Photography and Writing: You Learn by Doing

Sable and white collie, indoor, low, natural light

Writing and photography are two of my biggest passions in life – along with animal rehab and adoption.

But let’s not go down too many rabbit holes at once.

Gull on dirty spring snow, overcast day

Recently I was discussing photography with a young person and they said, while they enjoyed taking pictures, they didn’t do so often because they weren’t good at it. This is the same bind that many writers get into – I don’t write more because I’m not as good at it as I want to be.

Swan and geese on early spring lake, sunny day

People! None of us are born great, we achieve [largely moderate] success by doing, learning, and doing more. Trust me – I researched and wrote a whole dissertation on this topic!

Storefront in low-light, pre-dawn

Recently I treated myself to a new camera. I hadn’t been doing much photography lately because of frustrations with my old camera; we’ve been together decades and though we’re not divorcing, we did agree it was time to bring someone new into the relationship.

Quincy Mine lift, Hancock MI,
bright sun reflecting on snow

This new camera is mirrorless [internal element that reduces weight] and I’m in love again. But there’s a steep learning curve for new equipment with vastly different functions. In order to learn, I have to go out and take a lot of very average or trashy photos. Each picture teaches me something and rather than frustration, I feel happiness that there are so many things I’m still capable of learning. Or at least experiencing.

Low light bridge photo;
needed a tripod and didn’t have one with me

Embrace new opportunities! Admittedly, I’m the last person to suggest we should always be embracing the new. I need routine. I’m clinically OCD, and even with medication, my need for order is at best managed. I get my brain to accept challenges by considering them educational opportunities. Undoubtedly you’ll need to find your own way to embrace the new, the less than perfect, the practice sessions that are necessary to get better at any endeavor.

Brick Building; mixed clouds and sun

None of us, however, can get really good at anything – writing, photography, teaching, dog training etc., without first being really average, maybe even mediocre. It isn’t where you start out that’s going to decide things, it is how much time and practice you’re willing to put in. Stick-to-it-ness accomplishes as much or more than raw talent and I’ve been around long enough to see that play out from the art community to academics and industry.

Succulent plant
Same succulent, different lens setting

Dr. Christy Oslund: Introduction

As a dyslexic, autistic etc. who wasn’t diagnosed until after graduate school, I’m owning that doctorate; it took a wicked large amount of work, pain, and perseverance. It is possible to overcome tremendous odds to reach a goal, something I like the young people I mentor and teach to remember. Some things are impossible – others are just really, really difficult.

I began writing as a child first and foremost to communicate. Language was often difficult and seldom captured what I was trying to say. I started by writing notes for my mother and leaving them on her bed, trying to explain things that had happened during the day. Then I wrote some stories, to imagine a world where things that I wanted to happen, did happen, even if they only happened for other people. Finally, I began to write books.

From the summer garden

My non-fiction was the first that was published and was directly related to what I live and breathe for my livelihood: disability support, services, and studies.

Succeeding as a Student with a Disability: https://us.jkp.com/products/succeeding-as-a-student-in-the-stem-fields-with-an-invisible-disability?_pos=2&_sid=f54ae7c3c&_ss=r

Supporting College and University Students with Disabilities: https://us.jkp.com/products/supporting-college-and-university-students-with-invisible-disabilities?_pos=1&_sid=f54ae7c3c&_ss=r

Disability Services and Disability Studies in Higher Ed: https://link.springer.com/book/10.1057/9781137502445

While I continued to write fiction off and on for family and friends, three strokes in a year put a damper on my writing for a while. After a couple of years of recovery, I went back to writing, gradually increasing the length of my projects. Then covid hit.

That’s when I decided to start killing people.

Houghton, Michigan. Remote. Isolated. Home to a fantastic STEM research university. A good place to off-victims, while continuing to work my day job.

And so I began writing what I am tentatively calling my Copper Country Mystery Series. Eventually, my investigators will have to branch out and investigate crime in other areas of Michigan and probably the northern-midwest. But we’re always going to come back to solve crime in the area we love.

I have a growing list of ways to do people in but if you have a location that you think is perfect for a crime, or a way of doing someone in that you’ve always wanted to see explored, or a thinly disguised person you’d like to see at least fictionally get theirs, please pass it on!

Adopted by a writer: talk about a reason to kill