Where the deer and the antelope play.

The autumnal transformation is usually one of my favorite times of year. I find the warm colors incredibly inspiring and motivating… but this year I feel like I’m stuck in a rut. I haven’t gotten that bubbly, excited feeling in my stomach yet. Probably because I’m so distracted with the home buying process and with our vacation coming up. Life seems heavy right now. Not necessarily in a bad way, but the days are antsy and the nights are sleepless. It’s really just starting to wear down on us, and we desperately needed to get our minds off it.

So it was a relief this weekend to get out of town for a while. We went and watched the annual elk bugle, which is spectacular year after year. It never gets old. Basically you sit on the side of a gravel road, in a specific area where the elk return to every year. You watch the males spar with each other as they attempt to round up as many females as possible. We’re talking HUNDREDS of elk within an area about the size of a football field. The males make this incredibly haunting sound that resembles a bugle horn. It was even better because there was such a heavy mist this year, and they almost looked like ghosts floating through the brush. The animals get incredibly close to the road, which in the context of elusive creatures such as deer and elk, can be a very unsettling feeling.

These images were taken with my Sony NEX-7 and an old manual-focus Minolta 200mm lens fitted with an adapter and a 2.0x doubler. Because of the 2.0x magnifier, I lost an automatic two-stops of light right off the top. I had to crank the ISO from 3200 to 6400 as the night went on. The result is INCREDIBLY grainy images and very soft focus, but I like it!

montana-elk-bugle-2014-sonya-delger-run-toward-the-light-22

montana-elk-bugle-2014-sonya-delger-run-toward-the-light-11

montana-elk-bugle-2014-sonya-delger-run-toward-the-light-10

montana-elk-bugle-2014-sonya-delger-run-toward-the-light-9

montana-elk-bugle-2014-sonya-delger-run-toward-the-light-8

montana-elk-bugle-2014-sonya-delger-run-toward-the-light-7

montana-elk-bugle-2014-sonya-delger-run-toward-the-light-6

montana-elk-bugle-2014-sonya-delger-run-toward-the-light-4

montana-elk-bugle-2014-sonya-delger-run-toward-the-light-3

montana-elk-bugle-2014-sonya-delger-run-toward-the-light-13

montana-elk-bugle-2014-sonya-delger-run-toward-the-light-12

montana-elk-bugle-2014-sonya-delger-run-toward-the-light-14

montana-elk-bugle-2014-sonya-delger-run-toward-the-light-15

montana-elk-bugle-2014-sonya-delger-run-toward-the-light-17

montana-elk-bugle-2014-sonya-delger-run-toward-the-light-16

montana-elk-bugle-2014-sonya-delger-run-toward-the-light-19

montana-elk-bugle-2014-sonya-delger-run-toward-the-light-18

This time last year.

this-time-last-year-sonya-delger-run-toward-the-light

This time, last year… I guess you could say I was up to all sorts of interesting things. Like the the leaves changing color, last fall was a time of transformation.

My entire idea of what it meant to have a family changed overnight when my parents disowned me. I grappled with that for a long, long time. But slowly (with a lot of therapy and mood-altering drugs) the rain clouds cleared and I began to understand and accept things. I even found opportunities hidden within my loss. Most significantly, I was given a chance to reevaluate EVERY THING and EVERY ONE in my life. Now I make a point to no longer allow negative people to effect me.  And if they come knocking, I simply turn them away. That’s something I would never have done a year ago.

black-beauty-sonya-delger-run-toward-the-lightAround the same time I was also transitioning out of my portrait photography business. I decided to step back into the shoes of a hobbyist and vowed to make pictures for myself. If other people enjoyed them it was just an added bonus. Yes, the side cash was awfully nice but I don’t regret my decision for a second. With a big dose of humble pie, I can look back and giggle at my attempts to be a pro. While I did enjoy the process of actually creating those images, in the end, working with clients (and bending over backwards to meet their every whim) just wasn’t for me. Call me rigid, but I just can’t handle that shit.

Which kind of leads into the start of my film photography. Some time after quitting my business, Hubby and I were perusing a pawn shop where I picked up a Pentax Spotmatic; my first 35mm camera. I didn’t even know if it worked, but I liked the way it felt in my hands and I had a good feeling in my gut. It must have been a week later that I was nervously handed over that first roll of Superia 400 to be processed at the drug store. An hour later I got my prints and I was hooked.

Fast forward 12 months; I now have seven working film cameras that I use regularly and about a dozen vintage “show” pieces. Film photography has become a huge part of my journey, both artistically and emotionally. It has taught me to break the rules and color outside the lines. It’s taught me about unconventional beauty. But best of all, it’s given me the confidence to explore the foggy bits of my comfort zone. I like it when that fog clears away.

What a difference just one year can make. I won’t say that it flew by because it didn’t.  It was the hardest year of my life and often the minutes felt like days or the weeks felt like months.  It was a long, hard road but it needed to be taken. I’m sure you all, my readers, have all gone down a similar path at one time or another. Maybe you’re on that path right now. I don’t know anyone who isn’t just trying to take it one day at a time, so all I can say is keep trucking.

unconventional-beauty-sonya-delger-run-toward-the-light

 

A non-baker’s guide to: strawberry buttercream frosting.

nonbakers-guide-strawberry-buttercream-frosting

This tutorial was made for non-bakers, by a non-baker. Read: if I can do it, so can you.

Now, I will warn you. Since you’re a non-baker like me, you probably don’t have no fancy ass mixing machine. Hopefully you do at least have an electric hand mixer. If you don’t have one of those just abandon ship right now.

Things you’ll need:

1 1/2 c (300 g) sugar
1/3 c (47 g) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 c (155 ml) milk
1/3 c (78 ml) heavy cream
1 1/2 c (355 g) butter, room temp and cubed
1 tsp vanilla
Strawberry Jam

strawberry-buttercream-frosting-step1-ingredients-sonya-delger-run-toward-the-light

“Step 1: Combine the sugar and flour in a cool saucepan.  Stir in the milk and cream, then set the pan over medium heat.  Stirring frequently, cook the mixture until quite thick.”

strawberry-buttercream-frosting-step1-combine-dry-sonya-delger-run-toward-the-light

strawberry-buttercream-frosting-step1-add-wet-sonya-delger-run-toward-the-light-7

So far so good…

strawberry-buttercream-frosting-step1-destroy-cream-sonya-delger-run-toward-the-light

Make sure to absolutely destroy your heavy whipping cream.

Ok, now, what the hell does ‘cook the mixture until quite thick’ mean? I need exact measurements of time, people. So your guess is as good as mine. I went for about ten minutes, or until my arm got tired. You need to stir that shit on a pretty much constant basis.

strawberry-buttercream-frosting-step1-thickness-sonya-delger-run-toward-the-light strawberry-buttercream-frosting-step1-thickness-sonya-delger-run-toward-the-light-2

Keep going until it gets kind of bubbly and goopy.

Taste test: at this point it tastes and smells as expected. Really hot flour and sugar.

“Step 2: Remove the pan from heat and pour the mixture into the bowl of your mixer.  Fit with the paddle attachment and whip on high speed until the outside of the bowl is cool to the touch, about fifteen minutes.”

I have no idea what a ‘paddle attachment’ is so I just used the whisk looking things that came with my electric mixer. It worked out splendidly.

strawberry-buttercream-frosting-step2-mix-cool-sonya-delger-run-toward-the-light-4

At about the nine minute mark I started to get really bored and decided to use this time to catch up on Facebook.

strawberry-buttercream-frosting-step2-boredl-sonya-delger-run-toward-the-light

I also discovered I could balance the electric mixer on the edge of the bowl and just nudge it around from time to time. Look ma, no hands!

strawberry-buttercream-frosting-step2-no-handed-mixing-sonya-delger-run-toward-the-light

“Step 3: When the bowl is cool, add the butter all at once and whip on high speed until very light and fluffy.”

While keeping an eye on my precariously balanced electric mixing death trap, I cut my room temperature butter into small cubes.

strawberry-buttercream-frosting-step3-butter-sonya-delger-run-toward-the-light

More. You need more.

strawberry-buttercream-frosting-step3-more-butter-sonya-delger-run-toward-the-light

MORE! MORE BUTTER! This shit ain’t called buttercream for nothing.

strawberry-buttercream-frosting-step3-even-more-butter-sonya-delger-run-toward-the-light

You’ve now created a small mountain range. Perfect.

Taste test: I wasn’t shocked to find that this tasted exactly the same as before, but now with 3,000 calories of additional deliciousness.

“Step 4: Add the vanilla and whip to combine, then begin adding the jam, spoonful by spoonful, being careful not to add so much that the buttercream becomes soupy.”

The frosting finally started to taste like something edible after adding the vanilla extract. I’m always tempted to add more than a teaspoon but DON’T DO IT!  Stick to the plan.

strawberry-buttercream-frosting-step4-smuckers-sonya-delger-run-toward-the-light

I kept things simple by going for the ol’ Smucker’s brand strawberry jelly. After three large spoonfuls the frosting was becoming decidedly ‘soupy’ so that’s where I stopped.

Taste test: It tastes like strawberry! God in heaven, we did it. I’m so proud of us. Hugs.

strawberry-buttercream-frosting-sonya-delger-run-toward-the-light

Crossroads.

virginia-city-montana-train-tracks-sonya-delger-run-toward-the-light

Almost 6 months into marriage and Hubby and I have begun to ask some BIG questions…

Where do we want to raise a family?

When do we want to buy a house?

What about our careers?

We recently found ourselves at a crossroads. One path would lead us toward opportunity and career advancement (stay in the city), the other would lead us toward family and small town life (move back home). Both options are appealing, and they both have pros and cons.

Ultimately, we decided to stay in the city so we could continue to focus on our careers and cultivate the friendships we’ve made here. Hubby and I are both really happy with our jobs; they are intellectually stimulating and have great benefits. And since we work at the same place we get to spend all our time together. (You’d think we’d get sick of each other but we don’t.)

We’re going to start the home-buying process soon (exciting, scary, awesome!!) and eventually look forward to having a child.

I hope we made the right choice. Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn. One great thing about marriage: you’ve got a partner throughout it all.  When it’s all said and done I know we will be surrounded by love no matter what.

If they could talk – 2

Words-on-Film-RunTowardTheLight-Sonya-Delger-2014-3

If this photo could talk, it would tell you about Angel the tabby cat. My first cat who, in my limited memory of years 7-9, was the sweetest kitty in the world. My other fleeting memories include: Angel, the tabby cat who shed a lot. Angel, the tabby cat who gave us the silent treatment after long weekends away. Angel, the tabby cat who we kept as part of the divorce settlement.

I don’t remember what happened to Angel. In my recollection she’s there one day, gone the next.

Just down the street.

run-toward-the-light-blue-and-purple

run-toward-the-light-pretty-pink-flowers-on-gate

I’m constantly amazed at how my neighborhood is filled with a never ending supply of photographic potential. It reminds me that I don’t necessarily need to cross borders to find inspiration. All we need, friends, is a fresh set of eyes, an open mind, and the courage to get out and shoot (easier said than done).

Sometimes I can feel my senses becoming dull to my surroundings, especially at home. The scenes don’t really ever change.

But I enjoy going on a photo walk now and again, just to push myself to see things differently. To help combat the monotony, I like to walk at different times of day (even at harsh noon). I let the light guide my eye, and I make a point NOT to look for anything in particular. This way, when I do see something spectacular, it’s even more rewarding and surprising.

That brings me to one of the most powerful lessons I’ve learning in photography: be open-minded! The worst thing you can do is force your creativity into a corner.

“I don’t shoot landscapes. I’m a portrait photographer.”   Yes, that’s a real quote from a photographer I know very well… Can you guess who said it? It was me! By limiting my abilities I was limiting my soul. The world had always been (and will always be) speaking, I just had to be willing to listen.

Above all else, go outside (or stay inside) and shoot! Your camera and lenses – no matter how exorbitant – are nothing but expensive door stops until you place your mind and heart behind the viewfinder.

Go outside and walk for 10 minutes today. Bring your camera, but don’t feel obligated to use it. Just walk. Then come back. What did you find?

Greenough, again.

run-toward-the-light-greenough-blog-title

Lake Greenough, not our first time and probably not our last. This serene pocket of heaven is tucked into the mountains near Red Lodge, an iconic Montana ski town.

I’ll let the photos do the talking today; all taken with a Nikon N90s and Superia 400 35mm film/

red-lodge-montana-sonya-delger-run-toward-the-light-nikon-n90s-8 red-lodge-montana-sonya-delger-run-toward-the-light-nikon-n90s-7 red-lodge-montana-sonya-delger-run-toward-the-light-nikon-n90s-6 red-lodge-montana-sonya-delger-run-toward-the-light-nikon-n90s-5 red-lodge-montana-sonya-delger-run-toward-the-light-nikon-n90s-4
red-lodge-montana-sonya-delger-run-toward-the-light-nikon-n90s-2 red-lodge-montana-sonya-delger-run-toward-the-light-nikon-n90s
red-lodge-montana-sonya-delger-run-toward-the-light-nikon-n90s-12 red-lodge-montana-sonya-delger-run-toward-the-light-nikon-n90s-11 red-lodge-montana-sonya-delger-run-toward-the-light-nikon-n90s-10 red-lodge-montana-sonya-delger-run-toward-the-light-nikon-n90s-9