Layers

I’ve been struggling to feel inspired lately, but I’ve also felt like I need to be doing something creative. This evening as a way to maybe spark something I thought I would look through old projects, and I found a series I tried doing a couple of years ago combining photography and poetry. I either took a photo inspired by a poem I had written, or I wrote a poem inspired by a photo I took.

I really like the idea of this project and have been contemplating picking it up again. In looking through what I had already done, I found I really liked some of the pieces, so I thought, while I am feeling the lack of new inspiration I could share some of these old pieces.

This first one, I titled Layers.

 

Layers

 

Beginning as a

small bump, emerging

into light. To life.

 

You’re blinded. It leaves

you confused. You’re small.

 

Tiny.

 

You expect someday

you will be much more.

You’ll be huge. A giant.

 

In the universe

you’re already the

 

center. In your mind

you’re the world. You grow,

finding the clouds, the

 

confusion.

 

In the clouds you are

lost. Feeling stuck, not

moving. But you are

 

growing, climbing up,

you just don’t notice.

 

You travel through bright

spots and dark spots as

you continue to

 

move on your journey.

Becoming something

 

huge.

 

You are unaware

you aren’t the whole world.

But suddenly you

 

sense changes in your

reality. You

 

take a step backwards.

The whole universe

comes into your sight.

 

Time feels frozen. You

finally notice

 

yourself.

 

You see everything

you’ve become, all that

you were. And you’re huge.

 

Huge, like in your dreams.

But now you see the

 

world. The universe.

And you realize you

are still tiny, and

 

the universe is

endless. And you are

 

insignificant.

 

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Fear of writing

Over the last few weeks I’ve wanted to write.

My mind has overflowed with ideas I want to put into words. Making them concrete and sharable. But yet I haven’t written a word.Not really.

I’ve started about 10 ideas. Half-assed out in text edit so I don’t forget about them. But I haven’t really written.

I have the ideas because I’ve had time to be bored. But I haven’t written because I’m scared. I’m scared of being bored and I’m scared of writing.

It’s been so long since I’ve truly done either. True boredom went away with the internet and with work. There was always something to do. Always something to distract me, to occupy my mind. To prevent boredom. Though I try to force myself to think in the silence. When I walk the dog. When I drive places. All I do is let thoughts swirl around in my head. I have all these ideas. But I don’t write them.

I’m afraid to write again. I’m realizing that now. Something that once came so easily and freely is now something I over think. I do hours and hours of research but I never write the piece. I have these ideas. A lot of them don’t need research. I don’t write those either.

I think I’m afraid of seeing myself. Of writing about what’s in my heart. About things I care about. I’m afraid of revealing who I am, to others and to me. I don’t know why I am afraid of that. But I am. It’s been so long since I’ve let myself in to my own brain, and let the ideas out. Instead of writing I find excuses to pass the day away. Searching for a job, trying to figure out what I want to do with my life, even though I know, in those moments of clarity when I let myself think, that I want to write.

I want to write about the things I care about. I think I might even need to. But in the last few years I’ve put up walls against myself. A fear. I’ve written for an audience. But it wasn’t my voice. It wasn’t me writing. They weren’t my words. They were the words of others, and what I knew people wanted to hear. It was writing. But it wasn’t ME writing.

I don’t know why I am so afraid. So worried about what others think of me. It really shouldn’t matter. It should matter what I think of myself. What thoughts I share with the world.

No two people see me the same way. Some think of me as just a writer. Some think of me as a photographer. Some just think of me as Greg’s girlfriend.

None of those are ways I think of me. I think too hard about how I should brand myself and what I should focus my efforts on. I think instead of doing. Perhaps if I stopped thinking about who I am, the expectations of others and just wrote, created and made things, I might figure some things out.

Changes

It’s 2016. A New Year. That time when resolutions are made and everyone gears up for a better year and a fresh start.

I’ve often thought the idea that a new year equals a new start is a little silly. In reality all the new year marks is a passage of time. It’s the realization that a whole year has gone by that makes us think back on everything we wish we had done differently, and vow to change our ways. However the new year isn’t really a new start. Choices and decisions made previously don’t go away. You are still the same person. So therefore, a new year isn’t really a fresh start at all right?

That was my thinking until events at the end of my 2015, set me up for what has to be defined as a fresh start in 2016.

At the end of December I unexpectedly found myself walking away from my job. Changes were made quickly, and it seemed with little foresight or plan. My gut said, “It’s time,” and I walked away, leaving behind the safe and predictable, for the exciting and unknown.

 

2016 is beginning, and in many ways it’s like I am starting over. The work that filled my days is gone, and I am seeking to replace it with work that is more fulfilling. Work that takes steps toward accomplishes the dreams and goals I had not only at the end of 2015, but years before.

It’s daunting and scary. As I look toward the next months of this new year I am blind. What I knew in 2015 is gone, and 2016 has presented itself to my as a blank page to be filled….

A journey in journalism

In the last six years, I have both fallen in love with journalism, and been completely beaten down by it.

My love affair with the industry started simply. Before I left high school for college, I wanted to know what I was going to be working toward, and somehow stubbled upon the idea of journalism.

In my rosy colored vision it was the ideal career. I would be a travel writer. I imagined myself traveling the world, taking photographs and writing articles, all for a magazine where I would be a full time employee.

Then I got into college and realized that that was realistically never going to happen. Yes there are travel writers who make their living that way. But it’s not easy, and rarely are they full time employees for a magazine. Rather they freelance. It’s not impossible, but it’s not an easy life.

I also discovered, that while I’ve always had a bit of a natural knack for writing, in the real world, that doesn’t cut it. You need to care about style, and grammar. You need to be able to spell. I like to tell stories. I like the sound of my fingers hitting the letters on a keyboard. I enjoy watching the words appear in sync with that sound. But I have never given a rats ass about grammar and spelling. Can’t someone else check that stuff for me?

Writing was now out, but there were still the photos. Making great photos that tell a story isn’t easy. But generally shooting photos for a newspaper is a lot easier than coming up with the story ideas, talking to people and writing the articles.

I decided I was going to be strictly a photographer. After a stint shooting for the campus newspaper, I knew I wanted to be a daily newspaper photographer. So I set off to peruse that career. I followed the correct methods and paths. Indiscriminately I applied to internships everywhere.

The first one I landed was for no pay, in a huge city, at a large paper. It was a great experience and I learned a lot, but I hardly remember it. I do remember being wildly uncomfortable in the huge office, but less timid to approach people on the streets after taking their photos. From my perspective at the time, everything went fine. It was my foot in the door of  a career I was sure I wanted.

However, in retrospect my future realization that I am not meant for traditional journalism was there. Very rarely did I actually read the paper I worked for. I had no desire to wander the streets in my free time looking for stories to tell. I remember one of the other staff photographers getting frustrated with me when he realized I hadn’t even bothered to learn the name county I was in. I really wasn’t interested in discovering news.

What I liked was being forced to approach strangers, and meet new people. People are fascinating. I think everyone is just curious about other people, it’s human nature. Photography allowed me to strike the right balance between experiencing and learning about new things, and silently observing behind my lens.

After graduation I landed a paid internship at a newspaper that was in the middle of trying to figure out how to capitalize on the digital world. I was one of two photography interns and I showed up bright-eyed and enthusiastic. I stayed at that internship a year, and left completely unsure if I wanted to continue in journalism.

In that year I saw and met the people who were meant to be in the profession. The people journalism needed. They were always working at bettering their craft. Always taking photos and looking for stories through images. Their work was beautiful, and meaningful. Seeing it made me appreciate the craft and taught me something new about the world. The work they did was great. In a media saturated environment, that’s what we need. Great journalists, doing great work. Opening up the curtain on things the rest of the world isn’t seeing, and making us look.

They made me feel awful.

That wasn’t what I was doing, and it wasn’t my passion. For a while I told myself that it was okay, and not every photojournalist needed to be that way. I could work at community newspapers. Filling holes on newspaper pages with photos of whatever was just happening around town. The work wouldn’t help spur change, or educate people, but it needed to be done.

What bullshit — and I knew it.

 

When I left that internship I felt lost. I wasn’t happy and I had at least figured out my job wasn’t going to make me that way. I could have stayed in that town. If I had, I would probably still just be shooting pictures for a news organization. Going where I was told and coming back with a minimum of five passable images to get fill space on pages, and get clicks on a website.

I spent the next five or so months trying to figure out life. I thought freelance photography was my new destiny. I romanticized the idea in the same way I had travel writing, and was woefully unprepared to make a living that way.

Eventually as funds ran out and I hadn’t booked a single gig, I became incredibly discouraged. I went out looking for employment and took the first job I was offered at a grocery store.

At that point I was still thinking journalism is not the place for me. But I also didn’t feel like I knew how to do anything else. I hoped that maybe any entry level job I took would help me figure it out.

It didn’t. Instead I felt wildly over qualified with my bachelors degree working a job next to people who had barely graduated high school. It was a selfish, high minded feeling, I know. Thinking that I was too good to be in that position. I blame society for the stigmas in my head and the notion that a bachelors degree elevates you somehow. But that is a topic, for another essay.

Unhappy, I looked back at journalism. I didn’t romanticize it like I once had, but at least if I worked my way back into that career path I wouldn’t feel like I had wasted four years of my life and a ton of money on a journalism degree.

So I decided to give it another shot. I was desperate, and committed to living where I lived, so when I saw a job listing for a do-it-all at a weekly journalist I went for it.

At first the new job, as one of only two employees at a small town newspaper was great. For the most part I chose the stories I worked on and set my own hours. It was new and exciting — for a while. Eventually all the thoughts that had made me want to move away from journalism in the first place reappeared, and became more clear to me than they ever had before.

What I was doing, could be called journalism I guess, but it wasn’t good. Not even remotely. For a while I told myself that small community newspapers were the future of the industry, the hyper-local.

It’s not. At least not in a traditional format. Again, that is a topic for another time.

Despite feeling like journalism is not my calling, falling in and out of love with journalism and working in tiny town has taught me a lot.

 

It has allowed be to reflect on the purpose of journalism and to think critically about the state of media today. It has introduced me to the delicate balance between what people need to know, and what is none of their damn business. It’s shown me that while grammar and spelling are important, people care more about the content of your writing than the quality.

Most importantly it has made me appreciate the people who are meant for the field. The people with innate curiosity, who will go to great lengths to seek answers to their questions. The people who practice journalism with high ethical standards, and will continue to produce good work despite the challenges journalism has faced in the digital age.

 

 

 

Evening walk

Before Zula and I headed out the door for our evening stroll yesterday I decided to grab my camera. The light was beautiful. I always see lots of pictures during our sunset strolls. I just had my 50mm on my 7D, and there were definitely some shots I spotted that needed a different lens, but I always enjoy the challenge of limiting myself with one lens length. It forces you to see things differently than you normally would.

Poudre Canyon Stars

This past Saturday Greg and I packed up Betty (my outback) with gear and drove up past Fort Collins to the beautiful Poudre Canyon for Zula’s first camping trip. We planned to spend only one night so I had talked Greg out of making a reservation, as a result we found ourselves in a campsite with no trees, right next to the road. Not ideal, but it turned out to have its pros.

I decided I needed to shoot some star trails during the meteor shower. It had been about 4 years since my last attempt at a star trail, so if nothing else I’d get a memory refresher.

I set up my first shot in a more or less random direction. As cars drove by on the road I wondered what effect the lights were having on the exposure. I thought for sure they had to be ruining it. But I was delightfully surprised, as the cars lit up the foreground.

Zula's first camping trip

Pleased with my first attempts and the addition of passing cars, I decided to increase the length of my exposure and point the camera directly toward the road. My first try at this was nearly perfect! Except I forgot what I was doing and walked through my frame with my headlamp on! Blaarrrgh! Stupid Sally!

Zula's first camping trip

After I’d realized what I had done it was getting late. We had already started putting the fire out and preparing for bed. Mad at myself for ruining an awesome picture, I decided to shoot one last image while we finished gearing down for bed. With the fire completely out, the dogs bladder emptied, and my eyes getting heavy I didn’t leave the shutter open nearly as long, resulting in a less-than-awesome frame.

Zula's first camping trip

It might seem odd that I feel the need to share my photographic failures on my blog. For me sharing my mistakes allows me to move past them faster. So hopefully tomorrow I will stop kicking myself and began redeeming myself by shooting a perfect star trail.

Stepping out

Since I moved to Colorado I’ve spent a lot of time alone while Greg is off at work being awesome. Most of my solo ventures away from the apartment have been for errands and dog walking. However, as Longmont is currently hosting the Boulder County Fair I decided I needed to get myself and my camera out there for some exercise.

I was hoping to crash Greg’s party and join him shooting the Mutton Bustin’ event (think bull riding, but small children on sheep) but discovered upon arrival that tickets were required for entry. Not wanting to just sit in the stands, and being unwilling to try and talk my way in, I decided to wander a bit and see what else there was.

I didn’t stay long. Party because the long lens I’d brought didn’t suit most of the situations I found, and also because I am re-learning how to shoot solely for fun.

Though I knew I had all the rights to be there and photograph the event, I felt weird doing it with out a news organization expecting my photos. I guess all the times I’ve been questioned about why I was shooting something stayed under my skin and made me self-conscious about not having a “reason” to document something.

My new goal is to shake that feeling and remember that I don’t need a “reason” to shoot, other than it’s what I enjoy doing.

My last adventure with the Morley brothers

Hopefully not my last EVER adventure with the Morley brothers, but my last one to date before I left Michigan and its lakes for Colorado and its mountains. The sharing of these photos is a little overdue as it was over a month ago Aaron bought a jeep and took Helo and I for a ride to Sandy Pines. This was the first day in a long time I took my camera out just for fun–and fun it was!

Suzy the flying dog!

When I was growing up we always had a labrador retriever. For a while we even had two. My dad would train them to go duck hunting with him and pull ducks out of the water. Our yellow lab, Bucky, was finally beaten by old age last April. For the first time in over 20 years there wasn’t a dog in the Finneran household. So my parents began the hunt for a new companion and hunting partner. They found Suzy, a one year-old black lab at an animal shelter in Klammath Falls, Ore. She had been brought to the shelter as a stray and how she ended up that way still baffles my parents. She’s an energetic, friendly dog that learns quickly and couldn’t be more loveable.

I visited my parents recently and finally got to meet this new addition to our family. She is so perfect I wanted to pack her up and take her home to Colorado with me!

Dad is working hard to get her ready to take hunting and asked me to take some photos of her swimming. He had been impressed with the way she flew into the water with a sprawling leap. So one sunny morning dad and I walked her down to the Little Deschutes river and I got to see her fly!