Sunday, May 13, 2018

The Hour of Homecoming - Part Two

You can read Part One of this post here.

It was easy getting in the car, it was fairly easy to drive now that windows were scraped free of ice, the hard part was deciding where to go. The abandoned, rural farmsteads of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore that I always photographed where too far away to reach before the golden hour had come and gone.

I pulled out of the driveway, which way to go? I knew the way to the main road, but where might these other roads, roads that had their own ridge lines to follow, where did they lead? I knew I would be wasting precious golden hour time, but curiosity won out, and it's a peninsula, I wasn't going to get lost. Also, I had a whole week ahead of me, I didn't need to conquer everything in one day. All I needed to do was get one decent shot, and the pressure to create would be lifted.

Just as I suspected, all these random roads still led to the main road, and probably quicker than if I had taken my known way to it. Getting my bearings, I realized I wasn't more than fifteen minutes from the lighthouse that was at the northern tip of the peninsula. I never get to the lighthouse for golden hour, it is too far from where we usually stay, and to leave before dawn creates risk of a car/deer encounter, deer seem to be abundant on the peninsula.

So the lighthouse it was, and since it was still off-season, there wouldn't be any campers at the state park yet, meaning I would have the place to myself.  I had brought my tripod with me, just as I do on every trip north, but this time I was determined to actually take it out of the car. Self-portrait work can only be achieved with a tripod, and I was on a vacation of adventure and discovery.

Family collaborative vacation film - Day 2. Part of this was shot at the lighthouse in the evening...

Day Two - Leelanau Vacation from Sarah Huizenga on Vimeo.

End Note

This vacation has made me dig deeper into this place and my relationship to it. I have decided to take from my bookshelf an old e-course that I took in 2013 - A Sense of Place led by Kat Sloma. I have never completed the course, but I have all the materials. I am going to give it a try once again, maybe now is the right time...

I will be taking a short blog vacation. I need to put some time and energy into my website. Also the kitchen flooring will finally go in the end of this month, and I have some painting to finish before then, and there's fifteen yards of bark to spread outside... 

Sunday, May 6, 2018

The Hour of Homecoming

From the moment we came over the rise, on the roller coaster road that is M-109, in the heart of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, I knew I was home. Above us stretched a bright blue sky, on each side of us were sun-bleached sand dunes with tufts of beach grass sprouting from them, and ahead of us sat the most photogenic weathered white barn I had ever seen.  I wasn't a photographer then, just a snapshot taker. I didn't know anything about good light or bad light, composition, POV, the golden hour, ISO; it would be another fifteen years before those words would enter my vocabulary. I just knew I had to get out and take a picture with my pocket-size Fuji film camera.

I have lived in Michigan all my fifty years, never living farther than twenty miles from my childhood home. Somehow though,  I knew that this "up north" place, three hours from where I grew up, was where my heart lived. For twenty-five years I have been trying to figure out what it is about this place, why it captivates me so. With each return, I dig a little deeper into it and into myself.

Our family of three opinionated adults and one sassy golden retriever, just returned from a week of vacation in this place of homecoming.

Vacations tend to fall into one of two camps for me. Either they are vacations of adventure, where I have to figure the place out, consult maps, make wrong turns, get yelled at. Or they are vacations of discovery, where the place is already understood and instead I have time and space to explore who I am in it.

We tend to stay in the same small area every time we go up north, either nestled on the edge of a small lake, or the edge of a golf course. This time, our daughter, one of the opinionated adults, convinced us to try someplace new, father north than we usually stay, located in the middle of farm country, open fields on every side, a step out of our comfort zone. This put me farther from the places that I always photograph, favorite places, another step out of comfort.

Having learned the importance of the "golden hour", I was up before the sun every morning. The sassy golden retriever, hearing the creak of the wooden floorboards, joined me. I would put on my winter coat, my warm paisley rain boots, secure my headlamp to my head, and open the back door to the frozen landscape. We would crunch through the refrozen snow, climb the rise to the west of the house, and wander along the ridge line. He would pretend to track wild animals until he finally did his business. Then, we would turn back toward the warm glow of the house so he could eat and return to bed with my daughter. I would make tea in the white mug I had claimed for the week, write in my journal, then gather my camera gear that was waiting by the door, and head out into the predawn light to scrape the ice from the windows of my car.

To be continued...

Part Two of this will be next week. I have too much I want to say for one post, and too many photographs I want to share. Until then here is a short film of our first day of vacation, you can get a good sense of the farmhouse and area around it.

Leelanau - April 21, 2018 from Sarah Huizenga on Vimeo.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

The Secret Life of Sadie Powers

Prompt: Citrus

August 2015, I participated in Susannah Conway's August Break, a published list of daily prompts meant to build community on social media. You were suppose to take a picture each day that somehow symbolized that prompt and then post it on Instagram or FaceBook. Always the overachiever, I decided to take the list and do thirty-one days of self-portraiture photography.

Prompt: Sweet Delights

My blogging adventure began after taking the NOW YOU e-course on self-portrait photography, that was six years ago. My personality is not one that should like being in front of the lens, although INFP's top two professions tend to be writer or actor...hmmm. I chose photography in the first place, for my life after work, so I could be behind the lens. But something from that very first class sucked me into this creative, alternate world.

Prompt: In the Distance

That August, I fell head-over-heels in love with the challenge of story creating, finding my best body angles, mastering focus, and scene set-ups. I gave the series it's own hashtag #herlifeinvignettes. I began to think of myself as a character.

Prompt: Notebook

One morning while writing in my journal, my character suddenly had a name...Sadie Powers. I have no idea where it came from. I don't know any Sadie's or anybody with the last name Powers, but Sadie Powers it was.

She seemed to come to me as a muse, a cross between my favorite great-aunt Viola and Vivian Maier, the reclusive street photographer, who I had recently learned about. My great-aunt instilled in me a deep fascination for an earlier age, a love for unique(old) places and things, hard-to-find treasures. Vivian's photographs emulated that era of curiosity for me. There are actually a lot of similarities between my great-aunt and Vivian Maier, both never married, both were devoted to children, both loved to travel, both documenters of a vanishing time through collecting memorabilia and photography.

Prompt: Two

Initially, I thought I was suppose to write a book about Sadie and her adventures. But, if I have learned anything about myself in the last two years, it is that while I am capable of writing, I am not capable of sitting for long periods of time at my desk. For over two years, Sadie has been patiently biding her time.

Since I began making short films at the beginning of this year, Sadie has snuck down out of the attic, ready to start her adventures once again.

The following is Sadie's film debut...

Idle Hour from Sarah Huizenga on Vimeo.

 It will be interesting to see how her story unfolds...

Prompt: Close Up

I have returned to prompt lists found on Pinterest, hunting down costumes and props, and developing the story.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Endless Winter

I tend to be a glass half-full kind of person. But, lately even my rose-colored glasses have begun to slip. Here we are almost a month into spring, and the number of days I have not had to wear my winter coat is exactly one.

Granted, the last time I had to snowblow the driveway was in February, but still each week there is another white reminder of the season past. Either flakes in the air or a coating on the ground. At this point, if I could just take a walk without wearing my mittens I would be really happy.

I think this weariness of white made me choose my #the100dayproject prematurely. Every April the organized project starts (you can read about it here). I have declared a project each year since 2015, but only completed one. Failure never stops me from trying again. This year's project was to be #100daysofcolorhunting and I made it ten days before I grew weary of it.

So what about the other ninety days? Well...what I should have done in the first place is declared I was doing a project, but then let it evolve in its own time. I thought I wanted color, but I didn't ask myself the right question...that question should have been: What do I want to learn?

On the eleventh day while walking at the beach, I realized that yes I desperately need color in my life, but I want to learn more about filmmaking, and in particular filmmaking with my iPhone. What held me back from declaring this project in the first place is knowing I can not produce a film every single day. But I can shoot clips everyday, and some days I can put them into a 15-30 second film, and some days all I can do is share one quick clip, and that's ok.

I have been experimenting with an app FILMic Pro that gives me so much more control than the native camera. I want to learn that app. There is also an app Lumafusion for editing that I want to learn, but for the moment things will remain edited in iMovie. No point in overwhelming myself, one step at a time.

So the revised project is #100daysofmorningscenes. I am a morning person, that is when I am most creative. Just like my 365 Project, where I can look back and see where I have been in the last year. It will be fun to look back at these 100 days and see what my mornings have been filled with.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Daughters and Butterflies

Daughters and butterflies; beautiful, delicate creatures that we want to hold in our hands and protect from the world. But, if we hold too tightly, we end up damaging their fragile wings. Instead, we must provide a firm foundation for them to strengthen their wings upon. Then, when they are ready, let them go to soar upwards toward their own bright blue sky.

My daughter, Mallory, took a day off from work last week and suggested that we go visit the butterfly exhibit at the Frederik Meijer Gardens in the city. I had been wanting to go anyway, and it is more fun to go with someone, especially when that someone is your daughter.

I rarely get the chance to photograph her, being a stubborn child who prefers to stay out of the limelight. But trapped in a building, and with momma paying, she had little choice.  The outing also gave me a chance to use my 85mm lens, a lens I fall in love with every time I use it. Why don't I use it more?

There are over 60 species of butterflies from Asia, Africa, and Central & South America in the exhibit this year.

This is the Common Morpho butterfly. The underside of the wings have the most intriguing brown coloring and "eye" spots, but the topside of the wings are a breathtaking iridescent blue.

For the breath of a second, one landed on my sweater.

I made a short film of our day, much to my grumbling daughter's protest. If she only knew the joy that it brings to my "momma" heart to have this time together. Soon enough there will be someone else special in her life. I want to remember these fleeting, iridescent days.

Butterflies and Daughters from Sarah Huizenga on Vimeo.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Adventures of a Wanderer

Last fall, unhindered for the first time in my life, I made the most of my days. I tried to get out at least once a week for an adventure, and at long last did an overnight solo adventure. I revisited all my favorite places; how had a year gone by since I had last seen them. I also discovered some hidden gems.

Then last November happened. My mom collapsed from an aortic dissection, had emergency surgery and spent a month in the hospital and rehab. When I was in the midst of it, I was sure that I would never be able return to my adventurous life.

Eventually though, the fog cleared and everything returned to a new normal.

One good thing that came out of that time was the conversations I had with my dad as I drove him back and forth to the hospital to visit mom. After the initial recounting of details of how it all happened, we settled into conversations about his growing up years, and about his parents and grandparents. I had always known that my great-grandparents had lived a lot of places, but I didn't know that it was all my great-grandpa's idea. He would start a business, run it for a few years and then sell it, move someplace else, and start a new business, repeating the cycle over and over again. He even earned the nickname "the German gypsy". This was a glimpse into my soul.

Spring is here. I am still mostly unhindered, except for the cell phone that is always tucked into a pocket. Let's go explore some of my favorite places...

I hope that everyone has a joy-filled Easter next week. I will see you in a couple of weeks.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Pour Some Sugar On

This may be the one and only time you see me say I was hoping for snow this week. Especially, since it is March and everybody is ready to be done with winter, including me. But last week found me doing a run and gun through a favorite historic homestead and walking park, looking for my daily 365 photograph.  I had about an half hour to kill before I had to pick up Findley, so I thought I would do a quick walk through of the house and barn areas. That is when I saw the metal sap collection buckets. It had snowed with snow squall force that morning and the maple trees and buckets had a heavy blanket of white on them.

I grabbed my daily shot, but knew I wanted to come back when I had more time and my tripod. I also wanted to continue practicing my Compelling Frame photography course lessons.

I have become quite attached to my tripod. I know most of you photographers are saying, "But I hate carrying my tripod, I want to be free to move around." There is certainly truth to that, but I have learned that I also want to be free to slow down and improve my game. A tripod makes me slow down, and honestly my "vision" is so much better when I use it.

Monday morning I got my wish. It wasn't a heavy blanket of white, but it was enough to give a thin coating to the layers of fallen maple leaves, and provide the backdrop I needed for my adventure.

I grew up surrounded by maple trees. When my dad retired he decided to tap those trees and begin making maple syrup. As if his beekeeping hobby, and tenacity for cutting wood for his wood stove weren't enough to keep him busy already. He built his own sugar shack, and would be out there at all hours of the day and night boiling down that sap.

On the average it takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup. Interesting article on maple syrup making here. The average sap collection period can last anywhere from four to six weeks. There were abundant years and there were lean years, but as my dad approached his 70's, I think he had had enough of the lean years. He sold the equipment, and turned the Sugar Shack into another storage shed.

During January and our Whole 30 adventure, we had to give up ALL sugar. It is amazing when you start reading labels on the food at the grocery store how many items have sugar. Here we are mid-March and I still read labels. Now, if I purchase items with sugar, I try to make sure it is either organic cane sugar, or more preferably natural sugars like honey and maple syrup. Locally sourced natural sugars are the best, since my dad still keeps his bees I get my honey from him, and I buy my maple syrup at the farmers market.

I spent a satisfyingly slow hour photographing sap buckets, snowy trees, and the sugar shack. Before I returned to my car to warm up my frozen feet, I made a little detour down a snow covered wooden walkway.

My initial run and gun turned into a substantial exploration.  I throughly enjoy having my creative/adventure days early in the week.

In Other News...

My friend Cathy H. made a comment on my blog last week that resonated so deeply with me, "Sometimes I feel just holding the camera and pushing the shutter button brings me more joy than seeing the photo I took!"  I held that sentence in my heart this week. All it really takes is that first press to get rolling again, the results are not the important part. 

I returned to filming this past week, squeezing in moments when I could. Working on something a little outside my comfort zone, it won't be perfect the first time, but the learning and improving is in the doing.

The kitchen flooring has been ordered. We have found pendant lights for above the peninsula, and they have been ordered. Next step is to contact the electrician to install. More painting ahead this week, coating everything in lovely, neutral Alabaster.

I finished listening to A Gentleman in Moscow this week. I love listening to books while I am in the car and when walking. It is amazing how much you can listen to just running errands around town. I give the book 4-1/2 stars.