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Towards Intensity

 (DavidRaboin)

We’re approaching a line of thunderstorms.  The sun is setting and we’re riding through the storm’s shadow.  We’re traveling west at 8/10ths the speed of sound, but at 36,000 feet, the drama plays out over hundreds of miles, and it feels like we’re crawling through the atmosphere.  I have time to enjoy the slow-motion-sunset-light-show and keep an eye on the big cells that we’re steering around.

Every now and then I have a major insight that changes my photography.  It’s more of a feeling that comes over me and then that feeling leads to the transformational insight.  This doesn’t happen a lot, maybe once every couple of years.  Right now, I think I’m on the leading edge of one of those transformations.

 (DavidRaboin)

Around the west side of the weather, the last glow of the summer evening sun paints the towering clouds.  A wall cloud droops down from the center of the storm.  Look out Missouri.

My last photography revelation was about details and capturing relics of time.  At the time, I was deep into the work of Joel Sternfeld and his book American Prospects.  I loved the large prints and the details Sternfeld captured with his medium format camera.  I was excited that my modern DSLR could capture the same level of detail without the expensive of film.  Rebelling against the trend towards viewing images on tiny phone screens, I decided to pack my photos with details, textures, and little markers of time.  It was a good progression for my art, and as a new father it was important to add all those details to my photos.  I’m finding that over time those details are turning into sentimental gold.  My framing opened up.  I let my lens breath in all those important details.  And, as that evolution was taking place, I was also learning how to photograph children.  Taking quality candid kid photos depends on speed.  So as my frames and compositions were opening up, I was also learning to take photos on the fly, not worrying so much about the perfect composition, and accepting good enough.  The biggest surprise was finding out that my photo taking could work faster than my consciousness mind.  These speed photos are a product of thought, but they happen in a different part of the brain — I think.  I can explain the photos after they’re made, but mental process that goes into them comes and goes like a flash flood.  In some ways, it’s out of my control.      

 (DavidRaboin)

The thunderstorm’s delicate crown stretches across the Missouri sky.  Sometimes the best photo is just a straight on view of the thing itself.

My new revelation (and resolution) is to concentrate on intensity.  This might be a response to all that fast, sloppy, experimental shooting I’ve been doing  the for past few years, but I think it’s more the result of my writing.  In writing, I’m always searching for the best word, and my editing process is merciless.  I try to say the most with the fewest words.  Why not do the same with my photographs?  I’m not suggesting that I remove subtly from my photos, but rather that I streamline the message, frame things so there’s no confusion about what I’m trying to communicate.  And, like digging for the best word to make my point, I’m now on the lookout for the visuals that make the greatest impact.  My photos will still be about the details, but maybe the details will be more in your face, and my compositions simplified when they can be.  A short declarative sentence is sometimes more powerful than one of Faulkner’s page spanning monstrosities.  I’m bringing conscious planning back into my photography.  I’m slowing down.

*David is a California Photographer . You can order prints of the photos featured on this blog by clicking on the image or visit our website at photos4u2c.com Support this site by using one of my links to Amazon.com. Thanks!

Family Camping at Tuolumne Meadows: The Legend of Spooky Farters

 (DavidRaboin)

Here’s Holden, the terror of Tuolumne Meadows campground.  You can see that the altitude didn’t slow him down.  At 8600 feet, a lot of reviews warned of kids getting altitude sickness.  We didn’t have any problems with that.  We probably would’ve welcomed anything that can slow this guy down.   Holden drove us a little nuts with his playing and falling in the dirt.  You see, the campsites are mostly covered in powder-like dirt and when it mixes with the tiniest amount of afternoon alpine rain showers (like every afternoon), the dirt becomes sticky.  I think I hauled this guy up to the bathroom for a wipe-down at least a dozen times.  Don’t get me wrong, we loved this campground, but it was challenging with a toddler.  

A couple of weeks ago my family and I camped up at Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park.  Although I grew up camping and camped a little during my bachelor years, this was our first ever camping trip as a family. I must give Maria credit for both entertaining my crazy idea to go camping with a toddler and for doing the majority of the pre-trip organizing because I had to work until late the night before we left.  Since this was our first time out, we treated this trip as a practice run. We would be gone only two nights, but we did raise the difficulty level by choosing a high elevation campground in the heart of black bear country, and in the days leading up to our departure, the forecast called for rain and night-time temperatures in the 40s.  So, this trip was going to be little more involved than visiting the local Jellystone Park.  In the end, it actually turned out to be the perfect introduction to camping. The scenery on the north side of Yosemite National Park was stunning, and compared to the famous valley, it felt like we had the place to ourselves.  The people we met we’re mostly serious outdoors people.  Everyone was friendly and helpful.  The less desirable tourist types that one expects to encounter at a popular National Park were nowhere to be seen.  Also, Tuolumne Meadows is a beautiful campground on the banks of the Tuolumne River.  We cooked outdoors, attended a ranger campfire presentation, and the kids did plenty of exploring.  I’ve always dreamed of one day taking my kids camping in a national park, so in many ways, this short trip was a dream come true.  I hope it’s just the beginning of more family adventures.

 (DavidRaboin)

On the first night, we put the kids to bed early.  They were tired from traveling.  I took my camera and tripod down to the Tuolumne River for a few minutes of sunset photography.  I felt a little bad leaving Maria alone up at the campsite after all she did so much work putting this trip together, but how often do I get out during the golden hour in the High Sierras?  Under pressure, I worked fast and got some nice shots in under fifteen minutes.  There was a time, pre-family, when I would’ve chased these kinds of photos all day long. And,  I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss it a little, but playing with my kids in a National Park is so much more fulfilling.  If  I did have the time for serious landscape work now,  I think I’d shoot differently.  I’d hunt up more drama or a new perspective.  I enjoy making these photos, and respect the work that goes into quality landscapes, but I feel like these shots don’t go far enough to express my ideas or emotions.  I like to believe my photography has progressed past the standard wall calendar landscapes.

 (DavidRaboin)

On the morning of day two, we set off on a hike to Gaylor Lake.  The trailhead was at 9000 feet and climbed quickly to a 10,000 foot pass.  It was a challenging climb for Ella, but she made it, and the views from the pass were spectacular.  If  we were to do this hike over again, we would make a loop and have the Yosemite free shuttle bus pick us up on the Tioga Pass Highway.  The hike was gorgeous, but by making a loop you would get more time in the high country above the trees.  

 (DavidRaboin)  

Shortly after starting down the mountain, a thunderstorm rolled in.  Lightning struck the peaks on the far side of the valley.   When the first peal of thunder rolled down the valley,  Holden, who was born in California and hasn’t had much experience with thunderstorms, said, “Spooky farters scary.”  We hurried through the woods and made it back to the car without getting soaked or struck by lightning.  

 (DavidRaboin)

This is what makes the Tuolumne Meadows campground a winner:  The Tuolumne River.  After a strenuous morning hike, we bummed around the banks of the river the rest of the afternoon.  There are lots of rocks to climb and places for the kids to explore, all within a few hundred yards of the campground.

 (DavidRaboin)

Here’s Ella adventuring along the banks of  The Tuolumne River.  In the background you can see Tuolumne Meadows Campground.  If you’re lucky, you can score a riverside campsite.  

 (DavidRaboin)

California’s wildflowers last deep into summer in the high country.  Holden doesn’t notice.  He’s off on a s’mores trip.

 (DavidRaboin)

Moopy and Bunko, High Sierras, Mid-Summer 2015

We survived our first family camping outing.  Tuolumne Meadows was perfect.  If we were to do this over again, the only things we would’ve changed is we would’ve added another night to our stay, and we would’ve brought swim suits.  National Park campgrounds never have showers and this one is especially dusty.  That wouldn’t be a problem if you bring a swimsuit and take a dip in the river.  The area surrounding Tuolumne Meadows well stocked with amazing sites and trails.  I imagine a family could spend a month up here and not run out of things to do or see.  One word of warning though, it snowed an inch up here the day after we left.  Be prepared.  It can get chilly at night.

*David is a California Photographer . You can order prints of the photos featured on this blog by clicking on the image or visit our website at photos4u2c.com Support this site by using one of my links to Amazon.com. Thanks!

Huron, South Dakota, The Place Where Evil is Born

We middle latitude dwellers expect our storms to unfold in a predictable order:  dark clouds approach from the west, a burst of wind, and then the rain and lightning.  That’s how thunderstorms unfold in the Midwest anyways.  But what if you’re flying a jet?  In an airplane, you’re just as likely to approach a storm from its billowy white backside as you are to fly up on it’s eastern storm shadow.

 (DavidRaboin)

We’re flying through South Dakota’s expansive sky, making our way from the West Coast towards Boston.  Up ahead, a cold front has sparked up a line of strong thunderstorms with a 55,000 foot tall supercell anchoring its southern flank.  We request a twenty degree right turn and run down a corridor of clear air,  Then, from a safe distance, we watch the storm play out in reverse order.  First comes the rainbow, then the torrents of rain, and last is the foreboding shadow.  Someone tell Noah to hurry up on his arc.  The rainbow is already on it’s way.

 (DavidRaboin)

As we round the sun-soaked crown of cumulus, the storm’s ten-mile deep shadow comes into view.  My first officer says, “Wow, that looks like the place where evil is born.”

*David is a California Photographer . You can order prints of the photos featured on this blog by clicking on the image or visit our website at photos4u2c.com Support this site by using one of my links to Amazon.com. Thanks!

Gods of Thunder

 (David Raboin)

You can’t count on anything in aviation.  There are too many variables.  Weather, mechanical issues, global economic meltdown — any one of them could ruin your day.  We were scheduled to leave Dallas at 7:10 AM, but before my alarm went off, crew scheduling called to tell me that our flight had been delayed until 10:30 AM because of a maintenance issue.  And, there was good news too.  Since we would be running so late, they had to drop my last leg to Chicago.  I would finish a day early and still be paid as if I’d worked the entire trip.  Sometimes things work out for the best.  I turned off my alarm and went back to sleep.  Then, a couple of hours later, as I was mopping up puddles of syrup with my free-hotel-breakfast-buffet-french-toast, my phone rang again.  Our delay was being extended.  A part needed to be flown in and our plane wouldn’t be fixed until 8:30 PM.  I went back up to my room and got to work on some long procrastinated edits and updates to my blog.

Later in the afternoon, I left the comfort of hotel air conditioning and went for a run.  The Texas heat rode me like a sweaty bear.  Clouds piled up and I hoped for rain.  I ran past the Kennedy Memorial and the city jail.  With my recent focus on color combinations in my photos, I stopped for a quick phone-snap when I noticed some blue buildings under the towering Texas sky.   The sidewalk ran out on the edge of downtown.  Dallas wasn’t built with pedestrians in mind.  Undeterred,  I changed plans and did a series of sprints up a weedy berm underneath a massive highway interchange.  The clouds coalesced into one hazy mass and rain fell while I worked my way back to the hotel.

I met the crew in the lobby at 8:00 pm.  My first officer, John, looked dejected.  He explained that our delay was making him sleep in the crew-room in San Francisco.  He was supposed to be done working at 10:00 this morning and catching his commute flight home before noon.  Instead, we’d be finishing close to midnight.  My good news was his bad news.  As we loaded our bags in the airport shuttle, wind blasted through the canyons of downtown.  A storm was moving in.  Halfway to the airport, the driver had the wipers set on high and we could hardly see the traffic the downpour.  Our California raised flight attendants marveled at all the water.  Videos were uploaded to Facebook.

When we got to our airport, we were informed that they’d given up on fixing our original plane before morning so we were now waiting on an inbound flight, and this new aircraft was stuck in a holding pattern until the storms rolled through.  I bought a burrito, enjoyed a late dinner, and hoped the weather would break before our plane had to divert to Oklahoma City or Austin for a refuel.  My luck held and our plane arrived shortly after I finished eating.  We were airborne and bound for San Francisco an hour later.

 (DavidRaboin)

On the flight across, John and I plotted and schemed but we couldn’t figure a way for him to avoid a night in the crew-room.  We would land at midnight and his flight home left at 6:10 AM.  Going to a hotel or his crashpad was pointless.  He’d get more sleep on the crew-room couch.  On night’s like this I feel a type of survivors guilt.  I used to be a commuter.  The Bay Area is just too expensive for someone on first officer’s pay, especially if you have a family.  I’ve slept in SFO and ORD.  An aviation career isn’t fair.  John worked at the largest, most well compensated, regional airline for fifteen years — right up until they went bankrupt at the height of the great recession.   Now, he’s back on the bottom of the seniority list and living the life of a reserve commuter, the worst lot in aviation.  But, it’s not all bad.  It’s hard to fall into depression as you streak across the night sky above Northern New Mexico with some storms lingering over the Southern Rockies to keep you company, their lightning flashing signals across the high desert.

*David is a California Photographer . You can order prints of the photos featured on this blog by clicking on the image or visit our website at photos4u2c.com Support this site by using one of my links to Amazon.com. Thanks!

Eagle Peak From Regency Gate

Morning view of Mount Diablo State Park near Regency Gate in Clayton, California (DavidRaboin)

It’s Father’s Day morning.  My gift is three hours of hiking alone with my camera in Mount Diablo State Park.  I’m trying to get out of the house before anyone wakes up, my alarm goes off at 5:30 AM, but as I’m putting on my shoes I hear Ella climbing down from her loft bed.  Even though she’s seven years old, she can she still pull a pretty good Cindy Lou Who act.   “How long are you going to be gone?” she asks with a drooping lower lip.  I leave the house feeling like a Father’s Day Grinch.

I sip coffee as I wind through the quiet early morning streets of our subdivision.  The Regency Gate to Mount Diablo State Park isn’t far from our house.  When I arrive, there is only one other car parked at the trailhead.  It’s a clear and chilly.  The air smells like dry grass and the first rays of morning sun stream across the valley floor.  I make good time across the flats.  I’m in a hurry because I want to make it up Eagle Peak while the light is still nice.  Also, I would like to get home early enough as to not ruin the day for the rest of the family.  These days, with young kids at home, I don’t get out by myself very often, and on these rare occasions where I have a few hours free of responsibility, I have a hard time relaxing.  “I need to maximize these few hours” I tell myself.  “Maybe I should’ve left the camera at home and ran the trail instead?  Or maybe I should’ve brought my tripod?  Maybe I should’ve taken Ella with me?”  My mind won’t shut up.  A red-tailed hawk screams at my as it launches out of a nearby oak.  I’m waking up the neighborhood.

 (DavidRaboin)

Up on the steep slopes of Diablo, the climbing feels good.  I work my way through a maze brush, higher and higher towards the rising sun. Continue reading “Eagle Peak From Regency Gate” »

*David is a California Photographer . You can order prints of the photos featured on this blog by clicking on the image or visit our website at photos4u2c.com Support this site by using one of my links to Amazon.com. Thanks!
Support this site by using our links to Amazon.com