Sun-day in the Arboretum

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASome days, no matter how much might be amiss in the world that I should be personally attending to, how well or poorly I slept last night, or how many responsibilities are begging for my attention, I’m simply incapable of my usual brand of thrashing. I don’t have it in me to wrestle an idea to the ground, chase down my inner critic, or argue a point, even with myself.  On those rare and blessed occasions, particularly when they fall on one of the first days of spring, when the sun is just warm enough to go for a walk without a coat, I’ll often pick up my smaller camera and do just that.

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Today was one of those days. So while I had some ideas that I had intended to write about today, I’m not sure what happened to them. I think I lost them in the Arboretum, possibly under the magnolia tree with its impossibly large pink blossoms.

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I’m sorry to report that I haven’t solved any of the world’s problem’s today, but the world erased all of mine.

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“Close to Home”

Sunday evening, I returned from spending three and a half days in Port Townsend. While PT is only two and a half hours away, I came home to that feeling you have when you’ve been away on vacation a while and you notice details like how much the wisteria on the gate has grown, how the leaves on the dogwood have started to change color, and how badly the front of the house needs painting.

Ironically, I was in Port Townsend feeling far from home for the “Close to Home,” workshop led by Stuart Sipahigil, and Ray Ketcham. When my daughter asked if I’d learned a lot in the workshop, I told her “yes, but not in the way that you might think.” “Close to Home,” as Stuart presented it, is a concept, not a recipe. Stuart isn’t interested in teaching anyone how to operate their equipment so as to achieve better photographs, he’s interested in helping photographers see differently; to see their own personal environments as ripe with possibilities for wonderful images.

To that end, he and Ray offered exercises such as plunking each of us in a spot for one hour with the instruction that we were not to move – not even 10 feet. When Stuart pointed at me and then at the bike rack sitting at the edge of the sidewalk in front of the not yet open bookstore on the main road in “downtown”, I looked at him incredulously. Seeing nothing immediately, I asked if I could at least climb on the bike rack (which I did). Anyone who knows me knows that asking me to stand anywhere for one hour is a major challenge.  Of course the bike rack perch yielded more than I could have initially imagined and I actually came up with a couple images that I really like! 


Each of us was also given a personal assignment that we had half a day to work on. I was given the boat harbor – not the harbor in town where visiting tourists moor their pleasure craft, but the working harbor south of town.  I had no idea what to expect there. I arrived early Saturday morning fortified by a large cup of coffee. Four hours of making photographs later, after searching for and trying to effectively represent the “soul” of the place, I desperately needed food. Making my way up the hill to the farmer’s market, I plopped down in the grass in the sunshine with an enormous fresh salmon sandwich for a brief respite, digesting the morning and hoping that the memory cards in my bag held the feeling I had discovered in the harbor. I had so much fun that I think it would be safe to bet that I’ll be found haunting docks in Seattle some time soon to add to that collection of images.

While I spent the days in Port Townsend, I spent nights sleeping in front of a fire in a rough summer shelter/cabin about 45 minutes away with only the mice for company. The cabin sits on a piece of land my family has owned since I was seven. I left there early and returned after dark every evening. I watched the sun turn the Olympics pink in the mornings above a layer of low fog sitting on the mirror smooth water. In the context of “Close to Home”, I saw all of this with different eyes and realized that though nothing there is unfamiliar, it can all be fresh and new every day if I only open my eyes and pay attention. I think Stuart will be happy to know that I ended up, on my last morning, camera in hand, at 7am, lying in the wet sand of the beach.

 
If I had to choose one image from the whole weekend, it would be this one.

One morning, as I drove towards Port Townsend on Center Road for the umpteenth time this year, I was struck by the beauty of the valley and pulled over. I jumped out of my car, imagining the photograph I wanted to make. To my disappointment, I evidently terrified the cows grazing in the foreground of my photograph, and they took off running away from me before I had a chance to press the shutter once. I fired off a few frames anyway because it was a pretty scene, but it wasn’t what I was after. As I turned to walk back to my car, I noticed the cows on the other side of the road with the fog in the trees behind them. Contrary to their pals across the road, they apparently were not afraid of me, as they actually approached the fence separating us. I giggled to myself as I stood there, thinking about how all I needed to do was stop, slow down and pay attention. Though this image was made outside the framework of the workshop, for me it captures the essence of what Stuart was trying to convey.

Family 4th of July

Returning to Seattle from a long weekend with family and fireworks, a quick summertime post seems a relevant detour from the travel narrative…

For years, I”ve loaded my tripod into the car next to coolers and shopping bags full of more chips, marshmallows, hot dogs and soda than anyone (or maybe just me) can possibly imagine eating. Alongside sleeping bags, dog beds, dogs and kids, I squeeze my camera and personal belongings into the remaining corners and head off to our family’s rustic shelter on an undeveloped piece of land bordering a pristine bay. Continue reading

Paris Day 1

A little over a year ago, I stopped writing what was intended to be a daily post. Shortly before I stopped writing, a volcano erupted in Iceland. While claiming that the volcano’s eruption bears responsibility for my lack of blogging productivity might be a stretch, its a pretty good story…

In truth, my 365 day project ran out of gas. It might have been different if the volcano had stayed quiet. I was scheduled to fly to Paris on April 18, ultimately making my way to Genoa for an inspiring and challenging week long photography workshop with David DuChemin and Jeffrey Chapman. But I stayed in Seattle. I spent a week with a packed suitcase in the middle of the floor. My morning routine involved drinking a latte with a phone to my ear, trying to find a flight from the west coast of the United States to anywhere in Europe that was operating and wasn’t oversold. It didn’t happen. I finally threw in the towel and called in my travel insurance. A couple months later, CSA sent a check for everything I had spent that wasn’t reimbursed by the airline. In the mean time, I stopped writing daily blog posts and confined my disappointment to the pages of a moleskine. While I appreciated the Seattle’s beauty walking through the Arboretum and along Lake Washington, and I tried really hard to recognize that there is a time and place for everything, I was having a really difficult time finding my daily routine as inspiring as France and Italy.

It took a few days before I was ready to start unpacking that suitcase. I carefully placed the bag with gifts for family and friends on a shelf in my bedroom, not knowing when I would deliver them, but vowing to doing so. The suitcase went back to the storage room in the basement.

Fast forward one year: A rolling duffel bag sat on the floor with piles of clothing and camera gear all around it for a week as I decided what was going and what was staying. I finally took the bag of gifts off the shelf, made a nest for it among my clothes, zipped and locked the bag. The heavy pack containing laptop, external hard drive, camera, lenses and other critical items went on my back.

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Breaking all the “Rules”

Easter Picnic

This is the photo I took with my Blackberry of our blissful lunch in the snow on Easter, at the tail end of an incredible day of skiing. At 2:30 pm Robby and I sat on a “snow bench” looking out over the valley eating our sandwiches… In four days of skiing in April, this was about it for the sunshine. Continue reading

Easter in Winter

Today’s photograph is not much, and its buried in the text of this post, where it belongs. I don’t like to ski with a big camera, so for now, its just my Blackberry. My camera hasn’t even seen the light of day since I got here. Not only have I been taking a break from the blog, but also from feeling pressured to shoot for it. Now I can’t wait to get back to making pictures and wish I liked to take the camera with me, but I like to ski too much to worry about its weight as well as protecting it if I crash. Continue reading

Taking it down a notch

Prep vs Lakeside 2-1

So, I’ve been writing this blog now for almost 3 months. I’ve learned a lot. Most importantly, I’ve learned how much I treasure being able to “be there” when the “goals are scored”, both literally and figuratively. Today, I missed Robby’s assist in the first half because I was with Gillian at the orthodontist, but I got there for the goal. He says the assist was the better play…

... and its in the net.

Just as important as being there for the victories, however, and possibly even more so, is the importance of being there when things are not going well. Being there to support a the child who is suffering or struggling, whether with friends or with calculus. I can’t help with the calculus, nor even the pre-calculus, but I can still be there… make some cocoa or a sandwich, give a hug or a high five. Continue reading