Photography 101: Moment

What’s the difference between capturing a moment and just taking a blurry photo?  I struggle with this…and in that struggle, I suppose, is where Art is born.  There is one photographer whose blog I follow who has elevated the art of photographing motion to an exquisite level.  Her name is Karen McRae, and her blog is draw and shoot.  You should check out her stuff.  It’s no wonder she has 12,000 followers.  

So what have I got?  Well, there’s low light and people who can’t stay still.  Like my daughter at an outdoor evening concert, talking with her hands. 

momentA moment of scintillating storytelling, or just another blurry photo?  You decide.  There’s the moment of movement in falling water…but it’s way overdone, probably.

moving water

And the actual “OMG! I have to get my camera out because THIS is happening!”

spider blurAnd it’s barely recognizable, and you hope you can adjust your settings and try again before your surprisingly swift subject disappears into some shelter off the trail.  Here goes:

tarantulaYes!  That’s what it is, clearly, right there on the path in New Mexico.  A tarantula.  Now, do I feel better that I’ve “nailed it down”, so to speak?  Or do I more enjoy the breathless, life-is-a-dynamic-thing, fuzzy ’round the edges illustration?  I have this debate with myself.  I believe in the dynamic; I habitually strive toward the “perfection”.   Maybe this is the struggle that will someday birth some Art from me. 

Shine On!

One of my followers has awarded me with the Shine On! Award, so I am gratefully acknowledging this compliment with an extra post this week.  The Soul Driven Mind strikes me as a very earnest blog by a man who seems to walk the intersection of hard core systems like the Air Force and IT while keeping his head outdoors or on Mars.  I applaud him for challenging himself to widen and deepen his vision, to keep in touch with his natural, creative self and to let that place speak freely and inform him on a regular basis.  Whether that routinely clashes with his profession, I’m not sure, but I can imagine it would sometime.  I wish him great courage and fortitude in his quest and the ability to make the tough choices with joy!

I am to state 7 things about myself, so here’s what comes off the top of my head:

1) I am currently very excited about my oldest daughter’s wedding next month, and by excited, I mean a little out of my depth and emotionally charged in many ways.  If her dad were still alive, the social roles would be much easier to figure out, and I would be guided and shielded by his very confident, extroverted personality.  As it is, I am forging a new path on my own, not always predictable.  I cry, feeling sad and angry that he’s not present.  I put my own quirky self out there, vulnerable and honest, and wonder if that will be acceptable and satisfying to myself and my family.  But these are people whom I deeply love, and to give myself, however frightening that may be, is the best I have to offer.  So, it’s pretty thrilling all around!

2) I am hatching a huge creative project.  I just bought a 5 subject notebook at Walgreen’s yesterday, and I plan to fill it with all kinds of brainstorming notes.  I don’t want to reveal just yet what it’s about, but it’s an embryo that gives me a secret glow.

3) I ordered a dress from India to wear to the wedding.  It’s waiting at the Post Office for me to pick it up.  Does every woman have fantasies about being radiant for some occasion and fears about being merely ordinary?  What is the Middle Way of beauty?  Seeing myself as lovely and alive and sacred but no higher than any other creature on the planet, I suppose, even the graceful little mosquitoes who may show up at this outdoor event!

4) I love the smell of Wisconsin in the summer: that humid, earthy, rain-soaked fragrance of Girl Scout camp makes me feel like I’m 8 years old again.

5) I love children’s books, and I looked very much like Sal in Robert McCloskey’s books “One Morning in Maine” and “Blueberries for Sal”.  Bobbed blond hair swept to the side in a barrette, jeans with an elastic waistband at the back, sneakers, sweatshirt.  Pictures of pre-school me growing up in Massachusetts are an uncanny likeness of her. 

6)  The last movie I watched was “A Wedding”, the Robert Altman film starring Carol Burnett, Desi Arnaz, Jr., Mia Farrow, etc.  A comedy without a laugh track, satirical and ambiguous.  We don’t have TV and don’t feel interested in the movies that are being made these days, but there are lots of good films in the archives to provide social commentary and philosophical and psychological fodder for conversation and introspection.  Taking on weddings and family dysfunctions seemed like a good project for this week. 🙂

7) I love good food.  I went to the Farmer’s Market on Saturday and bought a pint box of Sugar Snap Peas.  They are so fresh and sweet, all raw and fertile, that I wish it were summer all year so that I could enjoy them more frequently.  But then, I suppose, I would stop paying attention.  The habitual way of putting calories into my mouth is so uninteresting.  I like focusing on something unusual and life-giving.  The last meal I really regretted was a Culver’s butter burger basket.  So much grease!  Never again….

This last part is always the most difficult for me.  I’m supposed to nominate 15 other blogs for this award and link to them and notify them of the award requirements.  First of all, I don’t follow very many blogs because I simply haven’t the time to read them.  The ones I do follow, I’ve already given awards to (if they even accept them).  I also refuse to tell anyone that there’s a requirement for receiving an award.  My appreciation is offered without obligations attached.  That said, I will share the new blogs that I’ve been following:

Jeff Sinon Photography: Nature Through The Lens

Steve McCurry’s Blog (you know the guy who photographed that iconic Afgan woman with the haunting eyes for the cover of National Geographic?  Yup, the same man.)

Into the Bardo: A Blogazine (I’ve actually been added as a contributor to this one, and all the contributors are people whose work I would recommend.)

I hope the short list doesn’t disappoint anyone.  Thank you for contributing to the expressive community of artists, thinkers, and humans that make this blogosphere so interesting and worthwhile!  I am pleased to be among you!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Lunchtime

This week’s challenge is about a universal favorite: FOOD!  I grew up in a family that was highly educated about and highly appreciative of food.  My family was started in Massachusetts, moved to Chicago and then to California.  Regional ethnic influences were explored and absorbed with gusto.  Last night, as Steve & I enjoyed dinner at our local sushi bar, we got to talking about our personal culinary histories.  Steve adamantly refused to eat anything but hot dogs, potatoes and asparagus until he was 16.  Then, on a trip to New England, he actually tried fresh fish and realized that he was missing a world of wonderful taste.  You can get lost in a food wasteland, if you’re not adventurous, in the Midwest.  But there are plenty of opportunities to branch out. 

Last year, on St. Patrick’s Day, we ventured into the city to see what kind of shenanigans we could witness.  We had lunch at one of Steve’s favorite places: Beans & Barley.  I love it immediately for its California vibe.  Here’s a picture of my portabello and gorgonzola and roasted red pepper sandwich with curried potato salad:


And the beer?  New Glarus Spotted Cow.  The best in Wisconsin micro brews, IMHO.  And you can’t buy it in Illinois.  Oh, but that’s not all!  DESSERT!


The cafe has a deli and market attached, were you can find a variety of locally made sauces, mustards, natural soaps, and ART!


Yes, indeed, ladies & gentlemen!  Step right up to the Art-o-Matic vending machine, insert your token, make your selection, pull the knob, and PRESTO!  A cigarette-pack-sized piece of genuine, handmade ART will plop into the tray!  Decoupage, graphic, random, actual ART.  Really, isn’t this a cool idea?  Get your local cafe to install one TODAY!  All your neighborhood artists will want to supply stock for it.  I think it’s brilliant.  

This year, on St. Patty’s Day, we’re invited to the Finnegan’s house (Steve’s sister’s) for garam masala corned beef & aloo gobi, naan, chutney and Chai spiced rice pudding.  See, living in Wisconsin need not be bland!

Art, Time, and Love

In the expansive mist of morning, when my soul takes time and room to breathe and stretch, I gaze around my room and wonder what I might do with myself.  My eyes light on the top shelf of a bookcase, where stands a handmade paper album.  Pages of rough texture wait to absorb something well-constructed, like a bed of rice made to nestle a complicated curry.  What poem or drawing or photograph would be worthy to lie in those lush furrows?  Surely nothing as lowly as what I would create.  Yet I long to put my time, my love, my hands to work, to make something.  I want to slowly blend my life into some material.  The satisfaction is exquisite.  I felt it once, birthing and raising children.  The medium responds, reacts, engages, resists.  It is not a work of power; it is a work of love.

I have begun to notice an impatient annoyance building up in me when I look at photography sites.  I am enamored of the images, but so often the captions leave me irritated.  I do want to know what I’m looking at and where it was found.  I don’t like the flavor of language that suggests violence.  “I captured”, “I shot”, “I took”, “I caught”.  Why not just say that you were there?  It was there.  You made a photograph of it at that place and in time.  Doesn’t that sound more respectful somehow?  It does to me.

I like art that shows that respect.  An artist is generous with time, patient, slow, allowing something to unfold, gently.  There is a generosity of presence in art.  An artist gives herself – body, consciousness, energy, and loveinto a relationship with her work and medium.  That’s what feels so rich, pleasing and compelling in a well-made piece.   Whatever it is.  I am often so task-oriented that I don’t think of that.  I was taught to be efficient, neat and accurate.  In preparing a meal, for instance.   When I began cooking for Steve, he’d ask me about supper, and I’d tell him the steps I planned to take and ask for his input on decisions.  He’d respond with something like, “Just make it with love.”  I wasn’t sure what that meant.  I think I have a better idea now. 

I have a whole day and a whole chicken ahead of me.  I want to make something satisfying, not just in the end product, but in the relationship along the way.  I’ll let you know how that turns out.  Meanwhile, I’ll share these pictures from Horicon Marsh.  I didn’t take them.  I like to think I invited them, and they came willingly.