The Steadfast

Safe to say life is a little crazy right now. People are wondering what the future looks like, whether or not they’ll have a job to come back to, how this will affect their kids, etc.

I don’t have any real words of wisdom other than hold on to your “constant.”

What I mean by that is the thing that gets you through the worst of times. For me, I happen to believe in God. I’m not a very stereotypical Christian anymore because there’s a lot of theology that I happen to disagree with. I won’t get into the details of that, but the one thing that has stayed constant for me is my relationship with God.

Perhaps you’re a spiritual person in a different sort of way. Perhaps you’re not spiritual at all and you find hope in logic. Whatever your constant may be, hold onto it.

I like to think of it the way I do my favorite mountains. I happen to live in beautiful Central Oregon, and because I was born and raised here, the mountains have been a part of my skyline for as long as I can remember. There are three in particular that are incredibly well known in this area, generally referred to as the Three Sisters.

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This is from my absolute favorite viewpoint. It’s hard to capture in a photograph, but you’re so close to the mountains that you can see the details of their ridge lines and the rocks and crags on them. It’s amazing.

Because I know this area so well, I always know where the Three Sisters are located. From my particular hometown, you can see their peaks from almost any part of the city. It doesn’t matter if they’re covered by clouds or fog, or if the sun has set. I know they’ll always be there.

That’s kind of how God is for me. It doesn’t matter if there are times when my own clouds of anxiety keep me from seeing Him in the moment. He’s still there for me.

So I repeat, whatever your “constant” is, hold onto it. This, too, shall pass, and we’ll come out the other side. But whatever you need to do in the moment to help get through it, be patient with yourself. It’s going to be okay.

Hugs to you all! (Digitally, of course, so we’re ten feet apart.) 😀

Happy New Year!

I’ve been a geek pretty much all my life. I was a geek when it was extremely uncool to be one, and I was a geek when they were fairly well accepted in everyday life. It’s simply a part of who I am and what I happen to be interested in. I have a Lord of the Rings collection. There is still fanart from The Legend of Zelda hanging in my room. I’m cool with this. 

And honestly, the older I get the more I realize that some of us were just meant to be kids forever. I missed out on a lot of the spontaneity of youth because I let fear rule my life. Now I’m in my mid-30’s, and I don’t give a crap what anyone thinks of me. Quite frankly, I like this version of me much better. 

One of the things that hasn’t changed about me over the years is my love of costumes. I went full-out the first time I ever went to a Comic Con and bought a really great Black Widow costume. It was pricey, but LEGIT. I loved the experience so much that I realized it brought back a little dream of mine. 

I had always thought it would be really fun to do costumed Christmas cards. I tried to get my ex-husband to get in on it with me, but he utterly refused. He told me it was a stupid idea, one of the many times his verbal abuse made me feel like a terrible person, and it was all I could to get him to pose for regular pictures. 

Here’s the thing. I adore photo Christmas cards. I love seeing smiling faces and happy families and watching my friend’s children grow each year. I like seeing what they’ve chosen to wear this time around, and what the backdrop is. So for me, I thought It would be so cool to have a theme each year. Dress in costume, go the whole nine yards. I mean, wouldn’t it be great to be the one that everyone looks forward to each year, wondering, “What did she come up with this time?” 

Well, I left that abusive marriage about three years ago. Best decision I ever made. (Which only slightly makes up for the worst decision I ever made, but I digress.) I’m still a single gal, and for the first few years it seemed a little weird to just do Christmas cards of me by myself. Yeah, I know, I could have done whatever I wanted, but I ultimately chose not to go that route.

But then I got my beautiful Bailey last year. Suddenly, around the fall, I realized that I had the partner in crime I’d always wanted. She looks pretty “wolfie” in appearance, so I decided to do a last-minute themed Christmas card. My friend’s mom is a great photographer and agreed to take the photos for me, so I threw together a costume using materials that I found from Goodwill and St. Vincent’s. 

They turned out fabulous. Every bit of what I wanted them to be. I loved seeing them, and I sent a copy to every friend and family member that I could think of. The response was exactly what I knew it would be, and people thought they were great. 

So you know what? The next time someone tells you that you can’t do something, or that an idea is stupid, do it anyway. Maybe the response won’t be so positive, but gosh darn it, if it makes you happy then that’s all that matters anyway. 

Be fabulous, my dears. And have a blessed New Year, from Red Riding Hood and the Wolf. 

Before and After, and the Work In-Between

Can we take a minute and talk about a couple of words that most people don’t like to talk about? No, not those words, you dirty-minded person. 😉  I mean those OTHER words.

Hard. Work.

I confess that there are many times when I seek out instant gratification. I can be very patient when I want to be, but sometimes I just don’t give a flip and want it done NOW. As in, like, finished yesterday. But there’s something to be said for slow and steady progress. For the satisfaction of knowing the blood, sweat and tears that was put into your craft, whatever it may be. I’ve studied many things over the years, from singing to bellydance, and there’s always been a sense of pride from the work that I’ve done in those areas.

Most recently, I finally started pursuing my passion in photography, as previously mentioned in this blog. I’d always enjoyed it to an extent, but I didn’t really start seriously studying it until about three years ago.

One of my favorite places to go is Sahalie Falls. It’s only about an hour or so from where I live, which is amazing, and it’s just a beautiful area. The McKenzie river is green and lush, with several waterfalls and pretty areas all along it. Sahalie Falls is one of the most popular tourist destinations, with a short three-mile loop that allows you to see the waterfalls from both sides of the river. A couple weeks ago, I went there with a good friend and completed the full loop for the first time in a couple of years. When we approached what was nearly the end of the trail, I just had to stop and take a photo of the tiny little waterfall cascading near the trail. It was much fuller than it had previously been, thanks to a large amount of recent snowfall, but it was so nostalgic to me.

That tiny little waterfall was my first ever attempt and capturing a long exposure image. Basically, long exposure means your shutter-speed is set for a longer period of time, so it creates a blurred effect for things that are in motion. That’s how you get that beautiful, flowing look for things like waterfalls or rivers. I had never tried it before, but I remember the sense of pride I had when I first took photos of this place. This was how it turned out:

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I tweaked it in Photoshop, because I hadn’t yet purchased a copy of Lightroom, and even printed out a copy to hang above my bed at our old house. This was it, I had found what I wanted to do forever. I was so happy with the results that I posted it everywhere, convinced it was going to be one of my best pieces ever.

Well, it’s not necessarily bad. But I can see where I over-exposed a lot of the image and didn’t set the shutter for the right speed. Not only that, but over the last two years my style of photography has gone from bright colors and exposure to more dark and moody. When I processed the most recent photo, I used some of the go-to presets that I almost always use now.

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Same place, same water. Completely different photography styles.

I’m still proud of both of these works. But I love seeing how far I’ve come in the last couple of years. When I look back at things like this, I see the hours of labor and studying that I put into it. I see the late nights and early mornings. I see the tears of frustration over a failed attempt or yet another rejection. But I always see progress.

I know it’s been credited to many different authors, but my mother always used to quote to me that when you find the job you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. Oh trust me, you’ll still put in the work. But when it’s your passion, it’s worth every moment.

The Selfie Trend (and Why I Joined)

I bought a selfie stick the other day. Truth be told, I used to be one of those people who laughed at the ones who had selfie sticks. I thought they were rather vain and unnecessary. I might have pointed and laughed a time or two when I saw people using them. I might have even made fun of my friend when she got one, never passing up a chance to give her a hard time about it.

Then I started hiking by myself. A LOT.

Suddenly, a selfie stick didn’t sound like such a bad idea. I bought a cheap one just to see how I liked it, and the next thing I knew, I was hooked. It was so much easier to get a photo of myself out and about. I don’t know about you, but I don’t always trust handing my phone to strangers. Maybe I’m just paranoid. (Though I certainly never mind when others ask me to take a photo of them. It’s actually one of my great delights to hand their phone back to them and see their surprise at how nice the photos turn out.)

Plus having someone take a photo of me meant that I never really knew how it was going to turn out. No one’s fault, of course; they’re not a photographer by trade. But fellow photogs can relate to what I’m saying, right?

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Can I get an amen?? (Don’t worry, Bey, we still love you.)

Even when I was out with friends, it was so much better to get the whole group in a picture with a selfie stick. I mean, some of my friends have pretty long arms, but they can still only reach so far.

Oh man, I super enjoyed it. It became a part of my usual pack. Then, just as I had grown accustomed to the joys of selfies, tragedy struck. Yes, my little cheapo selfie stick randomly died one day, and I couldn’t figure out how to fix it.

I tell you, though, once you’ve discovered the joys of getting more backdrop in a photo, it’s really difficult to go back to your face filling up the whole phone screen. So I did a little research and looked up good ol’ Amazon to see what selfie sticks were compatible with my trusty iPhone 8 Plus. (The phone is HUGE, which I love, but sometimes it’s hard to find things that will fit it.)

Low and behold, they not only have selfie sticks but SELFIE TRIPODS.

Selfie tripods!!!

Suddenly, my life had new meaning. If there is one piece of equipment that I simply couldn’t live without as a photographer, it’s my tripod. I don’t need especially expensive brand-new lenses. I can make do with used. I don’t need the latest Nikon camera. My D5200 has been absolutely fantastic. What I DO need is a tripod to hold my camera still when I want to get a long exposure of a waterfall, or when my hands are simply too cold to keep from shaking.

So a tripod for my phone with a Bluetooth remote? Why, it just makes sense.

Honestly, I’m probably pretty late in the game when it comes to this. I follow a lot of great photographers on IG and the like, and while sometimes they’re able to have other photogs take a great shot of them out and about, more often than not I think they’re taking advantage of the exact same thing.

So late in the game or not, I am super excited to play around with my new toy. Who’s ready to head up to Smith Rock with me?

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This picture made possible by a super special awesome selfie tripod.

Learning a Craft

I’ve discovered that learning photography is not unlike studying writing. Everyone seems to think they can write a book, but it takes a lot more than just putting some words on paper to weave a good story together. There is an art form to it. The same goes for photography. Now that cameras are in plentiful supply, mostly on everyone’s phones, there is a huge surge of amateurs trying to be artistic without actually studying what makes a photo good.

Don’t get me wrong, I still consider myself to be an amateur in many ways because I’m still learning. Plus I have nothing against the average person wanting to take pictures. But there are many things that I’ve finally mastered and a lot of trial and error that has made me realize why photographers do what they do, and it’s given me a little more respect for the ones who go above and beyond.

Getting up at 4am to go for a hike so you can get to a particular location by 7am is not necessarily the most fun thing in the world when you’re not a morning person. (Which I’m not.) But I gotta tell you, that light makes for some pretty spectacular photos.

Case in point:

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That flowy water effect? Not possible unless you have softer light. Just after dawn or right before dusk is best. (There’s a reason they call it “Golden Hour.”)

So how much of a difference does the proper lighting really make? Well, I happened to come across one of my first photos the other day, after I visited the exact same spot nearly two years later. It’s not a bad photo, and to be perfectly honest I was quite proud of it when I first took it. I had just barely started taking photography seriously, and this was a completely new location to me. It happened to be at the lovely Green Lakes, located in my beautiful home state of Oregon. It’s a very popular hike, often used as training grounds for marathon runners. It’s a full four miles to get to the lakes themselves, but once you’re there, it’s spectacular.

The lakes are nestled in between two large mountains, the South Sister and Broken Top. As her name implies, the South Sister is furthest south of a trio of peaks known as the Three Sisters. They’re all roughly around 10,000 feet in elevation, with South Sister as the tallest of the three.

As I went through my current pictures, I remembered taking similar photos two years ago and decided to see how far my photography has come. Low and behold, I found my original:

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Again, it’s not a bad photo. The lakes really are that emerald color (hence their name) and the looming peak of South Sister is much more intimidating in person. I used this photo in my first ever calendar that I gave to friends and family as a Christmas present. However, this shot was taken mid-afternoon, probably at the peak of the day, which is the worst lighting one can ask for when it comes to photos.

When I hiked it again this year, I went much earlier in the day and got to the lakes while it was still morning. That meant we missed a lot of the crowds, and because the sun wasn’t directly overhead, the lake looked like this instead:

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Technically, a little bit earlier would have been even better, but I’m quite happy with how these turned out overall. Within the space of an hour, this reflection was no longer visible and there were several other people in the area, including several who decided to go for a swim. I don’t begrudge them wanting to swim, of course, but that would have put quite a crimp in my style if I had still been trying to capture images.

I still have a long ways to go, I know. But I’m really happy with how far I’ve come. There are lots of doors and opportunities opening for me, and I’m thrilled to take advantage of every single one that comes my way.