Slowing Time

Anyone who know me knows I am a wandering spirit. I am not that stay-at-home-and-garden person. After I finish my daily work at the computer or in the classroom, almost every day I pick up my camera, put on my boots and just GO. I am never happier than when I have disappeared into the landscape (all those who wander are not lost!).

Last week, I dashed off to nearby Fall Creek. It was the end of the day during a time when the days are slowly growing longer. At sunset I was at a place called Fisherman’s Bend, where I had never stopped before. Red rock, rushing water pooling green, swirling and catching the low light–all these pulled me into that forever place for just a half hour, but that’s all I need to find my place on the planet once more, just for today.

I experimented with the mobile device app called Stellar to create a little slideshow of the afternoon’s mini-adventure. I’m not sure I’m thrilled with the way it looks on the web–do you have an opinion?

On the iPad, the entire screen is filled, which looks great. On the web, it appears to me as small, and I don’t see a way to expand it–although cleverer eyes than mind might spot a way and be kind enough to let me know. But I DO like the mini-portfolio concept offered by Stellar.


Beauty Bells

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Setting Off the Beauty Bells

This morning, I read a thoughtful essay on beauty in photography. The author, Laura Valenti, made the point, “Beauty is a quality that exists outside of the subject of any photograph.” I also think the passion to create beauty must come first from within.

I live in Eugene near Delta Ponds, an urban wetland. I have walked and photographed the same five mile loop for twenty years. I have seen the ponds and their familiar denizens season in and season out. My subject matter in a way never varies: cormorants, eagles, great blue herons, wood ducks, hawthorne, cottonwood, water, sky, and light.

There are (rarely) dull days when I never take a shot, but more often than not, I see a new behavior, an angle, a slant of light that sets off the beauty bells in my head and makes me lift my lens.

I was privileged once to be shooting with the great Ansel Adams. We were high up on a hill at sunset looking down over the National Bison Range in Montana.

He talked to us then about two things.

One was a “mature image.” “Everyone has seen a picture of a bison backlit by sunset light,” he said. “Your job is to see past the familiar to the strange and beautiful with fresh eyes.”

The second insight came as we all stood around with our cameras on tripods, eyes to our viewfinders, looking down at what was truly a magnificent tableau of animals, dust, and glorious light. “Stop,” Adams said, “Don’t shoot yet. Look. Ask yourself, ‘What is it about this scene that I love?’ Then compose for that.”

I have never forgotten that advice as I go about photographing my quotidian world. The photo above is the July grass by the ponds turning brown. What I love about it is the shape made by the grass heads as they make almost a heart shape. I love the angle of the grass, and even though it was getting really hot out, I love the light.

There is a part of me that has worried about my drive to select for beauty and to leave out the ugly–the slime-slicked rocks as the ponds dry up, the nearby mall structures–or if I do, I try to find a way to make them beautiful, too–but I am resigned to have a capital “R” Romantic imagination. I have tried, but I don’t have the eyes of a documentarian or even of a good street photographer.

I walk the Beautyway as my spiritual practice, and Valenti’s thoughts affirmed that path for me here this morning.

Today may I walk out in beauty.

With beauty may I walk.

With beauty before me, may I walk.

With beauty behind me, may I walk.

With beauty above me, may I walk.

With beauty below me, may I walk.

With beauty around me, may I walk.

It is finished in beauty.

It is finished in beauty.

–Navajo Beautyway Prayer

 

 

Delta Daze

“There comes a moment in every life when the Universe presents you with an opportunity to rise to your potential. An open door that only requires the heart to walk through, seize it and hang on.

The choice is never simple. It’s never easy. It’s not supposed to be. But those who travel this path have always looked back and realized that the test was always about the heart. …The rest is just practice.”

― Jaime Buckley, Prelude to a Hero


As a photographer, I feel the Universe presents me with daily opportunities to rise to my potential, but I have to be willing to photograph my own back yard over and over, seeming to repeat shots I have made year after year.

Can I sustain passion for the quotidian beings of my local Delta Ponds? The temptation is to say, “Oh, I’ve photographed this Great Blue Heron or his relatives for twenty-three years of walking this bike path.” Yet, just this week, a Little Green Heron has started strutting up and down the turtle log. For the first time, I saw young killdeer playing and practicing short flights in their hyper-fast, comic little way.

Walking the ponds is not only a daily photography practice, but a daily challenge to observe, be present, and learn that, as the Chinese philosopher teaches me, I can never enter the same five mile pond loop twiice.

 This short video is only one of three I made about the Delta Ponds here in Eugene, Oregon this last week of June 2015. For the inquiring minds amongst you, I made it on a new app produced by Vimeo called Cameo. It is my first effort using their product, and it’s different from Replay or iMovie in that you can’t include still photos. No transitions are on offer–it’s pretty minimalist.

However, overall, it was fun to use this one time, and I was able to include all of my animal friends met along the Delta Pond path.

Hail fellow, well met! Red-Winged Blackbird foraging at pond’s edge.

Murmuration

I think it is so important to be in love with place where you live, both home and environs.

As I’ve mentioned before, I am home sick, but as I grade online, the work doesn’t stop. In the late afternoon, I just had to get out, so I grabbed the camera and drove the five miles or so out to Fern Ridge Reservoir for the sunset–very much in Eugene’s backyard.

 

mergansersRunning
Mergansers ran away from me screaming, “Run for your lives, boys! She’s got a camera!”

 
While looking through the lens at the lake, I suddenly did a double take: there was a murmuration out on the lake! I moved my finger a quarter inch to the video button and held as absolute still as I could while I witnessed and videoed this extraordinary natural phenomenon.

I got about ten minutes of video which I cut to two and spliced in a few still images I also took around the lake: two eagles, cormorants, mergansers, egrets, a Great Blue Heron.

Half an hour later I was back home, astonished at the richness I had accidentally encountered because I took a short break.

 

Of course, I had to do a little research on murmurations, and I found an excellent article in Wired Magazine. Here is an excert. You can follow the link for more (clickety click!).

“Starling flocks, it turns out, are best described with equations of “critical transitions” — systems that are poised to tip, to be almost instantly and completely transformed, like metals becoming magnetized or liquid turning to gas. Each starling in a flock is connected to every other. When a flock turns in unison, it’s aphase transition.

“At the individual level, the rules guiding this are relatively simple. When a neighbor moves, so do you. Depending on the flock’s size and speed and its members’ flight physiologies, the large-scale pattern changes. What’s complicated, or at least unknown, is how criticality is created and maintained.

“It’s easy for a starling to turn when its neighbor turns — but what physiological mechanisms allow it to happen almost simultaneously in two birds separated by hundreds of feet and hundreds of other birds? That remains to be discovered, and the implications extend beyond birds. Starlings may simply be the most visible and beautiful example of a biological criticality that also seems to operate in proteins and neurons, hinting at universal principles yet to be understood.”

Mt. Pisgah

I’m home sick for the second day (cold? flu? Who the heck can tell any of these cruds apart?), but Monday, my husband Peter and I reconnected with an old friend, Paul Hawkwood, who is taking the same online photography class I am (with Laura Valenti: “Candela: Finding Inspiration Through Photography”) class, and took a photo walk together up on the Pleasant Hill side of Eugene’s Mt. Pisgah.

Since I am sitting around the house with nothing better to do, I made a little slide show video of our walk using the Replay video editing app.

 

The photo below of the tree being isolated by a muted shaft of light from the thicket behind it was probably my favorite of the day because of the texture and detail of the chaotic branches–a study in object/field/ground. But more than that, it does what I say I want to do in my photography. In my artist’s statement, I say:

In my photography, I attempt to make things look as if they were imbued with a dramatic underlying force. I photograph to discover traces of the luminous fingerprints of the divine.

Photography takes me out of my head and into the world of light and shadow, form and composition.

I seek source imagery–those images that for me are emerging from some fresh spring of the world right now.There is a relationship with memory, dream, and reflection to be explored, photographed, suggested, and known.

PisgahTree

 

What I enjoyed was that the three of us moved at the same easy pace, talking but not over talking, taking photographs, being fully present in the morning and the rare opportunity it gave us to reconnect around a mutual love of photography.

As a hard working college teacher fully wired into the digital age, like the Old Woman who lived in a shoe, who had so many students, she didn’t know what to do, I intensely value time alone with my camera, and perhaps like-minded others, unplugged for an hour or a day, and I gratefully receive all encouragement to keep on doing what I often have to fight to get free enough to do.

Birds_Fields_Pisgah

Meditation at Cape Arago

November Meditation at Cape Arago

Peter and I had occasion to be in Coos Bay on Friday, Nov. 1, 2013 to review a show of master printmakers at the Coos Bay Art Museum. Eyes swimming with original works of Rembrandt, Picasso, Whistler, Goya, Blake–the list goes on! we staggered out of the museum, and, as the day was fine, drove out to Cape Arago to think about what we had seen.

We found ourselves in North Cove just off Shell Island with an unusually low tide and all of the late afternoon sun to ourselves. We wandered for hours in that silent bell jar created by the constant roar of the surf, the bark of the sea lions, the screams of eagles and gulls.

I disappeared into light, rock, and camera lens, falling deeper and deeper into the textured, striated landscape of cliff and beach.

When I made this slideshow, I was mindful of what Nancy Rose Meeker said about “Cle Elum Gold,” and I simplified my approach. No animated transitions, only dissolves, and each slide shows four seconds.

For some reason, this was a very inward meditation for me, as I photographed the 65 million year old Cenozoic rock formations, the intricately folded stone, the dead sea lion (with ten-inch orca slashes in its sides) juxtaposed to fossilized marine animals…

Fields of Gold

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October 24, 2013 found me visiting Seattle to go to a conference. I came a day early so Cheryl and I would have an Art Play Day–and what a day it was! We planned for one destination, but as the sun got lower in the sky, we instead stopped in the surreal basin of the lowered reservoir.

A Road to Call Your Own

A Road to Call Your Own
A Road to Call Your Own

Today I have a twofer fer ya—the Daily Create was a to do a write–so I just cleaned up my current journal entry, and put it below the video.

Yesterday, Susan Carkin and I went for a hike up Spencer’s Butte, and I shot media on my i-Phone (which explains a lot about how it looks, which is okay but not great). However, I did find a great song by local singing duo Mike and Carleen Mc Carnack, “A Road to Call Your Own.” You can buy it at CD Baby.com; I did!

Back to Life

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I love this new poem by Don Hynes, Portland poet, and as I was headed for the Oregon Coast anyway…