Pursuing Life's Daring Adventure

Friday, October 29, 2010

Photography: The Power of Restoring Wonder

"We need a renaissance of wonder. We need to renew, in our hearts and in our souls ... the perennial sense that life is miracle and magic."  ~E. Merrill Root

Today, as I write, I sit outside in the Prague sunshine under a vivid blue sky enjoying tempertures in the mid-50's. Last week at this time, I was sitting outdoors with this view:

the gorgeous Maremma region in Tuscany, Italy
Paradise, I think.

And there, in Italy, I attempted to capture the beauty I saw through a camera lens. I took hundreds of photographs during our trip -- I'll be sharing some of my favorites here over the next few weeks.

The extraordinary details and layers in a Mediterranean sunset
For me, holding a camera opens up a whole new world of possibility. With a camera, I find myself slowing down and looking for the beauty around me. And soon, instead of just moving through a day, I'm seeing the amazing elements of life -- the clear blue of the autumn sky contrasted against the swirling leaves, the soft smile of a child holding his first pumpkin, the pastel morning clouds backdropped behind the foggy Prague skyline ...

the peaceful pasture of grazing sheep in the mountains of Tuscany ...

A jumble of Chianti bottles in the back of a truck in Firenze ...

bikes lined up in the crowded Firenze streets ...

the immense and unspeakable grandeur in the dome of Saint Peter's Basilica, Rome ...

and the pigeons bathing in the fountain outside Rome's amazing Pantheon ...
All elements of wonder.

With a camera to help capture the beauty around, it might be true that I more fully experience what I see. Maybe, with the aid of a camera lens to isolate and capture what we see, we can more fully experience wonder.

What do you think?

Starting the conversation: Do you find yourself slowing down and really seeing the world around you with a camera in hand? Do you experience life more richly when you have a camera to capture what you are seeing?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Photography: The Magic of Shooting in Low Light

This is the second in a series of posts about photography. Click here to read the first.

I love visiting the ocean, and having time on the beach. To me, there is something about the rhythmic crashing of waves, the wide feeling of timelessness, and the gentle scrubbing of the saltwater and sugary sand to wipe away all of the world’s cares. I love being at the beach.

Sunset on Italy's Maremma, over the Mediterranean
When I brought my first camera to the beach, I made the classic mistake time and time again. And I was always disappointed with my photographs. The colors always appeared washed out, my subjects were always squinting, and the objects I was trying to capture for remembrance always turned out pale. One morning, when I was up with the sun, I watched the woman staying next door to us, out with her impressive camera. After she was done taking photographs, she chatted with me for a moment, and made a comment I’ll never forget. “At the beach, don’t even bother to take photos when the sun is high. Only shoot at sunrise or sunset.”

The day's first light, on an Aromatherapy rose
Since then, I have found her words to be true, for more than just taking photos at the beach. Because when the lighting is low, the colors are rich, and the photographs become magical.

The same type of rose, under high light
When I had a garden in the United States with many roses, my favorite time to be in the garden was at dawn, with my camera in hand, as the light turned the dew into diamonds, and the roses and other flowers sparkled like gemstones in the low sunlight. 

Lavendar Illusion daylily, with low light
I began comparing the photographs I took in low light with the photographs taken in high sunlight, or with a flash, and the difference was unmistakable. 

Lavendar Illusion, taken at midday with a cloudy sky

Lavendar Illusion, again with low light
Starting the Conversation: Can you see the difference? Do you have examples of times when you’ve noticed your photos are better than other times? 

Please, leave a comment, and / or send in your own photos, of a scene that you love, and I’ll post it in a future blog and link it back to you. Just email your favorite photo to me at photos at jenniferlynking dot com. I’ll be collecting them over the next several weeks. I can’t wait to see your work! Thank you, Jennifer

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Photography, Light, and Dark

 A small drop of ink falling like dew upon a thought produces that which makes thousands perhaps millions think.  --Lord Byron (English poet, early 1800's)

Prague's spires, the view from Strahov
In 2003, I received my first SLR camera from my husband as a birthday gift. It was not one of the more prestigious brands, and the zoom lens was off-brand, as well. But, the combination of the two-- a Target-special camera combined with a basic 30 - 300 mm lens did one major thing in my life: hooked me on photography.

It wasn't long after we purchased the camera, and we took a trip to the coast of Maine from the flatlands of our home in the Midwest. The time was precious because the skies were vivid blue, the ocean was alluring, the lighthouses shimmered, and the fog was thick at times. But also, our boys were then ages two, three, and five. It was tough, with boys running everywhere and into literally everything. But, as I now look back on the photographs I took during that time, I realize that it was the time of our lives.

Somehow, through the lens of the camera, time can stand still, and a MOMENT is captured, forever.

I have photographs from that Maine trip of majestic lighthouses surrounded by waves crashing like thunder along the craggy shore. And the next frames had photographs of little hands and legs scrambling to climb the dry rocks beside me. These memories will last. They are a treasure.

The very definition of Prague: two Czech men at 11:00 am with their beers, in Obecni Dum

Of course, now living in Europe, I tote my camera everywhere. Because everything is beautiful, and our boys are at a great age. My photo batches now have ones like the two above, of the Prague spires poking through the shroud of fog and two men chatting over beer in the Prague Municipal House, followed by a dozen shots of our boys playing futbol with their school tournament. All moments frozen in time, to share with our loved ones far away, and to cherish for years to come.

It doesn't matter what our cameras are like -- whether they are digital SLR cameras with multiple lenses or the always-handy cell phone cameras. To be able to separate ourselves from everyday busyness and to SEE the preciousness of a snatch in time -- this is a gift. To be present. To really see, and mindfully capture the whirl of life around us.

Since that first camera that I loved, I have stepped forward into the digital era, and have happily captured thousands and thousands of photographs. And I have realized, what it is that propels me toward a life's work of writing, and photography, and art.

Charles Bridge, October 2010
The fascination that propels my writing and photography and painting is light, when it shines around and in and through us, despite the dark. Because, like the photograph below, our lives are being lived. We, and others around us, are blooming. And yes, life is difficult. But if we choose, despite that difficulty and the darkness of life, we can make choices. We can choose to shine. This is what excites me.

A daisy, shimmering with dew in the morning light
So, today, in the falling autumn light, pull out your camera and look for the things that interest your eye. The richly colored autumn leaf. The glassy reflection of light upon water. The toothless grin of the neighbor girl in braids. The dew shimmering across the grass. And share the shots with those around you. For in a click of a button, you have captured the beauty and the value in the single moment in time.

Over the next month, I'll be collecting and sharing photographs to post here, with photo credits and links back to you. And I'll plan to write posts about photography, and some of the basics I like to use when I shoot.

Starting the conversation (leave a comment below): Have you captured a photograph that you love? Email me at photos at jenniferlynking dot com and attach a photograph. I'll include it in a future post. Thank you! Looking forward to seeing your work!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Autumn in Prague

A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.  -Antoine de Saint-Exupery
In Prague, the leaves are changing into brilliant splashes of color scattered among the city's rigid architecture. And autumn in Prague also means fog. Which means more beauty, and mystery for this gilded city straddling the Vltava River. 

The view across Charles Bridge and the Vltava River, in Prague
With hopes to photograph Prague in the early morning fog, I ventured down into Mala Strana (Lesser Town) last week, just catching the last hints of fog lingering along the Vltava River when I arrived. And, I enjoyed a few serene moments alone in the magnificent St. Nicolas Church in Mala Strana (photos below). In contrast to the lovely sites, however, daily living in Czech Republic is a challenge. Last week, a grocery cashier sporting a typical Czech chip on her shoulder threw the bread I was buying onto the floor at her feet. (People here normally buy three items at a time, as opposed to people like me, who buy a mountain of food to feed the four men in my house for one day...) 

But despite the difficulties, this second year of living in Prague, I find my love deepening almost daily, for the city, for the history that pours from its centuries' old stones, and for the potential that continues to build of Czech's restoration after the devastation of communism. St. Nicholas Church in Lesser Town, which sits above the Vltava near MalaStranka Square (Sv. Mikulas Kostel, Mala Strana), beckoned ... since I had never taken the chance to go inside. I was awed by its magnificance. 

The Church of St. Nicholas in Mala Strana, Prague
I am a Cathedral girl. I love a space massive enough to stretch high toward the heavens, inspiring visitors with not only majestic architecture, but also frescoes or stained glass or both. St. Nicholas, of Baroque styling, boasts one of the largest frescoes in Europe, painted over an area of 1500 square meters. St. Nicholas' spires stand tall, and add substance to the impressive Prague skyline. Ironically, St. Nicholas' bell tower was used in the recent Communist era by the State Secret Service, for spying on the people and the embassies below.  

The view up, of St. Nicholas' frescoes
To me, I love the place where human imagination creates something so grand we cannot help knowing that God had a hand in the realization of that dream. A cathedral, rising toward the sky in adoration, happens to be one of those places for me. 

The View of the Prague Castle, the Powder Tower, and St. Nicholas' spires from Charles Bridge
Luckily, Prague is said to be the city of a thousand spires -- the beauty is unending. Despite whatever snags daily life throws at us, we can always choose to look for the beauty. It is always waiting, even in a simple changing autumn leaf. Here's to finding the beauty in each day ...

Starting the conversation (leave a comment below): What have you encountered lately that has inspired you?

Friday, October 1, 2010

Weight Matters (and Why Brooke Shields' Blue Jeans Also Matter)

"The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don't want, drink what you don't like, and do what you'd rather not." -Mark Twain, American writer and humorist
I don't know anyone who doesn't struggle with weight. Family, friends, and people in general living on both sides of the ocean, models included. Everyone seems to battle with the scale in some way.
Brooke Shields talked recently about getting back into her Calvin jeans from the eighties. (To see the clip, click here). When I read her conversation about zipping up those jeans and looking like a sausage, I had to laugh -- because I could relate. I've done the same. Those relic blue jeans really do matter.

photo: www.wikimediacommons.org
It is no understatement to say as we age, we grow -- for lack of a better word -- fatter. No matter who we are and what our heredity is, life catches up to us, the couch feels ever more satisfying, and food becomes the best ally in finding comfort in our turbulent lives and world. It's true -- whether from years at a deskjob, or from pregnancy, or from just plain slowing down on our feet but not slowing down with the fork, we all gain weight and keep it as we age. Unless we do something about it.

For me, after having three boys in less than four years, my weight became an unavoidable issue, and I reached my own tipping point with my weight. I made a decision, and set a goal -- of getting back into the jeans I'd kept from 1988. My relics.

Making a workable plan was the hardest part, and included many false starts and a few extra gained pounds before I finally hit my groove. But this is what has worked for me: trading in an extra hour of sleep in the morning for 3 miles on the elliptical. And keeping at it, every day. There aren't many days where getting up at that hour is easy. And then, truly working out for any stretch of time at any activity is work. But after months of driving myself toward that goal, I fit back into my relics. And then I had a party.

Now, over three years later, I still work to get up at early hours and jump on the elliptical. And still, not many mornings are easy to get moving. But from all that working out and setting goals and working more, I have to say I feel great. Not because I dropped a few jeans sizes and have stayed that way, even though that is a huge perk. But I feel great. Deep down. There is something spiritually satisfying about being fit. That is what gets me out of bed these days, the deeper sense of well-being and health.

I do agree with Brooke. Having a goal, a measuring stick or pair of relic jeans, to work toward creates a feeling of triumph when that goal is met. Sausage-look or not, a healthier life is always worth working toward.

Working out is tough. There is no magic formula to being fit besides pure work. There is no miraculous diet that makes us our best without the dedication and perserverance that goes with becoming well. But, we only get one life to live. We only have one chance to go through each day we've been given. And in that light, it's so important to never stop trying to be our very best. The work is worth it. Being healthy is always a great goal to keep.

Starting the conversation (leave a comment below): I'd love to hear your fitness journey. What is it that gets you moving? What works for you? Do you have a relic to stand in as your goal?