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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Hunting and Gathering

Inspired by this week’s Be Still – 52 lesson, I took a couple of nature walks to gather materials for creating some still life photographs. My first impression, as I thought of “gather – drop – place and prop,” was that Mother Nature does such a fine job of gathering and dropping that she doesn’t need any help from me. All I needed to do was “place” my own two “props” and snap away:

IMG_5376 Fall FeetMagic Carpet

However much fun that was, it didn’t really satisfy the requirements of the lesson, so I set off to collect some autumnal miscellany around the neighborhood. There can be hazards to this kind of still life photography. Did you know that if you bring certain dried wildflowers into your house, you will soon have seeds of said wildflowers everywhere? The Queen Anne’s Lace was so messy that I didn’t use it after all, in spite of its fascinating structure. I’m still vacuuming up prickly little seeds. My basket of goodies also contained other unintended “organic matter” that was inclined to make itself at home in my home, but don’t worry, I put the little spiders safely back outside.

Anyway, after gathering a basketful of colorful leaves, berries, seeds and twigs, more than enough for a dozen still-life photo shoots, I came home to arrange and photograph them. I’m still working on where and how to set up still lifes in this apartment — finding space, light, and clean backgrounds is a challenge. My workspace for this project was an antique folding sewing table set up by the living room window.

DSC_6941 work spaceMy Garden and Reflecting Pool

DSC_6942 fallen leaf pondFallen Leaf

DSC_6926Autumn Joy

This was my final composition, taken from above and processed with Kim’s moodswing Lightroom preset. Okay, assignment done, I thought.

But then . . . Sunday I woke up in a melancholy mood. Thinking it might be interesting to try the assignment with odds and ends I could find at the beach, I headed to one of my favorite places, the Audubon Walk at Biddeford Pool. Five minutes of sea breeze and sunshine, and I was a new person. It works every time. I must remember this!

P1040477 Wood Island LightWood Island Light

I took my usual path, which was more overgrown than I’ve ever seen it before, probably due to the very rainy July we had this year. The only birds I saw were sea gulls and chickadees, but there were lots of butterflies and bees on the wild asters.

P1040389 butterfly-bee-asterAutumn Feasts for Tiny Beasts

I came home with over 100 photos in my camera and a much lighter heart. Oh, and a few bits of this and that in my pockets.

DSC_6961 beach treasures_aboveA Day at the Beach

Some granite eggs, a few shells, a bit of old brick and scrap of wood, seaweed, three hearts (I only asked the Universe for one!), and two tiny bits of sea glass. I was amazed at how many red-berried trees and bushes I saw. These were only one of at least a half-dozen different kinds of red berries I discovered. The yellow ones are bittersweet berries. There are tons of it out there, but it’s not quite “ready” yet — the outer casings haven’t yet opened to show the orange berries inside.

DSC_6971 beach still lifeBe Still, My Heart

Lesson learned from this week’s still-life photo assignment? I must get out more. Literally out: outside, into nature. I need it as much as I need food, water, sleep, and air to breathe.


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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

DSC_6336_editFinished

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.