Archive for the 'About Life' Category

30
May
11

kids in the memorial day parade

Just posting a few grab shots from the Memorial Day Parade in my hometown of Darien, CT.  I couldn’t help wondering what the kids of some other countries  are doing today – Somalia or Yemen, Libya or Malawi. I hope someday the children of each of those countries will have a fun day such as our kids had today. It won’t be the same of course, nor should it be. But I pray for a better life – peace, stability, hope and joy – for all the world’s children. Some Day.

01
May
11

people of santa fe

This week, I’m in Santa Fe for a photography workshop. Here are a few of the people I’ve photographed on the street. The teenaged girl, above, is a young aspiring model. As we were walking along the street, I saw this doorway, and particularly liked the long strip of light on the left side of the doorway and the little square of light on the right side. I positioned her so that the light would hit her hair.

Saint Francis Cathedral has some beautiful sculpture and paintings. Today, with Pope John Paul having been moved up another step toward sainthood, the altar area had a big portrait of him and an amazing array of flowers. But what really caught my attention was  the light coming in the front door. I stood and watched many people come in and out, and grabbed a few shots, including the one of this gentleman, above.

There are always some interesting characters in the plaza in the center of town. This man’s name is Cuba, and his dog is Oxy. He is a school teacher in Santa Fe. He liked this image and asked me to email it to him, which I have done tonight. I used a wide angle lens on this shot and had the camera about a foot off the pavement.

It’s snowing tonight and the temperature will drop into the 20’s. Later in the week, thr forecast calls for sunny and in the 80’s. A very speical place to be in any weather!

08
Apr
11

fabulous tips on creativity

These are great tips about creativity from Craig Tanner. See his website, www.tmelive.com. Craig is a terrific teacher – I’ve taken two workshops from him and hope to take more.
Here are some potentially powerful tips and suggestions to enhance your own creativity. (Not preaching! I need these tips as much as anyone).
 
What is your purpose as a photographer and artist? Create an overall purpose statement for your photography and art. Create a purpose statement for each individual shoot. Your purpose statements should generate powerful emotions within you. Great art stirs powerful emotions. If you are indifferent about your purpose for being a photographer how can you expect the viewer to connect in an emotionally powerful way to your work?
 
Knowing your purpose means moving away from reactive shooting and towards conscious practice. What is conscious practice? Conscious practice is knowing specifically what you are working on so that you can measure if you are in line with your intention. When you begin to consciously practice (instead of walking around looking for great shots) both happiness and progress will come in leaps and bounds.
 
Most of us as adults have been trained to try to protect ourselves by burying our emotions. This is a creativity killer. Great artists have a highly developed emotional life and are brave enough to give a heave-ho to the cowardice of the stiff upper lip. Let go. Smile. Laugh. Sing. Dance. Cry when you are sad. Create from the natural expression of your emotions.
 
Take more time to play. Play is an activity that has no purpose outside of fun. When we are truly playful we gain access to brain sates and mindsets that are documented and venerated to enhance intuitive thinking, flexible thinking, and help to renew both our physical and psychological energies.
 
When is the last time you were truly playful?
 
Frame all of your creative practice with positive experiences and thoughts. What does it mean to “frame”? Framing is what you do right before you do anything else. Here are three powerful framing tools for enhanced creativity.
 
1) Practice gratitude and share what you have to offer. To often we curse what we have and focus on our needs. Turn it around!!!
 
2) Practice vividly reliving in the present tense of your imagination past experiences where everything worked for you as a photographer. Make this work as palpable as possible by engaging as many of your senses as you can during this mental practice.
 
3) Use affirmations to positively frame your creative practice. Three of my all time favorite affirmations for enhanced creativity are (used in this order) “I am a magnet for creative ideas.” – “The answer is speeding its way to me now” – “I posses an endless supply of creative energy and tenacity”.
 
Make a habit of journaling. One of the top hallmarks of the highly creative person is a highly developed ability to capture ideas. We are constantly creating ideas. Unfortunately most photographers squander those gifts because they are not recorded anywhere. Brilliant ideas are soon forgotten – instead of recorded and nurtured. Your journal can also be used as a powerful envisioning tool. Project no images of the future. All envisioning work should be imagined as if it is taking place in the present tense. Journal the things you “experience” in the “perfect world” present tense explorations of the imagination of your visions.  When you begin to regularly journal you will notice a powerful shift in the flow of your creativity.
Use your journal to record negative limiting thoughts and beliefs. Make a conscious choice to work with these thoughts in a creative way to turn them around into ideas that are empowering. Click here to visit the website of Byron Katie and “The Work” – a powerful metaphysical tool kit for working with negative beliefs in ways that can change them from limits to doorways to joy and enhanced creativity.
 
Quit trying and start trusting. Trying implies there is some outcome in the process that is more important than the process itself. Trying turns us into vacant zombies always looking to the outside world and the future for the thrill that will finally bring us peace and joy. Trust is what happens when you know you are in line with the intention of your purpose. Trust is what happens when you reach the realization that great photography is not out there somewhere. Great photography and great art come from within you. Use quiet time and journaling to listen to the places where you find the heart of your work. Know your purpose and stick to it (until your purpose shifts). Be the purpose and the intention behind the purpose. If you are true to the intention of your purpose all of your photography and efforts have priceless value because they bring you the peace and joy in each moment that comes from being true to yourself.
 
Suspend judgement in the early part of your process. Make many attempts and collect many ideas. Ask “What if” questions? Look at the creative challenge in ways that abstract the challenge. Look at the challenge from a far distance. Look at the subject to be photographed and rename it in ways that make it less literal moving more and more towards the abstract.
 
Consciously introduce extreme limits into your creative process. Its a myth that freedom leads to creativity. Too much freedom in the creative process leads to artist’s block because it encourages us to look to the outside world for the “grass that is greener” to get started. Creative limits push us to say yes to the process itself. Creative limits remind us of what we far to often forget – the art comes from within. Mostly what we need is the permission to express what we already have and are….beings whose most basic and profound nature is unlimited creativity. Give yourself a very short time frame to produce 100 variations of a photographic subject or theme. Restrict yourself to one lens. Restrict yourself to an extremely small space. Combine multiple creative limitations. And then watch your creativity soar.
 
After giving yourself a lot of attempts from which to choose regroup and put on your logical thinking hat and make choices and commitments. Refine the project parameters and get focused on a specific goal…..but be open enough to recognize when the goal was just a permission to arrive at a much better idea altogether.
 
While moving consciously towards your goal make a habit  of being outrageously and unforgettably tenacious. One of my all time favorite affirmations for tenacity is “I refuse to accept undesirable circumstance as having final reality!”  (Uell Andersen – from the book  The Key To power and Personal Peace).
 
Practice being a flexible thinker. Highly creative people have developed a habit of being able to move freely from being intuitive and playful to being logical and judging. Both modalities are critical to enhancing your creativity and achieving your purpose. It is a myth perpetuated by deeply flawed science that human beings are either left brained (logical / sequential) or right brained thinkers (intuitive / holistic). We are all whole brained thinkers. Unfortunately most of us have practiced a lot more being sequential thinkers. We need to practice working with both modalities of the creative mind. Many of the things I have already mentioned will help you to exercise the more holistic, intuitive, and playful part of your creative mind. Journaling and quiet time, allowing yourself to be emotional, consciously setting time aside to just play, actively choosing to suspend judgement, recognizing limiting beliefs and working with them to go past your current limits.
 
Speaking of limits – when is the last time you took a big risk in the service of your dream? As adults we place way too much value on knowledge, competency, and security. To truly move forward we will have to become vulnerable beginners again. Mistakes are an amazing source of creativity. If we are only practicing when we truly know what we are doing and we are pretty sure of what we are going to get we run a big risk of our results becoming predictable, stale and boring for both us and the viewer. Truly going past limits involves discomfort, failure and mistakes. Are you willing to look foolish in the service of growing towards your dream? Are you willing to let go of security and self protection to be truly alive? Are you willing to reframe the discomfort (of imposing upon your own false sense of security) as the heightened state of awareness that you always experience just before a breakthrough? Are your willing to be a beginner again. Highly creative people allow themselves to have truly new experiences in the service of their dreams. Becoming a beginner again should be a regular part of your creative playground.
 
All art is communication. Communication is a bridge between you and me. When we communicate and share in a way where both you and me are better than we were before that is service. Service is our highest calling. What are the ways you can practice your photography and art where you, the subjects of your photography, and the viewer of your artwork are all better off than they were before your artwork was created and shared?
 
I hope these ideas challenge you and help you to grow your photography in ways that surprise you and allow you to have more fun and joy along the way.
 
07
Apr
11

pilgrimage to the holy land

The Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem

I’ve just returned from a two-week trip to The Holy Land with a group from my church. This was an exhilerating, inspiring, exhausting and life-changing experience. Rather than try to put it all into perspective, I wanted to just share a few images from the trip.

The Dome of the Rock, in Jerusalem, is a sacred place to  Muslims, Christians and Jews.  It is built over the site remembered as the place where Abraham almost sacrificed his son Isaac. This is also remembered as the place where the Prophet Mohammed took his final steps on earth. We visited on a rainy, dreary day, but the bright colors of the building still shone through vividly.

Young Boy prays at the Western Wall

Just steps from The Dome of the Rock is the Western Wall, formerly called The Wailing Wall. The wall is part of the Second Temple, which was destoyed in 70 AD, and Jews (and others) come to pray here.  There are separate areas for men and women to pray. Many people will put prayer notes on pieces of paper in the crevices of the wall. I did as well.

1st Century Rolling Stone Tomb

In Nazareth, we stayed at The Sisters of Nazareth Convent.  Some years ago, excavations were made below the convent, and a 1st century home and tomb were discovered. This tomb is exactly the same design as the one that Jesus was buried in, in Jerusalem. (That tomb has not been discovered.)  The body is prepared for burial in the main chamber, then placed in one of the niches visible beyond, and the niche is sealed up.

Icon from a Greek Orthodox Monastery, Zababdeh

In Zababdeh, in the occupied West Bank, we visited a monastery that sits over Jacob’s Well, where Jesus met the Samarian woman. We walked down to the well, in the basement of the church, pulled up a bucket of water and drank from it. This was just one of many very tangible experiences of connections to stories that are so familiar to us all.

Camel in the Judean Desert

Not much more to say on this one!

Judean desert, overlooking to Old Roman Road from Jericho to Jerusalem

We spent some time in quiet reflection on a bluff overlooking the Judean desert.  This is the Wadi Qelt (Wadi meaning a dried-up river bed) and it was the main route between Jericho and Jerusalem, traveled many times by Jesus  and his disciples.

Mosaic at Sepphoris

We visited Sepphoris/Shefaamr, which was a center of Roman administration during the First Century AD.  There were beautiful mosaics, such as the one shown here, that displayed amazing color, despite being 2000 years old.

Bas Relief in the Garden of Gethsemane

We visited a church at the Garden of Gethsemane.   This bas-relief on the wall of the garden caught my attention because of the expressive faces. In the garden, there were olive trees with root structures going back to the time of Christ.

Mount of Beatitudes

In the northern part of Israel, in Galilee, we had a beautiful Spring day walking on the Mount of Beatitudes, overlooking the Sea of Galilee.  This is where Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount. We read the sermon and shared the Eucharist, one of the very moving experiences for our group.

Rainbow over the Desert

This shot was taken from the Mount of Olives, looking over the Judean Desert. This is likely the area Jesus went for his 40 days and 40 nights in the desert.

On our trip, we learned about events from Biblical times, but also experienced what is happening in Israel and the West Bank today. The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is terribly complicated and well-entrenched.  Somehow, I want to hold onto the hope that peace is possible in this very special land. And this rainbow was sign of hope for me.

See part two of our pilgrimage to The Holy Land here.

27
Jan
11

The Smile of Faith

Faithful readers will recall I have written about smiles from time to time. It’s a topic that fascinates me –  I try to learn as much about as I can about smiles.

When I’m shooting portraits, I’m usually aiming for a smile. “Say Cheese!” doesn’t cut it – it just leads to that teeth-clenching, tense fake smile.   With children, I’ll often make a goofy face or say something silly. With adults, one of my tricks is to ask them to remember a happy experience from their childhood.  Just about every time, a broad smile pops out immediately. I’ve learned to be ready to hit the shutter button.

I wanted to pass along this short reflection, written by David Anderson, Rector of Saint Luke’s Parish, my church in Darien, CT.

The Smile of Faith

I read this week that a typical small child smiles six hundred times a day, and old men smile two and a half times a day. That tells you all you need to know about the course of human life.

 As we get older, we get more “serious.” I put that in quotes, because mostly we’re not getting really serious about life—in which case we’d be smiling more like six hundred times a day—we’re just getting sourer and sourer. Life hasn’t worked out like we planned. Things have gone wrong. We can barely eke out two and half smiles a day.

 We can’t smile, we can’t laugh when it all depends on us and we have to manage it all, keep it all going, “make it happen.” We can’t smile until we trust, relax a little, let it be. That’s the whole message of the gospel: God has everything under control . . . so you don’t have to.

 I could talk more about laughter, or just give you a reason right now to do it. So here’s one I heard recently.

 An elderly woman walked into the local country church. The friendly usher greeted her at the door and helped her up the flight of steps. “Where would you like to sit?” he asked politely.

“The front row, please.” She answered.

“You really don’t want to do that,” the usher said. “The pastor is really boring.”

“Do you happen to know who I am?” the woman inquired.

“No.” He said.

“I’m the pastor’s mother,” she said indignantly.

“Well,” replied the usher, “do you happen to know who I am?”

“No.” she said.

“Good.” he answered.

29
Dec
10

my youngest collector

At my photography exhibit in the Fall, my images of marbles were among the most popular photographs.  One of my friends brought his 7-year-old daughter to see the show and she fell in love with this image.  So Daddy bought the framed print for her as a surprise Christmas gift.  I decided to give her the actual marble that is featured in the center of the image, a beautifully made piece by a talented glass artist.

Here’s a note received today from Dad:

I hope you had a great Christmas.  Ours was lots of fun, and your photo was a huge hit.  She was so intrigued by its shape before she opened it, having forgotten all about it.  Then she was overjoyed by it. Your very thoughtful inclusion of the actual marble made it extra special.  When I was turning off her lights Christmas night to put her to bed, her final comment on the big day was “ Daddy, thank you for the picture from Blake – I love it!”  Thanks, Blake, for brightening our Christmas with your great art.

Wow, this feels great on many levels.  It’s a real rush – and very humbling – for me to have people buy my work and to imagine them looking at the images hanging on their walls. This adorable and precious little girl is my youngest collector.

07
Dec
10

“I have a crush!” – photos for on-line dating services

It’s been a long time since I was in the dating scene – Richard Nixon was president and we didn’t have personal computers or cell phones, much less web dating services.  The world has changed a bit since  then.

So, I’m clueless about web dating services, but I do know they are now mainstream. Match.com has 30 million members and is adding 20,000 a day. Recently, I had the privilege (and fun!) of helping a young woman create images to put up on some dating sites. Here’s her story, in her own words:

When the decision is made to attempt on-line dating for the first time, many questions swirl through your agitated head.  Will this even work?  Am I brave enough?  What about the horror stories I’ve heard?  Like my cousin Barb and that man who was not really named Clarence?  Really, of all fake names…he chose Clarence?  And this is what I was walking towards?  This place of the unknown. 

Well, I set a date.  A date for myself before the actual dates where my best friends would be instructed to call at a certain time so I could have a possible out. I planned to have many creatively legit emergencies. 

The date was to have some pictures taken by a professional photographer.  I have had this done before…numerous times…but this time it wasn’t for an agent in Los Angeles or to appease casting directors.  I wasn’t going to wear the suggested layers of cobalt blue.  The session was to only document me – a close-up of my head or a quarter-body shot.  I wanted freedom and Blake easily agreed, “Sure, whatever you want.”

Flashes caught me in mid-air while I jumped.  Flashes captured simple moments while I relaxed on my back.  Flashes followed me as I looked over my shoulder. 

While sitting at Blake’s laptop scrolling through the finished shots; something came over me.  I got excited to put myself out there.  I would so date me!  Blake and I worked together and created moments that were simply me.  He instructed and other times I lead but in the end, I couldn’t stop smiling at my smiling image.

Four weeks in and I’d like to report that the dating world is fun…and I have a crush.  And we will be seeing each other again for the third time this Friday.   And his name is NOT Clarence.