Total Recoil

So, last night was spent over at Jax’s home. She, Cassandra and I were in a creative planning mode. Throwing our ideas on the table for some future shoots together and drinking some wonderful alcoholic concoctions that Jax conjured up.

Not that our minds needed lubricating; Jax is my experimental muse and together we have been on a journey of image making for several years. Cassandra is a natural artist with such a fertile mind and she was the catalyst of creativity for our new ventures.

The end product to the night was a friendship further cemented on the back of mutual loves and dreams together with some firm plans to attack a low tide shoot in Tampa Bay one evening over the coming weeks.

It was one of those evenings where you are so engaged that you wind up going to bed four hours later than you normally do and then crawl out the following morning nursing a hangover that has nothing to do with the alcohol, but everything to do with the lack of sleep.

At 5:30, I wanted to stay in bed but all the kitties needed to be fed and released outside, so I wandered downstairs painfully, washed dishes, fed them all, left the door open and then crawled back upstairs for that one more precious hour.

Anyway, rewind a little … during the evening the conversation drifted on to little creatures and how we share a common love for all little creatures and after Jax introduced us to her gorgeous Bearded Dragon (Ugin), we ended up with Daisy, her Ball Python snake just chilling with us for the rest of the night.

Daisy is stunning and very calm with being handled and so she just happily hung out on Cassandra as we continued our round-the-world-conversation.

I have attached some pics of her at the end of this blog. Hope you enjoy.

It was really this morning, as I started to go through the images, that I began to think about the topic of this blog. To us, Daisy is a beautiful, soft, warm-to-the-touch creature that is such a gift to be allowed to interact with.

And yet to others, snakes present an instant recoil response that is typically related to fear or anxiousness.

While recoil reactions to any creature are understandable when related to past experiences, many of them are not. Many of them are simply aversions picked up by watching other peoples’ responses and mimicking them.

Children aren’t born with fears, they develop them often based on their parents’ or siblings’ reactions.

And it is not just unfair to the poor little creatures that end up shunned, but it is also a missed opportunity for the recoilers as they never experience the wonders of engaging with a creature that is different from the family pet.

While I am not a huge fan of spiders, I have worked to overcome it and will almost always try to figure out a way to re-home one if he wanders into my world. And this past week I had a wonderful meeting with a large moth on my driveway that needed rescuing and I managed to get her safely into the old pump house. Not to mention the lizard that Coco dropped on my lap while I was working on the PC the other day. Poor little guy was scared but I managed to help him escape to the freedom of the overgrown yard.

Each of those creatures are very different little lives and coming in contact with them broadens your mind into the world that they live in. You begin to think what is best for them, safest, most comfortable.

You begin to see the world through their eyes, a little. And you recognize the fear they must feel when they see your gorgeous furry little kitty coming towards them.

Looking at the world through only our eyes is akin to going through life with blinders on. You end up missing out on so much understanding that is out there simply waiting for you to look and see.

There is no medal that gets pinned on your chest for knowing so much about the fellow creatures that share this planet with you, but your heart grows with each new understanding and you become a more complete person.

Ultimately you become a creature of the earth, which is the next step up from being simply human. And your interest and concerns extends outside of your immediate surrounds to include all peoples and creatures … yes, even those that you used to recoil from.

Daisy just lay there on Cassandra, coiling into a ball (hence the name, Ball Python) on her chest and tuning in to her heart beat. She was peacefully part of our little group and made no attempt to get away from us, regardless of how scary or ugly she found us.

She understood that for some unknown reason, these strange large creatures with arms and legs wanted to interact with her, and being the better person, she allowed it.

So next time you see something that makes you recoil or want to run away, don’t. Just stop for a moment and imagine what that little creature is seeing in you and how it is simply trying to get on with its existence.

Share the love!

… just a thought.

Optical Experiments

Morgan just bought me a couple of neat glass pieces so last night I took them off down to Tampa to see what they could do for me.

There is a glass sphere and a glass cube and the sphere is just less than 4 inches in diameter while the cube seems to be just less than 3 inches wide. They are both high clarity glass specifically for photography, so I had a thrill of anticipation as I headed out.

I wanted it to be dark, so that I could rely on the ambient city lights and with all the lovely changing colors at the riverwalk, that is where I headed to.

I am very much a morning person, so it takes a lot to get me out of the house after dark. By then, my 5 o’clock start in the morning is normally having its toll on me and my energy is failing.

It was also going to be a journey on my own, so the only motivation really was the new “toys” to play with and perhaps something new to learn.

The sphere had a tiny little tripod with a suction cup that holds the sphere in place and the cube had a 1/4 inch hole drilled into it, so that I was able to use an extending arm from the top of the camera to secure it in place.

The riverwalk is very much the center of night-life these days in Tampa. At least for all the good looking folk. It was teaming with life last night; beautiful guys and girls of all shapes and sizes, holding hands, cycling, scootering, roller-blading, whatever.

It was very much the place to be.

Nobody seemed to mind that I was kneeling down in the middle of this traffic with weird looking glass things immediately in front or dangling from my camera. Some people even stopped and asked and were in awe at what the camera was seeing.

I have attached a little collection of images from the shoot at the end of the blog, so I hope you like some of them!

I left downtown after an hour or two, very happy and confident in what I had shot. I also felt happy to be there as a little part of a vibrant city, full of happy humans, all living their lives fully on a Monday night.

But what really caught my mind as I drove home was the whole experimentation aspect of what I had done.

Photographic experimentation is how photographers stretch themselves and become better at their trade. It comes with a sense of ignorance of what will really happen, so there has to be a willingness to fail in what you are doing.

I was proud of myself for taking the risk and learning something new in the process. And maybe one day I will actually understand what I am doing when I try to take certain pics.

But really the experimentation that I want to address here, was bigger than just photography.

When we are young, everything is an experiment. It is how we learn. From the moment we first try to stand up on our two feet and take a step, we learn what works and what doesn’t.

When we become older, we often relax back into the mode of repeatedly doing the same stuff. This is the stuff we have already learned and are happy with. It might be our favorite restaurant, or our favorite place to watch a sunset, or a favorite pastime that helps us unwind after our day.

Somewhere in adulthood, we transition from knowing nothing to thinking we know everything and ultimately settling on everything we think we need to know.

It is such a shame to limit ourselves in life’s experience, just because we have found a comfort zone. Life is so much bigger than any ability we have to learn, so there is always something new to learn, no matter our age.

I remember my Mam and Dad learning some internet basics in their late seventies and eighties before they both died. It wasn’t something they needed to know in order to run out their lives. But, it was something that they wanted to know and so they did.

Keeping our bodies active as long as we do now, is clearly understood as being important in terms of quality of life. But so too is keeping our brains active. And there is no better way to keep your brain active than to always try to learn something.

We have to be willing to abandon our comfort zone and reach for something that may be difficult to understand, but the rewards are immeasurable and very much worth the stretch.

I remember my Grannie many years ago moan at how we spend all our lives accumulating knowledge and then at the end it comes to nothing because it fades with you when you die. But I disagree with her because the knowledge we gain is to enhance the experience of how we are living. Our ability to venture along different roads on our journey through life.

Grannie’s journey included driving in the very first automobile that was on the roads of my home city, she lived through the Irish Civil War, freedom from British tyranny, both world wars, and ultimately Ireland becoming part of the European Union. Her journey included learning decimal currencies in her later years as the prior pounds, shillings, and pence disappeared. So her learning was very real and very much a part of her life’s experience.

Our own life’s experience is very much shaped by the events that happen in our lifetime, but also by how we involve ourselves in everyday life. If we choose to do only the things we are good at, then our world becomes very small.

I guess what I am trying to say is try to look at your life last month and ask yourself what new thing that you learned. And then look at the coming month and ask yourself what you might learn.

Stretch your mind and live a more full life.

… just a thought!


While my intention last night was to shoot lightning, there wasn’t any. And so, I had to settle for a crappy ol’ sunset.

OK, it wasn’t really crappy but I was annoyed at myself because the previous night when there was lightning, I completely screwed up my shoot and so this was supposed to be my make-up session.

But sometimes (oftentimes actually) things don’t necessarily go according to plan and so I found myself all set up for a lightning shoot, down at Picnic Island, without a storm cloud to aim for.

In truth, it was still a lovely hour or two and I am so glad that I made the trip. The sky gave me some lovely yellows and golden to play with and the little smattering of people on the water gave me some accessories to my shots.

So, all in all, I shouldn’t complain. Oh wait, I do have one complaint. Right at the end when the sun was doing its most evocative transition below the horizon, Miki Mosquito and all his family, as well as the Noseeums from next door came out and decided to attack me. They were relentless.

That any of those final shots came out in focus is testament to the fast shutter speed and not my steady hands, because I was being dive-bombed and hurting in a stressful way.

Anyway, I do hope you enjoy the collection at the end of the blog … they show the whole transition through colors quite well and while there aren’t really any reds on show, it was still worth capturing.

So, I drove away quite happy with the evening, all told, and as I was driving home I began to think about how being alone and being lonely are very different things.

I’ve mostly been alone in life for the past few months and while there are times that translated to loneliness, last night wasn’t one of them.

Being alone, meant that I had to add some energy to the momentum needed to get in the car and drive to Picnic Island. When it is just you, it is always easier to talk yourself out of doing something.

And being alone meant that other than through this particular means, I wasn’t able to share the awe of the evening with someone. There is no doubt that when I have had someone with me at times like this, the company enhances the colors, the freshness of the air, and the general feeling of a wonderful moment.

But that doesn’t mean that the moment loses everything when you are alone.

Learning to appreciate your own company is a valuable skill and allows you to savor moments for what they are. There is no pining for anyone to be with you and your own enjoyment becomes a strong enough flavor to create happiness.

I find that when you focus on whatever the event is (a sunset, a book, a movie) then experiencing it alone is still enjoyable. It’s like drinking a milk-shake without the whipped cream on top … the flavor is still the same and it is still your own taste that decides whether you enjoy it or not.

Some people convince themselves that they need somebody always and that their happiness depends on others. But in truth, our happiness comes from within.

People in this mode often bounce from one bad relationship to another because they can’t stand being alone and they equate it to loneliness that begets sadness.

But I don’t believe in that approach to life.

I think you have to love yourself. Not as much as the dotard does, obviously, but enough so that when you are alone that you can still breathe, still enjoy, still smile. You don’t have to be a narcissist to enjoy your own company.

When we convince ourselves otherwise, we do ourselves a real disservice and it can lead us in so many wrong directions.

I suspect at the end of the day on our deathbed, if we look back over our lives, the one person we were with most throughout it all, is ourselves. If we didn’t love ourselves, then we managed to live a life with someone we didn’t love. What kind of life would that be?

… just a thought!