Friday, November 14, 2014

Saying "Goodbye" to my First 1968 AMC Ambassador

Before anyone who knows me gets worried, my lovely wife Rose is doing well and we are still happily married, "whew!"

The "first love" that I am writing about is not a woman, it is a car, the very first car that I ever owned. I have been sentimentally and some would say foolishly hanging onto her for the past 20 years or so, ever since the poor thing was unceremoniously dumped off (by me) at my parents acreage like so much scrap.

Scarlet (that's her name) came into my life on a bright sunny summer day when I was thirteen years old and it was love at first sight! I hadn't really discovered girls yet so a well turned ankle held considerably less fascination for me than did a red bucket seat with a center console and a 343 cubic inch, high compression V8 engine with a 4 barrel carb!

Scarlet and I in 1982, both of us in our prime!

So the girls in my old neighborhood of Goldbar in South Edmonton swallowed their disappointment at my distracted fascination with Scarlet and went on about their lives: a little discouraged maybe that the cute blonde fellow that lived on their block was temporarily off the market.

This is me around the time "Scarlet first became one of the family

For a 13 year old that was accustomed to his dads big 4 door Ramblers, the new 2 door, 1968 Ambassador with it's snazzy 2-tone red and white paint job seemed to be a pretty sexy, exciting mode of transportation!

Gold Bar was a very sedate suburban neighborhood in those days and the Petry household was probably about the weirdest and wildest bunch on that particular block. Between my dad "Ronnie" my mom "Bernie" and my older sisters Cheryl and Chris along with my fuzzy headed older brother "Terrible" (Terry) we all at one time or another gave our neighbors fits.

This was in the early seventies of course so a lot of people were sort of going through the whole "turn on, tune in and drop out" groovy psychedelic phase and the Petry household was not immune. Heady times, what with the moon landing a few years earlier (if you believe it was real!) and the 1972 win over the Soviets in the "Summit Series" Canada vs our arch nemesis, team USSR. Who can forget the last game in Moscow with the Canadian team coming from behind and Paul Henderson scoring the final series winning goal with 34 seconds left! Go Canada!

So for the next few years, Scarlet was a part of the Petry family and I think it was mostly my mom who drove her and of course when I was finally old enough to drive when I was in grade 11 it was mostly the red rocket that I drove. For me there was a very real emotional attachment to the car that I learned to drive in and so when a friend of my dads smashed up the front end one day, I was more than a little bit sad.

Thankfully it all turned out okay when my parents decided to give their smashed up car to me and all I needed to do was find a way to fix her up and get her back on the road. With help from my dad and his buddy "Rolly" a mechanic who worked at my dad's service station "The Saratoga" a Pacific 66 truck stop in South Edmonton we soon had her back on the road.

Of course as soon as that was accomplished my new priority was getting a great stereo system installed. In those days that meant a cassette tape player and I bucked out for a good Pioneer system that rattled a few eardrums as Scarlet cruised down the street. Ah those were the days, faux sheepskin seat covers, Appliance chrome mag wheels on "slicks" (extra wide tires with almost no tread) a leather wrapped steering wheel and Steppenwolfs, "Born to be Wild" blasting from the stereo! Sweet!

But life goes on and Scarlet being a product of the North American auto industry of the 1960's had a few reliability and utility issues and eventually I decided to park her for the duration or at least until I could afford to really do her up nice.

In the mean time I had met Rose, who I might add was never jealous of Scarlet, seeming to understand our complicated relationship. She very kindly made room for "the other woman" in my life and seemed to develop an attachment of her own to my baby.

Scarlet as she looked sitting forlornly on our driveway (for 10 long years)

The cockpit, with some of my embelishments

Kait and Lola say goodbye to Scarlet

Today's me, holding the picture of Scarlet and I taken by Rose in 1982

Speaking of babies, along came Kait and we decided that what we needed was a more reliable, modern car and Scarlet retired to my parents acreage in the Rochester area south of Athabasca and there she remained until my parents sold the place and I had Scarlet delivered to my driveway.

I wish that my kids, Kait and April had been able to go for a ride in Scarlet and had a chance to get to know her a bit but I just never had the perfect combination of money, time and inclination to rejuvenate her once again, oh well.

So after having her sitting on my driveway for the past 10 years or so, I finally gave in to the whispered words in my ear, "sell Scarlet, sell Scarlet" and I did it, I sold her down the river....or hopefully I sold her to a better home where she has at least a chance of being restored to her former glory and once again classing up the streets of Edmonton.

Goodbye Scarlet.....thanks for all the memories!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

In Pursuit of Excellence (In Photography)

"You don't make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books that you have read, the music you have heard and the people you have loved.
-Ansel Adams

Photography can be art, but strangely it is also sometimes nothing more than personal record keeping, what we might term a snapshot. Often we just want to record a moment or occasion in our lives without any attempt at creating anything more and that's okay of course, being a perfectly legitimate use of photographic technology. 

The vast majority of photographs taken on any given day are exactly that and no more, a photographic record destined for Facebook or Instagram, possibly to be "shared" or "liked" by members of the recorder's inner circle, their "friends".

But the potential, ahhh, the potential of the medium is so very vast these days, it's a bit mind blowing, that is to say, EXTREMELY INTIMIDATING!

Every time I start to think I'm making some progress towards transitioning some of my work from digital record keeping to creating art, I come across someone else's photographs that very quickly illustrate just how far I have to go. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on the perspective) photographic technology is advancing incredibly rapidly and as one technique or technology is mastered or at least partially understood, something new becomes possible. It's quite the challenge to keep up!    

I think the best thing I ever did to help my photography skills move forward was to join a photography club. If I am honest with myself I have to admit that I am guilty of being a bit of a lazy photographer (in the past). These days I am trying very hard to learn better habits and skills and to push, pull or drag my photography to a higher level.

When I first joined the St. Albert Photography Club
I was a little bit intimidated (and still am) by the skills of some of the members. Most of the members are not professional photographers, but rather they are for the most part, talented, passionate amateurs who love to learn and share their work with others.

Part of the process of a photography club is the submissions night that takes place every month during the club season. On that special night, members bring printed images, (as large as they can afford to print) up to the maximum size of 11" x 14" unframed but in a simple mat, to pit against the work of other club members.

The other way of entering is the digital submissions category and that is how I first entered the fray in an effort to determine if my images made the cut, if they would stand up to the critiquing of the other members of the club. At first I was regularly disappointed by the response to my submissions and in hind sight I see now that I often submitted badly chosen images, it was quite a revelation. 

A Non-winner from the "Country Roads" submissions theme.

It took quite a while to break into the winners circle and that only happened by accident.

When friends used some of my images in their home, they decided to re-print one of them in a larger size (because they liked it so much, wahoo!) and I asked for the old one printed at 11"x14" which was exactly the right size for submissions night.

My first winning image

I submitted it in the open category in October of 2013 and won first place, a very heady feeling let me tell you! That win ignited my renewed interest (my photo-mojo) and spurred me on to print more images, take more photos and much more carefully shoot, select and enter the various categories.

It's a lot of work planning and executing creative entries for themes such as: weathered wood, opposites, alone in a crowd, broken, fog/smoke or country roads. I've noticed though that it's good to be challenged, it's good to have stiff competition that consistently forces you to submit your best work for even a hope of having your images placing well. 

All of last season I was mentally chasing one particular individual who is consistently entering absolutely great images, technically perfect, exciting, creative and well crafted art. There are lot's of great photographers in the club, but this guy consistently submits excellent work and he makes every month even more of a challenge.

I love this one and expected it to do well......what can I say, it didn't even place but I still love it!

I called this post "In Pursuit of Excellence" because I wanted to make a point about how this kind of a challenge can be such a motivator to up your game, to push you and motivate you to spend more time thinking and creating something beautiful or meaningful that is well beyond what we might create on our own, without outside influence and a challenging environment.

You might believe that art is subjective and of course you are right, but until you have had a selection of your work critiqued by your peers (and betters) and you have truly compared your best to the best that is out there, it is very easy to convince yourself that your work is good or even great and leave it at that. 

After all, it's mine and I'm awesome, at least that's what my mom used to tell me and she should know!