Happy Birthday, Dad

Today would have been my father’s 81st birthday. Dad was one of those people who did everything well, but I don’t think there was anything he enjoyed more than photography. His work kept him so busy that the only time he ever got to take pictures was when he was on vacation, but he made up for lost time then. I’ll be eternally grateful for his love of the outdoors that laid the foundation for my own passion for nature.

Because our family vacations were spent camping, hiking, and fishing, I grew up believing that a camera was a standard outdoor accessory. When I became old enough to pursue (and fund) my own interests, I purchased a camera of my own and pretty much never let go of it. But like Dad, personal imperatives (family, work, bills) kept photography in the hobby category for most of my adult life. And with our own conflicting, demanding schedules, we found little time to shoot together, though I think there was an implicit understanding that those days would come. Alzheimer’s disease was the last thing anyone expected.

Sentinel Dome is the site of my most vivid photographic memory of my dad, which I wrote about in my first WordPress blog. My brother, Jay, and I go shooting together quite a bit and we share the feeling that Dad is watching and maybe even pulling some strings for us, a feeling that’s never stronger than it is at Sentinel Dome.

The color of this Sentinel Dome sunset was off the charts. There’s really not much I can say to people who doubt the red in this image, except maybe to suggest that they should get out more. Color in nature far from subtle, and the color of this sunset, while not unprecedented, was at the most vibrant extreme of anything I’ve witnessed, one of the few times when it’s seemed that the air actually buzzes with crimson and the entire world assumes the color of the sky. I remember in the middle of it all looking down and seeing the hair on my arms literally standing on end, vibrating red.

These goose-bump moments are pure joy. I know Dad experienced them, and I can’t help thinking of him when they happen to me. While I’m sad Dad never got to see the product of his legacy, I know he’d be proud of my success, just as I’m proud of him.

12 Comments on “Happy Birthday, Dad

  1. Gary,
    What a great tribute. We never lose the lessons learned from those who have guided and nurtured us. I’m sure he smiles down on you and those you love.

  2. WOW! What a great post! I don’t have the right words to say how great an impact your post had on my heart. Great photo (as always), but thanks even more for sharing the story behind it.

  3. What a great tribute to your dad. I linked back to that first blog entry…you are both an “eloquent” photographer, but write as eloquently. Thanks for sharing these memories with us. Your dogwood shot is what attracted me to you work. Your dad’s rainbow shot…wow!!

  4. I lost my Dad early this year quite unexpectedly to a heartattack that no one saw coming. …My Dad is the reason I love nature AND dont go anywhere- whether a gathering of friends or my favorite woodlands- without my camera. He felt the most alive while snapping photographs and I have him to thank for many photo albums of my childhood, parents early years, and other memories captured forever in print. I am grateful to have seen this on my Facebook newsfeed today as he has been constantly on my mind as of lately and this post of yours brought a comfort to my heart.

    • I’m so sorry for your loss, Christine. Believe me when I say that the pain of loss fades, but the memories remain strong.

    • Yeah, Sue, you were there at the beginning, weren’t you? Let’s see I think the Eel River camping trip (with the wasp nest in the outhouse) was the summer I turned six. And I’ll never forget “The Trio at Hampshire Rocks.” 🙂

  5. One of the things we enjoyed so much at family gatherings was the fact that Dick always had some great slides for us to see. I’m sure he is very proud as he looks down and smiles upon seeing what you are able to do with the camera!

    • Thanks, Lee. As a kid I never appreciated my dad’s slideshows, but of course now I completely understand his need to share. Those have become such fond memories.

  6. Beautiful light in this outstanding photograph. I just love your work. You know what it is like to stand in light that just surrounds everything…that is when I just say wow. Your dad sounds like he was really super.

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