Terra Firma

Terra Firma

There are moments when you reach for your camera that you can envision the exact result you are looking for. A quick and fleeting thought you may not even necessarily be able to explain in the moment, but something deeper down you know you recognize. A reminder of a time or place in your past, or something embedded deep in your psyche, to be released only when the time is right. Within seconds, the camera is switched on, lens cap removed. Ideally you have time to compose it using the standard tricks-ISO, Aperture, Shutter Speed. There are other times when you know you only have a moment or two to record what you are seeing due to variables such as light and weather. It’s Now Or Never as a famous singer once sang and you hope that wisp of an idea becomes a reality once the shutter has been released.

Those of you who have been following me for awhile know that once we moved to a place where we could easily view the shifting clouds and colors of the sky that it has became a common theme to my photography. The other night it happened again, but instead of the varying colors of sunset featured here before, what I saw instead was blue. A contrast of rich, deep blue together with billowy clouds that I had not quite seen before. Instantly, one of those sudden ideas popped into my head. I knew what it reminded me of. I knew I wanted to capture it, and I fired off a few shots in the hope that one of them would express that idea successfully once I saw it on my computer screen. I made just a few minor adjustments to the camera settings. The end result is what you see here, with no manipulation to color or texture from the way I saw it.

What I was thinking is that the pattern reminded me of those topographical maps you will often find in an atlas. You know the ones- where they take away all the place names and borders and instead just show the terrain of the earth from above. Snow capped mountain ranges and dry deserts. Deep oceans and winding rivers. Just our earth as it looks from a distance…as another famous singer once sang. I recognized that the clouds set against this particular shade of blue looked similar to the way cartographers draw terrain, making the two dimensional three dimensional. As I looked at them on my computer I imagined the same things-the blue colors delineating the oceans that make our planet so unique.  The cloud patterns-swirls of white contrasted with darker specks reminded me of mountain ranges and deserts or the polar regions.

As I have gotten further into writing these posts, I seem to be finding deeper inspirations and connections than when I first started out. When I posted one of these photos from the other night on Instagram, I somehow felt the need to simply call it ‘Earth’. I knew fully well that it was nothing more than another cloud photo, or cloud porn as some people call it, but it felt more substantial to me. There are a lot of times here where I stumble on something I want to write about. A basic idea built around a song, and defined to my own logic by my photos. But they usually happen with a lot of thought and ideas that become connected.  Seldom have I taken a new photograph and felt the need to immediately write about it, but this was one of those times.

I think I wanted to call the photo ‘Earth’ because I seem to be increasingly concerned about the fragility of our planet. Concerns about global warming, violence,  hunger, fear, pollution and endangered species have been present for awhile of course. But those problems seem more urgent now and not so easily reasoned away internally by saying future generations will have to worry about it, not us. The problems seem more timely and pressing now. They also seem to be worse because we are ignoring the warnings by the real experts in favor of people more concerned with their wallets.

Years ago I used to play the computer game Civilization by Sid Meier. As anyone who has ever played it knows, there were different paths to victory, but no matter what path you chose, you had to finish by the year 2100 or thereabouts. The reason being that in the game, humanity had overstayed its welcome on a now ravaged planet Earth and those that remained would start civilization new again on the planet Alpha Centauri. The idea of having to vacate an entire planet seems like a bit of science fiction on the one hand, but on the other can we honestly say that in our real world we are not already on a path where it might become a conceivable reality?

It is precisely in moments of realization such as this that I inevitably seek solace in music, art and science. None of them provide the answers, but at least the heart is in the right place in recognizing the severity of the problems. One such artist is the British Indian musician, composer, arranger, and producer Nitin Sawhney. I came across some of his work years ago. His albums combine electronica with a multitude of other sounds from India to South Africa and beyond and explore a number of themes.

When I was taking the photos the other night though, a few bars of the instrumental Breathing Light from his album Prophesy popped into my head simultaneously. Some might call this chill out music but for me there is something more profound to it. The underlying piano notes are ethereal, while the flutes and other electronic sounds weave around the melody making it feel like a musical journey. Or maybe just a journey through the clouds and out above the atmosphere, where names, places and people become secondary to the wonders that make our planet so unique.  I realized that the photos reminded me of this way of looking at our world.  It would be nice to keep it that way I think.

Breathing Light-Written By Nitin Sawhney

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Mexico-Color & Passion

 

It will be Cinco de Mayo in a few days. Before you drink that margarita, before you have those guacamole and chips or enchiladas with delicious mole, I want to tell you about my love of Mexico. Well I should actually say my love of Mexican culture (which includes the food!). Other than a quick trip across the border to Tijuana when I was eleven, I have not actually traveled there, though I hope that will change in the near future. Much like what St. Patrick’s Day has turned into, Cinco de Mayo has seemingly become co opted as  an excuse for 2 for 1 bottles of Corona and taco specials, though of course it actually commemorates the Mexican victory over the French at the Battle Of Puebla in 1862. Not Mexican independence as some wrongly believe, but an important military victory.  Despite the misunderstanding  it has become in some places a defacto celebration of Mexican culture along with those 2 for 1 Corona’s. Regardless of the misunderstanding, celebrating Mexican culture is never a bad thing, and  there is an awful lot of it  to go around.

If I were to describe Mexican culture using only two words I would simply say ‘colorful’ and ‘passionate’. From the richly dyed and beautiful textiles woven into blankets and clothing to the often subversive art bright colors dominate.   Mexican art somehow seems more visual than in other cultures, and I think it is precisely because of those bright colors used throughout. There is a lot of representation of death and religious themes utilized, but there are also a lot of satirical ones too. Art in Mexico seems to be everywhere, be it simple folk art or street murals. Even the masks worn by professional wrestlers there have a distinctly Mexican flair to them. I may not always understand the meaning of it all, but I admire it deeply for the appearance and style. Art can sometimes be unapproachable, and even exclusionary, but I do not get that sense from the Mexican art I have seen.

The passionate side comes out partly with a strong devotion to soccer, but especially in the music, and there are a bewildering number of styles throughout the country. In my opinion, when one thinks of the music of the Americas, certain countries jump to the front of the line. The U.S. of course with Rock, Country, Blues, Jazz and more.  Brazil has Samba, Bossa Nova and Forro, to name just a few. Cuba has Son, Mambo, Chachacha and the Rumba.  Jamaica is the birthplace of Reggae but there are so many sub genres like Dancehall and Rocksteady that make that island one of the most musical places in the entire world. But I think Mexico should be right there on that list too.  Just a partial list includes Ranchera, Norteno, Mariachi, Huapango and Cumbia. And that’s before you even get to contemporary Rock, Pop and Indigenous styles. One country, with lots of very different sounds.

It can be difficult to understand them all as an outsider but fortunately there is at least one singer I can think of who has attempted to weave her way through the maze. Mexican American singer Lila Downs has been a fixture on the world music circuit for years now. I first became aware of her from an appearance singing in director Julie Taymor’s inventive biographical film about the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. Lila Downs also featured heavily on the soundtrack to the film. It isn’t just that she explores Mexican music, but she also freely incorporates other sounds in to the mix, from Hip-Hop, Jazz, Indigenous styles and beyond with her staggeringly powerful voice. She is intensely passionate (see, there is that word again!) about the music, and you can clearly hear it whether you are a Spanish speaker or not.

I decided to feature two songs in this post.  One of the first songs I heard Lila Downs sing, the sublime Paloma Negra (Black Dove) appears on her album Una Sangre. At first I did not know it was actually a well known song performed by other greats like Lola Beltran and Chavela Vargas, but I sensed something hearing Lila Downs perform the song.  It isn’t just that you can hear her classical voice training in this song. It isn’t just that you can feel the devastating sadness of this song of heartbreak- ‘my eyes are dying without looking into yours’. It is so much more. The tempo, the buildup to that long mournful note just shout that Mexican passion to me. Other countries have their own ways of expressing pain and sadness in song, but I doubt many do it with as much raw feeling.

The second song here is the title cut to Lila’s most recent studio album-Balas y Chocolate (Bullets & Chocolate. The song cleverly balances between the real- ‘There’s bullets flying in our world, in our world. There are those who duck the bullets, on the ground, on the ground’ with a simple bit of escapism- ‘Gimme mami chocolate, You are my chocolate, My life my sweet. The rap in the middle of the song goes even further-

If a bullet don’t kill me, a hijacking, or assault,
if I don’t choke on the volcano’s ashes,
From diabetes, cirrhosis
Neurosis psychosis necrosis or from an overdose
If alcoholism doesn’t get me
Or egotism, stupidity, or partisanship
an earthquake or boredom from the soap opera
I’ll take off and toast my cocoa beans
There are dreams that are born in the pueblos and for the people
There are people who live those dreams each day,

Yet despite the harsh reality of those words, the video for the song, filled with those wonderful colors and folk art coming to life, with children dancing to the happy sounding  music portrays something else. Like the passion that exudes with Lila Downs singing Paloma Negra, it is the vibrancy of Mexico coming out. Despite the real life issues and  headlines about Mexico, there is much to admire and celebrate. Whether that is on Cinco de Mayo or any other day of the year, celebrating a country and culture as rich as Mexico is always a good thing.

Paloma Negra-Written By Tomas Mendez

Balas y Chocolate-Written By Lila Downs & Paul Cohen

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Lark Rising-A Tribute To Flora Thompson

Mower In The Field

‘The hamlet stood on a gentle rise in the flat, wheat-growing north-east corner of Oxfordshire. We will call it Lark Rise because of the great number of skylarks which made the surrounding fields their springboard and nested on the bare earth between the rows of green corn.’

So begins one of my most favorite books-Lark Rise To Candleford by Flora Thompson. Originally written as a trilogy in the late 1930’s-early 1940’s the three books were eventually unified as one title. What Laura Ingalls Wilder did for the American prairie in her Little House On The Prairie series, what Lucy Maud Montgomery did for Prince Edward Island in Canada with Anne Of Green Gables, Flora Thompson did for her own little corner of England. Ironically, all three women were roughly contemporaries, and all three became known for writing about their own lives growing up. Wilder’s and Montgomery’s stories were originally marketed as successful children’s books (though plenty of adults still admire and read them to this day), Flora Thompson’s series  however was probably more of a slow grower in terms of popularity and importance, and definitely not a children’s book.

Together the three parts of the book-Lark Rise, Over To Candleford, and Candleford Green describe life at the turn of the nineteenth century into the twentieth in a rural corner of England.  Lark Rise being a small hamlet where the protagonist Laura Timmins and her family grew up. Candleford being the slightly larger village, and Candleford Green the market town. The names are fictionalized, but very much based on real places. Using the character of Laura, Thompson was able to weave much of her life growing up, from school and seasonal rituals, to her work as a postmistress in the area. The wonderful thing about this book is though the distance between the three places was not so great, Flora Thompson manages to convey instead a vast landscape, filled with flowers, trees and wildlife.

She also told the story of the people that lived in that area. From her own hardworking parents and her favorite brother Edmund to memorable characters such as Queenie,  Twister, Cousin Dorcas and Zillah, Thompson imbued them all with the spirit of the era. What makes the books still so special today is that they are a living, breathing history of the time period. Flora Thompson wrote them later in life while thinking back on those years. Not purely for nostalgia, but also I think a fair bit of pride for how she and the other inhabitants of the area lived. When she described how a trip to the neighboring village required ‘more than turning over the leaves of a bus time-table’ I do not think of it as being a complaint in the difficulty of planning the excursion. Instead it was just how it was. Nothing more.

I think I have said on these pages before that there is the history that you read about in  books, and the history of any given person during the same time.  What the history books miss in the telling of general trends are the day to day lives of people. People scratching out a living however they could. As Thompson wrote- ‘Lark Rise must not be thought of as a slum set down in the country. The inhabitants lived an open-air life; the cottages were kept clean by much scrubbing with soap and water, and doors and windows stood wide open when the weather permitted.’ They sang songs throughout the year, went to church on Sunday, gossiped about one another, and talked politics at the pub. The charm of the book is in giving life to normal tasks such as the way the houses were decorated, the gardens and animals most households kept, or the archaic rules of children’s games.  In Thompson’s world, these were the historical events, not what was going on in the world around them necessarily.

I could go on quoting many more passages from the book, but I will leave it to you to read for yourselves some day to discover its charms. Revisiting its pages over the last few days  reminded me that  as a photographer when I am looking for interesting things to take photos of, I sometimes stumble upon an artifact from the past. An old barn on a country road or a vintage sign for example. Rather than viewing it as a museum piece or antique, I often think about what that artifact has been witness to. Take the photo I am using in this post. I took it on the little farm my mother grew up on in Ireland. It is one half of a mowing machine and would have been pulled by a horse. It sits in the field, rusted but built so well one could almost imagine it working again.

Perhaps because it is not in a museum or in an antique shop, but was actually used by my grandfather, I felt more of a connection to it. Like the world Flora Thompson recounts in Lark Rise To Candleford, the machine feels relevant still because it represents part of a life that is gone, replaced instead by modern machinery. I think a large part of why Lark Rise is considered such a gem is that it did not lament the inevitable change. Thompson herself once remarked of desiring  ‘a combination of old romance and modern machinery’. Lately with the world moving  faster than ever, when I read the words of writers like Flora Thompson, or when I take a photograph of something I know to be very old, it is my way of linking to the past. Similarly, the world of traditional music has a hand in preserving the same life that Thompson recounted. Bands like The Albion Band did that quite well in fact.

When bass player Ashley Hutchings left Fairport Convention in 1969, he eventually formed the group Steeleye Span, and later The Albion Band. The Albions…as fans generally refer to them as owing to a bit of an open door musical policy were a true extension of Hutchings desire to explore the English folk traditions in full. Not just the traditional ballads, but also the various dance traditions encountered throughout the land. He has explored the work of folk song collector Cecil Sharp, he has performed both with very large groups of musicians and smaller acoustic based ones. He has done obscure concept albums, and more commercial sounding folk-rock.

In 1978, Hutchings and The Albion Band were asked to take part in a stage version of Lark Rise To Candleford. It was a theater in the round type of performance-actors became musicians and vice versa. Later, a studio album comprising some key moments was produced, which is where the music in this post comes from, two traditional songs very much in keeping with the themes of the book.  This album was my introduction to Flora Thompson’s world. The play was perhaps the first real push to present her work as being special. Just a few years ago, a very popular BBC television series went on air, and Thompson’s work is now seemingly on par with those of her two contemporaries.

Inevitably, whenever I play The Albion Band’s album, I find myself pulling out my battered copy of Flora Thompson’s book. Something about the leisurely approach to her story, lends itself to opening up random passages to read at will. I began writing this post as a way of introducing people to the book, but now in conclusion I feel something else happened along the way, and it has to do with that same leisurely approach. I do sometimes fear that the times we are in now really do move too fast. Not only is the technology changing, but we are too. Flora Thompson’s own life was not completely idyllic and was certainly not without hardship. But later in life, she wanted to recount those times, the good and the bad. When musicians like The Albion Band perform old traditional songs they do so to present something similar. When I take a photo of something like an old piece of farm equipment I am doing the same thing. Three mediums keeping the past alive in the present. My fear is that in the fast paced world of today will we collectively recount our pasts the way Thompson did? Let me know in the comments below what your thoughts are!

Lemady/Arise & Pick A Posy-Traditional, Arranged By The Albion Band

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Under The Sun, Moon And Stars

‘Let happiness run under the sun, moon and stars’

There seems to be something universal about the symbolism of the above line. Despite all the distractions of life we inevitably suffer through, the imagery of being connected to those celestial objects is compelling. It does not matter where you live, or what year it is, the lure of the energy they provide has a strengthening  power. Whether it is waiting for a day off to ‘catch some rays’, or to get out of the city to more easily see the moon and stars, these ancient forces are a part of our life. They tend to bring us happiness, and for some people they even provide healing powers.

I suppose I am no different in that regard. After the darkness of winter the longer days go a long way towards re-energizing my soul. And boy have I needed that lately. I have not been writing as much as I want to here lately, and my music related posts seem to be scarcer. The cause has not been for a lack of musical inspiration on my part. Over the last few months I have acquired lots of new music I hope will make its way on to these pages soon. It also has not been because I am uninspired with my photography. A new camera and lenses have given me lots of toys to happily play with.

This blog has always being about making a connection between music and my own photography, but I have not been able to pull that off too much recently. Like the last time it happened though, instead of feeling pressured, I just waited until I felt I had something to write. And like some of the best moments I have had since I started writing, it was when a song hit me at precisely the right time.

While enjoying a day off from work yesterday I sat on our balcony reading and relaxing. I had some reggae music on by one of my favorites- the sublime Jimmy Cliff. A year or so ago I wrote about his classic song Many Rivers To Cross here. It is hard for me to adequately express how much his music means to me. He sings of Jamaica.  Of hardship and happiness.  Peace and poverty. Love and hate. No matter the subject it always comes from a place of love. Live he frequently ends his songs with the words ‘Give Thanks.’ A reminder of what is really important to him and his music.

One perception of reggae music is that it is all about chilling out on a beach with a beer and Bob Marley singing Buffalo Soldier, or Jammin’. I have certainly been guilty of that offense myself. It is easy to get lured by that beat and groove to a state of relaxation. So often though, when you read the lyrics to songwriters like Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff the truth really comes out. The songs are quite often very powerful political statements.

Take the Bob Marley songs I mentioned for example. In Buffalo Soldier- ‘Stolen from Africa, brought to America, Fighting on arrival, fighting for survival.’ Or Jammin’- ‘No bullet can stop us now, we neither beg nor we won’t bow.’ When you really learn about the music and the atmosphere it was created under, those good time beach vibes don’t quite feel the same. So while I was sitting yesterday, I realized that the words to Jimmy Cliff’s song Under The Sun, Moon And Stars are no different.

The music might have that relaxed vibe, but the song is actually a bit of a plea and a statement about not living life the way his forefathers did and not accepting it either-

‘My forparents worked, from sun-up, ’til sun-down
Peace could not be found now they’re under the ground

I’ve heard them complain and cried out in pain
Seeking peaceful gain under the sun, moon and stars

Won’t happen to me, I’m not blind, you see
I’ve got to be free, I want it right here on earth
Got to have some fun, ‘for my life is done
Let happiness run under the sun, moon and stars’

This idea that I started off with, of a universal symbolism to the sun, moon and stars comes perhaps from my own (mostly) happy life. Once I really listened to the song, I realized that even though we all live under those same elements, our worlds can be vastly different with people not so happy or fortunate. Just like so many other reggae songs, the message comes in an uplifting way however. When Jimmy Cliff sings, even though he sings of hardship and poverty he reminds us we all live under the same sun, moon and stars. No matter who we are, no matter where we come from, no matter what our situation is. We all need to remember that. Give Thanks.

*A note about the photograph. Moon photography is something I have always wanted to try my hand at, but to really do it justice, you need a lot of patience, and some special equipment generally speaking. But one morning a month or two ago, as the sun was coming up, the moon was still in clear view, and the contrast of the dawn colors and the bright moon was too tempting not to take a photo. I’m happy I did! Now how about ‘one more’ from Jimmy Cliff?

Under The Sun, Moon And Stars-Written By Jimmy Cliff

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Light Study

Water Tower #36

For a photographer there is nothing more important than light. Everything about photography relies on it. Too much and a photo can become overexposed. Too little and it is underexposed. Composition, structure, texture all rely on light. Tricks of the trade such as aperture and shutter speed can manipulate that light. Freezing motion in place or utilizing shadows only works well with an understanding of light. It is the one aspect of photography that I continue to learn about every time I pick my camera up. After all  light is never exactly the same on any given day or situation so it is a constant learning process.

Consider too the masters of paintings who created their own light studies by painting a series of still lifes. Usually by way of a bowl of fruit, a vase of flowers or in the case of Claude Monet, with a  haystack.  Painters have  long used these types of studies to hone their craft. When I studied art in college we learned why this sort of simple subject matter was so important.  Along with shape and form, the subtle difference between light and shadow may drastically change the overall effect depending on time of day. Experimenting with the same subject matter reveals new textures and nuance.

Lets use the example of Monet’s haystacks for instance . A simple cluster of hay stacked in a field is by no means a particularly exciting subject. But in capturing the different looks to the haystacks throughout the day Monet made it intrinsically more interesting. Playing with the light such as that comes with careful observation and analysis. Is the light more pleasing at noon, or does it give off more of a glow at sunset? Does the halo of light over the entire field look best at sunrise, or at mid-afternoon? Is a summer sunset more vibrant than one in fall?

I was thinking recently about how important light can be to our mood.  The occasional dreary rainy day at home sipping tea or a glass of wine  gazing out the window can be very enjoyable.  Too many of those sorts of days in a row start to weigh on me however and I find myself eventually craving light.  That might be the first hints of sun in the morning, with golden light rising and reflecting over the buildings of my neighborhood or the clear blues of a bright and sunny day.  Or the soothing tones of sunset-red, pink, purple and orange immersed in the clouds. Even the glow of the city at night or the light from the stars can be pleasing.

I don’t know about other people but I have favorite times of the day. Times when I feel most at ease and happy. For some that might be morning, for others it might be quitting time from work. Thinking about this further, I came to the conclusion that the real reason we have a favorite time might just be about the light one expects to see. We feel energized when we get a warming sunrise or a calming sunset. As if the very qualities of color variations that occur on a single day make us feel connected to that light. I started to wonder if that was why painters and photographers are so drawn to capturing the shifting of light. Perhaps artists feel the need to study light as a way of seeing our response to those shifts.

In deciding to do my own light study, I wanted something that I could take a photograph of on a regular basis, at several different times of day over a period of time. I chose a water tower perched above my favorite old brick building in our neighborhood. I liked the contrast between the brick of the building and the wood of the water tower.

I was not methodical about this. I did not take a photo at 6:47 every day to compare. Instead I tried to hit key times of day. Sunrise, midday, late afternoon, sunset, night time.  I tried to take it more or less from the same position each time. I experimented with the tools at my disposal-shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. I made adjustments each time. Some I deemed right away to be unacceptable. Others I put in the maybe category.  In the end I probably took about 50 photos of this water tower and only sat down to write these words when I felt satisfied with my final choice to feature. *

Thinking of how to fit music into this equation I gradually came to realize an artist works on variations of a theme in a light study and tweaks them by altering the approach and final look as desired.  So too does a musician go into a recording studio with a song, and adjusts it. You start with the song. Perhaps it was written with the idea of  being a fast paced rocker. Or maybe it was written solo on a piano. Maybe it was meant to have only one singer. Yet so many times the song, the instrumentation, the tempo, the vocals change when the approach to the song gets altered. That rocker becomes a ballad instead. That solo piano becomes an electric guitar riff. Or the song intended to have only one singer now has a 20 piece Gospel choir and a horn section.

At their peak, REM were arguably doing all of this sort of experimentation, and quite successfully too. The early albums especially were rife with this sort of tinkering around, such as the song Time After Time (Annelise) from their second full length album- Reckoning. It may be dark and a little bleak, yet it is quite captivating precisely for that darkness. The recording of Reckoning apparently happened quickly, but choices and decisions still had to be made for each song, much like the moment a painter commits brush to canvas, or a photographer makes adjustments before clicking the shutter release.

The end result may not be satisfying to everyone. An artist or musician might consider it their best work while the general public rejects it outright. Some may consider it a step back while the artist considers it a step forward. In R.E.M.’s case Time After Time is viewed both with a mixture of  regard and disdain among fans. Regardless of how it ultimately plays out, artists experiment in the hope that it will push their work further. I realized in doing this light study that this was the common thread running in art and music-the desire to continually challenge oneself and find new ways to express ideas. For musicians it comes in the studio, recording a song several times and making adjustments. For me it comes from being patient and really thinking about what I ultimately want to present. In taking a series of photos of the same exact thing I learned what works and does not work for me aesthetically.

*In the gallery below are some of the shots I liked, but did not quite satisfy me in the end. The photo at the top of this post however is my favorite of the series. I took it as the sun was rising one morning. Ironically 15 minutes later the day turned out to be cloudy and overcast, but for that brief moment, the sky had contrast and the rays of sun shone vibrantly on the water tower and the building.

Time After Time (Annelise)-Written By Bill Berry, Mike Mills, Peter Buck & Michael Stipe

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Monochrome Mondays

Here we go with yet another Monochrome Mondays on this first day of Spring. Yesterday was a particularly nice day and I went for a walk down some different streets in our neighborhood. While snapping various photos I was reminded that photography does not always have to be about big, epic scale type photos of landscapes or action shots. Sometimes it can just be about ‘things’. Things that may on an ordinary day mean nothing to you, but then on another jump out at you as if to say ‘Take a picture of me.’ That is what happened yesterday. Our neighborhood is a mix of small warehouses and industry along with residential areas. As I rounded a corner of a street I don’t recall having walked on before I saw this storage yard with an entire fleet of small cranes. The kind with  those jumbo tires used on small construction sites. There was something about how the sunlight was glaring off the rows of them that made me want to take some shots. Thanks to my wife for coming up with the title, which really does suit it.

Also, on a technical note for the other photographers out there, this was among the first shots taken on my brand new camera! It is a Nikon D3400 with an 18-55mm lens. I’ll also be using my new 55-200mm and the nifty 50mm lens now regularly too. After 6 years the D3100 was starting to act up and be less reliable, so I’m very excited to have new equipment again!

Symphony In Metal

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Photo Shuffle-The Street Where You Live

I love accordions. There I said it. In all honesty though, I have never understood why the instrument has been subject to such hostility from some corners. It is an extremely versatile instrument, and a key ingredient to a range of styles, from folk music across Europe and Latin America, and right here in the U.S. with Cajun and Zydeco music especially. Be it a piano accordion or some degree of button style it can do so much as an instrument and I have always enjoyed what it brings. It is a good solo instrument capable of subtle nuances, makes great dance music, and can really rock when it wants to. Yes, I said that too. Accordions rock.

I love accordions so much I could make you a long list of my favorite players, mostly from English and Celtic music, with others from Cajun and Zydeco. But it would also include a fabulous musician and singer I am happy popped up today here on Photo Shuffle. Her name is Ginny Mac, from Fort Worth, Texas. I first became aware of her a few years ago,  watching her perform with the band Brave Combo at a festival. They were a band I had been familiar with for years but never managed to see. A great party band with an astonishing repertoire of music from around the world. You have never heard the Hokey Pokey until you have heard their version! Much as I was enjoying Brave Combo’s set, when Ginny stepped up to the microphone to sing I realized she definitely had something special going on.

So I did the usual social media thing and began following her musical activities since leaving the group not too long after, as well as backtracking to her older material. Ginny is just an incredible talent. Versatile in both voice and her playing on both accordion and piano. Capable of rocking out to a Chuck Berry song, or singing the Cajun standard Jole Blon, followed by a Patsy Cline number for good measure. I absolutely admire musicians who are versed in so many styles. A big part of that for Ginny I suspect is the versatility of the accordion and what it can actually do. Make sure you watch the clip at the bottom of the post with Ginny explaining that herself far better than I can.

Much as I thoroughly enjoy all those styles, I found myself particularly drawn to Ginny’s interpretations of some of the old standards. Take ‘On The Street Where You Live’ for example. Originally from the musical My Fair Lady, it was covered by the likes of Dean Martin, Vic Damone, Nat King Cole and dozens more. It is not really a type of song  that I normally listen to, but I realized something awhile back. Where once I used to automatically dismiss much of this style, probably a result of some of it being ‘inflicted’ on me as a youngster, I can now appreciate the songs themselves more. So while I do not see rushing out to buy the complete works of Vic Damone in the near future, I can at least acknowledge that a good song is a good song.  Groups like Hot Club Of Cowtown and singers such as Ginny Mac have made me realize that with their interpretations.

‘On The Street Where You Live’ is actually a great example of this. I have been familiar with this song of course, almost certainly because of My Fair Lady which my parents had the soundtrack for. Listening to Ginny’s cover of it though, the dreamy words really come through. Though the street where I live (seen in the photo above) is not so dreamy, and definitely not filled with larks and lilac trees or enchantment pouring out of every door, it is home. Where my beautiful wife and I live with our two cats.  I realized that I missed all this imagery in the more schmaltzy versions of the song, Ginny Mac’s accordion driven re-working really fits the song. But that accordion being  such a versatile instrument, somehow also captures the feel of those versions with a full on orchestra.  Which makes me thankful for such talented musicians as Ginny Mac constantly thinking and working on their music. Finding ways to reinterpret music and going back to basics. And using an accordion to do it is icing on the cake! Please check out her website and social media for more clips-http://www.ginnymac.com/

On The Street Where You Live-Music By Frederick Loewe, Lyrics By Alan Jay Lerner

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All Photographs By Robert P. Doyle

*Photo Shuffle is a short slice of my regular blogs based on setting my Ipod on shuffle and matching up one of my photographs to whatever comes up.

Ginny Mac