Category Archives: people

Christmas Lights in Botanic Garden, Denver

Christmas Lights Through Branches in Botanic Garden, Denver

A few days before Christmas, I had the good/bad luck to be in the Denver Botanic Garden at night. There was quite a crowd, and quite a few manifestations of themed lighted areas. The good luck was that it was fun with family, and I made a few good photographs. The bad luck was that I had a really nice Zeiss lens pickpocketed out of a side pouch of my camera bag in the jostling crowd. A rather devastating loss, but we go on.

I kept one lens on the camera all evening and it did beautifully. This lens, the Zeiss Loxia 50, would not have been my first choice for this evening, but it was probably the best lens I had with me for photographing the lights in the dark park. And it turned out to be perfect. I’m not sure if anything would have done better. I might have brought one of my old vintage lenses I like for their bokeh, their out of focus characteristic. I did have one beautiful old lens like that, but it was maybe to long to hand hold in the dark. I didn’t even try it. The Loxia 50 stopped down even a little would make those round balls of light have a funny pointy shape, so wide-open, all evening. It gave me a new appreciation of one of my already favorite lenses, and of night photography, which I don’t do very often. Fun!

This photo is available for sale as a print here.

Before Church, Paris

This is a scan from medium format film, breaking any recent continuity this blog may have had.

This image was awakened from the vault by my daughter’s current trip to Paris. I loaned her a real camera and showed her how to change the aperture and exposure compensation etc, so I’m excited to vicariously imagine seeing Paris again.

This was in the mid 90s, this guy, getting his pants adjusted by his mom, is now hopefully a grown man. I don’t know if this wall or anything looks remotely similar anymore, of course.

That trip in Paris I carried a heavy bag with a Pentax 6×7 medium format camera, light meter, monopod, and a couple of lenses. Crazy.

I may have a handful of photos of the week this week — we’ll see. This one took a lot of time because of all the film spotting, taking up far more bandwidth than I had planned. I’ve got to get busy, because I’m hanging a show in early October at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center. Off to work!

This photo is for sale and can be viewed larger (and in retina) here.

Meditator on Break, Condensation on Dining Tent Flap, Autumn

I often talk about the relationship of meditation on my photography. On some of my deepest retreats, I’m not allowed a camera. But on this 6 day silent retreat, I did have my axe with me. There were long breaks in the afternoons, and I did get to walk in the woods in heading-toward-peak autumn foliage. Maybe some of those exposures might make good photographs — I don’t know yet — but it certainly was good to walk around after so much sitting. The tricky thing is, when I’m opened up so much, and everything is so vivid, and emotional material arises to meet capacity, and the separation of inside and outside is at its thinnest — at that time it’s actually pretty tricky to make good photographs. It may be rather beside the point of being in a meditation retreat, in some ways — but also it is a good practice to bring the openness into the world at large, and to let the world into that open state.

This retreat was at the very end of September in hilly New Hampshire. The mornings were cold, some of the days were cool. Because of the size of the retreat, the largest given up to that point at this center (Wonderwell), they put up a heated outdoor tent to serve as an auxiliary dining hall. The plastic walls of the tent gathered condensation. I only made a couple of discreet exposures on this chilly morning. If it were normal life I would have worked the situation quite a bit more, but I didn’t want to be a spectacle in that context. Of course, in normal life, I might not have seen this as a photograph to make. You never know.

This photo is available for purchase and can be viewed in higher resolution.

Two Lifeguards in a Boat, Ocean Grove NJ 2013

two lifeguards in a boat at dawn nj

There was some timeless time this summer; beach time with loved ones; Cape Cod and then NJ.

As usual, there is a big backlog of material I want to post, but I thought I would post something pretty fresh.

That week in August in Ocean Grove NJ was a mix of so much that is New Jersey — there is a rich and vibrant ecosystem, and then there is the bustle and bluster, the Chris Christy, the opposite of a sane and harmonious landscape.

There is always timelessness, always space. Just as the atoms that build us are almost entirely empty space, just so, spaciousness of mind permeates even the densest sense that we are caught-in-time. This is good for me to remember as it is about to get cold in Vermont, and I am behind in my chores and also some photographic work.

In my sense of life being too dense, I have to remember that it’s not really. I make it dense with my thinking, but the thoughts themselves have no substance, no density, no reality.

This print is for sale here.

boy with phone, woman with hand, waiting for James Turrell at the Guggenheim

Waiting for James Turrell at the Guggenheim

This is not my usual style, out of all my usual styles, but I like it. Like the last few weeks’ entries, there is a strange juxtaposition of the image and the context. There was a long line, about an hour, to gain access to the James Turrell installation on the fifth floor of the Guggenheim. Because the open interior of the spiral was closed off, the hall with so many of us in line felt a little bit claustrophobic, and certainly echoing the busy energy of a crowd in New York City on a Sunday afternoon.

But strangely, in that crowd, the light and space create an image of spaciousness and openness here in the photo.

Unfortunately I was disappointed in this exhibit, at least in that context on that day. The museum was all abuzz, and it was crowded. Turrell’s work is meditative, and all about opening to a slow, quiet experience of light, space, and our own role as a perceiver, as a participant in the light and space. I love his work. But on this day for many of the pieces I couldn’t slow and open enough to participate in this slow dance of perception he invites. At least that day on the Guggenheim I did slow enough to experience light and space, and humanity in 2013, to make this exposure. I had a chance to see a rather extensive show of Turrell pieces well over a decade ago in a quiet space, and I really hope I get to do it again.

A page about James Turrell is here. If you ever get a chance to see a show of James Turrell works, do it.

Dawn Incense Offering, Bauddhanath Nepal 2013

Bauddanath Dawn Incense offering

One of the most interesting parts of the process of The Photo of The Week for me is: how do I pick one?

I have thousands of photos that at least I find quite interesting, beautiful, resonant, or chock full of some other quality. So how to pick one?

Sometimes it’s easy; it’s something new, or part of a series. Sometimes it’s really hard, and that’s true both on a day when many images look good, and on a day when everything looks like mud and I’ve never made a good image in my life.

But the main thing is, it’s a photo that rings me like a bell. As they say, “It strikes me.” So sometimes I see one and it really whacks me. Sometimes it’s more of a haunting, and an image gets in my head and just keeps popping up like a song. Sometimes in my head it’s one way, and sometimes another. It’s like that ear-worm song that you keep humming that’s always different enough to keep you interested, but multifaceted enough to keep it coming back to your mind.

So with this image. I got it in my head a couple of weeks ago and I’ve been wanting to print it. I didn’t get around to printing it today, but in the new Lightroom 5 I’ve been playing with today I did manage to export it for the web.

This print is for sale here.

Pink Wall, Market & Umbrella

OK, we didn’t spend all our time at Buddhist sites.

(And of course we spent some great time with friends.)

There is a lot of chaos and energy in the streets of Kathmandu. Luckily I’m not afraid of a little chaos and energy in a composition.

One thing I loved so much that my heart was breaking at the thought of leaving it: the texture on the walls, everywhere. And the color.

Seriously, on the last few days I photographed a lot of walls, just to compose with the textures. My wife, who speaks Nepali, could hear people asking, “What is he doing? What is he taking a picture of?”

But here it’s obvious, the limes, the men, the wall, the kid under the umbrella. Just another tourist with a camera.

This print is for sale here.

Pilgrims by Incense, Boudanath Nepal, Losar ’13

Back to Boudha…

The old woman with the cane in the foreground walked around and around that stupa all morning, and she generally seemed to be enjoying herself on this festive day.

This is just one small facet of the huge experience of being around the circle of that stupa on that day. I’d like to post more. Stay tuned.

Such a shame to show so little, so low res, for what should be seen on a big monitor or as a decent print. Here’s a crop, unsharpened, from the 1:1


This print is for sale here.

Stupa Cleaner, Dawn, Boudhanath, 2013

Here is another dawn at another Stupa. It’s not just that it’s a different morning from the photo posted last; this place, Boudhanath, has completely different energy. This morning was my third time at the Bauddha Stupa; we spent a whole morning starting at dawn. All three times there I felt an intensity, an egoless happiness. My wife had to pry me away each time. I want to move there. Our friend Sarbajit lives there, right there. (and in fact this image is exposed from his rooftop). I don’t think he needs to meditate: it meditates him.

Except for the dead-on, “this is a direct photo of the stupa” images I was compelled to take over and over (some of them are in fact good!), the hundreds of photos I exposed there have a vast range of texture, color, mood, and in one insufficient word: energy. But within that multiplicity of experience, there is a commonality. There is the quiet, awake center.

People, many hundreds per day, circumambulate counterclockwise. It’s a parade of people of all ages; parents carry babies, and old folks limp slowly with canes. It’s a visual feast: clothes of all colors; birds; sky; changing light; prayer flags in the breeze; shops with all their dharma trinkets, art, and clothing displayed around. People feed the pigeons, which gather and disperse in huge flocks. I shifts and changes like mind, like life.

And right in the center of that, there is a focus, an awakeness, and a sense of devotion. There is the accumulation of the merit of centuries of that devotion and thousands of awake and focused minds. That seems to radiate, maybe from the center of the stupa. It’s hard to find a source for something like that. Probably there is no spatial or temporal source for that sense of energy that pervades this place — put it feels that way, “It’s coming from here, somewhere, now.” But no. It’s timeless. It helps me to realize it’s ultimately placeless as well. It’s something we make with our minds.

This print is for sale here.

Swayambhunath Sunrise, Woman Sitting, 2013

I’m just back from a month in Nepal, photographing and visiting with friends of my wife. Now they are friends of mine. An amazing time with Nepali people and places.

Visiting the ancient Buddhist sites (but also some of the newly built or upgraded ones!) was one of the grab-me-by-the-shirt-collar facets of this experience — and certainly one I will naturally attempt to convey through photography. There was an intensity to the experience of being in these old and well-worn deep places that will of course be beyond anyone’s skills, as a photographer, writer, whatever. It was intense in a beyond-the-ordinary way of intensity, something that tingled my skin and rang my bones like a bell.

On this day we woke well before dawn and took a taxi to this ancient stupa, Swayambhu and we stayed from dawn past lunch. I can’t remember why we left at all. I didn’t want to leave any of these places, but there was always something pulling to the next thing we had to do.

Regular readers of the blog will know that I’ve spent a good bit of my life and time exploring the resonances between physical spaces and emotional or psychic experiences — and that I explore the possibility of pulling some of that resonance through the two dimensional space of a photograph. What I felt in some of these places is beyond that possibility. I won’t pretend I can do anything like that — but time in these places in Nepal also showed me that my old sense of the power of a physical space or object was completely wrong and is now obsolete. So who knows…

Some other mind-blowing aspects of the experience I did capture: for one, the warmth of the people I now consider my friends. I did find a lot of their warmth came through in their smiles, in photos to be shared privately, not here.

Another poignant facet of this month was the experience of people shining through the brokenness of the world. Specifically in Nepal there are a lot of things physical and politically/socially structural that cause a lot of suffering. As many Republicans in the US want to “make the government so small it can drown in a bathtub,” the Nepalis experience what 20 years of a non-functioning, minimal, hands-off government does. There is no EPA, no traffic lights, insufficient electricity, running water, and garbage collection. And that sucks. The suffering from this is nothing to glamorize. The amazing thing is that the warmth and radiance of so many people shine through it. They are not buying assault rifles and hoarding cans, like many Americans in fear of decline. Actually already in a fallen-apart culture, many beautiful people shine through the brokenness like a bright light inside a cracked pot.

As a photographer, I found it trivially easy to document the brokenness. Conveying the shining-through radiance is another task altogether, and the coming weeks will tell if I’ve succeeded at that (beyond, as I said, private photos of friends.)

Stay tuned. Lots more Nepal to come.

This print is for sale here.