photo 111: assignment 8, hard light with detail

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photos:
1) wakefield chair and our puppy finnegan (deaf and nearly blind and nearly 12)
2) finny and his bunny, see how finny’s tail uncurls when he sleeps? it also uncurls when he’s upset
3) my favorite creamer, though it has never held cream, usually maple syrup
4) experimenting with salt on a black mat board
5) i loved the shadows these wooden rabbits made, i used them for my shallow depth of field post as well

It has been some time since I have written about my photography class. Being without photos today, it seems like a good day to get back to it.

According to my instructor’s assignment sheet, alternative titles for the Hard Light with Detail assignment include “sunny light”, “directional light” or “undiffused light.”

My instructor included a specific requirement of ensuring there was good detail in both the shadows and the highlight. This is tricky, which I think is the point!

When you are shooting in bright light, it is both easy to have have light areas blown out and over exposed, and shadows underexposed. The goal is to get the exposure as close to perfect as possible, by bracketing and then making minimal corrections with the exposure brush (in Lightroom). Bracketing is trying a range of fstops.

The top photo is the one I turned in for a grade. But you can see in the other photo of my puppy, that the light has blown out the detail in the rug.

My instructor suggested shooting in the early and late hours of sun, with the sun at the side of the subject, and shooting from a low angle. The texture of the subject will be more dramatic. I’m not sure I’ve captured a lot of texture, but I love shadows, so I enjoyed this assignment.

I have 4 more assignments to cover…and then maybe I’ll try the assignments all over again, before I forget things like bracketing!

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<img src="https://floramargaret.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/092313venusflytrap.jpg&quot; class="size-full" alt="whats making me happy this week 09.22.13: JUDGE john hodgeman, aging and a sad song” />

photos:
1) the venus fly trap my nephew gave me last mother’s day…it sits in my office window in it’s plastic container not eating flies as there are no flies to be eaten. someone suggested i put a piece of banana in there to attract fruit flies. not sure about that…
2) working merch at the the ark last weekend…it was a slow night… respect to a band that puts out vinyl…
3) taking refuge from the pouring rain on the front porch of lexi’s toybox

Saturday night my husband and daughter and I were all crabby to each other, resulting in cancelled plans to see a late movie together and my husband driving off to hang out at Barnes and Noble on his own just to get away from us.

Our simple dishwasher replacement, which we have been waiting for the right financial time to replace, has turned out to be not so simple. The new dishwasher, with the exact same measurements as our old dishwasher, at least on paper, won’t fit under our old countertop. Sigh. Do we figure out a way to rig it, or do we do things right, tear out the entire floor (which appears to includes at least 2 layers of subflooring sandwiched between 2 layers of linoleum…nice) and start all over again? At what expense? And who has the time?!

My son was up until 1am studying for an AP Chemistry test and my daughter up until 4am studying for an Organic Chemistry test…

Chemistry, Schmemistry. We are a mess.

But really, we’re okay, of course.

These are such little problems on the scale of world problems. Our kids don’t go hungry. We are just fine.

Here are some little things that help me to stay just fine during our more trying moments this week:

1.
the Judge John Hodgeman podcast. You know John Hodgeman…”I’m a PC…” He is silly, and a geek and extremely smart and funny and, it turns out, a very fair judge. I listen to his podcast while loading (and unloading and loading…) the dishwasher and giggle and giggle. My son has Hodgeman’s books, The Areas of My Expertise, and More Information Than You Require, but he has not listened to his podcast and it drives my son crazy when I refer to him as Judge John Hodgemen. My son insists, “It’s JUST John Hodgemen! You do not add “judge” in front of his name. He is not a real judge.” So of course I say JUDGE John Hodgeman all the time now. We call it “poking the bear” in our house. I feel like we should petition JUDGE Hodgeman for a ruling on this dispute.

2. The movie Austenland. The reviews were mediocre at best, but it appealed to my odd sense of humor. I, and truly the entire small crowd at the Michigan Theater, laughed out loud throughout. Bret (Brit?) Mckenzie from Flight of the Conchords is in it as is Jennifer Coolidge and Keri Russell. The ending was meh, and there was one part of unfinished business that I didn’t like, having to do with a seemingly repeat old man sex offender that they made a joke of…is this funny? But still, I would pay to see the movie again just for the 70 minutes of silliness prior to the ending. True Austen lovers, of which I am not, may like the ending; not quite predictable, but ultimately uber (grotesquely?) romantic.

3. Sometimes I look in the mirror and am reminded of that movie Freaky Friday where the (very young and adorable) Lindsay Lohan character wakes up and finds she has turned into her mother, played by Jamie Lee Curtis. Upon seeing herself in the mirror she cries, “”Oh! I’m old! I’m like the cryptkeeper! Ahhhh!”
But when I read this “Dear Polly” letter for advice, which was relinked to a blog I read (the Hairpin), it made me so glad to be old and aging and beyond all of this dating/boy/sex and what does it all mean nonsense and uncertainty. Oh the clarity and wisdom age brings to some areas of life…not all, but some.

4. A friend had a FB post about an upcoming concert for the band Devotchka. I forgot about this band…they did the soundtrack for the film “Little Miss Sunshine.” Loved the soundtrack and loved the film.
When you get home from work, turn up the volume and join me in a glass of wine and a dance around the kitchen while making dinner, because even if the research says it’s not possible, we can and do multitask:
Till the End of Time by Devotchka

5. Now turn your volume down. Saw Colin Hay here in AA a couple of weeks ago. Such a great show. He is quite a story teller …he told funny and sweet stories about his father who he referred to a “good daddy.” He later explained that he had been singing in show in Scotland when his father died in Australia, and he never got to say goodbye. If your heart is hurting a little now at that thought, just wait until you hear this song.…He didn’t sing this song during the concert and I had never heard it before my daughter found it this week and emailed it to me.
Dear Father by Colin Hay

All of that and so much more was keeping me just fine this past week…and here is Monday again.

Monday…groah…ah well, another week to watch vigilantly for the good stuff! Right?!
xox

interviewing anxiety

September 21, 2013

interviewing anxiety

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092113sunningah

092113gameplanes

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photos:
1) first fall leaves
2) low morning sun = long shadows
3) sun bathing student in front of angell hall
4) stunt planes above our house, prior to um vs. notre dame night game
5) no parking signs and construction on madison and fifth, so tired of this endless street project, also for those of you who live near the stadium and want to reserve a place on the street on game days…free no parking signs…madison and fifth people…

the only thing that the photos above have in common with this post, is that both are a glimpse into my life…

I sometimes see certain people in my family avoiding opportunities for fear of failure, or judgment. Oh how well I know that behavior…because, sadly, even at my age, it is often my own behavior. My recent words of support to these certain people include, “What have you got to lose? Worst case you get interview experience. If they offer it to you, you can decide then to turn it down if you don’t want it.”

Of course those words came back to haunt me, as words of wisdom will do.

I have written before about feeling antsy about life and my current job. It is a job many would be grateful for—almost complete autonomy, ridiculous flexibility, lots to do and lots of variety, and feeling like I’m making a difference…. But I’ve been doing it for nine years and sometimes, autonomy can be lonely and the work never finished. Sometimes I want to be part of a thoughtful team of people. I have also been concerned about my program losing funding…there has been a lot of change around these parts.

So I applied for two jobs and got called to interview for both.

This initially made me feel great, until I learned the first interview was going to be 7 vs. 1 for an hour, followed by a 1 vs. 1 with the program director for the next hour. I started to get really nervous. Even more nerve wracking, I found out that 3 of the 7 were people I know professionally, but marginally.

I am not a great interviewer, or at least not a confident interviewer. I have had 4 interviews in the past 15 years and I have been offered every one of the jobs, so I can’t be completely terrible. But I do think my experience and references weighed heavily in all of those cases.

So many negative thoughts went through my head: What if I screwed up? What if I embarrassed myself? They would all know I’m lame.

In the meantime, I was assured that the funding for my program of employment was secure, so I conveniently decided that I really didn’t want a new job. My current job was PERFECT. I would withdraw my application.

But my own words of encouragement started sparring with the negative thoughts, “What have you got to lose?” (my dignity) “Worst case you get interview experience.” (and lose my dignity) If they offer it to you, you can decide then to turn it down if you don’t want it.” (I already know I don’t want it so why lose my dignity?!)

I was very nervous on my walk across campus to my interview, still wondering the whole way, “Why am I putting myself through this?!” And there I was in at the end of a long table packed with people who took turns asking me questions. “What are some examples of reports you’ve written or presentation you’ve given?” “Why do you want this job.” “Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?” “How do you currently measure success in your programs?” and so on.

I felt pretty good when that interview finished and so the one-on-one interview with the director felt much more relaxed. When that was over I was walking on air back to my office. I felt elated to have it behind me and to have done so well.

Hours later, and then periodically throughout the week, while in my office, or driving, or making dinner, I would suddenly remember one of my interview answers and cringe. Really? I couldn’t remember one report I’d written? I write many every year.

I answered many questions pretty well, but others…Ah well, I am who I am. Imperfect. Best they know that before they hire me.

I had lunch with my mentor the next day and told him that I didn’t think I wanted the job. But now my reasons were founded. The interview raised some concerns for me, including a concern about too many chiefs and about management styles. I tried to come up with a salary figure that would tempt me to take the job, but I couldn’t. He told me that I’m spoiled, and also that it’s good to be in a position where I can be choosy. I agreed with both statements.

I had a phone interview for the second job the next day and it was incredibly easy in comparison. I was very confident. The job seemed great, one I would have loved, but the salary turned out to be very low; too low for me to take. I had to withdraw from the interview process.

At the end of the week I had a call from the first job, and I was feeling guilty about having to turn them down. I had sent a follow up interview email, as one does, further explaining my excitement for the position, when in reality I had little excitement, and now I was going to have to turn them down.

It turns out I didn’t have to turn them down, because they didn’t offer the job to me! At first I felt relieved, and then…slightly miffed. Haha. Spoiled indeed.

In short long, I feel great that I interviewed, and in particular for a job I didn’t want in the end. Practice is the only way I will get better. I have renewed love for my current job. Also, when I get antsy again (next month?), my resume is updated, my references are primed and I will definitely be more confident for the next interview.

In the past, external job offers have resulted in counter offers and raises for me. But for this position, I wasn’t ready to leave and let my boss know it. I think you can only use external offers as leverage for a raise, when you are really ready to take the outside offer.

It’s a mute point anyway, as I didn’t get the job offer. I know my boss wants me to stay, so maybe I can negotiate something else…classes? meetings with others in the country who are doing similar work as me…maybe I’ll work on this when I return from my week-long visit to my sister in Seattle….ah flexibility.

Another great outcome from this adventure is that I have more credibility with my loved ones when I tell them they have nothing to lose by interviewing, and I have much more compassion for the anxiety and self-doubt they experience as they approach seemingly scary opportunities.

settling into fall…

September 15, 2013

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photos:
1) while I was “watching” a movie with my kids, my son was using my ipad to take photos of our puppy resting his chin on my son’s shoulder…I laughed when I saw this one…at least my mouth wasn’t open…
2) my mother’s kitchen floor…my sister and I call her house “the sanctuary”…I feel taken care of there and her floors are always clean.
3) a praying mantis on a window down the hall from my office

A few random photos from the past month. Most of my photos are on my DSL camera, which is not with me today. But since I wanted to get back into posting, here are some random ones that I have with me.

Life has been intense, as life will be this time of year.

I squeezed much into that last week of summer: had a visit from my dear friend Cath, then a spontaneous trip up north with her and my daughter, applied for two jobs and had calls to interview for both, worked to get ready for a new semester at work, engaged in negotiations to get my son’s crazy high school schedule set (he’s taking classes at 3 schools again, including our local community college), and sadly attended a funeral for my dear neighbor’s mom.

And here we are. My kids are back to school, work has picked up and become more intense, the weather had changed to fall, the football season is in full swing in this college town, we celebrated my mother’s birthday last weekend and will celebrate my husband’s tomorrow and I had my two job interviews with the end result that I’m staying put at my current job and am even more grateful for it! More on all of that another time.

As I settle back into this more rigorous, but predictable schedule, I hope to be back to blogging more regularly! xox

what's making me happy 08.23.13: hair, nature, toast and shinola journals

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082213fluff

082213honeysuckle

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photos:
1) my daughter’s hair
2) black swallowtail caterpillars on my mother’s parsley
3) a weed going to seed, at gallup park
4) my mother’s honeysuckle
5) zingerman’s pecan raisin bread

The shadows are getting longer in the evenings. The tree frogs and crickets are singing with an almost deafening urgency at night. We are all feeling a little antsy here about the upcoming transition to our fall, and more intense, schedules.

I am feeling wistful about another summer gone; time going faster than ever.

And still, many things are making me happy this week.

Big thing: my little nephew, who has SMA, has been in the hospital with a respiratory infection, but he’s on the mend and is now bossing “his staff” around (the doctors and nurses).

Little things:

1) My daughter’s hair. Actually, that’s a lie. It doesn’t make me happy. It fills me with hair envy.

2) Nature. Caterpillars, flowers, trees, green, fresh air…Happy.

3) Zingerman’s pecan raisin bread. For those who don’t know,
Zingerman’s is an Ann Arbor based deli that has been featured in every food magazine/show in the US, maybe abroad. The owners made a conscious decision not to franchise and to stay local, but they do mail order and deliver bakeries and markets as far away as Chicago. Sorry San Fran, but you have not tasted sourdough until you’ve tasted Zingerman’s sourdough. No lie. I could write a whole post about Zingerman’s bread, but it’s making me too hungry to think about right now.

4) HAIM. I don’t know if it’s the music that makes me happy or the beauty and youth of these sisters…does in matter?

5) Shinola journals.
(they also make lovely bikes and are starting to make watches as well)

6)NYC old photo archives are fascinating…but a time waster (thanks Cath!).
article: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2134408/Never-seen-photos-100-years-ago-tell-vivid-story-gritty-New-York-City.html
archive: http://nycma.lunaimaging.com

7) This old Kristen Wiig Confessions of a Tooth Fairy skit was posted on buzzfeed this week– which made me happy because it reminded me of when daughter and her friend did this for a variety show at school. It was a big hit.

8) Saw Woody Allen’s new movie, Blue Jasmine, last night…I feel like I saw it about 20 years ago but it was called A Streetcar Named Desire and it starred Vivien Leigh as Blanche Dubois instead of Cate Blanchett as Jasmine. I did enjoy it. Cate Blanchette and, my favorite, Bobby Cannavale, were wonderful. If you have not seen Bobby Cannavale in the Station Agent (with Peter Dinklage and Patricia Clarkson), or Win Win (with Paul Giamatti and Amy Ryan)…you should.

Here’s wishing you happiness and steadiness, as we transition from summer to fall!

of bonsai and roller derby

August 20, 2013

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photos:
1) my neglected bonsai gingko
2) roller derby sign of support
3) vicious and jax check out the competition
4) shutting out the jammer, kamikaze
5) low fives all around, rochella de ville
6) my, formerly pristine, roller skates from middle school. (yes i had my own. be jealous.)

When I told my mother that my daughter and I had attended a roller derby event last Saturday she was bemused. “Tell me again why you were interested in seeing roller derby?”

This is a woman who had called me to encourage me to enter the bonsai gingko tree that she gave me several years ago in a bonsai show taking place in Ann Arbor this weekend. I laughed, but could have easily replied, “Tell me again why you are interested in bonsai, Mom?”

I’m kidding. I do appreciate bonsai and I admire her interest in it. I love the little gingko tree she gave me, thriving despite my neglect. But the practice of bonsai is not my thing; it’s hers.

All of the reasons I don’t share her interest in bonsai are probably the reasons I enjoyed watching roller derby for the first time— bonsai requires patience, roller derby doesn’t; bonsai is elegant, roller derby is scrappy; bonsai is individual, roller derby is team-based, bonsai is serious, roller derby is full of good humor.

I’m not sure roller derby is “my thing.” I’m not much of a spectator of anything. I did find it fascinating. The names/personas are my favorite part: Vicious, Upzette, Justice Fast, Missy May Knock You Out, Czarcasm, Kimikaze. The faux tough names are as much a part of the show as the ripped tights and tattoos. I have never seen a burlesque show (which, by the way, like roller derby, seems to be moving toward mainstream around here), but I imagine roller derby and burlesque share much of the same campy showmanship.

The big surprise of the night: my 19-year-old daughter loved it and wants to learn to play. She does have skills. She had to learn to roller skate for a play a few years ago, using my nearly pristine white roller skates from middle school. She decided her derby name would be: Princess Slay-ya (a name used in Drew Barrymore’s roller derby movie, Whip it!, filmed right here in Ann Arbor and Detroit).

Why not yoga? Running? Soccer? All of the things I am interested in? I know the answer is…bonsai.

photo 111: assignment 7, urban

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081713pacificrim

081713phonepole

081713phonepollflyers

photos:
1) westside books and vintage typewriters
2) lorax in the alley with a switchblade
3) backdoor pacific rim
4) lightpost behind ann arbor art center
5) lightpost near the lucky monkey tattoo shop

If you were asked to take a photograph that represents the word “urban”, what would you photograph? This is what my classmates and I were asked to do for our 7th assignment.

Living in a college town, we don’t find too much of what you might automatically think of as urban in our fair city. There isn’t a lot of…edginess here. We used to have funk, but we’re losing that too.

We do have homeless people and pan-handlers, who, come to think of it, would have been great subjects for an urban photo. But I’m not that bold and anyway, it seems disrespectful. I wouldn’t want to benefit from someone else’s suffering.

My classmates and I submitted photos of buildings, alleys, trash, a rusty lock around a chain link fence, a crane at a construction site for a new apartment building, kids skateboarding…

I wasn’t thrilled with my photos. It was February or March when this assignment was due; I didn’t feel like being outside for too long. And one guy in an alley saw me taking photos and followed me to talk with me. He was a little creepy, so I decided it was time to go home.

Do I sound like I’m making excuses?! Yes, I do, because I am.

Some of my classmates needed no excuses. They did a great job on the assignment. Wish I had their photos to share. One of my classmates took a beautiful photograph of Detroit’s Renaissance Center. I looked something like this, but his was a better shot.

Another took a great staged shot of a group of people in a bar with a bokeh effect on a string of lights in the background that looked like this and a little like the red lights in the last photos above.

I learned several things from my FAIL on this assignment:

• people who make a good effort, don’t need excuses.

• if you’re taking grand shots, there has to be a focus or an unusual angle that makes the shot interesting. I took many shots of old Ann Arbor buildings that I consider beautiful. But when I look at the photos, they aren’t interesting at all.

• people are always interesting, even if it’s just a person’s feet.

• animals are always interesting, even it it’s just an animal’s feet.

• the bokeh effect with lights is pretty cool to have in a background (not necessarily illustrated in the photo above).