Friday, November 27, 2009


Being the snooty, nit-picky types that they are, linguists would probably tell me it’s technically not correct to say that the creatures you see in these photographs have PERSONalities, since my subjects are obviously not people.

The thing is, I can tell you from my own daily encounters with these beings -- the creatures, not the linguists -- that they each have their own, unique, quirky, wonderful, ways of conducting their lives.

Basil the cat wants-what-he-wants, when-he-wants-it, and what he wants is usually what he doesn’t have at that moment. If he’s outside, he makes it known to me -- loudly, and without mincing, um, words -- that he’d like to be inside. If he’s inside, he yells at me to let him out.

Gracie the horse is about a third the size of her boyfriend, Rusty, but she is absolutely in charge -- she “wears the pants,” as my grandfather would have said. Each morning I walk past the pasture where Grace and Rusty live and I make sure that I have carrots in my coat pocket. Grace is generally girlish and even delicate compared to Rusty, but, when it comes to carrots, she insists that they are handed out girls-before-boys. If that doesn’t happen, she’ll push Rusty aside with a petulant head-butt or a bite.

Smokey the sheep is timid and shy. When I’m doing chores inside the barn, Smokey keeps his distance outside and focuses watchful eyes on me through a hole in the barn siding. Once I put hay or alfalfa in the sheep feeder, however, Smokey is my new best friend. He’ll saddle up to me and let me pet him. I tell Smokey what’s going on in my life, and, with sweet alfalfa breath, he whispers in my ear concerning the secrets of the sheep world.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Visual Feast

I suspect that, for most of us, Thanksgiving is a holiday about food...specificially the over-consumption of it. It’s a bum rap that turkeys got saddled with the gobble gobble gobble reputation, because, come the fourth Thursday of November, humans-types like me can out-gobble any bird.

In our home, however, there is one thing that must happen before people can sit down at the dining room table to begin the Thanksgiving feast, and that’s Photography. The food is always so beautiful, it needs to have its picture taken. It’s a pretty comical sight, actually...our guests sitting there at the table, napkins tucked under their chins, knives and forks in hand, salivating... and waiting...waiting while the lunatic with the camera hops around snapping-snapping-snapping.

Sorry, but that’s My Deal: When I see something wonderful, I almost always need to photograph it, food included. A couple of weeks ago a friend took Leah and me into an ultra-secret wooded area near her house to hunt for chanterelle mushrooms. By the end of the day Leah and I had gathered two big cloth shopping bags full of ‘shrooms...but before Leah the Wonderful Cook could begin the process of making mushroom soup or pasta or quiche, Kurt the Picture Man had to photograph the 'shrooms.

The same scenario was played out last weekend when Leah sent me, shopping list in hand, to the University District Farmers’ Market in Seattle. Before I could purchase the salad greens and parsnips that Leah had requested, I first wanted to cruise the market, photographing the scene. There were other shoppers, and of course beautiful produce, and it all needed to be photographed.

They are tasty, these moments of everyday life. Gobble gobble gobble.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Too Bloomin' Early!

We’re still a week away from Thanksgiving, and, like the stores in downtown Seattle that are already decorating for Christmas, there’s a plant in our kitchen window that is jumping ahead of the calendar on the ho-ho-ho, ‘tis-the-season thing.

Our Christmas Cactus is a-bloomin’ like there’ll be no tomorrow, and I’m afraid that by the time Santa visits us -- a month and five days from now -- the blooms will be wilted, faded history.

It’s said that Christmas seems to come earlier every year, and apparently that applies not only to the retail scene, but the plant world as well. Maybe I’ll make a print of this photograph and leave it out on the kitchen table on Christmas Eve with Santa’s milk and cookies, so the Jolly Old Elf, the Santa-Dude, the Claus-Meister can see what he missed.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Act and React

I went out to our barn the other evening to do end-of-day chores. I put hay out for the sheep and I checked to make sure the hens were clucking contentedly in the chicken house.

I also found the picture you see here.

The visual elements of the photograph are obvious: The stark, angular lines of the barn structure; the circular counterpoint of an old bike that hangs from a beam; the prayer flags that Leah has strung from the barn rafter to a nearby flower garden. The visual qualities of the scene were what prompted me to pull my camera out of my pocket, to move around from here-to-there, looking for a composition that brought the elements together.

And what about our emotional reactions to what we see and experience? Surely, our eyes do not function without input from the heart.

I was listening to NPR this morning and was pessimistically told that the upcoming Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen is expected to produce little substantive action. Somehow that story made me think about my photograph of the prayer flags and the bicycle and the beautiful cloud.

I’d rather not give in to pessimism. I like to think that some of us will look at this picture and choose to see Hope.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Dig Me!

One of my friends recently told me that he thinks blogs are the modern day communication forum of the self-indulgent. “I mean, how much do I need to know about what some blogger is up to?” my friend asked. “I check someone’s blog and I read exciting news that the blogger has just bought a new car, or gone on vacation, or has a new boyfriend or girlfriend.

“Next thing you know, bloggers will be telling the world every time they go to the bathroom...”

I laughed at my friend’s rant, comfortable in the assumption that he was calling other bloggers “self-indulgent,” certainly not ME.

Sure, I said to myself, my posts are about the little stuff, the every-day stuff. But my posts are INSIGHTFUL!

Plus, I’d NEVER do a post about a trip I made to the bathroom...

Well...not until today, that is.

Leah and I were grocery shopping at a hippie health food store in a town near here. (We had not driven a new car to the store, and neither of us has a new boyfriend or girlfriend.) Yes, I stepped into the restroom, and yes I’m telling you about it now, but the trip was INTERESTING, you see, because I found a picture in that room. The window image I shot indoors got me to wondering what I’d find outdoors, and, sure enough, there was a picture out there too!

But I swear that I’m not self-indulgent! Honest! And if DO tend to go-on about myself, it’s only because my life is so UNIQUELY fascinating.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

About the Experience

A client recently asked me: “What is your one, very-favorite picture?” Judging by the confused look on the fellow’s face as I answered, I don’t think he understood me.

I babbled and rambled about how difficult it is for me to separate a photograph itself from the experience of making the photograph. I told him that I tend to have an attachment for whatever it is that I’ve shot most recently, simply because the experience is so fresh in my mind.

Oh, there are pictures I’ve done that have won awards, or been published by prestigious magazines. Other images have been made for worthy, charitable causes, and I hope those pictures have done some good for people in need.

Still, if I had to answer the question: “What picture do you like best right this minute?” I’d probably point to images I shot Sunday, when Leah and I went for a very pleasant walk on a nearby island. The show Mother Nature was putting on of fall color was outrageous; and island homeowners had ostentatious, well-manicured gardens, obviously meant to impress.

Or it could be that my favorite photograph today will be whatever happens to present itself this afternoon.

I’ll be looking forward to that experience.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Funny Pet Photos

When Abell was a little tyke, my joke-loving friend Larry made an Olympic sport out of getting my child to laugh. More often than not it seemed to be when Abell was eating that Larry would rev his Vaudeville show into high gear...and I got the feeling that there’s nothing a clown likes better than seeing his audience spew half-chewed food through its nose.

I've known Larry for 30-plus years and he's still a Funny Fellow. Yesterday Leah and I took our cat, Basil, to the vet to be checked out for a persistent skin irritation. Basil made the car trip inside a cardboard cat carrier box perforated with one-inch ventilation holes. I shot the photo you see above of our unhappy passenger, and later emailed it to Larry. His reply:

Looks like the bouncer at a cat speakeasy looking through the bar's peephole.

I wasn’t eating dinner when I read Larry’s wisecrack, so no food shot out my nose. (Sorry, Larry. You can’t reach the Humor High Bar every time out.)

This seems to have been a week when Funny Pet Photos made their way onto the pixels in my pocket camera. I shot a picture of Abell’s dog, Buddha, showing his boredom with humans who are too-slow to fill his food bowl; another time there was something about a view of Buddha’s tail that tickled my visual fancy.

The best thing about Pet Photos: I can post them without worrying about model releases.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


I live in a land of giants, huge green giants. JRR Tolkein might have had the giants in mind when he wrote his “Lord of the Rings” books and called his tree characters “Ents.” Here in the Pacific Northwest we refer to them as “Cedars.”

Ever-green are these giants in my neck of the woods: Green in January and green in July; green when rooted in the cold, high country and covered in a blanket of snow; green in the rain or sunshine of a lowland summer.

Sometimes I look at nature pictures other photographers have taken in the autumn in New England. I see the vibrant reds and yellows of the maple and other hardwood trees in Vermont or Maine and I think: “The cedars in my backyard are beautiful, but those New England fall colors would be something to see.” I get a little antsy to travel and see the Big Trees of the East.

For some reason, though, this has been an autumn of pretty darned amazing color, right here in my own normally-green backyard. Though dwarfed by the cedars in terms of size and grandeur, the spunky, leafy deciduous trees are putting on a show of bawdy color, as if to say: “Hey Cedars! ... You might be big, but I’m gorgeous!”

The cedars, I think, know they’ll get the last laugh. Come January the green giants will still be properly dressed, while the flash-in-the-pan maples and aspens will be stark raving naked.