Sea Blue Lens


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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

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Part 2, Taking

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Part 3, Partaking!

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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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Man of Mystery

This week’s Be Still – 52 project is still-life family portraits . . . creating a photographic “portrait” of a person without the person! That sounds impossible, but I liked the idea and knew immediately that my subject would be my father.

This past June marked the twentieth anniversary of my father’s death. Twenty years! So hard to believe it’s been that long. Dad was a complicated man, and also a somewhat mysterious one. As a child, I knew nothing about his background except that he was from the Midwest. We had no extended family. I once overheard a snippet of adult conversation saying that his name, the name I knew him by, wasn’t his real one. But I was a shy child who didn’t ask questions, so I tucked it away in the back of my mind and mostly forgot about it. I sensed it was something I wasn’t supposed to know about, anyway.

My sister, who is ten years younger than I and much more direct and outgoing, challenged Dad in his later years to record his life story for her. She gave him a tape recorder and some tapes. After his passing, I found notes he’d jotted down about his early life, and one tape that he’d begun, expanding upon those notes.

And that was how we finally learned a bit about who our father was, by following clues in those notes and doing some detective work on Ancestry.com. It wasn’t a spy-novel-secret-identity sort of story after all, just a sad family drama that caused a young boy to run away from a troubled home at age 14, in the middle of the Great Depression. In the same way that we didn’t know where he came from, his family never knew where he went. He took the name of his biological father and changed his birth date to appear four years older than he actually was. It must have required all of his intelligence and ingenuity just to survive in those hard times.

How I wish we had known all this while he was still alive! Sometimes I wonder if he would be pleased that his secrets have been revealed. We are pleased, anyway. My sister and I have been able to connect with both sides of his family and have learned we have a plethora of cousins through both his maternal and paternal sides. We have so much more understanding and compassion for the more difficult aspects of his personality, now that we know something about his birth and early years.

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The still life I created in Dad’s memory is comprised of some of the few items I have that were his. Even they are mysterious! I have no idea of the source of the pewter box and the larger jade elephant, but remember them being around all my life. They were the only things I really wanted of Dad’s after he died. The “Birthdays ‘Round the Year” book was a gift to him from a woman (not my mother) on his birthday, two months before I was born. There’s an inscription with her signature, “Jhana,” inside the cover. The poetry clippings were inside, dated in his handwriting. The book is filled with dates of births, deaths, weddings, and divorces in various handwritings. Dad’s own death is recorded there in my own hand.

Those are his World War II draft registration and ID cards, with that incorrect birth date. The cuff links remind me of the white dress shirts he wore as a bartender, leaving for work each night as we children were getting ready for bed. I found the handful of tarnished old coins, mostly foreign, in the bottom of an old cigar box. Dad loved unusual coins, and always checked through his tips carefully for anything of interest. One of these is a United States seated liberty quarter dated 1842, worn so smooth that it’s barely readable.

This is such a tiny part of who he was, and what he was. It says nothing of his warmth, his beautiful singing and speaking voice, his sense of humor, his love of books, his talent as a gardener that he turned into a second career after he retired from bartending. It also says nothing of his demons, his alcoholism, his delight in shocking and aggravating his neighbors, his ability to build up and tear down with his words. As I said, a complicated man. I loved him and sometimes I hated him. But he was my father, and in the end, it’s the love that remains. I miss him very, very much.

Image processed with Kim Klassen’s textures bestill and appreciate.


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Doing Laundry

I’m taking an online class on still life photography called Be Still – 52, taught by the lovely Kim Klassen. I’ve never thought of still life as “my thing,” but I enjoy Kim’s quiet but effective teaching style and have learned a lot from her about post-processing in Lightroom and Photoshop Elements.

The year-long course includes a focus on mindfulness and inner calm along with the technical lessons and photo prompts. The class began in mid-May, while I was in the throes of apartment hunting and packing and moving, and the idea of slowing down, breathing deeply, and finding a quiet place to be still  through my photography was tremendously appealing.

However, all that apartment hunting, packing, moving, and unpacking again meant that I fell far behind in the class. Now that I’m (more or less) settled, I’m busy trying to catch up on past lessons and not fall further behind with current ones. How’s that working for me? Well………let’s just say I have a ways to go.

Anyway, one of my favorite prompts so far was “Laundry time.” I was recently given some vintage linens which I thought would make lovely photo props. Unfortunately, they had some pretty serious vintage stains, and were stored in a plastic bin with some anti-insect stuff whose smell gave me a headache. Perfect subjects for a laundry exercise, right?

Here are a few images I took as I washed, dried, and folded them for putting into the linen closet.

DSC_6271Clean and Simple

DSC_6252Hung Out To Dry

DSC_6268Edges

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Sadly, some were beyond redemption, but these and a few others turned out beautifully. You’ll probably be seeing more of them as time — and class — goes on.