Sunday, October 24, 2021
Thursday, October 21, 2021
Wednesday, October 20, 2021
Sunday, October 17, 2021
- George Dyson (1953 - )
Postscript. An experience I had during my family's recent trip to view New Hampshire's fall colors (see last three posts) reminded me of a funny story I wrote about years ago. It concerns Brett Weston, the second of Edward Weston's sons, and who was an accomplished photographer in his own right. Brett, who like his dad, spent most of his time taking photographs in California (e.g., Point Lobos and Big Sur), was one day invited by a friend to join him on a trip to Europe. Agreeing to go, after some cajoling, Brett and his friend visited Ireland, then Scotland, and later London. But Brett's eye, perhaps even more so than his father's, was tuned strongly toward abstraction. Thus, despite traveling though some of the most beautiful landscapes on the planet before arriving in London, Brett had not once pulled out his camera to take pictures! What he did come home with was a few images of rust on a small dilapidated metal plate that beguiled him as he was making his way across the London bridge. A more complete version of this story can be heard in a wonderful documentary about Brett Weston's life as a photographer. While my trip's "compositional oeuvre" was not nearly as single-mindedly-focused on a single abstract theme (I've already posted rather conventional fine-art "takes" on autumnal colors), I must admit that easily half of the shots I took were of the knots in the pinewood of our cabin's walls! Since the left part of my physics-trained brain kept seeing electromagnetic fields, space-time continua, and gravitational vortices just about everywhere my eyes looked inside the cabin, the right side of my brain insisted I search for abstract compositions. Interestingly, while these images contain no color (they are digitally reversed black-and-white shots, which I think work a bit better as "abstractions"), and were all captured inside a cabin, for me, they just as palpably capture the essence of experiencing New Hampshire's autumnal multispectral pleasures!
Saturday, October 16, 2021
Postscript. Or, to paraphrase a well-known aphorism by physicist Werner Heisenberg (and italicizing my photo-centric alteration), "...what we observe and communicate is not nature in itself, but nature exposed to, and transformed by, our method of capturing it with our camera." Keeping with the same themes and questions that underlie my last two posts (i.e., how to best "capture" New Hampshire's gorgeous autumnal colors during a recent "long weekend" trip), one can start off by saying - tautologically - that any image I chose to capture must, by fiat, represent a particular slice of nature that I saw (through my lens). But how much of my experience of the totality of a given scene (the ambient conditions, light, sound, my state of mind, etc.) remains attached to whatever image(s) I chose to use to represent it? How much (or how little) of any of this is communicated and interpreted as such by the viewer? And, what can I do to instantiate and intensify this experience (for the viewer)? Of course, these kinds of questions have been asked since the dawn of photography, with no easy answers; from Alfred Stieglitz's equivalents to Minor White's admonition to take pictures of "what else" things are. The triptych communicates my early-afternoon experience at a quiet little roadside pond (that, objectively speaking, hardly even merits a "label" on a map; it is "just" a spot on the road from point A to point B on a nondescript stretch of a local highway) far better than any single image does. It does so in two ways: first, because it displays not one but several simultaneous and distinct but related views of the same scene, it gently insists that the viewer "fill in the gaps" in her own mind; which cannot be done except by imaging what it must of have been like to stand there taking these pictures (not to duplicate my experience, but to imagine what it was like, transformed by the viewer's own predilections); and second, because none of the individual images show off the colorful trees directly, but via reflection only (and using a slightly longer-than-normal time exposure, as well), there is an implied intemporal surreality (at least I hope that that is the impression it conveys), which is close to what I was "really feeling" when I took these shots. In the end, and as presaged by Leibniz wise words, it all boils down to the primacy and ineffability of perception. And to the even deeper question of who's "doing" the perceiving?
Friday, October 15, 2021
Postscript. While still on the subject of yesterday's post (i.e., my family's "long weekend" trip to New Hampshire to experience its gorgeous fall colors), but on a decidedly less mystical level than Blavatsky's elegant passage describes, my problem as a photographer was to find a way to capture the "magic" of experiencing autumnal color. Of course, there are myriad ways of doing so, starting with the obvious: just take pictures of the gorgeous color! However, in practice (as with most artful things that matter), the devil is in the details, and "taking pictures of the gorgeous color" is far from trivial. The core difficulty, as all photographers know, is that a beautiful landscape seldom makes for a beautiful photograph. To be sure, I was surrounded - overwhelmed even - by the sublime beauty of endless assortments of multispectral colored ferns and bushes and trees and leaves ... and all of it is beautiful; but why this fern, or that clump of trees? In a nutshell, this is the core joy and frustration of photography, as a whole; a microcosm of an endless aesthetic struggle, one might say. Even though I captured a fair share of the obligatory "wide vistas" (I may share a picture or two in forthcoming posts), this trip turned out to be mostly about discovering smaller, quieter worlds within ostensibly grander "larger than life" explosions of autumnal color: a ragged leaf on an even raggedier lawn chair; a withered overturned leaf bathing in the cold waters of a small pond; and a newly fallen leaf gently resting on a moss-strewn rock (along the trail that led to the waterfall that appears in yesterday's post). None are Ansel Adams-ish "Wagnerian" landscapes, but the triptych, as a whole, nicely conveys a bit of what I felt as I was gazing at New Hampshire's Ansel Adams-ish "Wagnerian" landscapes of magnificent color - a microcosm inside the great universe!
Thursday, October 14, 2021
Think of the method
as a fine silvery stream,
not a raging waterfall.
have faith in its course.
It will find the grooves,
the cracks, the crevices.
Never let it out of your sight.
It will take you."
- Sheng-yen (1931 - 2009)
Postscript. The image reveals the upper part of the 6th waterfall (out of a total of 7) that rewards hikers taking the "Brooks Walk" trail at the Castle In The Clouds conservation area in New Hampshire (located in the Ossipee Mountains of Moultonborough and Tuftonboro, to the northeast of lake Winnipesauke). Since my wife and I had only a few precious days over a long weekend to admire the gorgeous northeast fall colors, our time on trails was necessarily limited. Well known photographer-friendly hikes were all but off limits, partly due to the expected requisite time and effort and partly due to the vast - and unforeseen (at least by me) - crowds of fellow-hikers! Admittedly, the last time I was in New Hampshire was as a teenager on a family trip with my parents (c.1975); i.e., just a wee bit in the past. But while I didn't expect the half-dozen or so cars parked unobtrusively by the side of the road I remember seeing back then, I was still shocked to find massive 200+car parking lots with timed entry! It was the same kind of "dissonance between memory and reality" shock I experienced on a 2012 trip to Yellowstone. Luckily, other less populated areas (than, say, the Franconia Notch area where the parking/hiking logjam appeared most rampant) still exist; like the Castle in the Clouds, for which I have to thank my wife for finding! So, rather than giving up all hope and skedaddling back to our cabin (in very not-Zen fashion), within the span of a few hours I went from commiserating over being unable to park, hike, and take pictures, to parking (with ease), eating (at a nice cafe close to a parking lot with few cars), hiking (on a beautifully maintained trail barely 100 feet from both car and cafe), and having an almost embarrassingly easy time communing with and composing my pick of waterfalls! Lessons: (1) stop basing expectations on 50-yo memories, (2) be flexible and mindful of unforeseen opportunities, and (3) listen to what your wife suggests doing instead :)
Saturday, September 25, 2021
Friday, September 24, 2021
- Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)
Saturday, September 18, 2021
of an energy field…
They are light waves with
mathematically precise lengths,
and they are deep,
resonant mysteries with
- Ellen Meloy (1946 - 2004)
The Anthropology of Turquoise
Friday, September 17, 2021
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 - 1842)
Wednesday, September 15, 2021
has its own beauty,
and in the same field,
it beholds, every hour,
a picture which was
never seen before, and
which shall never
be seen again."
Tuesday, September 14, 2021
Friday, September 10, 2021
Let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself,
and see if we may not eff it after all.”
- Max Planck (1858 - 1947)
Tuesday, September 07, 2021
Monday, September 06, 2021
exclusively intellectual but which
needs a sensory basis from
which to rise to higher levels.
be communicable or transmissible
by any other means, can be
communicated up to a certain
point when they are, so to speak,
incorporated in symbols which
will hide them for many, no doubt,
but which will manifest them
in all their splendor to the
eyes of those who can see.
those who know how to understand it.
of the Divine Word offered at
the beginning of time, then nature
in its entirety can be taken as
a symbol of supernatural reality."
Friday, September 03, 2021
Thursday, September 02, 2021
whole called by us a universe,
a part limited in time and space.
He experiences himself,
his thoughts and his feelings,
as something separate
from the rest, a kind
of optical delusion
of his consciousness.
This delusion is a kind
of prison for us;
it restricts us to our
personal decisions and
our affections to a few
persons nearest to us.
Our task must be to free
ourselves from this prison by
widening our circle of
compassion to embrace
all living creatures and
the whole of nature of
- Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)
Wednesday, September 01, 2021
Tuesday, August 31, 2021
Monday, August 30, 2021
Sunday, August 29, 2021
- Italo Calvino (1923 - 1985)
Saturday, August 28, 2021
- Chuang Tzu (c.369 B.C. - c.286 B.C.)
Thursday, August 26, 2021
and the detail so precise and exquisite
that wherever you are you are isolated
in a glowing world between
the macro and the micro."
- Ansel Adams (1902 - 1984)
Wednesday, August 25, 2021
Tuesday, August 24, 2021
"The air around you is filled with floating atoms, sliding down the Earth's spacetime curve. Atoms first assembled in the cores of long-dead stars. Atoms within you, everywhere, disintegrating in radioactive decays. Beneath your feet, the floor - whose electrons refuse to let yours pass, thus making you able to stand and walk and run. Earth, your planet, a lump of matter made out of the three quantum fields known to mankind, held together by gravity, the so-called fourth force (even though it isn't a force), floating within and through spacetime."
Postscript. This height of this lovely waterfall - Rocky Brooks Falls near Dosewallips State Park, WA - is hard to judge from the picture alone, but it is among the Olympic Peninsula's tallest at about 230 ft! Rocky Brooks falls is also embarrassingly easy to get to: a short 4 mile journey by car on a paved road from the main highway that runs up the Hood Canal, and then (the truly embarrassingly easy part) a 200 yard (!) hike - though "hike" is not the best word: you'll hardly have time to take more than a few breaths before coming to the falls, and can keep the munchies and extra water back at the car. Well, maybe that last part is a bit premature... the falls are so extraordinary to experience in person - the sound, the smell, the subtle mist, the surrounding bird song, and the gentle burbling stream that both greets each expectant visitor and says farewell - that one is well advised to anticipate a longer-than-casual-length stay. Over the course of my family's two weeks on the Peninsula, I took four trips to this falls - the shortest of which lasted no less than 3 hours - and each time spent far more time just sitting and communing with its tender rhythms than prowling around with tripod and camera looking for compositions. A reminder that there are special places that - with "good motivation and appropriate merit" (ref: a blog entry I posted about a week ago) - palpably compel you to stop whatever you're doing and just ... be.
Monday, August 23, 2021
- Charles Saunders Peirce (1839 - 1914)
The Monist (1890-1893), quoted in Truth, Rationality, and
Pragmatism: Themes from Peirce by Christopher Hookway
Sunday, August 22, 2021
changed a great deal relative to the ancient one,
the two have had one key feature in common:
i.e. they are both generally ‘blinkered’ by
the notion that theories give true knowledge
about ‘reality as it is’. Thus, both are led to
confuse the forms and shapes induced in
our perceptions by theoretical insight with
a reality independent of our thought
and our way of looking."
Saturday, August 21, 2021
Thursday, August 19, 2021
Postscript. Do you see a "dog" in the image above? The photo is a rather straightforward shot of a stain on a piece of driftwood captured at the appropriately named "Driftwood Park," just down the road from the Coupeville Ferry Terminal on Whidbey Island, WA. My brain's strange lifelong affliction of conjuring associated memories of stories and books whenever an abstract image presents itself to my camera's viewfinder (the phantasmagoric mystical visions of Borges are a particular favorite of mine, as kind followers of my blog well know!) was in full force when this "dog-like stain" (or, more precisely, this "dog-like stain caught in an energy field") caught my attention. Why, that's "Kazak-the-dog running into the Chrono-Synclastic Infundibula!" I thought to myself, as I clicked the shutter with a smile (well, I almost remembered it correctly; I had to look up the reference later - but my brain got the gist). I'm not sure that this association - now that I've confessed it - makes the image any better (it's a very simple abstract), but I'll bet you can't now see anything else except "Kazak-the-dog running into the Chrono-Synclastic Infundibula!" :)
Sunday, August 15, 2021
and powerless to penetrate beyond her.
I have written before of viewing old subjects with new eyes (that summarizes how a Kauai I thought I knew well after multiple visits that began in the early 1980s, gradually revealed new truths about herself, but only after I changed my own way of "looking"), but never before have I experienced this as deeply as I did on the most recent trip my family and I took to the Pacific Northwest; specifically, the eastern part of the Olympic Peninsula that opens into the Hood Canal. As on myriad past trips, my reading material played an unexpected but vital part in steering my eye/I toward specific elements of the physical environment. In Scotland, I was "accompanied" by a biographies of William James (in 2009) and of Jon Schueler (2016), and both shaped the photography I did on those trips; likewise, in Kauai (in 2014), my compositions arose in part from a book about the island's history that I was immersed in on that trip; and the same in Alaska (in 2018), when a book on Alaska's history gently fueled my imagery. On our first trip to the Northwest (in 2019), I was reading histories and biographies of 19th century Western/U.S. photographers (William Henry Jackson and Carleton Watkins), and my photographs from that trip tended toward the Ansel-Adams-ish "epic" macro landscapes. But, on this most recent trip, my lens was almost always trained on far quieter and subtler kinds of micro-landscapes.
To be sure, part of the reason was the weather. While July's "heat dome" (that descended over much of the Pacific northwest) had dissipated by the time we arrived, it had not gone entirely, and the area was blanketed in unseasonably high temperatures and perfectly clear skies (i.e., far from ideal conditions for landscape photography). Luckily, the book I chose to accompany me on this trip provided both solace (from the physical conditions) and nourishment (of a spiritual kind), that together compelled me to view an old subject with astonishingly new eyes.
The book is called The Heart of the World, one of seven that Ian Baker has written on Himalayan and Tibetan cultural history, environment, art, and medicine. This particular book - written in 2004, and one of the very best adventure/spiritual-quests I have ever read (!) - is ostensibly about finding a fabled colossal waterfall deep within an unexplored part of Tibet’s Tsangpo gorges in the Himalayas (Baker has subsequently been honored by the National Geographic Society as one of six ‘Explorers for the Millennium’ for the ethnographic and geographical research he was a part during his quest to find this waterfall), but is really an extraordinary (and extraordinarily spiritual) account of how one's state-of-mind/reality determines access to Beyul, or "hidden lands where the essence of the Buddhist Tantras is said to be preserved."
Writing of Beyul, the Dalai Lama asserts in the book's introduction, that "...such sacred environments ... are not places to escape the world, but to enter in more deeply. The qualities inherent in such places reveal the interconnectedness of all life and deepen awareness of hidden regions of the mind and spirit. Visiting such places with a good motivation and appropriate merit, the pilgrim can learn to see the world differently from the way it commonly appears..."
While in the Pacific northwest, I read small bits of The Heart of the World each day, cherishing and relishing it's quiet insights and deep wisdom before drifting off to sleep, and anticipating the next day's activities. The result was that my attention was drawn far less to "Wagnerian epic"-like vistas, and more (so much more!) to the timeless essence of place - such as the Oyster-shells seen in the triptych above. Why Oysters? For one thing, our Airnb rental was close to the Hamma Hamma oyster saloon near Lillywaup, WA; so - given the "non photographer's weather" - my wife and I wound up having a lot of time to kill during the day enjoying local quisine. For another - in dreams at least - oysters are associated with quiet meditation and “going within." And, since like palimpsests, oysters record both time and events, their ubiquity in Lillywaup (heck throughout the Hood canal) entwined with my nightly excursions into Tibetan Beyuls. Oysters became my own palimpsests of spiritual and aesthetic journeys, both real and imagined. I was utterly mesmerized by their siren call; the elegance of their form, and the numinous quality of their decaying shells. And on those rare occasions when I was lucky enough to have particularly "good motivation and appropriate merit" - such as when I chanced upon a small deserted beach strewn with oyster shells - the results were pure magic! I caught brief glimpses of the preternatural luminescence that permeates an ineffable Beyul-of-the-mind.
For those of you interested in viewing a few more examples of what I'm tentatively calling "Numinous Palimpsests," I have posted a small portfolio on my main website.
Wednesday, July 14, 2021
- Wassily Kandinsky (1866 - 1944)
Postscript. My apologies to subscribers who expect - rightfully - to receive an image, quote, and/or other musings on a regular basis! Due to the inevitable vagaries of "day job" responsibilities, it has been difficult to find time to re-acquaint myself with my camera ... so, please be patient, as I'll likely be "offline" for the next few weeks as well 😞 In the meantime, the lone image(s) I've managed to expose in well over a month, and arranged in triptych form above, provide a bit of solace. They are each (almost) undisturbed patterns I found under my feet as I was reading a research paper in my mother-in-law's garden in Florida. Followers of my blog may recall that I had - up until the age of 10 (i.e., 50 years ago!) - the most common form of synesthesia (a "crossing of the senses"), wherein I "saw" even numbers as "warm tones," and odd numbers as "cold" tones. But I also have a vestigial remnant of perceiving certain patterns as sound. It has never been as pronounced as my memory of the "visual/number - color" crossing, but it has been with me throughout my life. However, never have I had as intense a synesthetic experience as I did in mother-in-law's garden when eyes/brain glanced at the arrangement you see up above. I literally hear jazz-like music as I look at them. The Kandinsky quote appears of necessity in this context, since he was an acknowledged synesthete (and whose abstracts the natural “random” assemblies shown above remind me so much of!). For those of you who want a quick and fun read about what is currently known about synesthesia, a good place to start is a non-technical discussion by one of synesthesia's pioneer researchers, Richard Cytowic.
Friday, May 28, 2021
Thursday, May 20, 2021
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
The crownless again shall be king."
Monday, May 17, 2021
Sunday, May 16, 2021
Saturday, May 15, 2021
becomes in the world of
the spirit when an object,
a mere door, can give
images of hesitation, temptation,
desire, security, welcome
and respect. If one
were to give an account
of all the doors one has
closed and opened,
of all the doors one
would like to re-open,
one would have to tell the
story of one's entire life."
Friday, May 14, 2021
- Arthur Stanley Eddington (1882 - 1944)
Postscript. One of the first major publications that some of my work was featured in was Black & White magazine, way back in issue #41 (Feb 2006). The images were from what I called my "entropic melody" series. But the "melody" part applies equally to the images (as in "living melodies of otherwise visibly decaying parts") as it does to the - still ongoing - process of creating them (on a vastly different space and time scale). Though I like to think of my "synesthetic landscape" series as my longest "in progress" portfolio, the truth is that - having started "only" in 2009 - it takes a back seat to something I believe I'll never tire of: finding "life" in lifelessness. And so, on a recent "long weekend" vacation with my wife and youngest son (also a photographer), and armed with this spur-of-the-moment self-reflection, I found my eye and lens trained not (entirely) on the natural beauty in the West Jefferson area of North Carolina (of which there is plenty to be had, to be sure!), but rather on the regions' splendors of human-created and now neglected decaying beauty. Looking over the 30 or so "keeper shots" I returned home with, no less than 25 of them are of nothing but "withered but beautifully decrepit" sentinels - and occasional palimpsests - of times past. And, for the photographer, a glimpse of a longer-term "melody" playing out in an always evolving aesthetic landscape. I will be featuring a few of my favorites from this short-much-too-short trip in the coming days.
Thursday, April 29, 2021
- Oliver Sacks (1933 - 2015)
Postscript #1. The triptych consists of images I captured one day last summer after my wife parked her car in a garage near a local farmer's market. I was mesmerized by the "organized cacophony" of shimmering reflections off other car's hoods and hubcaps that arranged - and revealed - themselves to anyone interested in looking. Though I lamented not having my "real" camera, I was happy to have my iPhone to capture this lovely visual feast! Yet another gentle reminder that we must always be on alert to the universe's ceaseless wonders. And, though I rarely talk about the "nuts-and-bolts of photography on my blog (and much prefer posting images and musings than highlighting what f-stop I used), here's a small - hopefully useful - foray into the "nuts-and-bolts" department: to better prepare for unpredictable contingencies (i.e., for when I'm out and about without my usual shoulder and/or back-breaking warehouse-in-a-bag assortment of cameras, lenses, and filters), I recently purchased a tiny - almost babyish-looking - camera; albeit one that is fully functioning! Since it is designed to fit in even a child's pocket (!), I've resolved to always have it on my person when leaving the house for any reason. For those of you curious, it's Canon's G1X Mark III, which is best described as an ultra-miniaturized mirrorless version of their (older) 80D DSLR. While its fixed-lens is neither particularly bright nor sharp, the sensor is effectively the same one used on the 80D; yep, an APS-C sensor in a body that fits inside a shirt pocket! You can check out a review here. So far, I'm loving it, though have yet to post any pictures captured by it. But I suspect that'll soon change :)
Postscript #2. For those of you saddened by not having Oliver Sacks' sage wisdom around anymore (though his books forever enshrine his genius), there is a wonderful new biography available, called Oliver Sacks: His Own Life. Highly recommended!