On the last day of the storms, the power was out so I couldn’t use my computer to write. Instead, I set out earlier than usual and started walking towards Wilder. The forecast suggested that the morning would be relatively dry, but it was not. As I set up to shoot the sunrise, some huge dark clouds started moving in and before I could get a half dozen shots it started raining.
I was determined to get a good photograph, however. If I was going to get wet and cold I wanted to make it worth it. This shot below turned out to be one of my favorite compositions from the past few weeks. For me, it was well worth the discomfort of being in a downpour miles away from shelter.
Cow Pies and Rain Clouds
The beach that you see from this vantage point is called Cow Pies because it is inaccessible from the park side and across the cove is a farm that has a lot of natural manure. It is a private farm and is also a no go. Even if you were able to get down to the beach, it is a sanctuary that is well guarded by Rangers. As a result, it is a beautiful spot with some amazing waves that is always empty. This makes it a very beautiful and special place.
I love photographers, but I do not like seeing cameras when I’m trying to make a photograph. If I do, I know that I am in the wrong spot. I feel that I should be somewhere different enough and off the normal path. This morning, there was zero chance that another photographer was out there, and that’s how I like it.
When you go through something heavy, like losing someone you love, you have a difficult path to follow, but it is also an opportunity to learn a lot about yourself, the people in your life, and the things that you do and consume. This is a time to call upon your courage. It’s also a time to cut out anything that is not really helping you to be your best version of yourself. For me, this meant stopping things that I may have been using as distractions, ceasing all escapism.
I am currently in the middle of a grieving process, having lost my father at the end of October. Since that time, I have gone through intense emotional pain, but I have also learned a lot about myself. What I have learned, ironically, I already knew somewhere deep down. I knew who had my back and who most certainly did not, and, in both cases, it was me. I was fooling myself. No more.
Emotions and the Ocean
Some days, the bay looks placid and peaceful, more like a lake than a raging sea. Other days, it howls and fumes venting some unknown fury on the land and its inhabitants like a vengeful god. It’s no wonder the Ancient Greeks made myths out of the forces of the ocean.
Something similar exists with human emotion. Storms will arrive and with them the normally calm state of our being erupts into destructive chaos. Therefore, it is critically important to know yourself emotionally. To weather the storm, you must know where to go and where not to go.
Full Moon, Raging Storm, and People on the Cliff
These past few days have brought the crazy out of people and it has brought the crazies out. I’m reminded of the first few days of the lockdown, when people were forced to stop working and it felt as though the world was going to end. I would walk with my daughter and our dog through the neighborhood to get some exercise and to create a new healthy pattern that would feel normal. How do you explain to a seven-year-old why the world is suddenly so scary?
I remember seeing people I knew, and they were so full of fear they wouldn’t even acknowledge my existence. People who had previously been powerful were reduced to idiots mumbling and stumbling around with their mouths open. It’s been the same with this storm. It has stirred up some old musty fears repressed so deeply they forgot they even existed.
When I walk around town, I keep alert to these emotional zombies because they are dangerous, much more dangerous than the homeless people strung out on meth. They are the ones who do not see you in the crosswalk, who have lost all sense of decency and would run you over like a bug. People jacked up on pharmaceuticals and financing who have lost their sense of the order of things and the significance of human life.
One Lone Surfer
At the height of the storm, I kept thinking about Tazy. If I didn’t know where to go, I would just think of him. Go where Tazy would go. So, I’ve been to some pretty cool spots. I have no doubt that if he was still in town, he would have surfed the guts out of this series of storms. That’s just what he does because he is a sea creature who is made for this. I don’t know where he is or what he’s up to these days, but I have nothing but love for Anthony Tashnick and Santa Cruz is much less cool without him.
I was especially thinking of him when we had a low tide and enormous swells rolling through with such a wild combination that was breaking so far out beyond Saber Jets it was insane to witness. I had no doubt that he would be out there, but nobody was. I saw a couple of jet skis and that was it. Then, yesterday I saw the video and it made me cry. Shaun Burns caught one huge monster of a wave and rode that thing for a mile. Why did I cry? It reminded me of Barney and Tazy and my dad and their courage so big that even mother nature couldn’t stop it. I miss those guys with all my heart, but it gave me so much joy to see Burnsy get that wave.
Hey Santa Cruz brands! Give Shaun Burns all the sponsorships. Thanks, that’s all for now.
Our contemporary world combines the digital and the analog in most things. Whether we are thinking about images online or a light show in your neighborhood, aesthetics matter. There is more to art than merely a pursuit of the beautiful, but it would be foolish to underestimate the power of its experience. You need go no further than to witness West Cliff in Santa Cruz during a Winter sunset. Throngs of sky watchers crowd the cliffs drinking in the changing light and gasping as the clouds become a temporary canvas unrivaled by human efforts. The same is true with photos posted online. The beautiful images get more play.
Authenticity and Aesthetics
One of the dangerous things about our current age for artists is the tendency for feedback to alter your approach to art making. It is all too easy to let the data influence your artistic choices. If this type of photograph got a lot of likes and shares, then it is tempting to repeat that in hopes of increasing your following. Many artists believe that allowing what the audience thinks to influence your style. Indeed, there is a fine line between sharing what you love and what you know will get you love. The trick, I’ve found, if discovering those areas of overlap where you feel good about what you are publishing and the public does, too.
Keeping Your Thumb on the Pulse
For me, it is equally important to spend time hunting the world for images both beautiful and intriguing and to pay attention to the ever changing culture online. It is only by doing this work that you can discover that fruitful zone where what you truly love and what the public wants are a match. The exciting thing about this process is that both are constantly changing. Spending time walking through the world looking and absorbing the details and finding enchanting scenes is as important as understanding the technical aspects of photography and online marketing. You have to both understand the spirit of the times as it reveals itself to us through the Internet and the particular qualities of beauty and intrigue that exist fleetingly in our physical world.
A Shining Light in Dark Times
Part of what Internet culture reveals to us is the presence of extremely disturbing problems. From the opioid epidemic, to mass shootings, there is no shortage of tragedy that happens every single day. This has become so predominant that we are becoming a very strange culture. One response is to create more and more disturbing content. The American public has become obsessed with true crime and particularly serial killers, among the darkest examples of human potential for destruction. The reasons for this trend are many, but one of them must be a kind of coping mechanism to deal with the daily news. Bad things are happening, and many people are immunizing themselves emotionally by exposing themselves to the worst of the worst. In this context, striving to create beautiful images serves as a counterpoint and requires a tremendous courage. The easier thing is to follow the numbers and to create disturbing imagery and controversial content.
Adapting to the Conditions
I have been walking around various Santa Cruz neighborhoods during the day and at night to get exercise, to scout for images I want to make, and to study the world around me. As the period between Christmas and New Year’s has come to an end, I have been focusing on some of the amazing light shows that people have created. Last night, it was raining making a walk with my camera inadvisable, but I decided to shoot two scenes from within the safety of my car. Setting up the tripod on the seat, I composed some photographs and used the window to add another element.
Abstraction in Photography
With a background in painting and a true love for modern and abstract art, I have always enjoyed using a camera to make images that are non-objective. This task is difficult even with a paintbrush, but when you use a camera it is even more challenging. I enjoy using lights and long exposures to soak up the colors without any discernible forms. This reduces the image to line and color and I find it to be fun and interesting. What do you think? Do you like the abstract images or the realistic ones better?
Purchasing Prints to Collect Jake J. Thomas Fine Art
Thanks for reading my blog. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to have any of these image printed for your art collection. We can accommodate specific requests, and we have our favorite types of prints. Contact us today to begin your collection. Thanks, and Happy New Year!