It's been eventful...

It’s been a little bit since I posted a small story, or a video to my youtube channel.

It’s not been for lack of desire, ideas, interest. I’ve got two story drafts and two video projects started.

It’s been a lot of things. Most of them related to my mental health. My brain has been on a rollercoaster for several weeks. A perfect storm of little things piling up on each other that sends me from really low to almost ok, then back to super low again. My anxiety has been absolutely running the show every day. I’ve been getting help. Seeing my therapist every couple of weeks. But it’s still been a struggle just to function like an average human in a first world country. My sleep has been disastrous, my diet has been pretty terrible (I just stood in front of the fridge, listening to it beep that the door was open, while eating swiss cheese slices and a cucumber dipped in sour cream and salsa mixed together #bachelorlife), and my emotions have been off the charts in all directions.

This stuff has sort of become my normal I guess. Not in that it's like this all the time, but days/weeks/months like this are not unusual. And while I’ve learned to deal with some of it, and I tend to get through most episodes without reaching rock bottom these days, it still has a huge impact on my general life.

Knowing these episodes are inevitable, in spite of medication, affects every decision I make. From socialization (I tend to avoid it), to dating (I 100% avoid it at all costs), to career (freelancing is scary as hell when you think about how some days it's nearly impossible to function, never mind complete big projects), to relationships with family and my dog, this cloud hangs over all of it.

In some ways it is just my normal, you learn to exist within your normal, whatever that is. So it doesn’t seem like a big deal most of the time, because it just is what it is. But it's mind-blowing to think that life is not this way for everyone.

Some people have it a helluva lot worse.

Some people have it a helluva lot better.

It’s totally strange and foreign to me to think about the idea of my life not having this seemingly permanent cloud within it.

Mental health is a fascinating thing mates. Ask your friends about their experiences with it. Try to understand even a little bit of what they’ve experienced.

Radar

Clock tick-ticking
as I lay in bed.

Warm whippet body
against my thigh.

Smooth shiny fur
under my fingers.

Cold, damp nose
tucked into my elbow.

Velvety wispy ear
draped over my wrist.

Calm slow breathes
tickling my arm.

Soft brown eyes
slowly drifting shut.

 

These are the moments I want to remember

Forever.

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Rain Thoughts

We had rain and thunderstorms most of the day today. In fact by 8:00 pm when it finally stopped we had accumulated 2 inches, which is a fair bit for our area. I was mildly annoyed when I woke from a nap at 5:00 pm and found it starting to rain. I needed to take my dog for a walk. She’s not got much for fur, so walking in the rain is really not her favourite thing. So I sat back down on the couch and looked at my phone for a bit in annoyance. After a few minutes I got up and went around opening almost all the windows in the house, hoping the cooler air from the rain would cool the house off, and then I made popcorn because if nothing else I could have something to eat while I waited for the rain to stop.

Then I sat on the couch again, right beside a window. I finally looked out the window for more than half a second. I really looked. I watched the raindrops pound down into the puddles on the deck, bounce off the car in the driveway, and form little rivers down the edge of our street. And I started to notice things. The first thing was that the rain was actually coming straight down. There was no wind, it wasn’t being blown against the house. I noticed that I couldn’t hear any birds chirping, everyone had hunkered down for the storm somewhere. And I noticed the sound of the rain, the hard drumming of the heavy rain on the roof and the deck and the trees next to the house. And how the waves of sound changed as the intensity of the rain changed. And of course I noticed the thunder (though I didn’t want to mention that since I’m likely to get flack for having all my windows open during a thunderstorm), it's deep rumble, a few times so close that you could feel it, like sitting in a teenagers truck with a subwoofer under the seat, except way better.

It was lovely to sit and just watch and listen to it.

So, Radar and I sat on the couch eating popcorn and listening to the rain. I’m pretty sure she liked the rain too, not just the popcorn. I finally relaxed a bit and gave up trying to make a plan around nature.

Eventually I wandered back into the kitchen with an empty popcorn bowl. As I set it down on the counter I glanced out the window and noticed water just pouring over the side of the eavestrough.

SHIT.

That only means one thing: It’s clogged. So I ran and changed into shorts, grabbed a hat and threw on my “water-resistant” coat (Ahem, water resistant is not waterproof, Briana. Surprisingly enough, water resistant is not all that helpful in a downpour), and my Vibram Fivefingers.

And then I did what I end up doing every summer during heaviest rain of the first downpour of the season… I crawled out the upstairs window onto the roof, and walked across the house to unclog the downspouts. Since I’ve already admitted to having my windows open during a thunderstorm I may as well admit that I was also home alone while doing this, so no one knew I was up there.

After clearing the jam from the one on the back of the house I walked across to check the one at the front, jammed as well. So I cleared that one too.On my walk back to the window, I noticed that the eavestrough that goes across the front of the garage was overflowing too.

I actually legitimately stopped and thought about this one for a few seconds. It goes around the front of the garage on a sort of false roof line. A section of roof that divides the first and second levels of the house above the garage.

This false roof is about a 16-18 inches wide. It’s 10-12 feet off the ground. It’s pouring rain. No one knows I’m on the roof. No one else is even home. I’m soaked.

So obviously, I walked out onto the narrow edge.

I kept as close to the wall of the house as I could. I carefully went around the corner, basically hugging it, and then made my way gingerly across the front of the house to the far corner. I had my hands on the wall the whole time. Gripping the window frames or the corners of the house when I came to them (because hanging onto an inch wide piece of slippery plastic window frame is obviously going to save me from falling 12 feet to the concrete driveway if I lose my footing). When I got to the corner of the house I hung onto the edge piece (how very secure and safe of you, Briana) of the siding and knelt down on the false roof, leaning to clear the clogged downspout. Once it was cleared I stood back up very carefully, and then retraced my precarious path back to the main roof, and back inside through the window.

After all the roof stuff I ran around the backyard connecting the overflowing main rainwater tank to the secondary tank, hoping to drain a bit off and get the second tank filled up. Every time I stepped on one of the round paving stones that make a trail across the backyard, I stepped into an inch deep puddle of water.

The best part is, besides the eavestroughs being cleared, that after the rain finally stopped, there was amazing raindrops on everything so I got to take plenty of lovely macro photos of raindrops on plants!

900/365

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A few days ago was day 900 of an intended 365 day project. Well, actually a 366 day project.

On January 1st, 2016, I started a one-year photo-a-day project. At the end of 2016 I didn’t quit. And I didn’t quit at the end of 2017 either. So here we are at 900 days. Today is 903.

I started the project to get back to what I loved about photography. I’d decided I needed a year to shoot exactly what I wanted. Only 1 rule: shoot exactly what I want to see every day. Photographically speaking, it was a good year. I learned a ton, technical and creative, about my camera and I feel I really improved my photography skills that year. I came out of that year with many photos that I absolutely love.

I continued the project in 2017 because it had become a habit, and I’d occasionally receive feedback from friends and family that they really looked forward to my photos every day. I didn’t have anything else pressing to do with my free time anyway. But I think I started to lose something, some bit of heart or passion, towards the end of 2017. It's sunk even further in 2018. I honestly feel like I’ve only produced 1 photo that I really love so far this year… It’s nearly July.

I realized recently that my perspective on the project has shifted. It’s become about the habit. I’ve gotten out of the habit of really observing my surroundings and looking for something that personally strikes me as beautiful. I’ve just been looking for compositions. I’ve been hammering out a technically ok shot every day for awhile now. But nothing that speaks to my soul. So I’m trying to shift that thought process again. Back to shooting just for me again, not trying to please anyone, not trying to gain anything but my own satisfaction.

I bet if I looked back through the 900 days of photos, from beginning to now, I could see my emotional patterns reflected in them. And I think there might be a pretty clear shift when I started to become detached from the habit. It will be interesting to see how it progresses after this most recent shift in perspective.

Infectious Words

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I know more than a few people who pick a word at the beginning of the year, instead of new years resolutions. It's to guide your focus during the year, to inspire how you want to live, to remind you of what matters. Some people choose words like relationships, creativity, authenticity, connection, family, adventure, etc. There’s a whole website dedicated to this idea: http://oneword365.com/

I think it's a cool practice. But I’ve never actively done it myself. Until this year.

Except, it's not quite the same… And it's not just this year?

Around about two years ago the word storytelling started to show up in various areas of my life. At first it was just occasional, appearing here and there in some of the books or articles I’d read, or magazines, or videos I’d watch. I didn’t think much of it, but at some point I did write “tell the stories” on a sticky note and post it by my bedroom door where I’d see it every day. But I never actively tried to tell any stories.

Then in 2017 it started appearing more. In online courses I would take for my job. In workshops I participated in, in conversations with people, and even more frequently in the books, articles, and media I consumed. By this time I had started to notice that it was appearing more and more frequently. But I didn’t know what to do with it. I had lost all confidence in my writing and photography skills. So I still didn’t try to tell any stories.

Then, at the beginning of 2018 the word Storytelling started bashing me over the head. Offbeat, the photography group I am part of, chose it as their theme for the year. We were given a project to do over the course of the year, involving both photography and written words. Then it started showing up aggressively, even unpleasantly, in other parts of my life. It was in less than pleasant critiques, every chapter of every book I read, every single video I watched on youtube, every resource I accessed while learning how to make videos (also, it turns out that video is a pretty fantastic storytelling platform that I’ve never had any interest in learning, until this year), every blog that I visited, every Instagram post I read, in many of the conversations I’ve had.

So now that I’ve been sufficiently threatened by the Gods of Storytelling, I’ve decided it's time to start telling some stories, regardless of whether or not I’m truly an awful writer, photographer, or videographer. The stories don’t care, so long as they get to live.

I didn’t choose the word “Storytelling” so much as it hunted me down and infected me, I’m just a host.

So begins this project of Small Stories.

The Un-Professional Photographers Approach to Harvest Moon photos

The afternoon before the Harvest Moon, discuss the photographic opportunity with other photographers. Determine exactly when moonrise will be (7:28 pm here) and what path it will take over your area (seemingly across the centre of town along Highway 12). Analyze all the different possible locations you could go to figure out which one will be best.

When you get home from work, eat, then fall sleep on the couch until 7:07.

PANIC.

Rush around, slap a long lens on and a stuff a memory card in your camera, rush out the door with your dog. Drive to a brand new location you had not previously considered or analyzed.

Realize you have no appropriate tripod. Luckily, find a point & shoot gorillapod in the backseat. Attach the not strong enough gorillapod. Look around for a minute, realize you’re going to have to get on top of the car. Climb out the window. Position camera with the lens propped on the lens cap on top Subaru’s handy roof rack bars, obviously designed for unorganized moon photographers.

Start to shiver while you wait. And wait. And wait, because you’re there 20 minutes before the moon is even set to start rising, and you're parked below a high ridge, which means you won’t actually see the moon when it first starts to come up anyway. Scramble back through the window and find a forgotten jacket, thank the universe for the person who forgot their jacket in your car. Curse yourself for wearing giant boots that you had to remove before climbing on top of the car.

Climb back onto the top of the car. Sit. Wait. Take a few test shots. Text your brother with questions about when the moon is supposed to rise and if it's supposed to be North East or South East. Glance up and realize the moon is already a couple of inches over the ridge now, way off to the North East. Not anywhere near the building and trees you wanted it to be behind. Scramble to get the camera and yourself back in the car, rush down the road 100 metres until it looks like the moon is coming up right in the spot you want it. Move the car 10 feet forward for good measure. Climb back up on top of the car.

The moon is not quite where you want it, shouldn’t have moved those last 10 feet.

Compose and start shooting anyway, work with what you got. Guessing at appropriate settings. Take lots of shots.

Once the moon is getting high, with just tiny bits of it behind the trees, google “shutter speed for moon photos”. Find out 1 second is WAAAAAAYYYY too long.

Whoops.

Knock it back to 1/50th, shoot some more. Once the moon is fully past the treetops do a couple handheld attempts and climb back inside the car, trying not to slam your frozen sock covered toes off anything.

Go home.

Dump photos.

Write a blog post about how embarrassingly unprepared you were for the adventure.

Lessons learned:

  • 1 second is way too long.
  • NEVER LEAVE YOUR TRIPOD AT HOME.
  • Scout your locations on nights before the full moon.
  • Google things you don’t know before you start shooting.

So here's the few shots that came out sort of interesting... 

Cheers,
Briana

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Victoria, BC - 2017

Back in April I made a road trip out to Victoria, BC, with my parents. My sister flew out and met us for a few days as well. I hadn't been out to Vancouver Island since 2011, and it was so good to be back. I think I'd like to live there for awhile. A friend of mine, Angela Unsworth, moved out there recently and I'm living vicariously through her instagram posts. 

It rained all the way to Golden, the first leg of the journey, and we were hoping it wasn't going to be indicative of weather for the whole trip. We stopped A&W in Revelstoke, as is family tradition, and I snapped a couple cools shots of the train trestle and the main bridge (below). 

After Revy we made another stop between Sicamous and Salmon Arm for some more train shots (below).

After a quick stop in Salmon Arm we did our best to power through and get a good portion of the drive to Vancouver done. The next time we stopped was at Sowaqua Creek on the other side of the Coquihalla. Its a beautiful little spot just off the road, definitely worth a look around if you're in the area (below).

As we got closer to Vancouver I had to make sure we stopped at Bridal Veil Falls. I'm sure I'd been there as a kid, but I didn't remember anything about it, so I made sure to stop this time. It's a beautiful area, although the viewing area for the falls is kind of disappointing. They definitely didn't place the viewing platform in the "best" viewing spot, and as a result people still traipse around wherever they want to get a better view, so their attempt to protect the area hasn't really succeeded. That said, the creek coming down from the falls, and the surrounding forest are beautiful. It's a short, easy walk up to the falls and back, definitely worth stopping for (below). 

After the falls we powered on to Surrey where we spent the night. My sister had flown into Vancouver earlier in the day and met us in Surrey. The next morning, Easter Friday, we got up as early as we could so we could catch a decently early ferry to the island. While we waited at the Tsawassen Ferry Terminal I wandered around with Radar and snapped a few more shots. The ferry ride was fairly uneventful and I only snagged 1 good shot, the last one in this set (below). 

Once we were on the island we headed off to explore randomly until it was time to check in to our Air BnB in Central Saanich. We had fun just poking around the countryside for awhile. We stopped at an adorable little church, then headed off to Mount Douglas Park where we spent a couple of hours on the beach. Later in the evening we headed off to check out Parker Park, the closest dog friendly beach. Radar loved it. I think we both wish we could live near nice beaches (below).

The next day we spent almost the entire day at Butchart Gardens (below), where dogs are welcome! I Victoria and area are so much more dog friendly than Alberta, I wish Radar could come more places with me in Alberta.

The next day we watched the sunrise from Parker Park Beach, and then wandered around downtown Victoria for a bit, and then went back to Butchart Gardens in the afternoon again (below).

The next morning I spent several hours wandering around downtown Victoria with Ang, exploring cool alleys and shops and the water front (below). It was a fun morning and the weather was beautiful. I'm so glad we met up, I hadn't seen Ang since we finished uni and it was awesome to connect again. 

In the afternoon we explored Clover Point Park for awhile, and then the Butterfly Gardens in Saanich, and the Salish Sea Centre in Sidney, and then of course back to Parker Park in the evening for Radar (below). We actually saw a Momma Sea Otter and a couple of cubs romping on the beach, but I didn't have a telephoto lens with me, so we just watched and enjoyed the moment.

The following day we started our journey home, heading up to Nanaimo to check out Cathedral Grove, Goats on the Roof, and then up the Sea to Sky Highway to Squamish and Shannon Falls (below).

We drove up to hope that evening and spent the night, and then continued on to Kelowna the next day. We had a pretty hairy drive over the Connector into Kelowna. Probably the worst blizzard we've ever traveled in (below). You couldn't see the lanes of the road at all, and at one point a couple of pickup trucks passed us and completely obliterated the windshield of the car with snow and slush, we couldn't see anything at all for several seconds. It was pretty scary. As we started to descend from the pass on the other side, it was gone as quickly as it had come and we were back into lovely Okanogan weather.

The next day we wandered around Kelowna a bit and spent some time with my mum's best friend Laura. Later in the afternoon we headed for Golden and then home the next day. Overall it was a lovely trip and I really did not want to come home.

I'd love to live on the island for awhile. I need to have a blogging career of some sort. I'd love to live somewhere new every year, exploring the area, taking photos and blogging about it. And then move on to the next. There's so many places I'd like to live in the world for a year, and watch all the seasons change.

Cheers,
Bri