Crossing the Virtual Desert

Seek water journeying past a brief void of mind...

Above all else keep squinting to the horizon for the oasis.

There are times when forces in life collide and a fiery mixture that creates a burst of creativity and colorful experiences explode and the thrill of living can hardly be contained. Then they are often followed by quiet periods of contemplation and the soul soaks up what it has encountered and cultivates it for expressions in art and intellect. Then there are those cycles where the energy seems sapped out of life and the mood is flat and the color is gray. If you are a soul that travels through the hemisphere of vivid contrasting emotions it is important to recognize when those intervals occur. It is a certain bet that you are a creative type, a thinker, whether it is art, literary or science and it is critical you be aware of your own states of being.

When I was younger it was learning not to let moments of maniacal-like outbursts of creativity get too out of control and manage them to productively use the energy. Quietude has always been a manageable and enjoyable period since instinctively I know that I am recharging for the next thing. What I must be wary of is letting the natural periods of gray turn to black. Above all else the black hole is to be avoided since then you are unable to see the ropes that are being tossed to you so you may pull yourself out. The cipher must be encoded beforehand so when the signalling dots and dashes arrive you recognize them and steer your psyche back to solid ground.

Gray has been my tone for over a month now. It creeps up slowly and seems like something else such as the cold that is tenaciously hanging on I can't get rid of. Possibly the long hot summer full of unsought dramas that have cooled as has the weather and the mood is used to excuse this as post-crisis recovering. Another warning beacon is nine to ten hours of sleeping, unusual for me. Then recognition occurs, a skill that has taken me a lifetime to learn, that I must pause and enumerate the elements to draw a conclusion about my current awareness. Grey is the current shade and steps must be taken to keep black from obliterating the landscape of my thinking.

It is through a series of these episodes I have learned how to redirect back towards color. It is not always easy but steps must be taken and the first is to keep one foot in front of the other although the feet are heavy and the cactus I'm surrounded by has spines. Seek help, in my case it's a long time, trusted and valued friend and professional help. Tell the really important people with a need to know but limit who is aware. Letting too many people know only makes it worse due to the human dynamic of action and reaction, perpetuating the problem rather than solving it. Do something even if it is the minimum, in my case must be something creative. What I do is take pictures and edit photos to keep the scintilla flickering since I'm just not up to writing or video editing. So what if they're not great photos or edited so well? The hand and mind is still active and in control and when living in color returns it will not be difficult to pick up again.

It is a virtual desert of the mind that must be crossed and looking for water as sustenance along the way is critical to keep going. Redirecting negative thoughts to positive ones should never be underestimated but considered a critical component. Keep going, to stop is to chance disorientation, gamble with dehydration of soul, lose sight of the destination oasis ahead; it is there in the horizon simply not visible yet. Keep squinting and looking, it will come into view, it's not as far as the mirage in between makes it appear.


Some Days

You just feel tired...

Revival depends on you since your survival depends on it.

Yesterday was one of those rare Mondays that recalled The Boomtown Rats song "I Don't Like Mondays." It started with a few little missteps at five in the morning, followed by arriving at work to find no one and nothing prepared and ended in feeling a little worn from the humdrum.

You could say by day's end I was feeling more than a little uninspired. In those situations the best thing to do is keep in mind that a new day begins only one nighttime away. One of my methods to end the day on a good note is to kick the poetic tires and dig through my catalog of photographs to find what seems mundane and make something fresh out of them. Doing so gives a sense of appreciation for the ordinary and the challenge of making it more interesting recharges more than my creative energy. It reboots my soul and keeps at bay the sense of losing a day.

So today, this day, is another day to take and make the most of and double up for one that didn't go so well. Each day is to be embraced and won, not to be wasted on "would have, should have, could have." The previous evenings energizing pursuits prepare the next day to be without remnants of wear and tear from the prior one. There is only mediocrity in life if you choose to view it that way rather than turning it into something more interesting.


Guess That's Why

They call it the blues...

Blue is a color, an emotion and a form of American music. It is a primary color that mixes with two other primary colors to create a myriad of colors.

As a standalone color it is one of the most popular "favorite" colors. Everyone has a different concept of what feeling it evokes for them. "Feeling Blue" represents the down side of life. On the other hand it is an optimistic pigment, the hue of the sky is the limit, you can go as far and as fast as you want to go.


Rainmaker Revenge

Storm plume overshadowing mountains...

Soaked in Sepia

Mix in some Van Dyke brown please...

One of my favorite techniques in photography is the effect of sepia. In photography sepia came about in the mid-1800s as the first iron-silver based process, argentotype, to give richness to the color of a photograph unlike the stark contrast of black and white pictures. Prior to digital photography when we processed our own 35 mm film negatives and printed them, the standard printing paper we could purchase did not give a great variety of tone. The advantage to the process was the ability to use different types of paper for a variation of depth and hue from burnished to bronze and many shades in between. In photography it is referred to as the Van Dyke process after the Flemish Baroque painter Sir Anthony van Dyck and the color of brown paint he used.

With digital photography the way I achieve the effect is by using the sepia setting on my camera and then enhancing it through editing. The color has an appeal of its own that I like because although it is monotone it gives a full bodied range of warm vibrant brown. In the seventies I could process 35mm only in black and white and sepia at home, color required taking it to a camera store for developing. Practicing and playing with the color allowed me to enrich a photograph in a color I particularly like and be more creative. For that reason I am still attached to the quality it lends to an image.


Prickly Pear

The anthers are taking the Opuntia to flower...

Beware of cactus fruit bearing desert roses.


Static Electricity

Snap, Crackle and Pop...

Somewhere in the desert steel in the air is mixing with bad brew.


Palm and Eucalyptus Trees

Towering over the oasis...

In the desert during this time of year trees are unappreciated as they regroup their bark and leaves scorched from the searing heat of sizzling summer. We tend to forget their organic presence and the essential utility they provide us the rest of the year. For trees it is a period of reclamation as they soak up the water needed for the next round of triple digit temperatures. Then in the heat we will again fully appreciate any respite of shade they offer. It may only be cylindrical manhole size dots that are the shade of the palms along a sidewalk; even so they offer a spot to hop from one to another to avoid the hot beam of sun. Most welcome are the leafy trees that provide a wide umbrella of shade, whether filtered through a palo verde or the dark cast shade of eucalyptus or cottonwood. Shade is an essential part of desert oasis living and as in everything in life is far better when infused from a natural source like trees. During winter take care of your trees remembering they make your human existence more bearable during summer.   

This Train

Is no Plain Jane...

Railroad cars are now walls of rolling art.


So Mama Don't

Take my monochrome away...

Monochrome is an opportunity to make the make the maximum out of the minimum.

I like taking photographs in color since I live in the desert that has unique colors. They burst out of the photograph usually with no or little editing and the pigments call out their hue for the world to view. There is a different challenge though creating interesting photographs in monochrome. Although called monochrome actually by nature of definition you are originating something either from a variation of the same shade of color or in the case of black and white, technically two non-colors.

The challenge is to take what limited amount you have, a variety of shades of a single color (or two contrasting non-colors) and make something interesting, aesthetically pleasing and of beauty. The life lesson is that in a gray world of some distant badlands that has cold dark winters or an outback of hot sandy glaring summers, both dominated by a singular omnipresent color, the variation can be used in ways to gratify and amuse through photography.

Shooting in monochrome, black and white or sepia, provides an opportunity to either imply the beauty of the surroundings or take relatively ordinary things and make them speak for themselves in varying shades of singular or duo tones that contrast with each other. The differences between black and white can be stark or with sepia subtle as well as vice versa.

Sometimes a good monochrome photograph comes along that was actually a technical error. This picture of Mount Eldon I shot in black and white in a hurry and didn't know what I had until I downloaded my photos and realized the exposure was incorrect. I have a similar good quality color photograph of the same view but it is not nearly as interesting as this one.

I like to take a basic monochromatic photograph taken in black and white or sepia and with as little editing as possible bend the base color a little bit to give depth and perspective. That is the challenge of working in contrasting shades of the same color. Occasionally it's difficult to tell if a picture that has had a little cross processing was shot in black and white since it can give the appearance of color hues. It becomes an example of how a photograph composed of one color or two contrasting non-colors can be turned into an object to make life more stimulating and artful.


Hit The Tracks Jack

And doncha come back no more...


Survive Like A Desert

Save and invest for the future...

In minimalism endure drought and thrive after the rainy season.

There is a lot to be learned from the desert. Millions of people whoosh by it on the Interstate on a journey from one place to the next viewing it as a vast wasteland to pass through as quickly as possible. They are unaware the desert is the ultimate example of ages of adaption of not merely surviving but thriving. Everything in the desert is put to good use, stored for when it is needed, an investment in the present and savings for the future to survive well in the harsh times and thrive in the good ones.

We could do well as people by learning how the desert survives hot dry summers with a sparse rainy season. When a summer storm comes it is a gully washer that seeps into the ground and every plant large and small has grown roots deep to pull in moisture for use and storage since it will soon be dry again. All types of animal life scurries about to either drink in the water or absorb the moisture for later use. In the winter seasons when the weather is cooler all creatures and plants, great and small, take advantage of every opportunity to enjoy what nature has provided them in abundance.

The lesson is desert plants and animals have learned to acclimate and change to the environment and make the best use of what is available. There is no complaint because everything that is needed is provided when it is needed. The inhabitants save and store for the future and invest by growing deep taproots and storage spots of water and food for the future. The desert is prepared to make the best of what it has and turn it into something of value, useful, functional and form with a beauty of its own.


Sometimes What We're Seeing

Isn't what is really happening at all...

Perception is not reality since there is obscurity in motion.

It's interesting how the human eye and mind capture what is happening around us and makes sense out of it when we are in motion and the objects around us are simultaneously in motion. The camera operates in stop motion, what you record in that millisecond is the fact that is happening at that brief moment in time. As we're driving in one direction the car speeding by in the opposite direction is presented in such clarity we may instantly recognize the make, model and year.

While we're chasing that bus we had wanted to catch that has pulled away from the bus stop our minds are racing and thinking "there goes my bus!" Although are thoughts are likely muddled the image of the bus appears in our minds eye with absolute clarity. We may be in a state of panic, our hearts racing and our thinking illogical but the image of that bus is clear in our head.

Photographic equipment doesn't have a complex network with the capacity to sort out all the components of the image it sees and grasp the full meaning as the human brain does. It is a piece of technical equipment that merely observes and records that instant what exactly appears to the digits that compose the picture. If the camera is in motion when the shutter is snapped it archives a methodical perception rather than one that deciphers and makes sense of it in human reality. We can alter the picture afterwards to another valuation but it is remains the original capture reorganized by manual intervention for a different comprehension.

Perhaps sometimes I do think too much. This observation about what human consciousness perceives and cognitively reorganizes what the eye intakes, along with our other senses and reorders it in a highly developed recognizable form makes me wonder about common phrases. For example "Perception is reality" and "It is what it is." If a piece of technical equipment states what is in front of us in a "real" way and our highly developed brain perceives it in a logical order that makes sense to us it seems to me these phrases are inane.