For a while now, I've been thinking that my blog posts focusing on my 52 frames entries aren't all that interesting. I mean, they are a means for me to share some images that I took each week over the previous month, but they are also basically just stuff I've already shared elsewhere re-posted with a bit more context.
The other thing that's true about 52 Frames is this: it's a creative exercise that does not necessarily represent my best, or most interesting output. So, why not move the stuff I value more to the forefront, and move the (admittedly very fun and often creatively invigorating) homework to the background?
There are other things I do in a month, besides weekly photographic challenges. I've been trying more and more to incorporate more of this into these posts, and now I think it's time to make a habit of doing this in a more organized, repeatable fashion. (It should also be much less time consuming than some of the more detailed travel posts, which seem to take me aeons to produce, what with all the writing, editing, post-processing, and sanity checking that comes along with... this blog literally living inside of a scrappy Github Repo.)
In terms of format, I draw my inspiration from Katrinka Abroad, and for this I make no apologies. I don't know her, but I really enjoy her approach to writing, photography, and blogging.
So why not try cribbing a format that works for someone else?
Best of the Month
I really enjoyed spending time with my family, and celebrating Christmas. I especially enjoyed Christmas Dinner, and Christmas Eve Dinner. My mom is a mean cook.
Amongst the extra blessings were getting to meet a lil baby Jackson for the first time too!
While I was out in Pennsylvania, I'm glad I also got to connect and hang with a few old friends, albeit for not as long as I might have liked.
Earlier in the month, in Washington, I really, really enjoyed hiking to Poo Poo Point & checking out Issaquah afterwards, drenched in a Christmas atmosphere.
The Union Bay Natural Area also really impressed me, and hopefully if I get my sleep schedule behaving you'll see some more pictures from there.
I've also really been enjoying photography. (No surprise!) Most of my shots from the month were just taken around Seattle. Pretty standard stuff for yours truly, but perhaps elevated by smatterings of snow and gorgeous winter sunlight.
And very finally, I have to put a word in for the whole Greta Thunberg-Andrew Tate exchange on Twitter. It's basically a case of someone getting a comeuppance quickly, in real time. Just pure instant karma. A Christmas gift for lovers of schadenfreude.
Worst of the Month
Probably, it's unsurprising, but my least favorite things about December have been the cold and the dark. I'm looking at the months stretching ahead of me until Seattle summer hits full swing, and I'm wondering why I would have moved to a place that gets about an hour less daylight than where I grew up, filtered through clouds for most of the winter.
Relatedly, insomnia has been a killer. Or at least, feeling drowsy and listless for a solid majority of the day followed by poor sleep at night. Ought to be some solution, right?
The famous bomb cyclone knocked out power Christmas Eve Eve, and led to temperatures dropping as low as 3F (or -16C) overnight. Still went for a walk with my mom when it was 11F (or -11C) out the following day. Let me tell ya, it was a brisk one.
I missed the worst of the ice storm in Seattle, by visiting my 'rents on the other side of the country, but you can check out this remarkable footage of cars sliding into parked cars on a hill in Queen Anne off Twitter. A friend of mine, out of the country for the holidays, noticed his own car had been bumped and slid to the bottom of the hill, only by watching this very video!
For an extra bonus, check out the same hill a decade earlier. I would not want to park on the street on a hill like that in Seattle, that's for sure.
I paid a brief second visit to Toppenish, WA, and rather tragically the frybread taco shop was closed once again.
This month I was also mired by broken glasses. I broke my glasses and my spare glasses, and spent a lot of my family time reapplying hot glue so I could see. (Or rather, holding my glasses in place while a kind parent applied the hot glue.)
There's a lesson here, and it's that when you buy cheap frames, you may just get what you paid for. There's probably also a lesson here about the power of family in times of need, but I'm not going to be the one to spell that out for you.
As a typical news anchor recapped on my parents' television, we're not doing so well in the peace on earth department this year. A perfunctory laundry list of conflicts followed.
Unsurprisingly, the current blockade of the Lachin Corridor to Artsakh/Nagorno-Karabagh was not one of them.
It is the latest in a protracted conflict over a region with a rich multicultural history, under de facto control of an unrecognized Armenian satellite state since the '90s, but within the de jure borders of Azerbaijan as drawn by the Soviets. Armenians have no real ally in the region and Azerbaijan knows it.
If the Artsakh does fall into Azerbaijani control, it is doubtful that its current, mostly Armenian inhabitants would be safe under a rule that celebrates the number of Armenians it has killed, talks of unhinged irredentism, and destroys Armenian cultural heritage.
It seems people are reluctant to point fingers at Azerbaijan, as it is helping to meet European demands for natural gas with Russia out of the picture.
It's the kind of thing I wish typical journalists didn't shy away from discussing. I'm rather not in favor of starving people before Christmas. It's also the kind of thing that would fit in a laundry list of conflicts.
Lastly, I happened upon a copy of Lonely Planet's coffee table book The Travel Book: A Journey Through Every Country in the World in a thrift store for $5. If you read this blog, you can understand why such a thing would appeal to me. But, not only was the cheap binding falling apart, but the contents were about as uninspiring as possible.
Basically, the contents were quite inferior to say, skimming Wikipedia. For example, Burundi is described only by talking about its ruler, while the entry on Burkina-Faso seemed to discuss nothing but poverty. The informational material was so flimsy.
I'm amused too how many of the negative Amazon reviews of the books are from Australians and Americans, frustrated that their countries were covered in a stereotypical, brisk manner. *Hmmm*
I can tell you one thing I'd strive to include if I had to fill 448 pages with every country in the world: nuance.
What I'm Enjoying
There's a lot of films that I've enjoyed watching this month. Revisiting Preston Sturges' classic 1941 screwball comedy, The Palm Beach Story was absolutely a worthwhile use of my time, and it left me ever more interested in watching his other films.
The 1980's remake of The Blob was about as good as it could have possibly been. It takes the 1950's movie about... a giant red blob from space that kills people, and successfully updates it to the era of 1980's slasher movies, making the blob somewhat more akin to John Carpenter's The Thing than a bowl of gelatin dessert.
It's campy and aware of the source material, fully capable of cutting from blob murder to a kid eating red jello. Or, subverting expectations and killing heroic characters early. It's not high art, but it fits its niche in an excellent manner.
Music-wise, over the last month, Nilüfer Yanya's The Dealer has been in heavy rotation. It's not because I think it's a great album, moreso that it has some good songs, and enough of a drive to it to help propel me during the darkness. Nothing reaches the heights of her 2019 masterpiece "In Your Head", but hey, it's good listening. Check out her recent KEXP set if you're interested.
My other faves have been Technodelic by Yellow Magic Orchestra, whose marriage of bass guitar and aggressive sample-spliced beats certainly was cutting edge for 1981. It doesn't hold the same place in my heart as their other 1981 album, BGM, but I also hadn't listened to it as much. Give "京城音楽 (Seoul Music)" a listen if you're curious.
Turkish trumpeter & singer Dilan Balkay's 2021 album Kuyu hits an absolute sweet spot, unlike anything else I know of, so its chill, calming presence was also high on my list. Here's a live performance of "Karanlığa Döndüğüm Gün" ("The Day I Returned To Darkness") if you want to see what I'm fussing about.
Besides those three, I've had a bit of Mabel Matiz, Miles Davis, and Genesis in rotation, and have done a remarkably good job avoiding saccharine Christmas songs.
I was pleasantly surprised to find delish $3.50 margharitas in Eastlake, but even more surprised to find that Kobo Pizza was indeed worth the hype, and has entered the upper ecchelon of my favorite Capitol Hill Pizzas. The Argentine pan pizza from Boca is up there as well, and their pasty happy hour also represents another easy opportunity for overindulgence. What I really ought to be doing more is hitting the produce section of PCC, which though pricy, does represent the best produce I can get around town.
December offered five weeks, and thus five weekly photographic challenges. These are my last ones for the year? Did I go out on a high note?
This week is hilarious, because I love taking pictures of birds and wildlife, and I have so many good shots from other weeks. I was considering shooting a wide aperture shot of my friends' dog rather than a bird or something, just because the daylight hours are so short & I've been busy. SO THIS
49. Shoot From Below
This week's challenge led to an interesting perspective on one of the vehicles parked around town. I like seeing headlights through the tires.
50. Roll of 24
Erected as a tribute to former President Warren G. Harding's administration's infamous Teapot Dome Scandal, this service station in Zillah, WA was the first frame on a fresh roll of film that I put in a (new to me) camera from ~1965. Hope it focuses right.
As such, I was using my digital camera to get a meter reading, and accidentally took this photo. Given that it's the first shot on an actual physical (and not yet developed) roll of 36, it seemed appropriate for this week's challenge.
51. Break The Rules
For once, my comment is going to be that I greatly prefer my entry for this challenge last year to this present one.
Popped outside during the 60 mph winds and below freezing temps to take a shot. This one uses intentional camera movement. I focused as close as I could on the tree in the foreground and then moved backwards during the exposure. Perhaps it imparts a bit of the chilly chaos?
The 52nd Sunday technically falls perfectly on January 1st, but I figured I might as well stick it here, because I'm not going to think about photographic challenges on New Years Day. (Sorry, not sorry!)
The challenge was to redo a challenge of the year. I went with "extreme closeup", not because I thought it was a challenge I really wanted to revisit and do better (-- that would be "Animal" or "Flat Lay" --), but because I was lazy and had taken a picture that fit that brief already.
So, that's the year.
For the blog, some book reviews, and finally a follow ups to "Anticipation". Maybe even some sunny pictures from Miami, and some more Pacific Northwest hike pics from the last two months? Might be too much to ask.
For me, I plan to join the third and final session of Ash's On Time workshop, and to start taking a class on scrambling. I also plan to spend some time around the Washington coast. And to start to try snowshoeing for the first time. So, y'know, I'll be busy. 😁
Also, I'll be shootin' some more film. Chelsea got me a bunch for Christmas, and I'm excited to... try to take pictures that suck less. 😉
I'm also eager to work more on my music -- something that's been on the back burner for a while. I think I've gotten an arrangement of "Hold My Breath", a song I wrote around four one-handed piano loops, down good for the Ukulele (+ octave pedal, unless I switch out the high G for a low G like I secretly really ought to.)
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