Whitstable Blues

Do you have people in your life who rub off on you when you are around them? I definitely do. I pick up a little bit of their happiness or enthusiasm when I’m around them. Whatever they have going on, I just can’t help but be swept up in their excitement. I’m continuing on to London today, sharing one final story of creative connection with a person who is like that for me: Kirstin McKee.

I’ve known Kirstin for a couple of years now. I first met her online through the Mortal Muses and we spent a weekend with her family in London while we were living in Italy. Since this trip back to England was all about connection, I was excited to reconnect with Kirstin. I stayed with her and her family for a couple of days between workshops. When she suggested we go to Whitstable, a little coastal town about an hour’s drive from London, I jumped on the chance. I’d never visited the English seaside! We lucked out with a gorgeously sunny day for our excursion.

Photo by Kirstin McKee

Kirstin is fun to be around because she is so full of enthusiasm for photography. Whatever she does, she does with gusto. She’s gotten into film the last year or so, and raves about it. It makes it hard for her to decide what cameras to bring though! On this day trip she carried four cameras: dSLR, 35mm film, Polaroid and iPhone. I was a-goggle with all of her camera bags! But it was fun to watch her choose between one camera or another, to hear why she would choose each one, and to see the outcome later.

Kirstin and her camera bags

We wandered along the shore and through the town, following our interest and whatever captured our eye. We spent a good long time at this house with the gorgeous blue shutters, which reminded both of us of Greece. She even had to run back later and photograph the window again, since her original Polaroid didn’t turn out quite right.

I look at her photographs, and I’m just in awe of what she does. And she is so humble about it too. She creates because she loves it, and follows her joy. What a great example for the rest of us.

Photos by Kirstin McKee

After wandering around for a while, photographing all manner of interesting things, we wrapped up our day with an amazing lunch at the Whitstable Oyster Company. There is nothing like a fantastic meal in a lovely setting to cap off your day.

The whole thing was so much fun. This is the best kind of photography excursion to me: Visiting a new place along with a friend who loves photography as much as I do. My photographs from this day are some of my favorite from the trip.

Photos, and Photo of Photos, by Kirstin McKee

Kirstin’s enthusiasm definitely rubbed off on me. While I haven’t quite caught her bug for film, I can appreciate what she sees in it. And after she saw me using my iPod Touch, she pretty much made sure I got onto Instagram while I was with her… and you all know what’s happened from there. A whole new world has opened up for me with mobile photography.

Kirstin posting to Instagram

Thanks Kirstin, for a lovely day, and for the enthusiasm you share with all you do. It was a wonderful reconnection and I already can’t wait for the next time. Where shall we visit next?

As I wrap up this series of posts, I am excited see how each of the creative connections I made on this trip string together into a story of influences. I can observe what I gained from each one and how they each are a little stepping stone on my creative journey. I would not be in the same place today without them. Thanks for joining me as I revisited my connections in England the last couple of weeks! I look forward to sharing more of my England photos over time.

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!

Framing a Flower: Another Process of Elimination Example

Happy Sunday! I usurped my usual Exploring with a Camera wrap up post on Friday to celebrate my 1000th blog post (don’t miss the giveaway!), so I’ll finish up this month’s exploration of the Process of Elimination today with another example sequence from my recent trip to England.

First let’s look at the final image, and then let’s talk about how I got there.

Finished Product

It all started as I climbed a steep cobblestone street in Hebden Bridge, and noticed this lonely pink flower. I was attracted to the bright color and the contrast it provided against the brown of the town and green of the foliage. I took 19 frames of this scene in all, playing with the different elements. I won’t share all 19, but I’ll share enough for you to get the idea of what was going on in my head. All of the photos except the final image are straight out of camera, so ignore the exposure and focus on composition.

#1: Flower against the background of the town below.

The background, even with a shallow depth of field, is too busy and doesn’t give the contrast I was seeking. I changed my point of view to capture the flower against the brick and slate of the building. I have four images with various compositions similar to #2.

#2: Flower against the background of the building.

While this image has an uncluttered background (good elimination!) the images seemed flat to me, so at this point I stepped back to get the wider scene I was seeing. There was so much great texture in the hand rails and cobblestones as well. I took four more images with various horizontal compositions, similar to #3.

#3: The wider scene.

I liked the diagonal lines and the textures, but the original reason I was attracted to this scene, the flower, seems to get lost. I tried again with a vertical orientation, which puts more focus on the pot and flower. Closer!

#4: The wider scene, vertical orientation.

From there, I explored including or removing the different elements that remained in the frame. The hand rail posts and the tree were the main elements I was excluding/including, through both the focal length of my lens (zoom) and the angle of view. #5 is one with more of the tree included, while #6 is one with less.

#5: Including more of the tree and handrail at left.

#6: Excluding much of the tree and the handrail at left.

After 10 vertical images, playing with placement of the tree and handrails relative to the pot, I was ready to move on. This was an extremely steep cobblestone road and it was starting to rain, I was worried about slipping on my way back down.

The best image of the sequence was #5 above, and here it is again with the final crop and edit.

Finished Product

What I like about this is the frame created by the tree in the upper left, the slate roof at top, and the handrails at left and right. These elements frame the pot and bring your eye to it, where you (hopefully) see the lonely pink flower pop out in contrast with the surrounding colors and textures.

If I were able to go back in time, I would try a couple of things that might further help the “framing” of the pot. First, I would see if I could get a little more separation between the leaves of the tree and the pot, by moving myself to the left. I would have to balance that with the space between the pot and the right handrail getting smaller, but there appears to be ample room. Second, I would see if I could get a little more separation between the leaves of the tree relative to the slate of the roof, by getting down a little lower. I think the slate of the roof would make a better framing element to contrast with the brick and frame the pot.

Since I can’t go back and try again, I am happy with the end result. Between the exploration I did with composition in the field and the further review and adjustments at home, I have an image I like that successfully conveys what caught my eye. I’ve also learned a couple of things from the exercise, around paying more attention to the framing elements relative to each other, which will stay with me the next time I go out and photograph.

So, what have you learned in this exploration of the Process of Elimination? Can you see how this kind of intention and attention to detail can help your photos? Share a link to your exploration or let me know what you’ve learned in the comments below.

Welcome to Number 53

This is why I love wandering around places. Sometimes you come across a scene that just says, “Hey, life is good.”

Closed doors can provide all sorts of things… barriers to entry, privacy, protection. The idea of a “closed door” is often negative. But somehow, this door manages to switch it up and convey a welcome and a love of life that reaches out to connect with my heart.

Even though actual people aren’t usually in my photos, yesterday’s images being the exception and not the rule, people are still in my photos. They are there through the things they leave out or behind to show that they exist. That they love. That they want beauty and joy and happiness in their lives.

This is a universal truth, across places and cultures. We all want beauty and joy and happiness in our lives, don’t we?

Photo-Heart Connection: September

No Parking.

Such a definite statement. No ifs, ands or buts. Just “No Parking.”

Do you notice how nicely it is said though? A painted sign against the stone. The beautiful flowers along the wall. It seems to be saying, “No Parking. But really, why would you want to park here anyway, blocking this beautiful scene? Enjoy the flowers.”

I like this straightforward, yet pleasant message. No apologies, no beating around the bush. How often do we want to say “No” to something, yet we feel awkward saying the words or obligated to answer with something else. We feel as if we must explain.

But really… would a simple, pleasant, confident “No” work? I’m thinking maybe it would. We should not feel uncomfortable using it more often. With a smile and with an attitude of respect for the person we are answering. Like this “No Parking” sign, maybe we can make our answer of “no” something beautiful rather than something we would hide in a dark alley.

“No Parking.” I am happy to oblige. How about you?

This image is from the town of Haworth and it jumped out at me when I was going through my photos the other day. The message was just so clear. So this month I didn’t end up going through all of my September photos for the Photo-Heart Connection. I have them with me on the trip and planned to, but I didn’t need to. This message came to me beautifully gift wrapped with pots and flowers and a birdhouse. A “no” never looked so good. It reminded me that we can make an answer someone might not want to hear in a strong, confident and respectful way. And when we do, it changes everything.

What is your Photo-Heart Connection this month? I would love to hear. Bring on those strong, confident messages!

Hello from Hebden Bridge

Have you ever visited someplace new and felt like it was coming home? That’s how I feel here in Hebden Bridge! I don’t know if it’s because I’m back in Europe for the first time since moving from Italy, or if it’s because I visited with several friends today, but I feel at home here. It’s a lovely little town! I love the stone buildings and the colorful doors.

My journey was fairly uneventful and luckily enough the rains stopped before I arrived. There were many places in the Yorkshire area that were flooded and travel was interrupted for many people on Tuesday, but there were no interruptions to my travel on Wednesday. Thankfully, this time Hebden Bridge did not suffer any flooding. They’ve already been flooded twice this year, and you can see the evidence in the storefronts that are being cleaned out and the sandbags at the doorsteps, ready to be put in place.

Well, I’m off to bed… It’s 11pm here. Jet lag hasn’t been a problem for me yet. I wonder when it will catch up with me? Oh, and I tried Wensleydale cheese for the first time today. Yum. Fabulous!