Friday, December 02, 2016

Charlie's Trail #624

Charlie's Trail, Vancouver Island, October 2015.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Charlie's Trail #622

Charlie's Trail, Vancouver Island, October 2015.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

A Star photo assignment

Here is the story of how I paid a visit to the Toronto Star newsroom to have my portfolio reviewed by one the staff photographers, John Mahler and ended up doing a photo assignment which made page A20 of the Tuesday March 4, 1980 edition of the Toronto Star less than a year after I started at the Brampton Daly Times in May of 1979. I met John through Mike Crossman my previous editor at the Gazette who had given me John's name to look up while there I was in the Brampton area. John and Mike had worked together in Vancouver at one time.

 But first some background… After I had left the weekly newspaper the Goldstream Gazette on Vancouver Island in April or 1979, I found myself a job at the Brampton Daily Times in Ontario. It's interesting how I found the job, I sent out a number of letters of application along with 10 to 12 of my original photographic prints to smaller size newspapers across Canada that had a circulation of 10,000 to 15,000. I probably sent out at least a dozen or more of these unsolicited applications and received quite a few letters back saying thanks, but there are no openings for photographers at the time.

 However I did receive one letter from the Brampton Daily Times, a Thompson owned paper not far from Toronto, a bedroom community for the many people who commuted on a daily basis. It was arranged for me to I make my way up to Naniamo, BC on Vancouver Island where I was interviewed by the publisher of the Naniamo Daily Free Press, John Farrington. He wore a big brightly coloured psychedelic tie like out of the 1960's and looked over my portfolio, he must have liked what he saw and said if I wanted the job it was mine. He asked if I had ever been to Ontario? I said, "No" he replied "It's flat".

With that I packed up my bright orange Volvo with my worldly goods and proceeded to drive the entire 4800 km distance starting out from my parent's home in Langford all the way to Brampton, via the Canadian route. I had never been further east than Alberta. About ten days later, I arrived in Brampton. I remember eagerly grabbing a copy of the paper from the paper's vending box only to see a cheque presentation shot as the paper's main front page photo for that day. I was bit disappointed to say the least, I had my work cut out for me in more ways than one. For one thing my work load was much higher instead of producing say maybe 10 photo assignments a week for the the Gazette, I had many days at the Times when when I was producing ten assignments a day, plus I had to process film and make prints, write cutlines etc. Thus began my daily newspaper career.

....So there I am sitting in this very large Toronto Star newsroom, the biggest I had ever been in my life, feeing a little overwhelmed. John was looking over my portfolio, graciously giving me his time some helpful advice on how to improve my portfolio, he said I needed more hard news and sports. True to this day, my strongest work has always been feature type photography which I have always excelled at.

Anyway, John is looking over my bundle of prints, when the phone rings as they usually do in most busy newsrooms across the country, so John picks up the phone and on the other end is one of the Star's readers who thinks that three generations of family playing cards would make for a nice photo in the Star. I could hear John on the other end of the conversation, saying the he would send a photographer over and could he please have the address. John hangs up the phone, hands me the piece of paper with the address on it and say do I want to try this photo assignment? Like any good photographer not only did I have my portfolio with me but I had my cameras with me too. So off I went to this home in the Scarborough area of Toronto, I recall that it seemed to take forever to get there, but I found it okay.

At the home were these two old sweet ladies, May Fuller, 99 and Agnes King, 101 who liked playing gin rummy, so for the family generation photo King's great-grand-daughter 6-month-old Cheryl Reid was positioned between the two. Babies being babies and ones that are teething like to chew on things, it didn't take long for the baby to grab hold of one of the cards she was given to play with and start chewing. I knew I had my shot, shot the picture with a wide 24mm lens on my Nikon camera, so I drive back to the Star office at One Young Street, drop off my film and related cutline info thinking it will never make it into the paper. The next day I'm back at work at the Brampton Times, I go out to the street corner and grab a copy of that day's Star, I'm looking through the paper, not really expecting that my picture would appear, but also realizing that it would be cool if it did. Turning through the various pages of the paper I found my picture nice and big with good play on the the 20th page of the "A" section, ( March 4 1980 ). I never mentioned anything to my Brampton Times editors as I wasn't sure what they would think of my "freelance" job but it was a fun assignment and never did get me a full time job at the Star, but maybe got my little toe in the door.

Charlie's Trail #621

Charlie's Trail, Vancouver Island, October 2015.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Charlie's Trail #619

Charlie's Trail, Vancouver Island, October 2015.

Monday, November 21, 2016


I got very lucky soon after I had graduated from high school in that I met up with a great mentor at the start of my photography career. During the summer of 1976, my father thought I should try and see if there was any photographic work at the weekly newspaper, the Goldstream Gazette, the paper had just started publishing in March of 1976 and was co-owned by two experienced journalists, one of them was Mike Crossman, a photographer with extensive experience in both freelancing and working on at daily newspapers. The Gazette office was not far form the auto body shop that my dad worked at, so one day soon after I walked down to the Gazette office and asked to see Mike.

 I think Mike told me to come back with some prints that I could show him, and return I did with a stack of prints tucked under my arm. As I sat in the Gazette office in a nice oak office chair, Mike sitting opposite from me in a similar oak chair leaning back as he gazed over my prints. I don't remember all the things he said, but I recall he picked up a orange grease marker pencil and started marking up all my prints. I guess I was little surprised but hey they weren't any good anyway! at the end of our meeting he went over to a filing cabinet, pulled out a few rolls of 35mm film, ( Kodak Tri-X ) and told me to go shoot something. Which is what I did, that led to a photo assignment and many more one on one mentorship sessions in the Gazette office. I learned a lot in those years which gave me a solid foundation to build my career in the years ahead. The picture posted was one of the prints where Mike where gave me some helpful advice, on the print he wrote: "Shutter speed 40% important" ( so I wouldn't forget ). The photo was not very sharp because I shot it at too low of a shutter speed.

The picture is of the E & N Railway Dayliner Budd car #9103 that derailed not far from our family home, I think it happened in the early summer of 1976, the picture was never published as I had not started work at the Gazette at that point, but I recall that the train event caused quite a bit of commotion with people going to have a look at the derailed Dayliner and gave me an opportunity to photograph my first "spot" news event.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

A Vancouver Island trip on the Dayliner

When working as a photographer for the Goldstream Gazette in January of 1978 I was contacted by a reporter, Bruce Obee who was doing freelance work for the Toronto Star at the time. The Star assigned Bruce to do a story on the E & N Railway Dayliner. The Star also wanted some photos to go along with the story, so I ended up with the photo part of the assignment.

 A bit of back ground, Victoria–Courtenay train (formerly the Malahat) or what most people just call the "Dayliner" is a Budd Rail Diesel Car that used to run from Victoria to Courtenay, BC on Vancouver Island a distance of 362km ( 225 miles ). The Dayliner rumbled past my parent's home on Station avenue in Langford on a daily basis twice a day except Sundays. I remembered the train well, I could always tell when the train was passing our home as it slightly shook our house, we all got used to it after a while, one year it even derailed not far from our home, it was one of my first “spot news” events that I photographed but never got published, I was still in high school at the time. The Dayliner was operated by Canadian Pacific Raiway ( CPR ) in 1979 it was taken over by Via Rail, it ran until 2011 when the passenger service was discontinued due lack of repair of the track and several railway bridges.

 I don't recall the reason behind the story and why the Toronto Star was interested in a passenger train from Vancouver Island, I think it might have been about the CPR selling the passenger train service to Via Rail. I wish I had a copy of the story and photos that ran in the Star, I seem to remember seeing a copy of the paper, but I never kept copy.

 The photo assignment was day long affair leaving the Esquimalt area of Victoria early in the morning, the trip to Courtenay, BC was almost a 5 hour trip one way, it returned the same day, so it was dark when returning to Victoria in the short days of winter.

 It was a really wonderful day, although it started out as typical dark rainy day with some wet snow in the Victoria area the snow was much greater in dept the further one travelled up Island, so by the time the Dayliner arrived in Courtenay there was a foot or more of fresh snow, it was as they say a winter wonderland. The snow was magical it made for great photos with the old train station and the Dayliner parked along side. While the train was travelling along the route I made photographs of the train engineer, the conductor and passengers.

 I shot a half dozen rolls of Kodak Tri-X ( 20 exp. ) black and white film during the trip with my Nikon cameras, I went back the next day to shoot a few pictures of the train going over the Niagara Creek trestle, a specularly high trestle along the route accessible from Goldstream Park. Then I processed the film, made some 8 x 10 prints and gave them to the reporter who sent the pictures and the story off to the Toronto Star. A few weeks later I received a cheque for $75.00 ( about $257 today ) not bad pay for a young photojournalist just starting out.

 These pictures are scans from my original negatives which I still have today.

Charlie's Trail #618

Charlie's Trail, Vancouver Island, October 2015.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Charlie's Trail #616

Charlie's Trail, Vancouver Island, October 2015.