Blueberry Picking and practicing storytelling through the lens

I read Elizabeth Willson’s post about storytelling through your lens after we visited the local blueberry farm, but was a bit proud of myself for actually following most of her tips already. Since reading the post, though, I’m looking forward to trying this again and capturing each of the different images she suggested.

I’ll be honest, we chose to visit the blueberry farm for something other than photos – we were hungry for blueberry pancakes and blueberry muffins. Still, it did provide a nice opportunity to capture my family interacting and their personalities. 

Like Elizabeth suggested, I did try some wider angles to capture more of the bigger picture and surroundings. I also focused in on details like little hands carrying buckets full of blueberries, and little fingers picking berries. And of course I also focused on my son sneaking blueberries when he was supposed to be picking, though I couldn’t say much, because I was doing the same thing.

I also made sure to capture my children interacting and luckily I didn’t have to take Liz’s suggestion to photograph the bad moments as well, since the visit went fairly well until Little Miss decided she needed a nap. Even then we were able to get her to the car and home for a nap before a major meltdown happened.

As for “getting in the frame” I didn’t use my own camera, but did finally ask my husband to grab one of the kids and I together with his cellphone so they would see that “I was there too.”

And like many I wasn’t thrilled with a photo of myself, but when my children are older and look at the photos, they won’t see what I see. They’ll simply see their mama. Or at least I hope.

For our next trip I’ll try more of Liz’s suggestions of trying different perspective and switching up with lenses, even though right now I’m only carrying around two.

 

This mom stuff is hard

“I’m a horrible mom!” I sobbed into the phone at my mom while waiting for  a call back from the triage nurse. It’s not the first time I’d said these words and I’m sure it won’t be the last, even though I know it should be.

It was the second time we’d called the number in a week, both times for my 15 month old daughter we have affectionately, and aptly, nicknamed The Hurricane.
The first time we called she had fallen off the back of the couch, her favorite spot to perch on, much to the disapproval of her dad and I. On the way to the floor she cracked her head on a bookcase.
She cried and was fine within minutes, even though I had been sure we would be holding back blood on our way to the hospital. We called the nurse on call and I woke up 20 times that night to check on her. She was fine and was left with only a small bruise above her eye. Ten minutes after she fell, in fact, she was trying to climb the couch again.

The second call involved her walking out of the bathroom and toward me, down the upstairs hallway, with an empty bottle of allergy medicine in her hand and a thoughtful look on her face. It was a bottle which had previously been partially full. Apparently it fell off the counter and the lid was either placed in crooked or not tight enough. I had left the bathroom, expecting her to follow me.

Yeah. Right.

Why would a 15 month old follow their mom if there is so much they can get into in the bathroom?

I had pretty much convinced myself she’d been poisoned, but the nurse on call and Peggy at Poison Control felt, based on the fact much of the bottle had been poured on the floor, that our little girl would be okay. And she was, despite trying twice to do a somersault of the end of her brother’s bed while I was on the phone with the triage nurse.

She also emptied my entire box of feminine pads while I was on the phone telling her dad what Poison Control had said and spread them across the bathroom floor, as if she was redecorating.

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I often tell myself I’m horrible at this mothering job. What’s worse is I utter it out loud. A lot. In front of my children.

Being a mom is not a job I ever thought I would have. As a teenager I imagined myself traveling the world, photographing wars and famine and the beauty of nature, not raising babies in a small town only 45 minutes from where I grew up.

But, here I am, a mom.

And many days I question what God was thinking giving these poor children a mother like me.

The day the baby eats cat food off the kitchen island and my son feels ignored because I was chatting on Facebook longer than I intended. The day I yell at the elderly dog because he nipped the baby when she sat on him. The day I sighed heavily when my son talked about Minecraft again, making him feel like what he says isn’t important or of interest to him. Those days are the days I wonder what I’m doing as the mother of these two beautiful and amazing children.

Jonathan and my favorite movie these days is ‘Mom’s Night Out’ and toward the end of the movie Trace Atkins, playing a tattoo artist named Bones, tells the main character; “You all spend so much time beating yourselves up, it must be exhausting. Let me tell you something, girl. I doubt the good Lord made a mistake giving your kiddos the mama he did. So you just be you. He’ll take care of the rest.”

Oh Lord, it’s why I pray, so often throughout my days: “Fill in the gaps where I fail. Help me care for these children they way you’ve called me to. And most of all, please, Lord, don’t let me completely scar them for life.”

My brother chooses a word at the beginning of each year to set the tone for the upcoming year. He does this in conjunction with another blog and this year he chose the word reinvigorate. I thought the suggestion to choose a word for the year was sort of dumb, if I’m being honest. Still, when I started to think what words I wanted to choose as I moved forward into a new year, it only took me 30 seconds to know what words I needed: Peace and simplicity.

I complicate my life so much and when I do that I lose my inner peace. I lose sight of the peace that only Christ can give and let it be replaced by the chaos of the circumstances around me.

To have both peace and simplicity  I want to work on blaming myself less for accidents, recognizing what is my responsibility and what isn’t, and most of all being less hard on myself as a mother.

So, if you could choose a word, right now, even if it is the middle of the year, what word, or words, would you choose?

Letters to my Son January | Athens, Pennsylvania Child Photographer

When I look at this photo of you I see a little boy who has my heart completely and has since the day I first learned you were growing inside me. I see your brilliance, your wit, your charm, your amazing ability to look at almost any situation in a positive light. How hard it must be for you to have been given parents who sometimes lean too much toward the negative yet God gave you the gift of compassion and encouragement because he knew we would need to be reminded. 

You wanted to cross the entire bridge that day but daddy and I were tired and said “no.” I wish I had said yes. I don’t ever want to limit you in your dreams or your goals. I don’t ever want to slow you down.

Your future is so wide open and though I often want to keep you close to my side, tucked under my arm, I know I’ll someday have to let you walk the path there on your own.

Before we know it it will be spring and I hope we go back to that bridge because we are going to walk all the way across it together. 

A little snow must fall. . .eventually | Athens, PA Photographer

You would have thought we had never seen snow before the way Jonathan and I quickly dressed ourselves and the baby and headed outside into the cold.

“Quick! Before it melts!” I called as I buttoned Grace’s new Christmas-styled coat.

With a winter that was featuring temperatures way above normal I knew the day could warm up fast and turn our yard into mud instead of a winter wonderland.

I also knew the forecasts were calling for record breaking warm temperatures for Christmas and we wouldn’t be having a white Christmas, so we’d better enjoy the snowy scene while we could.

I placed Grace in the slushy white snow in the side yard and watched her look down at it with a confused look on her face. She’d been too young last year to really notice the snow but this year I watched her poke her finger in it on the grass, my shoe, her brother’s shoe. She seemed to be genuinely puzzled by the cold substance on the ground.

I’m sure it will be another year before she really enjoys the snow the way her brother does, building snow forts and snow men (though we’ve never actually been able to make a real snow man).

As for when we will get any measurable snow again in Pennsylvania – your guess is as good as mine.

Why I photograph | Pennsylvania Photographer

Recently I’ve been watching photography documentaries and reading about various photographers and why they photograph. Consequently, I’ve been thinking about why I fell in love with photography

It’s pretty simple.

I wanted to document life, my life and the lives of those around me. I wanted to capture a person how they really were in a particular moment.

The best thing about a picture is that it never changes, even when the people in it do.” — Andy Warhol

I still want to document life and since my life now entertwines with those of my children, I find my lens often focused on them.

I document the lives of my children so I can remember the good, fun, crazy, true, and real moments of their childhood and through that they can remember them too.

Photography captures that one specific moment, isolating it from all the others. Photographs tell a story when words can’t or simply aren’t enough.

“When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs.

When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.” — Ansel Adams

Capturing a specific moment or person and revealing the truth within the frame is something that is so clear in the photos taken by Vivian Maier. Maier never shared her photographs with anyone. Instead her art was private to her and for her. Her images captured the lives of the children she nannied but also the characters of Chicago in the1950s, 60s, and 70s. More than simply “taking a picture”, she revealed the souls of people most of us never see. We see a man on the sidewalk and he’s wearing a torn shirt and his shoes are covered in mud, but we don’t really see him because we are on our way somewhere, or maybe he makes us uncomfortable and we are afraid to make eye contact.

In her images we have the chance to truly see the people, and the world, she photographed. We see them the way she saw them.

The chance to slow life down and truly see it, each part of it, each detail, each person, each place, each memory is what draws me to photography.

I find myself wondering why Maier didn’t want to share her art with others. We each see the world in our own way and sharing how we see the world can be both exciting and terrifying.Maybe Maier photographed what she saw so she would know she was there. Many of her images featured her in either reflection or shadowed form as if to say “I was real. I existed. You didn’t see me, but I was part of this adventure called life.”

She wanted to remember life in her own way, document it in images, instead of words.

Photography, like any art, is often selfish. We want to capture or freeze a moment in time for our own pleasure, our own benefit, our own need to interpret life somehow.

Artists document their view of life in paintings, in sketches, in photography, in the written word.

  I’ll admit that I compare myself to other photographers too often. Last week I told my brother’s wife (who incidentally has her own blog called Dispatches from the Northern Outpost), that I was submitting to a photography magazine but that I felt my work wasn’t good enough.

She told me: “You have to maybe trust the other voice, not the ‘I can’t,I’m not, It isn’t possible’ voice, but the one that made you pick up a camera in the first place.”

Sometimes that voice is drowned out by the screams of doubt, or the voice of some other photographer or artist.

I’m finding myself struggling to hear my own voice most days and the prominance of social media makes the struggle even harder.

This next month I plan to turn down the volume on the other voices and raise my own voice again.

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“I have heard other photographers say things like, ‘I went to photography school and I don’t know what to shoot because when I shoot something I mentally compare my image to so and so or so and so,’ And finally they feel so weighted down by references that it hinders their photographic practices. I don’t have any photographic influences, I don’t have any master, and I prefer to stay a good distance away from photographic culture. What matters is shooting what you feel like shooting, concentrate on that and the equipment comes second.”

Alain Laboile, photographer, France

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Find Vivian Maier’s work here: http://www.vivianmaier.com/

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beauty from ashes |

Isaiah 61:2-4To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, 3To grant those who mourn in Zion, Giving them a garland instead of ashes, The oil of gladness instead of mourning, The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.4Then they will rebuild the ancient ruins, They will raise up the former devastations; And they will repair the ruined cities, The desolations of many generations.…

Soft hair brushes against my arm and you sigh in your sleep.

I nuzzle my face against the top of your head and breathe in the scent of you. I smell honey from the shampoo we used to wash mashed pears out of your hair. Your chubby hand has somehow found its’ way into my hair and the strands twist around your fingers, trapping me until you’ve fallen into a deeper sleep.

I love these moments. I love the feel of your soft skin, your warm breath, your heart pounding. I love the feel of your life, a life I never expected but that, like your brother, has changed mine 180 degrees for the better.And here we are, at your first birthday. You’ve been here a year and it may sound cliche but it absolutely feels like it was yesterday.

It was the end of a long day when you decided it was time to come see your brother, dad and I.

By the next morning you were in my arms and it felt like you had always been a part of our life.

Your daddy counted fingers and toes but I never did. I knew you were perfect. I knew you were from God and that’s all that mattered. All I saw were your eyes and they were looking into mine.

You, joined with your brother,  have been the burst of energy, the breeze of freshness this stale, jaded, empty soul needed to remind me that life is still good, that God is still on the throne and that beauty comes from ashes.

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Seeing in black and white | Elmira NY area Documentary Photographer

When I document my family’s life I enjoy doing it in either black and white or color photographs.
This week I decided to challenge myself  by trying to see my photos in black and white as I took them. I always shoot in color and convert to black and white in case I want a color version of my image one day. There are some photographs which simply scream black and white to me.

I love how black and white can strip away the distractions and focus the viewer on the scene or subject within the frame.

Sometimes I need this in life too. I need to remove the distractions and focus on what’s in the frame, not the distractions around me.

I’ve been taking more social media breaks lately.

I was doing this anyhow, but really started to take it more seriously when I realized I couldn’t hear my own voice beyond the noises of social media.

There is so much pressure anymore to make ourselves and our lives look just right on social media.

It’s even spilled into the photography world where photos have all started to look the same. There is a certain style out there these days and it seems to many photographers are afraid to break away from that style and make their own style. I find myself caught up in this effort to fit in too, whether it is in the photography or the Facebook world.

That’s why a break is needed, to remember who you are and why you fell in love with photography in the first place, if it’s the photography world that’s screaming at you, or remember who you are in general, if it’s the social world screaming at you from so many different directions.

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Weekly Favorites: Aug. 16 to Aug. 22

Here we are at the last week  of summer and I can’t even believe how fast it went by.  My son is entering third grade this week and my daughter,  husband and I will be figuring out how to spend our days without a crazy 8-year old to entertain us. Here are some of my favorite images from this past week.
Grace is a climber and apparently she thought she was going to climb the fence into her brother’s little haven he’s set up for himself. I took her down seconds after taking this photo, to avoid her falling on her face.

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My son is growing up too fast. He also has one of the most expressive faces. I can’t remember what this one was for but it had something to do with a story he was telling me about Minecraft.
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Grace likes to try to sit right next to her brother when he’s drawing and I mean right next to him.

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Grace has loved exploring our backyard with our puppy this summer, especially since our mini garden of pumpkins and tomatoes has been taking it over.

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Jonathan was thrilled he could finally climb all the way around this particular playground equipment.
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Grace has started leaning into her brother for hugs each morning.
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Our second living room has become his Lego/Art Room. Somehow. It’s where he creates now.
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Weekly Favorites: July 26 to August 2 | Athens, PA Child Photography

It was a week full of relaxed summer days. It was time to reflect on how quickly my children are growing and how delightful it is to watch them bloom into amazing personalities.
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He has inherited our sense of humor, our sarcasm (which is not always good), and our passion for talking about the things he loves. For now he loves Legos and Minecraft and Doctor Who.

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My daughter is ten months old. She is determined, joyful and as amazing as her older brother. On this day she was climbing a slide and not too interested in slowing down when mama said ‘no’.

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