When Worlds ‘Kaleid’

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Feelings vs. facts.  Originality vs. rationality.  Right vs. left.  There’s a theory that each hemisphere of our brain controls certain aspects of how we think and who we are.  It suggests that each one of us has a more dominant hemisphere.  Right-brainers are generally more creative and artistic, while left-brainers are analytical and logical.  Of course, since the two sides are in such close proximity, there is always the possibility of a little cross over here and there.

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In theory, I tend to be the classic left-brainer. So, when a new call for entries was announced and the theme was “Geometric by Design” I figured I had this one nailed. With degrees in mathematics and a career of writing computer code, plus a creative hobby like photography, I should have no problem with this one.

Yet, amid all the landscapes, portraits, flora and fauna that ‘righty’ spent hours creatively capturing and ‘lefty’ spent even more hours perfecting in Lightroom and Photoshop, nothing seemed to quite qualify as geometric. Were the two hemispheres of my brain incommunicado? On the one hand, I had creative images, on the other I had organized images.  I basically had organized creative images but no creatively organized images. In other words, nothing that satisfied my left brain as being “Geometric by Design”.

Leaves kaleidoscope border 14x14(s)Logically the only solution to this problem was to get righty and lefty to call a truce and collaborate.  I needed something analytical yet artistic; methodically structured yet innovative.   There was going to have to be a meeting of the minds.

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In the wee hours of the morning my brain must be a little more evenly balanced, because I always manage to do my most rational yet inspired thinking around 3 am.  So one night, during a brief episode of insomnia, my mind started to wander. As I lay in the darkness pondering this new dilemma, I began to envision some of my images in a more logical fashion. I saw them rearranged and projected in organized geometric patterns on the blank canvas of the ceiling above me.  It wasn’t long before I realized what my mind’s eye had conjured up for what it truly was, something I hadn’t laid eyes on since I was a child – a kaleidoscope!   Symmetrical reflections of colorful objects.  Immediately left brain became intrigued and right brain was enthusiastic.  One half of my head was busy engineering Photoshop techniques while the other was mentally perusing its library of favorite images in search of likely candidates.

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It’s no surprise that I was up bright and early the next morning. With a common sense of purpose, both left and right hemispheres were now ready to combine forces and create symmetry out of chaos. I sat down at the computer and let them run the show. Right brain offered up her favorite images and watched in amazement as left brain transformed them into geometric wonders.  

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It was an inspiring mental workout, with synapses firing across the gaps. The joint effort equally fulfilling for both sides.  I doubt that the results of this corroboration are any great works of art, but I can say that the enjoyment my entire brain had during the process was worth its weight in gold. Left and right reached across that great mental divide, shook hands, compromised, collaborated and came up with a solution that satisfied them both.  Together they created colorful kaleidoscopic images out of bits of butterflies, bridges, autumn leaves and other random objects.  Soulard Market 2k(s)

It just goes to show, that when opposing camps combine forces and communicate effectively the result can be a wonderfully unique perspective.  Drawing from both our imagination and our intellect, we can take the best that each has to offer and design something that celebrates our own inner diversity. Despite all the personal struggles and conflicts we endure in our lives, it will always take both a left and right wing to fly.

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It Isn’t Always Black and White


angel-bw-3-1When we strip an image of its color, we leave behind only its most basic elements.  Devoid of color, at the onset we are afraid something essential is missing, that we have removed a vital piece of the puzzle, the piece that made it vibrant and gave it strength. But when we take a step back and study the image in its entirety, the subtle nuances we missed before become obvious as we are compelled to see the reality that had been camouflaged by the myriad of colors.    

shoes-1-3sAs we study further, the absolutes of black and white begin to take precedence. These shades are unwavering – black is black and white is white. We can desire what has been lost in the darkness or search in vain for what lies beyond the light, but they are either absent or unattainable.  We can no more alter something we do not possess than we can create something where nothing exists.

What remains are the subtle nuances and details incorporated within the countless shades of gray.  Within the variations of shadow and light, the influence of the underlying hues remains. These are the elements under our control.  Here is where our power lies; here is where we can begin to shape the overall tone of the message we hope our final image will convey.  We can foster a sense of peace and tranquility or fixate on the underlying drama and turmoil.Collage 1.jpg

Sometimes it’s easy to get lost in all the details, to lose the forest for the trees.   Luckily, we have tools at our disposal. Tools that allow us to experiment and take chances. We can make our initial edits, evaluate and modify accordingly. We can remove the changes that don’t work and keep the ones that do.  Through trial and error, we navigate through the process of working towards our final goal. Sometimes there are surprises along the way. Unexpected results that add their own unique interpretation to the overall image .  Other times, we know exactly what to do and we find the perfect balance without too much trouble. It all depends on what we started with, what we have to work with and where we hope to be at the end.  

Lily 2-2(s).jpgThrough experience and growth, we become more adept at making the transformation. Still there is always the chance that a different and unique situation will arise and we will be forced to disregard everything we know and start the process over again from scratch.  Oftentimes, these are the situations that yield the most profound results. The ones we never saw coming, yet we can be overjoyed, amazed or in absolute awe with the power the outcome possesses.  This is what keeps us going, and keeps us coming back for more. These are the moments that bring meaning to our lives and joy to our hearts.  They mean so much more because the journey was a long, arduous one. SNR 3-1(s).jpg

When at last we achieve our goal, we can sit back, relax, reflect and appreciate the final product. Although, it may seem as if we have been manipulating only shades of gray, we cannot lose sight of the fact that all along we were really influencing the original colors concealed beneath the surface. Every once in a while, if we are lucky and the conditions are just right, the rarest circumstance of all may arise.  One by one, we may be able to carefully allow those colors to slowly make their way back to the surface.


Back to Basics vs the Power of Progress


It seems that nowadays many of us are trying to simplify our lives.  Downsizing, going green, eating organic – in general trying to get back to our roots, live naturally and have less of a negative impact on this beautiful planet we call home.  I applaud all of this awareness and back to nature stuff.  What I don’t get is the irony of how photography seems to have gone in the opposite direction.  With digital cameras and computer programs, the ability to manipulate and alter photos has gone a little crazy.  From landscapes that have an eerie ethereal glow to overly processed images pushed to the point of breakage and beyond, people seem to have gotten a little carried away. Bigger, brighter and bolder obviously must be better. 

With all of this post processing craziness, I started to wonder how my photography stacked up.  Was I out of control as well?  I try my best not to over process my images, but us humans seem to be attracted to bright shiny things.


This whole thought process brought about an idea for a new project.  I thought it might be fun to get some film and see just how different the results would be when compared to my normal routine of post-processing digital images.  Just how far have I strayed from the basics? So I headed to the upstairs closet to dig out and dust off my old 35mm camera and then to the camera store for batteries and film. 

ha ha tonka 1(s)Once I heard the snap of the shutter and whirl of the film advancing, it brought back so many good memories I couldn’t help but smile to myself. But it also brought back memories of just how limiting it is to shoot with film.  I can store hundreds of images on my SD card, but there are only 24 exposures per roll of film.  We really had to think about what we were shooting back in the day.  Luckily I had my digital camera along for the ride to pick up the slack. 

In the end, I shot two rolls of film at two separate state parks, for a whopping total of 48 shots. After finding out that local drug stores no longer return your negatives, I made my way back to the camera store for development. Here’s the kicker, I paid $12 for 4 rolls of color film, and it cost $18/roll to get prints, negatives and a cd.  Now I feel much more justified having bought a pricey digital camera.  It basically pays for itself since you no longer have the ongoing expense of film and developing.  IMG_3271

After a couple days, I returned to the camera store to pick up my prize.  Mixed emotions ran through my mind as I contemplated the feeling of holding the unknown in my hand, anxious to open up those envelopes of never before seen prints.  The excitement, the apprehension – was it worth all the time, effort and money?  I hurried to the car and began shuffling through the photos.  There they were in all their glory … and really not half bad.  I went home, pulled up my previously edited digital images and compared them to the prints.  I was pleased to see that they were actually pretty similar.  Nothing crazy or weird, no overly sharpened “HDR’ishness” or exceedingly saturated bluer than blue skies.  I believe I can rest assured that I haven’t fallen victim to the curse of the Photoshop generation.  My images still resembled photographs!creek film and digital 1.jpg


ha ha tonka 3(s).jpgAs much as there will always be a special place in my heart for the joy of shooting film, I realized I had learned another important lesson. Going back to basics does not always go hand in hand with going green, or saving green for that matter.  Aside from the obvious toll on your wallet, old school photography also involves harsh chemicals and by products that need to be safely disposed of.  Digital photography has none of these adverse side effects.  Now I know I can remain true to my photography roots without poisoning the earth in the process.  Despite all the hi-tech bells and whistles, digital photography and online editing are definitely the greener alternative. 

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In all my attempts to live a more natural and simple life, I have to remind myself from time to time that less is more. Just because I can do something, doesn’t mean I should; the most important part of any endeavor is knowing when it’s time to stop. Even a painter knows when he has added the last brush stroke.  After all, nature is the ultimate artist; she should be celebrated and revered for all her perfect imperfections.

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Note:  All landscape photos were taken with Fuji 400 speed color film and retouching was limited to the adjustments available in a darkroom setting only.