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Review of New Photo Books

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Louise Abbott has written on the subject of photography for more than thirty years. Her latest article—a review of several new photo books—appeared in the Montreal Gazette on December 9, 2011. It was reprinted in the Ottawa Citizen, the Edmonton Journal , and the Victoria Times-Colonist.


"A photograph is always a destination," novelist Helen Humphreys wrote, "not concerned with getting there but being there." The destinations in this season's new photo books are far-flung and intriguing.

David Hall's Beneath Cold Seas: The Underwater Wilderness of the Pacific Northwest (Greystone Books and the David Suzuki Foundation, 160 pages, $45) transports readers to frigid waters off the west coast of Canada. The diversity of creatures in this ecosystem is astonishing; Hall's colour photographs of them are astonishing, too. Steller sea lions loom out of the darkness. A Pacific prawn crawls over a barnacle-encrusted ledge. Crimson anemones and red soft coral brighten the kelp forest on the sea bottom.


(Photo by David Hall)

As an underwater photographer, Hall must be ultra-cautious as he contends with a finite air supply, powerful currents, murky waters, proximity to sometimes-dangerous subjects, and the risk of decompression sickness on ascent to the surface.

He must also be ultra-patient. It took him years to find a decorated warbonnet—a notoriously reclusive fish—out in the open. "I decided to employ piscine psychology.... I turned both my gaze and my camera everywhere except toward my quarry." Hall gradually moved in closer and closer, and made several exposures. In reviewing his images, he discovered a double portrait. "In the dim light one hundred feet below the surface, I had not noticed the second, much smaller warbononnet, probably a male, peeking out from beneath the body of his mate."

A strong environmental message underlies Hall's book. "One cannot learn about the wonders of the ocean without also learning of its suffering," marine biologist Sarika Cullis-Suzuki writes in the introduction."... Overfishing, climate change, the introduction of foreign species, habitat loss, and pollution have fundamentally altered the sea."



(Photo by Fritz Mueller)

Greystone Books has produced another equally handsome coffee-table book—Yukon: A Wilder Place (160 pages, $50), which showcases the colour photographs of Fritz Mueller, with an accompanying text by freelance writer Teresa Earle.

Mueller and Earle, a husband-and-wife team, conceived the idea for this volume over a decade ago when they became smitten with the Yukon and moved to this "overlooked corner of North America that sustains some of the most intact populations of wildlife on the planet, including barren-ground caribou, grizzly bears, wolves, Dall sheep, and migratory birds."

Mueller is a biologist, and his photographs are informed by his knowledge—and awe—of nature. There are majestic panoramas of mountains and rivers, delicate close-ups of butterflies and flowers, and dramatic scenes of caribou herds in migration, as well as grizzly bears in pursuit of prey.

Earle amplifies readers' understanding of the images. She explains, for instance, the origin of the dazzling northern lights that Mueller has captured: "Explosions on the surface of the sun energize solar particles that collide with gases in the upper atmosphere, and the agitated oxygen and nitrogen release their energy as color—dancing bands of bright green, red, and purple-pink."


With 35,000 residents in a territory of 480,000 square kilometres, the Yukon remains nearly 80 per cent wilderness. But, Earle notes, "As the Yukon becomes less remote and demand for its abundant resources grows, human impacts creep into its wild margins." This book offers a compelling argument for arresting further encroachment.


The Natural History of the Memphremagog Region

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One of the chapters in our upcoming book about Lake Memphremagog will feature the natural history of the region. Niels is spending as much time as possible photographing flora and fauna. He spotted this osprey nesting  in a wetland at the head of  Fitch Bay.

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Summer Camp on Lake Memphremagog

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Summer Camp on Lake Memphremagog

The bus depot was a chaos of parents, children, fishing rods, tennis rackets, and bewildered dogs dragged to see their young masters away. Mothers who had been awaiting the great day for weeks were suddenly stricken with a certainty that their babies would starve without them.

Leonard Cohen, The Favourite Game

It has been more than forty years since I last crammed my belongings into a trunk, said goodbye to my parents, and climbed on an old yellow bus bound for summer camp. From the time I was six until I turned sixteen, I went to assorted camps, including two on Lake Memphremagog: Cedar Lodge, a CGIT camp run by the United Church of Canada, and Monteregian Music Camp, a camp for Montreal music students that took over the grounds of Camp Arrowhead towards the end of August.

I have many, many memories of my camp days: skinny dips at dawn; last-minute scrambles to ready the tent or cabin for inspection; giggles and reprimands when underwear fell out of the folds of the Red Ensign at flag raising; marshmallows falling off the ends of green sticks into campfires; lineups for the "tuck" shop; ghost stories after lights out.

Louise Abbott

If you went to camp on Lake Memphremagog and would like to share memories or pictures of your experiences, please let us know:  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


Memphremagog Camp for Girls in Vale Perkins was one of several summer camps that once operated on Lake Memphremagog. If you know of anybody who went to Memphremagog Camp, Owl's Head Camp for Boys, Camp Arrowhead, Cedar Lodge or Monteregian Music Camp, perhaps you could tell them that  we'd love to hear from them!



Meet Multi-Disciplinary Artist Elin Gustafson

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The Townshippers' Research and Cultural Foundation awarded Studio Georgeville a grant last month to enable  Louise Abbott to create a short video about each member of the artists' cooperative that runs  this vibrant gallery and cultural centre in the village of Georgeville on Lake Memphremagog. Louise  has finished the first in the series, a look at the work of Elin Gustafson, a multi-disciplinary artist and the director of Studio Georgeville. To see this mini-documentary, please visit  YouTube.


Wasp's Nest by Elin Gustafson

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