Saturday, January 31, 2009

Photography Field Trip: Fog

For the last several days, we have woken to dense freezing fog, the kind that leaves an cold icing of frost everywhere. Beautiful, really. I kinda hoped for the same today on our class field trip. It was certainly cold and foggy -- just minus the frosting. We began at a waterfront park, in the early morning light. I was wearing snow pants, boots and two sets of gloves. May have been overkill. Fortunately, there is no photographic evidence of this style statement! Anyway, I was temporarily flummoxed about how to get started! Everyone bustling about with their tripods and fancy cameras. They seemed so ambitious and productive! Finally got a couple shots off of dark fir trees in the foreground with the lightening fog in creeping across the green grass . . . sounds delightful, doesn't it? I'm not sure they actually worked and will withhold them until I can lay my eyes on the actual printed version . . . 
Our second stop, after coffee at a local bakery, was a rhododendron garden. I actually found evidence that spring is on her way. See above. Also saw lots of bird life, including a lone hummingbird that I couldn't figure out how to capture on "film." I was really taken with the two above pics and another of a white feather -- lots of beaded water detail. Alas, I need to use a timer next time to reduce the shake when depressing the shutter . . . and mess with the light meter. I'm learning all the time.
Here is one shot of the "fog" -- notice that the duck kinda in the middle has water pouring of his back. He just popped back up to the surface. Cool! The colors got brightened in Photoshop elements -- see what I mean about the light meter! UGH! I want to go back out there and do it all again. 

I had a wonderful time. I became so lost in looking for images that I didn't notice the passing of time. The rest of my classmates had exited the park, making their way to their cars and I was still busily snapping away. In fact, can't wait to go to Costco and pic up the prints and I intent to go back out and experiment a bit more before the day is out!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Barbwire revisited

It is a happy, happy day! Solid sleep last night, cheerful kids this morning and actual joyful anticipation for the day. It'll be a full day and not without significant challenges but I feel as if I've come out the other side of some sort of dark place . . . Conversations with good and trusted friends helped me reframe the way I was approaching this "dark place." Not so very different than seeing something other than potential threat in a tangled strand of barbed wire. This sleepless, anxiety-ridden time is a transition. The images that come to mind are of a irritable snake shedding his skin. Or the pain of labor.  Something to be endured, weathered. Something good is coming . . . 

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Bloody Freak'n Insomnia

Plague, plague, plague. Not sleeping. UGH. Oh well, guess that means quality quiet time for me while my hubby snores (loudly) upstairs. You know, when small children mysteriously begin waking at night, a hypothesis is that they wake at a time when their parents are readily available . . . as if to make up for the time away during the day. These little tots wake up, inviting their parents to either snuggle, beg or otherwise bribe them back into bed or, if they are clever and their parents especially vulnerable to guilt, to play. I have met more than a few sets of gullible parents that find themselves with the legos on the floor in the wee hours of morning. Perhaps I am awake because this is my chance at quiet. Uninterrupted time . . . 

I know this sleep thing will pass. For now, why fight it. I'm going to crack this book on photography and when I feel truly tired (or more tired, I guess), I'll give it another go. Wish me luck.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Photo Assignment #3 -- Figuring out the Focus thing

This week's class assignment was to focus on simple images -- fill the frame and begin thinking about composition. Fabulous plan excepting I think I'm a few steps further behind than my fellow aspiring artists . . . I just realized that I need to MANUALLY focus my camera. I mean, I've been doing manual everything else but couldn't figure out why what I thought I was focusing on wasn't actually in focus. Ta-da. I'm so excited by this discovery that I spent a bit of time with drops of melting snow. 
An unlikely subject -- barbwire. I'm loving being able to control depth of field and, once again, focus. I took several, varying the focus on the "clump" of wire vs. the pole. I'm wishing that I had filled the frame with the tangle and perhaps from a lower angle. I'm beginning to understand why, as a friend at the gym said, you could spend an hour taking pictures of a single bush. Of course, on this particular day, it was cold. I wore gloves and still found it difficult to use my fingers properly!
I took two pictures -- this and another that focused on the barn in the background with the fence out of focus. I like this one so much better. I don't know why. What about a fence pole with worn red paint and a bit of moss is so engaging? Is it that the red is reflected by the barn? The faint reminder of snow in the background, tying into the corrugated metal roof? 

Of course a post wouldn't be complete without some little trip into my inner world. The word of the day, if it hasn't been apparent, is "focus." In my last entry, I talked about focusing on the essentials -- those being sleep, nutrition and my family. Things are still a bit blurry. There is nothing "auto" about managing the multiple responsibilities and demands for my time and attention. Got to go manual . . . Man, that's cheesy. Sorry. I need practice on staying present in the here and now. Disregarding distractions and turning my attention to what is immediate. Right now it's my crazy offspring racing around the house. 

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Photo Assignment #2 -- Plus assorted crazy

Ta-da. Our 2nd assignment asked us to take 4 photos of the same subject, varying the aperture. Here is the same church photographed last week with the noticeable addition of the sun! Ah, Portland has been basking in several days worth of unobstructed sunshine. Fantastic stuff -- I can feel the Vitamin D absorbing into my bones or wherever its supposed to be. Back to photos, we were also supposed to be focusing on shadows in our composition. I don't really know what that means except I made sure there were "pretty" shadows . . . Also bought a couple books that I hope to be helpful in my quest for photography skills: an after market book on my camera and Understanding Exposure by Peterson. Which brings me to the 2nd theme of today's blog -- the crazy.

Apparently this is going to be a very busy, busy year around here, what with all my "resolutions" and such. Oh, and new teaching gig at local college. Yep, that's right. Along with the job, and the photography class, and family, I am now co-teaching a class for aspiring therapists one night a week. Suddenly my world feels like it may spin off its axis! This is good news (not the falling out of orbit part)! The photography is about finding a creative outlet and coping mechanism for a rather stressful career. I truly enjoy what I do and it's my calling . . . but I need to be conscience about self-care or risk burn out. Teaching is another avenue for doing this. I hope that some day it can supplement a private practice and I enjoyed teaching when I was doing it. 

In the meantime, I'm focused on just managing my various roles and responsibilities in the short term. Just the basic necessities beyond what is needed for work and class  -- sleep, nutrition, family.  This last week at work was not stellar in these areas. I think that most days, I failed to eat lunch and regularly disregarded my poor bladder, dashing between various appointments. When I was home, I was worse than a lump on the couch. I was a irritable, head-achy lump on the couch. This can not continue. As the week begins, I am hoping to stay more fully present when with my family, be planful about caring for my own needs and embrace a new opportunity. 

Monday, January 12, 2009

Photography Class: Assignment #1

The adventure of learning how to use a new camera is amazing:) Intimidating, daunting at times but overall, exciting. Above pic is a fluke - -don't have any idea how I managed to get one nice pic out of dozens and dozens of experiments. I guess that is the goal of taking this class -- know why something works and something else doesn't. The first class assignment was to choose a subject and take a series of photos, altering shutter speed and aperture. Initially, I wondered around with the family at Forest Park, looking for something interesting to take pictures of. Just choosing a subject was giving me the shakes! It was foggy and dark, everything looked green and I couldn't figure out how to frame a shot that was interesting. Took some pics of the kids playing and then went home, resigned to try again in the afternoon. 

Take 2 found me alone (key, perhaps!) at a couple of country church yards. Beautiful white churches set against the hillsides with a brooding sky. I think the more notable contrast helped a great deal. I'm actually feeling pretty good about these! Likely I'll get a little comeuppance when I show up to class with my little pile of photos! 

Meanwhile, along with learning how to use the camera, I'm using an online class to learn how to use Photoshop Elements and Bridge. I've been frustrated with iPhoto's apparent inability to interact with online photo ordering sites and Bridge seems more compatible . . . but neither is truly intuitive (or perhaps my intuition is what needs some work!). 

Friday, January 9, 2009

Mini Saga #2 -- Baby "Six"

Baby "Six"

Little Sis opened the Christmas package to find a new baby doll. Nana asked what the baby's name was. "Six," said Sis and the name has stuck. Big D commandeered another baby doll that he insists is "Seven." Where are "One," "Two," "Three," "Four" and "Five?" No one is talking . . . 

Happy, Happy Camera Day

My first photography class was this Wednesday at the local community college. I was terribly intimidated by the first rate digital cameras and the aspirations (mostly professional) of the other students. We introduced ourselves and our camera. My poor baby camera . . . I felt like I needed to apologize for its simple point and shoot functions. And whereas the other students wanted to "improve" their photography skills and ultimately use them professionally, I just want to take beautiful pictures of my family, develop a more creative/design -orientated eye and use my photos in various media projects (blog, albums, print, etc.). It's about enrichment and personal satisfaction for me. Rebutting the story I have of myself as an inept artistic soul. 

The teacher is an older man who has been a professional photographer for decades. He is kind and understanding and optimistic that we can learn what he has to offer. I was excited about all that I could learn and disappointed when I realized my camera could not keep up with the assignments and projects. It has no manual functions whatsoever so I can not adjust shutter speed, aperture, etc. all of which were crucial to the very FIRST assignment. When I came home, I'm embarrassed to say, I sat at the table and when asked how class went, cried. My poor baffled husband. It seemed that my options were to drop the class, take the class and muddle through as best as I and my camera could or . . . and I was afraid to admit this was the solution I wanted - badly! Get a new camera. 

My hubby's response was immediate and unwavering -- get the camera. I love him! It is hard for me to ask for things I want for myself, especially if they are not "functional" and necessary. On his way home from work last night, he picked up a Nikon D60 at Costco and it was waiting on the kitchen table when I got home. I have been pouring through the manual and fiddling and can't wait to begin working  on this week's assignment.  Pics to come soon:) 

Monday, January 5, 2009


Finally, my first "scrapbook" page using Elements. I know you can't actually read it . . . that'll be the next step. Making it bigger without it being "too" big to load. 

I know making resolutions is supposed to be taboo and really, it is. What's the point of resolving to do all these wonderful things for ourselves and others only to fail? Except we never plan on failing! We expect that we will accomplish at least some of the things on our list and if the gods are kind, we'll forget about the others. Fortunate for me, I can already check of #1 and the list itself is proof that I'm working on another. 

Which will be the most difficult for me? The last. I think that feeling rotten about the aesthetics of my body (vs. its relative health) is my "burden to bear." Some sort of self-righteous flagellation. I'm not worthy, I'm not worthy . . . turn away from my horridness. What would happen if I chose to give up this idea of my body as flabby and unattractive and embraced it? God, the earth would quit spinning on its axis! Maybe this is the year the earth will stand still:) 

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Mini Saga #1 -- "Pets"

Going back to the book I discussed yesterday, A Whole New Mind, and the 6 senses the author describes . . . You're on the edge of your seat, aren't you:) He describes "story" as an integral means of understanding our world and our experiences. He makes the case that "facts" and "details" are easily managed in our electronic age but that narrative still relies upon our human creativity. Story is not merely objective but also subjective, putting the details into the context of emotional experience. This harkens back to the idea of universal myths -- hero stories and the like. 

This strikes a chord with this defunct high school English teacher and I am inspired to try the exercises he recommends for developing my own sense of "story." Well, I should add the "story" is integral still in my profession -- I listen to and help clients rework their own personal narratives, discovering their strengths and innate abilities to craft a life that is whole and healthy and happy. But I think I am ready to explore more of this "story" ability by writing my own little, mini actually, stories. 

The goal is to write an entire story in 50 words . . . . so here goes my first!

Big D found two adventuring earwigs and made them his pets, dubbing them Charlie and Crystal. He fed them applesauce and stared forlornly at them in their glass cup, complaining, "Mommy won't let me have a dog." Reluctantly he freed the near dead bugs into the backyard grass. Farewell bug pets.

Saturday, January 3, 2009


The crazy of the holidays is falling behind us and after three long weeks, the tots go back to their normal school/daycare schedules. "Arctic Blast" '08 hit our area the week before school let out for the holidays resulting in a full week of snow days . . . turning a two week break into three weeks. It's beginning to wear a little thin around here. Big D is trying to establish some sort of control over his environment and Sis is just being her 2 year old self. It'll be good for all of us to get back to a routine. 

Despite travel, family and all that comes with Christmas, I managed to read a book that has inspired me to try new things. It is entitled A Whole New Mind: Why Right -Brainers Will Rule the Future by Pink. You  may have heard of this book in an interview that Oprah did with the author both on her program and in the O magazine. His basic premise is that for some time, left-brainers (knowledge workers  such as engineers, programmers, professors, accountants, doctors and lawyers) have been at the top of the food chain but now with automation and outsourcing, these professions (at least in part) can be managed overseas for less. He challenges readers to rethink the value we put on right-brain attributes and strengths and to find ways to develop them, ultimately so that we can find a new place in the changing economy. He makes a compelling argument and fortunately for me, I am in a right-brain field which are defined as those that are service based, help others seek meaning/happiness, creative, design-based and able to synthesize apparently disparate ideas into something new or original. This is not an adequate explanation of the book so I would recommend it -- to anyone, really. It is making me think about what I want to see emphasized in the education of my children, how I want to conceptualize my own private practice (when I get around to getting that started!) and challenging myself to develop more of the right-brain senses which Pink defines as design, story, symphony, empathy, play and meaning. 

More to come!