“Escape” to the Front Porch

A few days ago, the guys and I left home to hit one of the many nature trails in the area. As usual, I had my camera out ready to capture abandoned homes and scenes from rural life along the way. A couple of minutes into the drive, the gorgeous remains of a tree commanded our attention. I was ready to jump out of the car and snap a shot of the tree, when my hubby said, “I think this is your colleague’s home.” We weren’t sure. As we looked toward the house, which was set some distance from the road, we noticed a couple sitting on the porch. We couldn’t make out the faces, but I thought I recognized the SUV sitting in the driveway. We took our chances and drove up to say hello and ask permission to capture a few shots–even if we were wrong.

It was them! But the biggest surprise was the amazing view right outside their front door.

“Living the Pond Life”

The pond, built by my colleague’s husband, is beautiful and reminds me why I love living outside the city and in a place where a front yard can be a pond. It is well-maintained and serves as home to a lot of marine life–fish, turtles, and the occasional unwelcome water moccasin.

Back in May I accepted Books & Coffee’s challenge to share escape photos within our own cities and towns. I have to make good on my promise to share some of my (far too many) “happy place” photos, but what better way to “escape” life than by simply stepping outside one’s front door? I can’t claim my colleague’s home as my happy place, but it did provide the happy during our brief visit.

It’s clear that my colleague’s husband designed the pond to provide a bit of peace and beauty away from the daily hustle and bustle.  Water–in almost any form–has such a calming effect. Even though it was an unplanned stop along the way, visiting my colleague’s pond just about negated my desire for a nature walk.

As for the tree, I almost forgot about it, but I managed to snap a couple before we drove away. The knots and grooves give the tree such striking appeal! [Click an image for a closer view].

Don’t you think so?

4-4-4: Four Weeks, Four Topics, Four Notes

Building a snail mail relationship through (random) swapping isn’t always easy.  Quite frequently, I receive from or send to a person knowing we won’t hear from each other again until years later when one of us is randomly selected as the other’s partner again. In some cases, never.

A couple of years ago I hosted a four-week, four notes photography swap to deal with this problem.  The swap, called 4-4-4, invited participants to select four topics from a list of 12 and send one photo representing each of the four chosen topics to their partners every week for four weeks. The photo was just one part of the swap.  Swappers also had to make the photo part of a letter, notecard, or postcard in which they explained or provided details about the photo, technique, inspiration, or the story behind the photo.

This was one of the best swaps for me. I really got to know my partners. I learned about their photography styles, their families, their careers, their personal philosophies, and more.

I decided to host the swap again.  This time my partner was Diane of A Focused Journey, Midteacher on swap-bot.  Diane and I communicate regularly through swaps and “random acts of mail,” but I learned a lot more about her life and her creative work.

Diane’s chosen topics were beauty, color, alone, and fragrant.  Take a look:

Week 1: Beauty

Outside of “Beauty” Card by Diane, Midteacher on swap-bot

“Beauty” by Diane, Midteacher on swap-bot

The “beauty” photo features a weeping pine that sits outside Diane’s kitchen window. She fell in love with its unusual form when she saw it in a friend’s garden.  She, then, took on additional work at a local nursery to purchase the tree.

She especially loves how the raindrops form on the tips of the needles, so the theme “beauty” is appropriate for the photo.

Diane sent oversize postcards for weeks two and three.

Week 2: Color

“Color” by Diane, Midteacher on swap-bot

The scan doesn’t capture the colors in this postcard very well.  The postcard features a photo of “clouds in color” that Diane duplicated in the background she created for the photo. She captured the photo one afternoon when the sun was “sending rays of beautiful colors as the clouds were moving across the sky.”  She wrote that she must have taken 30+ shots trying to capture the light and color.

Though I’m sure this was not Diane’s intention, I like how the quote underscores the selection of this photo–it’s not perfect in the eyes of the shooter, but it is a wonderful image.

Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful.

Week 3: Alone

“Alone” by Diane, Midteacher on swap-bot

The theme isn’t obvious on this one.  The yellow tulips hold a dear place in Diane’s heart.  She had a pretty difficult autumn one year.  The school that she loved and where she taught was closed due to budget cuts, and she was sent to a school that was challenging or “hellish,” as she describes it.  Then her son, a marine, was deployed to Afghanistan.  While out shopping and downcast, she found yellow tulip bulbs on clearance.  It was past planting time, but she bought all three bags and planted them.  The following spring, the tulips bloomed beautifully bringing her joy.  Eventually, her son returned home safe and sound.

She writes in sum:

I felt alone that fall, but every spring these tulips remind me otherwise!

Week 4: Fragrant

I  was almost sad when I saw the week four envelope.  It meant our weekly exchange had come to an end, but when I opened the envelope, I smiled from ear to ear. Sunflowers! Such a beautiful and appropriate ending to our swap.

These brightly colored flowers–miniature carnations and sunflowers–posed brilliantly on the island in Diane’s kitchen. The fragrance filled the air and greeted her each morning and as she passed throughout the day.

Diane can’t know how much I appreciate her for sending three different versions of the photo–the original and two edits.  They now have homes on my inspiration wall at home and at work!

As I mentioned many times before, I admire the way Diane works her photos into mixed media art.  Although we have very different approaches to photographic art, she and I share a mutual appreciation for each other’s work and we learn a lot from each other.  We often share tips and ideas, and because of my curiosity about how she crafts her photos, she recently recommended a book on photographic journaling techniques.  It’s on my list for the summer.

Look forward to my “trial and error” mixed media posts in the next few weeks.

Until then…

Have a happy mail day!

Photography: Taking Shots and Finding the Right Challenge

Last month I attempted Fat Mum Slim’s Photo-a-Day.  I completed the challenge a few times and thought it would encourage me to get a little creativity in each day.  Unfortunately, the timing was wrong. The semester was beginning and the weather was strange.

I captured about nine days before the possibility of capturing a photo every day in January slipped away.  I gave up when I realized I was pretty much  just “taking shots” and not actually “crafting” or “creating” anything.  Here’s what I did capture as part of the challenge.

Day 1: Favorite ColorPurple, of course.  An ornament on my Aunt Elaine’s Christmas tree.

Day 1: Favorite Color

Day 1: Favorite Color

Day 2: Delicious–Avocado.  My favorite fruit. Yum!

Day 2: Delicious

Day 2: Delicious

Day 3: Circle–The circular ironwork on a mailbox.  I know it’s more a nautilus, but you get the point. 😀

Day 3: Circle

Day 3: Circle

Day 4: Animal–Ferret.  Say “hello” to Gnash! He’s kind of a ham–or maybe just curious about the camera.

Day 4: Animal

Day 4: Animal

Day 5: A Favorite Thing–Books! A tiny sneak peek at the books in our home library or the reason why I can’t be a minimalist.

Day 5: A Favorite Thing

Day 5: A Favorite Thing

Day 6: Me–A Selfie.  I’m not into selfies, so I played around with the pic.  A bit cheeky, eh?

Day 6: Me!

Day 6: Me!

This is me too!  Same photo. Different manipulation.

Day 6: Me!

Day 6: Me!

Day 7: Time–Quotes in my planner on time.  It was such a coincidence that the quotes in my planner coincided with the theme for the day! I had to capture it.

Day 7: Time

Day 7: Time

Day 8: A Wall–This is a part of the inspiration wall in my office on campus.  It has quotes, beautiful images from friends and students, photos of family members, sunflowers, cards, and so much more. Eye and soul candy to get me through the challenging days.

Day 8: A Wall

Day 8: A Wall

Day 9: Mail–Beautiful postage from Senegal that I’d planned to use in a project and postcards and a letter with vintage postage that were “adorning” my desk.

img_6401

Day 9: Mail

Day 12: Leaf–I captured the leaf photo late one windy evening.  Bronze leaves against the black sky.

Day 12: Leaf

Day 12: Leaf

I found it boring, so I altered it. This “shows” the wind.

Day 12: Leaf

Day 12: Leaf

I “failed” at photo-a-day, but some good came from this failure.  It freed me to have some photo fun at the New Orleans Botanical Gardens (I’ll share that adventure another time).  (And) through this exercise, I learned that I want a more intentional photo challenge, one that is about more than a photo and a theme.

Thanks to Alice’s Grand Adventures, I found The Dogwood 52 Week Challenge.  This challenge is manageable during the busy academic year: it removes the pressure to capture a photo every day based on a specific theme, and it’s about stretching and growing as a photographer.  The assignments are “in one of three categories: storytelling, technical, artistic impression.”  The good news is that even though we’re seven weeks into the year, I’m not late! The challenge is designed to begin at any time; it’s up to the individual photographer.

So…I’m in!

I’m looking forward to sharing the challenge with you each week.