Friday, May 25, 2012


Our longtime friend Jim was visiting this week from Washington DC, and, since Jim is a photographer too and is as passionate as I am about the beauty of the Pacific Northwest landscape, I suspect it goes without saying that Jim and I didn’t spend much time in the house watching television, or cruising local shopping malls.

Nope, Jimi and I took our cameras out into the neighboring mountains and forests and, like the bear who went over the mountain, we went to see what we could see.

We ventured out into the woods one rainy afternoon and walked a trail in the Olympic National Forest, where we were bowled-over by the color green, ultra-intense in spring’s growth spurt. Another day we called our friend, Michael, who joined us on a drive into the Cascades where we hiked a trail to a waterfall near Mt. Index.

We laughed. We teased. Sometimes we moved along the trail in silence. We reveled in the memories that come from friendships rich with 30-plus years of history.

It was a good week to be outside.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Art and Commerce

Anyone who has a job probably knows all too well the ways the ups and downs of workplace juju can effect our emotions, and sometimes even influence our sense of self-worth. When things are going really well at work we can feel on top of the world, but a really bad day can be miserable, even crushing.

Once, during my years working at newspapers, a journalist got so frustrated about the way a big story had been handled that he stormed into the publisher's office, resigned, and stormed back out again, slamming the publisher's office door so violently that windows rattled throughout the newspaper building. Another person I know refers to a place in her office as “The Crying Room,” a usually-empty conference room where she can go when she’s having a bad day and feels tears coming on.

I thought it might be interesting if I wrote a few paragraphs today about two pieces of client correspondence I received this, I’m pretty sure most people would consider “good,” the other, I guess, “bad.”

THE “GOOD”: I received a handwritten thank-you card from a couple whose wedding I shot about a month ago. It was a We Love You note, the kind I’m happy to say I receive fairly often after I’ve worked for someone. The note said:

We would like to thank you sincerely for everything you did at our wedding. From the planning, preparation, pre-ceremony, right up to now, you have been such a pleasure to work with and know. Our pictures just arrived and we are thrilled. We can’t believe how much you captured! You’re amazing! Yours, ...

THE “BAD”: I also received an email from a couple I met with recently who are planning a 2013 wedding.

Thank you very much for taking the time to meet with us last weekend. After speaking about it, we have decided to go with another photographer that fits our style a bit more. We really appreciate you coming all the way out to Seattle and wish you the best of luck with everything.

So how to deal with these ups and downs? Well, personally, I remind myself of images like you see here today, the nonprofessional, everyday pictures I do that matter so very much to me. Though it goes without saying that my professional photographs are Serious Business, my personal pictures matter to me even more. If I get too pissy about some hiccup in my work life, my personal photography will suffer, and I don’t want that to happen. So I try to cultivate, within myself, a mindset of equanimity and calm. I try not to be too-freakin’ up, or too-freakin’ down, but calm. And thus productive.

As you can see here, equanimity can lead to some pleasing imagery.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Calling Mom

My mother is a retired Ohio school teacher, and, before I dial her number each evening for our regular-as-clockwork phone conversations, I often feel like I need to do my homework.

To be specific, Mom, who is now in her 80’s, taught vocal music, and the homework I speak of isn’t that I should study up on the history of Bach’s choral works, or perhaps get into a talk-with-Mom frame of mind by listening to a CD of the King’s College Choir of London performing a piece by John Rutter.

No, my homework (at this time of year) is that I should probably get on the web and see what Mom’s beloved Cleveland Indians are doing (the team is referred to as “The Tribe,” in Northern Ohio parlance.) If I am calling during the winter months, heaven forbid I should dial Mom during overtime of a Cleveland Cavaliers basketball game.

Because this is Mother’s Day weekend, I thought I’d post the image you see here today, one I did recently of my mom’s favorite flower, the calla lily. Next month I’ll go visit my mother and during my stay at her house I’ll shower in a bathroom that has calla lily wall paper and eat meals on calla lily plates at a table decorated with a calla lily table cloth.

When we talk on the phone, Mom tells me again and again how much fun we’ll have during my visit. I go see Mom at least twice a year, always with the intention of doing fixit jobs around her house, but the scenario is invariably the same: She’ll take the shovel or hammer out of my hand, give me a glass of lemonade, and tell me to sit down with her and listen to good music. She'll remind me that the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music is nearby. Mom will insist that I've worked enough for the day and suggest that we go to a concert.

Of course we’ll also watch baseball, lots of baseball. Mom’s already bought us tickets to an Indians game.

Thirty-five-years ago when my dad died, you see, Mom started paying attention to sports -- I suspect because my brother, sister and I were fans, and perhaps Mom felt she needed to take up a bit of the role a father normally plays -- and today my Mother’s fandom far exceeds that of her kids. Two weeks ago when The Tribe was out here to play Seattle’s Mariners -- the game didn’t even start till 10:05 PM Ohio time -- Mom was glued to her television set, watching every pitch and at-bat. I watched too, though about 8:30 my time (11:30 in Ohio) I was tired and went to bed...knowing my night-owl Mom could tell me the final score when we talked the next day.

Mom also knows the nicknames of the athletes on the Cleveland sports teams, and it makes me giggle to hear my sweet, senior citizen mother refer to one basketball player, not by his first name (Anderson,) or even his last name (Varejao,) but rather Mom, like other true Cleveland fans, calls him “Wild Thing.”

Friday, May 4, 2012

Goofy is Good

I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I do know that I personally could stand a dose of positive juju right about now, and so could some usually-upbeat human beings who are near and dear to me.

One friend received news this week from her doctor that she’s got a health issue and is probably facing chemotherapy. Another friend is having a tough time with her job. It’s been a week of concern and, yes, even heartache here, so, as I considered what photographs I’d post today, I settled on two goofy, just-for-fun images that I shot recently in Seattle.

The backstory on the pictures goes like this:
I was headed to a professional shoot and had driven into the city hours ahead of time so that I’d have plenty of time to get to my shoot without having to stress about Seattle’s almost-always-sluggish traffic. As I passed through a neighborhood near the University of Washington, I saw that throngs of people -- many wearing wild costumes -- were marching on a bike trail, and an even larger crowd had gathered in a park. There was live music and it was a pretty day and I had time on my hands, so I stopped to see what was up.

It turned out that I’d stumbled upon the big Multiple Sclerosis Walk-a-Thon. Some participants were dressed in clown suits, while others were wearing bright orange or pink wigs. I saw men dressed as women, and women dressed as men. It was a crazy, funky, yet celebratory kind of atmosphere, everyone obviously happy to be raising money for an important cause.

Hanging out with those people and making a few pictures -- if I took someone’s photograph, I gave them my business card so they could contact me for a free picture -- I couldn’t help but catch the crowd’s upbeat energy.

Goodwill was palpable... you could feel it in the air.