Tips for Better Backyard Photos

Even better backyard photos will never be as exciting as Art Wolfe’s Travels to the Edge. But with a bit of strategic landscaping and gardening, you can still have an enticing destination for stunning photography! Did I mention the travel time is a lot less than Art’s trips?

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Kure Beach NC Photo Excursion

Kure Beach

Over a 4-day weekend from March 17-20 my wife, Bonnie and I traveled with three of our Asheville NC photography friends to the small coastal town of Kure Beach (pronounced like Madame “Currie”) south of Wilmington NC. The beach just south of town has about a 200-yard section with a display of “coquina” rocks most of which are adorned with a very smooth variety of green seaweed.

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Boca Grande, Florida – Seeing Beyond the Labels

In mid-January, my wife Bonnie and I traveled to Florida for a 3-day workshop on “The Art of Seeing” with photographers Les Saucier and Janet Garrity. We went to fabulous locations from our base at the Tween Waters Inn on Captiva Island.

On our trip to Captiva, we explored the Atlantic Coast near Flagler. My favorite spot was the coquina rocks at the River to Sea Preserve just south of Marineland. It’s the first image for this post.

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Growing up with Santa

Santa arrives by car in Oxford MS

Santa arrives by car in Oxford MS

Our grandson, Martin turned 3 years old in early November and over Thanksgiving week, we were present to join in for the day-after-Thanksgiving visit from Santa in Oxford MS. This was the first year Martin wasn’t in tears from the Santa adventure.

Who's excited about Santa?

Who’s excited about Santa?

But you can see that he still wasn’t quite sure what to think! Our daughter and son-in-law were much more excited about getting to see Santa than Martin was.

I enjoy exploring the history of cultural traditions like we have around Santa Claus and Christmas, bringing good children gifts, and coal for those who have been misbehaving. Once I got past the age of believing in the ‘real’ Santa Claus around the age of six or so, I remember reading a picture book we had about the origins of Santa Claus beginning with real historical Saint Nicholas.

Since I no longer have that book, and wasn’t sure of the details, I searched and found a fun website, Why Christmas with an article that verified my recollection of Saint Nicholas and how he came to be the patron saint of not only children, but also sailors.

While none of the stories can be fully verified, one in particular contributed to the modern day tradition about Santa coming down the chimney and depositing gifts in stockings hung on the mantle. Here’s the story quoted from the website:

“There was a poor man who had three daughters. He was so poor, he did not have enough money for a dowry, so his daughters couldn’t get married…. One night, Nicholas secretly dropped a bag of gold down the chimney and into the house (This meant that the oldest daughter was then able to be married). The bag fell into a stocking that had been hung by the fire to dry! This was repeated later with the second daughter. Finally, determined to discover the person who had given him the money, the father secretly hid by the fire every evening until he caught Nicholas dropping in a bag of gold. Nicholas begged the man to not tell anyone what he had done, because he did not want to bring attention to himself. But soon the news got out and when anyone received a secret gift, it was thought that maybe it was from Nicholas.”

Well maybe Santa is OK

Well maybe Santa is OK

Back to our own story with Martin’s Santa encounter this year, it was a happy ending in spite of a bit of trepidation evident in Martin’s expression. I had fun watching and documenting the event with my camera. Turning the photos into a story that inspired a bit of research into the Santa Claus tradition was the icing on the cake.

 

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Finding your creative voice, discovering the magic

“Whether you succeed or not is irrelevant, there is no such thing. Making your unknown known is the important thing–and keeping the unknown always beyond you.” ~ Georgia O’Keeffe

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We are all artists, creating the journey that our life becomes. Making art is simply a way to explore and practice the spiritual, emotional, mental and physical elements of our power as creators. I love the quote from Georgia O’Keefe because it reminds me that the important thing is to keep exploring the art of creation. It’s a continual discovery into the unknown and making the unknown more visible to ourselves and the world.

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I expect that discussions about “finding my personal voice”, or in the field of business, “what is our differentiating value” are common across many forms of creative endeavor. Often we may undermine our own exploration and discovery with self-doubt, premature judgement and narrow rules or beliefs about what makes “art” or what makes a business product or service of unique value to its intended audience.

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So here’s a reminder to myself and anyone who may need it right now, that finding your unique or differentiated voice is a continual process of exploration, discovery and new creation. Nothing in life is static. If we aren’t continuing to explore and create anew, then we have curtailed or even stopped the journey to new possibilities.

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Enjoy the play and the magic of the journey without getting too hung up on arriving at an imagined pinnacle of perfection of what it is to be a “successful” photographer, artist, entrepreneur, business leader (or add a noun of your choice).

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Keep playing, creating, practicing — and your voice will make itself visible and heard. That’s what creating the images in this post are doing for me, and I hope enlivening a similar inspiration for my readers!

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Check out my online photo gallery for my continuing journey of finding/creating my own voice.

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Transitions, Transformations & Transmutations

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“Sometimes I do get to places just when God’s ready to have somebody click the shutter.” – Ansel Adams

The camera has long been a companion and guide to my life’s journey. Whenever I have camera in hand, I begin to see the world through a more receptive mindset, opening myself to the spirit of the subject and my own feelings about what I’m seeing.

Both the act of shooting in the field, and the post-processing of images become a personal practice that reveals new opportunities to create and experience the life I wish to live. That requires a mindset of openness and receptivity to the world around me, and exercising my power to choose what I want to put in or leave out of the camera’s frame of view.

Practicing photography in this way got a huge boost during the height of Autumn color from a week long workshop my wife Bonnie and I attended in Maine with photographer, artist & teacher, John Paul Caponigro. If you don’t know of JP, be sure to check out his website for a wealth of resources on creativity through the art and craft of photography.

With JP as our guide and coach, the 9 workshop participants visited beautiful spots along coastal Maine and Acadia National Park. JP’s instruction during daily meetings as well as in the field centered on building a “project” around which to create a set of images that communicated a specific idea or theme that we felt passionate about.

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My project took on the form of a series of images that I feel convey the idea of Transitions in life that present opportunities to break out of old paradigms & beliefs to create anew. The theme is relevant for me personally, as I enter a transition from full-time employment in consulting sales to my own business offering mentoring in creativity empowerment for entrepreneurs and artists / creators.

I also believe there is a lesson for us all in this time of national and global turmoil to center ourselves in the power we have as individuals to create what we wish to have in our own lives; and not depend on others to do it for us.

There is so much beauty in the world, and so much potential in human consciousness to create a life of abundance and possibility rather than violence, aggression and divisiveness. I hope the images in this post and the related slideshow give you a few minutes of solace and reflection as respite from the turmoil going on in the media and political events. The 5-minute slideshow is here in YouTube.

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All photos are my own. Music and quote is credited in the last slide.

You can also find (and purchase) these photos in my ChrisAllenImages portfolio site.

 

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