Friday, August 28, 2009
The day was warm and the sky was blue and cloudless -- perfect weather in most folks’ minds, I guess. Perfect, unless you happen to have a camera in hand with the intention of making a nature photograph.
Fifty-two of us gathered recently at a local environmental center for a photo workshop, where I’d been asked to be one of the instructors. A group of about 10 people assembled around me, and I sensed that I should step forward like an Eagle Scout and exhibit some Leadership. I figured that if I was a student at this workshop, I would hope that my instructor would seem positive and inspiring.
Sweating in the hot sun, I was feeling anything but positive. “This weather sucks,” I thought to myself. The light was harsh and contrasty. It hadn’t rained for weeks and weeks, and a lot of plants I saw around me looked like they were holding their breath, waiting for autumn.
Still, our group headed off to the nearby area that workshop organizers had assigned us to photograph: a small, marshy, freshwater lake. We hiked first as a group; then we spread out, each individual appearing to find something interesting to work with. Some people photographed the reeds at the edge of the lake; others shot ferns and mosses growing in the trees. Several of my own pictures from that day are posted here.
Near the end of our time together I asked the folks in our group to gather and, one-by-one, we used the magic screens on the backs of our digital cameras to show others what we’d shot. It was a very cool time of sharing what in most cases was unique and personal vision. I experienced a Mother Bird Moment, being proud of what the baby birds found outside our nest.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Leah and I consider it great good fortune that the skills and interests we’ve cultivated over the years make for personal gifts we can now offer to organizations we admire that are in need of volunteers. We spent the weekend in Seattle with our friends from the Tibetan community of the Pacific Northwest, working with them as they staged the 14th annual Tibet Fest at the Seattle Center.
Tibet Fest is one of the many ways our Tibetan friends work to keep their ancient culture alive, and to share it with those who might have limited understanding of what might seem like a mysterious, far-off land. Leah worked with intent young artists who created colorful mandala designs. I cruised the event with my cameras and the pictures I found will be my gift to the Tibetan Association of Washington.
There was much to see and to photograph: the coming-together of generations, as an elderly monk who lived his early years in Tibet hugged his great-nephew; the moments of anticipation as performers waited to go on stage for presentations of song and dance; the beautiful faces on stage, and in the crowd.
Yes, so much to see. When I mail a CD of photos off to my friends, I’ll be sure and tell them I received, more than I can ever give.
Friday, August 21, 2009
My horse friend Rusty sniff-sniffs my hand. He knows I give him an apple most mornings. Rusty's girlfriend Grace looks on to see if I have something for her too.
This is a little experiment I'm conducting today: To come without an apple, to see whether the horses love me, or the treats I bring. Alas, Rusty finds my left hand is empty; the right hand holds my camera...not very tasty.
No apple today.
Rusty gives me the "to heck with you" horse-turned-up-nose treatment, and I laugh to myself as I learn where I stand. The horses might be my buds, but, like my first grade teacher, they seem to feel better about me when I bring an apple.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
“Seeing Small” is normally about the non-professional, non-income-producing personal pictures I do for my own enjoyment. Today, however, I thought I’d share several professional pictures.
At this time of year, as I spend my days chained to my computer post-processing and editing the summer’s weddings, I find myself thinking a lot about a time two years ago when Leah and I traveled in the Nepal Himalaya. When we visited Buddhist temples and monasteries, we were impressed by how happy and peaceful people seemed to be. I learned later that Buddhist philosophy stresses ethical and mindful personal conduct -- it’s known as The Eightfold Path -- and one of the tenants of the Path that resonates for me these days is Right Livelihood.
I guess we all want to believe there is merit and something worthy in the work we do, and that’s certainly true for me. For example, I look at my summer's images of fleeting moments between my wedding couples and their parents or grandparents, and I'm happy that those were moments the camera was able to preserve. In other wedding photos, as below, there is a simple beauty and grace to be found in the youngest of participants as they played dress-up as part of a wedding day.
If I’m going to spend my days now staring into a computer screen, I’m pleased that the images I’m seeing reflect the goodness of life.
Friday, August 14, 2009
A neighbor asked us to water her gardens while she’s away this week, and it was there that I stumbled upon the photograph you see here. Shooting a sunflower with my snapshot camera pointed toward the bright sun, the image I made is kind of washed-out and pastel... and I like it that way.
Leah looked at the photograph and said: “It looks like a painting.”
Don’t get me wrong...when it comes to the pictures I’ve done, I appreciate any complement. But Leah’s words got me to wondering: If a painter -- one of those beret-wearing, fragile-of-ego types -- had put brush to canvas and produced a piece of art that caused a viewer to say: “Looks like a photograph,” would the painter maybe get his artistic undies in a bunch?
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Some of the beings who live in this house seem to think that our summer-long string of dry, sunny days could be considered Life-As-Good-As-It-Gets. I looked out the dining room doors the other day and saw our cat, Basil, basking in the sunshine, and I could feel his contentment.
Still, the humans here have had about enough of “perfect” weather (we love us our rain here in the Pacific Northwest.) The garden needed rain, the pasture grass needed it, the tinder-dry forests certainly needed it. Finally, last night, the rain came.
It felt SO good.
Friday, August 7, 2009
I was out picking blueberries last night and was amazed to see that the leaves on our blueberry bushes are already showing signs of fall color. Though I always carry a pocket-sized snapshot camera with me, the patterns in the leaves suggested that there might be a special picture to be had. I walked from the garden to the house to pull out my Big Camera, a macro lens, and a tripod.
It’s funny how photographs sometimes get made. I began by working up-close with the abstract patterns and the wild color on a single wet leaf. I was okay with what I was seeing, but not blown away.
I was kneeling down near the plant, working intently, when my nose told me, to my chagrin, that I had placed one of the feet of my tripod right in a pile of dog poop.
I got up off my knees to head the barn to look for something to clean the tripod, but I bumped the blueberry plant and a leaf fell to the ground, right near my bowl of berries.
“Hmmm,” I thought to myself. “Leaf-plus-berries might equal Something Cool.” I got so excited about the possibilities that had presented themselves that I forgot about the smelly tripod foot. I worked excitedly for quite some time and finally made the picture below, which is by far my favorite of the evening.
Had our dog not made a pile of poo near the blueberry bush and had I not put my tripod right in the poo and then bumped the bush, I might not have found the picture I like. As is so often the case for me, Dumb Luck trumps Vision once again.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Walking along a trail in the Olympic mountains Sunday, my hiking companion was picking huge, sweet salmon berries, stuffing them into her mouth with gusto, and exclaiming again and again -- as berry juice spilled down her chin -- “Eden! We’re in Eden!”
My own hunter-gatherer undertaking was of a different sort. While my friend was scarfing berries, I had my camera out and was collecting the photographs you see here. Both of us were in Pig Heaven. It was a fine day to be out...but I couldn’t help thinking: “What a difference a day makes.”
Just twenty-four hours earlier, on Saturday, I was dressed in a white shirt and tie, photographing a wedding. The ceremony was held in a picturesque little church surrounded by a white picket fence in an historic and quaint port town not far from where I live. After the bride and groom said their vows in front of a smallish gathering of family and friends, the newly-married couple and their guests were taken by horse-drawn carriage to a nearby cottage for High Tea. Dainty sandwiches and desserts were served.
The wedding on Saturday and the hike on Sunday were each, in their own way, quite special, but oh-so-very different.
It takes all kinds of days to make a life.