Thursday, December 10, 2015


Photography in itself is fun, but nothing beats the rush of taking photos that are helping out a cause or organization that I'm excited about.  If I were independently wealthy I would have a blast doing volunteer photography for more organizations.  Unfortunately, Kit and I gotta eat and have a preference for warm accommodations.

Last week I became a volunteer photographer for the WP Puppet Theatre.  They gave me an assignment to photograph a wooden art model in various areas of the city. I've named the little fella Sam (for Samuel, Samantha, Small Art Model) and took him to the most photographed bridge in Calgary.  Then last Sunday I took him to a winter festival/film event at St Patrick Island Park.

This morning I applied to be a volunteer photographer for next year's Juno Awards, to be held in Calgary at the end of March.  Brandon Wallis, at the National Music Centre, gave me a couple of tips on how to apply and encouragement.  The application form was pretty thorough. They even wanted the URLs to my Twitter and LinkedIn pages.  Getting picked would almost be like being nominated for a Juno! Cross my fingers!


November Catch Up

    Remember, remember!
    The fifth of November,
    The Gunpowder treason and plot;
    I know of no reason
    Why the Gunpowder treason
    Should ever be forgot!

Early in November, Guy Fawkes day to be exact, a small Anonymous group gathered for a Million Mask March through downtown Calgary. None were deterred by the freak snow storm that whipped through the opening rally.  Although some SAIT journalism students did not seem happy about the turn in the weather.  They reminded me of when I was a journalism student. I still rue the day that I dropped out to join the working world. SAIT has a photo journalism program, now. Maybe someday I'll go back, if they'll have an old lady.

Remembrance Day was a bigger event than usual only because I made the effort to get out there. November 10th, I went to a sunrise ceremony at the Memorial Drive Field of Crosses and then on November 11th I went to the ceremony at Central Memorial Park.

Had to smile at some of the overheard comments.  One old veteran, waiting to perform at the sunrise ceremony, was unsure about how they were to go about raising the various flags and asked his colleague, "So what's the drill?"  After the Remembrance Day ceremony at Memorial Park I overheard a young boy thank an old veteran for fighting in the war.  The veteran laughed and gave the boy a high-five.


Later in November the National Music Centre and the Calgary Public Library partnered to host a "Teen Open Mic Night" at the downtown Central branch.  There were only three kids playing and about a half a dozen people watching, but I think everyone had fun.



Thursday, October 1, 2015


On Wednesday morning I received the following Flickr message:
It is with great sadness that I send you the news that our dearest friend, Brad was killed in a car accident on Sunday, September 28th while on a photo adventure north of Edmonton. We are missing him terribly.
Details surrounding the accident are sketchy. We will likely never know exactly what happened. Services are being scheduled for next week, Monday, Oct 5th at the earliest.
It would be greatly appreciated if you could pass this message on to the Library Photo Club.
Thank you.
Karen O'Grady
When I shared Karen's message with other photographer friends they pretty much reacted like I did, with disbelief.  (Actually, I my initial response was yelling "No!!!" at my computer.) Was it really "our" Brad?   I sent Karen a follow-up email, just to be sure, and received a response from Karen's husband confirming that it was Brad's wife who had told them.

Brad was the kind of person that people naturally gravitate to, not because he knew so much about photography (and he did), but because he was so easy to be around.  Brad touched so many people with his easy smile, his quick laugh, and his humble eagerness to share what he knew about photography.  The comments posted on the Calgary Night Photographers Facebook page were filled with tributes to Brad, photos of Brad, photos of outings that reminded people of Brad, and stories of the time spent. These will be given to Brad's wife, Veronica, who will create something for his memorial.

When praised about his beautiful photography, Brad once said that his wife was the artist.  But Brad was every bit the talented artist, as well. He awed us with his bracketing technique or the surreal photos created using infra-red.

Brad's style was landscapes, but he wasn't afraid to step outside his comfort zone, either.  Once on a evening outing at Christmas time I watched as Brad carefully set up his tripod and camera to take shots of the lights streaming down Stephen Avenue. Suddenly a woman in a long bright white coat walked quickly past us.  I dashed to the middle of the roadway to get the shot.  And even though Brad was tethered to the sidewalk by his tripod, and street photography wasn't his thing, he captured a fantastic shot.  I can't find the shot he took, but this is mine, which will now always remind me of that evening.

Brad also inspired me to slow down, once.  The best photo I ever took of Stephen Avenue was with Brad during an Autumn walkabout, last year.  It was the first time I used the digital level in my camera. Now it's another remembrance photo.

Then there was the time we did a photo swap.  He liked one of my cat photos and asked for a print as a gift for his mother, who loved cats. In return, he insisted on giving me one of his photos, which turned out to be a beautiful black and white print of an icy Mount Rundle.  It in turn, it became a wedding anniversary gift for my best friend.

Brad and I first met at the Calgary Public Library Photography Club, but our paths crossed many times at photo Meetups and photo outings. Here he is during a PtB (something to do with beer, I think) Meetup in Inglewood, August 2013.  We were chatting with a couple in the neighborhood when their very friendly dog decided to say hello.

Then I dug deeper into older files (set up before I learned about using keywords to index photos). At 2:30 in the morning I found these, taken during a Calgary Public Library Photography Club field trip, May 2012.

I think he might have been explaining his amazing bracketing technique.

He will be so missed.

Brad's memorial service is set for October 16. This is what was published in the Calgary Herald:

RUSSELL, Robert Bradley "Brad"
July 24, 1963 – September 27, 2015
It is with deep sorrow to announce the sudden passing of Brad Russell, as he died suddenly at the site of an automobile accident on Sunday, September 27, 2015 in Thorhild, AB. A memorial service will be held at Evan J. Strong Funeral Services (5502 - 2 Street SW Calgary) on Friday, October 16, 2015 at 1:00 p.m. All those who knew and loved him are welcome to attend the service. Photos, memories and condolences may be shared with Brad's family through Arrangements in care of EVAN J. STRONG FUNERAL SERVICES. (403) 265-1199 "Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn." Benjamin Franklin - See more at:


Saturday, September 19, 2015

Take Back the Night

It's half past midnight and I should be sleeping... gotta go to work in 8 hours. Guess I'm a bit wound up from attending tonight's Take Back the Night march.

Or I should say marches.  There were four marches from four directions convening at Barb Scott Park.  It was pretty tame, kinda lame, compared to last year's police escort through downtown streets.  The sun wasn't even down yet at 7:30 when we left Memorial Park. So, it was more like a Take Back the Early Evening march.

Actually, we left from the corner across the street from Memorial Park.  Beakerhead had their Trip Down the Rabbit Hole art installation at Memorial Park, so the TBTN organizers decided it would be inappropriate for people to meet there for the rally.  At Memorial Park last night I saw people snorting coke with kids around.  Tonight there were homeless sprawled on the lawns with their heavily loaded shopping carts.  A dozen or so people with protest signs hardly seems threatening.  The organizers seem too timid about upsetting City Hall.

It was the speakers that made the evening.  Especially riveting was the niece of Jacqueline “Jackie” Crazybull. Jackie was killed in a random stabbing on 17th Avenue SW several years ago. No one has been charged with her murder.

I've been following First Nation issues for years now. Having native friends when I was a kid is probably what makes me interested. Plus there's colonial guilt. My great grandparents bought land that was First Nation land.

Ashley Callingbull, the first native woman and the first Canadian to ever win the Mrs. Universe pageant, posts on her Facebook page that "it's really terrifying to be a First Nations woman in this country."  She lives near Calgary on the Tsuu T'ina reserve.

That is why rally's like Take Back the Night, as meek as Calgary's seems to be, are needed. These women's stories need to be told.  Are there any politicians with stones enough to listen and follow through?


Saturday, September 12, 2015

Bears, books and fountains

And more fun.

Today people were catching the last bits of summer heat (the temperature was in the upper 20s).  A very good day on the street for shooting bears, fountains, reflections, and people reading.   

These were shot from a window of the bus taking me to Memorial Park.

The Honens Festival & Piano Competition held a free Storytellers concert in Memorial Park. Kids of all sizes paraded their bear friends around the park. Then they settled in to listen to the story Paddington Bear's First Concert as told by Jonathan Love, from the Heebee-jeebees, and played by Pavel Koleshnikov.  

I have to confess that I was mostly there for the teddy bears. I have never read Paddington Bear. Or even seen his films. I grew up with Winnie the Pooh. Paddington is now on my "To Read" list.  Pavel's piano playing, which match the action in the story, was delightful.

I found a tiny bit of shade and listened to some of the second concert, which were piano pieces composed by Beethoven and Mendelson. Afterwards I walked home, taking my time of course. Today seemed to be a good day to read outside, because I found a couple of guys to add to my People: Reading series. 

Reading during the last warm days of Fall is like grasping the last pages of a book you can't put down. 


Pride 2015

Now for some fun!

Last Sunday was the Pride Parade and Festival celebrating Calgary Pride's 25 Anniversary. 

This, the biggest Calgary Pride yet, was the 5th year that I've photographed this celebration of freedom to love. While the weather was often threatening  (it had been raining for two days previously), it did not stop hundreds of people from lining up with their lawn chairs along the expanded 9th Avenue Route. 

This year Pride had a big corporate sponsor (Alberta Treasury Branch), tons of company entries in the parade, and, with the Federal election happening in October, a huge contingency of politicians.  

I settled myself beneath the +15 that runs across 9th Avenue between Centre and 1st SW.  It made for some interesting pre-parade shots of the people around me.  

After the parade I spent some time at the super muddy (think nearly Woodstock) Shaw Millennium Park. 

The enthusiasm was there, but the weather was cold and threatening to rain.  Again.  The presenters were wise in that the usual performers (Argentina, etc.) were replaced by DJs that kept everyone dancing.  Still, there were the usual speeches including: Nenshi, channeling his inner rock star; three openly gay NDP MLAs; and Brian Burke, flames President and Pride Parade Grand Marshall, with two uncomfortable looking hockey players.

The mantra "you can't expect a rainbow without rain" was repeated several times. I think it's what kept the rain away, actually.