#WhatISaw Has Opened Eyes

In addition to my #NaBloPoMo project – trying to post every day for the month of November – I also had another project on the go.

I called it #WhatISaw and I posted iPhone photos on my Instragram account. It was a very interesting, sometimes difficult exercise. Where to shoot, what to shoot, and will it be interesting enough??

As it turns out, I had more then enough interesting photos to shoot, in my own neighbourhood, and anywhere in Vancouver I happened to be.

It’s done something else, though.

I think #WhatISaw really has driven home the point that a legally blind person like me can give the rest of you a real, tangible idea of how we see our world. I’ve shot whatever I felt like, and sometimes it’s been fairly ordinary, sometimes beautiful, sometimes funny. But it’s been straight through my eyes, um, eye.

I’ve enjoyed it so much I plan to keep going. But I think I may change it up. #WhatISaw could be #WhatIAte, or #WhoIMet on some days. But the main thing is that you’ll continue to see me!

And within a few days, they’ll all be linked to my Flickr page as well.

And if you have any ideas on what you’d like me to discover, please let me know. I’d love your input!

And now, I’d better plug my iPhone in. Who knows what awaits me tomorrow?

Thanks for your support. It’s greatly appreciated.

Why I Love Taking Photos is Easy to Explain. How is Harder.

And here we are at #NaBloPoMo Day Five…

I’ve been telling you a lot about myself, and yesterday gave you all some insights on why my photography is so important to me. That was easy. But trying to explain HOW I take my photos is a lot harder.

I’m honestly not sure I know myself! Some of my talented photography friends have told me I have an ‘eye’. And I guess I do have a gut feel. But I’ll try to explain my methods.

First, here are my tools – my Nikon D7000 DSLR camera and my two favourite lenses. The one on the camera is a Nikkor 16-85mm all-purpose lens, and my hefty zoom lens is a Nikkor 7-300mm. I have a few other lenses that I use occasionally, but I wouldn’t be without these two!One of the great features of my D7000 is the fact that it can hold two SD cards, so I’m never left stranded with a full SD card and no back ups.

IMG_1932IMG_1935Of course, I also use my iPhone 5 to shoot photos on the fly.

As for my methods, here’s what I usually do with the Nikon gear.

  • If I’m going to something formal, I try to go early to the event walk around to familiarize myself with my surroundings before I shoot anything. It also gives me an opportunity to make up a litte list of the shots I expect to take.
  • I stake out a spot that will give me the best vantage point for shooting a range of photos, both close up and farther away. Because I’m short, I often put myself in front of the tallest people in the room, giving me a clear view, and I’m not in anyone’s way!
  • I usually try to set my camera to the A, or Aperture setting, if the light is good enough. I only revert to the auto setting when it’s absolutely necessary, but that’s my personal preference.
  • It’s also a personal choice, but I always look into the viewfinder, rather than use the window view. True, the window is larger, but the reaction time is longer, and I don’t like the photos as much.
  • I almost never use flash unless I absolutely have to. I try to fiddle with my ISO instead.
  • I take hundreds of photos, so I have plenty of shots to review when I download them onto my computer.
  • Aside from the occasional cropping, or a slight sharpening, I don’t tend to edit or enhance my photos that much. I want people to see them in their just-shot state. It’s me, not Photoshop, and it’s what I’m most comfortable with.
  • I’m VERY fussy. I will gladly sift through a thousand photos to post what I think are the best 200.

Now, if I’m just shooting for pleasure, say, scenery or wildlife, I’ll scout things out, often with my monocular to find interesting plants or birds, if I’m lucky.

No matter what I do, I am totally in the zone, and I love every minute of it!

So, whether you have a camera like mine, or you love your little point and shoot – get out there and snap away!

Shoot what you’re interested in. Shoot a lot. Keep your eyes open for the unexpected, because they will make some of your most memorable photos. 

I remember attending a Remembrance Day ceremony a few years ago, when suddenly, two uniformed soldiers stood in front of me. I quickly snapped them together in their identical uniforms, and was delighted with the result.  And it was pure luck.

Photo by Cathy Browne

One of my favourite Remembrance Day photos

And then there was this shot, which I decided at the last minute to photograph in black and white. It was a shot of an aerial acrobat high in the air, so I wasn’t at all sure I’d capture it. When I finally saw it on my computer, I actually cried. It reminded me what I’m capable of.

Photo by Cathy Browne

This one is special to me

Life can be an #EyeOpener when you least expect it. Get out there. Do what you love.

And go where your talent takes you…

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Aim, Pray, Shoot – Me and My Photography

Well, it’s #NaBloPoMo Day Four, and I left you with a question – why on earth would I find my passion in photography? And how the heck do I take the pictures I do?

This post will tackle the first question.

Photography has always been a way for me to hold onto memories of trips, life events and people that I would have trouble seeing in detail. Before the emergence of digital photography, I took tons of photos, got them developed, and pored over piles of photos, some of which ended up in an album. Many, of course, ended up discarded, because really, how many scenic photos of the same mountain or lake do you need?

The minute I got my first little point-and-shoot digital camera, I was ecstatic and liberated – and a lot less guilt-ridden! Who cared how many photos I took? I could DELETE them! So I happily snapped my head off.

But I took photos because I COULD, not because I WANTED TO. Then, almost ten years ago, I had the opportunity to travel to Japan – and my entire reason for shooting photos changed completely. I realized that I needed to go back to Canada with memories that would last forever. And that’s when I started to seek the interesting, the unusual, the unexpected everywhere I went.

The photo below was the very first shot I took on a cheap little CoolPix, where I actually thought about composition and the story it would tell. It was just an old bike, near a very crowded temple, but it’s still one of my favourite photos.

Photo by Cathy Browne

My favourite Tokyo shot

I also came across a young boy having a meltdown during a tour of an observation tower, and he simply decided he was done. There was no mistaking what was going on in this shot!

Photo by Cathy Browne

He’s done.

My trip to Japan also sparked a lasting interest in architecture, and this building caught my eye.

Photo by Cathy Browne

Not what I expected in Japan

That was the beginning of my journey. Baby steps for sure, but I made sure I was telling a story.

In 2009, Dave and I moved to Vancouver, and I was presented with new fodder for my photography. There was plenty of opportunity to take all the usual gorgeous shots of the mountains and the seawall, but I still giggle at the very first one I took.

Photo by Cathy Browne

Well, we’ve been told.

So I persevered. Then when Dave died in 2011, I found myself at loose ends. I needed something to ground me, to focus a lot of restlessness, distraction and emotion. So, I took the plunge and bought a Nikon D7000 DSLR and a few lenses, and I thank God I did. Not only because I did regain much equilibrium, but also because I found out I was good! The wonderful thing is that other people think so too. My camera gear and an iPhone have totally expanded my horizons, so that I’ve been able to take an incredible variety of photos that reflect what I love most – food, wine, travel, the outdoors, events, people, and yes, my cats.

Here are a few more shots, but if you really want to see what I can do, feel free to check out my Flickr Page. I’d love to hear what you think.

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Why do I put so much of my heart and my time into my photography? Because I truly love what I do. And I also believe that I’m more than just an inspiration. I’m worth hiring.

It’s what keeps me going.

Let me know if this has been an #EyeOpener for you.

The Me You May Not Know – Chapter Two

Day Three of my #NaBloPoMo journey…

Now, where was I?  Oh yes, I was just about to tell you how my life took a 360 degree turn after I was rejected for a teaching degree.

So, here’s what happened.

I got mad. Very mad. I had been through a lot in my life, and I had accomplished a great deal. I had already exceeded many people’s expectations. I was NOT going to let some official in a suit tell me that I was incapable of teaching ‘normal’ people.

So, I went to the university newspaper, and I made noise. And they wrote an article about my situation, calling me a ‘squeaky wheel’, which pleased me no end. And later, mid-way through the fall semester, the Education faculty reversed their decision, and accepted me. But I was long gone.

I had discovered the power of media relations. I left Montreal and moved to Toronto, and began what is almost a 40-year career in PR. It’s the best thing that ever happened to me.

I started in non-profits, most notably with The Canadian National Institute for the Blind, and then, in the early 1980s, I started working in the emerging tech PR business – and it was my love and my passion for many years! And I couldn’t have started at a better time, as the world was evolving from electronic typewriters and press kits and news conferences, to computers, voice mail, faxes, email, and in the last decade, social media, tablets and smart devices.

Over the years, I’ve worked in Toronto, Ottawa, Silicon Valley and Vancouver. I’ve worked with the best PR practitioners in the business, for the best and most innovative companies in the world. I’ve been able to meet industry giants, world leaders, visionaries and the hard-working people who are the ones who bring ground-breaking products to life. My only regret is that social media came a few decades too late for me to share some of these memories with posts, tweets and selfies!

Thinking back, I can’t believe my good fortune. I saw and was part of the most incredible technology innovation we’ve ever seen, and embraced it all. As a result, I have both the traditional PR tools and the tech savvy that makes me the person I am today. I can’t help but think how much value I can offer a generation that takes so much of what we have today, but that’s the stuff of a later post!

Much has happened on the personal front, too. I got married to Dave Kane in 1981.

Photo by Cathy Browne

The Two of Us

And I was widowed in 2011, after watching Dave’s heart fail over the course of two decades following a near-fatal heart attack at 44.

We were bolstered by family and friends both online and off. Indeed, the love, friendship, encouragement and support of my social media community keeps me and my cats going to this day. I couldn’t have made it otherwise.

And then, unexpectedly, another door opened that changed my life yet again. I picked up a DSLR camera and found new meaning and passion, and the courage to keep going.

But how does a legally blind person take photos like these?

Photo by Cathy Browne

Rose after the Rain

Photo by Cathy Browne

Storm along the Seawall

Photo by Cathy Browne

Paris – Where Else?

That’s my post for tomorrow – stay tuned. It will be an #EyeOpener.

Photo Friday – It’s Been Too Long…

It’s been ages since I posted here, for a variety of reasons, but I feel compelled to resurrect my Photo Friday series and share some of my favourite shots from the past week. I’m really proud of these shots – and I’ve had many positive responses to them as well. A shot in the arm in an emotionally exhausting week.

So, here they are – the result of a few meditative walks along Vancouver’s Seawall.

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IMG_0026I hope what I do is an #EyeOpener for many of you. I also hope that my creativity and ability prompts you or someone you know to actually pay me for what I love to do.

I’m honoured to inspire, but the the reality is – inspiration doesn’t pay my bills. Won’t you help spread the word?