Thursday, February 25, 2016

Lenten Challenge: Week Two

Moon, cloud, and streetlight on my way home.
It turns out that I'm doing okay with the mental discipline of looking for beauty in what does exist, made by man or grown by nature.

It's the perfect time of year for sunrise fantasies over our house. The light turns the sky all shades--seashell pinks and blues some mornings and tropical oranges, fuschias, and turquoises other mornings. Seeing that soul-satisfying light over, above, and around our home fills me up. And it creates intricate silhouettes of the oaks and palmettos of our newly cleared back yard. I'm looking to learning to catch those with the new camera.

And it turns out that will be the biggest obstacle for me. While I have a decent eye for composition, thanks to my theatrical training and my husband's years of coaching, and I do understand the principles behind photography, I have two languages to learn. I need to learn the technical jargon of photography and then I need to learn the symbols, buttons, and dials on the camera. Then I need to learn some sort of processing software. For me, this is huge. I am not into formulae, symbols, jargon, compu-speak. At all.

My husband and I debated whether we should dig out his old classic Cannon with entirely manual controls, but then we had to ask. Where would we buy film? Where would we get it developed? And then I thought, If we do find a place, do we really want to spend money on my endless experiments?

So I decided to keep trying with the our bells-and-whistles modern Cannon. The moon has been full and I wanted to give low light shots a try. What do you think?

Yes, I know they're just RAW. Yes, I know there are free converters online. I have a work deadline, people! Okay, I'm not yelling at you--that's really to make me feel better about not being able to set aside the time to make a technical success of this challenge. But it's not about "technical" or "success"--is it?

Really, I set this challenge to learn to appreciate an inevitable change. I wanted to let go of bitterness and sorrow, replacing them with acceptance and hope. That part, I feel, is going well.

How could it not be? I did manage to catch one stunning photo with my phone, after a windstorm came through. Ladies and gentleman, I give you "The Fall of the House of Flusher"!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Lenten Challenge: Week One

Let's just call this week's theme "mixed blessings."

I'm still clueless with the camera, though I'm getting better. Being able to shoot more than one picture at a time helps a lot! I've learned some things--sunset and sunrise ARE the magic times, I can back up and zoom to keep my shadow out of the shot, and even with manual focus, it's tricky to shoot multiple layers the way I want. Also, camera view screens do not give you the whole story.

So far my goal seems attainable. I'm looking for the beauty in how man's hand changes this gorgeous natural landscape. My brain seems to be getting in the habit of scanning the field for new objects, new angles, new ideas for pictures. That's a big improvement already! And Bruno considers my long walks to the cow field nothing short of a miracle. He's having a blast, so that's good.

I've hit a couple of unexpected challenges. For one, being out in the field, I can feel the breeze. I smell the grass and cattle. I can hear the quiet sprinkled with birdsong; it sinks into my bones. I'm wallowing in a sensory experience that will soon vanish. I try to accept that this just means I'm a country girl; someday I'll live far from the crowds.

The other unexpected challenge strikes me pretty funny: the site's not changing very fast. I'm taking pictures nearly every day and not much has changed to date. So that's ironic. I now have a reason to hope the pace of construction picks up????

Of course, there's one challenge I expected. I have a lot to learn before I can use the camera to its full potential!

Day 2
I went out at about 8:45 this morning. The colors are much better than the washed out look I got at 10:30 on Day 1!

Cozy. American. Right?

Focus on the posts or...

...focus on the arty trailer mid-field?

Technically this is man altering nature, right? Even if it's not construction?

Outright cheating with pure natural beauty--though the trailer is in the back. I'm learning the lens!

I love this kind of layering--the heron and anhinga, trespassing and fishing.

Day 3

I took Little A. and Bruno out with me in the late afternoon sunshine. And Little A. suggested one of my favorite shots--see if you can decide which one.

Still not sure how to make the trailer look good--maybe in part?

Whole and from a distance works okay.

Now this is the layering I get excited about!
Little A. suggested the very first one--he liked the fence shadows.

Day 4

Today gifted Sarasota with a glorious sunrise. I have no words. Luckily, I'm starting to have the pictures.
Not a bad time to get to work today!
I've been trying to get tight shots of the tire tracks, but this wins.
Never thought a port-a-potty could be this gorgeous!

Seeing the sunrise through the trailer was cool, but this is the best I got on film.


Gratuitous dog shot!

Day 5 

I totally chickened out today. It was raining on and off at sunrise, my only free time, and I didn't want the camera to get wet. So I looked for beauty in the man-made all day.
Diamonds on the roof of our pool cage.

He squawked like he wanted a photo op.

Day 6

In complete contrast to Monday, fog covered everything at sunrise today. I fought with the auto focus and automatic flash nearly as much as I do with my phone camera. I've been focusing (haha!) on the mechanical parts of using the new camera. I think I may need to learn the computer-y parts, even though I'm dreading it. I don't want to keep missing shots while fighting with the camera!
Not construction, but these are the photos I've been dying to take for years!

Based on the view screen, this one didn't even come out. It's so much better than I hoped!

The consecutive weeds and trailer didn't quite turn out, but I tried.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

My Lenten Challenge

I'm not adverse to focusing on a little improvement for forty days, but I've never equated that with giving up a pleasure. Maybe if there's a deeper reason, but deprivation alone does not equal growth in my mind. So it's always a bit of a challenge for me to find a Lenten...well, challenge.

This year a few things came together to present me with an idea that, frankly, scared (scares) me. I have been meaning to learn to use the much better camera that I've recently been given, so that's been niggling at me. And then I took a picture--with my phone!--of my much-loved cow field in the fog. They've recently installed a construction trailer on the site, so the fog gave me a "last chance" to record its beauty. And a friend commented on the photo, "You find beauty in everything."

All those things together made me wonder. I've been so bitter and angry and overwhelmingly sad about this beautiful natural space of sky and grass and mellow cattle being plowed under for an apartment complex. What if I can photograph something beautiful about that process...every day?

I'll be honest, the thought terrified me. I don't feel like I have the brain power to learn the new camera. I don't like talking to most people, let alone confrontational people. What if the construction folks ask what I'm doing? And I hate that this is happening. I had planned to drive the other way so I didn't have to face it. How am I going to see the beauty in the construction, let alone record it?

Well, that sounds like a Lenten challenge to me. So I'm going to try! I may not post the results every day, but during Lent I plan to use my new-to-me camera five days a week to find something to love about that space. Yikes.

I had a serious learning curve with the camera today. For one thing, I left the camera on after I checked it earlier and the battery was dying. So I was turning the camera on and off to trick it into getting a few shots. I didn't have a lot of room for trial and error! Plus, I was nervous as heck about being there, but luckily the crew was on the far side. Annnnnd I think the pictures are too washed out (overexposed?) and too wide, but at least now I know what questions to ask. I welcome advice!

You may have to zoom in to see what I'm talking about, lol!

Victim of my hurried photography--there's a pretty line of orange flags leading away from the center fence post.

More for interest than beauty--these funky gourds are sprouting by the fence???

Again, I would have framed this differently if I'd had time and I want more of the real color, but the trailer in the field looked nice and rustic.