs month where the weather started to feel like spring, every week.
I started driving with the window down.
So one day when I spotted a huge plume of smoke coming from the other end of town I assumed a field was on fire.
As I pulled up to the scene, I realized I was right, sort of.
There was a field on fire but it was a controlled burn. The hot dry conditions had prompted local fire firefighters, with some help from Provincial wildfire fighters, to start burning large swaths of land around town.
The problem was the wild grass grows right up to a subdivision, so if a wildfire had started, it could very quickly spread to the homes and engulf them. By burning it in a controlled manner, they reduced the risk dramatically.
That same day while driving, I spotted Danny. Danny is – an interesting character. He is a philosopher of sorts, a musician, and somewhat homeless. I know he lives in a trailer on the edge of someone’s land and that he hangs out downtown collecting bottles and I see him working through my buildings trash once a week.
We’ve chatted before, on occasion he gives our staff gifts. Most recently he gave me a fuse from an electrical pole along the Alaska Highway, or so he said. He also gave our 19-year-old female receptionist a roll of saran wrap and told her it was for her to wear at Peacefest, a concert that happens here in July.
Regardless – as I drove past him on the bridge, guitar slung over his shoulder, big black duster jacket, I knew it would make a pretty sweet picture. So I pulled over, took the photo then went up and chatted with him. I realized I didn’t actually know his last name.
Spring obviously means football… right?
Well it does for the Grande Prairie area Pee Wee league.
I have to admit, I was REALLY excited to photograph football. I haven’t had the opportunity to do it yet and it’s one of those sports that produces really intense peak action photos. This was Pee Wee, but the kids were pretty motivated and I considered it a training and education in preparation for the fall when the Bantam and/or Midget/high school teams start.
This photo is not peak action but it is from the first game I shot.
May was a season of wrap-ups for winter extracurricular activities. Recitals, final performances, playoffs etc. I found it a little stressful only because EVERYONE pulls at you because it’s do or die for all the groups. I did my best to manage it and cover all the groups as they came up.
When I was in Grade 11 we took a field trip to Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto, Ont. During that day we toured the ICU, the physical rehabilitation centre, spoke with police, paramedics and firefighters. The goal was to scare kids into not drinking and driving.
What I didn’t know was that the P.A.R.T.Y (Preventing Alcohol and Risk-related Trauma in Youth) program, had gone nation-wide.
So 10 years after taking part in the program myself, I found myself in a field in St. Isidore photographing a mock car accident.
The looks on the students faces reminded me of the looks on our faces during our trip. Some were, literally traumatized by the experience, others were sick. Myself, I remember feeling sad for days. BUT statistics show that since the program has come into practice, alcohol related deaths in youth have dropped. So what does that mean?
Is a day of coordinated and controlled trauma excusable if it helps to prevent a much worse one later?
I kinda lean towards agreeing that in the case of booze and driving, yeah, it’s not a bad idea to show kids EXACTLY what the consequences are. Better they see an upsetting play, a theatrical performance, than live it themselves later.
And as an example of the diversity of my job, two days later I was in a church photographing the Peace River community choir’s final performance of the season.
This next photo was all kinds of fun for me.
I was sitting in my office when a call came in from ATCO Electric, the utility company up here. To be honest I thought I was about get some kind of bad news about my account or something. Turns out they had constructed an Osprey nest and they wanted me to come take a picture of it.
They had built a pole near some power lines with the idea of enticing the Osprey to build a nest there instead of on top of the power poles. Last year an Osprey had done that and it started a fire and caused a power outage in the area.
Turns out the company’s plan had worked and the Osprey had built a nest on the platform. So they invited me, and the reporter from the newspaper in Grimshaw, to come out and take pics. Best part was they put us in a bucket truck and raised it up.
Unfortunately all the activity spooked the birds and they left the nest, so it became about trying to take a picture as the bird flew past the nest.
And once again back to football. I was learning by now that the Pee Wees didn’t hit that hard, they’re just too young and light.
I’m not a big football fan, so this gave me a chance to learn the rules, how the game worked and frankly gain an appreciation for the sport I didn’t have before.
The final two pics were really fun to be a part of.
In 2013 I photographed Ottawa Fashion Week. It was fine, I’m not really into fashion. I just wanted to do it to check it off my list and I had a free pass because I was volunteering my time.
While there though there was a collection by the wife of a certain diplomat from a certain country that has a certain bloody colonial history regarding Canada’s First Nations. However, she had a whole collection that was ‘Native inspired.’
I felt sick.
I actually turned my cameras off during that show. The mutterings backstage were all the same, people seemed to think it was in poor taste but no one would say it to the designer herself.
So when the Peace River Metis and Aboriginal interagency committee put on a fashion show it was an opportunity to photograph native inspired fashion, made by First Nations and Metis designers and worn and modeled by First Nations and Metis people.
The difference between the two shows couldn’t be more blatant.
I will say this though – my experience at Ottawa Fashion Week taught me HOW to shoot an event like a fashion show. So I remain glad I went just over a year ago as a student.
That’ a look at May through the pages of the Record-Gazette. Below is a look at the random crap that happened through some Instagrams.
I’m not Catholic but covering the mass that preceded the graduation of the Catholic high school kids was pretty cool. I appreciated being allowed to take pics unfettered too.
There was a big conference in early May called the Peace Oil Sands conference, which was about oil. It featured a tradeshow that was mostly boring (to me as a non-oil business type) with the exception of a massive crane that was giving rides.
Naturally as a member of the press it was my responsibility to take a ride to document it for the future…
During the conference I had a chance to meet political pundit, and I guess you could technically call us co-workers, Ezra Levant. For those who don’t know Ezra he works for Sun News and hosts a TV show that has been somewhat – contentious. Regardless sitting with him and picking his brain on a variety of subjects in private was VERY interesting. This is a pic of our office’s manager talking to him in a back room of the conference centre.
He was there as the keynote speaker.
During May I had a visit from a buddy of mine. James Wood(s) and I went to Loyalist together. We were in different sections but the same year. He got a job at the Lloydminster Meridian-Booster, also owned by QMI, in Lloydminster.
He came up to Peace River and we wandered around, it was fun.
During the fire I drove up to the 12-Foot Davis gravesite, which overlooks the town. I wanted to see what the plume of smoke looked like from a distance.
Another day same lookout this time though epic car porn photo.
This next picture was from the P.A.R.T.Y program – after the mock car crash I spotted some very able-bodied firefighters playing around with some wheelchairs. The wheelchairs were there as an obstacle course for the kids to do. The idea being – do you see how hard this is? Don’t drink, don’t drive and you won’t suffer a spinal injury in a car crash.
The kids were on lunch and the firefighters were racing the chairs… Big kids.
While out exploring the roads I found this hill, popular with dirt bikers, I saw a guy sitting there, taking in the view before descending – so I snapped some pics.
Later that week we said goodbye to one of the town’s other reporters. They exist they just work at the radio station. Megan was moving onto a job as a videojournalist at City TV Edmonton. So obviously that meant a pub night to celebrate.
Midway through the mayor popped by. He was there with some councilors for wings so he came over to say bye.
As the weather got nicer and my car functioned more frequently, I started taking regular trips up to various lookouts around town. In a few cases I went there with my laptop to write stories or editing pictures.
It was a nice office view.
Here’s a better picture of the view.
As May closed, Peace River’s very short spring was over. Summer, although still three weeks away, felt like it was here.
And the days started getting much, much longer.
April – dawned full of promise.
BUT a week into the month my car was not working again, this time it was corroded brake lines and an electrical issue that kept the running lights and cabin fans on – even with them turned off, fuses pulled and the car off.
So I focused on my work – it became a mantra during some difficult times ahead. I would close my eyes and remember the reasons that I had come to Alberta in the first place.
The month kicked off with a high school aged provincial performing arts festival.
Spring was now springing but that meant nothing for the midget hockey series. They were still pushing their way through their playoffs.
However, the Junior B hockey team, the North Peace Navigators, had finished their season and were now touring the town with their trophy. They stopped by a gymnastics centre to donate some money and the kids got to get up close and personal with the cup and some players.
Then I had one of the craziest weeks thus far.
It started with a series of unexpected text messages – it became clear my girlfriend in Lloydminister was using the medium to break up with me. I felt hurt and pretty deeply disrespected over the whole situation.
But again my mantra played through my head.
I decided to focus on my work and building friendships in Peace River. That week a friend and I were driving through town on a particularly warm day to go to the movie theatre. I turned a corner and the road was blocked and flooded…
So I dropped off Tyler, went home grabbed my cameras and went to work.
This was my first experience with the QMI wire. This photo of a Ford Probe was used with papers owned by Sun Media around Canada, accompanied by a brief. Parts of downtown Peace River had been put under voluntary evacuation that night – so it was news.
Interesting note about the Probe… My first car, a ’96 Mazda 626, was built on the same frame and chassis as the Probe – they were built at the same plant in Flatrock Michigan. The Probe is a two-door coupe though and I was looking to buy a Probe or an Integra in December ’13 when I started looking for a car to replace my 626. I found an Integra.
The next morning was my day off but I was up for an emergency council meeting. Then I left to go and find someone who had left their home the night prior due to the floods. I found this fellow whose ground floor and basement had been demolished by the waters.
Later that day I was driving home and as I pulled up to my street I spotted two moose grazing across the road.
I pulled over and grabbed my cameras and took some pictures.
I went home and remember thinking that despite how rough the month had started – this was a pretty beautiful place and the beauty just kind of slaps you in the face when you don’t expect it but need it the most sometimes – there were good things happening.
The photos were for me but I’m also the town reporter – so I figured I should file them. I found out later they were used by the Toronto Sun to illustrate a recap of the “10 most Canadian News Stories Ever.” That happened a few moths later but when it did I smiled.
All in all April was actually a slow month for me, photographically. There was a lull in events and I was trying to step up my game as a writer. After March I had grown cocky and complacent – not good. Going into April I gave my head a shake and focused on writing and finding better stories, improving my photography was put on the side.
While I struggle with this decision I have thought about it like this: I actually never wanted to be a photojournalist, I wanted to be a journalist. Photography seemed like a means to an end. In the process I got wrapped up in the competition and I forgot about the journalism part, until I moved out here.
Putting the emphasis on being a journalist I know I can take good pictures. But I know those pictures will have more legs if I can write about the subject, interview sources, experts and write bout it later.
Still I couldn’t resist the opportunity for a creative portrait when I did a portrait of a denturist in town. In her office there was a dentist light used to light the inside of your mouth and I thought – perfect, I’ll use it to light her.
After April I was broke trying to cover my still breaking car. Despite that, I knew I had been able to grow quite a bit as a writer, I was much more comfortable with the crappy parts of journalism too – tracking down a source, transcribing notes and endless cold call phone calls to strangers. Those are the parts NO ONE emphasizes when they start talking about how cool it would be to be a journalist.
Going into May I figured I decided I would step up my photo game again, now that I had a better handle on this writing thing. As for the car – she was slipping further away.
In the settler era, when wagon trains left the east to settle in the west, oftentimes the weeks long journey would result in deaths of settlers en route. So they had to bury them, place a cross and move on. Once these colonies were established there was a high mortality rate in the first year.
Cat and myself made it here safely, Brea, unfortunately had started to show she had not recovered from the sickness she incurred from our crash outside Winnipeg. I started to come to terms with the fact that my party may face a 33 per cent mortality rate.
Unfortunately I had no other options but to continue to use Brea the Integra for the time being.
In the Instagram world…
With Spring on the way I took this picture of Peace River as it started to melt.
Cat had started to grow used to her new home – however, even by April it was clear she hadn’t forgiven me for the trip west.
This is the Instagram photo I took of the moose crossing the street. The orange apartment building behind it is where I live, you can se my living room window from this picture.
As a reporter in town I was invited to be a guest judge at an elementary school heritage fair event. The fair is like a science fair where kids make projects about Canadian history and heritage. It was pretty cool.
This is a photo of the full moon over the town. The view is from my living room window. I wanted to go to a lookout spot outside of town but my car wasn’t working that night, so I wasn’t able to.
I have been waiting for a night like this since.
A few weeks later when my car was working, it was Easter. There was a morning church service on one of the lookouts – it was pretty cool.
That weekend some friends came over to my apartment and we baked a turkey. This a pic before it went in.
In a search for affordable and fulfilling pastimes I got a library cards and some books.
On a rainy day when my Integra was working. Car porn.
At one point work took me to the nearby town of Grimshaw so I snapped some pics.
In Grimshaw the Mackenzie Highway starts. The highway goes to Yellowknife, one day I’d like to drive it.
More to come on May.
It’s been four months since I updated this blog – I think that is some record.
This will be the first part in a four part series catching my blog up to the point where I’m at.
My previous post, just Instagrams and my own personal story left off with my arrival in Peace River, Alberta. Where I started work as THE reporter – photographer at the Record-Gazette newspaper.
The Record-Gazette serves the town of Peace River and its surrounding communities.
It’s a beautiful town – in the middle of nowhere – a small bastion of progressive principles in northern Alberta. Which is odd because we’re in the heart of Conservative oil country.
There is an incredibly strong sense of community here. People work long hours, then volunteer to coach soccer, ref hockey, fundraise, or run some sort of non-profit. Despite the fact that the town is near the heart of a swirling oil and gas controversy, and has experienced some abhorrent environmental and social behaviour from that industry in the region decades ago, the people who live here – in Peace River – see themselves as guardians of a valuable commodity and a pristine wilderness setting.
That dichotomy – and the conflict that comes with it – has made Peace River into a very interesting place to live.
There is an enviro-friendly café that serves great coffee down the road from a major oil company’s office. There is a Yoga studio and wellness store across the road from a western menswear store (with a huge selection of cowboy boots).
This first photo came from my first week on the job solo, in late February. We have a weekly feature called ‘Seniors of the Peace.’ Essentially I sit down with a senior, any senior who wants to tell me a story about their life, and I do my best to tell it.
I liked the idea – though at first it intimidated me a lot – Betty-Lou was the first one I interviewed, her story is here.
My first couple of assignments were school-related events. This one was from a diversity day event at Good Shepherd, the local Catholic elementary school.
Crossing into March I was still VERY green. One of the ironies early on was, while I had strong sports photography skills, I had terrible sports writing skills, more of that in part three though.
This photo required me to get up early, truck out in cold weather and was never published – it’s not even a great pic. But it was a sentimental one to take for me. The war in Afghanistan began when I was in Grade 7. I remember growing up with the conflict on the constant periphery of Canadian society, culture and politics. Regardless of your views on the war it’s shaped Canada dramatically. Peace River High School was going to lower their flag to half-mast at sunrise on the day of Canada’s withdrawal. Unfortunately we’re in a valley and at sunrise the sun hadn’t come over the hills so we were in one big shadow. I remember thinking about where I was when airplanes of soldiers landed over seas – there is so much that has changed, everywhere since then.
I shot a lot of hockey this winter. That shouldn’t come as a surprise, I am in northern Alberta after all. My ONLY issue is, the lighting at the local arena sucks… the bulbs are all on different colour balance settings, so it is actually IMPOSSIBLE to get a clean looking white balance. Also there aren’t any port holes in the glass for cameras and it looks like they’ve never washed the puck marks off the glass.
THAT BEING SAID – the North Peace Navigators is another sign of Peace River’s uniqueness – the ‘Navs’ took the cup this year, first time in six years in the Northwest Junior Hockey League (NWJHL). I arrived just in time for the start of playoffs and despite the lighting/glass issues I got some fun photos.
This goal was disallowed. Lol.
In neighbouring Grimshaw they have a newer arena with consistent white balances, I photographed a minor hockey game there.
But then that minor hockey series returned to Peace River.
The senior feature has given me a chance to learn about Peace River and the area from people who have lived here for decades, their stories range from happy, sad, heartwarming, full of lessons and everything in between. It’s also a chance to do a quick on the spot environmental portrait once a week.
When I spoke about Peace River’s dichotomy earlier – the Alberta Union of Public Employees (AUPE) office is two stories up and directly across the road from the local Progressive Conservative MLA’s constituency office. Which mean AUPE’s office is LITERALLY looking down on the MLA.
In March, in minus 18 weather, AUPE and other supporting unions came out to picket new changes to public service pensions and labour negotiating rights.
And then more hockey, this time it was the Navs final game of the playoffs, the Record-Gazette published a photo gallery here.
Went looking for some creative crowd shots between periods.
This puck got caught in the netting, with a boost this little girl went home with a game puck.
And finally the ‘jubo shot,’ photojournalism slang for ‘jubilation shot,’ basically a photo of the celebration. My FAVOURITE part of shooting sports tournements is when the team wins and media/league people come on the game/ice surface, it’s the only time it’s allowed and it makes me feel bad ass. BUT you’re there to work, so I took a bunch of pics.
Finally March was capped off with a trip to the Underground Music society’s monthly show. It’s musical proof of that dichotomy I mentioned earlier. This is a country and western/classic rock town. But the Underground brings in bluesy, jazz, new rock stuff – it’s Peace River’s official underground music scene.
Coming into March I truly felt out of depth and green. By the end of it I finally felt like I wrestled the workload down and had gotten on top of it. That feeling definitely carried into April.
On the more personal side.
One of my first days here, while walking to my car, a heard of deer came rushing by. Later in the spring I found them grazing on the lawn outside my building.
This is the view from highway 2 heading into town, basically what it looked like when I drove in.
This is the mouth of the Heart river near my place. These are deer tracks over the ice in the winter.
When I first moved out here I was dating a girl who lived in Macklin, Sask. at the time. During one of my trips there we ended up in Denzil, Sask. which just felt like Corner Gas.
Right here, these are the essentials of my job, technology-wise.
Once again car problems, this time it was a frozen battery, but it was the start of a cascade of problems…
Peace River was beautiful in the winter, I thought. Locals kept saying, “wait until it gets green.” That was a fair statement, but still, it was nice here in the winter.
A little over a week after I started at work I was in a local gas station paying for gas. The guy in front of me was buying the Edmonton Sun and the Record-Gazette, which had my first cover on it. I felt pretty awesome standing in line behind him.
Finally my companion, Cat. She’s adjusted to life out here by peeing on everything, we’re working on that. But I know she has an affinity for high places so I found a way to put her bed on a perch. She likes being able to look down on me.
Next will be about the month of April, posted on Monday July 14.
This blog post will deviate in several ways from my typical ones, it will be a bit more personal and candid than I typically am. That being said, everything about me, and my online presence including this blog, which I have maintained in some capacity since 2009, may also change dramatically at some point in the near future.
If you are only here to look at picture of my road trip, by all means please scroll down, there will be info in the captions, which should provide context.
Part One: From lost 18-year old to staff reporter
In reality this story began on the edge Lake Osoyoos in the southern Okanagan Valley in British Colombia in late June 2007. I was 18, less than three weeks out of high school and four provinces from home.
As a diversion from more school I had applied for the Canada World Youth exchange program, a six month international youth community service exchange. We were in Osoyoos, ten random Canadians from across the country, each matched with a counterpart from Uruguay. We lived with host families and worked as volunteers in the community during the days. We came from all walks of life.
A week and a half into the program, I was walking down towards the lake on a very warm, dry evening getting to know a guy named Dave Stacey, he was from Stephenville Newfoundland and a student at Memorial. He was taking a break to do this exchange.
We smoked cigarettes and talked about the different types of winter Ontario got versus Newfoundland, then he asked me what I wanted to do.
The question stunned me, I was on this exchange to escape that. So I told him that, he looked at my camera hanging on my shoulder. A Canon 10D with a 35-85mm f/4-5.6. It was a piece of crap in current terms, but in that time and place it was a show piece.
“What about photography?” He asked.
“Oh,” I said, “No I’m not interested in that, I just wanted to have a decent camera for this and my dad was switching formats so he sold it to me cheap.” I said.
He paused for a moment then spoke.
“There’s more to photography than photography, you ever thought about photojournalism?”
“No,” I said, truthfully I didn’t know what that was.
“Oh man,” he said, “It’s photography for newspapers, magazines, documentary, like National Geographic.”
My ears perked at this. As the program wore on there were a lot of things that happened but I will come back to that later.
I knew nothing about photography, but I had a camera. And so for the rest of the program I started fiddling with the settings figuring out what the shutter did, the aperture did etc. I didn’t have ready access to photography teachers or the internet at the time.
When I came home in December of 2007 I was 19, I thought I knew everything and my focus centered on escaping again. I started working as a temporary laborer in Guelph while living at my parents to save money. When I had the funds I left for Southeast Asia.
Again, the details of these three months could fill pages. But I realized something, I thrived on the sense of adventure, I could socialize well, and I was smart.
In September 2008 I arrived in Ottawa to begin my Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. I had really grand intentions, however, I quickly filled my plate with school, work and the Charlatan.
The Charlatan, the school newspaper became my second home. I sat on the couch and absorbed the conversations of the editors and the writers. Many of whom are successful journalists today. I felt so fortunate to be surrounded by such talent.
However, I was motivated by visuals I never really considered writing.
It was also during this time that I started this blog.
When I left Carleton it was with the worst of mixed emotions I had achieved a lot. I had been published nationally multiple times, I had out-filed the wires on a few big assignments, I had a front page of a national newspaper, and more covers of the Charlatan than I could count. I had a partner, someone I loved deeply, and I had friends, really I had a family of people.
I look back on the years 2009-2011 with the uttermost fondness and joy, I can’t begin to describe it. Simply put I thought I would never leave Ottawa completely.
Then one drunken night in 2011 happened, it was May, the playoffs were on and I was at the Georgetown pub with some friends watching and drinking. Suddenly my friend Joel Eastwood, who had been like a brother and a somewhat kindred spirit throughout Carleton, turned to me and passed me his phone.
On it was an email from the Carleton school of journalism apprenticeships advisor passing along an email. The email was looking for a photojournalism student who spoke both English and Spanish to participate in an expenses covered six-month exchange.
I told him so send it to me so I could look it over the next morning, sober.
I never thought I would get it, I applied on a whim. Yet there I was standing in a bus shelter at 5am in January, sick, sleepless, wearing everything warm I had to bring to Costa Rica.
It was one of those biting Ottawa winter nights in Early January, -35 plus wind-chill. I had spent the night refusing to sleep because it was my last night in the apartment I had shared with my girlfriend Yamina, an there was a big part of me that regretted leaving.
When the time came to leave, walking out the door and down the road to the bus stop was indescribably hard. That whole 48 hour period and trip to Costa Rica was a blur of sad and tragic feelings mixed with the greatest joy and excitement.
I was moving to Costa Rica for six-months to be a reporter-photographer at a local newspaper there.
After I arrived I felt like I was immediately over my head. I hadn’t written much before, I knew only the basics of actual written reporting and my Spanish was not good enough to keep up.
Somehow I made it, and I learned a lot along the way and produced some good work.
When I returned to Canada I was now on a mission.
I started attending Loyalist College in January of 2013 as a fast-track student, meaning I could skip the first semester. My first priority was to find a summer job.
In the end it came down to one job left at Toronto Community News. A collection of nine newspapers owned by Metroland Media, which operated out of the same newsroom. The final candidates were myself and one of my best friends a guy named Chris King. In the end I got the job.
As I settled in, I had a mix of feelings. I’d never done anything this cool, yet my success felt tempered because I knew Chris was still looking for work.
He found summer work as a reporter at a local newspaper in Whitecourt, northern Alberta. When we moved in together for our second year of Loyalist and started talking about our summers, I had to confess, I was a little jealous of his experience.
I wanted to work in Alberta, drive across Canada and be a local reporter suddenly.
Then it happened, in early December I had the week of all weeks. My car broke and had to be scrapped, my girlfriend of three years broke up with me two days after planning a surprise birthday party, I found out I had failed to get an interview for the Globe and Mail summer job and I failed one of my classes.
I felt like I’d gone from being on top of the world in August, to considering giving up in December.
Then January happened.
Over December I had made peace with my lost interview opportunity, spoken with a prof and done some extra credit work to pass. I had replaced my crappy old Mazda 626 with a modded out Acura Integra with a stick shift, and I was starting my final semester.
I couldn’t help but feel depressed though. So as an exercise I started applying for jobs on Jeff Gaulin’s journalism job site. I genuinely expected nothing to happen.
I continued to live my life, I fell in love again with a girl who I had just met. She pretty much literally fell out of the sky. As we got to know one another it turned out we were in very similar places in life, love, ambition, career and goals. She’d been in Alberta for the previous few years, and had returned east after the rug was pulled out from under her to regroup around friends and family.
Just as life in Belleville was starting to improve though I got an email.
It was from the editor of the Peace River Record-Gazette, in Peace River Alberta asking if I was free for an interview.
It’s hard to describe how I felt, this was a version of a dream come true. The job included a lot of writing and I had my doubts. However, I agreed to the interview.
Two days later I found out I had the job. It had taken seven years, almost, from the time I decided being a photojournalist would be an interesting career to the point where I was accepting a full-time staff job as a Multimedia journalist.
Part Two: From Belleville, Ontario to Peace River, Alberta
I gave myself a week to pack up in Belleville, then a few days in Guelph to see my family and finish preparations. At the last minute I decided to take the family cat Coco.
My final week in Belleville was intense. I suddenly became aware that the friendships I had formed weren’t just out of convenience, I was actually going to miss these people. Then there was Cynthia, she basically spent the week at my apartment, we weren’t anything official yet, but it was still painful to leave everyobe on some level.
Then I got sick from exhaustion. I waited an extra day before leaving, on Saturday February 8th I hit the road.
My first stop was Sudbury, I have family there but didn’t have time to pay them a visit, thankfully I saw them all recently at Christmas. I stopped by Big Nickel Mine for a photo, because it is such a huge attraction, then continued on. That night I pulled into Sault Ste. Marie Ontario around 9pm and crashed for the night at a Super 8 Motel.
The next day I hit the road early hoping to make it to Thunder Bay. I was now in a part of the province I’d never really seen before. I remember loving that day of driving so much, the roads were clear and dry the scenery was beautiful and it was the first time I saw Lake Superior.
I rolled into Thunder Bay around 9pm, this time I was staying with friends of a former co-worker. Natalie and I had worked together at a café in Guelph called With the Grain the year before. Now a student at Lakehead University, she had friends who had a couch I could sleep on. That was amazing.
The day was going just fine until I got to Ste. Anne about 45 minutes east of Winnipeg. I decided to take a picture of the sunset over the prairies, it was my first time seeing it, and I misjudged the shoulder and found myself in a ditch.
Some ‘friendly Manitobans’ came by with a truck and a chain and pulled me out, we said our goodbyes and I was on my way.
Then it happened again.
I figured I would get a second picture, because now the sun was touching the horizon. So I pulled over preparing to do a three-point turn. And once again found myself in the ditch. I was livid, mostly with myself. I screamed at the prairies, then tried to jack my car up to put it on my floor mats to get out.
It didn’t work, I tried shifting the weight in the car, using kitty litter everything and in the process I burnt out my radiator and overheated the engine. Now it was minus 45 Celsius, my heater was broken the winds were picking up and it was dark.
I never took the second picture.
I called CAA, it was almost two hours before I saw a truck.
When CAA came they helped me out, then I drove to Winnipeg. The whole way there my windows kept fogging up, the defrosters weren’t working, the engine sounded off. I was so worried, stressed and I could no longer feel my toes but I was 100% focused on getting to my friend’s house safely.
As I pulled onto their street my engine light, maintenance light and oil light all came on and my car started stalling while I was shifting, normally my engine would stall at under 400 rpm now it was stalling at anywhere between 400-1500 I had no idea what was wrong. I decided I would deal with it the next day.
The next morning it wouldn’t start. The battery was frozen, I called CAA again and there was a tense moment where I was worried the engine wouldn’t turn over because the car was now literally out of oil. With the fried radiator the engine had been overheating while I drove 75km to Winnipeg, it had burned off all the oil.
We poured some in, the tow-truck driver connected my battery to his charger and I got in my car. I said a small prayer (something I NEVER do) then turned the key. The engine sprang to life and at that moment I could have almost cried I was so happy.
I followed the CAA guy to a local shop and dropped my car off. It took them just over a day, but they replaced that radiator, put in more coolant, and checked the car over. There was one little issue: the running lights and blowers weren’t turning off, even with them turned off the key out and the fuse pulled.
It suddenly became clear the previous owner has rewired the entire car. It took the mechanics 4.5 hours to fix it. I walked away with a functioning car and $1050 poorer.
Now though I wanted to explore Winnipeg.
Richard and Melissa are two of my oldest closest friends. We met in 2007 during my exchange, Richard was from Ottawa and Melissa was from Winnipeg. During the program I watched them fall in love. Since then they’ve gone to school together, lived together, had a baby together and this summer are getting married, I get to photograph it.
Without question they let me into their home, fed me and gave me and my cat a place to stay.
I saw Portage and Main, The Forks, the Toad in the Hole, St. Boniface and downtown. Not a bad little tour.
The next morning I rolled out of Winnipeg. While my trip there had been tarnished by an expensive Instagram, a frozen night on the prairies and some bad memories of a previous relationship, I did realize something: I really liked the city, it was beautiful and the vibe I got was right up my alley. Plus now that I had dealt with the negative feelings there I felt like there was space to come back and rediscover the city. I can’t wait to do so.
Winnipeg was a far more significant stop in my journey than I had ever intended it to be.
I continued across the Prairies now crossing into Saskatchewan, it was also my first time in that province. I suppose this goes without saying but I have NEVER seen a place that was so flat in my life. Their license plates say “Land of the living sky,” I understand that now.
I rolled into Saskatoon around 8 and met up with a friend of mine, Alexandra Stang. We’d gone to university together and I knew her through the Charlatan. She had actually officiated the election where I was elected photo editor. That was 2010, it felt like a lifetime ago.
We chatted and she gave me a list of spots to check out in Saskatoon. So the next morning I went and checked them out. Saskatoon was another city that very pleasantly surprised me.
Now I felt like I was nearing the end of my journey, certainly it was the end of 800km+ days. That afternoon I drove the three hours from Saskatoon to Lloydminster, a city where the border of Alberta and Saskatchewan literally runs through the middle. My friend from Loyalist, Jeff Peters, work there as a reporter at the Lloydminister Meridian Booster, he’d moved out here almost a year earlier.
It was nice to see him and get a feel for the work he was doing, I thought it was a bit of a preview for my upcoming work life. We checked out a highway accident and a children’s play.
The next morning we had breakfast, then spent three hours looking for my cat, which had gotten loose in his house and hid herself. When I finally had her I hit the road to Edmonton.
Only two hours away, I rolled into town completely exhausted. I pulled into the Super 8 there and spent the night. It was noticeably warmer here, only about -5. I decided against touring the city, I was too tired and Edmonton is only 4-5 hours from Peace River, I figured I’d be back.
I slept in late and almost missed my checkout. I rushed out the door and hit the road. I was so excited to get to Peace River, I may have had a bit of a heavy foot cruising down the Trans-Canada.
Finally I turned north.
And if I’m being totally honest here, for the first time it actually hit me. As the mileage markers for Peace River continued to march along the road in front of me, so did the faces of my life in Ottawa, Belleville and Guelph. Ontario is the only province I have ever called home. I grew into independence in Guelph, I grew into adulthood in Ottawa and I grew into maturity in Belleville.
Tears rolled down my face as I motored north of Valleyview.
The sun was setting and the roads were getting worse. I was growing more and more anxious, desperately wanting to be in Peace River.
Then suddenly I came over a hill, below me sprawled out along the floor of a valley was a small town with a frozen river that sliced through the middle. I had arrived in Peace River
That night I met the office manager here, Shelly, she took me out for dinner, told me about the community and the people. It was a really nice introduction to the town. That night I slept in my own apartment.
I’m now here, I’ve been at work for just over a week. I think I’m starting to get the hang of it. As I move forward here I will post about my experiences in the town.
For those of you who read this whole post, wow, just wow, I hope you enjoyed it.
The blog will return to it’s normal format, whatever that is, starting next week.
The posts will DEFINITELY be shorter going forward.
Well here we are in 2014. I haven’t really been into the blogging much these last few months, however, I have a really good reason: I’ve been insanely busy.
The irony though is I actually have less to show for it than I normally would… The latter half of this past semester was focused on writing, multimedia and longer form photo pieces. Meaning while I was busy it was doing things, like calling sources, conducting interviews and video editing as opposed to just taking pictures.
I am feeling a little more refreshed after the winter break and upon my return to Belleville my roommate and I and stumbled onto some news. This morning after breakfast we noticed a huge plume of smoke rising about eight blocks away and decided to check it out.
Frankly Chris (my roommate) and I hesitated to leave, it was minus 30 today and we’re still on vacation. However, we ended up trekking out. By the time we got there the fire department had already cordoned off the block.
I spoke with some neighbors who were huddling in the cold, they speculated on the cause of the fire. They also told me everyone made it out safe, with the possible exception of one of the neighbors cats.
We didn’t stay long because of the cold. However, sitting at my kitchen table editing I was able to watch as the smoke plume dwindled over the course of an hour or two from the comfort of my own home.
Now, rolling back the clock a bit to early October, we had a news video assignment due for multimedia class. We had to find a community event and shoot and edit a short news video about the event. So I did some research and found a small concert series that was kicking off an eight-month season of monthly shows featuring local musicians. It was a really fun assignment and good chance to further improve my video skills, which is a medium I am growing to love more and more.
As October wore on I dove into one of our major, and cross-platform, assignments. It was called Sense of Place and we had to visually connect a Belleville resident with a significant place in their life in town.
I found Lois Foster, a wonderful lady who has become one of the cities best known archivists (which is important in a small town with a big past). Her home was once a veterinary hospital staffed by her and her husband, they ran the clinic for 40 years before her husband died nine years ago. She still occupies the house that they shared and worked out of.
At the time I thought it was a really touching story about love, commitment and devotion and their story reminded me of my own maternal grandparents.
Underscoring this whole term has been a news photo assignment we needed complete. The spot news assignment requires you to get a photo of an unplanned news event. Really the only challenge is in finding the event, after you show up just get a good angle/vantage point and wait for the decisive moment.
I had a big telephoto on that, to give you an idea of what I mean here is a photo from my Instagram that I took showing the view I had without a telephoto.
In addition to videos and stories, I’ve been working on a documentary project about the issue of gender dysphoria, which in a nutshell, is a disorder where someone is born the wrong sex. The story is a work in progress and I have more images here. Below is a portrait of the subject of this story, a trans-man named Martin.
That project sprang from one I started working on last year, also for class, on a drag queen in Ottawa named Savannah Couture. I have a written profile and photo story here. However, when it came time for us to do our final video this semester I thought it would be interesting to go and check out one of her performances with my camera, below is the result.
Also please check out this group project I had the pleasure of collaborating on, it’s a sweet story about a former CN brake man who now runs the Belleville model train society.
Finally with the passing of 2013 I feel it’s time to declare a theme, for me, it was the year of the car. In January 2013 I bought my first ever car, a 1996 Mazda 626 DX. It was a gutless, featureless, rust-bucket that cost less than most of my lenses. But she bore me safely across 50 000km (Largely from trips to Ottawa) and through my summer in Toronto. In October the problems started. First a leaky tranny line, then the exhaust rusted off then I was told the engine sub-frame was rotten and needed replacing (about $1000…) however, when they took it apart I was informed the rust had spread further than they knew, in short, it was terminal. We went for a final ride, and then I stripped her of her logos and useful components before dropping her off to be scrapped.
It took a month of concerted effort, but it was worth it, for the same price I paid for my 5D mkII I found a 1996 Acura (Honda) Integra RS, so for you Honda nerds that means there’s no Vtec, although I don’t care because I don’t wanna burn oil, use premium fuel or need to drive at 5500 rpm with any regularity. That being said, the previous owner added a short ram air intake, heders, custom exhaust and three strut bars. The car has a lot of power for a 1.8L and literally floats on air around corners and because it’s a hatchback, I still have the same cargo space I had in my 626. It’s also the first manual transmission I’ve ever driven, and I am hooked, I never want to drive automatic again.
So last semester was a tough one, but standing on the edge of 2014 with a bad ass new car, and a confident set of skills I’m pretty excited for what 2014 has in store.
School is definitely back in session.
I feel every bit as busy as I was over the summer, only this time I’m paid in marks rather than money and publication.
While the school year is gearing up I find I’m not out shooting a lot but focusing on other things, writing, story planning and video stories. I realize that with a year left in school now is the time to focus on areas that aren’t as strong as my photography.
I’m also in a mode where everything I do feels like it’s dictated by school’s needs. Including this blog post! Which will be read and marked by one of my wonderful teachers for our digital web pages and online class, so uh… Hello Dan! Welcome to my blog.
After moving back to Belleville I was here the first weekend in September, but then the second weekend I went to Ottawa for the 10th anniversary of the House of Paint Hip Hop festival.
It’s an event I’ve photographed before, namely because it’s located under a bridge right next to the Carleton University campus, so while I was studying there it was convenient.
What’s cool about the event is the way it blends, hip-hop, graffiti, breaking and other subcultures into a single festival. This year was a bigger setup than in years prior.
It was a lot of fun working with the lights on stage, and I was really impressed with the range of musical artists involved.
In addition to the music and breakdancing, there was graffiti writing ongoing throughout the event.
The writers weren’t nearly as forth coming with info, like names, about themselves as the dancers or rappers.
I used that first picture for a news feature assignment, the class this year is one of my favorites, like last year. That’s because it is straight forward photography and critique, and because I’ve done well in that class in the past.
Our first assignment was to submit a feature photo. In addition to the one above I tried other things including a weather feature. I wandered over to a dog park here in Belleville a few weeks ago when we had record breaking heat (plus 30 degrees in September!). The park was empty, but I had fun with framing.
Another assignment in class for news is our long-term project. We have to either shoot eight weather features, or follow one team, go to at least three games and submit eight gameplay photos. I decided to go with sports because it’s easier to schedule in a few games and know I will get the assignment done rather than banking on some inclement weather between now and October 21.
About two weeks ago I went and photographed a Loyalist women’s soccer game. It turned out well and having photographed soccer before I feel like I have a pretty good handle on it, so I’ve been trying to explore more creative sports photography.
The next week I was once again out at a Lancer’s game, this time in the middle of the rain. Great soccer weather I guess? Anyway I stuck my umbrella stick down my shirt, wore it like a hat and continued on like nothing had changed.
While there I noticed that there was a group of motorcyclists in the parking lot behind the field, I assumed (and discovered later I was right) it was an M1 training course. So I snapped a pan of the instructor riding by.
Finally this last Friday was the last of my three games for the long term assignment. In contrast to earlier in the week Friday was a wonderfully sunny and warm day.
I tried getting close again to the goal, this time hoping to get the same shot I have above, only as a goal, however, the ref yelled at me an told me to back up. I was a little surprised as I wasn’t interfering with play and was still more than a metre behind the boundary line. I’ve never had issues before, however, it’s their field so I moved.
That about catches me up to where I am now, about to go into October.
We also started publishing the Pioneer in Class, I was on the second group of editors, we were short for content so I wrote a story about the soccer team, it was my first time ever writing a sports story. You can check it out here.
Until Next time,
My time here as Metroland’s summer photography co-op student at Toronto Community News is over. Today is my last day, my last assignments have been filed and tomorrow I’m moving things to Belleville. School orientation starts this week and it is going to be a crazy year.
I’ll start this blog post in mid-August. Two Thursday’s ago I went to Albert Campbell Square in front of Scarborough’s Civic Centre. It was India’s independence day, so the local Indian community came out to celebrate.
As the sun was setting it was a great time for pictures, with some dramatic light.
Also interesting dances with great symmetry can make nice pictures.
And then Ghanafest was happening in North York. A colourful day celebrating all things Ghanian.
On Sunday I went to a car wash in Parkdale (over)run by zombies. The Toronto zombie walk was there washing cars in blood, then soap, although one zombie told me blood was preferred over soap…
I capped off the day with a trip to a multicultural street festival on Eglinton Avenue. It was actually pretty empty and low key when I got there, however, I found these steel drummers performing under and awning and the main drummer
When I returned next week on Thursday I started off heading to the renaming of Toronto’s island ferry terminal. It was renamed for the late-leader of the opposition Jack Layton.
Members of his family, unions and supporters were on hand, and they unveiled a statue of him riding a tandem bike.
It’s the back to school season as well. So I was sent to shoot a portrait of a school principle in a newly renovated wing of his building. I confess portraits are still a weaker point of mine, I thought I would be shooting more of them this summer but I didn’t. We tried a couple of things but I figured this one was my favorite, nice and simple.
In a sure sign my summer was ending, later that day I was sent to cover an exhibition game between the University of Guelph and University of Toronto baseball teams.
The day after was a day of ethnic celebrations. The Toronto Chinatown Festival kicked off with politicians, Chinese dragons and traditional music.
Later that day I drove north to Downsview Park and Rastafest. It was a hot day in direct sunlight, but pretty interesting nonetheless.
And finally this past Sunday I started down at the beaches, where an organization called surfers healing has been running a free day camp for autistic children. The camp pairs up kids with a pro surfer who teaches them how to stand up paddle.
That afternoon I was in east Scarborough at a private home for a fundraiser for the Scarborough Terry Fox run. There was a family of five there who all agreed to either have their heads shaved or dyed to help raise money.
And with that I’m signing off. My next post will be about the return to school.
August has dawned, nights are cooler and days are getting shorter, as is my time here in Toronto.
This past week I got to shoot the Rogers Cup. It was my first time shooting a world class sporting event. I’ve photographed University level sports and even professional level hockey with the Belleville Bulls, I even once photographed a Raptors scrimmage in Ottawa but nothing at this level or speed.
To say it was a challenge is an understatement, not only have I not photographed sports at this level before, but I’ve never taken a single picture of people playing tennis. Ever. I had ideas of where to stand and which pics to get but factoring in my ignorance of the game and the insane speed of the players it was a bit of a challenge. After ten minutes of fumbling around and getting lots of pictures of returns with no ball visible I started to anticipate better and they started rolling in.
My biggest disappointment was not getting to court level in time to see Serena Williams play. I had a job at the same time her match started, and I wanted to do a good job of both assignments. By the time I drove to North York (30 minutes from the previous job), parked, got my media pass and got in she was well on her way. My route to court level took me past the top of the upper bowl so I snapped a few pics just in case I couldn’t get lower in time. As it happened by the time I had all my passes and was in the right place, her match was over. Although I was court-side for her accepting the trophy and for the doubles match which followed. A full gallery of what I filed is online here.
Earlier that day I attended a Catholic Mass at St. Clare’s church, they were celebrating their 100th year anniversary. It was double booked for me though because the Roger’s Cup Women’s Final started at the same time as this assignment. Somehow I managed to be in two places at the same time.
It was interesting, I find faith and religion fascinating and Catholic Masses are so ornate and full of ritual. Having some degree of access near the alter was really enjoyable.
On Friday I was at the opening of the Taste of Danforth, a huge Greek food and culture festival in eastern Toronto. The festival was opened with an event called the Danforth Dash. Corporate teams of four raced hospital beds down Danforth Avenue to raise money for the Toronto East General Hospital Foundation and to be the winners of the coveted Gold Bed Pan Trophy.
Rewinding a week earlier, I was out on feature patrol looking for standalone to help fill space. I’d wandered over to the Ashbridge’s Bay Skatepark down by Toronto’s beaches. Usually I have good success with the skateboarders there, but this time there was nothing. So I wandered up to one of the upper bowls in the park and found a scooter team doing tricks, they were really good, so I asked to take some pictures, one kid eagerly hoped in and promptly did a backflip for my camera.
The day before I was down at the famous Caribana festival for the grand parade, due to a logistical issue I spent over an hour waiting outside. It turned out the media check-in booth was inside the paid admission area, which I wasn’t able to access until I picked up my media pass from the media check-in which was located in the paid admission area which I couldn’t access…. The only way I got out of that repeating loop was because a photographer friend of mine who had a pass went into the event and came back with mine.
That headache set me back and meant I was only able to spend little under an hour at Caribana, and never quite got into the vibe. Maybe next year?
My week that week started in the extreme ends of Toronto. On Thursday morning I headed into Etobicoke in Toronto’s west end, it was my first time working in this part of the city. Seems a local boy, Dave Bolland, was in town with the Stanley Cup. Bolland won it playing with the Blackhawks, but everyone there was excited because he had just announced he’d been traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs. The crowd was a mix a dejected Blackhawks fans and hopeful Leafs fans.
Did I mention it was Etobicoke on the day of the by-elections? Rob and Doug Ford were there leading the parade and campaigning for their guy Doug Holyday who ended up winning Etobicoke-Lakeshore.
That gave me the rest of the day and evening to get across town into Scarborough where another by-election was happening. It was my first time shooting political news, unless you want to count student council election at Carleton University. It was intense because I was fighting with crowds and other photographers. I know a few of the photographers ended up on insanely tight deadlines because Mitzie Hunter arrived late to the after party (by insanely tight I mean they had 15 minutes to shoot, file, edit and transmit). For my part Inside Toronto wanted their pictures that night as well, although I was had more time.
The last two weeks have been busy but good, with a few bigger assignments. While the stress level is always much higher with these types of events so is the reward.
That being Said I’m now into the last two weeks before school resumes and the summer job ends.
Well as I approach the end of July and the start of my final month here at Toronto Community News, it feels like it’s been a valuable summer so far.
I’ll start with this past weekend at the Beaches International Jazz fest. I was sent to cover a specific singer, but once you have a decent shot of them performing it’s fun to look around and see what else is there.
Earlier that Day I had been at Scarborough Town Centre for a vintage car show, it took me a while to find the actual part of the parking lot where they were, but once you found it, all those shiny old cars stick out.
The day before I was downtown at Yonge – Dundas Square for the Unity Festival. It featured music and breakdancing, the breakdancing took me back to shooting Ottawa’s House of Paint event on film a few years ago.
Earlier on Saturday though I got to check out a rugby game down in the Beaches area.
My weekend started off with some huge technical obstacles though. On Friday afternoon I went to photograph a graduation ceremony for some new Toronto Paramedics and EMS workers.
However, I started noticing a black bar across my photos, when I checked the sensor I realized a shutter blade was loose. That black bar has turned into a horizontal light leak across my sensor. The biggest issue is it’s my 1D MKII body, it’s one of Canon’s proline camera body and I use it in inclement weather or situation where I fear for the safety of my, much more fragile, 5D MKII
The above photo was shot on my 5D. The photo below was on the 1D after the light leak, at that point it was still only affecting some of my pictures. It was at the Cultura Festival in Mel Lastman square and there was a sudden thunderstorm, blowing rain sideways, I was soaked from head to toe in seconds, this is the type of situation where I need this kind of bulky camera.
Here is a sample of just how the loose shutter blade was affecting my pictures, until I can find a repair quote (because I’m not sure Canon Canada still services this make) I’m down to one body.
The weekend before that I got to check out the Thai Festival in Nathan Phillips Square.
Sometimes interesting photos come from other things too, like off to the side of the Mad Pride Parade in Parkdale. Mad Pride is a march to celebrate of those who have interacted with the mental health system and while waiting for the march to arrive at an intersection I looked down the road and spotted a lady leading another one by a leash. Not something you see everyday, so I instinctively took a picture… Before I got the chance to go over and introduce myself, they turned and came towards me and offered a business card asking for a copy.
The evening before I popped by the Latin Arts Festival in Mel Lastman Squre in North York. While it was slow to start, in terms of interesting pictures, it turned out to be quite the event.
While the event was still gearing up I walked around to a few vendors and asked to do some portraits. One of them, an artist from Buenos Aries, had great pieces for a backdrop but I discovered quickly spoke limited English, at one point he asked, “Hablas Espanol?” Which coincidentally, I do, so we had a brief conversation I snapped a picture and continued on.
It had been a South American kind of day. Before the Latin Arts Festival I had been to the Salsa on St. Clair festival, a huge dance festival on St. Clair Avenue downtown. Nice light, low film speeds, almost wide open apertures and cool dancing made for some interesting pictures.
However, the biggest surprise was twenty minutes after arriving while I was still making my way down the festival from one end to another the first time when I came to a road block. The police had set up tape and were blocking access to a section of the street. I learned later that two people had been stabbed pretty much at the same time I was arriving at the festival at the other side, about twenty minutes earlier. One man had been taken to hospital with a chest wound, the other was in the ambulance still on scene about to leave with a hand wound.
Blood was still fresh on the pavement, CBC was a sponser of the event and had been handing out pins.
That Sunday was a busy day, before Salsa on St. Clair I stopped by a local hockey arena, the ice had been melted and a massive all day roller derby was happening. I only had time to photograph one game, and by total coincidence (honestly) the game that I ended up shooting was Ottawa Vs. Guelph (my two homes). Guelph destroyed Ottawa.
Even earlier in the day before, the Roller Derby, I went to Ashbridges Bay Skatepark, the beaches editor wanted some filler, in the form of nice pictures of regular things happening. Skateboarding is always fun to shoot and that’s where the photo request said to go.
The day had started off near the harbor at Yonge and Lakeshore heading south. The festival of India had begun and they started with and epic parade down the centre of Toronto to the harbor front, where the festival then moved to Toronto Island.
Going into my last month I’m pretty excited, there’s a by-election in Scarborough next week and soon it will be the Rogers Cup. Until next time.
On Monday I was just leaving the office as some nasty storm clouds rolled in. I started to drive home and after I got off the highway it became apparent this storm was more intense than a regular one. I spotted a road off to the side where cars were trying to push through more the 3ft of water in some cases. Not realizing then how widespread the flash floods across the city were I found a parking lot a little further down, threw on my rain gear and went to work. The pictures turned out great and ran on the front page of the York Guardian and inside all the others. I felt vindicated for my unpaid over time, which had me standing waist deep in water.
The greatest part though was the irony I encountered. An hour before the storm, one of the reporters in the newsroom made a crack about journalists being soft these days coming out of school. Soft, pfft.
The weekend before was very busy, very hot and also very wet I found myself with eleven assignments over the two days, although that’s common on weekends. There was the Taste of Lawrence festival in Scarborough, which featured performances and food.
There was a baseball game that was very nearly rained out, and I had to devise a system to stay dry while standing in a field in a rainstorm.
Then there was the Italian Festival, which happened to get soaked in heavy rains while I was there.
The weekend though began with fun in the sun at the Heatwave Charity volleyball tournament. Metroland had a team, and their own photographer (me).
Prior to the busy weekend though I spent my Friday evening wandering around Ford Fest, the Mayor’s annual BBQ, it was a very interesting assignment for me.
Earlier that week I went to Ottawa for fun, and even earlier that week was Canada Day. I took lots of flag waving pics in Scarborough, but my favorite one for some reason was this one below. It never even ran I just like it for some reason.
Prior to Canada Day I had, had another busy weekend. Including a soccer tournament called the Robby. It had been a long time since I photographed soccer but I felt like I fell back into it quite well. This one ran on the front page of the City Centre Mirror.
The week before many of the assignments were about the run-up to Canada day. Like the Canada Rocks event which was hosted at the Scarborough museum, and where I took this picture. This and the Capoeira photo of Jimmy doing the flip were my two favorites from the last two weeks.
And before that? Well that’s detailed in the previous post. Anyway for now it’s back to work.
It’s been just over a week since my job officially began here at the Toronto Community News. It’s been a fun and challenging week, with a steep but manageable learning curve.
I should start by saying Toronto is the biggest city I have ever lived and worked in. I grew up In Guelph and Milton, so I’ve visited Toronto often and the cultural impact of the city on southwestern Ontario is huge. Living in the shadow of the city is different than living in the city itself.
However, once I find myself on assignment there’s no much that makes working in Toronto different than working in other towns. I should point out through my beat is mostly community news. The company that owns Toronto Community News, Metroland Media Group is a subsidiary of Torstar media. Torstar’s flagship publication is the Toronto Star. So while I’m in Toronto most of the events I shoot are at the community level, or typically the things that the Star wouldn’t catch.
So I approach each assignment with an old acting adage ringing in my ears, “There are no small parts assignments only small actors photojournalists.” In my first week I covered multicultural festivals, cricket events, a midget level baseball game, a regional track meet, the tall ship festival, Guyanese independence day, one of the Toronto Jazz Festival events and community fundraisers to name a few.
Most of the papers publish on Thursday’s some like the North York and Scarborough Mirror’s publish on both Tuesday and Thursday. I had Tuesday and Wednesday off this week so when I came in this morning I got to see my pictures in print. This isn’t the first time, but it’s the first time in a while and it is still exciting to see your pictures in print.
With this introduction aside here are some pictures running loose in reverse chronological order.
On Sunday I only had four assignments, however, they were mostly outside and Toronto was under an extreme heat and humidity advisory for the day. I averaged drinking a litre of water per hour just to keep hydrated. Considering the athletes at the baseball game and track meet I photographed though I don’t think I can complain.
It was my first time shooting baseball at any level. I really liked it. I like the sport anyways and it’s great for pictures. Hopefully I will shoot more baseball games this summer and get better.
After the baseball game I rushed out to Centennial College’s progress ave. campus for the Toronto Guyanese community’s celebration of their independence day. Guyana was celebrating their 47th year of independence and their President happened to be in Toronto visiting that weekend so he came by to visit the celebrations.
My Sunday though had started out at York University in the morning. There was a regional high school track meet hosted by the Royal Canadian Legion. In the 40+ degree heat, running a 100m or 1600m race is not my idea of fun. Photographing it was good though.
I also got my first cover photo with Metroland there, the photo below ran on the front page of the Tuesday edition of the North York Mirror, hopefully there’ll be more of these in the following weeks.
This photo was me trying different things, while I have no issue getting the ‘standard’ images required. After that it’s fun to play around and try new things and new ways of telling the story.
My Sunday was capped off with a nice walk around the Fairbank Village area of Toronto near Eglinton and Dufferin streets. There was a multicultural festival on the street that day. While actual cultural activities seemed to be lacking there were food and buskers.
The day before had me running all over town for six different assignments. Once again most of them were outside except on this day instead of extreme heat it was periods of thunderstorms.
This photo was from a block party neighborhood event; the rain kept most people home or seeking shelter under things.
I was also able to catch part of the Toronto Jazz Festival, at one of the satellite shows at the Shops at Don Mills. There was a performance by the Toronto based Dixie Demons, it was pretty fun, despite the small crowds and rain.
On the Friday before I was asked to go and shoot the Redpath Waterfront festival, a four-day festival along Toronto’s waterfront featuring a fleet of tall ships. They also had events and performances; one of these events was a Flyboarding demonstration. Which was one of the coolest things ever.
Personally though I was interested in the ships. About ten years ago I sailed aboard a ship called the STV Fair Jeanne, which sails out of Ottawa. I distinctly remember being on watch at 4am in the middle of a rainstorm in June, under sail into Toronto harbour as the sun slowly started to rise behind us. The event lets people who may be interested tour the ships and get a feel for them before they all move onto the next stop and the Fair Jeanne was there this year too.
Last Thursday was one of my first officially assigned assignments at a small community park in York. The Jays Care Foundation, or the charitable wing of Toronto Blue Jays, had just refurbished a local ball-park, they had some community leaders and two former Jays on hand for the event.
They also had some of their trainers on hand to offer up a skills clinic to local kids.
When there’s down time and during the first day or two I was asked on occasion to go look for enterprising or feature pictures. These are standalone photos of daily life in the city. Sometimes they can have a newsy focus though it’s not needed. An example would be weather pics on a hot or rainy day.
Feature hunting as it’s called is just walking around taking pictures and talking to people, not a bad way to spend a few hours on a working day.
It’s been a diverse week and while the past week was mostly settling in I think the next few will go well. I look forward to shooting more and posting more, and if you’re in the Toronto area check out the Metroland Mirrors you might see my pics.
I have been an inactive blogger for sometime. I think in February I thought life couldn’t get busier than it was but that changed in March, when I had an assignment (at least one) due every day for the entire month. By April things started to slow down, and since May it’s mostly been a waiting game.
However, while things in April started to slow, I had also begun my chase for summer work. Initially I began with high hopes, at one point in mid-April it seemed like there were at least three reasonably likely prospects with different newspapers. Those petered off and by mid-May I began fearing I’d have to find work outside photography for the summer.
So I travelled to Ottawa, there I found work as a student house painter. On the day I was supposed to start working though I received an email offering me a job with Metroland’s group of newspapers in Toronto.
While I start tomorrow I realized I hadn’t posted a blog update in months. First I was too busy, then I was too lazy and on summer vacation and finally my computer was in for repair. So now I’ll catch up.
My last blog posted was at the end of February, so I’ll start in February in Ottawa.
In mid-February I photographed the Ottawa Fashion Week for FAJO Magazine. It was an interesting affair and my first time shooting anything in the fashion world. While most of the weekend was spent at the end of the runway, I was able to get some interesting moments and get a tour backstage.
My trip backstage was brief, I was only allowed ten minutes but it was fascinating to see what happens behind the scenes at a fashion week event.
Most of my other February exploits are detailed in a previous post here.
As March dawned the second years began finishing up their final projects in preparation for their end of program internships. The first years meanwhile were trying to keep from drowning in tedious assignments. The program is four semesters long and semester two and three are notorious for their intensity.
On the second weekend in March I returned to Ottawa to photograph the Canadian Interuniversity Sport Final 8 men’s basketball championships. It’s Canada’s version of NCAA final in March.
The games were hosted at Scotiabank place in Ottawa, and they were very well attended. As a student at Carleton I photographed this tournament twice before for the charlatan, Carleton’s student newspaper, you can check out some of those pics here for a look at some of my older stuff. I was flooded with nostalgia, especially because several friends from Ottawa were also there photographing the event it felt a bit like a working reunion.
For a while it looked like it was going to be an Ottawa vs. Ottawa final, but The University Ottawa Gee Gees didn’t quite make it. The Carleton Ravens won again making it a record number championship wins in CIS history.
Next weekend I drove a carload of Loyalist students past Ottawa to Montreal for the annual anti-police brutality protest. The protest was begun 17 years ago in response to suspicious deaths at the hands of Montreal police officers. However, in the years since, the march has attracted a more dubious reputation as an opportunity to confront the police directly on the streets.
After last year’s student protests in Montreal new legislation had been passed. In addition to the more controversial Loi 78, Montreal passed municipal laws requiring rally organizers to submit march routes in advance for approval from the police. If not then the protest could be declared illegal and that gave the police sweeping powers of arrest. Which is exactly what happened, as soon as marchers began assembling the police declared the protest illegal and began dispersing it and making arrests.
Loyalist students, completely by accident, went en masse to Montreal. There were about 23 of us in total. We stayed at hotels and spent a few hours chasing columns of police who were chasing the scattered protestors around the downtown core.
I ended up in a CTV News clip during one of the several on street interactions with the police. You can view it here, I’m on the left of the screen taking pictures when the police charge, it’s at the 48-second mark in the clip.
Just before 7pm, two hours after the protest started, the scattered protestors and police now converged at the intersection of Rue Sainte Catherine and Rue Saint-Andre. The police formed a kettle and closed ranks.
Partly by chance and partly because of experiences learned from the G20 I jumped back, narrowly avoiding a gloved hand that was pulling people in. As we found out later 15 Loyalist students were caught up in the kettle.
Some were released on the street, after Montreal police filmed them, and took down their info. They were told they’d be mailed a $640 ticket and to return home, that if they were found out on the streets again that night they’d be arrested, spend the night in jail and face possible criminal charges. Those not released on the street were loaded onto a repurposed city bus and taken to various precincts where they were processed and released. By 10:30pm we had confirmation that everyone was out and everyone was safe. By the numbers Loyalist students, there to photograph the demonstration, accounted for 8% of total arrests that night.
Everyone in my car, myself included, avoided the kettle and arrest and the next day we were all cheerfully headed back to Belleville, where Loyalist College is located. Along the way as we were passing Napanee, which is near Belleville, we spotted a huge plume of smoke rising from a field off the highway. We pulled off the highway and found the source of the fire, a barn in a farmer’s field and began taking pictures. The timing was convenient as we had a spot news assignment, any news that is not scheduled, due in class in two weeks time.
Later that week came the second round of advisory board meetings of the year. Advisory board is a once a semester picture review with photographers and editors from newspapers and newswires across Canada. I sat down with four different people and showed them the same sets of pictures, I heard four different critiques ranging from, “Yeah! This is great!” to, “None of your pictures are memorable.”
The most useful piece of advice I received was to stop pursuing things I thought others wanted to see and instead go with my gut more. So I decided to try and do that, although I was a little uncertain what that meant, I thought I had been going with my gut before.
Around this time we had a whole host of different projects to work on, from videos to picture documentaries, and once a week a lighting assignments. One of the more interesting lighting assignments was the environmental portrait. Which is a fancy way of saying a portrait in a relevant environment… So a firefighter in a fire hall, or a doctor in a hospital. Ours was specific, we had to find either a CEO or business owner, a blue collar worker or a luthier (someone who repairs stringed instruments, specifically lute based designs). I was in Ottawa one weekend, so I started phoning luthiers in the city and David (below) agreed to pose for a photo.
A week later I found myself once again in Ottawa. It was now the end of March, school was truly slowing down and I was trying to find a way to keep busy. So I returned to photographing the drag queen Savannah Couture. Savannah had agreed to let me photograph her before during and after performances a few times and the project had been universally well received amongst the advisors I met with.
Savannah started drag professionally only a month earlier, but with the help of her brother, who also happened to be a well-known queen in Ottawa, she was able to secure a regular weekend performance at Edge, a well-known gay bar in Ottawa.
A drag performance is essentially three parts, the first is the dress, which needs to compliment the queens own style and the song choice. The second is the performance, which is generally a lip sync set to music, song choice determines clothes, hair make-up and the dance itself, and most queens won’t repeat songs, every weekend it’s something new. The final part is audience interaction, like at a burlesque show in part drag is a celebration of sexuality, and so queens interact with and tease audience members usually as part of the show.
On this night there were three individual queens who performed and a fourth, Savannah’s brother and drag mother, who MC’d the evening. The night ended with all four of them dressing like the girls from the Lady Marmelade music video and performing the song as a quartet.
I had produced far better performance pictures that night than I ever had but I also recognized the familiar symptoms of artistic burn-out starting to set in. All of my pictures looked like crap, or that’s how I felt at the time. Scrolling through contact sheet after contact sheet they all looked uninspired. I began to understand what the advisor had meant about photographing things as I felt others wanted to see them. As the end of semester began to wind down I started focusing more on the multimedia projects I had to do, and writing.
In the final week of classes I received a call from the Oakville Beaver, they had been one of the many places I’d applied for a summer internship with. I had been selected for a working interview of sorts along with two others. So I scheduled a day to come down to the 905 and work for the Beaver for the day. In addition to a job interview I was asked to photograph two assignments as a freelancer, one for the Oakville Beaver and one for the Burlington Post, they both work out of the same office.
The first event was a children’s French ‘rock’ concert with Gregg LeRock, I remembered going to a similar show with a guy named Etienne who had songs like, “Etre is to be not, not, to be…” and other such clever things. The kids seemed to genuinely like it though which was the point after all.
Next I had to hop on the 403 and race to Oakville for a presentation at a local public school about a new energy use and education initiative that was being launched in the region.
A week later I was told I didn’t get the job. Later that afternoon I applied for another job at Inside Toronto another paper owned by the same company. After an interview there and a few more weeks of waiting I was offered a paid-summer internship there.
Starting Monday I expect to be busy for at least the next calendar year. This internship has me working full-time until I start school, then I enter into the most important and competitive parts of the Loyalist program and hopefully that leads to an internship and summer job next summer. All of that is to say I spent the last week watching cheap made-for-tv documentaries on Netflix and playing computer games, biking, reading and generally having a pretty ideal summer break.
Fortunately I have a friend who has agreed to rent me an air mattress in a corner of his bachelor’s apartment near High Park and the Junction. So for two months I’ll be living the dream… of sorts.
So with a new job in hand, motivation, functioning computer and period of artistic burn-out conquered, hopefully I’ll be inclined to blog more regularly. I think the summer’s going to be a good one.
This Loyalist PhotoJ program is pretty intensive…
As of right now I have a few projects ongoing and essentially an assignment due every school day in March. I should clarify this is not me complaining, but rather just me remarking on a fact. Frankly I’m relishing the pace and pressure, although this week (break week) has been a much needed respite. It’s allowed me catch up on homework and sleep, resume blogging and reinstall Civilization IV (because it is better than V).
But I digress…
The week before break week I finally got around to shooting the local OHL team, the Belleville Bulls I timed it so I got to see them play the Ottawa 67’s, the OHL team from the city I lived in for the last several years. I wanted to see the Guelph Storm, but they’re in a different division and don’t play Belleville very much.
The game was good although incredibly high scoring with the Bulls winning 8-5. It was also pretty dirty, a few fights and some nasty penalty-deserving plays in the third period. I’ve never photographed hockey at this level before, really the only practice I had was with the Carleton University Ravens and they’re just not as fast or aggressive as their OHL counterparts. It also gave me the chance to practice in game filing, meaning I shot the first period then found a spot, pulled out my laptop and edited and captioned my pics from the first period before the start of the second.
I spent a lot of time trying to anticipate plays rather than follow the action, goalies make for great places to anticipate.
This photo is missing a few elements to make a good pic for a newspaper, but as just a picture I like it.
At the risk of inundating this blog post with hockey pictures I will cut it off there and continue.
The weekend before I was once again in my adoptive hometown of Ottawa. This time I went to Edge Nightclub, up above Sparks and Bank St. with some friends for a special outdoor drag show. The club is Ottawa’s only gay nightclub, I’m told there are many gays bars and places with a bar/club but Edge is the just nightclub place. It’s also home to one of Ottawa most successful drag queens Icesis Couture.
It was a frigid affair, hosted on Edge’s rooftop patio, you could hear the music two blocks over on Metcalfe St, and the club had put out heaters on the patio, but I would argue there were not enough.
The performance was pretty awesome, although I was told Icesis’ hair was tamer than it normally is…
The day before going to Ottawa Justin Trudeau came to Loyalist College as part of a promotional tour. The college had secretly arranged an emotional presentation for Trudeau, which you can view here, you can also see me in action at the start of the video while he’s walking down the hall. The reason I’m not going to talk about it is I missed the golden moment, I had to leave the presentation early because I had to get to a class, and though for this I would have skipped class I couldn’t really. The week before car trouble had me stranded in Ottawa for a week and I skipped a bunch of classes, following that I felt I couldn’t skip anymore. Plus my teacher’s reaction when I said might be late went like this:
“Hi, so I might be late I’m shooting Trudeau.”
“Yeah… so is everyone else.”
“Get your pics quickly and come to class”
So I left when I thought the thing was almost over, still cutting it close, and while I was in class Trudeau gets presented with a photo and tears up. Again check the link.
During the weekend before while staying at my friend’s place I was able to complete my spot news assignment. I was at his place on Flora St. when I saw on Twitter that a car had flipped on its roof a block away at Bronson. I raced out and snapped some pics of the fire crews righting it and towing it away. I also got a chance to talk to the driver, who was unscathed amazingly. He said he swerved to avoid a car and clipped the edge of the snow bank and then the car flipped.
Stepping back further into January, I skipped school on 28th of January. I don’t normally do that but I was in Ottawa that weekend and I found out there was an Idle No More Day of action on the Monday. I was also buying a car that weekend. So Monday morning I photographed the protest, which was much, much smaller than the one two weeks earlier, then bussed out to South Keys to pick up my fancy not-new ’96 Mazda 626, oh yeah. It runs pretty nicely and I got to test it out driving back to Belleville that night, the snow in the day turned to sleet and freezing rain that night and a 2.5 hour drive became four.
Also that weekend I assisted a friend on an engagement shoot on the Saturday, we were in Alymer Quebec and I noticed tons of ice fishing huts. The next day I came back with my gear to shoot what Loyalist calls ‘feature photos’ basically just a fun photo of things happening. In this case because we had so much leeway I borrowed Loyalists 300mm f/2.8 which is a big obnoxious white lens weighing 2.5kg (5.6 lbs), I also own a 2x teleconverter which doubles the focal length of your lens, so I wandered around with the 600mm and discreetly photographed ice fishers. Our news photography teacher loved the ridiculous telephoto and wanted to know if I’d ever stacked converters, I haven’t yet…
That weekend though I was mostly in Ottawa for Raven’s basketball, I was trying to get four assignments done in one weekend and I succeeded, sports feature, sports action, sequence photo and portfolio. Talk about efficiency, three classes, four assignments in two games.
The second game I was specifically looking for features, so I spent little time shooting the game and more time shooting everything else.
That was the second weekend in Ottawa shooting Ravens basketball, the previous weekend I decided to come up for something to do and ended up doing that. I also managed to double up on another assignment, for news photography we had to shoot a collector for what is known as an ‘environmental portrait,’ basically a person known for something photographed in the context of that something. In this case the something a collection. My friend’s roommate collects ‘physical media’ meaning DVD’s, Books and Comics, and has one big shelf dedicated to each collection, alphabetized, I ended up using the pics for our portfolio class and our lighting class in addition to news photography.
After shooting the portraits I went to Carleton to shake the cobwebs out of my head. It had been a year since I photographed any sports, not including surfing. And frankly I was surprised how quickly I fell back on the saddle. I spent a lot of time watching Dave Smart the coach whose animated coaching style made basketball games during my four years at Carleton that much more entertaining.
That brings me all the way to the week following my last blog post, when Idle No More was still headed off at full steam. There had been a day of action the previous week with thousands of people in the streets and a historic meeting between Indigenous peoples, the Crown and the State. That was followed up with the promise of a day of action and that the next Wednesday blockades would happen all across Canada.
There is a Mohawk reserve, Tyendinaga, near Belleville, it’s where I get my gas (avg $1.20/L) and it is also the location of a CP/CN rail line intersection. I found the whole situation immensely interesting. As photographers and journalists we spent the day trying to figure out where and when this would happen. When we found out where the blockade was we had to walk through back woods trails to get to the intersection. A few falls, bruises and cold, wet feet later we found the blockade, although they were absolutely not happy that we were on their land taking pictures.
This is where I found the situation more interesting, technically the rail lines are federal property, but they run through a reserve. In this case the rail line carries Via passengers from Toronto to Montreal and is a pretty important one, but I understand why the police mostly stood back and watched. As it was the protestors hung around for a few hours and made their point, which was that they have the power to do this, then left and things continued on.
As I mentioned March will be a busy month and April will be a lot of wrpping up. For my part though it was nice to have a few days at least to check out mentally and play Civ, but I think those days are past time to get back to work.
Goodbye Guelph – Hello Belleville, home of Loyalist College and it’s renowned photojournalism program. My new base of operations, so to speak.
I’m going to work chronologically backwards to my last post and start with some pictures I shot this past Friday in Ottawa during the Idle No More protests surrounding the meetings between First Nations chiefs and the heads of Canada’s government and state. The protest brought what seemed like thousands of First Nation’s people into the streets of Ottawa, as well as cities around the country, to protest the government, Bill-C45 and many other grievances.
I loved the picture above, until I found out another Loyalist student in second year took the EXACT same shot. So I’ll have to get more creative next time.
This next picture I’m uncertain about, I think it looks cool, but a lot of it is just optical fanciness. The lens has a minimum f stop of 1.4. In laymen’s terms the lens has the ability to make an area the width of a coin appear sharp as a tack while blurring everything else almost past recognition. In this case I did this to draw attention to the demonstrators hair. Because we were in a crowd it was hard to make the hair prominent whilst making the crowd part of the background, so I used the lens wide open. It worked, but like I said I’m uncertain.
The weekend before my friend and I travelled to Theresa Spence’s camp, she’s the Attawapiskat chief who has been fasting, consuming only tea and fish broth for the last month. The island itself is located in the Ottawa River between Gatineau and Ottawa. The symbology is perfect because the island is pretty much literally in the shadow of parliament.
So we took photos from around the camp and some of the happenings while we were there.
I wasn’t able to get a picture of her though. The supporters in the camp were very welcoming, but we were told we could not take pictures near the sacred fire. Spence was on the other side of this fire flanked by tarps and wind blinds. There was no way to get a picture without being immediately removed by some angry supporter, and it would have been grossly disrespectful.
While Idle No More has largely been my focus since I got to Belleville, in the month before coming to school I had been fascinated by the growing teacher’s unrest. In Guelph in early December Elementary teachers staged a one-day walkout as part of a series of province-wide one-day strikes to protest new legislation, which would eliminate their right to strike and other collective bargaining rights.
In the days leading up to the strike I emailed several news outlets to say I would be there, looking to see if there was any interest. I received an email from the Canadian Press while I was at the event asking if I could call when I had photos. After working at top speed, I rushed home, the nearest source of Internet, and started editing. The photos were filed by noon and by 2pm I was elbow deep in dish water at the café I was working at. The universe raises up and casts down.
My pictures ran briefly on the Guelph Mercury’s website, as well as in print and online with the Toronto Star and online with CTV. It was my second time selling pictures to a wire and reminded me why this is where I want to work some day. It’s so exciting to send in your pics, then wait and watch where they appear and in some cases where they don’t.
Prior to December though, I wasn’t doing a whole lot. Some personal stuff and some commercial stuff. But I was mostly saving money for school and taking it easy. I did finally process the remaining rolls of film I had from Costa Rica. There is still one more stage though, I need to actually print pictures from the negatives. I finally got a hold of the remaining printing equipment I needed, thanks to the generosity of my aunt’s dad. However, when I moved to Belleville I brought the equipment, but forgot the negatives.
Needless to say if a crude scanning method looks like this I REALLY want to print them soon.
SO from this point forward my posts will focus on my progress through Loyalist College’s photojournalism program. That should mean I’m shooting a lot more and have more to post. What’s exciting for me is it gives me the chance to return to some of my old haunts in Ottawa, like this weekend for example. Hopefully I’ll be able to shoot some sports at Carleton.
Until the next post.
P.S. To the staff at With the Grain, thank you for making this fall way better than it might have been. A definably crappy job was made much, much better because of you guys, dishwashing was never so good, so thanks… a lot.
So it’s been well over a month since my last post. Whoops?
Frankly since this blog is mostly about me I’ve been waiting until I had some interesting pictures to share. My main focus over the last month has been finding work. It’s been a pretty decent month, albeit low key.
First off though I want to show some pictures from Nosara. Since being back I’m now slowly working my way through the unprocessed film I have. While there I used two rolls of Fujichrome 100F. It’s a beautiful daylight slide film and it worked pretty well in combination with my antique Baldex.
The film was processed by a place in Ottawa, Labworks, where I’ve been going for years. They have a great deal too on 120 prints; one processed roll plus a set of 5×5 prints for about $12. Since I don’t have a medium format film scanner I scanned the prints and at 2400dpi it managed resolutions at 6000px x 6000px. Which is higher resolution than my 5D mkII. Not bad for a 65 year old camera…
Slide film doesn’t have a lot of latitude. You either get the exposure or you don’t, which made shooting with it much more difficult because I had no lightmeter… so I guessed most of the exposures, using some basic photography principles like ‘sunny f/16,’ and some basic math. However, the following two were a little overexposed and pulling down the exposure using modern editing techniques did some cool things to the colour.
This one from when Yamina (girlfriend) came to visit me the second time in May.
So I’ve been trying to keep busy and keep some of the momentum gained from school and Nosara as I continue through the fall. I am slated to start at Loyalist College’s Photojournalism program in January 2013 but that’s a few months away.
School went back two weeks ago and though I wasn’t there, my good friend was, and I’ve been receiving reports on the program and what to expect. Including some of the assignments. Each week there is a photo assignment where you have to do something specific. In abstentia I’m going to try to do as many as I can.
The first one was to take a picture of an interesting person, who is not a friend, family member or member of the Loyalist community. It took a day or two to set up the interview, but I ended up doing a photo of the dude who repaired my cellphone a few weeks ago. He has a unique operation run out of his apartment. So I showed up and photographed/interviewed him while he worked on a clients iPhone.
Photography has not been my main pursuit recently though, finding a job has been. I succeeded in finding a job as a full-time dishwasher at a restaurant/café around the corner from my house called With the Grain. I also got a job as a nightclub photographer for Guelph nightlife promoters Freshmedia. Tonight is my first night with them and it will be at the Vinyl (always the Trasheteria in my heart) and Friday and Saturday will be at the Loft.
However, whilst job searching in August I had a pretty fun time running around Ontario. I went to My dad’s cottage in Huntsville, stayed with my girlfriends family in Ottawa, saw some old friends and spent a day wandering Toronto before landing back in Guelph.
In Toronto I took a lot of pictures of the CN Tower… I haven’t actually tried to photograph the CN Tower since I got into photography, so it seemed like a good idea. But I was trying to find something unique and I think I did beyond just a tourist shot.
Toronto has a lot of Pigeons and there were a lot in the park near Kensington where Yamina and I ate lunch, I spent more time than I should have trying to photograph the nearby scavengers…
To get there we took the GO Train from Guelph to Toronto, which meant an early morning, by the time we arrived in Toronto I needed coffee. So we stopped at this place on Queen St West. It looked like grunge and dirt was the theme of the place….
Over the Labour Day weekend I had the opportunity to go to my dad’s cottage on Cowan Lake near Huntsville. There are great sunsets and glass-like water. I spent most of the weekend sitting on a dock drinking beer.
Also hung out with this wonderful lady.
See what I mean? Great sunsets…
So that about sets the tone for the next few months here. I’m trying to work as many hours as I can in anticipation of school, and keep from falling behind. This week we need to make three pictures, all themed around motion: one using a panning motion, one freezing motion and one blurring motion. So this Sunday I think I will pop over to the University of Guelph for some sports.
I’ve also been looking for assistant work in Guelph and have had some minor luck. I photographed a wedding with Trina Koster Photography on August 11, pictures are here and I assisted Ross David-Pilon from studio 404 during a commercial shoot with the Brampton Arts Council as an onsite editor. I’ll tease my new wedding post with one picture below.
Autumn must really be coming and for the first time since January it actually feels cold…
I am back from Costa Rica. I left Canada on the 16th of January for Costa Rica and I returned on the 25th of July. I flew through Houston into Toronto and cleared security sometime just before midnight.
One of the biggest changes coming back, is that I am no longer living in Ottawa. Frankly I have no reason too. I went there for university and I finished that shortly before leaving. I will be going back to school in January at Loyalist College for Photojournalism, but until then I will be in Guelph. Hopefully I will be able to find some work in photography while I’m here otherwise… waiting tables?
Needless to say emails are going out today and tomorrow, to let people know, I’m here and I can do photography.
However, this post is going to recap my final days in Costa Rica.
I was at the Caribbean!
I mentioned the hostel I was staying in my last post, as a somewhat unique place, and not for good reasons necessarily. One of the drawbacks was that the beach in front of the hostel was rocky and kind of sucked. However, I had been told that about a 20 minute walk away was a nice sand beach, and there was so I spent a few hours there.
There was also a small island off the coast that reminded me Jurassic Park…
More interesting than another white sand beach (I know I was spoiled) were the jungle paths. The jungle basically pushed right up to the beach and there were some cool paths to some deserted places I went along.
One of those paths led up to a cliff with a sheer drop 50m into the ocean. It was a dramatic place to sit and read for a while, although one that required caution while climbing around.
On the 24th I packed up my stuff and set out into the rain. It had been pouring that morning but had slowed to a light drizzle around 10am when I left. I boarded a bus to San Jose and 5 hours later I was back in the big city.
I made my way 20 blocks across town with my backpack and found myself back at Galileo Hostel, the place where this had all began, so to speak. I stayed there for two nights when I first arrived and had nothing but nice memories of the place. Sure enough the experience was about the same this time around.
I spent the evening at the hostel bar, chatting with other people staying there. It was a little strange. As the night wore on, I was tired and wanted to sleep, but at the same time sleeping meant I would wake up, and waking up meant it would be over. I didn’t want it to be over.
The next morning while waiting to depart for the airport I took some pictures of a map they had spread out on a table at the hostel.
I decided to do an overhead shot and then I put the map photo into Photoshop and used the paint tool to circle all the places I was, and the roads I traveled to get there.
Considering I was just there to be in Nosara I think I got some pretty decent travelling around in as well.
Three hours later I was in the air to Houston, Texas.
Here is a short video I took out the airplane window of our take off, and my final glimpses of Costa Rica. I think the best part is the commentary from the four-year old sitting next to me.
I’m gonna miss Costa Rica. In my list of places to visit in my life, frankly Costa Rica wasn’t on it. I only went because the Voice of Nosara offered me an amazing opportunity. As I look back over previous travels though there seems to be a pattern of ending up in places I never intended to visit, which I then grow to love.
I hope I’ll be able to return someday soon. Financially speaking I should be able to, it’s almost cheaper to fly to San Jose from Toronto than it is to fly to Vancouver. And now West Jet is flying regularly to Liberia, Guanacaste.
Until then it’s time to hit the ground running. Photojournalism is an intensely competitive industry and I’m going into Loyalist with experience and a competitive advantage, the next two years are going to be fun.
P.S. To the regular blog followers who I haven’t met, glad you’ve enjoyed reading, hopefully I will be able to keep this interesting as time goes forward.
P.P.S To those at Voice of Nosara and the people of Nosara in general, thank you very much for everything over the six-months. Thank you very much.
It’s done. Gio is working for Voice of Nosara and I am on the Caribbean coast one the other side of the country.
My last few days were an odd mix of nostalgia, excitement, limited sleep and booze. I tried to pass on everything I’d learned in six-months to my replacement Gio and at the same time we spent each night drinking and getting to know each other. It’s funny, though we’d never met we know many of the same people back home. To give you and idea of how small the photojournalism community in Canada is.
My trip here was epic, and started when Gio drove me from the Voice of Nosara office, where I’ve lived for the last six-months to a friends house a few kilometers down the road where I was spending the last night. I had a bag with me and he had his gear bag so I had to sit on the luggage rack and face backwards. I watched Playa Guiones and all the places I’ve come to know so well fade into the night as we sped away. It seemed like the most appropriate metaphor.
Saturday morning was early. I didn’t get to sleep until about 12:30 and I had to be up at 4:30 to meet the bus in time, shortly after 5am. Tired and nursing a small hangover I set out for Nicoya, then San Jose. When I arrived in San Jose I realized the last time I had been there had been in late February to meet my girlfriend Yamina at the airport when she arrived for her first visit. It was only five months ago but it feels like a lifetime ago.
I transferred bus stations, the Caribbean bus station was about eight blocks away, had some lunch and boarded the final bus to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca in Costa Rica’s eastern-most province. I arrived shortly after 7pm and took a taxi to Rockin’ J’s hostel, which is sort of like a warehouse of drunk tourists. I plan to take it easy and enjoy the chill vibe during the day though. I’m on a very tight budget now.
In addition to the standard dorm or private options, this place lets you rent a tent or pitch your own.
They also let you rent hammocks or hang your own. Aside from camping with your own tent or hammock renting a hammock is the next cheapest option, so I jumped on it.
The different warehouses border a central courtyard which is nice and relaxed
Did I mention the gaudy mosaics?
The next photo was taken just inside this entrance.
Before I went east everyone told me the Caribbean was a very different place from the west-coast. I’ve been here less than 24 hours and already know they’re right.
When I said, ‘warehouse for drunk tourists,’ I meant all of it. I woke up around 9am and walked to my locker where two girls were drinking a litre of wine, their conversation was mostly about how they’d been drunk all day the day before too. I left for an hour to buy groceries and when I came back they were gone, but the empty bottle (which had been full) was still there. Then I went to the beach.
I miss Nosara already, the people, the place and the beauty. I haven’t travelled a whole lot around Costa Rica, but every place I have been to palls in comparison. Still I am excited to be coming home, though not excited to be coming home broke and in debt. However, with five months in Guelph before I need to go back to school hopefully I can save up some coin and make a dent in the debt.
Ultimately it was totally worth it though. And I know I’ve left the paper in good hands with Gio there, if you want to keep up with his travels in Nosara check out his blog.
On Tuesday I will catch a bus back to San Jose I hope to stay in the same hostel I stayed in during my first two nights in Costa Rica back in January. Then on Wednesday I’ll taxi or bus to the airport and leave for Canada.
Until then I’m going to take it easy on the east-coast, where reggae pours out of every bar, black guys with dreadlocks cruise through town on beach bikes and every other place sells Caribbean style fried chicken. Not a bad place for my retirement from Voice of Nosara.
It’s the final stretch for me in Nosara now. A week from now I plan to be in the Caribbean town of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, in the eastern province of Límon. Until then I’m finishing up a few final stories and assignments and rounding out the things I wanted to do here.
So, last weekend I finally got to Samara, some 25km from Playa Guiones where I live, I left Friday night and returned Sunday. Without a functioning quad I had to take the bus though, which requires going about 30km out of the way and transferring buses.
I stayed at a place called Las Mariposas. Their dorms, at $15 a night, were expensive for Central America but affordable for Samara. The place was nice and the people were good.
Overall I prefer Nosara, the big thing is the beach. Samara’s is crowded and the sun doesn’t set over the ocean. From Guiones to Ostional, 6km north, there is a turtle refuge for the Olive Ridley sea turtles who lay their eggs there. So there is very little beachside development, save for a handful of lots who have concessions from the government.
I also saw the biggest land crab I’ve seen yet. It crawled into the hostel grounds and ended up trapped in a case of empty beer bottles. We tried to help it free but it freaked out, fell down and ran off.
He was big enough to arract the attention of people walking by.
Sunday morning I was up at 5:45am to meet one of the editors. When I told her I was going to Samara, she asked if I could come on a finca tour Sunday morning to take pictures for an article she’s working on for next print issue. Samara is close enough to Nosara that we cover events there too.
A finca is a plantation basically, as well as a colonial status symbol brought over by the Spanish, they exist all across Latin America. In this case this one is overgrown, with some small-scale logging. The owners, who bought it a few years ago, want to use the jungle space they have as an eco tour business.
So we were given a short version of the tour and walked for two hours, mostly through a river because they haven’t cut many trails. We saw lots of cool stuff, but there was only one pictures I really liked.
Rewinding a little bit, earlier that week on July 4th I helped shoot another wedding. I’m not really going to post pics here though. Instead i’ve made some site changes, the navigation bar at the top now links to my twitter account, my new facebook page, and two new blogs I set up and linked here, portfolios and weddings.
Check them out they’re part of my effort to expand my online presence and commercial photography business. However, I will include one picture from my most recent wedding, it’s not in the album on my weddings page though. It’s what I would call wedding B-roll, but I really like this photo.
It is July, that means I’m now in my final month here in Nosara. It’s prompted a few interesting reflections, some I will share now, others I will have to think about a bit more. One thing I know is I will miss this place, maybe not right away, but at some point down the road I know I will. Below is part of the reason why, I haven’t used high dynamic range editing in more than a year, but Monday’s sunset prompted one. This is me on top of a ridge separating playas Guiones and Pelada.
What’s more my replacement is picked, a guy named Giordano Ciampini, he’s leaving Canada on July 5th and wisely getting some pre-internship travel in. For the last little while he’s been based out of Toronto as a freelancer, he also graduated from the same program at Loyalist I’m going into, and last year he was in Egypt during the revolution under his own steam. He has a tumblr here with some cool stuff for those interested.
Before I go though I have a list with some unfinished things and unexplored places. Off the top of my head, the town of Samara, 35km away and playa Rosada, a pink sand beach only really accessible during low-tide. More importantly as I look back over the last six-months I realize I got what I needed from this experience.
My Spanish, though still rough, has improved dramatically, I’m still limited in my own vocabulary but I seem to understand around 80% of what is said at a regular speaking pace. My portfolio is now more than half comprised of photos from Nosara. I’ve gone from being a terrible writer to a passable one, and pitched stories that landed on cover. In a few cases I produced features which required, video, photos and text. While there is still time to do more, I’m happy with the way things have gone.
Conveniently too I have been hired as an assistant for two weddings here. I say convenient because I have been looking towards what I’ll do from August to January in Guelph, and frankly I’m hoping to do some weddings. However, my wedding portfolio was sorely lacking, so the two here have given me an opportunity to step up that part of my game.
I like wedding photography, for different reasons than journalism. Weddings are generally happy days, people are usually looking their best and want you to take their pictures, creativity is a must, if you’re not trying something new each time you’re not really trying, I feel.
Nosara is a great place for a wedding too, on the beach with the setting sun. Here’s a few samples from last Wednesday, the next one is tomorrow night. I’ll be putting up a new blog for wedding stuff soon, and a Facebook page, which will have more samples.
In terms of assignments, it has been a slow month and none of them have really been great for pictures. I’ve also done a lot more writing this month and I’ve been playing around with video more.
I’ve been hoping to do a video on what it’s like to drive in Nosara – beautiful views, jungle, choking dust, mud, 2ft deep pot-holes, the pacific etc. I figured the easiest way was to drive from north of town to the beaches, through different neighborhoods on a quad with my camera straped to my chest for a POV video.
Problem is the quad keeps breaking so I haven’t had a chance… But a few weeks ago on a quiet day I decided to test my, ‘camera-mounting system,’ which is a belt and a carabiner and go for a test-drive. I wondered if the sped up video would work and if the POV would work or if it would be too shaky. I feel like it worked, although some minor adjustments need to be made and once the quad is functioning again I can do the actual drive.
And for those of you who have five5 minutes and want to see the slower and thus more scenic tour.
I also played around with stop motion animation for a feature on coffee. Basically I boiled water and set up a cup, a cloth coffee filter, which is how the Tico’s brew their coffee, and my camera on a tripod. I used the cable release, and put the running lock on, once the 5D hit its buffer it shot roughly 1.5 frames per second at a consistent rate for as long as I neeeded, then I started brewing coffee. After I used iMoive (I need to graduate to Final Cut) stacked the pics (120 in total) and set the view time for .2 seconds each. It could probably also be made into a .gif…
I’ll also include a few pictures from my trip to the coffee farms. Earlier in June I went into the mountains in Nicoya to visit two coffee farms with a writer, it was a really fun day of sightseeing for me. Unfortunately coffee season is not now, so both the farms were empty and dormant, the coffee plants won’t flower until around November-December. In both cases we were toured around an empty farm, it was still interesting but a lot harder to make pictures of the farms… The full feature is coming out later this week in print and sometime shortly after online I think.
This past Friday I was hired to shoot a graduation ceremony at Blue Spirit. The Blue Spirit centre is a Yoga training fortress, situated on a mountain overlooking Playa Guiones, protected by guards, razor-wire and walls. The Yoga monks inside are quite nice though, it’s an interesting community they have there. While I was in their studio I was able to see over the tree-line to Playa Guiones from a height I haven’t before, it was pretty cool.
I was hired to shoot a group photo of all 70 students, I’ve never shot a group photo that big before, but they had a ladder. They also wanted a portrait of each student with their teachers and certificates during the ceremony. I used a portrait lens and a flash to fill them in and with my remote trigger and a tripod, it was like a factory line.
After the ceremony though, the students had a presentation that they’d prepared. It involved a lot of kow towing, rhythmic dancing and flowing white dresses. I wasn’t hired to shoot this part, but I did, cause it was kind of cool. I wanted to be more unobtrusive though, so I tried to use a slower shutter and very narrow focus to do it with the limited natural light. I think it kind worked.
The Blue Spirit people were very friendly, and the facility is absolutely beautiful. Plus they let me eat at their buffet… I was stuffed I had 4 plates I think, there was a random mix or American, European and Tico food so for example, rice, beans, French bread with guacamole and peanut butter.
So coming up is another wedding tomorrow, I’m planning on heading to Samara for the weekend, and hopefully next week there will be an Arribada in Ostional, it might require a late night and early morning but I want to shoot one sooooo bad.
For now though this is it.
Ok, I wanna start this post with a picture, pulled from near the end of this very wordy post, of a red-eyed tree frog. Why? It’s cute.
What a week it’s been. When I posted last it was the eve of my tri-monthly departure from Nosara, colloquially referred to as a ‘visa-run.’ Basically every three months Costa Rica demands those here on tourist visas leave for 72 hours, I assume to ponder whether you want to return or not…
I left Nosara on June 1st for Nicoya, the capital of the canton, similar to a municipality, which Nosara is in. I briefly stopped at the bank, if you call an hour to get a cheque cashed ‘brief,’ and then was on my way to Liberia, capital of the province of Guanacaste where Nosara and Nicoya are located. It was my stopping point for the night.
The last time I went to Nicaragua to renew my visa I had trouble re-entering Costa Rica. The Tico’s required proof of onward travel in the next three months or they refused to grant a visa. Trapped in limbo between Nicaragua and Costa Rica I had no choice but to buy and international bus ticket from one of the reps wandering around, likely for this exact situation, I purchased a direct bus from San Jose to Managua good for one year.
I had this ticket lying around so I figured I would use it, but meeting the bus en route in Liberia is easier then going all the way to San Jose. Leaving from the country’s capital would require six hours busing to San Jose, an overnight then it would be five more hours before the bus passed through Liberia, or I could travel the four hours from Nosara to Liberia, stay over night and meet the bus there, saving at least seven hours of my life.
Crossing the border was a bigger pain in the ass on an international bus than using local buses and walking across, as everyone’s visa has to be processed then everyone’s bag had to be searched by a border guard who put no effort into it. After two hours of slowly stepping over an invisible dotted line in the sand we were on our way.
However, I didn’t want to go to Managua, I wanted to return to the pueblo of Poste Rojo and the little treehouse hostel near it. The route from the border to the capital of Nicaragua doesn’t bring me to Poste Rojo, it splits and one road goes to Granada, the other Managua. The bus stopped and I jumped out and it drove off. I found myself in a little town called Nandaime on the side of the Pan-American Highway. I waited at the side of a dusty road, soliciting stares from the people waiting for a bus with me.
After about ten minutes a local bus, occasionally called a chicken bus because in Honduras campesinos are known to transport chickens in them, arrived. It was in reality a brightly painted recycled school bus from North America, mine was a Bluebird, with the logo painted acid green and the bus painted black.
The bus was headed to Granada, on the shores of Lake Nicaragua, I asked it to drop me at Poste Rojo and began the exhausting 200 metre climb to reception, it’s almost completely vertical. An hour later I was watching the sun dip over the jungle while tree frogs and howler monkey’s made noise, sipping a beer, reading whilst swinging in a hammock. I did that all next day too, lazy Sunday.
Monday I realized I was leaving Tuesday so I figured I would head into town, I hadn’t yet been to Granada. It’s the capital of the province of Granada in Nicaragua’s southeast; it’s on the shores of Lake Nicaragua, the biggest lake in Central America. The lake was of strategic importance for the Spanish colonizers because of a small navigable river that connects Lake Nicaragua to the Caribbean. It made for an excellent inland bay to load up treasure ships safely with stolen gold from the Maya and Aztec in the north and the Inca in the south.
~~~ here comes a political-historical deviation ~~~~
As a result of this historical strategic importance Granada is full of beautiful architecture. Most big cities in Central America are somewhat devoid of ornate colonial architecture because it wasn’t a source of administrative importance or power for the Spanish unlike Lima, Buenos Aries or Caracas, which are littered with ornate architecture. However, Granada’s relative importance warranted it a greater level of fancy buildings then I have seen elsewhere so far.
The irony of course is that the city is in terrible disrepair after decades of internecine war fueled by foreign powers. The Somoza dictatorship and the successful Sandinista (FSLN) revolution was a proxy war for the cold war powers. The FSLN is Marxist in its ideology although post-Somoza Nicaragua has found it’s own mix of socialism and religion. One election poster I saw a lot read, “Nicaragua: Christianity, Socialism, Solidarity,” strange combination indeed.
The FSLN is currently in power and they’ve steered Nicaragua in an interesting direction. One could argue that the tired looking architecture in Granada is symptomatic of a lack of focus on development. That’s just not true. The fact is political leaders in Nicaragua are tasked with reversing a century of privilege and their priorities are elsewhere.
In the early 1900’s the US intervened in most Central American countries, as per their manifest destiny belief the US wanted a canal through Central America, originally they proposed building it in Nicaragua. That plan failed and instead they supported Panamanian independence movements seeking separation from Colombia, the cost was a sovereign American strip through the country to build a canal and then they proceeded to pacify Panama’s neighboors.
In Costa Rica, it was political which lead to revolution in the 40’s and in Nicaragua it was political with a little direct military intervention to assist it. Then in the 30’s they assisted in establishing Anastasio Somoza García as a ‘king’ of sorts. Until 1979 he and his sons used Nicaragua as a personal bank account. They pillaged all the public services, assassinated and tortured dissidents and pushed the campesinos into civil war. The Sandinista’s, named for Augusto César Sandino a general who led a guerilla war against the US marines occupying Nicaragua in the 30’s and the government they were backing, beat out the Somoza dynasty in 1979.
For the next decade the US carried out a covert war using black ops ‘Contra’s,’ short for ‘contrarevolution’ or ‘counterrevolution’ in English. Most of them were Nica’s trained by the US, although the Green Berets were also evident. By 1987, after almost a century without democratic rule Nicaragua began the transition back, in 1990 Violeta Barrios de Chamorro was the first female elected head of government in the America’s.
Nicaragua is still recovering from decades of war, and whilst Costa Rica was allowed to spend all the time marketing themselves as a Central American heaven, Nicaragua was busy fighting for basic human rights. Now Nicaragua is finally at a point where Costa Rica was in the 1950’s, but the Nica’s have big dreams. The Sandinista government recently outlawed misogyny, while it is a hard law to enforce; especially with a poorly trained corrupt national police force (see earlier post) it’s a lofty goal. One the rest of America could perhaps consider looking at.
There are more concrete measures on the ground too. However, restoring colonial edifices falls somewhere behind education for all, equality amongst class and sex, access to universal healthcare etc. I would argue Granada is still beautiful, and more so when you realize that the tired old colonial buildings, actually means Nicaragua has their development priorities sorted out
~~~ and back to the regular post ~~~