red-skies-at-night by Jon Armstrong.

Red Skies At Night

On Saturday night, I set up near Ensign Peak and shot a ton of sunset shots. For once, I arrived in plenty of time to fine a good location and get ready. The cloud cover was good, but there was a lot of haze in the valley and out west. This image was one of the better ones from this session. I bracketed these and then pulled all of the bracketed shots into Photoshop as a 32-bit image. After Photoshop did its thing, I saved and went back to Lightroom to finish editing.

After looking the images over, it’s clear I’m still finding the best way to shoot sunsets. All of the images I wanted to share need some work. Most of the shots were intentionally under-exposed as that was the only way to darken the blacks through the haze. I still didn’t end up with great shots that I’m 100% happy with. I may be a bit harsh on myself, but I want to better myself as a photographer and it can be a struggle at times to find the sweet spot of good weather, good location and dead on camera work. I still got to see a great sunset and learn. Those are good things the universe brought to me over the weekend.

* * *

I’ve spent the past couple of weekends with the girls and I had a weekend to myself, so I took a walk downtown on Saturday morning to shoot and grab a decadent waffle. The weather was fantastic and I got some good images. It was nice to be alone with myself. Is it weird that sometimes I don’t want to be around people except my kids? I don’t think I’m being hermit-like, but there are days when I don’t speak out loud to another person. I can’t decide if it’s a result of living alone or my personal situation or a combination of both. Or just a need I have right now as I explore.

As with all of these considerations, I’m trying to be present and aware. It sounds super new agey and power crystals and whatnot, but I think there is something to sitting with a situation, a thought or notion and turning it over quietly and examining all the facets/aspects. I’ve never been very good at doing this slowly or deliberately. I’ve always moved quickly through these kinds of personal growth periods. As I look back at my history, I don’t think I’ve moved that quickly at all through personal trials. It always takes however long it takes to heal. When I think about the past, I think I’m learning to accept that I can’t heal any faster than I can heal. Maybe that’s one lesson I’ll take from the gallbladder situation. You do all you can to heal, but sometimes the universe has other things in store or your body is different and it’s going to heal differently.

Usually I have good perception and insight about people I come into contact with. That has served me well, especially professionally these past few years. In my personal life, I think I lost my way in terms of applying insight to me. Maybe it’s a function of age, that it just takes this long to realize maybe the things one thinks of oneself aren’t necessarily true or right or accurate. That’s part of all of this, I think. So I’m looking for ways through this weirdness. Trying to remain calm and grounded. Practicing calm reflection is extraordinarily difficult for me given how my mind works. The events of these past months haven’t helped. I’ve had false starts, avenues to explore, options to consider and none have seemed to come together just so. As I get closer to a turning point, there have been setbacks. Normally, I wouldn’t give one or even two craps about these turning points. But as part of the deliberation and consideration, I’m trying to look at them as transformational elements.

With all my insight and perception directed not outward, but inward, I’m starting to see just how lost I was. Not lost in a “bad” or “good” way. Just not in touch, not fully aware. That realization is rough. Not because I’m a bad person or because I’m doing it wrong but because what the Clarity of 2012 has wrought is that I’ve got work to do. I think that’s part of the sludge I have felt recently; I have felt at times like I’m not me, I’m not who I thought I was and/or I’m not really experiencing this awfulness. I’m watching someone playing me experience all of this.

That’s probably why I’m having and utterly enjoying these hours of solitude. I don’t want to escape or be distracted. Maybe just admitting that here, out loud and in public is progress.

* * *

Affirmation: I will slow everything down. The world can wait.

  • Sarah R. Bloom

    You writing and sharing so openly about your process through all of this has helped me in many ways, some surprising. I appreciate your honesty so much, and I think you are doing great. There are no time tables we need to meet when it comes to figuring shit out. I think that as long as we are learning, we are growing; and if we are growing then we are living well.

    • Amanda Brumfield


  • Kristan

    “I think there is something to sitting with a situation, a thought or notion and turning it over quietly and examining all the facets/aspects.”

    I could not agree more. And maybe it’s new agey and power crystals, but hey, I’m right there with you. (And I’m sure I’m not the only one.

    Sarah Bloom’s comment is tops too.

  • Tracie Moore

    I’m reminded of this quote from Robert Louis Stevenson, “Quiet minds cannot be perplexed or frightened, but go on in fortune or misfortune, at their own private pace, like a clock during a thunderstorm.”

  • mihow

    I don’t think it’s weird at all, not wanting to be around anyone but your kids. I can’t know exactly what you’re going through these days, but I want to say that I stop by all the time to see how you’re doing and I’m thinking of you.

    My last big break-up, the one right before I met my husband, was devastating for me. So I up and moved to NYC. This was the one place I felt I could be surrounded by thousands of people every day and still remain very much alone. At times I was really lonely, and some days I felt totally lost, but a year later I knew a great deal more about myself. Being alone really helped me a great deal. It helped me to heal and get to know myself like I’d never allowed myself to do before.

    So, no, it’s not weird your wanting to be alone. It makes total sense to me.

    I think Sarah summed it up perfectly above. You’re doing great. And I wish the very best for you.

  • blurb

    Thanks for these kind comments. It’s heartening to know that my sharing isn’t just navel gazing bullshit. Well. It is, but knowing that the navel gazing bullshit is helping somebody else makes it a little less navel gazingly terrible.

  • Monica Bielanko

    Dude. This – “With all my insight and perception directed not outward, but inward, I’m
    starting to see just how lost I was. Not lost in a “bad” or “good” way.
    Just not in touch, not fully aware.” Such a mindblowing concept. Because if you could go back and talk to the Jon Armstrong you’re saying was’t fully aware he would’ve said WTF, of course I’m aware. That’s the beauty of life. That we keeping ascending to these plateaus of higher awareness. In a couple years you’ll look back at where you are now from an entirely new level of awareness. Thanks for writing this.

    • blurb

      You’re welcome. And yeah, WTF is right. :-)

  • Nina Chowdhry

    I don’t usually quote songs, but this one sprung to mind immediately on reading your post. It’s all good, but in particular:

    You lose yourself, you reappear

    You suddenly find you got nothing to fear

    Alone you stand with nobody near

    When a trembling distant voice, unclear

    Startles your sleeping ears to hear

    That somebody thinks they really found you

    A question in your nerves is lit

    Yet you know there is no answer fit

    To satisfy, insure you not to quit

    To keep it in your mind and not forget

    That it is not he or she or them or it

    That you belong to

    Although the masters make the rules

    For the wise men and the fools

    I got nothing, Ma, to live up to
    It’s alright ma (I’m only bleeding)–Bob Dylan

    My favorite line elsewhere in the song: “That he not busy being born is busy dying”

    I think there is always work to do. That is the fun part of living. It may suck sometimes, but better than settling for what you can get of yourself and those around you. In my humble opinion.

    The sunset, incidentally, is beautiful.

  • katherine_at_grass_stains

    I have a spouse and four kids, and the small bits of solitude I get late at night are the times that allow me any sense of clarity at all. I’m 38, and it’s astonishing to me that I can be sitting in a chair, doing my job, and all of a sudden think, “Who AM I, and how did I get here?” As if I’m a complete stranger to myself. I admire your ability — and desire — to know yourself better. That out-of-body experience you describe … it’s what’s giving you the distance you probably need to be able to sort through everything right now. Good luck and God speed.

  • zchamu

    I think when we’re seeking ourselves is when we’re the most ourselves, if that makes sense. Thinking really purposefully about what we are, what we do and have done is a luxury not often afforded to people of our… er… age.

  • Elizabeth

    This is such a lovely post. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. I’ve found myself in a similar place recently, though the circumstances are quite different, but realizing I’ve lost touch with myself in a lot of ways. It also is not surprising at all that you’d want/need to kind of – what’s the word? Dis-something – go numb, in a way, for a bit. It seems like your photography is a meditative practice for you.

  • Beth Rich George

    Self reflection borne of solitude is like processing in Photoshop. You have the luxury of working on improving something that you acted on in the past in real time. With life and relationships, the camera shot isn’t always optimal, and you learn to try something a little different next time. But PS isn’t the perfect solution either, because you do need to interact with the world every now and then otherwise your photos are lifeless. Being with your kids is easier to take because they don’t bring their own hidden agendas and preferred lenses to the photo shoot, so you can build your shot more your way. Just my little two cents worth. Keep on playing around with Photoshop, but don’t lose the camera.

  • Beth Rich George

    Oh and, thanks for the earworm, she says sarcastically. Not my favorite band, nor my favorite song.

    • Beth Rich George

      Somehow my previous post with an amazing comparison between life and SOOC vs. Photoshop was deleted. I’ll go try to be philosophical again….

  • LA Single Girl

    Last winter I remember thinking the same thing a lot of the time–there were days when I didn’t utter a word… not one single word. It was when I was still dealing with the pain of my own divorce.

    I lived alone and allowed myself to just turn inward. It feels natural when you are used to a busy, boisterous family home and then all of a sudden you’re completely alone in your home.

    It’s good that you are allowing yourself the time heal but be careful; it can get hard to climb your way out of that hole if you let yourself sit in it for too long. For me, it led to depression and a constant wondering ‘what happened to us? why did it have to happen? what should I have done differently?…’

    After moving to a new place in April, I was able to slowly start pulling myself out of it because I found a couple of really wonderful new friends. Thank God for them.

    There are still days when I just want to be with myself, you know? just be… But I don’t let myself sink back into that too far. I let myself get introspective for a day and then I get out into the world.

    Much love to you Jon. Keep hanging in there and sharing your honest experiences and gorgeous sunsets (which I always love BTW) :)

  • Norma Jean Barrett

    I think you are doing really good work …