Still Life With Tea

Sun tea, stylized in Topaz Labs Effects

Tonight I unexpectedly nurtured my creativity by going prop shopping.  I have some ideas for pictures this weekend and needed some different types of teas.  I will, of course, have to taste test them as I take pictures!

I was thankful to not have many crowds.  I went straight from work, which helped, but by the time I was finishing up, it was getting noticeably busier.  My favorite boy toy met me at the mall and we have a wonderful supper at the Cheesecake Factory.  I got a flatbread pizza, with chicken added to it, and strawberries with whipped cream for dessert.  It was decadent and a great way to finish the week.

I stopped afterwards at Barnes & Noble and bought several books, including one on night photography.  I love it when night photos turn out well and after my posting here, I definitely want to try more of it.

This is a picture I took earlier this summer of sun tea brewing on the deck railing.  For instructions on how to make it, click here.

The original photo is below, uncropped and unadjusted on the left; on the right is cropped and adjusted.

To see everything I’m doing with my 31 Days of Nurturing My Creativity, click here.

To see what others are doing with their 31 Days project, click here.

#write31days

Categories: 31 Days, Tea, Write 31 Days | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Observations On Autumn

 

Used Topaz Labs Impression filters to create a painting

Used Topaz Labs Impression filters to create a painting; this is Witch Hole Pond,  Acadia National Park in Maine

Use what you have, use what the world gives you.
Use the first day of fall: bright flame before winter’s deadness;
harvest; orange, gold, amber; cool nights and the smell of fire.
Our tree-lined streets are set ablaze, our kitchens filled
with the smells of nostalgia: apples bubbling into sauce,
roasting squash, cinnamon, nutmeg, cider, warmth itself.
The leaves as they spark into wild color just before they die
are the world’s oldest performance art, and everything we see
is celebrating one last violently hued hurrah before
the black and white silence of winter.
― Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way

I love that phrase above – that the turning of the leaves is the world’s oldest performance art.

The color change hasn’t quite come to central Virginia yet.  The trees have a yellow tinge – some do at least – others remain stubbornly green, and some are slowly going from green straight to brown.  A few, very few, have started to show red on their tips.

The shadows are lengthening as the sun stays lower in the horizon.  Even at noon there is a long shadow on the ground and the light remains golden all day long.

The seagulls have come back to the James River.  They head somewhere, presumably north, in the spring.  Their return is a sure sign of fall.

It was the opposite when I lived in the Midwest.  The redwing blackbirds would return in the spring.  I’d drive by a field and see them clinging to a cattail, swaying in the wind.  Then one day in August – I never could pinpoint the exact day it happened – but one day, they’d be gone.  Just like that!  And I knew fall was coming soon.

Of course, the food changes in the fall too.  The apples at the farmer’s market?  Wonderful.  They are so much better than store bought apples with their crisp texture and equally crisp, sweet taste.  The peaches and corn are long gone, the tomatoes nearly so.  But the apples and pumpkins are everywhere.  With the cooler nights, I can roast turkeys in the oven again, driving myself and the dogs wild with those wonderful smells.

Used Topaz Labs Clarity filter to brighten up the colors and deepen the shadows

Used Topaz Labs Clarity filter to brighten up the colors and deepen the shadows in the photograph of Witch Hole Pond in Acadia National Park, Maine

Today I nurtured my creativity during my lunch walk by making it a point to simply observe what was around me.  The study of biological phenomena has a name – phenology – which I discussed several years  in my posts here and here.  I have, with practice, improved my observations of nature and what it means.  It’s much more relaxing to walk and notice what’s around me in that moment than to dwell on the latest problem sitting on my desk or plan what needs to be said in a phone conference later on.

Happiness, not in another place but this place…
not for another hour, but this hour.
― Walt Whitman

 I also nurtured my creativity by processing this picture, then using some plug-ins to enhance it more.  The photograph one (directly above) turned out superb, but I rather like the painting one better (at the top).  Although I started with a preset in Topaz to create the painting effect, I adjusted it so that the colors were still distinguishable and it wasn’t just a big splash of bright colors.

Just so you can see what I did, here’s the original photograph before any processing.  Remember that I shoot in raw, so anything will need some further processing before it’s usable.  Were I to shoot in jpg, the camera makes those decisions for me.  It doesn’t start out in a bad place, but it needs some help.

Unadjusted original

Unadjusted original photograph of Witch Hole Pond, Acadia National Park in Maine

To see everything I’m doing with my 31 Days of Nurturing My Creativity, click here.

To see what others are doing with their 31 Days project, click here.

#write31days

Categories: 31 Days, Creativity, Maine (Acadia National Park), Seasons, Topaz Labs, Write 31 Days | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Baby Bump

There are four stages for enjoying a happy event:
— anticipation (looking forward to it)
— savoring (enjoying it in the moment)
— expression (sharing your pleasure with others)
— reflection (looking back on happy times –
  which is why it may be a good idea to take pictures,
  keep a one-sentence journal, collect mementos, etc.)
– Gretchen Rubin
Author, The Happiness Project

Here are the much requested photos of the baby bump!  And I had to get my daughter in a lobster bib. . . not once, but twice!  And oh, look – Junior wanted some blueberry pie to eat.  Yum!

How do you like that baby bump?  What’s that you say?  She’s starting her sixth month and that’s it?  Yep, that’s it.  Of course being as tall as she is helps quite a bit, plus all her exercise and fitness.  I’m 6″ shorter; by that point in my pregnancy I looked like I swallowed a volleyball.

She’s looking good though and she felt good for the trip.  I had warned her that I’d be taking pictures, so she was a good sport about it.

As for nurturing my creativity, some nights it’s fun to just sit and work on photos.  It’s fun (and nurturing) to look through them, process them without a lot of correction, and simply enjoy reliving the moment they were taken.  The quote above was from Gretchen Rubin’s blog and the post can be read in its entirety here.  Tonight was expression and reflection of a happy memory and fun with my daughter before the baby comes.

I’m not sure which one is my favorite, but I think her holding the blueberry pie is the one I like best.  She has such a pretty expression on her face!

To see everything I’m doing with my 31 Days of Nurturing My Creativity, click here.

To see what others are doing with their 31 Days project, click here.

#write31days

Categories: 31 Days, Family, Special Events, Write 31 Days | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

More Thoughts on Balancing Life

Eagle Lake in Acadia National Park;  Mount Desert Island, Maine

Eagle Lake in Acadia National Park; Mount Desert Island, Maine

 When you assess your own life, consider it with the eye of a gardener.
Underneath the surface lies rich, fertile soil waiting to nurture the seeds you sow.
Even more than you can imagine will grow there if given a chance.
― Steve Goodier, Author

As I re-read my post from yesterday on balancing my work, personal and creative lives, I realized that the 31 Days Challenge is causing me issues with balancing the personal and creative parts of my life.

One of the goals that I set on at the beginning of this was to develop a body of work for my own future reference, something which I feel I’m accomplishing and very well too – I’m satisfied with it so far.  But some things are missing, gone by the wayside, as I post daily this month:

  • Evening yoga / stretching
  • Sitting quietly to reflect and contemplate
  • Getting other things done (the piles are getting big again)
  • Following up on E-mails and correspondence

I plan to finish out the 31 Days.  Already I’m enjoying referring back to some of what I did, whether to encourage myself or remind myself of my goals.  But it takes me 1 to 2 hours each night to write out my thoughts, pick & process photos, and edit it all to my satisfaction.  A few nights, I skipped my yoga / stretching when I realized I could do one or the other, but not both.  I need to be careful to not be doing that very often.

Sitting quietly to reflect and contemplate has – unfortunately – been a bottom priority for me, even before I started this challenge.  It frustrates me, because it’s important and I enjoy it.  I need to make this a higher priority AND actually do it.  My personal journals fulfill this purpose for me also, but that’s fallen off this month.  There are several things I need to puzzle out and I’m not getting it done.

As for the other chores and follow-ups, they’re not usually fun and it’s amazingly easy to find ways to avoid them.  But given enough time, they drive me nuts and interfere with nurturing my creativity.  It’s like the day I cleaned the house instead of working on pictures.  My energy was high that day and as a result,  I resented cleaning the house far less than usual.  It would have been a shame to sit and work on pictures, when I actually wanted to clean.

How is this nurturing my creativity?  As I’d doodled this out, I realized I needed to list it and refer to it when setting my priorities / expectations at the end of this month.  Although I’m enjoying posting daily, most likely I will blog less frequently in November.  For now, my priority is to post daily as I nurture my creativity by discovering what works and what doesn’t.  These other needs will have to fit around that.

To see everything I’m doing with my 31 Days of Nurturing My Creativity, click here.

To see what others are doing with their 31 Days project, click here.

#write31days

Categories: 31 Days, Creativity, Write 31 Days | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Working A Day Job – Part 3

Looking to the east in Richmond, Virginia

Looking to the east in Richmond, Virginia

It comes the very moment you wake up each morning.
All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals.
And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back;
in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view,
letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in.
And so on, all day. Standing back from all your natural fussings
and frettings; coming in out of the wind.
― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

I certainly do not exist from nine to six, when I am at the office.
― Wallace Stevens

Today, I am finishing my series on how my day job nurtures my creativity.  Click here for Part 1 and here for Part 2.

Balancing Work, Family and Creativity

There are times work consumes my life, other times it is family at the front.  Creativity hovers around the edges of my week day life and tends to get the leftovers from me late in the evening.  I have to be careful to nurture my creativity, to focus on it and it alone for at least a short period each day.  That’s easy to say, harder to actually do.

Lately, I read more and more that it is impossible to balance one’s work and personal life and not even desirable.  I disagree.  We need to be passionate about what we’re doing at work, but so often it seem family and creativity lose out in that scheme.  I use routines to help me get things done quicker and I try to remain aware if I’m spending too much time with one thing or another.

Each day though, is a balancing act to keep work, family, and creativity in balance and I cannot nurture my creativity when my life is consumed with one to the exclusion of the others.  So when I’m working a lot of overtime, my creativity will suffer.  Overtime doesn’t go on forever, but I need to plan ahead of things I can do anyhow or accept that my creativity will be on hold for a while.  Sometimes I’ll spend 30 minutes a night editing photos or listening to a course on lynda.com.  One year end, I took my camera and tripod and did night shots from the window of a conference room while everyone else was eating supper.  The photos in this post are from that night.

9th Street over the James River in Richmond, Virginia

9th Street over the James River in Richmond, Virginia

Wallace Stevens

In both Part 1 and Part 2, I used quotes from Wallace Stevens.  What really caught my attention in Daily Ritual: How Artists Work by Mason Curry, was that Wallace Stevens worked a full-time job practicing insurance law.  Stevens wrote poetry as he walked to and from work, jotted notes all day long and walked for another hour during lunch.  I was envious that he could arrange his job around his poetry!  Yes, times were different in the 1930’s to 1950’s than they are today in that regular hours were kept and when you went home, you were home without further interruptions.  But still, being a lawyer at anytime is a challenging profession with many demands.

Stevens also was not immune to the conflict of balancing his personal life and creativity.  The Poetry Foundation, in its biography of Stevens, notes that following the birth of his daughter, there were nine years of “unproductivity”, and Stevens “found that parenting thwarted writing”.

I laughed at that.  Parenting, as rewarding as it is, does thwart creativity.  There are simply too many things to do, too  much fatigue, and too many demands when children are little.  So while he didn’t find his job to be limiting to his poetry, apparently fatherhood was.

BB&T Building (corner of Byrd & 10th Street) in Richmond, Virginia

BB&T Building (corners of Byrd, 9th & 10th Street) in Richmond, Virginia

Summary

Today, work weeks are much longer and the stress is much more intense.  I can sympathize with Wallace’s quote that his life ceases to exist during the workday.  It does, but as my other two posts discussed, there are also benefits for it.

Mason Curry, whose book Daily Ritual: How Artists Work started this train of thought, had a great article on-line with Slate.  He talks how having too much to do is a motivator, encouraging him to buckle down and get things done.  He shares how Toni Morrison worked full-time as an editor.  She was also a single parent, raising two boys.  She attributed her productivity to not doing anything else in her life except write after tending to her responsibilities.  Other authors are discussed as well, with how they did or did not work around their day job.

My job both decreases my creative productivity and makes my creativity easier.  I don’t have the time to devote to it that I’d like, but I have opportunities that I wouldn’t have otherwise, from business travel that lets me explore new areas to learning technology to keeping balance and prioritizing my time wisely.

There is no one single answer, but since this is how my life is for now, I remain focused on how having a day job nurtures my creativity and work with it.  I’m happier if I can balance between work and family, if I’m grateful for what I have instead of what I don’t have, and I try (as best as I can) to be open to all the possibilities I have at work and at home.

Click here to see my additional thoughts on balancing my life.

To see everything I’m doing with my 31 Days of Nurturing My Creativity, click here.

To see what others are doing with their 31 Days project, click here.

#write31days

Categories: 31 Days, Creativity, Night Photography, Richmond, Virginia, Work, Write 31 Days | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Stained Glass in Maine

During my recent weekend in Maine, my daughter and I went into St. Saviour’s Episcopoal Church in Bar Harbor.  She waited patiently as I oohed and aahed over the stained glass, then proceeded to take a bunch of pictures.  According to its website, the church is the “oldest, largest and tallest public building on Mt. Desert Island”.

I offer a selection of those photos as my interpretation of this week’s photo challenge on refraction, which Wiktionary defines as, “the turning or bending of any wave, such as a light or sound wave, when it passes from one medium into another of different optical density”.  These windows were so very detailed that the light coming through was a jumble of bright colors.

I’d like to blithely expound on how this nurtured my creativity.  Well, it didn’t.  I found it frustrating and time consuming, although the end result was quite good.  I think once I get over being frustrated, I’ll be happy for the time I spent on it, but I’m not quite there yet.

Processing these took most of today.  The top 1/3 of several of them were overly dark, I think due to eaves on the outside.  Once I got them looking good, the backgrounds lightened up and the wood paneled walls showed up as maroon noise.  Ack!  My favorite boy toy made several trips upstairs to answer questions and teach me how to use layers and masks in Photoshop.  I got it figured it out too!  So that’s good.  I just wish it wouldn’t have taken so much long.  As is typical with the learning curve, it took me as long to do the first one as it did to do the rest of them together.  Of course, I was doing laundry too, so there were interruptions to hang up and put away clothes.

The pictures were a challenge to take, which is why they needed so much processing.  Thankfully my photography has improved enough that I could switch to manual mode and use spot metering to determine the optimal settings.  However, anything that was lightly colored was blown out (i.e., it showed no detail).  I had to keep slowing down my speed to darken the photos.  Worse yet, I had no tripod and wasn’t sure the church would like me setting on up anyhow.  So I hand held as best as I could, increased my ISO, and hoped for the best.

Below is how it looked before I processed it.  Everything is crooked (something I do too frequently).  The panel of three also has keystoning.  The left and right windows leaned in and while it didn’t look bad, I used transform in Photoshop to straighten them out.  And oops, I also included what my daughter was doing as I took pictures.  She was so intent on her phone, she didn’t notice me taking her picture with my cell phone.

To see everything I’m doing with my 31 Days of Nurturing My Creativity, click here.

To see what others are doing with their 31 Days project, click here.

 #write31days

Categories: 31 Days, Maine (Acadia National Park), Photography, Photoshop Elements, Weekly Photo Challenge, Write 31 Days | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com. The Adventure Journal Theme.