What does an artist thief, a prairie-town wine bar, and El Niño have in common? The answer is a missed deadline that whooshed by so fast I got whiplash!
As a landscape photographer, weather plays an important part in my ability to get out and shoot – or should I say, my enjoyment of getting out to shoot – and informs the content of my images. With my rejuvenated Pressed Landscapes project, I saw a gap in terms of winter coverage. Did I want seasonal imagery for this project? It was pretty surprising to discover so few wintry whites in my collection to date considering I live in Canada where it can snow every month of the year (and did in the Calgary area in 2005).
I was influenced in restarting this project by Austin Kleon’s book, Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative. Mr. Kleon’s not really advocating copyright infringement and theft of course, more so that learning to be creative involves imitation and research and practice towards making something worthy that is all your own. But that kind of sentiment is not as cool a book title. A point I took away from the book was how much being creative is truly a slog. It’s hours of your time and energy. Hours of doubt, hours of failure. Hours of doing and re-doing with no hope of seeing the other side of things. Published creatives know about this reality, about the hard work never seen behind the scene. It was really brought home to me by Austin Kleon’s daily task list. In order to succeed, he broke down major projects into hundreds of tiny, achievable chores that he had to do every day as shown on a yearly calendar. After reading his book, I got out my trusty paper and pens and made my own calendar and posted it on the wall by my computer where unchecked tasks could reproach me with impunity. And then I waited for it to snow.
“Twiggy and brown” is how the owners, Simon Hunt and Alex Bourdes of Fieldstones Esspresso and Wine Bar described the landscape this winter. Darwin and I were in Nanton, south of Calgary, on business last week and stopped by our favourite little rooftop get-away-in-the-prairie. Their comments contrasted with the lush greenery growing in pots and window sills in the café and the cool whites and soft greys of their decorating palette. We were talking about the town of Nanton, a town that has retained its small-town feel while situated surprisingly close to the land-gobbling city of Calgary. The owners love the town but, being from the UK, had to bring a lift of greenery to the place to survive the long, dry winters. (Tangent: Fieldstones is a fabulous place. Great food, wine and coffee and a friendly, beautiful space. Next time you’re antiquing in Nanton, go there for a lovely foodie break.)
Twiggy and brown indeed. I feel like an idiot setting a goal for winter photography in one of the warmest winters I remember experiencing. In the foothills around where I live and wish to shoot for my project, there has been hardly any snow. I was confident we’d get a nice wet dump of the stuff in March as usual but instead people are walking around in T-shirts and sandals. The only cold stuff outside is the ice cream melting in the hundreds of cones held by hundreds of people visiting Cochrane’s famous Mackay’s homemade ice cream store.
Has El Niño scuttled my Pressed Landscapes project? I squint my eyes at that statement, taking personally a weather challenge that has everyone else dancing in the warm winter prairie streets. It’s April now, and my deadline for completing my winter portfolio for the project has come and gone. My blank, unchecked wall calendar mocks me. As a landscape photographer, the weather is forcing me to examine the goals of my project. Why did I want seasonal coverage, anyway? How does that serve the purpose of my project – or am I just falling prey to the nice rounded feel of four-season coverage?
In any case, it’s back to the drawing board for me. Hopefully unintended effects will force me to think more deeply about my project and result in a more thoughtful, creative outcome. Spring is early this year, so I’d better get out there and shoot before I miss it.