Thursday, April 20, 2017

Practicing Slow


I just finished a book that I can't stop thinking about, Chasing Slow by Erin Loechner. Erin is a Lifestyle Blogger who shows us through her blog what a beautiful life we can all have. The book however, takes us behind the curtain, into Erin's real life, a life anything but always picture perfect. Her honesty, and writing won me over from the first chapter.

But it is the title that I keep coming back to Chasing Slow, something I am forever doing. My middle name is Get It Done, I can enjoy it later. But what if later never comes, how many things have I sped through to cross them off my list...done.


Slow is never going to be easy for me. I take after my dad, a man in his eighties still out cutting firewood to add to the multiple rows of firewood he already has. And maybe that is what keeps my dad going and why he is still alive in his eighties. But when we were sitting in the hospital waiting room last summer we talked, there are so many things he wishes he had done. I don't want to have those same unfulfilled wishes in my eighties.


This week I took my first step toward practicing slow. I went to the Garden Center, to buy some plants for the weed-riddled flower bed I pinky promised my husband I would maintain this year. Instead of buying the first plants that met my criteria: full sun, not too tall, long blooming. I took my camera and wandered. I did ask permission to photograph first, which was met with a pleasant, "Of course you can, and if anybody gives you any trouble send them to me". My new best friend Kathy, doesn't know what beast she just unleashed.


What did I discover as I wandered? I love containers more than plants. Put a plant in a container and then I am in love with it. I never would have discovered this if I wasn't practicing slow.


 Photographing flowers in my own garden, or anybody else's garden will never delight me, but let me loose in a garden center with plants in pots, or just pots, and I could really start to enjoy gardening.

I am going to keep practicing slow at the garden center, because that weed-riddled flower bed needs a lot of help, and I want to see what other revelations slow reveals.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Make A Wish


Can you make a wish in a fountain that has no water? Is it the water that makes a wish come true, is it the penny, is it the fountain? Or is it the person who believes in magical things.

Standing with penny in hand, ready to throw, I ponder this thought.

The fountain in front of me is filled with last autumn's leaves, crumpled candy wrappers, and pennies from the past, but no water. Will adding my penny make any difference?

What things will I wish for if I throw my penny?

I wish...
--to stop trying to figure out either/or and be content being both a photographer and a writer
--for a long and happy marriage
--for my daughter to find someone who cherishes her. Don't we all deserve that?
--to travel near and far
--to have a dog like my dear Scout again someday
--to have a cottage on a small lake with a dock, where magical things happen
--to be involved in art retreats for women

We don't get all our wishes, and some of our wishes will change over time, but we must keep collecting those pennies and tossing them in fountains, whether they have water or not.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Pleasures


I type the word Pleasures into the search bar at the top of my Pinterest page, a little afraid of what I am going to find. My writing directive for the day is Pleasures, and my notebook of pleasurable ideas is a little soggy at the moment, so I thought I would look and see what brings other people pleasure.

I click enter. The first photograph is of a well thought-out picnic on a riverbank; on a salmon-colored tablecloth sets a wicker picnic basket with a french baguette peeking out the top. There is another baguette on a wooden cutting board, partially sliced. There is a stack of salmon-colored salad bowls awaiting the freshly torn lettuce in the serving bowl next to them. Multi-colored cherry tomatoes sit on a cream-colored snack plate. Six glass jars hold various salad toppings. Salmon-colored linen napkins, along with real silverware are ready and waiting to be used. I find pleasure in this idlic scene, especially if someone else made all the food and laid it out for me.

Continuing down the page of pleasures, I see there are mostly pictures of food, apparently food brings a lot of pleasure.

Then there are fuzzy, yellow ducklings walking in a line down a perfectly mulched garden path, lush green grass on either side of the pathway. That would bring me pleasure too until one of the ducklings poops on the perfect path and ruins my photographic moment.

The next non-food photograph, sort of, is of three kids sitting on the tailgate of a vintage, red delivery truck, half slices of juicy, red watermelon in their hands. Their faces and shirts are amazingly juice free.

As I look at all these flawless photographs, I know that none of them would be the things that  bring me true pleasure, except maybe the picnic. But mine would be paper plates, plastic silverware, an old faded quilt, plastic red Solo cups filled with a favorite white wine, and plastic containers with fresh pasta salads from a local deli. Sitting on the faded, old quilt would be my husband and myself enjoying a perfect date day.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Scene & Story - March 2017


Too bad you can't take a photograph of accomplishment, because accomplishing things has been my goal in March, and I have succeeded.

This might be one of my all time favorite photographs that I have ever taken, it was taken with my iPhone and edited with the app. Stackables. It was taken on the first day of March, thick atmospheric fog enveloped objects along my walk to the beach.

I love everything about it - the pier posts dancing in the water, the buoy that looks like a bobber, the two mallard ducks that flew into my frame at the perfect moment, the leafless trees, the processing that lends that perfect foggy morning feel.

One of my accomplishments in March was to get this photograph printed. I must admit I have never had many iPhone photos printed, and the ones I had done I wasn't that impressed with. But I think that was my early tendency to process everything with an overly warm cast. I have since developed my own slightly cooler style.

I started with having a 5 X 7 printed, big enough to get a good feel for the photograph, but not too expensive in case it was a disappointment. It was not! So I thought I would push it and try an 8 X 10 and an 11 X 14. Both are fabulous! The 11 X 14 is in a black frame with white matting waiting to be hung on the wall in the family room. The family room is waiting to be painted a nice Simply White. That will be next month's accomplishment.



Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Lists


When I am feeling stuck I like to make lists. They bring a sense of calm and order to my life. There is something about writing my tasks down, getting them done, and crossing them off, that gets my life flowing again.

I have recently started a new weekday routine. I make two lists each morning. The first is called Domestic Tasks and the second is called Creative Tasks. On each list I write down things I would like to accomplish for the day. I usually start with creative tasks because I am my most creative in the morning, and I feel better about those nasty domestic tasks if I have been creative first.


I know there are apps on my phone for this kind of list making, but I prefer making my lists on separate small yellow legal pads. Writing in pencil, numbering each task and when it is completed, crossing the task off with a colorful Sharpie marker. Both lists sit at the end of my kitchen counter so I have to walk past them numerous times throughout the day.


Lately the Domestic Task list has been longer than the Creative Task list. At first I thought it was because I was letting the Domestic list rule, but then I realized I have actually been accomplishing many of the things that have long been on the Creative list. Now I am doing things that should have been part of my daily routine all along: writing, photographing, walking, art journaling, selecting photos to be printed. I am between photography e-courses at the moment, so I don't have to add daily assignments to the list, but I have finished all of the work in both of my recent on-line courses thanks to my Creative Task list, something that rarely ever happens.

They say it takes twenty-one days to form a habit. I wonder if that is longer when you take weekends off. Weekends are just for fun.

**Reminder - The next Scene & Story blog link-up will be this coming Sunday, April 2. Wondering what Scene & Story is? Visit the last link-up here.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Constructive Criticism


I have always shied away from constructive criticism when offered in on-line classes. It isn't that I don't want to get better, because I do, it's because I am afraid that my fragile self-confidence can't take it. I would rather hear "That's beautiful", "Great Shot", "Well done". Or so I thought. But the truth is those kind affirmative comments leave me feeling a bit empty, like a whisper of air passing by my ear, but the words don't fill me. Instead, I want to know what someone sees or feels when they look at one of my photographs, does it resonate within them.


I just completed an on-line photography course called The Personal Project You Already Shot, taught by Pam Korman. The course built upon the weekly photography projects I had been doing. I liked this class because I didn't have to figure out what to shoot each week, I could look through the thousands of photos I already have stored in my Lightroom catalog, searching for project themes. It would also teach me more about editing and sequencing a project, something that caught my attention after watching a Kelby One course taught by Stella Kramer. I also had a chance to delete some hideous work from years past and make some extra room on my external hard drive.


It was a four week class. Two weeks to nail down your project's theme, and two weeks to get the editing and sequencing done. The third and fourth weeks we could take screen shots of our Lightroom grids showing our sequencing and get feedback from fellow classmates and Pam, the instructor. I was only too happy to review and comment on other's projects, but I stubbornly held my own screen shot back. After seeing everyone else's work, I was sure they would think "what an amateur" if I posted mine.

Finally, midway through the fourth week I gathered up my courage, opened Lightroom pulled up my project grid and took a screen shot. Before I had a chance to talk myself out of it, I clicked over to the Facebook Group and posted it.


I got amazingly helpful critique. One gal loved the anonymous feel of it. I loved the word anonymous. The best advice came from Pam. She said "It seems like at times your photos show you feeling stuck, but then you gather yourself up and move on, I would love to see some photos of movement in your sequence, the moving being the bridge between feeling stuck and progress." Once I read that I thought "yes that is exactly it." At times on the journey we make steady progress, but then we slow down or get stuck, but usually after a time of rest the journey continues.


We are often too close to our own work and can't see the bigger message. That's when we need fresh eyes, people who don't know us, to tell us what they see within us.

I am in the final stage of sequencing my project and hope to have a Blurb book completed by the end of next week. Work is also underway on a portfolio.

Looking back through my photos in Lightroom, I found a couple of other possible projects that I would like to develop for portfolio pieces. The journey continues...

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Sketches


I signed up for Vivienne McMaster's year long self-portrait photography class Body Peace 2017 when it was first advertised last fall. The first class started January 1st and ran for 15 days, then we had a 15 day break before the second one started February 1st. In my mind this was an ideal schedule; 15 days on, 15 days off to catch up on the few lessons I may have fallen behind on.

I started out strong, as I always do with on-line classes, obediently working on each day's prompt.


The class is intended to help us, especially women, to be more accepting of the body we have right now. Always the rebel in a group, I also choose to use the prompts as starting points for well-thought out, creative self-portraits. Now don't think that I don't have body issues I need to deal with because I do, but for me it is about becoming a better self-portrait photographer as well. It is amazing the details you pay attention to when you are the subject of your photograph.


My self-portrait creative perfectionism meant that I could only shoot with my Canon dSLR, no iPhone allowed. That perfectionism carried me for about three days, after that life got in the way, as it always does. I no longer had an hour each day to set up the perfect vignette. So instead of loosening my criteria and adapting to what life was at the moment, I quit. I didn't do any more lessons for January, and in February when life got even crazier, I didn't even start.

But here's the thing, I'm not a quitter. So when March 1st came around, I opened my Morning Pages journal and did some soul searching:

  • I paid for this year long class, so stop wasting the money
  • I enjoy the prompts - they make my creative mind start working again
  • I love the community and sharing with other classmates
  • I need to find a way to adapt
So I slid off my creative high-horse and I got out my iPhone, my GorillaPod tripod for my phone and my remote shutter release and set about doing the daily prompts.


When I was having my weekly Skype conversation with my friend Leon of Sea Blue Lens, I was lamenting to her about lowering my standards but at least getting it done. I also said, the ones I really like I can go back and take with my Canon. Then she said "It sounds like you're doing sketches with your phone". There is was! The artistic term that I needed to make it alright to shoot with my iPhone. I am an artist and I understand things in artistic terms, the term "sketches" made it creative. Thank you Lee, you are a Godsend, in so many ways.


So now I happily get my iPhone out almost every day, some days I have to do a couple prompts to catch up, but I am keeping up. When I have extra time I do get out my dSLR, making vignettes like the one above that actually made Flickr's In Explore, which surprised me to say the least.


But my favorite one thus far is this one, taken with my iPhone while messing around with the grand puppy. There is no way I would have been able to take this with my big camera.

The takeaway - If you need to give something a different name to make it work for you, do it! The most important part is not to quit. You will be creatively blessed by staying the course.