On the surface…

Stories—the beginnings are fluid, with starting points somewhere in the timeline and often at a point of action. We don’t know what’s happened before and can only guess at the perils that lie ahead.

Images taken in nature are stories presented within four walls. There are no pages to turn and the cast of characters often remain unknown. They’re not always pretty.

I would liked to have lingered. Waited and perhaps discovered the rest of the tale. I have my suspicions—the heap of remaining flesh and fur spoke volumes—but maybe that’s someone else’s story.

I don’t think I could have photographed this several years ago, but I was a different person back then. Now, when presented with the opportunity, I study nature more closely. I celebrate its beauty and share in its moments of cruelty.

We’re all animals. The difference is some of us keep that hidden inside cloaked with a carefully constructed mirage, while others lay it right out there on the surface for everyone to see. Interesting how a walk in nature can open your eyes and feed your soul at the same time.

Humankind vs nature…

What a year, or do I say that about every one? The serenity of this image is so not representative of 2021, but it’s typical of how we spent our free time—out in nature, often no more than a picture frame apart from one another.

Nature is much more trustworthy than humankind. Though nature comes with unpredictability and devastation, the difference is, it isn’t premeditated. When the worst transpires, it isn’t the result of a cold-blooded, malicious attack for personal gain—it’s luck of the draw for the most part.

Nature doesn’t masquerade as your friend or family member, she just exists in a form that you’re free to consider, evaluate, and then choose the best course of action. Now humankind…that’s the scary one! I suppose there are some who go through life never seeing what lurks behind the mask, but I’m not one of those.

I write these words from a place of strength. These are merely observations compiled from contemplating humanity and many times, finding it lacking.

Be wary of the ones who posture as oh so nice, for niceness is but a strategy utilized by predatory people to get what they want. Be cautious when placing someone in a position of trust. Pay attention to the red flags—don’t shrug them off with excuses for bad behavior—for intuition is a valuable tool. And if you worry about being alone if you remove toxicity from your life, don’t. You’ll be creating space for the kind of relationships that matter the most.

My two cents for the New Year? Place your trust in nature and stay ever vigilant when it comes to humanity.

Nature…

it’s already amazing!

lightning bolt across the sky

[inˈteɡrədē] integrity

The quality of being honest.

I had a moment this week when I saw an image posted by a respected, long-time photographer who had his start in the days of film, as did I. Now I have no issue with editing a digital photograph, particularly when you shoot it in RAW and the camera has not imposed it’s algorithm onto the image. SOOC (straight out of camera) is often waved as a badge of honor but those images, when shot in JPEG, have already been altered by the camera and the settings that you’ve pre-programmed. I used to be more judgmental about the digital editing process until I’d educated myself about it. Dunning-Kruger effect…google it for more information but essentially it breaks down into you don’t know what you don’t know until you learn more about the subject.

This image I saw was a nature one and was so edited that it hurt my eyes to look at it. As a test I took a similar image I’d taken and edited it in his style just to confirm my thoughts. It matched…I could make my image look identical to his “Oh my God, the most brilliant amazing _________ I’ve ever seen shot.”

Does it matter? Probably not, but as an ethical photographer it irks me. Why? Because it creates a completely unrealistic expectation with people who don’t know better.

The problem with this is, I recently had a photograph widely shared where one individual stated that I’d painted in the lightning strike. Is that possible? Yes. Had I done that? No. Have I ever done that? No. I’d crouched at the edge of a field during a lightning storm to get that shot. Today’s image is a new lightning shot and if you decide to try this, know the risks.

I’ll bring my rant to a close. Be ethical in your photography. I love beautifully edited images but if it’s digitally enhanced or filtered to death, why not admit that? If it’s a composite, say so. Nature is amazing enough as it is. That’s good enough for me.

Nature’s message…

from the atmosphere.

sundog over clouds with crepuscular rays

[pärˈhēlēən] parhelion

a bright spot, sometimes called a sundog, in the sky appearing on one or both sides of the sun, formed by refraction of sunlight through ice crystals

Sometimes when you hear news, whether it’s expected or a bolt from the blue, it’s tempting to look for a sign. Some kind of a message that gives hope that all is not black and white. That there are things we just don’t know yet. On that morning after, I chose to find a message high in the atmosphere. No accompanying halos, one lone sundog. Bright and beautiful, just as she was.