School #3

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This photograph of a school of moon jellies (Aurelia Labiata) was taken at the Monterey Aquarium a couple of years ago.  The transparent jellies were fascinating, but what really struck me about the whole day at the aquarium was Kemper’s wonder at each new thing he saw.  I’ve spoke about my renewed fascination with nature in many earlier posts, but it is seeing his attitude towards the same that really excites me.

I took a number of pictures of the jellyfish with him by my side, but the most enjoyment I had was watching him follow the jellyfish in the huge tanks.  It was obvious that he would fixate on one and try to follow it amongst the school, and then he would just stand back a bit and watch the school as a whole.  He didn’t say anything, and he certainly didn’t have to.  I recognized the look in his eyes and appreciated his wonder, because I had felt it before.  In fact, I was feeling it once more, but this time through his eyes.

I cammot explain what it is to experience something through your child’s eyes.  I felt deeply grateful that you are able to provide him with the experience and to see him enjoying life.   I don’t know of the word in the English language to describe that sense of fulfillment, peace, satisfaction, and pleasure that comes from the enjoyment of something so pure and simple as watching a school of jellyfish float around an aquarium.  Whatever it is, when I see his huge brown eyes widen and light up, I know that feeling firsthand.

Jellyfish #4

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This photo of a Moon Jellyfish (Aurelia Labiata) was taken on a past trip to the Monterrey Bay Aquarium just outside of Carmel, California.  The invertebrate room at the aquarium is huge, and must contain thousands of jellyfish of every shape, size, and color.

Instead of long, trailing tentacles, moon jellies have a short, fine fringe (cilia) that sweeps food toward the mucous layer on the edges of the bells. Prey is stored in pouches until the oral arms pick it up and begin to digest it. The coloration of a moon jelly often changes depending on its diet. If the jelly feeds extensively on crustaceans, it turns pink or lavender. An orange tint hints that a jelly’s been feeding on brine shrimp.  Found worldwide in temperate and tropical waters (as well as the Monterrey Bay itself and up and down the California coast), moon jellies feed in quiet bays and harbors. Although moon jellies have a sting, they pose little threat to humans.

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Fire in the Highlands / Smoke on the Water

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In classical mythology, Eurus and Apeliotes, interchangeably, were the gods of the easterly winds, though Eurus was favored by the poets such as Homer and later Ovid.  Homer, in naming the Anemoi (the winds) noted that Poseidon was the master of the winds, and after the blinding of his son Polyphemus (and Odysseus’ subsequent boasting), “Poseidon massed the clouds, clutched his trident and churned the ocean up; he roused all the blasts of all the Anemoi and swathed earth and sea alike in clouds; down from the sky rushed the dark.  Eurus, the east wind, and Notus, the south wind, clashed together, stormy Zephyrus, the west wind, and sky-born billow-driving Boreas, the north wind.”  Ovid, placing the Anemoi’s parent Aeolus at their charge, noted that “Fierce as Aeolus is, far harsher than his own sons, surely, something comes from a life with savage winds; his temper is like that of his subjects.  It is Notus and Zephyrus, and Sithonian Boreas, over whom he rules, and over the pinions, wanton Eurus.  He rules the winds.”

This photograph was taken on Spanish Beach just off of  17 Mile Drive in Monterey, California, near Pebble Beach.  The natural sepia tone of the photograph is derived not through the use of any filters or post-processing, but from the thick, cloying smoke that hung in the air from the raging Soberanes Fire then burning through the highlands south of Carmel, California.  As I mentioned in my post of the Lone Cypress, taken at the same time as this, I was off-put at first by the way the photograph turned out.  I have numerous panoramas of the coastline of Carmel, strewn with stones and shattered boulders, and this photograph offered nothing new.  Further, the smoke bled any detail from the scene.  I boosted the detail with post-processing software, but eventually I came back to the unedited version, finding a certain nostalgia with the memory of the smoke, poured out to sea by Zephryus, the west wind, and then wafted back to shore laconically by Eurus, the wanton east wind.  What is not captured in the photograph is the utter, lifeless silence of the coastline, aside from the ever-present sluice of the capped waves on the rocks.  The shore, always buoyed to life by crows and sparrows of every type, was abandoned in the smoke.  Perhaps the birds knew better to seek higher ground to the west, where the smoke had not yet permeated.

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Kemper

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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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The Lone Cypress

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I often wonder how this iconic tree took root.  For those who don’t immediately recognize the scene, this is the “Lone Cypress” off the coast of Monterey, California.  This photograph was taken during the height of the Soberanes Fire southwest of here in the valleys just off the coast of Carmel and Big Sur.  Although likely surpassed by the recent Woolsey Fire, the Soberanes was the costliest wildfire in the history of California.  It coated everything in a thin layer of ash, and the smoke that hung thickly, almost unctuously in the air made shots of the coastline nigh impossible.  This photograph was taken towards the tail end of the trip, as the fire was winding down, and still the haze bled the details from the shot.

When the sun managed to pour through the thick air, the sky took on a burnt, sepia tone, which made every picture I took look like I had applied a strong filter to it.  The tree is at least 250 years old, and for the last 65 or so has been held in place by strong metal cables.  When I saw the cables in person, I thought that it was a supremely arrogant act by man to forestall the inevitable cycle of nature for the sake of Japanese tourists (and me) making a pilgrimage to gaze through chain-linked fence to snap an awkward photograph of the icon sitting on its outcropping, engirded as it is by a brick and mortar parapet.  But still, we come en masse, ogling the tree with a misplaced reverence.  When this one dies, as it will, it will be replaced with a fellow that I am certain is already being grown for its stead, like a Cardinal waiting in quiet for the Pope to abdicate.

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Moon Jelly

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This photograph of a Aurelia Labiata or Moon Jellyfish was taken at the Monterey Aquarium.  Usually swimming in schools, this jellyfish had separated itself from the rest of its spineless (invertebrate) kin and was floating along just far enough away that I could get a shot of it by itself.  The beautiful wisps of stinger-rich tentacles fluttered in the current of the large tank, and I was mesmerized by them like the little children whose noses were plastered against the thick glass.  Kemper, who was three at the time, was enraptured by the sheer number of jellyfish that effortlessly floated by, and we had to explain that though beautiful, they were dangerous.  I could tell that he did not fully grasp Jeffers’ line, “Beauty is not always lovely.”  But when understanding washed over him, I was momentarily saddened that this lesson had to be learned at such a young age.  Soon, however, he was lost again in the schools of jellyfish not, perhaps, to give another thought to the lesson for a long time to come.

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Twa Corbies

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This photograph was taken on Spanish Beach, just off of Seventeen Mile Drive in Monterey, California during the Sobersanes wild fire.  The sky was sepia, and the general mood was foreboding.  When I saw these two crows (twa corbies) seemingly conspiring with one another, my mind turned back to the macabre Middle English folk song, “The Twa Corbies.”

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