New (and old) horizons…

lagoon2

Here I am in Florida after a leisurely four-day drive down from Ontario. Our sailboat, Windsong II, is “on the hard” nearby and some repairs and additions need to be made before we move aboard. Nothing major like last year, when we had to get a whole new mast and rigging! I’m excited about living on the sailboat for the next few months and hopeful we’ll be able to cross to the Bahamas once again. I assembled a collection of images from last year and hope to add to them as time goes on.

The trip down was a great time to think about my intentions for 2015 — creative and otherwise. Everybody talks about resolutions and plans and goals and new habits. I just made list after list of  the things that enliven me that I want to do more of. I know what is important to me and what I value most so it’s just a matter of keeping that top of mind and living it out.

Photography, of course, is right at the top of that list.

For me, photography is not only about documenting moments and memories so I can share them on social media or look back on my life in the future.

It’s bound up with a way of living life to the fullest and being more open to what’s happening in the moment. It’s a way to see and experience the world more intensely and intimately. It’s a way to find out what I’m drawn to and figure out why. It’s a way to connect with myself and others, wake up and come alive. It is pro-awareness and anti-auto pilot.

But it’s also a way to create something that did not exist before (an image) out of something that does (what I point the camera at).

Images are never exact representations of things or scenes — they are the outcome of many choices made by the photographer in the moment of pressing the shutter, some conscious and much unconscious (subject, framing, lighting conditions, aperture, shutter speed, POV etc.). These choices reflect the photographer’s preferences, prejudices, history, and skills with the camera and processing — and so much more. Looked at that way, photography is art.

I learned a huge amount in 2014 that I used to make better photographs — some of it from courses and much of it from studying, practising and teaching myself. I hope to share some of what I’m learning on this blog over the course of the next year. I’ve now found many good tools and resources and I want to take the time to plumb what they have to offer. But there’s no substitute for doing it — and then doing more of it — and then doing it all again.

I’ve been dabbling in stock photography over the years but in 2015 I doubled by collection for sale on Getty Images — and my sales have improved nicely. I’ve sold almost 20% of my collection at least once, some many times. I’m going to continue with stock, not as a major focus, but as a nice sideline that helps pay for my photography needs. I don’t denigrate stock — some of the most amazing and creative images I’ve seen are on the Getty Images website. The challenge is to make compelling stock photographs.

I’ve also been mapping out a plan to rework my website/blog to better reflect my current passions in photography.

In 2015 I want to pursue black and white photography with vigour — that means more street photography, cityscapes, architecture and portraiture. I hope to refine my approach to colour work, focusing on and playing with simple but intense colour combinations.

And I want to continue “seeing in a new way,” which means practising contemplative photography in a way that has been inspired by Kim Manley Ort and the Miksang school. I also want to experiment more with abstract and impressionistic photography.

I’m also committed to improving my technical skills to learn how to make the best possible images in camera — so that I am more able to create the kind of images that communicate to others. This means, for example, working on things like night photography and long exposures.lagoon

My friends over at the collective blog Focusing on Life are working on “night photography” this month so I thought I’d give it a try. I haven’t always been happy with my night photography so I definitely need more practice here. So I pulled out the trusty tripod the other night and tried to capture the lagoon that we can see from where we’re staying.

On the way down to Florida, we made a stop in St. Augustine — the oldest city in North America — and a favourite place of mine. I love the old buildings and the character of the aging Florida cottages. And of course, I had to visit the lighthouse. I was lucky to arrive just as the sun was breaking through the clouds behind it, which made for a dramatic shot.

lighthouse st a

Last year, the word I chose to guide myself was “light.” And without even thinking about it much, I  saw my photographs change organically to be much more aware of and sensitive to light. I learned about how to deal with different kinds of light and what kind of light I gravitated to. For photographers, who literally “write with light,” this is a study that never ends.

So I’m not yet finished with “light.”

I told one of my dear sister photographers some time last year that I was taking my photography more “seriously.” She never fails to remind me that it seems to be paying off. So, no need to fix an approach that’s not fundamentally broken. But, being serious doesn’t mean you can’t have a ton of fun!

 

 

 

 

 

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Let there be light…

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The soul should always stand ajar ready to welcome the ecstatic experience.

Emily Dickinson

It came to me in a flash — my word for 2014. LIGHT.

It’s a great word for someone besotted with photography, of course, but it’s also an all-round great word, being a verb, a noun and an adjective. It’s a perfect word for someone who wants to simplify and pare down and travel lighter in the world. It will also be a good reminder to light the way for others, make choices that light me up, and lighten up…

Last year my word was DISCOVER, and it led me to so many great places. I explored and experimented and discovered so much about photography — and myself too. It’s amazing how a simple word can infuse and guide your life.

This year I want to study light, chase light, follow light, learn how to capture light — all those things. Light is complex; it has so many different qualities  and it appears in so many different ways in photography. It can scorch, shimmer, reflect. It illuminates and casts shadows. It can be a softly lit pool in the gloom or a full-blown radiant sunset. Light helps us see the full catastrophe of life (as Zorba the Greek would say). To take a long, loving look at the real…we need light.

In 2014, let there be light.

The sun rises on a brand new year…

First light over the Atlantic Ocean

To the New Year

by W.S. Merwin

With what stillness at last
you appear in the valley
your first sunlight reaching down
to touch the tips of a few
high leaves that do not stir
as though they had not noticed
and did not know you at all
then the voice of a dove calls
from far away in itself
to the hush of the morning
so this is the sound of you
here and now whether or not
anyone hears it this is
where we have come with our age
our knowledge such as it is
and our hopes such as they are
invisible before us
untouched and still possible

I leave you with this poem as we move toward yet another new year. Every new year is a chance to begin again and make a fresh start. But so is every new sunrise and every new moment, as we take each new breath and each new step with a clear beginner’s mind.

I’ll be taking a bit of a blogging break over the next while, but before I go, I want to share a wish with anyone whose eyes land here and all  those who have generously encouraged, supported and inspired me as part of my journey of late. I feel a kinship and connection with you from which I draw much strength, and for which I am deeply grateful .

Let 2014 be a year in which we all do more of what brings us joy, lights us up, and makes us come alive in deep acceptance of who we are, so that we then spill over with energy, love and compassion for all creatures and all creation.

Happy New Year!