November 23, 2013: Landscapes and Fountain Pens

Two weekends ago, some friends came down for the night from Stanwood, WA, as well as to visit M.T. Head for a few beers. M.T. Head is a local micro brewery and puts out some good pulls. It's located in an out of the way place with a good view of Mt. Rainier when the weather is clear. That evening we had a small fire in our firepit and spent the evening having a nice time. Sunday, my wife pulled the remaining carrots (about 15 pounds) from the garden box and I helped clean them and separated the carrots into three bunces: one for steaming, one for snacks, and the other for her faux tomato sauce receipe for pasta, etc. As she's allergic to tomatoes, the faux sauce works out well. I, and our friends who've tried it find it absolutly dilicious.

My last post discussed my quandry over the why of my photography. Over the past few years I have thought about this off and on but lately, much more “on” than not. As I reviewed what I considered really good landscape scenes in my mind, I began to find a constant in those that made me stop what I was doing, both when I shot the scene, and again when I began doing my digital “developing” to pull out the final print. Yes, as a digital immigrant, I sometimes lapse into old school technology from my developing and printing days.

I also realized that the scenes that grabbed me “twice” had that something, that essence, that I saw intuitively the second I saw the landscape in front me or that scene that stayed in my mind when I was out and about. Those I would catelog mentally to shoot at a certain time of the year or under particular weather conditions. The many (way too many) scenics that I photographed over the years that didn't have that instance connection but I took it anyway shot never made it out of my electronic developer or into the final wash. They languish on hard drives waiting for that time when I eventually put on my culling cap and wreak havoc on the weak electronic negatives of unfinished prints.

The scenes that end up on my walls or in my portfolio have a special quality to each of them. I can't really define it and a friend once said my photographs “were magical”, that they had a quality she could connect to when she viewed them. As I see these special images in my mind, I can transport myself back to that exact moment in time, I can feel the sun or the crisp air around me, I can see hear the gulls and the tide rushing in, I can see the light paint the scene, watch the slow progression of the light as the sun rises or sets. I can feel the cold slowly seep in as I wait for the exact moment the January sun rises and boom, magic is captured when the advancing sun briefly illuminates the ancient truck cab for the briefest of moments and I snap the shutter knowing deep inside “I got it”.

An example is the landscape at the top of my blog. It was during a Christmas break, the clouds that were promising and I hopped into the car and drove a few miles south of here. Mt. Rainier was to my left and the treelline was about a half mile to the west. I took many, many images of Mt. Rainier as the sun set and then turned my attention to the treeline. By this time, the temperature was dropping fast and I was beginning to notice the cold, and the sun was almost below the horizon, the sky was turning crazy colors and the clouds were being transformed second by second as I shot away to capture the mood before the lightevaporated into darkness. The images of Mt. Rainier I took that night…still on the hard drive waiting to be culled or developed when I see what I was looking for when I photographed the mountain that cold December late afternoon. However, I will share one of the images…it was a magnificant moment and needs to be shared.

I find photographing landscapes of all sorts calming, a connection with that which is around me; a lull from a frantic world; a chance to recharge badly worn batteries; and times like this always provides a moment of clarity in a confused world.

What is before me simply is; it is I who has to be open what is being offered.

Now to Fountain Pens – Part 1.

And what do fountains have to with photography?

It's quite the sedge way I'll grant you that, especially when I'm left-handed with the world's worst canted upside down writing style.

I began using my father's fountain pens in my mid teens. He died when I was a little over 12 and one day while going through some boxes I found them. I asked my mother if I could use them, she said yes, and thus began the off and on journey of writing with fountain pens.

Just learning to write with my father's pens was trying. He was right-handed and no matter how I tried, it seemed that I could never quite the hang of writing with his pens. I put them away and it wasn't until many years later I found out that fountain pens take on the handedness of the owner. I now realize that my father had written so much with his pens that the nib's character had been formed and really could only be used by a right hander.

The years went by and I pulled them out every once in a while and gave them a go. By now, the bladders or seals had dried up and, no matter what I did, they would not hold ink and I would be frustrated and put them away again. I bought my first fountain pen in 1983, a silver Cross. It was a big pen and much to my surprise, took both bottled ink (via a converter) as well as cartriges. I still have the pen and it still writes well (though I did have to replace the converter twice since then). I was worried about losing it so I used it mostly at home and put my father's pens away as I still couldn't get them to write properly.

In the early 90's, our house was robbed and amongst the many items taken were my father's pens. The Cross fountain pen happened to be with me that day at work but I was angry that we were robbed and sad that there were many irreplaceable items that could not be replaced.

By now the silver Cross was being used frequently and I was worried about it been lost. I bought some inexpensive fountain pens that could used cartridges and used them exclusively at work. Years went by and I began picking up another pen here and there until I had four or five, including a retractable nib fountain pen. I carried them in a leather pen holder and began using them at work. Then day, the unthinkable happened, the pen holder fell out of my pocket and I lost all but one of my pens – the silver Cross was at home and was my sole remaining pen.

It's late and this is a good place to stop…tomorrow – Part 2.







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