Silhouette Spirits

Silhouette Spirits


Venice - sunset silhouette - 5 people dancing

Racing The Sun

I was running late as I raced down the beach to snag the sunset before it vanished. Which was gonna be real soon. I was hoping to create an image for my Silhouette Spirits series and was thusly searching all around for silhouettes. Now one of the rules I set for this series is that I can’t use models or stage anything, so I have to just capture real people doing whatever they happen to be doing at the moment. No manipulating.

Down the beach to my left was a child fishing and that looked like it had interesting possibilities and I headed in that direction. But then my dog, Nunzi, gave a bark and I turned around in the other direction to my right. He was cocking his head in that odd fashion a pooch does when they’re trying to figure out something they see of interest. Which for Nunzi could just be an interesting seabird swooping around since he’s a bird dog.

But nope, no bird of note. Nunzi turned back to look at me again and barked more emphatically. Then in the distance I was able to see a group of people doing something but couldn’t make out what exactly. I looked back at the fishing kid which was looking like there were some good visual possibilities going on. Tick-tock, tick-tock went the sunset clock. Less than five minutes remaining. I’m pondering if a fishing kid in the hand is worth a group in the beach bush? Arf! My fine canine was voting for the bush. I went with the arf!

We raced down along the surf as the sun raced down to the horizon. Who would win? As I finally reached the group, it seemed I won big-time–the visual possibilities were wonderful. There were a couple dozen people, all wearing headphones, dancing and gyrating to some silent song and basically acting as perfect silhouette models for me. Such luck! It was perfect.

Breathing hard, I collapsed on the sand and crawled around, composing some shots while my shadow models did wonderful posing, unbeknownst to them. I was able to shoot for only a couple of minutes before the sun said bye-bye. But I thought I very likely got a mighty fine image. I made sure to give my fine canine all the treats I had in my pocket. He made a great call. Arf!

Back home I checked out the bounty of good captures and this image here is one of my all time favorites. I even gave Nunzi half of my steak that night. I wouldn’t have won that sunny race without him. Arf!

Silhouette Spirits –

Venice Beach CA - Surfer carries board, boy dances as the sun sinks into the ocean at sunset
Venice Beach CA – Surfer carries board, boy dances as the sun sinks into the ocean at sunset

This month’s photo I’m calling A Tale of Three Silhouette Spirits. The silhouette surfer on the left had several mighty fine rides and was jauntily singing a merry tune of triumph as he quickly splashed by me. The young boy was in his own world, just enjoying the moment by dancing and twirling round and round to his inner tune, until he would tumble down in laughter. And then joyously leap up and repeat his Astaire routine.

The silhouette guy on the right had wiped out pretty bad, and was exhausted as he limped and staggered out of the sea. But I bet he’ll rise from the ashes and do better on another day. And that’s my tale of these three spirits on this day.

Which brings to mind a teller of tales, gonzo writer Hunter S. Thompson, who said… “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” A motto I find instructive as I try my best to adapt to these strange times. And I do hope you’re all doing well in these challenging times too.

For this month’s photo, I have to give official creative credit to my furry friend, Nunzi Mancuso, who added his stunning abstract art composition to this image.  He calls it “Flying Super-Duper Sunset Sand”. Without his unique contribution, this image would be only an average creation and would not merit inclusion in my Silhouette Spirits series

Nunzi is quite a ferocious digger and even claims to be ranked in the top ten of worldwide Digging Dogs. I had no idea there was such a thing but apparently a new canine digging event will be in the next Olympics. One thing I can surely attest to is witnessing him creating very impressive doggy dens. His excavations are often over two feet deep and four feet long and his paws churn so fast that he is done in under ten minutes. Quite the achievement.


For this month’s photo, I have an incredibly rare image of Hephaestus, Greek god of fire, in the act of catching his sun ball with his mythical magic mitt. Yep, I shot him on the mythological island of Krocylea which is damn hard to get to. It took several hours of flying atop Pegasus, and let me tell you it was not an easy ride. Not much padding on that winged horsy and my butt still aches.

Anyway, you’ll also notice by Hephaestus’ side is his mighty guard dog Nunziberus who loves playing games of fetch with the sun ball. His serpent tail becomes a wagging blur whenever he flies up and catches the fiery orb.

Yeah, I had a grand time hanging and playing with these guys. Although gods, they treated me well and were just like regular down-to-earthish nice fellows–with a twist. Yep we had a great time together. That is, until Poseidon’s bratty son splashed right out of the sea and wanted to join in on our fun photo shoot. But that’s a whole other mythic tale and I–

Huh? What’s that? You’re not buying this, dear reader? I sense you’re a wee bit skeptical. Think I’m exaggerating? Possibly even fibbing a tad? I swear to Zeus every word is absolutely true! Don’t believe me? Hmm…

Alright, alright, alright. Ain’t you ever heard of creative license? You know, when you get to exaggerate and embellish a little here and a little there. Or claim you’re a “creative” and outright lie a big bunch. Well I got one of them licenses hanging right here on my wall. I’ll text you a pic if you want. If you don’t believe me?

Ok, ok, so it isn’t really the fire god, Hephaestus! There I admit it. You happy? Just some regular boring father type guy with an un-magic baseball mitt. And yeah it wasn’t a sun ball, just a nerf-ball he was tossing to his little son. But sometimes when it was thrown and flying across the sky, at the right angle, it appeared like the baseball mitt was snatching the setting sun. At least if you have a somewhat twisted imagination like mine.

And that noble god dog is really just my average dog, Nunzi. Who delighted the little kid by snagging and fetching errant ball tosses. Sometimes digging a quick hole and spitting the ball in it– which caused the kid to laugh hysterically.

So all in all, it’s just another plain photo added to my Silhouette Spirits series. Just an average guy catching a ball in his mitt in the instant when and where the setting sun was dropping. Ok, move along now. Nothing special to see here. Move along.


This one was taken from high atop Venice Mountain. Just kidding, there aren’t any mountains at Venice beach. But every winter these sand berms are constructed in the winter to protect us from the storm surges that can rollick the beach.


Venice - sailboats - sunset - under pie

Such a dilemma! I’m vehemently arguing with myself. Can I allow this image in my Silhouette Spirits series if I don’t have any humans in it? All my other ones do. Can there be spirits without peoples? A few frames before, I indeed had humans included in the foreground.

But damn it, I like this photo the best. Not even sure why. Maybe the simplicity of form? The sparklines of the sparkles? The strong foreground silhouette of the pier pilings contrasted with the more delicate sails in the background?

But I concluded all those points ain’t the point. Is this non-human photo legal to have in this series? That is the question. After arguing back and forth a while, I had to be honest. Nope. It’s not legal, case closed. I hate it when I lose an argument with myself due to a dumb thing called logic. So I put the image away. Forgot about it. Sigh.

But today my mind came up with a small “yeah but”! Then a bigger YEAH BUT! No humans in the image? Yeah but… there are human’s on the boats! And then that means there are spirits, and one of them is likely silhouetted against something. Whah-lah! In the court of my muddled mind, the gavel is slammed, and the verdict is officially rendered—it is indeed legal to have this in the Silhouette Spirit series! Case closed.

I love it when I win an argument with myself. Onward, I’m putting this one up and sharing it with the world. Good job, Greg. Brilliant insights!

PS – Uh, this is embarrassing. A little while ago, I was enhancing the photo, and I, um, I enlarged it quite a bit. And gosh, I noticed a teeny tiny human perfectly silhouetted on the back of the larger sailboat. So all the above points are pointless. Many moots. Please forgive my silly muddled mental arguing. It’ll never happen again.

PSS – Ok, it will surely happen again. Always does.


This image stands out from the others in this series because it doesn’t have the vibrant saturated coloration of the previous photos. So I guess we could call it a subtle spirit. I’m fond of its strong composition lines, and it conjures a serene relaxed feeling of this moment in time.


Venice - sunset - long view, high angle - pier, tiny silhouetts

Most of the photos in the series usually have the silhouette figures large and prominent in the image. But this one is a bit different in that the people are kind of ant-sized. Big sky, medium ocean and tiny humans. Kind of the natural order of things anyway.


Venice-sunset silhouette-paddle board surfer - IMG_2152

So I’m gazing out at the unusually tranquil sea and I’ll be damned if I’m not witnessing a miracle–someone walking upon the water. Well it looked like that. But I really know better but this little kid nearby didn’t and excitedly exclaimed that a man was walking around on the ocean. Because viewing this guy from shore, looking into the shimmering sun and reflections, you can’t see his paddleboard, but he’s stepping back and forth on it, and creating an apparition which sure conjures up miracle time.