Sunday, October 23, 2016


Photo Credit: Glen Huizenga

"What is this photograph about?"

I was reading the July-August 2016 issue of Lenswork magazine when I came across that question in the Editor's Comments section. The editor, Brooks Jensen, was talking about reviewing photographers' work that is sent to him to assess for the possibility of being published in Lenswork. Brooks said one of the first questions he asks himself when reviewing other photographers' work is - "What is this photograph about?"

I thought about the photographs that I had taken earlier that day and asked myself the same question. What are those photographs about? The answer that instantly came to mind was - Freedom. That answer could have been influenced by the fact that I was sitting on a chaise lounge chair next to my husband in the pool room of the Holiday Inn Express of Crawfordsville, Indiana, relaxing after a soothing soak in the hot tub. We were in Indiana for a mini getaway to photograph covered bridges, wander country roads and do a little hiking.

We had the freedom to get away because I no longer work outside of the house, my husband has oodles of vacation time left, we have a reliable vehicle, and enough Holiday Inn points to enjoy staying free for three nights. We had no set agenda, other than needing to be at the first covered bridge at sunrise, a very reasonable 8 a.m. We could wander anywhere we wanted for three full days.

With the loss of our dear golden retriever, Scout, there comes a new freedom. For the first time in thirty years, I no longer have a dog that I am responsible for. A huge weight of guilt about the desire to travel and explore has been lifted from my shoulders.

While my photographs have always been about adventure and discovery, I think there has always been a deeper theme running through them. Whether is was a few hours of stolen photographic wandering, a solo trip to the Pennsylvania countryside, or week long getaways to my favorite northern place, my photographs have always been about that deep need for freedom.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Saying Goodbye...

Loss changes us, there is no way it can not. I have been preparing for this loss for the last two years, ever since we had to put down our other golden retriever, Riley. Knowing then that the day would come all to soon when I would have to say goodbye to my dear Scout. Thankfully Scout made it almost two full years since that last goodbye. But the day has come and we must let go.

I have seen the decline this year, especially since June when I was sure it was time, but then he seemed to rally yet again and we carried on with life the best we could. But the last two weeks there has been noticeable change, a real challenge for him to get up, even slower than before when going outside to go the bathroom, the challenges of going to the bathroom. Monday night it seemed to all come crashing down, he was visibly shaking and needed to be carried down the steps. Tuesday morning when I got up, he couldn't get up, his back legs unable to support him. I had to make the call.

Scout was the gentlest soul, even as a puppy he never once put his mouth on us. Although he did have a great taste for paper, ripping it up and eating it. We just learned to not keep loose paper laying around. One year he got it in his head that he would help open one of my Christmas presents, before Christmas, while it was still under the tree. My copy of Anne Lamott's Small Victories will forever have a chunk missing out of the paper front cover.

He was the best adventure companion, even though we only had about six months of adventures together before it got too hard for me to get him in and out of the car, and his ability for long walks was gone. Still those hikes in the autumn-colored woods will forever hold a special place in my heart. And our picnics at roadside parks, me eating my Subway sandwich, him demolishing his kibble in six quick gulps.  He finally learned to enjoyed car rides on those adventures, stretching out on the backseat, happy to have the space all to himself.

He has been such a guiding light these last six months with the addition of little Findley, patiently teaching him the ins and outs of going outside to go to the bathroom, going for walks, and letting Findley play fight and chew on him. I pray that eventually more of Scout's gentle nature will find its way into Findley.

While I am filled with oceans of tears and sadness, there is also a huge wave of relief that has washed over me. I lived in constant fear that he would stumble down the stairs and hurt himself, or that he wouldn't be able to get up when either it was just me or Mallory at home, and we wouldn't be able to lift him. We were nearing a decision this week anyway, the timeline just got moved up a little bit. All in God's perfect timing.

Last night standing in the dining room, I watched as Mallory went to the dog food cupboard and scooped food for her dog. For the first time in thirty years, I didn't have a dog of my own to feed. Loss changes us.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Scene & Story - September 2016

I once dreamed of living in a large, renovated, white clapboard farmhouse with a wide wraparound porch. From my white rocker on the porch I would have a peaceful view of a lush, sprawling lawn that two golden retrievers frolicked on all day long.

Some of that dream came true. Although, instead of white rockers and a wraparound porch, I have a large wooden deck with chaise lounge chairs that lookout over a large, lush backyard where for many years two golden retrievers did frolic. Instead of a white clapboard farmhouse, I got a 1980's, yellow vinyl-sided ranch house with a three season porch. The renovations have been a work in progress the whole thirteen years we have lived here.

The dream hasn't gone away, but it has changed. Now, instead of wanting a white clapboard farmhouse with a large lawn; I dream of a weathered, cedar shake cottage with a view of a quiet, mist-covered lake. The wide wraparound porch and white rockers remain the same.

Thursday, October 6, 2016


I have been having a hard time finding my way back to my blogging voice this week. Last week I finished an article for the on-line magazine, Rural, that I periodically write for. I love writing, but anyone who tells you it isn't a lot of work, is a liar, or extremely blessed. I am neither.

Once I lose the voice, I have a really hard time refocusing.

It isn't that I haven't been out exploring, I have. These photos were taken last week on a trip to our local garden and sculpture park. I am shooting for a once a season visit. I went this summer, and now I have been in Autumn, next up will be winter.

That also happened to be the last day of my rental with the Canon 6D. I love the camera, but haven't ordered it yet. My husband and I have a trip planned to Indiana to tour wooden covered bridges in a couple of weeks. I guess we will see what happens between now and then...

What usually helps me dive back into my blog is a project. My friend Lee and I Skype nearly every Wednesday, she is a fellow blogger, photographer and writer. We have a virtual friendship that is going on two years now, we have had an on-line friendship for almost four years, but we have never met in person. She lives in Maine, I live in Michigan.

When we were Skyping this week, we were reminising about past groups and projects we have done together that have encouraged our blogging practice. We hit upon one that we use to do that involved posting our favorite photograph from the previous month, along with a story about why it meant something to us. We both loved that practice, and agreed that we missed it.

Then the magic happened. Even though that particular project no longer exists, why couldn't we start our own project, just she and I sharing our favorite photo and the story behind it. So that is what we are going to do.

Coming this weekend the first in our new monthly project, stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016


Canon 6D

Does your brain hurt when you learn new things? I know at 48, mine does. I have put myself in the predicament of learning a few new things.

First, due to the untimely coma of my Canon 70D cropped sensor dslr, and having to send it in for repair, I have rented a Canon 6D full frame. The basics of the 6D were very similar to my 70D, but its the little things, like remembering to change the setting to shoot in RAW and not JPEG. It was a day before I realized that - oops!

Then there was a little glitch in my first full day of shooting with the rental camera. I was out on an adventure day, at the very same state park I was at the week before when my own camera died and I got rained on. Only an hour into my morning, I decided to use the porta potty (chai latte you know), just as I was finishing, my back decided to spasm and tightened up on me. I have had back problems on and off all my adult life. I can go years without problems, and then have several episodes within a six month time span. Thankfully due to my working out at the gym, the episodes are not near as severe as they once were (before the gym and this would have happened, I would have been lying on the floor of that porta potty unable to move, not a pleasant picture) and now they only last a day or two, before it would have been a week of couch time. But still two days of down time cut into my week of renting. I hesitate to go back to the same state park for a third time this week, but as I discussed with a friend on Wednesday, it will either be three strikes and I'm out, or third times the charm. I guess we will see...

The second thing I am learning is patience. I hate having to continually learn patience. 

The third thing I am trying to learn is Lightroom's Print Module, so I can make come custom templates for my blog. I have played around with the module before, but it has been a while, and if you don't use it you lose it. I lost it. 
L - Canon 6D -- R - Canon T2i
I was awake at 1 a.m. Friday morning trying to figure where to go to do the comparison shots I wanted to do with the 6D and my old cropped sensor Canon the T2i. Seeing is always believing. I don't think I got back to sleep until 4 a.m., but at least I came up with a solution - Windmill Island. I wanted someplace close, so I didn't have to drive far, but had interesting and varying sights. Also where it wasn't far to the car to switch cameras, there was no way I was carrying both, due to the back issue. 

I haven't been to Windmill Island since Tulip Time - a very popular festival here in our town. I always forget how beautiful the gardens are until I go, and then I think - why don't I come here more often? It is free to local residents. Note to self - add Windmill Island to my repertoire of local shooting locations. 

The top photo was shot with the Canon 6D full frame, the bottom photo shot with the Canon T2i cropped sensor. In both instances I used the 35mm f/1.4L lens. I stood in approximately the same place for each photo. Quite the difference. 
The photo on the left was the Canon 6D, the photo on the right the Canon T2i. I stood in the same place for both and processed both the same. 

I chose the Canon 6D to rent over the Canon 5D Mark lll mainly because of weight, the 6D being a bit lighter. My only concern was focusing points, the 5D Mark lll has 64, the 6D only has 13. Thus far it hasn't been a problem, and it makes me think about my composition. 

Canon T2i

I love using prime lenses. I think having shot a lot with my iPhone over the past few years has taught me to move my body instead of the lens. Now when I do have a zoom lens on my camera, I forget half the time that it moves. 

I extended my rental of the 6D for a couple more days, due to the loss of a couple of days, so I have a little more time, but thus far I would say the 6D is a winner. 

Update on my camera repair - I know that Canon has received my camera, they sent a lovely email, and it looks like it is still under warranty, but other than that I am still waiting to hear if they figured out what is wrong with it.

Sunday, September 18, 2016


I left my house shortly after eight o'clock, the sun shining and the temperature 64 degrees, perfect for a mid-September morning. My destination was a state park about an hour north of my house, located on the shore of Lake Michigan.

Just the week before I had restarted my adventure days. I felt like a kid in a candy store, roaming everywhere and seeing everything. This week though, I was focused on living the mission statement of my blog - Striving to find balance between intention and discovery. Last week there was a lot of discovery, this time there needed to be more intention.

I drove through my usual northward bound Starbucks for a Grande' Chai Tea Latte. As soon as I left the drive-thru window, I sniffed the small opening in the lid. The previous week, I was twenty miles up the road before I lifted the cup to my lips and smelled coffee instead of chai. I glanced at the label on the side of cup - Dark Roast. Not only did I not get what I wanted, I also paid way too much for something I don't even like. This time when I lifted the cup to my lips, I was greeted by the spicy scents of clove, cardamom, and cinnamon.

I arrived at the state park shortly after nine o'clock. This state park has a channel leading from Lake Michigan to a smaller lake, just as the state park does in my hometown. The channel was my destination. There are covered picnic tables along the water. I took my camera, Starbucks chai, notebook and pen and made a cozy place to write for an hour. I had a magazine article to work on, it wasn't getting done at home, so I was hopeful being by the water would stir my writing voice.

As soon as I had everything arranged on my makeshift desk, I heard the first rumble of thunder. It was coming from farther north, so I decided to wait and see if it would blow over. Then the second rumble came. I wanted some photographs of the channel before the rain came. I packed everything up, having only written a couple of paragraphs, and returned it to the car. I took my camera and set off down the channel sidewalk. Halfway down the walkway the skies opened up. I did a quick turnaround, unzipped my fleece jacket and nestled my camera inside. I got wet, but my camera was nice and dry.

I have been having intermittent problems with my year old Canon 70D for the last couple of months. The problem always seems prevalent in humid weather. The predicament is that all of the buttons on the back of the camera stop working. I pull and reinsert the battery and it will work for a time, but then stop again. Yet on other days, I can shoot all day with no issues. My camera was acting up that morning before the rain came, after the rain, it wouldn't work at all. I knew it was time to send it in to Canon.

Autumn is not the time I want to be without a camera. Fortunately, I do still have my old Canon T2i body. As I sat in the car, the rain beating down on the windshield, I googled the potential problem on my phone, and saw that I wasn't the only one. I also googled Borrowed Lens to see how much it would cost to rent a full-frame camera body for a week. I have danced around the idea of a full-frame camera for a few years now, I figured now was the time to give one a try.

The rain wasn't letting up, the day was a bust. But I will be back next week to try again with my full-frame camera rental in hand.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Drive-In

The summer of 1974 I turned six years old, and at that point remained, blissfully, an only child. But within my mother grew my soon-to-be baby brother. This would be my last summer of blissful delight.

My mother worked second shift at the local hospital as a medical transcriptionist. Our mornings started slow, but our special time of day together was lunchtime. Most often those lunches were spent at home, sharing bowls of Campbell's Chicken and Stars soup, or grilled cheese sandwiches made with Kraft American cheese on square slices of Wonder white bread, and grape Cool-aid to drink in plastic Tupperware cups.

Once a week we would get groceries and have lunch out. In 1974 there were mostly local diners and greasy spoons in our town. We had one fast food chain restaurant, Burger King, located downtown next to the movie theatre. I loved to sit on the orange, vinyl topped, chrome swivel stool at the window counter eating my Whopper Junior, and crispy, heavily salted french fries, watching the people come and go from the theatre.

But my favorite place to eat lunch was the Dog n Suds drive in. The concept of a drive in restaurant fascinated me. You couldn't go inside - Car Hops Only, you ate in your car. The menu was on a stand next to your car, you pressed a button and spoke into a silver metal speaker to place your order.

I would sit in excited anticipation in the passenger bucket seat of my mom's metallic blue, 1973 Ford Mustang, while we decided what to have for lunch. Shortly after placing our order, the car hop would come out bearing a red rubberized tray laden with Charco Cheeseburgers and "World Famous" Coney dogs, heavily salted french fries, and frosty mugs filled with Dog N Suds root beer, and hook the tray onto my mom's partially rolled down car window. I would carefully unfold two large paper napkins and spread them over my lap, praying no ketchup or mustard from my cheeseburger would spill onto my perfectly matched Garanimals outfit.

Our town no longer has a Dog n Suds drive in, and hasn't in many, many years. A few of them still exist. On a recent adventure day I happened to be near one, and thought it would be fun, for old times sake, to drive in and have lunch. Unfortunately my adventure day was on a Tuesday.

At first I was extremely disappointed, but as I stood in the empty parking lot, I realized what I wanted wasn't the food, but the opportunity to photograph a piece of my history and to tell the story.

I never liked root beer anyway, except with ice cream in it.