Let It Fall Where It May

Yesterday I was able to enjoy an afternoon moment of simple joy. After a couple of difficult days, struggling with home school and work schedule overlaps and uncertainty about both my job and the new normal, I was able to catch a bit of a break.

The weather was amazing, absolutely perfect. Warmer than had been predicted but not hot, clear blue skies, light breeze, perfect.

Two of my three kids were playing in the backyard while I watched. My son slipped on some dry grass that is always the last part of the lawn to turn green, and then grows like crazy all year long. The dry patch had been shedding tiny brown stalks all spring and this gave us all an idea.

Nothing like a bit of natural confetti and moments of down time to experiment with a camera.

It had been a few days since I had really taken any pictures, and longer since I had taken anything that I felt really excited about. Despite the simplicity (or because of it) I found myself enjoying the process, my kids, and the moment all at once. Something I really needed.

Nothing more to be said except that I hope all of you can find a slice of bliss amidst the stress of our shared uncertainty. Shout-out also to Yuri for inspiring in part the idea for throwing things into the air and taking pictures of them with his No Gravity project, though my interpretation wasn’t nearly so daring.

Photo Story: Folds of Gold

After several absolutely amazing days where we were treated to a preview of summer the dream has been snatched away. Freezing drizzle, along with having the kids off school on spring break, has created the perfect environment for cabin fever. Oh yeah, at at least two of the family are sick right now, so we’re also trying to keep people separated as well as sane.

All of this has been driving me a bit crazy as well since I haven’t been able to get outside and shoot anything besides family pics.

Yesterday, feeling trapped in our basement play room with the pent up energy of a three and six year old, I managed to find a quiet pocket of photographic experimentation to escape into.

We have had a shiny gold set of bed sheets for several years now. I can’t quite remember where they came from, but their current home is in the play room where they are regularly used for building forts and tunnels.

Inspired by the way the cloth was draping and catching the light I decided to do my first staged photo shoot. Using various props to hang the fabric from I tried to create interesting patterns of folds, loosely tugging and piling the fabric so that it would fall somewhat haphazardly, creating a look based on the nature of the material and not something that I had carefully arranged. Thankfully this was a very simple process and lent itself to simple reconfiguration and quick adjustments.

If nothing else it was a great experiment in composition and balance of positive and negative spaces. Limiting the scope to simple color and shape really allows one to see how they interact within the frame.

I can also see how creating abstract photographs of other materials would make for an interesting project. The ways in which other items like paper would create texture through crumples or overlaps could be similarly interesting. Never though I would ever consider shooting indoors, especially not arranged shots in a controlled environment, and I likely won’t spend much time going down this road, but it goes to show that allowing oneself to play with even the strangest ideas could open doors to new perspectives.

Photo Story: Where the Drainage Ditch Ends

Between finishing up some emails for my actual work and picking up the kids from school I had just about one hour to sneak in a few photos. There is a small wooded area with a winding stream cutting deep furrows into the steep dirt walls just over a mile from the house. One short bike ride and I found myself walking familiar paths but seeing very unfamiliar things.

The paved circuit that is meant for walking is basically a loop through the woods out one side and back by the stream on the other. On the way through the woods it crosses one section of paved drainage ditch that helps control flooding or the nearby lumber yard.

I have mentioned before that holding this camera has made me less willing than I used to be when it comes to staying “on the path”. This trip was no different. It as been dry here and the drainage ditch looked more like an invitation than ugly infrastructure.

Walking to the end of the pavement I found myself at the beginning of what I knew as the winding stream, but what in reality is a long pond that only flows when it has been raining. That might explain why the banks are so steep and clearly eroding, but not constantly.

The view from this perspective was quite surreal and I found myself completely transported out of my self and my world. Suddenly I was sunk below the lip of the world, seeing where it has torn off from the rest of reality, hanging in the darkness. Perhaps the flat-earthers were right all-along, though I did not run into any dragons thankfully.

The whole trip lasted only about 20 minutes, but in that time I was outside of time, looking and shooting and simply absorbing, and that is something I have often found through this pursuit of photography.

Photo Story: Eyes in the Ice

I had been on a combination training run/photo hike for a couple of hours already. It was early February in Minnesota and I was somewhere in the middle of back-country Hyland Lake Park Reserve, Bloomington, MN. I had come here often without snow to run the trails, but coming here with a good snow pack made for quite a different experience.

Recently I have been much more interested in leaving the trails and following animal tracks into the woods wherever I am, but on this occasion it was a necessity. All of the major trails were groomed for cross country skiing, and I had received a few sideways glances already for walking across the nicely manicured skate tracks.

Thankfully there were plenty of well marked sets of footprints leading into the non-maintained areas of the park, which I had been following when I suddenly ran out of trail on the edge of Hyland Lake. The only way to proceed from here was to follow a classic ski trail, or to try and go back from where I had come from. Now, I wasn’t sure that going back along my trail would be simple, given that I had been carving my own path for a while. Besides, I wasn’t really interested in moving backwards at this point, even if the light was changing. That was certainly another factor. The sun was on its way down. I had time left, but I hadn’t brought a light, and definitely didn’t want to spend an hour trying to find a trail only to end up trekking in the dark. I knew if I could get around the lake I would be able to catch up to a main trail and head back.

After walking along the ski trail for a few minutes, and enduring a few comments from skiiers zipping silently around the blind corners, I decided the only other good option was to head down to the lake itself and follow the shore along the ice.

It was clear that the ice was very thick in this part of the lake, and there was plenty of evidence of other people following the same track. I was keeping my eyes on the shore, looking to find an interesting picture that one could only take from this unique vantage point, when I noticed something dark and round on the ice further out into the lake.

Apparently, after someone has drilled a hole for ice fishing, the ice re-freezes much as one clear piece, rather than the cloudy layer of ice that has built up over the rest of the lake. This leaves a black hole, often cracked, resembling an unblinking eye.

It was a wonderful experience of encountering something I never would have considered looking for. During my circumnavigation of the lake I was able to find several more, noting how each one, though formed the same way on the same lake, had its own character based on how the ice had refrozen and cracked in the process.

Capturing the depth of the ice and the natural contrast proved to be quite difficult, and I wish that more of the images had turned out as interesting as they looked in real life, but for me this wasn’t so much about the final image as it was about the reminder that there is more out there that I can imagine, and the things that take me by surprise are often the most beautiful.