Why Have a "Koda"?

by Zoraya B. Stern  |  Dec 31, 2018  |  Musings

Journaling has never been at the top of my list of things I wanted to do....I mean, it's writing, which requires correct use of grammar, spelling, punctuations, avoiding run-on sentences and desperately thinking of synonyms to make it all sound more interesting...ugh! No, I was that odd girl (if we go by gender sterotypes) who loved ALL her math classes. And, yes even calculus (though, today I have no clue how to explain a derivative, a limit or differential equations!) As an architect, the blending of structure, rhythm, composition and design is just the way how I view everything I do. I have also always loved playing my flute and have often wondered if the math involved in playing rhythms correctly had something to do with it. Or perhaps it was being able to release emotions through playing music. And now……photography has become a similar “release” as a kind of visual music in my life.

Photography is an art. It is also a way of documenting moments in time. It is a way of sharing life experiences with one another. It is one of the tools we use to inundate our social media with "in-the-moment" moments.

But, what if it can serve as a time for reflection? This year alone I have had the opportunity to travel to far and away places.....Singapore and Ireland. And, yes, I posted my phone pictures on social media....but, what about the hundreds of photos I took with my camera? Yes, I'm still processing and editing (physically AND figuratively).....and, along the post processing path, I find myself transported back to those amazing places as I revisit them through the lens that helped me capture what I experienced. But, not only that, new thoughts, ideas, and questions bubble to the surface that give me cause for reflection as I conclude the post-processing of a set of photographs. THAT.....cannot be shared in a fleeting moment on social media!

In music for example, many pieces incorporate a "coda" in the composition as a way to summarize the theme and bring the selection to a conclusion, often with it's own unique addition to the basic original structure. Processing and editing my photography is doing just that.....providing me with a coda, a "Photographic Koda" of my experience to reflect upon for myself.....and to share with you.

So, in this year that I turned 50, I am going to write. Call it a mid-life crisis…..I don’t know. I plan to journal my experiences so that I may reflect and others may “hear” my visual music through my photography and my “kodas”. Hopefully, those who read them will too be inspired to share their own experiences in relation to these “kodas”.

My first “koda” is about participating in an annual photo contest…..which I just did again this past fall for the 4th year in a row and with great success! Well, although I am proud of the fact that 8 of the 13 photos I entered did place and receive an award……the true reward was in preparing the photographs for the contest. I was forced to really look back (ok, maybe scan) at hundreds of photos in this past year alone and pick out my best for each category. I’m sure you’ve heard many say how important it is to print your photos, right? Yes, it’s true! PRINT your photos, every year. For photographers, it is a way to conclude the year with a tangible and visual conclusion (or “koda”) of that year’s work. For everyone else, your “visual music” will be heard when conversations are had in regard to these printed moments in time.

2018 Award Winning Photos

Category: Wildcard

Theme: Club Fieldtrips and Workshops

Honorable Mention: “Reflect Again”

This was taken on a fieldtrip to Brazos Bend State Park just a few months post Hurricane Harvey. There was a lot of thought provoked…..both by the physical reflection of the pier and our own reflection of the magnitude of that flooding as we walked around this lake seeing the marks on the trees of how high the water had reached.


Category: Technique

Theme: Long Exposure

3rd Place: “Bluegrass Echo”

My year began with an amazing trip to the national convention of Professional Photographers of America…..4 days in Nashville Tennessee with 2 other photographer “besties”. One night out on Broadway capturing long exposures of the night life in this Honky Tonk town.


Category: People

Theme: Sports

3rd Place: “3rd Barrel”

I was one lucky girl to have a photographer friend with extra Rodeo tickets to see George Strait….And, yes, we took our cameras and long lenses to capture all the action!


Category: Black & White

Theme: Silhouettes

3rd Place: “Moher” Power (pronounce “more”)

On my trip to Ireland to visit my son while on study abroad (at least that was my excuse), I spent a day with a photography coach (George Karbus) and while shooting the waves crashing into the cliffs….a group of people happened to walk in the distance right in front of the splash. I excitedly took many shots and explained to him how I needed that shot for this contest entry. He kindly offered to model for me after the group of people left just to ensure I had plenty of shots to choose from! If traveling to the west coast of Ireland, I highly recommend scheduling a workshop with George! He is an amazing photographer and teacher!

George Karbus


Category: Other

Theme: Digital Manipulation

3rd Place: “Imminent”

While living in Virginia for almost 15 years…..I always teased about how it never rains there! This is why…..this past year it seems everytime I drove home from the Brenham / College Station area, I would have to drive through a storm…..this day I actually had my camera, so I pulled over on the side of the highway and got this shot of the sky. The bottom half of the picture however, was an ugly and boring concrete highway. This category gave me the liberty to find a better lower half for the photo…..a vineyard in the Texas hill country and merge them together with digital manipulation!


Category: Open

Theme: Any Subject

3rd Place: “Silver Solitude”

While in Ireland this past summer I spent 4 days completely alone with my camera…..a time for rest, recharge and reflection. I took this picture at the beach in Lahinch, the small town I stayed in, after a couple of hours of sitting and observing the happenings along this beautiful shore line.


Category: People

Theme: Sports

1st Place: “1st Heat”

Swimming is one of the reasons I got into photography. Not that I swim (can barely make it from one end to the other without swallowing half the pool)….but, because all 4 of my kids are swimmers. I shoot many swim meets, but this little girl so reminded me of those early years for my kids in swimteam….so eager to race and always starting off with quite the splash!


Category: Nature

Theme: Weather

1st Place: “Complementary”

While in Ireland this past summer and with George Karbus on a quest to photograph the cliffs in full sunset (something I would have never attempted alone in the evening….so, thanks again to George for taking me there!) we found ourselves with only moments that the sun peeked through to warm and highlight the majestic Cliffs of Moher. The sunlight was not cooperating….and, this was why….a storm over the atlantic headed our way. With nothing but ocean and sky, I decided to turn my attention to the storm and photograph the dance between rage and calm, dark and light, oppressive and inspiring, fear and awe….each complements the other. Wondering if this counts as “adventure photography”?


Thank you for visiting and please comment to share your own experiences if something speaks to you!

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