Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

AutumnLeavesOnGround, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

This is about as close to confetti as I will come, sorry, you'll have to settle for some already fallen leaves.

I hope 2010 brings you good cheer, good health, close family, and lots of success. 2009 was a hard year in a lot of ways, here's hoping we can all start to come out of the darkness a little bit, maybe shine up that old optimism some, and take the new year out for a spin.

As far as resolutions go, look for a post on that to follow soon. Black eyed peas? Well, I've never been big on them (being from the north and all) but, yes, if it brings you luck and joy, why not, right? (Bring 'em on, I say!)

Happy New Year to one and all!

Until next...year this time...

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Stream of Unconsciousness

NiceSky, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

I took this picture because I thought there was a nice sky and I like nice skies. Nice skies, generally, make for interesting pictures, don't you think?

You can call it peer pressure, you can call it "Carol is freezing her XXX off and has thrown fashion sense into the wind yet again" or you can call it what you will, but I have broken down and gotten a pair of Uggs. They are short chocolate brown ones, if you must know, and yes, I do, in fact, wear them out of the house. They are toasty warm. Not only do I enjoy a brown pair of "street" Ugg's, I also got some "fluffy pink" Ugg slippers. I just could not resist. So now, I'm completely Ugg-pathetic, wearing them both inside and out, when I'm "street walking" which is something I really don't do but, like, you get the idea.

I have recently taken on another odd fascination. I've become totally engrossed in bare trees. It's a lucky thing that it's almost "bare tree" season too, because, well, if it were mid-summer and this strange fascination hit me, I just don't know what I'd do. I'm oddly fascinated with bare trees and have taken up stalking them, hunting them down, browsing various 'hoods in search of, and the like. If you spot me with my head tilted, no, my neck hasn't "gone out" yet again, it's just me looking at trees (for some unknown reason or another.) Oddly enough, this year, my fascination for holiday lights has completely backfired. I have absolutely no desire to shoot any holiday lights-this is very unusual for me and can perhaps be best explained by stating that I'm in a more "natural" mood and want to get out into nature a bit more. First sign of a skunk and, I'm sure, that will change but, for now, there you have it.

Acura has introduced a new car, called the ZDX. It's outrageously expensive and, I thought upon first glance, quite ugly. But, alas, the more I look at it, the more I grow to like it. Sadly, the price is not coming down anytime soon. It clocks in at "way too rich for my blood" but still a girl can drool, can't she? Ok, I'll just come out and admit it, I think it's a very pretty replacement for my car (and leave it at that.)

Speaking of drooling, David Tennant's been on TV a lot lately. BBC America is playing the last of his Doctor Who episodes. I hate to say it, but I can barely bring myself to watch. I'm going to miss spending my Saturday nights almost watching him or, at least, trying to save him from the clutches of the evil TiVo boop, that's for sure.

While on the subject of TiVo, I found out the other day that my local VFW post is having issues with their TiVo. (Imagine that!) A little birdie told me that they have a TiVo and "it keeps recording crime dramas rather than the sporting events they keep programming into it." AH HA! So, that's how you get it to record Law and Order! Now all I have to do is figure out what one of the upcoming bowl games is called, program it in, stand back, and watch TiVo do it's thing. My luck, I'd get stuck actually watching football (bowl games do happen in football, yes? I have the sport right and all?)

In other, ahem, more relevant news, the good folks over at Lifepixel have come out with a new infrared filter. Called "Super Color Infrared" it appears to give amazing colors, for those who are into that sort of a thing. According to their website, "Provides for a super vibrant foliage and intensely colorful sky. With the red & blue channels swapped the foliage takes on a golden orange tone and sky a beautiful royal blue. The most surrealistic, color infrared filter available." Wow. What can I say about that? Gee, I wonder what would happen if I took a picture of my TiVo recording a movie featuring David Tennant batting Nicolas Cage in some kind of a bowl game?

Ah, now that one's easy. The world as we know it would just simply explode.

Until next time...

Sunday, December 27, 2009

This is Me Not Painting-Joking Around a bit

TwoFaces No. 1, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

Yes, yes, I've been lazy this weekend-didn't get any painting done and don't feel like doing any. Sorry, but, sometimes, these things just can't be "forced." (I've always found it a bit better to go into the studio with something in mind, just itching to work, rather than to force myself in there and sort of "beat it out of me" but then, you know, actual results may vary.)

Heard a couple of jokes over the weekend-the economy is so bad that they actually stole the sign "work makes you free" from above the entrance to Auschwitz. Now, that's what I call a credit crunch if there ever were one.

Another joke about little kids, dogs, cars, and other assorted "cuteness:"

A young girl is playing with her dog, Lady. "Mom, can I take Lady for a walk?" She asks her mother, who is busy in the kitchen baking and cooking dinner.

"Um, she's in heat," she mumbles to herself, "go ask your father if you can take her for a walk." The little girl does not understand what "heat" is so she goes out to the garage to find her father.

"Daddy, daddy! I want to take Lady for a walk but Mom says she's 'in heat' and that I should ask you what to do," the girl begs. "Please, please, can I take her for a walk?"

The quick thinking Dad, who had been busy cutting the lawn and filling the lawnmower up with gasoline, looks around, grabs an old rag, dips it in some gasoline from the can, and rubs the dog's "Lady" parts with it, to mask the smell. "There, that ought to take care of the smell for a bit. Now, you can walk her but hurry back. Don't be gone longer than five minutes, ok?" The girl agrees and takes the dog out for a quick walk.

A few minutes go by when the girl returns home with an empty leash.

"Where's Lady?" the father asks.

"Oh, she's ok," the little girl responds, "Don't worry Daddy. She ran out of gas on the way home but a little boy dog stopped to help her-he's pushing her the rest of the way home."

What? Like you were expecting a new painting or something actually funny? Ha!

Until next time...

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas-It's Winter Across the Country

WinterTree, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

Merry Christmas everybody! I just wanted to pop in and wish everybody a very merry. My heart too goes out to those of you who are stuck, stranded, snowed in, or just caught up in the big blizzard that's gripping the middle of the continental United States today. Phew! Is that a crazy storm or what? I heard they got a foot of snow in Oklahoma and it's snowing in crazy places. We even had a few flurries here, though nothing to really keep anybody home about. (If you must know, it was just enough snow to be kind of fun-we got to watch a flake or two fall from the sky, just enough to remind us that old man winter is around the corner but not enough to block off any traffic or cause any troubles.) This is what the sky looks like when it's about "fixin' to snow" (as they say in these parts.)

I'm home and safe, watching a bit of TV and reading a lot. Really enjoying my downtime, as it's been quite fun to be home day after day, without having to take a "work break" (as it were) to go make enough money to keep Chase in his kibble.

I'm also getting ready for the new year in terms of thinking about my resolutions. This year, I want to read more (already started doing that) and I'm also going to try to draw more-I'm thinking about signing up for some regular sessions to sort of get my artistic juices flowing a bit. I'll do a formal resolutions post when it gets closer to the new year. For now, I'm off to watch a bit more TV, read some more, and work on the house a bit.

Here's hoping all of you out there aren't stuck, stranded, or the like and are enjoying a very happy holiday with friends and family.

Until next time...

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas Eve Everyone!

RedOrb, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

It's holiday time. Time to eat too much, drink a bit, relax, enjoy the season. I've been home but away from the computer, and loving it actually. I've enjoyed (a bit) my time off this week. I hope you're getting some downtime this holiday season as well-sit back, enjoy a warm drink by the fire or maybe even just an extended afternoon nap.

This image is thanks to the new Lensbaby lens-I'm loving the Composer, though I have yet to try out the new "hot swap" optics system. I've also been in studio painting-mostly earlier this week, I'll post more about that after the holiday has passed (for now, let's just say, I've created a new "masterpiece" I like to call "Fiasco in Plum" and leave it at that. :~) Chase is enjoying having me home-he's played ball a bit, but today is very windy and he's afraid of the rustling sound the trees make when the wind comes, so he's cozy and curled up by my side (for now.) I'm sure the "ball playing" time will sneak its way in again, at some point.

We even had a bit of snow today-some snow flurries, which is unusual for Texas at this time of year. I was able to enjoy them though, thanks to being home and relaxing, catching up on things around the house, and enjoying my downtime.

I hope everybody out in bloggy land is having a great holiday season, gets to spend some time with family and friends, and enjoys some downtime as well. I'm sure 2010 will find us all busy enough, so please enjoy the holiday season and spread some cheer around you're little "world," wherever that might be.

I've posted some of my encaustics work up to Flickr if you are highly curious and I'll probably post some more either this weekend or early next week, as time (and my napping schedule!) permits.

Until next time...

Friday, December 18, 2009

Best of 2009

BlueHouseRedPoppies, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

It's that time again. Time to take stock of our year, add up all of the pluses and minuses, figure out what we did right, what went wrong, and how things are shaping up for next year. Time for all of those annual "top 10" lists we always see this time of year too.

According to Flickr, this is my most popular image from 2009. Now, I don't think it's my best work, but I'm happy with it. It's not bad. At the end of the day though, wow, 2009 was really a stellar year for me.

I almost always start off my New Year's resolutions by saying, "*This* year is going to be the year I get a 1-person show." Well, *this* year I had one. I had a long-running show at a lovely gallery in New Orleans, one of my favorite cities. I could not ask for more.

This year was so much more than that though. I started working with encaustics and I love the excitement and energy a new medium brings. It was also a busy show year, I had exhibitions in several states and across every month of 2009. I participated in many shows over at the fantastic Studio 2, my favorite Austin gallery. I had a lot of fun there. I got published (again) and attended some great workshops.

So, to sum it up, 2009 was a fantastic year for me. I really could not have fit in more photographically. And, the best part? I really looking forward to 2010. Really. Even though the economy is in the dumps, and probably will be for the entire year, there's an artistic resurgence taking shape. People are doing things, interesting thing, artistically. You can feel it in the air, artists are experimenting. The great "digital revolution" in photography is here to stay, we've gotten over the "why do we need a professional photography?" funk that we were in, and it's starting to go back to normal-with great artists producing compelling, gripping work, making the most of those new tools to take the media in new directions. There's lots of people doing lots of stuff and I'm happy to be a small part of that.

So, this is my "best of 2009" for you and, I have to say it, I can't wait to see what 2010 brings. It's an exciting time to be a photographer.

Until next time...

Thursday, December 17, 2009

So Close and Yet So Out of Reach

PeekABooRedLeaf, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

Yesterday's painting is so lovely, I almost don't want to post again. I'd love to leave that lovely Vermeer painting up for a bit longer, but alas, I've got things to tell you.

For starters, it's been a wonderful autumn. The leaves have all gone fantastic colors, the big tree in my backyard is just amazing. This really is a great year for autumn color in Austin. Unfortunately, I've been a bit too busy to go out and shoot it as much as I would like. I'm going to try to get some shots in this weekend but we'll see how that goes.

It's also coming up on Christmas light season and you know how much I love to go out and shoot those as well. Next week, I'm going to break away and maybe try to do some night shooting, especially some holiday light shooting, so look for that to come in posts that follow.

Around where I live, there's a new trend in holiday decor that, I must admit, I'm absolutely crazy about. Folks have started putting these outdoor ornaments, rather large ones, around the trees outside their homes. I think it looks quite charming and absolutely love this, so I'm going to try to get some shooting of these in as well. There is a house near where I live that has an entire large tree, complete with an extra grand canopy and tons of these large beautiful ornaments dangling from the lower branches. It's looks so festive, I hope I can capture some of that and post it here before the holiday season is through.

I've also gotten some new gear. My lensbaby composer has arrived, as well as a new 50mm 1.4 (aka a "nifty fifty.") I've already started using the nifty fifty, though I need to go get a UV filter to slap on it for some protection. I plan on using the new lensbaby to do some pinhole work, look for those posts to come soon as well.

Finally, I'll be home all next week, so look for me to spend some quality time in the studio and expect that I might get around to (finally) posting some encaustic work as well.

Now it's time for me to retire with a warm cup of tea and a cozy blanket.

Until next time...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Painters Every Photographer Should Know - Vermeer

According to the Wikipedia entry, Johannes (Jan) Vermeer was, "a Dutch Baroque painter who specialized in exquisite, domestic interior scenes of middle class life." Unlike the other painters featured in the "Painters Every Photographer Should Know" series, Vermeer is a bit of a mystery-little is known about his personal life and his techniques are widely speculated about but not totally understood.

Some facts do exist-he was born and lived his entire life in the city of Delft. His father, Reijnier, was a middle-class tradesman who first worked with textiles-silk and caffa (a patterned silk fabric,) then later became an inn keeper. After his father's death, Vermeer replaced him as a merchant of paintings. Though not Catholic himself, he married a Catholic girl named Catherina Bolnes, who was from a wealthy family. Vermeer fathered 14 children, 10 of whom survived. He was not a prolific painter, and produced only a few works as compared to some of his counterparts.

Camera Obscura
Since little is known about how Vermeer studied and learned his craft, nor did he have any pupils from which to gleam information, there is much speculation surrounding his technique, but few solid facts. David Hockney and other art historians have speculated that Vermeer used a camera obscura (an optical device used as a projector, the precursor to the modern day camera) as an aid in his compositions. There is no concrete evidence to support this and very little is actually known about Vermeer's technique, thanks in part to the nature of painting techniques from that time. Paintings were done typically over a base layer or drawing, which was traditionally done using charcoal, chalk, or the like. This base layer served as an underdrawing. Since the original drawing was essentially covered up as subsequent layers of paint were applied, it left little evidence behind as to what it might have looked like before the paint layers were painted on. No Vermeer drawings have survived, adding more fuel to the fires of speculation over his work.

Some facts that are known-Vermeer favored expensive pigments in his painting and had, quite literally, a "rich" color palette-featuring shades like lapis lazuli, ultramarine, and also various shades of umber and ochre to represent warm light. Vermeer also used a technique known as underpainting-in his work "The Girl with a Wine Glass" for example, the shadows of the girl's red satin dress are underpainted in natural ultramarine, which gives the dress a crisp, slightly purple look.

What Photographers Can Learn From Him
A Vermeer work shouts in soft shadows. His interiors feature careful reflections and impeccable portrait lighting. Vermeer produced elegant studies with careful light. He had a subtle layered palette that photographers can reproduce with careful lighting techniques. Look at Joyce Tenneson's work, for example, to see how this might come into a more photographic medium.

Most photographers understand how critical lighting is to a strong image, after all photography is all about light, but it's not just the amount of light, it's the quality of the light and the mood that the light sets as it reflects and refracts off surrounding surfaces. According to the wiki, "he created a world more perfect than any he had witnessed. This working method most probably was inspired by Vermeer’s understanding of Leonardo's observations that the surface of every object partakes of the colour of the adjacent object. This means that no object is ever seen entirely in its natural colour." A Vermeer painting is a quiet study of light and shadow-warm into cool, soft, subtle, pensively reflective, elegant tones with detailed shadows mark his work. Vermeer is all about lyrical light-the interplay of light and shadow almost sings in his work. For a photographer, mastering the quality of light and creating depth from lighting techniques can really create a compelling portrait or interior scene.

For his lyrical light, his skill at layering and rich color palette, his careful reflections and elegant interior studies, the exquisite subtlety of Jan Vermeer earns him a spot in the ranks of "Painters Every Photographer Should Know." You can read more about Vermeer on the Wikipedia entry about him or stop to visit Essential, and look for more posts (and painters) as part of the series.

This is next in a series called "Painters Every Photographer Should Know." The paintings shown here are Vermeer's "Girl with a Pearl Earring" (circa 1665) and "The Girl with a Wine Glass" (circa 1659). Joyce Tenneson's Dasha, Russia work is also shown. Please note that the paintings and photographs in this series are not copyright the author of this website, may be subject to international copyright law, and are provided her for educational purposes only.

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Sunday Round-Up of Sorts

So, this weekend, I went over to an encaustics demo over at Jerry's. The demo was presented by the fabulous Sharon Kyle Kuhn and it was great-it made me want to come back home and do some encaustics work, which I did. I spent the rest of the day Saturday making two pieces (one is complete and one is almost done, just needs a bit of ribbon in the right spot.) Maybe it was the energy in the air, just being over at Jerry's, or all the positive encaustic "vibes" but I like the two pieces from Saturday a lot better than my previous work. I'm starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel anyway, here's hoping it's not an oncoming train (or some such thing.)

It's shaping up to be a very busy week, since I've got a lot to do before next week, which is, in fact, the holiday week. Tons of stuff to do, and little time to do it in but, I guess, that's always the case, right? Do you have your holiday shopping done yet? Have you even started? (Pffft. Me neither.)

I was over at the Apple store today and wound up getting a sort of "boom box" for my ipod. It's little speakers with an FM tuner and a charging doc for the podling. I'm going to use it in my new encaustic studio so that, when I'm out there, I can have some tunes, and also in my matting/framing station, so that, again, I can listen to some music when tasked with that un-Godly boring task. Oh, how I hate to frame things and cut matte board. *Sigh*

My big tree in the backyard (aka TREE) is almost all this color now. We also had this spectacular fog this morning-it was incredible. No pictures but it was really fun (though a bit hard to drive in) to be out in it. I've got a few more "red leaf" images to upload and might get around to doing this over the course of the week as well. Wish me luck with that.

The latest Utata book has been published, thanks to the folks from Blurb and, of course, Utata itself. You can see a preview of it here. I have not yet gotten a copy but it's on my quickly growing list of things to do soon, so I expect to have a copy sometime soon.

I hope you had a great weekend. It's been a busy one here, though a bit productive and still kind of restful at the same time. (Isn't that great?)

Until next time...

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

The Story of How I Found Paris Hilton's Dog Bed

ChaseInLeaves, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

This is Chase. He's my dog in case you weren't aware. I've had Chase for a few years now, actually, I think, coming up on three years. He's almost four years old (he'll be four sometime early next year.) Anyway, since I've had him for a while and he doesn't have a doggie bed, I thought that with my "winnings" (from the company I work at getting bought by another company) I would buy Chase a bed. To sort of, you know, welcome him (finally!) into the house and all. He doesn't really *need* a bed, mind you, he uses mine most of the time. And my couch. He sleeps there a lot. But still, you know, I thought it might be nice for him to have a special place he could call his own.

So, I went down to the local pet store to look for a bed, but I didn't find one I liked. All the beds were the same. Just sort of "blah." Nothing cute. Nothing cuddly. Nothing that screamed "CHASE" at me. All just sort of flat little pads. I didn't want Chase to have a boring, old, flat looking pad, I wanted him to have something special, something that, well, reflected his personality a bit.

Next, I googled. Oh, this was fun, let me tell you. Who knew there were so many places that sold doggie beds? Tons and tons of places. And, hate to say it, but a lot of the same "flat mats" that I didn't like in real life. Some were cheaper, some were different, some were doughnut shaped, some were orthopedic but still none of them screamed "CHASE" at me. I looked and I looked and nothing.

So then, I got this idea. Maybe I was looking for the wrong thing. Maybe, since I wanted a *nice looking* doggie bed, I should google something like "nice looking doggie beds" and see what I could find? Of course, everybody thinks that there doggie beds are nice looking so "nice looking" was not quite the right word. I decided I'd try a few different words, but, you know, attempt to find something, anything, that was more nice looking. One of the first words I tried was "luxury." You should google it sometime, perhaps when you are bored. "Luxury dog beds." Again, who knew there were so many websites devoted to luxury dog beds? Didn't the days of go out with that silly looking sock puppet and the rest of the dot com bust? Geesh.

So, in the course of my travels, around the web, I happened upon a dog bed I thought was pretty decent looking. It had wooden legs, and a nice fabric top. I'd have to say it was pretty, as much as one could say that a dog bed was, well, "pretty." And that's when I looked at the price.

Want to take a guess? Want to take a random crazy odd guess as to how much a "luxury dog bed" costs these days?

$1500. Yes, you read that right. I found myself, on the Internets, a $1500 dog bed. A DOG BED for Pete's sake! Something that a dog sleeps in. You know dogs? They're the family member most likely to drool and break wind in mixed company? Yes, them. A bed for one of them costs $1500! Holy smokes, Batman! I'm in the wrong business. Forget this whole art and taking pictures bit, I need to be selling me some high-end kibble and some luxury doggie beds. That's like armed robbery without breaking the law!

I told a few people about my find and they all said the same thing. $1500?!? One person even said, "my bed doesn't cost that much!" Another said, "you could feed an entire village for that." And you could. Even their dogs, I'd reckon.

So, if you're ever up late at night, maybe can't quite sleep, and start to wonder what sort of frivolous things you'd buy if you happen to say, win the lottery or maybe wake up and find that you're actually Paris Hilton in a clever disguise, might I suggest this....behold! A $1500 dog bed.

And, in case you're wondering which doggie bed I got for Chase, well, I didn't opt for the $1500 one, that's for sure. I got him this Pawds 3-in-1 pet bed.I have to admit, it's a very cool looking dog bed, as far as dog beds go but, as far as Chase? Yep, you guessed it. He still sleeps on the couch.

Until next time...

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Attack of the Killer Phone Books

InBrightRed, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

This is a public service announcement.

It's almost the new year. With the new year comes joy and good tidings for happiness, world peace, and love for our fellow man. The holidays bring us together in the spirit of....oh who am I kidding? Come January, the new crop of phone books come out. As the new crop of phone books come out, our front porches are all going to look like giant yellow bricks. We're going to be up to our eyeballs in it-lots and lots of new phone books. They'll be phone books with coupons in them, phone books from telephone companies you've not heard of, phone books from AT&T that weigh a ton, tiny little phone books designed to get your attention. The world will turn into a yellow brick mound of 4-1-1 goodness, the likes of which, well, let's just say they'll be a ton of phone books floating around and leave it at that, ok?

So, what to do with all of the old phone books? Maybe even some of the new ones, you know, the ones you don't really want but somehow managed to make it to your doorstep anyway? How many phone books does one single human being actually need? What is the meaning of life and why are there so many yellow bricks laden across my front stoop? Why? Why? (I am but a humble telephone caller.)

Recycle-sure that's always an option. Encaustics-there's another. Collage. Make yourself two inches taller without wearing heels. Rip them in half to prove your manhood. Count how many plumbers there are in your neighborhood (don't count the lawyers-there's too many of them to count!) Cover them in adobe mud, stack them and start making a small shed in your backyard, suitable for things like, you know hiding those 22 bodies you don't know what to do with since you last happy axe murdering spree. Ah, yes, there are lots and lots of uses for old phone books, the least of which is look up an actual phone number. Does anybody use a phone book for that anymore? Anybody? Bueller? Bueller?

(This has been a public service announcement from Carol's Little World. What out for the start of phone book season. If you're not careful, it'll kill you.)

Until next time...

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Time for Some Output-A Day in the Studio Today

Snowflake-Red, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

I've been busy in-studio today, working with the wax. I'm not quite happy with my results yet, but working on it some and learning as I go. This is one of the first pieces I did today.

I wanted to represent snowing and "winter" as part of my series called "seasonal." I don't know how many of these I'll be able to do, or how many will come together, but I started with this one and I might try to do at least four (one for each season, right?)

It's really timely too, since they had about 6 inches of snow in Houston yesterday. Wow. Who knew Texas got winter, right? Pretty crazy too, because it's been freezing in Austin the past few days. Last night we had a hard freeze and today it was only about 45-50 degrees out. The sun was out though, so that seemed to help things a bit, plus I think I don't notice the temperature so much when I'm busy with tasks at hand. Tonight, since the sun has gone down, it's gotten a bit chilly. I'm going to change out of studio clothing, go bundle up, and have a nice little bite to eat.

Is it winter yet where you live? Have you been keeping warm and busy?

Until next time...

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Bend It Like....It's Snowing?

Dunescape No 1, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

Found out today that it was snowing in White Sands. Snow-yes, that kind of snow. Measured in inches too. Imagine what this place would look like with some snow (actually, ha ha, you don't have to-it already looks sort of like "snow" with all that white sand free roaming about the joint.)

In other news, the "real" reason I'm posting this photo was taken with a lensbaby. And, today I have to admit, I got a new one. (No, silly, not a new photo, a new lensbaby!) Yes, the rumors that have (not really) been circulating are true! I've started to get some new gear, the first of which arrived today. It's my new lensbaby composer lens, along with the swappable optics kit, the soft focus optic, and the step up filter. Oh, what a joy that's going to be-I now can do lensbaby pinholes! Look out world, here I come! (Not that you'll be able to recognize it when I'm finished with it, mind you, but, hey, I've got a new lensbaby to play with. Out of my way you crispy sharply focused people, I've got a new lensbaby to play with!)

In other "oh crap it's winter" news, it is slated to snow in Austin on Friday. Who knows? Maybe I'll get to stay home and take some pictures of "real" snowflakes with the new 'baby. (Then again, maybe not...somehow, I don't think pinhole snowflakes are all that good of an idea. You'll just have to trust me on that one.)

So my new pinhole's here and I get "stuck" shooting snow. Meh. I guess that's just the way the 'baby bends.

Until next time...

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

I Did It!

Flag, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

Today is December 1st and, for all of those in bloggy land who don't know what that means, allow me to explain.

Today is world AIDS day. No, that's not it. I mean, that's significant and all, but that's really not "it" for me. Hmmm. Let me think.

November 30th marked good news for the Gulf, as it was the end of hurricane season-the calmest Atlantic hurricane season in 12 years, with fewer "named" storms and fewer storms doing damage. Phew! But, sadly, that's not it either.

No, actually, today is the end of National Blog Posting Month! Hurray!

Allow me to explain. Every year, come November, bloggers from all over the world sign up to participate in this annual event. The challenge is simple, blog once a day, every day, for the month of November. It boils down to 30 blog posts in 30 days (or, you know, thereabouts) with people posting everything from new things they learned to cook, the latest in political viewpoints, art, music, writing, theater, and a host of other things. Basically, if you can post it, you can blog it and, during the month of November, we blog it a lot. For those who complete the challenge know that they have contributed, in some small way, to not only National Blog Posting Month, but to National Novel Writing Month, National Screenwriting Month, and National Solo Photo Book Month. All of these things, you see, are designed to get us to get it "out there" to you-for you to read and enjoy. (They are all basically connected, in small ways, as well.)

So, as this month starts anew, I thought it might be a good idea to reflect a little bit on what's gone by. This month found me starting a new series. Called "Painters Every Photographer Should Know" it's been a great exploration of painters throughout history (well, it's a start anyway.) This year, there were only a few, sparse "non blogs," no mental breakdowns in the middle of the month (Phew!) and it seems like it's been an easier ride (for some reason.)

It's been so easy, in fact, that I'd like to propose you join me (if you have a blog) in doing it again come February. Why February, you might ask. And, I'd be happy to tell you. February is the shortest month. It has Valentine's day. It's in the middle of winter. It's just far enough away that we'll have something to say again, when it rolls around, and we'll have forgotten the more painful moments of this November.

So, if you're a blogger, if you're thinking about blogging, if you're a writer, or you do any of these types of things, won't you consider joining me come February? Join me in National Blog Posting Month (yes, they have it every month, though November is the "big" recognized one) or National Whatever-It-Is-You-Do Month. Do something. Do something good and make it count. Think about it for now but, please, join me come February. I hope you'll consider it, because only you can make it happen.

Thanks again for another great National Blog Posting Month and Yeah! It's December.

Until next time...

Photo Tip #31

Photo Tip #31-Opposites Attract

Sometimes, placing two objects with the frame creates an interesting tension. Try placing a frame within a frame, a circular object alongside a different shape, or just two interesting objects instead of a single object to create a sense of interplay in your composition.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Just a Minute, Just a Second

LotsAndLotsofDucks, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

There are many "scavenger hunt" style projects out there, most of which I ignore. Typically, they ask you to go and shoot something like a mailbox or get you to upload 500 photos you would otherwise not have taken. Nothing wrong with these projects but, in case you couldn't figure it out, that's not really my thing. I'm into more conceptual, more abstract stuff and I really only sink my teeth into a few (limited) projects like this anyway because of time constraints.

I found a scavenger hunt project that's different. It's got items on the list that, well, let's just say you kind of have to think a bit. Think a lot actually. Yep, really, really put that thinking cap on for this one.

For example, one of the items is "just a minute, just a second." While I have no idea how I'm going to represent that visually (actually, I do, I'm starting to have some idea) I love saying that. Over and over again. "Just a minute, just a second." It sounds so, well, I don't know it just kind of rolls off the tongue.

Some of the other items on the list? Lost at sea, wisdom, green houses and red fences, social network, the space between us is small, cats with their heads out a window, undeniably geek, fortunes from cookies I have found.

And the last item on the list, the last one? In perhaps what could only be classified as a nightmare for my true love, Lord Stig, it has to do with ducks. Lots and lots of ducks. Yes, I'm afraid to say it but, this will probably be my entry for "lots and lots of ducks" since, well, if you'll excuse the obvious pun, it fits the bill. (Oh, now that was BAD.)

Quack on this-with apologies to Lord Stig, I've got one down and only nine more to go!

Until next time...

Photo Tip #30

Photo Tip #30-Sex or Wednesday, but not Sex on Wednesday

Forget saying "cheese." If you really want people to smile, ask them to say "Wednesday." If you really want them to smile and they simply won't, ask them to say, "Sex." Almost no adult can say "Sex" without a slight giggle, though you might wind up with a smirk in post processing (and the magic word might work just once, so be quick on the shutter.)

To get a more natural look, I often ask people to look down at their feet, and remain looking down until I tell them to look up. Then, as I say, "look up" as they start to move their head up and their eye level reaches camera level, I expose the image to get a more natural, un-posed look.

Don't forget that you can sometimes create an interesting portrait by having somebody not look directly at the camera. Somebody gazing into the distance, either left or right of the frame, can create tension and interest in an image as well-it makes us wonder what they were looking at when you took the picture.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

From My Past

IndianTotumThing, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

If I were to do one of those "49 and a half things you didn't know about me and probably still don't want to learn now" surveys, one of the things that might pop up, over the course of conversation, is the fact that I'm part native American. Now, I don't *look* native American (not that all native American people have a "look" mind you) and I don't sound native American, but, I actually *am* part native American. I believe that I'm 1/8th Mohawk Indian (yes, the people with the haircuts.)

To answer your most pressing questions: no, I don't live in a tepee. No, I don't have long, black, straight hair. No, I don't scalp people on a frequent basis (in all fairness, not many Indians did that.) I don't own a tomahawk, nor do I run a casino (and, no, sorry, you can't move into my house for the purposes of opening such an establishment-I'm pretty sure it's outlawed and you need special permits, none of which I can help you obtain, since I don't communicate frequently with the "tribal elders" nor do I live anywhere near where my ancestors first settled.)

So, bottom line? My native American ancestry does not get me much, other than, perhaps, legitimate bragging rights and the ability to own feathered items completely guilt-free. All that and, well, I guess, I get to take pictures like this without having to hear cries of "you're exploiting my people" since, well, in this case, "your people" = my people (and you can't really exploit yourself now, can you?)

Native Americans believed that the spirit of a man could be "possessed" with spirits from the earth. Animals, in particular, could serve as the model for what we would not call "human" characteristics. This belief gave rise to many of the popular Indian names ("White Eagle," "Crow," etc.) Many tribal names came from the animal kingdom's equivalent of the profession so, for example, if you were a scout, you would not be named "scout" but perhaps something like "Hawk Eye," "Eagle Eye" or the like.

I'm especially glad my family did not follow this tradition because then, for certain, I would be named something like "lazy painter" or perhaps even the less amiable-sounded "napping idiot." (I'm fairly certain that last one would not make me very popular around the campfire.)

Until next time...

Photo Tip #29

Photo Tip #29-Work in Printed Form

Even in this digital day and age, learn to shoot for and work in a printed form. Learn how to work in the field so that you can get acceptable prints, for these will make the best images anyway. Learn how to print some of your work, even if you work mostly for the web, because printing your work will help you evaluate it and edit it better-often you can spot a lot more issues on a print then you can on the computer, and you can view your work in different light very easily using a print.

You don't need the world's most expensive printer. For most of my working prints, I use a printer I got for $35 at a local electronics store and cheaper matte paper, which runs less than 11 cents a print. Learn to make working prints with big borders on matte paper so that you can show them to people, point things out, and not leave fingerprints on your prints so they can be reused.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Monotypes and the Case for Paint

WeatheredWoodDoorFrame, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

Ok, so maybe this door looks more like it needs a case *of* paint, not really the case *for* paint, but, you know, why throw around your weight in pigment and latex when you don't have to (I guess.)

Today I was fortunate enough to attend a workshop on encaustic monotypes over at Jerry's Art-a-rama. I really hate that place, since it's very expensive and manages to suck every last drop out of my wallet, but still the workshop was well worth it. I learned a lot and it was very informative, though I'm not really a printmaker, not by any stretch. Though I've got quite the paper fetish, I just don't have it in me. They lose me on the whole printing press thing-it's just too hard and complicated for me to really sink my teeth into at this point in time.

So, it was an afternoon filled with "ghosts" and "substrates" and people from Flatbed Press who all seem to know each other and probably manage to lithograph several Gutenberg Bibles in their spare time, all the while watching re-runs of "I Love Lucy" and baking fresh red velvet sheet cakes. Meanwhile, I've never been one who can do more than one thing at a time-the whole "walk and chew bubble gum" thing? Yes, that sometimes escapes me. (Letting me within spitting distance of a large press type machine that could take an arm off? Not really all that good of an idea, trust me.)

One of the lucky things, I guess, about being a photographer is that, hey, we're naturally at the bottom of the artistic "food chain" as it were (nobody wants to be us when they grow up and we barely have a foot-in-the-door in gallery row as it is) so we seldom, if ever, have to fight for our spot in the artistic "pecking order." That can make it nice when working with the printmaking folks, since they are sort of kicked around (sometimes) by the "Stand aside-I work in OILS, a *REAL* medium" crowd almost as much as we photogs, though maybe they do manage a bit more self-respect in the end. Still, the workshop was fun, and it was great to see how monotypes could be pulled and coupled with the encaustic paint. Since I've started working with encaustics, I've realized how much there is to learn about the media and it's great getting to see firsthand how it can be used in so many different ways.

In between all of this, I did manage to complete an encaustic piece myself. It's not what I wanted it to be, mind you, but it's finished and I (almost) have to say I sort of like it. It doesn't look like what I was expecting, but it's done and I might scan in it and post it at some point. I was paper-offensive and used not true printmaking paper, but something I like to call "el-cheap-o" watercolor paper. (The el-cheap-o portion comes from the fact that it was in the sale bucket at Jerry's and, hey, who am I to argue with a price reduction, right? Especially at that joint.)

I'm being lazy and trying to avoid laying out some gesso on the latest boards I've got. I need to get gesso-ing pretty soon though, because I'd like the stuff to dry so that I can actually paint tomorrow, rather than yap about it all over the Internet (but not actually do anything about the issue.) If that were not enough, I'm slated to have one small piece finished by December 5th which, though this sounds eons away, is really not that far off, trust me. Especially not given the speed at which I've been able to work which is, well, let's just say James May could snore faster than I've been painting lately (and leave it at that.)

Yes, yes, I know, time to go get my thumbs all brightly colored once again.

Until next time...

Photo Tip #28

Photo Tip #28-Three Things Make a Great Photograph: light, light, and light

Don't forget that photography is all about light. Learn where your light source is, where it is moving (from which direction to which direction,) what is in the light, and what is in shadow before setting up your shot and pay careful attention to how light is changing as you shoot.

I'm always surprised when I meet photographers who do not know when sunup, sundown, or moonrise is, as well as a little bit about the seasons (when the longest day of the year is, for example) because these things have a huge impact on the look of our images. If you work mostly in studio, you still need to learn to work your lighting gear for maximum impact.

Friday, November 27, 2009

It's Black Friday, May the LDC TV Wars Begin

Cutie Pies, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

Recently I heard a rumor that this year's "black Friday" specials would all revolve around LCD TV's. The rumor said that a lot of stores would be offering LCD TV's at discounted prices, and that there would be a "price war" of sorts between various retailers.

I used to have a TV set in my living room. I say used to because, well, the one that's in there now doesn't really work anymore. You might remember this A/V setup (of sorts) because it's the same TV that's connected to my previous TiVo unit (the murdering one, in case, you know, you lost track of these things.) Yes, it's the same TiVo unit that once went crazy, TiVo'd a lot of murder-related shows on TV (I like mystery shows, what can I say?) and then became oddly obsessed with Nicolas Cage. Anyway, that TiVo has been silenced, thanks in part to the TV being non-functional. (The video cuts out so I no longer watch it.)

So, all of this now has me wanting to go TV shopping. I got the circulars (ads) from the newspaper and I've been browsing TV prices. Sure enough, the rumors were right. Every store seems to have some kind of "special" on an LCD TV-even stores that don't really sell TV's are getting into the act. A local furniture store, for example, ran an ad saying, "buy a roomful of furniture and get a FREE TV-this week only!" Walgreen's and CVS, two local pharmacies both have small LCD TV's in their circulars. It's nuts out there. Lately anyway, it seems like everybody and their brother are trying to sell me a new cheap LCD TV.

The prices have even gone crazy too. You can get a 19 inch LCD TV for about $200 and you can even shop around to find a small-ish LCD TV for under $100. It's amazing.

Am I the only one who thinks that a TV is an odd sort of a thing to put on sale during this "black Friday?" I mean, isn't this supposed to be the time people shop for their kids? Buy sweaters and things? What are they doing all running out and buying TV sets? Do kids do nothing more than watch TV these days? The whole "cheap LCD TV price war" of 2009 has me, shall we say, a bit baffled. I mean, sure I need a TV, and sure I'll probably get one (probably before new episodes of Burn Notice and American Idol start up again, mind you) but it's really crazy out there. Today there were people waking up at 5 am, running around to different shops, only to buy cheap LCD TV's. Am I the only person who really just doesn't care all that much about getting the cheapest possible price on a TV? I mean, sure it'd be great to have a $200 LCD TV but, I'm going out on a limb here and guessing that, at the end of the day, after you kill yourself, haul your tail down, and fend off the angry mob, you're going to be left with a cheap ($200) LCD TV set. Wouldn't it be better to wait a few weeks, maybe spend a few more $$$ and get a nice TV instead? Without all the crowds, mobs, angry shoppers, and invisible sales people?

Last year people were even trampled in crowds during "black Friday." Is a cheap LCD TV set really worth risking your life over? I mean, fight crowds and fend off mobs? Please, I'd rather read a book. I've lived without a TV set in the living room for a few years now, I can wait a few months longer, take my time, and pick out a nice new set without having to risk my life. I'm sorry but, even new episodes of Burn Notice can wait for that.

Did you do any shopping on "black Friday?" Did you get a new sweaters? Any puffy down vests? Any gifts for your dog? Stand in any lines or witness any angry mobs, perhaps waiting in extra long lines, all fighting over cheap LCD TV's? Is the Christmas spirit really buried in cheap LCD TV wars?

Fa la la la la

Until next time...

Photo Tip #27

Photo Tip #27-Take Control of Your Photo Shoots

As a photographer, it's your job to take control of a photo shoot. You don't have to be mean, but assert yourself and give clear, concise directions as needed. Often there will be a family member, in-law, or just "busy body" who will try to stick their nose into your work-telling you anything from "my cousin Frank is a photographer" to "you're not getting her *good* side." Stop this behavior by being direct, firm, but polite. Communicate what you are doing, stay busy, keep moving, and work directly with your subjects to cut these people off at the pass, and keep them from taking over.

Typically, if you take control of a shoot in the first few minutes, it's easy to retain it for the remainder of the shoot. You can still be a soft-spoken, mild mannered photographer, but make sure you step up and assert your leadership and vision when working because, ultimately, you're the one responsible for the image.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Signs Of Autumn in Austin

SignsOfAutumnInAustin, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

Today is Thanksgiving Day in the US. It's a widely celebrated holiday, one in which we spend a lot of time with our families, eating way too much, and relaxing, maybe watching the parade on TV or the continuation of the football season. Thanksgiving is not a holiday many folks outside of the US really understand, but it's quite big here-it's family time.

Celebrate the bounty of the harvest? Maybe other cultures do that a bit. Celebrate the big, historic "coming together" of the pilgrims and the Indians in a peaceful setting with extra gravy? Somehow, I think that one is uniquely American in nature.

Tradition dictates that we gather with our families and eat a stuffed turkey, with gravy, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and all of the trimmings. Since I'm allergic to turkey, and nobody in my family really likes it anyway, we tend to have chicken instead. The same "fixings" still apply though-dressing from the oven, gravy, mashed potatoes, yams, cranberries, and egg nog or apple cider to drink. This year, I had not one, not two, but FOUR helpings of stuffing. I'm...well, I guess it's safe to say....STUFFED for sure. (It was really good though, stuffing with apples, fresh celery, and breaded bits.)

Since it's the big holiday and all, and I don't feel much like blogging today, I thought I would give thanks to all of those in bloggy land, and give thanks to all the bounty I've enjoyed this year. It's been a wild ride, in more ways than one, so I have to say (and I really do mean this) THANK YOU. I'm grateful for all of the galleries, patrons, photographers, photo bloggers, writers, artists, shows, camera gear (yes, even that too,) Chase, my family, my friends, and everything that's happened this year. It really has been something just shy of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride and I thank you for following along (or, you know, at least trying to as best you can from afar.)

I've uploaded this picture in honor of the Red Leaf Diaries. While I don't think this picture is the best picture I've ever taken (not by a long shot) I thought it was very representative of autumn in Austin. You can sort of see how the trees almost want to kind of change red (ish) and see what the "big picture" from the Red Leaf Diaries looks like.

One last final important note about Thanksgiving-it's followed by a day retailers have dubbed "Black Friday" which is traditionally filled with shopping, shopping, and more shopping. Look for a blog post on this to follow for sure (blogger fodder alert!) but, suffice it to say, this year the advertisers have gone "all out" with lots of circulars, ads, "holiday discount specials" and the like. The newspaper was so filled with such things we could hardly lift it and it took me almost three hours to casually flip through the sales. Wow. What can I say? Let the shopping begin! (I guess that would be appropriate.)

It's a rather nice day outside so I shall end this rambling "non-blog" of a blog post by saying I hope you have a great Thanksgiving or can enjoy a bit of autumn wherever you are as well.

Until next time...

Photo Tip #26

Photo Tip #26-Learn To Pre-Focus

Autofocus is great but, if you're photographing a bull in a rodeo or even a fast-moving child, learn to pre-focus your camera for better results. Put your camera on manual focus, and focus at a set distance, say 10 feet away. Then, wait for your subject to move into your frame of focus before exposing the image.

Fixed focal length lenses are usually easier to manually focus so this works best with a fixed (non-zoom) lens. Autofocus mechanisms can take as long as 8 seconds to properly focus; if your subject is moving through your frame faster than that speed (approximately) pre-focusing is probably your best bet.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

SheLooks, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

I don't think this picture needs any words so I'm posting it in honor of Wordless Wednesday.

Until next time...

Photo Tip #25

Photo Tip #25-Don't Panic

If you're shooting and something goes wrong, don't panic. Methodically check your camera and equipment, look over batteries, inspect contracts, change lenses, flash memory cards (or film) check the basic workings and simple mechanisms first. Even if you drop your camera and it appears to be broken, work slowly and carefully, first blowing any glass off the front, and then working your way back through the mechanisms until you inspect the entire camera and lens in question. Often even a camera that has been dropped and appears to be little more than a pile of broken glass can have a UV filter pulled off and keep working, for example, since a lot of the lens is backed up against the camera body and thereby better protected. Also, many "dinged" looking cameras suffer cosmetic damage in a drop or fall, but still keep shooting frame after frame for years to come.

Your reputation as a photographer, however, will be ruined with your first swear word in front of an important client. Gear can be replaced.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Meta Blog of Sorts

RedLeafWDropsNo1, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

I'm about to celebrate a unique moment in "blog history" (well, at least the history of Carol's Little World.) For the first time since 2005, I'm about to post more than two hundred and thirty six posts in a single year. This doesn't sound very eventful, and it really isn't, but I thought I might talk about it a little bit anyway.

I've yapped a lot this year. I've yapped and yapped and, well, you get the picture. It's been a busy year. I've done a lot. Did a lot of shows, dabbled in new media, made a lot of new connections, changed templates and directions yet again. Those of you who blog out there probably know what this is like. Sometimes, things feel so "eventful" even when they really aren't, while other times? Well, it feels like we're just sort of coasting along a bit. Keeping on, keeping on, as the song goes. This year, or lately anyway, it feels like it's been more change, and most change for the better, I'd have to say. I like the way things have unfolded and are starting to unfold. It feels a bit like, well, a bit like development. At least, I hope it does for you too.

In other, completely unrelated news, HE'S BACK.

Who's back? You might ask. And I'd be all too happy to tell you.

The Christmas Tree Bandit is Back!

Yes, yes, it's true. He's back. I even saw him on Monday, stringing up his garland for all the world to see. And, what's even better than him being back? What's even funnier is that, well, the Austin Police Department came very close to catching him, red handed too, as it were. Yes, not much more than a few hundred yards from where he was "a garland stringing" I also spotted a motorcycle officer stopped to write a ticket to some poor motorist. (And, in case you're wondering what, exactly a Christmas Tree Bandit is, wonder no more, for I have a link.)

Oh, happy happy joy joy, the Christmas Tree Bandit is back!

Until next time...

Photo Tip #24

Photo Tip #24-Watch That Logo

People often wear clothing with logos-Adidas hats or shoes, Nike shirts with the "Swoosh" on them. When doing portraits for bands or casual settings, watch out for these kind of logos. They will not only make the image look dated over time, but they might limit where you can display or use the results (if a member of a band is wearing a T-shirt with a bar logo on it, for example, they band might not be able to approach another bar to ask for a gig.)

In a pinch, if you do not have a spare shirt, you can turn shirts around backwards (particularly T-shirts) or even put them on inside-out to avoid logos.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Case for Education-At Least Self-Education

RedAndGreenNo2, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

Many times, and in many online forums, when you start to talk about photography, somebody will come along and say (or post) the old "I know what I like" defense. What they are saying (or trying to say) is that they don't know why they like (or dislike) a certain image. They saw the image, they either liked or disliked it, but they can't articulate why.

Many other times, in many of the same forums (spoken by the same people) you see a lot of people who are uneducated (or under-educated) about photography. They can't name popular photographers, list schools of photography, even list the larger genres of photography. (They don't understand what "fine art" photography is and why or how it's different from "social documentary" photography, for example and they wouldn't know an aesthetic if it jumped up and bit them in the....)

The two events (surprise!) are not really unrelated.

Educating yourself as an artist and photographer allows you to better articulate what you see when you look at a photo. You can talk about lines, colors, texture, tone, composition (formal rules of composition or not,) historic content, semantic meaning, style, genre, and a host of other things. For example, you can say, "I like that photo. It reminds me of a Walker Evans." Alternatively, you can say, "I like that photo. The subject has stoic quality about it. It looks like the subject is rising above a given situation with a quiet reserve." (Yada Yada.) By putting the photo in historic context though, by saying, "Hey, that looks like a modern day Walker Evans" you have given the image new meaning-or, at least, assigned a meaning and context in which that image can be viewed. It's a kind of short-hand notation that's awarded only to those who study-those who are in the "in crowd" as it were-those who look at, appreciate, and can process photographic images, not just those who run film through their cameras without having any sense of what they are doing. (Drop the context, lose the meaning, live in the moment is not really an admirable quality for a photographer who wants to make quality work over the span of a career.)

The old "I know what I like when I see it" is a nice way of starting to look at and evaluate images, but it falls short in many ways. If you don't know (or can't articulate) *why* you like an image, if you can't tell us, in so many words, what it is you like about the image, looking at an image (and, in turn, discussing it with others) really does no good to anybody. You can't recreate, you can't capture, you can't continue the discourse the original photographer had. You can't build upon previous work. Like the old saying about "genius standing on the shoulders of giants" you can't even climb up to the bottom rung-to reach the shoulders of the giants who have come before you. You're stuck trying to fumble with words and don't understand what it is you're really seeing (and, in turn, what it is you're doing with your camera.) Modern day equipment has made it easy for us to get pictures under many circumstances but getting pictures is not enough. You need quality, you need meaning, you need a sense of context. You need to move beyond the single shot-stop working the frame and work on the work.

Now, I'm not trying to say that you need a PhD in order to look at a photo, no, but, if you want to be a serious photographer, if you are serious about pursuing your craft, you owe it to yourself (and your work) to bone up a bit on the history, on the work that's come before you. You need to educate yourself, on some level, about what it is you are doing. Sure, you can hide in that little bubble, and stay comfortable in that ignorance but, at some point over the course of your photographic development, your work is going to be evaluated by some outside "force" (be it a portfolio review, a gallery owner, a curator, a judge for a competition, or something) and I hate to break the news to you, but you're going to fall face-first into that language, that context, that history. You're going to be evaluated, not by "what looks good" or "what felt 'right' to you at the time," not on that single frame of "goodness and light," but by how your work looks in relation to the work of others. Your work will be evaluated not on it's technical merit, not on your skills, mood or influence, no, rather it's going to be judged based upon how well it fits into the great context of photography-both modern and historic image-making. It's at that point that you'll be faced with the language, the shorthand, the history, the context, the "greater" goal of the photographer and the role of the image in a greater tapestry of image-making (and society in general.)

Again, I hate to be the one to break the news to you but, at some point, you're going to fall into that hole, so you might as well fall in with a map, a compass, and a feeling of preparedness. Go study a bit. Bone up on some of the photographers who came before you. Learn to talk about work, even if you start out selfish, and learn to talk about your own work. Say something! You're going to have to at some point anyway, so you might as well start now.

There's another old saying that comes to mind. "Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it." As a photographer, sure it's convenient to bypass all that "boring" study but sometimes you need to ask yourself. Do you really want to re-write photographic history on account of your own ignorance? Before you answer that question, remember too that, at some point, somebody is going to come along and force your hand-evaluate your work in a more articulate historical-based context. Do you really want to be left out in the cold when that happens?

Until next time...

Photo Tip #23

Photo Tip #23-Shower Caps and Nail Polish Are Not Just for Housewives Who Want to Look Pretty

Use a clear plastic show cap to cover your camera if you are shooting in windy, slightly rainy, or adverse conditions. If you are using a tripod and a lens that isn't too long, you can use the elastic on the shower cap right over your entire camera and lens setup. Simply "un-tuck" your camera when you are ready to expose the frame, as you can even look through the shower cap when first composing your images.

A lot of photographers use Vaseline to make a nice "soft filter" effect. You can smear Vaseline on a spare UV filter, for example, to make a nice filter for portraits, and this is a nice look. Vaseline, though, can get in your camera bag and "goop" up your gear. A better idea is to take a spare filter, get some colorless nail polish, and "paint" the filter, making a soft filter that you can more easily re-use. You will also have better control this way over which areas are soft and which stay sharper.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Red Leaf Diaries - Sunday, November 22nd 2009

GoldenLeafNo1, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

It's time once again to check in with the Red Leaf Diaries. In my "quest for red" I sometimes forget about gold, green, orange, and a few other colors. Today I went for a short walk-took the camera with the "red leaf" lens and did a bit of work, though not too much, in my hunt for leaves of red. Chase came along and he really enjoyed playing out in the grass while I was shooting.

Autumn is really here in Austin. Today the weatherman said it was going to be a high of about 75 but it's been more like 60 all day. I'm very sleepy. I really need to go and get groceries, but I'm much more inclined to take a nap. I might get groceries in the morning, next week or, you know, just some other time. A good nap is more in order. It really feels like that kind of quiet, sleepy Sunday afternoon that I sometimes wish could just last all week.

As far as national blog posting month, I'd have to say it hasn't really clobbered me yet. So far, anyway, blogging every day seems more "normal" to me than not, and I haven't really run out of topics or felt the usual sense of dread I often feel over the course of the month. I think maybe not having a busy exhibition schedule this time of year has helped. If anything, I'm itching (now more than ever) to spend some quality time in the studio.

As a photographer, it's a big hard to juggle things sometimes. We have shows and show schedules, travel and location shoots, studio time, time spent marketing and in the preparation of "marketing materials," time spent printing, matting, framing, and all of that, opening receptions, and so many little things to do and get done. Sure, it's great not having a traditional "desk job" in that regard, but a lot of time can get eaten up by these things, not to mention just thinking about how "un-fun" it is to prepare marketing materials or play with the framing materials really makes me want to take a nap.

The same is true for painting. We want to spend hardcore studio time, but often don't get to because of commitments and other things that get in the way. Sometimes, it feels like studio time is a reward of sorts-after doing all the other cruft, we get to spend some quality time with our canvas and brushes. The trip down encaustic lane has been especially hard like this, as I've spent a lot of time setting up my studio to be able to work with the medium and very little (if any!) time actually getting to lay down some paint. I'm looking forward to changing that in the coming days and weeks ahead. I feel like I've turned a big corner recently, because I've pretty much stopped getting supplies and started sketching what will possibly become my first encaustic pieces.

Meanwhile, autumn quietly settles in for it's turn at the seasonal helm.

Until next time...

Photo Tip #22

Photo Tip #22-Don't Delete and Format Only in Camera

This tip is for digital photographers only. Don't delete frames from your flash memory-deleting and re-shooting can make your memory cards more prone to failure. Instead, just keep shooting, it's only one frame and flash memory is cheap. Also, only format cards in your camera, not using your computer or another camera (even one of the same make/model) for best results. Use a card reader and avoid plugging your camera directly into your PC or Mac as well.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Top Gear Spoiler Alert-When I Drive My Masterpiece

InsideTheBumperCarsNo1, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

So, a little birdie told me that, for the next season of Top Gear, the "3 graces" (ahem, that would be Jezza, Richard, and James, in case, you know, you weren't paying attention) are doing an automotive-themed art exhibit, in a real gallery. The reason I'm giving you this spoiler (and I don't feel guilty about it!) is because, well, it doesn't take a genius to figure out how an automotive themed art exhibit would go if the "3 idiots" (I mean, um, "graces" yeah, that's it) were to actually pull it off.

For starters, Jeremy would want "more POWER" so he'd probably get one of those automatic paint sprayers people use to paint the outside of their houses, their fences, and such. Then, he'd somehow turn the knob all the way and manage to get it stuck on some kind of oddball maximum spray- the kind of setting you would use to douse a fire from three city blocks away. The end result? Well, he'd probably have paint everywhere *except* on the canvas right in front of him. It'd end up looking a little like the great train ride episode, when he ended up covered in soot, only, maybe, say, a bit bluer, or, you know, perhaps the color of some almost acceptable shade of paint.

James May, being the freak that he is, would probably somehow assert that all of this "newfangled Renaissance Italian style perspective" was "too sparkly and new" and so he would do some "proper" style of a painting. I'm thinking here about one of those Egyptian style paintings, you know the kind-the ones that sort of give you the creeps because the eyes are all pointed around the wrong way. (Sort of like this one.) He finds air-conditioning and traction control to be "too new" and "not proper" so I can only begin to imagine what he would do with a bucket of paint and a brush.

And then there's Richard. Ah, yes, Richard. Now, Richard is a bit of a wild card, you see, because he actually attended art school and probably knows how to paint so, at first guess, you might expect him to come up with the visual artistic equivalent of something like, say, an Alfa Romeo. But, given that he also crashes a lot on the show, so much so that the Daily Mail can barely write a story about him without saying something along the lines of "in September 2006 Hammond was near fatally injured when the jet propelled car he was driving crashed," and given the fact that the other two will not stop tormenting him long enough to allow him to actually finish a work of art, I'm anticipating something a bit different from the old (hey, he's almost 40 now) Hamster. Yes, I fully expect him to start painting a nice little red coupe number, only to have it interrupted by some giant "flying piano" styled yellow "blob" (to use a technical painting term) landing smack dab in the middle of his canvas. This, of course, will be followed by rousing choruses of "That's not gone well" after which, well, we'll probably be left with a visual mess that can best be described as "the aftereffects of a Volkswagen full of clowns jumping around and vomiting." The Daily Mail will, of course, report that poor little Hamster has "crashed yet again" (but not quite as dramatically as he did back in 2006 when, in case you haven't heard, he was nearly killed in an almost fatal car accident involving a jet propelled car while filming for the new season of Top Gear.)

Meanwhile, in some out of the way little corner of the studio, they'll be this guy dressed in white painter's coveralls, wearing a white beret (which, of course, completely covers his face and head) standing with his arms crossed, having just completed his latest, greatest artistic masterpiece. Yes, Stigcasso will be quietly admiring the greatest masterpiece to hit the auction block since, well, since those pesky van Gogh sunflowers corrupted the price of paintings for art collectors everywhere.

And people wonder why I love that Stig so much.

Until next time....

Photo Tip #21

Photo Tip #21-Store Your Camera Setup for Your NEXT Shoot

Come up with basic settings for your camera-ones that you use the most frequently. For example, ISO 100, F/16, aperture priority, RAW/high JPEG, etc. and get in the habit of leaving your camera with these settings in place. If, in the field, you stray from these settings, no worries, just remember to put your camera back to it's basic settings BEFORE you unload it (film or flash memory.)

Remember, it's very easy *the next time* you go out shooting to forget to check these things. Keeping your camera on the same basic setup most of the time, and especially every time you store it, will help ensure you don't accidentally forget and shoot a lot of pictures with your camera on an incorrect setting.

Friday, November 20, 2009


PrettyBlueJagNo1, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

The theme for today is: vehicle.

According to the wiki, a vehicle can include any means of transport, including those made by nature and those made by man. So, for example, a floating tree trunk and an iceberg can both be considered vehicles, as can a bicycle and a car. A chariot, a stagecoach, a buggy, a barge, an ox-cart, a rickshaw?Yup, all vehicles.

I wonder how many people went out and photographed icebergs for this challenge? I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess, probably not many.

But, by "going out on a limb..." Yup. You guess it. Another vehicle. It's a vicious cycle, isn't it? Vicious, you know, as in "one that keeps moving." (Oh crap, there it goes again!) Hey, it's Friday, what were you expecting? You remember Friday, don't you? It's that "vehicle" for the weekend to start?

Yes, I thought you might. Remind me to stop looking things up on the wiki, it's Friday already.

Until next time...

Photo Tip #20

Photo Tip #20-Just Add People

When doing an environmental or a tableau vivant-style portrait (one with a "setting" and not just a "headshot") try composing the image first, adding the people in only after you're happy with the basic composition of the frame. This will help eliminate unnecessary background objects and provide a sense of balance to your compositions. By doing this, as you edit, you won't have to eliminate any images because the background or setting was wrong-you'll be able to focus on more variable details of the portrait-the facial expressions, skin tone, lighting on the face, and gestures to pick out the best shots.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Painters Every Photographer Should Know - Andrew Wyeth

Andrew Wyeth was an American painter born in 1917 in the small rural Pennsylvania town of Chadds Ford. The youngest of five children, born to an illustrator and artist father, N. C. Wyeth, Andrew Wyeth's childhood was shaped by his ill health. Stricken with whooping cough at a young age, his parents opted to pull him out of school and provide for his education at home. He was home schooled in many subjects, including art education. He died in January of 2009, at the age of 91, leaving behind several children, one of whom is now an exhibiting artist as well.

No study of Andrew Wyeth would be complete without addressing on some level his popularity. Known as a "painter of the people" Andrew Wyeth achieved a level of artistic success few artists even dream about hitting. Almost as his stardom increased, so too claim the critics, did his reputation as an artist decline. It's been said that his stardom "cannibalized" his art-inexpensive prints saturated the market to the point of lowering the value of his "real" work. A student of art today could almost undertake a complete study of Wyeth, not just as an artist, but perhaps as a lesson in "how to move art to the masses" (maybe even "how not to move art to the masses" depending upon your point of view.) Much has been written about Wyeth, both during his heyday as a best selling artist and in his later years but, popularity and commercial success aside, Wyeth was an influential painter.

Known to shun traditional oils, Wyeth instead opted to work with watercolors, drybrush (a technique where watercolors are used but water is squeezed or otherwise removed from the brush) and egg tempera (a medium where egg yolks are used as a binding agent and mixed with pigment to make paint.) Perhaps Andrew Wyeth is famous not so much for the type of painter he was, but more the painter he wasn't, as his subjects and style also varied drastically from many of the abstract oil painters from that period.

Andrew Wyeth painted typically rural subjects, like those you might find in rural Pennsylvania. His subjects were often open, desolate landscapes and much of his work showed traces where humans were left behind (tracks, roads, beds, chairs, etc.) Wyeth preferred the quiet contemplative desolation of the rural landscape-much of his work sets a quiet mood. He liked to disguise the familiar by light or distance and there's a certain "approach yet withdrawal" about his work. Standing in sharp contrast of the abstract painters that were popular of the day, Wyeth painted a quiet realism-his work is as much about detail as it is about space, a study in both the pensive and the perspective of rural American life at the time.

What Photographers Can Learn From Him
The concept of a "quiet mood" is a wonderful "take" for a photographer looking to Wyeth for inspiration. Since Wyeth was not an abstract painter, his work bears the mark of realism-as a photographer, here is an example of heavily used textures with a clear focus. So much of today's "textures with layers" work really resembles Wyeth's paintings. His work was subtle yet detailed-photographers should be comfortable with a certain level of detail, as much of photography is about detail and it has roots in the same sort of realism that Wyeth knew, yet a photographer could learn a lot by incorporating a certain subtlety into their work, the way Wyeth did.

Much like Michael Kenna, a Wyeth painting is more a dialogue with the viewer than it is a finished product. The concept of suggestion-the traces of human touch left behind can really add a lot to photographic work. A lot of photographers (myself included) don't always work with portraits but, by leaving out a person, a photograph can suffer-the photographer can drop a center of interest that's naturally present with a portrait. By opting to include instead hints of a person, small touches, subtle tells of a presence that have been left behind-things like chairs, beds, boots, signs, even tracks in the earth-Wyeth's work become more like a haiku and less like prose-subtle, contemplative, pensive, moody. These elements can translate directly, as they do with Kenna, to photography and the notion of a creating a discourse with a viewer, rather than crafting a finished product lends itself well with the modern notion of highly interactive art. It's as if the viewer is drawn in by what's not present in the image and that sort of "approach yet withdrawal" creates a natural tension in the work.

Wyeth's color palette was simple, featuring many browns and grays, and he used light and distance well in his work to give depth and assign meaning. To paraphrase that old adage, "objects closer in mirror are more important than they appear" would sum up Wyeth's perspective quite well. In his famous piece, Christina's World, Wyeth painted a girl, crippled by polio, crawling across an open field with a house in the distance. The use of space, sense of depth, and level of detail in the work lends meaning and importance to the elements in the painting. Once again, photographers could learn a lot by looking to Wyeth's example of using light or distance to assign importance to elements in an image. By putting more important objects in the front of the frame, adding a lot of depth, working with space, detail, subtle colors, and texture carefully, a photographer could really craft images with great impact.

For his quiet mood, his mastery of light and distance, his texture with focus, the quiet desolation of Andrew Wyeth earns him a spot in the ranks of "Painters Every Photographer Should Know." You can read more about Andrew Wyeth on the wikipedia entry about him and look for more posts (and painters) as part of the series.

This is next in a series called "Painters Every Photographer Should Know." The painting shown here is Andrew Wyeth's Master Bedroom 1965. Please note that the paintings in this series are not copyright the author of this website, may be subject to international copyright law, and are provided her for educational purposes only.

Photo Tip #19

Photo Tip #19-The Doors of Perception

Perception is sometimes the key to making interesting work. Move beyond simple subjects, and introduce symbolic elements, subjects that have a cultural significance, or subjects that have multiple interpretations to help you make more lasting, compelling images.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Somebody Please Help Me, I'm Cursed

Water, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

By now you probably know that I went to a carnival this weekend, so that I could take some pictures. That's all well and good, and I suppose you're now expecting me to cough up some shots of kids on rides, of bright lights, of things twirling around. So, what do I come up with? Water. Still water.

Yes, I know doesn't make any sense to me either. But, I couldn't help myself. I loved the way the lights were softly reflected on the water. I thought I wanted to paint this someday, so I'd take a quick snap, and here it is. It's probably going to be the best shot from the night too. I'm cursed like this.

Let me explain. You see, I'm the type of photographer who could go somewhere, hike up a mountain, or lower myself into the deepest depths of the ocean. While I'm down there? A bunch of ok shots. But, get me back into the boat or the plane or the whatever and I'll take this stupid little "one off" shot of somebody fastening a belt, fixing a shoelace, or some such thing and that? That will be the picture of the day. I never get what I came for, I never wind up dancing with "the girl I brought to the party." Me? No, that would be easy. And I never do things the easy way. If I wanted to take a picture of water, why, I'd have to go to the desert. Or the moon. Or some other Godforsaken place, one where you'd never expect to find not a drop of water in the joint. Want to shoot portraits? Easy-look for privacy. Autumn leaves? No problem, shoot for spring flowers. Aaaaarrrrggghhhh.

It's a hard life, really it is. Somebody please help me, I'm cursed.

Until next time...

Photo Tip #18

Photo Tip #18-Learn to Sequence Your Work

Editing is not enough-learn to sequence your work as well. Learn how to transition from one image to the next, either tonally, by subject matter, lens, or some other way, to maximize the impact of your presentations and showoff a clean, clear, well-defined body of work, rather than a scattering of "one off" shots.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Case for Paint-Make It Stop

Flag, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

Since I've been setting up my studio to do encaustics, I've noticed that lately I've been bitten by the bug. I've started to sketch out the first paintings that I want to do once the setup is complete, and I can hardly wait to get going, to get painting again, only in the new medium.

An interesting thing about paint, one which I've been reminded since all this encaustic work has started to happen, is that, when you work with paint, you're not limited to "reality" in the same way as photography. Sure, it's never stopped me before, but right now anyway, I'm starting to enjoy the expanse of an imagination unbound. For example, I started to think about nature, about what I like about nature. Then I started to think about leaves, because, well, because it's autumn and so I guess the time was right. Then I started to think about birds on a wire, and birds, and flying, and all of the freedom of association that comes with flight. I had this idea to do encaustic panels, basically a "bird's eye view" of the world, and call it "as the crow flies." I could even get little houses, make roads, and all of that, maybe using something like an old Monopoly game.

It's a funny thing about crows. I've wanted to do a crow series as a photographer for a long time but never got around to it. I bought these fake little stuffed crows, and I was going to sort of "plant" them around, taking their picture as I went. That's a great idea, and I might still do it at some point, but my point today is that, by dabbling in paint, by using encaustics and drawing, rather than photography, I can actually make my crows without, well, without making my crows. It sounds almost easy. Doesn't it? Who knew photography was so much work? (Well, ok, I shouldn't really say that but, like, you get the idea.)

So then my mind started racing and I started sketching again. All the different paintings I want to do. For some reason, I almost always start out a photograph or a painting as a sketch and I never sketch all that well. Just smudges, smears, a few quick lines on a page, but that's all I really need to get myself going-it's all in the head anyway, right? As my mind goes around at ten million miles an hour, I try, I hope, to just save off little tidbits, tiny morsels of what I want to do for my next big project. Now, I'm afraid that encaustics are going to turn into the next pit for me. I'm going to have ten million ideas running around in my head and I'm going to be helpless. "Make it stop," I'll say, "please make it stop."

For some reason, I always have a million ideas but can never actually get anything done. Somehow, I'm haunted by all these little notions, vague recollections, pieces and parts, bits not yet realized. What do you do when you have this problem? Try to forget? Try to remember? Work harder? Or just relax and have a beer? (That last one is actually starting to sound just about good right about now.)

If you'll excuse me, I think it's time to rename "Miller Time" to be "Encaustic Hour" (yet, somehow, celebrate it with some "golden umber" if you know what I mean.)

Until next time...