Selective Focus


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I’m an enthusiastic amateur photographer, and have been for fifty years. If there’s one thing I’ve figured out, it’s that you can skip most of the stuff you see, take a carefully selected shot or two, and make the whole place look a lot more interesting that it would be if you were slogging through there in real time, looking at everything.

Because I grew up in the American Midwest, I enjoy the relative novelty of tropical landscapes. In fact, in the time I have left on this planet, I don’t think I’ll ever quite get used to the flora here. There is no dead season here where everything dies back waiting for spring, though if ever there was such a time here, it’s now. We’re two-thirds of the way through dry season, and the air is smoky from burning going on in the hills. I eagerly await a return to lushness, but realize I will have to wait at least a couple of months until the rains return and the vegetation race begins again.

The only advantage I can see to this time of year is you don’t have to bring a raincoat, and you can see through the places that will be a green wall once the rains begin.

Here are three photos from my scooter ride yesterday, when I stopped by a real estate development/golf course not far from our home that I had yet to explore.  Even though there are funky places nearby this development, I chose to take pictures of the vistas that conform to my idea of beauty. That’s what photographers have been doing ever since cameras were invented.

 

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Let Somebody Else Worry About It


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I find myself habitually wondering if I should come up with a way to make money. I’m sixty-five years old, comfortably retired on social security and living in a place where even that income is more than enough. Being a foreigner, I can’t own land, but yet I am bothered by the idea that I should hurry up and buy some land and build a house, before prices rise.

This is surely nothing more than habitual thinking left over from when I lived in America, when I always felt poor, and worried that what little I had would soon be taken from me.

To counter these nagging thoughts, I merely tell myself “not today.” If becoming a land baron would really make me happier, then some opportunity will surely come along to make that possible. If not, then it simply was not meant to be, which is just fine with me, as I enjoy the relative simplicity of renting our little house and having as few responsibilities as possible.

If by some fluke of fate I do end up with more money than I need, then I will either have to give it away or start some charitable project, which I would then be forced to administer. No, let Bill Gates and Warren Buffett worry about those things. Today I’m quite proud of myself for having figured out how to reset the settings on my complicated camera to what they were before I toyed with them and messed them up. It is an amazing instrument and the pictures I took with it are unimaginably sharp. In fact here are a few. They are of trees along a stretch or road that takes off from near my house and climbs a nearby mountain.

I have heard that a rich man from Bangkok owns all this land, and I wish him well in all his endeavors. I hope he doesn’t sell the land to someone who will cut the trees down in order to make some sort of ugly resort, but if he does, I’m willing to focus my camera on other trees, for there are plenty around here to be photographed.

What Do You Do, Anyway?


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The real answer most of the time would be “wait for guidance,” or maybe “seek inspiration.” In order to create an artistic product, you have to first of all make yourself available.  If you’re a writer, you have to stop scrolling through Facebook long enough to perhaps allow something bubble up inside you. If you’re a photographer, you have to take the camera out of its case and point it at things.

When you have little you have to do in order to exist, it puts you in a weird space. Instead of having a list of obligations to be met, and ticking them off as you meet them, you simply exist. You wait until you decide what it is you want to do and then even then you may not do it. You may simply choose to wait even longer.

When I was younger, I was terrified of being bored. If something promised to take a long amount of sustained attention, I would avoid it if I could. Waiting in a doctor’s office was agony, so was standing in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

My mother, a retired schoolteacher, would sometimes fly to see her children, and she always brought a book with her. If there were a four hour layover between flights, she didn’t mind, because she had her book. I remember being in awe of her ability of simply accept such inconvenience. Now that I am the age she was then, I can imagine it all too well. There are many things that no longer interest me.  Shopping is a bore. I would rather be hospitalized than go to a nightclub and watch live music. I no longer drink or smoke, and I’m not living under the delusion that young women may suddenly find me interesting.

So bring it on! Boredom is OK!

the author reading this piece can be found by clicking here

The Search for a Better Place


All travel writing is based on the concept that some places are better or at least more interesting than others, and that there are a few certain places that are absolutely fabulous, and if you could only visit them you would never be unhappy again. At some level we all know that’s nonsense, but that doesn’t stop people from dreaming that such places exist.

Those of us who spend the greater portion of our disposable income on travel, find that photographs are notoriously unreliable when it comes to really capturing the essence of a place, and what it does and doesn’t have to offer either the casual visitor or the permanent resident. But a photograph, with its predictable boundary, does offer a tiny window into a greater world, a world fleshed out and filled in by the viewer’s imagination.

If we look back on our lives, golden moments we cherish haven’t depended so much on where we were as what we were doing and whom we were with at the time. But activity and people are harder to summon than an image. So, for the sake of expediency, we confuse adventure with its visual representation.

I value travel photography for the fact that it gives me something to do when I travel. Armed with my trusty camera, I face each day with an objective, to take an interesting picture. The more I practice, the better I get. So my camera is like a musical instrument, and what I take pictures of are like the musical scores I practice until I can play.

here is a link to some photos I shot one morning here in Dubai

https://plus.google.com/photos/115569231041339708093/albums/5835417951485674097

Amazing Sand Formations


I haven’t figured out how to post more than one picture on this blog, but if you want to see more pictures of sand formations, check out my Facebook postings. This one that I took today looks like an enormous breast. It’s about twelve feet high, and sits in front of a construction site where they’re building yet another apartment complex that will sit empty for God-knows-how-long, competing with all the other buildings that have been sitting empty for the last three years. But what an amazing subject for photography. After a year in Thailand, where everything was green this is quite a switch. I’m surrounded by sand, and the wind does the sculpting.

On becoming a sand connoisseur


The sand here is so fine it’s like rouge, like dust. The wind sculpts it very easily into beautiful shapes and it’s possible to find dunes that have no been ruined by tire tracks, though they’re outnumbered by those that have. There’s not a lot for kidsDSC08547 to do around here, and it seems that there are no shortage of land rovers, land cruisers, jeeps and other four wheel drive vehicles. In fact, I feel like I’m the only person in town without one. I have a little Peugeot that got stuck in five inches of sand the first time I tried to veer off the road. Fortunately, it was light enough to push it back onto the pavement. I’ve bored all my Facebook friends with too many pictures of sand, but I can’t stop taking them. In Thailand, I took pictures of vegetation, but here it’s sand

My morning and afternoon commute to and from work.


OK, I know I’ve been crowing about the joys of being retired, but I got offered a job that seemed promising,

and so I’m back teaching at a University. This week we move into our new apartment, which is in a vast, mostly vacant apartment complex called University View Apartments. The Universities they view are all housed in a complex called “Academic City, which is directly across from our building. Just cross twenty acres of sand and there you are. Of course, if I were to stumble and fall, I might be  a bundle of bleached bones before anyone discovered me, as I’m the only person who walks to work in this area.