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Alanna Foell

Friday, September 16, 2011

Yesterday I did a photo shoot with Alanna Foell at an abandoned candy factory in London, Ontario.


17-55mm, 1/50 second, f/2.8, ISO 1600

I met Alanna, a great photographer in her own right, through my friend and former podcast co-host Ren Bostelaar. I soon found out that Alanna and I grew up on farms that were basically a stone's throw from each other in southwestern Ontario! Yes, that's a tattoo of the world on Alanna's left arm.


17-55mm, 1/40 seconds, f/2.8, ISO 500

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Ten Years Gone: Reflections on 9/11

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Here we are, ten years after that fateful September day when the World Trade Center and Pentagon were attacked by terrorists hijacking commercial planes. Like millions have done today, I took time to think about the events of 9/11 and where I was (both physically and figuratively) in my own life. I also thought about how a significant date becomes a marker in time for annual reflection.

On September 11, 2001, I was working as a Web Developer at my first technology job, an eLearning start-up. My morning routine consisted of arriving at work shortly after 9:00am, reading a bit of news, grabbing an almond vanilla coffee, then doing research or web programming until lunch. The first website I would launch was Slashdot. I typed their URL into Mozilla (yes, I was an early adopter of their fledgling browser) and waited for the website to load. Sensing something was wrong with our servers (given Slashdot's established uptime reliability), I asked a co-worker if our company Internet connection was having issues. He said a plane or missle had hit the World Trade Center and rumours of it being a terrorist attack was causing extreme Internet congestion. Slashdot eventually loaded with some brief snippets of news about the attacks. Google's home page was the only other online source for small tidbits of news. Every other major website was down.

For the previous five years, the eleventh day of September had a different meaning for me than most people. My Mom died on September 11, 1995 after a short battle with cancer. For the next five years, I would wake up on that date with thoughts of her heavy on my mind. I would lose concentration throughout the day reflecting on my life with her in it and the gaping wound her absence had created.

But now, the bastards had stolen the date from me.

The bastards stole it from thousands that day. They created grief and loss where it didn't have to exist. Family members were lost in the attacks when they should have come home that night. Kids needlessly lost their parents. As David Letterman put it (during his first Late Show episode after the attacks): "if you live to be a thousand years old, will that make any goddamned sense?"

There was no stopping the cancer that took my Mom from us. It was heartless, savage and unrelenting. It proceeded with one goal in mind - to destroy life. When medicine gave up, my Dad stepped in and did everything he could to stop the cancer. There were a few successes, but eventually she lost the battle and we were left to pick up the pieces.

The people that suffered during (and after) 9/11 shouldn't have had to endure the same sense of loss and tragedy as myself and my family.

Humanity is capable of such amazing things. In 2008, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter was directed to photograph the Phoenix Lander during its descent onto to the Martian surface. This is what we're really capable of accomplishing.


Creative Options in Waterloo, my location during the 9/11 attacks. I returned here today to grab a photo.
10-22mm, handheld HDR, f/8.0, ISO 100

Road Trip Reprise

Monday, September 5, 2011

Slightly more than two weeks have passed since I returned from my 35 day road trip across Canada and the United States.  I haven't written about the trip or discussed it very much because I wanted/needed some time to digest my experiences before describing them to the world.

Despite my above statement, I did a guest appearance discussing the road trip on the most recent episode (#27: The Road is My Home) of Attention Surplus, a podcast by Eric Portelance and Sean Howard (produced by Eli McIlveen). I requested a month's time before appearing, but they convinced me to be on the show only five days after my return! When listening back to the episode, I hear myself prematurely processing my experiences and giving (what I believe are) incomplete answers to Sean and Eric's questions. We discussed a few key elements of the trip, but many things that I feel were milestones were missed because I wasn't ready to verbalize them. However, I've read and received good feedback about the episode, so I suppose it's best to view it as a preview of what's to come.

Over the course of the next couple of months, I'm going to dig into the heart of the trip; why it happened, how it happened and what it all means. I'll provide a ring side seat into my experiences with the people I met, the places I saw and how it all connects (us) together.

Besides the obvious photography I did on the road trip, I also shot countless segments of video with my DSLR and iPhone 4. I'm hoping to stitch these video clips together to reveal some fun and interesting moments on the trip.

Strap yourselves in, we're going for a ride!


A small sampling of locations I visited.

Christina Laing

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Christina Laing is a fellow urban explorer from Buffalo. She has an incredible portfolio of urban exploration photos covering some of the best abandoned buildings in the Buffalo area. In fact, I can't think of another photographer that loves capturing images of Buffalo more than Christina!

A few days ago, I was fortunate to be able to turn the lens back on her during a photo shoot in Lackawanna's abandoned Bethlehem Steel North Office. Her stunning eyes remind me of the infamous Afgan Girl photo that was on the cover of National Geographic in 1984.  


Christina Laing in the Bethlehem Steel North Office

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Dixie Square Mall

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

In recent years, there has been a lot of news coming out of Harvey, Illinois about the infamous Dixie Square Mall. The mall, only open from 1966 until 1978, was made famous in the Blues Brothers movie as the backdrop for a car chase scene.

Leading up to the filming of that scene, Dixie Square Mall had been in steady decline. The mall opened to great fanfare and 64 stores, including a Woolworth, Walgreens, Montgomery Ward and JCPenny, in November 1966. By the mid-1970s, crime and poverty in Harvey had a residual effect; the mall was down to 20 stores. The mall underwent renovations in 1976 to try and bring back shoppers, but these efforts failed to be effective.

After the movie sequences were filmed (in the summer of 1979), the mall was completely abandoned and fell into heavy disrepair.


10mm, 1/25 second, f/8.0, ISO 100, HDR

By the early 1990s, Dixie Square Mall began to look more and more like the above photo. I shot this photo on day 34 of my road trip across Canada and the United States.

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