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Tones. They are the variables in sight and sound. When I was a teen, I secretly listened to the intoxicatingly beautiful range of tones sung by Karen Carpenter. The songs were somewhat 70s sappy, but her voice was so smooth, so rich, so warm. It seemed almost angelic. Sadly, she left us way too soon. I suspect she is singing with the angels now.

The first time I heard Yo-Yo Ma play the cello I was mesmerized by the deepness and spiritual sound that came from a piece of wood, that came from a tree, that came from a forest somewhere. When a piece of wood meshed with strings tightly strung over a hole can allow the human ear to listen to the voice of a tree...well, it is like listening to God.

In photography, we like to talk about "tonal range." Having a good tonal range means there are variations from highlight to shadow. Tonal range means your image is interesting. But, to make it really good, you have to have composition too. When you get both tonal range and composition, you have something others will enjoy and admire. Without the two together it just won't work.

I love the tones of richness in what I see. Deep browns of a blackwater river like the Suwanee are some of my favorites. They become a darker and richer brown tea as you look deeper into the gently flowing stream.

If you've never watched a sunrise or sunset in the desert out west you are missing some of the best tones in an open sky you can see. The last time I watched a sunset there, I had photographed a time-lapse as the colors exploded before me. The sunsets out there seem to last so much longer. Maybe it is because of the open sky and lack of obstructions. But, I seriously thought this one was over and had gotten a beautiful time-lapse on my camera. As I collapsed my tripod I looked upward and there it was. One of the most beautiful views of color and tone I have ever seen. I watched in awe as it submerged into the night and the last beams of sunlight fell below the horizon.

I remember hearing, "Don't you take that tone of voice with me, young man!" as my mother ran behind me with a switch. The thin and flexible object of pain whistled in the air as she chased behind me. Swinging as I dodged and ran to escape her wrath. The tone of our voice can say a lot. I think that is why so many people get in trouble on the internet. Words can be read at face value. But, our human language is so much more than words. Our tone, the sadness or happiness we project speaks volumes versus a LOL or sad face meme online. Your tone allows others to pick up on your emotions. "Are you ok? You sound tired." Or, try writing "I love you" to someone versus saying it in person. No comparison. All due to tone.


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