Boondock Ramblings

About a year ago, I started to give up on photography as a full-time business. This may sound like a sad thing but sometimes it’s better to not transform something you love into something you make money from.

When I stopped caring if I got clients, I stopped trying to change my photography, and myself, to get business. Because I changed my mindset, my photography went back to capturing moments that made me happy and not capturing moments that other people considered “frame worthy.”

In the last year, I have started focusing only on moments in my photography that bring me joy, and much less on the scenes others might call “pretty.”.  I prefer capturing visual memories not photos if that makes sense. If my personal photos come out blurry or dark or “imperfect” I don’t care as long as I feel something when I look at the photo. What some see as imperfections in a photo are what I see as perfections because the moment was what I was after when I clicked the shutter – not the perfection.

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Like anyone, I’m more inclined to feel strong emotions about a photo if the subjects are  one of my children or a family member but I can also look at a photo taken by a stranger, featuring their family members, and still feel happiness, or sadness, or nostalgia because of how the moment was captured. Many photos trigger an emotion in me because it reminds me of something or someone in my own life. The image being technically perfect is irrelevant to me if it creates a strong emotion for me.

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With personal photos, there is always going to be a memory attached to the photograph but as important as the memory is the feeling the image invokes in the viewer. Personally, I can look at a technically beautiful shot of a high school senior and say “oh, that’s nice,” especially if I know the high school senior, but those photographs, no matter how well lit or sharp or colorful, rarely sparks any kind of passion or emotion within me. It doesn’t inspire me to live a happy life or enjoy the little moments or dance in the rain – it just inspires me to say “oh, isn’t she pretty?” or “isn’t he handsome?” or even “lovely lighting.” But I can walk away from that photo and not feel much of anything inside. I can scroll past it pretty quick.

If I see a photo that invokes emotion or offers something different visually, though, it will stop me in my tracks, hold my attention and make me want to photograph something similar or write something about how the moment captured made me think about similar moments in my own life, moments tucked back in the corner of my memories.

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Zalmy Berkowitz recently said on a podcast on Outerfocus that the photography industry, especially the wedding industry, sells on the idea of “pretty”, that everything has to be “pretty”. His photography, to me, is beautiful but it is beautiful because it captures moments and feelings over the idea of magazine perfection. And he’s right – the photography industry, especially in the area I live in, is focused on poses and smiles and heads tipped just right. It’s not a bad thing – it just is.

Clients in my area truly don’t want documentary photography. They don’t want to pay a photographer to capture moments for them because they have a cellphone and they figure a snapshot of their kid on a swing is all they need and that’s fine, that’s good, if it works for them, then I’m happy.

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As late as last year it irritated me that people, where I live, don’t enjoy the type of photography I produce.  I used to be depressed I couldn’t get hired for the photography work I wanted to produce but lately, I’ve realized I don’t want to try to sell someone on something they don’t like so I am content in taking photos for myself. It may mean our budget is tighter, family trips are almost non-existent and my children don’t wear fancy clothes but in the long run none of that matters as much as feeling like I’m creating the art I want to create.

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Photography has never been “just a job” for me. Yes, I need money to help support my family but photography started to become something I hated instead of what it used to be for me, which was a way to document my family’s life, but also a type of therapy to calm and focus my racing thoughts. How can I calm my racing thoughts if every morning I wake up and try to think of a new way to make clients who have no interest in my work suddenly love it and want to hire me?

I couldn’t.

So I stopped trying.

And it’s been the best thing I could have ever done for my art and for me.

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In many ways, I feel like I totally missed summer. Part of the summer it was raining and part of it was humid and hot and the heat made me pretty sick and out of it. So here we are at the beginning of Fall and we didn’t do anything I had planned for the summer. We tried to cram some swimming in before the swimming season is over but one day the pool at my parents had too much chlorine and the next time it was too cold and then there was the invasion of the spiders, but I won’t go into detail about that one.

For the most part, our summer’s end was family time, construction of a shed my dad and son built over the summer and a little bit of swimming with the neighbors. And this past weekend we closed out summer with a picnic with friends. I can’t help feeling summer was a bust and flew by way too fast.

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We haven’t done anything very exciting so far this summer, other than my husband starting a new job and our family looking at houses in the area where he’s now working. We have had some nice family time with my parents, especially on the Fourth of July, and my son helped my dad install a pool at his house and start construction on a new shed.

I thought I’d share a collection of photos from our summer so far since I haven’t shared a photo post in a bit.

What are all of you up to this summer so far? Or winter, if you are “down under”? Let me know in the comments!

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I thought I’d share a few photos from last week and this week. I meant to post this Saturday, but I was behind on editing and didn’t get a chance to catch up until yesterday.

We had a great week of a couple day trips, with my husband being on vacation, and then ended his vacation time with a date to see Avengers Endgame. Of course, my husband and son saw it opening weekend because both are legit comicbook fans (with my husband reading and collecting them almost his entire life) and they wouldn’t have survived waiting to find out how the epic movie series ended. I don’t plan to spoil the movie in case anyone hasn’t seen it yet, but it is well worth the three hours and really did bring the series to a satisfying conclusion, as star Chris Evans (Captain America) said in a recent interview.

Several of this week’s photos will showcase our trip to Animal Adventure Park in Harpursville, N.Y., which is about an hour and a half from our house. This is a trip we have been taking at least once a year for the last couple of years since April the Giraffe gave birth to her baby Tajiri. My aunt lives less than 30 minutes from the park so we usually stop to see her when we are there.

If you don’t know, the park, because of April, went viral a couple of years ago when everyone and their brother found themselves watching Youtube to see April give birth. Giraffes gestate for 15 months so the wait was a bit long, but finally, the baby was safely born.

It’s a fairly rare thing to see a giraffe have a baby since in the wild they do so in secret to keep predators away. Now that “baby” is about 3 and April has given birth to another baby. Tajiri, the first baby, was set to be moved to another facility this past Fall, but the other facility had not prepared properly and Animal Adventure Park pulled out of the deal and built a new home for Tajiri and a new mate, Jahari.

What is nice about the park is how close you can get to many of the animals, such as the giraffes. You can literally look up and have a giraffe nose right in your face as you feed them carrots from an observation deck. You can also hand feed many of the other animals, include antelope, goats, llamas and turtles.

So there you go – you now know more about the giraffes in this Upstate New York zoo that you probably ever wanted to know.  In case you care, Animal Adventure Park also features 49 mammals, 29 birds and 24 cold-blooded animals. Stats are courtesy of the essay I made my son write on the trip for his English class (he’s homeschooled).

(note: all images are copyrighted by Lisa R. Howeler, 2019. For permission to use or licensing please contact me via this site or at lisahoweler@gmail.com)

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I have no idea who this lady is but I loved watching her with the giraffes because she just chatted along with them as she fed them. She reminded me of my Aunt Dianne, who I miss very much.

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A few photos from the past week. All images are shot on a Nikon d750 and a Nikkor 50 mm 1.8. In the future, I’ll also be sharing these posts on my photography blog (soon to be my photography site, once I transfer my domain there).

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The headline is a bit misleading because this is going to be a bit of a “photo dump” of my last couple of weeks. I haven’t really touched my camera much in the last three or four months, due to depression and losses of friendships and then more depression  (would you like me to talk about my depression some more? No? Good, because I’m done talking about it.)

The weather started to warm up a little so we spent some time drawing on the sidewalk in front of the house with sidewalk chalk, exploring at my parents, playing outside and generally all the stuff you do when you begin to emerge from the cacoon of Northern winters.

I’m hoping I get back my love of photography and begin to use it again as a therapy for the times I’m the lowest emotionally.

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Capturing the real, raw moments of life through photography

We live in the day and age of scrolling through life. Scrolling through trivial information and scrolling through deep and important information. We scroll past photo after photo and thought after thought and rarely pause to truly think about what we are seeing and reading. Information slides in and falls out as quickly as it came.

We have become ghosts of ourselves.

When I first became interested in photography it wasn’t the posed, cheesy studio images that drew me in. It was the raw, real, authentic documentary photographs that weren’t technically perfect, that weren’t perfectly lit, and didn’t feature perfect expressions that lit a creative fire in me. These images tapped the brakes of a life careening ever faster forward and helped to facilitate a pause to help us focus on what was really happening in our little world or the world at large.

Images of a true, actual scene or event as it happened made me want to capture the same types of moments in the same way. In the images that I saw in magazines and books, I knew it was the moment and the feeling a person got from looking at them that mattered, not if they were edited in Photoshop with overlays or the softening brush. When I first started taking photos I had no idea what Photoshop was. I had little to no interest in digitally manipulating an image, something that some photographers, even those who call themselves “documentary photographers” do today. For me, true documentary photography means little to no alteration to the image. There are a few of my photos, therefore, that are not strict documentary, but the bulk include no changes, other than a conversion from color to black and white.

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My first camera was a film camera, an Olympus point and shoot. For the non-photographer, this means the camera didn’t feature interchangeable lenses and the back opened to load a film canister. It did feature an optical zoom lens, which, if you zoomed too far, would cause the image to pixelate severely.  I photographed mainly my friends and pets and a few vintage hats from the chest at my grandmother’s and none of it was remotely award winning. The photos weren’t even remotely interesting, but they captured people who were important to our family in everyday moments and therefore were worth more than any of the posed images other families had. My parents most likely spent thousands of dollars helping me develop film at local drugstores with very little to show for it, other than a few memories mixed in between the shots of me trying to figure out the concept of composition.

I had no idea what I was doing with the camera, to be honest. All the images were simple snapshots with very little thought to composition. I didn’t think much about composition or even know what it was. It was a photo that my dad took that sparked the idea of layering, even though I didn’t know what layering was. He photographed the daughter of a friend with the little girl standing in the foreground, eating an apple and smiling at the camera and behind her was her sister, playing in the creek down behind our house. It opened my eyes to the idea that photography didn’t have to be boring, but should instead tell a story.

I found myself fascinated by documentary photographers and photojournalists like Harry Benson, who traveled with The Beetles. I didn’t even know the name of many of the photojournalists whose work I loved, but whose photos I had seen in magazines and books.

(left to right, Harry Benson, Vivian Maier, Dorothea Lange)

I didn’t have the internet back then to learn more about the photographers whose work I had seen in history books or magazines. Yes, I’m really THAT old. But, yet not THAT old that I can’t remember when the Internet became more popular and the world of photography was suddenly at my fingertips. I can still hear the squeal of the modem connecting in our dining room.

But there was and is a downside to the internet. It invented scrolling.

Scrolling our life away and barely slowing down to learn from what is zooming by our view.

“It can be more difficult to penetrate deeply into the subject matter and really impact audiences. It’s so easy to like an Instagram photo without really digesting what it means because you’re just scrolling through it,” documentary photographer Award-winning, American photographer, Sebastian Copeland told Capture Magazine, an Australian photography magazine, in 2016. “There may be diminishing returns to the mass of communication that is being made available through social media.”
(Read more at http://www.capturemag.com.au/advice/the-power-of-documentary-photography#S2gJ8aR9lolWo6so.99)

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Writer Amanda Copp speaks about the idea of documentary photography slowing life down in the introduction to the same article Copeland was interviewed for.

“Today’s world feels like someone has slammed their foot on the accelerator and everyone is scrambling to keep up. Endless streams of information and people with limited attention spans have become the norm. Moments that slow people down in this hyper-paced world are few and far between. But documentary photography allows such moments to occur, as well as contemplation, consideration, and, maybe, action. These photographers, dedicated to documenting the world around them, gently apply the brakes on this accelerated world and capture the stories of things left behind. Many of the issues facing people and the planet today are slow and inching forward. While others are far more rapid.”
Read more at http://www.capturemag.com.au/advice/the-power-of-documentary-photography#S2gJ8aR9lolWo6so.99

I never have had the chance to travel the world to take photographs, as I once thought I would, so I’ve instead photographed my own life in the style of the photographers I loved. I never wanted to imitate them because we all see the world in our own way. I never had much of an interest in posing an image and hated when I had to do so at the newspapers I worked at – instead always asking for assignments where I could photograph the action. The action in our area wasn’t really “action.” I never photographed a protest or conflict, but an elementary school field day was always fun.

All photography is documenting something, of course, but documenting a scene as it is, as it was, and as it will always be within the frame poses a challenge for me that I enjoy as much as a portrait photographer revels in nailing the right expression.

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I’m grateful that I’ve chosen to capture the everyday moments of my family’s life and the  world as I see it through the camera lens. Looking back at images that documented a moment, instead of a pose, takes me on an emotional and visual journey that nourishes the soul like a hearty stew nourishes the belly.

For someone whose mind races around in circles most of the day, getting nowhere, documentary photography helps slow my thoughts down and almost forces me to notice the world around me, which I see as a good and welcome thing.

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Some of my favorite documentary photographers I’d encourage you to learn from and about, even if photography isn’t your chosen art form:

 

 

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Find more of my photography at www.instagram.com/lisahoweler or on my photography site: www.lisahowelerphotography.com

It isn’t unusual for me to hit a creative funk in the winter. Days are short, the sun hides behind clouds and it’s too cold to take the kids anywhere to explore.

I still try my best to take photographs inside the house, or whichever building we have sought shelter in from the nasty cold of winter, but honestly my heart usually isn’t in it until the warmth comes back.

This winter has seemed particularly long, probably because of the loss of my aunt in December and some stress my son was facing, but also the blasted cold weather and gloomy clouds.

DSC_7860With that Daylight Savings Time thing we do here in the States, we now have longer days (which simply means more daylight hours). This is a wonderful thing if you have sun and less exciting if it’s simply a gloomy, rainy or snowy day.

Last week marked the official  first day of Spring, but our weather hasn’t realized that yet and has remained cold, for the most part. This week we are supposed to have an upward trend and I’m hoping that will mean an upward trend in our moods too.

DSC_8308-2Despite the cold we have had sun and the sun makes the cold slightly less oppressive. It also creates some pretty lighting opportunities in some of the rooms of our house.

DSC_8313This week we are looking forward to mild, but still warmer, temperatures that will hopefully afford some more opportunities to escape the house and breathe in some fresh air.

So how about you, fellow creatives, or even you non-creative folk? What’s the weather like for you and what do you do when you find yourself in a creative funk?

The star

They carried the star up the steep, snow covered hill because the truck’s tires spun and sent the hunk of metal skittering sideways toward the old dirt road. In the end they left the truck in the field and slid the star, made of wood and strands of Christmas lights off the roof. Their breath steamed patterns out in front of them as they walked and the sun, a misleading sign of the outside temperature, cast long shadows onto the untouched surface of the snow that fell the day before.

Ropes were looped and tied and hooked on a pulley, the ladder was climbed and the star was hoisted with a couple reminders from father-in-law to son-in-law to “be careful of the lights! You’re hitting the lights on the tree!” But finally it was high enough and nails were hammered in to hold it in place.

Dad built the star several years ago and put it at the edge of the woods, at the top of the field and where people driving by on Route 220, across the Valley could see it. It has become a beacon, you could say. A beacon of good will, or peace, or joy or whatever it represents for each person who sees it. It can mean a lot of things for a lot of people but for Dad it is a sign of hope and the real reason behind Christmas. After all – isn’t that what the birth of Jesus was all about? Bringing hope to a hurting, fallen world?

So on this little hill, in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania my dad hangs his homemade, 50-some pound star, and with it hangs a little bit of hope – hope for health, for peace, for love for all, hope for the broken, the weary, the shattered souls.  And it reminds us who is the hope of the world.

Isaiah 9:6-7

6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 

7 Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.