Week 35: Half & Half

Quite an open theme I had on my hands this week — half & half.  With my coffee? No, thanks, I’m talking something a little bit different.  What I automatically think of is a divide, more like an opposite type of project, but that wasn’t quite checking the “half & half” box in my mind.  So I went out in search of things that could fit the bill, and just so happen to find them in my back yard.

Summer is starting to fade…

It was literally just a few days ago that I was talking about a hot summer day, but with the slight change of the weather, and the fact that I was at the beach more like two weeks ago, things have started to take a turn for the worse already.  It’s also Labor Day weekend — the official end of summer.  While I haven’t received the notice, and have still been enjoying some hot, sunny days, other elements of nature apparently have.  I’m going to hold on to this nice weather for as long as I can, and will try to ignore the things changing around me.

It does prove for an interesting time of year, as well as some unique garden aesthetics.  While some things are in bloom, others have completely died.  Even within the same plant — parts are trying to grow, while others are giving up and conceding to the slowly cooling weather.

I’m enjoying both the literal and figurative expression of this theme.  Literally speaking, these plants are half dead, half living.  Plain and simple; a great example of a single object being split in to something which would be considered “half & half”.  Figuratively speaking, I see these as examples of life and death; new beginnings, closure for old issues.

I’m sure you all know by now that this has been a pretty interesting year for me, full of many changes and new beginnings of my own.  I’m sure you also know I like to work with opposites, and thoughts of life and death are often projected into my work.  Though I didn’t have a clear idea of what I wanted for this week, I did go out with a small intention to locate something along these lines.  Over the past few days I’ve started a new job, completed my first week at MICA, and have scheduled to begin my second new job in a few days.  It’s been overwhelming; I’ve been nervous, unsure, self-doubting, uncomfortable, and just plain scarred.  It’s also been the best week that I’ve had in a long time (except for vacation — the beach wins, hands-down, no matter what is going on in my life!).  I’ve also been happy.  Really, truly, eyes watering up, feeling excited, butterflies in my stomach, chills, engaged, inspired, motivated, happy.

For the first time in a long time I feel as if I’m within a group of like-minded individuals, and that I have contributed something of meaning.  I’ve also been able to let go of a lot of old ghosts haunting me by taking these steps in moving on.  It’s truly hard to grasp when I catch myself in the middle of it, but I’m at the begging of a journey that I have been wanting to take for as long as I can remember; a journey which I never though I would embark on.  Though I was unhappy, I fought for a very long time to hold on to the life I used to have.  I was afraid of change, and terrified of failure, both of which kept me in an unhealthy yet comfortable position.  I’ve made some extreme changes, and have taken some chances that even shocked me at times.

So while you may be viewing these pictures as I initially had, as images of the summer beginning to fade, remember that for the blooms to return next year, they have to start over, and let got of the seasons before.  In this case, life will come from death, and things that are half living now will be in full bloom again in a short while.  Letting go of old things will allow for new opportunities.  My life, which was being half-lived, will be in full bloom before I know it, and I’m still trying to wrap my head around it.

Around the Garden

Spending more time outdoors this summer is something that I’ve really been trying to do.  I haven’t been super successful, if I’m honest, but at least I’ve gotten out there and tried a few new things.  Babysitting a house which has been under construction for the last two weeks doesn’t really help in this goal, but it’s what I’ve been up to lately.  Luckily for me, my aunt’s house backs up to practically a forest, and my grandmother likes to spend a lot of time outdoors while we’re there, you know, just hanging out in the garden and tidying things up.  She’s forever busy.  I decided to take my camera along for a couple of days to see what I could capture.  It rained, and rained again, and things were busy, so I didn’t get to get out there as much as I wanted.

While inside a few of those days, I had spotted a few adorable bright yellow finches.  Knowing that we weren’t going to be there for much longer, I decided to pop the big lens on and just sit out on the deck for a while, waiting for them to return.  Of course, they didn’t — just my luck.  The bird feeders were empty by then, and my grandmother and I couldn’t find the food, so perhaps it wasn’t completely my luck.  Never the less, the birds were a no-show, and I was picture-less, so I decided to wander around the yard for a bit to see what I could find.

I came into quite a few little surprises, so I suppose I shouldn’t complain about my luck 🙂 .  Flowers which my aunt described as “daisies”, and dead, were still very much alive and actually more orchid like while attracting some interesting little fly-type bugs.  I’m thinking they’re called Gilt Edge Toad Lilies, after doing a little research (these are also the pics that I mentioned in my post about low-key, which were a surprise as a final result, and gave me a little insight of how I should handle the background for those images).  Another part of the garden was filled with bumblebees buzzing around these tiny purple flowers while clinging on to huge chunks of pollen.  While I was just about to go in after my second trip to the garden, since it rained once more, and I was just checking out how things were looking while wet, I spotted the infamous garden visitor; La Tortuga.

My aunt mentioned that she had spotted a turtle one day, but with water nowhere near by, and some pretty thick brush just outside of her fence, we were all a little skeptical.  We kept our eyes open, however, even venturing over to the neighbor’s yard, who said she had spotted it too.  No turtle in sight.  We all assumed it had just moved on, and we would never find it, saying “la tortuga” in that eye-squinted, slowed down whispery type voice every time we mentioned it, like it had bested us.  To my surprise, I turn to walk back inside after snapping a few last shots, and there she was!  Snuggled up by the fence, with her little face tucked under a small plant.  So cute.  I called my grandmother back outside, and we reveled in our small victory.  So as the summer winds down, enjoy a few of these summer creatures and flowers.  Hopefully this won’t be the last I see of these things this year!

Summer to the Rescue

After a busy week of waiting for my dog to act photogenic without any success, I gave up on my previous idea for the “superhero” project.  With time ticking away, I thought I would be at a loss again this week, since I haven’t found anything else to photograph.

Relaxing on a Sunday afternoon without any ideas.  That’s where I was a few hours ago.  Getting ready for a family dinner, after just spending all day out at a not-so-successful craft fair.  I’m a little tired, and a little more sunburned, but I don’t mind.  It was wonderful just being able to spend the whole day outdoors enjoying the warmth and sunshine, even if I got a little too much of it.  While pondering the days events, and hanging out in the back yard with the grill going, that’s when I thought of what could be a great example of a superhero for me:  summer time!

Yes, I know it seems like I can’t get enough of this simple thing, and I talk about it all the time, but I truly love it.  Summer is the time where I feel most adventurous, relaxed, inspired, motivated, and just simply happy.  I literally spend all year looking forward to it, and start missing it the second I realize that it’s leaving, if I’m not already planning on escaping to a place that can give me a temporary taste of summer.  It’s funny when you think of it; summer has no feelings, no intentions, no emotions, no deliberate actions.  It just comes and goes every year.  But it lifts my spirits, and for that I am grateful that this seemingly happenstance of a season occurs every year.  Maybe one day I’ll live in a place that is summer all year round — it’s not like I haven’t started thinking about it.

With everything going on, and running in and out of the house as “grill assistant”, I decided to take advantage of the summer day that we were all enjoying, and capture a few of the simple pleasures in life.  So enjoy my little summer sunday afternoon with the family.

Week 31: Superhero

I’m certainly going to have to think out of the box for this one.  “Superhero” is an interesting topic.  Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about the self-portrait assignment from last week.  I have plans for that tomorrow.  You know it’s not something I’m particularly looking forward to, so there may be an increased (and by increased I mean extreme) amount of procrastination with that.  Anyways, back to the subject at hand — Superheros!

Of course, the first things that come to mind are all of the comics, like X-Men and Batman and such, but I’m not a huge fan of all that.  I mean, I have seen all the X-Men movies, and am a pretty big Huge Jackman fan (yeah, you know you wanna, just go ahead and click on the link and enjoy the pics 🙂 ).  I’m not, however, about to do a comic book themed shoot, or any type of ode to Huge Jackman.  Sorry.

So when starting to think of the word “superhero” in its alternative meanings, I’m still getting stumped.  I don’t have any “idols”, per sey, so there really isn’t any subject in that respect that I could capture.  I’ve admired people, and have wanted to have certain traits or talents that famous people have, as they are often idolized.  Yet, I’ve never been the type of person to say, “I want to be just like (insert any famous person’s name here) when I grow up”, so that type of superhero definition is not something I can relate to.

Sure, I have people who I love and respect greatly, but I wouldn’t consider them a superhero.  Family and friends who have been there for me and who I can rely on are precious to me, but I wouldn’t use that word as a descriptor.  Besides, when I think of the word “heroine” or “superheroine”, I think of the obvious, and not so great, (almost) double entendre of that word, but also of this darling little essay that my brother wrote in elementary school about our grandmother.  With that clouding my mind (the essay, not the drug), I suppose I could go the route of a family member, but it doesn’t sound that enticing to me….no disrespect.

Another interesting definition I stumbled across mentioned a superhero being a person who is extremely successful or skillful.  Now, with my recent bittered experience with the corporate world, thinking of people with high success levels does not bring to mind imagery of any type of superhero.  Super villains, perhaps, but most certainly not heroes.  That option is definitely out.

There’s also that common depiction of the everyday superhero.  The single mother working three jobs to provide for her children.  Volunteer workers putting themselves in harm’s way, or at least in very difficult situations, to provide aid to those in need.  The firemen and first responders running in to burning and collapsing buildings to save others, when they themselves may not make it out.  Some incredible heroic acts there.  Though they are noble, it’s not something I can see myself working on this week.

I suppose “superhero” is something that is just not a part of my life.  I never use the word in a way other than to describe a cartoon or movie character, so I’m going to have a hard time finding something that resonates with me.  The only instance I can think of that word being applied in a way I can relate to is my dad talking about my dog.  “Lucky the Wonder Pup!”, he would often yell either as my dog was doing something crazy, or now, in memory of his crazier days.  Lucky has just celebrated his 16th birthday, which equals 112 human years, so he’s not acting too crazy anymore.  Don’t worry though, the dog that used to take a running start to jump off the porch and tear around the yard still has some spark in him.  He’s a little clumsy now, and has that grumpy old man type attitude a lot of the time, but he’s still happy, so I’m hoping he’ll be around for many more years.

So as I’m off to think about some “super” ideas (see what I did there?), I’ll leave you with a picture of The Wonder Pup.  Forever the camera-shy dog, he’s a tough one to get a good picture of.  As soon as he sees you with a camera or phone, he’s either turning his back on you, or growling.  Never smiling nice, silly dog.  “Shy” most definitely isn’t the word for it — Lucky is pretty annoyed at the whole photography idea.  Sorry, Lucky, you may be subjected to some more pictures this week.  I hope for your sake that your superpower of evasiveness doesn’t let up now.

Telling a Story

Well, by now I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear that another model didn’t work out, but I’m telling you anyways.  I had a really interesting idea planned out for the “blending in” theme, but things didn’t work out, so I’m just storing that idea for another time.  With all the problems I’ve had in hashing out my ideas, I’m still holding on to the hope that I’ll be able to get my, now three, incomplete projects done in all one go, whenever that may be.

Since the original idea didn’t go as planned, I decided to look through the archives to see if there were any photos which I could use for this week.  Going through some old film, I discovered that there was a projected that I completed for my first photography class which I never got to develop, so I decided to work on those!  Hooray for finally seeing their final result, albeit it was done digitally as opposed to in the darkroom (I miss you, darkroom!).  One of the best gifts that my brother gave to my mom for Christmas was a film scanner thing, which I “borrowed”….for a very long time.  My biggest fear when I started working with film, and really loving the process and results, was that the actual film seemed so delicate and precious to me.  Digitally, I have learned to have photos stored in multiple places, so my worries are somewhat at ease.  But film — it’s a whole other beast!  Well, maybe not beast…I think of the negatives as these little irreplaceable treasures which I have to guard with my life!  Even though my mother has tons of photo albums and negatives at her house, and it’s nothing new to have that as the only means of “memories”, I’m completely paranoid about something happening to my work.  So thanks, bro, for getting mom (me) that present :).

Since I’m on the subject of family, that’s what this project is actually about!  The technical assignment was to tell a story, or complete a type of documentary or timeline of an event.  I shot several different types of “stories” for this one project, and ultimately ended up working with a different set of negatives.  Unfortunately, since it was our final project for the semester, I didn’t have the opportunity to work on these.  I suppose, in retrospect, I should be glad that my work was more conceptual rather than literal when completing a “story” project, as well as be glad for the fact that my model didn’t work out for the past week.

So in this “story”, I took a look at my family, and the story that could be told through looking at us; our connection, our similarities, and our differences.  Ever since I was little, people told me that I was the spitting image of my mother, and on more than one occasion have confused me for a sister to her and my aunt.  It used to drive me crazy, and for some reason, still bugs me a little (someone even said it to me just today!).  I joke(d) and say I’m adopted (my dad is blonde, my mom has black hair, and I have brown…I don’t have either of their eye color, so on), but clearly I was just a combination of my parents.  Over the recent years, I began to develop an interest in this concept.  I never saw it before, or maybe never wanted to, but I can see the similarities now.  It’s pretty fascinating, when you think of it, of how closely you can resemble your immediate family members.  What’s even more interesting is just how different each individual in your family can be.  Some families can be extremely close-knit, sharing all of the same ideals, values, and personalities.  Others, can be polar opposites, bordering enemies, if you will.  I would say we’re clearly just a mix of everything; having our disagreements at times, but we love one another, and are there when it counts….pretty much all of the time.  I’m thankful for that, and I know I’m lucky, even if they drive me crazy.  So, if the eyes are the windows to the soul, take a glimpse in to who we are, and maybe you’ll see how we’re all different, yet all the same.

Is It Spring Yet?

Well, technically, it will be tomorrow.

Really, this weather couldn’t be more appropriate for describing my feelings in waiting for warmer weather.  One day it’s beautiful and Spring is right on the horizon, and the next, it’s snowing….like how Friday is supposedly going to be.  Just yesterday it was 60 degrees!  I’m on a roller-coaster ride with as many peeks and valleys as highs and lows in the forecast.  It was wonderful going outside with just a t-shirt and jeans, but it looks like Mother Nature will have me bundling up a few more times before she truly lets it warm up.

In anticipation of Spring, I did a little project for my color theory class based on the changing of the seasons and nature.  Though the objective was to take pairings of images to show simultaneous contrast, to my surprise, some of the individual images turned out pretty well.  I was just snapping away quickly, trying to get what feels like the 100th project on the subject completed so we can move on in the class.  So because I’m so sick of the subject, I’m not posting the pairs, rather, the better of the pairing.  So enjoy this springy surprise, and hopefully these flowers will be blooming soon, as opposed to me going to the grocery store to buy them 🙂

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night…

Ok, so it was kind of dark, and not stormy, though another winter storm is apparently coming through tonight (very unenthusiastic “yay”).  Though I was hoping that the weather would cooperate, which it did in the way I was hoping, I didn’t think the cold would have such a bad effect on my camera.  I trudged out in the cold and ice-covered snow blanket which is my parent’s back yard, and after only snapping a few pictures, my camera stopped working!  Terrible.  Luckily, it was just the bitter cold, and nothing permanent.  Literally the moment I went inside, it was working just fine.  So like me, I suppose my camera prefers the spring/summer months, and wants nothing to do with this never-ending winter that we’re having.

So, even though the picture of the moon has nothing to do with this week’s challenge, long exposures, it’s what I started with for the night.  Not the greatest of pictures, but I’m happy with it being my first successful, and detailed, picture of the moon.  You can even see the craters — how exciting 🙂  In reading countless articles on how to successfully capture stars and star trails, I was surprised to come across an article describing how to successfully capture an image of the moon; you need a fast shutter speed.  It’s contrary to what I would have always thought, since naturally, when shooting at night, I would always be inclined to have a very slow shutter speed, but the logic was there.  Taking a picture of the moon is like taking a picture of the sun — it lights up the night sky, so in order to get any type of detail in  your image, you have to account for the enormous amount of light it’s reflecting, even if it is dark outside and it doesn’t appear that way.

So once I got that pic, I moved on to the true task at hand.  I was determined to get some star pictures, regardless of what my camera had in store for me.  Even though they aren’t the Milky Way in all it’s glory, there are stars in these pictures!  With the amount of light pollution in the neighborhood, it’s nearly impossible to get a quality image with the details of our solar system.  When you figure in that my camera needs a sweater or something to function for more than five minutes in this winter weather, it looks like things are really impossible….until it warms up outside.  Until then, I’m happy with finally capturing some stars in my images, even if it did take a little more post production work than I typically like to do.  Summer time, I’ve just added one more reason to the list of why I can’t wait to see you again.


So this week was fun, but a bit of a challenge.  “Mirrored images”, to be interpreted however I chose, so I went with reflections; a literal interpretation of a mirror type image.  I wanted to do something different — I had a lot of ideas, but it seemed to me that they were relatively frequently done.  First I thought of doing a reflection from the surface of this little lake outside of my house.  Then I thought of taking pictures of my own reflection in the mirror, but with my face doing something/looking in a different direction than the reflection.  Then I thought about all of this glass I had saved from a broken table for future photo projects, and I came up with this…

Not too bad, and I like the images themselves, but the glass didn’t have the reflective quality that I thought it would.  My table actually has the strongest reflection, though I do like the one piece of glass which is reflecting the stem of the rose.  After messing with that, and moving pieces of glass to a million different positions on my table, adding water, and not getting any results, I had to move on.  So I started thinking about pictures that I have done in the past.  there were two that I had taken fairly recently that kept coming to mind:

One was a picture from Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Cambridge, MD, and another was from J.D. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge in Florida.  Both of them included water…just can’t seem to get away from that when thinking of reflections!  So I started thinking of water, different elements of it, and finally it came to me — bubbles!  So, even though the bubbles that I was going to make aren’t like anything that comes from water, like the foam of the ocean, that’s where my inspiration came from.

So off I went to seek the help of some more unwilling photo assistants (I’m always bugging someone for pictures 🙂 ).  Out in the back yard with my “assistants”, just around sun set, I had them alternating in blowing bubbles for me.  It was a lot of fun, but chasing bubbles around through my lens on a windy day was difficult to say the least!  I’m happy with the shots that I got, however, and I’m glad that we did it later in the day.  Some of the bubbles have that natural oily effect, but others reflect the evening light rather nicely, and the background has a natural dark, yet warm, effect.  Wish I could have gotten more shots with multiple bubbles to make things a little more interesting, but I guess that’s a project for another, less windy day.  Check it out!