Half Awake

We are only ever half awake. Only half aware, one foot in today and three nervous steps into the fog of tomorrow. Tell me, why is it that every day is shorter than the last. Every year gets faster, faster, faster and we try our best to hold onto the fuzzy outlines of the future we dream for ourselves but sometimes it feels that we have been walking forever, and the fog is incessant and unforgiving as it only grants us a vague idea of what we may encounter next. We close our eyes at night and our minds light on fire with wants, worries, needs, love, desire, loss. We are so full of life at the end of each day its hard to really imagine there being another waiting on the other side of each night.

So we sleep, and we wait for another chance to grow, to get things right. We wake to roll over in bed and be greeted by someone we love or inhale another breath of cold winter air. We wake to try again, and we all deserve to try again. We fill our cups with hope every morning. We live to experience, to feel something greater than reality is really able to supply us. Yes, we are only ever half awake, only able to see with two eyes and feel what is in front of us but with each blink we begin again and every dream we are lucky enough to dream is a blessing. Every sliver of sunlight that warms us is a gift, as is every pomegranate seed, clever web comic, thoughtful observation, scarf around our neck, call from home, scenic viewpoint, fresh pair of socks, handshake, or any number of overlooked wonders of every day life.

We do our best to give thanks, to understand every opinion, to feel every feeling, but it’s hard to accomplish and appreciate everything that is great in this life every day, all at once. So at the end of each year we often try to search ourselves for some new clue, some new piece of the puzzle we may have previously overlooked. We look back at everything that was learned, felt, imagined, created, and experienced and remember that tonight, when we go to sleep, we still dream the same dreams and wake with the same lofty goals and expectations for ourselves. We live in unison and it’s important to remember that even at our worst we do our best. Tomorrow, more than ever before, we have to remember that everything in this world has a balancing point. I find myself living this simple philosophy and applying it to every decision, no matter how small. Stay thankful, stay aware, and stay balanced. It’s the only way we will manage to make it through happy enough to feel like we deserve to appreciate the gifts that we are given each day.

Stay just hungry enough to know you love the taste of your favorite foods. Stay messy enough to know that perfection can never honestly be found. Stay cold enough to remember the comfort of being warm. Stay naive enough to feel disappointment. Stay calm enough to feel the rush of a surprise. Stay balanced, stay open to anything, and stay awake just long enough to fall back asleep.

I feel like I am taking a risk any time I ever post anything of this sort, makes me anxious because most of the time I fear it only makes sense somehow in my own mind. But I share anyway, despite the fears because whats the point in hiding it? Nothing ever happens just by sitting around. That said, try not to let the pressure of a new year fool you. It really is just another day. Let’s simply press on, happy that we made it through another year, and do the best we can to remain happy and balanced in the year to come.

These photos were taken recently on the coast of North Carolina. I am a sucker for a good path and I figured now, on the eve of a new year would be the perfect time to share them. Happy new year everyone, here’s to a great 2013!

Tomorrow Two

Tomorrow Three


Holiday Spark (Ended)

Hello again, I have something fun for everyone today, like last year, I am having a little christmas giveaway! This time around it is a little simpler but still photography themed. I got up with the fine folks at Lensbaby and bought two of their Spark lenses from them to give away for the holiday. A little something to say thank you for your support as readers this year. I know there have been some slow months here and there but everyone has stuck with me through and through and I am, as always, incredibly grateful for everyone’s kind words and support this year.

This year actually marks the 5th anniversary of fiftyfootshadows! It launched in January 5 years ago after an equally long run with my previous site. It has come a long way since then and the future is still looking bright. I will have something fun in January to commemorate 5 years that has been a long time coming, just a bit more work to do before I announce it, same as usual.

So, back to the Spark, I think that in the past Lensbaby lenses may have had more of a reputation as toys, or gimmicks but over the last few years they have really stepped up their game offering a brilliantly simple system giving the ability to change out the lens optics for different uses. YoungDoo owns a Composer body with their ‘Sweet 35’ optic and I have really enjoyed messing around with it recently and would love to get my hands on the pro version of the composer with the 80mm optic they have available to see what I could pull off with their simplified approach to tilt and shift. One of these days. I had the idea to get a couple of Sparks for this years Christmas giveaway gift but had never previously used one before now.

I must admit to taking the liberty to opening up the Canon mount lens I am giving away to run through some testing the last few days while I was traveling. I didn’t want to give away anything I wouldn’t personally recommend and stand behind. You can see a couple of the shots below. So whomever wins one can say that I shot with it the lens you now own heh, you will surely be famous one day.



I quickly fell in love with the simplicity of it, it was a lot of fun to shoot with! You simply grip the front of the lens as you line up your shot and pull it forward or sideways to focus. The double glass optic that comes with it can get surprisingly sharp but the one, single aperture will leave you either shooting at higher ISO’s or using it primarily in daylight. I of course wouldn’t shoot with one of these all the time but it sure is tempting sometimes just because it’s so fun to play with. At any rate, it’s a wonderfully fun lens to shoot with and I am excited to be giving a couple of them away.

So, here is the deal, these are being given away free of charge, no strings attached, just a simple gift to whomever wins one. There is one Nikon mount version and one Canon mount version here in front of me to give away. To enter the giveaway simply leave a comment with either the word “Nikon” or the word “Canon” to let me know which camera mount you use. Sorry to the Micro Four Thirds shooters out there! I will randomly pick from those who enter in each category and notify you via email to get your shipping info. PLEASE be honest, only put in your entry if you have a camera that can support the lens and only submit your name once. I trust you guys and I would love to keep a hold of that trust.

ALSO, I really hate to do this, really really, but I can’t afford to pay international shipping for this giveaway. Shipping from the U.S. has gotten rather crazy and it will apparently cost over $40USD. I have not yet been able to find a cheaper shipping method so before you jump down there and claim your place, if you are outside of the U.S. I will have to ask that you pay for the shipping via a simple paypal payment. Sorry for the inconvenience but it’s something I need to do.

I have another option that anyone can join in on. Anyone without an SLR to fit the lenses, or not within the US or doesn’t want a lens can enter the word “Print” in a comment below and I will choose one person from this group and let them pick any desktop image on the site and make a nice archival quality signed 8×10(12) print and mail it to you. Sound good? It’s something I will be offering for sale in the new year in limited editions but this will be a nice place to start.

Your real name is not needed until I ship if you win but I do for sure need a working email address which is only visible by me and emails are never saved or used for any other reason. I have no mailing list as of now. Let me know if you have any other questions of this nature and I will be happy to answer them. I will announce the winner on Christmas day, just head down or over or into the comment section to enter and good luck!

BONUS! The candy cane image above which I have lovingly titled “Sandy Cane” is also a desktop downloadable below. It was conceived as a backup plan if the tree image fell through but taking the opportunity to share it here anyway.

UPDATE: Thanks so much to everyone for their participation, I have randomly chosen 3 winners, Jason Jiang won the Canon, Ville won the Print, and Stephen won the Nikon. I will mail you guys soon with details.

Blue Christmas

Blue Christmas

It’s that time of year again, Christmas is right around the corner and everyone is firmly settling into the Christmas sprit. I have had many requests for a holiday image come through and I have heard them loud and clear. The problem is that I have not been around much holiday cheer with work and seeing as with a camera you sort of need to be in front of something to shoot it, I was left with nothing interesting to share with everyone. I just couldn’t bring myself to make another christmas light bokeh photo!

Eventually I realized that I would just have to make something happen so after a little brain storming I came up with the idea seen here. While it is not exactly how I pictured it in my head, I still thought it would be worth sharing all the same. It’s kind of a funny story actually…

Blue Christmas Center

After getting the idea I knew that I needed some free time around sun set so I looked at my calendar and noticed I had Saturday afternoon free for once. I made plans to take a few hours and make it happen but somehow the afternoon fell to pieces. I arrived at home later than I thought I would after a late night friday out of town so I started off a bit tired and rushed. The first setback came when the tree I thought I would be using for the shot became unavailable to me. My tree was ok but it was at home and covered in ornaments already. A bit frustrated I quickly reformatted my plan to get back home, un-decorate my tree, and bring it out instead.

I returned the work van I had borrowed to carry the bigger tree I was going to use because my tree at home (the one seen here) was small enough to fit in my car. Only problem is that when I went to get in my car I noticed I had a flat tire! By the time I got the spare fitted on I knew I had run out of time and I had pretty much given up on the idea because I knew I would be traveling or working the rest of the week and by then it would be too late.

The next day my father was gracious enough to step in and start the event I had to work that afternoon so I could give the shot another try. Only problem then was that unlike the perfect spring like weather and amazing cloudy sunset of the previous day, it was now pretty miserable and raining. I decided to go ahead with the shoot anyway so I stuffed my tree in my car and headed out. At my apartment the tree stand I had was a sort of ugly plastic green thing so I thought I would pick up one of those more classic looking metal red and green ones somewhere on the way out to the lake. Of course, like everything else, this didn’t work out. No one had any tree stands in stock so out of desperation I bought one identical to the one I already had form a Boy Scout troop set up close to the lake because I was quickly running out of murky grey daylight to shoot in.

Blue Christmas Mono

I finally made it to the lake and hoped out of my car with my camera bag to take a couple of test shots but… My camera battery was completely dead. Yep. Just. One. Of. Those. Days Weekends.

My brother, thankfully, also shoots with a 5D and he had a couple of fully charged batteries closer to me than my apartment was so I sped off down the road on my little donut spare tire to get more batteries. I finally get back to the lake and after a quick stop at the park office to let them know I wasn’t crazy I took out the tree, stand, and a portable battery to set up out on the dock. Finally, I could shoot.

Outside of only having 20 minutes to work and experiment before the park closed and the sun was totally gone things went mostly ok. Well, other than my memory card filling up leaving me to quickly go back and delete some random old photos on there to make room. I originally wanted to set up a tripod and get things exactly as I had imagined but I was left having to go hand held in the end. I took photos up till the last possible second when I grabbed the tree and my soggy camera gear, shoved them back in the car and drove off to work hoping that what I had was usable.

That, of course brings us up to now, editing the photos a bit and posting them for everyone to enjoy. Hopefully you guys see something you like! If the tree just isn’t for you I have also included a bonus image I took at home of a wreath YoungDoo made from extra clippings from the tree. Side note, apologies to the OCD viewers out there that will take offense to the curved dock in the centered tree image, not much I could do to get everything all perfect for you guys this time but I did my best. Also while I’m at it… retina updates will most likely come in the new year, both on the site and in desktops.

I suggest you check back again soon because I have a great giveaway ready for this year right here on 50ft. I just want to snap one last christmas themed photo before I post the giveaway. So till then, happy holidays!


Good morning

A Fresh Start

I am not particularly the easiest person to wake up in the morning. My daily schedule fluctuates and is about as predictable as a stray dog. Some nights I’m up till 3 or 4am with work, other nights I actually manage to drift off before midnight. The same thing always happens though and I end up begrudgingly forcing my eyes open one by one over the course of fifteen minutes or so every morning. The only times I have found myself on a comfortable, predictable day to day schedule is when backpacking or camping. The sun sets, you go to sleep. The sun rises, you get up, pack up, and move on down the trail.

Now that I have YoungDoo around, who is much better at pulling herself out of bed in the morning, my sleep coated senses are often greeted with a fresh cup of coffee and some variety of simple breakfast. A wonderful thing to wake to. There are also days where I manage to trick myself into waking without too much of a struggle and beat her to the punch by pulling out our coffee making supplies before she does and this is what I really love about having coffee at home, the process of brewing it, or to put the word of the moment into play, the ritual of a fresh brewed cup.

YoungDoo and I most often use a pour over/hand drip method and grind beans by hand before each brew. Tell me, is there any greater moment than cracking open a fresh coffee bean with a grinder and having that sweet aroma fill the room?  I think I prefer this method because it makes me feel connected and dedicated to the process and I really love that feeling. I can’t fathom how anyone can choke down those little pod coffees after experiencing the hypnotic ritual of making fresh coffee with the patience, grace, and methodology that the process calls forth. Oddly, whenever I see those little coffee pods for sale I fear that as a society we are quickly loosing our patience one double click at a time. A dreary prognosis but the realist in me cant help but wonder. “Loosing My Edge” by LCD Soundsystem just started playing in my mind.

Any skeptics of making a good cup of coffee in the morning should wake up and smell the… well. Consider it a little vacation in your day. Nothing else to worry about but the simple process, and let me tell you, you don’t really need a scale, or a fancy kettle, or a connoisseurs trained taste to enjoy the new old ritual of brewing a cup of coffee from scratch. There may be a lot of gadgets and techniques on the market but when you break the process down to its core you only honestly need  a simple, single cup brewer, a measuring cup full of water hot to the point just before boiling (preferably one with a nice smooth pouring spout), and a spirit willing to let yourself open up to the process. There are countless resources online for learning more if you do want to dig deeper into the process.

All that said, I can easily suggest you think about adding a simple pour over brewer to your Christmas list if you have ever even considered trying it for yourself. There are even little single cup versions that only cost somewhere around $5-10. Here are a few Amazon links; cheapest drip brew, a little nicer, a modest hand grinder, and maybe a few filters. I think the pour over method is the easiest way to discover the joy of feeling connected to the art of a good cup of coffee. Don’t let the hipster tainted stigmata of brewing coffee scare you off, it really can be lovely thing.

Or, of course, you could just as easily go the tea route. But we’ll save that for another day…

Now, about that photo I had posted this image up on Flickr a while back with the intention of making a desktop version one day and here we are, a bit less saturated than before, but here we are. The natural light through the window provided all the warmth and saturation here. It was a simple, beautiful morning and through a few quick photos I can look back and remember it just as fondly as the day it happened. Here’s to the calm ones.

To whom it may concern,



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


• 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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When sharing images via your personal blogs I kindly ask that you link back directly to either the post the image was taken from or the base of the website at and give a credit to Do not re-post full resolution desktop images anywhere without permission. If you would like to use an image for your blog background or something of the sort simply write to ask first. Support the artwork you admire! Also, it is greatly appreciated if you do NOT link directly to the zip files. This is more or less the same as re-posting them as it circumvents the tiny bit of support I ask of you which is to simply link back to the original post for others to enjoy the site.

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Use your best judgement and we will get along just fine.

Thank you for your understanding and support!

John Carey (curator, owner)