Tuesday, December 30, 2008

No Help Needed

There were several amazing, mature trees towering over this property when we moved here 12 years ago. Growing in their stately shadows now are probably 150 seedling doug firs and cedars that I’ve planted myself, trees that were babies when I put them in the ground but are practically tree-adolescents now, some over 15 feet tall.

When the snow began falling one morning several days ago, I got up early. In that dim, blue light just before dawn, I put my camera on a tripod and photographed the small forest that is growing up just outside our back door. A bit later I pulled on my boots and wandered around outside, taking in the holiday-card imagery that was to be found with every step. They say that was a record snowfall we had, the biggest storm in 20 years.

Tomorrow I want to get out and stake-up a few of my trees that got pushed a little sideways in the high winds, trees that sagged under the weight of unfamiliar snow.

The trees probably don’t really need my help, but I guess I like to think they do.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Learning By Not Doing

We’ve had more snow the past four days here in the lowlands of Puget Sound than we normally see in an entire winter, but today the temperatures are going into a more normal 40-degree range and The Big Melt has begun.

Living as Leah and I do at the end of a rural road, Mr. Snow Plow Man from the county rarely makes it out to our neck of the woods, and our comings-and-goings by car this week have been difficult and generally an exercise in spinning-one’s-wheels. At last count I think we’ve gotten the car stuck in our own football-field-length driveway at least a half-dozen times. My beat-up old cross country skis have been a far better way to get around.

Kick-and-glide, kick-and-glide. When we moved to the state of Washington 30 years ago and I learned that the Cascade Mountains are buried in snow at least 6 months of the year, cross country skis were one of my first purchases. Later I bought snowshoes too, and I formulated this simple Outdoor Algebra:

Skiing = Falling.
Falling = Ouch.
Snowshoeing = Remaining Upright.
Remaining Upright = Less Ouch.

I kind of put the skis aside and generally did my winter hiking trips on snowshoes. Only this week did I dig the skis out for tours around my neighborhood...and do you know what I learned? I discovered that I’ve magically become a better skier than I remember being. Like someone who learns a foreign language by listening to tapes while they sleep, I’ve gotten better at skiing by leaving the skis stored, untouched, in the garage for the past 20 years.

There’s a trumpet out in our garage that I haven’t played since high school. I wonder whether my no-practice-equals-success method of learning means I can now play the Hayden Trumpet Concerto?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Practical Fellow

Sweet Pea is no dummy.

Unfamiliar as our sheep are with cold white flakes falling from the sky, Sweet Pea ventured out into this week’s Big Snowstorm -- "Worst of All-Time!"... "One For the Ages!" according to local TV news -- just long enough to get a face full of chilly white stuff. Sweet Pea seemed to learn quite quickly that this Winter Wonderland thing might appeal to humans who go around singing that they’re “Dreaming of a White Christmas,” but sheep are far too smart to fall for such sentimentality. He retreated back into the barn and watched the snow fall from a respectable distance.

Only the silly man with the camera -- the guy whose pockets were stuffed with Christmas cookies, who had that goofy, sugar-high smile pasted on his face -- only he and TV reporters are crazy enough to be out in that weather!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Never Snows Here

When we first moved to the Puget Sound region thirty years ago, local legend had it that the weather was generally mild -- never terribly hot in the summer or cold in the winter -- and that the city of Seattle didn’t even have a snowplow, not a single one. I doubt that was true, but it made for a good real estate come-on as this became one of the fastest-growing parts of the country.

I’m not some kind of zealot working for the Truth Police, but I have to report that most of Western Washington has been chilly and snow-covered the past few days. While statistics say temperatures should be in the 40’s and Seattle commuters should be carrying umbrellas to keep themselves and their lattes dry as they make their way to the office in the winter rain, the reality is that it’s been below freezing. TV news tells me -- as I watch from a safe distance, outside the city -- that lots of folks are staying home from work because the roadways are nearly impassable, coated first in ice, then snow.

The power goes out with little provocation in the rural area where I live, but it’s soldiered on this week. I’ve been able to work at my computer in my office at home, editing my wedding clients’ pictures. Yesterday afternoon I put on cross country skis and toured the snowy landscape around my house, looking for personal pictures. There was a bicycle (it serves as a flower planter in the summer) that looked visually interesting (in a snowbound, not-going-anywhere kind of way); and a very frozen birdbath. Later, as I warmed-up indoors, I photographed the gentle pattern and sweep of curtains, in contrast with the graphically bold railing of our deck.

Much heavier snow is forecast for the weekend. This is exciting stuff here in an area where snow is supposed to be on the mountains, way-off out there in the distance, not down here where we live.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Taking & Giving

I’m a better gift giver than I am a gift getter.

I’m forever photographing one thing or another in the area where we live: A neighbor’s horse in a field of wildflowers; another neighbor’s home, looking Currier and Ives picturesque after a fresh snowfall. Once I’ve taken these pictures, I give: I have prints made and pass them along to the horse’s owner, to the folks who live in the snow-covered house.

For me, the best part of the process of “taking” photographs is that I can later share and give-back. To do otherwise would feel like too one-sided a proposition.

Leah and I spent quite a bit of time this past weekend visiting with neighbors. It was very cold Saturday and the roads were icy and most of us stayed close to home. I shot the picture you see above. Sunday brought a fresh snowfall and the sleds came out. Also, of course, did my camera.

I can’t wait to have prints made. I’ll be fun to share them with folks.

Friday, December 12, 2008

New Roads

Most folks who are at all serious about photography will tell you that the camera can be a tool of great discovery, so spooky an instrument that I sometimes wonder: Who is in charge here? Who's the Decider Man?

I know it'll sound kind of hocus-pocus, but there are times when I have some Life Mystery in my head and, lo and behold, my camera helps me find my way to Insight. More often, it seems like my magic, all-seeing optical box supplies a visual answer, about 1/60th of a second before I even knew there was a question.

Many photographers will also, when pressed, admit to hearing voices. Our cameras push us out the door, whispering words in our ears that no one else can hear: “Dude, there are roads out there. Let’s go follow them.”

I guess it was Yogi Berra who said: “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
I can't speak for other folks with a Photographic Habit, but I can tell you that in my case, Camera and I surely seem to be following Yogi's advice.

A year ago Leah and I trekked in the Himalaya of Nepal. We were charmed by the friendly and warm Nepali people, yet we were also curious about the the quiet and mysterious Tibetan refugees who had come over the border into Nepal, fleeing, we were told, the Chinese who now occupy the Tibetans’ homeland.

Upon returning to the Seattle area, I learned that there is a small Nepali and Tibetan community here, and I have since made some new friends. One man I’ve met was born in Tibet but his family fled to India when he was two. My new friend is sometimes asked to speak about the Tibet/China issue; he asked me last week if I’d do some portraits he might be able to supply to the organizations that book him for talks. I was eager and excited to do those photographs.

My friend told me about his involvement in the local Tibetan Buddhist community. Because one road leads to another -- and because I’m a curious fellow -- I hope to learn more about this historic and now displaced culture, taking root here in the American Northwest.

I see a fork in the road. Camera and I think we'll take it.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


I’m learning, slowly.
Learning to accept Things As They Are.

I saw a sunrise Saturday, one of the most amazing I’ve ever experienced. But I was on my way someplace, in a hurry. I couldn’t be late.

I jumped out of the car with my camera. I shot fast. Pictures were here, there, everywhere.
Bang bang bang.

I was bummed that I didn’t have more time, time to set up a tripod, time to make perfect, worthy photographs. I was disgusted too that there wasn’t time to take a breath, to look around in awe. This was of one of Nature’s Grand Gestures, this sunrise.

Yes, I was being shortsighted, I was being very hard on myself. All that beauty, yet there I stood,
thinking how the experience could be better.

I learned a lesson, just then: I realized I should take a cue from the sunrise and lighten up a bit.

Friday, December 5, 2008


I’ve been looking at stuff this week, everyday stuff like neon-colored chard stalks that have weathered the recent frosts in our garden. I also looked at our frou-frou Polish rooster (“who does his hair?” a smart aleck friend asked.)

Sometimes it’s a little spooky to look close-up, the way one does through a camera. As impressive at Mother Nature’s work is from distance, her artistry can be almost too much to bear when viewed through the all-seeing optics that we photographers have in our gadget bags of tricks.

A macro lens on the chard.
Pan the camera and pop a little flash on the rooster.

It’s play. It’s goofing around. It’s Let’s Have Fun with Photography.

And, now that I think about it, I too would like to know who does the rooster’s hair.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Foggy Clarity

If you thumbed through the photography books on the shelves in my office, I suspect you’d peg me as a fellow with a very wide range of photographic tastes. I have books by photojournalists but also art photographers; I own collections of the work of photographic pioneers, but also contemporary image-makers. Even if you just picked out a few of the landscape photography books I’ve collected, you’d see the tack-sharp, zone-system-perfect work of Ansel Adams, but also the soft and dreamy landscape images that are the recent work of Sally Mann.

My own way of seeing is often all over the photographic map: I make my primary living by photographing human beings at fluid, always-moving, go-go-go wedding events. Not long ago, however, a food magazine sent me a check for an altogether different kind of work: A still-life picture of some eggs.

Photography: It’s too varied a thing to exist quietly on a bookshelf or in a pigeonhole.

The past few days have been foggy around the Puget Sound area and the personal, just-for-fun pictures that have found their way into my camera seem to look best in black-and-white (though color could have been interesting too...) I was on a ferry headed to Seattle and played with the coming-together of objects and shapes as a cormorant tried in vain to dry his wings while surrounded by fog. Another morning I was walking the dog and liked the patterns and lines of my neighbor’s teepee, the out-of-time way the shelter looked there in a foggy pasture.

I get a kick out of wondering what tomorrow might bring.

Friday, November 28, 2008


I was smitten the first time I set eyes on Mt. Stuart, probably 30 years ago, and my infatuation with her has not diminished over the years.

I really can’t say why she captured my heart. There are other peaks in Washington that are much higher. Where Mt. Stuart reaches 9,415 feet into the sky, Mt. Rainier has an elevation of 14,410, Mt. Adams 12,276, and Mt. Baker 10,778. And there are peaks that have had a more tangible impact on me: In 1980 when we lived in Yakima and Mt. St. Helens erupted, we wound up with several inches of volcanic ash on the roof of our house, which was up for sale at the time. Believe me, hundreds of pounds of sand on one’s roof does little to increase salability.

Still, it is Mt. Stuart that I visit again and again. I’ve made pilgrimages to her from the north and from the south. I’ve made photographs from her lower slopes and from her summit, in black and white and in color, at all seasons of the year. Some of the pictures I’ve taken of her are quite nice, but none even begin to do her justice.

I hiked near Mt. Stuart again last weekend -- for some reason I’m particularly drawn to her around Thanksgiving -- and made the photograph you see above. It’s a very average picture of her; it felt like there was more potential in the scene that day than what I was able to capture. And so I will go back, hopefully for another 30 years, and each time I will look at her fondly.

I know I’m not worthy.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Rookie

I should have seen it coming. I should have known I was about to get a dose of humility.

Two days ago I went hiking with three adults and a kid. Today, as I type these words, my legs are sore (the rest of my body feels pretty damned beat-up as well) and I feel obliged to share this piece of hard-earned advice:

When you are planning a hike with friends and one of them is a young father who says he’d like to bring his seven-year-old son along, don’t do what I did: Don’t spend time worrying that the kid will slow you down. When the dad says his son is “a strong hiker,” I think you should believe him. Most of all, I suggest you beware of a seven-year-old hopped-up on gummy bears and Pepsi. He’ll kick your hiking ass.

The trip we had planned was on a snowy trail, maybe six miles round trip, with about 2000 feet of elevation gain. It was a bright, sunny day and our destination was a ridgetop at an elevation of about 6000 feet where we knew we’d have wonderful views. Organizing my daypack at the trailhead, I decided to strap snowshoes onto my pack, reasoning that if the snow got deep higher up, I could use the snowshoes to help break trail for the seven-year-old.

Once we began hiking, the kid and his dad took off and were ahead of the rest of us all day long... (so much for them needing my macho trailbreaking skills.) A couple of hours later when our whole party gathered together for lunch near some beautiful, weathered, white pine snags on the ridgetop, I ate organic fruit and nut bars (you know: Sensible Adult food.) The kid ate candy and drank pop.

We all took in the views and reveled in the camaraderie brought on by a great trip on a fine day.

Friday, November 21, 2008


Eye Candy.
Many photographers shoot it.
I guess I do too sometimes.

I was walking down The Ave in the U. District.
I saw a kid hanging out,
listening to some street musicians.
The kid was wearing a mask.
He was outside an empty storefront.

Can I take your picture? I asked.
Sure, he said.

It took about 20 seconds to shoot the pictures.
I showed the kid what I’d shot.
Cool, he said.
And that was it, the end of our encounter.
I walked on.

I could have talked with the kid.
I should have talked with the kid.
I’d have sounded weird, but
if nothing else I could have asked:
What’s Up With The Mask?
I might have learned something.

Eye Candy.

In this case, it feels like
there’s no There there
in my pictures.
My pictures pose more questions
than they answer.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Just For Fun

I seem to be seeing in threes the past few days:

--Sunday I walked into the kitchen and noticed a pleasing pattern of three empty dog bowls (and one hungry dog, waiting patiently for one of the bowls to be filled.) I guess I was in a goofy mood but also preoccupied with all the bad economic news of late because the thought occurred to me that our dog's definition of the word "recession" is: Three straight instances of negatively-filled food bowls.

--This morning Leah left three pears on the kitchen table. She's been leaving me little visual Easter eggs quite often lately, picture possibilities hidden here and there in our house and my job as The Photographer is to take the hints and the photo.

Nothing profound here. No Great Art. Just simple pictures of everyday things, entries in my daily photo diary.

Taking these photographs is my way of keeping photography fun, making sure it's never just "a job."

Friday, November 14, 2008

New Baby

When Leah and I were first married we rented a one-bedroom, upstairs apartment in a wonderful old house in small-town Ohio. Our landlady, Minnie Frederick, lived downstairs in the main part of the house and she was so warm and grandmotherly to us that Leah and I became very close to her.

When our son was born several years later -- by then Leah and I had bought a home of our own, though it happened to be just around the corner from Min’s house -- we took our five-day-old baby over and proudly showed him off to our sweet, grandmotherly friend. I took a picture that day that, now, 30 years later, brings memories flooding back of a shared joy that was beyond what I can put into words.

Photographs are like that sometimes.

Several days ago I visited a young couple we know. They have just had their first child and I offered to do a picture of the new baby, who, it turned out, was a bit fussy part of the time I was there. Taking her in his big hand to calm her, the infant’s daddy held her and cooed to her in a way that was just wonderful. I felt, again, that sense of shared joy, and I was very happy to be there with my camera.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Giving Back

It was exactly a year ago today, November 9, 2007, that Leah and I were nearing the end of our three week trek in the Himalaya in Nepal. Leah made the above photograph that day in the tiny village of Monjo. I like the exuberance of the boy in Leah’s photo and the idea that the girl with the toy camera is turning the photographic tables on the tourists who pass by, we trekkers who are looking-looking, and snapping.

Several weeks ago I finished reading the book “Three Cups of Tea,” a real-life story about an American mountaineer who goes to Asia to attempt a climb of K2 in Pakistan. After what turns out to be failure to summit the mountain, Greg Mortenson wanders into a remote village near K2 and, eventually, formulates a plan to build a school for the children there.

This week I had a conversation with an American company that has a business relationship with Nepal. We are talking about ways the photographs Leah and I shot in Nepal might be used to give something back to the people of that country.

Here’s a link to the work being done by “Three Cups of Tea”


Friday, November 7, 2008

Seeing, Glacially

The Dark Months are heavy upon us here in the Pacific Northwest. It rained all day yesterday in the lowlands and snow fell in the high mountains. The sky is gloomy and leaden and I suspect many people in Seattle are plugging in their “light therapy” lamps and reaching for the Prozac.

Being a both a cheapskate and an electricity-saving environmentalist, I’m reluctant to turn lights on in my house during the “daylight” hours. I walked past our kitchen table and noticed that Leah had placed an apple in a small, antique bowl, but I very nearly missed recognizing the scene’s photographic potential because there was so very little daylight coming in the kitchen window.

Slowly, dimly, glacially, the neurons began to move in my head. Vision -- believe me, I use the word now with great humility -- emerged through the thick molasses of my rainy-season brain funk. I put a camera on a tripod, made an exposure of eight seconds at f8, and the Canon digital sensor magically produced an image that transcended darkness (both mental and physical.)

When I played with the image later on my computer, I decided to add digital “noise.” A grainy, old-looking image seemed aesthetically pleasing. It also happens to reflect my mental state as I made the picture.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Rural Roots

I’ve been making photographs in rural places since I was a kid in high school. The above picture of a cat walking in the snow at my grandparents’ Ohio farm was shot and printed when I was 16-years-old. The only print I have is yellow around the edges and the emulsion is cracked, probably because my darkroom back then was a closet in my parents’ basement, and my method for washing prints was to splash them around in water for a couple of minutes in my mom’s laundry tubs.

Not a lot has changed in the nearly 40 years since the making of the cat picture. Rural scenes still speak to my photographic heart, and this week I shot pictures that kind of please me as I did chores in my own barn here near Seattle, 2500 miles removed from my Ohio roots:

--There’s an image of our dog, Minnie, peeking in the barn door as she whimpered pathetically. Minnie would dearly have loved to come inside the barn with me, but she has a disgusting habit of munching on chicken poop. I don’t know that I’m teaching my dog any lessons, but I keep the door open just wide enough so that Minnie can smell --but not get her gross nose in -- the banquet the chickens have left behind.

--Our sheep, Jupiter and Sweet Pea, press in to visit with me and also nose-smear my camera lens. As I share this picture now publicly, I get some delight in fantasizing that this photograph might be seen in Germany, where a fussy lab-coat-wearing optical designer at Leica will shake his head and tisk-tisk in disapproval, knowing as he does that sheep schmutz is not at all conducive to optimal lens performance.

Friday, October 31, 2008


It seems now like it must have been some past
lifetime -- could I possibly have been living in a time-warped ancient civilization on another planet? -- when I shot the picture you see here.

The humans in this image -- and my memory of what they were doing -- live in my head like the event was so very long ago...

In truth, the photograph was made only last February, and the people you see are part of the little community where I live in the Puget Sound region of Washington State. We were all attending the caucus of our political party, and we were voting our preferences for the candidate who would represent us in the presidential election, which now -- finally! -- after a long, weird, time-travel journey through Space and the Universe, is upon us.

I attended the caucus thinking that one candidate, a woman who most of my neighbors simply referred to as “Hillary,” probably had the best chance to win my party’s nomination. Being a pragmatic sort of guy on that day back in February, I was prepared to give Hillary my causus vote. But a funny thing happened that day, and has continued to happen in the days since: pragmatism got its sorry, practical butt run-over by a bunch of people who dared to Hope. A mass of fresh-faced folks stepped forward and said:
I will represent our party at our state convention;
I will doorbell for a candidate who promises Change and who talks about The Audacity of Hope.
I will be part of crowds that will eventually number in the tens of thousands, and we will make our voices heard.

Looking at the picture I shot on that day back in February, I understand how we’ve come to where we are today, how my party arrived at its unlikely, improbable nominee. I look at the faces in the photo and I see Hope.

I see Hope, and I feel it too.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Picture Man

I hope my friends don’t think I’m lazy.

Leah and I were invited to a cider-making party last weekend. While the adult partygoers were washing and peeling apples and laboriously hand-cranking them through a cider press, the kids were working hard at their kid-job (riding a pony.)

Yes, I did take a few turns at cranking the press, but I’m afraid it could be said that I spent more than my fair share of time wandering around, taking pictures. I more or less designated myself as Official Event Photographer, and I shouldered the not-very-back-breaking task of documenting the work and play on the part of others.

At day’s end, everyone --including the Picture Man -- had jugs of fresh cider to take home.

If my “contribution” strikes you as a bit of an artistic scam, I’m afraid you might have a point. All I can say in my own defense is that I always seem to gravitate toward the job I do best, and that "work" is done with a camera.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Complexity, Simplified

Maybe I’ve been watching too many interviews lately of Alaska’s-Governor-Turned-VP-Candidate, but I’m feeling dumbed-down these days. As I sit here at my computer thinking of words that might go with these two tree pictures I shot recently in the Methow Valley, I think about writing one kind of essay...then I stop for a minute and feel like writing something different.

My brain is numb and, if you are at all like me, you too are O.D.’d on breathless verbiage.

I shot these pictures in a big, complex landscape that included sky and trees and a river and hills and mountains, all of which extended out as far as my eye could see. Yes, I made some Big Vista pictures during my time in the Methow, but I also like the two images you see here. What can I say about the photographs? What should I write?

I saw some trees.
One had cool moss on it.
Another had a neat pattern in the bark.

The End.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Most Excellent Trip

One day soon I’ll move on with life and stop thinking and looking back to the trip that Leah and I and our friends, Jim and Karen, did recently to the Methow Valley in Eastern Washington.

Looking at these two photos I shot on that sojourn, can you blame me for reveling in Things Past? Of all the places I’ve hiked, climbed, bicycled, and even toured by car in the 30 years I’ve lived in this staggeringly beautiful state, the Methow Valley is at or near the top of my list of Fave Spots. I’ve visited the Valley in the winter for cross country skiing; I’ve been there in spring for mountain biking and hiking; I’ve been there, along with the hordes of tourists, in summer for just-plain-hanging-out. At all times of the year I’ve been there for photography.

The Methow Valley is always amazing to me, but certainly never more so than on this most recent trip. The lowland aspens were in their fall-color glory and the high peaks of the North Cascades wore new blankets of the first snow of the season.

I’m a fortunate fellow to live in such a place.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Photo Finders

We photographers sometimes speak or write about the making of images in words that might suggest that we have Great Artistic Vision, a God-Given Way of Looking at Things, or perhaps even a direct cell phone connection with Cosmic Vibrations.

Truth is, sometimes the making of a photograph is pretty darned easy. In my case, I often get nice pictures simply by having a camera with me when I’m hanging around with smart, observant people. When the folks around me point at something and say “Oh, that’s neat,” I raise my camera and press the shutter button.

No hocus-pocus required.

Last week Leah and two photographer friends and I traveled in North Central Washington. We were coming out of a restaurant in the quaint little town of Winthrop when Leah stopped to admire the cool way some very yellow fall leaves looked on some red chairs. My job: compose and shoot the picture my wife found for me.

Another time we’d pulled off the road to photograph a quaint church, picturesquely tucked into the foothills of the North Cascades. The digital camera I was using had a live-view screen on the back and, as I got out of the car thinking about how to photograph the church off in the distance, the camera was pointed at the ground. I glanced at the live-view screen, which silently suggested: “’Excuse me, Mister Tunnel Vision, but there’s a picture right down here at your feet.”

Yes, there are times when I have to work for the images I make. Occasionally, though, I simply pay attention to where the arrow is pointing on the bright neon sign that says:


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Geography Lesson

I live in Western Washington, about an hour by car and ferry from Seattle. My home is on a couple of acres of land in a fairly rural area -- I can look out my window and see sheep and horses grazing -- but most of my business is in Seattle, a tres-urban city of teeming traffic, trendy boutiques, and yuppie coffee joints.

If you live someplace else -- Cleveland, for example -- and you think Seattle is “Out West,” I suggest you think again. Around here if you want to find The West -- big, open sky lording over thousand-acre ranches -- you actually have to travel east from Seattle, over the Cascade Mountains, to places like Yakima or Omak or Moses Lake. Those towns, Pard’ner, are The West.

Leah and I made that drive this past weekend with friends. We spent our time breathing clean air, embracing the wide open country where aspen trees were crazy with fall color. We drank beer in a small town where cowboy boots serve a first life as everyday, utilitarian ranch wear of choice, then, years later, become whimsical planters.

We read books, took hikes and photographs, then went lookin’ for more food and beer.

I suppose the local folks pegged us right off as city slickers, urbanites from the West Side of the mountains who had come East to find the West.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Getting the Paper

Early in the morning several days ago I gathered all the courage I could muster and walked down the gravel lane that leads to our property, heading to the mailboxes to get the newspaper. If you’ve been reading the newspapers or paying any attention at all to the news lately, you know that things are not good. The world’s economy is tanking, human beings are doing violence to one-another, and the American Presidential election has gotten divisive and ugly. Just when you think the news can’t get any worse, it does.

Still, I saw evidence that morning that Mother Nature is an optimist.

I’d just removed the newspaper from its plastic delivery tube at the mailbox and was headed home when a light rain began to fall. The sun was rising over Puget Sound to the east and an amazing, beautiful, hopeful rainbow formed over the towering cedar trees in my neighbor’s pasture. I shot photograph after photograph and stood for quite some time, watching the rainbow as it remained in the sky, refusing to fade. I began to get wet from standing in the rain. I needed to get on with the tasks I had planned for my day but I didn't feel I should turn my back on the rainbow; if it was going to put on such a show, the least I could do was hang around and watch. More minutes passed. Reluctantly, I finally turned and headed indoors to get my breakfast and get to work.

As I went into the house, I checked the sky one last time. The rainbow was still there, as bright as ever.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Fisherman's Tale

Most weekends during spring, summer and fall, you can find me in a church or a country club or an outdoor garden. I’ll be dressed in fairly atypical photographer clothing -- a white shirt, tie, and dress pants -- and I’ll be looking-looking-looking as I always do, and moving, like a nervous fisherman who knows there are fish somewhere in a river, as he is walking-walking-walking up and down the riverbank, thinking action on his part will somehow get him closer to the fish.

I’m looking for the unplanned, the unchoreographed, the unexpected. I’m looking for surprises. Take the image above, for example. I thought I was on the trail of one kind of image (or fish) when another happened.

I was in a church minutes before a wedding ceremony was about to take place, photographing a sweet moment between my bride and her little flower girl. I was shooting through a doorway and trying to be unseen, working with a fairly long lens at some distance from the bride and the child. A wedding guest, trying to be “helpful,” saw me and told the little girl that the photographer was taking her picture and that she should smile. Like that, the encounter between the bride and the flower girl ended, and the child’s energy and curiosity became directed at me.

Just then, however, the door began to swing closed...and a new photographic possibility began to present itself. I watched that expression of curiosity linger on the child’s face and I waited for fractions of a second that seemed like an hour as the door closed, closed, nearly-closed, and then I fired the camera.

The photograph above isn’t one that will likely make it into my portfolio or be one of my all-time favorites, but it’s a nice little picture, and the story of how it came to be made is indicative of how pictures -- and life -- often unfold in ways that can’t be predicted.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Local Logic

Mother Nature’s sense of seasonal balance seems to be a bit off-kilter around here this week. Just down the lane from our house there are wildflowers blooming, looking for all the world like it’s spring. In our back yard a Katsura tree is putting on a show of fall color.

This is the time of year when we tend to have foggy mornings, when the fog horns at the ferry dock about three miles away sound so sadly mournful...but in a hopeful kind of way (you kind of have to live here to know what I mean.) Diehard locals, you see, have by now had quite enough of summer sunshine and cloudless skies. Real Puget Sounders are ready for six months of clouds and fog and rain.

Full-on gloom is just around the corner. Some of us can’t wait.