Sea Blue Lens


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Quietly Looking Back – Be Still Week 49

When I signed up for Be Still – 52, my life was in a state of chaos and change. I had always admired Kim’s lovely, peaceful still life images and her kind and gentle teaching style. The idea of taking time to sit quietly, breathe, and express a sense of peace and stillness through creating still life photographs was very appealing.

Our year of Be Still – 52 is now drawing towards its close. Life has settled down. I wish I could say that I’d internalized a regular habit of quiet meditation, but that’s not the case. There have been moments during this still-life journey, however, when I’ve gotten caught up in that timeless “flow” state where everything else seems to disappear. I’ve also gained an appreciation of the still-life genre itself, and have created some photographs that I’m very pleased with.

For last week’s prompt, Kim asked us to look back over our almost-a-year of Be Still images and share a few of our “quietest” ones. I discovered that the images that give me the strongest sense of “quietness” were the ones that were the simplest in their subject and composition.

DSC_6110Luminous

This image was created early in the class, and was one of my first attempts of the “top down” point of view. I was also experimenting with shallow depth of field. I love the pattern on the tablecloth created by the sun streaming through the lace curtains on the window.

FinishedFinished

One of my favorite lessons was “Laundry Time.” I’d been gifted with a pile of vintage linens, and though it may sound odd, I found the whole process of painstakingly treating ancient stains, washing and drying the old, embroidered pillowcases and towels, then photographing them to be very calming and meditative. So was post-processing the images. This image is just one of many that I loved from that week.

But not all of my quietest images are light and airy.

DSC_7485White Pitcher

One lesson challenged us to find a still life painting that we liked, and create a still life photograph inspired by it. This was my first still life photographed against a dark background, and I still love it for its simplicity and the way the pitcher seems to glow in the dark.

IMG_5266Autumn Equinox

That white pitcher has become one of my favorite props. Here it is on another occasion, when I was playing with some late afternoon sidelighting. These hydrangeas appeared more than once during the year, too. They are from the same plant as the one in the first photo in this post, just later in the year. I’m still using the dried blossoms in photos.

DSC_8103Breathing Space

This image is from a lesson I really struggled with. I was not feeling peaceful or still at all when I began it, but by the end I’d found my stillness after all. This was my favorite photo from that assignment, and it still reminds me of how good it felt when I finally captured the mood of that quiet place I wanted to be in.

I haven’t published the next two images before. They were made for the assignment called “The ‘Unstaged’ Shoot,” meant to portray a rumpled, “real-life” still life.

DSC_6794In the Morning

This one couldn’t be more unstaged; it’s simply an image of my robe tossed onto the end of my unmade bed. Exactly how I found it, glowing in the soft morning light. It’s one of my favorites, reminding me of how grateful I am for the simple joys in my everyday life.

DSC_6801Reflections

The last one is equally unstaged, though more deliberately thought out. That same unmade bed is reflected in the mirror of the antique, marble-topped dresser that has been dragged from one side of the country to the other more than once in the 40-plus years that it’s been in my possession. Every object in this image reflects something about me, my life, and my personal and photographic style.

I’m a sentimental person, with a longing for a simple life and a nostalgia for times gone by. My own “still life” style is to take them as I find them, rather than deliberately setting out to create them. But through the weeks of Be Still – 52, despite my struggles with some of the prompts, I’ve learned to enjoy that deliberate creation, as well as to appreciate even more the serendipitous ones that catch my eye and my camera’s lens.


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Springtime at Laurel Hill

You might remember that last October, during the peak of fall color, I took a photo walk in Laurel Hill Cemetery and wrote about it here.

Though I didn’t blog about it, I visited in January, too, when I had to climb a snowbank to capture this view:

P1040616Winter “Wonderland”

This week I went back to catch a bit of the glorious spring that we New Englanders waited for so patiently (or not!) during a very long winter. Now the trees are lacy with new leaves, and from the same spot, the view looks like this:

DSC_9123Spring Wonders

I’ve been here many times before to photograph the daffodil display in April and early May. In fact, I’d gone a few days earlier with my friend Susan. We talked about how, even though neither of us really needs any more daffodil photos, it seems a rite of spring, a sort of victory celebration, to go take them every year. Another winter has passed and we survived!

DSC_9054The Clearing

It’s so hard to cconvey the feeling of it — the sheer scope of whole hillsides covered in yellow and white blossoms. Or maybe it only seems so overwhelming because the world has been black and white and grey and cold for so long.

DSC_9078Magic Carpet Ride

DSC_9074Tree Hugger

Aside from the little guy above, there was no one else around, and so I wandered about, shooting more daffodils with my Nikon. (It’s hard to stop — they really are irresistible.) Then I made my way down to the bottom of the hill and saw them from an angle I’d never seen before.

DSC_9102Flow

I took this photo and a couple of panoramas, including the one in my header, with my iPhone. These feel like I’ve come closer than ever before to capturing that broad sweep of flowers against the background of river and trees that I’ve always wanted.

SpringFlowers_LHPatchwork

There are hundreds of thousands of bulbs here, and I’m sure there must be hundreds of varieties. And wildflowers, too. The mosaic above is only a small sampling.

IMG_1022Sweet Violets

Tearing myself away from the daffodils, I wandered among the old grave markers, marveling at the beauty everywhere I looked. Grass that was carpeted with colorful leaves last fall and blanketed with snow all winter is now sprinkled with violets.

gravestone flowersLove Still Blooms

Many graves are planted with beautiful spring bulbs and other flowers.

DSC_9119Not Forgotten

¬†Others have been decorated by Nature’s own hand.

IMG_1003Preview

The crabapple trees were just on the verge of bursting into full bloom.

Laurel Hill Chapel 3SeasonsThere Is a Season….

Of course I had to stop by the chapel again, to marvel at how different it looks now from October and January.

DSC_9132Undressed

The building looks bare wearing only a tracery of vines without their customary covering of shiny, dark green leaves.

DSC_9136The Tower

Soon the tulips will be gone, the rhododendron will have bloomed, and those vines will hide the grey stone walls and try to cover the windows of the old chapel with leaves.

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I’ll leave you with a look down the same lane I closed with last autumn . . .

DSC_9017‘Til Next Time

. . . and one last peek at the daffodils as the sun goes down, a view that won’t come again for another year. The comfort is in knowing that it will come, no matter how long the seasons in between. The cycle goes on.

I love coming here in any season, for the solitude, the peace, and the natural beauty of this special place. I’m already planning to bring my camera back in full summer, when the trees will be in leaf and the grass filled out and deep green. I’m looking forward to seeing what surprises await me then.


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Spring Break and Be Still Week 48

Apparently I’ve been on a blogging break for the past few weeks. It wasn’t intentional; it just seems to have turned out that way. It’s not that I haven’t been taking photographs, or even sharing them — just not on my blog. For example, I participated in Susannah Conway’s April Love 2015, but my responses to those daily prompts were posted in the April Love 2015 Facebook group.

Also in April, I took Vivienne McMasters’ new Double Exposure Love class, which was so much fun! Those got posted to Instagram. Here’s a sampling:

DoubleExposures-1

This is one of my favorites:

IMG_0727Double Vision

These were all created on my iPhone or iPad using the Diana Photo app. Some of them were paired randomly by the app, and some were pairings I chose. Vivienne showed us other ways to make double exposures using PicMonkey and Photoshop, but I’ve been having so much fun with Diana Photo that I haven’t tried them yet.

Be Still – 52

I also took a break during April — again, not deliberately — from Be Still 52. I have a few lessons to catch up on, but I did get this week’s done. Our assignment was a still life featuring two or three things: coffee or tea, change, from above. I remembered some coins I brought home from my last trip to England and decided to use them to create a travel theme.

DSC_9166Keepsakes

This image includes a few photos I took in London on my first trip to England. Yes, that is Her Majesty, and yes, I really was that close to her. It was pure chance and stunning good luck that put me in the right place at the right time on my last day before flying home.

IMG_1212Travel Planning

Plotting how I can get back to spend those coins!

DSC_9168Travel Dreams

I dream of returning to England some day, but at this point it seems likely to remain only a dream. Still, I have wonderful memories and some pretty amazing photos to back them up. And, thank goodness, I can still have scones and tea right here at home…and there’s one more season of Downton Abbey to look forward to!

[Be Still notes: The first image was processed with kk_hazydazy Lightroom preset. The second was just cropped a bit and some vignetting added in Lightroom. The last was processed with Kim’s Pastelhaze preset. I did try some of the darker, more dramatic presets with these photos but didn’t care for the results.]


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Pastel Perfect

I love color. I love bright colors, flower garden colors, but I’m especially drawn to pastels. This week’s Be Still assignment was to create a still life featuring pastels, in honor of springtime and Easter. I thought about dying eggs, but it didn’t interest me much. And it would have required buying things — white eggs and dye to color them with — specifically for the photo shoot, which is against the “rules” I have set for myself regarding Be Still, to use what I already have.

Besides, I had other ideas. A couple of them.

The first was fashion, something that relates both to Easter and spring, right?


IMG_9881-2Pearls and Lace

IMG_9880-2Pastel Pretties

I used my desk chair for all the photos in this post. It was backlit by the living room window, with a linen curtain pulled closed to filter the light. Rather than spot-metering, I overexposed the images to compensate for the bright back light. Both of the photos above were processed in Lightroom with Kim’s “Pastelhaze” preset. What it did to the images felt like magic!

Well, now that I’m all dressed up in my Easter finery, how about a nice springtime tea?

DSC_8946Simplicitea

I found this irresistible little bird creamer the other day, and thought he’d pair well with my porcelain butterfly teapot, and that they would work nicely together for this pastel photo shoot. (See how arbitrary my “rules” are? But I loved him in his own right, so I wasn’t buying him just for a photo prop; therefore, it was okay. Besides, he was less than $3. I love TJ Maxx.)

DSC_8952-2Tea for Me

Both of the tea set images were processed with Kim’s “Breeze” preset. It gave me just the soft, glow-y mood I wanted.

I have actually learned quite a lot because of my silly, self-imposed rules and other logistical limitations. They have caused me to think creatively about how to adapt Kim’s prompts to my own life and style, and to come up with solutions for space and light problems. And I love finding ways to feature and highlight some of my own favorite possessions. It makes me happy to see my old keepsakes and everyday utilitarian objects become art!


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Put to Good Use

Finally, I found a use for the old milk crate I rescued from “the dump guys” who were loading up junk to haul away from the old house I lived in last year. Our still life assignment this week was to play with light and shadow in, on, and around a crate, box, cupboard, or what have you. I remembered that old crate, which has been sitting in my laundry room, just waiting for something to do, ever since I moved into this apartment. It would be perfect for this!

Or would it? Once I got it out and took a look at it, I was a little less optimistic. I’d forgotten that it has a metal bottom, perforated with a grid of holes, plus handles cut into all four sides. Here’s what I started with:

Crate duoIt Has Potential

I put my little desk at right angles to the bedroom window and put down a piece of black poster board to protect it from the rough crate. Then I propped a piece of black foam board behind the crate to block the light from those holes.

I gathered a couple of props — two little ceramic birds I picked up at Michael’s yesterday for a dollar apiece, and a little ivy plant from Home Depot which I popped into a pot I had bought at the Acton, California, farmers market a couple of years ago. I tried a few shots with my iPhone to see how well the crate was going to work.

Testing…iPhone FourOne, Two, Three, Four

Okay, I can work with this. I got out my Nikon to shoot the setup “for real.” Kim’s suggestion to underexpose by a couple of stops if I wanted to go for a shadowy image worked out well. I found that by starting off with underexposed images, much less post-processing was required to get the effects I wanted.

DSC_8815-soocStraight out of the Camera

DSC_8815With Kim’s new Shadows Lightroom preset

DSC_8796Also processed with KK_Shadows

DSC_8794-2Processed with KK_Moody-ish. This is one of my favorites of Kim’s presets.

DSC_8811KK_Shadows again

DSC_8814KK_MoodSwing — Another of my favorites. Are we sensing a theme here?

All of this dark and moody processing makes those holes in the bottom of the crate virtually disappear. However, looking over the unprocessed images from my photo session, I found that I actually didn’t mind the holes. They can add a bit of interesting pattern, as you can see in the second photo in this post, the SOOC image. I suspect I’ll be using this beat up old crate for a photo prop again in the future.

Thanks, Kim! This was a fun one.


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Be Still Weeks 40 and 41: Make and Take

It’s another Be Still twofer! For week 40, we were supposed to photograph making something that we would then include in a still life that we would photograph during week 41. I swear I’m not trying to be difficult, but once again I had a hard time with this assignment. I don’t do crafts. I don’t sew anymore. I can knit but haven’t in ages. I thought of something garden related — planting a dish garden, maybe? — but it’s still winter here and there aren’t any plants available yet.

I don’t cook much, either, but it was the only thing I could think of that I could photograph while making, and then photograph again when finished. And that’s the reason the two weeks are run together here, because the perishable nature of food meant the “making” project had to be followed immediately by the final still life “taking” project.

In honor of the first day of spring, and also to cheer myself up because we have snow predicted for the second day of spring, I decided to make strawberry shortcake. That’s usually an Easter tradition in my family, but Easter is late this year and I can’t wait!

Part 1, Making

DSC_8758

DSC_8757

Part 2, Taking

DSC_8763

DSC_8775

Part 3, Partaking!

DSC_8786

DSC_8788Yum!

It’s probably not necessary to explain which part I enjoyed the most! Actually, though, I really did enjoy setting up the tabletop still lifes. That shot from overhead is my favorite of the project. I think it captures that happy, springlike mood I wanted. It really does cheer me up to look at it.

Cleaning up afterwards was no chore at all!

 


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Be Still Weeks 38 and 39: Dark vs. Light

I have two Be Still lessons to post today. The first, from last week’s assignment, is a still life with organic elements, photographed with side light. Kim’s examples for this lesson were dark and moody, so I headed in that direction, too. I used one basic setup for these, varying the cropping but mostly just experimenting with some Lightroom presets in post processing.

IMG_8582
Processed with Kim Klassen’s kk_organic, with decreased clarity and slightly increased saturation.

I bought this hand-painted bowl on a trip to the Grand Canyon about 20 years ago from a Native American man sitting on a blanket at the side of the road, selling pottery that he told me he made himself. It is stained with smoke inside and out and looks like it was fired in a campfire! It reminds me of my roots in the Southwest, as well as of that rather magical trip.

IMG_8580
Processed with David duChemin’s Toxic Warmth preset.

The little lizard crawling out of the bowl is one of those little critters that are meant to be hung on the rim of a flowerpot. I don’t remember where I got him, but I do remember that I bought him just because he looked so much like the lizard painted inside the bowl. It amuses me to think they might be related.

IMG_8583
Processed with kk_moody-ish
.

I found the nest when I was living in California a couple of years ago. The egg, which is broken open on the side you can’t see, I picked up here in Maine. I have no idea what kind of bird made either one. The stick and cluster of cones came from two unrelated trees in my daughter’s yard.

This week’s lesson is just the opposite: glass, light, bright, white, airy. For this one I tried several different arrangements.

IMG_8610
Sea Glass

Vintage mason jars filled with sea glass, old linen napkin, backlit through lace curtains. Processed with kk_slightlight with clarity reduced quite a bit because I wanted that glow-y look.

IMG_8618
Sea Girl

I’m afraid I can’t begin to tell you how I processed this one. I tried so many variations, including starting over several times,¬† that I completely lost track. I’m not thrilled with it, but it’s a whole lot better than what I started out with!

IMG_8623small
Home Comforts I

This is as it came out of the camera, plus Kim’s kk_touchof-1 texture. I like the soft, natural look of this one.

IMG_8623
Home Comforts II

Here it is with with the same texture, processed with Kim’s kk_slightlight preset. It’s more dramatic and I like it, too. It’s so hard to make decisions about these things.

And that’s me caught up again and looking forward to the weekend! I hope you all have a good one.

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