Medieval Connection

Today I’m continuing on with my stories of connection, this time from the medieval town of Shrewsbury. If you look at a map of England, Shrewsbury might seem a bit out of the way place for a stop between Yorkshire and London. However when your primary purpose for a trip is to meet people, then it all starts to make sense. I had someone to meet, so I was headed that way. And that someone was Gilly Walker.

Gilly and I have been in contact online for several years. I first ran into her on Flickr while I was in Italy, then we shared comments on blogs and for a short time we were both Mortal Muses together. I’ve always loved her photography, her thoughts and philosophy, and – bonus – she teaches photography too. We seemed to have much in common, so she was on my list of connections this trip to England. She’s recently moved north, not far from Liverpool, so we had a bit of a struggle to figure out the best way to meet. Should she come to London? Should we meet in the middle? Finally she just invited me to come stay at her house, and then we could visit Shrewsbury the next day. Perfect! She apologized that it was a two hour train ride, but I assured her, after traveling 12 hours to get to England, a two hour train ride was no problem. That’s why I was there!

So from Hebden Bridge it was off to Hooton, to stay the night with Gilly and her husband, and then on to Shrewsbury the next day together. All of the images in this post are from our day in Shrewsbury.

I have to admit, on the surface it seems a bit strange to visit and stay with someone you’ve never met face-to-face. Here Gilly was inviting me into her home, and I was staying there, without knowing more about each other than our photography and writing. But I’ve always found that when you meet and develop a relationship with someone online, one that is built over time and around a common interest, that relationship is real and your gut feel about a person is accurate. So while we were both a bit nervous to meet in person, I had a feeling it would go just fine. And it did! Better than fine, we talked non-stop and had a lovely visit.

I knew Gilly was knowledgeable about photography, but I hadn’t realized the depth of her study until I visited her home. Staying in her home office, I got to peruse her bookshelves which had an amazing array of books on photography and creativity. I was in heaven. She had many of the same books I had, but also many, many more I had never even heard about. It was exciting to hear about her creative journey and what has influenced her along the way. I wanted to know which books were her favorites, and why. (Since I knew you all would want to know too, I asked her to write a guest post sharing a few. Come back tomorrow to read her recommendations!)

The next morning we were off to Shrewsbury, known for its medieval architecture. The day started off partly sunny, transitioned to mostly cloudy and then the rains settled in. It was interesting to wander the tight alleyways and see the mix of timber-frame and brick buildings side by side. It is always shocking as an American to see buildings that have existed for such a long time. It’s hard to fathom. Our idea of “antique” is on a different scale. The mix of the modern and historic gave this city a wonderful visual feel.

I’ve found that when you spend some time with another photographer, you get to know more about them through what catches their eye. Their work makes more sense to you, because you see how their heart and soul comes through. Ask anyone who’s gone on a photowalk with me and they will tell you: If there is a scooter sighting I will stop, with enthusiasm, to capture it. For Gilly, she has a series called “Fallen Things” and she stopped often to capture things fallen on the ground. I couldn’t help but capture one or two as well, and here’s my homage to Gilly’s Fallen Things series.

As I write this I start to wonder, if you spend time learning about another photographer’s point of view, does that affect you too? Did the time with Gilly get me started with looking down on the ground? Did that influence my current mobile photography series, As They Fell? Probably. As I talked about yesterday, the time spend with another in creative connection influences us in ways we don’t always realize. Everything we see and everyone we connect with becomes input that informs our output. Choosing our connections is as important as choosing our input.

For me, Gilly is a great source of inspiration. I am grateful to have have this connection with her. Thank you, Gilly, for a lovely day!

The Vancouver Gathering Report

Wow, what a weekend. My head is a-jumble with thoughts and ideas after The Vancouver Gathering workshop with David duChemin. I’ve been jotting notes and journaling the last couple of days to sort things out. A few things are becoming more clear but I think it’s going to take a while for all of the ideas to settle.

A few first impressions…

First off, David is as personable and fun in real life as he is in his books. His teaching style is casual and engaging, leaving room for discussion of other points of view. I loved that. I would much rather be challenged to think for myself than to be told, “This is the only way.” While I started the weekend nervous to be in the same room with him, seeing him as this person I’ve looked up to for so long, by the end of the weekend I felt like I could sit down and converse with him on any topic that might come up. David offered portfolio reviews the day before and after the workshop. I didn’t elect to do it this time, but if I ever do another workshop and go for the portfolio review, I would definitely do it on the day after the workshop instead of the day before. I would get so much more out of the focused time after letting my nervousness subside.

The group interaction and dynamic was fabulous. I met so many interesting people with a passion for photography. And surprisingly, not one of the people I talked to were practicing photography as their full time job. Most of them were like me… people with other jobs that pay the bills. Some of us do have photography-related businesses, but we primarily practice photography because we love it. And because we all resonate with David’s writing, we start with something in common in terms of looking at photography beyond the technical details. We all want to get better at what we do, creating images that express ourselves and resonate with others. Through the workshop we learned together and discuss how to do that. I hope to stay in contact with many of these folks on into the future, learning through their work too.

Finally, the most surprising thing I realized this morning is that I probably learned more about myself from the workshop than any of the specific topics David covered. He talked a lot about inspiration and creativity. He covered vision. He talked through the visual language and how we can use it, using the material from his most recent book, Photographically Speaking, as the basis for discussion. But what surprised me the most was how incredibly validating it was to have him teaching us things in this workshop about vision and inspiration that I already have incorporated in my Find Your Eye courses. Things I have learned for myself and shared on the blog. Um, wow. There might be something to these things I share, if someone else, someone with much more experience and knowledge, is sharing them too. I was also surprised about the passion I felt in some of the discussions that came up throughout the two days. There is more for me to learn through exploring my personal reactions to certain topics that sparked a strong response in me.

There is much, much more about this workshop that will come out over time. Until then, I’ll just say it was a wonderful weekend and I’m so very happy I went. If you ever have the opportunity to do a workshop or a trip with David, snap it up. It’s time well spent.

A Final Perspective

We wrap up Exploring with a Camera: Linear Perspective today! I’ve been enjoying looking into the distance with you all as you explore this topic. To wrap things up, here’s a simple architectural abstract from Chicago. It’s all about the perspective… diminishing lines and a tilted point of view create an image of space and building that fill the frame.

How has your exploration of linear perspective gone? Do share! Visit the links below for some great examples too. The more you see and analyze, the more you learn!

And, oh yes, don’t forget to vote for me today so that I can win a Vespa!

Brain Power

The brain is an amazing thing. Our bodies, our cells, our neurons, the way it all works together is amazing. Over the weekend I read a fascinating book that made me aware of all of this, My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey by Jill Bolte Taylor, PhD.

It’s a short read, but an amazing story of the author’s personal journey through a stroke at age 37 and her recovery. As an accomplished brain scientist, she has a very unique point of view. There is much important information in her book, about understanding and helping those who have suffered strokes; about the plasticity and flexibility of our brains to adapt. But what she learned about how our thoughts work as her brain came back “online” is the most important, I think.

We have a choice in our thoughts. We have a choice to engage in the negative patterns of our brain and react to the emotions we feel in our body, or not. We can “step to the right” as she calls it, out of our left-brain, rigid thinking into the wholeness and peacefulness of our “right” mind.

Her stroke of insight: “peace is only a thought away, and all we have to do to access it is silence the voice of our dominating left mind.” Later in the book she discusses the different “characters” that come from the two sides of our brain, and how “we can take a more balanced-brain approach to how we lead our lives.”

I so resonate with her message.

It’s as if she experienced from the inside out what I’ve been struggling with the last few years. This idea of balancing the “doing” and the “being.” Balancing the coexistence of the logical, goal-oriented left-brain me with the creative, spiritual right-brain me. There are both there. They both have their place in creating a whole life.

Photography and writing are the things that help me “step to the right” as she puts it. For many of us, I’m sure that’s true. While I’ve known the benefits of a creative practice for a while now, reading this book helped to put it in a new frame of reference with the physiology of our bodies and our brains. Why we might do the things we do and think the thoughts we think, but also the choice we continually have to change our thoughts and subsequently change our whole perspective on life.

Today I’m honoring my body and my brain. Thanking them for the work they do all of the time. Dr. Taylor has made me very aware of how amazing our physiology is, and, more importantly, my role as the consciousness in this body. I get to choose.

I chose this image from San Francisco for today because of the optical illusion I perceive in it. I love how it looks flat! I composed it to look that way and processed it to enhance that perception. Even though our left brain may understand the reality of what we are looking at, we can move ourselves into the right brain and alter that reality by how we frame the world through our cameras. Fun, huh?

Redefining My Art

In my newsletter article over the weekend, I wrote about redefining productivity. How I haven’t been feeling productive recently, but that feeling was based on an old definition. I’m not sure where the old definition came from exactly – my old artistic practices combined with external influences, perhaps. It was a reminder that I seem to gather these definitions and rules up as I go along in life. I think we all do. Sometimes we need to reexamine them and redefine them.

What was more important in that article than redefining productivity, I realize today, is the redefinition of my art. I wrote, “My art is using photos and words to explore the connection between heart and the world around us.” Up to now, I haven’t quite figured out where I “fit” in the photography world. If you look at what I practice and write and teach it’s not standard “photography.” It’s something different. Something that doesn’t have a word for it. I’m an artist that combines photos and words together. For me, they can’t be separated.

Realizing that brings freedom. I can remove the labels from who I am, what I do. I can just be me, as I have been, but without trying to figure out where I fit. I don’t fit any standard mold. I can be the seamless blend, like building and sky in this photograph, if I choose. (And no, the photograph was not edited to look this way.)

It can be uncomfortable, though, being without a title. Being without name that defines me, in the eyes of others. It makes it harder to communicate what I do, what I care about. That makes it all the more important to keep using the “words” part of my art. Maybe someday I’ll come up with one word that communicates my art to others. Until then, I’m going to memorize this phrase:

My art is using photos and words to explore the connection between heart and the world around us.

I have a feeling that this moment may be as important as when I claimed myself an artist a couple of years ago. Time will tell.

PS – If you missed it yesterday, I announced a new class coming in April: A Sense of Place. Visit the link here for more details.

PPS – Only THREE DAYS to the next Photo-Heart Connection link up. I can’t wait!

Changing Perspectives

OK, here it is, the window that started off last week’s rainy photowalk. I was drawn to those window frames of wonderfully peeling paint in contrast with the shiny smooth metal of the building. It was interesting to find that the metal wasn’t as shiny smooth as it seemed from the car driving by. It had it’s own texture of rust and even writing on it, as you got closer. I like the shapes and lines in this image, and the contrast of not only textures but the silver-blue building against the warmer yellow and brown found in the windows and doors and repeated in the color of the curb.

I’ve been noticing lately how “straight on” many of my images are. That seems to be a favorite perspective. It’s not intentional, I often take many different angles and perspectives of one scene but come back to the “straight on” one as my favorite. Maybe it’s a reflection of my personality, I’m pretty direct and straightforward.

But the angles often show something that the straight on perspective cannot, and that’s depth. This is the window on the left. You can’t tell the depth of the texture, borne out through the paint and screen and screws and nails, in the image above. To show that, it took moving around the angle of the camera, the depth of field, capturing the layers and the details. Of the two images today, this second one is my favorite. It has more depth, it reveals more. It says more to me.

It’s just a reminder to continue looking from all different perspectives, to see which one connects with you the most. You never know!