Wednesday, November 14, 2007


I don't seem to automatically blog the phototrips I take lately the way I used to. I need to get back to that. Not so much because I really believe scores of people descend here in bright-eyed interest (though there might be one or two, occasionally, who knows?), but mostly so I can remind myself of the details and nuances.

This one's about a place near The Forks of the Credit Provincial Park called Brimstone. P-Doug and I "discovered" it sometime in the summer of 2006 when we visited the aforementioned park. It's at the south end, up a little road called Dominion Street, turning off Forks of the Credit Road. There are no other exits; it's a single way in and out. Brimstone itself today is a nice little community of maybe two dozen homes, and I'd have to say that reasonably comfortable people live there. In the past, it was a lumber town with hundreds of people. Dominion Street today dead-ends at the bottom of the park, but at one time, when it was "the Dominion Road", it carried on up to the community of Cataract at what's now the north end of the park. When we found it last year, I postulated that the place was called Brimstone because of how it must look in the fall, down in a little river valley and surrounded by trees. I'm probably wrong, but my guess at least has some poetry to it. Anyway, it was evocative enough that we decided to come back in the fall and see.

Well, we missed our chance last fall. But this year, I remembered, and we headed out there.

On our way in, we passed a middle aged Asian couple walking their dog, and a couple of men leading what seemed to be a rather substantial pack of Cub Scouts, or something. We parked at the end of the road and headed into the park on foot, along the old Dominion Road path.

The sky was moody that day, constantly threatening rain, and then letting the sun show through. We wandered perhaps 15 minutes into the park along the road, just taking in the beautiful autumn views. Fall's been odd this year; it's mid-November as I write this but there are still leaves on a lot of the trees, and there's still quite a bit of green to be seen on them. It's like nothing in my experience; I hope it bodes well for a mild winter. Anyway, we were shooting the foliage (me in both colour and infrared) and just picking our way along when we came to what was, for me, the highlight of the trip. P-Doug happened to glance up a hill beside the path and spotted the ruins of a chimney, standing alone in a small clearing. We had to go and see it.

It was up a fairly steep climb, and it was slippery. P-Doug remarked that this would have been a particularly useful time for me to be hiking barefoot, but it was late enough in the year that I was back in sneakers and socks. Yes, sad to say, all that traipsing around in shorts and sandals, wandering the forest barefoot and skinny dipping in warm rivers is packed away for yet another year... I like being eccentric, but I try not to be obsessive. :) He did have a point, though; I do find climbing easier when I can feel the toeholds. Regardless, we made it up there and had a look around. What we found was a stone chimney, attractive and nicely masonried, standing at the north side of a clearing about the size of an average living room. P-Doug paced out the area of what he decided had been a one-room cabin, postulating where tables, chairs, and the bed had been. He declared his vision of it all "cozy", and it probably would have been if you only had to be there for, say, a hunting weekend or something. I'm not sure I would have considered it "cozy" if it had been the extent of my home. But it was truly fascinating. I wondered who lived there, and how recently, and when the place had been torn down. Another friend, when shown the photos of the place, pointed out the evidence he said indicated that the place had burned down at some point. So if he's right, the place was lost either through vandalism or misadventure, leaving only the poignancy of the chimney and its fireplace.

I happened to notice another structure a few yards away in the woods. It was just a small hump of stone, masonried, and matching the chimney in colour and style. I speculated that it was the well, and P-Doug granted that it might be. It made sense to me, because from where we were, the river was a ten or fifteen minute walk away through the woods, and who would want to schlep water all that way, back uphill in the freezing cold, every time he wanted to make a cup of coffee or boil a potato? I couldn't swear to it, but I think my guess was right.

P-Doug noticed, more or less at this point, that his camera, a Kodak DC4800 that had once been mine, was taking horribly washed out photos. I wondered if it might be a badly set white balance, but no matter what he did, he was still getting shots that were vastly overexposed. Underexposed isn't so bad... most of the detail is there, except in shadows, and if you know what you're doing in Photoshop, you can usually recover from that. But overexposed shots lose so much detail into a frost of white pixels; they're much harder to salvage. Cursing, P-Doug deleted the contents of the card. It was then he noticed that the manual f-stop compensation setting was set all the way up to +2. He set it back to 0 and suddenly all the shots were terrific again.

Just about at that moment, the Asian couple and their dog emerged from the forest behind us along a path that paralleled the road along the crest. They really surprised us; suddenly they were just there. I think they were speaking Japanese. They wandered past us through the clearing of the vanished cabin without much notice, and down the slippery steps P-Doug and I had climbed minutes earlier, continuing their walk along the Dominion Road. A minute or two later, we started hearing the Cub Scout pack arriving. Given that we had other things to do, I recommended we call it quits at that point and head back. We headed back down to the road just as the Cubs, following the same crest path as the couple and their dog, arrived at the old cabin; their leaders making remarks about life in pioneer times.

On our way back, we happened to spot a plaque, set there by the province, telling about the Dominion Road of long ago, with several photos of cars traveling it and the communities that used it. We'd missed that on our way in because we'd wandered off the road for a bit, but I'm glad we saw it. A lot of what I've just told you, I could only tell you because we spotted that plaque.

We got back to my car. On our way in along the Forks of the Credit Road, we'd spotted this curve full of fall colour that was breathtaking, and we both wanted to go back there and take pictures of it. So we parked close by and wandered over and took in the view. The sky was powerful, and I was frustrated by finding I could either capture the interesting sky, or the bright colours on the ground, but not both, and I whined about it to P-Doug. He stated the obvious — or what should have been obvious — saying, "How come you're not taking HDR spreads?" Which, of course, was the right answer phased in the form of a question. I was a little embarrassed. This voice inside my head went, "Hey, dummy, do you remember why you bought the S80 a year and a half ago in the first place? Because you wanted something you could program to take quick, high-quality AEB spreads for HDR work, remember?" Though I admit, that was always kind of an art-for-art's-sake kind of inclination... it didn't really dawn on me that there was a practical application for it until P-Doug suggested it. I honestly don't know whether he meant it as a solution to my problem or just expressing surprise that I wasn't taking full advantage of the colourful leaves in just taking regular shots, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt because either way, his suggestion was the catalyst.

On our way back, I mentioned that on Flickr, one of my HDR infrared images had been short-listed by Popular Photography for inclusion in an article, and P-Doug seemed impressed... more than I had been, actually. It really wasn't until I got that reaction from him that it sort of came to me, oh yeah, THAT Popular Photography, right... I'd become so focused on the world on the net and how many forums for expression there are that the idea of being dependent on someone else's judgment to have one's work published and distributed was kind of lost on me. Anyway, if you're interested, it's this one (below) and it's supposed to be published in an upcoming issue featuring an article about digital infrared photography.

After that, we drove to the nearby town of Erin, because P-Doug wanted to visit a bakery there. It was just the kind of thing you want to see in a small town, especially in autumn... it was like stepping back into 30s, except for the prices, of course. Everything smelled fantastic. While he was buying stuff for himself and his wife, I had a look around and noticed a cooler full of a local brand of soft drinks. The bottles had local themes, but one of the flavours really blew my mind... it featured a photo of "Honest" Ed Mirvish standing, smiling with arms spread, outside his famous bargain emporium. "Honest" Ed, for those not from around here, died this summer in his 90s; he was probably Toronto's greatest, and certainly its most celebrated, philanthropist and patron of the arts. That his smiling welcome would grace a soda pop bottle in the rural precincts of the GTA is a testament to the warm regard in which this down-to-earth rags-to-riches man is held.

Leaving Erin, we headed back into the city to one of our preferred watering holes, The Three Monkeys. It was unusual for us to be there on a Saturday afternoon, and it was unusually pleasant. The Three Monkeys is a nice pub but it can be a little loud on a Thursday night with a hockey game on. I don't remember what we talked about now, but that's not important. Just hanging out, having a beer, enjoying the day was the point, and that I'll remember.

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