Hokusai

SSA Photography (242 of 400)

I took hundreds of photographs, waiting for the waves to crash on the rocks at just the right angle, with just the right force.  This photograph evoked feelings of “The Great Wave” the famous woodblock print by by the Japanese ukiyo-e artist Hokusai in his series Thirty-Six Views of Mt. Fuji.  It also made me think of the creation myth of Aphrodite, which unlike Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, was, by all accounts, a violent affair.  Although Aphrodite can be broken down into “aphros” (foam) and “ditos” (risen), there is no direct etymological derivation.  This did not stop the Greeks (Hesiod, specifically) from crafting a story of Aphrodite rising from the foam after a great battle between Cronus and Uranus, which would foreshadow the same father-son battle between Zeus and Cronus.  In the whitewash, I can almost see Aphrodite throwing her hair back, casting off the spray as she nears the coastline.  But then, I suppose that’s what you get when your two favorite subjects in school were Latin and Art History…

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Perspective

Perspective

This photograph was taken in Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska.  Of all the waterfalls we saw, this was perhaps the most impressive.  Without the two people standing at its base, this would have been a great picture – a study in contrasts; but the two individuals lend such perspective to the grand scale of the waterfall that I could not, in good conscience, leave them out.  Perspective is a term that covers all manner of sins, from the linear perspective of Da Vinci, to the perspective one gains from a tragedy, to even the perspective that you grasp from the sheer insignificance of two humans set against the backdrop of indefatigable nature.

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Pod

SSA Photography (212 of 400)

I took the photograph of this pod of pelicans off of Point Lobos, in Carmel, California.  This is only the front of a much longer line of pelicans that was flying down the coast, and I thought the panorama captured them nicely against the bay and the creeping marine layer.  I love how they are all in different stages of flight, some coasting and some flapping frenetically.

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Roil

SSA Photography (262 of 400)

This photograph was taken on a blustery morning in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California.  The winds were coming through the bay at a fierce clip, and the waves were the largest I had ever seen.  We went on a hike to Point Lobos, and I captured this scene after one of the larger waves had crashed across the rocks – completely covering them in a mix of foam and roil.  One of the apocryphal origins to the name Aphrodite is “risen from the foam,” but I cannot imagine that this was the type of scene the ancients envisioned of her birth.  I think Botticelli got it right.  The violence of the waves made me marvel at the strength of the stone, which has invariably been battered for eons.  Love is like that in many ways, often beaten but never broken…so perhaps the ancients were onto something…

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Skagway Mist

SSA Photography (18 of 400)

This small panorama was taken from the bow of a ship in the Inside Passage in Alaska, near Skagway.  To call the nature in Alaska untamed would be an understatement.  The glaciers are so plentiful that some have no names, and the fjords stretch for days.  All of the stones have stories, variegated and striated like this one from eons of ebbing and flowing tides.  The morning mist was a beautiful phenomenon, which I attempted to capture in this photograph.  It blanketed everything in a soft, dense fog, which sometimes did not burn off until well into the afternoon, when the blue skies brought out the deep cerulean of the glaciers.  Although beautiful in full color, I felt that the black and white of this photograph worked ever so well with the natural contrasts of the subject.

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Awash

SSA Photography (183 of 400)

I have lived near the ocean my whole life, and yet it took my first trip to the California coast to truly admire the beauty of the sea.  The rocks and the waves are gorgeous in and of themselves, but together they are magical.  This photograph captures the instant when the two come together to produce an ephemeral wisp of beauty.  But for my camera capturing the fleeting moment, this little crash would have been forgotten, lost beneath the weight of the others that have come after it.  My fascination with the waves and the rocks can be seen in my collection California Waves.  I hope you enjoy this instant as much as I have.  The Romantics–Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Keats, and Shelley–all tried to capture that one infinite moment in words.  I will never have the words to capture it like they did; but then, they didn’t have a lens…

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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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Rivulets

 

SSA Photography (272 of 400)

The beauty of the coastline of California is undeniable.  The  Pacific is magnetic, and I am drawn back to the West Coast when I am away for any length of time.  This outcropping, just off the coast of Carmel-by-the-Sea, fascinates me, and I spent quite a while trying to capture a photograph to do it justice.  I wanted to take one of the august waves crashing over the top, but ultimately I was struck by the hidden power of the little silent rivers that have carved away the stone over the millennia.  There is no great force to the rivulets; they work by sheer repetition and determination.  The streams of water cascade over the outcropping each time even a moderately sized wave crashes upon the rock, carrying a grain of sand or two, and slowly they peel away the layers of the hard stone – a testament to the often-hidden power of nature.

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Aesacus

SSA Photography (253 of 400)

This panorama was taken near Carmel Point, the southernmost point of the coastline in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California.  The title, Aesacus, alludes to the myth memorialized in Chapter 11 of Ovid’s Metamorphoses.  The youth Aesacus fell in love with Hesperia.  As he pursued her, she was bitten by a snake and died.  Aesacus gives a brief soliloquy lamenting her death, which he says was caused by him and the snake equally.  The sentence after his speech contains one of my favorite images in Augustan-era poetry: “Dixit et e scopulo, quem rauca subederat unda, se dedit in pontum.”  (“So he spoke, and from the cliff, which the rough waves had eaten away below, he gave himself to the sea.”)  As Aesacus fell, the ocean goddess Tethys took pity on him and changed him into a diving bird.  Watching the five diving birds in the photograph flying between rocks (eaten away by the sea) made me think at once of the Aesacus myth, which gave the scene such a mournful subtext.

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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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