The Transfiguration

everything is sacred

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☂ of the Day #2191

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☂ of the Day #2191

It’s been a busy weekend, and such a quiet one – I didn’t see a single other human today. This is a rare thing these days, though; I don’t have the long empty nights I did two years ago.

Today is my New Year’s Eve, the end of year six of this project. As always, here is a look back on the year:

My photos have been drifting more towards friends, and further from bugs and visual oddities – a bit of a leap from my first year, when I was so hesitant to photograph anybody. There are more snapshots than before, and fewer composed artistic shots; I’d like to get a better balance of that, but it’s okay if I don’t. As I become a better photographer, my old artistic photos tend to depreciate, in a sense; I become more aware of their flaws, and what they should have been. Photos of friends, though, only become more valuable with distance and perspective.

That is to say, it’s nice to be reminded of you.

This has been a good chapter – my year employed at the lab, getting my own apartment with Pearce, getting to know Laurel, starting at App Academy. Next year looks like it will be just as distinct, a chapter in itself; it’s good for life to keep moving.

On we go.

I’m the one in love

Written by Umbrella Man

September 21, 2014 at 11:21 pm

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Photo of the Day #1826

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Photo of the Day #1826

It rained heavily his morning – the first this season. I couldn’t see it through the curtains, and I couldn’t hear the rain falling, but the street whispers differently when cars drive over it in the rain, and it suddenly felt so much like autumn. When the sky cleared, white mountain clouds remained on the horizon and the air was crisp again, and for the first time in several months my fingers grew cold when I went out walking tonight.

Hands chilled, I wandered from streetlight to streetlight, looking to see how they flavored the air around them. Lamps that glow in the trees are either in love with them or haunted by them, depending on how many leaves remain. Trees that grow further from the streetlights are submerged in an aquatic sort of light, as if living in a crystalline aquarium, and I loved how this one glowed yellow.

Today marks the completion of my fifth year of photos, so here is a retrospective, as always. This is all five years, ready and waiting to flash before your eyes:

Every year so far has been a distinct chapter: my last year at SF State; living on campus at UCSC; moving in with Emily, Lauren and Anna; graduation and parting with Emily; and now my first year out of college, living with Dad, finding my first job, climbing constantly and getting to know the Haus folk. It seems like life is meant to gel together at some point, to become a continuous flowing thing, but for the time being I like having these discrete changes in life – it makes the days more weighty.

I found my footing this year, but the next one is uncertain. I haven’t worked out what exactly I want to do in the next few years, just like most of my friends, but I think we’re all gaining ground, however slowly.

Thank you for being a part of my story, and for letting me be a part of yours.

she just likes to fight

Written by Umbrella Man

September 22, 2013 at 3:08 am

Posted in milestones, plants, trees

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Photo of the Day #1461

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I may have scorched my brakes a little biking down the hill tonight, but the trees were all haunted with amber light and the fountain had its usual eerie angelic glow when I reached the bottom. The sprinklers set a thick mist over the surrounding grass, but I’d never taken the time to admire these bears; it was worth getting a bit wet to see them close. They must be guarding something of incredible power, a final defense after the great white-eyed fish lurking in the depths of the fountain. These cubs are surrounded by people day and night; they must have seen some incredible things in time as guardians of the Circle.

And, because this is the last day of my fourth year of this project…

I think it’s better to reflect on things a bit more slowly this time.

Between losing Emily and finishing college, this year has seen a sharper change in my life than any on record. Unlike every year since I started this project, I have no idea what’s going to happen in the coming months, or what to do with myself; I have to deal with being alone in a way I’ve never been; there are no classes to stabilize my schedule and keep my mind working, and things lack the color they had with Emily around.

But I’ve still seen so many beautiful things this year.

What all this means is that I have to learn to define myself without using another person as a lens. This is really difficult for me; I want to connect to people, I want to spend my life with someone, but for now this might not be possible until I take control of myself.

There may be some sap here, but I mean it. And if you’re in these photos, thank you for being in my life.

And, please, if you’re reading this, I ask you to share a thought or two, or at least say hello.

There is a lot to do in this next year. Let’s see who I am next September.

I’m in a lull

Written by Umbrella Man

September 22, 2012 at 3:32 am

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Photo of the Day #1095

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This, I suppose, is what we all felt like after a six-hour intensive Organic Chemistry study session. On the left are Alec and Laura, a Jungian-minded couple I met online a few months ago. They’re very well versed when it comes to psychological theory, but they haven’t yet grasped the language or motions of chemistry. A midterm threatens them tomorrow, so we carefully worked through an entire practice exam. Google Sketchpad proved useful, as you can see – we worked through Newman projections, took turns moving electrons and drew out models whenever anyone was confused. They live on the East coast, and I can still draw with them. This is a wonderful thing.

My brain is fried, but it was good for me to keep chemical notions fresh in my head – memories will decay if left untended. Every time Alec or Laura gave an OHHHHHHHH of understanding – and it happened many times – was a great encouragement. I hope they do well on their test tomorrow.

Interesting that they should have their first midterms tomorrow, since I will be starting my first classes then. The school year will begin on the same day that my fourth year of this project will start. It couldn’t have been timed better – nothing, neither my birthdays or New Years’, mark different chapters in my life so well as the first day of a new school year.

As always, here’s a flash of the year’s memories:

[This is a hastily thrown-together montage, and a better one will replace it in a few days]

I wanted to provide some insightful thoughts about the year, how life changed and how I changed, but I am nearly numb with exhaustion. For now it’s enough to say that, though it’s hard sometimes to tell if I’m growing at all, I can look just a year back and see such a different person.

I wrote something prettier last year, but I bet two-year me was a lot less tired, too.

When I started this project I said I would do it for “as long as I can”, but I don’t see any reason why that shouldn’t be for the rest of my life. If I go blind, then I will continue with the Sounds of the Day; if I go deaf, I’ll get a haptic recorder and capture the Touch of the Day; if I go numb, I’ll use a molecular sensor for the Scent of the Day; if I lose my sense of smell, I will always be able to share the Thought of the Day. Please share your life with me, as well.

I turn my camera on

Written by Umbrella Man

September 22, 2011 at 1:46 am

Motion of the Day #1000

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It’s going to be many years before I get to add another digit, so I needed something exceptional to mark the occasion. For a long time I’ve wanted to capture small, specific motions, and I’ve posted very short videos of them before – a bee lifting off from a flower, or mist drifting in front of a lamp. Normal photos will show you an instant, an infinitely thin cross-section of time; that can be incredible, showing you ephemeral shapes of water droplets or fleeting gazes or embarrassing half-expressions. They take an instant and make it immortal, stretch it into infinity, and I want the same thing to be able to happen to movement – to make a single motion live forever, to show that the rolling of one’s fingers or the growth of a smile is a sacred thing.

The moving photos in the world of Harry Potter seemed so fantastical before, but there’s no reason why they should remain solely an aspect of fiction. We have the technology to decorate our homes with living photos, and I would absolutely love to do that. Being surrounded with constant motion would mean falling into chaos and madness, though, so don’t expect these kinds of photos to appear too often. I am also not particularly skilled at building them – they require a bit more work than just pushing Record.

While searching for subjects to photograph, I’m normally drawn to geometry and light – constant, solid qualities that don’t vanish when captured in an instant. I spent today looking for motion instead – specifically simple, cyclic motions that would loop well. Tree branches swaying in sine waves, ripples in a swimming pool, spinning bicycle wheels, the strumming of a cello and the scrubbing of a soapy dish all caught my eye, and I kept trying to find the best way to capture them.

I want to say so much more about this, but thoughts have been spilling out of my head all day, and I’ve been very long-winded already. Thanks for your patience, and hopefully reading all this has allowed enough time for the photo to load.

By the way, it would be kind if you could leave a comment to let me know if you read these. I have no idea how many people pay attention to the moments and musings I put up here.

Borodin’s prince

Written by Umbrella Man

June 19, 2011 at 1:05 am

Posted in friends, milestones, motion, people

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Photo of the Day #730

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Looking over today’s photos, I thought I could still smell the salt in the air and the cold, swirling sand around my feet.

Emily and I went back to Natural Bridges today, this time with Imogen and Anna, and the beach was almost completely deserted. Long stretches of seaweed had been ripped from the sea and splayed across the beach, from root to bubble sac, and their dark leaves cast a strange shadow at the very fingertips of the waves. With no people around, thousands of insects had come to devour the displaced forest, and seagulls were flocking to devour the insects.

Despite all the tangled growth, we were still able to enjoy the cold waters – though only up to our knees, of course. All of us but Imogen were too scared to fully embrace the waves, preferring to chase them back and forth or letting them sweep around our ankles.

From a distance, the velvet waters, with their red kelp bruises, hardly looked real at all. I could barely believe I wasn’t looking at a painting. The ocean is incredible, and we live so close by; left to my own devices, I might just sit and stare at the waves for hours, lost in the foam and reflections, muted by the endless roar.

When we returned, Pearce and Brittany came to visit, and Pearce jammed with Imogen and Emily while delicious things were baked and eaten in the kitchen. This should be a very good year.

…Speaking of years, today marks the last day of my second year of this project. I’ve recorded a little bit of every day for the last 730 days, and I’ll continue on as long as I can. Take a few moments to review the year:

My first year was at SF State, and my second on campus at UCSC. This year I’ll be living off campus in a house with friends, and with Emily, and it’s hard to imagine how different things will be. In a year I’ll look back and be amazed both at how quickly it went and how long ago today was.

I took more photos of people this year. I noticed in my first year’s video that the most distinctive photos, those which lingered in the mind after they flashed and vanished, were of people. The brain is instinctively attracted to human faces – it just wants to see and understand them – and for people who are seeing these photos for the first time, portraits draw the most attention. Does this year feel a little different to you? I’m not as afraid of photographing people as I was a year ago, which made a huge different in the course this project took – it’s often more about who I’m with and what I’m doing than little things I notice throughout the day. And while this social boom is undeniably a great improvement in my life, I don’t want to stop paying attention to the little things. I might have to remind myself of this several times before it takes root again – please be patient with me.

The music is Hard Cast, a piece by Pearce, and I’m very happy I was able to use it. I lived with very talented people this last year.

This next year will be magnificent, too. Just you wait and see.

And, if anyone is still reading this, I’d like to know what you think of this project, and if there’s anything in particular you would like to see, or that you think I should pay more attention to. My life is shaped by the people around me, so there’s no reason this project can’t be influenced as well.

deaf to music

Written by Umbrella Man

September 22, 2010 at 2:34 am

Photo of the Day #365

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Because UC Santa Cruz is comfortably nestled into a magical redwood forest, it seemed necessary to stage an expedition into the woods. Feeling rather restless, I set my mind on going today, but was sidetracked several times before I had the chance. After dinner, just as the fog was setting in and the sky was starting to fade, Pearce and I ventured toward the trees, leaving our flashlights to defend the apartment. The path was clear, and we made our way easily, but gradually the light faded, and after a time we could only make out the subtlest outlines of the trees, the path and our own hands. I kept my eyes wide open in the cold air, devouring all the light I could, and we continued on over dirt, roots and gravel.

The paths in the forest are simple enough to navigate, but because we weren’t familiar with them, we wandered for several miles, worrying that we might end up at a far away beach instead of the campus.

Nearing the end of our journey, a star became apparent in the sky, shining brighter than the others, and it lead us right back to civilization. After walking through such persistent darkness, the electric lights of the campus were a wonder to see, and they each held a halo of fog, as if lost in a daydream. I set my camera down to try and catch them while Pearce whirled down the street. He moved too quickly for the camera’s eye, and so his presence is not apparent here; nonetheless, there are certainly dissolved bits of him floating around in this photo.

One needn’t worry on a night hike. There will always be a path back home – it just takes time to find it. Just bring a friend along, to be safe.


With this photo, I have successfully captured our dear old planet’s full swing around the Sun – 365 photos, one taken every day, from September 22nd, 2008, to September 21, 2009. I have every intention to continue with this, and I see no reason to stop.

In case you missed any photos, here’s a recap:

For days when I posted both a video and a photo, I defaulted to the photo for the purposes of this montage. For days when I posted a video only, I took a single frame from the video and used it as a photo for that day. This is a little more edit work than I am used to doing for this project, but it’s a special occasion.

I think my life just flashed before my eyes.

Dead Bodies – Air

Written by Umbrella Man

September 22, 2009 at 1:50 am

Posted in milestones, places

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