Friday, December 26, 2008

An Old-Fashioned Christmas

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The Husband and I didn’t have any big plans for our Christmas, but we knew what we were having for dinner (the buffalo meat was on the counter thawing) and we planned to finish the 2008 Christmas Card Project—late, yes, but we hoped to be forgiven for the slip-up this year.

We had read all the storm warnings and it certainly sounded as though we were in for a big one, this time. But, typical of weather predictions, the forecast was way off and instead of “up to” twelve inches of snow, we got about two inches. There was something the weather channel didn’t predict, however, and that was the power failure. The power went off just before 4:00 PM and didn’t come back on in our part of Bear Valley Springs until 5:30 AM this morning.

(Stupid me, I had my computer on when the power failed—trying to get those last photos printed, along with the postcard inserts containing all our new contact information. The computer is fine, by the way, and I am busily printing again today.)

When it became clear that the power failure wasn’t to be a momentary glitch, we set about our preparations for coping. Using the battery-operated lanterns, we scrounged through the garage looking for the candles and the candle-holders that we knew were there somewhere. While we found the candles, we ended up mostly devising makeshift holders.

Our Christmas evening was our quietest ever. We had never had a completely candlelit Christmas. It’s one we will remember. After spreading the candles about and getting all the fireplaces going, we enjoyed Christmas evening—even if we did have simple bowls of soup for our Christmas dinner. It made us think of what Christmas was like long ago.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Christmas Project

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Several days ago, The Husband got this crazy idea that we should make Christmas cards. Since I am normally the one with this very type of crazy idea, it's no wonder that I fell for it. Of course, with my particular mental problems, it has turned into a major project and I have been having a grand time. I am enjoying the process even though I made the undertaking for more complicated than it should have been; I’m still making cards; and, our greetings will now be absurdly late. Oh, well. When the cards finally do arrive, it will be the thought that counts. Right? Please tell me that’s not a lie.

In the meantime, merry, merry Christmas to all. And, of course, best wishes for a most Happy, Hanukkah.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Snow and Ice

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You know the phrase “kid in a candy store”? Well, that just about perfectly describes me during the past week. We had snow three days out of five and it only really began to melt yesterday. As we warmed up to 40 degrees yesterday, the sunshine has begun to have it’s way with the pristine white blanket covering the valley. Before the thaw began, I took hundreds of photographs. I took far more shots than will ever be processed, much less posted or shown anywhere. The joy was in the seeing.

My pleasure in the exploration was compounded by the fact that The Husband is also passionate about seeing. I think I have mentioned that he studied photography “in his youth” and while he lost his passion for the camera, he still has that eye. He drove—partly because he knows that I remain reluctant to drive when the roads are icy, but largely because he wanted to share in the seeing adventure. Having an enthusiastic companion made the adventure even more delicious. We drank in the sights—oohing and aahing aplenty; I squandered millions of pixels; ultimately, we came home each day tipsy from binging on the splendor of snow- covered fields and white peaks reaching toward the sky.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Winter Wonderland

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We have had our first snow of the winter. (Yes, I know winter hasn’t technically begun, but, like many, I have always thought of winter as beginning right after Thanksgiving, even though I know better.)

Bear Valley Springs has been a winter wonderland for the last few days. We have had just enough snow to be picturesque, but not so much that the snow plows are totally overwhelmed. Since we are on the valley floor and on the main road, the snow plow is here early and we aren’t snowed in.

Still, this morning while out enjoying the scenery in our new world, we began to ascend a hill that just yesterday had been completely safe only to find that today was a different story. With the temperature at 28 degrees, we came around a curve as we ascended the hill and saw not the blacktop with a sprinkle of gravel that we had seen yesterday, but ice. Because the challenge was too much for my car without chains, The Husband was forced to stop and cautiously back down the hill for several yards until we came to a driveway that would permit turning around. No more trying Oak Flat without chains in this type of weather. Not only are chains (or four wheel drive) encouraged for all of Bear Valley Springs during this weather, if you leave the valley in a two wheel drive vehicle and the weather gets really bad you may not be allowed to drive your vehicle back in. We have been informed that those who get stranded park outside the gate and hitchhike in on those occasions.

With several inches of snow having fallen over the last three days, I have been saying it’s a winter wonderland and it’s a wonder that I am living here. Funny about the resolutions we make, isn’t it? After one visit to New York City at Christmas time and an ill-advised youthful adventure that took me to a part of the Rocky Mountains far too close to the Canadian border, I had sworn never again to spend time north of the Mason-Dixon line. After all, as a Texan first (and that would be central Texas where snow is something you see every decade or so) and then a southern Californian, I am not built for cold weather. Of course, I will survive and I must admit that I find Bear Valleys Springs' winter attire quite fetching. I want to be taking photographs every minute. Alas, life interferes.

I did get a few other things accomplished besides taking photos of snow scenes. Thanks to the weather, I was able to draft The Husband for an indoor project. We placed some things up on the ledge in our living room. Our house is relatively new and the main living area has one of those graduated ceilings with a ledge at the higher end. While they are meant for decorating. I think they are best for collecting dust that I, for one, couldn’t possibly get to.

Now, this shouldn’t imply in any way that I am constantly on the lookout for any speck of dust in this house. Oh, if only ‘twere true. I’m simply observing that on those occasions when I am moved to dust, I couldn’t get to this ledge as it is about ten feet from the ground, and I don’t do extension ladders. I think I have a very good reason for my aversion to step ladders with my history of broken bones and mild fear of heights.

Besides, fortunately for me, The Husband shares none of my limitations. Thus, after venturing into our cold storage vault (that would be the garage) we dragged tons of stuff inside, separated it into piles on the floor and proceeded to decorate. I have been calling what we did ranching up the place. (Our house in Shadow Hills had a bit of a cottage feel what with all the trees, bushes, birds, and hummingbirds just outside large windows and sliding glass doors. Now, the look that felt so perfect for that house seems quite out of place in this house and on this place of land. Since we can’t possibly afford new furniture and new accessories, it’s time to improvise and create some new combinations of things we have. Goodness knows that with our garage stuffed nearly ceiling high we have plenty of stuff. I imagine this process will continue for rather a long time, since I have such trouble putting down the camera and getting away from the computer.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


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Most of the time when I go out to shoot I simply photograph what I discover on a given day, rather than setting out determined to find something specific. I make a conscious decision to remain open to what presents itself rather than to work hard at fulfilling a particular agenda.

When I photograph horses—especially when I am shooting for a client, it’s a very different story. First, I normally spend considerable time scouting the location, interviewing the horse owner, and getting acquainted with the horse. The day before the shoot, I plan and dream some of the shots I would like to see. When the dreaming is over and the action begins, my goal is to remain open to surprises that exceed my imagination, and occasionally I am gifted with moments that I never would have hoped for.

Of course, there is a general plan even for my everyday shoots. Perhaps I have an idea of the type of location I am looking for, or I may choose a lens depending on whether I am seeking landscape shots or macro studies. The lens decision may be influenced—at least to some degree—by the time of day, the quality of light, and/or the number of clouds in the sky. Most of time I simply grab my walk-around lens (the 24-105mm f4) and set out to do a lot of seeing and to take pictures. Yesterday’s photo was an exception to the rule.

Early in the day, The Husband mentioned that Buck had just dumped a load of rock dust for the pad behind the house and would be returning soon with another load. The pad that is being put in place will provide a foundation for the mare motel. As I have mentioned once before, I won’t try to justify why the structure is called a mare motel. After all, they don’t vaguely resemble a motel, and there are just as many geldings and stallions using them for shelter as there are mares.

At any rate, having previously watched Buck dump a couple of loads of rock, then road base, and part of the required rock dust, I started thinking that it would be fun to get a photo of the rock dust coming out of the dump truck. With that in mind, I stepped out my normal let’s-see-what-happens mode and began to plan the set-up.

Since I would be shooting in bright light, I would need my ND filter to give me the shutter speed that I needed. I had decided that I wanted to capture the sense of motion caused by the vibration in the back of the trunk, as well as the rock dust flowing toward the ground. The slow shutter speed I would have to use dictated use of my tripod, which I don’t use nearly as often as I should. It turned out that my ND filter was barely strong enough to balance the bright light and while I would have loved to have had one load to use as a test shoot that wasn’t in the plan. This delivery is meant to be the final load. Still, the shot turned out well enough to start me thinking about doing more planned shots. Besides, it was a great excuse to do something completely different and to see Buck’s work more clearly than before.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


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I have tried to concentrate on writing about something else other than this. Just a few days ago, I had a long list of possible topics. But, life throws curve balls. On Sunday evening, we got one of those calls. They are usually rather blunt. There’s no gentle way to lead into some news. This occasion was no exception. The sound of the phone interrupted a quiet, peaceful evening and the news was delivered. “B____ was killed this afternoon.”

There you are cruising along in your little life bubble—content that tomorrow will be pretty much like today, and boom! All those questions are back again. First, you want to question the report. Surely, there is a mistake. Why this person? It couldn’t possibly have been his time. Why one of those truly good guys we never have enough of in our lives? B____ was cheerful, gentle, honest, reliable, generous, and just a joy to be around. He had only recently retired to finally take a deep breath, kick back, and enjoy his life after all those decades of working hard.

I suppose it is some comfort that apparently he avoided a long painful death, and he was doing what he loved to do for relaxation. He was out for a ride on a crisp fall day. B____ was riding a horse he took out periodically because no one else ever rode the gelding and B____ felt sorry for the animal cooped up in that stall all the time. The horse returned safely to the stable, but he came home alone.

There are a lot of heavy hearts and innumerable fond memories of B____'s kindness and good humor. His many friends will miss him. May his family find strength and comfort .

Monday, December 8, 2008

Light! Camera! Action!

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Not long ago, Beau Harbin posted this photo that he took at a local gracery store. He was waiting in the car with the children, while his wife shopped for the groceries. Like Beau, I often take photos of the strangest things, because I am waiting and I have a camera in my hand. Earlier this week—on the night we came back from LA, we stopped to pick up the mail at the Bear Valley Springs Post Office and Police Station.

There were lights in front of me. I was waiting. I had a camera in my hand. Why not see what I would get?

Sunday, December 7, 2008


I don't look at many You Tube videos, but this one that I found at Luminous Landscape today is hilarious.

Disclaimer: All you Nikon shooters, I would find this just as funny if it were aimed at Canon. While I have bought into the Canon system, I am well aware of the the many fine features of Nikon cameras. So, this is in good fun.

Come to think of it, this treatment could be given to innumerable manufacturers of all manner of goods.


Saturday, December 6, 2008

Quiet Time in a Busy Week

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I had no intention of being away so long, but nothing about the week was planned.

The trip to LA developed a wrinkle—it ended up we only moved the vehicle to another shop for additional repairs. Sounds like a sad case, doesn't it? Since it's a 1978 International Scout, I suppose it makes sense that it needs repairs now and then. Still, that means one more trip down off the mountain and across the desert to collect it.

Next, Shutterfly had a special on photo books, and I couldn't pass up the discounted price. What's more, it was a good excuse to celebrate a year of getting to know Bear Valley Springs. It's hard to believe that it's been a year since we began looking around up here and considering this move. Now I will have two BVS anniversaries to observe. When the adventure first began plus the date the moving van deliverd our things. Even then, I didn't fully settle here psychologically until the house in LA sold.

I had hardly breathed a sigh of relief over finishing the book before a surprise phone call from one of my most favorite clients set me off on another project the day after completing the book. Following that flurry of activity, my trick digestive system did a few loop the loops that knocked me out of commission for a day.

I did squeeze in a shoot with the horses in their new home. No chasing them around that day for action shots—just some quiet settling in time and a few candid shots. You think Lancer believes he might find a carrot in that pocket?

Monday, December 1, 2008

Another Moving Week

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We are in moving mode again. Oh, no, not a major household move. Thank goodness for that. Today, the horses were moved from one temporary boarding place to another. In addition, we have to collect a vehicle, that has been in the shop down in Los Angeles. I'm grateful that there were no boxes to pack, and The Husband did all the work moving the horses. I just tagged along to watch and play the mother-hen role for the animals.

In spite of the fact that the light was harsh during today's equine relocation, I shot for a few minutes just for the exercise. Since, I have been shooting mostly landscapes recently, it felt good to be shooting action and getting those "muscles" back in shape. The bright overhead light meant that the horses have chunks of coal where their eyes should be. I rarely process horse photos if there is no light in the eye. It takes an otherwise outstanding shot to overcome that handicap, and the horses weren't doing anything exciting today—simply walking down the road from a pasture at one facility to another facility with a new-to-them pasture.

Still, I had a good time shooting in a different location, and along the way, I found a great spot for location shots. Futhermore, the horses' new temporary home is a great spot for catching some candids of them either one morning or evening.

Since the middle of October, I have been shooting more photographs per week than I was previously shooting in a month. As a direct result, I am feeling a distinct shift in my comfort and familiarity with the 40D, as well as a greater freedom to experiment. I may never get all the boxes unpacked, so perhaps we will never completely move in. Still, I am feeling more at home, and we are optimistic about staying here.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Upper Elevations

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Bear Valley Springs encompasses approximately 25,000 acres of land ranging in elevation from 4,118 feet to 6,934 feet. We are at that lower elevation, down on the valley floor in an area that was once one of the hay fields when the Fickert family ranched here.

I have spent most of this week exploring the ridges that surround us and seeing how the mountain folks live. The extreme elevation in our community is Bear Mountain and I won’t be hiking to that peak, but I have been on the roads along the ridges where the elevation is, 5,000 feet and above. All I know is that from some of those spots where I found a place to pull off the road, Bear Valley Road looks very tiny down there on the valley floor. And there aren’t many of those opportunities to park. In far too many places, the winding, twisting two lane roads have spots two feet wide, or less, before the 1000 feet (give or take) drop off. Even though there was very little traffic up there, I missed some tempting vantage points. I wasn't gutsy enough to stop on the road and risk surprising someone coming around a curve.

Thanks to my explorations, I have my bearings—you can’t imagine what an accomplishment that is for me. Unfortunately, in addition to being numerically illiterate, I am geographically challenged. Lucky for me, the roads in Bear Valley Springs are laid out in such a way that even I can’t get lost. And now, that I have a better sense of my area—and even have some favorite spots marked on my map, I may spend a little more time checking out the higher elevations. That is if I can keep my vertigo in check. After the first two days of driving around—pulling off at rural mailboxes and wider spots in roads to poke around out on the edge of the ridges, I snuggled under the covers a tired, but happy photographer only to have trouble sleeping. Just as I would begin to drift off, I would slip and go over the edge of a bluff. Not fun and not the least bit relaxing. On the other hand, maybe I will trade off between exploring the valley floor and poking around up there in the clouds.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

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I want to wish everyone a beautiful and peaceful day of giving thanks for all our many blessings. In my opinion, this is one of the most significant observances of the year. I am always so embarrassed and ashamed if I can’t find a long list of things to be grateful for at least at this time of year. Doug Stockdale has a lovely post today on finding contentment. While you are visiting his site, linger a while and you will find a treasure trove of hot tips on publishing, plus a link to his latest book at Blurb and some wonderful photography. Doug is generous with the details of his book-making journey and shares a wealth of information. Now, see, there's something else to be grateful for.

Enjoy tomorrow, but don't eat too much pie. We don't want you stuck with giving thanks for antacids

Sunday, November 23, 2008


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My therapy yesterday included another session of combining camera movement with slow shutter speed. The more I explore this form of play, the more satisfying it is. While I have worked hard to more effectively control shutter speed for sharper images and to improve my compositions, now I am drawn more and more to these impressionistic images. I know it isn’t a surprising chain of events, but it is peculiar in a way and it amuses me.

During the part of the shoot when I took this photograph, I was enjoying the landscape with its layers, and wondering where time goes in such a hurry. The hours and days get away from me so quickly. Some days, I feel as though I were riding the rapids. While I try to hold on and stay upright, my raft continues to gather speed. The scenery along the bank is not much more than a blur. Meanwhile, I paddle like mad—just hoping that the waterfall isn’t around the next bend.

It’s all upside down. With age, time should slow down along with our bodies.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


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If you tried finding the title word in your dictionary or even with your trusty search engine, you didn’t find it, because the term comes from Amy Sakurai’s amazing mind. Amy was kind enough to share her brand-new word with me in her comment on my last post, and I have found that it suits my needs perfectly. Thanks, Amy.

Today, I devoted much of my day to theraphotography. I spend two or three hours out driving around and exploring some new sights. As usual, I have no original ideas—none. The day’s adventures were inspired by all the reading and exploring that has come before, but the four most immediate influences were: Amy’s addition to a photographer’s dictionary, Paul Butzi’s post on finding peace of mind with one’s camera, Paul Lester’s post re. Winter light, and Mark Graf’s post on tree hugging.

Lately, I have been sticking pretty close to home—with a brief foray or two down to Cub Lake which is all of a mile away. Today I definitely needed therapy, and, for me, that meant exploring with my camera. I can explore light without leaving our property, but the tree part definitely involves some travel. Although we have a beautiful view to the northeast, the thing we don’t have much of on our property is trees. I have been missing my ash tree—my twenty-year friend—and I definitely needed to go hug some trees. Anybody’s trees.

So, out I went. My intentions were simple: play with some old ideas, as well as some new ones ; chase some winter light; and lavish love on a few trees. As always, I can’t predict whether the photography part pleases anyone else but me. However, I am certain that the therap(y) part was totally successful.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Lack of Clarity

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Since I have been feeling a little unclear recently, I thought it was appropriate to experiment with impressionistic photos. When I am in a certain frame of mind, I am particularly drawn to experimentation with blurred and indistinct lines created by setting a slow shutter speed and either moving the camera or zooming while shooting. It all comes down to trial and error. I can’t begin to forecast what I will see when I view the results of these experiments, and that unpredictability seems to fit my mood in those instances.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Diversions, Discoveries, and Departures

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Here I am a week after my post mentioning my anxiety clog, a term brilliantly mocked by Gordon McGregor. (If you didn’t follow up on Gordon’s comment and link on that entry from last week, check it out for a great giggle.)

This was a peculiar creative block. Yes, there was some of the commonplace “Everything I am producing is junk, anyway, so why bother” mentality. But this time I continued to take pictures, and I continued to enjoy the process of photographing. I didn’t much like the results I got, but I just kept on shooting. (Where would I be without digital?)

Then, a few days after the creative system plugged up, we had a wonderful houseful of visiting family. On a couple of brief occasions during their stay, I took advantage of their good nature to practice taking some candid portraits. While there were a couple of other point-and-shoot cameras brought out for plenty of snaps, I lurked about taking some shots while people weren’t paying attention to me. Furthermore, since on one occasion we were in very low light, I had an excuse to experiment with bounce flash. I may not post the shots; but, the experience stirred a couple of interests that have been way down the list for me. I haven’t taken many shots of people (except when hired to do so) and I haven’t spent much time exploring the use of flash. I may make some changes in those areas.

There were more discoveries. Two of our visitors brought dogs and being around them reminded me again how much I long to finally have a fenced yard. One evening, everyone else went out for the evening and one of the dogs stayed with me. Having a dog follow me about and lie on the floor next to me, brought back memories—both sweet and sad. It’s time to make some new dog memories.

The more I look at this episode the more I realize it’s really about a number of things—none of them new, none of them simple or logical. On the other hand, not much about the creative journey is simple or logical, in my opinion.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Anxiety Clogs

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Is there any doubt that anxiety clogs up the arteries in the creative system? Recently, I have had something to say each day (not necessarily something that needed to be said, but something I was quite willing to prattle on about). Just a few hours of real world fears, and the system groans to a standstill. Now, the debris will have to make its way through, before ideas flow again.

Fate Has a Sense of Humor

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It’s a rather cruel twist of fate that I got interested in photography. I hadn’t realized that it is a field ideally suited, in many ways, for engineers, computer programmers, and other folks with minds that work in what I find to be wondrous and mysterious ways—ways that I can’t begin to fathom. I remember well what a dreadful shock it was when I discovered that using a camera involves constant encounters with (shudder) mathematics.

Like many others, I’m guessing, who became interested in photography after the digital age was in full swing, I began shooting almost exclusively in Auto mode. Soon, I became dissatisfied with the photographs I got when I left all the decisions to the Canon A70. I developed a keen curiosity about all those other modes that promised better pictures. Talk about na├»ve. I had no idea that my curiosity would plunge me into a world of swarming with numbers.

Fortunately, or unfortunately (the latter would be in terms of eventual damage to the family budget), The Husband’s youthful years spent in photography school encouraged my belief that I could move beyond Auto and explore the wonderful world of manual mode. After all, I was fortunate enough to have an in-house instructor. But, as soon as I began quizzing the teacher for help, I was stopped in my tracks. When The Husband began to explain terms, my head started to spin and my ears began to ring, He wouldn’t stop spouting numbers—numbers, and more numbers. Every question I asked set him off with the numbers. Numbers everywhere I turned. Aperture? Numbers. And the numbers are upside down, for crying out loud. To get more light you dial in a lower number. Now, that is perverse. Early on, that one put a real kink in my learning curve. Shutter speed and ISO? Stop the numbers, please. You get into flash and all anyone talks about is those infernal numbers. There seem to be no numbers-free zones when comes to operating the camera.

I should tell you that I have never been fond of numbers. Don’t know why. Can’t explain it. Never flunked a math class. Never was humiliated by a math teacher. Makes no sense. I remember clearly coming home from school one day, soon after starting second grade, and announcing to my mother that I wasn’t any good at math. She stared at me with disbelief and said, “How do you know? You haven’t even taken a math class.” I don’t recall knowing how I knew, but I was certain of my facts. Depending upon your philosophy about these things, you may think that because I believed that I wouldn’t be good at math, I created the problem for myself. Or, you may believe that I was precocious for my age and could see the future. Naturally, I prefer the latter interpretation.

Now, I add, subtract, divide and multiply just fine. But, that’s where it stops, thank you. I made A’s in the math classes that I had to take to go to college—but it was only because I was good at memorizing facts. I never had a clue when it came to the actual practical uses of math beyond balancing a checkbook—one of the truly odious tasks in life. I dutifully memorized the material, and then the day after the tests everything I had memorized drained out of my brain leaving behind a fully restored numbers-free zone.

All that math presented a rigorous test of my newly discovered passion and, more than once, I was tempted to abandon the entire venture. I wanted to make pictures; I didn’t want to go back to memorizing math formulas. To this day, anytime I read an article, or a section of a book, wherein the author veers off into helpful rules for shutter speed proportional to lens length, formulas to memorize that will serve as a starting point for exposure in specific types of circumstances, or flash speed sync my brain threatens to lock. I still have to fight the impulse to simply skip over those paragraphs.

And it’s a good thing that I have fought that desire to bail out, because I can tell that a little of the information has seeped into some remote portion of my consciousness. I still couldn’t quote the formulas, and if you quizzed me on any of the “rules”, I would humiliate myself. However, I can see that gradually I have learned to work a little faster and a little more efficiently, even it is all about those icky little numbers. I suppose that exposure (no pun intended) to all those formulas has made a difference—even if they do strike fear in my heart.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Veteran’s Day Thoughts

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In my mind, two of our most important holidays of the year fall in November—Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving. It is symptomatic of our current culture that these two observations, both of which ask us to be grateful for what we have and to express our thanks to those who made it possible, are mostly ignored. Part of the crush has come from Halloween, an occasion that once belonged to children, but has lately been hijacked by adults eager to abandon responsibility in favor of frivolity and make-believe (along with the right to appear on others doorsteps and demand favors). On the other side, it’s Christmas—a holiday that has, for too many, increasingly devolved into not much more than a shopping spree that creates year-long debt accompanied by anxiety and family tensions. Then, of course, there’s New Year’s with thoughtful celebrations revolving around far too much food and drink, as well as uplifting experiences such as football, keg parties, and hangovers.

I certainly am exposing the old curmudgeon side of my nature here, but these things bother me. Our lives are barren without gratitude, and it saddens me to see this human virtue losing ground to the “gimme” attitude—the notion that because I want it, I am entitled to get it, and someone had better give it to me, now— that is celebrated non-stop in popular culture.

Okay, enough moaning. (I really am not some dour Puritan throwback who deplores fun and celebrating life. Veteran’s Day just seems to do this to me.) I do want to say a big “Thank You!” to all the men and women who have served our country. We owe you a debt of gratitude that we can never repay. Please accept my heartfelt appreciation. When I say my prayers tonight, I will ask to be more deserving of your sacrifices.

In case you are in the mood for a post that honors our veterans, but has a more for uplifting tone—and who wouldn’t be, check Beau Harbin’s post for today.

Morning Walks

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During the summer and autumn mornings, we got out for walks. I often slipped out very early by myself. Unfortunately, it's getting more and more difficult to drag me away from the nice warm house in the wee hours.

The houses up the ridges (such as the one pictured above) got some light snow yesterday. But, I didn't brave the wind and sleet down here to take photos of the scenes. I think I will have plenty more opportunities for shooting snow scenes. Maybe by next winter I will toughen up a bit and get out in the weather more. (Here's a tip: Don't lay any bets on that one.)

Before I return to early morning walks, I have to order a spare battery for the 20D and 40D. I will want to carry one battery in a nice warm pocket, so I can switch out periodically. I just remembered that last winter I bought some of those nifty hand warmers. That will help. (Provided I can find them.) Now, I just need toe warmers and a nose warmer.

Did I mention how cozy warm it is in here when the sun is coming up and there's a layer of frost on the grass? Besides, afternoon walks are lovely.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Stormy Nights and Rainy Days

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It's cold, wet, and windy in Bear Valley Springs. I slept through the thunder and lightning last night (this house has soundproofing that is almost too effective), but The Husband was wakened (he sleeps on the window side) and told me what I had missed. Today there is snow up on the ridges surrounding the valley. Down here it's all about mud. What happened to autumn?!

If I can't discipline myself to buckle down and clean for the houseguests arriving Saturday, it would be a lovely day for some more experimenting inside with my macro lens. Hmmm.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Simple Things

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I wouldn’t mind having a great deal of money to spend on luxuries—mostly the portion I spent on myself would go to camera equipment, but I find great pleasure in simple things. Long ago, The Husband learned that when we took walks together, we often came home with bundles of fascinating twigs, pieces of bark dropped by the trail, berries, grasses, interesting rocks, bouquets of “weeds”, or pine cones.

Did you know that unused file cabinet drawers make excellent storage places for dozens and dozens of pine cones? Yes. It’s the perfect solution when you run out of baskets or space on the mantel. To The Husband’s bewilderment, I probably have one of the finest collections of pine cones on the west coast. You just never know when you will want another and different size pine cone to add to a display.

Our latest collectible item is feathers. With all the beautiful hawks and a number of other birds here, it’s no surprise that we sometimes find a feather near the trail. The Husband, is always the one who spots the prize and, for my tastes, the gift ranks right up there with those pricey roses.

Recently, I mentioned that some days I may be just innocently passing through a room on my way to take care of some honorable chore—you know taking care of business, and bam! Suddenly, I’m reaching for a camera because the light is sweet—or just because I have found such pleasure in one of the simple things in our home, and for no real reason I want to record what I see.

Simple things for simple minds, I suppose.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Big Sky Country

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I love seeing a great expanse of sky—blue sky, purple sky, pink sky, yellow sky, cloudy sky, rainy sky, starry sky, dark sky, bright sky, even gray sky—any type of sky. The first time I visited New York City—having traveled there from central Texas where the horizons are low, low, low—I felt imprisoned in those canyons of skyscrapers. I couldn’t imagine how humans could survive, much less thrive, when they could see only occasional glimpses of a postage stamp-sized sky.

Now I have discovered photography and when I review any two or three folders of my pictures, I am reminded that I will never outgrow my fondness for big open skies stretching over me. One of the major reasons that I am confident of making a happy transition to life in Bear Valley Springs is the abundance of sky.

I enjoyed learning that when the Bear Valley Springs development was first set up as a vacation retreat in the 1970’s, the first choice for a name was, Big Sky. Unfortunately, before that was made official, Montana was given its nickname and that’s how we came to be Bear Valley Springs. As much as I would love to have a wonderful trophy shot of one of California’s brown bears, I haven’t seen any bears here. And, that’s just dandy with me. But, on a daily basis, I look up at the vast sky stretching from low horizon to low horizon and I drink in the beauty of it.

Undoubtedly, my blog will be regularly punctuated with pictures of big sky.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Feathering My Nest

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For the last few days, I have had to spend portions of each day being Susie Homemaker. This has put a serious crimp in my photography time, but those boxes don't seem to be motivated to unpack themselves. Soon those stacks of full boxes will progress from being mildly embarrassing to humiliating.

Furthermore, the mess of cardboard boxes reminds me of the chaos in my photography work flow. I am coming to grips with the desperate need for improvement in that department. Because I get interested in a couple of new shots, I rush past all the steps I know I should follow. Sometimes I don't batch rename, but plunge into processing one shot that offers some promise. Most often, before I come close to naming, ranking, keywording, and backing up a shoot I have grabbed that card again to rush outside for a few more shots. It doesn't take long for that to produce a real tangle of unmarked shots that will be nearly impossible to find later.

Between the chaos in my file system and the cardboard boxes, I have a great deal of clean-up work ahead of me. But, then today while in the midst of organizing a section of files, I made a trip to the kitchen for a glass of water and lo, and behold, before I knew what hit me, I had a camera in my hand. I hope I'm not going to need an exorcism for these demons that take over my body!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Kreativ Blogger Award

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The latest talk in the corner of the blogosphere that I frequent is The Kreativ Blogger Award. Andreas Manessinger offers a description of the award and the spirit in which it is passed along. If you haven't already, visit Andreas' site. Be prepared to be stunned by his beautiful work.

Late Tuesday, I learned that Paul Lester has passed the torch to six more bloggers, including yours truly.
I am honored and delighted.

Now, it’s my turn to list six things that make me happy and then list six bloggers who deserve the award. What? Only six things that make me happy?
Okay, here are six of the many things:

- My husband’s smile.

- Learning something new.

- Watching the light of discovery go on in someone else's eyes.

- Sunrises and sunsets. (That only counts as one. Really, check the rules.)

- Long walks with lots of stops for taking pictures.

- Being the first one up in the morning and enjoying the solitude.

This is tough, because I just got started and I didn’t get to list: sunshine, finding a new friend, the sight of a horse running free, the feel of dog’s tongue when it licks your face, watching and listening to the Kern River tumbling down from the mountains, the comfort of my home with all my flea market treasures in place, or even the taste of chocolate. Oh, well.

Listing six bloggers who deserve special recognition was even trickier. First of all, Paul Lester has already listed many of my favorites and I can’t just copy his list. Besides, there are more names I would add. I don’t always leave comments at these blogs, but I aim to be better in the future. Because I am such a newbie at all this, I am regularly awed by the amount of time people are willing to spend sharing with others as well as the sheer volume of information and guidance made available. Sometimes, I still shake my head in wonder.

- Doug Stockdale at Singular Images. I began following Doug’s blog soon after I started blogging and have marveled at his productivity and evolution. He supplies information, inspiration, and personal reflection.

- Laurie Jackson at Capture This.
Laurie’s site has long been a favorite of mine. Her photos are gorgeous and full of all the feeling she has for her family and the world she sees.

- Niels Henriksen, My Camera World. Niels provides detailed posts packed with ideas and inspiration. His occasional travel photographs alone are a reason to stop by.

- Beau Harbin’s blog at Beau Harbin Photography.
I am enjoying following Beau’s journey and watching his photography grow. Meanwhile, his style has an ease and a wonderful down-home feeling that is irresistible to me. It’s obvious that he photographs with his heart.

- Mark S Johnson, recently of Radiant Vista, deserves kudos for his amazing output of information-packed tutorials. His CS3 tutorials saved my sanity.

- Sean McCormick at Neutral Hills Still will probably send me hate mail for putting him on this list. He is taking a short break at the moment to recover from some surgery and probably won’t be able to participate. Still, I couldn’t omit Sean. His blunt and passionate writing (occasional though it may be) fires me up, and his photographs are breathtaking.

It may not be within the spirit of the rules, but I have to list some folks that have already been named. (I am not certain whether the idea is to broaden the scope of the list and keep adding new recipients.) All these people are Kreativ Bloggers who have greatly influenced me and provide daily inspiration as well as guidance.

- Paul Lester (There is a reason his name keeps coming up on these lists.) When I spend time at Paul's site, I always feel as if I have sat down on a park bench beside him for a nice chat. And, after the visit, I'm a little wiser and I feel better about my day.

- Gordon McGregor Don’t let the sparse posts recently fool you. Gordon is normally prolific—sharing inspiration and information. I miss him when he’s quiet.

- Amy Sakurai defies a brutal schedule to create engaging work, delivered with an openness about the role of photography in her life.

- Mark Graf doesn’t post often enough for me, but that’s only because I enjoy so much everything he does post.

- Colin Jago is so smart he intimidates me a bit. Sometimes, I read his posts and it takes a while for my head to stop spinning. Still, early on—when I first discovered blogging, I devoured every word I could find on his site.

- Paul Butzi is, well, Paul Butzi. Paul’s site was the gateway, for me, to the blogosphere. Somehow, by incredible good fortune, I stumbled onto his site near the start, and a whole new world opened. I found many of the bloggers listed above through his site and still need my dose of Paul B. each day. His passion, knowledge, creativity, honesty, talent, and occasional delicious crankiness are all a source of joy. Besides, he brought us SoFoBoMo.

Thanks to all these creative and generous people, I learn something every day; and, I am constantly reminded that there are kind-hearted, creative, passionate people all over the world facing the same challenges and disappointments that we all confront.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Shooting More – Posting Less

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We are up here in the clouds today. It’s cold, windy, and—for much of the morning—visibility has been only a memory.

Many photographers thrive on rainy days and can’t wait to get out and about with their cameras. I tend to get reflective. That has always been my pattern. I’m sure it has to do with having lived, all my life, in sunny climes with long stretches of rain being an anomaly, rather than the norm. Raindrops on my window pane make me want to sit quietly—maybe with a hot drink, to contemplate the light filtering through the water while allowing my mind to wander aimlessly about—picking up and discarding random threads of thought that meander into focus.

This morning I have been thinking about where I am with photography (as well as the election—well, who hasn’t been thinking about the latter.) Lately, I have been taking more pictures than I ever have. Rarely a day goes by that I don’t have my camera out and working, and could post a photo-a-day with only rare lapses. Yet, I am posting a smaller and smaller percentage of my shots. It’s partly about distractions and finding time to put up posts, but mostly it’s about my dissatisfaction with what I produce. Yes, I am slowly improving technically. I have fewer shots that are woefully under or over-exposed. My horizon lines are more consistently straight. Even though my progress is slow and frustrating, I see some small improvement in compositions. The problem is that my technical skills grow at a pace that lags woefully behind that of my ambitions. Shots that I would have happily posted even six months ago dishearten me now.

My choice is to continue posting images that I am not happy with, because I refuse to give myself permission to hide and wait, until I am ready before I post my photos. I know well that dark side of my nature—the part of me that wants to wait until I have something that I'm proud of, before I make it public. From the beginning, the reason for this blog was to thwart that dark side. Posting in spite of my disappointments with what I have shot is a form of discipline for me. It motivates me to take a closer look at the shots I take and short-circuits the impulse to dump the entire card in disgust and disappointment. Looking at the shots and forcing myself to choose the best of the sorry lot encourages me to acknowledge my small steps forward and that motivates me to keep trying.

Fortunately for me, while my resolve to persevere waivers, it shows no signs of a full breakdown. Continuing to post pictures that clearly reveal my work-in-progress standing is making me stronger.

Comfort Brownies

No, I am not harking back to the care-free days of Kodak Brownies along with freedom from Adobe programs, color-management nightmares, un-calibrated monitors, and the release (every six months—or so it seems) of new cameras designed to produce irresistible gear-lust.

For way too many hours, we were without Internet service, and this development got me concerned about my addiction. I felt completely lost—being out of touch. It got so bad I baked a batch of gluten-free brownies. One needs some sort of comfort when enduring such dire circumstances.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Kid and Me

While I am not at all sad and feel quite optimistic about the big change that The Husband and I have made, saying the last goodbye to our house in Los Angeles brought twinges of nostalgia for the past. To further complicate matters, Paul Lester recently posted a photo that captures beautifully the relationship between a man and his dog. The photo started me missing animals I have loved. That twinge of nostalgia brought to mind other stories I haven't told.

Someday I may tell you about Kid Karrouf, the beautiful gray Arabian gelding I owned years ago. (That old photo above is the Kid, as you have probably guessed.) Perhaps I will tell you how he floated over the ground in long, beautiful strides and how he did flying lead changes that could take your breath away. (It might take some time to explain flying lead changes, but for now trust me—it’s an impressive feat when executed flawlessly.)

There are many stories about Rufus, as he was nicknamed by one of his previous owners. (On the strange coincidence front, Rufus happened to be the name of my first sort-of serious boyfriend—at least I thought it was sort of serious when I was seven! Rufus, the boyfriend that is, gave me beautiful statues of horses because he knew the way straight to my heart. Moreover, while we are on strange coincidences, the previous owner who gave Karrouf his nickname was, like me, named, Anita. Life is full of oddities like that.)

And when I tell you some of those stories, I will most certainly include a few about the horse who loved to leap sideways while traveling down the trail. One second Karrouf would be directly under you, trotting easily, and the next second he was a couple of feet to the left—or the right. There was no predicting which. And, how he loved doing 180 degree spins. Once in a while—rarely, but still...he would buck—a small buck, but still a buck—just because it felt so darned good. Believe me when I tell you these are not desirable in a steady mount. You didn't dare let your mind wander when you rode Rufus, because he frequently checked to make certain you were paying attention. Much of the time, he was a rock. But, he was full of energy and surprises. You never got bored riding Kid Karrouf.

I rode once in a very small local horse show (Karrouf was show material—I wasn’t), and when a jumbo paper cup blew into the ring and headed straight for the horse that some days loved to spook at his own shadow, my heart leaped into my mouth. I prepared for the volcanic eruption. My show career was about to end and it hadn't even begun. Karrouf didn't even flick an ear. I was certain he had suddenly been struck blind. The truth was simple. Rufus was at work, you see, and he understood that show business was serious business.

Once after a long rainy spell had finally ended—a spell that included several days of mostly sheets of rain and acres of mud, with no blue skies for days, the sun returned and the husband and I took advantage of an opportunity to spend quality time on our horses. Finally, a wonderful evening for riding in the hills. We took off from the stable on a long route, one that took us over a seldom-traveled fire road that was ideal for an exhilarating gallop. Karrouf loved stretching out to run. And, for me, sitting atop eight hundred pounds of muscle, thundering along on a hillside trail with the wind in my face and the sound of four hooves pounding the dirt was most of my childhood fantasies rolled into a handful of glorious moments. After the excitement, we walked a while, then trotted briskly—relishing the freedom and companionship. It was a picture-perfect ride, until we came to some rough terrain.

The ground was uneven—drop offs galore and boulders everywhere. At that juncture, I wasn't excited about The Husband's choice for our route. Still, I didn't want to be a girl about it, so I didn't say a word. But after a few yards, I dismounted to lead my horse through a particularly ugly patch. It seemed like a good idea, at the time. Unfortunately, I forgot to allow for the interaction between my leather-soled boots and wet, muddy boulders. I slipped. I fell. I landed under my horse. I yelped in pain. I felt like a fool. I tried to get out from under Karrouf (looking straight up at a horse's belly was not high on my list of favorite viewpoints) and discovered that, sure enough, not everything was working properly.

Meanwhile, Karrouf stood like a rock. I screamed at the top of my lungs to The Husband, who was, by then, quite a bit ahead of us—having been smart enough to trust his horse to get him over the rough footing. “The Rock” remained steady, in spite of being splayed out awkwardly with his front legs a good foot higher than his hind legs and a moaning human under his belly. Horses are not fond of this sort of arrangement. A horse normally gravitates toward solid, even footing. And, mostly, horses are not crazy about having a human lying on the ground beneath them—especially if said human is alternating peculiar groaning sounds with urgent shrieks for help. Typically, in that situation, horses prefer to move aside, perhaps look for something to eat, or, at worst, head for home without you. An unwelcome image flashed through my mind: Karrouf leaping forward, going for level ground, and my head directly in line with a back hoof. I tried to wriggle from under him to get on my feet, but couldn’t seem to make any progress. The boulders beneath me were treacherously slippery. Besides, the pain only diminished when I was very, very still.

Eventually, The Husband heard the cries for help, returned, and began helping me to get out from under my horse—and vertical. The part that wasn’t working was my right shoulder. It had obviously been the landing point when I fell. Sure enough, in the collision between shoulder and boulder, the boulder was the clear winner. The shoulder had snapped. As the sun was setting, The Husband succeeded in extricating me (I'm afraid I was little, if any, help), and next we set about getting me up on my horse. I just wasn't up for hiking back—the stable was much too far away. Besides, by then, I wanted no part of my leather-soled boots and those rocks that seemed now to stretch forever before me. We had to get me in that saddle.

Now I am not a big person, but hoisting a one-armed woman up to a horse's back isn't easy. I had little experience accomplishing the task with one arm dangling, useless beside me. While The Husband did the pushing and lifting, I did as much as I could with one leg in the stirrup and one on the ground, but neither leg seemed to be functioning up to par. Meanwhile, throughout all the grunting and false starts made to get me high enough to throw the right leg over my horse's back, Karrouf, The Rock, remained fixed to his uneven perch—his shoulders uphill, haunches below. So far, so good. No dancing, no flinching, no looking for a level spot. He was a statue.

Finally, The Husband and I got me in position, and I was in the saddle. We headed home as the the light faded from the sky. I was aware of every step as the two bones that had moments before formed a working shoulder rubbed against one another. It crossed my mind that as I sat on the gray Arabian who loved to scare himself with tales of monsters lurking along the trail at night, it was quickly getting quite dark and chilly, besides. Through a kind of fog, as shock began to set in, I wondered if I could stay on should Karrouf spook at a shadow—just to see if I was paying attention. Since I rode an English saddle, there was no saddle horn to grab with the one working hand and by then my legs had turned to jelly. I had no option but to trust my horse.

So, we made our way with The Husband in the lead, frequently throwing encouragement over his shoulder. I sat perched atop my horse, shivering and gritting my teeth, while the reins hung loose. As the darkness closed in on the moonless night, I must have been more like a sack of potatoes on Karrouf's back than a rider. When our dismal little parade came to the first stand of trees alongside the trail, I mentally braced. You may not know what my Arabian knew, but he was well aware that vampires loooove hiding among the branches of trees. I think I muttered something to him through chattering teeth, and without one muscle in his back so much as twitching, The Rock, who had become mobile immediately upon command to move, plodded on. Steadily and sure-footedly, he strode past those trees and dozens more during the mile or two home. There were no vampire tales that night. Kid Karrouf was at work.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Long Goodbye

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For the past year, The Husband and I have been immersed in this life change. We began looking at houses in Bear Valley Springs last October, and since then I have experienced the many stages of moving—the good, the bad, and the ugly. This past week escrow closed on our little house in Los Angeles—a few days early—and one day each week for the last two weeks we drove down to get the last of the things from the yard that had been left there to make an empty house look as though someone still cared for it. In other words, potted plants along with lawn furniture and ornaments that said, “No, this one isn’t abandoned, nor is is bank-owned.”

The people who bought our house are lovely, and I wish them many long years of love and happiness there. Still, my last hours walking around the yard—taking what was truly finally, One Last Look—the feelings of relief from shedding one mortgage from our monthly burden were mixed with sadness—the sadness of leaving an old friend. It was fitting that week before last I saw this crystal clear view of the mountains to the north. We didn’t see that view on a regular basis—it was often hazy. But, I remember well that when we first looked at the property (a little over twenty years ago, now) that view was what I first fell in love with. On a clear day in January, as I hobbled along the sidewalk to the front door—on crutches at that point, I turned to see this view and I was in love. I knew that unless the house was uninhabitable, I wanted to live there and heal while looking at those mountains.

It was a good house and a wonderful home.
I won't forget it.

Monday, October 27, 2008

SoFoBoMo—in the Air Already

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Our brief distraction turned into four days of clean-up work in Los Angeles. Now that I'm back in Bear Valley, it's catch-up time here, again.

When I got back to my computer I found that the talk of SoFoBoMo 2009 is already heating up; and, coincidentally (?), I had an e-mail from Blurb informing me that they now offer an upgrade in paper. The e-mail was quite interesting to me, since I was greatly disappointed in the paper when I ordered a Blurb book, last year. Perhaps, I will give them another try now.

The heating up of the SoFoBoMo subject caught me a bit off guard—and it shouldn't have. After all, April is less than six months away. (Time flies when you're having fun, right? Well, frankly I have found that at this stage of my life, it always flies—with each month shorter than the last one, forget about years.) I have great ambitions to be much more prepared this round than I was last year.

I see that a number of people I met through SoFoBoMo 2008 plan to participate again, and I am pleased, because they taught me a great deal and inspired me with their work. Once again, I haven't a clue what I will do. However, I do know that, once again, I will feel lost and will revisit all those old familiar doubts and fears. I also know that I will plough through. I am not about to miss the party. When Paul Butzi gives us the start dates, I will take a deep breath and jump into the experience.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Gone Fishin'

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Not really, but scenes like this are almost enough to make me want to take up fishing. I make fun of Cub Lake—pointing out its size and calling it a pond, but it's a lovely place to spend time and I am grateful to have it so close by.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Our Bridge to Nowhere

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Sorry. How could I resist that title? I have some questions to ask about this structure.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Look But Don't Touch

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(I hope you will bear with me on the publication of comments and replies. If I am slow to respond, I will be able to catch up Friday or Saturday.)

I don't want to get too friendly with these thistles, but they are nice for viewing from a safe distance. The trouble is that while thrashing about in the field, I invariably get to close to one of these. But, then that's what denim jeans are for, right?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Getting Lost in the Tall Grass

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The Husband and I both love the grasses that grow in our fields. Including the period when we were looking for a place and before we moved here in August, we have now seen the fields in each of the seasons. I can’t decide which is my favorite time to admire them. We enjoy gazing at the meadow from the windows in the living room. (Yes, I know these rooms are now called “great rooms”. I don’t think I can ever get used to that phrase. Ours is destined to be down-graded to a good old-fashioned “living room”. Well, at least I am a little past calling it the parlor.) I love wading through the grass to head for the hiking trail, or the trees at the edge of our place, or just wandering about in it and getting down low to look into it, rather than over it. In some places, I don’t have to get down very low to accomplish that point of view.

While looking at the photo above, it struck me why I may be so captivated by the simple grasses. A memory flashed into my mind—a memory as sharp in intensity as if it were from yesterday, but made as deliciously hazy by time as some parts of the image.

When I was very young— probably about four years old, my father took a short-term job in northern Louisiana. We were new in the neighborhood and I was just beginning to develop a keen curiosity about my surroundings, a longing for independence, and a taste for adventure—a potentially dangerous cocktail of tastes for a four-year-old.

One day, while we were very new to the area, my mother and I walked a short distance to meet a neighbor. I remember I enjoyed immensely both the walk and the lady we met. I’m not certain why meeting the lady was so special, but I suspect she gave me a great deal of attention—possibly fed me cookies, who knows. I do recall that the walk was wonderful partly because it included a stretch down a narrow path through a field of grass so high that I, of course, could not see over it. The yellow grass swaying around me hid me from the rest of the world and made me feel that I was in a special, secret, and magical land made just for me and one where adventure waited around every curve.

It turns out that I enjoyed the visit and the journey so much, I decided the next day to repeat it—alone. I didn’t think it necessary to share my plans with anyone. I just struck out across our tiny yard and along the narrow path. Of course, my young mother was frightened within an inch of her life when she discovered that I had disappeared. But, up until the time she found me, I had a simply marvelous time (the getting caught part I don’t remember well—only that it was unpleasant) and I suppose I have never forgotten the enchantment of getting lost in the shimmering golden grasses, luminous in the afternoon light.

Monday, October 20, 2008

What a Difference a Print Makes

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I have just had the value of making prints brought home to me in a vivid fashion.

While I never completely lost interest in prints, I had become quite distracted by the web experience and had formed the habit of rushing from one photo outing to the next and skipping the printing step. There are, after all, only so many walls to fill; and paper, as well as ink, are expensive. In my situation—months of preparing to move, moving, and not being certain now whether we will be able to stay in this house—putting holes in walls to display prints and creating more things that may have to be packed and moved again didn’t seem like a smart plan.

Besides, there is plenty to be learned from viewing images only on a monitor. What I see on my screen is a harsh enough reminder that I continue to struggle mightily with all the technical elements of photography. Lately, I have been most frustrated over my weaknesses in composition. Furthermore, while I am getting far more consistent in the exposure department with fewer and fewer outright losers, I haven’t begun to master exposures that fully capture what I felt when I saw the image in my mind. Even though I am improving in my ability to control depth of field, I continue to come up short of my goals. I experiment more frequently now with point of view, but I haven’t come close to pushing boundaries.

On a regular basis, I ask myself how is it that I can feel so passionate about what I am doing, yet that passion is not fully translated into the images I make? How long will I face this the great chasm between my intent and the execution. When Paul Butzi wrote recently that he considers himself "
a Photographer of Very Little Ability", I was floored. “Holy cow,” I thought. "If Paul Butzi has ‘very little ability’, where the heck does that put me!?”

To complicate matters, I added a bright, shiny, new monitor. Next, I added the Eye One Display 2 to my list of technological challenges. Having calibrated my previous monitors using the by-eye method, and being of almost zero ability when it comes to learning new software, I was destined for trouble from the beginning. Sure the software offers an “Easy Method”, but that would have been admitting defeat, wouldn’t it? Yes, I know that the intelligent thing to have done would have been to live with my limitations and opt for the easy path. No, not my style.

I dug into the “Advanced Method”, whimpered for help from The Husband and
Paul Lester when I was completely stuck and plugged away at it. The Husband was there for me and helped even though he knows nothing about color management; Paul generously shared the benefit of his experience and both of them made a difference. To put my limitations with software into perspective, let’s just say that I could swear that divine intervention powered me through the experience of learning Photoshop. Since, I often compensate for lack of talent and smarts with determination—that’s old-fashioned stubbornness, if we are being blunt—my health and sanity were spared with a few key breakthroughs and I now enjoy using Adobe’s mind-bending program. So far, no such intervention with Eye One Display. I’m still not satisfied with my calibration. A couple of days ago, I was so discouraged that I began thinking I had probably never had anything vaguely resembling decent calibration and that meant that I couldn’t possibly ever have produced any decent photographs. Everything I had ever done was garbage and a person with so little intelligence should never, ever tackle color management. (A dental appointment and the beginnings of a cold didn’t help my frame of mind.) I was ready to raise the white flag.

But, that’s where prints come into the story. Before beginning one last ditch effort calibrating the new gorgeous, but virtually useless monitor, I searched for the calibration prints I had ordered from Smugmug—they had proven invaluable in my previous by-eye calibration. Early in the search, I ran across a few envelopes of prints made over the last couple of years. Some of those prints had hung on the walls and when I ran out of walls, some had been stuck on the insides of cabinet doors in our old house. The prints all around me inspired me, challenged me, and helped to keep me on track. Looking at my failures was just as important as viewing the successes. (The stinker were inside cabinets that no one else looked in—my ugly little secrets.) Next, I opened some of the framed prints that had hung on the walls in our old house, but have languished in boxes waiting for a certainty that these walls will be ours. Too many of the prints reminded me of how much I still have to learn, but there were a few that succeeded in capturing moments of consequence to me and some reminded me that others had been happy to purchase copies of those prints. Furthermore, the prints showed that, although it might once again have taken divine intervention, I had managed to get some of my impressions on paper.

Since that day of discovery, I have shot with enthusiasm and a confidence that eventually, I will get close to calibrating this monitor and once again making prints that please me. If only momentarily. I was reenergized. By the way, it hasn’t escaped my notice that I require reenergizing about two or three times per month. It’s a herky-jerky journey, but I can only move at my own pace.

Monday, October 13, 2008


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I have resolved to buckle down and get some long-neglected work done; but, I steal a few minutes here and there to explore—camera in hand.


Around 7:30 PM yesterday, The Husband left for business in Los Angeles and fully expected to be back in Bear Valley Springs in time for lunch today. A Santa Ana intervened.

The fire that had broken out in the Angeles National Forest, north of Los Angeles, Sunday morning burned 2000 acres and resulted in mandatory evacuations of canyon areas, before fire fighters got a fairly good handle on it. Then, the Santa Ana arrived.

Now, whipped by 65 mile-per-hour winds, the fire in the Kagel and Lopez Canyon areas has destroyed over 3200 acres and left some people homeless. The outlook at the moment isn’t great, but the worst threat is further west. Powered by 80 miles-per-hour gusts, that blaze jumped an eight-lane freeway to threaten homes in the community of Chatsworth.

The fire isn’t close enough to threaten the house we are selling in Los Angeles , but it’s too close for comfort and near enough to our neighbors in Lake View Terrace and the Hansen Dam area to produce some seriously frayed nerves there. Our friends in that neighborhood have already evacuated most of their horses (several of them have too many animals to take out in one trip) and some have headed for Chatsworth to help with animal evacuations. Others are staying in the Big Tujunga area to help out there.

The Husband didn’t make it back for lunch. I know he is wishing that he had taken the Suburban for this trip, along with the horse trailer, in case there are folks in trouble.

More wait and see.