What's New

“Which of my photographs is my favorite? The one I’m going to take tomorrow.” — Imogen Cunningham

January 1.jpg

Six years ago, I started Project 365 by posting one picture everyday — a quick iPhone snapshot of whatever I found interesting, beautiful, or indicative of my current situation. As the days and years passed, my interest and skills in photography, editing, and blogging grew and I was no longer content to post “whatever” caught my eye each day. I do love the idea of Project 365, but I often struggled to maintain the pace or to find new inspiration. At the end of each year, I wondered if I should reduce or even abandon my project. I mean, I didn’t miss a single day in six years — that’s 2,191 days (365 day/year + 1 Leap Year). That is serious dedication!

Every year, I tried to shift my focus from quantity to quality while recognizing that it is actually the quantity of photos that lead to the quality I strive to achieve. When I lacked inspiration, I found that capturing familiar subjects helped me to experiment with camera settings, lighting, angles, and editing techniques, ultimately allowing me to grow as a photographer. Yes, my photos did get better, but let’s face it, you have seen a lot of flowers, trees, books, pastries, cups of tea and coffee, glasses of wine, critters with wings or fur, and one particularly photogenic beagle! And if I’m being entirely honest, it isn’t always fun. There have been days when nothing captured my attention and nights when I was too tired to be creative or clever. In six years, I posted content while in five time zones, six states, and three countries. I have often wondered if I missed out on truly experiencing the moment by always trying to capture it in words and images.

I know that if I were to stop entirely, I would disappoint a lot of people — especially myself. I would miss the challenge, the careful observation, the creativity, and the learning. So in 2019, I have decided to afford myself the flexibility to enjoy the process rather than hold myself accountable to strict guidelines. This year, I might challenge myself with photo series, themes, colors, and even a Project 52, but I am not going to commit to posting everyday. I won’t be skulking around the yard after dinner desperately searching for something to photograph or browsing through my image archives at 11:30 pm to supplement a less than inspirational day. I want to plan and process, edit and proofread. I hope to write more of my own content rather than simply finding a quote to accompany my images. I am certain that I will have plenty of pictures to post a “calendar view” at the end of each month, but I will only choose the photos that I really love — several of which might be taken on the same day.

Last October, I began building a new platform to share curated photo collections, to archive of all my work since 2011, and to create new blog posts. I also included a contact page for you to offer suggestions and ideas. Although, my primary motivation for continuing this work is personal, I really do appreciate your feedback. In the past, I have posted all of my content directly to social media. Consequently, the number of visits to my Blogger site steadily decreased and the “likes” and comments stopped entirely. I sincerely hope that, by simply sharing links or single images on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, you will take the time to visit my new website and share your thoughts right here (C’est ma vie! aka melindalarson.com). Maybe you could start right now — Please let me know what you think by liking and/or commenting below!

Happy New Year and cheers to a new perspective! XO 🥂

Back in Black (+ White)

(305/365) “Colour is everything, black and white is more.” – Dominic Rouse, photographer

Bantam Special

November naturally represents an absence of color as the world turns brown and gray and the days get shorter and darker. Natural light becomes a precious commodity while artificial light distorts color and clarity. In the past, I struggled with my November photographs as my work day begins and ends in darkness. Two years ago, I decided that, rather than bemoan these limitations, I would embrace the lack of color and post only black and white images to focus on light, shadow, texture and composition.

As Elliott Erwitt said, “Color is descriptive. Black and white is interpretive.”

Sailing + Photography Lessons

August 8, 2018 (220/365)

"The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails." - William Arthur Ward ...Or the pessimist complains that her iPhone can't capture the beauty of these little prams racing just off-shore. The optimists hopes she can edit her photos to make them clearer and brighter. The realist posts her photos anyway since sailing opties and a photo-a-day challenge are all about learning!

Week 8 - Technical: Zoom Burst

February 20, 2018 (051/365)

"Anybody can be a great photographer if they zoom in enough on what they love." ~ David Bailey

Week 8 - TECHNICAL: Zoom Burst [By changing the focal length during long exposure you can add movement to your frame, producing leading lines within your frame.] #dogwoodweek8, #dogwood52, #dogwood2018

Week 1 - Vision: The Sky's the Limit

January 2, 2018 (002/365)

"Be brave enough to live the life of your dreams according to your vision and purpose instead of the expectations and opinions of others.” - Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart

Week 1 - VISION: Look Ahead • The Sky's the Limit... [New year. New beginnings. New you. Look ahead. Interpret as you wish.] #dogwoodweek1, #dogwood52, #dogwood2018 • f/1.81, ISO25

It is only day two of the new year and already I have accepted a new challenge. My friend, colleague, and fellow photographer, Julie, introduced me to the Dogwood 52 Week Challenge for 2018. Unlike other projects that suggest a daily or weekly subject or theme, this challenge was created by photographers and focuses on only five categories:

  • VISION: This category is designed to push you to go beyond sight, to insight; to take inspiration and make it a reality. Vision exists in your imagination and is revealed your photographs; expressing something otherwise invisible. Developing a Vision for your work is showing to others what you see in your mind’s eye.

  • COMPOSITION: Composition refers to the way the various elements in a scene are arranged within the frame. Challenges will focus on setting up the shot and developing our personal composition styles; styles which can become our trademark. Developing your Composition will allow you to set the stage to generate a reaction from your audience.

  • TECHNICAL: Technical Aptitude is just as important as creative inspiration in photography. This year's technical category is primarily focused on in camera processes, however, there will be some post processing techniques included.

  • CREATIVE: When this category comes up, you really have room to express yourself. You can interpret the assignment literally or figuratively. Unlike the other categories, the idea of this category is to let your artistic impression shine.

  • WILD CARD: Consider this a Show-and-Tell for grown-ups. You have freedom do shoot what and how you wish. Let us know if you're trying a new technique, composition, style, subject, working on a specific project, or just exercising your freedom. Have fun!*

Here is the Challenge List:

  • Week 1 - VISION: Look Ahead - New year. New beginnings. New you. Look ahead. Interpret as you wish.

  • Week 2 - COMPOSITION: Color Harmony - Get out your color wheel. Do opposites attract? Can there be harmony with opposite colors? Does the Hulk wear purple pants? Mix warm and cool colors.

  • Week 3 - TECHNICAL: Full Manual - While the camera often determines shutter speed and aperture for the photographer, it doesn't know your creative intent. This week, challenge your self to assume creative control over the camera by using full manual mode. Select a subject where varying the aperture and / or shutter speed helps enhance the composition and visual qualities of the image.

  • Week 4 - CREATIVE: Quiet Moment - Peace. Serenity. Tranquility. Convey a quiet moment.

  • Week 5 - WILD CARD: Photographer's Choice - Capture an image on your terms; who, what, where, when, why, how … it's all up to you. Caveat: You must tell us your intent.

  • Week 6 - VISION: Alternating Rhythm - Alternate patterns of light to bring depth and rhythm to the photograph.

  • Week 7 - COMPOSITION: Fill the Frame - Fill the frame with your subject, no background. You will need to get up close and personal, or use a good zoom lens.

  • Week 8 - TECHNICAL: Zoom Burst - By changing the focal length during long exposure you can add movement to your frame, producing leading lines within your frame.

  • Week 9 - CREATIVE: Forsaken - Abandoned and Forgotten were favorites in the past. Let's revisit the idea the idea this year.

  • Week 10 - VISION: Selective Color - I know, I know. Yuck. Selective color can be cringeworthy, however, when done right, it brings compelling focus to the subject.

  • Week 11 - COMPOSITION: Negative Space - Minimize the composition to isolate your subject. The composition should be simple, thereby drawing your viewer to the subject.

  • Week 12 - TECHNICAL: Macro - Life is in the details. Get in close and show us the details we usually miss. You don't need a macro lens to shoot a macro shot.

  • Week 13 - CREATIVE: Leading Lines - Back by popular demand, use lines to lead the viewer to your subject.

  • Week 14 - VISION: Diptych or Triptych - Connect 2 or 3 images together, creating one image, to provoke a thought or tell a story.

  • Week 15 - COMPOSITION: Rule of Space - Your subject should be facing the frame, walking into the frame, this keeps your subject "in" the frame and engaging with it. Give your subject room to move.

  • Week 16 - TECHNICAL: Portrait Lighting - Whether Butterfly, Rembrandt, Split, or Loop Lighting, choose the technique which best flatters your subject.

  • Week 17 - CREATIVE: Humor - Laughter is the best medicine. Make us laugh.

  • Week 18 - WILDCARD: Photographer's Choice - Capture an image on your terms; who, what, where, when, why, how … it's all up to you. Caveat: You must tell us your intent.

  • Week 19 - VISION: Edge Cut Sun - Having an edge cut through the sun looks nice, or having the sun rising over a line or diagonal within the photo. Stop down the aperture to create a starburst.

  • Week 20 - COMPOSITION: From Below - Get down low; below 2 feet, and change your perspective. Look out or look up.

  • Week 21 - TECHNICAL: Product - Imagine your image in a catalog or a magazine. It's not as easy as it sounds.

  • Week 22 - CREATIVE: Door - A symbol of transition, a door or a gate provide a passage way.

  • Week 23 - VISION: No Peeking - Shoot as if you were using a film camera. That means that you will not look at the photographs you've taken until they are downloaded on your computer.

  • Week 24 - COMPOSITION: Contrast - An easy way to make a photo more interesting is to introduce some form of stark contrast: liquid/solid, hard/soft, delicate/brash.

  • Week 25 - TECHNICAL: Starburst - Create a very strong focal point and add an entirely new dimension of interest to your image using a starburst.

  • Week 26 - CREATIVE: High or Low Key - You don't have to do both this year; choose your favorite and shoot that.

  • Week 27 - VISION: Flattery - They say imitation is the highest form; so, past or present; choose your favorite master photographer and imitate their art or technique.

  • Week 28 - COMPOSITION: Left to Right Rule - Compose an image in the way we read; most countries read from left to right. Compose your shot to follow this direction.

  • Week 29 - TECHNICAL: Twilight Zone - While golden and blue hours bring beautiful lighting, shooting in twilight opens up a new way of seeing the world. Capture a "scape" that isn't dominated by darkness. Show the light and textures that can be found under the stars, in city lights, or a moon filled sky.

  • Week 30 - CREATIVE: Circles - The circle is a universal symbol with extensive meaning; it represents the notions of totality.

  • Week 31 - WILDCARD: Photographer's Choice - Capture an image on your terms; who, what, where, when, why, how … it's all up to you. Caveat: You must tell us your intent.

  • Week 32 - VISION: The Alphabet - Alphabet photography involves taking photographs of existing or created objects to create a word.

  • Week 33 - COMPOSITION: Figure to Ground - If camouflage is designed to make things disappear, Figure to Ground is designed to make the subject stand out. Light on dark, dark on light.

  • Week 34 - TECHNICAL: The Wild Side - Capturing a captivating wildlife photograph requires knowledge of your camera settings and the behavior of the animal. Capture a compelling wildlife photograph that has proper subject alignment (e.g., no "bird butts") and exposure. For an easy introduction, urban critters (e.g., squirrels) are easy targets. For an advanced challenge, a bird in flight could be considered.

  • Week 35 - CREATIVE: Loneliness - One is the loneliest number.

  • Week 36 - VISION: Ordinary - Find beauty in the ordinary.

  • Week 37 - COMPOSITION: Eye Lines - Eyes draw attention to certain parts of the frame, your subject will direct your audience's eye. Where is your subject looking? What are they seeing or not seeing?

  • Week 38 - TECHNICAL: Focus Stacking - A technique which combines multiple images taken at different focus distances to give a resulting image with a greater depth of field. Especially helpful in macro.

  • Week 39 - CREATIVE: Abstract - Photograph a common object in an abstract manner.

  • Week 40 - VISION: Classic Novel - Create an image that identifies a classic novel or story.

  • Week 41 - COMPOSITION: Rule of Odds - Compose and image highlighting an odd number of subjects; some see this as natural and more pleasing to the eye.

  • Week 42 - TECHNICAL: Shutter Drag - Used to balance fill light with ambient light or add motion-blur to images.

  • Week 43 - CREATIVE: A Song - Create a photo from the title of a song.

  • Week 44 - WILDCARD: Photographer's Choice - Capture an image on your terms; who, what, where, when, why, how … it's all up to you. Caveat: You must tell us your intent.

  • Week 45 - VISION: Show Half - Tell a complete story by only showing half of it.

  • Week 46 - COMPOSITION: Golden Triangles - A diagonal line divides the frame from corner to corner, two more lines are added from the other corners, intersecting the diagonal line.

  • Week 47 - TECHNICAL: Step Back - Edit your image to where you think it's perfect and let it sit for two days. Then return to it and see if it works. Print a picture and review it from a different perspective before finalizing.

  • Week 48 - CREATIVE: Split Tones - Another favorite; last year's technical, is this year's creative. Have fun with it.

  • Week 49 - VISION: Look Back - We need to look back to see how far we've come. If you were Captain Ahab, which skill would be your whale? Post a comparison.

  • Week 50 - COMPOSITION: Golden Ratio - Often called Fibonacci, the spiral leads the viewers eye to the squares (the subject), compose your image using the Golden Ratio.

  • Week 51 - TECHNICAL: Exposure Compensation - While high dynamic range pictures can help capture challenging lighting situations, there are times when you need a single frame. Use exposure compensation mode on your camera to capture backlit or other challenging lighting situations

  • Week 52 - CREATIVE: Self Portrait - Not popular, but it's good for us to get on the other side of the lens. This year it's in a creative category, so be creative.

#dogwood52, #dogwood2018, and #dogwoodweek[NUMBER]

*Foshe, D. (2018). 52 Week Photography Challenge for 2018 by Dogwood Photography. [online] Dogwood.photography. Available at: https://dogwood.photography/52weekchallenge2018.html [Accessed 2 Jan. 2018].

Project 365

December 30, 2017 (364/365)

"Life is like a camera. Focus on what's important. Capture the good times. And if things don't work out, just take another shot." - Ziad K. Abdelnour

It has been my habit at the end of each year to reflect upon my Project 365 and to make plans for the next iteration. Some years have been status quo while others have been (sometimes failed) attempts at redefinition. Occasionally, I wonder if I should reduce or even abandon this project, having struggled to maintain the pace and to find new inspiration. More and more, I try to focus on quality over quantity, yet often it is the quantity of photos that leads to the quality that I strive to achieve. I have posted a photo each day for five years -- that's 1826 photos, but I have taken thousands more. Even when it seems as if there is nothing new or interesting to photograph, I have found that capturing familiar subjects helps me to experiment with camera settings, lighting, angles, and editing techniques, ultimately allowing me to see my own growth as a photographer. I know that if I were to stop, I would miss the challenge, but in 2018, I will try to afford myself the flexibility to enjoy the process rather than hold myself to strict guidelines.

I might challenge myself with series, themes, colors, and photo-a-day challenges, or I might simply continue to allow each day to surprise me. To paraphrase Fitzgerald, "and so I beat on," allowing the past to become a source of inspiration and ideas for the future.

Things are Looking Up

November 30, 2017 (334/365)

"Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible." - Tony Robbins

Thirty days ago, I challenged myself to abandon color in favor of a focus on composition, light, shadow, and texture. As always, thank you for your encouragement and feedback as I continue to learn and stretch myself as photographer. It has been a rather steep climb at times, but things are looking up and tomorrow there will be color again!

Black and White

November 1, 2016 (305/365)

“Colour is everything, black and white is more.” – Dominic Rouse, photographer

November naturally represents an absence of color as the world turns brown and gray and the days get shorter and darker. Natural light becomes a precious commodity while artificial light distorts color and clarity. Last year, I recognized that I have often struggled with my November photographs as my work day begins and ends in darkness. So, rather than bemoaning these limitations, I am again embracing the lack of color by featuring only black and white images. When a day fails to present me with an interesting or beautiful subject, I will search my archives for previously-rejected images that can be improved by stripping them of color and focusing on light (natural and artificial), shadow, texture and composition. As Elliott Erwitt said, “Color is descriptive. Black and white is interpretive.”

I spy...

March 30, 2017 (089/365)

“When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs.” - Ansel Adams

It's Throwback Thursday and I'm featuring a photo taken barely a month ago. There's nothing profound or poetic to say about it except that somehow a cold, rainy day in Paris really is more pleasant that a cold, rainy day in Wisconsin...and when you see a vintage Fiat with a Jesus sticker in the window, you take a picture!

Form Follows Function

February 13, 2017 (044/365)

"Form follows function." - Louis Sullivan, American architect

Every time I visit the Milwaukee Art Museum, I stop to by the decorative arts collection to gaze longingly at these beauties. The collection of Walter Dorwin Teague's Art Deco Kodak cameras includes five Beau Brownies (one in each color), a No. 1A Gift Camera (background), and this gorgeous Bantam Special.  As a student of architecture and design, Teague subscribed to the tenet that form follows function; yet, he was determined to created modern heirlooms out of practical, machine-made objects. These cameras are works of art to create works of art - a photographer/collector's dream!