Night and Light Photos

Light Painting

I’ve practiced Light Painting a few times now for various projects, and it was a great way to get down to the nitty-gritty and forcing myself to do intimidating things: such as using Manual Mode. My favorite part of Light Painting is that, since you’re probably shooting something static, you can really take your time to make the shot exactly what you wanted. No rush, no pressure to catch the perfect moment. Try this much light, a little less, or a little more until you’re pleased with the result.

Forbidden Island


Date: Apr 26, 2011, Evening
Location: Rexburg, ID
F-Stop: 5.6
Shutter Speed: 1/25
Camera: Canon EOS Rebel T3i

Popsicle Night Club



Date: Apr 26, 2011, Evening
Location: Rexburg, ID
F-Stop: 5.6
Shutter Speed: 1/25
Camera: Canon EOS Rebel T3i

Photo Contest Entry

I chose the Photoshop World Photo Contest. Here are the reasons which appealed to me:

  • I could submit three photos, which made it much easier to select which ones I wanted to submit.
  • The prize is free attendance to a large Photoshop Conference, a great opportunity to learn about and participate in my industry.
  • The theme is completely open: subjects and edits of all kinds are accepted and encouraged.

I created my submission by going to, starting an account via Facebook, and browsing the contest options there. There were a few that appealed to me, but none as much as Photoshop World. From here I found my original edited content, checked and touched up for the theme, and exported large detailed jpeg files. I uploaded these to my new ViewBug account, tagged and named the files, and submitted them to the contest.

Three Submissions on July 10, 2014:


746 Tracks
Date: Apr 30, 2011, Evening
Location: St Anthony, ID
F-Stop: 5.6
Shutter Speed: 1/25
Camera: Canon EOS Rebel T3i


Porch Music
Date: May 30, 2014, Evening
Location: Bannack, MT
F-Stop: 4.0
Shutter Speed: 1/125
Camera: Canon EOS Rebel T3i



Type Drawer
Date: May 06, 2014, Afternoon
Location: Rexburg, ID
F-Stop: 2.7
Shutter Speed: 1/80
Camera: Sony DSC-W330

Bipolar Bears


There’s a Polar Bear
In our Frigidaire–
He likes it ’cause it’s cold in there.

I was recently diagnosed with Bipolar II Disorder. This seems to be one of the most plausible explanations for what I struggle with, and I am moving forward with treatment accordingly. If new evidence arises, the diagnosis will change.

What this means: I experience a regular cycle of highs and lows. On this scale, highs are referred to as mania, and lows are depression. The “2″ in my diagnosis refers to a type of bipolar that doesn’t tend toward the mania – the highs are not so high. I may experience some recklessness at these times, but I’ve never really shown full-on-mania.

My cycle seems to be about 3-5 months. During this time I will experience a distinct low, depression, characterized by numbness, lack of hope, and sometimes lack of ability to function in social situations (I’ll just silently leave or not show up). And I will also experience an intense high – characterized not by happiness but by intensity, irritability, recklessness, and a tendency to argue and cause social problems for myself (but hey, I’m extremely productive!).

I used to think Bipolar people just jumped back and forth between very happy and very sad, often in the same hour or day. That’s not it – though there are other conditions (Rapid-Cycling Bipolar, or Borderline) which may explain those kinds of behaviors. But the cycle happens over a longer period of time, weeks or months.

On top of this, depression and sadness are not the same thing – and neither are happiness and mania.

I sought out this diagnosis. I’ve been struggling with chronic depression. I think for most of my life I could handle it, but there were certainly times where I could not – and recently that has become more common. A fact of life, really.

With his seat in the meat
And his face in the fish
And his big hairy paws
In the buttery dish,

It’s easy to think that when you’re suffering from something, be it ADD or anxiety, that it’s your responsibility to deal with it. Of course it is, who else’s responsibility could it be? But I mean that it discourages you from seeking help. You figure – hey, I get by most of the time, so I just better suck it up and deal.

There are other times when I really knew I needed help, but didn’t feel like I had any way to seek it out. I had no money, no insurance, and felt like even if someone could pay for a few visits to help me get diagnosed, I couldn’t afford regular medication and/or treatment in the long run anyway so what’s the point?

Then I took Psychology 101. It was interesting to find out some of what we have come to learn about how the brain works, and I was intrigued about what I read about Serotonin. I just have a basic one-sentence description from a Psych 101 book, and Serotonin is a complex field of study all on it’s own, but here goes;

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter which, among many other basic functions, facilitates a general feeling of well-being. It allows us to push things to the back of our mind, so we can focus on other things.

I read that one sentence “general feeling of well-being” over and over again. I couldn’t for the life of me remember what that felt like, or the last time I had felt that way.

I have known happiness, but it was always of a very intense kind – often facilitated by some kind of physical sensation (from sex to chocolate to rollercoasters).

I have known victory, but it always felt hollow. If I won a contest I felt guilty that I had participated in an activity which rated people, and that I had possibly hurt others’ feelings. (I’m serious on this. When I won awards I never felt anything but guilt. It may sound like false humility: I guarantee you, it is not. And I’ve STILL got a bone to pick with those of you who like to tell people not to “get a big head” when they’ve succeeded at something. Just stop it.)

I have known success, but never felt successful. From good grades and promotions to getting that girl I like to like me back. I’ve got plenty of failures to look back on, but there are successes too. I felt the failures.

He’s nibbling the noodles,
He’s munching the rice,
He’s slurping the soda,
He’s licking the ice.

I made up my mind that as soon as I had the opportunity through school insurance, I would talk to some professionals about this.

My determination was exacerbated by an interesting experience;

I had wisdom teeth that were crushing my other teeth, to the point that they were causing damage to the rest of my mouth and causing infections and a whole lot of pain. I had to get these teeth removed as a matter of emergency, and some of these surgeries required getting down to the bone of my jaw.

So on the day of my wedding that September and two weeks leading up to it, I had a swollen jaw and was on some crazy pain meds. It was pretty damn awesome.

I still remember what it was like during the surgery, drugged up and listening to an audiobook written and read by Neil Gaiman. I had this peaceful feeling that Neil Gaiman was my dad, and he was reading me a bed time story.

Here I was on painkillers which make most people loopy and unable to function, and I felt peace for the first time in who knows how long.

I organized things I’d been meaning to get to for months. I was more productive than I had been the entire semester previous where I had gotten all A’s. Any and all problems literally felt like water off a duck’s back. They didn’t matter. I could adjust. I could deal.

You know that when powerful pain meds make you feel like a whole and complete human being, you’ve gotta be pretty fucked up.

And he lets out a roar
If you open the door.

Sara has some interesting stories of what it was like living with me. I could trick myself into thinking I was dealing with things and that I had to solve my own problems, but to have that second person’s feedback was eye-opening.

When things were bothering me, I would obsess over them until the point where I became catatonic. Often in other households this was the point where I would leave the house and go for a walk/drive (slammed doors may or may not have been a part of this process). Now that I was in a peaceful home situation where I knew I was safe and accepted, I would just sit and stare and be unresponsive.

I know what I was doing at those times, it’s just something I block out later on when I’m feeling better. I was sitting there, thinking at a million miles an hour, actively using all my self-control not to hurt myself.

It’s been said that depression is anger turned inwards. Now THAT is a sentence I can fathom. You can keep your general sense of well-being crap. Anger turned inwards is what I’m all about. As long as I have memory, I remember being angry at myself. Sometimes that anger gets redirected to others, but it always comes back to me.

Of course, I remember trying to express feelings similar to this as a teenager, but people would just shake their head. “Teenage Angst” is probably what they were thinking. I learned quickly to stop telling people about this thought, because for whatever reason, they thought I was being self-pitying.

Now I know anger and pity are very different things. Because I’m quick.

And it gives me a scare
To know he’s in there–

Here’s a few things I have heard repeated mercilessly my entire life:

“Why are you so emotional?”

“Why do you take things so seriously?”

“Why can’t you calm down?”

Well, my answer up to this point has always been the same. “I don’t know”.

I CAN tell you this. Telling me to stop, let things go, or to calm myself are about as helpful as telling a screaming newborn to use their “inside voice”.

Or telling a thunderstorm to keep it down, and quit being so intense.

Or telling a hormones-raging teenager not to think of sex.

Except this is more like I’ve got the angriest, most intense music you can imagine – playing in my head at all times, 24-7 – and people are telling me to calm down. And here I am, all I can think is… “Isn’t this calm? This is calm for me. I am not screaming or engaging in any kind of violent activity. I am sitting here, talking in an inside voice, looking you in the eye, and using relatively calm words and phrases – no cursing, no direct insults.”

But I come across as intense. It’s in my mood. Apparently my tone of voice and facial expression are sins too, even if all my actions are in control. Funny, I don’t remember being taught that one at church, or in any ethical setting… or just about anywhere. But it’s in our culture. You can’t show any hints of emotion, if those emotions are not utterly pleasant.

So here’s a life lesson for you – bipolar or not, you’ll be damned if you do, and more importantly you’ll be damned if you don’t. I’ve been told by the same “friends” in the same conversation that I needed to both seek help and stop making excuses for myself by claiming mental illness. Which is weird, because the moment I seek help, I’m likely to be diagnosed with a mental illness…

While you try and riddle that one out, I’ll move to the next thing. See? Those Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors are doing their job.

That Polary Bear
In our Fridgitydaire.

When it comes to Mental Illness, you’ll find it everywhere. In fact, Psychology is pretty much the study of differences in people’s brains. I don’t think it’s possible to find a person without any hint of mental variances. These terms, these diagnoses, are created in order to help us better understand and treat specific types of problems.

Diagnoses are not meant to give us more measuring sticks by which to judge or compare. They are pretty much useless and self-defeating at that point. And before you start thinking about people who are “making excuses”, stop for a second. Think about someone in a major depressive episode. Realize that they CANNOT fathom hope, they CANNOT fathom or accept your compliments, and that all your encouragements of “don’t worry be happy” or “suck it up” sound like telling someone to push a growing snowball up a mountain. That just doesn’t work, logistically.

So no, diagnoses are not excuses either.

If you look back at any famous historical (or modern) figures, you’ll find mental illness. Depression is notorious in writers and artists – Bipolar seems evident in many of these cases too. You’ll find some of the most brilliant minds in history had learning disabilities. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if most famous leaders were narcissists – but they were effective right?

So I’ll close with this thought. I’m “coming out” as a Bipolar in this post, and I wanted to make a few things clear.

First, I’m fine. This isn’t a call for help. That’s why I have a therapist, good friends, meds, and a service animal. I appreciate that you care, and if that is so, the best thing you can possibly do is just understand that this is here, it is real, and it may explain some of my more confusing actions.

Second, I’m not seeking your attention. In fact, I hate attention because attention generally either turns to focusing on my negative qualities, or making me feel guilty. So you can keep your attention if that’s the only reason you’re here.

I really like being open. I feel happier and better that way. I also like the idea that if someone has similar problems, they might find some comfort in my words. You’re not alone. There are some explanations that may help you understand things. There are experts out there that have things that will help. We don’t know everything about the brain, but we sure know a lot more than we used to – and knowledge is power.

If there is anything that strikes you as incredibly familiar – lack of general feeling of well-being, inability to push thoughts to the back of your mind, anger turned inward, catatonic… do some research. I guarantee you, there is a way to get the help you may need.

The poem quoted in this post is “Bear in There” by Shel Silverstein
Image from

P4 Photobook – Half Draft

The best part about designing this book is being selfish about it. I am happy to categorize around the photos that excite me most instead of relying on the structure of the class assignments. The pages are coming along – I am quite happy with most of the big design decisions, and now I’m just working out which photos to keep, to make large, to make small, and etc.

Photobook Cover


Half-Book PDF

Full-Book PDF

P2 Framed Art – Porch Music

It would have been difficult selecting a favorite photo for my framed art submission, except for this semi-strict criteria: It needed to be something we could hang in our house. After all, if I’m going to go out of my way to spend all this money on large print format and framing, it needed to be something that could be used by the family.

That slimmed things down pretty well; We’re not the type to want to hang a huge picture of a cowboy in our living room, and most of my best photos are pretty quirky. Sara and I selected this photo unanimously – she likes it very much (in part because it is her guitar).

Porch Music


As I posted in my Bannack blogs, this was one of my last photos on the way out. I had lugged Sara’s guitar around all day, but hadn’t had the opportunity to use it in any shots yet. So I gave up dinner and took one last trip around the ghost town, and this was taken on the porch of one of the very last houses on my way out. This shot might not have been possible earlier in the day, just because the porch would have been covered in blazing afternoon light.

Edits are pretty simple. I used some spot healing to hide little granite rocks and shiny nails that gathered too much attention to themselves. A very subtle curves edit brought in a touch of contrast, and some sharpening on the guitar make the strings stand out a little more. Finally, I used the clone stamp tool in darkening mode to tone down some of the fingerprints on the guitar.


Date: May 30, 2014, Early Evening
Location: Bannack, MT
F-Stop: 4.0
Shutter Speed: 1/125
Camera: Canon EOS Rebel T3i