Saturday, March 8, 2008

One of Those Photoshop Days

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A few days ago when I was attempting to process one of those rough passages, I lost myself in a photo of our two silly boys roughhousing in the turn-out ring. I can get lost, for hours, painting and tweaking an image that I enjoy staring at. In these situations, there is, for me, a distinct correlation between the emotional processing and the photo processing—each seems to feed the other. I lose myself in the Photoshop mechanics of sliders, layers, curves, channels, and masks. I don't have any plug-ins and use only a few actions that I create for adding basic adjustment layers. It isn't just about being frugal. I truly enjoy the act of applying the steps and the making of the image-by-image, element-by-element, moment-by-moment choices. And, as I confront the light and shadow on the monitor and explore the direction I want to take it (and hope we are dancing in sync), my unconscious picks at the sliders, layers, curves, etc. of the event that I am attempting to digest. Internally and externally, I attempt to resolve chaos and establish order.

It's cheaper (arguably) and healthier than most therapies and, sometimes, when I have ended my "meditation" I am willing to share the final product before I put it away for a while. (The putting-away allows me to step away from the moment and return when I can more effectively separate the final image from the emotional journey that produced it.) Sometimes I struggle with whether showing work that comes from such a process is a bit like inviting a friend to your group therapy session to observe the proceedings. Still, all our images, after all, reflect who we are, on some level or the other. We can share the work or hide it in a shoebox. My shoebox is already full.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008


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These rocks have been photographed by the top
photographers in the country.

Your work WILL be compared to the best of the best.
Management is not responsible for any embarrassment,
or regret on the part of reckless photographers who proceed
beyond this warning to press the shutter. Should you
proceed, you are urged to keep your photograph
hidden safely in a drawer.

I’m quite certain I saw this sign posted in Sedona, Arizona. As you can see, I decided to live dangerously. After all, the picture brings me pleasure and reminds me of that color-filled evening and the wonder of those rocks. But, let’s just keep it between you and me, okay?


Recently, I have been musing about the changing nature of the events and celebrations that tend to dominate our personal calendars. I am not talking about the yearly calendar events—the holiday gatherings and traditions, but the special events that mark the transitions in a life. Moreover, I am talking specifically about the events during which we are not the “the star of the show”—the birthday girl or boy, the bride or groom—but the gatherings we attend to honor or celebrate the passages in the lives of others. When we are very young, our social schedule includes mostly birthday celebrations and it’s all about cake, ice cream, and maybe a clown. Then, especially if we live near extended family, we are likely to move on to a series of rather staid graduation ceremonies with all those lofty expectations. And, of course, we all come to the tumultuous, sometimes giddy (and almost always expensive) wedding stage. (I have known a number of young actors here in Los Angeles who can never pay down their credit card, because there is always another wedding “back home”.) Naturally, the wedding phase leads to the baby shower phase for the females and—depending upon the closeness of the friends—christenings, another round of birthday parties, graduations, and weddings.

I will give away my age by revealing that I am in the memorial phase of my life. You know. The phase where we switch from shouting, “hello!” to whispering, “good-bye”. Last night, set me reflecting on the diversity of tone in the far too numerous memorials I have attended in the last few years. Perhaps because I live in a community that is home to a plethora of creative people, most of whom are quite comfortable taking center stage and putting their individual stamp on almost any occasion, no two memorials are the same. Each is intensely personal, reflecting the personality of the deceased as well as those who have crafted the memorial and, to some degree, those in attendance. Each holds a special place in my heart and mind and I am grateful to those who made those events possible.

Last night’s memorial was a fitting testament to a life well-lived. The event honored an accomplished musician. Thus, not surprisingly, the “hall” was filled with musical talent. The talent was generously shared, and through the healing power of music the tears got all jumbled with joy and love. The evening was a perfect final note to what had been a lovely song.

The catharsis of saying goodbye and celebrating someone’s life seems, to me, a crucial stage in what turns out to be a never quite ending grieving process. (I can’t say I buy the theory “that time heals all wounds”. For me, time allows for the formation of calluses and scabs over the bruises and wounds. Nevertheless, it takes only an unexpected reminder of the loss to rip off the callous or scab and all that pain comes flooding back. This may very well be a flaw in my own character rather than a truism. Still, it is my experience.) But, beyond the catharsis, the memorials have been instructive. They remind me that our time here is brief. Then, when we are gone, there will be others left behind, who will remember us—with our without affection. So, perhaps we should occasionally give some thought to how we will be remembered. The stories that I hear consistently shared at these life-celebrations are a sober reminder of what counts. Without fail, the moments most often recalled with affection and gratitude are little moments. Moments of small kindnesses or personal humor in awkward situations. It’s so tempting to spend our time wondering how our contributions to “the world” will be perceived, while those in our immediate lives are starved for those special little moments they will always remember. Is it too gruesome to confess that I have decided to work a bit more on my memorial?

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Real and Unreal

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My first impression of this picture, as I browsed the archives, was, "Wow, I must have gotten carried away with processing on that one." Curious, I checked and, surprisingly, there was minimal work done on the file. As it turns out,I had brought the raw file into Lightroom and I hadn't touched the vibrance slider, or any of the color sliders. I had brightened the shot a tad and added a smidgen of fill light. That was it.

The experience reminded me of one of the favorite stories told by the head of the drama department where I got my undergraduate degree. He chided us to study nature and to be more bold with our choices in lighting designs. He delighted in telling us that after living in the southwest for a time—being an east coast native—he returned to the northeast to work in theatre. While he was certain he was holding "as ’t were, the mirror up to nature", his lighting designs were met with derisive comments, and he was frequently asked to alter his plans. He told us that more than once a director pointed to the stage and informed him that, "That light outside the window looks fake. I want something much more realistic."
At first glance, I was certain that this image wasn't "realistic". It was lovely to remember Mr. M.—all my memories of him are fond ones—and pleasing to remember that sometime sunsets really are that spectacular.

Sunday, March 2, 2008


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If you have a friend you have been meaning to call, call. If there is someone you have been intending to get together with for lunch or dinner, go. If there is someone you have been meaning to write, write. We hurtle through our lives planning all those things we will do next week, next month, even next year. Meanwhile life passes by; things change; and people who were there last week are gone. There’s no taking it back. There are no second chances. Gone is gone.

R. G., rest in peace. We will miss you and your quick smile.