I’ll Have A Lazy Christmas

OK. Yes, I know it’s a little belated, posting what happened at Christmas this late, but whatever.

As my title suggests, I had a lazy Christmas. I don’t know exactly how that happened, especially since I was so reved up with my usual list of things to do and eat. But when it came down to it, after supper, Mom an I would habitually hit the sofa, turn on the TV and watch the news, The Star Trek Marathon, “Call the Midwife” and “Murdoch Mysteries” Christmas specials.

I so wanted to help around the house. Clean the basement, chop some wood, but somehow that all boiled down to collecting 5 garbage bags of stuff from the basement and just being there and hanging out with Mom. Which was very nice in itself.

So where does the photography come in? Sadly, I only took my DSLR out once. I brought with me my Bronika with the Polaroid back, speed light, studio stand, studio umbrella and all the necessities that go with that. On a particularly blustery snowy day, I convinced Mom to go to North Sydney so I can finally try out the much talked about Black Spoon. It was bar-none THE best meal I had during my entire holiday. Ok. With one exception…. two….. OK…..The best meal dining out. We had the special a zesty chicken sandwich, butternut squash soup and leafy green salad. More on my experience and other reviews, visit Google reviews. Can’t wait to have the waffle chicken sandwich. Unfortunately they were all out.

While in North Sydney, I visited my favorite boutique store called. La Quaintrelle Boutique. They have a beautiful mix of new vintage style clothing casual and formal with various accessories to go with your purchase. Underneath is an outdoor store, Escape Outdoors, which was refreshing to find because it just goes to show how active and green Cape Bretoner’s are becoming. It’s a great location for travelers as well. I mean hey, the ferry, to Newfoundland is just next door…ish. Granny’s was all the rage as well. There’s a new location on Archibald Avenue and Pierce St, located in one of the historical homes of North Sydney owned by the MacDonald’s – No, not the chain – In fact, my God Mother’s husband was born there. When inside the house you will see how well preserved and lovingly brought back to its old gleam of original wood work is. From top to bottom, this house shines as well as all the merchandise inside. I highly recommend it. See if you can spot the Fairy House when you visit.

On the way out, I asked that we stop at the Ballast Grounds so I can finally give my camera a proper workout. The dramatic clouds skimming by and the soft blowing snow made a great background for the vibrantly coloured fishing boats on land. “Should we get some lobster while we’re here?” Mom asked when I got back to the car. I immediately hopped back out with an enthusiastic, “YEAH!” I’m sure you saw my facebook post, but incase you didn’t we bought 3 beautiful, huge lobsters, totaling $45 and change. One was a female, but unfortunately, there wasn’t any roe. I dream of the roe I had in Cox’s Cove that summer. For that post, visit this link. The Lobsters were caught that day, brought to the ballast grounds an hour and cooked a half hour before we got there. MMMMMmmmmm…! They were so good!

One exciting moment of my holidays happened when driving along HWY 2 in Northside East Bay. My Friend Robert and I saw a crumbling house on the hill with even more crumbled barns. As it was late in the afternoon, we stuck to the house. We circled around and around looking for a safe way to get inside. In the end the passage beyond the mudroom was not so safe so in order to reach the living room on the other side of the kitchen, one has to climb up and over a fridge onto stove, onto a table that was precariously perched on the sloping floor into the basement. Man that was a beautiful table! In fact most of the wooden furniture – which were antiques probably dating back to the 1900’s, I might add, was still in great condition. Scattered in the back bedroom were Christmas cards (of all things) dating back to 1939! In the mess, I found an old photograph of a woman named Catherine Gillis – McKinnon and a set of her untouched hankies embroidered with delicate flowers. Spilling out of the seams of the house where the kitchen was, was various china ware. I picked up a pretty tea cup with Forget-Me-Not’s. Finally in the coal shed of all places, I found a shoe form for a rather large foot. Not sure if I should even be writing about this adventure. I’m a little possessive of this spot now that I know what treasures and photographic potential lay inside and out.

In the place of Photographer’s Anonymous, I hung out with George and his friend, at the Ugly Mug in Sydney River.  It was exactly what I needed. A relaxing chat about photography with like minded people, sipping on a hot chocolate, ’cause you know, I had 3 coffees that day. Chad, showed a book he had made of the photography he took in Japan. His compositions of inner city street photography are pleasantly restful for such a chaotic place. Your eye moves around the image smoothly, and of course, everyone is beautiful, even emotional in some way. I brought my lap top with me to show them “The Anachronist Project” and other things. I’m pleased they exhibited such a positive reaction to the images. George even planted the idea of seeing who in Cape Breton would let me photograph in their house that would be made up in the period. Annefield Manor, unfortunately, was JUST sold for a song and a dance. Damn! So I’ll solicit to Telegraph House in Baddeck or even so high as Bienn Bhreagh.

There never is enough time is there? To do the things you had planned. Things happen and you make alternative plans and somehow, without really knowing it, you roll with the punches. It’s the little surprises that keep me coming back for more. It’s the need to come home to spark that inspiration to perfect or keep alive an image or feeling that was so fleeting.

The Anachronist 2

The first studio shoot that started it all is based on Edwardian photo shoots with painted backgrounds. Where in the heck, do you find a painted background that is 10 or more feet long and wide? In the states, though to rent then would be an arm in a leg. To find a way around this, I decided to project an image behind a white fabric where it’s projected through so I wouldn’t be caught in the projectors light.

To begin with I tried a sheer fabric, but the image was not crisp and clear enough. There was too much tanslucance. So I cycled to King Fabrics one day before a test shoot and bought a thin piece of white poly cotton. In my quest for white fabrics, I realized many of them are not a true white. Many have a hue of one colour or another. One fabric jumped out as first being really cheap, then really hideous. All I could think of was all the post editing issues mainly getting rid of a green hue from all the images. Why put yourself in that position to begin with? Ends up, the fabric I bought was not wide enough. Off to Designer Fabrics at Queen and Shaw where they sell double width fabric. Not in the same day of course.

The interesting thing in choosing a background to be projected, is to pay attention to where the light in the image is coming from. I say this, because I chose a picture of a trellis I took on Toronto Island with a wave of foliage draped over it and a spray of roses and peonies at the base. The light that day was coming from the top left, so placing the light and at a particular strength was very interesting. There was much experimenting sometimes as late as 10pm.

Containing the light and blocking out natural light was fun. Each time I came I’d laps into a routine of pulling down the blinds, covering the doors with a black-out material and finally climbing the stairs to wind down the black-out curtain over the garage door. The studio is higher on one end then the other. To block out even more light, I had pieced together rods and light stands, stringing along it a voluminous, black muslin dividing the office and the studio. The light at this point was minimum and working well.

Three test sessions later, the shoot happens. I’ve hired a hairstylist and have an assistant for the first time ever. Alanna is an accomplished hairstylist and has done many photo shoots, but I didn’t explain myself well enough to convey what I actually wanted (which was the Gibson Girl pompadour) and in the end improvised. The result was very elegant and thanks to Alana’s ministering hands, lasted throughout the entire shoot. Thanks Alana.


The second shoot was a little more artistically creative. Maybe even a little more fun. There are many photos from the Edwardian era that could be considered some of the first photo booths that were set up in traveling circuses or fairs. Of these many are individuals, couples, friends or children sitting on a moon. I’m sure the moon was wooden and it was perhaps on a stand with a black background and some sort of seat behind it. Both my moons were made from cardboard, the first one being too small. I also made cardboard primed white, glueing cotton batting to them, making them look fluffy. When I discovered the first moon was too small, I made a much larger one, almost twice the size, but had to make it into three separate pieces, held in place by gaffers tape and three wooden dowels for support. Though the clouds could easily be hung between two light stands on a poll, the moon itself was hung on a large boom that could easily be moved this way or that. A stool was placed behind the moon, the cloud in front and there you were.

Before the shoot happened, I put an ad on Facebook to have people come and have their portraits taken on the moon for free. The. I probably would have been too exhausted after my own shoot to take pictures of other people anyways.

My second hairstylist, Xandra arrived on the scene earlier than I had anticipated. I wasn’t even finished setting up, or getting dressed. I didn’t even steam my clothes. My excuse was that were I gone to a fair, and walking around all day, my clothes would be wrinkly then as well. The day before Xandra came to the shoot, she practiced the style I chose on a mannequin. It was the style I originally wanted. So beautiful graceful and authentic, I felt so much closer to the time and therefore more into the shoot itself. We laughed at the movies filmed for that time, where women would take one pin out of their pompadour and whoosh, it would gracefully fall to their shoulders. Yeah right. When I got home, it was a completely different story. I think I counted close to 20 bobby pins and spent much time in the bathtub with my hair submerged.

As it happened it was the second time I locked myself out of my new apartment. I figure going around Toronto with my hair in an Edwardian couiff is going to be almost a regular thing for me, so I might was well kill time at Tim Hortons and Ceili Cottage for mac and Cheese and beer while I wait for my land lord and get use to it. Not the locking myself out that is.


And the latest, The Swing. I wavered between real and fake fauna to decorate the rope of the swing. I researched online what the cost difference would be. In the end, on a lunch time trip to Value Village I found beautiful paper roses and fake berries for $.99 each (whatever happened to the “cent” sign?). When I was downtown, I went to Michaels and discovered greenery was half price, so I bought two chain linked garlands of Ivy and baby’s breath. Perfect timing and problem solved.

It was absolutely imperative, though I had already did test shots, that I have everything 100% ready before my hairstylist came, so I set up the evening before, decorated the Swing, did a few test shots and felt confident in knowing that this was going to be an easy shoot.

The next day, I waited for my third stylist, Kai. She was freshly home from visiting Russia and had great getting to know you conversations when she finally arrived. Her lateness, I can absolutely relate to having had similar issues only a month or so before. Her Samsung phone was on the fritz and died during the night, so she didn’t wake to her alarm, but to her cat. She called and apologized profusely, and though I tend to be not he forgiving side, I knew she was 100% genuine.

In my wait for her, I took some photos of myself with my hair down, a more natural look and feel, and in some cases I seem more at ease than with my hair up. Perhaps because one then feels more prim and proper. More lady like. Try as I might, I could not look or feel as relaxed as I did before when I curled myself up on then swing with an original book of poetry by Robert Service, “Songs of Sourdough”. I also had with me my stereoscope and steroviews. I love these, but the shirtwaist I’m wearing was becoming more and more damaged as the day when on. There’s no way to hide my bear elbow, not even by Photoshop. Though if you have any suggestions, please don’t hesitate to let me know.

Kai is into all the things I’m into. She’s taking an adult point ballet class, horseback riding in Caledon, waltzing, Lindy Hopping and Charlsting with the best of them. Even in Russia. She loves vintage and was very excited to do my hair, though I admit I was doubtful at first because her Model Mayhem profile didn’t advertise this side of her profession. When she was done, we exchanged contact info and hopefully I’ll have her again for my next shoot. Whenever that may be.


And what’s next? Hopefully a few more studio shoots. I recently bought a Greecian column that was generally seen in Edwardian portraits with ferns upon them and women leaning on or beside them. By chance, a store in the building where I work was having a moving sale. I bought it and bolt a pinstripe fabric that may work for period clothing. Needless to say the column portraits will be next and then hopefully I can find the same good luck in finding a chair or settee to borrow.

Home Sweet Home – Tuesday, July 12th

Halifax to the Annapolis Valley

I was glad to leave the heat wave that reached Toronto today. Flying above the mainland skimming over the Atlantic brought a relief of freshness to my mind. The cold air on the floor
of the plane may have played a part to that. By the time we reached the tarmac in Halifax, my feet were near icicles. Although I researched the temp (21), I was absolutely convinced I would have to trade my sandals for socks and sneakers. Boy, was I wrong.

A blast of humidity swept through the cabin as soon as the door opened. Some of us stood in the arm to await our larger carry ons. Certainly, the need to trade footwear was no longer prominent. It was then the need to change my attire. Black tights and a long sleeve shirt. When we arrived at Allan’s Motel I changed into a dress my Aunt gave me. A purple strapless dress with a hand painted flower to one side.

After checking into our Motel in Kentville (because everything in Wolfville was booked), we hoofed it back into Wolfville making a much of a bee line as we could to the NSLC, though I kept calling it the LCBO. Same thing, different province. Once in the store, I zig-zagged to the Nova Scotia section, picking up a rose from Blomidon Estate Winery, Rumrunner Rum from Glenora in Cape Breton and a Halifax beer, Propeller a hefeweizen. So begins my annual exploration of all the new local wines and craft beers which seems to have skyrocketed in popularity as the craft beer in Ontario has. It’s nice to know that Nova Scotia in some way can keep up with the Joneses. In your face Ontario!

At Paddy’s Pub and Brewery, I tried two beers made in house. A Smoked Porter which was very rich in body, but creamy. It was smooth, and in no way intrusive in taste. The waiter said it had a smoked apple taste. While I could taste the smokiness, I couldn’t taste the apple no matter how much I rolled it around my tongue. Taste buds are so relative and it also depends on what beer you’re into. The next half pint, I tried an Annapolis Valley Ale which was lighter, better suited to a hot day like today, rich in flavour, a strong after taste that may have been better if it was the first and only beer you had. What I liked most about the AVA, was the earthy woody flavour. During our ordering, I asked about a tour of the brewery upstairs. I didn’t think that it would have come into fruition as I was thinking about future tours, or coming back with friends. Sure enough, someone working downstairs gave us a five minute tour. She admitted she never did a tour before but there was only three of us and we peppered her with some questions, and hopefully made her feel comfortable enough. At least until she accidentally flipped the switch to the Yeast mill, letting forth a loud grinding noise that startled us all. The light switch was next to said mill switch. Fishcakes were great by the way.