Images and Observations from A Sailing Photographer
It is not what you look at…But what you see..
— HD Thoreau
This is the first post on my new blog and when asked for a name, I decided to call it The Pelagic Lens. The term “Pelagic” signifies to me everything that takes place on, in, and around the water. The word “Lens” is arguably, One of the most important parts of a Camera and something through which a Photographer’s entire world comes into view. So I just put the two together to signify the theme of this blog.
This will be a Blog about Spending time with Friends, Creating Images, Nature, Boat Stuff and the Thoughts and Visual Images that pass across (and sometimes stick) in a Sailing Photographer’s head as I go about my daily Life on the Water. Here you will find it all. Including the stories, trials and triumphs that Nautical Life Invariably entails. In addition, You may pick up some knowledge about Photography and even learn some Nautical terms.
I’m just getting this new blog going, so stay tuned for more. Blogging just seems to be a natural extension as an accompaniment to photography, so to tie my most favorite two things together, We’re going to give it a try.
Inside, You’ll find all sorts of stuff. Mainly posts on Photography, Sailing and a lot of the stories that surround the two. For me, that’s two great things about getting older. The Memories in my Hard Drives are many and I get a lot more stories to tell!
Try to be patient.. I’m a far cry from an English major and my punctuation and Grammar will be, well…unique. Part Sailor and Part Photographer. I would prefer to call it being a “Spicy Romantic”. My daughter, Cameron, calls it Frustratingly Charming.
Most of you who already know me know that I am only anal about 3 things.
(1) My Photography
(2) Sailing and My Boat, “Brilliant Cut”
(3) And Bailey, My Dog
It will be most certainly “Not rule conforming”.. I’ll assume First and sometimes even Third person reflections but hey, what’s life without multiple perspectives? But honestly, I’ll do my Southern Best to get the point across with Thoughtful Observations, Humor, Quality Imaging and a dash of Humility. Learning WordPress (this platform) will altogether be a different thing.
As in “Weather Windows” for Sailing, I won’t lock myself into any ridged schedule or deadlines on updates. I’ll post when I’ve got something I think you’d be interested in. In addition, If you ever”hang out” with me, You can probably expect a moment in the Blog spotlight. (I promise I’ll be Gentle). Hopefully, everyone will find something here to enjoy at one time or another. If You’d like, subscribe and Please “Share” below to get notified when I post new updates.
Again, Welcome to The Pelagic Lens. Hope to See You on the Water!
I have been living aboard “Brilliant Cut”, a Catalina 380 Sailboat, now for almost 2 years. I discovered that deciding to Live on the Water is something that was a major thought process for me and many others. Before I was to cut ties with landside living, cast off the lines and get underway, I had a lot of soul seaching to do. In making the preparations to change my lifestyle, there was also a lot on my plate to consider. I had a lot to think about.
“Lost in Thought”
Street Kid Nikon D700, Baltimore Harbour, 2010
Why, in God’s name did I ever consider doing such a thing at this stage of life?
All along, I had Dreams and Motivation that promoted and influenced the final decision.
There were Dreams of Freedom. Adventure and Challenge. Going places I’ve never been and seeing things I’ve never seen. Learning and doing things I’ve never done. Getting to know people I had yet to meet. And there would be better opportunities for the personal development of my Photography. All of this and more was in my thoughts.
Sure, it is true that having been a Professional driver and Instructor for a number of years, I had traveled and spent time in every state and major city in the US and Canada except for two. That time certainly provided the need for Adventure, Challenge and Travel. Didn’t that effort at “death by vehicle” purge those needs from my system?
Happily, I can now give a definitive answer of “No” to that question. I had not yet done it by way of the water. However, I spent many sleepless nights pondering the new direction I was about to embark on.
Then, there were the inevitable things that were in place that most everyone wants to naturally escape from that motivated me from a negative pespective. For example and to name one, The Great “Rat Race” as it is so often referrred to.
I was tired of having to live on someone else’s schedule to just live my life. Go here. Go there. Be there at this time. Be there at that time. I was just tired of the 18 hour a day grind. Jobs are really good at that. Especially for a Professional Driver back during those “glory” days. During that time, “Big Brother” wasn’t infringing upon the industry as much as he does now. That “Living Hell” is a topic for another conversation at another time. And there was always that traffic. All of which “went with the territory”, as they said. Small headaches you might say. Unless you’ve done it you have no idea how it effects your health and “Mental Hygiene” every single day you live it. Take my word for it. It’s a slow death if you don’t kill yourself and others along with you first.
There were a few other “Negative” points to drive me too.
Perhaps, it was living in places I had to live because of one reason or another that didn’t sit well with me. Mean or Nosey (or anti-social) neighbors come to mind. Or another, Maybe I was there living someone else’s dream, which was not something I wanted to do.(I was really good at this and not being true to myself). Maybe it was just that job that I was committed to that kept me there.
All of the above was motivation in one way or another toward “My Dream”
Then, there were other questions that demanded answers.
The Freedom. What would I do with THAT? Think about that. Think deeply. What would you do? As I recalled those long weeks and months on the road and not having had much freedom before, except just the occasional weekend and holidays that I was able to steal, even more questions were raised.
How about facing the fact that I was going to have to give up most all of my worldly possessions? That was a Big One. Being the sentimental and nostalgic person I am made the thought of getting rid of most everything I owned, a painful one.
“There is no greater sin than desire, No greater curse than discontent, No greater misfortune than wanting something for oneself. Therefore he who knows that enough is enough will always have enough.”– Lao Tzu
Holding on to possessions are a strong deterrant toward totally “freeing” yourself in life. Sometimes, and in this instance, Faith and Self-Confidence was called upon to play a huge part in the thought process. Then there is the Ginormous effort of putting forth the thought to truely think about what is really important to you. This is not an easy task, especially for those who have always cared for others and/or worked hard.
I knew it would be a challenge. Heck, it was even a challenge to even think about. It quickly became “The 800 lb.Gorilla in the Room” for me. Had all the years gone by sucked the need and physical ability for this change out of my soul? I was surely not getting any younger.
There was more.
If someone came into my life as a Partner, what would they want? If they wanted to join in the fun, How would I go about handling theirs and my own “Personal Space” at times aboard a 38 foot Sailboat?
Even though I do not have small children that depend upon me, probably one of my biggest concerns was: What about Family? Would they think I had gone completely crazy? I can only imagine how tough this would be for those with children that must be schooled and cared for. But I found out that there are many who do it. Quite successfully.
Next, it was of the more “Organic” type of explorations.
Did I want to just live aboard at a Marina? Or did I want to Cruise? If so, would it be Part time or Full time? There are separate budgets and other considerations for both. Vastly different.
I touch on all of this (and much more) in some upcoming posts and to let you know what it was like for me and possibly to help you decide if living full time on a boat might one day be for you. If not, that’s perfectly understandable but maybe you’ve considered it. I know a lot of people who are doing it or are contemplating doing so. Others are just curious. And if that’s your thinking, I hope I can help.
At any rate, and after two years… One sure fact remains. I still don’t have all the answers. And I do not know if I ever will. I’m long since past needing that to live my life. But at this stage, I just know I made the right decision for Me. And that’s OK for now.
As always, Your comments, thoughts and questions are very welcome and important to me.. If you’d like to converse on the “down-low”, there is a Contact Form in the blog Menu area that you can use to reach me privately.
At the least, I’ll try to make it interesting and worth your time to read.
Most of you that know me know that I spent few years of my time in Western Virginia as a Photography Instructor at Virginia-Western Community College, Greenfield Campus.
The position at Virginia-Western was created out of a desire on my part to find a suitable venue for a local photography club that a few friends and I were trying to get started in the Roanoke Valley. Due to that and the vision of a school administrator, I was approached about establishing a curriculum and teaching it to prospective students. More on this later but I wanted to “lay some groundwork” for the start of this week’s Post.
I still maintain contact with a few of the many students who eventually attended my classes. About a month ago, I was contacted by one to inquire as to whether or not I could offer any advice to someone who is just starting out in Photography.. What would that advice be?
After some careful thought, the answer to her question came out of me that learning to Pre-visualize your image is something I wished I had known and put into practice years ago. In other words, the point I was trying to get across was to try to know what story you are trying to tell with your images before you take the shot.
Visualize what it is you would like your image to say.
Years before the “teaching gig”, I had the opportunity to study with a very respected lifestyle Pro-photographer. During my study with him he had drilled into me that a “good” photograph always “tells a story”. That small statement ties in well to the Pre-visualization concept and I use that nugget of advice to this day, every time I frame a shot.
There are questions that serve to get the Pre-visualization process started and they should be asked and answered in the mind before the actual technical process can begin.
Before I present these questions to you I will warn you at the outset that it takes a huge commitment of your time and mindful resources to get to the point of even asking yourself. That is, that they require the 3 “P’s” (Practice, Practice, Practice) in copious amounts. And many failures before the results start to show in your work and becomes an automatic process.
Do I still struggle with this? The answer is “Of course I do!” I can prove it in the amount of images I cull from every shoot I do.
Thankfully, with the advent of digital photography, which also enables almost everyone to walk around with a high quality camera disguised as a Cell phone, the learning curve has been greatly reduced in time and financial commitment.
Moving ahead. If you’re interested enough to have read this far, the following questions compose the process you should be practicing if you want to improve the number and Quality of your “keepers”.
What did you see? What did you hear? What did you experience there in that moment when you had the original urge to take the shot? When it comes to portrait photography, What do you truly know, sense and feel about that living thing or person in your viewfinder? Portraits are especially indicative of a wide range of strong thoughts and emotions.. And those qualities are (or should be) manifested everyday in photography.
But you say.. After I See, Hear, Experience and Feel…how can I reach past those tangible senses and get to the parts about “knowing” and “feeling”?
Believe this… You can count on the fact that most everyone else will know and feel these elements when they view your images. They may not know (or tell you) what it is they feel.. but they will know they feel something. This cannot help but be. It was once said that “the eyes are the windows into the soul”. I firmly believe and live by the fact that our viewfinders and lenses as well as our actions are the eyes into OUR souls manifested by the above process.
For me, approaching the proper mindset to achieve all of this starts before my camera comes out of it’s case and doesn’t end until final processing is done. Now to what brings us to the dual-topic of this post.
The Law of Attraction
If you’ve ever read the book, The Secret, by Rhonda Byrne, you know already what this visualization thing is all about. Using The Law of Attraction to help bring the process into focus is considerable in helping me to achieve the “Plane of Thought” level that I hope to when creating a meaningful image.
Using Ms. Byrne’s thoughts and my words…
Previsualize first, what it is you want to say or do and the way you feel about your subject. Next, previsualize what you would like to have your viewer or yourself to experience when observing your work or progress
Learning to Be Still
Learning to be Still.. will enable your thoughts and senses to freely flow into and through your mind. Speaking from my own experience, learning to approach my challenges from a holistic and spiritual perspective created for me a major turning point that caused me to see improvements in what I wanted to accomplish.
While giving this much thought and trying to sort it all out, I find that it is helpful to remember the words an old Eagles song, (Learn to be Still) One that I replay in my mind or listen to from time to time to help me toward the visualization goal I hope to reach.
The last verse of the song goes like this:
There are so many contradictions
In all these messages we send
(We keep asking)
How do I get out of here
Where do I fit in?
Though the world is torn and shaken
Even if your heart is breakin’
It’s waiting for you to awaken
And someday you will-
Learn to be still
The Eagles, Album: Hell Freezes Over, 1994
If one takes the time to read, study and research, you will find that learning to be still (and the practice thereof) has been a premise that many of the world’s religions advocate.
Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and many others teach this.
Two major examples are.. the act of Meditation as a part of some Eastern religions such as Buddhism
“Look within. Be still. Free from fear and attachment, know the sweet joy of the way.”
And again in Christianity, The Bible. (KJV)
”Be Still and know that I am God”
…and there are others…all that seem to have the same thing in common.
Learning to be Still has been a first step that has caused those elements and qualities of Inner peace to ultimately pave the way toward finding a path to follow in the creation of my images and enriching My life in general.
I hope that some parts of this is of some help if you are struggling to improve or just become happier with your images. practice the above and you will see. You can do this.
….Friendships and a little more on getting started..
“There are wooden ships; there are sailing ships; there are ships that sail the sea. But the best ships are friendships—and may they always be.”
Former Canadian Prime Minister, Brian Mulroney’s eulogy for George HW Bush.
I debated at some length on whether or not to start this new project. After all, We are all just really too busy with Life, Aren’t we? Building and Maintaining my Photography Web Site can be a very time consuming affair. Especially with my self-taught ways! Add to that, Another Hosting Service to maintain and write, A Journal of sorts, A Blog….And it becomes a monumental affair. You can actually learn most anything about how to do something on the Internet, so Thankfully, that certainly makes it easier.
With all the images yet to be captured and destinations not yet sailed to, Why Do It?
Throughout the thought process during the “self debate” I described above, I kept returning to the fact of how much I love doing these two crafts known as Photography and Sailing.
Admittedly, and After-all, “Taking pictures”and Sailing has for me, been a lifetime labor of Love. At least for about 35 years now.
Long ago, In a Sport’s Editor’s office far away…., I figured out.. that for me, they would be inextricably entertwined.
When I was much younger, I didn’t start out wanting to do either. It all started first with the birth of my daughter, Cameron and a $25 Minolta XD11 Manual 35mm film camera from a Memphis pawnshop. Her Mother and I wanted to document special moments with our newly minted “Social Wonder” and the crazy amount of water skiing and camping we did for years on the Corps of Enginneer Lakes in N. Mississippi.
As the years moved on, We discovered more time on the water with an introduction to sailing that involved both our Kids. (soon we added Logan to the family) With all the new “picture moments” that presented themselves, I’m sure you know where this is going…And back in those days it didn’t help the film budget that they were always a “natural” in front of my lens! (They still are)
A little later, (much later) another significant person that came into my life led me to get really serious about my photography. And I have never since been just content to keep my Camera in a locker. . More about that in another post sometime.
As the thought process continued, I realized that there are many things I love about Photography and Sailing and that I would like to share with you.. Maybe you can identify.
For one, They both satisfy that “geek’ factor I think I have when I try (covet) a new piece of sailing gear or Camera equipment. (More budget woes)
Both addictions challenge me. Rigging for a Spinnaker set, plotting a course (in the dark) to an unknown anchorage or figuring out the dozens of menus on Sony’s latest Pro Camera to get “The Shot” just right, Lighting Ratios and Positions… can all be intimidating. And let’s not forget Weather. And The Sea. And Brides. And their Mothers. OMG.
For another thing, (and since I am detrimentally sentimental) they both serve and exist to create and document memories, challenges and adventures that would otherwise be lost, unrealized or not experienced.
And the there is “The Fear”. Even though it doesn’t run in my genes, I’ve always had this nagging concern (mostly brought on by 3 years service in a long term care facility) that I could succumb to the inevitable dementia that might surely come with growing older and forget it ALL. (This is something different than just losing your mind, which is only temporary)
At least I would have images to answer the inevitable questions and remind me of Where I’ve been, When was I there? Who I was with, and What did it look like? . And maybe one more.. Why?
Note: Sometimes the last question’s answer can change with Afterthought, Experience and/or Age.
A recent Meme that I saw some months back pretty well sums it up for me.
Finally, with more reflection, Something else came to wine mind.
The thing that has overwhelmingly meant the most to me about why I love Photography and Sailing so much. Is that it is something that encourages me to “Live in the Now” as Tolle so nailed it.
It came to me how My life has been enriched by the many Friendships that have resulted because of these two Giant Addictions in my life..
Real, Great and Lasting Friendships.
Friendships I never would have had otherwise.
Friendships with Nature, Clients, Students, Sports Heros, Famous People, Everyday People, Families, Other Photographers, Sailors, Cruisers and Artists from all walks of life and from all over The Planet.
Not surprisingly, and what seemed like a lifetime later, it even caused the start of a 3 year relationship with someone (whom I thought bore the features of a “model”) and who just loved having her picture taken. Thinking that I was the Man for the job, I just “dived right in”!
With the aforementioned in mind.. No..I’m not talking about “The Relationship”…
Rather The Friendships.. I was moved to embark on the task of documenting some of these experiences in the hopes that it will undoubtedly lead to even more friendships in the future. Besides, like the old practice of passing around prints, I can tell you much more about an image here, than on Facebook or Instagram.
To have a Friend, You must be a Friend.
By far, I feel that Cultivating, Experiencing and Forming new friendships is the most important of the benefits I enjoy about Photography and Sailing. What could be better than that? (Okay.. I admit it..Another “Model” might come along and that would be nice!)
Seriously. The last time I checked, No one has “too many” friends!
So. It is my hope that you will come here so that we can get to know each other better. Your visits, Your Hellos and Your Comments along with any “CC” (that’s Constructive Criticism” in Photographerspeak) that you might have are also Welcome and Appreciated. I see it as another way to improve my craft. You may use the “comment” section below and by the way.. Please Share! I would really appreciate it.
It is also an excellent way for you to get to know me, along with these two long-lasting loves of mine called Photography and Sailing. It also might make you more comfortable when, on a sunny day that we “hang out” on a beautiful sail or when you or your soon-to-be-wedded kids end up in front of my lens (as do most of my friends and many others).
As an added benefit, and as another subject of this Blog, on the articles I post about Sailing, I will try and offer insight on Travel Destinations, Mariner”s Concerns and How-to’s for the “Swabs” out there. All complete with Photos for your Enjoyment.
In respect of your time, You also have my promise to (try) and keep these entries brief and readable.
Who knows..You might just make a new friend!
How Cool would that be?!!
Comparatively, only a very small fraction of my photography work has been “people” pictures. But as I seek to always improve it, I find that it is the most interesting genre. I hope to get around to sharing lots more about People, Places, Friends, Life on the Water, Life in the Mountains, Boat Tech, Camera Tech and Just about anything else that comes to mind.
Next Week: Learn to Be Still… and Learning the Law of Attraction.
Sunsets seem to be the image of choice for ANYONE who’s holding a Camera or Cellphone while on or near the Water. Why is that? The two just seem to go hand-in-hand. But in some Photography Circles, They are an Old as a Cliche as can be had for a subject. It is curious thing. If you’ve seen one sunset, You’ve seen them all, Right?
I’ve thought about this a lot. And coming from someone who has photographed everything from Brides to Trucks to Waterfalls, One would think that a sunset before Me, would be, well… “just another sunset”. I know for sure that they are certainly the bane of most all Image Editors. They’ll let you know, right up front, “No Sunset Pics” and that’s because they have millions in hand already. But I think I might know a partial answer/explanation to the above question.
Maybe, It’s because.. Like Winter’s Snowflakes, We see Every Single One as Unique and Different. And they ARE, to those of us that can load up a terabyte of drive space with our sunset images alone.
Thank Goodness.. And God’s artistry.. that no two Sunsets ARE alike. Ever. Just how boring would that be? Each one seems to be more beautiful than the last. And once again, We are amazed! We just can’t let that moment slip by, Can we?
So each time we experience one, It’s almost as if our eyes tell us that we’ve never looked upon one that beautiful before. (Constant amazement is Great, isn’t it!)
Thoreau described it perfectly with his statement quoted above. Among other things, We don’t just “look” at sunsets. We “see” them. And each of us, by Nature.. see things differently at times. Throughout history, this is manifested in all of the world’s greatest artist’s work.
So the next time someone just has to show you their latest recording of the oldest image subject in the world, try and Think about what is was that THEY saw when the button was clicked or the shutter was pressed. Through someone else’s eyes, You just might be amazed too.