In the absence of light

This morning was the last morning anyone should have been heading to the lake for pictures.

It was insanely dark with a thick blanket of clouds smothering anything that might have brightened a horizon.

But I was tired of reading the news by 5:30 and in need of a win, so I figured I would grab a few bits and pieces and the new A7 of course and see what mischief I could get up to.

A hazy light from the power plant on the opposite shore was the only real definition that I could see when I got there and I stumbled a little as I walked out the pier, carrying too many things for a one-armed-man. “A lazy man’s load” as my Dad would call it, but I didn’t relish multiple trips to the car, so I put up with the discomfort.

I had brought some bottles of water, a glass globe, and the light bars Morgan made me for light painting. I also brought a little tripod that would support the camera yet keep it almost at ground level.

And so, I set about hurriedly setting up my experiment, eager to transform a loose thought into a real image or two. The water was poured initially to create a puddle in front of the globe that I rested on the ground at the very edge of the pier. I was hoping for reflections of the globe and any background lights (of which there were none).

The light bars’ purpose was to give me a light on the crystal globe to help pull it out from the dim background. And in turn to create a decent reflection in the puddle.

It worked, but the real moments of success came when I threw the light bars themselves into the picture and even more so, when I poured water on the globe while taking the shots on timer.

Aaah the fun of it all!

Dull brightness in the skies and splashes on the camera lens brought the experiment to an end, but not before I got a whole bunch of good shots.

I have put a half-dozen at the end of this blog and my own favorite is probably number four. Hope you enjoy!

As I drove home it was still quite dark and yet I had the inner glow of a successful outing to light my way.

I knew that in the face of nothing, I had created something and so there was a very real sense of achievement.

And it got me thinking how life often seems very dark and scarcely worth living. And how we ache to see a glimmer of light at the end of a tunnel.

Yet, in the absence of light, sometimes you have to make your own.

When we find ourselves lost in darkness, we have to insert a battery, flick a switch, or even light a candle. Because not all sources of light have to come from an external source.

Yes, we can wait for something to brighten our lives and in many cases, events come along that indeed do.

But finding your own light is a revealing instrument that can guide you forward along life’s path.

When the light comes from within, it is effectively channeling a source of your own strength and using it to help you move forward on your journey.

I am not saying it easy and we may have to look in several rooms in our soul in order to find one. But given that the only other options are to hope that someone else shines a light on us, or live out the rest of our days in darkness, then frankly it is worth it.

The light I am talking about may be a new idea, or a better approach to something, or a willingness to go along a path you haven’t been before. In fact, this light can be anything. As long as it is a means to help you see your path in the darkness, then that is all that matters.

Emotional darkness is a haven for demons. They love to hang out in the darkest places and they undermine our journey at every opportunity. We all fight these demons every now and then. 78888888888hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhb .. dammit Coco get off the keyboard!

Anyway, where was I ? Oh yes …. demons. They love it when we are lost in darkness. They thrive on our inability to see a way forward and they relish our getting lost.

But all it takes is one candle (or in this case a light-bar) and they go running to the shadows in fear.

My light-bars are always with me these days. They sit on the back seat of my car. Now, if I can just find a few to keep on the back seat of my soul, all will be fine and I will be able to find my way forward through the darkest of life’s tunnels.

… just a thought!

New Toys

A package arrived from Amazon on Friday and my first real chance to open it was yesterday. It was the new camera that I treated myself to earlier in the week; another Sony Alpha, but this time a full frame Sony A7 III

At just over $2,000 it was a purchase that I went back and forth over a few times before finally convincing myself that I should treat myself. I didn’t really need it, but sometimes you have to give into the “wants”.

I have three other Sony Alphas and they are all great cameras but they use what is referred to as crop sensors. So, I wanted to explore the full sensor world, to see what kind of options it might open up to me.

For those of you who don’t know, a full sensor is larger than a crop sensor so it is touted as being able to produce better pictures in low light along with a few other benefits.

So, this morning (having charged it up yesterday), I took it off down to Tampa before dawn, so that I could see what it could do.

I wasn’t really trying to produce any beautiful pictures of downtown Tampa; the other Alphas had done that already for me these past few years. But I wanted to technically evaluate what it might do as compared to the crop sensor cameras, so I brought along one of the “old” ones in order to be able to correctly do a side by side.

The very first thing I did was set up the tripod on the UT side of the Hillsborough River and took one pic with the crop sensor camera and then one with the new.

My goal was to see what different width of view it would give me. And here is what it did. The cameras were both using a lens at around 25mm.

The view from the crop sensor camera is shown in black and white.

So, off the bat, I was clearly thrilled at getting such a wider view and I really look forward to exploring that a bit further over time.

But the thing that really got me, was how much clearer the image was from the new camera in such low light. I had left both cameras in full auto mode, so I wasn’t compensating for anything deliberately. And what thrilled me was that the clarity was mostly achieved through a faster shutter speed.

The new camera was working at four times the speed of the other and that is a startling difference. Shutter speed is king of focus vs blur in situations like this and so this set my mind racing on other things I will be trying over the coming weeks.

Anyway, I have placed a few images at the end of the blog and the two skyline shots are courtesy of the new Sony A7 III. Hope you enjoy!

As I drove home, I wondered why I had dilly dallied on the whole purchase at all, inasmuch as there were clearly going to be benefits, given the specs and the price differences. And one of the deciding factors was recalling a conversation with Brittany before she passed, where she encouraged me to with a “you deserve it, Neville”.

So, I will be naming the new camera “Brittany”.

But deserve or not, the truth is, that there are times in life when we buy ourselves new toys and there are times when we don’t.

I mean, clearly there are moments where money constraints make the decision for us. But other times it really just comes down to how we view ourselves and the importance of anything we are considering.

When we are kids and get our first job or begin to get our financial footing, we often spend on ourselves. A new car. A new TV. Something that excites us and gives us a congratulatory feel.

As we get older, we tend to have everything that we need and most of our wants are associated with those we love and care for. So if we do buy something, it is generally for someone else.

And I truly believe that is the general rule of thumb we should follow. If you are still continually treating yourself to new shit in your sixties, then you are either very selfish or have begun your second childhood a little early.

At that stage, our treating energies are more towards others and we bathe in the reflected joy that we see in their faces when we get them something they need. Most of us realize by that stage that the joy of giving is much brighter than the joy of receiving.

But there is an importance in occasionally still treating ourselves too. And here is why.

I was giving Lola her medicine yesterday and she is very disgruntled at being locked up in a bathroom, away from the other kitties. So this is a rough time for her.

After I had gotten her to swallow the latest syringe of antibiotic, I was rubbing her head and telling her I love her and I heard myself say “you poor baby” to her. Lola is a little over ten, I think and so few consider her a baby any more.

But then I realized we are all babies on the inside. A piece of us has never grown up and still craves the softness and tenderness that babies receive. Once we lose the baby gloss, people around us stop giving us the endless adulation that a baby gets and life loses a little something.

Of course, we pull on our big girl panties and don’t mope about it. We are all big girls now and everyone knows that big girls don’t cry.

But that doesn’t mean, we don’t feel the abandonment. The loss. The fading interest.

Babies, kittens, and puppies … they get all that shit and we watch from the sidelines, a part of us aching for the same love and care that is being lavished on them.

It is something we put away in a box and don’t get offended by and so we toughen up. Life toughens us up.

But the inner child feels the cold and the neglect, regardless.

So, that is why it is important to just occasionally listen to the little voice from within that goes “ooooh” when you see a shiny new camera.

Remember you aren’t really buying it for the adult that you are. You are just treating the little child in the corner of your mind to a little something that reminds them that they too are special. They too are loved.

… just a thought!

Escape

Yesterday morning was one of those moments where the immediate rush of things to do when you get out of bed and the imminent list of things yet to be done as soon as it is bright enough, is just overwhelming.

Lola is the latest casualty in our hospital ward, with a badly infected foot injury, and the medication process that the vets gave me is just stunning in it’s level of difficulty. There were four medicines and a foot-bathing solution to be given and in truth the main issues are with the antibiotic which she sprays out as soon as I get it in her mouth and the foot-bathing solution.

I mean, how on earth someone thinks it’s reasonable to prescribe a solution that I have to get her to stand in twice a day for ten minutes each? Are they nuts? Victoria came up with the best answer but even that is only giving me about two or three minutes of success each time. And between this and the antibiotic, Lola is seriously pissed at me.

So, by the time all ten others had been taken care of (around 5:30) I decided instead of breakfast and then Lola, I would escape to the lake to try to ease some of the pressure, even if just for a short while.

Even though I knew it was all going to be still waiting for me when I got back, just escaping for a little while was a heart-warming enough thought. So, I grabbed a cup of coffee, asked Kermie if he wanted to come with me (he didn’t say “no”) and drove on down to Lake Parker.

They were just opening the gate to the boating area as I drove by, so I figured that was a sign from the heavens and I u-turned and went back there.

The ranger that had opened the gate was gone when I returned and so I was completely alone (except for the frog) and in the dark. And that was exactly what I needed.

I set up down by the boat launch and got some nice long exposure shots that Miss Piggy will like and for a while, I completely chilled.

I have put some of them here at the end of the blog and the first four are a good example of the camera seeing something that my eyes couldn’t. I was staring into darkness with no view of the horizon, while the camera pulled up those wonderful tones over a 30 second exposure. How cool, huh?

Anyway, hope you enjoy!

Around 6:30 it was already getting too close to twilight to pull off a long exposure like that, so I packed up and went home, to once again resume duties and get on with my day.

But as I drove home, I began to think about the value of taking a brief escape like this and how it made things just a tiny bit less overwhelming and quite possibly doable.

And that is how the whole thought of escape from life began to materialize in my head, on a grander scale.

You see, stepping back from the coal-face of issues is well-understood to be the correct way to be able to objectively deal with things. But the stepping away also can allow us to rejuvenate ourselves to where we handle things just a little better and with less stress.

Hitting the pause button for a short while can help us catch our breath and have another run at whatever may be overwhelming to us at any moment in time.

It doesn’t necessarily guarantee us success, but it allows us to give it a shot without the handicap of feeling so bad about it. Because when we are overwhelmed, we tend to feel badly about any task that we have on our plate and this increases the likelihood that we will fail.

I think none of this is news to most of us. We have all done this many times before and likely will again in the future.

But where my mind took the thought yesterday was exploring the concept of escaping from life and the ways that some people manage to do this.

Catastrophic examples of this are the folks who put a gun to their head or those how lose their mind in a one-way visit to insanity. I obviously don’t recommend these as a viable journey.

But methods such as meditation are immensely valuable routes than can be taken with really powerful results. People who meditate reap benefits to their health and well-being on different planes. Some do so on a serious and consistent level, while others do small ad-hoc journeys that give them relief.

Whatever works for your lifestyle, these escapes can place us on a desert island in our mind, where outside influences disappear and somehow seem less threatening when we choose to reemerge from the mental solitude.

Surrounding our island with oceans of nothingness, gives us space to reassess where we are, who we are, and what is important without the interference of issues or people that must be dealt with.

And escape doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be alone on your island. You can bring a Kermie and a coffee too, if you wish. But whoever you bring needs to be not part of the problem from which the escape is taking place.

Kermie gave me promise of finding the rainbow connection, many years ago and so he actually helps me focus on what I am trying to escape to.

Perhaps for others of you, it might be a pet on your lap to where your escape happens to the soothing sound of a purr or soft furry breathing.

I don’t believe that meditation has to take us to a place of empty minded nothingness. I believe it just needs to take us somewhere where we find peace.

So, whether your meditation ends up being a scheduled event or an occasional response to tough times, take it. Give that moment to yourself and escape the feeling of loss and being overwhelmed.

We generally don’t give ourselves many gifts, but this is one that you will be glad you did.

… just a thought.

Ulterior Motives

I had begun to mess a little with drops of glass on water the previous day and though I wasn’t happy with what I had achieved (this one was the best of them, for example) it gave me some further ideas to try.

So, safe in the knowledge that last night would deliver a clear-sky sunset, I took myself off to the far shore on Lake Parker to experiment a little further.

To all casual observers they would have thought I was going to photograph the sunset but in reality I wanted to explore how light from behind would interact with drops of water on a glass sheet and how focus would affect the resulting images.

I took with me a glass picture frame, water bottle, some clips, and a baking brush and I have included a setup picture in the little collection at the end of the blog.

I was fundamentally pleased with the end shots but there were limitations that I couldn’t get over that stopped me getting some of the shots that I wanted.

For example, I could only rest the glass frame on the ground, which really limited the scope of different heights and positions that I would have liked to have tried, Also, being on my own, I was limited to the drops that stayed on the glass and would have much preferred running drops that were being applied by a second person. And the broken wrist didn’t help much either, as it limited my ability to move myself around as much as I would have.

But still, some of the images came out well and I hope you enjoy. I even added a couple of normal sunset shots for you OCD purists, for whom the drops are an obstacle to your enjoyment lol

As I walked back to the car, a guy who was fishing nearby commented on the lovely sunset and as I drove home, I mused over how appearances can be deceiving sometimes and specifically how we can deliberately mislead others while having an ulterior motive.

Mine last night was completely innocent and irrelevant to the observer. No one was interested that it was actually water drops that I was shooting.

But what about those moments when we set out to mislead for deliberate and nefarious reasons.

The biggest and most current instance in the spotlight at the moment is the Dotard and the RNC claiming that the election was stolen and inciting huge distrust in the whole democracy we live in. Their objectives have actually nothing to do with the fact that they lost the election and everything to do with the money they are raising on the back of the claims. Hundreds of millions are being raised and the simple minded folk that are contributing, have no idea what their money is being used for.

But the use of trickery to cover up ulterior motives extends way beyond politics and affects almost all walks of our lives.

Forthrighteousness was once seen as an admirable quality in a person but now, the value of a poker face is extolled to much higher value.

Honesty and sincerity were seen as a guiding principle by which most people did things. But over time, the ability to feign interest or fake an activity has been seen to propel people to the top of society.

From the moment a mommy tastes a spoon of baby food and declares it to be so yummy, toddlers the world over have been introduced to the whole notion of deception for an ulterior motive. Mommy’s interest is clearing in delivering food that she knows to be good for her baby, rather than something laden with sugar that would taste better. So, the ulterior motive isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

And when the teenage boy tells his new girlfriend that he would love to see the latest chic-flick paying at the movie theater, or read her some of his favorite poetry, the motive still hasn’t taken on an evil undertone, but clearly his intent is getting into her pants.

By the time we hit later years, we learn many ways to disguise our intent. From being the last one to leave the office to commenting on how wonderful the boss’s outfit is, we establish a game plan in which honestly has little or no role in it.

In the outer world, the damage done by ulterior motives is normally only surface deep, or at the very least not long lasting. Politicians get seen for the liars they are and employees get seen as the brown-nosers they are, and yes, Debbie eventually realizes that Johnny only wanted to get into her pants when he charmed her with his verses of Yeats.

But, where it completely falls apart is in our inner world.

This is the world where we live with our partner and our loved ones.

Ulterior motives have no play in this environment and if they leak in, then irreparable damage can be done. Honesty is a cornerstone upon which love and relationships are built. Doing or saying anything for a motive other than an honestly declared purpose will undo trust and reduce relationships to rubble.

Being able to state your purpose and honestly show your feelings is a main ingredient in pulling off a long term relationship.

“Well actually, I’ve always hated your mother, thought you were too fat in that suit, felt that 10 seconds was too short for foreplay”. These are not good facts to release at a later stage in any relationship.

We may indeed have not wanted to rock the boat, but that motive is never acceptable as an answer when we are finally confronted with such issues.

And, I think the point I am trying to get to here is that few people can operate separate principles in their outer world and their inner world. Eventually behaviors leak from one to the other.

And if that behavior involves bringing hidden motives that you have been successful with in your business or social life, into your private life … well then, you are heading down a one way street to Palookaville.

I’ve always wanted to use that phrase. For a moment, I felt like Jimmy Cagney, there.

I try to be as forthright as I can and I know it loses me certain things and certain people, along the way. But better to lose them up front and be honest with your self, than later be found out to have been a fake and still lose them anyway!

… just a thought.

Lines and Curves

So, it turns out that I did fracture my wrist last week. It wasn’t getting better since the fall and the pain was becoming too much to take, so I took myself off and got an x-ray yesterday evening. An “impaction fracture” is what they came up with and so I am typing this (slowly) with a splint on my left arm/wrist.

As if life wasn’t challenging enough lol

Anyway, before I took myself off for the x-ray yesterday evening, I lay down on the sofa as the pain was becoming a bit of a nuisance.

I almost never lie down. Unless I am heading to sleep in bed, that is. So, reclined there for a moment in a lying pose, I was given a different perspective on a room I have been in a million times over the past 17 years.

And what caught my attention immediately was the reflection of light coming through the patio doors on the manikins in place nearby.

“Manikins in the living room?” I hear you ask. It’s a long story but a dear friend gave several to me a couple of weeks ago and I haven’t yet sorted out their proper accommodations in the studio as of yet, so they have been keeping me company in the living room.

There are several of them, so it reminds me of that scene from the Steve Martin movie, The Lonely Guy where he has all these cardboard cutouts in his apartment to make it feel like he has real friends.

Is this what I have become lol?

Anyway, I digress … it was the reflections that made me stop for a moment and i looked at how the straight lines of the vertical blinds took on new life as they reflected in the curves of the manikins.

I took a few pics and have them at the end of this blog. Forgive me if you don’t see what I see, but sometimes simple things like this really grab me and give me pause for wonder and awe.

I get lost occasionally in this trance.

So, afterwards as I drove down to the medical place to get the x-ray, I thought a little about how the whole world, everything we see, is made up of lines and curves.

The lines themselves are very definite and create a definition that is very clear and absolute. While the curves create varied and sometimes chaotic shapes.

Our brains decipher all this and we see buildings, trees, people. But at the end of the day, everything is just a series of lines and curves.

Some of us are happiest in a world of lines. A world where everything is straightforward and clearly defined. It is a world with a clear direction and a definite path that is visible ahead.

Others enjoy the curves and they roll with the twists and turns that each curve gives along the way.

And sometimes we switch from line to curve as the moment fits and back again when things become too complex or chaotic.

In moments of chaos, we look for a simple clear line to help us exit so that we can find some peace or normality. And in times of boredom, we wander off the path a little to see where a new curve might take us.

Both are important and our lives have to have a balanced mix of lines and curves.

We need to have a solid base of lines that define the direction we are taking our lives in. These lines should be clear and well-defined with goals and hopes attached to them so that we can measure ourselves along the way to make sure we are on track.

But we also have to be able to follow a curve every now and then and explore some of the world that was not in our original plans. Curves provide a variety that some call the spice of life. They also help us redefine our path sometimes as we encounter a new direction that add something new into our life’s journey.

Just as the strong, simple, lines of the vertical blinds found new purpose in defining the curves on the manikins.

So, I guess what I am trying to say is this. Follow your lines as they will take you to your destiny, but occasionally step off onto a curve, just to make sure it is the right destiny for you.

… just a thought.

Time to Focus

This morning’s trip to the lake was the culmination of several days efforts in different camera techniques. I had tried a few things separately over the past week and by the time I had fed the kitties and helped give Beauty her eye meds, I had a solid plan of exactly what I wanted to shoot.

So, I drove to the lake armed with camera and tripod and a bag of accessories that included a couple of glasses, some bottled water, DVDs, and some LED lights that Morgan had made for my light painting experiments.

I needed the darkest place available to me and in particular I needed some kind of elevation that I could rest the glasses on and set the tripod up at the same height.

I also needed solitude and while the boat ramp and pier matches the first two parameters, it isn’t normally accessible before 6 and boaters tend to arrive soon after.

I got there at 5:45 and to my delight it was just opened, so I rushed into place and set up camera and props almost immediately.

Time was going to be the deciding factor on how successful I would be as each shots takes about 90 seconds to pull off and the race is against not just imminent boater arrivals, but also against a brightening sky. Also invariably the first few shots are going to be really only test shots, as I end up tweaking my set up to get that “perfect” framing, etc.

On my drive there, I had gone through in my head several times, the setups that I would aim for, so there wasn’t really any time lost trying to imagine how to arrange the glasses. The driving thought in my concept was that it was new years day and these could be left-overs from the celebration hours before. So, one glass needed to be standing while the other looked to have fallen over and spilled its contents.

I chose water as the “contents” because any other liquid would have altered the light coming through from the background. I wanted to have the same colors and tone coming through the glass, as would be seen either side of it.

Any observer would have been impressed with how matter-of-fact I ran through each shot. From shot to shot there was only a subtle change, done mostly with which lights was being used, adding some water to increase the spill, and moving the glasses to provide a slightly different setup.

I was really thrilled that no one showed up for about an hour after me and by then it was starting to get too bright anyway for a 30 second exposure. All told, I think I got a little over 40 shots taken and I have posted the ones I am most proud of at the end of this blog. Hope you enjoy!

By the time I was in the car, pulling out of the parking area, more boaters were arriving and I was really chuffed that I had gotten in and out before them and by all accounts achieved the shots that were originally just concepts in my head.

And I realized how the knowledge that time was very limited for my little project, served to make me more focused and organized to where I was able to achieve what I wanted.

This thought morphed into how we allow undefined time to conversely affect our approach to life and achieve so much less than we otherwise might.

We often think of our life here on earth as being without limits. Yes, we all know we will die, but we don’t know when and we assume it won’t be tomorrow.

So, we go through our today without a sense of urgency and drive. Putting things off until tomorrow or the day after.

Invariably we will almost all die without having done everything we want to do. There may indeed be a few who can close their eyes at death with a feeling of having done everything and being ready to go.

The rest of us will be “oh shit, I never climbed Everest, or told Martha about the trees that need trimming in the back yard, and I was really hoping to see Bobby’s new home in Wisconsin this fall.”

Whatever we don’t get around to, will fall by the wayside and never be done.

Now, the truth is that there is a lot to be done that is seriously irrelevant and we should all feel comfortable leaving irrelevant things undone. If you can’t do that, you have a problem and need more help than this blog is going to give.

But, things that are relevant need to be addressed with a sense of urgency and importance so that we make sure they are done. Top of the list is making sure that your loved ones know you love them and that you get to do with them and for them, everything that you can.

I can’t imagine any of us will wince as we finally close our eyes for not being able to have one more day at the office. But oh, to have just one more day with your loved ones. How precious that would be.

So, this being New Year’s Day, this is the perfect time to reevaluate how we spend our time here and plan for the year in a manner that relevant stuff in our lives is being handled with importance.

We should front-load our year with the important stuff and if there is time at the end for giving the tool-shed a second coat of paint, then great.

Each of us will define the phrase “important stuff” differently perhaps and that is fine. Not all of us have eleven cats and a new batch of kittens that claim a place on our pecking order of things in life.

But whatever is on your list, you should know it and then sort your list so that your priorities are matched by your actions.

… just a thought!

New Years Eve

The word “Eve” only gets used these days for a small few important dates in the calendar. Christmas Eve., New Year’s Eve, for example. By definition it is the day immediately prior to an event or occasion.

The funny thing is, it completely demeans the day itself, giving it no significance other than that it immediately precedes the next day.

How awful is that? Can you imagine going through life as only being relevant because of your immediate connection to something or someone else. “oh, that’s Johnny’s wife, that’s Paddy’s son” … giving no acknowledgement of the person’s own name or identity.

Because it is a forward looking aspect, no one seems to mind. We look forward to Christmas Day itself, or to New Year’s Day. These are the holidays that the eve is pointing at, so everyone dismisses how irrelevant we have just made this one particular day become.

What on earth is he on about now, I hear you ask.

Well before i get into it, I put some pics from a light painting experiment this NYE morning at the end of this blog. Hope you enjoy!

Anyway, back to my point … Without giving it much thought, it seems like a really trivial topic. But you see, it isn’t.

For centuries, people have been using words to demean and dismiss certain things or people and the most effective use of these words are when they appear benign.

Let’s start with Eve, for example. When the newly formed christian movement wanted to christianize Ireland, one of their biggest challenges was to try to get the locals to stop following pagan practices. And after they burnt all the pagan books and teachings that had been compiled for over a thousand years, they then set about tackling pagan feasts.

So, for example, the feast of Samhain (pronounce it “sowen”) occurred on the last day of October, when the pagans dutifully gave thanks to the gods for their harvest. The christians gave this same day a new name “All Hallows Eve” trying to make it a precurser to their important All Saints Day of November 1st.

Comically, All Hallows Eve morphed over time to what we now call Halloween and so the celebrations stays rooted to the original day that they were trying to demean.

But there are many other words that are commonly used today that very much affect our views on people or institutions with an intent to demean or dismiss them.

Some are very blatant, like “Terrorist”. It is a hateful word designed to provoke a fear-based and hateful response to a person or persons. Don’t think for a moment that the USA invented this word to describe islamic dissidents. A hundred years ago, that is how the british described the Irish freedom fighters.

It is a simple and effective way to delegitimize your opposition.

But there are words we hear on the media every day that go unquestioned, yet provoke the same response in our brains. For example Iran has a “regime” while we have a “government”. Palestinian fighters are an “armed militia” while Israel has an “army”.

Beyond governments doing this kind of shit, people do it also. And sometimes they select words that elevate themselves rather than demean the opposition. But it has the same end result. It creates a fake disparity. For example, people who were anti-abortion years ago, suddenly became pro-life as an attempt to claim the high ground. Yet they are quite possibly also strong gun-rights and death penalty folk. Not exactly how I would describe the term “pro life”.

Colloquially we use words such as “foreigners” or “immigrants” to delegitimize viewpoints or standings when in real terms we are all people.

Then we use adjectives to further demean such as “flaming” liberals, or “illegal” immigrants. No person should ever be “illegal”. An act can be illegal, but a person cannot.

Anyway, I guess where I was trying to get to with this little blog was just to alert you to words and their importance. Watch out when people and governments use words to demean. Understand their intentions and beware of their motives.

They are very much akin to the bully at school (or recent white house) that had a demeaning nickname for everyone. The intention is rarely to elevate and almost always to belittle. Invariably people that do that to others are feeble minded and devoid of a legitimate argument of their own.

Our job when we witness it is to disregard demeaning words used against any people and return these people to the same level as ourselves. At the end of the day, no person anywhere is better or worse than another. We are all people. Plain and simple.

… just a thought.

Exposing Yourself

It was another early morning and taking my slow-shutter speeds again to the lake, seemed like a distinctly better alternative to sitting in front of the PC waiting for the rest of the world to come alive.

Other than getting there early enough to be able to get some shots at 30 seconds, I must admit to not having anything by way of a plan in my mind.

It was going to be a clear start to another beautiful day here in Florida, and a goal of 30 seconds open shutter, ruled out one of the three possibilities here at Lake Parker. For this slow a shutter speed, I needed a very dark environment as ambient light kills the shot.

And putting myself in alligator danger the previous morning on the south side of the lake made me a little bit iffy about going there again in total darkness.

So, my decision was made for me … it had to be the dock at the boat ramp on the north end of the shore. I’ve used this spot a million times already for sunrises, but such slow shutter speeds might give me a different perspective to work with.

And I was right; the wonderful violets of the dark sky made up for the familiar foreground and produced images with a different feel. I have put a number of them here at the end of the blog and I hope you enjoy.

I had great fun getting them. They are all tripod mount shots with a ten second timer and a thirty second shutter speed setting. Absolutely none of them have been photoshopped other than turning the third one black and white.

Everything you see here is exactly what the camera saw at these settings. Isn’t it gorgeous time of day?

For my part, the fun was getting into position within the ten seconds after pressing the shutter release button. Anything that had me at the end of the pier was a little risky as I had to run like crazy to get there but make sure to brake sharply so as not to end up in the water.

Then holding yourself perfectly still for thirty seconds is no mean feat. Apart from natural wobbliness, I had to count to thirty before moving, as I had no other way of telling whether the shutter was open or not.

There are a couple of shots where I tricked the camera, running into position and holding for 7 or 8 seconds before moving into a second position and holding that for the rest of the duration.

The end result was an effect that looked like a ghostly double exposure.

There wasn’t an audience at that time of morning so I was really only exposing myself to the camera. But in truth I have done similar stuff when the odd person is about. Yes, you appear a bit silly, but that’s ok. It’s worth it.

As I drove home I smiled at how much I had put myself in the pictures and laughed at some of my goofy moments. And that is where the whole thought of exposing yourself and why we do or don’t do it, began to play out in my head.

Ridicule is a consequence that stops so many people in their tracks and the thought of exposing themselves to it is particularly acute, the more adult you become.

Children generally don’t have this problem. They certainly aren’t born with it and only pick it up over time when their efforts to sing, play out, or express themselves, draw criticisms that cut their unbridled confidence.

Such criticisms can have life-long effects and growing up rarely assuages the feeling that whatever this person is about to try might make them look silly. Isn’t that a shame?

I don’t know what the percentage there is of people that shy away from exposure, but if you said it was more than 80%, I would believe you.

In fact, it is the people that risk exposure that prove to be the more dominant in life’s success. Actors, singers, activists, writers, and those we just refer to as “personalities” … these people have all risked looking silly and have developed a life beyond the exposure.

This might be one of the reasons why we admire them so much and follow them, living vicariously through their success.

To their fans, they have star qualities that us mere mortals don’t have, but how many children with similar qualities never made it because of the fear of exposing themselves?

Adults tend to live quietly within the mainstream guidelines, going to and from work, not asking “stupid” questions, and dressing appropriately.

We don’t wear pink and purple hair, burst into song in front of our peers, or act out our fantasies to an audience (outside our bedroom).

The fact that your wife or husband turns out to be the one that knows “the real you” is not so much a statement on how long you’ve been together but rather that they are the one person you expose yourself to.

Isn’t that sad? Given that 90% of relationships fail (recent study I found), that means that nine out of ten times the person that knows the real you is not likely to be your best publicist.

So, 9 out of ten times, the person that you finally do expose yourself to is the person most likely to ridicule or demean you for it.

Exposing yourself to ridicule is a talent that we need to preserve within our fabric as people, as it sustains elements of you that will otherwise disappear over time. You don’t have to be Frank Sinatra to burst into song occasionally.

In Ireland, folks tend to be less obsessed with looking silly and they will frequently have sing-songs at pubs and parties. They will have open-mic night poetry corners, and friendly if-not-intelligent political debates. Opinions are welcome and listened to and ridiculing is generally left to the more weak-minded observer.

America seems to have inherited the importance of appearance from the British. It is a national weakness there on a scale that “Keeping Up Appearances” is quite openly laughed at.

Sidebar: “Keeping Up Appearances” was an excellent British comedy series on the absurdity of this obsession … seek it out, it is well worth the watch.

Anyway, I wasn’t trying to digress. I was trying to ponder as to why certain societies have a greater prevalence or propriety while others, not so much.

Frankly, I attribute this behavior to wealth and the class-system that permeates because of it. Those with the money like to be seen as rich and attached to that is the appearance of being better than those who don’t.

So the fear of exposing themselves to not being better, is greater in a society that places any emphasis on wealth and class.

When is the last time you heard about these folks having a good old sing song where uncle Johnny froggishly belting out a chorus of My Way? Or aunt Julie sharing a little poem she made up about her favorite puppy?

I am not saying we need to drop our shorts and moon the old ladies at Target. Nor always be the loud voice at work telling the boss that you know exactly how this business needs to be run.

But we owe it to ourselves to just occasionally take a risk and sing a verse or share a poem … or whatever it is that we feel very shy about doing. I mean chances are that we won’t suddenly find ourselves catapulted into fame and fortune because of it.

But we will have vented a little something from within us. A little voice from our inner child. And just for a moment a glimmer of light will rebound within our soul and we will have shared just a little more of ourselves with the world. And the world will be brighter because of it.

… just a thought.

Exposed Decisions

Early Christmas morning, while Santa was still making his final deliveries, I gathered myself and my camera and went down to Ballast Point to experiment a bit with long exposures.

It was a bit chilly and there was a howling wind coming in from the bay. It felt very much like winter.

The water was therefore quite a bit choppy and was lashing the shoreline with a series of small, but frequent, waves.

If you’ve never done long exposure photography, you might not be aware of the effects wind can have on your end product. The problem is that gust wind moves the camera or tripod and any movement over a 30 second period results in a blurred picture. So, I got quite a few of those.

There is a smaller, older pier to the left of the main pier and I tried taking pics from that, but the pier itself was moving slightly with the wind and waves. So, that was a bust.

Elements provide an interesting distraction to a planned shoot and for a while I struggled to come to grips with what what happening. One of the main problems is that you can look at the little viewfinder on the back of the camera and think that you got a focused shot only later to pull it up on the computer screen and dismay over the lack of clarity.

Also, when you are doing something like a sunrise or a sunset, you have a definite factor of time being your enemy. Things happen and change in the space of a few seconds, so you don’t really have very much time to play with your camera.

On top of all that, it became clear that a large band of cloud was playing with the horizon and likely to kill any prospects of a very beautiful sunrise (twilight, actually). So I diverted my attention to the waves themselves.

It was close to low-tide and the waves were pounding against a collection of rocks that were near the shoreline. And after the first picture of them, it became apparent to me that the long exposure was blurring the incoming waves beautifully as they broke. It created a lovely effect that was almost fog-like and I was seriously pleased with the end results.

I hope you like the images I got. They are at the end of this blog. From the almost sepia-like, near-darkness shot of the pier to the foggy-waves. I like them all! And none of these have been touched up in any way, just in case you are wondering.

Enjoy!

Anyway, the following morning, I decided to try to get down there again a bit earlier because having lost some time dealing with the wind issues, I was curious as to what the camera would pick up in near-total-darkness at very long exposures.

And it is this decision that gave me the thought for this blog subject.

You see, often times we make decisions that are good or bad without any witness to gauge our decision-making skills. If the decision is poor, we often sweep it under the rug, so that only the good ones normally get to see the light of day.

In this instance, the first decision that I made was sound. While most people were sleeping off a food-hangover from the day before, I was standing in total darkness at Ballast Point around five o’clock in the morning.

The wind was only a fraction of the day’s before, but I still thought it might be good enough to recapture what was going on at the exposed rocks in darkness.

But rather than just repeat the earlier location, I tried to move to the spot in between both piers which was very rocky and if I was correct, then I would be able to get reddish-fog effect on them with the main pier itself in the background.

So, I climbed down the embankment and began to walk gingerly across the rocks in order to get close enough to the water edge (tide was out again) so that the effect became the main aspect of the images.

Half way out, my decision became a bad one.

I slipped and fell on the rocks and for a moment, I genuinely thought this might be my end.

My left hand, which was free, automatically extended to try to stop my fall, as the camera and tripod in my right hand smashed down onto the rocks themselves.

My left shin hit a nearby rock and gave me the first instance of pain. But the main pain came from my hand and forearm breaking my fall and saving my head from damage.

I lay there for a moment in the darkness, pain making itself known across my forearm and my camera separated from the tripod, lying between some nearby rocks just about in-view. In fact, the only reason I could even see it was because the little screen on the back was still on and giving me a small light to work with.

After I realized I wasn’t dead, I began the process of getting back to my feet, clutching my left arm as if I were a walking-wounded in the Saving Private Ryan movie. I leaned over and picked up the camera and somehow made it back over to the car, feeling every step of the way.

There was no one around to see me. I was all alone in the darkness, so I didn’t have the normal feeling of embarrassment that can mask real pain. So, I felt the pains in arm and leg and was very glad to find myself safely sitting in the car.


By the time I got home the incident report reads as follows: cut and bruised shin. Couple of deepish cuts to the palm of my hand. Bad sprain (perhaps fracture) to the wrist. Glasses lost. Lens destroyed. Camera banged up and viewfinder screen pretty shot.

I think it is fair to say that the decision to walk out at low tied over uneven rocks in near-total-darkness without even as much as a head-lamp to light the way … not one of the best decisions I have ever made.

If I had hit my head, fallen backwards perhaps, I was on my own among the rocks in darkness and when the tide came in, there might only have been an abandoned car in the parking lot to make people aware that some old fool was missing.

Sometimes our decision-reasoning becomes masked by what we view as the end goal. And I am “sure” it would have been a good picture … foggy reddish base to a sepia colored pier. Everyone would have oohed and aahed.

But seriously!

What was I thinking?

And this morning as I sit here typing (mostly one-handed), I wonder how many other life-risking decisions I have gotten away with. Decisions that never made the light of day, but lie there hidden under the rug of time.

I have recounted a couple in my mind already and just shake my head at the stupidity of the decisions. And I am not a stupid person. I’m a democrat, for god sake!

But seriously, when presented with the opportunity, we all make stupid decisions.

While they may not necessarily be life-threatening, do we learn anything from the process when we get away with them?

Do we only finally learn as we draw our final breath, when one of our decisions catches up with us?

I think what I have realized, is that there are quiet moments when we should revisit our past decisions; lift up the rug and let the light in on them. If we are embarrassed by them, we don’t necessarily need to shine a light on them and write about them in a blog.

But at the very least, we need to look at ourselves and ask that “what were we thinking” question.

Why did we make the decision in a certain way and would we do so again today? And if not, why?

Understanding the process of our decision making is what makes us better people. It improves our decision making skills and it also helps us understand our own weaknesses a little better.

Knowing your weaknesses allows you to address them or sweep them under a rug. While the rug may be appealing and the easier option, eventually the pile under the rug is so high, you end up tripping over it.

The path forward in life is tricky enough. We don’t need self-made booby traps under our feet.

… just a thought!

Compromise

It was another early start and with everyone medicined and fed by 4:30, all the bad news I could read was absorbed and so like all good boys and girls on Christmas Eve I wanted to make sure I didn’t fall onto Santa’s naughty list.

Idleness is definitely sufficient to warrant being put on that list, so I decided I would continue what I had started yesterday down at Lake Parker.

You see, I had begun yesterday with very long exposure shots while it was still well before civil twilight. And this time by going extra early I would be arriving some time between Astronomical Twilight and Nautical Twilight.

Right now, I can imagine most of you reading this are hearing about these twilights for the first time. For clarity, Astonomical Twilight is the first hint of the horizon being lit by the sun and it happens when the sun is 18 degrees below the horizon. Nautical Twilight is where things on the horizon start to pick up some kind of definition and it occurs 12 degrees below the horizon. And of course, you know by now that Civil Twilight occurs at 6 degrees below the horizon and is technically the point where it is bright enough to begin common acts of labor without artificial light.

Am I not a wealth of useless information?

Anyway, I climbed in the car and it was a little after five when I hit the lake shore. My eyes could not pick up any definition of the horizon but my first shot still managed to show it.

I am using very long exposures and at this time of day, I am running the camera on a 30 second exposure. So it pulls in all the wonderful colors that our eyes can’t quite detect.

I will add yesterday’s shots first and then today’s shot at the end of the blog, so you will see what effects the different timings had. Hope you enjoy!

I am holding back one shot from yesterday because I want it to be my New Year shot. It just spoke to me and also it is my favorite shot of the year. Keep your eye out for it.

Hope you enjoy these images!

Anyway, because I got there extra early today, the access to the boat ramp wasn’t open. So I wasn’t able to get to the pier like I was yesterday.

I headed straight away to the second-choice spot on the lake edge about half-way down the lake. From here I get a clear expansive view of the lake but when I got there, I realized that a new building that was recently put up on the opposite side of the road is casting too much light from its parking lot lights.

Why all these places have to have parking lot lights on all night, I will never understand. The amount of light-pollution we experience because of it is ridiculous, not to mention the extreme energy wastefulness.

These people just give lip-service to the whole green initiative.

But anyway, so I stood there for a moment and wondered what to do. This place definitely had the view that I wanted but strong lights behind me would reduce the likelihood of getting decent shots on long exposure.

I was determined to stick with the long exposure plan so I compromised the view in order to be able to get away with exposing for 30 seconds. I could have stepped it back down to 10 or 13 seconds, but then I wouldn’t have gotten the smoothness on the water and lovely tones of violet that the earlier twilights can deliver.

Compromise is a crossroads that we all face many times in our lives. Authoritarian despots never compromise and go through a life that is defined by them always getting their way.

Getting your own way may look on the surface like an optimum situation but the truth is that it presents us with a very narrow path in life, with little scope for learning along the way.

There are so many fools who believe that their way is always the right way and like the old oak in Aesop’s Fables they don’t bend when the winds try to take them on a different path. As the fable tells us, it is the reed that freely bends with the wind that survives.

We can be so adamant in what we want or what we need, that we refuse to see any good in a compromise. Confidence in our own position to the point of no compromise is a fool’s position and in today’s polarized view of the world, it is unfortunately becoming all too commonplace.

Over the ages, authoritarian leaders are easy to spot, and each one has been viewed by history as being an intransigent asshole that piles misery on those affected by their leadership. The world’s best leaders were those that understood the art of compromise. Compromise fosters harmony within groups or people or nations. It leads to long-term stability and peace. Authoritarianism results in animosities and division and either during their lifetime or immediately after their fall, causes fractures on a seismic level.

On a non-political level, compromise is also the cornerstone of healthy relationships and marriages that are built on compromise are the ones that last the ages.

There are those who think that compromise is essentially giving up a want or need in order to agree something with another.

But “giving up” is the wrong expression. Compromise is adapting to variables from a person or a circumstance and moving forward in a slightly different manner. It is a very real opportunity to learn a different viewpoint or a different taste to your own. And in many situations, you find that the compromised path turns out to be better than your original intention.

Garth Brooks “Unanswered Prayers” from the 90’s is a wonderful spin on this … give it a listen, if you don’t already know it.

The American way of life doesn’t embody much in the way of compromise. It is very much a land of opposites. Red and Blue, Black and White, Us or Them. The “importance of winning” ethos that is taught in sports to children has for many generations fashioned polarized views on almost every topic.

In Europe, governments have been built on compromise for almost a hundred years. Multi-party governments have formed coalitions in order to rule a country, with no single party every getting exactly what they want from the deal. Similarly, drawing a game (a tie) in sports (soccer for example) is a regular occurrence, with no need to fight on until the death when we have a winner and a loser. So the kids are taught early on that coexisting with others of different views an ambitions is an effective path forward and they become a generation of compromise.

It is difficult as a person living in a country of polarization to adopt compromise within their own life as a viable way to live. Authoritarianism bleeds from the top down and results in higher percentages of broken relationships, disharmony in communities of different persuasions, and increased gang violence among younger people who have been bred to choose one side or the other.

But unfortunately, compromise must begin with the person, grow to the community, and ultimately become a government’s method of ruling.

Each of us not only has the chance to benefit personally from compromising and learning along the way, but also inspiring others to do so. This becomes the kernel of change from which a more harmonious society develops.

… just a thought!

and now today’s shots