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...

Photo Tip #17

Photo Tip #17-Edit Your Work

Learn to edit your work. Divide your images into groups and learn to eliminate "duplicate" images (images that are very close, but essentially the same subject or viewpoint.) Edit wisely and be merciless in your selections for best results.

Monday, November 16, 2009

When In Doubt Hit Desaturate

Bumper Cars No 1, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

Does a photo always work as a black and white?

This is something I ask myself a lot lately. I think the answer is "no" it doesn't. Only if a photo "works" does it really work in black and white. Only if the composition is strong enough, if there's texture, tonal range, some depth to the image, does a photo really work in black and white.

I see a lot of photography, some of it good some of it, not so much. The one thing that stands out to me about digital photography is that, while black and white film photography sometimes gave us "boring" results, you could almost always make a print out of something. No so much with today's digital format. I see a lot of color tints (there's nothing worse than a slightly "urine yellow" colored black and white photo, IMHO.) I see a lot of muddy prints (no contrast and everything just muddy gray, with no black points, and no proper white points.) I see the Zone system getting thrown out the window. Everybody just wants to push that convenient, little "desaturate" button, and, newsflash! It doesn't always work like that.

Take this image. Is it an ok image? I think I like it enough, it's kind of fun to see inside the bumper cars. But, if this had been a darkroom print, no way this would work. I would spend a lot more time getting the contrast better, dodging and burning, fixing things. Photoshop, in a lot of ways, makes us lazy. Because we *can* fix things, we often *don't bother* to fix things. And that's, well, you don't need me to tell you that's probably bad, right?

If you're shooting digital, you're probably better off shooting color unless you really know what you are doing. Digital black and white has a real ugly side to it, it's just wrong on so many levels. If you aren't familiar with how traditional black and white prints should look, if you haven't spent too much time in a "wet" darkroom, it's probably never too late. Get in there. Learn how to print. Learn how to print well. Digital black and white prints, when done well, look fantastic, but there's a steep learning curve and any mistakes you make can be quite off the mark.

A lot of people say, "yes, well, I only shoot for the web" in response to that. What they don't realize is that learning to print will make you a better shooter. You'll learn what will and what won't print, and you'll learn to avoid that which won't print. In turn, your results will improve. Yes, even for the web. Even if you never ever print another single image in your life, learning to print is not a waste of time. Really.

When I shot these bumper cars, I looked at the floor and I was a little bit worried that it wouldn't turn out-it was dark, maybe too dark. So, I took so test shots-looked into the little peephole in the back. Only after I saw that it came out ok, that I thought I could get a decent print from it, that's when I started shooting the bumper cars. Oddly enough, my friend and shooting buddy, Kathy, walked right up to me while I was shooting the bumper cars and said, "that looks interesting, but I wonder how that dark floor will print."

"Test shot. Here. Look. Oddly enough it works," I said to her as I showed her my viewfinder.

After she shot a few frames, she showed me some of her shots and said, "it looks like it's going to block up but it's holding up ok." It was. It did. Learning to print does that to you in the field.

The "when in doubt hit desaturate" model doesn't always work. If a photo doesn't really "work" in color, black and white can't really "save" it and it might do nothing more than showoff your inability to print.

Time for me to get off my soapbox and back to processing. Look for some acceptable black and white prints to come this week.

Until next time...

Photo Tip #16

Photo Tip #16-Shoot early and often

Like voting in Chicago ("early and often") shoot more images than you think you will need and arrive early/stay late to events so that you can catch unexpected vantage points or different views on the same subject. Flash memory or even film is cheap, typically cheaper than not getting the shot, so expose lots of frames for best results.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

I Just Don't Know What to Think

PurpleGuy, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

Ok, so last night, I went to the carnival. For those of you who don't know, a lot of photographers shoot the "carnival at night" type of work-you can probably guess (if you've never seen it before) the type of work I'm talking about here. Wonderful swirling lights, neon trails of color, the excitement of an entire "strange" environment lit up at night. It's very fun to shoot, especially at first but then, after a while, it can all start to look a little bit...well....maybe "the same" would be the right way to describe it.

So, I go to the carnival and take my infrared camera. And it takes pictures. And they don't look anything like the "normal" carnival pictures you might typically see. They look like this. This little purple guy. All whacked out, a bit odd, maybe even a bit "off" and that's the polite way of describing them. I guess it's safe to say, well, they aren't "normal" not by any stretch of the imagination. Odd colors, odd shapes, weird things happening with the light, and that's just for starters.

Now, I've got all these pictures of the carnival and, frankly, I really don't know what to do with them. I don't know what to think. I'm not sure that I like them-I mean, they don't look like anything that I've seen before, and they are "weird" even for me (that's really saying something.) On the other hand, well, I kind of like the idea that they don't look like anything else you might happen to come across. The world is full of photographers, and every photographer has so many cameras and yet, from all of those cameras, from all of those eyes, from all that vision, not one person, not one single person who ever came before me stopped and thought to do *this.* Maybe there's a reason for that-maybe you shouldn't do *this.* But, then again, maybe this is creative, new, funky, cool, and makes people laugh. I don't think there's anything wrong with making people smile, is there? I mean, are photographs (and, in turn, photographers) supposed to be miserable all of the time? Because, well, if that's the case....

Yeah, weird, I know. And I just don't know what to think.

Until next time...

Photo Tip #15

Photo Tip #15-What's in the Bag?

Keep track of what you keep in your camera bag for better results. Try to eliminate unnecessary items, limit yourself to one or a small number of lenses, and keep your accessories to a minimum for better results and a lighter load.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Signs Point to...Fried Pies?

Vaquero Cocina, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

Would somebody please tell me what in the heck a "fried pie" is? Nevermind, I think I'd rather not know. (It sounds fattening, whatever it is.) Texas food...sometimes....I tell you. Welcome to the cowboy kitchen, y'all!

In other news....

Gear. Gadgets. Stuff. "Jonque." Stuff you need. Stuff you want. Stuff you just saw in a magazine and thought you *had* to have. Working tools. Play things. Camera foo.

Yes, fellow photoholics, it's that time again. Time for the annual Christmas sale circulars. Time for Canon to have their big "rebate" sales. Time for money to get sucked right out of my wallet at an oh-so-alarming pace.

In case you forgot, I'm still thinking about gear. And, this time, I even have a plan. You see, I'm going to upgrade to a full frame camera, probably a Canon "baby Mark" style camera. I had wanted to go medium format but now I'm re-thinking that. And lenses, yes, lenses. We need lots of new lenses.

So, the current plan is to start by upgrading some new glass. Get the "nifty fifty" I've wanted for a while. Get myself a new lensbaby (yes, yes, I know. Why get a $2700 camera only to put a $200 lensbaby on it? Don't ask, I might have to explain.) Canon has just introduced a new 105 macro with image stabilization and I've always wanted a real tilt-shift lens. Then there's the fisheye. I have always, since the dawn of time (well, ok, maybe since I started photographing) wanted a fisheye and, somehow, never managed to be able to afford one. So, that too is on the list. Glass, I tell you-lots and lots of glass.

After starting with a few key pieces of glass (maybe even just the nifty fifty) I'm probably going to upgrade to a Rebel T1i. I'm so far behind in the rebel series, and I need a spare body, right? So, since I can't afford *two* full frame cameras (actually don't want to spend that much) I can get the Rebel as a backup body and smaller walk-about camera. Only issue is that it uses SD memory, rather than CF, but I think I can work through that. The infrared camera uses CF too, so, best as I can tell, I'm going to be stuck with both anyway.

Ugh. So much to buy. Haven't even started shopping yet. Don't want to think about it. But, those circulars. They've started to show up. They have pretty pictures and big "reduced" or "sale now!" bubbles above all the cameras. Man, I hate that. They should outlaw big "on sale now!" bubbles above any expensive items at all. There should be a law and I should be a lawyer, I swear.

Well, I guess it beats being a cowboy stuck in a kitchen with something called a "fried pie," right?

Until next time...

Photo Tip #14

Photo Tip #14-Visualize the Image

Try different techniques for visualization before you go out on your next shoot. Try using a sketch pad to draw basic shapes of your compositions and imagine results in your head before you set out with your camera in tow. Most advanced photographers practice some form of visualization and don't rely upon happenstance to get memorable images.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Proof That Rich People Paint

I was talking with a friend the other day, about how I had found this encaustic kit on-line. It's a whole entire set-everything one might need to do encaustic painting-including a hot palette, a heat source, a starter set of wax, gesso, even a book, a thermometer, and a color chart. Wow! I thought. If only I had known about that before I started my journey into encaustics. Silly me, right? I've been purchasing this stuff little by little, getting things like a pancake griddle, rather than a "real" hot palette. Oh, if only I had known.

But...then...I looked at the price.

"Guess how much it is?" I asked my friend.

"Two hundred dollars?" She guessed.

It's actually $610. On sale. Yup. $610 on sale. Yipes! For $610, it had better come with a heck of a lot of wax, don't you think? I mean, I guess it's actually cheaper than buying all of the items individually, but still, $610 is a lot of money. Phew!

Then, I went shopping for a new easel. I really want a new easel. Now, I'm silly, because, deep down inside, I know that a new easel will not help me paint any better than my old easel. I know this, but I don't care. I want a new easel, because...well...because I want something *new* since I'm starting to work with a new media. New is new, right? So out with the old, in with the new. Ha!

I found this thing.

Behold! The Craftech Ultra Series Easel. Wow. What can I say? That looks nicer than most of my paintings. I'd be afraid to use that for fear I would get paint on it. What kind of easel is so pretty that you can't use it because you're afraid you might get paint on it? That doesn't sound like the kind of easel I really need now, does it? Not to mention that, well, it's $575 on sale (reduced from $1025.) I mean, I know that's a heck of a beautiful easel, but still, wow. An easel that retails for over $1000.

Yup. Proof that rich people paint. And photographers thought they had it bad. Ppppfft.

Until next time...

Photo Tip #13

Photo Tip #13-Squint

Squinting will often allow you to visualize an image in black and white, thanks to the way our eyes work (rods, cones, and all of that.) Try composing for a black and white image, even if you typically work in color, because typically images that work in black and white tend to work well in color too. If you've never done it before, try printing some of your images in black and white to see how they hold up. You can also use the saturation slider in the RAW processor, for example, to evaluate a composition in black and white without actually converting it.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Hey Cupcake!

Hey Cupcake, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

It's hard to describe Hey Cupcake! to somebody who's not from Austin. For starters, the cupcakes are sold out of an airstream trailer, parked in what used to be a vacant lot on South Congress Avenue. Now, I know that doesn't sound very odd to you, especially if you're not from Austin, but, believe me, it is. Congress Avenue, you see, is the main street that dissects Austin into east and west. Think of it as a kind of "Broadway" without the theaters and with a host of taco bars and odd thrift stores in their place, and, well, that's pretty much Congress Avenue. In fact, you could go so far as to say, that's pretty much downtown Austin for you, but downtown Austin pretty much begins and ends on Congress Avenue.

The airstream trailer has a giant spinning cupcake on top. It was started as a small business, by somebody who wanted to earn a living, and had the novel idea of making and selling cupcakes, rather than opening a full service bakery, restaurant, or some other, more typical, eating establishment. There are a few different varieties of cupcake-there's the vanilla, the "standard" (white cake with chocolate topping) and something called a "Michael Jackson" (half black and white, from the looks of things.) The trailer also sells Sweet Leaf tea by the bottle and has a few "lawn chair" like seats out front.

Hey Cupcake! has been around for a few years now. Because I don't much frequent that part of Congress anymore, I had never been there before tonight.

Now, there are many things I've done since moving to Austin-many of the typical "stereotypical" types of things-such as go to see the bats, visit the dome of the capitol building, attend a rodeo, visit the Broken Spoke (honky tonk bar) eat "authentic" BBQ at the Salt Lick restaurant, check out "the new" Whole Foods-the list goes on. But, I have never, not until tonight, eaten a Hey Cupcake! cupcake.

So tonight, while the Austin Night Photography group gathered, under the swirling cupcake, I waited in line, paid my $2, and got myself a Hey Cupcake! cupcake. Now, I can't say it was the best cupcake I've ever had, though I have to admit it was pretty good. It was more about the experience though-the whole South Austin experience.

As I was driving home, crossing over the Colorado River on the Congress Avenue (aka "bat") bridge, the City took on a new twinkle. It looked a bit different tonight. Sure, it's the same old Austin, in many ways, same as it ever was, but to me there was something fresh in the air, something new. It was as if I'd seen a new side to Austin. And, I'd have to say, it was all thanks to that Hey Cupcake! cupcake. As we go through our "normal" everyday existence, Austin reminds us that we're never too far from the weird, from the offbeat, from the oddball, from the Hey Cupcake! cupcakes down on South Congress Avenue. Yes, as we sit and punch clocks in cubicles, that delightfully whacked out sweet treat spins around aimlessly on South Congress Avenue-almost like flipping a bird at the establishment-albeit a much sweeter tasting bird. "Take that! You office workers! I've got a Hey Cupcake! cupcake. So there!"

Yes, it's hard to describe Hey Cupcake! cupcakes to somebody who's not from Austin, but tonight? Tonight I just enjoyed one for the first time. And I hope, I really do hope, that you get to enjoy for yourself, some quirky, offbeat, oddball aspect of your hometown. It's just one of those little things (with sprinkles on top!) that make life special. Every place has something unique, something special, something "different" about it and, if we don't stop to celebrate those things, we're all destined to live in a land of strip malls and highway overpasses-and actually learn to enjoy that kind of existence.

And, if you're thinking that you'd like one of your very own Hey Cupcake! cupcakes, I have one thing to say to you. Hey, that's *MY* Hey Cupcake! cupcake. Get your own!

Until next time...

Photo Tip #12

Photo Tip #12-Or Not

If you shoot in black and white, you can still work with color effectively. Learn to work tone, and work a full tonal range in your images to have a maximum impact. Learn how complimentary colors map into black and white tones (red and green, for example, map to the same color gray typically) for best results. Also, be aware of where the black point and white point will be in your images as you compose to get better results.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veteran's Day

WalkwayGoesAway, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

Today is a special day in the United States-it's Veteran's Day. To all of those who served, are serving, and will serve, we would like to take this opportunity to give you a big shout out. Thanks for all that you do. Freedom is not free.

As a blogger who sometimes travels, I get a lot of hits from folks overseas. A lot of my "top 10" lists, for example, are popular, because service men and women, stationed overseas, type the name of their hometown into a search engine (when they are lucky enough to get a little computer time) and search for what's happening in their hometowns. Either that, or they are about to go somewhere, about to be move around, and they want to find out what's there. Today, as a sort of shout out and thank you, I thought I would post a list linking to my top 10 lists-so that you could more easily find your destination of choice.

Some of my more popular lists are:
Top 10 List Venice Italy-click here for that.

Top 10 List New Orleans-click here for that.

Top 10 List Kona, the Big Island of Hawaii-click here for that.

Top 10 List White Sands, New Mexico-click here for that.

Top 10 List Santa Fe, New Mexico-click here for that.

Every time I travel, as soon as I get back, I like to post a new top 10 list-a list that consists of the top things I've learned while I was away. After completing school, I decided that travel would be the best way to learn-I still feel that way. It's a good way to learn-you can learn a lot about a culture, a people, a place, by going to visit it, and not just reading about it in a book.

So, to those overseas this Veteran's Day, we wish you not only a big shout out and thank you but, almost as importantly, a big stay safe and happy travels. You never know where life's path may lead, but travel is as much about enjoying the journey as it is about finding a place called "home" again.

Until next time...

Photo Tip #11

Photo Tip #11-Color Me Good

Learn how to work with color. Get a book or do some research on basic color theory and start to incorporate techniques from color theory into your work. Color is a visual element that can have a maximum impact on your images with little effort on your part, provided you can work with it well.

Learning how warm colors come forward and cool colors recede, for example, can help you work with colors like red and blue to add an extra sense of depth to your images.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Painters Every Photographer Should Know - Piet Mondrian

Pieter Cornelis "Piet" Mondriaan, known as Piet Mondrian, was a Dutch painter, born in the Netherlands in 1872 into an artistic family. His father was a drawing teacher and his uncle a painter. As a painter with such a distinctive style-shown here one of his trademark paintings consisting of white ground, a black linear grid, and blocks of primary colors, you might have expected him to start painting abstract geometric forms at an early age as well, but he didn't. He started, like many artists, with the landscape-his inspiration was to study nature, spirit, and philosophy through his work. Many modern day painters and historians, in fact, comb through his earlier landscape work, looking for signs, for roots of his abstract work to come. Indeed, they can almost find them, as his landscape work became increasingly abstract until it gave way, completely, to the abstract geometric forms you see here.

Mondrian is an extremely well-known painter throughout the world, and his style of working with the geometric abstract has often been imitated. My first introduction to the Mondrian style, for example, came about not because I frequented museums in New York as a child (though I did) but by much more primitive means-the Partridge Family Bus. There is a Mondrian hotel in Hollywood, a Mondrian-inspired condominium in Singapore, there have been Mondrian clothing lines, and even Mondrian-inspired cosmetics. That old familiar white ground, the geometric arrangement of color blocks, that black lined grid, had really gotten around the art world as well, with many painters too working in a Mondrian style or inspired by Mondrian.

What Photographers Can Learn From Him

The geometric arrangement of primary colors on a white ground is the Mondrian trademark, but Mondrian can teach us more than that. For starters, a white ground does not have to be boring and Mondrian worked with white space very efficiently. There's a rhythm and method to his lines-his work represents a careful arrangement of a linear form. Mondrain's work can teach us how lines, shape and simple forms accented with punches of color add depth. When you look at Mondrian's work, look at how he was sort of "playing" with what recedes and what comes forward. Then, ask yourself, as you look through your viewfinder, can I arrange this better?

There's no "burnt umber" or "sienna" on his palette, no four hundred colors from the latest Daniel Smith catalog-it was all red, yellow, blue, black and white, but the colors really came second to the interplay of space and line. I think one of the key "tells" (if you will) of a photographer who paints is space-painters are forced (maybe willing is a better word?) to play with, to work with space. Paint forces us to define what it going to come forward, what jumps out, what's "negative space," and what isn't. Photographers, especially beginners who have never painted, sometimes lack this element-they fail (sometimes) to grasp how space, how that 3-dimensional world, works in a 2-dimensional medium, so consequently, their work can lack a certain depth. Look at the "two faces and a vase" optical illusion to see what I mean about working with negative space-this takes what Mondrian did sort of to the extreme but it might help explain the painters view, if you've never worked with paint and can't see it in Mondrian's work (at first.)

Another key take away from Mondrian is that, just because something is often imitated does not make it off limits. Seeing the value in geometric abstraction can create new, interesting work, and moving it out of the painter's world brings a new medium into play. Mondrian was so influential, you can perhaps even find or see how his linear influence would impact the photographic world. Look at the work of somebody like Friedlander, for example, and what do you see? Lots of vertical compositions coupled with strong linear constructs-lines defining a frame, lots of geometric shapes, frames within the frame. Sound familiar? This Friedlander image has his trademark lines and "frames within frames" and, after seeing his work in person, I would be surprised to find out he never saw a Mondrian piece.

Frankly, I don't even have to look much beyond my own Flickr stream to see Mondrian's influence. The image that you see here of the blue windows was taken in Santa Fe. Though it does not have the "punchy" primary colors, I noticed the Mondrain-like pattern in the windows and opted to compose my own personal little "tribute" to Mondrian, using "Santa Fe blue" instead of his typical primary colors. It's not as strong a piece as either Mondrian's work itself, or the Friedlander piece, but it can help demonstrate how the Mondrian influence-that old familiar grid, those primary colors, those lines and that white space, can have an influence on the world of photography too.

This is next in a series called "Painters Every Photographer Should Know." The painting shown here is Piet Mondrian's Composizione 1921. 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 #10

Photo Tip #10-Expose Yourself To Better Photography

Learn how to properly expose prints, and how you can over or under expose a negative (even a digital negative) but compensate using the exposure of the print to make a properly exposed end result.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Photo Tips, Red Leaf Diaries, and a Bit More

TipsAndCenters, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

I hope you are enjoying the photo tips. Last year, I did Stig introductions for National Blog Posting month. This year, instead, I opted for tips about photography.

I've never been very good at giving tips. I can help people sometimes-I've gotten good enough at photography, finding my way around cameras and such that I can't offer pointers sometimes but, tips? Tips are hard. For starters, tips are supposed to be short quick things. In case you can't tell, it takes me a few sentences just to clear my throat. So much for "short" right? And, a lot of the photo-related tips out there have already been done to death. Everybody always tells us the same things over and over again. I was hoping for some new ones. Regardless, I've gotten together 30 or so photo-related tips for you to enjoy. I hope you like them.

I was hoping to get out today and do a bit of a walk, to maybe try to find some red leaf-related stuff out in the wild blue yonder, but today appears to be wild gray yonder instead. The light is very flat, and it looks like it's going to rain again. We'll see if I get out some or not again. I will try to do more walks over the course of the week though, as I'm starting to be much more aware of the first signs of autumn creeping in to Austin.

So, if you're doing National Blog Posting month, how is it going for you so far? Have you run out of ideas already? Or just getting started? November is always a difficult month. At fist, it feels like it's going to be fun, it's going to be great-filled with excitement and potential. Then, sometime, typically just before the middle of the month, the "blahs" set it for me a little bit, I start to settle in and think "what was I thinking? I can redefine my website, cover all these 100 topics, and do all of this in one month. I'm crazy!" As the month continues to unfold, I sort of hit my stride, get into the habit a bit, get comfortable with the posts and how much I have to say each day. Does this happen to you?

For those of you not doing National Blog Posting Month, I'd be curious why not. Is it too much of a burden? Did you just not know about it? What types of reasons would keep you away?

Until next time...

Photo Tip #9

Photo Tip #9-Get in There!

Most photographers, especially those new to photography, benefit from moving closer when composing. After you have composed your image, but before you push the shutter, try moving two steps closer to your subject to see if this improves your shot.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

The Red Leaf Diaries and a Weekend Roundup of Sorts

Today started out with this beautiful fog, I'm really sorry I did not get to go out shooting more than I did. I had plans to go over to the water gardens and koi breeders near my home, but I never made it over there. I took a nap instead. I've been very tired lately so I guess I needed it, but I should have gone out shooting. I could use some new work and feel like I need to do something new to sort of get my creative juices flowing again.

On Saturday, I finished the dreaded bench. I'm very happy about that. It took me a while, but now it's all together and I've even started putting stuff on it, getting ready for my foray into encaustics. It's actually a wonderful bench-just the right size, even has a light so I can work at night. I'm very happy with it-the two weeks it's taken out of my life will be forgotten at some point, but I think the bench is a real keeper.

I did manage to get a few shots off this afternoon. Nothing exciting, but I made a halfhearted attempt in my hunt for a red leaf. I didn't get too far into it though, when it started to rain some. We really need the rain, so I'm happy about that, but now it's very rainy out and it's making me sleepy again. Maybe it's just daylight savings time, but it feels like night to me, even in the middle of the day. I so could take a nap right now, it's not even funny. Maybe there's something about the rain-the noise the rain makes on the roof, but I love to sleep when it's raining outside. It lulls me off to sleep quite well.

Some of the leaves in my area have started to get what I would call sort of "red tipped." I did manage to get some nice shots of branches-I love those and intend to do a series of them at some point as well. Maybe I'll post one during the week for you to see. Anyway, I've heard rumors that Lost Maples is about two to three weeks away from "peak" (for those of you not familiar, Lost Maples is a park in Texas famous for having maple trees-the kind with actual leaves that turn red in autumn.) So, from what I can tell, autumn in Austin is still a few weeks out. Not so great for finding the reddest of red leaves out there right now, but good enough for me to start the hunt a bit. I also got a few shots of Chase with his new 'do, so you can see what he's looking like these days. I haven't posted one of him in a while, though he's still afraid of the camera.

So, how was your weekend?

Until next time...

Photo Tip #8

Photo Tip #8-Cut it Out!

Learn how to crop for maximum impact. While cropping can often eliminate unnecessary or unwanted items in an image, you can also "crop the life out of" an image by cropping too much. Knowing when to crop and when to say, "no" can benefit you as a photographer.

Saturday, November 07, 2009


This is my entry for softness.

Softness is sometimes a bad word for photographers. Especially now, with digital photography-I always hear people complaining in on-line forums and camera clubs how they can't get lenses sharp enough. They want everything sharp, sharp, sharp. Maybe it's just another one of those little differences between painters and photographers, but you almost never hear a painter say "I want it sharper." Softness is appreciated. It's expressive. It comes from the hand of the artist. It's evocative. It can help make a piece unique. Oddly enough, it was a great photographer, Henri Cartier-Bresson, who once said, "sharpness is a bourgeois concept." (Well, in his defense, he did start out life as a painter.)

Since I do a lot of figurative photography, I would be the first to admit, there's something magical that happens when a figure is left soft. The curves of the form, the gestures, the hands, limbs, hair, all take on a certain elegance, a "glow" that you just don't get in that f/16 world. The figure looks like it's transported you to another world-a beautiful, magical place, which only exists on film. Sorry to say, f/16 often doesn't do that for me. It's just, well, it's just there sometimes. Not all of the time, but, you know, sometimes.

I guess softness too is all about the way you use it. You can either opt to embrace it and make it work, or hate it and fight it to your death. "Embrace the blur," yes, they say that a lot too nowadays, don't they?

Until next time...