TEN YEARS: A Look Back at August 2012

Ten years ago I launched a note into the ether –

two photos

and a few words about the still days of August when

summer holds its breath.

Where would my words and images land? Not knowing, I waited.

Then, small scribbles in digital space – a few comments, a few likes

and the little black marks suggested, “Continue.”

The sun set and rose, set and rose,

the moon, too. The earth turned.

I sent more missives into a net

that’s too wide and fine to perceive.

(Funny thing about the notes I launch into that net – they’re all about

physical things that I see, hear, touch, and smell

but the physical substance of the notes themselves? That’s beyond my ken.

A nice contradiction).

As the black marks and bright images flew across space

friendships blossomed and ten years later

here we are. The “we”

means everything.

Thank you.

*

1. August 2012: I photographed Seattle’s premier landmark, the Space Needle, through a 1984 Alexander Leiberman sculpture called ‘Olympic Illiad.’

TEN YEARS: WHY LOOK BACK?

Fellow photographer and blogger Alex Kunz has been creating monthly “Throwback” posts for years. It’s his fault.

As I considered making a “Throwback” post of my own, it dawned on me that ten years ago this month I posted for the first time on WordPress. Blogging was new then, and my home was as well. I had moved to the Pacific Northwest from New York City six months earlier, in February. While we settled into a cozy apartment in a Seattle suburb and looked for work, we played tourist to acclimate ourselves. It seemed to us that the culture of the Pacific Northwest was as different from New York as the natural environment was. Walking around with our eyebrows raised and our mouths turned up into smiles, we chalked up one contrast after another. No one cut us off on the highways and the onramps were not pitched battles. What? One could almost relax behind the wheel! When we asked for maintenance on our apartment our request was honored, not ignored. Grocery store clerks smiled disarmingly and asked us what our plans for the weekend were, just to make conversation. Weird! Our New York defensiveness, a self-preservation tactic carefully honed over decades, rose up with a “What’s it to you?” that we barely kept from voicing out loud. It was as if we had exchanged bumper cars for sailboats. Life was so strangely smooth.

We adapted. Seattle’s summer “heat” felt cool and comfortable after New York and the sense of a daily struggle just to exist gradually faded. Every month there were new things to do. August was busy – we rode the ferry across the sound from Seattle to Bremerton, explored a rail trail in our valley, and drove up to Deception Pass State Park to explore a driftwood-strewn beach. We went to the Seattle Art Museum and checked out the city’s architecture and public art. We hiked part of the Pacific Crest Trail in the Cascades, visited a Japanese garden in Seattle, and took walks in local parks. Whew!

Of course, a camera was always at my side. It was a Sony NEX-3, advertised then as the world’s smallest interchangeable lens camera, with the quality of a DSLR but not the weight or size. I was a rank beginner with a kit lens and I’d never heard of RAW format. I had only a rudimentary understanding of the camera but I was enjoying it. The little black box wasn’t a burden to carry and was capable enough for what I wanted to do. I could record the beauty around me and experiment with settings. It was thrilling to have control over aperture and exposure, even if I didn’t have a clue about what I was doing!

So here’s a throwback to August 2012. The photos were made that month but I’ve reprocessed them – why not? I’ve learned a thing or two in ten years. The old jpeg files may not have the range that RAW files have but they can usually be persuaded to look a little better.

*

AT HOME

That summer I discovered a deserted railway bed near our apartment where I could pick wildflowers. Even Butterfly bush (Buddleia) grew there! One August morning I arranged them in an old, dented silver pitcher, brought them outside, and began to experiment.

2.
3. Placing a sheet of watercolor paper under the vase, I photographed the shadow of a California poppy with a wide aperture. My experiments with depth of field weren’t always accurately focused but it was exciting to see what could be done when you have something better than a point-and-shoot camera.
4. I brought out a frame that had glass in it but no picture. Held inside the frame, the shadows and reflections became the picture.
5. In the frame or not? Ambiguity rules.

ON THE FERRY

7. We got off the ferry and walked into Bremerton, where I photographed swirls of water in a fountain.

DECEPTION PASS

One day we explored Rosario Beach, part of a sprawling state park named for the deceptive, turbulent channel of water separating Fidalgo and Whidbey Islands. A large, weathered wood sculpture commands the space. Immense driftwood logs rest on a beach of smooth, round rocks, and tidepools harbor marine life. Reveling in the scenery, I had no idea that six years later we would move to a cottage less than ten minutes away from this spot.

8. The Maiden of Deception Pass tells a Samish story of Ko-kwal-alwoot, who went to retrieve something she dropped in the water and was befriended by a water spirit. Ultimately she had to leave her family and live in the water with the spirit – otherwise, food from the waters that the tribe depended on would disappear. She returned for brief visits many times but in the end, she stayed in the water realm. Her thankful tribe never lacked food.
9.
10.

LODGE LAKE TRAIL

Lodge Lake Trail is part of the Pacific Crest Trail, a 2,653 mi (4,270 km) wilderness trail running from the California/Mexico border to the Washington/Canada border. The Lodge Lake Trail begins just off I-90, Washington’s busiest east-west highway but soon the traffic fades and mountain scenery emerges in the distance – depending on the weather.

11. Hikers in morning fog at Snoqualmie Pass, elev. about 3,000 ft (920m).

*

*

14. The forest produced classic Pacific Northwest scenes like this one that day.

SEATTLE

We’d seen Pike Place Market several times so one day, we headed to the Experience Music Project. As a Frank Gehry fan, I had a great time finding interesting compositions outside of the building he designed – there didn’t seem to be any reason to go inside!

15. Then called the Experience Music Project, it’s now the Museum of Pop Culture. The building’s stainless steel and painted aluminum skin is so brilliant that it throws colored reflections onto the concrete.
16.

17,

*

*

19. A sculpture called Grass Blades by John Fleming is at the Seattle Center, where the Space Needle and Frank Gehry’s building take pride of place.

KUBOTA GARDEN

Almost hidden in a residential section of southeast Seattle, Kubota Garden was the all-consuming project of Fujitaro Kubota (1879-1973). Beginning in 1927, Kubota slowly added more land for his dream project, a traditional Japanese garden that would contain primarily native plants. After being interred in a camp in Idaho with his family throughout WWII, he began again, creating ponds, waterfalls, and a moon bridge. Eight years after he died the garden became a Seattle landmark and Kubota’s labor of love is a now peaceful public park.

20.
21.
22.
23. Like the creek that runs through Kubota Garden, the experience of creating posts has been a lively river of inspiration, a place where I can send my work into the world, knowing that people everywhere are free to enjoy it.

***

IN NY: HIGH LINE

Last week I was back in New York, the city I fell in love with at the age of five, moved to at age seventeen, then left and returned to several times before moving west in 2012.

When I was in my early twenties I kept a bike in my apartment. I would ride around lower Manhattan on the weekends before my shift at an uptown restaurant, where I waited tables. For a few summers wildflowers grew in profusion on the empty lots that were the future site of the World Trade Center, then just in the planning stages. I could pick flowers for free and bring them back to my apartment. I was always trying to meld city and country. Sometimes I got up onto the High Line, too. The High Line was an old elevated railway on the West side that had been abandoned years before. Wildflowers grew there, and small trees sprouted up through the rubble, totally untended and mostly unseen. It was magic.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This photo was taken just last week but it evokes the feeling of the old High Line, minus the broken glass and trash. The elevated rail line was used to haul in basic foods like cream, butter and meat back in the 1940’s and 50’s. For a time, it was safer than running trains down on the busy streets. When the trucking industry expanded, the rail line fell into disuse. Instead of tearing down what many people considered an eyesore, the city did the right thing and turned it into a park. It opened in 2009 and became an instant hit with New Yorkers and tourists.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Above, the park seen from the Whitney Museum. Last year the Whitney moved into a new building designed by Renzo Piano. The building’s hulking, muscular form visually anchors the south end of the High Line. Piano’s design allows visitors to descend from floor to floor outside the building, offering expansive views of the Hudson River waterfront, Manhattan’s West Side, and the High Line. There are nice people-watching opportunities too, if you’re in a sociable mood. I was happy for the crowds that day. I enjoyed the huge portrait show at the Whitney – Seattle doesn’t come close to what New York offers in terms of art. I also liked a Whitney show of work by June Leaf, an older artist who’s not very well known. A gallery nearby had a concurrent show of her sculpture and drawing so we headed over. We passed shows of Sigmar Polke’s painting at David Zwirner Gallery and Richard Serra’s sculpture at Gagosian. We took long drinks at the deep well that is art in New York City. It was a day of serendipity, as one thing led to the next.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Back on the street next to Whitney, looking up towards the High Line. As you walk north or south through the park, essentially a narrow strip of real estate set with tasteful benches and beautifully landscaped with (mostly) native flowers and trees, you can pass under buildings, peer into windows and gaze down onto streets that cross underneath. You’re just above the fray. It’s enough to gain a different perspective, but not so far above that it isn’t still real, and close.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

If you’re interested, that’s Baptisia in the right corner and Shooting Stars (Dodecatheon) sprouting up through concrete strips that echo the railroad tracks. The pink and blue flowers above are Salvia pratensis (Meadow sage). The metal hoops between the rails are a sculpture called “Steel Rings” that references the Trans-Arabian pipeline, by Rayyane Tabet.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Tony Matelli’s painted bronze sculpture “Sleepwalker” draws crowds.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Someone has written “FELIX” on these construction plates. Why, I don’t know. It’s just another manifestation of identity in a city that always strives upwards.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Frank Gehry’s IAC Building, his first in New York, and one of my favorite sites along the High Line. I love viewing it through these honeysuckle vines winding up a fence, but I understand that may not appeal to everyone.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

DID YOU KNOW that the elevated railroad was built because trains on tracks running down Tenth Avenue caused the deaths of many pedestrians? DID YOU KNOW that “West Side Cowboys” ran ahead of the trains on their horses, carrying red flags to warn passers by of the oncoming train? Eventually the city decided enough was enough and built the elevated line. It fell out of favor when trucking got big. It was considered an eyesore for years, but now lives anew, as one of New York’s big attractions.

The links are excellent – worth a few minutes!

Lynn Purse, of the blog Composerinthegarden, sent a great video link about the making of the High Line:

I made liberal use of some of the so-called art filters on my Olympus camera the day we went to the Whitney and High Line. It was overcast and dull out. The filters added a little punch. I go back and forth about using them, sometimes believing I should stick with images straight from the camera without in-camera modifications that I might later regret (but it’s always good to question one’s “shoulds”).

Two days earlier, I met up with another blogger, Patti Kuche. We sat down in the Rubin Museum and talked a blue streak about photography and blogging. Patti picked up my camera and casually took a few photos from where we sat, using the filters – she knew about them because she had once considered getting the camera.  I liked what she did, and that was all I needed to go back to trying them again. Coming soon: Patti’s photos and thoughts about bloggers’ meetings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My 2012 in Images

I’m ambivalent about reviewing a whole year. I can’t possibly pare it down to a few images.

But I’ll do my best with the latest Weekly Photo Challenge. You can see what others are doing here:

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2012/12/28/weekly-photo-challenge-my-2012-in-pictures/

(I can’t help thinking about what’s left out: how would a summary of the year look just from the vantage point of sound, or touch, or taste or smell? What about a summary of my feelings? They are all entirely relevant).

This is the first picture I took in 2011. It’s simplicity belies my state of mind at the time – absolute anxiety, frantic activity. In a month we would move across the country to a place we had been to only once, where we had no friends and just a handful of acquaintances. We would have no jobs waiting for us, and no family within thousands of miles. So many unknowns! No matter the worries and preoccupations – these shadows and shapes drew me in.

A quick overnight to Philadelphia in early January allowed me to say goodbye to some wonderful friends who had maintained my sanity while my son was deployed in Afghanistan the previous year. Was this statue telling me something about my future?

It was tough to say goodbye to these good people.

Soon after getting back home, I was on a plane to Seattle to find a place to live.  A generous acquaintance offered to put me up – I had a week to figure out where to live, but I had done the research and had good leads.  I secured an apartment within days, so I began exploring the area before the flight back home. One evening there was a spectacular sunset – maybe it was a portent, because the next day Seattle was hit with a big snowstorm – and in this part of the world, which doesn’t see a whole lot of snow, that meant everything stopped.

It sure was gorgeous though…

But planes were grounded and I waited nervously as flights were cancelled, and cancelled again. Finally I was good to go so I navigated the icy roads to the airport, turned my car in, and learned that once again, my flight was cancelled. I secured what appeared to be the last hotel room within miles, and the next morning the de-icers were out in force.

SONY DSC

I did manage to get home. There wasn’t much time left for goodbyes to favorite places – and people. A close friend from upstate came down and we had a great day hanging out in coffee shops and scouring a tag sale for finds (yes, a tag sale in Manhattan!) I walked the High Line in January cold and photographed my favorite Gehry building through a scrim of morning glory vines.

SONY DSC

And I was glad for sunny days. Oh, that skyline from the ferry. I didn’t know how I would live without it.

Two days before our lease was up, we muddled through a long day of watching and negotiating as movers packed our belongings and hit us with huge extra charges. We slept one last night on a couch we left for the landlord, and then turned our keys in and painstakingly wound our way through city traffic and out to JFK with our sedated sixteen-year-old cat and all the luggage we could carry. We climbed on board the plane and before long we were crossing the Rockies!

After one night in a hotel we took possession of our new apartment. I hung my beads at the window and we waited for our furniture, our clothes, our – everything – to arrive. For about ten days we slept on an air mattress and dined on an upturned box. Our netbooks became our lifelines at the local cafe. We slowly stocked the fridge and explored our neighborhood in a rental car while waiting for our own cars to make their way across the country. Yes! – we found a Trader Joe’s and plenty of good espresso joints nearby.

Eventually our furniture arrived – hardly anything broke!  Then one car, and eventually the other. The planning really paid off. One thing we could not control though, was our aging cat’s health. We found a good vet and they tried their best, but it was all too much, and we had to say goodbye to Pablo towards the end of the month.  It was a terrible blow, and we were dealing with it alone, in a strange place. The vet said his ashes would be spread at an apple orchard on the road into the mountains.  We were heartened by the thought of his body nourishing apples that might someday nourish us.  RIP Pabs.

We set about exploring the Pacific Northwest with a vengeance – rarely going more than two hours away – there were islands and mountains, a new city, interesting small towns, miles of shoreline and acres of farms.

Whether a distant view or a close-up, it was all looking good to me. And so different!

What are those weird things on the beach?

Bull whip kelp!  That’s like seaweed!  They grow everything so damn big out here!

When we weren’t exploring the countryside we poked around Seattle. Yes, there’s culture and yes, there’s art.

And MOSS. Moss everywhere! Even in the cold winter months it was brilliant green, coating branches like fur.

SONY DSC

And what a refreshing change the open space was. I discovered Duvall, a nearby town founded in 1913 (like that was a long time ago?) with a great sense of style.

 I found a conservatory that I could escape to on the endless gray days, as I waited for spring.

Eventually spring did start to peek around the corner, but it took forever to warm up.

I volunteered at a botanical garden to get closer to the plants I love.

In the woods there were wildflowers I hadn’t seen in years – trilliums seemed almost commonplace. Back east they’re picked clean, at least around metropolitan New York.

SONY DSC

I went up to see the fields of tulips and daffodils that are grown north of here. It was, of course, another gray day, but everyone promised that summer would be endlessly sunny.

I was getting tired of waiting for the sun.

SONY DSC

So I amused myself by joining a photography group and working harder on my photography.

Overcast days can make for lovely, even light, so I tried to understand how to take better advantage of the weather.

When we had time we drove into the mountains and hiked among the old growth – the giants – and I was humbled and full of love for them.

SONY DSC

Back in Seattle we discovered Georgetown, a photogenic neighborhood with an appealing funk quotient.

I volunteered for a court program that advocates for children. It was hard work but rewarding.

I read about a project that involves local people in making prints for the families of people killed on 9/11, and so I volunteered for that, too, and carved a block for a print.

SONY DSC

Summer finally came, and it was simply gorgeous – dry every day for months, never hot.

Up on the mountain passes there was beautiful fog to wander through, and plentiful berries in the fields.

Wherever I live I make it a point to find scraps of land with wildflowers that become my florists. Ten minutes from home I found an abandoned railroad track with butterfly bush, California poppies, fireweed, tansy, St. Johnswort…heaven!

We explored the working docks and shipyards of Seattle. Back in New York we used to watch tugs and container ships from our window, but here we can get close up to small crew fishing boats.

In August I began this blog with a brief post about a mid-summer day when I felt glum and uninspired, but after walking through fields and recording the amazing light on seed, flower, leaf and fruit, I was renewed. It was a good beginning to the blog that has become a rewarding way to express myself and be inspired by others all over the world who are doing the same thing.

In the fall we took a day trip back to Mount Rainier. When we visited the Pacific Northwest for the first time in 2011, our day at Mount Rainier was one of the most powerful experiences we had.  This time I felt sick all say but I didn’t let it stop me – there were plentiful wildflowers, and we saw bears!

A few weeks later we took an overnight trip to the Olympic Peninsula and caught a drizzly late afternoon chill on Hurricane Ridge. The infamous, quickly changing Pacific Northwest weather was demanding that we pay attention.

SONY DSC

In November we returned to New York for a wedding, a week after Sandy had devastated the region. We stayed with family on Long Island who had been out of power for a week already.  We tried to help untangle wires from the broken trees and huddled in front of a gas fire.

But oh, the food! And the pizza! The Pacific Northwest has great fresh food, but nowhere else, as far as we know, can you get anything like this slice, from an ordinary pizza place in Manhattan.

The wedding went off without a hitch. We had a day or so to see more family and revisit old haunts like the Rubin Museum, Battery Park and Financier Patisserie, and then suddenly the trip was over.

Back home, I talked myself into appreciating the drizzly gray days.

On  Thanksgiving Day those overcast skies cast a gorgeous silvery light on the sound.

I still scream “SUN!” when it peaks out from behind the clouds, but I’m more reconciled to the weather than I was the first few months. There is so much to enjoy here, and somehow, spending a week back in New York helped me feel more like this is my home.  We’re sure that the spirit of Seattle and the Pacific Northwest will engage our curiosity for a long time.

Whether expressed in something fashioned by human hands or embodied in a roadside field, I find a great respect for the land and nature here.

The other day we saw this:

a stretch of hundred-year-old brick road and

a lovely, eccentric woman

taking a walk with her miniature horse, named

“Surprise”.

We expect to enjoy many years of pleasant surprises in this corner of the country. We wish our families were closer, but we’ll try to rack up frequent flier miles for visits – New York and the east coast are great places to visit, aren’t they?

Weekly Photo Challenge: Architecture

Jake from Manila is challenging bloggers to submit photographs of architecture this week. He has some interesting points to make about architecture, saying that architecture is to building as literature is to the printed word…that architectural structures are culturally significant and have aesthetic meaning:  architecture as social art.

Once more I can’t leave well enough alone, so I will color outside the lines a bit as I interpret the challenge.

First, an architectural gem that most anyone would agree has significance, whether they appreciate it aesthetically or not (I love it). Gehry’s IAC Building, with its subtle curves and softly banded exterior, as seen from the High Line in Manhattan:

Another Gehry building, the Experience Music Project is in Jimi Hendrix’s hometown of Seattle. Its voluptuous, undulating curves below are, according to arcspace.com, inspired in part by the image of a shattered Fender Stratocaster. And the colors are real eye candy.

More curves, this time gracefully Italianate, are on a small building whose arched windows perfectly echo curves in the landscape around it.

The Lemon House at the Tuscan Garden, Snug Harbor, Staten Island, NYC:

Another New York City Botanical Garden building, in the Bronx (New York City) is the gorgeous Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, America’s largest glass house, 110 years old this year. As beautiful outside as it is inside.

_______________________________________________________________________________

But what about vernacular architecture? I love that just as much.

On a roadside in northwestern Arkansas, a deceptively simple looking stone house begs shade from a hot day with a corrugated metal awning, whose angle reflects the building’s roof line.

_______________________________________________________________________________

On St. Helena Island near Beaufort, South Carolina, Spanish moss lends atmosphere to a ruin built of tabby called the Chapel of Ease. Tabby is a mixture of oyster shells, sand and lime and was used extensively in the area. Built around 1740, the chapel served plantation owners who could not always get to church in Beaufort, on the mainland. It was deserted after 1861, when residents fled from Civil War strife, and later it was used by northerners to educate freedmen. In 1886 it burned in a forest fire but much of the building still stands today. Some history of this fascinating area can be found here:

Click to access MPS033.pdf

_______________________________________________________________________________

A barn in Adna, Washington, sports a series of angles that are dumbfounding. Why? Maybe no reason, I don’t know!

But when you view it from different sides you can appreciate the way it settles into the landscape and, I assume, fulfills its function.

and…(yes, it’s the same barn!)…

Another weathered example of vernacular architecture sits abandoned along a rural road in Wayne County, North Carolina, about halfway between Raleigh-Durham and the coast.

I think it still has a very graceful roof line.

Here’s a link to the Vernacular Architecture Forum: site http://www.vernaculararchitectureforum.org/about/index.html

And examples of vernacular architecture are here: http://www.archdaily.com/155224/vernacular-architecture-and-the-21st-century/

Going further out on an architectural limb, sometimes temporary structures also show a strong aesthetic impulse:

On Whidbey Island in Washington, someone has built a shelter from driftwood and logs that washed up on the beach.

You can’t do much better at blending with the landscape.  And look at the view from the inside:

Another beach structure, on Camano Island in Washington’s Puget Sound, really works the angles and pays close attention to surface decoration:

Angles are featured in these buildings, too, but in a context that’s a little…shinier, shall we say?

This was taken last week, on another island, on another coast.

On the left is One World Trade Center, slowly rising up near the empty square beds of the World Trade Center Towers that were destroyed on 9/11 and now mark the memorial site.  I stood next to the building on the right, across the street from the building site, so it looks taller – but it’s not.

The antenna for One World Trade Center will rise 1776 feet. Needless to say, the structure is designed around strength and durability as much as aesthetics. It’s also said to be the most environmentally sustainable project of its size in the world, with LEED Gold Certification and energy performance that exceeds code requirements by 20%. I bet the beach structures exceed local codes too.

_______________________________________________________________________________

So there you are, from a humble beach lean on a quiet island to a Manhattan skyscraper, with a few stops in between.

More entries are at:

http://jakesprinters.wordpress.com/2012/11/17/sunday-post-architecture/