ARCHANGELO [Angels Gallery]

The gladiolas in this photograph, Archangelo, are real. Whenever you see my angelic images holding flowers, know that they came from the floral shop on Whittier Boulevard, directly across from the cemetery where I captured the majority of my angel photographs.

I'd always been drawn to this enormous Catholic cemetery in Whittier, California, because its reliquary is sculpted with remarkable features and exquisite attention to detail.

Archangelo depicts a favorite and preferred pose of the gallery angels, where they're leaning on their hands. It's intriguing to note that whenever these larger-than-life sculptures show angelic feet, they are always barefoot. Which brings up the following questions: Do angels ever need to get a pedicure? Why are there no sandals for any of them? And is there a spot where one can get a good cup of coffee?


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When I began my photography career many decades ago, I never expected this particular angel to be one of my most popular images. She is one of a few angels with her eyes open, although they appear to be looking within.

While her pose is a familiar one, the rendering of her expressive profile is far less common. She's part of a frieze, from a set of two winged watchers flanking the intricate sculptural doorway of an imposing tomb.

As usual, the vibrant red gladiolas were purchased across the busy boulevard on the cemetery outskirts.

Its interior landscape is so vast that it has its own meandering roads, finely etched to lush green lawns. One has to drive extremely slowly. The sounds of outside traffic are virtually dimmed.

Unlike Egyptian burial sites, Catholic cemeteries provide no accouterments for the afterlife. There is no stash of cheddar cheese or gourmet granola for nibbling in eternity. The deceased, although clothed in fine linens, are not entombed with a change of pajamas, an extra pair of socks, or even a feather pillow for interminably long nights.

And although angels are present to preside over affairs governing transitions between earth and heaven, there's a sense that these watchful sentinels rarely speak. Which is too bad, as they undoubtedly would have a lot to say about us.

Red Gladiola Angel

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This angel has uncommon presence, surprising given that her eyes are muted. Her nimbus, suggestive of the sun, extends outwardly from her head onto the weathered grill which owes its design to the radiant metal lacework which supports her.

Unlike many of the other images from the ANGEL GALLERY, she isn't a large statue. Instead, she's carved high up as the relatively airless grill of an unusually enormous crypt, and it's a mystery as to how many souls are buried there.

However, it's safe to say that they might be amused by her quixotic qualities: Her up-close loveliness, combined with detached, celestial aloofness. Hers are the eyes which peer straight through into the hunger of the soul, longing for God's reunion.

angel from santa barbara

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GOLDEN ANGEL [Angels Gallery]

Recently, I found myself awake at 3 AM praying to God what I could do at such an ungodly hour.

I looked at the images in my Angels gallery and spied one which clearly was weak. To this day I'm not sure how it all happened. Weary and exhausted, I worked on the wimpy photograph, changed her to gold, and somehow got her to glow, almost with celestial starlight.

This light seems to stream through her pores. I saved the image, backed her up, and returned hours later to crinkled sheets, still not quite in reach of the spiraling stairway to sleep's serene kingdom.

I finally got a bit of rest. Staggered from bed. Noticed I'd left the computer on.

And there she was. See for yourself.

Blessed Mother, thank you for inspiring me!

I cannot believe that sleep is overrated. On insufferable nights, when Holy Spirit is clearly present, I also take some comfort knowing that I shall rest in eternity.

golden angel


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A TOUR GUIDE OF THE COSMOS [Death + Heaven Gallery]

A Tour Guide of the Cosmos is one of my favorite angels for several reasons.

With her raised right hand acting as a divining rod between Heaven and Earth, she appears to be in some tropical Garden of Eden, as suggested by towering palm trees. Yet there is nary an apple tree in sight. There is however no mistaking her Christian symbolism. She holds one of the largest crosses in the entire cemetery.

I am particularly taken by her Grecian bodice and garlands of flowers wrapped around her cross. And possibly what I like best of all is the sky, suggesting the ineffable mysteries between the Holy Ghost and Christ Jesus.

If you continue to insist that there is no God, even after Death, she'll hit you on the head with that cross so hard that your eyes will spin. And you will finally see stars.

tour guide of the cosmos

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LICHEN [Death + Heaven Gallery]

Lichen is a photograph which initially appears simple, yet can imply a vast amount of layered meaning.

The symbolism of the cross is universal. Few other symbols resonate on such a deep level to so many people.

The cross represents the Triune God, specifically the three-part unity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit — as well as the less-discussed trinity of body, soul, and mind.

The cross also symbolizes the Kevod, which is God's glory, yet references even more so the Creator's unlimited power and staggering, enormous weightiness.

Utilized both by Christians and Catholics, the cross is inordinately mysterious. It links to the Crucifixion and invites us to consider that inevitable transmission between Life and Death. It is a powerful symbol whose undeniable stage presence is less a reminder of Christ Jesus than it is an ageless equation. Here we see the Holy Spirit math of how we can finally journey home.

In the graveyard of Cambria, California, I found this stone cross of massive heft, presence and weight. Greenish-yellow and lurid orange lichen adhered themselves to its stone, completely obliterating the word, "INRI" carved upon its center.

I see this as a reminder that outer religions can sometimes be flawed and decayed, but that inner truths – and timeless teachings – resonate beneath every facade of physicality and matter.



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ROAD KILL [Death + Heaven Gallery]

Road shrines such as these are attempts to honor the dead and to have a semblance of closure. Especially after a tragic accident such as this one.

If you look closely, observe personal details which add poignancy to this photo. Normally whimsical and more lighthearted items are now heartbreaking.

A purple teddy bear. A woodpecker. A green-faced monkey hidden under a black knit cap.

Fresh roses and numerous plastic flowers. A Dream Catcher.

Finally, behind the numerous handkerchiefs, candles, and personal tributes, is the 25-mile-per-hour traffic sign.

Which was likely not observed.

road kill

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DIVINE PROCESS [Death + Heaven Gallery]

With a billowing robe and a nimbus (aura) about his head, Saint Michael triumphs over the devil, who is prostate and virtually immobile under a left-footed sandal.

St. Michael originally held a sword, with which he was to smite this snarling demon. What's especially intriguing about his statue is its depiction of process in motion.

The Saint's body is torqued, with clear momentum, while the devil figure, squashed like a bug, attempts to push back up with claw-like hands, to no avail.

I particularly admire the slab of rock upon which the action takes place.

There is much admirable detail in Michael's perfectly-proportioned wings, armor-like tunic, and kilt. For a statue several hundreds of years old, the laced sandals are a refreshingly modern touch.

divine process

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GYPSY [People Gallery]

She was the first homeless person I ever met who was radiantly happy, with a pronounced sense of personal style.

Too much time has passed for me to pinpoint the year, but I was immediately taken by her braided hair, adorned with beads, pieces of shell, pottery and coins. I asked if I could take her photo, and without hesitating, she said, "Sure!"

The place was Venice Beach, down by the boardwalk. In those days, before the Los Angeles council instituted a series of arbitrary rules and inane ordinances, the entire area was a mecca for exuberant talent and artists exhibiting their wares.

Venice Beach always supported its homeless citizens, transient residents usually provided for by the generosity and kindness of its more-established citizens.

Time hasn't been kind to the Venice Beach boardwalk, although one still catches glimpses of the fierce individuality and polished artistry which once were its norm.

Gypsy with braided hair

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ENTRANCE ONLY [People Gallery]

If there is one image within the six photo galleries which consistently breaks my heart, this is it. I came upon the homeless man when he was trying to sleep, and somehow my presence was felt, and he averted his face with his hand. We never made eye contact.

He's leaning against masonry and is attempting to rest upon unyielding concrete. The black grill behind him suggests bars, and the orange cone, barely visible, reminds us that this is a state of emergency.

His black hooded cape suggests despair. And right next to him is an enormous bag of recycled cans, clearly his attempt at some income, probably for a scant portion of some food.

We don't see his face yet the body language reveals it all. His discarded gloves lay by his feet, and his feet appear to be dislocated from his body.

I literally had no money to give him; I was in a dangerous part of town and my wallet was back at the car at least a mile away. I snapped only a single shot and left, feeling embarrassed that I could not do more.

Photo Entrance Only is of a homeless man. Heart breaking.

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MARS REVISITED [People Gallery]

By day, a peaceful-loving accountant, revered by clients. Professional. Suit and tie. On time and on point.

By night, the mild demeanor from work-mode is noticeably absent.

For me, he has come to represent the apotheosis of anger. And a compelling image of road rage. As you might well know, MARS is the God of war.

The gentleman in question is far older than he looks. He had been working out regularly and with ferocious discipline, and hired me to come over and document his fitness and acumen. This was by far the most riveting of the images from our late-afternoon photo shoot.

His wife hated this shot. I think her name was Daisy.

This is a powerful black-and-white photo. And black and white photography is considered hip. My rule is to honor my clients' wishes. No exceptions. I can easily shoot black and white.

Yet I dream in color and view the world in an utterly riveting spectrum of color.

I can successfully turn any color photo into a black-and-white, with boosted mid-tones and enhanced contrast. Yet I can't readily turn a black-and-white photo into color.

Should you see any color images on this site which you wish to view as gray-scale, please let me know.

Until then, stay calm, cool and collected.

Mars Revisted

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Upon first glance, it appears to be a badly-weathered door in a deteriorating frame, opening into a dilapidated building. It hasn't seen fresh paint in a very long time. The more you examine the uneven pieces of wood, the more it's blatantly obvious that any refined craftsmanship is absent.

This particular door was photographed in Huntington Beach, CA., in a neighborhood which doesn't exist anymore. For all its squalor and run-down qualities, the buildings had actual character and personality. The residences may have been hard scrabble, but at least they were authentic.

Then you look at the reflection in the glass at the top of the door, and see the new condominiums being built. They are all tangerine, in that horrific, pseudo-Mexican-hacienda style.

City blocks and blocks of the same insipid buildings are now erected, reminding you of that tasteless groping boyfriend who won't leave you alone.

Welcome to Surf City, the new Huntington Beach, a soulless and spineless testimony to hastily mounted, overpriced structures without a soulful hint of character.

The affordable housing is torn down, upgraded for an elite plasticity of upper class snootiness. Sure, surfers are still there. With cell phones, bleached hair, PDA's, and surprisingly cheesy tattoos. Taco stands are gone. Free parking is gone. Replaced by fancy digs.

Snobbery is served on the menu along with six-or-seven dollar cups of Starbucks coffee. The baristas look as if they've all been force-fed subservience.

I hear that there's a special place in Hell for the multi-conglomerates; the developers; the city planners. Your local mayor could well be there, too.

If you find yourself there, you can get on a waiting list for your own condo. Pray for air conditioning!

condos in teh relfection a photo by Darius Gottlieb

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CAR RUST [Wrecks Gallery]

It's utterly remarkable that this photo shot, which resembles something akin to a closeup of a hummingbird's wing, is car rust, yet so it is.

The entire WRECKS gallery happened in an roundabout way. I was flown to Tuscon many years ago to work with a healer there, who regrettably turned out to be an egomaniac. During this time, I wrote one of my first published poems, whose opening lines begin –

If your ego were any bigger, we could create another Grand Canyon in which to plunge to our deaths for your audacity.

While visiting this woman's home, oh-so-fittingly on Coyote Drive, she worked on clients reclining upon a massage table, replete with incense, lit aromatherapy candles and Velveeta music, while she danced around au natural, chanting and smacking a tambourine.

I suspect her tambourine thwacking raised a bright red flag to my already alarmed suspicions. Perhaps I would have been more forgiving had she truly been a native American Indian, but she was of sturdy and stubborn German stock.

Our parting did not auger well.

I felt like an idiot. And she, no doubt, was offended when I declined to have her plunk me upon her massage table to "rid me of my demons."

My return flight was already booked and I chose not to pay for the expense of returning home earlier. To occupy my time, I rented a car and drove around Tuscon, where I discovered an enormous automobile graveyard.

Its cars were in a disintegrating state of acid-colored rust and impervious neglect.

I was fascinated. And while not all of the images from the WRECKS gallery derive from Tuscon, this almost hallucinogenic photo, taken from a deteriorating Chevrolet, owes its origins to this madcap time of my young adult life.

car rust

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During a time in my life when I was touring in Northern California, courtesy of the California Arts Council, I stayed at the home of two friends, Hans and Ingrid (names changed to protect the guilty) who later revealed themselves as extremely devout and angry atheists.

We got along. Initially.

The newly-married couple had hired me to play cello at their wedding. It was only later that Hans went unexpectedly ballistic on me, insisting that there WAS no God, because how could a loving God create George Bush?

I replied with a diametrically-opposed answer, that of course there IS a God, because only a God with major cajones could have created George Bush, along with Pee-wee Herman, the duck-billed platypus, and brandy-infused orange marmalade.

Hans was not impressed.

To add to the rather askew nature of this disintegrating time, he and Ingrid worked nonstop running a small company which manufactured custom-made water beds.

In Watsonville.

Ah, leave it to Watsonville, a California town located in Santa Cruz county, known worldwide for its strawberries and entrepreneurs. There's something feisty about the town, as evidenced by this used car lot, replete with its own resident auto repairmen, as well as the three "mechanics" displayed here, who amp the voltage considerably with a certain wordless finesse.

As you can see, the day was quite overcast, and reflective light always makes for clear photos.

There is an auto repair flag flying and what might be a Swiss flag flying as well, in keeping with the repair yard's iconoclastic themes. If you look quite closely, you will see the black fisherman's cap I placed upon the head of one of the young lovelies.

three auto mechanics

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We now return to our enormous automobile graveyard in lovely Tuscon, Arizona.

Let's examine requirements to becoming an eye-popping centerfold:

Several places to insert your key. √ Check

Tight chassis. √ Check

Lovely curves. √ Check

Gorgeous coloring. √ Check

Easy on the eyes. √ Check

Willingness to be driven by Hef. √ Check

I originally wanted to call this photo "Another Look At Marilyn", but after studying her life in greater detail, I chose its current title, referencing the life of Playboy Magazine founder, Hugh Hefner.

Once again, the colors of severely rusted metal are out-of-this-world.

this month's centerfold

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We now return to picturesque Northern California.

I've photographed some quite astonishing photos, yet few are as beautiful to me as this close-up of corroded metal from that same auto repair yard in Watsonville, California. Look closely.

It has almost unbelievable texture. It cuts and crackles. And unlike the vast majority of my photographs upon this website, it is horizontal rather than vertical.

I'll never know what word it partially reveals, obscured by rust and neglect, which makes for a bit of mystery, and even enigma. What I like best about this image involves how it goes against type with the vast majority of my work.

I'm not a huge fan of the color brown. Yet here, with its orange rusted overtones, it speaks to me. And grey is probably my least favorite color, although it acts as a kind of a neutral backdrop which pops both the yellow and the red.

I'm keenly aware that my love of color isn't "fashionable" at this time, hence my earlier offer to anyone taking time to explore this site that I will gladly alter any color photo to a crisp black-and-white. Simply go to CONTACT on any of the MY UNIQUE STORE pages and we will take it from there!

I concur that this clearly isn't a classically attractive photo, which is possibly the predominant reason I find it so compelling. It has dissonance in spades, yet is oddly – and quite wonderfully – lyrical.

luxury automobile one

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Orange Buddha [Buddha Gallery]

The original Buddha for this photograph was a scant four inches tall. My friend Thomas designed the mandala-like orange background upon which he rests, based upon textures taken from some of my "reject" photos.

Once combined, the foreground and background create a synergy unique in my oeuvre. The image vibrates with life, yet maintains serenity and calm at its center.

My sculptor friend Lee Jordan saw this work in my home and commented on its dynamic framing. Like much of my artwork, it was framed by Allen (last name withheld), a hugely gifted craftsman who worked for decades at my local arts supply store.

Allen became mute after a severe illness, and no one is certain whether he is still alive.

Orange Buddha is a particularly pointed reminder as to the fleeting and ephemeral aspects of life, whose existence can turn rapidly and unexpectedly. Fasten your seat belts.

We tend to go blithely on our journey, and then there are those people who improve our lot for the better, yet sometimes depart, leaving a bittersweet reminder of years when we were far more innocent (and decidedly less troubled).

There, but for the grace of God, go I.

I can't speak for other artists, but my own work is grounded within concerns for transformation – including death, renewal, and higher purpose. These are lofty goals, and I don't know whether I have succeeded. You can share your thoughts on my Leave A Comment Page.

There's little doubt that my photographs, writing and music are not designed merely to be pretty. And perhaps the best to which we aspire, is to inspire each other with time and the tools we've been given.

This website is a summation of my life's achievements thus far, and I can truthfully say that it will hold up to repeat visits.

If you have a particular photograph, poem or music track which speaks to you, email me at

orange buddha


FANTASIA BUDDHA [Buddha Gallery]

I often work late at night, contingent upon inspiration and my Muse. This particular Buddha has its basis in one of my graphic photos centered upon Buddha's face, a strong image, but not exactly of the "hit a home run" variety.

Someday additional studies will be undertaken of an artist's brainwaves when he or she is in an exalted state. I've been clean and sober for many years, yet there are times when I am definitely modulating to places where it feels almost as if an electric current is coursing through my creativity. Fantasia Buddha is one of those telling signposts.

I can't honestly say how I created it. I recognize the work as wholly mine, and see evidence of my hand, particularly in relationship to color, as orange is probably my most favorite color, were I to choose.

But don't ask me how it works as well as it does with the purple, and the turquoise. Not to mention the yellow-green! It will always be an image which sings to me. Perhaps it will speak to you, as well.

fantasia buddha

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HOLDING UP THE SKY [Buddha Gallery]

This enchanted photograph suggests a realm not readily accessible to humankind or beast. Against the backdrop of a clouded, robin's-egg blue sky, three figures interlock and float in space, appearing to hold up the very clouds themselves. Each wears a Holy man's hat, somewhat similar to the kind still seen in Nepal – as well as Tibet – long before it was invaded by modern-day China.

The original figure was relatively small, and photographed at Conway of Asia located in Carmel, CA., a one-of-a-kind store featuring Tibetan artifacts and owned by Peter Conway, now retired, a personal friend of Darius.

I was last there in 1996 and allowed to photograph whatever I wished. It was an acutely magical time for me, one of rebirth, as I had just emerged from three years of chemotherapy for a supposedly terminal cancer. Those years were profound turning points for me, as I promised the Creator of All Things that if I was allowed to live, I would devote the rest of my life to develop the gifts which had been generously provided to me.

I cannot think of those years without being on the verge of some tears.

My remission was unprecedented for the field of medicine at that time.

I never looked back. This website,, is the fruit of that very vow I made many decades ago.

holding up the sky

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FEMALE BUDDHA [Buddha Gallery]

This crowned and golden Buddha was photographed through the glass of a storefront in Santa Monica, California, then placed in the center of an atmosphere charged with hints of the cosmos.

There are many details which appeal to me about this image, and I will list a few.

For starters, I admire her asymmetry. An open flower, reminiscent of the sun, appears at her right mid-arm, but not the left. On her left side is a curving, sinuous banner which is only slightly echoed at her right shoulder. This same banner travels the length of her entire body, ending at her folded left knee. She sits in a classic meditative pose.

The Buddha's right hand is open palmed and relaxed, while her left hand appears in a kind of greeting, or supplication.

As with many of the images in the BUDDHA GALLERY, her eyes are closed, and we're left to imagine what they are seeing. She is clearly deep in thought, or "no thought", and is perfectly still, even as her posture hints at timeless movement. She appears coiled, as if to pounce, to suddenly shake you and say, "WAKE UP!"

female buddha

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I live in a an urban area of well over half-a-million people. Like any number of cement cities within California's borders, we are interwoven with ribbons of freeways which twist around bustling areas of unforgiving density.

Surrounded by more cars than people, many of us continue to feel alone in a boiling sea of strangers. Instead of the whistling of wind through pristine canyons and the madcap lullabies of rapturous birds, we are subject to the mournful wail of sirens and the clanking of trash trucks.

Yet it's here that I have created many sumptuous photographs of one of my favorite subjects, the sunflower. Ironically, every shot of these gorgeous flowers within the NATURE GALLERY is taken from my own backyard.

Each towering 8-foot plant managed to produce spectacular blooms. My backyard is the last undeveloped lot on my city street, replete with lemon and lime trees, an always-prolific kumquat tree, plum, kale, tomatoes, fennel, potatoes, passion flower, pine, cypress, roses – the list goes on.

All to demonstrate that no matter where you live, Mother Nature remains within vivid reach, waiting your call to be summoned.

spiral sunflower

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INTO THE WOODS [Nature Gallery]

Into the Woods was taken at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park in California. It is the first professional photograph I ever sold. Once again, we return to the beginning, to a pivotal moment where we sat down with fate and destiny .... and could not know it at the time.

Fresh out of college, I lived in a nearby town known as Pacific Grove. I had a most unusual job, that of a concert cellist accompanying modern dancers at Monterey Peninsula College. I was on its faculty payroll, and as dancers gathered in its dance studio, I played J.S. Bach and improvised on my unaccompanied cello.

One of my favorite activities was to head south on Pacific Coast Highway to visit Big Sur, one of the more stunning and pristine wilderness areas of our day.The vast area still remains glorious. It's changed remarkably little since the turn of the century.

Julia Pfeiffer Burns was one of Big Sur's pioneers and original ranchers during the early 1900's. She has two enormous parks named after her, and they're magnificent, each capable of bringing comfort to the psyche. There are few places on earth where trees, sky and water come together with such rhapsodic splendor.

I had only just started photographing when I captured this photo, a presage of my body of work to come.

To this day, it remains one of my most cherished photographs, a reminder of innocence and the freedom of my early 20's. It's said that you never forget your first love, and this image reminds me of that magical time when I began to love photography.

into the woods

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KARMA ONE [Nature Gallery]

To this day I cannot recall what had brought me to a rural, seemingly bucolic pumpkin patch on the outskirts of iconoclastic Watsonville.

Its field was forbidding and too large to be cute. My photographer's eye noticed diminishing diagonals of pumpkins as they disappeared to a vanishing point, presided over by vigorous tassels of corn.

What was most telling that tempestuous day was a lack of people in the fields. Hundreds of bright orange pumpkins, ready to be harvested, stood in rapt testimony to the blustery sky like ornate sequins on Mother Nature's gown.This image was taken a few minutes before an eminent storm (see KARMA TWO, NATURE GALLERY).

Within a matter of minutes, winds increased; temperatures dropped; the sky visibly darkened and corn husks began to rasp through the moving air. Muscular storm clouds powered across an October sky.

I snapped one of two remaining shots on my roll of film, documenting final remnants seen here of something sunny before pounding rain was unleashed.

Mother Nature was not about to be contained: her fields were soon pelted and pummeled with unrestrained vigor, emerging drenched, yet curiously strong.

karma one

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WAVE [Nature Gallery]

Every so often, an experience looms larger than life, with sufficient power to literally sweep you off your feet.

I was still a young man when I stood on the precipice of rugged cliffs at California's Point Lobos National State Park. Its description as "The greatest meeting of land and water in the world" is apt and not exaggerated, as one can see from this thunderous photo.

I was shooting with a Canon 35 mm AE1 camera which belonged to my father – and which he graciously let me keep. With sweet and straightforward kindness, Dad jump-started my photographic career. This fairly simple film camera, without a lot of bells and whistles, is responsible for many of my most vibrant photographs.

I'm not a digital dude. I don't own a cell phone. I don't have an iPad, or an iPod. The only reason this website exists is due to my brilliant web designer, Fran Vallone, whom you can easily locate on Facebook.

This shot somehow engages me at a deep level of emotion. Yes, it's from my twenty's. A time before my beard grew grey. And perhaps you are akin to me .... Do you notice that your mind replays moments of eternity's reel as if it was just yesterday?

I had ventured far from the beaten path, slipping past a cordoned section for polite viewing. I wanted the water up close and personal, and so received it, squarely in my face.

My clothes were drenched; the camera was soaking wet. It turned out that the park ranger was also screaming at me to get off the cliffs, yet I couldn't hear his voice over the water's crashing. Its intent force was frothing so intensely that the entire foreground appeared like rivulets of snow.

It was a long, perilous fall down to the sea floor from where I stood, and I realize now how I foolishly I invited harm for the sake of a good shot. The visual power of this image might speak to you, similar to its gallery companion, The Mother of Waves.

There is unharnessed beauty and power in wildness.

I continue to pray that there are parts of my soul which shall forever be untamed, without bit or bridle, not ever an unwitting prisoner to a strangulation of the hours.

I will always hearken back to this photo for representing the startling implications of youth's elemental freedom.

I hiked back without harm.

And now is one perfect moment to honor my loving father and mother for sending me off into this uncharted world, with their blessings.


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