Authenticity And Home

Geese In Flight

As these geese take flight, returning to the places they were born to find food and mates, my thoughts turn to the place we call “home.” For some, it’s where we were born, the house we lived in the longest or where we live now. If “Home is where the heart is,” it could simply consist of thoughts or memories of people living together. What is it that makes a home? Is it the place? The house? The people who live there? All these things? Something else? Something more?

I notice that as our location changes we make new homes. And I wonder about those who have several houses. Are they all considered home? Or is there one place that has priority? And do different members of the family consider the same place home? Sometimes I hear people talk about “Home-home” and “Home away from home.” So what constitutes home? Is it where the heart is? I think for most of us, it’s the household where we felt or now feel most connected and comfortable, the place where we can be our most authentic or true self.

The image of these geese, particularly their reflections on the water, has me pondering what it means to “return home.” Many of us go home for the holidays, perhaps to reconnect with our roots, relatives and friends. Whether or not this involves travel, we return to the places where we found or currently find comfort, hopefully, acceptance and the opportunity to be ourselves with other people.

I also recognize that there’s an inner home, the place where the deepest truth of myself resides. Returning there, reconnecting with my true Self, I am inspired to live as I ought, not just as I want. Yasuhiko Kimura, a mystic and author who integrates spiritual philosophy and science, defines authenticity as “The clarity of being in which there is no self-deceit.” Putting this into practice, living authentically, is the expression of thought, word, and deed with integrity to purpose rather than social norms, circumstances or the expectations of others.

Going home in this sense is reconnecting and recommitting to a life of focused purpose. One of the ways I do this is by reading through my Meditation Workbook, a collection of my own and other’s inspirational thoughts, poems, prayers, meditations, contemplations, essays and information—writings that have been important to me. As with photographs, they reflect back to me certain qualities of identity and aspiration. By reconnecting with my “family” of beliefs and values in those pages, I can better act deliberately in ways that reinforce them—always with an open mind and a willingness to modify them as consciousness evolves. As a source of inspiration, these materials always re-energize me and call me to center.

What a blessing it is to have comfortable and enriching homes, both in the world and in consciousness. The temptation is to think that these are due to circumstances. But just as a house is not automatically a home, both domains require continuous work—physically, mentally and spiritually.And like migrating geese, to get there we have to go there.

The light that shines farthest shines brightest at home.

Rhoda and Homer Slabaugh (Amish)

About This Image

I got up around 4:00 a.m. so I leave the motel and could reach Ohio’s Lake Logan by sunrise. This photograph was made around the same time as the masthead for this blog. Walking the shoreline, a flock of geese flew over the water. Quickly, I raised the camera and clicked off about five shots. Because I was using a zoom lens that had been set on “wide-angle,” by the time I zoomed-in and focused, the moment had gone. Previewing the shots instantly, I saw that they were all out of focus.

Figuring (hoping) that another flock might come along, I zoomed the lens to “telephoto,” set a faster shutter speed, and focused on the water—about where the geese had been. I didn’t have to wait long before another flock of birds did come along. As the saying goes, “Fortune favors the prepared mind.” And a ready camera.

I invite you to visit my portfolio of images: David L. Smith Photography


Train Trestle Symmetry

According to Nobel laureate Phil Anderson, “It is only slightly overstating the case to say that physics is the study of symmetry.” The word “symmetry” comes from the Greek, synnetria, meaning “Agreement in dimensions, due proportion, arrangement.”

I’ve chosen this theme for contemplation because, somewhere along the line, having gotten into the habit of noticing symmetries and associating them with the aesthetic sensibilities of harmony, proportion, and balance—touchstones in my everyday thinking and doing. Symmetry sightings have been increasing over the past several days, so I thought I would put in writing—and share—some of my experiences with to them.

Whenever I’m made aware of something symmetrical, whether in a garden or grocery store, on a digital clock or distant highway, I experience a little A-ha!, a twinge of harmony. I’ve come to think of it as a sort of attunement to the fundamental patterning of the universe. The experience seems to say to me, “What you’re thinking or doing in this moment is in harmony with your purpose—and all is well.” I reached this conclusion because, over the course of many years, the feeling that “all is well” occurred consistently in association with sightings of symmetry. These subtle experiences are rarely talked about, yet imagination and pattern recognition are among the features that distinguish us from other members of the animal kingdom.

This is not to say that symmetry is the only or even primary arrangement of the universe. It’s not. Asymmetry, for instance in many trees and the solar system, is the other side of the coin—and just as significant.

To show the pervasiveness of symmetry and help us know where to look, I offer the following domains.

Accounting: (Balance sheets)

Aesthetics: (Symmetry in faces has been shown to be physically attractive)

Architecture: (Every civilization. Cathedrals, temples, mosques, pyramids, White House)

Art: (Pottery, jewelry, quilts, sand-paintings, carpets, furniture, masks)

Biology: (The DNA spiral. Bilateral animals: humans, plants, starfish, sea urchins)

Chemistry: (Symmetry underlies all specific interactions between molecules in nature)

Communities: (Certain suburbs, streets, city grids)

Consciousness: (Yin/Yang. Logic: If Paul is as tall as Karen, Karen is as tall as Paul)

Food: (Fruits and vegetables cut in half are all symmetrical)

Games: (Chess, Chinese Checkers, Playing Cards, Hop-Scotch, Jump-Rope)

Geometry: (Drawings and transformations, scaling, reflection, rotation)

Language: (The words—“Mom” “Dad” “Pop” “Nun”)

Mathematics: (Algebraic equations. Even and odd functions in calculus)

Music: (Canons, permutations, invariance, pitch, scales)

Nature: (Rainbows, raindrops, leaves, sand dunes. beehives, bird, birds, insects, reptiles)

Physics: (The symmetries of the laws of physics determine the properties of particles)

Roads: (Right & left lanes, cloverleafs, tunnels, overpasses)

Social Interaction: (Reciprocity, empathy, dialog, respect, justice, revenge)

Spatial relationships: (Vertical or horizontal. The photograph of the above train tressel)

Time: (Expressed in numbers: 9:09am , 10:10pm, 6:36pm, 1:41am, 3:33pm)

Transportation: (Cars, trucks, trains, airplanes)

It is the harmony of the diverse parts, their symmetry, their happy balance; in a word it is all that introduces order, all that gives unity, that permits us to see clearly and to comprehend at once both the ensemble and the details.

Henri Poincare

About This Image

Whenever I examine a contact sheet made from negatives and come across an image that has strong lines of light, I explore the possibility of making a symmetrical image. The original negative of this photograph, obviously made by available light at night, only contains half the image that you see. Cover the right half of the photograph and that’s what the original, un-manipulated photograph looked like.

To make this new image, I exposed the same negative to one piece of paper twice. The first exposure had the tressel on the left. With this piece of paper tucked away in a lightproof box, I removed the negative from the enlarger carrier and turned it over. Then I drew the brightest lines of the tressel onto a piece of scrap paper in the easel. With this, I could align the image so together, the lines would be symmetrical. Getting the alignment and exposures correct required several trials, but finally, it turned out the way I wanted. The location was 3rd Street in Cincinnati, Ohio.

I invite you to visit my portfolio site: David L. Smith Photography


Farm And Corn Field

I grew up in the city. My grandparents lived in the country, about thirty miles from us. We visited them most Sundays, year round, from the time I was born through high school. Although this is not a picture if their farm, it brings back vivid memories it.

Topping the list of the downside of going to grandma’s house was the two-hole outhouse (Who ever thought two holes was a good idea?) with pages of the Sunday Supplement covering the walls, spider webs in the dark corners and, well, the odor. When I was little, I had to be convinced that I wouldn’t fall in and nothing would come out of there to bite me in the butt. Because the house was heated by a wood stove in the back room, aided at times by the kitchen stove, the downstairs was warm enough in the wintertime with sweaters on, but I froze upstairs, napping under three or four blankets with my clothes on. With the exception of my father and me, the men in my family were very much into sports and cigars. So while they were watching “the game” and the women played cards around the kitchen table, it fell to my dad and occasionally my aunt, to keep my sister and me occupied. And that leads to the upsides.

My dad took us on walks to the nearby Clermont County Fairgrounds, where we would wander around the empty livestock stalls and climb the steps of the grandstand that overlooked the oval buggy track. In the summertime we would go to the corner market where, out in front, there was a bin where we reached in and fished among the blocks of ice for a bottle of pop.

At Thanksgiving and Christmas the main event was, of course, the meal. The scene in the dining room was straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting. Grandma was known for her cooking, so the long table was pulled out even further to accommodate all its leaves, and extensions were added as needed. There could be fifteen or more people seated around the table, passing turkey with stuffing, ham, mashed potatoes and gravy, green bean casserole, corn, peas, carrots, cranberries… Then came the pies, always cherry, apple and pumpkin. Years later I realized that grandma had been making everyone’s favorites on those occasions.

I took a lot for granted when I growing up. I thought everyone did what we did and had what we had. Now, I’ve grown to respect farmers especially. It took a long while for me to realize that food doesn’t come from grocery stores. I’d like to think it comes from fields like the one in the above image, planted, nurtured and harvested by people who respect the land and care about the health of the people they will feed. But I understand the “business” of farming is very different now. I read and observe that small farms are on the rise and increasingly trending toward more healthy and sustainable practices. And greater numbers of people are supporting them. For all these folks and their initiatives, I am grateful.

My daughter, Jennifer Miller, has a blog for parents who are actively supporting kids’ social and emotional development. Below, are quotes from it. For more, visit: <> I recommend the site, not just because I’m her dad. But because the content is always insightful and practical. She has over over 20,000 followers and has just published a book on the subject by the same name: Confident Parents Confident Kids.

Research shows that grateful people have better physical health, less stress and depression, better sleep and a greater sense of well-being. The Templeton Foundation found that 90% of people say they are grateful but only 52% of women and 44% of men express it on a regular basis.

One of Jennifer’s colleagues

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.

John F. Kennedy

About This Image

I like to photograph after a heavy snowfall. It affords the opportunity to shoot in high key. Particularly exciting is to shoot in bright sunlight when the ground is covered with fresh snow. It’s a challenge in two particular ways. First, it’s a race to shoot while the snow is pristine. And second, all that whiteness tricks the exposure meter whether it’s built-in or separate.

Exposure meters interpret what they “see” as middle gray—in order for the image to contain the full range of values from black to white, even in color photographs. That’s what meters are designed to do. So if you point your camera at a field of snow, it will render it gray in the photograph. Of course, this can be fixed in editing, but that degrades the resolution somewhat. Better instead, on location, to determine the exposure by using a standard photographic Gray Card, or set the camera to “Manual” or “P” for professional mode and point it at something that’s neutral gray. That way, the snow comes out white.

This photograph was made in Sabina, Ohio toward the end of the day when I “lost” the light. I was disappointed at the time. But now I think the gray sky with only a hint of blue adds to the sensibility of the cold that day. I was wearing gloves and a hat. Sometimes, when conditions aren’t optimal, it can be a good thing.

I invite you to visit my portfolio site: David L. Smith Photography

Emptiness, Peace and Quiet

On the evening this photograph was made, the dominant sound in this airport parking lot was birds—a stark contrast to the busyness and clamor of cars, shuttle-busses and conversations that once pervaded it day and night for several years. The difference between the activity then and the serenity I experienced is heightened, I think, because the central structure existed, literally, to provide shelter. Ironically, the emptiness of the space in this image sort of fulfills the site’s purpose aesthetically by conveying the sensibilities of rest and peace.

The emptiness and quiet of the landscape encourages me to reflect upon its elements. Had there been cars, shuttle-busses and people in the photograph, my attention would have been drawn to the human rather than physical aspects of the image. Instead, the simplicity of elements and the long shadows direct my attention to the expanse of asphalt. I think of the forest it must have replaced, the animals and birds that were displaced, the mountains of sand and gravel, oil and paint that were used in its construction. It’s not that I object to this use of natural resources. I don’t. Building is what we humans necessarily do—it’s the activation of energy that flows from the desire to create and advance.

In addition to the raw materials that it took for this landscape and shelter to exist, I appreciate the army of individuals who envisioned, designed, leveled, supplied and built them, including the electricians who wired it for lighting and those who manufactured the glass and aluminum. Having traveled in countries where paved roads and electricity were barely functional, this facility stands as a testament to the power of collaboration.

The emptiness of a space designed to facilitate the movement of lots of people has a haunting quality. Not in a spooky way, but in the sense that purpose here is at rest. And because everything looks fairly new—no weeds pushing up through the asphalt, no fallen light poles or broken glass—there is the hope of renewal. (And that hope has recently been realized. Today, this parking lot is back in action).

In serenity we touch impermanence, ebb and flow, rising and falling, coming and going. It gives rise to peace and quiet, the place in us where purpose discovers its most appropriate and creative action.

The more tranquil a man becomes, the greater is his success, his influence, his power for good. Calmness of mind is one of the beautiful jewels of wisdom. 

James Allen
About This Image

I took an overnight visit to Wilmington, Ohio because the wide open fields provided an opportunity to use my 4×5 view camera. The airport had been a huge sorting center for DHL until the shipping company moved elsewhere in 2009. When I visited in 2011 there was very little activity, no planes flying in or out. Thus, the absence of people and cars in the parking lot.

Arriving there just moments before sunset, I saw the cast shadows, stopped the car and worked quickly to set up the tripod and change the lens. If the sun went behind the trees, the streaming effect would be lost. TheMyprocess was anything but serene.

The 90mm wide angle lens distorted the light poles considerably, especially at the edges. So I made the vertical correction in Lightroom. By doing so, some of the bottom of the image was lost. But I decided to sacrifice even longer shadows in the foreground for the lack of distortion.

Growth And Development

Nautilus Shell


The chambered nautilus is a creature that inhabits the Pacific and Indian oceans, today between depths of 600 to 1200 feet. Appearing in the fossil record before fish, dinosaurs and mammals some 500 million years ago, they grew up to 20 feet long! The spiral occurs as walls are formed to seal off and make chambers to regulate buoyancy. As displayed here, the image moves me to considerations of human growth, development and beyond.

In the shell’s central spot I see the point of creation and emergence, be it the womb of an individual mother, our Earth Mother or dark energy at the beginning of the universe. It can represent any beginning: the birth of a project, career, a new direction in life or the birth of a nation. With movement, the spiral begins, not as a straight line, but as a curved one. Largely because clocks tick off present moments, we think of time as a straight line between yesterday, today and tomorrow. But indigenous peoples all over the world perceived time as a spiral, repeating periods marked by the regular “journeys” of celestial bodies—gods in their view that were given names and personalities. For instance the ancient Maya—whose calendar was derived solely by observation and is accurate to within decimal points of our own—made detailed charts to indicate what happened in various cycles so the same or similar experiences could be anticipated on the next occurrence of the cycle. Researchers today refer to these periods as “calendar rounds.”

Movement gives rise to form—cells, walls in the nautilus shell, dark matter, stars and galaxies in the cosmos, knowledge in human beings, cities and governing constitutions in nations. Personally, I think of how many different people I have been since I became aware of myself as an individual. Form after form, experience after experience, role upon role, as interests, people and opportunities came and went, my personality, consciousness and priorities evolved. I’ve often said, “On this turn of the spiral…” I see things differently. I no longer believe “X” or want “Y.” With experience and education, the chambers of consciousness and perception widen, become more expansive and inclusive. It’s a process of reaching outward while remaining  connected, grounded perhaps. More boyant. All that came before is not lost, is present still, contributing to the next, more expansive part of “me.” As with everything in nature, growth and development is never a straight line. It’s a spiraling ascent—rounds that come around, providing opportunities to reexamine and do better than repeat.

All evolution is a dance of wholes that separate themselves into parts and parts that join into mutually consistent new wholes. We can see it as a repeating, sequentially spiraling pattern: Unity—Individuation—Competition—Conflict—Negotiation—Resolution—Cooperation—New levels of unity and so on. 

Elisabet Sahtouris

About This Image

Title: Nautilus Shell

File #: 635

I have long been attracted to “high key,” photographic images where the dominant tonalities tend to the light and bright side. The opposite is “low key” where most of the image contains dark or black tones. Although I work in both modalities—and in-between—my aesthetic tends to favor the former.

This shell, a gift from Linda, had a beautiful spectral quality to it. On the outside, the silvery white surface, when held at an angle, revealed a rainbow of colors. Inside, the white quickly graded to deep yellow. To get these dark colors to render in high key, I first set the shell on the light table on my camera stand and positioned photoflood lights on both sides at a rather high angle. That brightened the shell and created a lot of contrast—just what you don’t want for high key. So to get rid of the deep shadows I put diffusion material over both lights. That softened the shadows considerably. Next, using a voltage regulator, I lowered the wattage of the lights so—according to my light meter—they closely matched the luminance of the light table.

With the luminance value of the shell and background fairly matched, the final step was to determine the exposure. For this, I used a standard Kodak Gray Card which has 18% reflectance. Had I taken the reading from either the shell or the light table or both, the film would have registered the full range of tones, black to white, in spite of my lighting efforts. By exposing for 18% gray, the film registered everything as white. Bright. The negative was dark, so in the printing process I could enhance the high key through less exposure to the paper. A little underdevelopment of the film also helped to lower the contrast.

I invite you to visit my portfolio site: David L. Smith Photography

Contemplation: As Above, So Below



One of the benefits of a photographic image is that it presents us with a moment, usually a fraction of a second, and holds us there so we can reflect and appreciate the subject matter—and possibly some significance it might have.

The live scene or situation in front of the camera is part of our continuous experience, so mentally and physically we’re always on the move with respect to it. We give it fleeting attention. Ah, nice forest, we think. Beautiful trees! And then we’re on to the next thing. Thoughts change. We loose interest. We become distracted. And the scene changes.

But when we sit with an image, the act of focused attention—contemplation—promotes the inner assimilation of the subject matter in that captured moment. Spending time with a beautiful image can have the same, albeit more subtle, effect of recharging our batteries and resetting our priorities, like when we spend time in nature or goes on a retreat. We especially recognize these benefits are occurring when the experience or observation produces an inhale, a deep “breath of fresh air.” It’s an indication that we’ve made a connection, tasted the Ultimate Reality, and all is well. A bit of the life force has been assimilated.

Beyond assimilation, there’s more to be gained by contemplating an image. For instance in this image the colors are beautiful and they mark a transition from one season to another. But what else is going on? Are there meanings to be gleaned beyond the surface appearance? One consideration was the nature and source of color, how it’s a mental construct based on a complex of wavelengths, surface characteristics and other parameters. I also thought about the diversity of different species of trees and how they blend together to create a “symphony” of harmonizing colors, forms and textures. Deeper still, it can serve as a metaphor for change, death, transformation and renewal?

Considering the reflection of the forest on the water, an ancient adage came to mind: “As above, so below.” Man the microcosm reflecting the macrocosm of being. But here, it doesn’t quite hold. The reflection on the water is not a detailed or even accurate representation of the forest. Nonetheless, it is complimentary. And it generates a unique aesthetic experience. For instance, when I put my hand up to the screen and crop out the trees, the “message” is still “forest” in the reflection, but now it includes a sense of blending, merging, motion, and unity. Further, the forest “reality” (consciousness) is constituted of many trees (individual thoughts). And the reflection of that reality is whole, a unity of diverse species and colors, a blending of thoughts and memories.

In the “above” reality, there’s a sharp and clear transition between the individual thoughts and the sky. In the “below” reality—reflection—the “thoughts” are blending, shimmering and dissolving into the sky.


As above, so below.

Hermes Trismegistus

About This Image

Title: Autumn Pond

Location: Shelby, Michigan

File: DC 6844

I took an extended trip to photograph in western Michigan. To prepare, I did a great deal of research to find a destination that was within one day’s drive to where the color of the trees would be peaking. The weather forecast was for four days of sunshine, so I packed my three cameras, eager to shoot both black and white film and digital color.

As the saying goes, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” I drove a full day in the rain, expecting to have the four days of sunlight ahead of me. You guessed it—it drizzled or rained the whole time. The clouds only parted for about two hours on the last day.

Still, the trees were awesome—as the above image demonstrates. One of the benefits of cloud-cover is the reduction of contrast, meaning the highlights don’t “blossom” or blow out as they could in bright sunlight. And that lack of contrast can easily be compensated for in Lightroom or Photoshop. In the above image I increased both the contrast and the overall saturation.

Another benefit of bad weather—for both color and black and white—is atmosphere. While Fall colors “pop” in bright sunlight, overcast and dark clouds can contribute to mood. When it rained so hard I couldn’t get out of the car without getting the cameras wet, I drove at a crawl and just appreciated what was I was seeing.


Morning Glory

From universe to “nanoverse,” one of nature’s most common structural features is “branching.” Networks of all kinds, physical and intellectual, are grounded in a pattern that chemists refer to as “child” (smaller channels) and “parent” (larger) branches.

At the human level we see it in living systems—the brain, arteries and veins, leaves and trees. Branching occurs in chemistry, for example, when carbon atoms are cross-linked to form the hard plastic used in safety glasses. Branching made computers and the Internet possible. Flying at night we can clearly see the extensive branching of highway systems. Railways branch. There’s branching in mathematics and geometry. And we speak of “branch libraries” and businesses with branch offices and facilities. The phenomenon occurs wherever there is connection and flow—cities and suburbs, electrical systens, plumbing and sewer systems, streams and rivers, erosion, sand dunes and musical tunes. It’s everywhere.

Reflecting on the above image, I observe order within the chaotic, irregular lines. There isn’t one straight line, and no two of them are alike or even aligned. Yet there is cohesion, functionality and aesthetics. Systemically, I see the “parent” channels carrying water and nutrients to “child” and sub-offspring channels throughout the leaf. A microscope would reveal that each of the barren looking “fields” in between channels actually consists of a myriad of more interconnecting and intercommunicating cells. For me, the intricacy and complexity of these connections and flow channels triggers a deep appreciation of this universal design pattern—seen on other celestial bodies—one that is economical, resilient and life-supporting.

I also appreciate the pattern’s grace and harmony. Absent the color, and knowledge of the subject, one could imagine an extensive farm land with interstate highways, roads and lanes running through it. Zooming in would reveal a heavily populated area with living, thinking, decision-making beings—individual cells that have unique needs, wants and aspirations relating to survival, development, personal space and relationships. And they function together in harmony, as a whole! There are no battlefields, no indication of intolerant, greedy or power-hungry cells. On the contrary, the visual evidence alone points to a system where sharing and collaboration are occurring throughout the field. Bring back the color and the overall fied is verdant—alive.

Might this pattern and process, which appeared on the Earth about 130 million years ago and is still viable today, suggest something to the way human social systems work most effectively?

The vigorous branching of life’s tree, and not the accumulating valor of mythical marches to progress, lies behind the persistence and expansion of organic diversity in our tough and constantly stressful world. And if we do not grasp the fundamental nature of branching as the key to life’s passage across the geological stage, we will never understand evolution aright.

Stephen Jay Gould

About This Image

Title: Morning Glory Leaf

File: DC 1102

Throughout the summer months, an enormous Morning Glory plant climbs a wooden lattice in our back yard. One clear and sunny day I saw its leaves backlit and exclaimed, “Wow!” I had a choice photographically: get my camera and shoot the leaves outside, or take a leaf inside and shoot it under more controlled conditions.

I’ve been consciously looking for and photographing examples of branching for many years. So when I saw this example, particularly with the white lines being so prominent, I decided. To maximize the branching pattern, and minimize both the surface and texture, I set the leaf on a light-table and weighted it down with a piece of glass to smooth out the wrinkles. With a macro lens on a digital camera I composed and took the shot using only the backlight. This particular leaf was magnificent, about ten inches wide. To enhance the white lines, I increased the overall contrast and boosted the highlights in Adobe Lightroom.

I invite you to visit my portfolio site: David L. Smith Photography



Construction Ladder


Personally, spiritually, professionally, economically, socially, and politically we’re all climbing ladders toward “success.” What prompted the selection of this image for contemplation was hearing someone in a television commercial ask, “What do all artists seek?” His answer: “Recognition.” Ugh! I couldn’t let that go.

Did Michelangelo sculpt and paint to be recognized—or for money? What about Vincent Van Gogh or any of the masters of Eastern and Western civilizations? Twenty-first century, Western culture is so saturated with materialistic, competitive, end-product and celebrity values it’s hard for us to imagine anyone defining success as other than fame and fortune.

Case in point: My wife, Linda, observed that in her English class discussions of forty years ago, her students said what they valued most was “making a contribution.” Ten years ago the consensus was that they wanted to be known—famous. The latter perspective was echoed in my own teaching experience.

Since we largely define success for ourselves—consciously or unconsciously, I thought I would share some of the observations on the subject that I collected as quotes. Before presenting them, however, a perspective that I feel is important and missing from the perspectives below is that success for many people is achieved more through process than product, particularly when the activity is aligned with one’s personal purpose, their reason for being. As noted on the home page, I write and photograph to feed my soul. Anything that may come of it for others is just “icing on the cake.” I know I’m not alone in this.

To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a little better; whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life was breathed easier because you have lived. This is the meaning of success.

Ralph Waldo Emerson


My mother said to me, ‘If you are a soldier, you will become a general. If you are a monk, you will become the Pope.’ Instead, I was a painter, and became Picasso.

Pablo Picasso


History has shown that the success of cultures and even of great civilizations is measured by the way they deal with crises; the greater the challenge, the greater the opportunity for positive response. The same is true for individuals.

George Leonard


Individual success depends on environments that trigger the fulfillment of our genetic potential. Environments that motivate through fear literally shut down the potential for growth. Those that motivate through vision, open us up to express unforeseen possibilities.

Bruce Lipton


The key to modern success is human resources. How well you educate, train, and treat people in your society becomes more important than the coal you dig, trees you fell, or rivers you dam.

Herbert Striner


We now have the technology, the resources and the know-how to make this world a 100% success for every human being on Earth.

R. Buckminster Fuller


The soul of an enterprise bonds it together as one force giving it identity, purpose, direction and a reason for being… Many pooh-pooh the reality and value of soul in the corporate world but it is truly amazing how, given the same business circumstances, some companies do so much better than others. It is not soul that assures success, but it is the presence of soul that unifies the mission to achieve success… Companies with soul never lose sight of one thought – If you are not making history, you are history!

Bob MacDonald


Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.

Albert Einstein


May your New Year be filled with joy, love, peace and health. And success.



About The Blue Ladder Image

File #: DC669

Location: Columbus, OH

Not much to report. Walking the upper part of High Street in Columbus, Ohio, looking for things to photograph, I came upon a construction site. I saw this, took the shot and moved on. What I take from this is that evocative images don’t always require travel, special equipment, planning or technique. To quote Henri Cartier Bresson who, when asked the secret of his success as a street photographer, replied “Be there and f8.”

Vibration, Resonance, Synergy

Vesica Piscis

Take the full range of individual piano tuning forks and stand up them in a row. Take another one, unmarked, and strike it with a mallet. Of the many forks, the one that sounds will matche the unmarked fork—and identify it. For instance, f-sharp only sounds when it “hears,” or resonates with, the f-sharp frequency. All the others frequencies remain silent. Like attracts like. And like responds to like. I originally made this photograph to see if I could visually convey the sensibility of vibration. Now, it points me to considerations of resonance and synergy as well.

Two discoveries in quantum physics come to mind. One is the observation that all sub-atomic “particles”—electrons, photons, quarks and so on—are actually interacting and vibrating “fields” within fields. Not solids. None of them, nowhere. The other is the more recent discovery of the Higgs boson, the sub-atomic field scientists believe gives matter its mass. Combining these, Dr. Donald Lincoln, a particle physicist who divides his time between Fermilab and CERN in Switzerland says, “Everything—and I mean everything—is just a consequence of many infinitely-large fields vibrating. The entire universe is made of fields playing a vast, subatomic symphony.”

The description of vibrating fields calls to mind an experience I had where the “vibes” were so resonant they induced synergy, a circumstance where the whole (outcome) was greater than the sum of its parts (participants). In this instance, an astute television producer together with a multi-talented actor who had a vision, assembled a team of like-minded, skilled and creative people to produce a weekly children’s television series that would encourage parents to watch with their children and discuss its themes. Long story short, the thirty-nine episodes of “Max B. Nimble” accomplished its goals, had a long play and won national awards. In many ways, it exceeded expectations.

It wasn’t until much later that I appreciated how this producer, call him Oscar, created a resonant team capable of synergy. Reflecting on his methods, I began to see that they reflect the way nature works. All of nature vibrates and interacts in ways that contribute to cohesion. In a social or business context, it’s the quality of interaction, the personal expressions—fields within fields—that contributes to coherence. To clarify, I offer Oscar’s methodology.

He identified and brought on board the most talented people he knew. In our first meeting, rather than have us introduce ourselves, he went around the table, presented our resumes and made glowing remarks about each one of us. Feeling like we were in the company of giants, we had to live up to his descriptions, which set the bar high and established the collective vibration. His articulation of our objectives were clear and inspirational. To insure that we all understood the nature of the communication challenge, he included a scholar who helped us put theory into practice. I for one, wondered if we could pull it off.

From day one, the process of writing and producing was intensive and exhilarating. We pushed ourselves and each other to perform at our highest levels. Every day. And we loved doing what each of us did best. The entire team met for daily script readings. We had weekly meetings where every detail was discussed—down to the sandbags that secured the light stands so people wouldn’t trip over them. No detail was too small for consideration—and elaborate discussion. Every day we were eager to get to work. And at the end of the day we convened to review what happened and especially, screen what we produced.

With each presentation there was praise, applause, and toasts when things went right. When they didn’t, rather than blame or criticize, the energy went into finding solutions. In this way we could see our progress and how each of us was contributing, thereby fueling our creative fervor even more. Oscar championed the best—advisors, talent, crew, resources and technologies—and he convinced each one of us that what we were doing was both meaningful and significant. As a result, we took ownership of the vision and responsibility for our part in realizing it. Every day for nearly two years, we went to “play” with our colleagues, many of whom became long-term friends.

Rupert Sheldrake, who developed the theory of morphic resonance (The theory that memory is inherent in nature) wrote that “Energetic resonance occurs when an alternating force acting on a system coincides with its natural frequency of vibration.” Applied to a small group with a goal, people in resonance, in love with a vision and engaged in its collaborative realization, naturally become synergistic. As a vibration, love and being appreciated makes us capable of transcending individual limitations. Besides the bonding that results, participating together in joyful enterprise heightens our faculties and encourages us to realize our fuller potentials.

High performance techniques and processes, including the “Six-Sigma” techniques used in business to identify and remove the causes of defects and breakdowns within an operating system, result in outcomes where one plus one equals a qualitative two. Clean and neat; outstanding accomplishment when it happens. But rigorously speaking, synergy isn’t about high-performance, it’s about transcendence through coherence and resonant engagement. And when that happens, one plus one equals five. That’s its signature.

Here’s the formulation in a nutshell:

Everything vibrates.

Like vibrations produce resonance.

Resonance activated and directed to a common goal can produce synergy.

Synergy, through coherence, is capable of transcendent outcomes.


Synergy requires a circle of equals in resonance.

Carolyn Anderson

About This Image

Title: Vesica Piscis

File #: 453

One of the fundamental shapes in nature and therefore a component of “sacred geometry,” is the vesica piscis (Latin for “Bladder of a fish”). It’s the space between two equal, intersecting circles. We see it when two ripples in a pond intersect. Historically, it was a symbol with a multitude of meanings in many cultures and was used extensively in church and civic architecture. We see it in jewelry and crop circles. You might even have it in your wallet—the MasterCard logo.

Wanting to make this shape in a way that would convey the sensibility of vibration, I took a heavy gauge steel guitar string and secured it at both ends with heavy-duty clamps. With the string centered in the frame, I positioned a light and “flagged” off the background so it wouldn’t record. I critically focused the camera, set the shutter speed to “T” for time exposure and made the room totally dark. Then, using a cable release, I opened the shutter and gave the guitar string a good tug.

I invite you to visit my portfolio site: David L Smith Photography

Form And Function

Aside from the beauty of the reflections, this motorcycle urges me toward two lines of contemplation. The first is a deep appreciation for our capacity to extract elements from the earth and shape them into virtually unlimited forms. Size, shape and surface, even strength of materials and temperature tolerances are a few of the variables that designers and engineers can manipulate—which amazes me! My father, who made tools for the Ford Motor Company, often said that he could make anything from metal. When he heard that I was chipping fossils in creek beds with a hammer and screw driver, he surprised me with a professional looking pick and hammer that he made from a single piece of steel. The handle was textured for gripping and the head had a needle point on one end and a flat prong on the other for prying. I still cherish it.

Having gained the ability to shape the earth into anything we can imagine was certainly a key step in humanity’s ongoing physical and intellectual transformation. By literally having “the whole world in our hands,” the forms we have made, and are continuing to create, are informing us about our values and choices. Do they sustain and build? Or otherwise? This particular form, the motorcycle, peaks my aesthetic nerve. I never owned one, but this image helps me appreciate how so much potential power, visually and literally, can be contained in such a relatively small and beautiful vehicle.

Another line of contemplation derives from the observation that many different forms have been organized into a highly functioning whole. A motorcycle is an excellent example of the often misused term, “synergy,” initially used to describe a system where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Indeed, extract any part, no matter how small, and the system will not function as it was designed. There’s also a lesson in diversity here. If all the parts took the same form or performed the same function, they wouldn’t constitute a whole capable of functioning at all. In both physical and social systems, differentiation and diversity are essential for full functioning. It’s the survival and growth strategy that bacteria learned around two billion years ago. “You bring the costumes. He’ll bring the lights. I’ll bring the music. They can sing and dance and we’ll put on a play!” Every part in a machine, and every member of a society has a role to play.

What is anything but spirit taking form?

Alex Gray (Artist)

About This Image

Title: Motorcycle

Theme: Form And Function

File: DF 640

Lebanon, Ohio

I often photograph at classic car shows. I’m not so much interested in a vehicle’s mechanical attributes or performance, although these are sometimes remarkable. What draws me are the impeccable forms and pristine surfaces that are highly reflective. I even dress for these occasions, wearing dark pants, shirt and shoes to avoid or moderate my  reflection. Unfortunately, on the day I made this image, I was wearing a plaid shirt and it shows in the photograph.

Because I go looking for reflections, exquisite light and strong geometries my car images tend to be abstractions rather than whole cars. If you would like to page through a book of these images—and monographs featuring other themes—the title is “Auto Reflections: The Intersection Of Form, Light and Color.” (The link is to These are all available through by searching: “david l. smith ohio photographer.”