Archive for the ‘philosophy’ Category

Purity of Intention   10 comments


Purity of Intention

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Across rural North Carolina, old abandoned buildings are either being taken down, or are in an advanced state of decay. Whether they’re removed to make way for one of the new “house farms” that spring up in open fields, or are simply left to melt into the landscape, these testaments to a former, quieter time are becoming much harder to find.

Let me correct that: There are still a number of them out there, but they’re often inaccessible due to being on private property, or sitting in the middle of a vast field with no roads leading up to them.

This one is an exception.

Recently, my friend Jeff Garvey (‘Recycling is for the Birds’ on Facebook) gained unfettered access to this old farmhouse. You may remember my mentioning Jeff, a good man who finds these buildings and with the owner’s permission, dismantles them carefully. He totes the wood and bling back to his workshop where he makes incredible birdhouses using the old materials. Every Saturday morning you can find him at the local farmer’s market with a full display of unique creations. Some of them are truly functional art; others will never see the outdoors because they’re simply too beautiful to give to the birds. (You’ll see one of his better ones soon.)

I spent about four hours alone in and around this beautiful old house. One has to move very carefully… at one point on an upper floor I almost dropped through to the bottom floor. Free access allowed me to spend the necessary time to view, set up, and really soak in what this place is about. From this outside view, we’ll go inside for a few images.

In talking with Jeff about my experience there, I could see the concern on his face as I told him of possible damage done by vandals and pilferers. Some people need to bust brick, I suppose, and others will take glass door knobs, hardware, and insulators so that they can get 50 cents at a flea market. They find little value in these things, and they don’t approach such a place with any sense of respect.

Jeff is different. He loves these old places, and finds a purpose in giving them new life as birdhouses and decorations, so that others can enjoy these relics anew. It’s very important to him; it’s his purpose. There is a purity of intention that I appreciate – I consider it an honor to be able to help him capture the old beauty before it’s gone forever.

Associated Posts:

They Leave The Nest So Early An old school in Arapahoe being dismantled by Jeff.

A Mother’s Kiss One of Jeff’s creations in action “in the wild.”

Grandfather’s Legacy The story of our first visit with Jeff.

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Challenging Perspectives   10 comments


Challenging Perspectives

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“Perception is reality,” as the saying goes. I first heard that many years ago in a business environment. The context may be different now, but it’s still something that I ponder frequently.

We assume that the world ‘out there’ is exactly as we perceive it to be, solid and stable, but that is not generally the case. (Just ask Neo, from The Matrix.) Instead, our perceived ‘reality’ has to do with our own internal position, our perspective. There’s a good, digestible article on this from Scientific American Mind, Looks Can Deceive.

Photography can give us an excellent opportunity to challenge our notions about the world around us. While many people think that photography should only capture the world as-it-is, taking an image also presents an excellent opportunity to play around with our most basic assumptions. Some people might look at this image and say things like, “That’s just too weird.” Or, “That’s wrong.”

Is it?

Kids do this all the time. As a child, did you ever hang upside down on the monkey bars? (Are those death-trap monkey bars even still legal?) Did you ever lie on your back in bed and hang your head over the side? Perhaps it’s because the child hasn’t spent decades conditioning their thought processes to match what they perceive with their senses. At any moment children can pretend that they’re a pirate, a Jedi knight, a princess, or anything else that the mind can conjure up, and to their unconditioned minds it seems completely real.

We seem to lose that ability, that playfulness, as we get older.

As I was flipping through the images taken on our recent autumn trip, I ran across this set from Flagstaff Lake, one of my favorite places. I ran it through the usual steps, and when I saw the result, I thought, “Meh. Same as many others I’ve taken there.”

Then, in a fit of playfulness one night, I flipped the image. Bam! Perhaps it was my state of mind at the time, but it completely messed with my well-conditioned perspective of the place I think I know so well. Suddenly the image took on a new dimension and meaning, and I couldn’t neglect to publish it, even though it bears substantial similarity to other images.

Interestingly, I did the same thing on an image of an egret, in Masnavi. I sent that image off to the print lab for a client, and when the print came in, someone at the lab had flipped the image into what they thought was the ‘correct’ orientation! For my purposes, of course, this was a complete “mistake” and I received a re-print from the lab, with the “correct”… no, wait… “incorrect” orientation.

Hell, now I’m confused.

That’s the point.

We’re free to challenge our most basic assumptions. We’re free to play around with the reality that’s presented to us. We can change things by simply altering our perspective a bit.

Why don’t we do that more often?

~

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Amy   10 comments


~

“The way I figure it, dogs are the most advanced beings on the planet. They’re fully self-realized. They possess unconditional love. They forgive instantly. They’re empathetic and sympathetic. They’re incapable of guile or dishonesty. They’re always in the moment, not carrying the past or fretting about the future. Everything’s always new and wonderful. Every place is always the best place to be.”

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“I say they’re the most advanced beings and I mean that by our standards; human standards. If you think about the qualities you’d like to possess, the ideal qualities – unconditional love, loyalty, devotion, unwavering friendship, forgiveness, selflessness, sincerity, being fully present in the moment, happiness – qualities we uphold as the loftiest ideals to which we might aspire, they look very much like a good dog; dog consciousness. Of course, by those same ideal standards, humans are far and away the least evolved beings on the planet.”

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Amy, Christmas 2009

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“We sit on the steps together for the next hour and share happy and sad stories about the enlightened beings we have known.”

– Jed McKenna

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Backyard, Deck 08-15-09

Thanks! And Hope…   9 comments


Cobscook Bay

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Happy Thanksgiving to all!

The way I see it, it has been an incredible year. Since this time last year, I’ve been fortunate enough to continue doing what I love, part of which is sharing the results with all of you. The friends I’ve met and the camaraderie we’ve shared is truly something special, so thank you for following along and hooking up with me, as I have in turn been watching what you create.

This has also been a year of extraordinary change, both in the world and in our perspectives on what we’re doing here. Having been around for better than a half century now, I can’t recall a period of such transformation, save perhaps for the late ’60s. Some of the changes may be unsettling for some, but I can’t help but think that it will result in something better for all of us. At the very least, things aren’t boring and certain, which suits me.

There is currently – and always will be – suffering in the world, and on this Thanksgiving I think of all the people who are actively transforming (or even maintaining!) the status quo at their own peril, hoping for a better, freer, and safer place to be. Not all of us will agree with their messages or methods, either side, but their dedication should never be challenged, nor should their perspective be marginalized. As always, no one perspective is the single ‘right’ way, but neither can anyone ever be 100% wrong. There is something important to all points of view; now it’s a matter of figuring out how they – and we – will fit together.

We’re living in a time of unprecedented adventure. Will we make it? Sometimes it seems like a horse race, but we can hold out Hope, which is really all we can hope to have anyway. In the meantime, as photographers and creatives, we can satisfy ourselves by finding the beautiful things in the world and bringing them home to share with others. In a rather big way, that’s what gives me Hope.

So, thanks for what you do… you enrich the lives of others with your creativity and thoughtfulness.

Rob

~

The image was taken at Cobscook Bay State Park in northern coastal Maine. Although it’s an HDR taken from eleven exposures, it would look much the same if I used the single middle exposure… the sunrise really was that spectacular. 

 
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Tenacity   13 comments


A small rock and leaf hold on in the middle of a waterfall, Diana's Baths, NH

Tenacity (© 2011 Rob Hanson Photography)

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My apologies for not posting, lately. I try not to pin up a post unless I have a decent image to show (I could hope), or something to say.

Over the years, I’ve talked to photographers who believe that they’re in a slump. We’ve probably all felt that at times. Hoping to encourage, I tell my friends that in the realm of creating art, there are times of great expression, and times where the well seems to have run dry. We can begin to question our motivation, as well as our commitment to doing what we love to do. On the other hand, when creativity starts flowing again, we get invigorated and run out to capture even more, hoping to push the limit on art and communication with others.

Having to ride those waves of ups and downs, I think, is the hallmark of Creativity. If we didn’t know those dry spells, if we didn’t feel like we should just chuck it all, then how could we ever be enthused about great art when we make it?

I always try to convey: Just ride it out a bit. You’ll soon get back to doing what you love, and all will be well.

I’ve been feeling on the lower side of things. Our fall vacation was cut short because of bad weather, an event I drove hours to cover was a bust as far as pictures go, and there’s nothing cool to shoot in the garden… yet. ;^) During the past week I’ve had interesting and sometimes discouraging discussions with friends where we’ve discussed copyright violations (more common than we know!), whether or not to watermark images, registering copyrights, and whether someone can actually make a living doing this the way they want to do it. Are we avid photographers, or do we become ~ Eeeeek! ~ business people? If that weren’t enough, I had to calculate all the taxes – new ones, even! – that one has to pay to run such a business.

Joy.

Tenacity. “Not easily dispelled or discouraged.”

I was reminded of this when processing today’s image. It’s from Diana’s Baths in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. In a small part of a much, much larger waterfall, I saw this walnut-sized rock in the middle of the torrent along with the red maple leaf pinned to its upper side. Even though it took quite a while to shoot the brackets, the rock and the leaf didn’t move a bit, and they never even seemed close to being swept down the hillside.

Do what you love to do. It sure does beat the alternative.

~

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Out of Chaos Comes Water   6 comments


Out of Chaos Comes Water
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I’m not entirely sure what Nietzsche had in mind with his quote, “Out of chaos comes order”, but I figured I’d adapt the expression a bit for this image.

Taken along the trail to Diana’s Baths in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, this little vignette caught my eye. I was struck by how it looked like a miniature waterfall, and how the leaves in the lower left look so liquid. I guess there’s a benefit to all the rain that we endured while there.

~

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Toad’s Penultimate Shot   6 comments


~

The brightest mirror is the one that reflects our own worthiness.  Who among us could keep from looking?

Without question, Scott Johnson (Toad Hollow Photography) is that mirror for many of us in the photo community. Or, rather, he was. As most of you reading this will know, Scott was presented with an opportunity too good to pass up, and he’s putting his photography aspirations on hold so that he can concentrate on his new endeavors. The outpouring of sentiment and affection for Scott after his announcement was both incredible and expected, and while we all understand and will support him in his new venture, we’ll miss him terribly.

Why?

No one seems to doubt that Scotty was the most energetic supporter of photographers on the social media sites today. His enthusiasm and energy were the likes of which we might not see again until his return. He collected the best of the web each week for Light Stalking, viewed and commented on countless photos each day, and served as a friend to everyone he met online. As if he had any time left after that, he still managed to put out a daily blog of photos and text highlighting his gorgeous corner of the world.

All that is incredible in its own right, of course, but I think the thing that set Scotty apart from the rest is that he was brilliant in affirming our own efforts in photography.

Face it: Often when we go to publish an image, we’ve been looking at it so long that we don’t know if it’s any good. After posting, sometimes all you hear is crickets. (At least that’s been the case for me.) Without fail, Scott would come along and write – in his unique and enthusiastic way – about the positive aspects of the image. He would then go on to re-Tweet, re-share, and otherwise promote the virtues of whatever you had done.

This is affirmation. It’s validation. It’s an acknowledgement that we’ve been seen. It’s a reflection of our own efforts as seen through the eyes of another. In that, ‘Toad’ provided what we all sometimes need – confirmation that we’re doing the right thing, and that our hard efforts have not been wasted. And nobody did it better than Scotty.  (To see more about why I feel this reflection is important in social media venues, later you could read my older post “Reflections: Narcissus.”)

So, needless to say, we’ll all not only miss Scott’s images and stories, but we’ll miss his very presence. There’s likely not one among us who doesn’t look forward to his return, someday, but in the meantime, we wish him nothing but success and happiness in his adventure.

******

In recent weeks, Scotty and I had been bandying about the idea of doing a ‘mini-HDR collaboration’ using one of his bracket sets (where one person provides brackets and multiple people process them according to their tastes.) My initial plan was to use Scott’s images for a new video tutorial I’m working on. I had begun to wonder why it took a while for him to get the brackets to me. Now I know… he was busy setting up his new venture.

While I’m still working on the video, I probably won’t be using Scott’s image for two reasons: First, as it turns out, there wasn’t really anything to improve upon in his version! Second, I think I’d prefer to simply post his image here alongside my own version, letting this stand as Toad’s Penultimate Shot, the last before his return to the photo community where he is so beloved. (Okay, so I stretched the meaning of ‘penultimate’ just a bit :) )

If you feel so inclined, please join me in wishing Toad and Mrs. Toad all the success in the world! Feel free to comment below… I’m sure Scott will both read and appreciate it. It’s a great time to reflect back a little of what Toad Hollow Photography has so graciously given us.

Godspeed, Scott. You’re one of a kind.

 

Scott’s image and processing:

Image by Scott Johnson - Processing by Scott Johnson

 

And my version:

Image by Scott Johnson - Processing by Rob Hanson

 

PS: Now that I’ve seen our ‘mini-HDR collaboration’ shots side-by-side in the preview of this post… I like his version much better. It’s more ‘natural.’  Well done, Scotty!

Tobacco Row   9 comments


Tobacco Row
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Immediately across the road from the old barn featured in Serviceable, we found this fairly large field of tobacco that I thought would make an interesting composition.

This is a very typical scene here in eastern NC. Whether it’s tobacco, corn, soybeans, or cotton, once you get out of the town centers, the terrain is pretty much devoted to agriculture.

Being one who is more aligned with nature rather than cities, I find a certain beauty in almost anything green and growing. On this warm, windy day, the plants were dancing around in the breeze, and a few had thrown brilliant yellow flower heads. But this particular field caused me to consider the dichotomy of what we do…

Sure, the plants are pretty, but I remember a time about 20 years ago when tobacco had a grip on me that was almost impossible to overcome. It took multiple attempts and many tools (I was up to six patches a day ;^) ) to kick the habit that I had developed over the previous 20 years of smoking. I’m now quite free of that, but it always struck me: How could someone who loves the outdoors and climbing mountains also pour poisonous, carcinogenic smoke into his lungs? It never made much sense, not then, not now.

Witnessing this schism in myself, I also wondered how we can so complain about the rising cost of healthcare, and yet continue to allow people to participate in a habit that has no real effect other than to destroy living tissue, and how we continue to enable ‘big tobacco’ in providing the product. Sure, it comes down to a matter of ‘personal freedom’, but still…

A good friend of mine wrote recently about similar disparities, and I rolled his words around in my mind as I watched the split between common sense and personal choice: “I believe we should do more to save our planet. I believe we should focus more of our money and efforts on our own country and less on the rest of the world, at least until we are back on track. I believe we should focus more on educating our children, and teachers should be paid more and professional athletes should be paid less.” (This was just one small part of his post.)

I guess that everywhere we look, we can see a difference between things that make sense, and our continued participation in an activity that flies in the face of that sense. In this particular field, we’re growing a product that specifically kills people, but the cultivation of hemp (not pot) — with over 40,000 industrial, nutritional and pharmacological uses — is somehow still illegal in the U.S.

This is not so much a rant about tobacco, per se, but more about the continued schizophrenic behaviors that we tend to exhibit as humans. I believe that we can and will eventually make better choices, but sometimes it seems the pace of this evolution is glacially slow.

And yet, isn’t there a certain beauty in being around to watch how we live, learn, and grow to maturity, taking note of our own foibles and eccentricities? I’m just glad that I get to stick around another day to watch what happens next.

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Reflections: Narcissus   8 comments


A single wild pony gazes at his reflection, at Shackleford Banks, Cape Lookout, North Carolina, NC

Narcissus

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It’s been an interesting week. I’d like to thank all who came by to visit. I’m very happy that you’ve taken the time.

As we wind down a week of pony pics from both Shackleford Banks and Assateague Island, perhaps we can take a pause for “Philosophy Friday.”

For those who stop in briefly, this is the dominant male of a group of wild ponies encountered on Shackleford Banks near Cape Lookout, N.C. He’s the same pony featured earlier in Bad Hair Day. The ponies have been on the island ‘forever'; it’s believed that they swam ashore from distressed Spanish galleons in the 16th century. Not these particular ponies, of course, but their ancestors. 8)

If you’ve been following from earlier in the week, I mentioned this posture that the male was taking. As I very slowly and quietly (yeah, right) moved to get closer to the herd — which included a young foal — this male dropped his head and pawed the ground. Not aggressively, mind you, but enough for me to get the clear message that I shouldn’t get any closer.

I’m good with that.

My friend Mike “Saddleguy” Scott suggests that it was an accurate read of the horse’s behavior, so I feel good about my decision to back away slowly. Shortly after I backed off, the herd sauntered toward the beach, then up and over the dunes. Photo op over.

Now, on to the latest of the ‘Reflections’ series and why I called this “Narcissus.”

You might recall from Greek mythology the story of Narcissus, a young man of not inconsiderable good looks. He was exceptionally proud, and shunned the advances of those who would love him, including the nymph, Echo. Nemesis saw this action and attracted Narcissus to a pool where he saw his reflection in the water and fell in love with it, not realizing it was merely an image.

Any time that Narcissus tried to touch the beautiful image in the water, it vanished, only to return a short time later.

He brought his lips near to take a kiss; he plunged his arms in to embrace the beloved. It fled at the touch, but returned again after a moment and renewed the fascination.

“When I stretch forth my arms you do the same; and you smile upon me and answer my beckoning with the like.” His tears fell into the water and disturbed the image. As he saw it depart, he exclaimed, “Stay, I entreat you! Let me at least gaze upon you, if I may not touch you.”

By degrees Narcissus lost his color, his vigor, and the beauty which formerly had so charmed the nymph Echo. She kept near him, however, and when he exclaimed, “Alas! Alas!” she answered him with the same words.

Absorbed in his splendid isolation and unwilling to leave the beauty of his reflection, Narcissus withered and died. A flower named for him grew on that spot.

I’ve long believed that there is more to the story of Narcissus, a deeper meaning that we can take away from it. This is the nature of all good fables, myths, and parables: Read between the lines to find something much more than just an interesting story.

We are social animals. We are conditioned to be in contact with one another. To love, to grieve, to share, and to live in relationship with others. This can be seen everywhere among sentient beings — in our own circles of influence; in the way that groups of species move in the environment; in the herd of wild ponies that traveled together and worked carefully to protect the young foal. A pony doesn’t know what he looks like, but he well knows that he should stick together with other ponies instead of hanging with humans.

In our world and modern culture, we sometimes tend to lose that innate sense of contact. The current world environment that we’ve created seems to encourage distancing ourselves from one another. Nations quarrel with, and plot against, other nations. Leaders bark orders from their high places and people suffer as a result. Areas of the planet are now so toxic that we can’t walk near them, separating us from our very environment. Our media culture bifurcates opinion into left vs. right, liberal vs. conservative, ‘right’ vs. ‘wrong’, and focuses the little attention we still have to give on the friction between the poles. All of this causes a sense of separation between our internal notion of “I”, and the rest of the world. Is it ever more palpable than when contestants on ‘reality’ shows take the solo walk of shame off the set, are voted off the island, or are branded as “The Biggest Loser?”

Even if you care not to buy into that polarization, sometimes it seems we have to work so hard to keep up with life that we simply don’t have time to nurture relationships. Whereas front porches used to be the up-front feature of a house, those have been replaced by the up-front garage, which discourages casual, chance, nurturing discourse between neighbors and isolates us even further as we drive in, hit the zapper, and close the door behind us.

‘Social media’ venues, I think, are a reflection of our attempt to get beyond these influences and make contact with others, to develop relationships that are valuable and rewarding based on similar interests or ideologies. In a world where our culture serves to divide us one from another, it’s a way of reaching out to others to share something that might nurture us.

But perhaps too, I think, it’s our way of not hating ourselves for what we could become…

To go against the grain of what we are — social creatures — by living in the modern world, we sacrifice something very important to us. The singular focus on “I/me” and the exclusion of love killed Narcissus. An interesting interpretation of the story of Narcissus is not that he was so in love with himself that he couldn’t bear to leave his reflection, but that he hated himself for spurning the affections of others. In the self-created absence of healthy, loving relationships with men, women, and nymphs, he retreated to a place at the pool where each approach to his beloved was met with an equally loving response, and yet it was fleeting and unattainable. If he reached out to embrace, the reflection reached back. If he leaned over to kiss the reflection, it was right there for him. But he couldn’t actually make meaningful contact with it.

Without mutual contact and relationship, we suffer negative psychological effects and the brain is rewired. In extreme isolation — without feedback from others — we can begin to doubt that we even exist. We can’t ever see ourselves (physically), and in isolation, we can’t perceive our own sense of self (psychologically.) In a world that sometimes seems to encourage us to backpedal away from one another, we need even more the contact, love, and nurturing relationship that can only be found in healthy social interaction with others.

I think it’s best to do this in person, but sometimes sharing in online activity can bring us partway there.

Do you like what I’ve created here from my imagination? I love what you’ve done, and I’m remiss for not telling you that more often.

Are you a good person? So am I.

You’re trying your best to find your voice in creative work, sharing it with others? Yah… me, too.

Do you see me? I see you!

Can we band together like a herd of ponies — sharing, loving and nurturing one another in the face of a world that would have us attack one another?  God, I sure hope so, or else we might suffer the fate of Narcissus.

You can hit the Like button or ReTweet this if you wish, but I’d much rather hear from you directly. As I said in the first line, I’m so very glad you’ve taken the time to visit.

Love and Peace to you,
Rob

Rest Stop   16 comments


Rest Stop

~

It hasn’t rained in eastern North Carolina since April. I mean, it has, but only in homeopathic amounts. It’s a very unusual weather pattern for our part of the country, and it wreaks havoc on animal and foliage alike.

This little girl came along on Saturday evening after we had watered a patch of lawn. She was not to be dissuaded from taking a long drink from the ground, and stayed there for over an hour, sipping from various parts of the area. It was only when I took out the long lens and honed in that I noticed she was dropping water back on the lawn.

Now, I don’t know much about butterfly biology, but either the water is running through her like cheap beer, or she used the infusion to help her lay eggs, which I think is more likely the case. Either way, she seemed desperately in need of hydration, so I made sure she had plenty of water.

Dopes anyone know the species?

Nikkor 70-300mm f/3.5-5.6 lens at ISO 400 f/5.6 1/60s 300mm

News:

Over the weekend, some friends over at One Stop Poetry released the first of a two-part interview with yours truly, featuring a few of my images. The cool thing about this site and their Sunday Photography Interview is that they present a poetry challenge for the members. Using one of the images, the poets apply their own creative interpretation of the image in verse. Each contributor posts their poem and comments in an easy-to-access grid, and I must say, many of the poems just blew me away.

Those who know me know that I value Creativity. The great thing about this challenge is that Creativity didn’t stop when the image was finalized, but continued on in the poetry of those who wrote.  A friend of mine once told me, “The essence of creative expression is taking two or more everyday things and combining them in new and interesting ways.” To witness such talented poets taking two different forms and combining them in a new way was a delight to see, and I appreciate everyone who took part in the challenge.

To see the interview, and more importantly, the poetry that goes with the images, please take a moment to visit One Stop Poetry.

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