Saturday, November 25, 2017

Life in Black and White (An Interactive Activity)

I've always enjoyed making black and white photographs. There's something in the light and shadows that makes them more real and timeless. Color certainly has it's place, but can also be distracting. There is a quote credited to Kim Hunter that describes my feelings about black and white photography as well as I ever could. She said, "...emotions come through much stronger in black and white. Color is distracting in a way, it pleases the eye but it doesn't necessarily reach the heart."

The following pictures were taken on my recent trip to Northern California. I have many in color, but these are the ones I saw as black and white. It's the only way they would work, in my opinion.
So take a look. Consider my comments. Do you agree? Do you see what I see? What do you feel? Most importantly - what is your own personal interpretation of each? What story do they tell you? I do hope you'll feel something. It could be anything. That's the fun of it. And that's what art is really all about.          

 (click on photos to enlarge and open in a separate view)

Montaro Beach, late afternoon on Highway 1 between Pacifica and Half Moon Bay. I took several color photos of this area, but only this one has the lone figure in the lower center left. Shows how insignificant we are compared to the majesty of nature.

Person sleeping in the plaza near Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco. I won't describe him as "homeless" because I don't know that for sure. Maybe there were other reasons he was there.

Two people huddled together sleeping on the street in the middle of the day. Quality gear, nice boots and sneakers. I am puzzled by this scene.

Riding a cable car through the streets of San Francisco at dusk. Urban scenes always look more real and raw in black and white. To me, anyway. In color you could easily miss the details in the architecture, and not notice the illuminations dimmed by the natural soft light of early evening.

A good example of how shadows and natural lighting can add an unexpected element. Enhanced by another lone figure sitting at the bus stop.

A study in perspective. And, doesn't the water actually look cold? Can you feel it?

Another one taken late afternoon as the fog was rolling in. Bodega Bay.

This is actually a record store in the Haight-Ashbury area. A little rundown with a storefront that needs a refresh. My eye was first drawn to the sign referencing Stanyan Street, familiar to me because of a poem by Rod McKuen.

This one makes me sad. She is rather well dressed and was obviously able to pay for a large meal at this fast food restaurant. I tried to make sure she wasn't in serious trouble. She raised her head, brushed me off and once again slumped face down into the plate. It was 8 a.m.  I didn't take any more photos that day. And that's where I'll end this photo essay. Thanks for watching. I hope you enjoyed the show. Be sure to tune in again soon for our next episode.

Roger O'Dea     11/25/2017

Sunday, October 22, 2017

200 Miles and 500,000 Years

I almost didn't go. It would have been more responsible to stay home and pick up leaves. But it was a pretty nice day and I had been wanting to take a trip into the South Dakota Badlands all summer. There wouldn't be many more nice days before winter comes so I chose not be responsible and head south and a little east through Rapid City and the small town of Hermosa to the Red Shirt Table area. It was a long time ago when I last visited that part of the Badlands which I remembered as providing some rather spectacular views. I remembered correctly.

Geologists tell us that erosion formed these badlands around a half-million years ago, and that erosion will erase them over the next half-million years. I never get tired of the views, and continually wonder what's down there. I mean way down there, where there are no roads or trails and where it is very likely no human has ever walked. Probably dinosaur bones. Fossils of prehistoric sea creatures. Maybe even bits of meteorites. I would love to take a magnet into the depths of this landscape and drag it around for a while. I've done that around the Black Hills and even on well traveled trails have found old rusty square nails and magnetic pebbles and dirt. Who knows what lies in other-worldly landscapes like this? 
I know something that can be found around these parts if you take the time to find and sift through ant piles. Beads. Very old stone beads, newer glass beads, and modern day plastic beads. Ants seem to love them and apparently will carry them a long way back to their homes.

I found these searching in a pile just off the road. They are glass, and there were more. But the ants were getting mad at me for disturbing them, so I didn't dig deep or look for very long. Besides, I had more sites to see and discoveries to make. 
I backtracked to the town of Hermosa where I stopped long enough to take a picture of a sign for a drive-in theatre. It's nice to know there's still one around.

From there it was a short drive into the Black Hills toward the town of Keystone. On the way I spied an unfamiliar and unmarked trail off the main highway that looked like it had not seen much use, which was a good reason for me to pull over and do a little exploring. Turns out it was a good decision. Not far up the trail I came upon an old abandoned structure which may have been a mica mine years ago. I suspected mica because there was an abundance of the mineral all around the area. 

This was not my best discovery of the day, however. That came a short time later farther up the trail. Pink quartz! I can find white or clear quartz in many of my favorite places, but have had very little success in finding the more desirable pink version of the crystal. But here it was in various sizes just scattered on the ground and sticking out of the side of the hill. I gathered up a few pieces, marked the location, and now can't wait to go back and collect more. I don't do anything with it, just like to have it around the house and yard. It's a good source of positive and healing energy.

The entire round trip totaled about 200 miles. Not a lot when considering how much I enjoyed the day. It's a trip I'll make again. Most likely not until next spring. But it will give me something to think about and look forward to during these long winter days and nights which will be closing in on us soon. Too soon. 

Roger O'Dea     10/22/2017

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Aliens Out West...and More Saturday Adventures

It was something I had been looking forward to since I first heard about it a couple of months ago. The First Annual Devils Tower UFO Rendezvous. Speakers, workshops, even a barbeque cookoff. None of those things held much interest to me. It was the parade I was excited about. The day finally came, so I packed up my cameras and headed out. It was not a very nice day. Rainy and cool. But the parade went on as scheduled, although I believe the turnout was smaller because of the weather conditions. But it was fun. The entries that showed up seemed to be into it. And the scattered spectators along the parade route appeared to be enjoying themselves.

However, after careful consideration, I'm convinced the "aliens" were just humans in costume. Most of them anyway, although I'm still not quite sure about this guy -

After visiting with some members of Star Fleet Command, a man in black, and a girl in a giraffe costume, I packed up my gear and took to the road looking for other things that might catch my eye.
I didn't have to go far before enjoying the visual treat that was this scene - 
It really is beautiful country around that part of Wyoming...during all seasons and any time of year. A little farther on down the road I noticed a turnout that I thought could lead to some photo opps, so I parked and hiked a short distance in to this perfect place to be on an early autumn day -

And then there was this -

I'm surprised there is so much color this early. But it has been a strange year. My pepper plants have new growth on them. It's mid-September! My giant pumpkin is big, but not giant. And the butterflies!

Early fall also brings out the small town harvest festivals and farmers markets. I accidentally wandered into such an event in Belle Fourche. (Spearfish is next weekend.) Basically, I was lured in by the food truck parked on the street. I do like food served out of a truck. And they had walking tacos! My newest favorite thing. So I ordered one. It was okay, but it cost $5.00 and was not even close to being as good as the one I had recently at the Unity Concert for only $3.00. I also bought some delicious locally grown and canned pickles, and enjoyed some wonderful music in the park - 

All in all, another pretty good day. And I'm looking forward to a few more adventures before winter sets in. Not a fan of winter. I know we need a certain amount of snowfall, and for that to happen it must get cold. That's how things work around here...whether I like it or not. I might make more of an effort to get out and find some things to do this winter. It could help the time pass more quickly until spring comes. Otherwise, it's going to be a long six months. 

Roger O'Dea     9/19/2017


Monday, August 14, 2017

Maybe I'll See You There

"So maybe I'll see you there. We can forget all our troubles, forget all our cares
And go downtown. Things'll be great when you're
Downtown. Don't wait a minute for
Downtown. Everything's waiting for you."

You've probably heard the 1964 hit song by Petula Clark, or at least clips of it somewhere at some time. It comes to mind for me often when I go downtown. Particularly downtown Rapid City. It's a little bit of an urban feel. As much of an urban feeling as you can get in a relatively small town. I like it. That may sound a little strange coming from someone who enjoys being in nature so much, but I've always felt a certain draw toward city streets. I don't know if "everything's" waiting for me, but there is a lot. I like that it's a little different each time I visit, and I always run into different characters of some sort. One of my favorite places was Art Alley...until a year or so ago when messages like this started appearing -

I really wasn't surprised. Tagging and graffiti were overwhelming any actual art that was there. I know some will say that graffiti is art. I won't argue that. But it was starting to be like weeds. Weeds are plants, too, but they are not so attractive when they take over your garden. It was no longer a fair sharing of space, so the property owners shut it down. That is their right and I guess I really don't blame them.

The good news is, though, that the alley is showing some signs of resurgence. And, speaking of gardens, this was an encouraging site during my most recent visit -

Pretty impressive for being tucked in an alley surrounded by concrete and brick.

There was some actual work being done on a wall. Perhaps not a work of art by most standards, but I think I know where they were going with the message, and at least it is something fresh.

I also encountered a pretty cool "auntie" with a couple of pretty cute kids in tow (although one was either a little camera shy or noticed something much more interesting on that wall).

And there is always a splendid view to be found...if you look close enough. Including some interesting abstracts and angles, if you like that sort of thing. And I do.

So maybe there's some hope for an Art Alley rally. A comeback of sorts. Even if it doesn't come back all the way. And if wandering around in alley is not your thing, I will suggest a short walk around the corner to one of the best little used bookstores you'll ever find. Just take a look at how their windows were decorated on Sunday -

Somebody spent a lot of time and did a lot of work to make this such an appealing display. Especially since it's not a franchise or major brand store and probably doesn't employ master window dressers and designers. I really appreciate the effort. It's called Again Books and Bazaar. I've dug up some pretty good treasure there. You should check it out next time you go ..... Downtown. 

Roger O'Dea        8/14/2017


Thursday, July 13, 2017

Lost and Found

I was disappointed to find out that a map to my favorite secret place in the Black Hills has been published. It's not a good map. Kind of vague and not very detailed. But, combined with many social media references, as well as some well worn paths, the Poet's Table is not much of a secret any more.

That "leaning birch tree" mentioned in the directions is obviously an outdated reference. Here is what's left of it -

I do remember when it was a significant landmark. Not so much these days.

The pictures I have seen lately show the actual table completely carved up with names and initials of visitors to this unique and contemplative place. So I decided to make another trek up there to see for myself how bad it is. It's bad. Not only is the table itself in terrible condition, so is the cabinet containing all sorts of writings, books, trinkets and various forms of art and personal expression. One of the chairs is broken. The rock walls all around have also been scarred and covered with names. Why? What is it that causes so many people, including Alan, Kip, Paige, Max and Willie G to feel a desire to do such damage? Is it some misguided attempt at immortality? A need to feed the ego? Underlying tendencies toward creating mischief? Whatever the temptations may be, there certainly are a lot of people giving in.

The hike up there still provides many visual delights. Unusual and interesting rock formations -

Twisted and odd shaped trees and remains of trees -

 I always take the long way when I go up. It takes me to this well hidden place about 400 feet away (as the crow flies) from the Poet's Table location but invisible from any trail -

Judging from it's mostly pristine condition, I don't think many people know about it. Yet. Great views. Quiet. A good spot to just be still.

Overall I was slightly disappointed with my recent visit to the Poet's Table. Something has been lost. It could be simply that the mystery is not as deep as before since it has become so well known. And seeing the graffiti and damage was discouraging. But, the day was saved by two was the arrival of two hikers who just seemed happy to be there. Especially the little guy. He couldn't wait to put pen to paper and begin writing. I kind of wish I would have stayed to see what he wrote. 

I do get some enjoyment out of seeing others I encounter here and on the trail smiling and enjoying these Black Hills that I love so much. 
The other positive event was when I found a simple painting buried beneath a pile of random pages. A watercolor that I felt came truly from the heart of the artist. If people can be so inspired by this place, then who am I to complain about its physical appearance?

So, as with life in general...usually when something is lost, something is found. It's a balance. And I guess all we can do is try to maintain that balance, make art in whatever form suits you, take care of each other, do good work and enjoy nature. Wherever and however we find it.

Roger O'Dea     7/13/2017

Sunday, April 30, 2017


"In schools we keep teaching that history is divided into American history and Chinese history and Russian history and Australian history....we're teaching kids that they are divided into tribes. We're failing to teach them that we also, as human beings, share problems that we need to work on together."   David Christian
No man is an island…
"But without a tribe, that’s exactly what you are: a loner, a rebel. Not a pioneer, a vagrant. As poetic as it may seem to go it alone, you need people to help you accomplish your vision (whatever it may be)."  Seth Godin

So which is it? Tribe or no tribe? I've been thinking about that lately. Maybe because the word seems to be popping up more often. Not in relation to Native American tribes in this country, or African tribes, or primitive tribes in the Amazon, but tribes as defined by the writer Jeff Goins -
"...existing groups of people formed around very specific interests and passions."
As examples he listed Vegans, J.K. Rowling readers and the Southern Baptist Convention. You get the idea. I've even used the word myself, in the context of talking about like minded people I have as friends or that I get to hang out with once in a while and that I wish were my friends. I am also wondering if you can be part of and have allegiance to more than one tribe.
I like being around people like this -

 And also these guys -


Can I be part of both? Can being in a tribe (or tribes) cut me off from others? Or cause me to give up on people who are not part of my tribe? 
I guess it probably comes down to whether or not you only associate with others in your same tribe. That would not be a good thing. You would be too sheltered, and possibly lured into a false sense of security, never being confronted with a reality check. If everyone around you thinks and acts and even looks like you, there are no challenges to be met. We all need to be challenged occasionally. 
The other side is that without a tribe to call your own, will you feel like an outcast and alone to make your own way without regard for the welfare of others? I've known people like that, too. The ones who say, "Leave me alone. I don't need anybody. I'm fine on my own." That's as sad as someone taking refuge within a tribe, under their protection, and never venturing beyond those boundaries. I don't know the answer, or even if there actually is an answer. And, if there is an answer to these questions, it is most likely different for each individual asking. 

It's kind of funny (frustrating? ironic?) that even after all this talk about tribes, I'm still not sure how to measure their value. I'm not even sure I'm actually a part of one. Maybe I'm that one mentioned above...the loner, the rebel. Yeah, that's me. The bad boy rebel loner. Right. Well, I do have a leather jacket and a motorcycle. And I do value my alone time. However, I wouldn't last very long without what I consider my tribe. It's small, but it's awesome. New members are always welcome. No application required and there's no initiation fee. Feel free to join up. Anywhere. Any time. 

Roger O'Dea     4/30/2017    

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Mixed Feelings (and finding a fort)

There was a post on social media the other day about construction of a new observation deck at Little Spearfish Falls. I did not know about that plan, which is surprising because I try to keep up on the news about development in Spearfish Canyon. It's the area managed by the State Department of Game, Fish and Parks so they have every legal right to make "improvements." This, however, does not strike me as much of an improvement. There was already a fence to safely allow viewers to look over the top of the Falls. This will extend the viewing area somewhat, but at the expense of those viewing the Falls from below. Upon completion the folks at the bottom will now be looking up at the top of the falls where the water begins its cascade down to the creek below...while also looking at all the spectators on the new platform at the top. Seems like it will kind of ruin the view from both perspectives.

It's actually a mess up there right now. Lots of signs.

The other disturbing sight I saw on my recent hike in that area was the considerable cutting of tree limbs. I'm not a forester, but I can't imagine how cutting so many branches can actually have that much of a positive effect. I'm sure the trees don't like it. I saw so many trees attempting to heal themselves. There was some evidence of success, but most remain terribly scarred.

Fresh cut - the healing begins

Rare example of a mostly successful healing

I'm conflicted by the current development and the proposed state park plan (supposedly shelved...for now) because, while I understand the need for easier access for those who are less mobile due to illness, injury or age, I prefer the more primitive areas. I'm afraid those will disappear. There should be a way to find a balance, but often when development starts - it doesn't stop. All the trails are groomed, all the roads are paved, parking is limited to spaces between the lines, and access is denied. Even when I'm too old to hike the backwoods and rocky trails at higher elevations, I wouldn't want those things to no longer be available to persons who can still enjoy them just to accommodate me.

Perhaps most of all I worry about people not being able to build secret forts.  Like this one -

It's a place I've been hiking to for many years. I can't tell you the exact location. That would not be cool. It would "out" my fellow travelers who have been responsible for so much activity there. I have seen structures of varied sophistication come and go through the years. Some resembling a sweat lodge, others dark and kind of creepy, others open and colorful like the one there now. The builders of the current digs call it their fort. How I know is by reading their note in the small journal they placed in a plastic bag and tied to a rock outcropping. They also asked, "please don't destroy our fort." I've never seen any activity there that could be considered vandalism, so I think the fort is safe. Until someone else comes along and decides to remodel. 
Funny thing, though, I have never met or encountered any others during my many visits. That's probably because if I see other vehicles parked anywhere near the partially concealed starting point of the trail - I don't stop. Others probably make the same decision when they see my vehicle. It's like an unwritten rule. An understanding between denizens of the canyon. I don't bother them and they don't bother me. And if ever our paths do cross words may not be spoken, but a smile and knowing nod will surely be shared as we go about our way.
And you know what? There has never been any need for our merry band of hikers and fort builders to erect a barricade with the words "Keep Out" or to post a sign saying "No Trespassing." Sometimes...most of the time...the honor system works just fine. It's called trust. Let's try that more often. I, for one, promise to never ever destroy your fort. And I will be thankful for the opportunity to visit once in a while.

Roger O'Dea     4/15/2017

Monday, March 6, 2017

A Pretty Good Weekend

It wasn't just the opening of my photography show that made this past weekend so special. The staff at the gallery is great...every one of them. Very professional and very cool. The good vibes and positive energy they maintain at that place are incredible. But the big takeaway for me was the realization that in addition to my family I constantly find myself surrounded by an amazing circle of friends, peers, colleagues and collaborators. Some of those categories overlap, but whatever title or description may apply, I am so lucky to know these people. I was nearly overwhelmed by the number who showed up to see the exhibit Friday night and Saturday. Larry, Ellen, Linda, Bruce, Nancy and Doug, Billy and Karin, Mike and Michelle, D'anna and Dean, Sarah, Bill, Rex and Joanne, Steve and Molly, and the woman who told me a wonderful story about one of my photos on display. I had no idea.

It's worth repeating - I am so lucky to know these people. And it was wonderful to see some of their family members, a few whom I know and one or two I had never met. I've thought about this before, but now is a good time to say it...treasure all of the people in your life, including the ones you don't see often or have much interaction with on a regular or even an occasional basis. Think about them right now. Say their names out loud. The ones who have had a positive impact on your life. The ones who have inspired you. The ones who have helped you grow and learn and live. The ones who have been there for you, including the ones who were there only in spirit...but still they were there nonetheless.
This is not meant to be a lesson or a lecture. It's just a reminder, because sometimes we forget what's important and what we should be thankful for. Sometimes I forgot. Or at least, didn't give it much thought. That changed for me this weekend. It has finally sunk in. I will never take my tribe for granted again. And will try to remember to thank God and the Universe every day for the blessings I have received, not the least of which are the good people I am privileged to know.

Roger O'Dea     2/6/2017