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.

The Value of Landscape Photography Part One

Exploration and Creation

The process of searching for something that you want to photograph, of looking for landscapes you want to depict, can be a mysterious process. What makes you want to make a photograph? Searching for meaning in a landscape could seem a foreign or futile process if you are uninitiated and unexperienced, but the process of looking for subjects in the environment to photograph is exciting and inherently valuable.

One of the interesting things about landscape photography is that it is very accessible. Access is not the greater challenge. Cameras exist in great abundance, and there are lots of parks with forests, mountains, streams, beaches, and other interesting things to discover. What makes it difficult is the not knowing.

To want to make a landscape photograph, you have to become accustomed to the process of exploring. Exploration already implies a lack of knowledge. It means you are looking for something hitherto unconscious. It requires going out into the world with the goal of bringing back something different.

Studying the Landscape

Through searching for subject to photograph, an artist gradually grows to know a place intimately. Hiking becomes a form of reading when you enter into this mode of searching. Any landscape is constantly changing with the seasons, and even a small park is infinitely full of potential subject matter. This means that it is virtually impossible to fully know any landscape. By paying careful attention to it, however, you can become very familiar with a space.

Only through putting in the time can an artist know a space. It is a relationship that requires work and patience. Similar to studying English Literature, or the history of Chinese Painting, this is a process that could never be complete. There is always more to learn.

Looking for Beauty in Dark Times

The Trainwreck Effect

Humans express a range of emotions in response to natural or cultural disasters. Some people mobilize and get busy figuring out how to help. Other people withdraw and pull up the drawbridge, hoping to escape harm through sheltering. When it comes to what we pay attention to, there is a widespread interest in witnessing the destruction. Like a car accident or a trainwreck, people have been glued to the worst parts of these storms.

It’s understandable, certainly. This is not something that you see every day and one way you can surely appreciate the power of the natural world is by viewing the flimsiness of manmade objects in the path of a storm. However, this is only part of the story, and it is bad business. Serving up disaster and destruction is why our national media outlets are losing their credibility every single day.

Always an Alternative

Instead of fueling the bad habit of doomscrolling, people in media always have the option of focusing on the solution. If there is no way to stop what is coming, then we can also search for the beautiful, we can focus on the good, we can adhere to the true. So much of our reality is determined by our perspective.

If we want to achieve a positive outcome, we must assume a comic disposition, even in the darkest of times. Remember the movie Life is Beautiful starring Roberto Benigni? Set in WWII as prisoners of the German concentration camps, the character attempts to shelter his son from the sheer malevolence of the world surrounding them. He knows that despite the horrors of the Nazi regime, their only hope to survive physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually is to search for the beautiful.

The Power of Choice

Even in a world that seems overdetermined, where a rational sense of the future seems foreclosed, we still can choose. That is one of the most powerful words in the English language: choice. We can decide what we choose to share. We are responsible for our expressions.

If we truly want a better future for our children, then it starts with the little choices we make each day. Instead of flocking to the damage, rather than showcasing the destruction, we also have the option of focusing on the beautiful and attempting to inspire hope in the future, to rekindle a faith in the basic goodness of existence.

Facing Fear and Grief Without Flinching

Knowing Your True Friends

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.