Sunday, December 17, 2017

2018 | The One Word

There are many benefits to doing a 365 Day Photography Project. Words like perseverance, determined, focused, discipline, improved, all come to mind. But I have also discovered that I am so focused on getting that one great good photograph for the day that something has become lost. I have lost the ability to tell the story that a series of good photographs can convey.

Last week I put on my bravery bonnet and submitted this photograph to the FaceBook Group that goes with David duChemin's photography class - The Compelling Frame. This is what I wrote to accompany the photograph: 

"For the most part I have been happy to sit back and read what others post, enjoy their photography, occasionally comment and leave it there. You know the scary thing...sharing your own photography, yes I have been trying to avoid it. But, honestly how is that going to help my growth. This week, I took an idea from a challenge in another group I am in and went to the laundromat. I have wanted to do a personal project at a laundromat for the last two years. Monday I conquered fear and the curious looks from other laundromat patrons and took my camera out. First scary obstacle cleared, now the second...sharing a photo here."

I wasn't looking for feedback or praise. I simply wanted to push myself to start sharing in the group. But I got good feedback anyway, even from the instructor himself:

"Very geometric. Very isolated. I find it hard to give good feedback on this one because I don't know where you're at in the learning process, Sarah. If you're closer to the beginning this is an excellent exercise in geometry and in creating a clear subject. If you're further along then I'd like to see the whole series and see if there isn't something there with more story, or more of an emotional hook, or stronger conceptual contrasts, perhaps."

In his response was the WORD that had been hammering on my creative heart for the last few weeks - STORY. I knew exactly what he was talking about and I knew that I had let what made my photography compelling in 2016 slip away - the STORY. 

Once I opened my heart to the Word, I remembered the Adobe Spark stories that I did at the end of 2016, my favorite being the one titled Connections that I shot at our public library with my daughter. But that raised another question that I posed to David along with this photograph...

Question - Is it wrong to set the story up? 

The overwhelming response was: No, it isn't wrong to stage the story. Even when we frame a landscape photograph from our own perspective, we are skewing what we want people to see. 

Again David's response spoke to something deep inside me...

"I’m inclined to side with the masses on this one. I have no problem with setting the stage like this. Cinematographers do it all the time. Novelists put their characters where and how they want. I’ll say it again, where art is concerned: there ain’t no rules and there is no “should” except what you desire and what serves your intent."

It was the single sentence "Cinematographers do it all the time." 

That sentence gave the nod to something else that has been rumbling around in my head. An on-line course taught by Xanthe Berkeley called Make Films. I have a strong urge to explore film making. I feel the experience will contribute greatly to my ability to create stories. The course begins January 9, 2018. I haven't decided for sure yet, but I have written on my desk calendar on Tuesday, December 26 - Decide on Xanthe Film Class!

My One Word for 2018 is STORY...

Thursday, December 7, 2017

365 Project

Day 80

On September 3, 2017 I began what I like to think of as my third successful 365 Project, I am only 95 days in, so at this point it is still speculation whether I will actually finish it.

Day 1

I had no intention of starting a 365 Project, it was just a whim, inspired by the photo above. A plate empty of Labor Day snacks casually left on the steps to the deck, while my girl played frisbee with her dog in the sun-warmed, late summer grass. Something about the way the light was hitting plate, the weeds that were poking through the railing, made me want to capture the moment.

Day 4

Capturing that moment made me think about other every day moments that I would like to document to tell the story of a year in my life.

Day 5

My last successful 365 Project began on September 1, 2013 and ended August 31, 2014. I knew I had an album of almost all of those photos on Flickr, so I took a trip down memory lane as I went through the album. Back then I had just begun doing Backroads Adventures, it was fun to see those places again for the first time. Both my golden retrievers were alive in 2013, seeing photos of them was bittersweet. In my new 365 project, Findley, the grand dog, gets to be the star of the show.

Day 59

In the 2013-2014 project, I was part of a group doing it together, that support was priceless. This time I will be doing it alone. In the 2013-2014 project, we didn't have any constraints, just post a photo a day in the Flickr group; any subject, any lens, any camera. This time I wanted a little more structure, maybe not necessarily in subject matter but in something...

Day 43

Since that first Labor Day photo was taken with my Canon and the Lensbaby Velvet 56 Lens, I decided to do the whole project with the constraint of the Velvet 56 Lens. I love the lens and using it for a whole year will definitely force me to know it like the back of my hand. The lens has the capability for macro and also great depth and detail, perfect.

Day 63

Things were going along great until my mom had her emergency heart surgery. Suddenly, I was trapped in a hospital while it rained and rained outside. But...I was already 61 days into this project, and I refused to lose those completed days, I refused to quit, so I did the best I could with what I had.

Day 73

November was definitely "the lows" compared to "the highs" of September and October. Even our family trip to Disney failed to inspire me, but still I refused to quit. I kept pushing on, taking it day by day, knowing that none of these would be my favorites but they were proof of perseverance, and there is something to be said for that. There will be more "lows" and "highs" before this year of 365 photos is over.

Day 37

Winter will present its own set of challenges, the inability to go outside, the cold, the snow.

Day 91

But this is my story, my adventure, my life and it must include all the exhilarating highs and disastrous lows because that is how life's sea billows roll.

If you are interested in seeing all of my 365 photos thus far hopefully this link will work.

**One interesting little tidbit my Lensbaby Velvet 56 lens arrived on my door step one year ago today. We have come a long way together in a year

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Scene & Story - November 2017

This photograph is what I have come to think of as "my style". If you look at my Instagram you will see that my feed is full of this type of look this fall; muted browns and grays, leaning towards the warm side of life, a bit painterly, and usually including leading lines of some sort.

Usually this type of shot is taken with my iPhone and processed with my own customized filter in the app. Stackables. But this shot was taken with my Canon 6D and my Lensbaby Velvet 56 lens. Knowing my "style" so fully now, it was fairly easy for me to recreate "the look" in Lightroom with a Preset, a graduated filter and some burning with the brush tool. The SOOC shot is below:

Even though this is probably a fairly true version of how the scene actually looked, in hindsight I should have stopped down a stop to maybe -1, but even at that, the top photography is how the scene felt to me, and how I wanted to share it with you.

Monday afternoon I was able to escape for a little while, to get back to what I love and keeps me

**JUST A NOTE: This is the second to last Scene & Story. Leon and I committed to one full year, so with the posting on January 7, 2018 of December's favorite photo, that will conclude the year. We have loved hosting this link up, and hope some of you will continue the practice on your own, but we are also ready to embrace 2018 and try some new things.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Happiest Place on Earth

Photo Credit: Mallory Huizenga

It has been 2-1/2 years since we took a family vacation. We have been planning a vacation to the happiest place on earth for the last six months. The reservations were all made, the flights books, all of it paid for in full. Then a week before we were due to leave my mother had emergency heart surgery, and thoughts of a week in the sun flew out the window.

My sister-in-law encouraged us to hold off on canceling our trip until we saw how mom was doing. We set a deadline of Wednesday, three days before we were due to leave, to make our final decision. Thanks to amazing surgeons, hospital staff, my mom's feisty demeanor, and the grace of God, my mom made fast and steady improvement. We knew she would still either be in the hospital or the rehab facility while we were gone, so my dad wouldn't be dealing with her on his own at home. So with my dad's insistence, and my brother and sister-in-law's blessing we flew out early Saturday morning for our family vacation to Walt Disney World.

The last time we were at Disney was October of 2009, Mallory was still in high school then, now she is 24 and has been out of college for over two years. In 2009 the economy was not great, The Great Recession in full swing, more families were doing staycations then traveling. In 2017 Disney was different and we were different.

The economy has recovered well in those eight years. We saw many large family groups (all with matching Disney t-shirts) in every park we went to. In 2009 we could get off a ride, wait 15 minutes and get back on again, in 2017 we could get off a ride and wait two hours to get back on again. Thank goodness for fast passes.

Also we had to navigate Disney as three adults, not two parents and a child. It had its challenges but by the end of the week we had found a good rhythm.

At the end of most trips we always reflect on favorite things and things we would do differently, so here are some of those reflections:

Favorite Things:

Resort - Port Orleans Riverside
Our budget-friendly All-Star Resort days are long behind us. Since then we have tried a few different resorts, all wonderful in their own way and this trip was no different. This time we stayed at Port Orleans - Riverside. As an early morning walker, I love a good walking path and this resort had a great one along the river. We don't spend a lot of time at the resort, so pools and restaurants are not a big concern. BUT... the very best thing about this resort was the mattress. I have struggled with back problems my whole adult life, and traveling and sleeping in hotels can be a challenge. But this mattress was out of this world, every morning I woke up feeling well rested and had not a single ache or pain, even after walking 10-13 miles for the day and standing on concrete. I am on the hunt for this mattress for my own bed.

Our family favorite is still the Safari in Animal Kingdom, we probably saw the most animals we have ever seen this trip.

Glen and Mallory loved Avatar the new ride in Animal Kingdom, that was their favorite. I am proud of myself that I did the ride, but I will stick with Soarin' as the gentler favorite of a screen/movement ride.

Classic favorites are Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, and It's A Small World.

We are a family who loves food, so restaurants and restaurant experiences make a difference to us.
Favorite - Artist Pointe at Wilderness Lodge. Great attention to Mallory's lactose sensitivity, wonderful service and the food...
Second Favorite - Biergarten in Germany at Epcot. Again, great attention to Mallory's sensitivity, great buffet and the experience of sitting with other families at our table, always a delight.

Things to do different:

Resort - Next time we would probably stay at Wilderness Lodge and possibly rent a cabin on the water, and spend more time at the resort.

Restaurants - Next time we would plan our restaurants to coincide with the park we are at for the day, makes it easier to stay for fireworks. Or if we stayed at the cabin on the water, we could cook some of our own meals.

Cruise - We would also consider doing a Disney Cruise next time, if there were grandchildren on the trip, but that is a ways away yet ;)

Highly Recommend:
Our Disney Travel Planner Lisa Koedyker -
Lisa lives in my town, so I had the pleasure of meeting her in person, but she can help you with your trip no matter where you live. I left a lot in Lisa's hands and she was awesome, including having to work with our family emergency. I can't thank Lisa enough for everything.

We will be taking another family vacation next year and have already started working on it, but this one will be closer to home. The plan is to rent a cottage on a lake up north for a week, a cottage that is dog friendly so then Findley can come too. 

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

In The Blink of An Eye

In the blink of an eye. Before and After.

All those cliche sayings that seem so trite until you have your own before and after. One moment you are picking up the latest round of sticks and small tree limbs that have impelled your front yard from the last fierce wind and driving rain. Loading them into the wheelbarrow to add to the huge mound already piled next to your fire pit, wishing that the timer that you set for  thirty minutes would hurry up and sound so you could take a break and get a drink of water. The only way you get through this tedious task, is to do it in increments of half hours. Your watch rings, you have left your phone in the house, happy to be away from it for just a little while. You see it is your dad, he probably just wants to know if you need help with your leaves. You let it ring through to voice mail, knowing he would never hear you talking on your watch, and it seems too James Bond anyway.

Your dad leaves a voice mail, and your thirty minute timer sounds, so off to the house to get a drink and listen to the voice mail. As you walk towards the house another number rings on your watch, one you don't recognize, but you have a not so good feeling when you see it. You hurry faster to the house to get your phone, to listen to the voicemail.

Your dad's voice. Words... Mom, Emergency Room, Heart

You try to call him back, get nothing. You try that other number - the Hospital. Same words...Mom, Emergency Room, Heart.

Last week Thursday, my mother suffered a tear in her aorta artery. She was rushed to the heart center in the city, and emergency surgery was performed. New valve and a graft to replace the section of the aorta that had the tear. Thus far she is recovering well, and the doctors are pleased with her progress. Lots of unknowns at this point, but to add one more cliche to the story; we have a long road ahead.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Scene & Story - October 2017

Window by Sam Luna

She stares out the window each day
Before the sun sets away
Drinking tea and wondering
What could other people be doing?

There was nothing to see
Just buildings
And hanging clothing
On other people's housing

The wind blows
Her eyes blur
She sips tea
Her mind leaves

The images of yesterday come
The emotions of today emerge
In her mind she hums
And with the wind she surges

No one could really understand why
This girl would want to fly
All her thoughts are recurring
But only the window knows what she's thinking

Since starting to do Wild Writing at the beginning of September, I have been reading a lot of poetry. I have always struggled with poetry; pretty words but where's the story. Then I realized the words are the story. 

Poetry makes me think about photography, moments I would like to capture. I will never be a poet, poetry requires a level of feeling I am not sure I will ever obtain. But poetry helps me to identify that fluttery feeling inside me when I raise the camera and press the shutter. 

This was taken at Greenfield Village when my husband and I were there for a date weekend in mid-October.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Seduction of Lines

I have never been more giddy to go out and photograph than I have since I started Lesson Four of David duChemin's The Compelling Frame.

Lesson Four is all about Line & Shape.

I have been obsessed with leading lines - lines that draw your eye to something, something often magical or mysterious, since doing a 100 day photography project on Instagram the spring and summer of 2015. 

Vertical Lines

Lines that I am learning to love are vertical lines. The is power and energy in this photo when the frame is vertical and the focus is as much the vertical post as it is the padlock. Compare this to the same shot taken in horizontal orientation.

Horizontal Lines

Horizontal lines are stable. When you look at these compositions how do they make you feel? 


Then there are the most seductive lines of all - the storytelling lines...

What lines are you most drawn to? 
  • Stable Horizontal Lines
  • Powerful Vertical Lines
  • Eye Pulling Diagonal Lines
  • Organic, Winding S-Curves
  • Magical and Mysterious Leading Lines