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.