One bite at a time

Windsor Park Rink with and without snow.

My family often repeats this joke:

Question: “ How do you eat an elephant?” 

Answer: “One bite at a time.”

It always gets a collective groan but we use it to encourage the family member who is facing a big job – and is worried about it.

Right now I’m thinking about it as I start work on my new project The Outdoor Rink. I am photographing some of the 270 outdoor community rinks in Ottawa this winter. Of course I can’t possibly get to all of them in one winter. So instead, I’ve decided to take the eating-an-elephant-approach. 

I am helped by a handy list of rinks supplied by Paul Dupuis, the helpful Recreation Supervisor at the City of Ottawa. It’s a useful guide to a cross section of volunteer rinks in various neighbourhood parks – from Stittsville in Ottawa’s far west to Orleans in the east with many in between. In total I will be visiting, and trying to capture the essence of, about 30 rinks this winter. That’s still a big bite especially in a winter that so far hasn’t really shown up.

So, because I always like to over prepare, I spent the month of October and half of November scoping out my winter challenge. I visited all the parks to take photos of each location where the rinks will be set up. It’s a way to get a sense of the logistics that I will be dealing with like: how far is the walk to the park from the road? Are there trees or houses in the way of a good shot and are there hills around? Hills give you a natural vantage point. Setting up ladders in the winter is not fun so I’m a big fan of hills. 

At the end of it I realized that preparation only goes so far. Look at the two photos below of the Windsor Park Rink with and without snow.

Same place – very different vibe! Snow at night not only adds an additional challenge, but a different visual language. It creates a new place.

So while I have an idea of the location, I have no idea of what the rinks will be like in winter and what I’m facing until I get there. Please pass the elephant. 

Published by margomcdiarmid photographs

I am a photo-based artist with an interest in interpretive documentary photography. I am drawn to the cold, dark and remote places. I am graduate of and recent Artist-in-Residence at The School of Photographic Arts: Ottawa. I spent more than 30 years as an award winning journalist with CBC, Canada's public broadcaster.

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