No Knee Ski, But Great Times

…a few days before this Christmas when I spent a night in my daughter and her husband’s Taos Ski Valley condo. It’s near the first chairlift. Looking out the patio door I recalled taking both my daughters, who were about 11 and 13 at the time, for a day skiing there.

Hard Hearts Beat on Earth Day

Oh I do care and am concerned about the health of our oceans. But I’m not marching in the streets, writing letters to the editor, or shouting on talk radio shows. What I do is edit and write a blog called Neptune 911 that reports, from solid and reliable sources, news about the oceans. My concern doesn’t come from Google-U. It comes from direct experience and seeing the issues with plastics in the ocean, university sponsored workshops led by leading oceanographers, marine biologists, etc.; and webinars sponsored by same universities and the National Science Foundation

Picture This! Exploring Creativity in Digital Technology

We shot Joshua tree close-ups to wide angle landscapes.

When my 65th birthday struck, I didn’t fly to Hawaii or float on a Caribbean cruise. I gifted myself with a semi-professional camera, with interchangeable lenses that included zoom, and wide-angle possibilities. It was time to leave my point-and-shoot digital camera behind. No longer could it capture what I see in my minds-eye when my true eye peers through a viewfinder. Plus, when I showed some photos to a working photographer for a book idea, his critique noted, “Charmaine, get a real camera!”

I knew he was right on because a part of my professional life included photo assignments ordered by my newspaper section editor when the trained photographers were unavailable. Again, I had to buy a “real camera” (35mm) and learn how to use it. Trained photographers and editors taught me what I know today.

Those were the days of canvas camera bags lumped with rolls of ISO 400 black and white film, proof sheets and a loupe. For cover photos we shot with slide film, developed the slides and slipped them into sheets of pocketed plastic to view. The real magic happened beneath a red light in the darkroom.

Jumbles of rocks demand some black and white treatments at Joshua Tree National Park. I can now say, I shot this in RAW.

Many terms remain, but a litany of technical and non-technical slang (selfies—which back in the 80s was something one might perform alone in a room) bombarded me with my new camera’s manual. It may as well been written in ancient Greek.

I’m on another learning curve with this thing called a DSLR camera that produces amazing photographs–when I get lucky. And just about the time I think I have this digital photography under my belt, a return email from a magazine editor noted, “Love the photos, but can you send them in high-resolution?”

What does he mean high-resolution? They aren’t in high-resolution? They have to be? What did I do wrong?

In turn, I sent out panic emails to working photographers with a blood curdling subject line—like I’m going to have a heart attack or something.

Within 3 hours I learned about RAW vs JPEG, need for Dropbox, Lightroom, blah, (still panicked), blah.

I know JPEG, and had recently discovered RAW settings on my camera. But, frankly, the word RAW scared me to death.

Four of the eight discussing how to best manage the hot spots from mid-day lighting.

This is when I feel very old and out of touch and wish that some technology remain un-invented. It’s like the smart television that makes me feel like a dumb human.

Fortunately, the day after my near and RAW meltdown, I met with seven other women for a 3-day photo journey in the desert. This gathering of Old Broads With Cameras (OBWC) included photography undergrads, artists, and hobbyists. Our ages ran from 50-something to 70-something. Some in fabulous shape, others working on fabulous shape. After settling into the Desert Hot Springs house we rented, there was one thing we agreed upon, digital technology changed most everything we knew back in those good ol’ days of ISO 400 B&W film for 35mm cameras. But we loved the potential.

Yes, we remained on a learning curve.

Yes, we would hike, but not on difficult and long trails.

Yes, we wanted to test our photo chops with predawn photos in the desert.

Yes, we would have a good time.

“Are you going to shoot manual or automatic?”

“RAW will give you the best post-shooting options.”

“What lens do you plan to use at predawn?”

Some camera adjustment for the changing sunrise in the Cholla Garden at Joshua Tree National Park.

Tripods, water bottles, and back packs weighed down my car. OMG, I was in creative women heaven as we laced our hiking boots, hung cameras around our necks and hitched backpacks to our bodies and began our first trek along a moderate trail in Joshua Tree National Park. A few of our crew brought their sketch pads and paints for some plein air fun.

Each woman wandered at her own pace and let her creative eye go buck wild. Limitations be damned! Just shoot it!

After our mountain top sunset photo shoot, exhausted and hungry, we returned to our 4-bedroom rental, slipped our photo cards in to our Macs and ewwed and awwed at each other’s compositions. Together, probably a 1000 or more frames.

The next day included a predawn and sunrise photo shoot. This was far from my personal photo taking experience. I studied the how-to and prayed I’d retain the info. I didn’t come home with a money-maker predawn photo, but I’m pleased with my first attempt. It was the support that made all the difference. No one played know-it-all. Everyone agreed we each had something to learn and share in this digital world of photography, and we’re not afraid!

Personally, I applaud myself for giving me the best birthday present ever—that semi-professional DSLR—even if I’m still digesting terms like, 16.3MP Live MOS Sensor, and Micro Four Thirds System. It’s a fresh view on creativity for this OBWC.


Awakening a California Girl’s Spirit

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe woodsy air born from the thousands of years old coast redwoods filled my lungs on a Sunday morning 45 years ago. My California girl’s spirit awakened. I took the first steps along a new path as nature whispered her song into my ears. Harmonic resonance beneath the aged ones, those sentries of the primeval forest, comforted and healed my wounds of the day.

Though a pup in my personal timeline, I did “Seek ye counsel of the aged, for their eyes have looked on the faces of the years and their ears have hearkened to the voices of Life. Even if their counsel is displeasing to you pay heed to them.” (Kahlil Gibran, The Words of the Master.)

Like now, troubles headlined world news. Fear fueled paranoia. A cyclical change rolled through society. Discourse bred defiance. So I took to the trails beneath the aged trees—some with the wisdom of 2000 years at their roots—sought counsel and listened.

They didn’t speak a word. They simply stood there and inched further into the sky and added rings to their girth. What did I expect? Would instant wisdom rain down upon me? Clearly, that did not occur. But I left understanding that that moment in time was fleeting and temporary. I left understanding that even though we humans cut and  harvested the bulk of this forest’s family, other humans heard the family of sempervirens preservation plea—for the sempervirens’ moment in time is not temporary, unless we make it so.

When time came to leave the redwood forests, I hugged those tall trees in body and spirit. Life brought me births, deaths, conflicts, books, quests, love, sadness and joy. The redwoods faded into my foggy memory.

Recently, age and wear took its toll on my ability to walk. Three separate injuries that first occurred after I left the redwood forests converged into an ugly knee that took me down—not unlike a chain saw to the wood. This down time wasn’t at a complete loss. I choose not to be destined to becoming a beautiful deck or frame for another’s house. So I took the time to grow— I queried and listened to matter outside of my comfort zone. My discovery included a black and white world with divisive and barbed walls. Common kindness, empathy and compassion, I learned, are, according to this sect of thinking, a sign of weakness. Power to the sword. Power to acquisition. Power to me! These thoughts did not seem akin to the wisdom of the ages.

It was as if a mythological goblin slipped out from beneath a muddy rock and tricked once kindhearted people into a dark underworld.

This made me rethink and question my core.

Meanwhile, a relatively simple surgery repaired my knee followed by weeks of physical therapy. I had no idea how far my body had slipped away from well-being. Each day, post-surgery, I learned the proper way to walk, and realigned the ligaments and muscles that literally twisted my knee from forward to sideways. Then one day, I walked for over three miles with no pain. A life-metaphor was in the works. “Strengthen your core,” advised the physical therapist, “and you will return to walking and just about anything you wish.”

The exuberance that overcame me after accomplishing a simple thing like a 3-mile painless walk inspired me to continue both spiritual and physical core strengthening. And this led me to a recent return to that same redwood forest of my youth.

This time I would not only inhale the woodsy air of these ancient trees, but I would embrace every bit of their wisdom. And, yes, I could again trek up an inclined trail—albeit not like the lithe youth 45 years back—but I proved to myself that core strengthening works in both body and spirit.

Nature’s cathedral is not temporary like politics and power. Nature’s temple nurtures without a demand for anything other than reverence and respect.

My silver hair and softened body announces that I’m a senior citizen. A brief timeout at sunrise with the trees brought life back into its proper perspective.

There is much work to do as my California girl’s spirit reawakens.