SomeWhere

From Bethlehem Church Road, Floyd County Virginia. Click image to enlarge.

And SomeWhen.

Finding the pot of gold means a bit of good luck. And keeping your eyes open. And having a camera in your pocket 24/7. And stopping in the rain to step out of your car in the middle of a county road to save the moment.

I once reflected on the place of photographs in my life:

“Film became a way to preserve present moments in a clear resin of recall. Every photograph set a benchmark in time, held a unique instant in the emulsion of memory, captured in perfect synchrony that vertical line of precise moment that intersects the coordinates of particular place.”

It may be maudlin and saccharine, but Kodak moments anchor us in person, place, space and time. And I am thankful to have had more than my share of them.

And a bit more of the reflection on time (from What We Hold in Our Hands):

“No two photographic markers were the same, and there was no going back. With my lens, I fished from the moving stream of time as days flowed through the faces I knew, past the places I loved, leaving the lived, the known moments bobbing on its glassy surfaceÑdeeper down, farther back, receding Doppler-like across a realm that I could photograph, could know just once, just now.

I have spent decades more behind the camera, no longer wishing I were older, happy for the past, but savoring photographic instants in the present when one face or one flower, one sunset, yet another family pet or one more grandchild’s candle-covered birthday cake fills the viewfinder and moves on downstream.”

 

Time and a World of Change ~ Part V

Rainforest to hamburgers: the cost of cheap quick US food

This is part 5 of excerpts from a piece that may someday (or may not) be a chapter in a book, given adequate keystrokes in these out-of-warranty joints; enough minutes of absolute time but especially minutes with adequate clarity and passion, wisdom and focus; and a remaining pool of neurons who get along well enough with each other to produce actual words.

From the end of Part IV I have jumped to the end of the draft for this final installment, taking pity on any who might feel compelled to actually read the intervening thousand words. You’re welcome.

Part 1   Part 2   Part 3   Part 4

We stagger from now to now and forget how we have come here. We live in each present moment, marching in place, mindless of the path behind us and ahead. Myopia of yesterday and tomorrow makes the Big Story invisible to us. We cannot know the wisdom of the book if we forget each sentence as we read it and move on, unchanged.

Cameras from space now do what Disney did for us in early timelapse, showing us decades of change to glaciers, deserts, the night-blinding glare of cities into space, and the bleaching of the last coral reefs. We can no longer say our eyes were not equipped to see our impact over time.

We nurture a personal ecology of connectedness to place, and from that place to all places by coming to see ourselves and everything within our viewfinder held together and enmeshed in a common matrix of time.

We walk only in the present and this is our mortal predicament and impediment, while the consequences of today’s choices stretch out over the lifetimes of forests and rivers and of mountains where our distant children will make their lives.

We urgently need to train our eyes for the vision to see ahead even as we look back to see our ancestors looking forward with this hope for us in their own times past.

Google Earth Timelapse update shows Earth from 1984-2016

Timelapse – Google Earth Engine   

TIME AND A WORLD OF CHANGE ~ PART IV

Abraham Mignon - Fruit Still-Life with Squirrel and Goldfinch
Abraham Mignon – Fruit Still-Life with Squirrel and Goldfinch

Continued from Part III

The time-lapse episode I remember most vividly involved the delightful horror of watching a perfectly lovely bowl of fruit shrivel, go gray with mold and turn finally to a black liquid–a natural, everyday process of decay that took many hours, compressed into a twenty-second insight into the end of things.

About that time (maybe 1960?) in Look or Life or one of those glossy oversized magazines, I was smitten by a series of images of a family, taken in exactly the same position on exactly the same day of the year for 40 years running.

The eye tracked the frames of the series through changes of period-appropriate hair styles and clothes–and faces, or course–from before the birth of the first daughter, through the grade school years, until new babies appeared, grew and changed. Before the end of the series, the father disappeared from the pictures.

The message was not lost on me, not yet a teenager, that this chronology of portraits was just another way of depicting the fate of the bowl of fruit. Aging is time passing through us, and leaving us altered imperceptibly every minute, every season, every year.

The world of motion and of change swirls around us and within us, even as time moved ever so slowly from one Christmas to the next back then.

None–ripe fruit or mature grandparents or perfect newborns–would avoid entropy’s inevitability. But my grown-old self knows too, none should be indifferent to or ignorant of the beauty of the human and natural procession of birth and growth and senescence that the eye of the camera can show us from this grand buzzing, swirling, pulsing spectacle of life-in-time to which our eyes have grown dim.

This is the FOURTH excerpt from this topic taken from One Place Understood–a book in my mind only, maybe always, but at least until summer of 2018.

TIME and a World of Change ~ Part II

Public domain image--wish it was my own! https://goo.gl/EaQ6wq
Public domain image–wish it was my own! https://goo.gl/EaQ6wq

The nuance and precision and beauty in the motion of living things and landscapes is often lost to our eyes, because too few frames a second can be processed in our brains. All we see is a blur of action without details. But the eye of the camera, with a little sourcery, can slow motion enough for us to see the intricacies of motion. Continued from Part I.

Here a housefly was able to turn upside-down just at the last thousandths of a second–a maneuver that filled many full seconds in the clip I watched in amazement as a tiny acrobat stuck the landing on the ceiling.

I think of this wonderfully complex skill every time I swat an annoying fly that disturbs me at my desk. Damn you, Disney!

A robin in flight cambered its wings and even changed the pitch of individual primary feathers–using the same skin muscles that give us goose bumps, which is the best act we can do with our puny feather-counterparts we call hair.

Visible before my young eyes, the impeccable timing and skillful motor planning of an ordinary bird prepared to land, like an aircraft increasing drag and slowing its approach before touch-down.

The target for the bird as I watched was a single distant and tiny branch, not a miles-long strip of concrete. Bird, from full speed to full stop in mere seconds. Beat that, Boeing!

I think of this when a garrulous swarm of September starlings rushes from nowhere to temporary perches in the pines out my window, every dark-pearlescent one of them a consummate gymnast tumbling and diving in air. The judges give them a perfect 10.

So the take-home for a fifth-grader in 1960: Rapidly-happening things could be slowed down enough to show details of motion too fast for a ten-year-old city boy’s eyes to take in.

There was more going on around me–just out in the flower bed under the front window–than I would have known, but for these few brief photographic special effects. But there was more!

This is the second excerpt from this topic taken from One Place Understood–a book in my mind only, maybe always, but at least until summer of 2018. Go to Part One

This short video shows precision flying by red kites (a kind of hawk) swooping down for bits of bacon (watch how they say no-thanks to the break scraps!)

TIME and a World of Change ~ Part I

Static shot of animated wind patterns by way of windytv.com
Static shot of animated wind patterns by way of windytv.com. Click image to go there and see it live.

I am a child of the age of Disneyland, and my brain’s view of time was permanently altered by what I saw there for the first time.

Sunday nights, home in front of the round-screen television set (the size of a major appliance), my favorite Disney programs–the nature specials–looked at the planet’s places and animals. There were creatures and parts of the world that I would never have known or imagined without being shown them through this window of light and motion.

This vicarious adventure, as it remains eternally etched in memory, consisted of more than simple narrated visits by loquacious experts in pith helmets interacting with creatures doing what they do in their native places.

Maybe even more importantly, Disney’s special uses for the eye of the camera showed me for the first time two marvelous ways of seeing I had never imagined–what we now call slow motion and time-lapse imagery. We take it quite for granted today, but it was magic to me back then, and–as you might have discovered–I’m convinced our perceptions of the natural world and of each other can still be changed for the better by seeing the world in extra-ordinary ways today.

I remember ultra-slow motion stop-action sequences of bullets slowly piercing the full diameter of a watermelon. And then there were falling drops of red paint rebounding in a graceful splattering ballet of motion not visible to the naked eye because it happened faster than our brains and optical software could process it.

In visual poetry, a green and twining rose stem gyrated upward, reaching out, searching in a spiralling pirouette, and soon appeared from nowhere a red sprouting bud bursting to bloom in less time than an Ovaltine commercial! Plants were alive after all!

This is a first excerpt from this topic taken from One Place Understood–a book in my mind only, maybe always, but at least until summer of 2018.

► Do you have memories from early television that, looking back, changed your understanding of this world we share? Leave a comment.

It Moves! Life in Action

small brains en masse from Dennis Hlynsky on Vimeo.

As a biology teacher long ago, plant life was hard to get students interested in–until.

Until I could show them fern sperm cells swimming in  a drop of dew or a filament of Oscillatoria or diatoms gliding in drop of pond water. Wait! Plants aren’t supposed to MOVE!

Animals are easier to inspire interest, largely because we can watch them behave: they exhibit action, motion, intention.

And now there are new ways to “see” the patterns of motion in animals–especially those animals who tend to move as groups.

I don’t know everything I wish I did about the technology that makes motion-tracing possible, but I know I enjoyed and was mesmerized by this video–especially the last couple of minutes.

It merges the record of individuals and groups of animals in place with time in a way the eye cannot but only the imagination could–until now–make possible.

By all means, click the vimeo clip to watch if full screen with sound.

Let me know your thoughts.

Storytelling in the Digital Age

buffalo-nov05-paint.jpg
Jonathan Kingston on the crest of Buffalo Mountain, Floyd County Virginia, at sunset.

It is all about the light we are given. The stories we tell “come to light” first through specialized nerve endings in eye and ear, then through the synthesis of what we see (and touch and hear, taste and smell) with what we imagine, hope, believe or fear.

There have always been storytellers. It is what we do, how we comprehend the world around us–weaving sight into insight,  fact into meaning and context. Our stories make sense of our senses.

With the small size and almost universal reach of today’s cameras, it has simply become easier to bring the visual into that light of story-telling. And some, like my friend Jonathan Kingston, have made a career out of it. I share his story with you by way of this slide show, in which you’ll see some shots from Floyd County.

How I Became a Nat Geo Creative Photographer from Jonathan Kingston on Vimeo.

“In June of 2015, I was invited to present my work at National Geographic Creative in Washington D.C.. For the talk, I chose to tell the story of how I became a photographer. Here is a recording of the slideshow.”

Also see:

► Winners of the 2015 National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest – The Atlantic

A 2007 blog post featuring J Kingston in Floyd