Patience and The Snail

One of my nicknames is the Queen of Small Things.  I was the one on the hiking trip that stopped every couple of minutes to take a close up of plants, rocks or a slug.  Many times I like to get down on the Earth, to connect, to get perspective.  Like laying on the running path of the park next store, a) because I didn’t want the snail to get crushed on my watch and b) because I wanted to remind myself of how I can zoom zoom and forget to breathe.

There is no Hollywood ending to this clip, just the snail and his-her journey across my viewfinder.   So with me, take a 50 second break, breathe and wonder at the pace of life on all levels.

The Photo Shoot

Closing my bricks and mortar store, but keeping the business of FeeFiFoFun Costumes, has opened lots of creative opportunities.  One was working with photographer Wales Wong and her team to create a photography editorial, this month featured in Dark Beauty magazine.

Wales talked about the idea she was dreaming, this kind of vamp, a deadly beauty.  She asked me to bring a selection of clothing and props to her photo shoot, but I had no idea what I was actually supposed to be doing.  I just knew that it was a creative endeavour and something I had never done before … a perfect combo of fear and elan.


Carlos Spellbound took this wonderful selfie with us in the background.

The day was rainy, but Wales made each shot lush.  Alayna Kellett, a model, instructor and choreographer, was amazingly creative and professional ~ even while naked and being stalked by Ontario sized mosquitoes.  Carlos and Vivienne teamed up on transformative hair and make-up, so that I did not recognize the model from one scene to the next.

That’s me in the I heart Zombies hoodie and Heidi braids.  A fifty something Grandmother leaning into the mud of a Toronto ravine and holding up the lighting while Wales make the shot.  It was hard, messy and grand!

Today, after yoga class, we talked about creation.  My peers were so in awe of the things I am doing.  I asked one gal, what had she created.  She froze and said “nothing”.  It came to the fore that she had spent 25 years journal writing, but afraid her family would read it she destroyed all of the books.  She hasn’t written since then.

I find it incredible, not that she destroyed the journals, but that she felt she had not created. The conversation ensued about child birth, parenting, grandparenting, business, art and not once did we talk about “work”.

Never ever let your age, income, gender, class, race stop you from finding the next chapter of your creative life.  Creation is not just about fine arts hanging in the National Gallery, a Giller prize for writing or a good run at the Shaw.  Creation is about expression in meaningful ways for your pleasure and by appreciating creation of your fellow humans.

Photographing Children with Alison Pentland

Even with a  squirmy toddler, a camera shy eight year old or a sullen teen, there is always hope that you can capture that memory or special moment.  As a mature person who is now on round two of taking pictures of squirming kids, here are  Grammie Pentland’s best tips on how to photograph your kids and grandchildren.


Natural Light in an Outdoor Setting

1 – Natural light in an outdoor setting with a point-and-shoot.  Here I used my handy Panasonic Lumix camera from Blacks Photography.  Even with a bribe of my pushing her on the swing, my granddaughter did not want to have her picture taken.   I think her hands covering part of her face adds to the shot.


Don’t always go for a full body shot. Shake it up.

2 – Don’t be afraid to change the angle or frame it strangely.  Fake out your grandkids by photographing just their feet in the lake or a close up of their eye.  Have them lay down in the grass and aim at camera at them from the top down.  It distracts them and usually makes for a more interesting photograph.


Indoor Diffused Natural Light and Distractions

 3 -Diffused Light and Distraction – here I sneak a shot using my iphone with Instagram.  I didn’t stop to ask for permission or to make her pose, just found a unguarded moment as she watched her favourite show holding day-old balloons from her birthday.


It’s the Moment that Counts, not the Photography

4 – Focus on capturing a moment warts and all.  This jolly old Elf at Sherway Gardens gets the Santa-of-the-Year Award.  When he realized my granddaughter would not be cajoled into posing, he whispered something to my daughter.   I used my iphone camera to shoot them all covering their eyes.  This memory is priceless and will be pulled at my granddaughter’s wedding.

Next week we speak with photographer Branda Dale who says, ”  I  use photography and the creative process in order to transform my client’s perceptions of themselves and of  their relationships with others.”

Rolling the Credits – Proper Referencing

It really frosts my berries when giving credit is missed.  In this case, I mean credit to me and not that you forgot and later shamefacedly amended your work to pay homage to the original idea, but that you were and are oblivious to anything but your own awesomeness.

Andy Warhol's original Campbell's Soup cans artwork, on display at the MoMA, New York

Andy Warhol’s original Campbell’s Soup cans artwork on display at the MoMA, New York – for original source of image please click image.

YorkU stepped up my ability to reference works, but it was a course with NIGS about on-line referencing where I realized that giving credit has become a chimera.

Referencing pre-technology was about where you place quotation marks, underline or what style to use, today it’s about giving credit at all.

We have too much technology and no self-discipline leading to generations guided by entitlement and instant gratification.  Anybody can now take a piece of art, music or other works and with a few tweaks of a photography or an audio application, can call it an original.  We can burn a disc, make a button, screen a t-shirt and make money on it.

The possibilities of our specialness are unlimited.  Enter contests online for free stuff or your five minutes of fame in photography, poetry or music to annually replace the Hockey Night in Canada theme.  Nominate [WTH] and Vote for yourself daily [WTH] in your community business association, Blog or Small Business Group as Fill-in-the-Blank of the Year.  Are we so starved for attention?

This is not someone of an older generation taking exception to the Culture of whipper-snappers-of-the-up-and-coming-young-and-beautiful-things.  Actually, I am talking about my own family [except you Alex 🙂 and contemporaries with comments like, Well if the technology is there it must be okay, or Everyone’s doing it or They make enough money anyway.  I mean if you are going to do it for fame or to make money on it, at least unabashedly know that that is the nature of your beast.

Maybe all this proliferation of specialness is a secret government ploy to keep us like rats.  Distracts us in the maze, if we know there will be cheese.  Maybe it’s our Revolution and we actually believe we are sticking it to the man.  Maybe it’s our societal reaction to too much government and feelings of helplessness that we take what we want, when we want it and screw everyone.  Maybe we’re just brats and this is our Darwinian march to extinction.

My dad said there is nothing new in the world and I agree, so if you are going to take something and make it artistically your own, good for you, but please share the credit.   Don’t give me some crap about the artistic integrity being diluted blah blah blah.  If you can’t find a way to do it without distracting from your own work, then you are just lazy.

Now I’m going to find a mirror to gaze at myself in.

Kids in Photography with Hope Hanson-Baker

This back lit shot is a good example of how spontaneous non-traditional shots can create great memories.

If the biggest challenge in photography is lighting, try and turn it into something interesting.   The photograph above is dark.  You can’t see the faces of the subjects.  It’s not not the kind of picture you’d see framed on a mantle, but I guarantee that the child in this photo will remember in it, the rush of joy flying in the strong arms of her father.  That is power of candid shots.

Hope Hanson-Baker of Plum Tree Photography took that candid shot.  She is no stranger to kids.  She spends most days wrangling two of her own little girls and a busy photography studio in South Mississauga, Ontario that specializes in kids.  Her birthday cake smashing sessions for one year olds are renowned and her Spring Bunny sessions are so adorable that even my 23 year old daughter wanted to pose.

Plumtree Photography Children's Portraiture

Plum Tree Photography Children’s Portraiture

When I asked Hope for her best trick in kid’s photography she gave a refreshing answer.  She said bribery.  “This is not the time to worry about teaching children how to behave,” she laughed.  I tend to agree with Hope.  I made my bed every morning for over twenty years and our three kids, now young adults, still leave their beds unmade here and at their own places.

Hope’s photography goal is about capturing who a child is, not just what they look like.  No easy feat especially in studio photography.   The space looks and smells unfamiliar.  The kids are likely wearing scratchy stiff clothing which they have to keep clean.  They might have to hug a sibling that they’d rather smash with their Elmo doll.  So if a little chocolate carrot is dangled, why not!

Both of Hope’s images were captured using a Nikon Professional camera and lens.