Archive for the ‘General Interest Stuff’ Category

Malawi: Day Thirteen

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

20120503-DSC_628920120503-DSC_6300The last of our official stops on the study tour was Zomba Theological College (ZTC) – the seminary for the Church of Central Africa – Presbyterian. It was an important stop for our group because one of our own PCC ministers is currently a professor there on assignment through International Ministries. Rev. Dr. Todd Statham has been in Malawi, with his wife Annika and two children, for just over year.

20120503-DSC_631120120503-DSC_6326We began our day at ZTC with the daily morning worship service in the chapel. Rev. Matt Brough, one of the group members, gave a short sermon on a text from Esther and then, after introductions, it was off to class for all the students. We were given a short talk on the challenges facing theological education in Malawi and then headed off to class ourselves! We split ourselves up among four different classes and I chose to attend Todd’s second-year “History of Christianity” class.

After class, we were treated to a tour of the facilities by three senior students. The tour took much longer than it should have because we struck up so many interesting conversations along the way! Following the tour, the group sat down with Todd and Annika to talk about life as missionaries and the challenges they face.

20120503-DSC_6358After a lunch with the ZTC faculty and staff, our last official visit was complete and there was an audible sigh of relief as we boarded the bus. While we enjoyed the wonderful hospitality of the Malawian people and were honoured to have been greeted so warmly so many times, being representatives of an entire denomination for thirteen straight days is exhausting. We headed north to Liwonde where we would spend one night at a safari camp before heading back to Blantyre to prepare for the trip home.

20120503-DSC_6458We arrived at Bushman’s Baobabs just in the late afternoon and witnessed a gorgeous sunset. As we ate dinner and relaxed afterward we could hear the nearby hippos begin their night of grunting and groaning. They sounded as if they were just metres away, but despite our best efforts in the bright moonlight, we didn’t see any. Seeing hippos would have to wait until tomorrow.

To the ROM!

Monday, March 19th, 2012

A family trip to the Royal Ontario Museum has become a March Break tradition for us – and I’m really proud to say that we’re now members of the ROM. It feels great to support history and culture!

Here’s a set of photos from the day:

Or view directly on Flickr:

Southworks Photowalk Wrap Up

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

Hey, remember that photowalk thing I organized last week? It was a great success – and we’ll be doing more. The Cambridge photowalks even have a new online home! If you’re interested in participating in a future photowalk, be sure to visit and subscribe to email updates!

Btw, here’s a little wrapup video I did:

Did I mention the prize money?

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

Pre-Exodus, Burning Man 2008
Creative Commons License photo credit: mr. nightshade

I can’t believe I forgot about this until now… I met with the fine folks at Southworks this morning just to chat about the photowalk so that they would know what to expect, etc.

During the conversation they suggested that we could have a contest of some kind with some prize money for the best photos and display of the photos on the Southworks property. We’re not exactly sure about all the details yet, but I’ll have them hammered out by Sunday.

Maybe the chance to win some prizes is just the motivation you need to come out to Southworks this weekend!

First Cambridge Photowalk – Southworks (updated)

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

Ok, it’s probably not the very first photowalk in Cambridge ever, but it is the first of several I will be organizing this year. What is a photowalk, you ask? We’ll get to that in a moment, but first the details for those that need them right now!

When: Sunday, January 29th @ 2pm
Where: Southworks Outlet Mall (64 Grand Avenue South, Cambridge, Ontario N1S 2L8)
(important venue info below, if you plan to participate, please read through.)

UPDATE: Please RSVP here:

Ok, so when and where are covered, let’s talk about what this is all about. A photowalk is simply a group of photographers of all skills and ages gathering together at a specific time and place to go for a walk and take photos. Photowalks not only provide an opportunity to practice the art of photography, but they also provide an informal time for photo enthusiasts to be social – something that doesn’t often happen in workshops and seminars.

I should also note that this isn’t a photography club. There are no dues, no committee, no weekly or monthly meeting. Photowalks are open events with no obligation to join anything.

Most times, photowalks take place in public spaces and there are few, if any, rules or guidelines. This particular photowalk, however, will be a little different in two ways:

  1. It is primarily indoors
  2. It is being held on private property

For this photowalk, we will be the guests of Southworks Outlet Mall. The photowalk has been arranged and approved by the property management with a few conditions:

  1. Photowalk participants will be identified with nametags (I’ll bring a stack of “Hello, My name is” stickers)
  2. Participants are encouraged to share a selection of photos with Southworks for their use after the photowalk.
  3. Participants are asked not to shoot inside individual stores in the mall without checking with the staff first – Southworks Antiques excepted.
  4. Southworks is a place of business – customers come first.

If you are not familiar with Southworks, it is beautiful old foundry restored into a commercial space – including the largest antiques warehouse in Canada.

Things you can expect to shoot:

  • a billion antique knick-knacks in the antique mall (a macro lens might be fun to have!)
  • interesting vintage architectural features throughout the interior
  • even more interesting exterior features (weather permitting)

Update: I made a little video…

Official hashtag is: #swphotowalk

My first photography tip…

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012
photo credti: Lee Haywood

photo credti: Lee Haywood

Just a month into my journey as a “serious photographer” and I’ve developed my very first “trick of the trade” – how exciting! I haven’t actually looked to see if anyone has already included this in a tutorial of some kind, so it’s possible that this isn’t completely original.

The Scenario:
I spent the morning taking “staff portraits” at the office. In the past, we’ve always had to scramble to get a decent photo of someone when we needed it – either for the website or a workshop bio, etc.  We decided to take semi-formal portraits of all staff just to have on file.

The Problem:
It was, of course, the final subject of the day that caused the “problem.” She was a blinker – a bad one! A few of the earlier subject had one or two shots out of four or five where their eyes were closed, but this subject was something else. She knew it too – she told me that she always either has her eyes closed, or she looks like she’s on opiates. I couldn’t disagree with her. Twenty-five shots later, experimenting with various flash settings and delays, etc, we STILL didn’t have a shot with her eyes open.

The Solution:
The answer was hers, actually. She was telling me that she’d run into the same problem at the optometrist’s office – they could not get a clear image of her retina because she kept blinking. “The only thing that finally worked,” she said, “was for me to click the remote.”  I hesitated. “You want to try?”

She took the remote, closed her eyes, and then opened them as she pressed the remote (in her lap, out of frame). Bingo. The first shot was a keeper. Eyes nice and clear – naturally open. In fact, her entire posture improved and it might be the best portrait of the day. Interesting.

If you’re taking portraits, I wouldn’t recommend handing off your remote to every subject. If you run into a stubborn blinker, however, it might just save your shoot.

What to YOU do for blinkers?


Solo Photowalking

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

I don’t do New Year Resolutions. It’s just a thing I don’t do. However, I do want to do a few things differently in 2012 than I did in 2011. One of those things is NOT sitting at my desk for 8 hours a day (in addition to the 3 hours a day I sit in my car). My bum has had enough.

I decided to go for a fifteen minute walk every day at lunch time. Problem is that I find walks boring. I find myself just trying to get from point A to point B as efficiently as possible – staring at my Blackberry to pass the time while trying not to bump into anything. I could tell that this daily walk thing would go nowhere quickly.

Enter my rekindled interest in photography – thanks to access to a proper camera. I realized that if I took my camera with me, I could keep the boredom at bay while honing my skills. Basically, I’d be going on a photowalk by myself. Neato.

In order to keep myself from just filling SD cards everyday (and doing nothing with the photos)  and to ensure I was actually practicing and not just “spraying and praying” I came up with a few rules:

  • No more than five exposures per walk
  • Manual exposure and manual focus only
  • No photo review on the walk
  • Post at least one photo per week

Because my shooting rules are so strict, I’ve allowed myself free-reign in post-processing. This way I get to practice my Photoshop skillz as well. :)

So, without further ado, here are today’s images:

Malawi Trip Update

Friday, January 6th, 2012

A quick update about our upcoming trip to Malawi:

  • I’m now officially a “co-leader” of the study tour – which means that the dozen or so people we are taking will be my responsibility should anything go awry while we are travelling. All of the pre-arrangements are thankfully someone else’s responsibility! The coolest thing about this is that the other “co-leader” is my very good friend (and mentor of sorts) Rev. Ted Creen, recently retired from St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Owen Sound.  I’ve known Ted for nearly thirty years and I am so excited to be sharing this experience with him.
  • As I mentioned in the last blog post, the purpose of the trip is learning. This is not a mission trip in the traditional sense. Malawi may be a little short on fuel these days, but they’re hardly short of available labour. Flying halfway around the world to erect a building that could instead be built by Malawians (thus providing income) doesn’t make much sense.  Instead, the purpose of the trip is learn – in an intensive way – about the work that the PCC does in Malawi. We will be hosted by our mission staff there and will visit the many projects that Canadian Presbyterians support directly including orphanages, shelters, etc. The trip will also include a weekend “home visit” with a Malawian family.
  • There are three Canadian Presbyterian families currently serving in Malawi. You can learn more about them and their work (and about life in Malawi) on their blogs:

Stay tuned for more updates leading up to the trip.



Healthy Candidates: all parties support smaller schools

Monday, September 19th, 2011

Smaller schools was a big part of my school board trustee campaign last year. There are MANY reasons to support smaller schools but one of the major ones is that smaller schools are closer to home and, therefore, encourage students to walk rather than drive or take a bus.

That was so last year. This year, Ontario voters find themselves in the throes of another election campaign – this time to elect their Members of Provincial Parliament. As I’ve promised before, I’m not going to get into my personal partisan here.

What I do want to share with you, however, is a campaign within the campaign being run by the Heart & Stroke Foundation. The campaign, called ‘Healthy Candidates’ encourages all provincial election candidates to endorse a set of policy recommendations. Among the policy recommendations is the following:

Healthy Communities: greater support and funding for community planning that encourages mixed land use, greater density to enhance active transportation that is safe, secure and financially viable. A specific concern that was expressed was the construction of mega-schools even at the elementary level that require busing.

via Healthy Candidates.

Now, I will admit that this does not say “build smaller schools” but the idea is clearly there that larger schools with larger boundaries are necessarily pre-disposed to relying on busing to get kids to school. You may recall that we are dealing with this ourselves here in south-east Galt.

I applaud the Heart & Stroke Foundation for making the connection between walking vs. busing and its impact on childhood obesity. I also hope that the candidates from all parties who have endorsed the campaign will also support efforts to create smaller schools across Ontario.

Easy as Riding a Bike? Yeah, right…

Monday, September 12th, 2011

I tried twice this summer to teach my almost 6-year-old to ride her new bike without training wheels. Both outings were epic failures leaving both of tired and frustrated.

Imagine my envy when I came across this little story from one my favourite parenting bloggers… the tender age of three years and 10 months, he just learned how to ride his bike without training wheels.

I’m super proud of him, but actually, I can’t really take any credit for teaching him.

The only person who taught Nico is Nico. Seriously. Other than that last twenty minutes or so this morning, when my oldest son Marco and I repeatedly yelled, “Pedal!!!” and “Keep moving!!!”, no one taught Nico any bike riding skills.

via How I Didn’t Teach My Three-Year-Old Son to Ride His Bike Without Training Wheels | Playborhood.