Thursday, July 31, 2014

5 Random Friday Finds

Find No. 1

I found the golf course is a great place to do some homework for your mobile phone photography class.

Find No. 2

I also found a lone tree at the golf course. I love lone trees.

Find No. 3

I have finally found my favorite size/style notebook to write in, the Composition Book. The beautiful thing is you can pick these up right now for 50 cents to $1 because of back to school time of year.

Find No. 4

I have also found that patterned paper clips are great to use for place markers.

Find No. 5

Sometimes you find the right words at exactly the right time. Even better when they are on your grande Chai Latte :)

Joining Kim for Friday Finds

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Class Begins

I write early in the morning, before the day begins for most people. I have spent the last two weeks establishing a writing routine, so that when the Write Now class with Amanda Mays began this habit would already be partially formed.

I have been setting my alarm for 5 a.m. each day. The first week I bounded out of bed as soon as the alarm went off, excited to get writing. The second week it took a full five minutes for the desire to write and the sleepy body to come to an agreement that it would be good to get out of bed.

Despite that five minute delay I have been getting up and writing every day at a set time. I am not trying to squeeze in 15 minutes of writing somewhere between walking the dogs, grocery shopping and laundry.

Now that I have made writing a priority, the first thing I do instead of the last, I have to say the whole day is filled with joy because I am making time to do something that I love.

Monday morning the first lesson came for class; acknowledge your fears and write them down. What? I don't have any fears, I just want to establish a daily writing routine with some nice little writing prompts for each day. I don't want to write about my fears.

Then the voice of reason spoke up. "You are taking this class so you can become a better writer, establish a daily writing routine and face your fears about writing. You must have fears or you would have been doing all this much sooner. "

Well ok, there may be one or two fears that should be addressed.

I think my biggest fear is that I don't know where to go with my writing. I am someone who likes to have a purpose for whatever I am doing or else it seems like wasted time. I know that if I didn't have my blog to write and photograph for, and then share with my readers there would be no motivation for me to write or to photograph. I am not a keep a journal for my personal thoughts kind of person. Yet shouldn't I be striving for something more than just writing a blog? If you write isn't your end goal to write a book and make some money?

What if I don't want to write a book, at least not a novel. Now a book of short stories might be a possibility. I don't want to lose artistic control and be told what I should do. That is what I love about my blog, I can write whatever I want with complete freedom. Then I thought, I am taking this class and I am being told what to write about and I am doing it, so maybe this is shaping me for the future.

My other fear would be, what if my writing voice disappears. It has happened before when life has gotten busy and there was little time to think let alone write. This is where establishing my 5 a.m. writing routine will be essential. There are no interferences this early in the morning. The test will be when we are traveling. This is usually when I lose my writing voice. I am pretty sure though that my husband will not appreciate the hotel desk lamp shining brightly at 5 a.m.. This can be remedied if I have all my writing stuff together and go down to the lobby or breakfast room, I can easily get an hour of writing in before the rest of the world wakes up.

I am enjoying this daily writing practice much too much to let anything get in my way at this point. Over the next four weeks the daily writing will get firmly cemented into place and who knows what will happen from there.

I must put my fears aside, trust the process and enjoy seeing where this journey takes me.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Marvels of the Midway

The thing I love about observation writing is that you can not go out with preconceived ideas about what you are going to write, because when you do it almost always twists into something else completely. I went to the fair with the preconceived idea of writing about the midway rides and making observations about the people that were there in the middle of a Tuesday morning, but what this story turned into just as much was a story about animals with big sad eyes, and one animal in particular a sweet little donkey with sad eyes and a soft velvety muzzle.

It has been many years since I have been to the fair. Even when my beautiful girl was little we were at best sporadic attenders. The fair has been on my bucket list of things to do for the past couple of years though, ever since I picked up my camera with the intent of finally learning photography. This year had double purpose, I wanted to capture the stories as much as the photographic sights.

Most days the fair doesn't start until later in the day, gates opening mid afternoon and the rides beginning at supper time. This schedule catering to the working parent. However, this day must have been the early bird day, gates opening mid morning and rides starting at noon. I chose to arrive shortly after the gates opened. I wanted to wander the midway before it actually opened so that I could get unhindered, people less photos of the rides. Which may very well defeat the purpose of the fair, but that is just the way I work, people less photos yet stories full of people.

Leaving the field where I had parked, I had to walk past the pole barn where some heifer judging was in progress. Being an animal lover those sad little heifer eyes pulled me right into the bleachers of that pole barn. I climbed to the top of the bleachers and raised my camera to my eye, focusing on their sad, long lashed eyes. A few shots taken I pulled out my notebook and pen to start making some notes.

Not being a knowledgable cow person I had to look up the definition of a heifer: a young female cow that has not borne a calf. How do you evaluate a heifer? I would never think to describe one as well balanced and setting well on her legs, long through the rib cage with a nice deep V at the top of her ribs. On one particular heifer the judge wished for a bit more maturity in her face. After watching and listening to this I will never look at a cow the same way again.

Leaving the judging barn I moved on to the 4-H barn, wandering past more cows, mature cows not heifers, goats, sheep, alpacas and then my favorite, the donkeys. I made my way down the line, giving each a little pet and head rub. Then I got to this sweet girl, the littlest of the bunch. She stood so calmly as I stroked the patch of mane high on her forehead and then as my hand traveled down to that velvety soft muzzle. Never once searching my hand for food, she just wanted me to keep petting her and realistically I could have stayed and done just that all day long. What a great stress reliever petting is, I can see why pet therapy is such a wonderful thing.

From the barn I finally headed towards my initial purpose for coming here; the midway. I wandered the loop, camera in hand, snapping each bright colored marvel in its stillness. The rides had all seemed so much bigger and scarier when I was young. Part of it I think is that we always came in the  evening after a supper eaten at home, the bright lights and loud noises amplified in the dusky light. The other part was that after one unfortunate ride on the Tilt-A-Whirl where my mother's cooking didn't stay in my tummy I have had an aversion to anything that whirls or spins.

Having wandered the ride loop I now searched out a place to sit and write for a while with my food booth delectables of a large size Pepsi and a smallish cup of fresh from the fryer french fries. I found a spot at a slightly sticky red vinyl covered picnic table located under a shade canopy. I had positioned myself in the perfect observation triangle, in the middle between a food booth, a game booth and across from the carousel.

Maybe it was grandparents day today since most little ones seemed to be holding the hand of one, also probably the reason for the earlier opening.  By half past eleven small crowds were starting to gather in front of the ticket booth anxious to get the day underway. Some of the game booths had opened already, hoping to lure some of the grannies and grandpas with a pocket full of money and little patience into letting their small charges play and potentially win an overstuffed, oversized neon colored Tweety Bird, which they will then have to carry around for the rest of the afternoon, unless grandma gets smart and sends grandpa off to the car with it.

This is by far no Disneyland, as an all-in-black clad carnival worker wandered past with a lone cigarette butt dangling out of his long handled, trash clean-up pinchers. Yet he walked right on by some large loose chunks of asphalt on the walking path. Those chunks would do a lot more damage to an unsuspecting toe than that lone cigarette butt.

The air was heavy with excitement, or was that just the heat. The noon hour had arrived it was time for the rides to begin. I turned my attention to the carousel. The first and only riders for its inaugural run were a dad, his young son who looked to be about two, and his daughter who looked to be about four. The little boy caught my attention for two reasons, first his dad was of course standing next to him to make sure he didn't fall off, and second for his adorable sky blue, Thomas the Tank Engine rain boots. Then I  looked at the little girl's feet, black rain boots with pastel flowers on them. Now let me say there was no forecast of rain for the day, and the temperatures were suppose to reach the upper 80's by mid afternoon. I am pretty sure that dad was here by himself with the kids and that he let them dress themselves that morning. I can almost bet that in an hour their feet are going to be awful hot and they aren't going to be wanting to wear those boots anymore. Hopefully dad brought some back up flip flops along.

Having captured everything that I had come for: stories, photographs and even some unexpected pet therapy, it was time to pack up the notebook, pen and camera and head for home. Three hours had pasted much more quickly than I expected. As I made my way back to the car, I made a quick stop off at the donkey barn for a few more gentle strokes to the sweet girl's muzzle. As I passed the judging barn there were some draft horses in there for a potty break.

I stopped for a quick minute to take a few shots and watch these beautiful creatures. As I sat there I noticed these kids at the fence railings across the barn from me.

The girl in the pink top and the rain boots seemed to be the perfect capture of the essence of the fair and summer.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

5 Random Friday Finds

Find No. 1

 I found a favorite new set of Lightroom Presets - The Black and White Workflow Collection from Pretty Presets. I love how I can customize my black and white looks.

Find No. 2

My husband is always telling me how I should go back to work so we can pay the house off faster and then move to the Leelanau Peninsula, well here it is. I am sure it would be an interesting job with lots of great stories.

Find No. 3

I have long been a lover of pencils for writing, particularly sharp pencils. Well I found these pens last week thanks to the supply list for my writing class that starts on Monday. I can never go back to a pencil after using one of these.

Find No. 4

I found this lovely handmade pottery piece this week to hold all my writing pens and the random pencil.

Find No. 5

I found this lone section of snow fence when I was at the beach this week.

Bonus Find

My new canvas is up over my writing desk. I can't tell you how happy it makes me to look at this every morning at 5 a.m.

Joining Kim for Friday Finds

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Photography, Travel and Food

The obsession with taking photos of my food began in the summer of 2007 when my daughter and I traveled to London and Paris as part of a school tour group.

At that time I had a medium sized Canon Powershot camera. The wonder of pocket size photography in the form of a camera phone was not even on the horizon yet. I was on my second mobile phone at this point, a very glamorous flip phone, used only for telephone calls. Texting was torture and the camera was a joke.

It was our first day in London. We had arrived that morning on an overnight flight from Chicago. The hope had been that we would sleep on the plane so we could hit the ground running once we arrived in London. Staving off sleep until normal bedtime that night.

We walked all over the city that first day. Basically we were walking zombies by the time supper time came that evening, since very few of us had actually slept on the plane. I had been unfortunate enough to have a tall turbaned guy reclining into my lap for most of the flight, so there was definitely no sleep happening for me. I was beyond tired at this point, until I saw this sign...

Authentic English food, something nourishing in our bellies and the chance to sit down for while. The hardest part was going to be staying awake, of which some of the kids were not successful. 

When that plate of fish and chips and smashed peas arrived I knew I wanted to document this European culinary adventure with a photograph. This is were having that medium sized camera with a fixed lens comes into play. It was a bit of a tricky task to get far enough away from the food to get the shot, and standing on the chair was going to get attention that I didn't want. Also since it was quite dark in the pub I had to use my flash. By far not ideal photographic conditions or ideal equipment.

After that shot though I was hooked on photographically capturing the rest of our culinary experiences on the trip. Many shots have about the same photo quality as the one above, and it is hard to blend in while taking photos of your food in a restaurant with a camera only slightly smaller than a dslr. But the memories that are attached to each of these photos are priceless and bring back wonderful memories.

Pasties in the Village of Windsor, enjoyed after touring the Windsor Castle.

A baked potato at Covent Garden, shared with my beautiful girl.

A calorie laden hot fudge brownie and hot chocolate at a Cafe' in Paris.

I wish knew then what I know now about photography, but at the time I was still very much a scrapbooker concentrating on documenting the experience as opposed to the aesthetics of the shot.

Today I am still obsessed with taking photos of my food when we travel. Thanks to the wonderful iPhone I can do it much more descreately and the quality has greatly improved.

This was taken on our trip westward last summer at a restaurant in downtown Bismarck, North Dakota. Flourless Chocolate cake and ice cream to be shared with my guy. As you can see my obsession has spread to my family.  

How about you, do you photograph your culinary adventures while traveling? Or am I alone in my obsession.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Photography and Road Trips

Do you travel to photograph or photograph as you travel?

I start out thinking that I pick our vacation destinations partly because they are beautiful places filled with lots of photographic opportunities. However, there are certain things you learn about yourself any time you set out on a big adventure. I learned these things last summer on our two week road trip to Montana. Our end goal was Glacier National Park, beautiful photo opportunities around every curve in the road.

My husband and I took almost a week of planned wandering to reach our end goal. We, translated into I, wanted to see some other National Parks along the way, places we had never been to before and may never get to again.

Our first major stop, after traveling across Michigan's very long Upper Peninsula, was Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. What a beautiful place, filled with historic old buildings and a volunteer park ranger who was willing to take the two of us on a personal tour of a historic fishery and tell us lovely historic tales about the family that lived there. Read the post I wrote on the Hokenson Fishery here.

After we left Apostle Islands we traveled along U.S. 2 which meanders west along the top of Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota and Montana.

So many sights of delight were spied through my car window, yet we could not stop at every one or it would take us all day just to get across Wisconsin, and we needed to be in central North Dakota by nightfall.

My husband was probably grumbling under his breath that we would get there so much faster if we dropped down to the Interstate where you could travel at a heart racing 80-85 mph. Instead we traveled along a two lane highway at a sedate 65 mph. The beauty of America is not found along the need for speed Interstates, but it can still be found in all its decaying glory along the unhurried scenic highways and back roads.

When we reached Montana and Glacier National Park all photographic joy had left me. Maybe it was having to pass by too many inspiring photographic sights along the way that left me unfilled and a bit depressed. Maybe it was the thought "What could I photography differently that hasn't already been photographed a million times." Most of all though it was the feeling of always being in a hurry. I was more than content to travel the park, and hike the trails with just my trusty iPhone, leaving my dslr in the car.

I did get a few shots here and there that make me happy, but for the most part Glacier was captured on an iPhone.

I learned a few things, well a lot of things, about myself and my photography on this trip.

  • I don't want to feel hurried when I am photographing.
  • I don't like shooting landscapes.
  • I prefer to shoot structures, give me a derelict shed or a rusty barb wire fence any day.
  • I shoot really well on historic tours, which you would think would be a hurried situation, but I like shooting while I am listening.
  • I need to speak up and have my husband pull over occasionally to fulfill that longing to photograph the decaying beauty of America's back roads.

So this brings me back to my initial question. Do you travel to photograph or photograph as you travel?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

5 Random Friday Finds

Find No. 1

I found some much needed photographic inspiration this week in the theme "fences" over at the Photography Project. It was the kick in the butt I needed to get me out shooting again. I have been so wrapped up in house projects the past couple of months that I had no time or desire to go out shooting. Thank goodness that is changing.

Find No. 2

I found the best description of my photography I have ever heard thanks to Nicki at Bended Road Photography.  She said "Your photography strikes me as visual punctuation to add emphasis to your story." I absolutely LOVE this description! I may have to steal this Nicki, of course giving credit where it is due.

Find No. 3

I found getting up early in the morning isn't so bad if you are doing something you love to do. I have been getting up at 5 a.m. this week to finally start my daily (at least week days) writing practice.

Find No. 4

I always find that the canvases that arrive from Shutterfly are so well packaged. I also find that I am always prepared to be disappointed by my photography bigger than life.

Yet I never am. This is going above my writing desk on the porch and replacing the current piece of $13 art that is on the wall. So much more inspirational to look at every morning at 5 a.m.

Find No. 5

Update to last week's No. 3 find. The blue door is now...

The brown door...and I am so much happier. Completes a lovely triangle of brown with the bookcases, the leather couch and now the door. Perfect. Plus it will make picking art to hang on the wall next to the door so much easier.

Joining Kim for Friday Finds
Joining Tanya for Willy Nilly Friday

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Definitions of Photography of Place

I continue to work through the material in the Introduction section of Kat's Sense of Place class. As I mentioned in a previous post, which you can read here, this course is jam packed with amazing inspiration. Since I am no longer on class time, there is no immediate rush to finish. I can dwell on a section as long as I need to.

Defining Photography of Place. These are Kat's definitions and I agree with them. As I read each one I pondered them and thought about how my place, The Leelanau Peninsula related to the definitions.

Even though these definitions are about photography of place, for me it is also about writing of place.

The first type of photography is Travel Photography. Kat writes:

"Most travel photographers take pains to make a place
look inviting, showing the different aspects of a place
to their best effect. Travel photography, 
in my mind equals advertising."

I knew right away that this wasn't the type of photography and writing I was doing. While I will gladly share a favorite historic building, hiking trail, restaurant, shop or winery. I don't really care whether people come or not, I would prefer to keep the Peninsula to myself, quiet and uncluttered of people, their cars and their stuff. 

The photographs I take are not always going to showcase all the beautiful natural and man made wonders here. The things and places that I photograph are what speaks to my heart. 

The second definition of Photography of Place hits closer to truth for me. Documentary Photography:

"Documentary photography strives to show a place
as it is, warts and all. It's about documenting the 
place to tell a story. It may involve many
different aspects of capturing a place, or it may
focus on a single topic. The underlying story the
photographer is telling influences the images
which are captured and shared."

When I first read this I thought "Oh this is it, this is what I am doing", but a couple key components were missing. Where was I in the story? The story is about how I connect with the places within the story. Secondly Kat says "the story the photographer is telling influences the images which are captured and shared." I work the opposite way. The images I capture are the ones that give me that fluttery feeling inside. The photographs influence the story.

Finally I read the third definition, the one that is the basis for the class, this one held the most truth for me.

"When I talk about Photography of Place, I am
talking about photography which is the 
reflection of me and my experience of the places
I visit. There is no intent other than to capture my
experience of the place, and then invite the viewer
to come along. I see and photograph what interests
me, and I share the results. There is no intent to
sell a place or convince you of a certain point
of view. Through my images, the viewer gets
a sense of both the places I visit and who I am."

This sums up perfectly how I feel. Although Kat talks about visiting many places and her connection with them. My story is about one place and the deep connection I have to it. I would love to take you along to the places I discover, tell you about the things I learn and the people I meet.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Dream Manager

How would you like a Dream Manager? Somebody you meet with once a month for an hour long session to discuss your personal dreams and strategies on how to obtain them.

I just finished reading The Dream Manager by Matthew Kelly. A book I would highly recommend. This book has been sitting on a shelf in my "unread books" bookcase for a few years now. I am a firm believer in the fact that you will read a book when the time is right to read it. It was the right time.

Even though this is technically a business book, there is so much material in here that you can apply to your personal life. Whether you are in the business world, a stay at home mom, or a retiree. We all have dreams or at least we all should have dreams. Dreams that motivate us to live our lives to their full potential. 

This is from the inside flap of the jacket cover...

The fictional company in this remarkable book
 is grappling with real problems of high turnover
 and low morale -- so the managers begin to investigate
 what really drives the employees. What they discover
 is that the key to motivation isn't necessarily the promise
 of a bigger paycheck or title, but rather the fulfillment 
of crucial personal dreams. They also learn that people
 at every level need to be offered specific kinds of help
 and encouragement--or our dreams will forever remain 
just dreams as we grow dissatisfied with our jobs and our lives.

So the fictional company, Admiral Janitorial Services, creates the position of Dream Manager. The manager's soul purpose is to meet with employees once a month for an hour and discuss their personal dreams and together come up with strategies on how to obtain those dreams. The dream manager helps employees that are committed to their dreams obtain their first house, their first two week vacation, or something as wonderful as their first "real" Christmas.

This book made me realize that we all need a dream manager, but we can also be a dream manger for someone; our spouse, our children, our best friend. All we need to do is encourage them to tell us a few of their dreams and most importantly, really listen to what they are saying. Talk through some ways to obtain these dreams, a lot of times they already know the answers, they just need to verbalize them. We must also be willing to share our dreams in return.

In our personal and professional lives,
we are constantly crossing paths with
people who have dreams that are fallow
or stagnant because nobody has 
encouraged them to clearly define those
dreams and pursue them.

So how do we get started? Find somebody that we are comfortable sharing our dreams with, a spouse,  a friend, a parent, or even an on-line friend, somebody that you know will truly listen. Schedule a meeting time once a month to discuss each other's dreams.


  • Start writing down your dreams, Mr. Kelly recommends a list of a hundred, using these twelve categories for guidelines:
  1. Physical
  2. Emotional
  3. Intellectual
  4. Spiritual
  5. Psychological
  6. Material
  7. Professional
  8. Financial
  9. Creative
  10. Adventure
  11. Legacy
  12. Character
  • Get yourself a Dream Book. A notebook/journal where you can write your down dreams or paste pictures of your dreams. Something visual and tangible that you can look at over and over again. 
  • Date your dreams as you add them to your Dream Book.
  • Date them again when you achieve them. 
In time, you will look back on your dreams you 
though were impossible when you wrote them down
 and be amazed at the ease with which they were 
finally accomplished...and you will marvel at
 how much you have advanced in the journey.

I am going to get out my journal that I have used for a few classes without much success at filling and fill that thing up all the way. 

What about you? What are some of your dreams? I would love to hear one.

Friday, July 11, 2014

5 Random Friday Finds

Find No. 1

Glen wanted to go to the driving range on Friday afternoon. I do not golf, saves so much aggravation that way, but I do like to go along and watch. I set up my folding camp chair at a safe distance, pulled out my book and started to read. Then I noticed these lovely black bag holders and knew I had to get a photo with my phone. I love how this turned out processed with Distressed FX.

Find No. 2

I find it amazing it took us 11 years to figure out we could trade out the ugly "can" style lights on our track lighting in the kitchen and replace them with smaller, less noticeable ones that put out more light. Also replaced the single ugly "can" style one over the sink with this beautiful glass pendant.

Find No. 3

This door had not been painted in the 11 years we have lived here, until yesterday it was basic white. After painting it yesterday, I know that I don't like this color. Back to the paint chips. Do you like my furry new rug in front of the door?

Find No. 4

I find it interesting that I can sign up for oodles of photography classes without even a moments hesitation, but when it comes to a writing class, I have pondered this for a month now. Maybe it is because I don't have high expectations for my photography, but my writing is another story. I have very high expectations because it is my passion, and maybe I am afraid the teacher is going to discovery that I suck at writing. But I am determined to establish a daily writing routine and this class is going to help me get to that goal.

Find No. 5

I found a new app. for my iPhone that I have been having fun with this week, My Sketch. I love to take the tradition flower shot and do something different with it. I like what it did here. This is the original...

Joining Kim for Friday Finds
Joining Tanya for Willy Nilly Friday