Photography and The Art of Moving Forward

We did everything we could to spoil him during his final months. He never stopped smiling, even though the pain. Riley gave us more than a year to enjoy his presence after he was told he would only live for 3-6 months. We spent our days outside, enjoying family time, feasting on leftovers, and playing in the garden during the pandemic. We were thankful for every moment with Riley and never took for granted his unconditional love since we brought him home.

It’s October, and the world is turning orange and red around me. In Riley’s absence, this time I have the leaves that he used to place in our yard.

I have an image that I want to create. It has the idea of bringing him back to those places where he is not present but where he is most at home. When I couldn’t bring him along on the walks that we took as the leaves changed and the weather got colder, there was a small piece of him I could recall. It was a tiny semblance that I tried to capture through photos. This allowed me to remember him even after his passing.

Blair Bunting and Riley

The ringing intensifies.

The train arrives.

The shutter is closing in on me.

This camera was my first purchase after Riley’s passing. It was a Canon EOS R3 that I had been eyeing since the moment I heard about it. The Olympics were the first prototypes I knew about. The R3 is primarily intended for photojournalists. I feel it should be in their hands as soon as possible, since they deserve feedback before commercial photographers like me.

It was, however, a possession that I had waited patiently for to inherit.

It arrived much sooner than I had expected.

The day following Riley’s death. Unbeknownst to Canon I received a text message confirming that they had sent me their first production body. It was an unexpected gift that I was thrilled to receive, but it was something I could not have foreseen. It was a gift that helped me heal through art, rekindled my passion and gave me a piece from Riley that I could take with me.

With some adjustment, the Canon EOS R3 became an extension of my body. Although it has a lower resolution than what I normally use, it is also one of the most balanced chassis I have ever owned. It’s certainly more conducive to creating than any other camera I have had the pleasure of using. The more I practice, the more my fingers move to the choreography of my camera and it never leaves my eyes.

Blair Bunting Train Photo

These photos were particularly important because I used the same aperture as for the rest of my images. The shutter speed was adjusted to the speed of the train, and the information in the frame I wanted in focus. The latter is almost impossible to predict by sound, as a train moving in the distance sounds like music to me. Once I have the main elements of exposure set, I dial in additional compensation by setting the ISO on the control ring that I attach to my lenses.

The R3’s speed and ease of expression allows me to quickly dial in white balance, allowing me to shoot the same train through various Kelvin values, while also adjusting the white balance. The R3 sensor prefers warmer colors away from the light source, and cool ones when they are angled toward it.

The R3’s viewfinder is also very captivating. This is the first mirrorless viewfinder that allows me to quickly and easily set a circular Polarizer. To zoom, I use the M-fn button located behind the shutter. Once I have determined the angle I want to shoot, I create the frame using the zoom setting and then turn the filter according to the reflection from the railroad tracks.

Blair Bunting Train Photo

The train arrives…

The shutter closes.

The Canon EOS R3 gave me the opportunity to create the perfect memorial for Riley. The photos captured the colors and effects I wanted, but also a little bit of Riley that I can keep with me no matter where he is.

He was there, but he didn’t leave. I can hear him in his train engine growing louder, then again in its calmness as it fades off in the distance. I also see him in the leaves coming to life in my yard. I feel him alongside me as I walk with my camera in my hand, as close as my fingers are guiding the lens and pressing the shutter button. These photos also capture the joy that he felt when he saw leaves fall and took long walks outside with me.

Even small miracles, such as the surprise that I received the day after my father’s passing, remind me to keep pushing forward and keep striving for all that is possible.

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