Joshua Tree National Park

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Here’s the formula.  When I travel for work, I look to see if I can grab a half or even full day on either side of my commitments for a walking and photographing adventure.  If that’s a yes, then I immediately jump onto a mapping app to see what’s nearby.  In some cases, such as Phoenix or Vegas, the opportunities are obvious.  And close by.  In others, it takes some research.

Recently, I was in San Diego and so my preparation research mostly pointed out seacoast possibilities.  Photographically speaking, I much prefer deserts and so I scanned the map for something, anything… within an easy (few hour) drive of my business meeting location.  To the northwest of San Diego lies Joshua Tree National Park, a spot I have always wanted to visit, though some have advised me that “there’s just not that much there worth seeing.”  Yeah, I heard that once.

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I didn’t have too many other options and so off to Twentynine Palms, California I headed.  Expectations were not particularly high.

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The Subtle Seduction of Joshua Tree National Park

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An entire National Park named after a tree?  Seriously?

Now the Grand Canyon… that’s some park.  Gigantic crevice in the planet… that you can climb down into.  Cool.

Yosemite.  Epic walls of towering rock surrounding a pristine valley.  Yessir.

Yellowstone.  Bears, wolves, elk around every corner.  That’s surely worth a visit.

But Joshua Tree?  Just a few hours west of San Diego, California, and yeah… it’s named after some trees.

I had a glorious day there recently (and at the nearby mysterious Salton Sea) and it was extraordinary.  Joshua Tree delights in its subtlety.  In its understated charm.  The hikes scale a low lying and approachable mountain, forge through easily missed hidden valleys, ascend toward a seemingly misplaced dessert lake, and leave you utterly and beautifully alone in the silence.  It was breathtaking.

More to come soon…

A Splash of Color

spring_04192017_1.jpgAfter months of photographing gray, brown, and more gray, the Lord has blessed us with some spring flowers! I snapped this image while on my daily walk across the street to lunch. I’ve seen this same flower pot with nothing but withered roots in it a hundred times. It was refreshing and inspiring to see it full of new life and a splash of color!

My visual gratitude journal

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I’ve heard it several times before and I bet you have too.  Keeping a gratitude journal – into which you spend 10 minutes at the end of every day jotting down everything you were grateful for during that day – will reduce your stress and up the happy in your life.

Arianna Huffington summarized all this in her book Thrive by noting: “According to a study by researchers from the University of Minnesota and the University of Florida, having participants write down a list of positive events at the close of a day — and why the events made them happy — lowered their self-reported stress levels and gave them a greater sense of calm at night.”

I’ve read all about this.  I’ve talked with people who do this.  Without citing all the hard evidence, I’ll just say… I buy it.  I get it.  I’m in.

But… I stink at journaling.  I’ve tried it probably 10 times before, for a variety of reasons and typically upon the advice of a friend, but I can never get past a couple of days of actually doing it.  Once I even purchased a beautiful leather clad journal with heavy weight cotton paper and thought to myself: “Yeah, I haven’t successfully journaled because the paper itself wasn’t just right.”  Right.

More recently, however, it has hit me like a much appreciated bag of bricks over the head: why not keep a visual gratitude journal?  One that I capture with a camera (or my phone) and which helps me account for all of the things that I am most grateful for in my life.  I have created a special on-line gallery (accessible only by me) into which I place these images.  They contain photos of people, of events, of places.  Just knowing I possess such a gallery prompts me to search around during the course of each day just looking for, and thinking about, my blessings.  I review the gallery often and consider everything in my life I have reason to appreciate.

And you know what?  It works.  Maybe I don’t stink at journaling after all.

Try it and see.  Let us know if it works…

Finally, Spring

me_sunny_04132017_1After many months of photographing indoor basketball and hockey games, campus shots with snow banks always in the background, and leafless trees, spring has sprung! Today I kicked off a very busy two months for me at work, full of picture-taking, writing, and creating. It was great to walk around campus, under the warm sun, and take pictures of the goings on around me.

I am excited and look forward to growing as a photographer during this next chapter.

Photographic artistry: Ever the elusive

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“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” — Edgar Degas

It has been a slow awakening, a coming into the light.  And it has been fairly difficult.  I am a photographer.  I know how to use my equipment.  I know my way around post-processing software.  I have refined my photographic eye.  But I am no artist.

I have spent decades refining this craft.  Most of that has been joy, as I have described on these and other pages.  Experiences of living, of traveling, of encountering and of discovery most often include peering into a glass or electronic peephole, manipulating compositions, altering shadows and highlights, and capturing it for all of posterity.  It has been a photographic… pardon the cliche… journey.

The quest to improve as a photographer is big business.  This desire is fuel to an industry that seeks to move gear, instructional supports, travel workshops, and a million other associated products and services.  The fundamental equation is this: buy X and you will become a better photographer.  I’ve wanted that.  Many want that.  Many.  It’s big business.

Joey described his recent decision (see here), a shedding of sorts, to focus on artistry.  And not all the rest.

As for me…

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First Impressions of the Fujifilm X100F

I, like many others, believe that a camera should function like an extension of one’s eye – for without this quality, how can it accurately do its owner’s bidding? x_04062017_2Personally at times, I find that decisions regarding gear, specifically which gear to use in a certain circumstance, interfere with my ability to create photographs that I am pleased with. That obstacle is overcome when I only have the X100F in my bag, because of its streamlined approach to photographing. Continue reading