Archive for the 'Images' Category

Seaing Stars

Last July, that would be in 2011, I came home from a long day of teaching a summer camp in the midst of heat wave in the San Francisco Bay Area to find my intrepid 4 photo assistants flailed about the home studio sweltering in the heat.  It was still hours before sunset and so I suggested a trip to the coast for a little heat relief and possibly for some photography.  With that intent we headed out.  The result of that outing, if you are a regular reader here, you might recall was narrated in The Gathering. That photo turned out to be one of the most popular photos at my exhibit in the last year and a half.  It prompted me to think up of other similarly gathered items from locales that I photograph.

One year after ‘The Gathering’ was made, I found myself with my 4 assistants again trampling around on Pescadero beach on a day that not only had a low tide, but a substantial negative tide.  I stood on portions of the beach that I have never been on, seen creatures in tide pools that you normally could not see, and touched rocks that for most of the year remained constantly under water.  About an hour before sunset, I started noticing the number of starfish that were clinging to the exposed rocks.  Too close to the surf for me to set up and operate the large format camera without getting completely soaked and ruining the camera my mind suddenly flashed to the ‘The Gathering’ once more. I rallied my assistants and instructed them that we were going to make another collaborative photo but this time the subject was to be sea stars!  They were gung-ho and off they went.

We managed to gather about 10 sea stars and arranged them further up on the beach away from the surf and made a photo.  We felt that the number of sea stars seemed sparse and we needed more but unfortunately the sun was setting, the surf was rising and we needed to call it a day.  After putting the sea stars back on the rocks at the water line, we headed back to the car and I consulted a phone application I have on my phone called Tide Graph and found that 10 days later another negative low tide would occur that was even lower than what we had just experienced. So we set the date and made a plan to return.

On our second trip I gave clear instructions to my assistants that we had one goal – gather as many sea stars as we could possibly find.  We gave ourselves three hours of gathering time and I further instructed them that they should stay as dry as they could, it was after all mid September and the Pacific Ocean along the Northern California coast is not exactly heated to a comfortable swimming temperature, and I let them loose. I set up my camera further up on the beach away from the water and started to look for sea stars myself.  I found a few but my team started to bring even more.  With each new batch my assistants returned with more and more of their bodies soaked in seawater.  I reminded them about staying dry but the response was that they needed to reach the starfish!

At one point I looked around the beach and did not see the team anywhere.  Suddenly a small head pops up out of the water followed by two others!  Mind you they are fully dressed wearing waterproof rain jackets that are now water soaked.  Moments later I had three assistants running up to me completely soaked from head to toe, each toting several sea stars. The youngest of my assistants offers up the excuse that the pool she was in did not seem so deep, but then slipped and fell face first into water and it was so FUN!  My youngest son, rushes up and says with emphatic curiosity “Baba, Baba, it does not hurt when you open your eyes under the ocean! Why?!”  I explain to him that the salinity of the ocean is the same as that of our blood and our tears and so it is as if you opened your eyes in a big ocean of tears.  He continues, “its amazing down there, you can see so many different plants and animals all over the place on the rocks, it is the coolest thing I have ever done!” I then ask him “are you not cold?”  He replies “Yes I am but its so fun swimming in the ocean and I can hardly feel my giblets anymore.  They feel like ball-cicles!” and off he went back to the water and searching for more sea stars.  At one point a couple walking along the beach saw my intrepid team neck deep in a large tide pool and also asked them if they were cold.  My team replies gleefully “it used to be, but now we we can’t feel it anymore”.

Soon the number of sea stars became significant and the arrangement started to look very full.  My oldest son comes up the beach with his small pouch filled with not only sea stars but two live purple shore crabs and suggested we include them as well.  His reasoning was that they too were exposed by this low tide and that is what this photo is really about.  He had a great idea.  So we placed them in the arrangement and remarkably they did not run off, at least not right away.  His suggestion about what was found at low tide was exactly what this photo needed to make it interesting.  So as the team continued with finding sea stars I started to comb the beach for detritus either washed up or left behind by the receding surf.  I collected interesting stones like those in the ‘The Gathering’, muscle shells, other shore crab shells, some complete and some partial, black turban sea snails, Dungeness crab claws, and I even found one complete half of a Dungeness crab shell with a claw and four legs.  When they all finally came up the beach with their last haul of sea stars they noticed all the other items and were both shocked and impressed.  To finish it off they insisted on including a feather, a single feather that they found rolling around on the beach pushed by the breeze.  We debated its inclusion for a bit, but in the end, as it was found on the beach below the normal tide line and we included it.

The whole day had been overcast so the light was flat, perfect for this kind of photo.  However it was also somewhat bland as well.  Then about 20 minutes before sunset, the fog above us started to glow with a faint reddish-pink tone that warmed the arrangement just perfectly.  It was then that I made the photo.  We then began taking the sea stars back to the water line and placed them back on the rocks and in the surf where they could reattach themselves and continue on with their patient existence.

We walked back to the car exhilarated with the experience.  Suddenly I realized that my car seats were about to become as soaked as my assistants.  They were all shivering now, with sea water dripping from their chins and fingertips, feet covered up to their ankles in sand.  My car was about to become an extension of the beach.  They climbed in as I started the car and tuned on the heater to help warm them up.  The windows quickly fogged up and so I started to alternate between the heater and the air conditioner to defrost the windshield so that I could see where I was driving.

Normally the return drive from the beach with my assistants usually devolved into an argument about who is going to shower first when we arrived at home.  On this occasion however, something magical happened.  Because the experience they had of ‘swimming’ in the ocean was so powerful, all they could do was recount their intrepidness to each other.  Each trying to out do the others’ stories.  I heard things from them like I had never heard before.  Snippets about how they all would charge into the water to save their youngest compatriot when they saw the her fall down, how they would sit at the edge of a pool and reach out to grab a star only to get washed over by a wave, and then giving up to the water and just going headlong into it.  Recounts of how the water was so cold that they could not feel fingers and toes; but that it was so fun they were certainly not going to come out.  My oldest daughter summarized it best; “this was the most fun I have ever had in my entire life!

Once we came upon the town of Davenport, I pulled over and decided to stop at the Davenport Roadhouse to surprise my team with some hot chocolates to help them warm up.  I had them stay in the heated car as I went into the restaurant; all the while they had no idea why I had stopped.  What I had seen from them and what I would continue to see on the remainder of our return home were the stars that they are when they can get beyond themselves and their self-interests.  When I walked back with the hot chocolates, I heard a cheer from the car.  Now with warm fluids flowing through them, my oldest son finally exclaims “I can finally feel my middle toe again!”  The rest of the ride home they worked out who would shower first when they got home, started ranking themselves with titles for the various actions they took at the beach; things like most wet, most coldest, biggest splash falling, most sea stars collected, most sand in pockets, coldest toes, and so on.  It was the most enjoyable ride home that I can ever remember.

When it came to naming the photo, I only had to think back to that ride home and the four stars that I saw shining in that car.  ‘Seaing Stars’, the photo below was, once more, the result of a collaborative effort of five souls whose love for the natural world brought them to that beach and through their individual and unique efforts gathered all these amazing creatures that are normally hidden from view.

Go out and find some magic for yourselves and your loved ones.  The natural world has much to offer and the stories you come back with will be priceless.

Seaing Stars

Seaing Stars

 

Peace

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Disappointment Deals Delight

The Sun

The Light Source

This past Sunday was dedicated to photographing the annular eclipse of May 20th, 2012.  I had prepared for it on many levels from what exposure to use to where I would drop my tripod to how I was going to make what I captured unique, and had done so for weeks ahead of time.  The one thing that I failed to plan for was equipping my four photo/travel assistants with what they needed to view and keep themselves entertained for its duration.  Despite my earlier attempts to find solar viewing glasses I could not find any vendor who was not sold out.  In addition, the day before the eclipse I found myself in a discussion with another photographer who was making plans to photograph and produce HDR (high dynamic range) photos of the event showing both the eclipsed sun and landscape as they would normally appear to our eyes.  I contested his claim but he was insistent that it could be done.  This caused me to waiver in my plans, and coupled with the possibility of a mutiny on my hands with my assistants forced my hand to change my plans nearly entirely.   I found myslef the night before, rather than getting a good night’s rest, up late scouring various sites on what was capable while still maintaining a real look to HDR photography.  Then I happened to land on a news page about the museum and visitor center at Turtle Bay Exploration Park / Wild Bird Sancturay in Redding, Ca.  The article stated that they would be selling solar viewing glasses for $1 and the article was only written that day, the information had to be accurate, right?

Crescent Sun Ecplisped by the Moon

Crescent Sun

In the 11th hour, I changed all my plans.  My destination was now Turtle Bay Wild Bird Sanctuary in spite of the fact that there would be hundreds if not thousands of people there.  Redding was not that far off the annularity line that it would change what I actually had in mind, and park environment would placate my assistants should the need arise.

We awoke Sunday morning and prepared our supplies for the day’s drive and viewing.  We were out the door with plenty of time and the  four and a half hour drive started out pleasant, however the further we drove the more tense things became in the car.  The tide of pleasant anticipation in my assistants was starting to turn.

We arrived with two and a half hours of buffer before the start of the eclipse.  The plan, buy the viewing glasses, eat lunch, find a suitable viewing location and then wait.  Disappointment met us from the beginning.  First the museum under estimated the response for viewing glasses and was sold out the day before.  Not to worry the employee told me, they will have 500 more glasses arriving at 4 pm, and will be available at the annex store by the famous Sundial Bridge.  By the time we arrived we found a line of about 100 people standing in the hot sun in 90° weather waiting to get in to the store at 4pm.  The roving employee there let us know we were in a part of the line where we might not get any glasses as each person could buy up to 5 glasses, putting us in a risky part of the line.  So with great hope we waited.  Slowly patience began to wear thin among my crew. One wanted to light a fire just because it was so hot, his incredulous claim was he could do it with just a focused pinhole of light.  Another wished he did not leave his water in the car.  Then the other wanted to play, and sleep and be carried on my head at the same time.  My patience was starting to wane.  By 4:45 we were inside and we made our purchase – lady luck smiled on us.

Solar Eclipse Obscured by High Cirrus Clouds

Obscured

We had less than 15 minutes before the start of the eclipse.  I announced that everyone should evacuate bladders and such for once I start the photo sequence there was no stopping.  No one heeded my words.  I was suspicious.  By the time we finished eating and squelching some sibling rivalry fires, the eclipse had started and I missed the initial contact of the moon with the sun and disappointment found its way into my head.

For the next two and a half hours, it was one dispute after another, one distraction after another, one question after another.  My mind was not focused at all on what I was doing.  My photos were not being timed carefully and I would miss the twenty second mark I had planned for each photo more times than I could keep count of.  I was also plagued by clouds, thin nefarious clouds that were just thick enough to keep the light levels jumping all over the place.  I could not make a sequence of more than 4 or 5 photos that had the same exposure level that I needed to make a time lapse sequence possible.  I also saw in my view finder this very odd haloing and glow around the sun nearly the whole time.  Something I did not notice in my practice photos.  It brought me great concern that I might find flares in all these photos making them useless in the end.  My mind started slipping into thoughts of inadequate equipment syndrome, something that did not torment me in more than a decade.

The Annular Eclipse of May 20th 2012 in total annularity

With This Ring

As the moon continued its encroachment of the sun, the anticipation of my assistants increased.  The arguing vanished into amazement, the prevailing thirst quenched with wonderment, and I as well was awe struck by the magnitude of what was occurring before my eyes.  Here was the moon, an entity in our sky that could not be seen if not for the light of the sun, moving in front of the source of what makes it existent to our eyes and blocking it out.  However, rather than overshadowing the sun it instead forms a ring of heavenly light as the the two wed in the sky for nearly 4 minutes in a display that had no beginning and no end.  It was as if time stood still and the world became dim and humbled in the grandeur of their union.  Being so close to a multitude of people, even though out of eyesight, we were not cheated out of hearing the cheers that belted out throughout the park as the ring became complete.  It was a spine tingling moment not to be soon forgotten.

The moon breaks the ring of light as it exits totality

Broken Light

Nonetheless, being created things that had a beginning so long ago, their nature is to end and they exhibited their primal nature with the moon breaking the ring of light as it continued on its way past the sun and ending totality.  Again a second cheer rings out among the crowd.  The event everyone came to see had happened.  In my exhilaration any thoughts I had about not capturing the eclipse the way I had intended had vanished if not for just a brief time.  I continued until the dreaded clouds that obscured the sky and mustered havoc with my exposures obliterated the light of the sun, just 10 minutes before the eclipse concluded.  A disappointing end, and one that brought question if I would have any usable photos at all.

After a long drive to Turtle Bay, and sitting square in the sun and heat for nearly five hours, I had to look forward to another long drive home unsatisfied in my work and with no hopes of a return on the investment made.  We arrived home just past midnight and my first act was to see and download the photos.  At first glance all were useless.  Not more than 4 or 5 photos in sequence were exposed at the same settings, making the probability of a time lapse sequence happening slim to none.  So I turned off the computer and retired to bed  hoping to come up with something in the morning.

The next day I started to process the photos to find almost all of them have a glowing halo around the sun that I could not remove without great difficulty.  In my desperation I start to process the photo Broken Light in a manner that I would never normally do to discover that the halo I was seeing was nothing more than the clouds that were obscuring the sun glowing in the light.  The use of the solar filter on my lens allowing me to view and photograph the sun had made the clouds so dark that they did not appear as clouds when normally processed against the brightness of the sun.  So with my modified processing suddenly the lost photos became as surreal as the momentous eclipse itself.  I searched the net for other photos of the eclipse to find that no one had anything like what I had been given.

My disappointment was suddenly transformed into delight.  Maybe someday I will have the opportunity to produce a time lapsed sequence of the moon eclipsing the sun.  However in hindsight, what I had envisioned would not have been very interesting and what I was given instead has pleased me much more.  Funny how things turn out.

Now I am looking 5 years ahead to the next eclipse that will cross over this neighborhood of the Earth, maybe then I will see my original vision come to fruition.

Peace to you All!

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Remembering Spring

Spring Wildflowers in Carizzo Plain

Remembering Spring

It seems like such a long time ago that the flowers were blooming yet it does not take much to remember them when a photo is looked at.  Every aspect is remembered from the aromas to the feeling of the sunlight caressing the skin. Thoughts re-emerge about how the photo will finally look once it is processed and the excitement of eventually seeing it.  Much goes into making a photo and the rewards of finally finishing it are great.  Good things come to those who wait, and hopefully all who see this photo now will have as much pleasure looking at it as I had re-living the moment and processing it.

Peace.

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New Year Moon – Muharram 1432

The new Islamic Year has commenced. The year 1432 on the Islamic calendar began for me just about 1 hour ago here on the West coast of the United States in the San Francisco Bay Area. The new moon was seen by myself and three of my children, all future moon sighters, God Willing, the youngest being only 4 years old.

Muharram 1432

Muharram Crescent 1432

As usual, my youngest had a hard time seeing it at first, but then finally asked “does it look like a little hair?” To which I replied “yes” and she gleefully said “I see it!”  A moon sighter in the making, I’d say.

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New Year & New Images

In a few days we will begin a new decade.  It is amazing how fast time passes when we are not aware, while we are busy with life, while we were preoccupied with meaningless things.  For me it has been a busy year but albeit not one that has been very fruitful. It was a year that tested our resolve to its fullest, and hopefully we have made it through in decent shape.

Tailbone Falls

It has been a slow year for me in terms of bringing out new work.  I now have released 16 new photographs that can be viewed at the Organic Light Photography website.  They span the work from spring, summer, autumn and the early winter of this year.

In these last few days of 2009, I hope you will get a chance to have glimpse of this new work and hopefully decide to acquire one for your own.  I have truly appreciated all your support over the years and it is always my joy to bring some of our world’s beauty to share with all of you.

Please have safe new years and may 2010 bring all of prosperity and good fortune.

Peace.

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New Islamic Year – 1431

New Crescent - Muharram 1431

New Crescent - Muharram 1431

This evening, in silence, the new Islamic year – 1431 began.  Now I don’t live in the Muslim world so I have never experienced what takes place upon seeing the new moon that ushers in the new Islamic year, but here in the United States, it goes pretty much un-noticed.   In fact if it is not the moon for the start of Ramadan or the moon that ends Ramadan, most Muslims never look into the sky or even bother to notice what the Islamic date is.  For me the new moon is an awaited monthly friend that I have been faithfully visiting for the last twenty years.  For me it is always a joyous event.  And although the moon never seems to be any different, every time it comes around it comes with a different sky as its backdrop.  And so it is always something new to look at.

Muharram Crescent and Clouds

Muharram Crescent and Clouds

So on this eve of the New Year, I wish all the Muslims a Blessed Muharram, and may the year 1431 be a safe, prosperous, and beneficial year.

Peace to you all.

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New Photos Released

Six new photos have been released on the Organic Light Photography website. 

The website has also been updated with a new feature that allows you to see the photos super-sized!  Just click on the “details” button below each individual photo in the gallery pages to see them BIG!  The feature is not available for every photo on the website but over time more and more photos will get updated.  The detail of Large Format film is astounding and can only be appreciated in large images.  The photos are even better in person as 16 x 20 inch enlargements or bigger.  Visit an upcoming show to see them.

Enjoy.

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From The Hip

From The Hip 1

From The Hip 1

I had to take my truck in to the garage today for some maintence and to correct a brake problem. I took it in later in the afternoon and decided to walk home. It was only about 4 miles away and I thought it would give me an opportunity to see what lies along the road that I drive nearly every day with my camera in hand. I was not terribly inspired by anything until I crossed a freeway bridge. As the cars whizzed by beneath me I thought it would be cool to try and capture some car headlight or taillight trails. However, it was still to bright to get a photo with the shutter open long enought to capture good trails.

So I walked on. Then I began to take photos of the cars that were pasing me by on the street. It seemed like a good idea, but I did not want anyon to know I was photographing their car. So I began to shoot from the hip. Here is what happened.

From The Hip 1

From The Hip 2

From The Hip 1

From The Hip 3

From The Hip 1

From The Hip 4

From The Hip 1

From The Hip 5

From The Hip 1

From The Hip 6

From The Hip 1

From The Hip 7

From The Hip 1

From The Hip 8

I know… not my usual fare. But I found them interesting. Let me know which one you found the most interesting. I’d love to hear from you – Peace.

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New Year 1430!

Time passes by so fast.  This evening marked the beginning of the New Islamic Year, Year 1430.  Tonight being the first evening of the month of Muharram and tomorrow the first full day.  The Islamic calendar is one based on the lunar cycle.  Each of the 12 lunar months is marked by sighting the new crescent moon.  Three times out of the year it is a big deal throughout the Muslim world with the start and end of Ramadan, the month of fasting, and with the start of the 12th month in the year which is the month of Pilgrimage.  For the rest of the year, the moons go pretty much un-noticed except for a handful of dedicated die-hard moon-sighters.

Muharram Moon in Pink

Muharram Moon in Pink

I however have made a point to go out and search for the new moon every month since 1990.   Some months I see the moon and other months I don’t.  And I don’t always get a photo, even though it was photographing the moon that got me interested in and steeped in photography to begin with.  I had marked this day, the 28th of December in my calendar from one month ago at the last moon sighting trip and ingrained that date in my head.  It came upon me quicker than I thought.  Then a few days ago, with the 28th a brainworm in my head, I forgot why the 28th was important and for some reason I thought 28th was a Monday.  Then about a half an hour before sunset TODAY it suddenly occured to me that this evening was the night for seeking out the moon.

Muharram Crescent and Mercury

Muharram Crescent and Mercury

As I scrambled to gather myself and my gear I realized that there would not be enough time to make out to my usual location for sighting the moon.  As I raced down the street to the gas station to fill up before my ascent to Skyline Hwy along the main ridgeline of the Santa Cruz Mountains, I decided to take my chances and stay right there in town and hope that I would be able to see it above the mountains’ skyline.  So I gassed up the truck and then drove a whopping 150 yards and pulled into the neighborhood shopping center, parked and pulled out my camera gear and prepared for the show.  Twenty minutes later, faintly appearing in the sky the crescent emerged, and even though I have seen countless new moons, it was just as spectacular as any that I have ever witnessed.  As the evening progressed and the moon slowly sank closer and closer to the skyline one of its neighbors in the sky, Mercury, appeared to join the moon and usher in the new year. 

I then thought how amazing it is that the new Islamic year begins with such a heavenly event.  It saddened me to think that most of world in a few short days would be celebrating the new Gregorian year at loud heedless parties in a semi-drunken stupor.  No heavenly event would take place marking the new year, only the click of the mechanized hands of the clock, an invention of our own making, and then we would continue to party making more and more noise until we either pass out drunk or finally give up to fatigue.  In contrast, even though I was standing in the middle of a bustling city, all was silent as that moon made its way to the horizon.  In all the grandure of the universe, I again remembered that a simple event like the appearance of the moon and witnessing it come into existence links me with all of it.  Its both humbling and enriching at the same time.  I never tire of feeling like I am a part of something greater than myself, and grateful to the One who made it all, that I could be there and to share it with everyone else.

Muharram 1, 1430 - December 28, 2008 5:34 pm PST.

Muharram 1, 1430 - December 28, 2008 5:34 pm PST.

Happy New Year and Peace to All!

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Euphoria

As a photographer I feel a certain amount of responsibility to record the world as it is. I always looked at what I thought were manipulated photos as somewhat of a desecration. That it was untruthful to portray the world in a way that it was not. I think my first foray with this line of thinking was against those photos that were heavily saturated in color produced by the use of a polarizing filter to make a scene look more enticing than it really was. I have always enjoyed the outdoors and I never saw that dripping off the page color in “real life”. I was satisfied, and in some respects arrogant, in producing the dull and lifeless photos that I knew came out of a camera.

Euphoric Glowing Aspens in Lundy Canyon

Then as I became more serious about portraying the natural world as it “really” is, I railed against the heavy-handed use of the now popular and almost indispensable Graduated Neutral Density (GND) filter. Used improperly and you could tell that it was a lame attempt to try to make film capture something that it could not. However, when used properly one could hardly tell a GND was used, and the photograph showed a scene that faithfully captured what one’s eye would see. For at this point I had learned that film was limited, it was a poor medium in trying to portray the world as we really experienced it. What I did next shocked my closest confidants; I whole-heartedly accepted and started using the GND. Although now I was branded as a hypocrite, a liar, a fake. I was shocked. Had I created such an environment around me that I had galvanized people into thinking that what the camera and film produced were truth? Had I built around me a glass bubble so fragile that if I tried to grow as a photographer and break through that bubble I would send shards of broken glass at myself as to render me dead? What had I done?

The more I photographed the more I learned that the camera cannot see what my EYES see. The camera cannot feel what my heart feels. The camera cannot smell, hear or touch what my nose, ears and fingers can. As I wandered this beautiful world with my camera photographing I became aware that I was actually being unfaithful to the beauty that I loved so much in my photos.

Even though I was recording the light faithfully, I was not conveying the euphoria that I felt in the presence of that beauty. And thus I embarked on a path of trying to convey the multi-dimensional experience of being out in nature onto the two-dimensional plane of a photograph. What resulted was sometimes very different from the straight record of light that was present. For now, the images transcended into the realm of my feelings. All photographers, as they photograph, are steeped in emotions at the time the shutter is tripped. Recalling those emotions when looking at the resulting photos at times leaves the photographer somewhat let down as the photos appear lifeless. I had to learn to not judge an image until I brought it into my photo editing software environment and apply the standard adjustments – tonal dialation, adjusting contrast and setting color balance – first. Then if it was still lifeless, a number of other adjustments from applying a softening blur or artistic use of dodges and burns to eliminating color entirely and going balck and white. If, after all that, I can’t reproduce a pale shadow of the euphoria I felt at the time I tripped the shutter, then and only then is the image a flop and destined for the trash can, otherwise known as the ‘Round File’.

And thus, you have the photograph that graces this post. A rendition of the euphoric state of my heart as I stood there under these delicate trees as thier leaves shivered in the light breeze and danced among the sunbeams that filtered through them. Maybe I am not a true photographer anymore depicting the world as seen through the lens of a camera, but now, at least now, I feel that I am finally writing with light.

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