Monday, September 28, 2009

Irish Moss Photography - Canadian Geographic Photographer



My photography essay on the Irish Moss Industry on Prince Edward Island, Canada, appears this month in Canadian Geographic.

The story behind these photographs begins one blustery morning when the rain was pelting my tent whilst camping with family and friends. The dawn brought with it a slew of men and horses, crawling the North Cape beach and collecting the 'blessing from the sea'. The photography that day was moody and dramatic as exhausted horses and jubilant men played in the stormy waves. The seawater dripped off their backs, no damper to the joy brought by the bounty the sea had bestowed upon them.

This led me to investigate further. I met Carl Doucette, a brick of a man who has spent over 50 years raking the moss off the sea bed. His arms are testament to the physical labour that has defined his life and his spirit is calming. Having spent so much time on the water, Carl's is a man comfortable with his place in the world. We sat in his kitchen drinking coffee and tears filled his eyes as he recounted his story about the decline of his industry and his uncertain future.

Heading out on the water with Carl that afternoon will remain one of those memorable experiences as a photographer. The sun glinted off the waves and the moss raked from the sea quickly piled up in the boat. I tried my own hand at raking in the moss and was quickly reminded why Carl's arms were small trees. It was an honour to spend time with Carl and I am indebted to his story and time for making this essay possible.

My thanks also goes out to the folks at Shea's Irish Moss Plant in Anglo Tignish. They were kind enough to allow me to work with them for a few hours and photograph their dusty, cavernous operation. They bale the moss into packages that weigh over 120 lbs, (as eagerly demonstrated to me by Rodney, the strong man in the operation).

It was a pleasure to put this essay together. Now go out to your nearest newsstand (in Canada) and buy the issue to see the images.

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Monday, September 21, 2009

Kiboko bag and Norway - a success?




A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to take my new Kiboko camera bag from Gura Gear on an assignment for Canadian Geogarphic in Norway. For years I have been using a trusty, Lowepro Nature Trekker. However, it is now suffering from acute zipper disorder and since the Lowepro hospital doesn't cover zipper disorder, I went looking for a new bag.

I came across the Kiboko bag and the weight of the bag convinced me that it was the bag that would fill my needs. I travel and I want a camera bag that balances weight, durability, weather proofing and ease of use. The Kiboko bag appeared to do this, it will easily hold two pro canon bodies with any lens and is surprisingly comfortable on my 200cm frame.

Where did it go wrong? As I unpacked the box, I found the neat little rain cover and an 'oh oh' escaped my lips. I had a bad feeling that the elastic band would not hold the cover in a strong storm. Sure enough, on a ridge in Norway, horizontal rain and gale force winds, ripped the cover from my pack. The image below is the moment my subjects are watching it float away on the winds....



Fortunately, I was able to retrieve the cover on the slope below before my gear was compromised, but the design is a serious issue if it won't hold in a storm situation. I will be forced to create a leash for the cover to hold it to the pack. If Gura adopted an integrated rain-cover approach, the cover would be attached to the pack and won't get lost or blown away, a real problem when you need to access your gear in the wind and the rain. Perhaps they will consider this in the next line...

Despite the near escape, I found the pack worked well in all situations and I look forward to my new travel companion for many trips to come.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Train Vs. Airplane, the moral economics of an Assignment

Airplane
0.19 tonnes of CO2

Train
0.02 tonnes of CO2

Ticket Cost = €160
Taxi to Airport = €100
Carbon Offset = €5
Cost to future generations = Unfathomable
Total = Huge
Ticket Cost = €320
Taxi to Station/Back = €20
Good feeling and
Respect from Girlfriend = Priceless
Total = Priceless


In less then one hour I will embark on a 24 hour train ride for my next assignment in Norway. I am off to Norway to work on a climate change story for Canadian Geographic. For the last couple of years I have been focusing on climate change and particularly the youth movements across the globe. Whether at the United Nations Conference or a grassroots events, I have been documenting the young change makers of today.

Needless to say, I move around a lot and I am acutely aware of my personal carbon footprint on the planet. So when the opportunity came up for an assignment where it wasn't necessary to take a plane, I jumped at the possibility.

Why spend 24 hours getting to a destination when I could simply go to Schiphol airport and get on a plane for 2 hours?

It isn't actually all that hard to explain, air travel has for long been cited as one of the main causes of carbon dioxide and one the major contributors (between 4 - 9%) of global warming. Not only that, but aircraft emissions are special. Because they are produced at cruising altitudes high up, the emissions are more harmful. In fact, the IPCC estimages that the impact of aircraft emissions is 2 - 4 times high then the direct effect of the CO2 alone. See the David Suzuki website for more information.

By taking the train to Norway, I am responsible for 10 - 25% of the CO2 that I would if I were to take the plane. This makes me happy, this makes my client happy, it makes future generations happy and most importantly it makes my girlfriend happy. (ED. Note, upon consultation, said girlfriend has declared that she is not more important then future generations.)

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