On Saturday, we got 6 inches of snow and on Sunday I went out and shot pictures, especially of West Park. I really like shooting snow landscapes.
I also began shooting in Manual. (Not sure why or what prompted me, but I turned the dial to M and have left there.) Walking to the park, I was hoping for the sun, but it never came out. Pittsburgh in December is colorless. It reminds me of Narragansett all those years ago when there was no let up from the grey Atlantic, and the grey skies. Even Christmas Eve in the monastery chapel with its songs, candles, liturgy and friends was bleak.
This year Christmas is on a Friday and for the first time since we opened City High, I decided to stay in town for a couple of days and head out for northern Ontario closer to Christmas day. (It also happened that neither of my cousins were available for our pre-Christmas get-together.) This change has meant that I’ve been home the last four days.
I’ve been unhappy that I haven’t been out doing more shooting, especially when I was driving into work and the morning sun bathed the rivers, so once home for vacation, I’ve gone out every day. Yesterday I did some follow-up shooting and began to notice the many doors decorated for Christmas so I turned the camera and photographed them. I found a great shot that ended up as the main image on the website. That shot suggested that I change the focus of the next gallery and make it all doors.
The shot is of two doors side-by-side with a wreath on each. It’s my kind of shot, a composition that is dark but unusual in its recognizable and mismatched ornamentation. I was amazed to get home and find this image. (I don’t know if all photographers have that wow experience when they see an image that they shot, that surprises them.) I don’t know what I like best, so I’ll list my wows – the red ribbon on the dark-blue door, the white ribbon on the wooden door, the placement of the two ribbons – one in the bottom right, the other on the top middle, the house number on the left door, the white trim on the wooden door.
The other unusual thing is that I have no decorations in my house. I wonder if I’m compensating.
I headed out for the trip to northern Ontario on Wednesday with the goal of getting there Christmas Eve. (I do the trip in two shifts – Pittsburgh, Detroit/Detroit, Sault Ste Marie.) And the roads were great except once I crossed the Mackinaw, a bridge that I hate driving on, miserable winter hit and for the next 30 miles I was driving through snow blizzards and on snow-covered roads.
Once I got to my parents, the skies were grey and depressing, but I did go out and began to shoot.
The pine tree is the first thing I wanted to shoot. It sits in my parents’ neighbors’ front yard, but it dominated both their house and my parents’. I remember it as a two floor dwarf and thinking it would never grow to anything worthwhile.
I also shot it, because in the background, on the right is the building where the Pahls lived. (This is where Rainer, Gabriele and their parents lived. Mr. Pahl worked at the Tube Mill and he liked being close to his job.) I have fond memories of visiting them in the second floor apartment. The two windows on the second floor were the kitchen.
Sault Ste Marie in the winter, covered in Christmas snow is pretty, deceptively pretty. In the white wonderland it’s easy to forget the isolation and remoteness of this northern Ontario own at the confluence of Lake Superior, Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.
The street where my parents still live and where the Pahls lived still has many of the same families that were there 40 years ago. However, the Pahls are gone, Rainer and Gabriele live in Harrow, I live in Pittsburgh and the Tube Mill has been taken over by a multinational – Tenaris.
Christmas Eve is always at my aunt and uncle’s. The list included – Ciccio, Mafalda, (parents) Gina, Emilio, (aunt and uncle) Teresina, (uncle’s step mother) Rose, Derrick (cousins) and myself. Connie (my sister) was in Toronto and Mary, Domenic (cousins) and the kids are at Dom’s mother’s. I decided to take the camera and the audio recorded this year.
Rose and I had talked back in August, in Pellaro about getting the old stories from everyone and I promised to do that at Christmas. I’ll create a page in the People section of the webpage and add the recording from Christmas Eve. It was interesting to find out that back in Italy, in 1957, Mafalda had exchanged letters with Teresina hoping to meet up on the boat in Naples. Teresina was leaving Martirano and heading to Sault Ste Marie the same time the Zinga family was leaving Aprigliano and heading to northern Ontario.
The pic is my uncle – Emilio – and Mafalda is in the background doing dishes. Christmas Eve is one of my favorite meals. It’s still the ethnic meal of my childhood with pasta and sardines, rapini, curdurilli e sarde, and baccala. Other dished have been added to these staples, but I don’t eat them. The most notable change is the addition of other fish besides the cod. I hate cod and if I have to eat fish, I’ll try the others. Many people ask me about the Christmas Eve meal and the 7 dishes of fish. My answer is that the seven fish meal is a sea-town tradition. In the mountain-top towns, the only fish we would eat on Christmas Eve was cod and that’s because it was the cheapest fish to buy. But the cod prepared in at least three different ways – sauted in red sauce, sauted in a white sauce and baked. I hated it all.
In the pic, Emilio is dishing out the fennel. The main meal is over and we’re on the dessert. And yes, fennel is one of the dessert items; maybe even my favorite.
Christmas day I went to pick up Christian at the airport and on the way I had time to shoot in Prince Township.
The Township is a vast lake-plain bordered by low, red-rock mountains. The mountains are part of the Canadian Shield – a broad region of Precambrian rock that encircles Hudson Bay and extends to the Great Lakes. It’s always been one of my favorite areas to shoot. Friday was an overcast, dreary day. The image on the right is one of the most Photoshopped pics I’ve ever created.
I went shooting, because the plane was supposed to be late, but in the middle of my shoot I start getting text messages that the plane had landed followed by, “where r u? i’m waiting.”
The pic is of a house at the base of the mountain chain. The property is vast and there are 8 garage spaces.
After dinner on Friday, I started taking people pictures. (I hate doing it, but I’m forcing myself and each time I learn something.) Many of the pics were not well lit, and it took me a while to find the best shutter speed and aperture measure. And when I did get my settings figured out, I began to shoot the women in the family.
Following a matrilineal path, these are the Savaia women – descendants of Maria Savaia my grandmother. Maria Savaia left Aprigliano and came to Sault Ste Marie in the early 50’s. (left to right) Seane, Alyssa, Rose, Mafalda, Mary, Connie. (Missing from the line-up is Gina, Mafalda’s younger sister, and Rose and Mary’s mom.)
Maria Savaia’s female descendants:
– daughters – Mafalda, Gina
– grand-daughters – Rose, Mary, Connie
– great-grand-daughters – Seane, Alyssa
I go on about the assertive, intelligent women in the family and I always group them with Mafalda and her side of the family – the Savaias. I don’t mess with anyone in this group.