Monday, May 30, 2016

Exploring meaning beyond the photo

Chronicle Herald - May 30, 2016
I'm very "In Focus" article made the leap this week from the weekly publication of The South Shore Breaker to the provincial daily paper - the Nova Scotian section of today's Chronicle Herald. I'm not sure whether it will be reprinted in the June 1st edition of the South Shore Breaker or not. Here is the article:

We all see thousands of images each and every day. Its hard to go anywhere without seeing someone taking a picture with their phone. Just think about all the ads you see on television, in print, and online. Now think about how many of those images you actually remember. Many of the photographs are technically perfect, yet are completely forgettable. How many of those photos actually tell a story?

I know a woman who is a wonderful story teller and she tells her stories with photographs. Her journey as a photographer started just a few short years ago. She returned from a trip to the Grand Canyon and didn
t have a single image she was happy with. Here photos were "Just a bunch of holes in the dirt", as she puts it. She signed up for an eight week photography course through the Parks and Recreation Department, and then joined the Bridgewater Photo Club. I was a member at the club when she joined, and I have seen her progress from a picture taker to become a story teller. Her name is Karen Parnell Herrick.

Sometimes it takes work for Karen to create her magic. She has to remind herself to move. Get closer, get up, get down. Every angle gives a different perspective and tells a different story. She is a stickler for details in life, and that shines through in her images. One of the images that sticks in my mind is called "Daily Devotion". These are the hands of a ninety three year old client of Karen
s. Karen is a hairstylist and has watched these hands change their appearance over the years. Arthritis has struck Winnie, but she never complains. One day, Karen spent a few hours at Winnies home taking many portraits of her and the embroidery that she is so proud of.

But Karen had an image in her mind, and she worked at creating it. She asked Winnie if she could photograph her hands. "Oh, these old things" Winnie replied, but she agreed. Karen
s favourite photo from the morning is of Winnies hands resting on a bible. The image gives Karen memories of a wonderful morning with the aroma of chicken soup simmering on the wood stove and fresh baked bread cooling on the sideboard. Laughter and good companionship. And even though the photograph is a simple pair of hands, the image tells me a story of a womans lifetime, a woman whose spirit is given comfort through her faith.
Daily Devotion by Karen Parnell Herrick
Another pair of hands tells a different story. These are hands of a working man. I see hard work. I see determination. I see strength, fortitude and resilience. All in a pair of hands.
Digits Detailed by Karen Parnell Herrick
Karens hand portraits bring words from a song co-written by Dave Gunning and George Canyon to my mind:
What shall I do with these hands of mine?
The world can use a hero of the human kind
Tell me, What shall I do with these hands of mine?
I wanna sing it from my heart
I wanna hear it in the wind

Til it blows around the earth and comes back again
And all that we can ask is for ours to be free
To use them when we want, for whatever the need.

s learning journey has led to her receiving the coveted "Photographer of the Year" Trophy at the Bridgewater Photo Club two years in a row. Her plan is to explore different genres of photography and she wants to become a better landscape and seascape photographer.

ve seen what she can do with a pair of hands. It boggles my mind to think about what shell do with her focus on the beautiful scenery of our South Shore!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

For The Birds

Photography: For The Birds - South Shore Breaker May 25, 2016
This article was published in the May 25th edition of the South Shore Breaker. If you'd like to read it online, here is the link: Photography: For the Birds.

Article and colour photos are reprinted below:
Did you know that to say that something is for the birds is calling it horse manure. Apparently, the saying originated in New York. Before the advent of cars the undigested oats left in the streets in horse droppings nourished a large population of English Sparrows. Another internet source says that it is US Army slang that originated towards the end of WWII. Whatever the source, if you say something is for the birds, you're politely saying that it’s horse poop.
Evening Grosbeaks

Well, this week is for the birds. And I hope you dont think of the origins of that saying while youre reading.

There are lots of advantages to aging. When we dont have the responsibilities of raising a family, and when we dont have to worry about earning a living, we can slow down and appreciate things that we didnt have time for before.

My interest in birds started about 15 years ago when I was given a hummingbird feeder. I had never seen a hummingbird around our home, so I thought it was an impractical gift that would never get used. However, I made up some sugar water, hung up the feeder and waited and watched. It didnt take long for me to discover that we actually had quite a few hummers. After watching them for a while, we could spot them from quite a distance away. Over the years, I planted more and more flowers that hummingbirds enjoy. They liked flitting from flower to flower, and then taking a rest on our clothesline.

There is quite a learning curve when it comes to bird photography. A good way to start is by setting up a feeder in your backyard. After practicing with taking photos of birds on your feeder, move on to try to capture them in a more natural setting. Its good to have a tree or shrubs nearby, or even to set up a bare branch for the birds to land on while they scope out your feeder.

Until the birds get used to you, they will scatter when you get too close. Take a photo, take a step, take a photo, take a step. Move slowly, and the birds may let you move in for a closer shot. Focus on their eyes, and your photo will have more impact.

Be patient. Ive learned a lot about birds while waiting for photo opportunities. We have watched a female woodpecker move up and down our wooden feeder pole while feeding her youngster. She would grab a seed, move down the pole to her baby, drop the seed in her babys beak, move back up the pole, and repeat the process over and over again.

We had many Evening Grosbeaks at our country home, and watched many families get raised. We watched the parents feed their young, and we watched as the juveniles became better at flying and landing.

I learned many bird calls, and started to identify the birds we had around just by sound. Goldfinches, purple finches, nuthatches, starlings, barn swallows...each and every species have different characteristics to watch and learn about. Our forest had owls as well, but I never did manage to capture one with my camera.

We live in town now, and are heading into our first backyard bird season. So far, weve seen a nuthatch, a couple of woodpeckers, and a few finches. There is a huge crow population that I didnt appreciate when we first moved in, but now I enjoy watching them as well. Mostly we have been watching the antics of a couple of squirrels that are enjoying their new local diner and having the added entertainment of driving our dogs crazy.

Hummingbird in flight
As you progress in your bird watching and bird photography, you may just get hooked and start traveling to satisfy your habit. Be forewarned...its addictive, and it can start to get expensive if you get into specialized lenses and other equipment. There are a few members in our local photography club that devote hours and hours to each bird outing. The results are worth it, and I have seen bird photos from our members that could grace the covers of magazines. But bird photography in the wild is a bigger challenge, and a focus for another day. My advice is to start small, and who knows where your wings will take you.

Monday, May 23, 2016

I am a Photographer

Every now and then I dream up a project, and if I'm feeling ambitious I can actually get started on putting my idea into action. I'm hoping these images are the first in a series of posters that I'll create for various things. 

These are two posters I've created for "I am a Photographer". I'm still in the tweaking phase, but am happy with my progress so far.
I am a Photographer - Poster 1 

I am a Photographer - Poster 2

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Taking the Slow Road

South Shore Breaker - May 18, 2016
My first article with the byline "In Focus" (chosen by the editor)!  Published in the South Shore Breaker on May 18th. Here is the link to the article online: Taking The Slow Road
I have also reprinted the article below since sometimes the online version takes a long time to load.
Last week, I said I would talk about someone elses journey in todays article. I ran into some roadblocks, so that plan has been delayed for a while. In the meantime, Ill talk about a different kind of journey.

Years ago when I was young, Sundays meant church and Sunday drives with my parents. I don
t have many memories of where we went, but I do remember wondering why, oh why, did we have to take so long to get there? We didnt we take the fast highway. What was the point of diddling along a slow road looking at a bunch of trees and fields and farms?
Im not sure when it happened. One day, somehow, I turned into my parents. I take the slow road. I enjoy the scenery. I like seeing the gradual changes that time makes. My heart sings when I see a pheasant or a fox in the fields, or an eagle soaring high above us. I feel joy when I see a tree filled with spring blossoms, a well tended garden, children playing in a yard. I could go on and on.

My husband and I are part of the aging society, and now we can take our Sunday drives on any day of the week. The internet calls it a Daycation - touring that allows us to return home every night and sleep in our own bed. Sometimes our drives include a meal. Sometimes a picnic. Usually a beach walk. Most often we have a destination in mind, but there is never any rush.
LaHave Bakery
We have our usual haunts for a quick drive, and our favourite places to go for a day long excursion. Maybe its a drive along the Aspotogan Penninsula with a stop at The Deck in Blandford for some lunch. I can look up at the ceiling, marvel at all the tea towels from around the world, and wonder at the people who have passed through.

Or maybe we
ll head inland, up past the country property where we used to live and meander the country roads. If its summer, we can stop at a roadside vegetable stand for whatever is in season. If were lucky, we might find a stand with a home made pie. Yum.
The Hawk, Cape Sable Island
We could choose to drive down to Summerville Beach and walk along the long stretches of white sand and smell the ocean air. Or, because we live on the South Shore, we could pick from countless beaches. We could take a leisurely drive to Carters, Beach Meadows, or Cherry Hill Beach, or Rissers, or Crescent, or Hirtles. Really, I could go on and on. Each beach is a different walk and a different adventure.

We could take a short drive along the river to LaHave Bakery and eat our meals on their chairs on the wharf. Or we could order our meals to go, and head down to Crescent Beach. We could take a drive out on the beach, park, and eat while we watch the waves roll in.

Sometimes our beach picnics are not picture perfect. A couple of weeks ago, we took a longer drive to Barrington Passage. We ordered a couple of subs at Dan
s Ice Cream Shoppe and headed to The Hawk on Cape Sable Island. I suspected a wee problem when we parked the car and the windshield was immediately covered in sandflies. Ever optimistic, we took the dogs and our packed lunch down to the beach. We were hoping to sit on one of the large rocks to eat our lunch, but in the end we settled for perching our bottoms on a broken lobster trap. This was not an exercise in comfort. In the end, we gobbled up our subs as quick as possible while being swarmed by masses of sandflies. The outing improved substantially when we got moving and walked the long sandy beach and listened to the sound of the gulls and the waves.  
The Hawk, Cape Sable Island
Sometimes it seems like we go to the same old places and there is nothing new to discover. But then we remember and talk about all the things we have stumbled across by accident. There is always something new to see. Sometimes subtle changes, and sometimes momentous change that nature has brought. Some good. Some bad. Some beautiful. Some sad. But always something to focus on.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

It's A Journey

May 11th Article - South Shore Breaker
This article was published in the May 11th edition of the South Shore Breaker. Blog readers will already know my vacuuming story. Here is the link if you want to read it online: South Shore Breaker: It's A Journey , or I have reprinted it below.

I recently bought a new camera, which can be quite an exercise in frustration. I think the biggest thing I realized is that my former camera did a lot of things that I didn’t even know about. And I’m learning about those things with my new camera. One of the questions most photographers will ask when they meet another photographer is "what camera do you use?". 
An inspirational photo and saying I created while undergoing treatment for breast cancer
I don’t like this question because I am totally, absolutely totally, a non technical person. I do remember the camera I use. But I don’t remember details about the lenses and other equipment. I know I have a "big lens" and a "close up lens". I know which one to use in different circumstances. But thats about it. I used to be quite intimidated talking about equipment with people, but now I just confess up front that I don’t have a clue! I laugh, and move on with the conversation. I figure it’s just a conversation starter that most photographers are comfortable with.

To me, what matters is....what type of pictures do you like to take?

Are you a family person? Do you take photos of your children or grandchildren? Or pets? Are you a record keeper? Do you record family events and holidays to bring back memories when you look at them in the future? Do you like scenery - sunrises and sunsets? Landscapes and seascapes? Are you a sports fanatic? Ball teams or racing or maybe horse jumping or zumba? Are you a gardener who wants nice pictures of your flowers? Are you an artist who uses a camera and computer software to make art? The sky is the limit with photography!

And you know what? Like most hobbies, it’s a journey. You start one place, and end up somewhere totally different. I mentioned last week that I started out over forty years ago with a Kodak "pocket camera" and mostly took photos of our family dog. Fast forward to five years ago (because as you age you realize that 35 years can pass by in the blink of an eye) and I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I used my photography together with my writing skills, and created some inspirational images to help me get through the surgeries and radiation treatments.

When we moved to Nova Scotia, I joined the Bridgewater Photo Club and started on a more creative journey with my photography. Don’t get me wrong, I still take photos of my pets and, of course, our kids and grandkids! But now I look at things I took for granted before. Shadows and reflections. Raindrops on blades of grass. The strain of an oxen
s muscles at an ox pull. Frost on windows. Bugs. Having a camera in your hand makes you slow down and see the world with different eyes.

So this leads me to a little story...

I was vacuuming a few weeks ago and found an insect wing on the floor. Hmmm. Most people would vacuum up the wing without a thought, but my brain engaged. I stopped vacuuming and carried the wing into the garage (aka my studio), got out my tripod, camera, and macro lens. I took a photo of the broken wing on a mirror, cleaned up the photo a bit on my computer and added a few words. Voila. My latest artistic image was created.
created while distracted from vacuuming
Didn’t I tell you that photography can lead you to unexpected places? And I did eventually finish the vacuuming.

Next time: I'll tell you a bit about someone else
s creative journey.