Winter returned today to our little corner of the world, after a rather confused January which never seemed to make up its mind whether it wanted to be winter or spring.
The snow started last night sometime and didn’t stop until this evening. It was a very dense, wet snow that accumulated fast, which made for a really beautiful winter wonderland as it coated everything in white. Johnny would argue that it also made for a backbreaking job shoveling the driveway.
We went out to photograph this afternoon and managed to shoot a bit of black & white film despite the cold, flurries and poor roads. Our car got stuck at one point when we tried to back up, but, as if by magic, a few Mainers appeared with shovels, a pickup truck and a chain and managed to drag us out. People here are so friendly, I like how they look out for each other. I hope we can return the favor sometime.
I took this picture after we arrived home this evening. I loved how Timmy’s tail wags while he looks so expectantly into the door, and how the light spills into the snow like a welcome.
I had a frustrating day shooting-wise. I felt so inspired today because we had rain, some fog and gray light (I love this combination). On our way to breakfast I saw the most incredible scenes from my car window, but they seemed to dissolve as soon as I recognized them. For example, a dead tree with three branches, in the middle of a brown field with mist over it. And three black crows sitting perfectly arranged on the top of each branch. Were my eyes cameras, that would have been the shot of a lifetime. But a few seconds after I saw it, the crows flew off.
I realized that certain light is often what makes me see a shot, not necessarily subject matter. I’ve driven down the same road two hundred times and today I saw so many things I never saw before, just because the light and the rain made me see them.
I felt frustrated because I ended up with basically no pictures at the end of the day while I had seen so many beautiful things, and I’m not overly thrilled with the one I’m uploading. But on a happy note, Johnny and I spent 3 hours in the darkroom and I made my first real (not practice) print from a roll that I had self-developed. I’m really proud of that, and the print came out well. So I guess it’s a consolation for my upload today. I did make an image I’m happy with, but it’s not here. It’s drying face down in the darkroom.
Stormy days were always my favorite when I was growing up. I like the pause that they give, the reminder that humankind, while preening itself on its technological advancement and evolutionary prowess, is still at the mercy of nature.
The mood during a storm is completely different. The light gets soft and thick, the colors desaturate, the energy heightens. The ocean becomes restless. You sense deep, powerful undercurrents that you cannot see, and that feels at once comforting and somewhat threatening.
You feel small, looking out at it from inside your little house made of glass and wood. You remember your place.
I took a lot of pictures today. The light was so beautiful from the moment the sun peeked over the horizon and spilled into the windows. I was actually in the middle of brushing my teeth when I saw it and had to run for my camera and take a few pictures with my toothbrush still stuck in my mouth. Johnny laughed at me, but luckily he understands how this can be as a photographer. Pretty light doesn’t wait.
After breakfast and getting some work done, we went out for the afternoon to take pictures. We drove around one of the peninsulas and took a walk at Birch Point State Park. At the park we met a lady from Tennessee who said it was creepy walking around there and asked if we had seen the bear tracks on the road. I’m fairly certain they were actually made by a coyote but I didn’t want to disappoint her vivid imagination, so I just told her to stay safe on her walk back to her car.
After the light was gone we went out for Taco Tuesday at one of our favorite local places. Johnny had a really good stout that was locally craft brewed. I always feel it’s an extra nice compliment to American beers if my German husband likes them. Before we drove home, we stopped by our studio and talked about what we would like to do with renovation and decorating. We’re very lucky that we are so matching with our ideas.
This image was, unexpectedly, my favorite from the day. It was something I saw last minute while Johnny was walking down the stairs from our studio, and I didn’t think at the time that it came out. I got a few pictures today that turned out nicely (that doesn’t always happen) but while I looked at those and thought, hey, that’s a good picture, this one struck a different chord. It moves me when I look at it. It makes me feel, while the others were just aesthetically pleasing. I wonder if anyone else has that with their pictures? For me there’s such a differentiation between when I take a good picture, and when a picture takes me.
It’s a new month. January, where did you go?
I saw an interesting black and white photograph recently of a small boy, pointing a gun straight into the camera with an angry look on his face. The picture startled me because the boy was so young, maybe only 10 or so. The longer I looked at it, the more distressed I felt. Who was this poor little boy? How did he get a gun? Was he in a gang on the streets already, that young? What made him want to threaten the photographer, and was the photographer in danger?
When I read the story behind the photo, the photographer said that it was actually a staged moment where he asked the boy to point the gun at him and look angry. He said that afterwards, he and the boy had both laughed about it. For some reason this felt like a betrayal to me. I’m aware that many photographs are staged, or they are shot selectively so that you don’t see the entire scene. But a photo like that felt (to me) like a very serious social commentary. It felt real, and it wasn’t.
In the photograph I took today you might think that this man and his wife are very disconnected, and how sad it is that they sit across from one another over coffee without really connecting. It could be a social commentary on relationships, or on how people pulled into the digital world can’t relate anymore to the people in the analog world.
But neither of these would be true. The story behind this photograph is, this couple sat for at least half an hour chatting with each other and clearly enjoying one another’s company. At some point after they talked, they settled into silence, she became engrossed in her book, he on his phone, in this familiar way that partners have when they are comfortable with each other’s presence without the need to interact. It was a sweet moment, but if you would only see this photograph without knowing the story, you might come to an unfair conclusion. Unfair anyway, to the couple in this picture.
I wonder sometimes how many stories we take away from photographs that aren’t true. Would it have been ok if I had never read the story behind the little boy with the gun? Would the distress I felt, even if the scene wasn’t real, have served the purpose that the photographer sought? Is it wrong to use a photograph for a good purpose – to bring about awareness or positive change – while knowing that it misrepresents the truth?
A couple of weeks ago I made the mental note that the most beautiful light is the most fleeting. I’m learning more and more how true that is. I saw the most beautiful color gradient in the sky this evening, but by the time I had rushed outside with the camera, the light had turned flat and the color was gone. Some moments, I guess, are just meant to be enjoyed and not photographed.
At the beginning of this project I felt an immense internal pressure about how I would be able to pull off a picture every day for a year that would satisfy the perfectionist in me. I don’t have that pressure anymore. I’m not happy with every picture, but I’m happy with how I feel about the project and with what it has changed in myself. In some strange way, this makes me happy even about the pictures I don’t necessarily like.
One very enjoyable aspect that the 365 has brought into my life is an experimental mindset. I was always very set in how I saw things and a bit afraid to explore outside of “my style” for fear of failure. I have been playing with so many new things over the last couple of weeks, things I had never even thought to try. How does a long exposure look in a dark house with firelight? How does light and shadow turn something ordinary into something extraordinary? How can reflections be used to combine different worlds into one? What feeling does movement create and how do you capture it?
I am discovering more and more that I dislike the obvious and prefer something a bit unexpected in my pictures. But the greatest discovery I have found for myself is that the imperfect part of the photograph is often what makes it perfect.
I thought a lot today about personal growth after reading Johnny’s 365 entry today: “To me it seems like there are essentially two kinds of people. The ones that never acknowledge or work on any kind of personal dynamics. And the people that do, and that are always somewhat miserable over it.”
Working on yourself, and growing in awareness, does bring a certain level of discontent. It’s far easier to look away from what makes you uncomfortable than to look at it honestly. I thought of a verse I learned as a child from Ecclesiastes: “For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.” I never understood what that really meant until I became an adult and began the process of self-reflection. There is a certain, necessary heaviness that goes along with that.
But I would rather carry this kind of grief than go through life with the attitude that ignorance is bliss. I don’t believe that our task on earth is to go about making sure we feel as happy and comfortable as possible by any means. Happiness is a reward for doing the right things, not an end in itself.
Johnny and I are deliriously tired. After almost falling asleep over my mocha this morning, I realized that caffeine and sugar will not save me from myself today. I am pretty much useless.
Right now I think this picture of the gas station is kind of cool. Tomorrow I might be horrified and wonder what the heck I was thinking. What can I say? That’s the risk you take when your brain is snoozing while the rest of you tries to do a 365.
I was not at all in the mood to shoot today. Between grocery shopping, housecleaning, laundry and a lot of screen work, I barely touched my camera much less thought about pictures. I had a panic moment this evening when I realized I might not have anything, so I went outside and tried to get a long exposure of the starry night sky. But after several frustrating attempts (I have no tripod or cable release and had to sit there holding the shutter open) I just called it a day. The shot I’m now posting is not something I’m especially proud of but my other two choices were a horribly underexposed shot of my MacBook and a picture of mud on the side of our car.
At breakfast Johnny and I talked about the commitment involved in undertaking a 365 project and what keeps us motivated to continue and complete the year. For myself, it’s that I am learning and growing so much through doing this, not only as a photographer but as a person. I feel I am getting so much better with accepting imperfection, with working with what’s around me and finding more creative ways to frame what I see. I’m enjoying so much to be out of my comfort zone and explore what’s familiar with a new kind of curiosity. I wonder what it will feel like at the end of the year? If I could look at my future self, would I be surprised? Will my pictures look different? Will this change how I see? These are the questions that keep me going, on days like today.