Santa Barbara

Beautiful Santa Barbara! If all drives began so sweetly, glorious afternoon sunlight and warm promise on the southern horizon. I’d driven this road before, but not alone. Having the clarity of solitude was something that I was looking forward to quite a lot, although part of it was a bit intimidating.

The road was twisty and turny, alternating busy and empty which was curious on a Friday. Echoes of familiarity blew across the mountains, and with a shock I realized that I was already out of urban territory. It hadn’t seemed nearly so short last fall, but time does warp with experience.

Another stop in Soledad. The people here were still friendly, and still hinted that I was no longer in America. Onward, onward, down through more fields and flying bugs, moths and cars and trees and green grass turning to bright gold. The same stand of ancient twisted eucalyptus, swaying in the wind like the bendy green cones of an impressionist painting. The Madonna Inn was nothing but a vaguely tearful smile. Still garish now, but infinitely less exciting. Much more enticing was the glimmering turquoise waters of Pismo Beach, arcing beyond white hotels and the first palm trees for hours.

5 hours on the road will make you wonder if familiarity will ever find you in the end. I was lucky, meeting an equal mixture of comforting faces as well as new at my destination. This fact alone made it bearable, as well as the openly affable natures of my new friends. I said to her, “Being here now is so liberating.” As much as I love this life I lead, I miss the solo journeys that made up so much of the last year.

Everything that I was missing in Scotland and both Utahs came back to me here. Over the last few years I have come to accept (slowly) that certain classic flavors of photography will never be my forte. For that alone I am grateful to Santa Barbara. Choose a direction and follow it, and listen to your heart. Pushing your boundaries is a worthwhile pursuit, but never one that should cause excessive grief.

I’ve already told the tale of our experiences before, but even more than that is the fact that no words would ever convey the true merriment of the two days. And so it was, and will continue to be in our photographs.

Santa Barbara in the Spring

See fairer

I’ve never thought much of water.

For some reason, when I was a child I had no problems with the sea. I kept close to the sand but I would find the waves so playful and risky – you’d never know exactly hard they would hit your ankles and if your pants would get wet! I would love to stand in the wet sand and be hit by wave after wave, thoroughly enjoying the sinking feeling as the water shifted the coarse sand between my toes.

The older I got, the more forbidding the ocean became. The waves became reaching hands, the cooling color the hue of cold, breathless eternity. Beachcombing treasures gradually became chemically saturated junk – either invertebrate carcasses or careless trash.

If we fail, then what?

The ocean has another meaning for me as an adult, no doubt stemming from this fear. Falling, drowning, being tossed high and low and feeling helpless against an unconquerable influence.

I do this to myself, though. There is no doubt. With the giant changes of the last few weeks I knowingly pulled the blindfold over my own peepers and jumped right off the plank. Kersploosh! And in the exciting riptide of life there are those highs and lows and the swirl of motion that, at times, makes it so hard to breathe.

While I hang on and wait to find the rhythm in the passage, I think about what Annie had told me: “To venture into some instability, it’s ideal to rock the boat in just one area while you have strong ropes tied to shore.” And there is my ocean, indeed it is all around me.

Even in silence it is so hard to find silence. I’m looking back amongst the last quarter of year, and so much has happened. What I thought was imbalance was really just the inability to savor a good moment. Different parts of me with warring loyalties, fractured commitments, panic for time that was slipping away. When so much happens the mind clicks into overdrive, but while each frame flicks faster and faster into the past you can’t quite catch it all before the reel is empty and it’s gone.

Now all I have are those little colored tiles that appear in a sea of clear black. They are my mosaic and I play with them, change them around, move them from my desktop to my galleries and try to find the patterns between the squares. They’re there, but no one but me can see it. And when I think about those (short?) days I realize how much I took for granted. I miss the clear air, the stress that I created myself, and most of all the fact that no matter how much I worried about A, B, or C, no one but me suffered the consequences. There is luxury in knowing that, which is what separates the pressure I feel these days with the anxieties of that brief week.

I miss the ocean now, and wish we could smell the sea. There are so many hidden treasures beneath the waves, sometimes completely unreachable due to the quickness of a tide or the frigid depths. Now I realize that so many more things remain hidden simply because we don’t give ourselves the time to “see.” None of the things I remember from Scotland are in my photos, which as jarring as the first day I laid eyes on white sand and turquoise water. Are they lost forever? We take photos to preserve the moment but if we fail, then what?

Today I am unsure of if I have come to terms with the frightening ocean or have become so immersed in it that I have just learned to cope. The little island of Mull found me surrounded by the sea and was, in so many ways, a test of that faith.

I’m writing the story here, and the ink isn’t even dry.

Lost & Found

So while my DH was playing with his new toy, he borrowed my spare CF card and said, “Hey I think you’ve got more photos on here from Utah.” My response?


So I uploaded them and saw that they were what I call The Andy Experiment. Sometime along the course of the trip Andy had suggested taking a bunch of random shots without looking through the viewfinder and just let CS3 stitch them together. After a couple of tries (and changing parameters — whee fun with 10 RAW images merging on a G4 Powerbook) I got something presentable!

This ain’t no David Hockney Pear Blossom Highway #2 (which, by the way, is a heck of a lot more impressive in real life than anything you’ll see in the museum gift shop or on the internet), but it was sure fun to do. I even did some post-processing on it because the original image was way dull.

I’m sure the 12 of us (and the 16,000+ on Dgrin) are sick to death of seeing this lump of sand but here it is again, this time with missing edges and weird exposure artifacts and the cool transparent bits filled in because I just didn’t feel like trying to figure out how to preserve transparency in Photoshop this late:

Well, it was interesting for me.


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