Thursday, January 22, 2015

Who Cares How Cold It Is?

All winter long, everyone complains about how cold it is in Upstate New York. Yes, it is cold. That's why we have a special name for this season. Winter. Sure as heck isnt Springtime. Despite the cold, a few days ago we had a warm spell. The sun came out (a real rarity this winter!)... and before noon we had temperatures getting above freezing. A day later the mercury gave up the ghost and it was back down in the low teens. What that does at Taughannock Falls is simply a marvel. The layers of ice accumulate, shear off, pile up, and repeat. As the ice gets thicker, it starts to become almost jade-like. In the fading light there is a luminous and mystical quality to the massive falls covered in ice.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

A Week Later

Taughannock Falls from the overlook, outside temperature of 0F. Wind chill was approx -20F.

When I went out for my walk yesterday, I knew full well that it was cold outside. The light has changed. The clouds move by in long streaks of grey. There are no birds fluttering to and fro.

But that didn't prepare me for the shock of it being so bitterly cold. Our driveway is gravel, and one of the odd things about gravel driveways is that they harden differently depending on soil moisture and depth of the hard freeze. Yesterday the driveway was a series of hard rolling divots, as though a giant had strolled by wearing cleats. Each protrusion a tiny frost lens pushing up. That should have been a clue.

By the time I had walked up the driveway and gathered the mail, I was downright cold. As anyone who has seen me without socks in February can attest, I generally don't get cold. So I picked up the mail and encouraged Georgia to get on with her business. She let me know as soon as she was done; she was ready to be back inside.

I added a few more layers in hopes of keeping warm on my walk. A snug cap with heat reflecting coating. Woolen mittens with fleece lining. By the time I was bundled up like the Michelin Man, I figured I was ready for anything winter could throw at me. Drive down to the park along roads so crusted with road salt that the warm(ish) air being blown around inside the van tasted seriously salty!

When I arrived at the North Point parking area at the state park, it was most decidedly empty. It was cold, sure. That made sense. What was wild was seeing the sublimation happening on the crashing waves in the lake. I had never seen anything like it.

My original plan was to walk the shoreline, then cut under the bridge and walk the gorge all the way down to the waterfall. It was my usual loop... just shy of 5K.

In the span of time it took me to walk the hundred or so feet from my van to the shoreline, my lips and mustache had frozen to the inside of the zipper of my parka (pulled up tight and high against the wind!). The ferocious wind made my goal of photographing the cold weather downright dangerous. I have never felt the warmth leave my body so fast. By the time I got off a dozen frames and turned back to the van, I couldn't feel my cheeks or fingers (despite all the layers!)

Back inside the warm van I decided to drive up to the falls overlook. Oftentimes the falls will ice over with majestic columns of ice left behind by all the spray. It seems to happen most often when the cold snaps are brutally quick like yesterday had been. The images I was able to capture of the falls were certainly worth the chill, but WOW! To think that kids were expected to stand outside to wait for the school bus in this weather is nuts. I was glad to see that schools were on a two hour delay today. I have to admit though, I am not sure how much it warmed up in those two hours.

Winter barred her teeth. And growled.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Greeting The New Year

Taughannock Falls, Trumansburg, NY -winter 2015, Fuji X100s

New Year's resolutions are made with the best intentions, but for most of us, seldom result in the changes we expect. Instead of resolving to change some part of my life that I feel is in need of fixing, I endeavor to focus on the parts that are working and that I want to see grow.

Perhaps that is bad for the home gym equipment industry who is convinced that we all need a treadmill, and elliptical trainer as well as a six hundred dollar juicer. Since none of those things have the appeal for me that a walk in the icy outdoors does, those sales pitches are lost on me.

Bad consumer, bad!

We tried the home elliptical trainer... it ended up gathering dust and acting as a coat rack. I bet there are millions of them doing exactly that. But we were promised that it would make us stick to our resolutions for the New Year. Hmmm.

It is hard to get outside to walk every day when the weather is cold. And snowy. Or icy. But the reward is many-fold. It isn't just about the physical fitness for me... there is the whole aspect of how walking outside relaxes my brain. It helps me find different ways to think about issues that are troubling me. Once those ideas have been wrangled and worries have been assuaged, then the creative ideas start to take off. It takes time. Sometimes it takes a lot of time. Trying to do it at the gym or on the home gym equipment, I could never "find" the time for that to happen. It was always a question of too many distractions.

Walking isn't something I think of as taxing. Granted, it is harder now than it was six years ago, before the whole surgical debacle. When I see someone in the grocery store using a motorized wheelchair I have to swallow hard. That was what the surgeons in the hospital said I would be using if I was lucky. Gives my daily walks a different look when viewed through that perspective.

I used to walk down our rural road with my headphones blaring. Then one of our neighbors was killed on her morning jog. I used to know all the people that live on our road, but in the past two years we have seen more than half of them move out, with renters taking their place. Not nearly as many people are out walking their dogs anymore. What does that say? Where has everyone gone?

I am not sure.

So where does this lead me today? I guess the dialogue I am having with myself is understanding why I walk. Realizing that there is so much that I get from the process, I am surprised at how hard it is to "make time" for it. After rereading photographer, David Hobby's post about how he walks 10 miles a day as a way of becoming a better photographer, I realized that there is something substantial there. The kernel of truth lies in the aspect of making time for a meditative process... one that can help relax, rejuvenate, and rekindle sleeping/exhausted parts of the brain. Why wouldn't I be able to make time for that? I guess that is something to think about while out on today's walk.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Magic of a New Year

If you had told me that in 2014 I would have seen this kid's face break into the biggest smile after seeing this Quetzlecoatalus fossil in Texas, I would have never believed it. When the New Year started last year, I had no major plans for the year.  Looking back, I can see where some things fell through completely. Other projects took off and soared!

Looking at this majestic fossil and the enormous beaming smile on my kiddo's face, my New Year's wish is that everyone's dreams take flight and in the process, they brighten the lives of those around you. Happy New Year!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Feeling Lost

It isn't often that I will admit to feeling lost. That certainly doesn't mean I don't feel lost... but actually admitting that I am feeling is lost... that takes some doing. Tonight I feel lost.

Reading about the grand jury's decision in Ferguson makes me wonder if we can ever really look at the divisions in this country with any level of honest inquiry. I feel lost when I look at the massive amount of hate and vitriol that people are spilling over with... so much fear and anger and mistrust. Our fear of other... our fear of what someone else might be or might do... is pathological.

I could go on. I have a lot I want to say about police violence, about fear of Islam, about racism, about class issues, about violence in general. Not tonight. For tonight it is enough for me to feel lost and to just sit with that feeling.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Breaking Bad (or why I don't want to be a pine board)

After watching this year's board breaking demonstrations by both the Lansing dojo and the Trumansburg High School dojo, all I can say is that Cayuga Lake Seido karateka can put some serious hurt on those pine boards! Seeing all that focus and power is absolutely awesome. Watching kids who moments earlier were certain that the pain and fear of breaking a board would keep them from succeeding, suddenly powering their way through... that was amazing to see!

You can tell, I have a soft spot for this blue haired kid o'mine. That face, that kiai...and that POWER! Whooya!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Amazing Performance by Beats Antique

Every now and then, you get one of those chance to do something totally amazing, off-the-wall,... real bucket list sort-of things. Last night Nancy and I got to photograph Beats Antique. From the pit. We're talking In FRONT of FRONT row! We had time to walk around beforehand, watching everything get setup and all the performers prepare... and then as the show concluded, I got pulled up on stage to capture a huge audience portrait with the band. 

Now, this opportunity would have been a fantastic privilege for any photographer, but for us, HUGE long time fans, this was seriously over the top. Nancy had been chomping at the bit to go see Beats Antique since we first heard about them over four years ago. She has always loved Zoe Jakes and her incredible dance/movement/style. Getting to see all that goes into a show was flat out WICKED!

Nancy is the coolest second shooter, because really, who wants to put up with me after a long hot day shooting, me getting grumpy and tired. Nancy puts up with all of my grumpiness and even brings me water and memory cards.

 Last night we set her up with the Fuji X100S. Punched the ISO as high as it could go... and she squeezed her way up front, right below the stage. From there she made some fantastic images of the performance and the crowd. From my vantage, parked between a giant speaker and the barricade, and with my wide angle lens on the Fuji XT1, I was capturing huge swaths of the stage and great views of the crowd... but I couldn't really get anything nearly as close as Nancy. In the end, this was the perfect combination. We couldn't have planned it any better. Our images dovetailed into one another. Reviewing the images today has been a hoot. Almost like reliving all the wild crazy excitement of last night. I can't thank Beats Antique and Nova Han enough, for inviting us to photograph the performance last night.