You’ve probably heard the Boston area is on lockdown while authorities search for the second suspect in Monday’s Boston Marathon bombing. Luckily, our cats are highly practiced when it comes to hanging out, hunkering down, and otherwise doing a whole lot of nothing, inside, so we’re spending the day taking lessons from the lockdown experts.
Apr 19, 2013
Mar 1, 2013
Some mornings, our beagle, Melony, is mellow enough to pose for photos, either by herself or with a cooperative cat or two.
On most mornings, however, both Melony and our Labrador retriever, MAD, are antsy to go outside, which means all I get for morning photos are shots of blurry fur.
Feb 7, 2013
Today I took a quick lunchtime walk toward the Framingham Centre Common and back, just to see what I could see. It was a clear, cold day, the kind of day when you can easily stay inside if you have a warm laptop, a long to-do list, and a large sunny office window that gives you the illusion of being outside. But I’ve taken enough winter walks to know that once you’re moving, your coursing blood quickly warms you, and I’ve spent enough sleeting, gray days cooped up inside to know that you should always get your winter walking in when the walking’s good.
In this year’s attempt to take and post to Flickr at least one photo a day, I’ve been taking lots of pictures, and on days like today I find myself walking with one simple goal in mind: to find today’s picture. It’s certainly possible to take photos inside: already this year, I’ve taken plenty of pictures of sleeping cats. But on sunny days, it seems a shame to resort to indoor photos when the light lies brightly on every flat surface, the landscape gilded with glare. On clear, brisk days, it seems almost criminal to stay inside when there are things out there to be seen.
So today around noon, my camera and I took a walk to see what odd or quirky things we might find between here, there, and back. Walking with a camera in search of One Decent Picture turns a lunchtime stroll into a scavenger hunt, with ordinary objects suddenly transformed into treasured discoveries. Instead of walking dully past the Same Old Stuff, you walk with your eyes open and alert: what can I see Today that is different from Yesterday, or that won’t be here Tomorrow? And sure enough, the photo I snapped this afternoon of the bare-neon star on the Super Discount Liquor store sign, pictured at the top of this post, is already dated: when I left campus tonight, I noticed they’d repaired the sign, capping the bare neon tubes with a blue star-shaped cover.
Notice the bare ground in that final photo. The next time I post here, we’ll probably be buried in snow.
Jan 15, 2013
Yesterday J and I walked to Newton Centre for lunch, taking pictures along the way. We saw an odd assortment of lost or castoff objects: a baseball tossed from someone’s backyard, a dropped jar of peanut butter, a row of unwanted paint cans and plastic storage bins, a leather loveseat. In the aftermath of January thaw, walking with a camera feels a bit like a scavenger hunt, where your goal is simply to collect images of whatever interesting detritus you encounter. By the time J and I arrived our lunch destination, I felt like we’d already been fed one kind of sustenance: the creative inspiration of found objects.
Although I habitually carry a camera with me everywhere, this year I’m more consciously aware of the practice, having decided to attempt a 365-day photo challenge: in 2013, I’m committing to take and post to Flickr at least one photo every day for 365 consecutive days. Since I’m already in the habit of taking lots of pictures, the thought of taking 365 photos in 2013 isn’t daunting: in 2012, after all, I posted 1,714 photos to Flickr. For me, taking 365 photos is easy; the challenge lies in sharing photos from 365 days.
Looking back on last year’s photo archives, there are radical fluctuations in the number of photos I took from month to month. Last February, instance, I posted only eight photos to Flickr whereas in August, I posted 304. Some months seem more photogenic than others, and some months I don’t have as much time to take (or at least post) a lot of photos. Looking at Flickr’s calendar view of any given month, I see how I tend to take photographs in spurts: on a single day in August when I visited the Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh, for instance, I took 146 photos, which is more than I took in the entire month of April. If you’re shooting photos for a blog or photo archive, you don’t have to worry about taking photos every day: as long as you have enough photos from last week, last month, or even last year to show on-blog, it doesn’t necessarily matter if you shot any images today.
What I’m liking (already) about this still-embryonic 365-day challenge is how it’s forcing me to re-think this idea that I don’t need to take photos today if I still have photos from yesterday. Although my blog may not care whether I shot any pictures today, my 365-day challenge does. Regardless of how many photos I shot yesterday, I still need to shoot something today, and anything I shoot today won’t count for tomorrow’s goal: all that matters is today. So far this year, I’ve already gotten into the habit of shooting early and often, taking some easy morning shots (usually of sleeping cats) that I know I have on hand just in case I don’t have time (or can’t find inspiration) to shoot something more interesting later. Knowing I have those easy morning shots to fall back on has given me the impetus to find (and photograph) something more interesting later, if only to prove to myself that I don’t need to rely on easy shots.
I’ve written before about how the first photo you take on a given day breaks the ice so you can take more photos, and I’m finding that to be particularly true with this 365-day challenge. When you know you already have a photo you can share today, that gives you the freedom to take other, even better photos. Given the easy “gimme” shots you took in the morning, you want to find something better, more interesting, or more photo-worthy to share instead. Promising to take one photo a day ends up spurring you to take multiple photos on any given day: the more photos you take, the more selective you can be when it comes to picking your favorite. Instead of posting “what I have,” I can share “what I liked”: that one shot out of several that piqued my attention. As a result, I’ve already posted more photos during the first two weeks of January, 2013 than I did the entire month of January, 2012.
Only a few weeks into this year-long photo challenge, I’m realizing it’s an exercise in trust as much as discipline. If I’m faithful in taking and sharing a photo today, do I really believe the Universe will provide something interesting or photogenic for me to shoot tomorrow? Shooting and sharing a photo a day reminds me of the prohibition God made when he fed the wandering Israelites manna from heaven: gather all you can eat today, but don’t hoard any for tomorrow. Even as a child, I fretted over this Bible story, knowing I’d be the type to squirrel away a secret stash “just in case” tomorrow’s promised harvest failed. Although I still stockpile photos for my blog, I know as long as I’m doing this photo challenge, I’ll have to shoot something fresh tomorrow, the next day, and the next. I’m curious to see how desperate, creative, or desperately creative I’ll get as the year continues, the novelty of this project wears off, and I start running out of “obvious” pictures to take. How deeply can I trust my intrinsic belief that this moment and the next and the next is truly like no other?
The photo at the top of this post is today’s Day 15 photo; the other photos come from either today or yesterday. Here is the Flickr photo-set where I’m posting my daily photos in case you want to keep track with my progress. (Please note that while I’m committing to SHOOT each day’s photo by midnight Eastern time, I might not get around to POSTING it until a day or so later, depending on when I’m able to upload photos. Luckily, Flickr automatically registers when a photo was taken, so I won’t be able to cheat with post-dated images.)
Dec 21, 2012
Today’s Photo Friday theme is “Best of 2012,” which gives me an excuse to review the photos I took in 2012. This past year wasn’t a particularly photo-rich year for me: for the first few months of 2012, Reggie was so frail, we didn’t go far on our daily dog walks, which meant I didn’t take many pictures…and after Reggie died in April, I walked even less, which again meant I didn’t take many pictures.
My favorite photo from 2012 comes from an August trip to the Columbus Zoo, which points to how few interesting photos I took close to home last year. Taking photos at a zoo is a bit like shooting fish in a barrel: you have a captive subject, so it becomes a matter of choosing which angle on which flamingo is your favorite. The Columbus Zoo has large, grassy enclosure where flamingos wander freely around an artificial pond, and the flamingos were vigorously flapping, squawking, and fussing when J and I saw them: captive subjects that were nevertheless moving and active.
Given how many and how active these birds were, it a bit of a challenge to choose the three flamingo pictures I included in that day’s photo set. When you are blessed with abundance, you can afford to be picky, and the photos I ultimately picked showed solitary flamingos at rest: not the entire flock, but a quiet moment experienced within the flock. Apparently I like my flamingos calm and elegant, not fussing and squawking.
One of my resolutions for 2013 is to walk more, which also means take more pictures. Only time will tell how the “Best of 2013″ compares with the “Best of 2012.”
This is my contribution for today’s Photo Friday theme, “Best of 2012.” I originally blogged that first flamingo photo at the beginning of this post. Here are links to past “Best of” posts: 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, and 2004.
Nov 30, 2012
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Today’s Photo Friday theme is “Orderly,” so I’m taking a brief break from my grading to show you this rack of neatly arranged Hubway bikes in front of the Apple Store on Boylston Street. Locating a bike-sharing station in front of an Apple Store makes sense on two levels. First, there’s probably a wide demographic overlap between bike-sharers and Apple aficionados. Second, a sturdy rack filled with bikes provides a barrier from thieves looking to drive their car through a glass store front in order to pick up a new iPhone or iPad.
I recently replaced my ancient (first generation!) iPod Shuffle with a brand-new (fifth generation) iPod Touch, which I’ve been playing with during breaks from my seemingly bottomless paper-piles. (No, I didn’t crash into an Apple Store to “select” my new iPod: J ordered it for me online.) At this point in the semester, even my to-do lists have to-do lists, so it’s good to have a new gadget to play with during my grading-breaks.
Once the semester is over and I’m completely done with grading, I’ll probably want to enjoy another product J and I saw in an orderly arrangement through a Boston storefront window:
This is my contribution to today’s Photo Friday theme, “Orderly.” In case you can’t read the labels in the previous picture, that’s an entire display case of Miller High Life at the Mass Ave Tavern: not necessarily my favorite beer, but an orderly and eye-catching display nevertheless.
Oct 26, 2012
Jul 8, 2012
Two weekends ago, J and I went to a sunny Sunday ballgame at Fenway Park, where we saw the Boston Red Sox beat the Atlanta Braves, 9 to 4. It was a perfect day to catch a game at Fenway: hot and sunny with low humidity, the sky offering only an occasional spot of shade from a passing puff of cloud.
The last time we’d caught a game between the Sox and Braves was in 2009, when we traveled to Atlanta to see three sun-soaked games. (You can see photo-sets from those games here, here, and here.) In my two blog posts about those three Hotlanta games, I talked about how interesting it is to watch other spectators watching a ballgame. At any given sports event, there’s action on the field and action in the stands…and at any given sporting event, the action in the stands is often just as interesting as the actual game being played.
At that sunny Sunday ballgame two weekends ago, J and I sat in the outfield bleachers, with a panoramic view of action. One of the most exciting highlights of the afternoon, however, happened behind us when a guy proposed to his girlfriend, hiding a (boxed) engagement ring in their shared bag of popcorn. “Collective effervescence” is the term sociologist Émile Durkheim used to refer to the charged emotional energy shared by participants in a communal experience, and collective effervescence is as good a term as any to describe the buzz in our section of the bleachers as word spread that yes, that happy, relieved-looking young man in a Red Sox jersey had just proposed to that happy, glowing girl in a Braves jersey…and she said yes.
Collective effervescence is also a good term to describe the moment late in the game when fan-favorite Kevin Youkilis ground out a triple and was replaced by a pinch-runner on third base. Rumor already had it that Youkilis was going to be traded, so fans knew that when Youk was taken out of the game, this would be a final farewell. The walls of Fenway Park all but shook with a thunderous ovation as fans bellowed “YOOOOOOOUUUUUUK” from the bottom of their bellies, making it clear that the decision to ship Youk to the Chicago White Sox was made by the management, not the fans. Youk will return to Fenway in his new uniform when the White Sox play the Red Sox later this month, and I’m confident that fans in attendance will welcome him as warmly as we sent him off two weeks ago.
Did I mention that the Red Sox beat the Braves, 9 to 4? The win was almost an afterthought: happy icing on a collectively effervescent cake. On a sunny Sunday, it feels nice simply to sit outside with other folks enjoying a beer, some popcorn, and a leisurely game. At any sporting event, there’s the action on the field and the action in the stands, at at the end of the day, both kinds of action are pretty enjoyable to watch, regardless of who wins. On that hot and sunny Sunday, even if the ballplayers hadn’t shown up, I suspect those of us in the outfield bleachers would have found some reason to cheer.
Jun 29, 2012
A few weeks ago, I took an afternoon walk at Mount Auburn Cemetery. It was a mild Sunday afternoon–clear and cloudless, but cool enough for a jacket in the shade–and the Perkins dog was resting in deep shadow, spotlit by a single ray of late afternoon sunlight.
That cool and clear afternoon feels like eternity ago now that the dog-days of summer have arrived. Temperatures this weekend are supposed to reach the 90s, and earlier today, I heard the first dog-day cicadas of the summer calling from neighboring trees. It seems this weekend, even the stone dogs will be panting in the shade.
Jun 22, 2012
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Although I haven’t been blogging much, I have been writing…just not here. I’m still in the habit of writing four handwritten pages in my paper journal almost every morning, and most days this month that’s been all the creativity I’ve had time for, the rest of my energy devoted to the classes and course design project I started last month.
I finished my course design project last week, one of my classes ended this week, and another class ends this weekend. Once I’ve submitted grades on Tuesday, my schedule will finally slip into something more comfortable: just one online graduate class that runs until September. As always, I’m looking forward to a (relative) break from teaching and grading: a chance to return to writing, letting my own words settle into the spaces recently filled to overflowing with the words of my students’ posts and papers.
This is my contribution to today’s Photo Friday theme, Words. I’ve blogged the photo at the top of this post twice–first in February, 2009, and again in December that same year–and I blogged the photo in the middle of this post in May, 2010.
These days I’m still writing loopy words with a Waterman fountain pen in a lined Moleskine notebook…but recently I’ve been using purple ink rather than green.