Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Secret Garden

When I am in the midst of struggle and feeling overwhelmed it is impossible for me to see an end to it. That was my year last year. We were on a week by week basis on making a decision about our dear golden retriever, Scout. His decline was so apparent, but nobody wanted to rush the inevitable. Our daughter was still living at home with her golden retriever puppy, Findley. I love Findley, but a puppy is a puppy, especially when I saw the constant contrast between him and 13-year old Scout. Our daughter was on the verge of making a job change, a much needed job change, but one that would drastically change everyones' schedules. I felt creatively empty.

It was this exact same time last year that I was able to sneak away with my husband for a couple of days up north. He had to go for work, and I was able to tag along and use the car during the day to go exploring with my camera. It was the break I desperately needed. While none of life's circumstances changed when we returned, at least I felt refreshed and renewed. Scout hung on until October, and then the decision was made for us, our daughter did change jobs and it was challenging, but we made it work, and thankfully Findley continued to grow up. 

Here it is exactly a year later and I find myself up north again with my husband, he again for work and me exploring the places I love with my camera. Many of life's circumstances have changed in this last year: Scout is gone, and we are dogless; our daughter moved out in February to her own place with Findley, she changed jobs one more time, and now has a stable schedule that allows her to provide for herself, go home at lunch to let Fin out and not work nights or weekends. 

I feel creatively alive this year, finally having time and space without having worry constantly nagging me. But I am most proud of myself for never giving up last year, I kept pulling my camera out every chance I got, I kept writing. Even if none of that is my best work, it taught me discipline and resilience which will get me through the next period of struggle and feeling overwhelmed, it is inevitable, it will come again. 

While we were up north and having drinks with one of my husband's coworkers, he showed me photos on his phone of this Secret Garden Lavender Farm. I made that my destination on our last morning away, what a peaceful, awe inspiring place at eight o'clock in the morning. 

What a difference a year makes. 

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Scene & Story - July 2017

"We seldom get what we want without struggle and loss. We do not become who we want to become - the best versions of ourselves - without passing through the fire."                              
                                                                                      ~ David duChemin

I am constantly drawn back to this photograph. The contrast of light and dark, the depth. The delicateness of the spider webs, the heaviness of the shadows around the edges. A lot like life, there is goodness there, but we must look for it, and it will often be surrounded by struggles, darkness, and loss.  

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Be True

Why do we find it so hard to be true to ourselves?

My daughter recently stumbled upon a podcast called Makers and Mystics and shared it with me. In Season 2, Episodes 10 & 11, the host of the podcast, Stephen Roach, interviews one of our family's favorite musical creatives, Josh Garrels. We have all of Josh's music and have been fortunate enough to see him in concert numerous times. In the interview Josh talks about how he has remained true to himself, his family and his calling, by choosing to remain independent, even though signing with a major record label would have made his, and his family's, life so much easier. 

I have been pondering Josh's words for the last month. 

I have not been very present in this space this month, but I have been busy. I am putting the finishing touches on my website, and hope to have that live very soon. The class I am taking to build it, offered by artist Ivy Newport's husband, Chris, has been invaluable in building my Squarespace website. But the place I have struggled in staying true to myself is when the course talks about adding on-line classes to my website, and setting up e-commerce. As we walk through the different lessons, I think:  yes, I should have these things. 

But...if I am honest with myself, I don't want these things. 

The truest me does not want to be sitting at my desk creating class content and recording videos. I don't want to have to manage orders and shipping of product. I want to be out in the meadow in my paisley rain boots, or wandering the shoreline in my red Taos shoes. I want to be out, not in. 

But it is easy to listen to the admirers, to the supportive family, who are my biggest cheerleaders and are saying, "You should be selling your work".

Last weekend, I was reading the latest issue of Lenswork magazine (No. 131, August 2017) and the article The Best Time Ever by Brooks Jensen had some very interesting points that fueled my pondering...
"...I have often thought it odd that so many photographers are seduced by the idea of selling their work. Why? To those of you who play golf, garden, fish, knit, cook, or play an instrument, are you equally driven to turn your enjoyable past time into an income-driven career? All of those hobbies are just as expensive as photography, but I don't find many who are as tempted as photographers to find some way to subsidize their hobby with a professional income stream."

But it is later in the article that Brooks' words echoed the feelings in my own heart...
"This does bring us to the knotty problem of why we do our photography. Seriously, why are you a photographer? We each have our answers and they are all correctly a matter of personal choice. I decided a long time ago that my purpose for doing all this work (and spending all this time and money) is two-fold: first, for strictly internal motivations of personal growth, and a means to explore the world; second, to share my creative vision and production with the world as much as I can. Notice there is nothing in either of those goals that would necessarily lead me into the world of commerce as my first choice -- or for that matter, my second, third, or fourth choice."


Photography began for me as a way to find out who I was, not Glen's wife, not Mallory's mom, but Sarah. It has richly blessed me in the discoveries it has led to. It has allowed me the freedom to explore both close to home and farther abroad. It is the common interest shared among my creative friends, friends that I never would have met otherwise. It has brought my husband and I closer as we share, learn, laugh and gather stories together. It will probably never make me rich,  at least not monetarily, and I am completely okay with that. 

I need other people to create on-line classes, because I love taking them and learning. But I will continue to share my gifts and talents freely, through my pictures and words, and know that I am staying true to myself by doing that. 

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Scene & Story - June 2017

Would you drive three and a half hours to go to a coffee shop? No, I wouldn't either, as much as I like coffee shops. But... I would drive three and a half hours to spend an adventure day with my girl in our favorite place - Leland, MI. And if part of that day happens to include sitting on a patio outside the Blue Boat coffee shop sipping Chai Lattes, all the better. 

Thursday, June 29, 2017

iPhoneography Workshop - Conner Prairie

I will travel to pursue my creative passions. A great example of that was our "vacation" to Massachusetts in May, the end goal being that I could attend a Creative Photography Conference put together by Hazel Meredith of Meredith Images.

In my previous blog post about the conference, I shared that I fell in love with iPhone Photography again thanks to the presentation and class taught by Michael and Susan Karchmer. In their presentation they highlighted some of their photographer friends' iPhone work, one of them being Rad Drew. Immediately, I felt a connection to Rad's work, both in subject matter and in processing choices. Back in the hotel room that night I looked up his website, and then...even better I saw that he lived near Indianapolis, IN and did occasional workshops in his area. Indianapolis is only a three and a half hour drive from my house. I thought for sure I would have to wait months to attend something, because that how things usually work for me, but to my great delight there was a half day workshop coming up at the end of June. I waited until we returned home from "vacation" before I sprung upon my husband that I thought we should go to that and do it together.

This past weekend was the iPhone Photography workshop at Conner Prairie Museum in Fishers, IN. Fishers seems to be an up and coming suburb just outside Indianapolis. Lots of new construction, and some great restaurants. I will have dining recommendations for you at the end of this post.

Before and After - Sarah Huizenga

Conner Prairie is an interactive history park, a vast display of 1800's life and buildings, perfect for this girl who is obsessed with old buildings, especially if they are white clapboard.

The workshop was from 8:30 a.m. until 12:30ish p.m. We had a good hour and a half of instruction time, then forty-five minutes to go out into the park to shoot, and then we came back together to share images and walk through post-processing of our images we shot.

Before and After - Sarah Huizenga

I am not new to iPhone photography or processing, but I know that there is always more to learn. I love how each instructor I have ever seen has their own personal favorites - camera apps. to shoot with and post-processing apps. What a passionate teacher does is get you excited about the things he/she uses. Rad is all the things I value in an instructor whether in-person or on-line: creative, personable, passionate and has a genuine willingness to share and help.

Before and After - Sarah Huizenga

I have had the Camera+ app forever, it was one of the first apps. I ever bought. I discarded it when I got the iPhone 6 and the native camera was so much better than the one on my iPhone 4s. But Rad made me fall in love with it again, especially after touching on the macro feature. The macro feature I needed to be able to take flower photos with my phone for my 30 Day flower project. The other favorite camera app that he had us use was vividHDR, I have never enjoyed HDR photos, until now.

While Michael and Suz spent most of our hour long class with an in-depth look at Snapseed, the second step app that almost every iPhone photographer uses, Rad walked us briefly through his workflow in that and then it was on to other creative apps: Touch Retouch (great for telephone wire removal and object removal), Front View for building straightening (for a building lover that is very needed), and my two new favorites Artista Oil and Image Blender.

Before and After - Glen Huizenga

My husband and I are very different shooters. He is not afraid to ask people if he can take their photo, must be the salesman in him, unafraid of rejection. I think he had a good time. You can check out his Instagram @glenhuizenga, I know he would love more followers.

Glen Huizenga

I don't think this will be the only time that Rad sees us. He offers lots of location workshops. The one I have my eye on is this one, hopefully next year!

Dining Recommendations
I always put Glen in charge of restaurant research when we are away, and he comes up with some fabulous experiences.

Nickel Plate Bar & Grill

Nickel Plate Bar & Grill
Highly recommend the Chicken tenders. Beer selections were average. Ample parking nearby.

Sun King Brewery

Our usual question for Siri - "Breweries nearby?" A six minute walk from our hotel to a strip mall led us to a tasting room for Sun King Brewery. I always have to defer to Glen when choosing a beer, not being much of a beer drinker. Sun King allows a couple free tastes to help you decide (very helpful to me). I do like a Sour Ale, and there were two fine choices on tap, plus I always get the fancier glass.


Since our small plate experience in Stowbridge, MA we are on the lookout for similar experiences. Though Louvino's website recommended reservations, and we did not have them, we were seated right away at 6:30 p.m. with a fabulous spot on the patio. Even if you don't like Brussel Sprouts, I highly recommend them, to die for! We also had Bacon Wrapped Tater Tots, yum! and Lamb and Veal Meatballs, also yummy. Wine selection was vast.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Coffee Shop Chronicles - A New Beginning

It has been two years since I wrote my last Coffee Shop Chronicle. New coffee shops have continued to sprout up everywhere. Two new ones have opened just this year in my own town, that adds to the three, non-chain fabulous coffee shops we already have.

I happen to be sitting in one of these new coffee houses as I write this. Today is Monday, June 19, 2017 and it's my birthday. I am still one birthday scone away from that momentous half century mark, not that I am terrible worried about it. My forties have been adventure filled, I expected nothing less from my fifties.

Being a Monday, I should be getting groceries and catching up on laundry, but it's my birthday and those things can wait until tomorrow. Instead I started my day with birthday love from my family, a walk at the beach, and then an hour long massage. And now here I am, at The 205 Coffee Bar, preparing for a return to The Coffee Shop Chronicles.

I have no idea if I will be able to write these stories again, even though many things have been pointing in this direction the past several months. I am afraid, afraid that the stories that once were so popular amongst my readers, will not be the same. But they can't be the same, I am not the same, a lot of life has happened in two years. I am a different writer than I was two years ago. I must remember; you can never go back, your only options are standing still or pushing forward. I chose forward.

Recently, I read an article in the Spring issue of Artful Blogging by Nicole Knutsen, titled Playing Shop Girl. In the article, she has me imagine my blog/website as one of many storefronts on internet Main Street. She asks the questions: How would you design it? What would you sell? Who would be your customers? Those questions got my creative mind churning. These were questions I had read before, but I always struggle with the answers. My stumbling block is what to sell, selling not being my focus. I started making a list of answers to these questions, and suddenly it became clear. Just because it's a storefront on internet main street doesn't mean it has be a retail gift shop.

This week I am beginning to build my website. I have known for a while that I have outgrown this space. As I continue to receive publication writing requests, I need more than just a blog, I need a website. The new site will be, I bought the domain name last night. While I can't serve you a cup of freshly brewed coffee, I can design a website that feels like a coffee shop. A place with industrial concrete floors and a gallery of my painterly altered photographs on the white shiplap walls. Large, reclaimed barn wood harvest tables with maps spread out over them will fill the middle of the shop.  We will gather around those tables planning adventures together and sharing stories. At the far end of the room will be a large, field stone fireplace surrounded by leather couches and comfy chairs. On one of the couches will lie a floppy-eared, furry friend, ready to listen to anyone's troubles in exchange for gentle strokes of the fur (I know you can't have dogs in places that serve food, but it's my coffee shop). This will be a place to return to again and again, a place of creative inspiration.

The new website will also be the perfect place for the return of The Coffee Shop Chronicles, stories from other coffee gathering places as I work to create my own virtual coffee shop. Eventually this blog will move there too, because I am nothing without my photography. It will be hard to leave this place that I have called my creative home for the past five years, so many stories of life, growth and loss. There will be a link to here on the new website: My Blog - The Early Years, because I can't let it go completely.

I will keep you posted when the new website is up and running and the first new Coffee Shop Chronicle is ready to be published.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Field Study

"Attention is the beginning of devotion."
                                                                                       ~ Mary Oliver 

Two summers ago I spent many early mornings wandering the beach at our local state park. Unintentionally, I fell into a photography project: photographing items left behind. It is amazing what people leave behind, my favorite being a bottle of Love Potion that I found by the fishing dock.

Last summer my project was of a more personal nature - walking the nine mile road (in sections) between my parents home and the town where I spent my growing up years. I wanted to walk it so I could pause and reflect at each place along the road that stirred a memory.

I fully expected to be back at the beach this summer continuing my lost and found project, that is until I started this #30dayadventureflowers project.

Tuesday morning I found myself on the Meadow Loop at one of my favorite county parks. The Meadow Loop is a lovely, quarter-mile paved walk that meanders through the wildflower meadow in front of the visitor's center. I have already photographed all the flowers in my own garden many times. My peonies are now only petals scattered on the wind. I was looking for fresh inspiration. That's when I remembered this loop and thought it would be the perfect place for a field study. The parking lot is right next to the loop, so I could easily use my tripod and switch between cameras and lenses without having to lug everything with me at once.

I started with my Canon 70D with 55-250mm zoom lens and my tripod. Using a tripod helps so much with composing the shot, sharp focus and the thing I needed the most - slowing down. Shortly after setting off on the loop, I noticed this dragonfly positioned perfectly on the flower stalks. I set up the tripod, zoomed in on him, used live view to manually focus and suddenly I had my favorite photo of the day. I took my time walking the loop, looking and more looking, some shooting.

First loop completed I had two choices: I could go home, even though I had only been there a half hour, or I could take another camera and walk the loop again. Since my arms were a little tired from carrying the tripod, I decided I would stroll the loop this time with only my iPhone. I struggle with flower photography and my iPhone, craving shallow depth of field and unable to obtain it. I began to think; What else can I do? Then I remembered the Slow Shutter app on my phone, that I have had for a year or more and never used. Taking the technique that Kathleen Clemons used in her Creative Live class, I began to look for things I could pan in slow motion. There is a wooden footbridge that crosses a marsh of cattails (long vertical lines), I thought I would give that a try. I started at the sky and swiped down the tree line and then the cattails. I also tried just the cattails. Personally, I needed the layers of color instead of variations of one. When processing the photo later, besides brightening and adding more saturation, I felt it needed a little more so I added a texture in the Distressed FX app. Perfect pairing!

I have never been attracted to abstract art, but this might become my new addiction. This is a metal footbridge in another part of the park. Again I paired it with a texture from the Distressed FX app.

As I was walking with my iPhone, I noticed things I hadn't my first time around with my tripod. Back at the car once again, this time I decided to grab my Canon 6D with the Lensbaby Velvet 56 for another completely different look. I walked this last loop a bit faster since the mosquitoes had finally found me.

I was very happy with everything that I captured on my three laps of the Meadow Loop, but I knew I wanted to see more, practice more. I am making it a goal to get out to this same loop once a week throughout this summer; trying to do three laps each outing, using the three different camera options. I can't wait to see what I discover.