Lesson 2 – Focus

Objective:  To experiment with focusing options on the camera and focusing for effect.

Subject 1:  My dog, Phoebe, intensely focused on the squirrel in our maple tree.

Result:  This particular assignment was meant to focus on a subject’s eyes. I tried a few different angles and toyed with moving farther away, but this photo was the best. I like the way the eye closer to the camera is in sharp focus while the rest fades out of focus.

Phoebe's focus

Subject 2:  The squirrel in the maple tree.

Result:  In this photo, I experimented with lock focus. I love the way the squirrel and part of the tree trunk are in focus and that the surrounding leaves in the foreground, side, and background are out of focus to varying degrees. I think it leads the eye well to the squirrel and its watchful stance.


Subject 3:  Celosia plumosa

Result:  I combined two experiments into one photo by choosing to photograph the flower slightly off-center as well as close up. I like that it puts the flower in contrast to the leaves of the plant and wood chips in the garden and highlights the bold, feathery plume of the flower itself.

Celosia plumosa

As I sat with the photography book on my lap, critiquing my photos (a.k.a. criticizing my lack of expertise), wondering if I’d stayed true enough to the assignments, instructions on how to use the AF modes properly, and post-production sharpening, I happened to glance at the top of the page and saw this:

“Photography has no rules. It is not a sport.” ~ Bill Brandt

Now, I don’t know who Bill Brandt is, but I thank him wholeheartedly for freeing me from my anxiety about ‘following the rules’ and over-analyzing everything, which really only suffocates creativity. This little quip has reminded me to simply have fun with the process and go with whatever feels good.


Lesson 1 – Hard at Work

Objective: To photograph someone hard at work.

Subject: My gracious neighbor, Miss Pat, enjoying her latest hobby.

Result: On a chilly, cloudy day, the light from the window cast a sort of serene glow over her studio. She focused on choosing her paints and brushes and creating her art while I tried to capture it all with as little interference as possible. (She admitted later that she forgot I was there for a few minutes.) I did very little editing, save for a bit of cropping to reduce the amount of dead space or frame clutter. The end result was that I had a lot of fun and got several photos that, I feel, represented her concentration and the peacefulness of the day.

Lesson 1 – Still Life

Objective: To emphasize detail in ordinary objects.

Subject 1: Cross stitch floss

Result: I like the mix of colors and how the skeins are somewhat intertwined, as well as how the variegated strands and different textures are scattered across the frame.


Subject 2: Crochet hooks

Result: I had a lot of fun, for some reason, shooting these crochet hooks. I kept playing with them, rearranging them, letting them fall randomly. As a result, I have two that I really like and couldn’t choose between them, so I’m including both.



In order to stay true to the objective, and to have a ‘base line’ from which to start, I purposely did not edit the photos in any way. It’s funny, I enjoy the end results of whatever I cross stitch or crochet (I’m an afghan-aholic!), but never thought about how they begin. Now, I think these plain old, ordinary things may just be as pretty as the things they create . . .


I don’t know if it’s the start of the new year, or the full moon, or my age, or that I’m a Libra searching for balance in my life – or a combination of all of the above – but I find myself gravitating toward that which I have spent the past twenty years avoiding: making resolutions. Knowing myself as I do, I have insisted that resolutions were definitely not for me. In my mind, I would be setting myself up for failure by choosing goals that were too lofty, rigid, or numerous, thus making them unattainable. In reality, I think I shied away from resolutions simply because I was afraid of being vulnerable and failing. I was afraid that I would grow tired or bored of my goals and give up. I was afraid that I wouldn’t have enough drive to see them through. Let’s face it, it’s easier to just not try than have to accept failure. (Oh, the fragile psyche!)

So, here I am, at the start of a new year, reflecting on my life as it is, and wanting to do something different. It’s not to say that I’m unhappy, because I love my husband and children very much and we have a good life. But I feel unbalanced, personally, and it’s unsettling. Something’s . . . off. And it isn’t as though this is out of the blue. It’s been simmering for years and it’s finally come to a boil. In simplest terms, I guess I just need to find something that will fuel my creativity and give me joy. But, what? How?

Yesterday, I came across my favorite quote that prompted me to want to jump out of my boiling pot of insecurities and take the leap into the unknown:

“Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.” ~ John Wayne

I smiled as a feeling of warmth and urgency came over me. And now I know what I want to do. I want to combine my love of writing and photography and finding beauty in the chaos. So, here’s my plan:

Learn how to use this:


by using this:


and posting my progress on this:


My only goal is to open myself up to this new experience and see what happens. Whether it takes me twenty weeks or a year, I don’t care. (It’s actually rather liberating to say that!) It’s as if I’ve been groping blindly through a mine shaft for who-knows-how-long only to discover that the light on my helmet works and there’s a chisel and hammer in my hands. It’s dark. It’s unknown. It’s scary. But I have a guiding light and tools to use. I might come across nothing – or I might discover a gem. Who knows?

But I’m willing to give it a try.


First Season Surprise

I love clematis. So, I took a chance and planted some at the base of a small, decorative windmill. (I say ‘took a chance’ because I am a first-time gardener and I have absolutely no idea if I’ve inherited my dad’s or grandfather’s green thumbs.) There were some days when I didn’t think it was going to survive much less produce, but still I tended it gently and patiently. And it grew.

It climbed.

It bloomed . . .

H. F. Young clematis

Captured with a Nikon D5600 with 18-55 mm lens and standard UV filter. No special lenses or filters – I was too shocked to see a bloom that I just grabbed the camera and started shooting for fear it would go away . . .

Mornin’, Daisy!

Silence after the storms.

Sun is playing peek-a-boo through the clouds.

Daisy’s looking to catch a few rays . . .

Mornin', Daisy!

Captured in Michigan with my Nikon D5600, 18-55mm lens with standard UV filter and a +4 macro.

Eerie Sunrise

The storm passed just to the south, allowing me to enjoy the eerie glow of the early morning sun as it played on the clouds.

Eerie SunriseCaptured with a Nikon D5600 with standard UV filter.