Sunday, August 11, 2019

Garden Recommendations

Asking for help does not come easy for me. I think that is largely due to my German/Italian heritage. If you are physically and mentally capable, you figure it out and do it yourself. This is why I will probably never have a cleaning lady. When I do ask for help it is because I need something hung on the wall, that usually doesn't go all that well.

But, last week I reached out and asked for recommendations on FB for local flower farms where I could go photograph. I know this seems such a low hurdle in the help-asking arena, but for me it was still hard. I have Google at my fingertips, and with my many years of wandering, I should be able to figure it out. What I have learned though is that people want to help.  Within 24 hours, I had three awesome recommendations.

The flower farm was for Exercise 36 in the book Shooting with Soul. You are probably tired of reading about this book every time I post, but I need this book and these exercises to get out of my daily rut. Without the book, my wanderings are limited to walks with the puppy at the beach, in the woods, at the park, and downtown. Wash, rinse, and repeat. I need my brain and my eyes to be challenged to look for something new, to think new thoughts, and to get out with my big camera by myself.

Now if you have the book and look at Exercise 36, you might wonder what am I talking about - going to a flower farm? The lesson instructs you to buy fresh flowers, arrange them and photograph them in your home. I will get to that this winter when there is nothing to do outside. I am choosing to follow just the last couple sentences: "Then, with input from all of your senses, take photos that infuse your images with your thoughts and feelings. Repeat as needed throughout the year."

As I said I received three recommendations, and I plan to explore them all, but I started with the one closest to my house. Sunrise is at 6:43 and I wanted early morning light, but I didn't want to leave the house at five o'clock. Plus my recommendation came from the wife of the owner of the wholesale garden I was going to.

The funny thing is, more than a decade ago, I actually worked in these display gardens for a few summers. I worked for a friend who was contracted to maintain the large gardens. I haven't been back in many years. Some of it felt familiar, but a lot of it felt so different. It was the perfect combination of comfort and exciting new discoveries.

This week, I also started a new art class from Laly Mille - Soulful Abstracts. One of the first exercises we had to do was find images on Pinterest based on questions about ourselves.  My finds were the color palette I expected, although I feel my green color is more clearly defined now, what did surprise me was how dark and moody a lot of the images were. That dark moody feeling definitely influenced my photography at the garden. I might be in love. I looked at everything with a completely new perspective.

This is going to be a really good class for my art and my photography.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

To The Market We Shall Go

We all start with an understory to our day long before we ever walk out the door. It could be something as simple as the fact that we ran out of time to make coffee, or that our new underwear doesn't fit like our old, favorite underwear. Or it could be more complex: we are tired of waking up alone every morning, or our old dog stumbled down the steps to go outside...again.

Maybe that is why the series I use to write - The Coffee Shop Chronicles - did so well. There was always was an undercurrent to my day long before I reached the coffee shop to peer into other peoples' lives. I think in the busyness of my life this year with a puppy I haven't taken the time to acknowledge that understory. At least that is until last week when I set out to do Exercise 31 - Markets and Stalls in the photography exercise book Shooting with Soul.

Before I leave the house at any given time, I always take the puppy out to go to the bathroom before he goes in his crate. As we pitter puttered down the bike path, I noticed the neighbor across the street's dog coming down his driveway. Odd, I had heard his car that morning when he left for work, and his dog is always in the house when he is at work. Maybe his teenage daughter was home and let the dog out. I quickly sped Atticus back to the house. These two dogs had met the night before, Atticus loves everybody, the other dog didn't feel the same.

Atticus zipped into his crate, I wrestled with the thought of trying to catch the neighbor's dog and knock on his door, but when I went back outside she had disappeared. Maybe the daughter was home.

I left for the Farmers Market, but my mind kept going back to that dog and our busy summer traffic road.

Once at the Farmers Market I forgot about the dog. I grabbed my camera and my 35mm lens for some wide/establishing shots of the market. I was at the market just after 8 a.m., it wasn't busy yet. I wanted photos of the stalls, not photos of crowds. I turned my camera on to check the settings needed for the light and noticed the blinking battery light. You have got to be kidding me. I just used this camera two weeks before, and I had plenty of battery. Knowing I always keep an extra charged battery in my camera bag, I went back to the car to get it. After a thorough search of my camera bag, I found no extra battery. Seriously!

I decided I was just going to see how long I could go with this blinking battery. I wasn't going to go home and come back. It would take too long, the light would be too bright and I was afraid I would find the neighbor's dog lying on the road.

This exercise made me very uncomfortable. It was great that it wasn't busy with a lot of people, but I felt so exposed, wandering with my big camera. Now, if I had been wandering around with my iPhone snapping photos, I would have blended right in. The funny thing is when I see other people with their DSLR at the market I only wonder what they are going to shoot.

This feeling of being uncomfortable inhibited my ability to set up shots with thoughtful composition and I gave no consideration to the story I wanted to tell. Still, I pushed on. Determined to keep trying until the battery quit, which it was surely going to do at any moment.

After about a half hour, the light was getting too high and market too crowded for any more shots. It was time to go home. The battery never did die.

As I crested the rise of the hill near my house, I saw the neighbor dog wander across the road from our house to her house. I parked the car in the garage, grabbed Atticus' leash and went across the road. She was sitting, shaking on her front porch. She came to me readily and let me put the leash on her. I called the neighbor's work and asked that a message be given to him. We sat on the porch, she resting in my lap, until his car pulled into the driveway about ten minutes later.

Friday, July 19, 2019

One Hundred Days

Mobile Photography

One hundred days in the Hundred Acre Wood, or at least it felt like it. Because...

The rain, rain, rain
Came down, down, down
In rushing, rising riv'lets
'Til the river crept out of its bed...

The rain came down often in those one hundred days.

On April 2, I began #the100dayproject for the fourth time, determined to finish it for only the second time. Two other years where aborted attempts. What is the #the100dayproject? It is committing to 100 days of daily creating. You get to choose what you want to create. 

Collage, watercolor, and acrylic paint

I set one and only one constraint for myself I was going to do all my creating on 5" X 7" pieces of art paper that I would binder together into a journal at the end of the 100 days. This lasted until Day 22. We were on vacation for the week. I was fully prepared with plenty of blank 5" X 7" pages to create on. But once surrounded by the beauty of the north country, I was inspired to reconnect with my love of mobile photography and the amazing editing/creating apps that I had at my fingertips. 

Mobile Photography

At first I thought; "Oh, I will just print those out in 5 X 7  size and I can still add them into the journal." This lasted until Day 50, when I much preferred the square crop of my photograph to the vertical 5 X 7 shape, and that was the end of the #5X7artjournalpage 100 day project. 

Mobile Photography

I could have quit there. I had made it half way, which is further than I have gone the last three years. But I was also half way through, I couldn't give up, it would feel like I was abandoning all the work I had done already. Plus, it was about darn time that I finished something! So, I readjusted my focus and renamed my project - #100daysoffreedomtolearn. This renaming opened up a whole new world of possibilities for me, I was excited about the project again. 

Mobile Photography - iColorama

It was around this time that I was also reading the book Refuse to Choose. This book opened my eyes to the fact that I am probably a Cyclical Scanner. What is a Cyclical Scanner you ask. Here is the book's definition:

"If I ask you what your interests are and you have no trouble doing it, you're probably a Cyclical Scanner. You know all the things you love to do most. Your list may have only a few items on it, or it may have 20, but it isn't endless. You know what you love, and you usually return to each activity over and over again."

There are three subcategories of Cyclical Scanners - the Double Agent, the Sybil, and the Plate Spinner. 

I am a Sybil. "If you're a typical Sybil, you're usually surrounded by lots of "creative clutter." Sybil types can't always find their materials, because they have so many projects going on at the same time they can't keep track of them. All the same, most Sybil Scanner have very little tolerance for chaos and have bursts of organizing energy they find very satisfying. But order never lasts for long because when the creative urge comes, there is no patience for putting things away."

That's me in a nutshell. 


My list of things I love:
  • Photography
  • Film making
  • Being outside
  • Writing
  • Hands-on art
  • Reading


The hands-on art is still all over the place. I love art supplies, and trying new things, but haven't quite settled on what "the" thing is yet. My other subjects are more clear yet there are still a million different paths to explore within them.

Pastel Painting

The big takeaway that I got from the book is that no matter what type of Scanner you are, you need to occasionally finish projects to feel productive, and joy-filled. So I set about finishing the 100 day project, to have that feeling of accomplishment and not failure. Also, since the beginning of June, I have been giving myself the freedom to explore whatever I want each week, but the goal is at the end of the week I have one finished project. A sense of accomplishment and something tangible from the week of exploration. It feels good to finish.

Mobile Photography

So I made it through the one hundred days, explored many paths within the hundred acre wood, and I have to say I came out into the daylight stronger because of it. 

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Window Reflecting

The joy is coming back. Each time I load my backpack with a camera and a couple lens. Each time I arrive at a destination and haul my tripod out of the car. Each time I cross another item off the Summer Photography Scavenger List. Each time I complete another lesson in the book Shooting with Soul. Each time I come home with at least a couple photographs I want to print, frame and hang. I feel happy.

The dry spell lasted way too long. September until May only a handful of photos taken with my dslr. Hopefully that never happens again.

The latest lesson I completed in Shooting with Soul was: Exercise 27: Window Shopping

My husband had to go up north for a couple days for a conference and it worked for me to go along. I made arrangements with our daughter to stay at our house to take care of Atticus. She told me long before I got Atticus that she would be happy to watch him when we went away. I was cashing in on that promise.

I had one full day of wandering and shooting to myself. I prayed for no rain, but packed the umbrella just in case. The town we were staying near had the cutest shops, so it was the perfect place to complete the Window Shopping lesson.

I am not much of a shopper, but I do love windows, reflections, and wandering

I arrived in town a good hour before the shops opened. I wanted shots of the windows, not a bunch of summertime people. The objective was to find windows with interesting stories about their products, their audience, their location, or the season. Notice how the elements inside the windows, as well as those reflected on them, can be incorporated into your photos to create compelling images.

You could choose to include your reflection into the composition or not. Needless to say, I LOVE self-portrait window reflections.

Sunday, June 30, 2019


June has seen record rainfall amounts. Last Sunday was the first time we have turned on our air-conditioning all season. I was still wearing my winter coat in May. Needless to say, it has been a very cold, wet spring here in Michigan. It is no wonder my mojo for photography has been almost non-existent.

One morning, after taking the puppy for a walk in the rain -- in Michigan you need really good rain gear -- I dried him off the best I could and stuck him in his crate. I had had enough. I packed my golf umbrella, bought when my husband and I photographed covered bridges a couple of years ago, we never needed it then. I also made sure I had a regular size umbrella. I had two in the car. I wasn't sure how windy it would be where I was going. In a strong wind, the golf umbrella could have turned me into Mary Poppins real quick.

I drove to a place where I knew the landscape would be lush and magical due to the overcast skies and light rain. Also with the rain, I knew it wouldn't be busy. I was also hopeful to cross a couple things off the list for the Summer Photography Scavenger Hunt. This place had a ladder, or more accurately a fire escape, but hey, close enough. Also I adore old historical buildings, and if anything was going to get me back in the mood to photograph it would be this place.

Felt Mansion, built 1925-1928 by Dorr Felt for his wife Agnes. You can read more of the history here if you are interested. The saddest part to me is that six weeks after they settled in the house in the summer of 1928, Agnes passed away, and Dorr only lived a year and a half after that. What a love story. If you are ever in West Michigan I would highly recommend a visit. Come on a day when you can tour the inside as well.

It has been a while since my last visit. I don't remember these lights. There are also two permanently erected event tents now as well. The estate is a very popular wedding venue in the summer.

The rain had mostly let up by this time, so I started down the meandering path to the carriage house. This place has some great windows, both the house and the carriage house. I seem to be drawn to window reflections this summer. Well, really all the time, but it has intensified this summer, probably due to all the gray, overcast days.

Just past the carriage house, I noticed a new sign pointing to a trail I had not explored before. It was interesting, as I started down that unexplored trail I felt the weight of these past months of bad weather, puppy training, and lack of photography inspiration lift off of me. I felt light, happy and filled with curiosity. As I rounded a bend in the trail, I saw this shed and knew it was the light that had pulled me down that path.

Sometimes when you feel the least inspired is when you have to be brave, put on your rain boots, grab an umbrella or two, and go on an adventure. You never know what could be waiting for you.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Looking for a Message

I was never one of those soccer moms sitting around the coffee shop on a Wednesday morning with a group of other moms, all of us in running shorts and ponytails. Talking about how overbooked our kids are for the summer. Instead, I use to be a lone photographer/writer who sat at a table nearby soaking up their conversation like a sponge.

On this day, I may be sitting at a table nearby, but I am only half interested in their conversation. I am busy reviewing the images I have taken so far for the morning with my camera.

For my outing this week - Exercise No. 26 from the book Shooting with Soul - A Message from the Universe. I am searching for a message from someone, anyone.


  • Photographing messages from the universe is a simple and soulful process. First and foremost, you need to slow down enough to notice what the universe has to offer you. 

The universe is saying it is raining, go sit in the coffee shop and have a snack. Forced slow down.

  • Once something catches your eye and touches your heart, pay attention to how the light looks in that environment. Make sure that the message is clear and not obscured by shadows or glare.
No worries there since it is gray and overcast, not a chance of a shadow or a glare.

  • Eliminate any clutter from the frame that might interfere with the main interest of your shot and focal point -- then shoot away.
I don't like cluttery frames, so I will be good there.

On the practical side, this should be an easy exercise. I love words. I love typography. But I don't put a lot of stock in messages from the universe. But yet, I do believe that nothing happens "out of the blue".  Maybe that is my way of being comfortable with messages from the universe.

Insight from this lesson

I loved doing this lesson, compared to the first one, while I was doing it. But I find in my contentment with the lesson it is harder to shape fresh insights about photography and about myself. Apparently, I need frustration and angst to write a good story.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

A Walk in the Park

It was a risk. Going some place I have only been to once before. The mission - to evaluate emotions surrounding photography.  Turns out unfamiliarity and lack of emotional attachment were essential to an honest evaluation.

A friend and I are working through some exercises in the book Shooting with Soul.  We are both in need of a photographic kick-in-the-butt. She had recently purchased the slightly used book. I had the book on my photography bookshelf, the tassel of a bookmark protruding from a third of the way through. These kinds of exercises are better when done together.

Since it is Summer in both Michigan and Maine, we wanted to take advantage of the season. We started at Chapter 4 - Wanderings: Taking the Scenic Route.

The first exercise we are doing is No. 25 - A Walk in Nature.

It has been a while since I have taken my DSLR on a walk. There was some relearning to do. How do I change the Drive again? Oh yah, that button on top that says Drive. Since doing my Meadow Project the last two summers I prefer to use my tripod for nature shots. No, I don't enjoy carrying it, but I know I am a better photographer when I use it. I slow down. Something that is terribly hard for me.

For this walk in nature, I was suppose to photograph with a meditative state of mind. I will be honest. I will probably never get to that state of mind. I can't even get there in Restorative Yoga when I am lying on my back, eyes closed, listening to atomspheric cello music, covered by a cozy blanket. Within me lies a slight skeptical edge towards everything.

"Notice the harmony in all the shapes, colors, and textures and how the sun shines through the trees. Let your intuition guide you. Notice your emotions as you go and think about how you might want to express those feelings in your photos."
I was thinking about what to make for supper.

My personality type is more post-event reflective. I see the potential in my photographs when I process them. That is when the story that lies within them is revealed. 

If you had asked me that morning in the park - I would have said I hate photography. The bugs, the mud, carrying the tripod, nothing inspiring to photograph. Now, as I sit at the computer processing these images, listening to atmospheric cello music, and writing this story - I will say I love photography. 


For those participating in the Summer Photography Scavenger Hunt, please remember to tag your photos #sharewhereyoulive2019 both on Instagram and on Facebook. You can follow the hashtag on IG and I can locate your photos on FB via the hashtag. I want to see what you all are doing. Plus I love to post your photos from the week on my Facebook Page - Twisted Road Studio