Posts Tagged ‘light’

So long – for a little while

March 14, 2016

I started to write this post a few days ago and got sidetracked.  I have come to a decision that I have had bottled up for a while,. one which doesn’t have any immediate resolution but offers great opportunity.

I have said in the past that I have a book in me, like pretty much everyone else who has ever written a thought on paper, real or digital.

I have given this a great deal of thought, and determined that I cannot both blog and write a book at the same time.  Since I have blogged, but not written a book, it’s time for the latter to consume my efforts.

Hence the picture below.  The title of the book is “The Buffalo Hunter.”  It will be a collection of a dozen short stories, some of which got their origin in this blog.  The intention is to illustrate it with my photos, giving me the incentive to keep shooting.

Funny, but in a week without posting, I haven’t really shot much, either.  In working through challenges, my camera has been absent from my daily routine.  I really miss it, and will pick it up again in the next day or so.  I have a shoot for work coming up in a couple days, but the artist in me is screaming at being bottled up.

I’ll share some shots as I go along, and maybe post some things from the book-work-in-progress, too.  There won’t be a daily post anymore, at least for a little while, and I figure to have the book finished this fall.

Published? That, dear reader, is a different story.

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Where’s the gold dome?

February 25, 2016
Blue Capitol

Blue Capitol

 

Things constantly change, even when they stay the same.

My original intent was to get a shot of our Capitol building under reconstruction, but I got distracted by the sky. Again.  Our state is going to spend $300 million fixing up this wonderful building, beginning now.  The whole place is surrounded by chain link fence, and scaffolding is gracing a large area of the walls.  It’s a much needed renovation, as the old building is tired and in need of modernization.

The downside to this project is that we live two blocks away, and our whole neighborhood will be consumed with construction for the next two years.  After it’s all done, however, it ought to make a nice neighborhood like ours even better.

Here’s what I find so interesting about this picture.  A few weeks ago, I took a shot of the Capitol on a cold, snowy morning. The dome shone like it was lit up, the gold glistening even in the gray morning light.  Tonight, at sunset, the same dome can hardly be differentiated from the sky.  And the sky is magnificent.

I continue to be amazed at what I am discovering on this 365 project / journey.  My eyes are different now than they were four months ago. If you’ve been reading along with this, you know that I have mentioned this fact a number of times, and it’s likely that I’ll mention it a number of times more in the future.

Something else I’m discovering is that I believe I have a book in me that needs to come out.  I have been rolling this around in my head for years, but I think I have finally determined the literary method of telling the story.  If I can get that off the ground, I’ll share it with you, dear reader, as I go along.

To the few of you who see this, thanks for reading.  I have to remind myself that I didn’t start this with the hope that I would get thousands of followers, but just so I could get some practice writing and shooting.  Nevertheless, I appreciate the fact that you have followed along this far.  May God bless you always!

The blue hour

February 17, 2016
Cheyenne sky

Cheyenne sky

In the world of photography, there is this thing called the Golden Hour, which is just before sunset. It’s a coveted time that produces light that turns nice pictures into great photographs.

This isn’t really the Golden Hour, because it occurred after sunset.  The sky takes on a personality of its own at times like these, and the blue and white that is our ceiling is not at all the blue and white we see during the day.

I was feeling a bit desperate tonight, not really having an opportunity to shoot anything for this blog even though I had two “professional” jobs for the Diocese.  We are in the process of putting together material for our annual appeal, and I was at a state agency where the extraordinary people of Catholic Charities were holding meetings for foster kids, foster parents and prospective foster parents. I got some great, emotion-filled shots that I couldn’t use here because, well, they really are not right for this venue.

There are heartbreaking stories regarding those kids. The associate director of Catholic Charities told me that he seeks the hardest cases, and that includes kids who have undergone torture.  These are little kids in Cheyenne, not in Syria.  Torture? Really?  Really.  Addiction is the root cause of this travesty, and it takes a terrible toll on the most vulnerable people in our world – our children.

The people at Catholic Charities deserve medals for their valorous work.

But I won’t put those pictures here. So I hunted for a shot in desperation, and turned a corner and saw this.

I have remarked in the past that this project has been wonderful at opening my eyes to things around me I would normally miss.  Like the blue sky at night. And Catholic Charities. And, sadly, little kids being tortured in my very city.

Thanks for reading.  God bless Catholic Charities of Wyoming.

Recovery

February 14, 2016
On the porch

On the porch

Well, Dear Readers, an update on the surgical adventures of yours truly.

The old man’s shoulder is healing well, and I’m getting my range of motion back through torture stretching exercises. The stretches look so simple on the paper the doc handed me, causing me to think “Ha! This is nothing!  Give me a challenge!”  I cry when I do them, they hurt so much.  My shoulder, after the abuse heaped upon it by the surgeon and his tools, screamed in protest each time I lifted it more than perpendicular to the floor.

But now I feel like I am getting somewhere.  I have more mobility than I had, and I only cry a little now.  Whimpering would be a more appropriate term.  I start PT with the real torturers physical therapists on Wednesday, and in no time at all I’ll be back to moving my arms without pain.

A little side effect came from the medication that is really quite bothersome has, however, shown itself.  I was taking some opioids, which were terrific at handling the pain, but gave me  – let me be gentle here – synchronous diaphragmatic flutter.

Hiccups.

These are not your ordinary hiccups which are kind of cute and elicit gentle giggles from people.  No, these are violent and shake my whole upper body, accompanied by stuff coming the wrong way in the esophagus.  It prevents sleep, and causes extraordinary fatigue because of the violent, and constant, movement.  I am having a hard time holding things together, and I’m pretty sure no jury would convict me of a heinous crime arising out of this condition.

My earthly angel, Sherry, searched the internet last night for solutions to this problem and came up with a couple OTC drugs meant to combat the rising of the stuff in my system, which is ultimately due to a hiatal hernia that seems to have been awakened from the narcotics, like Smaug in his lair being awakened by Bilbo.  The result is much the same, with me suffering the indignities of dragon fire in my digestive tract.

The drugs seem to have calmed things down considerably, but not completely, and the  synchronous diaphragmatic fluttering is a real bear with which to deal.

Hence the green plant.  Yesterday was a beautiful, sunny day that felt like a day for a bike ride or run. Alas, I was not anywhere close to that activity, so I sat in a chair on our sun porch.  The sun, having made it’s way across the southern sky to reach near it’s western edge, was pouring through the windows and the translucence of the plant leaves.  The shadows showing from the leaves behind, casting themselves in silhouettes through the leaves in front, gave an extra dimension to the leaves.  It was a nice distraction from the events described above.

Thanks, Dear Readers, for sticking with me on this.  I enjoy the writing and shooting immensely, and it helps me get through the stickiness of this little bit of recovery.

Lamb of God

February 5, 2016
Behold the Lamb of God

Behold the Lamb of God

I’ve shown other stained glass windows on these pages, and each time I shoot them I am awestruck by their beauty.  Here’s the really weird thing – This image, and most of the others I have put here, are from my parish church, yet I would be hard pressed to say that I have seen them before.

Today I didn’t even intend to shoot a window.  Rather, I had an idea about a rack of pamphlets and brochures that I thought would be interesting.  When I took that shot, it wasn’t anything I would show to anyone else.  Then as I looked around and saw the light coming through this window, and I knew what I had to do.

Which is ironic.  Or perhaps Providential.  So often when we are looking for something, we just can’t see it, even if it is right in front of us.  Our lives are like that on a regular basis, always looking for something better, a different way.  We are often driven like this because of anger, or despair, or frustration, or hurt.

We scan horizons, we look in books, we search Youtube for answers to all our questions, yet they all leave lingering doubts as to their validity.

Today I was looking for one thing, but found THE thing.  The Lamb of God, Jesus our Lord and Savior, was right in front of me.  This was the brightest window.  Whatever we are looking for, Jesus is the answer.

Keep your eyes peeled, and your heart open.  Jesus is everywhere, and sometimes he is right THERE.

Thoughts on Sewing

February 4, 2016
Stitched together

Stitched together

Let me clear up any possible misconception right now.  Yes, this is a sewing machine.  No, I couldn’t use it to save my life. This is Sherry’s sewing machine. She acquired this before we were married, and we have been married 33 years.  She has had it longer than she has had me.

Sherry has a sewing room where we keep our ironing board and our iron.  Each morning I go in there to iron something to wear to work, a task I have been doing for a long time.  This morning I noticed the shadows as they cast themselves across the machine.  There is a south facing window in the room, and at 7:30 a.m. the sun is shining through as it starts its arc low across the southern horizon.  Today the blinds were just right to make me take notice of the stripes across the face of this piece of equipment.

Sewing has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.  More accurately, it’s been a part of the women in my life for as long as I can remember.  My mother was a wonderful seamstress, and she spent many hours running material through her Singer.  That always seemed to be the best time to talk to her – when she was busy with her hands and I was watching the TV in the same room.  Deep stuff, like girls, school, girls, my future, and girls.  She always understood, never tried to tell me what to do, and made me believe she really listened to me, because she did.

For my senior high school picture, my mom made adenim leisure suit for me.  I can see you cringing – and laughing –  right now, but in 1975 it was cutting edge.  I don’t know where that picture is, but I can see, and feel, that suit right now.

My sister-in-law Sharon is a legendary seamstress.  She made clothes for her two girls while they were growing up, and not just simple things, either.  She taught her skills to her daughters, Carole and Jayne, who picked up the craft and make clothes for themselves, their children and grandchildren.

Sherry would sew, then not, then sew, then not, then sew throughout our married life.  Maybe ten years ago, she got an interest in quilting and went down that road.  We both know of women – I don’t know any man quilters – who have gone into the quilting thing like men go into the tool/hunting/biking thing.  They have yards and yards of fabric filling up cabinets and closets in their homes, and they churn out quilts by the dozens, or so it seems.

Sherry has made quite a few quilts, but our house isn’t littered with them.  She gives them away.  She is working on two quilts for grandchildren right now, and this sewing machine is seeing a lot of use.

Which brings me to the thoughts I had when I was ironing.  Yesterday I wrote about nails holding things together for a long time.  Quilts, while not hard and stout like nails, hold things together as well, but in a much more complex manner.

When Sherry makes a quilt, she spends hours and hours cutting out little pieces of fabric, putting them into some sense of order, ironing them and then sewing them together.  I’ve seen her stay up quite late working on her quilts, not because of a deadline to finish them, but because she just loses track of time.

Her quilts are a lot like her life and our family.  She has spent years selecting the fabric of our lives, making sure that what we have is strong and durable, and it can withstand multiple cycles of clean/dirty/clean.  She takes these disparate pieces of fabric that is us and our girls, and irons them, taking out the wrinkles that distract from the beauty of the fabric.  Then she takes her scissors and cuts off the rough edges.  She sews it all together, making this batch of fabric – us – come together as one beautiful piece of art.  That finished product is a marvel to behold.  And while there are imperfections, that’s OK, because this life quilt was built out of love.

I love seeing this sewing machine.  I love what it represents to me, that connection to the strong women in my family.  I love that it is a tool that allows Sherry to make her useful art and share it with others.  I love the fact that she has used this same sewing machine for so long, never looking to acquire a new one simply because it was new.  And I love the stripes across it, giving it a depth and texture that I’ve never witnessed before.

And all that from ironing a pair of pants.

 

The Proper Order

January 28, 2016

 

Shadow ladders

Shadow ladders

I visited a friend in the hospital today.  It was a good visit, because she was there for some serious stuff.  She looked good, even though she had just undergone life-altering surgery that was anything but planned.  When I left her room, I made my way to the elevators and, while waiting, looked out the window to see this street stretch off into the horizon.   As the sun was setting, the cross streets created an open corridor for the last rays of the day’s light to illuminate their paths, while the homes and trees in the blocks in between filled the space with shadows.

untitled shoot-1010

Abandoned and forgotten

 

I left the hospital and walked down the street I had just seen.  A block away from the hospital is a group of homes that no longer have occupants.  As is their wont, hospitals like to acquire property because they grow like nothing else. These homes were in the way, and the owners – a group of investors – wanted to knock them down and sell the land to the hospital.  The homes were considered by some to be historic, and therefore a hue and cry went up up prevent their destruction.  Now they sit empty, and the owners will give them away for the taking, and pay $10,000 towards the moving cost.  In the meantime, the environment is taking its toll. The once beautiful and distinct homes, filled with unique character, are going back to the land.  The paint peels, the wood rots, and soon enough they will be beyond repair and will come down on their own.

untitled shoot-1012

Two dimensions

 

While the paint comes off the wood, the trees show their outlines against the chimney, perhaps in a scene from the future as the only thing left will be the shadows of what once was.  Even brick and mortar give themselves up to the wind, the rain and the cold.  It won’t be long before the shadows will migrate east as their screen disappears.

Light and water

Light and water

And then the snow, the cold, forbidding snow, loses its grip on the roofs and sidewalks as the sun warms it and turns it, drop by drop, into the water that will eventually end up in the Gulf of Mexico.  Today it came down like diamonds falling from the sky.  By Monday, the snow will be back and winter will slap us once again.

My trip to the hospital was quite an adventure.  My friend is resting, recuperating, and we pray for her.  The shadows will come and go again, and the homes will make their way to the land. This is life.  This is the proper order of things.

Shadows

December 26, 2015
In the bleak midwinter

In the bleak midwinter

Winter light changes everything.

As the sun makes its way across the sky during December, we never really get that high-noon look of stark light and flat landscapes.  Winter has the advantage of light being at angles to everything, all day long.

I took a photography class with Dan Ballard a couple years ago. He’s an amazing photographer, and his workshop elevated my photography skills exponentially.

One thing I learned from Dan was the importance of light and perspective.  Our workshop took place in Jackson, Wyoming in June.  The light in June is the exact opposite of the light in December.  Long days, a high, unforgiving sun that washes out everything.

One of the other students in our class put his camera away after breakfast and didn’t get it out again until after dinner.  He wouldn’t shoot at all during the day, as he didn’t like the light at all.  Photography is, like painting, all about light.

I don’t subscribe to the theory of no shooting in the middle of the day, as I think there are plenty of things to shoot even at mid day.  Granted, mid day comes earlier in December than in June, but the idea is the same.

Shadows become prominent features this time of year.  After a healthy snowfall last night, the land turned predominantly white, save for the shadows.  Watching them move over the course of the day is a real treat, moving left to right as I look out the front of my house.

The hedges which separate our home from the one next to us are the last to lose their leaves in the fall.  By December, they are just sticks coming out of the ground.  Several years ago, they were the haven for a flock of chickadees that would feed at our neighbors across the street, as they had an industrial sized bird feeder.  They would get their fill, then high-tail it across the street to our bushes and hide out.  It was quite the sight watching a hundred small birds fly as if by command from their yard to ours.

Today the light turned the sticks to shadow-casters.  Dark is the absence of light, and the light disappeared behind the sticks, giving depth and texture to the otherwise monochrome surface of the snow.

Winter light really does change things.

The Golden Hour

November 22, 2015

Photographers call the hour before sunset “The Golden Hour” because of the soft, golden hue of the light as the sun begins to dip below the horizon.  The colors are soft, the light is indirect and subdued, and the shadows create depth in the subject.

I knew I wanted to shoot at that time today and taeg advantage of a cloudless sky and a sun that keeps moving farther to south, giving more horizontal and friendly light. My thought was to take a short drive to a park and capture the reflections on the lake.  The problem was that I didn’t really want to get in the car and go anywhere, so I stayed home and took this shot of the last leaves to turn color and fall in our yard.

These are the leaves on our hedges, their gold capturing the gold of the sun and giving us this gift.  Like so many things in life, they were right under my nose.  I didn’t have to travel more than a few feet from my front door to capture them and share them.

There are times in our busy world where what is in front of us seems ripe for overlooking.  I thought I needed to travel to get the “right” shot, but it turns out that all I really needed to do was open my eyes.  How many times do we do this, thinking that the place over the hill will be much better than the place I am now; the job in the paper would certainly be better than the one I have; or the person who is not with me would certainly be better than the one who is.

Yet if we look at the beauty that literally surrounds us, or the opportunities that present themselves each and every day in our work, or realize that person we are with at this moment is perfect for me, we begin to appreciate the fact that all we need is what we have right now.

What appears to be the ruination of many people is the desire to always want more, to want something different.  The very act of accumulation seems to be the scorecard used to gauge success. The problem with that is when our goal is to have more, by definition it is impossible to ever reach our goal and success will only ever be an unattainable pipe dream.

Why would we forsake the leaves in our yard for the reflections on the lake?  The leaves are just as beautiful, and they are here right now.  Really, that’s all we can ever have is what is here right now. Everything else is either a memory or a fantasy. If we focus on the memory or the fantasy, we lose the gift we have right here, right now.

The Golden Hour is not really an hour long. Depending on conditions, it can last a few minutes or a few seconds.  If we wait for what we think will be the perfect moment to catch the perfect shot, more often than not we miss it entirely.  Yet if we are focused on the here and now, we are able to see the beauty of the light and how it enhances the beauty of our subject.  If we focus on those things that might be, we miss the glorious nature of what is ours, right here, right now.

Happy Feast of Christ the King!

Golden hour leaves

Golden hour leaves

 


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