There is something that intrigues me about panoramas. Ever since I took my first successful one in England years ago, I find myself drawn to them. Landscapes and nature are my natural tendencies of photographic subjects, but the vastness of them speaks to me, and I always have the urge to zoom out as far as I can, and when that doesn’t work to capture the scene entirely, I lean on panoramas.
This particular panorama captures the “point” in Point Lobos nature reserve in Carmel, California. As you can see from the left of the picture, the morning layer had not yet burnt off when we went for this hike. It adds an eerie, almost ethereal feeling to the photograph that simply can’t be manufactured. The pictures are muted, and perhaps I could’ve done a bit more in post-processing to bring out the vibrancy of the colors. Nonetheless, the colors are muted as the morning was by the marine layer. It is a natural touch, and one which I’m happy with.
I often joke that I’m a good photographer, but a great editor. This is one of those rare photographs where I have done very little to touch it up, instead using Lightroom simply to stitch the pictures together to create the panorama. I always enjoy the photos that I take, which I don’t have to edit. They seem in many ways more pure to me, although at the end of the day, all that anyone sees is the finished product and not the raw material. Nevertheless, I know what has gone into the editing process. I always feel more like a successful photographer and not a successful editor when I am able to capture a scene in the camera rather than on the computer.
I love the textures of this photograph. It was taken with a telephoto lens, not a macro, as I did not own one at this point. Still, the detail came out perfectly, even the little snail tucked under one of the crevices in the broken trunk of the live oak. There is a subtle, yet almost violent movement in the lines, which lead to the center, but the many fissures and cracks scatter one’s attention.
“Boneyard Beach” on Big Talbot Island just north of Jacksonville, Florida is aptly named because of the many skeletons of driftwood trees left behind by hurricanes and time. This one must’ve fallen a number of years ago, because even the jagged edges had been smoothed, and I could run my hands over the wood without fear of splinters. The diameter of the trunk was about 6 inches at its widest, which made it a rather small live oak.
The gradients and ribboned-patterns in the wood are beautiful, and they were what drew me to woodworking and turning bowls on the lathe (another one of my hobbies) in the first place. Although these would have been enough to make and interesting composition, it is that little tulip snail that is almost hidden in plain sight that makes the photograph. When I first took the photograph, I didn’t notice the little snail. Now, however, I cannot draw my eyes away from it. It is a subtle sign of life clinging to the underside of the long dead tree.
I can’t put my finger precisely on what feeling it evokes in me, but I sense a certain kinship with the snail. It is a survivor amongst a powerful and rough-hewn backdrop, yet a part of it is anchored to something that was destroyed by a power greater than it can ever possibly conceive. Perhaps, also, it is because the snail is alone, whether by choice or fate. Whether it is a hermit or in exile, I can only venture to guess, but I cannot help anthropomorphizing the little tulip snail whatever its true reason for being there.
There are so many coves along the shoreline in Point Lobos State Preserve in Carmel, California, that I am only moderately ashamed that I don’t know the name of this one. I have posted a picture of China Cove previously, with its colors that defy the natural palette. In comparison to the China Cove, this one is a bit pedestrian. If there were no China Cove, however, this unnamed cove very well could be the highlight of the entire shoreline. This is a testament to the beauty of this part of California.
As I’ve mentioned previously, California brings out a creativity in me that North Florida never has. I long to go back, and when I am there, I am always conscious that I must leave. I honestly don’t know if the desire to be in California is simply a desire to be creative at all times, or at the very least to have freedom to be creative.
As I wrote this post, specifically that last paragraph, I thought immediately (as one clearly does it was spent so many years in the Latin classroom) of the Roman poet Gaius Valerius Catullus. Although many of Catullus’ poems survive in full, some are only excerpts. One such excerpt, which has been labeled in the modern canon as Carmen LXXXV, is only two lines long but it is powerful in its brevity, its directness, and its meaning: “Odi et amo. Quare id faciam fortasse requiris / Nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior.”
Roughly translated, this means “I hate, and I love; why do I do this perhaps you ask. / I know not why, but I know it happens, and I am tortured by it.” Although Catullus was speaking about the conflicting feelings he had towards his lover, who he calls Lesbia (her real name was Clodia), and who was the sister of Cicero’s mortal enemy Publius Clodius Pulcher, the second sentence speaks to me in the context of this Cove. I can’t say why the California air draws out the artist in me, nor can I say why the Florida air does not; but I know it happens, and for the time being, I am (if ever so slightly) tortured by it.
This photograph was taken just before the golden hour in the Pisgah National Forest in Brevard, North Carolina. A combination of heavy snows just weeks before, warm weather thereafter, and torrential rains contributed to an incredible amount of flooding, especially along major tributaries like the Davidson River, which is pictured here.
As we hiked along the banks of the Davidson, I was shocked to see a water line about a foot and half up on the trunks of the trees, even a hundred yards from the river. Limbs and leaves and detritus were scattered along the muddy paths, and Kemper found great pleasure in stomping in the mud and his wellingtons. In fact, the mud puddles seem to be the only redeeming factor in many of our walks which he begrudgingly accompanied us on.
The snowfall, the likes of which had not been seen in decades, knocked many large trees down, as evidenced by the fresh sawdust on the trails where the park rangers had come through earlier that week with chainsaws. It is humbling to think, despite the power that we wield, the sheer power of nature is unparalleled. Having grown up in Florida, I am accustomed to this come July through September when hurricane season is in full effect. I am sure the next time we go up, new growth will have taken the place of the grand old black pines, whose time it was to cede to a younger generation of saplings.
This photograph, taken in the Lake District in Cumbria, England, is proof that even the most stunning photographs do not always require fancy cameras and lenses.
This photograph probably did more to push me along my way into photography than any other. Taken in July of 2007, I used an old point and shoot Olympus – which is all that I had at the time. This panorama is actually about six photographs stitched together. At the time, I had no software to do this, and it was not until 2016 or 2017, when I became serious about photography and invested in the Adobe Suite that I could finally stitch together the photographs. The result was incredible.
Since that time, I have become enamored with panoramas and landscapes, as you can see from a number of my other posts. I long to go back to the Lake District with my fancy camera and expensive lenses just to experience and to capture something like this once again. I also want to bring Kemper and Nora to experience the bracken ferns that reach higher than my head, and the paths that are cut through them (which you can see a bit in the bottom left of the photo). The lakes are like no place I have ever visited, and this picture alone draws me back.
Sometimes the loveliest composition is the most simple. This photograph of the mossy trunk of a fallen water oak (Quercus Nigra) was taken in the Nocatee Preserve south of Jacksonville, Florida. The day was extremely overcast, and the photographs that I came to take were not turning out as I had hoped.
I saw this tree lying astride the path, and I took a dozen or so photographs of it from various angles. As I was leaving, I decided to put my macro lens on to see what I could capture with the lens and ring light setup that I use. I took a few test shots of the tree, with the aperture as far open as it could go, and I did not think anything of them until I returned home to see what had turned out.
Life is often like this, recognizing the beauty only in hindsight. This is by no means my most treasured photograph, but it is special insofar as it was a happy accident that reminds me never to dismiss even the most mundane subject. With the right angle and eye, most anything can turn into art, even a dime-a-dozen fallen water oak in the middle of a North Florida swamp.
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On vacation, I do not keep the same hours I do for work. So getting up before the sunrise was rare, but since everyone else was still asleep, I decided to leave a note and go for a walk. I made my way down to Scenic Drive in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, just as the sun was coming up. I was born and raised on the East coast, and so to have the sun rise at my back when I looked at the ocean was a new experience. The marine layer was thick as I made my way down the coastline. The house at the left of the photograph is the Walker house, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. He said that he wanted to design a house “as durable as the rocks and as transparent as the waves.” He achieved this with his uncanny ability.
I love Carmel, and I feel a special kinship to the place. I always feel creative out there, surrounded by the beauty. I understand why Robinson Jeffers called it home, and why so many other artists like Steinbeck were so inspired by this area of California. If I ever win the lottery (and I have a few eggs in this basket), I will find my way out there for part of the year. For now, I will look forward to the next visit and the next morning stroll.
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