A Place of Future Past

I’ve come to appreciate the process my photography reveals to me, where it comes from to where it takes me. Some of my best and most enjoyable moments of capturing images have occurred without any agenda or expectations of what I’ll find. Of course, there are many times when the circumstances are not so much by chance but in these cases, there are expectations in place and the surprises of the moments are much narrower. Also, this is not to say that planning has kept me from getting images I enjoy. There are many, many places I’d like to go and photograph where planning and logistics would be a likely factor to get to “the place” at the right time.

A problem with being in a situation where you feel rushed can impact how good or not so good the experience becomes. There’s nothing worse than finding out that the shots were less than ideal after all the planning you did to be at a great place and you missed the moments completely right from under your nose. Or worse yet, feeling like the situation is in a “meltdown” and the moments speed away faster than your imagination right out of your grasp. For me the reality has been that there are always surprises in every situation that can disappoint to many degrees. There’s a better way to get through the surprises. Try and make a surprise out of the surprise. These situations will usually remind me that I really enjoy taking pictures and in the worst case scenario, I’ll just wing it – something good will usually happen.

Now, missing moments when shooting landscape and scenery is far from any equivalent of what I’d call a tragedy but many “diva spins” including my own, have occurred from far-less complicated situations.

This takes me back to the process I’ve come to appreciate about my photography. The lessons have come as tragedies that I’ve created and some as enlightenment I’ve received. The truth is that I’ve ended at “a place” that’s infinitely bigger than I am… A place that has been the stage for the past and will be for the future.

#24 Grit – Extra Course

I remember this day… I should have been at work but I had been fired the day before. I was outside walking in front of my apartment feeling a little bit of freedom from the typical reigns of a work day yet perplexed with what I should do with this new freedom I was experiencing. As I was out in front of my apartment an acquaintance who used to come in to where I worked happen to drive by and stopped to talk with me. He inquired why I wasn’t at work and I got explaining the dramatic event. We hashed out the typical what happened/who-done-it scenario and when all was said and done he said …well, let’s go take pictures for the day.

Man, that was all I needed to hear and I was in the car with camera goods in no time heading off to a journey. He wanted to make a pitch to the local art galleries in Fredericksburg, TX about showing his work first before we got into the day so I got to see how that whole process worked as he did get the interest of one gallery. Then the rest of the day was open highway as we headed northwest into Mason County looking for anything we could find. There was remnants of snowfall from earlier in the week and all sorts of great landscape I hadn’t been to before.

When I first met this guy (I’ll call him Jake) I remember being humored and thinking “what’s he photographing” as I saw him sitting on the ground, focusing on something low between two buildings with a consumer point-and-shoot digital camera. Watching him I thought to myself he must really be new at photography because he looked like I remembered myself as a kid being fascinated by everything I saw and photographing it, only to be disappointed with the end result. You see, he’s an older gentleman who was into digital photography but wasn’t very computer literate and talked about how he was going to have his work shown at galleries and coffee shops. I just thought he was over-ambitious without a prayer in the digital age.

Well I ended up seeing his work in the town coffee shop/bookstore and was more than impressed. There was imagery on the walls of everyday types of things that I see all the time that I couldn’t imagine taking myself yet also thinking… why didn’t I ever take that shot?

We have different shooting styles but he has a really interesting perception of the world and I find it very inspiring. Check his work out at the links below and try to take a little time to see what he’s got there. It’s somewhat varied and I’m sure you’ll find and enjoy something.

http://photographybyjake.artistwebsites.com/

http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/photographybyjake.html

It was a good day as I got to know Jake a little better and saw more of what I became accustomed to seeing in how he shoots – low and strange angles, seeing him totally into shooting subject matter unbeknownst to me, most seemed like quirky ideas to shoot but he shoots them none-the-less with a creative “knowing”. Hanging out with Jake was a good thing that day. I had a relaxed sense of freedom that kept my mind off the shock of losing my job. I saw some country I hadn’t been to before and pulled off a few images of my own.

He was funny too. He took advantage of the day to shoot a conceptual image of a doll for a book cover he needed to do and as he was low to the ground shooting it, he joked about how it couldn’t be good if somebody came by and saw us “two guys” shooting close ups of a naked Barbie doll out here in the Texas sticks.

Many things have never been the same since this day for me particularly work-wise but I always remember being inspired by Jake’s commitment to his passion and his positive outlook, an important theme that has stayed with me since.


The Garden of Posterity

The spirit of the garden was alive. The peaceful calm would cycle from a pseudo-silence, an almost-silence that we recognize in nature, to birds chirping, insects buzzing and critters rustling but nowhere to be seen.  The trees would come alive with the sound of the wind stirring each species with its own unique sound and the leaves were pushed along the ground like rolling waves. The water fountains and small streams kept time constant with the sound of trickling rapids and splash. The sun’s warmth was in and out of heavy clouds that would drop rain for a few minutes and then disappear.

Everything was by purpose.

I could feel my awareness expanding into places I couldn’t see but felt more of as I let myself go. I didn’t have to close my eyes to feel the spaciousness of the garden around me. I kept my mental focus to a minimum while I let my awareness expand, mainly through the sounds as I looked through the very narrow angle of view of the telephoto lens attached to my camera.

It’s been awhile since I’ve photographed a garden of this size and it was nice that the things I wanted to photograph came with ease. My breath was calm as I sometimes waited for the wind to stop blowing through the grass, the shrubs and the flowers. My purpose for the day was to shoot with a lens that I don’t normally use and I wanted to get shots while practicing hand-holding camera techniques at slower than normal shutter speeds. It always feels so much better to take pictures without feeling the need to rush, without worrying that I might miss something. It’s funny how that can sometimes happen when you have all the time in the world.

As I was making my way around the huge garden, I lost track of time and four hours passed by without thought. So much was going on with my senses, feeling a flow come and go with me became what this day was about. It didn’t matter if I lost the momentum because the flow would just pick right back up when I let it all sync up again. It was a roll I hadn’t had in a while. Every so often I could hear people talking, coming closer, passing by somewhere around me, some with no speech, only the sound of their footsteps. Sometimes I’d see them pass in front of my view through the lens. No need for formalities or apologies, it didn’t matter nor did it bother me, my presence was barely noticed.

The garden had a presence and a flow and everything in it seemed right. It was all by purpose. The conversations I heard were light-hearted, usually with laughter that filled the souls. I’m sure the wildlife felt our unique place in the garden just as we understood their place in it. It was all by purpose.

It got quiet again and I found myself in and out of the light and shadows finding what felt right to shoot when I began to notice two voices merging into the space of my awareness. I didn’t see them at first as I was taking pictures of the fountain spray just off to their right but I started to recognized the laughter of two women who were trying to take a picture of themselves. They sounded like good friends to one another, humble, free, and in a funny jam trying to frame themselves together with a cell phone and only an arm’s-length that was just short enough to keep the re-shoots coming and just short of hilarious as I watched them. Unbeknownst to them, I decided to take some pictures of the humorous scene so that I could show them what I had done for purposes of posterity. Anyway, after the humor of it all, I went and lent them a hand by taking their picture, then showed them the pictures I took of them in their moment while having a quick laugh and a joke about the whole time.

All in all, the whole day was not unlike any other day…

It all had a purpose.

The Big Schooner on the Prairie

November 20, 2009 – I came across this structure just off I-80 west of Lincoln, Nebraska. It looked like a giant prairie schooner wagon from the distance but as I got closer I thought it might be some kind of nostalgic diner. I didn’t smell any breakfast cooking on the griddle but noticed that Dan apparently runs this outfit where you can get your golf wheels fixed and possibly a smorgasbord of other golf options as well. Some things just make sense after careful observation but I still don’t understand this one. It just is, out on the prairie.

East Met West Contrast

I’ve heard that there’s an old saying in north Texas that Dallas looks to the east and Fort Worth looks to the west in the Metroplex. The views vary particularly about the “other” depending on who you talk to, usually based on qualms about traffic, crime, schools, property values, and… attitude. Yes, the ego or the claim to the lack of it becomes familiar sport if you ask enough people about these two cities. There is a premise that everything is bigger and better in the “Big D” and it is apparent from the new skyscraper real estate, the exotic cars and fortune 500 companies you see. This new money has spawned arts and cultural centers, sporting and entertainment venues, shopping malls, fine dining and trendy nightlife, familiar of the big city cosmopolitan lifestyle. Fort Worth on the other hand has more of an old west character. It’s a much more laid back feel and somewhat slower paced yet full of local arts and culture where you’d be more akin to see a businessman in a cowboy hat and boots or not think there’s a costume party/event when you see cowboys walking around. The stockyards and livestock industry is part of its heritage and in recent years it has been promoting itself as the “City of Cowboys and Culture.” Many of the communities around Fort Worth are well established and the sense of the open range becomes apparent when you venture west of the city limits.

According to the US Census Bureau the DFW Metroplex encompasses 9,286 square miles, 12 counties,  the cities of Arlington, Irving and the Mid-Cities to name a few with a population of 6.8+ million as of July 2009. It ranks as the fourth largest populated metropolitan area in the US and tenth largest in the Americas. It gained 147,000 residents during the period of July 2008 to July 2009. It has always been a major rail transportation hub and the same is true for the airline industry.

Both cities have plenty to do and the difference sometimes is only what satisfies the ego. New money ambiance or old money traditionalism. Uptown sophistication or old west, cow town/funky town character. Performing arts, live music and sports venues or art museums, botanical gardens and family music festivals. The population has the choice of both plus what all the other cities in the area offer where the majorities reside. East has met West in this progressive Metroplex in Texas

Spring On The Horizon

March 27, 2009 – I was wandering around west of Fort Worth, TX looking for fields of bluebonnets that grew as far as the eye could see, not just the familiar patches growing along the highways. Unfortunately I would not find such a place on this balmy day but there was plenty of cow pasture in all directions where new grass and tree growth was revealing signs of spring.

Under The Perennial

I think one of the challenges that photography presents is that there are times when you feel like nothing is new and fresh, that everything has been photographed many times before. It can feel like it’s just another sunset or sunrise, or building or portrait style, and you just can’t see the purpose of repeating the shot. Sometimes I’m not finding what I’m trying to capture through a lens yet the image feels like it’s somewhere there before me. I got past this when I realized that I never seem to have these attitudes when I’m experiencing these moments without a camera, no matter how many times I see a sunset. The reason is because if I’m taking the time to enjoy myself, it’s more about the whole experience… the feelings, the thoughts, the sense of the moment. Enjoying the moment first, and exploring different perspectives of what may seem like a trivial shot usually translates back as each unique experience, even if it’s been visited many times before.