Week 13: High Key Portrait

Don’t you just love when you get to do something that you like, and it just kind of falls in your lap?  I do, and you know I don’t need anymore complications with how crazy this year and all this school work has been.  I’m happy to report, that’s what happened with this week’s theme.

You may say, “but Rachel, how is this easy?  It involves people!”  Yes, dears, it does, which was my original hesitation when I saw what I had to do.  It’s alway disappointing to have so many ideas floating around in my head, and no one to participate in them.  But, with my successful environmental portrait the other week, I decided to start taking my camera with me whenever I can, or at least a little more often.  So even though I though that brunch at my aunt’s house would be uneventful in the photography department, I was wrong.

My poor family.  Always subject to help with my photo projects weather they’re willing or not.  They just see me with he camera or setting up something crazy, and I think, have this feeling deep down that it’s just a matter of time before I ask them to do something.  I gotta say, I kept my cool this time.  Quiet little camera bag sitting under a chair off to the side of the Easter morning/afternoon brunch festivities.  No pictures (well, other than cell phone ones) of the food, and the egg dying, and the regular craziness that we do when we’re together.  My parents left…nothing…my brother left…still nothing.  Just waiting.  Besides, I already knew who my target was…

My grandmother is always so funny when I take her picture, and today was no exception.  After everything was pretty much over, she, my aunt, and I went out to the backyard and started looking around at whats popping up back there.  As they started on tidying up the yard, I started snapping a few pictures of the greenery.  Then I asked to take her picture.  “Aye!  Not pictures again!  What do I have to do this time!?”  She was yelling, but she was joking.  Secretly, she has fun working on things with me, even if it is a little annoying.  I think I scarred her for life with a project last semester — it was a long exposure, and she had to hold her hand very still while moving her body away.  Needless to say, we did that just about a million times, and saying she was happy it was over would be an understatement.  For everyone’s benefit, I kept it nice and simple this time.  She was happy to hear that she just had to stand there.  Once my aunt saw, however, she started teasing her.  Of course, since I wanted to go for the serious/neutral face, she had to make my grandmother laugh.  It all worked out in the end, and just for my aunt’s goofing off, I took some photos of her as well.  I’m glad I got the shot that I wanted of my grandmother, but I’m also glad I got the silly ones of the two of them together.

And did I even mention the other part of this?  High key.  You guys get it.  You’ve seen it all before last year when I did this.  I was happy to revisit it, and to try it with people.  Glad they’re always willing to put up with my “crazy photography projects”. 🙂  Enjoy

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Week 50: Perfection

So, I’m skipping a couple weeks.  I’ve got a few ideas for the other two themes, but it’s been raining non stop, and since I don’t have the great lighting that my apartment had, I have to wait until the doom and gloom weather is gone.  Either way, with the new year tick-tocking its way closer, I’m running out of time!  So here’s what I’ve got.

Cookies!

Yes, cookies.  I mean, with the Christmas spirit still in the air, and the leftover cookies still around to munch on, what else could be more perfect for this week’s theme?  So while decorating my favorite cookies, swizzle sticks, with my aunt, I decided to snap a few pics of the process.  They’re cute, fun little pictures, but I like them.  She was a little annoyed, but oh well, she knows all about my photography, and put up with it even when I should have been helping.  I also love these cookies, and she only makes them once a year, so this truly is my confection perfection.

When people ask how to make these, or why we don’t make them more often, all I can do is explain that this is not your normal cookie.  Making these begins a whole cookie making process which is not for the baking beginner.  So they’re special, and take forever to make, but they’re worth it!  Enjoy the pics, and I might just help myself to another swizzle stick 🙂

Week 41 & 42: Tiny World/From Afar

Just as I thought I was getting caught up again, I’m weeks behind.  So sorry!  Things were insane last week — projects and papers and homework, oh my.  It seriously was an overloaded week, and I was consumed for a while leading up to it.

Back to business now — let’s try to get back in the swing of things.

So I still had a few photos tucked away in my “52 week arsenal” for these subjects, which I took on my last trip to the beach.  I know, I’m milking it, but really, it’s some of my favorite type of photography, and when I can get a couple different views from a place which I photograph so often, I’ll happily share them with you.

What I’m also happy about is that the themes for these two weeks, “from afar” and “tiny world” work very nicely together.  While at the beach, along with the other themes of muted tones and perfect pairs which I tried to keep in mind, I thought of these as well.

I always enjoy the sunrise and sunset photos, but I’m also always looking for something different.  It could be anything from a little seaweed or drift wood which has washed up, some interesting shells and rocks, piers and structures on the bay side, or any type of wildlife, if I’m lucky to see something.  You get to see the occasional sand piper and the frequently visiting seagulls, which I always appreciate, but I love when I get more variety.  Luckily for me and my family, there were some rare sightings this trip!

To begin, the sunrises are always beautiful, and often attract the aforementioned birds.  While I was snapping away, however, I was thoroughly annoyed by the people who were standing right in the middle of the sunrise, blocking the usual unobstructed view I try to get.  Then I started noticing how tiny they were in comparison to the whole scene, and decided if they weren’t going to move, that I’ll work with it.

Along with their silhouettes in the photos, we were also happy to see that some dolphins decided to stop by for a visit.  You’re more likely to see them right at dawn than at any other time of the day, but even so, they don’t show up all the time.  They were also very active; jumping completely out of the water, and full of energy.  Try as I might, I wasn’t able to capture the true “action shot of their jumping, but I did catch a few shots of them popping up on the surface a little more than usual.

The next day while we were in the middle of our fishing craziness, we got another surprise, and this was a big one.  My mother, the usual spectator when we’re doing things like fishing, was walking around the beach, checking out the view, and looking around for shells and things.  All of a sudden she yells “Hey!  I think I see something out there!”  Of course, we stop what we’re doing, fishing lines cast and all, and start searching the waves for something.  “No, it’s waaaaaaayyyyy out there!”  On the search again.  Then right at the horizon line, I see this large flash of while.  I was completely at a loss for what it was.  A boat?  Some strange reflection?  It was just this long while object jetting out of the water occasionally.  Very strange.  We stare at it for a few more minutes before I finally say that I think it’s a whale.  A few people start gathering around, and when they don’t see it right away, they wander off.  Then he breached, and it was an amazingly huge breach.  Of course, I scream at the top of my lungs “it’s a whaaaaleeeeeeee!!!!!!!!”, and everyone comes running back.  I’ve only had one other whale sighting in Ocean City, and that was a pretty crazy story, too, so it was exciting to see this.  We watched in awe for the next few minutes before I finally ran to get my camera.  Even with obsessively trying to photography all things interesting, at least I can say that I still know how to sit back and enjoy a moment once in a while.  So with my lens all the way zoomed, I tried my best to get a picture, but he was just too far.  I mean, you can still tell that it’s a whale, clearly, but it’s blurry.  And the frustrating thing about that?  I just swapped lenses that morning and left the big one in the room, because, what in the world am I going to need that for on the beach, fishing?  Well, apparently, a whale.  I’m not complaining though.  I’m happy to have seen him, and won’t stress over the picture quality.  Either way, he was beautiful, and this clearly works as something “from a far”, much more so than the dolphins during sunrise.

So needless to say, it was a wonderful little get away, as brief as it was.  I’m always a little sad when I’m going to the beach for only a couple of days.  I know, I sound so unappreciative — but leaving makes my heartbreak, so I can’t help  but be consumed by the fact that I’m leaving soon the whole time I’m there.  What makes it better are when the short trips work out like this; lots of fun times and memorable experiences, as well as the “favorites” that we have to do any time we visit.  So with that, I’ll leave you with the sunset, and one more photo from afar.

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“Well, Welcome to This One.”

I love it when people have just the right things to say.  I also like it when something gets me right in the feels, for lack of a better word, and catches me off guard when they do.  I got that from one of my professors the other day, so I’d thought I’d share a little more about it with you.

It’s been a crazy few weeks since starting school, as I’m sure you’re well aware by my constant reminders.  But even with all the craziness, it’s been filled with some pretty great moments.  First off, everyone thinks that I’m 21…max!  I’m even being mistaken for a teenager, which makes me question some things, but I’ll still take it as a great compliment.  I’m finally starting to feel a little more comfortable, and that I may be someone who is on-par with this “art world” that I’ve flung myself in to.  Yes, I know I made it in to MICA, and that should be reassurance enough, but it isn’t.  “They”, the powers that be at MICA, even send out emails, or did at least, to new students telling them just that — “don’t be scarred/intimidated/depressed/stressed/etc…you made it here, and that means a lot!”  When coming from the world of strict business attire,where the only creativity being expressed was that of craftily written procedure or performance review, it’s hard to see yourself amounting to anything creative.  No matter how bad I want to succeed at this, I’m essentially terrified.

When I think about where I came from, the life of banking, management, stress, abuse, and all things wrong in a corporate environment, I have two feelings that have stuck around: abandonment, and escape.  Pretty conflicting thoughts, don’t you think?  As if my feelings towards them weren’t complicated enough, they still continue to be, even almost a year and a half leaving.  I suppose some of the emotions you could equate to this would be depression, anxiety, PTSD, failure,….freedom and relief?  Like I said, it’s complicated.  I whole heartedly gave over 10 years of my life to this company, only to be targeted, bullied, and attacked.  And when I fell ill as a result of this, they didn’t care at all, and wanted nothing more to do with me.  Don’t get it twisted though, no matter how it may sound, I played the hand I was dealt the best I could, and ended up resigning.  Some what reluctantly, but still, it was my choice to leave — at least they didn’t get that satisfaction.  Either way, it was a heartbreaking change, even though at the same time I wanted to do something different with my  life.  I wanted to make it better, but I was terrified of failing.

But like I said, you have to play the cards you’re dealt, and my game had just changed.  So I decided, why not, apply for this school that I’ve been wanting to go to forever.  I was just about to finish up my associates degree, because I could only handle baby steps, and didn’t see myself making it this far.  Going to school, an art school, to get a Bachelor’s degree seemed unobtainable for me.  After getting in, it was then the financial aspects that had me burdened, because let’s face it, you can’t pay for the “ivy league of art schools” on a non-existent salary.  No one was excited about the news except a few, literally few, friends, so in trying to be realistic about it, I didn’t let myself get excited about it, or celebrate.  I’m 30, and just got my first college acceptance letter in the mail, I should be excited.  Oh, wait, except for the fact that I’ll be 30….in college…with teenagers — another issue of concern.  I convinced myself I was too old, and just needed to buckle down and get a “real job”.  Oh, and back to the no job thing, I had to move out of my apartment, my safe haven, my home….my life was falling apart when it should have been on the up and up.

So I decided not to go, and things got dark, really dark, and fast.  I started looking for banking jobs, admin jobs, anything office job like, and to no avail.  What was the end of an already incredibly depressed year, I was even worse for the wear.  Then a friend hired me to bake a cake and photograph her wedding, and another friend asked me to photograph her baby, and it felt great doing things that were artistic, and that I got paid for!  Imagine that.  I figured, as the deadline for the deposit was fast approaching, I’ll just take this money to pay for the deposit.  As irresponsible as it may be, and even though it’s most likely only delaying the inevitable, I’ll have a little more time to pretend that this is still an option.

In the mean while, I still looked for “normal” jobs, but also worked on art, this blog (yay), craft fairs, and school stuff — scheduling, talking to advisors, financial aid, and so on.  I had it all figured out, except how to pay for just a little bit of it.  So annoying.  With all the work I did, this little percentage of tuition that I couldn’t come up with was going to hold me back.  I begged family to help, co-sign, anything, but they resisted, insisting that I needed to get off this vacation mode and get my life back together.  I have to say, my family has an interesting perspective of what vacation is if my life was the model for it.  Then, out of the blue, my parents, though they were very clear that they disapproved of my idea/plan/decisions/everything, that they wanted me to be happy.  What?  Seriously?  I was dumbfounded, but took their help as quickly as possible.  Though I have to hear about it all the time now, I’m thankful that I’ve had the opportunity to give this a go, even if the future of it seems uncertain.

So then I’m finally there!  Orientation.  Oh my God….can I say that it was exponentially worse than I expected?  The school and facilities seemed nice, but the people — some of the other students are down right…..just, immature, and not good people, and incredibly filled with entitlement, and unappreciative.  It’s a little astounding, and overwhelming.  I felt like crying, and leaving, and never coming back, but I knew I couldn’t let these people, who really didn’t do anything to me except make my age difference become even more apparent, control what was going to be my outcome of going here.  So I did what I knew I would do, what I always do.  I worked.

It felt great to finally have something consume my life again.  While it was nice being away from work, it was pretty boring at times, even with all my little projects that I tried to fill my time with.  Not only that, but I actually started working again, and not at some terrible place that was irrelevant to what my goals were.  I’m busy again, and it’s a great feeling.  I’m successful in this busyness, which is even a better feeling.

Even though the feedback from some of these professors has been minimal, I have enough information to come to the conclusion that I have an A in each of my six, count ’em, six classes.  I would say yay, but I worked my ass off, and there is no yay for me when it comes to grades.  I either get all A’s and am contempt with it because it’s the only acceptable outcome, or I flirt with the line between A and B, and I’m really mad about it.  It’s about half way through the semester now, and I’ve received a couple of mid-term reviews, and hope to have a couple more.  They’ve been informal, and though email, so it’s nice to have the feed back, because not having it drives me crazy, but it’s also a little impersonal.  Lucky for me, I have one professor, my sculpture professor, who is very profession, and a great communicator.  He set up mid-term review meetings with each of us, and actually sat us down to talk about our progress, grades, and future expectations.  Now that gets a yay 🙂

So in that meeting, I heard some great things — I have an A+, something that he only gives out like once or twice a year.  How unexpected.  What else was unexpected was that he told me that I took to sculpture like “a fish to water”.  I have to say, out of all the classes I signed up for this semester, this was the one I was most apprehensive about.  I never work three-dimensionally, so this was all new for me, and in having such high expectations for my self and my grades, this was going to be a challenge.  We chatted a little more, and he got the point of saying that he could tell that I was very dedicated.  Of course — do you have any idea of what I had to go through to get here?! Of course not, I’m being irrational, and joking.  I did say, however, that yes, I’m incredibly dedicated to being here.  I went through hell with the life that I had before, and I’m never going back to that world.  And then he said it…”Well, welcome to this one”.  He went on to say, many more positive things, what expectations he had for me, and that he saw me doing great things, but that little sentence stuck out to me even more than that.  I know that with the grades I’m getting in the school that I’m now attending that I should have more confidence in my work.  It’s amazing to hear that he views me as an A+ student, a natural at this art, and that he, and incredibly successful artist in his own right, sees me being successful as well.  But that welcome, as silly as it may seem, hit me hard.  I’m here, I’m still in one piece, and I’m doing the thing that I’ve always wanted to do.  I’m doing the thing that I pushed out of my mind for the last 15 years of my life.  I’m doing something that will change my life.  It’s hard to believe, but I am.  I’m doing it.  It’s crazy.  Crazy good.  I don’t ever have to go back to that life now, not if I don’t want to.

At the end of all my rambling, I’ve included some photos of things that I’ve been working on for various classes – sculpture, digital photo, studio lighting, and EMAC, which is like a sampling of all this electronic and digital in the art making world. I didn’t include anything from my art history classes, cause I figured you probably wouldn’t appreciate having papers shoved in your face to read.  And it’s ok if you think some of these are a little wacky, cause to be honest, I do too, but I like them 🙂   And what I like even more, is that this is just the beginning of a change so grand that I can’t even imaging how great things will be when I finish.  I imagine a very tear-filled graduation on my part, but only happy tears.  So thanks for the welcome, and just so you know, there will never be a goodbye.

Week 39: Muted Tones

I’m so thankful for days off.  Before I started classes, my advisor told me that working while taking six classes would be an overwhelming work load.  I, in my naivety, laughed it off, thinking to myself, “if I can deal with (enter hellish former employer name here) and go to school full-time, I can totally handle this!”  Well, while I am handling it, and doing well might I add, I’m up to my neck in work, and gasping for free time.

So to my surprise as I was looking through the academic calendar a little while ago, we get a fall break.  Rather, we had a fall break — it was two weekends ago, but it was amazing.  Apparently this is a pretty normal thing, though I’ve never heard of a school doing it before.  Either way, I’m grateful, and even more grateful for the fact that I got to spend part of it at the beach.  So watch out!  Here come the beach pictures again 🙂 Don’t worry, they’re not all the same!

Even with all my busyness, I’m trying to keep up this blog!  I’m really happy that I started this little project, and I hope you enjoy it too.  It’s hard to believe I’m working on week 39, and that’s a few weeks behind!

Getting down to business now, week 39, yikes.  The theme for this week is “muted tones”, which I really had fun doing during my little post production process.  Kind of like the cyanotype and black and white beach photos I’ve mentioned before, there’s something incredibly charming when I take photographs of the beach and make them a little different than one may expect.  You all know I love the ocean — sunsets, sunrises, and all the pretty views you can imagine.  What I’m starting to like more and more is when they’re muted or monochromatic, either with another process, or just shot in black and white.

While fishing with my family that weekend, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to take some pictures to use for this theme.  Fishing, though we’ve always enjoyed doing this on occasion ever since I was little, is something I’m a little on the fence about.  It’s fun hanging out and having a “competition” to see who catches the most or the biggest, but I always feel a little guilty about it.  I know, I might be a little bit of a sissy, but I never liked hurting the fish!  I try not to think about it too much, and I suppose the fact that my dad and brother constantly tease me about not baiting my own hook makes it a little easier.  It brings out my competitive side, but there is logic to my apparent sissyness.  I mean, I can’t touch a dead fish while I’m going to be multitasking fishing with photography, right?  We’ll just say that was my excuse for nearly my entire life… 🙂

So with that being said, here are a few pictures from the most recent family fishing excursion.  As you can see, my brother caught a monster stargazer fish, which we had to reasearch, since none of us had ever caught one before.  And yes, I caught some fish too —  1 1/2 to  be exact!  The 1/2 fish is because just as the fish was coming out of the water at the surf, it got away. I say I caught two, since everyone saw it, but I’ll take the credit of a “1/2 fish”, as the debate on what constitutes as a caught fish was quite extensive.  Oh well, I had to try.  Enjoy!

Hot Summer Days

While there were many ideas buzzing around my head, I decided to go with what I know most, and what I love.  What better thing could I photograph for the “heat wave” theme than a place that is always best served hot?  Nothing is better than the beach!

Everything about the beach comes alive in the summer. In being as much of a beach fanatic as I am, I’ve been there in every possible weather imaginable.  Yes, I’ve seen snow on the beach — it’s pretty, but not the same as a hot day!  In the summertime, people and families are buzzing around, the city is packed, the places are busy, it’s just swarming with excitement and happiness.  Not to mention the more natural beauties you get to see.  There are dolphins, fish, and even the occasional whale sighting if you’re lucky (and this year, a lot of shark sightings, yikes).  The plants are lush, and the marshy lands surrounding the bay side are full and green.  There are countless sea birds of all different types, and plenty of different little crab critters.  It just makes me happy to be there, seeing the environment so full of life, and the happiness of the people who are there, including my family.

And it’s hot!  Like, sand burning your feet, can’t sit in the sun long hot!  My family consists of a bunch of sunbathers, with the exceptions of my dad, who will burn to an immediate crisp.  While he’s busy avoiding the sun, we’re out there roasting in it, practically running to the water when we can no longer take the heat.  We stay out at the beach all day, also, which is probably my favorite part.  While the sun may be nearly intolerable during the day at times, once you get to the 5 o’clock hour it’s like a warm, snuggly hug from nature.  I sound like a dork, I know, but if you ever catch me lounging on the beach at this time I’m definitely facing the sun, and probably have a smile on my face.  Love it.

So with the summer winding down, I’ll take a few moments to reminisce of all the hot days before the snow rears its ugly head. Enjoy!

Like the Sands Through the Hourglass…

…so are the days of our lives.

Teehee — couldn’t help myself! 🙂  It is, after all, the perfect quote for this post, regardless of its cheesy reference!

Yes! I finally got my hourglass, which was the mystery prop I mentioned for the week 28 theme of “sunrise/sunset”.  Thanks to that, I’ve also finally caught up on one of my missed weeks!  I was so excited to take the hourglass along with me on our family vacation to the beach, even if everyone thought I was nuts for it.  I’m used to the joking and teasing, it’s all in fun.  Do you want to know a great benefit of tolerating the crazy looks and having my family along while I’m taking photos?  Available models, regardless of willingness!  Yep — they might poke fun, but I lure them into my ideas.  They’re always such good sports about it, particularly my grandmother.  It’s always a good time taking photos of her; she doesn’t get the point of anything that I’m doing, and is constantly giggling and rolling her eyes.  Even so, she’s a great listener, and very patient with my constant repositioning of her poses.

While considering different approaches for the sunrise/sunset theme, she definitely came to mind.  Though I wanted to capture and actual sunrise and sunset in my images, I wanted them to be more representational of a greater beginning and end than that of a day.  Thinking of a new day brings to mind clichés such as “ever day is a new start!”, and things of that nature, with the night echoing similar ideas of endings and letting things go.  On a greater scale, I think of the dawn rising representing a great new beginning, like that of a new life, a birth.  The sun setting is representative of the sun setting on a life, a final day.

So while it makes me somber to thing of my grandmother in this context, I’m grateful that she was willing to help with this concept.  Doesn’t help that this time my family caught on to what I was doing, and teased us about how I had to get my poor old grandmother to hold the hourglass because she’s “running out of time”.  Again, all in jest, but they were kind of right.

My original idea was to creat a diptych of a sunrise and sunset, with the hourglass in both images, and different models holding it.  A set of younger hands holding the hourglass with the sand at the top, representing a new life with an abundance of time, and a set of older hand holding the hourglass with the sand at the bottom, representing a life which is nearing its end.  However, since there are no little ones in the family, and the idea of me approaching a family with a small child on the beach at sunrise is more than creepy, my plan was slightly foiled.  Instead, I took multiple photographs; some of just the hourglass in both situations, and others with my grandmother at sunset.

I have to say, I’m happy with both types of images.  While I previously thought that the images with just the hourglass would be lacking in substance, I think they’re able to hold their own.  Another part of the original concept was to photograph the sun through the hourglass at both times of day, and I’m loving that effect.  Not only does it bring more interest to the glass itself, but it’s almost as if the sun is the sand pouring through the hourglass in some of the images; as if the days truly are the grains of sand in our lives.

It’s always fun spending time with my grandmother, and it was nice to hear her say that she enjoyed the sunset.  Surprisingly, she also said she had never seen the sunset on the bay before, or at least at my secret little bay beach spot, so I’m glad she had fun as well.  So, thank you, Lela, for always helping me with my crazy little projects, and being patient with me.  I pray that you have many more grains of sand in your hourglass.