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Howdy, y’all! We are making our way west across Texas and New Mexico as we head to Arizona, and this is just a quick post to share an idea that occurred to me on our travels. Before we get to that, here’s a map update for those of you following along:

Since our last update, we re-visited the lovely Fontainbleau State Park in Louisiana. It was a beautiful day when we arrived, and we had just enough time to walk the pups up to Lake Pontchartrain for the sunset. On the way, we stopped to visit a magnificent old tree that I absolutely adore. Here's a photo of our joyful reunion.

When we arrived at the waterfront area, I met a “hobby” photographer who was waiting to capture a post-sunset image of a new sculptural installation titled "Bird's Eye View" which he hoped to silhouette against the striking sky and gorgeous lake. Here's an iPhone photo of the sculpture.

(Bird's Eye View Sculpture by artists Ali Adducci, Gabriel Wimmer and Brent Barnidge)

If you don’t know me personally, you should know that I strike up conversations with strangers all the time. In fact, I count among my friends several former clients from my pre-potter days as a Resume Writer, staff from my local organic CSA, many of my students in clay, my optometrist, my packaging vendor, and even someone I met in the cereal aisle at my local grocery store. So it was not unusual for me to strike up a conversation with this lovely gentleman (whose name I don’t believe I ever got, but whom I will always think of as The Photographer from Fontainbleau).

As the sun began its slow descent over Lake Pontchartrain, we chatted about the camera settings he planned to use for the current shoot, the images he hoped to capture, and how the light reflecting off the water might interact with the textures and shadows on the opposite side of the sculpture, which faced the water (see photo below). You can just barely see the golden pink tones of the pending sunset reflecting off the sculpture's back surface. I'm sure with better equipment and at the optimal moment, the reflections would be beautiful!

The Photographer from Fontainbleau and I soon recognized in each other a common love of the natural world, and acknowledged that we both find our time spent in nature to be inspirational for our respective forms of creativity. Our conversation meandered to our pups (waiting patiently nearby), to the best places for local seafood, and eventually to our travel plans. When he learned that our destination was Arizona, he shared images he had taken of red rock formations near Page, AZ, an area north of Phoenix. His images were so much more stunning than I can adequately convey with words. They were proprietary (of course), so I’m including below an open source image I found on the web so you’ll be able to understand the subject matter of our conversation.

As we talked about the camera settings he used to influence the way the camera illuminated the sedimentary layers in his photos, I marveled at how Mother Nature is able to create a formation as stunning as these rocks over hundreds (perhaps thousands) of years, and then continue to influence the way we experience her creations in any given moment by simply tweaking the light. Isn’t it humbling to know that we - mere humans armed with technology and physics (or is it math and mechanics?) - can work in concert with nature to further influence the way the human eye experiences these images by changing the settings on our camera?

I was not able to stay to see the magic I’m sure this gentleman captured on that beautiful evening, because we needed to get some things set up back at the campsite before dark. Still, as we left the waterfront, I pondered the serendipity of our meeting, considered how much I enjoyed photography back in the good old days of film, and I felt that quickening inside me that happens when my creative juices start flowing.

Here's where I share an embarrassing truth with you, dear reader: the seemingly endless complications that feel inherent in using my digital SLR camera in anything other than fully automatic mode have intimidated me for years. At home, my digital SLR is tucked away for an occasional product photography shoot, always accomplished using automatic mode. At camp, it was tucked away a those things I packed not knowing if I’d need it or not. On our way back to the campsite, I made the bold decision to face my fear of the digital world and try my hand at capturing some digital images with my own camera, starting with using the settings he recommended.

So, when the sun came out after two days of cold rain, I layered up to my eyeballs, donned my knit cap, and dug out the paper tape to modify my tabletop tripod and light stand so I could position my digital SLR at chest height on a (somewhat) stable tripod for prolonged exposure shots. Armed with my modified tripod, my digital SLR and the dog-eared instruction manual, I took a walk up to the lake to visit Bird’s Eye View once again. Here’s what my camera saw that evening.

I was pretty pleased with the images that I captured! Interestingly, these images were taken starting about 20 minutes after the sun actually set. If not for my chance encounter with The Photographer from Fontainbleau, I would not have known the camera could see the waning light in this way.

At our next stop in Louisiana, sunset found me once again covered head to toe (this time in defense against misquotes) at the cypress swamp in the central part of Sam Houston State Park on the two evenings when weather cooperated with my modified tripod, digital SLR and dog-eared manual in toe. This time, I also took a flashlight to watch for alligators! Here’s what my camera saw on those two evenings:

First Night - My rigged up tripod was a little wonky so the photo blurred a bit, and I felt like I could have picked a better location to shoot from, especially after the bathhouse lights came on behind me and lit up the foreground of my sihlouettes.

SECOND ATTEMPT: The colors aren’t quite as pretty as they were earlier in the week, but the composition is better and the silhouettes came through as I had hoped, as did the reflection of the sky and trees on the water. The important thing is that I learned from the process and am encouraged to continue experimenting. With practice, I hope to be able to share the beauty of the Southwest sunsets and starry skies in photographs before I return to my studio to create ceramic art that memorializes our journey.

To the Photographer from Fontainbleau, I hope you’re reading this so I can thank you and let you know how inspired I was by our encounter! Thanks to you, I’ve decided that my digital camera’s days of intimidating me are over. I figured out how to make pots, formulate glazes, change the elements and other electrical components on my kiln, design my website, post on social media, and a myriad of other things related to my life as a maker, and I’ve got this!

And to you, dear reader, I invite you to join me! (Here's where the Creativity Challenge ties into all my ramblings!)

What creative endeavor have you put off learning because parts of it are intimidating? What hard things have you overcome on own your life journey that prove you can overcome this challenge as well? Most importantly, what can you dream of creating once you’ve given yourself the gift of time and focused energy to acquire the skills you need? And, lastly, who do you know that can help you acquire the skills or motivation you need?

If I knew how to make a GIF, I’d insert one of me, jumping up and down and raising my hand on that last one here, because I’d love to be your motivator! Alas, I’m focused on learning my digital SLR at present, so learning to create a GIF will have to wait.

Whatever creative endeavor you’ve felt whispering inside your soul, let’s commit to learning it together!

Are you with me for a Creativity Challenge? Let me know in the comments below if you found my chance encounter with The Photographer from Fontainbleau as inspirational as I did, and what creative endeavor it has inspired in you. We can support each other as we all grow, together!

I’ll share another post in the coming week with more updates from our trip, as we’re currently on the final leg of our journey west. We should arrive in the Phoenix area soon, and we’re looking forward to sunny days and star-filled nights, daytime temps in the 70’s and minimal rain.

Until then, think about what your soul wants you to create, and how we can support one another in our creative endeavors. Given the time of year, if you’re a resolution type of person you might think of resolving to give yourself this gift in 2024.

I can’t wait to hear what you plan to achieve! My goal is to build a community of creative people working together to support our mutual growth, and I hope the content of this blog post has inspired you!

As always, thanks for riding along with me, for sharing my journey, and for being part of my online community! Until our next stop, this #Potteronwheels is signing off.

(Me, getting a bit of my finger in my iPhone selfie in front of the sunset just west of El Paso, TX as we make our way west to Phoenix)

Be well (and start dreaming!),



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