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Green Eggs and Jam

6.365 40mm f8 1/500 ISO200

I went to the Burning Man festival for the first time this year and I was blown away:  the astounding artwork, the beautiful freakiness of the people, the tiny synchronicities that give you goosebumps.  All that would be enough to make it the best party in America, but when you lay the reality of a gift economy on top of it you begin to understand it as a utopian experiment.  You never reach for your wallet.  You never ask how much is that?  You just bring what you think you need and trust that whatever gaps you left will be filled.  (I might as well use this space to send thanks to the lovely gentleman who unlocked our rental van when we locked our keys inside.)  I, for one, have never had a closer brush with utopia.

Obviously life at home is quite different from life in Black Rock City.  Most days it feels like money flows away from my bank account like snowmelt off the Continental Divide.  I often have the sensation of setting off at a dead sprint as soon as the alarm goes off, and finally catching my breath after I tuck my son into bed.  It is easy to fall into the trap of feeling like scarcity (of time, of money, of love) is the thread that weaves through life and drives me forward.

I think that's why I appreciate so much the goodies that have found their way into my kitchen lately.  It started with a jar of fire-roasted salsa my friends Alex and Nell made from their garden vegetables.  Then neighbors gave us apple and grape jelly they made.  Two weekends ago we helped our next-door neighbors harvest 173 pounds of plums from their front yard tree and this week some plum jam turned up on our porch.  A friend made pickles from their summer cucumber crop.  This morning my brother and his girlfriend handed us a dozen eggs laid by the chickens in their back yard.  (Half of them are the most beautiful green color!)

I could go on and on about what I think this all means, but instead I'll just make an observation about how it makes me feel.  It gives me a wonderful sense of abundance and counteracts some of the pressure of modern urban life.  It gives me a very satisfying taste of Burning Man at home.  Just with less nudity.


New Mantra

 5.365 135MM f8 1/400 ISO200

We arrived at the new Mordecai Children's Garden of the Denver Botanic Gardens yesterday around 11:00am, exactly the time of day I usually try to avoid shooting.  With the sun so high overhead the light is just not very pleasing, the shadows are too harsh, and since I really wanted to capture some nice family shots I was concerned about what I whether I was going to be able to get anything that I liked.  But that's the point of this project, right?  To use the challenges to push me past my comfort zone?  Check, check, check.

Let me pause for a minute to say that this new garden is spectacular.  From concept all the way through execution it is very clearly the inspiring product of a great deal of creative thinking.  (It is also exactly the kind of thing that makes me happy to be raising a child in Denver.)  Designed to be an interactive interpretation of an alpine environment, it is full of places to climb, dig, and splash, and directives to smell me and touch me invite us to use all our senses to experience it.

The first dozen times I fired the shutter were just warm-ups.  I couldn't get past the distracting way the light seemed to wash everything out.  But after a few minutes I started to work as much as possible with the direction of the sun, and find the nooks and crannies where the details stood out.  That's when I came upon this look closely sign, nestled in the branches of an immature fir glistening with droplets of water.

I took it as a command, the very purpose of this whole exercise: to be mindful of all the little details of life around me.  To notice the way my son looks at his grandfather with sheer trusting love, or how many things are still in bloom here even as we begin to feel winter coming on.  Or how the colors of autumn really go way beyond the yellow and reds of changing leaves, pleasing as they may be.  So I put together a small appreciation of fall images that required me to look closely, many of which I captured yesterday.  You can see it here.


Staring at the Sun

4.365 55mm f5.6 1/1250 ISO200I did not adjust the vibrance or the saturation on these berries.  Nothing I could do in post would make them more attention-getting than the editing Mother Nature already did.  It was enough to get me to pull over for a closer look on the way to work.


The Bounty

3.365 48 mm, f5.6, ISO 250

This picture captures a glimpse of a lot of what seems important to me these days: community and local food.  My neighbor pulled this perfectly round, beautifully ripe cherry tomato out of his garden yesterday when I arrived home from work.  Is it strange to say that a small cheer went up from both of us over this small harvest?

I have so many frustrations about the state of the world: the way we relate to each other as a culture, our insistence on an us vs. them mentality, our collective intransigence about seeing the environment in which we live as separate from us.  But I am finding an antidote to that taking hold, bit by bit, in the little community I inhabit.  It arrives in the form of neighbors connecting, and cherry tomatoes growing and demanding to be shared.  These are small bounties, but when you bite into them it feels like love.



On the Street

2.365 38 mm f5 1/200 ISO 400I woke up in a cold sweat yesterday morning thinking it's only day two and I have no idea what I'm going to shoot today.  And then I proceeded to see things to shoot all day long.  I didn't always have time to stop, but I made a mental checklist of places to check out if I lack for inspiration.

I debated which of yesterday's pictures to post here because I got a really lovely, sexy closeup of an oyster on the half shell with a shallow depth of field and lots of bokeh at my delicious birthday dinner last night.  But then I decided that was a lot like yesterday's picture and as beautiful as that little shellfish was, maybe it's too safe to have a blog full of dimly lit nighttime restaurant interiors.

So I chose this one.  The leggy teenager, leggy whippet and stumpy little dachsund got to me.  I love reading street photography blogs, but of course when I tried to take this picture I felt like my camera wasn't handy enough, and I was all thumbs, and I completely forgot all concept of aperture.   And I won't even go into how she asked me if I was a photographer and I said no.

There are things I would change about this shot.  But I'd like to get better at street photography over the course of this project, so I guess I have to start where I am.