My friend Ken Gray (yes, the same Ken, the bartender at McCabe’s who has been feeding me a blackened cheeseburger once a week for the last… oh, please, don’t make me count the years!) and I went out to the Narrows of the Harpeth, a few miles from my house, to see what the deep freeze earlier this week had done to the river. Seems it formed some ice:
Category - photography
…or, at least, an Honorable Mention!
(scroll down and click if you just wanna see the picture…)
Back in October, Nashville Mayor Karl Dean sponsored a contest to find a definitive photo of the city’s burgeoning skyline.
Nashville actually makes for a pretty compelling skyline, by day or night. Its proximity to the Cumberland River and the several bridges that cross it offer any number of vantage points from which to capture the city’s unique architecture – like the AT&T’s unmistakable “Batman Building” or the distinctive truncated pyramid of the Pinnacle Building, or the appealing “house atop a sky scraper” of the Fifth Third Bank building.
I really wanted to find a unique vantage point, to observe the city from an angle from which it is not frequently seen – like those bridges, or the park on the east side of the river. There is no shortage of photos from those angles, and I wanted to find a new one.
It was not easy to find a vantage point that is high enough and far enough away to offer a unique perspective – but still close enough to observe some of the detail of the city.
I found that vantage point on the 30th floor terrace of the William R. Snodgrass Tennessee Tower State Office Building.
I’d had some other ideas, but was turned down on several occasions when I requested access to locations that I thought would be good vantage points.
So I was pleasantly and delightfully surprised when the Mr. Charlie Walker, the general manager of the property, provided me with access to one of the highest points in the city, an open terrace 30 floors above one of the highest hills in downtown Nashville – a vantage point from which I was, literally, looking down on the entire city.
I went up there twice in the hours before sunrise, and shot several panoramic sequences with my new Olympus OM-D EM-1 camera (I started out trying to use the Nikon D600, but the shutter/mirror mechanism froze on the first exposure even though it had just come back from being factory-serviced. That was the last time I used my Nikon, but that’s whole other story for a whole different post…)
Stitching together the panorama was just the beginning of the process. I won’t go into the details, but I must have spent about 20 hours processing the image in Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop, and the Nik suite of photo-editing software. The final file has more than 20 Photoshop layers.
The winners of the contest were finally announced last week, and while my photo was not among the top prize winners, it was accorded and Honorable Mention, for which I am grateful.
The recognition is nice, but what I’m mostly grateful for is the motivation to get up before dawn on several mornings and try to do something memorable. I’m pretty pleased with the result:
For the record: this is a photo of “my home town.” I may have started out in New York and New Jersey, but I have now lived in Nashville longer than I have lived anywhere else (and remember, I moved here from Hawaii…), so when people ask me “where are you from?” I tell ’em “Nashville.” And I stare blankly into space if they then ask “what church do you go to…?”
And now, a bit of shameless self promotion:
But… how will you know for sure unless you have a colorful calendar on your wall that reminds you of the fact every 30 days or so?
Oh, sure, that digital thing in your pocket will keep you up to date well enough. But where’s the fun in that. It’s so… one dimensional!
Consider, on the other hand, the three-dimensional, time-warping qualities of these images:
First, they will help you identify the present date. Sure, any calendar can do that, but these calendars also…
…Transport your imagination into a time in the not so distant past (i.e. centuries, not millennia) when great edifices were carved from stone, by hand, and constructed over several decades. Many of which lie in ruin today…
…and through which you are transported into the cosmos and offered a glimpse of the vastness of space and time – in the form of starlight that left its source millions of years ago…as captured by a giant camera/telescope suspended in orbit around the earth.
The images are “Portals of Stone” – rendered in ink, on card stock… a new “portal” every month through the new year.
Just follow the link to see more at…
or follow this easy PayPal button to order yours today:
Last Friday – my 63rd birthday – I re-posted (with some minor edits) the short essay I wrote on the occasion of my 62nd birthday. It was about turning 62 – the age at which my brother had died in 2011 – and the quest to outlive him numerically by turning 63.
That post ends with:
There is much more to that challenge than simply lasting the year.
I’ve got some living to do.
Seeing that line again for the first time in a year caught me up short. It made me wonder: Had I lived up to my own challenge over the past 12 months?
Or had I just gone on with my desultory day to day existence, squeezing nothing more out of my continued presence here on earth than the consumption of natural resources and the production of bodily wastes?
And then I remembered this photo:
That’s me, seated on a bench before the south elevation of Melrose Abbey in the borders region of Scotland.
For so many reasons, that photo answers the question.
I may not have lived entirely up to whatever potential I have had languishing here for the past several years (like, since Book Two went off the rails), but I think I can say that I certainly made some effort, and have some results to show for it.
I mean, I’m pretty pleased with the whole “Portals of Stone” collection that came out of that trip to England and Scotland last spring. I had my first “art show” this fall, and now the whole collection is hanging in an actual art gallery in East Nashville. And I got a check in the mail for one of the pieces last week. Eat your heart out, Van Gogh…
Probably more important than any of that is just the fact that I made the effort. That I saw an opportunity and I grabbed it, and the result was as satisfying and meaningful a two-weeks as I can recall in my life.
I still can’t quite put my finger on what draws me to these medieval ruins, although I can say that the unexpected result – the Portals of Stone – that came out of that trip is maybe the most creative expression I’ve had since… well, maybe since I finished/published Book One – and that’s going back to 2002. Certainly the most creative visual expression in like… ever. I mean, hey, I was 62 years old and for the first time in my life I came up with something that somebody else – actually a couple of somebody elses who have authority in such things – considered “art.”
So, yeah. That happened.
And now the same gauntlet is thrown for Year 64.
Cue the Beatles: