Photo-Heart Connection: June 2014

Unexpected. That’s the word I woke up with today, my Photo-Heart Connection already formed in my head. The last couple of months have brought much that is unexpected my way: A new job I wasn’t looking for; a whirlwind trip to Ohio and my deep emotional response; a kitchen disaster that has left my house in a state of disrepair. I couldn’t have predicted the events that have come my way. I couldn’t have prepared.

So it shouldn’t surprise me that my Photo-Heart Connection comes unexpected this month, too. I didn’t even have to choose this month’s photograph. I knew, last night, as I prepared my photographs for review. I knew, this morning, as I woke up with a word in my head.

Amish Farm Boy Holmes County Ohio Kat Sloma Photography

I love this photograph. I think, quite frankly, it might be the best one I’ve ever created. There is something about the composition, the light, the moment, the processing, which all work together beautifully to tell a story. For some reason, it brings to mind the Vermeer painting, The Milkmaid. I remember seeing this painting in person and being utterly amazed by it. Vermeer masterfully worked with the subject, the light and shadow, and the moment to tell a story that spoke to me centuries later.

So, similarly, this image speaks to me. But of what? An unexpected moment. A story to be told. A story of life, unfolding before us. A story of people, individuals, that cross our path and change things. A story of events that happen outside of our control. The question is, are we there to live it? Are we ready to capture it, no matter how unexpected, and hang on for the ride? Are we ready to be jostled and tossed about as we are pulled along?

I am getting better at being ready. This photograph proves it. The time, the place, the moment – all unexpected. But I was there, and responded.

And I’ll be ready and open for whatever comes next, however unexpected.

These last couple of months have been a bumpy ride, it seems. I’m one month into the new job and still figuring it out. Our kitchen is now marginally usable and we are still getting quotes to decide what we are going to do next. My first art fair is barely two weeks away and I’m spending much of my time to get everything ready. I haven’t had a lot of time or energy for my blog, or anything online really. But my photographs, working with the images from my trip to Ohio early this month, have been an unexpected creative bright spot. I have gained so much personally from working with them, seeing the stories within them. Stories of my father, my family, me. I am amazed and humbled by this art form, which is constantly revealing layers of my heart and soul.

What have you discovered this month? What is your Photo-Heart Connection? Share it with us here. I want to thank you all for your continued participation. I love how, regardless of how engaged I am at the moment, you continue to do this practice for yourself and share it with this community. This is not about me, it’s about each and every one of you. Such an amazing and humbling thing to realize.

PS – You can now link in with Instagram photos! Learn more here.

Photo-Heart Connection: May 2014

I am lucky. In so many ways. I am lucky to see the sunrise most mornings. I am lucky to live where I can be in the forest within ten minutes of leaving my house. I am lucky to be able to fully enjoy the moment, the light, and share it through my photography.

Forest Oregon Kat Sloma Mobile Photography

But then I think, is it really “luck” or is it by choice? “Luck” implies I had nothing to do with the situation I am in. And that’s just not true — it’s an accumulation of choices that bring me to where I am today. Choices made 20+ years ago, 15 years ago, 5 years ago, a month ago, yesterday… They all bring me to this moment. This morning. This opportunity for more choices. What will I do with my time? My money? My energy? My heart?

I remember realizing long ago that you make your own luck. I believe “luck” is really just being prepared to take advantage of opportunities that come your way. If we leave being lucky to random chance we aren’t going to be very lucky. We have to put ourselves in the right situations to enable the things we want to happen.

I wouldn’t see the sunrise if I didn’t choose to get up early. I wouldn’t have my favorite forest paths to walk if I hadn’t gone looking for them. And I certainly wouldn’t be able to share the wonder and beauty of the forest with you if I didn’t choose to take a camera with me.

So yes, I am lucky. I have a wonderful life, filled with beauty and opportunity. And it’s through the choices I make, and continue to make, every day.

What a difference a month makes, huh? Last month I didn’t even have photo in my Photo-Heart Connection, as I was examining where I wanted to be and what I wanted to do. My choice to hike every day have really driven my artistic and personal work this month. Revitalizing my connection with heart through art and through my time in the forest. I am reminded this month that it’s the choices I make that create opportunities for me. A good message, don’t you think?

What does your heart have to share with you this month? Share it with us through the Photo-Heart Connection. The link up will be open through May 7th.

Photo-Heart Connection: April 2014

The first thing you are going to notice in this month’s Photo-Heart Connection: For me, there is no photo. No art of any sort. I’ve not done my “homework” this month, spending the time to look for a connection. (If this is your first time in visiting, I encourage you to look at past Photo-Heart Connection posts to see what this monthly practice is all about. This month is NOT a good example!)

Rather than giving you excuses about how busy I’ve been, or how I’ve been focused on other things beside creating new photographs, or even going through the motions and picking an image to write about, I decided to spend some time examining why I’m not really interested in finding my heart connection this month. See what my heart reveals by NOT searching for a connection through my photos.

First off, all of the things I listed above are true. It has been busy and my focus this month has been elsewhere rather than creating new photographic work. But this has nothing to do with my art. From an art standpoint, I’ve never been more clear on what, how and why I create. I’ve never been more confident in what it is I’m trying to achieve in my artistic work. I’ve never been more excited to share my work with others, through speaking, exhibitions and art fairs. Connecting through my art, in person, with others. Along with creating and sharing my art in the physical world, I’m loving the connections I’m making with other local artists and how I’m becoming part of the art community here where I live.

I think my internal questions lie more in what I am doing here, online, and in other aspects of my life. How I want to engage. I came back from Italy almost three years ago with a big plan about how things were going to be, with teaching online classes and all of that. And things went according to plan for a while, until I realized I was overwhelming myself and at risk of burnout. Until I realized that the plans made in the beautiful unreality of my time in Italy didn’t perfectly fit my life as it unfolded. Those of you who have followed me through all of that have seen this change unfold, bit by bit. With this evolution, I’ve done some work to sort the questions out, but not enough. Not nearly enough.

Where I find myself this month is on the cusp of some serious personal work. It’s not so much about the art right now or what I want as an artist, but where do I want to be as a human being, a citizen of the world, a mother, a friend. I need to redefine my vision and direction, examine my values and reassess my choices across all areas of life, including this one here. I’m in week 2 of my first massively open online course through Coursera, called Better Leader, Richer Life, to help me do just that. The teacher is becoming a student for a while. It’s got me thinking, working, examining. And that’s what I need right now, I feel it deep down in my center.

I know I need the heart connection, too. Don’t worry, this practice is not going away. It’s just not right, this month, for me. As the host though, I have to post something so that you all can link in, or we don’t have the Photo-Heart Connection. This assessment of where I am and what I’m working through seemed more honest than going through the motions of the process this month, so this is what you get.

I guess sometimes the heart connection is knowing what your heart needs, without needing to look. My heart is open right now. Open, and waiting to see what comes next.

What is your Photo-Heart Connection this month? Did you look through the art you created in April, and find the one that speaks to you? Or maybe NOT find one, as was the case with me? Please share your heart connection with us here. The link up is open through May 7.

Photo-Heart Connection: March 2014

It’s all in the light. Beautiful, heavenly rays of sunshine through the blossoms.

Spring Tree Blossom Oregon Kat Sloma Mobile Photography

I photographed a lot of tree blossoms in March. As I looked through the photographs, I realized the photographs were of the blossoms, yes, but they were also of light. Sunlight in the evening, sunlight after rain. The sunlight created the beauty, as much as the blossoms on the tree.

So many of these images were taken in what now seem to be fleeting moments. A chance encounter: Me, my camera, and the right light at the right time. A week or two later, the blossoms are now fading and the rains have returned. As I look at this dazzling beauty from a couple of weeks ago, I am full. Full of gratitude, for that brief moment in time, I was able to be fully present. Full of awe, for what I was able to create out of the experience. Full of hope, the hope that spring always brings along with it.

This is what life is about, isn’t it? Brief moments of time, lived to their fullest. Noticing the sunlight on the blossoms, when it is available. Being present and active and engaged in what life offers up, every day.

This moment in time is all we have. It’s where we choose to be; what we choose to see, to capture, to do with the moment that matters.

This month’s Photo-Heart Connection brings me an important reminder. I so often live in the future, asking myself, “What do I have to get done next?” No matter what I’ve completed, there is always, always something else on the list. But this morning I’m reminded by light on blossoms, blossoms and light now long gone as I write this, that I can’t always be thinking about what’s next. I need to be present in this moment, living fully in the here and now, to appreciate and see what life is bringing me. This is hard for me. So very hard. I think I’ll print and hang this image of light on blossoms in a prominent place to remind me of this month’s message: Be present.

What is your Photo-Heart Connection this month? Have you been seeing the light on the blossoms, or are you struggling through some darkness? Whatever the message, it’s important to listen to your heart — it’s speaking through your art. I hope you’ll share what you find with us.

Photo-Heart Connection: February 2014

Who knows what the future holds?

Winter Snow Tree Corvallis Oregon

I don’t. It’s but a faint line on the horizon. I can see the here and now, what is. I can see possibilities for the future, what might be.

To reach the future, I have to move into uncharted territory. Into the blank, unwritten part of my history.

I have plans and goals, but where the path I start on will end is still unformed. And that’s ok.

It used to be, I needed to be able to see the end before I started. I needed to know how it would all come out. But that road of expectations led to disappointment, more often than not. Because the end didn’t look like I had envisioned. The path didn’t always turn out to be the one I really wanted or needed to walk on.

Where I used to want predictable outcomes, I am ok now with a faintly formed outline of what might be. I am ok with changing my direction partway through. I am ok with not knowing.

Maybe this is a by-product of age; of maturity. Maybe it is a by-product of experience.

Because now I know, the end is often more interesting than what I could envision. And the journey is where all of the fun happens anyway.

I don’t need to know what the future holds. I just look out at that faint line on the horizon, and go.

My Photo-Heart Connection this month puts into words a change that has been slowly creeping over me for the last five to ten years. Turning from a driven, goal-oriented go-getter, always striving for the next achievement to someone who enjoys the journey and doesn’t mind winding my way along. Someone who doesn’t mind changing or abandoning a goal if it no longer suits. I’m now more in tune with myself, and what my heart wants. I don’t live my life for others, or for dreams of the past. I see all of that in this photograph, with it’s clear foreground tree and faintly visible horizon. I love that I can pull this out of my art, my heart.

What is your Photo-Heart Connection this month? What is your heart connection, in any art form? Here’s my approach to finding the Photo-Heart Connection:

  1. Identify all of the image I worked with this month. I don’t look through every single image I captured with my camera, but the ones I decided had potential and I edited. The sorting through of the raw images to edit throughout the month is really the first step of my Photo-Heart Connection, I don’t need to do it twice.
  2. I place them all in one location, in this case it’s a special folder on my hard drive where I export copies.
  3. Then, in the quiet of the early morning, I look through them on a black background and see what kind of emotional response I have. If there is no emotional response at all, I delete. Generally, the first time through more than half are eliminated. There are always a few that start to bubble to the top.
  4. As I get to these few that “bubble up” as having a stronger connection than the rest, I usually take a break. Go refresh my tea, and see what sticks in my mind. What words come out to describe the feelings that are coming with the remaining images.
  5. When I sit down again, it’s usually with a top two or three. I look through them, feeling each one and the words that come. From there, I can usually tell which one is coming out on top, from the feeling of both image and words.
  6. I start my blog post, add the picture and usually start with the few words that were with me as I made my decision, and then I write. I let the story emerge, as if I’m telling it to myself. What you see in the posts is the result.

Your approach to the Photo-Heart Connection is likely different. That’s ok, there is no right or wrong. Maybe this month, as you go through and do it, you can share your approach with us along with your February Photo-Heart Connection. Then we can all learn a bit more… about you, and about this wonderful process.

Photo-Heart Connection: January 2014

Stretching. Reaching. Celebrating.

Kat Sloma Tree Photograph

Grounded in the earth, stretching for the sky. I see in this image a joyous uplift of arms, opening up in celebration, releasing and connecting with something beyond.

The thought of “reaching” has come up for me multiple times in the pieces I’ve created this month. But I don’t see this reaching as a yearning for something just beyond grasp, but a stretching to become part of something bigger than the individual. To acknowledge and celebrate something greater than the self. Heart open, receiving what the universe has to offer.

We did tree pose in yoga this month and it felt like this: Beautiful and solid, to be rooted into the ground, yet lifting and reaching to the sky. Flexible, moving, yet stable. It make me feel connected to the trees, the beauty and wisdom they hold, even more than before. It made me connect to the reaching of the branches I’ve seen in my art in all month.

So, the trees have a lesson for me, once again. My son asked me this month if I would stop with the trees, already.

Nope, I answer, they aren’t finished with me yet.

It could be a good long while.

Do you ever approach the Photo-Heart Connection with trepidation? Do you ever skip it, because you feel like you don’t have time, you don’t have images, you aren’t sure you want to hear what your heart has to say? Believe me, I understand. There are so many times I want to skip doing the Photo-Heart Connection for all of those reasons and more. But I can’t, because I’m the host, and so I do it. And you know what happens? Every time, no matter what fears crept up, what resistance I felt… I sit down, push all of that baggage aside, and find a message. Something I needed to hear. Sometimes encouraging, sometimes scary. Always honest and open and straight from the heart.

As we head into 2014, the third year of PHC, I encourage you to make a commitment to do the Photo-Heart Connection every month. There are seven days for the link up for a reason. You have flexibility to do this on your time. Clear out space in your schedule and your head and join in. And then, if you would like, share it with us here.

PS - Don't miss the giveaway I have going on now! Enter by Monday, February 3rd.