THE SEA IS A moving thing. Just now, outside my window in Twillingate, it’s steel grey with snow-white edging. The horizon blurs softly against the dove grey sky, while the jagged dark rock of the Newfoundland coastline breaks into the ocean like a ship plowing through ice. The wind howls, the rain lashes and streaks of light pick up the mossy green of the hill opposite. The sea surrounds and encompasses this island, and inside too, in the Iceberg Alley Bed and Breakfast, the folks talk about the sea and the industry that depends on it, the fishery.
I’m here in Newfoundland for the first time as a guest of the first annual Twillingate Unscripted Digital Arts Festival. The festival brought together a variety of digital artists and explorers, from photographers and filmmakers to outdoor adventurers and ipad illustrators. And me, representing travel blogging. I’m giving a presentation about my travel blogging career, and teaching a three-hour workshop on blogging.
My experience has confirmed my feeling that the Unscripted Festival was a stroke of genius. It brought together creative people in a picturesque and inspiring spot — a Newfoundland outport known for scenic beauty and the towering icebergs that float past in late spring and early summer.
It’s my first time here in Newfoundland, the Canadian province known as “The Rock” for reasons that quickly become obvious. A rocky island that thrusts eastward into the North Atlantic ocean, Newfoundland’s unique landscape and culture is formed by remoteness, rough weather, and dependence on the sea.
This morning at breakfast, my hostess Thelma talks in a thick Newfoundland accent — like an Irish brogue coated in molasses and spiked with salt — about the tragedy of the cod, and the farce of the seal protesters. Someone remarks they’re yarnin’ — they’re spinning yarns — which seems to be the favourite local past time. It’s a joy to listen to.
Listening to the locals talk in their distinctive style, about the issues they care about, has been one of the highlights of being here, and makes me wish I could stay longer and listen to the stories, and go out on a fishing boat, and find out what makes hearts beat in this place.
Another highlight was a day-long workshop with renowned local photographer Dennis Minty and his talented wife Antje, learning to see this landscape. We spent the morning at the Anchor Inn Hotel and Suites in Twillingate — the central hub for the Unscripted Festival — learning the basics of photography and then went out into the wind and sunshine on a photography walk. We didn’t have to walk far to find scenic beauty, just across the street and down a lane to the outer coast.
Here we practiced applying the tips we learned about colour and composition, lines and lights, as we tried to capture the natural beauty and cultural whimsy of Twillingate. Afterwards, we trooped back to the Anchor Inn where I ate a bowl of fresh fish chowder for lunch, followed by a hands-on session in choosing and editing the photos we took.
This synergy, to me, is the essence of the Unscripted Festival and the genius. Our work was inspired by the locality and created onsite with the help of a talented and generous presenter — and I learned to see this unique place with new eyes and new photographic appreciation.