Why Natural Running?

Running is fundamental. I was going to say it was a passion, but it goes much deeper than that. Since I started to get involved in changing to a more natural running style I began reading a lot of material on the technique, biomechanics and human evolution. These areas haven’t quite intersected completely in current publications and so I will bring them together.

Why running?

First, let’s talk about the reason we run. More than that, there is a particular set of reasons that running has sustained us for millions of years and been one of the significant contributions to our mental and physical development.

About 3 million years ago the first human like creatures left the forests and started to roam the savannah that was developing and eating up the rain forest. To survive we needed to walk erect to see above the grasses and small trees. We also needed to move our heads back and forth and keep a constant vigil to find food and to not become food. The more we moved, the bigger our brains got. The bigger our brains got, the more high potency calories we needed. The human brains uses about 20% of our bodies energy. Gathering and foraging is great to keep a basic level of energy, but fresh meat had an abundance of protein and fat calories that our hungry brains needed.

It is probably likely that in those early millennia we scavenged as much as we foraged. Remember, we didn’t really have any weapons for hunting from a distance, like spears and arrows. If we killed game it was up close and personal with instruments that were in close proximity. How, then, did we kill game that gave us huge caloric benefit?  Persistence hunting.

Persistence hunting was done until the 1960s and seems to be the solution that best fits the needs of our ancient relatives. In persistence hunting a group of hunters work together to isolate a large animal from the rest of the herd. This was usually timed during the hottest part of the day. A big animal being made to run hard during the hot part of the day will fatigue fast. This type of hunting was science, not just random work. They managed the situation to the advantage of the human over the beast.

The Art of Tracking cover

As a team, the hunters tracked the animal, keeping it from rejoining the herd and making it sprint repeatedly to get away. It might take a few hours and cover as much as 25+ miles, but the big animal would eventually succumb to heat exhaustion and would either die right then or be unable to flee getting battered with a club or rock. The end result would be very potent caloric reward.

There are two important factors to keep in mind. First, the process of tracking was demanding. At times the hunter would lose sight of the animal and would have to figure out where he had gone. Part of this was learning to interpret signs of movement and part of it was the hunter learning to put his mind into the same space as the animal and finding its trail through sensation. This is arguably the beginning of man’s ability to do abstract thinking. Our ability to feel love, passion and intellect all started with tracking animals during persistence hunting. Our higher capacity for learning all stems from running.

The second factor, is that running down a large prey requires a commitment of energy. It only makes sense to make this investment if the outcome was greater than the cost. Since persistence hunting went on for longer than we have been living in cities, it suggests that the positive outcome in terms of calories was consistent. That is the key point. The cost to get the food had to be less than the value of the food

Keep that in mind while I make this next point.

How to Run

I’ve written before about a number of the reasons our anatomy indicates we are born to be distance runners. They are all drawn from works by people like Daniel Lieberman.

the human body

From toe to head we have biomechanics that only make sense if we are distance runners. Things like our short toes, our foot arches which absorb impact, the achilles tendon which operate as a spring when running, the large gluteus muscles, tendons in our neck that keep our head high, how we breath across multiple steps and the way our skin sweats to cool us. I can go on, but suffice it to say that the evolutionary record seems pretty clear.

Survival demanded the efficient use of energy and resources. If running was the basis for capturing needed calories, then running had to be done as efficiently as possible.

Even with all of the attributes that make us great runners, running had to be something more than just moving your feet fast. It had to be efficient and in a form that did not promote injury. Our ancestors had no shoes, or, at some point, only thin strips of leather to cover their feet. They grew up running in a natural form and they learned from each other the most efficient way to run. It wasn’t a random approach. Random meant inefficiency and more caloric output than could be sustained during persistence hunting.

In trying to find the biomechanically correct way to run I discovered the Pose Method. It is the only method that stems from efficient biomechanics that require the least amount of muscle expenditure while providing the least injury prone form that is fast. It was developed by Nicholas Romanov in the 1970s.

The Pose Method

In the Pose Method, the focus is on simple attributes of effective running.

  • The most efficient running happens when landing on the forefoot. It provides the least amount of time that the foot is in contact with the ground. Either heel or midfoot strikes require the foot to roll forward, which means energy is used to force the body over the foot. You can only heel or midfoot strike if you over stride and an over stride requires more energy.
    • Over stride means that your foot extends outward beyond your hips. An overstride, like heel striking, means that you put on the breaks with every footstep and have to power over with your leg muscles to compensate. That is very inefficient from a caloric expenditure perspective.
  • Forward motion is achieved by falling forward and using gravity to accelerate. The more the lean forward the more speed. There are some nuances to the fall. It is more like being pulled forward at the waste because the torso has to be straight to allow proper breathing and to keep balance.
  • The landing foot is picked up, not pushed off of. A lot of runners push off with their landed foot. This uses a lot of muscle that doesn’t really add value, but does burn calories. By lifting the ankle up in direct line with the hip, the body can just fall to the next step and few muscles are used. An increased cadence (~90 steps per foot per minute) is a cruising speed.

There is more too it, but then again, there really isn’t. The beauty of the Pose Method is that it allows you to run very fast with minimal exertion of large muscle groups.  If you want to see a picture perfect example of how this type of running looks, here is a video of Dibaba.  I am pretty certain she did not have any Pose Method training, but her natural method has all of the elements of a good Pose run.

When you tie together persistence hunting with efficient running form, you have a solution that makes sense. In other words, for millions of years we ran naturally in a very specific way. A way that minimized the calories used but still allowed us to run great distances to capture prey that yielded a very positive caloric reward.

Thanks for reading. I hope this has been interesting for you. As a writer, I am compelled to keep asking why something happens and digging a little more each time to get to a kernel of truth that makes for good character motivation.

Enjoy.  Run free. Run easy.

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The Body of Writing

You won’t find blogs from me with the “N things you need to do to be a successful writer.” Frankly, there are a lot of people out there giving advise on how best to succeed as a writer so my voice would just be lost in the din. The best  advise I ever got was from Stephen King in his book “On Writing.” In that tome he dispelled some misbeliefs I had held and which had kept me from writing for decades.

Up until then I thought you had to have a fully formed plot in your head to be able to start a book. As I read other books I’d often wonder how authors thought of all the plot twists before they started to write.  I tried outlining and found that I was not built to construct that way. After each little attempt I would put it aside and let the idea simmer on a back burner.

At one point I decided to try writing the kind of literature people were buying. Romance novels! I had a friend who was an avid romance novel reader and she told me what made a good romance.  I attempted a few starts because at least I had a plot strategy. (Sorry, I can’t remember what it was. That notebook is decomposing in a dump in Arizona.) I did learn that I was not up to writing that style of book. I couldn’t even get out of the starting gate. I hadn’t read any romance novels, so it was not territory I could navigate. Reading is the foundation for writing. I didn’t really understand that, but have always been an avid reader.

Years later, when I read the King semi-biographical tutorial, everything changed. He recommended a very simple mantra. “Just fucking write.” Stephen freed me from the deception I had. He explained that he seldom knew where his books would go, he would just come up with the premise, start the story and let things get mixed together and develop as he went. It was as much a surprise to him as it would be to his readers.

So I decided to make my start and reinforced the effort by buying a fountain pen and a nice notebook. That was just something I wanted to do. Little did I know that creative first draft writing is all about using a pen or typewriter. A manual, tactile connection to each word.

Words on the page

Words on the page

Computers are fantastic. I love my MAC. But my first drafts are almost entirely written in ink or typed on a page.  I learned the difference between a first draft and an edited draft from King, too. That was the second liberating idea. Kind of a corollary to the first.  “Just fucking write and don’t look back.”  Get all the rambling thoughts and ideas out on paper first and don’t stop the stream of thought by trying to fix things that will obviously need to be fixed. There is no delete key on my fountain pen. Yes I do cross things out and make little notes, but I move forward with each touch of the nib to the paper or the key to the ribbon.

My #1 Olympia SM9

My #1 Olympia SM9

It might be that I am just a physical person, but this works for me. My sister, who is an expert typist and has immaculate penmanship, thinks I am funny. She was a professional secretary and she types faster than a manual typewriter can sustain. That little delay in putting the words to the paper makes me have to think of the word I am committing to. It makes me have to phrase the sentence and feel the rhythm of the writing. Good typing is all about keeping a smooth rhythm.

I got rhythm and off I went. At first by hand and later by keystroke, six-hundred pages later I had created my first novel.  It is entitled “A Bend in Space” and is still nicely tucked in my filing space awaiting my deft hand in reforming it into something that people would like to read. I like the concept and the plot but it needs work. I have learned a lot since then and need to go back and apply that learning. The beauty of it is that I have all my original writing to reference. Every moment of brilliance that leaked from my pen and every WTF-did-I-mean sentence that seemed necessary at the time. Nothing deleted.

By the time I started my second book, SYN-FIN, I was no longer afraid to just start attacking with words. In a nice bar in Santa Clara after a Cisco Users Group meeting I had a beer and began writing this image that started to form in my mind. For me writing is about how I describe the movie that is unfolding in my mind. Here’s the image:

Hungover, face down on the crushed granite of the Arizona desert, the early morning sun warmed the skin on the back of my neck.

frontcover

I loved the start. It still makes me smile, and that is all any writer can ask. Write what you like and about what is interesting to you and it will come off in the words you choose and the phrasing you make.

I guess I did come up with a list. You see what happens when you just start and let the words take you along?  This is what happened just now:

  1. Read.  Read a lot. Read often. Read good and bad and every genre you can stand.
  2. Just fucking write. It will get better.
  3. Don’t look back. Save editing and self doubt for the second draft.
  4. Don’t write to an audience. Write what you like. The audience will find you.
  5. Write anywhere and everywhere at any time.

Photo Nov 07, 5 15 18 PM

Sometimes, if I stop for a refreshment while waiting for a train, I’ll start putting words on paper. At home I have a writing area. Here’s my desk. I show it because it means you can pretty much write anywhere. I need to clean it up a bit, but it represents the history of writing because there is pen and paper, a manual typewriter (actually, several) and two laptop computers (MAC and Windows). And coffee. Coffee is important.

Photo Nov 18, 8 59 04 AM (1)

This is where I go word surfing. I like that term. Does that mean I have to wear a bathing suit when I write? Hmmm.

Want to be a writer? It’s all up to you. There really aren’t any rules. Go and discover your own and then publish a blog with a list of what you found. Feel free to use any of mine.

Run Free

It Hurts When I Do That

There’s an old joke, I think told by Henny Youngman, about a man who goes to the doctor and reports, “Doc, it hurts when I do this,” as he raises his arm. “Well, then don’t do that,” the doctor responds.

That is kind of what happened to me. When I went to an osteopath who is a specialist in hip issues for a diagnosis of my hip pain. It was osteoarthritis, which I already had a decent idea it was.

He did some mobility and flexibility tests (he moved my leg in several directions for about 10 seconds while I lay prone) and watched me walk for about 3 steps. His counsel consisted of basically saying that if there was too much pain he could prescribe something or give me a shot (neither of which I wanted). When I asked him about physical activity he said what I already knew. Ease up. I told him I was a runner and he said I should stop running or reduce it significantly. I did get to see the X-ray, and he pointed out where the arthritis is. Like I could really tell. I guess I got my $35 co-pay’s worth. He spent less time with me than I did waiting for him.

hip xray

Not my X-Ray

On a contrary note, my family physician, who did the referral, called me to see how it went (actually left his cell number for me to call back). He knows I am an avid runner and that this was a big issue. He spent a fair amount of time talking to me and doing the preliminary exam.

The difference between the two is their sense of self. My family physician has deep pockets of knowledge, but he never assumes he knows it all. When he did the exam he asked a lot of questions and did more flexibility tests asking how it felt with each one. The specialist seemed to have a conclusion as soon as he saw the X-ray and responded with a set diagnosis. Whether I was a physically active runner or not didn’t alter his approach or comments. I felt like I was almost bothering him to be there.

As a result I am left with finding options on my own. Yes, I am starting to look for a different specialist who is more oriented toward sports, but unless you understand what motivates a runner, you really can’t treat them for something like this.

What am I doing?

Well, I’ve shifted a lot of my workouts to cycling. I am building those muscles back up. I hadn’t realized how much I had lost in the last 2 years when I focused mostly on running. The motion and alternate muscle use feels good.

I’ve been able to run 3-5 miles and feel pretty much the same afterward, but I can’t run every day. I often do 5-10 minutes of treadmill running after I do a bike workout. The warmup seems to help and the dual workouts give me a boost.

What does it all mean?

Well, I doubt I’ll be running any marathons in the future. That’s OK. I can live with that. I do want to get to the point where I can reasonably to 10Ks and hit a half a few times a year.

To get there I am looking for ways to help my body find a new path. I am taking glucosamine daily and some ibuprofin if it gets too much. I make sure to stay in motion as much as I can during the day and I’m finding information about specific stretching and flexibility exercises. I have also gone back to cushioned running shoes since most of my running is on roads, not trails, but I have kept my minimalist form. When I run I feel very little impact. The benefit is that now I can shop for different running shoes! I’m thinking these will be my next purchase.

NB1400

I have noticed that the harder I work out, the better I feel the next day or so. That is a message my body is sending to me, although I am not totally willing to listen right now. I have a lot of faith in the human body. It can’t necessarily fix itself, but it can adapt if you work with it. Yeah, someday I may need a cortisone shot or even surgery. I’d like to see how far I can go without that. There is something inside me that says I can run again, like I used to. Maybe not as fast, but at least at distances that let me find the runner’s pleasure.

After learning to run again in a more minimal style, I am now going to learn to run again, period. Cycling has always been a love of mine, although not as convenient as running. These two movement exercises will help me find my path.

As always, Run Free!

Running Can Be a Pain

Running with pain is a fact of life if you have a chronic inflammation like arthritis.

Two weeks ago I found out arthritis is the cause of pain in the hip (only about 9 inches away from being a pain in the ass). I stopped running after that, doing cycling on my trainer and resting while I re-grouped.  Bike trainers are great torture machines if used correctly. I just put it in a resistance gear and pedaled for a while.

kirby kineteic trainer

Since I was out of town on business this week, I decided to take a few days off. Usually running is my mainstay workout when I travel, but not this time. There are a lot of reasons for that, but I’ll wrap them in a future post.

On Friday I worked at home and decided to take a short three mile run after my calls ended at 2pm. I’ve been running in minimal shoes – sandals and zero lift/low cushion shoes with flexible soles. For this run I reverted to my technical running shoes – a pair of hardly used Nike Vomero’s to get the cushion that they offer. Most of what I read about running with arthritis is that you need more cushion.

I ran the three miles, feeling a tinge of the inflammation with each step of my right leg. I focused on staying as smooth as I could, not overextending my stride and not worrying about speed. It felt good to be out and running again, even with the pain. Here’s my SportsTracker output.

Photo Sep 20, 3 33 34 PM

It’s a mixed box of information for me. I ran the distance and finished feeling no worse than when I started. I also ran one of the slowest average speeds I’ve ever logged. Although speed isn’t why I run, it is the barometer I use to gauge how good my fitness is.

Later that afternoon my inflammation rose to a level that I hadn’t felt for a while. I hydrated and took some ibuprofen and waited for the morning.

The pain was still there, so I iced it with a package of frozen peas. It is a perfect ice pack. I prefer organic frozen peas (just a joke).

fozen peas

The icing helped immensely and saved me from cycling into a “can never run again” depression. This reminded me that maybe there are simple things to do to abate the discomfort and gain some control back. I will ride my bike today and continue to stay mobile because that makes it all feel better. Most of all I am determined to find a path forward that includes running and cycling and keeping in shape.

Fortunately, my mind has no symptoms of arthritis (no more than normal) so my creative writing continues and is getting better. My writing reminds me that from any starting point it takes a discipline and persistent desire to continue to improve. Writing also reminds me that every endeavor is never perfected and always offers improvement and discovery if you keep working at it. I know from creating a novel (several actually) that you don’t control the plot. The characters and context take you where they need to go.

With arthritis I have a new starting point for my athleticism. A wicked twist in the plot of my running life. I need to listen to my body and context and I’ll work it out. And I will learn a lot in the process.

As always, I am interested in what you have to say. Send me an email or post a comment. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Run Free and Smooth.  

A New Challenge

Here’s the deal. I am NOT going to be able to do my 60-at-60 running challenge right now. Here’s why…

I have arthritis in my hip.

Athritis-300x300That is a hard thing for me to admit. I’ve been fit and healthy most of my life. Running and cycling have been my primary means to that end and this development has shaken me a bit, but only a bit.

A few months ago I noticed the pain and did some self-diagnosis based on symptoms and what I read online. I was basically treating the pain as overuse injury expecting, like all the other injuries I’ve had, it would resolve itself and I’d be back on the road.

The pain did get more tolerable, but started to change. I mean it moved around. Kind of a galloping sensitivity. Some times I’d feel it down my thigh or across my knee or even down on my ankle or foot. That made me think nerves, so I went to the doctor.

He is a local orthopedist who supported a professional sports team at one time and understood athletics. He said I can keep running, just not long distance and that I would benefit from more cross training. I love cycling on par with running, so that isn’t going to be an issue. For the last two years I’ve focused mostly on running, and now will get back into the groove of cycling with my running. I may even take the jump into the water and start some swimming at the local Y.

It was cool to see the X-ray and the spurs near the joint as well as the lack of gap in the ball and cup area (meaning the cushion was gone). There is something relieving about knowing what source is. The orthopedic surgeon timelined my options based on pain and mobility. They go from ibuprofen (my current treatment) to cortisone to a hip replacement, or whatever they have for invasive surgery at that time. I usually don’t take any pain meds because I don’t want to mask my recovery. Plus, the pain, although irritating for someone who is very mobile and active, wasn’t so so bad that I couldn’t tolerate it. Knowing the arthritis isn’t going to go away, I am going to take ibuprofen more often, but not on a daily basis. The last run I went on was 3 miles a week ago. I am going to go back into more cushioned shoes but keep my minimalist form. My pace will be slower, but running is running, so I’m not really complaining.

I have made a commitment to the Hole in the Wall Gang Camps and I plan to find a way to keep it, just not this Fall.  They are a great organization doing something I really believe in, so it is important to me to keep to that commitment. Plus, they sent me a very cool running jersey, so I have motivation to keep it up. Maybe I’ll do a personal duathlon that maps to the 60 sentiment.

Team-Logo-Web-2013-copy2

The sun is out and it promises to be a nice spring day. I’m going to spin on my bike for a  while and then start on weekend chores. Maybe I’ll log a couple of easy miles  get started again. We’ll see.  I will keep you posted. I have never been good with motivational phrases. All I can tell you is that I see this as a challenge and I’ll find a way around it so I can keep my athletic sense of self while dealing with the reality of what my body needs.

Run free, easy and smooth. My new motto.

Run on National Running Day!

June 5, 2013 is National Running Day!

I run...

I encourage all of you to get out and move. It doesn’t matter how long or how fast (a walk is just a leisurely run). Go solo. Go with friends. All I ask is that you smile while you run!  It’s about having FUN!

I’m going to do a very short run. I’ll tell you why.

The day before National Running Day I got a nice cut on the bottom of my foot when I stomped on a nail head on the deck. The string of invectives that followed the cut would have made my friend AJ Aalto proud, even though I lack her innate creativity for slang.

It means I have to lay off training for a while. That will be hard to do because I am just ramping up and it has been fun feeling the form come along.

I’m not that anal about my training, except I just publicized that I am running the Fairfield Half Marathon in 18 days. I know that if I try to run before the cut has healed it will open up again, sending me back to day one on the recovery calendar. The cut is right on the bottom of my foot on the outside of my forefoot (the ball of the foot). That just happens to be the place that hits the ground first with every stride.

My impatience has me looking at the tube of Rhino glue in the cupboard.

Photo Jun 04, 8 07 00 PM

Don’t laugh. I’ve done it before, but not on my foot. Did I mention that men are generally stupid and that we apply the same technology to our bodies that we do to broken furniture? Air guns and shelac go a long way in remedying what ails you. Really. I’ve seen the staples doctors put in incisions and my Porter-Cable staple gun can do about the same job.

The good thing is that we won’t use those same curative methods on our spouses or significant others. But, beware ladies. We might do try some of this on our kids.

Funny how these blogs take on a life of their own. It’s like most of my writing. I start out with a hint of an idea and where it goes surprises me.

When you put your feet in front of each other today and run down the driveway or across town, think of me with the tube of Rhino glue in my hand while I do the risk analysis on whether I’m being stupid or brilliant.

And…

RUN FREE!!!

Running for Team Hole in the Wall

This fall I plan to run a 60K distance in support of the Team Hole in the Wall.

Team-Logo-Web-2013-copy2

My event is entitled 60 at 60 and you can link to it here:  http://events.teamholeinthewall.org/2013communityevents/jlgrunr

Why the Support the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp?

The organization was started by Paul Newman and is dedicated to giving seriously ill kids and their families some time to have fun. As Paul said, every kid needs to “raise a little hell.”

I can totally get behind that sentiment. Having three wonderful children and a beautiful granddaughter who are all healthy and hellraisers in their own right gives me reason for thanks.

The Camp started here in Connecticut and has expanded. All of the proceeds go to running the camp and helping kids be kids. I’m just a big kid at heart anyway.

What’s with the 60 stuff?

On June 23, 2013 I tick off my 60th year. I consider myself to be pretty average – as in I’m nothing special. But, I’ve made the most of it. My ability to do that is, to my estimation, related to my running. I am not an obsessive runner, but I am a constant one.

Let me be clear. I am a very lucky man. When I run I celebrate my good fortune. That is also why I feel compelled to help others while I cover the distance.

Running has been in my life since I was a freshman in high school. Actually, running was been part of play and entertainment as long as I can remember, but it became part of my “workout” when I was thirteen and joined the wrestling team. I’ve had off times, but never for very long. Running has been a constant companion for me. It is the place I go to meditate, solve problems, vanquish stress, and celebrate life. While that is happening I also fight disease and aging while justifying eating these every so often.

A Boston Creme!

A Boston Creme!

To celebrate my love of running and my temporal achievement, I decided to run 60 miles in one day. Then I had some hip/IT band problems. I’m now recovering from that issue and decided that 60 kilometers (37.28 miles) is more doable. That’s about a marathon and a half. I hope you can understand that I don’t want to risk pushing it because I do want to keep running in comfort for another 47 years.

The main event will happen in the fall of this year when the weather is more suitable for distance running. In the interim I am doing the Fairfield Half Marathon on my birthday. That will be the official kickoff to this event.

I’ll be running in my Luna Monos.

Photo Jun 02, 8 10 44 PM

There is more to come.  In the next few posts I’ll explain more about my decision.  I’m going to ask you to weigh in on a couple of options, so please keep linked to my blog. I will also explain how you can participate in the event beyond giving your pledges.

Please, follow my blog and forward the link to this page to your friends and family.

Thank you, in advance, for you support!

Run Free!

Leaves on Fire

I learned photography shooting black and white film. My go to camera was my trusty 35mm Nikon FE2. I must have pushed thousands of rolls of film through that little beast and is still works. I don’t do film anymore, but I can’t part with that camera.

When the digital age came along, I started experimenting with them, but I wasn’t really impressed. Then Nikon introduced their pro level cameras and I saw the end of film on the horizon. I bought a D70 on a trip to Kuala Lumpur and have been hooked on digital ever since. My latest rig is a D700, which I have had since it was released. There are newer and better cameras out there, but I’m happy with my D700.

Yesterday I was on a run and paused to take a shot with my iPhone. Actually, I took several because…well, just because. That’s what you do. You just respond to a scene that calls out to you. It’s part of my running mode these days. Stop and enjoy what you see. Running can take you to places you won’t/can’t see from a car.

Photo May 03, 9 22 13 AM

The reflection of the sky on the water caught my eye and then the edginess of the trees offered an unsettling contrast to the tranquil sky. I was 7 miles into a 10 mile run, so there’s no telling where my mind was.

Then I saw a rock.  One that I have passed a hundred times, but this time it looked different.

A rock

A rock

I don’t like how the top of the rock is washed out. Extreme contrast is a limit on phone cameras. The new growth of spring was a soft contrast to the hard rock surface that reinforced the grey to green.

I thought about that shot as I ran the last couple of miles and had wished I had my old 4×5 view camera to take it in black and white with excessive detail. A view camera is one of those with a bellows and a ground glass plate where the image is focused. You have to drape a cloth over your head and around the back of the camera to see the image. And the image is upside down and reversed left to right. There is no better way to develop compositional skills. It is also a real pain in the ass to carry around, setup, load film into and develop each sheet of film. But the results were astounding.

This morning I followed my black and white muse as the sun rose. Leaves are just beginning to emerge on the trees surrounding our house. The juxtaposition made it feel as if they were on fire. In color it looked interesting, but bland. My vision was in black and white when I took them. I previsualized what I wanted. In both cases I cropped the shot and did a little post production shift of contrast, but not much. It would have been the same work I would have done by altering the developing times and shooting the print on different contrast paper if I was using legacy methods.

BW Leaves on fire

The graphic pallet of this shot is very nice. I see some issues with it, but the image is still strong. Stronger in black and white than in color. I worked it so that there were no absolute whites and some texture in the very dark areas. What appeals to me is the repetition of vertical strokes with some lateral conflict as a backdrop to the shimmering leaves.

Admittedly, I should have taken a bit more time and used a tripod. There was a slight breeze, which would normally have stopped me because of loss of clarity, but not today. I was just playing around and having some fun with my visualization. Just like my running, I don’t take it too seriously these days. I just do it for enjoyment and my own enrichment.

Here’s the other shot from the same timeframe.

BW of backlit leaves

I softened this one a little. Quite frankly, I screwed up the exposure, but the result was to make the shadows very dark. Which worked out OK. You know they are leaves on trees, but if you look at it long enough your eyes follow a pattern and each grouping leads to the next. The bright leaves centered on the abyss keep you coming back to the center.

I had forgotten how nice black and white is and how it makes you think more about what you are shooting. These are not the best shots in the world, but I like them because they reminded me to look deeper at what is around me.

More to come.

Run Free!

Being Grateful

It has been a difficult time here in New England. Between hurricane Sandy, Sandy Hook, strange weather and, now, the Boston Marathon atrocity, we’ve been put to the test.

I woke early, which is my habit, and sat with a cup of coffee not as focused on the work staring back at me from my computer as normal. My eyes looked out to the rising sun and this is what I saw.

A reminder…

Sunrise Reminder

Sunrise Reminder

 

 

 

 

What is in a Smile?

They say that three’s a charm. This is my third attempt to make this post.  It helps me prove the point of the post, though.  Read on…

I wanted to make a short entry about the importance of smiling.  Figuring the best place to start was with some facts I decided to get the specifics about smiles.  What I wanted to find out is how many muscles it takes to smile.  You know the old adage about smiling taking fewer muscles than frowning? Well, it turns out that is bunk. I hate to upset all those motivational speakers, but, it just ain’t true.

The human face has 43 muscles.  Don’t ask me why there is an odd number for a symmetrical face. To add to the confusion, there were other numbers referenced, but 43 seems to be the most common so I’m going with it.  At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter.

The real issue is defining what a smile or frown really is.  Is it a slight curl at the edge of the mouth? Is it an elegant curve of the lips? Is it a full toothy expression? They all fit the description and when you see one version or another you know if people are smiling or not.

I thought about it a bit and realized that the face is a complex system of muscles. In any complex system you can’t just change one thing. From that view, any smile or frown is going to use all the muscles to some extent or another. A smile will use those muscles differently than a frown, but they all come into play.  I smiled when I had that idea. Then another idea hit me.

I’m a runner.  I know that muscles need to be exercised and when you start working them they get sore.  How often have you heard people say that they had had such a good time the night before that their muscles ached from laughing so much?  If you don’t smile often, then that actually might happen.  Same with frowning, but you don’t hear people talking about muscle aches from too much frowning.  Usually, they are bitching about something else.

So, it’s not about the muscles.  It is about the smile.  In all its varieties. Smiles are powerful.  Smiles are healthy. Smiles make other people feel better.

That’s when I remembered something from my first full time job after college.  I worked for ATT when it was a monopoly and they were the only ones who controlled 800 numbers. There was a job, a Phone Power Specialist, whose focus was on how to use 800 and toll numbers most effectively.  Our rep was Johnny Smith and he used to tell the call center agents he trained to smile when they talked to customers.  He said “They can hear your smile.”  I loved that line.  And it is true.

Even today, when we type to each other instead of talking, if I smile while I type, like I am now, the words that enter the screen are more positive and paced with greater excitement.

So, here’s your assignment.  Sometime during the day today you will be faced with having to deal with angst or anger or frustration (especially you parents). When you feel that well up in your mind, take a breath, stand with good posture and smile.  It just has to be a little bit of a grin. When you do, the issue will seem to take on a different face. You’ll be able to handle it better and the people around you will think you have your shit together even if you don’t. That ‘s what I did after the second attempt to make this posting work ended up with a blank screen!

Smiling is natural to me. I am not a comedian, but I love to twist reality for my own fun and pleasure. People seem to like my company and I think it is because I smile and create smiles. I am an introvert and my smile (facial and vocal) has been my greatest weapon for dealing with some of the side effects of introversion. People like to see you smile when you are their leader. If you do, they feel better.  Maybe that’s why we fear aliens.  They don’t smile much.

Give me this example. Life is hard work. We were evolved to be hard workers. There is joy in a job well done. When I am on a long run and it starts to feel like it is more of a workout, I smile.  When I do my form adjusts to normal, my stride evens out and the road disappears. I remember the pure joy of movement even though I am running long miles.

Life may be hard work, but it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be fun.

Keep smiling! Run Free!

NOTE: no emoticons were harmed in the creation of this post.