Woke up at 6am to catch some early morning light.  Didn’t really have a clue where to go, but I really wanted to be near some water.  Heading over the hill didn’t seem like a great plan today, so I went south along the Bay to see what I could find.  I ended up stopping at Alviso Marina Park to walk around and marvel at the urban jungle encroaching in the face of a once prisitine ecosystem.  The water used to be clean and clear, full of fish, shellfish, and birds.  Now we have a serious heavy metal problem and you couldn’t pay me to eat fish out of the Bay. 

Kind of funny to find a National Wildlife Refuge here at the jumping off point for planes, a water treatment plant, and train tracks ilking there way across what was once tidal flow but now landfill, forged metal, and low income housing.

More after the jump.

I tried not to think about the funny smells eminating from the ground, or the hawk like mosquitoes buzzing around.  “My they look awfully large,” echoed in my mind before she (it’s only the females who suck blood…go figure) took a position on my arm to make a little withdrawl.  Not a good time to set my bag down to make a lens change!  I hastly moved on towards the end of the point to see what else I could find.  If anything, it was nice just to be up before dawn and take a stroll.
I have to say the colors were nice, and I am still putting my new camera through her paces.  I decided to upgrade to the Nikon D700, which has a full frame sensor ( so the actual image capture size is bigger) and amazing lowlight capabilities.  This translates to more information and better prints.  Pretty much a win win for yours truly.
As the light progressed I putzed around, trying my best to be inspired in a less than blockbuster location.  Then a horn sounded along with the all too familiar ding ding ding: Train.  I thought, “What else could possibly make this place less of a natural refuge than planes and trains?  Automobiles?    Ha!  At least I was on a dirt path that didn’t allow them.  Take that modernity!  I decided to pull the plug and headed back to the car, looking forward to the comfort of the seat heater and a cup of joe at home.  I put my head down and started my trod back.  Just then a flock of seabirds (don’t know what kind) ripped past me, their wings slicing through the air making a whistling sound as they went.  Damn.  Why is it I always seem to miss at least one great shot on every shoot?  Because it is so hard to be on the whole time. 
This was the best I could do.  I think this was the same bird!  You can almost hear it whistle by you.  And the detail of the wings…I can now see why people are “birders.”  Forgive the rant, but it’s still early and I am struggling to make this the least bit interesting.  What can I say, it was a morning of randomness.  Heading to a park, a refuge no less, that was light years away from pristine.  Driving in traffic to seek peace.  Waking up before the light of dawn only to be let down.  But there’s laughter in everything, and I came away with one little moment.  I couldn’t help chuckle at this poor little boat.  She was in pretty good shape, but where she’s going is beyond me.
See you down the road.

Biology Class Smashes Doctor Dreams

Had to get my morning coffee fix at Peet’s today, as the net was on the fritz yet again.  When you poach you just never know.  So I headed out with laptop and camera.  Once at Peet’s, I struck a few items off the list and things were turning out to be a “pretty nice little Thursday.”  As I drove home all of a sudden the street I was on was full of fire engines and police cars.  I pulled over and jumped out to see what was all the commotion.

More after the jump-

I approached the scene with a bit of caution and then hailed a civilian guy who was helping with traffic.
He told me that basically a car had run the stop sign and T-Boned the van pretty good.  There was radiator fluid and some random debris everywhere, 
and I hung around a bit longer, wondering if I would be shooed away the the cops. Inquiring to the fireman if anyone had been hurt, he cuttingly said, “Do you mean did anybody die?”  Before I could reply he said with a matter of fact, “No, nothing too bad.  Nothing they won’t get over in a few days.”  And with that he picked up the license plate that had been flung in the street and walked towards the scene. 

When you work in that kind of environment; when all you seem to do is aid in the rescue, recovery, and salvation of people’s well being and/or their lives, you start to marginalize the day to day accidents.  Surely it is a survival mechanism of the trade, just like how doctors must be able to pull away from the emotion of holding someone’s life in their hands.  They have to view it as a body, a machine with all the parts where they normally are.  Open the hood and yep, the oil and tranny fluid look good.  Gaskets are tight.  Just have to go in and adjust the spark plugs via… the heart.

I know I couldn’t be a doctor.  I watched an open heart surgery on television once in Biology Class: Mr. O’Brien’s class with the anatomical skeleton and schematics of the human muscular system in the far corner.  One day he brought in a video of an open heart surgery to show us.  I moved myself to the front of the class to get a better view, and boy did I ever.  In thirty seconds I was seeing too much, and I arose pale white to inform Mr. O‘Brien that I would be leaving class for a quick jaunt to the toilet.  As I approached, without looking up, “Sit down Parsons,” was the curt reply.  Placing my hand on Mr. O’Brien’s arm (something no student would ever do) I stated again, “No, Mr. O’Brien, I really need to go to the bathroom.” 

And when he looked into my eyes and my Casper-like complexion, he mumbled, “Oh jeezus, go- go ahead now.”

As I left the room there was one thing on my mind:  Don’t pee yourself.  I was so scared that I was going to pass out and pee that my first priority was to hit the urinal.  I virtually stumbled over seeing very tight tunnel vision and accomplished my goal.  I mean, if you are a sophomore in high school and you pee yourself, you are done.  Friends?  Girls?  Redemption?  No way in hell.  It would have been all over. 

If this happened watching a video, I don’t even want to think about when the $hit really hits the fan.  My point is, know your limits.  I am finding as I get older that it’s okay to not go on an all night bender.  I don’t have to fight that guy in Karate Kid Part II on a man made island with a moat.  The terrain park is for people made of elastic and short memories. 
So go ahead.  Enjoy life.  Eat a deep fried Twinkie at the fair.  Just have one drink.  And remember, never pass out if you have to go pee.    

Slow Time

Yesterday I spoke of relaxing in the moment for a bit to catch your breath. I went to the forest and just cruised around smelling the fresh air. Well, sometimes you don’t need to go far to have a little moment. I hung around the house all day doing odds and ends. Mowed the grass and watered plants. Finally have the chickens contained in a little run so they won’t destroy the winter veggies. After watering, I took a look at the front. I just stopped and stared away. You’d be amazed at what starts to pop out at you if you just stand still long enough.

And I thought it was the perfect moment to go and grab my macro lens. Kneeling down in the wet dirt mud, I came across two different snails marching towards different destinations. They were only a few feet apart, but would most likely never meet. Searching for the best angles, I got close with the lens and captured a few images.

I don’t know, I am not a big fan a slugs nor snails, but when I see these guys up close, I just can’t help but laugh and say something in snail speak that is lethargic at best with a southern accent.  “Hey Herb.  Wha’cha doin?” or something to that effect.  And for all you snail haters out there, we’ll finish up with nice and non slimey.

And remember, take time and smell the…oh how cliche!

See you down the road.


A walk in the woods…

Sometimes when I am in bed, I can hear a thousand little voices talking about all sorts of different ideas, conversations, and/or topics.  It’s just the noise of the day’s ideas “downloading” as I call it.  If this goes on for a while and I am restless, there seems to be a certain point where one voice shouts over the rest, “Hey!”  And in that instant, an eerie calm descends over my mind, and I usually fall to sleep.

The same could be said for walking in the forest.  You first step in and walk a few paces over noticeably softer earth.  The ground, with all its decaying matter, softens each footstep that you produce. 

You look around and everything is glimmering with moisture and dew.  Downed trees jut out around corners and, acorns litter the forest floor from all the wind howling through the tree tops.  The whole place is alive, and it calms even the busiest mind. You look at that trail and wonder where it goes.  Think to yourself, “Why don’t I just walk a little bit and see where it takes me?”

I decided to take a walk in the woods to clear my head from all the stuff I have been attending to these last few days.  It feels good to be so busy, but a little quiet time will do a mind some good.  So I jumped in the car and headed up 1500 feet to the nearest ridge line.  It’s amazing that I can leave the valley floor with its sun and traffic and noise, and in no time at all be surrounded by trees that move and sway to the pulses of wind.  To hear the stuff that is air move through the trees, and breathe in that deep forested musty earthy smell revitalizes my soul and energy.

The next time you find yourself so busy that you don’t have time for this or that – take the time.  Walk away from whatever you are doing.  Put down the legal pad, the laptop, the cellphone or Blackberry iPhone; go somewhere quiet.  And I guarantee that you will be more productive when you return.


Cycle the Americas

Today I had to drop off something to a friend in SF, and I brought my gear with me, cause you just never know what you are going to find out there.  After a rain filled drive in the city, the light staying behind the clouds, and not much happening, I decided to head home via the coast.  Surely there will be something of interest along Highway 1?  And if not, at least it is a gorgeous drive.  So I revved the Ford Focus (POS…but still kicking!), cut off a taxi, and headed up and over the hill to Pacifica and down the coast.

Putting along, I saw a bicyclist with panniers and the whole nine yards.  Ahh, how he reminded me of…me.  It wasn’t too long ago that Jen and I were in Japan pedaling our way to the next point on the map in Japan.  Now she is taking abuse from kids in 2nd grade and I am…what am I doing?

As I cruised past him, I looked at my camera.  It seemed to be saying, “You should have me out.  You should be taking photos.”  I looked down at it and answered much the way Mikey did in Swingers, “Alright.  Would you stop bugging me?  I am trying to drive here.”
    “You could have had a cover, or an editorial,” went the metallic voice of the inanimate plastic and metal box with a note of resentment and disappointment.
     “Jeez, alright… next traveling bicyclist I see, I will pull over and introduce myself.” I finally quaffed.

Not a few miles down the road another blotch of chartreuse green and blues appeared on the horizon.  They were pulled over no less, organizing the gear, and as I drove by them I just couldn’t take the guilt anymore.  I swung a U-Turn and pulled over next to them.  Looking at my passive aggressive Nikon, I grabbed her and proceeded to introduce myself.  Then I asked their story.  More after the jump…

 Joff and Joy are from England, and they are bicycling down to South America by way of, and get this, Halifax, Nova Scotia.  Now I have been one for adventure, but damn…  Such an ambitious journey, I could only wish them the best of luck.  It has been a pretty good ride for them so far.  Not much rain and nice drivers.  I doubt they will be so lucky once they get into Mexico and further south!  Aye Dios Mio, son locos por alla!  But that is neither here nor there.  They are riding for charity, namely Muscular Dystrophy, and have a web page/blog set up that you can visit here.  Give it a go and read their story.  Pretty amazing.

As I was taking a few photos we talked about me and my wife’s adventure in Japan.  They asked if it was a good place to ride, and I immediately said it was great.  I had one reason.  The Onsen.  Japanese Bath.  If you don’t know, you have to go.  If you do, nuff said.  As we chatted a bit about gear, the ride, and their goals, I could see that they were ready to hit the road.  I bid the adieu and wished them a safe journey.

It’s always sad seeing someone off whom you will likely never meet again, and if you really drink that moment in, it can be both touching and saddening. 

But there are only a few degrees of separation, and I am sure I will meet someone down the line that wished Joff and Joy a fond fanfare.  So wish them all the best, and if you see them doe-eyed in Los Angeles traffic, please give them a soft warm bed, a nice hot shower, and a clean wash of clothes.  There’s nothing better than the simple things in life (that we really take for granted) to make a person’s day.

See you down the road.


And now…The Schmidts!

Yvonne and Brian,
Congratulations on your wedding day.  I can safely say that all went well without a hitch! (except for you guys…getting hitched…ohhhh!)  We almost had a veil malfunction at the very beginning, but catastrophe averted.  Phew…  You all are so easy to photograph (well, Yvonne especially!…sorry Brian…ha ha…) that I found myself having difficulty selecting which photos were favorites to include in the slideshow.  In the end, I published more on my site toddparsons.net than I had anticipated.  But no matter…


There are many photos that resonate with me, but a few are more special to me than others.  One of my favorites was the reading pictured here.  Tolya and Janie were talking about love, the sacrifice and help that each partner needs to offer freely to one another in a time of need or joy.  And as his hands started to shake while reading, it became difficult for Janie to hold the paper.  And then Toyla offered (literally) a helping hand to steady the words and let him finish.  I got chills by the simple act of love that was, in essence, what you and Brian were entering into and accepting at that moment.

On the fun side, what’s not to love about you playing blackjack before the big moment?  I really feel honored to have been up there with you.  And as you readied yourself and spoke hushed questions and statements with your father like, “This is it,” I could see that you were totally content and ready.


And it’s not just the cornerstones of a wedding that tell the whole story.  You also have to stop and take a breath, get up real close, and really look hard at moments.  I loved the figurines from Brian’s parents wedding cake to a simple arrangement of glasses downstairs.

Thank you for entrusting me to be a part of one of the biggest days of your lives, and I look forward to watching you all grow as individuals and as a family.

Best Wishes,


Morning Light

I woke bright and early to try and capture some morning goodness in and around my haunts. I thought a drive out to the beach would do me good, so I headed over the 92 towards Half Moon Bay and Pillar Point. It was still dark and gloomy, especially after all the rain that we’ve had, and I didn’t know where to go or what to look for. I was almost hell bent on driving up the coast when I thought to myself, “Wait, if you keep driving you will miss the good light.” So I decided to pull over and just wait for something.

I piddled around till I found some parking near all the boats, which are always an instant draw for me considering my sailing background. There’s nothing like the smell of salt air in the morning while the constant wail of the fog horn morosely warns mariners of the dangers yet unseen. And this was no more re-enforced by a sad little fishing vessel that waited patiently in the shallows on the bay floor. She was proud, even with all the water awash on the decks and spilling over the gunwales. There were so many stories of high seas and great seasons that abounded with plenty I am sure, but now she was waiting for a salvage and demo team; They will take what they can and shred the rest. A sad ending for such a stout looking little boat.

As I watched her in the gray, the sun started to peak over the ridge, casting a nice little back light on her. I thought, “This is it. I’ve got a few minutes.” I got out both cameras, a long and a wide lens, my filters, and a 3 stop split neutral density filter to compensate for such extreme lighting difference, and went at it. There wasn’t much I could do for different angles as the incoming tide had already swept over my feet for the second time while I concentrated on the frame, but I had a great time until the light vanished.

As I walked the dock, I got the normal friendly hello from a couple of guys: Boat guys. I walked with them down the dock and swapped a few stories of my high seas adventure to lend myself a little credibility. We talked of fish and water, wind and tides, and how attaching boat to any question regarding a part quickly adds a few extra hundred dollars. As our stories faded out and as quickly as the tide turns, the two gentlemen were puttering off to the anchorage while I waved them a goodbye.

Some days the light only last a few seconds or minutes. Sometimes it can go on like a dream. Today was fleeting and momentary. But my plan remains to photograph every day. Even if I only come away with one decent photo from each day, I am still learning; still gaining from failures and experimentation. As the rain started to come down with with some bite, I headed towards the car and off on my way. The pangs of hunger started echoing in the belly, and a smile washed over my face.

“There is no failure except in no longer trying.” Elbert Hubbard

The Begining…

Today starts the first day of what is hopefully many posts. Free from the time constraints of the studio where I was working, there could be no better time to learn and progress through consistent writing and photography.

After returning home from a great workshop which is part of the Photography at the Summit Series, I felt renewed and alight with so many ideas. There’s nothing like hanging out with the best in the industry to get your creative juices flowing. People such as Sabine Meyer (Photo Director of the National Geographic Adventurer), Corey Rich (amazing adventure/rock climbing photographer), Bob Smith (noted nature photographer), Scott Wilson (Director of Photography-The North Face), and Keith Ladzinski ( Super kind outdoor adventure photographer) were in attendance. They all put forth amazingly positive comments while helping all the students grow leaps and bounds.

My images took a turn for the better is less than five days, and my notebook is full of random photo essay ideas that came while driving the lonely I-80 headed towards Elko to Reno and Bozeman to Twin Falls. With all this new found energy and excitement, it is my hope that some of you will join me on this adventure to help me grow, critique my work, inspire me to improve, and most of all enjoy. OK – Enough of the mushy stuff…

These are some photographs from the last week at the workshop. When you have amazing light with access to exceptional athletes and instruction, it’s a pretty hard combination to beat. I am beating a dead horse, I know, but I have to say what a great experience the Summit Workshop was. I don’t know of any other experience where you can learn from so many talented and successful people at the top of their careers.

Of course I will also be posting photographs from work and other projects as they come along, and I intend to post at least a photo a day. If I end up missing a day, let me hear about it! Gotta keep the motivation alive.

Right-O. See you down the road.