Still in Honolulu – Exploring the Banyan Tree


This towering banyan tree, complete with benches around its circumference, is located outside the Honolulu Zoo. I spent some quiet time bench sitting and people watching on a stroll from Waikiki to Diamond Head.

The banyan tree is a common botanical feature of Hawaii even though it is not native to the islands. Their canopies are vast, the larger ones spreading up to a hundred and fifty feet across.


Banyan trees are characterized by their prop roots that grow to support the expansive limbs. Trees spread laterally and can cover wide areas. I love the look of the roots as they drip towards the earth, seeking a firm footing.


The trees are native to the tropics and subtropics and were brought to the Hawaiian Islands in the late 1800s by missionaries from India.


Amazing roots. They can eventually become as large as the original trunk. And they make perfect roosts for the local birds and greats nooks for a game of hide and seek.



5th Annual Photo Alphabet – Part V

R is for Ritual and Routine.

Early Morning Coffee in the Desert

Early Morning Coffee in the Desert © 2011 Bo Mackison

I have an unusual ritual in the Sonoran Desert. Some might think of it more as a routine – brewing the early morning coffee – but when I brew my first cup of coffee after a night of desert camping, it truly is elevated to the level of ritual.

The assembly of the tiny backpacker stove. The measuring of water from my water supply. The finding of the matches — which usually provides a modicum of panic. The boiling of the water. The measuring of the coffee grounds, safely stored in the bottom of my coffee cup/coffee press. The boiling water poured into the coffee press, the cup tightly closed, plunging the press, waiting the ten minutes for the coffee to brew. And finally sipping that first early morning coffee.

If any one is wondering why I might need coffee while camping in the desert, keep in mind early morning in the winter desert is usually 30˚ to 40˚F, often even colder. That first cup of coffee is like a bit of heaven. Routine, yes. And ritual.

S is for Shadows and Self-portrait.

Shadow Photographer

Shadow Photographer © 2012 Bo Mackison

I have a fascination with taking photos of shadows. They might be photos of leaf shadows on a wall, a repetitive fence shadow on a sidewalk, an intricate wrought iron table and chairs casting an abstract shadow on a patio. I constantly look for shadows to photograph.

And sometimes I photograph self-portrait shadows.

I like these self portraits in shadow. Sometimes I am long and stretched out, as in the above photo taken late in the day. Sometimes there is just a head shot, my hat on my head, protection from the desert sun, hiking stick leaning against me, as I balance and set up the shot.

I always have my camera up to my face. I may be alone or with a companion. I like to study these portrait shadows.

They tell me a bit about the photographer I was at that moment in time. By the clues in the photos I can decipher where I was, who I was with, the time of the year or the time of the day. I may even be able to tell my mood by the way I carry my body. I may remember a conversation I had with a person in passing or a particular event that happened that day.

Another way I capture bits of my life as reminders. Like words on a page of a diary or journal, a photo holds that space for me.

T is for Thresholds and Transitions.

Window, Bench and Door in White

Window, Bench and Door in White © 2010 Bo Mackison

Transitions. I think that very word, and a lump forms in my throat, an ache develops in my chest. No matter what type of transition I face, it takes me awhile to focus and gather my equilibrium before I carry on. The transition can be one I dread or one I look forward to — no matter. The very act of crossing a new threshold, or a threshold I am re-crossing, causes me to stop in my tracks.

I’ve discovered that I can approach transitions in different ways. And that is okay!

I may choose to move towards a threshold, decide I am not quite prepared.. OK. I can sit down — that bench is handy — and pause while I consider my next step.

Maybe I approach the threshold and find I need more time to study the new, do a bit more research or soul-searching. Maybe a look through a window, visualizing the next step is helpful. OK.

Or maybe I am ready. I have considered my options, I know that the next step needs to be taken, or I am simply ready. OK. I open the door and walk through, across the threshold.

This photo is a pretty good summary of me working my way through life, whatever it takes at that moment. Approaching transitions in different ways.

U is for the Universe.

Three Self Portraits

Exploring the Universe © 2011 Bo Mackison

The Universe — worlds upon world upon worlds. Bright and shiny — new places to explore.

In each shiny ball representing part of the universe, there is a tiny self-portrait of me, both looking in and looking out.

V is for Vision.

Double Vision

Double Vision © 2011 Bo Mackison

I like this photo – the one I call Double Vision – because the branch in the foreground still has berries and a leaf hanging on it, the branch slightly behind it is bare. It’s a double branch. But there is more. Look into the background, extend my vision deeper into the landscape and I notice the snow-covered river – the river a conduit for travel.

Will it be an easy trip, perhaps on a flowing river in the early summer on a small skiff with a companion? Or will the trip take place during a drought, the water is low, my boat keep getting snagged. I must keep getting into the water to dislodge it, push it along, even portage it? Perhaps the journey is a cold, lonely trek in the winter, traveling alone on skates or ice cleats, or along the side of the frozen river, pushing through the deep snow?

I look at this photograph and I see the past captured — dried fruits and leaves. And it foretells possible vignettes of the future in metaphor — travel on the river. But all the while, it capturing a moment in the present.


Bo Mackison is a photographer and the owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC. The 5th Annual Photo Alphabet ends with  Wonder thru Zen!

5th Annual Photo Alphabet – Part III

I is for iPhonography and Imagination

All in Green

All in Green © 2012 Bo Mackison

In just a few short years, taking photographs with a cell phone has become its own niche. iPhonography with a multitude of apps for in camera processing and post processing, can do amazing things. Photographs I never dreamed of creating can be created in just seconds. My imagination goes a bit wild when I start playing with my iPhone’s capabilities. I am less hesitant to explore and more open to the weird and unusual.

For me personally, iPhones and other smart phone cameras do not take the place of my more traditional camera gear. But my cell phone camera sure has one advantage that most other cameras do not have. It is always with me.

And the best camera in the world is the one that is with you when you want to take a photograph.

J is for Joy and Journal Writing

Road Trip - Joy Kansas

Joy, Kansas © 2012 Bo Mackison

At first glance, you might wonder what this photograph of a grain elevator taken on the wide open plains of middle America has to do with Joy and Journal Writing. But it is a real life example of the Joy I find from my daily practice of photography and journal writing.

The photo is a snippet from my travel log I wrote as I traveled across the United States. This grain elevator is in the tiny town of Joy, Kansas.  That may be important or it may not be. But it is a part of my life, a part that I took time to document. I don’t write down everything nor do I take photos of most places. But I document enough about the daily bits of my day-to-day activities.

Here’s why this brings me such Joy. When I return to the notations in my journal, re-read a passage, look through the sketches I crudely drew in the margins, find a ticket stub or a pamphlet describing a sightseeing treat, I instantly re-create memories of that time in my life. They may seem trivial, but they are moments I have lived.

And I love being able to open a journal or a set of photographs and get transported back in time. So much is so easily forgotten. The things I often read about I would never remember without these memory jogs. They may be important only to me, but that is enough. More than enough.

K is for Knowledge and Keys.

Locked Gate

Gate without a Key © 2011 Bo Mackison

I once lived for a while in a place where there were locks, but no keys.

I spent many hours of ‘most every day holed up in a corner of a library, in a room of a thousands books, but it offered none of the knowledge I sought.

Then I went out into the world, far away from what was safe, comfortable, known.

And there I found myself – uncertain yet hopeful, silent yet filled with song. And the sun warmed me and I walked the earth and I gave thanks.

L is for Labyrinth.

Garden Maze

Garden Labyrinth © 2011 Bo Mackison

Have you ever walked a labyrinth? The kind where, once you begin, you follow along, around and back, and come to the center, where you can stand awhile or continue on and finally you come out at the end which is next to the beginning, and there is no way, when you follow the lines, that you can do it wrong or get lost or bump into some one else.

There is a pace and that pace has a peace. Not at all like real life, though to me it feels exactly like real life.

M is for Meditating, Mindfulness, and the Muse.


Meditating…© 2012 Bo Mackison

I love this photograph. I took it while I was walking along a park in New york City, a park resurrected from an abandoned railway corridor called the High Line. Usually the park is crowded with people – walking, enjoying the art installations or sampling the food from vendors. Maybe watching a dance troupe or dancing to a jazz trio. But early on this cool June morning, with threats of rain in the forecast, the park was nearly deserted.

It was the perfect place to sit for a while, absorb the beauty of the natural plants growing amidst the tracks and seating spaces. I wasn’t the only person in the park who was doing some slow work while the city bustled around us.

Meditation, even for twenty minutes or a half hour, has become a daily part of my morning. It sets my internal thermostat at an even temperature, and helps me prepare for the rest of the day. Doing meditation coupled with a mindfulness practice during the day not only slows me down so I can get my work done, it also makes room for my muse to visit with amazing frequency.

Less pressure, more ideas, more creative energy.


Bo Mackison is a photographer and the owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC. Part IV of the 5th Annual Photo Alphabet continues with Nature thru Quest.

5th Annual Photo Alphabet – Part II

E is for Enchantment and Energy.

Enchanted Pool © 2010 Bo Mackison

Enchanted Pool © 2012 Bo Mackison

I find I am often enchanted by the things I see in the natural world. It can be as wondrous and rare as this Yellowstone National Park’s turquoise hot springs pool or as ordinary as the pattern of bark on a backyard tree, as uplifting as a hovering hummingbird sipping nectar from a garden flower or as down-to-earth as the cracked mud along the edge of a pond during a drought.

Having a camera available encourages me to look more closely at patterns, details, the ordinary and the extra-ordinary, but now I add time for simply being in my surroundings when my schedule is open. I find an earthy spot, get comfortable, and spend time in/with the natural world.

Motionless and close the earth, I gain a tremendous amount of energy by taking the time to be still.

F is for Focus and Framework.

Two Portals in Black and White

Two Portals © 2012 Bo Mackison

Focus is basic. When I take a photograph and I want it to resemble what I imagine, I pay close attention to the focus. Do I focus on only a part of the photograph or do I set the depth of field so that the entire photo is in focus? Do I need a sharp focus or a soft focus?

Focus is also one of the basics I consider when I am working on a goal, or choosing a plan of action. It helps me set a framework in which to work. It is impossible to know the body of knowledge on any subject, or at least it is for me. I am not a specialist, but a generalist. So I focus on learning a bit about many things and I don’t limit myself to a specific photographic genre or technique, to a certain style of camera or software.

I would rather explore, learn as I practice, and shoot whatever captures my interest. There is always more to learn. I will never want for a photographic subject to study or a new technique to practice.

G is for Gratitude and Gardens.

Two Benches

Garden Benches © 2011 Bo Mackison

A popular phrase, one that’s even been adapted by mainstream advertising, is “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.” I have always liked the idea behind the words – life is a journey, one that follows a long road, perhaps, winding and twisting, through cities and through deserts, scaling steep mountainsides and wandering through woodlands, walking alone, running with a crowd, even standing on the side, unable to take another step without rest or support.

Recently I read another quote about the journey, one that I also identified with. Perhaps because I spend much time in gardens of all sorts, perhaps, because I concentrate on the noticing more than the going, it is a good fit.

life is a garden,
not a road

we enter and exit
through the same gate

where we go matters less
than what we notice.

~ Bokonon

H is for History and Healing.

Half Empty or Half Full?

Half Empty or Half Full? © 2012 Bo Mackison

While I enjoy visiting sites steeped in history and reading about ancient cultures and traditions, I have learned that studying ancient cultures is one thing, but living in the past is an altogether different thing.

I can’t go back again. I can’t change what has already happened. The best I can do is learn from past mistakes, make a strong intention to not repeat those mistakes, and then live in the moment.

Healing comes, not from replaying old wounds and old stories or reliving one’s errors in judgement. Healing happens by working intently to learn from one’s mistakes and beginning each day with a fresh start, a day to be lived deeply and relished.

Part III of the 5th Annual Photo Alphabet continues with  iPhonography thru Muse.





Quiet Space – September’s Photo-Heart Connection

Quiet Space

Quiet Space © 2012 Bo Mackison

The beginning of a new month! When I turn the calendar to a new month, I know it’s time to look for a photograph for Photo-Heart Connection from the last month’s photos. I look for one that speaks to me in a special way.

Here is my choice from the many photos I took in September. I took it on the last day of September, on an early Sunday morning when Autumn’s sunlight cast a spell on me. I stopped at this set of prayer benches situated high on a hill overlooking the city I call home.

It was a quiet morning.

A quiet time in a quiet place and I was grateful to spend some time resting on one of these benches.

I felt a deep connection with place, a sense of renewal, a new strength. I acknowledged that I am at a crossroads, and that simple acknowledgement gave me an inner peace for which I had been searching.

“We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.”
~ Chas. R Surndoll

This photo is my choice for this month’s Photo Heart Connection.

Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC.  She joins other photographers at  Kat Eye Studio and posts a photo taken the prior month that “connects with her heart’ during the first few days of the new month.