Every year, I miss Autumn in Wisconsin. I miss the smells, the cool, brisk air, the colors - these things do not happen here. There are oak trees that shed their leaves, and are currently doing so, and that's a nice little piece of the season.

I can't believe it's the end of October - 2009 has gone by so fast. I remember spending the last month and a half of 2008 cursing it and waiting for it to be over. Here we are, in the final months of this year.



one of those weeks

Devil Dog

This is Felix, my friend Samara's pitbull/great dane/lab mix puppy. It was a "right place, right time" type of situation.

I am just not having a good week. Most of it is self-induced. My head is fuzzy and I'm totally lacking any ambition or getup-idness to finish the myriad tasks I have on my plate. I feel overwhelmed not in that stressed way, but in the way that I simply ignore everything and put myself in to an imaginary world where I don't have to think about my real responsibilities. Certain things happening around me are leaving me wishing that I could move forward with certain life events and future situations, but then I'm unable to make a clear workflow for getting to those points, further fueling the cycle.

This, along with other symptoms and situations now indicates to me that I'm in a down cycle, in which my functions are really affected by depression, as it presents in me. The older I've gotten, and the more time I've spent working on my cycles and trying to bridge the gaps between mania and depression, I have been able to eliminate a lot of the negative thinking patterns associated with depression, where things get really bad - rebellion, anger, suicide, and the general inability to understand how the person who is depressed is not the person who is normal. I have gained a very clear and powerful sense of self worth and importance (which must be separated from self confidence) that always helps me to see that life itself is very important, and I as a person am very important. I am proud of that. However, those things haven't eliminated the depression - just made it evolve, thus sometimes seeming foreign to me when it occurs.

I don't ever want to use manic depression as an excuse. In fact, despite overwhelming evidence and fact as well as a family history, I spent much of my life denying it - and still now, when things are bad, find a reason to blame my self-aware stupidity instead of an environmental and genetic disorder. Unfortunately, a major symptom. That's probably the main reason that I've had such a difficult few years, years of self-exploration and development in which I'm forced to face the really, REALLY ugly side of this condition. It's not an excuse, because I AM in charge, even when I'm depressed. I am in charge, even when I'm manic. There's no one who can make decisions for me, or be inside my head, or make it easier for me because this is life and we're all responsible for ourselves, even if it's a tougher assignment. And that's really the choice. I can stand up and figure shit out, or I can cry and live in an unhappy prison of my brain. Really, I feel this query is no different than the one everyone on the planet is faced with. Just slightly tilted.

I was listening to Philosophy Talk this morning, and interestingly enough they were discussing the topic "how important is self identification?" Such an ideal subject for my morning. The interesting antidote on the table was Alzheimer's patients, who often have a different take on how they see their future self being treated at 40, and how their 70-year old Alzheimer's mind sees that differently. They are the same person, one argued, but the disease has incapacitated the person beyond what they are, therefore, the person they were before Alzheimer's should be trusted. Not true, said another - do we trust what the infant or toddler versions of ourselves say when we're 25? Or the 25 year old at 40? No - these are evolutions in personality, and even though we are the same person, those evolutions also change our identity and should be taken into consideration, even if they a a far cry from the normalcy of the past person.

Herein lies the true painful realities and debated realities of mental disorders. Are these perceived illnesses simply personality, different than those of most? Are mania, depression, anxiety, etc. no different than generosity, selfishness or trustworthiness? Our identity?Are these horrible symptoms caused by our brains simply being wired in a certain way, one that can be re-wired without the aid of drugs? Can we just accept, take responsibility for what we are, how we are, and change what we want to change? Should we be held responsible for doing so? When are we just a lost cause?

I struggle with this. I remember my Grandma, who was sick, though I didn't realize the full implications of her disorders until she was living her final days. I loved her. She was loyal, loving, and generous with her time and money. However, she was unstable. One day she'd come to our house with bags of stuff - toys for me, household supplies for my mom, whatever she'd felt like we needed. Once, she brought me a Beta fish and tank with supplies, for no reason other than she knew I'd love it. Soon after, my Mom would be trading shifts with my Aunts on trying to get her out of the bathtub, where she'd stay for days in a crippling depression. I'd ask how she was feeling and she'd answer, "not good. I'm just feeling very bad, not good." My mom would spend hours on the phone, discussing medication with her doctor - the giant ziplock bag of pills she was prescribed often had adverse reactions to each other, and she'd go back and forth through different brands, trying to find the right cocktail. Unfortunately, she never did.

I have so much. I have a wonderful, wonderful husband who understands me, loves me for it, and gives me the support I need. I am creative, and talented at certain things. I think I'm fairly intelligent and focused on becoming moreso. I have some great friends in many places, a couple of loving family members and fantastic in-laws. I live somewhere culturally and creatively diverse where almost anything is possible. I have a home, a car, and a bed to sleep in.

I get so entirely frustrated during times like these, when the depression, the fuzziness, the carelessness that goes along with it compromises both the things I've worked for and the ability to see what I have. I am tired of fighting, tired of struggling and tired of explaining myself.



another point of view

love in the morning

Little things sometimes tell stories.




I posted a new blog at my photography website, www.nissanicole.com, but for anyone who doesn't check that out, I am also posting a little peek at my last wedding of the Summer. I will post a slideshow when I'm finished, but I wanted to share this picture with you.

Diana and Jeff



it's three o'clock...do you know where your chili is?

There's a number of things I should watch on Tv at 3 a.m. while I'm up working and need someone talking in the background to keep me awake. I'm a pretty big fan of crappy television; Animal Planet, Discovery Channel, random childbirth shows and HGTV have always been favorites of mine. However, for the past few months I find myself spending most of my crappy tv watching time on the Food Channel.

I am on my own journey of learning to cook, so a lot of the shows are really helping me be more confident in choosing certain ingredients and trusting myself in the kitchen. I have become wholeheartedly obsessed with Iron Chef America, which is sort of what I try to do every night - pick something and then make a meal out of it :) Anyway, I know I'm sort of late to this party, but I'm totally hooked, people. Bring on Kitchen Stadium, please.

Now, that being said, I have also decided that I can only watch Food Network when I'm eating. Otherwise, I drool all over myself watching these amazing cooks create food I'd pay $40/plate for in Vegas. However, I have not been following this rule.

It's almost three, and I'm just finishing my second episode of Throwdown with Bobby Flay. The first episode was chili, and the second is Chiles. Let me tell you about this show. I watched it for the first time while in Minnesota visiting my inlaws, back before we had cable at home. Stupid Bobby Flay decided to challenge a baker whose specialty was Blondies. I had never had a blondie prior to watching this episode, but once he was done making them the irresistible dessert of the century, I spent weeks - yes, WEEKS - trying to either find blondies or make them, both of which I failed at.

Since we're on the subject of Bobby Flay, can I just say, does this man make ANYTHING that doesn't make googly eyes at me through the TV screen? What is this! The dude prepares anything from fennel to lamb chops and I'm drooling all over myself. Yum.

I intended to upload a photo of Bobby flay with said chili, or blondies (ughhhh) but I couldn't find a good one. Instead I found these fantastic shots of Bobby cooking with Barack Obama on Father's day. How amazing is this? The charisma might be too much, though. You want to believe that those two serious faces have to mean that Obama's explaining his stance on health care or sending more troops to Afghanistan. I bet, however, that Bobby's telling Obama his secret recipes and explaining why a good piece of sweet corn can lead to world peace.

Alright, back to work for me.



unlikely composition

Sometimes, I hate the piles of stuff on my desk. Then sometimes, they look like this.

office yarn

How can I clean that up?


stay tuned




the patience to be inspired

You may have noticed the new digs. Something happened with the blog template I was using in which the photos disappeared from Flickr and I was getting some odd error messages, so I reverted back to using a basic template. I went with a one column template because It will look cleaner and more interesting for the photos I include in posts. All of the other stuff that used to be on the sides of the blog is below, at the bottom of this page.

composition and contrast

I haven't blogged for awhile, so I decided to sort of dip back in by posting this lovely picture and talking a little about my inspiration and implementation as a photographer and artist, because I think that this particular image is sort of exemplary of it. Maybe I'll do similar posts once in awhile with some hints, it sounds like it might be fun.

This is a new location, one I've been looking for since I started doing portrait work. It's a little park in Crockett, California, where there's a giant, dead hill perfect for staging anything you want. The model is Nicola, one of my dearest friends who lives in Germany but spends Summers in the USA, and has come to visit me in California for the past three years. She's amazing for that. Anyway, she was totally interested in doing some fun photo shoots, and we spent most of her visit doing just that.

I did not shoot this picture in black and white. I think I saw it that way, but taking the photo is just the beginning. Now, I'm pretty firm on a couple of things when it comes to photography - one, I do not like overly posed and falsely-lit work - I do not carry lights to my jobs and I don't do a whole lot of posing (as those of you who have posed for me know). Of course, I do a little posing, but it's usually sort of suggestive rather than forceful. I believe that the best photos come from natural smiles, natural eyes, and natural poses. Some people don't agree, and that's fine - those people won't want me to photograph them.

When I took this picture of Taylor and C, I can still remember Taylor's tone of voice. I said "hold her by her waist and act as if you're going to set her down." She asked me more questions, and I didn't answer, and I was already in position to take the photo so I didn't go near her. She said "you mean like this?...um, ok...."
First Birthday

And the photo speaks for itself. It's that little bit of guidance that goes a long way. My shoot with Nicola was very similar. I was standing, as you can tell, really, really far away from her, at the bottom of the hill. I told her to jaunt around in that fantastic dress. She did. This was my favorite of the few I took, in which she's looking at me but moving herself in a natural way. (I think in her head she knew I wanted her to run, since I had been asking her to do more of it all week, hehe)

The second rule I have about photography is: tricks should be used to make an image what it should be...not what it isn't. I don't have crazy rules about not adjusting work, or totally adjusting work. Some things I leave very much as they come out of the camera, save for a little bit of sharpening, and color adjustment. Some images, like the one of Nicola, I process heavily.

When the photo is in color, there's so much happening...the sky, the model, the bushes and their pattern around the photo, the grass and it's random composition, and the varying color - The grass in shades of brown, the sky in shades of blue, the model's hair, dress, skin, lips. None of that is important, however, in this shot. What is important is her composition - the way she's standing, the way the line is drawn across the horizon, the size difference between the small bush on the left, the middle, bigger bush, and her body. The gradient between the dark sky at the top of the image and the lightening toward the horizon.

Not only is the photo black and white, but I used Photoshop to create heavier contrast - making the model much darker- to highlight her shape while still giving her some definition. The final image, to me, is one that makes you ask..."where is she running? Where is she? What is her story?"

All of these things combine to be the art that I strive to create. It's also the art that comes naturally to me, that I'm learning to trust in to create itself with my hands and my eyes.

I also want to help everyone out there see it, too, in their own photos. Our world is one massive composition. How you choose to frame it, light it, change it...is all up to you. There's nothing different between a person who takes snapshots and a person who takes photographs besides the way you use your eye. There are fancy tricks of course, that take time to learn, but a great photo can be taken with any camera, in any light, with any subject. It's all about feeling what's happening in the shot and allowing it to show itself in your photo.

I think the world moves too fast, sometimes. I am guilty of this - I have way too much to do and i often end up getting in trouble because I can't finish everything I want and need to. I'm an impatient Aries with ADD, and so far, the only thing that slows me down is photographing something that requires me to be patient to create.

So, my final word and request from you is: the next time you're using your camera, slow down. Stop for a minute and really look at what you're capturing. How should the image be, in the end? I think you'll be happier with the results and pleasantly surprised at what you can accomplish.



The Holidays are Coming...

If you're here in California, it's time to give me a call or email so we can schedule you for your family Holiday photos.

Additionally, if you book a Holiday photo session with me between October 1 - December 5, I'll personally hand-design custom Holiday photo cards for you to send to all of your friends and family.

If you are in Minnesota and interested in working with me, it is very possible. I will be in Minneapolis the week of Thanksgiving, and may be available for a shoot or two. If that's you, please email and we'll work something out.

Looking forward to telling your story.



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