With jubilation and gratitude, Stéphanie and I are delighted to announce that we are expecting our first child in 2021!
While being pregnant during a pandemic has been difficult for my wife and me, we feel so very blessed by this wonderful miracle of life! Despite all the odds and hurdles, life has found a way. As we continue to hibernate and work safely from home, we look forward to our delivery date on or around Canada’s birthday—so, queue the fireworks!
We recognize that a child born in 2021 will have no shortage of planetary challenges to address and overcome. Yet, Stéphanie and I look forward to offering our baby the best possible start, and sharing everything we know while we snap memorable photos along the way to promote smiles. As a papa, I'm really looking forward to my baby's first words, which I suspect will either be "mama", or "pho-toe". Yet, "apple juice" could also be in the cards, so time will tell.
The maternity portraits you see here were taken in my home studio, and they celebrate Stéphanie's baby bump in two unique ways—the first is a "low key photo" that values an underexposed look with high contrast and controlled highlights. While the second is a "high key photo" that values an overexposed look with lower contrast and a broader flood of light. Which do you prefer? Personally, I love both, and how they uniquely profile my wonderful wife and her baby bump!
A baby is on the way, and the news just lights up our day! :)
The year is now 2021, and it would appear the COVID-19 virus continues to wreak havoc in delaying our attention to space travels and the final frontier.
While the historical predictions of us walking along the red-sandy beaches of Mars by 2020 have proven unfounded, I still think it's within our species to someday make it happen. Many now say the star date for that possibility will now be sometime around 2060? Who knows, but just in case my wife and I won't be around to see it happen, we have gone and concocted a perfect solution to see our dreams live on! The solution, you ask, will be revealed in the next blog post of 2021.
So, here we are, or not.
The year is now 2021 and my desire to perform portrait photography for others on Mars remains an elusive business venture yet to materialize. But, no worries, as I await for you and others to arrive, I will just continue snapping more self-portraits of my shadow waving hello to you from the vast landscape views of the Red Planet.
Happy 2021 Earth!
After nearly ten months, the pandemic we are all living through continues to cause a great deal of havoc and disruption.
According to official statistics, as of December 1, 2020 (the date stamp of this blog), 12,211 confirmed Canadians have died; 383,468 confirmed Canadians have become ill; and millions more legitimately fear either of those two things could happen to them too. All incredibly sad, and not exactly a favourable context for easily taking outdoor pictures laughing out loud and smiling.
Yet, as long as love and hope remain present in our lives, I believe it is always possible to show happiness and memorialize that through photography. As we all patiently wait for better times ahead, I take great comfort in knowing that people everywhere are still declaring their love for each other and are making plans (as tough as it is to make plans these days). The occurrence of this in a pandemic context I think deserves extra profile.
Case in point: A few weeks ago, I bumped into my neighbours (at a 2 metre distance of course) and learned that they had recently gotten engaged. I was super happy to hear that wonderful news, and without any hesitation, I responded by saying if they felt comfortable with the idea, then I would be delighted to perform an engagement shoot with them.
As fate would have it, they were, and we responsibly did what needed to be done to make it work out safely. We put aside our fears in getting sick and had a great time. I absolutely love the images we created together while making sure I applied safety precautions and worked with PPE.
If you have been longing for memorable photos during these challenging times, then I’d like you to know that I’m ready, willing and able to help make that happen for you in a safety-first way. Everyone deserves to be happy, and to share that joy with others too - especially so during difficult times when people seek to know that love and hope are still present.
Thirty days ago, I started a month long remembrance tribute to profile the war art that I have come across in public spaces - both domestic and international. I personally call all this stuff w(ar)t.
During this daily post tribute, I learned a great deal about Canada's military history, and the conflicts it has participated in to ultimately advance the tenets of peace. Through war art, my blogs profile different "lest we forget" perspectives to honour all the past and present people who serve(d) to protect others, as well as our way of life and the ideals we stand for.
For my last w(ar)t blog entry this year, I would like to pay tribute to Canada's National War Memorial. This monument is located in Ottawa, Ontario, and represents all facets of the Canadian Armed Forces. Over time, this monument has taken on ever greater meanings. I visit it every year on Remembrance Day - often with my grandma, who sadly was not able to join me this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic and her now living in a long-term-care nursing home with Alzheimer's disease. My grandma was nine years old when WWII started, and some of her older brothers served in war effort.
A plaque nearby reads, "Canada's National War Memorial commemorates all those who served Canada in times of war. An international competition held in 1925 for the design of a national war memorial resulted in the selection of a model by Vernon March of England called, "The Response". Initially constructed to commemorate the response of Canadians to the First World War. It was unveiled in 1939 by His Majesty King George VI. In 1982 the dates 1939-1945 and 1950-53 were added and the memorial was rededicated to those who served Canada in the Second World War and the Korean War." Composite image by Jeffrey Meyer
Lest we forget the many contributions of women in times of conflict to create the conditions for peace. A plaque nearby reads, "this statue honours all women of the British Commonwealth who served or gave their lives during the two World Wars 1914-18 and 1939-45. Dedicated July 4, 1976. Erected by the Women's Tri-Service Association W.W.I & II Veterans of Winnipeg, Manitoba." Sculptor unknown. Composite image by Jeffrey Meyer
Lest we forget, not everyone who answered the call to patriotically serve our country (and defend its ideals) was a professional soldier with years of combat training and specialized knowledge on how to fight and survive. The reliance on volunteers in Canada during WWI and WWII was a significant factor in advancing our overall contributions to the Total War effort. Some volunteers gave their time and expertise (like, for example, their expertise on aviation), while others gave their labour, money, and goods. Many throughout society also choose to voluntarily adhere to officially encouraged "war effort behaviours" like using less sugar, gasoline, meat, butter, rubber, and by taking up a job in a war plant.
Yet, even if past combatants were professional soldiers, training for war is equally rife with risks, and itself is sometimes a lethal venture. A plaque next to this statue reads, "this memorial is dedicated to the memory of those airmen and instructors who lost their lives while training in Canada during World War II. Erected by the Wartime Pilots and Observers Association of Winnipeg. September 9, 1984. R.C.A.F - R.A.F". Sculptor unknown. Composite image by Jeffrey Meyer
This monument honours the more than 32,000 Canadians who served in the Korean War, from 1950 to 1953, and on subsequent Korean service from 1953 to 1957. A plaque nearby reads, "Inscribed are the names of the 516 courageous and selfless Canadians who died for freedom and peace. The Canadian volunteer soldier faces towards Busan, Korea, where an identical monument watches over the graves of 378 Canadians in the United Nations Memorial Cemetery They Korean Children both hold symbols: The girl a bouquet of maples leaves symbolizing Canada, and the by a bouquet of maples leaves and roses of Sharon, the national flower of Korea. A Canadian Korean war veteran designed the monument", which was sculpted by Young Mun Yoo.
"The Republic of Korea has expressed to Canadians its everlasting gratitude and friendship. Canada honours those who gave their lives on land, on sea, and in the air for the sake of others so very far away."
Sometimes war art statues honour an entire population - like all Canadians who served and died; or all aboriginals who served and died; or all women who served and died; or specific populations, like all the merchant marine seamen who died trying to move goods and people across the Atlantic Ocean to support the war effort. Other times, statues honour specific people who somehow, someway, demonstrated a significant contribution to recorded history. Sometimes they are military leaders and senior ranking officials, other times they are prominent citizen personalities. Today's war art blog features one specific person: Mr. Andrew Hamilton Gault (1882-1958).
A plaque nearby reads, "this statue is dedicated to the memory of Andrew Hamilton Gault, Canadian War Hero, Philanthropist, Industrialist, and Public Servant. His life was an example of devoted service to Canada in war and peace".
After taking this photo I learned that Mr. Gault, on the eve of the First World War, "offered the Canadian government $100,000 to help raise and equip an infantry battalion for overseas duty, leading to the formation in 1914 of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry regiment." WOW. According to Statistics Canada, and their consumer price index which goes as far back as 1915, that sum of money would be equivalent to about $2.1 million in 2020 dollars!
The plaque further notes, "over two thousand Patricia's have given their lives for Canada's Freedom. Their legacy of selflessness, heroism and devotion to duty continue to inspire their successors who proudly serve Canada in the quest for peace." Sculptor unknown. Dedicated in 1992. Composite image by Jeffrey Meyer.
During the month of November, I also remember and give thanks to everyone currently serving in the Canadian Armed Forces. Today's blog pays tribute to the Royal Canadian Army by profiling a historical oriented statue near to my home that is full of symbolism - the man with two hats.
Sculpted by Dutch artist Henk Visch, this copper statue is a mirror copy to one also found in Apeldoorn, Netherlands. Canada played a major offensive role in liberating the Netherlands during WWII, and 506 Canadians from the 1st Canadian Infantry Brigade died taking the city of Apeldoorn back from the Germans. To this day, most Dutch people regard Canadians as the true liberators of the Netherlands, and every year they show us their appreciation with tulip bulbs. Among a great many other things that I have read about this statue is the story of two friends going to war together while wearing hats, yet only one returned home with the memory of the other.
While in Vancouver, BC, I had the chance encounter of meeting Sergeant Christian Morrissette with the Search and Rescue division of the Royal Canadian Air Force.
At the time he was hosting an event to help Canadians better understand his line of work. So, never being one to shy away, I approached him to say hi. In the process I also extended my hand to shake his, so that I could thank him for his valued services, which I had never needed but deeply respected. After chatting with him for a good ten minutes, and hearing all about the bones he had broken over the years to help people in need, it was clear to me that Sergeant Morrissette was an amazingly thoughtful person who was destined to be a rescuer. I later learned that he and his team won a prestigious award for saving a mountain climber in an awfully bad predicament. Lest we forget, our Canadian Armed Forces are not only there for us during times of war and conflict, but also and evermore increasingly during times of peace.
So, with a big smile I said sign me up, and within a minute I was jumping into some search and rescue gear to get a better sense of it all. Now, on the best of days the camera gear on my back and slung around my shoulders and in my hands often clocks in somewhere between 20 and 35 pounds (depending on the tripods I'm using), so I’d say I’m accustomed to packing in and out a lot of weight. But this experience was totally shocking, and I have an even greater amount of respect for these guys now that I know firsthand the toil they go through to make it all happen. The SAR gear I was wearing was crazy heavy and awkward on my balance, and I recall wondering how anyone could rappel from a helicopter with all that gear strapped on. It was an awesome experience from 2014, and one that I still remember.
If you would like to learn more about SAR and its work, click here. I've yet to have the pleasure of photographing any SAR vehicles, but I understand they use the CH-149 Cormorant and CH-146 Griffon helicopters as their primary rotary-wing aircraft and the CC-115 Buffalo and CC-130 Hercules as their primary fixed-wing aircraft.
During the month of November, I also remember and give thanks to everyone currently serving in the Canadian Armed Forces. Today's blog pays tribute to the Royal Canadian Air Force with a series of pictures involving the Canadian Snowbirds and CF-18 Hornet Demo Team.
Over the years I have literally amassed hundreds of airshow images on just about every major plane used in Canada's aviation history. In many ways, airshows offer a unique perspective on the topic of war art, display and design. Most (but not all) of the pictures featured here were taken during the “birds are coming” airshow in 2012 at the Aéroport exécutif de Gatineau, which was organized by the Vintage Wings of Canada. The atmosphere at the airport on this day was totally electric, and the weather was picture perfect.
The first series of images feature Captain Patrick "Paco" Gobeil taking off and flying in a beautifully tricked out McDonnell Douglas CF-18 Hornet.
The second series of images features the Canadian snowbirds (Canadair CT-114 Tutors), also known as the 431 Air Demonstration Squadron. The snowbirds are simply an energy inducing force, and an awe-inspiring sight of Canadian nationalism with their aviation acrobatics and clad painted red and white wings. Their equivalents would be the Navy-Blue Angels in the United States and Red Arrows in the United Kingdom.
Lest we forget, however, the brave men and women who show us Canadian pride, ingenuity and gratitude in the skies are not without risk and loss. Since 1972, nine members of the Canadian Snowbird's team have died while on duty, along with one passenger. On May 17, 2020, Captain Jenn Casey of Halifax lost her life while flying over the skies of Kamloops, BC.
I love everything about the snowbirds (including the name), and I hope to see their flyby moments on Canada Day for many more years to come. I wish the crew, and everyone involved, well during this time of remembrance for their fallen comrades.
During the month of November, I remember and give thanks to everyone currently serving in the Canadian Armed Forces. My blog for today pays tribute to the Royal Canadian Navy with a series of pictures that I took of the HMCS Toronto FFH 333 sailing in the St. Lawrence River in 2017.
The HMCS Toronto is a general-purpose warship with a particular focus on anti-submarine capabilities. It was commissioned in her namesake city on July 29, 1993. It has a top speed of 30 knots (56 km/h), an operational displacement of 4,795 tonnes, and a length of 134 metres. With a complement of some 225 people, it includes a variety of armaments and a flight deck to support helicopter operations. This Canadian designed and built ship is also known as a Halifax-class frigate and it was one of twelve built and named after major cities across Canada from each province. Its motto is "Excellence with Vigour,” which I can totally resonate with.
At present, it is my understanding that Canada's navy comprises some 13,000 personnel and 30 ships. Canada and Russia are the only nation states that completely border three oceans, and I suppose we could also add the United States to that short list if we consider their territory of Alaska giving them that extra reach. So, our men and women in service certainly have a huge role and responsibility to play in protecting and promoting our way of life at sea!
On the topic of mottos, two of my all-time favourites that I apply in my photography work are: "the early bird gets the worm" and "luck favours the prepared.”
On this mighty fine day, I got both by getting up at zero 300 hours to create the four images you see here. My first photo of the HMCS Toronto FFH 333 occurred at zero 500 hours with Le Pont de Québec and Le Pont Pierre-Laporte in front of me. This spectacular perspective also benefited from a natural orange-pink glow cresting off the water from the sun rising behind my back. With patience and the support of my wife, I then waited nine hours to take the next three images. As I took those final three images with great excitement, I could see that all the sailors standing side-by-side on the deck at perfect attention in white uniforms also showed a massive amount of patience too, as they ceremoniously sailed by the Château Frontenac and other landmarks during the Tall Ships flotilla.
What a view for me and them, and I totally understand why they would risk it all for it, so thank you. As an extra remembrance moment, this was also the day that my wife told me that she wanted to be a photographer alongside me, and she captured one of these images with my camera too! :)
If I ever have the life chance to photograph our navy ships sailing into a rising sun over the ocean horizon, or slicing through the torrent waves of a massive storm, then I'd take that opportunity in a heartbeat! No fear, and all in.
Statues remind us that war and conflict has an impact on all facets of life, yet seldom respected in their own right are animals and the roles they have played.
A bronze plaque next to this statue notes, "for centuries, animals have demonstrated an enduring partnership with humans during times of war. They have served as a means of transportation, beasts of burden, messengers, protectors, and mascots. Still today, dogs use their unique, sharply tuned instincts to detect mine clusters, and conduct search and rescue operations. We remember the contribution and sacrifice of all animals."
This statue can be found in Ottawa, Ontario. It profiles the role of dogs in being able to find and assist wounded soldiers. With care and training, some breads of dogs were seen as nimble field medics who could more effectively run medical supplies (strapped to their backs) up and down the line. Their physiology and natural ability to run low to the ground was seen as a major tactical advantage, as dogs could more easily move below enemy fire, and once they arrived at their destination, they could more easily stay low to help soldiers lying on the ground reach the supplies they carried. Dogs were also seen as merciful, as they sat next to dying soldiers to provide some semblance of comfort.
Animals, as war mascots, is a particularly fascinating topic. On one level, I have come to recognize that a significant number of military machines are named after animals, or the things they do in nature. For example, in Canada, we have the CH-149 Cormorant; the Airbus CC-295 Kingfisher; the Bae CT-155 Hawk; the Bell CH-146 Griffon; the Leopard 2 battle tank; and the Coyote Light Armoured Vehicle just to list a few examples. On another level, I have come to recognize that a lot of flags, emblems and badges also prominently feature animals to quickly convey the cultural symbolism they offer. One of my favourites is the use of the beaver by the Van Doos. Yet, perhaps the most fascinating of all, is that one of my all-time favourite childhood characters (and authors) growing up was inspired by a Canadian soldier in WW1 named Lieutenant Harry Colebourn, and his black bear cub named "Winnipeg," or "Winnie" for short.
Growing up, I had Winnie-the-pooh toys, bedsheets, and story books, but until this moment, I had forgotten the full history behind this bear until I started researching this topic for my November blog tribute to remembrance. Lest we forget, all forms of life are impacted by war and conflict, and more often than not, we look to other forms of life for identity and service.
This is a composite image that I created from a photo by Edward Burtynsky (2014) entitled, Abandoned Railbed, which was etched by William Lazos into one of the main concrete blocks at Canada’s National Holocaust Monument in Ottawa, Ontario.
A plaque next to this war art reads, "Sometimes deliberately, sometimes through force of nature, forests served to mask the evidence of genocide. Along this rail spur, almost 1 million people were transported to the Treblinka killing centre hidden within these woods. Approximately 900,000 Jews and an estimated 2000 Roma and Sinti were gassed to death at Treblinka." Lest we forget.
This is a composite image that I created from a shockingly vile photo by Edward Burtynsky (2014) entitled, “Fence,” which is powerfully etched into one the main concrete blocks at Canada’s National Holocaust Monument in Ottawa, Ontario.
It depicts our nation, like many others, standing up to one of the darkest moments in human history by showing the barbed-wire electric fencing that the Nazi’s used and erected at their largest killing centres in Auschwitz and Birkenau, Poland. A silver plaque next to this war art notes that approximately 960,000 Jews and 120,000 Poles, Roma, Sinti, and Soviets were murdered at Auschwitz with horror, terror and cruelty. A picture like this – and everything it symbolizes - could have only been taken and composed under the powerful march towards release and peace, as the Schutzstaffel (SS) on site at the time would have most certainly, swiftly and severely executed anyone that dared challenge their (delusional) 1000-year reich and völkisch visions.
When I look at this image all I can see is blood, ash, and an unfathomably insane degree of malevolence that somehow became state sponsored and tolerated for a while. Trying to figure out why and how could easily fill an entire lifetime of intellectual energy. As Andrea Pitzer writes, while the advent of barbed wire and automatic weapons allowed the few to more easily imprison the many, history shows us that concentration camps existed long before Auschwitz. Even beloved Canada, who has long proven and chosen to be more peace faring than belligerent in the international community, had internment camps during WWI and WWII, yet obviously nowhere near the extent of the Nazis, but still obviously deplorable and unconscionable. In 1988, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney offered an official apology of past internment actions against Japanese-Canadians. In fairness, many Germans, and even some army officers like Claus von Stauffenberg, could no longer tolerate the trajectory and barbary of Nazism either, and (unsuccessfully) attempted to stop it from within.
While western liberal democracies were ultimately slow to enter into total war with the Nazis in the 1930s, they eventually did because Nazism (and all it stood for) could simply be no longer tolerated under any conditions. Lest we forget the people who fell, and the character of their ideals that took a stance against Nazism.
This is Canada's National Aboriginal Veterans Monument, which was "raised in sacred and everlasting honour of the contributions of all Aboriginal Canadians in war and peacekeeping operations".
Located in Ottawa, Ontario, this monument was sculpted by Lloyd Pinay of the Peepeekisis First Nation in Saskatchewan. To learn more about this impressive statue, and how Pinay expresses the idea that the desire for peace often lies at the root of war, click here.
While in Québec City I came across this statue, which honours the Canadians who died during the Boer War (1899-1902) in South Africa.
I had never heard of the Boer War, but as it turns out, this battle marked the first foreign campaign and conflict that Canada officially participated in. We supported the British, as one of her Dominion states, who led the charge. At the time Canada did not yet have a formal military in place, so approximately 7,000 Canadian volunteers participated in the conflict, of which 270 died. Altogether, Canada fielded one Regiment, two Battalions, and three Batteries. Sculpted by Hamilton T.C. MacCarthy (1846 - 1939). To learn more about the Canadian context of this war, click here.
Aujourd’hui, je me souviens des sacrifices faits par les membres du Royal 22e Régiment, qui sont familièrement connus sous le nom de « Van Doos ». J’ai lu que les Van Doos sont le seul régiment d’infanterie français au Canada. Ce monument est situé au manège militaire Grande-Allée à Québec, et il est dédié aux membres du Royal 22e Régiment qui ont donné leur vie lors de divers conflits et missions de maintien de la paix à travers le monde. Sculpté par André Gauthier. Ne l'oublions pas.
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