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CRASHING TO AN END

Cindy Maddera

I realize that it is not even December. I mean, it will be December by the end of this week, but right now it is still November. We have a whole month left in this year and I shouldn’t be rushing ahead. Except my brain is totally rushing ahead and I keep thinking about what I want to accomplish next year. I had only one thing that I wanted for this year and that was to complete a project. Any project. I’m thirty something days away from completing my 365 Day photo project that I have been posting daily on Flickr. I am going to complete a project this year. Also, I’ve been saying for years how I need to clean out the basement and pair down. I’ve just stopped putting this down as a resolution because every year I fail miserably at this. I might get one corner cleaned out only to fill it up with crap again. Sure, it took a major basement flood to get this goal accomplished, but by golly, that basement is clean and we have way less stuff.

These accomplishments have inspired me to start thinking about doing stuff. I’m not quite sure what stuff I want to do, but I want to do some stuff.

I think that on the top of my list of things to do next year is to expand my photography skills and build up a portfolio. Maybe even take a class or two. Someone in the office said to me in regards to our California trip that I must have taken a lot of pictures. Really, after sitting down to upload and edit, I did not end up taking very many pictures. I had even debated before the trip whether I should even bother bringing my Nikon with me. In the end, I decided to pack it and then I did make an effort to use it. That first morning at the cabin, I was awake before everyone. I snuck out of the cabin with my camera and went for a walk. The sun was just coming up and the air was crisp. I thought I might try to make my way to Tamales Bay, but it was further away than it looked. I walked the winding road far enough to reach a place where I could at least see the bay and was rewarded with light from the sun peaking up over the hills and filtering through the clouds.

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Later on, we all hiked out to Kehoe Beach. I took some pictures there that I am really happy with and that evening I captured a picture of the moon that I’m pretty proud of. The camera stayed in my bag for the rest of the trip because it ended up raining on us for most of Friday. We spent the day in the cabin, playing games and telling stories. I knew that I wanted to stop on the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge on our way back to the airport. So I just let the photography slide to the way side in order to just be present in the moment. When Michael pulled our car off the highway and up to a parking space that overlooked the bridge, there was already a line of photographers set up at the look out. Serious photographers. They all had big fancy lenses and tripods. I got out of the car with my dinky Nikon and thought “what the Hell am I doing?” I was a joke. I closed my eyes and took a breath. When I opened them, I looked out at the Golden Gate Bridge, fog rolling in and the sunlight filtering down. We were high enough to be above the fog and the sunlight filtering through that fog made the water sparkle. It was blindingly beautiful.

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And I captured it all on my dinky little Nikon.

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I want more of this for 2019. I want to feel less intimidated and I want to feel more confident in my own abilities to capture beautiful moments. I want to accept that part of me that is an artist.

RECOGNITION

Cindy Maddera

The other night, I was sitting on the couch reading when I heard a clackity clack sound coming from the kitchen. It was one of those rare evenings when I had the house to myself. In an effort to soak up every last drop of the last days of their summer, Michael had taken the Cabbage to Ocean's of Fun with plans on closing the joint. So it was just me and dog and sometimes the cat and now this clackity clack sound. Side note: I recently read a book about a family living in a sort of dooms day shelter. The youngest boy had been born in the shelter and had no idea what the above world was like. His boogy man was called the cricket man, part man with a cricket body. The cricket man would come and take bad children who were not in their beds when they were supposed to be. If I had not finished the book and discovered the reality of the cricket man, the clackity clack in the kitchen would have freaked me the f out. 

The sound was from a very large leaf hopper who had somehow managed to wind up in our kitchen. I finagled a canning jar out of a cabinet and trapped him inside the jar so I could set him free outside. Once he was free from the jar, he flew up and away. I watched him, fascinated by the shape of him and the way he moved in a mechanical way. It is not often I have come across a leaf hopper of that size. He was at least the length of the palm of my hand and brilliant green. His body was a perfect mimic of a leaf. I never stopped to grab my camera and take any pictures of him. It was only later when I thought "huh...maybe I should have taken some pictures." I shrugged the thought off because I still have a bad taste in my mouth from editing the pictures I took while we were in Oregon. 

I took some really crappy pictures with my Nikon while we were in Oregon. I'm talking really bad pictures. F-stop and aperture mistakes galore. Everything is either too bright or too dark. Focal points are weird because I relied on the autofocus. They're all just really shitty. I look at them and say to myself "Cindy, who the heck do you think you're trying to be? You think you can take pictures? That's hilarious." I know why my pictures turned out terrible. Frankly, it was because of drugs, but that's not a story for here. Even though I know why the pictures are bad, I still have not been all that inspired to pick up my camera or consider artistic endeavors. It is kind of like falling off my bike and instead of my usual 'get right back on' attitude, I am hesitant to go for another bike ride. For some time now, Micheal has been urging me to do some sort of art showing in a restaurant or coffee house. He talks about it a lot, enough for me to maybe consider actually doing it. I've gone as far as changing this website and adding a gallery of a few photos. That's about it.

Honestly the whole idea of it really makes me want to vomit. Posting my images here and on Instagram are way different from hanging actual prints in a public space for strangers to look at judge with their judgy eyes. I have never ever considered the possibility of doing an art showing mostly because I still struggle with this concept that I might be some kind of artist. I don't see that I am doing anything that someone else couldn't do with a camera. There's a lot of vulnerability there and a lot of questioning of how thick is my skin. There is a lot of changes in my mindset and my views on who I am, that I am more than I think of myself. The other day when we were at IKEA, I saw a photo enlarged to poster size, framed in a simple frame and I thought "wouldn't that one picture I took look nice displayed like that?" So while I'm walking around queasy over the idea of actually doing an art showing, I am at least thinking of what photos to use and how to display them. 

The next steps are crooked, wonky ones because I have no idea how to go about finding a venue or marketing myself. I'm sure I need some sort of business card and a portfolio that is not on my phone. The most difficult step of all will be believing enough in my work to expect a business to want to display it for me. We'll see. Maybe by January you all will receive an invitation to an art opening. 

CAMERAS

Cindy Maddera

We are getting ready for a family vacation that will start at Alabaster Caverns in Oklahoma. Then we will make our way to Clayton, New Mexico for a couple of nights, followed up with three nights in the Gunnison area of Colorado. Then we will make our way home through Dodge City. When we first talked about this trip, I was thinking of my childhood summers in Colorado and running around campgrounds with other kids. We were a wild pack of animals, climbing up sides of mountains and throwing rocks into streams and rivers. I was always dirty and pink from too much sun. I think the Cabbage will have those experiences in Oklahoma and New Mexico. It's when we get to Colorado that I am a little worried. We will be staying in a primitive campsite without electricity. No wifi. No YouTube videos. Maybe no other kids. She's going to have to entertain herself, something she's not used to doing around us. 

I thought maybe giving the Cabbage a camera for our trip might keep her a little bit occupied. Or help. Or I have no idea. I dug up my old Sony point-n-shoot and plugged the battery into a charger. It still had an SD card in it even though it has been years and years since I've used it. I had no idea what was even on that SD card. So I popped it into my card reader and had a look. The card is full of pictures from my very first trip to New York. I have a whole series of images with Hamburger Helper hanging out in New York and they are on this SD card. I was pretty excited about this because I thought those original images were lost. I tend to upload smaller version of original data. Those smaller versions do not print well and I've always thought the Hamburger Helper series would make great art for a kitchen. The Bagel Boyfriend picture is also on this card and it dawned on me that this was the camera that started it all. 

This tiny little, weigh nothing, eight mega pixel camera was the camera that made me want to start taking better pictures. Chris bought it for me after he'd spent days and days researching cameras. He eventually bought the same camera for himself. I still have it. It is sitting on my dresser, untouched because I do not want to go through the pictures on his SD card. The first year we (Chris, Amy, Brian, a couple we don't talk to anymore because they got cut from the team) all did the 365 day photo project, this was the camera I used. I must have upgraded cameras soon after that New York trip, but I don't remember doing so. I did notice a shift in the quality of images on the SD card. You can see the point where I start paying more attention to light and how to frame things in a shot. Suddenly I started looking at things around me from different angles. I started paying attention. Looking at that camera now, I get a little nostalgic. If I were a painter, this camera would be the equivalent of the first paintbrush I used to create my first decent piece of art. I, by no means, consider myself to be a great photographer now, but I do recognize that I am a better photographer. This practice and art has become my meditation. It has made me more mindful and my camera has become as important to me as my yoga mat.

I have no idea what to expect from the Cabbage, how she'll take to being handed a camera or if she will even use it. I hope that it sparks something in her. I want to look at the pictures she takes to see what she finds interesting, to see her perspective on this world. It would be nice to believe that I am passing some kind of torch on to a new generation. 

 

DOING ALL OF THE THINGS

Cindy Maddera

Robin and Summer were in town over the weekend. They actually came into town Thursday evening. So I took Friday off to run around town with the two of them. We were moving around slowely Friday morning and I opened my email to discover that Margaret and Philip were also in town. They wanted to know if I could meet them for lunch. I told them we'd all meet them for lunch! It was one of those nice surprises where the Universe aligns the planets in a unique way and we were all together again. For those of you who don't know, I worked for Margaret. Robin worked for Philip. Our labs were right next to each other and there was lots of collaborating and scientific shenanigans. These people are my scientific family. We all squeezed into my car and I drove us to the Nelson. We ate lunch in the cafe, which is in a very loud courtyard and we ended up yelling our conversation to each other. Afterward, we all tooled around the museum. Then I got Margaret and Philip tickets to the Picasso exhibit and we parted ways. It was nice.

I then showed Robin and Summer my favorite things at the Nelson. They still have the Dorothea Lange photography exhibit up, which is my most favorite exhibit. It's a display of her (and few other photographers) photographs taken during the Great Depression, when she was a photojournalist for the Farm Security Administration. Her images and the notes she took for each one not only gives us a history of that time, but tells the stories of people displaced by a dust bowl and job loss. Deep personal stories. You can see the stress and hardships etched into the lines of all the faces, even the children. I am fascinated by her images as much as I am fascinated that we had a government who hired photographers to document our history. There was a time we intentionally hired artists to tell our stories. The images she captured of that time are equally beautiful and sorrowful. You can feel the grit of the dirt blowing in the air. Dorothea Lange is the kind of photographer that inspires me. She was the first woman to be awarded a Guggenheim fellowship. 

After dragging the girls around the Nelson, we spent the rest of our time together eating and drinking and talking and laughing. Michael and I introduced them to IKEA. We ate famous Kansas City BBQ. It was a much needed visit and I am so happy they came up to see us. I spent the Sunday after they left, moping around a cemetery with the boys. One of our friends, Tom, is involved with the historic society in some way. He took us all on a tour of two historic cemeteries in Kansas City. The first one we went to was Elmwood Cemetery, which is on the list of National Registry of Historic Places. It was designed by George Kessler, the same architect behind many of our parks and boulevards. Many of Kansas City's founders are buried in this cemetery and it is filled with beautiful headstones and mausoleums. We traipsed around the cemetery while Tom pointed out note worthy graves and told us the history around this person and that. I learned that guys who founded Cheeze-its and Post-it notes are from Kansas City and are buried in this cemetery. 

I took my fancy pants camera with me for the tour partly out of being inspired by the  Dorothea Lange exhibit, but also in hopes of just spending some time with that camera. I didn't really expect much out of the shots I was taking mostly because the day was gray and overcast. I assumed that I would end up turning everything into black and white images. At one point, while switching back and forth between the fancy pants camera and my phone camera, Wilson (I know a guy named Wilson...he's fabulous) asked me what the difference was in using my Nikon vs the phone camera. I looked at him and said "Honestly? Not much." Both cameras have about the same megapixals sensors. Both cameras take similar photos when using automatic settings. The Nikon takes better quality images under ideal lighting situations. I prefer the phone camera for low light situations when I don't want to use a flash. The Nikon takes time. I tend to be more mindful of how I look at my surroundings when I look through the view finder on the Nikon. The pictures from this camera have to be transferred to my computer before I can upload them. The phone is like an Instamatic, meaning your pictures go straight to the internet. 

I did not explain any of this to Wilson when I answered his question. I think I said something about like "it just depends on how I'm feeling as to which camera I'm going to use." That's kind of true. If I'm feeling lazy, I reach for the phone camera because my phone is always on me, but after really thinking about his question, I knew that the answer was more complex. I like using my fancy pants Nikon when I actually get it out and use it because it makes me feel like I'm doing something special. Even if I just end up take a bunch of crap pictures. I've been thinking a lot about photography projects for the next year and how I would like to find a way to sell some prints. I'd like to do another 365 day project that focuses on my body, in hopes that will help me see a better version of myself that I am having a hard time seeing these days. I have also gotten lazy with lighting. I end up doing a lot of editing and filtering that I shouldn't have to do. I tweak here and there is one thing, but I've been doing more than the usual tweak. I've had several people ask me for camera advice lately and I'd like to be a bit more knowledgable in my answers.

Really, my biggest plan for the new year includes more actual doing rather than wanting to do. Yes, I realize that some might think it's to early to be talking about New Year plans. I think it's too early to put up Christmas decorations, so we're even.  

PICTURE PAGES

Cindy Maddera

I started a project early this year that involved organizing my pictures into some kind of an album with notecards and descriptions. I did four pages and the set all of it in the roller cabinet under the TV. It's been sitting there ever since. Meanwhile, the pile of pictures that need to be organized just keeps growing. Sunday morning, I got up and went through my usual Sunday morning routine: breakfast, CBS Sunday Morning, laundry. Whenever I would settle into the couch with a mug a of coffee, I'd end up with animals laying on me. Not such a bad thing, but they made it difficult to want to move. It was raining and dreary outside and it was just easier to turn the couch into a raft and play a movie. So that's what I did, but I also pulled out the photo project and worked on it some while I watched the movie. 

I started with a stack of pictures I had found while cleaning out the attic of my childhood home. They had been in the bottom of a box lid that was inverted and holding old bits of notes and mostly trash. I started to just toss the whole lid into my garbage bag when I paused and decided to flip through the debris. I was surprised to find these particular pictures in with a pile of trash. There was an old picture of my Grandmother, Nellie with her sister and one of Pepaw in his Navy uniform. There were several old square black and white prints of my brother when he was a child and three photos from his wedding with Katrina. There was one of all of us sitting around the dining room table. My Dad's parents, Mom, Janell, Randy and Katrina. This was before J and it looked like Thanksgiving. I recognized the Pyrex dish of sweet potato pie and the tan Tupperware pitcher that I am sure was filled with sweet tea. The table was blanketed with the red calico tablecloth that always adorned that table. It is present in the picture of me blowing out candles on my third birthday cake, another picture from the stack of salvaged pictures.

Then I came across a picture of no people. There's nothing written on the back to hint at where or when the photo was taken. I took a photo of it for Instagram and my mother later commented on it saying that it looked like the lake Pontchairtrain Bridge. When she said it, I knew that she was right. I figured that someone had taken it the year we traveled to New Orleans for Randy's senior trip. I have no memories of that first trip to New Orleans. I was way too small to form lasting impressions. Not like Disney Land. I was small then too, but I still have hazy images in my head of the Dumbo ride and our odd encounter with Donald Duck. I only have memories of stories told to me of that family vacation. My mother tells a story of how she made me a harness with a leash so she could keep track of me. She said that some old man yelled at her and gave her grief about putting her baby on a leash. He followed her the length of the French Quarter Market before she turned around and yelled back at him to leave her alone. 

That's the only story I know from that trip. I remember coming across a picture of the my brother, sister and I posing next to a cannon. My brother is sitting in the photo, his long legs made longer by the bell bottom jeans he's wearing, and he has his arm wrapped around my middle. It is obvious he has been put in charge of holding the toddler still for the picture. I know this picture was taken in New Orleans only because at the time of finding the picture, my mother looked over my shoulder at it and said so. Yet the picture tells more of a story than that. I suppose that is why I am drawn to photographs. Each one tells more of a story than just "we were in New Orleans" or "that was the time we visited your great Aunt in California."

I suppose that is why I feel such a need to get my photographs and stories in order. 

 

THINGS I DO WHEN I'M NOT HERE

Cindy Maddera

I have been making a real effort lately to get my Nikon out of my bag and just shoot. There's a sticky note up on my desk at work that says "shoot with a mindful eye". I wrote it down when I was taking an online class on black and white street photography. It is not that I haven't heard this tidbit of wisdom. It was just that in the moment of hearing, I realized that I needed to be reminded to shoot with a mindful eye. My photo editing tool is the one provided in iPhotos on my MacBook. Sure, I could splurge on some serious photo editing programs, get PhotoShop subscription, but I'm cheap and stubborn. I still cling to the idea of taking a good picture to start with. The camera on my phone makes it easier to take a decent picture and then filter it into something spectacular. Too easy. I have become a little bit lazy. 

So, I've been working on taking a good picture with my Nikon. I don't work on this craft every day and when I do, I feel like I don't work on it for very long. I've sort of approached it all as one would do when they first start exercising after a long recovery from a serious surgery. It is the getting the pictures from the SD card to the computer that has become the most tedious part of it all. As I wrote that sentence I immediately thought about all the times I used a film camera as a kid and how half the time I just wouldn't bother to have a roll of film developed because of the cost and the time. I had to have an adult drive me all the way to the closest Walmart with a photo center. Cut to the year 2017 and I'm complaining about manually inserting a  small disk into the side of my computer and transferring only the pictures that I want to keep to my computer. Free of charge. Of course it still costs money to print the pictures. The difference now is that I'm only printing out good pictures as opposed to twenty four partially overexposed pictures with my finger in the bottom left corner. 

I am not always shooting with a mindful eye in these moments as much as I am just shooting, taking pictures just for the sake of taking pictures. I do take a breath of a minute to be mindful of light or lack of light, but mostly I'm just taking pictures in hopes that I capture something interesting. I am looking at every day mundane things in hopes of seeing something unique and interesting in those things seen through the lens. 

This is what I am trying to do when I'm not here. 

TEACHING AN OLD DOG

Cindy Maddera

Just before Christmas, I found out that our local family owned photography store is closing shop for good. Crick's has been around for seventy years. The owners thought about selling it, but couldn't find anyone qualified to run the full service photography shop. I'm real sad about this because Crick's was such a great place to go, not just to shop for all things photography, but because the people working there were always so helpful. I learned so much every time I walked in through their doors. When I found out they were closing, I went in to look at some lenses. The woman working the counter pulled several lenses for me to try on my camera and she talked about the pros and cons of each one. I kind of fell in love with a macro lens that costs about $700. I did not buy that lens. 

I walked away from Crick's with nothing but things to think about. I had to weigh practical versus not so practical. My job is to image things at the microscopic level. Of course I would gravitate to macro lenses. I like to get up close with tiny things, but maybe I should broaden my horizons some and step outside the box. Anyway...I had some things to think about before I chose what lens I was going to buy next and what I finally decided was that I don't need to buy another lens. At least not right now. Did you guys know that I was doing a 365 day selfie project in 2016? Well, I was and I started out with using the Nikon to take my pictures every day. Then I started traveling and I couldn't upload a picture because I was either short on time or there was no internet. I switched to my phone and then when I got to San Francisco, I said "fuck it" and stopped the project all together. It's the first time I've not finished the 365 Day Photo Project.

The truth is, I don't use my fancy Nikon as often as I should/want to/need to in order to justify the purchase of any lens, let alone one that costs $700. It doesn't help that I have entered 2017 unmotivated and uninspired by my view. The clouds have started to circle overhead and Michael has started to do his tip-toe dance around me because this is the time of year that is the most difficult. It's the time of year where I'd rather be curled up in a ball under the covers or staring with glazed over eyes at the TV while shoveling copious amount of hot Brie into my mouth. If I were to look through the view finder of my camera right now, I wouldn't see anything worth pressing the shutter button for because you're supposed to look for the light and I don't even see that right now outside my window. 

Something I've done to help me stay off the couch and away from the hot Brie is to sign up for Skillshare. The first month is free, so I thought I'd give it a go. If I like it and watch some learning videos, I might go ahead and get a subscription. Right now, I've added about twenty different classes on various aspects of photography to my list. My goal is to watch at least two classes a week, depending on the length of the class. If I'm consistent, I'll keep my Skillshare account. If I'm consistent, I might not keep my Skillshare account. Amy told me that our local library probably offers online classes similar to the ones posted here. This was news that I feel the library systems need to advertise more. Or at least talk about in a tone a voice that I won't ignore. 

If this plan doesn't pan out, there's always the adult tap dancing class I've had my eye on. Tappa tappa tappa.  

 

I DREAM OF THINGS I SHOULD DO

Cindy Maddera

The other night, I had a dream where I was playing around with shutter speeds on my camera. This is funny because I haven't gotten my Nikon out since that snowy Easter morning. You're like "that's not funny, Cindy." I don't really mean funny haha as much as I mean funny peculiar. If I had a band I'd name us The Funny Peculiars. Well...dream...shutter speeds...blah blah blah. Look, I'm going to tell you straight up that my days are pressed for time right now. I don't carry my Nikon with me every day because my backpack (yes, I carry backpack and yes, I know how old I am and yes I am wearing yoga pants) is already full with my computer and my iPad and my lunch. It is a heavy bag without the addition of the fancy pants camera. It is also added weight for something I'm most likely not going to take out of the bag to use. Sad but true.

The truth is, I've been too busy to be inspired. In those moments between being too busy, I've been to lazy to push for inspiration. Hey Chad, remember that time we got up before everyone else in the house and walked around the neighborhood taking pictures? It was cold and there was frost on the ground and all my pictures turned out too bright and technicolor looking. It's a moment in time I think about whenever I feel a little uninspired. Those pictures are in an album titled "Walkabout" in Flickr. I need to take more walkabouts even if my pictures turn out too bright. I need to wedge out some time in between journal writing and grocery shopping or maybe hold off watching CBS Sunday morning on Sundays. While I'm figuring that out, here's what I've been doing in the meantime. 

A fellow photographer I know through social media posted something recently about voting for one of his pictures to be selected for decoration in a hotel. His name is Rhys Martin and you should go vote for his picture here because he's really good and a cool person. Of course, I went and voted but then a lightbulb went on over my head as I thought "photo contests!" I could actually enter my pictures into photo contests. So I did a search on photography contests and came across ViewBug. It has various membership options ranging from free to paid. If you pay, you can upload unlimited pictures and enter whatever contest they are hosting. Free gets you ten uploads a week and limited contest entries. I'm just fine with free because I'm still testing this place out and trying to get a feel for how it all works. I have followers and I have many uploaded pictures that have garnished several peer awards. I don't know if I've won any of the contests yet because many of them are still in the voting process. I did win a photography course from Craftsy for something. I think maybe something to do with one of the peer awards. 

I'm still on the fence about ViewBug in general. A lot of the most popular photos on there look like they have been really edited and altered in Photoshop. There's nothing wrong with that. I'm all for editing. These photos though go beyond minor editing. This is not my skill set, nor do I have the software to do that. My philosophy is to try take a good picture without taking a picture that I have to make good later. So I try to follow like minded photographers. I do like that ViewBug feels more professional and less social. I'm not creeped out by any of my followers, unlike Flickr where I always have that one guy leaving comments like "Hey Cindy, this is a nice photo. I would sure enjoy more photos of you wearing a red bandana." Because girls in red bandanas are his fetish. I also really like that I've already won a prize. So it's not a thousand dollars or new lightweight tripod, but it is something that I could use. I chose a class on getting to know your lenses and so far I'm learning quite a bit.

I'm hoping ViewBug will give me that inspiration push I need right now. Maybe I'll stop dreaming about playing around with shutter speeds and actually play around with shutter speeds. 

PRINTS

Cindy Maddera

Back in the days before digital, we printed out our pictures, kids. We had to! It was the only way to see them. You put this little roll like thing called "film" into a camera and each roll of film let you take like 24 shots or something like that and you never new how your pictures where going to turn out until you got them back from the photo lab at the local Walmart. As a result, my mother's house was full of boxes and boxes of pictures of total crap images. Pictures of thumbs. Unrecognizable landscapes. Blurry. Half a picture bleached out. We had boxes full of these kinds of pictures, but that was just how it was. There was no editing or choosing before print. Also, film and printing didn't seem all that cheap at the time. Getting a roll of film developed was a bit of a luxury. 

As a kid, I was well aware of the cost and hassle of printing a roll of film. Being aware of all of that made me really choosy about taking a picture. So choosy that I often wouldn't even take a picture. My mom would send me to camp with a camera and couple of rolls of film and I'd come home with twelve shots left on the original roll of film. During all the 4-H years, they liked you to include pictures in your record books. Every time I went somewhere or did something 4-H, mom would once again send me with the camera and several rolls of film. Still I'd come home with empty rolls of film. My mother would beg me to take pictures. Yes. There was a time when I had to be forced to pick up a camera and use it. That all changed for me with digital technology, where you can take as many first pancake pictures as you want or need to get the one right picture. Now, the only reason I have a cell phone is for the camera.

Digital is an anti-hoarder's wet dream. It means I can have tons of pictures piled into multiple places without having the tangible pictures piling up in boxes that I have to store in the basement. The basement is where all things go to die a slow agonizing spiderweb laced death. At the same time though, it's kind of sad. A couple of years ago I vowed to start printing out a few of my pictures every month or so. I hung a bed frame on my wall and clipped a bunch of clips to it to hold pictures. This has worked out well. I admit that I don't print pictures every month, but at least every season, I put a new batch of photos up on the wall. Actually, this year has been a pretty good year for printing out my own photos. Michael's been the one to push for larger prints to put in real picture frames to hang on the wall and it's been a difficult thing for me to do. That's another story though about probably earning more trophies than actually received as a child.

Any way. Printing Photos! Usually, I print my Instagram photos through Walgreens. They keep the square shape and integrity of the original photo. I also like the way the square pictures look on the bed frame. Lately, I've been using VSCO to post my #365 pictures. I just like having one uniform spot for them and I use the same filter for each photo. It's a nice artistic space without the likes and faves and number of views. It's a space for me, not for people to notice me. The other day VSCO sent me a coupon to try out Artifact Uprising. I got 25 prints for free (excluding shipping) and they showed up at the house yesterday. I could not be more pleased. The photos are printed on this thick paper with a pretty white boarder and a textured matte finish. They just feel really good to hold between your fingers. They really are just lovely. You get twenty five 5 x5" prints for $21.99. That's about $0.89 per picture which is double the price for 4 x4" prints from Walgreens. Since I'm only printing up pictures about four times a year, I think I can treat myself with the prints from AU. At least that's how I'm going to justify that purchase.

Because I really do love them and no one is paying me to say that.  

SPEAKING OF NOT BEING A PHOTOGRAPHER

Cindy Maddera

A few weeks ago, when the leaves were at the brightest of Fall foliage, Michael said "Hey! I should take you to this park I know where the trees will make you fall (ha!) over with wow!" He didn't really say that, but it was something like that. It just so happened that was also a Cabbage weekend. So parks are always a good idea, but I also used this as an opportunity to resurrect my old Nikon. I've been slowly trying to get back to using this camera. I thought buying a new fancy purse to carry it in would help, but I find that I'm just lugging around an extra heavy bag. I really heavily on my iPhone as my every day camera. There's nothing wrong with that. The phone takes great images and fits in my pocket (or bra strap) but it also makes me a little lazy because I don't pay attention to the technical side of taking a photograph. I thought this trip to the park would be the perfect time to get out the Nikon and take some pictures. And every single picture I took that day was total crap. Even after editing. I couldn't even edit these pictures into something decent. I felt pretty stupid and really disappointed. I have this fancy pants camera that could use a new lens, but I can't justify any upgrades for it because I don't use it or really know what I'm doing when I'm using it. I got mad at myself. Real mad.

When Chris and I bought our scooters, we didn't test drive them. We just bought them and had them delivered. The guy who delivered them handed over the keys and gave us a few instructions. Chris jumped on his scooter and took off. I jumped on my scooter and almost crashed into a car. I couldn't turn and that initial jolt of speed and not being in control scared the beejezus out of me. Less then ten minutes after delivery, the scooter was parked in the garage and I was sitting on the bed crying because I thought I'd made a terrible mistake. I had just spent a lot of money on something I couldn't use. This vision I had of myself being a Scooter Girl was an illusion. A joke. I was a fake, a failure, a fraidy cat and with those thoughts swirling around, I got up and got back on that scooter. I read the manual and the motorcycle driving test book. I did a countless number of figure eights in the school parking lot down the street. I passed my motorcycle test with flying colors. I made my vision a reality.

After my attempt to edit those awful pictures, I picked up the manual for that camera and read the whole thing. Then, I read Karen Walrond's book, Beginning FocusI took all this information along with me on our weekend getaway to Hermann and made the Nikon my main camera. In fact, whenever I started to use my phone, Michael would ask "where's your other camera?" and sometimes I would roll my eyes while pulling the camera free from my bag. I didn't take the most amazing pictures that weekend, but I did a good job of taking better pictures that weekend. I do not see myself as one day becoming a professional photographer, but I do see myself as one day becoming a good photographer. I'm working on making that vision a reality.

 

I HAVE A SHOP!

Cindy Maddera

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I have set up a shop with Nuvango to sell some of my photographs. AND I AM SO EXCITED! No really. I mean, just look at what they've done to my scooter picture. My shit looks legit ya'll! I couldn't be more pleased. Even if I don't make any money, it's just nice to see my pictures in such a professional light. Last weekend, Michael and I were sitting at communal table at a brewery. A group of four came up and asked to share our table and we said "of course!" I reached up to slide my camera over to make room and one of the women asked "Oh! Are you a photographer?!?" I opened my mouth to say "no", but before I could say anything, Michael piped up with "yes she is." I wanted to protest. I wanted to say "no, no, no." Instead, I just sat there not saying a word. 

I can hardly call myself anything close to a professional photographer, but I do take a nice picture every once in a while. My little shop on Nuvango gives me a sense of pride in my work. So...maybe you need a pretty framed picture for your wall. Maybe you need a nice new iPhone case or a fancy screen for computer. Wouldn't it be nice to have a lovely set of greeting cards to send out a note to a friend or loved one? These things also make great stocking stuffers!

So go check it out! Follow the link here or under Shop under the header on my blog. And thanks for all your support!

THE PLACES I'VE LEFT CHRIS

Cindy Maddera

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I did not anticipate the strange photo album that would be born from leaving Chris's ashes in the places I visited. I remember laying in bed one night with Chris. This was after the final "keep him comfortable there's nothing we can do" diagnosis. We were just laying there talking about nothing and everything. The subject of cremation came up and I asked him "So...what do you want me to do with your ashes?". His reply was "I don't know." He asked me what I wanted to do with my own ashes and I told him about maybe being dumped in with the elephants in the zoo. I told him how I'd said that to my mom once and she'd totally ruined the idea by saying "so then the elephants would poop on you". He never answered my question. We just sort of skipped passed it. I was always bothered by how the ashes of Chris's dad were just displayed in a typical urn on top of the TV. I wasn't disturbed by the idea of people ashes. It just bothered me that placing him on top of the TV surrounded by a few trinkets was how they decided to honor this man's life. But really, all I had ever known of the man was that he spent a lot of time sitting in front of the TV. I wanted something different (better) for Chris. That something different is growing into quite the collections of Places I've Left Chris. I knew that there would be several places on this last trip that I'd want to leave Chris. I'd made the mistake of not taking enough to leave in other places when I went to Ireland. I needed to take more ashes than the little travel boxes I had could hold, so I filled a hot salsa jar with Chris's ashes. Some may think it is a bit irreverent to fill up a hot salsa jar with someone's ashes. I found it appropriate for Chris, lover of all things hot and spicy. I'd once witnessed Chris slice up a Habanero pepper and place it on his hamburger. There'd be a couple of times we'd end up pouring some of those ashes into a travel sized toothpaste box, the box being easier to smuggle. The container doesn't matter.

I would have liked to have left some of his ashes at the wood chipper in Fargo, but since it was housed inside the Fargo Travel Center, I thought better of it. I didn't really want his ashes to end up sitting inside a vacuum cleaner in a closet somewhere in the travel center. Instead I left some at the World's Largest Buffalo. And it was the thought of leaving Chris's ashes at Devil's Tower that inspired Talaura to put that on our list of things. Of course there really was no way we could get that close to Devil's Tower and not go out of our way to leave some of Chris there. I can't even tell you how many times Close Encounters was quoted in this house. Though it would have been funny to be able to leave some of Chris's ashes right under Washington's nose at Mt. Rushmore, I discreetly left him in view of Mt. Rushmore and directly behind the pillar that held the Oklahoma State flag.

There was one place that I had not expected to leave ashes. We ended up stopping our second night in the Ft. Abraham Lincoln State Park. The campground sits right next to Missouri river. In fact, it's situated right at the junction of where the Heart river joins the Missouri river. Michael was thrilled to be on the Missouri river. He went on and on about it. I think it was his favorite part of the trip. The next morning, as we packed up everything to head on towards Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Michael said "I think we're forgetting someone." He wanted to leave some of Chris at the river. It meant something to me that Michael wanted to be a part of this memorial. So, right there, where the Heart River meets the Missouri, we left some of Chris's ashes. The emphasis on We.