Posted in Freedom Friday, Photo Opportunities

Anniversary Week—Part III

December 17th was the one-year anniversary when Jack Flacco: The Official Site went live. In celebration of this milestone, I will present the Top 5 Most Popular Freedom Friday posts of 2013.

But before anything else, allow me the gift of your attention to thank you for supporting me during 2013. This certainly has been a year of surprises, for sure. For instance, if you’re curious as to how many views and visitors I had this year, you can read this week’s Monday Mayhem post for site statistics. Also, in keeping with my wanting to express gratitude, I wouldn’t have thought my book would have been the success it is today without the help of my review team and all those who paid me kind words after its release. Thank you so very much, folks!

Onward. When choosing the Top 5 Most Popular Freedom Friday posts, I first wanted to present them based on amount of views. The more I thought of it though, more it didn’t make sense. For instance, a visitor may pop into the site and hit the same post several times within the day. I didn’t think it fair, considering there could have only been two visitors for that day and a hundred views.

Next, I thought I’d use comments as the benchmark. You know, the more comments a post has, the more popular it is. Again, I didn’t think it represented a good way to measure popularity given I can comment on my own post a dozen times and push it ahead on the popularity scale.

No, what I used is the number of “likes” a post has garnered throughout the year. It will not only present a fair representation of popularity for a post but also prevents users from gaming the system with multiple “likes”.

Okay, now for the list. You’ll notice that for third place we have a tie. Other than that, it’s straightforward. Are you ready? Here it is.

The Top 5 Most Popular Freedom Friday posts of 2013:

  1. Canada's Wonderland Water Fountains
    Canada’s Wonderland Water Fountains

    My Favorite Things“For a long time, photography has inspired me to travel great distances, survive sour weather and mangle my body into weird positions all in the expectation of capturing that perfect shot. Today, I hope you enjoy this edition of Freedom Friday because today, I’d like to give you a tour of my favorite subjects. As…” ~86 likes

  2. Dinosaur Paws
    Dinosaur Paws

    Royal Ontario Museum“During this year’s spring break, my family and I skipped the idea of going to the Ontario Science Centre and decided to hit the Royal Ontario Museum instead. It was a cold and dark morning, raining to no end, and we thought it great if we could be in among history. Besides, I wanted to…” ~79 likes

  3. A path to the foot of the woods
    A path to the foot of the woods

    Autumn Photography“Every autumn I go on safari. Not really. I treat it as a safari, though. I pack my camera in my satchel, slip on a warm jacket, and head for the woods. What am I hunting, you may ask? Trees, leaves, nature—anything really to depict this glorious season we call fall. And that’s my Freedom…” ~77 likes

    Niagara Falls
    Niagara Falls

    Niagara Falls“Recently, my family and I took a trip to Port Colborne, a small town west of Fort Erie, half-an-hour away from Niagara Falls. Due to the nature of the trip, it was only for a couple of days, we traveled most of the time in and out of the car, and in and out of…” ~77 likes

  4. Thunder and Lightning Storm
    Thunder and Lightning Storm

    My Dark Secret“I have a secret. A very deep and dark secret. It’s the kind of secret that would make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. Yet throughout the past year, holding my tongue, I never thought it possible I could ever admit to having this secret. This is my Freedom Friday…” ~71 likes

  5. Avocado & Lemon
    Avocado & Lemon

    Avocados“Did you know avocados are a fruit? I didn’t know that for a long time. Much like tomatoes, they have a seed inside. According to science, that’s what makes it a fruit. In cooking, however, it’s a different matter. Served in delicious savory meals, chefs define it more as a vegetable. Avocados also provide an…” ~69 likes

That’s it! Thanks for a great first year here at JackFlacco.com. Don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere. I’ll be back next week with more posts for your reading pleasure. Have a great weekend!

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, now on sale.

Do you have a favorite Freedom Friday post you’d recommend to your friends?

Posted in Freedom Friday, Photo Opportunities

Autumn Photography

Every autumn I go on safari. Not really. I treat it as a safari, though. I pack my camera in my satchel, slip on a warm jacket, and head for the woods. What am I hunting, you may ask? Trees, leaves, nature—anything really to depict this glorious season we call fall. And that’s my Freedom Friday introduction to fall photo gathering.

A path to the foot of the woods
A path to the foot of the woods

The adventure typically begins at the foot of the woods a couple of minutes from my home. You see, I live in farm country, near where all the folks from Toronto get their corn, strawberries, and other assorted goods. How close do I live to the woods? I’ve seen foxes chase rabbits from the brush across the street into the neighbor’s backyard at 5:30 in the morning. This happened ten feet from my walk. I’ve seen multiple raccoons frenzying on garbage cans as if bitten by zombies. And I’ve smelled. Yes, smelled—skunks near where I trod. I’ve seen them, too. Tail sticking up. Those are the animals I fear most spilling from the woods. Oh, did I mention the coyotes? We have them, and they’re the dreadful parasites of our town’s existence.

As I was saying, the adventure begins at the foot of the woods. During this time of year when the forests give up their leaves, I’m there capturing it all. I suppose it has to do with the color the season exhibits. Boy, can anyone deny autumn is colorful? I think not. And here I am, in the middle of the woods, the threat of coyotes at every turn, snapping photos of anything that may inspire me to share with others.

Beautiful morning majesty
Beautiful morning majesty
The woods
The woods
Leaves that have yet to change color
Leaves that have yet to change color

The time I get the absolute best photos is either early in the morning, as the sun makes its appearance in the horizon or in the evening just when the light turns all sorts of golden hues along the edge of the tree line. I’ve taken shots in the middle of the woods just as dusk approached. Reminiscent of Dorothy’s travels through The Wizard of Oz’s Dark Forest, the day fades, the wind howls, and it does get creepy. But it doesn’t stop teenagers hitting the woods at night to have their secret rendezvous. On occasion, I’ve come across the remnant of empty bottles near a felled tree, a spot I suppose popular with the young crowd.

The log where teens hang out
The log where teens hang out
I think I know where I'm going
I think I know where I’m going
Enjoying the crunching leaves
Enjoying the crunching leaves
Inside the woods
Inside the woods

The woods have paths I can walk yet there are times the leaves cover the paths making it difficult to find my way back. I’ve gotten lost several times only to find my way back after having remembered what the trees looked like from mental notes of my journey. Believe me when I say it’s not fun not knowing where you are in the grand scheme of things.

I have to say this: whenever I’m out there with my camera taking those eye-popping photos of the foliage, sometimes my breath catches. It’s as if I’m seeing things for the very first time, enjoying every moment. The colors are vivid and beautiful, the air crisp, and the area is so much at peace without human interference. I’m glad I have the woods as my fortress of solitude. Everyone needs a place of refuge. The woods are mine.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, now on sale.

Do you take photos of the foliage every year? Do you have a fortress of solitude?

Posted in Freedom Friday

Autumn

Autumn is my favorite time of year. I know, it is weird talking about fall in the middle of summer, but if you’ll amuse me for a moment, you’ll see where I’m going with this. Besides, I’m strange that way. I was the guy talking about summer vacation while it was still snowing outside. And believe me, being Canadian, although we do get quite a lot of snow, we don’t receive half as much as some of the places in the States. Anyway, let’s talk about autumn for Freedom Friday.

Small Town in Ontario, Canada
Small Town in Ontario, Canada

I like autumn. Yes, we’ve established that. I like it because of a few reasons. In Canada, we celebrate Thanksgiving a month prior to our American counterparts. So when we’re carving up our turkey, filling our gut with tryptophan, that’s the stuff that makes you sleepy after a turkey dinner, south of the border it’s business as usual. I suppose the reason for this stems from the fact our autumns come earlier. Yet, when I look at some of the northern states, they just as equally have fall around the same time. Therefore, I’m in a bit of a quandary as to rationalize why either we Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving early or Americans celebrate it late. Don’t ask me to google it, ‘cause I’m not going to. If you know, tell me!

All right, back to this autumn and Thanksgiving bit. I enjoy our Thanksgivings here in Canada because the leaves have all changed colors and haven’t dropped to the ground yet. It makes for a perfect opportunity to take some pretty awesome shots.

Now, where I live, I’m in the middle of farm country. We have plenty of cornfields, and tons of cows, horses, sheep and any other farm animals you can probably imagine. No, not velociraptors. Well, other than Halloween. The best part? We have a vast swath of woods to discover. I have been to maybe a tenth of what my area has to offer. The rest lays dormant for me to explore.

Farm Country, Ontario, Canada
Farm Country, Ontario, Canada

What else? I love autumn because it’s not too hot and it’s definitely not too cold. I need a jacket in the mornings, but I can shed it by early afternoon. Also, it’s the rainy season, and if you’ve read my blog long enough you will know just how much I love the rain. I relish the water beating down on freshly cut grass. The smell is intoxicating. Ah, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

My most beloved time is that sweet moment when the leaves begin to fall and the rain has yet to dampen them to a brown hue. The crackling sound under my feet drives me to want to dive into a newly raked pile.

The Woods, Ontario, Canada
The Woods, Ontario, Canada

In that time, one single moment exists I cannot resist. Late in the evening, when the wind tosses and churns the leaves into the neighbor’s yard and I stand there under a street lamp right before it begins to rain. I can feel it. That eerie feeling when everything’s about to erupt into thunder, and the lightening takes over the skies. My nostrils fill with the smell of moss. My ears hear the breeze wafting over my shoulder.

And then—it rains. Like a symphony.

I dash into the house and the skies explode as a choir of angels heralding the second coming. It’s beautiful. It’s spectacular.

Now do you see why I love autumn?

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale October 22.

Do you like autumn weather? Is it strange talking about the fall when we’re still in the midst of summer fun?

Posted in Freedom Friday, Photo Opportunities

My Favorite Things

For a long time, photography has inspired me to travel great distances, survive sour weather and mangle my body into weird positions all in the expectation of capturing that perfect shot. Today, I hope you enjoy this edition of Freedom Friday because today, I’d like to give you a tour of my favorite subjects.

Canada's Wonderland Water Fountains
Canada’s Wonderland Water Fountains

As I’d mentioned, I enjoy taking photos of, well, almost everything. If it’s something I’ve wondered about and wanted to capture, I’m the first one there.

One of my favorite subjects is by far Canada’s Wonderland. Nestled in Vaughan, Ontario, just north of Toronto, this 330-acre (130 ha) theme park features some of the most awesome roller coasters in the world. What makes this site special for amateur photographers (that’s me), is the simple areas that reflect a moodiness sought after elsewhere in the world but achieved here with simple landscaping and music. Its fountains, mountain, and fireworks makes for a wonderful experience for travelers wanting excellence in a vacation. My family purchases a yearly pass to take advantage of the park’s beauty and relaxed atmosphere (yeah, and the rides are pretty cool, too). The hand-in-hand strolls I take there with my wife at night are worth every penny spent.

Canada's Wonderland Mountain
Canada’s Wonderland Mountain
Canada's Wonderland Fountains
Canada’s Wonderland Fountains
Canada's Wonderland Fireworks
Canada’s Wonderland Fireworks

Next up, Toronto. How can I ignore the place I call my second home? From its CN Tower to its beautiful lake shore, Toronto provides me with many opportunities to take shots centered around color and culture. More specific, the downtown core where I frequent the most, hosts a myriad of activities for the family. It’s difficult to say what impresses me the most. Is it the buildings or events? I think the multicultural aspect of the city gives me pause. Whenever I walk the streets, I have to admire all those who roam from faraway places and call Toronto their home. It is something of beauty.

Monument to Multiculturalism
Monument to Multiculturalism

Another favorite place I enjoy taking pictures is the Ontario Science Centre. Located in the heart of Toronto, the complex houses hundreds of interactive and passive exhibits. My family and I will head over during spring break when the rates are lower and the place is bustling with crowds. We have fun with the various activities and I’m always on the lookout for something interesting to shoot.

Ontario Science Centre Engine Display
Ontario Science Centre Engine Display

What else? Food, of course! As you may have gathered from my sushi and eleven-spice chicken recipes, I love food! And being Italian doesn’t help. There’s always something in the culinary arts to keep my interest as an obsessed shutterbug. My mom makes these phenomenal meals like Rigatoni with cheese and meatballs, veal cutlets with potatoes and green beans, broiled lamb with peppers and pickled vegetables—she’s a crazy momma. Whenever I visit my parents, I loosen my belt two notches. Yet, sometimes a simple plate of fries captures my attention. Call me squirrel-minded!

French Fries
French Fries
Veggie Salad
Veggie Salad
Candy
Candy

Autumn is my favorite season. What would a post about favorite things to shoot be without a fall photo? During this time, the colors here in Canada burst. Maple trees line the roads in orange coats. Forests erupt in a kaleidoscope of gold and reds. And me? I’m out in the woods taking shot after shot of the amber carpeting. Fall is my season. If I had it my way, I’d sleep out there every night, listening to the leaves drift to the ground.

Autumn in a Small Ontario Town
Autumn in a Small Ontario Town

These are a few of my favorite things.

Do you have a favorite photography subject? What is it that makes the subject interesting to shoot?