Art

There are situations when we find ourselves in a once-in-a-lifetime moment and I was fortunate enough to get an invite on New Year’s night to one such moment. It was an art project involving a number of un-clad young forms combining with wonderfully bright acrylic paints of every color to create unique and vibrant piece of art.

The art itself was a unique and provocative piece with numerous colorful imprints on an 8′ x 8′ white sheet and it perfectly captured the artist’s original concept.

Watching the creation process and capturing it along the way was my role and while I won’t show the end product here (belongs to the artist), I have attached a few pics at the end of the blog that shows the colors being used as well as some of the fun afterwards with splashes of leftover paint.

It was an awesome experience and while I spent much of the night above the happenings, standing on a raised pallet on a forklift, I felt very much a part of the overall fun that took place below.

Check out the images at the end of the blog and while I played a little with the last one, turning the body to black and white but holding color on the paint, do be warned that it does have a small hint of nudity.

Enjoy.

It is really the nudity thing that I wanted to talk about today and how the human form has been hijacked by the conservatives on one side and the porn business on the other. These people are either grossly offended or wildly excited by the sight of a bare butt or god forbid a nipple.

And art has often found itself the unwitting victim of these two extremes inasmuch as is had been bound by their limitations.

Nudity doesn’t need to be erotic. Pubescent boys don’t understand that, but I don’t understand why grown adults seem to think it does.

The young ladies that took part in this project correctly viewed what was being created as a work of art and so they bared all in an effort to deliver what the artist needed.

Were they pretty? yes. Did they have great bodies? yes.

But anyone who got excited by what was going on there grossly missed the point and are probably well-served by some time on the psychiatrists couch.

Similarly anyone who frowned at or was offended by these lovely forms locked in art creation also could benefit from some counseling … or least be told to stop being so fucking childish.

When we victimize art with unwarranted restrictions and boundaries, we risk creating an environment where creativity itself is stifled and the world becomes a smaller place.

All art (nude or not) is an expression of our humanity. It is something that is almost unique to humans and provides a positive differentiation between us and our other animal relatives.

Expressions that become muted are signs of oppression and conformity and we should recognize them as such. For centuries, oppressive societies around the world have sought out such expression and destroyed it, or jailed the artists, or just simply spun taste away from these “unauthorized” expressions.

For example, I recently watched a short documentary on how ancient erotic art from Pompeii which was discovered in the 1700s was deemed too sexual and was locked away for over 200 years from public view. Even now, it is only on display in a single museum for erotic art.

The morality police here are no different than those imposing the “morals” of sharia law in countries that we are so quick to scorn. Yet, we don’t see ourselves that way, do we?

Whatever offends our sensibilities is a problem within us and should never be used as a measuring stick of what to allow others to see, or ways in which they should behave. Our own standards are never the gold standard, nor should they be.

I am tired of people judging others for their “unacceptable morals” or “deviant” behaviors and particularly when it comes to an art form, we have no right to judge.

We should save our judgements for moments where people are being hurt or abused. Only then do they become valid.

We use shaming as a soft method of ensuring compliance and this too needs to stop. Though slightly more gentle than more rigorous methods, it is nonetheless a control mechanism.

Thankfully the other evening, I stood among a group of people that were not easily shamed and the artist was able to fully express their vision without encumbrance.

The end piece was magnificent but the process to arrive at it was even better. Those of us there to experience the creation enjoyed laughter, camaraderie, and achievement.

All art breathes with the breath of its artist and it is far better to supply the oxygen than smother it with restriction.

… just a thought.

All about Eve

While much of the world was engaged in last-minute shopping and readiness chaos for the day that followed, some of us here in Florida got to spend a quiet Christmas Eve, just breathing in life and enjoying ourselves.

It was a cool start to a near-perfect day across the sunshine state and with the cats all fed, I wandered down to my favorite early-morning spot and watched twilight paint the blue skies with yellows and oranges.

I wasn’t the first arrival and at the end of the pier was a lovely young lady, rod-in-hand, coffee at her side, and a gaze firmly fixed on what the horizon was doing.

With her permission, I made her the silhouetted subject of my morning shoot and I have attached some of the pics at the end of the blog for you to check out.

Enjoy!

As the yellows finally faded, I bid her and Lake Parker adieu and headed off home to the kitties that would no doubt be eagerly awaiting my return and the inevitable flow of treats that my return would bring.

But as I drove away from this early morning scene, I thought about how perfectly in-the-moment my subject had been. I had seen her before a couple of times, with her partner, fishing or hooping and she told me this time, how she likes to start most of her days in this way.

In my mind, this is a genuine example of someone appreciating life’s current moment for what it is.

Much of our focus is on something that is yet to happen, to the detriment of the moment we are living in and our culture continues to pull us away from what we are now experiencing in order to anticipate something in the future.

The classic examples of this are Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, when the value of each of these days is merely that they precede something more important.

But our culture pushes us far harder than that. How many times have you been watching something on TV and within moments of it starting they are already advertising next week’s episode. A game you have been eagerly waiting for is just under way and they are pitching the explosive, highly-anticipated game that will follow, or airs tomorrow.

Or how when one election is over, they immediately start talking about the next one four years away. Some of us aren’t even guaranteed four minutes into the future, let alone four years … so, how relevant is this pitch to our lives?

This whole coming-soon narrative has nothing to do with what is actually coming soon. Because as soon as that arrives, they will be telling you about something else.

While a lot of people get caught up in this anticipation-frenzy, what they fail to understand is that real life is what is happening right now.

Not what is about to happen (might or might not). The relevance of something that hasn’t happened only exists in our willingness to devote energy to the anticipation.

Moving the goal-posts and shifting our horizon is a sad trait in today’s world. I fully understand the need to advertise and promote but we hype everything so much in advance that even if they do finally happen, they rarely live up to the promise.

And even if they were to live up to it, so what? How did we spend our days leading up to it? Did we lose focus on what was happening right around us as we imagined how great something else might be when it finally arrives?

We only have one life and it doesn’t exist in the coming soon category. It exists in the here and now.

In the US, over 8,000 people die every day. For them, there is no tomorrow and if that is where their focus was, then they have missed out on the value of their last day on earth. That translates to 56,000 people who won’t make it to next week’s episode, so hopefully they won’t have wasted too much energy in anticipating an answer to who shot JR?

Every breath we take is in the moment we find ourselves in. We can choose to breathe that in at the end of a pier watching the sky come alive or we can focus on what lies ahead … that day, that week, that month.

Living is in the present and if we are to give ourselves one little present today, then living is the one must-have this holiday season.

… just a thought.

Limited Visibility

It has been a crazy couple of weeks and with almost no time to shoot and less time to blog, I found myself lost in a deep fog of chaotic activity.

When I reflected on that, this morning, I reminded myself that I had actually taken some fog shots over a week ago that had made it off my camera but had not reached their blog-home. (Which is where nearly all my images these days end up).

So, I sought them out a moment ago and have placed them here. They were taken on a particularly foggy morning … one that I was up early enough to run into Tampa and explore what the fog was doing to the skyline.

The drive into town was challenging, to say the least and here are a couple of phone pics to show what I mean about the driving conditions. They aren’t good quality but should give you an idea. There were several moments where I could see no one else on the road in either direction and it felt almost as if the world had ended and I was the last one left alive.

But, if that were true, then there is little purpose to this blog as I already know what I am about to say. So, for the sake of argument (and this blog), I will assume that some of you are still alive and have made it to the end of this paragraph with me.

I did stop at the ball field on the way down, so one of the pics is from there. The others show how the Tampa skyline disappeared under the enveloping fog. They are at the end of the blog … enjoy!

So, anyway, this whole foggy experience gave birth to thoughts on how in life, clarity of our path can often be hampered by events or situations that just descend on us out of nowhere.

Like a fog, they arrive with little notice and suddenly things become more difficult to navigate through. It might be something work related but more often it is a life-happening or health.

Our brains need clarity of thought in order to be able to move forward in life. Whatever goals we are working to are normally only reachable when we know where we are heading and can see the path ahead of us.

So, when things appear from nowhere and begin to fog up our minds, we can stall, get lost, or begin to move in a wrong direction.

Whether the fog is caused by a single big issue or an overwhelming sense of smaller issues happening at the same time, the effect can be the same. So, like the road sign above “Limited Visibility, Use Caution” we need to slow down and become more aware of what is happening around us.

We may have to deal with these issues or we may need to out-wait them, as sometimes these events are within our power to address and other times not.

But, either way, we need to recognize their presence and be careful when they are with us. Make note of the immediate impact of whatever is happening and understand that like real fog, they will dissipate in time.

So, issues that dissipate should never be allowed to take us away from a life-path. They are only temporary and therefore their effect should never be allowed to be permanent.

I have seen people allow a temporary work-emergency to impact their personal life. They get overwhelmed in a work-mode and end up damaging their home relationship or missing major family-related events. Then when the work issue has evaporated, they are still left with the damage or loss of something at home.

Whenever we have limited visibility of our path ahead, we should be careful to not allow this visibility stop us from getting to our destination. We can definitely slow down and watch out for whatever the events are so that their damage is minimized on our life journey.

But we don’t abandon our journey because of reduced visibility. Nor do we go somewhere different.

Life’s journey doesn’t guarantee a fog-free road. It only guarantees an origin and a destination.

Though I slowed down considerably on my drive to Tampa and occasionally became unsure of where I was, I still made sure that I stayed on the road and didn’t end up in Miami.

Yes I would have arrived at my destination in the same state, but once the fog cleared I would have eventually been smacked with the realization that “I’m in Miami Bitch”. Good song, but bad choice.

… just a thought.

Normal

It was a week of sunrises (most weeks are) and I decided to try to get down most mornings to Lake Parker to capture some of the twilight variances.

Normally, sunrises are quite special in Florida and I have become adept at guessing whether we are about to have a good one or not.

So, it was good fun setting out each morning in total darkness and trying to guess what magic lay ahead.

Other than a couple of foggy mornings, most of the twilights served up something special and I returned from the lake invigorated and ready for whatever the day would serve up.

Day 3 served up a very unusual sequence of lights far off in the sky that moved so fast it could not have been a plane. So, in the middle of all these pics was a genuine UFO capture.

Then, there was also the one morning in fog where the camera decided to turn the fog blue and I have no idea why, I was in manual setting and made no adjustment but all of a sudden this one pic came out blue.

Anyway, I have staged my selection from each day at the end of the blog. I hope you enjoy.

By the time this morning rolled around, I reflected on how normalized I had become to expecting great sunrises. It is an idiosyncrasy of us humans to adjust our level of normal to whatever we become used to.

We apply normal to ourselves and our approach to things also. And then we seek to judge others by how far away from our definition they are. In photo sessions (and in life) I have dealt with people on both ends of a spectrum to where they are so far apart, it is hard to imagine it is a single spectrum.

Yet almost everyone thinks they are normal. Just like everyone thinks they are a good driver, or quite intelligent. And yet they are probably none of the above.

Within our environment, normal is a state in which we are comfortable and often wish to return to, when something comes in and disturbs us.

Yet, there is no universal normal. And the normal for each of us might be heaven for one and hell for another.

Governments and judicials seek to establish normal for whatever their region or responsibility is. Then they seek to punish those that don’t fit within their definitions. Arrests, removals, and penalties often await those that don’t fit in with their definitions.

It’s why I struggle to buy into the whole concept of pornography, for example. What you might find abhorrent and indecent, I might find totally acceptable. What one country might find barely racy, another might find deserving of imprisonment and 50 lashes.

But my thoughts this morning weren’t so much about different norms across societies or social groups. It was really about the inner feeling we get of something feeling normal to us. And when it doesn’t.

We can be glibly following our own path through our life, when all of a sudden, out of the blue, we get sideswiped by something. Normally it is something bad. We are rarely sideswiped by something good, so typically the happening alters how we are living in a negative context.

So, once the shock of the event is over, we are left with a yearning for normal again. Our normal.

And sometimes, life never returns to the normal we knew and our life establishes a new normal for us. Perhaps we lose a loved one, or find out we have cancer, or lose one of our senses. Invariably these happenings will alter the lives of the most resilient of us. How can they not?

It can be as individual a happening as a personal loss. They say you never really value something (or someone) until you have lost them. The loss can be so profound as to create a different version of us. But at the very least it becomes life-altering.

It can also be as societal as a pandemic. To where almost all our lives are altered irrevocably with masks, vaccines, travel restrictions, and reduced socialization.

I say “almost all” because some people who isolated from the world in the first place; artists, internet-inhabitants, and work-from-home devotees, have been barely altered in their normal.

A couple of years ago, we may have viewed such people as abnormal, fringe-livers, and hermits. Yet now we have all taken several steps closer to their version of normal and away from our own.

So, I guess the final thought that I am trying to share is that whatever your normal is, enjoy it. It will likely change and your life will never feel quite the same.

Somehow, wherever we find ourselves in life is where we are.

Wishing we were somewhere else in place and time is a fools errand.

Striving to make our lot in life better is always a good thing, but being unhappy with where we are is not.

Strange as it may seem, the days we are in now will one day become the good old days for most of us. it’s why I hate taking family pics; we all smile for the camera and then in later years when looking at the old photos, recall how happy we once were.

When Igor was sent out to get a brain from the lab in Young Frankenstein and returned with the one labeled A.B. Normal, who’s to say the person writing the label wasn’t a bit odd. Frankie turned out to be quite a decent human being, at it turned out.

… just a thought.

one day later

then another

and another

and finally

Back to basics

Having hit yesterday’s realization that there was a real limitation with my use of the big lens and a tripod, I decided it was time to step back from the issue and return to a tripod-free life.

The tripod entered my photo-life when I began taking long-exposure shots and for those shots I will always need it.

But for the rest, a tripod is a crutch … literally. And I had leaned on mine long enough.

So, this morning I headed off to the trails at Circle B and took the camera with the big lens attached and no tripod.

It was a bright sunny morning, so the shutter speed would be fast enough to compensate for any small movements on my end. I don’t care what they say, nature pics are best suited for a non-tripod photographer, given that they can hold the camera steady enough.

I have historically had no problem up to 300 mm but beyond that, the tremors kick in.

Now, the reality is that all it means is that the win-percentage of shots taken goes down. And yes, you might actually miss something entirely. But you still get some good shots.

So, it really became an issue of adjusting my expectations and at the same time adjusting the physics of how I take the shots.

The trail that I wanted to take was closed so I ended up on the trail that swings down by Lake Hancock. That’s where the selection of shots at the end of the blog is from.

By the way, the last five shots happened right at the very end and I did miss most of the action that played out. An Anhinga surfaced having just caught a fish and he was immediately set upon by a great blue heron and a great egret who both tried to steal the fish. Hopefully you get the sense of what was happening in the few pics that I managed to get of the ten seconds of chaos.

Hope you enjoy.

It was driving back that I really began to take this whole “back to basics” approach and process it with respect to life in general.

There are many times in life when we move in a certain direction only to hit a dead end of sorts and find ourselves unable to progress any further.

It might be a career situation, or even a relationship, but it can be anything.

These are the moments when we are faced with having to step down off our pedestal of righteousness and examine how we got there and more importantly, how to move forward in another direction.

And it isn’t easy. Admitting to ourselves that we aren’t the messiah we thought we were is a chilling awareness. Realizing that we have failed in something is a pill that some of us are just not good at swallowing. There is a pride with forward movement and sometimes, this pride becomes a manacle that ties us to our mistake and won’t let us retreat.

I remember the first time a business of mine failed; it failed after five years and after I had lost everything in trying to keep it going, I was still committed to continuing to try.

But eventually, I had to retreat and get employment, at least until I could figure out my own path forward again on something else. I ended up working for two morons that between them didn’t have the smarts to figure out their way out of a wet paper bag.

Yet, I had to take my daily orders from them.

Taking yourself back to the basics allows you to reconstitute yourself, form new plans, and set out on your new direction. But in that first step, you have to park your pride outside and realize that you are just as flawed as most.

If you don’t learn that, then you are very likely to paint yourself into another corner, somewhere down the line.

Getting back to the basics and being willing to learn new things is easier the younger you are. You are less invested in doing things a certain way.

But, just because you are old doesn’t mean that learning is impossible. It isn’t. It just takes more time and is a bit more painful.

“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is an old saying but it is wrong. Many an old dog learns new tricks every day. My parents were in their eighties when they learned how to use the internet and email. I was in my fifties before I learned how to really work a camera to where I could honestly be a professional photographer.

The moment we say we are too old to do something new, we are. We seal our own casket.

But when we are willing to fall or look stupid in learning something new, then we keep the door open to a new path in our life.

Stripping our know-it-all pride away and becoming a novice at something again is the difference being able to walk through it or just staring longingly at where it could have led us.

… just a thought.

Limitations

By 5:30 this morning, I found myself standing on the banks of the Hillsborough River on the University side, looking across at the full city skyline of downtown Tampa.

I love the city of Tampa and really think it is an awesome skyline. The number of tall buildings isn’t excessive and the gaps between them feel just about right.

I have spoken before about the Riverwalk which runs parrallel to Ashley Drive, downtown and has different sections lit in very attractive ways. It has become a feature of several of my shoots these past few years.

There were a couple of canopy sections that for some reason or other weren’t lit this morning and that was a bit disappointing but it didn’t have a huge effect on what I was trying to do.

You see, I brought two wildly differing lenses with me, the 11 mm fish eye and the 600 mm zoom. The fish eye was to give me the real city view and the zoom was hopefully going to allow me to stretch across the river and get shots of the canopies from the river side.

The former turned out to be perfect and I was really pleased with what it delivered. I intended to work from dark night sky to brightening twilight sky and it captured both for me.

Unfortunately the reduction in lit canopies was somewhat limiting to the 600 mm lens. I wanted to catch people as they walked, ran, or cycled, but the walkways proved disappointingly dark because of the lights. But the real problem was that the lens was too heavy for my tripod and what few opportunities there were, were lost while I was trying to set up each shot.

Because of its weight it was slowly dropping on the tripod and so while I normally delay the shot by two seconds on a timer when shooting low light, this time I had to change that to five. Trying to guess where someone is going to be in five seconds from a distance of 400 or 500 feet is quite difficult. And making that spot coincide with the one canopy that was solidly lit, was near impossible. Well, for this old man, anyway.

I have attached a couple of the 11 mm shots … one the night sky and one the twilight one. Hope you enjoy.

As I drove home I resigned myself to needing another (heavy duty) tripod for the large lens, which is going to be annoying. The camera and lens together weigh just over 7 lbs already, so adding a heavy tripod and then carrying the whole assembly around will limit how far I go with it.

What is more annoying is that the tripod is rated for up to 22 lbs but they obviously haven’t factored in the length of a long lens and how it affects the ball-head mount.

What happens is that you find your focus on something, click the shutter button and then when you take your hands off the camera it droops down slowly while the picture is being taken. Miserable!!

Anyway, what I realized this morning was that I had reached a limitation of my current setup and until I changed something in the setup (the tripod), I was going to be stuck with these limitations as they are.

And that’s when I began to think about how similar that is in all of life. We often find ourselves in situations where there are limitations binding the outcome. It might be a personal limitation or perhaps something that is environmental to our situation. It might also be a rule or law that confines us to the extent of what we can do.

These limitations are real and often they are intransigent. For example, reaching the edge of cliff and wishing to continue is limited by the fact that we can’t fly. Or encountering one of these radical republicans and wanting to have them put to sleep, is limited by laws governing acts of murder, no matter how justifiable.

But there are other limitations that can be moved to where we can push these limits further out. For example, if we are unable to lift a seven pound camera configuration over a five mile trail, then we can exercise and develop muscle and stamina to allow us to do so.

Similarly a lot of the limits we encounter are mental and defined by our own fears or phobias. “I can’t have that spider walking on me, I will die” and so we never experience the joy of engaging with such an amazing little creature.

“I can’t swim. Don’t make me go in the water. I will die.” and so we watch the fun from the beach or the edge of the pool.

These are the limits that are easiest tackled and they are the ones that if we are to grow as human beings, that we need to push.

And therein lies my point. A more complete life is one that sees us grow; not just physically, but mentally. And that growth means that we experience new things over time and that we improve something about ourselves each time.

It is a life where we live at the edge of our potential; always looking to see if we can push the boundaries that confine us, just a little further.

Growth is not infinite. We don’t all get to the point where we voluntarily bungee jump and dive out of planes. Tackling limitations does not mean we all have to recklessly endanger ourselves or anyone.

But growth does mean that tomorrow we should be able to do something more than we were able to do today.

What the hell, I will order a stronger tripod today in the sales.

… just a thought!

Grateful

There was no thanksgiving, growing up in Ireland. It’s a uniquely American tradition, yet it never ceases to amaze me how many American’s don’t know that.

So, I don’t celebrate that day … it is just another Thursday on the calendar for me.

That being said, I am happy for my American friends that get to share such wonderful time with their families. I truly am. And I wish them all a Happy Thanksgiving!

But, what it meant for me this morning was that there was no natural mid-week block on where I could go today to catch the sunrise. You see, if I position myself on the other side of the bay during a weekday twilight, all of a sudden I am in knee deep traffic trying to cross the city again and go home.

Which is why all my weekday mornings are spent east of the city.

But today at five o’clock, I was in the car happily heading across to St Pete to see what the morning might look like over there.

And it was a stunningly beautiful morning here in the greater Tampa Bay area. Temperature at that time of the morning was high fifties, the air was so fresh and clear, and the skies were only hosting the stars, as far as I could see. Not a cloud anywhere.

Traffic was non-existent on the way over, so I got there well over an hour before sunrise. I hadn’t been on the new St Pete Pier, since they redeveloped it so that became my destination of choice. But as I had time to spare, I stopped and shot that lovely art creation at the near-end of the pier. (pics 1 and 2)

Then as the horizon began to get some definition, I wandered off down the pier to the end.

It is a seriously beautiful pier and the folks who created this did an amazing job. St Pete clearly has people with a wonderful art-vision planning their city. Hats off to them.

The end of the pier stepped out onto the bay and gave a lovely view of the horizon and I have put a collection of images at the end of the blog. Hope you enjoy.

I was generally pleased with myself as I walked back to the car and set out for home again. I didn’t hang around for sunrise. It broke the horizon as I crossed the bay on the Howard Frankland Bridge and I just breathed in the continued beauty all the way home.

It was on that drive that I began to think about all the folks across the country that will be finding something they are thankful for and sharing it with family and friends.

Personally, I don’t like the notion of “giving thanks” as if something has done something for you, for which you now need to express gratitude. Perhaps if I was one of the god-folk, I might assign all the happy things in my life to some old dude in the sky and dutifully tip my hat and give thanks.

But hey, if that is what floats your boat, then go for it.

Yet the whole day that is in it, did get me thinking of people that I have lost over this past year or so and how genuinely lucky I was to have been able to share some time and love with them.

Losing people is a tragic event and in many ways can be soul-destroying. But the simple truth is that at least we had them for a while and that is worth the pain.

Brittany, Ashlee, Meredith, Joey … they were wonderful people that gave different levels of love into my life and despite their loss to me, I am truly grateful to have known each of them. And my little Fluffy took a major peace of my heart with him when he was killed, but each moment I got to spend with him was something to treasure.

At the moments that are close to the time of loss, it is hard not to focus on the loss itself. Though in most cases the feeling of loss never goes away, over time we can also begin to recall some of the love and the happier moments we got to share beforehand.

My Mam and Dad are gone a few years now and though the feeling of loss is still huge, I am just beginning to restore some happier moments of them towards the front of my mind.

There is a thought I have heard expressed, that is very much true; that those of us that have lost the most are the lucky ones, as we had something so wonderful to have lost in the first place.

So, on a day like today when those around me give thanks for something or other, I feel grateful to those that have passed this way for having taken part of their journey through my life.

… just a thought.

Brutality for sale.

It was an altogether nothing type of morning. The kind you could easily have stayed in bed for.

The skies were never going to yield anything photo-worthy but given that I was awake at three-something, it cried out for me to do something with my dark hours.

When I left home at four-something, I didn’t know where I was going. I told Morgan I was heading somewhere down in the Tampa direction, but couldn’t tell her where.

I was a half hour away from home before I settled on Ybor City. I chose this place because it wasn’t going to offer me a twilight view of any sort but the weather wasn’t going to give me one anyway. I could have gone downtown Tampa but felt I had photographed that too many times in recent months and ruled it out.

Ybor (in case you are not a Tampanian) was annexed into Tampa many moons ago, so technically speaking it is part of the city. But in reality, it has an entirely different feel to it than the city. Historical low-profile buildings, a lot of red-bricked streets, and a past rich in Cuban heritage, makes it beat to the rhythm of its own drum.

In its heyday it was the cigar capital of the world (or so they say) and many of the side streets play host to old cigar factories.

Anyway, this morning its purpose was simply to give me some deserted views to play with. And for most of my time there, there wasn’t a sinner in sight.

Come weekend night, this same street is wall-to-wall with revelers, so here is what it looks like when there is no reveling taking place. The pics are at the end of this blog.

While I was there, I have to be honest and say that I had absolutely no idea what I was going to write about. I mean the place was hardly noteworthy; certainly my images aren’t.

But what really woke my brain up quite abruptly was stumbling onto that little store in pics five and six.

What had been a very vanilla outing was now suddenly enraging. My temper flared and I honestly thought about chucking a brick through the window at it. But sanity prevailed and I opted to just express my displeasure in words.

Looking in that window first, what caught my attention was the tiger in the middle of the floor. I wasn’t quite sure he was real until I saw the forty or fifty other obscene trophies of hunted creatures mounted on the walls.

To say I was disgusted would be a huge understatement. And it made no sense to my mind that such a little store would be somewhere where brutal death would be on display.

It also didn’t seem to fit with anything; with neither their neighbor stores, nor the city itself. So I was spellbound in thought as my peripheral vision searched for nearby rocks.

Why would anyone buy such a thing? Who do they think they are impressing?

I mean, the vicious bastard hunters that slaughter these types of poor creatures .. .well, if they display their “trophy” in their house, at least it is a topic of conversation about that time they compensated for their little dick on a great African safari.

I assume we all know that about them, right? Anyone who hunts with a telescopic rifle, shooting some poor creature that doesn’t even know his murderer is nearby… well they are not just mentally defective human beings, but they are compensating for whatever shortcomings they have that makes them feel like they scum they actually are.

But forget about those dirty callous bastards for a moment. At least when they show a mounted head of some poor creature, there is every possibility that they will impress some other moron within their herd.

Who the fuck is going to be impressed with the body of some poor creature that you bought in a little store in Ybor City? I want to know who these people are.

I suspect that if you lift the rock that the hunters crawl under, underneath their slimy bellies reside the pathetic sub-slimes that buy this kind of shit. Imagine being such a low-life that you live vicariously through the butchery of other low-lifes.

I wish these people would just kill themselves and put the rest of us out of their misery.

It is bad enough knowing that there are humans that perform such brutality on helpless creatures. Those of us with morals jump and shout about it at ever chance and try to get legislation passed to stamp it out.

But we can never win, because for each one of us there are a hundred assholes who will buy the stuffed body of these creatures.

Look how long it took to turn the tide against the fur industry, for fuck sake. And that whole industry is so disgusting that a dog with a mallet up his ass should have been able to get that practice outlawed five minutes after it started. But we still haven’t managed to shut that down.

So the chances of getting this hunter trophy type business shut down are non-existent. All the creatures will be long dead before these immoral assholes run out of bullets.

Maybe that’s when the NRA will lobby for the right to hunt humans. Criminals, the infirm, the retarded, the homeless. (Ironically there was a homeless person sleeping in the doorway of the store next door. )

Imagine a future where some old guy with a camera stumbles across this store selling human heads and half-bodies; perfectly mounted and ready to be admired by your friends and neighbors.

Imagine how big your dick would feel then, Mr. Hunter.

… just a thought.

Challenges

Both weekend mornings gave little reason to take the camera out, as clouds dominated the early mornings across central Florida.

While Saturday’s morning said “mostly cloudy” Sunday’s simply said “Cloudy”, so it was reasonable to anticipate that there wasn’t going to be any sunrise worth mentioning.

As it turned out, yesterday’s gave a small hint of color for a few minutes but this morning was true to forecast … simply dark and grey.

But that’s OK. I decide to give myself a challenge and yesterday I went down to Ballast Point in south Tampa, armed only with a 70mm to 300mm zoom lens. To put that in context, I only ever shoot sunrises, sunsets, or anything landscapish actually, with a wide lens at 28mm. And if I really want to expand the view I use the 11mm ultra wide that gives those fish-eye type images.

So the challenge of a zoomed view was that I would have to look harder for shots that made sense in zoom, rather than the sweeping panoramic type. It also obliged me to step way-back when trying to get anything of landscape quality.

There wasn’t a lot to work with, but I got a small few shots worth sharing and they are at the end of the blog.

This morning, I gave myself a bigger challenge and walked out the door with only the 400mm to 600mm zoom lens. So unless I was prepared to step back to California, I wasn’t going to get anything of a landscape nature here in Lakeland.

This meant that when I arrived at Lake Parker, my eyes were trying to find things far away that made any kind of sense to shoot. Stationary objects like the moon were an obliging find, but the real fun was trying to shoot something that was moving within a dark sky, knowing at best I am only going to get a silhouette.

The number I fluffed was huge, and even those I got weren’t great. It was so dark, the camera had an awful time trying to find a focus and my own handling of what is a seriously heavy camera and lens configuration left a lot to be desired.

Yes, I got little Jesus bird doing his walking on water trick again but that was a miracle (pun intended). But in the main, I failed to get anything of significance. I have included some of what I did get also at the end of the blog.

By the time I got into the car to head home, I was largely annoyed with my own shortcomings and then during the drive, I thought about what I done over these two shoots.

Firstly, I could have stayed home on both occasions and shot nothing. That would have been the easy answer. Or secondly, I could have taken the appropriate lenses with me in order to capture the scenes that I guessed would be in front of me.

But I did neither … choosing to handicap myself with lenses that I knew I would never normally use in such shoots.

And in my mind I smiled. I knew what I had done. I had deliberately set the bar too high for myself. So, failure was almost certainly guaranteed.

And to that extent, I succeeded. Succeeded in failing.

Setting challenges for ourselves is a good thing to do periodically, regardless of the failure that they might bring.

We spend so much of our lives working within our own comfort zones and following an easier path. Yet, the real growth comes from the more difficult one, should we choose it.

We learn more each time we fail than from a hundred successes and it is a good situation to throw ourselves in because even if we learn nothing more than to cope with failure, then we have succeeded.

By the time I got home this morning, I wasn’t even remotely upset at my ineptitude. I reminded myself that I am not perfect and that given the right tools, I will often fuck up.

You see, that is ok. No one was hurt in the process of this failure and it yielded a strong sense of my own flaws and shortcomings.

And once we are ready to recognize our own flaws and vulnerabilities, it becomes easier to accept them in others. Those who foolishly think they are perfect, often seek perfection in the people around them and make judgements when they shouldn’t.

Making any kind of judgement of others is a poor decision and is best left to the gods. But when we make it from an elevated platform where we think we are so much better, it is not just conceited but foolish.

Life is a separate journey for each of us and we go through this journey in our own way, hopefully as best we can. Our version of best is never something that should be applied to someone else on their journey. Particularly when we often don’t even apply that measure to ourselves.

… just a thought.

Cunt

Yesterday and the day before, I began each morning with a trip to Lake Parker. So there are actually two sets of pics at the end of this blog.

But it was actually at the end of yesterday, that the thought for today’s blog was formed.

And I am fully aware that just the title alone will have dissuaded upwards of half the readers from skipping this particular blog entirely.

You see, I was at the end of yesterday and Amanda reached out to me at the end of my day and asked how my day had been and I replied that it was one, that might be best described as “a cunt of a day”.

As I climbed into bed, without as yet having heard back from her in response, I mused over the word “cunt” and thought how interestingly offensive it is to many Americans and yet how utterly harmless a word, it really is.

You see, “cunt” is generally defined as a vulgar word for vulva or vagina. And depending on where you live and what sex you are, your response to seeing that word expressed here is likely to be wildly different.

In Ireland or England, the word is generally used in a number of ways and is not regarded as very offensive. For example, a man might refer to another man as “he’s a good cunt”. But here in America, many people run a mile from it and it is seen as a grave insult and seriously crude.

Yet Germain Greer, one of the pioneers of the women’s liberation movement in the 60s and 70s published a magazine article called “Lady, love your cunt.” She argued that the word vagina was actually more offensive and I agree with her.

You see, the word vagina is derived from Latin and means “sword sheath” and therefore degrades the purpose of a woman’s genitalia as being nothing more than a receptacle for a man’s weapon. Go on, argue how much better the proper word “vagina” is now!!

But beyond the whole feminism of the word, I find it wildly amusing that America is disgusted by the word cunt, yet is familiarly comfortable with words that are seriously more vulgar and graphic like motherfucker and asshole.

Think about that … an incestuous sex act between a son and his mother is more acceptable than a woman’s vulva. And the specific focus on the anal cavity (rather than the more generic ass itself) is also more palatable than the vulva.

If you aren’t immediately recoiling away from such an acceptance of sexist disparity, then I am afraid, you are a victim of today’s non-sensical mind manipulation.

Cunt wasn’t always seen as a vulgar and unusable word. It has been used in great literature works from Donne, Chaucer, and Shakespeare.

In fact it was introduced into the general English vocabulary in the early 1200’s by the Anglo-Saxons as a general name for the vulva.

But Americans in particular have a habit of taking very ordinary words and corrupting their association to have evil and aggressive meanings that have nothing to do with the words themselves.

Gay used to be a completely innocent word before it was used here as a slur. As was homo, fag, and queer.

Then we generalize words like fanny, that in other countries are seen as wildly vulgar.

Some radical conservatives will spell out s-e-x rather than say it. And switch in darn for damn, or friggin, bullspit, goldarn, and a host of other nonsensical made-up words that frankly, are pathetically stupid.

So, what is the point?

Well, simply put … words are simply words. When we use words to insult, or express even a vulgar emotion, they are still just words.

George Carlin famously listed the seven words you can’t say on TV as being “shit, piss, cunt, fuck, cocksucker, motherfucker, and tits”.

While some of those have thankfully fallen by the wayside, federal law prohibits “obscene, indecent, and profane content” from being broadcast on TV or radio.

You can show violence and gore, rape and abuse, cruelty of all sorts … but for fuck sake don’t say the word cunt or we will have to lock you up.

… just a thought.