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He Who Keeps Me Company – 54/365, BlackBerry Shots, Minneapolis,
Minnesota, February 2010, photo © 2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights
reserved.


It’s March 1st, 2010. Sixty days and nights have passed since I began the BlackBerry 365 Project. Day 54 landed on this shot of Mr. Stripeypants keeping me company on a less than perfect day. I was reading Mary Karr’s memoir, Lit. He was taking a nap beside me, simply being himself. I felt like I really saw him.

At first glance, it doesn’t seem like a big commitment — taking a new photo each day and posting it in a public forum. I had been exploring taking photographs with the BlackBerry since last October. It was so much fun, I decided to turn it into a practice. That’s when the work began.

Pushing through days when I am under the weather, low energy, or uninspired are the hardest. But once I get the shot posted, I feel like I’ve accomplished a great deal. I know from past practices of writing, mandalas, and haiku, that yearly dedication to a craft can take you a long way. It can also drive you crazy! I thought I’d check in at the 60 day mark and let you know how things are progressing. Here’s what I’ve learned so far from the BlackBerry 365 Project:


  • As soon as I make something a practice, resistance kicks in. It’s all Monkey Mind. The trick is to not think too much, to simply keep going. Don’t force the shot, let the image appear.
  • Using the camera phone takes the pressure off to snap the perfect photo. It fits in the palm of my hand. I can have fun with it, photograph and post images I might not let myself publish with my Canon.
  • Themes appear and reappear in the photographs, just like in my writing. I keep coming back to what I love and have passion about.
  • Knowing I have to post a photo at the end of the day changes the way I look at the world. I am awake to all the possibilities. Everything I see is an opportunity.
  • Taking BlackBerry photos reminds me of the old days of 60-second Polaroids. I take snapshots of my day, glean ideas for new projects, visit places I want to go back and shoot with the Canon.



There are many photographers and artists who have embarked on yearly projects of daily images. And writers who have daily practices that keep them going through the lean times. I’d love to hear insights from others who are willing to share their experiences. And I’ll check in again along the way.

Going forward, I’ve decided not to post daily images in the red Ravine comments. But I’ll continue to check in on the original post once or twice a month. If you’d like to continue to follow the yearly practice, I’ll still be posting each day in my BlackBerry 365 set on Flickr. And in the Twitter widget on our sidebar. Just click on BlackBerry 365 to take you to Flickr.


-posted on red Ravine, Day 60, Monday, March 1st, 2010

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White Winter Squirrel – 1/365, BlackBerry 365, Minneapolis, Minnesota, January 2010, photo © 2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Intentions for 2010. My first is to focus on my photography. I have a print project in progress in the studio. I hope to have 12 framed pieces done by Art-A-Whirl in the Spring. Some of you are familiar with my Writers Hands project that I’ve been working on since 2007. I have quite a collection of photographs now, and am combining them with stories of actually meeting the writers. It’s exciting to think about a dozen framed pieces of writing and art on the walls by May.

I’ve discovered I do best when I focus on one project at a time. So I can finish what I’ve started. If I set too many goals, I fall flat on all of them. I’ve given myself permission to let my writing go for a while, to work on my photography. Another thing I’ve learned is that I need something fun that runs parallel to tough creative work projects. For 2010, it’s the BlackBerry 365 photo project.

When it came time to renew our phone contracts in 2009, Liz and I spent a few hours in the Verizon store, checking out all the different options for mobile devices. We could not resist the features and BOGO deal of the BlackBerry. It was October, right before my trip to Pennsylvania, then Down South with Mom. We were on the road, buzzing by the Blue Ridge Parkway, when Liz called and said, “Why don’t you Tweet photos along the way with your BlackBerry.” She gave me a quick ÜberTwitter lesson and an obsession was born — I love my BlackBerry.

I’ve taken over 1000 photos since then, posting them in various places around the Internet including Twitter, Flickr, and TweetPhoto. Many photographers have done a photo-a-day practice over the years. But I never have. I started with 0/365, the Blue Moon the last day of December. The second was the White Winter Squirrel. And though I take many BlackBerry photos over the course of a week, I’ll only post one daily favorite in the BlackBerry 365 Series.

I’ve also decided to post thumbnails of the photos in the comments on this post each day. The idea with cell phone photography is that it creates a different way of seeing. I find that taking photographs with the BlackBerry frees me up. I got to know my Canon PowerShot more intimately this year at a writing retreat and will continue to take RAW photos. But sometimes with the larger camera, I feel pressure to take a great photograph. With the phone camera, I feel free to experiment to my heart’s content.

I’d love it if readers wanted to join me in a phone photo-a-day practice. Just drop the link to your photos into the comments section of this post.

To be clear, here are my photo project intentions for 2010. I’ll try to check in on my progress over the course of the year:

  1. BlackBerry 365 — continue to take BlackBerry Shots each day of 2010. Post my daily fave in the BlackBerry 365 set.
  2. Complete 12 final prints, writing and bios, matted and framed, in my Writers Hands Series by May of 2010 where I will show them in Art-A-Whirl
  3. Start a monetary presence for my photographs in the form of an online store with sets of cards and prints available for purchase (which also involves revealing my identity)

A wise woman recently told me that I had practiced enough, that it was time to complete some of these projects and get them out into the world. She’s right. My practices are important to me, but it’s crucial that I follow through on the finished work. And focusing on photography doesn’t mean I’ve abandoned my writing. From the time I was a small child, photography and writing have been inexplicably linked for me. I’m excited to set these intentional goals. And I know you’ll help hold me to them!


-posted on red Ravine, Monday, January 4th, 2009

-Follow the BlackBerry 365 Project on my Flickr set

-related to post: Reflection — Through The Looking Glass

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Blue Moon Over Ice Skating Rink – 0/365, BlackBerry Shots, Full Blue Moon on New Year’s Eve, December 31st, 2009, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2009-20010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.





Through The Looking Glass


season to season
hindsight is 20/20
reflecting the past;
future remains uncertain,
jumps hoops through the looking glass


–tanka from hindsight haiku — pink cadillac (on the road), October 25, 2009





Writing Practice — Looking Back – 15min


Looking back I see hot hazy days when I didn’t have a job. What seems like the best opportunity to work on writing, art, photography, becomes consumed with worry. Looking back I see that Chaco died. He didn’t just die. We made the hard decision to put him to sleep. An odd turn of phrase, put him to sleep. It’s the second cat where I’ve had to make that hard decision. The first was my cat Sasha; it was years ago. Looking back I feel gratitude. For Liz, Kiev, Mr. Stripeypants. For my writing group, for Roma and her partnership with me on red Ravine. I feel grateful I have my health. Age, I’m aging. But overall, I have survived another year. The gray hair is multiplying.

Looking back, there were visits with Amelia, visits with Marylin. Mothers are important to me. Time with mothers. Time with my mother. How much time do we have? One never knows if they will live into old age. I like the yearly trips I take to the South and this one was no exception. There wasn’t enough time but the time we were in Georgia and South Carolina was relaxed. The reconnections I have made there the last three years are invaluable. Links to what was, links to what might be.

Looking back, I feel like I don’t do enough, don’t accomplish enough of my yearly goals. I hate setting them anymore, but I must. I feel like I get so little done. Recently a friend called and mused that we might feel an urgency to get more done because of our age. We are not spring chickens, not in our twenties, not even in our thirties, and here we are trying to make some kind of alternative life work out. Looking back, my car Greta made it through the recession with only the need for a radiator and some new wiper blades. Sylvia the Saturn made it, too. No new car payments — yet.

Looking back, I am happy where I live. Indria is humble, tiny, small. But every day I wake up and look out over the oaks, ash, and cedar. I feel happy to come home and watch the moon rise behind the cottage. I wish it was larger, that we had two more bedrooms, one to write, one for art. Hers and hers. Should we build on? Or buy a new house? Is it ever in the cards to have enough room? Small is good, too. I’m used to small, crowded houses. That’s the way I grew up with 5 younger siblings. There is something comforting about small.

Looking back, I don’t want to trade my life for anyone else’s. My mistakes are my mistakes. I can live with them. I have to. I don’t often remember the bad that happens in a year, mostly the good. And the gratitude I feel for the richness in my life, no matter how much I might be lacking. Is that keeping me from going forward? Have I gotten lazy. Or am I simply tired. Looking back, I’m happy to have a job, though it takes a toll on me. If you had asked me even a year ago, I would have said, “No, I’m never going to be driving truck.” But here I am. Never say never.

There is an opening in there somewhere. Gratitude for the abundance of having a job. Money coming in. So many are without work. Yet my work is my art, my writing, my photography. It will be the dilemma of every artist — how to make a living while being a creative soul. Our world does not support it. We have to. We create our own worlds, surround ourselves with people who help hold the dream. People matter. But it is each of us who has to do the work. Am I doing the work?



_____________________________________________


Post Script: I wanted to combine several of my yearly practices in this post on looking back. Above is a tanka I wrote on the trip to Georgia this year, the Reflection part of my Writing Practice on WRITING TOPIC — REFLECTION & INTENTION, and a photograph of the Blue Moon from my photo practice. Below is my yearly Gratitude list. I do one at the end of every year, a result of peering through the looking glass, looking back on the good things in life.


_____________________________________________



A – Accept loss forever. Learned this from Kerouac, then from Natalie Goldberg.  Easy to say, hard to do. Makes the world a much better place to live.


B – Breaking free. From the ties that bind. I am the one who keeps me back. It was a constant battle over the year to let myself be. To do nothing when I needed it. To sit and stare into space. To break free from old worn out habits that are keeping me back.


C – Cats. These 3 bundles of joy brought much happiness to my life in 2009. Chaco has moved on but we don’t forget. We scattered his ashes this year around the fire at Winter Solstice. Sometimes I still hear him pattering through the house, keeping night watch on the back of the couch. Chaco was a Nightowl.


D – Dead of Winter. I love Winter. It makes me feel alive. January to January, the Midwest Winter is nothing to sneeze at. It was -21 this morning. It’s warmed up to -8. Sometimes the Dead of Winter is when I have the most ripeness going on inside.


E – The letter “E”. I’m thankful for the vowels. They hold up a lot of words. Like Elizabeth. I thank my lucky stars every day that she’s my partner, that she’s in my life.


F – Fathers. I have a new respect for the role that fathers play with their children. Young children. Adult children. I have learned from reconnecting with my step-father in the South that it is never too late to heal. Never too late to realize the love. I have learned from my brothers who are good fathers how important it is to be there for your kids. I have learned from ybonesy and Jim how good fathers make a difference.


G – Gratitude – humble gratitude for others, those who came before us, those who run parallel, the children of the future, all teach me perspective. Sometimes I feel great loss. I try hard to get back to Gratitude for what remains.


H – Humble Pie. I’ve eaten a lot of it. Humility helps me remember — Do not waste this precious life. Humility always takes me back to center — Home. (Oh, and wasn’t Humble Pie a band from the 1970’s?)


I – Itches, those nagging, pesky things that make you want to jump out of your skin. You can’t scratch every itch. But don’t the itches raise the most important questions?


J – January. Some years I’m glad to be starting over, to walk into the clean slate of a New Year. This is one of them. Time may be boundless but the calendar offers a structure. Something that helps keep me on track.


K – Kindred Spirits. Make the list again this year. Not just community or people who are alive. But those who travel with us across the Ethers. And animals, like our cat Kiev. She’s solid as a rock. There are so many life forms that walk the Earth with us. The veil is thin.


L – Love. Love is underappreciated. The word is thrown around loosely. There are so many kinds of love, I have lost count. But the feeling of giving or receiving love — I would not trade it for money, fame, or fortune.


M – Mothers. Most of the nurturing of the world falls to women. This was true when I was born, it may still be true at the end of my life. I wish I could say it’s different, that all nurture the world. But it doesn’t seem to be women that take us into war. Or perpetrate most of the violence in the world. If I was wrong, I’d happily admit it. If I’m right, I pray for more balance. That’s too heavy a weight to carry.


N – North Carolina. I know it seems odd. But driving through North Carolina, it seems like one of the most beautiful places. I’ve also discovered that many of my relatives come from North Carolina, something I didn’t expect. This is true on the paternal and maternal side. I am rooted in the South.


O – Overdrive. Wait, I guess this is something that should go on my future Intentions list. But it popped into my head. People who run on Overdrive teach me about reaching goals. I don’t want to be a Type A personality–I only want a pinch of their drive.


P – Pants. Mr. Stripeypants is over a decade old; he acts like a kitten. I can’t explain the joy this cat brings into my life. He plays fetch with me in the morning, drapes over my arm when I write, greets us at the door after a hard day at work, follows us around the house in a constant state of curious abandon. I learn a lot from Mr. Pants.


Q – Quest. I’m always questing. Like a Knight but not in shining armor. I’d be one of those Dark Knights. After all, you need them, too. The ones that sit at the Round Table contemplating, one foot underground, one foot in the sky. They are all searching for the Grail. I think curiosity is an asset. I just wish it would quit jumping around. Hopscotch, 1-2-1-2-1-2-1, back again. Once in a while I wish throwing the rock was enough, just to see where it lands.


R – red Ravine. It makes the list again. Every year there is something different. It’s a practice in the collaborative spirit. Sometimes it’s the thing that keeps me going when things get hard. Where will it lead? Right here, right now. I’m grateful for every single person who has ever visited red Ravine.


S – Snow. It’s practical and romantic. A water reserve for dry summers, a heart bouncer for Winter rides on the horse-drawn sleigh. We got a boatload in December. It snowed like a banshee over the Christmas weekend. I used to ski but these days I’m happy to get out and walk in the snow. I don’t mind shoveling. But I have to admit, this year I thought about buying a snow blower.


T – Tracks. Animal cairns. We follow tracks in the snow in our front yard. Raven, crow, moles and voles. Rabbits, squirrels, raccoon. Tracking takes patience and an eye for detail. I’m not that good at identifying which tracks go to what animal. But I love to guess. Then check my tracking book for the right answer.


U – Understanding. It’s the brother of forgiveness. I had to live a while before I understood what it meant to forgive. Not everyone can be understood. But it helps to try. I understand that not everyone is perfect or impeccable. I forgive myself for not being those things either.


V – Veracity. An unwillingness to tell lies. A propensity for the truth.  They even made a movie about it — The Invention of Lying. Is telling the truth always the best route? What truth? Whose truth? I like looking at the Underbelly — the unwillingness to tell lies seems more realistic.


W – Woodpeckers. We had two sightings of the Pileated Woodpecker on our property this year. What a joy it is to see them. They’ve got to be the closest thing to seeing a prehistoric Ivory-Billed. The Ivory-Billed Woodpecker is a lot like the Loch Ness monster — now you see it, now you don’t.


X – X-Ray Vision. The absence of it. I’m thinking if I had X-Ray vision, I could see into the future. But I wouldn’t want to know. I’d rather take my chances. And make small decisions along the way.


Y – ybonesy makes the list again. She’s made leaps and bounds with her art this year. That inspires me, fires me up for my own creative endeavors. She’s a woman who seems to be able to do it all. I admire that. And feel so much gratitude that she’s collaborating with me on red Ravine.


Z – ZigZags. Like lightning. I’m grateful for zigzags because they are the way I live my life. Cancer the Crab rarely takes the straight line anywhere. Back and forth, testing the waters. She does finally land. Solid. For a day or two. Then off again on her quest. You can’t have a zig without a zag.


-posted on red Ravine, Saturday, January 2nd, 2009

-related posts and to read more about the practice of Gratitude: Feelin’ Down For The Holidays? Make A Gratitude List, The ABC’s Of A Prosperous 2008 – Gratitude, I Am Grateful For The Alphabet ;-), Runes, Oracles, & Alphabets

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Ode To Joy & Christmas Eve, snapshot of my art studio desk, BlackBerry Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.




savor the small things
the joy of writing haiku
in the dead of night;
the silence of snow falling,
calms the chatter in my mind


circumspect darkness
relative humidity
what matters to me?
seeing clearly with the heart
things invisible to the eye


Holiday blizzard
thank you for braving the storm
following footprints
of those who walked before us —
Joy hides in the strangest places




It’s the dead of night. I’m staring out the window at snow falling on cedars, oaks, and ash. A Holiday blizzard. I’ve always liked Christmas Eve almost better than Christmas. When I was growing up, I’d stay up way past the time when my five younger siblings were in bed, rocking in the leather recliner, bathed in the glow of firelight and candles. Some years the living room would be blue from head to toe, my mother’s favorite color, with a tree dressed in angel hair and the front door wrapped like a package with pine cones and ribbon. Do they still have contests for best door decorations?

I can smell Amelia’s fruit cake and rocks, ladles of egg nog, cloves spiking the Christmas ham. It’s the time of year when I count my blessings. I’m grateful for family, friends, and lovers, for blog partners and red Ravine readers, for puffy orange coats and wet mittens. Thank you for walking with us through murky and uncertain waters. Thank you for running through rain. And pausing in the darkness of Winter. There is so much joy in the silence.


Happy Holidays from red Ravine, December 24th, 2009

-related to posts: haiku 2 (one-a-day), Poem For The Trees (Keepers Of The Light), A Few Of My Favorite Things, On Eating December Snowflakes, Tamales — A Christmas Tradition, Merry Merry, Happy Happy, A Partridge In A Pear Tree, A Christmas Gift From Dad, On Collecting Pigs Against Your Will

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At The Labyrinth’s Center, BlackBerry Shots, Winter Solstice,
Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 2009, photo © 2009
by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 
 
 
 

bright Winter Solstice
Our Lady of Guadalupe
burns at the center

 
 
 
 

Post Script: Last night we broke bread at a Winter Solstice celebration with friends. Bear made an appearance; we burned last year’s Yule Tree. At the end of the drumming, a Great Horned Owl called out from over the pond through the silence. Last night was the first time people walked the labyrinth our friends created in their front yard over this year’s Spring and Summer months. It was a beautiful Winter evening. In the days before Solstice, they shoveled snow from the path; the way through the cairns was clear. What we didn’t know until we arrived was that Our Lady of Guadalupe glowed at the center. I’ll write more about the creation of their labyrinth in future posts.

 

Winter Solstice Fire, Walking The Labyrinth Solstice Night, BlackBerry Shots, Winter Solstice, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 

-posted on red Ravine, Winter Solstice, Monday, December 21st, 2009. Happy Birthday Grandmama Della Elise. You walked through the circle with us last night.

-related to posts: Virgin Mary Sightings, Winter Solstice — Making Light Of The Dark, “K” Is For Kramarczuk’s, Runes, Oracles, & Alphabets, voyeur haiku, haiku 2 (one-a-day)

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“K” Is For Kramarczuk’s, BlackBerry Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


We stopped at Kramarczuk’s Deli last week to take a few photographs after Christmas shopping. Wasyl Kramarczuk and his wife Anna traveled from the Ukraine to the United States in the 1940’s carrying hope and a dream. In 1954, they combined Wasyl’s sausage making skills with Anna’s delicious cooking and baking to create Kramarczuk’s. Today it’s a Northeast Minneapolis landmark (read more at the Kramarczuk’s website).

Northeast Minneapolis is one area of the city that still cherishes the neighborhood deli. After moving to Minnesota in 1984, I settled in Nordeast where I quickly got to know Kramarczuk’s Deli. In fact, for 20 years I got my hair cut in the vintage East Gate Shopping Center nearby that was torn down a few years ago to make way for a grocery store and high-rise.

What’s your favorite deli food? Check out Kramarczukl’s mouthwatering menu. I’ve had the Polish Sausage, the SauerKraut Dish, and the Ukrainian Meatballs. I love the Varenyky dumplings and the Borscht. It is hearty, stick-to-your-ribs food, perfect for the -0 degree December weather we’ve been having in the Twin Cities. Liz and I were drawn to photograph the mural on the side of the building at night. The letters in the side-by-side alphabets reminded me of our recent post on Runes, Oracles, & Alphabets.

And the Runes remind me of the Holidays and Solstice. Today we’ll be putting up our tree. On Sunday, we’ll be celebrating Winter Solstice at the home of our friends. I’m excited because they recently created a labyrinth in their front yard. Walking from Winter darkness to the green of Spring. What do you want to let go of? What would you like to carry into the light.



Kramarczuk’s – Since 1954, Kramarczuk’s Sausage Co. Inc., Kramarczuk’s Walldog Mural, Northeast – Making History Again, East European Deli – Old Kramarczuk’s Sign, Writing On The Wall, Kramarczuk’s At Christmas, BlackBerry Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


-posted on red Ravine, Saturday, December 19th, 2009

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RUNES, BlackBerry Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Yesterday we went to a book signing at Common Good Books. Jeff Hertzberg and Zöe Francois recently released their second book Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day. The bread was delicious, the authors serious about their work, down-to-earth, engaging and fun. In casual conversation, it came out that Zöe knows Latin. I remembered that I had taken two years of Latin in junior high, a curriculum requirement in the 1960’s. That got me to thinking about language and alphabets.

After the signing, Liz and I did a little Christmas shopping and later went to the studio. I was looking at this set of Runes I made from clay a number of years ago. For a period of time in my life, I consulted with different oracles on a daily basis: the I Ching, the Runes, Tarot, Medicine Cards. I have a passion for learning about symbols in different systems of mysticism.

Symbols are used to create structure within a system, to help us understand complicated ideas with a simple visual. Over time, color has been organized into systems like Goethe’s Triangle and subsequent Colour Wheel, while chakras are symbolized by certain colors. Logos and brands (like red Ravine or ybonesy’s new logo) take their lead from symbols of yore. Graphic designers are always trying to create  innovative new fonts with which to drape old symbols in more imaginative cloaks. (Yet people still like an old standby because Helvetica remains one of the most widely used fonts around.)

I couldn’t find my Runes book last night or I would have drawn the Runes. But I did find an odd book I’d snapped up at a sale, an old Readers Digest Book of Facts. According to the Languages section of the book, all the alphabets around the world can be traced to a North Semitic alphabet that emerged around 1700 B.C. at the eastern end of the Mediterranean. From the Semitic alphabet developed Hebrew, Arabic, and Phoenician. Then Phoenician alphabet was adopted and adapted by the Greeks who in 1000 B.C. introduced a modified form into Europe.

The Greeks standardized the reading of written lines from left to right, added symbols for vowels, and gave rise to the Roman alphabet (used for modern Western languages) and the Cyrillic alphabet (named after Saint Cyril and used in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union). The North Semitic alphabet spawned the Aramaic alphabet which eventually developed into Asian alphabets, such as Hindi.

The earliest forms of writing are picture writings found on clay tablets in parts of the Middle East and southeastern Europe. Some of the oldest found in Iraq and Iran recorded land sales and business deals.

Where do the Runes fit into all this? They are a mystery. The Runic alphabet is one of the oldest in northern Europe with early examples dating to the 3rd century A.D. They have been found in 4000 inscriptions in Britain, Scandinavia, and Iceland but nobody knows for sure where they originated.

For some reason, the Runes remind me of the ancient celebration of Winter Solstice. Some scholars believe the Runes were derived from the Etruscan alphabet of southern Europe and brought north by the Goths after their invasion of the Roman Empire. To me, they are an oracle of mystery. And that’s what draws me to them.


Post Script: The bread baked by Jeff Hertzberg and Zöe Francois was delicious. Their new book Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day looks like a winner with many whole wheat and gluten-free recipes. There’s a recipe for their whole wheat Christmas Stollen Bread in the post of their video interview at KARE 11. Or you can visit their website Artisan Bread In Five with fabulous photographs of mouthwatering baked goods. You will come away hungry for more!


-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, December 13th, 2009

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