It’s All Love, Man

Our muses are our loves. People, places, machines, events. Simple as that. The muses change over time. One leaves. Another arrives. It’s always about love.

Douglas Grosjean

I try to live my life full of Love, and one of the ways I express that love is through photography. I may not be especially technically skilled, but I think I have a fairly decent eye for composition, framing, et cetera.

Sometimes, the photos don’t turn out the way I want them to, but, despite myself, they turn into something I might like even better – though I might not be able to place my finger on why.

R on his mighty K1100RS at the… at the…1999 something something Rally for Ironbutt types. I love the motion, and even though I didn’t move fast enough to freeze R in place, I think this is way cooler.

I love taking photos. I especially love taking candid photos of the people around me, ideally while they don’t even realize I’m there, so I capture an unadulterated Moment in their lives. I wish I could just invisibly melt into the visual background noise of any given situation so people wouldn’t feel self-conscious- ok, that sounds a little creepy; that’s not what I mean at all. I just want to capture the natural moment as it unfolds.

J has fully adapted to this Baja life.

When I carry a camera with me, I have to be very cognizant of time if I’m with anyone else. I get 100% lost in the macro, in the weirdly beautiful, or just the strikingly beautiful. I could spend hours photographing a tree or a set of rapids and be perfectly content. I have to be mindful that not everyone wants to stop every 13 inches or seconds to gaze with unmitigated awe at a snail and a tire track and a crushed pop can and a rose and a leaf floating in a puddle and the rivets on a plane wing and a splash of reflected color on a brick wall and and and and.

Circa 2000, my boyfriend and I were driving around a new area of Washington. I looked to my right and saw what I thought was the vertical stabilizer of a B-17. Of course, we immediately flipped around and went back: Indeed, we had stumbled upon the Yankee Lady, one of not many flying these days. I could’ve spent a year with her.

When I lurk around the periphery, or when you see me surreptitiously trying to sneak a shot with camera or phone, please forgive me. Smile, pose, or pretend not to have seen me, but I would beg of you not to get annoyed or to hold it against me. To be honest, my favorite is when you truly do not notice me, because in that moment, I am not looking for your Camera Face; I’m looking for you. When I take a photo of you, it’s because I appreciate you and I want to remember this moment myself, yes, but it’s also because maybe you’ll see the photo and you’ll love it, too, and it will make you happy, also.

This beautiful girl looked so contemplative as she gazed out the window, I couldn’t resist sneaking a photo of her. I liked the result and thought she might, too, so I overcame my fear of seeming totally creepy in favor of making her smile. She was really appreciative, and when I told her she looked very deep in thought, she told me the story of her travels – quite a journey ahead for this young woman. But this kind of shot, man – this is what I fucking love.
Another R on his horse near Chehalis, Washington, on my birthday.

For, you see, the shots I am taking are all ultimately about Love – of you, of the moment, of the surroundings, of the insane unlikelihood of us existing at all let alone having met, of everything – I’m trying to preserve a moment for you, for myself, to look back on. I want you to feel like someone cared enough to capture a moment in your life, like someone noticed you holding a certain expression, like someone witnessed time with you and wanted to remember it. Someone was present; someone was there with you and experienced the same thing from a different perspective and that’s something you now share for the better or for the worse depending upon the moment.

M striding across the Playa at Gerlach 2018. Sometimes, they see me coming; what are you gonna do.

Some perceive it as an intrusion into a private moment and are genuinely bothered, and for these times, I am truly sorry. Let me know; I’ll leave you be. I do not like posing for photos myself, but don’t mind nearly as much if I can at least pretend not to notice the camera. I get squirmy and I get Chandler Face.

Thus, because I know it might make people uncomfortable, it takes more than a little courage for me to point a camera at someone, especially strangers. My Midwestern Polite demeanor gets itchy and wants to make casseroles.

I could ask, but then I’d lose the moment.

G, J, and S2 boating in the Sea of Cortez
R wrenching on one of our derby cars.

Sometimes, it goes badly for the photo.

Occasionally, perhaps more than I want to admit, due to poor timing, the wrong equipment, bad lighting, lack of skill, whatever, the shot doesn’t turn out the way I envision. But I keep the photo, because it helps me remember the moment.

Even though I may not specifically go back and randomly recall a moment or event, seeing that photo will bring back the same emotions and a flood of memories. More often than not, a smile and maybe a little, “aw.”

E and J having a great time at our favorite bar in Baja.
Ani being fucking amazing, as is her wont. (aw)
Wade, Nick, and Ellen being blinded by OMFG SUDDEN BRIGHT HEADLIGHTS at XLADV.
J and R on their wedding day. Still makes me smile every time I see it. I don’t think this could be any more her. Even if it’s a little blurry. (aw)
Wendy’s dog, Jake, had been a very naughty boy and destroyed our office. This photo remains one of my favorites of all time, low-resolution, poor depth of field, and all. (all the aw)

Sometimes it goes about as expected.

T dousing T2 at one of my riding club’s annual parties and traditions.
S, looking glorious and beautiful, as she just can’t help doing.
I met M once – at the 2004 Reno Air Races, but holy wow did we ever hit it off and had an absolutely wonderful time raising hell together. Those truly were the days.
L petting a barn kitty at sunset on Orcas Island.

Sometimes, it’s better than I could have hoped.

And I thank my lucky stars every time this happens.

G sitting on the bar beach in Baja.
Wade gazing longingly at E’s HP2 Enduro at this year’s XLADV.
J at Bruno’s Country Club, Gerlach 2018. I hadn’t seen J in almost 20 years. He is still very J.
S2 admiring the centuries-old architecture of a mission in Baja. This one makes my heart skip a beat. Someone please tell me why.
E on the boardwalk at sunset after a weird day of riding last year.
E enjoying a pipe at Agua Caliente.
S2 happily looking forward to jumping into the Sea of Cortez with whale sharks.
S’s husband, also S, out on the trapeze of his catamaran, looking like a fucking boss.
I’m just going to put two more of these here. You know: For the art.
Fun day!
I have thus far found it’s rare for people to be able to look into the camera without smiling, or posing, or getting nervous – at the very least, there is usually a sudden armor on the face, in the eyes. Few people appear perfectly natural and comfortable. Even fewer people have the confidence to look not just at but into the camera, into the eventual viewer of the photo. Annie did.
V walking his bicycle in downtown Bellingham at a work event. I love this photo 10000% but I don’t even know why.
Same thing here: Love it – no clue why.

More often than not, it’s somewhere in the middle.

Not terrible, not special, just a random photo of a random moment. But I remember where it was taken and why.

C and A taking a moment at the Big Bear Camp-Out last year. That day is one none of us will ever, ever forget.
Julie waiting for her picture to be taken by a professional at Wolf Haven.

I take a lot of GoPro video, which often yields wonderful candid stills. Love them – I just have to pick the right split-second to grab, the one that’s the most that-moment/that-person.

S3 about to lead us on a dirt ride. I think he was probably surrendering to the chaos he knew would follow.
Chaos like this. I will never not laugh with absolute joy, love, and appreciation when I see this photo. That’s S3 going over on the bike there.
And chaos like this. That’s my bike. No, really, there’s a motorcycle there – no, behind S3. Yes, in the bush. No, typically motorcycles are not oriented like that. Thank you.
I believe P is the only one of us who did not fall down.

My favorite, of course, is The Real Camera, with which I can control depth of field, aperture, and so forth. It is also the absolute most conspicuous.

E, L, and G on our first night in Bahia, where they are about to experience the best daiquiri rocks and Cuba Libres they’ve ever had.
S2 being thoroughly amused by E’s story.
GS Trophy Team member Lisa Taylor (right) at this year’s GEICEO ADV Rally in Julian. I love her friend’s happy, laughing face.

Remembering. That’s so important for me, and, as I stare down the barrel of turning 50 next year, I am extremely cognizant of my mother’s struggle with memory (early onset dementia, compounded by a TBI.) I joke about being a space cadet, but internally, I am terrified.

What if it’s not a lack of paying attention, what if it’s not being cavalier with details – what if it’s something pathological. What if I’m on the other side of this photo in twenty years?

Sidenote: As I was linking this photo up, I had a powerful flashback to the night before I moved to Seattle – Christmas Eve, 1999. We were in a hotel room, and my mother had taken her bedtime drugs, so was sleepy and a little out of it. I was doing a lot of birding in those days. Mom was having a hard time with me moving so far away, but there was a part of her that was trying to find something positive, something happy for me, to focus on: “Will there be birds for you to look at?” she asked, in a very childlike voice. “Yes – many, many beautiful birds, Mom.” It just about makes me cry, the innocence and the desperation of it.

Sometimes I worry that by being so consumed by capturing moments that I am not fully living them. I suppose that could be true, but having experienced a great many unphotographed moments, I don’t know that I really notice a difference. I take such pleasure, such abject joy, in photography that it only adds to the experience (unless it detracts from someone else’s.) I feel a tiny bit of anxiety when I really want to take a photo, but cannot.

I’ve delved into that a bit and I think it’s due to a combination of things:

  • Worrying I won’t remember the moment later, even without dementia
  • Wanting to share it with other people
  • Maybe a wee touch of, if I don’t have proof, did this really happen?
  • A whole heaping lot of, maybe this will stir a memory for me if I end up like her.

When I’m too old and infirm to do much of anything anymore, put me down in front of whatever thing that’s like Flickr in those times and let me browse back over all the little vignettes I’ve gathered. Maybe reliving things with visual aids will ease the burden of not having any burdens at all, other than my own frail and failing body.

So, my friends – the original intention here was to convey my love and appreciation for all of you whom I have photographed, and to those of you whom I someday will. I will cast you in the best light I possibly can, I will never intentionally embarrass or shame you, I will not publish them if you do not want them to be published. With love comes respect and a general wish for your overall happiness and well-being.

We’re all in this together, sharing. Sometimes, I like something tangible to remind me.