Sunday, July 24, 2011

Is Balance Ever Easy To Achieve?

My balance is off. With one arm strapped to my body, I swerve and maneuver in my efforts to achieve some kind of balance. Carry too much in one hand, and boom, I run into the wall. The other day I was getting into my car and misjudged the door opening and I now have a nice bruise on my shoulder as proof of my misjudgement. But what does misperception have to do with being off-balance? Everything when your one hand holds your purse, keys, phone and tip.

My fear of flying is not in balance, but I am coming to terms with that and trying desperately to come to some understanding so my fears will level out. I still email my friend in hopes that he will email me back and tell me that all is fine, and many times he does. Sometimes he'll even call when he can tell that I'm past desperate. My plan to achieve some semblance of balance and inner peace while I'm winging my way to wherever in a deathtrap 30,000 feet above the ground, is to chat it up with the flight attendants and the pilot as I'm entering the plane. Smooth flight? And since 98.5% of the time they say yes, I am starting to relax a little and think maybe flying is not that bad. Then I take my window seat in Row 4, pull out my book, and wait. Almost calmly...

Balance in the pool is another thing. Try running in 3-3/4 feet of water and see what happens. I slip, I slide, I go under. I am in constant motion forward, while the water does its best to push me from side to side. But like in real life, I fight the constant distractions and cross-currents and focus on my end-goal. And, like in real life, I achieve my goals, but not without some miss-steps and occasionally going under for a brief second.

Next month I should be able to achieve full-balance again, but even my fears about that are unbalanced. Maybe that's my lot in life--to have that unbalanced view. Like my photos, my own perspective on life. Or maybe I'll gain full balance and only my photos will continue askew...

Monday, May 30, 2011

Is it really just a dumb, ugly bug?

Nashville. What an interesting place. This was my third trip. While the last two trips I spent most of my time on a golf course, last week I was able to experience more or what Nashville has to offer--the good and the bad.

Okay, now wait just a sec! Here I was going to write a nice post about Nashville--the nice people, the beautiful countryside. I was going to skim over the frightening aspects of sitting through a "Severe Weather Warning with possibility of tornadoes". And I was going to try really hard to avoid almost all mention of the cicadas. But I've been called out in Facebook. According to my "friend", Nicole, only small children and I are scared of these ugly creatures. But I feel like I just lived through five days in a very bad, very low-budget sci-fi horror film.

Cicadas.'s definition: "any large homopterous insect of the family Cicadidae, the male of which produces a shrill sound by means of vibrating membranes on the underside of the abdomen."

Shrill? Shrill? What about deafening?

I landed in Nashville, made my way out to my rental car and hit the freeway. Doubting my phone GPS, I missed my exit and had to go the extra long way to my hotel down West End Road. I had the music playing and the air conditioning blasting, windows rolled up, but I kept hearing some underlying noise. I rolled down my window. Oh, must be construction work. Rolled up the window. Kept hearing the noise. Rolled down the window. Same noise. Same construction. But like no construction noise I've ever heard in California. Who knows. I was in the South.

I kept driving and the noise didn't lessen. I kept rolling down the window and trying to identify what machinery would be making such a racket. Unidentifiable. There was a LOT of construction going on in Nashville. Blocks and blocks and blocks. At one point I stopped at a stop light and happened to glance at the sidewalk, at the row of trees and that's when I knew. That's when I saw. That was no construction noise. That was the sounds of a bazillion cicadas!

I'm not really a bug person. My older brother convinced me as a child that moths were going to land in my hair at night and lay eggs. But, I've never been a screamer either. Well, I screamed like a girl for four days, starting about 20 minutes after I got to my hotel.

Let's just get this straight, up front. Yes, I KNOW that cicadas are harmless. I KNOW they don't bit or attack humans. I also KNOW that they're ugly and look prehistoric. And I KNOW that no matter where I was it seemed as though the cicadas had a flight pattern aimed directly at me.

I met Mike down by the pool shortly after arriving at the hotel. We were on our way to get a drink and wait for a friend of mine. He was kind enough to point out the still-living cicada floating on its back in the pool. I think maybe I screamed. I know I ran. I know Mike laughed at me. And so began my cicada saga in Nashville. Just two days later I would have been laughed at by Mike (again and again), potential clients, my "friend" (and I'm using that term loosely now), Nicole, and close to 200 golfers over two days. Oh, and the cab driver as he watched my futile efforts to climb from the back seat to the front seat after a cicada somehow managed to fly through the tiny crack in the rolled down window and hang out with me...

And yes, I screamed as the cicadas seems to float right at me while driving in the golf cart. It wasn't until Spoon told me that it was a butterfly, not a cicada was I able to calm down. I spent days dipping and dodging, but unable to stay completely away from those ugly creatures.

I know their life is short and I know that they live underground for 13 years, but I don't care. When I got off the plane in Oakland the first thing I noticed was the quiet. I was thankful to be home. And yes, I did dodge that moth coming out of baggage, but I was happy knowing that when I laid down in bed that night I had no fear of that ugly, ugly creature sharing my pillow. Good luck with that Spoon!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Is having control always the issue?

It's kind of a strange thing, this fear of flying. I try not to think about it much, especially when preparing for my trip. I'm busy working, getting ready, packing, planning. I used to deal with the fear by always arriving late to the airport, praying that the security lines weren't too long and that I would make it to the right gate with seconds to spare. Then board. Then be too dazed to realize what was happening. Always running late and not being able to control all the variables added its own kind of stress.

So what do you do? What do I do? Well, after one conversation with a friend of mine who I had emailed in a total panic thinking I had missed my flight (the flight was delayed--how shocking), I realized I was approaching the whole thing in the wrong manner. This was after years of the same behavior. Suddenly I changed.

So what made me change? What were his magic words? It was all about control. There are so few things that you have control over when you fly, he said. You can't control traffic on the way to the airport, length of security lines, additional screening, the fact that your gate is always the farthest one away or in another terminal. The one thing you can control is making sure you get to the airport with plenty of time. That way, no matter what, you have plenty of time to deal with unforeseen problems. No stress. No missing flights because you're late. It's all about control.

Yes, I'm a control freak and when I realized that he was right, I tried this approach in everything especially when I was traveling. It's amazing how such a simple thing--time--can make so many things better. It's nice to be early. Nice not to worry.

But in an airport there is still the issue of me going into an airplane. And now with my new habits I have extra time to be at my gate totally freaking out. And why, oh why, do I always ask WHY there is a delay? 19 times out of 20 the answer comes back--engine trouble or equipment problems. To tell you the truth I'm not that jazzed about getting on a plane that's a known trouble maker, but I do. I now know where the outlets are at each gate. I sit in the corner and plug in my phone. I turn on my lap top. I turn on my iPod and wait. Some things will never change though. I'll still always email and desperately seek reassurances that the flight will be fine. I clutch my cell phone tightly, waiting for the vibration signaling that my email has been answered, that the response has come in, that everything will be okay.

I went to LA for a couple of days this week. I was 90 minutes early for my flight (no traffic, no security line). I paced, sat near an outlet, called a friend and totally panicked. It was cloudy and kind of rainy. I sent off my email pleading for reassurance. Nothing came. My phone didn't vibrate. I got on board, found my seat in the front and sat. I stared at my phone willing it to vibrate. Doors closed. Phones off. But I waited and finally, finally my phone vibrated. It was going to be fine. I sighed a big sigh of relief. The plane lifted off the ground, I looked out the window, camera in hand, and realized that it was a beautiful day. Great for fly-by shooting...

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Happy Birthday, Mr. Collins!

I met Dave Collins a year ago or so. We immediately fell into "like". He doesn't talk much. I don't talk much. He thinks he's funny. I KNOW I'm funny. There has always been one point of our friendship though that has never meshed. It's the point-of-view aspect of life.

Dave is a straight-ahead kind of guy. He wants things straight, level. My photos bother him. For awhile there he thought something was wrong with my camera--the fact that the photos never were straight, that there was no horizontal line. Then he realized that the problem was me. That I don't see life straight across. That I view everything through a particular angle.

We have clashed on many a photo. He likes to post comments on Facebook that he thinks are particularly witty regarding the angle of my shots. I try my hardest to ignore him. I have other Facebook friends who comment on his comments and think he's funny. I plead with them to ignore him, not to encourage his bad humor. It's not working...

Well, today is Dave Collins' birthday and my birthday gift to him is an attempt on my part to see the world through his eyes. Now Dave is a great mastering engineer with some amazing credits. You can check out his web site at But I'm not sure if I agree with his view of life.

It's straight. It's level. But the perspective is all wrong. Look at things straight on and you can lose the flow and movement of the architecture or the road. You would think drive-by shooting with a level camera would be easy. Just sticking my arm out the window, holding the camera level and shooting. It wasn't so easy. For each shot I had to tilt everything--my head, my arm, my camera. It was a strange experience. This straight-on, non-angle that Dave Collins likes so much.

Here's the thing, though. Dave's view of the world may seem askew to me. But he's honest and funny (but don't let him know I think that), and nice and kind. And sometimes some of the best friendships are those based on different perspectives. So Happy Birthday, Dave Collins. I hope you have a wonderful day! And please enjoy these level photos while you can, because it's not going to happen again...

Monday, May 2, 2011

Is Being Lost Such A Bad Thing?

A couple of Thanksgivings ago, Nancy invited me over for an after-Thanksgiving party. Now Nancy and I have been friends for a bazillion years and she's lived in the same place for almost as long as I've known her. Same place in The City. So I left with plenty of time to get there. It was a beautiful November day. I couldn't resist. I started shooting. The Bay was a lovely color. And after a solid week or two of gray, rainy skies, the blue was amazing. All the colors that day were especially vivid and I drove and shot.

I'm not sure where I ended up. All I was certain of was that I was somewhere in San Francisco, completely lost. I called Nancy and told her I was lost. "Damn it Karen! Are you shooting??" Well, of course I had to say yes. And with that admission, Nancy sighed, laughed and then gave me directions.

For awhile there I was well-known on Facebook for getting lost, for being lost, wrong freeways, wrong streets, wrong cities. But when there is so much to see, how can you not get lost?

I get lost in movies. I get lost in books. I get lost in my work. I get lost in my thoughts. Is that a such a bad thing?

Now that I have GPS in my phone, I don't get lost much at all anymore when I drive. I must admit though that I sometimes question the directions and second guess my phone and turn the wrong way. But it's usually because I see a building one more block down that I need to shoot. Being lost can be scary, but it can also give you a freedom when least expected, when you look up and you realize that Liam and Baltimore are just parts of a book you're reading or the lights come back on in the movie theater and you're no longer traveling on that train, or you realize you're not really lost. You're just one exit past Westlake Village, but what a great shot you just got.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Does It Have to Have a Message? sent out an announcement this week regarding their annual contest for the best photo books. I never even opened the email. My phone "droided". Saw what it was and deleted the email. I tried that once, remember? Submitted my "Drive-By Shooting" book and implored all my Facebook friends to vote for me, so that even if my book wasn't judged the best, maybe I could win by popular vote. Did you just hear that? Did you? That was me sighing...

Needless to say, I didn't win anything. And with that loss I started to question the whole drive-by-shooting art vs. luck question again. It's an endless battle that is played out in my head. There is never a clear winner, so the battle rages on--sometimes with a truce called, sometimes back in full-out warfare. My head has been at peace lately, but with this email that I didn't even READ, full-scale war has broken out.

I was out running errands admiring the curve of the phone wires, the unbelievable grace of the towers. Maybe I should enter another book. Maybe I should enter my second book, "Fly-By Shooting". That's when I missed my exit...

Why? Tell me, why would I want to enter another contest? I'm all about winning. I don't play games unless I'm 99.999% sure I'm going to win. There is nothing sure about entering a contest.

I looked at the thousands of books entered last year. They were beautiful. They recorded earth-shaking events, locales that I can only ever dream about seeing. These photographers were artists and they were taking photographs of things that matter.

Why do I shoot? It's for no one's education. It has no value to anyone. I shoot because I love it. I shoot because seeing things through a lens makes me less afraid. I shoot because everything I see--I see it as a photo. Alleys, overpasses, bridges, street signs, buildings, cars parked along PCH, the front of an abandoned building. It's all art to me and with luck, sometimes that final image is exactly what I saw in my head as I held my camera out the window driving down Wilshire Boulevard or pressed against the scratched window on a Southwest Airlines flight.

But I have no message. What I record is my life. The mundane, the exciting. The hours in traffic. The hours in planes. I don't know if I'll ever win a contest. Does anyone really care about the beautiful curve of the overpass on the side of a freeway? The majestic beauty of one small part of a gigantic bridge? The sleek lines of a towering building. Probably not. I have no message. No insight into anything. I just love to shoot, to look at the world at an angle.

Will I enter a "Fly-By Shooting" book? I'm not sure. We'll have to see who wins the war in my head...

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Working, well not really...

I'm working. Well, not really. Well, I am. But not really. I've been "working" on a proposal all day. Let's translate "working". I've been "staring" at a proposal all day. I have read it and read it and re-read it. What to change. What to change...

I think and think and think. I write and rewrite and rewrite and read again. And then I do more "work". I read up on Twitter and retweet interesting tweets. I check Facebook and "Like" a few things. I look at LinkedIn and finally "link" up with some people.

And then I go back to "work". I read and re-read my proposal. I look at my pages of notes taken during my conversation with my prospective client. I change a sentence here, add a service there, and stare at the page. Why or why can't I get those two paragraphs written??

I go back to "work". I pace. I do laundry. I re-do my task list. I clean my desk. I check in on Facebook again. Look to see what's new on LinkedIn. Read my emails. Even respond to some emails. Check AOL. All the while trying to get my mind around the right words that will express my thoughts about this job. This great sounding event. This FUN, for-a-good-cause, great sounding event.

And now, twelve hours later, I'm listening to Slacker Radio (thank you Dave C for your suggestion). I have thoroughly worked Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. I have written, rewritten and written some more. I have read and re-read and erased and erased and erased. So now I'm "working" some more. Updating my blog. Thinking about drive-by shooting, but really I'm "working". Really I'm thinking about that proposal. Who would think that it would be so excruciatingly painful to write a proposal for a FUN, for-a-good-cause, great sounding event? Who would think that those five to ten additional lines could be so elusive?

It's hard to get the perfect words from my head to my hands...