by Deborah Nielsen
Every so often, my love interests of writing and photography intersect. I never thought that I’d be writing haikus while taking a photography as fine art workshop but that’s what we did.
Our workshop instructor was Colleen Miniuk-Sperry, an award-winning landscape and outdoor photographer who is also a member of the Outdoor Writers of America. Even though the exercise was geared more toward photography, it may help writers see things a little differently, especially if you’re trying to describe a setting.
Our assignment was to find a place at the pond and sit quietly for a few minutes while taking a visual inventory of what we saw. As a writer, you can also take note of the sounds you hear around you, the scents you smell, and the textures of objects. List some of the things you see, hear, smell and touch. Is there a breeze shimmering the leaves of the trees, caressing your body, blowing your hair against your face? Is it a cold wind, a cool breeze, or hot as a blow torch that saps your energy? How do these sights, sounds and textures make your character feel?
The pond had many cattails. Amidst the cattail stalks sat an orangey-brown bird that chirped and twittered. Soon a second bird came and joined in the chirping, flew away, came back, and flew away again. The first bird then followed and no more birds. As you can tell, I was a little enamored with the birds. So my haiku was influenced by them, but my resulting photograph was a Plan B kind of photo. Things didn’t quite work out. I needed a longer lens, for one. And the birds flew away, for another. So instead of photographing birds in their habitat, I ended up photographing the reflections of trees in the water and the building storm clouds. The alternate photograph turned out so well that I’m considering entering it in a juried contest. (Since I can’t enter a previously published photo, I’m not going to show it here as that constitutes publishing it. But I do have an alternate to the alternate.)
Birds sit on cattails
Calling, chirping, while clouds build.
Calm before the storm.
In writing, sometimes things don’t quite work out, either, so we have to rewrite a scene, a chapter, or the article. Don’t get frustrated that your original idea isn’t working. Stop. Go get a cup of tea (or coffee, if you must). Let your mind wander. Different possibilities will come to you if you let them. Try them out. They might work better than your original intent.
How do you find an alternate possibility when your original one flies out of the scene?