Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Happiest Place on Earth

Photo Credit: Mallory Huizenga

It has been 2-1/2 years since we took a family vacation. We have been planning a vacation to the happiest place on earth for the last six months. The reservations were all made, the flights books, all of it paid for in full. Then a week before we were due to leave my mother had emergency heart surgery, and thoughts of a week in the sun flew out the window.

My sister-in-law encouraged us to hold off on canceling our trip until we saw how mom was doing. We set a deadline of Wednesday, three days before we were due to leave, to make our final decision. Thanks to amazing surgeons, hospital staff, my mom's feisty demeanor, and the grace of God, my mom made fast and steady improvement. We knew she would still either be in the hospital or the rehab facility while we were gone, so my dad wouldn't be dealing with her on his own at home. So with my dad's insistence, and my brother and sister-in-law's blessing we flew out early Saturday morning for our family vacation to Walt Disney World.

The last time we were at Disney was October of 2009, Mallory was still in high school then, now she is 24 and has been out of college for over two years. In 2009 the economy was not great, The Great Recession in full swing, more families were doing staycations then traveling. In 2017 Disney was different and we were different.

The economy has recovered well in those eight years. We saw many large family groups (all with matching Disney t-shirts) in every park we went to. In 2009 we could get off a ride, wait 15 minutes and get back on again, in 2017 we could get off a ride and wait two hours to get back on again. Thank goodness for fast passes.

Also we had to navigate Disney as three adults, not two parents and a child. It had its challenges but by the end of the week we had found a good rhythm.

At the end of most trips we always reflect on favorite things and things we would do differently, so here are some of those reflections:

Favorite Things:

Resort - Port Orleans Riverside
Our budget-friendly All-Star Resort days are long behind us. Since then we have tried a few different resorts, all wonderful in their own way and this trip was no different. This time we stayed at Port Orleans - Riverside. As an early morning walker, I love a good walking path and this resort had a great one along the river. We don't spend a lot of time at the resort, so pools and restaurants are not a big concern. BUT... the very best thing about this resort was the mattress. I have struggled with back problems my whole adult life, and traveling and sleeping in hotels can be a challenge. But this mattress was out of this world, every morning I woke up feeling well rested and had not a single ache or pain, even after walking 10-13 miles for the day and standing on concrete. I am on the hunt for this mattress for my own bed.

Our family favorite is still the Safari in Animal Kingdom, we probably saw the most animals we have ever seen this trip.

Glen and Mallory loved Avatar the new ride in Animal Kingdom, that was their favorite. I am proud of myself that I did the ride, but I will stick with Soarin' as the gentler favorite of a screen/movement ride.

Classic favorites are Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, and It's A Small World.

We are a family who loves food, so restaurants and restaurant experiences make a difference to us.
Favorite - Artist Pointe at Wilderness Lodge. Great attention to Mallory's lactose sensitivity, wonderful service and the food...
Second Favorite - Biergarten in Germany at Epcot. Again, great attention to Mallory's sensitivity, great buffet and the experience of sitting with other families at our table, always a delight.

Things to do different:

Resort - Next time we would probably stay at Wilderness Lodge and possibly rent a cabin on the water, and spend more time at the resort.

Restaurants - Next time we would plan our restaurants to coincide with the park we are at for the day, makes it easier to stay for fireworks. Or if we stayed at the cabin on the water, we could cook some of our own meals.

Cruise - We would also consider doing a Disney Cruise next time, if there were grandchildren on the trip, but that is a ways away yet ;)

Highly Recommend:
Our Disney Travel Planner Lisa Koedyker - lisa.imallearsvacations@gmail.com
Lisa lives in my town, so I had the pleasure of meeting her in person, but she can help you with your trip no matter where you live. I left a lot in Lisa's hands and she was awesome, including having to work with our family emergency. I can't thank Lisa enough for everything.

We will be taking another family vacation next year and have already started working on it, but this one will be closer to home. The plan is to rent a cottage on a lake up north for a week, a cottage that is dog friendly so then Findley can come too. 

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

In The Blink of An Eye

In the blink of an eye. Before and After.

All those cliche sayings that seem so trite until you have your own before and after. One moment you are picking up the latest round of sticks and small tree limbs that have impelled your front yard from the last fierce wind and driving rain. Loading them into the wheelbarrow to add to the huge mound already piled next to your fire pit, wishing that the timer that you set for  thirty minutes would hurry up and sound so you could take a break and get a drink of water. The only way you get through this tedious task, is to do it in increments of half hours. Your watch rings, you have left your phone in the house, happy to be away from it for just a little while. You see it is your dad, he probably just wants to know if you need help with your leaves. You let it ring through to voice mail, knowing he would never hear you talking on your watch, and it seems too James Bond anyway.

Your dad leaves a voice mail, and your thirty minute timer sounds, so off to the house to get a drink and listen to the voice mail. As you walk towards the house another number rings on your watch, one you don't recognize, but you have a not so good feeling when you see it. You hurry faster to the house to get your phone, to listen to the voicemail.

Your dad's voice. Words... Mom, Emergency Room, Heart

You try to call him back, get nothing. You try that other number - the Hospital. Same words...Mom, Emergency Room, Heart.

Last week Thursday, my mother suffered a tear in her aorta artery. She was rushed to the heart center in the city, and emergency surgery was performed. New valve and a graft to replace the section of the aorta that had the tear. Thus far she is recovering well, and the doctors are pleased with her progress. Lots of unknowns at this point, but to add one more cliche to the story; we have a long road ahead.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Scene & Story - October 2017

Window by Sam Luna

She stares out the window each day
Before the sun sets away
Drinking tea and wondering
What could other people be doing?

There was nothing to see
Just buildings
And hanging clothing
On other people's housing

The wind blows
Her eyes blur
She sips tea
Her mind leaves

The images of yesterday come
The emotions of today emerge
In her mind she hums
And with the wind she surges

No one could really understand why
This girl would want to fly
All her thoughts are recurring
But only the window knows what she's thinking

Since starting to do Wild Writing at the beginning of September, I have been reading a lot of poetry. I have always struggled with poetry; pretty words but where's the story. Then I realized the words are the story. 

Poetry makes me think about photography, moments I would like to capture. I will never be a poet, poetry requires a level of feeling I am not sure I will ever obtain. But poetry helps me to identify that fluttery feeling inside me when I raise the camera and press the shutter. 

This was taken at Greenfield Village when my husband and I were there for a date weekend in mid-October.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Seduction of Lines

I have never been more giddy to go out and photograph than I have since I started Lesson Four of David duChemin's The Compelling Frame.

Lesson Four is all about Line & Shape.

I have been obsessed with leading lines - lines that draw your eye to something, something often magical or mysterious, since doing a 100 day photography project on Instagram the spring and summer of 2015. 

Vertical Lines

Lines that I am learning to love are vertical lines. The is power and energy in this photo when the frame is vertical and the focus is as much the vertical post as it is the padlock. Compare this to the same shot taken in horizontal orientation.

Horizontal Lines

Horizontal lines are stable. When you look at these compositions how do they make you feel? 


Then there are the most seductive lines of all - the storytelling lines...

What lines are you most drawn to? 
  • Stable Horizontal Lines
  • Powerful Vertical Lines
  • Eye Pulling Diagonal Lines
  • Organic, Winding S-Curves
  • Magical and Mysterious Leading Lines

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Bucket List - Greenfield Village

Photo Credit: Glen Huizenga

This may be the first and only time a sheep leads off a blog post, at least until we finally go to Ireland or I take the future grandchildren to a petting farm. And the best part, this isn't even my photograph. This was taken by my husband last weekend while we were on a date weekend.

We have been keeping up the date days that I gave Glen for Christmas last year: twelve date days - one per month, vacation days required. Unfortunately we missed one in August, due to his being away for a full week for work. So to make up for it we did a date weekend.

Greenfield Village in Dearborn, MI has been on my bucket list forever and I can finally cross it off. In keeping with true Sarah fashion, I did very little research ahead of time. Just enough to know where it was in Dearborn and book us into a hotel within a five minute drive. My tag line on my blog isn't "Striving to find balance between intention and discovery" for no reason. I knew that Greenfield Village was vast, it was created by Henry Ford (Ford Motor Company) in 1929, so it was old, and that there would be plenty of stuff to photograph. I didn't need anything else.

When we arrived it was a bit chilly and overcast, perfect weather and light in my mind. After a visit to the Firestone Farm area to get those shutter fingers warmed up, I saw that the steam-powered train was in the station. Since we had purchased orange wrist bands to ride all the attractions, we were off to ride the train.

Photo Credit: Glen Huizenga

I love trains, and this is were America fails in travel. With trains you can see the country, move at a decent rate of speed and the best part for someone with a less than stellar back, I can get up and move around. This train only went around the park, so no need to stretch my back, but still an awesome ride and great views.

Since we were sitting in the back of the open air rail car, I took the opportunity to do some train "street" photography. Seemed less risky with nobody sitting behind us.

Photo Credit: Glen Huizenga

So much old building love...

Favorite building. Edison's Menlo Park Machine Shop...

Those high ceilings, white walls, wood floors and lots and lots of tall windows. Don't you think this would be the perfect creative studio? Plenty of room for all my friends.

Photo Credit: Glen Huizenga

We spent five hours at Greenfield Village and took many photos between the two of us. It was a great date day. The second day we spent at the Henry Ford Museum and took the Rouge Factory tour where they make Ford F150 trucks, that took us about six hours to do both. So if you plan on visiting make sure you have a good day or two for it, depending on what you want to do.

Dearborn Michigan Restaurant Recommendations

I always try to give you a few restaurant recommendations when we travel, because we love local restaurants with good food and good service. Glen is always in charge of the research of them.

Miller's Bar - Don't let the outside deter you. Most unique bar we have ever visited - no menus, only serve hamburgers with or without cheese, fries and onion rings, condiments are on the table. Bottled beer, no mixed drinks. No plates, wax paper for your plate. No bill, on the honor system, you tell the cashier what you had. Great service! We would definitely go back, great burgers.

Ford's Garage - It must have been the weekend of the burger. Our second night we went to Ford's Garage, part of a chain, but still seemed fitting for where we were. Plan on waiting at least an hour. We got there shortly after five and got seated a little after six. The service was great! The burgers were large and messy and yummy (they do serve more than burgers). The fries were fabulous! Beer choices were pretty vast.

If you only have time for one place though, I would pick Miller's hands down, much more unique experience and we got seated right away there.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Let's Discuss - Orientation of the Frame

I have a wish. My wish is that we could all gather for coffee at my favorite up north coffee shop. Steaming white ceramic mugs of black pour-over coffee, and lattes clustered in front of us on the pushed-together round wooden tables. Canons, Nikons, Fujis, Sonys, and iPhones would rest next to each of us as we discussed photography, travel plans, and life. But logistically and monetarily it must remain a wish. The next best option is a blog post.

I have always, always shied away from criticism of any sort; either asking for it or giving it, constructive or otherwise, self-critique or from peers. But what I am learning from The Compelling Frame course is that I have been missing valuable information, missing the way others see life. So I'm  glad that I did the post on Orientation of the Frame, I am also glad that I asked for your thoughts, and delighted that many of you were brave enough to give those thoughts.

After the first few comments I began to worry that everybody would have the same opinion. This then made me think maybe I had skewed your vision that way because of the way I felt about the scene. Thankfully then someone stepped up with a different viewpoint, and valid reasons behind their viewpoint.

This from Lisa: All four photos are beautiful ! I like the horizontal versions of both scenes better..I love your choice of the beach as subject..In the horizontal orientations, I see that the amount of negative space (leaves and grass) framing the walkways is more generous..IMO in both cases, this extra negative space makes for prettier compositions...

I LOVE negative space. If I could put it plentifully in each of my photographs I would be very happy.   As I delved into the negative space aspect, I realized I will orient the frame to which ever option will give me the most of it, eliminating clutter and chaos. I know - match your frame to your lines, but honestly I match my frame to negative space. 

Donna made me so happy with this comment: I have to agree there is something about the horizontal that you get to see more of the area it doesn't feel as cramped. Love the golden color, I'm so happy that you are willing to share your excursions with us, I feel like I'm on a late evening walk right before dusk and want to take time to enjoy but also want to get home before it gets dark out. Winter is coming.

Donna added her story to it. Story and feeling are things I continually work on, and am excited to explore in later lessons of this class. 

Teresa says: In the first set of photos I like the vertical shot. For me the focus is on the path and the possibilities it presents. I like the horizontal shot in the second set because the path disappears into the landscape inviting the viewer to imagine what lies beyond the immediate path.

Teresa sees the possibilities at the turn of the path, she wants to keep going. The very reason I love paths, to see what is around the next bend, it could be boring, but it could be spectacular. 

From my dear friend Leon: I definitely prefer the vertical of the first set, because it emphasizes the path itself, which is clearly the subject. When I first viewed this post on my iPad, I also liked the vertical of the second set (the stairs), but now that I'm looking at it on my computer screen, I really like the horizontal one. I think the including the grass on each side of the stairway adds dimension and a sense of place to the shot. Also, I have to say, your other photos in this post are wonderful! 

Interesting to note the device you view these on can influence your opinion. 

My Thoughts:

The first one - I love the horizontal version. I think, as much as, my intended subject was the path, it was just as equally the sky. We don't often get interesting clouds like that. The eye moves down the path towards the openness. I think this openness translates into the freedom I felt standing on that path: no worries, no responsibilities, no guilt. If I didn't have the opportunity for freedom, the tighter constraints of the vertical image may have more closely matched my feelings. Sure I could have made the sky more dramatic in Lightroom, but I like the calm fading away feeling. 

My friend Jessica, who is in class with me, suggested that I try standing diagonal to the path for even more interesting lines. I wonder how that would affect my feeling for the sky, the feeling of freedom. Sounds like the perfect reason to go back. 

The second one - the more I look, I don't really like either. The vertical feels too tight, and the horizontal, I agree with Roxi's comment: The last one I'm picking the portrait view because it pulls the eye up. The other brings to mind bug legs and I don't think that part of the structure is necessary to tell the story.

I don't like how stairs make me feel: out of breath, burning thighs, and many times an aching back the next day, maybe that comes through to me in my photograph.  Not adventure but pain.

Thank you to all of you who voiced their thoughts. Next lesson is Line and Shape. After doing my homework I may be back to ask for your help again. 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Orientation of the Frame

"For the working artist, the very best writings on art are not analytical or chronological; they are autobiographical. The artist, after all, was there."
                                                                                              ~ David Bayles & Ted Orland, Art & Fear

This statement struck me as I read the book Art & Fear. This is the reason I write my blog, I was there and I want to share it with you. It's about taking you on the journey with me, sharing what I learn, and hopefully inspiring you to go out and take your own adventures in the process.

This blog is also my scrapbook and my journal, showing me where I have been, and how far I have come. And with over five years of content, I have visible proof that I have come a long way.

In the spirit of forever being a student, I signed up for David duChemin's photography class The Compelling Frame in September. It was an investment, but still way cheaper than taking a college level course, one that I would also have to drive to. This class I can take in the creative open air space of my porch, and in the comfort of my pajamas. And you all should know by know, I am self-motivated enough to finish the course. This course is changing my life, both as a photographer and as a writer.

There are 19 lessons and it is taking me about two weeks per lesson, so this course should carry me through the long boring months of winter.

In the first lesson we had to choose what we think are our seven best photographs and then answer ten questions about each one, you can understand why this took me two weeks, but what an eye opening experience. Some on my "best" photographs had many layers of meaning in them, others not so much. The average viewer might just think that it is a pretty picture and move on...or they might find some layers in it for themselves if they linger long enough, different layers than mine, but layers nonetheless.

I am currently on Lesson Three - Frame Orientation. On my adventure day this week, I spent a lot of time shooting scenes both vertically and horizontally. I thought I would share comparisons:

This beach was a new discovery for me, which always makes the shooting experience more exciting.

I could tell you what I think about these, but I am curious to know your thoughts: which do you like better vertical or horizontal? Why?


Sunday, October 8, 2017

Ghost Signs

My elementary school days were filled with riding my pony, reading in my treehouse, swimming in the neighbors' pool and playing in the woods. But once I hit middle school, and my dad had a life-changing accident with a table saw, there was no time for play. A lot of the household responsibility fell on me, including helping care for my younger brother.  Being a first-born, guilt and responsibility are attached to me like a heavy ball and chain. So taking a day and wandering in the city with my camera, which definitely falls into the category of play, is something that is extremely hard for me.

It is Monday morning, I should be at the grocery store wandering the aisles, trying to figure out what to feed myself and my family for the week. I should be loading the washing machine with the weekend's exercise clothes and Sunday best. I should be waiting for the grass to dry so I can fill the lawn mower with gas and walk behind it for two hours, listening to my book, and sweating through another set of exercise clothes.

But instead I am sitting at a little cafe table in the city, chai latte in front of me and camera beside me. It is the last week of ArtPrize. ArtPrize is an independently organized international art competition that takes place each fall, it is free and open to the public. This is the ninth year of this heavily visited art extravaganza. It has been a few years since I have attended, the years of my daughter being away at college and visits to her for her birthday seemed to take the place of ArtPrize. Last Friday though, my husband and I had a date day and we came to ArtPrize. With over a thousand entries, we didn't even come close to seeing it all.  My husband is out of town for a couple of days, with nobody needing me, the guilt and "shoulds" have been displaced until tomorrow.

ArtPrize is the justification to come back and play, but what I really came back for was to stalk this building with my camera.

At the top is the ugly glass exterior that was on the building, put on by some misguided souls in the name of modernization, probably in the 1970's. Underneath is the original and glorious brick. I was enthralled by this find on Friday, but didn't have the time or the right light to grab more than a few quick shots. Today, I am back in time for morning light. Fortified by my chai latte and gluten free bar, I walk the entire perimeter of the building, documenting every perfectly preserved ghost sign.

Buoyed by my stalking and capturing of treasures, I set off to find more art. I will revisit a few favorites from Friday, seek new favorites from the previously unseen, cast my vote for my favorite from the pool of top twenty, enjoy lunch in a rooftop restaurant, and eventually go home and mow the grass.

Old guilt is hard to shed, but I am slowly learning to play again.