Motivated by Sand in my Shoes

When I was a teenager my grandmother told me I had sand in my shoes. As I got older I began to understand her idiom describing my enjoyment of travel & discovery.01a copy
During my career, I was fortunate to travel many places locally, nationally & internationally. I experienced different environments, saw a wide diversity of lifestyles & discovered a lot about the world. As a perk to that travel, I earned a lot of frequent flyer miles enabling my family to experience some wonderful vacations.01ab
One place that left me in awe of the natural world was Yosemite National Park. Our experiences with Park Rangers & other National Parks motivates us to add these places to any itinerary we plan. Ken Burns described them as “America’s Best Idea”. I can’t disagree. Preserving these amazing places for all to enjoy is a testament to our respect for the planet we live on. As a photographer, it was overwhelming & almost too easy. Everywhere I pointed my camera I framed a dramatic image.

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I discovered that before traveling learning some history of the place & you will add to your enjoyment. London can be overwhelming with history & with iconic visuals. Having read the 1000 plus page “condensed biography” of Sir Winston Churchill I admired the man for his leadership, writing & persistence. In this picture of his statue, you don’t see his face but his form is easily recognizable as he keeps a vigil on Parliament.

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Eastern Europe was never on my radar as a place to visit. However, my daughter was doing a Fulbright in Zagreb Croatia & we decided to visit & share her experience. It had been 20 years since Communist Yugoslavia broke up however much of the culture had not changed. In many ways, it was like stepping back in time & reminded me of photos of Pittsburgh in the 1950’s. The trolleys were a big influence in this perception as were the clothes worn by older people. I noticed a tremendous difference in the appearance of those under 30 & those over 40.

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I try not to limit my curiosity to places I’ve never been. I’ve experienced new views without going far from home. As I’ve become more involved in photography I enjoy looking at something I’ve seen many times & discover a new context. The rivers, valleys & hills of Pittsburgh provide spectacular vistas. Now, when I wander in my hometown I look more for details or perspectives I haven’t seen before like this image of Alcoa Headquarters.. Also, it’s inspiring to see work of photographers from the Pittsburgh, New Kensington & Chautauqua Camera Clubs I belong to. If you have more than just a passing interest in photography I highly recommend joining a camera club near you.

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If you travel enough you encounter problems. Hurricane Sandy did that while I was in the UK for work. Fortunately, I had my camera & took advantage of an unplanned opportunity to wander around Birmingham. It reinforced the idea that having no plans can lead to serendipitous experiences. Not only did I discover a system of canals but also I went to Symphony Hall & enjoyed the afternoon performance of works by Dvorak.06 copy
I enjoy meeting friendly & interesting people. A camera over my shoulder has provided a conversation starter many times. Since the human condition is one of my favorite subjects I usually ask if I can take casual portraits. On a “Honey Trail,” my daughter discovered in her research of Montenegro we got lost. We ended up in the backyard of this very friendly wine maker. Fortunately, Jessica spoke some of the language & we elevated our conversation above pantomime. Another thing I enjoy about meeting people is that local knowledge is valuable.008
For some reason, Sedona AZ was basically unknown to me. So when we went there on a 1500 mile tour of the Southwest I experienced the beauty with fresh eyes. At the time I only had a point & shoot camera. However, the basics of a good photograph don’t really depend on the gear. That being said, I will be going back at some time with my DSLR.09
Later in that same trip out west, we rode the narrow gage RR from Durango to Silverton CO. Built in 1882 we climbed up into the Rockies along the Animas River where around every turn we saw a more spectacular view that the previous one. I highly recommend this relaxing scenic trip. However, I suggest buying a package where you go up by train and return by bus. The same views in reverse on a 3.5 hr trip can lose its appeal.

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I like to say you’ve never really visited a place unless you’ve been in or on the water. Not only does this perspective provide a chance for a better view, it is also an excuse to be on a sailboat. One thing I noticed immediately about the skyline of Seattle is that there are almost zero signs/names/logos on buildings. Photographer’s eyes notice what is missing.

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One night while wandering in New Orleans I cranked up the ISO on the camera & was searching for some unique Street Photography. The ambient light from buildings, signs & the streetlights created pools of light where amusing stories can be captured. On this shot, I masked the digital noise with an oil paint effect, which I think adds to the narrative.

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I am torn by a short trip where all the clothes I need can fit into 1 bag vs traveling for longer periods & face the universal dilemma all travelers’ experience. A road trip is on my agenda & a few other international adventures are in the planning stages. Since my last major trip to Cuba, I think I have stepped up my photo abilities. We shall see!

A Confluence of Motivations

In preparing this posting I realized a transition in my perspective that shifts my motivation. I may not become a nature photographer but I’m going to advocate for eliminating fossil fuels to help preserve the natural world.

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Our road-trip took us to The White Mountains, Camden ME & Acadia National Park. Although landscape photography isn’t high on my list of motivational genres, I enjoy experiencing the dynamics of nature. Understanding weather, the suns position & atmosphere is crucial to capturing a memorable image. After we returned, I went to a Climate Reality Training conference. The presentations about changing weather patterns linked to destructive storms grabbed my attention. Mother Nature is giving  clues to the damage we are doing to our atmosphere. In preparing this posting I realized a transition in my perspective that shifts my motivation. I may not become a nature photographer but I’m going to advocate for eliminating fossil fuels to help preserve the natural world.

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At Climate Training I learned the atmosphere that supports life is only 6 miles deep. In that very thin layer we’ve been putting 33 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere every year for way to long. Looking at the pristine beauty of Acadia National Park our thin atmosphere doesn’t look like it has problems. That may be part of the challenge. We all must realize how urgent it is that we switch to green energy sources like wind & solar.

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One of my motivations with a camera is the challenge some subjects provide. The skittishness of chippys fits this category. Their home in the forest is not at immediate risk from climate change. Until drought becomes a pattern. Then wild fires will become a threat. Long-standing patterns of the Jet Stream in North American & around the world are changing. Static weather has become common & can lead to drought or floods in places where we rarely see these extremes. The agriculture community, which keeps eyes on the weather, is watching those shifting patterns & recognizes the need to evolve.

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The small tidal ports along the coast of Maine are jewels. The tighter constriction of landmasses in the northern latitudes results in severe tidal changes in these areas. Routinely, 8-foot tides are a part of the NE coastal community. This rugged coastline is not anywhere near the risk as communities in lower latitude with flatter land. Rising temperatures are melting ice that will bring life threatening conditions to many coastal areas around the world. Sea levels are rising & the circulation of our enormous oceans is being impacted. Fishermen, who depend on the ocean for their livelihood, realize these changes will have a negative impact on our food supply.

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Grabbing the power of the wind in your sails is a wonderful experience. The unseen energy is to be respected. But, it is a force we can harness on the land. Building wind turbines is an industry we can further develop creating jobs & careers. A simple day-sail on the Gulf of Maine gave first hand exposure to some simple parts of the solution. The sun warmed the body & the wind carried us across the waves. When you are on a sailboat some of the answers to renewable energy are right in your face.

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With my mind & eye in the viewfinder I was looking for the perfect composition. Initially, I was annoyed by the solar panels. I now see the solar panels as part of a dramatic story. The Curtis Island Light was built in 1835 & likely used whale oil for its beacon. Now solar power illuminates the path to a safe harbor. Change is inevitable for societies to advance.

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The sun does amazing things if you take the time to observe. Capturing this classic fall reflection was the luck of being in a great spot at the right time with perfect weather. I learned that in a 24 hr period the sun puts enough energy onto the earth to power everything for a year. I have come to better harness the sunlight in my photography & I have learned about the challenges of a changing climate. I think I am in the right place at the right time with advocacy for sustainable energy.

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The left face of that hill is what I climbed to take image #2. These old knees go slow but they do still go. It is an excellent trail for younger climbers that can safely scamper up a rocky path. It might also be an analogy for my journey with the Climate Reality Corps.

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Water is a subject I enjoy incorporating in my pictures. I also enjoy landscaping with rocks so this perspective of Jordon Pond was a real magnet for me. As I was marveling at the lack of development my appreciation for our National Parks was rejuvenated. They are inspiring parts of our country. After the Climate Conference, I realized these places are being impacted by a warming climate. The changes happening to glaciers are far removed from most of our lives. However, these cathedrals to nature could also suffer. Fortunately there is hope with new opportunities to harness renewable & stop adding tons of carbon into our world. The inspiration provide from nature motivates me.

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As always, never pass up the opportunity to include red in the frame or it the blog. I highly recommend visiting the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. Located in Boothbay there are almost 300 acres that will inspire meaningful connections with nature.

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In life, timing is an interesting thing. The training immediately after Acadia lead me to examine my own perspective & put a variety of pieces into place. Although I am not a devoted landscape photog, I enjoy the natural world. The roots go back to the Boy Scouts. Appreciation of boating/sailing is part of my Chautauqua Lake DNA. Still photography inspired a career in video and now I have returned to stills. Like everyone else I can’t tell you where the path of my future will take me. However, I do know a confluence of motivations will help me to focus on a sustainable energy future.