5th Annual Photo Alphabet – Part I

In honor of the ending of the year 2012, I begin my annual alphabet today and finish it on New Year’s Eve – in six parts.

I did my very first alphabet in 2008 – it had a Wisconsin theme with rhymes. (Wow, like Dr Seuss!) I posted the 2009 Alphabet the second week in January, including a pseudo-Arctic photograph! In 2010, there was another series –  each alphabet letter was represented with a photo and musings.  Last year’s version, the 2011 Photo Alphabet, began with this set of photographs. and had more photos than words. And now, the end of 2012 approaches.




A is for Abstracts, Authenticity, and Art.

Aloe Abstract

Aloe Abstract © 2012 Bo Mackison

I love abstracts, especially macro-photographs of botanicals. And I love to play with them. For those of you who know your plants, and specifically your aloe plants, you’ll recognize this as an upside down aloe in flower. I pulled out most of its orange color, and the result was an aloe of many colors.

When I do the art festivals in the summer, people ask me lots of questions about my photographs. One of the more common questions is “Did it REALLY look this, or did you Photoshop it?” I usually explain that the flower in the garden never did look exactly like the photograph and that I used post processing software (usually Adobe Lightroom or Nik Color Efex Pro 4) to make the flower look the way I saw it in my imagination.

Much of the time, I choose to be authentic to the vision I see instead of the actual flower, and so most of the botanical photographs I show in art fairs and museum exhibits are one part garden flower and one part Bo’s imagination.

B is for Blurring, Balance, and Being.

Maple Abstract

Maple with Motion Blur © 2011 Bo Mackison

I work as a photographer. I also play as a photographer. Some of the time my photography is more work than play, most often when I am doing freelance work and the job requires me to meet the client’s expectations. There’s a time for photo work. But for me, my time spent in photo play is just as important. It’s a balancing act. Work and deadlines balanced by camera exploring and freedom to be me.

One of my favorite play activities with my camera is using deliberate motion blur to create another type of abstract. I did a series of motion blurs with trees — some became swirls of color, but a few retained just enough of the subject. The result? A maple tree with a distinct brown trunk whose yellow leaves form wispy leaf tendrils.

C is for Color, Circles, and Community

Doughnut Plant's Doughnut Bench, Lower East Side, NYC

Doughnut Bench © 2012 Bo Mackison

One of the most important components in a photograph is color. Sometimes color draws you to a focal point, sometimes the colors complement each other and add significant interest, an eye-catching appeal, to the photograph.

I photographed this colorful bench in the Doughnut Factory, a bakery on the Lower East Side in NYC, where most of the available surfaces are painted with bright colorful circles (doughnuts!)  I took note that there were a few square donuts, too – was that a nod to design or diversity, I wondered? There was a line of neighbors waiting for seats – as one group left another sat down, squeezed in, re-arranged, added or subtracted chairs, called to friends and neighbors, began conversations with those of us “just visiting.”

C is also for community. Meeting with fellow photographers and shooting photos together, critiquing photos, sharing information – that is a one of the special perks of being a photographer. And also there are communities not directly associated with photography, but ones that I join because they are photo-related. Walking tours that provide photo ops while learning the cultural history of the area. Botanical groups that share a love of all things nature. Book-making and artist groups that offer opportunities for me to learn how to create art books with my photos.

D is for Details, Darkness, and Dreams.

Abandoned Car

In the Details © 2012 Bo Mackison

There are photographs I take for the details. The above photo has a bit of unbroken glass still in its place in the door frame. In its reflection is a blue sky and the bare tree limbs of late autumn. There is debris surrounding that small piece of window – an abandoned car in a deteriorating garage, fallen pipes, dark shadows. But the window holds a dream, a vision of the unending sky, a tiny piece of the Universe.

Photographs sometimes offer me a message within the medium. Looking at a photograph is sometimes similar to decoding a dream. I look at this photo and understand its message — when darkness creeps in, and surrounds me, when my world appears to be falling down around me, there is always a shard of blue sky if I am open to new discoveries. Perhaps there is a new threshold to cross, a new path to follow.

Amazing thing, photography!

Part II of the 5th Annual Photo Alphabet continues with  Enchantment thru Healing.



About Bo Mackison

I'm a photographer, book-artist, traveler, naturalist, and creator of the Contemplative Creatives Journey, An Online Workshop and Community and Desert Wisdom Cards and Workshops. Though often not well known, I find the desert a welcoming place - a healing space. Its mysteries and gifts transformed me several years ago. Since that first encounter, I return again and again to fill my well in what most people think of as a desolate region. I'd love to share my desert discoveries and wisdom with you. Please subscribe to receive my five part mini email course The Gifts of the Desert. It's my gift to you.


  1. OH…I love how you do this at the end of each year. Keep ’em coming…:-)!!!

    • Bo Mackison says:

      Thanks, Marcie. I’m so glad you love seeing the end of the year alphabet. I started early in December – it’s a definite labor of love!

  2. I’ve enjoyed all the other year-end alphabets. I’m enjoying this one as much. I echo Marcie – “Keep ’em coming ….).

    Way to go Bo

    • Bo Mackison says:

      OK, Gandalf. I’ll keep ’em coming. I enjoy writing it, it always makes me push all those creativity buttons!

  3. These are always so interesting and well-considered! Glad to see it again this year–I look forward to it. Now its a tradition.

  4. Susan Vial says:

    very nice!

  5. I love your end-of-year Alphabet posts, Bo. 🙂

  6. These are tremendous Bo, and you can really see how much you’ve stretched and grown this year.

    • Bo Mackison says:

      It has been a huge year of learning and growing and accepting, Joanna. A very good year, in retrospect.

  7. Just lovely, Bo. Though late to your annual Alphabet party the enjoyment I am receiving is just as deep, as fulfilling as if I’d arrived on time. LOVE the motion of the maple tree, those crazy donuts and their story, but “In the Details” – image and description – leaves me breathless. Well done.

  8. First post is awesome. I especially like C. I think it is my favorite. Enjoyed it as a whole as well. It’s what makes this an exciting photographic adventure.

    • Bo Mackison says:

      What a place that was, Molly — the donut factory! I think my life is one huge photographic adventure, my dear.

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