Category Archives: Photo Projects

Place: the indigenous story

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The school year has ended. Whew! And a new chapter begins, however temporary. It’s time to pull out the camera and the notebooks and dust off the blog. It’s time to work on this blog space and get back into the habit of regular creativity.

In Kim Manley Ort’s class, Place, the focus for May is on the indigenous story. I began researching the Native Peoples of South Carolina, and what I’m learning makes me sad. There were at least twenty-nine tribes in South Carolina at one time, but many of those tribes are now extinct, meaning that there are no known descendents living. The only nationally recognized tribe in South Carolina is the Catawba nation, which has a reservation near Rock Hill, SC. Interestingly, it did not receive national recognition as a tribe until the 1990s. There are two or three other tribes currently seeking national recognition. There are quite a few state-recognized tribes, though, but none have reservations.

The Native American presence is South Carolina is mainly in some place nations–towns, rivers, bays/sounds. In Newberry County, the Enoree River is one such example. The word “enoree” means “river of muscadines” for the abundant growth of muscadine (wild grapes) along its banks. it is, therefore, entirely appropriate that the only vineyard and winery in Newberry County is the Enoree River Vineyard!

The closest indigenous tribe I could find for my neck of the woods is the Congaree tribe. These people lived along the Congaree River in Richland and Lexington Counties. They gave the name to the river and to the Congaree National National Park. There was a village across the river from Columbia, the state capital, at one time.

It is sad, in a way, that so much of the history of the Native peoples has been los over the years, and there is no way to recover it (without perhaps digging up the entire state!) What I do know, is that there is still so much to learn.

A Year, Really?

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I opened WordPress this afternoon to discover that I have not written or published anything since sometime in 2018.

What happened?

I suppose it’s just life. . . . The busy-ness of school from August to May, I suppose it could be pursuit of other interests, even. It may even be a loss of interesting in keeping a blog.

Yet, as a teacher of writing and composition, I know I need to write, and I need to write often. So today–on the 7th of April, I shall begin again–writing, photographing, and, most of all, finding the time to do this thing called blogging.

I am taking a course with Kim Manley Ort–six weeks in length–called “Place”. It’s all about developing a deeper sense of the place(s) we live. We began this week with a deep dive into geologic history. I have not yet taken out my camera to get a picture of the geologic sense of place. I should do that very soon! I am, perhaps, waiting until spring break in a week.

Here’s what I have learned, and what I already knew. I live in the Midlands of South Carolina, between the Low Country and the Piedmont/Foothills. It’s relatively hilly, unlike the Sandhills to the east, but not as hilly as the Upstate! The primary rock formations consist of quarts and mica, and a few other minerals, and I think there are even some gemstones around. At one time, there was a diamond mine over around Blythewood. I live near a small town (as in one “main” street, Highway 76) called Little Mountain. It is so named because it was founded at the base of a monadnock named Little Mountain. This area is also part of the Carolina shale belt. Millenia of erosion have taken down everything else but this rise, which geologists say is “highly mineralized” with the aforementioned quartz and other mineral rocks. Little Mountain is the highest elevation between the Coast and the Foothills. At one time it was probably a bustling train stop, but no more. The train tracks are still there, and the train does go through Little Mountain at least once a day, but there is no longer a depot, though the buildings remain, and the train no longer makes regular stops for pick-ups and deliveries.

At one time, the ocean did reach the Midlands. The Sandhills to the east are the vestiges of that prehistoric ocean front. I am afraid I wouldn’t know a fossil from a rock, though, so I’ve never gone fossil hunting in this area. Perhaps, if I could find someone who would help me, I wouldn’t mind looking for fossils in the rocks of the area. It could be an interesting pursuit.

There are no pictures today, but they are coming soon.

What Happened to My Plans?

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When I started the summer back on May 26, I made plans. I had BIG plans.

1. I was going to do Ali Edwards’s project “ A Week in the Life.”

2. I was going to approximate the Story in Sixes project from Lensworks magazine to see if I could tell a story in six photographs.

3. I was going to catch up on Kim Manley Ort’s “Impermanence” class.

4. I was going to catch up on Laura Valenti’s “The Art of Wellbeing” class.

It’s June 28. I’ve been out of school for a month. I haven’t done those four things. What have I done?

I’ve read two BIG books, The Book Thief and Mapping the Bones. I’m about a third of the way through The Hiding Place. I’m reading and studying with an online group a professional text, A Novel Approach, to discover other ways of approaching whole class novels. I’m reading 180 Days to learn more about structuring a year’s curriculum.

I started writing, but I haven’t gotten too far.

I’m trying to work on Jamie’s Summer Yearbook “project” so that I pay more attention to my creativity.

I’ve been running back and forth to the Academy to finish organizing my room for the summer and to work with the yearbook staff to get started planning for “next year.”

I signed up to meet with a personal trainer one day a week at the gym in Newberry. I tried to do the Couch25K (C25K) plan, but it is way too hot to run outside, and treadmills scare me.

I haven’t followed any of my plans. Sometimes, I have to let go of those plans and just let nature take its course. That’s what I’m doing. I’m trying to follow the rhythms of my heart and mind to do what feels right for me at this time. The reading, the notetaking, the learning—these are the things I feel I need right now. Returning to full-time secondary education has been a challenge, but a welcome challenge. I have thoroughly enjoyed the teaching and the students! I feel at “home” in the classroom again. While I may not always agree with the very conservative headmaster (he’s a classicist when it comes to literature, and I do like to include more modern literature and YA literature), he respects my judgments as a professional. I know my students and I can determine what they need from me as their teacher.

So, with the AP Literature and Composition Institute coming up in July and inservice programs on Google Classroom on August 1, I don’t have much time to work on those “BIG” plans for creative production. Perhaps now is not the time to pursue them. Perhaps by reading good books and studying other professionals, I am feeding my creative side and the photography just needs to sit for a while.

Robert Burns wrote, “The best laid plans of mice and men often [go] astray.” My plans certainly went astray, but that’s okay. I’m still productive.

Summer Vacation 2018

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It has been a while since I had a teacher’s version of “summer vacation,” that extended period between June and August when I am not in school. For the previous five years, I taught at Remington College in Columbia. We worked in four-week modules, and since I was part time, I worked a mod and then had the next mod off. Now that I am working full-time in secondary education again at Newberry Academy, I now teach for thirty-six weeks and now I’m off for about 10—all of June and July and two weeks in August. Oh, perhaps I should say I also have most of this last week of May off as well, even though I’m going back to school tomorrow for a yearbook mini-camp.

So, how will I spend my summer?

First, I’m going to catch up on my fun reading! I don’t have a reading list yet per se, but I have several books on my Kindle that I want to read.

Second, I’m going to work on my photography. I have subscribed off and on to Lenswork Magazine, a print and online magazine that focuses on the photograph itself, not the gear or even the techniques. For the last couple of years, the publishers have had a juried “contest” in which photographers submit a story in six photographs. I don’t think I can enter that contest this year, but I think it might give me a focus for my summer work. Can I make images that capture the story in six images in such a way that each image can also stand alone and tell that story? In preparation, I’m charging up the batteries now, and soon I’ll clear the memory card!

I’m also planning to work on editing techniques. I joined the Shift Art website (pricey!), but I think it will be worth it. There are tutorials and articles and other goodies to inspire me.

This morning, I worked on learning some editing techniques using Auto Tone and Auto Color in Photoshop. I used an image I took a couple of weeks ago. I don’t know the name of this flower, but it’s pretty, and it’s interesting. I wanted to make sure the flower was dominant, so I practiced, and edited, and started over. This is the image I came up with. I used Auto Tone and Auto Color. Then I applied two layers of patterns and textures. Finally, I added a light vignette. I’ll put the original and edited image side by side to show the two versions.

 

The first image is the original, unedited image. It’s too dark. My edit, the second one, lightens the image and brings out the flower. I like the kind of hazy background, which is further emphasized a bit by the pattern and the texture. At the end of the process, I added a vignette using a curves adjustment layer, dragging the curve down toward the bottom right corner, and then using a black brush to uncover the portions of the image I wanted to reveal. I lowered the opacity of this vignette layer as well because I did not want it too dark on the edges. I still wanted the brightness and haziness of the background to come through.

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(I think I may have desaturated the background slightly as well so that the color of the flower can stand out.)

I enjoy floral photography, and I enjoy applying textures. I want to stretch myself as a photographic artist.

Procrastination: Putting off today what you can do tomorrow

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Or can you?

Yesterday, I walked around the ponds, headphones on, water bottle slung over one shoulder, step tracker clipped on my shirt. I was out for exercise.

That did not stop my roaming eye. As I walked up the powerline right of way, I saw another purple flower—a Maypop blossom! (Some people may call them passion flowers.) These vines grow wild in these parts. After they bloom, they bear fruit. I’ve heard you can eat the fruit, but I never did. When I was a child, I played with Maypops, using sticks to make animals out of them.

When I saw the flower, I was excited! But I was midway through my second lap, and I did not want to interrupt the momentum of the walk. I did not go back for the camera.

I lost the opportunity to take the photo of the purple passion flower//Maypop blossom. Surely, it will be in bloom tomorrow. . . . .

Well, here is what is looks like today.

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It is beginning to close.  It’s a strange-looking thing at this stage.  The good news is, that while I was taking this photo, I saw that there are a few more buds that haven’t opened yet. I will be watching these so that I can get the picture.  And I will be watching for the fruit, too. I may even make a Maypop animal!

Here are some other things I saw along the walk around the pond today.

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Roses in the backyard

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Wild blackberries beginning to ripen

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An interesting bent tree

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The grand oaks that line one side of the dam between “Herbert’s” pond and Gramps’s pond.

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Mushrooms, moss, and fallen leaves—an interesting combination of textures. (No, I did not stage this.)

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Red trumpet vines.

All I have to do is keep my eyes open.

By the way, I’m not exactly upset with myself that I didn’t go back and take a picture yesterday. I carry the memory.

Week 1 Wrap-up from Picture Spring class

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When I return to the classroom, everything else seems to fall by the wayside—writing, playing/practicing piano, housework, even photography and other creative outlets. This past week, I did return to the classroom for one class a day with six students (yeah, can you imagine that?). And I have kept up with my Picture Spring class that began on Monday, and the project I started on May 1. Even my mini-album is up-to-date with prints!

My writing, though, has lapsed. Even today, when I have the house completely to myself, no interruptions or distractions, I have not written anything except my daily morning pages, and even then I wrote only two pages.

What I have been doing, though, is soaking up the Word of God, and watching the little birds—house finches—come to the bottle feeder outside my window.

untitled-3 They may not be as flashy as the cardinals that feed at the larger feeders, but these are beautiful birds, too.

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I wish the gold finches would come back. I know they are out there. I’ve seen them!

I think, since my words are few this morning, I will just give you a collage of images from this past week’s Picture Spring prompts. As usual, I’m using the collage maker at www.befunky.com. It’s an easy to use online photo editor. (I wish they would add a print button!)

Week 1 Collage

Day 1: Beginnings—blackberries, bottom center

Day 2: Stepping Out into Spring—thirty steps, left

Day 3: Morning Rituals: beginning with the Word, center center

Day 4: The Sky’s the Limit:  clouds, right

Day 5: Ground Level: roses, top center

I still have to process Days six and 7!

Folks, The Struggle Is Real! Keeping up with a Photo Project

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I have good intentions; I really do. I promise myself that I WILL follow through on my photo-a-day project, or I will complete this on-line photography class that I paid good money for, or I will commit to taking a photograph of “something” each week.

I get a week or so into the project, and then LIFE happens. Sometimes, it’s the unexpected that happens to interrupt the routine—sickness, car trouble, appointments. You get the idea. The photography routine is interrupted, and it’s hard to pick it up again especially if the photo-a-day has not become a habit.

I’ve tried variations:  52 projects: ONE photo-a-week. Again, I do well the first couple of weeks, and then, LIFE happens.

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I started my May “Picture Spring” project on May 1. I missed one day of photographing, but that’s okay. I took the time to go into my archives and search for something to represent that day. But as I looked at last week’s photographs, I see a rut beginning to form. Flowers, blossoms, green things. . . You see where I’m going? I know the saying “April showers bring May flowers,” but honestly, flowers are not spring has to offer. I need HELP! So I anxiously wait for Tracey Clark’s class to start next Monday.

And I spent the last half hour looking at Pinterest and Google Images, looking for spring and May challenges. And I printed off a few, using my little 4 by 6 photo printer (Canon Selphy). I am going to tuck them into my May photo book as a reference.

So, how to you keep the inspiration to complete a photo-a-day project?

Jim Goldstein has a list of eleven ways to keep the momentum going in an article on the Digital Photography School website. His second tip is a good one: Always have a camera with you. Now, I tend to use my “big girl camera,” The Canon 7D with the battery grip attached (you would be amazed what people have to say about me carrying that thing around!) Most of our cell phones and smart phones have decent cameras these days, and, as you know, the best camera is the one you have with you. So, when you see something that “would make a good picture,” use that camera to make the image.

Nancy Messieh recommends taking the interesting shot. If it catches your eye, make the image. Keep your eyes open to possibilities. In addition, she advises photographers to look for inspiration from favorite photographers, from online photo galleries like Life or National Geographic, Flickr Explore, Tumblr, and other similar sites. Sometimes, trying to emulate another photographer’s techniques can project inspiration to keep going.

Here’s one I hadn’t thought of! Karthika Gupta advises photographers to be honest about why you want to do a 365 project in the first place. Having a goal will help keep you inspired. Is your goal to improve your photography? Is it to document your everyday life and routines (as well as those big events)? Having a clear goal in mind helps keep the purpose in mind.

Bethadilly offers two tips: Join a community, and share on social media. There are a LOT of 365 groups out there. A search of Flickr, Instagram, and Facebook will give you plenty of groups to choose from. Now, when I do this, I get overwhelmed! Seriously, there are thousands of 365 communities out there! Being part of a community holds you accountable, as does committing to share on social media, whether it’s Instagram or Facebook or Tumblr or Flickr. (There is a drawback to sharing: I get caught up in looking for “likes,” and if I don’t have any, then I wonder how I “failed” with that image.)

Bethadilly suggests one more thing: Use your daily photography to practice a skill or technique or to use a specific piece of gear. I admit that I am “gear crazy.” I love to mess with lenses and new camera gadgets. In fact, you may be like me; you have a piece of camera gear in your bag right now that you rarely, if ever use. I love my Lensbaby Composer Pro with the sweet 35 optic and the double optic. I have the macro kits—the filters as well as the attachments. I even have the wide angle attachments for the Lensbaby, which I have not used. Maybe it’s time to practice.

My December 2013 Instagram challenge was popular so I thought I'd make one for May 2014 - feel free to share/repost. IG: ladydyhanara:

Several writers suggest making inspiration lists. You can download and print lists to tuck into your camera bag, or you can write your own. The thing is they recommend having a “plan” of some sort.

Right now, I’m finding “Spring” is a bit broad. I am going to look at my lists and these tips to see how I can push myself further both in terms of subject, storytelling, and technique to keep up my short-term photo-a-day project. Oh, having my little mini-album already made is helping as well as keeping it “front and center.” When I pick it up to page through it, I can see the blank pages that need to be filled.

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By the way, the noisy birds fighting over space at the feeders inspired today’s “Picture Spring” photo. I haven’t downloaded them yet.

How will you kick your 365 project up a notch this week?