Where the World Bleeds White
I’ve been drifting through this last week in a haze, my feet hovering a couple of inches off the ground coming off of an epic trip with some of my favorite people.
Even the name sounds like some mythical place only imagined under the most creative minds in fairy tales.
It didn’t disappoint.
Every bend in the road revealed a new and fantastical scene of eye candy to feast upon. One moment my gaze is met by spectacular snow-capped mountains only then to be greeted by black sand beaches stretching out to infinity. The next turn finds me indulging in a glacial lagoon and then wrapping myself in the lichen covered landscape of the lava fields, letting the earth fold me in her arms. Another curve exposes the most surrealistic rock formations… I could swear I was trapped inside a Salvador Dali painting. Maybe Dali dreamed of this far off land before picking up his paint brush. Canyons cutting deep into the land displaying mossy fingers and grooves… and HORSES! (The 8 year old inside of me couldn’t get enough!)
Mother Nature certainly had her way when she created this island. I eagerly awaited every new change in direction in anticipation of her next unveiling. What new magic trick did she have up her sleeve?
And the waterfalls a plenty…they cascaded down curtains of rock everywhere. Plenty of Icelanders so strategically built their house with this in mind. Nothing quite like a waterfall in your very own backyard in the summer time. And the purest water at that. We filled our bottles right from the source, no fear of repercussions and better than any water out of the tap back home.
Far and few are the places untouched by man. And boy are they grand.
I’ve always said that my church was on top of a mountain. It’s also beside a waterfall. Or perched atop the edge of a cliff overlooking majesty. Finding those moments when you realize how small we really are. A tiny piece of the bigger puzzle. Comprised of the same.
Words really cannot express how blessed I feel to have been a part of this whirlwind of excitement. It was a love affair of friendships and inspiration as 18 people, just strangers a year prior, embarked upon the RV Caravan Express! I have to admit I was fearful that time would erode the magic from the previous adventure. As time tugs at the years, my natural inclination is to limit the close friendships in my life. So this new tethering felt elusive and precious. Any and all concerns immediately flew right out the window as soon as Bonnie and I arrived, the last two in from the States, we were greeted with gusto. The door to the taxi flew open, bags taken quickly from our grasps only to find ourselves lost in a sea of arms…like a hug from a thousand bears. We were home. And my heart will forever beat like a jungle drum.
Many more stories will emerge as each new piece unfolds.
I don’t often say this, but I’m kind of in love with this piece. We are all our own worse critics and I am no different when it comes to my art. I was hesitant to begin this concept, not really knowing if I had the skill to pull off what I intended. I often thought of waterfalls as the long flowing hair of the earth. Maybe they displayed Mother Earth herself or perhaps a nymph rooted to the land, bathing in the landscape. This particular waterfall, named Svartifoss, of the thousands we experienced up close and afar, resided approximately 3 miles into Skaftafell National Park. Surrounded by very geometric rock cuts, it carved out a theatrical stage for proper attendance.
A very popular place, most of the seats were already occupied for the show as many photographers lined up with their tripods to capture the power of Svartifoss. All those red dots in the photograph to the left are people!
So I moved to a different vantage point. Let’s call it stage right.
Detail of the rocks in their geometric patterns.
This was the original shot on a rather gloomy and overcast day. Spring had not quite graced us with her presence yet. Many of the Icelanders exclaimed that summwe was a month off and the current weather was more of May than June. The flowers were just beginning to bud.
A new edition to our Fromagi family, this is Mia Hutchison, a beautiful 18 year old along on the ride to model our concepts. Luckily enough, also a dancer, she had the flexibility to contort herself to my vision. And her long wavy hair matched the flowing tendrils of water cascading down the rocks perfectly. Despite her youth and the tendency toward electronic forms of communication, she has the most wonderful personality. Engaging. Spunky. Humble. Able to talk easily with people twice her age (uh, yeah, that’s me!) Thank you, Mia, for being a part of our experience. :-)
Did I mention the horses? Aside from sheep, these fuzzy horses with their rock star hair could be found at every turn. Brazen, they had no problem coming closer to investigate me while my curiosity and desire to touch anything fuzzy brought me closer to them.
Did you miss those beautiful creatures in the original image? You can find them resting bottom right at the base of the waterfall/hair, quietly watching you as you watch them. Perhaps we all have a little voyeur inside…
The Fall of Sovereignty
This past week the organization I work for part time announced its new CEO to the masses. Month’s since the last one kindly retired to the quiet life of family time and endless games of golf, we were due for new leadership. A long, arduous process of vetting, narrowing the pool, interviewing, thoroughly examining the inner workings of core values and character to make sure all aligned properly for such a crucial role at the head of this table…naturally, this process is not to be handled without care and finesse, especially when it affects so many.
I’ve never worked for a company that believed so strongly in their core values that it runs through the veins of everyone it touches. Not just another saying for the wall for all to read when they pass through the front door, these words have clout. They stand not only for the ideal member but as a symbol of belonging. A place governed by recognition of common principles, goals, risks, decisions and attitude. Every action is for the betterment of the whole. For alignment with the core values. For the legacy of tomorrow.
I felt excitement in the moment! I’ve never been one for exuding school spirit. Us art school girls walk to our own beat where individuality is king. But I have to admit, the Kool Aid went down nice and smooth. I smile for the future of this organization.
But a cloud hovered as I pondered whether the process of electing our next President, or any for that matter, follows such intention as we come upon the next election season. The current list for those attempting to put their hat in the ring trails on forever. So much in fact I’ve lost count. Everyone is lining up for the Hunger Games. Its do or die in a game of “I can do anything you can do better.”
Trust me, I’m not here to waive my flag over politics. Quite frankly, I despise it even more than school spirit, but living so close to center it’s hard not to feel the palpable pulse ringing in the air from across the river. So brace yourself…
While Captain Awesome’s family stopped in for a visit we had a chance to tour Lincoln’s Cottage. It was an unconventional tour of an empty house with several stories of Lincoln and Mary’s time spent during a troubling moment in American history. A place of deep contemplation where such hard decisions shaped our world, our country for today. There’s a certain truth and resolution resonating throughout Lincoln’s presidency. He did what he believed in his heart to be right. Regardless of what anyone else thought, judged, said, or offered to fund. He lead by example.
I wish I could look at our current government, and by current I mean this century, and feel that strength in resolve for purpose. Feel the love for this country, for all the men and women who have shed blood for the sake of our freedoms, for the safety and security of our future so that we may all march forward in pursuit of life, liberty and happiness. Instead, the news displays a dismal view of….a long list of derogatory adjectives that’s bound to incite drama and heated conversations which I would write if I really felt like engaging in such exchanges. Fill in your own blanks.
What can I say, that’s the news. Sensationalism at it’s best. Where massive thunderstorms prove to focus more attention than those bright sunny days. I’m sure not all apples are rotten but there’s bound to be one, or 5, that spoil the barrel.
I wish I had the answers. I wish for a lot of things. I’ll leave it at that.
I made the acquaintance of some lovely ladies the other day. They welcomed me into their group with open arms, words of encouragement and nuggets of information. One of them was the existence of the Capitol Ruins at Rock Creek Park. Unbeknownst to most, the park holds remnants of the past, stacked up precariously like a game of Jenga. Upon doing a little research, otherwise known as googling, I discovered that these stones were likely placed here during the renovation of the Capitol Building that began in 1958. The fun fact, beside the mere sight of this treasure trove, states that these marble and sandstone pieces likely mark the East Front Facade which originated all the way back to the War of 1812…back when the Capitol was nearly burned down!
So nothing like a little piece of history tucked under the forested blanket not far from the hustle and bustle of the DC Metro. For those of you that need to see this for yourself, make your way to the horse stables at Rock Creek Park. There’s parking close by. Go through the red stables and pick up a trail on the back end. Hang a right. Less than half a mile you’ll come across a pile of rocks that don’t quite look like they belong. You have arrived. Pay your respects to these old stones and leave everything just the way you left it for the next visitor to make his way upon this unsuspecting piece of history.
This piece originally had every intention of showing the land surrounding this stone graveyard. Clearly they’d marked this spot for some time as evidence by the shrubs and trees growing around, sometimes through the rocks. But I have minimalistic tendencies on occasion and those trees distracted my gaze. So after hours of playing, I decided to eliminate them altogether to give the appearance of a more recent ruins. Not ruins that the land tried to reclaim. But this is what it looked like before, blue dress and all.
I’m not completely convinced that this piece is complete. But sometimes you have to know when to stop…come back later and pick up the pieces.
Taste the Sweet of Spring
I awoke this morning to a sharp pain in my lower back and tenderness in both hands. One step onto the floor elicited a shooting sensation that brought the tinglies straight down to my toes.
Welcome to middle age!
For the previous day proved to be a gorgeous one. The air filtered through with a crisp coolness that beckoned for everyone to enjoy their time outdoors. And that we did. Captain Awesome and I set forth with the goal to tend to the yard. The first time this season. My first home. My first plot of land. My first set (of many, I’m sure) contributing aches and pains of home ownership! Literally!
The early signs of spring resulted in the cropping of these beautiful little yellow flowers. They stretched out, blanketing the earth in a smile of sunshine. Yellow is such a friendly color. But upon closer inspection, those flowers masked themselves with a veil of deceit. Not flowers at all, but weeds. Big ugly, pointy leafed weeds that built a tap root right down to Hades! Oh my, and they were e.v.e.r.y.w.h.e.r.e!
Why did we wait so long!
The grass couldn’t even grow in some places as the weeds spread out like wildfire. But we were determined. Now is the time. The time is now. (And the in-laws are due to arrive in a week!)
5 hours, 2 sore lower backs and a handful of dirty garden tools later, we sat on the back porch admiring our work. [Insert fine alcoholic beverage here.]
The pride of our day’s accomplishments outweighed the aches and pains of the activities. We sat and smiled at each other.
Tasting the sweet of spring never felt so good!
I have to admit that I’m rather proud of this piece. Honestly didn’t think it would make it out of my head as many obstacles presented itself during shooting.
One, it was a race against the setting sun. Yes, I said setting sun. Behind us displayed a beautiful scene of colors as the sun made way for the mountains before cloaking the landscape in darkness. Time was not on our side. But I was on a mission to portray Chantal as Persephone amongst the igneous rock that strangely sprouted across this particular valley.
Two, those rocks jutted out with sharp edges and deep crevasses. Not suitable for bare feet, especially ones that planned on hiking up Angel’s Landing in Zion the next day.
Three, a mouse made an appearance. At least we think it was a mouse. It could’ve been a chupacabra for all we knew!
So to battle problemo numero uno, I jacked the ISO up to 800. I don’t like to deal with too much noise, but at this stage in the game, it was inevitable. And as it stood, my shutter sat slowly at 1/20th with my f-stop set at 4.2. A recipe for disaster. No light. High noise. No room for subtle movement. I probably could’ve opened up a bit more, but with my 50mm in place, I didn’t want to risk blurring my subject anymore than what was already highly likely. So I just went with it!
Even with the exposure set, I opened this up another stop in post.
Yes, that flower is real. It stands out proudly alongside Chantal’s rockin’ neon sneakers!
Two minutes separated the top image from these two which equated to another stop of light.
Dawn does not rise to darkness. So I turned night to day.
Side note: While tending to the garden of this image, Ben’s Fold Five’s song, Kate, shuffled through my playlist and spoke to “you can see daisies in her footsteps” – out of the blue. It made me smile, those little serendipitous moments that I choose to believe tell me I’m in the right place. So If you want to smile too click here – Ben’s Fold Five – Kate.
Invocation of the Muse
Lately, I’ve taken to feeding my mind with books on conquering resistance and harnessing the power of creativity. This, along with watching Ted Talks to match the subject matter, has taken a front seat to scrolling the internet which only gets me into trouble. There’s been a string of rising stars in my world of photography. Watching them you feel a swift breeze of inspiration along with an equal kick of self doubt and fear. But talks like this one with Kirby Ferguson speak to the notion that no one is truly original anymore. I’m not sure if that makes me feel better or creates another wave of anxiety. As an artist, I believe we come forth from deep within, placing a piece of our soul out in the world for others to pick up and explore. So the mere thought of duplicating another person’s concept, even if by accident, is a horrifying thought. Even more horrifying…the idea that maybe we aren’t that unique. After I take a moment to reflect on that thought I come to a new consensus. There is solace and comfort in knowing there are others out there sharing a similar smiling spirit. Others to collaborate with. Share insights, encourage and motivate. So maybe it’s not all that bad.
But on that note, if we aren’t all original, how do we seek to find that authentic concept? These are the thoughts that keep me up at night.
According to history, the ancient Greeks and Romans called upon a daimon to help them reach their fullest potential, also known as a genius. I’m not sure when the Western world took over this word to describe one person possessing innate abilities, whether they be intellectual or creative, but to the Greeks/Romans, a genius was some kind of deity that would come down from the heavens and bestow upon us inspiration. The words to write. The melody to play. The all encompassing theory that would change the way we view the world, etc. etc. All that is required is our presence to take in these moments of grandeur and put pen to paper, paint to canvas. How much easier the process sounds (in theory) to invoke the power of the genius…to bring forth creativity to oneself as such a willing participant.
Steven Pressfield, the author of The War On Art, (and also the author of The Legend of Bagger Vance) says a little prayer to “show respect to this unseen Power who can make or break me” before sitting down to work.
It goes like this:
“O Divine Poesy, goddess, daughter of Zeus, sustain for me this song of the various-minded man who, after he had plundered the innermost citadel of hallowed Troy, was made to stay grievously about the coasts of men, the sport of their customs, good and bad, while his heart, through all the sea-faring, ached with an agony to redeem himself and bring his company safe home. Vain hope – for them. The fools! Their own witlessness cast them aside. To destroy for meat the oxen of the most exalted Sun, wherefore the Sun-god blotted out the day of their return. Make this tale live for us in all its many bearings, O Muse.”
– from Homer’s Odyssey, translation by T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia)”
It kinda takes the pressure off just a wee bit. Call it God. Call it a daimon. Call it a genius. A muse. It doesn’t hurt to pay homage, request a little help and light a candle before a days work. Might have to give this a go.
Maybe that is exactly what Michelangelo did before painting the Sistine Chapel.
This past weekend took me through the South Eastern tip of Utah to a little town called St. George (and onward to Zion National Park) with some incredible people.
The focus: teamwork, leadership, and personal development. I feel quite blessed and lucky to be a part of this group, to experience the energy and feel encouragement for my endeavors on a regular basis. And even luckier to have these two lovely ladies agree to model for me out in the desert with the pressure of the setting sun.
The perfect setting. Inspiration at every bend in the trail. The movement of light with the passing day. The smell of the earth. The occasional jack rabbit running through the landscape. The air must vibrate on a different frequency there. Perhaps one where the spirit world and our world are most closely aligned. All one can do is look around and drink it all in…every last drop.
Most certainly, there is a reason why they call this place Zion.
If you are interested, check out this 20 min Ted Talk with Elizabeth Gilbert…her thoughts around creativity and how you can continue to aspire to greatness even after obtaining success after Eat Pray Love.
This is a non-post. I’m about ready to head out tomorrow to hit the National Park ridden State of Utah with some fellow co-workers, of whom I am lucky enough to call friends.
(I should be sleeping right now!)
But I made a promise to myself that I would karate chop resistance in the face as I attempt to post to this blog weekly. And since, time ran away like the dish with the spoon, this will have to do.
Here is proof that sometimes, as you stare off into the distance preparing to jump four feet down while performing your best Peter Pan, you just gotta stop and do a little dance!
This also goes to show what happens when you hand control of the shutter over to one of your supervising friends. (Thanks, Bonnie!)
Do A Little Dance – Get Down Tonight!
More to come next week. I should have better material to share than this silly little gif. (I just learned how to make these…again, when I should be sleeping!)