Jekyll Island, the most pure of the Golden Isles
There is no making, creating – only rearrangement of what one does as time passes ignorant of a day’s happenings. A darkened and chilly morning finds so many shying beneath the comfort of their down, keeping suppressed the inconvenience that life doesn’t pro-rate itself based upon slumber habits. What’s to distinguish one from any other and how representative of the manner in which we cling to routine is it that preference should befall something so difficult to remember as an hour or two extra of sleep?
Fiction is a fickle devil and contorts its face to smile at anyone willing to pay attention, luring them to believe that somewhere beyond the finite now there is a vast and wonderful world to come. ”Sleep a little more” it would say – there’s time for that another day, hushing the stomping hooves of a carriage horse ready to bolt, whose reins flap dangerously close to being grasped yet are so very very still in the mind whose fists would take them – yours.
Far more proficient and talented photographers exist and with imagery more complex and sultry than I may ever hope to deliver. I can tell you that at 5 am, the frigid cold of a coastal December breeze is no less unpleasant to my skin. On days sour enough to pucker a lemon I still hear cello concertos of comfort bellowing from between festooned pillows. They have become my alarm clock, as time doesn’t afford me any bonus for awaiting tolerance.
Stepping to the otherwise wrong side of a door for so early an hour with such bitterness in the wind and with no more permanent a promise for beauty than can be made by a finger writing on a frosty windshield, I cheerfully embraced the opportunity to capture monotony in a different location than, but for my lovely wife, a completely unremarkable hotel bed.
Jekyll Island, I love you.
That said, I do miss writing and snapping new photographs. Engineering classes are taking most of my time – what is spared gets spent with my family.
In an instant, schedules change and I have time to say hello. Here’s what’s on my mind, though images are from years past:
The annual family vacation takes us to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Not being fond of so much unnecessary (and trashy) commercialism as may be found along the bulk of the waterfront, I was determined this year to find a happier and healthier place in which to restore, as my good friend, Alliene, puts it – my engagement with the sublime. I found it only a few minutes away from our hotel at Myrtle Beach State Park. Arriving just after 6am with sunrise fast approaching, I hadn’t any time to waste and had the minimal parking fee dangling out the window as I approached the park gate house.
Setting up for a sunrise shot can be a bit tricky, especially in an unfamiliar setting. Thankfully, enough light was already spilling over the horizon to make an easy determination of general direction. I spied the pier, tested the sand to make sure my tripod wouldn’t move, and began a few test shots to make sure I had my exposure dialed in fairly well. Moving the camera closer to the pier left my bag farther and farther behind but with hardly a soul on this pristine stretch of duned landscape there was no worry other than to periodically check that the tide hadn’t found the way to it.
Sticking a knee in sloppy wet sand isn’t the best way to stay clean but it does help to get the camera closer to the ground. Provided a rogue wave doesn’t slurp its way onto your gear, super low placement of the camera can maximize the sand’s reflective properties.
Similarly, the best way to get a great surf shot is to actually be in it. Turning a blind eye to swell patterns is also the quickest way to ruin an otherwise functional camera. I wasn’t in a hurry to replace my aging D-80 so I kept watch on the approaching waves, raising and lowering my camera as necessary. Thankfully, my vertical reach is just under 9 feet so my gear remained dry.
Zanderous: \zan’-d(ə-)rəs\; existing exclusively and mightily as a horse may; perfect.
Every so often the little boy in me – the one that just knew the magician had really sawn a woman in half – comes alive. There are no magicians in the equestrian world - only hard working women and men whose passions, at some point in their lives, found them poised somewhere between exuberance and obsession for these beasts upon whose backs great empires have been won or lost, who, for a time, taunted the industrial age with mighty feats of strength and speed, and who have been forever linked to the settling of the vastness which remains the American West; passion for these proud and wondrous creatures we call horses.
My first recollection of thunderous hooves pounding and divoting the terra firma echoes as plainly in my memory as the first time I rode my bicycle without training wheels, both invoking an inexorable spirit of freedom. No more noble a cause exists than to find that which rights us on our feet and sends us forth with purpose. For horse people, there is no clearer path – it is their destiny to see that spirit which lies within each four-legged compatriot soar beyond expectation into the realm of wonder.
For horses, I imagine, the exhilaration of feeling the wind dappling its fingers through long, flowing manes, the sweetly- awakening sting of crisp air tickling the nose and pinching ears, the firm grip of a well-shoed hoof against the packed soil beneath and the motion-blurred sight of all but that upon which their gaze is fixed could be enough placation to tolerate the reins and bits, harnesses and saddles (never-minding the fortified meals, spa-treatment rub downs and massages). Equilibrium deftly perches between the two: advocating master and enthusiastic beast. Yin knows no better Yan.
Add to that the overwhelming roar of an approving, awestruck crowd and the scale bows strongly to that horse which loves to perform.
I doubt anyone “accidentally” becomes involved in this reverence that is horse showing; there is no shortage of back-breaking work to shun away the weak of character, and Saddlebred people are characters, indeed, reflecting the vivacious personalities found in their four-legged counterparts. Zander Fan Camelot Ster has such a charisma. His features black as to make pitch feel pale, his shoulders bulbously muscular and firm, Zander stands apparent with great certainty and vigor. Every move and glance has intent; he is intensely conscious of his environment and its constituents. His singularity is a testament to that notion of “once in a blue moon” and to that firmament upon which the very essence of free spirits alight.
Then, there are his “people”, without whom there may have been no such iconic Knight of the Friesians.
Success seems attracted to Scenic View Farm’s Victoria Gillenwater, his owner, as a hummingbird to nectar, each sweetly lured and passionately driven to their cause. Engraved on her ring are familiar words, “It is not what lies behind us, or what lies before us, it is what lies within us”. Originally written by Henry Stanley Haskins, the inspirational words were later attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson for the purpose of adding clout and impact. They are again underscored by association with Victoria and her lovely Zander – the bright foal-turned-champion, bred in the land of Lindsey Pinkstaff Brownlee’s, Camelot Farms and disciplined by the deft and fair hands of his trainer, Jacques Van Niekerk.
There have been pivotal moments in my life when, with figurative eyes closed, I timidly envisioned my expectations and they appeared as plainly as the moon against a black sky. Upon visiting Monet’s garden I understood the “why” of all his creations and could grasp his art not as isolated pieces, each often beheld unto itself, but as a reflection of all that surrounded him having become an extension of his charged soul and thusly he became the true measure of what an artist is. Now I, having felt his breath upon my hands, seen the charisma and charm within his stare and having been witness to his grace and character it dawns on me that, in meeting Zander, I now understand how regal a horse may be. There should be no wonder as to why medieval knights felt so emboldened while these magnificent creatures carried them into battle, for it was upon the shoulders of Friesian Royalty that they galloped. Zander, it would seem, is then a King among Kings and I stand in awe.
Perched in the spokes of Athens, Georgia’s infamous “double-barreled cannon” – one of two constructed by the ”secessionist” South to obliterate those “agressive” Northerners during the United States War of 1861, a miniature “lucky seven” billiard ball shows significant signs of wear as if to implicate “fat chance” in the failure of so many pocket calls. There was equally little chance of the cannon firing properly, given its design which used asynchronous fuses and unbalanced barrel casts. While its designer, John Gilleland, considered his creation a success, the unpredictable results of its three test firings (casualties being one cornfield, one chimney, one swath of pine forest and one cow) led those with any sense to realize the risk of mowing down “friendly” forces was equal to its grisly intended purpose and clearly not worthy of further contemplation.
While you may know the war by many names: Civil War, War between the States, War of Northern Agression, War of Southern Agression, Second American Revolution, War for the Union, War of Southern Secession, War of the Rebellion, Freedom War, War for Southern Independence, the personally assumed identity of those who invoke its remembrance fares from abolitionist to sharecropper to former slave to plantation owner…and also English cotton trader. England, apprehensive to entry into a war on American soil for fear of losing their grain supply, returned to India, from which it formerly had received most of its cotton needs, Egypt and Argentina to provide the necessary raw textile material instead of allowing itself and its economy to suffer, beholden to the whimsical taxations of an aggressive and increasingly violent foreign entity. “King Cotton”, as it were – the South’s one and only internationally playable card – became more the pauper than prince and the vast stores of cotton Europeans countries possessed weathered them through the next 5 years while the U.S. sorted out its “civility”.
Luck, for the South, and depending on your perspective, could be seen as empty, blind or divine. For some, it simply ran amok like a double-barreled cannon ball, the seventh of which, ironically, was fired as a signal that “The Northerners are coming – the Northerners are coming!” It turned out to be a false alarm. For the South, the war became not a game of skill but of chance and for the North, fate was on their side like so many lucky sevens in their corner pocket.
More images at kylekuykendall.com
If and when you ever, ever, EVER have the inclination, as I often do, to listen to good music played and performed well, and if you happen to have had the forethought to buy tickets in advance AND should you find yourself at all nervous about having spent your week’s tips for a band whose instrumentation includes a tight set of vocal cords, a tuba and a theremin (yep, one of those), fret not if the name on the marquis is DeVotchKa.
My friend Alliene (Enginivity Studios, The Athens Knockouts) had no such trepidation and in fact was only nervous in gleeful anticipation of a band whose ample dole of astonishment and sheer satisfaction had caught me entirely off guard at The Earl only a short period earlier. With Atlanta’s Variety Playhouse only a quick drive away and with my concern for all things concerning the day job holding less priority than a happenstance chance for adventure, we bolted, having no time to spare. Great conversation ensued (as was the usual when one spent time with Alliene) and we arrived temprano. We may or may not have sipped a coffee before door check; being wound as I was to see them again, caffiene would have been a downer.
General admission seating had its perks, as does carrying a decent camera when attending events, especially those involving a: awesome friends, b: big fun, c: madly charismatic and faithfully euphonious artists. It didn’t hurt that the doorman was completely agreeable when checking my bag.
Now, next to any stage one finds the usual “The band and I - we’re like BFF’s b/c the lead singer dated my ex-step-sister’s second cousin’s nextdoor neighbor AND he just winked at me so I’m TOTALLY in”. You know -the ones you want either want to hurl or hurl on. I didn’t have the constitution for “bein’ all up in that” nor was my fastest lens (Nikkor 85mm 1.8) capable of anything shy of a nostril shot from that distance. On any day the light rig at Variety Playhouse would be hard to beat but, shy of providing daylight conditions, shots with all my other lenses would have been too grainy or way too dark. So, I moved westward…or at least stage right (that’s left to all ye audients).
Oddly, I wore black that day – not odd because of its rarity in my wardrobe, but because I purposefully chose to blend into the darkness: I had gone with the intent of being a photographer and, for the first time outside of my little Athens, Georgia realm, had the persona of one expecting to get good shots. Finding the convenience of an equally dark stage curtain, I wrapped myself around the location and began to work.
At times I longed for the reach of a 200mm so as to maintain my vantage and still fill the frame with those members across the stage. Their music hypnotized me so that I hardly noticed the giant lead foot of the minute hand.
After the show, I met briefly with drummer, Shawn King, long enough to shake a hand (that’s my thing) and express my sincere gratitude for so fine a performance. How was I ever to know their album “A Mad and Faithful Telling” would accompany, comfort and ultimately deliver me safely through the Smoky Mountains during some of the most treacherous of driving conditions, on my way to my (then) fiancée? I should have bought HIM a coffee! For that matter, she and I are now happily married – I should send him a CHECK!
In the end, Alliene was left speechless and my appetite for sound fully met by DeVotchKa’s abundant fest. As for my camera, were it to speak so matter-of-factly as our 6-year-old daughter, it would have said, “I’m happier than a chicken with pants”.
DeVotchKa’s new album, 100 Lovers, is their fifth record and is on sale now through the band’s website.
photograph of Nick Urata
inset of violinist Tom Hagerman
Nine years have passed – some quickly, others not so; all without hearing his voice but from the memories my mind and heart still desperately cling to. I’m not embarrassed to admit that somewhere in the depths of my attic lies a recording of some non-contextual message by him left on an ancient (10 years old) answering machine. I have not listened to it since his death, nor have I plans to. I cling to it because it is one of the last semi-tangible pieces of him not filtered through someone’s inept description.
Had I known to know him better, I may have spent more time listening and asked farther-reaching questions. In the space thrust between present and that past full of might-have-beens and should-haves, lives an emptiness no soul can mimic but for a momentary reprieve. It is on this day in 2002 that I forever lost my chance to be a better friend and son to my dad. I now am left to trust what I provided was enough, that in me his teachings are fulfilled, my afterthought questions answerable to and by a steady wisdom always found in his words – those I remember and those I contrive - and that his loyalty would, through this day, be just as true as ever and his judgement truly just…
and I believe it would be.
Pop, I miss you.
Your #1 son
Rest in peace, Berry Walton Kuykendall
May 13, 1934 – March 22, 2002
Sunday, December 12, 2010
In February of 2007, I found my happy place among the Wonderland-plastered boughs and boulders of Vail, Colorado. Confidence seems always related to how well one has prepared for that which requires it. In this instant, having skied (and not so deftly, mind you) the steep, tree-riddled slope to the left and moderately out of breath, I was struck by the silent vastness of the world. The last lift of the day only minutes yet an unknown distance away, here was precipitated sublimation before me in a windless, monochrome dream.
Camera equipment, its heft an unwieldly presence at times, intrudes far more often than it should, lending itself with all-too-much facility to the egos of photographers expecting the perfect, fame-worthy shot. Insomuch as one’s awareness permits, life’s grandest moments should not be experienced a-la TTL but as independent events worthy of the photographer’s undivided, unmechanized attention. Once the intimacy has been savored, only then should a photograph be made for it is likely the moment will pass never to be experienced again; a photograph is nothing without the relation of its captor.
The solitude of a personless Blue Sky Basin left an indelible mark as would a minor slip at the edge of a cliff, perpetually reminding me of the wild, unconquerable nature of our world and that unique challenge to experience and own mortality as the most precious of gifts. Vail truly is, as they say, “like nothing on Earth”.
For more information or to contact us, find us at: http://www.ashleyandkyle.us
Clingman’s Dome is an odd, almost spaceship-like construction that sits atop the highest peak in Tennessee. Chance would place me near any number of excellent photographers as the sunsets are spectacular beyond words. Many a published Smoky Mountain photograph has been taken either from the parking lot, on the trail or from the observation tower.
On a chilly evening in July, I saw a man wielding a bit more than the “standard” stock telephoto and prosumer fresh-out-of-the-box DLSR. Draped around his neck were two camera bodies, each with a pricy lens attached. He held something else I’d not seen used before – a gigapan – and thus was cemented in my head that this was no ordinary photographer. He started to hike up the trail. I followed, and obviously so.
A few predictable and not-so-hushed remarks from locals about the massive gear he was toting let me know he dealt with the same thing every photographer does. It’s like having a brand new bicycle that everyone wants to but knows not how to ride. That said, even I had to keep myself from being awkward as I kept my distance, stopping occasionally to snap a shot of this and that.
Finally at the top, I introduced myself to Stan Jirman and asked if he was shooting solo or for contract. We chatted a few about the usual where from/how long/etc. And with the gigapan? These were to be practice shots, he said, to brush up on his use of the device for an upcoming shoot. His assignment? Follow this link to see examples of his work: www.jirman.com. His photos are truly amazing and it was an honor to shoot beside him, even for a moment.
When I recently made the above post on Facebook, my friend (we’ll call her Sara) promptly spoke up, requesting that I explain myself. While she and I have completely different businesses and thusly differing clientelle requirements, “keywording” (as it’s called) is an incredibly useful method of driving traffic to our sites which both of us already employ!
It’s simple enough – in my case, search-engine-optimized (SEO) photographs are “tagged” with keywords, as is my website. Keywords help search engines, and those using them, more accurately find what they’re looking for by providing pertinent, recognizable clues as to what context and/or content a photograph or website contains. An image search using the single keyword “Sara” will be less likely to pull a photo of her than the keyword “physician”, though both are applicable. Combining two keywords can prove both powerful and confusing. By searching for they keywords “blue” and “moon”, for instance, you may find images of both a blue moon and of musicians who sing the song, “Blue Moon”. When you specify a location, combined with ‘physician’ and ‘Sara’ – she lives in Georgia – you create more accuracy: your search will more likely generate photos of physicians named ‘Sara’ who live in Georgia than with the other two methods. Most internet users are pretty aware of this process as they have performed this kind of search for
well over a decade. However, it doesn’t always “translate” well.
In a “professional”, globally-utilized and promoted online discussion forum, of which I’m a contributing member, the predominantly active participant is an English-speaking North American. When someone utilizes translation software to write in a non-native language, often times there are grammatical and/or spelling errors. I’ve unfortunately borne witness to offensive posts in this forum such as “why don’t you foreigners go back home and learn to write”. Offensive and inane as these posts are, and while still inexcusable, they may perhaps be somewhat understood at least in that grasping the concept of global community is still difficult for those who have not been exposed to so much diversity as others. It does identify a flaw in thinking, though, that is also slyly present in how we promote our businesses, no matter how internationally savvy we are.
International, or more specifically multilingual keywording involves the obvious but oddly uncommon assumption that many more languages than one are spoken in the world and therefore must be accounted for in keywording. The internet, while global, is largely perceived as local, at least in terms of business promotion. “Caballero” is probably not the default go-to keyword for an American looking to learn about being a “cowboy” on a dude ranch. ‘Photograph’ is not how someone from China would necessarily search for an image. Though I don’t know Chinese, a popular translation program tells me that “照片” would be a far more appropriate keyword. Oddly enough, Blogspot will not show the Chinese characters in the sentence above after I post this entry but it does show them while I edit, a clear example of how much opportunity for growth there is. A search engine will not require that I know a language’s grammar or pronunciation.
In Sara’s case, if she wished to reach a patients who spoke exclusively Spanish, she could keyword both her website and photos with “médico” to have her site listed higher up in the “found set” order for Spanish language search engines, which that demographic is more likely using. While English will likely be spoken in her practice, the “net” that is cast by her broadened keywording will give her a greater opportunity to serve a larger community. In my case, fine art photographs speak largely for themselves. Context being a very large motivator, however, may prompt me to tag my photos in a less language-limiting manner. I have tagged my Facebook fan site, for example, with keywords from almost a dozen languages. My hope is that people from all over the world may be able to find my photographs, enjoy and share them and ultimately support my business.
Yesterday, my site received more traffic from Hong Kong than from my own country, the United States. I find that beautiful…
and wish I could photograph it.
Cheers to all!