Choices

August 25, 2019

BW photograph of Devil's Den on a clear morning.

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

The other night’s thunderstorm cleared the humidity and knocked down the temperatures-nice conditions to be outside.  The above photograph is of Devil’s Den, which is on the Gettysburg battlefield.  This was the composition I had in mind on the drive there-the rock formations appear as giant stepping stones leading from the lower left to the upper right, which pulls the eye across the frame.  The lichen on the rocks contrasts nicely with the middle tones of the rock and the darkness of the sky (which was created by using the red filter in the Acros film simulation and a polarizer), and serve as a leading line that also crosses the frame.  The morning sun was high enough to showcase the textures, but not direct enough to wash them away.  Absolutely perfect conditions for this photo-that is one reason to pay attention to weather forecasts and climatic conditions.  This scene would look very different with a uniformly overcast, grayish, sky.  Most importantly, it would not have yielded the desired image.

BW photograph looking down a bridge span on a foggy morning.

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

Aside from the obvious difference in subject matter in these two photos, the ambient conditions are also quite different.  This photograph was made the morning after the one above, and was created prior to the sun clearing the trees.  It was cool and foggy, so the light was quite soft-the relative absence of clearly defined shadows is indicative of this, as is the whitish sky in the distance.  The converging lines are what pulls the eye through this photo and conveys a sense of distance.  This is a fairly pedestrian (meaning that this is a common angle) image, but one that I like nonetheless.

BW photograph of a section of bridge highlighting the rivet work.

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

A detail image of the same bridge highlighting the rail and diagonal span.  In one sense, the diagonal movement is the opposite of that of the eye when reading English-that is, it leads the eye from the right to the left and so introduces just a bit of tension to the image.  It is also possible, though, to view that same line as moving on a downward diagonal from the left to the right-this restores a sense of balance.  It is important to note that some cultures read right to left, which reverses the points being made here.  Adding in the flat railing introduces another dimension.  When making the photograph, I saw the flat railing as leading the eye from left to right (that “reading” point again) across the bottom of the frame, with the span then making a sharp upward movement back to the left and out of the frame.  This, too, can be reversed.  The downward diagonal to the right, then flat across the frame to the left.  In any case, the vertical tension wires close the frame at the left, essentially creating a triangle.  A third option is to view both the diagonal and the horizontal as meeting at a point to the lower right.  It can be interesting to pay attention to the initial response created by the mind’s eye when viewing a photograph.  Should the image lend itself, it is worth forcing the brain to take a different look.  From a compositional standpoint, the photographer does well to consider the manner by which to engage the viewer-is there to be a focus (literally and figuratively) on one point in a photograph, or is the viewer encouraged to roam through the entirety of the scene?  Both have their applications-the photographer has to decide.

Finally, there are no people in these photographs.  That, too, was by design.  In fact, I had to wait in the making of the lead photo for some visitors to clear the area.  Frequent readers (thank you very much!) will have taken notice that the images presented are most often characterized by that lack of personage.  This is one reason for arising early and getting to where I want to go-folks tend to sleep later.  I like the emotional impact of that absence-it can be possible to interject feelings as disparate as loneliness or solitude depending on the current disposition of the viewer.  Again, what is included or excluded is up to the photographer.

Choices must be made.  This is part of what separates photographs from snapshots-not that there is anything wrong with the latter.

Take care.

A Storm

August 23, 2019

BW photograph of active thunderstorm clouds with silhouetted trees.

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

Setting aside the destructive potential, thunderstorms present a true multi-sensory experience.  Last night, the one depicted above eventually moved overhead and thunder shook the house.  These booms were preceded by equally impressive lightning.  What was absent, though, were the gusty winds that sometimes accompany such weather.  Given that, it was nice to open the doors to feel the relative coolness of the air and listen to the steady downpour.  That latter was almost hypnotic in its rhythm-it was like a very steady drummer working a snare.  The sights and sounds gradually scaled back as the storm moved away:  the overall effect was not unlike that of a train passing by.  All of the above made for a welcome change to what a forecaster on WAMU said was “air you can wear” when describing the temperatures and humidity experienced over the past bunch of days.

BW photograph of a small rain puddle atop a large rock.

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

Come morning, there was a brief window between sunrise and the next band of rain that moved into the area…

BW photograph of a variety of leaves.

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

just enough time to make some photographs.

Take care.

 

Out of the Rabbit Hole

August 19, 2019

BW photograph of a bowl of fresh peaches.

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

In the previous post, I mentioned “going down the rabbit hole“.  I usually attach a negative connotation to that phrase-it is for situations over which there is little or no felt control.  One of the ways I deal with that feeling, as a means of regaining control and perspective if you will, is to take a road trip, often in search of roadside or farmer’s markets. The sensory stimulations of fresh produce are rejuvenating to the spirit.

Colour photograph of a bowl of fresh peaches.

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

As with sunrises and sunsets, sometimes it is helpful to also use the colour version of the file.  The BW version, arguably, gives the viewer a bit more about which to think.

Take care.

Turmoil

August 17, 2019

BW photograph of a section of running water showing the turbulence.

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

One media resource that I find to be a useful compilation/analysis of the week’s events is the NPR 1A “Friday News Roundup”, which devotes one hour to U.S. issues and one to the global scene.  The following links are for the week of August 12, 2019:  Domestic and International.

Condensing the amount of current turmoil gives one pause.  The division and hostility between peoples and between humans and the environment paints a bleak picture of the state of humanity.  One of the themes that runs through this week’s stories is the characterization of what it means to be an “American” and how we project that meaning to the rest of the world.  This is encapsulated in the statements made by Ken Cuccinelli, the acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.  Please be sure to read through that entire link or listen to the report.  At one point, acting director Cuccinelli states: “No one has a right to become an American who isn’t born here as an American.” It is important to note the current administration’s effort to eliminate birthright citizenship-a position acting director Cuccinelli has supported.

America was, literally and figuratively, built on immigration.  We also have a long history of racism.  Nationalism is also not a new concept.  However, unless one has a 100% indigenous ancestry, then at some point those born elsewhere factor into one’s family history.  It is also vitally important to keep in mind how the U.S. government ended up treating indigenous peoples.

BW photograph a single leaf with holes laying atop a large boulder.

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

This was also a week that brought further threats to those species already existing on the margins in the form of changes to the Endangered Species Act.  This link highlights the significance of the language being used and the impact of that language with regard to the protections offered (or not).  Despite progress in genetic engineering, extinction still means forever.

BW photograph of a log laying in front of a large rock.

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

Focusing on those two issues here is not to be seen as a dismissal of the other issues discussed in this week’s “Friday News Roundup”.  There are certainly other issues of concern not addressed in today’s program.  They do, though, place a square focus on how we envision America.  More importantly, they highlight the operationalization of what it means to be an American.  The 2020 election will help decide that.  However, 2020 is still quite a ways off and much can happen between now and then.  Indeed, listen to those 1A discussions and clarify your positions with regard to the topics.  Do the requisite research so as to become more familiar with the complexities of the issues.  One real problem is engaging short-term thinking and egocentrism for the decision making process.

Once something is gone, it is gone.

A confession:  Due to my age and life experiences, I can go down the rabbit hole when thinking about issues that are important to me.  I also only write about issues that are important to me. I certainly know that some do prefer to not be inundated by such content-I, too, need to turn it off now and then.  It is also clear that not everyone will agree with the points of view expressed here.  What I do hope, though, is that folks will take notice and think about the content.  One can only decide how one feels if they are aware of the issues.  Once those thoughts and feelings become clear, then courses of action can be developed.

For me, that sums up the evolution of this blog.  I knew from the start that I did not want this to be another gear-driven blog:  I am not that into gear.  I also did not want it to be a cascade of “pretty” pictures-there are tons of blogs and other media for that.

To tie in the photographs, when I find myself with something to say, I go in search of an image to create that illustrates or serves as a metaphor for the thoughts and feelings in the written material.  For example, the photograph that leads off this post is one of rushing water.  I was thinking about the “Friday News Roundup” and so used a shutter speed that was fast enough to give some “edge” to the water, but slow enough to also suggest the pace of the flow.  Many times, these types of images are made with a very slow shutter speed so as to completely smooth out the water-there are many examples of that technique in other posts within this blog.  Doing that, to me, suggests a sense of serenity, that all is comfortable and well and peaceful.  That is not what I wanted to convey here as I view the current news cycle as one that is quite edgy and moves at such a pace that it is difficult to keep up.  The issues keep coming, blow past, and can leave one with a sense of accumulated fatigue.  At other times, I create an image and then need to think of written content that will compliment the visuals.

Together, it is the interaction between the written and the visual that spurs my creative process.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Take care.

The Power

August 14, 2019

BW photograph of Morgan Run on a foggy morning.

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

As in the power to alter reality.

As I usually do each morning, I checked my phone’s weather app to see the prevailing conditions-there was a string of clouds for the remaining hours of the morning, but no rain was indicated.  As a result of that info, I went to a favoured spot to take photographic advantage of the light fog in the area.  No sooner had I settled into the composition as seen above, rain started to fall.  For a brief moment (or two), my brain said “It can’t be raining because that is not what the phone said would happen!”  The water landing on my head and camera said otherwise.

Such is the power of the digital age.  Information presented can be in direct contrast to the physical reality, but the physical reality is then what is questioned.

That is a problem.

Some of this comes from confirmation bias, which is the pattern of only paying attention to data that supports one’s preconceived beliefs or desires.  If one wants something to be, one can check sources until an agreeable one is found, or select sources that are known to support a particular position.  Denial drives another part of the delusion.  Denial can be described as a “buffer against an unacceptable reality” or a way of “finding comfort in a threatening situation”.  (Those are in quotes because a speaker at a long-forgotten workshop used them and they made sense to me.  They also frame denial as a coping skill, an ineffective one in the long run, but a form of coping nonetheless.  This view is in comparison to the more pathological perspectives often attributed to that behaviour.)  If it is not acknowledged, it is not happening or did not happen.

I really wanted it to not be raining this morning.

Climate change is, of course, a perfect example of how rhetoric, or an app, can allow one to question or form an “alternate” reality.  That, however, does not change the facts on the ground.

It really was water falling from the sky.

Take care.

Peaceful

August 11, 2019

BW photograph of horses in a field on a foggy morning.

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

The last few posts have been about some of the most contentious and intractable problems involving the culture of the United States.  The issues discussed are most unpleasant-ones that many would prefer to not think about.  That is not an unsympathetic position to take.  However, the failure to directly confront climate change and mass shootings with doing something meaningful, research-driven, and long-lasting simply allows the problems to worsen.   And both of those issues can indeed get worse.

As an aside, the adjectives used in the previous paragraph were deliberately chosen.  Protesters in Dayton chanted “Do Something!” with good reason.  With all due respect to that effort-and they did seem to have some effect, many of the interventions politicians are putting forth are those that have been discussed before and either voted down or not voted on at all.  Plus, they arguably do not get to the root of the problem.  “Meaningful” is there due to the president’s comment about background checks.  It is difficult to know what he means by that, and if he will backtrack or not as he has done following previous shootings once he has talked with the NRA establishment.  “Research-driven” because most of what the president said about mass shootings was not supported by research.  This problem is also complicated by the fact that the Centers for Disease Control have been prevented from researching the topic of gun violence in the U.S.

As for climate change, interestingly, much of that also applies.  The one big difference is that there is ample science and research about the causes and what can be done.  That, to the globe’s detriment, has been brushed away by this administration.

And so here I am, again, railing about this, which, incidentally, was not entirely the intention for this post.

The scene depicted above is one that stands in such stark contrast to the issues (above) that I find quite disturbing.  The Band in “The Shape I’m In” has part of a lyric that says “Go out yonder, peace in the valley…”  That is only a snippet of the song, but the sentiment fits this particular morning in that particular location.  The sun was rising in the distance and the fog gently hugged the ground.  The horses moved in and out as if they were apparitions.  It was cool and quiet.  And yes, peaceful.

May we all find that.

Take care.

 

Water

August 8, 2019

BW photograph of trees reflected in a puddle after a thunderstorm.

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

And lack thereof.  The content herein would be well-taken in combination with that of the recent post “Hot”.

NPR’s 1A aired a discussion this morning concerning “water stress” and the risk of reaching “Day 0”.  Please listen to the broadcast for the definition of those terms and the conditions creating them.  The World Resources Institute recently published this report, which forms the basis for that discussion.  The full WRI report is also worth a read.  That millions will be displaced due to sea level rise subsequent to melting arctic ice as a result of climate change is a cruel irony.  The same can be said for the cycle of drought/flooding experienced in many parts of the world.

Interestingly, and importantly, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently released a  report regarding the impact of agriculture on climate change.  This report also addresses water management as does that from the WRI.  The IPCC report, though, underlines the point that current agricultural practices create an extraordinary amount of methane, a greenhouse gas that is much better at trapping heat than CO2 and is thus a significant contributor to climate change.  As such, a reduction in meat and dairy consumption as well as a re-allocation of agricultural land would be necessary in order to intervene in the escalating environmental damage wrought by a lifestyle dominated by such dietary habits.

WBUR’s Here and Now addressed the IPCC report by focusing on the degradation of the Amazon rainforest.

The BBC’s Newshour also covered the IPCC report this morning (8/8/19).  As part of the coverage, several person-in-the-street interview clips were broadcast at the beginning of that segment.  Perhaps not surprisingly, some were not interested in diet modification and others needed more evidence of the environmental damage before considering a change.  It was not clear as to what more info would be needed to recognize the need for intervention.  Would those individuals read the IPCC report?  Would they listen to the rest of the BBC segment for the details about land degradation and climate change? A few did say they would alter their eating habits.  While these responses were expected, they are not in the aggregate encouraging.

Part of the problem here is the “all or none” manner by which the environmental impact of diet is presented and/or perceived-either one must give up all meat and all dairy or do nothing different.  Indeed, one of the best ways to create resistance is to tell people that they have to give up “all” of something.  (As an aside, this is one of the prime tactics used by the NRA and others to promote the fear of gun control.)  Heels dig in and the planet continues to cook (if you pardon the pun here).  There is middle ground.  This article details the potential benefits if one were to forego the eating of beef for just one meal a week.  Of course, the further one moves away from a meat/dairy heavy diet, the better for the environment.  This is not new information.

It goes without saying that water and land are intricately intertwined.  It also goes without saying that humans continue to adversely impact that relationship in ways that further jeopardize the flora and fauna that populate the planet.  The recent WRI and IPCC reports make that abundantly clear.

The information is available.  The science is there.

Take care.