Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Year to Create

How is it that another year is reaching its end, a new one ready to enter in? While each year feels like it passes so quickly, I know that there have been twelve months, just like every other year. Fifty-two weeks of work, play, smiles, tears, adventures and routines.

And opportunities to create.

Create was a word I chose to intentionally consider as I entered and moved through 2012. Not so coincidentally, I believe, opportunities opened up this year to flex my creative muscle in many ways.

In relationships...

I have taken on new roles at work that have me fostering collaborative relationships with educators and caregivers. I am part of a project to build capacity in child care centres to run more inclusive classrooms, and enhance the social and emotional development of the children in their care. New relationships have been created with staff at each of the centres I have become involved with. The project grant we are operating on is for three years. It is exciting to know that I will be growing along with the people at these sites as we create even better environments for young children.

In other areas, I had a chance to re-create relationship with family this past summer. I've also re-created some of the way I do relationship with my friends--old, new, near and far. And, I've created a new sort of relationship with my younger brother, as we live under the same roof again for the first time in fifteen years.

At home...

Oh, how I continue to love my home! Especially in the summer! I continued to work towards setting up  and creating my back yard just the way I want it. Someone once told me it takes roughly 25 years for a person to landscape their yard space to perfection. I'm not entirely sure I will be in this house that long (though, it's not entirely out of realm of possibility), but I really hope it doesn't take me that long to create the perfect space. I'm aiming for somewhere in the next five years--that would be nice.

I set up the hammock this summer, creating a peaceful space to enjoy a book or a nap in the sunshine. I planted a couple new things in the garden this summer, offering a space for God to create His wonderful edibles. I also rustled up all my bulbs at the end of this season, creating a new floral landscape along the side of my house that I hope comes to fruition (florition?) next spring. Only time will tell.

I am looking forward to another summer in the hammock, in the garden, and in the dirt. It is really His creation, not mine; but I love that He lets me muck around a little. :)

Behind the lens...

Ohmygoodness, where do I even start? I have had such fun with my photography this year. I continued to create fun shots with my 365 project, and finished it up at the end of July. I have--s l  o   w    l     y--been working through a second project. It was meant to be a one-a-day kind of thing, but I quickly realized that the quick pace was kaiboshing the creative process, so I have slowed it down. It's not easy to create, some days.

In the spring, I took part in an international photography project, resulting in one of my photos being published in a book! Mine was one of 1,000 (out of 100,000 total) to be selected for the book. I felt very honoured to have been recognized this way.

I also managed to have one of my photos published in a local calendar, which was exciting.

Finally, I have been putting my toe into the artisan market a little bit. I had my art in the gallery at last year's art exhibit in Lacombe. Nothing sold, but it was neat to see my work amidst that of other artists... and to not seem like my work was out of place!

I took the canvas-printed photos to work shortly thereafter, and sold several to colleagues; that was a surprise! I also participated in an On-the-Spot pop-up craft sale, selling several photo greeting cards to passersby. I'm hoping to take in more of the pop-up scene in 2013. On the whole, my photography is in the hole, financially speaking. But sometimes just the richness of the experience is valuable, too. While I am hoping my photography will put me back in the black this coming year, I'm not out there to make a career out of this. I never have been. I enjoy taking photos purely for taking photos. When I have to start thinking about customer demands and quantities for larger markets, I fear the creativity will be lost. Photography will have become an obligation, not a passion. Being able to sell my works is really just a tangible affirmation of my skill. It is nice, but not necessary, to know that what I'm creating is beautiful.


Much has been created.

Thank You, Creator, for making me in Your image, that I might create in this world, as well. May everything I create be for Your glory, in Your joy, and bring Your peace. Amen.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Put a Sock [Monkey] in it OR SOTC 37/365

Poinsettia? Put a Sock [Monkey] in it by gina.blank
I did one of my best portrait shoots last weekend. There is an internal tension that exists when I shoot portraiture. I enjoy creating portraits--especially candids--but it's tricky business. I'm rarely as satisfied after a portrait shoot as I am after other shoots.

One has to move fairly swiftly in portraiture (especially with young children). There is not a lot of time to tweak shutter speeds, F-stops, and white balance settings in the moment. I can compose shots in nature for several hours; the attention span of models is not nearly as lengthy.

And I rarely get a perfect portrait SOTC.

There may be less-than-adequate lighting, so I must brighten things up a little. Even compensating in-camera by bumping up the ISO means I end up applying noise reduction afterwards.

More often than not, my angle is tilted by 1/2 a degree (I think I come by this flaw naturally--I've seen my dad's photos), which means I'm straightening and cropping.

And my most salient issue--white balance. I don't have time to set a custom white balance every 5-10 minutes as I shoot around my location (or maybe it's just amateurs that say that). So I set my white balance to automatic, and just shoot. Of course, the camera doesn't always get it right. Surrounded by plants, my models are often rendered a touch green. Indoors, the warm glow of light bulbs almost gives my models jaundice. SIGH. Back to Photoshop I go.

But with each photo shoot, I learn.

This weekend, I took some family photos for a good friend and her two daughters. I have taken their photos yearly for the last three years or so, and was quite satisfied with how this latest set turned out.

For the first time, I shot on location at City Hall. The architecture allowed for some lovely compositions. The plethora of windows allowed for nice, even lighting (though it could have been a touch brighter in some areas). And the all-grown-up models meant that I didn't feel like I had to move quite as quickly. I was even able to get a little creative, and they assisted in the set-up!

Did I still have to post-process? Yes. Admittedly, every single photo. That being said, that includes the bulk where the only post-processing required was a little bit of noise reduction to get rid of mild graininess OR a small tweak to white balance. I did not have to brighten so many shadows! I did not have to sharpen someone's features! I did not have to disappear some dude in the background that I didn't see ahead of time. And I think--for the first time in a long time--I did not have to swap out someone's head from another picture because they weren't looking at the camera!

It's great to know when I am building up skill in Photoshop.
But it's even better to know I'm building up skill in-camera.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Winter Settling In

It's that time of year again. Layers. Foggy glasses. Ice on my windshield. Three feet of snow lining the driveway. Dark when I leave for work, dark when I come home; not exactly sunny during the hours in between, either.

Oh, winter.

In glimpses here and there, I do see its beauty. Slow, fluffy flakes, gracefully twirling down to the earth. Frosted branches lining the River Valley. Pristine snow fields, and their sparkle on that rare, sunny day.

But I tell ya, on the whole, winter is not exactly inspiring. My drive to take pictures of its beauty are trumped by the cold. My desire to be active outdoors is as fleeting as the sunshine. While in the summer, I am bursting through the back door to get to my garden, my hammock, my bike--the winter sees me sprinting into the house after work to get to my PJs, my blanket, my TV.

(And while yes, snow blowing does come with some feeling of satisfaction, I must say, it's been eating up a significant amount of my free time, and I'm about done with it.)

One thing I have recognized this year, though... is that while my general cravings--sunshine, the outdoors, taking pictures--seem suppressed by the cold and dark of winter, I am far from entering into sloth. I have simply traded those things in for activities that--I think--are more reflective of the pace of winter. Hot baths. One really good book after another. Tea. Yes, I do take in more television--but I don't really watch trash. The shows I watch tend to be as riveting for me as a good book. Plus, I generally have a cat on my lap. Win.

It is a season of drawing in, rather than exploring.
A season of wrapping myself up rather than spreading myself out.
And that is okay, too.