Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Sometimes You Just Have to See Things Differently

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?


April Moore said...

I think it's important we don't get stuck on an idea or upset when our original plan doesn't pan out. The great thing about writing is that we can re-imagine something else--and it just might be even better than the original idea.

Laura Mahal said...

I like your photograph and haiku, Deborah! It is impressive that you captured the setting in just three lines. Where do you learn about the writing classes that you take, if I may ask? It would be wonderful to save up for a "destination class" such as the one you mentioned in a previous blog post. Best of luck with the upcoming photography contest.

Deborah Nielsen said...

Thanks,Laura! I take most of my writing classes through NCW. Just watch the website for new class listings or sign up for the newsletter. The community college (LCCC) and Laramie County Library in Cheyenne, where I live, offer some writing events periodically; I'm on their e-newsletters lists. I learn about some others by word of mouth.
The photography workshops I take I learn about through some retailers' websites (like B&H Photo and Mike's Camera), National Geographic's web site and by getting on the email lists of a couple of photography schools (like Rocky Mountain School of Photography).
Sometimes I think I'm a class/workshop junkie.

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