Focus: Low Angle Perspectives Bring Visual Interest to Snapshots

Regular readers may have noticed that I often include my own photos with many of my daily blog posts. It’s not an accident that I often have a pretty great shot to accompany something that I’m writing about, or have actually just sat down and written about a photo that I liked.

This is because I count photography among the most consistent of my hobbies.

There are so many tips and tricks that photographer use to make their shots more visually interesting, and many of those do not require any special equipment. On this meta Monday I thought I’d dig a little deeper into that.

One example of a simple trick is just this: adjusting your perspective.

How often have you come back from vacation and sorted through the hundreds of photos you’ve taken and, while you may have many beautiful shots, you also felt a little blah about the snapshot style that you stuck with for the whole trip?

The thing about cameras is that whether you are using something with an eyepiece or a screen, we so often hold them up to our face-level to snap.

But hot tip: your face is not actually part of the photo-taking process. In fact, it may be contributing to that underwhelmed feeling that comes with mundane snapshots.

I think as humans we tend to find engaging things that seem familiar but are just a little bit askew. When you take a snapshot, the scene, angles, perspectives are all familiar, but the photo isn’t as engaging as it could be because it’s almost too normal.

When the scene seems a little bit too normal, I often find myself crouching down, setting my camera on or close to the ground, or even just holding the camera near a hip, A simple change of the angle of the photo can create a photo with an unusual line of sight into a scene that is something our eyes are used to seeing all the time.

This off-kilter perspective can make visual interest and that can often lead you to a great photograph.

Two Months of Blogging Lessons

The thing about writing a daily blog is that you’ve got to, well… write daily. I’m not looking for pity or sympathy. In fact, I signed up for this and I’m loving it as a way to start my weekdays or settle into a weekend.

It does often take effort to figure out my topic, though.

Today is the start of month three of daily blogging, and this post is number sixty.

Yes, sixty!

I’m not looking to ramp up my traffic. Obviously I’m not making money from more traffic. (No ads!) But I am interested in why people are visiting. Two months of data and fifty-nine previous posts are not much data to go on for a tried and true analysis of what people are interested in reading about, but it might be enough to give me an insight or two into coming up with some new topic ideas.

According to my internal stats, my top five posts of the last two months are:

1. Comics: Backpacking with Kids, a post where I shared some of my old comic strips recalling the deep woods inspiration and the struggles of parenting in the wilderness.

2. Snowshoes on a Frozen Suburban Creek, a fairly long “adventure journal” post about an afternoon spent snowshoeing on a local frozen creek, and had some pretty photos to go along with it.

3. Honey Brown Sourdough (Part Two), a post detailing the results of my honey brown been sourdough experiment, and a post I dropped into the daily thread of a local morning radio show conversation about bread giving me lots of new visitors.

4. Backpacking: Foggy Mountain Bridges, a post talking about a multi-day backpacking adventure, the experience of hiking with kids, and with a pretty nice photo to accompany it.

5. Guinness Sourdough (Part Two), another post detailing beer bread and the results of my Guinness beer sourdough experiment, and not unintentionally dropping the name of a famous stout into the title.

Yet none of this makes much sense when it comes to what people are actually searching for and clicking on. Based on my Google Search Console results, the searches that castironguy.ca appeared in most were:

chasing waterfalls iceland
backyardultra
cookout cast
rome waffle iron
campfire waffle iron

The only reasonable conclusion I can make from these bits of data is to mash this all together and generate some random blog posts I should probably write.

Right?

For example:

Backyard Ultra Race Comics could be a series of dramatic cartoons detailing the epic story of an underdog runner training for an ultra-marathon but then ultimately settling for the disappointment of an online-only virtual event hosted on Zoom during a pandemic where instead of traversing the wilds of Canada on foot, he does laps around his suburban neighbourhood. I could probably re-use a lot of my background scenery art.

Backpacking Beer Bread for Kids could be a deeply researched article on the effects of the family spending a week in the woods with a bag of flour, a sourdough starter, a case of beer, and two teenagers who are still too young to consume alcohol (at least in Canada!) The premise of this writing would be that since kids complain about nearly everything they eat (unless it’s chicken fingers and french fries) eventually, far from civilization, they would come to love and cherish the nutty flavour of campfire baking.

Icelandic Sourdough Campfire Waffles could be an article (or a series of articles) about a weeklong trek to a remote Icelandic waterfall under which I will set up a campsite, make some batter from a blend of fresh glacial water and my sourdough starter, and then cook waffles in a hot cast iron. The photos will be spectacular. I’m currently open to a sponsor to pay for this trip after the pandemic ends.

…or, maybe I’ll just stick to my regular, simpler topics.

Family Day

Where I live we have a province-wide statutory holiday called Family Day. Today. It always falls on the third Monday of February, and for as long as I’ve been working it has been a random day off in the middle of winter with a clear theme, but no clear method of celebration.

You don’t exchange cards or gifts.

It’s not something that we decorate for.

There are no fireworks, and you generally go to bed at a reasonable time because you’ve got to get up and go to work the next day.

And in the middle of February it is almost always too cold to do much outdoors beside bundle up and listen to everyone gripe about frozen toes and ears!

I’ve been pretty clear on the theme of this blog: cast iron cooking and outdoor adventure.

What I haven’t written much about (though I’ve alluded to frequently) is my family.

My wife of nearly eighteen years.

My teenage daughter.

My new puppy.

Relatives all across the country, and around the world.

And many good friends that have earned honourary aunt and uncle status with the kid.

And I’ve written about all of it for a long time. In fact, over the years I’ve created a few different websites, and if you had asked me a dozen years ago I’d have said that the biggest theme of most of my writing was fatherhood and how it intersects with all the other things in my life.

For example…

The first of the two notable websites was a “dad rules” blog, where I would come up with tongue-in-cheek rules for being a dad based on things the kid was doing, write about the silly antics babies and toddlers got up to, and tie it altogether into a cohesive article.

The second fatherhood website that got a lot of traction was my “This is Pi Day!” web comic. The name came from the idea that pi day, March 14th, was essentially just a celebration of both math and dad jokes. The whole day was just one big dad joke. My comic was mostly the kid character reacting to the dad joke sense of humour of the dad character. The site is still live, but if it happens not to be working when you click on it, note that I host it on a homebrew server in my basement that crashes occasionally.

While those two blogs were focused on family stories and how they interected with the things I was interested in, if you’ve read enough of this blog you’ll probablly note that it is spun around the other way: focused on the things I’m intersted and how it intersects with my family.

I cook and bake and set an example of sustainable, healthy eating while teaching these things to my daughter.

I run, camp, hike, and spend time outdoors, doing much of it with my family and to set an example to a kid who loves her screentime.

And I try to instill a sense of legacy and purpose into my work, the hobbies I do and tools I use to build up something to someday pass down to my now and future family.

These are the things I’m interested and how they intersect with family.

So, on this family day, a diversion from that regular focus to spin it back around for a moment: that’s my family and how it drives almost everything I do. No cards or gifts or decorations, just a quiet celebration at home today.

Writing Up a Reason

Something funny happened nearly three years ago in the months following a sad decision to shutter my sixteen-year-old blog.

I did less.

No, really.

I took fewer photos. I went on fewer adventures. I engaged less and less with new projects. I virtually stopped attempting to tackle new skills.

Admittedly, I was busier day-to-day with being a responsible human, busier outside of the fun, hobby-type things I generally wrote about. There was just less free time.

I had taken on a new job with significantly more responsibility (which brought with it more risk of personal-meets-professional exposure from some of the things I was posting) and the job overall just gobbled up more of my life.

Yet somehow, looking back on it, there was a clearly corresponding relationship between the things I wrote about and the volume of interesting things in which I participated.

Writing gave me a reason to do stuff.

I needed content for my blog, yes.

Yet, in writing I also inspired myself to think about things I had never tried, and motivated myself to try those things… then write more about having tried them.

Having spent nearly forty days on this new blog, a blog that is still very young and particularly hamstrung by a pandemic and brutally cold winter weather, I’ve also spent a lot of time thinking about why I’ve decided to start blogging again with this renewed daily vigor.

There are people who write for money and fame.

There are some who write to find peace and clarity.

And there are still others who write for passion and inspiration.

There is overlap between any and all these purposes, of course, but after nearly two decades and multiple blogs, I’ve realized much of my purpose is simply to find a reason to do more. I want to write up those reasons here.

I want to cook better food.

I want to seek deeper adventure.

I want to frequent the outdoors.

I want to explore lesser traveled trails.

Writing a blog inspires me to step out the front door and make choices that lead me out into the world to do these things more often and more deliberately. It’s an aspirational space, and a source of inspiration for myself and others.