When I first began this blog, my friend and I joked about the inevitability of it becoming more and more about delicious food and drink than anything else.
All winter long, I’ve been waiting for the first day of sun and warmth to try this simple, yet extremely appealing recipe: The Wine Slushy.
I’m not sure it would make the cut on an official food review but here it goes: You snag a bag of frozen fruit, grab a bottle of your favorite summer wine, throw it all in a blender, and there you have it- your first taste of Summer.
Last evening I stood out on the porch with this drink in hand. I looked at the colorful sunset and took a sip. I was reminded of the joy I get not only from pursuing small accomplishments each week, but then also the joy from getting to share it with you all.
I lift my wine slushy to you, and cheers to many more moments this Spring and Summer where we do more of what makes us happy.
I find that within my mind each week, certain concepts pair themselves with different kinds of photography. Sometimes, I’ll think about how important it can be, generally, to pay attention to minor details. I’ll notice and feel this while working with a client or talking with a friend. Then, I’ll have an urge to shoot a subject not for its entirety, but for the details it possesses, no matter how small.
This week, my mind placed mindfulness and portrait photography side by side. I’ve been thinking about mindfulness for a myriad of reasons, the most prominent being that I’m actually really bad at being mindful. I set up my life so that it keeps a high pace and high activity level. I like being busy, being social and having a plan. My brain often feels like a computer browser with 80 different tabs open; it's hard for me to ever slow down. I run from thing to thing, event to event, person to person. I do this not out of chaotic self-destruction, but because this lifestyle makes me happy.
But lately, I’ve re evaluated this, especially in terms of my art. If I have to schedule time to go take photos, it messes with the inspiration. It becomes a task, a chore and my brain and heart can’t link up to make anything of substance happen.
Here’s a recent discovery: If I’m mindful during this high-speed pace at which I live, I’m able to slow down and appreciate it more. Instead of thinking of my to do list while sitting having dinner with a friend, I work to forget that anything else exists except my dinner, my friend, and what they’re telling me. I focus, I listen, I feel. Then, afterward, I can still attend to my next task without feeling like I missed the previous one. I’m able to feel things, good and bad. I’m able to feel inspiration to take photos and act on it. This practice feels rich, authentic and truer to the happiness I seek and practice.
I woke up today and wanted to practice mindfulness. But I wanted to practice it using portrait photography. After only being awake minutes, I was able to take this shot (shout out to my guy for being so willing right as he woke up).
It makes me so happy.
The lighting captures the feel of the morning and the joy I felt in that exact moment, looking through my lens, seconds before pressing the shutter button.
Be mindful this week. Feel something rich. Be in the moment and sit with the feeling it brings to you.
Still life art evokes in me a particular feeling. It’s particular in presence but not in context. I am drawn this style of art but I can’t always articulate why. I can only compare it to the same kind of excitement or feeling that I get from viewing abandoned houses. Things that were once touched, moved, used or occupied now left still.
I took some photos in an abandoned house in Pittsburgh last summer and every shot gave me this feeling. Even just a photo of the walls was hauntingly beautiful. Simple and formerly disrupted.
Lately, I’ve been appreciating photos of beds for the same reason. I see them often as examples of still art and get this same feeling. What a beautiful idea: instead of photographing a moment that happened, why not photograph the space right after it happened.
So I finally did this.
While I could explain everything that happened before this photo, that would shatter its beauty. All that matters is what it captures now.
Create something off beat this week; pay attention to how it makes you feel.
My boyfriend recommended this fantastic book by Steven Pressfield call The War of Art. It’s difficult to describe it justice (go read it!), but essentially Pressfield discusses creative blocks and barriers and ways to get through them. He spends a great amount of time discussing what he refers to as “resistance”. Resistance, he says, takes all forms and is the foundation for why we experience creative barriers, why we struggle to take action on a creative project, and why we sometimes procrastinate personal endeavors.
I’ve been living in D.C. for almost five years. During these five years, I’ve had numerous people suggest that I go and see and hike The Billy Goat Trail, which is a series of three hiking trails that run along the scenic Potomac River. It’s close by, beautiful and completely accessible.
For too many reasons that I can name, it’s taken me five years of living here to look my resistance in the face and tell it that I was going to hike this trail on Saturday no matter what, and stop bumping it lower and lower on my list of things that I want to do.
Even on Saturday morning, minutes before making the final decision, I found myself randomly cataloging excuses not take action and go: Maybe traffic would be bad? Maybe a day with warmer weather? Maybe I’m tired?
None of these excuses were real or had any sort of logical foundation. They were exactly what Pressfield said can happen right before we are about to take action and create something or put work into creating something.
This hike would be the first time that I practiced shooting with my new Mark IV, so there were creative motives behind the trip. I wanted to create, to practice, to begin really learning how to use my camera.
Maybe because Pressfield gave a name to this phenomena, I was more aware of what was happening. Maybe in the past five years, I’ve just let those excuses and that resistance run and influence some of my most important decisions.
As I gathered my gear and jacket, I felt myself leave the hesitance behind.
The weather was perfect, there was no traffic and I had lots of energy for hiking and shooting some nature scenes. Nothing was ever in my way except my own resistance.
And just like that, hiking The Billy Goat Trail was crossed off of my list.
Something near and dear to my heart: my espresso machine. I was given one for Christmas many years ago when I was in college. Despite the frequent use, it held its own and lasted me up until late 2017 when it promptly stopped working (RIP single-shot Bella espresso maker). I’ve had a new version for a few months now and it brings me all kinds of happiness; all is right in my little caffeinated world.
Funny though, there’s a treat that’s been on my list of things to make for MONTHS: the delicious affogato. I read it the other day and thought that it was a perfect example of my reason for starting this blog. I’ve had the espresso maker and I’ve had the ability to walk two blocks to buy gelato; yet, I’ve been pining away for months telling myself “that would be fun! That would make me happy!” with no action attached to the thought.
Time to bring action to things that bring me joy, right? Time to bring action to affogato.
Affogato, Italian for “drowned”, is a scoop of gelato with a shot of espresso poured over top.
I did it. I made it. It brought me joy.
Think of something simple and small that brings you happiness. Make an effort to do it at some point this week. Take a photo! Share it. Use that hashtag.
The whole point of this blog is to celebrate through brief narration the beautiful balance of taking action on both long-term and short-term goals. It’s with great joy this evening, that I share with you a recently accomplished long-term goal of mine.
Last week, without hesitation, I purchased the Canon Mark IV that has been sitting waiting in my online shopping cart for far too long. This has been in the works for over two years at this point.
This is big. It feels important. It's the truest form of happiness for me.
This Canon Mark IV was out of my reach for a myriad of reasons over the years; I had to prioritize other financial responsibilities, live as an unpaid and busy grad student, and then take time to learn the art of photography on a beginner level. But now, with this beautiful thing in my hands, those reasons aren’t what resurface.
When I initially opened it, I cried out of happiness. I couldn’t believe that it was sitting in front of me on my living room table, waiting for me to simply pick it up; it was there, waiting for my inspiration to fuel all of the things I planned to do with it.
I sat back into my heels on my floor and closed my eyes. I let myself feel washed over with love, appreciation and gratefulness.
This camera did not end up in front of me by accident.
I didn't get to this moment by myself.
This camera represents all of the love and support that I have in my life; it represents the people that believe in me and who have been unwavering in their support for my photography.
Sure, this sounds cliche and cheesy. But I mean it:
To the person who spotted my talent early and gave me a DSLR camera until I could afford my Mark IV. Thank you.
To the family members who helped support me both emotionally and financially during major or minor setbacks. Thank you.
To the friends and family who have never doubted my ability to move forward with my photography and showed this through emails, photo shoot bookings, social media shares, Instagram likes, word of mouth marketing, podcast suggestions for artists, and more. Thank you.
To everyone who hired me for photo shoots and pushed me to market myself. Thank you.
To the friend who in the last few months helped me get my hands on this camera just a little bit faster because god damn, it was time. Thank you.
And finally, to myself for finally looking at this goal on my list of things to do and drawing a hard line through it, confidently. Thank you.
Now the work really begins :)
On my photography Instagram, I often use this hashtag. I try to live by it each day to the best of my ability and to uphold the art of action. Recently, I’ve noticed that I’ve fallen into a pattern, maybe even a rut.
I journal almost every evening. The last few months I’ve made many plans for many things. I’ve written and archived themed lists of goals, both small and important. And don’t get me wrong, there’s a joy and inspiration in this; however, I have yet to do any of them.
I spend hours each week feeling inspired by things I see online or as I walk down the lovely sidewalks of D.C. I plan outfits, I map out photo ideas and marketing plans. I save recipes, get excited over art, save poems, and make future travel plans in my head. I want to build things; I want to draw; I want to see the world; I want to create.
I’ve felt a frustration lately that I’ve been unable to pinpoint or name until now. I finally asked myself one night while writing: when does one stop wanting, wishing, and planning and start actually doing? Honestly, the two aren’t mutually exclusive. I hope that I never stop planning for things that I want to do. I hope that I keep feeling inspired. In fact, that may be the beautiful balance of this thought: simple, short-term joys can occur while planning for more complex, long-term joys.
You don’t have to wait.
Sure, I can’t travel to every place I’ve planned all in the next year. What I can do is write those poems I’ve been storing in my head while saving up for those future trips.
It’s time to start doing.
My hope is this: On the most basic level, by adding some action to all of these inspirations, it will allow me to slow down a little bit and appreciate these things that bring me joy. I don’t want to get caught up in a pattern where I’m always wanting and looking ahead instead of doing and appreciating the present. On a more complex level, I hope to inspire others to add “doing” to the verbs attached to what inspires them most. Sometimes I feel like my head is going to explode with all of the ideas I have. Sometimes I feel discouraged because it feels like there isn’t enough time each day to tend to everything that I want to do. Sometimes I make excuses. I know that this is something others feel.
Maybe with this photoblog addition I can get back to doing more of what brings me joy. I’m happy to report that it’s already encouraged me to take more photos, write more, and start chipping away at that list of things I keep wanting to do. Not to mention, I then have the happiness of sharing with you all.
Get out there. Start creating.