Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Today, I went up to Georgetown to do a bit of shooting and I'd have to say it falls under the category of "ask and ye shall receive." There were tons of flags on display, all different ways, all different types. They even had flags in the little "cushions" that are sort of like speed bumps-you know the little "grassy knoll" type things they plant in the middle of the roads to keep you from gunning down their nice, well-manicured back roads doing 100 miles an hour (or so.) Yeah, those little median type islands that slow you down just enough, somebody had even gone around and decorated those with little flags in honor of Memorial Day. Rock on. I mean, how cool is that? I was just thinking I wish I had a better image of a flag and they go around and plant them all over town just for me (well, OK, maybe not just for me but, like, you get the idea.)
Started playing around with the new long lens too. Took a couple of shots of Chase and he came out soft. He is soft, so I guess I should expect that. Still though, that beast (the lens I mean, not the dog, although technically I guess he is a "beast" of sorts too) has some seriously shallow depth of field. I have to get used to that again. My 100mm macro lens (especially when shot on the crop cameras) renders me depth of field-less (well, pretty much. You want a mile and it gives you about a quarter of an inch. And that, my friends, is on a good day.) Lenses feeling "generous" aside, I am going to have to get used to some seriously shallow depth of field. (Coming from the likes of me, little miss blurry soft focus girl, believe me, that's really saying something there.)
Hey buddy, got any depth of field to spare? I'll trade ya a flag for it? (No? Pretty please? With sugar on top?)
Until next time...
Saturday, May 25, 2013
My biggest piece of advice for recent grads is to work, work, work. I read something this week about the most recent American Idol winner going to work quickly on her album, which is slated for release in June, about a month after she won the competition. “You have to strike while the iron is hot,” she said in an interview. Yes, indeed. Strike. Hot. Iron. That’s all true. If you know what you want, go for it, but go for it with gusto. Nothing comes along that doesn’t require a bit of hard work and elbow grease, however, so be prepared to work for what you want and, in turn, love the work that you do. If you do what you love, it never feels like work, but you need to apply yourself too. Don’t be afraid to jump in and don’t let a little bit of hard work slow you down.
Nobody is guaranteed success. Sure, some people get lucky breaks. Good for them. Make your own lucky breaks. If you keep doing what it is you do, eventually, people will notice and you too will be a success. But you have to do it, and you have to keep at it. Use the success of others as inspiration, never envy. Remember too that, when you see somebody become an “overnight” sensation (especially in any art-related field) there might have been years of preparations going into that success. Often people work hard and long before making it big. Be prepared to work a “day job.” Some folks have “day jobs” for 20 years or more. That doesn’t mean you won’t make it, it just means you will have to learn to juggle for what you want. Learn to become your own brand and brand yourself.
I was coaching somebody the other day about some images when he said to me, “I don’t get it. I just don’t get it. I came out of school with a degree in photography and I’ve been working a year and half and I’m still not really there yet.” My advice to him was, “Hey, guess what kid? I’ve been doing this for over 20 years and I’m still not really there yet. What makes you think you are going to get a job right away or that your work is going to be successful right out of the starting gate?” There’s a lot of hard work involved in the art fields. I’ve also given the advice, “Learn to toil!” and it’s especially true here. Learn to toil and toil away. The world doesn’t owe you anything, you have to make a name for yourself. You have to get out and do, nobody is going to do it for you. And, sometimes? Yeah, it’s not going to come right away. Deal with it. Going to school was intended to prepare you for your eventual success, but that doesn't mean you're entitled to any kind of success just because you made it out the door. Success comes to those who make it for themselves. Deal with that, and you too might experience some success of your very own.
If you can, get a job in your field. If you can’t get a job in your field, it’s still better to have a job then not have one. Save your money and don’t be foolish so that, when the time comes, you can make a break into your chosen field with a bit of a safety net. Learn to prioritize and focus on what’s important. Sure, I have a great camera, but I drive an old clunker. Maybe I don’t always fly first class, but I somehow manage to get there. Pick your battles and learn to live with the choices you make.
I see so many artists who want to “make it big!” on the gallery circuit yet they make some very simple (and avoidable!) mistakes. Talk to gallery owners. Visit with them. Visit galleries. Talk to other artists. Find out where the potholes are and adjust your course. Guess what? Art school didn’t teach you everything. Don’t re-invent the wheel. Find out the mistakes others have made and try to avoid them. If you want something, don’t be afraid to ask but know what it is you want before asking. Get your ducks lined up in a row, so to speak. School is wonderful, but it's up to you to arrange those ducks so get to that arranging already.
Speaking of teaching and school, this is also a good time to point this out. Never stop learning. Just because you might be out of school now, doesn’t mean you can just quit learning. Learn a new medium. Learn a new craft. Pickup a new language or learn to knit if you are out of ideas. Just keep learning. I work sometimes with a medium they don’t even teach in art schools (encaustics) and I would never have learned how to if I had just waited for art school to teach me that. In fact, I went to engineering school and would never have learned anything about art or photography if I had not challenged myself to learn more. I'm not knocking school, no, but school, any kind of school, is a springboard. They teach you how to learn, and set you off down that path, but it's now up to you to continue with it. Fill your head with new ideas and never, even stop learning. To stop learning is to die.
I’m always inspired when I see 80 year old people getting their college degrees. Go for it! Never stop learning, but don’t forget you don’t learn everything in school. Talk to other artists, work with other people, read, suck up ideas like a sponge from a variety of sources. Take it all in, for the world is but ours for the taking.
Finally, I think my last piece of advice we be to stay true to yourself. Be tough enough to travel but kind enough to visit. Learn the stories of others along your path and bring home more than just t-shirts and coffee mugs. Get out and see the world, but find yourself in the process. It’s great to look out, look around, get out and explore but don’t forget it’s what’s on the inside that counts. Find your center, use your heart, know your soul as best you can, for that’s what the journey of life is really all about. Travel and be inspired, yes, but look within too. We are defined by our adventures, but our spirits lie within.
I’m sure there’s lots of good advice swirling around this time of year, but I thought I would add mine to the pile as well.
Until next time...
Saturday, May 18, 2013
Maybe it's a photographers obsession with "old stuff." Then again, I don't really know about that, as I seldom do photograph any "old stuff," well, other than antique stores that is. (OK, so that's probably not what it is that attracts me to vintage boutiques, antique shops, and the like, but it was a good hunch, right?)
To me, there's something a bit odd about putting these sorts of old items out together, offering them for sale. It's a bit weird that, maybe, I don't know. It just seems like we love to shoot old antique stores. And, I really hate to say this now, or at least to admit it in public but, I never do seem to buy anything in these type of shops. It's not like I actually get to shop in there. No, unfortunately, I always seem to go away finding myself just taking pictures. Honestly, I wouldn't know what to do with half of this stuff. (Maybe, just maybe, that's why I like photographing it so much? It's quizzical?)
I love too this sort of shot where the town is reflected in the windows, and you can spot some of the "modern-ness" of the town alongside the vintage antiques set out on display. I do a lot of these. Maybe it's just force of habit or maybe it's just my way of celebrating the antiques? I don't know. There's just something I like about the incongruous look of a town reflected in a shop window featuring piles of old junk (and I mean that in the nicest of ways-it really is nice "junk" most of the time I'm out photographing. I just use the term "junk" for lack of a better word really. OK, maybe "stuff" would be more appropriate?)
Yeah, photographers and old stuff. We go together like cookies and cream. Like chocolate and peanut butter. Like...well, you get the idea.
So, next time you're out and find yourself near some kind of antique shop, do stop and take a look. Maybe you too will find some sort of photographer-like creature with his (or her) nose pressed against the glass. Camera lens surgically implanted into the large front picture window. We try not to drool (too much. Note, I did say "try" here, folks.) And, it should go without saying really but, should you happen to be hunting a photographer (in the rare instance you would say want to shoot right back at one of us, or the even more rare instance you might want to say actually hire one of our kind) you can probably just hunt down your local antique shop and find at least one from the heard hanging around out front.
Ah, yes, photographers, We'd be the best at loitering around antique shops if only we weren't so darn good at trespassing through graveyards. (Oh wait, just a second. Did I say that aloud? Move along here, folks! Nothing to see here. Nope, nothing to see here at all....)
Until next time...
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Bartlett is about 45 miles north/north-east-ish of Austin. It's actually a bit closer to my home, since I live north of Austin, although I'm on the west end of things. Even so, it's not a bad drive, straight up Interstate 35 and it's well marked from the highway.
Bartlett also has the distinction of being one of the first towns where I really did a lot of photographing. When I was just starting out as a photographer, my photography group would frequently meet on Sundays and go out to shoot the small Texas towns. Bartlett was the quintessential small Texas town back in those days. It didn't really have a stoplight, but it had a Main street (of sorts) and it had all of the small town markings. There was a Dairy Queen, a stop-and-go type of gas station/convenient store place, and the downtown area was littered with antique shops, small mom-and-pop style businesses, some cafes, and the like. Bartlett is also a bit of an artist colony, at least it was back in those days, with artists purchasing some of the storefront shops and using them as gallery/studio type spaces. I always loved visiting Bartlett back in those days. I have many fond memories of visits there-everything from seeing it in the hot summertime, where shorts and flip-flops were the norm to shooting it at night with a winter coat (well, what passes as a "winter" coat in these parts.) Yes, it's probably safe to say I know Bartlett pretty way, even though I haven't actually been back up that way in ages. So, today I decided it might be fun to head back up to Bartlett to see how it's changed over the years. Would it still be the same? Would I even recognize the place? Today was a day to find out, so I ventured north to see what Bartlett had in store for me.
For starters, I almost got lost getting up there. It's in a very rural place and I had forgotten exactly where it was. I must admit it was also kind of weird driving up there, and being up there, with a cell phone. Not what I had remembered at all. Modern times jarring me back to reality, for certain. I didn't need the cell phone all too much, as I would often find myself driving, with the feeling I was lost, only to then recognize some familiar bend in the road, twist, turn, or farmhouse and then set myself back on course.
The light was really interesting today. As I was driving up, it was still earlier in the afternoon and the sun was a bit bright, so I kept hoping the clouds would hold and not clear out. The recent storms had blown though and the sky and weather today were fast moving and frequently changing. Over the years, being a photographer here in Central Texas for so long, I've learned the roll with those type of punches. I kept one eye on my speedometer and one eye on the clouds as I snaked my way up the back roads that take me up Bartlett way.
In between the bright bursts of sunshine we had some of what I like to call "God light." It's the kind of light where streams an streaks of light fall down from the sky. I'm sure you've seen it before. It looks quite like the heavens have just opened up a crack, quite possibly to let somebody out (or maybe, for those lucky souls, let somebody in.) As I was driving, I kept thinking that there was a lot of God light and a lot of cows.
The cows were sort of amazing in their own right. I mean, there were lots of cows and horse and whatnot but, in some places, the cows were actually lining up and they sort of looked like they were on some oddball cattle drive. It was a bit strange. I don't normally shoot lots of cow photos, and I kept with that tradition today, but I did manage to fire off a few shots of the God light (and, as a matter of course, included some cows there too.) God light and cows to follow, I'm sure.
Bartlett itself had changed a lot over the years. Gone are all of the mom-and-pop style places. The cafe? Long since closed down. It was kind of like visiting a shell of an empty place. Familiar yet oh so different.
Years ago, when I was first shooting up there a lot, Hollywood had come a calling to good old Bartlett. They filmed a move there, called "The Stars Fell on Henrietta," which was about the oil bust and boom. Almost a poetic metaphor, that is, as Bartlett has gone from being the setting ("Henrietta" in this case) of a premier Hollywood movie to being a sort of hollowed out ghost town (of sorts.) Some of the murals leftover from the Hollywood days are still left behind in Bartlett-now they are decaying nicely for us all to enjoy in different light. (I'll post some of that work in the posts to follow too, so please check back in to enjoy some of that.)
They say you can never go back home again. Maybe they are right but, then again, they say a lot of things, and, just like going back home again, most of us fail to listen to the pundits (well, some of the time anyway.) Today, I did just that. I went back to my "photographic home" of Bartlett, Texas and popped in for a visit. I hope you like the stories, and shots, that follow because, like it or not, this is Bartlett, Texas.
Until next time...
Monday, May 13, 2013
Yes, now I know cameras have been undergoing a lot of changes recently. We have the mirrorless cameras rising in popularity (also, the so-called EVIL cameras or "electronic viewfinder/interchangeable lens" cameras.) These type of cameras are small and compact, lightweight and relatively easy to stash away, making them quite popular, not to mention the megapixel wars are (thankfully!) behind us now, so there's not much in terms of sacrifice of image quality when using one of these little beasts.
For a while, it seemed like the smaller-ish cameras would be relegated to the ranks of the semi-pros; that anybody who was really "serious" about photography could not actually use one. Perhaps the pros didn't quite trust the image quality just yet or perhaps the little cameras just suffered from a lack of information (or lack of publicity) but the pro circuit were a bit slow to click with these new cameras. It can be expensive to jump headfirst into a new rig and not everybody is willing to put the time, effort, and money into that, especially not established professional image makers who don't want to risk "rocking the boat" so to speak. Not anymore.
For starters, what I'm seeing is that there are a lot of pros who seriously want to cut back on the gear. Seriously. This is not unique or a new event really, as there have always been pros who travel heavily and, let's face it, lugging around a big, heavy rig is no fun. But now I'm seeing (and talking to) a lot of pros, high-end pros, wanting to make the switch to the "one small camera, one small lens" model and desperately. Gone are the days of wanting to get a big rig to look impressive, no, now everybody seems to want to go small. It's actually happening.
Combine this with the Instagram/Hipstamatic phase and you have a recipe for many smaller cameras in the works. Fuji has recently introduced a line of what I like to cal "professional Instagram" type cameras-they are capable of shooting in square format, they offer on board filters for pumped up colors (some even have exposure compensation built in, so you can do things like shoot a half stop under all of the time, in order to "punch up" the colors a bit more) and these cameras are small and lightweight while not sacrificing in the megapixel counts or image quality. I believe they offer up an 18 megapixel model and, though it comes at a steep price entry point, it's one heck of a little beast and quite suitable for any pros wanting to get that "Instagram look" while still being able to Photoshop the results or keep themselves within the confines of an established professional workflow, not to mention have full control over things like exposure settings (which the iPhone is lacking.)
I saw this on my recent location work in Vegas. There was a photographer there who had one of these nice little beasts and we all kept admiring not only how small and light the camera was (he could just throw it on over his shoulder and it hung at hip-level, didn't look like much, was light and easy to carry) but how nice the images were, even in situations like low light. He was getting nice punched up colors in a square format that looked sort of "Instagram-like" only offered up a higher megapixel count and a more polished, professional grade image, thanks in part to him being able to control all of the traditional settings, like shutter speed, ISO, and the like. (Not trying to insult the Instagram crowd here, just pointing out that the iPhone is still, in fact, an 8 megapixel little gem and the lens quality is not what a pro might expect, nor does it provide for those interchangeable lenses we love so much, not to mention it offers little in the form of controls for things like shutter speed or the aperture settings we've grown so used to setting over the years.)
Even Canon now is getting into the fray, with their recent release of the Canon EOS SL1, a camera they are billing as "the world's smallest and lightest digital SLR camera." In the past, they were touting the latest SLR features making the cameras rugged and ready, they actually liked the large bodies and pros flocked to the biggest full frame cameras. Heck, even medium format digital cameras had been on a rise, as professionals were looking to print large, go big, and get the best in image quality. Now it seems like these "walkabout cameras" are here to stay. The ads are all touting "small and lightweight" while allowing you to change lenses and maintain the image quality you're so used to getting out of a Canon.
Another trend I seem to see here is that, in the past, professionals opted for a "backup body." I do this all the time as well-have a backup Canon in case my big rig dies. In my case, I keep a Canon EOS Rebel around for the cause and, as you can see in this image, I use it as a Lensbaby camera, not to mention a backup in case my trusty Canon 5D Mark II falls in the drink (or succumbs to some other undesirable fate.) A lot of photographers, myself included, looked for a backup body to be capable of using some (maybe not even all) enses from my main rig, cutting down on the number of lenses we have to carry. This explains why Nikon shooters tend to have another Nikon as a backup while Canon shooters, you guessed it, have a spare Canon lying around (ahem, please do not alert Homeland Security, we're strictly talking cameras here, folks!)
With the rise of these new "walkabout cameras" I'm seeing a new trend emerge. Just as in the point-and-shoot days, the camera manufacturers that make the best "big rigs" (read Canon, Nikon here, folks) don't always make the best in "walkabout camera" gear. Makes sense, as they seem to lag behind the curve in offering spiffy new "walkabout camera" features. They concentrate their efforts in research and development into bringing us the next, best, new Canon 5D Mark +1, rather than trying to be all things to all photographers and focusing on a "walkabout camera" as well. This explains why Canons and Nikons are some of the worst point and shoot cameras going (sorry to point out your flaws here, big boys, but the facts do tend to back me up here) and why too Canon and Nikon might not be the best brand to turn to for a "walkabout camera." Meanwhile, other manufacturers, like Olympus and Fuji have jumped headfirst onto the "walkabout camera" bandwagon, focusing on trying to corner this market before it's too late and carve out their own niche in the photography world. This consistency in the industry explains why we are now seeing what I like to call "the rise of the walkabout camera" featuring brands like Olympus and Fuji.There now seems to be a host of small, lightweight specialty cameras that offer features a professional photographer is used to seeing (read: aperture, shutter, ISO settings and the like) while not sacrificing image quality or megapixel count, but still coming in a nice, tiny little easy to carry package.
Now, I must admit too that I haven't been on top of this trend, although I was able to spot it and have been watching it grow for a while now. No, I've opted to instead focus on my main (read "big") rig and keep the Canon Rebel as a spare/Lensbaby/pinhole/whatever camera for a while, as this model was better suited to my needs as a shooter. Even I might change my ways, though, as I'm seeing some of the newer "walkabout cameras" churn out some images I like and looks I want to experiment with for myself. As much as I hate to admit it, I too might be headed into the direction of the "walkabout camera," especially given the circumstances of my physical limitations. (I have a bad back and sometimes have difficulty walking, making scaling down a rig even more pressing of an issue for me.)
I'm also not stupid either. Photographers flock to cameras that give them results. It's always been the case, and it always will be the case. As the "walkabout cameras" start to and continue to churn out good results, more and more professional (and, in turn, semi-professional, even serious amateur or slightly studied novice) will start to pick them up as well. It's a trend that's only going to grow and continue given the recent circumstances.
So when will I fold and get a "walkabout camera" of my very own? Perhaps only time will tell, although now I must admit they are much more on my radar than previously expected. I'd be curious to hear from you (or anybody) with one of these spiffy new "walkabout cameras." How do you like it? As a professional, how does it work for you and how does it fit into your workflow? Is it just an extra, added, unneeded brick that proved to be a gimmick or is it an acceptable tool in your quiver? Do please drop me an email and let me know your thoughts on the matter if you are so-inclined.
Until next time...
Sunday, May 12, 2013
Next step, I'll probably print these larger, something like 12x12 or so and then maybe put them under wax. I think these graphical type shots would work well with the encaustic treatment, since they feature bright colors and giant "swirls" of designs. They are more graphical, even though they have a bit of a texture to them, so I'm itching to get them under some wax (this to come soon, I promise.)
I think it's important to do something photographic each and every day. Even on days like Mother's Day or holidays, it's a good idea to do something to move one's photography and art along. Even if it's just thinking about something or just some simple editing, whatever it might happen to be. Each and every day, force yourself (if you have to) to do something related to image-making. You'll be a better photographer for it, I'm sure.
Tomorrow might possibly bring some writing, additional image editing, maybe some printing, who knows? It's the idea that counts-always moving forward, moving forward all of the time-that makes it feel like progress.
Until next time...
Saturday, May 11, 2013
For this Mother's Day, maybe you can take your Mom out shopping, to a fine restaurant, maybe get her a card, or just otherwise let her know you love her. It's all about Mom's all day Sunday, so please get out and let Mom enjoy her special day.
This shot taken inside the shopping area of Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada, outside of the Escada boutique. I noticed the mannequins and setup, hoping to get the kid on the cell phone. Took me a couple of frames, but I finally got one that I liked. I wanted him to go dark and just sort of let the large white posters wash over it all. I think the scale of it, plus the fake TV and the light/dark shadows help make this kind of freaky, so I like this image.
Speaking of "freaky," don't freak out if you have forgotten all about Mother's Day 2013 and have forgotten to get Mom a gift. There's still some time, if you get creative. Heck, why not get her some art or a gift certificate if you are looking for some ideas, right? Lots of stuff on the Internet and there's always that old standby, flowers, if you are really stuck. Good luck and be creative here, folks.
Until next time...
Wednesday, May 01, 2013
Imagine when you were a little kid...somebody once maybe asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up...did you say something like "a doctor" or maybe "a lawyer" or even "a movie star!" Heck, I bet back then you never thought that there were movie stars so famous we put their faces on luggage (of all places!) Imagine what you might have said back then, as a child: "I want to be so famous that, one day, they put my name in lights! Oh, and on lots of rolling luggage displays all over Las Vegas. But, not like the luggage you have to carry...you know...the ones without wheels...because...well, that would just not be too cool now, would it? I mean, I think I would be so famous that I would get kind of heavy without the little wheels on the bottom and all." Yeah, crazy I know, but there you have it.
It's Marilyn. In luggage. At Caesar's Palace. Of all the things we grown-ups get to see.
Until next time...