People Photography

Say hello to the nice lady with the camera

As I was wandering about the River Walk in San Antonio, I would pass restaurants along the way, glancing down at the happy groups of friends and family as they enjoyed the pleasant weather and each other’s companies. The sight made me feel lonely.

Normally my love of travel would overcome these intermittent feelings of loneliness, but during this trip it seemed more persistent than in previous journeys. I thought about packing it in, heading for the hotel for a Margarita and dinner in my room and a movie on the tube, and started taking some pictures randomly, just to finish the roll.

I had the camera pointed at the river when one of the boats full of happy tourists was going past. I’m used to being ignored when taking photos, so was surprised when the boat driver started waving madly at me, and then called out to his customers, “Hey! Say Hello to the nice lady with the camera!”

I was even more surprised when the riders, obviously primed by an enjoyable ride with this particular guide, one and all starting waving madly at me, calling out hello. People around me stopped to look, most laughing and waving back, and I was startled into a smile, and starting waving with unencumbered hand as hard as I could. It was only when the boat was almost past that I remembered to take some photos, and this was the only one that came out halfway decent.


Odd how a simple connection between strangers can change your view of the world. Rather than head back to the hotel I kept exploring until my feet were too sore from unaccustomed walking on cement, and then had a nice dinner at a Mexican food place by the water, chatting with the waitress about the football game coming up the next week.

I look at this photo now, though, in light of the news in recent weeks, and I find myself picking out those in the boat most impacted by the events and decisions.

The older couple to the left, do you see them? There’s a new Medicare bill that will pay for half of their prescription drugs if they have them, but hopefully they don’t, because prescriptions in this country can run into the hundreds of dollars on pills you have to take monthly. Half of costs too much, still costs too much.

Luckily though, they have social security to help them. For the younger people in the boat, like the two young guys next to them, Social Security will most likely be broke by the time they need it, with money diverted to ‘investments’ or eaten away by a huge deficit.

Those kids in the front of the boat, close to me — cute aren’t they? Chances are they have inadequate health care coverage, go to schools that will close in the next few years, and be tested like prime beef and judged solely by the results. Actually, come to think of it, even prime beef isn’t tested as much as these kids.

Most of the smiling folks will suffer some effects of general pollution before they die. Those youngest may never have a chance to walk in undeveloped wilderness when they’re adult.

A few of these people are most likely unemployed and there’s a good chance their jobs are gone, permanently. Others will work longer hours for less money and not say anything because they have families to care for and can’t afford to get fired.

One might die in a war about greed and religion, interchangeable parts. Another might take their own life, in despair.

Where is that boat going so fast, and what will it find when it gets there?

I look at the photo and I think these things, and I feel sad and helpless. But then I look at the photo again, one more time, until I see it beyond the news.


When I look at the people sitting next to each other, and into their faces, and at the smiles, I see something beautiful. Look at the picture again: do you see what I see?

I see hope.

Photography Places

Archives: Cannon Beach

Cannon Beach in Oregon is one of my favorite places, and I have several photos in my archives from stays there. I’ll try to space them out because after seeing several, I’m sure there’s a sameness about them.

When we would visit we’d stay right on the water, and listen to the surf at night and smell that wonderful ocean smell coming in through the open windows. If it was cool, we’d light a fire, or sit in the jacuzzi built for two – candles lit, curtains open to the promise of beauty.

In the mornings we’d walk the beach, looking at tidal pools, and checking out the antics of the gulls. You can’t get tired of walking Cannon – it’s never the same from day to day.


Later in the day we’d have lunch in town and then walk about, visiting the galleries, enjoying a town designed for tourists that still managed to maintain its charm – no easy task, because tourists can be cultural termites.

After lunch, there was the cliffs surrounding the town to explore–magnificent! No matter how busy the season, there’s always places to get away from the crowds.

I learned to fly a kite at Cannon, but I still haven’t taken the large one out, my kite with the wing span almost as long as I’m tall. This Spring, she will fly.

Critters Photography

Archives: Eagle

It is a bitterly cold day today. I am restless, and want to get out of the house, go on a hike and admire the frozen streams and snow. Fly free, not hobble about. But I have duties today, including a chapter due.

Hobble. That’s a good word, eh? It means to ‘limp about’ and my ankle is still sore, though the bruising is going down. More, it also means ‘to hamper or impede’, and I am hampered from my hikes and find this frustrating.

Hard to believe that Ben Franklin didn’t want this fine bird to be our national symbol, but he didn’t and wanted the turkey instead. He found the eagle to be a deceitful creature, stealing food and bullying smaller birds. But I’ve seen eagles fish and care for their young, and I’ve definitely seen them soar – old Ben didn’t look closely enough to see the beauty amidst the avarice and aggression.

Or maybe it was his humor?

However, he’d probably be happy today: we may still have the Bald Eagle as symbol of the country, but there’s now a Turkey in the White House.



A mixed sort of day

Today has been a mixed sort of day, with sparkling diamond bright highs, and lows that fall comfortably into those shadowed areas of disappointment that are, oddly enough, beautiful in their dark, somber way. I think this is my way of saying that today has been a rich day.

I took my car in for overdue work, including tire rotation and wheel alignment, not to mention various fluid and filter changes. Waiting across the street in the cafe of the local bookstore, lovely coffee drink in one hand, extremely readable book in the other, I had a call from the mechanic – was I aware that my two back tires were in very bad shape? Well, no, I wasn’t aware that my tires were shot, but I was aware that something was wrong with my car.

Unfortunately, the nature of my car is such that tires are a rather expensive proposition, two tires for it costing equivalent to four inexpensive ones in cars that don’t have the odd Focus frame (the price you pay for ergonomics and good gas mileage). However, when tires are bald, tires are bald; if it means costing my reserved photography funds to replace the tires, so be it.

My car would be another hour but I lost interest in reading my book so wandered the aisles, reading a page here, looking at a cover there. I also checked the computer book section and couldn’t find “Unix Power Tools” or “Essential Blogging” but I did find “Practical RDF” on the shelves, which surprised me because it was a general book store, and not likely to lure semantic web types in for a quick read and snatch of a relevant book. Not only was the book there, but it was placed prominently – even before I did my usual author tricks. (I’ve discussed these before, pulling the book out, putting into prominent place, making sure it’s gently placed face first to the potential buyer.)

I also had a chance to check out what would be a possible competitor for my new book, and was delighted – oh so delighted! – to see that the book was trite, confused, and basically a piece of shit. Contrary to what we may say, and all our noble sentiments, authors take huge delight when we find that a competitive book is crap. We visualize our own book beside it and think about how well it will compare, picturing in our mind how much more attractive it will be for the buyer. Of course, our competitor is most likely in their bookstore, looking at our book, smugly, gleeful at the piece of dung we’ve managed to squeeze between paper covers. Such is the nature of the book business.

On the way home, I managed to avoid the many pits and holes in the road that literally fill the pavement for 2 blocks not far from my house – all having opened up in the last week with the sudden cold, cold temperatures. Destroyer of Car has been joined by its family and it’s actually rather humorous to see cars move through this gauntlet of bad pavement, as if all the drivers have been suddenly inflicted with madness or inebriation. Every once in a while you hear a crunching metal sound and know that the holes have claimed another victim.

But not me, today, me with my shiny new tires.

On the way home, I thought about how to recover from the sudden damage to my finances, at least until the book advances start arriving. Since I have lost my photography budget for the next couple of months, I decided to post my Paypal button to this page and if anyone wants to see new photographs, they only need drop a dime…or two…into my account, enough to pay for another roll of film and development. In the meantime, I’ll make do with my digital camera and posting photos from my archives.

I thought this arrangement was quite workable, and when I got home, I decided to check my email and then post this note to the weblog and my Paypal button. But then I noticed an email from a magazine editor I had sent photos to a long time ago.

Hi, Shelley. I am the managing editor of ________ magazine. The editor and
I reviewed your submission “Reflections.” We loved your photos and are
interested in using them in our August 2004 issue.

This from a magazine known for its photography.

No, I’m not sure if you do know what these words meant to me. I’m not sure I even know myself. Let’s say that there have been few moments in my life as significant to me as reading these few words.

But then I read the rest:

If you could provide slides of the images and a description of their location, we will negotiate a price for your work.

These were photos from my digital camera that I had sent to several publishers before finding out that my camera does not do images at a resolution publishers need. It’s the reason I am using my film cameras now. The magazine won’t be able to use these images, after all.

There’s that high thing. And there’s that low thing.

I’ll think about how I’ll respond to the email this weekend. Craft it carefully so that the publisher understands and hopefully will consider using some of my new photographs in a future publication. And I’ll keep taking pictures and developing the slides and eventually replace the digital ones with ones that publishers can use. Because now I know they’ll want to use them.

Environment Political

Bet you can’t eat just one

For decades, government policies have allowed large amounts of underbrush and small trees to collect at the base of our forests. The motivations of this approach were good. But our failure to maintain the forests has had dangerous consequences and devastating consequences. The uncontrolled growth, left by years of neglect, chokes off nutrients from trees and provides a breeding ground for insects and disease.

The new law directs courts to consider the long-term risks that could result if thinning projects are delayed. And that’s an important reform, and I want to thank you all for that. It places reasonable time limits on litigation after the public has had an opportunity to comment and a decision has been made. You see, no longer will essential forest health projects be delayed by lawsuits that drag on year after year after year.

(From President Bush Signs Healthy Forest Restoration Act into Law)

Despite the Bush administration’s disingenuous rhetoric about ‘thinning underbrush,’ the Forest Service really focuses the vast majority of its projects on the removal of economically valuable mature and old-growth trees. The sale of such timber pads the agency’s budget, creating a bureaucratic incentive for mismanagement.

The problem with this is that while the removal of mature trees severely degrades wildlife habitat, such logging also increases the risk of severe fires by reducing the forest canopy, creating hotter, drier conditions on the ground. Also, the increased sunlight reaching the forest floor causes more rapid growth of flammable brush and shrubs.

Essentially, the Forest Service is removing the largest, most fire-resistant structural elements of the forest-the large trees with their thick bark-and leaving behind the smallest, most flammable material.

A century of intense logging in National Forests has not prevented severe fire conditions: it has created them.

(Chad Hanson Director of the John Muir Project, and national director of the Sierra Club.)


Report from a Forest Logged by
the Weyerhaeuser Company

Three square miles clear-cut.
Now only the facts matter:
The heaps of gray-splintered rubble,
The churned-up duff, the roots, the bulldozed slash,
The silence,

And beyond the ninth hummock
(All of them pitched sideways like wrecked houses)
A creek still running somewhere, bridged and dammed
By cracked branches.
No birdsong. Not one note.

And this is April, a sunlit morning.
Nothing but facts. Wedges like half-moons
Fallen where saws cut over and under them
Bear ninety or more rings.
A trillium gapes at so much light

Among the living: a bent huckleberry,
A patch of salal, a wasp,
And now, making a mistake about me,
Two brown-and-black butterflies landing
For a moment on my boot.

Among the dead: thousands of fir seedlings
A foot high, planted ten feet apart,
Parched brown for lack of the usual free rain,
Two buckshot beer cans, and overhead,
A vulture big as an eagle.

Selective logging, they say, we’ll take three miles,
It’s good for the bears and deer, they say,
More brush and berries sooner or later,
We’re thinking about the future-if you’re in it
With us, they say. It’s a comfort to say

Like Dividend or Forest Management or Keep Out.

They’ve managed this to a fare-thee-well.

David Wagoner

(Thanks to Loren for poem.)