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.
I am thankful for the opportunity to appear on the September 29 2015 episode of “Living Dayton,” which airs at noon on WDTN Channel 2 here in the Dayton area. I had fun showing a few sample images and talking photography with host Sallie Taylor.
Presenting my “Best of 2014” slideshow/video, highlighting what I think are my personal favorite nature and landscape images taken throughout the previous year. The images are presented in order, from January through the end of December, showing the progression of the seasons and the change in light.
This particular slideshow carries even more personal meaning due to the fact that soon I will be leaving my home on “Raptor Ridge” in Greene County, Ohio. I’ve sold the eight acre farmhouse and property recently and will be exploring other opportunities for my photography and photography instruction by staying somewhat flexible and free from the responsibilities of caring for a property of that size, for the time being.
For a few weeks beginning in mid-March I will be offering field photography instruction in New Mexico, working in conjunction with New Mexico Jeep Tours. I will still maintain Picture Ohio LLC in Dayton. This endeavor is exploratory in nature. I do plan to present spring workshops in Ohio, in possibly April and May.
I will always be thankful for my home and photographic experiences on Raptor Ridge. Part of me will always linger on those sunsets and with those sunrises overlooking the Beavercreek Wetlands as well as some wonderful memories shared with my kids.
Life and photography are ever-changing and I know with me there have been more than the usual amount of changes and moves over the last few years! However one thing will always be constant and that is my passion for photography and my love of sharing my photographic discoveries with others. I am blessed and thankful to have the art of photography to serve as my main channel for expression and connection.
The gift of photography is not so much in the beauty of the captured image as it is in the shared experience of living in the light of a common love for beauty; the visual expression of the spirit of life.
“Like something out of a Coen Brothers movie.” There’s a fine line between inspiration and imitation and I suppose that’s why I find my best sources of inspiration in other mediums than still photography. I admire the work of the masters such as Adams and Weston, but I never want to imitate it. And that can be a challenge sometimes. But to be inspired by prose and poetry, music, film, design, sculpture . . . that’s where energy in the art of expression is renewed, again and again.
For example, the films of Joel and Ethan Coen. They don’t bend to popular whims nor do they film to please this particular group or that particular audience. They hold true to their own creative vision and all else falls into place. They also stay true to those components or pieces that best serve their vision, whether it be the musical genius of T. Bone Burnett or the understated performances of John Goodman.
The Coen’s nail it every time because they have the courage to be who they are and not mold themselves to the expectations of a fickle audience, and the studios come to them. Sure their best work often gets snubbed but there’s no mistaking one of their films from those of a sea of other filmmakers.
The universal connection found in the art of creative expression that is unique to each soul is life and light set to a harmonious interludes of wonder and joy. To be true, even it means long stretches of hanging out there by your lonesome, that’s the place to be. Life was never meant to be a popularity contest. The posturing and posing and pandering leaves everyone wanting. I’ve seen a lot of that in my life. There have been many times I’ve been guilty of falling into that trap as well. It served as a painful reminder of the importance of being true to self, always humble and thankful to a higher power and love without conditions or false intentions.
Life is meant to be lived in the courage of your own convictions and expressed through the work of your own hands. Talent fully utilized may on the surface be seen as selfish but when serving the higher purpose of inspiring others (and always in gratefulness) it is actually quite the opposite, and beautiful to behold.
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