As a way to cope with the intense, moment-to-moment mental health struggles I face as a result of surviving trauma, one thing I naturally began doing was noticing, focusing on and capturing the captivating clouds that I would see when out and about or while at home in our yard. I’ve spent years taking cloud photos and eventually realized I had built up quite the collection of cloud photos.
I found the clouds I saw and worked to capture to be so interesting. Seeing and taking note of what was visible in the sky helped me to cope through some very intense and difficult moments. I would study the details, the colors, the shapes, the darkness and the light and how they interacted with each other, and I often could notice that the clouds seemed to tell me a story.
Sometimes when I was out and about, overwhelmed by anxiety, as my husband was driving I would look up at the clouds and find something to focus on which had a calming effect for me and sometimes I would capture what I saw.
Sometimes when I didn’t know how to survive I would walk outside our home and look up, across the surrounding fields where the clouds would often draw my attention, giving me something to focus on in addition to the severe mental health struggles and effects of trauma I was battling. At sunset I would focus on the motion of the clouds and how they would change colors as the sun moved lower in the sky. Somehow, mindfully focusing on the clouds seemed to give me a little spark of hope, provided a tiny bit of peace and helped me survive many intense moments. And often I was so mesmerized by what I saw that I tried to take pictures of the clouds around me.
I didn’t set out with the intention of this being a photo project—it just seemed to naturally happen. After noticing this ongoing trend of capturing clouds I decided it would be nice to put the images into a sort of collection. And I’d been inspired by other photographers to not just leave digital images sitting on my hard drive, my website or my social media accounts. I noticed a strong desire to work toward putting into print what had turned into a photo project. I felt that a printed version of this project would have an element that couldn’t be achieved on a screen. I decided to work toward making a Clouds zine because I wanted this to be in print form but I also wanted it to be affordable. Though I would love to be able to, I know I don’t have the means to purchase expensive photo books and I didn’t want the cost to be a big barrier for anyone else who may want to have a copy.
There have been many different stages to this project which have taken me a lot of time over the past several months. This is an unfamiliar process for me. I knew I wanted to work with actual prints as much as possible. First, I had to go through over 2,000 photos and decide which images to potentially include in the final print of the project. Then I prepared the images for print as what we see on a screen is not quite what the image will look like in print due to the nature of screens being backlit. I was so excited to order and receive approximately 140 prints of images I was strongly considering including in the printed zine. I used the prints to help determine if I needed to make any edits to the images and for the layout and page sequencing process. It was so satisfying and fulfilling to get to see and hold the prints in my hands as I worked on this part of the process.
I faced many battles throughout this long process: the intense, debilitating daily struggles I face, finding time and energy to work on this project as I often needed to focus on my own survival and therapy process along with trying to care for myself and my family, trying to teach myself how to use desktop publishing software I’d never worked with before, and the difficulty of working through problems I had saving my zine in PDF format. And—like other experiences in my life—this project is showing me that I can do difficult and challenging things that can feel impossible. It has been a challenging, discouraging, enjoyable, rewarding and growing experience for me.
On Wednesday evening I reached a milestone in this project I wasn’t sure I would ever be able to achieve. I managed to get to the point in this project where I was able to order a test print of some of the Clouds images in zine format before eventually progressing with the full zine print. It felt like a huge accomplishment and a true victory to see my test print zine on the webpage of the printing company and to click the mouse to place the order. I considered this an accomplishment and victory for myself and hopefully for others as well with the hope it may be of benefit to others in some way. While I am doing this for myself I also have you in mind while working on this project.
In an effort to be kind and gentle with myself I wrote a little “Note to Self” for this occasion: You worked so hard to reach this milestone that seemed unattainable due to the many painful, debilitating, intense, devastating and overwhelming circumstances you constantly experience each moment. Maybe it’s important to acknowledge reaching this milestone and celebrate the fact that time after time you overcame battles that seemed too overpowering. This photo project has been a blessing to you and may it somehow be a gift of encouragement, hope, peace or some other benefit for others.
6 thoughts on “Photo Project: Clouds—Celebrating a Milestone”
I’m so happy that you were able to successfully complete this project. The individual photos look wonderful and I’m sure the completed zine will as well. I think it’s great that you are able to self-motivate despite your daily obstacles.
Do you have any tips on how to prepare your image for printing so that you avoid having the print turn out flat and too dark? Are you using one of the common print services like MPIX, Shutterfly, etc. for printing?
Wishing you continued success,
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Hi Rick! Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment—I really appreciate your kind words. I just wanted to clarify that I’m not quite done with this project yet—this was a test print of a few of my images to make sure I have things done properly and check how things are printing as I’ve never used this printer before.
I am using a well known zine printer for this—Magcloud. As for printing tips I’m certainly not very knowledgeable or experienced. I mainly tried to boost the exposure without blowing out the highlights to brighten images overall and in some cases slightly decrease contrast—it seems to me often my printed images look like they have more contrast than what I see on a screen.
Thanks so much for your well wishes. I appreciate your support and the inspiration I find in your images.
I think this project is very cool! Just the couple photos you have shown here look great and I can’t imagine how many more you have with those stacks you are using for layout. This kind of project is so cool because every photo you take of this subject is like a fingerprint, no two are the same, so it’s very dynamic from photo to photo. I look forward to your completed Zine.
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Hi Austin! Thanks so much for taking the time to read this post and comment—I appreciate it! I appreciated you sharing your encouragement and thoughts about this project. Love how you mentioned clouds are like fingerprints—each unique…such a true and fascinating thought. Thank you for sharing your website! I took a look at your first 3 posts and look forward to checking out more of them.
Thanks I appreciate it, I’m curious to see your process for your zine and the final product!
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