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Still here, it’s a great life….. Bear

Sunrise Makanalua

Sunrise Makanalua

It’s been so long since I have posted here. This is an incredible morning this past weekend at Kalaupapa. Molokai is such an amazingly beautiful island, and it keeps showing me this again and again. More posts to follow.

Beautiful healing moments

I’m off tomorrow for knee replacement surgery. Most everything caught up in my life. Hui seems to be gracefully moving along with the best staff we have had. The puppies, all four of them spend the days lingering and hanging out on my porch at my feet. They are ten weeks old yesterday, and for me such a joy. The past Hui photo workshop was one of the best I have participated in . The trust and intimate friendships it fostered inspired me so much. Not to mention the incredible photos we took together. They were enough to feed my creative energies for a while. So I hold the incredible fullness of my life very dearly, and it gives me strength to move into the kind of scarey up coming events. I’ll be thinking of this incredible morning on the shelf at Ka’ehu Point were Mother Molokai revealed so much of her beauty to us. In the alignment of this brief interlude, I could immerse myself completely in this pageant. For me this was healing, revealing, affirming, and living fully in the moment. How wonderful to be able to share this with a group of photographers.  This simple photo is just a reminder of such fullness and connection that arouse in me. It will carry me through the difficulties that arrive in the next week. All of you who were there and got up so early, thank you for participatong and helping all of us to show up. A hui hou.

Fullness of this moment

In the buzz of this morning

I’m reminded

to take it all in

feel it fully

be with the life

around and in me

be again with the fullness

insight arises

I linger in the

fullness of this moment

and then

and then

let it go.

Showing up in neutral

Years ago I came upon this scene at the Pushkar Camel Fair. This is before my becoming a professional photographer. I was working on a tour of India and by this time (1968) I only shot a few photos, as that was all the film I could afford. To this day, this day this image still takes my breath away at the timeless pageant before me. It is still the same response of deep wonder and gratitude for being a witness to such grandeur.

America at Home- Bronwyn in the garden

Bronwyn in garden tomato house, from "America at Home" book

Bronwyn in garden tomato house, from "America at Home" book

This past year I was involved with the America at Home project and this photo ran in it.  Recently this image appeared on the Martha Stewart show. At the time of this assignment, I knew they would choose this photo. For most of that summer,  Bronwyn slept in the garden to protect her plants from the deer.

Seeing Simply

Kawa'aloa bay at sunrise, Molokai, HI

Kawa'aloa bay at sunrise, Molokai, HI

This past week we had a wonderful workshop called Rekindling The Creative Spirit. I would usually read this piece at the beginning of each of our workshops. I missed doing that so I now include it.

Each of us has a vision, a pure way of seeing that is uniquely our own. We are like a one-of-a-kind of camera with an unlimited film supply, recharging batteries and a storage recording bank that edits as we get older. And yet, we don’t realize how incredibly unique, how valuable our individual way of seeing really is. Each one of us is captured in a different way by an image.

What I am curious about is: “what turns my head? What grabs my attention? What takes me before I can identify it?” I am interested in core vision: the level of seeing before words, categories, or response. Noticing what touches me, inspires me, allows me to see as a child, discovering the incredible wonder of the life around me for the first time.

There are many layers covering this inner vision. Often my seeing is linked to words and thoughts identifying and naming everything I see. Getting below that level is easy and challenging at the same time. It requires getting beyond how I normally see, how my family sees (or saw), how I was culturally effected. (Does a native in Africa see differently than I do?) My biggest impediment to seeing simply is identifying, judging and naming.

“Today I’m going to go out and take a great photograph.”

When I take this intention and agenda apart, I start to notice just how much limits me, how I color the circumstance and the image before I even shoot. I haven’t mentioned the word photography or photographer yet. This is another bag of tricks; now we have to carry stuff, worry about numbers, exposures, our worries about the technical end of photography.

Then we get to our personal mobile mind field, the one we bring everywhere: our insecurities about being seen and being judged by our work. How about a little comparison to everyone around us who is more professional, better organized, (better looking!) or has better equipment. The quagmire is getting deeper.

Then last but not least, my doubts: can I do it well enough? professionally? What happens if I don’t do it well enough, if I fail and my whole world comes down? It is a wonder that we still want to be photographers! Yet there is an excitement and an enthusiasm to discover, to see! What if I could just show up, completely neutral, ready to receive whatever gift GOD and Creation and the life around me is offering today?

Seeing simply starts now it will never happen later.

I step out, pick up the camera, stand aside from the momentum of my life, and move in pure trust, waiting to be taken by life through my seeing. I pray. I’m ready for that hundredth of a second that turned my head, before words: the moment of pure connection. Discipline carries me through: I shoot the image that catches my eye. Then I return to neutral. I’m trying to quiet my brain from asking “what’s next?” I notice the trying, take a deep breath, feel my feet on the ground and move to trust. It is this attitude that leads me into the unknown, uncontrollable next offering.

I can only speak of my approach, my discoveries and experiences. Each of you will continue to discover ways to be more present. You will learn the importance of honoring your internal pace, moving just as slowly or quickly as you need to, for you. In doing so, you will find the gift of tranquility and peace that will help you to see life more simply.

I can’t teach people to be present. The best I can do is to be present with people. My advice?  Slow down. Notice how you color your photographs before you take them. Discover for yourself how to show up in neutral: seeing simply, simply seeing.

Molokai Solstice


Solstice afternoon, low tide at Kapuaiwa Palm Grove

Solstice afternoon, low tide at Kapuaiwa Palm Grove

Great evening, alone in front of the Grove. So much to be thankful and hopeful for in this upcoming year.

Path of excitement

Sometimes I wonder what is the result of this personal pondering. I want to simplify and understand what I naturally do in my life and in my photography.  How can I share what I have practiced for so long and make it addressable to those friends I teach and others I encounter?

Lately I have been having this dialogue with my new friend Duncan from Oregon.  Like kindred cousins sharing and discovering our paths and passions, a lively discourse has ensued.  When he was describing his large panoramas, images that he was so excited about printing (but having a hard time justifying), I said, “Follow your excitement! Trust your excitement.  For me, my path is my excitement.”  This statement can appear to be selfish and indulgent.  But I realize that my excitement has been my most successful path.  It is a special feeling that I have learned to follow. 

The photograph of a bullet hole in a windshield taken somewhere in Montana reminds me of my early attempts at becoming a photographer.  In the late 60’s, I wandered around photographing in the American west.  In those days, all I was excited about shooting was dead cars.  For about four years, no matter where I wandered, that was the most prolific subject I pursued. I did not sell many dead car photos in my early gallery shows, so I worked as a carpenter in those early years. It made no sense.

Years later, my wife Bronwyn used these images to create a slide show (“Metamorphosis”) that in 1989 won the highest award in the audio visual world.  I learned through this to trust my excitement, about photography – and whatever else is important to me.  I don’t argue or need to justify the excitement that comes up in me.  I treasure it, nurture it, and do my best to be with it because this is me at my most alive.  This is when I am seeing with the clearest vision.  Often without words, I disappear and blend with my subject and all that is around me.  This is my goal – to show up fully engaged with life in each moment and to be fed by the excitement that is Life.

Sitting here now, working on the image of old windshield takes my breath away and helps to keep me on the excitement path. So thank you Duncan for helping me with this simple reminder: my excitement is my Path. 

“More than one right answer”



So here I am again, back to looking and musing with these images that have chosen my attention. Today, I’m focused on Ierusalems Hou church in Halawa Valley, at the east end of Molokai. I’m chewing on how I photograph the same subject in different ways.  One of the notions that Dewitt and I  discuss in the photo seminars is that, “there is more than one right answer” to how I photograph, in fact see.  When I’m drawn to a subject like this church and take an image that excites me, at that moment, I don’t stop, and say “that was great ” and go home.  Often this is the beginning and at that moment the door opens in me to a deeper dialogue with the subject.  In these timeless moments, I disappear, as I’m filled with the richness of this immersion and connection with the subject.  For me me wandering in and with this church  has brought me back to it many times.  The blend of the circumstance and  my attitude  brings new and different  images.  Here the artistic excitement in me guides the way.  Often leading me to different results, like the painterly richness of simple color, or the stark nostalgic drama of infrared, and even panoramas.  For me,” they are all right answers” and each speaks of the gift of receiving these visual insights.  Even as I revisit these images, I am left with the gratitude for all they have given.

Art in my Life


Years ago, when I received my first NGS assignment to photograph Molokai, I remember Bob Gilka (then director of photography) telling me, “this will probably be your most difficult assignment, as you will be working in your backyard.” He said this because,” so much for you has become so familiar that it is hard to see without the contrast of newness and freshness.”  Over the years, I have reflected and chewed on this advice.  Even in our photo workshops, Dewitt and I have taught and discussed the concept of “art in your life.”  This is an attempt for me to see more intentionally, the beauty close at hand; as in the chard drying at the kitchen sink and and the brushes after Stewart’s workshop.  These photos teach me so much about my noticing.  Often when I least expect it something turns my head, in the midst of busyness, and not photographing, and yet a glimpse into my rich life close by.  Together they become an intimate tapestry of my world, full of gratitude and for me art.  Slowly the realization comes that I am also the art in my life, even the artist.  Well Bob, after all these years, I’m still in the backyard working your suggestion out. Only now I’m slowing down on purpose so that when I do notice the richness and texture of this life, I can be in it more fully.