A Different Opportunity

Ahoy!  Henceforth, you should probably all refer to me as Captain Photodork. Or Cap’n, if you want to shorten the title a bit.  I don’t mind being real respectable, like that Cap’n Crunch fella.  Because here’s the thing: I steered the noble ship, er…pontoon boat, yesterday.  That’s right, no training (or desire really) before yesterday and I was in charge of that boat, I tell you. And, if you couldn’t tell, I’m pretty proud of myself.

6:25 Photo of the Day

My favorite photo of the day is a prime example of negative and positive space.  If you aren’t familiar with the geeky art terms: positive space is the area occupied by your subject matter and negative space is the rest of it. Your positive space can be spread out, take up most of the picture, or be more contained and small, like my friend, Mr. Ducky, here.  Negative space doesn’t have to be empty space, necessarily.  It can just have less importance, detail, etc. than the rest of the image.  Some people like to minimize negative space.  Those people would probably have cropped in real close around the duck and allowed him to fill in most of the frame.  I tried this and didn’t like it, so I left it as it was.  The subtle patterns in the water held enough interest for me to want them in the picture.  The lovely thing about art is that it’s all about preference.  I like it this way, and I’m right.  If you prefer it with less of the water, you’re right too.  Yea!

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The downside to ruling the boat: less time to photograph.  In fact, I took 75% less pictures than our first visit to Horsetooth Reservoir.  I did a pretty thorough job the last time, however, so I didn’t feel it was too big a loss. I did see two or three opportunities I’d have liked to have taken, but such is life I guess.  The stuff I did get to do, like get in the water twice (and with Bessie too!  Pictured above in her stylish doggie life-preserver), hang out with my dad, and – did I mention steer the boat?-more than made up for a couple of missed photographs.


I had no idea what I was going to photograph yesterday.  Some fleeting thoughts about meandering through a park occurred to me early on in the day, but were quickly pushed out of the way when the opportunity to go to a movie with Dylan arose.  So much for Tuesday’s thoughts about priorities.  By late afternoon I was just waiting for a photographic moment to come up and kick me in the shins, which is exactly what I tell my students not to do.  I say all this stuff about going out and finding photographs in the world around you and being an active participant in the photographic process.  And I mean it, I really do.  I just forgot yesterday, that’s all. Then, when I least expected it, inspiration came breezing through in the form of my early evening snack.

6:24 Start

Yep, it all started with an apple (which seems like a highly biblical statement as well, but I don’t really mean for it to be that loaded).  I was pretty happy to find this apple actually, seeing as how I didn’t think we had any left and I was craving apple slices and peanut butter something fierce.  So maybe that’s why I decided to photograph it; I can’t really say where the impetus came from to be honest.  I thought I’d take a few, quick shots of the apple and then maybe some other shots later in the evening.  I mean, I had snacking to get to, ladies and gents.  But then this happened:

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It isn’t totally unusual for me to photograph my food though.  About three or four years ago, I made a cookbook as part of a school project.  I tried out different recipes, wrote about the process and photographed the results.  I was surprised at how much I enjoyed food photography, but really I shouldn’t have been.  Cooking and baking have long been interests of mine, as has photography.  Combining the two should be fun, and it really is.  I just haven’t done a lot of it in the years that have elapsed between my cookbook project and my experiments this summer.

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Once I had freed the apple slices from the corer/slicer tool, it was like having my own mini-still life.  My little white cutting board provided a nice contrast to the dark background and was also neutral.  Color does play an important role in food photography.  The food is your subject matter, therefore, you don’t want it competing with a lot.  If you have busy china patterns or countertops or the colors of these things clash with the food, it can spell disaster.  It always good to be mindful of the things that inhabit the backgrounds of your photos, but I find it of special import in food photography.

6:24 Photo of the Day

This is my favorite shot from the day, I think because of the way the apple core just peeks into the photo at the bottom right.  The angle of the stem seems to give it a little personality, too.  A shallow depth of field (which is why it’s in strong focus in the front and the apples behind it are blurry) give a nice contrast between the fore and back grounds.  The only problem?  That really was my last apple and now I’m going to need to buy more as this post has made me hungry.

The Duldrums

Apparently, I’ve hit the part of the summer that usually arrives right on the tail of the last days of school.  Mmhmm, that’s right, I’m talking about the sloth period.  In general, the first week of summer vacation is spent doing absolutely nothing because I just can’t muster the enthusiasm or even the motivation to do, well, anything. Useless television shows are watched and lots of reading gets done, but not much else.  If I’m feeling really ambitious I might make a list of my aspirations for the rest of the summer (oh, you knew I was a list-maker didn’t you?).  I know that there is nothing wrong with taking a break, but it’s not really in my personality type to do so, and I was thrilled when I jumped right into my summer this year.  Goodness, I built (ahem, assisted with building) an 8’x2′ planter five days after I turned in my final grades.  I should have known it was too good to last.

6:23 Photo of the Day

I’m not sure what really pulled the plug on the awesomeness I was achieving. I’m going to blame the trip to New Mexico though, because it’s nice and handy. Come on, it was so freaking hot and we ran around so much.  Who wouldn’t collapse after six days of that?  The point is, since we got back, I haven’t done almost anything. Oh sure, I baked a loaf of bread and some granola bars…big whoop.  But it was yesterday that really put the icing on the cake.  I unpacked…sort of.  And then I spent almost the entire day reading.  I was at the endish of the fifth book of the Harry Potter series and now I’m well into the sixth.  I don’t even have the excuse of having never read them before as this is my third time through.

6:23 Runner Up

And now, I’m forced to tell you all of this to kind of explain the lackluster photos for the day.  Oh, I think I got a little lucky on that first one, but overall, these aren’t anything I’m writing home about (nope.  I’m just writing to the entire population of the internet instead).  So I’m thinking a little about priorities this morning.  I decided at the beginning of the summer, back when I was kicking butt and taking names, that it was important to me to photograph everyday.  Here is my reminder: it is not a good decision to not photograph until 7:30 in the day, and then only for five minutes.  Especially when you have nothing else AT ALL going on that day.

6:23 Runner Up 2

The one thing to be said about my photographic habits yesterday is this: I picked a fine time of day to photograph.  I love the end-of-the-day light that’s long and buttery.  The shadows start to stretch and everything gets a lovely glow about it.  I love just looking outside at this time of day, photographing is even better.  As much as I encourage shooting with plenty of light on hand, you want to avoid (generally) shooting at high noon.  The sun is directly overhead, and therefore, at it’s least flattering.  Things look a little worse-off in that kind of harsh lighting, especially people.  Just something to keep in mind on your next photo adventure.

Reno the Moth Slayer

One of the things I’d eventually like to incorporate onto this site is the occasional photograph by another artist.  So many great images exist and I truly believe that something can be gained by looking at the work of others.  In fact, my intention was to link to one yesterday, because there is a photographer that takes incredible aerial images, so it would have tied in nicely to my airplane photographs.  But then, as I am so prone to, I got distracted with other thoughts and ideas and well, I blew it.  I briefly considered posting the images today, because they still would have tied in and because yesterday I was completely unmotivated to do anything, including photograph.  Dylan said that would be a cop-out though, and even though I told him that he was a cop-out (I know, such a great comeback), I found myself bending to peer pressure.  And, just to show him, I came up with not one, but two Photos of the Day.  That’s right, two.  Go ahead and be impressed, I won’t tell anyone.

6:22 Photo of the Day 2

One of the things that I missed most while we were in New Mexico were the fuzzy little terrorists that I tell myself are cats.  Now, part of it was because I am sort of a crazy cat lady (once you have more than two, the label automatically comes, you don’t even have to talk to them or throw them birthday parties) but the other part of it was more practical.  I hate moths, people.  I can’t even impress upon you how much I dislike them, so just go with me on this.  Luckily, since we got cats, it is not something I’ve ever had to worry about.  Other people fill a bucket with soapy water to set a moth-trap.  We leave on a lamp and set a chair next to it for the cats to use as a springboard.  It’s awesome and has made me slightly complacent about the whole thing.  Enter our trip to New Mexico, where no cats inhabited our hotel room and it’s the middle of moth season.  It wasn’t pretty folks.

6:22 Photo of the Day 1

It makes sense then that one of the first things I photographed when I got home were the cats.  This is Reno, looking quite docile and nice, but don’t let the images fool you.  He’s a moth-hunting machine.  And also a cantankerous, howling little creep who awoke us at 4:45 this morning.  4:45.  In the morning.  I guess you gotta take the good with the bad.  But dang, people.  4:45.

Un-Great Expectations.

I’ve been thinking a lot about expectations this morning.  As a self-diagnosed perfectionist, I have a lot of experience with not living up to my own, although my first year of teaching helped train me to cut myself some slack.  But what’s been nagging at me lately lies in the realm of the expectations we have of others.  I know the subject has gotten it’s teeth pretty well into me as my thoughts were enough to roust me from my warm bed at 7:00 this morning and propel me through baking a loaf of bread and then a batch of granola bars.  Oh yeah.  I bake when troubled.  I have a sneaking suspicion that Dylan might occasionally push my buttons just to get a batch of cookies out of the deal, but I have no real proof.

6:21 Photo of the Day

Here’s the thing: what is fair to expect of someone?  Or is it even right to have expectations of someone?  So often we place these weighty requirements on the people around us that have nothing to do with who they are, but rather who we want them to be.  Families are perfect examples of this.  I think we all have these pre-conceived notions of what mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons, and daughters are supposed to be like or what we want/need them to be.  We hold the people we’re actually given up to these ideals and they’ll never be a perfect fit.  Notice how I say that won’t be a perfect fit, and not that they won’t measure up?  It bothers me that we instantly take a negative view of people when they don’t meet our expectations.  So maybe your mom wasn’t a great cook (not true in my case, just an example) but she had the patience of a saint and was always willing to lend a helping hand.  Maybe we should just learn to love people for who they are and appreciate what they are willing to offer of themselves.  Which brings me to the other piece of my puzzle: why  do we have to demand so much of one another?  I am perpetually reminded of the “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” conundrum as of late.  If you’re not familiar with the children’s book it’s about a mouse that gets a cookie and then wants milk.  Once he gets milk, he wishes for something else, and then something more, and so on.  I particularly like the “If You Give a Pig a Pancake” sequel, but as always, I digress.  My point is that we are rarely satisfied with what we’re given.  Someone helps us, and we wish they’d done more.  Or gives us a gift and we find fault with it.  Why?  Isn’t it enough that they gave their time, ability, etc. in the first place?  We are all busy, with our own lives to lead and our own interests to pursue.  I don’t know.  I realize it’s an answerless query in many ways.  My stance comes from Taoism which teaches the practice of not having expectations and just taking every person, place, thing and moment for what it is.  Now, I’m not saying I am successful in my practice in this, but I strive to be.  It is not my intention here to insinuate that I am above all this and worthy of climbing up on a soapbox to preach to the rest of you.  Truly, I think I am just trying to reason and write my way through my state of irk.

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So what does this have to do with photography, you might be asking?  Well, very little, but that’s the hazard of visiting a site maintained for personal reasons, now isn’t it?  You are kind of at the mercy of my moods.  Sorry about that.  Although, in a way, my current state of mind does tie in nicely to the day’s images as they exceed my expectations.  I shot out the window of the airplane as we began our descent into Colorado yesterday afternoon on a whim, really.  I didn’t think I’d get much from it, or that I’d have to edit them quite a bit for them to be presentable.  Because, really, you should have seen this window.  Clear is not the first word that comes to mind.  Not a trace of the scratchiness and smudginess that made me worry is noticeable on the final product though, and I didn’t have to do a bit of retouching in that respect.  See what I mean about approaching things with no expectations?  Ah well, thanks for indulging me and reading through to the end of the post.  I’ll endeavor to keep things a little lighter in the future.

Last Impression

Sitting in the air-o-port, posting.  I am pleased to say that there is free and abundant wi-fi, which is kind of the highlight of my morning.  It’s been a “Meh” final 24-hours in Albuquerque, which is fairly common for me at the end of a trip.  I think it’s a good sign that I am always happy to head home at the end of a journey; it means I am happy with my normal life, however much I sometimes wish for a more extraordinary existence.  We made one final photo-specific stop yesterday morning, the quirky Aztec Motel, which has been decorated with a variety of odds and ends.  This was another recommendation (Thanks again, Matylda!) and well worth enduring the heat while we wandered around the somewhat eccentric sculpture and wall decor.

6:20 Photo of the Day

It is always a pleasure to find unlikely combinations of color, texture and material in the same space.  It lends a great deal of visual interest to the photograph, and the stark lighting of New Mexico didn’t hurt either.  While the motel looked slightly less than habitable, it was a treasure-trove of mini still lifes just waiting to be discovered and examined more closely.  I probably could have spent another couple of hours or so fiddling around with my camera, but for oppressive heat and numerous “No Trespassing” signs posted.  We did try to get permission to photograph, but couldn’t find anyone to actually ask.

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So I felt kind of shifty photographing anyhow.  If you haven’t noticed yet, I’m sort of a play-by-the-rules sort of gal.  I couldn’t see the harm in photographing though, as I had no ill intent behind my actions.  I really just wanted to explore the space, so in the end, I convinced myself that my intent was pure and therefore, perfectly justifiable.  Like I’ve said numerous times before, I’m such a dork.

Deep Thoughts on a Saturday Morning

Today is our last full day in the city of heat and brightness, as I have now officially dubbed it. A few items still remain on my checklist for Albuquerque, but I feel that we’ve done a reasonable job exploring the area.  We retraced our steps a bit yesterday, but we managed to find a couple of surprising candidates for photographing.  I need to revisit one today and actually get out of the car to inspect it closer, but the other received its fair share of photographic documentation on the spot.  Most of what you see here today came from a small courtyard reserved for meditation and prayer at the Presbyterian Hospital.

6:19 Photo of the Day

Now, just so y’all don’t worry, I wasn’t out in the courtyard desperately asking for someone’s immediate survival and we weren’t at the hospital for anything serious, just a doctor’s appointment for Dylan’s uncle .  In fact, I would have hesitated to bust out my camera and enter a space marked for spiritual purposes, but then I saw this guy go out there and use his cell phone, so I figured that photographing is infinitely more spiritual than cell phone use and did my thing.

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And later, as I examined and edited the images from the day, I reflected on the idea of inspiration.  Sometimes it comes in the oddest forms.  I would not have expected to find reason to photograph in a hospital, but some lovely images resulted from it.  I think we are often caught up in the notions of what makes art, well, art.  It has to be beautiful, or thought-provoking, or profound.  And surely art can be all those things, but it can also be simpler than all that.  It can be about the process of creating, which I’ve found to be most significant.  Maybe it’s just about recognizing the moments that inspire us and capturing them.  I realize I’ve gotten a little too deep for Saturday morning, so I’ll leave it at that and let you take from it what you will.


I have limited access to the internet at the moment.  Both time and setup-wise, which I suppose is to be expected when you’re on semi-vacation.  At least there is internet at the hotel we’re occupying for the week, it’s just that we’re rarely  in our room.  So, when I didn’t have time to get my post done first thing this morning as usual, the chances of getting the post done at all today narrowed considerably.  But, ta da!  We’ve taken a moment’s refuge from the heat, and here it is.

6:18 Photo of the Day

Yesterday was my kind of day, which means it was low-key and full to the brim of art-nerdiness.  We started the day with a trip to Satellite Coffee to try out the recommendation of an old high school friend (thanks Matylda!).  I had the Mexican Latte and it was just as tasty as promised.  I’ve already had a second one, if I’m being honest.  Then it was onto the Albuquerque Museum of Art.  We’d noticed in our first day of exploration that there was an Impressionist Exhibit currently on display and couldn’t resist.  Surprisingly though, that wasn’t the real draw of the museum, at least for me.  After we’d looked about in the main exhibit we perused the rest of the museum and found a really solid collection of contemporary art and a truly inspiring exhibit of high school photography.  And I only know it was high school work because of the information that accompanied the exhibit.  The images were, well, freaking incredible for lack of a better description.  Both traditional and digital photography was represented and I was floored by the quality, creativity, and quantity of the work present.

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The rest of the afternoon was spent wandering around Old Town Albuquerque, which besides the inevitable tourist-trap stores, has a fair number of galleries and interesting little shops.  We found a cafe with some shade to eat lunch in, picked up a few pieces of art, and had some nice chats with gallery-owners.  Plus, plenty of opportunities to shoot presented themselves, and I’m proud to say I took each one.  Previous to rebooting Photodork with the “Photo of the Day” project, I almost never took pictures on vacation.  I’d always get real excited about all the time I was going to have to photograph on the trip and then cop-out when we arrived on the scene.  My excuse was perpetually that photography is what I do for a living and I deserved the break.  Such a difference lies in the photos I take when I’m hired (generally wedding photos and senior portraits) and the work I think of as my own.  Thinking back on in now, it was a lazy excuse and one that I am glad to have eschewed in recent weeks.

The Hot & Sticky Wicket

Dang, people, it is hot here.  The thing is, yesterday was one of discovery, but that is kind of the thing that sticks out most in my mind right now.  At one point the little thermometer in the car registered 97 degrees, and I almost cried.  Well, not really, but I wouldn’t say the knowledge that we were three degrees away from hitting the triple-digits put a big, glad smile on my face.  Especially since we forgot to pack sunscreen and were still about an hour from purchasing some.  It was also a busy sort of day: lots of errands and such, so I didn’t get to the whole picture-taking thing until a bit later in the day and even then, I was just squeezing shots in here and there.  Not really a bad method, I’m just used to shooting for chunks of time.  Or maybe it’s that I’m supposed to take a quick shot and be on my way and the next thing I know I’ve wandered two blocks off course and it’s been twenty minutes.  It’s always good to have a shooting buddy, ladies and gentleman.  Preferably someone with a watch and a fair amount of patience (and yes, Dylan, I’m thinking of you as I write this).

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I poked around in this really cool store yesterday (not on the errands list mind you, but we’re sort of on vacation) and eventually asked if I could photograph their candle display.  It took up most of a wall and I couldn’t resist the varying colors, sizes, and shapes.  It was like a coincidental still life.  Plus, it was airconditioned in there, and I might have been trying to delay the time until we stepped back outside and started melting.  The very gracious sales lady granted me permission to shoot in the shop and the rest is history.

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Alright, so those of you who read my post yesterday might be remembering that I “skulked around” outside some residence to photograph their cat in the window.  If you’re assuming I didn’t ask permission to do that, you’d be absolutely correct.  So why did I ask to photograph in the store?  Well, that’s a sticky wicket and one that generally applies only in photography.  I mean, sure, if you want to set up your easel and paint in a store you probably need to ask permission too, but as cameras are the most portable art form the whole permission issue comes up a lot more frequently.  Here are my guidelines: if I’m just taking a quick shot of a fairly public area like a neighborhood, even a house, I just do it.  Now, if I was going to set up a view camera and tripod across the street from someone’s home and take about thirty minutes photographing it (can you tell this actually happened?) then that’s a different story.  In that case, I’d ring the bell, explain who I am and what I’m doing and ask very nicely if I could photograph.  I might even offer to send them copies of the prints…because they live there and it is a bit intrusive.

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Businesses are a whole other ball of wax though.  Corporate-owned stores are a huge pain.  If you, trying to be a responsible citizen, call ahead and ask permission to shoot in their store (even if you use the word photograph, so they don’t just assume things when you say “shoot”) they will be paralyzed with regulations and fear that you are actually doing some undercover news story on them.  They’ll most likely say that they have to call an uppity up and then never get back to you.  So, in those kinds of stores, I just do it.  Most often, they’ll never even know that you did.  And if you really are just using the images personally or for altruistic art reasons, I don’t see the harm.  Flip side of the coin: you’re in a small business with just one sales person.  Ask nicely if you can photograph and they’ll usually agree.  Plus, if it’s a small store, they’ll probably catch you and that just sounds like a hassle (notice how I’m not sure if it is?  That’s because I follow my rule and have never had a tussle).  Well, there you have it…the complicated rules of shooting in public.  Makes you want to never photograph outside your own home, doesn’t it?  If this seems like too much rule and regulation, then just keep this more general guideline in mind: if you feel uncomfortable doing what you’re doing, it’s best to ask permission or abstain.  Happy shooting!

Live from Albuquerque, it’s….Wednesday Morning!

I feel like a special correspondent.  Of course, you guys have no idea where I post from, so it really makes no difference that I’m in a whole different state, but it feels like I’ve pretty much hit the big-time right now as I post from a hotel in New Mexico.  I really am a huge dork.  I’m not sure the “photo” part of this blog name is necessary.  We could rename it “Sarah the Big Dork”  and it would still be an apt title.  But, I’m rambling.  I’m sure you’d rather hear all about my road trip here, right?  Well, it involved eight or so hours in the car, which is as long as it sounds.  I took no pictures, because I really hate it when people shoot through glass and as I didn’t especially feel like riding with the window rolled down, I just appreciated the scenery sans camera.  And there was nice scenery; I don’t think the sky could have been bluer.  Oh alright, and I’ll confess that I am heartily sick of landscape photography at the moment, so that might have also been why I didn’t take any photos.  There.  I said it.  I guess I do feel better with that off my chest.

6:16 Photo of the Day

So the photographic part of this journey began approximately two minutes after we’d set our stuff down in the hotel room. I took a shining to the layout, colors, and architecture of the buildings I could see from the front porch and started there. But those aren’t the shots I chose for the Photo of the Day. Nope. As always, I spied a little creature and couldn’t help but photograph that. I even skulked about outside some poor, unsuspecting New Mexican’s home to photograph their cat that was perched so charmingly in the window. I know, do I have no shame?

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It looks like there are plenty of things to keep my camera busy here for the next few days.  I love the colors and architecture that I’ve found here and am excited to point a well-rested eye at them today.  This is the part where I’d get to say my custom sign-off line if I actually was a special correspondent, but since I’m not, I’ll just stick with: see you tomorrow!  And I hope I do.