Category Archives: Photography

30 by 30—Quebec

Yeah, so it’s a little late, but I “checked off” the second item on my 30 by 30 list earlier this summer with a trip to Quebec. For those keeping score at home, here’s the updated list of what I’ve revealed so far:

Travel
√ Chicago
√ Quebec
Charleston/Edisto Island (this will be my next blog post, coming soon hopefully!)
France and Belgium
San Francisco

As is true for all of these travel goals, going to Quebec was planned in advance, before the idea to do a 30 by 30 even crossed my mind, so it’s kind of cheating. Oh well. The choir tour to Quebec was, nonetheless, a blast.

This quick trip to Quebec (slightly under five days total in the province + almost four solid days of driving!) was my first adventure in Canada, and I’ve gotta say it was a almost entirely positive experience. (Hint: Watch out for flower boxes that hang over the sidewalk in Quebec City… as my new eyebrow scar can attest.) I now have some new and interesting insights into Canada to include in Geography 101 lectures (which is great, because I start teaching the course again on July 6), and my international travel itch has been scratched for at least another few months. I definitely want to visit SO much more of Canada now. Vancouver, Toronto, Albert, Prince Edward Island, Nunavut… Okay, maybe not Nunavut (it’s seriously cold there) but maybe Baffin Island… I mean, who wouldn’t want to visit a place that looks like this? (Not my photo, btw.)

Speaking of photos, here are just a handful of photos from Montreal and Quebec City. I haven’t had enough time to do much else with the 100+ good photos from the week, so this will have to suffice for now.

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30 by 30—Chicago (First item done!)

Okay, so this may technically be cheating, but one of the easiest items to check off of the 30 by 30 list was going to Chicago for the Annual Meeting of the American Association of Geographers back in April. I say it’s cheating because the trip was planned long before I started coming up with ideas for the 30 by 30 list.

If you will recall, one of the six categories for the list was travel, a somewhat ideal category for geographers. The difficult part, however, was how to plan/envision/strategize getting in several trips  (1) in a limited time frame, and (2) on an extreme budget.

So I “cheated” and went primarily with trips that were going to happen no matter what, including a vacation, a couple choir tours, and two AAG meetings.

Update: That said, I guess I can give more spoilers to the 30 by 30 list. Still not giving them all away yet! Here are the travel “goals”: Chicago, San Francisco (AAG 2016 will be there), Quebec (CSUMC Youth Choir Tour going there in just a couple weeks!), Edisto Island/Charleston South Carolina (going here on family vacation in June), and France/Belgium (planned Knoxville Choral Society choir tour for June 2016).

Here are some highlights from the 2015 AAG Meeting;

  • Despite not seeing much of the city (in part because Karen wasn’t there to pull me away from conferencing and partly because of increased responsibilities for this meeting), I did get out and see a lot of Chicago’s beautiful architecture around the Magnificent Mile. More on this below.
  • The conferencing itself probably rates for me as the best annual meeting yet. I went to a number of highly relevant sessions, made a few introductions and caught up with several friends from previous meetings/former UTK students who are elsewhere now, presented a pretty good paper (in my humble opinion) for a somewhat small audience (the curse of the Friday 8 am session…), and organized both a landscape photo exhibit and a breakfast as part of my responsibilities on the Cultural Geography Specialty Group board. Whew.
  • I was elected, with my dear UT friends/colleagues Melanie and Janna, to be student board members of the American South Specialty Group.
  • I did make it almost out of the city (at least somewhere near the northern suburbs) with my other UT friend/colleague (and other officemate with Melanie and Janna, come to think of it…) Tyler Sonnichsen to see him perform stand-up comedy. It was fun!

Now then, to the photos… I posted some online earlier, but I haven’t gotten around to processing any of the other photos from my camera. Here’s what I took with my phone.

Trump Tower, Downtown Chicago
Trump Tower
The Bean!
The Bean!
The Chicago Tribune Tower
The Chicago Tribune Tower
Savannah and I went on a photo tour of downtown Chicago, mostly in the South Loop. As you can see, it was slow going!
Savannah and I went on a photo tour of downtown Chicago, mostly in the South Loop. As you can see, it was slow going!
The Chicago Public Library. Didn't have time to go inside.
The Chicago Public Library. Didn’t have time to go inside.

Selma to Montgomery March Marker

Photograph Selma to Montgomery March Marker by Matthew Cook on 500px

Selma to Montgomery March Marker by Matthew Cook on 500px

I’m a little late in posting this picture in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery march in 1965. This marker sits outside the state capitol building in Montgomery, Alabama.
I took this photo while conducting fieldwork for my dissertation research, which looks at, among other things, the memorial marker landscape commemorating Slavery, Emancipation, and the Civil Rights Movement in the “Deep South.”

For those with screen readers or who otherwise cannot read the text of the marker, the text reads:
“The Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March
Led by Martin Luther King, Jr.
Ended at the foot of the capitol steps
On March 25, 1965
Here Dr. King addressed 25,000 people

‘I believe this march will go down as one of the greatest struggles for freedom and dignity in the nation’s history.’
—Martin Luther King, Jr.”

Friday Photo: Matt-fjords-crazy and a story of filenames

Matt-fjords-crazy

I named the file for this photo Matt-fjords-crazy.jpg. There’s quite a logic to it, despite what you may think. First, I keep a separate collection of photos with me in them on my computer under the Pictures folder. I started doing this after I realized how annoying it was to have to search through all of my photos (which are organized chronologically by year in folders, then sub-folders for each day that I took photos with my Nikon D90 and imported them into Adobe Lightroom…it’s a great system, just occasionally over organized!) anytime I needed to quicklyfind a photo for an online bio, profile pic, or avatar.

All the photos are named “Matt-whatever-whatever” so I can quickly remember where the photo was taken and whether or not the photo is professional quality or not. Compare the above (Matt-fjords-crazy) with below (Matt-Staten-Island-Ferry), which, although my face is partly covered by a camera is nonetheless a more serious photograph.

Matt-Staten-Island-Ferry
A photo of Matt on the Staten Island Ferry as he photographs the Statue of Liberty. Photo by Karen Cook. How many more times can I squeeze the word photo into this caption?

Anyway, the “crazy” part of the file should be self explanatory. The “fjords” part comes from the location where this was shot: on a hike from Myrdal down to Flåm (Norway) or a part of the 2012 Norway fieldwork that I collectively remember as “the fjords trip.” How catchy. Anyway, I taught on Norway and the Nordic countries today in Geography 101, so in honor of that, I give you Matt-fjords-crazy.

Speaking of photos, I’ve been doing a better job lately of regularly uploading a photo (on average, one a day — OMGOSH!) to my preferred photography sharing site, 500px. If you are interested in seeing some that you may have missed, head on over to 500px.com/matrcook.

Christchurch Cathedral


Christchurch Cathedral by Matthew Cook on 500px.com

Christchurch Cathedral by Matthew Cook

Boarded windows and a damaged monument are what remain to hint at the former splendor of the Christchurch Cathedral in Christchurch, New Zealand (designed by George Gilbert Scott and consecrated in 1881). The cathedral was greatly damaged by a series of earthquakes in 2011 and began to be demolished in 2012. Demolition was temporarily halted through a combination of legal action and protest by heritage groups including the UNESCO World Heritage Centre in mid-2012, but after court rulings, the Anglican church leadership was allowed to proceed with further demolition work. At present, it is unclear whether the church will opt to rebuild a cathedral on the existing Cathedral Square now that a temporary cathedral – the first in the world to be constructed largely of cardboard – has been built for the Anglican congregation to resume its worship.

A [minor] Tragedy

Hi everyone,

I’m sure you’ve all been anxiously awaiting another posting since my first (and only) post over here in Oslo. Well – a few things about that. First, the team I am a part of has been extremely effective/busy, working roughly 40 hour work weeks, and the project is going quite well for now. So, on the one hand, research is great, and it has kept me away from writing down my thoughts for you to peruse.

Second, I may not get around to editing and uploading photos until after I get back to the states next week. (Yes, oddly enough, time is flying and I’ll be back in Tennessee late next Thursday. Crazy!) However, I think that photos are the best way for me to tell the story of the fun parts of the trip, so that may never end up in a blog format, but only as a photo essay on Facebook. I guess I’ve come to terms with Zuckerberg stealing the rights to my photos…because I stopped paying for a Flickr pro account after lack of use.

Second point five (2.5) – here comes the minor tragedy that befell me. Right before heading off on Friday to explore other parts of Norway (mainly some of the western fjords and Bergen), I had one of those situations that could have gone terribly wrong, but narrowly did not. (Anyone ever have those?) Just before leaving on Friday morning, I packed my entire camera backpack for the trip – removing the non-essentials, packing some food and clothing for the weekend, etc. I sat down at the desk in my room for a couple of minutes, and then *wham.* My backpack fell to the floor from a two-foot high bed. At first, I didn’t really think anything bad about this: my laptop wasn’t inside, and it has fallen from a bed before without any incident. Then I started to think to myself, “What if this was the one time things went wrong?”

It turns out, they did (sort of). I looked at how the bag fell, and sure enough, it was right on the camera compartment. I opened that section of the bag to find the lens cap to my 18-105mm zoom lens (my “everyday” lens, if you will) smashed in… And this was the point I thought was going to be really, really bad. I was able to pry the lens cap off, and through the mess of broken glass I found to my relief that the only glass that broke was the protective UV filter that every good SLR photographer knows to put on his/her lenses. *Whew.* Listening to my dad/Scott Kelby/every other photographer and photography book out there paid off big time: I only have to replace a ~$20 filter instead of a ~$400-500 lens. However, I wasn’t able to clean out all of the broken glass from underneath a plastic ring on the front of the lens, so I decided to just shoot the rest of the trip using my other lenses and have this lens professionally cleaned when I get back to the states. So, long story short – I shot almost all of the three-day weekend trip across Norway with the 35mm fixed lens I got for Christmas last year. (Thanks, Anita and Karen!) It turned out to be both fun and challenging to work that much with a lens that does not zoom, so in the end everything worked well.

Third, the trip this weekend to see other parts of Norway was an amazing adventure, and I wouldn’t have done it any other way. In brief, we took a train from Oslo to Myrdal, then hiked 21 km (basically a half marathon) down from Myrdal to Flåm all in one day. We spent the night at a youth hostel/camp ground in Flåm before waking up very sore and then taking a two-hour boat cruise through the Aurlandsfjord and the Nærøyfjord to the tiny town of Gudvangen. At Gudvangen we had lunch from a camp stove (better than it sounds, believe me), and that afternoon we took a bus to Voss and then another to Bergen. Up until the bus ride, the weather was quite nice with lukewarm temperatures and overcast skies. At some point on the bus ride to Voss, the rains poured forth and basically didn’t let up until we left Bergen. So we got to experience Bergen as it truly is: a city aptly nicknamed “The City of Rain.”

That’s all I really have time for at the moment, so you will have to wait until I find more spare time to write. I have one blog post of “Observations about Norway” waiting in my Moleskine, so that should be a quick update I can hammer out soon. Stay tuned!