Photography, Perfection, Apertures, and Hospitality

“f8 and be there.” Renowned photojournalist Arthur Fellig said this when asked about how he captured such great photos. It’s a basic photo setting. You won’t get the dramatic depth of field like you would with a larger aperture, like portrait mode on your iphone. And you won’t get super crisp landscapes like Ansel Adams did with f64. But f8 is good enough to get your subject clear while letting in enough light to avoid motion blur in a majority of photos. The point is, to “be there”.

In a world of automatic camera settings, this point is still profound in other areas of life and how it relates to perfection. Perfection is the enemy of productivity. I think often about the 80/20 rule where 20% of my effort will result in 80% of my impact. The other day, I was sharing this with a couple friends who were at my house, applying this idea to cleaning. Rarely is my house spotless. I have three teenage sons. My goal is 80% clean. The “be there” part of this is in the hospitality. I love having people over and I don’t mind them seeing a little mess, as long as it’s 80% clean.

The past couple years have been socially strange, as the term “social distancing” entered our lexicon. We had social bubbles, and we sheltered in place. We spent weeks in lockdown and felt guilty meeting the eyes of neighbors we passed on the street for fear that eye contact alone might spread the virus in those early days.

It might feel a little strange to invite friends into your home. But if we’ve learned anything through this strange social experiment, I hope we have realized how precious our friendships are. Precious enough to practice hospitality, even if your home is only 80% clean.

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Time Travel

Alamo Creek
Time travel at Alamo Creek. Click to shop this print at

I found this magical spot near my house shortly after moving to this side of town last year. I often walk or jog here and stop for a few minutes, scrambling down the rocks to the river’s edge, to watch the water trickle and the birds frolic. It’s my place to pause, breathe, and enjoy nature. I often imagine I’m taken back to a different time and consider how this place looked and who walked through these trees before I came. 

Yesterday, as I jogged past, I saw someone painting this same scene. She later shared her painting with me. It was such a perfect moment, I stopped to ask if she wanted her picture taken while she painted. 

On a recent morning run, after chasing the pink and orange sunrise, brilliant ahead of me, I turned back toward home as orange light washed me from behind and lit the trail like a dream. I stopped on a bridge over this creek. Tiny drops drizzled on me and the water below as I looked out at the massive expanse of sky above. I watched the raindrops create ripples in the water as they took on a new form. Droplet to stream. My eyes followed the stream until my mind’s eye continued its path to the ocean. These tiny drops continued to become something different…a stream to an ocean. Eventually they evaporate back into the atmosphere and fall somewhere new as snow. 

I looked up into the rain clouds, still edged pink with the sunrise and I spoke to the divine creator who I understand now to be so much more than the  male deity that I imagined before. Hearing God only referred to with male pronouns, to me, minimizes half of the attributes of the divine. I told her, for this full moon, I release those limiting beliefs. I watched as my old identity fell to the water below and drifted down the stream, to become something new and continue to change.  

I released seeing myself as fundamentally bad, needing something outside of myself to help me be good and loving. I have been given this beautiful gift of living the human experience, the divine within me, and the point is to love. I recently heard someone say “religion is training wheels to spirituality”, and that felt like a good description of this evolution, taking off those training wheels. 

Einstein once said, “I think the most important question facing humanity is, ‘Is the universe a friendly place?’ This is the first and most basic question all people must answer for themselves.” The answer has profound implications. If we believe the world is intrinsically unfriendly, and we are intrinsically evil people with wicked and deceitful hearts as I was told so many times growing up, then we’ll use our resources and technology to create bigger walls and weapons. 

If we believe that the world is intrinsically a friendly place, we’ll use our resources to deepen our understanding. I believe love is at the source, and I’ll keep looking for the beauty of that every day.

Vietnam 2000

Originally posted October 2015

We spent Thanksgiving in Ho Chi Minh City with Megan who was spending four months teaching English there. Kia and I flew in to Seoul, South Korea and spent the night in a Korean style room with mattresses on the heated floor before boarding a plane to Vietnam where we would spend the next couple weeks. We shopped in Korean markets which had cell phones with color displays, as yet unheard of in the states at the time.

Taxi ride
Taxi ride

Megan met us at the airport with rice hats. We took a cab to her house which would be the only time we rode in an actual car for the rest of the trip. The city runs on scooters and motorcycles.

We had clothes custom made for us, including some silk qipao dresses. There were plenty of pre-made dresses to buy, but none of these fit my 5’10” self. We bought material at a fabric shop while playing patty cake with the local kids.

Custom Qipao
Custom Qipao

Then we went to a seamstress. She took our measurements, looked at some of the pictures we brought from home, them made us awesome outfits.

We toured the Mekong Delta. But before that, we got food poisoning from an upscale Chinese food restaurant serving drunken prawns. I’ve never been so sick in my life. That night president Clinton made the first visit to Vietnam from an American president since the war. The streets were going crazy in celebration and I didn’t have the strength to stand at the window and watch. Still, it was cool to hear and witness that.

My new friend
My new friend

The museums in Vietnam show history from a different side than we Americans are used to. We lost that war. The museums showed atrocities committed by American soldiers and the damage done to that country rather than celebrating any freedom we had hoped to bring. It was a different story in Korea where the war memorial celebrated the various countries that helped South Korea escape communism. The Vietnamese museum was the first place I’ve experienced the sobering feeling of being on the losing side of history. Helicopters from 30 years before still littered the airfield.

Head massage in Saigon
Head massage in Saigon

Kia, Megan and I got head massages. They lasted for one hour and felt amazing. I looked like a Qtip after with my short platinum hair sticking straight up and frizzing all over the place afterward.