Sunday, November 8, 2015

Finding Still Life in Real Life

I have many friends who make artful still life photographs as a way to find peace and calmness and practice mindfulness. Their pictures tell stories that always make me feel grateful.

I've taken my fair share of still life photographs, too. But I've expanded my definition of still life to include scenes of people and places and things I discover while out and about - on a photo walk.

At first I thought I had fallen out of love with still life photography . . . but I've come to realize that what I don't enjoy is photo styling. The act of arranging and setting up the scene tends to reinforce my perfectionist tendencies. Moving props a little to the left or the right, adding and subtracting layers, swapping backgrounds, and styling the picture to match my vision frustrates me and turns my passion into work. And what I don't need right now is more work.

What I do find meditative is walking, exploring, wandering aimlessly. I feel as though I am on a treasure hunt, and if I only look with patience and openness, there are pictures everywhere.


On front porches . . .



At the Farmer's Market . . . 


In the kitchen sink . . . 


At the train station, in a little secret alcove . . . 


 

Along Caroline Street in downtown . . . as shopkeepers prepare for the holiday open house

 

 

 At Lenn Park in nearby Stevensburg, as I sit quietly, watching the sunlight dance, feeling the autumn breeze, and listening to the rush of the cascading stream . . . 


 

On the sidewalk on a rainy November morning as the leaves from the Crepe Myrtles swirl and color the earth like jewel-toned crayons . . . 

 

   
It's a wonderful thing that photography brings so much joy to so many people in so many ways. There is no right or wrong camera, no right or wrong way to make a picture, no subject too ordinary or insignificant, no place for competition or comparison. There is enough room for us all and every picture matters . . . to someone.

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field.  
I'll meet you there. 
R u m i

17 comments:

  1. So beautiful! I want to be more mindful of naturally found still lifes.

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    1. Nice to see you sharing your message of faithfulness in so many ways - Woman to Woman Ministries. And thankful for your kind support of me.

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  2. How perfectly described Donna, and I agree whole heartedly! I'm on a "break" for the rest of the year, enjoying photography as the mood strikes me...which can be to only make a staged still life if it strikes me, without all the work that can be involved, or capturing true life stillness, which is my favorite way to relax. I find peace and stillness in each one of your photos today. Thank you for your openness and sharing so beautifully. Enjoy your quiet time with your camera.

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    1. Beverly, You are a mentor and a friend for me. I look to your blog for inspiration, insight and reflection. You seem to have such a balanced perspective on life - and I really enjoy sharing little slices of your life - like the glorious Ginko tree. Thank you!

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  3. Wholeheartedly agree 100%, while I love a good still life there is just too much more I love about photography. I don't like the mess I make trying to do a still life and much prefer finding those little gems along the way with a walk or just in being. Your images here represent you, the wonderful friend you have become to me. Honest, storyteller that you are. These days my photography is limited because of well, to be delicate about it old age, but I am trying my best to keep up with something I truly love. You are just a master of the known word and always hit the nail on the head with me. I just saw Beverly and I used Wholeheartedly in our comment here, gotta love that word.

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    1. Oh Barbara, you've said it more perfectly than I could ever have. Yes, sometimes I make a huge mess when taking still life photographs. My poor husband tries to run and hide because I somehow mange to rope him into being my "helper." I think he is very glad to send me out the door to take a walk and take pictures rather than dragging out props and re-arranging our entire home for a picture! How fortunate that our photography practice evolves as we continue on life's journey.

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  4. I seem to be following a similar path right now, just taking photos as and when I feel like it. I do love still life's and may start venturing back to them as Winter gets closer . But I now live in a different part of the country and I'm looking forward to taking photos of snow and ice ! ( That may only be for this first year of course ! ) We shall see. I always love your work and your words Donna :)

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    1. Caz, I'll look forward to those winter still life images of yours. I'm thinking you many need a little shopping trip for winter picture-taking - warm boots, wool socks, lots of layers, gloves. Scope out those scenic spots or plan for wintry shots taken from inside where it's warm - a fogged up window, hot chocolate, a snow globe at the window. Can't wait to see what you'll capture! Stay warm my friend!

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  5. Beautiful photos / Beautiful thoughts

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    1. Thanks for your visit. Loved your recent photo of the fall leaves in the Mason jar - and your Not-To-Do List. I'm following your lead.

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  6. I love the stories you tell, Donna. Your images alone are wonderful, but when combined with your words they shine with a special light. You are much in my prayers these days, friend. Blessings.

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  7. I totally agree with you Donna and with many of the ladies commenting here. We have spent months on Still Life with Kim and learned a lot with her and enjoyed it very much, challenging in imagination, inspiration, creativity and unearthing the best and prettiest props... It's natural that we should evolve and feel we need to expand our photography to other styles or other ways to practice it. Like you and many others, I feel I need a pause in Still Life and not feel obliged to be inspired when I'm not. Shooting little pieces of outside places, landscapes and streets along with the changing of seasons is a great joy, great is the pleasure to take our camera back home with these treasures inside it and discover them again on our screen.
    I’ve noticed that when outside my eyes have become more watchful of my environment. Day after day I try to become more aware of what is around me and find beauty in many little scenes which seem ordinary to others. These scenes you share with us so beautifully like leaves on the ground, Bruxelles sprouts or cabbages on a market stall, a pumpkin on the edge of a porch… They are so simple, so true and so real that we often forget to look at them… With our camera we have the power to instill beauty, poetry and significance in every simple spot that catch our eyes and to transform it into a spontaneous and real still life. This kind of spontaneous photography brings us a lot of joy, freedom and the feeling that there is beauty everywhere in this world.
    Thank you so much Donna for your wise words (love the idea of a treasure hunt!), thank you for your open mind (I love your conclusion and so much agree with it) and thank you for putting words on concepts I unconsciously feel but would keep for myself!

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  8. Donna, you have said so eloquently what so many of us are thinking and feeling. It's not about the still life, it is about the styling of it. I know that to be true more than ever as I sit in my house, not able to get out, because of knee surgery. The perfect time to set up a few stills, great fall light, a house full of props and cameras ready to snap. What's missing though is inspiration. I just don't feel the pull, the magic. It all seems to overwhelming to me.
    What I'm missing though, and it breaks me heart, is being part of the scene outside my bay window. I sit in my lounger and watch the light move all day long, and in the process , it brightens the yellows, glows beautifully against the reds. I see my grandsons little blue swing full of golden yellow light just teasing me to take a snap of those yellow leaves relaxing there. Yesterday the boys were playing in huge piles of leaves and I couldn't figure out how to hold the camera and my walker. I had the passion but not the means.
    Sometimes in forced slowing down, we finally get the understanding we've been searching for. We find our joy without even pushing the shutter. We feel it in our hearts first and the rest of the process just happens. Today is a new day, the sun is giving me one more chance. Today I'm going to go get that shot of Jaxsons swing with the light of the sun and my heart leading the way. I'll also breathe in some of that fresh fall air while I'm out there. Enough to know that in the days of struggle ahead, I can practice patience. Waiting for my leg to heal and then taking my knew knee on a nice walk. Season by season, there is always something new waiting to find me.
    Thanks Donna for this wonderful and enlighting post. BTW.. Love the color of your sneakers.

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  9. Love the title! What I love about photography is that we each take what we like about it and leave the rest! Love that you KNOW that the styling part isn't for you and you're finding a way to still get the "still life" in the every day! Brava woman!! Now for me...I LOVE the staging...and have a huge project that I'll be starting up once I return to AZ for the winter. But ask me after that and I might be right there along with you, ha ha! Always great to see the little "pic me ups" arrive in my in-box! Always like Christmas! :) Thank you for being YOU! P.S. That image from the kitchen sink...ADORE!

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  10. I think you have summed it up for lots of us. It's wonderful that there's so many different avenues one can take in photography. With my short attention span, adventurous nature, and love of learning something new, I am so thankful that photography offers me different options. I really don't enjoy cleaning the mess from still life photography but I have learned a lot while taking Kim's classes. I like you had rather be outside roaming around to see what will catch my eye.

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  11. Well put! I love going for photo walks/drives and finding extraordinarily simple items and photographing the still life in real life. I too found that stylizing my pictures would make me more tense then relaxed. I try to live a simple life and keep clutter in my house to a minimum, my motto "he who dies with the least amount of stuff wins." Keep inspiring with words and photos.

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  12. I love this less perfectly arranged view of your life.

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