Challenges While Photographing for Poetry: Himalayas by Jon Meyer, author of Clouds: love poems from above the fray

Today’s guest post is from Jon Meyer, author of Clouds: love poems from above the fray, which is a available digitally or as a coffee table book.

Here’s a little more about the book:

Clouds: love poems from above the fray features beautiful black and white photographs from around the world, paired with Jon’s reflective and inspirational poetry and stories behind the photographs. One such story explains the unforgettable experience behind Jon’s photo of a small plane surrounded by the snow-capped Himalayas in Nepal:

After sitting in the tiny airport in Pokara, Nepal for 5 hours, I started to get restless. We still had not taken off to fly up into the Himalayas.  So, I asked a man wearing a pilot’s uniform when we would board and take off. “When I can see blue sky,” he replied, “because in Nepal, the clouds have rocks in them.” (Jon Meyer, 2022) (#21)

Please give Jon Meyer a warm welcome:

Photography for use with poetry requires patience, sometimes requiring hours of waiting for the right light or having a cloud in the right place, or even the position of a cold midnight reflection.

Traveling to take a photograph can be a macro or micro adventure. The micro may be just walking around the corner or into a nearby forest. A macro adventure sometimes requires visiting a new country, learning about new (to me) cultures, or finding places that illustrate previous writing. Capturing the right image may require climbing mountains, flying to remote destinations, trudging through mud or snow, riding in a car on a steep mountain road without guard- rails and having the brakes fail, or even barely avoiding an avalanche.

The latter experience occurred when trekking in the high Himalaya and taking photos of their magnificent snow- covered peaks. The tiny villages along the Annapurna Circuit trek in Nepal are basic. The most prosperous of the small dwellings are made of carefully placed stone, and some are covered with whitewash. At the time that I was there, my guide and I stayed overnight in hut/ homes with minimal heating that consisted of a cooking fire inside, and most villages at altitude did not have electricity nor running water. The villagers were always welcoming and gracious with Namaste greetings to all strangers. We were happy to take shelter from the night’s wind and cold. The views of the ice- covered Himalayan peaks remain unsurpassed. Homes are now starting to acquire solar for lighting and essentials.

We passed by the prayer flags in the cover photo for Clouds on our trek up toward Thorong La, the world’s highest pass at 18,000 feet (over 5,400 meters). That morning, we had a good start before dawn, and by 10 AM we were well above the tree line at 16000 feet in a steep valley. Above us to the left was a peak with a sheer, high degree inclination, and on that smooth stone face was a thick ice field extending down from 26,000 feet to just above the rock- strewn trail we were scrambling on. The continuous ice was more than a mile wide.

By this time of morning, the strong sun was out with scattered clouds, similar to those in the photo. As we passed below the ice field, my guide and I both noticed the increase of water pouring down the smooth black mountain from below the ice field. It was really a rushing river. A shiver shook my body at the thought that in a moment the whole ice field could collapse, avalanche down, and cover the narrow valley we were in.

We looked for large boulders to crouch behind if the ice let go, but there were few with no guarantee that the ice wouldn’t roll them over us if we took cover there or back down the trail. So, we increased our pace but the altitude’s reduced oxygen made progress slower than necessary. With help from adrenaline, we pushed on and up. It was like a dream of running as fast as possible but still very slowly. When I was in High School, I ran sprints while on sports teams. The longest I could go was less than 30 seconds all out. This time, after 45 minutes of a maximum effort slow sprint and my repeating Love’s name with great intensity, we reached a point on the trail out of peril.

Just then I heard a loud crack, like a rifle shot too close to my ear. The ice field had let go, and cascaded down over the trail where we had just been. Since we were now ‘above the fray’ my stress and determination changed to gratitude. The Ancient One, Lord of the Mountains sent a lesson and a message, “Now that’s the way to remember Me always.”

Clouds: love poems from above the fray has been a project spanning more than four decades containing poems influenced by visiting many places, giving lectures, and witnessing beautiful vistas, in towns, cities, and above all, in nature. Over my career, I have been invited to speak at universities and cultural centers across the US and in a number of other countries, and I took photographs while in those places. Thousands of those photos are now in my archive. Hundreds of five- line quintain poems were written down, from which 64 were chosen for Clouds. These were then matched with photos in my archive.

Thank you, Jon, for sharing your poetry, photos, and stories.

About the Poet:

Jon Meyer has written for The Village voice, ARTnews, ARTS, New Art Examiner, Visions Quarterly, CRITS, Q, Dialog, Art New England, Fictional Café, and many more publications. As Department Chair, Meyer led a small team producing a film about one of his students, Dan Keplinger. This film, King Gimp, won the Oscar for best short documentary at the 2000 Academy Awards. Meyer’s work has been in 60 solo and group exhibitions (18 museum exhibitions) and 20 museum/public collections globally. He has received 12 grants, including a National Endowment for the Arts grant.

Fly With Me by Jane Yolen, Heidi E.Y. Stemple, Adam Stemple, and Jason Stemple

Source: Media Masters Publicity
Hardcover, 192 pgs.
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Fly with Me: A Celebration of Birds Through Pictures, Poems, and Stories by Jane Yolen, Heidi E.Y. Stemple, Adam Stemple, and Jason Stemple is gorgeous. The photographs and reproductions of artwork are stunning, bring each bird to life for young readers. With these colorful pictures, it will be hard for young readers to turn away, and parents will be able to use this as a resource for not only the biology of birds, but also in geography lessons in which state birds are talked about. The giant state bird map is wonderfully detailed, as are the pages about migration, ancient birds, evolution and extinction, and so much more.

I originally wanted to review this book because poetry is included, and Yolen’s poems are always accessible to a number of audiences. I wasn’t wrong about that here, either, as her poems in this book are a great way to introduce young readers to birds. There also are poems from Heidi E.Y. Stemple, which are equally accessible. I loved sharing with my daughter how Stemple’s poem, “Vee,” not only examines the migration of geese but is also shaped like the “V” formation of geese.

Fly with Me: A Celebration of Birds Through Pictures, Poems, and Stories by Jane Yolen, Heidi E.Y. Stemple, Adam Stemple, and Jason Stemple is a collection that the whole family can share. It was big hit for its colorful pages and its poetry, but there is so much more to explore in these pages.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Authors:

JANE YOLEN is an author of children’s books, fantasy, and science fiction, including Owl Moon, The Devil’s Arithmetic, and How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? She is also a poet, a teacher of writing and literature, and a reviewer of children’s literature.

HEIDI STEMPLE was 28 years old when she joined the family business, publishing her first short story in a book called Famous Writers and Their Kids Write Spooky Stories. The famous writer was her mom, author Jane Yolen. Since then, she has published 20 books and numerous short stories and poems, mostly for children.
Stemple, her two daughters, her mom, and a couple cats live in Massachusetts on a big old farm with two houses.

JASON STEMPLE is an author and photographer. He lives with his wife and children in Charleston, South Carolina.

ADAM STEMPLE is a novelist and musician. He lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Walk With Me by Debra Schoenberger

Source: the author
ebook, 108 pgs.
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Walk with Me by Debra Schoenberger is just that a journey along with the photographer as she explores not only her own city of Victoria, British Columbia, but places to which she’s traveled. Her pictures range from the mundane moments of empty chairs in a restaurant to the pilled moisture on fruit. Her macro shots are detailed and well contrasted, and her close-ups of people illustrate the unbridled joy found in daily jaunts.

Schoenberger chooses to frame not only every day moments, but also colors that we often forget we see.  Highlighting the rainbows present in our busy lives demonstrates to readers of her book that there is more to our life than those scheduled appointments and deadlines. We need to remember those colors, those giggles of children’s laughter, and soft touch of petals on our skin. We can breathe in the scent of life to calm us and look at our neighborhoods to find the humor lost in large window displays.

Walk with Me by Debra Schoenberger is a journey, a meditation, and a pause for readers. I would like to have known where some of the photos were shot because there are some really interesting places captured here. They could be anywhere in the world, or right down the street.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Debra Schoenberger aka #girlwithcamera

“My dad always carried a camera under the seat of his car and was constantly taking pictures. I think that his example, together with pouring over National Geographic magazines as a child fueled my curiosity for the world around me.

I am a documentary photographer and street photography is my passion. Some of my images have been chosen by National Geographic as editor’s favorites and are on display in the National Geographic museum in Washington, DC.  I also have an off-kilter sense of humor so I’m always looking for the unusual.  Website ~  Facebook ​~ Instagram ~  Pinterest


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Animal Ark: Celebrating Our Wild World in Poetry and Pictures by Kwame Alexander and Joe Sartore

Source: Media Masters Publicity
Hardcover, 48 pgs.
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Animal Ark: Celebrating our Wild World in Poetry and Pictures by Kwame Alexander, photos by Joel Sartore, is a gorgeous book for kids — a photographic ark with poems. The images bring forth the magic of Alexander’s poetry from the silly game playing primates to the large rumbling feet of elephants. These short haiku eek out elements of each animal, helping kids identify some of their behaviors and qualities, while engaging their eyes in a play of color.

In “Chorus of Creatures” near the center of the book, Alexander draws parallels between the animals in this ark and humans, calling on all of us to show respect for the world around us, or we might just share its end. At the end of the book is a key with all of the animals listed that appeared in earlier pages, and near the bottom is a key where readers can find out which animals in this ark are critically endangered, vulnerable, and more.

Animal Ark: Celebrating our Wild World in Poetry and Pictures by Kwame Alexander, photos by Joel Sartore, is an ark you need in your home to teach children and adults about the animals on our planet and how we are connected to them.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Poet:

Kwame Alexander is a poet, educator, and the New York Times Bestselling author of 24 books, including THE CROSSOVER, which received the 2015 John Newbery Medal for the Most Distinguished Contribution to American literature for Children, the Coretta Scott King Author Award Honor, The NCTE Charlotte Huck Honor, the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, and the Paterson Poetry Prize. Kwame writes for children of all ages. Some of his other works include THE PLAYBOOK: 52 RULES TO HELP YOU AIM, SHOOT, AND SCORE IN THIS GAME OF LIFE; the picture books, ANIMAL ARK, OUT OF WONDER and SURF’S UP; and novels BOOKED, HE SAID SHE SAID, and the forthcoming SOLO.

About the Photographer:

Joel Sartore has produced more than 30 stories from around the world as a freelance photographer for NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC magazine. He is an author, speaker and teacher who captivates audiences with his funny and inspiring adventures.

Political Theatre by Mark Peterson

Source: publicist
Hardcover, 144 pgs.
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RATING: Cinquain

Political Theatre by Mark Peterson (available in the United States in December) offers a stark reminder of what politics has become and how it works behind the scenes. Peterson’s very stark imagery catches candidates at their most vulnerable and in midst of their performances, but it also catches the media, the staff, the public, and the nation in a way that is least flattering and very surreal. The 2016 election has been a whirlwind of unbelievable moments from an unlikely Republican nominee, Donald Trump, to an outsider — Bernie Sanders — hoping to make inroads in the two-party system through a grassroots revolution.

American businessman Donald Trump at the #FITN Republican Leadership Summit in Nashua, NH, April 18, 2015. (printed with permission, Political Theatre by Mark Peterson)

American businessman Donald Trump at the #FITN Republican Leadership Summit in Nashua, NH, April 18, 2015. (printed with permission, Political Theatre by Mark Peterson)

“The Trump and Sanders phenomena were, of course, animated by radically divergent convictions and world-views. But both reflected a profound disruption taking place outside the confines of Washington, D.C.” — says John Heilemann, author of “Game Change” and “Double Down.”

While the previous election cycle had seen a historic shift in the presidency to the nation’s first Black president, President Barack Obama, the 2016 election cycle has seen a completely different stage and set of actors. With the election behind us, the nation is clearly hurting and it is divided — not only among racial lines. Peterson’s images are heavy on contrast and demonstrate the theatrics behind the scenes. While voters may see the debates and the comments at rallies as entertaining and indicative of “publicity” and “branding” — or just plain “fluff” — it is clear that the men and women on the campaign trail see many different sides of the candidates and the public.

Political Theatre by Mark Peterson is a collection of photographs, quotes from the candidates, and tweets, among other things. It also includes an essay by John Heilemann. But above all, it stands as a mirror to what our political system has become.

Donald Trump campaign rally in San Jose, California, June 2, 2016. (printed with permission; Political Theatre by Mark Peterson)

Donald Trump campaign rally in San Jose, California, June 2, 2016. (printed with permission; Political Theatre by Mark Peterson)

Dickey Chapelle Under Fire: Photographs by the First American Female War Correspondent Killed in Action by John Garofolo

Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewers
Hardcover, 136 pgs.
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Dickey Chapelle Under Fire: Photographs by the First American Female War Correspondent Killed in Action by John Garofolo, which includes a foreword by former Washington Post war correspondent Jackie Spinner, is dedicated to the brave men and women who serve the United States, which also includes those war correspondents who risk their lives right alongside those with the weapons to uphold freedom.  Their weapons may be different — pens and cameras versus guns and grenades — but both serve their country and the cause of freedom with devotion.  In the foreword, Spinner indicates that when Dickey Chapelle died in Vietnam, she died as a Marine because that’s how the marines who were by her side thought of her.  She started her career young, present at the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa in WWII, experiencing the reconstruction of Europe after WWII, and traveling to nations in which rebellions were bloody and devastating before she reached the front lines of the Vietnam War in her 40s.

“I grew up in the heartland of the United States.  I believed that I could do anything I really wanted to do and I still believe it. … But I am going to condition it.  You can do anything you want to do if you want to do it so badly you’ll give up everything else to do it,” Dickey Chapelle said. (Fire in the Wind by Robert Ostroff)

Georgette Louise Meyer, later known as Dickey, was born in Wisconsin and she dreamed of flying.  While she did eventually take flying lessons against her parents’ wishes, she wasn’t that great at it.  She was great at telling stories and seeking out those stories around military installations.  Her passion for stories led her to flunk out of MIT, and while she did return home and later moved to Florida, she soon found herself in New York City at age 18, writing for Transcontinental and Western Air (TWA) in the publicity bureau.  Taking photography lessons on the side with Tony Chapelle led to a new career and husband.  She soon became a war correspondent during WWII so that she could travel with her husband, a WWI veteran who re-enlisted.

“The wreckage resulting from man’s inhumanity to man … was the litany I wrote and the subject I photographed.  And the magnitude of relief devised never matched the magnitude of the suffering caused,” said Chapelle in What’s a Woman Doing Here?

Garofolo has selected and organized Chapelle’s photographs in such a way that they will have readers running the gamut of emotions.  Among the WWII photographs, Chapelle captures not only the immense suffering of a solder caught in a fire during a mine explosion — he was severely burned — but she also highlights some of the happier moments for soldiers, like when they received mail from home or were able to finally shave after gunfire stopped.  The moments when soldiers are smiling or doing mundane activities are those that remind us that these soldiers are people, not machines.  Not all of her work was on the battlefront, Chapelle also found herself drawn to relief work in a variety of countries, and this work still placed her in a great deal of danger, including her own capture by Russians near the Austria-Hungary border.

Dickey Chapelle Under Fire: Photographs by the First American Female War Correspondent Killed in Action by John Garofolo is a book dedicated to the memory of not only Chapelle’s body of work, courage, and dream of flying, but also to the women and men who suffered greatly in wars and conflicts across the globe — whether they were soldiers, nurses, or refugees.  My first book for the Best of 2016 list.

About the Author:

John Garofolo is a former entertainment industry executive and veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. A commander in the US Coast Guard Reserve, he has more than twenty-five years of active and reserve military service and taught at the Coast Guard Academy. Thanks to a grant from the Brico Fund through the Milwaukee Press Endowment, he has written a stage adaptation of Dickey Chapelle’s life. John earned a PhD from the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts and lives with his wife and daughter in Southern California.








I’m calling this my Nonfiction Book about WWII:

Guest Post: 9 Tips for Great Skiing Photos

Are you a professional photographer looking to build your portfolio? Or maybe you’re just a parent hoping that your vacation photos will turn out okay. Whatever your reasons for seeking photography tips, here are just nine ways to ensure that your skiing pictures are of the highest quality.

1. Keep Your Camera Warm

Batteries tend to fail in the cold, so keep your equipment as warm as possible when you’re on the slopes. If you’re using a handheld camera, store it inside your parka where it can absorb your body heat; if you’re lugging around a large DSLR, consider keeping it in an insulated backpack or bag.

2. Buy the Right Gloves

You can’t work the buttons of a camera when your fingers are stiff with cold. Invest in a pair of warm yet touch-sensitive gloves that will allow you to manipulate controls or use a touchscreen without taking them off.

3. Plan It Out

It’s very, very difficult to snap good skiing candids. A better strategy is to set things up in advance for the perfect picture: For example, you might coordinate with your subject so they’ll come flying over the cliff at the exact moment that you have your camera pointed and ready.

4. Have A Signal

In the same vein as the above, it’s a good idea to have a set of wordless signals worked out between you and your subject. You can wave your arms or whistle when your equipment is ready, and then they’ll know it’s okay to start skiing towards you.

5. Turn On Autofocus

When a skier is racing down a mountain in a cloud of white snow, you don’t have time to wait around for your camera to focus. You’ll need a model that comes with instant and high-quality autofocus, and these controls will need to be on when you’re pointing and shooting.

6. Know Your Shutter Speeds

Fast shutter speeds can be used to freeze the action at a critical moment. Slow shutter speeds can be used to give the illusion of movement with blurred backgrounds but sharp skiing figures. There’s no right way to do it, so experiment with shutter speeds of both 1/1000th and 1/30th of a second to see which you like best.

7. Understand Your Limitations

Flash settings generally fail after a certain distance. Other cameras might have limited shutter speeds. Know the limitations of your equipment before you get on the slopes and have an unpleasant surprise.

8. Set Your Exposure

Many skiing photos are underexposed because their photographers just assumed that the bright white snow didn’t need fine-tuned exposure settings. This is a mistake! You should always fiddle with your exposure until it’s suitable for the day, weather, setting and subject.

9. Find a Role Model

Look for a photographer in the industry whose techniques you love and can emulate. For example, something like a Jim Decker profile can give you great inspiration if you’re a fan of his work. By copying his techniques, you’ll eventually gain enough confidence and skill to create your own.

These are just nine tips for better skiing photography. Whether it’s your first or fiftieth time behind the camera, these techniques should help you capture clearer, more striking moments every time.

Vietnam: The Real War with introduction by Pete Hamill

Source: Gift
Hardcover, 304 pages
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Vietnam: The Real War with introduction by Pete Hamill is a coffee table book that is heavy with photographic evidence of war, the burdens soldiers and civilians carry from those conflicts, and the moral ambiguity soldiers find themselves mired in when faced with unexpected death.  There are images in this collected visual and textual history that will haunt readers for years to come, but the story told in these pages through the eye-witness accounts of journalists who thrust themselves in combat alongside soldiers should make the harsh realities of war even more frightening for those of us who merely read history and have not lived it as a pawn in a larger strategic game of politics and nationalism.

“Most of the experienced correspondents in Saigon doubted that many Viet Cong hidden in their jungle spider holes were debating the Marxist theory of surplus value.  Nationalism was a much more powerful motivator.  They definitely wanted to get the foreigners the hell out of their country.”  (page 21)

Even with all that is known about the war and the inflated body counts made by the U.S. military during the war, there are still some great unknowns and even some smaller more poignant ones for the families of journalists and soldiers lost in Vietnam.  For instance, did the January 1952 bombings in Saigon really happen because of the Viet Minh, the predecessor to the Viet Cong, or was it U.S. intelligence agents?  And what really happened to Sean Flynn, a freelance photojournalist and son of the actor Errol Flynn, in the early 1970s — was he killed in action or captured?  Lest readers think that photojournalists and reporters were kept back at the barracks or the camps, this book sheds light on just how dedicated these journalists were and how close to the action they had been — some of them taking photos only to drop their cameras and help civilians, soldiers, or become wounded themselves.

There are, of course, the most famous images from the Vietnam war from the Associated Press, including the Buddhist Monk who set himself on fire in the streets, the young girl running naked after Napalm was dropped on her and other civilians by the U.S. military, or the shooting of an unarmed Viet Cong after capture in the Saigon street.  But there are other photos that show the beauty of Vietnam, including an aerial view of the newly plowed rice paddies and the pristine beaches, as well as the most mundane activities — watching a soldier shave while battle surrounds him or men on their way to bathe in towels while still carrying their weapons.  Sad photos stretch across these pages from the unknown soldier who looks too young to be in battle, wearing a helmet with the phrase “War Is Hell” written across it or the woman who pleads to be evacuated with her wounded husband, but is left behind.

Vietnam: The Real War is heavy in subject and content. It should give readers pause. The text accompanying the photos and the background on the war are to the point and provide enough detail without getting bogged down too heavily in the politics or the perspectives floating around in hindsight. An excellent starter for those looking to learn more about the war.

About the Author:

The Associated Press won an unprecedented six Pulitzer Prizes for its coverage of the Vietnam War. To create this book, the agency selected 300 photographs from the thousands filed during the conflict.

Pete Hamill is an American journalist, novelist, essayist, editor, and educator. The recipient of numerous awards, Hamill is currently a Distinguished Writer in Residence at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University.

19th book (Vietnam War) for the 2014 War Challenge With a Twist.




44th book for 2014 New Author Challenge.