Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year: No Words Left Behind

Do you ever wonder if your best days are behind you?

I don't.

Never have.

But as I sit here, thinking about the turning of the year, I feel like I should express my gratitude for the year that is passing.

Do you ever wonder if you're having more choice experiences in your life -- or if you're just paying better attention?

2011 was the year I lived.

It was the year that I felt.

It was a year of friends. It was a year of memories -- rekindled and refreshed.

It was a year of awe and wonder, of beauty in new and unexpected places.

 It was the first year that my age has ever profoundly affected me.

It was the year that I saw and heard and sang and laughed and thought and breathed and believed and prayed and watched and smiled and sighed and cheered. It was the year I held closer to what is important and the year that I began to learn to let go of what is not. 

2011 is a year that I am profoundly grateful to have spent on this planet with all of you. 

And finally, a toast to the year before us...

May the New Year find you in a better place than the old. May all that blessed you before, bless you twice again. May the roads you walk be as full of joy and beauty as the destination they lead you to. May your sorrows remind you that life is precious and that experience is a treasure. May your thoughts be noble and your words be kind. May you be a light that brings hope. 

And may your life be as choice as your friendship. 

Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

A picture a day....ARE YOU NUTS?!

Give me your best shot at Better in BulkPhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and Lolli
So, it's the new year, and you're full of ambition and excitement. The world is your oyster. There is nothing that you can't do.

"I think," you say to yourself, "that I'm going to take a picture, every day, for the entire year."


I'm kidding. I'm sure you were just born that way.

Ha ha, really, I'm kidding. I applaud you for taking on this challenge. It's going to be a very rewarding experience, but there are some things you need to know...

First, and foremost, you should understand -- this is going to take a YEAR!!!! You know how it seems like the older you get, the faster the years go by? Well, that's absolutely true in every aspect of your life...except this one. Actually, though the year can really drag, the days and hours will fly by -- you will take more than one picture at 11:59 pm. You may even resort to some wishful thinking/time zone manipulation ("it's still Friday in Hawaii"). By February (or maybe the second week of January) you're going to feel overwhelmed, but stay true. You CAN do this.

Second: You will not take 366 (this is Leap Year) award winning pictures. You will not take sixty-six award winning pictures. You will take a LOT of mundane shots. You will take a fair amount of GOOD shots. You will take a respectable number of extraordinary shots. And you will take a handful of take-your-breath-away-blow-the-doors-off-stand-in-wide-eyed-amazement-this-is-why-I-started-taking-pictures-in-the-first-place-my-neighbor-WISHES-she-could-take-pictures-like-this shots. And that's the payoff.

Part of it, anyway.


1. Take your camera with you. EVERYWHERE. Never put your camera away. Leave it by the door, or your car keys. I hang mine on the stair railing, by the front door.

If you ever forget your camera, snap something with your cell phone camera. You can just lump that picture in the "mundane" category.

2. Take pictures. Duh.

But seriously folks, take pictures. There are going to be days -- many days -- when you feel uninspired. Don't wait for your muse -- she has a notoriously bad sense of direction, and is frequently lost. Something magical happens when you place your eye up to the view finder -- the more you try to create, the greater your capacity TO create will grow. I truly believe that. Shoot something. In fact...

3. Shoot 'em all!

Shoot ANYTHING that catches your eye: lines, shapes, smiles, tears, clouds, weeds, messes, cars, hands, fences, shadows, cookies, household appliances...well, you get the idea.  You may find something better later on. Actually, I can't can't count the number of times that I have worked, painstakingly, for a shot -- shooting several dozen pictures to get the right image -- only to stumble, serendipitously, upon something better later on that day. Taking A picture relieves the pressure of that day's obligation, and opens up your senses to find and take THE picture.

4. Most importantly, if you miss a day, DO NOT STOP! One year I shot faithfully, everyday, until mid-April. Then one Friday I forgot.

I just forgot.

I was watching a marathon of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, on the Food Network, fell asleep on the couch, and woke up a failure. I did it again in August.  I blame Guy Fieri.

Don't think of this as a project to take one picture per day for 366 days, think of it as a year long project to document your life in pictures. If you miss a day, pick up and start again. The great pay off, in the end, is not the sense of accomplishment at surviving, but the amazing documentation of your life's journey over the previous year.

5. Share your pictures on a regular basis (I recommend weekly) -- it's easier to stay committed once you know people are planning on dropping by to see your pictures.

6. Know that I am here for you! If you feel like dropping by and berating me for talking you into this project, that's okay  -- as long as you keep taking pictures. And not just me -- others WILL find your pictures, and you will meet new and wonderful people.

And last of all, remember that even though 2012 is leap year, if the Mayans were right, there's a good chance the world will end in December -- so you get off easy!

Good Luck!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Photostory Friday: Now

Give me your best shot at Better in BulkPhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and Lolli
Have you ever taken a picture that taught you a lesson?

A few weeks back, I was driving through an unbelievably beautiful scene. Before me, thousands of aspens, just changing from green to gold in the early autumn, stretched away to the horizon. Behind me, the same scene extended back beyond the bend in the road I had come around. Ferns carpeted the meadows on both sides of the road. The beauty and intensity of the moment was overpowering. I jumped out of the car, and tromped through the trees, shooting close shots and long shots. I shot up into the blue sky, and down into the golden meadows. Every picture was full of October beauty, but none was capturing what I was feeling.

What I was experiencing was the unique sensation of being present in the moment.

Sometimes we get caught looking one way or the other, along the path of our lives. We look to where we've come from for reassurance and wisdom. Or we look ahead, searching for hopes and promises.  One is a memory, the other is a dream. There's nothing wrong with either of these -- every journey needs a beginning and an end.

But the most important moment of every day, is the moment you're living in right now.

It's a cliche. It's also true.

Every experience that you have ever had, happened to you in the present. That moment helped to determine what you would be in the future, and what you would remember, when you looked back. But sometimes -- often, in my case -- it seems I'm so focused on what lay ahead or behind me, that I lose track of the beauty I'm passing through.

When I got back in my car and snapped this picture, I thought of the stunning scene that lay before me, and the magnificent beauty I had left behind, and realized how lucky I was to be there, present in the moment.

Between our memories and our dreams, is our life.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Photostory Friday: Thirty-Nine

I turned thirty-nine a month ago.

And all of my dreams have not come true.

The day after my thirty-ninth birthday, Steve Jobs died. I've spent the last month thinking about this man, who revolutionized the world, in a few short years -- and then passed away at the age of fifty-six.  What makes him different from me? What took him to the height of success, and would he define success differently than I do? I suspect that answer might be yes.

I've always been comfortable with my age, but thirty-nine feels like a wake up call. Barring anything catastrophic, I figure I'm about half way there. Or almost half...but not quite.

So, I ask myself, have I ever come close to being the person I am supposed to be? The person I can be? I'm not sure, but I know I've spent a lot of life preparing to live my life and, truthfully, you're never quite ready.

I know I want change -- I want TO change -- but I ask myself what...

See...I don't want to be a better father or a better husband or a better son or a better friend or a better employee or a better neighbor or a better writer or a better photographer...

I want to be a better father AND a better husband AND a better son AND a better friend AND a better employee AND a better neighbor AND a better writer AND a better photographer...

It's time to learn to live. I think it's time to do a few things differently.

It's time to walk the beautiful paths, beyond where the roads bend, and to see where they lead.  

It's time to find the source of life. 

It's time for perspective. When you have perspective you can find beauty in the highest peaks AND the lowest valleys. 

It's time to learn to put reflection to good use.

It's time to look at things from a different angle...

...and maybe find the light, hidden in the darkness...

It's time to let the colors of life run together.

It's time to see what lies across these bridges that I've been standing at, for most of my life.  

Give me your best shot at Better in BulkPhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and Lolli

Sunday, August 7, 2011

To the Skyline High School Class of 1991

I'm not quite ready for this night to end.

Like so many of you, I approached this weekend with a mixture of anticipation and trepidation. Would I be remembered in a positive way? Would I be remembered at all? What if those I was closest to don't show, who will I talk to? I came right up to the doors of Skyline Friday night, and almost turned around and walked away. What lay beyond those doors, that was of any value to me? My life, as I hope is the case with all of you, has been far more interesting and far more fulfilling in the last twenty years of my life, than in the first eighteen. But I took a deep breath, and walked in, and I'll always be grateful that I did.

What I found beyond the doors Friday night, and at the family picnic this afternoon, and the final presentation this evening, was a group of old friends, who have had the widest range of experiences, but who also share the common challenge of making our way in this world, of raising the next generation, of trying to leave the world a little better than we found it. I found friends to whom I was once tied by the bonds of school spirit, and the Blue and Gold, and the struggles and joys of adolescence, but to whom I am now bound by the greater shared experiences of life.

Every new generation faces the challenges we have faced, it was our lot to face them together. Twenty years ago, we stood together at the edge of childhood, and faced forward. Then, together, we took that first step into adulthood.

So, to you, the Skyline High School Class of 1991, to you who once walked those halls, who wore the Blue and Gold with pride, to you who shone in the spotlight, and to you who stayed in the shadows, to you who came, and to you who wish you could have, to you who have soared, and to you who have your feet firmly planted on the ground, and to you, timeless friends, I say thank you.

Thank you for this weekend. Thank you for twenty years ago. Thank you for remembering with us. Thank you for being extraordinary.

It is honor to be counted among you.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Photostory Friday: A different kind of place

Give me your best shot at Better in BulkPhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and Lolli

It's different than everywhere else, and I keep asking myself why?

Walking through the tunnel, into the Disneyland Park, feels different.

I find myself at a bit of a loss for words in trying to describe the experience.

It feels right.

It feels magical.

It feels like home.

But why? Why is Disneyland different than other places? Why do I sometimes find myself homesick for a place 700 miles from where I live?

I've always been a fan of Disney in general, and of Walt himself in particular. If ever there was a man who embodied the American notion that with a lot of imagination and hard work, your dreams really can come true, it was Walt Disney. He spent his life creating and dreaming and improving. He went from cartoonist to media executive to urban planner, always plussing, always dreaming bigger.

And in 1955, in an old orange grove in Anaheim California, Walt opened Disneyland. And nothing was ever the same.

In Disneyland, they can speak, with not a hint of irony, of wishes granted and dreams coming true, and we believe them. When you're there, riding through the landscape of Walt's imagination, watching Princesses and Dragons and Mice and Lions come to life, and immersing yourself in the curious atmosphere of nostalgia and anticipation -- all that was wonderful, and all that is yet possible -- you believe that your dreams can come true.

That they ARE coming true.

The thing is, it's not dreams of riches or luxury or of an easy life, or of fame or power that are coming true. It's a very simple dream, one that we all share.

It's the dream of happiness -- real happiness --  the kind of joy that is born of love and memories and long association, and the knowledge that we are lucky to have one another.

After all, Walt didn't call his kingdom the "coolest place on earth", or the "most fun place on earth..."

He called it the Happiest Place on Earth.

And that's what sets Disneyland apart from all other places, why it feels like home. It's a place dedicated to happiness.

As I walk that magical park with my family, I find myself smiling so much that it almost hurts, and as I look around at those dearest to my heart, I see the same thing on each of their faces -- in the steps they take and the words that they speak. 

They are happy, and that is a dream come true.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Photostory Friday: Feet?

Give me your best shot at Better in BulkPhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and Lolli

Are you ever scrolling through your photo files, and suddenly a pattern emerges? I know that I take a lot of pictures of hands, and a lot of pictures of people walking away from the camera. But, it turns out, I also take a lot of pictures of feet...

Actually, I owe this observation to my lovely wife Sharon, who...


...crochets these adorable dolls...

...and, who mentioned the other day:

"You take a lot of pictures of feet."

And so I do. But why?

I have been completely unconscious of this fact. So, I looked into the psychological factors of foot fancy, and it turns out that all psychologists are perverts, and I can't print what they say here.

This is a family blog.

I'm pretty sure THAT'S not why I take pictures of feet.

The truth is, for better or worse, I think of myself as a storyteller. And the still photograph can be a very powerful storytelling tool.

I see the life going on all around me as a great story -- millions...billions...of smaller stories, running around and into and through each other, weaving a living tapestry, writing the biggest story of all.

Once in a while, I'm asked to help tell someone's story.

I thrive on that opportunity, and I try to make each frame count. Each click of the shutter is another sentence, a statement, sometimes an exclamation point, another moment, another piece of the story.

I love to see that the closer you get, the more story there is to tell. For me, the big picture is nothing compared to the very small one. Our story is told in everything we do, and all that we are. Every word we speak, every look or gesture, each hair on our heads, our hands and eyes and belly buttons, and even our feet help to tell the world our unique and beautiful story.

And I guess that's why I take pictures of feet.

Or not...

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Photostory Friday: When the colors run together

Give me your best shot at Better in BulkPhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and Lolli

I've never been one for coloring inside the lines. It's not that I think of myself as a non-conformist, I've just always thought the picture was prettier when the colors run together.

That's my life, to tell you the truth. I'm not a very practical person. I have no aptitude for the mundane and the humdrum chores of life. 

I can't fix anything. I can't build anything. I can't even cut a straight line. But, I can see life in color.

My interests, my hobbies, my loves and passions blend together in an impressionistic mosaic that makes up my life.

I write what I photograph. I photograph what I feel. I feel the shades and subtle blending of work and play and family,  of art and life.

The dark colors mix with the bright. Hope and happiness overlapping with struggle and stress.

The warm tones and cool shadows give vibrancy and definition to the world before me.

The colors whirl in a cacophonous flurry of life and love, politics and religion, pain and pleasure. Sometimes the lines blur to the point where I can't tell which part of the picture I'm looking at.

I'm not saying everyone should live this way, it's just the way I see my world. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

Because, the truth is, there may not be a lot of definite lines in my life, but the canvas I see before me, full of colors running together, where somehow the blues fade to reds, and the shadows define the lights, is a picture I've come to love.