Going Postal

Postal Delivery (by StarbuckGuy)

It was a bonanza day at the mailbox today. Two different shipments arrived — one from Amazon.ca and one from AbeBooks, my preferred online seller of used books.

The Amazon shipment included more Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett (now Sir Terry Pratchett), including the very funny Going Postal. My set of trade paperbacks is now complete, until TP publishes another. His latest novel, Nation, is one of his rare non-Discworld works.  In my re-reading of Discworld, in the sequence in which they were published, I’ve reached Maskerade.

There’s no single thing that attracts me to Pratchett’s fantasy series — sometimes called ‘comedic fantasy’, which is accurate as far as it goes. It’s zany, similar in spirit if not in style, to Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. It’s often funny in the way Joss Whedon scripts are funny — quick lines and understatements and unexpected juxtapositions.

Pratchett is also amusing, as well as thought provoking, as a social satirist. His thinly disguised sendups of the Gulf War, Christmas, opera, rock music, Shakespearean drama, and Hollywood, among other things, are all part of the fun.

He’s an interesting stylist too. His plot structures resemble a spiral more than anything else, and they’re not always easy to follow. He includes no chapter breaks — the books seemingly ramble about — but they always circle back toward the centre.

I find a great deal of wisdom in his novels. It pops up in the Night Watch books, the witch novels, the novels in which Death is the main character, and especially in the Tiffany Aching stories.

The reason I’ve collected all his novels is that I want to read and re-read them for years, the way I do with David Eddings’s Belgariad and Mallorean series, and the eternally delightful mysteries of Agatha Christie. When I need ‘comfort’ reading, these are the books I reach for.

The DVD of Dr. Horrible’s Singalong Blog is something I’ve bought on faith. I’m not even certain what it is, but it’s by Joss Whedon and it’s had enthusiastic reviews. As I mentioned in my blog entry Things Joss Whedony, I’m addicted to the man’s creative productions.

The book Writing Creative Nonfiction is a followup to a posting on the newly-launched Creative NonFiction Writing Forums. It sounded interesting and instructive, and it wasn’t very expensive, so I simply indulged.

Le Petit Larousse Illustré, 1982 ed., is a used book I sought out after a conversation in Starbucks with a man who was reading Nietzsche in French translation. I posted on this on the Creative NonFiction Writing Forums:

While sitting in Starbucks this morning [January 18, 2009], working on my current blog entry and browsing some of my favourite forums, I was joined across the table by an older gentleman (about my age) I’ve seen in Starbucks previously.

As I finished up my work and was putting away my netbook, I happened to look at the book he was reading. It was a book by Nietzsche, in French (I didn’t quite catch the title). My curiosity overcame me and I asked him why he was reading Nietzsche in a French translation. His simple answer: he liked reading French.

I asked him how he’d got so good at reading French (he was clearly not a native French speaker). I don’t know what I expected — that he’d been assigned to the French Embassy at some time in his career, that he had a bohemian period in Paris, that he’d been a member of the Foreign Legion.

No, he just liked reading French. He told me he’d taken French in school but had forgotten most of it, but one day he picked up a book in French and decided to read it. At first, he said, he had to use a dictionary for almost every other word. But now he scarcely uses a dictionary at all.

The breakthrough, he told me, came when he got rid of his French-English dictionary and started using Le Petit Larousse, a French-only dictionary. He said the French definitions were very clear, and that the dictionary also provided synonyms and antonyms.

Interesting. My ability to read French was never particularly good, but it even that has atrophied through disuse. Worse, I even live in a bilingual English-French country (though I rarely encounter French other than on my cereal boxes).

It’s making me think perhaps I should get a Le Petit Larousse if I can find a used one, and try some Camus again. I always loved Camus as a stylist.

I sincerely admire people who do things like read French simply because they like it, and elect to read their Nietzsche in French. Kudos!

I once owned a version of this fine dictionary when I was studying French at university, and the conversation brought back memories of my enjoyment of it. It may be an undertaking like yet another started and failed diet, but I truly want to try to re-learn how to read French. I’ve always liked French, though I have a tin ear for learning languages. I’m going to try, or put another way, je l’essai (which I’m certain is terrible French).

Besides, it’s a beautiful book.

Le Petit Larousse Illustre 1982 (by StarbuckGuy)

Day of Change

Obama 2008 (by StarbuckGuy)

I had a different entry ready to post today, but after watching the inauguration of US President Barak Obama, I thought it more appropriate to acknowledge this fundamental change in American politics.

I have little to add to the extensive media commentary about today’s event other than I thought his speech was feisty and deep felt.

Two things in his speech struck a deep chord in me:

  •  “We will restore science to its rightful place.”
  • … in speaking of faiths he included a wholesome reference to “nonbelievers”

I don’t know how realistic it is to expect major changes, but he has brought hope, and that’s a major change after the Bush era.

MP3 and Me

Good Things (by StarbuckGuy)

Although MP3’s are a small part of the computing spectrum of things that have changed my life, they’ve had a strong impact. I love ’em and use ’em. My iPod (child of MP3) is full of them, representing the things I listen to regularly: music, audiobooks, and podcasts.

To fully appreciate MP3’s I only have to think back to the late 50’s and early 60’s. Transistor radios were in the early stages of becoming a consumer product, thanks to the US space program and the subsequent development of solid-state technology.

1959 and my beloved Chicago White Sox were in the World Series. Back then they played ballgames during the day which, unfortunately, also corresponded with being at school. I was in grade 9 in Lyndon, Illinois, and one of kids in my class had a new, white transistor radio with an earphone stuck in one ear.

Periodically he would call out the score. That he was rooting for the recently-moved LA Dodgers made it worse as my Sox slowly went down to defeat. He was the rich kid in the class and I wanted to sock his smug face.

That year, the new high-fidelity sound systems, dubbed hi-fi, were beginning to expand into stereophonic recordings. The music aficionados, with their Heathkit amps and preamps and AR-3 speaker (singular) considered ‘stereo’ a fad, an unnecessary complication, and a detriment to the hi-fi sound.

By the time I went to university, four years later, stereo had supplanted mono completely. Four years after that, I acquired my first stereo system — a Lafayette receiver, turntable, and speakers. It was low end, but it was all I could afford on a student budget.

But try as I might, I never liked LP’s. They were fussy to keep clean and after very few plays they got scratchy. The big dust jackets had great artwork and I loved the liner notes, but the medium itself never appealed to me.

In the 70’s I upgraded to some nice Marantz stereo gear with a good turntable and a quality Shure cartridge, but I still didn’t like LP’s. In the 80’s when relatively high-quality cassette tapes appeared, I moved to tape and with the aid of a higher-end Sony tape player, got reasonable sound from them. But tape, while convenient, always sounded a bit muffled, even when played with all the Dolby enhancements.

I was slow to embrace CD’s in the early 90’s until I discovered that Vanguard and Elektra were issuing material from the 60’s folk era. I really liked 60’s folk and soon started accumulating CD’s.

I loved CD’s. I know audiophiles gripe about them, but to my non-audiophile ears they sounded clean and they were really convenient. Except for storage. Those damned plastic cases were thick and slippery. Environmentally unfriendly too, as we later came to appreciate. But if you took reasonable care of them, they didn’t get scratchy and lose their freshness.

Because I was a writer about things computerish during the 80’s and 90’s I watched the development of digital video and audio formats with interest. The advent of the DVD was terrific. Great quality video and sound, plus convenience that blew away VHS tapes.

But the dark horse in the mix was the lowly MP3 music format. Despised by audiophiles, they sparked a raging prairie fire of popularity, and all kinds of rippers appeared to convert CD’s into MP3 recordings, and players for the desktop computer became a hot item.

Portable players began to appear — some, like the high-end models from Creative Labs, had hard disks that could hold your entire music library. Soon that previous darling of the masses, the Sony Walkman, faded into technological extinction.

Apple both capitalized on the MP3 and boosted it into the stratosphere when it introduced the iPod and iTunes. Cracking through the reserve of the music industry, they offered music singles for 99 cents. And it became easy to sync podcasts with your iPod,  creating growing audience support for podcasting.

The rest, as they say, is history. History that is still unfolding. Recently there have been changes in the pricing structure of music from the iTunes store, and DRM (Digital Rights Management) has been removed. Amazon.com, and other online stores, also sell MP3’s online.

This morning, before leaving the house for my daily walk, I slid a CD-R of MP3 jazz albums into my Bose Wave. The CD-R plays for hours. I’ve put my entire MP3 collection on my netbook so I can listen to anything that grabs my fancy wherever I am.

My little iPod — a 4GB Nano — slips in my back pocket and I listen to podcasts while I’m cooking or cleaning around the house. The MP3 has changed how I listen to audio — all for the better.

Yet I can’t help but note the similarity of my little Nano to the tiny transistor radio my classmate sported in 1959. Gadgets may change, but the love of gadgets endures.

Creative Nonfiction Writing Forums

Creative NonFiction Writing Forums (by StarbuckGuy)

Please allow us to welcome you to the Creative Nonfiction Writing Forums at personalessays.org. This is a site for anyone interested in writing nonfiction. We welcome novices to pros, and all age groups, from seniors to students (at any level) who like to write.

‘We’ are me, Gene Wilburn, and co-host Steve Brannon, who delighted me by agreeing to help me moderate and administer the site. You may already know Steve as the congenial host of the forum The Way We Write, on Yahoo Groups.

Creative Nonfiction is described in a Wikipedia entry as

a genre of writing which uses literary styles and techniques to create factually accurate narratives. Creative nonfiction contrasts with other nonfiction, such as technical writing or journalism, which is also rooted in accurate fact, but is not primarily written in service to its craft … Forms within this genre include personal essays, memoir, travel writing, food writing, biography, literary journalism, and other hybridized essays.

Creative nonfiction is writing that contains elements of fiction and poetry: interesting metaphors, poetic language, dialog, tension, story telling, feelings, mood, a sense of place, a sense of wonder, surprise.

As I posted in a previous entry, I’ve wanted to create this site for some time, but health issues prevented me from committing to it. Now that I’m feeling better and more energetic, I’m ready. The feedback I received in response to my query about setting up the forum, both here and on some Flickr writing groups, convinced me it wouldn’t be wasted effort. My thanks to everyone who replied.

From this point on, the forums belong to you. They’re what we, as a writing community, make of them. I feel privileged to be a part of it.

So, please drop by if the idea of writing has ever appealed to you. And, in the now famous words of Mur Lafferty, “I should be writing. And so should you”

Panasonic Lumix LX3

Panasonic Lumix LX3 (by StarbuckGuy)

My Christmas present to myself (with Marion’s blessing) was a Panasonic Lumix LX3 digicam. Because I’ve been asked about it more than any other camera I own, I wanted to provide a short overview of the camera here, along with the reasons I bought it.

DPReview has published an in-depth review of the LX3 that details the camera’s specs and evaluates the camera in the context of today’s market.  They say in their conclusion:

The LX3 is an example of a species so endangered that the we were beginning to worry it had become extinct – a compact camera that photographers can get excited about. Panasonic has included a large degree of direct control, classy styling and, more importantly, a specification that goes beyond the unthinking ‘larger screen and more megapixels’ trend.

The camera receives their coveted “Highly Recommended” rating.

The things they praise about the camera are its exceptionally bright F2.0-2.8 lens, and its very wide angle equivalent: 24mm. They also highlight some of the camera’s shortcomings. It only zooms out to 60mm, which is far too little for many photographers. The camera is also tiny, making it a little tricky to manage the controls if you have large hands. And because it’s a small-sensor camera, it can’t rival the image quality of a good DSLR. Nonetheless, I’ve found the ‘noise’ or ‘grain’ quite acceptable all the way to iso800, and iso1600 in a pinch.

Given that I already own a much-loved Canon G9 that I consider my main walkabout camera, why did I add the LX3? That’s easy: for the wide angle! I enjoy wide-angle photography but don’t have anything in digital that’s really wide enough to grab my fancy. When I’m shooting film I like using my Bessa R3A with 21mm and 15mm lenses, but I then lose the convenience of digital. Ironically, the entire LX3 costs less than a good wide-angle lens for my Nikon DSLR.

For that reason, the LX3 is a specialty camera for me. I sometimes carry it by itself, but more frequently I carry it in addition to the G9. Heck they’re both small and light, so it’s easy to do.

The LX3 does more than provide a wonderfully fast F/2.0, 24mm lens equivalent, and image quality that is remarkably fine-grained. It also features a 16:9 cinematic aspect ratio that makes the wide-angleness even more pronounced. I like this aspect ratio so much I leave it on as my default.

The camera is smaller than it looks in the photo I’ve posted. That’s because I’ve added two accessories to it: an external 25mm viewfinder on the top, and a lens adapter on the front. The viewfinder is left over from when I owned a 25mm lens and it’s handy for shooting with the LX3 quickly, or when sunlight makes the LCD panel difficult to see.

The lens adapter (which I bought from a eBay seller fotobestbuy in Hong Kong), lets me attach 52mm filters and accessories — the size I already own for my Nikons. On bad-weather days I attach a UV filter to protect the front lens element from rain or snow. I also have a Raynox .66 wide-angle adapter that takes the LX3 to a 16mm wide-angle equivalent, albeit with considerable distortion and softness at the edges.

The final reason for its purchase is harder to justify, but may be the bottom line: it’s fun. I have difficulty resisting gadgets. When it comes to cool technologies, I’m a trout — every lure looks enticing and delicious.

Things Joss Whedony

Buffyverse (by StarbuckGuy)

It’s a fine line between dependency and addiction. If it’s something you need to keep you going, it’s a dependency. If you also crave it, it’s an addiction.

I’m trying to decide if things Joss Whedony are crack for my brain. A mere year ago I didn’t even know who Joss Whedon was. Now I may have developed an ‘addictioncy’ for his pop-culture productions.

It all started with Buffy — Buffy the Vampire Slayer — written and directed by Joss Whedon. My son’s girlfriend Kirsten and I share many tastes in reading material, and several times when we were discussing some of our mutual faves, such as Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels, she’d make references to some parallel in Buffy.

I’d thought Buffy was some kind of air-headed teenage TV program and wondered why she kept mentioning it so often, so I asked her more about it. Little did I know there was an entire Internet infrastructure surrounding the Buffyverse — plot summaries, discussion groups, interviews, fan fiction, and academic writings.

She made me curious, but because I’m not naturally drawn to television programming I wanted to test the waters before investing in a Buffy DVD, so I checked out Season One of Buffy from the public library. Marion and I watched two or three episodes and were instantly hooked. I ordered the box set — the complete seven seasons on DVD — and we watched the 40 DVD’s  in less than thirty days.

A few days ago, we finished watching through the series a third time. We’re also reading a book of essays by science fiction and fantasy writers called Seven Seasons of Buffy.

I’ve never seen television programming like this. Funny with snappy lines often undercutting serious scenes, mythic journeys, the pain of love and loss, and strong acting from the entire cast. The series is a modern-day epic tale. Buffy is a tremendously strong, vulnerable, completely-modern character — saving the world from apocalypses but all the while wishing she could instead be dating and shopping like any ‘normal’ young woman. Who could not fall under the spell of Willow and Tara, or love the attitude of Spike? Even the villains are wonderful: the Mayor, Glory, Caleb.

Buffy leads to Angel, and soon I had acquired the five-season set of Angel on DVD. I’m not as fond of David Boreanaz as I am of the other actors in the Buffyverse, but the Angel series has a strong supporting cast.

Angel leads to Firefly and the followup movie, Serenity. Another excellent brainchild of Joss Whedon with a strong cast and great acting. I must thank my friend Peter for lending me his DVD’s.

Firefly leads to Dollhouse. I’m eagerly awaiting its debut on FOX, on Friday, February 13th. Starring Eliza Dushku (who stole many scenes in Buffy in the character of Faith, the sexy, wild and dangerous renegade Slayer),  I’m expecting another Joss Whedon mindbending, thoughtful, action-filled series.

Crack, I think. Probably a hopeless addiction.

P.S. As Matt pointed out in a comment, I didn’t include Whedon’s latest: Dr. Horrible. I’m not even quite certain what it is, having missed it while it was being released on the Internet, but I know there’s a DVD available for it: Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. I’m looking forward to catching up to this one.


Waiting for Godot (by StarbuckGuy)

It’s “Mysteries of the Mind Week” on TVO (TVOntario — the province’s educational television station). I’ve been interested in brain science and neurology for a couple of years, reading books and articles on the subject, watching TV specials when they appear, and following the excellent Brain Science Podcast, an impressive series of interviews with brain scientists and related book discussions by host Dr. Ginger Campbell.

Every evening, TVO is presenting two to three hours of programming devoted to the brain. The specials have been weak — mainly BBC-produced documentaries focusing on individuals whose brains are failing to alzheimers or dementia, and on other unusual types of individuals, such as an autistic artist with amazing abilities to accurately recreate cityscapes he’s seen once. One of the specials is a time series on precocious children who have “genius” level IQ scores, following them through their development. It was easily the most interesting of the specials.

The problem with the specials is that there was very little science in them. As human interest stories they are interesting, but I was hoping to learn new things this week and I don’t get much from the features.

In contrast, TVO’s daily topic show, The Agenda with Steve Paiken, delivered. A varying group of panelist covered many topics and issues, providing current understandings of brain science based on their research, clinical experience, and in the scientific literature.

Last night’s topics included debate on whether or not the bombardment of media, including things like iPods, Facebook, instant messaging, cell-phone texting, and video games, has produced a generation of young people who are fundamentally different from previous generations. Does this activity create a different neuronal structure in the brain itself?

Of course no solid conclusions could be reached, but all the panelists, most of whom were neuroscientists, agreed that it was highly likely. The discussion then proceeded along the lines of “is this affecting their ability to concentrate and succeed in the world and the workforce, or does it leave them fragmented?”

The most interesting panelists in this part of the discussion were science fiction writer Robert J. Sawyer, and media consultant Don Tapscott, whose newest book is Grown Up Digital — a followup to his earlier Growing Up Digital.

Rob made the salient point that humans evolved on the African Savannah where multitasking was essential to survival. While searching for food, or hunting, you also had to be alert to sounds and motions, such as poisonous snakes, hunting eagles, and lions, all of whom may be hunting you. His thesis is that humans evolved to be multitasking, and that the past fifty years or so, with people glued to the boob tube, have been an aberration rather than the norm.

Don Tapscott recently funded a study that indicated that young people who have grown up in a multitasking, wired environment, are succeeding very well indeed, and that the activities they engage in occur in place of the TV time that absorbed earlier generations.

All the panelists agreed that there is no such thing as multitasking per se, but that what young people do is very rapid task switching. And that they are much better at it than older generations.

It was a fascinating discussion, and may help me to understand the rivetting attraction of texting I see in many of the younger folk I know. Perhaps I will eventually even get Twitter.

Thoughts on a Cold Winter Day

Cold Weather Day (by StarbuckGuy)

Just as Canadian summer has its hot spells, winter has its cold periods when the temperature tanks and we’re reminded that much of our country lies north of the Arctic Circle. When Arctic winter seeps down to the southern border where most of us live, cuddling so close to the US we can hear Americans snore at night, we’re reminded once again that we’re a northern people.

Starting last night and forecast to last for several days, the temperatures have dropped to -21C (-6F) at night to highs of -11C (12F) during the day. The brutal wind chill factor will dip to -30C (-22F) at its worst.

Such temperatures bring hazards. Street people in the city have to be moved to shelters. Elderly folk, and people with heart conditions, are advised to stay indoors. Those who are inclined to go outdoors are advised to dress appropriately, with many layers of warm clothing, good winter outer gear, and scarves and hats to protect the ears, nose, and mouth.

It’s enough to depress some people and encourage others to take those Carribbean cruises or travel packages to Florida.

And yet … cold spells excite me. If the wind isn’t strong, I try to get outdoors. The kid in me wants to experience the weather; the photographer in me wants to take photos.

As a heart patient, I have to be extra careful, so I dutifully bundle up in warm layers, including long underwear, and don my warmest winter overcoat with parka hood. I make certain my cell phone is charged, in case of emergency. And I keep my goal modest: a walk to Starbucks, then home again, with a lengthy warm-up period in between.

Fortune favoured me today. I suspected it had when I was able to solve two medium sudoku puzzles in the time it took me to eat breakfast. The portents were good. More to the point, the air was still. When there’s no wind, the prospect of a walk during an Arctic chill is much pleasanter. After listening to a couple of podcasts while my breakfast settled in, I donned my gear and started out.

The best walking conditions occur when it turns Arctic right after a fresh, dry snowfall and the soft snow crunches and crinkles underfoot. Unfortunately what preceded this cold front was a warmer front that raised temperatures to the freezing point, which meant a lot of melt occurred. This turned to ice overnight.

While ice is good for skating, it’s miserable stuff when it’s glazed the sidewalks. The walk to Starbucks, which takes me about fifteen minutes on good sidewalks, took a bit over twenty minutes today because I had to negotiate slowly around slippery spots most of the way.

Nonetheless, the walk was fun. My outbreath froze into my moustache, my fingers went cold and numb (note to self — get better gloves), and my toes got too cold to continue sending complaints to my brain, but the walk was bracing. I even managed a few photos, clumsily using my Lumix LX3 with gloves on.

When I returned home, I gave myself some time to warm up, then enjoyed some leftover homemade split-pea soup. Quelle habitant! Later I’ll resume work on setting up the creative nonfiction writers forums, then turn to Terry Pratchett for more Discworld adventures.

To survive in a cold climate, it’s good to have an active inner life.

Understanding Netbooks

Marion & Sibyl (by StarbuckGuy)

Sibyl, my Acer Aspire One netbook, is one of the niftiest bits of technology I’ve acquired in some time, and I’m good at acquiring technologies.

But, lately, Marion has been casting her eye at Sibyl, which has kinda worried me. The last time she did something like that, my Canon SD700 IS digicam disappeared into her purse, permanently. With a trip to Salt Lake City coming up to do some serious genealogical research, she’s been commenting on how a small, light computer like that might make an ideal travel companion.

Bracing myself for the worst, I help her load her genealogy software and data so she can try it out.  ‘Only for a week,’ she promises. Not counting her using it until March to get it down pat.

Today we go to Starbucks together so she can take Sibyl for a test drive. I show her how to log in to the Bell Hotspot to get online, then resign myself to the thought that this could be the last I see Sibyl. I take out my AlphaSmart Neo to write on. I’ve always liked the Neo and its outstanding keyboard, but today it looks so last century.

I don’t get very far into my writing before the comments start flying from across the table. “My Windows isn’t working right!” I look and don’t see anything wrong. “The file won’t open.” I watch and notice her touch on the keypad isn’t quite right, so I suggest she use the button to the left of the touchpad.

Soon it’s ‘This stupid machine won’t let me drag this window over to this side of the screen!’ I watch again and suggest she hold down the left button while moving the window. The window slides around like an elastic band, then snaps back to where it started. Marion responds, “Shit!”

Marion’s normally very calm but within the hour she’s convinced the machine is out to get her. I’m careful not to say something stupid, like ‘Sibyl’s my girl you know.’ The muttering continues and the tension mounts. I’m unable to write a word with all the distractions.

I suggest she give up on trying to use the touchpad and bring a mouse with her next time. That doesn’t mollify her at all. It makes her even more determined not to be intimidated by a mere netbook.

It doesn’t work out. After more trying, and much muttering, Marion concludes that even if she could use the ‘stupid touchpad’, the data on the screen is too small to read and that she can’t get enough data open to do her research.

Genealogy, unlike essay writing, is a multi-app, multi-windowed kind of activity. If you were doing it manually you’d be sitting at a table with books, papers, documents, pens and pencils, and other related stuff spread all over a big study table and you’d be sifting back and forth looking for clues and evidence. You have to recreate this environment on a computer.

Eventually Marion decides that Sibyl is not for her. A netbook is great for casual surfing, doing some email, or working in an editor or word processor while listening to some MP3’s, but it was not designed for heavy lifting. The weight and size are attractive for carrying around, but it’s more than a literal lightweight. It doesn’t have enough screen real estate, or CPU and RAM oomph, for intensive apps. I’d dread the thought of editing photos on a netbook.

Leaving Starbucks, starting our walk home, we look at each other and say at the same time, ‘Want to go to The Harp?’ Smiling, and relieved, we walk down the street and have a lovely pub lunch.

For the Love of Light

For the Love of Light (by StarbuckGuy)

Photography means different things to different people — historical records of events, places, family; artistic explorations of line, form, texture, colour, composition; something you do when you’re on a vacation trip — but for anyone who becomes sufficiently smitten by photography, it means one thing above all else: light.

The word photography itself is built from the Greek root words photo (light) + graphien (write), i.e., “painting with light”. Everything photographic is a recording of light and its absence. Strong light, weak light, dim light, harsh light, soft light, warm light, cold light, moon light. From light comes colour, shade, texture, form, and contrast — everything we see. Cameras see and record light differently to the human eye. Every photograph is an adventure in light.

Photographers, like other artists, appreciate the qualities of light, which is why the seasons and times of day are key to our interests We learn which kinds of light are worth chasing, and which are not worth getting out of bed for. We explore natural light and artificial light, or purposely cast light on our subjects.

All of which explains why I got up in time for the sunrise yesterday, dashing to the harbour for the break of dawn. It’s special light — sometimes soft, sometimes harsh, usually warm, but always different, every time you see it.

As I reached the harbour yesterday I felt I had the world to myself. The fresh snow discouraged most of the runners and dog owners I see early in the day. When I reached the pier, just at sunrise, I spotted another photographer set up with a tripod, concentrating on the light. The sight warmed me.

I don’t know who the photographer was, and I certainly didn’t walk over to disturb him. There are moments you should have to yourself. Instead I circled behind him, completing my preliminary walk, then heading to Starbucks for a hot cup of coffee.

Two photographers up with the dawn, each celebrating the morning light, enjoying that special moment when the sun suddenly rises from the horizon.

The love of light.