9 Lives

Over this past year or so, I have learned a lot from cats.

I have never been a pet owner, per se, and it isn’t so much not wanting the responsibilities, as I have plenty of those.

No, it is the belief that no creature should own another. In many ways it makes a slave of the “lesser” creature, loved and taken care of as they well may be. The notion that any animal can only eat at another’s will, or poop where they are supposed to, or stay when they want to go out … well, frankly, it all smacks a little of slavery to me.

Which is why the kitties down here in the office are free to come and go. The door is open all day and at night they are given a choice to come in for food and protection from the night, should they wish. Mostly they choose to but occasionally they choose not and I have to be ok with that.

Daisy was the first of the feral cats to live with me as such and her first litter had many of the qualities that you associate with ferality (there you go, I invented another word. Meaning “having the behavior and characteristics normally associated with wild creatures”). They have a marked level of independence, a strong degree of jittery (necessary in the wild), and an acute skill for survival.

Last week’s loss of Fluffy, who unlike his feral friends here was a domestic kitty, was incredibly hard for me to take. I doubt that I will ever get over the loss and I curse those that abandoned him in the first place along with the murderer that ran him over. But, it reinforced in a way the strengths that ferality brings and the advantage that it bestows on the bearers.

Lincoln came in yesterday afternoon while I was working on the PC and I looked over and saw her with her hand in the water fountain, cutely playing while she drank. I ever-so-quietly grabbed the camera and was just about to take the first shot when she turned around and caught me.

I swear that I made no noise. But her sixth sense kicked in and she knew she was being watched.

She doesn’t trust me at all and she has been through some horrific wars that she is holding me responsible for. There was the time she was stuck in the engine compartment as a kitten as I drove the 20 minutes to Walmart. How she survived that I will never know, but she hates me for it. She definitely used up one of her nine lives on that adventure.

And most recently was the hand-to-hand combat that I had to engage in catching her to bring her to get spayed. She bit so hard and clawed with all her might. After that, she got into some savage exchange with someone outside that left a nasty gash on her cheek. But I was never brave enough to try to put cream on it. It healed slowly … but it healed.

So yesterday, though I bribed her with some treats on the ground, she watched me with every bite, ready to run if I encroached our 2 meter demilitarized zone.

There are a few pics of her here at the end of the blog. Hope you enjoy.

Lincoln is now about 10 months old and from a time when I couldn’t tell her apart from her identical siblings, she has blossomed into a uniquely wild little lady.

She climbs trees higher and faster than anyone else here and is continually chasing squirrels. The squirrels think they can outrun and out-maneuver her but I am not so sure. One day, we will probably see, much to the chagrin of an over-confident squirrel, methinks.

There is always an hour or two where she stays outside chasing things, rather than coming inside for the night and occasionally it becomes an all-nighter.

Much as she hates me, I adore her. I see all the lovely qualities that a wild little creature should have. Her independence is entirely feral and she is acutely tuned in to what is happening around her. If you have heard of a cat sleeping with one eye open, it is her. She is razor sharp.

So it all got me thinking about why humans seek to domesticate and breed away all the wild attributes of creatures that they wish to empet (there you go … another word. Means to turn something into a pet)?

We take little creatures from their own habitat and get them used to ours. We spay them. We train them. We groom them. We then assign human characteristics to them. When Disney includes them in movies they have almost entirely human characteristics.

Is it their independence that we fear? Does it remind us of something that we humans do not have? An animal in the wild is entirely free. Only humans capture them. Other creatures may kill them for food and occasionally different creatures have a symbiotic relationship with each other, but they remain free thinking, free behaving … totally free.

We have traded our freedom for certain comfort and socialization aspects.

In America we proclaim ourselves as “the land of the free” but it is just words. No human is truly free.

And maybe that is why we try to eradicate freedom everywhere we find it. We are jealous of any creatures that we haven’t enslaved … “why should they have the freedoms we can’t have?”

So we destroy their environments, kill en masse, and rehabilitate the survivors so that they can function within our environment with the rules we set for them. “No, Rover, bad boy. Hold your pee until my show is over and then I will take you for a walk over by the neighbors yard.”

Can you imagine a world where you were only allowed go to the toilet when it suited some other controlling creature?

So, I look at little creatures like Lincoln and I admire them for their ferality (I really love my new word).

They may live by their wits and their longevity in life may be determined by factors related to where they are on the food chain. But they live THEIR life. Not mine.

Our ancestors determined thousands of years ago that humans were weak and unable to survive as solitary individuals or small-pack groups. So we learned how to live in larger protected groups (safety in numbers) and our socialization characteristics came from there.

We had to establish rules in order to live together in large groups … rules that were able to protect the weakest among us from the strongest (in theory).

But it is important to understand that this civilization was therefore fashioned from fear and not freedom. Fear is what kept us safe within our caves until we could develop weapons and numbers that helped establish a superiority. Freedom is what the creatures outside the cave experienced.

… just a thought.

Misery loves company

It has been a pretty miserable week, all told. Losing one of my favorite little furry people in the world was very hard to take.

I am not over it and I honestly don’t know that I will.

When I open my heart to someone, I tend to leave it open, long after they are gone.

So, I sat here this morning, in a sulk. Not really ready for my week. And I remembered these few pictures from Lake Parker earlier in the month, that hadn’t seen the light of day.

So, I figured now was as good a time as any.

Losing myself in the images for a few moments, I was able to remember a better moment and even if just for a moment, I felt better.

It had been a chilly start to a spring morning down at the lake and it was interrupted too quickly by arriving boaters for me to consider it a real shoot.

But, interestingly, two of my favorite shots of the collection involved a trailer engaged in shedding its boat into the water. The first of these (pic 3) had the tail lights of the trailer lighting up the near side of dock with a lovely red tone. While the second one looked like a UFO was moving under the waters beneath me (pic 4).

They are here at the end of this blog. Enjoy!

Meanwhile back in my present mode, I have noticed that each time I have shared my sad story with friends or family, there has been a rush to console and reassure me that things will get better.

I think we all do that. So, I am as guilty as anyone.

But the truth is that things oftentimes don’t get better and we have to learn how to cope with that.

If we stand around waiting for them to improve and they don’t, then we add frustration and a sense of disappointment to our hurt and sadness.

Humans developed this “and they lived happily ever after” ending hundreds of years ago. It became a standard phrase to cap off children stories.

Yet, we try to attach the same ending to adult lives, when we know it isn’t true. I don’t know why we do that.

Is it merely because we don’t have something useful to say, so we insert stock phrases like “time will heal” or “it will all work out in the end” or “hang in there, there are good times ahead”.

Phrases of promise can sound wonderful in the moment they are being said but they offer little real remedy. And as time plays out, they inevitably ring out empty, when time fails to heal, it doesn’t actually work out, and the bad times continue.

In reality, these platitudes are little more than a segue, as the speaker looks to escape from the condolence into another topic.

There is another phrase (the one I have used as the heading for this blog) that is truly a better thought in how best to handle these situations.

When we are miserable, there is often a real value in just having someone experience a misery with us. It can reinforce our feelings of sadness and upset and we realize that we are not experiencing this emotion on our own.

Better yet, if their source of misery is different from our own. We get exposed to other miseries and are aware that we are not the only one hurting in the world right now.

In the company of others experiencing misery, we can often find that our own source of misery is even less than theirs and in turn we start to feed on their misery and feel a little better from it.

While the platitudes above try to create a hope within us, a mere condolence does not. It only expresses a pity which in itself can be a soothing lotion on our wounded soul.

It is an interesting coincidence then that the phrase “misery loves company” originated from the 1592 play of Dr. Faustus, where the main character sells his soul to the Devil in return for having all his desires met for a 24 year period.

At the very end of the play, when the devils drag him away to pay his price, the man who had everything now begs for just one more thing … pity.

Spoiler Alert (in case you didn’t know) … he doesn’t get it.

I find it interesting how over the years, human pride has refashioned the word “pity” into something demeaning and therefore something we should avoid.

Yet, pity is actually the experience and expression of sympathy for someone who is going through a bad experience.

It is a totally natural human emotion and in fact is one of the dividing principles that separate some of us from the sociopaths and psychopaths in the world. People who are unable to feel pity.

So, an expression of pity and a recognition of misery is both real and enough. No need to enhance it with meaningless platitudes. We all understand the “hope” angle. But hope is a hollow vessel to those in pain, bringing a promise of change that frankly, almost never happens.

… just a thought.

Fluffy R.I.P.

Life changes sometimes … within a split second a day goes from ordinary to disaster.

Such was yesterday. I was sitting on a phone call with Toria when a man came to the door and told me Fluffy had been run over and was dead.

My world came crashing down and everything just stopped.

All the prior thoughts of the day had vanished and my only thought was how such an awful thing could happen to such a wonderful little guy.

Fluffy was the most beautiful, gentle little soul that ever graced my life and I never imagined for a moment that fate would treat him so cruelly.

I rescued him on my property about six months ago, when some miserable excuse for a human abandoned him and left him to find his own way in the world.

He was clearly a house pet but now found himself living among ferals and relying on his wits to survive.

That he found his way to my yard was lucky for him, but much moreso for me. He brought such an amazing air of unadulterated love and gentleness with him. He quietly took his place among the other cats and never once tried to assert any dominance. At meal times, he was always last to take a dish, as the hungry mouths around him consumed their fancy feasts left, right, and center.

When he got an eye infection a couple months back, Morgan and I were in a routine of applying eye ointment to his eye every few hours day and night and he never once made it difficult for us. Never resisted, never fought against us, and always forgave us immediately it was done.

That he should die at the wheel of a careless moron yesterday morning, speaks volumes to how unjust this world is at times.

Fluffy deserved the world, but instead got fucked by it.

If I am wrong and there turns out to be a god, then I would gladly rip his heart out for the hurt this world piles on so many undeserving souls.

I can make no sense of it and burying Fluffy yesterday afternoon was one of the most soul-destroying moments in a long run of such moments.

I went down to the lake this morning and he briefly returned in the singular cloud formation or at least my mind convinced me so.

I guess we see what we want to see, when it comes to clouds. And I want to see little Fluffy ok and knowing he was greatly loved.

But all I see is clouds and unfortunately like Fluffy, they fade away far too soon.

I will never forget him. RIP Fluffy.


It was three in the morning and all I wanted to do was sleep. But a little black furry guy had other ideas and the increasing intensity of his jumps on me eventually got me into an awake state and my night was over.

I lasted almost an hour begging and pleading with him to let me sleep, but eventually a little before four, I found myself clothed and heading downstairs.

Just outside the front door was Tetsuo who had been out all night (chasing ladies, no doubt), so he was glad to see the door open early and the furless-one-who-feeds-me appear in the doorway.

Similarly, the six in the office/studio also rejoiced as I opened the office door and there was a stampede into the darkness of wild little creatures that seemed to have been locked up for years.

Of course, the wonderful thing about these early morning stampedes is that at the first sound of a dish hitting the floor, the stampede happens in reverse and their cute little faces all look up at me as if they have never even seen food before!

It can’t have been very long after that, that I gathered my camera, a cup of coffee, sat in the car, and headed off to downtown Tampa. Even in the darkness, I could see that the skies were heavily clouded, so the chance of anything sunrise related was remote.

But I was more interested in buildings, shapes, and lights. So on the 30 minute drive into town, I was a happy camper, sipping coffee and thinking thoughts of what to shoot.

I made the Tampa Theatre my initial target and while it is in the first two pics below, it was the wrong time to shoot it. If the under canopy lights had been on, it might have been a cool feature, but frankly, it didn’t work out the way I wanted it to.

But, that was the only part of this early morning adventure that didn’t.

I had a great time wandering around with little or no traffic and several streets to myself. And some of the shots are attached at the end of the blog … hope you enjoy them.

There are a couple of things I want to point out … the reflection of the building top lights in in the passing cloud above (pic 7), and the couple of instances where the traffic lights were caught turning red/green, and then the homeless guy asleep on the sidewalk in pic 6. Richest country in the world … this should never happen.

There was another homeless guy that followed me and rode by me three times on his bicycle and I could feel his eyes on my equipment (keep it clean!) and realized there was a possible danger point here. I stared him down hard on his third pass and puffed out my chest. And thankfully that was the last time I saw him.

But it was that incident that stuck, along with the other guy who looked seriously stoned and when I answered that I didn’t have any cash, wanted to know if I had a card. I thought fleetingly about giving it to him along with my PIN, but I wasn’t really in the giving mood this morning. I mean, seriously; homeless dudes with the ability to process cards … what is this world coming to!

Driving home I was thinking about the good and bad of this morning’s adventure. A quiet downtown really presented me with the chance to explore some city-scapes without having to battle traffic. Several times, I was standing in the middle of the street to get the shot I wanted. But there was definitely a danger element to where I was and some of the people that were there also. I resigned myself to next time, I will have my Glock with me, but it saddened me that this thought even entered my head.

But standing there with almost $3K worth of equipment among dudes that might value my life to be questionable even at the $20 level … well, that’s a bit of a risk, in truth.

I am definitely safer in the company of alligators. Despite what my kids think.

And so the whole aspect of decency/honesty/truthworthiness as traits within living creatures, is what played out in my head while I was driving home.

Right or wrong, I see no malice in non-human animals. There seems to be very little agenda at play in the natural kingdom. The guys with big sharp teeth might want to eat you, but they won’t rob you. And if they do kill you, it is for food, not in malice.

No, malice and subterfuge are distinct traits of us humans and I suspect that these evolved along with our brains when we crawled out of the ponds.

Truth is a concept that we like to elevate and make out how important it is to all of us. Yet, none of us are completely truthful. Everyone has a darkness within them, big or small. It might be controlled or dominant, but it is nonetheless there.

Young couples professing their undying love to each other willingly promise to always tell the truth and build their “forever” relationship on honesty and trustworthiness.

Even in the bible, if you believe it, Jesus says “let he who is without sin, cast the first stone” … confident in the fact that no human is without a darkness.

I love getting lost among animals. I don’t have to wonder if the possum on the bicycle is about to mug me and run off with my camera, or if the raccoon asking for my card is going to pull a knife on me and force me to give them my PIN.

I recall how growing up in a catholic school system i was taught that only humans have souls, animals do not. Hence only humans can go to heaven.

The argument of being created in the likeness of a god is bestowed on humanity, ensuring that we see humans as being somewhat elevated above the rest of the animal kingdom.

Yet humanity is the home of lies, murder, robbery, and almost every negative trait you could think of. If that is what having a soul means, then the joke is on us.

I choose to believe that all creatures are part of the world we live in. An equal part. None are better than others and none are worse.

Oh wait, I forgot humans and their soul shit … they are worse.

… just a thought.

Hanging on to things

A prospective client the other day asked me to send him samples of work that would show the detailed aspect of what I could capture. There are some precision mechanical parts that need to be shot.

All of a sudden yesterday (two days later) I remembered his request and realized I hadn’t sent anything.

So, I furtively looked around for anything small in my office that I could quickly (and hopefully clearly) shoot for him and not have him wait any longer.

I found a coin, a glasses screwdriver and tiny screw and while looking I came across my old iPhone. The one that broke a few weeks ago.

It still had power and in the action to power it down, I had to swipe left to right and in so doing, I got stuck with a small shard of glass into my finger from the broken screen.

Smart, huh? A dog with a mallet up his ass could have foreseen that one!

While it hurt a little (getting it out), it didn’t kill me. And hopefully I learned a lesson in the process.

But it did raise the question “Why on earth was I holding on to this phone?”

Things that could potentially have future use, I hang on to. I got that trait from my Dad, whose garage was full of nuts, washers, strange bits of metal, and such. But in all seriousness, what future use could this broken phone possibly have?

Anyway, as I carefully put it back into my desk drawer for some possible future use (no lesson learned, apparently), I began to think about the whole aspect of why we sometimes seem to hang onto things that hurt.

A lot of life is about hurt. Hurt done to us or hurt we do to someone else. So, a lot of our actions and path through life is about navigating past these hurts and moving ourselves onto greener pastures.

Most hurt is singular and gives us an emotional or physical hit that lasts a short period of time. Other hurt is more long lasting and even leaves scars that could be lifelong.

Therapists make a living among such hurts and sometimes they help us put a band-aid on it or even find a cream that heals it and lets us move forward.

In the absence of therapy, we often develop a mechanism that involves taking the hurt, putting it in a box and closing the lid on it. Never more to think about it.

But then there are those of us who occasionally open the lid and allow the hurt out and we are in pain all over again.

Why do we do that? Is it a case of we want ourselves to be hurt? Or do we open the lid, hoping that it has magically turned to dust inside, no longer with the ability to cause pain?

Whatever the reason, it does raise a question mark over the whole locking it away but somehow still hanging onto it!

Surely the right thing to do in situations where we really can’t resolve the pain in that instant, is to actually tackle the hurt, stab it in the heart, and then cremate it.

I’ve been around people who have come through remarkable hurt and yes, even those that carried horrible scars and always would.

Those who survived, mostly did so through therapy and the helpful support of family or friends.

I have also witnessed the cremation route and seen the success that such an aggressive act can achieve.

But whichever route we take, it is really important that we deal with our hurts and not have them lie in wait for us when we least expect it.

They can unravel our lives and do much more damage than a simple shard of glass in a finger.

… just a thought.

Love recalled

It was a gorgeous start to the day and where else would you expect to find me but down lakeside. I couldn’t resist.

The way my schedule has evolved is that there is a chunk of time between having taken care of all the cats first thing in the morning and the eight o’clock moment where my energies need to begin to switch in favor of work.

It is a time of indulgence and it normally lasts a couple of hours or so, with all the early chores completed around 5:30 or 5:45. And with the lake only a 15 or 20 minute drive away, It has become a natural spot to enjoy my first coffee of the day.

I never travel without camera, so it also becomes my first opportunity to shoot something, hence these wildly repetitive scenes. Sorry.

Most of the differences from one shoot to the next come from whatever the sky is up to … not me.

But I put myself into a couple of the shots, enjoying my coffee and staring off at the warming horizon.

I’ve attached a few at the end of this blog and I hope you enjoy!

Man (me included) is a social animal, but some of my most enjoyable moments occur when I am alone. I don’t fear being alone and I rarely equate any such moment with loneliness.

Truth is, sometimes we are loneliest when in the company of others. So the presence of company isn’t any sort of guarantee against it.

Since I destroyed my marriage a number of years back, I have had numerous people urge me to find someone and worried about me ending up “dying alone”.

But dying alone is what happens to almost all of us anyway. Dying is a very personal experience. And however that experience feels for you, you take it with you. There is no real sharing of that experience.

Knowing you are loved or once were loved … now that is a different thing and I acknowledge that. But a present love, right at the point of your death, has no real relevance beyond perhaps adding a worry as to how your loved ones are going to feel when you are gone.

There is a horribly misguided dream that some people sell in that regards … the notion of finding a partner, falling in love, growing old together, and then dying in their arms.

For at least half the people who grow old together, that is simply a fairytale as only the first to go experiences the company at death. The longer living partner gets to die on their own, accompanied only by the memory of their lost love.

My mom spent the last few years of her life living mostly alone after a marriage of 60 odd years. So how did that dream play out for her?

I strongly suspect it was the memories of my dad that she took with her at death and of their wonderful life together.

The fact that it was a past love was irrelevant. I only use the word “past” to describe that he was no longer present. Because in truth, she never stopped loving him.

Nor will I. Either of them.

So the wonderful thing about the effects of love is that it can leave an indelible mark on your soul. One that stays with you until the end of your own days, if you let it.

As I stood there on the end of the pier, coffee in hand, that is what I was thinking of. The loves of my life. The ones that are no longer with me, except in velvet corners of my heart

And so that is really the thought I am trying to convey in this morning’s blog.

The greatest love in our life exists not in what someone is giving us, but in what we are retaining within our heart. It may be present. It may be past. It may have been sustained. It may have been fleeting.

It doesn’t matter how it was given. It matters how we encase it with our memories attached and can draw from it when we need it most.

You might find yourself standing on the edge of a pier feeling aggrieved at what life is doing to you at this moment. You might be feeling sad, depressed, or simply melancholy.

But when you are able to look beyond the horizon and into your own heart and recover the memories of love, then you are no longer alone. They are with you at the end of the pier.

They never left you. They were always there. Just waiting for you to recall them.

… just a thought.

Low lying fog

I wasn’t really going to go anywhere this morning. Had a rough night (sleep-wise) and was moving later than normal.

But as I stood there in the yard, having fed the last of the babies and emptied the last of the litter trays, I stopped. I looked up at the yet-dark skies and breathed in.

The air was fresh and sweet, courtesy of a significant storm that blew through yesterday evening. My yard and the driveway were strewn with nature’s litter; bit of branches, twigs, and leaves everywhere. In sections and in particular in this darkness, you couldn’t make out where the driveway was versus the yard.

People more industrious than I would immediately begin to plan the clean up; restoring their yard to a chaos-free appearance. But me, I went in, grabbed my camera and coffee and left it all behind me.

There is nothing like turning your back on things, particularly when you already feel that life is over-burdening you.

So, passing no apology to anyone and offering an “I’ll be back” to the furry faces looking up at me as I hopped into the car, I found myself pulling off the driveway and heading down the road to the ball fields.

Being this close to twilight, there was no opportunity for me to make it anywhere else in time to catch the sky, in all honesty. So this wasn’t so much a “wouldn’t it be wonderful to shoot the ball-fields” moment as a realization that I needed to get somewhere quickly.

As I pulled off Walker Road (after less than a two minute drive) I spotted that there was a swathe of low lying fog on the ball fields that created a magical effect with the always-on floodlights.

I hate that they always leave those lights on for many reasons, but this morning I momentarily forgave them.

The mosquitoes were savages and the time to catch color in the skies was short, but I managed to get a few images worth sharing and they are here at the end of the blog. Hope you like them.

On the short drive home again I mused over how magical a little fog can make a scene. It can take a very mundane view and add an element of mystique to it. This morning had that and the lights adding the broad glow to the fog’s vapors made it all so picturesque.

The funny thing is the fog had evaporated within about ten or fifteen minutes. It was merely a moment in transit and those arriving at the ball fields for a Sunday tournament, as I was leaving, hadn’t a notion that it had even existed.

So, there we were different people, at the same place and almost the same time, but having wildly different experiences to report on.

To all intents and purposes, the fog was here one moment and gone the next. And that is the chord that struck within my mind that leads to this blog thought.

I have often commented before on how the colors in the sky rapidly change at sunrise and so their transience has to be treasured when you get them. But these color shifts happen often during sunrises.

The fog was something that I might not witness again for a year or more so it highlights an element that is more rare and therefore more precious.

And this is the thing about life … we encounter some things along life’s path that are precious and are indeed there just for a moment and gone the next.

Making the most of them and appreciating them while we have them, is crucial to our life’s experience. It is pointless only mourning them when they are gone. Seeing value in something only when you don’t have it, is quite frankly, pathetic.

Along my life’s path, I grieve the loss of my parents and others who have been dear to my heart but no longer here. But, I can reflect on each of these and remember moments with them where we shared life together, shared love, and rode life’s coat-tails as best we could.

None of this reduced the grieving for the loss, but it solidifies the preciousness that they were in my life.

Life is very much a tapestry woven with many elements and full of twists and turns. Our shared path through it, with someone we love, is only a part of the fabric that eventually has captured our complete life.

Their life may take them on a different thread the very next day, or yours might. So, living the moment with them is super-important and something worth breathing in.

Today … this moment in time, is our only guarantee with them. They may be gone tomorrow. Or we may be. Who knows.

So take a moment. This moment, right now. Look around at the beauty that is in your life and breathe it in. If there is someone to be hugged, hug them.

This may be a beautiful moment that unbeknownst to us is on the verge of evaporating with the rising sun. Treasure it.

… just a thought.

Climbing fences

It was seriously dark.

I got to the causeway across Tampa Bay a little more than an hour before sunrise and it was dark.

When you know the area well, darkness is a limiter but not an inhibitor but when you are desperately unfamiliar with where you are, your visual leads are important. And I had none.

I drove across the causeway twice, looking for access to the side beach areas that I knew existed somewhere. But any time I tried to exit to one, there were locked barriers across the exits and I was forced onwards.

On occasion, I have passed by these areas heading to and from Clearwater and seen a wealth of cars and people frolicking on the white sands either side of the causeway.

But in the dark everything looked different and I couldn’t understand why each exit I took was blocked.

It was only my second time across that I noticed that there were signs on one of the barriers saying it was open from 6am to 9pm and I groaned. It wasn’t a big groan because it was 5:50 am when I sat in the car beside the sign and it wouldn’t be long now.

The techie in me imagined that there were timers controlling the gates, but when six o’clock came and went and nothing happened, I realized I was waiting on a person.

It was still dark at 6:10 but I was becoming agitated and aware that the skies would begin their brightening and I would lose what I was trying to shoot.

So, I maneuvered my car off to the side of the exit, grabbed the camera and climbed over the guard rail separating the road from the narrow beach area.

I was in the middle of my first one or two attempts at shots when a police car pulled in around 6:15 and after he determined I was an old white guy with a camera, he muttered something inaudible and returned to open the barrier.

I waited a few minutes for him to leave, rattled off another couple of attempts and then headed to the other access points on the assumption that he would be going from point to point opening them all.

I was wrong, by the way. He only opened one more because he was Clearwater Police and I am guessing the ones on the other side were Tampa Police but the Krispy Kreme sign must have been glowing because none of these were opened.

And so I did what I could and climbed what barriers I could in order to take the shots I got. But the truth is, I was rattled and out of balance and the sun was brightening the wrong part of the sky for me to consider any of these real vantage points.

I attached what I got at the end of this blog but the reality is, the camera was back in the car and I was on my way home, long begore the skies did anything interesting.

I hope you enjoy them and one small footnote by the way. I have no idea what the strange line in the dark sky on picture one is all about. I only noticed that when I got home.

So as I drove home annoyed and frustrated at the lack of solid advance planning that I did, I was thinking about the barriers that were in place and why they were there. They are obviously concerned about illegal or delinquent activities that might take place overnight, so this is their way of deterring such folks.

But the truth is, folks with a will to, could climb the barriers just as I did or find obscure entrances that are unknown to more ignorant folk like me. So, really the main deterrence in place with these barriers was keeping honest-folk like me from being there at irregular hours.

OK OK, I used the word “honest” quite liberally there in describing folks like me, but you get the point.

And I was proud of myself for scaling the barriers even though it didn’t really materialize in prize-winning shots. It wasn’t about the end result, it was about the trying. And these barriers were determined to stop me from even trying.

The miles home saw my mind run with that thought … barriers, gates, ceilings, and fences …. things that are placed in our path in life to try to control our actions.

I don’t know what the real percentage is, but I imagine 99% of people obey these barriers and go meekly through life obeying all the rules and staying between the lines.

When there isn’t a “fence” a much greater percentage become rule-breakers. For example, well over half the people on the highway speed above the limit. Yet, when a police car (a.k.a, “fence”) is in one of the lanes, all of a sudden everyone is driving the limit.

A certain percentage of driver don’t come to a full stop at a stop sign, but when a police car is behind them, they make a perfect full stop. Red lights operating at intersections are normally treated indifferently, until a camera is put in place and everyone starts to see red.

Law enforcement is not the only fence that we experience. Many people of color dutifully sat in the back of the bus until one day some old lady didn’t.

And when they said land-ownership, color of skin, or type of genitalia, was the defining factor in whether you were allowed vote … well that fence had to be dismantled so that folks could move forward on the path.

You see, life is full of people telling you what you can and can’t do, where you can and can’t go, and when you can and when you can’t move.

And dutifully most folk obey.

But before we obey something, we should be clear that we agree with it. If not we should fight it, change it, and climb it.

Change only comes from the folks that climb the fences. Not the folks that obey them. And most certainly not the folks that build them.

… just a thought.

Good Day

Coffee in hand, I headed off to the lake. Foregoing breakfast and having all the cats taken care of, I felt it was going to be a good start to the day and I didn’t want to miss a moment.

I got to the lake about an hour before sun rise, so it was still very dark.

The air was fresh and clear, the mosquitoes were still sleeping, and the coffee was a perfect companion as I watched the horizon trying to define itself.

I just stood there for a moment and said “hi” to the morning. and it said “hi” back.

I set the shutter speed to 30 seconds and then I walked out onto the pier and just watched as my eyes became more accustomed to the darkness. My ears picked up the distant sounds of traffic a mile or two away on the south side of the lake and it quickly became drowned out by the sounds of waking birds.

I genuinely don’t think there is a better way to enjoy a cup of coffee. It is almost like coffee was invented for moments such as this.

As I stepped back behind the lens, the sky became defined and the colors began to slowly wash in, filling out the tapestry of the early morning’s story.

I have attached some images below that show the progression from darkness to light and how the entire palette of colors was pulled from in order to help define this new day.

Hope you enjoy.

As I drove back home I felt happy. Happy for the first time in days. And I made myself acknowledge that I was happy.

Because too often we only acknowledge the sad feelings and give no voice to the happy.

Part of the reason for this is that some of us take solace from the pity and so we feel we have to voice the sadness so that others will witness it and give us the pity and consolation that we need in order to restore.

The other part of the reason is that the moment we feel happy, we take the feeling for granted and so it becomes a non-issue.

It is kind of like pain. The moments we are in pain, we feel them and they become a huge factor in our existence. We medicate for them, we tell others of the pain, we might even seek remedy at the doctors.

But when we are in no pain, there is no such action. We don’t call up the doctor’s office and say “I feel fine today.”

No, the absence of pain is very similar to the absence of sadness and they are both very much taken for granted.

With respect to happiness and sadness, there is also a very large middle-ground where we are neither. And I think a lot of our time is spent in this unfeeling state.

Which is really unfortunate, because our lives would be more complete if we could shift the norm into where most of our time was spent in a state of happiness.

The absence of happiness is not sadness. It is merely nothing.

Yet, the absence of sadness can and should be happiness.

We should remind ourselves that we are not sad and turn it into a source of happiness. But first we need to acknowledge the change of state.

Acknowledge that we aren’t sad. Not just take it for granted.

So, today, if you aren’t sad, acknowledge it. Grab a coffee, breathe in the day, and tell yourself that this is a good day.

Because, frankly, that is the first step in making it one.

… just a thought!

Secret Muse

When my scheduled Friday experimental shoot with Jax got cancelled, I sat there at a loss for a while and wondered what to do. I had been looking forward to my Friday evening up to that point and suddenly now I stared into an emptiness.

It was a gorgeous day outside, albeit a little chilly for Florida, so I was very reluctant to just let it go to waste and sit down to a movie or something.

Morgan agreed to take over the evening cat duties and I grabbed a couple of cameras and headed to Cypress Point on Tampa Bay. It’s about an hour drive on a Friday evening at this time, but I didn’t mind. The skies looked promising and stunningly clear blue stretched in all directions.

The sun was still pretty high in the sky as I got there, and so I relaxed with a milk shake for a few moments before heading onto the beach.

I had brought my A7 with the 11mm lens attached to it and I also brought my A77 with the 300mm lens on it; so I was ready for both wide and zoom shots as the situation arose.

The A77 is the crop sensor and now that I have the full frame A7, it has barely seen the light of day. It does take a great picture, but my bias has already shifted to the exceptional clarity of the A7. But as you’ll see in the eventual images below, it does take a pretty good shot and deserves its place in my arsenal.

I wandered along the beach waiting for the sun to to drop, passing by people with cameras, children in the water, pretty ladies sun bathing, and studly guys sucking it in for all they were worth.

I had the A7 on a tripod and the A77 in my hand. So I looked every bit the professional. Someone commented to me as I was taking a shot in zoom about what a fabulous camera I had and after I thanked him, I smiled on the inside with the knowledge that the one on the tripod was worth twice as much.

Zoom lenses certainly impress people … size matters. Actually I recalled the last time at Circle B when I went out with the 500mm and the number of people that made wonderful comments to me about my set up. Yet, for the life of me, I cannot get a decent shot with that lens. But hey, if I am ever just going out to impress the ladies, I will be wiping the dust off that big boy.

Anyway, last night at Cypress Point, I found myself taking a lot of people shots with the zoom. There is a wonderful anonymity of stealing a shot from someone when they don’t know. I know that sounds a bit paparazzi-like, but the real advantage is that you are shooting people doing totally casual things. Not a pose in sight.

I must admit though that in many instances I felt like a creep. There are several tutorials on YouTube about shooting in public like that and how to discipline yourself past the “creep” factor. But, so far I haven’t been able to master that one.

There was one young lady in particular that caught the attention of my lens and I took a lot of shots of her, using her as a prop against the falling sun. She was certainly very pretty but it was her demeanor that really caught my attention camera-wise. She seemed pensive. She was alone and just staring off into the sun and I imagined a sadness on her, right or wrong.

Most of the shots of her were taken from behind as it gave me the chance to try to outline her head and face with the rays of the sun. That and the sun glasses perched atop her head, gave me lots to work with.

Anyway I have added some of these, along with some neat shots from the wider lensed A7, here at the end of the blog. I hope you enjoy.

In retrospect, I was annoyed at myself as I drove home for not having approached her and offered to email her some of what I got. I felt she would probably like them.

But a combination of my own insecurity and the possibility of freaking her out to where she felt she was being stalked, stopped me from doing so. I think if she was with someone, I would probably have made the approach but it wasn’t to be.

As I drove home, my mind wandered on to how she had unwittingly become my muse for the evening. Her posture, her solitariness, her profile, and even her glasses … they all worked together to give me idea after idea.

And I had a blast.

So I began to think about incidental paths that occasionally cross and how they can affect others without us even knowing. She had certainly spun mine in a positive direction, whereas I had no impact on her experience at all.

Humans are a highly social animal and one-sided interactions such as this, can be fully absorbed by one person and become one of their life’s experiences.

It is why people can develop a crush on someone without that other person ever knowing. It is why we can cause offense to someone without ever targeting them. And it is why we can unknowingly put off a vibe to someone that makes them think we have no time for them or even dislike them.

Many of these conditions are experienced in one-sided exchanges and the impact can not just be significant but it can be life-altering.

I remember twenty years after university meeting a lady again for the first time since, where she confessed to me that she waited for me to make the first move those years ago, but I never did.

For my part, I hadn’t the slightest inkling of her interest and harbored a secret crush of my own on her. And so both of us left our words unspoken and time took us on separate journeys.

I also had the experience of someone coming up to me a number of years back telling me how a simple conversation of mine had transformed their life and made them abandon a destructive path they were on and they had now found their calling. Yet, for the life of me I can’t even recall what I said.

So, saying something or not saying something, can have equally profound ripples in the lives of others.

(Now that I have written those words, I am more annoyed at my silence last night.)

In any event, the point that I am really trying to make with this blog is that everything we do (or don’t do) in life has an effect on others. While we cannot obviously be on top of each and every interaction that we have, being a bull in a china shop is also not the right approach.

We humans don’t function well in solitary mode. It is why solitary confinement is one of the most egregious punishments we inflict on prisoners.

As John McCain wrote “the most important thing for survival is communication with someone, even if it’s only a wave or a wink, or to have a guy put his thumb up. It makes all the difference”. Note how he doesn’t refer to words expressed!

We need to understand that we communicate to those we come into contact with in many other ways besides words. And when we communicate to people it can create a change in their life’s path or even our own.

So being conscious of smiling or frowning at people is an important step in self-awareness.

Many of us carry perpetual frowns from whatever stresses are going on around us and then these are read by others as anger, unapproachability, or upset. And they leave us alone because of what we have inadvertently communicated.

At the same time we can’t go around smiling at everyone all the time. Apart from the possibility that the men in white coats will come along and lock you up, there is also the possibility that some weird old guy with a camera will hit you up for your email address.

It is all about balance.

… just a thought!