Thursday, June 29, 2017

iPhoneography Workshop - Conner Prairie

I will travel to pursue my creative passions. A great example of that was our "vacation" to Massachusetts in May, the end goal being that I could attend a Creative Photography Conference put together by Hazel Meredith of Meredith Images.

In my previous blog post about the conference, I shared that I fell in love with iPhone Photography again thanks to the presentation and class taught by Michael and Susan Karchmer. In their presentation they highlighted some of their photographer friends' iPhone work, one of them being Rad Drew. Immediately, I felt a connection to Rad's work, both in subject matter and in processing choices. Back in the hotel room that night I looked up his website, and then...even better I saw that he lived near Indianapolis, IN and did occasional workshops in his area. Indianapolis is only a three and a half hour drive from my house. I thought for sure I would have to wait months to attend something, because that how things usually work for me, but to my great delight there was a half day workshop coming up at the end of June. I waited until we returned home from "vacation" before I sprung upon my husband that I thought we should go to that and do it together.

This past weekend was the iPhone Photography workshop at Conner Prairie Museum in Fishers, IN. Fishers seems to be an up and coming suburb just outside Indianapolis. Lots of new construction, and some great restaurants. I will have dining recommendations for you at the end of this post.

Before and After - Sarah Huizenga

Conner Prairie is an interactive history park, a vast display of 1800's life and buildings, perfect for this girl who is obsessed with old buildings, especially if they are white clapboard.

The workshop was from 8:30 a.m. until 12:30ish p.m. We had a good hour and a half of instruction time, then forty-five minutes to go out into the park to shoot, and then we came back together to share images and walk through post-processing of our images we shot.

Before and After - Sarah Huizenga

I am not new to iPhone photography or processing, but I know that there is always more to learn. I love how each instructor I have ever seen has their own personal favorites - camera apps. to shoot with and post-processing apps. What a passionate teacher does is get you excited about the things he/she uses. Rad is all the things I value in an instructor whether in-person or on-line: creative, personable, passionate and has a genuine willingness to share and help.

Before and After - Sarah Huizenga

I have had the Camera+ app forever, it was one of the first apps. I ever bought. I discarded it when I got the iPhone 6 and the native camera was so much better than the one on my iPhone 4s. But Rad made me fall in love with it again, especially after touching on the macro feature. The macro feature I needed to be able to take flower photos with my phone for my 30 Day flower project. The other favorite camera app that he had us use was vividHDR, I have never enjoyed HDR photos, until now.

While Michael and Suz spent most of our hour long class with an in-depth look at Snapseed, the second step app that almost every iPhone photographer uses, Rad walked us briefly through his workflow in that and then it was on to other creative apps: Touch Retouch (great for telephone wire removal and object removal), Front View for building straightening (for a building lover that is very needed), and my two new favorites Artista Oil and Image Blender.

Before and After - Glen Huizenga

My husband and I are very different shooters. He is not afraid to ask people if he can take their photo, must be the salesman in him, unafraid of rejection. I think he had a good time. You can check out his Instagram @glenhuizenga, I know he would love more followers.

Glen Huizenga

I don't think this will be the only time that Rad sees us. He offers lots of location workshops. The one I have my eye on is this one, hopefully next year!

Dining Recommendations
I always put Glen in charge of restaurant research when we are away, and he comes up with some fabulous experiences.

Nickel Plate Bar & Grill

Nickel Plate Bar & Grill
Highly recommend the Chicken tenders. Beer selections were average. Ample parking nearby.

Sun King Brewery

Our usual question for Siri - "Breweries nearby?" A six minute walk from our hotel to a strip mall led us to a tasting room for Sun King Brewery. I always have to defer to Glen when choosing a beer, not being much of a beer drinker. Sun King allows a couple free tastes to help you decide (very helpful to me). I do like a Sour Ale, and there were two fine choices on tap, plus I always get the fancier glass.


Since our small plate experience in Stowbridge, MA we are on the lookout for similar experiences. Though Louvino's website recommended reservations, and we did not have them, we were seated right away at 6:30 p.m. with a fabulous spot on the patio. Even if you don't like Brussel Sprouts, I highly recommend them, to die for! We also had Bacon Wrapped Tater Tots, yum! and Lamb and Veal Meatballs, also yummy. Wine selection was vast.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Coffee Shop Chronicles - A New Beginning

It has been two years since I wrote my last Coffee Shop Chronicle. New coffee shops have continued to sprout up everywhere. Two new ones have opened just this year in my own town, that adds to the three, non-chain fabulous coffee shops we already have.

I happen to be sitting in one of these new coffee houses as I write this. Today is Monday, June 19, 2017 and it's my birthday. I am still one birthday scone away from that momentous half century mark, not that I am terrible worried about it. My forties have been adventure filled, I expected nothing less from my fifties.

Being a Monday, I should be getting groceries and catching up on laundry, but it's my birthday and those things can wait until tomorrow. Instead I started my day with birthday love from my family, a walk at the beach, and then an hour long massage. And now here I am, at The 205 Coffee Bar, preparing for a return to The Coffee Shop Chronicles.

I have no idea if I will be able to write these stories again, even though many things have been pointing in this direction the past several months. I am afraid, afraid that the stories that once were so popular amongst my readers, will not be the same. But they can't be the same, I am not the same, a lot of life has happened in two years. I am a different writer than I was two years ago. I must remember; you can never go back, your only options are standing still or pushing forward. I chose forward.

Recently, I read an article in the Spring issue of Artful Blogging by Nicole Knutsen, titled Playing Shop Girl. In the article, she has me imagine my blog/website as one of many storefronts on internet Main Street. She asks the questions: How would you design it? What would you sell? Who would be your customers? Those questions got my creative mind churning. These were questions I had read before, but I always struggle with the answers. My stumbling block is what to sell, selling not being my focus. I started making a list of answers to these questions, and suddenly it became clear. Just because it's a storefront on internet main street doesn't mean it has be a retail gift shop.

This week I am beginning to build my website. I have known for a while that I have outgrown this space. As I continue to receive publication writing requests, I need more than just a blog, I need a website. The new site will be, I bought the domain name last night. While I can't serve you a cup of freshly brewed coffee, I can design a website that feels like a coffee shop. A place with industrial concrete floors and a gallery of my painterly altered photographs on the white shiplap walls. Large, reclaimed barn wood harvest tables with maps spread out over them will fill the middle of the shop.  We will gather around those tables planning adventures together and sharing stories. At the far end of the room will be a large, field stone fireplace surrounded by leather couches and comfy chairs. On one of the couches will lie a floppy-eared, furry friend, ready to listen to anyone's troubles in exchange for gentle strokes of the fur (I know you can't have dogs in places that serve food, but it's my coffee shop). This will be a place to return to again and again, a place of creative inspiration.

The new website will also be the perfect place for the return of The Coffee Shop Chronicles, stories from other coffee gathering places as I work to create my own virtual coffee shop. Eventually this blog will move there too, because I am nothing without my photography. It will be hard to leave this place that I have called my creative home for the past five years, so many stories of life, growth and loss. There will be a link to here on the new website: My Blog - The Early Years, because I can't let it go completely.

I will keep you posted when the new website is up and running and the first new Coffee Shop Chronicle is ready to be published.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Field Study

"Attention is the beginning of devotion."
                                                                                       ~ Mary Oliver 

Two summers ago I spent many early mornings wandering the beach at our local state park. Unintentionally, I fell into a photography project: photographing items left behind. It is amazing what people leave behind, my favorite being a bottle of Love Potion that I found by the fishing dock.

Last summer my project was of a more personal nature - walking the nine mile road (in sections) between my parents home and the town where I spent my growing up years. I wanted to walk it so I could pause and reflect at each place along the road that stirred a memory.

I fully expected to be back at the beach this summer continuing my lost and found project, that is until I started this #30dayadventureflowers project.

Tuesday morning I found myself on the Meadow Loop at one of my favorite county parks. The Meadow Loop is a lovely, quarter-mile paved walk that meanders through the wildflower meadow in front of the visitor's center. I have already photographed all the flowers in my own garden many times. My peonies are now only petals scattered on the wind. I was looking for fresh inspiration. That's when I remembered this loop and thought it would be the perfect place for a field study. The parking lot is right next to the loop, so I could easily use my tripod and switch between cameras and lenses without having to lug everything with me at once.

I started with my Canon 70D with 55-250mm zoom lens and my tripod. Using a tripod helps so much with composing the shot, sharp focus and the thing I needed the most - slowing down. Shortly after setting off on the loop, I noticed this dragonfly positioned perfectly on the flower stalks. I set up the tripod, zoomed in on him, used live view to manually focus and suddenly I had my favorite photo of the day. I took my time walking the loop, looking and more looking, some shooting.

First loop completed I had two choices: I could go home, even though I had only been there a half hour, or I could take another camera and walk the loop again. Since my arms were a little tired from carrying the tripod, I decided I would stroll the loop this time with only my iPhone. I struggle with flower photography and my iPhone, craving shallow depth of field and unable to obtain it. I began to think; What else can I do? Then I remembered the Slow Shutter app on my phone, that I have had for a year or more and never used. Taking the technique that Kathleen Clemons used in her Creative Live class, I began to look for things I could pan in slow motion. There is a wooden footbridge that crosses a marsh of cattails (long vertical lines), I thought I would give that a try. I started at the sky and swiped down the tree line and then the cattails. I also tried just the cattails. Personally, I needed the layers of color instead of variations of one. When processing the photo later, besides brightening and adding more saturation, I felt it needed a little more so I added a texture in the Distressed FX app. Perfect pairing!

I have never been attracted to abstract art, but this might become my new addiction. This is a metal footbridge in another part of the park. Again I paired it with a texture from the Distressed FX app.

As I was walking with my iPhone, I noticed things I hadn't my first time around with my tripod. Back at the car once again, this time I decided to grab my Canon 6D with the Lensbaby Velvet 56 for another completely different look. I walked this last loop a bit faster since the mosquitoes had finally found me.

I was very happy with everything that I captured on my three laps of the Meadow Loop, but I knew I wanted to see more, practice more. I am making it a goal to get out to this same loop once a week throughout this summer; trying to do three laps each outing, using the three different camera options. I can't wait to see what I discover. 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Language of Flowers

I am a restless soul. During the five years of this photographic journey, I have spent a lot of time trying to harness this restlessness. When that doesn't work, I try to find ways to embrace it. Restlessness is good to a degree, it keeps me striving forward, never content, always wanting to learn more. The downfall is that I have an extremely hard time sticking with anything. I get bored quickly.

I have completed two 365 days photography projects, and finished strong in one 100 day project. But I have also quit at least two 365 day projects and four 100 day projects, failing at my latest 100 day project just last month. For this latest 100 day project I started out so strong, using Susannah Conway's April Love for my daily prompts. The beginning of May it was starting to get harder and by the time we left for vacation on May 13, I was completely over it, although I did do the daily task for the first two days of vacation, and then that was it.

The photography conference I attended stirred many creative thoughts inside me, and the two day drive home from Massachusetts gave me lots of time to think...

I am going to try a new approach to projects. I stay strong and interested for the first month and then the fall off happens. What about doing one month projects?

With a new, more realistic, time frame in mind, I sat down at my desk with a yellow legal pad to give it some details.

How would I chose my subject for each month? It's no secret that I love on-line classes, so why not take one each month and devote the month to it. This could be a new class, or a class I have previously taken (hence the reason to always take life-time access classes). The class would dictate what my subject would be each month. From the class lessons, I could chose what I wanted each week's specific focus to be.

About the time I was writing all this down on my legal pad, an email dinged through - Select Creative Live classes on sale. Click.'s one Creating Painterly Photographs taught by Kathleen Clemons. I had been hearing Kathleen's name a lot in the last few weeks - lives in Maine, loves Lensbaby lenses, award winning flower photographer. All good until the flower thing, I don't love to shoot flowers. I signed up. This would push me and hopefully harness my restlessness for a month.

I began June 1st. Kathleen shoots a lot with her 180mm macro lens. I don't have one, so what could I do instead? I put my 55-250mm zoom on, which I rarely use, put my camera on my tripod and went out to my flower beds. I found the challenges of not having a 180mm macro, but I also found joy in having my 55-250mm.

This first week has been a bit of a free-for-all, dabbling a little into each of the things learned in Kathleen's class. This second week I hope to pick a more specific focus from the things I enjoyed doing week one.

Week One Take Aways

  • Tripod - I love my Canon 6D camera, but on a tripod I love my 70D and the only reason why is the articulating screen. I tend to shoot in Live View on the tripod, and I manually focus. The articulating screen makes composing so much easier, seeing the bigger picture, plus it is a life-saver for my back. 
  • North Door Light - A year ago I thought to set up still life shots in my garage - huge space and north facing, it took until this project to finally do it, the effect is quite amazing. 
  • Black Background - Loving my large piece of black foam core and my husband's clamps.
  • Chaos - I am trying to embrace the "fill the frame" shots, but I love simplicity. 
  • Painterly - Delighted to be dabbling back in Photoshop with textures, and Topaz Labs Impressions. 
  • Farmers Market - There are always lovely fresh flowers to buy at the market.
  • My Own Gardens - This project is filling me with love for my own garden.

I have been sharing my daily flower shot either on Facebook or Instagram and often both, what I am treasuring the most is the community and conversations that it is creating, even local non-photographer friends are sharing their flower photos from their garden. It seems everyone speaks the language of flowers.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Scene & Story - May 2017

You would never know that less than four years ago this man had never picked up a dSLR before. And the first time he did, it was to humor me, I had an extra camera (shocking I know!), and he probably was tired of trying to find benches to sit on at decaying insane asylums, and sitting in the car on country backroads while I shot old barns and abandoned farmhouses.

He has gotten quite good for someone who shoots on a very part-time basis, although after every outing he says, "I'm sure they all suck". We need to work on the confidence thing some more.

I love this man for being willing to join me in my hobby/passion and being willing to take a vacation to the east coast just so I can go to a photography conference. If he had his way, we would be going to Glacier National Park every year and climb mountains. I promise we will go again, but there is so much to see in this great big world, and I want to keep seeing it together and through our cameras.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Michigan to Massachusetts - The Highlights Reel

I am always hesitant to share my vacation photos here. I don't want to be that friend that invites you over for wine and cheese, and then locks you in a room with a big-screen television and makes you watch 500 unedited vacation photos. I am fresh out of cheese but enjoy the wine, here's the highlights reel...

Favorite City/Town

Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada
First day of vacation and we took the "shortcut" through Canada and Niagara Falls to get to our hotel in Rochester, New York. It was late lunchtime, we were hungry and ready to get out of the car for a while. I remembered my friend Kay telling me to stop in Niagara-on-the-Lake on our way through if we had time. We had time. We had lunch, walked to the lake, discovered the most beautiful cemetery full of flowering trees on the way back to town, and found a parking ticket on our car when we got back. Nonetheless, Glen and I both want to spend more time here, we will just make sure we pay for our parking first next time.

Best Don't Give Up

Watkins Glen, New York
My readers that have been with me for a while will remember a couple of years ago I went to Pennsylvania in the autumn to meet a blogging friend, Andrea, who lives in New Jersey. We were to spend a week photographing the fall colors in the Tioga State Forest area. We had a great half week until she slipped on some wet leaves, fell and broke her leg, going back to New Jersey much sooner than expected. You can read that post here. The day after she broke her leg we were suppose to take a day trip up to Watkins Glen, NY only a little over an hour from where we were staying, obviously we did not go. I stayed close to our rental cottage instead that day, a little afraid to now be on my own. But I had really wanted to go to Watkins Glen to explore the picturesque state park there. A year and a half later, mission accomplished. My husband and I had an extra travel day to explore the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York, and Watkins Glen fit wonderfully into the plan. So glad I did not give up my desire to explore this destination.

Favorite Brewery

Rooster Fish Brewing - Watkins Glen, NY
We stumbled upon this brewery late morning on a Sunday, not busy, great variety of craft beer, and amazing window light.

Best Stumble Upon...

Norman Rockwell Museum - Stockbridge, MA
Our vacations tend to always have a theme, this year's theme was Stumble Upon...
I like to have my hotels booked for each night, but I am content to let the days take care of themselves, this does not always work well for my "need to know where he's going" husband, but truly this is often how the best places are found. Such is the case of the Norman Rockwell Museum. It was raining and we had time to kill before ending the day in Boston, so we began looking at the exit attraction signs in the Berkshire area of Massachusetts. I saw a sign for the museum and said to my husband that I would really like to go there, so we did. Best stumble upon ever!
I have always loved Mr. Rockwell's work, but knew very little about him. To see all his covers of the Saturday Evening Post framed and lining three walls of a room was mind blowing, to see the progression of his work, the themes in his work, his consistent color palette, made the artist in me pondering my own work.  We left the museum with four books, a new bookmark for me, and camera rolls full of photos.

Best Conquering Fear Moment

Figuring out the subway in Boston. We live in West Michigan, I drive my car anywhere I want to go. You do not want to drive your car in Boston, you want to walk or take public transportation. We were staying in Cambridge, so a little ways from the city center, we had to figure out the subway to get where we wanted to go. The subway intimidated me, but for that reason I was determined to conquer it. Thankfully our T station was only a five minute walk from our hotel, and my friend Karen gave me the stations we would need to get off at to go where we wanted to go. We only got on one wrong train, but quickly figured it out and got on the right one to get back to our hotel. Fear conquered!

Best Boston Moment

Meeting my blogging friend Karen for coffee in real life. Karen works in the city, and thankfully it worked in her schedule to take part of a morning and meet me for coffee. I love these kind of moments - meeting old friends for the first time!

Craziest Day

Cape Cod, MA
We left Boston and drove to the very end of Cape Cod because I wanted to say I had been to Cape Cod, wanted The Cape Cod National Seashore stamp in my National Park Passport book, wanted to see the ocean, and wanted a lobster roll. We drove through Massachusetts to Providence, Rhode Island during rush hour traffic looking for a brewery, which we found, but could not find a place to park. Shortly after leaving Providence our car shed the inner wheel well liner on the front passenger side while driving on the busy highway, which my husband had to go retrieve from the side of the highway. During all of this the temperatures ranged from 82 to 99 degrees for the day, all so I could say I have been to the Cape and Rhode Island. My poor husband!

Favorite Botanic Garden

Photo Credit: Glen Huizenga

Tower Hill Botanic Garden - Boylston, MA
We had a free day before the start of the photography conference I was going to in Southbridge, MA, so my husband Googled nearby attractions and came across Tower Hill Botanic Garden. He said, "We always have good luck at botanic gardens." Who is this man? Amazing bounty of color at this garden, even if it was 85 degrees. I would love to go back on an overcast and much cooler day.

Favorite Footwear

For the last decade, other than my running shoes, my go-to footwear on vacation has been my Chaco sandals. But the past couple of years I have had problems with the straps on hot humid days rubbing on the tops of my feet and giving me blisters. That doesn't make walking the next day enjoyable.
I was searching for something stylish and comfortable, two words that never seem to go together in the footwear world. For once the ads that pop into my feed on Facebook actually held something valuable - a link to these shoes - Taos Moc Star shoes. Perfect for wide feet, have amazing arch support and come in fun colors. Other than the two full days in Boston I wore these shoes all the time. They are the most fabulous shoes.

Favorite Restaurant

Cedar Street Grille - Sturbridge, MA
We ate a lot of places while on vacation, but this was the best. A wide variety of small plate options, each one we tried was awesome, but we highly recommend the lamb meatballs, cod sliders, mac and cheese with pulled bbq pork, although all the mac and cheeses sounded wonderful, and the grass fed beef sliders. Of course pair this with a bottle of local wine. We loved the place so much we returned for a second night. Recommend making reservations!

Favorite Wineries

Taylor Brooke Winery - Woodstock, CT
Give us a free afternoon on vacation and the first thing we will do is Google nearby breweries and wineries. It's not that we have to drink, it is because a winery or brewery done right is one of the best vacation experiences. By done right I mean we want you to take your time, tell us about your winery, tell us what wines are your award winners, and for me you get five stars if you have a wine dog. We will sample the maximum amount of samples and stay to enjoy a glass on the patio. Taylor Brooke got five stars.

Sharpe Hill Winery - Pomfret, CT
Sharpe Hill also gets five stars. A lovely garden setting and your wine samples are brought to you by sweet servers like Amanda. Amanda gets five stars just for putting up with my husband's questions, and being willing to pose for a picture for his new obsession - Instagram. The only thing this place was missing was the wine dog.

The End

Well the wine is gone and the film is coming to a close, so it's time to call it a day. Hope you enjoyed the highlights reel. There were so many stories on this trip, and stories make the best trips.