The round-up.

And so, just like that, a year has come and gone.

On October 15 of last year, I committed to making and posting a daily photo for the following 365 days. I wanted to see if a budding interest in photography would bloom, if given a chance.

For me, making photos is easy. I don’t mean to imply that I have great skill, knowledge or talent (on the contrary, I have much, much, much to learn), but instead that examining the world through a camera’s lens provides me a kind of easy peace that other creative endeavours, so far, have not.

Making consistently compelling photos is not easy. A fancy camera does not a good photographer make.

So there were (are) times of frustration and discouragement during this project. Life went on all around me, as it does, and did not wait for me and my daily photo. I have a family and a community and responsibilities. My daily photo, I’m well aware, was very low on the rank of important happenings in the world.

But it was a thread of hope and consistency to me.

Because I kind of stink at self-discipline and have been known to procrastinate, I chose to publish my daily photo project to this blog. Just knowing that I’d be accountable to someone other than myself for the duration of this project (if anyone at all chose to follow along) helped motivate me to keep going.

This decision to go public with my photos (when I tend to be very private with my creative efforts) brought up a number of issues, the most important being: why do this at all? For followers? Recognition? Validation?

For whom should I be making photos? Me, or you?

In my case, I know the right answer. But the struggle continues. Most of us want our work to resonate with others. It’s what connects us.

Photography has taught me a few things over the past year:

Begin with gratitude.

Always a good place to start, isn’t it? I’ve been so fortunate to have the means and the support to take on this activity. I have cheerleaders on my team, many whom have made sacrifices to allow me the luxury of spare time. Time for me to practice and make mistakes and then try to fix them. I have new friends and role models in the blogosphere. I have a capable light-drawing tool. And in this beautiful, messy world of ours, I have an endless supply of photographic subjects.

Slow down.

Probably the most obvious lesson photography has taught me: you need to be truly present to have the world open up and allow you to capture it. Slow down and look. But use all your senses, not just your eyes. There’s a world beneath the one you rush through every day. It’s waiting for you to notice it.

Show up.

Okay, here’s the truth: I’m scared. I’m scared I won’t be good at things. Photography, for example. I’m scared I’ll look foolish when everyone sees that I’m not good at things. But part of this challenge was accepting that it’s okay to be a work-in-progress. Even the best of us still fall under that category. Though I’m proud of my work over the past year, I’m not the photographer I want to be. Yet. And that’s just fine.

Everyone (and everything) is your teacher.

I’m trying to adopt an understanding that every experience and observation – whether joyous or boring or aggravating – will teach me something. This may be helping me cross a barrier of anxiety and self-doubt and be willing to accept new opportunities and meet new people to influence my photographic journey. Some of these interactions may amount to nothing, for now. Or ever. But that’s okay. It’s part of the process.

Well. If you made it this far in my ramblings, please accept my sincere thanks for sticking with me. It’s late and my eyelids are very, very heavy, so I hope this post will make sense when I read it over in the morning. 🙂

To wrap up my year, I chose three of my favourite photos from each month. With a bit of courage and a lot of effort, I hope to continue adding to my collection regularly.

This tiny photography bud is sprouting, climbing, reaching for the light.

Thank you, as always, for looking.

October 2016

 

November 2016

 

December 2016

 

January 2017

 

February 2017

 

March 2017

 

April 2017

 

May 2017

 

June 2017

 

July 2017

 

August 2017

 

September 2017

 

October 2017

 

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Windows to the soul?

You’ve probably heard the phrase “like a deer in the headlights” to describe a certain facial expression.

If I showed you any piece of photo identification I’ve ever owned, you’d quickly see that no matter how much time I’m given to prepare to be photographed, no matter how hard I try to look natural and prevent my eyeballs from looking like they’re about to pop out of my skull, I nearly always look stunned in the resulting picture. What does that say about my soul?!

One of the goals during my year-long daily photo project was to make a self-portrait. Why? It’s hard to explain. If I were my own subject, maybe I’d be free to show a side of myself I couldn’t comfortably show to others. Maybe, as the maker, I’d gain some practice in posing, composition, lighting and post-processing in order to get the look I wanted.

But I didn’t want this to involve a selfie-stick, a bathroom mirror, or a pout. I’ve seen a lot of selfies, but I can probably count on one hand how many I’ve ever made. I was hoping for something a little more subtle, more muted. Something that allowed for a bit of mystery, a bit of performance, but also an element of truth. And since I had total control of the process, I was also hoping to avoid resembling a spooked animal.

After a number of attempts, this was the least startled my eyeballs could manage (not bad!):

October 13 (1 of 1).jpg

Well, I waited 364 days, but now I can cross self-portrait off my to-do list. Though I guess it’s more like a partial self-portrait. Okay, it’s just eyes and some bangs.

I’ll leave it with you for analysis 🙂

Possibilities.

October 11 (1 of 1).jpg

My year-long daily photo project is soon coming to a close. Naturally, I couldn’t let the year slip by without attempting a photograph involving glycerin, a drinking straw, and rainbow spirals.

To make this image, I used a piece of colourful paper, propped up vertically, as the background. In front of it, I balanced a drinking straw across the tops of two cups (off-camera) so it would lie horizontally. Earlier, I had purchased glycerin at the drugstore for a few bucks (there had been no small size on the shelf, so I was stuck with a giant bottle). I placed a few drops onto the middle of the straw and let gravity pull them downward.

Being more viscous than water, the glycerin dangled from the straw long enough for even a slowpoke like me to mess around with my camera settings and make several pictures. I don’t have a macro lens, so I used a screw-on close-up filter on my regular lens, with a narrow aperture (f/22 in this shot) to try to get as much of each droplet in focus as possible.

Refraction – not reflection, I learned – is at play here. As the light passes through the glycerin droplet, it bends and renders the image in the droplet upside-down, though it’s not obvious in my example because the background is a circular pattern. Had I used a background image of a recognizable object, I would’ve propped it upside-down so that it would’ve appeared right-side-up in the droplet.

The fun thing about experimenting is that it nearly always provokes the maker into asking, “What if…?”  What if I used a photograph, a landscape, or a manuscript as the backdrop? What if the composition included only one droplet, or a hundred droplets? What if the medium wasn’t a droplet at all but a wine glass or a crystal ball?

Wait. What if I needed another year to tackle a refraction photography project alone?!

Well, in that case, at least I’d have plenty of glycerin.

And the winner is…

October 10 (1 of 1).jpg

*Seedling Update*
(click here and here for some background)

As the growing season winds down – though you wouldn’t know it by the extended summer we’ve been having – I thought I’d bring things full circle by summarizing our backyard harvest results. Here’s the final score:

Lavender: 0
Basil: 5
Viola: 10
Tomato: 14,000 (approx.)

Poor, poor lavender. It wasn’t having anything to do with me after I unintentionally baked the first eager seedlings. The new seeds would not sprout, no matter how nicely I asked. Thankfully, the pain of losing the lavender was lessened somewhat by a summer visit to a real lavender farm, where they know what they’re doing, and most certainly do not accidentally fry their seedlings.

The purple basil caught on well and all five seedlings made themselves comfortable in a pot on the patio. They got a bit leggy after a while, but no matter – many leaves were chopped up (very finely, so that finicky children could not detect them) and added to various dishes throughout the summer.

The violas, those dainty things, were purple and yellow on each bloom. They were transplanted into the garden beds and flowered throughout the summer despite my failure to remember to give them a drink. Unfortunately, they are parched and crunchy now, though I’m not sure if that normally happens in the fall or whether I killed them with neglect. Time will tell.

And the tomatoes. My word. I have only three potted plants and I’ve been picking tomatoes for weeks. There are still too many ripening tomatoes to count. There are still flowers flowering. And there are still only two things I know how to do with tomatoes (1. eat them raw, 2. cook them in a pot).

Why the tomatoes were so successful is beyond my comprehension, since last year’s yield was pitiful compared to our current bounty. I can’t really take any credit, as I remembered to give the tomato plants a drink only slightly more often than I did for the violas.

So there you have it. And now I’m off to Google “tomato recipes” before I’m overrun.