Without the tree?

There’s something to be said by celebrating the holidays without the tree decorated in the living room, or even outside. What gets me about having a tree is the advertising from all the stores; if the tree we have means something to us, why do we need to go all out for some tree that we might just throw away at the end of the holidays. Having a tree in the living room, at least for me, is about having something for the family, or friends, to gather around, not to show off. I’d rather having something that means something than something that’s superficial. I get just as guilty as others do when it comes to being materialistic, especially when the latest sales are one or the holidays are approaching, so I’m not trying to blame anyone, just trying to point something out.

- Snow & Branches -
– Snow & Branches –

It says something when the weather outside isn’t too great and there’s snow on the trees, but it says something more when the tree inside is all shiny, but never really used or gathered around at all. Things like that tend to suck the meaning out of the holidays & out of Christmas altogether if we’re not careful. Sometimes, it helps to not have a tree because having one becomes a distraction from what Christmas is all about, making us think about the latest things we can get instead of the boy child in the manger. Christmas for me has become more so about the manger and recovering from any soreness from work (he last three months of the year are the busiest for me). The music playing around this time of year is just a welcome bonus, especially when it points me upwards instead of downwards.

It’s great having the days off, but for those that don’t, try not to make things difficult for them, because they’re working so that you don’t have to, or they’re there so that you can shop. We could all use a little more peace in the world, especially right now with all the crap that’s happening all around us. So, let’s just slow down, stop what we’re rushing to get before it sells out, and think about what’s really important this Christmas; let’s get past the abuses in Hollywood (by not letting them ruin Christmas for us) and try to salvage the holidays before we ruin their start.

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Do I really want this?

There’s stuff that really bugs me from time to time and it comes down to the question of me wanting something and changing my mind. Do I really want this thing to happen? Do I really want this piece of tech or gear? It’s coming up on Christmas and the stores are going on with advertising about new stuff for sale; it draws me in and then I begin to wonder if I really need it or even want it. It’s like that with virtually everything, especially around this festive time of year…Materialism run amok, I guess.

I’m not going to vent against materialism again, but try to explain out the processes that I go through. I mean, I can get really good at things with what I have…I don’t really need the latest piece of tech to get what I want out of a photograph, or design. When the deals come for new tech, don’t get me wrong, I am intrigued, but I tend to either get too far into the sales, or just forget about them in the end. I’ve been trying to really think about how much the holidays are more for family and the real meaning for the season, the boy child in the manger, not so much about what the stores are selling at a somewhat decent price. The season is meant to inspire us, not make us want more stuff to fill our homes and deplete our wallets.

There’s just something about finding inspiration and what it can do to the person who finds it; it can’t really be bought, but it can be given. Just think, if we’d all just learnt to stop & think, myself included, then we’d really get to the point that we can start to make a change in someone’s life and maybe in our own as well. I personally think this world would be a better place if we’d just learn to think of others over ourselves at least once in a while. Do I really want this to happen? Yes…The answer really is a resounding, heart-pounding YES!

When all else fails…

Thinking about it, I can’t help but wonder why the last thing I do when I’m struggling with something is to look up (aka pray). Why can’t it be the first thing? I mean, c’mon, I know I can’t do anything decent on my own because of just how much I’ve mucked things up, so I should be thinking three steps ahead, not three steps behind. This goes for everything I do, not just in life, but in my hobbies as well; I guess it’s just the fallen nature in me that doesn’t think things quite through. It’s sad when I see that others are suffering and I’m the one thinking that woe is me; I’m NOT judging anyone but myself in this (it’s happened a few times to me and a certain instance has brought this topic to mind).

- Lynn Canyon Rapids -
– Lynn Canyon Rapids –

The things that I’ve seen around me makes me wonder what on earth I’m doing to deserve even another chance, let alone a second chance, but that’s just the depressing voice in my mind. I’m not going to dwell on it, just take it for what it is and then try to make something of it that might just turn into something of worth to someone…It comes down to inspiration with me. Do I think I’m there yet? Maybe, but I’m going to keep trying. It’s kind of like what Winston Churchill said about success: Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm. I’ve just got to say that we’ve got to rethink what success really means because I sure don’t think it’s about things or how we’re feeling at the moment, but it’s about reaching out to others and walking with them, inspiring them, and confiding in them. I just have to say this: If you ever feel like nothing’s worth it, seek out help, especially that of a good, solid counselor that can show you that life is worth it. That’s what I love about the Good Charlotte song, Hold On: it’s about not giving up, because it will get better.

We’re going to fail & fall flat on our faces, wondering what’s going on with us, but the key is to NOT give up; it’s a message I’ve got to keep reminding myself of daily…And yes, it is worth it, even if we don’t see it at first. We’re at the point that we need to learn from our failures and move forward, not dwell on them or get more things to fill our time up with the shallowness of materialism. This all is just my take on things and my way of ranting out my thoughts on the matter.

Good people…

I’m probably gonna take some flak naming this one after the Jack Johnson song of the same name, but I was thinking that “Where have all the good people gone?” is a question well asked because it seems, like the song implies, that we’re all missing the ‘good’ people. We’ve all got something else on our minds besides what the Creator wants for us, myself included, that we’ve let most, if not all, decency go from society. I mean, we can see it from the sensationalist headlines found on CNN (along with reused & staged footage) to the crap being spewed on every side of the spectrum. Just look at how easily we get swayed by the headlines when they are sensational instead of simply telling something simple about the story.

There’s little soul left in the news media that isn’t over-hyped, little else than shallow lyrics in pop music, and politics is whole different can of worms; I’m more than guilty of this in my photography & life, so I’m preaching just as much to myself as anyone else. What & where this really gets to me, outside of the mainstream, is in photography where everything seems to be about the latest gear and the latest technique where people show off how they do something without actually saying anything through the image at all. To a certain extent, we need to stop looking for good people when there’s plenty of change we can do right here & now by not moaning about where we’re at right now and try to inspire & help others.

- Looking Up -
– Looking Up –

I’m definitely not perfect and I’m not trying to preach aloud, but I’m beginning to wonder if what we need is a little art in our lives to help us brighten up the lives of those around us, not just ourselves…We need to become as close to the good people as we can, but we can’t do it without the Creator’s help. Doing something that means something to someone might just include just being there for them, talking to them about life & faith, or even just listening to them. Find someone and try to be a friend to them and understand what they’re going through by just listening to them at first; then let the friendship grow from there.

Anyone else but me…

One of the best songs, that I’ve heard in a long time, about modern society, is Hokus Pick’s Anybody Else But Me and it’s pure genius. It’s a satirical look at people wanting to be anyone else but themselves and it’s awesome, not just because they’re Canadian; sorry America, we got this one because you’ve got your teams on the Stanley Cup way too many times. We’re so focused on being famous or at least someone of noteworthiness, that we lose our uniqueness in the process. In photography, as in life, that means copying someone else’s vision, techniques, methods & beliefs blindly.

While I’ve read a lot & learnt how some really gifted professionals work through their craft, their photographs, and the way they make them, are uniquely theirs…Or at least they really should be. Forever a tinkerer, I’m going to be tinkering with the methods & ways I tweak my photographs and I’ll learn along the way, not just through my mistakes, but I’ll learn from the professionals as well; they’ve written many a book about their craft, so it’s a no-brainer using the knowledge they have to impart to help myself to grow as well. When it comes to life, we’re not out to imitate, but to grow as the Creator’s meant us to grow; we’re meant to look upwards, not downwards or horizontally…We’re not called to copy one another, but to imitate the perfect example the Creator was for us. Sometimes we’re given a feeling/impulse of what we’re supposed to do, sometimes it’s in our daily readings, and sometimes it’s in how we’re working that we’re given guidance.

Photography, compared to every other art, is so much younger than the others, but why is it that imitation is seen as flattery & striving for meaning not as important? I mean, come on, we’re not all drones or Borg here. There’s just so much out there to photograph, so that doesn’t mean we’ve got to copy others’ photographs or even their methods, but just learn from them…The same goes for life itself. It’s all in how we try not to be anybody else but ourselves…In the way we’re supposed to be.

Looking back…

Most of the time we think of progression as never looking back, and I completely agree with that; we’re supposed to run as if we’re going for the prize. There is one thing with that however, it doesn’t mean forgetting others, not learning from the past, or even ignoring how what we do affects others. Looking back then is, for me, seeing how what I’m doing to help/inspire others, something I’ve fallen short on so many times. When it comes to looking back, I’m thinking more of how to reflect on what I’ve learnt over the years, but not dwelling on it as if it’s the be-all, end-all; looking back is for other things than how we’re running in this race called life…Like how our hobbies are doing & how they’re affecting us.

Thinking about how we go about our hobbies, there’s the idea that they are just done for fun, but I think that there’s more to it than that; it’s about learning to love what we enjoy doing and, for the arts in particular, it’s about learning & growing. There’s a satirical saying that if a parent doesn’t want their children into drugs, then they should get them into photography because they won’t be able to afford drugs…It’s meant to be humorous, but it’s got quite a bit of truth to it because it can get really expensive and then the fun & joy can easily be drained out of it; then it’s no fun at all. We need to be looking back & learning in our hobbies, or they just might become stale & next to useless; this might not be true of all hobbies, but I’m thinking it’s true of most of them out there (i.e. if reading is a hobby, then we learn as we read). Through this, we can then inspire others…How, I’m not sure, but I’m trying.

Looking back is good for learning, but looking back & falling back doesn’t quite work out that well because we can easily forget what we’re aiming for by becoming complacent. As for everything else, moderation is king (as well as context), and I’m often far from it most times, but trying to get there’s a struggle, but one quite worth it. There’s something to be said for moderation in these days of extremes…I may just be ranting at this point, but looking back with moderation just makes sense. Look back, but do it with care!

Far from…

Sometimes, we go with the flow because it’s simple & easier that way and then, one day, something gets to us and we wonder why we’re going that way (I’m just as guilty of this as much as the next person); sometimes it’s a person that makes us rethink where we’re going and how we’re getting there. Now that Mother’s Day is come & gone here in North America, I’ve come to realize just how much we’re influenced by those that came before us; be it parents, grandparents, ancestors or others. We all have someone that’s influenced us in ways we don’t quite realize until the day comes that something makes us think about him, or her.

For me, it’s been something to realize just how much parents & others influence just what makes me who I am; we’re creatures of influence in ways that sometimes we don’t realize too well. There’s this song, New Frontier, by Canadian country singer Aaron Pritchett, about a couple going on to new frontiers and, in a way, it’s more than that for all of us; we’re constantly seeing the frontier in front of us change, and not always for the better. Personally, I think it’s about time we get far from where modern culture is going and forge our own new frontier (for lack of a better term) by caring for others, doing something that matters to someone, and holding fast to the faith that made us who we are today, making sure it’s real for us. We can do just that in our lives with what we do for work, with others, or even in our hobbies (i.e. photography, hiking, walking, etc.); just do something that might mean something to, or inspire, others.

Looking back at what I’ve done, in my life, I come to think that I’ve missed the mark quite a few times and I’m thinking that I might just be finally getting the point. Sometimes it takes a while to get the point and, although it seems a bit painful, we’ve got a bit more time done & we’ve learnt quite a bit in the process; it’s a learning process. For me, personally, it’s about learning to use the gifts & talents that the Creator has endowed me with and learning not to ignore them. So, let’s get far from where society dictates we should go (thinking chiefly about ourselves) and really set out to inspire others!

Reality…

Usually, when we see a photograph, we think that the camera doesn’t lie or if it seems too good to be true, then it’s edited & becomes a so-called fake. Personally, especially after reading many a resource on this, I think that we have to get past the belief that the camera can’t lie, because it easily can lie with the use of colored filters, black & white, and/or specialty filters (polarizers, neutral gradient filters, etc.). We want so badly to see the truth in a scene that photography no longer becomes a kind of art and al the creativity gets drained out of it in the process.

- Yellow Trumpets -
– Yellow Trumpets –

We want reality in photography, but in life we strive mostly for wants over needs (myself definitely included) so it’s almost like being double-sided. Why? I think it’s because we focus more on wishes in life and hard reality in photography without actually, or actively, realizing it ourselves. The crazy thing is that we get so caught up in gear, belongings & non-essentials that we think that they’re a reality when in fact it’s all about what we believe & what we do that really matters & has meaning; when we tend to focus on stuff along, we kind of lose touch with reality. We lose touch with reality because we focus in on more of what we need instead of what others around us need in terms of a shoulder to cry on, someone to talk to without feeling judged or envious, or just a listening ear…All because we’re too focused on stuff instead of people.

Personally, I think we, as a society, need to back to the point that we can look after more than just ourselves, regardless of racial background & social standing. For some bands & groups, it’s about shaking off faith, but that’s where I think we go wrong, because we tend to have nothing to hold on to and then we get lost in the process. We all have a longing to hold onto something and we need to go after the reality in that, not in what we think is the so-called bad in it. It’s like the lyrics from the High Valley song, Don’t Stop, say: When holding on to heaven/Is all you got/Whatever you do, don’t stop. We all need something, or someone to, hold on to because, I believe, we’re not meant to be antisocial, but social people; in my opinion, this needs to become a part of our reality.

Definition…

What’s Easter for me? It’s not the bunny that the stores have brought in to sell chocolate, but the Cross & the Resurrection that celebrated by the millions of Christians around the world. What does it mean to me? It’s what my faith hinges on and something I’ll hold on to. What’s all this mean to me? It’s something that should frame how I’m going about my life, even though most times I’ll stumble & fall like a dumb oaf trying to stumble through life.

What I’m getting at here is that there’s always something that should define us, despite our many flaws & shortcomings. It can be who we’re spending time with, what we believe, who we’re trying to help, or what we’re trying to do; it’s got to have meaning though, I find, or it falls apart the minute we go through tough times. Inspiration, like I’ve hopefully said before, is often the key thing, next to even a little faith, that keeps us going & keeps defining us. I’m not always inspired in what I do (far from it most of the time), but there’s always the moment of inspiration that can lift spirits and get something of worth done, no matter how short or long. When I see a sight like in the photograph below, it inspires me, lifting up my spirit because of how graceful the flower looks; as to why it does this, I have no idea, I just know it does.

- White Magnolia -
– White Magnolia –

Certain things inspire me in certain ways and I often have little or no clue why, but does it matter why to me? Only when it involves a question of ethics (i.e. a quick grab shot in public spaces that violates personal space & privacy) because then it’s more of a violation than a matter of inspiration. Certain music serves as inspiration as well (stuff from Darius Rucker, Doc Walker, Red, and Thrice among others), but, in the end, it’s about being able to inspire others as well…Can I use what inspires me to help inspire others? And can I do that using vision & meaning in what I’m photographing to inspire others? I sure hope so.

A pre-Easter glance upward…

As I sit here wondering what’s going on with this crazy world, I can’t help but think on how deep the Father’s love that we can still breathe; it took a cross to give us eternity…How deep it was indeed. It’s often scary how often we forget just how beautiful nature is, and yet it’s nowhere near like what it once was; we’ve gone from treating it well, to neglecting it, and then on to worshiping it in a swing backwards that overcompensates much more than a politician trying to lie his way into a position of power. Something tells me that humanity’s relation to nature is going to take a long while to even get close to what it should be, but that’s just me.

Sure, you might think, that this comes all too easy for someone into nature photography, but, when I stop to think of it, it really doesn’t come easy. I have to be able to see where I am & where I’m coming from, something that doesn’t always happen and something that I’m apt to screw up more often than not. Most times, I’m too lazy to get out there and actually look at the natural world, settling for a snack in front of the TV, watching some half-wit show, or sitting on the computer playing games or browsing the internet. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a place & time for these things, it’s just that there’s many a time when I do them when I should’ve been doing something else…I mean, think of it: it’s a free activity, walking outside, when a snack costs something & using electricity means that someone else can’t (I’m joking at this point).

At this point, I’m pretty much embarrassed that I’ve lost out on so much outdoor time for the sake of screen time, but I aim to change that & get out more often. Of course, it doesn’t help all that much that I’m in a city that travel guides once called internationally famous for its rain; it’s just another excuse to stay indoors, something to give me an excuse not to get out, but I’m working on it…I just need to work on it better. Life’s more than just being indoors and I’m getting better at getting outdoors, so here’s to hoping we all improve at getting out.