A long time coming…

a self portrait.

DSC_1677-Edit-2Photography is an austere and blazing poetry of the real.

Ansel Adams

I’ve been playing around with portraits lately, you know, part of that exercise to do those things that you’re the least comfortable with. Replacing fear with confidence allows you to make choices that aren’t predicated around a feeling that you could fail.

When your life has gone through a complete upheaval the tendency is to analyze every choice that you made and to find reasons why you made the choices that you did.

I think that it’s a necessary part of recovery but there also comes a time to let those things go and take a good long look in the mirror. I’ve found through chance encounters that my story is not all that unique and with that discovery comes a sense of relief. I am grateful to those women who have shared their stories with me.

The photo above is about looking in that mirror. It is a self portrait of where I am right now in this moment.

Every so often in nature, with jaw dropping vistas a far as the eye can see, you encounter a tiny intimate landscape that just speaks to you on a whole different level.

This was one of those defining moments.

And how unusual…

It’s almost always about the water.

Top of…

the food chain.

BT 4-EditIn every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.

John Muir

Some people can go all of their lives and never see a glimpse of these top of the apex predators.

This year I’ve been on a roll, catching my first glimpse from 20 feet away. A chance encounter on foot that fortunately ended well, no cubs to protect or kill to guard. Considering that they’ve been clocked at 30 mph it makes 20 feet feel like a hop, skip, and a jump away.

When we first saw this most perfect of natural track traps laden with grizzly prints set by a layer of frost covering the wet mud, I almost had to remind myself to breathe.

Tracks are rapidly becoming something that I find great joy in photographing. I think in part it’s the transient nature and the luck involved with encountering them at just the right moment. Capturing them, these intimate landscapes, provides a permanent record that places like this still exist.

They tell a story as you follow them ever mindful that the beast that created them has been there and still might be. Interspersed amidst the grizzly tracks were tracks fromĀ  black bear, mountain lion, elk, and later on, those of my Staffords.

But soon the wind will blow and the snow will fall, erasing the signs that in the wilderness the wild is never far away.

Stay vigilant and always check your surroundings…

Is it art…

just because we say it’s so?

DSC_1027-Edit-EditBefore the people at large, and for that matter, the artists themselves, understand what photography really means, as I understand that term, it is essential for them to be taught the real meaning of art.

Alfred Stieglitz

Had some interesting conversations lately about art; what it is and what it is not.

Is it the piece of dryer lint tied with thread and given space at a gallery? Or perhaps it’s the old sheet hung on the wall with a word written on it? Is it assembly line production of paper and glue?

Is it art because it matches your sofa cushions? Is it art because you cut an old RV in half and applied social commentary to it? Does the quality of the material used elevate the work?

The very definition of art, the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination would lead me to believe that there are more components involved than the simple desire to be called an artist.

Recent art exhibits seemed to be accompanied by lengthy bios on the artist and the creative process that resulted in some of the exhibits mentioned above leading me to wonder is it art if it has to be explained to you in advance of the viewing?

For me whatever I’m looking at, my own work or that of others, first and foremost it has to evoke some sort of emotion and secondly the creation of the piece has to have some component of skill and intention involved.

Art or craft…always a hot topic. I’m grateful for artists like Stieglitz who paved the way for photography as an art form.

There was a man with great passion, talent, and intention and I would have loved to shadow him for just one day as he worked.

Who moves you? What motivates you to create and not just replicate?

Trust…

that the dots will connect.

DSC_4126-Edit-2-EditYou can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

Steve Jobs

Interesting to read the words of an incredibly smart man and think that perhaps he too made choices based purely on delving into that place deep inside and trusting that feeling.

I think that there is a lot to be gained by not only visiting your past but from really looking at your past and relating it to the forward journey.

I’m reminded of a movie that I saw recently where the lead could time travel backwards and take a slightly different path allowing him to choose the outcome that he desired.

It makes me realize how important every action, every word, and every decision is. One moment in time can shape so much of the future. The choices that we make on a daily basis eventually connect, just like those dots, deep into the future.

For most of us, there is no going back but there will be opportunities to make things right moving forward.

Listen to your gut and don’t be afraid to buck the tide. Sometimes it only takes one small course correction to get you back on your heading.

Not just a photograph…

but a memory.

DSC_0879-EditPhotography, as a powerful medium of expression and communications, offers an infinite variety of perception, interpretation, and execution.

Ansel Adams

Winter landscapes are for me some of the most beautiful to capture.

Like a blueprint of time they contain a wealth of information; information that remains until the next wind blows and covers the tracks, or snow continues to fall burying that day’s history.

I knew immediately when I saw this image that I would render it in black and white.

Ansel Adams used a red filter to darken the sky in one of his photographs of the monolith in Yosemite. He already had in his mind the final image, not as he saw it but how he visualized it being.

Photography is a medium that allows for an immense amount of growth and how we choose to interpret that which lies on the other side of our lens is an intensely personal process.

Knowing this, accepting this, and staying true to this is the difference between a snapshot and a photograph.

A photograph is not only the image that it portrays but the memory that it holds.

When I look at this I am reminded of a very gentle man, a farmer, who several years ago during a challenging time showed me the true depth of his spirit and I hope that when he sees this he will recognize himself in the description and know that he made a difference.

The apex…

of scenting ability.

DSC_0770-3Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Years ago while involved in Search and Rescue I was introduced to tracking by a man named Jim Marshall. He cultivated in me an appreciation for awareness and personal space and the second nature to be always looking for indicators.

Today, one of my greatest joys is to find signs of animals passing through the wilderness and letting my imagination run wild with the back stories.

The discovery pictured above, along with a huge pile of hair laden scat, was heart rate elevating!

I searched for the perfect track to photograph and my mind raced with thoughts.

As a former bloodhound handler and instructor of scent theory, I’m well versed in the abilities of certain animals because of physiological makeup to be scenting machines.

Here I was in close proximity to one of the animals at the apex of this description…the grizzly bear. An animal purported to be able to scent 300 times more than a bloodhound.

This is the beauty of photography. Each time I look at this photograph I will remember the cold, the heightened awareness, the silence, and the joy that we felt when we saw it.

I had hoped to see elusive bear number TENĀ  of the year but I’m okay with it not being this particular bear.

Was he watching? Very likely.

Was I? Always.

Nature’s magnificence…

and coming back.

DSC_0446-Edit-2-Edit-3I wish that all of nature’s magnificence, the emotion of the land, the living energy of the place could be photographed.

Annie Leibovitz

This week has been a reminder of and an eye-opener to the scars that we bear.

This stand of trees still soars majestically skyward but bore not the brightly colored leaves of autumn, only blackened trunks and open wounds from the Kenow fire that swept through last year.

I find myself listening more and looking beyond the outer shells.

I find myself more willing to speak openly and wonder if that energy is being felt.

I find myself coming back.