Judgment

December 9, 2019

BW photograph of a frost covered miniature liquor bottle laying in leaves.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

The title above would probably be better stated as, the lack of judgment.

BW photograph of a tossed beer can among some twigs and leaves.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Alcohol is generally classified as a depressant drug.  That is, it produces a variety of signs and symptoms known collectively as psycho (a reference to cognitive activity) motor (a reference to physical behaviour) retardation (as in the slowing down of performance).  That term would read as “psychomotor retardation”.  It is also sometimes classified as a stimulant-stimulants produce the opposite effect, which is psychomotor agitation (that is, an enhancement and/or augmentation of cognitive and physical performance-think caffeine).  One of the reasons for this has to do with the effects alcohol has on the brain-more on this in a minute.  It is also important to note that psychomotor retardation is a fundamental characteristic of the drug itself, that we are not only talking about those with alcohol use disorder.  In other words, anyone who consumes alcohol is at risk for impaired thinking and compromised behaviour.

The frontal lobe of the brain is the seat of reasoning, critical thinking, and decision-making.  Therefore, the frontal lobe plays a key role in judgment.  Being a depressant drug, alcohol sedates the frontal lobe, which produces what is referred to as “disinhibition”.  Therefore, after consuming enough alcohol, the person may act impulsively and with gusto-it is for these reasons that alcohol can be confused with being a stimulant.  It is also important to note that there are many variables at work here, so the depressant/stimulant distinction being made here is not quite that simple.  In any case, as a person’s blood alcohol level increases, so does the impact on the brain and subsequent behaviour.

Importantly, the frontal lobe itself is not fully developed until one is in their early 20s-this is an important distinction to make when comparing a teen and an adult brain.  The result is the questionable judgment that can accompany the teen years.   Adding alcohol to the mix can exacerbate this developmental issue.

BW photograph of a whiskey mini laying in some grass.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

The amount of alcohol-related packaging found alongside roadways is one basic manifestation of a lack of judgment.  The tossing of trash without regard to its impact on the environ and visual aesthetics is one example of poor decision-making.  The concern ratchets up a bit when thinking about the other lapses in judgment and subsequent impacts on behaviour that occur as a result of consuming the contents of these containers.

Take care.

The Other

December 2, 2019

BW photograph of a section of an old barn wall with withered vines.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

We tend to either romanticize or demonize “the Other”.  This post will address the latter perspective.

The Other, or Otherness, is a social construct.  For those viewed as being “like us”, there is a strong sense of affiliation, a sense of belonging, as sense of “we”.  For those “not like us”, there is a strong sense of exclusion, a sense of alienation, a sense of “they”.  Note how this concept applies to gender, race, ethnicity, politics, economics, etc. etc. etc.  There is often not much middle ground in this era of social and political polarization, which makes the Other a powerful concept indeed.  This type of belief (and it is important to remember that a belief is that which we hold to be true, even if there is no objective evidence to support it) creates a divide that can be quite difficult to bridge, especially when one group perceives the Other as a threat.

This past Sunday morning, the poet Richard Blanco read and discussed his work during the broadcast of  On Being.   Listen carefully as he describes the Zulu greeting.  At the end of the interview, he concludes with a strong, stirring, message about how all are “we”.

Take care.

 

Haunting

November 26, 2019

 

BW photograph of the greenhouses and main building of an abandoned nursery.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

There is a haunting quality that accompanies abandoned buildings.

BW photograph of the main building of an abandoned nursery.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Part of that comes from the physical aging of the structures.  Wood dries out, bakes in the sun, and turns grey.

BW photograph of the greenhouses, which are part of an abandoned nursery.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Translucent materials become fogged and weathered.  Doors flap and creak in the wind.

BW photograph of the main building of an abandoned nursery.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Mostly though, that feeling comes from the loss of purpose and energy provided by a living presence.  In this case, one can easily imagine the rows of flowers or herbs or vegetables that once could have been grown and sold here.  The interaction of customers and the vendor(s) as goods were exchanged for payment.  The pleasure derived from fresh produce.

The flip side of that, though, is the struggle to make a small business work in an era of industrial farming, long-distance trucking, and chain stores.  (This is, of course, speculation as I do not know the reason for the ending of this establishment.)  Owners tire, become physically or financially unable to continue, or develop other interests, other needs.

Imagining what once was is part of the draw to creating images of that left behind.

Take care.

 

Trivial

November 24, 2019

BW photograph of the snow-covered mountains outside of Livingston, Montana.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

This morning on NPR’s On Being, author Marilynne Robinson made the comment that “…human beings are a fairly trivial presence in the environment…”  This is a point that is both well-taken and one that needs to be taken in the context in which she said it:  she was describing her growing up in Idaho near the Rocky Mountains.  (The above photograph was not made in Idaho, but Montana.)  In such a setting, human beings really are relatively few and far between and physically quite small when compared to the geography and space of the place.  Physicist Marcelo Gleiser is also a guest, and that interview is well worth a listen.

As an aside, it is quite important to take quotes in the context in which they are made.  Otherwise, it is very easy to misinterpret their meaning, or to, in fact, provide meaning that was not intended by the speaker.

BW photograph of a highway system looking down from a high window.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

For example, I am going to put that quote into a different, much broader, context.  We know that, in the aggregate, the density of humans and their impact on the environment are anything but trivial.

BW photograph of left behind shoes among leaves on the ground.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

I do very much agree with what Ms. Robinson said.  There are places in the world that are vast and magical, places that dwarf the human presence, especially when one is a child.  Were they to remain so.  Think about this:  compare the scale of a human to that of Mount Everest, which at 29,029 feet is the highest point on earth.  Then, think about this.

Broadening the perspective:  according to NOAA, October 2019 is the second hottest October on record-2019 is also the second hottest year on record.  So, there is that.

Finally, the “few and far between” descriptor (which is mine) above also needs to be placed within the global context of the number of people on the planet.

None of the above is trivial.

Take care.

Interpretation

November 17, 2019

Colour photograph of the sun setting in Frederick, MD.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

There really is a fundamental choice between working in colour and working in BW.  One of those points worth considering is how the viewer will interpret the image.  For example, in the photograph above, it is readily apparent that this is light at the extreme of a day-it happens to be a sunset, although it could have been a sunrise.  (This scene, though, is looking west, so that would be a giveaway that this is a sunset.)  The tell-tale colours make the point.  The hues provide a sense of “warmth”, which may then produce a feeling of comfort.

BW photograph of the sun setting in Frederick, MD.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

If, however, you take the same scene, but create a BW image, the visual clue of the colour is eliminated.  The tonal qualities of the clouds could now be signifying incoming weather.  This is a much starker rendition and creates a very different “feel” to the scene.  To me, it is still beautiful, though.  I like the purity that comes with BW.

It is important to know that neither photograph presents the “reality” of the moment.  The colour photograph was made using the Velvia emulation, which produces very saturated colours-they were not quite this rich.  The BW version was made using the Acros emulation with a green filter to darken the clouds a bit.  Most see in colour, so a BW photograph automatically changes the perception of the viewer.  The focal length used also provided a narrower field of view than would the human eye.  In both cases, to avoid over-exposing the sky, the foreground elements were allowed to record as deep shadows/silhouettes-the eye has a much broader dynamic range and could therefore present much greater detail in those darker areas.  I am fine with the silhouettes.  There are a number of techniques that could be used to hold detail in both the sky and the foreground, but I do not like to do so.  These images are more dramatic.

At this point in my career, I tend to immediately think about the BW version of any scene.  My cameras are configured to align with that preference.  Therefore, it takes a conscious effort to make the changes necessary to create a colour image.  (Sometimes, I neglect to do so as it does not occur to me.)  That is one of the advantages of shooting digital-one camera provides all of the options.  When shooting film, I often carried two bodies-one with colour slide film (Velvia, when photographing the natural world), and one with BW film (usually, TMAX 100).  That system was useful, but sometimes created a problem with the lens I wanted being paired with the film I didn’t.

It is helpful for the photographer to have a clear intent in mind for the final image.  That may, or may not, include the interpretations of the view.

Take care.

Leakage

November 17, 2019

BW photograph of a tire laying in a stream.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

This report aired on NPR as I was driving to work the other morning.  This is from a bit earlier in the month.  The connection?  Toxins being released into the environment, which, in turn, pose present dangers to biological organisms.   The first report states that funds are not available to adequately police wild areas, therefore toxic chemicals used in the illegal drug trade make their way into the food chain.   In the second, it is the proposed relaxation of environmental protection standards governing disposal of waste from coal-fired power plants that is the issue.  The risk is that of toxins contaminating water sources.

BW photograph of a can in a plastic bag laying next to a leaf.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

I sometimes reach the point where stories about the goal of maximizing profits, whether within or without legal and/or regulatory bounds, resulting in environmental damage become more than I want to hear, and I feel the urge to turn off the radio.  That, then, begs the question:  If one does not listen to such reports, then how does one know the breadth and depth of an issue?  If one does not keep up-to-date on regulatory roll-backs or the illegal use of toxins, how does one know the extent of the damage?  What would happen if folks stopped paying attention to the environment?  If a tree falls in the woods and nobody hears it, does it make a sound?  Of course it does.  As long as there is violation of regulatory standards, which includes the failure to adequately fund such efforts or the blatant rolling back/reversal of said standards, the damage continues, thereby creating the persistent need to pay attention.  The frustration and dismay that periodically builds is simply the evidence that more work needs to be done.  That work begins with a critical awareness of the issues.

Keep paying attention.

Take care.

Squall

November 8, 2019

BW photograph of a snow squall looking into the rising sun.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Awoke to a 34 degree morning that had followed some rain yesterday.  Therefore, it was damp and a bit chilly.  As if on cue, a snow squall blew in.

Photographer’s note:  The lighter dots in the above photograph are the reverse of what specks of dust on a sensor would look like.  As such, they can be quite an annoyance and are one reason to be careful when changing lenses in the wild.  In this photograph, though, those spots are snowflakes, which have been dodged a little to be more visible (Dodging is a darkroom technique to lighten content.  Burning is the opposite-that is used to darken content.).  Interestingly, if you change the seasons and swap the sun for the moon, then the snowflakes could be fireflies.

BW photograph of some downed leaves against a log with a light dusting of the first snow of the season.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

This was the first snow for the area and created quite a peaceful scene.  I like when there is a blending of the icons that mark the transitions between seasons.

BW photograph of a downed tree with rocks and leaves in the foreground.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

BW photograph of a downed tree leading into some brush.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

There was ample evidence, though, of the damage wrought by the wind storms that had blown though the area in the not too distant past.

Perhaps all of this is a foreshadowing of the winter yet to come.

Time will tell.

Take care.