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There are many fine reasons for camping.  However, the most significant motivator for me is the potential to witness a clear night sky full of stars.  It never fails to prove a reverential experience for me, one that reminds me of the beauty of the Cosmos and the importance of moderation.  Recently, I was most fortunate to share such an experience with my brother and one of our very good friends.

(Ⓒ J. A. Kaufman 2015, 28mm @ ISO 3200, f/2.8, 15 sec)

I once read that flowers are Nature laughing.  Likely a bastardization of a statement made by Emerson, this quotation has remained with me over the years.  It is a testament to the joy that I recently experienced while attending an orchid show on a bright winter day.  The photograph below is indicative of what can be captured with an inexpensive 50 mm f/1.8 lens set at f/2 on an APS-C body.  This is a lens I very rarely use, yet its shallow depth of field coupled with a close focusing distance lent itself as expected to the close-quarters shooting that was possible during the show.


There is something inherently beautiful in the starkness of a landscape during a Minnesota midday when the temperature hovers around 3-5° F.

The lens allows us to limit our focus onto the most salient aspects of the environment.  Per the translation of Stephen Mitchell, the words of Lao-Tzu seem apropos:

A good traveler has no fixed plans
 and is not intent upon arriving.
A good artist lets his intuition 
lead him wherever it wants.
A good scientist has freed himself of concepts 
and keeps his mind open to what is.

Thus the Master is available to all people
 and doesn’t reject anyone.
He is ready to use all situations 
and doesn’t waste anything.
This is called embodying the light.

There is wonder in what lies beyond our ready imagination.  Sometimes, that wonder shows itself, however briefly, and reinvigorates the innate drive to explore and know.

There is an subtle awesomeness to a wide-open landscape, such as this one in northern Montana.  It beckons one’s thoughts toward the future, toward what Emily Dickinson referred to as dwelling in possibility.


There is no question in my mind that the camera in a smartphone dies not compare in image quality to an SLR.  Nonetheless, with the recent purchase of an iPhone 5c, I find myself quite pleased to be able to make competent photographs regardless of where or when I am.  Sometimes, nature offers an opportunity for which one has not planned.  Out comes the phone.

There are certain places on Earth that have moved me more than others, places that motivate within me a sense of awe and humility.  On a recent first visit to Glacier National Park, hiking Logan Pass as the sun set was one such place.

Looking closely at the photography above will yield a place carpeted in wildflowers of myriad hues, surrounded by mountain peaks, and dotted by a taiga of conifers.  Logan pass is one of the most beautiful places I have yet to experience.

There are also special views  that remind one, however briefly, that we live on a Planet imbued with beauty beyond measure.  Mt. Oberlin at sunset is one such reminder.

Duluth is a special place to visit, the last city of any size before one enters Northern Minnesota.  One of the city’s best features is that it is located at the westernmost tip of Lake Superior.  The inland sea can be treacherous, but it can also offer much beauty.

On a recent flight to Washington, D.C., I was reminded of the benefit of carrying some glass on a trip.  I was traveling for a weekend conference, and after some thought had left my camera gear at home in order to minimize the weight and size of my backpack.  The colors of the sky were sublime above 30,000 feet on the way east, and I had no real camera with which to shoot out the jet window.  Such situations continue to prompt me to consider purchasing a secondary camera, specifically a point-and-shoot with manual exposure controls.  This is not the easiest piece of equipment to find, certainly not at the price and size points I would consider validate such a purchase.  Thus, the search goes on.  The photo below was taken on an iPhone 3GS, which has a substandard camera, even for a phone.  However, as I am fond of saying to myself, what matters is to make the shot.