Where Only Weeds Now Grow

Where Only Weeds Now Grow

A historic cabin outside of Yosemite Valley. I thought to photograph the cabin itself, but as I surveyed the best position, it occurred to me, the cabin is but a distant memory. It is historical only because the marker says so. No one lives there now, and what it was is all it now is. How do we create a sense of that in a photograph? We change the focus to what is there now.  I guess this has a larger lesson.  We so often find ourselves confused because our focus is all wrong, and the things that should be important or that should have meaning are clouded by a history that may no longer be relevant.  This is probably true in politics, religion, and even in personal relationships.  Look around with new eyes, and you may be surprised by what you see.

Prints of all my pictures are available by contacting me.  Each print is personally handled to assure the best possible quality.  Each will be signed and hand-held all the way to the post master.

How the Earth Holds Me

How the Earth Holds Me

A meadow in Yosemite

It’s hard to believe that nearly the whole month has slipped by without posting.  I promised myself I’d keep up with this blog, and was doing fairly well until starting a business took over my life.  Tonight, for the first time in weeks, I carved out an hour to go over my pictures from Yosemite.  I’ve already got another camping trip planned (Mammoth), and I haven’t even begun to really sort out the pictures from Yosemite.

The lessons I’ve learned thus far from trying to get this photography thing going:

1. It’s hard.  That has by no means left me with any regrets.  I expected it to be hard, and don’t think yet that I’ve even begun to feel the weight of the real challenge ahead.  But I believe that there is room in all the noise of photographic static that digital age has created for a clear voice.  And I believe I have that clear voice to offer.

2. It’s time consuming.  I work all day, and the room I so looked forward to creating for myself…that quiet place without disruptions…has become a dungeon, and I am it’s sole prisoner most of the day.  My arms tied to my editing pen and keyboard, at least 2 monitors lighting me as I check emails, research photo techniques and opportunities, edit pictures, respond to various inquiries, submit photos to various sites, and wonder why things are moving so slowly when I am exerting so much effort. Sisyphus comes to mind, but in the end, I remind myself, Camus made him a sort of hero.  Work on!

3. I don’t miss what I used to do.  I look forward each day to what I currently do.  I just wish there was a quicker way to make a living doing what I now do.

4. God has a voice that cannot be heard with the ears, but can only be heard through His actions.  Again and again, I have prayed, and those prayers have been answered almost as soon as my eyes open the next morning.  I know the research on prayer, and I know that many people believe we speak to a long-dead void and an absent messiah when those prayers are uttered.  But all I know is that I’ve had prayers heard and fulfilled.

5. Feedback is best when it’s honest and when it comes.  Your feedback on the above photo will make me make a better picture next time I go out, so please, let me know what you think.

ThisPhotoDaddy

1st day of 4th grade

 

The big day has come, and it is a day my daughter has been anticipating for the past couple months.  She is finally a real live 4th grader.  She was so excited that she woke up at 5:00 am, and wanted to get ready.  To understand the significance of this, you have to realize that this girl doesn’t really feel completely alive unless she’s slept well into the morning (just like her mama).  So 5 would typically be an excruciating hour for her.  But we got her dressed and carted her off to her first day.  She was lucky.  One of her best friends is in her class, and was placed very near her in the seating chart. So, for Alison, 4th grade had a good beginning.

It is interesting how we begin to live the joys and the dispairs of our kids.  I hear that once begun this never goes away.  Forever more the ups and downs of my girls will be the ups and downs of my own heart and soul.  Their pain, their accomplishments, their sorrows, their fears, the breath-holding moments just before letting go and falling into the various abysses that await each of us will never be felt alone.  I know my wife feels the same way, because we talk about our girls all the time.

Being a parent is no great accomplishment (at least for most of us, I think this is true).  After all, the majority of human beings will procreate, and will bring into this world children of their own.  So, practically, it is nothing but a biological experience share by most.  Yet, despite this, being a parent can be the most emotionally rewarding experience in any single human life.  It can bring meaning and purpose where there was once a desert of misunderstanding about one’s place in the universe.   Things can seem so terribly complicated at times, I know.  Everything is convoluted, truth is an idea we are asked to forsake long before we reach the age of consent, and sometimes the we wonder about the value of the entire species of man, let alone the value of any particular individual.  But then we have kids, and everything seems to fall in to place.  Things seem to make much more sense, and the world seems more promising (and more terrifying, perhaps).

My little girl is growing up.  She’s nearly 2 years younger than every other student in her 4th grade class, and is so very little to let loose into such a big world.  It’s hard letting go, and impossible to hold on.  All we can every really do is hold on with those heart strings that seem always to be strung to the point of breaking.

 

One Light, One Girl, About One Minute

ImageI haven’t posted in about a week, and that’s probably because I’m back from vacation, busy starting a new business, and have had very little to say, but much more to absorb.  But, yesterday, Alison was about to go out with friends to a waterpark, and I knew I was going to miss her…so I asked her to let me take a couple of pictures.  I had a whole setup at hand, but I knew that what I wanted was an intimate picture of my little girl.  It was a simple picture I was after, and I didn’t have much time, so I aimed my silver umbrella so that the light inside just brushed against her.  This left much of her in darkness.  There was just enough fall-off to give a hint of the back wall.  She left, I was alone, and I thought about how quickly our kids grow up and grow out of us.  Image

The above is an approximation of how I let her.  The umbrella was probably 3 feet from her, and about 5 to 6 feet from the rear wall.  I used fairly low power, probably 1/4 or 1/8th on one of my speedlights.

Keeping your eyes open

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A difficult part about photography is seeing.  The problems stems from the fact that we see so much, that our minds have learned to filter out almost everything.  Though we have about 180°, we are unable, generally, I suspect, to focus our attention on much of that.  Rather, what we “see” is like what exists in the boca of a photograph taken with a 200mm lens at an f-stop of about 1.4.  So what do we do to open up that aperture just a bit?  There are probably a billion answers to this question, and I bet about 980 million of them are pretty good answers.  For me, though, I have learned this.  Photography is a very personal and sometimes lonely venture.  I find that my best shots come to me when I am alone, and hence, free to explore without the hinderance of having to actually talk with another person.  Sounds pretty harsh, but it’s simple.  The human mind, while powerful, is also very limited.  The more things you are doing at once, the less well each of those things is done.  You can see or you can speak.  When looking for pictures, it is best to see.  With a family that I love about as much as I love to breathe, getting this alone time is not easy, but, still, it is necessary.

I’ve also learned to turn around.  I heard another photographer talk about this, and I wish I could remember who it was who said it, but I find that it is true.  You get somewhere, you pull out your camera, look through the eyepiece, take your shot.  But then, before you pack up, turn around.  It is surprising just how often you will find that there are far more exciting images waiting for you if you simply do that.

Lastly, and related to what I just said, change your angle.  If you want to see something differently, change your perspective and look.  Get on a ladder, crawl on the ground.  Things will look different, and things will often look better simply by doing that.  The image above was taken at an old mill near Calistoga, Ca., and I’m pretty sure it has been shot about a million times by now.  After all, look at it.  Who could resist.  But, I also imagine that most of those shots are pretty much the same.  I walked around this thing several times before finally settling on the shot above.  What I’d hoped to get was power of the wheel itself, and possibility that doors always present.  I titled it “Mine was the only way,” and I won’t say why, but I will say that the title is intended to make viewer consider the picture as more than simply a door and mill wheel.

The photo below is of the same mill.  As you can see, I followed my own advice.  I placed my lens really low, and shot the mill by looking up at it.  This always makes things seem bigger, and bigger is generally more powerful.  In this case, I think it also makes the mill look more haunting.  I added a texture onto the picture to really bring out the darks and separate them from the whites.  These are artistic choices, and what I was going for was drama.  The contrasting tones should remind one the stormy clouds that so often add depth and dimension to black and white images.  One last thing that I’ve found really enhances some photos (though, when used too often just becomes cliche) is to duplicate a photo in a photoshop layer.  Turn the new layer into a BW image, then superimpose that image onto the color image.  I lower the transparency of the top layer, and this gives a desaturated look that is highly controllable.  But, because you are dealing with an entirely different layer, you can control the amount of contrast in your top BW image, and this has an interesting affect on the overall contrast of the final image.

I miss my camping trip, but am glad that I have so many images that I can share.  I’m still sifting through them, so have no idea when I’ll be done editing and/or sharing.  Can’t wait to get back up there again.

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You never know who is watching

Caught in the act…

I’ve made the argument before, and I think I will stick with it just a bit longer, the street photographer is more historian than voyeur.  I love taking street photos.  There is little in the world more challenging or fun than walking the streets (or in this case, the dunes), and looking for a bit of life to capture.  I’ve done this since I was a kid, and still get the same thrill when I hit upon a scene like the one above.

Why historian, though, and not simply voyeur?  I think it has to do with the motives behind taking shots like the one above.  Someday, this beach will not look like this.  This couple will be separated or dead.  With the advent of global warming, even the sea itself may look different.  So, I took a picture in order to stop time, and if all goes well, someone, someday, will stumble upon this pictures, or others like it, and have an understanding of relationships in the early 21st century, of climate, our geology, and, perhaps, a hint about urban spread.

There is peace in our time.  I can demonstrate that with pictures like the one above.  Today, there is room to escape (but not much).  I think I’d like to document that.

Waiting doesn’t always pay off…the way you expect

I sat hunched over and  jacketless while cold wind and sea spray exploded about me.  It was not early enough, and I knew that even as I shot these pictures, but I was in tourist mode, and looking out at the blue ocean and these prehistorically powerful pelicans launching themselves into the air above salt and sharp sea foam made me stop.  Pelicans have always been my favorite birds.  They have an almost mechanical elegance and a sturdiness of design that brings certainty into the world.

I watched these birds rise and dive as my family lingered nearby—my wife with the baby in the car perched far above and beyond me, Alison hovering at the shore waiting for me to get the shot I’d come to get.

Unfortunately, that shot never came.  This is as close as I got.  Though I waited there probably close to an hour, the birds never quite took the leap that I’d hoped to catch.  Despite this, it was a good morning, and I did get a few shots that I like.

The lesson for me is this: You can wait and wait and wait, but that does not guarantee that you will ever get what you’re waiting for.  So we sometimes have to be satisfied with what we are able to get.  For me, on this particular morning, the process of waiting and the opportunity to take the shots I did get are reward enough.

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