Hello, is anyone there?

Hello,-is-anyone-there-

 

Out with the old and in with the new?

Not so fast.

 

As we race into the future without even glimpsing back, I have to wonder if that isn’t a mistake.

I certainly can’t argue with the benefits that modern technology has provided – constantly evolving medical capabilities, media marketing for artists like myself, less paper use, greater knowledge accessibility, just to name a few. Advancement certainly has an upside.

Is there a downside though? How often have you walked down an empty street and wondered where all of the kids are? We used to play and bike until the street lights came on, now it seems kids are home playing video games, surfing the net, feverishly texting or watching TV shows with no commercials. Are we losing our human connection?

I am by no means lumping every teen (or adult for that matter) into this observation but it is a growing concern for many people I talk to. I know teens who can barely hold a conversation with an adult because they’ve never had to learn how. What happens when they go for their first job interview? Or their second or their third?

And what about cyber bullying? It’s so easy to throw stones when you don’t have to look someone in the eye and see the hurt it causes. I’ve seen it many times even in the photography world. There is a huge difference between constructive criticism and being just plain old mean.

You may be wondering why I have included this photograph into my environmental series “Footprints” but it’s main message is meant to be about connection. If we lose our emotional ability to connect with the world, then who will be left to care about it’s welfare?

I guess the bottom line is we should all get a little more unplugged and tune in a little more to our surroundings and loved ones. In this household it’s our New Years resolution to do just that.

 

Wishing you all a wonderful 2016 full of creativity, love and adventure!

 

Stay in touch with my work at www.facebook.com/RobinMacmillanPhotography or www.robinmacmillan.ca

 

 

A Longing For Home

“A Longing For Home”
A-Longing-For-Home
Quarries are open excavations where fairly massive deposits of soft or hard rock are extracted. Similar to underground mining, this process can lead to longterm social, economic and environmental problems in its area.
Environmentally it has a major effect on the disruption of animal habitats, destruction of vegetation, soil erosion, river siltation, noise and dust pollution. Water tables, drainage and the dumping of waste rock also have a disruptive impact on the surrounding ecosystem.
Quarries have been around for centuries but as early as 1890 the complaints and concerns about them started being voiced.
Since then, the voices have been heard and rehabilitation plans are being put in place. I’ll repeat they are being put in place but the requirements aren’t always being met – by approximately half.
My photograph, “A Longing For Home” focuses on the damage to the biodiversity that occurs through quarrying. Survival for many species including our own, relies on the fine balance that exists in nature. When a disruption occurs from something like quarrying, the habitats of effected species are damaged either directly from excavation or indirectly from ground or surface water changes.
If you’d like to read more there are many sites that talk about the impacts of quarrying. Google one close to your area to see if it’s meeting the requirements of rehabilitation and restoration.
Thanks to my model Ashleigh who put up with the long, mosquito infested hike to this location!

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I Can See For Miles

 

 

I-Can-See-For-Miles

I found one! For those who have been following my Footprints series and my blog you’ll know that top on my list of locations was a landfill. Living in Ontario, getting into a landfill was proving difficult with gates, fences, personnel, etc and I was beginning to lose hope. Last month I was travelling around the island of Montserrat with a private guide and we were heading to Jack Hill to see a certain point of view of the simmering volcano located there. As we neared the site, I noticed a hand written sign that said “landfill” and immediately asked to be taken there instead. The guide looked at me like I had two heads but was obliging and we took the little road to the landfill. I was thrilled to see that it was easily accessible and made a mental note on how to get back there when the lighting was more suitable.
What I didn’t count on was that my model (my daughter) only gave me about 60 seconds of shooting time because she couldn’t stand the flies buzzing around her. Ideally I would have loved more time to play with different poses and angles but I have to admit the flies were pretty bad so I settled on this photograph of my grumpy daughter overlooking the expansive landfill.
Which brings me to the point of it all – landfills.
Given that I live in Canada I will be focusing on it’s statistics when it comes to the garbage we create. Approximately 67% of Canada’s garbage ends up in a landfill. That equates to a 25% production of methane emissions, contaminated groundwater and having over 10,000 landfills with still the need for more. But who wants a landfill in their backyard? I certainly don’t. So what do we do? You’ve heard it a million times before – REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE.
Here are just a few statistics I will throw at you -
1. It takes 80 years for paper to breakdown.
2. A littered aluminum can takes 500 years to disintegrate.
3. Plastic takes 1 million years to break down.
If we recycle here are some other statistics -
1. 60 days is how quickly an aluminum can be turned from recycled garbage into a new can and back on the grocer’s shelf.
2. Plastics can be recycled into a fibre that creates new bottles, buckets, carpets and even fleece jackets.
3. Recycled paper is hydro-pulped into new paper products such as newspapers, magazines, books or office paper.

Minimizing your consumption of materials and thus contribution to landfills is probably the most effective way to reduce the amount of garbage that ends up in landfills. Happy recycling everyone!

You Want and You’re Taking Plenty

You-Want-and-You're-Taking-Plenty-LC

My last post of 2014. Wow, there are so many things to say!
This year has been an incredible year for me and I first have to say how grateful I am to Yahoo for picking up my story and featuring my work (http://blog.flickr.net/en/2014/10/03/cancer-survivor-conquers-fear-with-photography/). It has catapulted me into a place with my photography I never thought possible. Needless to say the past few months have been quite hectic for me which for the most part has been amazing but the downside has been the lack of time I’ve had to actually create and post new work. I’m anticipating a bit of a lull for January/February so I’m looking forward to getting back to the creative side of my work.
It’s strange to have started out on facebook and flickr very quietly keeping my past to myself but now that it’s out there it’s been liberating and inspiring. I received literally hundreds of e-mails from people who were touched by my story in some way whether it was something they were going through themselves, they new someone or it just gave them some sort of epiphany about their own lives.
I did another interview the other day and was asked the question “Why do you think so many people have been drawn to your story?” and my response was this “I don’t think there is anything particularly rare about my story, I was just given the platform to tell it. There are thousands of people out there with similar stories that inspire but mine is just being heard and noticed through my work.”
I’ve heard from incredibly strong women from places like Uganda, Iceland, Spain, Italy, Philiipines and closer to home Seattle, Toronto, New York,  all facing breast cancer in their own way, all with their brave and inspiring stories to tell. I feel honoured to share my story on behalf of them all.
Thank you to all that wrote me and I wish you nothing but health and happiness in 2015.

Onto the photography side of things. If you’ve followed my work you know that my environmental series Footprints has been my main focus and passion this year. I wanted to end 2014 with this shot of the iconic symbol of global warming, the polar bear. It was a little tricky orchestrating this concept because I typically shoot everything in the same location at the same time. That obviously wasn’t going to happen with a little girl and a polar bear so I had to improvise. So….after a visit to Iceland, a visit to the local zoo and a quick shoot in my backyard I was able to come up with “You Want and You’re Taking Plenty.”

I think the message in this one is fairly obvious compared to some of my other ones. You have a sad polar bear walking away from his disappearing home with the support of his friend. Polar bears rely on the artctic ice to feed and year after year that habitat shrinks leaving a bleak looking future for the survival of this species. I hope the message is conveyed in this photograph.

My word for this year is definitely “grateful.” No other word has popped into my head more often than this one. Watching my daughter sing at her Christmas concert – “grateful” to be there and see it happen. Selling a print – “grateful” to have touched someone with my work.
Gathered around a table playing cards with family and friends – “grateful” to share the laughter. Five and a half years since breast cancer – just plain “grateful.” The list goes on and on.
Grateful. What is your word?

Well, this is turning out to be a longer post than I expected but if you’re still reading I want to thank you so much for your support this year. Every comment, favourite or like motivates me for the next piece and they are all greatly appreciated.

Wishing everyone a happy and healthy 2015! Happy New Year!!

xo Robin

PS. If you don’t already, follow me on facebook as I will be having a couple of book covers put out in 2015 :) :)

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A Day At The Beach

A-Day-At-the-Beach

A Day At The Beach

The iceberg – it’s synonymous with global warming and rightly so. It’s one of the most important markers in determining global warming rates.
It’s hard to imagine as I write this on a cold winter’s day that climate change is happening but it is. In fact, according to NASA just last week (http://climate.nasa.gov/news/2197/), the rate of glacier melt in West Antarctica has tripled in the last decade.
With rising global temperatures varying throughout the world, the Arctic’s climate system seems to be the most sensitive because of something called “feedback loops.” These are compared to vicious circles that either accelerate warming or decelerate the melting of ice. As more ice melts, more of the sun’s energy is absorbed which eventually leads to more warming and so on.
Thus, my iceberg. More and more of these guys are breaking off and finding their way to mainstream shipping lanes while damaging sensitive underwater ecosystems in their wake.
This humbling and stunning lagoon in Iceland called Jokulsarlon was the setting for this shot.
It sits at the head of the Breioamerkurjokull (say that one three times fast!) glacier which is melting at a rapid rate. Sixty years ago the 1.5 kilometre  long lake that makes up the “lagoon” didn’t even exist!
As beautiful as this was to marvel at, it was a rude awakening to the state of the globe.
On another note, yes, that is my daughter and yes she is in a bathing suit, in Iceland, in late October. I prepped her for days leading up to this shoot as I knew I only had one shot at it. The deal was, she only had to count to 20 before her dad would throw her clothes back on her and we’d go to the gift shop and pick out a stuffed animal. She was amazing, not one complaint.

1E3A3294

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The Weight of My Wings Can’t Carry Me

 

The-Weight-of-my-Wings-Can't-Carry-Me

I feel a little bit out of my league with this topic but its something that I knew I wanted to put in my environmental series Footprints. Oil spills have an obvious impact on marine and wildlife habitats in both physical and toxic terms. In researching this topic, one spill that kept coming up continually was the BP spill in the gulf of Mexico in 2010. It was the worst oil spill disaster ever seen by the USA which included 11 lives lost. Four years later oil is still being found on the beaches of Louisiana and Florida.

Since I’ve used birds as the victims of an oil spill in this photo I will focus on the issues they face when a spill occurs in their habitat.
The first is the obvious weight of the oil on their feathers. There are trained experts who are called in to clean them but if they’ve cleaned themselves in the meantime then they’ve ingested harmful chemicals into their bodies which poisons them. The other major issue, that was new to me, is that the oil destroys their insulating abilities. Without the ability to repel water, birds and mammals typically end up dying from hypothermia.

Birds are just one of the many creatures affected when either an accidental or deliberate spill occurs. Yes, I said deliberate – some ship’s dump their bilge oil or “waste oil” on purpose!

I had planned to shoot this photo on a beautiful black beach in Iceland. I had laid out every detail, even packing cartons of molasses in my suitcase just in case Icelanders didn’t have molasses! But this is where even the best laid plans fall apart sometimes. The wind was over 100km/hr and to the point that we could barely stand. Below you’ll find some BTW scenes photos of my “assistants.” As a result this shot had to be done in stages because there was no way my camera was going to survive sitting on a tripod in those winds.
RowanVik

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The-Weight-of-my-Wings-Can't-Carry-Me

Alas, this is the resulting photo – I hope you enjoy it!

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Articles to further read on oil spills -

https://www.dosomething.org/facts/11-facts-about-bp-oil-spill

http://www.eoearth.org/view/article/158443/

“If you go out to the woods today…”

If-You-Go-Out-In-The-Woods-Today

…you’re in for a big surprise.”

Have you been out and about lately and happen upon your favourite picnic spot only to find a brand new sub division in its place? It’s happening more and more around my area as with many suburbs of North American cities.
Urban sprawl has more effects on us than we probably realize. The biggest is probably the reliance on automobiles. Suburban communities spend more time in their cars and that leads to major ecological problems like smog and air pollution not to mention the effect it has on our waistlines and ultimately our health. More cars on the road mean higher traffic and higher traffic means billions and billions of dollars wasted on fuel and productivity.

It doesn’t end there. In my research I came across an article in National Geographic that stated we are losing 1.2 million acres of farmland per year. If you add in forests and undeveloped land the number rises to 2 million acres per year. Take a city like Phoenix, Arizona, which is one of the fastest growing communities in the state, and you’ll discover it has been spreading outward at a rate of an acre an hour. With our population growth these numbers will unfortunately continue to rise.

What can you do about it?
Find ways to be less car dependent.
Find out what is happening in your community in regards to road expansion, new mega-stores, suburban development and the stresses on existing water and sewage plants. Take it to the next level.
David Suzuki has a link to Stopping Sprawl in Your Community – http://davidsuzuki.org/publications/resources/2003/driven-to-action—getting-started/

You can also read more here -

http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/habitats/urban-sprawl/

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Footprints – The Big Apple

The-Big-Apple

Before I get into my most recent topic – GMO’s, I’m excited to mention that this ongoing series won an Honourable Mention in the International Photography Awards. It really has motivated me to keep pushing forward with this and I’m excited for things to come!

So now onto the controversial topic of GMO’s….

GMO, which stands for genetically modified organisms, refers to a biotechnology that uses gene splicing techniques in plants and animals that merges DNA from different species.

OK, so what’s the big deal? It was invented to end world hunger right? Well, its not quite that simple. GMO crops were supposed to reduce the use of pesticides and herbicides so farmers could produce more at a lesser cost but instead the opposite has happened. Bugs have become so resistant to these chemicals that it has led to increased use of both! The growing research on the adverse effects to our health and environment has led people to fight for their consumer rights.

In many developed countries like Australia, Japan and all of Europe, GMO foods are banned or at the very least have mandatory labelling due to the fact that the safety of these foods is unproven. Canada and the US does not. In the US, GMO’s are in as much as 80% of conventional processed foods! Scary!

You may ask yourself, what do I do to avoid GMO’s if our foods aren’t labelled? Well, the best choice right now is to buy organic or support companies who do label their foods as NON-GMO.

One last thing I’d like to mention in this rather large topic that I am briefly touching on, is the threat to farmer sovereignty. Biotechnology companies are able to obtain patents that give them the power to sue farmers whose fields have been cross contaminated with inevitable drift from neighboring fields.

The amazing farm I used for my photo DOES NOT use GMO’s and I’d like to do what I can to keep it that way!

The long-term impacts of GMO’s that have been released into our environment irreversably are unknown.

 

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Thanks, I’ll Take My Bike

 

Thanks, I'll Take My Bike

It was a big weekend towards global climate change. In New York alone over 300, 000 people marched to make this world a better place not only for themselves but for the many generations that will come after them. Cities from all over the world like Berlin, Bogata, Paris, Delhi and Melbourne (among others) also had massive turnouts for this critical issue. I think my favourite sign of the day was “There Is No Planet B.”

I’ve never been so excited and motivated to push forward with my environmental series “Footprints.” After this weekend it finally feels like the voices that count the most are finally being heard and I want mine to be heard in any way large or small.
If you look at the big picture of course it’s overwhelming. We’ve dug quite a whole for ourselves but if we put one foot in front of the other and move forward with an environmental consciousness then I believe we can turn this around slowly but surely.
I’m not perfect so don’t take this as me up on my soapbox ranting and raving. My latest photo is to do with the pollution of air travel but am I flying to Iceland in a few weeks to shoot?….yes, I am. BUT, did I spend our summer vacation staying local and camping?…yes, I did. If I look at the small picture then me not taking one flight doesn’t seem to have much of an impact but if you look at the big picture and imagine everyone who flies taking away one flight per year that’s huge.
That brings me to the scientific stuff. National Geographic news once had the headline “There’s a new fear of flying: You’re more likely to die from exposure to toxic pollutants in plane exhaust than in a plane crash…”
This is based on the fact that the jet fuel burned (particularly in taxiing and take-off) releases massive amounts of pollutants into the atmosphere, one of which is carbon dioxide. The average flight in the USA or Canada from the East coast to the West produces 2-3 tons of carbon dioxide per person when the average yearly usage is 19 tons per person.
Carbon dioxide isn’t the only thing adding to the global warming impact of aviation, it’s the nitrogen oxides and sulphates that contribute as well. Put those together and you’ve got 5% of global climate pollution attributed to aviation. At first glance this may not seem like much but it’s projected that the industry will double in 15 years and triple in 23 years.
Any small gains we make with more efficient planes or fuel will be overshadowed by the rapid growth of the industry.
To read more on the subject - http://www.flyingclean.com/impacts_airplane_pollution_climate_change_and_health
I hope everyone has a clean and earth friendly week!
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Footprints – Life On the Raft

Life On the Raft

Living in Canada, fresh water is something we often take for granted. I know I did until a few summer’s ago when the lake water at our cottage turned to what looked like pea soup. It was filled with a toxic blue-green agae and wasn’t safe to swim in for both humans and their pets. You couldn’t even boil the water to rid it of the bacteria because in doing so you would release even more harmful toxins.
It’s now been happening every August for the past six years.
We all stay out of the water, sit on the dock and watch the beautiful sunset over a pool of green thus the idea for “Life On the Raft” was born.

There has been recent hope for cleaning up our lake though. Stricter laws on run-off from local farms is being enforced, septic systems on the lake that were outdated or even non-existent are now becoming mandatory, phosphate free products must be used and believe it or not people are still needing to be educated on plain old garbage being thrown in the lake! Two summers ago a man was caught and fined for taking his old refrigerator out into the middle of the lake and dumping it! Argh!!

The Great Lakes, which supplies water to approximately one quarter of Canada and one tenth of the U.S., has seen it’s share of pollution as well. In the 60’s Lake Erie was considered a “dead” lake but through public advocacy and international cooperation the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement was signed by the US and Canada. Erie now has acceptable phosphorus levels and is no longer considered “dead” despite the ongoing problems it still faces from other contaminates. Keeping our waters clean will be a constant in our lives, taking diligence to a whole new level.

My hope is that people gain a better understanding and concern for the effects of human activity on our delicate fresh water ecosystems.

To read more you can check out -

http://www.nrdc.org/water/oceans/ttw/great-lakes.asp

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