Earth & sky

Earth & sky

Gallery: Stormchasing >>

Few things could dislodge me from watching the World Cup; stormchasing is emphatically one of them. 

Stormchasing. It has multiple meanings. Mostly, of course, we associate it with the semi-crazies who take risks – some greater, some lesser – in their quest to see a tornado. But as a veteran of three chase weekends over the past 7 years (ie not a veteran at all), I have to observe that much time is spent being chased by the storm, and not the other way around...

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Gallery: Icy Black Brook >>

We went for a walk this afternoon - frozen. I shot some video and a couple of panoramas too. I suppose I’ll get around to them sometime. But I just love these. Not much to say, except that once again they’re shot with the iPhone...

Backyard worlds

©Jon-Marc Seimon 2010

©Jon-Marc Seimon 2010

Gallery: Backyard Worlds >>

Duston always talks about wanting – in her work – to see something she’s never seen before. To see something new. It gets harder as one gets older, and I’m in awe of people who’re able to change their point of view and find the unfamiliar in the familiar. I guess this is one of the reasons that I love traveling – when you travel, you’re literally seeing new things all the time. In this sense I suppose it can be seen as a substitute for imagination...

The picture above, and those in the accompanying gallery, are examples of how a technological intervention has given me the ability to see something new in the familiar. I’ll take help wherever I can get it. In this case, it’s my iPhone - yes, all these pictures were taken with the iPhone. I’m blown away. I’m using an app called Autostitch; it’s phenomenally easy to use - too easy! So the picture above is actually a composite of about 60 individual snaps that I took a couple of days ago during a beautiful little snowstorm, a few steps from the front door. 

I thought I knew this view. I see it every day from the deck of my office. I’ve walked that little path a thousand times, usually hauling stuff in the wheelbarrow down to the vegetable garden. Familiar. But here I’ve had to take it apart, to photograph little patches of it and then let the app put it all back together. And when it does, there’s a great serendipity to some of the decisions it makes. It makes - not me. The app looks for common elements - bit of tree trunk, the edge of the path - and decides how to patch to together, where to stretch and distort, where to darken and lighten. To smooth it out. Math at work. And as I learn it, I shoot to fit into its proclivities. That’s what I love about really simple, limited tools. The choices are basic and finite, but the possibilities are infinite. Hey - look at the lowly pencil!

My favorite bits are we deviate from “reality”. Look at that bright area to the left - I know and understand why it’s bright, but I don’t care! That’s not what it says to me. Rather, I can’t help seeing it as some sort of door, the entry what exactly? I’m not sure. But I want to walk through it. It leads somewhere else, of that I’m convinced.

The same things with the other pictures in the gallery. The ghosting trees distending and extruding at their crowns, the bulging houses. 

Playing in Fundy

Playing in Fundy

Galleries: Grand Manan     :::      Messing around with Peter & Tim

Remember what it was like to have a playdate when you were a kid? The anticipation and excitement, perhaps mixed with a little dread? The warmup period when you were getting all the toys out, and maybe if it was at Marc Lurie’s house Mrs Lurie would bring out the junk food that was forbidden at home. But most of all, the play itself. Immersion, involvement, the suspension of time and that other reality called “real life”. Ah.

I’m fortunate to enjoy that kind of play at pretty regular interludes. For one thing, Duston is a true playmate – there are many episodes of play in our live together, and sometimes it feels like there’s altogether too much of it! And early last year, when Carsten Peter came to visit from Germany for 4days en route to a shoot in Kamchatka or some such (why on earth come via New York?) We both had new cameras, and ran around like maniacs testing them out(I was on the way to Peru a few weeks later). On the third night we sat in the living room turning the lights progressively lower until we were down to one candle, testing the low light capabilities (insane!) of the cameras. We were literally screaming with amazement and delight - I think that that’s when Dus turned to me and said “this has to be one of the longest playdates in history”.

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Deep breath

Damn, I know this picture so well. It’s probably my biggest “ooh, aah” picture. For obvious reasons. FIrst, it’s: Were you there? Were you scared? What did it sound like? How far away were you? And then:  It’s so...phallic. Look at the blue sky. The light is amazing. 

Sorry - was I just having your reactions for you?

It’s now almost six years since I “dropped everything”, following Anton’s instructions, and hopped on a plane for Boulder. He promised a great day of storm-chasing - and he should know, having driven about 50,000 miles the previous three summers in pursuit of tornados on the plains with our friend Carsten. For once in my life I listened to my brother and flew out. He and his girlfriend (now wife) Tracie picked me up in their battered white van, bristling with the latest high-tech radar systems...not. Actually, just an old MacBook and a cell phone, and a lot of balls.

So we drove, and looked at the sky a lot, and I had the ineffable pleasure of watching Anton firing on all cylinders. Sure enough, we steered in a direction that all the other chasers that day neglected, and hit pay dirt (they all did, eventually - for about a thousand miles down into the Texas panhandle, that day had incredible tornados. This just happened to be the first). 

Standing next to the van on a dirt farm road, clumps of tumbleweed the size of VWs hurtling by from left to right, and then a few minutes later, the same clumps hurtling in the opposite direction. We were by that  clump of trees directly on the lower edge of the funnel. Anton suggested that we hop back in the van because “something is going to happen”. So we raced to where the picture was taken, and stood out there watching as the cloud began to bulge down, and the earth began to spin up, and then then suddenly they were connected, and for 18 minutes we stood and watched and filmed, and I cursed a lot because I was pretty much pissing in my pants petrified. I am not brave.

Eventually the funnel disappeared stage right, into that nasty blackish-purple blodge. At which point Anton said “let’s go”; we piled back into the van - and drove straight into the murk. It started to hail, really, really hard. We debated the size of the hailstones. Golf ball sized? Tennis ball? Softball? Anton reached back, and grabbed a metal helmet and a stuff sack filled with balls! Like I said. He raced off and returned seconds later with a few prize specimens. We were a shade off baseball.

Why am I writing this anyway? It’s a pretty good story, I guess, and some sort of artifact of my having witnessed something, having existed in that place and that realm for even a moment. Exactly half my life ago, about a year before she died, a very dear friend of mine, Jenny Rubin, gave me a little card in the Japonais style, in which she’d written a favorite quote in her exquisite hand, in blue ink. It was from Absalom Absalom:

"And so maybe if you could go to someone, the stranger the better, and give them something--a scrap of paper--something, anything, it not to mean anything in itself and them not even to read it or keep it, not even bother to throw it away or destroy it, at least it would be something just because it happened, be remembered even if only from passing from one hand to another, one mind to another, and it would be at least a scratch, something, something that might make a mark on something that was once for the reason that it can die someday"

What does this have to do with a tornado in Minotare? 

Somehow, just about everything.