October 30, 2011
Currently Listening To: Tycho - Past is Prologue & Dive
Currently Reading: Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore
I’ve been wanting to post for a while, but it’s been a busy 2 months! School has been in full swing and I’m just starting to get comfortable with the rhythm of this year. I have, however, been able to do a bit of traveling and shooting in the meantime. And with the long weekend I’m on right now (decompression!), I finally found some time to write about the project I’m challenging myself with this year.
This year, I’m shooting [almost] exclusively with a 28mm lens (outside of my point and shoot). When I first got my DSLR, I opted for the Canon 85mm f/1.8 lens instead of the standard kit lens. I read that the kit lenses were pretty crappy, but I didn’t have enough money to get an L-series zoom lens. Upon doing some research, I found the 85mm would be great for low light and it seemed like it would be a good lens to have in my bag for an affordable price. It’s prime (so no zooming), so I would be forced to move my feet in order to compose for different distances. You may be able to guess some of the limitations of having a fixed, non-zooming lens, but it definitely forced me to think more about composition given the constraints I had.
Eventually, I got a couple of nice zooms and rarely picked up the 85mm unless I was in a dark room where no flash was allowed. While this definitely made it easier to get the shots I wanted, I found that I had to start making choices when I traveled: do I just take the 28-70mm? Should I also bring along the 70-200mm so I have good coverage? What if I need something faster - should I also take the 85mm? What will I miss if I don’t bring a certain lens? Don’t forget the tripod! Some trips, my camera bag felt heavier than my luggage. And this was OK, but I felt like I had a lot more to worry about than when I just had the 85mm.
It was time to simplify again. The photographer friends I’ve told about my idea generally responded with something like, “Why would you ever limit yourself like that?” To answer that question, I think limits [many times] can actually produce more focused results. Give me boundaries and I can work within them. Give me complete freedom and I have a heck of a lot of decisions to make. I also want to make a better effort to photograph people, and the 28mm on a 1.6x crop sensor gives a view that’s fairly close to what the human eye sees. Yes I could snipe people with a long zoom, but I think that’s cheating. I’m not so worried about capturing the pureness of the moment as I am sharing a moment with another person. This is a fear that I have to get over (and it’s not easy!), but I think in the end it will make me a better photographer and person.
So far, I’ve only shot outside of the project in one situation. But already I’ve noticed that packing is much easier and my bag is very light - my back is certainly appreciative! I’ve also noticed that I spend a little less time when deciding whether to photograph something, but spend a little more time (when I have it) composing my shots. Hopefully this will all pay off with some great photos. If not, at least it’s giving me a new angle on photography that spices things up a bit!
September 11, 2011
Currently Listening To: Brad Mehldau - Largo
I went on my first run since coming back to Montagnola. My neighbor Kerry asked me to join her after dinner and after a little hesitation, I decided it’s about freaking time I hit the trail. It’d been 3 weeks since I’ve gone out running and my body was duly shocked to realize that yes, we were in fact doing this and this time we’d be running up mountains. Our TASIS Dad Kent decided to join us at the last minute and the three of us headed out to tackle the Percorso Vita: a wooded trail that twists through the peaks of Montagnola and Agra. I’m planning on making a video of this route for all of my at-home viewers (i.e. Mom and Dad), so look for that soon!
Kerry is a freaking machine, I swear. Kent and I both struggled to keep pace and we’re convinced that she slowed down for the two of us lugs. Those stair climbs and 50º-60º ascents and descents were brutal and my sailor’s mouth was suddenly back in vogue. Yarr! In the meantime, Kerry was comparatively coasting along, unfazed by the beast that did it’s best to beat Kent and I down. Oh, and I was wearing my Vibram Five-Fingers. This actually wasn’t much of a problem, though I had to avoid getting stabbed by all of the prickly chestnuts that carpeted the trail as well as the many pointy rocks out for blood.
It took us 45 minutes, but we did it. Actually, I’d say the last 20 minutes were pretty easy as it was mostly downhill on paved roads at that point (literally). It felt really good to get out running again. And it was nice having people to run with — very motivational and distracting. I tried the same run again by myself two days later and STRUGGLED (I walked about half of it). I’m sure it was mostly because I was still recovering, but it was much easier to let my head get in the way when no one else was around. I won’t let that stop me from going out on my own, but I think I might seek out some buddy time whenever I can. Dig.
I’ve been back in Montagnola for about a week and I’m plum exhausted. I forgot how draining this first week is between meetings, unpacking apartments, setting up classrooms, getting the technology equipment ready, catching up with the old and learning about the new, prepping for classes, troubleshooting tech issues, trying to figure out a new schedule, and tracking down items lost over the summer. I know I should be focusing on living in the present, but I can’t wait until I’m back in the swing of a routine!
It does feel good to be back though. It was such a different experience flying in this time: I had Swiss Francs, I knew how to navigate the Zurich Flughafen and Hauptbahnhof, and I wasn’t worried when I didn’t see anyone from TASIS when I first arrived at the Lugano Stazione. I saw this young American couple at the Zurich airport trying to buy train tickets and they held up the line while they shuffled through papers, unsure of where they needed to go. I totally remember being in that position. Sure is nice to not have to worry about that stuff. In fact, I haven’t worried much since I’ve been back. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve done this all before or if it’s because I’m actually succeeding in not letting things stress me out. Probably a cocktail of both. The trick will be to keep that up through the year!
That’s it for now. Gotta Skype Mom so she knows I haven’t forgotten about her already. Then it’s off to read, get some shuteye and prepare for the hubbub of the first day of school. Here’s to a joyful, productive, exciting, energizing and positive Year 2!
Well folks, it’s that time of year. The time of year for me to bid farewell to many a things, people and places that have made my life all the richer this summer (and beyond). I leave for Switzerland in less than 48 hours, with a rather bittersweet cloud hanging over my head. Am I excited to go back? You bet! I’m looking forward to knowing one of two things about my future: if things go well this year, I’ll have found some peace of mind at TASIS and will be on board for another year. If they don’t go so well, I’ll be on my way to another school in another country to start another chapter of my life. Both outcomes are equally as enticing to me, so what’s the hangup?
So much of the last few years has been about learning to live in the moment, to accept whatever it is the universe brings my way, and to be positive. It’s been a challenge and I’ve taken a couple steps backwards during my first year of teaching. However, I like to think of it as a slingshot — pull the marble back a little to watch it hurtle forward. Stress, anger, depression, loneliness, constant complaining and negativity were good for me; I see that now. Now I know what to look out for and can take those moments as opportunities to grow and become a better, stronger person for it all. And I got to experience what it’s like to feel all of those things in a compact period of time — feelings that partially define what it is to be human. Excellent, so what’s the hangup?
I had a great summer. I had a great summer and I’m having a hard time saying goodbye to it. Like that old saying, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder”, my 10-month stint away from family, friends, dating (OK, that was more than 10 months…), Chicago, live music, exercise, my chiropractor, and American-style foods definitely primed me for two months of emotional, relational, spiritual, material, musical and gastronomical consumption. I’m having a hard time living in the moment because I’m afraid that this next school year won’t be as fun as the past couple of months. Yes, I will be in a better state of mind with a school year of experience abroad under my belt, but how can it compare to the freedom of a responsibility-free summer at home?
I know I have to keep moving. I can’t hang onto the past. In fact, it gives me something to look forward to next summer; a kind of reward for another 10 months of hard work and growth.
But for now, I bid farewell. Goodbye family. Goodbye friends. Goodbye daycare in my parents’ house - have to admit I won’t be missing you. Goodbye gigantic portions of food and free refills. Goodbye Caribou. Goodbye $13 haircuts at Great Clips. Goodbye Metra. Goodbye CTA. Goodbye Populist Recording Studio - thanks for the best fondue party yet! Goodbye Mom’s minivan and Dad’s Jeep. Goodbye cable television. Goodbye microwave. Goodbye to the women I met and to those I couldn’t. Goodbye ubiquitous English. Goodbye first year of being a teacher. Goodbye relaxed routine. Goodbye past Tim. Goodbye 20’s. Goodbye summer.