Streaming South at the Wilson Center for the Arts

Posted on August 9, 2015

Streaming South exhibit postcard

I’m super excited to be sharing Streaming South with the public (finally) and seeing the prints mounted and displayed together. The exhibit is in the gallery of the Wilson Center for the Arts at the south campus of Florida State College of Jacksonville. The space is beautiful and allows for a fairly large display of prints and some behind-the-scenes material. We install next week (yikes) and the exhibit opens to the public on August 17. An opening reception is planned on Thursday, August 27, 5-7:30 pm and I’ll be giving a short talk and will be there to answer questions. Everything comes down on September 16, so please make plans to see the work as the viewing time is short.

Streaming South is now part of my life so the project continues. The direction may vary based on the responses from all of you. There are a few creeks that I haven’t gotten to yet, and many that need additional visits. Summer is such an oppressive time to be outdoors and once the weather cools down just a bit it will be easier to get out. I’m looking forward to meeting all of you, getting your feedback, and taking this show on the road. See you soon!

Lofton Creek 2,3 – Late Spring

Posted on May 31, 2015

Water Spirit - Lofton Creek

Water Spirit – Lofton Creek

Officially Summer doesn’t start until June 21, but everything here in Florida says it’s summer in a big way. Warm, sunny days, bugs, and humidity all say summer is here. Saturday morning started out sunny, with a few low clouds to the east, but these were quickly overtaken as the sun rose. The tide was low although the tide tables for Lofton Creek listed high tide at 9:00 am, just two hours away. Something was off. I parked at a small launch area off Pages Dairy Road (200A) just before it crosses the creek. There is a parking area and good access. I started my paddle east to check out the sun streaming onto the water, and hung around a while, waiting for the water to rise a bit. I knew that there was not going to be any cloud cover, so this would be a “recon” day. There was still some mist rising out of the water and soon all of these magical still moments of the early morning would be gone.

Approaching rain - Lofton Creek

Approaching Rain – Lofton Creek

As I started heading back to the west, upstream, the clouds began to roll in. I became very excited and quickly got the camera back out. The light level was low but very nice. But then the sky continued to darken and I had a sneaking suspicion that some rain was on the way. At that point I was about 30 minutes from the car, and decided to just keep going out. Chances were that whatever the event, it would soon be over and the sun would return. As the sprinkles turned into an honest rain, I headed under the canopy of a large oak which offered some protection. Being in a rain shower is refreshing. The smells, the gentle rustling sound of water hitting the trees and the creek surface, and the frogs celebrating, all contributed to my hopes that this would be a pleasant experience. After about 10 minutes, it started to rain harder and I secured my camera and made a decision to stay. The water ran off the leaves into rivulets, pouring onto every part of me. I could feel my underwear getting soaked and I knew that this was going to be a wet one. For about 3 minutes the rain seemed to let up and became a soft drizzle. OK, now that I am completely soaked, let’s keep going out and maybe it will clear up enough to get the camera back out. A few more minutes passed and the rain returned. You can hear the sound of the rain getting louder, and then it comes. I found another tree to go under but this was not helping at all. Final decision, let’s make our way in the direction of the car and hope that it doesn’t thunder.

Stream from Above - Lofton Creek

Stream from Above – Lofton Creek

Paddling in the pouring rain is not fun. I felt kinda stupid and asked myself the meaningful question, “What are you doing here?” The car was a welcomed sight and as I pulled up to the launch site the tide had raised the water level significantly so it was easy to get out. There was an older man in an old pickup truck parked on the side waiting for the rain to stop so that he could start fishing. He got out of his truck and we started talking about the rain. “Ya’ think it’s gonna’ stop?” “Nope.” I waited for about 10 minutes and really hoped that the rain would stop but it persisted. I knew that once I dragged the boat out of the water and pushed it up on the roof rack that it wasn’t coming down again for the day. Of course I was totally unprepared – no rain gear, no change of clothes, no towel. I used my small rag in my camera bag to wipe my face. Luckily I had a plastic garbage bag to sit on. I turned on the a/c and raised the temp just to try to dry off. This was the first time I was caught in the rain, I guess most of the time I have enough sense to keep out of it, but the weather reports were hopelessly lame in predicting any kind of precipitation. I decided to return tomorrow.

Sunday morning and I’m back. The tide was even lower than yesterday and I feared two of my biggest detriments – fallen limbs preventing passage and SUN! Well, today I had both. While yesterday there were clouds in the sky today it was completely clear. Summer in Florida! Enough complaining, I’m happy to be out here, I have my rain coat, and I’m ready to see how far upstream I can make it. After about 20 minutes I realized in horror that I had forgotten my coffee thermos. Should I turn around to retrieve it? Are you kidding? I decided to suffer just to teach myself a lesson. “Boy, a coffee would be really delicious right about now…and now.” I fantasized about that missing coffee for the next hour.

Dock - Lofton Creek

Dock – Lofton Creek

I could see from my vantage point on the water that there were a few very small clouds coming in. I am always optimistic that the big cloud would come park itself to block the sun. Those clouds just like to tease me. I’ve learned from years of landscape photography that an image with illumination from the direct sun is just too contrasty for me. But that doesn’t keep me from trying. The yellow flies started coming out around 9 am and you can hear them buzzing about near the shore. Once they hone in on you it is a constant hassle. They have a way of buzzing around your head, barely landing and then taking back off. Pure annoyance. You are there waving your arms like a madman, swatting at thin air. OFF! does not work at all. I carry a can of Raid flying insect spray and even that doesn’t seem to get them. Hopefully the ones I did spray flew away to expire. I got nailed 3 times on the arms. The worst sensation is feeling the bite and looking down to find one of the beasts on your skin. Arrrgh!

Upstream - Lofton Creek

Upstream – Lofton Creek

Lofton splits into McQueen Creek and I took the Lofton side. The tide was still very low and the McQueen side was filled with branches. I managed to paddle for about 20 minutes until there was no way to get through. At the turnaround I stopped and had a snack (without coffee!) and just sat there. Looking up and about I felt like i was in a wild place, a place that was timeless and untamed. I felt so alone. These are the experiences that are special in these places. As you listen and look, there is life everywhere. The view is unlike anything you see in a normal day, this is raw and honest and the way things develop on their own. There is order and there is chaos. There is a natural system that drives it all. The creek continues to flow, the level go up, then they go down. Everyday, regardless. It is something to think about.

Low Tide at Turnaround - Lofton Creek

Low Tide at Turnaround – Lofton Creek

Tree Canopy - Lofton Creek

Tree Canopy – Lofton Creek

On my paddle back the tide was coming in. The water level changes about 18 inches between high and low tides. The current isn’t strong but it is there. About a half mile from the launch site there is a huge old growth cypress. There are two other very large cypress close to it. I remembered this tree from my last time here in the winter. It is enormous. Someone carved their initials in the trunk and that upset me. Some people are real idiots. I like to think about the old Florida when the land was covered with these giant trees. These creeks were probably like an Amazon rain forest. Although most of the trees are gone, at least there are some of these outliers still intact, inviting us to visualize the past. I was happy to make the connection.

Old Growth Cypress - Lofton Creek

Old Growth Cypress – Lofton Creek

As I pulled into the takeout point there was a local fishing. We talked about Hurrican Dora in 1964 and how the water levels were 8 ft higher, everything including the roadway, was flooded. Two other kayakers pulled up ready to go fishing. We we asking about alligators in the creek. Apparently there are some smaller gators in there. One of the kayakers said proudly that he wasn’t worried, as he pulled up his T shirt to reveal a handgun stuffed in his shorts. I fell sorry for whatever gator meets up with this guy. Overall, a good day, even with the terrible light and low tide.

Deep Creek 5 – Late Spring

Posted on May 25, 2015

Sun's Arrival - Deep Creek, Hastings, FL

Sun’s Arrival – Deep Creek

Deep Creek is back in green. I was fortunate that high tide was at 9:30 am, so my arrival at 7 allowed me to avoid much of the fallen logs that plagued me on my last two outings. Temperatures were mild and the mosquitoes and flies were well behaved. And yes, I’m going to complain about the weather again because the “partly cloudy” forecast means some clouds and there were very few. The sun came screaming into the creek by 8:00. I headed west towards the river in anticipation of some overcast conditions, but after 30 minutes in the sun I decided to turn around and head back upstream. You could still find some areas in shadow but for the most part the direct sun was what we had. I would say all of the leaves are grown out, some of the foliage still had that fresh green look. Summer doesn’t actually begin until June 21 so this is still technically Spring, but this is the Summer look for the next 5 months.

Deep Creek - Hastings, FL

Broken Connections – Deep Creek

I made it quite far upstream. It looks like someone had done some clearing and cutting of a few large branches that had stopped me short on my last trip here. There were still plenty of fallen trees and logs crossing the stream bed but the high water allowed me to squeeze by. The turn-around log actually had a bypass on the side but the tide was going out and I didn’t want to be trapped with no way out. As the morning progressed the sun got stronger but for a brief moment it started to rain and I thought the clouds were moving in. But it was all short lived and the sun was back – actually it was a beautiful day.

Deep Creek - Hastings, FL

Tangled – Deep Creek

On trips like these I get frustrated because it takes an effort to pack up the boat and an hour to drive out to the site. Summer in Florida means sun, especially in the mornings, so I constantly look for those “mostly cloudy” forecasts. You just have to deal with what you have and make the best of the outing. I was actually pleased with the images and shot a lot less due to the conditions, which made post processing much easier. But every outing carries a level of expectation, and we can’t get carried away with that mentality. It is is a great privilege when we are given a time slot in our lives where we can be in solitude outdoors on our own terms. I need to remember that and cherish the time. My outings are not always about photography (although I often forget about that), so if conditions aren’t optimal, then it’s ok. There are other reasons to be where I am, and today was a great example of that.

Durbin Creek 6 – Late Spring

Posted on April 12, 2015

Jungle Cruise - Durbin Creek

Jungle Cruise – Durbin Creek

This is my 6th visit to Durbin Creek. It’s an easy choice, close to the house and a convenient launch. Watch the tides here as low water makes navigation very difficult in some areas. The creek is very long and wonderfully wild. As I’ve complained in the past, the land clearing for the new housing is really disturbing, as they are getting very close to the creek. I hope that the residents are not going to have direct creek access, as there are no docks or openings until the development on Bishop Estates Rd.

Reflected Greens - Durbin Creek

Reflected Greens – Durbin Creek

The water was low this morning but the cloudy conditions made for a great outing. The leaves are back on the trees but not at their full density, still a lot of growing left to do. The morning was calm and it seemed like the intensity of the reflections was greater than normal. Maybe because the new foliage is creating a new visual experience for me. Since my year of exploration is almost complete, I am still experiencing views that are new and in a few weeks the cycle will be repeating. Every excursion is like going to a new place, as the seasonal transformations keep the views fresh. I’m wondering if I will grow tired of these places, if the repetition will make a place less interesting. There are so many other variables that influence an image, the most important of which is my own state of mind. I don’t think i will run out of fresh material to photograph, if so, I have become a boring person!

Almost Summer - Durbin Creek

Almost Summer – Durbin Creek

One variable that I am highly dependent on is the light. Very rarely do I experience the “perfect” light for any length of time. Usually the sun comes up and ends my day for shooting. So as I travel further from the launch point, there is a less likelihood of me having the best light for what I want. As the summer approaches, sunny mornings are the norm. So on those days were there is an extended time of overcast conditions, I am happy. But I haven’t had that in the summer, when the clouds roll in so does the rain.

Green Soup - Durbin Creek

Green Soup – Durbin Creek

Today I was able to capture several overall “creekscapes” that I felt expressed the “greenness” of the landscape. Green is a highly evocative color, especially in the context of nature photography. Green symbolizes nature and is the color of energy producing chlorophyll in the leaves of all plants, surrounding us with oxygen, and providing a cool and calming blanket over us. To represent the green color of what I see, it is necessary to set the color temperature and tint of the image using software. Usually it is not until one makes a print can the right green be adjusted for. This is often an iterative process and is what I like about a photograph that represents feelings rather than documenting actual conditions. I don’t see any problem in making small adjustments “to taste,” as my photographs are my personal interpretations of a scene.

Julington Creek 3

Posted on April 7, 2015

Low Water - Julington Creek

Low Water – Julington Creek

A month has passed since my last outing and I fear that the best of the spring foliage is past. Sometimes life gets in the way and we struggle to find the time to have our special times. Watching the weather and tides and trying to coordinate something in early morning is frustrating. When time becomes available one must go, even if the stars are not aligned perfectly. Part of the serendipity of life is seeing what chance has to offer.

I launched at the Palmetto Leaves Regional Park ramp on Old St. Augustine Road. I like this put in because it is close to the house and very quiet, especially at sunrise. I do have to put the wheels on the boat to get it to the dock, but it’s a dry launch and you can jump in your kayak and go. The tide was very low and there seemed to be more branches and logs than I could remember. I didn’t make it very far up Julington as there are some big downed trees that must be passed when the water is higher. Everything was green now and I lamented my delay at getting out here, but having all the green back gives you a sense that everything is back to normal.

Life on a Limb - Julington Creek

Life on a Limb – Julington Creek

I paddled back under the road and towards the more developed part of the creek. The docks and houses were still there, in addition to the sounds of mowers and leaf blowers. In Florida we are virtually slaves to our lawns, which serve no practical purpose other than be a constant source of maintenance. I don’t know about the history of lawns in Western culture but it is something that must go. It’s like having the living or dining room in your house that you never use. Lawns are constantly under attack by bugs and worms, moles, and fungi. Because a carpet of pure green is the standard, we must irrigate, mow, trim, mulch, fill, and fertilize this fragile ground cover. Fruit trees give fruit, other trees offer shade, shrubs offer flowers and privacy, but lawns offer nothing. You probably don’t even have bragging rights because there is always some blemish or dead spot spoiling the perfect look. We water these vast expanses of useless green with drinking water! This love affair with lawns is especially ludicrous with a creekfront lot. I really don’t enjoy seeing someone’s pristine lawn from my boat. That’s why I’d rather explore the uninhabited portions of our creeks. I get too agitated seeing how we manage to do stupid things.

Two Turtles - Julington Creek

Two Turtles – Julington Creek

On my way out I saw two red ear slider turtles on a log having a great day.

Thomas Creek 4

Posted on March 12, 2015

Early Dawn - Thomas Creek

Early Dawn – Thomas Creek

Today the fog did not elude me. Thomas Creek is about an hour north of the house, and even though I saw little signs of fog on the river, as I approached the boat ramp I had a big smile on my face. “Don’t worry,” I told myself, “the fog will dissipate as soon as I get the boat into the water.” Needless to say I was a bit hasty in the launching of the kayak and I was in the creek and heading east (downstream). I had never been this way before so I felt I was experiencing a new place and didn’t know what to expect. The fog wasn’t overpowering and I could see that the sun was trying to come through, but the cloud cover started to come in and the fog lingered for almost 90 minutes. This allowed me to paddle at least a mile with the current and as the creek widened, I decided to turn around. I didn’t realize how strong the current was and found myself paddling harder than usual to make any headway. I had to resort to using the anchor to stop the boat when taking photos and even then the boat would turn in seemingly random directions settling at just the angle that put me opposite of where I wanted to face. C’est la vie.

Foggy Passage - Thomas Creek

Foggy Passage – Thomas Creek

By around 9:30 the fog had largely lifted and the sun was shining from my back, which puts the landscape in a flat light. I kept looking back and seeing illuminated foliage but looking ahead everything was ho-hum. I decided to keep going as I knew the creek would take some twists and turns changing the direction of the light. I passed some familiar scenes and could not find anything that was freshly interesting. I don’t know if it was the light, the familiarity of the place, or my mood. I had just been blown away with the fog experience and I was still on a high from that. I decided to change to a longer lens (70-200) and this helped greatly to change my point of view and what I was looking for. I had gone for several outings with just my 24-70 lens which worked out great. But I was happy with the new eyes. The spring foliage is quite spectacular in terms of both the color and the freshness of new growth. I enjoy seeing the perfect, undamaged young leaves with their translucent glow. It is certainly as exciting as any peak autumn foliage, at least in Florida.

Thomas Creek

Spring foliage – Thomas Creek

Today I saw no one on the creek. I did hear gun shots from the firing range at the adjacent correctional facility. These rang out constantly, and I tried hard to tune them out but they were disturbing. I could hear the birds and feel the stillness of the morning but somehow hearing multiple rounds being fired constantly just makes me feel a bit uneasy. That was the only drawback all morning. Even the occasional jet passing overhead didn’t phase me. I’m enjoying spring immensely, and looking forward to the coming changes as the creeks continue to transform.

Thomas Creek

More spring foliage – Thomas Creek

Durbin Creek 5 – Spring

Posted on March 7, 2015

Connection - Durbin Creek

Connection – Durbin Creek

Before I make a commitment to venture out for a personal photo session there is always hesitation. There is a resistance that questions your motives, and reminds you of leaving the comforts of not doing anything. There is a fear of returning empty handed, of having poor conditions, and of the sheer labor of moving the boat on and off the car, the potential problems of parking, and the chance of the boating mishap. What a big bunch of obstacles to overcome just to get out the door. I’ve never been disappointed when I approach a session without expectation. My operative word is “reconnaissance.” When one is on recon, we are just checking things out and making mental notes for the “real”trip that will come when all the stars are in alignment. Sure, some recon trips are more successful than others, but I’ve never regretted getting out the door and wished I had spent the morning at my computer checking Facebook.

Durbin Creek is another jewel in our local creek system. In addition to being only 30 minutes from my house, the creek is long and heavily canopied, relatively clear of branches, and there is a great launch point at the Bartram Canoe Trail off Racetrack Road. Yesterday I was completely alone and did not see another paddler all morning.

Opening - Durbin Creek

Opening – Durbin Creek

This is my fourth time on Durbin and each time I revisit a creek I feel more comfortable and relaxed. Yes, I miss the rush of excitement to be in a place for the first time, but often it is so overwhelming that your experience is less personal. I enjoying noting the changes in the landscape and quality of light as the seasons progress. So in a way it is like being here for the first time. Nothing is ever the same.

Today was cool and windy, low tide, and I knew the sun would be beating down on me soon. All of this does affect my disposition, although most of the stress of having “ideal”conditions dissipates after the creek takes you in. Today my mind was busy chattering, and I had to take some time to let things quiet down. I don’t know why I was being bothered so much by personalities and events that have nothing to do with me. I was thankful that I was in a place where peace and stillness surrounded me.

Spring Day - Durbin Creek

Spring Day – Durbin Creek

I didn’t make it very far today, probably around 2 miles. I did not even reach the power lines. Sometimes it’s not about how far you go, but rather about how complete your experience was. I began to notice that the clouds were dissipating and the sun was having a strong presence. Time to turn around.

I normally bring a cup of coffee and a granola bar for a snack and this becomes an enjoyable part of my ritual. Changing one’s pace and stopping to receive physical and spiritual nourishment is very special. Usually I begin to notice details about the water or the trees or the way the sun is casting shadows. Riding the current and drifting is true relaxation. Now that Spring is in full swing I’m still hopeful that I’ll get a foggy morning one day soon.

Home Bound - Durbin Creek

Home Bound – Durbin Creek

Deep Creek 4 – Spring

Posted on February 21, 2015

Creek Split 2 - Deep Creek

Creek Split 2 – Deep Creek

I was looking forward to another paddle on Deep Creek. Watching the tides and weather, I knew Saturday was going to be mostly cloudy but I would be launching at close to low tide. It’s hard to time all these things perfectly, so I went for it. I found frost on my kayak in the morning at 6 am when I pulled out of my driveway. At the launch it was 34 degrees. On a positive side, I knew that I would have the creek all to myself. Heading upstream, I was turned around by a newly fallen tree after about 1/2 mile. Knowing that the tide was going out, I thought just as well as I had passed many large branches barely scraping over them on my way out. I made it back to the bridge and headed west towards the St. Johns. The light was coming in and out and for a while the clouds just disappeared. I thought I was going to have a bust for photography but patience played out. It’s lovely to have the morning light playing in and out of the clouds. With my moving boat, the scenery was constantly changing. As a result I move very slowly, sometimes just drifting with the current and enjoying the views. When something calls out to be photographed, I usually look for a place that i can move my boat close to…a log, some vegetation, or some branches. I try to avoid throwing out the anchor because I’m just lazy. Drifting and shooting doesn’t work, and despite all the times I’ve tried unsuccessfully to do this, I usually try a few shots because I’m too lazy to stop the boat. One day I will learn. I’ve been working hard on my stillness techniques and find it a challenge to position one’s self with camera ready in an absolutely still position. You have to hold this for several minutes to quiet all the ripples. One move, even the slightest one, will send torrents of waves into your scene. I’ve worked this into a sort of meditation as I accept the fact that there is no shortcut to being still and dissipating the ripples. But the results are closer to what I see and feel on the creeks when there is absolute stillness in the crystal clear reflections. It is magical.

Spring Greens - Deep Creek

Spring Greens – Deep Creek

The creek is long and gradually widens as you approach the St. Johns. A fellow kayaker passed by. He was obviously enjoying himself and we chatted for a while about the beautiful morning and the special quality of this particular creek. As I approached the end of the creek I checked on the time. It was already 12:30, I had been out for 4.5 hours and needed to find my way home. The return trip was just as special and I took my time and enjoyed the cloudy conditions. I rarely paddle in the afternoon light and found it to be a bit stronger but just as sweet. The tide had come back in and was ready to go back out. Time for me to get out and head home. My boat was out and loaded by 4:30. What a great day.

B&W Study - Deep Creek

B&W Study 284-291 – Deep Creek

I ended up with over 400 images from the trip and have been enjoying the exercise of culling, editing, and sometimes finding a gem. Sometimes I find the B&W versions can communicate my emotions in a place most effectively. Spring is a special time for landscapes, as the renewal of the forests is gradual and the transparency of the trees starts to disappear. In a short time the explosion of green leaves dominates the view.

Intersections at the Cummer

Posted on February 8, 2015

Intersections - Cummer Museum

In the summer of 2014, The Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens invited 10 artists to re-interpret river themed works from their collection for an exhibit entitled Reflections: Artful Perspectives on the St. Johns River. The show opens on February 21. I chose to create a series of 5 photographs, derivative work from Streaming South and some other earlier images, that address the confluence of man and nature. As I continue my explorations on the creek, I am developing heightened sensitivity to the presence of civilization, both permanent and temporal, in all forms (sight, sound, smell). I feel compelled to photograph this evidence in such a way to show how ubiquitous our presence is, rather than showing blatant disrespect and  disregard, which are prevalent throughout our environment. I’m choosing to photograph “what is” is a way that does not make a particular commentary on the scene, but hoping to evoke awareness and a larger question in the viewer of “why is this so?” Intersections is planned to be a companion series to Streaming South and may be integrated into the body of work. While not purposefully designed to be the “dark side” of my journey, the work arises from emotional feelings of discontent and inquiry on the current state of our environment.

More information and the complete artist statement can be found on my artist website.