Guest contribution by Fallon Conway.
The ocean holds a power that both intrigues and inspires me. The sea will play in mysterious and unpredictable ways, and the mix of excitement and fear that this has to offer is what motivates me to do what I do. I’m subject to what the ocean offers and make my livelihood as so many others do, off of the bounty of the ocean.
My love of fishing and the ocean started at the early age of four. My father would take me out lobster fishing on days when the weather was predictable. I longed to be on the boat, waiting for the catch, playing with sea creatures that would saunter from the trap, only to be satisfied to return to the ocean after our memorable play date. I often fantasized that they would return to the ocean to tell their tale of the heroic adventure they had with a mainlander.
As I grew older, I was more reluctant to take ‘no’ for an answer. Days when the weather was miserable and uncertain were the days I enjoyed and desired most of all. They were immaculate and beautiful. The ocean would roar and rear its nasty face, warning us to be weary and heedful. This was when I gained respect for what the ocean offers to me, and I knew it could offer me so much.
My fishing career was fully established when I graduated from high school in January 2012. I obtained enough credits to graduate early, in anticipation for the spring lobster season. Rising at 3:30 am was not a motivator for choosing this way of life- some days required me to force my eyes open, and often searching for some type of prop to help me with this. Lots of coffee usually did the trick! But the early mornings, long days (some of those days overwhelmed by sea sickness) were quickly forgotten after a very rewarding day of work. Not necessarily financially rewarding, but personally rewarding, to have done something so physically and emotionally demanding.
Our safe haven every evening when we return from our work day is our “hut.” Located on the shore from our fishing grounds, our hut is a two room cabin, brimming with comfort food and warmth, a cozy place to converse about the day and rest our weary heads. It is also a place of play, to explore the wonders of what nature has to offer us. Ever since I was old enough to walk, I would run the granite rocks with my dog, who is basically my best friend, beach-comb, fish, and swim. The hut is the most meaningful place to me and I get to call it home for two months out of every year.
We steam up the harbor every day to sell our catch, occasionally bunkering down for the night at home, to catch a long warm shower and visit with family and of course for dad to restock his supply of pipe tobacco. The hut is much closer to our fishing grounds and offers a peaceful place to end the day.
During the year I visit the hut as much as I possibly can. I long for the smell of the wood stove.
Fishing days consisted of the sweet smell of pipe tobacco, teasing the crew and cranking up the tonic sounds and words of wisdom from Johnny Cash & CCR. All this while we hauled in the traps and banded the lobsters. We always kept positive, making miserable days enjoyable. Even if we found ourselves “over the stern,” relieving ourselves of that mornings’ breakfast. Being sea sick is one of the worst sicknesses; there are no breaks when working on the ocean. You put your head up and trudge on until your day is done, only to prepare for the next one.
Some days are much longer than others; my father and his two son-in-laws who both own fishing outfits also man a mackerel trap. If it yields a catch (to get an idea, sometimes upwards to 50,000 pounds of fish in a day’s landing) we see ourselves working hard, from 3:30am until 8 in the evening. Obtaining the majority of our annual income from these two months, it is required to work hard, long demanding days. Breaks are often uninvited.
Photography is a love I inherited after receiving my very first camera from my great aunt. It was a disposable, but even so I was amazed with how I could capture beauty and keep it still, resting forever. Photography is a passion I can take with me anywhere. Even though I have since made drastic upgrades to my equipment, I still feel gratitude to the little disposable camera that has led to my second passion. I have furthered my education in photography by successfully completing post-secondary education at Nova Scotia Community College in Dartmouth.
Fishing and photography for me go hand and hand. The scenes that inspire me on the ocean are the ones I get to capture through my lens and share with the world. I find myself constantly running the shore, either by foot or boat, seizing these moments. “Critters of the Sea” is a portfolio I am currently working on releasing, an up close and personal look at the creatures that inhabit the ocean.
I have a wonderful supportive family, with five sisters, three of whom are married to fishermen. We live and support our families making our livelihood off of the ocean in Whitehead, a small fishing village in rural Nova Scotia.
My father will continue to fish through the summer months, fishing halibut further off shore. I will spend the rest of the year promoting my photography, booking weddings and other events. The fall and winter, even though we get to sleep in a little later, we still find ourselves very occupied with preparing and repairing gear in anticipation for the new lobster season fast approaching.
To express in words what the ocean means to me would be almost impossible. The smell and sight of the ocean and how it invigorates my senses cannot be envisioned. It has to be experienced and that is what makes it so magical. I will spend a good part of March and April eagerly awaiting the salty spray, rough waters, long days and the complete satisfaction of continuing a vanishing tradition that I hold deep in my veins.
Fallon Conway is a photographer, ocean enthusiast, and free spirit living in Whitehead, a rural fishing village on the East Coast of Nova Scotia. As she describes herself: “I am a daughter, a sister, a fisherwoman. A graduate from NSCC Digital Photography, I am blessed with the ability to combine my passions of photography and fishing.”