I'm trying to make a little extra money to save for a trip to NYC this year, as well as get some more practice before shooting a wedding, so I'm offering pay-what-you-can portrait shoots for anyone in the Halifax, NS area from now until June 12. Send me a message through the contact form or e-mail me directly at bjdwsm(at)gmail(dot)com and we'll work out the specifics.
It's been a little while, so let's catch up.
I had a photo shoot this past weekend, and a few more scheduled over the next few weeks; these are "freebies" I offered friends and followers to get myself back into practice with the camera. I haven't taken pictures with the Canon for a little while, mostly on account of the horrible weather that kept blasting Halifax for two months since the end of January. There were a few particularly brutal storms, including one in mid-March that effectively shut down the city. The city also has been dealing with issues with regard to snow and ice removal on the sidewalks, as well as melt-and-freeze cycles, so a lot of the sidewalks have been icy at best, inaccessible at worst. I know a few people who've suffered broken bones on account of this, so the last thing I wanted to do was attempt a balancing act with a bunch of camera equipment on hazardously slick sidewalks just to make it to a bus stop.
Between reading a few blog posts and a few conversations I've had with a co-worker, I've been thinking a lot about travelling again. The last real trip I took was about three years ago to my friend's wedding in Toronto, and I haven't really gone anywhere since I've moved to Halifax, aside from a few trips a year to my parents' place in Miramichi. That's going to change at the end of June when I'll go to New York City for the first time. It will just be brief, but NYC has been on my to-visit list for quite a while now, and I'm glad to finally be getting out into the wider world outside the Halifax to Miramichi corridor.
I'm thinking this space needs a bit of a change, at least on the visual front. Most importantly, I'm going to post content at least once a week apiece on both the main blog and Existentialist Weightlifting (the pop culture blog). At the bare minimum, look for content on this particular blog every Tuesday and on Existentialist Weightlifting on Saturdays.
For the last few months, I've been a strange combination of busy and mentally blocked. In the summer and fall, I was concentrating on my work for my contract position (which has since ended) while doing a few portrait shoots in my free time, plus a few informal events. I always forget about how time-intensive the editing process is, though, and the combination of an aging computer, general mental fog after work, and a cat that repeatedly jumps on my keyboard means there's sometimes a long delay before I get the shots ready for other eyes to look at. It's sometimes longer if I see the pictures I took at an event or shoot didn't turn out as expected; it discourages me from wanting to work on the raw images. I regularly forget that I am getting better but just need to play around more.
I'm reading more these days. It's due to a combination of seeking something that resonates with me and forcing myself to finally examine work I've always been curious about. I sometimes wonder what I absorb out of the books I go through, and whether I have the focus, discipline or talent to come up with something longer than a blog post. I don't mean this in a self-pitying way; it's more a fundamental re-evaluation of where my priorities lay, especially now that I'm in my 30s, working full-time, and realizing how finite time is as a resource.
To be honest, writing got away from me. I've mentioned my writer's block before, but it was getting to the point where anything I came up with made me angry. I would write entire drafts of posts, decide nothing was salvageable, and delete the whole thing. I had to consciously step away from the idea of writing anything for a while. Even composing an e-mail to an old friend is a long, difficult process. When I post here, I wonder whether I'm actually putting the work into it, or if I'm just trying to keep up appearances.
All this to say that I still don't know what this site's supposed to be about.
I've been busy the last two months (including a job change). To be honest, I'm going through another block where I'm not satisfied with anything I write, and anytime I try to post what I've been up to, it comes off as a grade school-level "What I Did On My Summer Vacation" report ("and then I did this, and then I did this, and then I did this...").
I don't know if it's just that I'm trying to summarize two months' worth of events (and non-events), or if it's a sign of a focus that's been divided into unproductivity. Maybe I'm just too mindful of who my potential audience is, and now that my name is attached to this blog as a "professional calling card", that triggers a whole new set of anxieties about content, tone, and quality. I have to ask myself what point of view I'm trying to express with both my writing and photography.
My portfolio now has a few examples of my couples photography, as well as some individual portraits. I had a shoot on Thursday that I still need to edit, with three more sittings coming up in the near future. If anyone's interested in booking a sitting, please don't hesitate to contact me.
I'm a little restless with this design. I may change it up.
It's been a busy summer in some ways, quiet in others. That's how I usually roll, but this year it feels like the hours that normally go into a day aren't there because my mind's a little foggier than normal. I guess years of poor sleep habits have their way of catching up to you. A lot has been the same for me since I moved to Halifax in October 2012: work during the weekdays, unwinding during the downtime. It's all status quo lately, but I'm trying to figure out where the spare time goes, what I want for the next little while, and how I need to do it. I'm still trying to figure out the answer, but interesting things manage to break the routine enough to keep me entertained.
What's been going on with me lately?
- I went to the St. Vincent show on July 7; I don't really go out to see live music as much as I want to, but I figured that since I had a little more money than usual this month (thank you, extra payday), I might as well. Halifax has a lively music and cultural scene, but for current and widely-known bands, the eastern terminus of Canada is usually Montreal. Annie Clark is a fantastic musician, and it's such a treat that the Halifax Jazz Fest was able to land her at this point in her career. The opening act, The Heavy Blinkers, also played a magical set that night.
- Halifax Pride was in late July. I got some shots of the parade and the main stage show; these events capped off a busy, busy time of year for a lot of people I know in the city, and the week is as much about education, cultural expression, and raising awareness of socio-political issues as it is about celebration.
- I'm tackling a stack of my unread books and taking advantage of the amazing resource that is the Halifax Public Libraries system; this seems to have helped unlock that case of writer's block I've suffered for a while. I really enjoyed the new Miriam Toews novel (All My Puny Sorrows), and I just finished a short story anthology that had some authors I plan on investigating further.
August is still mostly uncharted aside from the usual routine, but I have a quick trip out of the city coming up in the near future, a series of maternity photos to edit, e-mails to write, directions to explore, and decisions (minor and major) to make.
If I can keep this blog updated regularly without it getting bogged down with complaints and platitudes, that's enough of a victory.
I went about two months without a post on this site; my energy's been all over the place lately, and I often don't have the amount of focus that I feel I need to do anything particularly well. There are a number of things I'm doing or want to be doing these days, some more important than others, but for the last few months I've been short on resources (financially, yes, but more in terms of time and energy) and have been more concerned with maintaining a sort of "status quo" with my life than moving it forward.
There's a lot in Halifax that could be blog fodder, but most of the time I prefer to stay home, cuddle with the cat, and maybe watch something on TV or Netflix. I also feel like this scattered mindset's caused me to pull back from engaging with the world around me: the amount of time I spend of social media compared to the amount of time I use it to actively communicate with others is a little lopsided, but in this state, I don't feel like I have enough to say or the energy to sustain a conversation.
Aside from the portrait shoots this month (the second shoot still needs to be edited), I admit I haven't been out with the camera as much as I should be, nor have I been going through my old shots to try to build other galleries for the page. I don't know if I need to feel like I have a valid excuse to take the camera out, but it always feels a little more justified when I have a sitting booked; a lot of the times when I take the camera on excursions, I don't really have much of a plan, don't feel satisfied with the pictures I take, and by the time I go home, it's just an expensive thing in a bag that's a pain to lug around.
Selling the engagement photos was a boost, but I really need to think more about how many hours a week I waste that could be put towards serious portfolio building work, and figure out what my specific goals as a photographer are (aside from making a little more money). Until I really have a full portfolio or better developed skills/goals, I think I may do a limited number of free shoots for the time being (or accepting beer and food as payment).
The writing's taken a backseat to my day job, hunting for a more permanent position, volunteering, resting, and the photography (not necessarily in that order). I've also hit another block a few months ago, but instead of writing through it, I figured the other stuff takes precedence for now. The half-hour bus rides to and from work are a good chance to catch up on my reading, though, and I probably could stand to do a little more of that before the next time I open up the Word with the story fragments I've already written.
A few weeks ago, a friend and I discussed how you have to spend so much time doing certain things before you can really master them, and the importance of actively blocking off that time to work on them. I need to take inventory of how I use my time and figure out where to devote it.
I had sittings with two different couples this month: an engagement shoot in Hemlock Ravine Park on the 1st (which was my first paid shoot), and a maternity shoot in Halifax Public Gardens yesterday evening. When shooting, I don't really have too many set ideas for what I want to do and prefer to follow the lead of my subjects; if something comes to mind as we walk around or in the middle of one pose, I'll pursue it, but many of the best shots come from when everyone's relaxed and loose, and I catch the little signs of life that don't necessarily come out of the initial pose.
My portfolio still needs a bit more work, but I will include a section for my couples portraits; I still have to go through my other photography for other parts of my portfolio, but if the weather holds up I may go out with the camera this weekend.
I continue to welcome new opportunities for portrait shoots in the Halifax area; I am available anytime after 4:30 on weekdays and all day Saturday and Sunday. I'm only charging for natural light outdoor portraits at this time; however, I need more practice using my flash and doing night portraits, so I'm looking for volunteer models for that kind of work. Send me a line through the contact page if you're interested in a sitting.
I've been surprisingly busy this last month; in addition to my full-time job, I've been working on a few things in my free time, including a collaborative project that my friend and I have been planning for a little more than a year. The past few weekends have also been comparatively busy with some parties, spontaneous outings and a little live music. That said, I've also been recovering from that extra activity; I consciously spent most of last weekend laying low, and until I get a bump in my cash flow, the next month will probably be considerably less eventful.
I have a few short-term goals for this site, which I'm going to work on in the coming days and weeks as my schedule, energy level and priorities permit:
- Complete my photography portfolio to include more of my urban and landscape photography.
- Regular but high-quality updates. I've done too many "marking time" posts in the past just so I could say that I've updated the blog, and want to avoid filler as much as I can. I plan on writing more about events and different places in Halifax.
- Import the better content from my old pop-culture blog, specifically the reviews of the 1980-82 Saturday Night Live episodes; I plan on keeping this content in a separate section of this site so I don't clog the main blog feed with such arcane trivia.
My long-term goals will begin to evolve as soon as I'm back in the rhythm of tinkering with and updating the site. The next few months are going to involve some shifts in my life, but once I have a better idea how everything falls into place from there, I'm going to be able to make a few more solid plans.
One of the brightest lights in the Halifax music scene is Kim Harris, a singer-songwriter originally from Corner Brook, NL. Harris has appeared regularly in the city as a support act, in numerous local festivals including In The Dead Of Winter and Halifax Pop Explosion, and staged last summer's recreation of the entire soundtrack to Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet with Stewart Legere. Last night, Harris launched her widely anticipated full-length debut Only The Mighty (released in February) with an incredible live show in the Spatz Theatre atrium in downtown Halifax.
Opening act Dark For Dark was the perfect complement to Harris, and as the last bits of daylight faded outside the atrium, Rebecca Zolkower's gentle vocals and guitar, the wordless harmonies of Melanie Stone and bassist Jess Lewis, and Asa Brosius' dreamy pedal steel guitar floated their songs into the stratosphere. Highlights included their current single "Even", a cover of the Everly Brothers' "Crying In The Rain", and their set-ending version of the hymn "I'll Fly Away" that had Zolkower, Stone, and Lewis on their own verses, with Brosius contributing a memorable solo.
Dark For Dark's set brought the perfect atmosphere to the room for Harris and her band to take stage; once they began to play, the atrium seemed to transform. Only The Mighty is a beautiful and gorgeous-sounding record, but the live setting really transformed Harris' voice into a searchlight piercing the darkness; the interplay between Harris, the exquisite harmonies from backing vocalists Legere and Margot Durling, and the band combined with the energy from the audience into something immediate and magical.
There were many highlights throughout Harris' set, including a tight performance of "Dust", and a tender "Oh Lion" with guest vocals from the muse for the song, Jay Needham. A few well-chosen covers were sprinkled across the night's songs, including tear-jerking renditions of Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work" (with Dark For Dark) and The Rolling Stones' "Wild Horses". The latter featured Only The Mighty's producer Dale Murray on steel guitar and a special guest appearance by Jenn Grant, whom Harris acknowledged as an influence. A beautiful performance of "The Weight Of It All", Harris' most personal song, became transcendent upon the entrance of a "candle choir" of local musicians that accompanied Harris and her band on stage. For the encore, Harris sent the audience into the night with "We Will Revel", featuring a guitar solo by Cursed Arrows' Ryan Stanley.
Kim Harris is definitely an artist poised for big things, and last night's release party captured this pivotal moment in her career perfectly. If you have the opportunity to see her live, don't hesitate to do so.
I've had a few different websites in the past 15 years, including a period where I had about five different pages going at the same time. There were the private blogs where I could be as unfiltered as I wanted to be and sometimes share a little too much. One blog that started with a pop culture focus eventually turned into my "SNL Reviews" blog. I had also attempted a photoblog and a space for my creative writing, but neither were focused, consistently updated, nor of particular note.
The trouble with having so many sites is that I never really knew which one I felt the most representative of myself. The target audiences for each didn't overlap, and I also I couldn't fully navigate between the honesty of anonymity and my desire to connect with others.
In 2012 I bought this domain with the intention of making it my "professional" site when my writing or photography took off. It was pretty bare bones page with little content aside from a blog, a portfolio, and links to some of my writing that was already available. I still kept the other blogs as side projects, but by the end of the year I felt fatigued with the whole concept of blogging. Everything I posted lately seemed to ring hollow: feel good posts that didn't really say anything about who I was.
Much of what I wrote was motivated primarily by getting traffic and feedback which never really came. Being overly aware of your audience tends to have that effect. I have the problem of always being in a rush to have a completed product ready to share with others. This plagues my writing and photography, and while I enjoy the editing/tinkering process more than I realize, I'm impatient to get feedback, or, at the very least, attention.
I took a few months off; ostensibly to rediscover my writing voice. I got impatient to post again, but a few months after I resumed posting content, I felt constricted by the spaces I built. I took a few more months off to decide where I want to go with my web presence.
I hope to achieve three things with this new space:
- Have an attractive professional web space under my own name.
- Provide examples of my work as a writer and photographer.
- Regularly provide new, meaningful content.
I'm still in the process of putting all the pieces together, but every website I've admired has been able to meet these goals while their authors underwent their own stylistic and personal evolution.
I'm interested in pursuing freelance writing and photography opportunities, and this website exists as a means to that end. Please feel free to comment on my posts or e-mail me if my skills can be used for your organization; I also invite my readers to offer constructive feedback and interesting discussion.