Why do I want to be a photographer? What is it about what I do that brings me so much joy? I don’t know that I have words to answer those questions, instead I have…well…photos. Even when my camera is not with me I find myself framing a composition, watching how changes in the location of the sun can change one setting several different times within the span of an hour. The color, the textures, the shadows, the spaces…it all draws me in and then when I’m behind the lens I find myself completely absorbed into the small square scene.
While it is my passion, I still find myself struggling to actually make time for it. I procrastinate. I spend time reading about it or listening to other photographers talk about their work, all the while avoiding doing any real work of my own. It is a battle that I fight every day and too often I lose but some days I am able to overcome my own obstacles and find sweet victory. Other days, even though I manage to prevail, I come away with no real spoils, just ruins. What I have learned, however, is that even on those days I’m winning. Those days are my teachers, my builders. Those days make me want to try harder. They remind me that no matter how much I might improve I always have opportunities for growth and improvement.
Determined to develop better habits I have begun to carve out time on my calendar each week, along with a general plan and location for what I want to shoot. Today was Greenwood Park, water lily’s and reflections. It was a bit of a rocky start with some bad lighting and spotty rain but when I got to my chosen locale, not even the school bus full of 6-year-olds managed to dampen my spirits. I was, after all, at the Des Moines Art Center, a popular field trip location. My ultimate goal was to take the advice from a podcast I had heard over the weekend and spend some time just getting to know the location. With increasingly worse lighting conditions and little humans in bright yellow t-shirts roaming in semi-organized groups, I could feel my resolve weakening. It was difficult to concentrate and the couple photos I had managed up to that point were hideous at best. I had not even come to see the rose garden but was finding it comforting and peaceful, so I put my camera back in my backpack and strolled around the circle sections until I began stopping every other step to admire another amazingly beautiful flower. Then I saw it. A gorgeous, bright red, half-open bloom with two tiny little water droplets hiding along the inside of a petal. I don’t have a macro lens but I pulled out my camera and started working. I spent the next hour just photographing roses! When I finally moved on to the park area that I had come there for, I wasn’t even upset that a small group of lounging adults were camping out on the very spot I needed to capture the photo I was after. (Okay, I was a little upset.)
I did not get the photo I had planned on. I did not have the light I had hoped for. I was not able to avoid being bitten several times by mosquitos the size of a small bird but I did get some very unexpected, and surprisingly good pictures that make me just a little bit proud.
Today I submitted photos to the Iowa State Fair Salon. I was going to let it pass quietly because I was lacking confidence in my chances of any of the photos actually making it through. Then I remembered my whole reason for entering in the first place was not so much about winning a spot in the show but to learn and develop confidence in my work.
It is my hope to one day run a successful photography business. I have no idea right now what that will look like or exactly how it’s all going to come together but I know that in order to get there I have a lot of work to do. Starting a business is terrifying to me because I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing but far more daunting is the idea that others will appreciate my work and find value in it. Much like the idea that you cannot expect others to love you if you do not love yourself, how can I possibly expect others to love my work if I lack confidence in it?
After I dropped the photos off and collected my receipt I walked to my Jeep and felt the sting of a much harder lesson. My lack of confidence was not so much about the photos I submitted but more about the one I did not. It’s ironic how much we allow the negative voices in our heads to detour our confidence but when it comes to actually finding and sharing our true voice we so easily ignore it. I have been drawn to the photo above since I first captured it earlier this year. It isn’t anything I can explain except that it pulls me in and makes me wonder at it’s charm. I had included it in my initial selections but then decided against it, then changed my mind, then changed my mind back. My final decision was made based on the fact that I had another photo of a tree that others reacted to more positively. Instead of letting my voice be heard, I let doubt steer my course. I love and appreciate the feedback I get from the people I trust and care about but I also need to learn to take my own advice and start listening to my own heart.
It is highly possible that none of the photos I submitted will make it through but the truth is, what I have learned through the process is priceless. Trust yourself. Believe in your work. Use your mind but listen to your heart.
Jester Park, Granger, Iowa Spring 2019
Gratitude is not a natural state. At least not for me. Waking every morning, an hour early, and spending those first waking moments writing down the things that I am grateful for…cozy socks, hot coffee, my grandsons laugh, a new pen, my pillow…I could go on for paragraphs (just check out my Instagram feed if you don’t believe me), this practice has changed so much for me.
It forces me to every day look at whatever might be happening and ask, “What about this is good? Sometimes it’s not easy and it comes down to the tiniest thing but it’s proof that the little things really do make a difference.
It keeps me in the present and reminds me that each moment is a gift and not to be taken for granted.
“Give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18.
Just two years ago I was coming home from a job that, most days, brought me to tears. It was a job that I thought I wanted. It was a step up the corporate ladder. Steady pay, good benefits, a gym and cafeteria on site…I sincerely believed that was what I needed in order to have the life I wanted. How could I have gotten it so wrong?
Today, my office was my jeep, my equipment…my camera. My boss, was me and my agenda…be inspired! I wandered around a few gravel roads, had a little hiccup when I had to find my way around a flooded bridge, but didn’t mind when the detour brought me face-to-face with a beautiful old white barn. Next up, a greenhouse. After a long, cold and wet winter, greenhouses are one of the first places that are going to reveal signs of spring. I spent almost an hour walking up and down the rows of various starter plants. Tomatoes, peppers, impatients, geraniums (some in bloom) and a whole host of houseplants and gardening tools.
Back in my Jeep I let myself zig-zag through neighborhoods and backroads, daydreaming and only partially aware of my next destination; an old farm smack in the middle of what was once a rural Iowa town but is now a growing and thriving suburb of Des Moines. Careful to not trespass I captured several shots of the old barns as I lamented about the passing of time and wondered at it’s history and the people who had worked and roamed here. Slightly saddened I headed, once again, in no particular direction until I found myself close to another greenhouse. This one, newer and not as advanced in their growing took much less time to peruse. Taking note of some of their displays in their gift department, I made a plan that would finish out my day with a couple more barn photo ops and once last garden store visit.
I loved today. I sometimes wish that I could spend all my days as my own boss but then I remember how much I enjoy my other job, the one that actually pays the bills, and I’m torn. Two years ago I was working in a cubicle, tied to a phone and a schedule that told me when I took my lunch and bathroom breaks. Today, I have my own business on the side and full-time job at a garden center, and I love them both. I know that some day I will need to make some tough choices about the direction I want to take but right now…I’m living everyday with a grateful heart and appreciating that I finally took control and stopped living what I thought was the expected and started living MY best life.
A rabbit scurries off the dusty porch. The hinges squeak and the screen door makes a “slam!…slam!” behind me. I unconscientiously wipe my shoes on the rag rug at my feet and as my eyes adjust, I step further into a simple but quaint living room. A small lamp in the corner barely illuminates the room but it adds a coziness that draws me in. There is no tv, just a small radio that reminds me of my grandmother. A worn loveseat and small wooden rocker fill the space. An open doorway behind the rocker reveals the tiniest kitchen I have ever seen and just beyond that is bedroom big enough for a side table and a twin bed covered in a faded quilt. When I open the white, wooden door of the closet, I am surprised by it’s heaviness but even more surprised at it’s contents.
What do you see?
This is my why. This is why I wander the streets and gravel roads. This is why I enjoy spending time alone. This is why no matter where I go or what I’m doing, my gaze is easily distracted. This is my why. I am not a naturally gifted story teller but I see a story in everything around me and photography allows me the opportunity to tell those stories.
What is your why?