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Delaware River Sojourn 2017

Wednesday, June 28th, 2017

Nothing is quite like spending seven days on the Delaware River in the annual Delaware River Sojourn.  Being on the water in a kayak gives me a sense of peace and well being.  It brings a feeling of slow living into the ever faster pace of society today. The Sojourn brought together up to 130 people daily from young to old, creating a community of old friends and new enjoying the wonders of nature on the longest undammed River east of the Mississippi.   While experiencing the Lehigh Canal and camping three days at the National Canal Museum in Easton, Pennsylvania,  I recognized how the area is rich in history. The canals provided a way for anthracite coal to be transported, helping  the industrial revolution in the US to begin with iron and then steel manufacturing and the first cement plant in the country.  As I rode in the canal boat on the Lehigh Canal or sat in an operating lock, I recognized that the slow two mph speed of the mule-powered boat actually was an important part of the birth of our fast paced society today.   At the same time I enjoyed the wonders of the natural world from the power of thunderstorms to the beauty of a drop of water on a lily pad in Island Pond on the Lehigh.   Being in a natural setting with the beauty of the mountains and the clean water of the Delaware renews my spirit. As a nature photographer my mission is to bring people in touch with the beauty of the natural world where they live. Since I live in the Delaware River watershed, I  enjoy bringing the wonders of this region to others who live here.  The small selection of images below is representative of the larger selection on my website available at

http://www.andysmithphotography.com/Galleries/
Canoeing%20and%20Kayaking/
Delaware%20River%20Sojourn%202017/
Index%20sojourn%202017dw.html

 

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Reflections from a Journey Through Time in Oregon

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

Last Monday Kim and I traveled 300 miles round trip from Bend, Oregon, through the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. One of the richest and most varied deposits of fossils anywhere on earth, it is also one of the most strikingly beautiful landscapes. In the dry high desert land of East Central Oregon lie treasures of the past that hold keys to the future. While today we are concerned about the effects of human activity in changing our climate, seeing the geological record of Oregon’s past made me realize in a deeper way that the earth is indeed a living planet. It has changed dramatically in the past and will continue to change. Our present land and ocean formations are recent in geological time. The constant movement of the techtonic plates, the subduction of life forms under the plates, and volcanic activity in many forms continue to shift our environment. As shifts occur, climate changes. Fossils from bananas and avocados indicate that Oregon once was a lush tropical forest now found in places like Panama.
In the geological time frame, humans are but a brief recent episode. Like many species in the past we may also become extinct. Humans in any form have been around as a species only a couple of million years or even less, about 200,000 years, if we speak of homo sapiens, our species. By contrast dinosaurs were around about 260 million years. We are the only species that has created a culture that separates us from the natural world. We fail to recognize that we are not separate but indeed have about 100 trillion microorganisms that live within us, approximately ten times more than the number of cells in our body. Our life is not possible without these microorganisms that enable us to perform functions like digestion of food. Our lifestyle today, in a society based on fossil fuels, fails to recognize that those fossils lived millions of years ago.
The Painted Hills, our first stop, is an amazing assortment of red, yellow and white mounds from the Oligocene era between 38 and 24 million years ago. The reds represent wetter climates and the yellows drier climates. The soils were formed from volcanic ash over a period of four million years. Overlooking the painted hills is Carrol Rim which is topped by a 28.7 million year old tuff of ash flow from a vent in Eastern Oregon.
Our second stop was the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center at Sheep Rock. This is an operating laboratory for scientists working on fossils found in the area. It is also a visitor center with panoramic murals of life represented by fossils. Sheep Rock, across the road from the Center, has layers of silica rich volcanic ash with a green tint that carries fossils from 24 million years ago. It is topped by Columbia River basalt from 15 million years ago and overlooks the John Day River.
Not far from Sheep Rock, as the road follows the River, is Goose Rock, a rounded mass of lava that emptied into the ocean about 80 million years ago. Here in the river we found three River Otters, playing and feeding. We watched them and they watched us for about 45 minutes, a truly wonderful experience of communing with another species of mammal.
Next on the road was Cathedral Rock, a towering cliff of red and green ash deposits from 29 million years ago that rises above the John Day River. Nearby is the Blue Basin with colorful banded layers that are 29 million years old.

About  two hours from the Paleontology Center near the town of Clarno is the Palisades, a group of towers formed from a series of mudflows 44 million years ago.  The fossils here include an assortment of 173 species of trees, vines, shrubs and other plants found thus far as well as animals that inhabited a near-tropical forest.  Unlike most of the other sites, some of these fossils are visible on the short trail.

After a day of viewing fossils and beautiful mountains and hills formed millions of years ago, I came away with a newly awakened sense of awe and humility.   I am part of something much larger and much older, and I am not in control.  Life is a beautiful gift present wherever we look to find it. Life calls for giving back.

Overlooking the Painted Hills

Looking Up in the Painted Hills

View from the Painted Cove Trail

Carroll Rim

A Brightly Banded Hill

Sheep Rock

Goose Rock

River Otters Swimming

River Otters Looking

River Otter Eating Crawfish

Cathedral Rock

Cliffs of the Blue Basin

Hill with Ash Tuffs

The Palisades at Clarno

The Palisades at Clarno

Fossil of a Leaf

A Day on the Wading River

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

Last Saturday a group of ten from Central Baptist church in Wayne, PA, went paddling on the Wading River in the New Jersey Pine Barrens.   For some of us traveling as a group from the church, the day began with an adventure on the Schuylkill Expressway that much of the time offers little express. We had just gotten on at the Conshohocken ramp from 476 when the traffic came to a halt.  Both sides were closed because of a serious accident on the other side near Merion.    I admit I’ve never before found an opportunity to walk in the middle of this busiest highway in the Philadelphia region and talk with others parked there! After an hour and a half delay, the road opened and we continued without further delay to meet those who had traveled from other locations.

The Wading River is the second most popular River in New Jersey for paddling after the Delaware River.  A beautiful day in the middle of the summer is a time when crowds of people come for paddling and tubing.   The number of people wanting to enjoy the River that day surprised even the owner of Mick’s, where we rented and got transportation back and forth to the River.   At times the River was jammed with kayaks, canoes, and tubers.  We had to carefully wind our way through the crowds.  At other times it seemed like one of the most peaceful places in the world, particularly the last stretch after many of the other paddlers had left at an earlier takeout point.

The Wading River winds through forest for the entire length that we paddled.   Only a couple of campgrounds interrupt the peacefulness of the woods.  Generally it is a calm River but with lots of water flowing swiftly between narrow banks and many fallen trees and branches, it does have obstacles. These occasionally are not easily seen because the water is a murky, reddish brown from the many pines and cedars.  One of these buried branches caught  Laura by surprise and flipped her kayak.  She continued on for a while but realized the boat was taking in water.   The rest of group waited a short way downstream and  finally found someone with a cell phone.  None of us except Laura had brought ours on the River. When we called we found out that Mick’s was sending out a double kayak and would tow her boat to our takeout.  Even on gently flowing streams like the Wading, the River is always in charge.

The Group from CBC on the Wading River

Tom is happy to be on the Wading River

Joe and Patty and Laura with some of the rest of the crowd on the River

 Laura on the Wading River

Joe and Patty enjoying the day

heading downstream

Typical scenery on the Wading River

Gordon enjoys the River

Neal on the Wading River

 Rick on the River

 Pines on the Wading River in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey

 Kim enjoys a moment of solitude

 Brenda relaxes on the lunch break

 in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey

Pines on the Wading River in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey

 It was a beautiful day

The Creative Process

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

What is the creative process?  This is a question I ask myself regularly.  Where do I get my ideas?  How do I carry out those ideas?  What is my mission as an artist?   For me these question are intertwined but the ultimate source is the natural world.   I want to help people see nature in a different way, to recognize the beauty that surrounds and have respect and appreciation for the wonders of the sacred place where we find ourselves. 

We have built a society that is fundamentally out of touch with the way the universe operates.   Therefore we find ourselves in a world where species disappear every day, where the ice in polar caps is melting, where most rivers and streams carry poisons from our waste, and where we continue to move forward in ways that are blind to the consequences of our actions.  I am looking for a transformation in our attitudes, a mindfulness of what and who are around us,  a turning around from taking interest only in ourselves, material possessions and money to caring relationships with one another and our surroundings.

The creative process is all about getting outside the common place in a way that allows us to look at the commonplace in a different way, one that transforms us.   When the first astronauts looked back at the earth, they saw a unified sphere floating in space.   It changed their lives in a fundamental way.   They saw a living whole, an earth without national borders that divide us. My work as an artist, a fine art photographer, is dedicated to changing the way we see things.    I use digital cameras and lenses  to acquire images that I transform into paintings with light through my computer and digital printer.   These are my brushes and palettes.  The equipment that I use is only an important tool to help in the process.  The final piece is one that I hope evokes new insight  and new responses to what is being seen.

These ideas are not new but they are revolutionary.  Below are three voices from the past that echo various aspects of my ideas.

“Beauty will save the world.” Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Idiot

“A human being is part of the whole called by us ‘the universe,’ a part limited in time and space.  We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings, as separate from the rest–a kind of optical illusion of our consciousness.  This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and affections for a few persons nearest to us.  Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of understanding and compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of  Nature in its beauty.” Albert Einstein

“In the electronic age, I am sure that scanning techniques will be developed to achieve prints of extraordinary subtlety from the original negative scores.  If I could return in twenty years or so I would hope to see astounding interpretations of my most expressive images.  It is true no one could print my negatives as I did, but they might well get more out of them by electronic means. Image quality is not the product of a machine but of the person who directs the machine, and there are no limits to imagination and expression.”  Ansel Adams, An Autobiography, 1985

 

Moon in Total Eclipse

 



Hello World

Monday, July 26th, 2010

Hello World .  After some difficulty in setting up this site I’m now beginning my first blog.   This week is one of preparing my syllabus for Cornerstones of Sustainability which I begin teaching at Penn State Great Valley Sept. 1.    I’m also preparing to go on the Rising Nation River Journey on the Delaware River with the Lenape Nation on Sat. July 31.  Stay tuned for updates.