Evanescent Images

sit on the rock beside the lake
it’s early in the morning
the fog hasn’t lifted yet

the wind speaks to me:

your work is done for today
you captured images of birds
and you were up there with them
flying as one of them
you felt it
you were part of it
transcendent
you lived in my embrace
outside of your bones
you can’t think of any reason
to go back to the earth

the birds were my hopes
my visions of splendor, my ideals

I captured images of evanescent angels
whose flight trails were rainbows

then as suddenly as the beat of their wings
I lost them
I can’t find them any more
I don’t try any more

the wind knows
how I long to keep the rapture!

the wind commands me

there is only one way
you must do this:

touch the very still water
at daybreak
when the lake is shrouded and wondrous
when the air is cool and sweet
touch the water
leave your body here
fall back thousands of years to simplicity
leave it and fall back
touch the water so gently
stir it slowly
fall into simplicity
fall, and as you do
watch a woman’s face take form in the ripples
her face is luminous, it is real
she calls to you
she wants you to return to her
thousands of years ago
when you were both innocent
when the air was clean and sweet smelling
listen to her
she wants you to return to her time
go to her now
touch the water
touch her image
move closer to it
don’t be afraid
fall back
touch it
enter it

 

BECOME.

 


“The world is continually proclaiming these words: Beware, I am evanescent, and so are all my outward appearances and colours. Take ye heed of the changes and chances contrived within me and be ye roused from your slumber. Nevertheless there is no discerning eye to see, nor is there a hearing ear to hearken.” (Baha’u’llah )

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Through a Scanner Brightly – Part 4

The Writings of the Baha’i faith say: “Blessed is the spot, and the house, and the place, and the city, and the heart, and the mountain, and the refuge, and the cave, and the valley, and the land, and the sea, and the island, and the meadow where mention of God hath been made, and His praise glorified. –Bahá’u’lláh

One of the images I scanned during the past four weeks was processed in a special way. I took the photograph through a deep magenta filter. Although it was 35 mm slide film I developed the film as if it were a negative. The photographer’s term for that is cross processing. Insofar as visible light is concerned magenta and green are opposites. This is a detail of the image as it looked in the preview scan.

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Similar to most of my other older images, this slide also had considerable damage in addition to fading and color degradation. The hexagons are an effect of lens flare which comes from pointing toward the light source without using a lens shade to reduce flare (it was deliberate). I configured the Vuescan program to restore fading and colors. The end result revealed colors that I had only imagined but didn’t really exist in the original photograph. This shows the first glimmerings of sunrise near Crystal Springs Lake 15 miles south of San Francisco.

Say: O friends! Drink your fill from this crystal stream that floweth through the heavenly grace of Him Who is the Lord of Names.
Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh

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This detailed section shows what looks very similar to a painter’s brush strokes. It is, in fact, an unchanged and unretouched part of the original photograph. I developed a technique for doing this in the camera, the darkroom, and sometimes with the aid of an optical slide copier that I built out of spare parts. It was in the mid-1970’s when digital image processing did not even exist.

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O thou dear one! Impoverish thyself, that thou mayest enter the high court of riches; and humble thy body, that thou mayest drink from the river of glory, and attain to the full meaning of the poems whereof thou hadst asked.

Thus it hath been made clear that these stages depend on the vision of the wayfarer. In every city he will behold a world, in every Valley reach a spring, in every meadow hear a song. But the falcon of the mystic heaven hath many a wondrous carol of the spirit in His breast, and the Persian bird keepeth in His soul many a sweet Arab melody; yet these are hidden, and hidden shall remain.
Bahá’u’lláh, The Seven Valleys

This image felt dull to me so I had almost discarded it. Its title is Angels on a Ladder of Light.

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I rescanned it last week to restore its original colors. It still needs a little work but now it’s a little closer to what I wanted to convey.

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By pure serendipity I often come home with photographs that have exactly nine things in them, birds, flowers, trees or people. It’s actually just a fortuitous accident when it happens. Here is a recent photograph I took of nine birds.

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Say: Through the ascendancy of God, the All-Knowing, the Incomparable, the Luminary of divine understanding hath, in this day, risen from behind the veil of the spirit, and the birds of every meadow are intoxicated with the wine of knowledge and exhilarated with the remembrance of the Friend. Well is it with them that discover and hasten unto Him!
Bahá’u’lláh, Tabernacle of Unity

Through a Scanner Brightly – Part 3

The Baha’i Writings say of this day:

“By the righteousness of Mine own Self! Great, immeasurably great is this Cause! Mighty, inconceivably mighty is this Day! Blessed indeed is the man that hath forsaken all things, and fastened his eyes upon Him Whose face hath shed illumination upon all who are in the heavens and all who are on the earth.”
— Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah

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Someone wrote me just yesterday: “The use of light in your pictures of birds makes me feel that I have stepped into the Abha Kingdom.”

The translation of the word Abha is The Most Glorious, or more simply the metaphysical world, the world of the soul, what many people refer to conventionally as “heaven.”

I was deeply moved and grateful for their reaction to my photographs. The entire purpose of my bird images is precisely what they stated, namely a feeling, however inadequate, of holiness that words cannot convey. The photography process itself is a meditative act for me. I often achieve a semi-detached mental state when I’m using Photoshop. The process is very abstracted because much of the time I’m only looking at a tiny portion of an image. Thus all I see at that moment are a microcosm of subtle shades and tones that are essentially formless. It’s a contemplative process that paradoxically requires both concentration and a release of concentration to whatever flows naturally and easily. That is the meditative aspect of image processing for me. Because I use a pressure sensitive cordless pen instead of a conventional mouse, my movements and actions are very natural and easy.

As an example I might be looking at something like this:

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Here’s the entire image (greatly reduced):

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Although conventional wisdom tells us to have the sun over our shoulders when we take pictures I do just the opposite of that. I let sunlight pour through the birds and aim right for the light source. Technically that’s called transillumination or more prosaically just backlighting.

It’s the song that is really important here much more than any of the images. Beauty comes from the music written and sung by Susan Lewis Wright.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dU4eUEidG8A

Of course, my signature line sums my purpose up very succinctly. It sums up the purpose every Baha’i has when they create music, images, poetry or other writing, and arts or crafts:

“Behind all these manifestations is the one radiance, which shines through all things. The function of art is to reveal this radiance through the created object.”
— Joseph Campbell

“Blessed are those who have fixed their gaze on the realm of glory and have followed the commandments of the Lord of Names. Blessed is he who in the days of God will engage in handicrafts. This is a bounty from God, for in this Most Great Dispensation it is acceptable in the sight of God for man to occupy himself in a trade which relieveth him of depending upon charity. The craft of every craftsman is regarded as worship.”
— Bahá’u’lláh, from a Tablet – translated from the Persian

“O thou servant of the One true God! In this universal dispensation man’s wondrous craftsmanship is reckoned as worship of the Resplendent Beauty. Consider what a bounty and blessing it is that craftsmanship is regarded as worship. In former times, it was believed that such skills were tantamount to ignorance, if not a misfortune, hindering man from drawing nigh unto God. Now consider how His infinite bestowals and abundant favours have changed hell-fire into blissful paradise, and a heap of dark dust into a luminous garden.

“It behoveth the craftsmen of the world at each moment to offer a thousand tokens of gratitude at the Sacred Threshold, and to exert their highest endeavour and diligently pursue their professions so that their efforts may produce that which will manifest the greatest beauty and perfection before the eyes of all men.”
Selections from the Writings of `Abdu’l-Bahá

This is part three of a series of four articles. Click to read part 1 or 2.

Through a Scanner Brightly – Part 2

The Writings of the Baha’i Faith say:
“Thankful, the birds of the spirit seek only to fly in the high heavens and to sing out their songs with wondrous art.” — ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

Last month I began scanning many of my older photographs in addition to more than 120 images that I had not been able to successfully scan before. I scanned a total of 210 images. Most of my film scans were done between six and ten years ago. Now I have more knowledge of how to scan film, better hardware, and Vuescan, a much better scanning program than any of those that are bundled with film scanners. Six years ago the earliest versions of Vuescan were very simple and provided only the most basic settings. Now Vuescan has a very detailed and well written manual and a wealth of settings. Vuescan is very versatile and has versions that run on Windows (all versions), Linux and Macs.

This was my original scan of an image I titled Magenta Web.

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The new scan brings out the true vibrant colors of the original 35 mm slide.

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This is an example of the details that are barely visible in an image that must be greatly reduced in size for a Web page.

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My scans cover so much detail that they take approximately 20 minutes each to complete. Each one is roughly equivalent to what you might obtain if you had a 42 Megapixel digital camera. In real life, no such camera exists yet. (The human eye’s resolution is equivalent to a 576 megapixel camera.) Scan dimensions can be as wide as 5400 pixels by 8100 pixels. Individual scans can contain up to 285 MB of data each which is roughly equivalent to what 12,000 typical Web page images contain. Unfortunately that also means that they capture every bit of dust, every flaw, scratch and damage on the film. All of my film pictures were damaged (see Part 1 for details). The scanner also makes an infrared pass over the film’s surface. Physical imperfections show up as shadows on the infrared channel. That enables the combination of the scanner’s firmware and Vuescan to repair them. The scanner incorporates recovery technology licensed from Kodak. You can see some of the damage to my image, The Serene Pilgrim, below:

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This was what the old scan looked like.

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The new scan now shows the subtle colors that are really present in my original photograph. Vuescan eliminated all the damage so it required only minimal post processing in Photoshop.

Here is another example from one of my most abstract photographs. It’s an image of emotional turmoil. This was the original scan done six years ago. I never displayed it in my Web galleries because I didn’t like its colors. It was nothing like what I visualized when I took the photograph. I haven’t titled this image yet.

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This is what the image is supposed to look like. Vuescan was able to restore its badly faded colors.

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