Posts Tagged ‘gratitude

25
Dec
13

a quiet time

It has poured rain for several days. A relentless wind makes sure it seeps through doors and windows and blasts down barn aisles. I find myself alone, far from family, mucking stalls in Portugal this Holiday Season. All the horse photography comes from a love of horses…and anyone that loves, truly loves horses, knows a lot about pitchforks and wheelbarrows. I’m adding to that knowledge bank now. While I do feel a little lonely I woke this morning thinking of how lucky I am to have this quiet time.

I have had a lifetime of wonderful Holiday Seasons. I have lasting memories of warmth and family from my childhood. Favorite gifts of, surprise, horse books, stand out along with visits to and from beloved Grandparents. Even in the sixties there were epic searches for items on the “list”. My grandmother told me she traveled many many miles to find “Don’t Spill the Beans!” Years later I would enlist friends and my delivery drivers to find Power Rangers for my son. History repeats.

The Holidays were about much more than gifts though. My favorite memories of all were the Christmas Eve concerts at church. I sang with our youth choir for years and during junior high I accompanied the choir on my flute.  I grew up in the Presbyterian church. Ours was a great cavernous rectangle, devoid of decoration, but filled with light, old creaking pews, and in my child’s heart, spirit.

My favorite song to perform? Do You Hear What I Hear? We sang from the four corners of the church…two groups on either side of the balcony and two groups on either side of the front of the church. I was thrilled to be part of the group on one side of the balcony. It really did seem as if our voices could reach the heavens and have the Angels echo our song.

How lucky am I? The world is filled with people in the midst of violence, hunger, cold, and hopelessness. But I have memories of warmth and plenty and wonder. So I’ll be thankful for the opportunity to exercise, spend some time with horses and the unconditional love they offer, and absorb the glow from the warmth of years of happy memories. My hope is that you are doing the same or making more! And now it is time for me to go back to the barn, and my trove of memories.  My memory of this time will be one of quiet but profound gratitude.

 

 

 

30
Jun
12

Horses give us the wings we think we lack

I have had a super busy three months, with many miles logged on 777’s and the like. But wherever I land, I have the pleasure to be with beautiful horses and even more beautiful people. It makes all the hard work worth it! As I am sitting here in Cotia, near Sao Paulo, watching the setting sun rim everything in gold, my thoughts turn to grace and good fortune.  As a photographer I sometimes complain that all I ever get to photograph are horses. First, it’s not exactly true, and second, how ridiculous!  They are spectacular beings that have brought so much beauty to my life! How utterly human to be a bit ‘bored’ with this from time to time. And again, how ridiculous. So I’m giving myself a good kick in the pants and adjusting my attitude. The time will come when I am somewhere else on the planet and engaged in another photographic endeavor. But for right now I can only say ‘thank you’.

For my photographer readers….forgive the lack of editing? I am offering this gallery to my horse-lover friends! It is a collection of images from Brasil, Portugal, and Apassionata in the US.  Enjoy!

27
Aug
11

A few more thoughts about Sam Abell’s workshop

If we are lucky, we get to experience an event that stays with us and molds us for the rest of our lives. I have had many blessings of this nature, but this last week reminded me of the importance of that initial experience.

In the late fall of 2005, I had the good fortune to take a workshop with Sam Abell on the mid-coast of Maine. The first night of the class offered us the opportunity to hear a lecture by Sam titled “The Photographic Life”. Sam’s sonorous story-telling style had the audience rapt, but I was struck by the deep humanity in the images as well as the personal stories of a life well-lived. Since that week I have worked hard to embody Sam’s advice of making the best picture in any situation and I have been helped by the voice that I hear while composing. It comes in from over my right shoulder and says things like this: check your edges; are the elements separated?; do they exist in their own world?; is it involving?; are there layers in the image?; setting, expression, gesture.

I’ve been assisting Sam in classes and with lectures for more than five years now. This past week I encouraged a number of good friends from all over the country to come to Whidbey Island for at least the lecture, if not the entire class. A number of (very intelligent) people took me up on the invitation. I heard from them the exact remarks that I made six years ago: It was wonderful; The sensitivity and depth of emotion in the images and the stories is deeply moving; it gives us a totally new way to see images and to think about our own photography.

Thankfully there are many wonderful teachers and mentors in the world. I’ve had several in different areas of my life. I suppose what I want to say with this blog post is this: Find a mentor or teacher whose vision and life you respect and emulate them. Make your own path, but hold on to the tenets they have lived by and see where it will lead you. The photographic life is just one life among millions of choices, but as Sam said, “it is the right life for me”. Building layers of depth and breadth in my life as well as my photographs has brought me to a place of deep appreciation and offered many moments of joy.

This state of being is open to us all but if you want to ignite a fire, take a Sam Abell course or at least experience a lecture he’s offering. Next up: Sam will be appearing at the INVision Photo Festival in Bethlehem, PA ( http://www.artsquest.org/invision/ ) Prior to that he is teaching at the Santa Fe Workshops in early October. Maybe I’ll see you there.

Here’s a gallery of images I’ve made over the years on Whidbey Island and around Seattle. I vow each year during the class to spend more time photographing…this time I made it happen.  You can too.

25
Nov
10

Gratitude

This is a quick post….with more to come tonight.  The link I’m sharing is all about gratitude and synchronicity.  I was thinking of all the wonderful teaching that I have had over the last five years and how to express my thoughts about it when I clicked on my favorite blog and found a photo that has meant more to me than almost any other.  It’s from my teacher, Sam Abell, and was taken during his first formal assignment for National Geographic. So my blog post is about another blog post, written by another grateful photographer from a cast of many thousands.  Enjoy.

http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/11/24/close-your-eyes-and-see-with-your-heart/

27
Oct
10

Thoughts on a birthday…finding direction

I’m spending a lot of time on planes now.  For the most part I don’t mind it, and sometimes I rather enjoy it. Last night I flew from the East Coast to Seattle. Six hours of time without a (good) book to read allowed me to write in my journal.  I’ve just completed a journey through parts of Holland, Germany and the Czech Republic. My mind has been occupied with sorting all the experiences I had…trying to create some cohesion in the face of such wide disparity.  No success so far.

I thumbed through the older pages in my journal to see if there was a clue about my journey hidden away and I came across something I had written several months ago:  “We walk in the light cast by our searching soul.”

This is a time of change for me (time zones, homes, artistic direction). Birthdays are good markers for reflecting on what has come before…and to clarify our goals and desires for the coming year.  My trip to Europe amplified so many questions for me. What direction will I take? Will I find answers to questions that have haunted me for years…questions of the nature of humanity and our propensity for destruction that exists as the twin to our capacity for love? Can I create even more solitude in my life and how do I balance that with working to create a more public face for my photography?

Though I have learned that change is the best way to move forward it can still be difficult. Often we can find direction in observing where we’ve been and how it’s led us to where we are. The path might surprise you. The unexpected turn can seem perfectly aligned when viewed from a distance. Embrace change, it’s our only constant.

Re-reading that one sentence gave me hope and a bit of added strength.  When darkness envelops, even the tiniest spark of light offers warm, courage, and a direction, even if for only a few steps.  We all have that spark within.  So my birthday wish is that we all nurture our sparks so that they become flames and the flames create beacons.  Those beacons will light our way and could ease the path for many others.

Shine your light.

And perhaps more eloquently:
“Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.”  ~ Golda Meir

Light streaming through the windows of St. Vitus' Cathedral, Prague, Czech Republic

 

25
Sep
10

Photographers and philosophers…follow this link

http://powelltribune.com/index.php/content/view/3700/58/

Clicking on the link above will take you to an article written about Sam Abell in the Powell Tribune.  It’s worth the time to read the entire article.  I promise.

18
Sep
10

Way out West, fraternity and collaboration

“The greatness of a craft consists firstly in how it brings comradeship to men.” ~Antoine de St. Exupery

The last 30 days have been a whirlwind of teaching, travel, and photography.  It was my great pleasure (as it is each year) to assist Sam Abell on Whidbey Island at the Pacific Northwest Art School in Coupeville.  The class this year was built around creating a book of Whidbey Island.  Books are dear to Sam and dear to me. For this reason we were excited to offer the class the opportunity to develop an essay on a topic of their choosing about Whidbey Island. The assembly of these essays created our book.  It will soon be available on Blurb for all the students. By all reports, the workshop was a great success and we will be doing the same thing again next year with a few minor adjustments.

Following the workshop I flew immediately to California to photograph participants in a clinic at Debra and Dominique Barbier’s farm in Healdsburg.  Thirty or more people enjoyed participating in the first ever formal clinic at Batbier Farm…..riding their horses, learning from both Dominique and Debra, hearing Dominique’s Meditation for Two lecture, and enjoying great food, conversation, and wine.  The group, though diverse, came together easily because of the common love of the horse and their dedication to classical teaching and the compassionate training of the horse.

After a few days back in Seattle I was off to the East Coast to visit family and collaborate with Linda Bertschinger of Classicus Farm on her new book: Alchemy, Transforming Your Horse in Lightness.   After 30 hours non-stop work, we declared the book designed and well on its way to completion.  It was a pleasure to put in this time as the book is a gentle recitation of Linda’s experiences with different horses, each illustrating a pillar of classical training.  I will have an announcement on this blog when it is available.  (Soon!)

And then I was off to Wyoming.  I was a sheer delight to accompany Sam Abell and make a pilgrimage of sorts to a little town in Wyoming, prior to giving a lecture at Northwest College in Powell, Wyoming.  Our good friend, Anthony Polvere, had arranged for the talk after we all met the previous year at the workshop on Whidbey Island.  The talk was the finest I’ve heard Sam give in the last five years.  The students of Northwest College and the citizens of Powell, Cody, Billings, and points in between, were given a talk that illustrated Sam’s practice and philosophy of photography.  Even more importantly, they walked away having witnessed a man that has examined life, a life in photography and from photography, a life writ large but lived humbly.  It’s a stunning combination: inspiring, uplifting, whole.   And then….off we went to Yellowstone National Park with the photography faculty from Northwest College!  There was such great fun, laughter, joy, remarkable story-telling, in short, camaraderie.  With the majesty of Yellowstone as our backdrop and great cowboy songs for our soundtrack, we toured, photographed, and enjoyed much of the Park.

And now I am just back from Santa Fe, having photographed participants there in a clinic with Dominique.  The very talented Lynn Clifford was the organizer of the clinic and our gracious hostess.  Again, a diverse group met for three days, enjoyed each other’s company, and shared their lives and experience with one another….all from their love of the horse.

In thinking about this whirlwind 30 days, the experience of fraternity and the spirit of collaboration are the thoughts that keep rising up. Friendship built on common interest, but friendship that respects each other’s vision and tradition creates an easy but deep and lasting bond.  The experience of collaboration, whether creating a book, editing a slideshow, shooting a video, or just exploring somewhere new, provides a foundation for each person to offer their insight and their strengths to the completion of a project.  With this collaboration, the project has a greater chance of having more depth and lasting meaning.

I have seen this with other book projects, I have experienced it with my own, and I have been honored to collaborate with and assist Sam and other teachers and photographers in many different ways.  So for photographers, horsemen and horsewomen, and all the readers of my blog, I say this: find a collaborator or teacher, join a group of friends and make new ones, and navigate to a place of joy and meaning.

“Friendship is borne from an identity of spiritual goals ~ From common navigation toward a star.”  A. de S. E.

Here’s a gallery, including friends and collaborators, from recent travels.

 

31
Dec
09

Tenderness

Perhaps it’s the time of year and the time for looking back that has placed the word tenderness in my heart and on my mind.   Holidays, combined with thoughts of re-birth with the coming new year keep thoughts of family and friends present. 

I’ve been reviewing the year in pictures, both my own and the various collections spread all over the internet.  One of the best compilations of images comes from The New York Times  http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/world/2009-decade.html#/intro. The ones that have stayed with me are the tender photographs.   The subject matter, in the case of The New York Times photographs, is often fierce, but the approach has been gentle and the respect for the dignity of the subject apparent.  These are the photos that I want to make in the coming year.  I have several personal projects under way that will demand attention to this objective: A story of the Navajo families in Canyon de Chelly and the life of the farm workers and inhabitants of several Lusitano fazendas in Brazil.  These will be challenging for me as I am unused to photographing people.  I’m looking forward to the deeper connection that this will bring to my life and my relationships with family, friends, and community. 

I wish you a very Happy New Year, with the blessings of good health and connection to loved ones.  And for photographers and non-photographers…..in the words of Irving King and Harry Woods by way of Otis Redding, try a little tenderness.

25
Nov
09

A Thanksgiving post

I’ve spoken of gratitude in previous posts and yet today it seems appropriate to give thanks to my teachers and to teachers everywhere.  I’ll take this idea a little further and give thanks to my students as well.  For they are the reason that teaching is a joy. 

The teachers I have had in my photographic life come from many different backgrounds.  The one characteristic that sets the great ones apart from the good ones is their ability to set aside their personal vision and engage in a genuine manner the student’s interests and body of work.  Simply, there is no ego in great teaching.   When we are connected to another person in this selfless way then we allow magic to happen; perhaps a clearer vision emerges for the student, or the courage to show work publicly, or to tackle a completely new technique or project.   It is likely that the teacher will not know the result of their effort or the lasting effect a conversation or workshop might  have.  But once in a while a little magic happens and we hear from a former student or see a book published or exhibit hung that allows you to think “Yes! I had a little part in that.”  And as this is so inspiring, the circle is complete.  

I had this bit of magic delivered to me last week in the form of an email from a student.  And the week before I enjoyed a break from my routine and had lunch with a former student.  In both instances I was deeply moved…and humbled…by their gracious remarks and their appropriate pride in the work they have been creating since our times together. 

Teach, tutor, or mentor….whatever you have time for!  You will see more deeply and appreciate the amazing ability of your students to see things in a way that you could never dream.  It’s just another way to say that whatever we give comes back to us in far greater measure.   Take a moment to email or write to a teacher whose efforts made a lasting impression.  The joy you will create is immeasurable.

My small gallery today comes from a time when I was challenged, intimidated, yet determined after remarks from my dearest teacher set me on a collision course with my photographic inadequacies. And so, to use a word I learned from my fellow Pilgrims on the path to Santiago de Compostela: Ultreia! (Onward, with courage!)….and I would add, gratitude.

 

05
Nov
09

Grace and creative inspiration

After PorterEphemeral, yet the impression is lasting and grows in strength as time passes; this is how I recall moments of Grace.  The experience of having recognized an extraordinary moment, and then created an image that communicates the essence of what I saw, fills me with the inspiration to continue to seek those moments.   Grace is subtle, fleeting.  We must cultivate awareness in order to be ready when it appears. 

In the fall of 2008, while teaching with my buddy Rick Holt in the Poconos of Eastern Pennsylvania, I created my favorite photograph from that year.  We started at 5 that morning in order to catch the mist and fog if we had a bit of photographer’s luck.  It was still quite dark upon reaching our destination but I knew there were photographs to be made in the coming pre-dawn.  Walking slowly along the lake shore I could see some outlines of slender birches and then I could make out some gleaming yellow leaves.  I walked a bit further, but within 10 minutes I had come back to that spot.  I could feel a photograph calling.  When I returned I noticed there was just enough light to refine the composition and illuminate the mist that was lying densely in the woods behind.   Stillness fell upon the scene, the leaves held their breath, and I made a number of exposures, experimenting with and refining the framing.  The whole episode might have lasted 5 minutes, but the strength of purpose, confidence, and gratitude that I experience from that time has sustained me through the last year.  

I’m anxious to write more about visual literacy and how we, as photographers, can expand our abilities by caring for the vast store of imagery that has been given to us by the Masters of painting, drawing, sculpting, and photography.  Perhaps you’ll tell me about your favorites?

29
Oct
09

horses, photography, continued

PiaffeThe practice of expanding my awareness, as encouraged by my interaction with my horses, and developed as my friendship with Dominique strengthened, prepared me to see deeply when I began to photograph in a serious manner.  Had I not spent more than a decade engaged in thought, writing, discussion, and living in a manner that facilitated deeper expression, I believe that I could not have become the photographer I am today. Often people ask me what I photograph.  I don’t know how to answer that really, but have settled on this:  I am an opportunistic photographer.  That is, when I see something that has layers of meaning or that I respond to (emotionally, visually, or otherwise) I investigate it photographically.  Of course I enjoy putting myself in places that I love, marvelous locations like Italy or France, but also the Arboretum, my home town, Dominique and Debra’s barn.  In new or exotic locations my heart is open and I’m visually alive, charged to all that is happening.  In familiar locations I am more relaxed and the images have a way of rising up in a gentle manner.

I have lived with, loved, and cared for horses for a very long time.  The horse is a creature of Grace.  There is an old saying about horses and riders that is roughly “you always get the horse you need”.  Because I like to do things full blast, I have had two horses of distinct personalities.  My mare, Raschida, was my do-everything girl:  fox hunter, trail hack, dressage mount, and teacher for neighborhood children. She insisted that I do everything correctly.  If I did not, it was a battle, and one I would never win.  So she was a marvelous teacher in that way, though not the easiest mount.  She was a gorgeous mare who embodied the Look of Eagles.  My job was to take that power and channel it into relaxation and grounded energy. My stallion, Fol Amour, is a refined, elegant monk with the heart of a lion.  He waits patiently for me and when I arrive (metaphysically and emotionally) we create magic. If I’m not quite there we have a pleasant ride and he sort of just packs me around.  My job is to show up, fully, and allow the sparks to fly. Having the two opposite ends of the spectrum demanded that I put in the “time in the saddle”.  Even when I wasn’t riding, I was thinking of calm, centered, flowing strength. This discipline prepared me to develop my photographic ability while accepting the bumps and setbacks as opportunities to learn.  Today, when I am not photographing, I am thinking about photography.  This enables me to see more deeply and remain creatively inspired. 

In the next post I’m going to pull at the threads of Grace and creative inspiration.

26
Oct
09

thinking of gifts today

Many early birthday wishes today (thank you!) have caused me to think about gifts.  This past summer, while enjoying a visit from my mother, we went to the Olympic coastline. I wanted to show my Mom the gorgeous reflections that wet sand can offer at sunset. The weather was perfect and we enjoyed a few stops along the way to photograph the lavender fields.  We had traveled 105 of the 109 miles to our destination when we rounded a corner, started down an incline, and ran SMACK into a fog bank. Not a wispy, oh it will blow over fog bank, an impenetrable wall of gray hanging mist.  The temperature dropped like a stone along with our hopes of photographing glorious pinks and magentas and oranges with deep blue sky and water.   We checked into our little ‘roughing-it’ cabin and decided to take a walk on the shore. 

The bracing sea air and the vibration of the surf on the shore worked on my mood and made me remember that there were photographs to be created.   I’ll let the photographic results speak to you as they will, but the most important thing I captured that night was a renewed commitment to remember a lesson I thought I knew:  a grateful heart accepts all as a gift.




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