Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Moments Captured, Part Two

"Sometimes I arrive just when God's ready to have someone click the shutter." (Ansel Adams)

Yesterday I shared some of my favorite photos that I had taken over the years of people.  I had such a good time rummaging through my files and selecting those 6 pics, that I decided to do the same again today.  This time I chose my 6 favorite pics of places or landscapes.  I have more of these kinds of photographs - probably because I lived alone for so along.  I traveled alone, and was usually shy about asking other people to even take pictures of me.  Glad that's not so much the case anymore!

So, here they are.  Six favorite photos; not only for the places, but also for what I captured in the photo.

My Six Favorite Photos - Places/Landscapes

Simpson Cove - February 2006
  • Simpson Cove at Shore Acres State Park on the Oregon coast is one of our favorite places to go.  I took this picture on a windy, gray weekend visit there with Deborah.  I love this picture for all the textures seen in it:  the rocks have all been exquisitely carved by the waves over the years.  And I love the power of the crashing waves.  You can practically hear the white waves sizzling as they rush around the rocks!
Shore Acres Gardens - April 2009

  • Keeping with the Oregon coast, Shore Acres theme (Can you tell I like going here?).  The gardens here are spectacular in the spring!  I especially love the rows and rows of tulips, and on this visit there for my birthday, I finally captured a shot I'd been trying to get for years!  An army of tulips trooping towards the caretaker's house - the whole scene framed in the bright greens of the fir trees and hedges.  Definitely another reason why I keep coming back to these gardens, hoping to catch another glimpse of heaven, like this.

  • A favorite photo from one of my overseas trips.  This is a picture of St. Etienne's cathedral in Bourges, France.  Took this in July 2004.  I was walking through the city and saw this magnificent building.  I was struck by the "flying buttresses" - the curved outer "wings" that give the building its unique look and structure.  It took over a century to build this (c. 1194-1324), and the cathedral was added to the UNESCO list of "World Heritage Sites" in 1992.  I was amazed that I was able to fit the whole thing into my tiny lens, and that the colors and lighting turned out so well.  Just minutes later, the clouds rolled in and it started to sprinkle!

  • Another photo from an adventure overseas.  This is a photo I took at the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland on my 2nd trip there in 2000.  It's a perfect example of what you can discover if you just change your perspective.  Here's the picture that most people take when they come to the Cliffs (See below.  I didn't take this photo - the weather wasn't so good when I came to the Cliffs the first time)

  • The Cliffs are majestic - 700 feet high, stretching for 5 miles out into the Irish sea.  Over a million people visit them each year.  But the 2nd time I visited them I decided to walk around and look back at the reverse side of them.  And took the picture above this one.  I love it!  You can see the seldom photographed O'Brien's Tower in the distance and I'm always amazed to see the people!  Look at the 4 or 5 daredevils standing or sitting on the very edge of the cliff!  Crazy!

  • This is one of my all time favorite photographs (I've posted it a couple of times on my blog).  I took it in 2006 when on my 1st trip to Southern California to meet Deby's parents before we got married.  Deby and I loved stopping at the California missions to see and feel the history there.  We were at the San Buenaventura mission in Ventura, just north of her parents' home.  While waiting for Deby, I just stopped and looked up for some reason and snapped this picture.  It looks like something that Claude Monet painted! (In fact, I call it "Mission Monet")  The lacy pastel greens of the tree leaves and the bright red flowers in the middle make this a piece of Impressionistic art that rivals anything I've ever seen.  Don't know how I captured this - but it's always moved me.

  • This final picture is one I took outside our home in May 2007.  I just call it "Quiet Home".  I could just as easily simply call it "Love".  It's just a picture of a part of our front yard.  The white picket fence with the heart on it in the middle always first attract my eyes.  But then the pinks of the roses and the bright red of the plum tree frame the picture so beautifully.  The picture always speaks to me of the comfort and warmth of home, and most of all, of the love that is present there.  It always reminds me of the blessings I enjoy and the wonderful life I share with Deborah here.  The plum tree is now gone, but we always look forward to seeing (and smelling!) the little pink roses that are the first to pop out in May.
"Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still" (Dorothea Lange)

I've enjoyed looking back at all of these little slices of life, captured through the tiny lens of my simple camera.  I hope I'll continue to have an eye, and heart open, to the beauty all around me

I think I used to take pictures to try to "capture" a part of life.  But I've learned that beauty isn't here to be captured.  It's here to be shared.  To be touched, and to be touched by.

I'm looking forward to doing more of both!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Moments Captured, Part One

"A good snapshot stops a moment from running away." (Eudora Welty)

As you know, writing is a love of mine; a passion I look forward to pursuing more after I've retired.  But there's another artistic avenue that I've also had a love for - taking photographs.  All of my adult life I've enjoyed  snapping pictures while on my "adventures" (big or small) or when I was with family or friends.  Even though I never owned a really nice camera, I always managed to take some memorable pictures.  And when I was single, those pictures became my "companions".  I filled dozens of albums with them; my apartment walls were covered with them.  I think they helped me feel less lonely when I was alone.

Now I'm no longer alone.  I did buy a nicer camera a couple years ago.  And now I don't take photos as often!  Silly!  So today I thought I'd rekindle the photographer's passion in me by sharing some of my most favorite pictures.  These are all pictures I've taken which have a special appeal to me:  both for the subject, as well as the nature of the picture itself.  Today I'll share photos of people; tomorrow of places.

"My portraits are more about me than they are the people I photograph." (Richard Avedon)

I wonder what these pictures will reveal about me? I hope you enjoy!

My Six Favorite Photos - People

Doug P. fishing at Rock Creek (1999)
  • I took this photo while on a summer fishing trip with my friend Doug Potter.  Doug did his best to try to turn me into a fly fisherman (I mostly just hooked myself, or lost the fly).  But I did enjoy being the trip "photographer".  Doug took me to some beautiful places, like Rock Creek in western Montana.  I love this picture because I captured both the beauty of the place, and the graceful action in the movement of the line as Doug cast it.  I can hear the ripple of the water over the rocks
Izzy in the Springtime - April 2009

  • My favorite picture of our little chihuahua Izzy.  We were out working in the yard and she came out to "help".  She jumped into the middle of the ground cover, circled three times, and them plopped down like a princess in the middle of it all!  I love the colors in this photo, and it captures Izzy's personality perfectly.  She's always happiest when she's "included", and part of "the gang"

My playful wife - Thanksgiving 2010

  • This is one of my favorite pictures of my wife.  She'll ALWAYS be "the prettiest girl in the room" to me, and you can see why in this picture.  It was a sunny fall day and I just took her outside to take pictures of her.  She was my "model" that day, and I was the "paparazzi".  I love the colors and textures of the leaves in the background.  But most of all, I love the playful look in her beautiful eyes.  The picture captures her saucy, sexy personality vividly!  "A picture's worth a 1000 words"?  This one sums up in a nutshell why I fell head over heels in love with her!

"Fun in the Sun" - ZFL boys (1998)

  • This picture is proof positive that sometimes great photographs are just serendipitous ("happy accidents").  I took this at the Oregon coast when me and some long time friends were there for our fantasy football draft (I was the "Commissar" of the Zonker Football League for a long, long time.  Kept me "busy" in my bachelor days!).  After the draft, we all went down to the ocean to wade in the water, and I snapped this photo of my friends Larry, Doug, and Steve J. as they sunned and laughed.  The angle of the sun turned this into a striking silhoutte, and the gleam off the ocean waves is stunning!  Even though you can't see their faces, you can see details of each guy that remind me of their individual personalities!

My five sisters - Thanksgiving 1999
  • Of all the pictures I've taken at family gatherings, this is my favorite.  My family doesn't always get together on Thanksgiving, but we had in 1999.  My sister Mary (the one in the middle) had come back to Oregon for the holidays (they were living in Alice Springs, Australia at the time) and so we were all together:  cooking, eating, laughing loudly, and enjoying each other's company.  I love the picture because it captured all five sisters smiling happily - a nice sight!

My Valentine (2010)

  • A 2nd photo of my wife (I know she probably will shake her head and say "Why two pictures of me? You're crazy!"  And I'll say..."Yes, I am...about you!").  This photo is the one I've blown up and have in my bedroom and see most often.  I took it on Valentine's Day morning.  We were enjoying a getaway at the Weasku Inn along the Rogue River.  We had gotten up and gone for a walk along the river's bank and when we returned to our cabin, I turned and snapped this picture.  The look on her face has enchanted me ever since.  So much is expressed in it:  A tiny bit of exasperation?  Yet patience too.  Playfulness?  Yet also a calm grace and stillness.  Look at her eyes.  Am I "taking a picture" of her?  Or her of me?  And look at how the trees, and her head, both lean at the same natural the light glows around her head.  A perfect picture!
"There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs." (Ansel Adams)

So, as I look back at these photos, what have I learned?

I guess the simple lesson is that our eyes and our heart seek out what we love.  That in each of these pictures I don't remember "thinking" about how to "capture" that moment.  But somehow a part of me connected with what was beautiful there in it.  And in the willingness to be open to it, and guided by something other than me, was given a great gift.

It doesn't take a fancy camera to take a great picture.

All it takes is Love.

(And remembering to turn your camera on!)

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Seeing And Seeking What's Beautiful

"Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything that is beautiful, for beauty is God's handwriting - a wayside sacrament." (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Today's the first day of Spring, and it's come dressed in its usual March colors and fabrics:  gray, blustery, drizzly wet, and chilly.

But this morning a thought - a wish - has been gently germinating in my mind.  A thought that just wants to flower.  The thought was sparked by this comment made by Guy Finley at our class on Sunday (I paraphrase what he said):

"Did you ever think that all around you God has placed something of extraordinary beauty, and that he has placed it there just for you?  That small flower peeking out from under the leaves?  That special gleam of the sunshine off the tree's leaves?  Yet, how often are you paying attention to these gifts God gives you?  He weeps at how you just ignore them, while lost in your own small, small worlds of thought."

That thought has stuck with me for the last few days.  Guy's comment was both an admonishment and an encouragement to work to become more aware, more present to the bigger world we're meant to live in.

Coincedentally (or perhaps not!), I also read an article this morning talking about the same wish.  Jennifer Pastiloff, a California yoga instructor, wrote about her wish to "Become A Beauty Hunter" (link to her blog below)

Become A Beauty Hunter

"What if we walked around looking for beauty instead of looking for things to be stressed about or offended by?  What if we became beauty hunters?" (Jennifer Pastiloff)

Jennifer described her "Five Most Beautiful Things" Project.  She tried to stop every hour and notice five beautiful things around her, trying to notice what she normally overlooked.

And so this morning, I've been trying to do that.  Stopping every hour to hunt for the beauty around me, and to notice what gifts God has placed in the moment, just for me, as Guy said.  Here's what I found (though I wasn't tied to finding five)

8:18 am

  • Sitting on my desk, the latest letter from my mother.  I can't think of a stronger expression of true love than that expressed through her familiar, small scribbles and the playful confetti shamrocks she sprinkled in the envelope.  Even though my letters back are fewer and less often, she still sends me these little reminders that she cares and loves me.  A precious, precious gift.
  • Outside my window.  Two colorful rebellions against the grayness of the day.  A row of tiny pink crocuses stand as tall as they can, bravely shivering - but beautiful.  And next to my window, shyly hiding in the arbutus (?) bush, bright red-green leaves try to outshine the red berries

  • All around me, complete and utter stillness.  The entire house was peacefully at rest.
9:35 am
  • The musical sounds of the morning rain.  Trickling down the street.  Tip-tapping on the roof.  I stepped outside and heard the leaves and grasses happily applauding as the the raindrops splashed down on them.
  • And then, in between the rushing gray, cottony clouds, the sun peeked out in a cameo appearance - took a quick bow - and then ducked back into the clouds.
10:45 am

  • Deborah called from work.  Hearing her voice made me smile as we talked.  I turned around, and there above my dresser was a mirror I look at everyday, surrounded with cards from her and some favorite photos.  All of them together are a perfect expression of her:  funny, sexy, loving, playful, thoughtful - and of how much we love each other.  No wonder I like looking at this so often.
I know that this little experiment this morning is just a scratching of the surface.  There is much more that is beautiful around me than just these things that make me happy.  

"Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it." (Confucius)

Beauty is always waiting to be discovered, to be enjoyed; not just in quiet, peaceful moments like this morning.  But even during all the unwanted moments I want to avoid or race through.  I just have to remember to slow down and to look for it.

Took this "Monet-like" picture in a California mission just by looking up!
I'm feeling a few more of those unwanted moments at work, now that my retirement is just a couple of months away.  A part of my mind wants to say, "Rush through this!  Just get it done!  Get through the day, the week, the month.  Hurry, hurry, hurry, so that retirement will come sooner!  There's nothing left to be appreciated in this moment.  You've done it all"

But if I listen to that voice, all I ever receive in return is stress and a tight back, products of living in the cramped world of "I don't wanna be here".  No beauty, no peace in that.

Spring is meant to be a time of new beginnings; a time to refresh and grow.  A time to look for new possibilities.  A time to be a hunter of beauty; a welcome recipient of what Life, God is offering me now.  

"A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul." (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)

Amen to that.  Throw in a glass of wine, a little chocolate, and a kiss (or three!) from my wife, and I would be a blessed man many times over.

Which I am already.  Just have to remember to keep slowing down, and seeking, and seeing, the beauty all around me.

Friday, March 1, 2013

A Lunch Date

"The day the Lord created hope was probably the same day he created Spring." (Bern Williams)

I feel like a sleepy polar bear, drowsy and stiff, crawling out of my winter cave and squinting at the sun and wondering:

Where did the winter go?  What have I been doing?  Is it Spring already?  "Yawwnnn!"

Well, let's start to get caught up over lunch.  You're invited to a "Lunch Date" with me!  Today I think I'll fix a chicken salad, served over some fresh greens with a crusty baquette.  "C'est delicieux, mon ami!"

While I'm chopping and stirring, and we're both enjoying a chilled glass of rose', what would we talk about?
  • "Spring has Sprung":  The sun's been shining again this week, stirring all that it warms (including me!).  Deborah and I have begun "Spring cleaning", which always means cleaning things that have been left dusty and ignored all winter (yuck!) and throwing away lots and lots of stuff.  Her son and girlfriend just moved into a new place, so a lot of our discards have found a new home - "One man's trash is another man's treasure".  It always feels good to clear out the "flotsam and jetsam" that tends to amass at home.  But here's a new thought.  If a part of me feels good throwing stuff out, who the heck is it who COLLECTS all that stuff in the first place?  "Somebody" who's not "Me"?  Reminds me of this little story (don't know who first wrote it)
This is a little story about four people named 
Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody.
There was an important job to be done and 
Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it.
Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it.
Somebody got angry about that because 
It was Everybody's job.
Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, 
But Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn't do it.
It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when 
Nobody did what Anybody could have done
  • "Spring has Sprung, Pt. II":  I had a chance to also get outside and dig in the dirt a little too.  We planted some pansies for some early spring color.  They're always such brave little flowers; blooming when all the others are still cozy in the ground!  I also went out and pruned our roses, hoping to make room for plenty of new buds that will fill our house with love and beauty come June! (The perfect flower for the hopeful romantic, me)

    One of our roses out front from last year
  • Our "Gold Coast Getaway":  Two weekends ago, Deborah and I snuck away to the Oregon coast for a day and a night - we hadn't been able to get away since August.  We both so love the beauty and peace we experience at the beach.  We stayed in a new place in Gold Beach.  The first room we were booked into was a bit....uh, to be honest...disappointing.  But we were able to get moved into a room that was a little nicer; better view, cleaner, not so much a hunting lodge from the 1950's!  We loved fixing our own dinner in our room; enjoying a glass of wine while watching the sun set; and falling asleep to the gentle rumble of the waves outside.  The highlight of our getaway?  Our hike in Otter Point State Park.  The views were spectacular!  So glad it was sunny that day!   Our time at the beach always seems so short - but much loved.  We will return.

    Deborah and the view at Otter Point
  • The "Oscars" and us:  We don't go out to the movies a lot, but we did pretty well when it came to seeing the best films of the year.  "Thumbs Up":  We loved "Argo", the "Best Picture" winner.  It was a thrilling story, and hard to believe that it was true!  I just finished reading the book, written by former CIA agent Tony Mendez who masterminded the rescue.  The movie was a little embellished (to heighten suspense), but it still was engaging!   We also enjoyed "Life of Pi", which won "Best Director" for Ang Lee - but I told you about that movie at our last date.  "Thumbs Down":  We didn't enjoy "Lincoln", the Spielberg feature for which Daniel Day-Lewis won his 3rd "Best Actor" Oscar.  In fact, we walked out halfway into the movie!  Too many bearded politicians talking at each other in dark rooms....guess we missed out on the "thrilling" ending in the Senate.  Oh well... We also didn't feel moved to see the latest "Les Miserables" extravaganza.  Though we love the story (and the 1998 movie version starring Liam Neeson), the 2012 version with Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, and Anne Hathaway (who won "Best Supporting Actress") just seemed too long, and too much music for our tastes. 

  • "Tick, tock, tick, tock":  Retirement is quietly sneaking up on me.  This week I'm starting to hear its footsteps shuffling silently closer.  The reality of what was once only a far off thought is becoming more and more real - which is both exciting and a little scary.  Today at school I threw out my first batch of files containing lessons and materials that I will never teach again.  A little hard to let go of stuff - but healthy.  There'll be a lot more of this to do in the next couple of months.  "We must be willing to get rid of the life we've planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. The old skin has to be shed before the new one can come.” (Joseph Campbell).  I'm ready for a new life, some new challenges, and a new direction - even though I know I'll also feel a little uncomfortable with all the "newness".  (I'm not much of a "creature of habit" - just ask my wife!)
Well, lunch is almost over...the bottle of wine mostly gone.  While enjoying the little fruit tart I made for dessert, what's left to say?

 How about a last toast?  A toast to Spring.  A toast to new beginnings and starting over.  A toast to hope and to sunshine and to living life a little fresher and newer.  I especially like this quote:

"I think that no matter how old or infirm I may become, I will always plant a large garden in the spring.  Who can resist the feelings of hope and joy that one gets from participating in nature's rebirth?" (Edward Giobbi) 

Spring is not possible without there being a passing away of something old.  Spring isn't possible without some effort and work.  What is new and fresh can only be enjoyed when space is made for it.

 That's a Pearl that's true for pansies and roses.  And for me.

Thanks for coming by!  See you again soon!