Photo of the Day

Over the years I’ve developed a fondness for photos of random things, photos that beg you to ask the question “why?” Lucky for us, the question “why” makes great inspiration for flash fiction. Each week, I send a photo to a growing list of players, and they riff on it with a piece of flash fiction. Here are this week’s contributions (be sure you click through to read the ones hosted elsewhere, too!)

Stories by Ottawa photographer Danielle Donders

Triumph
by Christine Hennebury

Leaving the bus in the field was supposed to be lesson to us, but, for years, we all walked to the high school without complaint, rain or shine.

Back then, while the rest of the world was getting more and more connected, everyone showing up in each other’s pockets all the time, our town had slammed the gates shut.

Not literally, of course, people could still come and go as they pleased, but no one in town had access to the internet. No one had smart phones. The Council had decided that those things weren’t good for the town, especially for the children, so they passed a by-law against them.

If Lorne hadn’t needed to see a specialist in the City, we might never have known about the talks. He brought a poster back for us all to see, a free event with speakers from all over the world. Big thinkers, big ideas.

Once we saw it, we knew we had to go.

I don’t remember whose idea it was to steal the schoolbus to drive us all to the City, but I know that Jenny drove. She knew how it all worked because her Dad drove the bus every morning before heading to his shop.

There were only 14 people in our high school, we didn’t even fill up a whole row in the auditorium. We drank in each speaker’s words like we had spent our lives in a desert. We chattered excitedly the whole way home. We were going to do things, we were going to make changes.

Jenny got us safely there and most of the way back but about 10 minutes outside of town, we saw Sheriff Rolfman’s car parked across the highway. Since she didn’t think she was going to be able to stop in time, Jenny veered off into the field. The momentum carried us pretty far, and the bus got firmly stuck, but none of us were hurt.

We were all grounded for weeks but that just gave us more time to think.

Leaving the bus in the field was supposed to be an extra punishment, something to drive the lesson further home, but, for us, it was a sign of our triumph and we reveled in it.

__________

Click through to read:
Planting
by Lynn Jatania

__________

Click through to read:
The Magic School Bus
by Gal Podjarny

__________

Untitled
by Mimi Golding

We were parked out in the middle of the field. It was a lark.

We sat there for hours, sitting in the very back, where all the bad kids sat, where you get the highest heights when the bus wheels fell into those deep pot holes and then climbed out again.

The hours passed. Talking to him was so, utterly, ordinary. His speech was like listening to a water fall.

The dew fell on the bus as night time enveloped us.

We told each other our stories well into darkness and stars.

Feel free to write your own piece of flash fiction and add it in the comments, or post it on your own site and link back to it in the comments. If you’d like to join in, leave a comment and I’ll add you to the list of players. There’s no obligation – drop in and out when you can. You can read previous stories here:

The workshop: A photo-story collaboration
The gate: A photo-story collaboration
Perspective: A photo-story collaboration
Patience: A photo-story collaboration
Anticipation: A photo-story collaboration
The Plan: A photo-story collaboration


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We have three players this week in our ongoing photo-story game. Each week, I toss out a photo to a group of players, and whomever has the time and/or inclination sends back a story inspired by the photo.

I find it interesting that these stories have varying vibes of darkness and melancholy, despite the bright sunshine streaming in the window. Is this a melancholy photo to you?

Done
by Christine Hennebury

I have the feeling that I’m done here.

I’m not finished, it’s not complete, but I am done.

Sometimes you have to recognize that you aren’t the one who will finish it. You can do your part, take it so far, and then you leave the tools for someone else.

I thought about putting everything away, leaving it all very tidy, but that seemed a bit too cold, too distant. I wanted to leave somewhere for them to start.

Even if they are just tidying up. By touching the tools, the wood, the bits and pieces of a project in progress, they can feel their way toward the next step.

I wish I could see them learn but that’s not how this works.

We do what we can and then we leave enough for them to find their way, just as we found ours.

It’s not complete but, but somehow, it is whole.

__________

Click through to read:
The Workshop
by Gal Podjarny

__________

Walter
by Mimi Golding

She put the tools down, looking over her progress that she had made.

Time for that Gin and Tonic, she thought, as she picked up the glass of liquid pain relief. Care was needed to craft the intricate design. Thoughts kept drifting, “Would it be good enough?”

“Bah!”, she thought to herself. That self-criticism was Walter talking again. Walter, her so-called black dog of depression that followed her everywhere. Her loyal companion, always shadowing her actions, nipping at her self-confidence.

“Walter, I don’t have time for you today” she said, as she finished off her beverage, turned towards her work and picked up her tools. “Time to crank up the jam!”

Feel free to write your own piece of flash fiction and add it in the comments, or post it on your own site and link back to it in the comments. If you’d like to join our little cabal, leave a comment and I’ll add you to the list of players. There’s no obligation – drop in and out when you can. You can read previous stories here:

The gate: A photo-story collaboration
Perspective: A photo-story collaboration
Patience: A photo-story collaboration
Anticipation: A photo-story collaboration
The Plan: A photo-story collaboration


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Dawna and I have worked together on and off for more than a decade. While I’ve bumped about here, there and everywhere, she’s worked in the same building most of that time. So when she accepted an offer for a new job recently, she asked if I would be interested in a little lunch-hour photo shoot to commemorate her time spent in the lovely Connaught Building in downtown Ottawa. How fun is that?

You know what’s really fun? She was the most wonderful subject. Not only is she seriously adorable and open to just about anything (perhaps it’s for the best that we were denied access some of the rather important places we tried to use as a backdrop on the inside of the building) but she inspired this blog post about five things that make photographers happy.

1. Fantastic locations

Some locations are just naturally gorgeous, and a gorgeous setting helps complement a gorgeous subject. The Connaught Building has lots of beautiful warm brickwork, interesting angles, massive wooden doors and interesting details.

Dawna at Connaught


2. Clients who bring their own ideas and listen to yours

This session was a lot of fun because Dawna had some ideas of her own, but because I worked in that building for years, I had my own ideas too. She shared a few, I had a few, and together they worked out great.

Dawna at Connaught-3


3. A lovely lack of self-consciousness

It was lunch hour on a work day with lots of people around, and Dawna didn’t flinch as I dragged her around the building and said, “Stand here, jump up there, what do you think about climbing on that?” I totally get that it’s the most uncomfortable thing in the world to have the lens staring at you in the first place, let alone with passersby around. Dawna handled it like a pro!

Dawna at Connaught-2

4. Outfits that coincidentally but perfectly complement the setting

I am in love with how her purple jacket pops against the warm tones in the brickwork and those massive doors.

Dawna at Connaught-4

5. A sense of humour

Really, this one should be first. Humour is my primary method of dealing with just about every situation in life, and it’s pure bliss when I can riff off someone else’s sense of humour, too. Photo shoots can be FUN – no, really! I particularly love this shot because this look is pure Dawna.

Dawna at Connaught-5

A sweet friend, a beautiful setting, a hint (okay, quite a bit more than a hint) of sass, and my camera — yup, that just about covers my definition of a perfect day out! Thanks Dawna! Next time we’ll book ahead for that boardroom. 🙂


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Every year on or around the first weekend in April, the Ontario Maple Syrup Producers host an open house. I don’t remember how exactly we heard about Oliver’s Mapleworks in particular, but they met my planning criteria of a fun family day out that would likely be a little less crowded than some of the larger local maple producers like Wheelers and Fulton’s, and within an easy hour’s drive.

Documentary photos of families day in the life by Ottawa photographer Danielle Donders

We had THE BEST time! It was a decent day for a ramble in the countryside, not quite spring warm (so not muddy) but not as windy or unpleasant as it has been the past few weeks. (Sidebar: has anyone seen spring? Please release it to the wild so we can all enjoy it!) We were immediately greeted by a friendly woman who engaged us right away, taking us on a tour of the maple condenser and extractor, and the reverse osmosis unit they use to further concentrate and purify the sap.

Documentary photos of families day in the life by Ottawa photographer Danielle Donders

I think she said they had a couple thousand trees tapped in a sugar bush that has been producing maple syrup since the early 1800s. (You’ll forgive me for any errors in fact or egregious speculation. I wasn’t taking notes!) Most Canadians can tell you that sap becomes syrup by boiling it until most of the water evaporates, but I thought it was pretty cool that they can use a condenser to remove up to 2/3 of the water before the boiling process even begins.

Documentary photos of families day in the life by Ottawa photographer Danielle Donders

The tour itself was fascinating – turns I don’t know half as much about maple syrup production as I thought I did. And it seems like being a maple farmer is a LOT of work – she said on days when the sap is running, they get started around 10 am (when it warms up enough for the sap to start flowing) and often don’t finish until after midnight or later. Oliver’s is definitely a family operation, and our visit felt warm and friendly like a family-run business, too.

After our tour, we sampled maple syrup, maple butter and my favourite, maple sugar. Did you know that they’re all basically the same thing, just with increasing amounts of water removed? And further, we learned that all maple syrup has a sugar content of 67%. The variations in colour from light to dark come from the sap itself and can change based on the time in the season when it’s drawn.

Documentary photos of families day in the life by Ottawa photographer Danielle Donders

After raising our own blood sugar levels to what felt like 67%, and after a delicious lunch of maple sausages with maple mustard on a bun and, I kid you not, maple coffee, we had a fun wagon ride with the owner and proprietor of the farm, Dave Oliver, who further educated and entertained us.

Portraits of your family at play by Ottawa photographer Danielle Donders

But what’s a farm visit without animals? There were miniature ponies, goats, and bunnies to greet.

Portraits of your family at play by Ottawa photographer Danielle Donders

Oh, and did I mention the free range chickens and five day old peeping chicks?

Portraits of your family at play by Ottawa photographer Danielle Donders

This was seriously one of my favourite family outings this year. The Olivers and their employees and helpers were charming and welcoming, and answered my endless questions patiently. (Yes, I am still that curious nine year old with my hand in the air. Some things never change.) There are more than a dozen maple producers open to the public in Lanark County alone, but I’d have a hard time imagining any of them putting on a better family day out than Oliver’s Maple Works. It looks from their website that they’re open for visits but “please contact us by phone or email if you are planning to visit us so that we can make arrangements to greet you.” It’s a drive we’ll definitely make again!

If you go:
Oliver’s Maple Works
158 Lakewood Lane, Perth, Ontario K7H 3C7
Phone: 613-264-8612
Email: tree.mapleworks@gmail.com


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Last week, I introduced a new game that my friend and fellow blogger Christine Hennebury have been playing. I take a picture and send it to her, and she takes it as inspiration for a piece of flash fiction. I love this photo on its own, because it was random and unposed and real, and some day I’ll miss the days when I look up to see a cardboard box running past. Her story makes it that much more perfect, don’t you think?

Photograph of a child running in a cardboard box

Anticipation

I know I probably shouldn’t but I keep ordering them online.

It’s the anticipation that gets me.

First I never know when my shipment will arrive, that depends on the incubation time, I think. Then, you never know when they will hatch. So you end up just watching the top of that cardboard cube like the miracle within will emerge any second.

Of course, if I want to meet the hatchling, I have to follow the instructions to the letter –

1) Remove the packing tape from the box but do not open the flaps.

2) Leave the box in a warm place – sunlight is ideal but near a heater is fine.

3) Drop chocolate and fruit in through the feeding chute every second day – they like oranges and Lindt bars best.

4) Sing or tell stories nearby daily and use a soft voice – that’s so the little one feels connected to you.

5) Leave a plate of chocolate on your kitchen counter – that helps draw the little one out once they’re ready.

Then, I wait and I wonder.

When will they hatch? What adorable ‘grow-with-me’ clothes will they be wearing? What snack will draw them out?

I ache from wanting to open the box early but I know these things have to happen in their own time.

I wait and wait, and sooner or later, I hear that strange snapping sound of the box-top opening and the slap-slap of those bare feet on my wooden floors.

That’s when I run forward, my heart thumping with joy as I watch my hatchling take their first steps toward the kitchen.

It’s just precious, the way they always burst out feet-first and head right for the snacks – their little heads still stuck in their hatching-boxes. It brings tears when I think of it.

Parenting joy is like no other happiness.

If you’d like to read more of Christine’s writing, visit her site. Stay tuned for another new photo and another new story next week!


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Once upon a time there were two bloggers, who were also mamas, and who both liked to tell stories. They found each other in the big wide blogosphere, which was really not so big in the mid-2000s. One blogger felt the pull of words, and she became a writer. One blogger felt the pull of photos, and she became a photographer. Both loved, above all things, to tell stories.

Several years went by, and they each appreciated the other’s craft. And then, one day, like a bolt out of the blue, they realized that there was much fun to be had and maybe some mischief to be found and definitely some stories to be told if they were to come together and collaborate. And here we are!

Welcome to our new project, which needs an appropriately pretentious but as-yet unrevealed title. The game is simple. I supply a photo that holds the potential for a story, and the inimitable Christine creates a piece of flash fiction inspired by the photo. Ready? Let’s begin!

A photography game by Ottawa photographer Danielle Donders

The Plan

Lying in the forest of legs, I tried to look relaxed. I was playing the part of a stuffed animal and I was determined to pull it off.

I mean, I *am* a stuffed animal, so I already have the right look. I just have to pretend that I am just a stuffed animal, that this adorable face hides only a pile of fluff instead of a magnificent brain.

My client wanted the blueprints for their rival’s new office building so she could wire surveillance equipment in during construction. Her attempts to hack into their cloud had been unsuccessful, so a more hands-on method was needed.

Their company retreat at this downtown hotel provided the perfect opportunity. The CEO always brought her husband and daughter on retreats so they could turn them into a family getaway.

The plan was to ‘lose’ me at the retreat so the only kid there, her daughter, would find me and bring me back to their room. Once I was alone, I would grab the jump drive with the blueprints on it, conceal it in my stuffing, and then wait for my opportunity to escape.

It was a flawless plan that hinged on my acting ability. I relaxed every inch of my fur and thought about listening to my client explain the plan again. My eyes glazed over with boredom.

I was ready.

Fun, heh? If you’d like to read more of Christine’s writing, visit her site. Stay tuned for another new photo and another new story next week!


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Photos of the day: Bris for twins!

18 March 2018 Mothership Photography

Taking photographs at family events is always a treat, but for once-in-a-lifetime events, it can be a little stressful, too. This week I was honoured to be asked to document the Brit Milah (Bris) of twin baby boys! I was a little nervous about making sure I got the key elements of the ceremony, but […]

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Photo of the day: Dish pan hands

16 March 2018 Lucas

We had a dishwasher catastrophe this week. I’d just started a cycle when I looked over to see thick, angry black smoke pouring out of the electrical panel on our GE dishwasher. It’s only six or seven years old, but it has been doing a mediocre job on and off for a while anyway, and […]

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Photos of the day: Winter at the Long Island Locks

8 March 2018 Ottawa's hidden treasures

Hi! Remember me? I used to post stuff on this blog. I’m back! If nothing else, sharing photos of my favourite Ottawa places keeps drawing me back to the blog. You know how much I love the Manotick Mill, right? But I almost forget sometimes that Manotick has another gem of a location hiding in […]

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Family traditions documentary photos: Saturday afternoon at the park

7 January 2018 Mothership Photography

You know what’s really awesome about cold January days when the temperature is hovering near minus 40C? You look at your website and realize there are nearly half a dozen terrific photo sessions that you clean forgot to share on the blog! Let’s go back to late October. The air had just started to turn […]

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