Of Tunnels And Change

“The light at the end of the tunnel.”  There’s a phrase we have all heard.  It has many meanings and implications.  Sometimes it refers to the approaching end of a task, the satisfaction anticipated from a job well done.  Sometimes it is about shouldering through pain or rough times in the knowledge that it will eventually end, and what follows can only be brighter.  Then there are the stories of near death experiences, wherein people relate being drawn towards a light.

I think most tunnels are like the one above, fuzzy and undefined, with the ending obscured by uncertainty, at least until the very last moment.  I feel this way especially about death.  I have no religious faith. I am neither faithless nor devoid of spirituality, I am both faithful and spiritual.  I just don’t buy into any of the simplistic myths embraced by most humans.  Nor do I accept the finite universe demanded by an omnipotent deity who is both alpha and omega. I am fairly certain there is nothing at the end of the ultimate tunnel.  I do have hope that I am wrong, especially on days like this.

My friend Bob died on Thursday, the day before my birthday.  I’ve only known him for about five years, since he joined my writing group (more aptly named a drinking group with a writing problem since we meet in a cantina). In that short time he became one of my favorite people.  Unfailingly kind, cheerful, funny, and smart, it was impossible not to love this man, and everyone did.

(photo by Christine Rusiniak)

That’s Bob on the left, as we luxuriate in pure Tucson fashion during the first monsoon rain of the year.  A few months later he developed a case of laryngitis that didn’t go away.  It turned out he had a huge tumor crushing his windpipe.  Even after they removed it, he never quite got his voice back, but his spirit endured. In the cruelty that seems to prevail in the world of cancer and chemo, they thought they had gotten it all, then it spread, then he went into remission, then, then, then.  And now he’s dead. He pretty much stopped coming to writing group after his diagnosis, other than a few special occasions, but every time, he brightened the place.  I have missed him the whole time.  This is why I hope there is something after death.  Not so I will have a chance to see Bob, although that would be wonderful, but so he can continue to bring joy to those around him, to be the light at the end of many tunnels.

Solitary Success


It’s been a long time since I took a day and just went out to be a photographer.  Too long, evidently.  I drove up to the top of our local sky island to escape the oppressive record heat.  There is a nice loop trail up near the observatory.  I took my Sony a7R III, left the zoom in the car, and put the macro on.  I was going on what I like to call “Bug Safari.” I’ve done this a lot in the past with my Olympus OMD E-5.  It’s fun and I’ve gotten great shots.

Aside from the image above, which you will notice contains no bugs, the day was a spectacular failure.  The Sony’s menu is a rabbit hole of options, seven sub menus with several sub sub menus each.  Honestly, I have never even tried to master it.  I’m sure if I took the time, I could learn my way around and program the three presets available to me, but I bought this camera for a specific purpose, my Guatemala Abuelos project.  It served me well in low light, high quality video and portraiture.


It was the right tool for the job.  Now it is too much.  I frankly can’t be bothered to learn all the ins and outs of using this camera.  The payoff for all that work simply isn’t worth the effort.  I just want to take photos.  I’m not a point and shoot guy, although I do shoot on auto in some situations, but the complexity of this camera makes my entire photographic being glaze over. I am also moving to Oaxaca in the next couple of years, and I would much rather walk around with an unobtrusive, small image making device than this bulky Cadillac.

Anyway, not a single bug portrait came out. This is also due to my not learning how to operate the macro lens I bought last summer.  Olympus makes it all so simple.  I like simple. I’m going to sell the Sony. This also means my images will return to the 4:3 format I love.  Yay!


Bread And Roses – Right Lane Must Turn Right


This photo is from a 2011 protest in Tucson in support of Wisconsin municipal workers who were being denied collective bargaining rights by then governor Scott Walker who would later go on to lose a bid for president in 2016. He was finally evicted from office last year.

There is a guy named Andrew Yang running for the Democratic nomination for president.  His central platform and answer to all the nation’s problems is a guaranteed basic income for every American adult of $1000 a month.  He proposes to pay for this with a VAT tax which will raise $800 billion a year and alleged savings in other programs which by his estimation could amount to about a trillion and a half.  That is a total of 2.3 trillion dollars at the most optimistic of his estimates.

There are 250 million adults in the United States.  $1000 a month for each would be $250 billion a month, or $3 trillion a year.  This leaves Yang about $700 billion short, and we haven’t even factored in all the other expenses of the US government, from infrastructure to the military.

He is also promising amnesty for all marijuana criminals and legalization.  Maybe he figures if we are stoned enough, we won’t notice the country falling apart around us?

I want some of what he’s smoking if he thinks he has a chance of winning the nomination. Most people don’t want a handout.  They want jobs and dignity.

(all numbers except the population statistic from Yang’s website)

Selective Focus


Back when I had a Facebook photography page, I used to make posts titled “Here And Now,” which consisted of photos taken within a block of my house.  It was a sort of challenge to myself to find worthwhile subjects within the same area over and over. I learned a lot doing it.

This image was taken with my Olympus OMD E5 using the 12-50 kit lens on macro setting.  I focused on the orange and then deliberately shifted it out of the center of the image, composing the photo with the focal point off center. I do this a lot, moving the subject of my image away from the center.  It helps the viewer notice everything else, especially when it isn’t in focus, and, in this case, makes for a more pleasing abstraction.

This morning I was listening to NPR’s Left, Right, and Center podcast.  They were talking of course about gun violence, and what we should do about it.  I found myself becoming more and more frustrated with the “conservative” voice.  He insisted, as right wing, pro gun pundits often do, on focusing only on the most recent mass shooting and how none of the proposed gun law reforms would have stopped it.  Unlike my photograph, his selective focus was designed to distract the listener from the larger composition. Mass shootings are the catalyst for these discussions, but they should not be the focus.  Most gun deaths in this country are caused by handguns, not AR-15 rifles, and most of them are suicides.  Guns don’t kill people, but they make it a whole lot easier to do so, even when we are talking about suicide.

Another annoying tendency of politicians on the NRA payroll is to deflect the focus completely out of the picture frame.  Imagine if I had focused on the orange and then moved my camera until the fruit was no longer in the frame.  I might get a pleasing image, but it would no longer be relevant to the subject.  This is what happens when NRA toadies start talking about mental illness or video games.  The entire world has access to violent video games.  The entire world has mental illness.  Outside of war zones, no country has an epidemic of gun deaths even approaching what we have.  The only relevant difference between us and them is access to guns. Gun control advocates need to learn to talk about the whole picture.  Too often they play into the hand of the NRA by calling for “assault” weapons bans after an incident where someone uses one to kill a group of people.

My opinion is that guns should be like cars.  You should have to have training, a license, and insurance.  All ammunition should be traceable to point of sale and purchaser. All gun laws should be national to prevent someone from buying 100 handguns in Montana, driving to Chicago, and selling them out of the trunk of his car without a background check. And those background checks should be mandatory, exhaustive, and include a significant waiting period. I think this will stand up to the second amendment, but if not, maybe we need to repeal it.

Is that focused enough?



For this post, I’m going all the way back to 2005, when I bought my first DSLR and went to Vietnam and Cambodia on a whirlwind low budget two week trip.  I mean seriously low budget.  My friend Franz and I got a room together in Hanoi for $6 a night, and our room in Siem Reap by Angkor Wat was $4. We were there before the tourism boom, and were still able to climb all over the temples in Cambodia. It was magical.  I spent years thereafter trying to find the next Angkor Wat, finally realizing in Mandalay in 2013 that you don’t ever find it again, and that you cheapen each new experience by comparing it to the precious memory.

Anyway, I was very much a beginning photographer at this point, and still calling myself “a painter with a really good camera.”  When I got home, I took my new camera on a couple local excursions, including one to the Chiricahua National Monument.  I took images from Angkor Wat and used Photoshop to combine them with images from the Chiricahuas in a series called Juxtapositions.


I still find the results of this photoplay magical.  Parallels and similarities exist in the most disparate places and environments.  All you have to do is look and you will find them.


This was the first image I made.  Something about the natural erosion of the rock being at the root of the temple design.  I’m sure someone more skilled than I at Photoshop could manipulate the connection between the two images to be more seamless and organic, but I kind of like that you see them as connected at first and then the hard edge between them delineates their separation.


This last one is maybe a bit more subtle.  I love the shape between the mountain ridge and the statue’s neckline.  There was a teacher at Pratt who taught me to see.  I remember him holding his hands up, palm facing palm, parallel and saying “this isn’t beautiful.”  Then he slightly altered the angle and position of each so they were no longer parallel but complimentary and said “this is.”  I am certain that those weren’t the exact words he used, but I understood in that moment how to juxtapose two things together.

If only it were so easy with people.