New Photography Project Launch

Image from a photography project about industrial Hamilton, Ontario

I love projects and a photography project is best of all. I can be involved in every element it from throwing about ideas, brainstorming, planning, creating, producing, promoting and everything else that goes with it. This is image is a sort of draft or sketch to kick things off. I wonder if anyone knows where it is……

Hot off the Press…. New Sales Gallery

Image of Jokulsarlon Lagoon Iceland in sales gallery

Yes, it’s an old term, but I’m sure you  get it! If you look closely you’ll see this framed artwork is now available in my very own Sales Gallery, which is finally here! You can click on the the tab at the top of this page, have a browse and feel free to send me any questions.

Life In the North

Image of Lake Nipissing in the north of Ontario in winter

I have an affinity for “the north”, as varied as it is. I hail from the north of England – Liverpool in the north-west, to be specific – and last week I was back in the north of my adopted country, Canada. Specifically, Garden Village on the edge of Sturgeon Falls in northern Ontario.

Image of sunrise over Lake Nipissing in the north of Ontario, in Winter
Winter sunrise over frozen Lake Nipissing

I will say though, as the temperature dropped to a daytime high of -13 celsius, I was only there for a few days. I may not have the stamina, or the equipment, to survive a full winter in Canada’s north but I love to visit it any time of year. On this occasion, before the temperature drop, there was a fresh snowfall covering the land in a beautiful, crisp white serene blanket, fit for any winter wonderland. You might not think it but it can be a very invigorating experience, though also harsh at times. I like to just stare at the vast expanse until the cold bites viciously at my extremities well enough to send me scurrying back indoors.

Image of two dogs playing in snow in the north of Ontario
Winter Play. Cold temperatures mean nothing to two dogs romping around in the snow.

Lake Nipissing is frozen solid enough to take the snowmobiles and the ice-huts are appearing, ready for winter ice fishing. The trees and ground are gloriously reflecting the glittering highlights of the snow as the bright sun shines down on it from early in the day. Giant dogs, made for this type of climate, bounce around playfully and strike fear in me as they come bounding over in my direction, ready to play. I’ve managed to not get knocked over by them so far.

 

We’re only just into winter but I know it can fly by quickly (I won’t be saying that by March….) so it’s good to make the most of it.

Image of West Nipissing Power Dam in Sturgeon Falls, in the north of Ontario
A view of the bridge on West Nipissing Power Dam in Sturgeon Falls

I’ll be out taking winter pics at different locations in the next few months, so please keep a look out for more postings.

The Strange Story of Centralia

PA Route 61

I’ve driven through different parts of Pennsylvania over the years but never to Centralia. That might be because Centralia is not easy to find, by road or by map.

Centralia was a small coal mining town in the Appalachian mountain area of Pennsylvania, dating from 1866. With coal mining at its peak in the 1890’s the population reached 2,800 but subsided after that to a more consistent 2,000, where it stayed for quite a while. The real decline though, started later in the twentieth century.

Centralia PA
Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church overlooking the remains of Centralia PA

In 1962 there was a fire at the local landfill that changed the whole future of the town. I’ve read several explanations but the most popular seems to be that the fire department deliberately set the fire to clean up the landfill, which was a common practice. However, the landfill was on top of some mine shafts and not only was the fire not extinguished, it actually spread into the mine shafts where it was impossible to reach. The result was that it continued to spread throughout mines, and worked its way beneath the town itself.

In the 1980’s there were clear signs that carbon monoxide from the fire in the mines was having an effect on people’s health and there was significant subsidence going on. This set off the real demise of the town as people moved out (taking buyouts) and by the nineties, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania used “eminent domain” to take control of the town and move out the rest of the residents. There are still a few people left as they refused to move but there’s very little left of the town. The roads remain, a couple of well-cared-for graveyards, and a white church sitting radiantly on a hill surrounded by trees. Buildings have been demolished and a more natural habitat has grown up in their place.

PA Route 61
The abandoned section of PA Route 61, now covered in graffiti and providing a playground for locals with their 4x4s

One road that attracts some attention is the abandoned section of PA highway 61 (the road was rerouted) which has severe subsidence and can often be seen with smoke from the underground fire making its way up through the broken surface. Combined with all the colourful graffiti that covers it, it can be quite a strange sight. A strange sight to match a strange story. And still the fire burns on.

Centralia PA
Graffiti-covered guard rail along the abandoned section of PA Route 61 in Centralia

You can find more info about Centralia at

http://www.centraliapa.org/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Centralia,_Pennsylvania

Eastern State Penitentiary

Image of cell block at Eastern State Penitentiary

Eastern State Penitentiary is an uneasy sight when you first approach it. Its thick, high grey stone walls and medieval fortress look don’t betray the fact that it was built to keep people in, rather than out.

I visited Eastern State Penitentiary while travelling around Pennsylvania and making a stop in the lovely city of Philadelphia. Standing in the popular Fairmount area of the city it seems like an odd place to have a prison, but there it is, looming eerily since it was first opened in 1829.

 

Eastern State Penitentiary
The upper balcony along one side of a cell block.

ESP was the first prison of its kind, bringing in a new approach in dealing with prisoners. Moving away from the old prison system where men, women and children were all thrown in together and left to their own devices, this new system focused on rehabilitation through isolation and penitence. While prisoners had relative luxury (flush toilet, central heating, running water, and even their own small exercise yard) they were locked in their own cell alone, with only a bible to read, no interaction with others and even having a hood placed over their head on the occasions when they were allowed our of their cell. The idea was that they would have time to think about their crimes and how bad they were, leading to penitence. Hence the coining of the term penitentiary. Of course now, this seems like a form of severe deprivation, if not torture, but at that time, this Quaker inspired system seemed quite radical and forward thinking.

 

Eastern State Penitentiary
Looking from one cell across to another. Note how small the doorways are.

 

The actual building of Eastern State Penitentiary, with its cell blocks radiating from a central observation area, has served as a model for hundreds of other prisons all around the world including South America, Europe and Asia.

 

With additions to the building and changes to the way prisoners were treated over the years, ESP was finally closed in 1971. ESP is now in a derelict state, but serving as a museum. You can wander around and see the cells, originally with small, secure doors, and the “Eye of God’ skylights in the original cells. There’s even an opportunity to see the rumoured luxury of Al Capone’s cell!

 

If you’re interested in finding out more about Eastern State Penitentiary, you can go to https://www.easternstate.org

 

Istanbul

Blue Mosque

I recently had the opportunity to spend some time in Istanbul while I was on a trip to Turkey. Often referred to as the Gateway to Asia, at least if you’re coming from the west (otherwise, the Gateway to Europe!), Istanbul straddles the border of the two continents. The Bosphorus provides the natural divide and the bridges across connect the two.

Blue Mosque
A view of the Sultan Ahmet Mosque from a rooftop patio as the sun goes down

An ancient city that’s had a few names before Istanbul (Constantinople, Byzantium), and been at the centre of a few empires, this is a city with tons of things for its millions of visitors to explore.

 

Key attractions include the Sultan Ahmet Mosque, also known as the Blue Mosque. This is an outstanding example of classical architecture that combines Islamic and Byzantine Christian features, among others. Apart from this, you can also find the Hippodrome, the Hagia Sophia and the Topkapi Palace just steps away. So you can cover a lot of ground, so to speak, in this one small area. Well worth it.

 

For a taste of something different, just a short walk away is the Grand Bazaar. This is one of the oldest and biggest covered markets in the world with around 4,000 shops spread over sixty one streets. Shoppers paradise! You’ll not see many markets like that. Just a walk through is an experience in itself, again because of the fantastic architecture, and the busy atmosphere. And if you’re wanting to buy, you can get all sorts of things – clothes, accessories, sweets, furniture, carpets – and they’re keen to make a sale. The whole process of haggling (which is pretty much mandatory) is an entertainment in itself, though it can sometimes be hard to work out how much of a bargain you actually get in the end, assuming you buy something.

 

And then of course, off-the-beaten track of the main attractions are plenty of back streets with small comfortable hotels (I stayed at the Asmali Hotel), restaurants with great food and atmosphere, street-side and rooftop patios, and great views. The locals are great to talk with and really helpful.

Istanbul
One of the many rooftop patios, looking out over the Sea of Marmara at sunset

There’s no doubt that businesses in Istanbul and other parts of Turkey are hurting right now, and that’s unfortunate. It’s a great place to be, and in terms of security, barring the south-east of the country, I would feel no more at risk than in any other large city, in fact, maybe less so.