Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Misty Morning Magic, Arcata 2011
Today marks the fourth anniversary of my retirement (jubilaciĆ³n). For the past several days I pondered the ramifications of my retirement. I am sharing some of my thoughts and insights on the subject here. 

It is almost impossible to anticipate what retirement will feel like until one lives in that state for awhile. I started my first year out by taking a trip to South Korea and to Ladakh. I wanted to visit both places for different reasons, and my experiences confirmed that reasoning. I followed that trip up with a visit to the east coast and to a family reunion. Since then my travels have been more localized. 

The reason I bring this up at all is that I discovered that it took me awhile to actually "find my groove" in establishing my lifestyle. It took me a couple of years, and several "dry holes" before my exploration into a life style fully manifested itself to me. I now know that my lifestyle is that of the Fine Art Photographer. What is significant is that I now have a definition of myself that I never was able to acquire prior to retirement. 

I wanted for years to become what I now am. I did not have the resolve nor the means to accomplish that until recently. I had other obligations that I rightly felt compelled to fulfill. I knew for years that I likely would need to wait until these "senior" years to make my run at fulfilling my calling.

So now I find that I am the most content that I have ever been. I am content with my lifestyle, but mostly I am content with the fact that I am actualizing my talents. I spent most of my life practicing the various aspects of living. I practiced being a husband, father, employee, friend, and etc. I practiced being a photographer, videographer, brewer, model railroader, gardener and may other avocations. I tried enough of those things to realize that I had one primary talent, and that I could only focus on the one if I were to have a chance of becoming the very best at something. I chose photography.

I sometimes rue the fact that I could have stayed on my job, and that I would be much more fiscally secure than I am now. I took a calculated risk that I would find a lifestyle that offered up the maximum fulfillment possible. I realize that living a "typical" retiree's lifestyle was not something that I would miss. I do not need to go on cruises, nor do I need to take expensive trips. I just need to avail myself the freedom to practice my art. I all ready live in an area that is overflowing with artistic possibilities, and all I have to do is step out the door to be engulfed with opportunity.

Monday, January 30, 2012



I think it is one thing to have some talent, and it is another thing when it comes to using that talent. I think of the Olympic athletes, and how they almost always express that their success comes from hard work. Their coaches play a vital role along with their talents, but it seems to me that without hard work, their success would be lessened.

I showed an earlier version of this image at the Redwood Camera Club's regular meeting last week. That image had some issues in that it was blurry in the trees branches. I think the blurriness came about due to the fact that this image was shot in nearly dark conditions at ISO 12,800 and was hand-held.

Hal Work, a club member and Photoshop expert, offered to show me how the blurriness could be corrected in Photoshop. We worked together on the digital negative yesterday, and Hal was able to make some changes that I think really helped the image.

I think what I am attempting to share here is that for one to succeed in photography today that the photographer needs to constantly work on understanding more and more about all the aspects of photography. I feel too, that the photographer needs to work at it constantly.

That is how I am treating my photography. I attend meetings, I share knowledge with others, I watch how-to videos, and I spend lots of time applying what I see and hear.

My thanks goes out to Hal Work, and to me for all the fine work.


Sunday, January 29, 2012




Once upon a recent time (2008) I was gifted with the experience of a lifetime. I spent three weeks with these folks. I was an honored guest in their home. I was treated as family, and I came to love them dearly. I posted before about how they lost everything but their lives to a flood in 2010.

I am again offering some prints of Ladakh for sale as a fund raiser for their new home. I will give Thupten the proceeds from the sales of my Ladakh Meditation series of prints. I am including a link click here to a post I made in 2010 about their tragic loss. 

Saturday, January 28, 2012


Mad River Slough at Ma-le'l Dunes Area
There was a lot of discussion at today's camera club meeting about how it is generally unacceptable to have the horizon line of an image at the center of the composition. This image pretty well is flying in the face of that rule, and  I think I can get away with it.

I suppose that most rules of composition are there for valid reasons, but I assert that once an artist understands those rules, that they have a license to explore variants on the rule. I think because the foreground elements of this image lead the eye toward the horizon that the horizon becomes the subject. I think too, that in this image the subject is made up of elements of the brown fields, the water, the hills, and the sky. I think all of these elements make for a strong composition.

Friday, January 27, 2012



I took this photograph while I was photographing PL Number 8 at Scotia in November. I did not tone this image. I have been giving my black and white prints a slight toning, and I mostly like it. However, a lot can be said for straight black and white.

Thursday, January 26, 2012



This is another image that I took while I was staying at Thiksey Monastery in Ladakh. The time that I stayed there became a meditation. It did not matter if I was walking about, sitting in a temple or gazing at the scenic Himalayan mountains, I was always in a state of prayerful receptivity. I was on my own as Thupten was at his home, and I was pretty much the only English speaking non-resident on the grounds. Therefore, there were few distractions. I was just there.

I became aware of everything. My senses were keen, and my peace, joy, gratitude and composure were all as one aspect of my consciousness.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


CALUMET SAYS HOWDY, Las Vegas, New Mexico, 2010

I just really like this photograph. I spent some time on it this morning, tightning the compostition, and adjusting the contrast. I printed this one a year or so back on the matte paper. I am considering printing this again on the wonderful semi-gloss paper I have been using lately.

Many of the  works I have been sharing here are ones that I intend to show at the C Street Hall Gallery. The exhibit opens for Arts Alive on February 4th. I will include images of Ladakh as well as some of my more recent works. I am reprinting many of the Ladakh Meditation series, and I am very pleased with the outcome. The photograph that I posted two days ago looks downright stunning on the new paper.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


Tenzin Angmo and Her Grandmother in Thiksey, Ladakh, 2008

This photograph was one that I took after spending some time in grandma's house. Tenzin was wearing her favorite hat. The hat came from Arcata, and she wore it everywhere.

I spoke with her father, Thupten, today. Tenzin received the jacket and boots that we sent to her. Thupten said that there is much snow this year in Ladakh. That is good because the glaciers have been shrinking at a very alarming rate. Almost all the water in Ladakh comes from glacier melt, and once they are gone...

Monday, January 23, 2012



One of the recurring themes I worked on while I was in Ladakh were of doorways. I was especially drawn to the Kata Shawls that were on many,  but not this particular door. I just now reprinted this image. The original was printed in 2008. Back then I was using Photoshop Elements. At the time, my digital darkroom skills were in their early development stages. The differences between the two prints are subtle, but as I recently read, "every element of a photograph matters (http://www.luminous-landscape.com/understanding-series/everything_matters__it_is_all_about_the_small_details.shtml)". I like the new interpretation much better.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


TATA is a brand name for vehicles made in India.

I took this photograph on July 12, 2008 while en-route to Alchi Monastery. I think that many of the trucks that I saw in Ladakh are marvelous examples of pride and celebration.

Saturday, January 21, 2012


This little guy was clinging to the glass on our front door last night. The light came from the porch light off to the side. This little guy was a nice visitor on a rainy evening.

Friday, January 20, 2012



This photograph is one wherein I put a lot of time. I took the image on a Sunday evening last September. The facing walls were bathed in the golden light of the setting sun. I thought that the clouds were noteworthy. The camera produced jpg shows much more yellow, and for this image I decided to show something closer to the actual color of the walls.

This photograph was an exercise in many aspects of photography. By using my 17mm TS lens on my 5dmII, I was able to stand directly across the street from the church. This freed me from having to deal with other elements that would have been in the foreground.


I think this photograph is visually more interesting than the first one. This was taken with my 24-105mm lens set at 28mm. I think conveys a more even sense of the structure and its environment. The colors are closer to what I felt in that golden evening light. By-the-way, this was the first photograph that I took of the church that day.

I spent a lot of time cloning out the power lines in the first photograph - literally hours! I really like both images, and it may be awhile before I chose one over the other. The point is that I am able to make either. If you get a chance, go by the church and see what a challenging photograph the first one was to make. I'm not bragging here - just sharing my process. I know that it is vital for any artist to master their craft. One may have lots of raw talent, but in my experience I realize that one must apply one's self to learning how to use their tools.

Thursday, January 19, 2012



I just read the news that Kodak filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. That news is an additional reminder of my history. It further establishes the fact that as time marches on change is inevitable. It also creates in me, a reference point in my timeline of life's events. I have seen many changes in this lifetime, and I hope I will see many more.

The photograph above is one I took in the mid eighties while I was on a photographic outing. It was likely taken on Kodak T Max film, developed in either D-76 or T Max developer, fixed with Kodak Rapid Fixer, and the print was developed in Kodak Dektol paper developer.

I was not a Kodak loyalist. When I first started dark room work, I almost exclusively used their products in everything from black and white film to color slide film and chemistry. It did not take me long to reject Kodak's black and white papers (with the exception of their "G" surface papers which I used for hand-coloring photographs - like the one above).

My point is that many things have changed during the course of my life. The Southern Pacific Transportation Company is long gone.

This photograph is important to me in that it represents several important parts of my life. My life is valuable to me, but like the Southern Pacific, there will come a day when The Thomas Bethune no longer runs. I suppose, in all honesty, that I still wish to leave a mark and some forms of reference that will remind others that Thomas Bethune was here, and that his life was of some value.

I occasionally return to Bakersfield to visit family. While we are there, I always make several pilgrimages to the shrines of my youth: The site of the Southern Pacific's yard in East Bakersfield; The house I grew up in; the house I owned as a young husband and father; Caliente; The Tehachapi Loop; Tehachapi; Summit and Mojave; EBHS; Mt. Breckenridge; the foothills. All these places are parts of what helped form me as a man, and all of these places have and are changing.

I accept that change is inevitable. I fully get, understand, and embrace that fact. I am not living in the past when I reflect on the past with my blog ramblings. I do draw strength, pride and gratitude for the events that took place in/at the above-mentioned places. I know that who I am is a result of the lessons learned at these and many other places and times.

I hope that the images that I create as an artist carry with them my connections to The Southern Pacific and Kodak. I trust that aspects of Tom as the father, husband, son, grandson, railroader, soldier, photographer, and so on carry through in my expression as an artist.

The above photograph does clearly convey my love of trains and of photography. I think that other not so obvious photographs do so as well without the subject matter being a train.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012



In my effort to post something daily, I present another look at one of my favorite walls. It was the shadows of the trees on this beautiful canvas that first drew my eye. It does not take a lot of imagination to see a cast of shadow figures performing the Danse Macabre.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


I don't recall sharing this photograph here. I took this several years ago. I printed it, and was happy with the results. I just now reworked it, and I think I improved on it considerably. The main thing I changed was that I cropped it enough to bring the "Rudy's Knob Lane" sign into the right-hand edge. 

I like this business of allowing images to age a bit, and then taking a new look at them. Not all of my imagery is print worthy, but I am finding that I can rely on my initial vision of a subject. Because I trust that initial vision, I can go back with my better developed skills in post production processing to create a new interpretation of the subject. It turns out that most of the time when I do this that I see some improvement, and a validation of my original vision. When I am photographing, I can as often as not, rely on that initial sighting of the subject to often be spot on.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Ladakh Meditation, A New Look

Orange Door, Chemray Gompa, Ladakh, 2008

I have not spent much time on this blog regarding my adventures in Ladakh, nor have I given an update on how Thupten and his family are doing after the flood. I intend to bring regular updates here on this site starting today.

Thupten, Tenzin Angmo, Lhamo, and Me in Ladakh, 2008
These three people are my adopted family. Lisa and I have supported Tenzin's education from grade one. I was fortunate enough to spend three weeks with them in their home in the Himalayan mountains in the summer of 2008.

In 2010 a devastating flood washed through their lovely mud-brick home, and washed away everything they owned. The flood waters almost claimed their lives. Dozens of their neighbors were washed away, and buried under the massive wall of boulders and mud.

I will, over the course of time, relate the story of my trip there, but for now I just want to share some of the images that I created while I was there. I will again offer some of these for sale as a fund raising enterprise to help them with the building of their new home. Please see my postings from 2010 about the flood at: http://thomasbethune.blogspot.com/2010/08/print-sale-for-ladakh-releif.html

 I am reworking some of the photographs from my Ladakh series. The photograph at the top of this posting is an example of the work that I did at the many gompas (monasteries) that I visited with Thupten. Many of the photographs I took were of doorways. I suppose there is some symbolism about entering into sacred space, and the passage to Spirit, and I will allow the viewer to interpret what ever they sense.

The Site Of Thupten's Washed Away Home, 2010

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Another Long Term Project

Sacred Snags Number One

This image is of a snag that I have photographed since the mid eighties. It is in the Arcata Community Forest, and not far from our property. I first worked with it, and other nearby snags, with my old 4"x5" Korona view camera. One day I intend to scan some of those negatives, and present them here and likely on a gallery wall.

This particular shot was made with the Canon 17mm Tilt/Shift lens on my Canon 5dMII. I used a portable light to paint the snag while the shutter was open. I feel that I am close to getting the image that I am seeking, but there are a couple more things I want to try before I call it a wrap. I am always working on methods that will allow me to photograph in the forest during daylight. The problem I always confront is the contrasting light levels between the trees and the sky. I suppose that I should incorporate some HDR methods.

This particular snag is now only about one-half the mass that it was back in the eighties. When the city logged this area in 2010 the contractor knocked quite a bit of this snag down.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Pink Lady

The Pink Lady, Eureka 2011
The Pink Lady, Eureka 2011

I printed the color version of this photo to enter in the upcoming Redwood Art Association exhibit. I printed the color image on matte paper, and it has a very nice look. When/if I print the black and white image I will use a glossier paper.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Lloyd Building, Eureka

The Lloyd Building, Eureka, 2011

I took this photograph last April. This was at least the second time that I worked on getting "the shot" of this building. The first time I worked on it there were cars in the lot. This time I went early on a Sunday morning, and had the lot free for hours. The lighting was actually brighter than this shot depicts, but I decided this exposure more closely matches the mood of the place.

The shots that I took several months prior to this show that the attempts at painting the wall are slowly progressing. I suppose that I should go back soon to determine what other changes have occurred. I will miss the sign, but perhaps there is a mural in the works.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Photo Of The Day

A Lovely Residential Building on the Corner of Fourth and E Streets, Eureka

I shot this with the Canon 17mm TS lens, using the rise function.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Dancing Fairy Trees, Another Perspective

Here is another interpretation of this image.

I printed this last night and it looks very nice on paper.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Dancing Fairy Trees

I took this image a year ago. I sat with it for all these months, but I did not know what to do with it. It was very challenging to take. I was hand-holding the camera. It was after sunset, and I had to set the ISO to 12,800. Whenever I looked at the raw file, I would remember the magic of that evening at Stone Lagoon, but I could not get a grip on how to make a print that would convey what I felt at that time. 

Well, I figured it out this afternoon. I am very pleased with how it looks on the screen, and fairly happy with the print I just made. I printed it 9.5"x 15", and it does show the noise, but it does have a nice look. I will put it under glass and in a frame tomorrow, and I bet it will look stunning.

I also worked the image in black and white, and may print it tomorrow. I think it is a toss up as to which is the most successful image at conveying something I have been trying to say with a camera for over twenty years. Yea!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Korbel Bridge 2006

The Same Bridge Taken in 2006

Korbel Bridge

The Bridge at Korbel

I think this bridge spans what is called the north fork of the Mad River at the former Simpson Timber plant at Korbel. There are many more shots of this structure to be made. If I can locate it I  will post a couple that I took back in 2006 with the Sony R1.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

High Five

High Five, Lisa's Garden

I took this a little while ago in the flower bed. I photographed the hand several years ago, but I found that it was beneficial to work on new ideas around this image. I think it works in black and white.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Arts Alive Tonight

My Last Shot From Yesterday's Old Town Shoot  
I saw this image as I walked back to my car. It has some of the essence of my Spirit Tree Series. I think I will print it for next week's camera club meeting.

Friday, January 6, 2012

In Snug Alley

Doorway In Snug Alley

I made this photograph tonight while I was out on a photography outing with the Redwood Camera Club. This was actually my first shot of the night.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

A Work In Progress

I tried working this image in black and white, but I think it works best in color.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Sunday, January 1, 2012


Patrick's Point at Wedding Rock

I took this shot yesterday afternoon while Daniel was painting a scene on the north side of the Wedding Rock. It was a joy to feel the energy of the surf.