Wednesday, September 30, 2009

This is a Flying "B"


FlyingBForBentley, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

This is a flying "B" logo from the car manufacturer Bentley Motors. Now, I don't know what it is about this little "B" with wings, but I was fascinated by it. I kept shooting and shooting flying "B's" all over the place. Maybe I just think the proportions of the wings are off a bit (the wings seem oddly sized as compared to the B itself) maybe I just think they're cute, or maybe the Bentley cars were especially pretty, I don't know. But, I do know that I took a disproportionate number of pictures of this little buddy, the flying "B."

At one point, there was a flying "B" with a teeny, tiny spider walking around on it. I kept shooting it anyway-at some point I might post a picture with the baby spider on it, so you can see it too. Nothing kept me from my flying "B," not a spider, not the sun, not the crowds of people flocking to check out the antique Bentley. Nope. Nothing kept me away. I now have a lot of pictures of this cute little flying "B."

Do you ever obsess over something like this? Artistically, are there things that capture your attention and yet you can't seem to explain (or know) why? I'm like that all the time. I really should be a card carrying member of that flickr group, what's it name? I think it's something like "The League of Creative Women Easy Distracted by.....Oooh, Shiny!"

Yup. That's me.

Until next time...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Death by Giant Mini

While I was at the car show, I was taking pictures. Now, I know you expect me to take pictures, take a lot of pictures, and tell you all about the pictures that I take, so I was quite busy doing that for most of the day. (You'll have to forgive me, I did stop once to have a soda.)

It was a nice day too. A bit hot (I think it was about 95 or so) but there was a nice breeze kicking up. It was one of those summer-like breezes that kicks up every now and again-you know the kind-it leaves you with, not exactly a windy day, but just sort of "gusty" from time to time.

So, there I was, at the car show, with this gusty wind. I started to photograph the cars, and they had lots of cars. They had Bentley cars, Rolls Royces, Jags, MG's, Triumph's, all kinds of British cars. The cars were arranged by type, so that, say, the Jaguars would all be in the same place, and many of the car brands had flags to identify themselves (so there was a big "Jaguar" flag flying around the spot where all of the Jaguars were on display, for example.) The Mini Coopers were parked along a bit of a hill, facing downward, so that people could walk past and sort of look up at them.

So, I'm in the mix, photographing the Mini Coopers, not really paying attention because, when I work you see, I have to keep my mind and focus on my shots. I've got my head buried deep in my camera's peephole, thinking about perspective, color, lines, shapes, and all of that crap. So, there I am, working away when this big gust of wind comes along, and knocks one of the flags into me. It was so strong, it almost knocked me and my camera gear down the big hill. It was like "swoosh!" this giant wind that came along and nearly killed me.

After the wind died down again, I stopped to look and see where it came from, which way it was blowing. That's when I noticed it. The flag that had nearly knocked me down the hill was this giant flag that said, "MINI."

I thought this was pretty funny. I mean, I was nearly knocked down a hill by a giant flag that said "MINI." Imagine the insurance forms and conversations that would go along with that one.

"You said she died because, what she was knocked down while not paying attention?"

"Yes, she was knocked down by this....this giant flag...."

"A flag?"

"Yes, it was a big giant flag....blowing in the wind....and it was a MINI flag...."

"A big giant mini flag?"

"Yes."

"And this big giant mini flag knocked her down and killed her."

"Pretty much. Yes. That's what happened."

Oh, now there's a believable tale. Imagine the tombstone they could write for that one ("Here lies Carol. Killed by a Giant Mini Flag") Hey, you have to learn to live by the flag, die by the flag and, above all else, duck when the time comes, right?

Until next time...

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Impatient Artist


GreyCarolFullView, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

Are you impatient? Do you know anyone who's impatient? Know somebody who just hates to wait in line at the bank or post office, or maybe can't stand shopping around the holiday season just because of the long lines?

There are impatient artists too. These are people that, one day pick up a camera, a paint brush, a sculptor's chisel, and expect greatness to happen. They have no tolerance for mistakes. They want to do shows, shows, and more shows, without focus on their craft. They expect to be able to churn out beautiful work immediately.

Being impatient must be kind of hard, but there's something extra nagging about an impatient artist. For example, I've been a photographer for the better part of two decades, I've spent years learning how to focus my camera, properly expose my shots, get the pictures I want. Yet, sometimes, when I work with beginners, they seem to demand they get "better" shots right away. They expect perfection. They want a masterpiece to come out each and every time they pick up that camera. Like music, visual artists need to learn to pay their dues. You wouldn't expect to learn the play the violin overnight, so why do you expect the camera to work that way.

Many of the great photographers whose work you can now enjoy on the web have spent years devoted to their craft. They've spent hours in the studio setting things up, learning as much as they can about lighting, about focus, about color, lines, gesture, perspective, and the like. With today's digital cameras, everybody expects some kind of perfection right off the memory card. The trouble is, those things are still there-even in the digital realm. You still need to have proper lighting (or work with the light that you have) you still need to know all about color, lines, gesture, perspective, scale, and you need to study these things. Taking a few snaps and expecting it to just come out in the wash is simply not enough if you really want to get to the next level as a photographer. The same is true for any medium. I'm not an expert sculptor, never have been and probably never will be. But I don't expect to be able to just pick up a chisel and carve a slab of marble into the next great statue overnight either. There's a lot of hard labor, work, and devotion that needs to go into the craft, before you can reap the rewards.

So, if you're an impatient artist, you might want to take a step back, and rethink some of what you're doing. Take your time. Spend more time learning, really devote yourself to your craft, don't just gloss over something and expect results.

Just because it's digital, doesn't make it fast. Slow down, learn, do, grow a bit before you start expecting results.

Until next time...

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Texas All British Car Day 2009


PrettyBlueJagNo1, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

Greetings, Snowflakes! I hope you had a wonderful weekend. I got back from the car show in Round Rock today and it was fabulous. A great time was had by all. I really love the British car day-the cars are all so special, not to mention the people are really nice, and it's fun to just hang out there, relax, and be in the company of such wonderful British cars for a little while. While not as hot as last year, we did have some bright sun (interrupted with much welcomed patches of clouds) and a wonderful cool breeze, which we all enjoyed.

This is the first car off the batch of near 500 images that I've opted to process and upload for you today. I'm sure you'll see a lot more of the old cars in the day and weeks to come. I hope you don't get bored looking at too many car pictures, as I really love showing them to you.

This week is going to be busy too-I'm going to try to sneak back up to Concordia to shoot some additional "weird science" and Friday marks the opening of my next show-I've got a piece up in the Fall Art Hop in Georgetown,Texas so look for my work up that way (or not) if you are so-inclined.

Until next time...

Beep Beep Beep Beep Yeah!


YellowLotusSmiling, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

Car show today....see you in Round Rock at the Texas All British Car Day.

Until next time...happy motoring.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Face


FaceNo2, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

Today's theme: The Face

When I was in Venice, they had all these giant faces planted around the city, in what was some kind of art project. At first I thought they were pretty cool-it's great that a city can do something like that-put art all over the place, and Venice is such a cool city to begin with, it just totally made sense.

But then, after being there for a while, as the days turned into nights, it started to get a little creepy. The faces all started to look alike. At one point, I thought they were following me. By the time I left, I was convinced I was going to have nightmares about the giant faces. It really did seem like, wherever you were in the city, no matter how lost in Venice you could be, you were never very far from one of those giant faces. If you stopped to sit on a bench, look away for a split second and then look back, why that nearest giant face seemed to inch just a bit closer, didn't it?

Wow. How creepy.

I hope you don't have a run in with any giant faces as part of your photographic travels but, if you do, may you have your camera standing by ready to go, just, you know, in case of emergency.

Until next time...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Welcome to My Evening Blog-Odds and Ends for a Thursday Evening


Cabinet, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

Since I'm trapped under a mountain of toner, printing some work for my next show (to be dropped off on Saturday) I thought it might be a good idea to pen another post today.

This one is from the science lab over at Concordia. I love shooting there so much, I can hardly wait to go back. When I first saw this image, it had some extra stuff I did not like along the left edge and also the perspective was not quite to my liking. No worries, Photoshop to the rescue! I used Photoshop's Transform tool to alter the perspective and get it more to my taste. In the course of doing that, the left edge was cut off, leaving me with nothing but the part of the image I liked anyway. Perspective is hard to get exactly right in-camera sometimes, it's really helpful to have Photoshop tools to help with it.

I can hardly wait for the car show this weekend, though it's been raining almost all week. I hope the weather holds, as I really do not want to go and shoot the nice, pretty cars in the mud.

Tomorrow, I might pop over to Balcones Frame and see what they have over there. I'm thinking I want to do something different for the frame on the image I'm printing now. Not sure what, I'm considering maybe sticking to black metal, slightly larger profile, maybe just shake it up a little bit. It's for an exhibition, so I can't really do too much, but I can try.

I've been pricing new camera gear and tossing around ideas as to what to get in my head. Once I make up my mind, I'm sure the choice will be easy but, as you can probably figure out by now, it's hard sometimes to get me to make up my mind. I go back and forth, toss and turn, undecided a lot in life. *Shrug.*

I'm now following Lance Armstrong on Twitter. Oddly enough, I found him through Top Gear as the good folks over at the BBC Top Gear Twitter stream are following him too. I find it odd, yet somehow a bit fascinating, that it took three chaps from Britain to get me to follow one of my neighbors in Austin on Twitter but, I guess, politics and Twitter now too all make for strange bedfellows.

Well, enough chatter for one evening. The printer has spit out the first output and now needs my attention.

Until next time...

If I Had a Watch, You Could Set My Life To It


GlowingHouse, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

Do you do social media? Are you into the latest and greatest of all the Web 2.0 stuff? Keep a blog, maybe Facebook? MySpace? Does the Twitter bird regularly land on your shoulder and tweet in your ear?

I think the big thing about social media is that, these days, everybody is just trying to understand it. It's like a brave, new world out there. It's a land where there are no experts and everybody is just sort of left to their own devices, to sort of field their own way. But, if you stop and think about it, there's nothing wrong with that really. I mean, that's how the web itself started, right? The only people who don't make it are the ones who don't try. The losers in all of this will be the dinosaurs-the stuck-in-the-mud folks who did not choose to adapt and one day woke up to find themselves suddenly left behind, right?

A while ago, maybe it was last year, I signed up for Twitter. I forced myself to sign up, just to see what all of the fuss was about. Now, I don't consider myself old and I do consider myself to be more than a bit technically savvy but still, for the life of me, at first, I could not see the point in all of it. What's a Tweet? I kept thinking. And why "Tweet" somebody anyway? It was only when one of the programmers in the next office over explained it to me. "It's fun," he said, "and it's a quick, easy way of communicating with people." That's when I started to get it. There is no point to Twitter. It's pointless. That's exactly what makes it so much fun. You can go in and Tweet the entire world "I'm having a grilled cheese sandwich today and it's tasty!" and somebody will read that, somebody else might even respond. It's not supposed to be rocket science, it's supposed to be fun.

I really think that's a lot of the core of social media-for the younger generation, this is their fun. This is how they relax, kick back, chill (to use a word that will surely date me.) They like to sit around, watch a game on TV, maybe surf the net, all the while sharing this with somebody-it's fun for them to be sort of "on stage" all the time, sharing their every moment with their peers. When you think about it, isn't that why we do photography too? I mean, yes, it's a great learning tool, and yes, you can use it to make a thing of lasting beauty, but, crap, it's all about the fun too. So, go ahead, Tweet those nonsensical things. Go tell all of your little friends, "The cow went over the moon" and get a good laugh.

If we couldn't laugh, we'd all go insane.

Until next time...

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Photography Workshops - My Sedona and a Camel for Your Thoughts


ChurchTowerAtNight, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

We've shared a lot about photography workshops so far-how to find them, how to get into them, how to get the most out of them, and so on, but there's one thing we haven't yet discussed, until now, that is. What happens when they go horribly wrong? To illustrate my point, I thought I would share several stories about the dark side of the workshop experience-about what can happen when things go terribly wrong and can't get back to right again any time soon.

The first experience I heard about was regarding a friend I shall call "Jack" (not his real name.) I'm sure Jack was all excited when he first signed up for his workshop to Sedona. (For those of you who do not know, Sedona is a very pretty city out on the desert of Arizona. It's one of the southwestern cities that's famous for it's "red rocks-" sort of desert landscapes with large, prominent, red boulders set in the slight distance.) Sedona is a beautiful city-I've been there before and loved it actually, but not Jack. No, what happened to Jack can best be described as more than a "slight disaster." You see, on the way out to his workshop, nobody told him that Sedona has a lot of off-roading so, rather than rent a Jeep or more suitable vehicle, he rented a compact car. Usually a wise, money-saying choice, but not this time. He got stuck out in the desert on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere. And, I'm sorry to say, that's just the start of things.

You see Sedona is a bit windy. When the wind kicks up, those pretty red rocks blow dust, red dust actually, and it tends to get on things. It gets everywhere-it sticks to your shoes, it coats your camera, etc. Once again nobody told him this, so there he was, not only stuck out in the desert with the wrong car, but covered in red dirt and dust. He wound up so covered in red dirt his camera and all of his gear ended up getting, well, "Borked" is really the best way to put it. So, when he returned from his workshop, he was covered in red dirt from head to toe and all of his camera gear had been killed. His workshop experience was so bad that we turned it into a verb. If you hear any of my photographer friends say "I got Sedona-ed" this is, usually speaking, not a very good thing to have happen.

And then there's my friend Laura. Oh, Laura, poor Laura. What can I say about Laura? Laura signed up for this "once in a lifetime" experience-going to Morocco for several weeks on a workshop and tour. It was supposed to be moonlight over the Sahara, exciting markets in Marrakesh, Casablanca for crying out loud. It ended up, well, let's just talk about the camel ride for starters.

Shortly after she got back, when I asked Laura about her trip, she had this to say, "All I can say is, fat middle-aged sweaty women and camels do NOT mix." She went on to explain that, as part of her trip, she went on a camel ride, or, um, tried to. The camel, you see, had other plans.

At first, when they put her up on the camel, it would not move. It wouldn't budge. It wouldn't give an inch. All of the other camels took off, they were, in fact, several sand dunes away, but her camel would not move. Then, her camel sort of "woke up" and move it did-it bolted several sand dunes past the other camels in the rest of the group-taking off at an alarming pace with her clinging to the top of it, trying to hold on for dear life, never mind taking pictures. This pattern continued until they were across the desert and had reached their campsite for the evening, with one notable stop involving her camel having to, well, let me explain it the way she did "at one point, my camel had to poop, so he stopped bolting through the dessert and assumed that position until he felt good and ready to run on past another 7 or 8 sand dunes." The words "oh the horror" really sort of fail to describe her workshop to Morocco.

Now, there are a few hints of wisdom you can gleam from all of this. For starters, know what you're getting into. It might seem impossible to predict the behavior of a camel, but think about it this way. When Laura booked that workshop, she didn't book a photo workshop, rather she booked a cheaper, less expensive travel workshop (she knew this at the time.) One of the problems she had, in her own words, was that, at the time of "good light" they were never anywhere near someplace she wanted to take a picture. When she called and spoke to the workshop leader, she asked about photography specifically, and the leader told her, "oh, yes, we get photographers all the time." Well, that's nice but, I'm here to tell you, the world is full of photographers. Everybody who owns a camera considers themselves a photographer.

So what to do about this? Well, for starters, you need to ask more pointed questions. For example, one question I like to ask is, "what do you do in the rain?" If the workshop leader says something like "oh we cover ourselves and press on" that's a photographer's workshop-photographers work in the rain too. If they say, "oh, we reschedule everything or just sit in hotel" that's a warning sign that they really don't know the needs of photographers. You can also ask about "good light" times and ask for an itinerary. If they cannot provide you a schedule of what you're going to be shooting or where you're going to be for most of the workshop, that's another red flag that, well, it might not be a real "photography" workshop.

Photography workshops cost more than traditional travel workshops but, as the old saying goes, you tend to get what you pay for. They like to arrange for you to be in certain spots at certain times. They don't tell you which shots to take (usually) but they can, at least tell you, "on Monday we're going to be shooting the Eiffel Tower and, on Tuesday, we're going here. (That sort of thing.) If they can't do that then, yes, they might have had photographers in the past, but it isn't a true "photo workshop" and you might want to reconsider attending, or plan on going anyway but in a different capacity (not shooting as much.)

As for Laura, I can tell you she did have an enjoyable evening (once the camel settled down) camping on the edge of the Sahara. But, the next time she goes on a workshop she'll be a bit more careful and ask the right questions before signing up for the trip.

Until next time...

Monday, September 21, 2009

Today's Post - Feeling Small


FeelingSmallNo5-1, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

The time comes in the progress and development of every photographer for him or her to get new equipment. Maybe it's just that you've outgrown your current rig, maybe it's because you're current setup is broken, outdated, got stolen, got left behind, or just some other reason, but it happens all the time. As much as people like me hate to admit it, photography is, very much, all about the gear.

So, I've been tossing around the notion of getting some new camera equipment. At first, I was all set on getting one of those new Composer lensbaby lenses, probably because I'm addicted to the concept of enjoying all the pinhole abstract goodness without any of the pesky pinhole-y dust. I still want a Composer and a pinhole optical kit, and probably will get one at some point, but I'm actually moving beyond just the Composer and starting to re-think my entire rig.

Those of you who know me, know too that I'm not one of those "gear head" photographers-I don't look to amass equipment at an alarming rate, rather I actually just shoot a lot and tend to use whatever I have on hand. I like lighter, cheaper, stuff and tend to work it into the ground. Sure, I like to poke fun at those Lomo people but, deep down in my heart (as much as it pains me to admit it) I'm actually almost one of them. I like cheap gear, and like to think that great photography lies more in the imagination and less in the gear. I'm kind of proud of the fact that I can sell my images for more than what it would cost to buy my camera-it's a great profit model when you stop to think about it. I try to force myself to ask the question, "what can you live without?" rather than "what do I need now?" because it really gets to the heart of what you're doing with the gear you have, rather than just letting you waste away your life wanting something you really don't even need. Wanting, even feeling you need, gear is really a curse-you end up being never satisfied, always wanting the next "big" thing, always chasing the "new, latest and greatest" rather than putting your efforts and energies into producing the work itself.

Every now and again, though, I shift my focus towards the gear. I like to have working equipment-stuff that lets me get the shots I want. When I start to dive into shopping for gear, I get very technical and really stop to think about what I'm doing, what I'm going to be doing, what I really need in a camera, what I would want, and which features I would just not use, no matter the cost. I think this process-a sort of self-exploration of one's work-is good to do from time to time and, let's face it, it's been a long time since I've asked myself those burning questions. It's very easy to keep on the status quo-to shoot the same gear all the time and just not think about it. I think though that I owe it to myself, and to my work, to, maybe every once in a while, stop and think about what I'm doing, where I'm going, what I really need, and what new stuff has come out that I could really use.

That brings us to today, the mood I'm in right now. I've started looking. I've started poking. I've started the tires rolling, the cogs in my brain slowly waking up, turning to life. I'm thinking it might be time to re-think some of my camera and equipment choices. I'm slowly starting to sell myself on a big camera upgrade.

Now, it hasn't happened yet. Secretly, maybe half of me is hoping that somebody will take me aside, shake me by the scruff of the neck, wave a big finger in my face and say "No!" kind of like a dog who just peed on the carpet. Meanwhile, the other half of me actually, sort of, kind of, wants to go shopping.

Shopping for new camera gear isn't inherently bad, is it? Does that make me evil? Maybe just a bit hypocritical? (Will those Lomo people hunt me down and burn me at some kind of lo-fi stake? Wait, what I am saying, stakes are lo-fi, if they were high-tech, they'd use an oven, a bit like those Natzi's did during the war.)

Oh the horror.

Until next time...

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Check Engine-Needs Maintenance


SouthernCulture, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

You know those little yellow lights on your dashboard? The ones that tell you it's time to take the car in to be serviced, get new oil, or some such thing? Yeah, well, I do too-and, I got to know them a whole lot better this past week too. Allow me to explain.

So, the other day, after I started my car, I noticed that it was blinking. Not my entire car actually, just those little yellow lights on the dashboard. "Oh great!" I thought, "damn car's gone out on me again." Of course this had to happen on the way out to this place, which, as you can tell by the photo, really is next to the end of the world (actually, it's a cool place out in Elgin, but that's another story.) Anyway, I managed to blink my way through my night photography workshop without getting stuck in some oddball hole in the wall joint at 3 am so I thought that, rather then push my suerte (never push your suerte if you know what's good for you) I would schedule my car for its whatever thousand mile check up.

Thursday rolled around and it was time to take the buggy in for it's adjustment, oil hook-up, and whatever other odd things they do back in the service bay to keep those little yellow lights from taking over the universe or, at least, you know, leaving you stranded in Calcutta with not so much as a potable glass of water to your name. Anyway, I pulled into the service place about half past seven in the morning and curled up with some coffee, the local paper, and a few "you really need this new car now, even though it costs more money than the GDP of several banana republics combined" brochures that they use to advertise the new cars. (No, I'm really not going to buy myself a new Acura TL, though it did kind of look pretty in the pictures.)

First the nice service attendant came out an informed me that my taillight was out. No biggie, I thought-that's only about $32, and I'd much rather have a working taillight. Then, he told me that I needed new brakes. Ok, we're getting expensive here but, still, I'd rather have the car working-especially stopping-rather than not, so I said to go ahead and do it. Finally he told me that I had a nail in my tire and that one of my tires was going to go flat-very quickly-if I did not fix it.

A flat tire? Again? For those of you who don't remember, I had suffered my first flat tire not too long ago and it really took me by surprise. You see, I've been driving since I was about 17 and, over the course of all those years, never, not once, had suffered a flat. Now here I sat in the car dealership, suffering from my second flat this year. It made me wonder what was going on here. I mean, is there a bucket of nails following me around or something? Is there an angry X-boyfriend out to get me with a sharp pointy object that I don't know about? Geesh. So, fix the flat they did. (I have to admit, as horrible as this second flat is, I'm exceptionally happy that I did not have to endure the humiliation of driving on that little doughnut tire again. Oh that was a horror the likes of which I do not wish to repeat anytime soon.)

So, after they fixed the flat, the taillight, changed the oil, did all of the service, oh and added the new brake pads and the like, they washed the car and it was ready for me to take back into the land of the driving once again. I was on my way.

No sooner than I pulled out of the parking lot did I realize that the car was different-very different. Rather than sluggish and slow, it was its old peppy self again. "Wow," I thought, "my car really goes." I pulled up to a light and realized that, not only did it go (like before) but it also stopped better too (new brakes will do that, I guess.) It was like a whole new car and I was loving it. I was all over the drive to work-it really felt rejuvenated, like having a new car again.

I switched on the radio and was surprised to hear that old song called "You Sexy Thing." You know the one-it goes "I believe in miracles/since you came along/you sexy thing." Even thought it was encapsulated in one of those oddball disco moments you'd like to forget, or kind of just leave back in the 70's, my car did feel just a little bit sexy, being back to its old self again. Really. (Ok, you can take my word for it.) It's white so I started to imagine it bearing some chest hair and maybe striking one of those long forgotten disco poses-you know the ones, arm up, finger pointed, other hand on hips-a la John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever. Anyway, let's just say I'm sure that's not a vision the good folks at Acura would like you to embrace, so let's just say, "I actually did think my car looked kind of sexy-if only for a brief moment-sitting at that light" and leave it at that.

Other than the mechanical hijinks, it's been a quiet weekend. Next weekend is the British car show-really looking forward to that, as well as the opening of the Infrared Dreaming show out in Johnson City. Hopefully, I'll see more car sexiness over at the all-British car day and do look for me if you're headed out that way next weekend, though I'll probably be on foot, I will be sporting some Canon sexiness (if you could call it that.)

Until next time...

Plants


MaskInFerns, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

These are some plants growing by the side of a volcano.

It's kind of hard imagining anything at all growing by the side of a volcano, but these plants are there-every day they get a little bit bigger, and every day they secretly hope that volcano doesn't just blow its top. They actually thrive in that environment. Imagine that.

Molten lava, anyone?

Until next time...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Photography Workshops - What Level are You?


DownTheParkingGarage, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

Next in the series about photography workshops, it's time to talk about levels. No, not levels in Photoshop (though we might talk about those at some point) we're talking levels of experience here. Many workshops are actually more like master classes than workshops. Since they are master classes, many of the workshop leaders do not want to teach beginners. This is where the levels and the portfolio reviews come in. Since I've been through this process before, I thought this is where I might be able to help you out (a bit.)

For starters, the Maine Media Workshops (a wonderful place to take workshops) has a handy list describing experience levels:

  • Level 1 - Students new to photography with little or no formal training. Digital students have basic computer skills.
  • Level 2 - Students have a basic understanding of photographic processes and technology and should be comfortable using a SLR camera in manual mode. Digital students are familiar with Adobe Lightroom software or similar organizational / editing application.
  • Level 3 - Students have at least three years experience making photographs, a portfolio of personal work and some experience in classes and workshops. Digital photography students are comfortable with Adobe Photoshop editing skills.
  • Level 4 - Advanced students and working professionals have at least five years experience and several portfolios of work. Digital Photographers are comfortable with advanced imaging techniques using Adobe Photoshop.

Finding a workshop that matches your level is important. For example, you might be a beginner and try to sign up for an advanced workshop, thinking, "oh, I've used Photoshop before and I've seen a few portfolios so I'll do ok" when the reality is that you are going to be surrounded with professionals building upon a body of well-established work. These people aren't going to stop and help you, so you won't learn anything from them other than maybe how to be grumpy and shoo people away while you're shooting. Likewise, it's frustrating to be working on a body of work and be constantly interrupted by somebody asking, "what's an f-stop again?" So, try to pick your levels accordingly to maximize your results.

Many of the advanced or master classes will require a portfolio review. I realize too that, while many of you will have the experience, sometimes attending a workshop will actually be the first time you submit an entire portfolio or body of work for review. It's kind of scary, isn't it? Yes, well, get used to it.

Get used to it, yes, but you also present the best portfolio possible. How to do that? Well, for starters, you can start by reading their guidelines, most of which are usually posted on their website. In my example of the Maine Media Workshops, their guidelines can be found here. Here's a sample of what they are looking for: "If your work is B&W prints include ten good inspection or work prints and six contact sheets. The prints tell us about your printing ability and your vision. Your contact sheets tell us how you handle a subject from frame to frame, if your exposures are consistent, and how you approach a subject." You can follow the link to read more, but they basically tell you how to label, pack, and ship prints, plus also what to do if you shoot in color or digital format.

In this example, somebody applying to that program should expect to submit 10 working prints. They should be 10 prints that fit a theme, that speak to a vision, that represent a body of work. When thinking about body of work, it's probably best to not only think about a consistent subject matter, but also think "one camera, one lens (no zooms)" here. If you do that, and you provide them 10 reasonably good working prints, along with solid contact sheets, you'll probably get into the workshop.

Workshop can be very competitive, yes, but you also have to remember that you're paying for these. Naturally, some will be more competitive than others. If you're applying to study under somebody famous, for example, it might be harder to gain entry. If you're serious about the workshop, you might try to go to a local art school, photography department at your local college, etc. and see if you can get somebody to help review your work. Many places around Austin, for example, offer portfolio reviews for a fee (usually it's about $50 or so-this can be a small fee if you are applying for a multi-thousand dollar once-in-a-lifetime master class.) Often "bribing" a local artist or photographer can produce the same sort of results. The trick is to finish the portfolio as best you can and then to go around locally, getting feedback and perfecting it before submitting it. It almost always happens that somebody (especially another professional or established working artist) will spot something your eyes missed and it's just good form to get used to getting feedback on your work.

Sequencing your portfolio can be very important as well. Never forget to sequence the work, either arranging it tonally, by lines and shapes, mood, or some other "logical" way. This is where a local review can really help you-another set of eyes can often help with sequencing your work. The big trick here is to not neglect the sequencing of your work-in fact, it's probably a good practice to do this all the time anyway.

It probably goes without saying but, in case you're clueless, if they ask for 10 prints, give them 10 prints. Give them 10 prints, nothing but 10 prints, no more than 10 prints, no less than 10 prints. The absolute worst thing you could do is ship them 40 prints. Or six. Nobody is going to want to edit your work and they've asked for 10 so give them 10. Learning to edit your work and giving people what they want is all part of your experience level-if you can't do it yet, you probably shouldn't really be applying for a master class and need to work on your editing and presentation skills before moving along to the next step.

As you can guess too, it's probably a good idea if the body of work you present for the workshop matches somewhat what the instructor will present. If you're applying for a workshop with, say, Jock Sturges, you probably want to show figurative work. If you don't have figurative work, the best thing you can do is to get as close as possible. Don't send him flower macros here-try to send him 10 working prints with (at least) people in them, or portraits of some kind, to get you in the ballpark, but expect to be doing nudes as part of the workshop.

Again, here, as you advance in your experience, what you're really demonstrating is that you've moved beyond the "single shot" mentality (found in the camera clubs, for example) and into the "I can do a project" or even into the "I can deliver what the client wants" aspects of being a working professional. Most solid photographers don't just "get the shot" they deliver consistent results that match what the client wants. If it helps, think of that master class as your first client, and try to deliver a consistent body of work along the lines of what they are looking for-keeping in mind it's not about one shot, yes, you do have great flower macros (or the like) but that you can also deliver a solid body of work on a consistent theme. The more you can demonstrate that you are capable of doing that, the better your chances of securing that coveted slot in the master class.

Finally, one last, but very important note about master classes, workshops, and the like. If you do attend one, even if it's not a master class, by all means, put it on your resume or CV. This is so important, I'm going to say it again:

If you attend a master class, workshop or the like, include the location, name of instructor, and relevant details on your resume or C.V.

Really, I cannot stress this one enough. When scanning a CV one of the things people look for is commitment to the field. Nothing shows a sense of tenacity, of commitment, quite like somebody who holds a day job 50 weeks a year, only gets 2 weeks vacation, and decides to spend it in the trenches of Santa Fe or Maine or some other workshop location. Yes, those locations seem romantic, but most photographers are already familiar with the workshops and the workshop experience-they know how much work goes into them and how much you can learn in that short period of time. We all know it's not a spa day out there, it's hard work to produce great images. There's not point in hiding that dedication to your craft, rather highlight it. I've heard too many people say things along the lines of "well, I didn't want anybody to know that I didn't go to school and I've only taken a workshop." Taking a workshop, short as it is, is still way better than having no formal training at all. Really. Put it on there. And be very skeptical of anybody who thinks that learning is somehow "beneath" them. Even the best photographers learn and pick new things up as they go.

That's enough about workshops for today. I hope you are enjoying the series and, if you have any specific questions, please feel free to drop me a note and I'll try to cover these in the next (probably last) installment of the series.

Until next time...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

New Beginnings


StatueAndBuilding, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

Today is all about new beginnings.

The building in this image is actually home to the classroom on the UT campus where I first studied photography. Believe it or not, sometime (a while ago-we're talking circa '91 here) I went there and took my first photography class (thanks to Barbara for that.) I had opportunity to visit that area again, over the weekend, as part of my night shooting workshop-that's my first new beginning for the week.

Last night, though I did not attend, the photo group decided upon a time and location for the New Beginnings show over at Concordia. The opening reception will be October 29th on the Concordia campus and the show will feature the work of more than 12 photographers, highlighting the recent campus move for Concordia. I've participated in several photo shoots over at the campus and will probably attend to one or two more before the show, so look for more posts about Concordia. I hope to get into the science labs again and shoot some additional odd ducks. Those were really fun for me to do and I really enjoy the "weird science" on display.

I've already told you about CraftyGuy going back to school and the big news at work-the company I worked for, NetQoS, was purchased yesterday by Computer Associates, so that marks a big change there.

They say everything old is new again. That everything is circular, cyclical, that time and tide, trends and techniques all come back around-things move in and out of fashion, only to come back again, each time slightly different, slightly redefined from the last time. It's been so dramatic recently, I can almost hear the cogs, the wheels, the gears lining up, spinning on their own pre-determined axis, but that's just how life is sometimes. We have to either roll with the changes or be run over by the big, spinning flux.

Yes, yes, I know. Try telling that to the people out there still wearing bell bottoms.

Until next time...

Monday, September 14, 2009

Attention World - Please Stop All This Turning


BigWorld1, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

Sure, I take one little day off and the entire world changes overnight. What, were you people all just sitting around waiting for me to sleep in late one morning? (Geesh.)

So, let's see, to get you caught up on what's happening. I was very busy with PhotoTexas workshops over the weekend, having attended one on social media, one on black and white photography, and one on night photography. Saturday night, I was out shooting in and around the UT campus (that's where this is from-it's a forgotten corner of the HRC building on campus, which is actually home to the world's oldest photograph and a huge archive of classical, historic, and yes, even modern work (not to mention it was Barbara's "home away from home" for many years.) Last night, I was out enjoying myself in the cool Texas weather, (notice I said "cool," it's finally *not* 105 degrees out) avoiding the big Texas floods while taking nighttime shots and playing in mud up to my knees on a Ghost Town outside of Elgin (home of the world-famous, or, you know, not, sausages.) Seriously was a great location and a lot of fun, even if we could not walk very well in all of the mud. (Think "Woodstock" and you're pretty close.) Look for uploads (maybe) to happen soon and remember, it's not fun unless you get at least a little bit dirty, right?

I heard that CrafyGuy got accepted into a photography program in the Boston area so a big shout out and congrats to him. We wish him well here at Carol's Little World and hope he puts an old rebel out to pasture or at least runs it into the ground shooting like a crazy man. (Seriously, good luck in the program, CraftyGuy.) That rebel will probably end up going around the world before I do, trust me on that one. (Trust, but watch yourself-as far as we know, that old clunker has already broken some serious international shipping laws, and it's just getting started.)

Scriber's Web came back from break and posted one of her acrylics. There's some big news happening where we work, but it's so big we can't even talk about it yet, other than to say, well, it's "big" (but you probably could have guessed that seeing as I called it "big news" in the first place.)

Willy Ronis is dead. Apple has come out with a new Nano that has a video camera. I don't think I have swine flu but you never can tell. Kathy has gotten back from the coast and is doing well. Annie got more time to pay off her 24 million in debt. Longtime Austin photographer Todd Wolfson was in a serious bicycle accident and is unable to work (look for upcoming benefit shows and a silent auction.)

I'm sure there's more going on, but that's enough to chew on for one day, don't you think?

Until next time...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Today's Theme-Fear


TheScream, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

Today's theme is: fear.

Some people say that fear is what happens when you really experience life. When you grab life by the horns, when you throttle everything that is "boring" by the scrap of the neck, shake it to its core, and yell in the face of danger, "here. Take that!" only when you do that, are you really living. The rest of the time? Existing maybe, but not really alive.

I think fear is what happens when I'm not anywhere near an ice rink and I accidentally bump into somebody wearing a hockey mask. Intense fear is what I would experience if he's carrying a knife. But, you know, that could be just me.

Have a great weekend everybody!

Until next time...

Friday, September 11, 2009

Fifteen Hundred Lumens, Some Colored Gels, and a Light Jacket


Carousel, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

So, I've signed up for some of the PhotoTexas photography workshops, which will be held this weekend, and I'm getting very excited about attending. One of the workshops I've signed up for is on night photography and it's being led by Lance Keimig, who also happens to be one of the founding members of The Nocturnes (a favorite website that you really should go and check out if you are, in any way, interested in night or long exposure photography.)

An interesting thing about night photography, it's almost its own cult, almost like those Lomo people I love to giggle at-those "night" people (night owls if you'd like to be polite) are a different breed. Night photography is kind of a specialty, with the practitioners having their own gear, lingo, and the like. It's interesting to me not just because I'm a chronic insomniac, but also because everything at night has a sort of cinematic feel to it-night photography really gives you results that are both technically complex (so the "real" photographers, gadget heads, and such, like it) and artistic (so it keeps you rooted in the "fine art" camp, if that's where you want to be.)

The good folks from Texas Photographic Society were kind enough to send out a list of supplies for the workshops. Most of the workshops, including some of the others that I'm taking, all have pretty common supplies-things like "a notebook and a pen." OK, fine, I can do that.

The fun starts when we get to the list of supplies for the night photographers. Here are some of the items that I need to bring with me to the workshop:

  • 35mm DSLR with manual controls and a bulb or time setting - no point and shoot or automatic only cameras, no pinhole cameras. Digital SLR cameras are optimal, but digital point and shoot cameras will yield poor results. You will need to shoot RAW files for best results.
  • fixed focal length wide to normal lenses are most appropriate, manual focus lenses are ideal. Zooms are ok, but tend to flare more than fixed lenses, and are more difficult to focus in low light levels.
  • STURDY tripod.
  • locking mechanical or electronic cable or remote release specific to your camera
  • penlight or other small flashlight
  • powerful, focusing flashlight - such as a big Mag Lite, or Surefire.
  • digital watch or other timer
  • extra battery for your camera
  • lens hood to prevent flare - can be a big problem at night
  • plastic bag and rubber band to cover camera in the unlikely event of rain
  • lens tissue or chamois in case of condensation
  • paper and pencil for exposure notes, especially film shooters

Useful, but not required:

  • Access to a computer with Lightroom, Photoshop CS3 or CS4 if shooting digital
  • portable, battery powered flash and extra batteries (Vivitars are great)
  • any other portable light sources that could be used for light painting.
  • small colored gels or filters

That's a whole lot more than "notebook and a pen" don't you think?

Now, I can hardly wait for the workshops this weekend. The Texas Photographic Society workshops are always a high point for me. In the past, I've studied marketing, how to self-publish books, and a variety of other topics, and I've gotten to study with some great photographers (Angilee Wilkerson jumps to mind-she's really one of my favorite photographers.) But, still, "a plastic bag and some rubber bands?" Oh the humanity!

Wish me luck and, I guess, look for some "output" sometime next week (if, you know, I should happen to survive the night shooting, that is.)

Until next time...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Breaking into the Art World-Literally


Kaboom, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

So, last night was the big show. I'd have to say it wasn't as much fun as the big shindig over at Studio 2 (what with the projected pixels and all) but it was still pretty fun-a good time was had by all, and the crowd was a bit brisk-we had a pretty steady stream of folks throughout the entire evening.

An interesting thing about the show though, my friend Kathy helped the curator hang the work and, upon arriving last night, she noticed something unusual. There was more work in the show than had been curated. Yes, it's true, there was an extra painting hanging in the corner. We tried to subtly ask around about it but nobody seemed to know anything. Nobody knew who had hung it, who had painted it, or where it came from. From looking at it, I can tell you this much: it was a painting of some odd looking naked people strewn about on a sofa and it was hanging in the corner of the exhibition hall.

This strikes me as really funny in a lot of ways. I mean, think about it, if you were going to "break into" the art world, what better way then to just grab a painting of some naked people sitting on a sofa and go hang it up yourself? Who would notice such a thing? When you think about it, it would be downright easy to do this-just wait for the gallery staff to go "out to lunch," cigarette break, or the like, sneak in with said painting, a hammer, a nail, and voila, you are now an exhibiting artist. It's genius if you stop to think about it, right? I mean, nobody's probably going to complain even if they catch you breaking in, are they? And, I mean, just pick something like a painting of naked people on a sofa-something typical that you would find in an art show really-you wouldn't even stand out.

My only complaint is that they should have given it some chichi French sounding name, perhaps something like "Nudes a la Settee" and doubled the price.

And, I guess it must be said, should you happen to be out in the gallery world, be on the lookout for any wild free roaming extra paintings with odd looking nudes on a settee. They might sneak up and get you when you least expect it.

Until next time...

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

AVAA at the DAC


AVAAExhibit32EInvite, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

Tonight's the night-AVAA's big 32nd annual show at the DAC in downtown Austin. The last show was such a packed crowd, and they are anticipating another big one this year, so they are opening the doors early-doors to open at 6 music starts at 7. Music will be provided by Will Taylor and Strings Attached. No word on any celebrity guests yet-last show was written up by famed New York Daily News columnist Liz Smith and attended by a few other "big wigs." (No word yet on tonight's opening, but, hey, it's still early. Most celebrities don't get up until noon, right?)

If you're in Austin and plan to stop by, please hunt me down-I'm told my work is hanging immediately to the right as you walk in the big glass doors. Last time it was so crowded I managed to miss a few of you (apologies for that.) I'd tell you what I'm going to be wearing but I haven't decided quite yet (maybe look for a twitter post later in the day, once I'm dressed and ready.)

Until then....see you at the DAC!

Monday, September 07, 2009

Elephants, Trombones, Odds, and Ends


ElephantAndTrombone, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

There's an NCIS marathon going on this weekend. And I'm missing it, right now, so that I can talk to you. Kathy has left for the coast. My next show opens on Wednesday, hope you can make it. Today is Labor Day so we all have off from work. Tonight is Top Gear. Scriber's Web has stopped blogging for a while but she got a new easel, so she's happy about that. I need groceries. I'm supposed to be doing an interview with Craig but I can't get myself together. I've pretty much napped all weekend. I love naps. Naps are good. Chase needs to go out, I think. He's barking at the door again. I need to order a new portfolio case, more Compact Flash, and a few other odds and ends. This weekend is my big night shoot-I'm going to attend the Texas Photographic Society's big Photo Texas weekend and actually get to study with one of the Nocturnes. Night photography, woot! Woot! They are opening a new organic market in Round Rock, kind of near my house. I love organic markets, they always seem to have the best produce. I should probably scan in some Polaroids, or like go and take some more pictures or something. I didn't have anything to eat yet. I still did not finish all the stuff I'm supposed to do this weekend. That's not everything, but that's a lot.

I hope you are having a great weekend, long weekend, and you are enjoying yourself as much, or, you know, at least napping.

There really aren't enough naps in the world if you ask me.

Until next time...

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Hot Texas Wax


DixieLandNo3, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

So, I might have told you how I've been obsessed with encaustics since, oh, maybe sometime in the spring. Maybe I'm just in love with the idea that you can take found objects and sort of "dip and dunk" them a new life? Maybe I love the softness that a wax coating can give to a photograph? I don't know what caused this recent obsession, but I can say that it's not going away anytime soon. Rather than try to fight the urge, I've decided to actually do something about the problem.

For those who don't know a lot about encaustics and encaustic painting, let me start at the beginning. Encaustic painting is a method of painting with beeswax. Dating back possibly as far as 100 AD (we're talking ancient Egypt here folks!) the technique involves heating the beeswax and mixing pigments into it, basically mixing your own wax-based paint, which is then applied to a surface (usually wood, though sometimes other materials are used.) You can use encaustic paint in a sort of "dip and dunk" method, where you dip small (found) objects into the wax and apply it to a board, you can sort of "collage" or sculpt into the layers of wax different objects and things (such as photos) and you can also use the wax mixture as you would a "regular" paint (like an oil or acrylic.) Speaking of acrylics, these are very popular with encaustic painters, because they dry quickly (unlike oil) and you can easily paint the acrylic onto a board to be used to hold the encaustic coating (unlike, say, maybe a watercolor, which you would probably want to do on watercolor paper and then adhere the paper to the board.) Jasper Johns, the noted American artist was famous for using encaustic coatings on his work, and it's become quite popular recently, thanks to the availability of things like those heat guns you can buy cheaply at Home Depot (used to more easily melt the wax.) My friend Laura uses an old crock pot to melt the wax and mix the pigments, then she employs the "dip and dunk" technique to coat her small, found objects and complete her work. You can also make a monotype from the finished product, so encaustic painting can be used with photography and printmaking as well. It's a fun thing to do if you haven't yet tried it.

Anyway, enough about the background. So, I found this really super cool (well cool to me) website (and group of people actually) called Texas Wax who are really into encaustics and encaustic painting. They even offer classes in this ancient technique. I told Scriber's Web about the class and she was immediately hooked on the idea and she's signed up for a class in September-she's going to do some encaustic painting and has been enjoying the work of one of the Texas Wax artists, Sharon Kyle Kuhn. Several of my friends are already doing encaustics-I mentioned Laura, and I have a few others that are "dipping and dunking" around with wax. With all of this peer pressure, it's not too hard to imagine how I want to get into the action myself, so I've decided to "take the plunge" (no, not literally, I'm not going to dip myself in wax just yet.) I'm going to try some encaustic techniques myself to see how it goes and I plan to take a workshop later in the fall. (Watch this space for details on that.)

Of course it naturally follows that I would get interested in this now, that it's 105 degrees out (hard to do wax in this heat-you can't really ship wax-coated boards when it's this hot) and the world is suffering from an epidemic of cross colony bee collapse, but there you have it. As I look at more of the work, I'm slowly getting hooked. Besides, winter will be here soon enough and then I'll actually want to play with a heat gun.

While we're on the subject of hot, I should point out that this is one of my light painting shots from the Dixieland Jazz band shot I did last week. They were having a lot of fun and that Dixieland music is some really hot jazz, isn't it?

Until next time...