Tag: reflections & sketches

Wasting Away on a Rainy Day?

Perspective on a Rainy Day

How many rainy days have been spent at cafes, bars, sub shops, and such? How much time has been spent drinking countless coffees, nursing beers, and trying to decide between a Maxwell Street Polish and a gyro platter? How was time used on those rainy days? Was that time used to read, write, edit photographs, make plans, or reconnect with old friends (liking posts doesn’t count). Rainy days are a good time to bunker down and get shit done. Rainy days are also a good time to relax and let it all wait for a little while.

Sub Shop Rain (Nokia-editj22.35)“Sub Shop in the Rain”

Rainy days provide choices. Go to the local the coffee shop, get hyped up on caffeine, and knock out that stack of work that has been casting a shadow over the desk? Go to the corner bar, order a pint, and read a few chapters of that Graham Greene novel?  Maybe a rainy day is best spent at a sub shop with an old friend arguing why feta cheese is the best cheese of all cheeses? However the rainy day is spent it’s important to remember one thing: if you enjoy how you spend your time the time is not wasted.

Rainy Day Cafe (P60-edit)“Rainy Day Café”


The Importance of Not Blaming the Rain

Knowing What to Blame and Why?

Water is life; water is livelihood. Spend some time on a farm and you will begin to truly appreciate this idea. My days of working on a farm are long past, but there are a few lessons that I still carry with me from that time. One of those lessons is the importance of rain.

There are a few distinct memories I have from the time spent my grandparents’ cattle farm regarding rain. I remember watching my grandfather checking the water gauge every morning after breakfast, even when it didn’t rain. I learned that even a good morning dew could be a welcomed reprieve of sorts. I overheard conversations between my grandfather and other farmers about there not being enough rain and there being too many bills. I sat at the dinner table and listened to my grandparents talk about having water trucked in order to keep the cattle properly watered. There were times when my grandfather and I would walk alongside dried creek beds and I would hear him cursing under his breath. Rain was an essential element necessary to the success of his farm, and rain was one of the few things he could not control.

I knew at a young age that rain was important to success on the farm, but it wasn’t until years later that I truly understood the weight of not being in control of something that is crucial to success. In my younger years I would often lay the blame for missed opportunities and failures on forces beyond my control. It was easier to blame fate, luck, or God for failing than admitting I didn’t plan enough or work hard enough to achieve my goals, and I wasn’t alone. I don’t want to make sweeping generalizations but I’ve seen and heard many people over the years (past and present) do the same. It’s all too easy to blame our misfortunes on a lack of rain (I mean rain in a figurative sense here). But there came a time in my life when I got to thinking about my grandparents and their farm. There were years when there wasn’t enough rain, and my grandfather’s quite cursing may have included some comments about fate, luck, or God. But he never gave up. He may not have been able to control rain, but he and my grandmother continued to work and manage a successful cattle farm until they decided to retire. That’s when I realized that I was in control of much more than I thought I was, and if something really is beyond my control then I need to find a way to persevere.

I don’t worry about rain the way my grandparents did, but those memories of dry creek beds and grandpa checking the rain gauge taught me something I carried beyond the farm. It’s important to recognize what we can and can’t control in life and to be careful about misplacing blame.


A Night Shot That Got Away

Some Memories Don’t Need Photos

Picture (no pun intended) a scene from circa 1990. I carried an Olympus Stylus at the time (I still shoot it when I get sentimental) and usually one or two rolls of 24 exposure ISO 200 film.  I wasn’t as serious about photography then as I am now, but I always had my camera at the ready.

So I was armed with my trusty Stylus and three rolls of 24 exposure when my buddies Brad, Chris, and I went to NIU’s homecoming.  I have some great memories of pre-game festivities, the game itself (we sat in the visitors’ section for giggles), and of a post-game get together.  A few drinks and good times were had by all.  I burnt through all three rolls of film that day.  I shot a couple of keepers but most of them ended up in a shoebox.  But what would have been the best shot of the trip occurred on the drive home.

It was about three in the morning when we drove past a house that had been TPed.  This was (and still is) the finest job of toilet papering I’ve ever seen.  It was a grand undertaking in both scale and style (we’re talking house, hedges, lawn ornaments, and every tree in the front yard were covered).  The breeze was just strong enough to blow some of the toilet paper hanging from a tree into the road. Brad slowed down to about five miles an hour drive through it. Chis and I leaned out the passenger windows and were actually able to touch the Charmin softness.  Of course I didn’t have any film left to shoot it so I didn’t even bother reaching for my camera.

For a while after that night I regretting not being able to take a shot of that scene, but ultimately it taught me two lessons.  One is that no matter how well prepared you are you aren’t going to get every shot.  The other (and the more important one to me) is that to truly enjoy a moment with friends it may be best to put the camera down.



Midnight Shift Memories

Some of the Strangeness of working 12:00 to 8:00.

Working midnights is its own kind of strange. I’ve worked mostly days in my near thirty years of various jobs, with quite a few evenings and second shifts thrown in. So my midnights experience is limited to a little over a year out of those thirty (but it was one long and strange year). One of the strangest things I noticed working midnights was how my life began to run sort of parallel to those who work days. Here are a few strange and parallel things I noticed working midnights.

One of the first things I noticed was the commute to and from work (check out the 4.19.19 post if you want to see what my nightly commute was like). The lack of traffic on the way to work and the traffic seemingly going in the opposite direction during the drive home reinforced the idea that my life was in some way the parallel of most of the working world. It felt odd eating any sort of breakfast food before I went to work during midnights (I usually don’t eat eggs and bacon after dark unless alcohol is involved). Drinking my first cup of coffee at 11:15 at night was also something that I never quite got used to. The actual work I performed didn’t feel any different considering I also worked days at the same job, but it did feel as if everything just moved at a slower pace. Maybe it was the nighttime or some sort of internal clock but I always felt like I put in a couple more hours when I worked midnights. The strangest difference was when I got off work. It just always felt odd grabbing a beer after work when after work at 8:15 in the morning, and I never got over the odd feeling of cracking my second beer at 9 o’clock on the morning.

Working midnights was an odd experience. Maybe I already worked days for too many years to fully adjust, but that odd feeling of being out of sorts never went away during my time working midnights. I will say that my admiration for those who do work midnights is much greater now. For those of you who do work the graveyard, what are you stories?


Shots in the Dark

Or Carrying a Camera in the Middle of the Night

Do you check to see if you have your camera before you have your keys when leaving the house? I’ve been carrying a camera of some sort for the better part of three decades now (I don’t consider my phone a camera, but I won’t judge those who do).  Some people have a favorite subject or location when it comes to taking photographs. Other photographers long for the golden hour. I’ve always been a fan of nighttime, not just for photography, but also for reflection.

I’ve never been much of a sound sleeper. Wandering through the neighborhood at night is both a way of passing time (trying to chase down some sleeps as my Pops would say) and as a perfect time to find some good shots. Night is a time to reflect, to think, and to shoot (not necessarily in that order).

Night Walk #2 ( #63-editj20.212)Night Walk.

Time moves slower at night. There is more time to set up shots. I don’t feel so much like a tourist or a lookie loo if I linger at night (of course I have found myself being accosted by the local police on an occasion or few). But the night provides a quiet and a stillness that I’ve never found in the day. Shots taken during the day may freeze time, but shots taken at night preserve time.  Daytime photographs capture a moment, but nighttime photographs embrace that moment.

Clock Face (#126-editj20.116)Clock Face.

If you are the type of person that carries a camera everywhere you go, then the next time you find yourself out after dark take a few moments to look around.  Enjoy the time to reflect, think, and take a few shots.


Responsibilities of Being Behind the Lens

What We Should Think About Before Taking the Shot.

Carrying a camera of some sort these days is about as common as wearing a pair of shoes. So I figured I would spend a few lines discussing the responsibilities that we have when we get behind the lens. Whether your shooter is a smart phone or a Mamiya M645 (if you prefer the former or don’t know the latter you are of a particular age group). My question is whether you believe you have any responsibilities to your subject and/or the medium when taking a photograph? I don’t intend to get into an in-depth discussion but, I would like to mention a couple of points I ponder when I get behind the lens.

There are two considerations we must address when taking a photograph, one is legal and the other is ethical. Although laws concerning photography may vary from place to place they are relatively consistent. Knowing and following the laws regarding photography can keep you out of some serious legal issues. As photographers, it is our responsibility to know the laws and to follow them accordingly. But knowing the law is not our only responsibility.

We must also have a clear sense of ethics when taking a photograph. The law, what’s legal, and the ethical, what’s right, aren’t necessarily the same thing. It’s all too easy to use the law (to hide behind it) when asked to explain or defend why we took a particular photograph. But arguing it is legal to take a particular photograph doesn’t always make it right to take that photograph. There isn’t any one set of principles that all photographers can use in all circumstances. One of the responsibilities of a serious photographer is to have his/her own set of ethical principles when taking photographs. These principles of how we act and think behind the lens should reflect how we would think and feel if we were the subject in front of the lens.

Learning the laws regarding photography is not a difficult task, but developing a sense of ethics requires some serious thought and dedication. Investing the time and effort necessary to develop ethical principles will help us move beyond saying it was legal to take a photograph to knowing it was right to take a photograph.


When Loneliness is a Way of Life

What role does loneliness play in our lives? I’ve always believed that most of us feel lonely at times, and that many people (myself included) enjoy being alone. I also believed that those feelings of loneliness pass and that being alone is a conscience choice. “An Epidemic of Loneliness” (that’s a pretty scary title) which appears in a recent issue of The Week gives us some alarming statistics concerning loneliness. These statistics have given me cause to rethink my beliefs.

There are several points and assertions in the essay that I’m not going to address here (but I think they are worthy of lengthy discussion). I do want to reflect on two points I found interesting. These points concern the definition of loneliness and a Cigna Insurance report regarding loneliness. The essay uses a definition of loneliness that is accepted by social scientists. Basically, if an individual feels lonely then the individual is lonely. Although I don’t disagree with this definition I feel it stops short at addressing the possible reasons why people feel lonely. Understanding the reasons why people feel lonely is important once you look at the Cigna report. Cigna Insurance reported 47% of 20,000 people feel alone or left out, and 13% said that zero people knew them well. We don’t know why the people surveyed feel lonely (or the parameters/validity of the survey) but these are some alarming numbers if we take them at face value. So, what to make of these observations? First, there are an awful lot of people who are lonely, and it doesn’t appear to be a loneliness that will pass. Second, current methods of identifying and addressing loneliness need to be rethought. Finally, some serious time and effort needs to be invested into finding out why people are feeling lonely and assisting them.

Loneliness appears to playing an important role in many lives. If nearly half of all people are dealing with feelings of loneliness as the Cigna report states, then some serious steps need to be taken to address the issue before loneliness becomes a way of life.


“An Epidemic of Loneliness” The Week 1.11.19