About marilynmalara

Sun and palm tree-lovin' writer.

Thrills & Thrills

I’m no super-blogger, but one of my 2013 goals is to maintain an inspiring real-life-according-to-Marilyn blog. With that said, real life according to me is pretty choppy–an ever-changing obstacle course of creative, political, spiritual, wanderlustful, advocacy-related phases. Are you ready?

Actually, am I ready?

The problem is, I cannot stick to one thing for too long. You might have noticed this if you have been following this blog for a while. My few and (very) far between updates are a product of my problem with the word “consistency,” I just can’t grasp it! In the last few years of college, I’ve noticed that I have a tendency to destroy a routine once I notice that I have one. Why do I do that? Even if the prior routine was a productive one, something inside me rejects it the moment it pokes its little nose out. It’s embarrassing.

The one thing I want to get rid of in 2013 is my inconsistency in action. That’s no easy task if you’ve known me for a while. Maintaining my actions is tough, I get distracted really easily, and sometimes even intense motivation can’t break my fall. Unlike my phases of interest, I am ashamed of my inconsistency in action. I can’t even keep up with a blog regularly, let alone a schedule or workout routine (which I’d really like to). I look back and imagine all the growth that could have happened if I had just stuck to something, be it a diet or reading plan, for the last year. Life would be really different!

I would like to write regularly this year, to create regularly, and to exercise regularly. If I can go six months simply sticking to doing these three things, I would be so impressed!

What I’d like to let alone in 2013 is the natural ebb and flow of my little infatuations, which can seem a little out of the ordinary to an outsider. I’ve stumbled into the lifestyle of someone who is inspired by the “Renaissance Man (or Woman).” Because of this, I’m into more hobbies, subjects, and niches than I can list. In the last year alone, I’ve gone through at least five or 6 major “phases of interest” as I like to call them–major shifts in my curiosities. It’s a crazy ride. Some watch me and see a girl who doesn’t know what she wants or likes at all, but really, I enjoy living this way. I like getting really into some new, beautiful thing for a while–absorbing a ton of information about that thing, and letting the appeal fade. What’s left is a calm enjoyment and understanding of the subject that lasts.

C.S. Lewis, in Mere Christianity (I’m reading it right now) says something great about phases of interest, which he calls “thrills”:

“It is simply no good trying to keep any thrill: that is the very worst thing you can do. Let the thrill go–let it die away–go on through that period of death into the quieter interest and happiness that follow–and you will find you are living in a world of new thrills all the time. But if you decide to make thrills your regular diet and try to prolong them artificially  they will all get weaker and weaker, and fewer and fewer, and you will be a bored, disillusioned old man for the rest of your life.”

Yes, Mr. Lewis, yes. 

This totally made me feel better, less insecure, about how all over the place my interests are. Still, there are a lot of disadvantages that come with this lifestyle. For one, it’s hard to become an expert at anything. They say it takes 10,000 hours of practice for one to become an “expert”, and at this rate, I probably have a few hundred hours in 10,000 different things. Another problem is that priorities can pile on top of each other within a few days of discovering the next awesome activity. I’m a Christian, and try to maintain an ever-increasing closeness to God, but sometimes my relationship with Him can get confusing when I get caught up in other things. That’s the major challenge.

Even though one day I’m into Korea, and the next, old newspapers, I’m still a pretty balanced person. I’m still myself. Luckily, I am pretty solid in my belief that my identity doesn’t lie in anything like my blog or current interest–but instead something a lot more enduring.

I used to think people who are very stable in their interests hated watching me ride the roller coaster of awesome subjects and hobbies, but now I don’t think about it at all. Well, okay, that’s a lie, let’s just say I think about it a lot less often. Now, I shrug and keep moving forward. I brush off whatever anonymous hate, or self-inflicted insecurity, that jumps on my shoulders and continue to be myself, excited for the next thrill–life is full of ’em, I don’t wanna miss out.

It’s been a year

Wow, a year.

Almost three hundred and sixty-five days have gone by since I last posted in this blog. The first thing I want to do is ask for forgiveness! My heart has been calling me back to this project for so long and I’m finally getting around to paying attention to it. Forgive me for not being around; this blog brings me so much joy, and through it, I meant to share that joy with you. But then life got in the way!

Well, good thing today is a new day and I can touch base with you who have so graciously continued to follow me. I’ve learned a lot in a year, and hope that I can share it all with you over the next few weeks. 

The photography project that I had initially started (check the last post!) didn’t really get much attention once I got back to school and had a whole new schedule to work with. I’ll try to pick it back up soon! 

So, how are you? And what’s something you’ve learned in the last year? I’d like to connect with you all and hopefully return to regularly maintaining this blog with a fresh, new insight and purpose! Let’s start the conversation! 

Project 1/30

The first exercise from People Pictures by Chris Orwig is pretty simple. His purpose was to strip away the excess of photography–gear and settings–and go “back to basics”. The exercise was called Pictures in 10 Minutes and there were 5 steps. The following is a paraphrase/summary of them:

  1. Choose a normal or slightly telephoto lens. Choose the f-stop with a shallow DOF like f/2.8 (the lowest my Nikon kit lens can go is 4.8, but my momma’s getting me a 50mm f/1.4 lens soon!) Turn off automatic focus, so that you will have to manually focus the frame.
  2. Select a subject who is an acquaintance, family member, or friend. Choose someone who you think leads a quality life. Ask them if they are willing to participate in a 15 minute portrait shoot.
  3. Choose a location; consider a place where he/she works or lives. Or choose an inviting outdoor location.
  4. Arrive at the location a little early to pick a perfect spot. Be warm and friendly to your subject, express gratitude that he/she is giving you his/her time. Explain to your subject that your goal isn’t to create a stylized photo but to capture something real. Encourage you subject to relax. Keep the shoot simple and natural. Use manual focus, and take things slow. Take 10 photos.
  5. After the shoot, select your favorite photo and create a print of it (I didn’t do that) and ask for feedback from your friends.

On the side of ever exercise, there is a little box labeled “Learning Objectives,” which is kind of cool. There are also Tips and at the bottom there is a little list of “Exercise Details” which basically simplifies those steps so they’re easy to remember on the shoot.

– – – – –

I chose my sister as the subject for this exercise. I was home for Thanksgiving break (I live away at college) and I think it would be nice to take a few honest and simple photos of her. She’s a beautiful girl. She loves to “cute”-pose, so we had to sort of work our way down to relaxing her body to look simple and unmasked. Therefore, I took a little more photos than 10.  It was a nice, bright day, so this setting worked great. I really enjoyed this shoot, it was short and simple. When I first started shooting, I would take like 34274356927865 photos and take FOREVER to finish. I’ve slowly worked my way down to about 100-300 photos a pop, which in my opinion is ideal. I think that this simple shoot really piqued my interest, and I think I may do more of them in the future! Tell me what you think of this portrait of my sister, I believed it was the best one. (I upped the exposure jussst a tad.)

(I have a non-glamorous Nikon D40 with the kit lens it came with. I’m still trying to figure out white balance, so it took me a minute to find the right setting. If you have any tips, or a good link that can help me understand how white balance works, that would be glorious! I’ll make sure to include you in an “Teaching Myself by Teaching You” post.)

30 Projects.

Yesterday, I was sitting in B&N for what felt like hours digging through digital photography books, trying to absorb as much information about manual settings, f-stops and the like as I could. I even got in a cool conversation with another guy who needed some help with macro shooting (and I actually helped him!). When I spend time at B&N, I usually pick up 5 or more books on the same subject so I can compare and contrast their awesomeness. And this book won. People Pictures: 30 Exercises for Creating Authentic Photographs by Chris Orwig. This book contrasted greatly from the other textbook-like books I had in my pile. Instead of the usual objective approach, Chris uses one that is meant to touch the heart, to humble us as photographers, and to help us use our photography to enrich our souls and the souls of others.

This book is, as you may have realized by the title, a book of exercises that are meant to help photographers take great “people pictures”. Chris Orwig’s main focus is honesty, creating photos that capture the truth about a person. He writes this book in a humble and realistic style, far from that of your usual photography instruction books. I have the impression that he wants his readers to not only grow as photographers, but as people, and I really appreciate that.

There are five main sections of the book:

  • ”            Section I – The Foundation begins with discussing the thoughs, ideas, and concepts that develop the groundwork and set the stage of your photography practice.
  •             Section II- Tell as Story focuses on how we can create pictures that have substance and are filled with a narrative arc.
  •             Section III- Connect explores the importance of makin ga personal connection with the subject of your frame.
  •             Section IV- Practice Makes Perfect is where you will put your shoulders to the grindstone to hone your skills and try out a variety of formats and techniques.
  •             Section V – Making it Your Own provides you with an opportunity to develop your photographic voice by working on more challenging and rewarding projects. “

I’m excited about starting this book, I do the first exercise, Three Chords and The Truth, today with my sister. It’s a pretty simple exercise that is meant to go back to basics and use as little gear as possible. He puts a lot of emphasis on simplicity, which is probably another reason I’m really excited about this book–the other photography books were overwhelming.

So, I am going to try to blog about every exercise I finish as I go. Keep me accountable! I’ll let you know how the first exercise went soon!