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Category Archives: Closeup

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.


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 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.

Due to a confluence of factors, redwoods hold special meaning for me.  I think redwoods beautifully reflect the concept of wu-wei.  Tall and strong, yet soft and bending, the redwood manifests an ability to grow while weathering adversity not over the minutes, but over the millennia.  There is much to learn here.

It was a busy semester, and a recent weekend in Duluth was the first time in months I had been behind the lens for more than a few minutes.  A more interesting trip in a few weeks holds the promise to spend some quality time in nature with camera in hand.  I am looking forward to it.

As evinced by my absence from posting, it has been a busy semester. I finally found time this morning to go for a rather long walk into the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge is a far cry from the silence of the Badlands or the grandeur of Yellowstone. Nonetheless, its presence demonstrates that natural beauty can readily be found within a metropolitan area of three million people. Just a short hike down the hill from a busy freeway, these trumpeter swans gave me the opportunity of temporarily leaving the city for a place a little more remote.

It is difficult for me to look at this photograph and not have a powerful urge to travel somewhere.

Good fortune sometimes smiles on you twice in a short span of time.  I had the opportunity to observe at close range the dragonfly below, who I watched land on my patio table and proceed to eat at leisure a smaller winged insect.

It was a beautiful insect.

Yesterday, I had the good fortune to be outside during a torrential rain.  This good fortune was compounded with the fact that I was standing there with two of my best friends.  Many people eschew inclement weather, but nature photographers know there is magic to be found in such moments of “bad” weather.  No, “magic” is not the appropriate term.  Inclement weather can help one to experience almost viscerally a deeper connection to the natural world around him.

One of the beauties of looking through the lens is that it can quite literally help one to focus on what visually matters in the surrounding environment.  For example, the leafy hanging branch in the photograph below provides a nice juxtaposition against the lake in the background.  The rainstorm that surrounds it all provides further detail and movement.

Even the most mundane of scenes can possess visual import, especially during times of dynamic weather.  The photograph below is one such example.  Heavy rain on pavement is about as simple an image as can be, yet there is a charge to splashing of the raindrops and their resultant little splashes.

Yet, it is sometimes in that ephemerally fleeting moment as the weather just begins to clear that the most sublime of photographs can be made.  These are those little moments I often treasure as a photographer.



There is something visceral about spring’s first hints of color that remains semantically elusive.  The return of vernal blossoms in the form of flowers and newborn leaves instills in one a sense of vitality and a heightened awareness, if only temporarily, of promise.  Those first weeks of spring are special, when the colors are fresh and the landscape has not yet settled into the darker green that will persist for the duration of summer.  Such moments are fecund with the potential for growth and renewal.  That is the promise.