Monday, May 15, 2023

Guest Post: Photography, by Jonathan Montgomery Pollock

Note from Amelia: Jonathan and I have been married for lucky seven years this month (May 8!) and I asked him to be my guest writer. Jonathan is a man of many talents: musical, photographic, and he's the alchemist behind the divine scents and sensations at Amelia's DragonGoddess Boutique. Here he shares a little more about his creative process as a photographer. Jonathan's beautiful photography can be experienced through our Pathways Notecards (Set of Five), with some of the featured images from that collection shared below. Currently, his music can be experienced at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum's My Journey into the Wilds of Chicago exhibit:

Electric glow buds in Chicago, Illinois.
Photo by Jonathan Montgomery Pollock.
While scrolling through thousands of thumbnails in order to pick a few of my favorite photographs to share on Amelia's blog, I tried to pick ones I could write something about. I recently helped build an immersive projected art installation at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum that features the nature photography of Mike MacDonald. In addition to being a brilliant photographer, he is also great at talking about his work. His presentations are poetic narratives that extol the majesty of urban nature, and I bet he can tell you the story behind every one of his photographs. When I finally picked a few to share, I struggled to verbalize reasons why they are particularly meaningful to me. I will instead try to articulate my creative process.

For me, photography is very Zen. I'm usually "zoned out" and operating in the periphery of my conscious awareness, working intuitively, and shooting almost indiscriminately. Setting the shutter speed, lens aperture, and ISO are conscious and volitional acts, but once I make those technical choices, I commit to them and don't think about working the camera again.

Prairie path near Horseshoe Mound Preserve in Galena, Illinois.
Photo by Jonathan Montgomery Pollock.
When I start shooting, I quickly become aware of the rhythm of my breathing. I don't use a tripod, and I use a wide-angle lens that doesn't let much light in, so I need to be very still. I usually press the shutter button right between inhaling and exhaling, taking a single shot at every interval. Once that rhythm is set, most of the actual compositional work is done by my subconscious. Form, lighting, color, rhythm, texture, depth, contrast, and space are being assessed below the level of my conscious awareness. When the shoot is over, I go through the entire batch one time fairly quickly, jotting down the file names of only the photos that induce an immediate emotional response. Usually, I end up with between two and ten keepers after a full day of shooting. Since I'm only partially "there" while shooting, I get to feel like an observer when I look at my own work, which is pretty cool.

I take my best photos when Amelia and I are on our adventures, visiting cool places. That's a big part of my formula for success: if you go to interesting places, you'll end up with interesting photos. The other part is to just start shooting—and keep on shooting!

Haunted Willow Creek Farm in Shannon, Illinois.
Photo by Jonathan Montgomery Pollock.

Jonathan Montgomery Pollock is an independent recording engineer, photographer, guitarist, botanical perfumer, and museum exhibits specialist based in Chicago. He is, of course, also my partner in life and crime.

"Photography" (essay and photos), copyright 2023 Jonathan Montgomery Pollock

Monday, April 10, 2023

apparitions Shortlisted for The Haiku Foundation 2022 Touchstone Awards for Distinguished Books!

Almost exactly a year after its release, apparitions has been shortlisted for The Haiku Foundation 2022 Touchstone Awards for Distinguished Books. Winners will be announced next Monday on International Haiku Poetry Day. I'm over the moon. What a wild journey this book has taken me on. Congratulations to all the fantastic authors and their shortlisted works! And as always, I truly appreciate all your love and support. Thank you to the stars and back, and Happy Hauntings!

UPDATED/Monday, April 17, 2023: I didn't win but here are the great poets who did! Being Shortlisted is more than plenty and means I just need to write another banger. Cheers to celebrating great poets and poetry this National Poetry Month!

apparitions shortlisted for The Haiku Foundation
Touchstone Awards for Distinguished Books.

Monday, March 20, 2023

Explore More with Amelia #3: Spring 2023

Happy Spring Equinox! March is my birthday month and, this year, a time to both celebrate and remember. For one, it's been ten years since the first edition release of Breakfast with Bigfoot! April 20 is National Sasquatch Awareness Day, as I'm sure you know already, and what better way to party than with a heartwarming tale of benevolent child abduction? Based on Albert Ostman's 1924 Bigfoot encounter, and with a message (I promise) about staying safe while hiking, this book is truly the gift that keeps on giving.

Shifting gears in a big way, I'd like to take a moment to lovingly remember BC Farr of the Old Baraboo Inn. He passed away at home in late February after a long battle with heart disease. His sister, Shelly Wells, stood by him in the most difficult of times and continues to make the Old Baraboo Inn such a special place. BC was always generous, kind, and welcoming to us, and his memory is truly a blessing.

In ongoing news, The R.I.P. Files is now also on Devotv and YouTube TV. I'm getting pumped for a busy spring and summer. There will be a few surprises along the way, too, so stay tuned! Thank you and Happy Hauntings!

Explore More...

Screenshot, with Scott and Forrest,
from Astonishing Junk Drawer.
Wee folk! But beware these mischievous, elusive beings! In late February, Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador tweeted an alleged photo of an alux, along with an ancient Mayan architectural representation of the same. In a twist of synchronicity, I (and our celebrity dog Oskar) appeared the same week on the Astonishing Legends patrons-only show, Astonishing Junk Drawer, discussing my and my Uncle Bernie's "gnome" experiences. Watch my interview here and see below for an excerpt from Maryland Ghosts: Paranormal Encounters in the Free State, in which my Uncle Bernie describes one of his "gnome" encounters. No underpants were stolen. Wee folk appear in folklore and mythologies around the world. What do you think of sprites, Pukwudgies, leprechauns, gremlins, goblins, gnomes, faeries, elves, elementals, duendes, aluxes, and the many other names these fascinating and mysterious beings go by?

"As I approached the part of Route 70 West [near Frederick] where railroad tracks pass under the highway, I noticed something down in the knoll by the tracks.

"I slowed down. There was no traffic behind me. There sitting on the knoll was a man of childlike proportions. His head and nose were large, his body small, sitting hunched over, resting his forearms and elbows on his knees.

"He was dressed in childlike clothing, with long-toed slippers, tights, a long shirt with a waist belt or rope, and he had a dark blue hat that reminded me of Peter Pan's hat. I could not believe my own eyes, and wished I had a camera.

"His eyes seemed large and brown, yet a bit sunken due to his high cheekbones. His hands seemed unusually long for his size, fingers folded, yet he had large knuckles. I noticed him noticing me, as he glanced to his left. Remember, my vehicle was moving very slowly at this point.

"I tried not to make eye contact with him. I didn't want to disturb him, and of course didn’t want to wreck my vehicle. But then it happened: our eyes made contact and he, the 'gnome,' was gone in a flash, completely vanished.

"I could not resist, I had to stop and investigate. Upon my arrival at the knoll, I went to the exact spot he had been. I noticed patches of grass were matted down and a few acorn shells were lying about. 

I shared my sighting with Debra when I arrived in Altoona, but as you can imagine, I don't think she believed me."

Two-Year Anniversary: Amelia's DragonGoddess Boutique!

Over at Amelia's DragonGoddess Boutique, we recently sold out of our first two batches of incense and have a new recipe in development! Our items are now in stores across Chicago, Galena, and Salem, including A Darkness Lovely, BottlesUp, Hermetic Arts Learning Center, Malliway Brothers, and The Colette Collection. Instead of a birthday sale, we've lowered overall prices on our solid perfumes and dragon meditation kits, and we've introduced our newest item, Pathways Notecards (Set of Five), which debuted in person last month at the Dead of Winter Conference in Alton, Illinois! See below for more details and thank you all for another awesome year!

Featured Book: Breakfast with Bigfoot

Third edition from Haunted Road Media, 2020 
Illustrated by Charles Swinford
$11.99 Paperback on Amazon/Barnes & Noble

Kindle Best Seller in: Children's Nature

So, Bigfoot does exist, but does he like peanut butter and goldfish crackers? Find out in Breakfast with Bigfoot, written by Amelia Cotter and illustrated by Charles Swinford. Adventure and laughs are just around the corner as Gretchen and her new pal Bigfoot discover a thing or two about both the kinds of food that people eat and the kinds found in nature. For ages three through six.

"Funny and sweet! A charming story that teaches good wilderness principles to the read-it-to-me-again set."
–Cristina Bryan, author of Miss Chicken Brings Lunch

New Item: Pathways Notecards (Set of Five)

Each attractively packaged notecard set comes with five unique notecards, one of each design pictured. Notecards are blank inside.

About: Our beautiful Pathways Notecards feature the fine art photography of Jonathan Montgomery Pollock and highlight floral or plant portraits symbolic of life's journeys. Designs include: forgotten bouquet at Rosehill Cemetery Mausoleum in Chicago; autumn path at Starved Rock State Park in Utica, Illinois; white lily in Chinatown, Chicago; electric glow buds in Chicago; and prairie path near Horseshoe Mound Preserve in Galena, Illinois.

Upcoming Appearances

Chicago Paranormal Convention at Countryside Banquet and Conference Center in Countryside, Illinois
June 17, 2023

Haunted America Conference at Lewis and Clark College in Alton, Illinois
June 23-24, 2023

2023 Midwest Paranormal Conference at Woodstock Opera House in Woodstock, Illinois
July 8, 2023

Amelia's DragonGoddess Boutique at BeyoU Ladies' Night at BottlesUp, Chicago
August 2023

Brumder Mansion in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
October 13, 2023

Milwaukee Paranormal Conference at Irish Cultural and Heritage Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
October 14, 2023