Sorry, I don’t want to talk about my pain

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Low tide

There are two main news stories right now about students enacting change on campus, and I won’t get mired down in details or opinions. One comment a student made stuck in my head though, and I’ve been mulling it over, along with thoughts about the campus situations and the conversations about race going on in our country right now.  Go to this Atlantic article for a thoughtful look at the Yale story that began with an administrative admonition about potentially offensive Halloween costumes.

Specifically, the student (unnamed in the article, although I’m sure you can find them named elsewhere) wrote “I don’t want to debate.  I want to talk about my pain.”

I began my adult life as a naive idiot.  I’ve learned a lot along the way.  I’ve been through a lot, including a lot of heartbreaking things.  Not as bad as some people have it, for sure, but enough to state that yes, I’ve known pain.  Mental, emotional, and even physical pain.  Some of it was bearable, some of it was heartbreaking, and some of it I still deal with to this day.

I could be a rare bird or whatever, but in my experience, the more people hurt, the less they want to say about it.  I rarely hear someone say “let’s talk about how I’m feeling” after experiencing the death of a loved one.  One of my own painful experiences – multiple miscarriages – is not something I ever hear talked about in casual conversation.

That said, it’s purely anecdotal and a massive generalization. Take my opinion for what it is.

I don’t want to talk about my pain.  I don’t want YOU talking about my pain.  Bringing this kind of thing up makes everyone uncomfortable: they don’t know what to say, or how to relate, or even to how to be compassionate or empathetic.  I want to suffer through it without your well-meaning, clumsy comments that only inflict more pain. Later, when I’m better able to cope, perhaps I’ll tell you a little about it if I know you really well and I feel emotionally stable enough to do it.

Perhaps this isn’t a healthy way to live.  It reeks of paranoia and privacy.  It can go overboard to internalizing issues instead of dealing with them.  I don’t know.

All I know is this: in my experience, people who say “I want to talk about my pain” are one of two things.  Either they’re extraordinarily strong emotionally, or drumming up angst to make themselves feel important.

So how does this relate in any way to the image in this post?  I gravitate towards photographing things that stand alone.  Alone.  That’s the most I feel like saying.

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Deal with it and move on

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It’s been said 20 zillion times, but photographs truly have the power of transfixing a moment.  When I look at certain photographs of my kids I can remember all the details of that day or moment.  Mostly the good ones, but sometimes the bad ones too.  One picture of Corbin that we used for a Christmas card (baby in the snow, smiling and laughing) brings back horrible memories of fear and panic – because that photo shoot happened the morning of the day he ended up in the hospital with symptoms no doctor could explain.

This is one of the good ones.  I look at this photo and I can feel the wind in my face, the cool crisp day, and hear the laughter of a delighted 2-year-old trying to drive a push cart.  This picture makes me smile.

I tend to remember the glorious days that rarely happen like this one.  That’s because they’re pretty rare around here.  I have good days and bad days, and we try to take advantage of the good ones when I can.

I’m not someone who likes to whine or complain (although my husband would contest that statement!) so it’s hard to open up and talk about personal health issues.  After all, that’s MY business, right?  Not yours – especially since you probably don’t care and would promptly forget it anyway.  So why bother?

Today I’m tired.  My reflux kiddo was up a lot last night.  My hips are killing me.  My meds are off or something, and I can really tell.  So, since this is what’s on my mind, you get to hear about it.  Sorry!

I have 2 autoimmune diseases, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, and Vitiligo.  The first one is a doozy, but can be managed.  The second one is mostly cosmetic and is incurable.  I have a heel spur, a partially torn hip tendon, and the beginnings of arthritis.  Add that to migraines and a permanently tight IT band on my leg and that’s a recipe for a mess.  Right now my body is all messed up – despite taking my meds I’m not converting them the way I should.  In other words, I might as well not be taking anything.

What does that really mean?  It means I am in constant pain.  I have no energy.  I feel defeated, unmotivated, and constantly tired.  Small tasks like doing the laundry seem like insurmountable mountains.  Getting out of the bed in the morning is an act of will.  People looking at me think I’m just lazy because there’s no obvious disability.

Looking at a picture like this gives me a ray of hope.  It’s not all bad.  I can rise above the ocean of defeat at times and celebrate a good day.  It reminds me that I don’t really have it that bad, and to stop whining and push past the problems to accomplish something.  Even something as minor as a blog post.

So let’s hear it for all those who live in pain, for those who take life one day at a time, for those who feel defeated and worn out.   Because sometimes, a little glimpse of happiness is enough to keep us going.

Watching for fins

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Here’s a sobering thought – someone caught an 8 foot Bull shark in the Potomac river this summer.  Not the part really close to the bay, but further in.  The Washington Post ran an article about it a few weeks ago and it caught my eye because it was only a few miles down river from our favorite spot.  So on top of other obvious worries when I take my kids to “the beach” (Leesylvania State Park) I’ll be worrying about sharks too!  Because drowning, accidental sand ingestion, and weird little spiky seeds that puncture feet like needles in a balloon aren’t enough.

Other than worrying about shark attacks, LSP is one of our favorite places to go.  The kids love playing in the sand and water, and I think it’s one of the best photo shoot locations we’ve found.  On a lovely day in the summer you’re likely to see white sails floating out on the water, and the beach is pounded by boat-created waves.  The kids’ favorite place to play is right beside the marina, so they get to see speed boats, sail boats, and jet skis zooming around.  I prefer this spot to the area closer to the fishing pier, after finding a few large fish hooks in the sand.

It’s quite a pretty spot.  We’ve seen seagulls and eagles (yes, I promise, American eagles!) in this beautiful park right outside of DC. It’s rarely busy except on the crazy summer weekend days.  On our last visit right after the schools went back into session we had the whole place to ourselves.  When I’m planning a photo shoot it has two of the main components that I need – distractions and no crowds.

I know I’ve blogged quite a log about the challenges of doing a succesful photo shoot with my kids.  As they get older the challenges are still there, but they’ve changed.  Now I’m hearing “mom, no pictures!” from my 4-year-old and “no camera!” from my 2-year-old.  They absolutely refuse to pose for the camera, and in fact, getting a minimum of 2 out of 3 kids to simply look at the camera automatically makes the shot a keeper.  Forget smiling, or even looking pleasant.  I’ll settle for calm faces, with no crazy expressions and open mouths (from talking non-stop.)

As my kids finally get old enough to survive a few minutes without constant hovering (the stories I could tell!  it’s amazing we don’t go to the ER more often) I’m slowly starting to ramp up my own photography again.  C happened to be in this shot and it made the image stronger, but I didn’t point the camera in his direction just to get a picture of him.

He did think it was quite funny that “his” picture won a ribbon at the county fair this year.

Meet Anarah

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Hullo blogging world

Meet the newest addition to the family – Anarah.  She decided to wait until her exact due date, and she weighed exactly the same as her older brother when he was born.  Go figure!  We’re glad to have her here – me especially! pregnancy with a toddler in tow is no picnic.

When we had Corbin, I decided to do a monthly photo shoot with him documenting his growth for the first year because they grow so quickly at first.  We’re doing the same thing this go around with Anarah, although I’m having difficulty hitting the exact month schedule.  This image is Anarah at  about 5 weeks instead of a month.  We’re a lot more casual about things with the second kiddo, but I’m astounded by how quickly she seems to be doing some developmental things – like reaching for her image in a mirror and holding her head up.

 

I can already see that my next big cyanotype project will be a set of images of my kids when they were little – I tend to like the more conceptual images in black and white while the family prefers the color shots.  Both are good to have, but the conceptual ones will make a good series.  I might, if things go well, get this series done by the time they’re teenagers.  We live in hope!

Seriously though, I’m tearing my hair out trying to tend to the needs of both children without neglecting either of them.  Bedtime is a much appreciated milestone in our day – the parents, not the kids, duh!  I shouldn’t complain really – Anarah is truly a happy, well-adjusted baby who sleeps well, and I’m so blessed to have two wonderful children.

 

About the image:  shot indoors, with natural light and a pretty hefty ISO. Basic darkroom edits only – like I have time to manipulate images these days!

Over thinking things

I have a tendency to over think my shots – I worry about composition, lighting, and the noise factor.  Film cameras produce grain, digital produces noise. I don’t really like either of them.  Usually my attention to detail pays off with decent shots that are exposed ok and don’t have a ton of noise.  This photograph is a prime example that perhaps I shouldn’t worry as much about the little stuff.

I had one shot at this photograph – a “helpful” lady in the group decided that I really wanted a photograph of the dress form without the plastic covering it, so she grabbed the plastic and lifted it up.  Even when she released it, it didn’t fall back into the smooth lines and lighting that caught my attention in the first place.

I took a quick shot before she grabbed it and didn’t have a chance to change the ISO.  It’s really noisy.  It was badly composed because I ran into a barrel and couldn’t adjust my angle.  The plastic bag itself is annoying because the symbols on it didn’t fit the look I was going for.  Even with all of this, it’s still my favorite of all the shots I took – with or without the bag.  I didn’t want to hurt her feelings so I thanked her and snapped away to make her happy. 

Even with all of the wrong parts I like the shot.  It’s not perfect.  Still, it captures a lot of what I was going for, and I’m happy with it.  I would love the chance to go back and try again but I don’t even know if things would be the same.

I’m starting to realize that my “style” leans more towards evocative than documentary.  All of the shots without the plastic (except for a small portion at the neck of the form that looked like some bizarre scarf) are detailed, exposed ok, and try to show as much of the form as possible.  This shot captured the mood.  That’s something I want to continue working towards in all my work.  Perhaps ignoring the small stuff will help with that.

Plotter Kill Preserve

First, before anyone freaks out, that is the name of this preserve – no typo.  Second, a Kill is a creek.  It confused me the first time I saw it too.  According to Wiki (not the best resource, I know) the word Kill is from the Middle Dutch word Kille, meaning riverbed or water channel.  This area was first settled by the Dutch if I understand my history correctly, and remnants of that history still linger.

Background aside, it’s a lovely hike, although quite strenuous if you do something stupid like climb the walls of the gorge.  Like I did. 

I love rocks.  If I didn’t have too many hobbies already I would probably be a rockhound.  They intrigue me.  If I’m hiking, the bigger the rocks, the better.  I also love water – lakes, creeks, rivers, the sea – all of it.  Add rocks to water and I’m one very happy hiker.  It sounds very stupid and cliché, but I can spend hours in a creek flipping rocks, looking for critters, and enjoying the sound of the water. 

Plotter Kill has 3 large waterfalls that are currently dripping down the sheer rock face instead of flowing.  That’s ok, because if there was more water I couldn’t have gotten to the places I reached by hopping rocks.  It’s obvious that when the Kill is in full swing there’s a lot of water involved.  Tree snags are polished smooth and huge boulders are moved down the Kill easily. 

It’s amazing how much you can tell about the region just by following the creek bed.  The waterfalls occur in this preserve because of the way the slate – I think it’s slate – snaps in sharp straight lines.  A lot of the rocks look like they were cut for building purposes – straight blocks right out of a castle wall. 

I kept thinking that the few pink granite rocks I found in the creek bed were interlopers – added at some point by the park service to a pathway or retaining wall and washed into the creek.  Then I came across a boulder as tall as my waist – it probably weighed as much as a small car! 

This photograph is disturbingly organic.  It’s the same form of rock that much of the falls are composed of, but it looks like cooled lava.  If I saw this rock in a city somewhere I would assume it was a sculpture.  The clean surface indicates that it was only recently exposed – otherwise it would be covered in moss like every other boulder.

I finished my hike by climbing the walls of the gorge.  As long as I didn’t look down or think about what would happen if my foot slipped or a root handhold broke, it was fine. The last half of the climb was more like climbing a wall than a hill.  Note to self: remember the bug spray next time!

Finding my voice

I haven’t been blogging long, but a brief scan of my posts pointed out to me that I seem to have no style.  No artistic voice, as it were.  My photography is all over the place – everything from cyanotypes to nature to random odd shots.  I say “seem” because it’s not totally the truth.

This blog has taken the form of a photo journal.  If I stuck to only cyanotypes every time I posted (because that’s really more my artistic form) I would rarely post.  I am a photographer – that means I shoot a lot.  Not all of those shots are good.  In a year’s time I’ll probably look back at the archives and blush because much of what I posted is utter crap and I was too close to the shot to see it.  While I post a lot of photographs and some inane babble to go along with them, I think I can safely say my artistic voice shows up in my cyanotype work more often than not.  

A lot of people make the mistake of assuming that an artistic voice or “style” is something you do in post processing.  I tend to view it more as a type of seeing, or shooting.  I print my cyanotypes from the strongest selection of my photographs, but I still shoot them the same way I shoot raspberries or thread spools.  That’s not to say my “Style” is set in stone – I would hate for that to happen because it means I’ve stopped experimenting. 

I guess I’m saying take this blog with a grain of salt (all 4 of you who are reading it.)  It’s more of a journal that tracks my life as well as my photographic processes.  It’s not a professional site, it’s not a marketing tool, it’s not a “pat-me-on-the-back-and-say-I’m-wonderful” site.  It truly is an accurate record of what I’m doing right now.  And I appreciate you reading – I do!  If my mistakes can entertain people or keep them from doing the same thing, all the better.  At the end of the day though, I’m doing this for me.  And I do apologize if you subscribed and I’m spamming your inbox with posts.