Category - travel
Ann and I will be spending the week of Feb 19-25 in the New York City area. We’re going up primarily for the wedding of my niece, my sister’s daughter Emily.
I’m not particularly keen on the idea of going anywhere north of the Mason Dixon line this time of year…
And the end of an era (for me, anyway…)
I was just scrolling through my photo archives in search of something and found this instead —from June, 2003.
Ann’s boys had just moved to Portland, Oregon and this was our first visit out there to see them.
It was about a month later that I got my first serious digital camera, a Nikon D100, so this one of the last photos I shot with my trusty old Nikon F2 and that mysterious, antiquated substance called “film.”
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It’s been almost 7 years now since we stopped using Windows/PCs, so we don’t recall precisely how desktop images are installed for Windows, but it must be something like this process on a Mac:
5. Go to the “System Preferences panel.
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And people wonder why I am leery of winter travel:
A columnist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution describes her 18 hour! journey from office to home:
The third gas station does have gas, but there’s no getting near it. Cars jam the driveways and side roads from every direction, inches away from hitting each other. I watch from afar as desperate motorists carry empty water jugs and two-liter Coke bottles to the pumps and fill them with fuel. I never knew gas had a yellow tint.
I turn into Publix, which is serving as another makeshift shelter, and buy water jugs. There, even more people are asleep in the aisles. One man opts to sleep on a shelf. He just moves those Duralogs right out of the way and stretches out like he’s in a bunk bed on a tour bus. Some people huddle around a small TV at a check-out line and watch a movie with Jamie Foxx and Channing Tatum.
When I was a sailor in Hawaii back in the 1980s, I came to the conclusion that “the most important thing a sailor ever learns is when not to.”
I think the same could be said for leaving the house in the winter.
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:
I’ve been in Scotland for a week. I haven’t spent nearly as much time sorting and editing as I have shooting, but some of what I’ve got to show for my presence you can see here.
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Photographers live for about four hours every day: the two hours on either side of sunrise and sunset. That’s the best natural light of the day. The rest of the day is for location scouting (or so I’ve been told).
Somebody asked me once, “which do you prefer, sunrise or sunset?” To which I replied, “well, I’m usually awake by sunset…”
And that has been the case so far on this expedition. Despite my best intentions, I’ve slept through every sunrise. That might have something to do with fact that the sun sets at this latitude at about 9:30 PM, and the twilight lingers until nearly 11. And I’ve been out every evening photographing something at sunset, though the actual sun has been mostly obscured by clouds.
After that, you get back to your room, download the memory card, sort the photos and edit a few, and by the time you start nodding out it’s 1:30 AM. Not exactly conducive to starting again at 3:30 (since the sunrises at about 4:30…).
Yesterday I made the short – and lovely – drive from Melrose to Rosslyn, which is my whole reason for being here in the first place. And last night I went out again at sunset and looked for something to shoot at the end of the first completely sunny day I’ve had all week. After that, same drill… fell asleep at the keyboard about 1AM…
But this morning something very different happened: I woke up and saw the moon setting in a perfectly clear sky outside my window. I looked at the time on my iPhone: 4:24. Like an idiot I tried to go back to sleep.
But whatever higher power brought me here intervened.
Despite my best efforts to go back to sleep, that was not gonna happen.
In the absence of sleep I opened Google Earth on my iPad (there was just enough signal to get a view) and entered the coordinates for Rosslyn Chapel, which is about 2-1/2 miles from the b&b where I’m staying. From the map I could see there is a road that goes past the chapel to the edge of a field on the eastern side. From paintings and photos I’ve seen from that angle, I knew there was some kind of meadow on that side of the chapel.
I threw on some clothes and was there by 5:30, just as the sun was peaking over the hills.
Medieval churches, chapels, and abbeys were typically laid out so that the altar – and the grand windows above it – face east, so that the rising sun can remind worshipers of the Resurrection (note to fundamentalist Christians: you do know that Muslims face east for their prayers, too, right?).
The combination clear sky and the rising sun meant that the best natural light I’ve seen all week was shining down on the nearly 600-year-old of east facade of the Rosslyn Chapel just as I was getting my tripod set up.
Left to my own devices, I might have slept right through it. But I swear, some power better than myself hauled me out of bed, threw clothes on me, and steered my rent-a-car through the pre-dawn light to get these photos.
Now, behold the majesty of 15th Century architecture:
I’ve had good moments and bad moments on this trip. The good ones are usually after I’ve been shooting for several hours, and I’ve taken the time to marvel at the fact that I am even here, doing this extraordinary thing. The bad ones are after I’ve sat at the computer with the results from the day and thought “oh crap, I missed that… shoulda framed that differently… oh, look at THAT… that I didn’t quite get in the frame…” etc. etc. All common photographers’ laments.
But today, I can take some solace in the knowledge that however else the rest of the day goes, I got this part right:
But only because that Higher Power would not leave me to my own devices and let me sleep through the dawn.
I wish I could remember now who was it who said, “you do the work… and the inspiration takes care of itself…”
Listen to John Doan’s harp guitar while reading this post:
Now, where was I? Oh yeah….
One of the most stunning places we visited in Scotland last October is a small church several miles outside of Edinburgh called the Rosslyn Chapel.
If you’ve read “The DaVinci Code” or seen the movie, you might recognize the name. Dan Brown wrote the last scene of that story at the Rosslyn Chapel. The bones of Mary Magdalen – the real “Holy Grail” as portrayed in the novel – supposedly having been hidden there, in a a secret crypt concealed under the foundation of the chapel when it was built during 15th century.
We almost didn’t go to Rosslyn. When it was first suggested to us, I looked it up on the web and the first thing I noticed on the website was
Please note that there is no photography or video allowed inside Rosslyn Chapel.
And when I read that I thought to myself, “well, that’s a deal breaker….”
But I talked it over with Ann and we agreed that it would be worth seeing even we couldn’t take pictures inside. We figured it in to the itinerary for the last full day of our trip, when we would be back in Edinburgh for two nights and still have the rental car at our disposal.
So on morning of the last day of our tour of Scotland, we ventured out of Edinburgh about 7 miles south to the village of Rosslyn.
And yes, the interior of Rosslyn Chapel is truly extraordinary. Nearly every surface is adorned with detailed masonry carvings depicting the history of the area, the chapel’s founders and builders, or a passage from the Bible, all rendered by the most skilled stone masons of the 15th century.
In the centuries since its construction, the tiny Chapel as been through all kinds of depredations, from serving as stable for Cromwell’s cavalry in the 17th century to an ill conceived conservation effort in the mid-20th century that coated all the carvings with an impermeable layer of magnesium fluoride that trapped moisture inside the stone. Just about the time that The DaVinci Code was released, the Sinclair family that owns the chapel and surrounding estate embarked on a more enlightened course of preservation, and now, in the wake of the novel and the movie, the Rosslyn Chapel is among the most popular tourist destinations in all of Great Britain.
Ann and I spent most of the morning of our last full day in Scotland there. We made a lot of photographs of the exterior, and spent enough time inside to come out pretty well awed at what we’d seen. But, per the rules, no photos of the interior.
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Fast forward now to January 28th, when I received an e-mail from a musician named John Doan. John is is primarily a harp guitarist; his home base is Salem, Oregon.
If you’re not familiar with it, the harp guitar is an instrument that starts as a guitar, but is embellished with an extension of the body of the guitar that supports some number of open, unfretted strings, usually bass notes, that are plucked separately in the same manner that the strings of a harp are plucked. John Doan typically plays a variation of the harp guitar that includes a further set of “super treble” notes that are strung musically above (physically below) the 6 guitar strings.
I can’t recall now when I first discovered John Doan’s recordings, most of which I purchased via iTunes during the period when I was still paying for downloads (which I rarely do now, with the advent of streaming subscription services like Spotify). But since I first discovered him I have been an avid fan of his Celtic-infused, sonically rich recordings that evoke the spirit of the islands with which I am so enamored. I met John briefly once, at an annual event called “The Harp Guitar Gathering” when it was held in Indianapolis in the fall of 2010. That’s probably when I put myself on his mailing list.
So I get this e-mail from John Doan in late January. And after the usual “this is what I’m up to…” stuff, I scanned his tour itinerary at the bottom of the message. And that’s where I saw:
May 26: Rosslyn Chapel, Scotland
Whoa. Did I read that right? A concert inside the Rosslyn Chapel??
I quickly fired an e-mail back to John.
Can you use a roadie/photographer on these gigs?
I need an excuse to go back to Britain this spring…
Where “back to Britain” was a link to the site were I was gathering and displaying our photos from the trip in October.
John’s reply to that was pretty non-committal, but the more I thought about it, the more intrigued I became about the proposition, so I sent another message:
Please forgive the quick “need a roadie?” message that I sent earlier
This time… I think I’m serious….
..after which wheels started turning…
Long story short: I’m leaving tomorrow afternoon, and will meet up with John and his entourage of wandering minstrels a week from today at Rosslyn. And I will have permission to photograph his concert inside the Rosslyn Chapel.
Two weeks ago Ann and I encountered a Scottish photographer a the TACA Arts & Crafts fair here in Nashville. We got to talking, and I told him that I would be going to Scotland soon, and that I’d be photographing inside the Rosslyn Chapel.
“That’s forbidden!” he said.
Yes, it is. But I’ve got special dispensation.
And that’s why I’m going back to Scotland tomorrow.
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I’m still working on another post (or two) about how my trip to Britain next week came about, and will perhaps get the story finished before I leave on Sunday. For now, I want to get something else out there.
It begins with a passage that came to mind in the midst of some breath work with my therapist on Wednesday:
The heart seeks
and only the heart can find
that which we do not know
that we know
Now, as much as I am loathe to even mention the name – much as Harry Potter referred to Voldemort as “he who cannot be named” – the thought above is a corollary to something Donald Rumsfeld famously (infamously?) said during one of his Pentagon press conferences when he was trying to explain whathefuck had gone wrong in Iraq:
There are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we do not know we don’t know.
I’ve always thought that Rumsfeld’s assessment of the realms of knowledge and ignorance stops just short of what might be the most import insight of all, that…
There are things that we do not know… that we know.
Basic, fundamental, truths of existence that live on a subsurface, spiritual level that where we do not spend nearly enough time.
Perhaps I am going to the ancient ruins of Britain to spend time in places where long ago mystics and monks did just that.
As good a reason as any…
And, now that I think about it, I realize that right after I had the “breath work revelation” I’ve shared above, I may have had a clear illustration of the principal – and an affirmation of why I have to go on this trip alone.
After I saw Kenneth on Wednesday, I went downtown to the Shelby Street bridge to photograph the Nashville skyline and see what sort of results I would get shooting for HDR with my new Nikon D600.
The results at sunset were pretty satisfactory if uninspiring, except perhaps for this one shot where I got everything to line up: the sun hitting the tops of the building, the f/16 aperture that produces the cool star effect:
But after I got that shot I stood around and waited for over an hour for the sky to darken and the lights of the city to come on. And about 8:30PM I got this shot, which I think is downright spectacular:
… because I WAITED FOR IT (and trust me on this, the small rendering here doesn’t do the image justice; click here to see the whole frame a bit larger).
And that, sadly, is what I can’t seem to do when I’m with Ann. At least, not that day we stopped at the Beauly Priory on the Black Isle near Edinburgh. And I’ll say again, I think Ann got better photos in less time than I did. But I wasn’t done yet…
That’s why I drove away thinking, “I have to come back here by myself.”
And now, it appears, I am doing just that.
In two days.
Because when the heart is patient.. only then.. can it find what it does not know that it knows.
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And now, the rest of the story...