Fare Well My Friends

Old Crescent Moon of Ramadan

Near The End

This was the moon early this morning as dawn was breaking.  Still waning in its last few days of its continual cycle before it vanishes for its monthly interlude as it meets up with the sun.  Some time mid-late next week it will reappear in the sky invigorated to start waxing once more.

I don’t pay much attention to the waning crescent in other months and rarely do I photograph it.  Not because I can’t but usually because it does not hold much significance to me.  Ramadan on the other hand is all together different.   Ramadan has a special place in my heart, as it does for most Muslims.  Its a month of reflection, a month of exercising our will in abstinence, a month of foregoing the urges of our caprice, and a month of tightening our belts and getting busy in remembering our Creator.  Its a month of becoming intimate with who we are and what we are capable of.  Its a month of returning to the recognition of the relationship we have with the Lord of the heavens and Earth and all that is between those two.  Its a month of recalling the word of God as revealed in the Qur’an and yearning to be better so that we can follow in the footsteps of the prophets and saints who proceeded us.

For Muslims, Ramadan is met with great anticipation as it approaches and is left with deep melancholy as it departs.  Decades ago I wrote a short Ode to Ramadan titled “The Guest”.  I sent it out in those early days of the internet in an email message to my close friends on an email board through which we communicated. Somehow it managed to escape that circle and make its way out into cyberspace in what we could call today going viral.  Its still floating around out there, you just have to “google” that title along with my name and it will come up, if you are so inclined.

In it I referred to Ramadan as a guest that comes to us bringing blessings with it. It was written near the same time as I am writing today, near the end of Ramadan, in a reflective mood as to what we have earned during this month.  I saw us as stationary and that Ramadan was coming and going.  I bid it a farewell in that ode as it was leaving.

This morning a different thought occurred to me.  As I said to myself, referring to Ramadan, “fare well my friend”, I became confused as to who the friend was.  Did I mean Ramadan or did I mean my self as well as my other friends honoring Ramadan?  My new perspective saw Ramadan being stationary and that we were the ones coming to visit it and then departing with the gifts it gave us.  In fact, we are the ones that are moving through time.  We tend to think of time passing by, but in reality, time is static and we move through it.  I suppose it is all relative, just as if you are sitting in a moving car, is the car moving past the objects outside of it or are the objects moving past the car you are in?  Its relative, and in a sense it does not matter.

However in the case of time, it is a created thing just like everything else.  To the Creator, it is static and known because it has existed since Creation started.  God knows everything at every moment because every moment in time is already there from its beginning to its end all laid out and God sees everything from what was, to what is and to what will be.  Rather than time passing us by like water flowing past a rock in a river, we are like that car moving down the road.  We encounter moments in a static time line much like a car encounters bumps in a static existing roadway.  Our choices and decisions result in different turns we take along our journey to the end of time.  When the end of time occurs is of course unknown to us, especially if we are driving along wearing blinders and refuse to look out the window for the warning signs along the road.

And so as we speed along in time we approach the end of Ramadan.  If we feel that it has come to its end very quickly, maybe it was us who were moving to fast, that we did not slow down from our daily rigor and relish the month long portion of time we were moving through.  Its kind of like when you encounter a designated “scenic highway”, its beautiful.  If we don’t care we will just speed on by and never garner the gifts of that beauty.  But if we slow down, and maybe even stop and get out of the car to breath if only for a moment, we come away with so much more.

So as we see the time-signs of the impending end of Ramadan, (hint: the waning crescent moon) rather than thinking about doubling our efforts to get as much out of Ramadan as we can, think, rather, that we should slow down our pace and possibly stop doing so much of our distracting activities.  By doing so, we can relish and “see” the beauty that Ramadan is, treasure what it has to offer us and once we have gotten out of our time-travel machine, we might actually get to take a breath of Ramadan.  Only then will we have garnered what is contained in Ramadan.

So, my friends, I say to all of you Fare Well on your journey  through time.  I hope you have stopped in Ramadan long enough to gather the provisions you need, for the next “time” you encounter Ramadan again, if at all, will be a long ways down the road.

Peace to you All.

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Missing In Action

Sometimes I think that if it was not for the moon and its cyclic nature keeping me engaged in photography that I might drop off the photographic map.  Photography has grown to be something of a second nature to me.  Its not something that I do anymore as much as it is something that almost defines who I am.

When I leave the house on any venture the first thought that comes to mind is whether or not the camera needs to be with me.  Early on, a serious sense of insecurity would wash over me if I left anywhere without my camera.  I was afraid to come upon a scene and not have the means to capture it.  I could not fathom what I would do coming back without being able to share what I had seen.  What I failed to understand back then was that the camera was not the only way to convey what was experienced out ‘in the field’.  Today, using the large format camera capturing those fleeting moments that you happen upon slip by so quickly that I would not be able to capture them before they slip away while setting up the camera.  So by virtue of the camera I use today, it has forced me to relax and just take things as they come.

If I happen to out specifically to photograph with the large format camera, then things tend to be more serious and I work with seriousness in mind.  If I go out now not specifically looking to photograph then I tend to relax and enjoy the scenery without the worry of missing anything, because I can still enjoy the scene myself.  Save for the monthly moon photos, it  would seem to you, my readers, that I have not shown anything but that.  The reality is that I have been regularly engaged in photographing in Reality.  Further the realities of life have reared there ugly head as well consuming my time as try to sustain myself and family.  So while I have continued to engage in what has become second nature to me those of you who only interact with me through this virtual world might think I have dropped off the map, but in reality I have just been missing in action.  There are only so many hours in a day and unfortunately after everyone and everything is done taking its time from me, you my virtual friends receive the short end, or in some cases no end, of the stick.

I know I have said before that I would try to be more regular in posting and releasing new work, and while that still is the decision I would love to take, my and is sometimes forced otherwise.  None the less, I do have much to share with you in the next few weeks as 2012 comes to a close.  I will be updating both the web journal as well as the website with my ‘best of 2012′ images.  So please stay tuned.  For now, enjoy this photo titled ‘Indecision’ that was made along the Big Sur coastline along the central California coast.

Indecision - Big Sur Coastline

Indecision

 

Peace.

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Book Review – Photographing The 4th Dimension: TIME

Photographing the 4th Dimension - TiME

Photographing the 4th Dimension - TiME

Photography is a difficult medium to work in. In the real world as we experience it we are immersed in a multidimensional state – 3 dimensions of space, the dimension of time being the 4th, but then add to this the 5th dimension of sound, then the 6th dimension of scents, and the 7th dimension of touch and the 8th dimension of light itself. The difficulty involved is trying to pack the experience of all these dimensions into just two – the width and height of a piece of paper or a computer monitor.

In some instances by using composition and light properly, the photographer can convey a sense of three-dimensionality in a two dimensional photo. When this is accomplished, the photograph is deemed a great success. In fact anytime a photo can represent more than the two dimensions it is displayed on it would be a successful photo.

‘Photographing The 4th Dimension: TIME’ is a new ebook written and published by professional photographer Jim Goldstein that provides the framework and procedural steps needed to produce photographs that extend them into the 4th-dimension of Time.

When I teach classes and workshops I ask my students what they think time is. I get some of the strangest answers and in most cases very perplexed looks. Time is the interval between the start and stop of some action. If an action was very long, then that would indicate much time had passed and if the action was very short, then very little time passed.

Trying to capture the sense of action, of time passing, in a still photograph is a difficult proposition. But Jim Goldstein deftly provides the necessary foundation for doing just that. His ebook begins with the basics needed for any good photography – exposure. From there Jim dives into several topics from capturing motion to star trails to time lapse photography. Each section discusses the techniques and equipment needed as well as giving a set of step by step instructions. The ebook also comes with a foldable field guide that photographers can print out and carry with them in the field.

‘Photographing the 4th Dimension – Time’ is a great introduction into expanding still photography into the realm of and showing the progression of Time.  Jim Goldstein has done a wonderful job of concisely giving instructions and examples that will introduce photographers to this exciting field. If you have been looking for information on how to do time lapse photography or star trails or any of the other topics covered in the book, like I was, then this is the book to get, read, and use.

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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Making Great Oatmeal

Last month while in the Yosemite Valley photographing the autumn color I had an opportunity to eat at the Yosemite Lodge Food Court. In years past the food was just shy of being unbearable. However this year there was something different about the food, it was actually good. The cooks are now sensitive to what the patron wants and I am sure almost everyone’s taste and diet could probably be accommodated.

On my first morning there for breakfast I had a bowl of oatmeal. Nothing so fancy about oatmeal, in fact it is a very bland food. I have been eating oatmeal for breakfast at home for years. In my oatmeal, once cooked, I add a pat of raw cultured butter, a little salt, a handful of fresh or frozen blueberries, a little raw whole milk mix it all in and then top it off with a little real maple syrup. The aroma is always pleasing and one bowl very satisfying and gives me the energy I need for at least 6 hours. I thought my oatmeal was good until that first breakfast at the food court this year.

The oatmeal I was eating that morning was different, it had texture and consistency and more importantly it had some bite to it. I started to wonder why my oatmeal at home was not like this. My oatmeal, although loaded with all wholesome toppings, left me somewhat unsatisfied. I then realized that the problem was in the oatmeal itself. For years I had resorted to using instant or quick cook oatmeal, you know, the just add hot water kind of oatmeal. The resulting oatmeal was thin and almost paste like. Chewing it was optional and eating it took nearly no time at all. So when I returned this year from Yosemite I purchased regular rolled oats and proceeded to make better oatmeal.

It turns out that you only need three ingredients to make great oatmeal, well actually four. Rolled oats, water, salt and time. The recipe is simple: 1 and 1/2 cups of water brought to a boil, 1/8 of a teaspoon of salt, and 1 cup of rolled oats. Add the oats to the boiling water and bring the oats to a boil and reduce the heat to low. Continue to stir until the water is absorbed and cooked away to give the consistency desired. Now my oatmeal has that bite that I so enjoyed that morning in Yosemite and now my oatmeal is not only good, its great!

So the other day I was thinking about how I make my oatmeal now. My process is no longer automatic. I no longer rely on the manufactured quickness of my instant oatmeal packs. I use three simple ingredients, oats, water and salt, and then give it some time. It then hit me that photography is really nothing more than three simple parameters as well and a little time: aperture, shutter, and film or sensor sensitivity. The automatic cameras of today take all those three basic parameters out of your hands and give you quick instant photos that are good, but are they great?

What if you reclaimed control of your camera and decided for yourself what the aperture, shutter and ISO sensitivity should be for your photography? What if you slowed down long enough to determine how much light was available so that you could determine how long to leave that shutter open and render the desired density of light on your film or sensor to your liking. What if you examined the scene sufficiently so that you could determine how much texture and how much creaminess resulted in your photo by choosing the aperture properly. What if you had the final decision as to how sensitive the sensor or film is so that you could control the graininess of your imagery. Do you think your photos would move from being good to being great? I do. I would like you too as well. Give it a try, you have nothing to lose, literally. And if you need some help in doing that, let me know.

The Stage

The Stage

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The Glow of Patience

Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Glowing Stones

Glowing Stones on Pebble Beach

One of the most striking characteristics of being on a beach is the contrast between the constant tumultuous onslaught of the waves and the comely patience exhibited by the rocks, pebbles and sand.  The beach faces the waves of the ocean, big or small, without fear or even a wince but on the contrary, uses the power of its turbulent water to obtain a polish that evokes calm and serenity in the hearts of its visitors.

This polished look did not happen overnight.  Much time had to pass before the beach could help people feel peaceful as they walked along it.  Old souls are like that as well.  They have this tranquility about them, this glow that only comes from from years of endurance, years of riding out the tribulations of life with demanding patience.  I was thinking about this the other day when read a qoute about patience online that now, in all my impatient frustration, I can no longer find; that patience is  conducting oneself with constancy in the face of both good and troubling times.  I wanted to use that quotation and while searching for it again, I found the above quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

When I read that, I said to myself – ‘Exactly!’  That is Mother Earth’s secrete.  Back in the spring of 2006 in Issue #10 of the Organic Light Photography Newsletter I examined what it meant to be patient.  Here is the last paragraph of that issue.  It seems fitting here.

Learning how to move at the speed of time: that is, finding a balance between haste and sloth, something that we call patience is really nothing other than living our lives at the speed of time. It seems like such a difficulty but in reality, it is not that hard. Everything is destined to occur when it is supposed to and nothing we do can bring a future moment in time to us any quicker nor can we do anything to slow time down. No one knows this better than one who has lived a long life. Something that occurred to me a few weeks ago while leading a workshop in Big Basin State Park in the heart of the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Father of the Forest

 There in the middle of the forest was a tree that the park service had named the Father of the Forest. An ancient Sequoia Semperviren estimated to be older than 2000 years. With a girth of 70 feet at its base and towering more than 250 feet above the forest floor it truly did give the sense of standing at the foot of a great father. Its age most apparent from its shear size and wrinkled bark covered in moss. While other trees one-fourth its age or younger are found toppled over very near by, this tree stood firm. One cannot reach such an age without an immense amount of patience. Something the younger trees failed to learn from the ‘Old Man’ in their rush to uproot and just fall over. Patience is what allows one to grow old. It allows a person to live in the present, neither longing for the future nor sorrowing over the past, and to appreciate what one has from the many blessing we take for granted every day. It is truly humbling to think that this old tree waited all this time for me to come by to teach me the importance of patience. I can only hope that we as humans can learn to foster patience within ourselves so that we can live as peaceful a life as this ancient tree.

Peace to you all.

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Its Been A Year!

I just realized that it has been a year and 12 days since I started this web journal – aka Blog.  Where did the time go?  So let me look at some of the statistics.  IN that time, I have made 41 posts and received 44 comments, not so great.  I was spammed 5247 times, thanks Akisment for catching all those.  The journal as 58 subscribers – cool! and has been visited over 4500 times.  I had a nice counter plugin/widget that was working that suddenly gave up last week for whatever reason, so I have a new stats plugin, Counterize II, working but it does not have a nice sidebar widget to report it. Those 44 posts have been categorized 16 times as Announcements, 9 times as Images, 8 times as Inspirations, 4 times as Moonsighting, 23 times as Reflections and 2 times as Workshops.  Now of course if add all those up its more than 44 posts, so obviously some were marked under multiple categories.

So all in all, as seen from the post stats, the journal has lived up to its subtitle - “The Journal of Insights Through Reflections on Nature”, – for the most part anyway.  Have I “panned” across all that is photographic, probably not, but give me some time.  In my first “Real Post”, Calm Down, I wondered if the time I spent writing and updating the journal with new content was going to be worth it.  For the most part I feel that it has been a worthwhile endeavor.  I was hoping to see more feedback and discussion take place, but the feedback that I did receive has been positive and hopefully the articles I have written have been of benefit.  I guess the real proof has to come from the readers.

So I want to hear back from all the readers of this journal, have the posts I have made been of benefit?  Is there anything that you would want me to write on that I have not?  What about the journal itself:  Is it easy to read?  Do you like the format? Are the links to other blogs and websites relevant?  Do you have a blog or website that you would consider having a reciprocal link to?  Would you like to seem me change the journal and in which ways?

So lets hear it.  I hope the next year will be as good as what has past, but I really hope it will be much better.

Peace.

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Calm Down

A Calm Tarn in Tioga

It has been a week of long nights and hectic, and sometimes frustrating, work setting up and modifying this web journal to my liking. Many hours were spent on this endeavor and I can’t help but wonder if it was time well spent. Time is our most precious asest. Once time is spent, it is gone forever. And every moment that is spent brings us closer to our end, becuase unlike money or other property that can be regnerated, once we use our time up, our ‘time’ is up.

Probably not the best of topics to start off this web journal with, but it is one that will hopefully keep me aware of the time I spend on this. As I sit here tapping away on these old weathered keys writing I really have to wonder if my time is worth all of this. I guess only time will tell.

But undoubtedly I am sure the internet has to have taken the moniker of “The Thief of Time” away from the television by now. I have been so wound up working away and amazed at how much time it actually takes. Hopefully the time I have spent will be an investment that brings some good into the world, God knows it won’t give us more time.

Now that I have gotten this journal to about 95% of where I would like it, its now time to calm down and use my time in other ways. To help me reach a calmer state, I returned to the image that I have started this post with in the hopes that it can bring me back to the state of tranquility that I experienced when it was first captured. It is one of six new images released at Organic Light Photography   This photograph was captured several years ago and I recently re-processed it to my liking and is now available.  Take some time and calm down with this tranquil and calm Sierra tarn found in the Dana Meadows shadowed under Mount Dana.  But also take some time to be with those that you love before time runs out. Oh, and if you have some extra time and can spend just a little here, check out the other five images as well.  Enjoy!

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