This video commemorates an annual autumn party at our good friend’s home, Dale and Pamela DuVall. They sang for us acappella on their deck as we applauded from a fire circle. The images are from that day’s walk September 22, 2016. These are the ordinary events that makes our lives so rich in friendship.
Some people walk in the rain, others just get wet.
I went on a Gratitude Walk yesterday on what was supposed to be a cloudy day, but the last mile and a half, I got thoroughly rained on. This videoito is my thankfulness visual journal entry for A Rainy Day in July.
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
“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.
“Take a photo where movement of the camera creates an interesting blur effect.”
That was our Our Daily Create challenge yesterday. I added to this by using the “twirl” feature in the “Photo Booth” ap of my iPad2, and I love some of the effects I got