Fear

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The truth – I have always been afraid. It is a painful feeling, fear. It sits deep in the bottom part of your stomach and hurts. But it is the energy of survival. I have always been afraid of fear and at the same time grateful for it–afraid of its pain and grateful that because of the pain I can take steps to eradicate it by overcoming that which frightens me.

One who is afraid reacts to it as any animal. If one is a rabbit, one runs into one’s hole and hides. If one is a turtle one pulls back into one’s shell. We have all known people who react to their fear in this fashion. Some call them shy. Some, wrongfully, call them cowards.

But some people react to fear as a wolf reacts. We get angry. It is easier to be angry than to be afraid. It is less painful. The frightened wolf attacks whatever frightens him. But it is fear, nevertheless.

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Fear has been given to us so that we may recognise that which endangers us in this complex world. To avoid injury of one kind or another we need to recognise the danger, whatever it may be. Fear permits us to ask ourselves: what are we afraid of and to evaluate it. It gives us an opportunity to say to ourselves, we don’t need to be afraid of this person or that situation. It is something we can handle. It gives us an opportunity to understand that the other person may be as afraid of us as we are afraid of them. It gives us a chance to deal with our fear.

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Fear is also the stuff of courage. We cannot be brave without fear. One who faces unreasonable danger is not courageous unless that person has first felt fear and overcome it. He is only foolish. I know of no persons who are brave who are not first afraid. So, at last, fear is our friend. Listen to it. It speaks loudly to us. It is not to be ignored. It is to be cherished as our protective partner.

In the end, fear is a gift.

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http://www.berndkugow.photos/

In The Quiet Of The Crowd

QP3It occurs to me that these days one must go farther and farther to escape the crowds. I witnessed how larger and larger numbers of people are travelling and places are getting more and more crowded. In part this is driven by the internet and social media. It is easier to publicise a place and we are drawn like moths to a flame to the places that sites such as Instagram subtly tell us are the “it” places that one must visit in their life. Look at Iceland, look at New Zealand, sure. But even on a smaller, more local scale I see beaches and trails becoming more packed. I don’t know what I think of this. On one hand I find it repellent and annoying to navigate crowds of people when my goal is to get somewhere away from people. On the other hand, I can hardly fault these people for wanting to get out into beautiful places. They are doing the same thing I am doing and I can no more fault them than I can, or should, myself. But at the same time the increasing numbers present issues. The more individuals through an area the more wear on that area, the more litter, the more people climbing through alpine meadows off-trail, or scaling sea stacks at the beach disturbing the natural bird life. We slowly erode that which we love.

siena3On a photographic level the unwanted wanderer has long been a bane to the photographer wanting to get “the shot”. I remember struggling with this in my early days, waiting patiently and sometimes not so patiently, for that man in the red raincoat to get along his merry way and out of the frame I have been composing for the past ten minutes. But that was then. These days I rarely experience the issue and in large part that is because of the world of photography that long exposure and pinhole has opened up to me. When you are making 10 second, or eight minute exposures, crowds not present much less an issue but actually they create an opportunity. So many times the essence of a particular landscape image to me is based on the unpredictable blur of people moving within the frame. Now my struggles laughably tend toward the opposite end of the spectrum. I set up to make a long exposure of people within a landscape and I get a minute into a four minute exposure and they get up and leave the frame, barely registering as ghosts at that point. I want to run in and tell them to not get out of my way.

QP1The photographic aspect of this issue is a fun one to wrestle with, the non-photographic aspects of growing crowds though has me a little concerned at times.

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http://www.berndkugow.photos/

A Dream Within A Dream

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I am plagued by sleeplessness, and usually drift off sometime between midnight and 1 am. Lucky for me, my body is used to this by now and I woke as usual at about 6. None of this is terribly important info, it is just providing a bit of context for I awoke from a dream; and dreams that get interrupted by waking always seem to stick with me a bit more clearly. Generally I have weird dreams that make me look dubiously at myself when I actually remember them. This morning’s dreams weren’t so weird. I was having a dream about being in a conversation with someone regarding why I use film. I know, I know, maybe I think about film photography so much that it permeates my dreams. But it was actually kind of refreshing to awake with a whole series of explanations laid out in mind. Or at least it was refreshing that that was what I woke to. There are many worse things for one to wake up thinking about right now.

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I have answered this in a lot of different ways. I generally preface it by saying it is a longer, more complex answer than people might be expecting. Perhaps they would be better off continuing the conversation in a dream. Ha. But it is something I think about and I am constantly trying to refine my answer to adequately convey. I witness friends and strangers alike making countless photos with their phone. Instantly created, instantly posted, and instantly forgotten. I do not own a phone camera, and I cannot feel any emotional connection to a phone itself. If I did I think I would be repelled by the notion.

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But let me explain some of the reasons I generally hold or give out. The first is that I love the cameras. My Hasselblad, my Nikon, my Leica, my pinholes, my Rolleiflex. I seem to create much more of a connection with these pieces of machinery than I do with any of my digital equipment. But my Rolleiflex is something else. I often introduce the camera as being the same age as I am (it was made in 1961) and it will live just as long as I will, if not even perhaps longer. Knowing it won’t be made obsolete by new technology (it has already faced that distinction) and replaced in a few short years helps. But it is more than this. I like the mechanical nature of my film cameras. I like that they don’t have a library of menus that present a solution to every problem I might face. I like that they don’t show me immediately whether my guesses and calculations were right or wrong. Nah, they are true companions, they listen to me, they share my vision, they chip in with their perspectives but it is an easy-going partnership. It is hard to explain, really. I think using a film camera like a pinhole or a Hasselblad or a Leica is something you cannot really understand till you have tried it. There are tactile qualities that just cannot be expressed. There is a change in perspective that escapes a verbal or written explanation.

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And speaking of tactile, I really value producing tangible results. Negatives I can hold in my hand. True, I scan all my photographs into a digital format, but I always keep the file of negatives. If you told me that a member of my family might someday show their grandchildren the pages of negatives that these images reside on, I wouldn’t be all that surprised. But if you told me that one day they would show them the digital file of this image, I would be surprised. Is it honestly reasonable to expect the generations that come after to maintain the digital archive I have created of my generation? How long will my hard drives last? And unless someone takes care to transfer them to new media they’re lost. And what happens when that person no longer cares to? And that is not counting the chances of computer failure. I don’t place much stock in the permanence of digital media, especially given the habits of the average photographer when it comes to backing up and printing their work, me included. And so my film is my best hope for future children to see the life I lived and the images of the world and their ancestors. I put a lot of stock in this. There is a reassuring quality to being able to hold a negative up to light and see the image frozen there in your hands.

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And if I were to limit this to just three reasons, you know what the third would be? The cost. I use film because it costs me money. Some claim that digital is great because the photos are free (after you buy the camera, those lenses, a computer and an Adobe CC license, of course), that you can make as many photos as you want with no charge. And this is an advantage in its way, but so is the cost of film. I load up my Rolleiflex and each shot costs me somewhere between 50p and £1. The photos aren’t free at all but because they have a cost, I assign them more value. When something costs you, you care about it more as a resource. I think about each of those potential images a bit harder and more carefully. I make the shots count. And it makes me a better photographer for it. Sure, I move slower. I make fewer photos. I am more deliberate and disciplined. These are not bad things. I can take my DSLR and easily make 400 images, but how much do I value each of those images? Not much. The majority of them are disposable and when I am making them I treat them that way. I don’t really care about 95% of those photos. And as I said, there are times that they are advantageous. But when I carry my film camera I care about each photo I make much more. So using film teaches me to care about each image.

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There are other reasons, but those I think are the big ones. I could talk about the aesthetics of film, particularly black and white film. I could talk about dynamic range. I could talk about the delayed gratification of it. These would all be good topics to discuss further. One thing I don’t think you will ever hear me talk about interestingly enough is quality. I don’t go down that long and murky path despite using medium format film. For me it is still too contentious an issue and one that too many spend too much time arguing about, does film make a better image than digital? As if it is all about sharpness, pixels and detail. It just isn’t that important to me.

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So I am trying to use the computer and social media less, and just focus on real life and the people I love and my art. Of course I am not going to be fully off the grid, because as you can see I am publishing this post. At times my head feels like it is exploding with the amount of information we are forced to consume on a daily basis and how that information is so distorted there is almost no longer any tangible truth. I feel there is this blanket distortion on society/media and the way we gather our news and important information, and more and more of us are feeling lost and looking for new ways out of this distortion and back to the truth. Finding hope in places like the Forests or beneath the big Sky, finding hope in the land and in the water and in old books offering new ideas and most importantly in each other and love. And using good old fashioned film to capture this beautiful world of ours.

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Well there you go, a glimpse into my head this morning from my first few moments of consciousness.

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http://www.berndkugow.photos/

Winters Tail

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Having made it through the frigid gift from Siberia, endured the added joy of deep snow, I decided to visit the local reservoir on the first day caressed by sunbeams.

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I felt that I had neglected my pinhole cameras and this was the perfect opportunity to blow away some hibernation dust motes. Also it turned into a chance to try a new Rollei film (80S) for the first time. The snow melted as I made my images, but I just stood long enough on the tail end of winter to capture some.

They say spring is just around the corner. They have been known to be wrong………….

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http://www.berndkugow.photos/

Erosion

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I am fascinated by long-term, human inspired erosion, both of natural landscapes and urban cityscapes.

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I can be staring at the grooves worn in stone or far up a moor looking at boot-worn and eroded footpaths and it captivates me.

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But I struggle to articulate just why this is so. I guess a lot of it is the scale, both in terms of time and numbers of people involved. It is a subtle, collective history written of a place and of a countless large group of anonymous people.

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But such scenes are also testimony to the impact and effect we have on a place. Go out for a hike, and you are leaving a trace, it just isn’t usually a trace measured in a day’s time. Given enough people and enough days and a trail is blazed, the trail widens, tree roots get exposed, plant life is trampled into dust, erosion patterns change.

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I wrestle balancing both the negative and positive aspects of this behaviour. Mostly I just remember that wherever I go, wherever my feet land or my hands graze, I am making an impact.

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I am eroding, slowly, those places I love. This means I have to value that time spent there, to make that subtle cost worth it, however I can.

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http://www.berndkugow.photos/

Call It Dreaming

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Pain is on the way out

And I want to find what can’t be found

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Been up since the break of dawn

Lost my mind today

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I am at the sea and I can hear trains

Winds of change so new

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Blowin’ right through me

And pull me into the light

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One thing I appreciate about photography is how it teaches me to value even the seemingly mundane moments of the day. I pulled up into this spot at the end of a long drive, just before the sun sank below the waterline. It was casting some wonderful, long light and, I made a point to take about three minutes to stand and make a couple of photographs before I set off onto the beach.

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It only took about ten minutes to get organised, but in that ten minute span the light left. It made me thankful I had taken the few minutes to enjoy it while I had it. Light in the hand is definitely worth more than light ten minutes later. At least this time it was. This is a lesson I constantly remind myself of, to take advantage and to value the light I am in at that moment, to not pass it by or figure I can get it later because it might not be there later. Light and time are both fleeting and both finite. Making photos always helps me remember that.

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My excitement I guess comes from how I experience moments like this and this isn’t the first case where these feelings have expressed themselves.

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http://www.berndkugow.photos/

Kolnidur

Imagine somewhere out there is a planet

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Populated by intelligent beings
Who may just look like us
And on that planet there stands a library

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Full of books
Written by Poets
Philosophers and
Scientists

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And maybe

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When the hatred and greed has become so great

That nothing more can save us here

Then, maybe there, a book can be found

Once opened you will find

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The recorded downfall of our earth
You will read reports about us
About our lives
About our death

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And our two sunsets
Which were so great
That no tears could quench them

And from seven billion eyes
A mourning red rain ran

Now just a floating tomb in space

And whoever wants to witness
That the earth shall never weep again

Needs to be united against war, greed, poverty, inequality, education inflation and nuclear madness

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And whoever cares will play their part in
That this book is never read

For seven billion eyes

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Will cherish our blue planet, our only home without fear for love, light and peace.

http://www.berndkugow.photos/