Around the House Photographic Creativity in These Pandemic Times

Two weeks into a global work from home mandate from my employer, Adobe, I wrote an article on being creative while self-isolating. Titled, Creativity in the New Normal and published on Behance, the intent of the article was to be inspirational and share ideas (and a few photographs).

I continue to find photographic opportunities in and around my home and thought I would share this growing collection.

Shooting with both my iPhone and my new Olympus OM5 Mark III, I try to keep my eyes open for opportunities every day. Sometimes, I find one photo, sometimes several. But I always find something.

I always see something.


Find the wonder in the little things...

The Photos

This photo journal continues to expand. So much so, that I felt the need to break the photos up into the weeks they were captured, from most recent to least. This helps from a viewing perspective, but it also gives me an opportunity to reflect on how things changed each week - frankly, how *I* changed each week. I have made and continue to make some noteworthy photos - given the current restrictions - but I’ve also been through bouts of depression and anxiety and on occasion been short-tempered with the only other person stuck with me in these pandemic times, my wife, Karen. She’s perhaps more worried than I am and she's been a trooper; I can at least tune out the world for 7 hours a day with the pseudo-normality of work. Karen is retired and I’m sure this whole thing sits on her mind much more heavily. For me, I have my camera to help offset the reality of this new world from time to time. Oh, and there’s wine...

An interesting by-product of this visual exploration is the opportunity to appreciate everyday objects anew. See them with a photographer’s eye, appreciate them and experience some joy in the process.

Week 15

Even though I work from home in "normal" times, there's nothing quite like a shortened work week. And while Memorial Day is not a Canadian holiday, it's a pretty quiet day for me as the majority of my colleagues and customers hail from the the US.

With May almost in the rearview mirror, I was reminded that it was 9 years ago in May when I joined Adobe as a Solutions Consultant. I was SO nervous when I started. I had never worked for such a large company, in a corporate structure - in sales - ever. And the first few months were like drinking from a firehose. There was so much to learn, so many meetings both internally and with customers. Even though I worked from home, I barely left my office chair in case a call or email came in. It took me MONTHS to relax and truly internalize that - so long as I could be reached - it was ok to go out for a coffee or lunch.

Next to teaching (and frankly sometimes even moreso than teaching) this has been and continues to be my favorite job. There is always a chance to learn something new, I have been blessed with supportive managers and coworkers throughout my career at Adobe. And now in my relatively new role as a Solutions Consultant for Adobe Stock, I feel like I've really hit my stride.

With the cottage resort opening up, the plan was to head up later on Thursday, and work from the cottage on Friday. However, early Thursday evening, after arriving at the cottage, I - and many of my work colleagues - were struck a devastating blow. One of my work friends had died overnight, suddenly, in his sleep. Scott Trudeau was 7 years younger than me. He was my mentor when I joined Adobe, my friend, a hard worker and dedicated father and husband. Full of life, always with a smile on his face or a joke to share, I always looked forward to seeing him when there were team meetings. I miss my friend and I am still struggling with this reality where a man who took such good care of himself, was SUCH a good person to everyone he met, can so suddenly be just - gone.

Lost Horizon - dedicated to my friend and colleague, Scott Trudeau

The news of Scott's passing affected my mood all weekend, and as can be seen below, the careless, irresponsible acts of others on the cottage resort did not make things better. I did a lot of venting over two days, but I also think I captured some good photographs as well.

Now I know what you may be thinking - the point of this journal was to document my experiences being creative while sheltering in place at home - and you're right. So, while things are not back to "normal", they are more normal than they have been in 14 weeks. I think - I want to think - we are on the right path going forward. With that guarded optimism in mind, I share these final photos from the #fortressofmoderatesolitude - my home away from home - and close off this photo journal. I hope those who have followed along have enjoyed the images and my ramblings.

You can always find me on Instagram (@jimbabbage) or Behance (behance.net/jimbabbage). Swing by sometime and say hi.

Until next time...

Week 14

There is a lot of development going on at our cottage resort; it's growing significantly. And with that growth, comes the inevitable destruction of some local habitat, as cottage sites are readied within the resort-owned forest area. While it is a bit shocking and depressing to see the work of this heavy equipment, I also realize I would not BE in a cottage without that kind of development. So, instead of focussing on the construction, I chose to focus on our Provincial flower, the Trillium on this Sunday morning, the beginning of a less restrictive shelter-in-place lifestyle.

They grow like crazy in the forest, and I could easily lose myself for hours wandering through the trees. In fact, I'll likely be going back again this weekend, as it's likely almost the end of the blooming season for the Trilliums.

Fun Fact: While it is NOT illegal to pick Trilliums, it is highly discouraged, as the single blossom is the not only the main pollinator, but it can also take 10 years for the plant to produce its first flower.
A walk in the woods. Take only memories (and photos) and leave only footprints.

Week 13

May 18 was my wife’s birthday. As we’re still mostly in lockdown as far as restaurants and retail are concerned, I tried to make the day a little more cheerful by decorating the sunroom with streamers and a couple other fun Knick-knacks from the local dollar store. It did bring a smile to her face which was wonderful to see. I had also ordered a couple gifts online. Neither arrived on time, and I’m still waiting for one of them to show up. For dinner, I ordered take out from our favorite local Thai place.

Spring is really starting to transform the backyard; it’s amazing how much things change in a matter of a few days. The large Horse Chestnut tree by the house has leafed-out so much that the deck has that familiar green cast to it, from sunlight filtering through the leaves.

A sunny day truly transforms our backyard.

The end of Week 13 also signaled the first full weekend at the cottage. Sheltering-in-place had finally become a little less restrictive in Ontario. The resort only delayed opening by two weeks, which was far sooner than we had hoped for. Karen arranged for our cat sitter and we packed for the weekend, and ensured that our Internet service would be up and running, so I could work from the cottage. We headed up late Thursday afternoon. Social distancing policies were in place at the cottage; we also brought our groceries with us and in general, made the best of our moderate seclusion.

While the resort filled up to at least 2/3 capacity, it was much more quiet than usual - a fact I am perfectly OK with, BTW - as the playground, pool and even our tiny beach were all off limits to use. Even the marina which just opened this weekend was empty. I'm sure by next weekend, that will not be the case. We chatted with our close neighbours - from a distance, of course, went for walks and, naturally, I went out with my camera.

I hope you will indulge we by viewing a few photos from our "other home."

The first full weekend at the Fortress of Moderate Solitude

Week 12

At work, we’re coming to an end of a very helpful free trial for Adobe Stock Commercial customers, so it’s been a busy work week with many back to back demonstrations, and with getting customers up and running. I did not spend much time with my camera this week - not even my iPhone.

The end of Week 12, was special for two reasons; It was the first long weekend of the spring (Victoria Day) and we received a very last minute announcement that the cottage resort would be open effective Saturday morning. We had not been expecting to get to the cottage until the beginning of June thanks to the pandemic, so this was welcome news. We were not fully prepared for a complete weekend at the #fortressofmoderatesolitude (it’s a thing, really; check it out on Instagram), we did go up early Saturday morning to open things up. After submitting our updated occupancy agreement (chock full of pandemic-related restrictions), we spent a wonderful, beautiful day there, enjoying the fresh air, the peace, and catching up with our favorite cottage neighbors (from a distance).

Week 11

Week 10

The first weekend in May usually signals the start of cottage season for us. Sadly, not so this year thanks to the pandemic. While things are getting better slowly here, and there is some gradual, cautious re-opening in Ontario, it will be a slow road before we’re back to anything near normal. More likely, our definition of “normal” has irrevocably changed. In short, I went into the weekend somewhat depressed.

However, I did my best to keep my mind off the cottage with outdoor projects at home: getting the lawns cut, cleaning up one of the garden beds in the backyard, and installing (finally, after like 3 years) a solar-powered security light to cover the driveway and backyard patio.

Karen has really up her creative game two, pulling off not one, not two, but THREE new crafting projects. Two of them made the most of some up-cycled barrel staves from an old planter and another employed a unique use of wooden clothes pegs. Yes, she has definitely been on a roll this week.

A Breath of Fresh Air

It has been a busy few weeks with work and I decided to take Friday as a personal day. Slept in, spent the morning running errands and after lunch, took a much-needed walk in nearby Highland Creek ravine. A couple hours of tree therapy was sorely needed. It was not a particularly beautiful day; in fact it was quite cold for May, windy and overcast for the most part.

But that didn’t matter. What mattered was being out there, where the noise of traffic was minimal, and the calls of red-winged blackbirds, the gurgling of the nearby creek, the wind blowing through bulrushes and trees were my soundtrack. No incoming email; just incoming analog signals. Sound, sight, touch, smell.

I managed a few captures I was pleased with; experimented with motion and - my favorite - moving water. Just being out in the woods was the most important thing, though. The two hours flew by, and I returned home with a lighter heart.

Week 9

It’s hard to believe we’ve been in “Shelter in Place” Mode for over two months. The scary/sad thing is I must admit I’m getting used to it. Work was very busy, which has helped a lot, from a mental perspective. I’ve said before, I am so grateful to be working during this time from my home office. I know many are not as fortunate.

The one thought that haunted me all week was the fact that normally come May 1st, we would be on our way to the cottage for the start of cottage season. But our park, like pretty much all other parks, are currently closed due to provincial health orders. It made the end of the week bittersweet. Our cottage has really become a second home and a haven. Something we look forward to every week during the season and dream about all winter long.

When I took breaks I made the effort to channel thoughts of the cottage and of my past days as a studio product photographer. I tried to visualize our backyard as the cottage escape - frankly, a job it held for decades before the cottage became a reality.

Early in the week, my new hair trimmer finally arrived from Amazon. I made a quick smartphone shot for social media, but also realized that if I put in the effort, I could bang off a decent, better lit product shot by using my Olympus EM5 and my shooting box. It has been a WHILE since I’ve set up even a simple product shot like this one. But I re-learned how quickly shiny black objects attract dust. Even with my trusty canned air nearby, I still had some retouching to do after the shoot. The shoot also gave me an opportunity to try out the Pro Hi-Res mode on my camera, which enables me to create a 60MB high res capture. After some touch up work in Lightroom and a logo removal in Photoshop, this product shot became Stock photo ready!

Week 8

Week 8 (or Q56 - day 56 of quarantine, as one of my friends is referring to it) is coming to an end. It’s been a mixed bag of a week, emotionally, psychologically, photographically and from a work perspective. I think I’m experiencing this “brain fog” I’ve been hearing about.

I also heard a wonderfully positive term to describe the impact the pandemic is having globally: The Great Pause. It sounds very dramatic, almost romantic and it’s in reference to how the earth and wildlife are responding to a lack of human presence, interruption and - frankly - invasion. Deer on the beach, fox pups on the boardwalk, mountain goats milling outside a pub, lions lazing on a roadway. If there is one positive - if fleeting - thing to come out of this pandemic, it’s that we’ve given the planet back to itself and its other residents. And to me, it’s also a reminder that all this “Save the Planet” effort is really more about “Save the Humans”. In the long run, the planet will bounce back fine if we’re not around around to interfere with it.

Photographically, it’s been a bit quieter this week. I went pretty crazy last week and I think I needed to take a bit of a break from my breaks. LOL. Most of the week so far has either been wet, or cold, or both. There have been some sunny breaks at times, which have made the outside appear deceptively warm.

My nights were restless. Lots of tossing and turning, and while I can’t say I remember any specific dreams, I’m sure the current situation is wearing on my subconscious. It’s hard to escape what we are going through right now. Even if you avoid the news (practically impossible), you KNOW your options are limited for movement outside your home. One trip to the grocery store or Costco reminds you CLEARLY that it is a different world now, and will be for quite some time. And I’m one of the lucky ones; I have a big backyard, by city standards. I can walk around out here; take pictures, garden, etc. I’m not limited to 10x3 foot balcony like many people in the city. Or worse - no balcony at all.

Thankfully, work has been quite busy too; lots of customer demos about Adobe Stock. It is SO cool that I have landed in this role, as a Solutions Consultant for Adobe Stock. I don’t think I could have asked for a better fit in terms of job relevance. I do love my job.

My Desperation DIY project turned out successfully. I reassembled my wooden deck chair Wednesday night, after repairing the cross supports on the front legs. Not only did the chair go back together with no leftover hardware, but I weight-tested the chair with my week-8 Shelter-at-home weight. The chair did not even creak. I’m pretty pleased. I also took the opportunity to shoot a few more DIY type shots that I will submit to Adobe Stock. We’ll see how that goes.

Week 7

Week 7 (SEVEN?!?) of our mostly self-imposed isolation began with Easter Sunday. I took the opportunity to photograph another of Karen’s Easter Egg wreaths that is hanging in the window. I really could have spent an hour on just this wreath, if I wanted to dive deep into the close-up rabbit hole (see what I did there?), but I kept myself under control. I think I will release some of these next winter for stock.

I found some other objects to capture, including some close up work of another 3D stained glass piece and the slick reflections on my aluminum Adobe water bottle. Yes. Lots of tchotchkes (that word is SO not spelled like it sounds) around the Babbage household, to be sure.

A shoutout to my wife, Karen; I’m not the only one being creative around this house. Karen has ramped up her crafting efforts; the most recent are these awesome trivets made from my collection of wine corks
Some desperation DIY. Finally getting around to “repairing” a broken wooden deck chair. Will I be successful? I’ll let you know after I sit down.

I also took up the challenge to share a photo of my creative workspace. If you're looking to see how other creatives are managing at home, check out the Instagram hashtag, #adobecreativesetup. And if you are ONE of those creatives, I encourage you to share your own photo.

Week 6

Week 6 (Sunday) started off OK. I decided to learn more about my Olympus camera and its "focus-stacking" feature. After processing in Lightroom and blending in Photoshop, I had a close up shot with more depth of field than would be optically possible.

We also worked in the backyard, cleaning things up and making the deck ready for summer, by bringing out the patio furniture. It's amazing how nice it felt to do those little things.

Monday however, was a different story. I hadn't slept well and was in a poor mood most of the day. An email from the cottage resort, stating the cottages would not be open on May 1st, with no indication of when the resort would open, did not help my perspective.

Don’t misunderstand; I am very aware of how fortunate I am. I’m still working just as much as before the pandemic took hold. I’m so grateful for that. I have friends and family who are not so fortunate. And I also have family and friends deemed as essential services, which brings a whole other level of stress to their lives. A significant amount of my job can be performed from my home office. The biggest change I have is that now EVERYTHING I do for work is from home.

After being inspired by yet another awesome webinar on shooting for Stock, I was also inspired to walk down to the local school to capture shots of the playground, wrapped in caution tape. Much to my chagrin and fortune, I also discovered other compositions that are perhaps more moving and disturbing than the closed, empty playground.

Week 5

Entering into week 5, being cooped up at home with no real opportunity to get out and about was starting to impact my mood. Inclement weather didn't help. lol. But eventually, the sun came out and I pushed myself to get out in the backyard and make some photos. I also experienced firsthand the lack of consideration and irresponsibility of some human beings, who were starting to discard masks and latex gloves literally anywhere - parking lots, sidewalks, roadways - even my own private driveway. My mood was swinging a bit more this week. It was more important than ever for me to "look for the light".

Week 4

Week 4 brought the news that the entire Spark Photo Festival was being postponed until the autumn. Disappointing but understandable. I was still counting down the weeks until the cottage would open, but that event was soon to change as well, sadly.

I decided to add a theme to the virtual water cooler session this week, and we focused on being creative with your smartphone round the house. I shared my phone during this session and everyone could watch me capture a couple photos, and then I moved on to edit them in Lightroom Mobile. Overall, it was a fun session. Some of those photos are in the grid below, specifically the egg wreath and the ceramic fish.

Week 3

Week 3 was "special" in so much a it was the last time we publicly went for a walk in one of the local parks (employing social distancing). Shortly after that, park access had been shut down by the city. It was also during that week where I was given notice my photo show would be extended. The pandemic was weighing more heavily on my mind, and it's reflected in some of my photography.

Weeks 1 and 2

The first couple weeks, beginning March 1, were almost "business as usual". Adobe had prohibited any international travel, and we were encouraged to take any local meetings from home if possible. Offices in certain "hotspot" regions were to be closed. This was to eventually become a global closure of all Adobe offices, as the seriousness and impact of Covid-19 became apparent. The week prior, I cancelled a planned business trip to Florida for the first week March. I won't lie - I was relieved I got no push back on it. In act, my manager had reached out to all of the team and set, "If you're not comfortable going, cancel the trip."I didn't take many pictures in those first couple weeks as I was really focused on getting my prints ready for an upcoming April show, and somewhat making light of foolish over-reactions, like the belief you could catch the virus from Corona beer.

At the I also set up a "virtual water cooler" hour or my work colleagues, where we could all meeting in my virtual conference room and talk abut pretty much anything. It could be work related, or product related, or anything that was on their mind. I continue to run these water cooler sessions and people seem to appreciate the chance to take a break during the work day.

Created By
Jim Babbage


All photos copyright 2020 Jim Babbage