The August Struggle

In May it felt like there was still plenty of time for 2017. In July it felt like the year was supposed to be still young, but actually wasn’t anymore. Now August is over and somehow, it feels a little bit like 2017 is slowly coming to an end, already. Only four months left of 2017 and once more, the question is – where did time go? Welcome to another monthly update and summary.

The Lowdown

Summer in Southern California is a tough time for me. I’m pretty much a photographer of local landscapes and nature and I have the strongest connection to places that I can visit frequently and repeatedly. I need this connection to produce meaningful photographs from and of places. Now with California’s mediterranean climate, nature goes dormant in our prolonged summer months – the summer palette in the chaparral and sage scrub is quite unique and I’ve come to appreciate it, but overall, the heat and dryness limit the photographic opportunities.

I’m somewhat hesitant to write the following because I’ve seen others add depression to their artistic “brand” one way or the other, and that’s something I do absolutely not intend to do (my photos are too bright and colorful for that anyway, aren’t they?). But on the other hand, maybe some of my photography makes more sense knowing that yes, just like so many other creatives, I have been and am occasionally struggling with some degree of depression.

Now to my own surprise (nah, not really…) I didn’t leave my “seasonal depressive disorder” in Germany. But just like the cold, short and grey days of winter in Germany limited the possibility for hiking (I’m not really a winter sports person), the hot and dry summer months in Southern California limit outdoor activity too – and that has a similarly negative effect on me. So after moving from Germany to Southern California, I learned that my particular case is more a “lack of nature and outdoor activity” depression, if that makes any sense. I need to be outdoors – see nature, plants, flowers, landscapes, and vast, empty open spaces, like mountains or deserts. And hike.

Last time I felt the weight of depression in summer was in 2014 and I was on medication for quite a long time then – something that I’d like to avoid this summer. The current weight of depression is still better than the relative indifference that comes with taking “happy pills”. Since July, I’ve been jogging in the early morning hours instead, at least every other day, and it helps (a silly weight-loss bet with my friend Tracy started that, actually). I’ll also be hiking in the Eastern Sierra mid September (similar to my Sierra solo trip in 2015) and the anticipation already gives me a boost of energy. I hope no wildfires will ruin the trip. :-P

So the remaining four months of the year can only be better. Even though I’m writing these words amidst the worst heatwave of the year (it’s hot and humid) and September can be a pretty annoying month here, but the days are inevitably getting shorter (meaning sunrises aren’t just for the most disciplined early risers anymore;-), and hopefully also a bit cooler. We’ll surely have unpleasant days with Santa Ana weather later but ultimately, the desert hiking season is slowly approaching and I am looking forward to it.

I’ve also learned that spending time away from the screen helps – which is a bit unfortunate of course, since the weather limits on outdoor activity would be an excellent opportunity to catch up with my photographic processing backlog but alas, it’s better if I’m not staring at the screen for too long this time of the year.

Nevertheless, August was filled with some nice photographic activities and opportunities, considering the time of the year: the night drive to Laguna Mountains and the monsoon morning at the Laguna Crest, the partial solar eclipse, playing with a “supercolor infrared” converted loaner camera from a friend (no finished photos yet though), some unusually cool weather thanks to a “June Gloom” like marine layer that we used for local hikes with friends, the amazing Epiphyllum bloom… I’m truly grateful for each of these occasions – even more so after compiling this list and seeing them together!

Photo of the Month

…and yet, none of the photos from these August activities had that special “photo of the month” feel to it. Instead, it’s an intimate landscape photo from a fairly recent morning walk with Toni, on the Coast To Crest Trail not too far from our home. I know that I can take walks there in the early morning hours even when it’s otherwise really hot, because most of the trail remains in the shade of some hills that block the morning sun in the east a little longer.

To my surprise, I found astonishing amounts of Datura wrightii* in bloom there this year – perhaps a result of the intensive flooding early in the year, when heavy rainfalls made the San Dieguito River swell. I made a cellphone “sketch” one morning and liked it so much that I returned two days later with the “real” camera to more thoroughly work the scene and find the best way to represent what I saw in it:

Meadow with dead oak and Datura wrightii, Coast to Crest Trail, Escondido, California, August 2017.
Meadow with dead oak and Datura wrightii, Coast to Crest Trail, Escondido, California, August 2017.

I immediately liked the slightly cool tones in the image – a result of the scene being in the shade and keeping a normal “daylight” white balance. The longer I looked at the scene, the more I realized that it is a great depiction of the month of August and the summer season, with the dry grasses and datura in full bloom, as well as a very typical image not only for the region, but also for me and my preferences in landscape photography: intimate scenes and even light.

A close second was one photo from the monsoon morning at the Laguna Crest that I titled “Salton Sea Skyfire” – what I like about it very much (besides the connection to the entire experience that night and morning) is the color combination in the barren desert landscape, the combination of warm and cold tones on these textures – but at the same time, I felt that this subtlety is probably lost to most viewers because of the extremely dominant red sky.

Blog Post Updates

I’ve updated the two blog posts with the wildflower collection again as I slowly worked my way through my processing backlog. If you like, take another look at the May/June wildflower collection, and the July/August collection as well. (by now it feels like the updates to these two posts will never end…)

When I added the blog post with my eclipse photo I realized that I didn’t have any photo from the annular 2012 eclipse online so I’ve added that one to the archives. Other than that though, I didn’t manage to get more archive posts online this month.

The entirety of this month’s posts is available here, if you think you missed something: August 2017 blog post archive.

Portfolio Additions

I’ve actually worked on multiple portfolio galleries this month, but it was mostly streamlining them and quite honestly, I simply forgot to keep track of the changes in the draft of this monthly summary. :-P I do remember this particular photo from my Desert Monochrome portfolio but that’s all. :-) I think it’s one of these photos that needs to be seen & printed large as it just doesn’t have the same impact at screen size…

Views into southern Anza Borrego from the Laguna Crest, as crepuscular rays of light break through monsoon clouds and dance across the desert floor. Laguna Mountains, San Diego County, California, August 2017.
“Thoroughly at Home” — views into southern Anza Borrego from the Laguna Crest, as crepuscular rays of light break through monsoon clouds and dance across the desert floor. Laguna Mountains, San Diego County, California, August 2017.

Archive Additions

In the coming months, my archives will go through a fundamental transition, moving from this website to PhotoShelter (rough draft website). I’ve been thinking about this really, really long and in the end, decided that it is better to go with an established standard solution instead of tweaking and customizing this WordPress site to enable image licensing and downloads. The cost per month for the necessary WordPress plugin subscriptions, customization of the site, and protected online image storage actually exceeds the price of a PhotoShelter subscription, and that made the decision easy.

There are still a lot of organizational riddles to be solved of course, and I don’t know how and if I will include archive additions in my monthly summaries in the future – photos that do not appear in any blog post probably won’t make it onto the WordPress site anymore at all. We’ll see. :-)

And that’s it for August. If you read all the way through here, thank you very much for your patience and attention! See you around…

*) for what it’s worth – this is not Jimsonweed aka Devil’s Trumpet, Thornapple, Hell’s Bells, etc. etc. That would be Datura stramonium, and it has quite different leaves.

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4 Responses

  1. I love the photograph – such subtle beauty in the midst of what most people would see as only dry, parched, landscape. And somewhat relieved to know I’m not the only one who struggles with summer depression. There’s always such relief when the light softens and warms in the fall.

  2. Good for you for coming up with strategies to mitigate the intensity and for not just reaching for the pills. I don’t want to infer that they can’t be an amazing help to people at times, but I always like when someone looks at another option first.

    1. There’s not a shred of doubt that the pills are helpful. I do think that we as a society are reaching for them too easily though, and too often. Thanks for your comment, as always, Jeff.

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