A black bird. We see crows, grackles (not really black) and don’t bother looking at what they’re doing. They’re not easy to photograph well, with the dark feathers demanding great dynamic range to render the bird with detail while the bird stands against lighter backgrounds. I was intrigued by this bird, perched on top of a dead tree, looking about, calling out. I thought it was calling for its partner. Soon enough, another bird flew to its side and in a moment of surprise (for me), their beaks locked. And then the surprise. Needless to say, anything can be a revelation, if you look hard enough. On this warm November day. And every day, if you are willing to look. And learn.
Picky, picky, picky.
There is a message here, I think. You must try, even if you don’t succeed. You may even find out that what seems enticing really isn’t for you. Not every effort results in a desired outcome, but effort always imparts experience. Which, in the end, is the key to success. And finding out what you are about.
Can it be? It’s autumn in the northern hemisphere? Where did summer go? Heck, where did the year go? It has been a rather challenging year for almost everyone. With a scant three months before the page turns and 2020 becomes a memory, it is probably a good time to remember that the hardships and challenges we have endured are what life is about. It is not about jetting to some far off destination. Experiencing the delight of other places or tasting yet another new dish. Life is about living each day the best we can. To be kind and respectful. To watch and listen and learn. We don’t have to agree with what everyone says. Or what everyone does. We must do our part to not harm others. And this means respecting each other as if we are all borne of the same Father. That we are brothers and sisters in the most basic thing that defines each of us. Our DNA says so. Our RNA says so. Does our heart tell the same tale, or do we insist that enlightenment is only for the few? I tend to think it’s for the few. Oh. Check that. That kind of thinking, of allowing ourselves to think that we are better than the other only brings ruin to a community. If this pandemic wracked world has something left to teach us, let it be a simple reminder. A smile, even beneath a mask, still radiates warmth within. We cannot love everyone, but we can respect everyone. And in doing so, perhaps, that respect will become something greater. Something better. Perhaps.
With summer drawing to a close, these insects should be less troublesome while walking through Huntley Meadows. Of course, the birds will start their fall migration soon (some have already migrated).
We choose, for ourselves, the life we live. Personal choices. Personal responsibility.
Remember what it felt like to fly free?
One can keep going to the garden and take the same kind of pictures. Overviews of flowerbeds with a wide angle lens. Macro photographs of bees. And you can come up with some incredible pictures. Here’s the deal, whatever you do. The most important thing that you can do to make a good picture is understand light. That’s it. Photography, after all, captures light reflected from objects. Or light emanating from light sources. Direct lighting. Diffused lighting. Specular lighting. Harsh. Soft. Color temperature. The angle of light in the scene. Background, side, foreground lighting. Light is always there, in every picture that you take. You might as well learn to work with it.
What does this little blurb have to do with these pictures? Well, you can use a combination of diffused lighting and strong back lighting to create pictures that evoke the feel of an impressionist painting. Are these pictures the next van Gogh, Renoir or Manet painting that takes the world by storm. No. Though when I look at them, I feel the beauty that they saw, and know there is still much to be learned. About flowers. About light. About art. About life.
And what lens did I use for these photographs? Not a macro lens. Not a wide angle lens. I was looking for birds, you see, and I saw flowers instead. Yes, that incredible Sony 200-600mm lens.
For giving us such great books to fill our minds (and hearts) with wonder. For the words that provide inspiration every day:
“The most important words a man can say are, “I will do better.” These are not the most important words any man can say. I am a man, and they are what I needed to say.
The ancient code of the Knights Radiant says “journey before destination.” Some may call it a simple platitude, but it is far more. A journey will have pain and failure. It is not only the steps forward that we must accept. It is the stumbles. The trials. The knowledge that we will fail. That we will hurt those around us.
But if we stop, if we accept the person we are when we fall, the journey ends. That failure becomes our destination. To love the journey is to accept no such end. I have found, through painful experience, that the most important step a person can take is always the next one.
In the Empire of the Sun, the Emperor Long Xi made it known that the color yellow offended him and decreed that everything in his empire that contained the color yellow was offensive and was to be removed and banished forever. Sire, a cowering servant told him, the light of the sun contains the color yellow. So the emperor proclaimed that everyone must live without the light of the sun and ordered all citizens of the empire to live in caves, for the color yellow is never to be seen again. And so, the people lived underground, never to see the sun again.
In the Republic of the Enlightened, a man shouted that the color yellow made him sad. A great many people heard him shout how yellow made him sad. They all said, yellow makes that man sad, we should let everyone know that yellow makes people sad. And so the word spread that yellow makes everyone sad. And someone said, if yellow makes people sad, we should remove everything that contains yellow. And the word spread that anything that contained yellow should be removed from their midst. And so, the Republic removed everything with the color yellow from their midst.
Some time later, one of their scientist took a piece of glass, pointed it towards the sun and saw the color yellow. The scientist cowered in fear, knowing that he had seen the color yellow, something they all agreed made people sad. He tried to stay silent, but someone saw him hold the piece of glass upon the sky. This man shouted out to the Republic that the scientist had seen the color yellow. The scientist, fearing for his life, told the people that no, he didn’t really see the color yellow coming from his piece of glass. The people did not care. And the scientist was banished from their midst.
Then someone said, what if what the scientist said was true? The light of the sun contains the color yellow! And this thought was shared throughout the republic. And then someone said – “The light of the sun contains the color yellow. It will make us sad.” And the people cried out, the sun makes us all sad. And then someone said, there is no sun in the caves, let us go into the caves. And the word spread and the people of the republic moved into the caves.
In other parts of the world, people wondered. Why do those people live in caves? They didn’t know that the color yellow was deemed unacceptable by the empire and by the republic. And so life went on. They often disagreed amongst themselves. They talked about a great many things and the things that caused harm to some were eventually relegated to the caves. They knew that sometimes, someone brought the things out of the caves. They understood that they cannot control the lives and actions of everyone, but they knew that as a community, they were better off living in a world where they can talk to one other without fear of being struck down. And they knew that as a community, they must always make sure that everyone is respected, and they knew that though they didn’t always agree, a true community cannot survive if they live in fear of each another.
The things that came out of the caves went back to the caves. Sometimes, though, they discovered that the things in the caves were not harmful after all. And so those things from the caves remained in the light, freed from darkness. And the people thrived.
I have been a fan of musical theater for decades now. I have seen shows in my hometown, in New York, in the movies and in television. The last five years gave the world at least two truly great musicals – Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen. In the tumult of today, I often sit back and just listen to these shows. And many others.
I didn’t really listen to the whole Hamilton soundtrack until the show started streaming in Disney Plus. The first act was great. The acting, the songs, the story was just a treat. The second act, though, was incredible. And then there was this song, this moment in the show that made me realize that this is a show that all of us needs to see. Not just for the incredible cast, the incredible songs, the incredible performances. For me, this song is transcendent.
The beauty of this song is not just the melody or the voices that sing it. We all make mistakes and we all have regrets. And yet, in the midst of the sadness there was no recrimination. Instead, it talks about the loss, sacrifice, forgiveness and love. A beautiful tune and in the sadness of it all, hope and love.
Thank you Renee Elise Goldsberry. Thank you Philippa Soo. Thank you, Hamilton cast and singers. And thank you Lin-Manuel Miranda. Truly amazing.