Review: The Canadian Rockies: Rediscovered, by Paul Zizka

I’ve been carrying around Paul Zizka‘s photography book, The Canadian Rockies: Rediscovered. It’s a big book and I’ve noticed some of my friends dodging when they see me hauling it out of my backpack (they know they’ll be stuck looking at it for a while, again).

The Canadian Rockies: Rediscovered

The Canadian Rockies: Rediscovered, by Paul Zizka, is published by Rocky Mountain Books.

He’s quite a guy, that Zizka. More than just an Instagram sensation.  He’s a Royal Fellow of the Canadian National Geographic Society, and writer of several books about the Rockies. He knows his subject intimately, and it shows. His wide angle images, long exposures and astrophotography pictures are brilliant.

The last word in the title indicates the direction of this book: Rediscovered. Zizka is more than capable when it comes to creating breathtaking images of natural scenery.

ice climbing

This wide-angle image is just one of the breathtaking photos in Zizka’s book.

But there’s more: in this introduction, Zizka explains his desire to push himself into seeing the countryside in new ways. And that’s both the success and limitation of this book.

Zizka adds a human element to his landscapes, originally for reasons related to composition and to create scale, and then as a form of visual storytelling. Skiers, hikers, ice-climbers, are all present, as are yoga practitioners.


The figures Zizka adds to his landscape photos range from skiers an climbers to yoga practitioners.


Sometimes the figures are models and sometimes they are self-portraits. We see the results of Zizka pushing his personal envelope, sometimes with tremendous success. The image below is a favourite: we’ve seen ‘road to beautiful view’ pictures before, and this self-portrait adds to it, in spades:

Blown Away self-portrait

Paul Zizka’s “Blown Away” taken at Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park.

Sometimes, the self-portraits feel out of place, like experiments that pale in comparison to other images:

Phantom Gathering

Phantom Gathering is a self-portrait that isn’t up to the calibre of so many of other images in the collection.

It’s a big book, 240 pages, and image themes start to repeat. There are incredible images of lake-submerged rocks seen with landscapes rising above the water. The power of the image recedes a bit when you’ve seen versions of of the rocks multiple times in the same book.

gathering 2

There are multiple images of above/beneath water in the collection.

I love this book for its grace and beauty, for it’s ability to show me images that are inspirational, and for the author’s willingness to experiment with multiple exposures and to create visual narratives within a single image.

There’s a black and white landscape featuring a cyclist so dwarfed by natural elements that’s the tiny bicycle almost transcends its environment. It’s beautiful. It’s more than beautiful, it’s inspirational and has stuck with me for weeks.

wild winter ride

Wild Winter Ride is an image that has stuck with me. It’s incredible.

So many of these pictures are thoughtful and some are exquisitely executed. Sometimes it all feels a bit much; a slightly more judicious edit might have made for a stronger work.

Also, there’s a lot of white space around some of the images. It’s a big book to carry around (I’ve shown it to dozens of people) and I wish some of the images made slightly greater use of available space.


It’s a big book, with a fair bit of white space on each of the pages. And these are images best viewed large.

On a scale of 1-5, this book is a 5. With a bit more editing and a little less white space, I think the book could have been a 6 out of 5.

Published in: on August 15, 2018 at 10:10 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Marcel Gagnon’s Grand Rassemblement


I love trying to photograph the coast in a way that expresses the change (and, yet, lack of change) as land appears and disappears; as the repeats its cycle, rising and falling again and again and again. It’s both timeless and ever-changing.

Along the St. Lawrence River

Quebec’s St. Lawrence River is tidal, and artist Marcel Marcel Gagnon created an artist centre on its shore, using it as a base to create art and to sell his paintings (and, later, those of his family and others).


The Great Gathering

Gagnon also began working on Le Grand Rassemblement (The Great Gathering) there in 1986, first painting various characters on canvas, then sculpting them from concrete. Dozens of rough-hewn statues now grace the shoreline and form a line into the St. Lawrence River.


Against the tide

Watching figures that appear (or disappear) with the St. Lawrence River tide is remarkable.


Subject to weather

Despite some weighing as much as 700 kg., the figures are subject to the wear and tear of natural elements. Depending on the level of tide and the weather, figures are subject to the waves and several become submerged.


Tim passages

The appearance of the statues varies dramatically during the day. In the morning the light brings out their facial appearances. As the sun warms the concrete fades. As the tide rises, waves crash against them. Torn flags on the rafts whip in the wind.


Moving with the times

In 1992, Gagnon added three wooden rafts featuring clothed figures, moored to nearby rocks. The boats float at high tide.


Rising tide

As the sun goes down, the figures become silhouettes, many appearing to drown as the tide rises over their heads.


Ever-changing, never changing

The Marcel Gagnon Art Centre and its remarkable concrete figures can be found in St. Flavie, along the southern coast of the St Lawrence River.

Aug. 5, 2018.

Review: Minor White: Manifestations of the Spirit



A portrait of Minor White, taken by noted photographer Imogen Cunningham in 1963. (Colorado Photographic Art Center)

“One should not only photography things for what they are,” wrote Minor White, “but for what else they are.” Deeply spiritual, photographer Minor White was also a complex, sexually conflicted figure, constantly striving to visually depict something intangible.

Window Sill and Reflection

Minor White’s Window Sill and Reflection, 1958. (Princeton University Art Museum/

The photographs in the J. Paul Getty Museum’s 1984 book, Minor White: Manifestations of the Spirit, are beautifully presented and include White’s major series, or ‘sequences,’ including ‘The Temptation of St Anthony is Mirrors,’ ‘The Young Man as Mystic,’ ‘The Sound of One Hand,’ and ‘Out of My Love for You I Will Try to Give You Back Yourself.’ The individual plates are rich in contrast and the images are visually arresting.

Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy, San Francisco, 1948. Plate #29 from The Temptation of St. Anthony is Mirrors. (Princeton University Art Museum/

This book includes a biographical essay by Paul Martineau that covers White’s career and artistic progression in Portland, New York, San Francisco, Rochester and Boston. It also discusses his role as a teacher, and as the editor of Aperture magazine from its inception in 1952 through 1976, and his relationships with other photographers of that era, including Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Weston, Imogen Cunningham, Paul Brandt, Dorothea Lange and Ansel Adams.

Two Barns

Minor White’s Two Barns and Shadow, in the Vicinity of Naples and Dansville, New York, 1955. (Princeton University Art Museum/

Highly recommended.

Published in: on August 4, 2018 at 11:50 am  Leave a Comment  

Who I am…

I am reading about contemplative photography via Kim Manley Ort. One of the first things I came across on her website was her suggestion of creating a visual CV. It’s an interesting notion: a visual response to a series of questions about oneself.  Without further ado, here are my answers:

Who are you?


Why photography?


What is your trademark photographic style?


What truly inspires you?


Where do you go when you close your eyes?


Where is home for you?

where is home.jpg

How would you describe your lifestyle?


What makes a great shot?

great shot.jpg

How do you view the world? 

how do you view.jpg

What is an important lesson you learned?

important lesson.jpg

Fujifilm x100s: New camera, different view of the world


Published in: on November 2, 2013 at 2:29 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Ruined in Detroit: Black and white, all over

Church auditorium, Detroit, MI

Church auditorium, Detroit, MI

Earlier this year photographer and friend Rick Harris and I took a trip to Detroit. The plan was to revisit some of the abandoned buildings we’ve explored in past, and photograph some new sites. In addition to a new theatre and church, I also discovered the black and white post-processing project I’ve been working on was well-suited to some of the images I was taking on our trip.

Over the past several months I’ve been going through some of my older architectural images, looking at them again and trying them out as black and white. I post-process images as HDR and I’ve found that I’m able to build up the structure of the images so there’s more detail in my shots, but at the same time the architectural angles and lines hold the images together.

East Grand Methodist Church, Detroit, MI

Light often has an unusual quality in abandoned buildings. Paint peels in layers, and colours, including colour in graffiti can mix and create a unique feel to rooms and hallways of buildings, so I’ve always shot them in colour (and when I shoot in colour I like strong, vivid pictures). What I’m finding, though, is that the black and white images reduce some of the flotsam and jetsam of abandoned buildings, allowing they eye to hold on architectural details. For me, it’s a different way of looking at the images. One isn’t better than the other, they’re just different.

Here’s an example. This first image is from Detroit’s Michigan Central Terminal. Lots of strong straight lines and architectural detail that would be outstanding even without the sense of abandonment. The graffiti is key to this image, changing the image to something that feels almost post-apocalyptic (click on the image to see it larger):

Central Michigan Terminal, Detroit

Now here’s the same image, in black and white (click on the image to see it larger):

Central Michigan Terminal, Detroit

The image feels simpler, even classical; more akin to what you’d expect from images of Roman or Greek ruins. The grafitti loses much of its force, but that’s okay as it leaves the eye to spend more time with the strength of the lines. Again, neither better or worse, just different, and something that gives me the opportunity to see not only new things in a different way, but also seeing familiar images in a new way.

This link takes you to a slideshow of Detroit ruins seen in black and white.

Published in: on May 18, 2013 at 11:35 am  Comments (1)  
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Published: Colorado Review

broadway-theatre-large-editI got one of the best Christmas presents a fella could have, when a package arrived in the mail containing a pair of copies of the Winter/Spring editions of the literary journal Colorado Review. The journal has a storied life. It’s first edition in 1956 included work by William Carlos Williams, E. E. Cummings, Henry Miller and Bertolt Brecht.  The Review is carried by university and public libraries across the U.S., and is distributed by Ingram Periodicals and Kent News to both chain and independent bookstores and newsstands nationally.  Editor Stephanie G’Schwind at the University of Colorado contacted me in the late fall, inquiring about the use of one of my photos. The University of Colorado’s Department of English has used my work before and they do a really good job of making it look good, so saying yes was easy. I was blown away when I saw the book. Stephanie maintained the integrity of my image, making it wrap around the entire front, back and spine of the book. It’s stunning. It’s also just $10 for a copy, so go ask for one. 🙂 Thanks, Stephanie!

Walking tour: The architecture of Newfoundland’s Fogo Island

My wife Linda loves walking trails. I love architecture. Who would have thought that a small island off the coast of Newfoundland would bring us the best of both worlds?

Fogo Island, best known to Flat Earthers as one of the four corners of the world, has a population of about 3,000 people. Fishing has been the primary occupation since the 1800s, but a few years ago, the Shorefast Foundation began to change that. Shorefast’s motto, “Finding new ways for an old continuity,” has been marrying tradition with arts programming, including four artist workshops, and the creation of a five-star inn near the town of Joe Batt’s Arm.

Three of the four artist workshops are on walking trails and can take from 10 minutes to half-an-hour to get to. The workshops are designed by the Bergen, Norway-based firm Saunders Architecture. Each is situated in a remarkable location with incredible views.

Linda and I spent four days walking Fogo Island’s trails (not nearly enough time!) and you can click here to see a small slideshow of images I took of Fogo Island architecture, including the construction of Shorefast’s Fogo Island Inn. We look forward to more workshops being built, and a return visit to the island.

Published in: on September 23, 2012 at 8:24 pm  Leave a Comment  
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New and improved:

After mucking about with for two years, I’ve given my website a much-needed revamp. I’m not an html whizz, but I am pleased with how it’s turned out. It’s simple, clean, and offers themed galleries of the types of work on which I tend to focus (portraiture, architecture, travel). The website also links to my flickr page (regularly posted work), tumblr (visuals about music, books and photography), and my wordpress blog, where you’re reading this missive. I hope you have a look at the website. You’re welcome to let me know what you think of it.

Published in: on July 28, 2012 at 4:33 pm  Leave a Comment  
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In the RAW: Photographing artists at the 2012 Riverdale Art Walk

Encaustic painter Corin Pinto at the June 2012 RAW in Toronto

A short while ago my friend and fellow explorer Russell Brohier offered me the opportunity to photograph artists participating in the 2012 Riverdale Art Walk. Russell knows how much I enjoy portraiture, art, and artistic process, and I was more than willing to accept. It was a big job this year, as there were over 130 artists involved in the art fair, which is considerably more than the 80 who were present in 2010 (the last time I took on Russell’s challenge).

Being at the 2012 RAW was a bit like old home week.  I was a member of the Riverdale Artist Network before work got in the way, and Linda and I own work created by a number of east Toronto artists. It was good to see familiar faces, make a few new friends and talk with a whole lot of artists about what they love to create, their creative process, and why they make what they make.

My challenge was creating portraits that featured both them and their work. Sometimes that meant photographing a booth, but my favourite images incorporate the artist’s work as backdrops to their portraits.  You’ll find a select few of my favourite images from the weekend in the portrait section of my website, and you’ll find even more of them on my flickr site.