Marion Owen Alaska

Why take another photo?

I’ve been carrying a camera around since I was ten, recording events from my “magic carpet” as I tour this life. I started with a Brownie Instamatic camera, a gift from Mom and Dad, and now I use various digital Whats-its.
Sometimes I’d wonder, “Why do I take pictures?” I mean, aren’t there enough photos in the world already? Well yes, according to the New York Times article, Photos, Photos Everywhere, “The growth in the number of photos taken each year is exponential: It has nearly tripled since 2010 and is projected to grow to 1.3 trillion by 2017.” You can thank smartphones because “Seventy five percent of all photos are now taken with some kind of phone.”

Still, after 50 years (okay, do the math), I love making images. When everything comes together I want to shout, “Yes, that’s IT!” and I’m filled with a special connectedness and joy. 
This why-take-another-picture question held court on the back of my mind for years. Then I recently came across a passage by Paramahansa Yogananda which inspired me to mindfully reach beyond the physical activity of tripping the shutter.

Any time you become fascinated by some material creation, close your eyes, look within, and contemplate its Source.
—Paramahansa Yogananda

Brother LawrenceTo ‘look within and contemplate its Source’ is something we should do at all times. It’s called ‘practicing the presence.’ All true spiritual disciplines say that to improve our lot, we must think of Him (Her, Divine Friend, Spirit, Allah, whatever works for you). Such devotion does not take away from enjoying life, rather it enhances it. “There is no sweeter manner of living in the world than continuous communion with God,” said Brother Lawrence, a monk who lived in the 1600s.
I’m no saint. I struggle mightily with restlessness and distractions when I sit to meditate. But what continues to drive me onward is knowing that the only difference between me and a saint is that saints don’t give up.
My question for you is: What are you thinking about as you quilt, cook, run, paint, garden, golf, hike, program computers, walk your dog, dance, dine with a friend, backpack, study the stars…?
And does the world need another photograph?
Just askin’…

The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer, and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I posses god in as great tranquilly as if I were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament. — Brother Lawrence

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A New Year’s message from Helen Keller and friends

It’s 10:30 PM on December 31 in Kodiak, Alaska. Dogs are barking outside, thanks to fireworks. Yes, I’ve received invitations to parties, but I’m not going out tonight. Rather,

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Snowflakes: Pretty in Pink

Snowflake, snow crystal, winter, ice, Alaska, Kodiak, photograph, macro, microscope
Photograph of a real snowflake, taken in Kodiak, Alaska by Marion Owen. (Canon EOS 5D Mark II, ISO 100 1/4 sec)

Keys in hand, grocery list in my pocket, I head to the door for a round of errands.
While slipping on my gloves, I glance out the office window just long enough to watch several snowflakes make their way earthward. Finally, snow! I tossed the keys on the desk and scoot outside. Grabbing the black, 3-ring binder sitting on the barbecue, I hold it out at arm’s length like a beggar. One, two, three… the clear, individual snow crystals follow an air current down to the black plastic, and then touch down, oh so gently, like Apollo 11 landing on the surface of the moon. Magic fills the air as I prepare for what turns out to be 10-hour session of photographing snowflakes.
For five long days I had waited for snow. Outside, my camera-microscope waited by the barbeque, balanced on two milk crates in the wood shed. The weathermen teased me with forecasts of snow and single-digit temperatures, ideal snowflake conditions.
Snowflake, snow crystal, winter, ice, snow, photograph, macro, Kodiak, Alaska, cold
Photograph of a simple stellar dendrite snow crystal, by Marion Owen, Kodiak, Alaska (Canon EOS 5D Mark II, ISO 100 1/4 sec)

One after another the snowflakes come: Stellar dendrites, sectored plates, needles, double-plates, split plates, and snowflakes that look like cartoon characters. I work without gloves to allow for easy handling of the camera controls. But first I have to capture the snowflakes…
This is done by lifting a snow crystal off the notebook with the tip of a small paintbrush and transferring it to a glass microscope slide. While holding my breath I quickly focus and press the shutter release cable.
After 20+ years of practicing the art of snowflake photography, I still have a lot to learn. Lighting, for example, is very critical to illuminate an otherwise clear object. But I’ve picked up a few interesting factoids along the way. Like this one: Did you know that it takes only 15 minutes from the time the snow crystal begins to form around a tiny particle of dust (like a pearl around a grain of sand) to the moment it lands on my black notebook?
And that there are skinny snowflakes and fat snowflakes? Snowflake triangles and 12-sided snowflakes?
Snowflake, snow crystal, winter, ice, snow, photograph, macro, Kodiak, Alaska
Photograph of a stellar dendrite snow crystal, by Marion Owen, Kodiak, Alaska (Canon EOS 5D Mark II, ISO 100 1/5 sec)

I suppose it’s easy to overanalyze snow crystals, how they form, what controls their shape and so on. Believe me, my mind craves to go there. But I’m reminded of a quote I read the other day, which helped me let go of the restlessness.

“One who mentally dissects and analyzes the botanical properties of a flower misses a full appreciation of its beauty. But one who focuses on how beautiful that flower is, allowing one’s intuitive feelings to respond to its pure essence, enjoys fully its loveliness.” — Paramahansa Yogananda

I hope you have a wonderful week. Thanks for stopping by. I’m finally off to do those errands I talked about at the beginning which includes mailing my seed orders for this year’s gardening season. Ah, the garden. That’s another story…
You can also find me on Facebook at Marion Owen Photography.

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