Weekly Photo Challenge: Object

©2014 Beret Olsen
©2014 Beret Olsen

I grew up in the Midwest, as far as possible from any ocean.

I might have withered in the parched heat of the Plains, but my family headed East for the summers, where a day without a dip in the lake bordered on shameful.

Still, as close as we were, we seldom made it to the seashore, but if and when we did…

I wandered along the water line, icy water creeping unexpectedly underfoot,

The undertow sucking sand from beneath me;

Greedy surf clearing the shore of footprints, emptying the mind of everything but the present.

I looked for shells with perfect holes bored in their bellies from countless trips across the sea floor.

I looked for bits of seaweed, and crabs, and little fish trapped in tide pools.

But what I gathered and hid in my pockets were the stones which had been worn smooth by the relentless drive of the tides,

From being tossed and raked across the beach,

Endlessly,

Endlessly.

Brutally made,

But honed and solid,

Warm in my hand,

Ready to skip.

It reminds me through the long winter chill

That the elements conspire to make us beautiful and strong.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Grand

 

©Beret Olsen
©Beret Olsen

 

I love, love, love shooting film. One has to slow down and contemplate the light, meter here and there, think in two dimensions, adjust the tripod. It is slow and meditative for me, in part because the equipment is so unwieldy, in part because the film so expensive. Each frame matters.

But this image was not shot on film. In fact, I’m lucky it exists at all.

Here’s the deal.

When I am with the spouse and kids, there is never a good time to take a photograph. I’ve missed many, many shots in the interest of “making good time,” catering to emergency bathroom and snack needs, or these days, trying to avoid the tween’s biting impatience.

My family will probably disagree–and for good reason. In truth, they have stopped and waited innumerable times for me to dig out my phone or a point-and-shoot. I take a ridiculous number of crappy snapshots on a daily basis, but the resulting images feel more like visual markers than like “real photographs.” Some are interesting, or serve to jog the memory, but most of them are jpeg trash. I save them anyway.

On the morning pictured, we were supposed to have hit the road an hour earlier. It had taken longer than expected to pack and leave our lodging, which was probably my fault. Two minutes into the drive, we had to stop and return Red Box movies. Five minutes later, we had to stop again to get gas and dig snacks out of a bag buried in the back. Finally, we were rolling. Everyone was a bit cross–and more than ready to get a few miles under the belt–when I saw the most amazing light coming over the lake and snow. I turned to my beleaguered family and smiled weakly. “So. I…uh…need to pull over for a sec.”

Sadly, I didn’t have my real camera along, but I grabbed the point and shoot and got out of the car. I slowed down for two minutes and really looked. I futzed a little with the framing and exposure. I walked closer, forgetting for a moment that there were three grumpy people back in the car.

It may not be the best possible photo, but it makes me very, very happy. In the midst of the manic, chaotic snarl of everyday finagling, it is possible to breathe and see and be in the present. And even if it’s just for two short minutes, it can be grand.

Let There Be Light

©2013 Beret Olsen
©2013 Beret Olsen

It was a woeful moment.

I was worn thin from an epic day at work. Chilled, tired, and hungry, my couch was calling.

Unfortunately, in order to sit on it, I first had to conquer the Bay Bridge during Friday night rush hour traffic. For added excitement, it was the first rainy day of the season, which is typically when everyone spontaneously forgets how to operate a moving vehicle. I really, really did not want to make the drive.

I sat in the car, listening to the rain and to some extremely sad songs. As I was following the lyrics in the semi-darkness, I began to notice the rain falling over the words. Then, after a minute or two, the wipers would cut across the page, leaving a blazing trail of light.

I sat and watched for eons. No doubt the folks in the neighborhood thought I was on some sort of stake-out.

This was a shot that needed a tripod and a decent camera–and FILM, for crying out loud–but I was smushed into the driver’s seat and all I had was my phone. I took the photograph anyway. It can serve as a visual reminder:

In the midst of just about any moment–no matter how stressful, or annoying, or banal–there is often something amazing right in front of my face.

Weekly Photo Challenge: The Unexpected

brown paper pkg
They send dry ice home wrapped like a present. Nota Bene: hold the cord, not the paper!

The photographs I chose to include for “The Unexpected” challenge are ones I took to document a science project for my education blog. I was simply trying to capture the procedural steps, but ended up being mesmerized by dry ice and everything about it. Like sublimation, for example:

©2013 Beret Olsen
©2013 Beret Olsen

Or, if you add dish soap and water, the way the potion bubbles for hours.

©2013 Beret Olsen
©2013 Beret Olsen

But the best surprise of all occurred when I left food coloring, soap, and dry ice in a pyrex measuring cup in the sink for a couple of hours…and it grew an ice cave.

©2013 Beret Olsen
©2013 Beret Olsen

Weekly Photo Challenge: Habit

There is nothing I like more at the end of a long day than my bedtime routine.

I don’t answer the phone in the midst of it; I don’t even like to answer questions. I might nod, but I don’t listen to anyone or anything. I am off-duty.

©Beret Olsen
©Beret Olsen