Friday, October 31, 2014

Drawing pleasure from the simple fact of existence

If all thought is based on analogy, if we create our understanding of the universe by comparing each new situation brought to our attention through our senses - the means that have evolved which enable our bodies to cope, survive, reproduce - to situations previously encountered...

If all our personal experience of the universe is in a very real sense only within our minds (for what other experience can we have?)...

If pleasure is a state of mind to be sought, one to be valued (even if displeasure is a sometimes necessary and often useful state of mind that among other things gives value to pleasure, and also prods us to actions that allow us to continue living and pursuing pleasure)...

Then should we perhaps recognize that a primary source of pleasure derives from the simple fact that we exist and have some means of exploring what exists (ourselves and everything else), creating richer analogies, making further sense of what we perceive?

Each intelligent being has different capabilities and tendencies of thought, but all can experience the complexity of existence and enjoy it in their own way.  I am not ignoring the fact that many people are forced into life circumstances that make it almost impossible to enjoy even the most basic facets of existence.  I suspect this may be true in similar numbers for many other intelligent animals.  My point is perhaps akin to the phrase "pursuit of happiness" in the U. S. Declaration of Independence, in that I think it would be a laudable goal to seek this as a right for all sentient beings, even though it is likely virtually impossible in an animal kingdom that has evolved through ceaseless competition for survival.  Predators are not going to lie down peaceably with prey, but people do not need to mistreat animals that they consider inferior, or have decided have no sensibilities and exist only for our purposes.  Even more certainly, people do not need to mistreat other people.  Of course, they will - we too have evolved characteristics that tend toward our own preservation at the expense of others - but we have the intelligence to see beyond this, to see above this.  An idealist's goal has to be to work toward a world where those who are able to make judgments rationally can exert more influence than those whose every action is dictated by aggrandizement and individual self-preservation instincts born of a time long past.

I was thinking of these things as I watched our young dog Ziva clearly deriving enormous pleasure from simple acts - running, eating, gnawing, smelling, looking at new objects, playing tug of war, resting on a soft surface, and so forth.  I would like to think that I have taught myself to enjoy much of what life has to offer, but there is still much for me to learn from a fellow traveler like Ziva.  Along the way, I find that I greatly enjoy sensing her happiness.  Sharing positive emotions can increase their power for both parties!


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Ziva diva finishes her first week in style

Ziva the diva dog has now been living with us for a week.  Here are a few shots from this afternoon.

Ziva likes to chew on pine cones.  This somehow doesn't seem to harm her gums or other soft tissues.
In this photo, she looks like a guilty hyena, but that's just the camera catching her in the midst of sitting down.

Such devilish pleasure!

This is serious business.

Yes, we provide her with appropriate chew toys, from elk horn to fabric hedgehog to favorite stolen cotton sock, but there's nothing like gathering your own chews from nature's cornucopia, a pine forest.

Here the strong shadows make her look like a fierce stalker.

At home, the puppy face reappears.

Quarters so cramped (and lens view so wide) that the photographer's legs became part of the composition.

Hey, a portrait photographer ought to know better than to put the lens so close to a subject's nose!  Look at that exaggerated muzzle and foreshortened body.  Fortunately, Ziva is such a cute little canine that she looks great from almost any perspective!

She licks me all over, but so far I've managed to keep her tongue away from the camera lenses.


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Falling for Ziva

Ziva loves autumn weather!  I suspect she'll be happy through all seasons, though.

While she watched from inside the house, I went after a few falling leaves that got caught on their way down.  These are exactly as I found them.  Forkful:

Almost butterfly-like:

Wants to be the last one on a stem?

How much is that doggie in the window?  Priceless!


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Ziva - afternoon play time

I documented 12 minutes out of Ziva's sixth afternoon in her permanent home.  Twelve minutes to an approximately six month old dog is like two hours to a human adult.  (For a mature 2 year old dog, it's more like one human hour.  This is completely scientific!  I've verified the subjective experience of time with a large sample of dogs.  OK, just kidding.)

May I chase the squirrels in the front yard?

Well then, could I race out into the back yard and chase a squirrel?

Not fair!  How can you climb this very large tree so quickly?

If I could hollow out this stick, it would make a good alphorn, don't you think?

Or should I carve a violin bow?  This stick is almost straight...

...but it needs a chamfer on one end.

It is probably a good thing that no one documented the early (or later) portions of my life in such detail, but Ziva has assured me that she doesn't mind her twelve minutes of fame*, and plans on a career of celebrity.  If there are people who are "famous for being famous", I think this little canine charmer deserves to be famous just for being.

*Andy Warhol suggested that we would each have our 15 minutes, but while monetary exchange undergoes inflation, I'd say time intervals shorten - witness the general diminution of attention span!


Introducing: Ziva

I'd like you to meet Ziva, the diva dog, youngest member of our family!  We met her at a rescue facility the afternoon of Oct. 23, and decided on the spot to bring her home.  Once she settled in a bit, she relaxed.  Doesn't she look regal here, just three days later?

I'd like to show a few photos from those three days.  First are two iPhone snaps done while she was riding home in the car.  I was in a back seat with her, not attempting to drive and shoot!

Here's an animated gif of Ziva running happily through the ivy in the heavy shade, in the late afternoon, just hours after her arrival.  ISO 51,200, for camera geeks.

Ziva and I soon covered quite a few miles around our neighborhood and the nearby Greenway, but I didn't want to slow her down by attempting photos during these early walks.  Instead, I give you a tired puppy getting ready to nap on a rug.

There are sure to be more extensive photos before long.  Ziva is sweet, energetic, photogenic, curious, patient (for a young thing), and very loving.  What more could one desire!


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Yates Mill Pond Autumn

At the start of a late Saturday afternoon outing to Yates Mill with a few members of the Carolinas Nature Photography Association, I was a little disappointed to find the type of clear blue sky that millions of people like, a sign of "perfect weather".  From a photographic standpoint (and also just personal preference), I've always enjoyed cloudy weather.  It can provide flattering light for portrait subjects, intriguing light on landscapes and cityscapes, and interesting shapes if sky occupies a significant portion of an image.

Blue sky it was, so, what would I see...
Doing an establishing shot of the focal point of the area, the old Yates Mill, I chose an angle that emphasized the reflected blue in the windows.  I did not want to tilt the camera up to cover the height of the building (my vantage was low on the rocks), so I used a tilt/shift lens, shifting the lens upward. I leveled the camera, but unintentionally pointed it very slightly downward!  I liked the very slight divergence of the vertical lines - it seemed to add to the imposing bulk of the old wooden structure, so I left it that way rather than refining the leveling nearer to exactly accurate.  It's a pretty subtle difference, but if you're tuned into "architectural" verticals you'll see it, and if not, you might feel it.

Moving further away and to a higher vantage point, I used a longer lens to isolate an interesting part of the structure and contrast it with the trees.

For this image, the extreme contrast of sunlight and shade was tricky to tame, but the shadows added to the composition.

As the sun got lower, there was a bit of gold in the light, enhanced by reflection off the wood.  I chose to exaggerate this to contrast it with the blue tones.

There wasn't a lot of fall color in the leaves, but across the pond there was a patch of red standing out from its surroundings.  The shape of a dark branch balanced things, and a long telephoto included just the area I wanted in my composition.

The view across the pond was serene.  Here the angle is such that the sun was blocked by a tree limb in direct view, but shows in the reflection.

I suspect that some gorgeous sunset colors may have been on the way, but I needed to leave to attend a pre-concert reception for a group of patrons, after which I had a difficult concert to perform.

In my last few moments I tried an abstract reflection shot.

And a parting shot across the water when a pedestrian in bright clothing caught my eye.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Harvesting Fall Colors

When autumn leaves are really showing off their colors, it's a perfect time to wander with a camera and collect "samples".  These were gathered over the course of three days, devoting an hour or two each day to photography.  It felt like minutes - time flies when I'm having fun.  Paradoxically, it sometimes almost seems to stand still when I'm "working a scene", but when I'm done I'll wonder where the hour went.

You'll see a lot of strong color contrast in these photos.  The split tree, though, I like for the subtlety of the hues, with strength residing in shapes and textures.

Here is how this one was originally shot, for comparison.  An early viewer graciously took the time to comment, pointing out some glaring faults.  I think the cropped version above is closer to what I was imagining (and should have seen before posting!) - I don't expect everyone to like the juxtaposition of corrugated steel and soft leaves, but that contrast is in fact what caught my eye.  Thanks to those of you who look closely and are willing to say what you think.  I really appreciate it! I don't post everything I shoot, of course, but this blog is in part an exercise and learning tool for me.  That's why the photos are generally in chronological order, rather than being arranged artfully as a group.

The bright colors of this wagon fit the mood of the season, and I liked the tension of chaos and order in the different types of wire.