Bullfrog Spirit

This image was made during an all-day hike I did around the Old Growth loop of redwoods at Henry Cowell Park. I had arrived before sunrise and my intention was to stay until sunset. I had made a lunch of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, two bananas, and two apples. I was carrying my camera bag and my tripod and listening to podcasts.

There were two podcasts that I remember most vividly from that walk. One was an episode of Legion of Skanks when they were on the road in Boston talking about going out to dinner at a chain seafood restaurant and then one of their homeboys got burned with coffee when they stopped at a McDonalds while driving back to NY. That podcast is entertaining, a reliably funny comedy team, but the strange thing is how when I walk for a long time in the woods, I remember what I am listening to so vividly. I also listened to a podcast by the Art Newsletter that was devoted to a show of Vermeer that is happening currently in Amsterdam. This juxtaposition of low brown comedy and high-level art talk is a perfect characterization of how I feel about art generally, and especially this image of the bullfrog.

I was studying the light and trying to learn the redwoods. When I hike a place repeatedly over a period, the powerful compositions eventually make themselves known to me. It is an interesting process, like studying a difficult text of literature. At first, you are just going through the space and your mind is thinking about other things as well as the task at hand. The more you go back over the same terrain or text, however, the more it starts to make sense to you. You begin to master the landscape and understand what is coming up and when certain angles or phrases crystalize into something vivid and important.

This twelve-hour expedition, however, proved to be harder than I had imagined. I expected there to be some discomfort certainly but as the day progressed the pain become more and more intense, and the fatigue was a very real thing. Still, I focused my mind on studying the trail, on watching the light and in making myself set up the tripod and make some images any time I saw a good composition come into being.

I began to feel a little bit desperate and then more so. I knew there was no danger really. I could leave at any time and hike back to my car and to civilization. The park Rangers were clearing storm debris on that day and making little mounds of the branches to be burned on a later date. The Visitor Center had a fire going inside in their fireplace and the smoke from the chimney hung in the air of the old growth grove scratching my eyes and throat. There was no wind at all. My legs were sore, my back ached, and my mind raced and kept insisting on getting the hell out of there.

Surely, I had seen enough. I had made dozens of loops around the giant trees, and I knew each corner and turn of the trail. Faces had begun to show up in the burls of the redwoods and even then, I was no longer impressed. I was experiencing low level hallucinations, like I was on a small dose of mushrooms and the trees were full of things I may not have seen otherwise. I didn’t care. I just wanted to get the fuck out of there.

What the fuck was I doing? My dad was dead, I needed to find more work, and this sure as hell was not going to help. That’s the nature of art. You don’t do it because it is obvious or because it makes sense. You do it because if you don’t do it, you will hate yourself. If I left earlier than sunset, nobody but me would know. But I would know and that’s absolutely the worst audience to let down. So, I kept trudging through the muddy path making my stupid little pictures. I had lost my sense of humor. The faces in the trees mocked me. My food was all gone.

I came around the corner, though, and there was a little pile of rocks, and someone was looking down at the ground right in front of it. What the fuck was that? It was a half blind bullfrog. Someone had set up a marker so dumb tired hikers like me wouldn’t step on it. I waited for the onlooker to move on and then I set up my tripod as low as it would go and started to photograph the bullfrog. It wasn’t moving anywhere. You could see it breathing but one eye was completely glazed over, and it showed zero signs of fear. I could get as close as I wanted to without me bothering it one little bit.

It was an ugly little fucker, but I loved it. It was my spirit animal.

I got as many shots as I needed and then continued my torturous trek, now with more energy and an absolute refusal to quit. If I had left, like the little wimpy voice inside of me kept begging me to do, I would have missed my spirit animal. Fuck that voice.

Anyways, this is the only bullfrog I have ever photographed, and I think it is one of the best images I got that day although there were many and it was worth it. I studied the light, learned the compositions, and had a visitation from a spirit animal. Still need more work, my dad is still showing up in my dreams, but art isn’t supposed to cure all your problems. It’s an adventure of the spirit. Making art is supposed to inspire and inspire me it did.

March Online Auction

One of One Acrylic Transfers

I made 10 new transfers available online today. When these images are finally on canvas, they come to life. The final product is a beautiful thing.

Triptych Tripping

This first group of three goes well as a trip.

“Redwood Light,” “Vineland,” and “Into Night.”

$120 each or $330 for the group.

Seacliff Storm Gems

This next three also works as a group.

“Stone Lines,” “Storm Lines,” and “Seacliff Treasure.”

$120 each, or $330 for the three.

Ponderosa Pining

“Lightning Pine” $120

This image is one of my favorite photos of a tree. It’s a beautiful specimen twisted into a unique phenomenon by lightning most likely.

Rare Finds

“Forest Bullfrog,” “Buckeye Spring,” and “Fire Figure.”

$120 each or $330 for the three.

This last group of three were each something that I came across that is very rare. The bullfrog showed up on a trail at the end of a long day of hiking. The first couple of days when the Buckeyes open up their leaves gave me the second photo. The third one was a burnt Redwood stub I saw on a hike that looked like a figurine.

Notes from Ben Lomond, CA: 6 March 2023

I decided to start a new project with this blog. I’ve been sharing stories about making photographs and food, but I also wanted to think about the topics that are important to me. This is an attempt to start a conversation, so if you have any ideas to add or questions about anything I am thinking feel free to leave a comment.

I’m also posting a new photograph that I will make available as a print every day. Photography is most meaningful when you make it into a print. I will have my next online auction on March 15th. The online auctions are for black and white images that I personally make into Gel Transfers on Canvas. They are one of a one pieces and they are part of an extended fine art project. The prints that I make available on a daily basis are printed by Bay Photo.

Digital Photography

Digital photography makes the learning curve less steep, but that also means that you don’t grow as much unless you really care about the artform. Sometimes, easier is not better.

Dramatic Arts

When is the last time you saw a good play? What is the current state of theater in Santa Cruz? Where are the dramatic arts thriving?


What is your favorite way of consuming stories? I was listening to the new release of The Strokes compilation of singles, and it reminded me how much I love that band for the stories they tell in their songs.


Writing is the main ingredient missing in most of the media that I see. Writing is not just the crafting of sentences, but externalizing thought and revising it until it makes sense and sounds good.


Fitness is a starting point for life. I don’t understand how anyone could possibly not have fitness as one of their top priorities. It is also how you can eat more baked goods without gaining weight. C’mon!


Beauty makes the world bearable. We have so much bad news, so many problems, and so much uncertainty. Beautiful moments keep us connected to the earth like a kind of emotional gravity.


Fashion is a problem. Why can’t we have clothes that look good without exploiting people in another country. I feel like this is the biggest problem that gets talked about the least. I want to make shirts for the public who want to wear something cool that isn’t obnoxiously advertising for a brand.

The Great Outdoors

Being outdoors is very important to me. I can only take so much time inside before I crave fresh air and large landscapes. I also worship natural light and am constantly searching for it. It sometimes creeps in through a window, but you have to go outdoors to really study the light.

Environmental Conservation

Environmental conservation should be on everyone’s agenda. I don’t care if you are skeptical about climate change. How about not poisoning the rivers and the ocean? We have so much bullshit plastic in the world, and it seems like we are not doing enough to stop it. Ironically, the so-called conservatives seem to put environmental conservatism lowest on their list and support horrible policies in the name of the economy. Guess what? We all live in one atmosphere, with one environment. No amount of money can buy you out of that situation.

Media Literacy

Media literacy is a super unpopular topic. I try to promote the ideas and best practices that I have developed, but it falls on deaf ears. It’s like showing up at a party with math homework. Still, it is probably the only thing that can really make a difference in terms of our public discourse, our shared values, and the current state of mental health. So, I’m going to keep trying.

Online Marketing

The ever-shifting world of online marketing has some fundamental problems and some evergreen truths. While the tactics for reaching an audience are constantly changing, the way you craft a message and how you represent a brand still have some consistent themes.


Food is the soul of culture. It is the one area we can find the most cultural interaction. It is a place to share the best of who we are with others and is the most hopeful category of culture. Especially in a world that is fatigued with disasters and anxiety, food is a bright source of positivity.


Baking is one of my favorite ways to create content. I love the alchemical magic of the oven. Learning the process that dough or other foods undergoes with heat is an endlessly fascinating artform.


Nutrition is something that we can research to improve our quality of life immediately. Learning how to track your macros gives you a much greater control over your bodily constitution.


I don’t eat at restaurants these days because I can’t afford them. I look forward to the day when I can rejoin the public who enjoy eating out. It is one of my favorite ways to socialize, but it is also always expensive and a weird moment when the check arrives unless you have a budget for it. Who is going to get it? Are we going to split it? How much tip should we leave? Can we really afford this extravagance? It is one of the reasons I would like to have more money. I also like to work with restaurants to help promote their food. If you know of any restaurants that are in need of photos, send them my way!


History is always happening and the only way to make it make sense is by learning what has come before. It is obviously an endless topic, impossible to master. Still, it helps so much to put things in perspective and without it we have no way of understanding anything. I’ve been very interested in learning more about local history lately. For example: Aptos, Soquel, Zayante, and abalone are the only native words that are commonly used here.


Art is still the things that drives me. It is the mysterious force of life that forms the core of my identity. I don’t know what it is, but I have a good idea what isn’t it and that’s everywhere in social media. We are in a weird phase of art history, but I think that it will morph into something great before long. I have my own goals and desires, and I hope that they come to fruition, but art is always going to evolve as that is intrinsic to its nature.


Podcasts are a strange cure for loneliness. They are also how I keep tabs on what is happening that is relevant culturally. So many podcasts rely upon covering contemporary topics with humor, and that is honestly how public opinions are formed. It’s all about reacting to the events of the day. It is, therefore, a mostly shallow form, but one that is friendly and fun listening.

Photo of the Day

I took this photo last night with wet feet and cold hands. I was listening to the Real Ass Podcast with my phone about to die. I had shot the entire sunset, but it was these clouds as I was walking back to my car that I loved the most. The Real Ass Podcast is a funny and wildly inappropriate show hosted by Luis J. Gomez and Zac D’Amico. You have to have a twisted sense of humor to appreciate it, but if you do it is one of the funniest programs ever.

Fall Creek Roots

The Source

Can the environment speak to us? I believe it can and does all the time. When we experience major storms or wildfires, that communication becomes much much louder. They say that humans have been living in the Santa Cruz area for 10,000 years. I imagine that we used to understand the language of the natural world better than we do today.

Part of why I do landscape photography is to listen to our natural world. After these recent rains, the creek that runs by the high school I went to has been singing. I made a few photographs on a hike, yesterday, that translate that song into a visual image. This is one. I’m calling it Fall Creek Roots, and it is available as a 24×36″ Photographic Print with a Lustre finish for $194.97. You can order your print by emailing me at: jakejthomasphoto@gmail.com