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Tuesday, July 23, 2013


On being part of the natural cycles we watch as photographers

Labels: How-ToColumnBasic Jones

Dewitt Jones auto-bracketed the shot of the Bathtub in Molokai, but didn't like the blend on the water in HDR. He found he could get all the detail he wanted just by tweaking the properly exposed frame in Adobe Camera Raw.

Stars were still hanging in the dark sky as I pulled my gear from the back of the car and headed off toward the edge of the sea. Dawn at Mo'omomi Beach on Molokai is one of the great wonders of the world, and I didn't want to be late. As I worked my way across the slabs of sandstone toward one of my favorite viewing spots, I realized that something was amiss. The water just wasn't where it was supposed to be. Even in the near darkness, it was clear that this morning the sun would dawn on a super-low tide. "I'm taking a chance on the Bathtub," I murmured to myself.

The Bathtub is a large blowhole at the far end of a rock ledge jutting far out to sea. At normal or high tide, one is taking his life in his hands to venture to its edge.

On this particular morning, however, both the wind and the waves were calm. So, keeping an eye on what waves there were, I worked my way slowly out to the blowhole and set up my tripod. Then I just stopped and stared.

The water coming into the Bathtub was a mixture of turquoise and froth. It joyously filled up the rock cavern and flowed out over the ledge and over my feet. Then, gently, it retreated, only to repeat the process with each incoming wave.

I thought about all the natural cycles I had witnessed while photographing—the seasons, the rising and setting of the sun, the tides. How many thousands of times had I watched them? Like watching the smooth muscle of the planet—the things our little orb can't help but do. Like watching the earth breathe.

Well, the in-breath here at the Bathtub was breathtaking. Certainly, it was visually stunning, but there was an energy that made it even more beautiful. My heart quickened every time the tub filled. No, every time it overflowed. That was what was so powerful—watching something overflow. Something that had been filling up from the inside.

How powerful that is, wherever we see it, filling up from the inside and overflowing.

A couple of weeks after my experience at the Bathtub, I went to the Ka Hula Piko Festival. There were some very good dancers, but none who transcended the notes and the gestures. None, in short, who became the hula when they danced. I actually drove back to my house to grab lunch and probably wouldn't have returned if something hadn't been pulling me, maybe like the Bathtub had pulled me out on that shelf in the predawn light.


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