Not exactly a farm, but a fitting way to start this project off.
I was pleased to attend the annual "Blessing of the Nets" service in Port Burwell last week, hosted by Martin's Fish Market and officiated by The Reverend Robert Clifford of the Trinity Anglican Church.
The Blessing marks an unofficial start to the fishing season, although some hardy souls start as soon as the water is clear enough of ice.
No matter my own religious beliefs, I found it very moving to be among a close-knit community on a FRIGID day to observe a ritual prayer for safe harbor, smooth waters and a bountiful catch, in the rich tradition of fishermen going back to the humble men who were called away from their nets to become 'fishers of men.'
According to the official Provincial web page:
Commercial fishing is part of Ontario's heritage and culture. Many towns, such as Port Dover and Port Stanley on the Canadian shores of Lake Erie, were founded because of commercial fishing activities.Today, the towns of Kingsville and Wheatley Harbour are home to some of the largest commercial freshwater fish processing centres in Canada.
Furthermore, as of 2011 (The latest Canadian census), Ontario commercial fishers
The fish might go all over the world, but IMHO the best way to enjoy it is at one of the many fish-n-chips stands or trucks that line the Lake Erie coast during the warmer months, or fresh from your own grill.
I look forward to heading out on the water soon and tracing the path of some fresh Lake Erie perch or pickerel from the net to the table. Stay tuned!
A few years ago I helped my chef friend John MacPherson develop a pilot for a TV concept - "In Season" - which featured John going out into the field to hunt, gather, and harvest fresh seasonal ingredients, and followed him back to the kitchen where he put it all together for a great meal.
The narrative arc of a chef fishing, hunting and foraging for THAT DAY'S MENU made for good TV with strong visuals and a great payoff at the end. For busy restaurateurs, of course, getting seasonal, local ingredients is more complicated, and can involve a lot of people.
I've always thought that the real story of how great local food gets from "farm-to-table" - and the people who make it happen- would make a terrific photo story, but as a lifelong suburban kid I wasn't sure where or how to start.
Now, years later, I find myself in Ontario's Waterloo Region, home to three bustling cities - Waterloo, Kitchener, and Cambridge, and four big agricultural townships. The restaurant scene in these burgs is very robust, and 'farm-to'table' isn't just a marketing buzzword. With 1400+ farms within the Region proper, and over 4500 farms in the greater central Ontario area, "farm-to-table" is a reality even in modest brewpubs and family-friendly eateries.
I also have found some amazing local people who share a passion for the Region's local food and restaurant scene.
Local Line, a tech business founded in Kitchener by Cole Jones, helps local producers, distributors, retailers, and, of course, restaurants find each other. Cole responded almost immediately to my first email with a hearty welcome to the region and offered to help me make connections to get the project started.
Andrew Coppolino is a local food writer for CBC and the creator of Waterloo Region Eats, which is quickly becoming my go-to resource for local restaurants. Andrew met me for a beer at Abe Erb, and when I asked him "Where would be a good place to start?" he pointed to the floor beneath our feet. The owner of this brewpub sources his own chicken and pork from livestock he buys at the start of the season.
FoodLink is a non-profit that advocates for local food and helps consumers find what they're looking for. The site contains a massive amount of content in blogs, recipes, events and a searchable map that allows users to search by the ingredient they want. Anna Contini responded immediately to my email and we'll be meeting soon to figure out ways to work together.
The first shoot for this project will be happening soon, and I'll be sharing updates as we go. Stay tuned!
This past week I traveled back to Maryland to photograph a few projects for a builder who's also a good family friend. The day included two beautiful kitchen remodels and a complete buildout of a condo sales center, and an excellent lunch. (Thanks Frank!)
These are unretouched images - now I'm sitting down to take out the exit signs, wall outlets and other features as my client wishes.
Like most location photographers, one of my most vital pieces of gear is my CAR!
Seriously - with having to haul lots of equipment, and sometimes people, and working for picky, sometimes very image-conscious clients, and occasionally navigating muddy construction sites, I've come to really love my Ford Explorer. But the Explorer has a known defect that I've been able to avoid - until yesterday.
The rear liftgate panel is made of a super-hard resin that, it turns out, does not stand up well to the stress of rapid temperature changes. Canada dealt a particularly big change, from about 6 to 40 Fahrenheit in 24 hours- CRACK!
I've learned that 3rd-Generation (2002-2005) Explorer owners lovingly refer to it as "The Butt Crack"
I've found a local source for the replacement part, and a Youtube video that shows the replacement being a pretty straightforward DIY, so I guess I have a project to tackle in early Spring.
Boxing Day on Port Burwell beach….In the US, the day after Christmas is a big shopping day, almost as frantic as Black Friday. I've always avoided it.
To many Catholics around the world it's the feast of
In Canada, as in the UK, Boxing Day (as it's called), seems to be a day for quiet reflection, not a shopping bacchanal, but neither a high holy day.
A good day to walk on the beach, which, in this weather, belongs to the birds. Great squadrons of geese arrive from the north and pause on their way to warmer climes.
Just six months removed from the sandy chaos of BeachFest, and its own squawking cacophony of kids, vendors and reddening skin.
I just had the pleasure of photographing Dr. Lara Thompson, of the University of District of Columbia, for DIVERSE Magazine. Dr. Thompson is a biomechanical engineer who will be featured on the cover of DIVERSE's "Emerging Scholars" special issue
Like many photographers, I am sometimes asked to deliver RAW images, "straight from camera", with no photoshopping or retouch. My answer to this request is always a respectful "absolutely not."
To help clients understand why, I sometimes use a metaphor that I attribute to my dear friend and chef, John MacPherson, and it goes something like this: You have chosen me, out of all the other chefs you might have asked, to bake you a cake. Why would you ask me to just hand over the eggs, flour, and sugar and leave the rest to you?
This metaphor led to my talk, "The Photographer as Pastry Chef" which I have given a few times, and will expand and take on the road in 2017. The gist of the presentation describes a workflow where I view the shoot itself as a chance to gather my ingredients - the eggs, flour, sugar, etc - to then cook up back in my PhotoShop "kitchen."
(I swear it's not as precious as it sounds here.)
Here's an example. This is from a 2016 shoot for an architect in Fort Collins, CO. I had 10 sites to photograph in three days - a challenging enough schedule even if the weather cooperated perfectly. At this site the weather was NOT cooperating. Here's the "raw" image showing what the house looked like when we arrived:
Even with help in Lightroom and Photoshop, the best I could do for this single frame would look something like this:
Think of this straight shot as the 'flour" - the basic ingredient. If it's all there is, you're not going to have much of a cake. Time to get to work sprinkling some sugar, chocolate, vanilla extract, etc., etc., - you get the idea.
I walk around the scene with a remote-controlled flash, firing the camera each time I trigger the light ) and produce, over multiple frames, this cringe-inducing time-lapse of myself walking around the area, splashing warm spots of light where needed:
Layer the images in Photoshop, mask each layer to bring out only the part that's lit just the way I want, and throw in a little more Photoshop magic (perspective correction, tidying the grass, taking out the house next door, etc.
And this is pretty close to the final version that I would deliver to the client. Cake!
Why doesn't my website say where I am, like my old one used to say "Maryland Commercial photographer…."? As of right now I have a few location references in my work, and keywords, but the main reason is this: I hardly ever shoot near where I live! My work this year took me to Houston, New Orleans, Chicago, Cleveland, Ft Collins, and Toronto. So the question isn't where am I, it's - Where do you need me?
So, this is the first major re-imagining of my portfolio website -and therefore,career direction- since 2005 (!). Funny how re-editing your work, and deciding how to present it, amounts to asking, for the millionth time, "what do I want to be when I grow up?" Or at least, what kind of photographer do I want to be? I've photographed people, buses, trains and automobiles; houses and skyscrapers; I've met and photographed mechanics and astrophysicists, governors and former- and almost-Presidents, doctors and lawyers.
But, like a resume, a portfolio is supposed to represent the future I'm working toward, not reflect the past, so here you go. Comments welcome.
John - 11/2016
I've loved photography since I was a kid. I've been an assistant, a photographer, an editor, and a manager of a busy corporate photo department. I've been a traveling hired lens since 2003.