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.


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!


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.


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.


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.

Bully for you.

From the early morning temperature and clear blue skies, I knew it was going to be a perfect fall day in Tampa Bay.

I got to the trails at Circle B a little after seven and so the sun was fully risen by that time. I was only the third of fourth car in the parking lot, so whatever trail I went on, I knew I was likely to have it mostly to myself. So, I chose the trail that would take me down by Lake Hancock and it was a good choice.

The half mile walk to where you first encountered the lake takes you through some wonderful live oak woods and then the trail suddenly bursts out into the open of tall grasses and interesting plants and bushes.

This time of the morning and with the temperature as it was, it was like stepping into a silver wonderland. Everything was glistening in dew and I was startled at the number of webs that were there, each one laden in dew and not likely to catch anything for their creators until the sun dried things off.

When I got to the little pier part way down the lake, there was a guy there ahead of me and he pointed out what was happening some distance out over the water. Eagles were chasing an Osprey and harassing her until she dropped the fish. He said this was the third one he had seen this morning and while I was there, there was even another one after that.

There was a parent eagle teaching his/her offspring the art of bullying and though it took place about 2,000 feet off shore, I was able to get some sort of pics to share with my big lens. Forgive the quality of those ones, I was just happy to get something.

There is a decent overall selection of shots at the end of the blog … hope you get to enjoy them.

I was rooting for the Ospreys of course, but the eagles were too many, too big, and too fast and the poor little guys had no alternatives but to dump the fish and run for their lives.

The more I watched, the more annoyed I became. In all honesty bullying of any sort is a character flaw in my books, so to witness it being taught like this was upsetting.

I have seen Osprey adults teaching their kids to fish on many occasion and it was been a joy to watch. I can’t understand why eagles feel that teaching their offspring to bully rather than catch their own fish, is something worth teaching.

Of course, here in America I am somewhat in a minority. Much of the culture embraces bullying and often glorifies it. It is why we have to have an armed forces budget larger than the next fifteen countries combined, why we sanction governments in countries that we don’t agree with, and why we support similar regimes in regions like the middle east even though we know they are the aggressors.

Our schools are rife with bullying, our colleges employ hazing, and our businesses use the threat of being fired in order to maximize profits for the wealthy at the expense of the poor.

Our sports such as football and hockey are infused with violence and intimidation and our games identify opponents as the enemy so that we can not just beat them, but destroy and annihilate them. Is it any wonder that high school last week in CA thought it was OK to beat their opponents 106-0 in a football game?

We even elected one of the most pathetic imbeciles to be our president a few years ago. And if you listen to his supporters, they love him because he is a bully. They respond fully to the hate and rage that spits from his dotard mind and they feel right to do so.

These are the folk that identify with Biff in the Back to the Future movies. Do they not realize that he ultimately becomes the joke?

At the end of the day, all bullying fails. Bullies only win for a while and ultimately they get called out for what they are. Therefore it becomes a very short-sighted view on going through life.

Eagles, throughout the world, have rarely thrived. In many ways their success is hampered, but it doesn’t help that they teach their kids to bully rather than to fish.

Osprey, on the other hand thrive.

Perhaps it is apt that America adopted the eagle as its national emblem in 1782. We and they seem to share a common path trough life.

Except for the fact that America enacted protection for the eagle as an endangered species, they would probably be gone by now. And would they be missed?

Perhaps by the nationalists and politicians, but to the rest of us, they would likely just fall into storybooks like unicorns and the dodo bird.

I suspect the natural world wouldn’t miss them to any great degree. Their size and nature allows them to bully and in effect become a parasite on the lives of those that work to catch their own fish.

And therein lies my point. Just as the Osprey have to tolerate the eagles, they would not shed a single tear should they ever fall.

Similarly, those peoples that tolerate the bullying we get away with now … they too will not shed a tear when we fall.

Empires rise and fall over the course of time. History books are littered with peoples that thought their empire would live forever.

The true path to life involves coexisting, not bullying. Accepting that others don’t necessarily see things the same way you do. And finding a way to live in harmony through compromise.

… just a thought.

Same Bat Channel, Same Bat Time

The day before yesterday’s twilight was a soft start to the day.

It became a day 1 moment in a 3 day project. I decided that if indeed I were to still be alive, I would try to get to Lake Parker at the same time each morning, to see how similiar each day would begin.

On this, the fist day, I arrived before the gate was opened for the little ramp at Lake Parker, so I just drove further down the lake and sat in the darkness.

There was only the occasional passing of a car so most of the time there was just quiet. A few chirps of wakening birds and an occasional splash of nearby fish.

I was lost in thought for a while and didn’t even take any pictures. In truth, there was nothing to take pictures of. Some nearby lights killed the possibility of any long exposure shots, so I just quietly waited until a time I felt the gates at the north end of the lake might open.

When I did drive back to the gate, it was just opening and I drove inside and parked.

I was the only person there … thankfully no boaters or joggers. Just me and whatever creature might be watching me from the dark shadows.

My first coffee was long since gone, so there was nothing else to do but take pictures. As the twilight colors began to come alive on the horizon, I would also occasionally pause and just stare off into the semi-darkness.

Once or twice a lone osprey would fly by and catch my attention, but in general my mind just blended in with the wakening colors.

Hope you like the little set at the end of the blog.

Day 2: There was serious cloud yesterday which made me rethink whether this project was worthwhile doing, but I decided to stick with it as in the end, it would probably prove my point anyway.

The clouds were all-encompassing, but I took a few pics anyway and have them at the end of the blog.

Day 3: This third day, the morning was greeted with seriously dense fog. Driving to the lake, there were moments I couldn’t see more than 50 yards in front of the car. And then, as if to make a liar of me, I arrived at the lake to find not a hint of fog. Go figure!

There was even some good coloring happening on the horizon as the cloud bank failed to totally smother the twilight. A few more pics taken, then. Also at the end of the blog.

So, there you go … same place, same time, three different days.

And that is what got me thinking about this blog today.

It is difficult sometimes to take stock of where we are in life as stresses and issues seem to take control of our days when we least expect it.

Oftentimes we bemoan times that have past inasmuch as we wish we could go back to a simpler time and place. We crave a feeling or a sense of balance that we may have found once and wish for it again.

But like these three mornings, there is no going back. Regardless of the fantasies of time travel, it only moves in one direction and we move with it.

You can do as I just did; head back to the same spot at the same time, but the simple truth is that it won’t be there. Something will have changed. It might be the place. It might be the people. It might be you.

Yet we all occasionally look back to when times were simpler and full of smiles. Or at least that is what we imagine them to be.

The reality is that we only perceived them to be that way. We have banished the bad thoughts and only counted the smiles when someone called out “smile for the camera”.

We create these delusions and then long for them. And when we do that, we decrease the happiness we feel today.

Yesterday may have been key in getting us to where we are today, but the moment you woke up today, yesterday has no real value. It is in the past and has to stay there.

You can’t rewrite what happened or what was said. Nor can you redo what has already been done.

So we live our lives in the present and harbor hopes for the future. But the past is irrelevant.

I don’t mean irrelevant as in we begin with a clean slate. It is very relevant in how we got to where we are. But it has no relevance in how we will get to where we are going. That’s what today is all about.

… just a thought!

25th Hour

This whole 24/7 sounds well and good until all of a sudden we are presented with a day like today where fate hands us a 25th hour.

It only does this once a year, so when we are all of a sudden gifted this 25th hour, what do we do?

Lots of us sleep in, which effectively let’s the extra time pass us by in exchange for some extra dream-time. Others stay up late the night before, partying into the late hours and confident of not having to miss sleep because of it.

But me, I looked at it last night and decided I needed to do something constructive with it. You see, the cats would just think I had slept it in if all of a sudden I arrived late to feed them or let them out. Their iPhones don’t automatically correct the clock for them and I have failed in past efforts to explain daylight savings time to them.

So, letting their day start at four instead of five was only the humane thing to do.

With a clear sky and a cool morning to play with, I decided to go somewhere I had never been before. There is a rest stop on the St Pete side of the Skyway Bridge and that is where I set off to before five this morning.

Being on the interstate at five on a Sunday morning is a wonderful experience. You get to drive them in the manner they were built for; cruising at speed, with scarcely another sinner on the road to make you even have to change lanes.

So, the drive there took less than an hour and as I pulled in, I was faced with the immediate dilemma of where do I go to shoot. You see, the bridge goes (loosely) west to east across the southern part of Tampa Bay, so without being there before, I had no idea which side of the bridge I would need to be on in order to catch the twilight skies.

I guessed wrong initially and had to get back in the car to cross to the north side and that is where I found a little spot. You aren’t supposed to park there, but I figured that this time on a Sunday morning, any police handing our parking violations might be inclined to cut me a break.

I even put on a yellow reflective vest so that they would see me not too far away from the car and not assumed it was just abandoned. I also figured, in the off chance that I slipped and floated out to sea, the yellow jacket might help them find my floating body, if the sharks hadn’t eaten me first.

I left the car and climbed across some seaweed strewn rocks to get onto a tiny sliver of sand that had been exposed by the retreating tide. It is a bit dodgy, in truth, because I couldn’t see what I was stepping on and memories of the Ballast Point disaster haunted my every step.

But I made it and found myself standing on very wet sand and remnants of the tide still threatening to make it over the protection of my shoes. I had a definite sinking feeling though, each time the water came back in around my feet but thankfully, they stayed dry and I survived the adventure.

I have attached a few pictures at the end of the blog. The Skyway Bridge is that colored object to the right on most of the pics. Hope you enjoy!

As I drove home, I wasn’t particularly pleased with the images I got, but I was very pleased with myself for having found a purpose for this extra hour.

You see, I oftentimes go through life moaning about how I never seem to have enough time in my day for all I need to do. So, it was important for me to recognize when I was presented with such a gift and use it wisely.

And therein sprung the thought for this blog. Most of us are very quick to recognize when something is wrong and if you are like me, you moan about it.

Human beings like to moan and that is ok. It gives us a level of release when we are unhappy or frustrated and when we get sympathy for the moan it helps assuage the negative feeling that we are dealing with.

Some of us like to moan a bit more than others and as long as we don’t over-tax our listeners, that is OK. It is important to show a little restraint though, when life is beating us up a bit too much. Moaning too much will cause us to lose listeners and that becomes a real spiral to disaster … the fewer listeners to our moans, the more we end up moaning to them. So it can rapidly descend to where we have no-one to moan to but ourselves.

But, beyond the listener issue, the most important thing in this regard is to also recognize when the cause of your moan has gone away. When you finally get a good night sleep, or your back pain has eased off, or that sore throat is now better … tell yourself so. Don’t just let this good moment evaporate and not be remembered.

Memories cannot be just the bad moments, or times when things are not so great. Because then when we look back on our time, we only remember the struggles. And that can be very defeating.

Sometimes moments where bad things aren’t present have to be acknowledged as good moments. Yes, it is just a mind game, but our mind is exactly where our sense of happiness springs from.

… just a thought.

Friend or Foe

Yesterday morning’s rain didn’t dampen my hopes for getting out with the camera. In fact, I could see from the weather app that we were in for about 36 hours of rain, so I decided to try to use it to my advantage.

When I left home, my intention was to get to downtown Tampa but when I got to the end of my road, I turned left instead of right and went to downtown Lakeland.

Downtown Lakeland is much less urban than Tampa and to me it feels like a very non-descript little town. But it has streets which would be wet in the rain and on a weekday morning it might have a little traffic that I can use. Hell, it even has a railway line crossing the road … my god, what else could I ask for?

No, but seriously, I have shot long exposure within the tall buildings of the Tampa streets so I figured it might make a change to work within the confines of smaller buildings and wider roads.

The only real negative that I experienced was the fact that it was still raining and that meant the lens was going to get wet. And it did, continually. So I spent a lot of my time down there wiping the lens. By the time I was finished, the lens cloth was soaked and offered no further use in drying the lens, so frankly, that is how I decided when the shoot was over.

It was still a fun little adventure though and I was glad I went. The warm-burning street lights cast a lovely amber glow across each shot and the wet streets gave me the kind of light reflections I was hoping for.

I wandered a block or two east from where I parked and came across a fountain that gave a lovely misty effect when shot at a four second exposure and there were come cool light streaks happening in some of the surrounding trees that added an unusual effect in the darkness.

I hope you enjoy. My favorite (by far) is the very last shot. I set up beside a bus and a pickup truck that were waiting at a red light and when the light turned green, I clicked the shutter and let it expose again for about four seconds. I love the end effect.

My thought for today’s blog didn’t materialize until I got home though. You see, I had deliberately left the door to the office ajar so that the cats were neither locked in or out in the rain while I was gone. I know I took a gamble with potential pilferers, but I decided their comfort was more important to me than anything in there that could have been stolen.

I also imagined that it might let any of the wild-life creatures in, should they want to eat from the cat food dishes inside and sure enough, when I got back, there was a lovely little possum munching happily away.

The cats didn’t mind. There were two or three around him and they all seem to get along. I’ve noticed the same about the raccoons that come by too. They and the cats seem totally comfortable that they share a space without incident.

When the possum saw me, he immediately left though. Apparently I don’t have the furry charm of a cat. And that is what got me thinking.

He obviously decided “foe” in the friend or foe question and with our difference in sizes, he made what he felt was the best decision for his well-being, and left.

It upset me (on a tiny level) as I try hard to present myself as a friend to all creatures … particularly the wild ones. My Dr. Doolittle impression obviously fails as even though I try talking to all of them, it rarely reassures. But I keep trying anyway.

Over time, I have made a little bit of progress with some possums, raccoons, and birds, but nothing that will line me up for the main role in the next remake of that movie. But even a moderate amount of progress feels good on my end and hopefully reassures them on their end that this strange old man means no harm.

This friend or foe decision for creatures is very much a life-level decision and so I completely understand their reluctance to give me a benefit of the doubt.

But we humans also make many friend or foe decisions that have much less personal danger involved and that is the road my thoughts began to take.

You see, we continually try to determine or characterize things as good or bad, black or white, right or wrong, when 99% of everything we encounter is not an “either or” situation.

You would think by now, we would understand that everything in our lives is merely a shade of grey and not absolute in any direction. The notion of pure good or pure evil is a religious concept that has spilled over into how we view so much of what happens around us. The battle of god vs devil is a fantasy story that shapes our mind into thinking that anything that contradicts our notion of a god must therefore be something evil.

And we carry that characterization into everything we encounter.

When armies go to war, everyone believes they have god on their side, so therefore the opposition must be evil. This characterization allows us to hate …. the evil nazis, the evil confederacy, the evil brits, the evil gooks … whoever loses was the evil one.

As Hitler once said “history is written by the victors” and in so writing it, we assume that the good guys always win. But there are no good guys. There are just guys. Guys with a different take on life than the guys they are fighting against.

Generations of Hollywood goers have been treated to endless movies that repeat this same formula … the “bad guy” always loses in the end. And even when a good guy loses or dies, they painfully seek to express some character flaw in the guy, so that we don’t bemoan his death too much.

When these characterizations only exist in the extremes of conflict and wars, that is bad enough. But I have noticed in recent evolution of culture wars, the same characterizations. Evil democrats steal our elections. Evil doctors abort innocent little babies. Evil government is trying to take our guns away.

Wherever you stand on any issue, the other side is nearly always characterized as evil any more.

When we characterize in this manner, it allows us to hate and nothing mobilizes the masses more than hate.

In my opinion, hate is the most powerful feeling on the planet. It can drive us forward more than any other emotion. Love, on the other hand is a softer emotion. It drives us a certain distance but almost never to an extreme.

Harnessing hate has been a practice that certain groups have cultivated over the years and by confronting it head on, we will always lose. You can’t beat someone out of hating, but you can educate them.

You educate them on understanding.

And in understanding others with different viewpoints and motivations, they will have to discard their own feelings of being absolutely right about anything. Which means the god concept has to stop. Absolute good and absolute truth only exist in fairy tales.

Real life requires understanding and acceptance.

… just a thought.