I’m not a big believer in New Year’s resolutions. I’m not one for diets either. To some degree, both those words fall too often into the temporary camp of let’s give it our best go before our natural tendencies win the battle and the world settles back into status quo. Easier is the path of least resistance. Besides, there is always tomorrow.
Our holiday season was riddled with unexpected news. The kind that places a mirror squarely at eye level and forced us to take an honest assessment of our lives, evaluate the truth, what is crucial and that which is highly inconsequential. Unfortunately, we swim in the deep end of the latter. Perhaps most of us do. But, after the visual come to Jesus talk, the dawning realization was quite obvious. We’ve been living for the later and not for the now.
I saw something posted online that said, “one day or day one.” What if there is no day two? And what if we spend all of these days uttering one day realizing we never put ourselves into a position to actually begin day one? Then it’s too late. What a scary reflection to witness in a blink of internal observation. Then comes the question…
Why aren’t we living the life we want to live today? Of course, a thousand and one reasons explain this path and I promise you, they were all completely justified in thought and action. But perhaps blindly they failed to focus on the true importance of our existence. Which brings us to our next question…
What is truly important?
That answers rings different for everyone. For us, it was a wake-up call. Time to make some changes, permanent ones. Ones that do not merely part the grass to allow our passage, but forge paths in our wake. Not the path of least resistance, but rather the path to a more meaningful and purpose driven life.
A life where tomorrow is marked with day two, day three…
Behind the Scenes of Wake-Up Call
This particular piece was created quite awhile ago for a series stuck in my head like a rerun for some time now. I’m not even sure it belongs in said series any longer, so perhaps it’s now time to introduce it to the world…or at least the web. For it has made its presence into a gallery recently.
It’s one of my favorites. I think I like the simplicity of it the most. And before you ask, this is anything but a reference to Leda and the Swan. Truth be told, I never actually read that piece of Greek Mythology but some pesky critic dismissed this piece as an obvious representation. A little bitter – yes, but I recognize the viewer is 50% of this equation and people will see and experience as they like.
But I digress, this particular concept came together perfectly one weekend. I took over the bedroom for a bit of furniture rearranging and to eliminate the scene of distracting elements. Actually, that took longer than anything else. I set the timer and shot three rounds before declaring victory and moving into post processing.
Luckily I have a library of swan images from my visit to Fire Island back in 2014, a fun adventure with the Bayerdorffers which feels like a lifetime ago. My apologies for the incessant photographing that naturally occurred once these two beauties made their way over, obviously with the intent of begging for food. They hovered for at least a good 20 minutes before departing to find some friendly stranger willing to toss some scraps. Nonetheless, these swans have come in handy many times, for the first time in Oddly Even and the second in Northern Migration. I’m sure they will swim their way into some future piece as well.
There is one very special person in my life who I can always count on when the earth feels like it’s about to fall out of orbit. The pressure in the atmosphere hangs heavy and my perspective shifts sideways as I struggle to determine which way is my true North. Much with the flow of all things in nature, my life is not without this natural cycle of highs and lows. Highs that push through the forces of gravity where one can hear the angels sing and lows heavy and dark enough to sink my own personal Titanic. Yes, this is my life. Perhaps the struggle of most everyone and certainly that of those who are more creatively inclined.
But on those days that are particularly dark, I march right into her office and explain my plight; for she always has the perfect response. Perfect in the sense of taking one sharp inhale of spearmint and eucalyptus and instantly you feel invigorated and alive from the inside out…reawakening your senses and providing a certainty of place in this world. If even just for a second. And in that moment, the realization hits that life isn’t really that bad. One inconvenience merely suggests there is an opportunity for something even greater.
If you are somewhat like me, you might think – not everything is rainbows and unicorns! How can one continuously live on a cloud, surveying the horizon above the storms?
The answer, I can only assume, is in the power of positivity.
For example: I might say – Ugh! I am SO sick of the rain! When will the sun return?! (Never mind that we’ve been experiencing the lovely Seattle weather here in Virginia for the last three weeks!) To which she might immediately respond with (and has), Oh no, but we needed the rain. Look at the trees and how they sway and glisten. Look at how green the grass is…the Earth was thirsty.
I might say – My car died. My beloved MINI Cooper, (whom I affectionately named Fergie), died this weekend. Her clutch gave out on one final hurrah on Interstate 395. Her pick up and go got up and left! And sadly, it costs more to replace it than the car is currently worth. (Face palm). Her response to my dejected dilemma – This is fantastic! Now you can pick out the car you want. You’ll have something reliable. And with the interest rates these days, you can walk out of there with hardly any money down and a decent monthly payment…no problem!
Even though that last example was a little tough to swallow, I have to step back and respect her ability to turn any frown upside down no matter how ridiculous I thought the comment was at the moment or how flustered and defeated I felt on the inside. Her abilities also apply to those beyond the scope of what one might consider trivial. My ever-changing landscapes and emotional roller coasters also elicit similar responses from her; all laced with an ounce of wisdom and warm blanket to comfort the cold recesses of my unsettled mind.
There does reside inside a part of me that wishes I could harness this super power. Yes, I did just refer to optimism as a super power. It’s so easy to jump on the negative bandwagon. Once one person starts down that path, everyone hops on to the tunes of woe is me and it’s all downhill to Pity Town. There must be some genetic disposition inside most of us to paint the world black instead of recognizing there are two sides to every coin and turning towards the light. We do have the power inside ourselves to make a choice. Really it’s an attitude adjustment; accept and adapt or brood and sulk. (Yes, I can see my 16 year old self rolling her eyes right now.) Perhaps like any good habit, consistency, especially in the face of adversity, is necessary for continued practice. Easier said than done.
I wonder if optimism has the ability to foster and cultivate in the same way that pessimism does. Can paying it forward perpetually exist? Or does it take one naysayer, one apple to ruin the barrel as they say, to watch the walls tumble down?
And while I let you ponder on that last question, I will leave you with this quote. Perhaps, since I aspire to harness a level of positivity, but know deep down it’s not in my genetic coding, I do feel a certain pull towards this line of thinking…
“I’m not interested in blind optimism, but I am very interested in optimism that is hard-won, that takes on darkness and then says, This is not enough!” ~Colum McCann
Thank you, my dear friend, for always being that beam of light that shines proudly through the dark clouds with purpose and intent.
Behind the Scenes of a Conceptual Photograph
The Dance of the Sanguine culminated from the same trip up to Watkins Glen, NY with other talented photographers. It was very early that morning when the alarm sounded out and woke our room of four sleeping girls – containing even two, yes I said TWO, Maris(s)a’s! Factor in the time of the month, November, and the early hour, it was just a bit nippy with temperatures below freezing. But there are those times when I recognize that sleeping in means I miss out on opportunities…like photographing the incredibly talented Shelby Robinson at sunrise while she blows bubbles into the breeze over the lake. The light slow rising on the hills in the distance. She was a sweetheart, willingly modeling in a paper thin dress, despite the freezing temperatures, despite the fact that she flew from Georgia where they rarely experience that kind of cold so early in the season.
I honestly wasn’t quite sure what I would attempt that morning, but I headed out with my camera and a bottle of bubbles, as I had this idea floating in my head for quite some time now. Once I surveyed the landscape, it was a no brainer.
Perhaps the early bird does know what he’s doing after all.
Here are just a few behind the scenes images…never mind the ridiculous number of frames I shot trying to catch the elusive bubbles over the water!
Thanks, Shelby, for being such a rock star! It was a pleasure meeting you.
An idea has been brewing beneath the surface to spend time focusing on a specific theme for a series and I have to admit I’ve been riding the struggle bus on this effort. My mind usually doesn’t allow me to stand still in one place for very long. Or fall instantly asleep, for that matter. But after Fotofest, and out of all the random feedback received over the course of that experience, the recommendation to create a series resonated the loudest. So it’s time to pull up the sleeves, whip the creative juices into a brainstorming frenzy and get to work.
This is the easy part. Staying on point is the weakness. But now that I’ve said it, I have to do it. Right?
Toying with ideas around my relationship with mom over the course of my existence keeps coming back to mind again and again. If any of you read my previous posting The Great Escape, you might have noticed our past wasn’t paved with mint ice cream. But I wanted to explore the entire gamut of emotions; and not just mine, but hers as well. There are two sides to every story. And even though some chapters are buried under cobwebs, dusting off the pages might offer some new insights to previously clouded judgements.
So I sat down one Wednesday night with a bottle of wine and interviewed Mom. Both a little nervous, we drank the courage slowly….and opened up the attic door to the past.
It was one of those great conversations I will remember till the end of my days. Time removed the goggles of my adolescents and showed a different perspective to this woman who gave me life. I had a list of questions prepared to assist with the flow of memories. Some questions were easier than others. Some answers, buried quite deep, blurred around the edges making it difficult to recall. But over the course of that discussion, what struck me the most was her bravery.
You may laugh at this now, Mom, but there was a resolve inside you that pushed you out in search of the great perhaps. To the other side of the country. Far away from everything familiar and into the unknown. You tell me now that I am more apt to take risks, but I say you took the biggest risk of all…in pursuit of a better life. For independence. For sanity. For a chance at happiness. Not many have the gumption for that level of boldness. In fact, many still live in the same town/neighborhood in which they were raised. Many hold tight to those toxic relationships, desperately and perhaps foolishly.
But you didn’t.
And of course, I’m rather glad that you did(n’t). :)
Behind the Scenes of a Conceptual Photograph
Animals find their way into my suitcase of stock images quite frequently due to the simple fact that they are freakin’ adorable and that I want to take them all home. I could live like Snow White in the woods with a thousand furry creatures but I’m sure Capt. Awesome would kill me! Anyhow, I knew these cute kits would wind their way into the limelight one day. Poised and waiting patiently, they were merely waiting for the right image.
Truth be told, I didn’t know what to make of this scene when I first set my sights upon it. I knew I had an hour during lunch on Granville Island and I wanted to make the most of it. The typical Pacific Northwest weather set in, wrapping the skies in grey while the dampness hung to the air, preparing for rainfall. Right next to my hotel loomed this magnificent hill. Climbing to the top elicited great scenes of the Vancouver skyline. But I loved how that hill shielded city life from the camera so I planted my tripod and got to work. It’s amazing what some angles can do to one’s sense of space.
When it was all said and done, my favorite image was what I least expected. I rather enjoy those happy accidents.
The only thing missing was one furry creature…coming right up!
I enjoy adding these elements of nature into my scenes. Animals can symbolize so many different things and we naturally have a tendency to personify them. So whether they are the silent observer, the messenger, the spirit animal, the companion, or the trouble-maker (I could go on and on), they add a little of the unexpected and sometimes a bit of mystery to an image.
I had the most amazing dream the other night. I must have awoken somewhere in the midst as I remember vivid details so clearly, even several days later. Much like those lucid dreams I often exercised when I was much much younger. I had the superhero power of simply closing my eyes, remembering a past dream and instantaneously positioning myself in said dream in absolute control of the events taking place before me. Now it takes me forever to fall asleep and I’m lucky if anything miraculous takes the stage behind these closed eyelids. Perhaps we lose the ability when college hits and the metabolism disappears!
But this dream was breathtaking. Before you start believing I am speaking in metaphors or that I must have been on drugs, I can assure you this is truly not the case! Two days after the vernal equinox (and appearance of the full moon) and behind closed eyes, the moon stood out between two buildings, beckoning with blinding light for a meeting. I left my father behind in search of dinner, excused myself with my camera. Of course I had my camera on hand, with my zoom attached, ready and poised. By the time I breached the buildings, I found myself standing out on the edge of a cliff overlooking vastness. The earth dropped away to air and a million stars surrounded my purview like a sprinkling of fairy dust. But to create more grandeur to an already magical scene, the presence of the moon shifted the gravitational pull of our entire solar system. Not only could I see the details of the moon, but I stood in awe of Jupiter, gasping as it rotated on its axis before my eyes. The delicious colors of coral red and tangerine orange, swirling in an out beneath the surface, while it’s moons circled about, casting shadows across this giant planet.
At that moment, I felt everything and nothing.
I felt as if the universe pulled back the curtain for just a moment to bestow inspiration down upon me. To make me realize and understand that no matter how small I might feel, or beaten down and exhausted, that I, that we, are all a part of a much bigger picture. Far greater than we can even begin to fathom.
And then gratitude gently flowed through me.
Behind the Scenes of a Conceptual Photograph
Once again, as I sit and think about the next encounter with these amazing people I call Fromagis, I can’t help but reflect back on the past experience. One riddled with laughter and majesty. A place where not only you can dream up surreal images as you stare out into vastness, but then can turn around and share in a birthday sing along with the world’s largest moon pie.
That’s what happened when we arrived in Reynisdrangar. A mere cloudless sky snagged our initial opportunity to shoot. Truly, not my typical scene as the harsh shadows can often corrupt even the prettiest. But sometimes it works and you just go with it…grab Rebeca for a photoshoot on the rocks and watch her hair fly!
But finally, the sun began its descent for the next several long, slow hours causing all the tourists to trickle out of the area as the clock reached 10pm, then 11pm. We had the place to ourselves for the most part admiring the landscape, sitting on a black beach watching the waves break upon the shore.
Capt. Awesome keeps requesting our return. One day.
Behind the Scenes shot. :-)
Bonnie walks into the sunset along with the other tourists.
The endless black beaches stretch far as they wrap around to greet Dyrólaey.
The gift of the full moon rising as we sang Happy Birthday to Bonnie.
And while you’re here. Check out this beautiful video Rebeca created from our adventure. You know you want to…maybe just a little bit.
I just returned from 4 days of portfolio reviews at Fotofest, my first experience at this stage, and with this work, since college. It was a daunting experience to say the least, filled with anxiety and wrapped in a blanket of fear. I had solid goals going into the reviews and felt much like I’d been hit with a freight train coming out. To say the least, it was mentally and emotionally exhausting, but certainly good practice for summing up your work to a total stranger in under a minute…in preparation for a 20 minute review! And boy does that time go fast. Too fast in some occasions.
While I won’t go into details over what was said, because in the end, it doesn’t really matter all that much. I received good feedback and some that was a little lackluster. But such is the way of a purely subjective endeavor. Some get it and some don’t…and that’s okay.
What I found most surprising was the emotional response I had to the sum total of 21 reviews. It reminded me of one particular semester my junior year in college. My 19 year old self felt attacked by one professor who shall remain nameless. Let’s call her AL. She fought me every step of the way, refused to take in my intentions into account, pushed me in directions that felt unnatural – in attempt to please her to keep up my GPA. I deconstructed my own ideas to the 5th degree and when I attempted to start the next piece, she somehow expected the new piece to take off right where the 5th one ended. How is this even possible when it took that many steps to wind up on Square E? Baffled, angry and irritated, I barely skated out of that class with a B. But during the next semester, my work chartered down a completely different course. My collages became more personal, more intricate and on another plane altogether from my previous work. To some degree, it’s the same path I currently travel down, only my tools have changed. I remember AL coming up to me at our senior exhibition and commenting on how far the work had come…and how good it was in comparison. And while I defiantly refused to give her any credit for the transformation, I have to admit she pushed me out of my comfort zone and challenged my way of thinking.
With all that in mind, after the mental dust settles and I can review my notes with clarity of thought, I’m excited to see the next transformation, however subtle it may be. Because if I am really honest with myself, we are all a work in progress.
Behind the Scenes of a Conceptual Photograph
Photo Credit – Sarah Nieman
A Sculpting of Endless Passages was born from a trip with many other photographers at Watkins Glen, NY. The ever so talented, Robert Cornelius, invited a slew of us Up State and surprisingly, or maybe not so surprisingly, we all said YES! I can’t recall now how many of us there were, but we took up two houses and several beds. We also spanned the country from California to Florida and up the East Coast to Maine.
Beauty reached out from every angle in this place. Even our house looked out over the finger lakes and I was able to drag my butt out of bed one morning to catch the sunrise.
I would have to say that the best part of these photo adventures is making new friends and building upon current friendships.
There was no shortage of cloaks or swords!
And the running joke: Photographing a girl and you ask her to put on a dress. Photographing a guy and you ask him to take off his shirt!
The main attraction to Watkins Glen is the park with gorgeous waterfalls and winding rivers sculpting time into gorges. And since we arrived in November, we missed access to the falls by one silly, stupid day! Oh, the plans I had for those falls, especially coming off the summer in Iceland and creating Where the World Bleeds White…yes, I had plans! But upon crossing the bridge, I looked down into the gorge with winding waters and carved rock and realized all hope was not lost.
Aleah, an amazing photographer in her own right, agreed to model for me. And like a pro, situated herself in a thin dress upon the cold ground while I focused and directed until I got the intended shot. She has this quiet, fierce sensibility about her. I could tell she puts that same focus into her own work. Thank you for bringing my image to life so beautifully.
And I would be remiss if I didn’t share this image, another creation from that crazy weekend! Robert asked me to model for him and so now I shall live on forever in a piece of artwork as a Mistress of Mystery! Check out his blog here.