Revisiting the Inner Journey

Based on the data I gave in the previous post on an “Inner Journey” I’ve now been slapped in the face by mortality in a way that never had happened before.  I’ve been, in my rambunctious past, in life and death encounters where one’s reactions and application of training meant seeing tomorrow or perishing on the spot.  But those all came on me fast with no real time to contemplate odds or strategies or really anything beyond allowing training and muscle memory/patterning to take over.  But with the current medical/physical issues and the approach of decisions about continuing chemical treatments and the cost/benefits equations at play, there is perhaps too much time and too little hard data available for me and upon which to base a comfortable decision.  I do not play well in a nebulous universe.

I’ve read now an amazing array of “experts,” all contradicting one another, each claiming a miracle cure or approach, some claiming hidden or lost or prohibited knowledge, each happy to take your money to share that with you.  The web has wonderfully reinvented the snake oil salesman and given them a much flashier wagon and stage.  But I’ve also received some wonderful support and shared insights and references from friends most pointing to something that does, across the board, seem to matter a great deal — attitude.

From combat I knew the power of the brain based on bizarre cases of a person receiving little more than a flesh wound but whose brain told them, “You’ve been shot so will die.” and then they did.  But as a contrast were some who were so grievously wounded no one gave them any chance of survival but their brain said, “No way, not me!” and against all odds they survived and went on with their lives.

Attitude has power, far more than we high tech folks tend to think.  But its power exists in both positive and negative spheres of influence.  The Bible says that “…as a man thinks in his heart, so is he.”  We tend to read that in some theological sense dealing with good and evil but I would suggest it goes far beyond that into the physical and psychological as well.  Very often, for good and for ill, our attitudes, our expectations, sometimes the permissions we have given ourselves due to our specific histories and interactions, define, control, and predict our futures.  We succeed at whatever only when we give ourselves permission to do so, i.e. when that success forms the core of our expectations.

Clearly more is at play including one’s real skills and ability.  But without the proper attitude, all of the skill and talent in the world will not be enough, on its own, to let you succeed.  And if you have not given yourself permission to succeed because, for whatever reason however reasonably founded, then you will almost certain fail.  I know some incredibly talented image makers who will never be successful because they have not believed in themselves or worse, have sabotaged themselves and their career with poor choices stemming from, I believe, a continuing refusal to grant themselves permission to be successful because somewhere deep inside they do not believe they deserve it.

One friend just sent me an interesting selection from the Mark Nepo “Book of Awakening.”  I had not heard his name before so of course looked him up.  He is a cancer survivor and has some great comments in that book including one of my favorites: “We need to give up what no longer works and find new ways of being that bring us close to what matters.”

The selection sent to me spoke of the concept that happiness was in the giving not receiving end of our behaviors.  That view echoes not only the approaches of counselors and “gurus” such as Wayne Dyer, Scott Peck, Stephen Covey, etc., his comments about “gaining by giving” resonate with me because in my experience, and with rare exceptions, (and this thread of thought is fairly common in a lot of Native American thinking) the “giving” returns far deeper and more meaningful pleasure than simply receiving something.  And it is true across activity lines.

From my photo business where it was clear that if I worked hard at making the manager or director that hired me look good to his people, I was rewarded with future work with minimal effort on my part.  I was shown once long ago and far away that learning to give physical pleasure brought greater pleasure in return than simply receiving it directly. I’ve seen clearly over the years that I learn more and about more things by trying to teach and share what little I do know than I ever learned just sitting in front of teachers and guides no matter how good they were.

It may seem silly, especially now, but I cannot believe how much internal pleasure I derived when I would sit in a little van I borrowed and was trying to fix up for its owner, look around and see something I had done to improve it, and think about how much, down the road, they would enjoy that new feature.  I could picture them out somewhere in it having a good time getting away and the idea that I had helped in that brought a deeper and broader based sense of pleasure than just anticipating getting to use it myself before the van was returned.

The old cliché about it being better to give than receive seemed ridiculous to a kid at Christmas counting packages under the tree… until you could see the face light up of someone you had managed to get something they really had wanted or needed.  When that light filled your spirit, it was amazing.  It turned out the joy you had helped inspire was the best gift of all.   There was a time in our history, and perhaps now almost dead culture, that knew and understood that. It was, in many ways, core to my Uncle’s ideas and teaching.  But now, in a “Me, me, me” world we seem to have lost sight of it.  Gordon Gecko’s assertion that “greed is good” is what drives us now; and perversely we are wealthier but far the poorer as humans for it.

I disagree with Nepo in the selection (or at least my interpretation of it and maybe this is incorrect being taken out of context since I have not read the entire book) that we need to suffer to understand this concept by giving from that state of suffering.  What I do agree with is the idea expressed there, and in other quotes of his, that fighting the world and trying to bend it to one’s own will is almost guaranteed to fail and result in the very opposite of pleasure; much less any real lasting happiness.

As someone who, in spite of receiving better teaching, spent a lot of energy trying to bend what I saw as BS and madness toward my own view of how things should be, and felt the pain of failure at that enterprise, it has been enlightening to watch myself internally process the newly revealed set of odds for my future and in the process peel off layer after layer of that combative attitude and simply accept what I found around me as its own problem and issue… but is not mine to solve and it is not my place to bend that reality to suit my perspective.  And with each layer removed, I’ve been able to concentrate more on those things that did matter but, more precisely, WHEN they could matter.

Trying to desperately avoid Cyrano’s dying revelation of being all things and all in vain, making my work at helping students acquire the tools that will help them attain their own goals seem to be one of the only things I’ve done with my life that really has mattered.  Helping sell one more product through the power of the visuals I could create may contribute to a bank account but in the cosmic scheme of things seems to be largely irrelevant.  It is maddening to have that “epiphany” at a point where I may need to retire and find other ways to use all the stuff pounded into me over the years to provide some meaning and purpose.

That may mean a new path or perhaps just an old one re-purposed to better fit the reality now slapping me in the face.  I don’t know yet.  My mind is still too cluttered and fractured by the surprising events of this year that, perhaps due to my own blindness, seemed to have come out of nowhere to make me question so much of myself, my value if any, my future if any, my own seemingly irrelevant desires and needs, certainly my thinking about future plans and desires and connections seems to be demanding a new — or perhaps just finally a more realistic — perspective.  During a particularly confusing set of interactions I lost some things that were precious to me… and it was deeply enraging.  Now however, I can see those “losses” as perhaps the cosmos working to set me free to get, at this next phase, really serious about my life and what I do with it.  When the boat is listing to the point of capsizing, you may have to let go of the rail to save yourself.

Sitting here at the keyboard, I look around at all of the books on my library’s shelves and the countless words in them.  I treasured them for so long but in truth they are just words on pages.  Sitting there closed on the shelves those words are of no greater value than if all of the pages in all of those books were blank paper.  Their value, if any, exists only in how they have served to teach and inspire the reader of them.  Perhaps we humans are very much like that.  Our value, if any, does not exist in what we know when the covers of our personal book is closed.  In that case whatever is written on our spirits and souls might as well be as blank as the pages in those closed books on the shelves around me.  Our value is created when, and only when, we try to give them back to others so they can find their OWN values from them.

OR… so it seems to me at the moment.  More as it develops.

Meantime I’m planning some photo treks that will take us back on the path this blog was created to walk.   The Camper van in my driveway is calling to me to load some camera gear and head out… that-a-way.  First star to the right and straight on until morning.

But maybe… just maybe… that path is more complex than I ever imagined.  Looking back over my shoulder at the path behind me, that certainly is true.

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Presentation for Portrait Photo Club

Last night (2/18/2019) I was honored to have been asked to give a presentation to the SD Portrait Club; the program director asked if I could talk to them about color – color theory, color management, etc.  That is a very large topic scope and actually takes up a complete semester’s class.  So, I tried to create a “Cliff Notes/Readers Digest” version for them.  I sometimes hate doing that since some important material always is going to get squeezed out or fall through the cracks, but in venues like these it is a necessary risk.

The presentation was on the evening of the President’s Day holiday and it was bitterly cold and damp, plus the heat was off in the Old Balboa Park Firehouse where many of the photo clubs hold their meetings.  But despite all of that it was a lively group with some excellent questions, especially as to how all that techy stuff still played into the world where many editing software advertisers seem to claim that you can ignore it all and fix everything at the edit phase “in post.”

First I set about trying to totally disabuse them of that thought and let them know how crippled they have rendered their editing possibilities with a poorly color managed or set up shot by showing them how the RAW conversion software’s ability to “correct” the file is limited by how far off they are in the first place AND their own skill and eye and trying to return a poorly shot image to a solid starting point for the real editing phase.  Just like film, a sensor may be “panchromatic,” meaning it is sensitive to all colors, it is not EVENLY sensitive to all colors.  Global correction to the file, even if within the limits of the software, do not and cannot address those discrete color biases and uneven sensor responses and sensitivites.  Those can only be solved with very careful exposure settings AND with proper camera profiling that allows for color specific corrections.

So  we first talked about the basics of Color Temperature and Color Balance where it always starts (as it did in the analog realm) before getting into the weeds with Color Management, i.e. calibration and profiling so that one can have a seamless transition from capture to edit to output and/or printing.  I also got their attention when I talked about the environmental influences of editing coming from color contamination in the room or even from reflection of their clothes on the screen.  When absolute accurate color is mandated, as it often is in the commercial realm (and in portraiture where the client’s skin color needs to be accurate and not look like they’ve been underwater for several weeks), those issues become important in a sneaky way.  If the photographer or end user doesn’t care then, of course, it doesn’t matter.  But in the professional world, it is likely your competitor will care and if the client can see the difference your position just dropped a notch or two… or ten.

We talked a bit about the various Color Spaces (sRGB, Adobe RGB, ProPhoto, L*A*B, CMYK) and why it is crtitical for maximum quality output to use the best you have available for work and then know how to properly convert the file to a more crippled color space when  or if mandated by the needs of the output format.

Then we talked about Color Psychology, and how the human system will respond to color automatically and why that can be incredibly important in allowing you to use it to help make your interpretation of your subject all the more clear to the audience. Color alone has a powerful effect on the emotional response of the viewer and the artist needs to understand and control it like any of his “tools.”

Then finally, we talked about color compatibility when it came to things like wardrobe and wardrobe interaction with the location or background.  I showed them how to pick colors from various color “Schemes” sometimes used in the fashion world to put together various ensembles to go with a subject’s basic skin tone and coloring.

All in all it was a highly condensed but fun evening and already I’ve gotten a few “Thank you” emails for it.  I love being able to “give back” some of the stuff pounded into my brain over these many years of practice and image making.  I’ve always contended that teaching is as much an art form as any other and the “rush” that comes from seeing a “student” light up as they “get it” is the equivalent to that from a well wrought piece of art.  So here’s my thanks to the members of that club for their attendance and participation.

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An Inner Journey … Really Inner…

Those of you who know me are aware that despite the teaching and workshop/seminar/presentation events I do, I am at heart a somewhat intensely personal person who keeps personal things, well… personal.  But enough of you around me noticed and asked about an unexpected absence from the scene so it deserves an explanation.  So here is a short post to address those concerns (and my thanks for them).

I was in the hospital from the 30th  with severe stomach cramps and what turned out to be an almost completely blocked colon, where, on February 4th, after pouting enough Colace™ down my gullet to turn Gibraltar into a bowl of rock broth, pumping me up with air like a basketball, stirring my innards with an industrial food processor, I had a laparoscopic colon resection.  I joked with the doctor that he had turned my colon into a semicolon.  Then, stitched, stapled and glued back together, I was having a truly delightful time of it but I confess, I pretty much completely filled up my “fun” quota for the month when, the day after the surgery, I had a sneezing fit.

However, now I’m back, back at school, on the mend, though the incision sites are still sore and put up a fuss when I engage my abdominal muscles, but it is getting better every day.  The hard part is trying to play catch up with classes, especially the two online classes with 40+ students in each one.  I seem to run out of steam a little more easily than normal so I need a few more hours in the day for at least the next week…Oh well, sleep is for weenies…

Now that I’m more or less back on track we’ll get back to more normal entries.  But I wanted my friends who were concerned to know what was happening.


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Last Week Before Spring Semester 2019

It has been a bit frenzied, as it always is, the last week of a long week before the semester starts.  For faculty, in addition to getting materials, plans, etc. ready to roll out next week,  we have a load of meetings ranging from a college-wide convocation to a school-wide meeting to a Department meeting.  All designed to give us the latest on budget issues, campus stuff, and of course the obligatory Rah-rah encouragements that are, apparently, mandatory for such things.  So each was filled with the usual combination of really good information and really boring stuff. 

The good news, for me at least, was that it appears – operative word “appears” which is frighteningly subject to change – that the Dean will let the Lighting Techniques class go ahead even though it does not officially meet the new enrollment requirements and the potential students now trying to work through waivers to get into a class for which they are qualified though have not had out specified requisite courses, are running into a new and completely revamped procedure that is pretty much calculated to avoid the whole issue and send them away in frustration.  Late “adds” are no longer allowed and delays caused by system complexity are not deemed a sufficient rationale to allow the late add when the process drags on past the nominal start date.  So it is a problem with, as usual, the big losers being the students.  Well, and potentially adjunct professors get screwed as well since if a full-time faculty member, like me for instance, has a course cancelled, I am required to bump an adjunct from a course assignment in order to fulfill my contracted amount of workload.  I hate that and feel terrible when it happens.  It happened to me once when I was an adjunct and it utterly destroyed any real economic stability for that semester.  But no one consulted me when designing the system.

On Friday there were a number of presentations given for “Professional Development” points for faculty.  I was part of one given by the “Strong Workforce” committee concerning helping to prepare students for working in the real-world facing them post-graduation.  This particular session, based on the panel, seemed to emphasize the issue from the standpoint of those students in more creative and vocational disciplines.  Perhaps that is because those following the academic pathway toward transfer to a 4-yr school are not seen as quite so vulnerable to the horrors of real-life work… or perhaps there was no interest in revealing to them that some of their chosen academic pathways, enlightening and oh-so-sensitive as they might be, were likely to lead nowhere vis-à-vis meaningful employment, especially in the next 10 +/- years.

We had a very good panel.  All of the faculty participants had a long list of solid real-world experience in their areas plus we were able to bring in a couple of folks now working in those areas to talk about their experiences vis-à-vis what the college can do to better prepare students for entry into that workforce.

careeredpanel_01252019 (1)

(L-R: David Hartig (Commercial photographer and President of SD ASMP), Me, Nicole Vargas (Professor of Digital Journalism), Mike Espar (Professor of Music), Bradford Prairie (Professor of Graphic Arts) and Luis Gomez (Editor at the SD Union-Tribune).

For my own needs and interests, I thought it was an extremely good discussion.  I actually think this panel, slightly expanded, ought to meet regularly to help each other with ideas to share ideas and to make our offerings better prepare students for heading out into the real world.  At the encouragement of the President I’m preparing a proposal for a program restructuring to help students in media and communications better able to get the courses they need and avoid the turf and ego issues we’ve run into in the past.

The disappointment was in the very sparse attendance.  Every faculty member in our areas should have been there.  In fact, I think every faculty member PERIOD should have been there but that is because I do still think one of the major objectives of education is to prepare students to thrive in the real world.  Alas, that opinion apparently dates me and relegates me to some fossil from the past with minimal relevance to today’s world.

As I put in my book, in this impending world defined by a huge “useless” class, i.e. people who, despite even prodigious skills or knowledge or education simply will have no work for them to do, as faculty I think our objectives should be to do all we can to make our students able to be part of the dwindling “useful” class.  And if we are not doing that then how do we justify our positions?

The good news is that when that grim future is being more specifically defined relative to work possibilities, it does appear that there will still remain a constant need for communication, especially visual communication, if for no other reason than marketing of products and services more and more dependent on visually driven material as reading skills (and interest) continue to fall.  So my discipline, commercial photography, both still and video, may turn out to be one of the safer areas to explore.

And yet, not one faculty member from art, graphic art, photography, Television and Film, or Music was there in attendance.  I think that is a travesty.  If trying to determine what we can do in our classrooms to better help our students survive and thrive in the changing “new world” rushing at them is not of sufficient importance to come and spend an hour and a half listening to ideas and suggestions on that topic, then maybe it is time to turn in their educator’s badge.

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One might have thought that there was an international surfing contest at Ocean Beach to explain all the people lined up in the chill (for Southern California) morning along the pier.  But no one was allowed out in the water at all…. Well… with one example appropriate for Californians but more on that in a moment.  It wasn’t surfING that brought them out although the surf was involved.

It was 7:30-ish when I got there.  For the first time in what seemed like weeks the sky was clear and the morning sun was just cresting the ridge of Point Loma with shafts of the golden dawn light coming through the trees and buildings to pick out details of the scene.  The onshore wind filled the air with a slight stinging of cold salt spray.  This was pretty enough but not a condition that would usually bring out all these people plus two TV station trucks!  But here they were, eyes and several gazillion cameras aimed out toward the pier.  What on earth was going on?

It turns out that though you could not yet see it, this weekend has scheduled a special lunar event.  The moon will be full, it will be a perigee as its orbit brings it nearest to the earth (so it will appear bigger and exert more tidal pull), and on Sunday night will be a full lunar eclipse.  Combined with several major storms that have come up from the south west and drenched us with some much-needed rain (at the cost of oversaturating the ground and creating issues of major runoff and mud slides, this morning’s high tide was anticipated to produce something locals call a “King Tide.”  And few places reveal tide height better than the Ocean Beach Pier.

So the breakwater was already lined with people and TV crews when I got there.

crowd at pier for blog

Even with the sun just coming up and a cold salt spray from the onshore wind, the breakwater at the OB pier was lined with people and their cameras.

The incoming waves were washing the underside of the pier with some spray raining down on it so it was closed.  Too bad, there is a great breakfast café out on the pier and you’d have a great view of the action.

pier waves for blog 02

The truth is I’ve seen bigger waves, some that washed completely over the pier.  But those are really rare and even so, this level of wave activity is not common.  Part of the issue is not just the height of them but given the angle and the wind-driven energy, the ferocity of the wave action was immense as it broke on the rocks close to shore.

pier waves 01 for blog

When you looked close you could get a sense of the ferocity of the wave action as the rollers came in from slightly conflicting directions under the pier.  If you got trapped here on your surfboard they might find you washed up ashore without enough hide left to close your eyes.

But, well, this IS California after all.  And it was not just the waves that had people’s attention.  Apparently the wave action washed up a really unusual bit of flotsam from the sea.  For you landlubbers who think that the Mer-folk only contain beautiful women or men that look like Jason Momoa, there, stranded on the beach for all to see, brought up from its watery home, I assume, by the violent wave action, was a more realistic example of marine mer-male pulchritude.  Eat your heart out Aquaman,,,

merman at ob pier for blog

I’ve no idea what to say to add to this shot.  Well maybe to add a question to test your knowledge of eldritch and arcane sea lore.  Would this be a Merman or a Sylkie?  Or something else entirely?  I new hitherto unseen or at least unmentioned creature previous viewers thought best left out of their records…???

Some things are hard to unsee…  However, seeing him brought to mind a question I’ve had since my youth and learning about the ancient seafarers lusting after the, to them, beautiful mermaids that turned out to be dugongs, manatees, and the like.  Have you ever seen a manatee?  If the sailers thought they were beautiful women to lust after, what does that say about the ladies they left behind back in their homes?

Just sayin’…

ADDENDUM:  As I hoped my scientist friend Doctor Jeff came through and identified the species of the creature above as the almost never seen “Phytomacronutrientcaudal Californiensis”

So for those of you scoffers who thought I was making this up, science has once again come to the rescue.  However another theory has been put forth that this is the Karmic-fated reincarnation of the infamous Edward Teach, commander of the armed sloop “Queen Anne’s Revenge” and better known perhaps by his nomme du guerre, Blackbeard the Pirate.

ADDENDUM 2:  I wasn’t there to see it but apparently on Sunday the waves not only washed over the pier they did some major damage to it.






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The Week Before Christmas

Well here we are, five days from Christmas.  Close to my place the traffic orbiting the two major shopping malls in the area is insane.  The other night it took me 45 minutes to drive about a mile from my grocery store to home.  But the good news is that the weather is mild and typical for San Diego.  So for those shivering in the east and Midwest, just to tweak your attention a bit, here is a shot I took yesterday after taking the RoadTrek out to charge the batteries.

Road Trek at Harbor Island

Here is the San Diego Skyline from Harbor Island on December 19, 2018.  Notice the color of the grass in front of the Roadtrek… and the great lack of snow.   Although this is fun to “tweak” those out shoveling their walks, I confess even after all of the time I’ve been here, it is still hard to really get into the “Christmas Spirit” when it is sunny and 70 degrees out.  (Photo shot with my iPhone)

Over the past week I’ve given finals, made a presentation on Portraiture to a local camera club and been a judge for another, and I’ve finally finished grading (after allowing some late turn-ins who were especially good at pleading a case for mercy) and now am done with the Fall Semester’s homework.  I’m still trying to maintain a plan to go see my old friend in Santa Fe right after Christmas (to avoid the rush of the holiday) but other pressures such as visitors and my remaining un-replaced joints choosing right now to seriously act out are putting that plan in jeopardy.  I’ve heard that if you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans and I made the mistake of mentioning these travel plans out loud so perhaps it is my own fault.  Honestly, I did not mean them as a challenge to divine creativity…

I cannot have my knee replaced during this break because the recovery period would not allow me to be back in harness in class by the end of January when Spring starts again.  But suddenly my shoulder is seriously acting up and so I just sent a note to the Orthopedic doctor to see if it would be possible to get in right after Christmas to have IT replaced and then, though I’d still be in a sling, I could get around and perform my instructional duties after a few weeks.  I’m not sure how I’ll handle the first couple of weeks since the cat, sympathetic as she may be, is not all that good at being a nurse, but I’ll work it out because anything is better than the past few nights where for the first time in a long time, I’ve managed to max out the 10-point pain scale.  It felt like Grendel was trying to rip my arm off at the shoulder joint.

Pretty soon I’ll have enough metal in me to set off alarms just by getting close to them…

I really did not intend to post anything this week since I did not have any new imagery to show or adventures to relate.  But it turns out that there is something really important I wanted to share.  In researching some quotes for the presentation I mentioned above, I came across this somewhat unrelated quote by Pablo Picasso:

“Do not put off until tomorrow anything you would be willing to die without doing.” 

Wow, that puts a whole new level of seriousness to the issues of procrastination involving things you’d as soon avoid.  But that quote, and some of the Christmas messaging and my own reflection stemming from my planning for dealing with the impending surgeries have conspired to make me want to put this out for everyone to consider. 

If you are surrounded by family or friends that amount to family, give them the best gift of all: your love.  And tell them how much you appreciate having them in your life.  Trust me on this one, when all of your family is “gone to their reward,” and all of your friends are off doing their own thing, and all around you wherever you look are couples obviously enjoying the warmth of each other’s love, you will discover that you can feel the most alone in the midst of a crowd.  It is then you come to appreciate those around you who care for you and about you.  So take the initiative, and while you still can, TELL THEM!  There will come a time in your life when hearing that is a far better gift than any new sports car, jewel bedecked trinket, or even an outlandish Holiday sweater.    

So have a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.  OR, if Christmas is not your thing but you do celebrate other holidays during this period, then I also wish the merriest of times for you and my the time be filled with fun, family and friend, and most of all, with love.  When those family or friends are gone, a whole new level of truth will be revealed about the cliché that “it’s just not the same without you.”  Tell ’em while you can.

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Not Quite a Maiden Voyage…

OK, I was really bummed.  My friend Steve Burns invited me to tag along on his Yosemite workshop a weekend about a month ago and I just could not make that work for me.  I’ve been way behind on all of the grading and critiquing for my overly full classes and knew that if I took off for a 4-day trek, much as I really wanted to, I’d end up being a basket case the entire time thinking about all of the work I was not doing.  I was already behind in dealing with specific questions, with the critiques (because my great Blue™ microphone died) and, to be honest, trying to avoid draining the treasury more than necessary after a couple of months of no income on my 10-month-basis contract at school and some other unexpected wasted expenditures with nothing to show for them.  So, sadly, I told him I couldn’t make it.  Waaaaaa…  Sadly, I’m not good at holding my breath till I turn blue.

So I really worked hard during the week at trying to catch up just to get that weight off my shoulders.  It was nose-to-the-grading grindstone; I even gave a test instead of a shooting assignment to provide a little breathing room.  So on Friday, two weeks ago, I was feeling pretty good about where I was with work… and the Roadtrek was just sitting there with its sad eyes, like a dog wanting a table scrap – you now, with that look that only a dog can give you that says they are starving and haven’t eaten in years and their very life is in your hands… or on your fork – THAT look..

Maybe a quick overnighter to boondock in the mountains or desert might not be so awful or irresponsible of me.. I could get some Milky Way shots, maybe do a painting with light shot of the van to get back in practice since next semester I’ll be doing the lighting class again.  Yeah, hey, it was actually school work… sort-a kind-a…  And I haven’t done any real image-making since the Bristlecone Pines workshop early in the summer so was getting a little twitchy around the edges. My spirit had been run through a virtual Cuisinart™ and I was looking but could not “SEE” anything to shoot; my creative fuel tank had been drained by a bullet through its heart.  Maybe a forced infusion of the right surroundings could kick start that image engine into at least some sputtering semblance of life and get me back on track.

Then just when I thought I was caught up and could afford the time for at least an overnight trek on the cheap, my left knee decided it had been too quiet for too long and so decided to act up.  As you might recall my right knee was replaced two summers ago (and now is giving me no problems…YAY!) but it was so awful during the recovery period – a period I could not have handled by myself were it not for my friend, Don, coming out from New England to help – I swore I did not want to even think about going back for the other one.  But that was then… this is now… and the pain that just dropped out of the sky to swallow me in waves of searing “discomfort” (as the doctors like to call it) made me rethink that oath because the new pain was not tolerable.  It was like my knee was being attacked by a dull chainsaw.

When it was obvious this annoyance was not just going to pass as a temporary flare-up, I went to the Daktari, who X-Rayed it and pronounced, as if it was going to be a surprise, that it was much worse than the last time it was X-Rayed before the surgery.  Ya think?!?!?

When I mentioned my resistance toward the surgery solution we decided to see if in-joint injections of some cortico-steroids would alleviate the situation.  Even if it was temporary at least it allowed my mind some rest, my body some sleep, and maybe be my brain able to make a more reasoned decision as to what to REALLY do about it.  The good news is that it seems to have worked and at least at the moment, the debilitating pain has subsided to a more or less tolerable level.

Soooo… let me recall… what was I saying about a little trek to road test the RoadTrek?  I’m still hobbling around with a walking stick but hey, I was not planning on a hike up Mt. Whitney.  Nevertheless, although a real camping trip was simply being masochistic (though I recall a coach once giving the brilliant advice to “embrace the pain”), I SOOOO needed to see some non-urban scenery, and after the election nonsense, get the urban engendered political offal out of my nostrils and did still think a small day trip could let me test how the Roadtrek would handle the dirt and washboards.  For example, before I headed into the great postcard scenery,  determining what may need to be secured better, etc., what kind of mileage I could expect and trip-budget for, etc., indeed would the coach handle that sort of pounding when I was still close to rescue?  So I hauled my heavily complaining knee up into the cab  and headed east.  That still is weird for me to say since all of my life in Colorado I headed west out of town into the mountains; but here if you head west you better be a really good swimmer.

A good exemplar back road is the Boulder Creek Road between Julian and Descanso.  Heavy washboarded sections due to heavy traffic moving too fast and inducing wheel-hop on the dirt, plus it also has some nice scenery and overlooks.  It has some great California poppy fields in Spring but this was not Spring.  And Fall had fallen a bit too long ago to expect any real color but that was OK since getting out and hauling a tripod into position seemed more like an exercise in self-abuse than anything likely to result in an image of real value.

RT along Boulder Creek Rd 01

There was an incredibly heavy fog and haze layer looking back toward the west and the ocean.  Along the horizon just over the mountains you can see the fog bank sitting there.  Even here, along the Boulder Creek Road between Julian and Descanso, it seemed clear up close but there was a heavy ultraviolet haze in the air that required some filtering to remove.  And here, in the dirt for the first time, is the “new” camper.  It performed splendidly.   (Shot with Canon S120 Point and Shoot   (c) N. David King)

So how did it do?  I’m pleased to report that the Roadtrek acquitted itself quite well.  A less than secure arrangement of trays I had placed covering the stove revealed themselves fairly quickly, a few loose items in the cabinets will need to be padded or restrained to keep them from banging around, but otherwise that part of the test was a success.  The new brakes were wonderful as was the ride from the all new heavy duty shocks, and most of all, the big block 454 handled even steep pitches as if they weren’t really there.  For all of its size, weight, and extended wheelbase, I was surprised how (relatively) nimble it was and the “draw in” of the rear wheel track was not as pronounced as I anticipated – a good thing.  The only thing I need to get a better handle on is the exact placement of the rounded rear edges and spare tire that I cannot see.  Maybe a back-up camera would be a good investment…???

RT along Boulder Creek Rd 02

This shot is looking east, away from the ocean.  It is clearer but you can still see the haze turning things blue despite a good UV filter.  This is taken on a curve along the road and the red reflection in the side is from a reddish-brown arroyo wall from which this part of the road is cut.  Shot with a Canon S120 Point and Shoot. (c) N. David King

Oh man I really wanted to haul over at several very cool spots and just set up to spend the night — anything to avoid going back to town.  But everytime I got out to take a shot of the van, even with my little  point and shoot, my knee reminded me that all of my pain meds were back at the house and overnighting without them would be a decision I would very likely seriously come to regret.  So, regretfully, I laid the reins over its neck and pointed the Roadtrek’s nose toward town.  And back I came.

So, a couple more tie-downs, some bungees… some time-windows without having to get back to complete already overdue school work… perhaps a better feeling knee… and I am ready beyond the telling to load in some camera gear and head out.  Where? Who cares?




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