Tuesday, January 26, 2021

North Shore

“To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion, to be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not rich; to study hard, think quietly, talk gently, act frankly, to listen to stars and birds, to babes and sages, with open heart, to bear all cheerfully, to all bravely await occasions, hurry never. In a word, to let the spiritual unbidden and unconscious grow up through the common. This is to be my symphony.” ― William Henry Channing

North Shore - Lake Superior
Northeast Minnesota, USA

Available: https://yellocoyotephoto.com/palebluedot

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Animas Forks

“Going to the mountains is like going home” ~John Muir

Looking forward to the time when I can get back to the mountains. I'm so thankful that my path took me there last year, regardless of life's chaos.

Animas Forks
Silverton, Colorado, USA

Available: https://fineartamerica.com/featured/animas-forks-jayme-spoolstra.html

Thursday, January 21, 2021

The $2 Dilemma

I often spend time on YouTube, streaming video, or on Zoom participating in some form of dance class, pointework, or barre.  All for exercise, to retain technique, build strength, and keep connections to my own dance studio, of which I hope to return to.  I do this in an area of my house that is the most spacious, but yet, the farthest away from the router - so wi-fi is incredibly sparse.  I can occasionally scrape enough signal together for a YouTube video viewing... but if it's something live, I find that using my phone as a hotspot is the better option.

I went to Amazon to buy a wi-fi antenna for my laptop, to make that reach more reliable without aid of my phone.  With the item researched and in my cart, I saw that I needed only slightly more than $2.00 to qualify for free shipping and to save the $8.00+ in charges.

$2.00 and some change was all.

And yet it took me a ridiculous amount of time to decide what that item should be.

This made me remember... how, just a few years ago, this task would have been so easy.  Because, really... who doesn't need another shirt, or pair of pants, or some decor, or electronics, or sticker for my Jeep or for the laptop, or this... that... or the other thing?  Things that I would convince myself that I 'needed,' while potentially doubling the total in my cart.

The fact that this $2.00+ chore took, quite literally, hours last night brought me to realize how much my shopping and spending habits have changed over the years since developing a more minimalistic lifestyle.  Not only does it reflect how much stuff I already have (or have gotten rid of, at this point), but it has made me hyper-selective of the things I buy and how much I've cut spending on non-necessary items.

This sort of reflection and realization is super-cool sometimes.  It shows just how far I've come in a few years, and that I'm still on the right path.

Then... while reviewing my RSS feed this afternoon, I read a short post by minimalist, Joshua Becker.  His article struck the right chord - it's here, if you'd like to read it for yourself.

Lightbulbs Always Need Changing by Joshua Becker

These couple of bits, specifically, said all the right things:

"This is why I chose minimalism as a lifestyle in the first place. Rather than being frustrated at a lightbulb that needs to be changed, I should find some joy in the fact that I need to change less of them than ever before."

"Being freed from the unquenchable desire for more, bigger, and better is a wonderful feeling. As is, being separated from constantly comparing my things to others."

I concur, Joshua.  I concur.

Oh, and for the record... I did find a few dollars worth of shipping envelopes to add to my order.  You know, for the inevitable next time that I sell more of what currently I own.  😄

Monday, January 18, 2021

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

The light at the end of the tunnel... seems to be getting nearer.  And brighter.

One can hope.

I'm preparing for dance competition season... like I would for any 'normal' year.  I have a schedule, a plan, and equipment is on the way.  I was able to photograph 5 weekends worth of dance competition last year before the event industry came tumbling down.

I believe it is going to be one of the last industries to fully return.

I've graciously scraped together what little event work I could find between then and now.  My overall earnings in 2020 were down 2/3 from 2019.  It's been rough.

I don't doubt that there won't be postponements and cancellations.  But I'm optimistic this year will come back a bit stronger than last - what other choice is there?  

Till then, thoughts of events from the past, and a hopeful future.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Nits & Beneficial Procrastination

'Round about Black Friday, I put in an order for a new laptop. My old one was functional and was still mostly working out. But I'd been doing some side work on older iMac systems, and as such, found that I was incredibly underwhelmed by the screen brightness on my personal PC laptop vs. the Mac.

Without getting into THE debate... I did not buy a Mac (aka 'I didn't go to the dark side' 😉).

While I can comfortably work on either machine, being a PC user from the inception of my time with computers, PCs have been more of a natural fit than Mac.  Same in the Canon vs. Nikon debate, as I can effectively use both, but Canon feels more intuitive.

The difference in the screen brightness between my trusty laptop and the iMac machine led me down the rabbit hole of screen 'nits.' I learned:

"The nit is the standard unit of luminance used to describe various sources of light. A higher rating means a brighter display. Displays for laptops and mobile devices are usually between 200 and 300 nits on average."

I hadn't done this sort of research before, and so it was all new to me.  I'd learned to be critical of computer memory, processing speed, graphics cards/speeds, displays and hard drive space... but never considered a nit.  Google-fu revealed displays for laptops and mobile devices are usually between 200 and 300 nits on average. A rating over 300 nits is solid and a rating above 500 nits is extremely good.

My old laptop lived right at 300 nits, with the brightness cranked to full... which is considered good.  Maybe good if I wasn't editing photos part of the time for a living.  I realized how 'not good' it actually was.  The iMac machines I was working with garnered 500 nits, and let me tell you how huge of a difference that really is!   So much, that I wasn't compelled to edit much on my laptop at home, as the images were lacking without that additional luminescent brightness.  The albums I'd shot previously in the year, and the couple of albums that I still needed to complete from the end of 2019 were not seeing any attention.

In research, I'd found a couple of PC laptops in the same nit-range as the iMac systems.  I made the purchase.  Not only improving upon the screen brightness (which is now slightly better than the iMac system), I also upgraded across the board from the old system.  Better display, processor, graphics, sound, camera, memory and hard drive space - in a narrower and lighter machine.  All of this in a system that is still more intuitive, for me, than the alternative.  I call that a win.

Now, unless I'm editing, I can't manage the display at full brightness without sunglasses.  😁

I've had the laptop a touch over 3 weeks.  What a world of difference 200+ nits makes!  Primarily in editing.  My 2019 album is finally done, and I'm 1/2 finished with what was left in the 2020 archive.  It's a joy to edit again, and look forward implementing a routine of posting images.

**While I know you won't likely see the difference on your machine/device, it makes a world of a difference on mine.**

Some older, but newly envisioned images from the archives...  Enjoy!

Watkins Glen State Park
Watkins Glen, New York, USA

Theatre in Quarantine
Chicago, Illinois, USA

Sunrise on Spruce Knob
Allegheny Mountains, West Virginia, USA

Holidays in The Great Hall
Union Station
Chicago, Illinois, USA

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Creativity is Like Breathing

 "Creativity is like breathing.

When you make stuff, you're exhaling.
But you can't exhale forever. Eventually, you have to breathe in.  Or you'll be dead.
This is why I try to read a lot of books.  This is why I try to spend a lot of time outdoors.  
This is why I pivot from project to project.  
All of these things I consider breathing, and they make me better at what I do.  They make me love my job.
This is sometimes why I disappear for weeks or even months at a time.  When I do this, I am not abandoning my work or being lazy.
I'm just trying to breathe."

- The Oatmeal

I came across this comic from The Oatmeal yesterday, and it fit, as I'm sure it does for a multitude of  creatives.  It seems appropriate to include it here.

Some describe lulls in creativity as a creative block, or losing your creative mojo.  But what, instead, if it's simply taking your breath? We don't all breathe at the same rate... and we certainly don't create at the same rate or in the same ways.  Some of us dive into the methods of rekindling creativity while others of us roll our eyes at the thought, more content to let it come back to us naturally, unforced, if/when it's ready.

I've been in both camps before.

Last year, my overall creativity was in a low place.  I could blame the pandemic, but I honestly don't think it was that.  I think it was the need to take a good, long breath.  I still photographed for work, when it made itself available.  I had stopped writing - really writing -  a few years before that.  And taking dance classes was just not a thing a person could do without a lot of planning and forethought (or a lot of virtual sessions).  I didn't try to find the creativity I'd lost.  I was in the 'content to wait' camp.

Instead, I dealt with other things.  Spending time with my parents.  Enjoying more time outside walking and hiking - often alone and sometimes with friends.  More reading.  Appreciating the joys of less screen time - phone, computer and television.  Having a couple of surgical procedures.  Understanding the loss of people - literal loss from age/virus/diseases/accidents, and figurative loss of people who have cut ties.  And deeper things as mentioned in a previous post.

I traveled some.  I always went with the intent to partake in photos along the way.  And when I did, it almost always felt off, forced.  

The inhale was necessary.

Late last year, I'd started writing again, although entirely for my own benefit to record and make sense of my thoughts.  I got back into a meditation routine.  I took a long hiatus from social media (which is still partially in play, because it's been a really great experience).  And I took on a couple of photo jobs that exposed me to new genres I hadn't tried yet.  

It's coming back around.  

I've accepted the way of YouTube and virtual dance classes, despite the withdrawal for real classes.  I've started some pointework (yet again).  While not as meditative as a class in the studio would be, it helps.  It is taking me back to basics, and is making me feel strong.  My brain/body wants to create in that medium again.  And it's exercise.  

I WANT to start writing and blogging again for the first time in ages (I'm kicking myself in the backside for fully removing the original version of this blog and all its photos and entries).  I'm not planning on entries at specific intervals.  I'm not even planning the content.  The old version was travels and photos... and while I'm sure this new iteration will be that as well, my personal 'road less traveled' may not always deal with a literal road (or lack thereof) - instead, my road of ramblings, thoughts and experiences.

And even in the last few days, I've been compelled to get out with my camera - but, as luck would have it, I have a super-light weight restriction from an elbow procedure a week ago.  That will have to wait awhile longer. 

In the meantime, just keep breathing.

Just Breathe
North Shore - Lake Superior, Minnesota
© 2020 Jayme Spoolstra/YelloCoyote Photography

Monday, January 4, 2021


We can all agree that the last year has, overall, been... interesting?  Challenging? Infuriating?  Heart-breaking? (Insert your adjective here.)  I don't believe the change of a calendar year will be the magical clean slate, although I do appreciate the optimism.  

2020 did lead me to understand some things.

I've had an unpleasant past 2-3 years.  Not consistently unpleasant, but enough sprinkled throughout time and space to throw off my balance.  Prior to, and in the early parts of 2020, the bad juju was easy to put aside.  There was photography work to be done, which meant flights, and road trips, and 15+ hour days for most weekends of the year.  It also meant team sports and real estate work during the week.  All of this was a good way to remain distracted.  And I was.

And if unwelcomed thoughts came onboard when I wasn't busy, there was dance classes which helped to put things away.  Dance has always been a form of meditation.

Then events in 2020 removed my mental sanctuary.  They took away the work.  And the classes.  And left me with nowhere to hide from my mind.  Initially, I blamed the sadness and loss on those things that were missing - the work, the dance, the routine.  Missing all this was (and still is) entirely relevant, although there was more to examine.  

The removal of distractions forced me to process some things - for better, and for worse.  The worse came first.  The worse brought me back to low and dark places of my late teens and early 20's - days when I couldn't fathom why I should be here, when I didn't think I had a purpose.  I revisited some of those places this year.  

I've never been someone who willingly talks about my own mental health issues or seeks out help.  In my younger years, things like depression and suicidal thoughts actually got me in trouble/punished instead of getting help.  Those experiences dissuaded my want to discuss them (being ridiculed for my past mental demons in recent years over dinner in front of family has certainly cemented that decision).  In more recent times, I still don't talk to people... I understand and empathize with so many who are dealing with their own flavor of demons, depression, sadness, loss... and who am I to unload mine on someone else?  I've also never been the therapist type.

On the upside, I'd been taught strategies for dealing with demons in the past and have acquired a few new tools and methods in more recent years.  Meditation and stoicism works.  Writing helps.  Spending less time in front of a screen and spending more time in the outdoors also works.  I've also had a couple of really good venting sessions with the one person who most often has my back.  

Due to events in 2020, I learned to come to terms with my turbulent mind and losses.  I highly doubt the demons will fully vacate the premises, but I'm no longer packing them back into their boxes in my mind.  I've put the low and dark places in the rearview for now.  While I'm not a resolution maker and I don't believe that the turn of a year instantly brings new and wonderful things, I'm in a better headspace for the year ahead - whatever is next for me on this path.

North Shore - Lake Superior, Minnesota
© 2020 Jayme Spoolstra/YelloCoyote Photography