Archive for the ‘philosophy’ Category
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.
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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“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.”
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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“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.”
“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.”
“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
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.
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 (© 2011 Rob Hanson Photography)
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.
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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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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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.
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!