Better Late than Never…

When I first started this blog I began to notice comments from a Honie Briggs. On my second post I was Freshly Pressed and she was among the very first commenters. Sadly, I was not well versed in blogging etiquette at this early stage, so I failed to reply. What an insensitive oaf I was…

Today I remedied my oversight.

Today I remedied my oversight. Whew! I feel so much better now.

I had no idea who or what a Honie was, but the avatar was always smiling nicely. Even after I failed to respond Honie kept showing up, she was always encouraging and thoughtful. Sometimes she was wicked funny, sometimes our comment threads had more words than my blog posts. As soon as I came to understand the Reader, hers was one of the first blogs I followed and we continued the conversation back and forth.

From Steph’s (Honie’s) blog I have learned so much about writing – about voice, and pacing and rhythm. Whether it’s a rant, a poem, flash fiction, or just an observation Steph’s work is engaging and fun to read. You see, I’m no wordsmith, I’m a photog who fakes it and makes the best of a run-on sentence.  As the kid who grew up being able to draw anything, it used to puzzle me when people would say that they didn’t understand how I could make something look so real. Reading blogs written by writers with actual talent has given me that same sense of wonder about syntax. The simplicity and complexity amaze me. I have no idea how to do it, but I know that I like it. Steph does it better than most and she makes me laugh out loud sometimes.

Last year, my company sent me to Dallas to attend the Gift Mart. I had driven down from Arkansas and was reading blogs in my hotel after my drive. Steph posted a blog that had a rant about freeway on ramps and off ramps. I commented and mentioned I had just driven over a couple of them – soon we were emailing and texting back and forth with plans to get together after my work was done.

Here's Steph - shooting me shooting her at the Italian Deli about 15 freeways away from the Gift Mart

Here’s Steph (Honie) – shooting me shooting her at the Italian Deli about 15 freeways away from the Gift Mart

Standing on a corner in a strange city waiting to meet someone you have only met online is an odd thing. You wonder if this is a smart idea, will they show up or think better of it, will you have anything to talk about in real life. So I waited beside a stoplight outside the mart scanning the oncoming cars for one that fit the description she gave me – soon I heard a woman’s voice with a soft drawl call out “Arkansas!” – Steph and her Loyal Follower pulled up beside me and I hopped into their car. I had nothing to worry about – she was warm and we talked like we had known each other our whole lives.

Wait, this photo has nothing to do with ...

Wait, this photo has nothing to do with …

When I started blogging I knew exactly one blogger IRL (in real life) – my brother Max. He writes The Fruity Chicken and I thought blogging would be a good way to share photos with family. Jumping at the chance to meet someone like Steph was a real treat (they bought me dinner!) – but it was more than that, I have heard the voice behind the keyboard and I was right about her – she’s the real deal. Since then I have had a chance to meet Paula from Stuff I Tell My Sister, she’s even sweeter in person.

You are correct, this isn't about ...

You are correct, this isn’t about …

The bottom line is that I have found that meeting someone IRL has made my interactions with those I follow and who follow me more real – there is a real person responding on the other side, someone who may be profound, kind, struggling, challenging. I hope it’s made my interactions more authentic, because now I know that they mean something.

Steph is celebrating her blogging anniversary this week and this post is a part of that celebration. She kicked things off Friday with this post.  This year she got the chance to meet a few of her followers and is looking forward to meeting more this year. She is going to select from those who write about why they follow her blog to schedule a meet up for next year. Tomorrow Allan from Ohm Sweet Ohm will be posting about his experience meeting Steph. His blog is a wonderful mix of photography, poetry, and history centered around his life and the Golden Gate Bridge – one of my favorite follows as well. I highly recommend this sparky.

But I can't write a post with no bird photos - can I?

But I can’t write a post with no bird photos – can I?

Kudo’s to you Steph – your work is wonderful – keep making me smile, and think, and grow. Next time you need to bring your Alabama self to the Ozarks!

Shutterbug notes:

I shot these birds through my 100 year old wavy glass windows. Ordinarily I don’t shoot through windows but there was really no other way to capture this scene as the icicles were hanging like curtains over my view. Shooting through windows, no matter how clean leaves you with an under exposed look, so I adjusted the exposure compensation a bit. Since flash would only bounce off the glass, I chose aperture mode and shot with the aperture wide open. I was about 3-4 feet from the birds. 

I’m Over the Moon

Last week's just past full moon

Last week’s just past full moon – I’m over the moon about the response to the eff stop.

I don’t typically write posts about my blog, I kinda prefer to write about photography or to at least put images into some type of context. I hope you’ll forgive me this one time, and I’ll do my best to make this post at least partly about images and context.

Christmas Rose

A rose by any other name…It’s been sweet getting to know so many of you through the blogosphere.

I wrote my first post on this blog on May 20th of last year. I had just come home from an epic vacation and had tons of photos. I thought it was the perfect time to start a blog, I only opened a WordPress account to follow my brother’s blog and he kept leaving me spam-like comments on my empty blog, so I thought if I wrote something I would at least have one reader. I thought it would be fun to share photos and a bit of humor with him in the format he was communicating in. The next day I wrote my second post with an eye towards complete silliness. I had read no tutorials and had not even read any blogs except for my brother’s – heck, I didn’t even know what the Reader was. I did everything wrong. I used too many tags, I didn’t check my spelling, I used over 50 photos – in retrospect that post was a mess. About an hour later I got a nice email from WordPress about my post being “pressed” or something, how nice of them to let me know my post was live. I had no idea what that email was, I tossed it. I went to work the next day and casually commented to a coworker at lunch that I was getting a lot of email from my blog – how cool, I had heard from my brother that the WordPress platform was easier to connect on – it must be working. I noticed a lot of the comments offered congrats, how friendly – something about Freshly Pressed or FP’d, so I sent my brother a text:


I clearly was clueless.

After texting Max, I googled Freshly Pressed and found this – there’s my photograph of a yonng elk in the top right corner:

Ahhhh - so that's what all the fuss was about.

Ahhhh – so that’s what all the fuss was about.

That day I had over 2000 hits – on a blog that was 2 days old. Of course I did nothing right at this point either. I was a bit shy about replying to comments. I accidentally replied to spam and not to real people – I was moderating a dozen comments at a time without even knowing what “moderating” was. I should have had the courtesy to reply to every comment, I was a bit reserved about entering into conversations – I didn’t really know what to say. I was afraid to empty my email in-box for fear of losing something I was supposed to keep up with. My post stayed on that front page for over a week. It was a wild ride.

I've been overwhelmed by my instant audience for my work - I appreciate you all.

I’ve been overwhelmed by my instant audience for my work – I appreciate you all.

Over the next few weeks I read a lot about how to manage a blog and have always wished I had done a better job of it from the start, by now I was embarrassed to reply (silly, I know) If I failed to respond to you, and you stuck around, I really appreciate it. I was a complete novice. I would be another month and another text conversation with my brother before I was keyed in to what the Reader was – it was only then that I really began to interact with other blogs. Another month passed before I wrote an “About” page.

This is my shy pup, Kirby.  He's timid about new things, al lot like me at the start of this process.

This is my shy pup, Kirby. He’s timid about new things, a lot like me at the start of this process.

A little over 140 posts later and I am really enjoying the interaction. I studied photography in college and have gotten more serious in the last few years. I have been diligently shooting almost every day for about the last 5 years so I have lots of images to work with and it’s been great talking about my work with you.

It's been a treat to introduce you to people like Mary Jane - a 99-year-old hiker through this blog.

It’s been a treat to introduce you to people like Mary Jane – a 99-year-old hiker through this blog.

This blog has helped me to organize my work, it’s given me focus. It’s allowed me to introduce you to my amazing 99-year-old neighbor, a herd of deer, a tougher-than-nails goldfinch, and a hummingbird who enjoys the rain.


Bee-lieve me, I have enjoyed sharing my work and getting to know you.

The interaction is something I never anticipated and it has been really rewarding – it has pushed me to try new things. Last fall I read a post about NaNoWriMo, it got me thinking and it challenged me. Back in May when I pushed “publish” the first time, who would have believed that I would take on a writing challenge and that I would have 50,000 words in me? I started a second blog, The King of Isabelle Avenue, to post excerpts from my memoir on. It’s been a rich experience with just a few followers, but it has been more rewarding than I could ever have imagined.

The King of Isabelle Avenue has let me introduce you to my family and their history -   this picture of a hat with a wedding in the background is a more recent part of that history.

The King of Isabelle Avenue has let me introduce you to my family and their history – this picture of a hat with a wedding in the background is a more recent part of that history.

I have gotten into a rhythm – a couple of photo posts a week and a King of Isabelle post every 10 days or so. Initially I would look at my more recent photos and see if I could find a common theme and sometimes that worked out pretty well, gradually I moved more towards shooting something with a post in mind, occasionally I did a little of both.

Photography is about more than mechanics - it's about a point of view - I'm grateful to share my point of view with you.

Photography is about more than mechanics – it’s about a point of view. I hope to find unique points of view to share with you.

More recently I have worried about keeping things fresh. I challenged myself to shoot birds last year and I have posted dozens of times on the topic. I wondered if you would tire of my obsession with cardinals. Still, my favorite posts are those that feel like serendipity – when something just comes together.


Trying new things and sharing them with you has made me a better photographer.

That happened again a couple of weeks ago. I was supposed to have a working lunch but the other party cancelled. I grabbed my keys and headed to my car to run grab some fast food. I stood in the parking lot and it hit me, I didn’t want junk food – I turned around and decided to see if I could kick out a post in the 20 minutes I had left of my lunch hour. I started to write a post I was going to call “Deer on Pine Mountain”. As I started to tell my story the title sounded stupid and boring. I took the post in a different direction and wrote this story about my encounter with an old friend on the mountain. When I hit publish I knew I had shared an experience that was special to me, if no one else. Less than an hour later I got that email – this time I did have a clue about what it meant to be Freshly Pressed.


No need to text Max this time…

The last couple of weeks have been wonderful – I have enjoyed meeting new people and have done my best to interact with everyone who took the time to comment – even if it was in another language. I saw my friend on the mountain again last night – I hope to share more stories of my white nosed friend with you as the weather warms up.

To those of you who started the conversation with me – Honie, Paula, Michelle, Elyse, Jackie, and Diana – you got me going, you found me before I figured out how to find you, you showed me the ropes. Thanks so much! (Seriously – check out their blogs!)

The bottom line is this – I was incredibly lucky right out of the shoot. I am grateful to those who followed from that early post, and to those who have joined the party in the last few weeks – now that I have written that obligatory Freshly Pressed post, I will get back to taking photos and telling stories. I am checking out the blogs of everyone who commented or followed – it’s taking some time, but I am finding some amazing new blogs to follow.

I’ll sign off for now – there are photos out there to be taken – this shutterbug is ready for another adventure!