This month's community spotlight is on Carolyn Cummins! Carolyn always brings us beautiful and interesting photos from her travels.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and where you live
My name is Carolyn Cummins and I live in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. That's when I'm not living in Ottawa, Ontario; I split my time between the two places. My partner Ron is from Ottawa, and because of job and family commitments, we spend half of our time in each of our cities. Hamilton is my hometown - generations of my family have lived here, and I love it in spite of a bad reputation it sometimes has with those who don't know it as a polluted steel town. There is so much more to it than that. Ron and I call it friendly Hamilton because of the community feeling and friendly people. There are beautiful hiking trails, many waterfalls thanks to the escarpment, which was formed over millions of years through erosion (Hamilton people call it "the mountain"; people who live around real mountains laugh at us but hey, it's all we've got), and lots of interesting neighbourhoods to explore. Ottawa, about a 5 hour drive away, also has great neighbourhoods, lots of interesting museums, and our nation's beautiful Parliament buildings. I'm learning to love the winter activities that are much more prevalent in Ottawa, where it's a lot colder - cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and skating the famous Rideau canal (although sadly that's not been possible this year - for the first time since 1971 it hasn't been able to open because it hasn't been cold enough).
When did you develop an interest in photography
My family is big on photography so it's always been a part of my life. My grandpa was an aviation photographer whose photos are now in the national archives, and there are tens of thousands of slides, taken mostly by my dad, of my brother and I growing up. When I was a kid, my dad gave me an old box camera, and I was fascinated with it. I discovered travel photography on my first real trip as an adult with a little point and shoot camera. Now I'm the one with tens of thousands of pictures - some hard copy, many more digital. I really need to get better at staying organized with these. I took a photography course back in the good old days of film photography, and enjoyed learning how to develop film in the darkroom, which took me back to being in my grandpa's basement darkroom when I was a kid. These days, my darkroom is Lightroom, Snapseed and a few other apps I use on my phone. When I took a photography trip to Morocco a few years ago during a sabbatical, the leader really focused on composition and making a photo rather than taking a photo; capturing an interesting image rather than relying only on technical skills. After spending years trying to keep people out of my pictures, I learned that putting people in the image, especially with candid shots, could make them much more interesting.
What do you enjoy most about photography?
When I need a mental break, I like to go on a "photo safari", even if it's just walking through a different neighbourhood to see what I notice. It helps me concentrate on something else and reset my brain; I guess it's a form of meditation for me. I enjoy thinking about composition, approaching something from different angles and perspectives, and seeing the end result. Or taking a photo of something that isn't really all that interesting, but finding a way to make it interesting in an image anyway. When I go on a trip, I don't buy many souvenirs. My photos are my souvenirs, and both of our homes have many pictures on the walls taken during our travels, which we like to rotate (we have more prints than we could ever possibly make room for). I love taking a photo and knowing that I have just captured a memory forever, a little snippet of a day or a trip or an experience.
What are some things you have learned in taking a photo every day?
I've learned so many things from this great community, including how you can make friends without ever meeting them in person! Most of the editing apps I now use are ones that I learned about here. I really enjoy seeing how everyone approaches the prompts differently, and the ideas here give me inspiration for my own photos. I've learned, once again, that it's not always the technical skills that make an interesting photo (which is good, because I'm not strong in that area). I love seeing how people can tell a story with a photo.
I learned from seeing Garnett's photos that Utah is an incredible state. I had never considered travelling there before, but now I've been there twice and visited all of the "Mighty Five" national parks, with some amazing memories and photos to show for it. Thank you Garnett!
I've learned that having a photo from each day to look back on helps me remember each day of each year, even a little snippet of it, and that's important to me. Normal, ordinary days that would otherwise blend into each other and blur into my memory banks with lots of other normal, ordinary days. I'm grateful to Diane for introducing me to this group.
What is your favorite subject to photograph? What is your least favorite subject to photograph?
You've probably guessed by now that I love travel photography. Landscape photography when I'm in a beautiful place, like our trips to Arizona and Utah, is one of the things I really enjoy, but I also love looking for candid shots. Like someone walking with an umbrella in the rain (Ron groans every time we are out in the rain on a trip and I see a colourful umbrella - especially if there's a reflection. I'll go off chasing the unsuspecting subject, while he waits impatiently to continue on our way). I learned that capturing a photo through a car window in the rain can give a really interesting, artsy perspective - very dreamy. So when it rains on our travels, I start looking for the photo ops.
My least favourite subject to photograph is probably myself. CY365 prompts that involve self portraits or selfies can make me cringe and want to go off prompt, and sometimes I do, but I also try to get into the spirit and have a bit of fun with these, inspired by some of the CY365 members who really know how to tell a story in a self-portrait (yes, you, Lysle - you are amazing!). Now that my daughter has taught me what she calls the "millennial claw" (how to hold a phone to get a decent selfie), my selfie composition has improved a lot. I just wish I had longer arms!