This ad-hoc, irregularly updated journal is where I’ll put down some thoughts - and not a few photographs - throughout the month of my sabbatical.
One of the rewards Adobe gives to employees at every 5-year mark, is a fully paid, one-month sabbatical from work. It's even better than that, actually; at each 5 year anniversary, Adobe adds another week to your sabbatical. So, when I hit (hopefully) 10 years, I'll have a 5-week sabbatical! This is an awesome benefit, and rare enough that some people, when I’ve mentioned it, have asked what’s wrong, or if I’m sick.
The idea with the sabbatical is to take an extended break from work, a total disconnect, so that you come back energized – and hopefully appreciative – of this work benefit.
I’ve just recently passed my sixth year at Adobe, and – rather than getting on yet another airplane – I decided I’d take my sabbatical in the autumn, spending most of the time at The Fortress of Moderate Solitude (aka, the cottage).
So, this past weekend, with some trepidation, and after setting my out of office message, I deleted my work email from all my devices. A near total disconnect achieved in one simple action.
Cottage, Sweet Cottage
My time away began on September 11, and it was first spent in the city, getting some long-neglected chores done around the house. We headed up to the cottage on Tuesday morning.
Our rough plan is to spend the week days at the cottage and go home on the weekends, essentially inverting our usual routine. This time of year, many cottage owners in the resort are not up during the week, and there are very few people renting, so it’s incredibly peaceful.
My wife, Karen, and I treat the cottage as “home-base”. Sure, we spend a lot of time at the cottage and resort itself, but we often go for road trips to other areas in the region. Case in point, this past weekend, we spent one day at the Lang Pioneer Village Apple Festival. It’s similar to Black Creek Pioneer village in North York, but a little more rural. Lang Village tells the story of early settlers, industrialists and pioneers in the area around Keene, Ontario. Lang includes a functioning 170-year old grist mill, and just outside of the village proper is the Hope Mill, a fully functioning, water-powered sawmill.
I do photograph people; usually at events. And I’m pretty good at capturing those decisive movements between people. I’m not a portrait photographer, though. I’ve shot PR photography for a good deal of my professional career before joining Adobe. It’s a reportage skill, and one I seem to keep honed. Interestingly enough, that genre of photography is one that is getting me noticed elsewhere in the organization, outside of the field sales team. There’s nothing more flattering than the marketing team for Adobe MAX, asking if they can use MY photos of Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayan, because the photographer they paid to shoot the event didn’t have any good images. Makes you wonder what they did shoot well…
Yep, I still got it.
Digital Pinhole Photography
A few months ago, I backed a project by Thingify. They were proposing a pinhole accessory for digital SLR’s and M4/3 cameras. It looks like a 50mm lens, but has no actual optics, just a range of laser-cut pinholes. While there are certainly less expensive ways to try out this technique with a DSLR, I was interested in the variable aperture and the fact that I didn’t have to jury-rig my own version. I’m not the handiest guy in town.
I received my Pinhole Pro just over a month ago and have been experimenting with it at the cottage and at home. The results have been…interesting.
Pinhole photography is not for everyone. In a photo world obsessed with pixel-counting, noise reduction and image sharpness, the pinhole style of photography is counter to almost all of the above. And – for me, at least- finding the right subject matter is a critical part of the success for this technique.
I never in my life have made a pinhole photo. I was never in a camera club in school, nor did I ever take any photography courses beyond photojournalism (not much need for pinhole photography in that field). Hence this concept of creating pinhole images with my DSLR intrigued me.
As I mentioned earlier, pinhole photography is not for everyone. In the short time since I’ve owned the lens, I’ve produced many unremarkable photos. But I’ve also created a few gems. There is still much to be learned, and I’m still in search of that perfect scene (or scenes). In fact, I've written enough about this topic in my draft of this journal, that I'm going to publish a separate story/project on the topic, that will likely be a bit more technical and include some tips on getting the most out of digital pinhole photography.
The Lang-Hastings Rail Trail connects The Great Trail across Peterborough County to the City of Kawartha Lakes to the west, and Northumberland County to the east. Travelling along the trail is an adventure unto itself; from passing alongside horses and farm animals grazing in the fields to a beaver dam that acts as a home to numerous furry little creatures. The trail leads you through a large culvert before taking you along the Trent Canal, leading you to the Village of Hastings. (Information courtesy of Ontario Trails)
As I entered the trail off Villiers Line, I was immediately struck by the almost heady perfume of wildflowers – what we from the city often refer to as weeds. Bulrushes, asters, chicory, Queen Anne’s lace, goldenrod, yellow daisies, spotted jewelweed, crowded the sides of trail, as if vying for attention. It seemed that every other step I took, surprised a grasshopper, frog or snake into scurrying retreat, within the safety of the local plant life.
Before the cottage, wine country was our go-to destination. Primarily Niagara, but sometimes Prince Edward County. A camera of some description was always with me, rain or shine. Between photography, and wine tasting, it was hard to have a bad day.
With the cottage as our new go-to, we've admitttedly been ignoring the Niagara region.
The physical region, that is. Not the wine.
Never the wine. I am a self-proclaimed Ontario Wine Snob and proud to admit it. There is a lot of good wine out there, but our Ontario wines are top notch and good for any occasion, even if that occasion just happens to be sitting on the deck at the cottage.
So, off to Niagara we went. I had in my mind that I would make use of my new pinhole lens one or more times. In reality, I used my iPhone and my Moment wide lens more often. Some of those images are in the background.
That said, I knew what I was looking for as subject matter for the pinhole, and when we arrived at Fielding Estates winery, everything came together in two frames.
The feathery wall of horsetail grasses, more than 6 feet in height, and a gentle breeze, gave me just what I had seen in my mind's eye.
The older I get, the more I appreciate friendship. This is in great part due to the loss of some dear friends in recent years, and family. Often, the loss has been due to illness (that bastard, cancer) but on at least one notable occasion, it was a very abrupt parting of ways, and not of our choosing. I won't go into details, but this person is missed dearly in some ways. In others, frankly, a weight has been lifted. It's quiet times like these at the cottage, that I find myself wondering what went wrong.
In direct contrast to this loss, we've gained new friends. Perhaps more accurately, I've re-gained friends and Karen has gained new ones. Over the past couple years, former school mates of mine and their spouses have reached out, thanks to the good side of Facebook. We all enjoy each other's company, and can spend hours together, talking, laughing, and quaffing back a grape beverage or two (or three).
On that list of doing things I've never done before (or ever thought of doing), we went to a taping of a local talk show, The Marilyn Denis Show, on Tuesday morning. All by sheer luck; we were having dinner with friends Janet and Jeff on Monday evening and she mentioned she was going with her sister, and did we want to see if she could get tickets for us. Originally, we had planned to head up to the Fortress first thing Tuesday morning, but looking at my wife, I could see she was interested in going. Janet was able to get tickets and the four of us headed down early the following morning in my car.
Driving in downtown Toronto - during morning rush hour - O.M.G.
I'm eternally grateful I do not have to make that trip daily. If I have customer meetings downtown, I'll often resort to mass transit instead of the headache of driving in the core.
As if the crush of traffic, street construction, and the press of pedestrians (many of whom seem blissfully unaware of the tonnes of rolling steel coming their way as they jay-walk) there is now the added bonus of roaming herds of cyclists. Toronto has put in some pretty decent bike lanes in the downtown core, to help reduce traffic congestion and give people another way to get to work. Conceptually, I applaud the initiative. From a practical perspective, it is truly another road hazard to be aware of as a motorist.
That said, I can deal with the cyclists who are actually good users of the road. It's a little nerve-wracking, because I'm hyper paranoid of making a turn and becoming an accident scene for a cyclist, but I manage. At least I don't have to drive downtown every day. But there's always that contingent who think they have a special dispensation to be - well - asshats of the road. Asshats who are seemingly in their minds, indestructible, who can - and do - ride out into traffic or against red lights, or cut in front of moving vehicles without a care in the world, like it's their right. I'd like to give them a right - then a left...
Even though this was not a live broadcast, it was very interesting to me to see how the production was managed. It was explained to us that the first segment had already been taped, so we would be participating in the final 3 segments, focused on home decor. We were all given instructions on how to respond to things happening in front of us. The key was "be excited! Have fun," and clap till your hands ached.
It's quite the production and the segments were very interesting. I was a amazed at how many people are involved in the production of the Marilyn Denis show - 91! From my own technical perspective, it was neat to see that all the lighting is now done with cool flourescent or LED lighting, rather than hot tungsten or halogen lighting. Overall, it was a lot of fun, and we had the added bonus of getting a photo with Marilyn!
This week is also my 27th wedding anniversary and my mom's 75th birthday. As our anniversary is the same day as Mom's birthday, we don't often spend that exact day celebrating with my mom. But this year we decided to do something different, because it's such a special milestone for my Mom. So we're taking ourselves and Mom to Stratford, Ontario to see a production of Guys and Dolls, and to get away for a couple days.
I've loved live theatre since high school. I took drama, acted in the high school plays and managed the school stage crew in those four years and even considered acting as a career option during that time. But I opted for journalism instead (it felt more secure). Little did I know then, that journalism would lead me to a significant and lifelong new love - photography. If you're interested in learning more, click the button below.
(Update: Guys and Dolls was FANTASTIC! And the Parlour Inn is highly recommended if you're staying in Stratford. Great food and service)
Halloween is Coming
My favorite holidays of the year are Hallowe'en and Christmas. I have difficulty deciding which one I love more, but Hallowe'en does come first in the calendar year. Usually, I create an outdoor graveyard that trick-or-treaters must pass through before getting their candy. It's been quite popular over the years. Unfortunately, work has stepped in the way both last year (Adobe MAX) and this year (EDUCAUSE), so there has been no Walkway of Terror for two years in a row.
Regardless of work intervening, it has not stopped me from getting into the mood. In fact, my sabbatical this year has given me a chance to really plan and set up my Hallowe'en Town, which I did today. A few photos are below, along with some pretty awesome decor pieces I saw in Homesense. No, I did not buy them, shocking as that may be.
OK well, I didn't buy those ones...
An interesting - and flattering - thing happened to me at the Bellmere Winds this week. Well, it actually started near the beginning of my sabbatical, but the actual occurrence was the end of this week. The resort’s general manager, Luke Fraser, approached me and asked if they could buy some of my resort photos, and if I would like to photograph another resort as well as catch some more people focused shots for promotional use.
I was truly flattered, and appreciated the fact they are aware of and pleased with the my photographic creations around the cottage. We came to an agreement about price and - along with existing photos - I also went out on Saturday to photograph a nearby property, Woodland Estates, and got photos of a people using the multi-use sports court, playing in the swimming pool and some photos of the Thanksgiving feast potluck dinner, hosted by the resort.
It has been an awesome week! This time of year, during the week, the resort is so quiet. I stood outside one night – it might have been Wednesday evening, around 10pm and all the cottages around me were dark. No one was up, no air conditioners kicking in, no kids yelling or dogs barking. Just me and the frogs. It was amazing, to soak in the silence (and the frog song).
With only one week left to my sabbatical, I realize there are at least two goals I have not achieved yet – a trip to the Warsaw Caves, and a trip to Prince Edward County wine country. I’m hoping to at lest achieve the Warsaw Caves goal later this week when we head back up to the Cottage. But it will be a busy time; Canadian Thanksgiving is this coming weekend, and we’re having friends Glen and Chloe up for a cottage Thanksgiving. With any luck the local fall color will be kicking in by then for our aerial flight over Rice Lake on the weekend.
I’m also excited for this coming weekend - Thanksgiving at the cottage! What an awesome way to wrap up a sabbatical - and a reminder that I have a lot to be thankful for.
While the holiday weather hasn't been the most cooperative, we've had a very nice time at the Fortress, with good friends of ours. Lots of laughter and sharing on a holiday where one is to reflect on - and be grateful for - the things they have and the people they know.
Friendships like the one we have with Glen and Chloe are one of the many things I am thankful for.
Thanksgiving dinner was excellent. 95% of dinner was cooked on the BBQ - turkey breast, roast potatoes and carrots. We certainly ate our fill and topped it off with a local Mennonite-made blueberry pie. Delicious, all of it!
My friend Glen is also an avid photographer, so we had loosely planned on at least one photo excursion, and a flyover of Rice Like to see the fall colors. Weather conditions removed the flight from our options, and limited our chances for a photo walk, but we did manage a 2-hour driving tour up and around Stony Lake and Clear Lake, finding a few spots worth stopping for. I'm a firm believer that there is always a photo opportunity around, if you take the time to see. The colors this year in our area are pretty spotty (still mostly green) and quite muted, compared to last fall. I have a feeling that next weekend (the weekend I will not be at the cottage) will be the peak in this region.
- My health
- My wife, Karen, and our furry family of felines
- My friends and how they enrich my life experience
- My home and my cottage, both of which have a huge impact on my quality of life
- My abilities to create, in both words and images
- My many careers in the past, all of which culminated in my current role at Adobe
- My career at Adobe, which has opened up so many opportunities for me. I’ve gained skills and insight through this job, and made many new friends. It’s not always a bowl of my favorite candy, but what job is? And for the record, the times it’s been frustrating are few and far between.
Unless otherwise mentioned, all photographs have been made by and are the property of Jim Babbage. Friendship image by Alexas_Fotos - "friends sympathy friendship" Marilyn Denis photos courtesy of Janet Cooper