Every Picture Tells A Story

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The Story is in the Eye of the Beholder

 

Photo by the author, ©2019 Karen Fayeth

My photography teacher and mentor holds regular photo review sessions where we, her students, come together to show our photos and receive feedback from the group.

The rules are that we show our photo but stay silent. The photographer says nothing while the audience to reviews it, forms their opinions, and then provides feedback. Once feedback begins we are allowed to answer questions but the preference is to stick to the aspects of the photo and not stray too far into the backstory of why, what, or how.

Our teacher learned this from her own mentor, the legendary Al Weber. It was how he worked sessions with his students.

There are plenty of juicy quotes out there in the world about how a photo should tell the story without further explanation. How the photographer should say what they want to say visually and refrain from adding more explanation.

I understand that view and don’t entirely disagree. In a different photoclub meeting a few years back, I had quite a spirited debate with a fellow photographer who insisted that the technical aspects of the photo were all that mattered and “telling a story” was unimportant.

I insisted that a photo that doesn’t tell a story is boring. We agreed to disagree.

His technically superior landscapes remain astounding in their quality and dull in aesthetics. My photos have something to say, but are technically imperfect. Both of our photography styles are relevant and fine. The artist makes their art as they see fit.

You see, I’m an unapologetic logophile — a lover of words. I’m a storyteller from birth and when I look at photos, I like to hear what the photographer has to say about how and why they took the photo and what it means to them. I find sitting in silence a challenge when I’m so creatively inspired by my peers.

Also, the story a viewer gets from my photo may not be the story I was trying to tell. I know, I know, that’s fine. Everyone sees art in their own way, through their own filters, and that is valid. Of course.

But sometimes, like the photo in the header of this story, I want the viewer to know more. I want you to feel what I felt when I took the photo. I want it to resonate on a deeper level.

So now that you’ve seen the header photo, I’m going to tell you the story.

t was the first week of this past December and I was traveling home to California from Tennessee. My itinerary said that I would fly on a small commuter plane from Knoxville to Denver, and then from Denver to San Francisco.

Riding on the very small commuter plane gave me no small amount of pause, in fact I wrote about it here:

My Fear of Flying

Before heading to the airport, I’d checked the weather in Denver and the news was not good. Snow. Lots of snow. Here I am flying on a very small plane right into the heart of a winter storm. Due to land in Denver around 6:45pm, it would be when the storm was expected to be the worst.

I was, to put it in crystal clear terms: Freaked Out.

Snow, small plane, winter, ice, terror, tired, just want to get home, will I even make it home tonight, I don’t want to die, pleaseohpleaseohplease… Like that, swirling around in my head. (Isn’t anxiety just so helpful?)

That header photo, the one with the beautiful sunset, was taken over eastern Colorado. Above the clouds was the most magnificent view of the sunset from the plane’s large window. The roiling storm clouds gave a great foreground. The contrast of blue and orange are a perfection of complimentary colors that only Mother Nature knows how to create.

Now, let’s be honest with each other: There are a lot of beautiful photographs of sunsets out there in the world. Plenty of astounding locations, views, and colors. My photo is surprisingly clear and well-focused for having been taken through a plane window. I used a Sony Cybershot as it was the best camera I had on me at the time.

I look at that photo and I love the brilliant colors, that I managed to mostly (but not precisely) center the sun, and the clouds make it very moody. But when I see that photo, what I feel is fear.

The dark and foreboding clouds below that gorgeous Colorado sunset were a metaphor for everything I was feeling when the shutter clicked. This photo was taken at the edge of the storm, you can see the ground on the right lower side. We had not yet begun to find the center of that winter storm when this photo was taken. It still lay ahead.

I should probably title the photo “Yearning for the Runway” because as I both watched and photographed that sunset, I kept visualizing over and over in my mind a smooth landing, pleading to the universe for safety.

Turns out by the time we got to Denver there had been a break in the storm and the runways were clean, dry and perfect. We landed pretty much as I had visualized. The snow was projected to start again soon, so after a little deicing, we took off late but made it home to SFO on time and intact.

I don’t know if telling my story makes you see the photo any differently. Maybe what you see when you read the story of that photo is different from mine.

I like knowing that my photo is more than just a lovely sunset, it’s my reminder that life is both precarious and precious.

And small planes are safer than I think.

Just wait until I tell you about my photo of a deceased ladybug.

This item first appeared on Medium, find more of my work @karenfayeth over there.


 

My Fear of Flying

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It never goes away, it can only be managed


Photo by Lucas Ludwig on Unsplash

“I love to travel, I just don’t like what it takes to get there.” — Me, before every trip

Last week I was delighted to pack by bags and head out on a business trip on behalf of my employer. My job gives me the opportunity to travel once or twice a year and I am happy to get out of the office and on the road. I really do love to travel. Anywhere. Large, small, domestic, international, if there is travel to be done, I’m in.

Over my life I have traveled a lot, not the “gold status for a lifetime” kind of amount, more like 3–4 trips a year, sometimes more. I’ve seen quite a few countries, with a whole lot more to go.

My first plane ride was at seven years old. My mom, sister and I traveled to Oregon to visit my mom’s family. We flew to Salt Lake City, changed planes, then on to Portland. I remember the excitement, the thrill of the ride, the joy at seeing how lush and green Oregon was in comparison to Albuquerque.

I love seeing places I have never seen before, just as much as I love going back to a place I know and remembering all the things I like about it.

One thing that hasn’t changed over a lifetime of traveling: I’m moderately terrified of airplanes. Okay, to be fair, I am not a nervous flyer gripping the armrest like a life raft, but I do have trepidation every time I board a plane.

I’m usually cool as a cucumber getting to and through the airport, but once boarding is called and I am on the jetway, the reality of what I am about to do takes hold. To cope, I have to run through a well-practiced serious of thoughts to calm myself down enough so I don’t turn around and sprint back off the plane.

What I am saying is most of the time I do just fine. I’ve gotten used to your average passenger plane, three seats on each side, air safety is pretty good, all of that. But it’s still a hard thing for me to give up all control of my fate, pack my ample curves into an narrow and uncomfortable seat, accept being sealed inside a tin can, and allow one human being to pilot me and my fellow passengers high into the air.

Every once in a while, my travels throw me a curveball. A few years ago I was beyond excited to be asked to travel to Porto, Portugal. I think I said yes so fast I broke the time-space continuum and said yes before my boss even asked the question.

However, when the day of travel arrived what I found waiting at the airport gate was the largest passenger plane I had ever seen in my life. I actually started laughing out loud. “I am not getting on that thing,” I said to nobody but myself.

A plane so large it needed a special gate at the airport to load. Called an Airbus A380–800, it’s occasionally referred to as a whale. This plane has two floors. It has an actual staircase inside. I mean, come on now.

Airbus A380 on MAKS 2011. Image from Wikipedia and used under a CC BY-SA 3.0 license.

 

I had to sit down and really, really ask myself if I was going to willingly get on that plane and ride for the eleven hours needed to get to Frankfurt. On the logical side of my brain, I reminded myself of watching loaded C-130s take off from a nearby military airfield, so I knew this plane was possible. The dimensions of the thing were just more than my brain could take.

Well, this past week, I had the opposite problem. After flying from San Francisco to Houston, I was to board a small regional plane that would get me over to Knoxville. I have flown very small planes before, including one bumpy ride on a terribly noisy turboprop, but for some reason I was not prepared for the plane that awaited me at the gate.

An Embraer Air ERJ-145, new, shiny, sleek, and terrifying. I texted my husband this photo with the caption “aw, shit.”

Photo by the author, ©2019 Karen Fayeth

I knew I was going to be flying a small plane to Knoxville, I’d even made a joke a few weeks back about “Flying on a La Bamba plane.” When faced with the reality of the situation, the joke just wasn’t funny anymore.

When the glass door opened and I stepped out onto the tarmac, I began to run through my usual mental roll call of thoughts: “You are going to be fine, you don’t have to get on this plane if you don’t want to, these are professionals who do this every day, planes are very safe, you are safe, but you have choices.” And so on like that.

I locked up pretty good, but given my stubborn nature, I refused to let myself balk. I gamely walked up the ramp, got my stuff stowed, and crammed into the seat. I texted my husband, “I’m in my seat. I think I’m now wearing this airplane,” as it certainly felt snug about the hips.

This plane has two seats on one side and one seat on the other but is fairly comfortable. I was lucky to be on the one seat side, enjoying both a window and the aisle.

Once the doors were shut, I immersed myself in my book and did my best not to think too much about it.

If my trip to Frankfurt was riding a whale, to Knoxville I rode a sardine, and in both instances got there safely, on time, and no worse for the wear.

Look, fears and anxieties aren’t always rational, that’s kind of the point. I know flying is very safe, but my mind still has an awful lot of questions about the wisdom of being 30,000 feet above the surface of sweet, sweet Mother Earth.

One upside? The Sardine had nice big windows, all the better to capture a Tennessee sunset above the clouds.


Photo by the author, ©2019 Karen Fayeth

Just Plug The Number, It’ll Be Okay

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A leap day is observed because a complete revolution around the Sun takes slightly longer than 365 days. It compensates for this lag, realigning the calendar with the Earth’s position in the solar system; otherwise, seasons would occur in a different time than intended in the calendar year. — Wikipedia





On my way into work today, I was listening to whatever morning radio station was not running commercials and landed on a crew of three djs discussing facts and trivia about today, February 29th. Better known as Leap Day.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, we all know the deal. The Gregorian calendar is nice and all, but doesn’t *quite* work. Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, as the saying goes. And, apparently, calendars.

While I have a degree in finance, I am not a finance person. Humorously, the work I do is slotted under the Finance organization, so I can confidently say that in the parlance of the Finance industry, Leap Day is better known as a fudge factor. A plugged number. A “what do you want the numbers to say?” kind of adjustment.

Let’s just call it a rounding error.

I work in contracts and we have something similar. It’s what one of my first and favorite bosses called “weasel words.” This is where the person on the other end of the contract (usually a lawyer) is being petulant and you can’t quite give them the language they want. Instead you can appease them with something in the vicinity of what they want. Words like “reasonably attempt” and “in accordance with best practices.” Leap words, if you will.

Not to digress, but baseball has something similar. Called a “neighborhood play” it roughly means that the second baseman doesn’t have to actually touch the base or runner to get the out as long as they are near to the base and in control of the ball.

Second basemen tend to stay a bit off the bag because lead runners like to come barreling in trying to disrupt a potential double play. The topic of the neighborhood play came to a head during the playoffs last year as a player got seriously injured.

So in this Leap Year, baseball looks to be changing up the rules. Which will likely make for a lot more leaping shortstops trying to stay off the DL.

In the spirit of both Leap Day and my favorite sport of baseball, I present to you my favorite Giants shortstop of all time, Omar Vizquel, doing what he did best.

Happy Leap Day!






Leaping Omar image found here.





The Day I Rode In The Belly Of A Whale

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Or: Tales From The Upper Deck

When word came down at work that I had approval to travel to Porto, Portugal to participate in meetings with key folks from around the world, things began to follow a usual path.

Since the place I work for gets a lot of Federal funding, we’re bound to abide by the Fly American Act, i.e. when on Federal business, fly US carriers.

No problem. I’m used to shoving my cookies onto a United Airlines jet and riding around the world, so per the norm I picked out my United flight pairs and the admin booked them. I was all set.

Because I am a little weenie and need more leg room, I like to pay out of pocket to upgrade my government bought United economy seats to United Plus economy seats.

My employer doesn’t pay for business or first class and I don’t fly enough to rack up the miles to get me there, so I ride in the back half of the plane. Economy plus at least gives my long legs a little room. A little less sardine-like.

However, when I logged into my United account and tried to upgrade my seats, I was told I could not. That I would have to wait until the day before the flight to pick out seats. What?

It took a little work but I figured out the deal. Three of my four flights on this trek would not be on United planes but a codeshare on Lufthansa.

Well hell, I’d never flown Lufthansa before so this was an adventure.

Doing some research on the Lufthansa site, I also figured out that my plane for the San Francisco to Frankfurt leg of the trip would be on an Airbus A380-800 airplane. A gigantic double decker of a holy-crap-that’s-huge airplane.

In fact, it’s the largest passenger plane flying today.

Looking up the specs of this plane online, I found people affectionately call it “the whale,” and it’s no wonder. The configuration I rode seats about 500 people.

When I was finally able to select my seats, I found that the second floor of the airplane (this airplane has two floors!!) was mostly first and business class, but the back of the upper deck had a small grouping of seven rows of economy seats. So yeah, I scooped up an aisle seat upstairs right away.

On the day I arrived at SFO, I let out an audible “wuh-huh-hoooooo” when I saw the airplane sitting at the gate. Then I became filled with anxiety. “How will that ever fly?” said my worried mind.

I wondered if my brain had anything I could compare this to. Many years ago I worked for a Lockheed Martin site that was right next to a military airstrip. Every once in a while the military would practice “touch and goes” with various planes and pilots. We’d drag our desk chairs outside and watch the show.

What I’m trying to say is, I’ve seen a fully loaded C-130 execute a touch and go, so yeah, I realized that the A380 could certainly fly. And I was going to get on it.

As I walked down the jetway to the plane, my heart began trip hammering. I always have a moment of pause before boarding any plane but this was different.

I stepped through the nice wide doorway and saw a beautiful gleaming white staircase front and center. “Ah, that must be how I get up there,” I thought.

The oversmiling male flight attendant looked at my ticket and informed me that I needed to go all the way to the back of the plane and find a staircase there.

In other words, your economy-seat riding ass don’t climb these stairs, honey.

Fair enough. I set off on my journey to the back of the plane. I stopped rest once or twice. I had snacks to keep my energy up. I may have camped out overnight. Jesus, that’s a big airplane.

Finally I reached the end of the plane and scurried up the stairs, then slid into my seat.

It was still an economy class seat so it fit tight around the hips. I got snug like a bug in there as the plane began to push back from the gate.

The Lufthansa A380 features three live cameras, one on the nose pointing forward, one on the tail also pointing forward, and one on the belly looking straight down.

Here is a terrible quality image. It’s a photo taken with an iPad of my screen on the plane as we are somewhere over the Labrador Sea. It’s enough that you can see what the view from the tail camera looks like:




I wanted to stick my hand out the window and wave to the camera, but that’s mostly frowned upon


It was mildly surreal to watch this behemoth take off from a bird’s eye view but I was fascinated.

Once aloft, I began to realize why non-US carriers rock the casbah. It’s one word: alcohol. The wine flows freely on non-US airplanes. I had flown a Singapore Airlines plane a few years ago and was gently surprised at the wine served with meals. The Germans have the Singaporeans beat. Wine with snacks, wine with dinner, brandy and irish crème after dinner.

All of this is a plot, however. They ply you with food and booze then turn down the cabin lights. Pretty much everyone falls asleep right away. Except me, I have a flaw in my DNA. I can’t sleep on a plane. Not even a long haul. Nope.

The Good Man shares this flaw and it’s good when we travel together because we entertain each other like little kids while everyone else sleeps. Sadly on this trip I was alone.

The flight attendant overseeing our little cozy area of economy class seats was a rockstar. He noticed I was the only one awake and didn’t let up on the top-notch service. He checked in on me constantly and brought water, juice, snacks and some cookies that seemed way too delicious for economy class.

Even though I was packed into an economy seat I felt spoiled like a little princess up there, inside the white whale.

When she touched down in Frankfurt I was reluctant to leave my cozy little seat and my white glove service. It was a gentle landing as the plane beast docked next to its siblings.

That was one of the most comfortable and happy international flights I have ever known and I am sure I will reflect back on it for years. It has become the high water mark by which all other flights will be measured.

Sadly, when going home from this journey, the Frankfurt to San Francisco leg will be on a plain old United jet, a Boeing 747-400. That plane also has a second deck, but only the pish-posh get to sit up there.

I’ll be seated among the cattle, in an economy plus seat but still among the unwashed. No first class cookies for Karen on the way home.

I think I’ll write a nice letter to Lufthansa to tell them how much I appreciated the flight attendant. As I have learned in my short time in Portugal, I will extend a hearty obrigada (i.e. thank you or much obliged) for his attention and job well done.

And I will wistfully dream of my time inside the whale, a modern day Jonah high above the bustling world.




Thar she blows!






With a nod and a smile to Johnny Jet for the photo and for his awesome blog post about the Lufthansa A380. Read it here.





Bottoms Up!

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Oh me oh my oh. Sometimes I really have to step back and just wonder what in the hell is wrong with me.

I try to be a normal person, I really do. I try to keep the weird under wraps and show a normal, professional, got-it-together face to the world.

But I ain’t got nothing together. It’s all just a shuck and a jive.

On Friday, I managed to embarrass myself pretty good.

See, I’ve been feeling a little bit on edge about the new job. I really, really like the job and my manager and the people I work with and perhaps I’ve become almost too emotionally attached to this place.

It’s an awesome gig! With how crazy busy things have been recently, I have made a few mistakes. One medium sized, one a great big whopper. Wheew. I do hate making mistakes on a grand scale.

I’m used to making mistakes. I always say, “It’s not whether or not you make a mistake, it’s how you get back out of the mistake that matters.” And it’s true.

Trouble is, I not only made these mistakes, but being so new I don’t even know how to back out gracefully. So I’ve been flailing at it.

Flailing. Never a good look.

I suppose I am actually grateful that I got sick recently because it took me out of the game for several days. That flu laid me down not-so-gently and gave me respite. And perspective.

Coming back to work I felt humbled and ready to step back in and be more calm and methodical about how I approach my work.

Then there was Friday. For reasons I can’t fully explain, I was totally out of sorts on Friday. Quaveringly low self-esteem, a bit of anxiety, and just all around trying and failing to keep it together.

At lunch I decided to head outside. My sister and I had been chatting about this fabulous under eye serum she found and I was off to Sephora to procure some of my very own. I thought it would be a nice bounce to my self esteem.

I got up from my desk and felt pretty ok. Threw my shoulders back and was doing my best “fake it until you make it” strut.

I went out the front door of the building and saw four coworkers (one of them an employee on my team), I smiled and said, “hey, that looks like trouble” and threw my head back and laughed just about the time the toe of my sandal caught the uneven concrete.

Then I went ass over teakettle. Right there. In front of a crowded foyer, lots of people outside, and four of my coworkers.

Oh, and everyone gasped and many people came running over. “Are you all right? Are you ok? Here I’ll help you up” was like a loud chorus swarming around my head.

Now, here’s the thing: I fall down all the time. My whole life. It’s just something I do.

Usually falling down happens in one of two scenarios. 1) I am feeling pretty overwhelmed and “out of it” or 2) I am feeling overconfident.

Well, Friday’s tumble definitely falls into category one. Overwhelmed. I tend to lose track of my feet and the results were incredibly humiliating.

Since I fall down so much, when I roll to a stop and quickly assess my limbs, and I realize I’m fine (and since I’m so well practiced at this I’m almost always fine) I start to laugh. C’mon! Falling down is funny!

But I think my sitting there on the ground cackling at myself makes people really nervous. I guess I’m supposed to be upset and crying when I fall. Hell, I’m not giving anyone that satisfaction! I’m going to laugh because falling is totally funny! Even my own tumbles are pretty dang hilarious.

Anyhow, I waved off all the hands reaching out to pull me up and repeated like a mantra, “I’m fine, I’m fine, no I’m not hurt, I’m fine.”

I got to my feet and walked away, intent on going to my car and still having my fun lunchtime shopping break, despite the dirt and gravel stuck to my backside.

Then I walked past a picnic table out by the parking garage, near to where all the fuss had happened.

Two young women sat at the table. As I walked by, one said to the other, “It’s because she’s so fat.”

Ouch. That’s not funny. That’s not ooops I fell down but I’m fine rocking good time Karen. That’s just mean.

So I walked away from them and went around the corner and I called The Good Man, because he felt like the only person in the world who might actually be on my side.

And of course, he was. So I promptly started crying. Sobbing, actually.

Thankfully he was nearby to where I work and he came over quickly whisked me away. We had lunch and he said soothing things and he took me to Sephora and I got my eye cream anyway.

Then I went back to work and I was (mostly) fine.

Because when the world is mean and gravity isn’t your friend, it’s nice to know that no matter what all those people think, The Good Man still likes me and believes I’m an all right person.

I worked for a few hours quietly in my office then I left work a little early and enjoyed my Friday late afternoon.

Today, Monday, I still feel a little sheepish. I am a manager, fer chrissakes and falling and flailing don’t inspire confidence from the troops.

Somehow I have to get my mojo back. Not sure how, just need to. And fast.

Maybe I should post an ad: LOST! One mojo. Last seen about a month ago. Really funky and fun. If found, please return to owner. Excellent karmic rewards upon return.








Image found here.