After being a yoga teacher for almost 20 years I re-discovered photography when I bought a DSLR and a Trey Ratcliff HDR tutorial. I had first started taking pictures while working on the first Star Wars movie (“Episode IV: A New Hope”) and for the next 36 years I was a snap-shooter and the family portrait guy, and while everyone raved about my pictures I didn’t think much of them until much later.
So I busted out Trey’s HDR tutorial and watched about the first 40 minutes of it or so, and started following the directions. The very first photo I took is of the Santa Monica Pier below. It was my first “Wow moment”. Right then I knew I had found something meaningful to me. It was like the first time I practiced yoga, I just knew I had found it. While yoga has helped me eliminate unnecessary distractions and focus on my breathing, so too photography brings me more present, more peaceful, and more focussed. Both are ongoing practices for me. Refinement, refinement, like peeling an onion one layer at a time.
Once in a while something magical happens. When the scene, the camera and my eyes coordinate and the photo is recorded. It’s at those wonderful moments that while I did push the button, I cannot take “credit” for the photo. Yes, I did find the location, and yes, I did frame the scene within the viewfinder, and yes I did adjust the camera settings, and then I pushed the button, but that’s just the mechanical part! I didn’t create the scene! I just happened to find it. So in a way it’s not mine, it’s everyones! I just recorded it so that you can see what you didn’t see because you weren’t there. It may sound weird, and for the sake of copyright laws I did “take the picture”, and I do own the rights to it. We live in such a litigious society that I have to say that, but on a spiritual level it belongs to every one. You really can’t commoditize natural beauty. It’s there for anyone who has the temerity to go out and find it.Every time I pickup my Sony A7 first my heart sings and then everything gets quiet. No matter what is in front of my camera.
My first picture of the Santa Monica Pier:
In my yoga practice, it’s all about refinement. Refining the breathing, the physical stance and balance of the postures, the mental attitude and focus. This requires a self consciousness. A way to observe your self without judgement or critique, a dispassionate view of how I’m doing what I’m doing, finding patterns and making subtle corrections.
In the time since I have had an exhibition and sold prints but my crowning achievement to date is currently hanging in a bunker atop Mt Hollywood as a tribute to a fallen hero. A man who as a Marine served his country in every active incursion for 20 years, including those that weren’t covered by the News media. A war hero who when he retired from the Corps had more medals than he could fit on his chest, who became a Los Angeles Policeman to continue to serve. Turns out that his favorite spot to take his breaks or just to sit and think was at the very spot from which I took this picture of the iconic Hollywood Sign.
To have my work be chosen for this purpose by these people is an honor I will carry with me forever.
Lastly, both my practices humble me. My physical yoga practice because I’m getting older and simply can’t do some of the stuff I used to. Photography because the world is so beautiful and those magical moments aren’t yet the norm when I shoot, but they happen more and more frequently.
A 20th century yogic master Shri Pattabhi Jois once said “Practice, practice, all is coming”.
Yes Sir, I will.