Wooster

We lack water here in Southern California. There are lots of things all of us can live without – water isn’t one of them.  It’s getting worse. We’ll probably survive it; at least my generation will. I’m not so sure about our progeny. There are some consolations. This is one of them. It won’t quench our thirst, not for hydration anyway. It might serve to inspire us to find ways to pass it on to our grandchildren.

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Short Tour Around China Town

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Cool Pakul

Cool Pakul

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Mountains vs Models

When people ask about my career I generally respond that I am a photographer. That at least is my latest reinvention and since it’s stuck for the past 3-4 years, I’m going with it. I don’t make my living this way; I make myself and a few others happy in this pursuit, so perhaps it’s more accurate to characterize as an avocation. Whatever. I spend a lot of time behind a lens and increasingly enjoy exploring the myriad nuances associated with using it.

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“So, you’re photographer” she says. “What do you photograph?”

Fair question, to which I usually respond “things that don’t move or that have four legs,” meaning for the most mountains and trees and rocks and rivers – ok, water moves – and architecture and, of course, dogs and horses. I suppose what I’m trying to convey is I rarely deliberately and seriously shoot humans. Portraiture ain’t my game.

Until now.

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I recently had the opportunity to shoot an old friend of mine whose photogeneity I’ve admired for years. Her name is Renée and to most people’s eyes she is quite comely.

Well, OK. She’s gorgeous.

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She’s also uninhibited in front of a camera and, I came to discover, fun to work with. I figured that given those circumstances I’d have to work hard to screw things up. So, we met at Lake Anne in Reston one late afternoon several weeks ago and gave it a try.

I failed to get it entirely right in the camera for the most for lack of the correct lighting, which is more important than dealing with the model, which in this case was a breeze. Fortunately I’m better at post-processing than at portraiture (at moment) and managed to correct the lighting issues. I also discovered that I liked the processing more in black and white than in color although this might have been because of the lighting dealt us. I was more than a little anxious about how the images would be accepted but since they met my standard of publishable, I was happy with the work. And my anxieties aside, Renée was very pleased as were both our respective audiences.

The positive feedback heartened me and that encouraged me to spend some time studying lighting techniques. I concluded lighting was an art unto itself but for my purposes could probably be sufficiently mastered to engage in exploring this channel of photography further. I doubt it will ever supplant landscapes in my portfolio but if most of it is as uplifting as the first venture it will boost the happiness meters of everyone involved. I’ll be back in LA by the end of November and there is no shortage of lighting experts in that town. Should be easy to track down a mentor.

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Maybe next time it’ll be a model with a mountain backdrop.

Thanks Renée!

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Eastbound and Down

I arrived in Los Angeles late last October with the idea of spending a few weeks before heading south to Baja for the winter and then working my way back east and home to Virginia. Well, it didn’t quite work out that way. And I’ve been in LA ever since. I’ve yet to change my voting registration and driver’s license but I’ve come to think of this beautiful place as home. For a died-in-the-wool Virginian that’s hard to believe – but it is what it is. Still, there are places back east I need to be in the near future – principally my daughter’s wedding in September – and people scattered between here and there I need to see so next week after dawdling lo these many months in the SoCal sun I begin the long trek eastward.

One of my projects, not that I’m burdened with many, is to visit and photograph each of our National Parks at least once. There are 59 all told and so far I’ve taken in 27. Nine of those by the way are in California, the state which is home to the largest number of national parks. The trip back will consume 37 days primarily because I intend visiting a few more along the way. Eleven in fact. This project gets tougher as the number increases simply because at some point it’s no longer possible to drive to my destination: there are parks in America Samoa, the Virgin Islands and Hawaii. And eight in Alaska!

I’ll figure it out.

For now I thought I’d share the itinerary in word and image:

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  1. 10 July                       Depart Los Angeles, CA
  2. 10 – 12                       Mono Lake, CA
  3. 12                               South Lake Tahoe, CA
  4. 13                               Ely, NV – Layover Point
  5. 14                               Great Basin NP, Baker, NV
  6. 14 – 16                        Capitol Reef NP, Torrey, UT
  7. 16                               Natural Bridges National Monument, UT
  8. 16 – 17                        Blanding, UT – Layover Point
  9. 17                               Hovenweep National Monument, UT
  10. 17 – 18                        Mesa Verde NP, Cortez, CO
  11. 18 – 19                        Heron Lake State Park, NM
  12. 19 – 22                        Taos, NM – Summer Writer’s Conference
  13. 22 – 23                        Great Sand Dunes National Park, Alamosa, CO
  14. 23 – 25                        Black Canyon of Gunnison NP, Montrose, CO
  15. 25 – 27                        Rocky Mountain NP, Estes Park, CO
  16. 27 – 28                        Wind Cave NP, Custer, SD
  17. 28                                Badlands NP, SD – Stopover
  18. 28 – 29                        Jamestown, ND – Layover Point
  19. 29 – 31                        Voyageurs NP, International Falls, MN
  20. 31 July – 2 Aug            Isle Royale NP, Grand Portage, MN
  21. 2 – 3                             Ironwood, MI – Layover Point
  22. 3 – 4                             Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, MI
  23. 4 – 5                             Saginaw, MI – Layover Point
  24. 5 – 6                             Parma Heights, OH – Layover
  25. 6 – 7                             Cuyahoga Valley NP, Brecksville, OH
  26. 7 – 12                           Elizabethtown, KY – Layover
  27. 12 – 14                         Great Smoky Mountain NP, Gatlinburg, TN
  28. 14 – 16                         Triad, NC – Layover
  29. 16 – 17                         UVA, Charlottesville, VA
  30. 17 Aug                         Arrive Reston, VA

The trip covers a little over 6,000 miles and will consume about 115 driving hours. I’m won’t get to spend as much time in each of the parks as I’d like but I know I’ll get back to many of them over the next several years.

I’m looking forward to visiting my longtime friends and maybe to making a few new ones along the way. More about the wedding later. For now I’ll just say I’m probably looking forward to it as much as any father does when it comes to his one and only (and favorite) daughter. But I’ve known my future son-in-law now for half a dozen years or more and he’s a wonderful young man. I’m sure AnnaSummer will mold him into something workable. 🙂

And next winter?  Baja, of course.

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Change o’ Pace

I ‘follow’ my own blog (someone has to) if for no other reason than to be able to see what others see when it launches to the net. Sort of a quality control procedure I suppose. I rarely find anything wrong although with a little help from my old business associate Andrew in Australia I did learn that I had the settings for photo display set incorrectly and that anytime I posted a pic from my iPhone it was displaying in a very tiny pixel framework. It had nothing to do with the iPhone, which delivers excellent quality with its camera, but with my ignorance. After I got over the mental rant against WordPress and set about to research the issue I was able to make the necessary corrections. Then I had to mentally apologize to WordPress. Strange things rattle ’round inside my head at times – an alternate reality that hopefully will never see the light of day. Perhaps some of you can identify with that. Oh, and thank you Andrew! And just so you know I have been looking into making another trip downunder if I can figure out how to fit a month or so into my budget. Might finally have to get serious about my connection with CouchSurfing and AirBnB.

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Something I did notice all too often when I checked my site was the inclusion of an ad at the bottom that WP claimed was necessary to help offset the expense of providing free siting. I did not like it but wasn’t disgruntled enough to fork over the extra dough to make it go away. Then I noticed I was getting all those links you see connected with various places like HuffPost and OutsideMagazine with the come-on titles and scantily clad models. I have nothing against scantily clad models mind you – but just not on my site.

So, I gave in last night and upgraded to the Big Kahuna package, which is why you’ll be receiving this from richardbegone.com instead of from richardbegone.wordpress.com. Hopefully this will not disappoint those of you who might have been dropping in for the prurient trimmings that will no longer be availble. As consolation I will try to occasionally find a model or two of my own whose images can be offered up. Problem with me there is I rarely shoot anything (other than dogs) that either breathes or moves. And dead models are of little interest to anyone outside a mortuary. We’ll see. I’m going on a photo-walk tomorrow in downtown LA; maybe something interesting will pop-up.

This will be my second Google+ Photographers’ ‘walk’. The last was in San Francisco on the 14th April. I don’t think I posted anything from that walk here on the blog other than an iPhone shot of Rodeo Beach on the Marin Headlands and an errant Street Car on Polk.

I’ll make up for that now.

The start of the walk at Marina and Scott about 1400 hours:

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The walk leaders, Dave Powell (r) and Chris Cabot: Dave was visiting from Tokyo where he lives and works. Chris works locally for Google.

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Some of the folk who joined in for the event:

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“Accidental” Models along the way:

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The Post-walk Camera Throw at the pizza place:

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And last but far from least from my perspective my finally being able to get a couple of decent night shots of the Golden Gate Bridge – to add to the gazillion other shots that have been made but with my prints on the image.

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And then it was over:

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Ok, not quite. I loved this dog-chases-ball series so I’m tacking it on:

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Blue Ridge Sunset

No, I’m not back on the East Coast yet, though if I were I’d be in Lexington with David Toczko at the Rolex Three Day. It was a highlight of my year in 2012. This particular picture was a backdrop for another type of highlight in 2010, the sort that comes ones way just as they’re falling over the edge of a cliff. The good with the bad you know. It was taken in North Carolina. And like the song says, for a while falling can feel like flying.  It looks much more appealing to me today than it did in the days shortly after it was taken. Still….

I’m throwing it up because for the last couple of years I’ve been shooting craggy western peaks and the sunsets that seem to crash over them on their way to Australia and beyond. The eastern mountains that I grew up with have a more soothing effect. The peaks older and smoother and  covered with evergreens dotted with patches of deciduous trees here and there: Just enough to ensure a colorful display each autumn. The ridges interlock with one another creating corridors that zig and zag and invite you to explore further. They draw you in. This particular sunset was especially hypnotic and on the day it was taken was all but intoxicating. The results were so predictable – to everyone but me.

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I miss these vistas. They can be replicated to a degree by the mountains that surround the northern boundaries for the Los Angeles Basin, the Santa Monica hills to the northwest and the San Gabriels immediately to the north and east. Given just the right amount of haze they take on that blue aura so familiar too habitués of the eastern mid-Atlantic. But sage brush and juniper give the illusion away. They have their own appeal of course and I’d be the first to tell you that it is no less compelling an environment than the one with which I am most familiar. Just not the same.

When you stand on the Blue Ridge and look west you’re gazing at the long-held promise of America. Everything you see for as far as you can see constitutes the portfolio of freedom that has stood at the core of our existence since before we were a nation. What you see is the tangible vision that fueled our drive to explore and discover and claim and capture and hold dear. It was not always a clear vision. Not at all. Our saving grace has been that it prevailed.

When I stand on the mountaintops here in California and look west I see the periphery of the largest ocean on earth. For decades it provided a boundary that protected our endeavors and a sea upon which we could pursue more diversified interests than were available to us otherwise. But to my mind it never ever drove us to achieve the way that Blue Ridge promise did. The ocean has always been something we could take or leave – at least so far as our national identity is concerned. In fact that is not true; in feeling it is spot on.

I wound up where I am now for many of the same reasons that our ancestors did. I am working on gaining a greater understanding of the tagline Mr. Thurber provided for this blog. I’m grateful for the trails my predecessors blazed. They certainly made it easier for me to get here. But it’s left to me to figure out why. And to take in any sunset anywhere for what it’s really worth: the promise, though not the guarantee, of a new day to come.

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