The ocean has a tremendous ability to make us feel better. I would be lying if I said I know what it is, but I almost always feel my mood improve when I spend time by the sea. The vast wilderness of water even in its immensity feels personal and intimate. It is as though this whole unfathomable ocean is speaking directly to me.
Feeling better is just a side effect, though. It’s not why I go to the ocean. If I need to adjust my mood, I use writing and exercise. Those two practices never fail me. I can write or run my way out of any rut. That’s not why I go to the coastline.
I go there to study the landscape and to track the light. It’s a relationship and putting in the miles is how I keep my end of the bargain. I walk alone along the cliffs to read the crags and to hear the wind. Springtime brings an afternoon gale to Santa Cruz, and it has an unrelenting message: the sea is primal. The storms are finished for the year, but the energy is still there. The winds blow away bad energy, smudging the hiker with salty new skin.
I started hiking north from Wilder Ranch parking lot around five. The plan was to reach 4 Mile for golden hour studying the trail and all went according to plan. As I approached the iconic tower of rock that designates the space the wind was blowing steadily, and I kept a steady footing as I approached the steep cliff’s edge. I decided that the light was perfect for a shot from the beach, so I headed to where you can make it down safely, towards the beach. The cliffs along this stretch are no joke and are not stable. Every year they take some unwitting explorers’ lives.
I made it down safely, though and came around the corner to the spot where I wanted to shoot. The ocean was whipped up by the wind hurling small but mighty waves at the beach and cliffs. Nobody was on the entire beach. I had seen a few novice surfers with soft tops trying to paddle into the wind swell who were clearly not from town. It was not good surf, but the wind doesn’t show in photographs.
I had this sense of amazing joy being there in that moment, knowing that it would only last for a few minutes and I would climb back up the cliff and start heading back to town. I also knew that I would be able to share this golden scene with others because of the magic of digital photography. We live in a special time with all the ancient joys and contemporary tools for sharing our experiences.
I made my photos and returned to my windy walk home.
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 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.
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 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 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.
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.
I like to earn my photographs. I don’t think a robot could ever feel that way, but maybe artificial intelligence will include emotional dimensions. Maybe we are not special as human consciousness. Still, I feel better when I do something hard that leads to a great photograph.
A lot of it has to do with timing. You have to synchronize your life with the light and the landscape. You have to be in the right place at the right time, and if it is hard to get to that place then you have the added reward of achieving something that is difficult. It is not just what the camera can see, but what the body operating the camera feels and why.
Riding my bike through the mountain trails gives me a ton of physical challenges and a lot of satisfaction. It feels good to climb up to a ridgeline with the power of your own legs and the view is that much sweeter. It also means knowing the trails and how long they take and how fast you can go. It means having enough energy and physical comfort to be able to stop and compose your shots despite the fatigue or the hunger you feel.
It also adds the element of the unknown. You have some extra elements of chance at work. Getting yourself in the right spot at the right time is much harder when you are riding a bike, but it is also much more rewarding.