Today’s post is of a personal nature – nothing to do with art, images or photography. Well, wait, I think it could be about the art and beauty of friendship though.

18 years ago, I accompanied my two younger brothers to our local SPCA – they had been promised a kitten each to adopt.

While there, I had been kneeling down on the floor and bottom level cage watching and helping them out while they made their decisions. As I stood up, I was greeted by a black paw that caressed my face from a cage on the way up. I looked into the cage and saw a short haired gold eyed cat doing the roll around and look cute dance inside begging me to pick him up.

I recall taking him out of the cage and carrying him around while the decisions and paperwork were being finalized for my brothers two new kittens…and the SPCA employee looked at me when we were ready to leave and said….”so, looks like you are adopting too?”… It didn’t even occur to me, as I was walking around with this cuddly black cat that I was taking him home.  Me, ” Ummm, well, …” (looking blank and a bit confused) my Stepmom: “Oh, I think you are taking him home Ellie, he has chosen you – you can’t put him back in the cage now”… and so it was, I adopted this black 4 month old ball of cuteness who was the runt of the litter…the name on his cage said “Squirt”.

Squirt?? I don’t think so. I renamed him to Max the next day – little did I know what was in store for the two of us.

He quickly became a loyal and protective friend, always underfoot or by my side – like my shadow. We moved together downtown when I finished my schooling at BCIT in 1995 – lived in several places – made many friends. Max was a community cat once we settled in somewhere. In summer he would make his way around to all the neighbours and just walk in and make himself at home when it suited him – not shy in the least, and people loved his charm. He’d do anything for food. I was known as “Max’s Mom” in our neighbourhoods. He brought the most amazing people into my life through his endless wanderings. He used to sit in the middle of the road on the corner of 18th and Tupper and just chill out on hot summer nights….crazy guy – I swear he had double his share of nine lives when my brothers were going through I don’t know how many cats – and Max still hung out by my side. He would wait outside on the driveway or greet me at the top of the stairs every night I came home – without fail.

We adopted Mitzi – a younger female cat from the SPCA when I noticed that Max was slowing down and could do with some company. She and he became really close. I renamed them to M&M.

M&M - A window seat for two

About four years ago his doctor advised me he was in the beginning stages of kidney disease – a condition that is both very common in older male cats and completely manageable if you adhere to proper diet and liquid guidelines for a cat aged 14. I watched his diet like a hawk, did regular check ups and blood tests to make sure he wasn’t slipping faster than he needed to. Last week, I started to notice signs that alarmed me – got him in on Sunday to see the vet for a check up thinking his kidney condition was worsening. His blood test came back with very good results – the kidney issues weren’t the problem. The mass in his intestine was. Adenocarcinoma.

For four years I had tried to prepare myself for the fact that he wasn’t going to live forever, that whatever happened, he’s had an amazing life – we’ve had a great time together. But nothing prepared me for Adenocarcinoma. You might as well have hit me over the head with a 2 x 4. Now, I was given a matter of days to make a decision in being proactive on Max’s behalf. These tumours are aggressive in their growth and the agony they bring.

We rehydrated my little man, and I brought him home to spend our last bit of time together. He ate salmon sashimi till he was ready to burst (the only thing he would eat at this stage), sat on the rooftop and soaked up the sun on Wednesday afternoon, had visits from his good friends, cuddled on the couch while we watched endless DVD’s. Funny things that run through your mind…but it occurred to me the other day while I was wracked with grief, talking to a dear friend, that I was going to be missing an “M” in the M&M duo…Julie quickly reminded me, no, it’s now still M&M but Me ‘n Mitzi rather than Mitzi ‘n Max. You still have the M&M going on…it’s OK.

Yesterday, here at home in his favorite chair, my sister, Mitzi and I let him go peacefully to sleep with his dignity and no pain. He left me and this world the same way he came to me – in my arms.

Today, there is an indescribable emptiness in my heart and in this house – no Max. No Max on the pillow beside me this morning when I woke up, no Max underfoot in the kitchen following my every move, no Max sitting on his favorite perch on the big livingroom chair watching over his household, no Max to greet me at the top of the stairs when I come home, no Max to just keep me company and talk my ear off. No sound of his purr and the wonderful kisses he gave everyday. 18 years. Never had I thought that a pet would be such a wonderful friend and then leave such a large gap on his departure.

While I was in Kenya I learned a few phrases and basic vocabulary in Swahili. My friend David duChemin also taught us that to wish someone a peaceful journey you say Safiri Salama.

Now, I want to wish Max Safiri Salama – may you have a peaceful journey my dearest and faithful friend. I am filled with gratitude for the gift of loyal friendship you brought to my life – all 18 years of it. You rocked my world little buddy.

Max - a final image Thursday, March 24, 2011

A heartfelt thank you to the staff of the Granville Island Veterinary Hospital – Robyn, Kristie Karikios, Dr. Janet Adam, and last but certainly not least Dr. Bill Ignacio – Max’s primary doctor  – for caring for Max all these years.

A very huge thank you to all my friends and family who called, texted, facebooked, and visited around the clock over the last week – your love, words of support and encouragement, and checking in with me meant more than you could ever know. You know who you are.


M&M (Me ‘n Mitzi)


Nouns of Assembly

Another post to share more of my images from Africa.

While photographing wildlife, we were given some fun trivia while out on a game drive with Ryan and David – leaders of our safari trip. We were taught that there are different nouns to describe groups of animals – more accurately described as nouns of assembly. Some we knew, most others we did not….great fun…

A herd of Elephants.
A pride of Lions.
A tower or kaleidoscope of Giraffe.
A colony of Ants.
A troop of Baboons.
A float of Crocodiles.
A cast of Falcons.
A bloat of Hippos.
A leap of Leopards.
A troop of Monkeys.
A crash of Rhinos.
A mustering of Stork.
A zeal or dazzle of Zebra.

A herd of Elephants - morning light in Samburu.

Wildebeests on Crescent Island - Lake Naivasha Region


A float of Crocs - Samburu


A pride of Lions - Masai Mara


Giraffes - Masai Mara


Colony of Pelicans - Crescent Island - Lake Naivasha region.

Stay tuned for more information on an upcoming slide show I will be doing at the Nyala Restaurant in May. It will be an evening of Ethiopian Food and images of Kenya. Details to follow shortly.

Architecture as Art

Recently, I had the opportunity to assist my friend Anna Beaudry on an interior architecture shoot, and then also to participate in a workshop that she taught at the end of February. I have found Anna to be incredibly inspiring on many levels since I met her last year at Image Explorations. While I was studying photography at Langara College we did shoot architecture – on film with a 4 x 5 camera. There are many things to appreciate about learning photography on a 4 x 5 camera, most of those lessons I now appreciate in hindsight. In fact, I am actually grateful for the many things I learned about shooting that way in my first year of that program. At the time, however, there weren’t many in the class that liked or enjoyed that experience, unfortunately. For the majority of us in that class, we ended up frustrated and exasperated – with architecture specifically. Although, I’ve always admired and enjoyed great images of architecture, my schooling experience in that area made me throw up my hands and give up on it completely. Until, I met Anna.

Both Anna’s work and the passion she has for her work had inspired me to re-consider my position. Not to mention the fact that she was shooting it digitally – and not on a 4 x 5 😉 I chose to give architectural photography another go when the curriculum for her workshop had been created. While assisting her on an interior shoot, I discovered the numerous ways one could photograph and express the character of the interior or exterior of a building – which, from my fine art perspective, expresses architecture as art in how one chooses to frame and light those details. I absolutely loved it. I found that another avenue in photography had opened up for me.

Anna’s workshop focused on a variety of topics, incl. how to balance conflicting light sources, correcting converging lines using a D-SLR, design, lighting and composition principals as it relates to architecture, staging an interior, and creating a workflow specifically working with Lightroom. If you ever get a chance to work with Anna in one of her workshops, I highly recommend it!

Here are some select images from the venues we shot over the weekend workshop:

Africa – Light and Landscapes

It’s been a month since I have posted my Homeward Bound entry. My apologies for the silence. It’s been both busy with a few upcoming changes re: this blog and working on a new website simultaneously, and readjusting after being gone most of January. Until the new sites go live I will continue to post here, however it just won’t have the branding I had wanted to create initially. I am estimating another couple to three weeks before it’s all ready to come together.
So, Africa. I reluctantly came home from Kenya – a country that stole my heart and had succeeded in cracking me wide open. I’ve spoken to a few friends, who having travelled there themselves said that Africa changes lives – be prepared. You’re never quite the same afterwards. I understand now what they meant. The 8 days I travelled with the group of photographers on the safari was a whirlwind of incredible sights and experiences, both high and low – and if I’d had a choice, I could have easily stayed on another 2 weeks just travelling the Masai Mara.
Ever since landing back home, I’ve been at a loss as to what to post here regarding the trip. Specifically, where do I even begin? I keep thinking. It’s taken this long for me to process my experience internally. Coming back to the North American culture has been challenging to say the least.
David duChemin wrote specifically about this on his blog the other day, a quote which really resonated with my own experience:
“I’m often asked if I get culture shock when I go away. My stock answer is that I get culture disappointment when I come home. When I get home people stop looking others in the eye and smiling. They stop shaking hands and asking who I am, how I am, and how my family is doing. They stop offering me tea. We’re either too busy chasing the trivial or we just don’t care. One of my guides during the safari workshop said to me: “Westerners all have watches, but we Africans have time”. It’s true. For people who believe time is money, we sure spend it in some strange ways and on things that will not last. There’s a pace in Kenya that I love, that I’m already beginning to miss, knowing I’m back to schedules and itineraries so soon.”

You can click to follow David duChemin’s blog.
I’ve been going through and editing over 3000 images – all the while sharing stories with a few close friends who have seen the initial edits and felt that the best place for me to begin here on this blog was, well, start with the biggest impressions I had from a photography perspective.
One of the things I absolutely loved loved loved while shooting on safari in Africa was the light. Amazing. Sunrises and sunsets left me awestruck on some days. Editing the images afterwards was even more delightful – no filters folks, this is what it is – straight out of the box.
I’ve posted two of my favorite images from morning light and sunset, both were taken on the Masai Mara plains.
Morning Light on the Masai Mara

Sundown on the Masai Mara

More to come re: Africa in the next few days, also, San Antonio and Architecture Workshop with Anna Beaudry.