And when you gaze long into an abyss…

He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you. –Friedrich Nietzsche

I was motivated to write this post because of something a friend of mine posted on the hell that Zuckerberg created.  That’s a subject for a post in itself, but I digress…

Said friend was ‘unfriended’ by a friend of his over political differences.  My friend made a comment that he was getting tired of his negativity anyway, but was trying to ‘understand’ his motivations.  While I generally support the idea, as it does tend to help us get along better, usually, it also led me to ponder the Nietzshe quote as above.

It seems to me, that the political process in our country has gotten out of control.  This isn’t meant to generate any “Ya think?” comments, rather I am leading up to something.  This isn’t meant to be a political rant, per se, rather an observation of the process and its effects.

Politics, in my recollection used to be more civil, at least the discussions between normal people.  Between politicians, it’s as nasty as it’s always been.  There were times, back in the day, that fist fights erupted on the floor of the House/Senate.  It hasn’t improved all that much, it’s just a lot more verbally nasty now.

Sadly, we as a people have gotten caught up in this as if we really have a personal stake in the outcome.  The reality is, not much will change.  Enter (anti)social media, and the concept of safety and anonymity behind a keyboard.  Keyboard warriors, or as I call it, “Facebook behavior” has allowed the self isolated disseminators of chaos (DOC’s) that are usually shunned by local communities to have a much wider audience.  To the dismay of us all.  Yet, I believe that no matter how much we try to ignore them (the Ignore/Block button IS your friend, not said DOC’s, even if he has “Friended”  you), their words and actions do have a cumulative effect.  They post something offensive, we try to reason with them, correct their behavior, it turns into a s***t storm, and everyone looks bad.  We’ve allowed the abyss to stare back into our very consciousness and express itself through us (I can’t come to bed honey, someone is WRONG on the internet!).  That one never gets old. 🙂

I certainly don’t put myself above this, as I’ve allowed myself to get caught up in it also.  To my great regret.  I do try, very very hard, to not engage.  I am not afraid of the Hide/Block button, and I use it liberally rather than get sucked into the maelstrom.  No good will come of it otherwise.

But to come to the point of this, I think it’s important to remember who we are, rather than which candidate we think is prettier.  I’ve worked hard at surrounding myself with good people, supportive friends and acquaintances.  I’ve had to cull some of my social networking lists when such behavior appears, but I do so without rancor.  I just don’t have time for it, and I don’t wish to hear the abyss screaming obscenities in my ear, telling me how wrong I am, what kind of smartphone I should own to avoid being an asshole…etc.  I prefer the still small quiet within.

I just want to do the things that make me happy, and live my life in the best way I can.  I share those things here, hoping that they will bring some measure of happiness to you as well.

Rise above, and stay in the light my friends

The power of persistence

Well, this blog is about photography isn’t it?  Also about life, the universe, everything, 42…

I wanted to post this image as a reminder that persistence pays off.  I’ve grown rather fond of the many hawks and raptors that we have in Colorado.  I love shooting them, even though they can be fiendishly difficult to capture. (Dam you kestrels!)  I haven’t been out to where they live much lately, and they’ve grown wary of my presence…again.  Nothing like hauling out a camera with a huge lens attached only to see them fly away.  Of course, their eyesight is amazing, and I can only imagine what that lens must do to them when they see it.  I managed to get pretty close to this young redtailed hawk before he got nervous enough to fly away.  But apparently not nervous enough to fly right past me.  Fortunately, I’ve gotten used to this lens and am learning to pan effectively with it, and I finally have the settings on the camera dialed in that I was able to pan, autofocus and grab a few nicely focused images of this one in flight.  It’s a big beast of metal and glass, and yet strangely manageable.  With practice.

I didn’t want to keep pursuing him as he was hunting for dinner, and I didn’t want him to have to abandon the prime hunting site that he had staked out.  It’s a field full of prairie dogs, that I fondly call the hawk buffet.  Must be pretty easy pickings for them because I see them along this area frequently.  All those fat little snacks on four legs for them out there.  Yummm…..  At any rate, I was pretty happy with the few good shots I got that didn’t include power poles and power lines in the image, so I called it a day.  Mission accomplished.

Photography is like that sometimes.  We don’t always get the shot we want, or have set out to grab.  Remember to look behind  you.  Sometimes there is something there that we didn’t expect that might be way better that what we set out to find.  In this case, I got what I was after.  However, we should stay flexible, because there is always something else out there to capture in that frozen moment of time that becomes a photograph.  That’s one of the many reasons I love photography.  I count myself lucky to live in the photographers paradise called Colorado.

Life can be like that too (Ha, told you this blog was about life).  Sometimes things don’t always work out the way we want, but it almost always works out the way it’s supposed to.  Like photography, we have to be open to other options, other opportunities that we had not previously considered.  Yea, I know, it sounds like the old saying about one door closing but another window opening.  Sometimes we do have to crawl in through the window, but when we do, we find a treasure of opportunities that we didn’t consider previously  (Wait, did I just use the ‘window of opportunity’ as a metaphor without thinking of it?  I think I did…).

Well.  42 it is.  Keep  your head on a swivel.  Life is just like that sometimes.  I’ve been feeling like a window is about to open in my life.  I have no idea what it is, or where it will be, but I’m trying like hell not to miss it.

22 million btu’s and a dog

Every year Colorado Springs hosts a balloon festival over Labor Day weekend.  You’d think as a photographer I would be there every year.  Events have conspired to keep me from being there, including events completely under my control.  My friend Brian and I actually were in town at the same time, and oddly enough, he’s another photographer who hasn’t been able to photograph this event.  We finally made it.  There is a ‘balloon glow’ that occurs on Saturday and Sunday nights, where the pilots set up their big gas bags (no small feat) and light the burners, causing their balloon’s to sit upright, and in the darkness illuminate them brilliantly from within.  Quite a spectacular sight, and something we’ve been wanting to do for a long time.  We learned a few things, this being our first time.  Images like this are somewhat cliche, but neither of us had anything that we could call OUR cliche images, but now we do.  One of the pilots, a friendly gent, invited Brian and I into his balloon just before firing up the burners, which he explained give off about 22 million btu’s of heat.  It feels a bit like standing next to 5 really large bonfires.  Or as Brian said, about the temperature of one of his dogs on the bed at night.  As far as we know, we are the only ones that had been invited to shoot inside any flying balloon (there was a non flyer set up for that purpose there) as walking on the fabric eventually breaks it down and it can  no longer fly.  This particular pilot is a representative of one of the balloon manufacturers.  We were honored.  His balloon is pictured above.

As you can see, the balloon glow is self descriptive and a favorite of the crowd.  We managed to get a lot of pretty good images of this one, although as I said, we learned a lot and next year, if we are in town, will be better photographically for us.  At least we hope.  No tripods were abused in the making of these images by the way.  Just good  timing with the burners and a steady hand, along with cameras that perform well at high ISO settings.

Apparently the balloon company rep has a substantial budget for propane, as he was allowing people to pose in his basket for photos (yes, that’s real wicker too) while he would light up his burner.  Again, dog temperature, even though it was aimed straight up into the air.  He was gracious enough to pose for me as well, so I told him I would post this portrait of him.  Quite a character and quite a spokesman and diplomat for the sport of hot air ballooning.

Hope your Labor Day weekend was fun and safe.