Group Tableaus Part 1


The following articles marks a transition in my life as a photographer. With the amount of sewing and other preparations for one shoot, a lot of my time and energy is filtered on those efforts leaving little else for writing. Regardless, this hardly seems like an excuse. I’ve also been feeling my writing is stagnant. The same old thing. For now, I’m going to relate my recent experiences over the summer in my hum-drum way.



When the studio in Liberty Village was no longer available to me, I looked upon this as an opportunity to expand beyond my usual self portraits. Something I’ve been meaning to do for quite a while. A perfect extension to “The Anachronist” called, “Group Tableau’s”. It’s still an exploration of Edwardian life through the camera, only I have willing victims to play the roll. While in a cafe, one day, I fell into conversation with a young woman who worked there, finding a lot in common. On a whim I asked if she’d be interested in modeling for me. When she said yes, I fell to work making a costume for her. After Charlotte, I asked my hair stylist to model for me. From there, everything fell into place. It delighted me to see genuine interest and excitement from Charlotte and Kai. It seemed as though I was pulling teeth to find anyone willing enough. Hundreds of dollars and I’m sure as many hours later, I was ready for the first Group Tableau shoot.

In making a costume for someone else, I felt as though I was crawling out of a shell. The learning curve I went through within the next few months was a wonder to me. On instagram I follow many talented people who have taken structured classes, producing many an amazing period garment. At Stitch and Bitch I was praised and encouraged by Marianne, my friend and sewing teacher. ‘Cause you know, it’s nice to have that pat on the back from someone other than yourself.

One bright summer afternoon, for which I left work early; Kai, Charlotte and I wandered onto the grounds of Sarah Ashbridge Estate. What a beautiful day! Blue sky, sunny and not too hot. There was such inspiration – an almost story book feeling as I observed the girls (as I call them) interacting with each other. Leading up to the shoot, I was nervous about how well Kai and Charlotte would work with each other. I needn’t have worried. Before long, they were giggling and making up stories. In their play acting, whatever roll they made for themselves; sisters, companions, pupil and governess, their interaction breathed life into the shoot. We covered almost the whole grounds except for a very old willow tree which a couple had commandeered for themselves. Ugh. Get a room!

But there was something missing. The costumes didn’t look quite right. The girls were not wearing
proper under ware. No petticoat or corset covers, things that would give the correct period look. I blame myself as I told them I wouldn’t make them wear petticoats on such a warm day. So I made more petticoats and started making corset covers. At this time, I hadn’t made a shirt waist for Charlotte. The shirt waist I have on her is completely wrong for her body type.

I can honestly say, I probably won’t use these photos in a show because of so many of the above variables. With that in mind, it was a great start to the project with lessons learned. The best thing about that day? When we were all our twenty-first century selves again dining at Queen Margarita’s. Kai and Charlotte thanked me for allowing them to be models. I was flabbergasted! They, thanking me?! LOL! I told them then and many times since; I’m the one that has to thank them!

Summer 2017 in Review

I can’t believe I didn’t write anything about my summer home this….last year. It’s almost unthinkable. I can see why though. My time was so jammed packed I hardly had time to write at the end of the day. Thus, my memories will not be as fresh as they would have been all those months ago.

None of these accounts are in any chronological order. I can’t even begin at this point to piece together the days unless I look closely at the image files. At this point I don’t have the energy except to match the photos with each paragraph.


I flew into Sydney on the midnight flight. I love driving home at night. Ok. I love driving home anyways. Especially coming from the airport. The next morning we awoke very early to catch the ferry, which is a 2 and a half hour drive. From Sydney Forks to Pictou. Onward over the Northumberland Straight. Taking the ferry makes the whole experience a cherished tradition. Had my photography tour gone full speed ahead, I would have asked everyone to fly into Halifax instead of flying into Charlottown to have this experience. We arrived at my cousin’s place in Clyde River early evening. Enough time for a chat before we headed to the musical, “Anne and Gilbert”, in which my little cousin was one of the school children. What an amazing little actress, singer and dancer she is. Her talents know no bounds. The Musical itself was excellent. This production was not at the Convention Centre, but in a small community theater with a lower level art gallery and a bar that served fantastic local craft beer. One of the actresses had set up a stand selling cupcakes and tartlets. As she played the infamous Josie Pie, she called her company, “Josie’s Pies”. I recommend seeing the play if you’re spending time on the island. Not just because of my little cousin, but because I firmly believe, when in Rome, one should absolutely see an “Anne of Green Gables” play.

Before heading to Cavendish that day, we ambled back into Charlottown for site seeing, shopping and brunch at an amazing spot called Brickhouse on Sydney St. A cozy spot, well decorated with stunning pieces of artwork on the walls. The coffee was not your average cup of joe which made it all the more enjoyable. All though the brunch menu seemed average the dressing of was not and very delicious. The clientele was a little slow as brunches go, but I would go back when next in town.

As you know, I posted that I am no longer doing my photography tours. Prince Edward Island was suppose to have been this summer, but since no one signed up, I cancelled all the rooms at The Lake of Shining Waters Resort except for a room for Mom and I. The inn was very quaint with decor that suited its history. We had a small room with a double bed and a full bath, which was lopsided so your head went downhill. The floors throughout the house were like this like small ripples in the water. After lugging the luggage into the room, we sat on the bed to catch our breath. Faintly, but getting stronger, we heard a distinct rhythmic creaking noise as though someone was swinging back and forth in a rocking chair.
“Mom.” I asked, “Do you hear that?”
“What is it?”
“It’s the Old Lady knitting in her rocking chair.”
“Stop it! I don’t want to stay here anymore!”
Still the chair continued rocking. I listened for a while, enjoying the rhythm, contemplating on who this person might have been. Perhaps she was not old at all: A young woman rocking her child to sleep, or perhaps an old man reading a book. But it was time to search of a place to eat. Our first choice, the Blue Oyster, was already queued up with an hour-long wait. Instead, we ended up at Captain’s Cove Cafe. The fish was fresh tasting, they served local craft beer, but other than that…meh. They weren’t even on Google Maps. At least, not until I put them there and wrote a review. When we returned to the room, the invisible rocking chair was still creaking. Mom was still unnerved by this, but I told her, “If it was a bad ghost, they would have done something bad by now, so, leave her alone.” Mom agreed and as if the ghost heard my champion, the creaking stopped and we were left in peace for the rest of the trip.

One of THE places to go in PEI is The Dunes Galley and Café. It’s a sprawling building with many chopped-up levels. Art of all kinds fill the walls and any available corner. The Art itself is unique, mesmerizing, fun and intense. Some pieces are affordable, others not so much. They range from blown glass fish bowls set erratically in driftwood to the usual paintings and usual photography to massive unique pieces of furniture, jewelry and clothing. They ship anywhere when you spend such-and-such a dollar amount. When you spend more than $75 you get a batiqued cotton shopping bag. If you don’t want to spend too much at the café, a coffee and desert is worth it. If you want to relax, the property has a Buddha garden to wander though with matured trees. Ponds freckle the property as well as the rooftop garden complete with greenery. Needless to say, one can spend an entire day at this place. Mom and I had another agenda however. Brackley Beach. Another must-do in PEI is go to any of the many beaches spread across the coastline. Brackley Beach is a personal favorite, but this year, we found a hidden part that our waitress at Rachel’s Restaurant recommended, Robinson Island. Drive past the parking lot, past the change houses along the dirt toad to a section where paths lead over the dunes to this oh so private part of the beach.

I had heard of the population growth of jellyfish this year, especially the onslaught of the dreaded Portuguese Man-O-war. Thankfully it was not as bad as I had thought. Though I didn’t come away unscathed. Such beautiful weather we had! Hot summer days, equaling Toronto weather. I had to laugh when I thought about a friend talking about going to an exotic destination with beaches for her vacation. I tried to convince her to come to PEI with me for this exact purpose, but I only received “the look” for my pains. The thing I like about Brackley Beach and you may see a trend here, is that as you can walk out, it get’s deep to your knees then shallow again for quite a while. Here I lay letting the waves lap over me, ever cautious of jellyfish, feeling my hair sweep from one side to the other in the current. I even wadded back to get my phone taking a series of photos, later stitched as an animation to capture this. I am a fish myself, as you know. I could have stayed in the water all day. I had work to do however.

After drying off, I went to the car to stealthily change from my modern bathing suite to my new Edwardian walking suite. As I emerged from the car, I already had curious looks from those who were coming and going. It wasn’t until I crested the dune with the water ahead of me, that I completely felt myself in the here and….. then???? One of the “Anne of Green Gables” scene that pops into mind is when Anne and Diana are standing on a dune watching the setting sun on the water after the concert at The White Sands Hotel. “We are rich Diana…” Anne says to her bosom friend. Mom was such a trooper staying behind the camera, pressing the shutter button as I slipped from pose to pose. Photographing myself on the beach in my costume was a must for me. Even though I zigged-zagged around small jelly fish, skirts held up, I was stung in the end by a sneaky little bugger whose tentacles must have been long indeed or was swept speedily away by the current because I didn’t see it come or go. Turned out that picture of me looking for the F%^&er was one of the nicest images from that day. Take photos in costume at the beach…check!

A kind of frenzy happened when we returned home. As I mentioned in my Christmas blog, I wanted to do some clearing in the back yard. Well, I didn’t start with the pine trees as I had hopped. Somehow they looked denser in the summer than they did in the winter and thus more intimidating. Instead I cleared weeds and weed trees from around the more matured trees. Of the larger pine trees that served as sentinels and borders, I hacked off their lower branches that were tangled in long grass. Now that this was done, the father and son team who mow the lawn were able to whipper-snip under and around making for a beautiful manicured lawn. When my neighbour mowed his lawn… WOW! All of a sudden our lawns amalgamated into one beautiful park like setting. Because the backyard looked so wonderful I really lamented the fact that I had to go back to Toronto. When I returned, there were evenings and weekends where I itched to get back with saw, clippers, wheelbarrow and gardening gloves. LOL. With all the brush I laid on my neighours bon fire pile AND the crap from the basement there was a merry fire indeed. I made banana boats for everyone to celebrate. Though in the end it was only Kevin and I. We sat and watched the fire dance while he updated me on local happenings. I learned my school fellows had exceeded to amazing careers, we listened to music that miraculously carried over Blackettes Lake as though it were just across the street. Best of all, we patted ourselves on the back for such a marvelous job we did to make our backyards beautiful together.

The next morning, I woke up looking at an antique coffee table in my bedroom. “I know what I’m going to do with you!” I told it. I lugged this, my great grandmothers rocking chair, an old blanket that resembles a tapestry, my grandmothers Old Country Rose tea set, a jar of freshly made strawberry jam, much sought for tea biskets, milk and sugar up the hill in the beautiful morning summer sunshine. As I was dragging all this up the hill, I was complaining to Mom that I hadn’t seen Robert since we got back from PEI. Usually he pops in the day of or the day after I get home and we have many great adventures. Then ta-daaaaaa! Here he comes up the driveway. I run out of the house giving him a big hug and say, “Guess what you’re doing today?” I think he had something completely different in mind, but he wasn’t at all adverse to immersing himself in my project for the afternoon. He even came with me into Sydney River in search for the elusive tea biskets. *Shout out to Robert for helping me that day. I had so much fun. Especially when you took the camera off the tripod and for capturing most of it on video with your Olympus.* At one point he had asked if I needed (waving his had over my tableau) all of this exclaiming, “They wouldn’t have dragged all this out to have a picnic.” Excuse me? “Of course they would have!” I cried stoutly defending the Edwardians. I had a firm image in my head that was going to get out one way or another. In doing this shoot, I wanted to create more casual images. Life at home so to speak. The first of the snap shots. For it was in 1900 when the Brownie camera came out. Almost every household had it. Even Lucy Maud documented aspects of her life throughout her adult years in PEI and Ontario. Film would be sent to the Kodak plant for processing and returned with a new roll in the camera, ready to go. How wonderful it must have been to have the advent of accessible photography. I often equate these beginnings to those of digital photography. If I’ve said it before, the feeling is as true now as it was then.

Every summer I go hiking. Robert’s suggestion of Devil’s Hill Falls was not a disappointment. It’s located just off the Louisbourg Highway on New Boston Rd. No doubt named for the American contingent of soldiers during one of the English invasions on the Fortress three centuries ago. Make a right onto New Boston and then a left at the end of the road. Just beyond this intersection, is the entrance to the trail on the right handside. You climb a slope to a small bridge where the trail crosses a babbling brook. There is a steep and somewhat tricky climb down but you can keep following a succession of mini falls. Just so, when you follow the brook on the other side, leading away from the ocean. Such beautiful green foliage and moss making the whole area like a fairy Queendome! There were MANY great spots for future photo shoots, the kind with a model draped over the edge or over a rock in sorrow or martyrdom wearing a gossamer gown that is pulled by the waters current. ARGH! AND THAT’S ANOTHER THING! But I’ll get to that later. There are many dreamy vistas to photograph without a model as well. Throughout the hike, I looked longingly into each pool picturing myself luxuriating in its fresh waters. Wow! Did that bubble burst quickly when I dangled my feet in one. It was decidedly too cold. I hate getting older or being sensitized to Ontario’s climate, I’m not quite sure which one it is. It makes me feel as though I am not made from the hardier Cape Breton stock after all. Robert and I spent the morning tramping up and down and all around, making plans to come back next summer to make more of a path and other improvements. It got it’s name from the time in Cape Breton folklore when a drunken man arrived home late one evening from a local dance claiming he met the devil along the way as an excuse for his tardiness to his wife. The Devil heard this, signing the poor fellow’s death warrant.

The same afternoon was spent hiking (my first time) the Lighthouse Trail. It was a misty overcast day, typical of Louisbourg weather, the ocean ahead of us full of movement. At one point we deviated from the path (as we always do) to climb the larger rocks across the many tidal pools. I was enamored with the grain in the rock, taking many of my micro landscapes. We walked as far as the cove where we sat on the rocky beach looking out across the ocean to invisible France, imagining the tall ships sailing into harbour. Before leaving the Town of Louisbourg, not to be confused with the fortress itself, we had a great scoff of chip-truck-fries, which seem amazing now even though I fussed and stomped my foot at the time for not eating at places I haven’t tried yet, like the sushi and East Indian restaurants.

Before leaving Toronto, I put a casting call on Model Mayhem hoping to find a model in Sydney or the surrounding area to continue my Water Nymph portraits. There’s a lake just off the highway to Baddeck that is shallow enough to serve the purpose. I only had one response to my inquiry, a model in Halifax, 5 hours away. She really liked my idea and was sorry she was so far away. Other than that, nothing. I even reached out to Ratchford Studios in North Sydney who seems to have no end of models streaming into his studio. His receptionist suggested keeping watch on Facebook for a list he would post, but he did not. I don’t understand why there isn’t more of a network for this kind if thing. Oh wait, yes I do. It’s because there’re aren’t many model photographers in Sydney and mostly all the commercial photographers who have their own studios do family, graduation and school portraits. If anyone in Cape Breton is reading this, please correct me if I’m wrong. When I move home, one of the things I’d like to establish is a network for artists. Connecting models with photographers and other artists. When George, Chad and I met at Breton Brewing to hang out and chat art speak, we discussed this idea as well as other aspects of stepping up the creative photography game in Sydney. It was a fun meeting and we came up with lots of ideas that lead to the creation of a private facebook page. We decided that there aren’t enough galleries in Sydney that catered to the emerging artist. Sydney is becoming a bourgeoning arts community, faster than ever before. It’s as if someone has finally grabbed the average Joe by the horns forcing the meat and potato public to appreciate and respect what local artists have to offer. I’ve learned recently, my old high school, Holy Angels, is destined for a redesign into an arts centre. How amazing and how fitting! For once in my life, I actually enjoyed going school because of Holy Angels.

It was a chilly day when we finally found the time to visit Point Micheaud. I brought my bathing suit, but there hardly was any sun to bath in and there was no way I was getting in the water that day. Instead, we took our usual walk up the expanse of beach taking pictures of all kinds of seaweed and collecting many rocks and shells. We observed a woman looking into patches of beach pebbles washed in and out with the tide. When we caught up with her, the three of us stood, mesmerized by the surf swirling around our ankles patiently waiting to see a revelation of hidden treasures.

Lick-A-Chick never disappoints me. It’s the best fried chicken ever. It’s always consistent with a healthy line up. The locals never grumble if they wait too long. What place better to enjoy it than the great outdoors. Groves Point has become out traditional picnic spot were we seek the same picnic table, to have our mean, bring our books, blanket, chair, bathing suite and towels. The day was so fine, the water so warm I lived in it. Thanks to the weekend at the cottage, I was desensitized to seaweed. Seaweed in the Bras ‘d Or Lakes was always the bain of my existence when I was younger.

Farmers Markets are always an adventure. When traveling home, I like to experience many. For the first time, I went to the Farmers Market in Mabou. If one is to travel to the other side of the island, it has to be a day trip. And boy, was it ever. I can’t remember the last time I was in that are but it was many, many years before I moved to Toronto. I forgot how much more majestic the hills were. How much more the country the country side is. The Irish and Scottish immigrants must have held their breath as the ships came closer to land. To see that this was some semblance to the home they’ve left behind so many miles away. The Market is in an arena with vendors taking up every corner. Breton Brewing that summer had a wonderful beer that was aged in a Chardonnay Oak cask. Music to my ears! I wasn’t disappointed with its taste either. In fact, before I left home I bought another bottle (at the Keltic Dr. Farmers Market) to bring back to Toronto for a friend to appreciate. I’m happy to report that they liked it just as much as I did. After the market, we went to The Red Shoe, the most famous restaurant in Cape Breton. It’s claim to fame? The Rankin’s of course! Owned by the Rankin’s not to disappoint in entertainment, food, local craft beer, wine or atmosphere.

Inverness Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in Cape Breton. I don’t remember ever being there, though Mom said I was as a child. We walked a bit at one end, then another. Since it was the last opportunity to swim in the Atlantic, I slipped into the sun setting waters relishing yet fighting the current. I’m lucky to be such a strong swimmer, marveling in its strength as I swam back into the shore again and again. I can see how someone could be swept away. I think on it now as though reaching to grasp at a profound dream quickly fading. Although the pull of the ocean is freighting, I’m in love with it.

If I may, your backyard can hold as much adventure or more than an all inclusive resort trip.

Lucy Maud’s, Take Two

I couldn’t help but feel a little pride in how things were going so efficiently right from the gecko. Joanne and Jeremy arrived at my apartment building at the scheduled time of 7:30am and exactly 12 hours later Joanne and I unloaded the car. Along with Joanne and Kai, I asked someone else to join my team. Jeremy, a co-worker, was enlisted to shoot documentary style video throughout the day.

A week before the shoot I noticed Pinterest had added a new feature in which you are able to create a subcategory within a board. I only found this out because they sent a survey asking how I liked it. There are a few kinks they have to work out (especially in the transition from internet to mobile ap), for instance, when you’re in the main board, you should be able to continue to select images you want in the subfolder by clicking on each picture. Once the subfolder is created, you can’t check additional images within the mother board, you have to pin them as usual to the subfolder. In my case, I found this counterintuitive. There was too much time taken up scrolling and saving. I unfortunately couldn’t take the survey again to mention this. Hopefully, there’ll be another one soon.

The goal was to take advantage of the beautiful natural light in the bedroom as would have been done then. To fuel my ideas, I saved to my Pinterest subfolder compositions of women in front of windows, which had a silhouette or rim lighting effect. The last time we were at Maud’s; I had regretted not taking advantage of the morning light. However, I can’t remember now how the light looked and where the it was at that time in May. We made a careful note this time, however. The bedroom windows face southeast, the front of the house then faces north. I can’t recall in the second journal if Maud had ever mentioned in which direction the house was. Thank goodness we were there in the morning this time, chasing the sun as it went from the back to the front of the house taking advantage of the natural light until we no longer could.

Amongst the other donations of Edwardian clothes from Joy, there was a wonderful nightgown with a beautiful eyelet yoke. Because of the authenticity of these clothing pieces, the bedroom photos seem to be so real, capturing the time even when looking at the images in colour. It’s because of this I’m so pleased with these compositions in particular. Although Kai was late, we had shot in the bedroom until she arrived, around 12:30. By this time I changed from my nightgown into my under things. After my hair was done, we did the same kind of compositions but I’m dismissing most of them because I realized how unflattering this particular corset is. I put boning at the top, which flattens my chest instead the other way around. NOT a good look. My next sewing project will be a shorter corset, one that stops just below the bust, or at least has more support.

Somewhere along the way, I realized I hadn’t taken off my nail polish the night before. On a break I tried Goo-Gone, but it didn’t work. Thankfully, the nail polish was chipped and faded, so perhaps this will make for easier editing. That being said, I was still angry with myself for being so negligent. NOTE: perma-pack nail polish remover.

When Kai arrived, I asked Jeremy to record her doing my hair. He warned me on Friday he only owned one battery. Not more than half way through, his battery gave up the ghost. Throughout the rest of the day, he had to charge it on and off. It was my hope to catch the entire day. Instead he filmed 1 to 3 minute segments. I will have to really on his expertise hoping he captured fun, interesting and important tid-bits. Jeremy was none-the-less, very professional and I can’t wait to see all of the footage.

Now that my hair was done, my time in the bedroom was not. There was one last thing I wanted to do. I wanted to take reflections of myself in the mirror. It didn’t work for a few reasons. The biggest reason, I hadn’t fleshed out the composition even though I saved a few ideas to my subfolder. Two, the dressing table was actually a burrow, so there was no legroom underneath. I thought, if this indeed was the type of dressing stand Maud had, how very inconvenient it was. Sorry Maud, but there it is. And, three, the mirror was not on the wall. It rests on the top of the burrow, which was not the right height requiring much uncomfortable and unflattering bending. What was actually funny about this scenario was that Joanne and Kai had a very involved conversation of how the composition could actually work. They would ask what I thought, but somehow, I couldn’t manage to get a word in until I looked at the clock, which told, 2pm. It was getting late. We had to move on.

On with the show. The stairs was another composition I really wanted to do. There were many different attitudes in which one can come down the stairs. The bane of these shots were the prominence of my double chin over my collar as I looked down the stairs. I’m jealous of women who have beautifully shaped necks and chins. Can one do ANYYTHING to exercise this section of the body? At one point, I was advised to jut out my chin, but I felt so ridiculous doing this that I couldn’t keep a straight face.

Before we wrapped, as Jeremy puts it, I wanted him to take a video of me walking through the gate and up the walkway into the house. But I wanted him to do this from behind, from the sidewalk and then in front. In the first shot, I looked like Rachel Lynd in the Sullivan adaptation of “Anne of Green Gables” marching to ask Marilla, where on earth Matthew was going in his Sunday clothes smoking a pipe! Those who cherish this version will know exactly what I’m talking about. Kai was very helpful in making suggestions like standing up straight but leaning back a little to exaggerate my posture, not to swing my hips or move my shoulders too much. All these instructions made me wonder if I should take deportment lessons. Clearly the corset can’t correct your posture completely. Women really must have walked with books on their heads.

Working with a team is an amazing feeling. It’s a different sense of accomplishment then working by yourself. I’m grateful to have a great bunch of people to work with. To acknowledge my thanks to them, I took them to the Hobby Horse Arms in the town of Uxbridge (a place I highly recommend) were we all enjoyed a bite to eat and a drink. On the way home, I could have fallen asleep quite easily, but the chatter in the car ride home on many different subjects kept me awake.

Even though I had the house this day, it was also open to the public. Spying a couple on the sidewalk while my hair was being done, I asked Jeremy to invite them in. We chatted for a bit before they toured the house and chatted again when they returned downstairs. She grew up in Sri Lanka, but now lives in Australia with her husband who is from British Columbia. They were doing an Anne tour, having just come from PEI. It was great to see such a huge fan! She was all a flutter about seeing all the landmarks, there and here in Ontario. The second couple was not so enamored, at least they didn’t seem like it and they didn’t at all seem impressed with me in costume if I could discern their funny looks correctly.

I was so exhausted upon arriving home from the euphoria of the day. I went to bed at 8:30, turned the light out at 9pm, slept until 7:10am. That being said, this has been the best Anachronist shoot yet, bar none! When looking at the photos I realize the phenomenal amount of confidence I’ve gained from this one shoot. I believe in myself. I believe in my team. Together, the day was like a dream come true. How often can one say that? I will live off of this wonderful feeling for a very long time.

Many Thanks to The Lucy Maud Society of Ontario

“It’s delightful when your imaginations come true isn’t it?”
LM. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

The One with the Plinth

Lately, I’ve been revisiting (ok, binge watching) all the “Friends” episodes and realized none of the episodes had titles. On Netflix however, they’ve title them. For example: “The one Where Phoebe Runs”, or “The one with Ross’s Leather Pants”. So this blog is lovingly titled, “The One With the Plinth”.

The story of how I got the plinth is this… Where I work on Carlaw Ave in Toronto, is a plethora of interesting businesses. One little boutique shop was moving from one hallway to another, selling some of their merchandise and displays. To my joy, there was a waist high, black, plaster column, for $20.00. How could I say, “no” to that? It was weeks later after having it in front of my desk, beside my desk, in the board room, etc., that I finally Ubered it and myself to the studio in Liberty Village.

The photo shoot happened some weeks past now, but for some reason I’m still going over the photos. Oh believe me, I’ve started to edited them. Even printed and framed 2 portraits. I have many successful images from this shoot that mesmerize me. I  going to let modestly hit the fan here and say, I feel this shoot is the best one yet.

Designing this set in particular, was quite fun, especially the task of affixing the ivy and berries to the plinth. In the end I’ve managed to have things look natural. I have to admit buying and collecting these items aren’t remorse purchases as one would think when you make up the excuse, “Yeah, I can use this for my sets!”. They have been used again and again, becoming interracial supplies that make up a repertoire of props and designs. When Nadia exclaimed, “It looks like a painting!” after taking one shot of the background, I knew this shoot would turn out well.

My hairstylist, Kai came to the studio with a more Gibson Girl look in mind. It completely blew me away. She is an amazing person. Having spent the morning with me, she had another job in Mississauga doing make up for a group of acrobats. When I hire her now, there’s no discussion. It’s not necessary. She knows what I want and what will look good. And I know she enjoys the fruits of her labours when I send her photos of the finished product.

For one hopeful reason, I won’t mention because I might jinx it, I’ve started hunting for antique frames. For those who follow me on Instagram, you would have seen them already. The feeling I got when the image was in the frame sent shivers through my whole being. It sounds silly, but there was a visual connection, a remembrance of seeing myself thus. This feeling was completely different from looking at an original photograph of a stranger from that time. I don’t quite understand it myself.

Be sure to check out my third Instagram account, The Anachronist Project. If you’re not already, please follow.

Stay tuned for my next blog, “The one with the Chair”.

 

 

Home Sweet Home – July 19th to 26th

Cape Breton

On Sunday Mom and I drove home from Halifax with a quick pit stop in New Glasgow to drop off Auntie Rie. We initially planned to stay the night, but once on the road, I just wanted to keep on going. I drove all the way home because being behind the wheel homeward bound is a right of passage. After St. Peter’s the roads are twisty-turney, following the Bras d’Or Lakes. It’s one of my favorite drives

Once home it’s a mixed sensation of calm and upheaval. It goes without saying that one has to plan carefully around a compressed list of to-do’s into a single week. I didn’t go to Louisbourg, Tasty Treat, Point Micheaud or Mira Gut. What I did do, I’ll try to recount.

Baddeck

Baddeck as some American’s pronounce it – Baad-deck. It sounds like a sheep’s brae when it comes out of their mouths. I wonder if they make the same mistake with the Bedeque in Prince Edward Island. One set of Americans, long ago, loved the community and decided to build a grand house a summer residence; Alexander Graham Bell and his wife Mable. Baddeck is also know to many celebrities who anchor in the harbour for a time. These people include Jack Nicholson, David Bowie (God rest his soul) and others.

Every Wednesday there is a farmers market at the fire hall. If you’re in town, I highly reccommend going. Though, that was not our only purpose. I wanted to walk around the town then head to Uisge Ban Falls. It’s a 15 to 20 minute hike leading to a waterfall with picturesque scenery along the way. The winding of the river is pock-marked with boulders, fallen trees, lichen and moss. On either side the hill, trees rise to a dizzying height creating a cool green canopy. Usually when I go, there’s hardly anyone and you have the place pretty much to yourself. There were many this day even though it was threatening to rain. on the hike I was happy to discover some beautiful mushrooms. I’m not an expert and still have the task of researching them in the fungus book I bought in Newfoundland last year.

Out on the Mira

Next day we went to Mom’s Friend’s house in Grand Mira North. She and her husband live on the Mira River with a dock ending deep enough for one to dive off of. It was wonderful to swim, even if it was the only swim I got in this trip. Swimming. Dorothy’s twin grandkids, who were there were not at all the shy type. They chatted and followed me to the river, allowing me to take some fun photos posed on the dock, thereby pulling them from under adult feet. They balls of energies and such hams. Somehow I managed to get some seriousness out of them, taking these lovely photos below. Before leaving, I let them get behind the camera. Elizabeth took the group shot of her Mom, brother, Blake and Baby sister, Annabelle. Good Job Elizabeth!

Breton Brewing

Mom and I went into Sydney River to pick up some groceries and since Sobey’s is so close to the newest brewery in Cape Breton, so I coerced Mom to go there, adding another stamp in my passport. Breton Brewing was a year old on my birthday, June 27th. What a funny coincidence. Inside is dark, yet surprisingly stylish and spacious with rows of long tables between a small stage for live music and the bar. I honestly thought that the interior would look more industrial, but it was warm and cosy. Along one wall, you can see the vast wear house where it all happens. There’s even have a line a clothing. Behind the bar is a mega huge chalk board describing only a portion of the beers they have on tap. I ordered a set of samples and went outside to try to convince Mom to come in. She said she was going to sit in the car and read. I had no such luck but a gentleman who had just bought a four pack of assorted tall cans assured me he would be successful, and he was. Mom too, was surprised at how nice and cool it was inside.

The sample tray is $7 and comes with 5 beers. Each sample is a little less than half a pint. Under each glass is a coaster describing the beer it lays under. Unfortunately, so much time has passed since said tasting, I can’t tell you all that I had, but the one I remember most vividly was the Heifenwizen. The girl at the bar describes it as having a hint of vanilla and banana. I didn’t taste these, but tasted a hint of cinnamon, which wasn’t bad as one may think, but rather a nice surprise. I noticed someone beside me and asked him if he had tasted the cinnamon (since he was drinking the same beer), after taking a sip, he agreed with me.

I don’t think Mom was too pleased with my running around collecting as many stamps as I could. She made the comment that perhaps I drink too much. No danger there. I’m not the stereotypical Cape Bretoner, drinking like a fish. But she did suggest a walk in Peter’s Field before heading home, to burn off some of the beer.

Peter’s Field is one of my favourite parks to go to aside from Groves Point on the North Side. It’s full of paths that weave in and out of fields, forest and harbour shoreline. It was once an estate to the McLellans, but originally owned my an X-American, David Mathews, who fled from jail for having attempted to assonate George Washington. Yet another American who discovered the beauties of Cape Breton. Thomas Crawley was the second owner of this estate, embellishing the gardens before it came into the hands of John Stewart McLennan in 1900, a native Cape Bretoner, he took over his fathers coal mining business, becoming a staunch politician, a hobbyist archaeologist studying the ruins of the Fortress of Louisbourg, bought two newspaper companies and was interested in botany.

This trip, I had pre planned a photo shoot here, which is why I brought a costume – my brown linen/cotton skirt, corset, two shirt waists and a petticoat, the later two borrowed from my friend Joy who generously lent these and other pieces to photograph. Also equipped with an Alien Bee studio light, my Paul Buff battery and light stand, I was to continue my “Anachronist” project on location. On our walk, I took photos as I usually do, but kept an eye out for spots that would work for backgrounds.

Gabarus

Another “Anachronist” opportunity came along that week. Each year, Mom and I go to Point Micheaud Beach up St. Peters way. But this year, I wanted to go to Gabarus. It’s a tiny community at the point of extinction yet is populated my mainly fisherman and has a historical value. In the the early to mid 1700’s when the English took over the Fortress of Louisbourg, many American Loyalist signed up to fight against the French. Some American troops landed in Gabarus setting up camp, scouting a way to the fortress on land through bracken and swamp. From Google earth, you can see a minuscule logging road that connects both areas. Apparently the access is through Kennington Cove.

Mom drove as I styled my hair in the car without hairspray, but with many bobby pins, which held for a while. But the wind being as frisky as it was lead to many escapee tendrils. Though in the end it made my hair look very authentic for the period in such a landscape. My poor boots faired just as well. Buttons decided to participate in the escape plan. Luckily I was able to find each and everyone that popped off, sewing them on later. When I got back to Toronto, the staff of Gadabout were so good in helping me find matching buttons for free. The boots were a little too big, but worked well in any case. When posing, I had to be careful my skirt covered the boots from the ankle up. Not for modesty sake, no. The tongue and the sides flapped about when I scurried from camera to sitting position. I really have to get a new battery for my remote timer.

I wish I had more time at Gabarus, but there was a large fog bank that rolled from over the hills, bringing with it a damp chill. One shot I wish I got would have standing in front of the water holding the back of my skirt like the woman in the photograph I found on Pinterest . Yet another would have been me stepping in the water, or standing next to the warf lined with lobster traps or the lighthouse. Alas, I need all day and to either be alone or with a proper assistant. Maybe it’s just as well, what I thought to be an ache from the hard mattress I was sleeping on turned out to be a pulled shoulder muscle from swinging my big ass camera bag over my shoulder. The only consolation for spending 4 hours in out patience on a beautiful Sunday afternoon was having a hot doctor look after me.

Hanging with Family

In the whirl of home activity, there is a the required getting together with family. Having already paid a visit to my Grand Parents in Stewiack on the way home from the valley, I wanted to spend time with the Webber family. It was a tight window but Uncle Roy, Aunt Daphne, my cousin Caelin and her two little girls managed to come over for a BBQ. What a lovely day we had for it! The girls were so sweet and well behaved, helping to put together strawberry shortcakes and bringing their dirty dishes into the kitchen. I’m so sad Caelin is moving back to Thompson.

If there’s one thing I love to be, it’s the cool artsy-fartsy aunt. After supper, we gathered on the slope in the backyard for photos. I used the Alien Bee for the first time this trip. I tried to pose everyone as best as I could, but it really is difficult to get everyone to look in the same direction with chins down, eyes open, stop talking! SMILE!

The kids and I ended the evening with making fun crowns out of plastic flower pots and reading them each a story from books Mom had given them as going away gift.

Peter’s Field Again

My last afternoon was spent in Peter’s Field, in costume with my hair pinned up. I repeated to myself, “I don’t care what anyone thinks of me. I’m just going to do it and have fun.” It’s a well used park but thankfully there weren’t too many people today. Just those walking and chatting. Those who crossed my path were polite enough to wait until the photo was taken which is a nice reprieve to the crowds of clueless Torontonians who don’t know what the hell is going on (or just don’t care) and walk through you photos. There were some who were curious. One gentleman thought I was photographing a wedding.

I wore a different shirtwaist and so glad I did because, phew, was it hot! My suite case when I opened it back in Toronto was almost as bad as a week old gym bag. Nothing a dumping in the bath tub of luke warm water won’t fix.

And here I close on this long drawn our blog that took almost a month to post. I thank Joy again for the loan of her period pieces, they made my photos come alive. I go home at Christmas and hope to have even more opportunities for more on location shoots. Or a chance to head out somewhere with George. It’s always nice to have some one to photograph with and share the adventure.

12 Dresses

My sewing teacher and Friend Marianne, wanted to have a ball with the new English Country Dancing group she joined a year ago. Her excuse to have the ball was to celebrate 55 years in Canada. To get people involved she decided to make 12 dresses and 8 vests for some of the hard core members of the group. I made my own dress.

When she first told me of the idea I volunteered to do portraits of people all lovely and dressed up. Here was my chance to try to recreate painted portraits with a modern tool, and yet still make them have all the charm a regency portrait painting would.

I had asked a good Friend to assist me on the day. What a huge help he was. Suggesting to people how they should sit, asking them to take off watches and glasses that looked too modern. He had set up the lighting and even moved the table from one side of the set to the other.

For my purpose, I had borrowed from Rob a mottled brown back drop that completely fit the bill along with a backdrop stand, and a 20 prime lens. How I LOVE the 20. I almost bought one at Christmas, but I had to pay up front and they had to order it from the Canon warehouse, maybe next Christmas bonus. For now I’m lucky to be able to borrow Robs.

Along with the back drop I brought some props. Books, teacups and saucers, a makeshift table cloth and another to contrast over that. This would give people a choice of things to hold onto so they may feel more comfortable. Some didn’t because I think it may have looked too contrived. But those touches come out very well in the photos.

Originally was going to borrow Rob’s 400 Alien Bees, but when I thought of even more things to carry to the venue, I decided to go with two speed lights with soft boxes over them instead. They worked quite well until the batteries started to run low. I tried to push the speed lights until they were nearly dead, which was a bad idea because when I went to edit them, I realized I had lost detail I wasn’t able to bring back.

At Photographers anonymous, I was given lots of great advice for the next time. Like use Alien Bee’s instead of speed lights. Use a larger space to make the background higher. I had to use the path tool to get rid of the rings that were in the fabric. Especially where there were tall people involved. It’s amazing how well the patch tool works. Another piece of advice was that the stage right light was too low. You can see it in the cast shadows on the background. I would have set them up differently was well. One light almost in front and the other to the side of the subjects. I would liked there to be a candelabra and flowers on the table as well. As it turns out, I didn’t have to bring my outdoor table after all. There was a nice small round table already there.

Everyone who had their photo taken was a trooper. On lookers would make them break into smiles, but I didn’t want full on smiles, Kevin was good to ask them not to. I had a very good plan to keep everyone straight, which was have everyone write their name and email on a piece of paper to hold up in front of them for one shot then onto the serious stuff. Well, didn’t I forget the paper and markers? Luckily I had my model sheets, though I had to ask Marianne to remind me who everyone was. Sorry guys!

So there you have it. All edited, resized and watermarked. Ready to email to everyone. I’ve only had 3 people say they didn’t want me to use their image online or elsewhere. Out of such a large group, I think that was pretty good. And now you see them here on my blog.

A huge thanks to the English Country Dancers in their beautiful costumes. And to all who worked so hard to pull it together. Thanks Mandeep for the first dance. I can’t wait to do it again.