Week 8: Panorama Landscape

It seems as if this year will be a year of apologies.  Sorry!  I’ve been a little bogged down doing school work, and regular work, so I have let this blog and challenge not get off to the best of starts this year.  Luckily for me, I’m on spring break right now (wooo!), so I’m hoping to do a lot of catching up, since I have so many photos to show you!

So, I’m skipping week 7 for now, since that’s a planned shoot for this week, and we’re moving on to week 8 and others, since I have photos ready!

When I saw that this week was panoramas, I was a little nervous.  I had never done them before, but have always wanted to learn.  I also have always had in my head that they’re really difficult to do, since the only software that I’ve used in the past has been horrible and not very user friendly.  I took photos, and they just would not stitch together.  Needless to say, I was pass-due to learn this technique, and I was happy to do so.

While thinking of where to go and what I would do to learn this, our digital photo class planned a little outing since the weather finally started to get nice (and by nice, I mean not 2+ feet of snow and/or freezing temps.).  We decided that the class would venture out to a little park in the city to take some photos there.  As the professor was introducing our agenda the morning of, he started passing out sheets and talking about what type of landscape photos he wanted us to focus on: panoramic.

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Symbiosis, it’s a beautiful thing, isn’t it?  So is serendipity.  I swear, when he said that we were going out to work on panoramic shots, I about jumped out of my chair.  I was so excited not only to have the chance to do it, but to have him teach me the right way, instead of stumbling through it on my own.  So with some short instruction and helpful hints given, off we went, into the big, “wide” open world.

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It was a fun experience, and I have to say, I love my school.  I mean, really.  What other kind of school actually has class outside, taking photos around a park on a nice sunny day?  None that I can think of.  I’m glad that this is the kind of “work” I signed up for.

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Getting back into the classroom, I was in shock yet again.  Did you have any idea how easy it is to do panoramas in Lightroom and Photoshop!?!?  Yeah.  I had no idea, and I feel a little silly for how much I built this process up in my mind.  With just a few clicks and options selected, bam!  You’re photos are put together for you.  Unless you’re like me, who in a couple instances, things didn’t want to match up.  But even then, it’s completely possible to stitch them together yourself.  Great learning experience over all.  If you’re curious on how to do it, it’s quite simple:  Shoot from left to right, right to left, up to down, whatever, select which direction you’re going in and stay in a straight line.  Take your photos sequentially, with about 30-50% overlap.  Import them to Lightroom.  Select all your photos for one panorama and go to Photo/Photo Merge/Panorama, and there you have it.  A little wizard comes up, you pick a few options, and if you’ve shot right, you’re done.  If you want to go to Photoshop, do the same thing but go to Photo/Edit In/Merge to Panorama in Photoshop.  Technology is amazing.

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So as you can see, I did plenty of the traditional horizontal type panorama shots.  What I really found fun were the vertical ones.  When my professor was explaining things, I got this great idea to do something revolutionary!  I’ll shoot vertical panoramas!  Oh, wait, you’re showing us a million examples of this.  Ok, that’s cool, I’m still excited to do it!  So I tried a bunch of those, and I think I like them better than the horizontal ones people are used to seeing.  You can check them out for yourself; which one do you like better?  There were still some that didn’t quite work, but I’m learning, and have even been practicing since then.  So I’ll post an update with some new panoramas in a little bit, particularly, when I get my “special” images done.  I borrowed an awesome camera to do some even more awesome panoramic shots.  I’m so excited!  You just wait and see 🙂

Week 3: Red

Well, I sure am missing the weather I was around during my week 1 self portrait.  With all this snow, I’ve been wanting to get out and shoot, but things have been pretty messy, to say the least!  It’s freezing (ok, so it actually wasn’t that bad today, but it’s been freezing), there’s snow and slush everywhere, and my car has a tire that keeps deflating, so I’m not gonna push it.  Today, I thought I would just run with this theme, and give it a go with the resources I had.

With all the weather related problems in the area, I didn’t want to have the same issues I had last year and miss a chance to do another “red” theme.  I still have my original idea for that one, but also still have my original problem, lack of model, with a new problem, lack of location.  I’ll get it eventually, but for now, I’ll just tuck that one back in the memory/idea bank.

So, red.  I woke up early-ish this morning, and started mixing some red paint with a little bit of water.  With the massive amounts of snow around the yard, and some of them making some interesting wall-like shapes, I thought it would be fun to use those to my advantage, and make something creative.  So with my gooey red paint, and all bundled up, I started splashing paint around, which really didn’t work as well as I thought it would.  With as much snow as we had, and the fact that it’s been sitting there for a few days, I figured it would be kind of frozen and give me a good surface.  On the contrary, the snow was really light and fluffy on the top, so the paint pretty much disappeared.  Good thing I’m cautious, because I didn’t just go and dump all my paint in one spot, so I had a couple more chances to try it again.  Eventually, I started getting the shapes and brightness that I wanted, and though it didn’t look like the paint was sitting on top of the snow, you could see it much better at this point.

I worked in two areas with this.  Once was completely flat, pristine, untouched snow, which, with all it’s fluffiness, didn’t work out as well as I thought it would.  As I was investigating the yard, I found a few dried plants sticking out of the wall-like areas, so I decided to drown them in red paint.  This worked much better in my opinion.  You can really see the gooey texture on the plants while still getting some interesting textures and designs in the snow as well.  And since this is in the “artistic” category of the challenge, I’m happy with how slightly creepy these turned out as well 🙂  I showed them to a friend of mine who doesn’t always like the “weird and dark” things I do, and she said she felt inspired to write a murder mystery.  Thanks?  Thanks; I’ll take it as a compliment, because I know what it looks like!  So enjoy my fun, messy, paint experiment!

 

 

 

 

 

Week 46: Memories

Often times I like to work from my own memories.  Comparing past places to what they look like in the present, bitter-sweetness which comes with the passing of time, and loss.  I think it’s pretty safe to say that a lot of my work conveys messages such as these.  Sometimes, however, I like to work at examining other’s memories, and a little exploring will do just the trick for that.

So, you know, finals went ok, but not super great.  My digital photography class was one of my problem classes, sadly.  I had a great idea of working at the beach, with a model, and capturing some really whimsical and charming images….but my model canceled on me.  Sad, but I understand — she was busy with finals as well.  It still sucked having to start from square one with only about a week before my project was due.  So back to the drawing board.

I started thinking about things that I liked, or that I’ve always wanted to do.  A good suggestion from my professor, particularly for someone like me who has been getting pretty stumped lately.  So going with that, “something I’ve always wanted to do”, at least for a while now, were those beach pictures.  Scratch that.  So what do I like to do?  Well, one thing that I’ve been missing were my little excursions to some abandoned buildings.  So, with my friend in tow, I set out to find an interesting place that we could sneak in to.

Going in to these places, I’m always trying to do more than take some interesting, yet arbitrary, pictures.  I’ve always found it interesting when one of two things happens to these buildings.  If the building is taken over by nature, with vines, and trees, and flowers completely engulfing it, I find it so interesting, and a bit ironic, that we’ve taken from nature to build this structure, only for it to be discarded, materials wasted, and for nature to reclaim it.  The other interesting scenario is when I can find little “artifacts”, as I like to call them, of who may have been in this space before.  I’m sure just about everyone passes by a building or space which has just been left to decay on a regular basis.  Do you ever stop to wonder what that place was, what it could have meant to someone, or what they may have used it for?  Or do you ever wonder who the person or persons were that used to inhabit this space, and what happened to them?  Did they just give up?  Move on, or even pass on?  It’s so mysterious when you stop to think about it.  I’m sure with some research, answers may be found in some cases, but what’s the true story?  That’s what I like to look for.

So while driving around, we headed towards the southern part of Maryland.  We passed by an old favorite of mine, but it had been blocked off, and you could see that the area was starting to change a bit.  So further off the grid we went, and we started to get to some pretty interesting farm land areas.  Farm land?  Yeah, we’ve got a lot of that around here once you get to a certain area.  With that comes some of those dilapidated barns filled with interesting things.  We had to pass a few by, because you can’t just park on the side of a busy road and mosey on in these places, but finally found the perfect spot; a place a little off the road, and a long driveway which wound around the barn.

So here are the images from that trip.  It seems like it was a little storage barn for a farm, but also for a farmer’s market.  Quite cute in it’s heyday, I’m sure, but very sad and decaying now.   The light was beautiful on what was another unseasonably warm day for the area.  I’m happy to have used that to my advantage in a lot of these shots.  Though I feel I know a little more about this space, I’m still wondering just what happened to this farmer.  What do you think?  Enjoy!

 

 

Time Slipped Away

Well, it seems as if finals and everything that this semester has brought has gotten the best of me.  When starting this blog at the beginning of the year, I thought to myself, “I’m never going to miss a week!”  Well, can’t say that it turned out that way, but at least it’s for a good reason.  I also didn’t think that I would be in school for something that I love, so I’m happy for these little “personal project” delays.  Ok…maybe not happy, but still, you know what I mean.

I am happy, however, to report that this is the last week of class for this semester!  A bittersweet feeling, because I have truly enjoyed (almost) all of my classes, and I’m sad to see them end, but I need a freakin’ break!  I’ve been going nuts with projects, and research, and papers, and begging people to model for me!  It will be strange to not have that nagging little feeling in the back of my head that I’m forgetting something, or that I have a million and a half things to do.  I can’t wait for it though!

So as things are coming to an end, I’m starting to refocus on this little project, and end this year with a bang.  In the meanwhile, here’s a little GIF I created as a little extra for one of my final projects.  It’s not the best quality, but hey, I’m still learning, and Premiere is giving me a really hard time for something that should be easy!  I promise, it looks great on the screen.  Guess I’ll just have one more little thing to figure out!

Sun-setting, semester ending, it all works.  Enjoy!

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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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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.

Outgoing Mail

Last night I decided to bite the bullet, and get to work.

About a month ago, I received a somewhat unusual looking envelope from MICA, amongst their very regular communications, which I have to say, I do appreciate.  “Odyssey”, it was labeled, with its bright colors and excitement.  Some transfer student information was enclosed.  I slightly shrugged it off, and almost didn’t open it; I’ve been somewhat reluctant to look at all the wonderful things this school offers while being so unsure of if I’ll be able to attend.  You know, don’t want to get my hopes entirely up — I’m a planner, and this plan isn’t coming together.  Regardless, I’m also a curious one, so of course, I was bound to open the letter within seconds.

“Call for entries — 2015 MICA Postcard Project”.  Really?  I haven’t even enrolled in classes, and we’re already being given projects.  Of course it’s optional, but all very surprising at frist glance.  In the letter was a set of instructions, a fancy little magnet adorned in the same exciting colors as the envelope, and a blank postcard.  Subconsciously, I’ve already decided I was going to do this project.  I mean, you just handed me a blank piece of paper with a stamp on it — I’m easily intrigued.  In reading on, the project consists of decorating the postcard however we choose, and selecting from one of four topics: spirit animal, Dadaists collage (it’s just a urinal!! ugh, hate it!), meme yourselfie (I’m questioning my age amongst these incoming students), and vacation postcard.  Yes!  Vacation! Love it!

So even in my doubt, I start thinking of ideas.  It’s a good thing when my mind starts racing creatively.  I’m pretty set on the type of media, cyanotype, and am just working out what my subject will be.  When I think of vacation, nothing else, or better, comes to mind than the beach.  “But how will this translate to cyanotype”, I think to myself.  While all the tones of blues are lovely, when I think of the beach, I think of vibrant colors, sunrises, and sunsets.  I put it on the back-burner for a while.  Along with the simple submission of your work for an optional “welcome project”,  everything submitted will be exhibited in one of MICA’s galleries, scanned, and posted on a blog promoting the exhibit.  A conundrum for someone who may not even be there; a situation I don’t want to set myself up for.

So a few weeks go by, I go on vacation, I write a few blog posts, and I struggle to work things out for school.  You’ve seen it, and if you haven’t, scroll down 🙂  Among all of those things, I did my Sunrise/Sunset post, where I discovered a little hidden gem.  As usual, when beginning a new weekly project, I show you guys a few pictures of things which I have already shot that fits the description.  I really enjoy this little system which I have worked out; it allows me to revisit some old favorites, as well as work with some images that I really haven’t worked on at all.  In looking for some sunrise/sunset pictures that I haven’t shared in the past, I stumbled across some of the black and white film work that I did during my first semester at school.  I seriously haven’t been able to stop thinking of that one simple picture of the ocean ever since.  I can’t wait until I have access to a darkroom again, because that’s the first photo that I’m working on.  With that, I realized that cyanotype would absolutely work with beach photographs (how could I have ever doubted it?!).  And once I got back from vacation with some new images, I had all I needed.

Still, I waited to the last minute, well, almost.  I haven’t quite figured things out yet, and still have a gap in regards to tuition being due for the semester.  In my mind, however, I’m going.  It’s decided.  So with time ticking on this project, since it has to make it to the school by the 3rd, I decided to get working on things.

First, and definitely the hardest part, was selecting the image.  Like I’ve mentioned, the colors and details of the sunrises and sunsets are my favorites.  So objectively, I looked at the images I had to pick one which I thought had some good variations in contrast, as well as some sharp details which would translate over well to a cyanotype, and this was the winning photo!

Second, was converting the image to black and white and inverting it.  I’m always tempted to print the “negative” version of the image when I’m working on it, and almost did so on accident today.  I don’t know why, but in my mind when I see the black and white version of an image that I’m working on I automatically think that I’m finished.  I’m pretty sure all of my cyanotype files have the black and white negative file to go alone with the positive file that I actually use.  Luckily for me, and my wallet, because those photo transparency sheets are expensive, I’ve only made that mistake one time.  Still, even if I do print one out, I’ll be sure to use it.  The negatives make such ghastly, interesting images.  You can see one of my “happy accidents” here.

Once that’s done, it’s off to the print making.  I’m always a little nervous when it gets to this part.  I’ve just finished working on an image which I liked at first, and then liked again as a black and white photo.  Then, in one easy step I’ve inverted the image, and I’m not sure about it all over again.  Will the details come through?  Will I have enough contrast?  This doesn’t look right!  I have to remind myself to trust the process, and the fact that I’ve done this several times, and ended up with good results.  This time, however, I only have one shot.  The pressure is on!  Though I have been pretty lucky in my recent cyanotype/photo transparency combinations, I did have some pretty bad results while just starting out.  I couldn’t help but worry when using a different type of paper, and only having one chance, that I would mess up.  It doesn’t help that the instruction letter also stated in all caps “we are not able to send another postcard, so what happens if you make a mistake?”… Essentially?  Fix it and deal with it.  I didn’t like the sound of that.  I’m very much a perfectionist when it comes to presenting someone with a final print.  A sub-par or doctored up image just wasn’t going to cut it.

Luckily for me, all my worries were put to rest.  Aside from the added panic that some passing clouds caused, I’m really happy with the way this print turned out, and I think I may have just found my new favorite thing to do.  Like it’s black and white counterpart, as well as my image from a few weeks ago, this style gives my beach photographs new life.  I’ve been making postcards and greeting cards for my Etsy shop for some time now, but have stuck to contact printing with botanicals.  They’ve been reasonably popular, but I think this will become a quick new favorite in the shop!

I love the dreaminess of this print, how soft the waves and sand looks, while still being able to make out clear details in both the water and sky.  So, appropriately, I’ve named it “Summer Dreaming”.  As I set my little postcard project out to be picked up in the morning, because yes, the final part of the project was that they prefered for it to actually be mailed, I had to admire it a little more.  It really charmed me, as well as the crunchiness of our old, chipping mailbox.  But seriously, who wouldn’t love to find something like that in their mailbox?  Too cute, in my opinion.  Hopefully it makes it there in one piece, and without all the emulsion rubbed off.  Wish it luck!

Far Away Places

I searched far and wide for things “out of place” this week, and as predicted, it was pretty difficult.  I started my journey with a car ride, thinking, perhaps I would drive somewhere new, and maybe I’ll pass by something interesting.  The car ride started off with a tractor in the middle of the road; not that unusual for this area, but for the major road I was on, it was very odd.  I took this as a good sign of weird things to come, and kept driving!

Two hours later and with only my poorly shot-while-driving picture of the tractor in the road (don’t worry, I was going really slow, was stuck behind the tractor, and being careful), I was without anything good.  Slightly defeated, I went back home.  I spent the rest of the week driving around, a little closer to home, and looking up things online for ideas.  The driving proved useless, with the exception of the fact that I like to just get away and drive anyways, so that was nice.  Online, when you search for “out of place” you get the interesting, yet very cliché photos of a group of items with one item having a variation; all yellow balls and one red one, a row of things standing up while one is on its side, and so on.  While they were visually pleasing, I felt like that would be a cop-out, because how else could being “out of place” be anymore obvious than to make one thing drastically stand out?

We lucked out in the weather department this week, and had a bunch of sunny days.  Even more lucky was the fact that they were not all scorching summer days.  I know, I’ve been looking forward to summer, but it’s been crazy hot.  Don’t worry though, I’m not one of those people who wish for summer to come, and then complain about the heat.  I’m just not one to subject myself to 100 degree+ weather without it being at a place that’s somehow related to water.  Since there is no water in my life right now, other than the hose out back, which I’ll pass on, I haven’t been enjoying the outdoors as much lately.  Regardless, I’ll take a summer day at any temperature as opposed to a winter one.

In my consistent checking the weather to make extravagant day dreaming plans, I noticed that one day would be mild in comparison to the record-breaking heat we’ve been having, and I decided to venture out to a place I’ve only been to once before.  Now, I’m kind of a homebody in the sense that I don’t particularly like doing things on my own (I mean, adventures are just so much more fun when you have friends around, ya know?), so this was kind of a big deal to me.  With all things considered, I was definitely the one that was out of place.  I drove an hour and a half to the wrong place, had to search for new directions, find another place to go to, and then finally, I was there….or so I thought.

Once with my watercolor class we ventured out to Calvert Cliffs for our final.  I loved the class(es) , and the professor was wonderful in that of instead of having your traditional final test or project, we would go out for a “final field trip”.  It was always fun, and most of us in the class got to check out some new places.  I decided that I would go back to see if I could find anything interesting to photograph, but also because I’ve been on a mission to return and find some shark teeth; this area is infamously known for being a great place to find them….and I’m a little obsessed with Megalodon.  Anyways, once I arrive to my now new destination, I have no idea where I’m going, but I know there is some hiking involved.  No worries, I thought, it’s a beautiful day, and from what I’ve seen, it looks like a mild hike…

Have I mentioned that I often find myself eating my own words?  A mild hike…not exactly, particularly when you’re wearing flip-flops because you thought you were going to a place which required only a 10 minute walk on a paved path.  So I drudge through the 1.8 mile hike, which was incorrectly marked might I add, and got attacked by bugs for what was more like 2.3 miles, you know, because of that whole lack of preparedness thing.  And that beautiful day?  Not so much when you’re hiking in jeans….I was a hot, sweaty mess.  At least the scenery was pretty, which was a good distraction as I was cursing myself for going on with this hike when I knew it probably wasn’t the best idea.

But alas, I made it to the beach.  It was a little smaller than the one I had visited previously, and didn’t have some of the same factors which made the other beach a prime shark tooth finding area, but I was still happy to be there.  The cliffs are so interesting; I’m always wondering how many years of sediment and fossils are built up in those towering edges, just waiting for one to fall down while I’m there so I can find some long-lost item.  Of course, that didn’t happen the first time, or this time, but It’s still an interesting place.  I searched around the area for some teeth, but to no avail…seems like everyone else was finding them though.  Guess that’s just another excuse for me to return, and I’m going all out with my teeth finding equipment next time.  I hung out for a while, searching for shells and teeth, snapping some pictures, and just enjoying this little isolated beach, and then headed back on another flip-flop clad “1.8” mile hike.  It wasn’t that bad; the though of death and foot amputation only crossed my mind a few times.  I only slightly considered throwing my flip-flops somewhere off the trail like Reese Witherspoon throwing her painful hiking boots in Wild.  It was really pretty though, as I mentioned, so having that, as well as the huge beaver I had to run by, was good motivation to keep me going and snapping pics.  I was, however, shocked with the feeling of euphoria that I had once I got to the car, not because it was over, but because I did it.  It’s been a while since I’ve done something like hike around a new place, so even if I was tired and my feet were killing me, it was still wonderful.  I’ll definitely be more prepared the next time, which will come sooner rather than later.

It was also nice to get out there and into a place where I was actually in nature, not just the nice beach or scenic drive by type places I’ve been seeing so much of lately.  With the theme of “out of place” in the forefront of my mind, walking this path really had me thinking about just how much we can be out of place in nature.  Just looking at how the paths, though well-traveled, were being over taken by nature in some areas, and destroyed by it in others had me thinking of how much we want to mold this world into something we can control, when in reality these forces are so much stronger than us.  Just a thought.  I’ve always enjoyed viewing houses and places being reclaimed by nature.  With how minimally invasive this trail was to the environment around it, It was nice to be out on a good, crunchy path, yet still see how nature can reclaim even the things we build to be most like it.

While I only took one picture which I would consider suitable for this week’s theme, I’m going to share the rest of the photos I took along the way.  My little “ladybug on vacation” is the winner for this week, since she’s not exactly your typical beach goer.  I’ve always enjoyed finding odd things at the beach, and like to imaging that they’re just taking a break also. Enjoy!  The ladybug may have been out of her normal habitat, but I think I know how she feels.

Week 27: Independence

It’s hard to believe that we’ve already made it this far through the year, and that I’m already past the half way point of this 52 week challenge.  I still have a couple to do from past weeks which I haven’t forgotten about, but for now, I’m just happy to be catching up on the few weeks I’ve recently messed up on!

Independence is the topic for this week.  It’s an interesting topic, and can have different meanings to different people.  With the 4th of July just this past weekend, I’m sure the idea of independence comes to mind with a much more patriotic meaning for a large amount of people.  For me, however, independence has always brought a different feeling to mind.

I’ve always liked being on my own, being able to be myself, and not having to answer to anyone.  I moved out when I was just 18, and haven’t really looked back.  Though over the years this has been limited, I’ve tried to express myself the best I could while still abiding to the confines of the corporate world, and trying to be what many perceive as “a responsible adult”.    I know you all have heard me talk about how crazy things have been lately, and I suppose I should break it down to you, as it really all comes down to one thing; my independence has been cut off.  Yes, it’s true, I suppose the pay check of my (terrible) job was one, if not it’s only, perk, because now I’m out of resources and options.  I’ve moved back in with family, and don’t really see the option to pursue my educational and artistic dreams.  I’ve been accepted to MICA, a school I’ve always dreamed of going to, and have received 90% of the tuition in scholarships, grants, and loans, but am being suffocated by the fact that I cannot come up with the other 10%.  And the icing on the cake — I can’t find a job to save my life!  Everyone looks at me like I have three heads when I tell them I left my tenured management position in banking to pursue an art degree, and am willing to take a considerable pay cut to work at their company.  I know, stay positive.  I know, everything will happen the way it’s supposed to.  But it’s been pretty difficult to stay positive when I start thinking that the “way things are supposed to be” may end up being the exact opposite of how I’ve always wished they would be.

Yes, I know I’m lucky, as many have told me, to have family that will help me while I’m in need, but at the same time, this help comes with a lot of hurt.  I know my family loves me, I love them too, but we have an interesting relationship, much of which revolves around them not understanding me and wanting me to change.  Ah, yes, the sounds of teenage angst coming back — “parents just don’t understand!”.  It sounds silly, I know, but that’s always been our relationship (and you can throw my brother, aunt and grandmother in there, too), and it saddens me to see just how unwilling they are to see things from a different perspective.  Over the years I’ve been through quite a bit, professionally and personally, but one thing that I’m glad I’ve learned is how to see things from another perspective, and to gain information about situations before making a judgement.  They’re quite the opposite.  How I should be, feel, think, and grow in this world is made up in their minds, and that is where we will always clash.  My deviation from what they expect is what angers them, and my desires to do things which seem illogical to them, because it is the only way for me, is where they find me irresponsible and immature.  Independence.  It’s really an interesting word.  In a world, like mine, where family so strongly influences what you do, it can be a difficult thing to achieve, particularly when you need their support for things they find foolish.  They’re practically begging me to give up going to MICA, find a regular job, and just be happy doing art as a hobby.  I’m out of ways to tell them that going back to that life would most likely kill me…  Gasping for air to get out of the dark waters which were that life took so much energy, effort, and bravery that I didn’t think I had, I don’t know if I could do it again.

When I was in my very first class, on the very first night, of my very first semester in returning to school, we were instructed by my photography teacher to fill out a little card with our information on it.  Half information about who we were, and half one of those typical introduce yourself to the group type exercises.  One of the questions was to select which animal best describes you, and why.  Most people have something fierce, like a lion, or a hawk, showing their bravery, strength, and confidence.  Questions like this always throw me for a loop, so I had to spend most of my time thinking of how to select an appropriate animal.  I know, it’s a silly introduction, who cares?  But I always put too much thought in to these things…maybe because I remember situations like this three years later.  Anyways, after much deliberation, I came up with what I still think is the most accurate animal to describe me, and why.  A bird.  At that time, I was nearing the worst part of my professional career, and my head was filled with ideas of a great escape, and how grand life would be in just a few short years.  So when I selected the bird as my “spirit animal” so to say, there was really only one reason that I could think of as to why it was so fitting for my personality.  I could fly.  I would have the ability to be free, and escape to a new place any time I wanted to.  Independence.  No more confinement, no more restriction.  I was trapped in a world where I dreaded waking up in the morning, and I wanted nothing more than to escape.  I didn’t know it then, but going to school and incorporating that artistic outlet in my life at that time would be what really saved me, and helped me keep what little sanity I had at the end of it all.

Waking up nearly three years later and seeing how things have changed, I’m glad that I took the chances that I did, and have started down the path I have.  I’m also terrified that it was all in vain and that it’s steadily coming to an end.  I have people watching my every move and judging my every decision in ways that I haven’t experienced in over a decade, and to be honest, it’s a little terrifying.

This past weekend, though it may have been Independence day, was more like anti-independence day to me.  I had my move on Friday of last week, and had to say goodbye to my life of freedom.  I suppose the only small glimmer in that was that it was the holiday weekend, and I got to have a mini escape to the beach.  There truly is nothing better than being there, to me.  I could go there penniless, and would still have an immeasurable amount of happiness, serenity, and relaxation.  It really couldn’t have come at a better time.  So while I was there, I stopped to take a few pictures of my favorite places, as well as made time to visit places that I’ve always wanted to shoot, but never made the time for.  Of course, there were my birds, flying free in the ocean air.  Admiring them over a landscape which seems endless it really something I find hard to describe.  It’s cathartic — I could just stay out there forever, watching them, and whatever else may come by.  Even though I may not be “free” anymore, being in an environment like that really sets my mind free.  When it’s normally racing with thoughts of what I could have done differently, what people are going to think about me, what I should and should not be doing, there’s quiet.  When I look out in to the vast openness of the ocean, it’s like anything is possible, and anything could be just around the horizon.  It’s the only place where there is freedom from the confines of my mind, while watching nature, feeling the sand between my toes, and admiring my spirit animal, in its many different forms.