"Alchemy" by Bodhi Smith

"alchemy" is my brand new impression and blog...
"photography is a modern form of alchemy. we can transform the spiritual into a coherent real thing. and we can transform a real coherent thing into the spiritual. the everyday mundane into something more deeply moving, more beautiful, more magical" ― bodhi, alchemy
 "there is
no "me" in 
there is, 
 that's not 
the point" 
"i find comfort in contemplating the sunflowers" ― vincent van gogh
"learn the alchemy true human beings know. the moment you accept what troubles you've been given as treasures, the door will open" ― jalaluddin rumi, the soul of rumi
"some people spend their whole lives seeking heaven, when all they needed to do was look about them, and embrace the alchemy which was already there" ― tom althouse, the frowny face cow
"you come to us
from another world

from beyond the stars
and void of space.
transcendent, pure,
of unimaginable beauty,
bringing with you
the essence of love

you transform all
who are touched by you.
mundane concerns,
troubles, and sorrows
dissolve in your presence,
bringing joy
to ruler and ruled
to peasant and king

you bewilder us
with your grace.
all evils
transform into

you are the master alchemist.

you light the fire of love
in earth and sky
in heart and soul
of every being.

through your love
existence and nonexistence merge.
all opposites unite.
all that is profane
becomes sacred again" 
"one of the oldest secrets of alchemy is that every living thing, from the most complex creatures right down to the simplest leaf, carries the seeds of its creation within itself" ― michael scott, the alchemyst
"the inner voice that you hear is the alchemy of your mind" ― prince
"making art in america is about saving one's soul" ― charles simic, dime-store alchemy
"the glow flares bright—bright as the billion-year-old light around us. bright as a sun.
almost every particle in the universe was once part of a star.
first, hydrogen condensing and collapsing, bringing radiance to the void.
furnaces burning bright, then fading, giving all they had left back into the cosmos.
carbon and oxygen. iron and gold.
vast clouds swirling with their own gravity. coalescing and disintegrating.
generation to generation.
the remnants of stellar alchemy, stirring into life, then consciousness.
crawling from the oceans. taking to the skies.
and from there, back to the stars that birthed them.
a perfect circle" 
"we wait, starving for moments of high magic to inspire us, but life is full of common enchantment waiting for our alchemists eyes to notice" ― jacob nordby
"you can feel the stars and the infinity of the sky...since life, in spite of everything, is like a fairytale" ― vincent van gogh
this song​ ​with its lyrics, it is the perfect accompaniment to connect music with the meaning of my impression and blog today: "alchemy" by far out (featuring rory) ... (just click on any of the words in the powder blue links to listen to the tune and watch the video) ...
"walking underneath the black annoy, feeling like i’m only half alive. it’s quarter ’til midnight, we’re running out of time. wwaiting for salvation my whole life...calling for alchemy, take all the misery and the breath in my soul. it is breaking my bones, woah woah. only for alchemy, history, all the things that i’ve done. i’m praying to someone to be my alchemy...lies light on the horizon as it fades. we watch the shadows dancing as you say: it’s quarter ’til midnight, we’re running out of time. keep every smile and take away the pain...calling for alchemy, takе all the misery. and i pray for my soul, and it breaking my bonеs, woah woah. calling for alchemy, all of my history. all the things that i’ve done, i’m praying for someone to be my alchemy"― far out (fearturing rory), alchemy  
"look at its shape, with vibrant yellows and oranges, a sunflower can brighten your day...it's as if it is smiling like a happy face painted on the sun...so if you do only one thing all day, let it be to smile, so you can brighten the day of others around you, just like the sunflower" ― bodhinku, the sunflower 
"photography is a modern form of alchemy. we can transform the spiritual into a ​true​ real thing. and we can transform a ​true ​real ​t​hing into the spiritual. the everyday ​ordinary​ into something more deeply moving, more beautiful, more magical" ― bodhi, alchemy
"alchemy" is defined by merriam-webster as:
1. the medieval forerunner of chemistry, based on the supposed transformation of matter...it was concerned with attempts to convert base metals into gold or to find a universal elixir
2. a seemingly magical process of transformation, creation, or combination
alchemy was an ancient philosophy that attempted to transform common worthless metals into gold...in modern times, alchemy is used more as a spiritual term. because instead of transforming metals, it's analogous with attaining spiritual enlightenment through self actualization. in other words, turning lead into gold is a metaphor for finding the hidden treasure within the everyday problems we are facing...
in this sense, spiritual alchemy is used to achieve contentment, harmony, and awareness by liberating one’s essence from one’s acquired personality. the personality contains the inauthentic part of the self, including one’s beliefs, concepts, opinions, wounds, fears, and phobias. in this way, the medieval transmutation of lead into gold functions as an allegory for the process of self-actualization and spiritual rebirth....
alchemy can also apply to finding the beautiful things we have all around us at home each day. i've travelled the globe and i've seen so many exoctic things in far away lands, remote islands, and distant uninhabited shores...but for something this beautiful, i needed to do was walk out onto the patio at my house and focus on the sunflowers we have planted here...and then at night, from this exact same patio, take pictures of the stars looking into the dark skies to the east...
"sometimes the most beautiful things are right here, right under your nose, right under your feet. all you need do is open your eyes and really see" ― bodhi, alchemy
this impression transforms an everyday sunflower into something magical, something that transcends what we could actually see in reality with our eyes. we could see the brightly colored sunflower in the day, and then witness the universe of stars at night. however, the sunflower would be closed-up at night, and would not be glowing like a vision of the sun during its sunlit hours...and during the day, the sky would not disclose all its heavenly bodies which can only be viewed in the dark of the night.
you see, i used photographic alchemy to create this mystical impression. i have transformed something ordinary into something golden and rare...i love sunflowers, and could not think of a single type of flower i would rather photograph in this way...really happy with this new image, i think it is going to become another personal favorite of mine...and hope you too dig this impression as much i do...
"change is the only real constant in this universe. embrace it, do not fear it. let it happen and don’t resist change…because change is the natural alchemist that will help you become the treasure that is you" ― bodhi, alchemy  
and here is another song, read the lyrics and you will be able to connect this tune to my current feelings and the deeper meaning of this blog and impression today..."alchemy" by slowly slowly ... (just click on any of words in the powder blue links to listen to the song)...  

"you’ll be mine, get in my coffin. give me a cross stitch on the wall, give me a garden that grows forever always in bloom. morning light and coffee cups; alchemy your bones & blood...an hour late for 27. i have known you in my head, shaking lips and nervous red. you see me die, you see me trying. scrape my knees down to the bone, fall asleep while driving home, we’re making gold...but am i right? to shift my gaze? to see us holding hands in june? see me falling to you? you’re the floodlight, i’m the asphalt. morning light and coffee cups; alchemy your bones & blood. we’re making gold...in the back of my head there's a spaceship. there's a skip in every step, i got stuck, tried to jump the wire fence. there’s more than one, more to come. more than anybody knows, and i've always felt i deserved less...we shut the blinds, tipped the scales. hung from every picture rail. iread my script, from your palm. wrote a million little songs, each one a piece from the jigsaw we were pictured on. and i always felt i deserved less, and i always felt i deserved less. i still feel i deserve less...so i won’t lie and you won’t hide. and if i split myself in two, i’ll just come running home to you. we’re making gold"― slowly slowly, alchemy
"there's no "me" in alchemy. both backwards and phonetically there is, but that's not the point" ― bodhi, alchemy
"look at its shape, with vibrant yellows and oranges, a sunflower can brighten your day...it's as if it is smiling like a happy face painted on the sun...so if you do only one thing all day, let it be to smile, so you can brighten the day of others around you, just like the sunflower" ― bodhi, sunflower
pictured here is a red tiger-eye sunflower...
the sunflower is absolutely my favorite flower. known as "helianthus" this name is derived from the greek word "helios" meaning sun, and "anthos" meaning flower. they are fascinating plants with their cheerful faces and many sizes and colors that delight people all over the world.

i enjoy watching the sunflowers grow and mature, reaching for the sky. as they create buds, they produce spiky, green leaves called bracts that appear on the edge of the flower head. Slowly, the petals of the flower open in the warm sun. once the petals are open, they cover the bracts from the front. this is when the flower show begins, and it can last for over a month.

the story you learned as a child, that sunflowers follow the sun all day, is true. but this is true just for the young plants with buds and leaves. once the plant blooms, the flower will only face east. because young sunflowers follow the sun, many cultures see them as symbolic of loyalty, faith and spirituality. also, many people find their tall, upright stance inspirational.

i have become aware of the pollinators that are attracted to sunflowers. birds, bees and butterflies like the warm, flat surface of the flowers as well as their vivid colors. sunflowers are important plants for the environment, offering food for insects and birds. and all you need is an area of full sun and a little care to enjoy these stunning summer plants like we are currently here in fallbrook, california...
"no more words. in the name of this place we soak in with our breathing, stay quiet like a sunflower. so the nightbirds will start singing" ― jalaluddin rumi, the soul of rumi
this impression is another impression of mine which is dedicated to the memory of vincent van gogh...a man who is the single greatest artist with the largest influence on me and my artistic expressions...and this impression of mine is created in a way that reflects those huge influences from him that can be found and seen with in my photography...
and, what you see here is another one of my dreams, inspired by the idea of what i think maybe vincent van gogh dreamed about at night, the stars and sunflowers. these were two of his deeply favorite subjects to paint, and he felt deep connections to both, although he never created a masterpiece of the two together as one, which i really wish he would have done...so this is another humble attempt of mine to do just that, put the two of them together in a composition that would be difficult at best in real life to capture in one photograph.
“i don't know anything with certainty, but seeing the stars makes me dream.” ― vincent van gogh
“...the sunflower is mine, in a way.” ― vincent van gogh
i wanted the sunflower in the foreground to be in clean focus as my subject, along with the stars and milky way as my background, yet i wanted to blur the middle ground of the image (lens blur using large aperture) to make the sunflower stand out, and sort of float like in a dream with the stars behind...
“at present i absolutely want to paint a starry sky. it often seems to me that night is still more richly coloured than the day; having hues of the most intense violets, blues and greens. if only you pay attention to it, you will see that certain stars are lemon-yellow, others pink or a green, blue and forget-me-not brilliance. and without my expatiating on this theme, it is obvious that putting little white dots on the blue-black is not enough to paint a starry sky.” ― vincent van gogh    
sunflowers turn to face east night, literally go to sleep from sundown just waiting until the sun rises the next day...and during the day as young growing flowers (full grown flowers do not turn anymore, just continually face east), they are heliotropes, meaning that the face of the flower tracks to face the sun throughout the day...
in literature, the sunflower has become a symbol of devotion and loyalty. in their various stages of decay, these flowers also remind us of the cycle of life and death...
"someday death will take us to another star" ― vincent van gogh   
"despite knowing
they won’t be here for long
sunflowers still choose to live
their brightest lives" 
"keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadows. it's what the sunflowers do..." ― helen keller
so, like i said above, this impression of mine is totally inspired by vincent, not just his paintings of sunflowers and of stars, but also the artist behind the work as well, his story, so inspiring even though it is both joyful and sad at times, i can relate to his thoughts, writings, his expressions in his paintings, and how he felt and lived...i can relate to all of it and truly know how he felt, i can empathize as there are so many similarities to my life and his...i have always felt such a deep empathy for vincent...i am very much able to relate to everything i have come to understand about him, and his work will always be a huge influence on my photography...
“normality is a paved road: it’s comfortable to walk, but no flowers grow on it.” ― vincent van gogh
"when i have a terrible need of - shall i say the word - religion, then i go out and paint the stars" ― vincent van gogh
vincent was often lost, lonely, and up and down with his emotions and moods. often questioning his art work, and his meaning in the art world, as well as in the world of life... but always had his love of nature around him and his painting of that beauty as he saw it. his passion for his artwork was there for him to turn to, to give him meaning, purpose, and raise his spirits. 
"if you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere" ― vincent van gogh  
"be clearly aware of the stars and infinity on high. then life seems almost enchanted after all" ― vincent van gogh
he had no children (like me) and was seen as a loner (like me as well), often off the beaten path doing his own thing (very much like me as well), regardless of what anyone else said, but he did care about what others thought of him, even though he often wrote that he did not. he was a deeply sensitive being, and so often got his hopes up, only to have them dashed, and he then turned to drinking absinthe all too often in excess to help him cope with his doubts and worries. he seemed tormented all too often, but then extremely happy at other times...but even in his deepest melancholy states, he always held his hopes and dreams, and positivity (as we read in his letters to his brother). 
"i am doing my very best to make every effort because i am longing so much to make beautiful things. but beautiful things mean painstaking work, disappointment, and perseverance" ― vincent van gogh 
the color of yellow to vincent was his true expression of this hope and often a reflection of his happiness. his famous yellow house in arles in the south of france and his series of sunflower paintings are evidence of this, and both are tied permanently together with the color of yellow along with their connection to yet another artist who has been a huge influence on my photography, paul gauguin...sunflowers form a unique connection between vincent and paul as friends and as artists. 
it was one of van gogh’s dream to start an art colony in arles, based initially at his yellow house. he finally persuaded gauguin to join him in arles after theo van gogh agreed to pay for gauguin’s travel and expenses. part of van gogh’s impetus to paint the arlesian sunflowers came from his desire to decorate and prepare the studio in arles for gauguin’s arrival and stay there. he wrote to theo in 1888: "i am hard at it, painting with the enthusiasm of a marseillais eating bouillabaisse, which won’t surprise you when you know that what i’m at is the painting of some sunflowers. if i carry out this idea, there will be a dozen panels. so the whole thing will be a symphony in blue and yellow. i am working at it every morning from sunrise on, for the flowers fade so quickly."
"you may know that the peony is jeannin's, the hollyhock belongs to quost, but the sunflower is mine in a way"  ― vincent van gogh
he continued in the letter, “in the hope of living in a studio of our own with gauguin, i’d like to do a decoration for the studio. nothing but large sunflowers.” and the sunflower image that he painted for gauguin turned out to be the single image that he was the most proud of creating. however, this happiness turned away as his expectations of the yellow house and his ideas of an art colony in arles never came to fruition with gauguin. although gauguin and van gogh did work together at the yellow house in arles, it was only briefly between october and december of 1888. van gogh and gauguin had a famously tempestuous friendship, which may explain gauguin’s reluctance to join van gogh in arles in the first place.

during his brief stay there, gauguin did manage to paint a now-famous portrait of vincent van gogh painting his sunflowers. shortly thereafter, gauguin fled arles to eventually make his home in tahiti after vincent’s deteriorating mental condition led him to slice off part of his own ear. however, while living in french polynesia, he was still inspired by van gogh's paintings, and gauguin went on to paint four more sunflower paintings of his own.
van gogh experimented with putting the sunflowers against a blue background but his later versions have yellow flowers in a yellow vase on a yellow table, against a yellow wall and yet the picture seems to radiate light. the color theories followed by the impressionists dictated that to intensify colours, one should place opposing colors next to each other – yellow next to purple for example.  vincent took a huge risk and broke this cardinal rule of the impressionist painters by using complimentary colors, almost all shades of yellow plus an impressive range of techniques, from tiny pointillist dots to thick sculptural strokes

van gogh was not trying to make an exact copy of reality in his paintings. he did not use colour merely to imitate nature, but to express emotion.

d.h. lawrence began his essay "morality and the novel", by taking sunflowers as an example of everything a work of art should do, that is, reveal the relation between man and his circumambient universe, in the living moment. in his sunflower painting, lawrence argued, vincent had captured "the vivid relationship between himself as a man, and the sunflower as a sunflower, at that quick moment of time..."   
"i exaggerate, i sometimes make changes to the subject, but still i don’t invent the whole of the painting; on the contrary, i find it ready-made—but to be untangled— in the real world" ― vincent van gogh  
"exaggerate the essential, leave the obvious vague" ― vincent van gogh
“i feel that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love" ― vincent van gogh, the letters of vincent van gogh 
"this is why alchemy exists...so that everyone will search for his treasure, find it, and then want to be better than he was in his former life. lead will play its role until the world has no further need for lead; and then lead will have to turn itself into gold. that's what alchemists do. they show that when we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better, too" ― paulo coelho, the alchemist
"i'm simply saying that there is a way to be sane. i'm saying that you can get rid of all this insanity created by the past in you. just by being a simple witness of your thought processes....it is simply sitting silently, witnessing the thoughts, passing before you. just witnessing, not interfering not even judging, because the moment you judge you have lost the pure witness. the moment you say "this is good, this is bad" you have already jumped onto the thought process....it takes a little time to create a gap between the witness and the mind. once the gap is there, you are in for a great surprise, that you are not the mind, that you are the witness, a watcher....and this process of watching is the very alchemy of real religion. because as you become more and more deeply rooted in witnessing, thoughts start disappearing. you are, but the mind is utterly empty....that’s the moment of enlightenment. that's the moment you become for the first time an unconditioned, sane, really free human being" ― osho, bliss

"the secrets of alchemy exist to transform mortals from a state of suffering and ignorance to a state of enlightenment and bliss" ― deepak chopra, the way of the wizard

"people will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own souls. one does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious" ― carl jung, psychology and alchemy
"information involves the acquisition, organization, and dissemination of facts; a storing-up of physical data. but wisdom involves another equally crucial function: the emptying and quieting of the mind, the application of the heart, and the alchemy of reason and feeling" ― ram dass, still here
"see everything, but judge nothing. just choose your own path and let others choose their own. see everything, but judge no one. just focus on your own path and let others focus on their own. see everything, but judge not what you see. you have your own inner worlds to conquer, your own inner gardens to water and to hone. you have your own inner lead to transform into gold. see all, judge not, know thyself." ― c. joybell c.  
"there is no quarrel between science and spirituality. i often hear people of science trying to use it to prove the nonexistence of the spiritual, but i simply can't see a chasm in between the two. what is spiritual produces what is scientific and when science is used to disprove the spiritual, it's always done with the intent to do so; a personal contempt. as a result, scientists today only prove their inferiority to the great founding fathers of the sciences who were practitioners of alchemy. today's science is washed-out and scrubbed-down and robbed of everything mystical and spiritual, a knowledge born of contempt and discontent. or perhaps, there are a few who wish to keep those secrets to themselves and serve everyone else up with a tasteless version of science and the idiots of today blindly follow their equally blind leaders" ― c. joybell c.  
"fire isn't always an element of destruction. classical alchemical doctrine teaches that it also has dominion over another province: change" ― jim butcher, cold days
"the more you become a connoisseur of gratitude, the less you are a victim of resentment, depression, and despair. gratitude will act as an elixir that will gradually dissolve the hard shell of your ego—your need to possess and control—and transform you into a generous being. the sense of gratitude produces true spiritual alchemy, makes us magnanimous—large souled" ― sam keen

"alchemy happens for you
the moment you want change
more than you fear it"
― eric michael leventhal

"the right circumstances sometimes happen of their own accord, slyly, without fanfare, without warning. layman's alchemy...the magic of everyday things" ― joanne harris blackberry wine

"time is the alchemy that turns compassion into love...” ― seanan mcguire, down among the sticks and bones

"we are unraveling our navels so that we may ingest the sun.
we are not afraid of the darkness.
we trust that the moon shall guide us.
we are determining the future at this very moment.
we know that the heart is the philosopher's stone.
our music is our alchemy" 
― saul williams

"i am here to keep becoming truer, more beautiful versions of myself again and again forever. to be alive is to be in a perpetual state of change. whether i like it or not, pain is the fuel of change. everything i need to become the soul i’m meant to be next is inside my feelings of now. life is alchemy, and emotions are the fire that turns me to gold. i will continue to become only if i resist extinguishing myself a million times a day. if i can sit in the fire of my own feelings, i will keep becoming" ― glennon doyle, untamed
"a soul connection is a resonance between two people who respond to the essential beauty of each other's individual natures, behind their facades, and who connect on this deeper level. this kind of mutual recognition provides the catalyst for a potent alchemy. it is a sacred alliance whose purpose is to help both partners discover and realize their deepest potentials. while a heart connection lets us appreciate those we love just as they are, a soul connection opens up a further dimension--seeing and loving them for who they could be, and for who we could become under their influence. this means recognizing that we both have an important part to play in helping each other become more fully who we are....a soul connection not only inspires us to expand, but also forces us to confront whatever stands in the way of that expansion" ― john welwood

"true alchemy lies in this formula: your memory and your senses are but the nourishment of your creative impulse" ― arthur rimbaud, illuminations

"i'm an earth ecstatic, and my creed is simple: all life is sacred, life loves life, and we are capable of improving our behavior toward one another. as basic as that is, for me it's also tonic and deeply spiritual, glorifying the smallest life-form and embracing the most distant stars" ― diane ackerman, an alchemy of mind

"it’s the subtle shudder when you hear your lover’s name. the times when you think about their smile and find it impossible to keep a straight face. it’s those small, precious moments you wish they were with you, because nothing means anything until you share it with them. more than a passion and love alone, it’s that internal alchemy that makes them part of you" ― leisa rayven, broken juliet
"i dream my photograph, and i photograph my dream" ― bodhi, my dream   
this composition is comprised of two separate exposures taken at different times from the same location, my home on a hilltop on the outskirts of fallbrook, california in northern san diego county (july 12th, 2022)...one early morning exposure of the red sunflower (f/2.8@70mm for 1 second, iso-64)... merged with a north aspect exposure of the night sky with its stars, planets, and milky way (f'/1.4@24mm for 13 secs, iso-3200)
in my photography, i always use filters to create longer exposure effects, saturate colors naturally, and balance the light in my composition in-camera...i often use as many as four filters at time, and i always use at least one filter in my completed impressions...
to get the effects and balance i was looking for in the sunflower exposure of this composition (f/2.8@70mm for 1 sec, iso-64), i used one progreyusa aurora filter along with the progrey g-120z magnetic holder to secure the filter to my nikon d850 with a nikon nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 lens ... 
i used a 0.9 gnd progrey aurora filter to help balance in-camera overall the image the way i envisioned it...in this case, to stop down the much brighter light in the sky to the east, the pre-dawn light, an extra three stops and help permit details in the center of the flower (the tiger's eye) to come out better and more blue... 
 and no filters were necessary in the star exposure (f/1.4@24mm for 13 secs, iso-3200), so none were used...
i wish to openly thank my sponsors who have always supported me through both the good and bad times...for truly this long exposure impression would not be possible without the use of my induro phq3 series 5-way panhead with the induro (now benro) stealth carbon fiber tripod in combination with the progreyusa filters which i use with every photo i take...
"you were blessed with 84,600 seconds today, have you used one of them to say thank you?" ― bodhi, blessed
"if nothing else...if i open my eyes, if i hope, if i cry, if i think, if i sigh, if i giggle, if i dance, if i love, if i breathe, then i have lived a full days worth of life...nothing is wasted, nothing" ― bodhi, if nothing else
"i do not want you to just be into my photography, instead, i'd much rather you take a journey into my pictures, and feel the impression i have created, feel it with all your senses" ― bodhi, into my photography
"my photography is my way of keeping a diary" ― bodhi, my diary  
"contemplate without thinking. be certain only in your uncertainty, content to be completely incomplete. stop the rush. slow down time. breathe and notice. slow down everything. let it all be. shut off the noise. hush. relax. seize this higher moment. reconnect. feel and sense what surrounds you. listen to all the colours of light whisper as they envelope you. see the melody and harmony that float about unnoticed. taste the solitude of all this wonderment. smell the beautiful silence. now discover your peaceful serenity. then, reach out and touch your faith with all your senses. this is my world. awaken!" ― bodhi, my world
i leave you today wishing that bright joy 
and spiritual peace fill your life...
imploring you to make every moment count, 
no matter what, always and forever, 
for that is the only thing that truly matters... 
and above all else,
i hope this message and impression find you well.

please visit me at:


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