A couple years ago I was traveling to San Francisco and took a photograph of a bridge platform control board and always enjoyed the photo, it was candid and from the hip quickly. On a recent trip to Las Vegas I discovered another control panel of a similar make and jumped at the opportunity to get another photo so I dug down into my bag for my camera and snapped this shot just as I was stepping onto the plane. Maybe it’s the warm colors and nice window light that makes it for me but I enjoyed this shot and figured I would share it with everyone as a desktop. Hope to get more new ones up this week so check back soon.
For years now one of my biggest inspirations to start working on more print projects has been the enduring and creative output of Phil Elverum through his P.W. Elverum & Sun record label/shop. Most know him through his work as either Mount Eerie or The Microphones as he creates music that straddles calm frozen landscapes and roaring oceans. I saw him perform years ago at a free show in the lawn of a university and after casually picking up a cd that night I was hooked. His music and philosophy sunk into the emotional mess that I was at that time in my life and pushed me along in surprising ways.
I followed along as he broke away from K Records to pursue his own independent label through which he has released a number of albums of his own music and others. They are often paired with photography and art inside books, on oversized prints, or through other creative printing techniques. I have often looked on with a fond admiration that has left me with a number of ideas for projects that I am still patiently waiting to have time and resources to get off the ground.
His most recent release is a book of photographs called Dust. Inside you will find a loose yet cohesive collection of images taken all over the world, no doubt during his travels as a musician. In the rear of the book you will find a list of the locations for each photograph as well as an addendum in the form of a smaller softcover book also full of photographs.
To describe his photographic work I feel the best place to start would be by examining his music and the emotions he explores therein. He has long examined loneliness and the joy of being found by getting lost and coming to terms with the ghosts that surround us from day to day. The beauty of his vision of the world is not always seen through rays of sunlight but through foggy landscapes where nature and man collide.
The photos in this collection are dark and seem to stray away from current trends in photography and processing offering a viewpoint all their own in a delicate way thats hard to put into words. Both candid yet well considered he explores dusk and the fine line between light and darkness. The places he explores seem nearly forgotten and un-noticed by most that pass them by with exception of a handful of beautiful landscape photos of mountains lost among the clouds and moments stolen with friends.
It’s a wonderful book that I’m excited to have in my collection. The cover is bound in a semi-course linen on which the cover and spine graphic were pressed with a somewhat rubberized texture using a process I have not come across yet as far as I can remember. The printing is gorgeous considering the challenges involved in printing these photographs, many of which are dark and low in contrast, a tricky combination to get right.
I can easily recommend that any fans of Phil’s other work not even think twice about picking up a copy and anyone who loves independently printed and distributed work as much as I do have a closer look. It’s a beautiful collection well worth your support. For more information and to order this book (and a few records while you’re at it) visit his online shop here.
Last friday I unexpectedly found myself with a free afternoon and being met with beautiful weather I decided it would be a perfect chance to get out to the lake. YoungDoo, my brother, and I rented a few kayaks and set out for somewhere around five hours on the lake, a much needed respite after a string of busy weeks. This is the same lake I have been revisiting for years and years and I always manage to find new ways to photograph it. Ive seen it in the snow, the pouring rain and completely empty during a drought yet it never fails to entertain my need for calm.
This shot has an odd focus to it, the camera was touching the water as I held it over the edge of the kayak and focused somewhere just shy of infinity. The water was nearly dead still as we paddled back to the dock giving it a beautiful glass like appearance I won’t soon forget. After a couple of requests to post this as a desktop I found some time today to get this up for you guys, enjoy!
(On a somewhat related note, I took a bunch of iPhone 5s video clips that afternoon and in a moment of downtime yesterday I used iMovie on the phone to make a “trailer” for the desktop, you can see that here if your interested)
Sometimes it’s hard to find a peaceful enough state of mind to shift gears into creative thinking. It’s easy to read motivational quotes and seek out the advice of others making life and photography seem so damned dreamy and perfect but there is a simple, under published truth to the matter which is that it is not always that easy.
There are periods of time where I feel as though I am walking through thick mud, each step a long, focused movement and eventually my shoes stick in the mud along the way. As time passes things get messier as I stumble forward still looking to seek out beauty with a mind distracted by simply staying balanced and upright. A beauty that is so easy to idolize in retrospect or from someone else’s point of view who may not have been quite as preoccupied.
“Photography is about life, people, light, and chasing down the joy in discovering a vitality hiding behind each new story, moment, or shared experience,” says the collective hopeful and unafraid of the world (including myself at times).
I work in an industry that is unpredictable and my schedule shifts on the fly from day to day so free time often comes at unexpected junctures and it makes planning time off tricky. Some days I wish with all my being that I will find a creative spark hiding in between pragmatic thoughts of cables, video resolutions, or the shade of purple that makes a client happy but try as I might I often find no room left when my body is drained and ready to collapse at the end of a day. After which comes another next morning and I wake again trying to sort out a healthy balance between day dreams and the obligations of reality.
I’m writing today because I know I am not the only one who struggles to find time to set aside for creativity. Even with all of the hopeful organization and time management in the world there are still unexpected distances I am forced to navigate and this often leaves me combing through my destiny like a blind man feeling his way around a photograph. It’s slippery, and I often fear that if I can’t get a firm enough grip the whole lot will come to its inevitable collapse wherein I look back 10 years from now and regret not doing more to fight to keep my creativity alive and burning.
Yet, despite these fears, when the black is as black as it can get and my eyes can barely hold their own weight after a long day, I am sometimes able to find bits and pieces of my devotion to creative thinking tucked away in an old song that once moved me through trying times, in flipping through an old book of photos, or recently, among the pages of a good novel. The funny thing about the present or the uncertainty of the future is that yesterday is always there to remind me that no matter how far removed from times of unhinged creative freedom I may be, there is usually a way to unlock that door my mind and seek refuge.
It seems ironic that I am finding creativity in writing about a lack of it but this isn’t all that surprising. In facing something I struggle with using writing as a means of escape I often feel the muddy clot in my mind loosen and wash away. Writing often brings with it a certain degree of mental lucidity and an excuse to clear my mind of other stresses to focus on one specific task. It’s therapeutic, both while watching the ink dry on a page as I write by hand or in the hypnotic rhythm of typing on a keyboard. Gathering up the best words to describe a feeling often seems to reorganize my mind and refocus it so even at times when I have absolutely nothing at all to say I start writing words on a blank page in an effort to untangle my thoughts. An idea crossed my mind recently to try and write short fictional passages, tiny stories, as a means to clear my mind and nudge it into a creative space.
When it comes to photography there is an entirely separate set of complications in locating that “on” switch while my mind is lost in the shadows of a stressful mind. With photography I not only need to focus my eye to see light as exposure and shapes as composition but I have to be physically present within a beautiful moment. I have crossed this topic before on these pages and have been slowly picking away at a dedicated writeup for what feels like ages now. To capture beautiful photographs one must exist within beautiful moments. This is not always practical or possible when, for instance, I am back and forth within the same venues from day to day, I commonly run out of fresh places shoot and can not always afford the time to go exploring.
Inspiration is a fickle thing, and unfortunately life has no pause button, so one must be vigilant. I often think to myself that I am “doing my best” to accomplish the lofty goals that I create but I have recently been considering what my best really is. Any time I catch myself browsing around for a new pen, camera lens, or record I double back and imagine what I could have accomplished in the time spent “researching” for some future purchase to aid a future project. Daydreams are a blessing and a curse. Some of us live in the past, others are perpetually stuck in the future, lest not we forget the present for it is what dreams are made of. That is, if you’re doing it right.
I have come to discover that it is all too easy to overthink and in turn loose focus of the act of being creative due to that hopeless search for the best tools for the job. It is sometimes all too tempting let the idea of perfection get in the way of thinking creatively. Finding the perfect app, having the perfect workflow, using the perfect camera, these things can end up making me second guess myself all too often. Relax, simplify, and move forward. I can’t count the number of times I have felt pangs of regret for not focusing free time on chipping away at a project rather than planning for them. You have no idea how often I have the thought, “if only I could focus all of my time and energy to fiftyfootshadows, then I could do something really great,” forgetting that there is plenty I could be doing to facilitate forward movement if I didn’t do so much second guessing.
Which brings us back to time, oh time… so fragile and misunderstood. There is a heaviness to each second we live and the weight can feel opaque and haunting when we are too exhausted to focus on being happy, yet when we manage to get our sails set straight into to the wind it quickly becomes a breeze that cools our impositions and leaves us having to anchor ourselves down to keep from cruising right passed all the best bits. The only way I have come up to manage the curse is to be aware, even if that simply means stopping something important for a few seconds and taking one deep, satisfying breath.
I wrote this at first out of a personal meditation in DayOne so the conclusion may not be one of any grand opulent revelation. It did help me focus on a few things by writing out my frustration and observations though, and as mentioned above, writing can be surprisingly effective for cleaning out the cobwebs. Now tell me, should you have an opinion on the matter, how do you manage to stay focused and inspired amid stressful days? Feel free to use the comments or link back here from your own site with thoughts, I would love to hear them.
Back at it again with another edition of the 50ft Radio series, it’s one I have been whittling away at for a few months now and I love how its come out. You will find a few of my favorite artists as well as newly discovered ones I am excited to share. As always I encourage you guys to dig deeper if one of these songs speak to you. Pick up an album, check their tour listing, share on social media, most artists can use all the love you can give them these days.
For me, I choose to make mixes to share the music I love with others. A well considered collection of songs can tell a story, share how you feel, or in this case, spread the love of ones favorites with friends. Music is the soundtrack to my life and it provides the beat to which I walk and the rhythm of my heart. Sharing it is second nature and something I love to do.
While with this series I often try not to go too far out in left field and often try and choose music I feel anyone could enjoy, they still represent something about me and my personality. This time around I set out thinking I would make a mix of all americana/singer songwriter music but as usual it quickly evolved into my usual eclectic approach but overall I kept things pretty calm. Maybe next time I should finally get some hip-hop into a mix? Seems I have never knocked on that door with these.
I love coming back to mixes years down the line and digging through the songs like lost photographs, or old journals, each bring up a unique set of memories and emotion. My favorite part of sharing these though, and the reason I continue to make them is because I love hearing from you guys about discovering new music. It is always encouraging to hear that someone has picked up a few albums based on the music heard here.
At any rate, the format has changed this time from an AAC file to a good old fashioned mp3. Apple seems to have all but brushed the enhanced format under the rug and I see no reason to continue to use it which is a real shame because I will really miss enhanced audio files capable of multiple chapters and artwork, I feel it was never utilized by enough people and podcasters which was such a waste of a cool technology.
Let me know if you have any issues with the download, I’m still trying to keep it simple. The track listing is available HERE and the mix is available HERE. PLEASE, do not re-host this anywhere else and if you would like to share it link back to this post, thanks so much for that. As long as the MP3 tags stay in tact I have embedded the track listing in the lyrics section of of the file for quick reference.