The Urban Desert At 110° F

Sun bearing down on patch of ground...

To experience it is to take a photowalk mid-afternoon.


The Artistic Eclipse

Silver dollar moon passing over gold coin sun...

In the partial solar eclipse in Phoenix on May 20 the moon blocked 83 percent of the sun at it's peak. What made this eclipse special for me is that in my lifetime I have had several opportunities to be in a location when there was a total or almost total eclipse of the sun or the moon but I was away from Arizona. At every other opportunity for these events I happened to be in places notorious for gray skies and rainy weather and never even got a glimpse of them for that reason. It's difficult to avoid the sun in Arizona and this time was no exception.

Since I didn't bring even a point and shoot camera because I literally went "in the moment" unexpectedly to see the event somewhere other than I originally intended, I used my mobile phone camera with several different apps and achieved some interesting effects. As I pointed out in my post on May 8, The Artistic Supermoon I knew that displayed all over the web would be technically perfect textbook-like photographs of that event, the same would apply with this eclipse. If you want technically perfect or beautifully crafted pictures of this solar eclipse there are plenty to be found on the internet. These are mine created to turn a classic phrase using "the best camera you have is the one you have with you."

What was more important to me at the time was to experience the event with someone close to me at the spur of the moment while also meeting strangers doing the same thing. It was the classic circumstance of an unusual event where people unknown to each other and unlikely to meet again shared and experienced with what equipment they had hurriedly brought along. Newcomers with little in common that ordinarily might not mingle in a public setting but caught up in the excitement of a unique moment in time created by nature. In the course of it I was able to capture some moments that make for visual art interesting to me that I am now sharing.

What I find interesting about some of these photos is after-the-fact I noticed that I had captured the reflection of the crescent of the moon that was not passing over the sun. Although I didn't get pictures that technically showed the actual eclipse of the moon passing over the sun in the moment I caught images with which I was able to create visual art. They serve as memories of I was there that more than made up for the times I wasn't able to witness the phenomenon.


Ennui and Me

It ain't heavy it's a bother...

Wherein I muse about life in hope it helps others who relate similarly.

The best that can be said about the past few weeks is that they happened. Without periods of disruption in life we are never challenged to overcome them nor are we able to appreciate the better times in life. For those of us who are creative types mood swings of some form or another are a way of life, periods of bursts of creativity followed by moments of doubt we will never have a new idea again. Everyone suffers bumps along the arteries of life and for some it is far worse due to physical health or geographic and economic circumstances. For me it is recalling what I have been trained and learned about not being able to control circumstances but being able to control my attitudes and behavior regarding them

Fundamentally two simultaneous happenstances have bounced my normal disposition out of whack that I have had to get a grip on my attitude and work to turn things back to normal. Two weeks ago my sister was in a small city hospital she has been in more than out of in the past year with a seemingly losing battle against an unforgiving autoimmune disease. Fortunately she was brought under emergency circumstances to the major city where I live and put in hospital here for care and the turnaround in her health has been remarkable. She will never recover from Scleroderma but the key factor is her quality of life has been returned to her and has turned her around from being in chronic critical condition and restored to a somewhat functional pleasant life. Quality of life for the chronically ill is directly related to mental well being and length of life. She has been able to return home hooked to a lot fewer medical devices and less reliant on external equipment support with an improved outlook both medically and psychologically.

Coupled with her adventure is that for me during the past three weeks as a result of high winds, dust and wildfire smoke the pollution has caused a constant low grade migraine headache that even during normal conditions skews my entire disposition. What I dislike most of these episodes when they occur every few years are what everyone who also endures them is the cure is almost as bad as the ailment. There is not a person I know or am aware of that has problems with pollution, whether it is respiratory (the most common) or bad air induced episodic headaches is making the choice to function as best as possible with low volume medication or taking prescription drugs with side effects. Generally I function as best I can and reserve the medication until I can no longer stand it and then expect to become even more moody, hyper-sensitive and a sense of insecurity.

The psychology of this is irritating at best since logically I know that "this too shall pass" and that it requires mustering up the forces to implement the behavioral change techniques that I know will turn my emotions around. Still it is hard to get motivated to write and create visual art when feeling less than inspired but I also know that it will keep the worst possible condition, depression at bay. Therefore I've been creating and interacting with other people as best I could with in my mind mediocre results but it has resulted in my staying functional. The point is that it takes work to chug along and keep the train moving but now it is paying off, I am beginning to see the light again even if it is a pinhole at the end of a tunnel.


Hello Yellow

Sun messaging summer's arrival...

We bend our head to avoid
the blaze glinting in our eyes
that's also baking our shoulders.
As wafting heat surrounds us
shroud blanketing us in warmth...
In the desert summer needs
no signals it has descended.



Inserting nature on the structural...

These are not my usual style of photographs and I'm uncomfortable with them for several reasons although I think their composition is somewhat decent. My discomfort lies in I have always disliked the architecture of this building finding it rather cold, fortress like and foreboding especially since it is a hospital. Also I am not drawn to photograph direct line structures preferring irregular buildings that have been grooved and changed by time and that have some landscape intertwined lending an element of nature. Here is an image with blemishes, flaws and all, of the best I can imagine a minimalist black and white photographer might take that is definitely not my customary photograph.

Fundamentally with the exception of utility poles and wires I much prefer to have natural objects as the subject of my pictures that I then post process into visual art. Most of all I suppose the real reason I am not comfortable with these photos is I have spent a good part of the week at this hospital visiting my sister who is a patient there. It is normal for me to always take pictures of what catches my eye around me but this time it was very often a mechanism of stress relief. Nonetheless here is the image of a cold stark building that I felt compelled to insert an element of nature to somehow make it seem a little more earthly with some sense of humanity.


The Spirit Never Dies

Even as the house burns down and is abandoned...

Physical disease and illness can lay waste to human body just as wind and fire can tear a house apart. A metaphor arises if you consider the physical being of a body as a house to the spirit and soul. One interpretation of the analogy is a house may be destroyed and vacated but the former inhabitants live on earth somewhere else. This can happen also in a very real sense to a person living with a chronic disorder that is disabling and usually fatal. The person you see, visit and talk with is visible in front of you but if you're discerning and know them for who they really are you're not seeing the shell left of their physique. They have in a very real sense moved their spirit into another anatomy although not visible to our myopic vision. For them their spirit, soul and personage inhabit a different place. One they have created with their internal strength and vision that allows them to be as mobile as they are able and keeps their mind from dwelling on physical limitations.

This happened to me once decades ago when for a long period I was in a physical state that confined me to a hospital bed and after that took time to restore my body to its previous condition. Others I've known are not able to do that since their physical condition is unchanging or deteriorating. I see in my sister who braves Scleroderma that as her body changes and becomes less functional and confining that she has already moved into another body that I recognize as being one similar to the one she once had but above all functional. Her spirit hasn't died and needs a house that it may dwell if only in the mind it resides. I recognize that to a skeptic and hard realists this is all specious and suspect and for them I am sorry since their coping mechanisms always seem to be at a minimum tinged with anger and bitterness. All I can vouch for is my personal experience where I inhabited a different being I imagined as like a tree, with roots, trunk, branches and twigs nourished by the warmth of the sun and feed by living water.

This is why I photograph a lot of trees and create visual art with them.


Life Is Unscripted

Although being aware and prepared is a choice...

Events that occur seemingly unexpectedly or dramatically often build up over time with smaller occurrences that portend a sudden one. That is how it is with me currently as we approach summer and just as quickly as I was wondering when the next shoe was going to drop in a situation it did. In this case I am referring to my sister who has suffered with the rare disabling autoimmune disease Scleroderma for a very long time that has escalated the past few years. Last summer she took a sudden turn making a very long hot summer weather wise even hotter and longer in the soul. This past year has been a period of rises and falls in her medical condition and recently circumstance have foreshadowed that another major turn was due. Without going into personal detail it now has and the disruption is not unexpected any more than it is welcomed but nonetheless it has occurred. The time has arrived to calmly go into critical situation mode with my head and wits about me in full control over what I am able to direct and let happen what I cannot.

We are prepared for these things if we pay attention to signs that attune us to what it going on around us externally and internally. This awareness has many names including intuition, discernment, instinct, gut feelings, perception, premonition, hunches, foreknowledge and some would say clairvoyance. In many ways it is a result of experience and age bringing wisdom that gives us insight into what is most likely to happen given certain circumstances. In this instance signals were beaming at me that alerted my senses to be aware and begin to prepare for some possible difficult and unpleasant scenarios. Fortunately I paid attention to them and awkwardly started groping for coping tools to hone and let those who help me through uncertain situations know what my perceptions were telling me. This evening a defining event arrived and over the next few weeks and quite possibly months will need to marshal the resources I have gathered and as wisely as possible implement them. The readiness will guide me through although it will not necessarily make it easier or comfortable.


Clay Art of Living

Within the vessel creates outer cracks or strength...

We are formed much like clay art molded by our genetics, past and current history and how much water we retain before we are glazed and blazed. Kneaded by external forces we are wedged and prepared to face the fire and how we are built up results in the strength of our physical vessel.  Fired in the kiln of life, we are either strengthened or weakened depending on our reactions to the changes we experience. How we weather the tempest of living ultimately is dependent on what resides within ourselves and although affected by our earthenware our internal choices determine if we crack or hold ourselves in place.


Communication and Power Lines

Which connections to make and which to break?...

Lately I've been reminded of the power of communication and doing it well and the price of not paying attention to presentation of what you're intending to convey. I'm well trained by upbringing, personal experience and professional education and for many years earned a living as an instructor, writer and speaker in various situations. The power of words both spoken and written, how they're connected into phrases and sentences along with expression is one thing I'm highly developed at doing. As everyone knows about anything they do well it can be easy to take the skills for granted and also let them fall into disuse. It demands being constantly aware to not fall into bad habits and become lax and lazy with a key competency I am well equipped with.

We live in a world that is connected as it never has before and whether we are exchanging ideas, thoughts, instructions, feelings, with the tools of the digital age or in person, how we conduct the interchange is more important than ever. It is no longer acceptable to be an excellent programmer, engineer, shop mechanic, carpenter without also being able to communicate well. The ability to transmit information succinctly and articulately with simplicity and tact is no longer in the province of customer service, sales people, leaders or any of the traditional roles that required it. Everyone now needs the ability to interact with other people on multiple levels; it is no longer a choice in this new economic and technological world. To be able to engage others in a meaningful way is a requirement to stay employed in any occupation, run a business of any kind, be an entrepreneur, sole proprietor or free agent.

For many years I was able to communicate well in the sphere of instructing classes, writing non-fiction policies and procedures, white papers or historical articles and dealing with difficult customers over the phone, through email and instant messaging. My face to face interactions were largely in group settings or training people one on one who were sent to me as a last chance to learn something they needed to know to stay employed. I am now challenged to learn how to deal for the first time with clients in a face to face, very often public setting and am quickly discovering it requires a nuance of the skills I possess. A nuance yet a very different one that requires rethinking how I approach a situation, respond to one to resolve differences and the subtle power of how it is conducted. The task is not daunting but nonetheless requires paying attention and working at refining the existing knowledge I had become too casual with.


The Sun Rises

Bringing a new day to paint our own way...

Life is more art than science although knowing facts in life are part of the science of living. These facts are realities that help us understand how to interpret what is happening around us. If we have spent time building firm foundations to structure strong qualities in our character we are able to create a world we call our own rather than the world owning us. This gives us control over our sense of self so when a tough day comes along we have the sensibility to call things as they are to move beyond them and look forward. Rather than dwell on where we are now we make an assessment of what we would like to happen next. The choice is to recognize what is destructive and turn it into something finer and superior with an act of behavior. For many of us that action is bringing into existence a change in our outlook through some form of artistry of our choosing.

We allow ourselves the freedom to create art that expresses what we have thought and felt, what we are thinking and feeling and further what we would like to think and feel. The parallel to life with art and science is we learn some techniques that are factual and scientific, for example the technicalities of photography and post processing, using those as a basis for our art. If we construct art that articulates our interpretation of life we have an opportunity to compose artwork that speaks to both the tough moments of life and the great ones. For me it is writing and visual art that documents and expresses the stark moments of life alongside crafting works of elegance and symmetry to make things right in my world. It is an act of healing that is beautiful and meaningful not only to me but also to those who view and appreciate it.

With a nod to Mike the writer, artist, blogger Rock and Confusion


The Artistic Supermoon

Bright lights, big city, little debate...

Have you seen those incredibly detailed photographs of Supermoon 2012 displayed all over the web by photographers who normally shoot street scenes, flowers, landscapes, buildings at odd angles and what have you? The ones that look like a perfect white or yellow orb suspended on a black background taken with an incredibly expensive lens? The ones that look like they belong in a textbook? They're marvelous photographs that are technically perfect but many of us find them mechanical and uninteresting...how many have you seen already? What about those that the Supermoon is perfectly juxtaposed right behind a bridge with a bicyclist crossing in just the right spot and it is a seemingly natural scene but is too good to be true? They are quite pretty, eye-catching, fascinating and some are inspirational but not very unique.

With all due respect to those photographers that have the knowledge and equipment to take such a clear shot of the moon I see those photographs as technical and scientific records. They are beautiful representations but not artistic to me personally or to many other viewers who these photos seeming to be the same picture over and over again. First before I wade into the raging debate that is the current vogue among digital DSLR "purist" photographers versus "post processors" let me state something. I admire those that have the technical skill and equipment to know exactly which lens to use for a certain type of light and what the aperture setting ought to be. It is a must if you are going to be a wedding photographer, a chronicler of news and social events, do portraiture, advertising, architecture and aerial landscape photography. It is the same as a cartographer must now know GIS to record things as close as possible to how they really are and there is also a beauty in that.

Photography can never replicate exactly what is naturally present but is able to recreate a very close reasonable facsimile. This is done by changing lens, using filters and adjusting settings which by very definition means that the photographer has already edited and processed the end product before it comes "straight out of camera." When anyone who takes pictures in this manner mocks those of us who do a lot of post processing and take a basically solid composition with good color (or lack of color), tone and lighting and significantly alter it by "post processing" editing I secretly mock back. That is due to that I think there is plenty of room for all kinds of photography and visual art.

Why? Because we are doing two completely different types of things and the highly technical photographer is creating one kind of photographic art and the others are creating visual art that is artwork not meant to resemble anything exactly as it appeared. To be snobbish and elitist about one set of technical skills or artistry over another newer set of technical skills that creates a different artistry is as if Van Dyck were to mock Van Gogh. To bring this post full circle I have been over the SOOC ("straight out of camera") or slightly modified editing versus the PP ("post processing") debate prior to it becoming hot and heavy. It's a non sequitur, a dead issue, a futile argument, pick your choice of words.

Having said all that I went out with my most humble little cameras, a Canon Powershot "point and shoot," a Sony hard drive Handycam that takes very good photographs and my Droid X 1 with its little collection of apps and took pictures of the Supermoon. A few days later than when it was at its peak but still impressive and its interesting what happened. I knew the Canon and Sony wouldn't take much of anything I could even work with but I did manage to get some interesting photos with my Droid X 1 and the Pro HDR app worthy of playing around with some post processing in Photoshop Elements 10. I'll let the viewer be the judge of how interesting the visual art that was created from those pictures are to them.


Ambiguity Dancing

Frantically color matching from sun to shadow...

There are people who hold the opinion of whoever is around them and reflect whatever they hear and see from others. Public office politicians are like this and people in all spheres of society who act politically and never commit to an opinion or an idea unless it suits the moment or purpose they're currently in. Think realtors, salespeople, outbound marketers, investment advisors...they do and say whatever is necessary for the moment. After the sale, the bonus is paid, the commission is collected and then the compliments, concern and cookies are no longer there. They've lowered themselves to puppets of fleeting momentary rewards with no real values or ethics cemented in their character.

Personally I believe it is admirable to be independent minded, a thinker who holds opinions and state them if the situation calls for it. It isn't always necessary to announce it at every opportunity depending on longitude and latitude and the company present may not be worthy of the expression. Discretion is the order of the day and simply because you are a thinking person with ideas and opinions doesn't mean they need expression at every turn. Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount gave the golden advice; "Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces." (Matthew 7.6)


Stormy Blue

Storm cells of Adam's Ale tinged with blush...

There is no rolling thunder
simply rustling of trees,
followed by a calm silence
prior to powerful cloudburst,
that drenches earth beneath to
soak it with much needed 
Adam's Ale.

Tree Canopy

Oasis from the desert sun...

In the desert the sun bears down sparing no one its relentless beam of parallel rays and now unforgiving as we quickly pass into our summer. Spring is a fleeting moment of mildly hot days with cool evenings and nights soon to transition into round the clock just plain hot. The heat of summer envelops us and when exposed directly it is a smothering blanket except underneath the canopy of trees becomes pleasant warmth for those of us who prefer high temperatures. The secret to living in the desert whether urban or rural is traveling between the shade of trees, stopping for respite and a moment of cool before moving on. They serve as mini-oasis on any journey outdoors but should be appreciated for more than a shady spot since they also serve as natural artistic beauty to be savored while pausing for respite.


On Spring's Doorstep

Waiting to bud and grow...

Slender young forest
Weathering a few young winters
To spring forth new shoots
Fearing nothing unknown.

Age will bring mars and scars, experience
Strength to roots, trunks, branches, twigs
For storms and winds to pass
Fearing not the known.


High Wattage People

Who create negative low energy...

Some people are difficult to be around and we all have them somewhere in our lives whether they're family, friends, co-workers, a neighbor or the friend of a friend. It's not necessarily the needy people or the ones who go from one drama to another that are the hardest for me to take. It's the negative, high-strung, wire tight person who dissipates all the positive energy out of a room merely by their presence. They remind me of being just under low hanging high power lines that you can hear the singing of the static electricity that emanates from them. The swing of the wires, zinging in the air and hair standing on end is unnerving.

They are vampires of calm and emotion, positive thinking and good spirit who suck the atmosphere around them dry in a void. Worse, sometimes they can't be avoided and the best you can do is be prepared with healthy defenses mechanisms and placing an invisible shield of self protection around you. Somehow at times they manage to break the barrier and leave you exhausted. In my case I work with someone like that and most of the time I can roll my eyes and turn my back but there are days when she hits every nerve. I won't pretend that sometimes in those moments I want her to roll on the floor in twisted agony and writhe as if she was a snake run over by a truck. Usually my better nature regains control and I turn my attention to something else but occasionally she gets a tongue lashing that I rarely succumb to but people who know me are well aware of. It doesn't happen often and only strikes those that generally get on everyone else's nerves also. My co-workers I think secretly enjoy it and my manager knows that I won't apologize to her but that I do feel guilty about losing control and will apologize to him since it puts him in a difficult spot.

These people get the better of us I think mostly because it is human nature to be able to take only so much negative energy. Some people actually like being around this personality type for several reasons but usually to amplify their own anger and confusion. Those two inner fears, anger and confusion are what I believe drive these malignant spirited people and I still have difficulty understanding why they haven't figured themselves out yet and redirected their lives. Nonetheless they haven't and regretfully the rest of us somehow must tolerate it. As agitating as it can be to be around them the best way I have figured out to accept they exist is know that sooner or later they will implode on their own. The bottom line is I can do nothing about that and all any of us can do is the best we can to manage ourselves recognizing we may sometimes fail at it. Then we need to forgive ourselves for our own human nature and move on.


Back To Basics

Returning the emphasis where it originated...

This blog has been through several metamorphoses since I started in 2007 and the first few years posts aren't visible since they were correlated with my videos on YouTube and no longer relevant. The development to where it is today is logical to me although not easily perhaps to others. It has always been writing augmented with the visual for emphasis and explanation but above all whether it was telecommunications, history and economics, social networking, overcoming adversity and maintaining optimism, visual art...the underlying theme has been communication with others.

This year I've found myself increasingly enamored with using some freeware photo editing tools I discovered and spending more time on turning photographs into visual art and less time on writing. I don't regret it since I've discovered that I've revived a creative outlet I'd forgotten long ago I was good at. Although this has been a positive personal development I feel as if I'm losing connection with my writing and blogging skills. As I mentioned in yesterday's post I outgrew the freeware and am now learning Adobe Photoshop Elements and Lightroom 4. Eventually I'd like to grow into Photoshop CS6 and Adobe Creative Suite but it is going to take time.

Meanwhile I also want to focus again on writing the short missives I do as blog posts since the reaction to those has always been pretty positive. In that sense this blog will have come full circle once again and will be thoughts, ideas and commentary on what I'm thinking that very often a lot of people relate to in addition to displaying my developing skills on new editing platforms. My thinking is that many people had an affinity with that aspect of my work and are missing it as I now do. It seems to me it falls into the category of often when anyone is "writing out loud" somewhere out there someone else is mulling over the same thoughts. I miss that sense of affinity with others who are also constantly thinking.  Some posts still may be solely visual art, others with a renewed interest in poetic verse but mainly a blending of my writing and visual art. Who knows? I may go back to doing videos again since I certainly have enough road trip footage to communicate how I arrived where I am from where I've been.


Always Learning

Growth occurs in sporadic unexpected moments...

On producing mediocre work while learning new techniques.

The freeware editing programs I was using to create visual art were not really working for me anymore and had limitations and I felt as if I'd gone as far as I could with them. After thinking about what to do I decided to purchase Photoshop Elements 10 and Lightroom 4 for several reasons, mostly recommendations and fortunately I also had an opportunity to buy them at a good discount. Photoshop CS6 was also an option but more expensive and since I figured I needed to learn at least basic Photoshop I would go with the products I did.

I'm reminded of when I started learning to edit video with Sony Vegas Platinum and was frustrated with learning the mechanics while wanting to achieve some reasonably good results. It takes time to do both and when you're used to getting at least some decent quality work done it's hard to put out mediocre work. My theory has always been not to stop though and keep going since growth happens in sudden sporadic moments when you least expect it. Fortunately with video editing I went and visited a friend in California several times who in spite of both of our frustrations taught me some basics and got me past some fears. 

I'm operating on that experience currently since I learn a new tiny little trick every day with Photoshop Elements but the resulting artwork is not what I'd like it to be at all. These pieces are an example of knowing what I wanted to achieve, arrived somewhere around it but they are full of flaws that are enough to cause me not to be satisfied with them but even so here they are. For the moment I've stopped working with Lightroom 4 since it is not intuitive to me and I figure it is best to learn one thing at a time since I am learning on my own. I'm taking this philosophically since it is causing me to stretch myself and learn new things to ultimately achieve a higher level of skill and artistry.