Sunday, April 24, 2011


Near my house is an old, abandoned Swedish graveyard dating back to the late 1800's. It sits on a hillside, nestled between housing developments in a mostly unimproved grove of trees. It is fenced with a split rail fence, now falling down, though not clearly resulting from the elements of nature or the elements of humanity.

Beer cans and soda bottles litter the graveyard, trash accumulating against the trees and gravestones. Teenagers have taken to hanging out, seeking solitude for their solitary group escapes from the rest of society. I wonder how much thought they give to the uninvited guests laying below them, and whether there is an implicit invitation...suspecting the answer is a bravado joke or lack of thought at all; certainly there is no respect for this place I seek for quiet contemplation.

The headstones are old, and looking at how the moss covers and owns them, destroying the identifying engraving differentiating one life from another, I realize how impermanent even the most permanent seeming things are. We seek to immortalize ourselves in one final, lasting way, and within a century, even the most lasting thing we come up with: carving into a solid rock, we are washed away - a mere blink in the moment of universal time. Standing here, my body - this "me" - is even less lasting.

I tend to stop here on my longer runs. Perhaps it is simply a lazy way to take a quick break and catch my breath, but in the gentle stream of thoughts in my head, it serves as punctuation. I recognize the juxtaposition of my living, my exerted breathing, with the lack of breath...a brief acknowledgment of my final destination beyond this run and the next, a bit of reminder to actually live in the time between now and then, and several moments of gratefulness that I am here, now, doing this, thinking this, being lucky enough to stop and think these thoughts and have these feelings.

I share this moment, and the next, I snap a few pictures, trying to capture these thoughts in a visual 1000 words, but for once, the picture cannot nearly convey all the thoughts I bring, and so I add these words.

Monday, April 11, 2011

100 Days: 365 project

I've been shooting a picture a day (more or less - I've missed about 4 days) for 100 days. I thought it was momentous at 90 days, but now easily arriving at 100 days...

I didn't have much faith when I started this process. I didn't know how how inanely shooting one picture a day could really make me any better than where I was, shooting sporadically.

What I didn't understand is what happens, over's not that I suddenly got amazing, or suddenly learned amazing things. It wasn't even like you can look at picture by picture and see incremental improvement.

I don't know what it is exactly that works, or how everything is coming together. Still, when I look at a photo I've taken, or a subject I want to capture, I realize how much more I want to learn and how much longer this journey really is. That horizon never moves, but there winds up so much path behind that adds up to some sort of accomplishment, skill and reward.

I find I pick up my camera more confidently. I swap flash for no flash, manual to aperture priority to automatic when necessary. I have an idea to start with on an approach instead of abject fear and blankness. I like what I'm producing more often, and it's getting me excited to do more. I carry my camera everywhere now.

I can ask questions now to learn - that's a big step: being able to put it in words and ask, and understand at least parts of the answer that comes back and begin a conversation. Ironically, it makes it easier to ask "dumb" questions and admit how little I know. I love feeling the intimidation fade away.

How many of my goals have I accomplished? Found a new lens, understand some things about the differences, capture some different kinds of bokeh, I'm even starting to understand when using a small aperture is harming the picture I'm trying to take. I am so excited.

The magic in picking up that camera every day is something I could only have faith in. Even at the beginning, I found that once I picked it up, I found new angles, new ways to compose the picture, new ways to try to capture, new ways to look at the things around me. One desperate shot begets another and another, and finally something pretty cool. I guess it's no different than any other kind of creativity that way.

I can't wait for the next 100!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Photographical philosophy

Sometimes it is hard for me to put my finger on exactly what I want to get out of this journey - how far do I want to go, how dedicated do I want or need to be, perhaps even, how dedicated is too much and how do I know if I want it to take over my life?

I find myself flipping through Flickr - photostream to photostream, looking at images that intrigue me, analyzing why. What is it that I like? Is it the composition, the color, the tone, the texture, the subject? There are so many that are trite, and yet so many that are lasting, and sometimes the difference must be very slight. In fact, sometimes I think the differences is merely my own cynicism growing as I look at all these photographs.

I find myself questioning quality - if I borrow someone's "style", or compose a picture of my own after something I saw in someone else's portfolio, I find I discount it in my mind. While I look at other work for inspiration, then I irrationally eliminate it from what I feel is ok to use it for...

I see explanations from people of using someone's specific presets in their photo processing application and I wonder, if I use something someone else came up with to make my photo look a certain way, is that quality? Is that authentic? Isn't it just another form of copying something I didn't do? If I record my voice and make it sound like Mariah Carey, is that still me?

And I suppose somewhere deep inside it would be me, whether I sound fakely like Mariah Carey or my photos look like copies of Soup and Sunday's photo stream, I will have learned something in the process, and made a compelling photograph.

How much originality does artistry really require, and in the process of learning, what difference should that make at all? The devil on that shoulder - I think she speaks with the voice of my mother; I cannot characterize the voice on my other shoulder, perhaps because it is generally too quiet. Perhaps that voice is my own.

Monday, April 4, 2011

100 Words: Tired

An ache...

Something in me weighs me down, Kryptonite in my veins. I know it will drain slowly as I drag myself from bed to bathroom counter, but the momentary agony pulls my eyes closed one more time…just 5 more minutes of eyes shut denial of morning and the new week and all that it brings with it…just 5 more minutes of the cozy warmth of my bed: down comforter, pillow, sateen sheets pulled up to my ears…

…5 minutes gone…and now for real…

I hear the alarm one more time, and turn off feeling, flip the blankets back and rise.

Saturday, April 2, 2011


A bike ride, a fairly typical early training ride, yet a bit more than I'm ready for, but I decided I was ready for the challenge and to push it a bit more than normal due to being so "behind" where I want to be with my training. I don't mind being at this distance, but I'd like to have more miles behind me and feel more solid.

The weather was iffy, the day cooler than previous, and despite a late night last night, we set out...

Along the way, I surprised myself. The ride is hilly - really hilly. It starts with my commute to work, and then adds more hills, totaling 35 miles...I didn't fool myself about how hard it would be, given the most biking I've done is a sporadic flat ride of 25 miles.

What I found was a strength I didn't expect - not a lot of extra power, but some - more though, an ability to persevere, and while not a lot of power, a surprising lack of pain.

This, however disappeared immediately following the surprising discovery that the paved trail home was closed due to a downed tree. I wound up hiking up a vertical driveway after discovering I could not balance both wheels on the ground due to the extreme incline. If I put my weight on the back wheel to keep traction in the slippery rain, the front wheel came up, threatening to spill me over backwards; if I put my weight on the front wheel, my back would spin without the weight for traction. I walked my bike - and as much as riding up hills sucks, the only thing that sucks more than RIDING up hills is WALKING your bike up hills.

It wasn't that hill that cracked me, or the vertical hill after that, or even being lost. It was, fortunately, what turned out to be the last hill that had me crying for mercy. Cold, soaked through, having doubled the overall elevation of the ride, I was done and at the end of the good nature I had left. I muttered all the positive self motivation I could, I think ultimately resolving that I would never get home if I didn't persevere when I crested the hill, passing the final stop sign. It was down hill home from there, although still 5 miles away.

Despite the pain, I'm happy. I feel good - I toughed it out, I felt stronger than I expected, and I endured. I am loving feeling myself come back. I haven't enjoyed that in the past - always comparing where I am now to where I ended the year before and feeling like I couldn't measure up. This year I have a new perspective, and I love feeling strength return; I am loving the feeling of improvement.

So here's to a great year, for persevering through a rough start, to grow and build on what I discovered last year. Hard as it is, I am damn excited to see what unfolds.