Kemper

SSA Photography (187 of 400)

How my son has changed in the brief time since I took this candid portrait of him sitting on the parapets of his appropriated, improvised stone castle on the beach in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California…  This is my favorite picture of him at this age, then just four, and now about to turn six at the end of January.  I took a number of shots with him looking the camera dead to rights, but something, perhaps a wanton setter or retriever frolicking in the surf, caught his eye, and the shutter released at just the right moment to capture him as I see him often, wondering at the world, a younger version of me–for better or worse.

I have a distinct sense that he will eclipse me with photography.  His sensibilities and sensitivities are beyond his years, and he is patient and kind.  He is gregarious, unlike me, and perhaps he will be more comfortable approaching a stranger for a portrait.  Above all, he is curious.  He has not yet ceased to find awe in the smallest things, which it took me years and a good macro lens to rediscover from the bowers of my childhood.  We are going to North Carolina just after Christmas and for the New Year, and I will bring my old camera and kit lenses to see what he will be able to find through them.  His attention span is limited, but his wonder of nature will, I think, balance the scales appropriately…or it could be a quick introduction to a skill for which his maturity is not yet prepared.

Like the rock in this photograph, which he gravitated towards as if he were a satellite, he has a favorite stone perch in North Carolina, though it is not a castle there, but the great jutting precipice in the Lion King movie from which Simba was introduced to the kingdom.  The Lion King rock is on the property of a family friend where we stay, along the drive to the upper cabin, and scarcely will the wheels have stopped their revolutions before he is unbuckled and hastening towards it.  Perhaps this year he will be able to climb it by himself, a feat he has yet to master.  If so, I fear we will see little of him that first day.  I was like him as a child, happy to be within myself amongst nature and my own thoughts on any manner of subjects.  Perhaps this year, I will send him out with a camera in hand to find what he finds interesting or beautiful.  Photography has been a window into my psyche, and perhaps it will give me an even better view into his.

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Boneyard Beach

SSA Photography (84 of 400)

I do not know who settled on the name Boneyard Beach for this stretch of coastline on Big Talbot Island, just north of Jacksonville, Florida.  It is fitting, though, that the skeletons of the old live oaks (Quercus Virginiana) stretch towards the ocean like Tantalus stretched towards the water beneath his feet and fruit above his head.  This photograph was taken three years ago, before the northeast coast of Florida was battered by hurricanes Irma and Matthew.  Kemper and I went to Boneyard Beach earlier this year, in the height of summer, to take photographs.  I figured to get some photographs of him among the stripped, bleached bones.  To my great surprise, many of the trees that I had become accustomed to (which are featured in my gallery Driftwood), had vanished into the sea since I had been there last.  Kemper was disappointed for a moment, but then he caught sight of a ghost crab skittering around the base of a monolithic oak, unaffected by the reshaping of the coastline.  It would have taken a much stronger act of God, or His hand itself, to move that oak from its spot.  Innumerable hurricanes have battered the island over the centuries, and as the new oaks, themselves, fall to the beach, the skeletons will once again reappear–until, of course, another set of storms carries them off to the sea.

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Rocky Path

This photograph was taken on the shore of Stillwater Bay. The path leads to Pebble Beach, and I was surprised by how many people I found wandering through the outskirts of the course, having climbed this well trodden path.

Shadow Play

SSA Photography (89 of 400)

Taken at Big Talbot Island, north of Jacksonville, Florida, the lines and shadows of this photograph of driftwood cobbled together on the beach draw the eye to the center of the mass of wood.  After the hurricane last year, this particular grouping of driftwood is no longer on the beach, so I was fortunate to capture it when I did.

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Down East

SSA Photography (11 of 400)

This photograph of a squat lighthouse was taken in southeastern Maine, where my dad was born and raised.  Hundreds of these lighthouses dot the rocky coast, and each one of them is unique and picturesque in its own right.

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Pebble Hill Cypress

SSA Photography (221 of 400)

This photograph is a morning panorama of the Pebble Hill golf course just outside of Carmel, California.  In fact, the photograph was taken on the beach of Carmel Bay.  Beyond the point at the far left of the photograph is Spyglass Cove, where I have sat a number of times and just watched the sea otters and harbor seals bob between the long, whip-like strands of bull kelp.

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Ode to Jeffers

SSA Photography (236 of 400)

The shore of Spanish Beach, along Seventeen Mile Drive in Monterey, California, is littered with little cairns like the one pictured above – simple stacks of stones left as memories by passersby.  My son, Kemper, toppled this one, just to build it back again, and as I was snapping pictures of the shoreline he begged me to take a shot of his cairn.

We had visited the “Tor House” earlier in the day, and so my mind was filled with thoughts of Robinson Jeffers, the resident poet of Carmel for the first half of the 20th Century.  Likewise, the Sobersanes wildfire was still raging down the coast.  I was struck by a line in Jeffers’ poem, Fire on the Hills: “Beauty is not always lovely…”  The simple sentiment described the fire in his poem and the fire in the valleys raging at that time.  Later, when I was editing the pictures I took, I came across this one, and I remembered ruminating on that line as I took the photograph (as I still remember it today).  Though beauty is not always lovely, sometimes beauty and loveliness can be found in the simplest things – like Kemper’s five-stone cairn, which his small hands slowly stacked in the smoke-filled air of Spanish Beach.

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