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

Sunday, June 9, 2019

En Plein Air

Last weekend my daughter and I attended an En Plein Air workshop. To be specific an Outdoor Pastel Bootcamp at our local botanic park. Five hours of drawing with chalk pastels.

I signed us up for the workshop back in February after the great success of our two hour acrylic workshop held by our County Park system. I was so excited to continue to try new mediums. Two hours of acrylic painting had passed in a flash, so I figured five hours would be a comfortable, enjoyable amount.

But now it was the beginning of June, the Farmers Market was happening, the weekly Chef Series was happening. I was missing all of that to go sit on a little blue stool for five hours. And I am not a sit still kind of gal. Plus I have only used pastels in my art journal and mixed media pieces as little color accents, not drawing a whole landscape scene with them. My drawing skills are still on the Kindergarten level.

Still I had signed us up and paid the money, we were going to go. There is nothing like plunking down some cash to motivate the hesitant.

Until a couple of years ago, I had never even heard of plein air painting. But doing some research, I discovered it became popular in the the mid-1800's when artists became inspired to paint outdoor scenes in natural light instead of in the studio recalling from memory and charcoal sketches. The invention of paint in tubes and the box easel also contributed to the popularity.

We began the workshop with some instruction in the classroom. Perfect. A table and a chair with a back. That lasted for a half hour or so. Then it was time to gather our blue folding stools, our drawing boards, paper and box of pastels and set off outside.

We set up in the Japanese Garden, my favorite, after the Michigan Farm Garden. If I had to sit here for four hours at least the view was mesmerizing. Our instructor gave us a demonstration of sketching  and drawing a scene with the pastels, so we would have some clue as to what we were doing. That blissfully took up another twenty minutes or so. Then it was time for us to start. I positioned my stool so I was looking directly at the bridge, arranged my supplies, secured my paper, whipped out my iPhone to take some "sketches", discovered the grid app to lay over photos in the App store, applied the grid to my favorite "sketch". I was ready to begin.

My daughter, meanwhile, had taken her stool and moved as far away as possible from me, knowing I would be a pain in the arse, talking all the time instead of taking the drawing seriously.

I had just gotten the lid of my box of pastels when I felt the first rain drops. The instructor quickly came around and reassured us that the light shower would be over shortly. We could get our umbrellas out, or move our supplies to the covered area by the tea house. I quickly carried my supplies over to the covered area. The rain didn't lessen. We decided to take our scheduled break a little early and go to the cafe for lunch.

While in the glass windowed cafe, it was clear the rain wasn't going to go away. The classroom assistant had had the foresight to gather everybody's supplies and transport them back to the indoor classroom.

Back to that lovely table and chair with a back. I had my "sketches". I was ready to work. And there were only 2-1/2 hours left to endure. My poor daughter though was stuck with me again.

Artwork: Mallory Huizenga

I had to endure my own hardship with my daughter, that being that she is very talented, and makes others wonder where she gets her talent from - certainly not her mother. Some of us are just more naturally gifted than others.

Artwork: Sarah Huizenga

Truthfully though, I had a great time, and learned a lot, including some patience. While my creation was no masterpiece, it wasn't half bad, thanks to the instructor's help. What I really enjoyed about pastels and what may encourage me to continue on, is that they felt like abstract drawing with color. I liked using my hands and fingers instead of a paint brush. Having handy wet and dry paper towels nearby, or a classroom sink are the perfect way to limit the messy feeling.

I have been working on another piece at home. Carving out a half hour between breakfast and our morning walk to work on art. This is the result of four mornings of work. I worked on this in thirds, starting at the top, with each third I grew more confident in my ability. I am going to call this one done. I could keep worrying it to death, but I think it would be better to take my growing confidence and move on to a new piece. Thank you to Carola Bartz for the original inspirational photograph. I had initially planned to use the photograph for a watercolor paining, but that only got half finished. This is complete. It feels really good to finish!

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Share Where You Live Scavenger Hunt

What place do you know the best? Your home town right? Or you should at least, you live there. But when was the last time you got in the car and went for a simple drive? Just an hour or two driving around to all your favorite haunts. Or even better yet, parking the car and walking the main street of your town and venturing off into a neighborhood or two. It is more likely one day when you are driving from work to a doctor appt. you see a new building and think, "when did they put that up?" Surprise, it has been there for two years already.

Too many of us sit inside the safety of our four walls and never even explore our own yard, let alone our neighborhood. Do you know the name of your neighbors three houses each way of yours? I don't.

I know the usual excuses. They are mine too... I'm busy. I'm tired. My _______ hurts?

The beginning of May was the first time I used my big camera since January. How did that happen? Didn't I just do a 365 day photography project last year? Yes I did!  My excuse. I have been busy. I have been training a puppy almost non-stop since December. Trying to make sure I don't fail with this dog where I failed with previous dogs. No pulling on the leash when we walk, loving to ride in the car, not being anxious when we go new places. But I think it is time for him to see the inside of his crate a bit more, and I need to get out with my camera again. I have a feeling he might grow up to be an even better dog without my training him every second. He might actually have a chance to miss me, and they say absence makes the heart grow fonder.

In that spirit, I am going to do a Summer Photography Scavenger Hunt. I love summer projects and this one seems to be calling me this year. Random enough that I am not stuck in one technique or subject, but with a real opportunity for growth in my skills while having fun at the same time. I am also hopeful it will give me some material for blog posts because training your dog all the time really limits what you can write about.

I am also hopeful to meet some new people and strengthen my small talk skills while getting to know the people in my town, or the people that are visiting my town. I might even learn my neighbors' names in the process.

I want to contribute something to the world, and the only way to do that is to get out in it.

I am including the Scavenger Hunt I will be using this summer. I would love for you to join me. Take a picture with your phone, your big camera, just take a mental photo, whatever works for you. But also share it - if you use to write a blog - revive it - show and tell us about where you live. If you love Instagram share it there, or if Facebook is your thing share it there. I think the sharing is important. I know I am curious about you and where you live and others probably are too. You never know what connections can be made through the simple act of sharing.

It is worth noting, when you are out hunting, how the experience makes you feel. Do you feel excited, joyful, anxious? It might even be good to keep a small notebook with you so you can jot down some thoughts. I have mine tucked into my bag.

My plan is to start today, Sunday, June 2, and finish on Labor Day, September 2. I don't know about you, but, I work better with a deadline.

Instagram Hashtag will be #sharewhereyoulive2019