Pursuing Life's Daring Adventure

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Garden Fairies' Return

Outside the doors, the world is changing, greening, coming alive. I love spring for so many reasons, but probably most for reimmersion with hope. Where the world was dead and ugly now is verdant and full of life, and beautiful. The bouquet sitting on my table as I write is bursting with fragrance and bloom—tulips, jonquils, bleeding hearts, and Poet’s daffodils. Ah—Spring I love! A photograph …

Even more exciting for me than the flowering is the return of the hummingbirds, my Garden Fairies. Yesterday, I spotted my first male Ruby-throated Hummingbird at one of my feeders. And, as every year’s first glance, I stared in shock and wide-eyed wonder at the tiny sparkler hovering about the gardens. Beautiful!

In the peak of their season here, our yard swarms with hummers, which I love more than can be described in words. They are magical to me, fantastic glimpses of impossibility overcome with beauty. I won’t go on and on – check out http://www.hummingbirds.net/ for migration routes, photographs of the different breeds, and every other hummingbird fact you could conjure into question. One amazement to me, as with the amazing migration of the Monarch butterflies, is the Ruby-throated Hummingbird’s migration—most of them apparently migrate to and from Central America by leaving at dusk and taking a nonstop five-hundred mile flight across the Gulf of Mexico. Incredible considering each hummer weighs less than five ounces! So, to these flitting miracles, I look forward to being dive-bombed while out in the yard in the early hours—won’t be long.

To set up your own hummingbird feeder, find one easy to take apart and clean, and with bee-guards at the ports. Mixing nectar is simple, and needs to be done about once a week: 4 parts water with 1 part sugar, heat water and stir in sugar, cool and add to feeder. Depending on the outdoor temperature, feeders need to be maintained regularly by cleaning (don’t use soap on the feeder), and replenishing the nectar.

‘Tis the season to enjoy the everyday miracles outdoors! Enjoy … JK

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Photography: Finding Your Inner Lens

Years ago, my love for photography came on strong—it traipsed into my life like a memorable song, sashaying in, swinging her coattails, and purring a delectable melody. For me, the lure of the lens is unavoidable and its magic unforgettable. Photography and the world it opens up to share is part of my identity, part of me.

--Dewy daisy at first light, in my backyard, one of my favorite early shots

My first exposure to cameras was in modeling, the high-fashion kind where seedy photographers follow willowy girls with their dark cameras to freeze an attractive look for all time. There, cameras hooked me, I think. Images created and released from the combination of mysterious light, pungent film, and human creativity became a song in my head which followed me and grew louder with each passing year. Swapping sides with the camera, being the creator and not the subject, has been a wonderful experiment for me, a dive into a world of new beauty and staid time.

My first good camera was film-based, and I took endless rolls of photographs, learning by testing the limits of light and lens to find the style which I now see as my own. Changing the film SLR camera in for a digital SLR has been tremendously freeing, allowing me to capture more images than imaginable, all in the small minutes of found inspiration. When the lighting is just right and something beautiful catches my breath, I dash for my camera and click through a few shots. I shoot photography in small blippets of time, between writing and the family and the daily chores of life.

Years and hours behind a camera and studying images have helped me to find my inner lens, one of the more rewarding pieces of my life. To help you find your inner lens, I have three essentials for a great shot.

The Essentials

A WOW moment is one I love to grab onto an image … one where I say “Wow!” as I press the trigger. Three elements are essential to a WOW shot:

1) Lighting. When the light is right, the shot surpasses the ordinary to rank with timeless. Soft light is almost always best—first thing in the morning or in the evening, cloudy days, or natural light through a window. Harsh shadows from direct sunshine or blatant flash usually compromise the best image.

2) Camera. (See below, especially the differences in shutter speed.)

3) Subject. Something amazing occurs in a photograph when the subject (what you want in focus) appears crisp and the background fades out and appears fuzzy. Leaving out technical terms, for a great shot, back up and zoom in as far as possible when taking the photograph, focus on your subject and allow the subject to fill the frame. The background fades away, leaving the subject as the main interest—beautiful!

Practical Matters of Photography

Cameras, and photography, have come a long, long way in a very short time. Without getting into brands and technical jargon, I think there are several things every person taking a photograph in our day can know, to help improve the results. We all want a great photograph—one that looks like what we are seeing, one that captures the moment and the mood, one that commemorates the significance of an occasion and a moment. To put first things first, then, the type of camera should be the most important consideration.

For simplicity’s sake, following are three categories of cameras with their benefits and drawbacks in my opinion:
1) Cell phone cameras:
a. Benefits: handy
b. Drawbacks: poor quality (though technology is getting better), slow shutter speed
2) Compact pocket-type cameras:
a. Benefits: handy and packable, good quality
b. Drawbacks: slow shutter speed (meaning, when the trigger button is pushed, the photograph takes a second or two later), what you see isn’t always what you get
3) SLR cameras: (SLR means Single-Lens Reflex—what you see through the lens is the actual photograph. These are the cameras with detachable lenses.)
a. Benefits: good quality, rapid shutter speed (instantaneous photographs, no lag time)
b. Drawbacks: bulky, generally more expensive

Our family has, and uses, all three types of cameras. But even if I didn’t love photography and cameras and the technology behind the process, I would still choose an SLR camera—for one major reason: when the trigger is pushed, the camera instantaneously captures the photograph. Nothing is more frustrating than trying to take a photograph and missing it completely because of the compact camera lag time. Though the options on an SLR can be mind-boggling as well as the price, SLR’s have automatic settings just like compacts, and also have recently been introduced with models at much lower prices. All-in-all, I believe SLR’s are worth a try, and they will likely always remain my favorite.

This past week, I found out I have passed the screening to join a stock photography site as a contributor—an exciting milestone! I now have an outlet for my work.

Please leave a comment or question on the comments section of my blog. It’s a beautiful time of year to discover some new spring beauty through your own lens … happy clicking!

:o) JK

Monday, April 13, 2009

Lopsided or Balanced?

After a week spent with my toes in the powdered-sugar sand bordering the turquoise waters of the Florida panhandle, I feel refreshed. I don’t know if it’s the rhythmic crashing of the powerful ocean or the endless sand-scrub that does the job, but after a week of constructing sandcastle villages, delving into many books, and soaking in pristine sunsets, I have not an ounce of adrenaline left. The surprisingly wonderful gift of no cell phone or internet access certainly helped, as did the therapeutic sunshine, but the beach vacation for me is always a respite from life.

Today, I am back in the game, and wearing shoes—a start, at least, to reentering the daily-ness of life. But, having time to step away, I came back with renewed vigor for the endless search for balance in life.

Balance. A formidable word, for sure, for how do we really start to find balance?

In my mind, balance is never really achieved, though it is a goal always worth striving for – a sort of integration of the important pieces of a life to fit into a pleasing whole. The place where one element is counterbalanced by another element of life, the opposite effect being lopsided.

So many things become easily lopsided in my world. So many things to juggle: work, family, kids’ schedules, relationships, personal needs, volunteering and involvements, and on and on and on. At the end of the day, it’s easy to sit down and realize so many more things tug at me for my time than I can possibly ever fit into one day. Back to balance.

Saying no is very difficult, especially for some of us. But, saying no to some things is also essential to finding a pleasant balance in life. Choosing one thing over another is the key.

Someone once gave me striking advice: say yes to things that can be done by no one else.

When I carefully consider those things that are most important to me and stick to the things which I love, enjoy, and feel called to do, I find weighing out the other requests for my time much simpler. The balance, of course, always changes. Lopsidedness, I know well, equals too much stress. Nearing balance brings enjoyment.

There is no greater day than one filled with joy … and so, fresh from spring vacation, I know that balance is worth pursuing, relentlessly. For it is there, approaching a balance, that our days may truly shine.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Ten Gifts Wrapped in a Mom's Life

Back in a different life, I drove with the windows down and U2 playing through the stereo in all its grand fullness. Beautiful days, beautiful times. But one day, I woke up and looked through the rearview mirror of the minivan at the tiny faces staring back and gasped—whoa—how did this happen? Yes, in a blink, a snap, there they are, leaving me as the responsible one, the mom. A new adventure, for sure—and I have to say one of the best adventures of my life.

Today, ten years into the trek across the continent called Motherhood, I’ve discovered the journey to be both wonder-filled and challenging. Though the climbs are often steep, the views are also often breathtaking, the joy full and rich, and the fun unrivaled. Following are ten gifts I’ve found wrapped in my life as a mom.

1. New Talents. Expertise comes lightening-fast in many forms, including but not limited to: taking an accurate temperature in the middle of the night, changing diapers one-handed, processing innumerable loads of laundry per week, cleaning stubborn stains, shuttling players to simultaneous games, and choosing just the perfect Bandaid for every hurt.

2. New Thoughts. Stocking up on Gatorade in early spring out of experience.

3. New Ways to See the World. Coins and outlets and tablecloths at a toddler’s eye-level.

4. New Experiences. Holding wild things for the first time: butterflies, slugs, bunnies, snakes.

5. New Standards. Dust bunnies growing into dust dogs are just fine.

6. New Capacities. Grossness on every level … need more be said?

7. New Jobs. Short-order cook to ravenous and growing mouths. Every day.

8. New Trivia. Every name of every character on not only Seseme Street, but Pokemon, Star Wars, and more.

9. New Appreciations. For quiet.

10. Newfound Loves. This one, I feel deeply … without my kids, I wouldn’t have discovered some of the essences of me … writing, photography, oil painting. My life is forever changed for the better because I have slowed down and listened to something deeper than the norm.

My life has become incalculably richer and more satisfying for the three young lives in my world—one where I’ve learned to savor so many things, including an occasional ride in the minivan, with the windows down and U2 playing.

Even more beautiful days, even more beautiful times.