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.

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1,000

July 30, 2019

BW photograph of run-off after hard rains.

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

One thousand.  As in days.

At times, days seem to flow past in a blur-especially when looking to the past.  At other times, they seem to trickle by with no seeming end.  In any case, days are markers of time.  They are markers in time.

Birthdays.

Graduation days.

13 Days.

Anne of the Thousand Days.

Vietnam:  The Ten Thousand Day War.

The Talking Heads sang “Letting the days go by…”.  David Byrne finishes with “Same as it ever was”.  In between he asks “Well, how did I get here?”

Which is very much a question worth asking-and answering.  After all, each day will only occur once in a lifetime.

Take care.

BW photograph of a tree overlooking a cemetery.

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

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.  The above photograph is not from Rwanda, as I have not been there.  It is, however, a marker of the 800,000-1,000,000 people killed there during those 100 days.

Please do listen to this report regarding the manner by which Rwanda has coped with this truly human tragedy.  I would also highly recommend reading Mr. Gourevich’s book and the articles he has written in the intervening years.  The title of the linked book is especially poignant.  There are, of course, many other available resources.

Given the rise in hate speech and nationalistic politics that have gripped much of the world, which are based in the demonization of “the other”, there is much to be learned from the Rwanda experience before, during, and after the genocide.  However, we truly seem to be incapable of learning those lessons.  This is, I think, reflected by the fact that when teaching the Rwandan genocide, by far the majority of students had no real knowledge of what happened there in 1994.  It is extremely difficult to extract any learning points from that which you do not know happened.

The United States refused to directly intervene and obfuscated the U.N. efforts there despite having finally ratified the U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. For more about that history, it is useful to read this.

Know. Remember. Learn.

Take care.

Open

April 5, 2019

BW photograph looking upward at the top of a rock formation with trees reaching into the sky.

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

The above photograph is open to much anthropomorphizing.  Are the larger trees menacing the smaller ones in the middle?  Or, are the looking on watchful that the smaller do not slip off the edge?  Given the noir-like effect that BW brings, one could conclude it is more the former than the latter.  Perhaps they are just silhouetted trees against the early morning sky.  Such imagery can stimulate the imagination.

In any case, the main access road to the mountain trails on which I like to walk was finally opened recently-it was closed for the winter months.  That is one sure sign of spring, even though it was a 27 degree morning when I visited.

BW photograph of Chimney Rock in the early morning.

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

The rising sun, though, soon cut the chill and brought the glimmer of warmer days to come.

BW photograph of several downed trees with their roots exposed.

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

There was ample evidence that this was a cold, wet, windy, winter.  This particular set of trees appear to have been victim of the domino effect-one started to fall and brought those nearest down as well.  The sound that must have made.  Given the size of these trees, and others like them that were felled, the reminders of this winter just past will remain for quite some time.

Such crashing about is not an imaginary menace.

Take care.

Powder

February 2, 2019

BW photograph of a twig poking through newly fallen snow.

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

It is 14 degrees and quite sunny as this is being written.  One advantage to this deep cold is that the snow, which fell yesterday, is a beautifully dry, crystalline, powder that is light and airy.  Not at all like the usual Mid-Atlantic moisture-laden concrete that fell earlier this winter.  No, this is the type of snow for which folks flock to the western states’ ski resorts and refer to as “pow”.  I do not ski, but this type of snow is much easier to remove from one’s driveway as it can be literally brushed away.  From a photographer’s standpoint, the highlight/shadow contrast created by side light works well to emphasize the texture of the crystals.

BW photograph of a sycamore tree's roots covered in snow.

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

The temperature rose through the later morning and by the afternoon it had warmed all the way up to freezing.  The snow in the direct sun began to melt just a bit, and as the temperature drops overnight, it will freeze.  This will then create the harder, crunchy, type of snow often referred to as “corn” snow.  This is the stuff that will act like ball bearings and create avalanches when it is covered with a new layer of snow.

Those are the three terms to which I have become accustomed to characterizing snow: powder, cement, and corn.  I am much more familiar with the latter two.

The Inuit and Yupik dialects have dozens of terms for snow in order to differentiate the various qualities.  Given that the nature of this post is fundamentally about language, and that language is the essence of culture, it would be important to also read this report.

Take care.

Pretty

February 16, 2018

BW photograph of trees silhouetted at twilight.

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

After having made two trips in New Orleans in post-Katrina 2008, I had decided that making pretty photographs was a waste of my time.  There are two very subjective aspects in that sentence:  the first, “pretty”, is open to interpretation.  My initial photographic interest was the natural world-grand scenics and the intimate microcosm of mountains, flowers, and critters.  Having been to the Lower 9th Ward and other areas that were still wrecked three years after the storm had made an impression-“pretty” images were of much less interest.  The second, “…waste of my time.” is not saying “a waste of time period“; it was fine for others to make such photographs.   I wanted to make socially relevant photographs to illustrate a number of concerns that I felt were important-they could be largely grouped under the heading of the human impact on the natural world.  Hence my emphasis on trash, for example.

A decade later, I have found myself to be increasing frustrated and disillusioned, and, yes, angry, at the state of the world; particularly U.S. politics and the role it plays in local, national, and global events.  We have had yet another mass shooting in a school.  That makes something like 30 such events since the start of 2018, let alone what came before.  Previous posts have detailed my concerns over the political response to climate change.  Trash continues to proliferate.  And so on.  While Steven Pinker does have a point, as does this article, the examples cited here dull the shine of such information, especially when they have a direct impact on a given individual.

BW photograph of trees silhouetted at twilight with clouds in the background.

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

All of which leads me back to “pretty”.  That is still very much a subjective term.  The photographs included here fit that definition for me.  I very much like B&W photographs that have a full range of tones from deep blacks to bright whites.   It is also helpful to remember the emotions experienced at the time the shutter was pressed.  Watching the clouds move across the sky and the manner by which the light changed in response to that movement induced a sense of calm and wonder.  For a few moments, the info in the paragraph above became irrelevant.

That does not mean those issues can be ignored or obfuscated.  Doing so is, after all, what allows them to worsen.  I will most certainly continue to make photographs to illustrate that which is of concern to me.  At the same time,  I am returning to my roots (which seems to be an appropriate phrase for the intent here, literally and figuratively) as it is quite useful to one’s well-being to find some beauty and peace when possible.

Take care.

Deadfall

February 4, 2018

BW photograph of the beginning of the Cat Rock Trail in winter

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

The 2017 fire season in California was the worst in recorded history.

BW photograph of looking downstream of Big Hunting Creek in winter

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

The other night, the President delivered his first State of the Union speech and gave a shout out to “…beautiful, clean coal…”, but did not mention climate change.  That is not at all surprising given his position on this issue.

BW photograph of horizontal trees covered in snow

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

The photographs herein are not from California, but were made in the Catoctin Mountains in Maryland.  The debris depicted, which is sometimes referred to as “deadfall”, literally becomes fuel for fire.  Extreme heat and drought stress trees.  When they then shed branches or themselves fall, the resulting detritus becomes drier still and forms the tinder awaiting a spark.  Out west, that often comes from lightning;  however, humans, being either careless or deliberate with fire, can initiate the blaze as well.

BW photograph of much deadfall laying about in winter

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

(It is because of the risk of uncontrolled forest fires that the U.S. Forest Service often use prescribed burns.  There have been occasions when these preventative measures have themselves gotten out of hand.)

BW photograph of much deadfall laying about in winter

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

Forest fires remove a main source of greenhouse gas reduction, the trees themselves, and add the carbon stored in the trees back into the atmosphere.  Furthermore, the particulate matter from the combustion rises into the air and is eventually deposited on polar ice sheets.  This dark snow, then, absorbs heat and increases the loss of ice.  This cycle continues as long as forests burn.

BW photograph of fallen leaves frozen to the ground in winter

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

The sustained emphasis on the production and consumption of fossil fuels quite simply exacerbates the problems described here.

Take care.