2nd Place Awarded

This past weekend my work was awarded 2nd Place in the photography category at the Conejo Valley Art Museum Art Walk.  I don’t put too much behind contests as the results are so dependent on who is judging, however it was nice to gain the recognition.

Second Place Ribbon

2nd Place at Conejo valley Art Walk

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The Gathering

Stones Gathered Together

The Gathering

Last month I ventured out with my four photo assistants to one of our local beaches to beat the heat brought on by a strange early summer heat wave.  When we arrived at the beach we found the typical summer northern California coast pattern of fog due to the upwelling that takes place along the coast this time of year.  We came donning summertime attire expecting sun and fun…oh well.  However the temperature at the coast was well into the 70’s and a bit humid due to all the fog, so even though we did not see the sun we were not worse for the wear.

This particular beach is situated about a half mile from the highway and the walk takes us across a wonderful coastal plain.  I think because of this walk, very few people make the walk out to the beach as we rarely find anyone there, this afternoon was no different, and we had the beach to ourselves.  The overcast light and foggy sky left much to be desired in the way of seascape photography and I decided to not even take my camera out.  I just walked along soaking in the full bouquet of the ocean air and reveling in the light sea spray the kissed my face.

Then one of my assistants rushed up to me gleefully and urgently trying to show me the amazing stone that they had found.  And the idea was sparked…This would make a great photo.  I instructed my assistants to find as many unusually colored, marbled, or shaped rocks as they could find.  Soon we all were wading in the surf watching for the glimmer of a hidden “gem” to make its way to the surface of all the small stones that riddled the beach.  After about two hours of searching and arranging I finally pulled out the camera and composed this photo.

It was a memorable day.  But in hindsight it was much more than that.  Many things need to come together for something great to take place.  We sometimes try to rush greatness into existence before all the necessary ingredients are present and instead we find mediocrity or worse, failure.  We also never know when an opportunity for greatness will emerge and how we need to coax it along in its emergence.  However it appears, we need to be aware of it and grab hold of the reins and lead it on to its full fruition.  If we allow it to pass us by we may never get a second chance to make it happen.  I guess this rings of the notion of carpe diem – seizing the day or living in the present.  If we can live in the moment, seizing it and living it to its fullest, then later in the future we can look back at the past and feel no regrets, no remorse, and no sorrow for not capturing, if nothing else, a memory in our heart that will be a story that lives on forever.

The Gathering, for me, was the coming together of five hearts enamored by the marvel that is our world where Earth meets Water and the special interaction that takes place between those two elements.  It was the coming together of love, wonder, effort, toil, and hope in the hearts of five individuals that gathered together on one intention of showing the world the marvel of our Mother.  In that I found a great thing.

Peace.

Oh, P.S. Which is your favorite stone?

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Shabaan 1432 Begins

Shabaan 1432

Shabaan 1432

This evening the new crescent moon of the 8th month of the Islamic calendar known as Shabaan was sighted marking the beginning of the month.  It was not a very young moon, thus making it very easy to see, but none the less it was a beautiful moon.  Every month has its appeal and its beauty, and this moon is no different.  The light was sublime and thankfully again, I did not need to go far to see it.

Shabaan is also known as the Month of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings upon him) and it was in this month that he fasted the most of any of the months other than Ramadan, which begins on the next new moon.

Make this a special month of remembrance and peace.

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Something Beautiful

We live in a world that moves so fast.  Everything is measured in mili.. no, microseconds, and nothing is ever fast enough.  Its nice to slow down, really slow down and just live at the speed of time.  It is amazing when we can slow down long enough to take a walk on a beach, watch the sun sink slowly on the western horizon, listening to the crashing waves and breathing the fresh salty air.

I did just that today.  With my kids in tow, we headed to the beach today.  It was beautiful.  I sat there doing nothing as my kids played in the surf taunting the waves and then running up-beach as the waves came crashing at them.  My youngest son stood on a small bluff of sand on the beach, partially silhouetted by the sun, and appeared to be a conductor of a symphony, and it looked like he was commanding the waves to do his bidding raising his hands as wave after wave came in.   All the while the others jumped and stomped in the foamy water as it approached and when a real big wave came in they ran for dear life!  It was simply amazing.

Photos you ask?  I thought about as I sat in the sand higher up and away from the water, but it was as if my bottom had been glued to the sand.  Everything was to perfect to spoil with the mechanized memory device known as a camera.  It came with us, but I just left it behind in the car.

In retrospect I think it would have  been nice to have captured the glee and momentary horror on children’s faces as they played, but at the time all I could muster myself to do was to say “Thank You God”.

Do something beautiful in the near future.

Something Beautiful

Something Beautiful

P.S. This above photo was taken exactly one month ago on a different beach.  I did not know it at the time, but it was taken for today’s post.  Funny how things fall in place.

Peace.

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Spring Sprung

Each year as winter approaches the world prepares itself to go dormant and fall asleep.  Trees lose their leaves and become only skeletons of what they were.  The land dry and hard awaits the rains that will make it supple once more and fertile for the seeds of the summer to finally take root.  In the winter, everything goes to sleep.

So too should we take a lesson from it and learn how to look inwards and take stock, find a respite, and let go of those things that drive us so that we can rejuvenate ourselves.

However, this past winter I did not see it in that light.  This past winter had to have been one of the least productive times I have ever had as a photographer. Had it not been for the new moon each month I do not think I would have even ventured out with the camera at all.   All the while I questioned my worth as a photographer as no matter what I looked at I could not see anything in such a way that appealed to me to make a photo of it.

Yet when I allowed my auto-pilot to take control, I found that great photos were still coming from me even if I could or would not see it.  ‘Washed’ was the only fruit that was harvested all winter.

Stones on beach washed by waves

Washed

I guess what I did not see happening was exactly what I needed.  I too had gone dormant for the winter.  I needed to take a creative time out to allow for new growth to emerge.

Spring entered and something sprung inside of me.  In early April, still thinking I was in my slump I geared up to go out to photograph the Moon of Jamad Al-Awwal.  Then just as I was about to leave, an emotional train wreck occurred that derailed my outing completely.  Without the time left in the day to make it to my quite place in the mountains to see and photograph the moon in peace, as I normally do, I had only enough time to walk down my street to an opening amongst the trees to see and make a record of my celestial friend the Moon.

The new moon cradled amongst tree branches

Cradled

When I saw the moon just nestled there amongst those branches appearing safe and protected, something inside of me suddenly opened.  My heart saw everything anew and I felt that Spring had finally sprung in me.

The flowers were soon to be blooming and I could barely contain the excitement in me to be out there once again finding light and bringing it back for others to see as well.  The time had come and I made my trek in search of the wildflowers.  I visited all my old haunts to find that even though my spring had sprung this year, for the flowers they decided to take a year off.  I suppose they deserve time off as well.  With just under 1000 miles of driving this year in search of those elusive gems of color, I found only one patch that conveyed my sense of coming to life again.

Miles of Tidy Tips

I Can See For Miles

Standing there in Carrizo Plain I could see for miles.  The elation and disappointment coupled to move me in such a way as to not let the absence of flowers keep me from enjoying Spring and I gave up on the preconceived notion of finding wildflowers and I just went wild.  Photographing things for the shear joy of it.  My creative juices were flowing with such fervor that I did not know when to stop.

I returned home to lead a private workshop and I took my client to all my familiar spots in the Santa Cruz Mountains and along the San Mateo Coast.  I had no preconceived ideas of what I would find and I expected to just stand around most of the time directing my client at all the things that I had photographed more times than I can count without having the desire to do the same again.

The funny thing was that everything looked fresh and new, as if I had never seen them before.  I took more photos in that one day than I had in possibly the last six months!  I was seeing light in a very new way and I liked it.

Deer Fern Frond in Sunlight

Ladder of Light

Then the day came to a close and my elation was given a good stiff clocking to the jaw.  On a beach that I have worked on for years, among hard stone sculpted over the millennia I saw what Mother Earth wanted me to see.  Even though it was a spectacular day, with a slight sea breeze blowing, seagulls calling, the sound of crashing surf, the scent of the redwoods and the sounds of a babbling creek still fresh in my mind from earlier that morning, here was Mother Earth shedding one black tear.  A stark reminder that she is in pain.

Mother Earth sheds a black tear.

Black Tear

Even though my creativity and vision came back to me this spring, Mother Earth did not let me forget why I make portraits of her: to remind others of just how fragile she is.  She also reminded me that she goes through cycles for a reason – so that growth can continue.  Down time, rebirth, growth, vigor and waning are all part of a precious cycle that we must adhere to as well if we are to grow.  We also must take heed in understanding that we do not make our own fate as that is in the hands of the Divine.  We cannot produce whatever it is that we preconceive in our minds and that sometimes we just need to be grateful for what is given and appreciate it as much if not more than what we originally wanted.  In the end, we will find that what we do come away with was much more valuable.

Enjoy the rest of Spring, it will be gone before we know it.

Peace.

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Book Knowledge, Teachers and Learning

We live in the age of information. Ask any question and the answer is literally at your finger tips no more than a few clicks away with any Google search. Not sure how to upgrade computer hardware? No problem someone out there in the virtual world has probably posted something somewhere that explains it. Need to learn how to cook sticky lemon chicken? Google those words and a list of various recipes along with the instructional video pops up ready for you to digest that information.  Can’t figure out why the check engine light is on in your car?  No problem, it is simple enough today to buy a computerized device that will probe your car’s computer and report to you with a code number that practically tells you the problem.  Don’t know how to fix that?  Just a click away and you will find the answer among the many discussion boards on car repair. Need an illustrated step-by-step procedure on how to do that?  Its available online as well.

Not so long ago this amount of information would have filled entire libraries and it would have taken someone trying to find the information I mention nearly a month’s time and maybe more.  Today it seems that anyone and everyone is his or her own teacher.  Everyone just relies on the “book knowledge” that they can find and they become their own Do-It-Yourself experts.  While there is nothing wrong with doing things for yourself, as I find great satisfaction in being self sufficient, learning through books alone is daunting and quite frustrating. New vocabulary and unfamiliar concepts can be quite confusing when first encountered in books.  Most books are not written for the ultra-novice and reading such books can bring more confusion to the subject than before opening the book.  In addition, most subjects rely on a foundation of many other subjects and knowledge of those is just as important to understanding what is being read. The notion that someone can become knowledgeable in a subject by simply reading a book borders on the absurd.

Teachers on the other hand are the keys that unlock what is written in books. Anyone can write a book that transmits the information that is contained within it. However there is no guarantee that what is written is correct or that it will even be understood the way the author had intended.  In all my years of education as a student I relied heavily on my teachers in spite of whatever textbook was used in the class.  The book was more of a reference or a place where additional notes taken from a teacher were placed such that the text made sense.  Their words, explanations, and examples were what formed my knowledge of a given subject, whether it was technical or spiritual in nature.

Learning through a teacher also imbues in a person gratitude for the knowledge that would have been very difficult to attain without a teacher and humility in the realization that no matter how much we learn, there are still many who know much more and that anything that was attained was only by the means of the ones who taught you.  An old Arabic proverb states that a man is founded upon his teachers.  And it was Sir Issac Newton who said If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants.

Teachers facilitate the transmission of not just information but of knowledge. The difference between the two is that information is nothing more than a sequence of symbols that transmits a message while knowledge is expertise and skill that a person acquires through directed study, practice and experience.  The absence of knowledge, or ignorance, is a darkness that holds its possessor prisoner.  Not wealth, status or information can release the prisoner.  The only key that will allow a person to emerge from the darkness is knowledge obtained through a chain of transmitters each of which stood on the shoulders of greats before them and sat at their feet in the shade of their erudition.

Emergence

Emergence

If you are a seeker of knowledge then find a teacher who can teach you what you want to learn and dispense with the folly of information for the wisdom afforded by true knowledge, even if you have to travel to the ends of the Earth to find it.

Peace.

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I Found My Dream Girl

Last week on Veteran’s Day I was not scheduled to teach anywhere as most schools close for that day.  I waited patiently as I watched my online schedule for any last minute additions.  When 6 pm rolled around and nothing showed up, I made a snap decision to return to Yosemite Valley to catch the last bit of autumn color in the Valley.

I gather up my entourage of four kids and packed up a day lunch, water and some warm clothing and we hit the road.  Four hours later we found our selves playing in the remnant snow at 6000 feet elevation around Crane Flat from the storm that passed through a few days earlier.  Once the fingers on my children’s hands had sufficiently numbed we continued on our way dropping down in to the Valley.  All four were now very excited to be in the mountains once again.  As we rounded the bend on Highway 120 leading down to the first view of El Capitan and Half Dome, my youngest son suddenly exclaims, “I have found my dream girl!” With astonishment the rest of the kids look at him in wonderment asking what in the world he is talking about.  I had an inkling about what he meant and then he clarified his statement to the rest confirming my thoughts.

He said “the Earth is a girl right?  We do call her Mother Earth.  She is beautiful. She never complains.  She feeds us and gives us to drink.  And she is always ready to accept us when we want to play.  She is my dream girl”

Well my son, mine too…mine too.

Dream Girl

Dream Girl

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Postcards From Paradise

Wish You Were Here

Wish You Were Here

The first full day of photography has come to a close.  After 12 hours in the field we can finally take some rest.  It rained on us, the wind blew a bit, and the sun even shined on us a few times.  Through it all we kept the shutters blazing and the film burning and pixels popping, we could not have asked for better conditions.

Tunnel View

Tunnel View Morning

The rain that fell today was not substantial, more actually fell over night and we awoke to a wonderland of saturated color.  The day started out somewhat dull at Tunnel View, and when we arrived about half an hour before sunrise there were few people there.  Within three or four clicks of our shutters, suddenly the place was overrun by nearly 50, yes 50 photographers!  It was getting a bit crowded and since the sun had risen and the light difficult to capture, we decided to move on to the color before everyone else did.  That was a good move.

Pohono Color

Color!

We worked here until our stomachs said “feed me” so we took a break to power up and then we continued on our search for color which took us into the Ansel Adams gallery first.  There we looked at some amazing photography from Ansel Adams as well as some stunning work by others, the most impressive of which came from photographer Charles Cramer.

We then made our move into the El Capitan Meadow where the sun played hide and seek with us and won, as we could catch its rays to our satisfaction.

Moving on we found ourselves working along the Merced River where we not only found some amazing color among the Dogwoods, but they were showered in the sweetest warm light that just rendered the trees into something that I can only describe as delectable.

Sweetness

Sugar Coated for your Eyes

We worked there until we could no longer see through the camera viewfinder and headed back into the valley.  As we approached our lodge, we saw the slightest hint of twilight still dancing in among the the clouds and decided it was worth the effort to make one more photo.  I am glad we did.  The camera can sometimes see much better than we can.

Twilight

Last Dance

So for another night, I bid you good night and Wish You Were Here!

Peace.

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Tiburon Art Festival

I will be exhibiting the Organic Light Photos this coming Saturday and Sunday, August 28th and 29th, 11 am to 6 pm both days in the lovely Marin town of Tiburon in the Tiburon Art Festival For more information check here. The weather will be perfect!

I will be showing some new work as well as the classic Organic Light images that you have all come to know and love.

It would be great to see you there.

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Hope

Hope

Looking Out to Sea Hope

Hope is an interesting state to find oneself in.  On the one hand it is trials and tribulations, difficulties and hard times that bring a person to that state, and at the same time its a state which negates the existence of those travails as one looks out to on the horizon for better times to come.  The question that really eats away at me however is, can we last long enough to find ourselves in the midst of those good times hoped for?

Nature has an amazing way of assuaging one’s fears.  It is not unlike finding oneself in the arms of his or her mother, warm and comforted, protected and safe.  It gives you exactly what you need to keep going on the path leading you to your destiny.  Even man at times helps us in our journey.  Mostly in the protection of oneself, man places things in nature that bring a sense of security and protection against the, sometimes, unrelenting power of nature.  Leaving a lighthouse behind, one that keeps a light burning for those navigating the dangers of the sea also seems to give one solace even while standing on Terra firma.  Just know, Hope is always there.

Lookout

Lighting the Way

 

Peace.

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