Big Sur 1993

To celebrate July 2nd, here I have some nostalgic pictures from 1993, scanned and cleaned up from old negatives.

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This is how the sun used to hover over the Pacific, seen from Highway 1, near Big Sur, where we were headed.

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It’s a day hike from the coast to the destination, so it’s good to get going in the morning and take advantage of the morning fog, until you reach the denser woods.

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Trees make bridges or block the way, like everything else.

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The destination? One of the hot springs hidden in the wilderness. I forgot the name, and I don’t have directions.

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I wonder how all this looks today.

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Darkness and Light

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Nino Haratischwili’s book The Cat and the General is a difficult book. It talks about guilt, and the unhealthy death wish that can come with it. It’s also a long book, and might not satisfy the reader expecting satisfying exterior context. This books is about minds.

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The novel often appears to be talkative, giving too many irrelevant details, but these are just part of an undercurrent of themes that connect victims with perpetrators. One such pattern is that of Darkness and Light.

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After Sonja’s Death, Ada had begun to be afraid of the dark. She only wanted to sleep in bright light, holding a pillow in front of her eyes.

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“Why is there Darkness and Light”, he heard his daughter ask, then just five years old.

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— Because we couldn’t see the light without darkness, and the darkness not without light, he answered, and felt doubtful.

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— But why do I have to see darkness at all?

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Darkness is nothing but a disguise for the light!

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This dialogue between the general and his young daughter replicates a dialogue between Nura and her father, and is one of many parallels that live in the subtext of the book.

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The pictures here were taken during a recent visit to Turkey Run State Park. 

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Besides Light and Darkness, there is also the theme of wood and rock in these images, of growth and strength.

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Stereo Moss (Moss III)

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Continuing humidity has led to the prospering of micro-jungles also called moss.

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I have posted two sets of extreme macro images earlier, and today we continue with macro stereo images of moss.

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The images are all for cross-eyed viewing. Ideally, view them on a large monitor, sit back, and focus your eyes at a point half way between you and monitor. Then relax the focus to the monitor. If you have difficulties, try the last one first, then slowly scroll up.

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Hand made stereo images of still life-sized scenes are easy to make by taking two pictures, moving the camera approximately eye distance in between. Our brains are tolerant…

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This doesn’t work for macro images, one needs to move the camera by mere millimeters, using a focussing rail sideways. Enjoy.

Mushrooms

 

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Now that all the pretty spring wildflowers are gone, it’s time to pay attention to some of the other vegetation that prospers in the humid Midwest. As you can see, they still have to learn about social distancing. 

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I know next to nothing about mushrooms. The beauty above is probably a coral fungus. But don’t trust me, and in particular don’t eat one just because you have seen it here.

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They grow with an astonishing speed, and take on shapes that range from gracile to monstrous. And they are usually gone after a few days.

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Some look so strange that I don’t even know whether they are mushrooms.

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The ones above were photographed with a macro lens. For the one below I didn’t have one, but I also didn’t need one.

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Tradescantia (Spiderwort)

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The spiderwort is a late spring wild flower. The local kind has blossoms that close a night and dangle down, suggesting spider legs.

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But maybe it’s the long leaves that are often bent like spider legs. In either case, each individual plant is an architectural master piece.

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The flowers have three petals. Unlike trilliums, I have never seen a four leaf variation . Another explanation for the spider name are the hairs around the anthers.

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Maybe we should consult an expert. They seem to like these flowers, too.

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Black and White Are Not Colors

For over two months now, I have been walking Pete Hollows Trail almost daily.

I have made a few friends, I hope, saying hi while cautiously getting around each other on the narrow trail. Nobody meant any harm. Thank you.

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I have met the trail maker. He told me that this trail is his masterpiece. I think I start to understand what he meant by this. Thank you.

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I also met the Hermit. A friendly looking shy guy wearing an NRA cap, and camping out in all kinds of weather away from the rest of us. He took care of the trail by cutting down fallen logs, too. Thank you.

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When I started this, it was still winter, and every little drizzle would soak you. Now, the tree leaves provide shelter enough. Thank you.

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There are secret spots, too, that provide inspiration, where you have to step off the trail a bit. Thank you.

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Then there are seven streams to cross. They help keeping track of time. Thank you.

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Oh, there is light and dark, separate and together since the beginning.  

All this makes a place, and forms its character, and builds it a home, slowly, for some.

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And then there is Cassiopeia. This is her home.

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She taught me that it is not us who own a place. It is not a question of ownership, but of belonging. Thank you.

We have no right to remove her, or anybody, from where they belong.

 

In Memoriam George Floyd, May 25, 2020.

Nekyia (1947)

In their gray was a memory of all the colors that didn’t exist anymore.

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The title Nekyia of this blog post refers to a Greek rite of necromancy, and it is also the title of a little book written by Hans Erich Nossack which appeared 1947 in Germany, just after the war. The quotes are from this book.

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It takes place in an unnamed city which has been drained of all color and which represents the negative space of our existence:

Don’t you realize that I am talking about the life span between death and birth? A span of which we know that it stretches across far wider spaces, and about which we remain silent only because it cannot be measured by numbers.

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The book thus reverses time. The narrator seeks his mother, in order to be born: 

It is possible that I had been forgotten to be born, and the people didn’t like to be reminded of it.

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During his search, the narrator meets different people from his past, among them his teacher:

“Why does he tremble?”, these eyes that held and probed into me asked. I didn’t realize that they meant me. “It is not fear,” answered my teacher next to me (…), “it is the trembling of the leaves at nightfall. It is the uncertainty of a being that doesn’t know his mother.” 

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So my motherless brother took me to my mother. How could I have guessed that he knew her?

His mother tells him the story of his past, a story of war and murder, borrowing from Aeschylus’s Oresteia. But the hardest part lies ahead: The separation from the mother without forgetting the past. 

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Is this too high a price to pay in order to have a chance for a future?

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Nossack’s publisher had wanted a love story to satisfy popular demand. Unable to satisfy the request, Nossack stayed silent for six years.

Most things we were quite certain of couldn’t withstand his piercing eyes. They just disappeared, at first leaving an ice cold emptiness around him.

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (Ohio IX)

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Conkles Hollow is a separate small nature preserve belonging to Hocking Hills State Park, featuring two very different trails. These are like two (very) different aspects of the same person.

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One leads inside a deep and narrow gorge, and is as wild as it gets. Violence and darkness abound.

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The other trail leads up and around, with views of the cliff faces.

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During late winter/early spring, this becomes a study in black, white, and green. This is peace and serenity.

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Here, the trees seem to mirror the dramatic dance of the rocks below like dreams, occasionally joined by a counterpoint in red.

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Is this just one place?

The Passing of Time (Ohio VIII)

The longest trail in Hocking Hills State Park is nicknamed Grandma’s Trail, and it’s an 11 mile roundtrip.

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It leads to rather remote regions of the park, making it ideal for self-isolation. The six hours it takes to hike it is an opportunity to contemplate the passing of time, both our own, and the inherent time of the landscape.

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Spatial and temporal distance merge in rare views like the one above (from a fire tower). 

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Then there is an abundance of waterfalls and rock faces: Do we want change, or do we want permanence?

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Spectacular views like the one below are rare, reminding us that there is not only passing time, but also meaning.

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The trail ends at Ash Cave, another large recess cave with a waterfall.

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The enormous overhang provides shelter, but is also an ominous threat: How long will it hold?

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More Moss (Mosses II)

After using Laowa’s 2.5-5X Ultra Macro lens for extreme moss images, I couldn’t resist to try out the new Lensbaby Velvet 28mm lens on the same subject. 

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People on forums discussing photography fight bitter wars about lenses as if it was about their salvation. It is certainly true that Lensbaby is making lenses on the other side of the spectrum of what many photographers expect.

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These lenses are good at not being sharp.  Even closed down they are a bit blurry, and show strong chromatic aberration. The idea is to shoot them wide open, of course, and enjoy how almost everything gets blurred into oblivion. The sporophytes of the moss above are impossible to get sharp with any lens, so why not make them extra blurry?

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The Velvet is a 2:1 macro lens (2cm in reality become 1cm on the 35mm sensor), but the working distance is so small that it will often cast a shadow on the subject. So these pictures where taken in the morning when the sun was low. 

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An advantage of shooting wide open is that you can do everything handheld — just magnify what you want to shoot in the electronic viewfinder and push the button when it’s (relatively) sharp.

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