Saturday, July 9, 2011

Day 366

"What a long, strange trip it's been..."

Yep, I made it. It's one year today since the air hit my brain. It has been a circuitous and unpredictable road, but I am learning how to negotiate it. Most of the time. Not too much has changed since my posting in April. Still dealing with some anxiety issues, still working on it with Dr Z and Carol and still making photographs. Last night I decided to have Carol buzz my head in honor of the one-year mark. I didn't go for the full shave-down because it's just too much hassle. I wanted to see my scar again and having this short, short hair feels good!

Me by Sarah
In May I made this photograph to represent the portion of my skull that was removed during my craniotomy:

It's What's on the Inside That Counts

Recently I've gotten into making time lapse videos. I'm still figuring it out, but we decided to have a little fun with my haircut:

I've recently done a little traveling for the first time in a year. In early June I gave a talk about my work to The Photo Alliance in San Francisco.

In mid-June I spent a few days in Olympia, WA attending a seminar for my day job. The Northwest is so beautiful. I could live there some day...

Towards the end of June I went to Montana to teach a workshop at the Photographer's Formulary. Sarah came along as my assistant and Carol joined us mid-week. Following the workshop we spent a long weekend with good friends Besty and Michael in Missoula. If you've not been there, Missoula is a pretty cool town!

 An Hour in the Darkroom

Carol, Me, Michael, Sarah and Betsy

Every Time I Go to Montana, I Get More Attached

Under the Big Sky

World's Best Darkroom Assistant

The View from Our Room at The Formulary

Here are few more new photographs since my last posting:

Thursday was Carol's Birthday
Happy Birthday My Love!

Ravinder and Tony
Tony can COOK!
Long Exposure from Our Deck

Long Exposure from Our Deck

Long Exposure - American River

Tomorrow Gayle turns 21. It's hard to believe because in my heart I still feel 25 (although not in my arthritic hip). Happy birthday, Gayle, and bon voyage. You make me a proud papa!

My Little Girl
 Always looking forward to what the future will bring:

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

One Year Gone

Today is exactly one year since I had this portrait made that sent me on this little adventure of the body and soul.

On one hand, it seems like much less time than that, but on the other it somehow seems to be the distant past now. The good news is that things are getting better since my last posting in February. My visits to Dr Z seem to have helped with the depression/anxiety/insomnia train. I think a big part of it was learning about these issues and how to deal with them. It's not over yet, but the frequency and intensity of the anxiety episodes has decreased. I'm also having fewer sleepless nights. Carol has been coming with me to some of my recent visits with Dr Z and I think it's been good for her (and me) to talk about how my surgery and recovery has affected her. I'm now seeing Dr Z every other week and I think soon we'll go to once a month. Also, my "Day Job" employer has granted me permission to work from home one day a week (Mondays) which helps lessen the pressure and anxiety in my life and now I look forward to Monday morning rather than dreading it. I have to say I really appreciate the support I've gotten from the people I work with, especially my direct supervisor. She's been nothing but helpful throughout this journey.

One of the real signs that I'm getting better is that I am once again making photographs with abandon. I'm getting out to shoot at every opportunity and making lots of new work. A few days ago I made this self portrait at Bridal Veil Falls located on Highway 50 on the way to Tahoe. I have photographed this waterfall many times over the years, but this was the first time with me in it. It's a time exposure of about a minute, during which I stood there for about half the time which made me blend in with the water quite nicely.

Click on the picture so you can see a bigger version of it. The shirt says "I Can Stand My Own Ground"; lyrics from a song by one of my favorite bands, Rise Against. This seems like an appropriate message of late as I am now finally feeling pretty good most of the time and back doing the things I love to do. At this point, I don't think I can ask for much more than that.

In a couple of weeks I will be teaching a workshop here in Placerville, then in June I'll be heading to Montana to teach for a week at The Photographer's Formulary. I'm finally looking forward to traveling again, after doing all I could to avoid it for a while. All signs that things are looking up. Life is mostly back to what I'd call "normal". In fact, I'm wondering if I should keep up this blog in the future. Perhaps it has run it's course. Let me know what you think. Maybe I'll morph it back into what it was originally intended - an outlet for my creative life. With that in mind, here are some more new photographs taken over the last couple of months:

Raley's Parking Lot

Pacific House, CA

Apple Hill

Rancho Seco

High Water in Sacramento

High Water in Sacramento

Tells Creek


Sly Park Lake

In March I was lucky enough to have four of my best friends on the planet come to California for a long weekend of photography and mayhem in Yosemite.

Bill Schwab, Ike Eisenlord, Me, Clay Harmon and Matt Magruder
These guys are all fantastic photographers and just a hoot to hang out with. Sarah has dubbed us the Nerd Herd and we wear it with pride. I am lucky to have each of these guys in my life. Man, did we have a good time! And the weather was great. There's nothing like Yosemite with snow on the ground. There was enough rain and mist to make the photography great, but not enough to make photographing miserable.

Gates of the Valley

El Capitan

Merced River
Cliffs I Can't Remember the Name Of
Bridalveil Falls
The Ride Home - Highway 49
So I guess that's it for now and maybe this will be the pattern for the future. More pictures and less words. Thanks again for following along and all the good thoughts and vibes along the way. I've said this many times before, but it helps more than I can explain.

I am still a lucky man.

Another Great Sunset from Our Deck
Carol's Tulips in the Front Yard

Monday, February 7, 2011


"Sign sign everywhere a sign
Blocking out the scenery breaking my mind
Do this, don't do that, can't you read the sign"

- Five Man Electrical Band

Funny how time flies and drags at the same time. Two and a half months have already gone by since my last blog post, yet the road to healing seems to drag on.  January 9 was the six month anniversary of my surgery, or when the air hit my brain. It seems like only yesterday I was having staples removed from my scalp. In December I read this amazing book:

It's written by a neurosurgeon and it describes the process of becoming a brain cutter and his experiences treating a variety of patients. The title comes from something he was told by one of his mentors that "when the air hits your brain, you'll never be the same".  I'm not a big reader these days but I plowed through this book in two days. I recommend it to anyone who has been a patient or is considering going into medicine. Or anyone who likes to read a compelling and well-written book.

As for me, I'm still dealing with some anxiety/panic/depression and insomnia issues that I mentioned in my last post  in November. After meeting with my GP several weeks ago, we decided I should try some therapy so he recommended a psychologist that he likes. I had my first meeting with Dr Z January 10 and have been seeing her weekly. I am optimistic so far. I've never done any formal therapy before, so this is new ground for me. We are working on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) which "is a form of psychotherapy that emphasizes the important role of thinking in how we feel and what we do." In other words, learning techniques to deal with anxiety (and other psychological issues) through how you think rather than just tamping it down with meds. I still have Xanax on hand as a backup, but am using it only when absolutely necessary. I am also taking a low dose of Wellbutrin to help with depression. This is a drug I used successfully about five years ago with no discernible side effects. I didn't realize how the depression had been affecting me since I've been so focused on the anxiety issues. I've only been on the Wellbutrin for a couple weeks, but it seems to be moving me in the right direction. Here's a sign:

That black stuff on my fingers is silver nitrate, the tell-tale sign that I've been making photographs using my beloved wet plate collodion process. This past weekend was the first time I've had the desire to do this process that I dearly love since September. Here are a couple of the results:

Carol and Tikis
The Scary Uke Duet (Sarah and her buddy Alana)

So the fact that I wanted, née neededto do this is a good sign that at least the dark cloud of depression is beginning to lift. The anxiety comes and goes. Sometimes it is like a low-level hum of feeling on edge and anxious for no apparent reason. Sometimes it presents itself like a panic attack with chest pain and other unpleasantness (my heart is fine and I have the pictures to prove it). In psycho-babble it's not clear if I have a panic disorder or generalized anxiety disorder, but what it is is less important than learning how to deal with it.

Of course it is possible that these events are temporal lobe seizures although they are different than what I was experiencing prior to surgery. My neurologist tells me it's hard to say for sure, but the surgery may have altered but not "fixed" the problem. On the other hand, anxiety issues are very common for people who've gone through they type of surgery that I had and it can take a year or more for the brain to complete the healing process. Those little neurons and dendrites grow very slowly I'm told...

So for now, we will go on with the CBT therapy, anti-depressant medication and the occasional Xanax. If there is no perceptible improvement when I hit my one-year anniversary, we may consider going back on anti-seizure meds to see if that makes things better.

Another day at a time...

And now for your viewing pleasure, a few more recent pictures that I like: