Lost explorer

Things fall apart. Things get lost. Especially little kids toys. We had a week of rain. When it stopped falling this little happy man drifted to this pile of leafs and twigs.

When everything dried out enough so the dogs wouldn’t get their precious paws wet out we went. We found this little stranded guy. They sniffed at him and kept going. I called out “stop,” and they listened for once.

I made a couple of pictures and away we went.

I said very early on in the pandemic that the so-called new normal could be a lot better than it was in the past.

Apparently, our transitional president prefers to be a transformative one. I’m sure many of you might disagree, but I fully support his plans. Totaled together we are talking about trillions of dollars. The money will come from raising taxes on the rich and on corporations. In many ways it’s a redistribution of wealth.

Sounds socialist, yes?

If you said yes, you don’t know much about socialism. I lived in China. I’ve seen socialism up close. Even though the country has turned more capitalistic, the laws and rules are draconian.

These plans ain’t that. Instead they go a ways to fix the huge inequities that The United States faces today. Besides who doesn’t want the country’s infrastructure repaired and made better? Who doesn’t want to give young children their best start at life? Who doesn’t want to make sure all people are healthy?

Well, one Republican woman congressperson doesn’t. Most Republican lawmakers sat on their hands which is to be expected. If they made comments it was after the president’s speech and they didn’t attack the entire thing. She did. And, she did it while he was speaking.

The setting spoke volumes about the state of the country today. The chamber was quiet. Only 20% population of a normal joint session was allowed. Food was restricted. There were no guests. There were no aisle hogs.

Outside, there were fences. There were at least a thousand National Guardsmen and women. There were police. Movement was restricted.

Is this also part of the new normal?

I hope not.

I’d like to say that there was a lot of technology involved in making this picture.

There wasn’t.

This picture involved seeing. My seeing and the dogs seeing and sniffing.

Then, it was just a matter of making the proper exposure and doing very little in editing and post production.

I know this little toy guy is a character in a movie, but for the life of me I can’t remember which one. At least he is dressed properly for a flood.

A day or two later we passed by the place where we found the toy. It was gone. Hopefully, the child who lost it found it.

Stay safe. Stay strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask (I don’t care about the lifting of restrictions). Wash your hands. Keep your distance (Opening sports and venues for full crowds seems short sighted). Get your jabs (Especially those of you who are getting your second injection). Look after each other. Be patient (See above.)


Changes. I have a friend — a photographer — who seems to think that my work is as good as some of the masters. I completely disagree. I replied to his email about getting me print sales via a couple of well know — in the photography world — websites by saying I’m just one of 274, 987 photographers in the world.

I see a lot of pictures. Good, bad and derivitive. The derivative pictures are mostly on Instagram and its big brother, Facebook. You know, one person makes an interesting picture and 749 other photographers copy the original.

How boring.

But, this isn’t a rant about that. It’s a rant about me. I am truly bored with my own new work. I’m derivative. Of myself. I make a new picture and I think, “oh wow. this is cool.” When I return home, I find that I’ve already made the picture last year, the year before, and the year before that.

Arrrgh.

Falling to earth.

Oh goody. The picture. I saw it, I photographed it. I did very little in post production. Nature did most of the work. It may also be nature’s way of tell ing me something’s wrong.

What is the point of making this picture again in a month, or in a year?

Some people have told me that I’m wrong. Nature changes daily. One guy made that point by showing me a series of sunsets. Boy oh boy, he was right, they were different. But, they were so much alike that I couldn’t tell them from the other 20 million sunset pictures scattered all over the internet.

Don’t believe me?

Go to Google images and search for sunsets. Start on Saturday. By the end of the next week you’ll be done looking at each one.

Oh well.

Maybe I’ll find a subject that interests me enough to explore it for a good long while.

Stay safe. Stay well. Wear your masks.


All fall down.

A long December.

For me it’s a time of review. Not just for 2019, but for the decade since 2020 is the start of a decade. It’s also just not only about me. It’s about the state of the planet. The state of being. And, it’s about the people that I’ve lost. The people who are no longer on this planet. And, it’s about one more trip around the planet.

It started with sports. Not playing, but reading about sports. A lot of writers were doing best of the decade sporting stories. That gave me an idea. What if I did my best ten pictures of the decade?

On one hand, it was fairly easy to pick my ten best. They have been signature pictures since the day I made them. On the other hand, the exercise was miserable. I made a lot of pictures in the last ten years. My kind of pictures. The ones that were more like photojournalism than art or nature.

Why miserable?

I’m ashamed to say that I haven’t been very productive over the last two years. Yes, sure, I’ve made a huge amount of my faux nature pictures. To me, they don’t count. That’s not what I do. I could write that off to being in pain, to being afraid of falling down in the middle of a second line, to being fairly depressed because of the pain and feeling like my career is winding down.

That’s not me.

I’ve always played through the pain. This pain is for the rest of my lifetime. So? I’ve always lived by Neil Young’s song, “Don’t be Denied.” I’ve got a fairly high threshold for pain. I’m not the guy who thinks that he’s dying when I catch a cold.

So?

They say that it’s not how you start, but how you finish. I’m going to do my level best at finishing so strong, you’ll just think I took a few years off for some unknown reason. Besides, there is just too much to do. Too much that I don’t want to leave undone.

One more thing. This year was the year of learning. I didn’t learn that much externally. But, I did internally. I looked into my past. At my beginnings. How I got to this place. There are some bad memories. But, there were some awfully great times.

Here’s one of both.

You know that I spent six years in Hong Kong, more if you count China. I used to manufacture books. I would close the process by doing a press check. We’d work night and day. We’d look at color quality. I learned the subtle art of compromise. I learned that perfection is for angels. Especially when we were printing 8 or 16 pages at a time. The red you want on one page is the red you don’t want on another page. But, the pages are being printed together. I had to figure out the balance. The difference.

So.

I was in Hong Kong for ten months without coming home at all. At the end of my time there, I went to Singapore to print one more book. This book was a co-production with an unreasonable partner. The book was very late coming off the press. The partner wanted to review every running sheet. I was in Singapore. They were in New York City. That meant a delay of two days for every one we were on press. The whole thing devolved into a long distance three way screaming match between me, them and my bosses who were on my side.

Finally, I just said screw it. I said I would send them the running pages. I printed the entire book and sent them a loosely gathered set of pages. They hit the roof. They wanted to make changes, not just in book quality, but in content. I replied the book is in the bindery. It’s done. Dead silence from the other end. I hung up and went about my business.

I was exhausted.

Up all night. Up early in the morning. Up during the day. That’ll exhaust you. But, I wasn’t done yet.

From Singapore I flew to Copenhagen via Zurich. I didn’t have to change planes. I slept through the stop. I slept until we were about an hour out of Denmark. The flight attendant fed me after saying that she tried to wake me but couldn’t. Exhausted.

When we landed I went straight to my little house. One room, with a sleeping area, a kitchen, sitting area and a world class bathroom. Like an Air BnB, but 20 years early. I took a shower and turned on the television. I found VH-1, mostly since I couldn’t understand the Danish stations.

The first thing I see is this guy singing and dancing. He’s wearing long beaded dreadlocks. He looks very happy. Adam Durwitz. Counting Crows. Playing and singing Mr. Jones. Remember that song? From the early 1990’s?

Oh, man. Did that ever make me sing and… dance.

Music saved me.

Oh, Copenhagen? I loved it. I could walk from my place to work in a design studio on a cobblestoned walking street. I could stop for a great breakfast and even better coffee along the way. It was early June. It fairly cold so I bought a jacket. I photographed constantly. Three weeks later, I left for home.

Finally.

 

 


Dog’s eye view.

Woof.

It’s come to this. The dog who sees things wants to write this post. But, she doesn’t have opposable thumbs. So, it’s up to me.

This is what happens when you really need to make some pictures, but the color is gone, everything is green and you are bored out of your mind. It forces creativity. It forces you out of your comfort zone. And, it forced me to look down and work on the ground.

Not quite. But, almost.

I can stand and look down at what the lens sees. I can push the button from there. That’s a good thing. If I actually sat on the ground, that would be fine. But with my leg, hip and back issues, getting up is a whole other story.  I can do it. But, the action is not fit for public consumption. It’s sort of like a crab trying to right itself.

Enough about me.

I have some questions. About Storyteller. For many of you, when you open an email you come straight to this page. Not really a problem. For others, you come to what amounts to a home page. The more that I look at it, the more overbearing and oppressive it becomes. Sure, there are a lot of pictures in a tiny bit of real estate. But…

What do you all think? Please don’t do the usual WordPress/Facebook thing and say it’s great, for fear of hurting my feelings. Fire away. Do you like the home page? Do you hate it? What about the rest?

Because.

The more I think about design and blogs like this one, it’s about you — the reader and viewer — more than it is about me. Hurting my feelings by being honest should be the least of your worries. Making Storyteller and easy to access place that’s fun to read should be the most important issue.

Have fun.


Changing time.

Time. It’s really all that we have.

The changing of seasons reminds us of that. In some places it sort of comes like a knife slicing through butter. In other places, it lingers for weeks until it finally sneaks up on us. The leaves are gone. The air turns cold.

That’s what this picture is about.

One day my dog was sniffing in the grass. The next day she couldn’t find the grass. Now the leaves are gone. The grass is brittle with cold. Some grass is dead. Some is hardy and will make it through most of our kind of winter. It doesn’t smell the same to her.

I don’t have the sense of smell that she does. But, I can see. That’s what I do. I see. I react. I push the button. I come back to the studio. I try to help you to see what I saw. To feel what I felt.

Sometimes I’m successful. Often I’m not.

That’s the way it goes.

It went that way for me yesterday. I received an email from the folks who run the black and white contest. If you recall, I offered them one of the best pictures of my career. The black and white version of Big Queen speaking to the media with photographers surrounding her. I’d like to report that it won something. But, no. It wasn’t even considered for anything. One of the best pictures of my career wasn’t good enough for anything.

What does that say about my career?

As you know, I’m going through some soul-searching. Some of it is about technical issues like websites, blog sites and how to best access my archives. Some of it is about me. My work. My continued work. It is true that I have earned a good part of my living from my pictures. I always wonder if I am sort of a fraud. If it came too easy.

A few days ago I mentioned that writing this blog on a daily basis came easy to me. I talked about my mental and emotional practice. It may come easy because it is all worthless. Often, the trial of doing anything equals the quality. Maybe, I’ve been fooling myself. And, you. Maybe not.

I don’t know.

The black and white contest posts the winners today. I’ll have a look. Maybe I’ll look and laugh. Many of these contests are popularity contests. Some are not. We’ll see.

Oh. One more thing. If I want to make WordPress the sole provider of my work, that’s easy. A few mouse clicks and I’m done. I’m done with Squarespace and GoDaddy. What remains to be seen is if I’m able to turn Storyteller into my commercial site with the blog as part of that. I’m very capable of learning. I believe life-long learning is the key to staying young. It may even curb dementia. On the other hand, I don’t want to be forced to do anything. I’m too old for that silliness. If I have a choice between learning to code for WordPress and — oh let’s say — playing the guitar, the choice is fairly simple.

By the way. Spell check wants to turn GoDaddy into Gordy. Hmmmmm.


On the ground.

I was out walking. The dog who sees things accompanied me. She saw this. But, just the shapes. Not the color. The brightly colored circles caught my eye.  She — the dog — doesn’t see color like that. Dogs see monochromatically. That’s fine for them because their noses know.

I saw them. Circles. I think a space alien put them there. Or, a little kid. I’m not even sure what they are. They are round. Obviously. They are brightly colored. I thought that they might be rubber bands. Nope. They are made of hard material and have almost no flexibility.

I brought a couple of them home. I’ll photograph them and let Google Images do its thing. That may work. Since I don’t know what to call these things, Googling in the normal manner might not be of much help.

Anyway.

That’s life. Sometimes you find the thing you want. Often you don’t. For this discussion, things can be anything. Finding stuff on the ground often comes to mind. But, what if you are searching for something more specific? A partner? A new life philosophy? Even validation of your life or work?

I’ve come to think that the more you search, the harder it is to find the thing that you are chasing. You tangle yourself up in yourself. Your searching may scare the thing you want away from you.

That’s why I let pictures come to me. I think they’ll find me easy enough if I just look and see.

If you have read this far, you’ll notice that I haven’t cited any examples. That’s because I can only speak for myself. If I commented on another’s approach I would just be blathering. I don’t know enough about another’s head, heart and soul.

You work with intent. With vision. But, that’s an overarching set of concepts. The rest — the notion of letting a thing come to you — lies within them.

The picture. You know that I found it almost by accident. But, there was a framework. The dog who sees things likes a little plot of grass where I found the circles. She sniffs around. She gives me time to look. To see. She is patient when I start to work.

You know how I found it. My entire post is about that. My post production is mostly about highlighting color without getting otherworldly. Some of my production outtakes look like the world from neon hell.


Waiting to play.

That’s what they say. The Tuba starts it.

When you hear the first notes from the tuba you know the second line is about to begin. Playing a tuba is hard work. It’s heavy. The musician playing it walks about five or six miles. Maybe more. So, until it’s time to go to work, the tuba sits quietly on the ground.

I know. I know. Some of you have made comments like, “When my child played an instrument, it was alway stored carefully in its case. It would never be left just sitting on the ground.” For me, the operative word is “When.” Does he or she still play? If not, why not?

These guys are working musicians. Once they learned to play, they never stopped. They have gig bags. They transport their gear in them. They take the bags off their instruments and leave them in their cars. After all, do they really want to carry around one more thing that they won’t be using on a five or six-mile walk? This time of year walking is a little easier. Just wait until they are walking in July. In 98 degree heat. And, about 95% humidity.

That’s the other thing. Some of these guys may be too big. They may carry too much weight. But, they are true athletes. Maybe in the Russian weightlifter sense. You try carrying a tuba around in the heat of summer. You’ll see.

The picture. The true grab shot of grab shots. See all those legs in the picture? They were walking all around the tuba. I timed the exposure so that I had a clear view. For less than a second.


Mid winter blooms.
 

Yesterday.

I made a change. No news. No social media. And, I stayed away from the local protests.

I wanted a little peace. The dogs and I walked about four miles. I took a few pictures. Of the things that I saw. That the dogs saw. I didn’t photograph the street.

I will in a few hours. The women’s parade. The local version of the global one. We have friends walking everywhere. In Washington. In New York. In London. 

Something good will come of this. Maybe not today. Or, tomorrow. But, I feel it. Inside.

The picture. iPhone. Snapseed in post production. After all, I spent a lot of time walking. And, dogs don’t walk in a straight line. Neither do I. 


Color in the rough.
Color in the rough.

Another of those seasonal pictures. Again.

They seem to follow me wherever I go. That’s okay.

Soon. There won’t be any leaves. Until winter passes. And, spring makes its way. And, summer too.

Just a cycle. Of life.

The picture. Look around. Up. Down. Photograph what you see. Help it, if you need to. That’s it.