I walk past this spot so damn often. There’s a little pond here, across from the Rideau Canal, mere metres from a side spit of road that’ll lead me away from the canal and on to Bank Street. In the summer that little pond—Brown’s Inlet I think it’s called—is a haven for ducks and other wildlife. Like fish for example. Must be some anyway, because I often find people, young and old, standing on the pond’s banks, fishing rods dipping into the shallow waters. I’ll see the odd Inukshuk here as well, although I’ve never seen anyone ever erecting one. There’s a certain calm about the pond, in pronounced contrast with the business of Bank Street. By the way, in case you’re wondering: the reason Bank Street is called Bank Street? Not because there are banks and other financial institutions there, but because if you stay on it long enough, you’ll find yourself on a riverbank—not the one fronting this little pond, of course—but the banks of the rather more popular Ottawa River.
It comes with age, I think, this fascination with history. As though each advancing year makes me want to go back to a time that’s a multiple of the number of years I’ve been alive, leaving me to dismiss the claims of those who say there’s no real value in learning about those things from long ago.
But that’s not what I wanted to tell you. What I wanted to tell you is this:
The other day I was out on my habitual walk and, as I approached that little pond, I saw piles of people, hellbent on skating, and nowhere near ready to be thwarted by the Rideau Canal’s still not suitably frozen ice surface. And so they made do with what that frozen little pond offered them. There were kids there with hockey sticks, chasing pucks, there were older individuals carving laps, and there were parents too, introducing their little tykes to the art of skating. As I stood there observing the action, I decided that the scene would make for a rather attractive picture. As I crouched down to frame my shot, I distinctly remember wondering how a professional photographer would capture the evocative scene.
Well, wouldn’t you know it? Just this morning, as I sipped my first Happy Goat espresso and scanned my inbox with CBC’s morning news feed, there it was, a picture by Ottawa-based professional photographer Justin Tang (who’s got a really cool website—I looked it up). His photo captured, clearly enough, everything that my own failed to evoke. You could sense, in his photograph, the exhilaration and freedom that came from just being out on that frozen pond.
I smiled as I took in that photo. Not only because of what it said to me, but also because I got my answer. Yes, my query, from a few days prior, as I took my own picture, received a rather emphatic response.
A photographer, a real one, conveys the mood of a given scene. I on the other hand, got a generic image that told no story. Hey, it’s okay though. I always knew I’d never be a professional photographer. But it makes for an enlightening lesson, doesn’t it? We all walk around with our mobile phones, and we all use those phones to take pictures of something that catches our fancy. But talented photographers have “an eye,” and they use it to great effect. Their photos tell a tale. Their photos move you, often in ways you can’t begin to describe. And that’s the difference between them and me. A difference I’ll never be able to bridge. And that’s okay, you know, because I’m perfectly happy to just sit here and admire their work.