A Year Living in the Light | Meaning and Milestones

Milestones are important. These are the moments in life when we pause, reflect and are made aware of the beauty and mystery that is both grace and life. At the beginning of each year there’s always the question – “what will the next 12 months hold in store for me?” And then always on December 31st the answers that surprise.

In no way could I have predicted the experiences during 2012 that would lead me to where I am now, but without a doubt I can now look back with nothing but thankfulness.

As a photographer I have the added blessing of visually recording those times and experiences when I become completely lost within the light and the spirit of my subject. At the end of each year I try to make a “top 10” list of those images that truly reflect who I am as an artist while telling the story of my life experiences. It can be tough to narrow-down the selections. The temptation is always there to include those images that received the most “likes” and shares on Facebook or the ones that resulted in the most print sales on my storefront. But in these end-of-the-year lists I try to emphasize those few images that have more depth of personal story behind them, the ones that are infused with deeper meaning and reflect what I was feeling and thinking at the moment and in the place where the camera shutter was released.

Sure I could just simply include the technical data involved with each of the following photographs (and that’s available if anyone would like to know – email me and I’ll be happy to answer) but I’d rather share the story, the meaning, of what was happening and changing within my life and my style of photography at the moment of the image.

Indeed what an amazing year of discovery, emotion, reawakening and ultimately a turning in the right direction. All of it means even more to me now that I see my time on Hilton Head Island coming to an end and a new chapter opening westward, in Texas and beyond. The previous year and this place (Hilton Head) was a time and location of reflection and learning, more of a crossroads than anything else. Many new friends and the haunting beauty of the tidelands. I am thankful for the lessons both have taught me and the opportunity to capture and share the unique light and character of coastal South Carolina. But also during 2012 I was fortunate to have a few initial previews of what is in store for me during 2013.

In marking the conclusion of 2012 here are my top 12 photographs –

Blessed in Morning Light | Hilton Head Island

The crabbing dock behind the building where I rent my apartment. March 17, 2012. The sunrises over the marshland that borders Broad Creek have a calm beauty and peacefulness that endures despite the development of the Island and the hustle and flow of visitor traffic. To experience sunrise from this location is a living prayer set to light. This is a place to go and meet the incoming tide with peaceful reflection. The time I’ve been fortunate enough to be blessed with here on Hilton Head has for the most part been a period of contemplation, prayer and redirection. There is a reason why I was moved in this direction at this point in my life, perhaps to come to a deeper understanding and appreciation of what truly matters, through perhaps one or two painful lessons but mostly quiet observation.

January Moonrise | Hilton Head Island

To appreciate the true beauty of the nature of the area you HAVE to get out on the water, whether by boat or paddle board. This where the spirit of the Lowcountry is met on an intimate level. The water, the water, the water. Sunlight dances but moonlight enthralls. I am very thankful for the opportunity to own a boat and explore the local creeks, sounds and offshore ocean. This is the source of all positive energy that flows over and through the islands. In preparing for my move to Texas – and to gather the funds for the move – I had to sell my boat. That was the first time in my life that I found it hard to part with something material but the fact is that boat – a 23′ Century – was my access to the water, from swimming and tubing with my daughters and son to cruising out alone to the open waters of Port Royal Sound at sunrise and coming back in at nightfall under the light of a rising Moon. It was freedom and an investment in memories for a lifetime.

May Rain at Cedar Falls | Hocking Hills, Ohio

I’m thankful for the opportunity to return to Hocking Hills, Ohio at least twice each year, to teach weekend workshops on photography at The Inn at Cedar Falls. On the Sunday afternoon portion of the program last May I took my group out in the rain to demonstrate how wet weather often can be a benefit with spring landscape photography in this area. The lady with the umbrella was not part of our group nor was she asked to stand in that location. I was just sitting up on a ledge under a rock overhang, talking with one of my students, when she just appeared with this purple/pink umbrella. I thought to myself “this is too good to be true.” She also stood still long enough for the longer exposure I needed to capture the flow of the water off of Cedar Falls. Every year my top 10 list includes at least one image from Hocking Hills. The place has become a part of who I am and for good reason. It is home.

The Loretto Chapel Staircase | Santa Fe, New Mexico

Revisiting New Mexico last March I had an opportunity to spend a day of photography in Santa Fe. Both the Loretto Chapel and St. Francis Cathedral were wonderful to explore and photograph. Of course I had to agree that my images of Loretto Chapel would not be sold for commercial purposes. It’s breathtaking to see this miracle of handcrafted architecture up close. The late winter light of the high desert coming through the stained glass windows was befitting to this subject. Each time I visit New Mexico I come away with amazing images.

Crescent Moon and Venus | Hilton Head Island

Late March, while at Broad Creek Marina. Spring 2012 was a time of turning and change. Something was about to come my way and I had no idea. Just a feeling. The clarity of the air that night resulted in the light from the Moon and stars to have a crystal clear crispness to it. When it happens it’s actually more of a “feel” to the night air than anything else. Companions in the sky. Venus was so bright during that time that I could see it even before the sun went down. A night sky as brilliant and clear as this results in a sense of “oneness” with something far greater than the self. This image was captured in recognition of that connection.

Highland Lake Inn | Flat Rock, North Carolina

Late June 2012. This was a weekend trip that was unplanned and one which I didn’t intend to do much in the way of landscape photography. On the drive up into the mountains of western North Carolina earlier that day a short but very intense thunderstorm came through, leaving the air cool and clear. The light that evening was beyond ethereal. Something happened that night that’s hard to describe. Once again, it’s more of a feeling. The memory of that night is shared and it is bittersweet. It happened too quick; gone too soon. But I’m thankful it did happen.

Tideland Journey | Skull Creek on Hilton Head Island

Late May on Hilton Head. Spring storm systems often break toward sunset. I’ve learned to read the weather and the clouds over the Lowcountry. When the light of the setting sun breaks underneath all of that cloud activity there is a play of light and color that’s magical. Sunset and sunrise are the times of day when it feels as almost an opening occurs between this life and the next. To be present with camera and a watchful eye in these moments is to become lost in the gift of grace. All I can do is simply be thankful.

Under a Desert Sky | near Los Alamos, New Mexico

Early March 2012. That afternoon I was in nearby Bandelier National Monument, photographing the cliff dwellings on the Pueblo culture. Driving up out of that canyon I kept noticing how the clouds were forming. I didn’t know where I was going or on what road, I just went, and followed the light. This was a pull-off on the road going up towards Los Alamos. Once you experience the light of New Mexico it’s easy to see why so many visual artists are completely “enchanted” with the high desert. It is a sacred connection.

Fire and Rain | Hilton Head Island

October 7, 2012. There these “pocket thunderstorms” flowing over Hilton Head that afternoon and early evening. As these patches of torrential rainfall moved offshore an opening on the western horizon allowed for the light of the setting sun to illuminate the falling rain. James Taylor’s classic “Fire and Rain” came to mind while I was capturing exposures for this image. Separating the marshland from the sky is the Cross Island Bridge that spans Broad Creek. About one mile from one end to the next, running or cycling over the Cross Island at sunset for me is a prayer in motion, more of which I wrote about on this entry on my tumblr. What the Lowcountry lacks in dynamic landscape (hills, mountains, valleys) it makes up for with big, dramatic skies that cover the tidelands in a constant parade of color and shape. Here is the meeting ground and even playing field of water, ground and sky.

Mingo Falls | Cherokee, North Carolina

Early April on Hilton Head can be very crowded and busy with the well-known, televised golf tournament. It’s a good time for local residents – particularly non-golfers – to get away. I chose to take quick road trip north and explore a side of Great Smoky Mountain National Park that I had not previously visited and photographed, which was the North Carolina side. Spring in the Smokies provides a wealth of subject matter for nature and landscape photography. It’s a time when the hollows and mountainsides return to life. Mingo Falls sits on the boundary between the national park and the Cherokee Indian Reservation. It’s a short but steep hike up to the section where I captured this image. Even though the morning was bright and clear, the falls was still within the shade of the mountainside. As with the flowing tides of the coast, the water in the streams and falls of the high country is filled with energy. I’ve always felt that this is the reason people are so attracted to waterfalls. Yes, visually appealing but there is no denying the purifying force of positive energy found at these locations.



My daughters, Emma and Chloe, and my son, Philip. My work in photography is a blessing to be sure, but what will matter more in the long run will be what I can do to positively impact the lives of my children. The past is the past. I have to let it go. Reconnecting with my son this summer was a gift beyond measure, and now I have the opportunity to live just down the road from my daughters in Texas. Time is fleeting. Life on Hilton Head can be fun and full of beautiful days near the ocean, but it’s not for me. What matters most now is building upon the doors of opportunity that have opened during 2012 and directing my attention to where it needs to flow. The trials and challenges will always remain but anything can be accomplished when you know you have the love of your children. All they ask is that I be there for them. I will miss my friends and the beauty of Hilton Head Island but now I’m westward bound with hope and an open heart for something so much more. I am thankful.

Onward to 2013. My sincere wishes for bountiful blessings in the New Year.

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