I’m thrilled to announce the results of a secret project I’ve been working on the last few weeks. I’ve written a book. The title is “… And the Geese Exploded” which if you read my blog was the title of a piece I wrote about this year’s trip to Merced National Wildlife Refuge, and it was the thing that made me realize I needed to write this book.

This book is available for free — no strings attached, not even an email address — via the download button below. The download is in PDF, which is easily readable on most computers and tablets (and it looks awesome on my iPad in the Books app, if I do say so myself), and also exists as a hardcover printed copy, but only one copy of it exists, I have it, and no, you can’t buy it. But the ebook version is all yours to enjoy.

The book is a combination of a series of short essays about my birding life, how I feel so deeply for birdwatching, and some of the aspects of being a birdwatcher that mean so much to me. It also includes over 100 of my favorite photos that I’ve taken over the last decade here in the greater Bay Area, out in the central valley wildlife refuges, and here in the western coastal states in the U.S.

Why this book?

I’ve been looking for a project for a while, but simply doing a book of photos felt rather boring and I didn’t think it would be all that interesting unless I could wrap it around a topic or some kind of narrative telling a bigger story. I just didn’t know what that story was.

The trip to Merced this year was the biggest group that I’ve led, and the bird action was insane. I came back from it both completely exhausted and on a real emotional high, and when I wrote up the trip report, I realized it was less about what happened than how it felt and how people reacted, and I really liked it. That led to the idea that I should write about what birding means to me, and this rather quickly all came together.

A self-criticism I’ve had for a while is that I write too much “process” material and very little that’s personal comes out. Some of that is by design and habit, since I have some experience with what can happen if you’re a bit too open on the net and the trolls decide to wander by — but I feel that too often what I’m seems more like technical writing than personal writing (and yes, these days I am a technical writer, but still…). It’s hard to push against the walls I see as protecting me from the nasty realities of online life, but I’ve also felt the walls needed to be adjusted and pushed out.

I want to do more of this kind of writing, and try to inject a bit more energy and life into the other kinds of work I’m doing here. We’ll see how this goes: you have to be willing to live your comfort zone as a first step towards finding a new, larger comfort zone, and this is that first step. I don’t have a specific new project in mind yet, but we’ll see what shows up with the next delivery by my muse.

Download now! There is no obligation — I’m not even asking for an email address.

I do have a request: If you can, I’d really appreciate if you could donate something — even $5 helps — to Santa Clara Valley Audubon. We’re trying to do some very important things and the Coronavirus situation is going to seriously impact our fundraising — spring is our major donation time, and much of those donations are generated via our group outings where we take people out to teach them about birds and bird areas of the county. Which, obviously, isn’t going to happen this year in our traditional form. While we’re adapting to the times, I still believe it’s going to hurt our fundraising a lot, so every little bit you can offer will help — and thank you for considering it.

Oh, and if you like the book, please tell your friends and encourage them to download and enjoy it as well. If you don’t like the book, well, just drop me an email and tell me why, and I’ll use that to learn how to make a better book next time. And if you like this e-book, consider subscribing to my newsletter, 6FPS so we can stay in touch and you’ll be among the first to know when I release new things for you to enjoy.

And thanks for being interested in this book. I really appreciate that.

The path to now

The path to the creation of this book was a fascinating one. 2019 turned out to be a year where I more or less re-invented much of my thinking on photography and creativity — and life — without actually planning to do so. I signed up for a year-long mentorship with photography David duChemin as part of a group of photographers, and it has caused me to really re-think how I think about my photography and what it means to be creative in general. In the fall I took Art Wolfe‘s Olympic Peninsula Photo Retreat, and the week I spent up there with Art and his team and the other photographers changed so much about how I think about my images it’s hard to explain how much that time with them changed me. Art, also, taught me a few processing tricks in Lightroom that I’ve adopted and I feel like my images made a huge improvement because of it. All of the images in this book have been reprocessed from scratch, and for many of them, the improvement is stunning to my eyes. I might choose do to some before and after comparisons on the site down the road with explanations of how I do the processing.

I expected (hoped?) to come out of these activities a better photographer. I never thought I would come out of it a completely different photographer, and I think that new photographer is just starting to show up in my new images and I’m still figuring out exactly who it is, to be honest, but I love the new direction this is taking me. Even more than that, I came out of this last year with a new sense of confidence, of being able to see when I’m turning out good work — images and writing — and believe that it’s good. Impostor’s Syndrome has always been a challenge for me, and often it seems to win the battles, but if I got nothing else out of last year, I seem to have learned how to lock that into a closet and not let it drive me into being safe and quiet.

So to David, and Art, and Art’s team (hi Bill and Libby especially!) and all of the other photographers I’ve shared time with in the last year or so, a big thanks for being there and being supportive and helpful and creating an opportunity for me to grow and mature into my next stage of whatever it is I am. thank you all.

And now, time to start thinking about what’s next on the project list…

Sample Gallery

Here are twelve sample images from the over 100 images in the book. All images in this book were taken by me over the last decade that I’ve spent birding and doing bird photography around Silicon Valley, the California National Wildlife Refuges, and all along the Western Coast of the United States. Some of them are available as free downloads to use as wallpapers on your computing device, and you can bet I’ll be releasing more wallpaper sets that include these images. To see the entire set of photos from the book, check out Birds of “and the Geese Exploded” over on my Smugmug Portfolio site.