By good fortune, I found a stack of photography books at the library’s fall book sale. I picked up a few volumes from the Aperture Masters of Photography series – those on Alfred Stieglitz, Dorthea Lange, and Henri Cartier-Bresson. I also snagged the book Wideness and Wonder about the Life and Art of Georgia O’Keeffe and a long coveted book on creativity, Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg.  

I spend time studying books like these, finding photographs I love, and then imitating their style.

The point of imitation is not to adopt someone else’s style, but to learn from it. –David DuChemin

And so, it goes. I practice and learn and slowly I find my own voice.

From Alfred Stielglitz, regarding his series Songs of the Sky,

“I have found that the use of clouds in my photographs has made people less aware of clouds as clouds in the pictures than when I have portrayed trees or houses or wood or any other objects. In looking at my photographs of clouds, people seem freer to think about the relationships in the pictures than about the subject-matter for its own sake.”

As I work to discover and define my style, there is one thing of which I am certain. The most significant art is created sacredly with all of oneself, from a place deep within.

Day 236

Day 236

I print my favorite pictures every day.

We don’t have a photo printer (yet), so I just print the picture on our HP Color LaserJet on ordinary printer paper. I’ve been surprised at the quality of these prints. These everyday pictures are not for display or saving, but they help me to see in a way that is different from the screen. Spending time with my work gives me time to reconsider my editing and processing and allows me to make stronger decisions about my photographs. Using the prints, I can sequence images in a series for story-telling projects, photo essays, and books.

No question, printing my work makes me a better photographer.

I’ve signed up to take a photography print workshop at the end of this month, and I can’t wait to learn more about the process.

Printing your photographs, holding them in your hands, and living with them is one of the strongest ways to experience and learn from our work.
— David DuChemin, The Visual Toolbox
Day 235

Day 235

Sometimes I fool myself into overcoming the pressure to make a daily photograph.

I tell myself that I’m not trying to make a good picture; I’m just going to take a few snapshots.

And lots of times, I like these snapshots just fine.

Today's picture was processed using the Linen preset from Rebecca Lily and her just launched Pro Set IV.  These presets bring my images to life with a single click, and they've helped me to see the beautiful potential in each of my photographs. When I find something I love, I'm inclined to share and Rebecca's presets are my all time favorites.

Day 234

Day 234

I love these crisp and clear early fall mornings. I went straight from my morning workout at Fredericksburg Fitness to Blackstone Coffee for veggie quiche and café au lait. Then I drove to Snead’s Farm in nearby Caroline County. I made it there by 9am just as they opened for the day. I was greeted by Mr. Snead himself, and he welcomed both me and my camera.

The farm is laid out like a patchwork quilt with blocks of sunflowers, pumpkins, Christmas trees, pasture for horses and cows and sheep, and play areas for children.  With flowers and gardens as testimonials to the farmer’s care and chilly breezes connecting me to the change of seasons, I looked deep into myself to my place in this world. Streaming sunlight and dewy grass illuminated my path as I wandered the sashings and borders of the farm.

In past years, I’ve taken the obligatory pictures of the pumpkin patch and the sunflowers facing sunshine. It feels really good now to know that it’s okay to take the pictures that interest me, and to let go of the feeling I should take pictures to document the farm experience. I am not a photojournalist telling the story of “Pumpkin Day,” but rather a woman living in praise of both sunshine and shadows.

Day 232

Day 232

My physician is in Richmond, and even though he's an hour drive away, I don't mind at all. He is knowledgeable and attentive and always seems to have time for me. I had to make the trip to have some blood drawn for a routine check-up.

The need to make the trip always turns into the perfect excuse to explore the city. My blood work required fasting, so the first stop after the visit was for breakfast. Dave and I went to the Early Bird Biscuit Company on Robinson Street. It was such a beautiful day, we devoured biscuits and sausage gravy and freshly brewed coffee outside in front of the cafe. We strolled along the neighborhood streets, just walking aimlessly, stopping for me to take a few pictures. Next, we headed to the Criterion Cinemas to see a matinee, The Dressmaker, with Kate Winslet. We finished off the day trip with rich hot chocolate at Lamplighter Roasting Company on Summit Street.

Dave and I agreed that we are fortunate to live in a place like Fredericksburg that affords so many opportunities for adventure and enjoyment only a short drive away. Our budget does not permit extensive travel but we make the most of what is right in our own backyard.

The way to live artistically is to conduct ordinary activity in a relaxed and attentive way.
— Andy Karr and Michael Wood, The Practice of Contemplative Photography
Day 231

Day 231

After we dropped Jacob back at college, we stopped for lunch at Dave's favorite Williamsburg eatery, Pierce's Barbecue. We've eaten here many times over the years, in the brightly colored orange and yellow building.

I think there is nothing here to photograph. There is an ongoing stream of judgmental thoughts in my mind. "This place is too bright to make a good photograph." These opinions close me off from possibility.

It takes some exertion to push past what you think, especially when you think you've seen it all, but you can do it. –Andy Kerr and Michael Wood, The Practice of Contemplative Photography
Day 229

Day 229

Anything you ever put in front of your camera, you have to love. Truly. Madly. Deeply. Whether it’s a person, a flower, a dog, or the muddy tire of a tractor, you have to be mad for it. Absolutely in love with it. Whatever anybody says you have to know in your heart that it’s beautiful.
Before I make a picture of value to me, I ask myself, “Do I love this?” I analyze my love for the subject, and that study of why I love what I am about to photograph gives me a grip on my day. –Tim Walker, The Photographer's Playbook

I love this scene of the Fire Department on Cary Street in Richmond with its clean lines, painted white bricks and small pops of color. The bench outside the building seems a fitting symbol for the delicate balance between the leisure of waiting or conversation and the urgency of the 911 call that might arrive at any moment.

I love the memories associated with the local Fire Department in the rural town where I grew up. The Fire Department was home to weekly Bingo games where the prizes were sacks of flour and sugar or other pantry staples. The Ladies’ Auxiliary hosted spaghetti dinners to raise money for worthy causes, and the doors were often opened for school reunions, dances, and baby showers. A place that existed for the purpose of protecting and often saving us, expanded to embrace not only tragedy but also hope.

It really is all about the love.

Day 228

Day 228

And as much as there are days when I wish that I could just figure it all out once and for all, I now know that continually searching for and finding the answers is what feeds me. Life is an ever-evolving journey that we take. So let’s have fun with it, and let’s use it to endlessly feed ourselves and our art. I was watching an interview with famed American portrait photographer Annie Leibovitz, who after almost forty years of continuously exploring photography still comes across new ways to pursue her art. She said that every time she tries something new, she realizes “just how deep the well really is.” –Marisa Anne, Creative Thursday
Day 226

Day 226

The public library has always been at the heart of our family.

My oldest son’s first crush was on a sweet young librarian named Maury. Week after week, he sought her out, waited patiently to be near her, and asked for help to find books that he knew perfectly well how to find all by himself.  

Our youngest son volunteered at the local library every Saturday from 9th grade through his high school graduation and now he works at the college library. He is a devoted book-lover, reader and writer.

My husband works as an election officer on voting days in the library. He carries a book with him everywhere and reads every chance he gets.

I’ve checked out countless books, taken yoga and cooking and belly dancing classes, exhibited my photographs, and journaled my way through problems and projects in the peace and quiet, all in the library.

On this morning, Dave and I meander through stacks and rows of books in the England Run Branch of our library. Today the library is a place to slow down and this alone makes it a tremendous source of joy.

Lending libraries are beautiful in their basic ideals. In enabling people to educate themselves they are the most empowering and humanistic of institutions.
— Joseph Mills, The Artist’s Library: A Field Guide
Day 225

Day 225

We were excited to pick up our youngest son, Jacob, from college for fall break. While we waited for him to finish work at the library, Dave and I strolled around the campus reminiscing.

On this campus, the College of William and Mary, we fell in love 38 years ago. College isn’t about choosing a career or finding a partner or even learning a subject. It’s about growing up and we grew up together.

We listened as a group of prospective students and their parents toured the campus. When they reached the Crim Dell Bridge, the guide dutifully related the details of its history.

The Crim Dell Bridge was a gift from the Class of 1964. According to campus lore, two people who kiss on the bridge will be lifelong lovers.

We walked across the bridge holding hands, just as we did so many years ago, grateful for a life together that began in this quiet place.

. . . that one may walk in beauty,
discover the serenity of the quiet moment,
and dispel the shadows.
— Davis Y. Paschall, president College of William and Mary
Day 223

Day 223

There will always be those who discount my work, places that make me fearful, and things that stir up doubt and insecurity. And this is why mentors are important. These are the people I respect, and I see something in their life and work that can help me to take the next steps.

One of my mentors, photographer Henry Lohmeyer, sends his thoughts on Walking the Edge between safety and vulnerability. In his weekly note, he discussed our desire to be heard.

Often we feel our work isn't good enough to have a voice and to be heard. Our expression isn't at a self-prescribed level of what we believe to be good enough to have one. That what we say, the photos we make, aren't worthy. I feel this often, giving it the proverbial "who am I" prefix. I'm going to remind myself right now as I write this to remind you, but our work doesn't have to be good to be heard. It can actually even be terrible, whatever that means, and it still deserves our ear, our noting and our rallying. When a singing voice cracks, sing louder. It's not our work at its best that begs to be heard, it's our glorious falters, our enormous mistakes and it's our honest brokenness that wants to be heard. It's not our work that we're showing, it's ourselves and we deserve noting.

This is one of those pictures that seized my heart. I love the make-do attitude of the farm family who used old bed sheets to construct a tent from the awning of their market booth canopy to shield them from the sun. I love the play of sunlight and the shadowed silhouette of the leaves along the roof. I love the slight opening between the sheets giving rise to wonder about the activity just on the other side.

I almost didn’t share this picture, because even though I love it, I didn’t think it was good enough.

And now I see – it does not have to be good to be heard.

Day 222

Day 222

Despite my desire to recognize the beauty in the ordinary moments, I am reluctant to photograph the local Wawa Convenience Store, the Starbucks coffee cup from the shop around the corner, or the never ending stream of traffic as we pass over Interstate 95.

I’ve wrestled with the Why of this hesitancy. Is one scene more worthy than another? And if the answer is yes, what makes it so?

As I read the latest issue of Weekly Findings from my friend and Life Coach Helen McLaughlin, I understood.

These scenes could be anywhere. They are not-so special.

Like Helen, I want to swap out wide for deep.

It’s not an issue of grandness or richness or beauty, but rather one of authenticity and sincerity.

Day 221

Day 221

Still life with Joel Meyerowitz.

When I began this year long journey, I envisioned I might take a great number of black and white images. I’ve always admired the timeless look of black and white photographs. I am drawn to simplicity, and in my view, color might be seen as an added layer of complexity or embellishment.

And this is not what happened. Instead, I fell in love with color. I’ve embraced its hues and tones and learned that color is often more subtle than contrast.

I spent a lazy afternoon poring through pages from Cape Light, Color photographs by Joel Meyerwitz. I see something in his work that I’d like bring into my own. His photographs are simple at first glance, and yet with careful consideration, they are luxurious and deeply compelling, conveying contentment and yearning at the same time.

This photograph was a total excuse to celebrate my favorite fruit, the pears of fall – seckels and forelles.  

Day 220

Day 220

I’ve been doing a little window shopping lately.

I’ve culled from my wardrobe all those pieces that don’t fit well; those that are stained or hopelessly out-of-date; those that don’t match who I am and how I live; and most importantly those that are uncomfortable.

Now, I’m ready to add a few new pieces of quality clothing meant to last a lifetime. I’m tired of trendy stuff, disturbed about the ethics of cheaply made clothing and the unfair treatment of those who make it, and overwhelmed by too many choices. I don’t like to shop. But I do adore the well-designed windows of small boutique stores downtown, like this one from Virginia Hill on Caroline Street.

I love the challenge of this kind of photo where the elements inside the window, as well as those reflected on it, can be intermingled to create context and story for a compelling image.

Nothing beats a good shopping trip where your wallet stays intact
— Alessandra Cave, Shooting with Soul
Day 219

Day 219

Things that bring me joy. Childhood toys I loved.

Growing up in a very small town in Virginia in the 70’s, there wasn’t much to do. No movie theater, no fast food places, no bowling alley, no public library – only the Book Mobile.

My sisters and I played outside all day long, riding our bikes, skipping rope, and hula hooping. My mother jumped at the chance to sign us up for the Colonial Beach Twirlettes. I’m pretty sure this was mostly about keeping us busy and out of trouble, but we took to twirling like our lives depended on it. Our enthusiasm was fueled by majorette boots with tassels and snazzy uniforms. 

We marched in parades down Main Streets in other small towns like Deltaville, Callao, Montross, and Saluda. At the Judges’ Stand, we performed our best routines and saluted with our batons, beaming with pride. Parades were often part of weekend festivals that included carnivals. We rode the tilt-a-whirl, the Ferris wheel, and the scrambler. We counted out spending money to play games of chance and buy pink fluffy cotton candy. And, we vied for the seat next to the cutest drummer on the bus for the ride back home.

When I spied this baton at the thrift shop last week for only 99 cents, I couldn’t resist. I brought it home and took it for a spin, twirling like I was a kid again.

Day 217

Day 217