Apologies to the Shutterbugs

I don’t wait well. Never have.

Now I might. At least when it comes to the camera.

How many of you have had long awkward moments posing for a family portrait or more likely in my case, caked in make-up for a press pic, and you have to bite your lip to prevent an outburst of “What the hell are you doing SHOOT the picture!!??”

I’ve spent many nervous deadline days close to tears after getting a camera at the last minute. I beg the operator to forget the tripod, just go off the shoulder, and don’t light.

I was a silly silly girl.

Turns out manual camera operation takes planning. I thought I knew that before actually doing it myself but really, I had no idea.

It’s not the math. I like the trinomial challenge of exposure, speed and ISO. It’s arithmetic that makes sense because I can see it and change it.

It’s not the light either, I get light, and the rule of thirds.

I don’t get my camera. I have no idea why Nikon needs three buttons that all do the same thing.

But tech aside my big issue is turning off my frenetic mind. I have to find MY off button.

Most of the things I do well in life happen by happy random. When I’m really interested in something I get very fast at it. I get fast enough I can do something so many times there’s bound to be a good result at some point. It’s a more intuitive way to live and quite frankly more fun.

It adds the irrational element of magic into my work. Many radio documentaries I’ve done where made with mostly heart. Because I am so familiar with those tools perhaps, I don’t notice the head.

I love my “Intro to Digital” instructor. She’s both caustic and funny. And she’s drilling into me that I have to be methodical in manual or I’ll go nuts with all the choices. Find my method, and stick to it over and over and over again.

  1. Get a histogram you like depending on the tone of your subject.
  2. Adjust for amount of light either in A or S with the +1/-1 button or with the light meter in M.
  3. Bracket. Take the first photo then go up or down in exposure twice depending on tone. That way you have choices in post.
  4. Touch up or “cook” your photo your way.

I’m struggling. I can feel new neuropathways growing.

I always respected the camera operators in my life for their art. Now I think they are planning rock stars.

Here’s to years and years of slow careful photo-noodling.

And here’s a sample of my first homework assignment.

I call it “Peace Peppers”. It’s an homage to those arrested at APEC and the quote from our PM at the time that pepper is something he puts on his plate.

Okay that was total bull. I looked in my fridge in a panic the night before class and happily hoped for the best.

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On re-becoming a “Dog Person”

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IMG_6682 (Photo credit: RightBrainPhotography)

When you “grow up arctic” you become the kind of person who believes in random awesome. Nice just happens. You say to someone that you need a new lamp but don’t want to order it from Sears and in a couple days you have two maybe three to chose from on your doorstep. Someone is always coming and going. And no one is married to “stuff” in a place where moving things cost more than the stuff is worth.

So one day I mention to someone at work how I’m thinking I’d like a white sled dog. It was just a quip. But broadcasters don’t sit on words. We spread them.

The next week someone walked into the store my dude was working in and handed him a light fur ball with four feet. “Here’s your dog!”. What??!!

She changed our lives.

I named her Kafka because I read dogs like names with a vowel at the end. I looked at my bookshelf and saw Franz’s paperback. She was no nightmare though. The dog was all love and play. Half husky, half lab, and all bush. She needed to be outside. She needed to pull. She needed to run and tug. And she needed to feel like a vital part of the pack.

She also loved popcorn. And caribou bones. Kafka talked to us with her collar, shaking her tags when she needed to communicate. We took her everywhere. We put her in a dress (she was my size) for our wedding invite. She was the first kid’s baby play mat. She stayed outside the baby’s door during naps. I was seriously thinking of making a dog hair sweater from her never-ending undercoat. Or a hat. I wish I had.

At age 14 she fell apart. Her hearing went. Her hips went. Her mind went. And we cried. I sobbed for three months after she died. I swore I could still hear her shake her tags in the middle of the night.

I brought her ashes back home to Inuvik and shook them out near the bypass road. It’s a place she’d hunt for rabbits and drink from puddles.

We couldn’t even think about dogs for years.

Then we met Rocket: a rescue dog from a 24 hour kill shelter in New Mexico.

Everyone who meets him agrees this Kelpie is “special”.

Maybe it’s the way he appears to peer into your soul when he looks at you. Maybe it’s because, despite his ordeal, he is a doll of a dog.

He must have been loved very much early in his life because he is lovely. And so so smart.

A huge network of rescue people helped him get here.

Rocket’s foster fairy god-mothers had a hard time letting him go. I’m glad they did.

Things you forget when you don’t have a dog:

  • Their hugs and love are like a drug. Instant improvement in mental fitness.
  • Walking a lot gets rid of butt fat.
  • Watching dogs play and in Rocket’s case “work” though the natural obstacle course of a mountain forest is a really really fun thing to do.
  • You sleep better with a dog in the house.

So here we are twenty years since our first dog and back in the dog world. I carry little bags with me everywhere. I think it’s a good day when I find a small hair on my toast.

A friend of mine said you can actually “feel” the gratitude from rescue dogs. It’s true. But I really think this dog is rescuing us.

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My Succotash Wish

I’m halfway through my leave from CBC. Halfway. Glass half full? No way. I’m feeling less than accomplished, which maybe laudable for someone who was burnt out and needing to the brain to just “be” for a while, but I have a list. I always have a list.

Sabbatical Goals (in no particular order):

  1. Learn to take lovely digital photos of stuff I like and people I love. So lovely, the people I love will feel special when they see the awesome pictures of them.
  2. Learn to play accordion. I need a new party trick.
  3. Create a hand puppet and bring it to life. I cried during “Becoming Elmo”.

Stuff I wouldn’t mind happening while I’m off:

  1. Getting a dog.
  2. Going to Hawaii to watch my dude cross surfing the North Shore off his bucket list.
  3. Watching the entire series of “The Wire”.
  4. Take the train through the Rockies.
  5. Take the inside passage ferry.

Because my leave is self-funded (I’ve been putting hundreds of dollars per cheque into an account for three years), I can do all this.

But I haven’t yet.

The photo lessons start this week. I’ll post the results here. It’s a ten week intro to digital photography course that looks promising.

I attended the Accordion Noir festival and loved it. I know I want a 120 bass instrument with a medium amount of buttons. I’ve found several on Craigslist that will fit. I’ve chosen my instructor (he doesn’t know it yet) but I have yet to get this going. I’m intimidated. How hard can it be right? Hard.

I can’t find a puppet creation workshop in Vancouver to save my life. The epicentre of all things puppet in Canada is Calgary. I’d love to go there for a week but family life is making that tough. I will keep trying.

My leave has been hijacked by a house sale that never came in a stagnant market. I’ve been living in a staged townhouse with most of our stuff stuffed into storage. After several months I’ve cried uncle. We’re staying put. Now I have to paint my bathroom electric blue again but at least the marathon cleaning can stop.

We might have a dog. (more on that later).

And if my dude can square the time off we’re heading to Hawaii in December. I have yet to get train or ferry travel done. I did spent almost every day at the beach all summer and saw an old friend I’d lost touch with.

I am halfway though season two of “The Wire”.

I am reading many great books. I will not be writing one.

My dude and I saw a matinee and held hands while the kids were in school. (Sugarman – go see it!). I went to the film fest.

I lost weight. I need to lose more.

I am not feeling the relentless panic that comes with work/life. We have nice meals. My kids see me much more. I yell at them much less.

I am dancing a lot.

So part of me wants to say “List schmidt”. Just be.

But wouldn’t it be cool to play accordion?