Monday, June 29, 2009

Mesa Over Sage


Mesa Over Sage, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

Nothing fabulous to blog about today. It's been hot, we are under a heat advisory since it's been up to 105 during the daytime lately. Today though, we are expecting a bit of a break from the heat-it's only supposed to be 99 and this afternoon promises the arrival of storms.

I love storms, in a way, because, though they can be quite destructive, they bring wonderful clouds and wonderful opportunities for working in black and white. I believe it was Sam Abell who once asked, "why is it that the worst weather makes for the best pictures?" He's right about that. It seems like, if you wanted to make a good career, you could just load up on cheap black and white film and run around waiting for storms to come, just shooting an hour or so before, and again an hour or so after the storm. Would make for good shots, that, yes it would.

Until next time...

Friday, June 26, 2009

RIP Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson


Rose578, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

Yesterday was my father's birthday. He told me that it was also the anniversary of Custer's Last Stand and the Battle of Little Bighorn. Custer was defeated by Sitting Bull (and friends) and died on June 25th 1876.

Yesterday, both Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson passed away. June 25th is not looking to be a good day, unless, of course, you are my father (Hi Dad!)

Farrah will be remembered as a native Texan, a famous pin-up from the 70's, and a credited actress. Michael will be remembered from his days with the Jackson Five, his Thriller years, through his legal battles, and his video work.

Until next time...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Tilt a Whirl


InsideTheTiltAWhirl, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

Ok, so, after yesterday's blog rant about how only a manual Leica and black and white film will do, I thought I would change it up on you.

So, let's say you're one of the many people who have already bought a digital camera, started taking pictures, and now want to advance to the next level. What do you do?

For starters, I still recommend the advice in that column. But, let's go ahead and move it to the digital world. I'd recommend that you start with something like a 2G compact flash card a week. Buy one of these cards, each and every week, for the next year. Now, you don't have to fill it up every week, or even shoot every day, but this is going to be your starting point. Try for about 200 frames a week, or so, depending on the megapixel count of your camera, of course. (That's actually a high number, you can go as low as 50 frames if you must.)

The trick here is, shoot that much every week. You don't have to force yourself to shoot that every day, in fact, it might be a good technique to take one day of the week (for me, it was Sunday. Yes, I admit it, I went to the "Church of Photography" for a few years) and go out shooting on that day. You should be able to shoot at least 50 frames if you force yourself to go out at least once a week. If you're stuck, try going to your local parks, fairs, festivals, read the paper, see which events are happening in your area, take a walk, etc. Just do things that interest you, but plan on having the camera there along with you, to take pictures.

The big trick is not just taking the pictures, it's what happens afterward.

Ok, so now you've got your 50+ frames, what are you going to do with them? For starters, you can make a contact sheet, either using Photoshop or another tool. You might want to do this to proof your work. Contact sheets are handy, because they allow us to see, on one sheet of paper, the work items from the day (or week, as the case may be.) You can look, at a glance, and see how you've done. As the article suggests, put them in a binder, and monitor your progress (and your mis-steps, there are going to be some of those as well) over time to see how you are progressing.

Finally, and this is an important step, challenge yourself to make "1 nice print" a month, maybe more, perhaps (if you've got the time, money, and inclination) but at least one. And, yes, it has to be at least one from every batch of contact sheets.

Why make a nice print? Well, this is hard to explain if you've never done it before but printing serves a few different purposes. For starters, it's a way of taking that contact sheet and blowing it up BIG, so that you can see all the "little imperfections" in your work. It's also a way of "living with" your images. You become familiar with your compositions, learn to appreciate how you see things. This is paramount for a photographer-you need to not only develop your eye but recognize it. You need to learn to see how you see things, to see your approach to shooting, if you will. You have to start to get to know your own work-what you do well, what you could improve upon, and just, well, how you tend to see things. This will help you later on, as you'll be able to better talk about your work. It helps build an aesthetic, which is a primary marketing tool for a photographer. It's important in so many ways. So, yes, learn to print, even if you only print 8x10 but DO IT. Make one nice print a batch and learn to look at it.

Don't fuss with gear.

Like the article said, use a simple camera, single lens. Don't run out and buy every lens in every focal length that you think you might need "someday." Instead, slap something on there like a "nifty fifty" (50mm 1.8 or so will do.) Learn to see through the lens, not look at the lens and think "it's not good enough" or "I need this." Being a photographer is about taking pictures, not using lenses. It's not "Save the Whales! Collect the Whole Set!" You only really need one, honest.

By picking a single fixed focal length lens, over time, you will really get to know that lens. At first, it might seem maddening to not have a zoom but, I promise you, over time, you'll learn exactly where you need to stand to use that lens. You won't spend time working on "footwork" anymore. And, having a single, fixed lens will give you a fixed perspective, a fixed view on things-this will make compositional choices easier for you. At this stage of the game, you're trying to teach yourself how to compose, how to envision a finished image, not how to work a lens.

Here's an interesting fact, one you might not have considered. Once you develop your compositional style, once you learn to see with something like a 50 mm lens, you can use any lens in the catalog and get the same results. Your pictures will start to look like *you've* taken them-you'll look like you. And, that's what you should be shooting for, right? You want to develop your style, your look, not collect gear that's mostly going to sit on a shelf anyway.

Also, and this must be said if you are going the digital route. Take your camera off any program mode it might have. Put it in aperture or shutter priority or even, gasp! fully manual mode if you have one. (You can do it! We know you can!) Learn to work the primary settings on your camera-the aperture, shutter speed, ASA/ISO or "film" speed, and white balance. Learn what these things mean and how they all work together to help make your photography what it is.

This may sound really impossible to do. A year might sound like an eternity. You are probably feeling this is pointless, a useless waste of time, or perhaps, just an "academic exercise" but, I promise you, it's not. A year of actually seeing photographs is the best investment you can make.

Look, you've already bought yourself a digital camera. You're interested in this right? Might as well learn, I mean really learn, how to do it. Or, were you just planning on wearing that camera around your neck and pretending a bit?

Once again, we're set for record highs here in River City and, once again, I shall get down off my soapbox to let you enjoy your day.

Until next time...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Start at the Beginning


NotReallyAWindow, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

The other day, I posted a link to this article, which tells you how to use a Leica as a teacher. If you recall, I might have said something along the lines of "in my almost 20 years behind a lens, it's some of the most sound advice I've ever read." Today, I thought I would discuss this a bit more.

For starters, the article suggests, "Shoot one type of black-and-white film." That's a good idea. Too many photographers-myself included, rely upon color to sort of "save" a shot. Color is (or can be) a gimmick. It can get in the way. It can distract you from the really important things-craft, vision, light, composition, etc. It's not hard to see how this can happen. Imagine, if you will, lining up a shot. You're there, camera attached to your forehead like some demented cyclops, when you suddenly stop thinking and shout, "Ohh, RED!" That's what color does to you.

"Pick a single-focal-length 50mm, or 35mm, or 28mm. It doesn't have to be a "good" lens—anything that appeals to you and that fits the camera will do."

Oh,God, is that good advice. I can't tell you how many people use zoom lenses who should not. And, I don't know how to say it in so many ways. Here, let me try one more: PUT THE FREAKING ZOOM LENS DOWN. People still don't get it. Let me try to explain, once more, for the thick, the dense, the slow learners in the back of the class...

A fixed focal length lens helps you train your eye. It helps you to "see" better. Yes, zoom lenses are wonderful things, and yes, nobody wants to be a "human zoom" when they grow up, but, if you don't know how a lens works, if you don't have a fully trained "eye" and can picture how an image will look at a given focal length, a zoom lens is your worst enemy. After shooting a year with a 20-200, for example, you're going to be stuck with a lot of little pictures that don't look like they were taken by the same photographer. You're going to be all over the map, photographically, and you're not doing yourself any favors by doing that. Move your feet. It's not that hard and you're not that lazy.

"Shoot at least two films a week. Four or six is better "

Again, here is even more sound advice. People sometimes ask me how I "learned" photography, how I "got good." The single most important thing I did was to spend several years (yes, YEARS for the impatient) shooting between two and ten rolls of film a week. There's just no substitute for shooting, shooting, and doing more shooting. In my case, I joined Barbara's group, a group where we would look at slides, projected in a dark room (not a darkroom, a room that just happened to be dark.) The slides were big, it felt like a theater. And, every week, almost every student had to bring "between 3 and 5" 'keepers' or quality slides that they were proud of, that they didn't mind showing off in that big, dark, projected room. Believe me when I say it now, that's what whipped me into shape then. (The Online Photographer says in the article too, "Photographing is like jogging: benefit accrues to time spent doing it, not how fast you go or how much ground you cover.")

Proof the rolls of film by contact and file them sequentially in a notebook. Get or make between one and six workprints per roll, however you choose to do it (even if you scan your picks and look at the pictures on a computer screen), and, every five or ten rolls or so, have one nice print made, or make it yourself. Craft well, but don't crop and don't fuss; just take what the camera gives you.

Here again, we have some expert advice. I can't tell you how many modern photographers don't know how to print. Many don't know what a contact sheet is, or even what a "working" print or a "proof" print is. They've just never heard the terms. That's sad, really it is.

Photography is a process. It's a work in progress. You don't just "snap!" and take a magical photo-you go out into the field, shoot, accumulate, formulate, refine, and craft. You think. You decide. It's the decisions, sometimes, that make the photos, not the camera, the film, or the photographer.

We live in a point and shoot world. Everybody thinks you just go out and "snap" a good photo. The reality is, it doesn't work that way. Photography is a craft. It's like building a house. I mean, sure you could just grab some lumber, build four walls, a roof, maybe slap in a few windows and doors, but, generally speaking, it doesn't work that way. You need to look at the landscape, the architecture, the surroundings, you need to fit the house into the geography and you need to craft the house. You spend time carefully deciding options, like the exact color of beige to paint everything, and you pick room layout and think about things like "traffic flow" which you maybe never considered before. It's an art and a craft, you don't just bang it out.

Look, if you do as he says in that article, you'll develop that craft, and you'll understand exactly what I'm talking about. You'll learn to "take what the camera gives you" and learn more about the craft of photography, you'll craft a vision, rather than just spew out more mindless crap like the rest of the beginners.

But I'll say this: A year with a single Leica and a single lens, looking at light and ignoring color, will teach you as much about actually seeing photographs as three years in any photo school, and as much as ten or fifteen years (or more) of mucking about buying and selling and shopping for gear like the average hobbyist.

Oh, is that another sentiment I cannot agree with more. Photography is not about gear anymore than being an architect is all about the hammer and nail or being a great chef is all about the pot you have in your left hand. It's the craft, the inspiration, the vision, the artistry that makes us, not the tools.

Look, I wish I could give you some kind of "silver bullet." I wish I could tell you to "go throw money at the problem" and buy this sort of camera, or this sort of lens, and *poof* you'll suddenly be as good as Joe McNally or you'll be the next Joyce Tenneson. The fact of the matter is, those people got where they are through hard work, craft, vision, and creativity. They took the time to do these sorts of things. They can shoot using black and white film, they understand all about light and they know what all the knobs, dials, and buttons do on their cameras. They know all of this and more because they started, as the article says, simple, one camera, one lens, learn to see, and then they went on to become who they are.

There's no snake oil at this fair, but you can improve your work if you're willing to just put some time in and learn, even just appreciate, the craft of it all.

It's going to be another record hot day in River City today, so I will now get down off my soap box and leave you to your day.

Until next time...

Monday, June 22, 2009

Oh, Happy, Happy Day-Odds and Ends of Sorts

Happy Solstice. Happy Father's Day. Happy Stig takes off his helmet day. Gosh, there were so many little "events" this weekend, it's hard to know where to start, isn't it?

Favorite silly thing I've said recently, "it's like one of those old ghost stories you hear around a campfire. You maybe don't believe it, aren't one hundred and ten percent convinced, but you still don't want to take any chances, or spend too long talking to that bad man over there who happens to be walking around carrying an axe." I think, buried in there, is actually some good advice (of some kind.) Then again, maybe not.

Kathy has left for the coast, she's in California shooting at Joshua Tree and the Salton Sea. (More news on this later.) Martha Grenon has some work in the upcoming documentary show at the Center for Fine Art Photography. Following the link there will also get you to their next two calls for entries, one for the International exhibit (hard to believe but, yes, it's been two years since I did that show) and their upcoming Portrait show.

It's been very hot in Austin lately, and nobody feels much like doing anything. Hiding in air conditioning is what we're all about. It's supposed to be over 100 all week in River City, so wish us luck staying cool.

Since trapped inside, I've been reading Joe McNally's blog a lot lately. I'm not much now (and never really have been) a consummated strobist, but I do like reading his blog. (It's very funny that, and he's a top shooter.) Makes you wonder, but not too long, where have all the bedsheets run off to? (Eh, ok, maybe not.)

That's not all in the "research" department that's going on-I've been thinking more about narrative photography, last night I spent a bit of time looking over some older Jeff Wall work. Unlike most projects for Utata, this time around, I'm having a harder time eliminating ideas. But, then, I guess that's typical, I mean, I have not yet (again) made up my mind, go figure. Somehow, I think, this time around, Crewdson is going to provide my inspiration. Call it a hunch but, I can almost feel it in my bones. (Time to get the books out and take a peek at some Twilight.)

I also read this article recently and, wow, what can I say? Somebody finally "gets it" in terms of telling us how to learn photography. I think that, in my twenty year history behind the lens, I have not read more sound advice. If you are starting out, or thinking about starting out, or wondering where to start out, that's a read for you-you need to drop what you are doing, go read and digest that one. More on this later.

Some other odds and ends, let's see....

Speaking of ghost stories and, um, I guess, "bones," I was reading this gruesome tale of the events at the LaLaurie house in New Orleans. Somehow, I can't get the image of a woman with all of her limbs broken and then set again at odd, unnatural angles, out of my head. I've been having nightmares about it. As luck would have it, this house is now for sale, owned by none other than favorite, "tortured" actor, Nicolas Cage. I must admit, the house seems to have had a bad influence on him-his hair appears to be constantly set at odd, unnatural angles, but that's really a topic for another day. (Maybe, after he sells the house, he can once again afford a comb?)

Oh yeah, all of this and The Stig recently took off his helmet. Now there's another image I can't get out of my head-the "dead" Stig, resting on the coffee table all the while some guy named Michael sat there yapping away wearing white racing coveralls. Now, some do say that it was all just a big, clever red herring and that "the real Stig" will be back next week. All we know is that it was good to finally, and I do mean finally, get to the bottom of the great mystery about ducks.

With all of these images running 'round in my head, you'd think it'd be easier to make some of my own but, alas, it might just be too hot for that now.

Until next time...

Saturday, June 20, 2009

TaDa - It's Finished


PurpleAndWhiteIris, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

This is the finished product, after combining the layers and doing a multiple. I hope you like it.

I think that, for this one, it's kind of a subtle change, but I do like it. I will continue to experiment with textures and layers and I hope that you try it out too. It's very fun to play around with, though I have to admit, especially as you are starting out, sometimes it works, sometimes it does not. That's not much different than photography itself though. I can imagine that, somebody who has been doing layers for a year or two can really get quite good at working with them. It's almost, as they say, like another media.

As a final reminder, if you are in the Austin area, tonight marks the night that the wonderful Studio 2 Gallery will have the big "Creature Feature" opening reception. Look for me hanging out in the back, in the gift shop, with the cupcake lady, drinking some wine and catching up on things.

Until next time...

Friday, June 19, 2009

Now I Know It Doesn't Look Like Much


TextureNo2, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

This is what happens after I took yesterday's image and created a texture to be used in a layer. To create the texture, I used the motion blur feature in Photoshop, with an angle of 90 degrees and a distance of 171 pixels. I also added a sign vignetting, using the marquee tool and adjusting the levels inside the circle, to make the texture more pronounced around the edges and less obvious in the center.

I'm finding, in general, that the images that work best for these sorts of "textural experiments" are the ones that are sort of what I like to call "bullseye" images-they are images that have a clear, well-defined point of interest in the center of the image. This will help me later on, as I get more into textural studies, since I'll know (when I'm in the field) to shoot things with a clear center and a well-defined subject.

I know this image does not look like much right now, but I do feel this texture can be used (and I'll probably post the results here) to make a very interesting image at some point.

This texture has a sort of "linear" feel, which I like, but which will not go with every image (to be textured.) For example, I think this image would work best as an additional layer to an existing image with a lot of lines in it already (but not circles, as the lines in the texture would then "break" the circles in the image, if that makes sense.)

I shall continue our "textural experiment" at some point, so that you can see the finished product. (If you really want to "cheat" you can click on this link which I hope will work and take you to my flickr page for the finished "TaDa" image.)

Until next time...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Non-Blog


TexturalTreesOnWall, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

Welcome to my non-blog. Today, I was going to tell you all about the new trailer for Top Gear, about how it has this mini Sitg in it (and how he's so cute.) Or, maybe I was going to share with you my top 10 songs about tornadoes because, well, because we had one here recently, might as well sing about it, right? I was even planning on sharing with you a picture of a tree, so you could see what it looks like too. And then there's my upcoming show, which I'm very excited about. Yes, I finally finished some matting and framing and now I've got some of the pieces over to the wonderful Studio2 Gallery in Austin, where there will be an oh-so-big grand opening reception this Saturday night, complete with lots of wine. You like wine, don't you? I know I like wine. Wine is good.

There are even some new cameras coming out, and I was all set to share some printing information with you so that, you know, you could print too, if you were so inclined. Of course, I've still got ideas for the big "summer" Utata project running around in my head, plus I was invited to do a photo shoot over in East Austin this weekend. You love it when I travel, don't you? Everybody always loves to see me travel off into the shady part of town-you get to live vicariously through my pictures and I get to trudge through the empty streets looking for harmless photos.

But, what do we have? Nope, not even ghetto trudge. I'm too tired and it's too hot so, what am I going to do? Complain.

Yes, this is another blog featuring me gurgling on about how it's too hot, I'm too tired, and I just don't feel all that inspired. Don't want to pick up the camera, don't want to do a damn thing really. It's just hot and I'm just zapped so, instead of getting riveting inspired pictures, instead of seeing the world through beautiful places, instead of my usual "masterpiece" for the day, you get this.

"What's this?" you might ask. And, why, I'd be here to tell you.

This is something I'm going to squash into a layer. Yes, this is something that I'm going to squash into a layer and use as a textural layer at some point in the future-you know, the point at which I do trudge out again, and take some, ahem, "new" shots ("What are new shots? Oh, nevermind, I remember those. I think I took some of those. Once. A long, long time ago....") The picture you see here will one day be flattened and unrecognizable. Trust me on that one (well, actually, I'm sure you do already. I'm pretty good when it comes to "unrecognizable," right?)

Yes, welcome to my non-blog about a textural layer that hasn't happened yet. Its a bit like watching paint dry only, somehow, way more warped than that, isn't it?

Until next time...

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Ginormously Bigger than BIG Project Alert


RedPoppyTexturalStudy, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

The good folks over at Utata have announced the annual BIG project: Storytellers. The theme this year centers around images that tell a story, "We want your true stories and your made-up yarns. We want to see your favorite book the way you've always imagined it, and we want to see what you see in your mind when you listen to your favorite song. We want to know how your favorite movie or TV show would look if you directed it. We want to see your stories exactly the way you do."

Now, this promises to be a fun project, though a bit difficult. Stories, you see, are easy to tell. But, that's not the challenge. No, the challenge lies in getting the right story, hitting the right combination of visual elements and narrative, so that you can make a wonderful project, a special project, a magical project. Sure, any six images can tell a story, this time though, it's more about the craft of storytelling, about carefully blending the images with the ideas. This time out anyway, I'm going to try to setup my images with a story in mind and see how I can visually weave the elements of the story into the images.

So, I did some digging, I've started to come up with a few ideas, plus a few cliches, and even some things I've always wanted to do. For example, I've always wanted to do Alice in Wonderland. Yes, yes, I know, call it boring, call it done to death, call it the verboten, it's all of that and more but, what can I say, I've always wanted to do it. And, it goes without saying really but, with all the tornadoes we've had recently, I'm seriously considering doing an adaptation of the Wizard of Oz. Crap, I mean, it's not like we don't have the wind for it (and couldn't you just picture Chase as a sort of more black/slightly overgrown Toto? I know I could. Put some red shoes on me because, Lordy, Darling. Lulubelle, we ain't in Kansas, that's for sure.)

The project mentions my favorite TV show, and there are actually a few of those. I could blow things up, a la Burn Notice and I'm still secretly hoarding my Stig helmet from last year's Halloween costume so there's Top Gear as well.

And then, there's the demented, twisted, "I love crime drama" side of me. Now, you can call me crazy, you can label me as "psycho" and all but, lately anyway, I've wanted to do some sort of visual work with a gun. Seriously-use a gun as a prop. I've got some ideas floating around in my head about that one, and, despite the unusually violent nature of it all, I think that it would make for a good story telling prop, so I'm putting that out on the table as well.

Maybe I could combine all of these into one great BIG story, you know, like dress up like a Stig, drive off a cliff while shooting everybody in a convertible and blowing up the Grand Canyon in the process. Oh, now that would make for an interesting BIG summer project, don't you think. (Hmm. Wonder if I have enough compact flash for that.) It would almost be like Thelma and Louise with a Stig in it and a couple of bombs from Burn Notice, wouldn't it?

Since we're on the subject of narrative photography, I thought that I would also throw out some inspiration. Some of the great narrative photographers I might be turning to for inspiration for this project are Keith Carter (though he's more known as a sort of "tone/visual poet" with his soft look, he's actually quite a narrative photographer at heart) Crewdson for his movie sets frozen in time, maybe even a little Cindy Sherman, because she has the element of the narrative in her and she's such an influence, and finally a few people like Jeff Wall and even a local favorite Carol Watson, who has quite a narrative slant on her work.

If you have any ideas, or just want to share in the "oh no, what am I going to do" aspects of the project, please feel free to drop me a line. I'll continue to post some details here, as things finalize. For now though, it's just barely started going around in my head.

How does that old song go, "every picture tells a story," doesn't it?

Until next time...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Photo Friday: Black and White

This is my entry for photo Friday which I am doing on Tuesday. For my next trick, I will make my toaster oven into an answering machine, but first I must go to work, where I can use the car as a giant air conditioner. (Hey, it's going to be 100 degrees today. I could really use a giant air conditioner.)

Oh, and, in case you're wondering why I'm not giving you a "real" blog post today, it's because I'm busy framing stuff like crazy. I have finished printing and have now moved on to cutting the mattes and framing the next pieces, getting them ready to go out the door sometime tomorrow.

Until next time...

Monday, June 15, 2009

Carol's Trip to the Big House


White Adobe, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

The other day, I was driving a bit too fast. Ok, I admit it, I was speeding. Ok, Ok, I admit it, I was hauling ass, "Whee! I've got a tailwind, let's see how fast it'll go today" speeding. Yes, it was a nice day out, I had the radio on and, somehow, my foot just got a bit sort of "heavy" on the pedal. (When I say "a bit heavy" I actual mean that, if I were an Indian at that point, I would have been called "Chief Leadfoot.") Ok, so I'm hauling along and, wouldn't you know it, I blew my little hatchback right past a cop.

Lucky for me (and I do mean lucky-PHEW!) the cop was turning around in the median and he didn't have his radar gun up and taking pictures just yet. If I had to guess, I'd say that he looked like he had just nailed somebody coming the other way and was now making the turn to set himself up to nail somebody traveling in my direction. Lucky for me, he did not pull me over, write me up, or any of that. He did pull out behind me and follow me, but, alas, it was too late for, as soon as I blew past him, I realized the error of my ways, immediately slowed, and started doing a half a mile *under* the pesky speed limit. At the end of it, when I finally arrived at my destination, as I was parking, I felt a sort of relief. Phew! I narrowly escaped that one.

But, the idea of getting nailed doing so much over the speed limit really scared me. I started to think about what might have happened had he been taking pictures, what might have happened had he clocked me going that fast. I would have probably ended up in jail.

I have to be more careful driving. I can't go to jail. Unlike Ram who, except for the misguided mistress and the lack of a decent curry, seems to be holding up quite well, I'd never survive in the big house. I just couldn't make it. I'd crumble.

Why? You might ask. What makes me so sure? Well, for starters, they don't have cameras there. Actually, I take that back, they do have cameras there, just not any they'd allow me to operate. (I'm guessing here, but they're probably all used for surveillance purposes and the guards would probably not take too kindly to me "borrowing" one because, you know, "the light is so right" today.) And, just how long, do tell, do you think I'd be able to survive without a camera in my hand? Now, I don't know the precise answer to that, but I can tell you, it would not be a very long time, that's for sure. Me without a camera? That's like a chicken without an egg, that's like rice without the white, that's like, well, you get the idea. (It would just never work, on so many levels.)

Now, prison is not without its merits. They get free cable television and they have weight lifting benches. Looking down at my pasty white sagging arms, a weight lifting bench, at this point in time, might not be such a bad idea afterall. Then there's the free stylish orange wardrobe, along with the extra firm mattresses, good for the old backbone, if you ask me. (It's enough to almost make me wonder if they don't get Top Gear in the joint. Top Gear, or at least, you know, some of the funnier Judge Judy re-runs.)

Yes, in prison, you get all of that and more. You see, it's dark, and cold, and they frequently have water running at odd hours of the night. And we all know (or you should if you read this regularly) what you get when you combine dark, cold, and a nice supply of running water-a big DARKROOM! Oh, yes, never mind the file, it's almost enough to make me want to bake a cake with some fiber paper and fixer stuck in the middle, isn't it?

Eh, my luck, I'd of had to just pay some $500 fine and be done with it already.

Until next nickle in the joint...

Saturday, June 13, 2009

This is Me, Not Making Up My Mind


BuddhaAndRedDoor, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

Today, I am fighting with paper. Now, I know that doesn't sound very normal but, lately it seems, I've been doing it a lot.

You see, it all started when I started doing some textural experiments. I started using layers in Photoshop and sort of blending some rough paintings, some photos, wound up with something closely resembling a collage, yes, that's all well and good. (I'm sure you've seen them here before, if you've stopped in here for a visit in the past, if not, scroll down or click around a bit-I posted some a week or two ago.)

Then, I tried to print one.

Since they look a bit more like paintings, I wanted to print them on something that would accentuate the texture a bit more. My heart was telling me to try out a new paper, to use something more textural than my usual stash. My head, on the other hand, was telling me that Ilford paper is really very good, and I should think long and hard before I stray from it. (Every time I stray from it, I always wind up regretting it. At least, that's what I was telling myself for the time being.)

So, what's it going to be? The same old, same old, or the shiny new, "Oooh Ahhh" stuff?

I haven't made up my mind. Do I got with Ilford Pearl, as always? Or opt for the Epson paper? Actually, I really wish I had some Moab Entrada, in exhibition size, because I think that's what I really want. (Oh great! Option 3. I think I'm going insane!)

Now, I know what you're thinking....

Try some of each, see which you prefer...there, wasn't that easy? Trouble is, it isn't that easy. Each of the papers gives me different looks-very different looks, in fact. So different that, well, let's just say each looks sort of "valid" in its own right but neither is sort of "it" (if you can follow that logic.) One looks very soft, dreamy, like a watercolor, one looks crisp, sharp, like a "real" photo. Neither is screaming at me, "pick me! Pick me! I'm so RIGHT for you." What to do, what to do?

I swear, the hardest thing about photography sometimes is making up your mind.

Until next time...

Friday, June 12, 2009

Surviving the Storm


SuburbanHellNo2, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

Just a quick update to let everybody know that we appear to have survived the tornado last night.

A large "super cell" passed through the Austin metro area last night, producing at least two tornadoes, large hail, and severe winds. A tornado with debris (meaning it had touched down) was spotted by law enforcement officials near Jollyville, Texas (along Highway 183) and another confirmed tornado was identified at the intersection of Highway 1431 and Interstate 35.

We had very large hail and quite an impressive light show but, as far as I can tell, no significant damage. I was lucky and got home just in time to protect the car.

Chase, who is normally oblivious to these things, got stuck outside at one point. I was worried that he did not go out (he likes to go out at a specific time) so I tried to put him in the back yard. He ran under the big tree back there and then the storm picked up a bit and he sort of froze. The poor thing was so frightened he wouldn't even move. I finally got him back into the house, just as the rain was starting to come down pretty heavy. Poor little guy didn't much care for the sound of the hail pelting the roof either.

As is typical with these storms, today promises to be a nice, sunny day. It's always nice, for some reason, the day after the storm breaks.

Until next time...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Gone but Not Verboten


RedDoorInWall, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

Photography is filled with verboten subjects. You know the ones I'm talking about-the puppies, the kittens, the sunsets, flowers, even church steeples in Vermont-all been done to death. These are the "everybody's already shot them so why should I too?" subjects that seem to haunt our every move.

The verboten, the trite, the boring, the cliche, the whatever-you-call-it subjects are not the end of the world.

There, I said it. There's nothing wrong with shooting these things. In fact, there's a reason people tend to shoot these things-they look good in photographs. I mean, who doesn't want to shoot something that they know is going to look good? Why shouldn't you go out and take the same damn flower macro shot that everybody else has?

The verboten serves a place.

For me, these subjects serve a sort of "important place" in our photographic development. We have to shoot them. We need to shoot them, we want to shoot them. We can sometimes sort of "get them out of our collective systems" so that we are then free to move on to bigger and better things. Sure, maybe they are a bit boring to look at (I mean, for the love of God, money, and great American muscle cars built before 1973, how many HDR sunset photos are going to end up in the bowels of Flickr's explore before the magic donkey pops some kind of a cork?) Laugh all you want, these sort of photos serve a purpose in our artistic development.

For me, it was always windows and doors.

Ah, yes, the windows and doors cliche. In my own defense, I should point out (as I'm sure everybody who shoots cliched work does) that, well, back when I was shooting them, it was cool. No really, it was. I mean, I started shooting in a different era, if you will. Nobody was doing color work, it was unheard of-I "grew up" if you will in the era of fine art = black and white. You had to have your own darkroom. "Real" photographers didn't use color at all, and they shot images with people in them. Portraits, especially black and white portraits were king. Along came Barbara's group, with our colorful windows and doors and, boy, were we not always well received. I can't tell you how many times I had to hear somebody say, "it's not art." Yeah, right whatever. Time has proven us right, those same naysayers are now shooting color digital. (Still want to tell me it's not art, Bucky?) Anyway, my personal cliche, my verboten, my "oh, not THAT again" type of work has always been (and probably always will be) the "windows and doors" shot. It's not the end of the world, I mean, heck, I could be chasing kittens around the yard, right? At least, even among the verboten, I've got a tad bit of "street cred" if you will. (Or, you know, maybe not.)

At the very least, it's something to fall back on.

One inherently good thing about the verboten subject is that it provides you with a sort of "safety net" if you will. As a photographer, you've always got something to fall back on. Say what you want about me, you can tell me I'm "too quirky," "hard to market," "too much like the second coming of Julie Blackmon" (actually, I take that one as a compliment) or my stuff "just doesn't fit in." Fine, whatever, I can take that. Just don't freaking tell me I can't shoot a window and door, because, I'd smack your face and tell you that I can do that in my sleep. And, it would be true-I can. (That and fifty cents, right?)

Move along, nothing to see here.

So, now that I've defended the verboten, now that I've made you stand up tall and be proud of those sunset photos you don't want to show anybody, I'm going to turn it all around on you. Put them away.

If you want to move along as a photographer, if you want to progress, if you want to really find yourself (I say that as if you were ever really lost, but you get the idea) you need to move past the verboten. Use them as a safety net, yes, shoot them when you've got nothing else to shoot, maybe, but stop, put them down, and really think about it. How much would your work improve if you challenged yourself to never shoot another puppy, kitten, sunset, flower, or church top? If you, instead, forced yourself to move beyond the obvious and into the unknown? If you tried and really "pushed yourself" how far could you go?

Go, challenge yourself to find a subject that's really close to your heart-that means something to you. Make it special, make it count, make it personal. You know you can do it, so what are you waiting for? The puppies, kittens, sunsets, flowers, and church tops will always be there-now go find yourself out in that mess-that's where the real fun begins. If you don't grow as a photographer, if you don't get past the obvious subjects, you'll never cover new ground, you'll never be a true "artist" just a technician, you'll never really see if you've got the right stuff. You want to prove to the world that you've got the "right stuff" (whatever that is) right? Don't you? So, go and do it. Seize that bull by the horns, put away those sunsets, flowers, puppies, kittens, etc. and go make something unique, something different, something you.

Heck, even if you fail, you've always got the drawer full of sunsets to fall back on, right?

Until next time...

Monday, June 08, 2009

The Story of the Sandwich


Bird in the Bush, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

After posting on Saturday about the Austin Art Space Gallery, I realized that I forgot to explain about the sandwich.

A few weeks ago, Scriber's Web and I both received a call for entries about an upcoming show. The show was going to be called "What Texas Means to Me" and it was exploring the artist's impressions of any aspect of Texas, past, present, or future. The juror was announced-it was Jerry Seagle, an artist with strong Texas ties whose works have been featured in articles and books on experimental painting and who has over 200 solo-exhibits to his name. Since the juror was reputable and the Gallery was a bit new, we thought we would go over and check it out when we dropped off our entries.

As it turns out, the Gallery is in a tiny addition to the back of a local mall, not the greatest of places to have a gallery, but it's a big space that features a lot of paintings. It's a little ways from work, and we had both missed the mail-in deadline, so we decided, since it was a Wednesday, we would drive over and just drop off the work. We got there and nobody was in, but there was a sign on the door that said, "Hand Delivered work can be dropped off on Friday."

Great, we thought. Friday's always a busy day and there always seems to be no shortage of people who want to go out to lunch on Friday so we were both a little upset that we would have to sort of 'blow off' a Friday and go there again.

Well, Friday rolled around and neither one of us really wanted to go there but we somehow managed to drag ourselves out that way. The artist at the Gallery was really nice, and we did get to walk around inside to check out the work. There were some collage and mixed media pieces as well as some nice abstract paintings and actually some really nice work. It's a working studio as well as a gallery, and so there are a lot of artist's stations and we enjoyed poking around a bit.

On the way back, I told Scriber that I knew of a sandwich shop near there. "Blimpie," I told her it was called, "they are quick and clean so that we can get back pretty fast." Neither one of us was looking forward to eating a sandwich, but we were out, had to have something quick, and so we decided to go there. Blimpie was located in a strip mall, not too far from the Gallery and, as it turns out, this is the same strip mall that was the scene of the horrible yogurt shop murders back in 1991.

Turns out Blimpie had gone out and a new sandwich place had gone in. We were both a bit disappointed, since Blimpie had some good sandwiches, but decided to try this new place. Called Jimmy John's, we we're overly impressed, but it looked clean and so we went in. They were really quick with our "to go" orders, which was a blessing, and so we grabbed lunch and headed back to work.

A few minutes later, we're back and work, and I get this instant message from Scriber. "I don't even like sandwiches," she said, "and this is very good." It was a really really good sandwich. In fact, I'd have to say, as I told her then, that, "I shall now we addressed as Misses Jimmy John's because my sandwich was so good I'm going to hunt that man down and marry him or, at the very least, chain him up in my kitchen and get another good meal or two out of him."

It was a really, really, good sandwich. It was just one of those sandwiches that you have dreams about after you eat it. It was one of those sandwiches that makes you want another sandwich. It was just so really very tasty, words fail to describe it at this point. I mean, we're talking top turkey here, it was that good. The bread was so fresh and just right in so many ways, all of the ingredients just sort of melted in your mouth, God, it was like a dream, that sandwich was.

I don't know what it is about that strip mall, I mean, that's where the yogurt shop murders happened. It has really strange karma over there but, somehow, really really good sandwiches. Blimpie had some really good sandwiches too and now Jimmy John's was there serving up a top sandwich too.

After dropping off our work, we had to wait for the juror's results. It sometimes takes weeks for results to come in because, as you can probably guess, they have to pour over entries, and they get sometimes (literally) hundreds of these things. The whole time we were waiting, I was thinking, no not, "I hope we both get in," but rather, "I hope we get in so that we have another excuse to go over there and eat one of those sandwiches."

I mean, don't get me wrong. I'm happy we both made it into the show, it's a wonderful gallery space and all but, damn, I really want another sandwich. (I think they cater. Imagine if we brought a tray of sandwiches to our opening. We'd surely never be rejected from a juried show again and there would probably be a crazed mob at our opening reception.)

Oh, that sandwich was really, really good, I tell you.

Until next time...

Saturday, June 06, 2009

I'll Take Edmund Fitzgerald for the Sink, Please


Open Roads, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

This is one of the images that will be in the upcoming "What Texas Means to Me" show at the wonderful Austin Art Space Gallery and Studio this coming July.

The other day, I was driving, and this bright orange Jeep pulled in front of me. It was the brightest orange I had ever seen a Jeep. Did you ever see a bright orange Jeep before? It was so bright, I almost wanted to poke my eyes out with a stick, I could not believe it. Then, the strangest thing happened. The radio started playing that old song, that song with all the words in it, you know the one I mean, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald." That's such an interesting song, actually, it does have a ton of words in it though. It struck me how really very different from today's music it sounds. I mean, it's not like my favorite song, it's not like the world's going to stop all of a sudden and I'm going to drop what I'm doing, curl up, and listen to it, it's not one of those songs, but I did notice it. I mean, it's kind of one of those songs that's hard to miss, right? It's sort of...well...I guess you'd have to say "striking" in that way.

Yeah, so the radio's playing that song and I'm driving alongside this wild orange Jeep thinking, "what the heck is going on here?" Is this like some alternate universe or something? Did some nuclear experiment or large hadron collider go horribly wrong and leave the world in some sort of odd state where it needs to be "reset" or something? We're kind of screwed if it did that right, because, I mean, the whole world doesn't have any kind of a giant "reset" button, at least not as far as I know. I mean, if it gets stuck, it gets stuck, and we're all just sort of stuck, right? Not much we can do about it once we get it in that state. Why, we'd be just stuck at stuck, wouldn't we?

Then, I look down and notice my car is about to hit 55555 miles. Wow. What a weird Vulcan mind meld we got going on here. I'm about to hit 55555, following some crazy ass orange Jeep while listening to "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald." I mean, what are the freaking odds or that freaking happening to somebody like you or me on a day like today? Pretty freaking crazy if you ask me.

Just as I hit the 360 bridge, the famous iconic bridge in Austin, my car gauge rolls into 55555 and I pass the bright neon day-glow orange Jeep. The speed limit's 50 on that bridge, on account of the wind currents and all, and the ship's about to sink on the radio. Even though I only have a sonic view of that, I'm looking down over some pretty choppy looking water myself, as I cross over the Colorado River, and I'm thinking, once again, what are the freaking odds, man, what are the odds of everything just coming together like this.

There are always a ton of cops out by the 360 bridge too because, well, you know Austin needs the money and all, so I'm cautiously passing the bright orange Jeep, keeping an eye our for the radar trap. That's when I look down and notice my speedo-I'm doing 55 mph just as I cross the middle part of the bridge and the car rolls into 55555 and the Captain's gone down with the ship. The bells are ringing and "Superior ain't giving up her dead, not with the gales of November" coming this early in the year and I'm thinking, "man, that's a whole lot of 5's and this is going to be one HELL of a day."

Ever have a day like that? I hope you never have a day like that. It's a bit too crazy for words, a day like that is-really it is.

Until next time...

Friday, June 05, 2009

Photo Friday: Metal


Metal Bits, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

This one uploaded for photo Friday's challenge "metal."

Have a great Friday everyone!

Until next time...

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Eye Spy


TheVision, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

Here were have "super stealth" Carol acting all covert and hiding in "deep cover" in Taos. At least, I think it's Taos. I was in "deep cover" so deep, I might have forgotten. Oh well, in honor of "super spy" night, here's me looking, maybe a bit covert, maybe not, but at least surrounded by some serious shades. (It's all about the shades, man, all about the shades.)

And, you might like to know that I've come out of hiding just long enough to tell you about some upcoming opportunities. The Center for Fine Art Photography (a wonderful organization though one that's, I admit, not very good at being "covert") has a few upcoming call for entries. You can read more about it on their website here if you are so-inclined and want to come out of hiding long enough to submit some photography to a show.

Lastly, in more "super stealth covert" news, it would appear that everybody's favorite reclusive author, none other than JD Salinger, that "Catcher in the Rye" himself, may come out of hiding. Rumor has it that he's to come out of hiding just long enough to sue the pants off of somebody ripping off the great hero in the Catcher story. Though normally not found of lawsuits and legal actions, this time around, I'd have to say I side with the good "masterfully covert" reclusive author. It's never a good thing to rip-off another artist, be it a photographer, author, or what have you. Plagiarism is an evil that must be stopped. So, here at Carol's Little World, we wish the best of luck to JD Salinger in his legal actions and hope that, in the course of stopping the "poor man's copy" they don't force him to come out of hiding.

I hope you're having a "spy-fully" day wherever you are. Remember, stay down, look low, act covert, and don't forget your cool sunglasses.

Until we come out of hiding next time....

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Is it....Thursday Yet?


Blue Truck, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

No, no, I'm not that stupid and yes, I have had my coffee already. Why am I celebrating Thursday this week instead of Friday? Well, allow me to explain. You see, this Thursday is a special day, it's a magical day, it's a...well, ok, it's shaping up to be a day for TV viewers like me.

Now, I know what you're thinking, "she's always blabbing about how she doesn't watch all that much TV" and you'd be right, I don't. When asked about my TV viewing recently I said, "I have some guilty pleasures. I watch American Idol because I like to see young people with talent, I watch Top Gear because I like to watch men behaving badly, I like Doctor Who but don't know if I'll continue to watch once David Tennant is gone, I watch Burn Notice because I like to watch things blow up and I secretly want to be like Fionna and shoot everybody who looks at me in a cross way, and I like Law and Order reruns because, though I miss Jerry Orbach, it's a good show." That's actually pretty much how I feel about TV. Not much on, not much on worth watching, but good to kind of keep the box going, just so I don't have to listen to birds chirp or hear myself think (oh God, is that a scary thought or what?)

But, not this Thursday.

This Thursday, I'm going to turn into TV viewer extraordinaire. Yes, it's true, I'm going to lock myself in my "woman cave" and do nothing but eat bon bons and watch TV. (Well, maybe I won't even bother with the bon bons.)

What's on you might ask? What's on that could be so compelling as to have me locked away for hours watching the idiot box and enjoying it?

Well, for starters, USA is airing the network television premier of the James Bond movie Casino Royale. I have not yet seen this movie and, well, let's just say "a little birdie told me" that it features some clever stunt driving (maybe done by some "anonymous tame racing driver" or two? *Wink Wink* *nudge nudge* yes, you too can see my love, Stiggy without his helmet. Oh, a naked Stig! Be still my heart....)

If this weren't enough to get my heart racing, next up we have the season premier of Burn Notice, where we finally get to find out what happens to Michael after he jumped out of the helicopter. Oh, it promises to be a night of spies, thrillers, men with big guns, and lots and lots of cool sunglasses. I'm so into this, you have no idea. "Bring on the hunks in shades!" I say.

Yes, snowflakes, queen flake is going to curl up with her sunglasses, unplug the telephone, call for a "super stealth" pizza, and watch herself some badass spy stories this Thursday evening. And she's telling you now that, not only is she really looking forward to Thursday night, she does not want to be disturbed. Don't you even think of IM-ing me this Thursday. If you IM me, so help me, I'll hunt you down, rip out your heart, and bludgeon you with my sunglasses (An act which, though it does not sound all that menacing, believe me, I'll be so pissed off, it will hurt.)

Somehow, I doubt either James Bond or Michael Weston could escape in this truck but, hey, with spies like these, you never do know. Now, you'll have to excuse me...is it Thursday? Thursday, you know, Thursday? Time yet to blow up the world and do it up dapper all at once?

Where did I leave those pesky sunglasses....

Until next time...

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The Last of the Red Hot Lovers

No, this is not another blog post about how I'm going to miss the incredibly hot David Tennant in Doctor Who re-runs. The title of this post actually refers to the Neil Simon play ("The Last of the Red Hot Lovers" in case you were not paying attention) which opens June 12th at my community theater. Yes, it's true, the Way Off Broadway Community Players are going to present a Neil Simon play in Leander, Texas (of all places.)

Why am I telling you this?

It seems that, in conjunction with the theater opening, Leander, Texas (a town not as "backwoods" as it sounds) is actually trying to foster the arts and culture in the area (imagine that? People with a clue! And to think, they were just down the road all this time.) The theater company is going to host art shows in conjunction with the plays. As you might be able to guess, if they have art shows, this is where I come in.

I'll have two images from my misty Venice series on display at the theater as part of the production so, if you happen to be in the Leander area stop by and check it out. The art will be on display starting next Monday, June 8th until the end of the month.

Art and culture right in my backyard?

I could go on about how I love the fact that I get to do a show just down the road a ways (and don't have to bother shipping my work halfway across the universe, as always) I could talk about how surprised I am to have a great theater company right in my own backyard, I could even tell you about how wonderful I think it is that a town in my local area finally "gets it" and has starting to cultivate some culture, rather than adding another strip mall into the mix. I could talk about all of these things, but I won't.

Instead I'm going to say, "Doctor Who?!? Are you going to miss that frisky David Tennant as much as I am?"

Until next time...