Photo Journal

Intentions: Write 31 Days

You know, this “Write 31 Days” challenge has been around awhile. I discovered it three or four years ago, back when I still used the craftroom as a sort-of office for the photography “studio”—meaning, I had no studio except the outdoors. I read a series of 31 days of editing in Lightroom, which really changed the way I do things. At first, Lightroom was very convenient for downloading and cataloging my images, but I really didn’t understand how to use Lightroom to edit. I’m not sure I do, yet, but I am constantly learning new things.

I thought after reading this series that, surely, I could use Lightroom to edit, and that I could write a series of blog entries for thirty-one days. I start strong every year (I skipped last year). I am trying it again this year.

My theme is pretty general: Thirty-one Days of Photography. I’m envisioning this as a kind of “photo-a-day” project: one or two really good images from that day. This first week, I’m simply going to focus on everyday images—the things that are right in front of my eyes that I see day in and day out, that I barely notice. Like the light on the yellow wall in the living room, the orchids that are not in bloom right now, the birds at the feeders, the hibiscus in the backyard planters. . . . I drive by those daily as I head out to work. There is such beauty in the ordinary and the everyday.

Although I know the intent is to WRITE everyday, sometimes, I will let the images speak for themselves. Other times, I will write about the day, the events, or the thoughts that surround my images. There is always a contemplative element to my approach to photography, thanks to such writers as Christine Valters Paintner and photographers and teachers like Kim Manley Ort and Kim Klassen and a host of others I can’t think of right now. Sometimes I may write about technical aspects of photography or editing and post-processing. I am keeping my options open.

Today, I begin with my first image: nothing fancy, just a simple cardinal at the bird feeder. Beauty in the everyday:


Photo Journal

The Best of Intentions . . . .

I did start the year with the best of intentions to write regularly in this space. Unfortunately, like so many intentions, this one fell by the wayside—again. The good thing about this space is that it is forgiving. it sits here waiting patiently until I come back to it.

Today, I made myself leave the house and go for a long walk. According to my FitBit, I walked for 71 minutes. Now you have to realize that I took the camera with me. So that meant I stopped—often—to take pictures, or to receive images, as Christine Valters Paintner would say. The weather was excellent, if breezy. At least the wind did not try to blow me off the planet as it did last week.

There were signs of spring and renewal all over Dreher Island State Park today. I will let the images speak for themselves.


I had to fight against the wind to get these images. I hope I can get back to the park to see how these beauties look in a few days when they are fully open. (I’m also waiting for my flowering cherry tree to bloom.)



Today’s prompt for the Capture Your 365 Challenge was “spire.” I immediately thought of church spires and steeples, but rather than do the obvious, I chose to photograph trees reaching to the heavens, branches raised in a glorious hallelujah of their own.


Because there is no hunting allowed in the state park, the deer are very tame. This is the last of four that crossed in front of me. I looked at the deer; the deer looked at me. Then satisfied that he had seen enough of the human with the camera, it walked sedately into the woods to join the rest of the herd.


And we humans cannot stop nature from doing her thing. These tiny flowers were growing in the cracks of the asphalt parking lot. I don’t know what they are called, but to me, they are tiny purple stars.

And after I came home and downloaded the images, I had to play in Photoshop.

You see the original in the second photo above. This is the final result.spring bloom

I like the “grunge” look, and I’ve been working through Sebastian Michaels’ Photoshop Artistry class to learn how to combine and blend layers to create something like “fine art.” I still have a lot to learn about manipulating layers. So much of what I do is trial and error. (However, my son likes it!)


Contemplative Photography Journey—Day 9 (on the 16th)

This week, I have found the camera. Actually, I’ve been carrying it around. I took it with me to a family reunion on Sunday, and it sat on the table unused. Instead, I spent the time talking with relatives I see only once a year or so, but have contact through social media and email and such.

I made memories.

I mentioned earlier this week that I took my mother on a road trip to North Carolina to get apples and to visit a vineyard for a wine tasting. The camera rode along, but stayed quietly in the back seat. Instead, Mama and I talked and shared memories of Daddy.

Sometimes, it is important to create the images in my head rather than on a camera sensor.

But now, that Canon 7D calls me and begs me to take it out. The part of me that still grieves four losses in the last two months resists that call. The abyss still looms. Yet, in the abyss, I see beauty.

I am reading Freeman Patterson’s book Photography and the Art of Seeing. While Patterson does not call what he talks about “contemplative photography,” it is very much in that vein. He gives the “theory” of learning to see the photograph, not just through the lens of the camera. It is very easy to “point and shoot” with a camera these days, and digital photography makes it easy to shoot images without thinking, as we had to do when we were limited to twenty-four or thirty-six frames on a roll of film. I’m finding that as I practice contemplative photography, I take fewer images and spend more time looking.

Both Patterson and Christine Valters Paintner advocate looking at the world through what Paintner calls a “soft gaze.” Patterson describes it this way: we look at the scene or subject in front of us taking note of what’s there. Then we allow our vision to go out of focus, still noticing, though what is there, this time in terms of lines, shapes, colors. Then we bring the scene back into focus, looking at specifics until we take our vision out of focus. We repeat the process until we are ready to photograph.

As I walk, I seem to walk without that sense of “focus.” I become conscious of color and shape and even lines (although sometimes I think I resist the lines because of my very global learning style and tendencies). And these are the things that I tend to photograph.

untitled-2My red hibiscus is blooming even in October. Warm days and lots of rain have encouraged it. The softness of the color, the yellow and sort of pink and the cone shaped bud captured my attention.

untitled-14The contrast of the purple and the yellow caught my eye as well as the rays of the petals of the zinnia around the center.

untitled-24 Goldenrod may make me sneeze and my eyes to water and my nose to itch, but there is so much texture in the flowers and the grasses behind it.

The purpose of the practice of contemplative photography is not to make great art so much as it is to teach us to see the world as it is. In this practice, weeds become wildflowers, and wildflowers become beauty.