Seek authenticity, marvel in its presence but resist the urge to simply imitate. What is truly authentic should only inspire you to find what is already authentic in you. Doing so has become increasingly challenging in the popular culture of today where the emphasis is on appearance and immediate visual stimulation. Popular culture devours the authentic with an insatiable appetite and then sits in the corner, sad and empty-hearted. Just look what has happened to the most well known art and music “festivals.” There’s the perfect example. Imitation is a disguise for those who can’t – or have failed to – locate their own voice and it doesn’t help that we have entire industries that cater to imitation. Inspiration is the far better journey. Defy popularism. Be true, be inspired and become a source of inspiration versus imitation. That’s where you will find the good and lasting stuff.
Nature is a persistent and patient teacher with the life lesson of change. Having been involved with nature photography for over 40 years has allowed me to observe the power and importance of this lesson. The one thing that doesn’t change has been change itself. It is consistent.
People naturally fight change. They hate it. Honestly I do to. The very thought of ever moving again brings on a sense of dark doom. Change is so disruptive to what most perceive as safety and security. It goes against this inherent human fallacy known as control. But then nature comes along with her lessons, sometimes subtle; sometimes quite harsh. Late summer and into early autumn seems to be the time when mother nature too likes to put school back into session, with vigor and suddenness, particularly for those living in the coastal states.
Ohio’s lessons on change this time of year tend to be far more subtle but there they are, nonetheless. Summer ends, school begins, cool evenings give way to fields and meadows covered in webs and dew. The balance between day and night returns, and life goes on.
The opposite of fighting change within our own lives is to fully embrace it, with courage and faith. To emulate nature not in the struggle but in the quiet acceptance of what is meant to be will be. Ego insists on the struggle and attempts vainly at controlling the inevitable. Nature flows with it. She goes with the confidence of what changes never truly goes away but is returned again and again in new seasons and forms.
But with our modern lives embracing change is easier said than done. Ego and security are often buried generations deep with the help of inherited fears. This dire need for the “bricks and mortar” and monuments to persona do little to assuage wounds never properly healed. The falseness of our beliefs in ourselves and controlling everything prove to be powerful barriers for free spirits to overcome.
Nature continues to teach otherwise. I think it’s why I could never really leave her classroom. My camera has become my pencil and the photographs my growing stack of doodled and dogeared notebooks.
Change in the seasons and in life flow with an energy that when it comes down to it, I never see as negative. It’s continuous and so are the lessons. With energy so immense and eternal how could anything – or anyone – truly “end.”
In our lives we are given this gift of continuous love that we would rather shove into the corner in favor of what’s immediate and more serving of our needs for control and security. It isn’t until the hard lessons are put upon us whereby we return to the treasure behind our here and now. This gift of continuous love can be found and observed in both nature and in each of us. Change is the energy for it to fly in orbits that will never end but only become better and brighter through time and generations.
The quiet of November. The cold of night slowly releasing to the remaining warmth of the day. Morning mist filling the valleys. Frost-covered leaves and bare branches silhouetting the oranges and purples of early sunsets. There’s a calmness to November; an ease of being, a peaceful disposition before the arrival of winter.
November has always been a welcome respite; that quiet and beautiful month of transition. It is an opportunity to return to my photographic roots among the towering Hemlocks of Hocking Hills and along prairie trails in twilight.
There’s a soft and slightly melancholy feel to the early nightfalls and horizons set to hues between orange and pink and migrating flocks overhead. I welcome the change and I’ve learned not to dread the arrival winter for it is in all the seasons and the in-between months when we are reminded that life is in a constant state of change. The soul was never designed to be a stationary object but flows with tides and the waxing and waning of the Moon.
Change is to be embraced. It’s good. It’s necessary. It’s how we grow. What remains consistent is the energy of love and grace that stays with all the winds of change. Let us all be fully and completely present in all that change brings us and during the calm beauty of November to stop and be grateful for all we’ve be blessed with in our lives.
Discussing the regaining of creative momentum, positive energy, covered bridges and the Canon 5DS. I also mention my two upcoming workshops – “Find Your Creative Zone” on Saturday, August 27 2016 at Cox Arboretum and the “Shoot the Stars/Night Sky” workshop on November 4-5 at The Inn at Cedar Falls in Hocking Hills, Ohio.
Only by peace can the human heart gain sovereignty over the darkness of fear and the desires of the ego. The world grasps and holds at what is only temporal, as if life is a mere game of competitive oneupmanship. The winners. The losers. The accounting and counting of what eventually amounts to nothingness. But the truth of the soul is a love that transcends this world, where the only measure is the heart’s capacity for the sheer honesty of its beauty and being and destiny. We are not sent to our fates by a cold and uncaring God. It is rather by our own choosing do we recede into darkness or proceed into light. Only by peace can the heart lead the way forward. The conscious decision to follow that path is a holy power, a divine gift. In the years that fall behind us may we all gain the awareness that is peace and acceptance and join our hearts in the grandeur that is love everlasting.
My Favorite Photograph of 2015. I was recently asked to identify and write a short blog post about what I consider my favorite image from 2015. Here’s my reply –
To most it may not be much – just a beautiful spring sky and new color in the trees. But to me is what this image has come to symbolize due to timing, setting and subject, but mostly timing. And not timing in the sense of capturing the light at that particular hour or season but timing in the sense of the context of my approach and what I was feeling when I released the shutter button.
It was one year ago, April 26 2015. Just one month prior to that date – March 27 – my mother had passed away at the age of 79. She had struggled with the declining health that comes with Parkinson’s Disease for nearly 20 years.
The scene of this sky and trees was directly above her hillside garden at the Kettering, Ohio home she shared with my dad since 1989.
Her garden was her soul and everything that grew in it was an extension of her heart.
You see that’s who first awakened my love for nature (and subsequently, nature and landscape photography) so very, very long ago. Well, for as long back as I can remember. It was through those distinct seasons growing up in Southwestern Ohio when I recall seeing my mom in her element. She became lost in her gardening, with two impeccable rose gardens and a backyard full of carefully arranged and cared-for annuals and perennials, interspersed and bordered by Locust, Maple and Pine. Spring through fall, mom was in her garden. The local gardening club came for tours due to her attention to detail and expert knowledge on what could grow well here and not there and what provided the best visual presentation as seasons progressed.
Mom was not a fan of winter in Ohio though, especially after Christmas. I like to think it was just too hard of a wait for her spirit and need to be among all things green and growing.
Mom passed away on a Friday just at the end of March. Spring was just barely getting a foothold. A couple weeks later, when spring went into full motion across the Ohio fields, gardens and woodlands, it was the most beautiful of Ohio springs I can remember. It was mom.
The songbirds loved her garden too, and mom loved songbirds. I remember when I was just six or seven and how mom shared her excitement with me over the pair of Cardinals (her favorite) who had built a nest in the tree just outside the laundry room window. Each day she take me to the window to check on the progress, of first eggs and then baby Cardinals, and then leaving the nest.
Before I was ten I could tell the difference between a House and Carolina Wren and could pick-out the call of Robin, Mourning Dove, Blue Jay, Starling, Sparrow, Finch and a variety of woodpeckers. And should an owl make an appearance – such as a giant Great Horned – well that was something to truly celebrate.
This image is much more than just sky and trees. It’s more than the technical specs of the camera and lens (if you must know it’s a Canon 1D Mark III with a Canon 17-35mm f2.8 lens). It goes deeper than its composition and color. This photograph is of love.
Photography is a visual connection to the stories that interweave our spirits and give representation to that eternal grace of soul feeling. When that visual connection is so deeply rooted in the love that binds family, then every image becomes cherished in the gallery of the heart.
Spring came beautiful in 2015 and it wasn’t long before evening fall during summer in mom’s garden was full of fireflies and the songs of cricket and Katydid.
The love we leave behind will always take root in the gardens we tend to during our brief journey together. With care we tend the soil and cultivate our heart songs, for in another spring a mother will take her young son to the window and look wide-eyed at the Cardinal’s eggs in the nest in the tree outside, and above a brilliant spring sky will swirl with clouds and Red Bud trees. And the call of a lone Mourning Dove will come on a morning breeze.
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