Journaling with Photos

One of the most beautiful places in Phoenix is the Desert Botanical Garden. I’m a member, and love visiting the garden because there is always something happening–an art exhibit, a butterfly house, or the amazing Chihuly sculptures they displayed in 2009.

Chihuly's glass flames dance in the light of the night garden at the DBG in Phoenix.

When I’m wandering through the garden, I often take photos–to print out for my journal, to print onto cloth and sew onto a postcard, or just look at on my iPhone. A friend sent me some photos from the garden today, and I wrote some fast journal ideas. Maybe this is an idea you can use, too.

Here’s how I do it: I transfer the photos to my Flickr site, mark them “Private” and then add some notes I want to think about. The notes are really short, memory jogs for longer posts I can create. Then, I give myself permission to forget about them. In a week or so, when I go back, I peek at some older ideas. Sometimes the ideas don’t have a spark anymore, and I can delete them. Sometimes I get excited about a small idea and want to make it into something much bigger. Here are some examples, using the photos a friend sent me today.

This butterfly is so adapted to his surroundings, that he looks like a wilted flower. Sometimes looking like a wilted flower is a big advantage–it keeps you from getting eaten by a predator. Adaptation can be useful. If you do it to often, though, you may begin to think that blending in the only way to avoid risk. And it’s not.

I’m always amazed at how the thorniest, toughest plants have the most colorful, dainty, delicate flowers. It’s such a contrast. I know people like that, too–filled with contrasts. If I keep trying to label them one thing or another, I’ll never know them. If I accept all they are, I might enjoy certain parts of their character more.

This butterfly does not eat orange slices by nature. But in this environment, the slices provide both food and water to the butterfly. Making use of what is in front of you instead of spending a lot of energy doing what you’ve always done is a way to thrive instead of survive. (I’m also impressed by the camouflage.)

The obvious star pattern is caused by the less obvious light in the center. Sometimes the shadow of the light is more interesting than the light itself. Your shadow self, the darker side of you, often considered the “bad” part of you, teaches lessons the lighter side of you cannot. The shadow doesn’t always have to be ugly. There is beauty in both the shadow and the light. In this case, both at the same time.

It’s a great way to spark some deep, meaningful journaling.

Photos: Chihuly glass and light/shadow: © Quinn McDonald. Butterflies and cactus: © Rosaland Hannibal. All rights reserved. 2011.

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12 thoughts on “Journaling with Photos

  1. I love that you keep your photos with notes, then journal about them. I love the photo/journal concept.

    I’ve had an almost daily photo blog for over 3 years. Recently I began journaling when I go on photo shoots–it slows me down, makes me look at things from a different perspective while I am IN the field. Then I added some journal excerpts to my photo blog, and it is working well.

    I really love the combination, and I love how your photos spark meaningful concepts. They are all great prompts…

  2. Quinn,
    I love the idea of jotting down your thoughts in connection with photos that inspire you for the start of a journaling post! It can be such an intuitive process, especially when you note one that you want to expand your writing with. Life often spurs thought, especially when captured in a photo; and to put thought to paper can give birth to insights and even positive change! 🙂

    I have chosen your post, Journaling with Photos, for the #JournalChat Pick of the Day for all things journaling on Twitter on 5/9/11. I will post a link on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and my blog, Refresh with Dawn Herring.

    My @JournalChat account on Twitter is for all things journaling.

    Thanks again for providing a great jumping point toward creative journal entries!

    Be refreshed,
    Dawn Herring
    JournalWriter Freelance
    @JournalChat on Twitter for all things journaling

  3. I love the DBG! We were members for several years. We got to do an after hours photo shoot when the Chihuly exhibit was there. It was great to have the place practically to ourselves. I think only about 80 people attended.
    I often take photos with the intent of using them in my journal or in some art and rarely do I end up printing anything out. Maybe I should try adding them to my flickr page along with the ideas I had for the pics when I took them! Thanks for the idea! Now, where’s my to-d0 list?

    • That’s exactly what happened to me, Lynn. I took all sorts of photos with the intention of adding them to my journal. . . but then I didn’t. Sticking them on Flickr is much easier, and I can leave notes. I’m amazed at how well it works!

  4. But wait, you used your iPhone to make the photos and uploaded them to Flickr. Our app predates BOTH of those! 🙂 Old School R Us.

      • That’s okay, nothing we’ve ever done with Symbian phones has gotten any respect. Just for the historical record (which will shortly be the only thing left) we invented app stores, camera phones, mobile photo blogging, touch screen phones, GPS phones, phone-based maps, mobile video calls, front-facing cameras…well, the list goes on. iPhone and Flickr just copied our stuff! (grumble grumble…)

  5. Cool idea! A few years ago we released a “photoblog” app for Nokia phones. Being a phone, it keeps track of the time and place you take each photo and automatically uploads them to a personal webpage where you can add text (you could do that on your phone too, but, you know…). I think there are now apps like this for all the phone platforms.

  6. You have such a good eye for detail, you are a true explorer in life.

    The Chihuly sculptures are wonderful and I wish I could go and see them myself.

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