Wednesday, November 25, 2015

What Lies Within

"There's no need to be perfect to inspire others. Let people get inspired by how you deal with your imperfections."
I recently came across this quote in the large storeroom that is my inspiration/quote board on Pinterest.  I was looking for the perfect quote to go with this photo on Instagram...

 I instantly identified with the words, even if it might not be the perfect quote for the photo.

You see I am just coming off a ten-day e-course on conceptual photography with the amazing Catherine Just called Begin Deepening. While conceptual photography is not something that I plan to add to my current work, the course was instrumental in showing me some things that I knew, things I had even written down a time or two, but like they say seeing is believing.

I have always aimed in this space to be as real and honest as I can. My life isn't just pretty pictures and thoughtful stories, there are fears, huge fears, tons of resistance, guilt, and lots of imperfection. In keeping with my nature, I thought I would share with you some of the things I learned about myself in this ten-day course. My hope in sharing, is that someone else will read the words and think "oh, thank goodness, she feels like that too."

Day 1

My secret is that I walk to escape, I walk to be alone. My truth is that I walk to find myself.

It is in that time alone that I have the space and the clarity to look deep inside myself and discover things about myself and my work. I love my family and friends, but I HAVE to have that time alone to find creative inspiration.

Day 3
Journaling/Mind Mapping

Through my already extensive journaling process, and Catherine's prompts, I built this rock cairn. The rock cairn symbolizes my blog; a place where I stack pretty pictures and words, one on top of the other, creating something beautiful. In theory there is nothing wrong with something pretty, until it holds you back from doing something. My blog like the rock cairn is a safe place,  a place where everyone likes me and gives me wonderful words of encouragement. Between the layers though, are shadows, in the shadows lives fear. Fear of failing, but even worse, fear of succeeding if I leave the safe place of my blog and put my work out into the wider world.

Day 4

It is time to start dismantling the cairn (don't worry the blog isn't going anywhere) and taking those precious stones that are my beloved stories and start sending them out in the world, sending them skipping out across the water, letting them land where they may, and start to make ripples outward.

Enough talk, it is time to take I am working on a story that I WILL submit to Bella Grace by the January 15 deadline. I would love some accountability, so...if you think of it, email me on January 14, 15 or 16 and see if I held true to my word. I am ready to face that fear that lives in the shadows, either the fear of failure or the fear of success, which ever it may be. Either way I am going to start skipping stones/stories out across the water this next year.

Day 10
Intuition Revisited

My journey over the last four years has been a long one and certainly not a straight one. Most times there was no clear end in sight, but the last few months have been a turning point for me. I now have a straighter path, and a clearer destination to journey towards.

Some of the other days from the course I am still digging deeper into, but I hope to share some of those thoughts before the end of the year. 

If you are curious about what a course like this could do for you, there is another one starting on Monday, November 30 with Henry Lohmeyer who has a partnership with Catherine Just. His e-course is called Still, check it out here. I'll be there.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Traveling the Road of Curiosity

"Curiosity starts with the itch to explore"
                                 ~ Ian Leslie

I had already driven past the large wooden sign once. As I drove past, I could feel the strong tug of curiosity, I circled back. Now I was staring the sign in the face for the second time, and I was still prepared to turn my back on it and drive away.

"We spend our entire lives at the entrance of a cave, caught between the safety of the familiar and the yearning for novelty."
                                                                                ~ Ian Leslie 
 The sign pointed the way to The Kinzua Bridge State Park, four miles away. The yearning novelty of a bridge to photograph, or the safety of a paved, two lane highway headed towards my end destination, home. The yearning for discovery was very strong. What held yearning back was the fear of disappointment. More than once I have followed a sign that held the promise of great adventure or spectacular sights; a sweeping high bluff above a rocky shore, a lighthouse in the near distance or cascading wooden stairs going down to the perfect sandy beach. Instead I would find a playground filled with run-down playground equipment perched on a small spit of grass on top of the rocky bluff, no cascading wooden stairs to the sandy shore, only large amounts of trash stuck in every  crevice on the rocks below. I knew disappointment. 

Yearning speaks "They wouldn't name a State Park after a bridge if it wasn't something." Disappointment counters "It might just be a rickety wooden bridge in the middle of the forest, spanning a dried up creek." Yearning having grown tired of this internal debate, speaks loudly and clearly "TURN RIGHT". I began the four mile drive down the paved country road.

I had left my rental cabin early that morning. I had spent almost a week photographing blazing Pennsylvania fall foliage. It had been three hours since my departure from the cabin and I was ready to get out of the car for a while to stretch my legs, and satisfy my yearning for a photograph or two. I had already passed many splendid country landscapes dotted with the most eye-catching wooden structures that morning, but without the time or the space to pull my car to the side and get a few shots with my camera, yearning was restless.  

"Choosing to be curious is choosing to be vulnerable because it requires us to surrender to uncertainty."
                                                                              ~Brene Brown 

Once I reached the entrance to the state park, the fear of disappointment reared it's ugly head again. The entrance was a muddy, rutty gravel mess. What possible good could be down a road like this? As I neared the parking area, there was more mud, along with high metal construction fences, construction workers and no sign of this supposed bridge. It couldn't be that big or that exciting if I couldn't even see it. But, I was this far already, I might as well follow curiosity all the way to the end. 

Porta Potties that served as the restrooms lined one edge of the field. Sometimes you have to take what you can get, at least it wasn't a hot and humid day. Once safely out of the porta potties, I noticed the white paper signs taped to the high, metal construction fences - Bridge Skywalk - and an arrow pointing left.

I followed those white paper signs right to the most awe-inspiring sight...

The Kinzua Bridge was constructed by 125 men in a mere 94 days. The Kinzua Bridge was the longest, and tallest viaduct in the world when completed in 1882.

Standing 301 feet tall (24 feet higher than the Brooklyn Bridge) and 2,053 feet long, the span was billed as the "Eighth Wonder of the World".

On Monday, July 21, 2003, at approximately 3:15 p.m., a F1 tornado (wind speed 73-112 mph) struck the side of the Kinzua Viaduct. Eleven towers from the center of the bridge were torn from their concrete bases and thrown to the valley floor.

Today, park visitors can once again walk a portion of the Kinzua Bridge. Built on six restored, original towers, a pedestrian walkway (skywalk) leads to a 225-foot high observation deck that gives a towering view of the Kinzua Creek Valley. 

I am so glad that I chose to listen to the yearning voice of curiosity, that I chose to be vulnerable and risk disappointment. I know that there will still be times of disappointment when I chose to follow a large wooden sign, but there will also be times of unmeasurable joy.


Friday, November 6, 2015

The Artcation

Where would I go if I had a whole week to devote to photography? Honestly, I had never given that question much thought before this year. Before this year, I had neither the time or the opportunity to take a whole week away and devote it to photography.

Recently though, I spent almost a week in the Tioga State Forest area of Pennsylvania with my friend Andrea. Andrea and I have been friends for a few years now, we met in an on-line photography class. We had never met in person before this trip, our sole communication over the years was via email. We have talked many times about meeting somewhere for a week of photography. In January of this year we made the decision to make it happen, we would met for a week of Autumn photography in October. Andrea is from New Jersey and I am from Michigan, Pennsylvania seemed like a nice place in the middle.

I first heard the term Artcation while I was listening to the podcast Lenswork, narrated by Brooks Jensen, while on my two day drive to Pennsylvania. Brooks describes the Artcation as a vacation dedicated to your art, whether it be photography, painting, writing, etc. I had never taken an Artcation before, but that was what I was embarking on, a week dedicated to photography.

Andrea and I are very different people, which is probably why we worked so well together. Once settled in at our cabin, she pulled out her leather portfolio of maps of the area, things to see, and  her checklist of things she wanted to photograph that week. I, on the other hand, had my very large road atlas of the entire United States, two tourism guides on Ohio that I had picked up the day before on my way through Ohio, and my cell phone with Google Maps on it, the Google Maps app. that was rendered useless due to the fact there was no cell service in the valley where our cabin was. Thankfully our cabin owners had also provided a variety of travel literature on the area, and Andrea had things planned out for us to do the next day.

Every day we were out shooting. Sometimes early in the morning, hoping to catch a sunrise but generally getting misty fog, which was alright by me, I love fog. While Andrea had her checklist of things to photograph, I tended to shoot more like a starling attracted to a pretty bauble.

A week of dedicated photography and conversations about photography gave me time to analyze my work. What did I like shooting? What did I not like shooting? I kept coming back to the question that Brooks posed in his podcast - Instead of: where do you want to go on your Artcation? The question should be: what do you want to shoot on your Artcation? I came to realized that woods filled with colorful trees is not what I would chose to shoot. It felt too closed in to me, too much chaos. I came to realize that I like to stand on the edge of what I photograph and observe it, not be in the middle of it.

I prefer a muted color scheme, like the blues, browns, and grays of my summer photography at the Lake Michigan state park near my house. I do not like an abundance of color, again for me it creates chaos.

I loved shooting right near our cabin, where there were barns, houses, a horse in a pasture, fog for muted color schemes, and the open space of the rail trail that ran right in front of our cabin.

My favorite day of shooting was the morning we went to a marsh area, and set up in an enclosed, wooden structure out in the marsh. A structure, muted colors, and open space. Heaven.

The thing I learned most, was that this trip to Pennsylvania was necessary in so many ways. I had to discover what I didn't like to shoot in order to finally put my finger on what I do like to shoot. Also I learned how wonderful it is to share an almost week with somebody else who has a passion for photography.

So where would I chose for my next Artcation?

  • Circle Tour of Lake Michigan
  • Maine, along the coast
  • Covered bridges in Indiana
  • US 2 from Michigan's U.P. to Montana
  • Ireland (saving that for my 50th birthday)
This doesn't mean that I don't want to go other places, I love traveling. Each trip I take, no matter where, provides valuable experiences. This Artcation provided extremely valuable experiences for both Andrea and I.

You may be wondering about the term "almost week". Unfortunately Andrea had a slip and fall accident on Wednesday afternoon and broke her leg. She went back to New Jersey that night in order to see an orthopedic doctor on Thursday.  Sadly our week ended too soon.  I stayed another day by myself, but then packed up and headed for home, it just wasn't as fun without my friend.


Lenswork Podcast Episode LW0910 The Artcation