Monday, October 19, 2015

Hard Frost

I knew it was coming.  I felt it before I'd even checked the forecast.  As the sun sank behind the pines last night, I scurried around the garden beds, gathering as many blossoms as I could to bring inside.  

So even though it pained me to look out the back window at the frozen gardens this morning, here in the house I had the small comfort of all my rescued blooms in vases and pots and pitchers.

Really I don't mind this turn to the darker months.  Here in Maine it is the best time to head to the woods or the beach or the mountain trails.  Soon the last of the leaf peepers will climb back in their SUVs and head for warmer states, and we will have all this beauty to ourselves again until next June.

And this turn outside means it's time for the turn inward, too.  Time for fires in the fireplace, candles on the mantle, cups of tea, and thick books to read.  I've piled up the warm blankets and taken my sweaters  out of storage.  And there's still plenty to do in the garden--bulbs to plant and leaves to rake and beds to prepare for the long, cold winter to come.     

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Finding Stillness

What do you do when one of your oldest and most treasured blogging friends announces that she will be holding a still life photography workshop for three magical days at her brand new studio in Rivers, Manitoba . . . and another of your oldest and dearest blogging friends invites you to come stay at her house just twenty minutes from the workshop . . . and those two sweet friends also happen to be among your favorite photographers in the entire world?

If you're me, you thank your lucky stars, and you book a flight to Manitoba.  

In my post last week I mentioned that I've been a thousand miles away both literally and figuratively.  Really, I've been two thousand miles away, but the miles cannot begin to measure what my time at Kim Klassen's The Studio meant to me.  

Finding Stillness was much more than a workshop.   

It was a time and a place where we had the freedom to set up a shot, and to keep coming back to it as the sun moved across the sky over the course of the day--no distractions, no responsibilities, no other task than to play with color and focus and shadows and light.

It was a space filled with well-worn tables and chipped-paint chairs and shelves of cups and bowls and books for us to use as we practiced making magic.  

Kim Klassen giving a demonstration on how she makes her magic

It was also the place where after years and years, I finally got to meet my two incredible friends for real . . . and to watch them work . . . and to soak up their brilliance.

Aeleen Sclater setting up a shot

Barb Brookbank, Diana Foster, Kim Klassen, and Shelley Rounds out for a morning walk on the trail

And it was, perhaps most importantly, three whole days that I got to spend with ten inspiring and talented photographers from the United States, Canada, and the UK.     

Carol Hart and Diana Foster

We talked shop--lighting, cameras, lenses, techniques and tips--but we also talked life.  And we laughed.  A lot. 

Ilse preparing a gorgeous salad while Xanthe Berkley, Barb Brookbank, and Barbara Skrobuton shoot

We also ate the most delicious and nourishing food, cooked by Kim's mom as well as by Aeleen, and by Aeleen's friend Ilse, an incredible chef who graciously let us photograph her preparing our gourmet lunch on the final day of the workshop.  It was a relief to be in a room full of people who not only didn't roll their eyes when I grabbed my camera to take endless shots of a gorgeous basket of peppers or a bowl of fresh salad tossed with line vinaigrette, they grabbed their cameras, too, and we all happily snapped away.

And then there was the stillness.  I found it each day in moments both expected and surprising.  We all shared an hour a day of silence, during which we were free to keep photographing or to process shots, read a book, write, take a nap--whatever our hearts desired.  I treasured those hours, as I'm naturally a pretty introverted person who loves to spend most of my time working in silence.  

But I discovered many times of quiet stillness throughout the day, even working side by side with other photographers.  It was easy to simply be.  Kim created such a light-filled and welcoming space that I think we all felt at home, whether we were gathered around Carol Hart giving a shop talk on using studio lighting or watching Xanthe Berkley make one of her incredible stop-motion animations or learning the secrets to gorgeous top-down shots from Barb Brookbank.  

The feeling of home extended beyond the four walls of Kim's studio to the town of Rivers itself, where we took walks, went out for supper, and popped into some of the local shops.  Everywhere we went in this small prairie town, people welcomed us, asked where we were from, and swapped stories.  I can't imagine a more perfect spot for a photography retreat.

Kim's sweet dog Ben was our muse and companion.

For me, the retreat extended beyond Rivers all the way to Aeleen's beautiful house on the prairie.  There, I got to meet her husband and one of her sons, hang out with her in the evenings, and run out the front door, into the fields each morning with her sweet pup Zoe.

Morning light in the room where I stayed at prairiegirl's place

Everything in prairiegirl Aeleen's world is arranged with love.  The shots above and below were taken in her house.  I didn't have to set them up, because this is just how she sees things, how she crafts beautiful vignettes at every turn.   

me and beautiful pg (Aeleen)

On my last day in Manitoba, I got to roam around early in the morning, taking shots full of color and texture at Aeleen's like the one above.  And her gardens!  And her studio!  I think I need to save them for another post.  There's too much to share.

As if staying with Aeleen were not treat enough, on my last night there, she took me to her neighbor Willi's Octoberfest, where we watched the full moon rise over the fields, and I got to see the biggest, most impressive bonfire of my entire life . . . not to mention fireworks and a fire lantern being launched.  Fire was definitely the theme of the evening!  And Abba.  Did I mention Abba?  There was much dancing to Abba.  Perhaps there wasn't much stillness that one night, but it was a time I won't soon forget.

Spoons and leaves at prairiegirl studio ~ love

Since returning to my own life back on the coast of Maine, I've been swamped with work, but I've also been finding that my week in Manitoba is very much present in my mind in heart.  The people I met there, and the time we spent simply sharing our love for taking photographs, have helped me to see why I turn to my camera so often, why I set up corners all over my house, always chasing the light, always seeking to discover a mood, a moment of stillness that once I've captured it, will always be mine . . . and maybe someone else's, too.  


I found myself using one hashtag again and again on my Instagram account while I was in Manitoba: #feelingblessed.  Thank you Kim, Aeleen, Xanthe, Carol, Diana, Barb, Brenda, Dorry, Shelley, and Barbara for three days full of more blessings than I can count.  

Thursday, October 1, 2015


I have been a thousand miles away--for real and true.  There is much to tell, and I will, but for now there is October, the clear light it brings, and the days that disappear to dusk when I look away, when I take a breath, when I least expect.

Each leaf that shifts to gold on the maple outside my window is another blessing.  We will rake them, pile them out behind the shed, let them take their sweet time to turn to magic for the borders and the raised beds.  And there are bulbs for planting.  I'll haul out the barrow and the heavy spade, dig troughs for crocuses and daffodils.  There will be whole hills and mountains of snow between now and the next full bloom, but gardeners bank on hope, and October's sunlight gives just enough to keep me until spring.