Friday, December 17, 2010

Friday Photo

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Technical Difficulties...

I had fully intended to post something new today... Unfortunately, I am experiencing some computer issues and nothing is working the way I need it to.
So the work computer is about to go for a visit to the kindly computer doctor and I am "forced" to plan in a more... how should I put it?... a more analog manner. This means instead of opening up Photoshop to draft a lighting set-up, I'm opening up a notebook and actually using a PEN! Not the Olympus PEN, but an actual ink-in-the-tube, Bic type of pen.
It's kind of exciting. As I looked for a fresh sheet of paper, I flipped past some other creative ideas that I have yet to act upon. It's almost as if the creativity fairy took a hammer to my normal workflow to remind me that I don't necessarily need all the bells and whistles. And while I am quite annoyed with said creativity fairy right now, I am kind of re-energized about those almost forgotten ideas.
Who knows... maybe my New Year's Resolution will be to re-organize my workspace so that ideas don't get lost in the shuffle so easily.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

When Your Dogma Eats Your Homework

One of the toughest things I've encountered in my creative life is reconciling myself to my own dogmas... In my more enlightened moments, I am struck with thoughts such as "Every creative endeavor is valid because everyone who creates is responding to being created themselves."
Then I think "Wow! How pretenious is that for a girl from Iredell County?"
Or, even worse, I encounter some work of art --- whether it is a photogragh, a painting, writing or an installation --- and my gut reaction is "Egads! What were they thinking?" Which, in turn, leads me down the dark hallway to the realization that maybe people are looking at what comes out of my brain and thinking "This is supposed to be art?"
I don't like the hyper-critical side of my brain. I don't always see how it can be productive. At least I can remind myself that I don't have to like everything I see... and not everyone is going to like my work. And I don't even have to agree with everything someone does or says or produces to appreciate them or their work. And that's really the way it should be because if we all agreed, we would be an awfully boring lot.

So where is all this coming from? I've been editing and downloading images I shot this weekend. That always gives me time to let my mind wander... I've got the beginnings of a new book or screenplay (haven't decided which yet) rumbling around in my brain and trickling down onto paper. Plus I captured faces this weekend in their natural state (my favorite) and that tends to get my brain going.
So is what I shot this weekend valid and creative? I don't know right now... I think I'm rambling.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Prodigal Prints

We celebrated Thanksgiving last week. There was food... and this being the South, most of that food was produced from old family recipes and was not in the least bit calorie-conscious. I still haven't managed to tally up the poundage of butter used.
But food consumption was not the main thing. I think the "over-indulgence" was actually a form of holiday carb-loading to fortify us for the family workday on Saturday.
There were plans to rake leaves and power wash my mother's carport. The latter activity netted me some forgotten images like the one above.
I had moved back in with my parents at one point and there was not enough room for all my junk. I ended up abandonning a wooden dresser on the carport. Initially the dresser was used to store little things --- safety goggles, dust masks, wood screws, etc. --- but after a while it was ignored. I had forgotten what I had orginally placed inside.
While everyone else was blowing leaves and scrubbing siding, my mother instructed me that since the dresser was techincally mine, I was the one who had to deal with it. There was no escape. So I opened up the drawers one by one to clean them out and get the dresser ready for a new home.
Amid the cobwebs and spider eggs and dust were boxes of old slides. I opened one box and discovered that they were images I had shot in high school and college. I don't really remember shooting a lot of slides... I tended to go with black & white film since it was cheaper. But the images are all from my trips.
And amazingly, everything is in decent condition. No mold. Just a little dirt. But definitely not what you'd expect from being outside for several years. (and the dresser is not in bad shape either)
So I'm scanning old slides and I'll be looking for some more Polaroid film to create some transfers... Anybody got a box of 669 you'd be willing to sell at a reasonable price?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Friday Photo(s)


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Holiday Mode

I'm feeling rather worthless this week... creatively speaking.

My main focus is "crafting" my Sweet Potato Casserole for the family get-together on Thanksgiving Day. I've only had fleeting visits from the Idea Fairy this week. Yes, I know it's only Tuesday, but let's get real... I'm in some sort of nesting-domestic mindset that I probably won't get out of until I put the Christmas tree up on Friday (yes, I'm one of those people).
So I'm not going to fight it. I will embrace that making the yearly recipe is, in itself, a creative venture. Especially since it is truly my concoction. I patched together bits and pieces of recipes and over the past five years have come up with a dish that has begun to be requested at gatherings of friends and family. I will share it with you below --- If you make it and like it, please let me know! And if anyone asks you, let them know you got the recipe from a creative photographer... because creativity does come in many forms.
I'll be posting images from this year's casserole later this week. Here's the recipe:

Jane's Sweet Potato Casserole
  4-6 sweet potatoes --- cooked, skinned & mashed
  1/4 C. sugar
  2 eggs, beaten
  6 Tbls. butter, softened
  2 Tbls. milk
  1 tsp. vanilla
  1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  1/2 tsp. salt
  dash of pepper
  1 15-1/4 oz. can crushed pineapple, partially drained
Combine all these ingredients in a buttered 1-1/2 qt. baking dish.
  3/4 C. Grape Nuts cereal
  1/2 C. light brown sugar
  4 Tbls. butter, melted
Combine Topping ingredients and spread on potato mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Art of Compromise... or the Compromise of Art

Life's been interesting lately. It always is when one is trying to balance a "regular" life and an artistic one.

First there is the pursuit of income. It makes paying the bills possible. It also facilitates pursuing artistic endeavors. The flip side is the pursuit of creative voice --- figuring out what it is you really want to say in a way that strikes a chord with others. In a perfect world the two pursuits would co-exist and actually feed each other.

But a perfect world would actually be boring. I firmly believe that the conflict of reconciling one's regular life with one's creative life can provide growth for both. Unfortunately, sometimes that same conflict can chip away at any progress intended.

Asking for people's opinion of your work is an integral part of progressing as an artist. Sometimes it ends up feeling like a not-so-necessary evil. If the person whose opinion you are seeking is not really feeling up for the task, you can be on the receiving end of some bizarre feedback. That's a drag. I'm learning that the trick is to not only decifer the advice, but to read the giver of the advice and figure out in what spirit they are offering said advice.

In the meantime, I'm getting ready for the annual Light Factory Auction this weekend. One of my pieces, Star of Bethlehem, is up for auction. We'll see what the feedback on that is...

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Mid-Term Election Day... 2010

I suffered burn out from all the election madness during my 14 years in TV news.

It was exciting when I first started. I was one half of the two-person team charged with programming the equipment that displayed the results on your TV screen during your favorite programs on Election night. It made me feel like I had an important part in the grand scheme of things.

But then I became disillusioned with both television news and the political process. I just wanted to hide. I'm ashamed to say, I think I skipped the last mid-term voting day.

That changed this year. The attack ads began to air in heavy rotation. I watched Real Time with Bill Maher much more often than I should (not that I always agree with him... but it gets me thinking). The Rally to Restore Sanity (or Fear) seemed much more intelligent than anything that was coming out of any candidate's mouth.

I had fully intended to work all day at my computer without taking time to exercise my right to vote.

Then, I browsed the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections website. I took the time to read each of the candidate statements from each candidate that I did not already know... including all the Court of Appeals judges.

Maybe I was overcome by the spirits of Suffragettes... Maybe I was ashamed of slacking off. But this morning I decided I wanted to have my say, and so I did.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Viva Vernacular!

I love a good mystery... especially when that mystery is in the form of a photograph. Specifically, when that photograph seems to materialize in the most mundane places --- stuck between the pages of a book or stuffed unceremoniously into an envelope. The seemingly absent-minded or careless act belies the importance of the document.

Photographs capture not only a subject. They capture a bit of the photographer as well. They show what the person with the camera deemed important enough to chronicle, whether it was a person, place or event. Sometimes these images are not what we would consider "good" photographs in terms of composition or exposure. The power of vernacular photographs lies in the eye of the photographer. And I guess, a little bit in the collector as well.

Because of my passion for photography, I have become the de facto curator of the family photo archives. My paternal aunt has given me a plethora of snapshots as well as a single daguerreotype. My mother has given me some of the images from her side of the family as well. Some of the images have names scribbled illegibly on the back... some others are readable. Most of the images contain some clue about the subject and the relation to my family --- the Dunlop nose from Scotland, my mother's jaw line...
They all document and make real to me long dead ancestors. This helps me figure out my place in my family.

Whenever I begin teaching a new class session, I usually have everyone in the class take a moment to introduce themselves and tell why they are in the class. the most popular reason given is that they want to take better pictures of their families. My goal is to get them to show what is important in their lives.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Studio of Her Own

When it comes to creative spaces, I think my spirit animal must be that of a wren. I have been known to set up my "studio" in the middle of a street (because the light was right) as well as various open spaces in my own home. My flower portrait series is currently being shot in front of my television... which makes enjoying the evening mysteries and reality TV antics a little tricky. Plus, I have to keep an eye out for my "assistant".
The original plan --- before the economy tanked --- was for me to work and establish myself so in a couple of years I could afford a studio space that could be dedicated solely to my photography. I'm still working on that. And I have met several other photographers who have studio space to rent out when I absolutely have to have a studio.

But I still have a romantic longing for my own creative space.

And then I saw this article on the JPG magazine website --- an inflatable studio. Available in two sizes!

I can't really imagine that I would set this up anywhere... I mean, really, where would I hang the sign? But it is amusing and shows ingenuity and it made me smile. And it's relatively inexpensive, so who knows. Maybe it would be just perfect for my own space.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Courting the Muse

Several of my classmates from Sean Kernan's class have emailed me recently with images they've been working on. This is only making me want to shoot on a theme more than ever. But what to choose...?

Being a Libra, I've always celebrated my "whim of steel" which tends to make living with me a little exciting. I can be thinking of and talking about researching a new car or sofa... and then after saying "I'm going to just look at this..." I will actually come home with something totally different.

It's kind of that way with photography projects. I've got tons of ideas swirling around in my head, but committing to one feels like I'm cheating on the others. I want to make absolutely sure that what I choose to explore is something I want to be associated with. And so I vacillate...

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Friday Night Favorites

Historically, they are gods in their youth. Playing their part in a microcosm that is supposed to prepare them for life afterward.

Most teens spend their days shuffling among classes that someone else has told them they have to master. They don't really get the importance of what is being forced upon them. The recognition of what is ultimately important usually doesn't come until years, even some decades, later.

Uncertainty rules their world. Their brains are not going to be fully functionally developed for another decade. So they process what the adults in their lives tell them and come up with their own world order. It's a world order that doesn't matter after they graduate --- either from high school or from college --- but while they are in the thick of it, they try to make sense of it all.

I think that's what draws them to the field.
We all remember our own high school days, either with wistfull longing for their return or with gratitude that it's long over and we're on with our lives.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Curious Effects of Cooler Weather

Maybe it's the cool crisp of the air... or possibly it's the fact that it's my birthday month, but I'm always relieved and feel I can take a deep, cleansing breath when October arrives. My world can be falling apart, but once the temperature dips to the 40's in the morning no bad thing seems like it is final. Everything seems to have a glow of promise.

Maybe I'm a little delusional. But then again, if the weather can affect the human psyche in a negative way, why can't the opposite happen? Maybe it's like a reboot for my system or maybe it's the jolt of the air... or maybe it just makes me happy that my normally stand-offish cat tends to curl up and cuddle with me on cold mornings.

Whatever it is, I'll take it and relish it. Happy Autumn!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Decisions, Decisions...

A photographer I know here in Charlotte, Brian Gomsak, recently wrote a blog article on whether or not photographers should specialize. That subject seems to come up frequently when photographers are gathered.

There are passionate supporters on both sides of the argument. I'm not 100% sure that I've decided what I should do, but I'm starting to see patterns in my own work that may indicate what I've already made the decision.

When I started my photography business, people would ask me "What do you shoot?" and my stock answer has always been rather cheeky --- "I'll shoot anything but porn... but if things get really bad, maybe I'll do that too." That was before the economy tanked. I haven't started shooting porn, but I've thought about it every time the bank account gets low.

So does this mean that I've been shooting everything and anything? Kind of. I'll try to capture just about anything. It's mainly figuring out how to make your subject look good or appropriate and that's a matter of controlling the light. But what do people hire me for? That is starting to narrow down to two things: people and flowers. Usually in black and white.

I love shooting flowers. Georgia O'Keefe hated flowers, but said "they're cheaper than models and they don't move." I don't hate flowers. I love flowers. I just have a brown thumb so the flowers I photograph aren't long for this world after I finish with them. Hopefully that doesn't take the shine off my flower work for you.

People are different. People can be a bit of a challenge. After all, they move and are possessed of their own opinions and insecurities. But their capacity and thirst for joy can be boundless. When I am blessed with capturing that moment of joy, it becomes infectious and I revisit those images as I work.

So have I made a conscious decision about what to specialize in? Not really. I think the work has found me.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Peeking Around a Tree

I kind of feel like I'm in the woods... peeking around a tree... and finally beginning to see the other end of the forest!
I finally made it to the halfway point in shooting my flower project. I've still got a long way to go, but at least getting to this point gives me the mental support to keep going.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

To Do List... Truncated.

So this is what I end up posting when I neglect to put "write Tuesday's blog entry" on the to do list.

Mysterious, no? Textural, definitely.

I've been racking my brain trying to come up with some new, subject appropriate backgrounds and I decided late last night as I was just about to drift off to sleep (because that's when my brain works most efficiently) that I needed moss. Mind you, I have no moss in my yard. I only have parched grass. Not too much in the way of shade either.

So on my weekly pilgrimage to the wholesale florist I asked "Do you happen to have any moss?", not really expecting what kind of reaction I would get. The kind lady behind the counter said "Yes... it's beyond those double doors."

I was halfway expecting to see a dense forest with elves & gnomes armed with shovels ready to assist me. But there just beyond the double doors were cardboard boxes of Mountain Moss and Sheet Moss and some other kind that I can't quite recall now. All neatly packed away but smelling funny... I can't quite figure out how to describe the scent other than it's not what I expected moss to smell like. Then again, I didn't think I'd find moss in prepackaged boxes.

But now I have my subject appropriate background. It sheds, but it works! Actually, it sheds so much my cat won't even touch it, but that's what vacuum cleaners are for.
Product shots with the moss background should be posted on my Etsy site by this time next week...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Individual Vision

I start new Intro to DSLR classes at the Light Factory this week. It's always exciting. I get to meet new people and share one of my greatest passions with them. Then I get to be there as they, hopefully, discover their own individual creative voices.

Sometimes they just struggle with comprehending what Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO are and how they combine as Exposure... but I usually get to at least see a glimmer of how these other individuals see the world. Sometimes people just want to know how a particular shot was achieved so they can shoot just like that. That's not what I'm usually hoping to pass along to people, but I'll give them the basics to see where they take it.

One of my favorite portfolio reviews was with photographer Brian Ulrich when he had an exhibit here in Charlotte. It was more like a visit than a formal creative critique. He really looked at every image I put in front of him and asked me questions about how, why and where I shot each frame.

Then he asked me why everything was always shot with a shallow depth of field. I had never really thought about it... Maybe it's because I have an astigmatism and the blur just registers as "normal" in my brain. Then he suggested I try shooting my normal subjects with a greater depth of field. I was aghast! Wouldn't that be the way someone else sees the world? Maybe. But I wouldn't know if I didn't at least give it a try.

So later that week I was working on my flower series and I tried it. I ended up liking it.
I still favor a fairly shallow Depth of Field, but I am trying more techniques. If they look like something that would come out of my mind, I keep them in my mental creative files. If not, they get filed in a different area... because the technique might perfectly express someone else's view of the world.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Thinking Outside the Full-frame Sensor

It's been about 2 weeks, 2 days, 23 hours and 50 minutes since I returned from Sean Kernan's mind-opening workshop in Maine. I'm still processing the experience in my head... trying not to slide back into old, sticky habits. But it's hard.

And that's all the whining I'm going to do on the subject! Because even though I'm back in my normal environment with all my creature comforts and obligations surrounding and insulating me, I still have this little voice throwing ideas across my mind that beg attention.
I've gotten several calls/emails/messages over the past several days asking how people can purchase note cards or necklaces. This prompted the recent production frenzy of said note cards and necklaces in which I'm currently swimming. Not a bad wake up call since it's something I enjoy doing and it's another way to express myself creatively. (Actually the only things I dislike about the process are getting glue all over my fingers and the smell of the solder.)
But even as I'm going through the motions that are so familiar to me, I keep going back to the concept of the Extended Photograph that Sean encouraged us to explore. An Extended Photograph provides an experience that goes beyond just the visual... It can incorporate any of the other senses that will get your message across to your audience. At least that's what I think it is.
I've got two ideas that are bouncing around in my head for my Extended Photographs, but I think for my own sanity I'll concentrate on just one of them for the next six months and see how it evolves.
Curious? So am I. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Making Connections in the Garden

I've been plugging away at finishing my book project on black and white flower images and grabbed this bunch of Scabiosa --- a nectar-rich, rough and floppy flower that is a favorite of butterflies. I'm pleased with the image even though when I first picked them up I thought they looked a little "rode hard & put up wet".

Of course I didn't make the connection between the blooming of these flowers and the beginning of Butterfly season ( I didn't even really think about butterflies having seasons... but then again, this is all turning out to be a great learning process for me...). A friend of mine and I took a little road trip to Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens late last week and discovered that it is indeed time for butterflies to crawl out of their casings to show the world their transformation.

In order to prepare for the event, Something's A-Flutter, the people at DSBG have several glass cases in the Orchid Conservatory full of butterfly chrysalides. At first I thought they were bits of jewelry, especially since the chrysalis of the Monarch butterfly looks like jade.
I've never seen a butterfly straight out of the chrysalis. Instead of the flitty, flighty insect I'm used to seeing, I witnessed creatures that seemed exhausted and crumpled as they had not yet been able to pump their wings into flight mode. It was a little sad.

I'm getting to take my Intro to DSLR class to the gardens tomorrow. I hope the butterflies are a little more ready for the world, but even if they aren't, I can't wait to see my students discover them...

Monday, August 23, 2010

Mind Buzz...

I'm just back from the Maine Media Workshops in Rockport, Maine where I got to take part in Sean Kernan's Creativity & the Photographer II workshop.
I was a little nervous going into this. The workshop focuses on the creative process, not the technical aspects of photography. Sean uses movement and theatre exercises to get the photographer more in tune with the world around him or her. I was worried what it would actually be like...
Thankfully, it was wonderful. I have never known what it is like to be in a truly safe environment for creating art. The group of people melded together in a way I've never experienced in a workshop setting. It was like being a part of a litter of puppies --- ready to explore!
Some really wonderful work was produced... Some was just started.
I'm excited about working on my creative projects in the coming months. I have Sean Kernan and the other "puppies" to thank for that!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

To Retouch or Not to Retouch...

... that is my question when I'm doing a self-portrait. Is it more honest to leave all the blemishes when you're exploring who and what you are or is it okay to soften things a little?

Even when you have 20/20 or better vision, don't you really gaze upon others (and yourself) with an emotional filter? Hmmm... that's my conundrum as I work on my latest project.

What do you think?...