Friday, October 29, 2010

Frightful Art

One of the things I enjoy most about writing these blog posts is that, as a photographer, words are not my first language. I’m a visual guy, and if I have any communicative fluency at all, it’s through imagery, not the written word.

Yes, people who read my blog posts sometimes tell me they think I write well. But the truth is that putting words together so that they blend in a pleasing manner is enjoyable for me because I’m a glutton for punishment and I seem to relish doing things that are difficult. Heck, I’ve climbed Mt. Rainier eight times and I’ve ridden the annual Seattle-to-Portland bike epic more years than I can count. Thus my credentials as a masochist and a fellow who loves a challenge are well-established. And writing, for me, is certainly a challenge.

None of the above really has anything to do with the photo I’m posting today of fall colors in Port Townsend, except that I'm always thinking about the creative process that goes into the making of many kinds of art, and often that means I look in awe at the work done by writers. As an avid reader, I can't help but admire the courage it must take for a real writer to look at a blank piece of paper or computer screen, pull words out of the imagination and assemble them in a way that gives life to a story, or brings literature into my brain like notes of sweet music.

To readers like me, the writing process is wonderfully, weirdly mysterious, even spooky. Maybe it's because Halloween is right around the corner, but today I'm thinking it's a good idea to look right in the face of things that scare us.
To writing, I say: "BOO!"

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


It was exactly three years ago that we trekked in Nepal and I made the photographs you see here.

Leah and I had walked and walked and walked in the Himalaya (more often than not up-up-up) for most of October, 2007. There were a number of things we’d hoped to see and experience on the trek -- the amazing and famous Buddhist festival, Mani Rimdu at the Tengboche Monastery, for one -- but, as a photographer and a once-upon-a-time mountain climber, I must admit that I had been trekking with my sights set on the highest peak on our planet. My research told me that there was a spot known as Kala Pattar (Black Peak) that would give me a great view of Mt. Everest. My plan was to be at Kala Pattar for sunset; if I was lucky, I’d be able to photograph Lady Everest bathed in the last, golden light of the day.

As you can see above, I was fortunate that October evening. Everest did look beautiful, but I must say it was her neighboring little sister, Nuptse, who stole my heart. Everest was a trifle too-clear, a bit too-perfect, while Nuptse flirted with beautiful, dramatic clouds.

Now, three years later, my heart still belongs to Nuptse.

I made a number of individual, left-to-right, panorama photographs that evening, and this week I decided it was time to piece them together. You can click on the panoramas to see them at a more impressive size.

Oh, I do miss Nepal.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


This felt like a good week to unplug.

Radio, TV, my email inbox, all are filled with political ads urging me to join this fight, ward off an attack by that group. I’m sick of it, this partisanship, this battling and negativism. I’m absolutely OD’d with each side portraying the other as evil or some kind of enemy.

So I said “Enough, already!” Leah and I had a friend coming to town for several days and her visit put us in Tour Guide mode. We took our guest on short day trips to show her the sights, which happily also got us away from all media. We literally walked away from our connected lives.

One of our outings found us on a ferry, crossing Puget Sound, and I photographed a young mother joyously playing with her baby (after taking the pictures I told the woman how to reach me for a free photo.) Another day we went to Bainbridge Island and took a long, chatty hike, wandering several miles with dry leaves crunching under our boots and, eventually, stopping near the shore at sunset as a kayaker paddled past. We waved and shouted greetings, and again I offered a gift photo.

Being out of touch, removed from the noise and divisiveness of the week, put us in touch with the people we happened to encounter.

There is a commonality and a community out there that isn’t getting much air time, but is worth seeking out.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Growin Up

Can you remember the time in your life when you dreamed about what you might be when you grew up?

Well, I turned 57 yesterday and, though that sounds like a lot of years that are behind me, I caught myself feeling like I’m still on my way toward growing up. I spent my birthday eating WAY too many chocolate chip cookies and understanding that, contrary to what I assumed when I was five years old, it’s turned out that “growing up” has been a journey that’s had no end point. The path just goes on, and on, and on.

Quite humbling, exciting, and downright amazing, really.

For many years, what I’ve wanted to be, of course, is a photographer. But each day I see new things and I grow a bit as a human being, so that the thing that is “me” one day, as well as the images that are “my work,” are an ever-changing work-in-progress.

I was in Seattle last week and I stopped at the REI store to look for a pair of shoes. Walking from the parking garage toward REI’s front door, I passed a small, decorative pond, and the late afternoon fall light was reflected in the water and I pulled the camera out of my pocket.

You just never know: You think you are going shopping for shoes when up pops an unexpected little surprise.

You just never know.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Waking Up

I admit that I think I am younger than I am. I mean, my 57th birthday will roll around next week but because I’m a hiker and a cyclist and a sometimes-runner, I feel fit and healthy and, yes, young.

I recently admitted to my mother-in-law, however, that I’ve been young for very long time.

Several days this week I had early-morning commitments that had my yawning, sleepy-eyed, soon-to-be-a-year-older self out of bed, dressed, and driving through nearby small towns and headed toward Seattle as dawn broke. I realized that my cameras and I have been watching places wake up for more than 30 years.

In my newspaper days in Ohio, I’d work on picture stories about small towns and I often felt I'd get my best sense of the community by being there early, watching it wake up. I’d be at Suzy-Q’s Breakfast Bar or the Sit-n-Sip or the Chatterbox, and the working men would come wandering in for a cup-a-joe and they’d gripe about the weather or the boss, and off in the corner of the restaurant a TV would be tuned to the Today Show but nobody would be watching because the men were sick of hearing about the Watergate tapes or Nixon’s problems with the Special Prosecutor.

(Oh my, I am going on, eh? Sounding, I suppose, like a man with a touch of Birthday Melancholy?)

Anyway... the mornings I witnessed this week were particularly beautiful, and I made time to stop and take landscape pictures before I continued on toward my commitments in the city.

If you click on the pictures, you can see them at a larger size.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


I guess that over the years he’ll mature and perhaps by the time he’s an adult he’ll have learned to see things less imaginatively, but right now my nephew Killian is three years old and he believes some horses are blue.

Not all horses are blue, of course. Killian knows that even now. Just some horses are blue...very special horses are blue.

Killian, his baby sister and mom and dad, live in Montana but came here for a visit several weeks ago, and that’s when Killian met the horse, Rusty, who is pastured near our place. Rusty is not a blue horse, but he does have blue eyes. Killian and Uncle Kurt made many visits to the pasture to give Rusty apples, and the big horse was noticeably gentle as he took the apples from the child’s hand.

Now Killian and his family are back home in Montana, and I’m told that Killian talks pretty much nonstop about horses, and about the very rare, blue horse he insists is out there, somewhere.

Here at my place -- and without a three-year-old to keep me company -- I wander down to Rusty’s pasture to give the horse an apple. I’m finding that if my visit is done in the evening (and my camera is set so that the color balance is a bit on the blue side,) Rusty seems, magically, to become blue.

Imagine: A Blue Horse. Right next door! How cool is that?

Saturday, October 9, 2010


I shot this photograph three days ago and I've been thinking ever since about what I might write about the picture.

I haven't come up with a single idea that works for me.

So: Either I am a writer utterly lacking in imagination, or a photographer who has managed to make an image that needs no words.

Or something...

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Puppy High

Call me a busybody, but when I found out that one of our neighbors has five new puppies at her place, I put the word out around here that a mass visitation was in order, and several of us dropped by, Welcome Wagon-style, to say howdy to the newcomers.

Oh man! there’s nothing better than PUPPIES to improve one’s day! I’ve been spending most of my time this week indoors, chained to my computer, not getting much fresh air...and I’ve certainly not had an opportunity to take in the sweetest air to be found on this planet: Puppy Breath!

Throughout our visit, my neighbors and I were nose-smudged and licked to the n’th degree, and today we’re all High on Life. As I sit here typing, there are not enough exclamation points or computer-generated smiley-faces in this world for me convey what a warm and fuzzy time we had, lovin’ up them PUPPIES.

Puppies, you ROCK!!!

Sunday, October 3, 2010


Maybe it’s a consequence of all the Bridezilla, Weddings-From-Hell shows on TV or something, but whenever someone asks me what I do for a living and I say I photograph weddings, the reaction I hear is invariably something like:

“Oh, you must have stories to tell...” Or
“I bet you have to deal with some really crazy people.” Or
“You should write a book about your wacky wedding experiences”... (I sense the person I’m talking with is picturing me on “Oprah,” telling ALL.)

Call me Pollyanna (not to mention not Oprah-worthy) but my personal feeling about weddings is that they’re usually sweet and wonderful. I look for good intentions or humor in whatever people do or say. For instance:

About a month ago I was shooting a wedding and I noticed a young female guest (she was perhaps in her 20’s) who was also taking pictures. I saw that she was using a high-end snapshot camera, a Canon S95, the same camera I carry in my pocket when I’m not working. My S95 is often what I pull out for everyday, at-home snapshots (including the picture you see above of our cat, Basil, and the self-portrait below of me with my cat friend.)

“That’s a wonderful camera you have,” I told the young woman. “I own one too. I like how small it is.”

Then, trying to be funny (in my 56-year-old guy way) I added: “The camera is so small, I can have it in my pants pocket, even when I’m wearing tight jeans.”

I could tell immediately by the look on her face that the young woman did not get my joke. With utterly innocent empathy and compassion in her words, she replied in a way that reminded me why men my age should not try to have even brief conversations with women half our age.

“That’s so cool that you can still wear tight jeans,” she said.

And I thought: “Maybe I do need to write a book about my wedding experiences.”