Friday, January 30, 2009

Home Room

When I was in 7th grade I was smitten by the cute girl who sat in the desk next to me in Home Room. Though it was 40-some years ago, I remember every single detail of the day that the girl seemed to take half an interest in me. She was pretty and smart and popular and I was a new kid in a new town and school.

I remember what the classroom looked like, how it smelled, where my desk was.
I remember our teacher was taking attendance and that the girl looked down at my feet and asked me: “Do you know you’re wearing one black sock and one blue sock?”

I do not remember how I reacted to learning that I was poorly dressed. Perhaps some experiences are so traumatic that the mind knows to erase them.

I had a newspaper route and I scraped together money to buy that girl a necklace.

This morning, 40 years after I gave the pretty, smart, popular girl the necklace, I saw that she’d gone to work without taking the bracelets I’ve bought for her more recently, so I took a photograph that’s got me thinking about the passage of time.

As an aside, you might also like to know that today I’m wearing socks that match.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Breaking Free

I can’t remember ever not enjoying myself when I’ve been in the mountains or in other wild outdoor places. Rain, snow, wind -- even biting bugs who play slip-n-slide in the sweat pooled up under my eyes while I hike -- have sometimes been part of my Outdoor Experience, yet even those, the “bad” days, were filled with more moments of joy than misery.

And the Good Days? Sunshine, a warm breeze, big puffy clouds drifting lazily over a picturesque mountain summit, a high alpine meadow all to myself while I napped on a mossy log that cradled the contours of my back just-right...well those days have been Just Too Perfect.

It feels weird to admit, then, that I had a hard time getting myself out the door this past weekend. I wanted to go hiking. My tensed-up soul told me I needed to go hiking. And yet there was this chore that should be done around the house, and that. Lotsa reasons to stay home. Leah felt the same way. We talked about staying home and being "productive."

But we know what’s good for us, and so we went. We went to a forest where there was new snow on the trail and where there were huge, old-growth trees, but no other human beings.

It was just your average, run-of-the-mill, Perfect Day To Be Out.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Reality Show

One of my goals in life is to be better than my television -- not superior to its circuit boards or technical construction, but better than much of the programing the TV would bring into my house if I let it.

Sometimes Leah and I turn the TV on in the morning to watch reruns of the show “West Wing” while we’re eating our oatmeal. If you haven’t seen “West Wing,” it was a series about life in the White House, its story lines depicting idealistic individuals committed to public service, folks working in government for what they believe is humanity’s common good.

The problem for me watching “West Wing” comes during commercial breaks, when I’m bombarded by promos for “The Real Housewives of Orange County” and some restaurant reality show (I can’t remember its name,) both of which appear to be about sex and more sex, with subplots depicting people who can’t get along with one-another, who are trivial and petty and as shallow as human beings can get.

Most days I’m happier if I begin my day by bypassing the TV and taking an early-morning stroll through the trees I’ve planted behind our house. The pictures you see here were shot from pretty much the same spot, the photograph above made in cold, blue, winter light three weeks ago, the image below shot three days ago as sunshine broke through fog.

There’s a four-legged who lives in our house (last photo below) who I know believes that my mornings should be spent, not watching television or taking photographs, but taking said creature for a walk. He follows me around, indoors or out, patiently waiting to go. I was out this week taking morning photographs of our very early-blooming witch hazel when I realized my walking buddy was watching me.

Maybe someone would like to pitch a TV show about my life: “The Real Photographer/Dog Walker of the Pacific Northwest.”

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


I wish I knew the name of the artist who drew this, so that I could give proper credit. The day after the November Presidential election, one of my friends found the artwork on the Web and sent it to me attached to an email. Today seems like an appropriate day for me to share this.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Photoshop CPR

A time-honored adage that I learned way back in my early days as a newspaper photographer was: “If you can’t make it good, make it big.” In other words, if I had an assignment that produced a boring photograph, I took my weak-ass negative in hand, crept into the darkroom, bypassed the normal 8x10 printing paper, and pulled out the 11x14 (the other photographers on the newspaper staff did the same thing.) I guess that we hoped that our editors might be less likely to tell us we had made a crappy image if the print in question took up most of the space on the editor’s desk.

Bigger images often have more impact than smaller ones. A large, weak image doesn’t scream “I suck” quite as badly as a small one.

These days, with my newspaper years behind me -- heck, with newspapers folding left and right, most photographers’ newspaper years are behind them -- I’ve resolved to shoot not just professionally, but also for my own enjoyment. “Keep Photography Fun” is my mantra for my personal work. And, because the inevitable weak image does still make its way into my camera (yes, that occasionally happens, for all of us) I'm curious about new ways to pump life into the lifeless. Yesterday I photographed a teepee that one of my neighbors has erected in his pasture as a playhouse for his grandchildren, a structure that got a pretty nasty battering by the wind during recent storms. I wasn’t excited about the resulting photograph, so I sat at the computer and goofed around a bit.

I prefer it that my pictures have a strength that doesn't rely on gimmicks, and I can’t say the image you see below gets my heart a-pounding. But it was fun to play.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


The Tibetan Buddhist prayer flags that hang in our back yard are printed with wishes for peace, prosperity and good health. The thought is that when the wind blows, those prayers are spread to beings in need of compassion and healing.

When we had our big snows during the holidays, the flags were covered with snow and ice. There was very little wind to send the prayers on their way the day I shot this picture, but, as the temperatures warmed, the snow and the ice drip-drip-dripped off the flags. Some would say those water drops carried prayers down into the earth; that the prayers soaked into the water table, flowed into rivers, and were then carried on their way to parts of our planet where they are needed.

Let’s hope.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Death by Irony

You just never know where you might be when Nature decides to put on a show.

I mean, looking at this picture -- and keeping in mind that I live in the Puget Sound region of Washington State, a place full-to-overflowing with Sierra Club Calendar beauty -- where would you guess that I stood as I photographed this sunset? In one of the forested meadows of Mt. Rainier National Park, perhaps? Or maybe in the dramatic and remote North Cascades?

Nope. I was standing in the parking lot of a Costco store. And though I will admit that I -- yes, my own Environmentalist Self -- had just finished shopping in that store (they do sell some organic stuff) and I suspect Costco is run by fine people and I know that perfectly nice human beings work and shop there, I have to say that, whenever I go to Costco, the place creeps me out with a major case of the Over-Consumptive Guilt Willies. I mean, does the average human really need 48 AAA batteries? Do postage stamps or camera digital memory cards need to be sealed in plastic packaging that could cover a Volkswagen?

Anyway, the Costco parking lot where I stood when I took this picture...and, if I die right now, it’ll be from an overdose of Environmental Guilt, with added complications of whatever toxins flood a brain that’s OD’d on Irony.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Fun's Over

I’m grumpy today. I might as well admit that up-front.
I think I’ve got a case of P.H.S.D. (Post Holiday Stress Disorder.)

I stepped on the scale yesteday and realized that I’ve gained TEN FREAKING POUNDS since Thanksgiving, so today I’m off the chocolate chip cookies, and I’ve quit beer too.

The picturesque snowfall we had for Christmas is pretty much gone now. All that’s left are a few butt-ugly piles of gravel/ice/hazardous waste crap along the
roadsides -- mounds of nasty crud that are so lacking in any natural material, they’ll probably still be around in July.

Worst of all, the balmy temps today -- it’s nearly 50 degrees out -- mean my neighbors and I have lost the we-can’t work-because-the-weather-is-bad excuse. We have put away the cross country skis and will now spend our time staring into computer display screens, being "productive."


Friday, January 2, 2009

Tour Guide

My grandfather owned a greenhouse in Ohio and my mother grew up in a world filled with flowers. Mom is here visiting with us for the holidays and for me it was an Entertainment Must to take Mom to Seattle to see the Volunteer Park Conservatory’s greenhouse that, even with snow on the ground outside, is filled with amazing growing things inside. Using the simple point-and-shoot camera that I had in my pocket, I played visual games with the patterns and colors that were here, there, everywhere in the Conservatory greenhouse.