photography

June Showers

purple and white iris blooms with water droplets on them from the rain

We’ve had a cold and rainy spring this year. While that means the weeds are getting watered as well as the seeds, I much prefer rainy springs to hot and dry ones. I haven’t gotten my camera out as much this spring as in past years; I’m having troubles with the focus, and need to upgrade to a new camera body (mine is 15 years old!) but until then, I’ll just keep muddling along with this one and hoping for the best. If the focus is a bit soft, I’ll just pretend it’s a vintage filter effect.

Anyway, the other day, when there was a pause in the rain showers, I ran out and took a few photos of my mom’s front garden which is currently a beautiful blend of colour, with even more to come in the next weeks.

fuchsia pink peony bloom covered in rain drops

fuchsia pink peony blooms and purple and white irises with rain drops on them

dark purple violas along a stepping stone covered in rain drops

white round blooms and a pink rosebud covered in water droplets

purple and white iris bloom with rain droplets on it

These are dandelion seed heads that have been flattened from the rain- don’t they look beautiful?

dandelion seed heads covered in water drops

 

Tulip Still Life

Yellow tulips in a square glass vase in front of a dark brown background

Tulips are my favourite cut flowers, and as soon as I see them in the supermarket, I bring home a bouquet. I love the fluidity of tulips- these grew at least an inch since I placed them in the vase, and this time they stayed upright (that doesn’t always happen!)

yellow tulips close up details against a brown background

I usually take photos of flowers on a white background, but decided this time to play around with a dark one. A brown throw blanket made a perfect draped background for the bright yellow colour of the petals, and the resulting photos remind me of the Dutch Golden Age still life paintings. The perfect subject for an oil painting!

yellow tulip bouquet still life against a brown background

yellow tulip petal details

tulip bloom petal details against a dark background

Look How Far You’ve Come

vintage pentax film camera sitting on top of a carved wooden box

We’ve probably all heard the phrase “practice makes perfect”, but I recently heard it altered slightly to say “practice makes progress”, which is much better, I think, since nothing in this world is ever perfect. I’ve been reflecting on this lately, and thinking about how I am often disappointed in my creative endeavours because I haven’t reached the goals, or mastered the skills I had hoped I would by now….

I’m currently going through my external hard drive and organizing it. Years ago I had a computer crash, and while I was, thankfully, able to recover all of my files, they got dumped onto a hard drive, and I never did anything further with them. I’m fairly good at organizing and decluttering physical belongings, but the digital realm is one that never fails to devolve into absolute chaos for me. It’s a huge mess that gets worse each year, and continues to hang over my head like an invisible avalanche. This was finally my year to tackle that project, so I’ve been sorting, organizing and deleting; not just so that I can find photos or files easily, but so that I can finally get a bunch of the photos printed into albums!

Anyway, as I’ve been sorting, I’ve learned a few things (other than the painful lesson that sitting at my desk for too long is punishing to my shoulders).

Firstly, I’ve come to realize that just because a photo was taken, doesn’t mean it’s necessarily worth saving. For some reason, I think many of us have this idea that because we took this photo, it’s special. But, especially since the advent of digital cameras, I have ended up with a lot of duplicates, and unnecessary or blurry photos. In the past couple of years I’ve gotten better at immediately deleting those sorts of photos, but in the past I used to keep folders and folders of mediocre photos. I have been keeping in mind as I sort, that if I lived in the 1940’s I would have a lot less photos, and that would be totally fine. So, as I sort, I delete anything that doesn’t bring back a happy or important memory, duplicates that are so similar I don’t need both, and any photos I just don’t like. I am still keeping plenty of silly outtakes and anything that is truly sparking joy, but many of them are not.

Secondly, I am asking myself whether I have a purpose for these photos- am I going to print it? Am I going to blog it? Is it for reference? If the photograph doesn’t answer yes to any of these questions, then what is the purpose for me keeping it? I am coming to the understanding that sometimes the value in a photograph was simply in the action of taking of it. Like I don’t keep every sewing project or sketch I’ve ever made, I also don’t need to keep every photograph. Many of the photos were valuable in the practice they gave me, but I don’t need to keep the end result.

Which leads into my third discovery: practice makes progress. As I am sorting through the past 10+ years of photos (I received my DSLR in 2010!) I am noticing how much my photography has improved.

I look at the photos I take today and I often wish they could be better; they fall so short of what I want them to be, and what I see other artists creating. It can be easy to compare your skills to others, but it’s much more impactful to compare your current self to your previous self! I am looking through these photography “sketches” and realizing that they did have value, in teaching me. 10 years of practice has resulted in much better photographs. I’m no Ansel Adams, and yet, compared to 20 year old Nicole, I have vastly improved!

It’s so encouraging to realize that all of those hundreds of thousands of photographs that I took… and then deleted… over the years have resulted in not a few photographs that I am happy with and proud of. Like any artistic endeavour, it takes a lot of time and practice to grow and perfect, or rather progress. I would say that photography is one of the few creative practices I have consistently worked on, ever since my first film camera over 20 years ago and these days I have a lot more hits than misses.

Anyway, it was simply enlightening for me to see how much I’ve improved over the years, so I wanted to encourage all of you to keep practicing as well! Whatever skill or craft you are working on, don’t compare yourself to others, but rather compare yourself to yourself from years ago and I bet you’ll see a lot of growth.

If we take a moment to look back, we will realize just how far we’ve come.

(And of course, I did delete a lot of those out-of-focus and oddly composed photos, but I had to show a couple!)

two blurry old photos as an example

Impression, Winter

11:00 in the morning, a frosty foggy day with a shed and bare tree silhouetted against a grey sky

While many people find winter to be the worst season of the year, I can’t despise it. Yes, the cold and dark can be dreary, and yet there is so much beauty God gives to us at this time of year, if we would see it. Last Thursday was one such day, as we woke up to a beautiful foggy, frosty day, as is common in this part of the world, but never commonplace. The world was a glistening winter wonderland, with every surface coated in thick heavy frost, while fog clouds hung low, obscuring the horizon, or at least bringing it in close. There is something unique about a heavy fog, because not only is the sightline hidden and the light diffused and dimmed, but the world becomes quiet, muffled even. Things seem to still and slow down and when you walk outside in a winter fog, you truly feel solitary.

These first photos were taken at 11:00 am when I hurried out to quickly take some photographs, wrapped in a wool coat and scarf, with the cold air nipping at my fingers.

A couple of hours later, around 1:00, the sun had started to burn through the fog, and the quality of light had changed. Again I wrapped up warmly and went out to capture those light changes, feeling an affinity with those Impressionist painters who would begin painting a scene, quickly grabbing a new canvas every time the light changed in order to capture an accurate depiction of the scene before them. While, of course, a photograph is quicker than a brush and canvas, it was interesting to see how strikingly different the world looked just a few hours later. I then continued to watch throughout the day, going out again at 4:00, 4:30 and then the next morning at 11:00. Each time I went out the qualities of light had changed, sometimes with high contrast and blue skies, sometimes with golden light and then finally a light pink glow across the sky. There was no wind, so the frost stayed on the trees for an entire 24 hour period. It was truly a beautiful day, and made me so thankful that I get to live in such a lovely part of the world.

I hope that wherever you live, you enjoy this first day of Winter (or the first day of Summer for those in the southern hemisphere) and are able to appreciate a bit of that changing quality of light and change of the seasons.

11:00 am

a misty foggy country road lined with trees

pine tree branch with needles covered in frost silhouetted against the sky

a pine tree and seedheads covered in frosty

11:00 in the morning, a grouping of spruce trees silhouetted against a foggy sky

1:00 pm

a snowy valley with a blue sky above and footprints in the snow across the field

afternoon pine tree and seedheads covered in frost and shining in the sun

graineries and trees against a blue sky with snow glistening in the sunshine

a fence coated with frost and a pine tree silhouetted against a blue sky

a shed and tree against a blue sky with frost glistening in the sun

4:00 pm

late afternoon golden glow of a shed and pine tree in the snow

late afternoon frosty day, with spruce tree tops against a blue sky

late afternoon trees silhouetted in golden light and shining across the valley

late afternoon country lane silhouetted against a golden sky

4:30 pm

evening light with a pink glow shining across the frosty trees

The next morning, 11:00 am

next morning, shed and pine tree frosty again

tree branches silhouetted against a grey bare sky

pine branches and seedheads covered in frost

pine tree covered in frost silhouetted against a grey muted sky

This Time of Year

grassy lane with a view across the fields. The grass and leaves are golden and brown and the sky is a mixture of greys

It’s October now and it feels like it; the leaves are golden against a sky that alternates between crystal clear blue and stormy greys. When the wind blows, it often has a chill in it, and colourful leaves crunch underfoot as you walk.

golden and green tree branches against a bright blue sky

The season is short, but it’s my favourite time of year!

abandoned shed surrounded with trees and tall grasses

country road lined with golden trees and a cloudy blue sky in the distance

Every corner you turn has another spectacular view. This is a small ravine close to where we live. It’s gorgeous at this time of year.

valley full of golden trees and a blue sky

Even abandoned buildings have a romantic look to them.

empty shed with trees on either side of it

And despite the signs of decay, there is beauty to be seen in the blooms and seedheads.

hydrangea and blanketflower blooms at the end of the season

weed seedheads in the evening light

The trees are dropping their leaves…and their seeds! We will plant some and see if they grow.

basket of acorns and one acorn still on the tree

We’ve been so busy harvesting the garden and have a pantry stuffed full of bounty from our tomatoes, cucumbers, plums, choke-cherries and apples. There are delicious treats ahead this winter!

plums in the tree and colourful leaves

wicker basket full of red plums

mason jars with juice, salsa and tomato sauce in them

In the meantime, it’s still the perfect time to go outside and explore; soon we will be spending most of our time indoors!

barbed wire fence alongside the road with tall grasses and a stormy sky above