Monday, July 29, 2013


Sometimes the most challenging thing about a trip in the mountains is the not-so-simple act of getting the hell out of town.

I just returned from a four-day backpack trip in the Alpine Lakes wilderness: A great hike, but an adventure that almost didn’t happen. The statistics I could quote here on the elevation gain of the trip and the miles hiked all pale in comparison to the massive effort of what came before I left.

Photographic work for paying clients had to be post-processed on the computer and CD’s burned and mailed off. Ditto for some volunteer, charity work I had done.  All aspects of my business and home life had to be buttoned up so that I could be away for four days, and of course I also had to pack overnight hiking gear and make decisions about what photo gear to take.

It felt like my work and home life were exerting  gravitational pulls way beyond normal...and even after I had all the items crossed-off my pre-hike to-do list and my car was packed and my hiking partner and I pointed my vehicle east heading toward the Cascades, that is when my car battery decided to die.

I seriously considered bailing on the trip. It seemed like the gods were trying to tell me life would be easier if I just stayed home.

But, as you can see from the images I’m posting today, my friend and I broke free and we went for a long, long hike in the mountains, away from computers and cell phone reception and a disabled automobile. The four days we spent in the mountains were calming and restorative,  more than worth the effort it had taken to get out of town.

Monday, July 22, 2013

No Words

If making photographs and throwing them up on the Web was all it took for me to do a blog post, well then I could probably publish something new in this space almost every day.

Photography, you see,  is my first language. I’ve been communicating visually for 40-plus years. For me, making photographs is almost like breathing.

But what to say about the pictures? Ah, that, as climbers say, is the “crux move” in this, my blogger journey up the mountain. I reach into my brain for words, something to support or anchor my pictures, and I come up empty. A flake of word-rock breaks off in my hand.

“I took a picture of a pretty creek.”  (Lame)

“I was hiking and made this image of some wildflowers. The picture reminds me of a Georgia O’Keeffe painting.” (Perhaps less lame, but still lacking.)

What non-lame words can I come up with that are worthy of your time, dear reader?

Often words fail me.  Sometimes all I have to share is pictures.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Relative Solitude

It’s funny,  the things we human beings do in the name of “weekend fun.”  Take this past Saturday and Sunday,  for example, two perfect, blue-sky, 70-some degree summer days in the Pacific Northwest:

--Ten thousand cyclists pedaled bikes here,  a colorful, sweaty stream of lycra-clad weekend warriors who rode in the 34th annual Seattle-to-Portland Bicycle Classic.  The macho types covered the 202-mile distance in one day, while your average Joe or Josephine did the ride in two.  Event sponsors report that seventy-five percent of the riders were male, 25 percent female, and that the oldest registered rider was 90. Thirty-five thousand sandwiches were consumed, 17,000 cookies, 17,200 servings of bananas, and 35,000 snack bars.  Thirty-one of the 202 miles were uphill.

I’ve done the Seattle-to-Portland several times (it was a number of years ago,)  and today, Monday, I wonder what the statistics would be for riders complaining of sore butts.

--Forty-some-thousand folks put on their favorite tie-dye t-shirts or sun dresses, packed their bodies into 1960’s-vintage Volkswagen micro-busses (with peace signs spray-painted on the sides) and made their way toward Eugene, Oregon for the 44th annual Oregon Country Fair.  From Friday through Sunday (a two-day weekend is not long enough for a gonzo spectacle like Country Fair)  Fair-goers grooved to live music, danced, and,  well, had some-far-out times.

I too have attended Country Fair the past several years. I’ve taken in the wild scene and made a lot of photographs (my blog post from last year’s Fair can be found here.)  

This year, however  (I can’t quite say why) I decided to take a bit of a break from big crowds...and so yesterday three friends and I headed to Mt. Rainier where we did a hike from Paradise Lodge (elevation 5,000 feet) up to Camp Muir (10,000 feet.) Though there were in fact other hikers and climbers also on the mountain, the distances on the slopes of Rainier are so vast that, much of the day, my friends and I felt pretty much alone. We trekked steadily up-up-up in the snow, gaining the 5,000 feet of elevation in four hours. We had a leisurely lunch at Camp Muir, then descended, sliding on our butts down long snow slopes (it’s called “glissading,”) arriving back at the wildflower-filled meadows of Paradise in no time.

A day of relative solitude felt just right.

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Dalai Lama's Birthday

Last week I received an email from a well-known and I guess respected online tutoring service offering (for a fee) to teach me how to use my blog as a tool for expanding my photographic business.  I read the email, shook my head “No Thanks,” and hit the delete key on my computer keyboard.

Call me naive or overly idealistic in a business sense, but, as I sit at my desk and type this, my 555th post since I began this online journal in 2007, “Seeing Small” has never been about self-promotion. If anything, it has been about other hopeful belief that, because I nearly always have a camera with me and I make photographs of this, that, and the other thing -- small moments in life, mostly -- some of what I see might be enjoyed by others.

Today, dear reader,  I thought I’d take you to a couple of events that my friends in the Pacific Northwest Tibetan communities have held recently and that I photographed on a volunteer basis. Above is a picture I made in May when the Dalai Lama visited and blessed a new Tibetan cultural center in Portland, Oregon. Below are images I shot two days ago as the Seattle Tibetans gathered and celebrated the Dalai Lama’s 78th birthday. There were prayers in the morning at the Tibetan Buddhist monastery, and, later in the afternoon,  a picnic in the sunshine at a Seattle city park.

The Dalai Lama was in India on his birthday, and I read online that thousands of Tibetans waved banners and danced and school children sang prayers at a Tibetan university in southern India where the Dalai Lama spoke.  He called for love and compassion to promote world peace.

Why do so many admire the Dalai Lama? Perhaps it’s because his messages of love and compassion remind us to think about others, and to get over our self-self-self-ness.  Having now been around His Holiness in person and heard his gleeful laugh, I suspect he might be the most joyful 78-year-old on our planet.