Morning Musings

I

I’m not sure why I wake up in a better mood some days and others I don’t. I assume it has something to do with the amount of warm morning light I see, and probably the amount of restful sleep I get, too. 

But some days I wake up and I feel like I’m ready to take on the world and its issues. 

It has to help that I saw wonderful sunlight coming through my bedroom window blinds creating deep dark contrasting lines onto our dresser, right? My son stood in sunlight pouring in from my window with his bowl of Frosted Flakes. It immediately caught my attention and put me in a better mood. I snapped a photo with my phone and posted it on Instagram. 

The view from my bed.

II 

The morning routine the last couple weeks has been nearly a ritual. I get up at 6:00am for the girls in my home that leave for morning weights and fitness. They have about five minutes or so to get what they need from the kitchen and then leave for the field house on campus. 

I’m often groggy, as are they. But by this point in the summer it’s just what it is. My six and five year olds often wake up around this time, and so I attempt to be as quiet as I can so that I don’t accidentally wake them up. My wife on the other hand is always in a deep sleep laying motionless in bed at this point in the morning (and well-after). 

III

It was recently the summer solstice, so the sun rises even earlier than I do right now. I can’t say that for most of the year. 

The light coming through my bedroom window.

IV

At 8:00 or so, I begin my coffee ritual. I pour and measure my beans, grind them, and brew them using whatever method suits me for that day – Chemex, Aeropress, French press. They all have their perks.

At 8:15 the rest of the girls in my house get up and ready for their day. It’s kind of a chaotic scramble. Sounds of cereal bowls being filled, toast popping up from the toaster, the smell of the cheap Folgers coffee the girls drink fills the air. (I don’t let them touch my good stuff.) 

Before the girls leave for the morning, their dishes are placed in the dishwasher, the floor is swept, their rooms are clean. They leave at precisely 8:52am each day because that is the amount of time it takes to get to school by 9:00 without finding extra time to get into the trouble that so easily entices them. 

 V

A little before 8:00am my wife flops herself out of our bed with a sense of bitterness because it is, once again, that time of day where she has to get out of bed and do stuff. 

She gets the boys ready for summer school, prompting them about five or ten times to put on their daytime clothes, socks, and shoes. 

The boys have been up for at least an hour and a half at this point in the morning. They’ve begged me for seconds and thirds of their morning’s cereal. I usually give in. But sometimes I don’t. 

VI

My wife takes the boys to their summer school while I carry out the morning routine with the girls. She usually gets back right as the girls are leaving for school, at 8:52. 

The next couple hours of time are precious. They are the only part of the day in which we do not have the boys home with us. They get picked back up at 11:50, and we have to leave at 11:30 to go get them. 

VI

One of our girls is sick in bed today. She’s not been feeling well recently. But when that happens one of us has to remain at the house. So in a way, we are trapped at home for the day. But that’s ok.

So today I decided to go outside on the front patio, to enjoy the sunlight and that wonderful morning air. I made another cup of coffee, grabbed an Annie Dillard book, my camera, and came to sit and read. 

My morning reading and second cup of coffee.

VII 

Reading authors like Annie Dillard only can last so long before I want to write something down myself. And so here I am on my phone, in my Notes app, writing. It’s ok. I find it extremely relaxing. No boys running around to account for. My wife went back to bed, as she does. And so it’s just me, my camera, my coffee, and Annie. 

VIII

I smell summer flowers. I hear so many summer sounds. Both the sounds of nature and of our industrialized modern world. The repeating melodies of songbirds mixed with the growl of motors from various lawnmowers and lawn equipment. The chirping squirrels and the beeps of people going in and out the door of the police station, which is the building adjacent to me. 

A bird on the roof.

The clouds are moving quickly today. A slight breeze keeps things cool. It’s supposed to get up to 85 degrees today. A true summer day.

IX

A spiderweb stretches from the blue patio umbrella to the flowers to the chair, swaying in the wind, shimmering in the sunlight. 

A bird dances a half-hearted dance on the roof of my building. What is she looking for? 

A bee lands briefly on the vibrant flowers in front of me, but didn’t seem to find anything worthwhile. 

The clouds are slowly getting bigger and puffier, and the sun is being hidden more and more frequently. The patio goes from nearly too bright to just right, but both are nice in their own way.

A few of my neighbors have passed by with warm mid-morning greetings. A couple even thanked me for the “good word” I gave on Sunday at the Protestant church here on campus.

I spoke on the book of Micah this past week, filling in for the Pastor who was away giving a message at summer camp at Lake Okoboji in Iowa.

X

I have only read two pages of the Annie Dillard book I took off the bookshelf. But I figured this would happen. And I’m totally ok with it. 

A weird coincidence. But such is life.

What I’m learning about myself through Photography

Photography exposes more than just what was captured with the click of a shutter. It shows what the person who took that photo finds interesting enough to capture. And when you look at a collection of photos taken by one person, that collection as a whole starts to expose elements of whom that person is.

Self-portrait (Second Attempt)

At the beginning of this year I started getting more serious about taking photographs on a near daily basis. That’s really not something all that new for me. But this year I wanted to be more intentional about the photos I took, and then be more reflective about my general photography style, so to speak. What are the common themes that I find in my photography? What kind of moments cause me to take out my camera? What kind of light is common in my shots?

What does my photography say about me?
That’s the question I’ve been asking myself so far this year.

To be able to answer that question, I decided that I needed to understand what the photography of the masters that have come before me says about them. I knew I needed to learn from them to truly understand what my own photography says about me.

Nana at 99

So I’m currently on a journey of both creating photographs, while also digesting the photos from the masters of the past (and present). So I have been watching documentaries and reading books about many of the top tier influential photographers. I’ve gotten a number of photo books filled with incredibly inspiring photos.

I have been learning so much about photography. About light. About composition. About portraiture. And it seems the practice of studying the masters and then going out to take photos myself, then studying my photos, then going back to the photography of the masters has been a great way to do it. It gives me a bit of validation of what I see as good photography, and challenges me to notice what makes a great composition. What makes a photo stand out compared to others.

Playing with light

So far I’m learning that photography is something I find therapeutic. I’m introverted, so taking photos gives me a way to express myself to the world in a controlled and intentional manner – just the way I like it!

Thankfully I’m not deeply motivated by follower or subscriber counts, or by how many likes a photo of mine gets. I simply love the process of taking a photo of a moment that interested me and then sharing that moment with the world.

I often get excited to go out simply because of the possible photo opportunities that may arise. I have my camera with me pretty much 90% of the time anymore just in case there’s a moment that presents itself that I would want to capture.

Sarah in the hotel room

My camera challenges me to be brave and interact with other people. But at the same time, the camera is a tool for me to realize that even though talking with strangers can be intimidating, other people often want to be noticed and appreciated. A huge challenge I have for myself this spring is to get out into the streets and take photos of random people. Some candid, but my real goal is to ask for posed street portraits – probably my favorite genre of photography.

For the longest time I didn’t know what my camera and lenses were capable of. What were my limitations? Would the photo I want to take be possible with what I have? And I’ve come to realize, eh, that was just an excuse. I’m never going to have photos that look as great as the posed large format film portraits of celebrities with great lighting. It’s about capturing moments and people and things that catch my attention in this world. I can ask to take a photo of someone, and they can say yes, or they can say no. And that’s about it.

I have various chapters within my photography journey. I think I’m in a new chapter, pushing forward with more boldness. As I’ve watched the photographers that have given me so much inspiration, I’ve noticed how they were unfazed by people’s reactions of them taking photos. I think that’s been one of my issues for the longest time. I didn’t want to seem rude or weird out in public with friends, family, or even around strangers. But the moments that get captured are much more important than any reactions I get out while taking photos. Keeping that in mind is the key. There’s not a worse feeling to me than wishing I would have had my camera with me so I could have captured a specific moment. That regret is way worse than any reaction I might get for taking a photo.

And so, I press on within my photography journey, challenging my own boundaries so that I can get the sorts of shots that I want and notice all around me.

me in the mirror