Saturday, March 26, 2016

Seeing Beauty

Tunnel View after sunset, Yosemite National Park, California
Fujifilm X-E2, 18-55mm
Have you ever had difficulty seeing the beauty in something that didn't quite look or seem terribly good at first impression?  I have  --  more often than I'd like to admit.

Earlier this month when I was in Yosemite National Park I had some unusually good photo opportunities but they came at the expense of capturing some of the "usual" ones.  Sunset at Tunnel View was not to be for me that evening.  

Instead of leaving I stood around and looked for what I may not have seen at first glance.  The warmth of sunset vanished and was replaced by cool, flat light.  I gave the scene a few more looks and decided that I would try to capture it in black and white.  I think it was a good choice not to abandon it without giving it another change.

Isn't it that way with other things in our lives?  

Recently I had a woman in front of me in court who returned to the apartment from which she had been evicted to retrieve the personal property that the movers left behind.  A deputy sheriff who oversaw the eviction told her not to come back and testified that the movers put everything of obvious value in storage.  A neighbor saw the woman go back into the apartment and called the police.

Sounds like a clear case of trespassing, right?  

There's more to the story.  The defendant was homeless and a chronically mentally ill single mother with two children who isn't getting any child support from their father.  The things left behind in the apartment were of value to her and she went back inside to get them,  And despite the strikes against her she has her illness under reasonable control and works at a low-wage job to support her children.

Clearly she was trespassing and I found her guilty which was to her undoubtedly yet another "failure" in her life.  Before imposing sentence I asked her to tell me about herself and anything else she thought I should know.  She threw in the towel and had nothing much to say.  So I asked her to tell me something good about herself because I was sure she was pretty used to hearing about all the not so good things.  Slowly we talked about her work, her challenges and her children.  

I could have viewed this woman as a lawbreaker caught once again.  But I wanted to take another look.  Was the glass half full or half empty?  Yes, she was wrong but if you put yourself in her shoes, what would you have done?  Obviously she was doing about all she can to keep it together and support her children, a tough task for most people with limited income but even rougher when you're chronically mentally ill.  

I fined her $100 -- less than the prosecutor wanted but actually pretty stiff when you consider that it's about half of her weekly take home pay. 

Sometimes taking another look at something turns out that you see it differently than you did at first.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Horsetail Falls

Horsetail Falls, Yosemite National Park
Fujifilm X-E1, 55-200mm
Fishermen often talk about "the one that got away" and for me Horsetail Falls in Yosemite National Park was like that for many years.  I was in Yosemite ostensibly at "the right time" but Mother Nature didn't get the memo.

Until last week.

Horsetail Falls is really misting water falling downward that during parts of February can become passionately illuminated just before and at sunset.  It doesn't always happen but when it does it's a special occasion -- one, I might add, that's shared by hundreds of people who often have waited for hours for "the right shot."

Despite being a "captive audience" it's not a glum one.  Families picnic, sometimes inviting their temporary "neighbors" to share food and drink.  Photographers offer up their stories and tips for getting a good shot.  Park rangers who once were persnickety about where people parked finally came up with a better idea: temporarily close one of the two lanes on the one-way westbound road so that people could park there.  It's kind of like a football game where people are tailgating together, happy with a victory and sad for a loss but happy for the company along the way.

There are, of course, parallels to life here.  If you want something, showing up is half the battle and sticking with it the rest.  You might not always succeed on the first try -- or maybe the second or third.  But eventually patience and perseverance is likely to win out.  If you get discouraged and give up you'll never succeed.  And even if you didn't get "the shot" you've had the fellowship of kindred spirits.   Life is good.

Horsetail Falls at sunset, Yosemite National Park
Fujifilm X-E1, 55-200mm

Note:  It doesn't take a lot of equipment to shoot this but the right gear on hand is critical.  A lens with a 200-300mm effective range, a circular polarizer, a remote shutter release and your camera mounted on a tripod will help you zoom in and maintain sharpness.