Self-Imposed Photochallenge

Self-Imposed Photochallenge

Ok so I have downloaded a photo challenge app called “The Bigger Picture” and I am going to try and tackle at least one week. This is a great little app, providing task, pointers, examples of other people’s work and forums on Facebook and Flickr to share your work.

The first challenge was to photograph through a window. Sounds easy enough and the example picture given depicted a beautiful old pharmacy chest in black and white. Luckily for me, my daughter was doing some sewing this weekend and her machine happens to sit in front of a window in our lounge room. While she was concentrating I snuck outside and took a few pictures. Most of them didn’t work. It was mid-afternoon (the worst time to photograph almost anything), it was hard to find an angle that didn’t put me in the frame, and the colour in the lantanas and the bourgainvillia behind me were so vivid that they washed out my daughter’s skin. But I did manage to get a couple of shots that I was moderately happy with, and with a few tweaks—reducing the luminance and saturation of yellow and green in the feature image—shot on Nikon D5, 1/450 sec, f/5, focal length 70mm, upping the exposure over my daughter’s face to lift her skin, and finally applying an Alien Skin filter over my own edits—I was ultimately happy with the results.

In the end I opted for black and white to increase the contrast and (hopefully) draw Lily out from the busy-ness of the reflection. (Shot on Nikon D5, 1/400 sec, f/5, focal length 70mm)

I like the sense that she isn’t aware of the camera (of course she was! but she’s so used to me standing there pointing it at her). The use of the window gives the effect of an overlay, providing texture and depth on what is an essentially a simple and domestic image. I prefer the black and white edit to the coloured feature image, though I think they both have their merits.

If anyone is interested in undertaking these challenges with me I will be posting them weekly (hopefully!). Post your pics in the comments, or a link to your favourite photo display medium, I’d love to see them.

The next challenge is “Glow”: Shoot a glowing subject.

Stay tuned.

 

Flash fiction: taking a shot of courage

Flash fiction: taking a shot of courage

I have recently discovered the joy, excitement and frustration of flash fiction. Having come of the back of the long and exhausting process of writing a novella it is refreshing and gratifying to turn my hand to something spontaneous and fun, like lighting a sparkler at a party. Turns out, I’m actually quite terrible at it but somehow that doesn’t bother me. Something I learned from Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic is to let myself enjoy that act of writing, regardless of the outcome.

I read a writing prompt about six months ago that simply said “snow not snow”. It was a concept that niggled at me, instantly conjuring images of a pastoral scene: a secluded valley painted white, two trees black and leafless in the distance and a young girl coming down for breakfast to find that the world had changed forever. Yet, as connected as I felt to this story—and as I said, it materialised almost immediately in my mind, vivid, tangible and complete—I struggled to it bring to life on the page. Perhaps this is because it felt more like a screenplay than a short story or a novel, something that was meant to be seen rather than read. So I gave up on it. I put it aside and dismissed it, comforting myself with the thought that it was a story that, in reality, had been written many times before (I mean, we’ve all known stories of children surviving, from Tomorrow When the War Began and the Book’s of Ember, to The Lord of the Flies). But still it niggled. I dreamt about it.

Eventually I sat down and read David’s Gaffney’s six rules for flash fiction, and wondered: could flash fiction exorcise this story from my thoughts? So I made a cup of tea (always a must), set a timer for twenty minutes and poured that story onto the page. I forced it to be done in only a few hundred words:

Snow not snow

The steak sizzled in the pan, forced to change its molecular structure under the power of the flickering blue ring. It smelt wrong, through Alex knew how to drain and dress a carcass. No matter, no one would know. Dad sat stiff and blue behind the milking shed, staring at something far away, forever trying to solve the puzzle. Alex sliced the lump of flesh, formerly Milly. It would do. It would have to.

 

“I’m going into town. We need to find help. I’ll take Daniel with me.”

“Shouldn’t I come too? Shouldn’t we stay together?”

“You need to stay here. In case your father comes back.”

“What if he doesn’t?”

“He will.”

“What if you don’t?”

Her mother cupped Alex’s face, “I will.”

 

Thump. The mallet fell. The gun cabinet was stubbornly locked. Thump, it fell again. Alex wasn’t strong enough. Tissue bruised, skin split. The cow groaned but did not fall. She had to end this. Thump. Swing. Thump. Swing. Sickening. Eventually it was done, though Alex wasn’t hungry anymore.

 

A gust of wind lifted the fine white dust eddying into the air. It tested the window as if trying to find a way inside through microscopic pores. Alex flinched, as though the sudden onslaught had touched her rather than the glass. Then it stopped and she was alone again.

 

 

Alex ate the last of Milly, chewing slow and round—in homage? The meat sate like mud in her stomach. The radio crackled but no voices came.

***

 

And just like that, it was gone. It was enough. What I had been struggling with was the need to write this story and the conflicting sense that there was so little about it that I wanted to write. I merely wanted to touch it, to inhabit it for the briefest moment and then let it go.

I’m hoping to explore the pleasures of flash fiction more in the future. If you are interested in doing a little writing training, a few minutes a day even, here are some links to writing prompts that will get you started:

100 Flash Fiction Prompts from eadeverell.com

50 Flash Fiction Prompts from thejohnfox.com

Wacky Writing Prompts from flashfictionmagazine.com

One of my favourite bloggers Chuck Wendig puts out a flash fiction challenge and encourages his readers to post links to their efforts and it is well worth a look at terribleminds.com

Or just google “flash fiction prompts”.