August Post (Happy BD Sid)

Stuff in this Blog:

• Buckhorn Fine Arts Festival: August 11-14, 2011
• School Year begins – Soon
• Beaches Jazz Festival: July 2011
• Florida: July 2011
• Saira, Ryan & More: June 2011
• Montreal: June 2011

Buckhorn Fine Arts Festival: August 11-14, 2011

Yes, next weekend, Buckhorn celebrates its 34th annual Fine Arts Festival. I am honoured to be one of the exhibitors again this year. This marks my fifth (?) year of showing/selling photographs at Buckhorn. It has been named one of the top 100 Festivals in Ontario and what a wonderful place, nestled as it were, in the midst of the Kawarthas. Watch for artists’ presentations, workshops, live entertainment and of course, original paintings, jewelry, photographs, drawings and sculptures to purchase. If you have the time, please come and visit my booth. I will have images from recent visits to Cuba, Key West and Montreal among others, as well as some newer music shots.

Thursday August 11: 7 pm-10pm Preview Night

Friday August 12: 10 am-8pm

Saturday August 13: 10 am-6 pm

Sunday August 14: 10 am-5 pm
Thursday: $15.00 with re-entry all weekend

Friday thru Sunday:

Adults: $7.00

Seniors/students: $6.00

Children under 12 free
Art is available for purchase using MasterCard, VISA, Interac (debit) and Cash.

School Year begins Soon

Holy! Only three weeks and I will need to get organized to face classes at Durham College once again. Teach five classes in photography this September. Look forward to another exciting semester. Must keep saying the mantra “I won’t let mobile phones get to me”!

Beaches Jazz Festival: July 2011

Ok, so I am not only a photo geek but pretty much a music addict too. Not all music gets my attention and rather than saying what does not appeal to me I’d much rather focus on what does. The Beaches Jazz Festival sure does! The third weekend in July gets a spot on my calendar every single year. No, it is not strictly a jazz festival in the true sense of the word (actually, these days, not many jazz festivals are). In fact, I would have to say that having ‘jazz festival’ in its name in some ways blurs the definition of what is actually played. Yet, mixed in with this was indeed some more traditional jazz and a lot of awfully talented musicians playing very interesting music. This festival has about it such a warm and friendly atmosphere. The fact that there are so many children and dogs (almost a pre-requisite to either live in, or visit the ‘Beach’), does not take away anything. In fact it adds to its charm.

Some of the bands who come to mind from that weekend are; Fathead (perennial favourites), The Sultans of String – truly gifted and wonderful musicians all, steered by the infinite skills of their leader and talented violinist Chris McKhool – these guys are adept at playing almost anything and making it sound magical; Rockit88, led by the festival’s own artistic director, Bill King and a number of other bands including the jazz infused KC Roberts (who has managed to get bookings all around, including at my favourite haunt, The Rex). Speaking of The Rex and images of music, one of my Contact 2011 venues was indeed the Rex Hotel. The management there, Avi and Bob, have asked that I leave the exhibit of jazz images up for a while longer. I don’t expect it will come down for some time yet.
But my most memorable musical moments of the Beaches weekend occurred on Sunday afternoon. What a great idea to put the Lionel Young Band, followed with Red Baraat at the end of the weekend. We (friends, Trevor, Stan and myself), were completely taken by both of these bands. I don’t wish to do a music review here, so suffice to say that Lionel Young left me speechless. Their groove, their mixture of blues, funk and jazz, was the most refreshing, innovative sound I’ve experienced in a long time. The trumpeter, Andre Mali, has rewritten the meaning of cool; think Miles Davis meets Prince. Oh yeah, he plays a mean trumpet too! 

The last band to appear at the festival, indeed its closer, was a complete surprise in sound and presence: Red Baraat. These guys infuse a mixture of Indian rhythm Bhangra, jazz and world, with a measure of funk thrown into the pot. Quite an experience to feel the energy led by dhol player Sunny Jain and his almost equally energetic band members. You will see what a dhol looks like in the images below. Very difficult to describe Red Baraat’s sound, just don’t miss the chance to experience them wherever they play.

The images which appear here of Lionel Young, Red Baraat and others at that afternoon Kew Gardens locale, were taken with my Nikon 80-200 f/2.8 lens. To get that high shutter speed and limited depth-of-field yet still maintain the tight image structure that comes with shooting at an ISO of 200, I shot either wide open, or close to it – certainly never smaller than f/4. Additionally, I opted for the extra reach of the D300 crop sensor rather than my full frame sensor camera. At these lower ISOs, I honestly can’t see a qualitative difference in images between the APS or full-frame sensor size.

Florida: July 2011
How lucky am I? Someone close to me has a home in Florida – which at the time wasn’t occupied – so I was asked if I would like to stay for a few days. Not being the type to turn down free lodging while travelling (how often does this happen), I jumped at the chance. Never have I had the opportunity to go to Key West either, but this is something I managed to get on the agenda. So, with enough Air Miles to pay for my return flight I headed off to Sarasota as my starting off point. Sarasota has a lot to offer including beautiful beaches, access to many spots on the Gulf Coast and of course great weather. 

Close by is a place called Myacca River State Park, one of Florida’s oldest and largest state parks. This place contains a variety of wetlands, prairies and woodlands, where one can hike, fish, camp observe wildlife and of course, photograph stuff. Probably saw more wildlife in two days at this place than one might hope to see in years anywhere else: Deer, armadillos, raccoons, eagles, green anole (Chamelion), vultures, wild pigs, wild turkey, herons, egrets, fish, alligators galore of course and much more. The terrain at Myacca is both diverse and unique. I will return on my next visit to the area.
Ok, so I didn’t mention the one irritating thing. A biting fly appropriately named noseeum. They are not much fun and are hard to see (No-see-um – get it?). They can be found in many places in the state, but the Everglades and Myacca seem to have more than they deserve.

Had always heard of Key West but never had the time to get all the way down the Keys. This trip I made the effort. At times it felt as if one would never arrive, but eventually I did. On the way I saw endless bridges over the ocean, gorgeous beaches and fishing piers. I thought Key West would be the same. In fact Key West was nothing my imagination had prepared me for. It is old, densely populated and charming. Its coastline is coral and its only beaches man made. Much of the population is made up of tourists who arrived by car, like myself but Key West is also a cruise ship destination, or stopover. Yet there are many who have been here since the early 70s. I met people who were drawn to the area for its warm climate, isolated location, and free spirited approach to life. Artists, musicians a few pirates and the odd juggler inhabit the old part of town.

Mallory square at sunset (every single night) is a great place to meet some of the artists. The older bars and restaurants on and around Duval Street are a draw for every new visitor to Key West. Yes, many of the tourists join other ‘parrotheads’ hoping to get a glimpse of Jimmy Buffet in Margaritaville. Ironically he was playing in Toronto while I was there.

Yet some of the bars, notably Schooner Wharf and more specifically, The Green Parrot, cater as much to locals as they do tourists. The location and view that is offered at Schooner Wharf is ideal. A must visit for its atmosphere, food and music. Schooner’s is a great place to have breakfast outdoors, where an interesting group of regulars meet up daily. You might catch The Raven Cooper Band with Bubba Low Notes on any given day.

The Green Parrot on the other hand, is off the beaten path and seems to draw even more of the local crowd.

The place is legendary. Has been around since 1890, serves up the best dark rum and ginger beer drink you could ask for and gets reviewed with the highest accolades as the best, or near best bar in America – this from a variety of sources (including Playboy Magazine, or so the sign outside states). Manager, John Vagnoni proudly showed off the latest write up mounted on the wall just seconds before I took his photo. Music here is original and quite often the best in the Key. There is mutual respect and appreciation between musicians and the audience. You can even see Watermelon Slim play the Parrot on occasion. He’s the real deal. Of course, there is no sniveling at the Parrot.

Always loved the look of approaching storms and the ominous skies that accompany them. Tampa Bay didn’t disappoint. On the way to my return flight I stopped to enjoy the view of the bridge crossing the ocean. Skies were blue with a few clouds, within minutes everything changed. Thunder, lightning and the darkest clouds imaginable made their presence known. Great storm.

I am anxious to return to Florida and to the Keys. 

Saira & Ryan & More: June 2011
What a nice young couple I met recently. Saira and Ryan are to be married next month and I have the honour of taking their wedding photos. I did some fun engagement photos of them last month. Here is a sample of that day.

Speaking of marriages, Nadia and Nathan had a lovely June wedding and have agreed to let me put up a few shots from their beautiful day. Their now joined families are two of the most wonderful one could meet.

Montreal: June 2011

Last month, I took a few days to head for Montreal. I don’t get to this city as often as I would like. One always feels the excitement and unique cultural disposition while there – this trip was no exception. I remember years ago while attending the jazz festival (Montreal boasts a truly great jazz festival!) when I was introduced to the first of what would be several live performances I would see by the incredible young jazz guitarist, Pat Metheny. Montreal has remained one of his favourite places to play with audiences wild about his musical skills.

Unfortunately, although Montreal is an exciting place to be, my most recent trip occurred in the midst of a heat wave, resulting in light that was direct and intense (I had hoped it might be overcast). This is not always a recipe for great photographs. I did manage to come away with a few good images – some of which I have put up here. 

I love art of all kinds – yet not everyone can create art. The one visual observation I came away with more than any other is this: Yes, some spray painted graffiti is edgy, perhaps political, has a message even and once in a while, has artistic merit. But surely, not everyone capable of yielding a can of spray paint is an artist? No more than anyone who buys a paint brush and water colours can paint, or claim to create art. Many of these bits of graffiti are simply out to deface public and private property without any artistic vision or message. There are, I’m sure, areas of buildings in Montreal which haven’t been sprayed, so perhaps it’s only me who just didn’t notice them. Thankfully the old, grey buildings of ‘Old Montreal’ remain historically true. I am not knocking Montreal -Toronto, Birmingham, Glasgow and many other cities have graffiti – but enough already with the spray paint. Given my complaints I have still included one or two interesting graffiti images.

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