New Pictures So Far This Year

Hi everyone,

I usually save showing you my new model photographs for the end of the year. Let’s try something different. Here are my best new pictures from January and February 2019.

Seven model photographs have made the cut. As with all my best pictures, these were fun to stage, and then to process in Photoshop. These models are 1/72 scale and are part of my permanent collection of 600 tanks and 150 planes.

Thank you for looking and I hope you enjoy the scenes! Presented in the order they were made.

Corsair over the Solomon Islands, early 1943.

Corsair chases Zero over Guadalcanal island, 1943.

Jagdpanthers gather.


StuG III crosses a Soviet poppy field, 1943.



General Lee tank tackles the rough Tunisian terrain, 1943.

M3 and M7, with soldier and gun crew, Tunisia 1943.

Two M7s race through Italy, 1943.

Weren’t those pictures fun? Where else can we go this year? We’ll see! 🙂


Posted in History, The Literate War, WWII | 2 Comments

In The Dream

I had a dream I saw you. It had been several years since we’d last met up, and there you were, knocking at the back door to my house. We had a brief exchange in my porch.

You were making a simple delivery of some kind—in dreams these details reconcile themselves. Were you bringing a newspaper, or a flyer of some sort? I don’t remember, but you were at my door, we said hello for a second, you dropped off whatever it was and left.

For a moment I thought, “wow, he looks great!” And, “I wish I’d said something to him.”

But I hadn’t. And you were out the door.

Who’s controlling dreams? Who sets the scene, who recruits the characters and dresses the sets? What controls the action, the starts and stops? What’s the theme, the point, the purpose, and why are dreams written on those types of flimsy tissues that seem to float away to forgottenland?

Dreams are forgotten, but not this one.

I was left standing alone, like how I was left standing alone those years ago. When I last saw you, the real you, you didn’t say goodbye. Why would you? We had no bad blood. We were good friends. We didn’t know our end was coming.

If I had known we’d never see each other again, or never write nor call, I would have said something, at whatever gathering we’d last been at together. If I’d known that was going to be it for us, I wouldn’t have accepted it, face to face with you. I would not have let us fall out.

Because we were fine. We were friends. When I had a parting of the ways with someone mutual in our life, you too made a choice. And I burned for it. I was burned very, very badly, in losing you.

Last week’s dream had you walk away very fast, after your delivery. I stood alone on the porch, again missing you, again regretting you were gone. And then you came back.

The dream wasn’t quite over.

You came back into the porch for some little incidental thing, and that was it! I pounced. Not with actions but with words.

“I can’t let you just walk away,” I said.

“I know,” you said, and you used a nickname only my oldest friends knew.

I hugged you. I felt your ear against my cheek. I held you real tight. I blurted a bunch of things. I said, “You are one of the most important people in my life. You are very special to me.” I kept you close and said a lot more than that. Things only you could hear. Words that registered. Because I was right in your ear.

I blinked what I thought would be tears but didn’t feel any come out. I thought they should be coming out, but my eyes and face were dry. I felt betrayed by that, like my body was either faking my sadness or not acknowledging my loss.

“I couldn’t leave him,” you said.

“I know.”

That’s how the dream ended. I got to say my piece. I said a bit of the volume of love I still have for you.

I remember the handwritten note you once left for me, when you were commenting on an art piece. “You bring out something in me that is usually dormant,” you wrote.

I have to tell you. Thank you for coming back into my porch. Thank you for turning around and giving me the chance to hold you, and to gush out what I wanted to say. Because I know that was you, beyond the dream. It was your will that made it happen. The dream walked out. You came back.


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Accomplishments 2018

2018 was a difficult year for a few reasons and although the adversity didn’t keep me from working on creative projects, it did thwart progress on my 4th book. So THE WINNING KIND has been pushed out until 2019.

My 2018 published writing pieces were Touch and This Is What It Feels Like.

I wrote thousands of words for stories that will appear in the book, and although no one has read this material, I spent the winter and spring knocking out the pages.

My photography exhibit ISLE OF PALMS: 72 HOURS was produced and I’m very happy with the pictures, and the writing that went with it. This was my first three-camera exhibit.

I finished twenty-one scale models and developed a 4-stage weathering technique with my model work in the summer. No doubt about it, those models were bright spots in 2018.

I made forty diorama photographs in 2018. These pictures were set on my kitchen table and finished in Photoshop. Ten different sets were used for these photographs–diorama bases that I’ve made with various materials. For these forty final pictures, 4,000 photos were taken to net 110 finalists, of which these forty were selected as the best.

2018’s output touched on four creative outlets:

Scenic photography in South Carolina was exhilarating.

Short fiction writing allowed me to express real and raw emotions that I would never have been able to write without adversity.

Scale model painting, building and detail work got my hands busy with files, drills, knives, metal picks, sandpaper, clay, paints, and many engineering challenges.

Diorama set design and photography allowed me to show how scale models exist in their natural settings.

To the visitors of this site, thank you for checking in. 2019 will bring new, wonderful things.

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Scale model photography 2018

I made several photographs of my scale models this year. These pictures include diorama scenes, with figures and set pieces. These scenes are in 1/72 scale.

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Thank you for looking!


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Scale models I finished in 2018

This year I produced twenty-one models in 1/72 scale. I found a creative outlet in repainting, detailing, and repairing tanks by ModelCollect, Zvezda, Panzerstahl, S-Model, Hobby Master, and DeAgostini.

I developed a 4-step process for producing models with a pleasing finish.

The steps are:

  1. Drybrush the model with a soft, flat 1/2″ wide brush and Testor Model Master white paint.
  2. Apply a black wash with crushed black pastel powder missed with odorless paint thinner.
  3. After a 12 hour drying period, I clean up the black residue, add brown pastel powder with a brush, and spray the entire model with Dullcote rattlecan spray.
  4. After a 4 hour drying period, I painted some fine details and applied a final white drybrushing.

That’s how I standardized my finishes this year.

Now for the models. I hope you enjoy how they look. Each is very special to me and kept me company during stressful times this year.

Panzerstahl Object 704. Completed February 2018.

I’ve added a mantlet cover, extra gear, tow cables and replaced the entire running gear.

ModelCollect E-75 w/ 105mm. Completed March 2018.

Repainted the camouflage pattern including the ambush scheme dots. Added gear and detailed the model front to back, as this was an early ModelCollect offering with crude finishing and sloppy details.

ModelCollect T-90MS. Completed May 2018.

Repainted green for Soviet service. Black Dog resin stowage.

ModelCollect T-90A. Completed June 2018.

She was the first of many precious MBTs to come this summer and fall. T-90A was the first model to feature the 4-step refinishing process.

ModelCollect T-72B3M. Completed June 2018.


Trumpeter IS-3 Special. This is a “What If?” tank of my imagination.

Turret is from an Easy Model IS-3, and the body is from a Trumpeter IS-7, which seemed undersized to me.

ModelCollect T-80U. July 2018.

Grimy and perfect.

ModelCollect T-72 BA(BM). Completed July 2018.

Another gem that makes me smile.

Zvezda T-14 Armata. Completed July 2018.

T-14 was a departure for me, she’s not one of the legacy Soviet MBTs that I was getting to know so well this summer.

ModelCollect T-80BV. Completed July 2018.

As I got to know these Soviet models, I took the time to learn what made each visually unique. The T-64, T-72, T-80 and T-90 look very similar. They are not the same. Take the time to study what makes each different and carry this thought over to other aspects of life; cultures, music, people, and food. Because when you stand afar, items in these categories can “all seem the same”. When you get close, you immerse yourself and see the nuances of the individual.

ModelCollect T-64B. Completed August 2018.

For this T-64B, we had a problem with the Dullcote and humidity, but with a non-acetone nail polish scrubbing I was able to eliminate the frosting and get the finish to a beautiful look.

Dragon Armor Porsche Tiger VK45.02. Completed August 2018.

Added much gear, fixed a bent barrel, heavy weathering, a lot of love and care to make her special.

S-Model ISU-152 130mm S-70. Completed September 2018.

This model has a simple replacement barrel, some basic gear, and weights added inside the hull. She was finished as a break and diversion from the Rheinherrin project, described below.

ModelCollect E-100 Rheinherrin (Rhine Mistress). Built and completed August 14 – September 14, 2018.

Rheinherrin is a “What If?” model of my concept and design. Simply put, out of forty+ years of model building, she is my most complex and accomplished build to date. Second only to my 1/35 British M3 Lee, built in 1999.

S-Model ISU-152 BL-10. Completed October 2018.

Replacement barrel and added gear. Get ready for my best month to date.

Hobby Master ISU-152. Completed October 2018.

Fixed the markings error by using decals to extend the hull numbers to proper size. Added gear.

ModelCollect T-80U. Completed October 2018.

This is a restoration of a badly broken model. Put back together with care.

Hobby Master M41A3 Walker Bulldog. Completed October 2018.

This is the perfect finish to my eyes.

Hobby Master M48A2 Patton. Completed October 2018.

Perfection +, with the nuance of painted stowage straps.

S-Model M551 Sheridan. Completed October 2018.

My final entry for October and she’s just as appealing as the Bulldog and Patton tanks that had come just before.

DeAgostini Flakpanzer Gepard. Completed November 2018.

My last completion of the year. She was an inferior mold with sparse detail, but with work she looks beautiful and is a popular favorite on Model Hangar III.

Thank you for looking at my 2018 output. These models eased my mind during a trying year.



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Partitionism and Social Law

Last week the Wakefield Memorial High School Class of 1983 Reunion Committee raffled a framed 41” x 29” print of my drawing titled Partitionism and Social Law. The fundraiser was a benefit to our town’s First Baptist Church after it was destroyed by lightning the previous month. The Massachusetts church had stood tall and beautiful for 150 years.

The raffled artwork was printed on metallic paper, which the print house mounted on rigid strata. The artwork will be wrinkle-free for its lifetime.

Ara Hagopian and raffle prize winner shake hands. Four Points Sheraton Hotel, Wakefield MA, 11/24/2018.

The drawing is detailed and symbolic, and I spent much of the raffle night discussing the artwork’s meaning with my classmates.

Partitionism and Social Law depicts a gathering of nine characters. Actually, there are eight individuals in this community, plus elements of law enforcement, and a visitor. The make-up of each individual, as well as how the community treats visitors, is the heart of the artwork’s theme.

Partitionism and Social Law (2011).

Let’s take a look at the top half of the picture. Here you can see some of the colors and patterns of the characters—the characters being the eight elongated, multi-colored forms. I wanted to make each of these “members of the community” their own shape, and as you can see, there are wonderful differences between them.

Some characters are thin, some have smooth edges, and some stay partially-hidden, while the others, like the bright green fellow at the top, reach out.

Each character has a color pattern that is unique, which partly has to do with their age and background, but also reflects their degree of willingness to expose themselves to risk.

Aside from patterns, each character has a color palette, again underscoring individual uniqueness. Together these eight make a close and friendly community. Defining each character by shape, pattern, attitude and palette helps clarify the story, in a complex rendering.

Detail view.

Between December 19, 2010 and January 4, 2011, I’d completed 73 drafts of Partitionism and Social Law. She started out as pen and ink on paper, and was finished in MS Paint, like all my abstracts in this century. Below are some of the early drafts. I had the title and theme from day 1. Every day I’d give my friend Jen an update on progress, and the thoughts behind the decisions.

Early drafts. These are the first 8 drafts out of 73 in total.

The early drafts were made when I was working on the picture and trying out different ideas. I’d stand back and see if there was something there, some hint at what could be interesting, or be made into something grand.

This is where judgment helps, and it’s crucial for the artist to be trained to say big yeses or big nos. Yes if the drawing checks the boxes: Interesting? Original? Beautiful? Entertaining? And an artist has to know “no”.  No, this isn’t working. No, it’s a re-hash of a previous work. No, it doesn’t move my portfolio forward. No, the picture (or a given element) is not so great.

Other questions I ask when making a drawing: Is it too busy? Too simple for its story?

While drawing, I evaluate each section with a critical eye. If a part of the drawing is strong, I’ll leave it alone, and let it sit for awhile. If I’m not liking what I’m seeing, I’ll refine the lines, adjusting the thickness to suit the area.

For me, making art is always a critical discussion. It needs to be a hard talk with myself; I’ll challenge every line, form and color.

When I challenge the in-process drawing, I say things like: You’re weak here– disguise this angle. Can I add dimension other than the typical way? How far can we (that is, me and the picture) exaggerate what’s working well? How can we make the best parts more obvious? Does each line serve the theme of this picture? If yes/ keep it. If no/ minimize it or remove it, or convert it into something that serves.

Why is this line here? Why this thickness, form, and color? How does it serve the structure and story? What’s the role of a given portion of the drawing?

The early drafts of this picture went through the big nos and yeses and stands all the better for it, as a completed work.

There has to be a viewer’s appeal in the drawing’s overall shape, and also, in the details of the components. The picture’s big themes and elements need to have a wow factor, and the close-up inspection needs to be worthy of the structure. This is how I want to engage the viewer.

It’s a shame there’s no record of the daily and sometimes hourly discussions and emails I had with my friend Jen, during the three weeks this drawing was being created. I didn’t show her the work but told her of my excitement with the project, and my color choices. The colors were changing until the last day. There is weight to color value, and there is weight to overall design too. The two elements need to be in focus with each other. These are not easy choices. A light-colored Partitionism and Social Law didn’t quite work with the density of content. As much as I hated giving up on many beautiful pastel colors, she needed darker grounding. These were the discussions I had with Jen, who knew my artwork better than anyone on the planet.

I’ve talked about how I made the artwork, what I was thinking while I drew, and of the drafts I went through as I worked to get it right. Next I want to talk about the artwork’s title, “Partitionism and Social Law.”

What’s it all about?

Partitionism is a term I coined in 2010, to describe the drawing style I was developing that summer, fall and winter. I was completing a new drawing every 2-3 weeks and was excited as this new style began to work into my art pieces. Palnita, Art of The Ancient Americas had a great Partitionism pattern. There is some Partitionism in the palm fronds in Tree of Doubt Threatens Sandcastle City as well. Later on, Jazz Music (2011) and The Carney (2013) followed suit.

Early Partitionism drawing style. LEFT: Palnita, Art of the Ancient Americas (summer 2010) and RIGHT: Tree of Doubt Threatens Sandcastle City (December 2010).

Partitionism applies to an overlapping and interlocking drawing pattern. Partitionism is not a depiction of stained-glass, although at first-look that’s exactly what it appears to be. Unlike Tiffany-style panels, Partitionism is a structural—not decorative—element that adds strength and texture to the surfaces on which it appears.

The partition sizes equal the amount of risk a character’s willing to accept. Smaller partitions indicate a more conservative approach, with less vulnerability. Larger partitions require less concentration; in essence, the individual is managing fewer parts. Other than that, there are no costs or trade offs associated with partition sizes. For the individuals in the group, composition is a personal choice, and is ever-changing.

Now I’ll define Social Law, in the strict context of this work’s story.

Social Law is a polite courtesy that well-mannered people cannot help but offer to strangers and friends alike. Social Law exists because those who are thriving tend to extend niceties to all manners of people they encounter.

Again, this definition applies to the community I’ve created in the artwork.

When we live within Social Law, we allow people to get close to us—this is a demonstration of goodwill. It is also good for community relations, personal growth and business.

The artwork asks a question: What personal and professional risks are present with Social Law? How can these risks be mitigated if Partitionism is embraced, and what are the consequences if it’s ignored?

To read about the final reveal, and what’s ultimately happening in this picture, refer to pages 50-54 in my first book, WHAT HAPPENED TO VICKY LEE? A COLLECTION OF STORIES (The Literate Show Press, 2013).


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The Tears of Siva

Essay for The Tears of Siva drawing.

The efforts you make to obtain precious items will work against your personal relationships. Or so asserts The Tears of Siva, a pen and ink on watercolor paper drawing.

If you’re familiar with the 1950’s Bold Venture radio play The Tears of Siva, starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, then you know Julius Cordovan’s folly was his obsession with two gorgeous star sapphires that were “without fleck or flaw, the treasure of the Far Indies, Genghis Khan laid a city to waste for these.”

Cordovan destroyed many people, including a friend, in pursuit of his treasure.

I’ve drawn what I imagine one of these sapphires might look like, in the form of a teardrop near the drawing’s top. The base monolith is the face of humanity, and the tear represents our attempt to own, or restrict, precious items.

The drop’s color is unique to the drawing—it’s only used in this one spot. Yet on the monolith itself, each color that symbolizes a personal relationship is also unique. Each shade of blue is one of a kind.

That’s key. None of the drawing’s thirteen blues are repeated, which indicates that no object of desire is more precious than life itself—specifically, human relationships.

Our personal connections exceed our precious gems. Why are we hunting commodities, when valuables are already on hand—our loved ones? Our labors absorb our attentions and erode what we already possess.

You want “this,” but you have something already. Time and energy away from your people begs the questions: What is more important to you? What is really most precious here?

This picture was drawn in the summer of 2009, during two mini-vacations in seaside Ogunquit, Maine. I’d bought several blue Prismacolor Premier art markers in New York City just prior to my trip to Maine, and as I selected the pens from the large turnstile carousels, I liked how the colors “talked” to each other in my hands—the hues looked great together. If they talked so well in a busy West 57th Street art store, I wondered how they might get along on paper, given an Atlantic Ocean breeze, a private Perkins Cove vantage point and hours upon hours of un-interrupted drawing.

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This Is What It Feels Like

FICTION- 1,080 words.

A friend reached out to me, without prompting, which seems to me to be the best standard of friendship.

She reached out early one morning, and although she didn’t know it, someone I cared about had died the night before.

I thought it would be impossible for me to open up but I was able to talk to her. So I told her what had happened.

And because she was a friend, she listened.

I told her of an elderly man’s passing. He’d had a painful bunch of years, especially in his hands, and like most older people, he’d kept his pains to himself. He kept a lot of things to himself.

He didn’t express love in the measure people generally know. His expressions weren’t even what most families would deem as adequate. Instead, his love was like light that shone behind a heavy closed door.

If you happened to pass by this door, or even if you stayed around for a while, you’d see nothing, no light. No one would blame you for shrugging your shoulders and walking away.

There was no evidence to consider from his shut door. This was the man I knew.

Those who cared about him wanted the relationship to be closer. We talked with him and invited him into our lives and our homes. He would oblige, driving to us from his single-man’s cottage in the hills. He’d come, and ask about the least-trafficked route to south county, or our opinion on a certain truck, or television show. He’d talk about fried fish dinners and show us his box of old photographs he always carried around.

It was one-hundred percent talk on his terms. It was what I called blocky talk. On the surface the discussions seemed normal—and for a reasonable time they were—until you realized that he’d block out, squelch or dismiss any mention of personal issues. He just couldn’t do it. There was never an opening, never an expression of attachment to a person or to people. If you tried you were denied, and not in a nice way. He had a lot of experience in shutting off, shutting down and walking out on people who cared about him. So this was how we lived our years.

There was never going to be enough love given, or received, to make his relationships range as far as they could. We’d throw up our hands and say “This is not worth it.” Because he made life difficult when it need not have been. Later we’d change our minds and come back. And he’d be there. We were going to have to live with having very little with this man.

Having very little was still having something.

Time goes back a long way, before us. It goes back to days we remember and it pushes further back, to events we’d never seen. There were reasons for his being a hard man. If we understood those reasons, even just a little bit, then we made adjustments when dealing with him. We made the accommodation. We said the words needed to normalize what would be bent, or broken, that day. Because our past was not as hard as this man’s.

He knew one way to live, and we knew that was always going to be.

A few of us spent some time outside this man’s closed door.

It took a long time for us to perceive, but given a certain circumstance, his light could be seen.

If you wanted to give anything to this man, if you really wanted to reach him, you had to stop here for a while. Park it, right in front of his proverbial door. Which means, plainly speaking, you’d sit with him. You’d give him your time and attention.

You would tell him your best route to south county.

You’d look at his old photographs.

Buy him his dinner.

Truthfully, most people weren’t very good at the kind of stopping he needed. Sure, it’s easy to chat and pick up some food. To do this right, you’d have to do something else too, and it eluded us for a while. I’m talking about methodically setting aside each piece of your life and just simply hanging around.

That’s right. I packed off the kids. I forgot about work—for now. I relocated my distractions, and focused on him. Focused on that shut door.

Setting aside each piece of life is like turning down the surrounding lights. True enough, it worked just that way. Once the room was dark, we could take a fresh look at the heavy door. There was a sliver of light at the bottom near the floor; and a bit of flare from the jamb. Dim, faint. Orange. Present.

There it was. This was the love he had for us.

What do we call this? What do we call what we did? When we set aside, for a time, all that was in our lives, in order to cut the interference so as to see what another had to give?

The way to defeat blocky talk was to just be normal, and to unpack. And then we’d show him we cared by how we set the table for him. How we paused over his photographs. What we observed about the pictures, and how we reacted to his responses. This gentle interaction was the dimming of the room, and seeing his bit of light. In this way, we showed him we cared. It allowed for him to show, too.

As I said, a friend called me. She is really good at reaching out. She set aside her family and her crafts and she phoned—she showed up. She dimmed the lights, to see emanations from my own closed door. Because I too, am a hard and stubborn older man.

It hadn’t taken her nearly as long to figure out how to do it.

I know I can be frustrating to those close to me. Sometimes I’m physically frozen, stopped up with words that don’t come out. Sometimes my words are foolish and fast, and I’m left with no one—an empty room.

This is what it feels like. Each time when I’m sure she’s going to be tired of reaching out, I think, please stick with me. Please see beyond my silence. I am broken—do what you can to sit out my failings. Understand who I am. Find a way to find me. Please don’t stay away for very long.


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Isle of Palms: 72 Hours

Isle of Palms: 72 Hours by Ara Hagopian is a 30-piece photography exhibit of the popular Atlantic seacoast area near Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.  The exhibit was shot with three cameras, the Sony A7R w/ 55mm Carl Zeiss prime lens, Sony NEX-5N w/ 55-210mm Sony E-Mount, and iPhone 6s.

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This is my fourth Charleston-area exhibit. Other 72 Hours exhibits include New York, Manhattan Beach, and Perkins Cove. As always, the photographs don’t delve into the “must-see” attractions of the area. Instead, I’ve taken 3+ days and nights to wander the area and capture what catches my eye. My criteria: Is it beautiful? Is it interesting, and worth the viewers’ time? That is the heart of the 72 Hours series.

1. BELOW: This is a classic Isle of Palms view on the middle west end of Ocean Boulevard. There are many beautiful places to stay, and this resort is right on the beach. The ocean is just out of sight at the lower left corner of the photograph, past the two trees.


2. BELOW: Pelican on patrol. How high is she? Are we miles up in the air, not a care in the world? It seems so!


3. BELOW: Seabird flying along with us. There is such joy in this picture! I feel like we’re soaring right with this fellow, moving as fast as we can, and I’ve turned to look back at his smiling face.


4. BELOW: Breach Inlet. Such an innocuous, narrow slice of water. Here’s where Revolutionary War British soldiers tried crossing from the Isle of Palms side, which you can see here, to the Sullivan’s Island side, where I was standing when I took this picture. The British thought the Inlet was less than two feet deep, but the waters were way over their heads and they were forced to attempt with small boats. They tried three times and were turned back due to the skills of an American sniper, the rough currents, and a crashing afternoon rainstorm. In this photograph, a dolphin plays for all to see.


5. BELOW: Moonlight, 4:45 AM. Photographing sunsets or sunrises can be rewarding but I hadn’t felt compelled to hunt such shots. Frankly, nothing has bested Newport RI or Perkins Cove ME for said events.

Isle of Palms had great sun setting and rising scenes, which I enjoyed, without the camera. What I didn’t expect was seeing a full moon, on the water, and the scene below was breathtaking.

I think what I enjoyed most was the modesty of the moment.  My feeling was, this event came and went without many people seeing it. While photography has so much to do with the sunshine, it was an unexpected pleasure to witness this kind of light. What makes this scene extra-special is knowing it’s the result of a double-reflection. The water reflects what the moon has caught off the sun. For us to receive the benefit from two magnificent objects is indeed outer-worldly.

Imagine if you were on this beach and stood in the glow of this light. Not from above, but the reflection from the water. Magical! Your face would be host to the connection of the sun, the moon, and the ocean.


6. BELOW: Two friends. These two rabbits were cooling off at Palmetto Park, at the start of the Oyster Point trail. They were in the wild but appear to be descendants of domestic breeds. Thanks to my 210mm lens and cropping, we can get close to them.

The rabbits were wary of me as I approached the park that morning. It was ten AM and already very hot. I spotted the brown fellow first, he was on the grass in a small open area. He was alert and moved around this small tree. When I followed, he disappeared under it. I circled around, saw he was with a buddy, and I got this shot.

A photographer’s gentle rule is to record, not disturb. I’m not on-scene to disrupt. One rule that supersedes all others, including the gentle rule, is to get the shot. If that means I’m disturbing my subject, then I’ll do my best to minimize the intrusion. The shot is everything, it’s the reason I’m here. It’s what I carry back to the viewers, to tell a story. Even if my telling is just a hint, the picture must be presented. It’s the one thing that’s okay to take away.


7. BELOW: Tree on Oyster Point trail. Does it seem magnificent to you? Because when I looked at it, in the middle of a hike on a hot morning, this tree looked extraordinary.


8. BELOW: Oyster Point forest. Is this how the forest looked to Robert E. Lee when he fortified this area against Union forces? The general set up three gun emplacements overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway. My bet is this sight has not changed over the years.


9. BELOW: Oyster Point view. It took some effort to walk to this spot, and I made sure to appreciate a sight that evaded the crowds. When I was through for the day, I counted over 60 mosquito and chigger bites between my knees and ankles–the environment was brutal.

I’d walked some distance to get here. The area was remote and I was alone. I had plenty of water and free time.

I wanted to come back with a photograph of sight that’s not seen by many. You can’t drive here. It’s not a comfortable place to visit. There are no public facilities or quick exits.

The dirt trail leading to the scene below is covered with thousands of tiny land crabs. They look like half-inch long dark brown spiders and their sight is keen. They spot the trail walker and hustle to the safety of the forest, coming out again when the danger passes.

The sound of the land crab is a faint crackling, as they run over the sand and rocks to hide. They move very fast. Their eyes are always on you, which adds to the eeriness. They love the puddles of water and small creeks that cross the trail.

In the photograph, we are looking in roughly the direction of the Atlantic Ocean, with Isle of Palms on the far horizon. The band of water we see separating us from IOP is called the Intracoastal Waterway. This is a river deep enough to support warships, which is why general Lee set a gun battery here.


10. BELOW: Isle of Palms connector. This beautiful road is the primary route to and from the Isle of Palms, crossing three miles of marsh and waterway. There is a sign on this road, warning of the high winds. As cars pass, the pavement shakes. The sun is hot, and the humidity is high.


11. BELOW: Imagine a field that’s inaccessible to people, a wilderness of soft grass and protective trees. There’s a palm tree we can sit under and read for awhile—if we could get to such a place.

At night we could camp in a clearing, build a fire and tell stories. Maybe later we could explore what’s past the tree line—there’s a wide area open to us.

This picture was taken through the window of a speeding car, off the connector highway. No matter how closely we study the photo, there’s nary a trace of civilization.

If the photograph happened to be taken out of context, we could be in a faraway land. Frankly, out of context sounds just right to me!


12. BELOW: Sea Cabins Pier. This is a private way that I had sole access to one sunny afternoon. I am fond of the openness to the water, the view is very welcoming. Let’s see what’s out here! Photos 13-15 take place on this pier, the only walkway on the length of Long Beach.


13. BELOW: Isle of Palms, from both ends. This photograph has an interesting story. It started out being a strict obligation piece, because Isle of Palms is all about the stretch of beach that covers the entire west side. An exhibit needed to include a crowded sand and water shot, right?

Realistically, I couldn’t come home without a beach picture.

I felt this exhibit needed a token beach shot, even though I couldn’t envision how I could shoot it in any fun or unique way. Full disclosure, the beach wasn’t inspiring me.

An analogy: A beach shot is like a plate of chocolate chip cookies at a special party. Patrons are going to expect it, but it’s not really a treat the chef wants you to waste your calories on.

I’ve got other treats planned for you! But ugh, you’re going to expect cookies!

People know what a great beach looks like. Why do you need me to shove another pic at you? How is a beach picture going to add to your life? Those were my thoughts.

I took a bunch that checked all the boxes: Proper camera and settings, level horizon, balanced composition, (showing what I want, not just what’s in front of me), interesting sky, lots of sun, lots of people on the sand and in the water.

In short, people having a good time on a great day.

I was sure I didn’t have anything special because I didn’t believe in special beach pictures, not from me.

Everything shrinks in a photograph. A picture’s colors aren’t as fresh as when seen with our own eyes, even with Photoshop’s best tools. You, the viewer, also lack the sound of the scene, which affects how you see. We’re missing hundreds of cheery voices bringing the beach to life—how can a photograph compete with that loss?

And what about the warm sea breeze? And the gulls calling around us? Don’t forget your relaxation, and being away from your cares. Viewers–at your home or office, you’re robbed of all that, and more.

Everything shrinks in photographs, except the ideas each viewer happens to bring along with them. As you reflect on the image, an inflation occurs. Aha! That’s the amplifier that saves the magic. The viewer—you—fills in the lowered drama of the flat screen. And not just in beach pictures. Any artistic piece you see, be it visual or performance art, is expanded upon by you.

Where does your mind go when you see this piece? Because it’s your place now, and no one’s ever been there. Does it remind you of a fond time? Bring to life a long past memory? If your answer’s yes, then you have added more value to the picture than I have. As only you could.

My opinion was that a beach picture, by me, would be an obligation for this exhibit. A requirement of the set. I found out after I’d returned home I was wrong.

Here’s a clue as to how much I dreaded including a beach photograph. I put off examining any such pictures until I was pretty much set with the thrust of this show. My plan was this: At the last minute, I’d pick a nicely-focused shot, crop it landscape, and drop my plate of chocolate chip cookies on the table.

And then… I was looking at the beach shots I’d taken from the Sea Cabins pier. On one of my shooting days I’d walked out on the pier as far as possible, took a photo of the beach to the left, and then took a shot to the right.

At home, these two shots showed up in my preview pane facing left and right, just as I’d shot them. Right away, I saw it. Boy, it would be really neat to see how these two pictures would look merged together, like a panorama. I carefully blended the pictures in Photoshop.

What we see is the full island, except for the pier area directly in front. To the left, we see the edge of the island with Breach Inlet (see my photograph of this area earlier in this exhibit).

To the right, we see the end of the beach where Dewees Island lurks.

Mostly though, we see people enjoying a beautiful day. Look at those colors. The camera is about twenty-five feet off the ground, and over the water. Magically suspended, it seems. That’s the beauty of this shot. No one’s looking at us, but boy do we have quite a view!

I got my beach shot. And it ain’t no boring plate of cookies.


14. BELOW: The boardwalk. Two pigeons take a few minutes to break from the hundred-degree sun. They were enjoying the shade of the Sea Cabins pier and who could blame them! They occupied themselves by watching the beach crowd enjoying the summer day. This is a moment filled with personality—one of my favorite in the series.


15. BELOW: Dragonfly. The electric attention-grabber.


16. BELOW: USS Yorktown deck and the Cooper River bridge. Keeping tourists off the flight deck while waiting for the wind to fill the flag.


17. BELOW: Flight.


18. BELOW: Rehabilitation. Care and courage at the Center For Birds of Prey.


19. BELOW: Hunter flight.


20. BELOW: Time to make room. Somewhere near 9th Avenue and Carolina, a house demolition took place. One man was on site, doing this terribly violent work.


21. BELOW: Left with no one. An abandoned home is a residence of loss. We are reminded of the cycle of time. Let’s imagine, shall we?

Rewind fifty years, to a young man and woman excited to purchase their first home. They had great plans for it, they cared for the lawn, furnished the house and held social parties for over a decade.

Time bleaches all ink. Time invalidates lengthy intention. Time drugs the present, blind to the future. The couple aged until one of them was left to mind the property. The excitement had traveled, faith to echo.

They were here, and gone.

Ripped screens, broken furniture, dirty rooms and unclaimed mail. The man and woman from their glory years, standing arm in arm with their smiles—can you see them? They would be heartbroken to know the future. Perhaps it’s best they didn’t have a clue it was coming.

We turn and assure them: You loved what you had.

We remind each other, today—love what you have.


22. BELOW: Palmetto trees, sunshine, and blue sky.


23. BELOW: Touch. Read the story here:


24. BELOW: This is a frond from a Palmetto tree just past Wild Dunes. I chose this picture because I see the lines of an elegant bird.

The twists of hanging strands were getting in my way, but they were tightly bound to the tree and I would never dream of removing them. I tried holding them out of the way but that didn’t work. In the end, the strands added a curvy element to the picture.

My regret is my camera’s F stop setting. I should have gone with a higher value to get more of a depth of focus.

Going beyond the obvious palm tree subject matter that’s important to the area, I see something more here. The lines are attractive, from the center and moving up and over. When an inanimate object shows personality, it’s worth sharing.


25. BELOW: Sunburst tree between the traffic lanes at Ocean Blvd. What looks like a gnat stuck to the center of your screen is actually a bee flying around the tree.


26. BELOW: This is a rare view of Shem Creek. I took it through a restaurant booth’s dirty window. Cleaned in Photoshop to put you in the scene.


27. BELOW: Someone who lives near the ocean has an activity that gets them off the shore, to their destination. They keep their canoe at hand, for when the time is right to hit the water.

Whenever you’re ready, we can head out. Even if it’s just for a couple of hours, we can break away from here. The Intracoastal Waterway is but five minutes away, and I know a tiny island’s clearing. Travel light, but we’re staying overnight.


28. BELOW: After a heavy rainfall, a seabird takes several gulps of water from a parking lot puddle. The puddle was clean; the birds know where they can drink. All the birds of the area seek a good fresh water supply, often taking advantage of what the nightly rains have left behind. This is a candid, early-morning drink.

I was making the bird nervous. He knew I was spotting him and I did my best to let him be. I was glad he got his hearty drink for the morning. Nice deep fresh water, who could complain!


29. BELOW: After a heavy night’s rain, and a day’s wind and sun, a pattern emerges.

This was my only shot of this scene. While I shoot dozens of variations of most every scene, for whatever reason I took this one photo and moved on. I must have changed my mind about the subject’s value. I’m happy to say I was wrong. There is so much to say about the sand. An observation: For this spot, a day passed without a person breaking the crust left by the night’s rain.


30. BELOW: String of flight. The sights from Isle of Palms never get old. I walked or drove to a dozen locations to give this exhibit variety and depth. This is a feature of the 72 Hours series. Thank you for traveling with me!


Thank you for looking!

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FICTION, 1,000 words.

I touched a palmetto tree and her skin moved. I waited till the right moment and positioned my hand, trying to let her know I meant no harm. I placed my fingers on her thick hide. She was rough and soft—somehow that was possible—and her mammoth-like wool sat on her skin as nothing I’d ever known.

I was stunned. And that lead me to a promise.

* * *

I saw you, standing at the side of the road, big and tall and seemingly very old. I slowed my car and looked around—no one else was going to stop and spend any kind of time with you. The speeding passersby were all on their way to somewhere, who knows? Perhaps to the beach, or to the store to get batteries. But I was a lone traveler, a stranger here, and you were also alone. I parked my car and approached you.

Were you okay for some company on this hot morning? Did you have anyone to be with? Because I did not. Was there anyone checking up on your regard? Because in this world—after the funerals and settling the estate and playing family peacekeeper—I had no one.

You didn’t seem to mind my company at all.

I looked at your trunk. It was made up of dozens of odd stems that seemed dried and dead. The two-inch flat ends were cut close to what I regarded as your “skin” and formed a distinctive cross-hatch that I suppose made it easier for people to navigate around you.

Those cuts looked painful, but you did not seem in pain.

Then I got brave. I think I asked you, I mean I think I actually spoke the words, “Is it okay if I touch you?”

Silence, consent. Lack of motion. Agreement.

I reached my hand out. And of all the things in this world, I’ll never forget how you felt, or how you made me feel.

It started with my eyes. All the emotion and dread that had been welling just behind them found a sympathetic soul at your sight. Yes, yes! The frond cuts had been painful to you. Yes, you’d experienced an awful period of cutting. Why hadn’t those men followed procedure? Why hadn’t they cleaned and sharpened the blades?

Men with rusty, serrated knives had hacked you with no care or love in their work.

I heard all that, very clearly true.

I understood. And then you had more. Your companions, those trees raised right next to you, were removed to make way for the street and sidewalk, the way to the almighty beach.

Healthy, ripped out. Mutilated. Dead.

I took it. I got you, with the understanding that the men who’d done that damage were long gone. And it was me who was standing close now.

People all over the world travel, and meet, and make acquaintance-level friendships. I wondered how far two parties would go if they were tasked to make an impact on the true welfare of the person opposite them.

I’m not talking about if it was their job to do so. And not by flowing money. Nor by making phone calls to implore others to pick up the job. I think for the benefit to work, the movement had to come from the minds of the two individuals. How far would each go to provide gain for the other?

Because here we were, queued up in just that way.

As I reached out, the impression that I was feeling transferred from my face to my fingertips, just like that, directly from your flesh.

We were touching!

Was that you, moving? Because I was shaking, and I couldn’t quite tell what was going on with you.

Was it both of us who’d moved? You, in the way that was natural and undamaging. Me, in a way that sought to find the damage.

The tactile sensation at my fingertips didn’t actually come into me. I didn’t absorb your feeling and pull it in. Instead, your odd softness, and the give from your skin, was processed by us in a way that traveled outward, away from me and you.

How can something moving outward possibly provide a positive to us? How stupid was it to think I was worth any benefit at all.

One household fire and my family was gone. Died in their sleep while I was stuck across the country in an airport hotel. Old smoke detector batteries; my fault. A change in life status and my friends were shorn—it seems there was no likeness or similarity for them to stay linked. And I felt so dead inside, I just didn’t care.

All my friends died in that fire. My job burned there. My friends: If you were truly mine and if you had any regard for my welfare then I virtually picked you up and dumped you in the ash. Every single one of you, and every single thing that was important.

Nothing I’d cared for was going to be left intact.

My doctor called it something akin to a cascade, and then he too was in the ashes. And I hit the road. In a rental. Because my car was destroyed.

Then—after how long?—I saw you, palmetto tree. You, being ignored by all others; you, looking so rough. You, peed on by dogs and hammered with yardsale signs. You, tropical-stormed. Sawed for cosmetic appeal and sidewalk practicality.

You, who just happened to accept a query from a stranger in traffic.

We touched, and connected. When I pulled my hand back, and when I drove away, we were still in contact—we will always be.

You asked me something as I turned on to the interstate. Your words came into my mind and without hesitation, I made a promise to you. It was very natural. As I made my promise, the tears flowed again, so many, so much.

I will never drop you in the ashes. No, no, no, my dear friend. Not any physical piece of you, not any memory or hint or trace of you.

And from that moment forward, I never did. To anyone. Again.


Ara Hagopian’s upcoming book THE WINNING KIND is available through pre-order only.

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