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.”


March 22, 2015 {81/365} Vintage Cameras

In all the excitement about the arrival of Mademoiselle Piper, I neglected to share some of my great birthday gifts. As I've mentioned, I am intrigued by vintage cameras and typewriters, as both tools of creativity and works of art. I'm especially attracted to the 1940's models. I love their clean lines, and I like to image the cultural and historical moments that they've captured.

Eric found this awesome Zeiss Ikon.

Lynn and John, my in-laws, gave me this gorgeous Brownie.

I'm still playing with where to include these treasures in our home. For now, the Brownie sits on the mantle, repeating the lines of the Frank Lloyd Wright clock on the armoire. The Zeiss is on the sofa table next to framed sketches of a vintage camera and typewriter (also gifts from Lynn). 


January 20, 2014 {20/365} "Vintage Technology"

Just recently, I've become a bit obsessed with vintage technology, specifically typewriters (featured here and here) and cameras (like the ones pictured here). It isn't that I particularly enjoy antiques or antique shops; in fact, anyone who knows me will tell you that I don't like clutter. I prefer well-organized, minimalist fashion and décor, featuring a few statement pieces, and of course, I love cutting-edge technology. Yet, for the past few months, I've been pining for these antiquated devices, craving a beautiful old typewriter and camera to display among my most cherished books and found treasures. I find them wonderfully simple yet sophisticated and beautiful in their clean, mid-century design. I think that I've finally figured out what I find most attractive about vintage cameras and typewriters. They represent the technology that has allowed people to be creative: to write novels, poetry, and love letters (although those should truly be handwritten), to take photos of loved ones, to capture the beauty in nature and special events as well as everyday moments that become special once discovered and documented.

In August, I reflected on what I've learned by maintaining this blog, by writing and taking pictures everyday.

Today on this Tech Tuesday, I'd like to refocus my lens on the creative process:

"Since I began blogging and participating in Project 365 activities, I have taken thousands of photographs. I often take multiple shots of the same subject -- sometimes on the same day, sometimes at different times of day (à la Monet), and sometimes days, weeks, months, or even a year later. Studying my photos has taught me so much about focus, composition, color, light, angles, and editing. And although "a picture is worth a thousand words," writing captions and narratives to accompany my photos has further challenged me to be both visually and verbally creative. When I look back on my own progress, I learned so much from the "mistakes" that I've made. The process has not only taught me to be a better writer and photographer, but it has also taught me some valuable life lessons. I have learned:

FOCUS: Be constantly present and observant. Focus on what is beautiful, unusual, the details that make a picture special, uniquely your own. Looking at things from different angles provides new opportunities to witness moments that would be missed if they were only observed from a single point of view. “When you start to change the way you see things, the things you see start to change.” ~ Wayne Dyer

PERSEVERANCE: Commitment to a project of this magnitude can be challenging. There are days when nothing seems interesting; when it feels like there's nothing to photograph and/or nothing to write. There are nights when it's late and I'm tired, but I don't want to disappoint myself by not posting. There are moments when I know I have the potential to take a great picture, but the light, the camera, or the subject don't seem to be cooperating. There are times when there are no words. I've learned not to give up: Light changes, subjects move, and my own control over angles and focus can make all the difference. "Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained." ~ Marie Curie

ACCEPTANCE: Sometimes, I can predict what my day will bring and what photos I might take, but even those pictures always look different in my mind than they do on my screen. My iPhone has predictable limitations. Sometimes, I know that I will never get close enough to capture what I see, and regardless of how much I plan, I can't control the weather, the natural light, or movement and will of others. I can only try new perspectives. "Acceptance doesn't mean resignation; it means understanding that something is what it is and that there's got to be a way through it." ~ Michael J. Fox

BALANCE: It is important to strike a balance between photos and words that are carefully planned, composed, and edited, and those beautiful, unexpected moments that require quick reflexes. So often when I've taken several shots of the same subject, it is my first impression that becomes the photo of the day. As much as I insist on presence and awareness, it is impossible to be fully present if one is constantly viewing life through a camera lens. “Life is a balance of holding on and letting go.” ~ Keith Urban

SHARING: Creative expression (art, music, writing, etc.) is meant to be shared. Although I began this project to challenge myself and that continues to be my primary focus, I have rather serendipitously found an audience for my work via social media and word of mouth. The feedback and encouragement that I receive further challenge me to try new things and to continue to improve. Although it is impossible to please everyone, everyday, it is empowering to know that others look forward to my daily offerings (so thank you!). "Art is about sharing. You wouldn't be an artist unless you wanted to share an experience, a thought." ~ David Hockney


January 6, 2014 {6/365} "Royal"

Five years ago, I was asked to reflect on whether I considered myself a digital native or a digital immigrant. These days, despite my Google certifications and my new position as EdTech Coach, I still maintain my status as high functioning digital immigrant. My initial impressions [with a few updates] are still true today:

"In his work Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants (2001), Marc Prensky assigns the term digital native to those who grew up with the technological advances of the late 20th and early 21st Centuries. The term draws the analogy to a country's natives for whom the local language and culture are natural, compared with immigrants who must adapt to a region's customs. As a teacher of a "foreign language" [for twenty years], this concept of Digital Native vs. Digital Immigrant is quite intriguing. I have been fascinated by the ways that people learn languages. The "old" method of repeating words and phrases, and memorizing passages and conversations in the target language is no longer viewed as effective. In fact, as of the mid-1990's, non-native-speaking FL majors who aspired to teach a foreign language are required (by the Wisconsin DPI) to complete at least six weeks of residency in a country where the target language is spoken. Personally, I can attest that this residency, further travel, and immersion in the language and culture were the key to developing my skills and confidence in the speaking French.

So, do I consider myself a digital native or a digital immigrant? Like much of my generation (Gen-X), I did not grow up with a computer or a cell phone. It wasn't until I signed up for my first computer class in high school that I was truly exposed to this foreign culture. My first (and last) computer class attempted to teach me binary code (or whatever those 0's and 1's were). The final exam for this course was to write a program to center my name in all caps at the top of a page. Why did I need to learn this when I could simple press "Caps Lock", center my carriage, and back-space once for every two letters in my name? So I blissfully buried myself in French, British, and American literature for the next nine years, writing all of my papers, even my substantial master's thesis, on a typewriter. I was content and had no desire to change my ways when I began my student teaching in 1994. My cooperating teacher challenged me to invest the five minutes that it would take for me to learn to use MS Windows, and, although I was apprehensive, I've never looked back.

Today, in this digital society, I view myself as quite "proficient" in technology. I use computers and technology daily in my professional and personal life. My iPhone [and Google Drive have] replaced my agenda, post-its, recipe books, file cabinets, "land-line", 300+ cd's, dvds, photo albums, etc. Social media tools [including Twitter, Google+, Facebook, LinkedIn, blogging] have become integral to my Personal/Professional Learning Network from whom I learn something everyday.

I realize that the time I spend in France is vital for improving my proficiency in the French language. I continue to grow and love its culture, its language, and its people. However, I also recognize that I will never be truly French. Likewise, although I love technology and continue to learn and embrace its possibilities, I will never be a Digital Native. Yet, I know that as a non-native speaker of French, I am a highly-effective teacher of the French language and culture. Technology is no longer a foreign concept to those of us who were not born into this society. We can view ourselves as fortunate to have had our own unique experiences with technology while being open to the wonderful potential that immersion in this digital society provides."

Still, although I have embraced this digital culture wholeheartedly and have grown to appreciate the capabilities that technology offers, I still get excited about new notebooks, pretty paper, and pens. As much as I love my iPhone, iPad, and my Macbook Air,  I still find vintage typewriters like the one pictured above romantic and beautiful. I imagine great writers like Hemingway and Fitzgerald writing their brilliant work on machines like this one. I appreciate the clean architectural lines and often think I'd like to add a vintage Royal to my home or office décor. What do you think?


November 23, 2014 Photo (327/365): "Lunchbox"

Yesterday, we had some time to kill before meeting friends for dinner in downtown Waukesha, so we decided to browse in a large antique shop on Main Street. Amid the bric-a-brac and array of one man's trash a.k.a. one man's treasure, I spotted this gem: a genuine Hardy Boys lunchbox circa 1977! The ten-year-old girl in me squealed with delight! I actually carried my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to school everyday in a lunchbox just like this. Sometimes, I even had Campbell's chicken noodle soup in the matching thermos.  

You see, Shaun Cassidy/Joe Hardy was my very first crush. I was glued to the TV set on Saturday nights, subjecting my parents to every episode of the Hardy Boys Mysteries. In those pre-VCR days, if on the rare occasion we weren't home at 7:00 PM, I would set up my cassette player and an 120-minute TDK tape to record the audio of the show. If I couldn't see Shaun, I could at least hear his voice. And, if I were especially lucky, there would be an episode that featured Shaun singing one of his pop hits like "Da Doo Ron Ron" or "That's Rock 'N' Roll". My dad called him "The Whippersnapper,"  but I was so enamored of his feathered blond hair, puppy dog eyes, and dreamy voice. 

I went to the library every week, and worked my way through all 58 books in the original Hardy Boys SeriesI clipped every picture and article I could find in Tiger Beat magazine and saved them in my Shaun Cassidy scrapbook. In the summer of 1978, my mom took me to Alpine Valley to see Shaun in concert where, like thousands of other pre-teen girls, I cried and screamed with delight. That Christmas, Shaun appeared on our doorstep in the form of life-sized cardboard cut-out. Several years later, Cardboard Shaun was the only boy to live in Cobeen Hall at Marquette where the girls on my floor spoiled him with creative outfits and daily kisses. OK, full disclosure: Cardboard Shaun now resides in our basement among the off-season boat gear and Christmas decorations! He has a few new wrinkles, but then, so do I. Over thirty years later, I haven't forgotten my "first love." A few years ago during the final season of the Oprah Winfrey Show, Oprah featured Shaun Cassidy on her teen heartthrobs episode. Apparently, I'm not alone in my nostalgic crush!

.As for that lunchbox, I saved myself $45 and just took a few pictures!

Vintage Tin

October 2, 2013 Photo of the day: "Take the Wheel"

This evening, we stumbled upon a vintage car show. Although I appreciate the craftsmanship and I enjoyed capturing the nostalgia, classic cars are not my area of expertise. So welcome C'est ma vie's first guess blogger, as my husband, Eric, takes the wheel:

Hi Everyone! This is a great '32 Ford roadster! It looks like hot rods built in the late '40s & early '50s. This is the look I'm after for the roadster I'm building.I would like to restore a car that would replicate  a hot rod built by a guy coming back from WWII. Melinda took these cool pictures. Enjoy!

 - Eric