Colum­nist gives a cam­era les­son to pho­tog­ra­phy pro­fes­sor.

Pho­tog­ra­phy pro­fes­sor shown how to use a cam­era

Cape Breton Post - - WEEKEND - Ran­nie Gil­lis Ran­nie Gil­lis is a re­tired teacher and guid­ance coun­sel­lor who lives in North Syd­ney. An avid writer, pho­tog­ra­pher and moto-jour­nal­ist, he is the au­thor of sev­eral books and has writ­ten travel sto­ries for var­i­ous Cana­dian and Amer­i­can magazi

“Faux Pas” - French a slip in speech, con­duct, or man­ners, etc.; breach of eti­quette; blun­der. (Gage Cana­dian Dic­tionary).

In my case, back in the sum­mer of 2007, it was all of the above. And it all hap­pened on a beau­ti­ful, sunny Au­gust af­ter­noon, in the pic­turesque vil­lage of Mar­ga­ree Har­bour.

Lo­cated about 18 miles north of the town of In­ver­ness, Mar­ga­ree Har­bour was once a busy com­mer­cial port, back in the days be­fore the open­ing of the Canso Cause­way. To­day, it is a mostly ru­ral com­mu­nity with two light­houses, a church, a beau­ti­ful sandy beach, and the splen­did back­drop of the Cape Bre­ton High­lands Na­tional Park in the dis­tance.

The nerve cen­tre of this lovely pas­toral set­ting is “Lau­rence’s Store,” an old-fash­ioned gen­eral store and post of­fice that is owned by Fletcher Lau­rence. When­ever I am over to that part of our is­land, I al­ways stop in at the store for an ice cream, and to catch up on the lo­cal news with Fletcher him­self. On that par­tic­u­lar day I had just re­turned from Cheticamp on my mo­tor­cy­cle, and was pre­par­ing to leave Mar­ga­ree Har­bour and head for my home in North Syd­ney.

Be­fore leav­ing I de­cided to take some pic­tures, and while do­ing so I was ap­proached by an older gen­tle­man, who had just come from the gen­eral store, af­ter pick­ing up his mail. He stopped to take a look at my black mo­tor­cy­cle and, like most peo­ple, asked if it was a Har­ley-David­son.

I ex­plained that it was not a “Har­ley,” but rather a Yamaha, a Yamaha “Mid­night Ven­ture,” to give it its full name. Since he was ob­vi­ously very in­ter­ested in the bike, I showed him the var­i­ous con­trols, and ex­plained that it had a 1300 cc, 4-cylin­der en­gine, that put out more than 100 horse­power.

I also showed him the cruise con­trol, the stereo with four speak­ers, the CB ra­dio, and the old fash­ioned cas­sette player, lo­cated in the cen­tre of the dash. He smiled, when I told him that although it was a “fully-loaded” tour­ing mo­tor­cy­cle, it had no air con­di­tion­ing! He said that his name was Ge­orge Thomas, and that he lived in the old farm­house just across the road. He then ex­plained that it was a sum­mer home, and that he spent the win­ter months on Nan­tucket Is- land, off the coast of Cape Cod, Mas­sachusetts. He was a re­tired teacher, and had been com­ing to Mar­ga­ree Har­bour since the early 1970s, when he fell in love with the vil­lage, and pur­chased the aban­doned farm that is now his sea­sonal home.

When he ex­plained that he had al­ways wanted to own a mo­tor­cy­cle, but never had one, I asked if he would like to sit on the bike. I then gave him my hel­met, and asked if he would mind if I took a few pic­tures. He agreed, but only on the con­di­tion that he would also take a few pic­tures of me on my bike.

Be­fore I passed over my two Canon cam­eras, I ex­plained that one was an early model dig­i­tal cam­era, very prim­i­tive and fully au­to­matic. I also showed him how to op­er­ate my “good” cam­era, a pro­fes­sional level Canon, with both man­ual and au­to­matic set­tings. I said that this par­tic­u­lar cam­era was the latest in Ja­panese cam­era tech­nol­ogy.

I should have known, from the way that he held and op­er­ated both cam­eras, that he was not an am­a­teur pho­tog­ra­pher. This man knew what he was do­ing, and it was ob­vi­ous that he was en­joy­ing him­self.

As our pho­tog­ra­phy ses­sion ended, I ex­plained that I was a re­tired guid­ance coun­sel­lor, and used to teach pho­tog­ra­phy at night school. When I asked what he taught, and where, he smiled and replied: “I am a re­tired pro­fes­sor of pho­tog­ra­phy, and I taught at the Mas­sachusetts In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy (MIT), in Cam­bridge, Mass.”

It was my “Faux Pas” mo­ment. I had just given ba­sic in­struc­tions, on how to use a cam­era, to a pro­fes­sor of pho­tog­ra­phy at one of the most pres­ti­gious in­sti­tu­tions of higher learn­ing in the world. Need­less to say, I was slightly em­bar­rassed, but we both had a good laugh.

(Note: MIT, with an en­roll­ment of more than 11,000, is a pri­vate re­search univer­sity in Bos­ton, which spe­cial­izes in ap­plied science and en­gi­neer­ing. It is of­ten listed among the world’s top univer­si­ties.)


Fletcher Lawrence shows the stor­age ca­pac­ity of this an­tique wooden desk in his of­fice. It is well over 100 years old.


Ge­orge Thomas tries out my Yamaha tour­ing bike on Main street in Mar­ga­ree Har­bour, with Lawrence’s Gen­eral Store on the left.


Here I am in Mar­ga­ree Har­bour, with the Aca­dian vil­lage of Belle Cote on the right, and the Cape Bre­ton High­lands Na­tional Park on the hori­zon.

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