A trail seeped in memories of summer, having doubts, overcoming frustrations, gaining insights, receiving feedback, reflections of how the world is changing, and being persistent.
Have you ever thought about how simmer and summer are close word cousins? Well, living in Arizona, simmer is May. June, July, and August are summer, boiling over like a pot of pasta. September, even October, follow like the heat emanating from the closed dishwasher after the dry cycle. So, of course, that’s the moment you need to get a clean glass out, which is a bad idea on many counts. What I’m saying is that the heat never seems to end in Arizona.
As soon as the sun is above the horizon, it’s time to hunker down near a fan and air conditioning–you need both. Summertime for me doesn’t bring up thoughts of picnics and outdoor fun. It’s indoor sequestration. But I can dream.
Since I would be indoors for the duration, given the heat, I decided this was a perfect time to work on my website. A project would give me a diversion from fretting about the thermometer. Plus, I could finally work on the way to share photos by category. Take a look-see here!
As most projects go, in the beginning, it seemed like a straightforward change. But, when I waded in and started the project, I realized I got stuck in quicksand. Plus, mobsters tied concrete blocks to my feet. But, by then, I was so deep into the project, I’d have to hope that something would spit me out of the bowels of the earth. Maybe like the sandworms from Beetlejuice.
And that’s why, if you follow my posts, it seems like I was missing in action for the last month or two.
Taking on a major challenge.
Working on a website doesn’t lean into my strengths. It is a necessary evil. I get brave in my naivety, start making changes, and then I’m lost in a wilderness of code. I backtrack to find the trail but realize I’m walking in circles. I send out a distress signal which gets ignored. I spend endless hours researching, which only gets me more confused. I’ve screwed the whole thing up, and I have no idea how to fix it.
Then the questioning starts. Why am I doing any of this? It’s so much easier to slam this whole notion into a trash can and go binge-watch YouTube. And I mean ALL the content on YouTube. It’s starting to sound like an intriguing option.
Alas, I sleep on these troubles. Then, by morning, I wake up with some restored energy, a slightly more positive attitude, and push on.
Somewhere deep in my soul, I’m driven by a desire to share this journey of photography and thoughts. It is healing to my soul, and I need to believe others want to have a deeper appreciation of the little moments. So I resolve to wrangle this software into submission.
Slowly, I overcome the first obstacle. Then the second. I start to feel vindicated. I can do this. I’ve pretty much got this. Phew.
Once I got past the setup of my photo albums on the site, the next dilemma is filling them with content. I created sub-categories to define my vision of Annstract abstracts: beautiful decay art, impressionism, intimate landscapes, new media art, simplicity in black and white, and up close. Now I’ve got to step up to the plate and deliver.
But summer is a good time for me to park in front of the computer and process photos. I have plenty of inventory. That’s how this fun summer-inspired abstract came to life. This lonely image has been sitting in my hard drive with lots of other company untouched.
For some self-discovery of your own, you’ll love these for inspiration. Click here.
The story about this peeling paint abstract photo.
Two years ago, I shot this. My model was a car used for parades with years of paint layers peeling as though a terrible sunburn happened about a week ago, and now the first layer of the epidermis is flaking away. Someone slathered lines of black paint on top of the other paint layers. With a close-up lens, I worked many angles to find something of interest. I’m not sure what I had in mind back then. But today, I see a slice of watermelon.
More times than naught, it seems that my subconscious is in charge of my photography. I want nothing more than to stand over this car, or any other subject or scene, take it in, see with clarity, and compose. But for me, especially with close-ups, I see a lot more once I get back to a large computer screen. My eyesight isn’t that good to always SEE while I’m right there. With more experience, that may change.
So now that I saw a watermelon slice, I wanted it to have seeds. Obviously, I can’t go back and reshoot the image again. But I started to see a vision of what I wanted.
Persistence and resilience only come from having been given the chance to work through difficult problems.”
I won’t say that this project was a really difficult problem. But keep reading.
I became pretty fixated on my vision for this photo. My slice needed seeds. Nice big black seeds. And once I get an idea brewing, stand to one side. It’s probably going to be a while before you get me to focus on anything else anytime soon. I can be stubborn about being persistent.
An idea popped into my head. I ran down to the kitchen. We have black sesame seeds. They look similar in shape to watermelon seeds, right? Sesame seeds could work. I wasted no time in scattering them to make a close-up photo of them.
I set the background behind the seeds to be transparent. Then I masked the seeds into my slice with Photoshop. That isn’t illegal, immoral, unethical, or something that should be hush hushed. Someday, I’m going to explain in a post how exasperating it is when EVERYONE asks, “did you Photoshop that?” Photoshop is just a tool, and you don’t pop a photo in and have a fun image pop out. Asking that question is like asking Ansel Adams if he used any chemicals when he processed his negatives.
Besides, this is my photo. I want my watermelon slice to have seeds. So I need to work with it in Photoshop. And I am honest and straightforward about what I’ve done. For the record, though, I’m not a big fan of pretending that you took a photo where a rainbow appeared on a sunny day with the sun setting to the east, an eagle soaring, and a buffalo sauntering in the waves on the beach. Melodramatic, but it happens. Yes, bad things are done with tools. People hit people over the head with hammers. The hammer isn’t the problem.
Finished with Photoshop, I sat back, amused with what I had created. Then, in a flash of curiosity, I wondered what I would find if I searched on the Internet to see results from typing in the words “watermelon and sesame seeds.”
“Pick up a sesame seed only to lose a watermelon.”
Which, in less poetic terms means, concentrating on small matters at the expense of big ones.
I sat back. What the heck does that really mean? Am I concentrating on little tiny seeds and I really should be getting the laundry done? My over-analyzing mind worked that proverb left and right. Up and down. I felt like the Internet was foreshadowing something. But what?
Building off of feedback.
I showed my 91-year old mother my creation for grins. She frowned, saying, “something is wrong with this.” I smiled.
My mother was quite a master of Chinese cooking in her younger years, so she knew sesame seeds when she saw them. And you can’t pull anything over her, never could. Once a school nurse, always a school nurse. No amount of having a sore throat or stomach ache was going to keep you at home. Hers was a simple comment that said so much to me, and she had a point. I’d been trying to take the easy way towards a vision, and it just didn’t work.
Mom is direct, and I appreciate that. And I knew deep down that something was wrong with this image, but I had a lot of other work to do, and I wanted to check off this watermelon slice as completed. But these were freaking sesame seeds. I was a sell-out to sesame seeds! It felt freeing to recognize that. I’d come clean with that simple statement she made.
So now I was back to the drawing board. Okay, I’ll get a watermelon, enjoy a slice of it for reals, pull the seeds out of it, and try to assemble this photo a second time.
Reflecting on change.
You may not have noticed, but there aren’t any seeded watermelons to be had in grocery stores any longer. All the inventory is seedless. I visited a couple of stores, but the answer was the same: “we only get seedless anymore.”
An uneasy but familiar feeling came over me. Under the darkest of skies, I recently saw Elon Musk’s Space-X satellites parade through the stars. I’m all for progress, but I’m wary when we don’t think through the implications. Getting rid of watermelon seeds or adding moving stars to the sky have some repercussions. Think about this. Have you had a delicious watermelon since they started taking the seeds out? I haven’t. And how do kids annoy parents if they can’t have a seed spitting contest? How do we ever “get away” if we are always connected anywhere globally, anytime, by these traveling space satellites?
If there is a problem, I kick into high gear because I like solving them. This seedless thing wasn’t going to get the best of me. I would go to a nursery and get watermelon seeds. That’s a whole lot easier and certainly much cleaner. After stopping at a couple of stores, I realized it wasn’t watermelon planting time. And most places were out of those seeds. But I persevered; I finally found one remaining packet.
At home, I opened the packet and was dumbfounded. The seeds were not black. What? Seriously?
But I don’t give up easily. Remember, I’m stubborn. So I committed myself to this watermelon slice and I was going to MAKE it work.
Off to the store again. This time, the hardware store for black spray paint. All of the cans sit locked behind glass cases. You ask for help and then mill around, waiting forever for someone to show up at the aisle to help you. I felt a guilty-conscious coming over me as other shoppers glanced down the aisle in my direction. I wanted to yell out, “I’m not a tagger!”
I continued looking. Where the heck is the plain black spray paint? I could paint a Picasso with all of these colors, but not plain, black seeds. Are you kidding me?
In the end, after looking high and low, I found a matte black. On the way home to paint my seeds, I winced that this seemed ironically wrong to paint non-GMO, organic seeds with an environmentally questionable product that most likely had many unquestionably bad byproducts. But there’s always a yin-yang in just living, isn’t there?
In the end, I finished “Slice of Summer.” I spent an excessive amount of time on one photo. And quite a bit of money on it too. The irony came a few days later when I was at a farmers’ market, and one of the stands had a watermelon sliced open. And yes, that melon had black seeds.
The journey of the image.
I’m still wondering about the saying, “missing the watermelon for the sesame seeds.” Coincidence or cosmic message? Or a little of both?
Yes, I might have found an easier way to accomplish what I did if I was more patient. But the exercise reminded me about childhood memories of jumping into the swimming pool to clean off the sweet and sticky juice after eating a thick slice of watermelon in the summer.
I overcame obstacles to achieve my goal. I course-corrected once I had some input that my first image wasn’t the best I could do. And, to be honest, I knew in my heart it wasn’t my best work.
I persisted. I achieved the vision I set out to achieve. I learned a new proverb. And not only did I share it in a sentence, but I also used it as a theme with a whole bunch of other words. How many other people have written about sesame AND watermelon seeds?
The best thing of all is that I got started on bringing many pictures out into the world that had been sitting patiently in silence. And this one makes me smile.
Ann Newman is an abstract photographer, writer, and creator of Annstracts. As a former, professionally-trained salesperson, Ann understands that people want to solve problems or accelerate growth for a better future. Exploring the symbolism in abstract photos, she lets them tell stories that offer hope. You might find Ann near her home in Phoenix, bent down looking at the tiniest details of a bug, patting any nearby dog, or looking up at a tree to figure out what bird she just heard.
I absolutely loved this piece!!! Sitting on my deck drinking tea and listening to birds, and reading your new journal. Loved your watermelon journey. Your creativity never ceases to amaze me.
Oh, sitting on a deck sounds soooo nice! Thanks for reading this one, Gail. Really appreciate your support.
Another “sitting on the deck” response. As always, your words knock me out and your authentic voice is so refreshing. Not to mention inspiring. I’m struggling with how to show and tell the incredibly sad story of all that has been lost here at Huntington in last year’s Creek Fire. I have tried and failed but somehow your post has given me hope, that it’s a process and to be patient with my heartbroken self. Thanks dear friend
Oh, that means so much that you enjoyed this, and that you found some solace. It is hard to see so much change in front of you, in a place you love so dearly. Everything is a process…the fires, the struggles, overcoming what we can, and letting go of what we cannot. I love that you are sitting on your deck. That makes me a tad jealous but happy too.