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.

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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.

Wired

February 1, 2018

BW photograph of telephone poles and wires.

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

“Wired” is another word with multiple meanings and/or connotations.

BW photograph of cables running along a brick wall.

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

Its primary usage is in the description of being connected.  The photographs herein illustrate that concept.  Of course, with the advent of harnessing radio waves, the concept of “wireless” came into being.  This, then, evolved into cellular communication.  Imagine if your cellphone needed a wired connection…not as convenient, eh?  That would also be so twentieth century.  Still, when the battery is drained, what do you do?  Cellphones, though, rely on wired towers and if they are compromised, say during a major storm, then that type of communication ceases.  Loosing one’s phone is another way to make that happen as well.

Basic human development is a fundamental topic in introductory courses for both Psychology and Sociology.  The human brain is made up of billions of cells called neurons.  Those billions of neurons make trillions of connections to other neurons, which allows for the electrochemical neurocommunication that is the basis for everything we do.  This is sometimes referred to as the “wiring” of the brain.  Right now, some of those neurons are popping off allowing me to hit the right key (or, on occasion, not-for that there is spell check, right?).  The same kind of processes are at play when reading this text and viewing the photographs.

The neurons in the frontal lobe, the part of the brain responsible for the so-called executive functions (critical thinking, judgment, reasoning, the prediction of future consequences for current behaviour, etc.) are not fully wired until one matures into the early 20s.  Hence one of the reasons teenagers can be so impulsive and spontaneous-this documentary from Frontline is worth a look.  The part of the brain that would say “No, do not do that” or “Think carefully about the consequences of this decision” is not as yet fully connected.  Here is an analogy:  imagine if the wires in these photographs were somehow compromised.  What happens to their ability to transmit the signal?  The action initiated at one end of the line does not make it to the intended destination.  Full communication ceases.  Information is not available.  Problems might ensue.

BW photograph of a trashed flip phone.

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

We are born with those billions of neurons, and the brain essentially wants to be as efficient as possible in organizing those cells.  The neurons that are used make connections to other neurons and subsequently form neural networks, which makes our complex behaviour possible.  Neurons that are not used wither and die-a process referred to as “pruning”.  There is a second round of neuron formation (neurogenesis) that occurs in adolescence.  Once again, though, those unused neurons will be pruned away, leaving the brain with its fundamental “adult” configuration.  All of this is much more complicated and subject to many more influences than described here-please do give the Frontline information linked above a look.  Indeed, one could spend a lifetime studying this stuff, at which point one might be referred to as a “neuroanatomist”.

BW photograph of a trashed keypad from a flip phone.

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

The connection between cellphones and the wiring of the brain?

It is not without reason that cellphones were introduced early in this post.  There is concern over childhood use of these devices, and that interest takes on at least a couple of forms:  one is the interaction between the cellphone’s radio waves and the human nervous system, which is the focus of this study.  The use of smartphones during childhood has others focused on the risk of compromised skill and social development.  What happens to unused neurons?  I mentioned spell check earlier.  What happens to one’s learned ability to spell if a device detects and fixes those errors for the user?  Indeed, what is the overall, long-term impact of such technology on the wiring of the developing brain, and how does that, then, translate to one’s behaviour?  Time will tell.

Oh, regarding another of the Oxford Living Dictionary’s “wired” definitions (“in a nervous, tense, or edgy state”)?  The preceding post and the reference to shinrin yoku addresses that…

Take care.

Incongruous

January 9, 2018

BW photograph of a Bissell vacuum cleaner laying in the leaves-front view.

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

The Sociological theory of Symbolic Interactionism is based on the meaning(s) that are given to words.  According to that theory, members of a given society must reach agreement regarding those meanings in order to communicate effectively.  This brief photo essay is a visual representation of the Oxford English Dictionary definition of incongruous.

BW photograph of a Bissell vacuum cleaner laying in the leaves-back view.

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

BW photograph of a Bissell vacuum cleaner laying in the leaves-side view.

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

Are we in agreement as to the meaning of the word as represented here?

Take care.

Grounded

December 8, 2017

BW photograph of several frosty leaves laying upon the ground.

Copyright 2017 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Symbolic Interactionism is the one of four main Sociological theories to which I most subscribe.  The words used, and, more importantly, the meanings given to those words, are often at the base of the manner by which Conflict Theory explains societal issues-a prime example of this is the concern over whether or not the Pope was going to specifically use “Rohingya” when talking with Myanmar officials during a recent visit.  Without words, societies would not be able to perform as described by Functionalism.  Finally,  the meanings of existing words, not to mention the development and inclusion of new words, indicate change as per Post-Modern Theory.

BW photograph of a bird's nest laying upon the ground.

Copyright 2017 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

“Grounded” is the word for this day-here is the Oxford Living Dictionary definition.  The examples provided give a well-rounded view of its use.  Indeed, people most probably first encounter this word upon the violation of some parental dictate.  To those, I would like to add:  “A result of the effects of gravity”.

BW photograph of a nut case laying upon the gound.

Copyright 2017 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

BW photograph of a nut laying upon the ground.

Copyright 2017 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Were it not for gravity, the objects included here would have either remained attached to their host tree, or, once detached, would have floated off into the atmosphere.  As gravity is such an elemental force, these objects ended up “grounded”.

Take care.

Coffee

December 1, 2017

 

BW photograph of a strongly-lit coffee cup.

Copyright 2017 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Yes, the availability of good coffee, preferably at an independently owned shop, is very much a key to the walkability of a place.

Coffee is an integral part of global history and culture, and therefore very much open to a sociological view.  One of the major sociological theories is Symbolic Interactionism, which essentially argues that societies attach meaning to words and concepts-and it is the interpretation of those meanings that is critical to understanding a given group.  With that in mind, this is an anecdote from a wander in Los Angeles:  Every now and then when walking, I order a decaf, sugar-free, skim milk, vanilla latte.  Given that it is somewhat frightening when I hear myself make that order, I usually just get regular decaf coffee.  However, on that particular occasion, I went with the latte.

In keeping with the attachment of meaning to words, having ordered the latte described above, the barista said “We call that a ‘why bother?'”.

Take care.

Walkability

November 14, 2017

BW photograph of the exterior wall of a church in Shepardstown, WVa.

Copyright 2017 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

“Walkabout” is a term for which dictionaries have variations on the definition, but involves the movement of the indigenous peoples of Australia.  It is a term modified here a bit to become “walkability”, which is used to describe the characteristics of an area with regard to the enjoyment one can have when wandering throughout.  If one is going to use that term, then s/he can define those characteristics.

BW photograph of the clock on the Shepard College campus.

Copyright 2017 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Shepherdstown, WVa. is a place that ranks very high on my walkability list.

BW photograph of large rocks in Shepardstown, WVa.

Copyright 2017 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

The photographs included here essentially demarcate the entrance, center, and point of exit for the main portion of the town.  I had not been to Shepherdstown for a bit over a year, and so it was nice to be back on such a pleasant day.  In that time, several stores had closed and been replaced by new businesses.  A few favourites remained, thank goodness, which meant that the walkability has remained unchanged.

Take care.

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