Archive for July, 2012

Humble Beginnings – Ramadan 1433

I was out last night and this evening in search for the new crescent moon that marks the beginning of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting.  Last night, that would be July 19th, 2012, the moon was not seen.  It was only 12 minutes behind the sun and at the same time we had some fog to contend with.  Similarly, the moon was not positively seen anywhere in the world on the evening of the 19th.

This evening was a different story.  The conditions were perfect and the moon was easily seen.  Not that it made much difference, as the 19th was the 29th day of the previous month and was the critical day in determining when Ramadan would start.  However, it is my “thing” to be out there photographing the new moon, so out I went again this evening.

The moon was easily seen and a thought suddenly occurred to me.  For the longest time as I can recall the moons of Ramadan have appeared in a lack-luster entrance.  Quiet, humble and just there.  Suddenly it all made sense to me.

“Oh you who believe, Fasting has been proscribed upon you as it was proscribed on those who were before you so that you might increase in piety” ~ Quran.

Piety, this month is about piety.  Piety is never flashy.  Its not glamorous or forward or vain.

Its about humility, being patient, reserved, and quiet.  This evening it was quiet out there.  Few people, mild temperatures, slight breeze, very unassuming.  The moons of Ramadan have arrived showing us the very qualities that this month is designed to foster in all of us.  I am in awe.

Ramadan Moon

Ramadan Moon

To all my Muslim Readers – Ramadan Mubarak!  Make use of this month to come out as humble and pious as the moon.

To all Peace.

Leave a Comment: Comments (2)

I’m Sorry – An Open Letter to Mother Earth

Dear Mother Earth,

I am sorry.  When I think about what we humans have done to you I feel ashamed and embarrassed.  You have been in existence much longer than we have and yet we were foolish enough to take on the role of caretaker, so long ago, but we have proven to be unworthy of such a role.  I guess I cannot take all the blame myself, nor should I really, as when I examine my life and how I have lived it, it has been one of conscience and care.  I am sorry though for how I was misinformed in my upbringing, not by my parents mind you, as they were duped just as badly as I was, never giving thought to how you were treated.  Although there were good people out there trying to correct the wrongs being perpetrated against you, I guess the message they were sending out did not reach everyone or affect them the same way.

I recall as a little boy the television commercials of the Native American man named Iron Eyes Cody looking upon your polluted land, water and air and crying.  Those images and messages affected me very deeply and I have been careful ever since.  Nonetheless, I am sorry for my lapses.  I am sorry for my use of plastic.  I know it never goes away and that it has been stuffed into your belly and chokes your waters.  I am sorry that I never raised my voice against plastic and argued for your sake to my parents who thought nothing of it.  Had I known it was so detrimental I would have.  Now I am at a loss.  Everything comes in plastic and I do not know what to do with it.  No one ever told me that most of the plastic, even the recyclable type, never gets recycled. Nor was I told that the plastic that does get recycled is shipped off to Asian countries where poor people root through it and then remelt it into a toxic sludge that will get reused into something, but not before it poisons them and chokes the air with its noxious black smoke.  For that I am sorry.

I am sorry that as I was being educated as an engineer that I did not connect the dots and see that in the course of using science to make life better for humanity it was making things worse for you.  I am sorry that I did not realize that I could have directed my engineering fervor to find solutions that would make life better for us and at the same time not make it worse for you.  I am sorry for not questioning my teachers about the technologies they were advancing if they would do harm rather than just worrying about how to make them function.  I am sorry for not realizing that the engineering systems I studied were just smaller parts of the whole of your system and that they would affect the whole in ways that we never imagined.  I am sorry that in the course of being an engineer resources were extracted from you to make machines that brought more harm to you than good.  I am sorry that we scientists and engineers have forsaken you for the monetary gains that our technologies can bring.  I am sorry that we scientists and engineers formed alliances with greedy financiers who would rather see a beneficial technology that would be safe for you be put to death if it meant that they could not make a profit from it.  I am sorry that in our effort to extract clean energy from you we develop methods that pollute you beyond belief and that we keep how toxic those methods are to ourselves lest the public rage against us.  I am sorry that we cannot seem to understand that polluting you will kill us before it kills you.

I am sorry that in my current profession as a nature and landscape photographer concerned about your preservation that I have to drive a vehicle to the places where I photograph and to the places where I display the photographs and try to educate people about your importance that consumes petroleum in obscene quantities.  I am sorry that I even have to use petroleum as an energy source.  When as I student, I and team of 30 other students designed and built a car that worked completely and cleanly on solar energy and used it to travel over 1000 miles across the United States that I did not champion such clean energy so that today it might be the norm.  I am sorry that I have to pay taxes that help fund unjust wars against innocent people just so that the oil-thirsty nation I live in can continue to quench its thirst for oil.

I am sorry for the arrogant pursuit of poisonous radio-active alternate forms of energy that just continue to hurt you, us and all living things on your back.  We have no clue how to properly contain its power, or how to dispose of its waste and in our sheer stupidity think that if it is out of sight it is out of mind and does not exist, so we bury it deep inside of you or dump it deep into your oceans.  I cannot seem to understand why we seeing past our own noses into the future and realizing we are just digging our own graves eludes us, and for that stupidity, I am sorry.  Worse yet, we turn to using the waste as ammunition for the guns that we turn on ourselves and spray it all over the land poisoning not only the water we drink but the food that we eat and the dust that inadvertently finds its way into our lungs. We kill our selves and sentence our offspring to gross and unjust deformities that will eventually exterminate all of us, and for that I am sorry.  I find it ironically poetic that you, my dear Mother, will not clean up the mess that we make.  I hope we get the message, but I must apologize once again for our lack of understanding in how to care for the place we live, on your back.

I am sorry for our hubris to think that we have unraveled the mysteries of the genetic code and think that we can change small things to alter our food without it harming the whole of creation.  I am sorry that we produce seeds that do not reproduce themselves and then lay claim on the rights to own it so that we can profit from what the seeds produce one time.  You give us seeds that produce for us over and over in manifold gain without cause or concern for profit.  Your generosity shames us in comparison, and for that I am sorry.  I am sorry for the use of chemicals that kill your life giving oxygen-producing plants and that kill the insects that feed on the crops we grow, teaching us how to share, because we deem them an annoyance.  I am sorry that we use such toxins and fail to realize that once they breakdown into their constituent parts they cause an imbalance in the male-female populations that you so carefully crafted for millenia.  I am sorry that we have failed to learn from your wisdom and generosity.

I am sorry for the insanity that we must exhibit in striving to reach other planets and pondering on ways for us to live there while we systematically are killing you.  Maybe those madmen know we are driving in the last few nails into your coffin and they are looking for a means of escape, or a new place to destroy.  I am sorry that we do not spend our wealth amongst ourselves in preserving the beautiful home you have already provided us.  Maybe someday we will learn.

I am sorry for what we have done to you bringing you to your current state.  You ail today, your fever is rising, and yet we turn a blind eye and deaf ear to your illness because the change will cost us too much financially.  I am sorry for the nonsensical logic that we use to justify the status quo.  It is hilariously-sad to me to see the wealthy trying to hold on to something they will never get to take with them once they die and they fail to use it for the benefit that it can bring before they return to you as dust.  I am sorry for the sad state that humans have devolved to where greed above all else matters most even at the cost of severing their own lifeline so embedded in you.  I am sorry that humans as a whole have not learned how to be as generous as you have been to us for all these eons.  I am appalled that we cannot seem to understand the value of a seed over the value of the fruit bore from it.  For each fruit is of its own, while in a seed lies 70 to 700 times its self in the fruit it will bear.  I am sorry we do not give back to you in the like quantity that you give to us.  It seems that everything on your back knows the meaning of balance except us and for that I am sorry.

I am frightened that as our Mother, you are ready to discipline us with your chastisement for our wrongs.  We do not seem to hear your scolding and I fear it will not be long before the mulberry-switch comes out.

I know your chastisement will be stern, but please have mercy on us.  We are fools and know not what we are doing.

Please accept this apology from me and from those who sign on to this letter as well.  We do care and we are trying our best in a system that has gone completely wrong.



Youssef M. Ismail ~ Organic Light Photography

Tim Gray

Guy Tal ~ Guy Tal Photography

Bret Edge ~ Bret Edge Photography

Michael E. Gordon ~ Michael E. Gordon Photography

Dali Delos Reyes

Mujtaba Ghouse

Alice Gray

Gary Crabbe ~ Enlightened Images

Mark Graf ~ Mark Graf Photography

Floris van Breugel ~ Art In Nature Photography

Terese Boeck

Rabbi Gershon Steinberg-Caudill ~ EcoRebbe

Nancy Schwalen

Mary Ann Donegan

Iskandar Soekardi

Ginny Kalila

David Leland Hyde ~ Landscape Photography Blogger

Larry Kimball ~ Pronghorn Wildlife Photography

PJ Finn ~

Brad Mangas ~ Nature & Wilderness Photography

John Strong ~ Visual Notebook

Mark Fenwick ~ Fascinating Photography

Greg Russell ~ Alpenglow Images

Patty Hankins ~ Beautiful Flower Pictures

Alexandra Mitchell

Leave a Comment: Comments (41)


As a photographer, I am concerned with producing photographs that are more than just pretty pictures.  I want photos that tell a story, photos that touch the soul, and photos that make you reflect about life, about the choices that we make, about where we came from and where we will end up, photos that invoke awe and wonder.  It is difficult when such work is surrounded by an onslaught of technographers with their ubiquitous cameras in every conceivable device broadcasting a visual-cacophony of mediocre imagery.   All the while they flood the world with claims of artistry and self proclamation of greatness while presenting a mish-mash of cookie-cutter formulaic images of iconic locations coupled with two-bit “Jack Handy” styled affirmations which have nothing to do with the photo its coupled with.  I suppose these affirmations are supposed to make you think they are some deep philosophical thinkers that have figured out life and how to live it. God forbid that we should look with a critical eye upon the work of the greatest photographer alive or that we should question the king of nature as the king traipses about in his kingdom.

Never mind the decades of experience behind the lens, the years of study into the life cycles and natural rhythms of creatures, plants and ecosystems, or the nature of light itself and how it interacts with objects to produce the images we see not to mention the eye itself. Never mind the lifetime of experiences spent trying to understand ones own internal psyche through years of spiritual practice so that one would understand the underpinnings of human as well as animal behavior. Those qualities of the artist are not as important in producing art as the tool used in making that art. A tool, the modern camera in this case, so technologically advanced that the “artist” has no real understanding of how that technology actually produces the images that it regurgitates.

If you sense frustration in my words, you would be correct.  Presenting work that is either to subtle to be noticed or to sophisticated to be understood is becoming exceedingly disheartening.  I produce my work with a discerning eye.  I do not travel around the world looking for and presenting the next amazing unseen before image.  I also do not produce thousands upon thousands of photos every year.  My work is much more an internal examination of the state in which find myself physically, mentally as well as spiritually.  Any person could find themselves in these same states and could relate to them personally.  In times of difficulty and confusion, we all yearn for moments when an understanding into the circumstances that surround us is all that are needed to maintain our sanity.  For me, those moments come visually more often than not, and if I happen to have my camera with me, it is captured in the hopes that others might benefit from that ephemeral epiphany as well.

I photograph what I find appealing and I let the photos find me rather that trying to force the photo I see in my head.  Sometimes I do not know why I make a photo or what that image means at the time I capture it.  Sometimes the meaning does not become apparent to me for years and at other times it is understood even before I trip the shutter.  The photos look “real”, they feel “real” and yet they sometimes border on the surreal because whatever happens to be in the photo was never looked at in that specific way or in that flavor of light or from that certain perspective.  If a photo elicits a question in the viewer then I have achieved my goal.   The question could be as simple as “where is this?” or “what is this?”  The point is that the image has made the viewer think.  My photos are not made to be looked at in passing.  The longer they are viewed the more interesting they become as the nuances of light and detail begin to emerge and objects are seen in them that we would not have seen otherwise even if the scene was observed in person.  Since I do not follow the crowd from iconic location to iconic location, my photos are quite unique and usually buck the trends.

Trends come and go quickly.  They appear out of nowhere and vanish almost as quickly.  What is in fashion today will no longer be tomorrow.  And those who are caught up in the rush of the caprice du jour enjoy a temporal euphoria that sweeps them away into oblivion such that no one can tell where they came from and where they had gone and become nothing more than a blip in our collective memory.  At the same time, those that anchor themselves to tradition, integrity, honesty, quality and style, will find themselves apparently losing out in the race.  However, what is not seen is that while everyone else has been washed away they are still standing, as firm as they ever were and still as reliable to others as they ever were.  That is where true value lies, in that which is reliable.  So, even though you might feel surrounded at times by the world racing around you, take solace in lasting traditions and pay no attention to the flotsam whizzing by.

Spring runoff on Cascade Creek


Leave a Comment: Comments (13)