cole thompson photography
Issue 104 - June 29, 2018
Two Sea Lions

In this newsletter:

  • Old Images from La Jolla
  • New images from La Jolla
  • Upcoming events
  • Hopewell Rock, the story behind the image
  • Vision, what is it?
In the last newsletter I mentioned that I didn't have any projects in the works, and that I was waiting for inspiration. Well it came.

My son Caleb was in San Diego prepping Osprey's that were being transported to Okinawa where he's stationed. I went out to visit him and took my gear along, since he had to work during the day.

While there I visited my favorite San Diego location: La Jolla, and in particular the Cove area. My wife, kids and best friend spent many a wonderful day there diving and picnicking. It has many good memories for me.

And it's always been a location that I have been inspired to photograph, in the past and particularly during these recent two days. In this newsletter I'll show you my old La Jolla images and the ones I've just created.

La Jolla - Old Images
Rocks and Mist

I've always loved creating images at La Jolla. Here are some that I created from years past.

La Jolla Surf Detail No. 1

La Jolla Surf Detail No. 2

Lone Man No. 3

Lone Man No. 5

Lone Man No. 18

Lone Man No. 20

Lone Man No. 21

La Jolla - New Images
Two Sea Lions
Sometimes when you are very familiar with a location, you no longer see the beauty in it. I think that happened to me with La Jolla. But having not photographed there for several years, I was able to see fresh again, on my recent visit.

One thing that struck me was how crowded it was, and it became a goal to try to photograph it as though there were no people there. This may be the theme of the new portfolio, something along the line of: La Jolla, Without People.

Sea Lion and Gull
(one of my favorites from this trip)

Lone Man No. 65

La Jolla Rock and Water Detail No. 8

La Jolla Rock and Water Detail No. 7

La Jolla Rock and Water Detail No. 5

La Jolla Rock and Water Detail No. 6

La Jolla Rock and Water Detail No. 4
(I love how the sea lions almost become one with the rocks)

La Jolla Rock and Water Detail No. 2

La Jolla Rock and Water Detail No. 12

La Jolla Rock and Water Detail No. 10

La Jolla Rock and Water Detail No. 11

La Jolla Children's Pool No. 5

La Jolla Birds and Cliffs No. 6

La Jolla Birds and Cliffs No. 4

La Jolla Birds and Cliffs No. 5

La Jolla Birds and Cliffs No. 3

La Jolla Birds and Cliffs No. 2

La Jolla Birds and Cliffs No. 1

Upcoming Events
Hot Coals
Here are two events for people in the Denver and Fort Collins area:

  • 7/6/2018 - First Friday at the Bas Bleu Theater, Fort Collins. I'm showing my large works from 5-7 pm. Location: Bas Bleu Theater, 401 Pine St, Fort Collins, CO 80524

  • September 28, 29 and 30: Fort Collins Studio Tour. I open my home studio to the public and will be showing my new Faroe Island images.

If you have any questions, please email me at

I look forward to seeing you at one of these events!
The Story Behind the Image
Hopewell Rocks

In October of 2015 I drove 7,000 miles from Colorado to Nova Scotia and back again. It was a multi-faceted trip as I got to see and do many things that were on my bucket list, including: seeing the fall colors of New England, visit all those tiny northeastern states, visit Frank Lloyd Wright's "Falling Water" house (a near religious experience), see Nova Scotia and everything in-between.

And of course there were unexpected surprises along the way: things I'd hear about and then go and see. I was fortunate to have complete flexibility because I had no plans nor timetable.

One thing I heard about was the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick. It's famous for having the largest rise and fall of tides in the world, some 50 feet! I had to witness that as the tides in Colorado are quite small by comparison.

Upon arriving at the bay, I discovered these great rock formations called the Hopewell Rocks. Each day as the tide goes out and you can walk quite far into the bay. And then slowly the tide comes back in and completely floods the same area, leaving those unique rocks as solitary islands in the sea.

I arrived at the bay midday when the tide was out. No problem, I thought. I'll just wait for the tide to come back in. I positioned myself at the base of the stairwell that led down to the bay and waited. And waited. And waited.
Isolated No. 15

It took quite a few hours for the tide to finally come all the way in, and it was almost 11 pm before I was able to create Isolated No. 15 above.

By then, the platform I was standing was starting to be overtaken by the sea. It was so dark that I was using 5-8 minute exposures and using a flashlight to try to illuminate detail on the rocks.

A very long exposure gives a great smoothing effect on the water, but it also introduces a lot of noise into the image. It took quite a bit of work to make this image usable.

But the image turned out exactly as I had imagined it and I was pleased to add it to my "Isolated" series.

Sitting and waiting for the tide to come in gave me many hours to think. It was here that I started thinking about the role of Passion in creating great images. I came to the conclusion that Passion was as important as Vision when creating an image that you loved.

It was also here that I met a great many people who would come down the stairway to see the Hopewell Rocks with the tide in. Each would ask what I was doing photographing in the dark and I must have explained long exposure photography to 25 people (and I might have said that I was photographing the rare "Fundy bay whale' to a few of them).

It was a fun 10 hour experience and I was lucky to come away with an image I really love.

What is Vision?

Years ago when I was challenged to find my own Vision, I immediately faced a dilemma: I really didn't know what Vision was. Sure, had a vague idea but I could not define, identify or even understand it.

I had this notion that it was some sort of creative ability that you were either born with or not. This caused me great apprehension as I set about to find it: I feared that I might be one of those unfortunate individuals who did not "have it." That scared me enough that I actually questioned if I wanted to go down this path: what if I discovered that I didn't have a Vision?

Well, I did go down the discovery path and I did find my Vision. With that discovery I learned something very important:

We all have a Vision, every one of us is born with one. Unfortunately for many of us, and this was my case, it can become buried when we conform, follow the rules and value other people's opinions more than our own. For some of us, me again, my Vision was so buried for so long that I came to believe that I didn't have one.

But I did and so do you.

Here's how I describe Vision:

Or put another way by a French philosopher:

Vision seems so simple to me now, but I remember back when I was searching for it, it seemed so complex!

When in reality it is such a simple formula:

Here's another way to describe Vision:

Imagine if you took all of your beliefs, knowledge and experiences and blended them together...
...and then took that mixture and cast lenses...
...that you then used to see the world through...that is your Vision. It is simply how you see the world through the lenses of your life experiences.

Vision is not something I can point to, identify or describe just as I cannot describe my personality, because it's too multi-faceted and complex. Sure I can describe parts of my personality, such as "sometimes I can be moody," but that does not come close to describing my complete personality.

My Vision is comprised of many beliefs, experiences, teachings, preferences, prejudices, likes and dislikes. You might think of Vision as your photographic personality. This personality affects where I point my camera, how I expose the image and then process it.

Let me give an example. Each year when I visit Death Valley I avoid the "iconic shots." Why? Because part of my personality, and hence my Vision, is to not follow the crowd.

Zabriskie Point by James Brandon

So when I see that everyone creating images from Zabriskie Point that look like this, then I'll not be doing the same thing.

Photographers lined up to photograph Zabriskie at dawn

Likewise, when I see everyone pointing their cameras in the same direction, my reaction is to look in the opposite direction to see what they might be missing.

As I photographed at Zabriskie Point, here are some of my photographic personality traits that affected how I saw things:

  • I avoid the iconic shots
  • I don't like doing what everyone else is doing
  • I like creating something unique
  • I love dark, high contrast b&w images
  • I prefer abstracts over realistic landscapes

Time No. 2

And so while everyone was photographing the iconic color scene to the west, I turned my attention to the east and created Time No. 2. All of those little photographic personality traits that make up my Vision allowed me to see something unique and different from what the others were seeing.

And you, with a different Vision, would probably have created something entirely different also. That's the beauty of Vision, there are 7,596,362,764 unique Visions in the world! Yes, we all have one, even non-photographers.

So what is Vision?

It is the sum total of your life experiences, it is the lenses you see the world through, it is your photographic personality and it is your inner voice (or the "force" for you Star Wars fans).

There is no need to be able to define, identify or describe your Vision. All you really need to know is that your Vision is there and then follow it.

Print Drawing
Ancient Stones No. 12

The winner of my last drawing is Jeff Williams who will be taking home a print of "Isolated No. 3."

Congratulations Jeff! Please contact me and arrange for your print to be delivered.

To enter this newsletter drawing for Ancient Stones No. 12 (above), send me an email at and put "Ancient Stones" in the subject line.

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