To whisper back to your cat all gentle and reassuring words when you half awake and half asleep also strange. But things like this happen and you are OK with them because you love your cat and she sometimes loves you back.
An hour later I was standing by the restaurant Rainbow Garden. I was passing this restaurant so many times and never actually noticed it. This morning I saw the green chairs. I don’t know for how long they were outside; this was something new.
Soon this place will be filled with buzz and conversations. People will be in and out. Meals will be ready in a few seconds. And everyone will be on GO,GO,GO. They will have their breakfast, get the bill as fast as they can and then would step into the day doing things. People fill their day with the unanswered emails, texts, to-do-lists, meetings, appointments, rush-rush-rush and at the end of the day they even will not remember what they talked about during their breakfast. Am I exaggerating? Maybe.
My father used to say to me when I was in a rush,
Slow down. The world still will be there revolving around. And things sooner or later will be done. On their own time.
Here is a deal I am making with myself. I will take a deep breath and will publish a letter I wrote to self yesterday. Am I jeopardizing my privacy as I was told by my husband? I don’t think so. And by the way there are days when I hate being private.
Here is my letter to self:
Hi, Kaya. Sorry that my letter will be chaotic and long. I didn’t write many letters. Can you accept it as an excuse? I know you can.
Your life for the past several months has been a silent struggle. Struggle with this blog, struggle being on social media, struggle with creativity. I am not going into details because I know you would not want me.
Yes, you were lately sending yourself into many different directions that hurt you more sometimes than helped. Some day you will be grateful for that because that is how we are gaining our experiences, getting wiser and stronger.
Let me also remind you that being vulnerable is better than is having a steel spine. Being vulnerable isn’t showing parts of you that are shiny and pretty. Being vulnerable is accepting yourself and being comfortable with it.
Finally, consider these crazy ideas I would like to share with you. Do what you want, write what you want to write, take pictures of what excites you and most important try to forget the word “art”. Don’t use it even in your vocabulary. Try instead to find that thing that moves you and go from there. Don’t care what others think of your photography. Just fucking do it. And some day you will be where you want to be. I promise.
At some point I wanted to photograph only birds. They are so awesome and it’s such fun to watch them but it didn’t work as I wanted. To take interesting pictures of birds you have to be patient. I am not patient. You have to use probably a special and expensive telephoto lens which I don’t have and can’t afford. And you have to be discreet. I am lacking this quality.
But when opportunity to take pictures of birds arrives I dive in it and do my best to get a few decent pictures with my 18-105 mm lens. And by the way, who said that birds should be big that you can see their every feather and every little detail.
That was a rainy gloomy day. We had plenty of those days early spring. I was returning home and suddenly I noticed a pole with a nest. I have never seen a nest on the pole. My first thought was it was a crane’s nest ( there aren’t cranes in our area), then I saw a hawk and another one.
I took as many pictures as I could hoping that I would get one decent picture. I got two. Awesome!
My happy place is close to my home. It happened to be in the mountains. You drive a few minutes to get there and when you out of your car you leave the world behind you. You leave your worries, your problems, your tears and struggles and you are only present for every single flower, for every tree and rock you meet on your way. It’s a hypnotic feeling.
In evening the light is fading fast in the mountains. It’s quickly getting colder and darker. Sun is a huge orange ball but soon it will be behind the mountains and you have only thirty minutes after sunset to get to the parking lot. And then darkness will cover the mountains.
I go into mountains alone. As often as I can; usually in evenings. And I always return back home happy. Happy that I didn’t fail to feel and see every present moment, that I tried to connect with nature in my own way. Happy that will be another day, another opportunity to create new memories.
Another day I thought why not to do street photography without people. William Eggleston did it and so did others street photographers. First, I would stop looking for people on our local deserted streets. And second and most important, I will try something I have never done before.
This morning I took my camera determined to find one interesting story to tell. I found two stories. First is about a red sneaky car (above) and second is about an old (1962) and proudly yellow Chevy.
Willard cemetery. Green was overwhelming. Rain was pouring non stop. Day was gloomy and grey. It brought so many different thoughts about death and life. About my father who actually never left me and whom I loved so much.
You want to believe that those who have gone and whom you dearly loved, who were important to you, are constantly within or around you. I often have a feeling that my father is somewhere near by. And it doesn’t matter that he’s actually there or not. What matters that sometimes I wonder what he would say about what I have done or want to do and that means he’s there. And if I think that he would probably say “yes”, then I do it. And if he would say “no” I would think twice about doing it.
Sometimes I think that street photography is about failure. The failure to have a courage to come closer to your subject, the failure to miss the moment, the failure to be invisible on the street. Yes, there many tricks and tips how to get a better shot on the street but in reality they are just tricks and tips because every situation is different. And what is working for someone might not work for you.
This moment was lost but I took a deep breath, approached the girls and asked them to walk holding their hands. I got a posed photographed. It’s OK because it’s a portrait right now.
Another day I looked at my old pictures and found in iPhoto the picture of the beautiful gracious lady – a photo above- and looked at her for a long time. I met her only once and I asked her permission to take her picture. And she kindly let me do it. She let me to step into her world.
I was mesmerized by her face. Her smile was so beautiful. I am sure that she didn’t have an easy life but she didn’t forget how to smile. There was nothing more beautiful that this smile which struggled through the years and tears.
I am emotionally attached to this picture and it’s my favorite.
I believe that everything we hear or read have some meaning but sometimes it’s difficult to figure out it right away. It’s like a puzzle. You try to put everything together to understand a hidden meaning and you can’t. And then one day you finally have an answer. Insight. Or call it whatever you want. And with it comes a huge relief. You solved your puzzle.
For a long time when I was asked why I chose photography as my hobby I answered every time differently. I used the word “self-therapy”, then I talked about meditation and felt myself quiet pathetic. Sometimes the words like “creativity” or “art” popped up but I tried to push them away.
Then one day I read how a photographer Robert Herman answered why he chose a photography as his favorite medium. He simply said that photography saved his life. Robert Herman has bipolar disorder. At that time I didn’t understand what Herman meant when he said these words. Today I believe I know.
It’s hard for a lot of people to remember the reasons why they started to love their hobbies.
Thus, for a former hockey player Peter, a character from the book Beartown by Fredrik Backman, “the greatest reason for his love of hockey, from the very first moment he stood on a pair of skates, was silence. Everything outside the rink, the cold and the darkness and the fact that his mom was ill and his dad would be drunk again when he got home… it all went quiet inside his head when he stepped onto the ice”.
That is what exactly is happening to me when I am taking pictures. I am stepping into silence and everything is getting quiet in my head and it seems that the world stops for a while and there are only present moments and you suddenly understand what they mean and how precious they are.
This advice came from the book Beartown written by Frederik Backman:
If you are honest, people may deceive you. Be honest anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfishness. Be kind anyway.
All the good you do today will be forgotten by others tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
What you create, others can destroy. Create anyway.
Because in the end, it is between you and God.
It never was between you and anyone else anyway.
I don’t know how I would feel in this place. I would probably look at the window from time to time but would be disappointed because there is nothing there particular interesting. There is the huge parking lot filled with many cars and that is it.
Could I be in the pizza place all by myself? I am not sure. I have never done that. If I had a laptop it would be probably a different story but I don’t have a laptop.
Actually, I am a very simple person. I don’t have iPhone either. I have an emergency cell phone. And that is enough for me. I know, know in our digital age it’s like being an extinguished dinosaur but I don’t care.
What I care about is that I can reach my husband on my cell phone, of course his cell phone is never turned on. He prefers an old fashioned home phone. And I also.
I don’t have Kindle or Nook and I can’t imagine not reading a real book, holding it in my hands, turning pages and feeling it.
Anyway, I took these two pictures staring shamelessly at these people through the window. Luckily, they didn’t notice me. And then I forgot about them for a few months. Today I decided to post them.
Why do we need someone’s opinion or advice? I believe for a very simple reason – to see what we are doing from a completely different angle, not being too emotional about our problems, failures and mistakes. And most important being able to distant ourselves from ourselves in order to see more clearly.
In these series Advice to Myself I am going to do exactly what I wanted to do for a long time – to distant myself from myself and look at some of my problems more clearly. I also hope that it may help someone. If that happens I would be happy.
The best advice about photography – I am going to talk a lot about it – I got it from David Duchemin, a fantastic photographer. I have never met him but I read his book 60 Lessons for stronger photographs a few years ago.
His advice was straight forward; if you’re serious about your craft and your art, then consider getting off the online forums as fast as you can. Why? Because you would listen to voices who would not be helpful, who may even hurt and discourage you from what you are doing.
I left recently Flickr. I left it for many reasons, one of them that I lost inspiration.
There are a lot of talented photographers on Flickr and there are photographers like me who don’t have much talent and opportunities and who try hard to do what they like to do. I found myself in a minority. That is not bad but it’s not good either.
Being in a minority makes you feel insecure about what you are doing. Thus, one day on Flickr I have a few new followers and another some people unfollow me. I used to wonder what is going on and then I stopped to wonder. I became quiet cynical about followers, about the numbers of favorites and the comments. I also became insecure about my own photography. I stopped to like what I was doing.
I think that the online social forums and the places like Flickr and Instagram in some ways are killing our creativity. They make us feel very insecure.
I like the advice which I am going to give myself today. It came from Eric Kim:
If people start unfollowing you, you are doing something right.
And I would love to add – something innovating.
Many years ago the monks found a place in Utah to built their monastery. In the middle of nowhere they also built their little Catholic church.
Today I spent a few hours in this church. All by myself. There wasn’t anybody around. I prayed, photographed, thought and prayed again. There was a thought in the back of my mind why is nobody in the church, why I didn’t see the monks. It was strange and a little bit uncomfortable.
Huntsville monastery once was busy. Right now there are only ten monks. Two things religion can’t control. Aging and new vocations. Father Brendan Freeman once stated that vocations are a gift from God and a gift cannot be coerced.
The monastery probably will die with the monks. And that is very, very sad.
The same friendly gulls were going to fight for their territory.
This time I tried to create in Photoshop the old vintage film look using video tutorial on Youtube. It’s not very complicated and it’s easy to follow instructions. Not sure that I got this old vintage film look but I tried and that is what counts.
The tutorial you can find here here.
Anyway, the same friendly gulls. Running, screaming and very alert.
There are people who all their lives are walking to their own drum. And there are also animals who do that. This horse was all the time by herself, did what she wanted and never joined the crowd. No, she eventually joined other horses but never stayed closed to them. Friendly and social horse. And beautiful.
I probably will never meet her again. I may come to the same place but there would be no more horses. That happened to me many times. Just wonderful fleeting moments. And nice memories.
I saw the gulls a week ago by a huge pool in a field. Every time passing this place I looked for the gulls and they always were there. The idea to take pictures of them came yesterday. But how? If I would approach them; the gulls would fly away. If I would bring with myself bread to feed the birds; they may stay with me.
To my surprise when I came to the pool the gulls didn’t fly away; they bravely approached me. For the first few minutes I fed them two slices of bread without taking pictures. Then I tried to take pictures feeding the birds with one hand and holding my camera in the other. It didn’t work well. I left the place frustrated and unhappy.
The only one who could help me to feed the gulls while I was taking pictures of them was my husband. And he happily agreed to do that. We returned back to the pool with more slices of bread. And fun began. My husband cheerfully talked to the gulls. “Are you ready, guys?..” he said to them loudly before throwing little pieces of bread into the air.
I will never forget the one brave gull standing in front of the “crowd”. She was so impatient. When she heard the words “are you ready”; she jumped up and then she realized that nothing yet was happening; she was down. It was funny to watch her. It was fan to watch my husband talking to the birds. Anyway, we had a great time and I was able to take pictures of the gulls.
Another day I read about writing workshop. There were a few assignments and one of them I liked a lot. You had to write a story of your life for the last three decades in only three sentences and each sentence had to have only three words.
I wrote my story about these pictures in three sentences:
He was cute. I was curious. Picture was taken.
On that miserable rainy Sunday there were two of us at the lake. A man who was fishing in his boat and I with my camera. Then a few days later I thought about the lakes I saw, where I stayed for a short time and vacationed. There weren’t many of them. Some I don’t remember, others are still with me.
I remember a big lake (I don’t remember its name anymore) where I was learning how to row. A boat was big and heavy and sometimes it was difficult to row; I had to take short breaks to rest. I didn’t enjoy much rowing and being in the boat. The only one who was excited about our adventure was my four years old daughter. She was overjoyed and happy being in this damn boat in the middle of the lake. Sometimes she was getting impatient and asking me to row more quickly. I tried. Unsuccessfully.
I remember this lake so clearly. I remember how I washed my little daughter’s hair with shampoo in the lake and they were so silky from the softest water on the Earth. I also did our laundry there and let them dry on the grass. It was a summer vacation filled with little adventures like rowing, riding a rented bike to the small village store, learning how to cook with women in the big kitchen with many stoves, listening to the great stories in the evening and wishing that days would not fly so quickly.
Many years after I saw another lake. It was a different country, different world, I was adjusting to my new life. The lake had the strange name “Bear Lake”. Apparently, there were a lot of bears in the area and when the Canadian fur trader and explorer Donald Mackenzie saw this lake he named it “Black Bear Lake”. In time the word “black” was dropped and the name of the lake became simpler and shorter.
The Bear Lake became the lake where three of us – my husband, our dog Shady and I – could spend a few days in the summer. We liked the lake’s vastness; its intense turquoise-blue color. We enjoyed swimming. Only Shady wasn’t happy, he was always hiding underneath of canvas chair patiently waiting when we would return back to our campsite.
“I fish because I love to . . . because I love the environs where trout are found . . . because I suspect that men are going along this way for the last time, and I for one don’t want to waste the trip . . . and, finally, not because I regard fishing as being so terribly important but because I suspect that so many of the other concerns of men are equally unimportant––and not nearly so much fun.” ~ Robert Traver
What can I write about dance and dancers? I can tell a story how my childhood friend and I took a class in the Dance school. My friend was fifteen; I was one year younger. He was tall and awkward; I was short, plump and very energetic.
We were accepted at the school without an audition, what we didn’t know that it didn’t mean anything. In a few days my friend was asked by the dance teacher to leave class. I left it in one week.
My dance teacher one day invited me into her office and told that I can’t attend anymore my dance class because I was lacking graciousness and plasticity. When I shared these news with my friend he became very angry at the teacher, he called her a jerk who didn’t know that you could learn graciousness and plasticity in time. My naive friend believed that this is possible and reassured me that some day I will be a dancer.
I never became a dancer but I adore to dance. I dance for myself when nobody is watching me, I dance for my dog Tasha who is always looks at me with a great admiration. Sometimes we dance together; I take Tasha’s front pows in my hands and we shift our feet from one side to another and we are happy. Without graciousness and plasticity.
I photographed this waterfall in every season. It’s wonderful in early spring when it’s outrageous and powerful. In summer it’s humble and gentle. When winter comes it turns into an icy kingdom.
This waterfall has a very boring name. Someone wasn’t very creative and gave to this waterfall the name of my city. I call it Devil’s Tears in the early spring and Humble in the summer.
At the very first look at the waterfall you see the white cascading stream but the longer you look at it you see many little waterfalls going into different directions.
That night was special. I couldn’t fall asleep. You know what I am talking about. You lie in the darkness with your eyes wide open staring at the ceiling and listening how the clock is ticking. It’s unusually loud. Your eyes already adjusted to the dark and you can see dark dancing shadows on the walls. They look intriguing but you are frustrated because tomorrow will be another day with a lot of errands and you prefer to have a clear head. You think about tomorrow, you try to chase away your thoughts which don’t want to settle down. And soon you find yourself in the never ending cycle of thoughts which makes you even more frustrated.
Then suddenly you hear a gentle noise outside. Someone is walking in your garden. In the middle of the night. You get up and look at the window. It’s beautiful outside. A huge moon shining at you and four young deer are peacefully walking in your garden.
Your first impulse is to grab a camera and try to take a picture of your night guests. It’s dark but you will try anyway. Your camera isn’t in a cooperative mood and tells you forget about the whole deal. But you don’t want to give up so easily; you take a picture of the moon. One clic. One shot. And to your surprise for the first time the moon looks decent on the screen of your camera; it doesn’t look like an ugly tiny white blab. It looks like the real moon.
On nights like this when you just can’t sleep you suddenly realize that you are not alone; something always is happening in the world. And knowing it gives you a very comforting feeling.
Saturday we had an adventure. I don’t use this word often because usually when we are having an adventure it means something will go wrong but will be very thrilling and often memorable.
Our adventure usually starts with a family hike in the mountains. There are three of us who like to hike in the mountains; our old girl Tasha who happens to be a dog but acts like a spoiled
brat baby, my husband and I.
First step is to get Tasha into the car. And I can reassure you that it’s not an easy task to pick up a 33.5 pounds dog who doesn’t want to be treated like an invalid at her age – Tasha will be fourteen years old in May. At this crucial moment it doesn’t matter that she can’t jump into the car by herself, doesn’t matter that she should be smart and cooperative; she remembers better times when she was young and strong.
Well, we somehow got into the mountains quite quickly. Roads were clear, morning was sunny but to our surprise the mountains were still covered with snow. We should know better but it was too late. We could turn back or hike in the mud, snow; jumping over the pools and sometimes working through them. We chose to hike.
Soon we reached the point where there was a two way road sign. I looked at it and thought that something was very symbolic about it.
I suddenly clearly realized that I often tried to catch up with time worrying that I will never be able to do that.
At this moment standing by this sign I thought that it’s truly never late. Nature never hurries, things are happening in life at their own pace and time; only I am constantly imposing on myself something I will never be able to achieve.
Anyway, we returned back home happy, dirty and tired from the fresh air, sun and wind. Old girl Tasha got her bath and slept for the rest of the day with a happy smile on her face. I took a few pictures. Nice memories. And a very meaningful adventure.
Our old girl Tasha.
Sometimes you can’t have it all and it’s far better to capture the right moment with the wrong settings. That is what exactly happened with this photograph.
First, I was disappointed about it but then I thought about the famous photograph of the war photographer Robert Capa “Landing of the American troops on Omaha Beach Normandy, France”. It was badly composed, blurry and brilliant. What made it so powerful that Robert Capa was thinking about the moment and didn’t care about the technical stuff and flaws.
I began to believe that not everything should be perfect in your photos; some rawness sometimes is good and even desirable.
There are a few goats I met on the country roads. Some I met close to my home, others were several miles away.
The goats I met were young and only recently I met an old goat.
The goats can learn their name and to come to you when you call them.
Baby goats are standing and talking to their mama the minute they were born. They are fast learners.
Goats are easily depressed when they are alone and no other goat around. The goat I met recently (on the picture above) didn’t look depressed at all in spite of the fact that he was alone. Perhaps, he used to be alone.
Cows and horses are my strong obsession. I can photograph them as long as they allow me.
It started six years ago when I bought my first camera. There wasn’t around someone who would help me with my digital camera. My husband had by that time a film camera and didn’t know anything about digital cameras.
During the first month I was afraid to touch any button on my camera; I was sure that if I touched a few buttons, my camera would stop working and my adventure with photography would be over.
I would probably continue to study the manual for the next few months until my husband “threatened” me that if I would not use my camera; he would return it back.
You always have a choice. You can go with your fear or you can look into its face and laugh at it. I decided to laugh at my fear and said to myself that it’s not an easy thing to damage your camera by just gently touching its buttons.
My first photo session took place in the country. My husband and I found a farm with horses and I took a few pictures. One horse wasn’t very friendly; every time I approached her she screamed at me and moved away. I remember how I followed her and talked to her gently while taking pictures but it didn’t work well. She became very agitated and it was a time to leave.
Returning back home I thought that horses are like us; they are very social and can be unhappy if somebody uninvited gets on their territory.
There would be more photo sessions when I would take good and bad pictures but my first one will always stays with me.
It’s everything about the pool on the street. The pools are so rare in our city and they usually are very small. This was a gorgeous pool and huge. Just looking at it you could imagine the reflections of old tall buildings, the doves drinking water, the old trees framing the pool but in reality there were reflections of a yellow ugly pole, dirty grass and the top of a very boring building.
I photographed this pole and dirty grass anyway. With free expression.
I found this graffiti yesterday; it was painted by a very talented unknown artist. My first thought was that it would be nice if I would take pictures using double exposure. But it didn’t work well right from the beginning. Every picture came out so messy that at some point I stopped and thought that it’s time to go home and return back another time. Somehow the idea of leaving this place appeared very helpful. It changed the perception of the situation and the desire to create something great was gone. And most important I began to see this graffiti differently.
I also had a “quality” time talking to a stranger who approached me while I was struggling with my camera and said, ” Some people think that this is life. I think that this is destiny. What do you think?”
I couldn’t think of anything but responded anyway that I think that this is probably fate. Apparently, my answer was OK because a stranger smiled and walked away singing and talking to himself about something very personal.
Austrian born photographer Ernst Haas (1921-1986) is my recent discovery. I discovered him a few weeks ago and since then couldn’t stop thinking about his work.
Once Adam Ansel wrote to Haas, ” I am very happy that you exist. Can I say more? No.”
I am happy also that I discovered this talented photographer and that I was able to buy the book Color Correction which showed his work.
I would like to share with you what I have learned from this unique photographer:
Ordinary can be turned into something unique and astonishing.
It’s very hard to take photos of ordinary simple subjects and turn them into something very interesting. It’s hard to transform prose into poetry.
Ernst Haas found his personal version of beauty. Bored with reality he began to concentrate on seeing rather than looking. And his subjects began to speak for themselves, they became less obvious and more suggestive.
There is always present a poetic moment.
Ernst Haas believed there is a poetic moment. He wrote,”In every artist there is poetry. In every human being there is the poetic moment. We know, we feel, we believe.”
For a long time I believed that I didn’t have this poetic moment. I also didn’t believe that art can be learned. By nature, I am not artistic. I was following some photographers and thought that they have something that I am missing. But later I began to think that art is simply a skill and it can be learned. It just requires a lot of practice. And with this practice you will rediscover your inner artistic nature and your poetic moment.
Forget about art.
Ernst Haas said, that one cannot photograph art.
I like this idea. It gives you freedom. Total freedom is to be yourself, create what excites and moves you, and maybe some day you can call your creations art; if you wish but never try to be an artist.
My favorite quote is from the photographer Duane Michaels, “My advice to somebody starting out: do not try to be an artist, forget about art, don’t even use the word art in you vocabulary. What you have to find out is if you have anything to say – you have to find that bug up your bum. You have to find that thing that moves you that part of you psyche that needs to be scratched, like an itch. Then one day it might become that thing called art, but do not try to be an artist, and do not want to become rich and famous.”
Perfect is often imperfect.
What fascinates me about the work of Ernst Haas is that his photographs are not perfect in the sense of sharpness. Some of them are intentionally blurry and quiet grainy sometimes. But there are colors, light, shapes, shadows, lines that are so intriguing and captivating.
Haas taught me to seek simplicity which can be powerful and compelling. I don’t strive anymore for perfection, I decided not to care about how imperfect my photos are. That isn’t important for me anymore. I would rather experiment, explore and try to focus on what excites me. And never worry is it good or not so good.
Never arrive in your photography.
“Don’t park. Highways will get you there, but I tell you, don’t ever try to arrive. Arrival the death of inspiration.” Ernst Haas
Lately I began to ask myself, “Why am I on a social media”? “Why did I return back to Flickr? “Why am I here?”
I don’t connect with people on a social media, I don’t write comments, I don’t get comments; only on occasion. Am I here just to show off my photographs? Or there is something more to that.
Perhaps, something more to that. I opened this blog to write about photography, how it became a big part of my life and changed it. I know it sounds a little bit pathetic but it’s true. I am a housewife and I lived for a long time quiet secluded life without friends and social gatherings.
Photography took me on the streets were I began to meet some people; talk to them even for a very brief moment. I started the project “Portraits of Strangers”. That was the best thing ever happened to me. I didn’t feel myself anymore isolated and disconnected with world and people. Photography gave a meaning to my life. It gave a purpose and goals. And learning also.
And then… I wanted to share my work with others. It was a good honest determination but in years it turned into an ego thing. Somehow I began dependent on likes and favorites. If I didn’t get them or got little I was upset for the whole day. When I got a few of them my mood improved and I felt excited.
When some day I realized that I am running on a huge social media treadmill to nowhere and I have to do something about it.
All my favorite photographers like Ernest Haas, Vivien Maier, William Eggleston, Saul Leiter and others didn’t care what others thought about their photography. I am sure that they even would not be on a social media and different forums. They shoot for pleasure. They had a confidence and I am lacking it.
Lately I am looking less and less for approval of others. It’s not so easy but I am working on it. And I don’t use the social media as barometer to see if I am good with my photography or not.