The journey of an artist…

follows neither a straight nor an easy path…

morning fog
morning fog

Nothing is ever the same twice because everything is always gone forever, and yet each moment has infinite photographic possibilities.

Michael Kenna

Tempting as it may be to shoot things like heavily saturated sunsets that draw gasps of delight from the general public I think it is important to stay true to what you personally find to be moving. If you sacrifice that inner voice, your own personal je ne sais quoi in the hopes of a sale, you will lose the joy that comes with picking up a camera.

It’s strange but when I find myself editing an image with just the smallest of adjustments using an almost exaggerated light touch I know that the image holds more meaning for me.

Likewise when I see the work of another photographer and it makes me hold my breath even for a moment I know that their work has resonated with me and it then becomes important to find out why.

Michael Kenna is one such artist who when I happened upon his work it was like time stood still. So many of his images were utterly simple and at the same time complex in their composition and tone.

30 seconds one evening
30 seconds one evening

I battle with color and sensory overload at the best of times so I do find myself drawn to black and white. As a young girl I was petrified of the dark with its enveloping blackness and things that might lurk in those shadows. Never one to give in to irrational fears I pushed myself to be in that darkness and I have found it to be meditative and calming in a world that has exploded with connectivity. Now I find myself more often than not, waiting for the sun to go down so that I can explore the night using long exposures. Certainly not something that I would ever have imagined doing but if you are willing to try new things and keep an open mind, you might find your journey taking a new direction.

I do still shoot color but I find myself doing so less and less and when I look back on photographers whose work really moves me, it is almost always minimalist and black and white.

For me it is about being authentic in your work and presenting an image that is true to your own personal vision and this year as I shoot the fireworks to celebrate America’s day of Independence they will more than likely be in black and white…

Happy Fourth of July to those celebrating…

Passing judgement…

based on appearance.

barred
barred

Prejudice is a great time saver. You can form opinions without having to get the facts.

E. B. White

I have always had a passion for dogs and have lived with them for most of my life. Photographing them can be challenging but when it comes together naturally it’s a beautiful thing!

Several of the breeds that I have owned frequently land between the pages of Breed Specific Legislation. That poorly thought out, often contentious piece of appearance based legislation that targets a growing list of dog breeds purely on how they look. If your breed isn’t on it, don’t be too complacent, once in place it has the capability of quietly growing.

As a photographer and owner of Staffordshire Bull Terriers, I am very conscious of the images that I share of this breed; always scrutinizing them for what someone might ‘see’ in them and choose to tagline as vicious. She could be running joyfully towards me with that ‘grin’ that all owners of this breed recognize but to the uneducated or the one with an agenda, publishing that image might just add fuel to the fire when taken out of context. It is unfathomable to me that there are cities in this country and in the one to my North, where should I venture into those places with this dog, she could actually be confiscated. Did I mention that in England they are called the Nanny Dog, they are especially good with children and that this particular dog lives with a fluffy white kitty?

On this day she sat quietly watching me as sunlight streamed through the wooden blinds and calling out a quick ‘stay’ I reached for my camera which is always close at hand. For me it was a moment that captured the look of prejudice and each time I see it I am compelled to remember never to judge a book by its cover.

Haleakala…

where the demigod Maui snared the sun and forced it to move more slowly across the sky.

sunrise on Haleakala
sunrise on Haleakala

The grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never dried all at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor is ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal dawn and gloaming, on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls.

John Muir

It seemed like the right thing to do, after all I have had a lot of practice lately at getting up after midnight and chasing the night sky so the alarm was set and at 2 AM we began our journey to the 10,023 foot summit of a volcano called Haleakala.

I would not have imagined packing my winter down, snowboard under layers and wool hat for a trip to Hawaii but I was really glad that I had! Bundled up and with a Pepsi and pretzels in hand to combat the nausea that I deal with on winding mountain roads, into the Jeep we piled.

The drive was as curvy and slow as reported so we were glad that we had gotten such an early start. Upon arrival we made our way up top and I found a good place to set up my tripod, thankfully weighted down by my gear bag as it was cold and breezy.

It was a full moon night but I was still pleased to be able to see the milky way with my naked eye and took some shots of it while we waited for the main event. I think that this was the first time ever for me photographing the night sky with a group of people and I do mean group! Those of us braving the weather outside had a chuckle at the expense of the ones who looked a little like caged animals staring out from the enclosed and far warmer viewing area; snapping pictures from behind the glass with their flashes on.

enclosed viewing area
enclosed viewing area

Being surrounded by some wonderful people from other parts of the world helped to pass the time as my fingers (gloved) froze and my kneecaps shook. Thank God for remotes so I didn’t have to touch my camera!

For me the best part of a sunrise is always the time before it comes up and the continuous line of vehicles driving up added some lovely trails to the night sky images. The main event was a moving experience as the sun rose over a bank of clouds and the audience could be heard to say a collective aaahhhhh. 

Haleakala sunrise
light trails from cars on Haleakala

Haleakala, house of the sun, I will remember you…

 

 

I find myself wishing that…

I had paid more attention in school instead of daydreaming.

Moonrise
Moonrise

For my part I know nothing with any certainty but the sight of the stars makes me dream.

Vincent Van Gogh

I photograph every day and I think that practice not only keeps my creativity at a good level but it creates opportunities for further exploration of things that I might not have otherwise searched out.

Unless you are a studio based photographer you have to just deal with whatever is thrown your way for light and weather and find a way to make it work. If it is harsh bright sunlight, I might decide to do a long exposure over water with a neutral density filter or I might do a little infrared. Cloudy darker days are good for double exposures. Sometimes you can keep notes and revisit sites when conditions are perfect for the type of shot that you imagine, but that’s not always possible. It’s nice to have options and know how to dial in your settings to shoot under those conditions.

I have dabbled on and off with night photography usually when the day has gotten away from me and the last vestiges of good light have faded. I am finding it to be a whole other world filled with wonderful visual opportunities dependent on moon phases, cloud cover, and light pollution. Knowing how to capture the night sky though has led me into another crash course that I am just now starting to understand. The digital cameras of today, when manually programmed, capture this quite readily and if you’re shooting RAW instead of JPEG you really have quite a bit of freedom when it comes to editing. Like anything else though the key is practice, practice, practice. There is a wealth of information online that provides more specific information on gear, settings, and editing.

I think if I had been inspired more in school I might have paid more attention to learning about math which would have come in awfully handy now! It’s never too late though and I have immersed myself in things like azimuth and elevation calculations…and there are things called intervalometers that are built into cameras or they can be attached to them so that you can capture star trails. Who knew?! There’s one in the Nikon D7000 and I will be using it more!

Today’s shot was one taken in the early morning hours, just seeing what results I could get from different settings. As the moon began to clear the trees I noticed first that aura of light appearing. This was not the shot I was going for but I did in the end like the effect that it created and using that opportunity gave me more information to file away for future shots.

Take an opportunity to shoot under conditions that are unfamiliar to you. You might just get inspired!

 

Step out of your comfort zone…

with your creativity and take it in a new direction!

20150220-DSC_9734-Edit

Creativity takes courage.

Henri Matisse

I like to write about creativity because I think it is something that many of us struggle with from time to time. I chose this image not because I think that it is the most amazing thing to exit my camera but because it is a starting point of another photographic exploration and it got me inspired!

After many weeks of overcast skies and foggy weather culminating in an abundance of atmospheric black and white images, this past week arrived with some clear nights. I decided to get out of my comfort zone and partake of a little night photography. My life in a very small town does not provide me with fabulously lit up city scenes with iconic landmarks glowing in the dark but I can get away easily from light pollution and do a little stargazing.

My first foray took me down to a little spring fed lake just as the sun was setting. Armed with a sturdy tripod and a torch complete with colored gel filters, I played with settings and soon was engrossed with what was showing up in the night sky. I realized that I had captured in my star shots the International Space Station in the three minutes that it was visible that night. As these kinds of things often do with me, it started me on a huge google search of what was happening on a daily basis in the night sky. That night was a complete fluke so I wondered if I could set up to capture it on another night’s orbit and right on schedule, there it was in another night’s images.

Further reading showed that there would be opportunities to catch Venus, Mars, and a little sliver of the moon close together. Since it was my birthday week-end, out I went again into the night to gaze into the heavens. After my fingers began to get numb from the cold, I packed it up and in we went into town for a quick dinner. Since I wasn’t driving I took the opportunity to continue playing with shots of car trails and such along the way.

And here’s where it starts…

I could hardly wait for dinner to be over to start fiddling with my camera and using its image overlay feature to layer a couple of shots together in the camera and create a new raw file. I know that layering can be done in Photoshop but I personally like the challenge of building a shot out in the field, planning it in my head as I look at the different possibilities available on that one night. This shot for me tells the story of this particular night in one image: laying bare the bones of an idea I can’t wait to take further and execute without the flaws.

Creativity does take courage and that can be a huge stumbling block for someone who isn’t willing to fail. Break out of the box, light up your creativity, and when it takes you in a new direction… you just might discover a whole new passion!

What’s in your bag…

that you can’t live without?

Fourth of July Fireworks
“fireworks light up the sky and water in Bayview, Idaho on the Fourth of July”

What makes photography a strange invention is that its primary raw materials are light and time.

John Berger

I know it’s not the Fourth of July but scrolling through some images this week got me thinking about some favorite things that I lug around with me on a daily basis in addition to my camera and an assortment of lenses. In my northern clime, fireworks displays and light parades do occur with some regularity on the mountain to celebrate winter and being prepared for these kinds of scenarios is a good thing!

Some of these things may seem pretty obvious but they still bear mentioning…extra cards and extra (fully charged) batteries for your camera, flash, remote trigger, and flashlights. I do a lot of shooting in very cold temperatures and that does tend to use the batteries up more quickly.

I couldn’t live without my tripod and the quick release plate is always attached to my camera. Sure you can hunt around and maybe find something to set your camera on to steady it but chances are it will not be found exactly where you need it to be in order to frame your shot. I love doing long exposures and night photography and for those, a tripod is indispensable!

A sweet little item that resides permanently attached to my camera strap is an ML-L3 remote that triggers the shutter from the front, up to a distance of about 16 feet. I love this little tool and it has been used A LOT!

In the lighting department I carry a speedlight flash and a ring flash which I use primarily for macro shots like the snowflake from last week. I have a Buglit LED micro whose nifty legs can attach to my tripod so that I can find my way back to it at night, a squeeze light in red in case I want to retain my night vision, and a Surefire E2 executive flashlight just in case the urge to light paint strikes! While on the topic of light, have you ever tried to look at your LCD screen in bright daylight only to find it next to impossible to see? A lovely little fix for that is the Hoodman loupe. Mine hangs on a lanyard and if I need to see detail on the LCD screen I simply place it against the screen and it blocks out the light showing me my image in far greater detail. It’s a little pricey but I do love it.

Finally in my everyday gear I make sure that I have lens cleaning equipment, filters, and hoods for the lenses that I have with me and last but not least…a rectangular piece of black cardboard. Huh…a piece of cardboard? Oh yes…

A few words about today’s image. This fireworks shot was taken with my D7000 and a 35mm lens, the settings were f16, 22 sec, ISO 100 and because I shoot in RAW format I was able to lighten up the shadows in the foreground in Lightroom and expose the lights reflecting on the boats. This was not a composite shot… remember the piece of cardboard?  I was able to capture multiple explosions by placing the black cardboard in front of my lens and selectively removing it as each firework was shot.

I would love to hear what’s in your gear, especially those small odd items that can make all the difference in a shot.

 

 

 

To see the big picture…

sometimes you have to focus on the little bits.

...a single snowflake
“a single snowflake, fleetingly captured”

 

Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever…it remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything.

Aaron Siskind

 

I remember the exact moment that I became fascinated with macro photography. I use my camera every day and on this particular day I was at a loss for inspiration. My solution to this dilemma was to walk outside and pick a spot, sit down and look carefully at everything around me. It wasn’t long before I noticed a whole tiny world going on around me. My gaze was drawn to a bright green grasshopper on a dandelion stalk that had gone to seed. He was bright green, with the longest of antennae swivelling in all directions. At this time my lens of choice for every day was a pretty basic 55-2oo Nikkor which when zoomed out would have a nice soft background. I laid down on the grass, eye level with this small creature, only to discover that there was more going on upon this small stalk. Just above the grasshopper was the tiniest of worms…the intended dinner for the grasshopper. I captured the photo and it later became the focal point of an encaustic painting. In addition to that it sparked an avid curiosity for the tiny things that one might just walk by and never notice at all.

As with most new ventures I didn’t want to run out and purchase a macro lens only to find it gathering dust somewhere down the road so I opted for a very inexpensive macro filter that could be screwed onto the end of a lens and enable you to get just a little bit closer in magnification. Naturally the glass was not extremely sharp and the edges were very soft but as an intro to macro it served me well.

Today I shoot macro with a beautiful 105mm Nikon lens that allows me to capture things that I can barely see with my own eye. Using that lens has led me into a whole tiny world of beauty created by nature.

Today I see the big picture but only because I’ve focused on the little bits.