Sunday, February 28, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 59

Taken: February 28, 2010, approx. 12:15 p.m.
Location: Healdsburg, CA

I'm staying in bed all day today. Low-grade fever, chills, sore throat and gnarly cough. No fun. Especially when outside, the day is bright and sunny and the winter rains have left the landscape a vibrant, golf-course green.

Been watching the USA-Canada Gold Medal hockey game (which just went into overtime), remembering my early L.A. sportswriter days when I got a chance to help cover the Stanley Cup Finals (Gretzky's Kings vs. Montreal and a young goalie named Patrick Roy). I'm not much of a hockey fan but I dig these heart-pounding medal games and even the NHL Playoffs, particularly in the late rounds in tightly-contested series.  My knowledge of hockey is limited I admit, but it seems to me the Canadians have outplayed the U.S. most of the game and if they had a better goalie, they'd already be on the top of the medal stand. The Canadians have the best player on the ice in Sidney Crosby but the advantage in net is with the U.S. This should be a fun finish.  

My area for taking photos today is limited to what I shoot around the house today. The pugs have been good subjects, but I like this shot of the oak over the garage, with the sharp sun filtered through the branches. Feels like spring is almost here.

Taken with my K100D and edited a bit with Photoshop.

365 Photo Project - Day 58

Taken: February 27, 2010, approx. 1:15 p.m.
Location: Solvang, Ca

I'm posting a day late again. Saturday was a travel day and I didn't get home until late. In the category of no good deed goes unpunished, I'm getting worked over by my first cold of the season. So, I'm going to make this post short.

I shot this off  the main drag on our way out of Solvang. Who knew they had ostrich ranches out here?  I tried out my old manual 200mm lens and got some close-ups of the big birds, but this long shot was my favorite. I'm gonna call it the Plains of Central California. Ha.

The weather was like this sky the whole trip, partly sunny, partly cloudy with patches of blue sky peeking out and bouts of rain so heavy it was hard to see the road. It was a rainbow hunters kind of a day and while we did see a couple, they looked much better in person than in the images I shot with my camera. Some things are best remembered anyway.

Shot this with my K100D. Edited slightly in Photoshop.

Friday, February 26, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 57

Taken: February 26, 2010, approx 6:30 p.m.
Location: Flatbread Restaurant, Los Alamos, Ca.

Just finishing a whirlwind trip to Solvang with my friend Keiko Niccolini, Keiko who has long been in the wine biz,  put together an amazing project with the help of Palmina Winery in Lompoc, Ca. They bottled a rose called Sintanize: Rose For Haiti. All the profits are going to Rural Haiti Project.  Please click on the link and check out their good works for the children of Haiti. If you want to order the wine, contact Keiko here or find her on twitter at @cocolovie -- but get it on it soon because there's only 120 cases.

This photo is rose but not the actual Sintanize which just came off the bottling line today. I shot this with my K100D at a great restaurant in Los Alamos called Flatbreads -- amazing pizzas made with organic and local ingredients. Even if you can't get out to Central California, you can find it in your local Whole Foods freezer under Full of Life Flatbreads. Trust me, it's damn good.

This was edited lightly with Photoshop.

365 Photo Project - Day 56

Taken: February 25, 2010, approx. 11:30 a.m.
Location: Healdsburg, CA

Headed off for a last-minute road trip with my friend who is putting together a cool project to raise money for a special Haiti relief organization (more about that in my next post). We left late in the day and a hitch in our plans put us in Solvang at 3. a.m., three hours after our hoped-for ETA.  Best laid plans be damned. Had no time to put up a photo -- for the first time in the relatively short time I've been doing this project. But like I said in the beginning, there would be days like this.

I got took this shot yesterday morning as I was heading off to my office  to write and after, join my friend for the drive. I had my overnight bag with me and when the pugs see that, they have two reactions: either they follow me to the gate until they're certain I'm not taking them along or they sit in the first available spot and give me those pathetic looks. Like here in this photo.  What can I say? If I could take them everywhere I would.

That's Chamuco on the left there and old man Louie lounging next to him. Shot this with my Pentax K100D and edited in Photoshop, where I used an old-school sepia tone because it felt like an old west pose to me: two gunfighters resting for the big noon shootout. All that's missing is the chaps and the sidearms.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 55

Taken: February 24, 2010, approx. 11:30 a.m.
Location: Healdsburg, CA

All the weather reports had it raining for a week straight but we woke this morning to bright sunshine peaking through a wall of fluffy cotton clouds. A pleasant surprise for sure.

When I was heading down the driveway late this morning, something didn't feel right. This project has me looking up and around constantly and something felt out of place as I looked left, toward the vineyards next door. The view was different somehow. It was a moment before I realized what was so strange: something was missing from the landscape. One of the big oak trees along the driveway had fallen over in the storm. Lucky for us, it fell away from the house and not on it.

It's a fairly awesome sight, seeing an enormous oak felled, snapped from its roots like they were merely toothpicks. Late the night before we heard a thud -- I remember my husband mentioning it. We thought it might be a branch hitting the roof. Turns out it was much bigger than that. Just another dead soldier of the storm.

I shot the tree with my Pentax K100D -- you can see the roots and the trunk and branches lying on the ground. It doesn't quite do it justice. Edited with Photoshop.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 54

Taken: February 23, 2010, approx. 4:15 p.m.
Location: Healdsburg, Ca

It rained today. And rained and rained some more. Buckets and buckets. Just when we thought it was safe to think warm thoughts of spring,  Mother Nature drops cold temps and a shitload of water on our heads. Bum-mer.

When you live some place rural, rain can be lovely, even spectacular but it's almost always a big mess. Like the ceiling of your life is leaking. Like you're dragging all your problems in from the storm. Seems fitting these days when I've felt as unsettled as ever. Like I'm living in a limbo between where I was and where I'm headed, waiting for my own private Godot.  For me, rain hastens these feelings of uncertainty and just like the mud, nothing feels solid under foot. I slip and slide and even the progress is a fail, like moving ahead is just keeping from going backward.

The rain will stop. I know this. The sun waits behind the clouds, it's warmth a promise of a bright new day soon, maybe even tomorrow. Still, it's the moments I need to consider, to focus on. They are here and gone literally in the blink of an eye. Poof, goodbye. That's not news. Hell, I think I'm gonna leave the big picture for someone else. 

Taken with my K100D and edited slightly in Photoshop.

Monday, February 22, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 53

Taken: February 22, 2010, approx. 11:30 a.m.
Location: Healdsburg, CA

Caught this image of my boys on the way into work today. I love the composition of it but I hate the way it came out. Oh, well. Worse, I'm too tired to write today. I'll let my pugs' mugs entertain you instead. They do a great job keeping me amused anyway.

I'll try to write more tomorrow.

Taken with my K100D and edited in Photoshop.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 52

Taken: February 21, 2010, approx. 10:30 p.m.
Location: Healdsburg, CA

To know me well is to know I love good food and that I learned much of what I know about food from my husband. He's the expert cook of the house. The days each year when I actually make a real dinner well you can count them on one hand and I'll probably be eating by myself.

The one thing my husband trusts me with in the kitchen -- except doing the dishes -- is baking. I'm no expert at that either but I find it's sometimes cathartic. He's been asking me for a few days to try some whole wheat flour muffins he read about in the New York Times in Mark Bittman's column. Tonight, I gave them a try. I haven't tried them yet, but they sure did look good enough to photograph. So I did.

I often take photos of my husband's cooking creations but like I've mentioned in earlier blog posts, I lack the skills and the knowledge to take photos in bad light -- and the light in the house where we live is terrible. But I still experiment and I'm getting a little better at it. I was running out of ideas for today's photo so I settled with my newly minted muffins. Bon appetite.

Taken with my K100D, 18mm lens and the internal flash. Gently edited in Photoshop.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 51

Taken: February 20, 2010, approx. 5:30 p.m.
Location: Old Railroad Depot, Healdsburg, CA

Another sort of self-portrait for today. Those are my feet clothed in my birthday present from last year - a pair of high-top black leather Chuck Taylors. I went on three separate photo searches today and came home empty handed. I gave up and was on my way back from a walk near my office, following the old  railroad tracks when I looked down.  This is the result.

We got up unusually early (for us anyway) to go to the Santa Rosa Farmers market. I was at my desk and writing by noon and was there most of the day. A long day of writing that's left me little left to put down here.

I'm sure I'll have something to write tomorrow. Took this with the trusty K100D and edited it slightly in Photoshop.

Friday, February 19, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 50

Taken: February 19, 2010, approx. 3:30 p.m.
Location: Alexander Valley Road, Healdsburg, CA

It's day 50 and I'm still crossing bridges. How do you like that?

This here bridge is a new entry to the 365 Photo Project, spanning the Russian River on Alexander Valley Road just northeast of Healdsburg proper. I learned through the magic of the internets that it's a Warren Pony truss design originally built in 1949 and it apparently has historic significance. However, while it's been renovated, it's unsettling to read that it's structurally wanting. Oops.

As you can see from the background, there's storms brewing. Today was cold and dreary enough to make that bright warm stretch we had last week feel like a fool's joke. Two days ago, I left my jacket in the car but I had it on at the computer all afternoon. It strikes me that nothing plays Russian roulette with your constitution as heartlessly as the gods of weather.

I've said here that I hoped this project teaches me more about myself, but I realize too that the brave readers who hang on throughout the year -- even those who already know me well --  might get a little insight into me, too. I would hope the images and the words that accompanying say something about me anyway.

I've discovered, for example, that I'm a different kind of artist with a camera than I am with pen (and please where photography is concerned, I use "artist" lightly). As a writer, I know my best work is like little pieces of me spread out on a page, my experiences, my point of view, the pictures I paint are mostly places I've created in my mind's eye, people I know or I've met -- all filtered through my individual experiences. I tend to write what I know. Not know first-hand, mind you (I'm not that old) but basically, it's my world view, for better or worse. I sometimes liken writing to slitting my wrists and bleeding all over the page. I know it's a gruesome image, but I do not believe the words have true authenticity if I can't mine everything I have in my head, my heart, my soul. Once more with feeling, ya know?

Taking photographs is an entirely different experience for me. For one, I lack any real confidence so I take a lot of different shots and a lot of versions of the same ones.  Thank goodness for the digital age as it has saved me a ton of money in developing costs. I see it and I shoot it and I hope for the best, fingers crossed and all that. The results, I think, rarely show me the individual. I mean I know they show my preference for image processing -- more contrast, brighter colors that sort of thing. But rarely do they say that much about how I see the world, at least not nearly as much as my writing does.

This shot? All me. Open road stretching out into the distance, a foreboding sky, destination to-be-determined. This speaks to me of endless two-lanes and the promise of winding turns, bucolic landscapes and yeah, the music cycling through my iPod on loud. My idea of relaxing is taking car trips down roads like this one, hopefully with a tasty meal or morsel or an icy glass of handcrafted brew waiting for me on the other end.

I can't think of a better image for the first big milestone of the project -- Day 50. That's how long it took me to get out from behind the camera, figuratively I mean.

Wow. 50 days. Imagine: only 315 to go. Whew.

Taken with my K100D, 18-55mm lens with a polarizing filter and edited in Photoshop.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 49

Taken: February 18, 2010, approx. 1:30 p.m.
Location: Healdsburg, CA

I'm thinking of branches today so I took this shot outside my house around mid-afternoon. It's a close-up of one of the blue oaks that hang over our little rental in a way that makes me nervous when the wind kicks up. No wind today, just another in a line of beautiful summery days. Wonderful relief from the siege of constant rain that dominated the last few weeks.

A day after my favorite day of the year begin at 4:30 in the morning when I woke up with back spasms and ended up spending the next three hours listening to my old pug snore next to me. The work day came finally with a big dose of disappointment.  Every writer goes through rough periods -- it's the way it works for us -- but the trick really is to remind yourself that you can't control anything but your craft. Do good work and the rest will follow. But some days this seems like the hardest thing you will ever do. Some days weariness comes and brings with it waves and waves of regret, bitterness, frustration.  The kind of stuff that punches Grand Canyon size holes into a writer's confidence. Not very useful when you're trying to fill holes in a blank page.

Days like these, I study on branches and the interconnectedness of things, both real and imagined. I think of hearing my Pop sing the happy birthday to me over the phone yesterday and want to cry at how melancholy it made me feel. It's not very productive to think this way but when the demons come out to play, you're pretty much stuck with them. They do not return to their place willingly.  But if you're a writer, you can give them to your characters. Give them to somebody who can really use them.

That's where I've been today. Out on the branches. Trying not to fall off.

Taken with my K100D, 200mm lens and edited slightly in Photoshop.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 48

Taken: February 17, 2010, approx. 2 p.m.
Location: Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg, CA

Today's my birthday. Anybody who knows me knows I love birthdays. And right now I'm in the middle of celebrating my day so this post is gonna be short and sweet.  I believe in making a big deal on your birthday. Hell, if you think about it, no matter how old you are, you've beaten some crazy odds to even being here. Getting older, like it or not, is the reward. Consider the opposite and you'll understand what I mean. So take it from me, live it like you mean it. In other words, follow your bliss y'all. 

Took another drive out Dry Creek Road today. It was such a beautiful day -- my temp gage in the car hit 77 degrees. Not bad for a non-tropical locale in the middle of February. 

I believe that's mustard seed growing in between the vines. I'm told it helps keep the ground fertile while the vines get everything they need to grow them there grapes when the time comes. 

Shot this with my K100 and edited in Photoshop. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 47

Taken: February 16, 2010,  6 p.m.
Location: Westside Road, Healdsburg, Ca

Since I was a kid and spent hours in my Dad's cramped darkroom developing and manipulating black and white photographs, I've been trying to figure out the magic of taking pictures. I'm attracted to landscapes and architectural shapes (and in recent years pugs, I say with a smile), but I'm mostly fascinated by light, particularly fading light. Mostly, it's a struggle for me to figure out how to take a good photo in the absence of said light. I could study on it I suppose but I try not to forget that my job by day is to write and taking a class is a luxury I don't have right now.

I find lots of help online and in books, but the ins and outs of aperture and exposure, of lenses and focal points, well most of that is pretty much lost on me. I know the bigger the lens opening, the more light goes in and longer shutter times are better at night. But like I said, I'm still figuring it all out.

Had to do a bit of running around today and on the way back from having my beloved ride repaired (oh no, I'm gonna need an $800 radiator repair soon!) I drove some backroads, looking for a new vantage point for this project.

I stopped along Westside Road near a long, wide open stretch of vineyard, next to a barn I've always admired. It's rusty red roof and white clapboard siding speaks of days past to me. It's part of the appeal of wine country -- the old stuff isn't built to be old, it actually is old. Not that I have any idea when this barn was built. Still, it's faded side paint and lovely winding driveway are picturesque, especially when you consider where it's sitting - right at the tip of a wide expansive of vineyard, framed by mountains way in the distance. My shot is grainy and out of focus and underexposed and no amount of work in Photoshop gave me exactly the affect I wanted. But I'll have to live with the result.

You might ask then: if I don't have time for this photography thing, why do it at all? It's a question I get asked all the time these days. It's a lot of work making sure I get one good photo a day. But it's the journey that's fueling this project.

My love of photography aside, I'm doing this for another reason. I want to look up, to pay attention to the world around me. That's why I didn't want to get caught up searching for shots -- if I concentrate on just getting what's near me, then most of the time I'm going to have to try to see the same things in a different way each day. I was hoping it would translate into my writing but I had no idea that it would be so pervasive.  The observations I'm making in my physical world is seeping into my fictional one. I'm looking around the edges more, going deeper, investigating avenues I didn't know (or remember) were even there. Scary and fun all at the same time.

Like I said yesterday, you can be writing when you're not actually putting words on paper. I don't see how you can separate the creative process from the creator -- for your work to be authentic, it has to come from the whole you, even the places you don't necessarily want to go.  Often, those are those are exactly where you mine the most interesting things. So my project, my attempt to see more of my world is helping me find more of myself as a writer. Whether it's making me better at my craft, well only the results will tell. I'd be lying if I said it wasn't kinda fun figuring it all out.

Taken with my K100D, using a tripod and manual setting. Edited with Photoshop.

Monday, February 15, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 46

Taken: February 15, 2010, approx. 2:15 p.m.
Location: Lambert Bridge, Healdsburg, CA

This isn't the Russian River. It's actually Dry Creek just below Lambert Bridge. I used to cross this bridge every day on the way to and from the place we used to rent. It's a beautiful little spot -- the bridge is a tiny one compared to the two I keep photographing and putting up here. Oh, and don't worry, plenty more of these bridges 'round wine country. I plan on shooting them all by the end of this project. And nom I didn't violate my policy of sticking close to my daily route. The day drew me out. It was a sparkling blue-sky full of sunshine like sprint was here and I just had to take a drive. Decided do my own Healdsburg circle, which is to head down West Dry Creek, cross Lambert Bridge and go back to down via Dry Creek Road. 
As many times as I've passed this bridge, I've never stopped to get out and look at it. For one, there's almost no where to stop. But I found a turn off and walked back onto the bridge. The view was just lovely.

It was peaceful standing on the bridge, which is just wide enough for only one car to pass. And shaky too -- even as I stood there, the whole bridge rattled under my feet as cars bounced over it. Did I mention I'm afraid of heights? Still, I think it was Stephen King who said writers are always writing, even when they're doing something that's not writing. You know, like standing on a lovely little bridge over a fast-flowing creek on a country road snaking through acres of wine vineyards. Standing and staring. And writing.

I found this quote today from James Lee Burke, one of my favorite authors:
"The most difficult test for me as a writer came during the middle of my career, when, after publishing three novels in New York, I went 13 years without a hardback publication. My novel "The Lost Get-Back Boogie" alone received 110 rejections during nine years of submission, supposedly a record in the industry.  
It was during this period I had to relearn the lesson I had learned at 20, when I worked on the offshore oil crew: you write it a day at a time and let God be the measure of its worth; you let the score take care of itself; and most important, you never lose faith in your vision. God might choose fools and people who glow with neurosis for his partners in creation, but he doesn't make mistakes." 
It was the closing paragraph of a piece he wrote for the NY Times back in December 2002 called "Seeking a Vision of Truth, Guided by a Higher Power."  It was, as I recall, part of a series the Times was running at the time called Writers on Writing. (The full text is on his website.)

For me, there just isn't a more authentic, wiser writer working today than Burke, who's oeuvre is a travelogue through the realm of man and God, good and evil and the awful cost of money and power on the people who seek it and those they trample on to get it. There is no work of fiction, for example, that puts Katrina into more searing perspective than "The Tin Roof Blowdown." He is a master of words and allegory and I would sell my soul to be half the writer he is. (If you haven't read any of his novels, get going. Do yourself a favor and start at the beginning.)

What draws me to his writing isn't just how beautiful it is but it's his fearlessness. He lays bare the flaws of his characters, forcing them to live up (and down) to them, making them face the darkness inside their own hearts. Yes, there's good and evil but there's a lot in between, too. I don't imagine there's any bigger truth about being human, that most of us are tempted by the things we can't control or don't understand, by desire and power, money and prestige, by stuff. Even if we don't give into the evil, we have to face the consequences of what wanting it means about who we are. If we can survive, if we really pay attention, we can do better next time. We can try anyway. 

I like how Burke explores the world with the big, timeless questions of humanity. I'm not big on religion as a rule. Which is not to say I don't like religion. I just don't like the way its sold these days like vacuum cleaners. I won't question you're belief in how you were saved by God but if you try to convince me to follow your path, you'll lose me in a nanosecond.  You believe in God or you don't, one religion or another but for me there's only one way to get there, and it's among the most private, personal journeys you'll ever experience. In my perfect world, religion would be like sex - you do it but you don't talk about it.

Whether I believe in God is beside the point. I do believe in leaps of faith, though. I believe the best of life happens when you put your faith in the void and if organized religion helps you get there, by all means don't let me stop you. My "void" is getting to work every day, putting one word in front of the other, constructing sentences, paragraphs, chapters. Trusting in the electrical impulses that run from my brain to my fingertips, hoping they'll occasionally pass through my heart, that they'll make magic. Just like Jim Burke, I have to relearn the lessons and remember to never lose faith in the vision. Let somebody else judge the results.

Taken with my K100D and edited in Photoshop.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 45

Taken: February 14, 2010, approx. 5:30 p.m.
Location: Healdsburg, CA

I know,  I know. That damned bridge again. But come on. Look at that reflection. I had to shoot it. And hell, I did find a whole new spot to catch it from, so it's not as if I'm going back to the same old places. And anyway, it just seemed the right sort of image for a day devoted to matters of the heart.

I don't like to admit it, but I'm a total sap. One of those people that gets all teary-eyed at the end of great love stories. Not all love stories, mind you. Large-scale epic stories of love and lost and found again often bore me to tears. I know it's sacrilege but I'll take "Americanization of Emily" or "Love Actually" over "Love Story" and "Gone With the Wind" any day. It's not that matters of the heart are a joke, far from it. But I do think we tend to take love way too seriously.

I like the idea that there's only one person for everybody but I don't believe it. I mean come on.  Say you're born in the Bronx and your perfect match is some bushman in the Australian outback. Not likely you're going to be finding each other on Spring Break in Tampa.

The shrinks of this world put their kids through college trying to answer the great questions of love, why we make the choices we make and all the pride and heartache and emotional baggage that goes along with it. I think most people get it right on some level. The older you get, the more at peace you are with the choices you make and the life you end up living. No shame in that. Not at all.

But many others take it too damn personally. Love is heartless really. And you're not going to be spared. Not unless you hole up in a cabin like the Unabomber and rail against the world and everyone in it. Nobody knows why we fall at all or how we can fall in and out of love with the same person, some more than once. There's no real science to the vagaries of the heart, no instruction manual, no universal truths except that it's as unpredictable and crazy as it is wonderful and fulfilling. Nobody knows nothing and anybody who thinks they understand it is a snake oil salesman looking to make a buck off your heart.

I think we spend way too much time finding faults in our partners than looking inward. Love begins in your own heart and your own you. I mean it's impossible to commit to another person if you don't love yourself.  The more comfortable you are with yourself, the easier it is to forgive someone else's faults, to walk in their shoes, to be compassionate and forgiving. After all, we are all imperfect, all capable of making big-ass mistakes, of being stupid and hurtful. It's learning from our imperfections that make us better people and I think, easier to live with.

I don't mean to imply I have the answers. God knows my relationship isn't smooth sailing. But here's what I do know: you can't apply logic to love. It's never going to make sense, even when it works, especially when it works. And if you ever think you've figured it all out, take a deep breath and remind yourself you don't have a freaking clue.

Shot this with my K100D and edited in Photoshop.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 44

Taken: February 13, 2010, approx. 8 p.m.
Location: Healdsburg, Ca

Long, rough day today. Woke up with a low-grade fever and ended up staying in bed most of the afternoon and into the evening. I know the world is going on outside -- hell I can hear my neighbor's damn dog barking like he's got some big announcement to tell everybody -- but days like today make me feel isolated from everything and everyone. Writing some pages always helps, even if digging in feels like being on a deserted island somewhere.

Still some days the feeling of being lost is something you just can't shake. Hangs on to you like a second layer of skin and it stays around, wafting in on that middle-of-the-night breeze that blows across your bedroom and keeps you awake until you're staring up at the ceiling wondering what it all means. Welcome into the mind of a writer.

I don't have all the answers but I think it's these moments when looking around is the most important thing you can do. Recognize the stuff that brings you comfort, that offer light in the darkness, that will lead you home. A sparkling blue sky, a summer rain or a great book, a perfect cup of coffee or a ripe orange. A loved one's voice, the company of a friend and oh yeah, my pugs. The sound of them snoring next to me, their warm furry bodies digging into my leg. Is there anything better? I think not.

I left my DSLR in the car today so all I had was my iPhone. That and some fancy Photoshop footwork and I managed to get one shot of my boys in the same frame. It's not going to go down as my photo of the year but somehow it says all you need to know about Louie and Chamuco. That's Chamuco (aka the Devil) on the left -- Mr. I Wanna Be Your Best Friend. He's always sticking his nose in everybody's business, always wanting to be under foot or in someone's lap. Life of the party.

That's Louie looking off frame. Nothing says "Louie" more than this pose. He's friendly and sweet but like a cat, it has to be on his terms. Louie's an old soul who's been around the block a ton. Someone told me that Tibetans believe pugs are descended from monks, maybe even the Buddha himself. I don't even care if it's true. I believe it anyway.

Friday, February 12, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 43

Taken: February 12, 20101, appox. 3 p.m.
Location: Healdsburg, Ca. Russian River

The Russian River and the bridge that crosses it near Memorial Park in Healdsburg, Ca., is rapidly becoming my favorite subject around here.  I'm sure it's partly because I cross it nearly every day on my way to my office. No matter how many times I photograph it or from which angle, there always seems to be something that catches my fascination.

Who doesn't love these old iron bridges anyway? Today after a brief break in a steady, light rain I went outside to run a couple of errands. On the way back, I stopped to shoot some photos, just as the rain started to fall again. The Russian is still rolling fierce, though the muddy color is mostly gone. That and the warming weather made me think about spring. And sunshine and bright, blue skies and lovely little breezes that bring hope on their wings. That's me, daydreaming again.

Taken with my K100D and edited in Photoshop where I added some filters, contrast and other dabblings, trying to go slightly retro. Like a Hudson River school painting. Sort of. Incidentally, I grew up on the Hudson. No wonder I like rivers.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 42

Taken: February 11, 2010, appox 7:15 p.m.
Location: Healdsburg, CA

This road sign is on my street. I pass it every day and at night, it's impossible to miss -- always sparkling reflective yellow in my beams of my headlights. That railroad bridge I shot on Day Two of this project is a mile or so north of here but the trains don't run here anymore. There's long been efforts to build a commuter rail from the Bay Area out here that would include this right-of-way. But while the movement has gained some momentum in these greener days, it's not that popular on the other end down in Marin.

I shot it tonight in a brief, heavy rainstorm with my high-beams on it trying to capture the look and feel of what it's like in the rain. Shot it with my K100D and edited gently in Photoshop.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 41

Taken: February 10, 2010, sunset
Location: I-5 North, near Kamm Avenue

Spent most of the day rolling north up the I-5 toward home. I made good time actually. Traffic was minimal and the trip provided very few surprises. Good to be home with the pugs and the man and in my own bed for the first time in more than two weeks.

I normally dread driving the Grapevine and the Tejon Pass was windy as hell. But the views were spectacular. Big bold sky that seemed to go on forever reaching out to crystal clear mountain peaks in the distance, some of which were snow-topped.

The whole trip was unusually weather-free for this time of year and most important, clear and dry with the occasional heavy cross-winds. There was this one trucker hauling a boat-load of BMWs who couldn't seem to keep his tail steady. He kept passing me when I pulled off for one of my pitstops. Sorta was hoping a 5-series would fall off his truck but alas, last time I saw him he was maintaining a fairly straight line. 

I stopped to take photos along the Grapevine, hoping the dramatic clouds would prove a good backdrop but once again, I was foiled by my mind's eye. It was this shot, taken near sunset about 100 miles south of the 580 West connector that turned out to be my choice for today's photo. 

I took this exit just to see what I could capture in the fading light of a beautiful California day and did some editing and touch-up with Photoshop. Used the trusty K100D again with the 50mm lens.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 40

Taken: February 9, 2010, sunset
Location: Palisades Park, Santa Monica, CA

Well, it's time for me to say goodbye to the City of Angels for now. Looks like barring any last-minute developments, I'll be heading north tomorrow. I have a feeling I'll be back in L.A. soon but after more than two weeks away from wine country, I'm anxious to return.

So, I'm waving so long with a tasty Umami truffle burger (thanks Susie!) and one last image of the sun setting over the Pacific, So Cal style. It will be good to sleep in my own bed and I won't even mind the pugs taking over half of it. And also to discover what images await up north.

This shot was taken with my K100D and edited in Photoshop.

Monday, February 8, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 39

Taken: February 8, 2010, 2:10 p.m.
Location: Burbank, Ca

Had a meeting in Burbank today and thought it was lucky that I had to park on the roof of the building -- it was so clear I figured snapping a few shots up there would give me some good choices for today's photo. Without fail, none of them won me over quite like this one which I snapped leaning out my car window while waiting at a red light off on Alameda. Funny how these things work.

I'm a sucker for the way these glassy buildings reflect the sky and loved how this one mirrored the clouds even as it was set against them. Coolness. Though I'd have been happier if I had more time to get the exposure right. Serves me right for not pulling over and doing this right. Live and learn.

Taken with my K100D and edited in Photoshop.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 38

Taken: February 7, 2010, approx 9 p.m.
Location: Los Angeles, CA

I've been cooped up for almost two weeks here in Los Angeles, long enough that I'm starting to talk to myself. I miss my home, my bed, my pugs and my husband's cooking (him too of course) and while I'm not knocking my little guest house high over Bel Air, it's small and cramped and living out of suitcase is getting old. Still got some business to tend to here so home will have to wait.  But as long as I'm getting acquainted with me, I figure why not give you, my small, yet loyal blog audience, a little bit more of me too.

Today is self-portrait number two. And you know how I hate self-portraits.

I don't normally like to show my eyes in photos. It seems ridiculous to say it I know, but I've always felt they reveal too much about what I'm thinking. Which is why I'll never be more than an adequate poker player. I've had a more practical reason these days as late-late nights and a bit of insomnia have conspired to add deep, dark circles to my eyes. Even deftly applied makeup can't seem to hide them completely.

However, Photoshop and the right lighting can work wonders, as you can see here. I shot this with my K100D using the self-timer, flash and some homemade lighting.  Then edited it in Photoshop to B&W. Later, I added back color to my lips, eyes, glasses and hair (all natural). Like I said, Photoshop can do wonders. Wink, wink.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 37

Taken: February 6, 2010, approx. 3 p.m.
Location: Palisades Park, Santa Monica, CA

I have always lived on one coast or the other, never in the middle. I've found homes in big cities and small towns, in suburbs and planned communities, in urban neighborhoods and at the end of cul de sacs. East, West, North, South. Upstairs, in the basement and at the end of two-mile dirt roads. Wherever  I've called home has brought a degree of tranquility. Yet I have found that I am never more at peace than when I can be near the sea.

I didn't grow up on the water but my parents used to take us to Martha's Vineyard every summer (and often for one- or two-week trips in between) and it was there I came to love living near water. I'm not a classic seafaring type. I don't much like swimming in it and while I admire surfers, I'm not coordinated enough to do that. I love to sail but I'm no expert and I'm too impatient to be good at fishing or even sunbathing.

What I love is just being in the ocean's neighborhood. The smell of sand and seaweed, of fish and salt and that particular way a good sea breeze can clear out your sinuses and cleanse your soul. I love sitting on a creaky wooden dock, listening to the pinging of halyard on mast, the slapping of the wake against fiberglass hulls, the soft cooing of birds, the whoosh of the tide. I love getting lost in the endless layers of things that float in on the wind. If I can dip my toes in the ocean at the same time, well that's just gravy.

Our house in Santa Monica was just close enough to the beach that you could hear the waves at night. Off in the distance, it would mix with the sounds of the traffic on Pico Blvd. Perfect sleeping weather although I often found myself lying awake, staring at the ceiling, quietly listening. In the morning as the marine layer would slowly burn off, the scent of the sea was everywhere, reminders of our proximity to the Pacific. I miss that.

These days, I live close enough to the water -- 35 minutes by car -- that the longing to be near the ocean isn't piercing and there's always my regular trips to L.A. to quench my thirst. But I know without a doubt that someday I'll have to return to my sea and my sea-gazing for real.  For now, I'll take fleeting moments like today when I stood out at Palisades Park in between (and during) the rains and marveled at the way the sun sparkled through cloud patterns, how the surface of the ocean rippled gently in a cold breeze, seemingly stretching out forever, endless.  Even a passing storm's fat drops of cold rain couldn't interrupt the magic of the moment.

This image was as close as I could get to capturing it. Taken with my k100D, 55mm lens and edited in Photoshop.

Friday, February 5, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 36

Taken: February 5, 2010, 8 p.m.
Location: Los Angeles, CA

I have a tattoo. It's recent -- less than two years old. I'm exactly that sort of person who never gets tattoos. It's the permanence of it. You know, the idea that if I'm lucky to live into my 90s, having a tattoo will not seem so cool anymore. And yeah, I admit to being worried about the whole cleanliness of it. The pain was certainly a deterrence but not the main one. And really, it didn't hurt that much.

But somewhere along the way, the idea of getting one started to form in my head. Not long after I moved to Sonoma County, the impulse got stronger and stronger until I just couldn't ignore it anymore. Until it seemed like more than just something to do, more than just a rebellious act or me being trendy. It became a mission. I know that's weird but it was like a spiritual journey for me. I needed it.

I used to write like people breathe air. I loved it. I looked forward to it. I made friends with my characters and dreamt of the worlds in which they lived.  I woke up wanting to do it and spend hours at work anxious to get back to my pages. Slowly, though, I lost faith in myself, my craft, the effortlessness of writing words, the joy. I think I'm finding my way home but still, it's been like I'm stranded on a desert island. Half the time you're trying to find your way through the dense thicket, not knowing if you're still on the right path or you've been going around in circles all day. The rest of the time, it's like climbing up a slick steep wall, clawing your way inch by inch with no way of knowing how close your are to the top -- or how far away it is. It's a kind of torture I wouldn't wish on anybody.

The idea of getting a tattoo was in part my way of reconnecting with my craft. Something I could look at every day, a reminder of the joy it once brought me. I knew I wanted to put it in a place where I would see it while I worked and I knew I wanted it to be words. I did settle on an idea and yet I kept putting it off. Was I scared? Or was it something else?

Like maybe ... fate. Yeah I know what you're thinking but if it wasn't for my happening to download an audiobook of the Bill Moyers PBS Special on Joseph Campbell called The Power of Myth, I might not like my tattoo very much. It wasn't the first time I've heard this interview or read Campbell -- he's one of our great American thinkers, philosophers and teachers and I find I return to his work all the time and each time find something new and exciting there. And this time, it resonated with me in a whole new way. I don't know why. Maybe getting out of L.A. helped, temporarily leaving the rat race. Whatever it was, it was like listening to Campbell for the first time.

When Campbell's students used to ask him how to apply his teachings in the real world, he would always tell them the same thing:  "Follow your bliss. Find where it is, and don't be afraid to follow it."

And there it was. Follow your bliss. Damn straight.

I don't know if I succeed in doing this every day but I try. It helps to have a reminder with you everywhere you go, that's for sure.

The typeface is a 1942 typewriter font I found on the internet.  The whole process of getting the tattoo was tribal and even a little spiritual (maybe why I didn't mind the pain so much) and nearly two years later, I've absolutely no regrets. In fact, I'm thinking of getting another one. As of yet, though, the words have not come to me. All I know is if they do come, I'll know it's time to get that second tattoo.

Taken with my K100D with the built-in flash. Lightly edited with Photoshop.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 35

Taken: February 4, 2010, 5:30 p.m.
Location: Washington Blvd., Los Angeles, CA

I can't blame you if you're getting tired of my sunset shots but tonight, with a storm heading to Southern California, there was magic in the sky. I shot this on Washington Blvd., from the parking lot of a trendy bar called the the Alibi Room. A smart modern vibe and a kitchen that serves fabulous Kogi BBQ makes it a hip destination for locals from points west and east.  I go for the Kogi myself. If you've ever had Kogi, this doesn't need to be explained. If you haven't, you're missing out on pure porn for your taste buds.

I remember the bar when it used to be called something else and mainly catered to the, um,  professional drinker. One time I ducked inside to get a quarter for the meter. It was 10 a.m. and let's just say I wasn't the only person in there.  Wouldn't have wanted to light a match in that place neither. Used to be lots of bars like it in the neighborhood but nearby Culver City has become the new in spot for L.A. foodiots and it's just a matter of time before the hip quotient spreads west toward the beach.

I'm not knocking it. I mean I've spent some time in some dive bars in my day but those kinds of places lose their luster faster than a good buzz.  Hell it's nice to have a bathroom that's clean enough to actual use.

Shot with my K100D and the 55mm lens. Edited in Photoshop.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 34

Taken: February 3, 2010, approx. 10:30 p.m.
Location: Pico Blvd. at Lincoln, Santa Monica, CA

I took this photo a stone's throw from where we used to live in Santa Monica. Not far from here is the first apartment I rented when I came to L.A. and later, where my husband and I bought and renovated an amazing house that we sold before the bubble burst.  Being back here is always strange for me, maybe a bit melancholy too. I used to think I'd grow old near this corner of Lincoln and Pico --  felt like I'd put down some serious roots here. Funny how life works.  So many twists and turns, many strangely are not as much painful as unexpected.

I'd like to think a person can work with that. The surprises along the way I mean. You don't have to be old and wise to realize there are only winding curves and death-spiral drops on the road of life.  But if it  will never run straight and true, it's still there, always lying out there before us. As Bruce says, "like a killer in the sun".  Not surprisingly, the Boss was on to something.

I'm like a lot of people. I let the small shit get to me;  I spend so much time trying to get away from the world, I forget that the point is not to run away but to find something to run to. Make no mistake: destinations are for hacks. It's the journey down that winding road that gives us the most satisfaction.  At least it does for me.

The things one thinks about on a drive through the old neighborhood, eh?

These two guys were riding in front of me as I drove home from dinner in Culver City. They were on old bikes, that choked and sputtered and apparently didn't go very fast. I used my K100D and the 200mm lens, editing gently with Photoshop.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 33

Taken: February 2, 2010, sunset
Location: Palisades Park, Santa Monica, CA

Been in L.A. for more than a week and I finally got a chance to see the ocean.  Santa Monica's Palisades Park is a favorite place for outdoor workout buffs during the morning and the evening and of course, later it's a lovely place to gaze out onto the Pacific and wonder what's churning beneath the surface of the sea. With or without that special someone.

I took a number of shots closer to the water, but this one was my favorite. I like its perspective and I like how solitary the scene feels, in that way you can feel totally alone in a roomful of people. When I first moved to Santa Monica, I came to this spot a lot. I'd sit on the bench with my notebook and write and write. Most of that stuff is still buried in my notebooks forever, but some of it ended up in my published work. Part of L.A.'s mystique, part of what makes L.A. , well L.A. is places like this, where the proximity of humans to the vast mystery and power of the elements is ignored at your peril. Like living on the edge of the world.

Indeed beyond that fence in the background is a very long, steep drop onto Pacific Coast Highway. The fence wasn't always so sturdy either -- you could easily get over it and people would climb down the California Incline to get a better vantage point of the view. Of course, you had to be real careful of your footing, unless you wanted to end up road kill for the sight-seeing tourists whizzing down PCH in their rental convertibles.

You can't do that stuff anymore but it doesn't mean the footing is any better. The next rainstorm might bring a mountainside of mud down on your house and nobody lives here without that back-of-the-brain fear of the Big One. Now that's the kind of thing that'll rock anyone's world view. Seriously. You gotta love this town.

Taken with my K100D with a polarizing filter and edited slightly in Photoshop.

Monday, February 1, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 32

Taken: Februrary 1, 2010, approx. 2:10 p.m.
Location: Brentwood, CA

I saw this window this afternoon when I was pulling out of the Whole Foods parking lot in Brentwood. It just reminded me of somewhere else, some place not L.A. Like the window of an artist's house on a side street in a city in Europe or upstate NY or even Cape Cod. It's as if it's a window into another life, another world.

I know it's a bit of cliche but the clarity and detail, and white white of the background, make me happy.  It's also very different from most of my previous photos and since I'm beginning a whole new month, why not do something different?

It was taken with my K100D with a focal length of 124mm. Very slight editing in Photoshop.