Save the Light

The monkeying of time and daylight first began way back in 1883 as railroad companies attempted to standardize service schedules. Later during the First World War Germany, Great Britain, and eventually the United States adopted the idea of daylight savings in an effort to conserve energy. There was significant push back (apparently people were showing up late to church) and within a year of Woodrow Wilson signing the Calder Act in 1918, daylight savings was repealed. But apparently not everyone thought it was such a bad idea and over the next 40 years various states and cities adopted their own forms of daylight savings and time zones. Trying to abate the confusion, Congress passed the Uniform Time Act in 1966, requiring all Americans to abide by six months of standard time and six months of daylight savings, which is where we stand today[1].

Personally, I would much prefer 12 months of daylight savings. I am of course biased since 40 hours of my week are spent under grey cubical walls and florescent lights. I will gladly give up the rooster crowing rise of morning light in favor of just a little more post-work trail time (I mean, come on, hay doesn’t grown in the winter!). Sure cold and inclement weather signal the body that it is time to conserve energy by imbedding itself on a comfy couch in front of the warm glow of television. Darkness however can be the real motivation killer and gateway to months of hibernation. So why help winter days get shorter than they already are? 

As a photographer I also dread the return to standard time. Sun rise and set of course are the times of day when natural light is at its best. During the winter months one of these periods requires prying myself from the cozy womb my bed in the wee hours of the day to stand around in the cold, while the other usually involves me rushing out of the office to catch the last of the cherished golden hour. Like fitness, winter months are often a time when my photography motivation gets a little sluggish. So taking away another hour is just another nail in the coffin.

Not to be completely negative about the return to standard time. The shift to earlier evenings does have some positives. Longer nights in the house gives me time to restock the fly box, wax the skis, re-watch all 162 episodes of Magnum P.I., and finally get around to organizing my photo catalog. The six-months of standard time is also a great opportunity to plan next year’s adventures and cause me to appreciate those long summer days just that much more. Finally, the dark days give me plenty of time to sip whiskey, write my thesis, and petition Congress on why daylight savings should be the new standard time.

[1] Downing, Michael March 9, 2018. 100 Years Later Madness of Daylight Savings Time Endures. Smithsonian Magazine. Washington, D.C.

Days of My Youth

This past Thursday I celebrated another lap around the sun, entering my early 40s…41 to be exact. As has been the case most of my life, I don’t feel like my official age. That is not to say I am running around trying to act an age from year’s gone by (Wooderson). Rather, I’ve never taken myself serious enough or felt the weight we place on arbitrary milestones of existence. As captured in a saying my brother and I share “You are only as old as you act”. It is a bit of the inverse of what your parents or perhaps a significant other might advise you to do, which is to act your age. If you act old, you are old. I’m not suggesting the fountain of youth is found in the bottom of a beer glass at 3am on a Wednesday night, but if you find yourself reading the fine print on your retirement portfolio in bed at 8pm on a Saturday, you might want to do some life assessment.

Yes there are the inevitable signs of aging that can’t be ignored or avoided. The ground seems to be harder when I crash these days and injuries tend to linger longer than they used to. I’ve also had to change certain behaviors such as consuming post-ride pop-tarts smothered in peanut butter and increase the miles-per-beer justification ratio.  I would also throw in there the struggle of maintaining relevant fashion sense, but that implies one had any to begin with. Plus jeans and t-shirts are pretty timeless aren’t they?

 It is my hypothesis that the best way to out run the age monster is to not take yourself too seriously, and just keep going. Sure you might not be as fast as you used to or are able to go as far, but avoiding the gravitational pull of couch time is crucial. Some of the people I admire most and look to as examples are still getting after it running marathons, skiing, and mountain biking. All the while never taking themselves too serious, with a smile on their face and a mischievous glint in their eye. A few years back Yeti produced a story about rafting and skiing guide John Shocklee now in his 50s and still living a life based around the outdoors. Like many of his profession, John leads a simple life in Silverton Colorado opting for the experience of the outdoors over more superficial trappings. I’ve shown the story to multiple people who respond to my “when I grow up” admiration with looks of confusion and perhaps disbelief. What they often miss though is the vibrancy that comes with bucking social age norms and continuing to get after it. So while I might be racing in the masters category these days it is usually in a Hawaiian shirt and a smile.   

Wait for it…

Photographs are moments in time and as a photographer we are always looking for that perfect moment. The more my photography has developed the more I’ve realized to capture those really incredible moments requires a lot of prep-work. Whether its scouting a location, pre-visualizing a shot, or tracking weather patterns, great shots more often than not don’t just happen. Even street photography, which is the antithesis of the “in the moment” shots is likely the result of time spent in a location, watching and planning. Sure, there are those spontaneous right-place-at-the-right-time shots, but for the vast majority of photos that capture your attention time is required.

Time of course is a finite resource. Well, I should rephrase that. For me time for photography is a finite resource. Part of that is due to the responsibilities of life (i.e. photography ain’t payin’ the bills!) and part is my life struggle of having more hobbies than hours in a week. So while in theory I will wait for the absolute perfect moment to shoot photographs, the reality is most of my shots come during the small windows of time that I am able to carve out. Still, I do my best to think through and do the prep work necessary for a great photograph.

The other week we were out on a group run along the Boise Greenbelt around sunset. The sky was amazing as the sun painted golden light on the peaked fall colors along the river. “Dang, where is my camera!” I thought to myself. As the scene unfolded my mind was going in a million directions of potential photographs and my eyes looking everywhere but at the path ahead. In order to avoid a face plant, I made a few mental notes of potential shots and to come back to the spot at the same time of day. 

Not surprising a day later became a week later and in that time the days got a little bit shorter and a few fronts passed through bringing rain and wind. I checked the weather the day I finally made time to go back to the park which called for no rain and partly cloudy skies. Perfect. Reality though when I packed the truck and headed out – full cloud mono-grey skies. As I walked to the spot that had first captured my attention I noticed that the trees had lost a good amount of their leaves and colors were a little past their prime. The air was let out of my enthusiasm balloon as I searched around for something that might work. I composed a few photographs near the spot I had remembered and while all was not lost, it just didn’t have the same impact I saw the previous week. After Dana and I checked out a few last spots we made our way back to the truck and past where I had been shooting ten minutes prior. The sun had just made its way below the horizon throwing a redish last light into the air. I quickly set my tripod down and composed a few photographs knowing that the light would only last a few minutes. 

As the last of the light faded I looked up from the camera and reflected on the moment. The experience reminded me some important lessons that have been taught to me through photography. One lesson was given to me by Michael DeYoung during a photography workshop and that is when you think you’re done shooting and you see everyone else packing up to go home, stick around a few more minutes, because that is the time when the good unplanned stuff usually happens. Another lesson of photography is to let go of expectations and remain flexible. Pre-planning and working for a shot is important, but no matter how much preparation you do, things can and mostly like will change. The moments are what lies before you.

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