Staircase Sunset

There we go. That’s better.

I love this moment here. A full moon rising as the sun sets behind me while in the near total silence of this space with its infinite skies. The short version of this story was I heard a song about the American west that made me miss it dearly and I somehow managed to find an opportunity to go alone for a bit. I soon found myself on a budget airline, then in a car rental for several hours zooming along the endless highways out of Vegas, and right up to one of my favorite places to simply be alive on planet earth.

Memories have a funny way of distorting over time but this was exactly as I remember it. As soon as I stepped out of the car, head still buzzing from the long drive to that point, my eyes swelled up with tears as pure silence overtook my senses. The most beautiful sound I had heard in years.

This photo is from near that spot. Not far from the highway but far enough to hide all of humanity for a short while. Maybe the photo will bring you a little moment of peace as well. Enjoy.

Test Of Time

Words come and they go. They show my age, my level of understanding, my grasp on my own perspective. I’ve written a lot here over the years and come in and out of popularity only to see these pages sit dormant for nearly a year now, or has it been a year already? I would check but it’s not really all that important. 

When I sit down to write now I find myself awash in trepidation that I am no longer able to craft sentences together in any sort of meaningful way; and if I’m not looking at a camera reading this as a script while music gently plays behind me to the intercut backdrop of photos of of a city timed to the sound of an old camera shutter, will anyone actually hear these words? Is your perception of what my voice must sound like enough? This is, of course, all nonsense. I’m not sure if I even believe this excuse anymore. I feel like the last several times I have posted have been about this same thing. I have anxiety about sharing* but I want to start sharing more again. Then I don’t. It’s a self defeating problem and I’m sort of tired of writing about it.

Saying it out loud makes me feel trite and somehow disingenuous despite my willingness to admit I have been frozen with creative block for what feels like several years now. Fact is that it’s less about fear and more about giving my mind space to create. My routine, if you could call it that, leaves me little to no time to reflect. There are no longer quiet moments during my week and if there are I want only to rest. Work continues to gets pushed a little earlier into the mornings and then a little later into the end of the afternoon so as soon as 5pm hits my anxiety shifts home as I wait for the message “thoughts on diner tonight?” to vibrate in my pocket as it burrows its way into my soul just a little deeper. By the time all of the check marks are checked my brain has thoroughly checked out and the thought of writing or sharing from any genuine place of mindfulness feels all but impossible and sharing little quips often end up feeling rushed or tinted with some sort of temporary frustration rather than joy. 

It’s no ones fault. Work is busy because running a buisness will always be this way. Especially in this climate, if you’re not on, theres no money coming in and if theres no money coming in then the bills don’t get paid. Diluting my work load means hiring more people, means getting more work, means working more to get the work, means… It sounds simple, just take one day off a week, or two? Yet see above. It will settle, one way or another I know it will. Yet this is why, when I do somehow get an hour two during a morning that doesn’t start as soon as the family is off to work and school, my soul begs to simply sit silently for a while. Without rest there is no reset. There is no room for the  contemplation of beauty. Some days I do try, I pull out a camera when I notice morning sunlight peering through the window of our rarely quiet house that I think deserves my attention but then when I reach out to absorb its calm my vision is hazy at best as I try to compose and consider anything beyond the sound of a shutter. A sound that once brought such joy as it passed through my ears yet recently feels like a mere echo of some past effort, not the benevolent connection to an art form that I love so dearly. 

I recently traveled solo for just over a week and it felt like somehow I was cheating. I could never settle into the fact that it was real or that I deserved it. I only felt this anchor of home pulling every ounce of myself toward the center of the earth. I continuously thought to myself, I can’t afford this time, I can’t afford this ticket, I can’t afford this rental, I can’t… Though through that doubt, here’s what I remember of that trip offhand; I got off a plane after a half night of sleep, made my way into a car and drove for hours and hours, as far into nothing as I could get, to one of my favorite places. I parked the car and watched as the fine desert sand settled around the car after driving down a dusty narrow dirt road. I turned off the car, opened the door, and starting walking, watching each step I took in the reddish sand and the footprints being left behind until I was at the edge of a large bellowing red rock canyon that I swear had held its breath as it waited for me to return to this spot after so many years away. I looked out across vast desert canyons and cried big ugly tears as I felt the overwhelming weight of silence fully envelop my awareness and then, nothing. Or everything. I don’t really know. The moment I arrived back home after this trip I was not actually home, I was moving again, and the view of my memory of this place was already hazy and muddled by the focus needed to work, work, work. 

The first thing out of anyones mouth while I was traveling and once I returned was “ok now you had your chance to relax you should be all better now”, or “ready to work” or something along those lines. How lucky I was, how fortunate, now that thats out of your system… Why then do I look back on that trip taken so recently and feel as if it was but an echo of some past vision. As if I never left the front door of my house and merely had this dream as I was tucked away hibernating. 

So when I sit down on a day like today to write I do all I can to listen for those echos of what’s left and write them down before I hear my name called out again for this or that, and thats okay. Despite the sour taste of what I wrote above I don’t resent my “adult” life, it simply is, and I do find joy within it. Though sharing any of this here makes me equally anxious knowing family or friends will read it and make their own assumptions of what it means or what their part in these feelings are when in fact this is simply a meditation, a way to connect with anyone else that resonates with this sort of feeling. When my mind does calm down enough to see through that haziness my memory does crystalize and I feel excited about the photos that I have taken recently, absent minded or not and lately, for the first time in a long time I feel the itch again to pull photos and words and paper together again and create something or share what I have already created (looking at you pile of cassette tapes, lathe cut vinyls, and zines).

While sitting here I came across little outlines of ideas and feelings I wrote down while I was traveling and would love to pull from them and elaborate on those thoughts and rediscover them. I want to compile photos into zines, write more, create more. Always and forever these desires remain. If anything my inspiration has shifted away from fresh feelings of getting lost and moved into a new mental space entirely. Now its my family and my wife YoungDoo and her creative optimism that pulls me back from the depths of creative apathy. She’s gotten me to a couple of galleries and a museum showcasing fine art photography recently and that really send my mind spinning. I love that dizzy feeling of a new idea striking like lightning in a quiet mind. That glossy eyed stare as I am genuinely lost in thought. I can sense it there still inside of me, I just need to figure out how to coax it out.

At any rate, it’s good seeing you, dear whoever you. Till next time, for now, back to work, pretty sure someone just called my name in the other room… 

*I am pretty deliberate when I use the word sharing. This shift to the idea of “content” and “content creation” feels incredibly disingenuous. The term sucks the soul out of so many creative minds work and commodifies it into a disposable form of vacant, white noise for passive consumption rather than the deliberate, genuine love for something it often is. Don’t belittle your creativity by calling it content. It reduces it to pennies on a dollar of the platforms using you as you share yourself… but thats a digression for another day.

Reflect On

Since posting last here I have managed to travel half way round the world and back and while on the trip I snapped quite a few photos that, looking back on, I like quite a lot and want to share! During this trip I caught myself shooting in portrait more than I ever had before so I leaned into it a bit with the intention of making a new zine/book of the images as a collection but that will take time and money to pull together so no announcements yet. Just chipping away at editing and pooling together my favorites for that.

In the mean time I am looking around photos that I could share as wallpaper images, do people still look for and use wallpapers for their computers even? Ive been in this game a long time and I sort of feel a shift away from that fun dig around online for new images for digital workspaces but I could be wrong, who knows. Im still here and I still think this is a fun way to share photographs so why not right? I may make a pack of wallpapers from this trip but I may start trickling them out here one at a time, we’ll see how it plays out as I make time to start digging into my library.

My biggest problem right now is still the act of trying to find enough confidence to share much of anything online. It feels like the older I get, the more alienated I feel within the online world. A lot of it has to do with its shifting focus and our lack of attention as trends in social media have moved to quick, rapid engagement. The tiny spike of adrenaline we get as images zip past our eyes for a few seconds and, like a slot machine, we pull down for more, and more, and more, until time and thought mean not much of anything. We blink. and look up from our phones with that dazed, cloudy look in our eyes, and try to focus on reality.

Places like this, full of words and a commitment to more than 5 seconds of time feel daunting to many in comparison. So, if you’re here, and you made it this far, hi! How have you been? The photo above was taken on a little island in Korea which is only accessible by car during low tide. The road heading to it is a long skinny one that ends up fully underwater as the ocean rises up. No warning, no gates, just a road that slowly disappears. The island itself seems to be largely dedicated to campsites, small hotels, and a million seafood restaurants which all have greeters out by the road to entice every car that passes to park and come in for lunch. Its kitschy and fun and I kind of wish we had more time to wander around and explore while we were there.

I look forward to sharing more here as time goes on, I still want to release the album mentioned on my previous hope post and I think I have the nerve to do it sooner than later and I also have been sitting on some 50ft Radio mixes for what feels like years now? Where on earth does the time go? See you again soon.

(Note: “iPad” link below is good for any mobile device, cropped to a simple square.)

I Remember Tomorrow, A Prologue

Im not sure where to begin, so why not start with the ideas themselves. I fear I can’t NOT ramble about this project.

I made an album of original music over the course of a few years time; its working title was “Transient Transit: A Love Story” but it felt a little punny so I shifted the name to “I Remember Tomorrow” which is in line with its theme. I first thought I would release this back in 2017? That sounds about right. Any time I would get close I thought to myself, “not yet John, there is still more that can be done… maybe”.

The music itself is minimal, built from fleeting moments of inspiration and contain mostly first take recordings made after toying with one synth or another while sitting in a car, or staying a few minutes too late at home before leaving for work. The music really took shape when I started to experiment with coupling music I was working on with old field recordings.

For as long as I can remember I have been recording soundscapes of places I travel to, while walking, while sitting at train stations, while in a mall or under a bridge, places I would photograph or simply admire for their tone and audible depth.

I remember, wow has it been this long, maybe 15 or so years ago wanting to start a podcast of nothing but field recordings and seek out people from around the world to help build a collection of sound for others to explore. A feed of recordings to discover somewhere new, largely in our imagination and discover similarities and differences in our lives from afar. Could have been fun right? (*Folds up that note and places it in back pocket).

Then there is the music. I have been noodling with electronic music for nearly half of my life at this point. I will admit it’s partially because I never managed to learn to play a proper instrument. I was always drawn to its infinite scope. There are no rules to define what it can be or what it sets out to accomplish. Exploring sound, texture, rhythm, and experimenting with how these things can connect us to an emotional space outside of traditional means has always interested and inspired me.

One idea that I have long gravitated toward is creating music to pair with my field recordings. Ideally in a way that the music becomes part of the landscape of that recording or perhaps amplifies the memory of them in some way. I have long ruminated on ways to do this and never had the time or maybe the skill to dedicate to the idea fully.

Once I started to build this album I realized that it was telling the story of an important part of my life so I started to play the album as it was at the time with an empty page in front of me and write. Memories poured out as I heard these sounds and the days in which they were recorded came back to me as I wrote. The result is a short story of sorts about love, the beauty of bright moments, and the way memory rearranges our own interpretation of time.

The whole project has been more or less finished for well over two years now yet I have been tripping over my own feet trying to find the right time to release it, probably as an excuse NOT to. It gives me nothing but anxiety to even think about sharing it for whatever reason. It feels like it’s mine as it is and I kind of like that, but sharing it feels inevitable. It was tailored more or less specifically for me so releasing it out into the world feels kind of weird.

I can’t count how many times I have put this album on and listened to it in its entirety as a means of personal escape. It’s naturally ambient in nature so it suits moments of reflection and work. I have listened through in quiet spaces on headphones as well as isolated on a nice set of speakers and it always manages to help bring me a little bit of solace.

Now, onto the physical release. I have notes from years back on design ideas and mock ups. Most of what I ended up with fell into place a couple years back during those surreal weeks at home with family as the world tried to figure out how to live with this new viral threat.

As soon as the story started to take shape I knew that I would be making a zine to pair with the album full of photos and the writing. At first it was just the zine and a digital file but eventually that turned into lathe cuts and cassette tapes as well.

After prototyping the physical booklet at home, I discovered that I could save a significant amount of what would have been a bigger investment than I could justify for a personal project by more or less ordering all the pieces for its release then assembling it at home (Collated printing for the win). I also bought custom length blank cassettes and blank o-ring covers for them thinking, “oh I’ll just dub these myself!” Somehow forgetting that I would be dubbing them in real time, one by one. Not to mention the design of the sleeves which thanks to YoungDoo and her brilliance we found a unique and beautiful solution for but maybe more on that later.

OK, OK, OK. I did warn you I would ramble. This whole thing has just been such a long time coming.

The whole project is sitting here next to me, zines are printed and bound, they just need folding and trimming. The cassette tapes are half way finished, still have a number of them to copy. The covers for them are done. The lathe cut 7” vinyls containing two of the tracks are ready to roll with clear sleeves and accompanying double sided print. The digital copy is already uploaded, PDF version of the zine ready. Heck, I even released a “teaser” music video for one of the tracks! Remember that? kind of feels like I should just get these things out into the world right? Right.

I will either put these up for order here on my site or maybe just on bandcamp though they take a much bigger cut than Gumroad does. I may or may not look into publishing on streaming platforms but it feels rather silly do bother. I’d rather just make the digital version available at a low cost. What do you think? Either way, I am publishing this now as a way to break the ice, move on, and get these things ready to ship out the door. Finally.

Moonrise

For someone who has long told himself that he’s not really that much of a fan of the beach I sure do share a lot of photos taken from oceanic shores. Back at the Atlantic, and there in the distance you can see the moon rising as the sun set behind me. These are the moments you live through and know somehow intrinsically that it you won’t soon forget. Surrounding memories sort of clump together around these remarkable scenes and and they collide in our minds, forming a sort of mosaic of a period of time. The air, the sound, the smell, the reason you were at this place and how close to loved ones you may or may not have been. It’s beautiful and if you are somehow missing this kind of weight during times of genuine, life affirming, nuance then its probably time you re-evaluate your choices in life.

How has everyone been? I’m around, as is my lack of personal space and time so posting continues to be slow but that’s OK. The online world around this little web page has become so vast and distorted since the inception of fifty foot shadows that I’m not sure it’s worth my time to wonder if I should still be stopping by these pages to share. The answer has been becoming pretty clear to me lately that now, more than ever, spaces like these are becoming islands in the social online world. Slang and generations are shifting but people are still out there looking for their familiars and connecting in heart felt ways to others just as lost or found as they are.

All of the surface noise brought forth by the lurking masses simply fades away when you cozy into a place where you can feel comfortable and unafraid. So I hope you, dear reader, can still hop over here from time to time and know the internet can be both never ending as well as quite small. The photo here is of course available for you to grab and use as a wallpaper. It’s landscape so it naturally forms better to a desktop but there is a mobile version here as well for phones and tablets. HD file is over on gumroad. (Thanks to those who choose to continue to support!)

I hope to be back with a few more photos from this recent trip sooner than later. Till then, have a good one. Stay safe out there and look after each other. XO

Spirit

Having trouble finding my spirit lately. A couple months ago I finally was able to purchase a new camera for myself, to keep around with me from day to day. It was stolen from me, or lost, the details are hazy, but a month into having a new X100V around it chose a different path than one by my side. Then a lens on my iPhone camera cracked and I felt deceived by fate somehow. Cheated of what I try pursue so passionately.

It’s tempting to blame it on luck, karma, or some some other divine unbalance but really Its more a reflection of my state of mind. We’re all coming into this year shaken up, I realize my story is not particularly unique and there is comfort in that, I think. I still have so much to share, just no time to compile. Only hope, and damn it, I do still somehow find ways to add levity to each day. Balance out the nagging weight of the darkness in the well. I’m not writing for sympathy, I really am here to share a new photo and pass along an update for the devoted few who still check in on this page from time to time.

I will be getting a replacement for the X100V soon, I will be repairing my phone, but these feelings are sticky. Not a day passes where a song, a light, a photograph, or an opinion, doesn’t leave me ready to tuck myself into a corner and write about it, share it, collaborate with you all, but time is steam and clouds aren’t taking shape all that well lately. But they will come, and I can’t wait.

The hour I am stealing this morning to write and share something of an update here is the first I have had to myself  in as long as I can remember and I am happy to be here reflecting on my state of mind because I know I’m not the only one out there with heavy hands. I want to pad my posts here with more than these downer updates so how about next time I sneak in with a bit more sunshine.

Raise a glass with me, download this photo of a little sprouting leaf and get ready to grow. We’ll do it together. Cheers.

Variations On Blue

It’s been a weird month or so. Covid managed to worm its way into my home and all three of here us came down with it, thankfully without symptoms beyond manageable ones. We did our time and we are doing OK at this point and have gotten back into the swing of life again but life as I know it is askew in my mind. Work is as it was early last year where event production is slow and the live entertainment industry is still very much a volatile market to be working in but we’re managing one way or another and doing our best to plan for what will clearly be another tough year.

So I’m looking at time after coming from weeks of being inside for the most part, waiting and hoping that the impact of Covid doesn’t hurt as much this year. As I am out on job sites again talking to clients I discover more and more people who have felt the frustration and uncertainty of catching it as well and I realize how bad it really is. This is no longer something that friends of friends of friends catch, it’s everywhere here and to take it on is a coin toss.

As careful as we were and as hard as we try to take it seriously, it still snuck in. Not everyone around us seems to be able to share this cautious empathy for whatever reason. Whether aware of it or not, for some, cynicism manages to win. At any rate, whatever your viewpoint, surely we can agree the situation feels impossible, we are all trapped in our own interpretation of reality as it stands so when I say that life feels askew it’s not a poetic quip of an observation it’s a literal adjustment I am having to make within my perspective and my usual sense of optimism to keep from loosing hope. To maintain that sense of optimism I am constantly needing to shift the goal posts but every time I choose to look on the positive side of any given setback I still feel like I am making the only rational choice.

What a time to be alive eh? I don’t mean to jump in so gloomy, the reason I am really here is in effort to sneak by the weirdness of the world at large by hopping into 50ft land to to wax on about a few photographs for the first time in a while. Milla (my nearly 5 year old daughter) and I wanted to get out and get some fresh air after being inside so long so we chose to visit one of our favorite local trails and hike along the edge of a lake nearby.

Snacks packed and ready to explore, we drove out to greet a sunny but chilly afternoon and we were happy to find the trail waiting quietly for us. It had been a few weeks since getting out so my eyes darted around the surrounding forest and I felt intimately tuned to its wintery charm. Tiny leaves, red berries, and here among the few photos on this post, cool blue shadows on the lake and wispy delicate little seeds that pretty much begged me to widen my aperture and soak up the unassuming depth of this moment.

At the time we were sitting down on roots conveniently positioned near the shore. We made up silly stories as we ate and wondered aloud about things like other times we had visited this spot, if maybe it would snow again this winter, and which snack was our favorite. I may sound silly saying it but these little conversations felt poetic while spoken through some of the first fresh air I had been able to breath in quite some time. This crisp January afternoon was just what we both needed and these modest minimal photos take me right back to the side of the lake where we sat.

I hope you all are doing well among everything going on. Any time I stop to write for a while for the site I am reminded of all the lofty goals I pray I make time for around here but all the same it’s nice to have this space to share. Its reassuring to reach out and know that there are a few people around the world tuning in that may find solace in the words I pair with my desktops.

Sometimes it’s funny to imagine someone stumbling across a post like this, here maybe for the first time after clicking a link someone shared letting them know they could find nice computer wallpapers on this site called Fifty Foot Shadows. Welcome stranger! I’m happy you stopped by, enjoy the photos, links to download them are below and I hope to see you again soon.

(P.S.- iPad links are for any “mobile” device and HD versions are in the member downloads)

MNML Beach IV

Dipping back into a long standing series of minimal sandy landscapes which was named back when dropping vowels ws sppr cl t d. OK so that didn’t work at all. At any rate, on a recent little jaunt to the coast with YoungDoo and Milla we found our way to a serendipitous moment on a big empty beach during sunset.

As we explored the shore I grabbed the camera to shoot for a while and ended up taking a few usual “beach” photos then realized I should maybe try something other than yet another photo of sand and waves. The light, clouds, and sky felt just right for one of these intentionally pulled out of focus shots.

It’s actually kind of hard to capture a satisfying image like this because finding the right aperture and focal point makes a big difference in the way the broad shapes of a landscape gel together. I ended up settling on three versions of the moment seen here in this post each less and less obvious what it is we’re looking at.

I love these sort of “ambient” photos and the way they feel perfect as a rendered backdrop for icons on a desktop. “But John, don’t you have a copy of photoshop, can’t you do this with any photo? I don’t get it.” Yeah, but, this image has an authentic stamp of realities approval that you can feel good about ingesting into your daily wallpaper diet so roll with it. As for the color shift on that last photo, I reached this image, which was the most lost in that 50 f/1.2 blur, and felt I wanted to further accentuate the waining sun as it deepened the colors of the sky so a little color shift and drama felt in order.

Get lost for a bit in your imagination here. What do YOU imagine there in the foreground of these photographs? Breathe in…

P.S. Merry Happy Holiday Christmas Time Day. May you find that moment to breathe you deserve.

Photographic Timbre

I should admit, my prose is a bit rusty these days and this whole piece may seem a little out there, so I will try and keep this one short. Have you ever tried to listen to a photograph?

“They” say a photo is worth a thousand words, a statement that I have always considered to be a little silly, most photos simply sit idly with little more than the light they hold on to so dearly and breathe quietly, yet if you place yourself in a space of mental ambiguity you may be able to make out the song a photograph sings. Even if only faintly.

It could be as clear and obvious as a train passing, the busy sounds of city life, or the gentle swaying distortion of wind blowing through an empty landscape but sometimes if you really let yourself dive into the exercise you may find your imagination pull you in deeper. The rustle of fabric, laughter just out of frame, the key of a color, rhythm of a texture, or shallow bellowing drone of an empty field.

I think what most people may discover are connections to their past. Memory defines our perspective on everything so this practice can be a place to center your thoughts for creative writing or simply a means of escape.

This dawned on me recently while looking around on Flickr. If I stopped for more than a couple of seconds to look at a photo I could, to a certain extent, intuit its soundscape, so I started to try and put into words what it could mean; to consider something silent as having an acoustic space around it. What came to mind as I thought of a way to describe it was “Photographic Timbre”, a term that at least vaguely fits the criteria. It seems silly and maybe a little contrived if you’re a bit cynical about art but it’s a fun exercise all the same.

Maybe look at it as a mindful practice, one of reflection, gratitude, and awareness, and see where it takes you. Our life breathes music in every moment of every day so why not extend our perspective in a creative new way? Surely I’m not the only one looking for new or unique pathways to discover moments of peace in these unpredictable times. Maybe you will find a few extra moments of that solace as well.

To whom it may concern,

IMAGES FOUND WITHIN FIFTYFOOTSHADOWS.NET ARE ©JOHN CAREY AND MAY NOT BE USED FOR ANY COMMERCIAL USE WITHOUT PERMISSION. 

DO:

• Enjoy the images! It’s a labor of love, thanks for your support!
• Share fiftyfootshadows.net with friends.
• Send me a quick mail if you are interested in using an image for commercial or personal use other than wallpaper.

DON’T:

• Post desktops elsewhere online.
• Share links directly to images.
• Pass them around in mass.
• Make prints.
• Use images for web banners or graphics. (send a quick email to ask, I’m pretty easy going about this with permission.)
• Use them in commercial work.

If you help me out with these I will be able to keep doing what I love to do. Thanks again, really, for your support and understanding. -J

——

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All of the images contained within this website, fiftyfootshadows.net, are property of, John Carey unless otherwise posted. The images are distributed as freeware but they are available for personal use only on your personal computer, tablet, or smartphone as your wallpaper image. Any use of these images for any purpose other than this is a violation of these terms and anyone found using said images will be asked to either compensate the creator for doing so or be asked to stop using them immediately.

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Thank you for your understanding and support!

John Carey (curator, owner)

fiftyfootshadows.net

fiftyfootshadows@gmail.com