Tag Archives: Year End

Weekly Photo Challenge: Year-in-Review Photos

I reviewed my photos of the past year, but found I  had a difficult time narrowing my selection of  “favorites”.   Finally, I decided that my criteria needed to be not which ones I liked the best, but which ones could tell the stories of that month.   I could have chosen 12 favorite flower photos — I’m sure that I took at least one flower photo in each month. Or I could have focused on the woods and creek where I often take my camera walks, showing the seasons ranging from icy to record-setting heat waves in the spring, to dry drought conditions throughout the summer, and ending with foggy and soggy autumn days until we came back around to the deep snow we have presently. Or I could have chosen the new techniques that I learned this year and showcased what I see as my improvement as I resolved to take a photo every day without relying on the “auto” settings on my camera for aperture, shutter speed and ISO. Instead, here is a quick journey through my year, photographically.  Turns out, that is exactly what the last Weekly Photo Challenge of 2012 is all about.

I spent much of January in the mild, warm weather of southwest Florida. Walking the beach nearly daily, sometimes as much as 8 miles at a time, I photographed life at the shore: birds, tropical flowers, shells, fish and other sea creatures. Everything in nature at the shore looks so interesting to me, especially when seen through my camera lens. And nearly every evening, there was a beautiful sunset to photograph. I even tried night photography, though it wasn’t exactly what I would call “successful”.

In February, I returned home to the cold. But, there were still birds to photograph as well as plants, trees, and life along a different type of shore — the creek bank near my home. I even found a colorful shell. There was a sunset or two to shoot — and at the end of the month, the earliest of spring flowers started to bloom. I also discovered some things on my walks that weren’t natural — like the remains of a 1978 Lincoln Continental and a small, hidden ravine in a nature preserve that was filled with empty, rusting trash cans. Also on my walks I ventured away from nature photography to look for design patterns in concrete and other structures — my first foray into abstract photography.

March was absurdly warm — I even wore sundresses a few times. That’s crazy for the Great Lakes region in March. But it made for wonderful walking weather, with all of the wild flowers and trees blooming. Some of my favorite non-floral finds were a skeleton of a box turtle and a fallen tree that was still alive despite its upended roots. I was crazy enough to crawl out on that fall tree — over swampy water of unknown depths — to shoot pics of the red buds.

The great weather continued in April, with avid gardeners starting their plantings early. Color was everywhere! I began venturing into the world of post-production editing, taking little baby steps using programs like Pikmonkey and Snapseed. Though limited, both are easy to use and allow you to do fun things with your photographs. I continued with abstracts, trying a few arrangements inspired by (and I hope not insulting because of their amateurish nature) artist Andy Goldworthy. Rock Rainbow and Dandelion Clock were so fun to do and were instantly my favorites.

May flew by quickly. Flowers were everywhere, but my favorites were in the ditch across the street from me. I got some pretty funny looks from people driving by as I sat in the weeds with my camera. May was also the month my son graduated from college and moved away from home to begin a career in the Air Force. Big changes for both of us!

June made me long for a road trip, but we stayed close to home for the summer. Most of what I shot had to do with home renovations we did so they were not published here. But, I did get some good abstracts by shooting tile and marble with a macro lens. The hummingbirds, which had been buzzing around since the beginning of May, finally made my feeders regular stops on their never-ending feeding frenzy. Other delights of the summer were the neighbor’s cat — “S’s Cat” as I don’t know his name — who was always willing to pose for a few snaps if he thought he might get into my house. Dream on, S’s Cat! While June brought the start of the drought, we still had enough produce from the farmers’ markets that I could experiment with canning. Pickles, green beans, corn, beets and jam! Yummy!

The drought continued and everything began to dry up. Watering bans were established and firework shows were cancelled. A few rogue flowers, however, seemed to open up whenever I had my camera. Pictures that weren’t too interesting as-is became inspirations for abstracts and digital art. I was really pleased with my creation titled “Universes”.

Dryness continued and the only flowers available to shoot were ones that I bought at the grocery store. Fortunate for me, most of them look rather thirsty and the price was often reduced. The mosquito-pit — aka our pond with the broken pump — still managed to sustain a few waterlily, which were beautiful to shoot. Finally the rain came, ending the worst drought this part of the country has seen since the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s.

An unplanned trip to the Panhandle of Florida brought me back to the beach soon after Hurricane Sandy. The damage was still evident, with huge piles of sand plowed to the sides of the roads, much like what we see in the North following a snow storm. The rain rejuvenated flowers at home and many gardens had a second season before the fall.

The leaves started falling later than usual it seemed, although the trees that didn’t make it through the summer had already lost their leaves. I’ve heard that the real damage to the trees will be evident over the next few winters if the trees have been weakened too much to withstand wind, snow and cold. Leaf collection is a never-ending fall task for those who live in the woods, but I always had time to stop to get a few snaps of the last rose of summer or the beautiful colors of Fall.

Frost and fog were the subjects of my nature photography in November. I began using Photoshop Elements and learning lots from my mistakes. I experimented with creating painted looks for my photographs, sometimes just enhancing them a bit, other times creating an image that doesn’t seem to resemble the original. This kind of second chance to create a work of art is fun! As I do more of these, I am beginning to envision the type of photo that I want as my starting point, rather than just “playing” around with different filters. I think that means I’m making progress with learning the software!

And so we come to the end of the year. Where did it all go? In December, I continued to learn more things with post-processing and began to learn how to apply textures to my images. I’ve taken a lot of holiday-themed photos. With Photoshop, I created a daily holiday banner for my Facebook page – a sort of electronic version of an Advent Calendar. I’m not sure that too many of my FB friends noticed that there was something different everyday — or maybe they did because of a high annoyance factor in their newsfeeds yet were polite enough not to mention it. Regardless of whether others noticed, I had fun doing it. For Christmas, my dear sweet husband gave me a Lensbaby with several components of the Lensbaby Optical Swap system. I think I heard him mumbling this morning as I stood with the door to the balcony open, snapping shots of the light bouncing off the snow on the trees, that he had created a monster. Should I tell him that he did that when he gave me my camera three years ago? 🙂

With this post, I’ve officially blogged every day this year – 366 days.  With the exception of four days — one day too busy, one day too sick, two days just plain forgot — I took at least one photograph daily in 2012.   Thank you for reading my posts throughout the year.  I’m honored that you’d spend a few of your precious moments reading what I have to say or seeing how I look at the world through my camera lens.

I’ll be back in 2013, but I may not be posting daily.   You can expect some photographs, some writing, maybe more on recipes and cookbooks. Musings on other things of life.  I plan to continue my Sunday Quote series (I may already have 52 quotes collected!) and I hope to start a series where I feature other bloggers.

Happy New Years! May you have a safe New Years’ Eve and a healthy, happy, prosperous 2013.

Be sure to check out others “2012 in Pictures” submissions to the Weekly Photo Challenge.  If you don’t already, consider participating in this or future challenges.  It’s lots of fun and there are lots of great photogs posting amazing images.

Year’s End – All the cool kids do a wrap up

There are traditions during the last week of the year that are just as certain to occur as those pre-Christmas traditions we’re all familiar with. The calendar turns to 12/26 and you can expect enormous crowds at the mall, long waits if you order a pizza delivery for dinner, kids starting to get restless with nothing to do, parents counting down the days until Winter Break is over. And, everybody seems to do some sort of year-in-review or “best of” list.

The Best of Lists are something that pull me in every year, even though I often claim that they are ridiculous exercises. Best movie? Best play? Best book? Best Travel Destination? Top News Story? Best Restaurant? Best Politician — oh, wait: that would be too short of a list!

Yet, I often find these same lists fascinating because the only criteria for judgement is the calendar. One could just as easily look at the “best of” anything for the last week, or month, or decade, although I would have a hard time remembering much of some categories if I were going back over 10 years. Only the very best would withstand that test of time. And maybe that is both the point, and the foolishness of such lists. Would I only include some items on my “best books” because I read them recently? Is it the last one that always seem the best? If my time period were longer, would I decide that the book I read in October or the play I saw in April were not really that excellent after all?

And how do you winnow such lists when there may be no common characteristics between two works other than the fact that you engaged with both of them over a 12 month period? My husband asked me recently which of two plays that we saw this year was the best. We actually saw more than a dozen plays, so I wondered why he narrowed it to the two. But, I couldn’t decide between those two plays — a revival of Arcadia and Jerusalem. We saw several operas as well — I wouldn’t have been able to narrow that list either. Same goes for movies and books. If I remember them, it is because I either really liked them, or I hated them. It’s like picking one’s favorite child: can’t be done.

That said, here are some of the art/literature/theatre things that I experienced this year. I’d recommend any of these, although some of the theatre performances have long since closed.

Patti Smith’s Just Kids — a wonderful memoir that reminds you, no matter how different your life is from Smith’s that we were all once “just kids” trying to make our way in the world, figuring out our lives and loves. Smith seems to have maintained some of that innocence, without being smarmy. After all, she is Patti Smith.

Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder. I got lost in this novel, and even though the ending wasn’t as satisfying as I thought it could have been, I still cried at the end. I thought that Patchett could have delved into other questions about women extending fertility than she did. I just finished reading this, so it would be interesting see what I think about this next December.

Abraham Verghese’s Cutting for Stone. One of those books that could be characterized as a ‘sweeping epic’, covering the lives of twins from birth til death, across countries, continents, love and revolution. There are still scenes from the book that come back to me in entirety seven months after having finished it. This will certainly be a book that I re-read.

Coriolanus — I saw a special screening of this in October & Ralph Fiennes spoke afterwards. (Ralph Fiennes = Squeee!) It’s rough, it’s violent, it’s Shakespeare in a modern setting — things that might put me off. Don’t let it. It IS relevant in it’s modern setting, right down to the occupy-like crowds of protestors. (I saw this two weeks after OWS started, and on the day when I wandered down to Zucotti Park to see what the Occupy movement was about. The irony was not lost on me.) Go see it when it opens in a theatre near you.

Midnight in Paris Made me fall in love with Woody Allen all over again and pushed Hannah and her Sisters from its long-held perch of best Woody Allen film ever.

Moneyball. I don’t like baseball and don’t care much for Brad Pitt. Loved it anyway!

Bill Cunningham, New York. Every time I’m in NYC and anywhere near 57th & 5th, I am always a bit hopeful that I might see Mr. Cunningham riding his bicycle and taking photographs of interesting people. I rarely miss one of his photo essays in the New York Times. The tagline in the movie trailer: “Photographer. Perfectionist. Loner. Maverick. Visionary.” One of the best documentaries I have ever seen. I was disappointed that I wasn’t able to go see it again, immediately after I saw it. It’s now playing on NetFlix. Cunningham may be all about fashion, but the movie is about so much more: it is about one man’s passion that has been his whole life.

The Ring Cycle. The first of the Ring Cycle was aired by the Metropolitan Opera Fall, 2010, but Operas 2 & 3 of the cycle were this year. I swore to my husband when he first coerced me into going to the opera that I would never sit through the entire Ring Cycle. What I would have missed if I had not. Still not sure how happy I would be after attending four long operas in a week’s time, though I’m willing to try. (I have tickets for next Spring at the Met, though it is unlikely now that I can work out the logistics of going — want to buy the tickets? Email me.)

While Wagner’s Ring Cycle is not a freshman outing for the novice, if you are unsure about opera, attending one of the Met’s Live in HD series is a great introduction. And you can have popcorn, too!

Aradia I went home and stayed up all night reading the script. I’ve read it twice since seeing the play during the last week of its run last April. I adore Tom Stoppard. I can’t think of anyone else who could write an amazing play with characters in two different centuries about English gardens, pomposity, infidelity, mathematics, quantum physics, love, obsession, insanity and rice pudding. And, rice pudding is integral to the plot. You can’t stir out the jam!

Jerusalem This play made me think for weeks. Mark Rylance plays a modern-day pied piper living in a trailer at the edge of a forest, giving drugs and booze and a safe haven to disaffected youth. I also saw this during the last week of its run. The entire cast headed back to London to reprise the play there. There are parts of the play that I think are lost on Americans, but it was still something that I’ve thought about and discussed many times since I saw it in August. I still debate whether Rooster was hearing giants or bulldozers at the end.

War Horse I said Neigh! when T first described this play to me. I was wrong. From what I’ve read of the movie, I don’t think that it is at all like the play. I was fascinated not so much by the story of the boy’s devotion to his horse, but the idea of a ‘modern’ war changing how war was waged and how tanks and barbed wire made the cavalry obsolete before the end of the war. The puppets were great, not cheesy as I pictured them beforehand.

Royal Shakespeare Company/Lincoln Center Festival (Romeo & Juliet, As You Like It, Julius Ceaser, The Winter’s Tale) It’s a HUGE committment to see 5 plays in 3 days. I gave my ticket to King Lear to my cousin who gave my husband and I a place to stay for the weekend, and although I would have liked to have seen Lear, I needed a break! I loved every one of the 4 plays that I saw. I don’t think that the RSC has a monopoly on doing Shakespeare, but this ensemble, who has been working together for three years, gave fantastic performances. It’s a toss-up between whether I enjoyed Romeo better than As You Like It, but I don’t have to decide: they were both favorites! I will always remember Jonjo O’Neill as the sexist, most manic Mercutio I’ve ever seen.

More Dance than Theater (if that even makes sense!)

Sleep No More (Finally, something that is still open.) If you’re in NYC, go experience this! Imagine a theatrical dance performed throughout a six-story warehouse, which requires you to walk — no, run! — after the characters as they perform scenes in an order that has no continuity with a plot. You may wander into an apothecary, through a maze, into a graveyard where Macbeth pleads with the stars to hide their fire before a rendezvous in Lady Macbeth’s bedroom, or find yourself at a witches’ rave, or see Macbeth murder Duncan. And then there is the whole other thing happening concurrently: a nod to Hitchcock vibe with a secondary story reminiscent of Rebecca. Part do-it-yourself adventure, part film noir, part dance, part haunted house: all a lot of fun and a memorable experience. This isn’t a “play”, but it is theatre that will immerse all of your senses. I’ve “seen” it twice and would go again if I could. Wear running shoes and contacts instead of glasses; the audience must wear masks.

Who is really the performer if the audience wears a mask?

Septimus and Clarissa Part dance, part play, this was an innovative adaptation of Mrs. Dalloway. Fascinating theatre.