We had a blizzard today, a mix of snow, sleet and frozen rain as the temperatures hovered right at freezing, dipping later in the afternoon to the mid 20’s. Given that the National Weather Service urged everyone to stay inside and off the roads, we decided to do the exact opposite. Johnny brought his M2 and I loaded up a roll of B&W in the Rolleiflex, and we ventured out into the storm.
Our little car handles like a champ in the snow, but as a precaution, we took our time on the roads and did some walking around Port Clyde. After about 9 frames with my Rollei I could not see my matte screen at all through the waist-level finder, it was a sheet of ice. So I just set my focus at infinity and aimed it in the general direction I wanted and fired off the last few shots. It should be interesting to see how those come out. I have a little more hope for my earlier frames where I could actually see what I was doing.
After Port Clyde we drove to Rockland and walked around town. I took a few long exposures in front of the old theatre with cars driving by (my first try with film) but as I didn’t have a tripod, I set the Rollei on a little stone pedestal. It was very uneven on the top so I don’t think the camera stayed completely still. Afterwards we went into our cafe to warm up and have lunch and I tried another long exposure as a girl was cleaning tables, but I moved the camera when I pressed the shutter. All in all I think none of the long exposures will be in focus, but maybe one frame will be kind of cool nonetheless, you never know. The important thing was that we had fun taking pictures today. The 365 has helped me a lot to loosen up and not place such high expectations on my results every single time I shoot.
The photo I’m sharing today was from town this morning before we had breakfast (and as the blizzard was just starting). We walked past this beautiful truck on our way to the cafe. Johnny took it from a different angle and on B&W film. I’m excited to see how his comes out too.
I bought a few used books today at Hello Hello: a book of curated poetry, a short biography about the last decade of Henri Matisse’s life, and a 3191 Miles quarterly. I’m looking forward to read them as soon as I’ve finished Daybook.
Being at the bookstore today was a bit like the feeling of standing next to the Grand Canyon or being in a small boat on the open ocean. I feel my own limitations and set myself in relation differently. These paradigm shifts feel strange sometimes. I told Johnny recently that I suddenly feel a lot shorter than I ever did. What I figured out was the cause was, in Ireland, where I spent the last 5 years of my life, I was a lot taller than most. Here in the U.S., I’m average height. My height didn’t change of course, but my perception of it did based on my surroundings.
It is easy to get reality wrong sometimes because we base so much of our perceptions in relation to what’s around us. Sometimes we misjudge ourselves and think we are more, or less important than we are. In the end, I’m neither tall nor short nor average, my body just occupies the space it was created for, sometimes less than people around me, sometimes more. In the bookstore I felt how enormous the creative world is and how small a space in this world I occupy. But the truth is, it’s neither a significant nor a small space. It’s simply the space I was created for.
I have a funny sense of balance about how I spend my days. If a day is too busy, it feels as bad as if a day is too lazy. I don’t like too much of one thing, neither work nor fun. It sometimes seems as though I have a kind of subconscious internal checklist with so many different things that I feel are important, and if I can tick all the boxes in one day, that’s what makes me feel most fulfilled. Unrealistic to expect that of most days, I know. But today just happened to be a day like that.
√ Relaxation – a leisurely coffee and cranberry maple pear pie with Johnny.
√ Work – development on my new set, clearing out my inbox.
√ Creative output – scoping out a location for a portrait shoot I’m doing on Monday (pictured above), posting for my 365, back to the darkroom to develop my roll of Tri-X for the next printing class.
√ Household duties – grocery shopping, a pot of chili simmering on the stove, getting some fresh laundry put away.
√ Exercise – a walk with the dog in the woods.
√ Good food and drink – Pie & latte earlier. Earl Grey tea this afternoon. Chili and cornbread later on. Maybe a glass of wine and Jarlsberg this evening.
√ Offline socializing – great conversation with our friend Gary at the coffee shop.
√ Online socializing – catching up with some Twitter friends.
Nothing in excess, but enough that everything was meaningful. It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to give time and attention to all the facets of life that you feel are important.
Unrelated to this picture, Johnny and I have found a studio space downtown that we really like. This is something we’ve talked about for a long time but hadn’t really actively started looking yet. When we took our printing class on Sunday, we noticed that there was a sign for a studio for rent across the hallway from the community darkroom. Long story short, we looked at it while we were there and fell in love with the space. It’s in an old brick building on Main St., on the second floor, with large windows, tall ceilings and lots of natural light. We would have to do a couple of small things (finish the ceiling, bring in wireless and put a fresh coat of paint) but it would be a perfect space for our office. Last night, as part of the application process, Johnny and I were interviewed by a group of artists who might potentially be our studio neighbors. We liked them, and I think they liked us, but they wouldn’t give us a definitive yes or no until they had talked it over among themselves and cast a vote. The whole experience feels very endearing to me, if not a bit funny. Things can happen fast, but one of my life lessons has been that when an opportunity presents itself unexpectedly (and it is in line with what you want for your life) you should do everything you can to reach out and embrace it. These opportunities almost never happen when you feel completely ready for them, and they might never offer themselves again.
Anyway, I hope the studio works out, because I am already a few miles ahead planning the pillows for the new couch.
Sometimes life hands you hidden gifts, meant for you to find later.
The sun came up so beautifully over the ocean this morning that I decided to dress early, get my boots on, grab my camera and clamber out over the icy rocks to the water’s edge. I liked the color of the light on the water and how rough the waves were. But after a few frames, an especially huge wave came in and completely soaked me and much worse, my camera, so I had to go back.
When I downloaded my pictures I saw that in this particular frame, there is a little dark shape, caught in the wave. A hidden gift that my camera had seen in this 1/2000th of a second, but I hadn’t. It was a reminder to me that in the discipline of shooting, I may not always understand in that moment what it is that I am receiving, or what the final purpose will be. Whether it may be a lesson learned, a story found, a connection made, or something even more unexpected. The point is to keep on doing, and not worry so much about what is supposed to come of it.
Once upon a time, there was a little pine cone that was trying to find its home. It looked in the forests, where most of the other little pine cones had chosen, and it looked in the meadows and on the mountains. Nothing seemed right, but the little pine cone was patient. It wanted to find the right place. Finally, it ventured upon the most beautiful spot in the world: a large, flat rock directly beside the sea.
“That’s not safe!” its friends cried, alarmed. “You won’t be able to put down deep roots on a rock. What if a terrible storm comes and takes your life? Come and live with us in the forest, where you will be sheltered among us and live long.”
But the little pine cone did not heed them, because it had seen the beauty of the ocean and heard the lullaby of the waves at night, and it didn’t want to leave.
So, it put as many roots out as it could, with as much strength as it had, and anchored itself to the rock. And it grew. It grew straighter, and stronger, and taller than many of its friends, because what it lacked in roots it compensated in strength of spirit. Many winter storms came and went, bending the pine tree but never breaking it.
The pine tree stood like a sentinel. It watched the sun and moon rise and set and learned the many moods of the ocean. It became attuned to the winds and the weather. The pine tree saw many wonders: the soft spray of surfacing whales, the migration of the sea birds, the seals at play, the lobster boats and the fisherman hauling the traps in and out, year after year. The tree housed squirrels and birds, felt the warm sun in the summer and soft blankets of snow in the winter. It grew old.
All of the little pine cone’s friends in the forest, who were now also old pine trees, marveled at this and asked, “Aren’t you afraid, now that you are old, that you won’t be strong enough to hold on to the rock if a storm comes?” But the pine tree just rustled his branches knowingly, because they didn’t understand that living long, and being safe, was not the most important thing to him. It was being home, surrounded by what he loved, and he was happy and content here.
One winter day in January, a howling storm came across the sea. The old pine tree watched it come, the dark clouds like an army, thunder like horses’ hooves. He wasn’t sure whether this would be his time. The force of the wind pressed in upon him relentlessly. He clung to the rock with all of the might left in his roots. The rain fell like tears. He could feel his roots start to slip. The old pine tree looked at his friends in the forest. They were battered, but they were safe. They would not fall. Their roots were deep. His were not, but none of them had seen the wonders that he had. I would choose this place again, he thought, a thousand times.
And then he smiled, and let go, and as the sea and the rain and the wind said good bye to their old friend, a little pine cone fell from his branches and landed on the flat rock.
Our class yesterday was rescheduled for today, so we went there after our morning coffee. The instructor is so nice and extremely knowledgeable. I found a new love today: the darkroom, and darkroom printing. It was my very first time in a darkroom and seeing how an enlarger works. Johnny and I had home developed before but it was in our kitchen, which was a bit different experience. I was completely carried away by the whole thing. Imagine – being able to go from a roll of film to a print, completely analog, and having control over the entire process! Unbelievable.
Tomorrow I’m getting my Rolleiflex out and shooting a roll of black and white, and I will take that to the darkroom on Tuesday to develop it. On Thursday I will print one of the negatives. I’m beyond excited. Johnny is laughing at me because he has tried to get me to shoot black and white for years now. I was never interested. But now I can’t wait, because I want to get back in the darkroom again. Making a black and white print feels, for me, a completely different thing than downloading a black and white scan. It’s a tangible result that I can actually influence from start to finish – from exposing in camera to developing to darkroom printing – to turn an idea into something I can hold in my hands. I’m so excited to explore this further.
Meanwhile, a huge storm hit our area while we were in class this afternoon. We had a crazy drive home through high winds, torrential rain, downed trees and debris, and we had no power when we got home. We lit a couple of candles and started a fire, and I’m blogging on my last 7% of battery using a hotspot connection. I really hope we have power back in the morning!
Today is a snap, post and run day. I took this shot while Johnny was on a walk with the dog, we went out to coffee after he was back and then came home for about two hours to get some work done before we head out to our darkroom printing class at 1pm. After a 3-hour class we’re heading straight to Portland for dinner and the new Tarantino movie. As we won’t get home until midnight or later, I had a panic moment about 15 minutes ago when I realized, oh my god, I need to get today’s post done before we leave, and I only took one picture.
That’s another very challenging aspect of a 365, on busy days you need to work with a lot of constraints. As I’m shooting digital and posting daily I need time at the end of the day to download, edit and upload, so carrying my camera around with me the whole day doesn’t always work. This is the third time since I started the project that I’ve had to post before noon because we were on the road for the entire rest of the day, so my shot inevitably ended up being from that morning. Meaning that in these situations I had to accept that I might miss something better that comes along later in the day.
But that’s all part of the challenge and the fun. And it does reinforce that even on very busy or stressful days, you can always find time for what’s important to you.
I like today’s picture on many different levels.
Firstly I love unposed, candid moments like this (and yesterday’s shot) when something interesting is happening and no one is aware that you’re taking a picture of it. In this case, Johnny and our friend Gary so engrossed in conversation that they didn’t notice me at all. I will admit that I am a sniper with my camera. I am usually not interested in asking for a photo because I don’t want a posed headshot of a person, I see a moment with a person in a certain context, and once the subject is aware the moment is usually gone.
Secondly, I like this picture because it’s a scene I see every morning – the cafe where Johnny and I have our coffee and pastry, talk and enjoy the window light. As Gary said today, it’s a place to “start the day off good and slow.”
Thirdly I like the story in this. Gary is a painter as well as a photographer. Every morning he sits in the window at this cafe and paints. In this photo Johnny has his camera sitting next to him (he and his M2 are inseparable) and Gary is holding a stack of his paintings. They’re having a lively talk about art, while both of them are engaged in completely different types of artistic work.
There is so much camaraderie that is possible among artists if they wouldn’t spend so much time comparing themselves to one another, being negative and jealous. You can respect someone else’s artistic choices and appreciate their work and vision without needing to find common ground, and without putting them above or below yourself.
I’m writing this sitting on the couch next to Johnny. Accompanying me is an Earl Grey, dark chocolate stars from Trader Joe’s, a lazy fire in the stove, Build Me Up From Bones by Sarah Jarosz on the sound dock, and the hum of the dishwasher in the background.
Today was a day of small successes. It was the completion of the first week of my 365 project, for which I’m very proud. I got the Christmas decorations put away, worked on Pro IV and organized some pictures. I bought white asparagus for the first time and made one of Johnny’s favorite German dinners, and while my Hollandaise sauce took two attempts (the first one turned into scrambled eggs), it all turned out pretty good in the end. And Johnny and I had a long talk today, sorted out all the world’s problems and discovered the meaning of the universe. Well, almost.
Every day is an opportunity to live a better life. To live better isn’t necessarily always to improve your circumstances or yourself, but maybe just to be a little kinder and gentler to yourself and to the people around you. And to accept that life is not perfect, but it’s beautiful as it is. A 365 project confronts you with this truth every single day. I’m convinced that in order to successfully complete a project like this, you need to practice acceptance and let go of control.
1 down, 51 to go.