Posts Tagged ‘National Geographic’


In the morning they return
With tears in their eyes
The stench of death drifts up to the skies
A soldier so ill looks at the sky pilot
Remembers the words
“Thou shalt not kill.”
Sky pilot,
Sky pilot,
How high can you fly?
You’ll never, never, never reach the sky.

–Sky Pilot, Eric Burdon and the Animals


I watched a National Geographic documentary this past week, Heroes of the Sky: The Mighty Eighth Air Force, about that unit’s service during WW II. While it is a story that has been well documented and one with which I was familiar, it was well done and served as a reminder of the horror of war and the great loss it inflicts on those who serve and sacrifice. Fitting stuff for a Memorial Day weekend.

The 8th was based in England during the war and was the group responsible for the many US missions into continental Europe, including raids into Germany. Early on, when they first began sending raids into France and then Germany, their bombers were escorted by British fighter planes until their own planes, the P-47’s, were ready for service. However, the P-47’s had a major liability, a limited range. This meant that they could only escort the bombers so far into Europe before having to turn and head back to refuel which left the bombers exposed for the approach to their targets sites.

This fact meant that the casualties suffered in those early sorties were staggering. Hearing the numbers now, with hundreds of planes and thousands of airmen lost in a single month, one is left to wonder if we would have the stomach to bear such a sacrifice now, even in the face of the possibility of being defeated and overtaken by a cruel Nazi/Fascist regime?

I certainly don’t know the answer to that question, especially in these changed times where the minds of many could be swayed via divisive misinformation into an acceptance of the beliefs of those regimes we might otherwise be opposing. After all, even during WW II the Nazi cult had plenty of supporters here in the states, Americans who by race or belief fell under their spell.

I hope we never have to find out. And I suspect we won’t.

My belief is that those who seek to rule over us in a repressive fascist state have long realized that such a thing cannot be achieved via direct war and conflict. No, it will be an insidious and incremental effort, one that seek to infiltrate our branches of power and sources of info, seeking to control the power of the nation by dividing the people into many opposing factions, thereby confusing and thwarting their will to resist. Any sort of national unity would be fractious, at best.

Even a military that is massive and powerful would not be able to stop such an effort. In fact, it might act as a sort of tranquilizer, making the citizens believe that so long as they have such a powerful force protecting them they would be safe and secure, that there would be no possibility of any sort of attack on their country.

I fear that it is already well underway. The tools to do so are in place and easily accessible and it seems that we have the mentality and an environment that is ripe for such an effort.

Look at how easily minds are now swayed into disbelieving facts and accepting ridiculous conspiracy theories. Would it be a stretch for these same minds to fall into the belief that maybe a fascist regime would be acceptable, even preferable?

I hope I am way off base here, that it is just the product of a runaway imagination. But on this Memorial day weekend, it’s something I want to consider and keep in mind, if only for the responsibility we bear for those who have fallen in combat in our past against the forces of tyranny, despotism, and hatred.

We owe that to those who have sacrificed their lives for this nation. We, the living, are their witnesses. We bear testimony to their efforts, their experience and their existence.

For me, that’s the part of Memorial day I try to keep in mind. Hope you will at least consider it this weekend.

For this week’s Sunday morning music, here’s Sky Pilot from Eric Burdon and the Animals. From 1968, it’s one of those songs that holds lots of different meanings. At its core, it’s about a chaplain who blesses troops before they set out on a mission then goes to bed awaiting to learn their fate. It’s an interesting song, set into three parts and including a variety of sounds and effects. You’ve even got some bagpipes playing Garryowen thrown in along the way.

Have a good day.

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Calbuco Volcano, Chile- Francisco Negroni April 2015

Every year the National Geographic holds  a photo contest for great images taken around the globe within the past year.  It always produces some incredible imagery and I usually find myself really stunned by many of them.  The contest is still open so if you have  some photos that you think can stand alongside the photo at the top then get your entries in.

That picture was taken in April during the eruption of Calbuco, a volcano south of Santiago, Chile.  It captures the phenomena of volcanic lightning which  has multiple lightning strikes firing throughout the ash cloud as it spews upward.  There is still debate as to what causes this but most believe it is a result of positively charged particles coming from the volcano joining with negative particles in the ash cloud.  Whatever the case, it’s still pretty a damn impressive display of some awesome natural forces.  This photo was taken and submitted by Francisco Negroni,

Another of my favorites from recent submissions is the one at the bottom of terraced rice paddies in the Yen Bai province of North Viet Nam taken by Qu nh Anh Nguyen.  The absolute organic quality of the forms and colors just mesmerize me.  Love this image for completely different reasons than the photo at the top which shows the power of natrure over which we have no control.  This image shows how we can interact with and coexist with this world.  A different kind of power.

You can check up on recent entries ( or enter your own) at the National Geographic site by clicking here.

 Rice paddies

Rice Paddies, North Viet Nam- Qu nh Anh Nguyen 2015

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Deadvlei Namibia Photo By Christopher R. Gray- Natl Geo Traveler Photo Contest 2015I came across this wonderfully stark image this morning, an entry in the National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest from photographer Christopher R. Gray.  It is a night scene from an area of the Namib Desert in the African nation of Namibia called Deadvlei.

Located in a region of salt marshes periodically fed by the Tsauchab River, Deadvlei ( which translates as “dead marsh“) was cut off from the river’s feed nearly 1000 years ago from flooding then climate change.  This left  it a huge  dry and hard salt plain nestled among some of the highest sand dunes on the planet, some towering over 1300 feet in height.  The trees, mainly camel thorns,  that were there all those centuries ago remain, darkly scorched tree bones that do not decompose in the arid conditions.

This area’s remoteness also gives it some of the darkest skies on the planet, making visible all the many stars and galaxies that have become invisible to us in the more populated parts of the world.  That night sky makes for a pretty striking image with the single tree set against the silhouette of the sand dunes.

It’s kind of a natural Ozymandias, a reminder of our own mortality set against the eternal nature of the Earth.  Great photo.

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BOATS UNDER SAIL---Image of japanese Junks ca 1898 T. EnamiThis is an image of two junks that was taken in the late 1890’s by the great Japanese photographer T. Enami .  It was produced in the period as hand tinted  slide to be viewed in the popular stereopticons of the time.  The image was forwarded as a black and white photo to the National Geographic  magazine in the the 1920’s along with other photos of Japan from Enami.  They didn’t use the photo at the time, instead opting for the more traditional images of Japanese farmers and Geishas in a story on the island nation.  However, in the 1980’s the magazine took another look at the image and it really struck a chord with them.  The artistic beauty of the image was evident to them and they ultimately named this image as one of the best photos from their holdings of over 100 years.  It was used on the covers of one of their books and a catalog for a show of their best photography.

T. Enami - Japanese Boys in a Lively Quarrel stereopticon slide 1905I was immediately taken with this photo when I saw it.  It’s just such a beautiful composition and the harmony of the color and atmosphere make it sing.  I decide I should look at some other images from this T. Enami who was born Enami Nobukuni in Tokyo ( actually Edo at the time) in 1859 and died in 1929.  There were many images of Japan from the time, all beautifully captured with a sublime eye.  Some were surprising such as this 1905  image of 3 boys scuffling, an image that was sold in a series of slides by Sears.

But for me his images of  Mt. Fuji were the highlights.  They captured the dramatic presence that the mountain holds and are just incredible compositions, powerful and serene.  There are several of my favorites below.  T. Enami is probably not as well known here as his work deserves.  There is a site,  T-Enami.org, devoted to his work that is worth a look if only to take in more of his wonderful work.

T. Enami Mt Fuji and the Boatmen of Kashibara ca 1900 T. Enami- Mt. Fuji's Summit T. Enami- FOUR_MEN_ON_A_BRIDGE_AT_TAGONOURA_in_OLD_JAPAN.224130134_std T. Enami MOUNT_FUJI_SEEN_FROM_THE_MARSHES_OF_KASHIWABARA.  ca 1892

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Lake Eyre

In the latest National Geographic magazine there is a great photo essay by Australian photographer Murray Fredericks.  It is a series of photos that Fredericks made on and around the salt flats that make up Lake Eyre, a vast ( the largest in Australia)  and most often dry lake in central Australia.  He would camp for several weeks at a  time, alone in the harsh and barren environment as he waited for the conditions to change and create absolutely stunning images of pure space.  Nothing but a horizon and color.  There are vivid colors and combinations caused by the atmospheric cinditions and a bit of sporadic  rainfall that are simply beautiful.

There is a great spiritual feel in this work although Fredericks claims that was not his initial aim in pursuing the project.  He simply wanted to photograph a landscape in pure space.  One interesting thing he mentioned is how during the many weeks he would work alone in the desolation of the space he never felt alone yet sometimes when he back in the cities, having a drink at a bar, he feels very alone.  It’s a sensation I have felt in the studio and in the forest.

This body of work very much speaks to what I was seeking in my own work when I began, an extension of things I had written where I tried to describe such vast and empty spaces.  Spaces that allowed for pure thought and sensation.  I still use this feeling of absolute wonder at the grandeur of space in my work although I’m not sure I have ever caught it in the way Fredericks has with this group of photos which is just stunning work.

There is a documentary of this project by Murray Fredericks called Salt which aired on PBS’ POV last year.  I missed that but am looking for it now.  You can see a trailer for this documentary by clicking on this link: POV – Watch Video | Salt: Trailer | PBS.

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