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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The beat vs. the meaning…

Thinking about it, we often tend to focus on the beat compared to what the meaning of the lyrics are; I’m so guilty of this as well. We’re so taken back by how much a beat moves us that we don’t really think about the lyrics themselves. In this day & age, we’re focused on the beat & melody that we forget to dig a little deeper and find out what the song really means; I guess it comes with the territory when we fully adopt the materialism that mainstream media pushes our way, along with the shallow, biased news stories.

When was that last time we really stopped to tell someone we care about them and when was the last time we tried to inspire them? We’re so focused on our daily rhythm that we easily forget about those around us who just might be needing a simple word of encouragement or a helping hand. I’m not talking about the street hustlers here, but those people that come into our daily lives and seem to just be looking for a little help, but don’t really ask for it at all. If our lives are always go-go-go, then we just might be in need of a little breather from it all now & then to help us get a refresh.

Thinking about it, there’s so many wondering what’s happening that we might just need to stop awhile and lend a helping hand. Most of the time, it’s not our place to really ask why, but it might just be our place to really help out a person in time of need. There’s so much out there that goes wrong every now & then, especially in politics & money, that taking a time out with a friend might just be what we, and they, need right now.

Stop & learn…

It’s not exactly something that I’m good at, stopping & learning, but it’s something that I know that I’ve got to work on. I see all the crap that’s happening out there in the wider world and I can’t help but wonder how I’m avoiding adding to the noise and how I’m actually doing something that’s of worth. I want to be able to portray the beauty in nature with my photography, so I need to constantly be learning how to do that better; personally, I want to be able to do this to inspire at least one person to get out there and see that there’s more to it than just himself/herself. It’s not necessarily stopping to learn, but taking some time to stop for a bit and use that time to improve & learn how to do what I feel I want to do, and what I feel that I’m meant to do, at least a bit better than I did before I took a breather & stopped to learn.

When it comes to looking through my old photographs, I’ve come to see just how I’ve grown & moved on from thinking of either muted or saturated colour and begun thinking more of just how each has its place in saying something through the image. Personally, I think we’ve got to start taking a look at the consequences of either side in an argument & choices before the time actually comes to make that choice or take on that argument. I’m not one to have any special privilege that lets me judge, so I think I’m just going to say that this is our best chance to stop & learn from our mistakes because we can then learn & move on from what we’ve done wrong and what we’re doing wrong.

I’m still learning more about my vision & style, especially my tastes when it comes to colour & combinations of colour; it goes the same way for how I treat colour when I photograph or how I deal with certain situations in my everyday life. I’m finding new appreciation for bands I still enjoy (Flyleaf, Red & Thrice to name a few) and new approaches to how I look at situations that I come across, not just how I photograph scenes. It’s about time that I look at the man in the mirror (to borrow a phrase & song from Michael Jackson) and do something that can at least try to make it right.

That ol’ list…

Pondering what makes me do the things I do, and the way I do them, not to mention why I do them, often gets me either annoyed, or gives me a bit of a headache. I guess that’s a part of not really being an A to B kind of person and not always following a straight line in how I do things, but sometimes I think that I’d have it no other way. Nowadays, we’ve got students coming out of university without the ability to have any critical thinking or allow for anything with even the slightest difference in point of view, so I think that being able to go from A to C in some instances might be a good thing, but we need to be careful that it doesn’t become something we do in every instance.

With that said, I usually make lists for what I going to do before I go out photographing some thing or place, but I end up tossing out most of it…For me, it’s really only a suggestion list after all. Sometimes it helps to have a plan, but sometimes it can also restrict us from getting what we’re planning to get. In life, we want structure and normality, but when it all falls apart, we tend to blame it all on something or someone else, instead of looking up for help. It’s like that when we follow rules to the dot, becoming legalistic in how we approach life; it however can leave us drained when what we’re trying to achieve takes long or seems way out of reach. For me, when I going to a place for the express purpose of photographing it, I’m definitely going to make a mental checklist, not just of what to photograph, but what settings at which to photograph it; it all in what I choose to keep and how I adapt to changing circumstances because going with the flow sometimes brings out a photograph or more that says something and means something.

- Hibiscus Three -
– Hibiscus Three –

In the end, it basically comes down to meaning something with what we do, and what we photograph, because if there’s no meaning, then it sometimes doesn’t really carry any weight in the long run. With all this international rhetoric being passed around, we need to be the people that carry some semblance of decency and do something that means something. I may not always be able to do just that, but I’m at least going to try to raise awareness by doing something that means something to someone.

Honestly (Part 2)…

In reality, all we seek from the artist, be it musically or photographically, is honesty & reality in how their music, or photographs, are done/presented. The issue is that we need to define whether it means emotionally or visually and if it’s making something exactly how we felt, or something exactly how it looks. I’d show another one of my many photographs to help me argue this point, but I’ve done that so many times before that I don’t really want a single photograph to speak out for the entire discourse (it’s more of an argument, but discourse sounds fancier), but I’d rather just use it without really including it in the discourse itself.

To a certain extent, it’s like the song from The Fray, Heartbeat, because we’ve got to go after the heartbeat, feel that heartbeat. I know I’m stretching the lyrics to something that they’re not originally meant to be about, but the song is about a person being able to really feel another’s heartbeat and that’s what we should be after…We should be after some kind of heartbeat in the work(s) of art. It won’t always come so easily to us, me especially, but that’s the challenge and what, in the end, makes it worthwhile…to me at least. My take on it is this: what does it make me think & feel when I look at this photograph that I took? With all the superficiality out there, on both ends of the political spectrum, I think we need a little more honesty, heart & soul in what we’re doing in our daily lives. It’s supposed to start with us and maybe, just maybe, it might not end with us; in doing so, we’re not just inspiring others around us, but it’ll eventually grow to those outside our little circle of friends.

With all we have at our fingertips, we don’t need a little electronic chip in our bodies to improve things, we just need to get out there and do something, make something, that might just inspire someone, or even help them along the way. Looking at all the news & ads about how the latest piece of tech is supposed to solve all our problems, I realize that it’s not going to do that, because it’s either one little tool or one piece of the distraction that keeps us from moving on in life, as well as our hobbies. There’s got to be some balance after all, or we’ll end up going off the deep end & spending way more than we can afford or should be spending to begin with, but that’s just my opinion…And I’m sticking to it.

- Burnt Red -
– Burnt Red –

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.

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.