Tuesday, June 29, 2010
The wedding I shot Saturday was on the eastern slope of the Cascade Mountains. Because work was going to take me to such an amazing area, I decided to add a couple of play days to the trip and see what kind of landscape pictures I might find.
The trip has literally left me speechless, which I’ve learned over the years is kind of the way a good mountain adventure works for me. I spend hours or days away from humanity, out in the back country. When the trip ends and I return home, I exist in a bit of a blissed-out fog for a day or two, struggling with reentry.
Fortunately, the camera allows me to share what I saw, even though I’m unable to find language to describe the experience. All I can come up with are a few words of postcard-ese:
Went to the mountains.
Got up early for sunrise pictures.
Felt lazy and napped in the afternoons.
Took pictures again at sunset.
Love to everyone back home.
Friday, June 25, 2010
Leah asked me to shoot a snapshot yesterday of something she was working on in the kitchen, and then she watched over me as I did the picture, making sure I didn’t get too serious about the image. You see, I formed the habit long ago of flipping the “Vision” switch on in my head whenever I pick up a camera...to the point where I can’t even take a snapshot now without looking for light, or composition, or moment, or whatever element might elevate an image from so-so to Something Worthy.
As I did the picture Leah had requested, she played the role of job site foreman. I shot two really boring frames of what she wanted photographed, at which point she stopped me (before I was even warmed-up,) saying: "That's good enough." It was a pretty funny scenario, actually.
So I’m excited about the weekend I have ahead of me because I’ll be able to make photographs with no one telling me to ease-up on my level of Seriousness. Saturday I have a wedding in the mountains in Central Washington (both the bride and groom are artistic types, and I suspect it’ll be great fun to shoot for them) and Sunday I plan to drive home by way of the North Cascades Highway (it was on a previous visit there that I shot the pictures you see here.)
I’m packing my wedding clothes for Saturday and my hiking boots for Sunday.
And though I really enjoy her company, my personal job site foreman will not be making the trip...thus I can be serious about my work, without being told to “chill.”
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
It’s the time of year here when there’s just way too much to do outside. Strawberries are ready to pick in the garden, where there are also weeds that will soon be as tall as Jack's beanstalk if we don't get after them. The house gutters are full of junk that shed off the cedar trees this spring and I need to climb up on the roof and do some clean-up.
Inside? I have many hundreds of wedding pictures that I shot last weekend and those images will require hours and hours of staring-into-the-computer-screen time.
My To-Do List could go on and on and on if I had time to sit down and make such a list...so my response yesterday was to take a deep breath, walk down the gravel lane, and visit the neighbor’s horses, Rusty and Grace.
The shy girl, Grace, peeked at me from behind a tree. Once she recognized who I was (it’s been several weeks since I made the time to wander down to see my four-legged friends) Grace went back to grazing peacefully in her buttercup-filled pasture. Rusty pushed a horse nose into my camera bag, I think looking for carrots that I normally have with me, but, because I was out of horse visiting practice, all I had in my bag was a lens.
Rusty snorted. No carrots? That will never do.
So today I think I will make a list...a one item shopping list with the word “Carrots” scribbled on it. I’m so busy these days that I guess I need a written reminder of what’s most important. In the minds of my horse friends -- as it should be in mine -- carrots really need to be a priority.
Friday, June 18, 2010
My dad was only 47 when he died, and that was 36 years ago now. His birthday and Father's Day are very close together, so last Sunday my Mom put flowers honoring Dad on the altar at the church she attends in Ohio.
I often think about my parents, and about what they’ve given me: Good eyesight, for one thing (more than a little important for a photographer)... and a brain capable of empathy and compassion.
It happened that I had a back-and-forth email conversation this week with a potential wedding client, a bride-to-be who wrote that she liked my photographs very much, but had one question: Do I ever bring a female assistant along with me when I shoot weddings?
The inference, I guess, was that a female might better-relate to the bride’s experiences on her wedding day, and I have to admit that question is one I’ve wondered about myself (you probably already know that I’m a curious fellow, and I think...then ponder...then ruminate further on nearly every aspect of my photographic art.)
My conclusion? Well I come back to two words I used above: Empathy and compassion. My folks nurtured those qualities in me as I grew up, and at a young age I felt comfortable around many different kinds of people. My parents were also quite supportive of my career as a photojournalist, which of course further expanded my human horizon a thousand-fold.
This weekend, as I do so often, I’ll spend my Saturday with a bride and groom on their wedding day (and I might add here that nothing at the wedding will be as challenging as the varied and often just plain weird assignments I did in my newspaper years.) Sunday my friends in the Seattle Tibetan community have invited me to an event at their monastery and I’ll be there with them, taking pictures as always.
So this is me: Not a female or a bride, not Tibetan, but a human being with a camera who can show up most anywhere and somehow just seem to fit in.
And always -- but particularly on this Father's Day weekend -- I feel fortunate to say that I'm one of Mom and Dad’s kids.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
My friend Jim and his high-school-aged daughter Leah recently asked if I would do Leah’s senior pictures, and I must admit that my reaction was flattered hesitancy.
I was flattered because I know that a kid’s senior picture is a fairly big deal (Example: My Mom still has my senior picture out on display in her house, nearly 40 years after the picture was taken.) The hesitancy resulted because I’ve seen how some photographers shoot senior pictures these days: The girls often look like super-sexy models and the boys, sometimes photographed shirtless, look like boy toy pop stars. Stage-managed images like that are not my photographic style.
Over the years I’ve taken a number of pictures of my friend and his daughter when their family has visited here...just casual, we’re-on-vacation-and-we-met-a-chicken kinds of snaps. Doing Leah’s senior pictures prompted me to dig back through my albums of black and white images, prints that I made by hand in my own darkroom.
The common thread that I see between the old black-and-whites and the recent senior pictures is, I hope, a certain sweetness.
Looking at these pictures, I must also add that the years, oh they do fly by so very quickly.
Friday, June 11, 2010
I guess I owe our cat, Basil, a public note of thanks for keeping my photo-eye sharp.
With most cats I’ve known, the picture you see here would be an easy “get.” Other cats would sit in a window, watching life outside go by...and they would sit, and sit, and sit. The seasons would change and the cedar tree would grow a foot or two, but other cats would still be sitting there, watching out the window.
With Basil, however, the image was an exercise in Action Photography. Two frames: That’s what I had time to get, before Basil darted away, like a black-furred flash. Off to slay imaginary dragons or some such cat daring-do.
“Taking pictures of you, Your Swiftness, is like doing Photographic Sprints...
“You keep me in Sports Shooter Shape.”
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
When Abell was just a little guy, Leah and I took him on a three-day backpacking hike that turned out to be much too hard for a seven-year-old. The trip was all my dumb idea and the three of us, thankfully, are able to laugh about it now, recalling how I kept our poor, tired and whimpering son moving along the miles and miles of trail by promising him milk shakes and root beer floats on the drive home...and that, when we did get back to the trailhead and our car after three days that must have seemed like an eternity to him, Abell told Leah: “Mom, I think I’m going to cry for no reason.”
That hike memory flashed into my head the other day when the sun came out and a couple of the critters and I went out on the deck to do some basking. We’d just weathered a period of days and days of rain, and the warmth and the light felt so good.
I think I might have had a tear in my eye, like I was about to cry for no reason.
Friday, June 4, 2010
Rudyard Kipling began his writing career as a newspaper man, and he said: “Once a journalist, always and for ever a journalist.” Kipling's observation is a perfect description of me, your obedient correspondent. My newspaper days might be behind me but I can’t get over my 30-year habit of photographing the world around me -- usually the small moments but occasionally the grand -- and sharing what I see with others.
This week I was working on one of the volunteer shoots I do for my friends in Seattle’s Tibetan community. Out of the blue the thought hit me: What began as a photographic gesture where I’d take some pictures so I could give them to friends seems to have become a Project (with a capital “P”.) “This is getting to be a fairly strong body of work,” I thought to myself...and right there, in the middle of shooting, I did a little slideshow in my head of some of the images I remembered from the two years now that I’ve hung around with and photographed the Tibetans.
My friends had gathered at their Buddhist monastery in Seattle for a prayer service honoring those who died or are missing after the earthquake a bit over a month ago in Tibet. The service, led by the monastery’s venerable and much-respected Rinpoche, was beautiful and dramatic as the Rinpoche chanted, used a small candle to light a larger a ceremonial fire, and handed out blessing scarves.
After the service my friends placed one of the blessing scarves around my neck, and they insisted I share a meal with them.
I traveled home that evening knowing how fortunate I am. Every day seems to present something cool that I feel compelled to photograph. Then I then get to use these posts to share what I have seen.
Yes, Mr. Kipling had me figured out: Once a journalist, always and forever a journalist.
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
My mother is of the generation that refers to the Memorial Day holiday as “Decoration Day,” a solemn weekend in America when living family members take flowers to cemeteries where beloved relatives -- particularly veterans -- are buried. Leah and I were in Ohio this past weekend visiting our parents, and I drove Mom to the farm country where my grandparents are buried and Mom and I placed flowers on the graves.
Ohio’s farmland is stunning at this time of year. The fields of corn, wheat and hay are dripping with fertility in the humid June air, and a thunderstorm (Leah and I experience lots of rain where we live in the Pacific Northwest but we rarely see thunder and lightening) moved over us when we happened to be out traveling in the car. There was one bolt of lightening in particular that spanned the entire sky as far as we could see from east to west, and the accompanying boom of thunder made us jump way out of our seats.
There’s a palpable sense of history and Americana to be seen in the Midwest. The landscape there for me is full of visual clues that I’m most certainly in the land of my farming grandparents, and of the generations who settled there before them.
I don't know who it was who came up with that well-worn phrase: “You can’t go home again,” but I beg to differ.