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.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Well, That's Interesting...

I've had several Big Thoughts this week--shifting perspectives and gleaning 'aha' moments in workshops attended, books read, relationship interactions had. There is still much that I am tumbling about in my brain, and likely will be for a while.

One of these Big Thoughts struck me quite powerfully this morning. I discovered something about myself. Well, sort of. I was more reminded of two things I already knew about myself, but had never looked at together side by side. And it left me thinking, "well, that's interesting..."

I was at a workshop discussing the pedagogy of play. For those readers not entrenched in the field of early childhood education, some context: play is one of the most important things we can allow children to do if we want them to be confident, competent, successful adults. And without getting into it here, experts are trying to get this message out loud and clear, because there is a rift between those who recognize the need for a play-focused classroom, and those who continue to try and argue for an academic-focused classroom for young children.

Every play workshop I've attended includes a brief definition of play. And it is generally defined including these terms:

  • Play is spontaneous
  • Play is apparently purposeless
  • Play is more focused on the process than any sort of product
  • Play is non-literal
  • Play is directed and controlled by the child
  • Play is intrinsically motivated and voluntary
Any time an adult imposes any sort of agenda onto a child's play activities, they run the risk of hindering the full potential that could have come out of the experience for that child. While I am not perfect, I must say, I do consider myself a pretty darn good play-er. It is generally not hard for me to let play unfold in the child's time, in the child's way. I have had many circumstances where I've gotten right into it with a child. And then suddenly, the parent walks by, or comes in to ask me a question, and looks at the mess noise play space around us. I find myself looking back up at them, scrambling to reclaim my title of Responsible Adult by declaring, "I promise we'll clean it up when we're done."

I lose my sense of time, and I lose my sense of needing to be the adult authority figure.*

I'm a good play-er. And I know this.

Now, look at that list again. Especially bullets 1, 3, and 4. Anyone who knows me well knows that I am not a spontaneous person, I am task-oriented, and I am quite the linear/literal thinker. I struggle so much in my adult life with these character traits.Yes, yes, yes. I know there are positive aspects to each of these traits; that being said, there are so many times when embracing the 'what if' that underlies all of those traits would be so enriching.

It is just so hard to do. And I know this.

But wait.

How is it so hard for me to have these qualities in my daily, adult activities, and yet it is so easy to do when I'm on the floor with a child?...

Well, that's interesting...

I do not have an answer for you. This revelation just happened this morning. But I wonder something. Research shows that when children are engaged in play, they have the ability to step beyond their zone of proximal development. They are able to use language, take perspectives, and act cognitively at levels up to two years ahead of where they show themselves to be when assessed outside of a play experience. They can do things in play that they can't otherwise do.

Maybe it's not so different for adults.

In children, mind you, abilities acquired in play do eventually transfer into abilities that can be carried out in their other daily activities. Because their brains are still growing and new neuron connections are being made.

But my brain is not growing. My activities serve to maintain neuron connections, but I'm not really developing a whole lot of new ones at this point. Not the way a child does.

Still, it makes me wonder... because if there is any way to transfer what goes on when I'm in the block corner to what goes on when I'm in a meeting, or out with my friends...

* Within reason, of course. Child safety trumps uninterrupted play experience.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Pleasing to the Eye

Petal Droplets I by gina.blank
I could not get enough of these flowers at the Muttart today. I was there this afternoon shooting family photos for friends, shooting flowers both before and after, of course.

Now that I have seen the Butchart Gardens, I have to say that neither the Devonian Botanical Gardens nor the Muttart Conservatory hold a candle to the floral experience there. Nevertheless, the Muttart holds its own as a year-round escape to colour and beauty in this city. I have been often enough this year that I'm planning to purchase an annual pass for 2013 on my next visit.

A photo I took there a couple years ago (an impromptu shot in the middle of a portrait shoot, nonetheless) will be featured in the Muttart's 2013 calendar. This is the second publication this year in which a photo of mine has been included; crazy!

And all because I can't keep my eyes off the colours!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Way, Truth, Life OR SOTC 36/365

Way, Truth, Life by gina.blank

SOTC 35/365

Winter Creek by gina.blank

SOTC 34/365

Snow-Capped Birch by gina.blank
A patch of snow on the birch tree, a dollop of snow on the ground. It is a beautiful day for snowshoeing in the mountains.

Despite receiving a large dump of snow in Edmonton just a few days prior to my weekend retreat, there was no time to take advantage of it in the city.

And really--what better way to take in the first snowshoe of the season than through the birch and pine trees, with a backdrop of sunshine, blue sky, and the jaggedly majestic peaks of the Rockies?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Every Day I'm Shovelling

It's not even 8am. Normally at this time, I am just getting my coffee prepped and my lunch into a bag before heading out the door. This morning, however, I was up just before 6, to bring my car in for 7, to get her winter tires put on. It's rough being up this early, but I always need to have one of the first appointments of the day, because I need my car for work.

Unfortunately, it was yesterday that Edmonton received nearly a foot of heavy, wet snow. I drove slowly, I drove carefully. I was not one of the roughly 200 motor vehicle accidents. (I was, however, one of the roughly one million snow blowing their driveway after work.)

My brother, having spent much of his adult life in Lethbridge, says this is the most snow he's seen at once in nine years. I told him if he can make it through his first winter here, he could make it anywhere (except maybe NWT). But I told him not to snow blow yesterday, and I'm kinda glad I did. I think he would have tapped out on winter entirely.

Snow blowing yesterday was about 10,000 kinds of awful. I generally quite like snow blowing. There is supreme satisfaction in watching several of inches of snow disappear under your feet. That being said, I have never had to blow through snow so thick and dense with wet. I lost count of how many times the pipe got clogged with snow (I had to scoop it out with a trowel every 5-10 ft. Who carries a trowel with them when they snow blow? Honestly.) Still quicker than shovelling manually, I cleared the driveway fairly well.

The snow continues to fall today. I will have to shovel. Or snow blow. I'm not sure which at this point. The weekend forecast calls for sunshine across the province, and I am hopeful of that.

A few blog posts ago, I talked about intentionally seeking beauty in every season. While this is only Day 2 of snow, it is day 5 (6? 7?) without sunshine. All week has been a "hazy shade of winter." Snow just adds insult to injury, but I think I am taking it in stride. Today. All the tree branches are topped with snow. In my ageing neighbourhood, it means the elm trees on each side of the street come together in a beautiful frosted canopy. While the backdrop is a little grey right now, the first sunny day will be glorious.

Today the flakes fall slow, gentle, fluffy. There is beauty in this, too. In another month, this will be downright holy.

"But You came like a winter snow,
Quiet and soft and slow
Falling from the sky in the night
To the earth below."

     -- Chris Tomlin

Saturday, November 3, 2012

SOTC 33/365

Tessellation II AND SOTC 33/365 by gina.blank

Every time I see stuff like this, I get the refrain of this song in my head:

(And in case you're sitting there thinking, 'what on earth is this?!' ...THIS is what thirty-something math geeks watched as children.)

Friday, November 2, 2012

What Does it Mean?

Every now and then, I glance back at old journal entries. I often see areas where God answered prayer; sometimes dramatically. I see how my thoughts and feelings have grown and/or evolved. I chuckle at things like being worried about a psych test. And then--and this is what gets me--I see some of the same old problems.

I read about feelings I am processing and/or still struggle with 5, 10, 15 years later. I could cut and paste the entries and slap the today's date on the top, and it would still be relevant and accurate and true.

Same crap, different pile, it seems.

It makes me wonder...

We talk so much about how we can grow, change, improve as people. We are encouraged to recognize the parts of our character that challenge us, cause us struggle--our weaknesses--and invest time, energy, prayer, and counselling into changing them. We are to learn from the negative experiences they cause, using our awareness to come up with strategies lessen their impact or power on us in the future.

And then...

They still show up.

I was chatting with a friend about how--similarly--the struggles experienced by married couples are often struggles they experienced while dating. The issue doesn't really seem to go away--it just seems to be the issue we've decided to accept "till death do us part."

So what does this all mean?

Are we not dealing right?

Processing right?

Praying "right"?

(....I SWEAR I brought that issue to the cross already. Twice. Does it mean I didn't leave it there?)

Are we not as able to change some parts of ourselves as we think we are/should be?

How do we know if a weakness is a way Satan plants seeds of insecurity in our hearts or a way God plants seeds of humility?

Can we truly accept ourselves if we know we can't change? Or do we only "accept" ourselves on the belief that we will grow and move beyond our weakness(es)?

So many more questions than answers...

Monday, October 29, 2012

I Grew Up on This Stuff

For my mother's 60th birthday, my brother and I took her to a concert. Last weekend, from the second row (!), we enjoyed the Sounds of Simon & Garfunkel with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra at Edmonton's Winspear Centre. Pretty sure the only thing better would have been Simon & Garfunkel themselves; the concert was absolutely lovely. AJ Swearingen and Jonathan Beedle are talented musicians in their own right, and really kept true to the style and era of Simon & Garfunkel.

I think one of the reasons I found this concert so lovely was the familiarity of the music. I grew up on this stuff. Both my parents--especially my dad--enjoyed the Oldies; music of the 60's and 70's filtered through the house (and car) on pretty much a daily basis. Simon & Garfunkel were one of the top five artists whose music I knew well as a child.

For me, there is much comfort in the familiar. When I am in a familiar space, or hear a familiar song, or am with familiar people, I feel coziness, peace, a sense of 'home'. I have been trying to immerse myself in these peace-filled experiences lately, as I intentionally try to nurture my soul.* With the musical harmony filling my ears, and family in the seats next to me, such was the atmosphere I found myself in last night.

Where do you find your cozy peace?

* Yes, I am well aware that novel experiences and moving outside the comfort zone are sometimes the ways in which our soul is nourished and turns towards the face of God; peace can be found there, too. I am also recognizing that is not currently my season.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

SOTC 32/365

SOTC 32/365 by gina.blank
I have been hermit-ish lately. I'm a homebody as it is, but this fall, I have been extra fond of spending my evenings and weekends simply breathing in the quiet space of my house.

I think it is, in part, due to a new roles and responsibilities at work that I have taken on this year. The learning curve is not steep, but it is steady. The work is fulfilling; also full.

So, I find myself even more content to simply spend my evenings at home, and my weekends at a slow pace. I find I am doing less with friends, and of course, because I overanalyze everything, I am constantly pondering if this is healthy. Is this just a season, or a red flag? (And a red flag of what?) Is this a social dynamic I used to embrace that I'm returning to, or is it a social dynamic I'm embracing now as I run from something else? 

I don't have answers.

But my gut feeling (which doesn't get nearly as much a air time as it deserves) is that this is a season.* One in which I am taking my strengths, the things I love to do, the things that bring peace--and embracing them more fully. Drinking deeper of them. And where I am taking the things I don't come by naturally, the things I push myself towards because I feel I must--and not forcing them anymore.

A season of less wheel-spinning and more enjoying the ride.
A season of less run-around and more strolling.
A season of less do and more be.

* Everything seems to be about seasons for me lately. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Leaf on My Shoulder OR SOTC 31/365

It is well-known that summer is my favourite season. All that green, all that life, all that sunshine, all that warmth!

Still, there is beauty in every season. I have always known this, but I find my awareness of this truth heightened in the last year or so. Perhaps it comes with age. Or perhaps because, as a home owner, each season means something different for my space. Or perhaps because I'm taking more pictures. Whatever the reason, this past year, I have really noticed the seasons more, and have been trying to embrace the beauty that they bring. Still, knowing a truth, and believing it are sometimes two different things. For example, you could not have convinced me two winters ago that winter was beautiful. Aside from the bajillion inches of snowfall and lack of sunshine, there was too much going on in my own life to be happy about most of that winter. As another example, several years ago, as I was still fresh dealing with separation from my husband, autumn didn't even register.

I think the beauty we see in the seasons is heavily impacted by what else is going on in our lives. And I think, in part, it might be one of the reasons God imparted a planet in the universe that rotates around the sun such that seasons exist. Spring, summer, autumn, winter. Spring, summer, autumn, winter. Regardless of what else is going on, these seasons happen. Spring, summer, autumn, winter. They may each look a little different from year to year, but the seasons are a constant in a world that constantly changes, in circumstances that are different from one moment to the next.

I mean, how awful would it be if the soft cherry blossoms of spring--or juicy summer berries, or the rich colours of autumn, or pristine fields of winter white--only occurred once, and it was during a challenging time of your life, and you missed it?

I think my sense of hope would dwindle.

SOTC 31/365 by gina.blank I do think that God wants us to marvel in the beauty of each season every year, regardless of our own personal lives. The whole of creation is for His glory--we should always be acknowledging and praising that! And yet, paradoxically, I think God recognizes our brokenness. Our own human nature often gets in the way of recognizing the blessing of creation that He has given us. And so, He repeats these seasons, knowing that we may miss the amazing beauty here and there, and mercifully giving us the next season as an opportunity to praise.

...There is a leaf on my shoulder in this photograph. I didn't notice it until I uploaded the photo onto my computer. And I suppose I could have Photoshopped it out, but the leaf is evidence of leaves raked, rolled in, and tossed. I am enjoying the autumn colours, the autumn sunshine, soaking up His creation by rolling around in it a little. :)

I have a leaf on my shoulder.

Way better than a chip, I'd say.

Monday, October 1, 2012

But I'm Not a Quitter AND SOTC 30/365

I've never been one to give up easily. I value integrity and loyalty, which goes hand-in-hand with persistence and general stick-with-it-ness much of the time. So when I DO have to prematurely terminate a project, a trip, a visit, a commitment of some sort, I do not do so comfortably. And I certainly do not do so flippantly.

I have spent the last month taking photos, consciously working in-camera to avoid the need for post-processing, to enhance my creative photographic skill.

I gotta tell ya, this hasn't been nearly as engaging so far as my first 365 project.

It's not that I don't like working without Photoshop; I certainly don't need it for many of my photos, anyway, and I have surprised myself a few times with what I've been able to pull off in my camera. There is tremendous satisfaction in knowing that what I'm creating is a pure, unadulterated image!

SOTC 30/365 by gina.blank But those have only really happened when I've been purposely out shooting anyway--a photo club event, an autumn walk. I'm not enjoying the days so much where I fly through my work day, get home, and then have to try and find something interesting enough to want to spend time shooting. And those have, unfortunately, made up the better part of these last thirty days.

In short, I enjoying creating great images, but I am not really enjoying this project.

And, okay, even that's not entirely true. It's more like I'm not really enjoying the pace of this project.

I'm thoroughly enjoying the challenge of creating a higher ratio of images that don't require any post-processing. I just don't like doing it every day. There seems to be a subtle qualitative difference in the underlying energy that's going into these photos than in my last project, where I wanted some great compositions, yes, but more than that I wanted this-is-me-right-now images.

So, after much deliberation, I'm discontinuing my photo-a-day project.


I will still continue to make a conscious effort to create photos that I can pull Straight Off The Camera, because like I said, the actual challenge it provides when I am out taking pictures is awesome. But I will not necessarily seek to take one each day.

I need to work at my own pace. I need to work with my creative drive, and not try to force it when it's not there.

Day 31 is coming... just not tomorrow...

Saturday, September 29, 2012

SOTC 29/365

SOTC 29/365 by gina.blank

SOTC 28/365

SOTC 28/365 by gina.blank
Busy bugs.

SOTC 27/3656

SOTC 27/3656 by gina.blank
Ah, sunny autumn morning in the park.

I  like this photo mostly because I was totally able to hide the refineries behind the trees!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

SOTC 26/365

SOTC 26/365 by gina.blank
Not a sunset......

But looks a little bit like a sunset?

Everywhere Leaves OR SOTC 25/365

Everywhere Leaves OR SOTC 25/365 by gina.blank

SOTC 24/365

SOTC 24/365 by gina.blank

Autumn Rich

It is five hours from Edmonton to Saskatoon, give or take pit stops. Generally, I stop once in the halfway point of Lloydminster to top up on gas, grab a sub sandwich for supper, and that is it. I have no time to waste--on the way there, I have love and cuteness waiting for me. On the way back, I want to have a few hours to chill before hitting the sack and starting the work week over again. I have never been one to waste time; and I sure as heck am not going to do so on a long, flat, prairie highway.

This drive was different.

It included a few extra stops. On purpose. And it was absolutely lovely.

I was grumbly leaving the city. I had decided to take a coworker home who would otherwise be at the mercy of public transit on a Friday afternoon. She lived right off the main freeway that I would be using to leave town; no big deal. However, in the ten extra minutes it took to drop her off, and stop off at the neighbouring library to quickly grab an audiobook (I had forgotten to load podcasts onto my phone), I hit rush hour, and was about half an hour behind by the time I got to the outskirts of E-town. Unimpressed.

Really, Lord? I do the unselfish thing, and You reward my efforts with traffic?

(Yes, I know it doesn't work quite like that, but in the moment...... and you know you've been there, too.)

I knew I wanted to make a brief extra pitstop for sunset pics, and I knew where I wanted to take those pics, and now I was going to be pushing it to get there in time. The sun drops fast, and I have learned time and time again that you can't chase a sunset.

Marshall Granary at Sunset by gina.blank There was construction in Lloyd and a line up at Subway, delaying my grab-and-go efforts. I just barely made it in time to the granary I had been planning for my pictures. I captured the granary in the warm orange sun, and then spied a country road leading right into the rich glow of the horizon. It afforded several pictures, including a few with a country truck puttering home from the fields. The sun dipped down a bit more, and the moment was over. I had been hoping to get a silhouette of the granary, but still--in the quiet of this rural community, I crossed the tracks back to my car, satisfied. The rush-rush feeling I'd had up to this point was gone, and I hadn't missed the colours.

Thank You.

On Sunday afternoon, I enjoyed a leisurely walk with my eldest niece along the trails lining the South Saskatchewan river. As I was taking in the fall colours--both in and out of the camera--I decided it would be nice to make a couple extra stops on the drive home and see what became of it.

Well, stops aside, the drive home was something else.

As I started west, flock after flock of birds made their way south overhead; rippling black lines of motion across the clear, blue sky. Something in the air had given these creatures the cue that this was the weekend to rise up from their lake homes and start the journey to a warm winter. But such a gentle sight.

Battleford Valley by gina.blankI stopped in the Battlefords, at the top of a hill overlooking the valley. I've always driven past the turnoff, wondering what was down the road of this hill. Peace and loveliness; that's what.

Shrubs and grasses--a mix of green, yellow, brown, orange, red--speckled the hill all the way down to the valley where the North Saskatchewan River flows. The waters of this river are the same as those that passed by my own house in Edmonton just a day or two before, and it brings an odd feeling of connection.

The sun is warm. Close your eyes and you wouldn't actually know it's autumn--I should have worn flip flops today. I traipse down the trail a bit. It smells of late summer--crisping leaves and warm grass. The sound of traffic fades away fast, and all I hear are a few grasshoppers above the mild din of the hidden freeway. I snap a few pictures, but mostly I just want to stand and take it all in. It's so warm, and quiet, and lovely.

After breathing deep, and scanning the 180 degree view one more time, I make my way back to my car for the next leg of my prairie trip home.

By the time I pass Lloydminster, the sun has started an obvious descent over Alberta. There is a slight haze in the air--from experience, I know it's probably forest fire haze, though it doesn't smell like it yet. But through my sunglasses, it gives everything a warm, reddish hue as I drive. I have continued to watch flocks of birds moving south and west through the sky. In a rolling field to my right, I see two horses galloping swiftly along; in the dips of the hills, there are patches of fog settling.

Behind the Trees and On the Water by gina.blank I spy a small body of water and turn in--I need to be able to stand in the presence of all of this, pictures or not! As I move around the back of my car, I spy something in the water. A beaver, and I don't even think he's fully grown. I watch him a minute--his cute little face even looking in my direction--but as soon as I move to open the trunk, he swooshes down into the water--gone.

I focus on my sunset, watching three or four little beavers swimming lazily in the water as I move back and forth along the side of the road. It is significantly cooler now--a mere three hours later, and I almost need my jacket. The sun has disappeared behind the trees, and the sky has changed from yellow to orange to pink to purple in less than 15 minutes. I stand for a moment, and breathe deep again. It smells crisp and clear, and just a touch like dew.

Wisps of Pink and Purple by gina.blank
When I am overwhelmed with God's rich glories, I find myself using the words 'humbled' and 'awash in awe' together.


That would be this weekend; most especially my journey home. What had I been grumbling about on Friday? I have almost forgotten in all the blessing.

I return to my car and drive, wrapped in the peace and beauty of the Creator.


Sunday, September 23, 2012

SOTC 23/365

SOTC 23/365 by gina.blank
Today was rich in colour, and I managed to capture quite a bit of it photographically. I am a bit humbled and in awe of the Amazing Creator and what he chose to show me of His Creation today.

I captured another lovely sunset, and originally wanted to post that for today. That being said, I have posted two sunsets in less than a week, so thought I should mix it up a bit.

There are fall colours all around, but my friend's garden is clearly reminiscent of summer, taking advantage of the warm days still upon us.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

SOTC 22/365

SOTC 22/365 by gina.blank
Keeping warm in Aunty's red coat. :)

SOTC 21/365

SOTC 21/365 by gina.blank
Country sunset.

SOTC 20/365

SOTC 20/365 by gina.blank
An evening city stroll through the trees.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

SOTC 19/365

SOTC 19/365 by gina.blank
The bedtime fairy has arrived.

SOTC 18/365

SOTC 18/365 by gina.blank

SOTC 17/365

SOTC 17/365 by gina.blank
After a packed 12-hour work day, the frenetic pattern of the lights kinda reflects the pace of the day's activities...

SOTC 16/365

SOTC 16/365 by gina.blank

Oh, tissue box. What fast friends we are this week.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Going Old School OR SOTC 15/365

I am part of a photography meet-up group, and we found ourselves out and about today at the Stony Plain & Parkland Pioneer Museum. A small historical museum, this little place was quiet and just the perfect size to spend an afternoon behind the lens.

SOTC 15/365 by gina.blankI meandered in and out of several buildings, but my favourite was the school house. The bookshelf lined with old novels and readers; the amazing natural light coming in through the tall windows; the nice, neat rows of desks. Clearly, I am an educator.

As I moved around the small school house snapping photos, I also thought a bit about what it meant to be a teacher back in the early 1900's (and earlier, even). One teacher in a school house of about twenty children, ranging in age from 6-16. Thinking about the dynamic that would come out of that, I almost wonder if early 20th century schools had a better understanding and practice of differentiated instruction than some of our present-day classrooms have.

The teacher in 1900 would have be teaching at several different levels throughout the day. With one child, she would be demonstrating simple addition and subtraction, while with the teenager at the back, be working on algebra. Teaching the six-year-old to print his name, and the nine-year-old to do the same in cursive writing. She needed to know where each student was at in his/her learning, and support that level of readiness, whatever it was. I'm also guessing that older students were responsible for helping the younger ones with their learning from time to time, as well as caring for them in general.

Somewhere along the way, we lost that individualized learning, and started to present the set curricula in a set way to students. That being said, in the last several years, we have started to realize that differentiated instruction--teaching a subject in a variety of modalities to meet the unique learning styles of each student in the class--produces more successful students. We also recognize that peers can be powerful teachers, too. Peer-mediated instruction can be especially helpful for students with special learning needs.

Sounds a lot to me like what was old has become new again.

Now, don't hear me wrong. I don't think we're headed for mixed-age classrooms and abandoning a formal curriculum; nor do I think that's necessarily a good idea. But just the concept of the teacher being intentional about taking each person's learning needs into account when presenting material, and establishing a class culture where everyone works together to support each other's learning and take care of each other a little bit... I think those are quite foundational characteristics for student success in the classroom.

And clearly, some have known this all along...

SOTC 14/365

SOTC 14/365 by gina.blank

SOTC 13/365

SOTC 13/365 by gina.blank
The bane of my summer, and yet, so intricately lovely to look at.

SOTC 12/365

SOTC 12/365 by gina.blank

Just because she's pretty.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

SOTC 11/365

SOTC 11/365 by gina.blank Yup. I'm pretty much a walking advertisement for HP today.* I've been meaning to purchase an external hard drive for a while, now, and finally just bit the bullet today and bought one. On sale, and available at an Air Miles sponsor store--win, and win!

This external hard drive will soon house a back-up copy of every photo I've ever taken. I always burn my photos onto DVD so that they don't accumulate space on my lap top. That being said, I know that CDs and DVDs wear out over time. Given the nature of my photography, a more permanent back up is a smart idea to catalogue all this data.


At about 6" tall, 2" wide, and 5" deep, this piece of hardware contains 2 terabytes (TB) of 'space'.

Two terabytes.

Can we just reflect on that for a minute?

That's 2,000GB.
2 trillion bytes.

At 2TB, this thing has just over double the hard drive capacity of my laptop. 250x more capacity than my iPhone. And almost 8,000x more capacity than the first Windows computer our family ever owned (if I remember correctly).

I'm not really surprised, and yet I'm continually surprised, by the way technology advances. It was not so long ago that megabytes were considered soooooooo huge, was it? And now I pull 2TB off the shelf expecting nothing less.


* "A few hours later..." I thought it odd that I couldn't create folders directly on the hard drive to start plunking photos into, but figured I could cut & paste from my laptop drive instead. After assembling some of my first digital photos into a folder, I attempted to copy it to the external drive; it didn't work. Upon further inspection, it turns out this hard drive is not Mac compatible. Grrrrrr. Apparently that was the other model I had been looking at. HP, you fail.

Monday, September 10, 2012

SOTC 10/365

SOTC 10/365 by gina.blank Well, I wouldn't say this is the photo I wanted today--at all--but it turned out a heckuva lot better than anything else I've shot today...

(It's a good read, by the way...)

Sunday, September 9, 2012

SOTC 9/365

9/365 by gina.blank
On the north side of my house, there is what I call my "wild space." It is not really part of the main back yard, but more just a patch "around the side of the house." It is nestled in the shade, and as a result, has a more temperate climate than the rest of the yard.

I've come to call it the wild space for two reasons: 1. Because I don't touch it. And yet, 2. Really cool stuff grows back there of its own accord, as if I was in some British Columbia woodland.

Ferns and other decorative grass grow there. Clover, henbit, and the occasional buttercup. A poppy or two for good measure. And my favourite, the lamium.

The bulk of its little flowers come out in June, providing an aesthetically pleasing mix of green and purple. As I was back there today, I noticed one late-bloomer had made its way.

Clearly, summer is not finished yet.

Little Red Star by gina.blankPS -- I discovered this little flower for the first time today. He stands all alone in my wild space. Not sure what he is, yet, but I hope to find more of him next summer!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

SOTC 8/365

8/365 by gina.blank

9 Lives +1 OR SOTC 7/365

Both my cats have toy mice, which disappear and reappear 2-3 times per year. For as long as I can remember, Princess has been apt to bring me these mice as gifts; she always leaves them on my bath mat.

I'm not sure why the bath mat.

Perhaps because she often brings me these gifts in the night, and knows that the bathroom is the first place I go in the morning.

Perhaps because she and I have together time there while I'm getting ready for work, and she feels some sentimental attachment to the bathroom.

I dunno.

Sometimes she brings me things directly, but generally the bath mat is where it's always been.

When toy mice are inaccessible, Akira leans towards twist ties and the plastic strips from frozen concentrated juice cans. Princess, on the other hand, goes for anything small that moves. My contact lens case, a lens cap.... I have often seen my iPod waiting for me on the bath mat in the mornings. She has also been clever enough to root through the toy box I keep in the closet. Small stuffies occasionally make their way to the bath mat, too.

A couple weeks ago, Princess brought me--directly--a miniature sock monkey plush, and I realized that she has now discovered the joy of my brother's belongings. Oh, dear. I told my brother about Princess' habit, and never saw the plush monkey again.

Then recently, I noticed a stuffy at the bottom of the stairs. It is a plush version of the 1UP mushroom from Mario World. It's probably about 7" in diameter. I thought it strange that my brother would have it lying randomly on the floor. I briefly contemplated that Princess had discovered it, but quickly shook my head at this--it's far bigger than she normally goes for. It seemed more likely that Princess was doing something obnoxious and he'd thrown it at her.

A few days later, I saw the mushroom half way up the stairs and knew it had to be Princess (clearly, she was finding the large size of the object daunting if she only managed to get it half way up the stairs).

A few days after that, I heard Princess' signal cry--the one that lets me know she has something in her mouth right now and is bringing it to me. She came into the living room and dropped the mushroom where I was sitting. I was impressed at the effort, but nevertheless tossed the toy down the stairs before heading to bed.

Which brings me to when I came home from work today.

9 Lives +1 OR 7/365 by gina.blank

Apparently nine lives is not enough.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

SOTC 6.5/365

SOTC 6.5/365 by gina.blank

And sometimes you are given a second chance!!!

(Admittedly, this one did not float right over my head, but I really shouldn't be looking this gift horse in the mouth.)

You'll be pleased to know that I did resist the urge to wave and shout, "HIIIIIIIII!!!" in the same way I did when I was six. But I do hope the fellow taking pictures of me felt the same sense of solidarity as I did in taking pictures of him.

SOTC 6/365

It was as my foot descended off the back step and onto the driveway that I heard the strong WHOOOOOOOOOSH sound. It took a fraction of a second for my brain to connect the favoured sound with its source, and I immediately looked up.

It was amazing. Directly overhead, in the crisp, clear, blue sky of morning, a vibrantly coloured hot air balloon floated low above my head and over my yard.


I did not have my camera.

Of course, I always have to try, so I ran back into the house for it. But by the time I returned, the balloon had already floated over the neighbour's house across the alley. There was no time to switch to the zoom lens, and the power lines were cross-crossing the field of view by this point anyway. I snapped a couple pics, but they weren't even worth keeping, let alone posting.


It happens.

For instance, I have seen countless sunsets empty-handed, wishing I had my camera and/or the ability to pause and capture the moment. I have come to be [mostly] at peace with these instances, recognizing that I cannot possibly capture every single amazing moment in existence, and that sometimes it's important to just take in the moment with my heart and not my lens, and geez, Gina, look at what you do manage to glean. It is enough.

Still, it would have been an awesome photo.

I can still hear the rhythmic whoosh as I watch the balloon disappear completely behind the trees, absorbing the peaceful moment internally.

I turn towards the garage.

Keys out and camera away.

Well, maybe not quite.

SOTC 6/365 by gina.blank

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A Word on Packaging OR SOTC 5/365

So, last week, a coworker calls me from Costco, stating that there's a four-pack of 8-gig-each flash drives on sale for $30 and do I want a pack? Sure, that's a pretty good deal for memory sticks, so I say go for it. She says she'll bring them to me at the office when she's next in.

As she described the product over the phone, I envisioned four memory sticks, lined up either in a row, or two-by-two, in that thick seamed-around-the-edges-and-need-heavy-duty-kitchen-scissors-to-cut-it-open-and-even-then-you're-going-to-hurt-yourself kind of plastic that everything is packaged in these days. And I envisioned that packaging to be roughly 5x7".

Boy, was I wrong.

I have witnessed excessive packaging before. I once ordered a small stationery item for work--a hole punch, or a stapler, I think. It was packaged in its own small box, but that was then shipped (and by shipped, I mean local delivery) in an 11x14x8" box filled mostly with crumpled paper (I was so glad it wasn't packing peanuts). Ridiculous.

When I saw the goodies on my desk today, it was a little bit like that all over again. The four flash drives were indeed packaged in that thick seamed-around-the-edges-and-need-heavy-duty-kitchen-scissors-to-cut-it-open-and-even-then-you're-going-to-hurt-yourself kind of plastic. But that plastic was also sealed in between two layers of roughly 9x12" cardboard.


Flash drives generally range from 1.5-2.5" long. People marvel at these tiny little objects--these tiny little pieces of circuit board that hold more bytes of information than my first laptop did. Technology has always been about being sleeker, thinner, and more compact than the preceding model.
SOTC 5/365 by gina.blank

So, why do these same companies not seem to show the same attitude towards the packaging they put these products in?

Okay, not all companies.

I've always appreciated the compact, only-what's-necessary packaging of my Apple products (one more point for them).

But they are the exception, not the rule.

It just seems so backwards.

       Dear SanDisk,
       Please stop packaging items
       the size of my thumb
       into cardboard
       the size of my laptop.
       Tech-Savvy but Eco-Friendly

SOTC 4/365

SOTC 4/365 by gina.blank
"Music happens to be an art form that transcends language." -- Herbie Hancock

Monday, September 3, 2012

SOTC 3/365

SOTC 3/365 by gina.blank
Same awesomeness, different flower.

I told you, I love sunflowers.

SOTC 2/365

SOTC 2/365 by gina.blank
Happy Birthday, Mom!

SOTC 1/365

I love sunflowers. There are certain flowers that I like best for their scent: sweet peas, lilacs, and peonies (in that order). But others I am drawn to for their aesthetic appeal. Stargazer lilies (though their scent is intoxicating, too); tulips; sunflowers.

I don't have sunflowers in my own garden (yet), and earlier this week, I had a sort of craving for them. The weather was getting cooler, I was having company coming for the weekend, and suddenly I wanted sunflowers in my kitchen.

I obtained some from another gardener, and then received even more from friends. Now I have sunflowers in my kitchen, guest room, and living room--my house is looking pretty great! Even though I'm not typically a fan of the color yellow, there are a couple exceptions, and sunflowers are one of them.*

SOTC 1/365 by gina.blank I know they are called sunflowers because they follow the sun, but their very being seems to be the floral equivalent of sunshine. Long, golden petals radiate from a giant, almost spherical-looking core. The warm colors of yellow, orange, and red explode outward in all directions. It is just such a happy flower!

Sunflowers seem to be the pre-cursor to fall. They remind me of cooler mornings, but still-warm afternoons. They remind me of the leaves that will soon turn the same shades of yellow, orange, and red. And they remind me that such transitions aren't always dreary; the sun shines in all seasons.

* Though red sunflowers trump yellow any day.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Hands That Flung Stars Into Space?

I am often floored by God's creation. I stand at the edge of my garden in the spring, watching tulip buds poke their way through the ground--again!--after a long, winter sleep. I stand at the edge of the ocean, listening to the undulating crash against the shore. I stand at the summit of a mountain, the rocky view going on forever. And I am filled with words of praise like 'awesome', 'peaceful', 'glorious', 'lovely', 'expansive', 'refreshing', 'humbling'. Words that try to--but still don't quite--speak to the superlative nature of the Creator and the fact that he has chosen to bless my senses.

Such is the same when I find myself outside of the city, looking up at the night sky. There are SO many stars! Some are so far away that they have already burned up by the time the light has traveled far enough that I can see them. And yet, I see them. The sky is so vast, and the stars are so many. I feel like such a small part of the universe; and yet, not in a bad way. More like, I am a very small part of this universe, but obviously an important part if God chose to create me amongst the whole of His creation around me. The whole thing just blows the mind.

Last night, I had my first opportunity to see and photograph a meteor shower. The Perseid Meteor Shower is an annual event, though this is the first I recall hearing of it (or perhaps I've just never been in a position to check it out, so I've never paid attention).

I drove out to the quiet of the Cooking Lake-Blackfoot Provincial Recreation Area, about 45 minutes east of the city. There were a few other star-gazers watching from the hoods of their cars in the gravel parking lot, and one couple who had set up camping chairs about 15 feet from where I set up my camera in the adjacent field space.

Perseid Meteor I by gina.blank
While I only managed to capture three meteors across my camera sensor, I saw at least a dozen in the three hours I was there.* Short and long bursts of high-speed light, moving every direction across the sky. And we have been given this light show every year for the last 2,000 years.

Sitting under the infinite sparkle of the sky, I was reminded of something I read years ago. In her book Believing God, Beth Moore talks about God's simultaneous ability for order and creativity. She says,

G.K. Chesterton wrote of a God who "is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, 'Do it again' to the sun; and every evening, 'Do it again' to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old." 
Ours is a God who delights in a perfect concoction of creativity and order. Though He could have thought out the entire cosmos into existence in a millisecond, instead He brought it about with great patience in six distinct increments. 
Then rested on the seventh. 
Then later insisted that His children do the same. 
God likes order. He likes repetition. A God of fundamentals, He brings up the sun every morning and the moon every evening, but His creativity within that order is gorgeously displayed in the changing sunsets and sunrises surrounding them.

In reflecting upon this--the repetitive nature of this astronomical event, as well as just the multitude of stars above me--I found myself curious. I found myself wondering: when God was creating the stars, did He place them around the universe one by one, setting each one just so? Or did He hold them like a handful of sand and toss them out all at once?

I'm not sure why that--of all the possible ponderings I could possibly have during an evening of star-gazing--was the question I had, but it was.

And the answer was, I don't know.

And I'm okay that it's I don't know. (I'll find out one day!)

What I KNOW--and am so blessed to know--is that there is an amazing Artist, who can create a million of the same thing, and yet have each one be unique. Who plays with the entire colour spectrum--sometimes one colour at a time, and sometimes all at once. Who bends and moves light. Who blesses the senses.

And all we have to do is sit, take it in, and know.

* That may not seem like many, but think about it--how often do you see even ONE shooting star? Exactly.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

So What Next?

I have thoroughly enjoyed the last year of putting together my 365 project. Over the course of the year, I have also taken time to peruse the projects of others--to see what challenge they've set for themselves, and the creativity that has come out of that.

Even before my project had ended, I was already thinking of 'what next?' Will I do another project? What will be the theme/challenge/goal? The answer to the first question was an unequivocal YES! I enjoy the way my first project stretched my photography skills just that extra bit. And despite the occasional days where the last thing I wanted to do was set up a shot, I had a ton of fun creating so many different portraits.

So, what to shoot, what to shoot... In thinking about the next project, I wanted to make sure I would still be challenging and honing my photographic skills. I wanted it to be qualitatively different than the first project. And I still wanted to make sure it would be fun.

Two ideas came to mind.

1. Shoot in film.
2. No digital post-processing.

I REALLY like the first idea. I occasionally play with film, but not nearly enough. It would really test my skills as a photographer, because the instant feedback of the LCD display would not be there. I really would have to get it right the first time.

That being said, the practicality and price point of shooting film all year would be insane. The cost of film and printing the photos would probably be about $150-200, if I only took one shot per day. Not so bad over the course of a year, I guess, but the digital is absolutely free. I feel the real hassle actually comes in the publishing. While you can get your film images scanned and burned onto a CD when you get them printed, that costs even more, so of course, I would opt to scan and upload each of these photos myself. Which means I'd have to scan and upload chunks of 24-27 pictures at a time. ...Well, I guess I wouldn't have to scan the whole roll's worth at once; still, I would never be posting current material. I just have the sense--based on how I managed to upload my content with the last project--that I would take photos for a year, but spend the next six months after that finishing up the scanning. That doesn't sound fun. Perhaps as a Project 52 idea down the road....

So, then idea #2 came to mind. I could still take digital images as if I were shooting film. That is, I would not post-process my photos in any way, with any software. There are people already challenging themselves this way on Flickr and other photography sites. The "technique" is being called Straight off the Camera (or Straight Out of the Camera); SOTC (or SOOC) for short.

Yes, but, you could still alter it in Photoshop and just say it's SOTC.

Well, first of all, I don't work like that. I value honesty and integrity. Second, technology has advanced far enough to hold me accountable. For those unfamiliar with the ways of digital media, digital photographs have something called EXIF data. This data includes the time stamp, info on the lens used, shutter speed, ISO, etc. But EXIF data will also tell you if the photo has been post-processed with any sort of software.

Compared to many digital artists, I don't use Photoshop a whole heck of a lot. Generally, if I'm editing an image, I'm doing fairly simple things like brightening it up a little, boosting the saturation, straightening out a horizon, lightening up dark shadows. Not generally altering the composition significantly. Still, these are all things that--with a little more attention or patience--I could do in-camera.

So. I have a challenge.
A photo a day for an entire year.
Any subject.
I must take the photograph.
No post-processing allowed.

Straight off the camera.

Starts September 1.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A Project Complete OR 365/365

A Project Complete OR 365/365 by gina.blank

Wow! A whole year has come and gone; my 365 photography project is complete! The original goal of this project was simply to give myself a reasonable challenge doing something I enjoy; and enhance my overall skills as a result. Of course, I have learned so much more than what I originally set out to achieve—and I don’t just mean in photography skills. I have learned new technical skills, for sure, but I've also learned a lot about how I feel towards certain processes in photography. And I have also learned quite a bit about myself.

For example, I quickly learned that I do NOT like taking my photo in the first hour between when I wake up and when I leave the house in the morning. I’m just NOT a morning person, and it shows. There were a couple exceptions to this—they usually involved pictures of me in bed, and thus my eyes were closed or I had slept in and didn’t look like I’d just been jarred into consciousness for the day.

I also learned that the iPhone begets laziness! I only acquired my iPhone in April--I was already 244 days into the project. That being said, the ratio of mobile phone images to camera images is much higher in the days after acquiring my iPhone than in the 244 days preceding it. In many instances, the iPhone takes fairly good photos. Pair that with not wanting to pack a camera around some days, or the ease of file transfer via iCloud, and you've got a simple way out of having to set up a dSLR shot. Oh, technology!

In 365 days, I only missed taking my picture three times (oops, oops, and huh?). Nevertheless, between a leap year bonus day, and a perfect summer Saturday where I posted two extra pictures, I’ve still ended up with the original goal of 365. I have to tell you, though, some days, this project was really quite challenging! It is easy to take photos of special events, or regular events in special places. But slogging through the fall and winter often left me sighing in apathy or exasperation at the end of the day, wondering what on earth was exciting enough to warrant a photograph.

75% of my photos were self-taken (i.e. I hand-held the camera myself, or put it onto a tripod and used a timer/remote). And I have to tell ya, it takes a lot of UN-natural to get natural-looking poses. I took anywhere from 2-20 shots each day. Occasionally even more. Sometimes, it was just because I needed to position myself slightly differently in front of the camera. I often tweaked my original vision. Occasionally, I changed my vision entirely. (On the plus side, I found myself Photoshopping less.) Only very occasionally did I get the shot in just one take.

Thankfully, 22% of my photos were taken by friends and acquaintances, which provided some images that were a little more true-to-the-moment. My friends are so gracious. I cannot even count the number of times I would get together with friends for the evening, and announce, “at some point, I need someone to take my picture.” Only one or two of my friends were comfortable enough with my camera to 'fire at will', so to speak. Often times, if I was handing my camera to a friend, I got the sense that they wanted to take two or three shots, and give the scary black box back to me as quickly as possible. I learned over time that people were more willing to take the picture when they could use cameras they were familiar and comfortable with (I know, it seems obvious, doesn't it).

And yes, several photos were taken by complete strangers. They generally didn’t turn out to be the greatest composition, but hey, they’re authentic!

Most (93%) of my photos were taken using my own cameras. This included my dSLR, my compact digital camera, my Polaroid, my mobile phone cameras, and Macbook webcam. Oh, and my scanner. The remaining 7% were obviously taken using other people’s cameras—the office camera or those of friends. …Or the studio at Victoria's Secret.

71% of my photos were taken indoors, and 28% outdoors. This is about in line with the percentage of the year we spend in winter vs. summer. Hmm…

Only a mere 15% of my photos purposely included other people. I really am an introvert.

These stats are interesting.

And yet, despite taking 365 different photos, I sill notice patterns throughout, clearly indicative of my particular ‘style’ (whatever that is). For example, I really like to focus right in on my main subject, using a shallow depth-of-field to blur out the rest of the image. I love that effect. Also, if only a part of me was in the photo, it tended to be my hands more often than any other part. Finally, I really just don’t care to get overly artistic with my photos. I had fun with a few different camera techniques or Photoshop tricks, but outside of those, I really just like to capture life as it is. I always knew this--that I tend to keep my photography pretty realistic--but I think I’ve come to know it even more through this project. For example, I tried to put together one very conceptual shot, and I have to admit, I don’t really like it. I’m just not that right-brained enough to do a good job of it. Which I’ve come to accept is okay—I don’t need to be that photographer. There are plenty of those individuals out there already. I need to be me, and take the photos my brain was designed to take.

I have had a lot of fun with this project--even on those dreary winter days! Aside from being yet another way to visually chronicle daily events over time, it has made for great conversation, worthwhile skill enhancement, and inspiration for future photography projects (oh yes, there will be more!).

A hearty thanks to those who participated in and supported my project by taking pictures, being in pictures, or simply by following along on the blog. It has made the whole process that much more fun and memorable.

Harvest to Harvest; done and done!


364/365 by gina.blank
'Traveling home' days are never good for creative photography. But a little bit of boredom, a little bit of fatigue, and a ceiling fan on a hot evening....