Sunday, December 30, 2012

Ringing in the new year with healthy eating

We've decided that it's time to take control of our health again. So, this coming week we'll return to our healthy eating.

This is the plan:

  • Give up white flour and sugar.
  • Limit dairy.
  • Eat breakfast every day.
  • Eat dinner before 7:00.
  • Get 15 minutes of aerobic exercise every day.

Instead of enjoying our last few nights of scarfing down unhealthy food, Mark cooked white bean and roasted mushroom soup tonight from this recipe.

It was really good. And healthy. It feels good to be back on the wagon.  :)

Saturday, December 29, 2012

live with intention

Years ago I decided to start living my life with intention instead of letting life happen to me. I'm still open to the unexpected. But I don't want it to just roll over me and find myself unhappy and stuck because it's just where I happen to be.

I did ok for a while. But in 2012, I seem to have lost my way again. I'm just sitting here, waiting, but I'm not sure what I am waiting on. I am not creating the life that I want.

So I have been thinking a lot about the life that I want. I put down my camera for a whole year. I took a few pictures. But VERY FEW pictures. I stopped being a photographer. At one time, I didn't think it was possible for me to stop taking pictures. But I did.

During the break from photography, a much needed break I should add, I eventually discovered something about myself. I miss photography. I am a photographer. Maybe even a multi-media artist who sometimes uses photography. I could possibly choose to never take another photo. But I couldn't choose to stop seeing life as a photographer. I see light. I see colors and patterns and contrast. I see the world around me in photographs, even when I am not taking photographs. I cock my head to the right or shift to the left or close one eye to compose scenes, even when the camera is not in my hand. In my head I move people over a little so telephone poles aren't growing out of their heads. I wait patiently for the moment. You know, that perfect moment when lips touch to cheek, when fingers entwine, when a smile dances across lips. The moment to click the shutter. Even though I do not have a camera in my hand.

Yes, I could stop taking pictures. It probably wouldn't be easy but it would be possible. But I am not sure that I could stop being a photographer. I have barely taken pictures in a year. I haven't taken any photos in a year that are worth framing. I haven't created photo art in over a year that would be worth hanging in a show.

But I am still a photographer.

In 2013, I am going to embrace my art again. I am going to shoot for the love of making pictures. I am going to create art. I am going to capture moments. I am going to push myself to dive back in. I am going to fully immerse myself in my work again.

Part of my plan to return to photography is to live with intention.  First I have to decide exactly what it is that I want to do. I'm always open to serendipity, but I also believe that I need some goals. If I find something better along my path, I won't hesitate to explore it. But I do believe that I at least need to start out with a chosen path.

My intentions: 
  1. I will return to lifestyle portraiture in a way that captures real life in an artistic way without too much direction and posing.
  2. I will create slightly surrealistic art based on composites of my photographs.
  3. I will create portraits of women that make them feel beautiful and sexy by showing the beauty in their curves and imperfections instead of airbrushing them out.
  4. I will create digital art and share it with the world.
  5. I will create beautiful things from the discarded and unwanted.

Hopefully putting my intentions in writing for the entire Universe to see will help make them real. 

Now to break them down into steps.

1. The first thing I need is a family, or at least a cute kid or two, that will let me shoot in their oh so stylish house so I can start revamping my portfolio with lifestyle portraiture. I can't attract the kind of clients that I want till I shoot them and have a portfolio. So, I'm putting it out there for the whole Universe to see believing that what I need will come to me.

2. Then I need some inspiration. Some cool locations. This one is a little vague. Let me try to be specific. How about a wooded path, a red cape, and a good model. And a medium format camera.

3. I need a woman willing to let me shoot her half naked and comfortable enough to let me put the photos in my portfolio.

4. I need a wacom tablet and photoshop and AI.

5. I need space to work.

There. I have publicly stated my intentions. Now, time to make them a reality. I hope that simply by stating them, I am taking the first step in making them real.

“Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become character.
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”

Monday, July 2, 2012

Last week I turned 45.

I know, big deal. So what. It's just a number. You are only as old as you feel. blah blah blah.

But for me, it has been a bit of a wake-up call. It's time to make some big changes.

Honestly, the birthday isn't the only reason I came to this conclusion. For months now I have been working on changes. I am tired of feeling bad all the time. I am tired of being sick with little hope of fully recovering. I don't like the thought of, "This is as good as it gets."

For at least six months I have been asking myself just how far I am willing to go to get better.

That answer has changed several times.

I've made small changes. They have helped. But I can tell that it isn't quite enough.

Two months ago, I made some pretty big changes. I cut most processed foods from my diet. I stopped eating sugar and white flour. That went great. I felt better. I had more energy. I was losing weight.

Then I went home to Mississippi for almost a month. For some reason, I just don't eat well there. I ate pizza and fried chicken and washed it down with coke. By the time I left, I felt AWFUL.

So I returned to Little Rock with a renewed sense of purpose with my diet. I wanted to lose weight. But more importantly, I wanted to heal my body with what I put in it rather than further damaging it.

The night I returned home, I had a bowl of quinoa salad. That was nice. Healthy. Maybe a little extreme.

The next day I found myself eating yogurt and fruit and veggies and some more quinoa. It just felt natural.

By day 3, I realized that I had stopped eating meat.

I'm not sure how it happened. It didn't even feel like a conscious decision. I just no longer wanted meat.

I told myself that as soon as I wanted meat, I would eat it. It has been almost a month now and I haven't really wanted meat. I have eaten shrimp once and a small amount (usually less than 3 ounces) of grilled fish a few times. It feels very natural.

I am pretty sure that I haven't given up meat forever. Not even red meat. But I hope that I have given up over-indulging in unhealthy foods. I hope that I have fully embraced whole foods and nutrition.

And now I feel the need to document this journey. Part of it is just for my personal satisfaction. I want to be able to look back and see how much I have changed, both my body and my life, by these changes.

But there is another reason. I keep hearing people make excuses for why they can't make similar changes in their own lives. The expense is the biggest reason. The second reason seems to be that it takes too much time or is too difficult. My experience is just the opposite. Real food, whole food, is often less costly than convenience foods and even fast food. And it really isn't difficult. There are plenty of healthy foods you can eat on a daily basis that are inexpensive and easy to make. Especially if you plan ahead a little. That's what I want to share.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst. ~ Henri Cartier Bresson

I've lost my way. I've stopped wandering, trying to find my way home. I sit silently in resignation that I'm destined to be lost forever.

That is how I feel lately.

I used to be a photographer. At first, I was an obsessed amateur. I spent all of my free time taking photos of things that thrilled me. It was my passion. I learned and grew. I became a pretty good photographer.

Then I went pro. I spent my days taking photos and learning how to be a better photographer. I had happy clients. I was on my way to making a decent living doing what I loved.

Then I lost my way.

For the last two years, I have taken very few photographs. 4 years ago, I slept with my camera hanging on my bedpost, ready to grab it at a moments notice even in my sleep. I carried my dslr in my purse, even to the grocery store. I woke up at the crack of dawn to shoot the sunrise and dropped what I was doing every afternoon to chase the sunset. I created elaborate scenes to place people in for portraits. I stalked the perfect light to capture playing children in. My eyes always scanned the horizon for a potential picture.

So what happened?  I'm not completely sure. I do know that I had let myself be pulled down a photographic path that I wasn't always happy with. I had to make a living so I was shooting things that didn't thrill me. I felt like a sell-out when I photographed 25 preschoolers with an Easter Bunny. I was tired of people wanting wanna-be model portraits on plan what backgrounds. The hours that I spent photographing every last detail of a strangers wedding sucked the desire to be a photographer out of me.

So I quit. I made the big leap from "professional photographer" to amateur photographer.

At least that was the plan. I would shoot what made me happy so I could find the joy again. I would take classes and attend workshops. I would read photography books and watch webinars. I did all of those things. But I couldn't find the joy. My muse had gone MIA, and I couldn't find her.

I stopped shooting. I even spent weeks visiting my granddaughter without taking her picture. The same child I had taken a photo of every day for the first year of her life, I didn't even take a picture of for three weeks even though she was at her most adorable 3 year old self.

I have considered that maybe it's time for me to stop being a photographer. Maybe there is something else out there for me to pursue. I applied for various jobs. I didn't even get a callback for an interview. I pored over college catalogs looking for a new career path. Nothing caught my attention. I've read books, researched, and brainstormed.

But I keep coming back to the same place.

I love photography..

At least, I used to love photography. And I haven't been able to find anything else that I love like I used to love photography.

So rather than reinvent myself, I think it's time to find my way back to the place where I lost that passion. It's time to recapture my love for photography. It's time to stop sitting silently in resignation and get up and find my way home again.

This will be my chronicle of rediscovery. (I hope.) I will share my journey with anyone interested in reading, mostly because I suspect that I am not the only photographer who has fallen down this rabbit hole and needs to find her way out.

Step one: I'm not entirely sure how many steps it will take to find my way back to my love of photography, but I am taking the first step. My first step is to create a personal project that I love and feel passionate about. I have decided that my end goal as a photographer (at least at this moment) is to create interesting portraits. Not just portraits of people sitting politely in front of a pretty background wearing a freshly pressed shirt. You can have those taken at Walmart for $9.99 so why would I want to make my life's work about recreating what you can have done ridiculously cheap at the big box stores. Instead, I want to create artistic portraiture. Alternative portraiture. Environmental portraiture. I want to create something that you can hang on your wall to view like a piece of art even if you don't know the subject, but something that will tell you more about the subject than a nice Walmart portrait would tell. I want it to be a frame captured from a story. I want my portraits to tell you who the person is…… but also make you wonder more about who they are.

So, step one is to take portraits of people. But the perfectionist in me often keeps me from just taking portraits until I have created the perfect story, the perfect setting, the perfect wardrobe, and the perfect moment. That's where the quote at the top of the page comes into play. Your first 10,000 photos are your worst. So I want to knock out 10,000 portraits quickly so I can get on with some quality work!

My first personal project on my journey to rediscover my path as a photographer will be to take portraits of 100 people over the "100 days of summer." That's the time between Memorial Day and Labor Day. 100 unique people. I'm not even sure that I know 100 people, especially not in Little Rock. I haven't gotten to know many people since my move there. This will make it a real challenge. But challenging myself is what this is all about.

I am sure that I won't create 100 portfolio-worthy portraits, but that's the point.  Some will probably be horribly mediocre. But you learn from those too.

I hope to learn more about natural light and using a reflector over the course of this summer project. I hope to learn about flattering posing. I hope to learn how to capture more than just a pretty pose. I hope to learn to capture part of a person's story in just that single frame.

Some of these portraits will be quick and dirty. I might have to stop strangers on the street and ask if I can take their pictures to get 100 in 100 days. That's fine. I think I learn as much from quick and dirty as I do from shoots that take a week to plan. Yet some will be carefully planned and executed complete with elaborate lighting set-ups, wardrobe, and make up. Some will be a glimpse into the everyday world of the person I am photographing, and some will be completely made-up silly scenes. But all of them will attempt to show more about who the subject really is than a smiling shot in front of a pretty backdrop wearing a clean shirt.

I think part of the reason this will work is that I will have to shoot a lot in a short amount of time without giving too much thought to the final outcome. When working with clients or shooting for my portfolio, I stress over perfection in the final product. In this case, the final product is to be portraits of 100 people. Not 100 perfect portraits. Not even 100 great portraits. Certainly not 100 portraits worthy of my portfolio or worth paying for. Just 100 portraits. Hopefully this will both encourage me to work quickly and work a lot but also free me from the stress of needing to create perfection, opening me up to new possibilities. I believe this will let me see things I might not have seen otherwise. I believe this will lead me to create things that I might not have dared before because I have no attachment to the outcome, other than creating another notch on my belt reaching for that 100 portraits.

In other words, it's ok to fail. It's ok if it fails to be interesting, technically perfect, or even artistic. As long as I get a portrait to go towards the 100, it can totally suck! And in that freedom to totally suck, I hope to find my own voice!

One last thing: Today is Tuesday May 22, 2012. Memorial Day is still 6 days away but I am going to start this project ASAP rather than wait for Memorial Day. I am impatient once I have an idea in my head. But also, I am visiting my home in Mississippi and I have some willing subjects here. I know so few people in Little Rock that I need to go ahead and take advantage of my willing friends and family here while I can or I might not ever reach 100. So technically this is portraits of 100 people in 106 days. But that doesn't sound nearly as catchy.

Hopefully on Labor Day, I can post a collage of 100 portraits created this summer, and when I sit back and look at the collection, maybe I can see that I have found my way home again. That I have found my vision, my direction, and my artistic voice.

A journey of a thousand miles starts with one step. And my first step will be to shoot portraits of 100 people in 100 days.

What is your first step to finding your passion? Your true calling? Your vision? You deserve to find your artistic voice and let it sing loud and free.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

taking photos versus making photos

I needed to see this today, to be reminded that there is a huge difference between taking a photograph and making a photograph.

I need to work on making photographs. I need to learn to "compose and wait." I need to remember that it is ok to take a year to make a single photograph as long as the end result is a stunning photograph.

Monday, April 2, 2012

tea {What makes me happy 2 of 30}

What makes me happy today is a cup of strong yerba mate brewed in the french press with just a little milk and agave nectar.

I didn't sleep well last night. I am worried about trying to sell the house. I am worried about my daughter. I am worried about being unemployed. I'm just worrying about everything I guess.

And to top it off, I had to cut someone out of my life who was just bringing constant negative energy and little else. That feels good but still makes me sad.

Despite all of this, I am feeling pretty good today. I am finally admitting to myself that I need to pick up my camera and go back out and work. I walked away from it for a while. I needed a change. I needed a break so I could re-think the direction I was going. I actually decided for a while that I wanted to do something other than be a photographer. I just wasn't sure what. So I looked for a job anywhere.

But nobody will hire me.

It has started to feel like a conspiracy. And in a way, I think it is. I think The Universe is conspiring to push me back down the path of photography because I need a flexible and creative career to really be happy. Photography is perfect for me. I just need to regroup and choose the right path as a photographer for me.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Be courageous

Every year I like to pick a word as a theme for my year. Something I can focus on and improve in my life.

This year I have been trying to come up with a word but couldn't decide. Then I noticed that everywhere I turned I saw the words courage and brave. I believe in listening to the Universe when it speaks.

So my word for this year is courage.

It is time for me to be courageous. To be brave. To take a chance. To risk it all.

I feel like 2011 was one of cocooning for me. I made very little forward progress. I turned myself inward and didn't take chances. Maybe that's a good thing. Maybe I needed the time to myself to heal.

But now, I am ready to put myself back out there.

It's time for some courage.

But it might be some quiet courage for a little while.