Focusing Through A Storm

This week’s photo challenge couldn’t have come at a better time. I have mentioned before how much I love these challenges because of how they light up my brain and make ideas whoosh on in. Yesterday I only got one idea, but sometimes that is all it takes. One spark. One shot. Every day life is full of let-downs but also opportunities, and what matters is which one you latch on to. The choices you make. The chances you take. We have to find and nurture that one glowing ember and keep on moving toward our goals, toward our dreams. Do it in spite of how everything else seems to be working against you.

 

DanceToTheSunset

Yesterday I felt like I stepped out onto a battlefield and into the wild storm of past ghosts and spectral voices with only a fragile whisper to challenge them, and I want to tell you about it. In honour of today’s post, I have left all photos unedited, except for the very last one in this post.

Two nights ago at sunset the light was so incredibly gorgeous. I shouted out to Jay and Lilli: Shoes on, let’s go, we’re going outside to jump around like crazy in the sunset! And we did. Except Jay kind of just stood there, while Lilli, Loke and I ran around like we had ants in our pants.

I had my camera set up and took so many photos. When I got inside, though, and uploaded them I wanted to cry. Noise noise noise. Grainy colours. That was all I could focus on.

DanceToTheSunset_Cropped

The lens I shoot with the most is the one that came with my camera, an EFS 18-55 mm–a rather basic lens. I was in to Rauma some time ago to inquire about wide angle lenses, which I have read are great for landscape photography. The lady in the shop confirmed this, let me try one, and told me this little 18-55 mm I have definitely won’t do the job.

This lens has been a trusty companion throughout all these years, though, and I haven’t ever been disappointed. Not until the night I uploaded those sunset photos. All of yesterday I was so bummed out about it. It has to be the lens, I said to Jay. I am doing everything right. I am following the instructions and I am getting the hang of ISO, aperture, shutter speed, and the light metering. It has to be the lens. Right?

Is it? Maybe I am just not good enough.

Around midnight, when the sun had climbed behind the horizon, the mist arrived. Yes! Woohoo! I took my macro lens, knowing it certainly isn’t ideal for landscape, and went outside for another round. I spent most of that time staring at a spider web to figure out how to capture it. Only the faintest breeze danced along with the mist, and while I couldn’t feel it, the spider web swaying ever so slightly was proof enough.

WebInTheMist

PowerlinesInTheMist
I chose to focus on these shots littered with dust speckles.

BirchInMist

I told Jay: That’s it. I’m done. Nothing good comes out of this. I didn’t even bother trying to remove the speckles because they are absolutely everywhere.

I didn’t let it go, though. Figuring out what the problem was so I could fix it compelled me to keep trying. I sat down yesterday to scour my photography book that I ordered a few weeks ago. Apparently, the sharpest and most vivid-coloured images are created at between f8 and f11. Because of the shape of the lenses. And I had used f22 as we danced to the sunset. So yesterday evening I forced myself to give it another try.

My heart really wasn’t in it but, as always, energy filled every fiber of my body once the trees gathered around.

CareToDance
Care to dance?

DanceWithATree

Something funny happened. There I was, running up and down our little forest road, dancing and jumping and curtseying in front of a tree, asking for a dance, and out of nowhere a neighbour came walking toward me with their dog. Good evening! You get to be in my photo shoot, I said. He laughed, and then I started talking to the dog. I was so shocked that I just kept babbling, and I can’t remember what I said or much of what he said. I do remember that their dog is about to have puppies and is going away for several weeks.

Besides achieving to be bitten by mosquitoes about fifty times and getting actual ants up my skirt, I felt nothing came out of that photo shoot. I couldn’t see anything else but what I was already looking for. Faults. I felt like I was met by failure at every turn.

But then an e-mail arrived–The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge. Focus, it told me, and I read the post. All my woes were pushed aside as I got the idea to log in to my iCloud and look through my older photos, from almost two years ago.

RamvikOldSawMill
Ramvik’s old saw mill, about 30 kilometers from Härnösand, Sweden. It shut down in the 1950’s, or thereabouts. Autumn 2015.
MirroredLakeCopse
On my way to school one morning, I had to stop to take photos. Late autumn 2015.
MistAndFrost
This mist was enchanting.
MistyMountains
I stayed there for a long while, entranced by the spectacular play of light and colour across a frosty morning landscape.
SunriseFog
The mist got so thick I could hardly see as I drove on. But then the sun came through and I had to stop. Right in the middle of the road. Luckily, no other cars came. And all these photos were shot with my 18-55 mm lens.
BlurryBubbas
Loke isn’t in focus, but I love this shot. Shot with my Tamron 90mm macro lens.
OutOfFocusBubbas
Also with the Tamron macro lens.

 

 

One of the most important things I have learned so far on my journey has been to get to know and understand myself. One big part of me is my tendency to strive for perfection. It is a tough one, but I am trying to learn to see and use it as a great tool and asset instead of an obstacle. Weaving it together with my creativity and artistic sides when I also have a tendency to obsess, not let things go and go with the flow, however, is probably one of my biggest challenges. This is getting to the heart of it, this is where I break it or make it.

So far I have shared so many photos with you, majority taken with that 18-55 mm lens. Close-ups or landscapes. In all kinds of light and settings. So why did I suddenly lose my head over those sunset photos? Why could I not see how great they are? Well, I engaged the old me, focused on the mistakes, the faults, the failures. I didn’t see the whole picture, I didn’t remember I am on a journey. I expected too much of myself, too soon. In turn I missed out on all the things I did achieve. That I kept going in spite of feeling failure all the way down into my frozen toes. I didn’t give up–in spite of everything, I kept grabbing at opportunities.

Sometimes, even when we are convinced we are getting nowhere, deeper processes are at work. We need to trust in those, let go and cut ourselves some slack. I know it can seem impossible at times, but I dare to promise you that even when you cannot feel the wind it is there. Step back, look for signs. They are all around you, and within. And keep going, no matter what. You will get there.

MakeAWish
Arctic Starflower / Skogsstjärna / These are among the simplest yet most beautiful flowers I know.

 

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Nature’s Order

It’s funny how these photo challenges trigger an explosion of ideas in my head. What is even more strange is that sometimes this overload of ideas I get–which happens quite often, to be honest with you, with or without a prompt or a challenge–creates what I am going to call The Bottleneck Effect. This time especially. Suddenly all I drew were blanks. Nothing came to me.

A couple of nights ago, when I had spent a lot of time editing photos, and went to refill my cup with coffee, I looked out the window and the sky burned pink. No. More like burning peaches and oranges. The clouds reflecting the sunset were a nice contrast of lilac and blue, and the clouds further away looked like blushing wisps. I ran outside with my camera and took a ton of different photos but in editing I just got frustrated. So much noise and generally just poor quality. Too much ISO? Too little? Shutter speed wrong? Or just not the right aperture for this time of the day. The light meter or what it is called showed me it was the correct exposure, so who knows? Safe to say, I wasn’t happy with it, but that is the learning experience. Some photos blow me away, and others are just meh. It just means I have more to learn.

BlushingWhisps
Just… Meh.

On my way back inside I walked past an ocean of Dandelion blowballs nestling on the side of the path up to the silo. I wondered what that sunset would look like through one of them but couldn’t get my tripod set up low enough to hold the camera still for me. On the other side of the path with a better angle stood one lone Dandelion blowball. And some of the seeds had already taken flight with the wind. But I still wanted that shot, so I set up the camera and tilted it on its side. I couldn’t find the focus, nor could the camera, so I took a few different shots and went back inside. By then I was exhausted and went to bed. The next morning I had forgotten about it.

As I write, it’s past 3 a.m. here in Finland and I just haven’t been able to sleep, even if I am so tired after spending a large portion of the day outside. I washed and oiled our cultivator so it could go into storage until autumn, and while doing it I took almost three hundred photos. It was so much fun, though. My partner thinks I am strange. The dirtier a job gets the happier I look. But, hey, have you operated pressure washer? It is fun, right? And that water spraying up into the air looks amazing.

So while I sat here going through photos I stumbled over that Dandelion blowball and looking at it I saw its charm, its character. Nature’s own order of things. That is what these blowballs are for–to be blown away, carried with the wind to create more Dandelions. And that was the Weekly Photo Challenge. Order. Or disorder. Mess. Not quite complete. Yet just as it should be and beautiful all the same. I love how nature creates these moments of reflection and contemplation. Without even saying a word. It reaches into my soul and I connect to some deeper part of myself. I find balance. Even when I might feel I am in complete chaos, nature helps me find my way back on solid ground.

I will try to get some sleep now. Lilli is at the summer cottage with her grandfather so I can make up for these hours with a sleep-in. I wish you all a good night. See you soon! ❤

Blowball

My Bubbas – Loke

Good evening, everyone! I am a little late with the photo challenge this week, but there is no time like the present, right? I hope you all had fun with this one–I sure did. I shot in several different places, both in Sweden and here in Finland (and it is so so good to be home, honestly), before I settled.

A friend can mean and be many things. If I think about what or with whom I can simply share space with, well, a lot comes to mind. The forest, for one–a tree. I love trees. I can lean on it and just watch the world around me. Or I can close my eyes and merely breathe it all in.

I wanted to do a photo shoot with a very good friend of mine in Sweden, but after my climb up Skule mountain and spending five hours trekking all over the top to take photos, and after the way down (close to 11 p.m.), I hardly moved the next day. My muscles ached and my knees were like jelly.

While getting some photos of our old apple tree earlier this evening–the buds are just now blooming–my dog, Loke, kept watching me and gave a little whine from time to time, wanting to be part of the action. I had him clipped to the walking line so he wouldn’t rush around the legs of the tripod. I stopped and we watched each other. He had that hopeful look on his face: can I join you now? And so it was decided. My beautiful Loke. Ever eager, ever so loyal–until my partner starts digging around in the doggy treats, of course. Haha

I hope you are all having a great week so far. Until next time, then, I give you my bubbas, who turned three at the end of May.

Take care, and see you soon!

LokeSitting

LokeSmellsFlowers
Just like Ferdinand in that cartoon, who just wants to sniff the flowers. Except this is a rare moment for Loke. He was such a cooperative model in spite of wanting to take off, full speed. ❤

Dancing With Dust And Talking To A Dead Tree

Good morning, everyone! Another Weekly Photo Challenge from The Daily Post. Woohoo! Who is excited? I have seriously been full of excitement and anticipation. After looking up the definition of evanescent, I came to think of this tree in one of our forests. I got my images, and then ended up inspired on my way home and shot even more photos.

First, let me introduce you to Old Birch.

DeadBirch_01

DeadBirch_02

This tree seems to be veiled in somewhat of a mystery. It may be a little obscure due to my editing choices, but the tree is actually dead. And it has been dead for quite some time. Decades? Who knows. I asked my partner what killed it and he says nobody knows. I asked when it died–nobody knows. One guess is a storm did it. Another, a disease. But it’s the only tree that is dead, so one would think a disease would have affected the trees around it. Come to think of it–the rest of the forest appears to be keeping its distance.

Regardless of this birch being dead it still stands. Over the years, my partner’s father has wanted to cut it down, since every time there has been a storm, branches come crashing to the ground, right across our road. Well, all the branches are gone now. And my partner has forbidden its destruction. It sits in a part of a forest that he wants to preserve as is. And, hey, if this tree has withstood storms when healthy ones around it have met their demise–that calls for some admiration. Or just fascination.

DeadBirch_03

How can a dead tree be worthy of so much attention, though? If you ask my partner, he will tell you he likes to look at it.

DeadBirch_04
It is definitely eye-catching, don’t you think? Look at all that fungus! (Tinder fungus–hoof fungus?)

My partner offered another theory, on how long ago it died. Since no one really seems to even know when, perhaps it wasn’t long ago at all. Once it died, though–that was when they noticed. Before that it was just another tree in a forest of hundreds upon hundreds. There is a saying, that you can’t see the forest for all the trees. Here it’s the other way around. They couldn’t see the tree for all the forest. Um. It sounded better in my head.

DeadBirch_05

After leaving Old Birch and walking home, I started second-guessing myself. How do I present a dead tree as evanescent? A protected tree, nonetheless. It isn’t going anywhere. I looked out over the fields, dust danced around my shoes in the sunset, and… Yes. I have it. Thank you, Old Birch.

I set up my tripod again and started dancing with the dust. Lilli and my partner should have seen me–they would have thought I had lost my mind. In their eyes I am reserved and calm, not one to exclaim emotion. Except for when I stub my toe or bang my knee. I curse, then I laugh.

My thoughts, then, on evanescent is this: However fleeting or fragile anything is, it can live on in our memories. And this is only one of the things I love so much about photography. We can capture a moment that might never, ever occur again–at least not exactly the same way–and immortallise it. Today, I immortallised myself realising it’s fun spinning around in the dust and watching it billow and dissipate in the wind. When inspiration strikes, of course, and after talking to a dead tree.

DancingDust_01

DancingDust_02

 

The Weekly Photo Challenge

Good morning, everyone!

Yesterday I checked out The Weekly Photo Challenge on The Daily Post, and Heritage instantly jumped out at me. With all the swooning I have done lately over UNESCO World Heritage sites, I guess the word heritage floats through my brain–times a million. As you no doubt noticed, this is not about my usual fawning over nature and the wild, though.

Living on a farm that has been passed down in the family through generations, and last year we had our three hundred year anniversary, I decided I wanted to do the photo challenge here. Our home. My safe haven. I had no idea what would be the focus, but I had a few days to think it over.

So I got into the kitchen this morning, started the usual routine of making coffee, totally muddled from four hours of sleep. As I looked out the window, the sunrise playing with the shadows of an old birch tree, my heart jumped. Yes! Yes yes yes. Gorgeous. I literally ran through the house to get my camera gear. I couldn’t let this moment pass, I couldn’t let the sun climb higher and lose out on this light. It didn’t even ocurr to me that I have no bloody clue how to capture it, how to use the manual settings. And Lilli still hadn’t come downstairs–turns out her alarm bell had run out of batteries. She made it to school in time, though. I had her porridge on the table before I dashed out the door.

I have no magnificent composition of words to offer, and my amateur level in photography is what it is. So what heritage means to me? I will let the results speak for themselves. I had a great time climbing around on the tractor, and this was a fun and inspirational way to jump-start a sleep-rumpled mind. I wish you all lovely day!

MasseyFergusonFeature
This beauty is a Massey Ferguson from either 1968 or -69.
MasseyFergusonPortrait
I asked my partner if the tractor is a ‘he’ or a ‘she’. He said it’s an ‘it’. Well, I want to call her Fergie. And Fergie sure is a faithful and robust worker here, still, after all these years.