Thomas is -
biking around aimlessly somewhere in Brooklyn
biking around aimlessly somewhere in Brooklyn
Thomas is an NYC-based designer living in Brooklyn.
He writes, codes, designs a lot of different things, and loves taking photos + videos.
He's got the best friends and family supporting him through this journey, and he's always looking to meet new fabulous people to talk to. So!
If you'd like, you can say hello at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thats a quote from the great Stan Getz, performing live the song “Lover Man” replying back to a heckler in the audience. To hear a statement like that in a crowd of hundreds is in a away, appalling. I was never great on stage, but I also understand the kind of meditation that can come with a task you so enjoy doing.
You can find this meditation amongst a lot of different things - its all up to you on how you’d like to direct the energy and concentration of your brain. Doing the dishes, moving furniture, prepping to cook for a large meal, its always there, in both the mundane and the extremely complex, like attempting to photograph this massive galaxy that we occupy.
One of those places that I have come to create a sanctuary around is the 5 feet radius around me, alone, with my camera, sometimes a tripod and a headlamp. Maybe a small, three pronged camping chair if my legs are feeling weary.
The first time I laid my eyes on the Milky Way was during a road trip that I took after graduating high school. My friends and I packed up a 1973 Jamboree RV and went off for two and a half weeks, hitting 7 national parks along the way. Our first stop was in Moab, where we explored Arches National Park. I told my friends, “I’ve never seen the Milky Way before, is that something we’ll be able to see out here?” only hearing a chuckle as a reply. I wasn’t sure what was so funny.
We sat on the dirt underneath Landscape Arch (which funnily enough, was actually supposed to be named the Delicate Arch since its quite thin at its apex, but paperwork was messed up during the naming hence, the Delicate Arch became the famous arch that now shows up on every Utah license plate, and the Landscape Arch took an unfortunate backseat.) waiting for the sunset. Being young kids with the world at their grips, I wasn’t even sure what we were waiting for, but we kept waiting. Its easy when laughter is flowing like water.
We galloped around our vicinity, making a ruckus and enjoying our time outdoors until it was too dark to even see each other. As we started making our way back to the RV on the short mile and a half hike - constantly staring at the ground with my headlamp so I didn’t trip over a rock or a snake - my friend tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Thomas, look up!”
I think I’ve fallen to my knees maybe three times in my life, in awe of grand beauty that I couldn’t comprehend immediately. This was the first time.
There it was, the grandiose Milky Way, shining away to its demise. How beautiful something so incomprehensible, so vast, so unreachable could be was out of my understanding. So I just stayed there. On my knees. I felt I could hear and see my late Mother looking back down at me. Look at it, the heavens. There it is. I thanked my friends for being there with me. I’m not sure they still understand the importance of that moment in my life.
I began my journey with a camera during that trip. I had bought a janky but new mirrorless camera from Panasonic as preparation for architecture school in the fall. Yet I fell in love with capturing nature. I attempted to photograph our stars during that trip, but I couldn’t figure out how. I thought, maybe its better left alone. I’ve since gotten better at handling a camera, and gained a deeper understanding of the technical complexities of not just photographing our galaxy, but also understanding the mathematics behind why the photos come out the way they do. You can capture the rotation of our planet if you set your settings correctly (or incorrectly), and that is something to be astonished at.
Since that day, I told myself that its a feeling unrivaled by many to be there when someone experiences something like this for the first time ever. I’ve had the lucky chance of taking my friends I’ve met from college and beyond to remote parts of our world to show them something that brought tears to my eyes the first time. The most important person I did that for was my own father. He owns and operates a liquor store in Estes Park, Colorado, where our house is a mere 5 minutes away from the entrance to the great Rocky Mountain National Park. I call it the most beautiful prison in the world, since he’s always tied to the store and in the 5 years he’s been there, he’s never made it into the park. One night, I begged him to let me take him into the wilderness after we closed up the shop together. I told him its a goal of mine to make sure he sees the stars as bright as those in the park with me.
This brings me to the zen state you can enter when you’re out in the middle of a field, lake, hillside, just standing around with nothing but you and your camera, capturing the skies. Shooting stars come way more often than you might imagine. You try to make a wish for each one, but at one point you just start to feel greedy and that you’re maybe cheating the system. Save those wishes for some other people, right?
The preparation it takes to get set up capturing the skies is not intense, but its no small feat either. You also have to do it in the dark. It helps to have a headlight that projects red, so you don’t disturb any of our animal friends. But after fumbling around with settings, getting the focus to be just right (which depends on the type of lens you have as well), testing for correct shutter speed, aperture and ISO, you finally get settled. Its just you and the great outdoors now. You click that shutter button and wait for the 20 to 30 seconds it takes for your camera to receive that light, coming all the way from however many light years away into the tiny, thumb sized sensor sitting inside your camera. In that 30 seconds of silence, you think. You look at the stars that shine back down on you, and think about all the others that have looked at the exact same stars you’re looking at. It makes you feel absolutely minuscule. It turns down the noise of every day life. It almost feels like the only equalizing force in our society that can compress your emotions like so. Then, you snap back to it when you hear your shutter close after the 30 seconds, only to take a quick glimpse at the stars, tweak some settings, and put it back onto capturing.
I’ve captured hundreds, if not thousands of images of our skies over the last 7 years since I picked up a camera. But at one point, the act of capturing unhinged itself from the satisfaction that came with capturing a successful image. Sure, its great to capture that night sky with the stars shining in endless glory. But I realized its the process, the meditation, the act of capturing itself that is the true lesson that the stars are maybe trying to communicate with me. You can get so encapsulated in the day to day, the advancement of the ladder rung, the race to a finish line, glimpsing over your shoulder to register how close your nearest competitor is. But it is here when you truly realize that equality. We all live under the great solar system we found ourselves in. There is no rush, there is no finish line. It is only under the stars where I truly realize that it is a blessing to be alive, to feel the wind, to smell the fresh grass, and to hear the sounds of our distant animal friends talking.
And that moment, the five feet of space around me, the vulnerability you open yourself to in the middle of the woods where nobody would or could find you, under the sparkling stars we’ve stared at collectively for centuries as humans - that moment right there is, and always will be the constant that makes me realize how truly lucky we are to exist.