Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Tornado vs. The Screen Door

Fine art image of lawn chairs next to a swimming pool, taken in Austin, Texas on South Congress Avenue
Before I get into my usual rant about good old fashioned Texas weather, I should preface this post by telling family and friends in points afar that we here in Central Texas are all OK. The recent storms have not done any damage to our little hideaway although the greater Austin area is feeling the impact of the recent floods (and continues to do so-we are anticipating more storms, and floodwater, tonight, unfortunately.) We are tucked away nice and dry at least for now. Thanks for all of the well wishes, as we are all fine and dandy.

Saturday night, however, was a different story. You see, I've recently had the flu, so I've been a bit stuck in bed, feeling under the weather and all. These recent storms did not help matters much either. Allow me to explain.

My house, for those who have not been there, has a back porch. Between my living room and my back porch, I've installed a screen door. As luck would have it, my couch faces the back of the house and, since the porch is elevated, I've discovered that, should you happen to open the back door, with the screen door in place, you get this wonderful cool breeze. Mmmm. Cool breeze. Did I mention it's the most wonderful of wonderful cool breezes? OK, so back to my cool breeze.

I've also developed this bad habit lately of not only opening the back door (cool breeze! You with me here?) but of falling asleep on the couch. Don't get me wrong, I set out all well and good. "Not tonight!" I proclaim to myself, "tonight, I'm not going to fall asleep on the couch!" But then I go ahead and open the back door (cool breeze alert!) and kick the old shoes off, put the feet up, Chase gets comfortable, and, BAM! before you know it, I'm dozing off. Dreamland for me. Ahh. Zzzzz. (Hey, at least I've got a cool breeze where I sleep. Don't judge!)

So Saturday night, there I was awake and totally alert, ahem, I mean, dozing off on the couch, screen door open, cool breeze maximus blowing in, slumbering away into dreamland. All was well in the world except for one little detail. There were several tornadoes in Cedar Park, Texas this Saturday night. Tornadoes, it would appear, are a bit stronger than my usual cool breeze and I almost found this out the hard way. Picture it. I'm fast asleep on the couch. Screen door open. Chase by my side, secretly hoping a rabid squirrel attempts to run up the back porch right through the screen door, when I was rudely awakened by a sound that somewhat resembled an oncoming freight train.

Now, being in Texas, I've been told that tornadoes sound a lot like oncoming freight trains. In fact, almost every TV broadcast of almost every tornado in Texas starts out with some newscaster standing in some long forgotten field interviewing some farmer or rancher who picks a thread of grass out of his mouth long, looks straight into the camera, and proclaims, "It sounded just like an oncoming freight train!" I've heard this interview many times before and I know how this story ends.

So, there I was. Freight train, aka, friendly neighborhood tornado twisting my way, me sound asleep on the couch in dreamland. It was...a bit odd that, really. As I rubbed my eyes and looked around, all I could think of was, "if I didn't know any better, I'd swear that was a tornado." Of course, my kind and friendly weatherman didn't call for any tornadoes that night so I was pretty sure it wasn't a tornado but then, this is Texas after all, and the damn things do tend to sprout up at the most inopportune of times. Not like there's really a good time for a tornado, mind you, but there you have it.

That's when my phone went off.

We have these Amber Alert type messages on our cell phones now that beep rather loudly when approaching weather events and the like happen. Saturday night was no exception. Over the course of about three minutes, I got about six weather alerts, all very loud and increasing in severity, all waking me from what was left of my sleep as the freight train/tornado rumbled into earshot. The first one said something about flash flooding, the second one said something even more severe about flooding, the third one suggested something about a tornado, and the last one said something along the lines of "a tornado has been spotted in your area. Seek shelter immediately!" Ok, so maybe it wasn't a freight train after all, but there I was expecting a cool breeze and winding up with, well, let's just call it a bit more than I had bargained for and leave it at that, Ok? Even the freaking iPhone Amber Alert thing rose up from the dead and yapped at me, "Wake the Hell up, it's a tornado!" I would have been in a panic only I was too groggy and hadn't quite woken up yet, with the silly iPhone Amber Alert sound ringing in my ears and the rumbling freight train growing louder and louder by the second.

They say just before you die you're supposed to see your life flash before you eyes, at least we've all heard that story many times before from the movies and such. I suppose there are people out there, maybe even some poor lost souls on Saturday night who didn't see the storms coming and got washed away, twisted away, or just didn't survive the weather. Texas is a formidable climate, it's not for all, I'd be the first to admit that, and I hesitate to insist that I'm stronger than the next, not by any stretch. But, dag nabit! I'll be damned if I'm going to let some stupid silly tornado take my cool breeze away. Damn you, tornado! Damn you and the horse you rode in on! My screen door may not be much, heck the good folks over at Home Depot probably even installed it slightly crooked, but it's all I have and I'm not giving it up. No, not me. Though I did (eventually) get up and shut the door on Saturday night, I'm going to use the screen door again and I'll probably fall asleep on the couch again and, heck if a tornado comes to take me away so be it. I refuse to give up my cool breeze, sorry tornado, you'll just have to go twist in the wind (or some such thing.)

Yes, after Saturday night, I suppose it's safe to say, "Stand back! I've got a screen door and I'm not afraid to use it!"

Until next time...

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Lensbaby Velvet 56 Initial Thoughts

This past weekend, I had opportunity to break out the new Lensbaby Velvet 56 lens and so I thought I would share my initial impressions of the new lens. For starters, let me say that I'm a Lensbaby fan and have been for a while. I had the original Lensbaby lens, now called "The Muse" for a long time, finally upgrading to the glass optic swap out system and now the Velvet 56. I won't bore you with details about myself here (you can look that up if you really want to know) so let's get started with the review (of sorts.) I will also point out that I normally don't do gear reviews-I'm not the paid reviewer type of person so this is my honest impressions of the new lens, without any preconceived notions of trying to sell you anything (this is a free website and, as such, you get what you pay for and all. Apologies if this review comes across as less than polished, but that's life inside my little world.) 

The packaging on the lens itself is wonderful. It came in a nice little box with Lensbaby images on the side. Perfect for gifting, although, with it's $500 price tag gifting might be out of the question for some folks. The lens itself feels wonderful in the hands. It's metal and it does not feel like a cheap or kit lens at all. If anything, it has more a retro feel about it, reminding me of some of the old Zeiss style lenses in terms of looks. It has a manual focusing ring and a manual aperture setting ring on the lens itself, so you can see from the front what f-stop you set it at. All well and good, as I would expect this of a "real" lens. My biggest gripe has been that, being a Canon shooter, the lower f-stops are usually at the other end of the scale. This one seemed backwards to me but again here that's just me getting used to it. There was nothing about the lens that would put me off, in fact I rather liked it. The feel will come in time.

I should also point out that I got the silver model which, I'm told, does not have the stickers but has engraved aperture and focus markings. I believe this is the only difference between the two lenses so those on a tight budget might want to skip the silver in favor of the black model.

First shots off the card were interesting for me. Being a Lensbaby shooter for a while, I've been doing a body of work where things are very out of focus, like nothing in focus in the image at all. The new model will allow me to do that nicely, as the aperture settings allow you to control the amount of focus. That sounds really great on paper and I can tell you that I will someday get a better feel for the lens but, right out of the box, it's hard to know what f-8 is going to do, for example. So, I found myself setting it wide open and then stopping down until I got the out of focus effect I wanted. Again, this is more of a learning curve than any fault of the lens. Overall, I'd have to say it's the type of lens I will find myself shooting some and probably going to in my bag again and again.  I'll have to play with it some more before it gets totally comfortable but I love what I've seen so far. That's really the best you can get with a new lens right out the box, isn't it?

Some other tidbits about the lens. It comes with a pop on style metal lens cap, which is really nice, but not perfect. I'm a bit old school and so I like to use UV filters on the front of my lens for protection. If you go the UV filter route with this Lensbaby, the lens cap will no longer fit. Now, I know there are easy workarounds for this but, at $500, I kind of feel like they should have thought about this better. Of course, the fact that the lens is threaded for filters is itself interesting news. Imagine the filters you can add to a Lensbaby. Infrared? ND Grads? See where I'm going here? This is big news that's been overlooked in all of the reviews I have read on the lens so far (of course, there aren't many of those yet, as this lens is new to market.)

Some of you will probably complain that the lens is manual focus. It is. It's a manual focus lens. Manual focus. Say it with me. Manual focus. Don't buy it and expect it to auto focus. It won't. It's a manual focus lens. Got that? I'm sure you do but not everybody will. I can hear the complaints already. "But, it doesn't focus right!" Yeah, it doesn't focus at all-you do. Turn the flipping ring already. It's designed to make it easy for you to turn the ring so just do it and quit your griping. Having used a manual lens in the past, it really doesn't feel any different from my old Nikon or Mayima or Hassy lenses in terms of focusing. There's a nice track, it's smooth, and you focus it by turning the ring yourself. The ring is easy to grip with your free hand and I was able to focus without having to stop looking through my camera pretty easily. I did mention it was manual focus, right? Works as designed, really that does, and I have no complaints. 

As a proud owner of the glass optic system, I had some of the optic swap devices Lensbaby makes. These can produce great images, the pin hole one is especially fun, but the entire swap device system left me a bit cold. It was hard to swap out those "lens guts" as I call them. It just wasn't an easy system to use in the field, especially given that most of us wind up using the Lensbaby as a second lens anyway. It's hard enough to swap out the lens itself and then, on top of that, I'm expected to swap out the optic system too? That was never my favorite, despite the fact that I loved the pinhole optic. What I ended up doing was shooting a second camera, leaving it setup with the optic system lens and then just swapping out the optic swap choices as I saw fit in the field. It was still a bit cumbersome to have to do that, as it was never as easy swapping out the optic swap device as changing an actual lens. I also had to deal with the burden of an extra camera body which is a hassle but it's always good to have a backup anyway. These are just the choices we make and not really anything reflected upon the quality of the Lensbaby systems.

Fast forward to the new Velvet 56. It doesn't support the optic swap system. Now, I'm not entirely sure this is a bad thing but I do kind of feel there's a hole where the pinhole used to be (so sorry for the bad pun there but it had to be said.) On the one hand, I kind of miss my easy access to a pinhole camera, on the other, I did mention the new Velvet 56 takes filters, yes? Filters. Mmmm filters. My brain (well, ok, what's left of it) is still swirling over that one. To paraphrase Dr. Seuss, "Ah the places you will go, the filters you will use!"

So, bottom line, do I like the lens? Yes. Is it worth $500? Depends. To me, yes. I think of it as a "real" lens and welcome the aperture settings. (Ahem, repeat after me, "Real photographers stop down!" Thank you very much!) It does not feel cheap and I think there are a lot of creative uses for it. If you like the soft dreamy effect, let's face facts, you're going to need to manual focus anyway, and this lens will not disappoint. I love the filters. Did I mention it has filters now? Filters, yes indeed! I sort of miss the glass optic system, but then I only loved that for the pinhole. (There might be a way to weasel a pinhole option out of the new Velvet 56, although I haven't really thought about that yet.)

One last note about the new Lensbaby Velvet 56: I did not have a good chance to play around with some macro images yet. I'm sure this is one area where it will really rock the house. Clocking in at a 56mm very nice useful focal length, having a wide open f1.6 available, and also being able to do macro work is quite a powerful combination. Overall, this makes for a light and bright soft focus lens. I would be even happier if they would make a filter threaded lens cap that was convertible into a lens cap pinhole filter. Now, that would really make my day but, hey, I can't ask for the sky, the moon, *and* the stars, right? Right? (Ahem, Lensbaby folks, if you are reading this, kaleidoscope lens. Say it with me, "Kaleidoscope lens." It's not just for breakfast anymore, m'kay? It's what all the cool kids really want for Christmas this year! Um...please? Pretty please with sugar on top? Don't make me turn this blur around!)

Until next time...

Monday, May 18, 2015

I Took A Walk

I took a walk. What do I mean by this? On Saturday, I attended a photo instructional walk with Austin resident, noted Magnum photographer, and all around nice guy, Eli Reed. He's a fabulous photographer, I've always loved his work. You should check it out if you are so inclined. But, back to my walk.

So, we assembled at Precision Camera for the meeting and spend a few hours looking at work, discussing images, and hearing lots of tips and tricks from Eli Reed. Then, we assembled into various cars and headed down to the South Congress area of Austin. For those of you who do not know Austin very well, South Congress is a funky cool part of town. There's now a boutique hotel (the Hotel San Jose) as well as lots of cool shops, restaurants, and the like. It's quintessential Austin at its finest. Great place to go people watching and do some serious street photography, not to mention just funky cool stuff, even if you are into stuff like architecture or scenic photography. There's something there for almost everybody. So, we headed down, I did some people watching, and tried out my new Lensbaby Velet56 lens (more on this in another post.)

It was a very humid day. We've had a lot of rain lately and, lucky for us, the rain held off. The light was a little higher than I would normally like it but still it was so wonderful just to walk about with camera, new lens, and Eli Reed. It really was a wonderful excursion. I feel so refreshed, even though I was sticky sweaty hot. Just getting out into it a bit reminded me how I have not been out in what feels like ages. It was really great to walkabout with camera in tow, checking things out, taking a few shots. I don't think I got anything earth shatteringly good but it was just refreshing to be outside shooting for a change. (More on the new Lensbaby and the Hotel San Jose to follow.)

Did you ever feel like you just wanted to get out of the house? Then, when you did it was like being released from a cage? Yeah, it felt like that. Oh so nice to be out in it again. I feel like I've traveled only this time I went to my own city to explore. Such fun new things and so great to be enjoying it before the absolute heat of the summer sets in. I hope you get out and enjoy yourself this spring as well.

Until next time...

Friday, May 15, 2015

Remembering the King

Eric Clapton and BB King live onstage in London, England as part of 24 Nights series of concerts. Earl's Court, London.
Yesterday marked the passing of a blues legend. BB King passed away at the age of 89. This is a photograph I took of him playing with Eric Clapton in England, original on film, taken with my old trusty Nikon.

There's something different about the passing of BB King. For those of you who don't know, I met BB King several times over the course of my life. I know everybody now is mourning the loss while also celebrating his life and legacy but, somehow, it just feels different when you know the person. Of course, BB King was wonderful with his fans. I'm sure there are many fans out there who have many fond memories, probably ever better ones than I, of BB King.

Not many people can say they once bounced on BB King's lap, but I can. Now, before you go thinking bad thoughts, let me explain. I was four years old when I first met BB King. My aunt, you see, was a huge BB King fan, way back from before I was born. When I was four, she had gotten tickets to go see him in concert somewhere out on Long Island, NY. This was back when I still lived in Queens. (Boy, am I going back in time, or what?) The day of the concert, as luck would have it, there was a big blizzard. Almost all of New York was snowed in. The baby sitter called to cancel on account of the snow. Believe me, in New York, this almost never happens but it did that night. So my aunt called up the theater and asked if the show was going to go on or not. They said, yes, in fact, the show was going to go on. BB King was there and ready to play. Sitter or not, my aunt was determined to go, so she packed all of us kids into the car and we drove very slowly out to Long Island. When we got there, the theater was not full, probably on account of the weather, so they let us all in. It was my first time going to a "nightclub." They severed me something called a "Shirley Temple cocktail" which was probably just overpriced juice, and I got to see BB King play live in a small theater. In fact, this is one of my earliest memories. I can still remember being in that dark club, the chairs around a table, sitting there with my feet not touching the ground, listening to the music.

For those of you who don't know, BB King liked to come out and talk to people at the end of his concerts, and this night was no exception. He came around, table by table to chat with all of us. When he got to our table he sat down and asked if he could talk to me. They put me on his lap, he pulled my pig tails and made me cry (well, not really but, heck I mentioned I was four years old at the time, right?) That was my first encounter with BB King and it would not be my last, although he didn't make me cry (or pull my hair) after that.

Many years later, I ran into him in Austin. I had gotten a flat tire and made it to Sears just in time, just before they closed. As I was pulling into the parking lot, I saw this big honking tour bus and thought, wow, what they heck is that? I met him cutting through Sears on his way from the bookstore. BB King, you see, learned how to read as an adult but wound up being a lifelong reader. He was walking out with an armful of books. I spoke to him only briefly, he wished me luck with my car and told me he was playing in Austin that night. I've also seen him play in New Hampshire with Robert Cray and in London, pictured here with Eric Clapton and Bonnie Raitt.

While I'll miss him personally, he's also been quite an inspiration to me on an artistic level. Now, I don't play the guitar like him, that's not what I mean, but I have picked up a few tricks from watching him over the years. For starers, he's very good with his fans. He always stopped to talk to people who took the time to appreciate his art. That's important to an artist. Respect your patrons. Get to know the people who appreciate your work. It's not just good business sense, it makes you a better person.

Something else I've learned from him...if you watch him when he played, his whole face would light up when he played his guitar. He had this beaming smile every time he picked up and started playing his guitar. Even if you didn't know him, you could tell he was really very happy. He was doing what he was supposed to be doing, as Joseph Campbell would say he was, "following his bliss" and it really showed. You can tell when you do something you're supposed to be doing because it makes you happy and that happiness beamed from within him. I've never seen anybody else so happy singing the blues and I probably never will again. You might think that blues music is sad and, why yes it is, but it's also cathartic. There was a jubilance about his playing. It's hard to describe but you will spot it too if you watch him play for a bit.

There are also some things about BB King you might not know. For example, did you know that he couldn't really play the guitar and sing at the same time? It's true. He almost never did that. On occasion, he would forget and actually do both but then he would catch himself and go back to the one at a time bit. Technically speaking, BB King was not a great guitar player at all. Many "experts" will tell you that he was actually lacking in technical skills. Of course, many "experts" will also tell you that bumble bees cannot fly. It's a great theory on paper but reality had other plans. Many guitar players will rank BB King as one of the best guitar players who ever lived.

They say that BB King was not technically such a great guitar player because he could not play musical chords. It's true, he didn't play musical chords. What he lacked in chords, he more than made up for in tone. BB King probably had the best guitar tone you will ever hear in your lifetime (mine too for that matter.) BB King had a singing guitar tone with some really great vibrato. Eric Clapton once said that he tried to play vibrato like BB King and it took him an entire year of practice just to get almost good enough to be able to start thinking about incorporating vibrato into his work. And he's Eric Clapton, imagine how long it would take the rest of us?!?

BB King was not a technician but he had a great spirit, a wonderful charm, a passion for music, and a gift for tone. If only I could paint like that! That's what really made him such a great artist. You don't have to excel at every aspect of your art, no, but he did something so well that he could not be denied. That's the mark really of a true artist.

So, even if you don't takeaway anything from the King of the Blues, BB King himself, I hope you have a new appreciation for his music and his legacy. I was saddened to hear of his passing but he's left a wonderful legacy, sharing the gift of music with very many people. The thrill is not gone, in fact, it's just starting for some younger folks who might be now just be discovering his legacy, so tonight I say long live blues music and long live the legacy of BB King.

Rest in Peace BB King, you will be missed.

Until next time...

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Stop Shooting Start Crafting

Many times photographers go out into the world merrily shooting away only to come home and find their images don't look like what they remember seeing. I've been asked many times why I like to go out shooting with other photographers. Sometimes, my students will ask me questions like, "but...won't you just take the same photos." My answer? A resounding, "No!" It's almost impossible to take the same photo as somebody else, even if you stand just where they did. Both of these examples boil down to the same cold fact: we just don't all see things the same way. Our "sight" if you will is impacted by our emotions, our biology, our circumstance, and many other elusive factors.

Don't believe me? Next time you are hungry, notice how much you start to "see" food. I don't know about you, but there's nothing worse than sitting down to watch a movie on TV when you are hungry, only to be bombarded with tons of fast food commercials. Do you honestly think those commercials go away when you've had something to eat? No, actually what is happening is that you notice them more. Every mention of food, every sight of food, ever even hint of food makes you stop and think, "hey! Wait a minute...I'm hungry!" Don't even get me started on the subject of sex, as you can already see where this is going. We tend to see what we want to see, what we need to see, what we feel like seeing, what might put us in danger, and the like. It's just how our eyes and brain function. It's in our genetic makeup, probably why the species has survived for as long as it did (well, that and the entire opposable thumb business, but there you have it.)

So, what does this have to do with crafting images? If you really want to make images that exist the way your mind "sees" them, if you really want to capture what you "see" in real life, you pretty much have to craft the shot to look like what's already in your head. To put it another way, you have to craft what it is you want to see in your resulting image.

To do that requires thought. You have to think about what you see, what you want to see, what you need to see, what you should be looking at, heck even what you wish you'd seen but couldn't manage to pull it off. The clarity of thought is not a concept foreign to most good photographers (and artists as well.) As Ansel Adams once said, "There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept." Those are some words to live by right there. In order to craft images it takes a sharp concept.

This week, as I assemble my folio and get ready to go out shooting, I'm reminded of these concepts. I am thinking about what I'm going to shoot, already composing images in my head. "I think I'll do some of this and maybe some of that." Ideas are tossing around like a mixed salad up there. Now, I may not get to them all, heck, I may not even get to any of them. That's alright. So long as I have the clarity of thought I know, deep down in my heart, the process is working.

I always strive to stop shooting and start crafting. For me, photography is all about that craft.

Until next time...

This image is the view from my hotel room in Santorini. What a spot, right? Every hotel should have a view like this!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Delusional Artist

Detail of blue door in Firostefani, Santorini, Greece
Yesterday, they announced American Idol, the popular TV show, is coming to a close. This next (upcoming) season will be the last. We will miss all of the Kelly Clarkson's, yes, but also some of us will miss the people in chicken suits. You know who I mean here, those big goofballs who dress up and try to get one over on the judges. The ones who really cannot sing very well but wear silly costumes in the hopes of covering it up with style. Yes, some of us will miss them too.

What's interesting about the "chicken suit brigade" as I like to call them is that this phenomenon is not limited to singing or even the performing arts for that matter. Even established artists can trick themselves into thinking their work is great. Sometimes, we get blinded by passion-we feel so strongly about the work that we see it as good because, in our eyes, it is. It's easy to fall into this trap as well. It's really easy to tell yourself, heck, you worked *hard* on something so it must be good, right? Those famous artists? Yeah, they got nothing on me, right? I mean, come on, Ansel Adams (substitute your favorite in here if it helps) had to put his pant legs on one at a time too, right? He's really no better than the rest of us, it was all dumb luck, and the like.

Now, don't get me wrong. We all also suffer from the opposite syndrome. The one I like to call the "bad tape recorder" syndrome. Every one of us, each and every one of us, has a tape recorder in our heads. And, believe me when I say this, this silly little tape recorder loves to play negative thoughts. "No!" No, no, no. You aren't good enough. You can't get into that show. Nobody there will like your work. You're not good enough. Or, perhaps my favorite, "You'll make a fool of yourself!" Yeah, um, somebody please tell that to the people in the chicken suits? Seriously, it's hard to strike a balance and find yourself landing right in between that silly chicken suit and that negative tape recorder. Some days I honestly believe that there are no good artists, only those who have managed to be able to do just this. Find a sweet spot and sing, so to speak.

Art, at times, takes bravery. We must be bold. We must silence that tape recorder, yes, we must. But, alas, there are times, other times perhaps but, yes, other times, when we have to listen to that little voice that says "No, not yet. Not good enough." It's hard establishing taste as an artist. It can be hard raising the bar and keeping it at a certain level. In involves being honest with one's self.

A gallery owner once told me that, "kids today," as he put it, "need to have a heart to heart. They need to [when they approach a gallery] lay out their work and take a good hard look at what the gallery is currently selling. Seriously A/B the work and be honest about how the work stacks up." This is very good advice. We need to silence the tape recorder, yes, but we also need to not completely silence the inner critic. Because, well, that inner critic? He's the guy who pushes us out of that funky chicken suit and into hitting all of the right notes (excuse the pun.)

If you're constantly doing art and it's not up to the level that you want or need it to be, face it, you've got a problem on your hands. You can get more training, get more practice (back into the "woodshed" as some artists like to say) or you can do something like try another media. And, let's be honest, there's no harm in not being a professional-heck, even I will admit to singing in the shower from time to time, but I'm not delusional. I'm no Whitney Houston. Now, being a visual artist, I can honestly say that not everybody needs to be the next Whitney (or whomever you like.) Art is a wonderful thing and everybody, each and every one of us, has an artist within, just bursting to get out. But, we do have to admit that deluding ourselves into thinking it's great, we are the next Whitney, the world owes us a long rack of gallery sales, whatever, is not a good idea either. No, it doesn't pay to be a delusional "chicken suit brigade" artist either.

The trick, I guess, is finding that middle ground. Listen to your own heartbeat enough to silence the little negative tape recorder but don't drown out the chicken suit critic either. Push yourself to always do better work, stop and regroup if you can't. There's no harm in asking for help or spending more time in the "woodshed" remember all artists have to do that at some point. Don't be negative but don't be delusional either.

Yes, I suppose, as my friend Linda likes to say, "Good luck with that!"

Until next time...

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

And to your left, we have...I need new LUGGAGE

This is what a traffic jam in Greece looks like. Hey! Slower boats to the right, please. Jeese. Who taught you to drive? Archimedes?!? Seriously, that caldera can get pretty crowded. (All this and, just my luck, Justin Bieber is somewhere down in that mess as well.)

So, I've been thinking about travel again. All the places I've been, all the places I want to go. I keep tossing it over in my mind but not for too long because, you see, I stop. I stop and I look and I wonder. I wonder how in the heck my suitcase is going to survive yet another trip? Like, seriously, it's starting to show the signs of one too many gorilla baggage handlers. One more layover and it's certain to crumble. And, I'm sure I don't have to tell you, I don't want to be the one to have to pick out all of my granny panties from an exploded suitcase on the silly airplane conveyer belt, oh no, Sir, not me! I'm going to have to just bite the bullet and buy a new suitcase already.

This feeling makes me start looking at bags I can buy. I browse websites. I start to read reviews. Who knew that there was such a difference between "light" and "ultra light" luggage? Oh gosh, this is turning into a nightmare. Really, folks, all I want is a suitcase. Three stars an a lot cheaper or do I spring for the four star model? Oh the humanity!

Seriously, who knew there were all of these reviews? I mean, come on. Who researches luggage? Don't you just like go out and buy one? Nope. Not anymore! Thanks a lot Internet. You really got me this time. No, now I have to sift through reports, reviews, different sites, is it right for a lady? Do the wheels fall off after the gorilla has its way with it? Does it come in blue? Can I fit my tripod in? Will it nudge me over that oh so critical airline dictated 50 pound cutoff point? Somebody, help! Instead of dreaming about travel, all the places I'll go, all the places I want to explore, nope, I'm stuck thinking about a bag. Ugh!

Luggage. Luggage? Luggage! I thought this Internet thing was supposed to make my life easier?!?

Until next baggage claim...

Monday, May 11, 2015

My Thoughts on Portfolios

I've been thinking a bit about portfolios lately. How does one go about selecting top images for a folio? It can be a bit tricky if you've never done it. Either you are first starting out and barely have enough images to fill the gaps, so to speak, or maybe you're an experienced shooter who can't cut it down to just six or ten or whatever arbitrary number they throw at you. Either way, in either case, it always seems like it's a bit of a challenge.

Of course, I'm no different when it comes to this. When it comes down to folios and the like, my current mood plays a big part in it. If I'm in a "people snatching" mood, why any folio of mine you might happen across will probably be filled with portraits. Likewise, if I'm in a more nature-y landscape-y type of a mood, well, you're going to get stuff like this. It goes without saying really but, as you might imagine, it can be difficult to combine the two and so then I have to look for images that bridge the gap between my many varying moods. It's like I'm assembling Sybil's visual journal, I swear sometimes that is. 

The more I think about it, the more folios are not about what you shoot. No, actually I think they are more about what you are *going* to shoot. What do you want to shoot? Where is your voice? Where is your art leading you? When you start to think about those types of questions then, I think, the folio selection gets a bit easier. If you focus on where you want to go and what you want to be doing next, the task seems a bit less daunting, at least that has been my experience so far. Do you want to be a travel photographer? A fine art photographer? A photojournalist? Somebody who does weddings? If you're thinking about going the travel route, don't bother putting brides in the final cut, it probably won't help matters much. Likewise, if you are leaning more toward the photojournalism route, don't put some artsy conceptual project in there. This sounds all well and good, easy enough to follow but, what to do if you are just a shooter? It can still be a bit tricky.

So, once again I've been tasked with this dreaded make a folio task. I'm up to the challenge, for sure, as I've actually done it before. And, yes, each and every time is a bit different. This time around? I'm probably going to divvy it up into a few bodies of work, maybe just two or three, in an attempt at showcasing some alternative directions. I've been a shooter for a while now and so, as you might imagine, I've got some cool odds and ends too and I still won't be sure where exactly to stick those (ahem, yes, I know, I probably have some readers who rejoice in telling me where exactly to stick anything but, somehow, I'm still left with the task.)

Indeed, the folio task is always tricky. Lots of navel gazing, introspection, thinking aloud (and sometimes to one's self as well!) and all of that jazz. All that and, in the end, you gotta pick just ten!

Yes, it's folio season again. Oh joy, here we go again.

Until next time...

This one from Iceland, from somewhere in the highlands of Iceland. It's an algae lake reflection.