The fear, the challenge, the growth...part 1 of 3

"Morning Mist in the Farm Valley."  A scene passed by thousands of people every day.

"Morning Mist in the Farm Valley."  A scene passed by thousands of people every day.

My photography (much more so than my painting) is a stimulus for, and a reflection of, my personal growth. It forces me to step away from the physically or emotionally comfortable and challenge myself to see, be differently - a never ending process. This blog is "thinking out loud" via keyboard. It is one way I process, analyze and synthesize information about how I feel, work, think, create. (Yes, it's all about me! Insert belly laugh here.)

Thus far, my photographic journey has involved seeing the everyday around me in a different light than most might notice. I call it "found photography". I shoot the people/situations/things I find in the light, or scenes that move me emotionally. Or, I shoot scenes that juxtapose ideals and daily life. (See "The Ones We Love") In moments of inspiration, I can refer to found photography as my gratitude button; I am grateful to find beauty in the everyday.

I have an exhibition hanging in a local establishment.  All of the photos are "found" things, places, or light that caught my eye.  The photos include a line of hay rolls sitting in a field, sunrise over a local river, morning mist in a farm valley. In every instance, viewers asked me "where was this photo taken?" They offered exotic locales where I might have taken that particular shot.  All were surprised to learn the photos are from places they see or pass nearly every day.

Ahh, the fear?  Of course, the work is not "good enough", my skills are "not advanced enough."  The night prior to hanging the photos, I was terrified, so terrified that my gut clenched. I  experienced bouts reminiscent of Catholic School Girl anxiety - what I had done wrong? I had seen all the photos in a "small" version - what if they didn't translate well to 11 x 1 4 inches?  What if there is a plastic water bottle I did not see in the water next to the heron? Is the work too "simple"? Will the quality of my personhood be judged by my photography? (In my best James Franco voice, "Whaat!???")

All these fears were no more than wasted emotional energy.  Once I offer artwork to the world, the meaning and value no longer belong to me alone.  Every viewer will interpret the photo or painting according to his or her own reveries. I can not control the responses of the viewers. To accept those responses as relevant would be to negate my own learning, creativity, thinking, appreciation of beauty, joy and gratitude. My only regret is that I did not take the time to think through those fears as I experienced them. I could have saved so much energy!  And at the cellular level that is me, I am (temporarily) angry I allowed myself to wallow in a projected sense of "not being accepted."

Aha! There it is...that is the crux of the issue isn't it? Not being accepted. Well, that fear was deeply buried. Oh geeze, I thought I had successfully kicked "acceptance" to the curb 1000 years ago.

If there are flaws in my technique, I can identify and correct them. If there is a water bottle I didn't see, the photograph morphs from the regal stature of a solitary heron to a statement about the  wasteful interactions of humans with nature. My artworks are about fulfilling my creative potential, spiraling into the fullness of the talents I have been given or developed.

Bottom Line:  I found the core of my fears. The only fear relevant to me is wasted talents. I will keep pushing forward in my works, pushing myself out of a comfort rut into new and energizing creative frontiers. No one other than myself can evaluate or judge that growth.

Best wishes in your own creative frontiers!  

Part 2:  The Challenge

We all start somewhere...

I just keep clicking away.  New equipment to master? Out the back door, I go. Working with traveling daylight?  Out the back door. New techniques?  Out...well, I think you get the idea. I find these backyard practices invaluable.  Everything I learn or master in my backyard translates into better photography.

Sunrise Treks

 "Money on the Water"  (c) Rebecca LaChance, 2014,  E M M I T S B U R G,  MD

 "Money on the Water"  (c) Rebecca LaChance, 2014,  E M M I T S B U R G,  MD

I struggled for quite awhile with the idea that photos "should" only be taken during the Golden/Blue hours - those two hours of magical light.  Even just a cursory view of Ansel Adams works reveals that he took many photos during the harsh light of mid-day.  I figured if it was good enough for Ansel, it was good enough for me.

The incentive to change came through the comments of a photographer I admire.  As he looked at one of my pelican/beach photos, he said, "You know, if you had taken this as sunrise or sunset you would have buyers beating down your door.  A change in light would make it magical."

Aaargh...time to test my mettle.

I now leave the house about one hour before sunrise and stay out until one hour after sunrise.  During the winter months I've had to add extra preparatory time for dressing in cold weather gear and scraping the windshield.   And as each week came into view, I had to buy new gear. One week it was gloves with the fingertips cut off. The next week it was snow pants for temperatures down into the -20's.  The next purchase...a REALLY good pair of snow/cold weather boots.

I also pack/wear/take safety precautions. First, I only go out on weekends and holidays.  Why? Even though I live in a "semi-rural" area, the majority of people around here commute to the Washington DC area and surrounding suburbs. There are too many half-asleep people driving over 2000 pounds of metal at break neck speeds for me to feel safe along the side of the road.

It goes without saying the Iphone is in an easily accessible pocket. I wear a great warning vest. According to the manufacturer, the vest can be see 1/2 mile away. The front of the vest has two strips of red lights that can be set to static light, or different speeds of flashing.  Most often, I wear the vest backwards 1) to keep the flashing red lights out of my shot and 2) to (hopefully) catch the attention of any drivers coming up behind me.  I also wear a headlamp which is helpful when setting up in the dark. I turn it off prior to snapping photos, but I do turn it back on in between shots.  Just another way to let drivers know I am there.

I have to admit, I've come up with some pretty good photographs during those hours. "Money on the Water" was taken at 7:00 a.m. on New Year's Day morning at the National Grotto in Emmitsburg. A reflecting pool circumnavigates a statue of Our Lady.  The two dollar bills were floating in the water.  I used a Tokina 11mm-16mm wide angle lens, f/2.8.  Not only did I catch the bills, but capture the reflections of the trees and the sunrise. And the design elements are pretty strong as well.

Bottom Line:  One way to improve my photography has been to discipline myself to hit the road before sunrise and watch the light.  This discipline fits well with my insomnia...as long as I get dressed and hit the road.

Moving forward...Hello 2015

My first blog entry!  This blog is my "self-accountability" tool. My personal goal for the entirety of my life has been to fulfill whatever creative potential that I have been given.  For "a thousand years" that creativity was exhibited in the arenas of education, profession, and motherhood (wifehood, daughterhood - you know the drill.) 

Now, I have committed to delving into the artistic inklings that have always been present, just not nurtured or practiced. So...this blog is my format to think through my artistic plans, challenge myself, critique my work, identify what works and what doesn't, analyze whatever tangential topics are relevant.

I'm not expecting hordes of followers - not my purpose. However, you might find yourself to be just the person who enjoys the direction of this blog, my paintings, my photography.  In that case, welcome!  I am glad you chose to come along for the journey.

And sometime soon, I hope to figure out how to add photos to this blog!  All part of the learning process.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!