Photography Feed

Never Ready, Never Done

Bowl on table

This morning, I listened to a "Love Letter" from Meghan Genge, cohost along with Jamie Ridler, of Love Letters, a series of 32 messages on creativity and more. I have to confess that I've gotten really picky about these free events, since way too many of them end up promoting what they have to sell more than anything else. Jamie is a different story...she generously shares so much good stuff.

Meghan's video chat drew me in immediately; her message one that I've heard many a time in one form or another. But, it never hurts to hear it again, to be reminded of what I know, but I too often forget. 

"You're never ready; you're never done."

I can be the master of excuses at putting creativity off. My mind has so many tabs open: photography, writing, slow stitch, mixed media. I can't begin to tell you how much I've created - in my mind that is. I wake during the night composing a blog entry, working out a photo, and more. Trouble is I'm way too good at finding reasons that I'm not ready. I need my dslr, not my phone. I need my "To Do List" to disappear, because what's on there is way too important and really should be done first, done before I sit down to create. I get in my own way. 

Never done. I do this one well. I love to learn, to research, to explore. As I finish up something, another idea pops into my too many tabs opened mind. It might be a "better" way to do what I've done. It might be something brand new. I'm not idea challenged, but when I sit down to write, the little gremlin, aka inner critic, whispers, "Really? Why bother?" and then gives me a laundry list of why I shouldn't bother, and oh, yeah, remember all that stuff you need to do? Like laundry?

Meghan's advice: Just begin. Just take one step. Then, take another. Yeah, I know this, but again, it's just good to hear it, to be reminded.

I've been working through a mindful photography course with Julie Fischer MeCarter, whose work never fails to inspire. One assignment this week asked us to take a meaningful object and photography it outside of its normal surroundings. I chose my mother's blue bowl, aka the "Cookie Bowl."

Bowl on path

Julie asked us to go with whatever popped into our heads, that it would be the right choice. 

And I thought, that cookie bowl is too big to be lugging around. Besides, it's too cold to go outside.

Sigh. That damn inner critic.

So, yesterday, I woke up to a gorgeous sunrise and the most beautiful light outside my window. Out I went in a fuzzy blue art making stained bathrobe, my phone, a pair of slippers, and at the very last minute grabbed the bowl. 

Exiting through our back room door, I stopped dead. 

Well, crap, it's morning rush hour and I live immediately off of one of Virginia's busiest roads. Not only are there thousands of commuters driving by, but the middle school busses passed by as well.

And, I was the crazy lady in her bathrobe making photos of a bowl. Well, if nothing else, I'd provide a bit of conversation for a lot of folks. 

Bowl in leaves

It's not pretty outside right now, not unless you happen to love brown. I happen not to, finding it a pretty depressing color. Looking around I spotted a grungy looking moose (dog toy), also brown. A few tennis balls, the toy car the twits drive, but not one thing I could see to do with the bowl.

I wanted my dslr (never ready!) but knew if I went back inside, I probably wouldn't come out. I knew I'd get some great shots if I laid flat on the ground...uhm, no. Not going to happen. Virginia's commuters and middle schoolers already had enough to talk about. Besides, that ground is cold!

Leaves. I had lots and lots of leaves. I also had a meandering stone path that would make for great leading lines. 

I went for both, and quickly at that. When I'm shivering, it's hard to get things focused the way I like.

In the end, despite the not readys, I ended up with some cool shots. I can only imagine what my mom would be thinking. You filled the cookie bowl with dead leaves? Girl, you need to see the doctor. 

I love this bowl; it holds memories more than leaves. 

I love my shots; I know what I'd like to try next (never done!), and it will involve lying on the ground and my big girl camera. 

I love how I learned to look at the bowl differently; placing it out of context does that.

I love the stories my photos tell.

I like that I did some thinking "outside the box." 

Most of all, I like that I didn't just write this in my head.


Inspiration in the Form of a Rusty Red Car


Assignment: Create a mixed Media Self-Portrait

Reaction: UGH!

And then the universe stepped in: within a week the concept of self portraits showed up three times - the assignment in Lesley Riley's 52 Pick Up class, a friend's visit to the National Portrait Gallery, and another artist showing a book of self portraits as inspiration.

Message received, and I got busy.

This "self-portrait" is a veritable mish mash of all sorts of bits and pieces.

The greenish blue background is a gelli plate print created earlier this summer. I generally have a stash of them, and they never fail to delight me.

The brownish black and brown  background is an Iphone shot of this beauty at Lucketts Market.


I cropped it to this:

Rusty car

I cropped it again, rotated it, and then digitally manipulated it using PhotoLabPro on my Ipad, and this!


Is this not ever so cool? I quite fell in love with it, and came up with several other variations on the theme using the same app.

Now, down to the nitty gritty of it. I needed a photo of me, and I really didn't want to start shooting more selfies, so I grabbed another Iphone image shot in a silly moment last weekend.

I began with this:


then manipulated it with the same app to what you see in the final portrait. I cut myself out and glued it to the brown background.

And then the fun began: white Uniball signo pens, black sharpies, a word sticker,  a rub on of the word "Focus" altered with more white pen, a tiny paper butterfly...well, you get the idea!

I threw a black mat over it to look official, and well, just because I could.

Thank you, rusty red card. You can count on showing up in my artwork again and again and again, sometimes altered beyond belief!



Straight Down the Rabbit...Er, Pinhole


Check out my nifty new camera! Is it not just gorgeous? Top of the line paint can, er, pinhole camera, and I had an absolute blast with it, thanks to my most awesomely talented cousin, Therese's and her pinhole workshop. (Follow the link for some photos and a description of the fun.)

Picture about 9 or so women, most of us with no experience using this technology, but all of us anxious to learn. Therese gave us a bit of history, examples of pinhole photographs, a handout with technical info, and then the fun began.

She led us upstairs into a darkened room, with what looked like a huge brown trash bag taped over the window. In reality, it was some sort of light blocking photo paper. One tiny hole in the "trash bag" admitted a tiny bit of light into the room.

We ringed the outside edges of the room, waiting for our eyes to adjust. Ever so slowly, an upside down image began to appear...the house, trees, and yard across the street. Lots of oooohs, ahhhs, and excited talking.

Basically,we all had gone "down the pinhole" and straight into the inside of a camera obscura! In other words, we stood inside a camera, seeing an image the way it would see it, and I loved it!

Back downstairs, where Therese issued our new paint cans, cameras, explained how to load the paper, work the "shutter" or black tape covering the pinhole, and about how long to expose the photo, which, turned out to be a real guessing game.

Before letting us out, she took us into the dark room, another new experience for me, and we talked through the four steps of what we needed to do - photo developing solution, a solution that halted the developing process, a solution that that fixed everything, and then a water rinse. This room was DARK, only lit by a few red bulbs.

Then, out we went, scouting for things to shoot...pine cones, ourselves ( pinhole selfies!), prayer flags, etc. Eventually, we shot the skeleton residing on Therese's porch, ultimately dragging him into the bright sunshine.

Go out, shoot, come back in, enter the darkroom cautiously. We didn't want to let light in at the critical moment, nor did we want to bump into or step on each other. The light into dark business took some adjusting.

We dropped the paper into the developer and held our breath. Some photos came out pitch black (over exposed), some came out nearly white (underexposed), both which elicited groans and a few mild oaths, but every now and then we got something really cool, which resulted in shrieks of delight.

Lather, rinse, repeat. Inevitably, we lost track of watching the clock, which threw off the timing of it all. No matter, we just kept playing. One type of paper gave us a negative print, the other a direct print. It turned our that each type required different timing, both with exposure and developing.

For me, I learned to totally surrender control. With digital, the result is instant. I can see if I got the shot or not, then adjust accordingly, right on the spot. With a pinhole, I did a lot of estimating both when shooting, and then again with developing. My images had a softer and definitely less focused feel, and since I wasn't looking through a view finder, I could only guess at what the camera saw. I had quite a few surprises!

Even though I ended with precious few "good" shots, I loved it all, the newness of it, Therese's unflappability in dealing with all these women needing help, the learning curve - just all of it. I want to do more.

If I stick with the pinhole camera I brought home, I need stuff I don't have - a dark room, chemicals, so on. If I get really brave, I can buy a more elaborate pinhole camera, use film, and travel back into time, when I sent away the film and had to wait for it to come back to see what I got. I can see it happening, folks!

So, thank you Therese, just thank you and I'm hoping for more workshops on cyanotypes and lumen prints. I'd gladly pay to repeat a pinhole workshop, because I'm so obviously at the start of a learning curve.

Pulling It Together - Maybe


It began innocently enough.

Bending over to focus on the most gorgeous thistle, I heard, "What are you looking at? I normally don't see people stooping and bent over, looking at something on the ground. Most are looking at the ponies."

I straightened up to see a fellow photographer grinning at me. Grinning back, I pointed to my treasure, and the flow of words began.

We talked about what we liked to photograph, the equipment we used, etc. Without missing a beat, she handed me her camera so that I could play, and then hurried back to her car to grab a few more goodies to share.

Eventually and reluctantly, I handed back her Canon 70D, a few other treasures, and we said our goodbyes.

On the way home, Phil and I talked about whether or not, we might be able to figure out how to purchase a new camera for me. The more I've learned about photography, the more I found out what my then current Rebel version could not do. Technology gets obsolete darn quickly.  I pretty much could work around most things with a bit of frustration, well, sometimes, lots of frustration. My Rebel took pretty awesome photos, but I wanted more. The upshot turned out to be that we would begin exploring the possibilities.

A few days later, Phil told me that my soon to be toy was on a government employee purchasing site, but even better, the newer version, the 80D was out. He'd researched both, and asked, "Why not go with the 80D?" And, a few days later, it was on my doorstep!

I pretty much had the same reaction that I'd had with my Canon Rebel....stared at it in shock and awe, turned a few pages in the accompanying manual, had a minor heart attack, and shoved it back into its box and hid it.

The damn thing terrified me.

Knowing I would have fits with its manual's tiny print and gibberish, I went in search of the appropriate Dummies book to get some help. Turns out the camera was so new, the Dummies book had not yet been released. I put myself on the "ship when it's available" list on Amazon, thankful to have more time to wrap my head around all the tech.

All too soon, my Dummies book arrived. Settling in with it and the camera, I began reading and swearing. All the buttons and dials were in different spots, and oh, dear God, the thing has a touch screen. I now had to swipe up, down, and sideways. Option after option presented itself. I quickly learned one go to lens, an 18-200mm, was not compatible. My wide angle would work, as long as I was not in Live Mode. I also knew what sort of memory card to get, and I could turn it on and off!

Pretty much though, it all just overwhelmed me. The Dummies book contains 342 pages of mind boggling gibberish. Back into the box it went. I desperately wanted to use it in NY/Vermont, and then again during my creative art retreat. But trying to learn the camera at the same time would surely send me into complete panic and overload, and I knew I'd miss shots.

And, I wanted my go to lens, which my wonderful husband went ahead and ordered.

Now, I had a new camera and a new lens, and oh, dear God in heaven, could you just send a miracle, and I'd know it all and hot have to cry?

Now, two things mocked me from their respective boxes; if you didn't know that cameras could laugh at you, well, let me assure you, they can.

The lens muttered its frustration at not being used.

I came up with lots of excuses, some valid, others not about why I had yet to shoot a photo with my new goodies.

I've been home a week now from my two adventures, and I promised myself I'd start small, but I'd start.

So, this morning, out of its box it came. I sat down with strong coffee, a nutrition bar, and my Dummy book.

I read a bit, and then I'd pick up the camera and try to make sense of it. So many whistles and bells, so many options. You know, I think if I poked around in its settings long enough, I could program it to clean my house.

But, after an hour of reading...poking around the camera...swearing a bit...rereading...poking some more, I began to make sense of it. I pulled a few key things from the first few chapters, starting small, but starting.

I figure if I worked at it an hour or so a day, muscle memory will begin to take over. I'll get the basics well under control, and then I'll continue moving through the chapters.

The battery is charging; I'm off on another adventure tomorrow, and I will use this camera over the next few days.

Picture a middle aged (senior citizen?) shaking her hand at the sky, "Gone with the Wind" style and muttering, "As God is my witness, I will never be scared of this camera again..."

The funny part? The workshop I'm attending is on pinhole cameras, about which I pretty much know nothing. Nothing. And pinhole is just about as opposite of digital photography as you can get.

Not sure how this will all go, but there will be photos!

Really, there will.

I promise.

Bits and Pieces Equal Art

Paying attention to spaces between words

Not too many folks get terribly excited about leftovers, although I confess that I enjoy them. Sometimes, they even seem to taste better the second time around.

And, even better than the kitchen leftovers, are the art leftovers...

  • the paint that I don't want to waste, so it gets brayered onto a blank journal page
  • scraps of papers
  • words cut out of poetry books and magazines
  • bits of washi tape
  • photos I've printed, just waiting for a home

Pages just evolve over time, adding bits and pieces of this and that, mostly whatever happens to be on my studio table because I haven't cleaned it up yet.

I'd love to tell you that my studio gets cleaned each day when I finish, but I'd be lying. And, honestly? The jumble of supplies never fails to inspire. Media and scraps that have no business being together look totally cool.

I love getting my photos off the camera; they might end up on note cards, tacked onto my walls, or on an art page.

I love the play of it all, moving this and that around until my eyes light up.

It's not a steady process; this background languished for a day or two, until it told me what it needed.

A quote about resting in the silence between word caught my attention the other day; it's been floating around in my head ever since.

So, I grabbed a poetry book bought at a huge sale, and begin to search for similar words. And then...gasp!...I cut them out.

Billy Collins, I apologize for this transgression and all future transgressions, because I'll be snipping words again. You can bet on it. My only excuse is that poets use the best words.

I love the words I found; they say so much, as words can.

But, sometimes, you need to listen very closely to what's not being said...the spaces and silences between the words.

If you can manage to still yourself enough to do so, you learn a lot of good stuff. Important stuff.

At least, I do.

Morning Light

Morning light leaf

Light danced across my yard this morning, enticing me to come play.

So, I did.

A brilliant blue sky, hardly dotted with clouds.

Cool morning breezes with just a hint of crispness.

Traffic whizzing by, lawn mowers starting up, the sounds of a world waking.

A taste of oatmeal lingering on my tongue.

Morning light me

Several golden leaves dot the carpet of green lawn while their crimson cousins dangle from a nearby branch, not quite ready to let go of summer.

Autumn's peeking around the corner.

Morning Light

Basket5 copy

The light dances across my bedroom floor later and later each day, slanting in at a different angle, and teasing me to take notice. Before I know it, its time with me each day dwindles to almost nothing.

It stopped me in my tracks this morning, lighting up this mundane laundry basket. Shadows and light tangoed back and forth in a seductive performance.

As I type, I'm thinking that if I had one of those oh so stylish blogs, my dirty laundry would repose in a hand woven wicker basket, maybe even one made of sweet grass. I'd artfully strew things alongside,  some freshly picked flowers from my non existent gardens. My beautifully arranged dirt laundry  might even be basking on some delightfully rumpled linen.

If I had any inclination to set up this delightful scene, the light would be long gone. I'd have to have arranged everything the night before and hope to heavens that Phil would not trip over it in the middle of the night.

Truth be told, I'd need to go buy that awesome basket and delightfully rumpled laundry.

So, no, what you see is a rather ordinary, cheap white laundry basket, most likely from Target or Walmart. It serves its purpose admirably, has done so for quite some time now, and hopefully will do so for quite some more time.

Cheap and ordinary though it might be, I've photographed it frequently. The light through the opens creates wonderful patterns, and I enjoy playing with my simple Iphone shots, hoping I managed to capture a bit of ordinary magic.

Capturing light keeps me engrossed for hours.

Some time ago, I would have told you that light is light is light. Not so.

Soft morning light.

The harsh midday light.

Dusky muted light.

Light dancing through tree leaves.

Light that leaves me squinting.

The light of the golden hours.

October light.

October light makes me smile, maybe more so than any other light. It brings with it soft golden magic, muted yet strong. I struggle to define what makes October light special, but any photographer knows it and knows its magic.

For now, I'll enjoy these last days of summer light, watching it shift each and every day.

I'll watch it, catalog it, photograph it.

I'll store it in my head, calling it back when I need it the most during winter's long days.

Light is magic, you know.



The Gifts of Ordinary Days


A low long roll of thunder woke me this morning, and I instinctively snuggled deeper into the covers, listening to the rain, perfectly content. Eyes finally adjusting to the darkness - no morning light dancing across the hardwood floors today - I ventured downstairs to grab my coffee, being careful not to be waylaid by a lurking cat, desperate to join me in bed.

Back upstairs to light a candle, sit and meditate in the morning's silence, and offer up my prayers and thoughts for the day. Morning pages written, I treated myself to more coffee and a podcast.

Yesterday, I wore my cranky pants all day, no special reason, just out of sorts. I had meant to clean the house, do some writing, edit some photos. Nothing on this list got done; I spent the day curled up, doing crossword puzzles, Suduku puzzles, and getting lost in the maze otherwise known as the interwebs. I know that each day gives its own gifts, but I had a hard time finding them yesterday. I can see them now, but yesterday? Yesterday seemed to be a lost cause.

Last Saturday, though? Just a perfectly ordinary, beautiful day, full of gifts and tiny ordinary miracles. Saturday was the kind of day that feeds my soul.

Most weekends we have the twits, often together, and we've learned to get them outside and moving whenever we can. Ages 5 1/2 and nearly 8, they each possess the energy of an atomic bomb. After tooling around in Twit#1's car, helping Grandpa to gather sticks to be burned, digging for rocks (Our yard is the mother lode of rocks; the boys seem to be constructing a funeral pyre of rocks, and we're not sure who/what is going to be sacrificed!), the natives showed signs of restlessness, with tiny spats rising to the surface.

Out came the corn hole boards and beanbags...perfect! Each twit had his own board and supply of bean bags, so no need to wait for his turn. After a few reminders that we did not want to hear competitive counting, we let them at it.

Sitting in the shade, watching the light skittering across the yard, I shot photo after photo and simply enjoyed watching them play.

Placing a stick in the grass to serve as the throwing spot, the fun began. Twit#2, a bit unhappy with the reminders to stand behind the stick, indulged in a bit of problem solving, grinned at us, and moved the stick closer to the corn hole boards!

Eventually tiring of throwing straight at the board and creative counting - Twit#2 had reached Googleflex20 after all, the next level of fun began. Facing away from the boards, they thew the bean bags without looking to see if they could earn some points. A bit later, the corn hole boards got upended and leaned against a tree to serve as a basketball hoop of sorts. Let me tell you, dribbling bean bags takes some skill!

Still later, the boards found themselves serving as soccer goals, and when we eventually went inside, they became - along with the couch cushions and a few blankets, the perfect walls for a fort. I loved watching the natural progression of ways to use the corn hole boards, and I wondered why, as adults, we can't hold onto this sort of "outside the box" thinking that often happens so naturally in kids.

The day ended with catching fire flies and marveling at the tiny light shows.

Very little TV or electronic devices crept into the day; instead, good physical play, lots of creative thinking, and a ton of laughter. Each of us simply enjoyed the moments as they came, no real plans or structure in mind. It all seemed so perfect...sun light, no humidity, simple meals, and so much fun.

So, today. Today will be the cleaning I didn't do yesterday, as I indulged in sulking and crankiness. The herb stuffed pork roast will get popped into the oven right after Phil comes home. I'll indulge in writing out some snail mail - I love writing and sending real mail! I'm sure a few puzzles will get worked, some art made, some reading done.

But most of all, I'll focus on what's good and right with my life today; the cranky pants lie buried under some dirty laundry.

I don't plan on getting back to them any time soon.


So Many Stories

Cookie bowl

Yesterday afternoon, after a "no good horrible very bad day," (Thank you, Judith Viorst, for that wonderfully accurate group of words!), I curled up, just wanting to go home. Managing a group of middle school a sub, no less...on one of the last remaining days of the school calendar year is not for the faint of heart. Neither of us much wanted to be where we happened to be.

Mrs. M. poked her head in, quietly asking me if it would bother me if she cleaned, and I immediately relaxed. No matter that she had a schedule of things to get done, after working a full day already, she put my comfort ahead of her "to do" list.

As she worked, we chatted back and forth about how our days had gone, and I asked her about her summer plans.

A huge smile broke out, and eyes twinkling, she told me, "School. I'm going back to school."

Delighted I pressed for details, and without hesitation, she filled me in.

"I'm going to learn computers and how to manage an office. I want to help my husband. And, most of all, I want to learn to write English. I can speak it, read it, but I am not so good with with the writing."

By now, we both smiled, me in sheer delight that this lovely woman, some 40 years of age, I think, was willing to put herself out into a great unknown area. She smiled, I'm guessing, because someone took the time to hear her story.

You see, Mrs. M. works during the school day in the school cafeteria, and immediately after to her duties as janitor. She never seems to stop moving. I know she's a fantastic cook, her fresh guacamole and other "special" dishes, made everyone's day.

My dad always reminded us to "see" and acknowledge those faceless workers we tend to ignore - the cooks, the janitors, the delivery men, the folks who pick up the trash. We tend to take them, and what they do, for granted.

It always pays off, human kindness, taking me into some one else's world and outside of mine (which in this case pretty much involved self pity), and you can bet that there's going to be a great story.

I asked if she would miss the school and the cooking, and she answered immediately with a soft yes.

Pausing for a moment, she continued, "You see, I think this is my gift, to be of service.  To nurture and take of others with my cooking."

Wow, what a lesson and wake up call for me. Yes, I'd pretty much been through the ringer with the day's events, but where I curled up and tried to shut out the world, she kept right on moving. The kids whiz by the cafeteria staff, most of them not even making eye contact. Not so much out of rudeness, but simply eager to eat and then play outside.

Despite this, with love, kindness, and talent, seldom being thanked for her efforts, she would miss it all.

I told her that I admired her, her willingness to learn, to serve, and that I'd keep her in my prayers. I told her that I meant that, and my words were a promise to her.

She asked me to pray for her son, a former student, because he was heading to Iraq, and she was worried. Of course, I answered "yes."

If I hadn't asked those few questions, I'd never have been rewarded with the beautiful hopes and dreams behind this woman, who simply wanted to serve.

All of us have stories behind our faces, stories we all want to tell. We want to be seen and heard.

Being a collector of stories, well, it doesn't get much better.


Note: the above photo shows my mother's "cookie bowl" with stories all its own. I shot it last week as part of an online class assignment, and it seemed to be a perfect fit. My only regret from yesterday's encounter with Mrs. M., is that I should have asked to take her photo.



Yesterday was the two of us claiming us time, time to get away out into spring, time to be that couple...not mom, not dad, not grandparents, not budget makers.

Yesterday was time to be just us.

Yesterday was tulips, daffodils, violets and more, dancing in color, making us smile.

Yesterday was a bird, perched so high atop a tree, that we could barely make him out. He stretched that tiny neck and let forth such a performance of sounds and melodies that we stopped dead in our tracks and drank it in.

Yesterday was baked tortellini and salad, eaten leisurely as we chatted away. We felt like grownups.

Yesterday was crawling on the ground, trying to capture magic, and nearly doing a face plant into the garden beds more than once.

Yesterday was stopping to chat with new friends, talking about what to plant in a very shady yard, and finding more commonalities than anyone might have guessed.

Yesterday was relaxing on garden benches tucked into corners here and there and admiring a magnolia, watching its blossoms drift to the ground like snow.

Yesterday was meandering through one of my favorite antique shops, one that feels like I'm back in my parents' attic, searching out forgotten treasures.

Yesterday was book stores and craft stores, bringing home supplies to make new snail mail and send it out into the world.

Yesterday was pretty much perfect.