Photography


Teatime

I often take macro shots when I’m feeling uninspired: the act of zooming in to look closely at something feels like an antidote to ennui. I think this traces back to the quizzes I’d sometimes see in children’s books in the dentist’s waiting room, where ordinary objects were photographed in microscopic detail and you were challenged to guess what you were looking at. These quizzes always pointed to the utterly alien nature of even the most mundane objects, a toothbrush or human hair becoming fascinating when you looked at it closely.

Witch hazel in bloom

My fascination with macro shots is also a carry-over from my days as an amateur botanist, when I spent a lot of time looking closely at wildflowers. Most flowers are prettier up-close than they are from afar, the intricate structure of petal, pistil, and stamen being revealed only upon close examination. Some wildflowers are so delicately detailed, you can accurately identify them only with the assistance of a jeweler’s loupe, the four apparent petals of an enchanter’s nightshade, for example, revealing themselves to be truly two only under magnification.

Wooden coffee stirrers

I like the way macro shots force you to look closely at a single thing, the larger context being cropped away. Instead of an entire forest, you can contemplate a single leaf on a single tree, reality reduced to a solitary thing full of hidden complexities. I tell myself that if I can focus on something small, I can understand larger phenomena through extrapolation; the focusing, after all, is the skill to be honed. William Blake’s suggestion that you can “see a World in a Grain of Sand / And a Heaven in a Wild Flower” is deeply comforting to those of us who were bookish children, accustomed to traveling the world from the safety of our bedrooms, the pages of a book being larger than life.

This is my contribution to this week’s Photo Friday challenge, Macro.

Celtics' Big Three with random Bruins fans

Yesterday, J and I went to an afternoon Bruins game, but instead of taking scores of photos of the action on the ice, I took one photo in the concourse during intermission. Ever since the TD Garden added larger-than-life murals to its concourse walls, I’ve wanted to photograph the one that shows Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett in their glory days as the Celtics’ Big Three.  Yesterday, I walked by that mural right when the passing crowds parted, and I was able to snap a quick shot of a half dozen Bruins fans standing in front of the Big Three. With one photo, I captured a memory of yesterday’s Bruins game even though that photo doesn’t show any hockey: score.

Self portrait with discarded mirror

This year I’ve decided to pursue another 365-day photo challenge. In 2017, I’m setting a goal of taking and posting to Flickr at least one photo every day–365 photos in 365 days–just as I did in 2013 and 2015. I’m already in the habit of taking lots of photos, but I tend to take those photos in spurts: some days I take lots, and some days I take none. When I challenge myself to take and share a photo a day for an entire year, though, I can’t zone out for days and then make up for lost time when I feel inspired. Instead, I have to be on-the-lookout for interesting images every single day.

Newton Centre menorah

The 365-day photo challenge provides an interesting nudge to take lots of pictures: whether you feel inspired or not, you have to photograph and share something, which means you start treating your mundane life as a kind of visual scavenger hunt. But even more interesting is the way the 365-day photo challenge forces you to encapsulate a single day into a single, quintessential picture. Given all the things you did (and all the photos you took) on a given day, which one will you select as That Day’s photo?

Conspiring mannequins

When anyone else looks at one of my finished 365-day challenges, they see a bunch of random, unrelated photos. When I look at a year’s worth of photos I’ve taken, however, I’m reminded of the story behind each one. There are photos I love, photos I think are adequate but a bit boring, and photos I took out of sheer desperation. Viewed en masse, these images capture the incremental and random nature of our lives. Some days are interesting and others boring, but all days pass just the same.

Chocolate penguins

Ultimately, the 365-day photo challenge is a kind of spiritual practice, as it forces me to make an intentional commitment pay attention to the world around me every single day. Last year, I didn’t take as many photos as I normally do, and I also spent less time than usual writing and blogging. This year, I want to kick these creative pursuits into gear, and I know from past experience that the 365-day photo challenge is a gimmick so silly, it somehow works.

Of the photos illustrating today’s post, I took the first two yesterday and the rest today. The final photo of two L.A. Burdick chocolate penguins is today’s photo, and over the course of the year, I’ll be posting 364 more to this photo set. Enjoy, and happy New Year!

Keep it clear

Our beagle, Melony, didn’t want to get out of bed this morning, burrowing into the blankets after the alarm went off in the hope that I might miss her, leaving her to snuggle rather than taking her out to do her business in a cold and snow-filled dog pen.

Snowed in

Our white German shepherd, Cassie, has trampled some paths in the dog-pen snow that Melony gladly follows on warm days, sometimes refusing to come when I call, leaving me to stomp through the snow after her. But that happens only on warm days when the air is humid and the snow squishy. On frigid days when the snow squeaks underfoot and the air is dry and razor-sharp, Melony is waiting for me at the dog-pen gate, jumping and whimpering in anticipation.

Snow on trees

We’re supposed to get more snow this weekend: a storm that’s going to stall right over us, pumping out snow for four straight days. But before the storm, the chill: this morning was below zero, and now it’s warmed to the single digits: at the moment, too cold for snow.

This is my contribution for today’s Photo Friday theme, Weather. Although I did snap a photo of Melony burrowing in blankets this morning, the photos I show you here come from Framingham State yesterday.

New year, new camera

After years of using nothing but point-and-shoot cameras, this Christmas I took the plunge and got a digital SLR. Although I’ve long resisted the switch to a “real camera,” this one (a Nikon D7000) has been supplanted by a newer model and thus was deeply discounted, and J had several lenses he hasn’t used since upgrading his own camera. If I was ever going to try a fancier, more “serious” camera, in other words, now would be a good time, especially since I couldn’t think of anything else I wanted for Christmas. So, what does any Serious Photographer do to get acquainted with her brand-new Real Camera? She takes reflective self-portraits in the bathroom, of course.

Snow on oak trees

Last night I (finally) ordered the 2015 photo calendars I give to friends and family for Christmas. Although I typically don’t get around to mailing out calendars until after Christmas, I enjoy putting them together each year, as it gives me an excuse to review the photos I’ve taken over the previous twelve months.

Rowboats

This year, I chose my calendar photos by scrolling through my Flickr photostream while watching TV, bookmarking my favorite photos and then going back and choosing the thirteen I liked best: one photo for each month, plus a cover. Some years I go with a theme–in 2013, for instance, all my calendar photos came from a single visit to Pittsburgh’s Phipps Conservatory & Botanical Gardens–but most years I try to include a variety of seasonal images: snow in winter, changing leaves in fall, and plenty of flowers in spring and summer.

Sunny idyll

The past few years, I’ve struggled to find eye-popping snow shots for December, January, and February: this year, we’ve barely had any snow in December, and when we did get snow this past January and February, I didn’t take many calendar-worthy photos, just the requisite cellphone shots of our buried backyard. But I did ultimately choose a shot of snowy oak trees for January, a snow-frosted blue spruce for February, and the Quincy Market Christmas tree for December: a three-month nod to winter that makes you feel like you’ve earned the riot of spring color I chose for the cover:

Multicolored tulips

Click here to see the full set of photos from my 2015 calendar, or click any of the following links to see calendar sets from previous years: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014. Enjoy!

Kind of blue

I first blogged this photo of empty seats at Foxboro’s Gillette Stadium in June, 2009, after J and I had been to a New England Revolution soccer game there.

Primary colors

When J and I had Revs season tickets in 2010, there were always lots of empty seats, Major League Soccer not being a big draw. But last weekend’s MLS championship game–in which the Revs lost to the LA Galaxy in extra time–was watched by nearly two million viewers. This suggests soccer in general and Major League Soccer in particular are both becoming more popular in America, making it easier for the Revs to fill those empty seats. That’s nothing to be blue about.

This is my contribution to today’s Photo Friday theme, Blue.

Dead or only sleeping?

This time last year, I blogged several photos of Laura Ford’s “Armour Boys,” an outdoor installation at the DeCordova Sculpture Park featuring five bronze knights crumpled in a grove of pine trees. Ford’s work is one that looks better as it ages, a subtle patina of neglect adding to the poignancy of slain soldiers lying among fallen leaves.

Pine Sharks

Because I’ve been going to the DeCordova for years, I remember another piece that was previously on display in this same grove: Kitty Wales’ “Pine Sharks,” which featured three circling sharks welded together from the rusted hulls of castoff appliances. As coincidence would have it, I blogged that installation back in 2009, the last time Photo Friday featured the theme, Metal.

This is my contribution to today’s Photo Friday theme, Metal, as well as my Day Twenty-One contribution to NaBloPoMo, or National Blog Posting Month, a commitment to post every day during the month of November: thirty days, thirty posts.

Next Page »