Sunday, December 31, 2017

A Haunting Tour

"By resisting the beginner's mind, you make yourself more prone to repeat yourself than to create something new. The attempt to avoid failure, in other words, makes failure more likely."                                                                 ~ Ed Catmull - Creativity, Inc. 

On December 27, 2017, I embraced the beginner's mind. I signed up for Xanthe Berkeley's Make Films class that starts January 9, 2018.

I gave myself plenty of time to think about the class, almost a whole month, and I couldn't stop thinking about it, so I knew that I was making the right decision.

In preparation, I took this class on how to use iMovie so that I had some clue what I was doing before the class starts. I know that Xanthe will teach us on iMovie, but sometimes I get so hung up on the technical stuff that I never get to the creating part.

Thanks to that easy to follow class and a trip to Traverse City a couple of weeks ago with my husband; him for work, me for pleasure, I visited the insane asylum with my iPhone and shot some clips to put together into a short little video.

This captures a sense of the buildings that captivate me, more so than a still photograph or even a series of stills could ever do. You feel the eeriness of the broken windows, the tattered curtains blowing in the breeze, the warning signs.

I think I failed in my previous film making attempts for two reasons:

  1. I was already pretty good at photography, so I figured I should be pretty good at making films as well. When I wasn't, I viewed it as failure and quit, and went back to what I was good at.
  2. I invested money to learn, but I didn't invest time to learn.
Pride and impatience, two things that don't belong in the world, and especially in the creative world. 

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Reflections On A Reclaimed Year

The end of the year, such a busy, chaotic season, but I always make time to reflect. It helps me to see how far (hopefully) I have come creatively, things I liked and things I didn't and what I learned from them. Also things I want to pursue further in the year ahead, and things that it is finally time to let go off.

Personal Projects

I have half-heartedly dabbled in personal photography projects before, never lasting long enough to learn what I needed to learn from them. Early in the year, I took a class taught by Pam Korman called The Personal Project You Already Shot. The only personal project that I had enough images of to put together for this class was my self-portraiture. The class was awesome! I finally, finally started printing my images with regularity - I did 8 X 10's so I could lay them out to sequence them for the project. It is helpful to have the physical images to move around. I completed the class, made a book from Blurb, and learned a lot along the way. Is it my finest work ever? No. But I started and I finished, there is a lot to be said for that. I plan to work on more personal projects in 2018, I like the non-rushed feeling of them.

Starting in June, I decided to do some #30dayprojects for the summer, picking one word to focus on and use for inspiration in my photography each month. June's word was flowers. I photographed my own gardens, flowers at local gardens and the farmers market, and then the meadow at a nearby county park.

The Meadow became my personal project for 2017. Starting in late June, I went almost weekly to photograph at sunrise.

I honestly don't remember what July and August's words were.

The Meadow

The meadow taught me so much.

It taught me discipline and joy.

It taught me a love for sunrises and that magic golden light. It taught me to love my tripod, at least on location. It taught me to love my 55-250mm zoom lens, before the meadow I used the 55-250mm maybe once a year. One week I forgot that lens, that taught me something too, I was very uninspired without it. Every lens has a purpose, I just needed to find it.

I loved watching and capturing the changes from week to week.

A paved loop trail lies in the middle of the meadow, I discovered so much by walking both directions of the loop.

I am sure there will be a few visits to the meadow next year, I can't imagine not.

The Blog

Almost six years of blogging, and still I have more to say, more to share, more people to connect with. Each year my blog sees a slow but steady rise in readership, which always amazes me.

The blog posts I enjoy writing most are on sharing what I have learned about photography, either through classes, trial and error, or something I have read.  I also love sharing my travels, whether they are day adventures, solo adventures, date days, or family vacations. All of these are planned again for 2018.

Photography Conference

Photo Credit: Glen Huizenga

I went to my first photography conference combining it with vacation. We had a great time on vacation, and I learned a lot at the conference and met some really talented photographers. I also learned I can play with the rest of the group, I am good enough.

My husband and I also attended a iPhone photography workshop, it was nice to do it together, and see how different our styles are, which is a good thing. I can see us doing more of this in the future.


I developed a love of reading poetry this year thanks to Laurie Wagner and her 27 Days of Wild Writing course. I can see poetry playing a bigger part in my projects in 2018.

I am still doing my daily Morning Pages. At the end of September, I started my fourth year. Each morning I also read the entry from the year before. It is good to read how far, or sometimes not, I have come.

I have definitely felt a stronger pull towards photography this year than writing.

Photographic Style

I have really honed my photographic style this year. I would say it is most prevalent in my iPhone photography and processing. My obsession with leading lines and paths continues.


I am excited to explore 2018 and see what awaits me.

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.