Thursday, December 29, 2016

Long Day's Journey into Black and White

At first glance, this image might not look like it might be a good candidate for conversion to black and white. I can almost hear you yelling at me from across the wire. "Are you crazy?!? There's a red chair in there. A RED chair. A RED chair! You must be nuts."Ahem. Yes, I see the chair. I still think it will make an ok black and white. It's got tones. Sure, red and green look a lot alike once everything is stone cold grey but, honestly, it's got tones. And tones, generally, make for ok black and white shots. Seriously. OK black and white shots. I'm going to try anyway, you can't stop me, right? Right?

I've been looking at converting a bunch of images over to the dark side, or maybe I should call it the dark and white side, since that's what it really is. It's kind of funny how sometimes images don't look like they'd be good in black and white but then they turn out ok or maybe you think they'd look terrible but you have a go anyway and wind up with, BAM! something that's not too bad. It's taken me a while as a photographer to spot what might be a good conversion and, yes, I know I do tend to shoot things with the thought of converting in mind later on. I'm like that you know. But, sometimes I like to play too and poke around afterwards to see what I can coax. A girl's got to have her fun, right?

Tonality has always been kind of difficult for me. I'm not a tone poet, not in the least. I'm more of a perspective kind of a girl, what can I say? Still though, I know to not discount the red chairs. Never discount red stuff, just because, well, just because it's red, right? Even though I don't shoot it a lot, I certainly don't go out and hunt it, I'm not going to pass it up when you hand it to me either. (As the great philosopher Lady Gaga once wrote, "I'm on the right track, baby I was born this way.")

If it works, look for the black and white conversion to follow. Until then, why, you'll just have to settle for being able to say you knew those chairs back when they were RED chairs. Oh, and if you're inclined to play around with black and white conversion, I recommend the NIX Silver Efex Pro conversion tools which are now available free of charge from Google. Seriously. Google, it would appear, purchased the Nik Efex and made them free so enjoy it while it lasts. I do rather like the conversion tools because they allow you to play around with different styles of conversion and get different looks. Am told the Alien Skin filters are good too, those would be a contender if I didn't already like the Nik Efex so much. To each his own, I guess and, for all, a RED chair!

Until next time...

PS This one taken in Dakota with the Canon 5DS and the walkabout lens. Was dusty in there but we survived.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

How To Become a Photographer - The Short Version

Maybe you got a new camera over the holiday and now your thoughts turn to learning how to work it or perhaps you find yourself one of the many people who decide that, come the new year, you're going to get back into your photography. Either way, you might find yourself in the shoes of somebody new or somebody wanting to get a bit more into this wonderful world of image making. Now, I don't often teach anymore but I have in the past and I get asked a lot about mentoring, often finding myself doing it sometimes (actually often) finding myself on the other end, being mentored. The entire learning bit is really a lifelong journey, especially with photography. I'll never feel I've mastered this but maybe I can offer up some advice for those just starting. Since I get asked a lot, I thought it might be a good time of year to share the basics of what I did to learn. Follow this at your own risk as it might turn you into a mad lady who hops fences and traipses thought abandoned buildings looking for just the right light. Alternatively, you might get bored and take up knitting. At any rate, here goes.

When I was starting out, I participated in a group that shared 3-5 images per week. We met in the auditorium of a middle school. Back in those days, we used a slide projector and shared slides, with every participant putting their own slides in the tray (don't forget, they go in upside down. I still know how to load a slide tray, thank you very much.) The projector made your image large and the room was dark, thereby forcing you to look, and I mean really LOOK at your images. Kind of hard to do when there's no other light in the room and the image got nice and big, warts and all. Also, the 3-5 was key. It really was 3-5, no more, no less. If you had 22, you got chopped down. So that is perhaps advice point number 1: learn to edit. There are no edit fairies. Learn to do it yourself and be brutal. When somebody days they want six images, give them six. If somebody says 3-5 shoot for 4 and see where you land, but keep it between the guidelines. The frequency of showing images was critical too. Each and every week, 3-5 images. It forced you to make new work each week and to edit new work each week. I can promise you, after about a year of doing this, you will be a better photographer. But, since there aren't many slide groups any longer, now that we are all digital, here's what I recommend.

Step 1: Get a camera. This is kind of obvious, but, to be clear, I mean take a camera you already have or get one you want to use. Get one. I mean ONE here and not like 42. Really, just one is all it takes. Much better to learn how to work one you've got then to try and futz with 5 or 6. One works just fine, especially if you really don't know how to work any yet. I sincerely recommend you start with simple equipment and learn to train your eye. You can always upgrade later and, by upgrade, I mean the camera, not the eye. Oh, how I wish I could upgrade my eye, but that ain't happening (perhaps rule number two for you there.) Alas, I've upgraded the camera many times, probably too many to count, still have the same eye, still the same photographer. My guess is you will be that way too so get used to it. The camera really is just a tool for seeing.

Step 2: Keep it Simple. I've hinted at this already with the one camera deal but really you want to keep equipment simple when you are just starting out. Avoid getting lighting rigs like strobes, fancy lenses, lots of flashes, etc. Maybe just start with a simple rig, something like a DSLR, one mid range (I tend to call them "walkabout") lens and a tripod. If you want to learn on your iPhone, use that but that's it. Don't get fancy and don't start shoveling equipment. Just keep it simple. Remember you are trying to learn to take pictures, to craft images, to become a photographer, not to turn into a camera collector. If you ask for a recommendation, I would opt for something like a Canon rebel series camera, or the equivalent Nikon offering, with an 18-55 kit lens or even a 50mm "nifty fifty" style lens. You want to keep it towards one camera, one lens, one eye and then add things as you need them. If you are doing iPhone, start by using the iPhone camera and avoid tons of apps. Just start with the camera and learn how to work that, you can app everything later.

Step 3: Get into a Routine. Remember I said I did the 3-5 images a week when I was learning? Yeah, I probably did that for about a decade. About a year into the 3-5 image routine, I started exhibiting my work. That means for probably 11 years, while I was exhibiting work and doing shows around the country, winning awards, getting published and the like, I was still doing the 3-5 images in the slide tray every Thursday night. That's 3-5 images a week. Say it with me, "3-5 images a week." You want to all but get that tattooed across your forehead. The trick here is getting into a routine. Force yourself to take 3-5 images that you like a week, each and every week. Commit to it. Keep doing it. If it rains, keep doing it. If it's hot, keep doing it. If you go on a surprise trip to Cancun with your cousin Fred, bring your camera along and keep doing it. Yes, you can take 3-5 images of Fred in Cancun but the trick here is 3-5 images a week, each and every week.

Step 4: Complete a Finished Product. What I mean by this is, well, when I was learning I did slides in the tray. Remember how I said they were blown up BIG and we showed them in a dark room? This is sort of "finished." If it was a test shot, it didn't make it into the 3-5 image pile. If I was unsure about it, I'd re-shoot until I got one worth of a slot in my 3-5. I went through a lot of film in those days, lucky you we now have flash memory but it's the same deal. Think of the 3-5 as being "finished" images. By this, I mean worthy of being printed or blown up large. I actually recommend you print them if you can and put them in a notebook, to look at later on. The important point though is you finish what you started. You craft 3-5 finished images each and every week. The difference between a beginner and somebody who is a working (or exhibiting) photographer is that the working stiff has a finished product in mind before he or she loads the flash memory into the camera. You want to start to think about what it's going to look like in your slide tray or in your notebook as you are working in the field or in the studio. Thinking about finishing it makes you focus on what you are making and drives you to shoot better.

Step 5: Evaluate and Refine. After you start shooting for a while, as your notebook becomes full of your work, you can look back upon your earlier work and see how you did. Look at what you've shot, what you didn't shoot, think about what you want to shoot and start to spot the trends. Remember I said I was in a group that shared 3-5 images a week? One of the benefits of the group is that you can get feedback from others, plus you also look at the work of others. It helps if you look at work. Look at as many images as you can and really look at them, with a critical eye. Look at your work and see how it compares. Look at your work and try to spot patterns or habits or "tells" if you will. As you work your routine your style will emerge. Learn to spot it and work with it, but let it grow over time. Think of it as organic and let it blossom but feed it as well. Basically, I recommend that you don't try to copy but rather you continuously refine the way you shoot to get yourself closer to where you want to be as a photographer.

If you follow all of these steps, you will probably become a photographer over time. You will learn to craft images and learn to refine the way you shoot. It's not an easy path and it's perhaps not the only path but it's one way to get to the other side. Regardless of your experiences, I wish you the best of lucky in your journey along the path to image making. Good luck or, as I like to say to my fellow photographers, "safe travels and good light" along your path of discovery.

Until next time...

PS This image taken with the Canon 5DS and the walkabout lens, from the old schoolhouse tour out in Willow City, TX. This is the room they told us was full of snakes. Maybe I should add another step to my list: Get sturdy boots and watch where you plant your feet, eh?

Monday, December 26, 2016

Looking Back to Find Buried Treasure in Your Archives

Assorted items, abandoned church basement in rural North Dakota near the town of Rugby
As we wind down the last days of 2016, there are going to be a lot of "Best of..." articles and threads published, including, I'm sure, some of my very own. As a photographer, we get asked for portfolios a lot. We're constantly dealing in "bodies of work" so a lot of our time is spent pondering and actually preparing this body of work for that space or this set of images for submission over here. It's a daily grind and we don't seem to mind it, it's just how the work gets done, right? But, sometimes, there's something that can be missed in all of that. We're always packaging things it can be easy to miss individual shots and sometimes little gems, why, they can fall through the cracks of our workflow.

We have a connection to some of our images. Maybe we remember what the place smelled like, or how the flowers looked or whatever. This connection, while it can be a good thing, yes, it can also be a blocker for our own objectivity. What I mean by that is that sometimes, by allowing yourself space and time, by allowing yourself to "forget" the events behind making a particular image, you can look at your images with a fresh set of eyes. Maybe you see things you didn't see before, maybe you can go back on a stream of images and pull out some you had initially passed over. A lot of times, when I do this, I find myself whacking myself on my head. "What was I thinking?" I ask myself. "Why did I pass over this one in favor of that one?" It happens, I would guess, even to the best of photographers. Our emotions or the joy of the shoot can get in the way and cloud our objectivity. We are at are best sometimes when editing after the immediacy of the shoot has been forgotten a bit. I think this is just how the process works. Editing, at it's best, can require some space. It's hard, probably impossible, to have a truly objective eye but that space can sometimes lend a hand to helping here.

By doing some of these year end type "exercises" (for lack of a better word) we sometimes force ourselves to look back and edit again with a fresh set of eyes. Edit anew really perhaps by looking at what we shot or maybe by making additional decisions about post processing. It all comes into play and can all be taken up again now, at the end of the year, with a fresh set of eyes.

So, if you're having a wonderful holiday season or, heck, even if you're not, I would encourage you to sip some eggnog or hot cocoa, enjoy a quiet night or two by a warm fire, spend some quality time with the family and friends, all of that is good, but also don't neglect your images. This is a great time to look back on 2016 and take stock of how you did photographically. See what worked, note what didn't, even look over your raw files again, with a fresh set of eyes. You might find some hidden gems in there. At the very least, you will probably walk away with a fresh appreciation for what you did already shoot and edit as part of your 2016 processing. Looking anew, giving it one more once over can't hurt, right?

I wish you the warmest of holiday seasons and hope you find your share of wonderful hidden gems in your own processing.

Until next time...

PS This one from Dakota, it's the church kitchen, shot on long exposure with the Canon 5DS and the walkabout lens set at 24mm f/14 approximately 30 second exposure.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Top 10 List - Lima, Peru

Colonial architectural detail, city center, Lima, Peru
Now I know I've been back a little while but I had written this up and not published it yet so, without further ado, here is my Top 10 list from my trip to Lima, Peru. Enjoy!

Here are the top 10 things I've learned about Lima, Peru:

10. Lima is the "second largest city in the Americas." With almost 10 million people, this puts it just behind Sao Paulo, Brazil and before Mexico City. It's a big city, folks, larger than my hometown of New York City. I never knew it was so big so this clocks in at my number ten item on the list.

9. Lima has Inca ruins in the middle of the city. You can actually drive around them and, yes, they have Pokemon in them. (Ugh!) Seriously though, the way other cities have fountains or arches, Lima has cool Inca ruins. You can thank the good folks of the 15th century for that. They are still there and the city has grown up around them. Wonders to enjoy, they are.

8. Lima is located geographically on the Pacific Ocean, south of Ecuador, along the western edge of Peru. As you might guess from being south of Ecuador, it sits very near the equator and it is actually located in the southern hemisphere so, technically speaking, if you live in North America, you have to cross the equator to get there, but just cross the equator. It's literally just on the other side.

7. Lima is a culinary capital of the world. Many people travel to many cities, come back and say, "the food was good there," but Lima really is a king of the kitchen in this regard. During my visit, I dined at the 13th best restaurant in the world. The food is really fabulous with local fare including over 4000 varieties of  potato and over 300 species of edible fish. There is something for everybody in terms of food in Lima as well, including Asian inspired dishes, Italian, Mexico flavors and, of course, the local cuisine. All to die for, really that is. Bon appetit!

6. While there is a chocolate museum in Lima, most of the chocolate you eat there is cacao. I found this to be tasty and actually preferred it to the more traditional style chocolate. It is (typically) less sweet but I found it to be more flavorful. It's quite tasty.

5. There are several districts in Lima, Miraflores being a major art, restaurant, shopping district. I stayed in the Miraflores district during my visit. The area they call the city center hosts the President's house along with many examples of authentic colonial architecture. Miraflores is a wonderful area to visit, almost like a city unto itself. You could spend an entire trip there and not run out of things to do, with lots of shopping, activities, and, of course, great restaurants right at your fingertips.

4. The Monastery of San Francisco is an example of authentic colonial architecture. I was lucky enough to tour this monastery during my visit and it is really an amazing building. Below it the famous catacombs hold an estimated 25,000 remains. You can tour the catacombs to see some of the bones (I did!) and it's fascinating. I really enjoyed this tour and highly recommend both the Monastery and the catacombs.

3. The Mirabus is an open air double decker bus. You can ride up top and tour the entire city, enjoying the view from your seat. This is highly recommended as it was a fantastic experience. You can take photos from the bus and basically shoot the entire city from up there, getting a wonderful bird's eye view of everything. Wear a jacket as it's a bit cool up there and don't stand up, least a tree or low hanging stoplight take you out, but enjoy the ride. It's a great trip and you really can enjoy the entire city from up there.

2. The parks in Lima are fabulous. There is a park with a famous statue of a bull. Another park with a lot of cats is a wonderful stroll for an afternoon. There is another park with wonderful tile benches and a giant statue of a couple embracing. Lima has some great parks and I highly recommend making the most of them.

And, the number 1 thing I've learned on my trip to Lima, Peru is....

1. Pisco Sours, baby! Lima is also known for a wonderful drink called the pisco sour. It's fabulous. The drinks in Lima are really great. I enjoyed the pisco sours, which you really have to try from every restaurant and place that serves them, as well as herba buenas, and Inca colas. They make fresh lemonade which is really made with a sort of key lime style fruit that's very delicious, but there is nothing quite like the local ceviche served with a fresh pisco sour. Oh! Heaven! A must try for any visit. In Miraflores, there is even an entire street devoted to the pisco sour drink, called Pisco Sour Street. I took a picture of it and will share at some point. Great drink, great street, great city all around. Pisco sours really are a treasure in Lima and they clock in at my number one item I've learned about Lima. 

Some tidbits of information that did not quite make my top 10 list but might be worth knowing, should you happen to find yourself down Lima way, let's see, I'd have to include the fact that Lima has a mild climate. It's mild to warm year round. When I visited, it was winter time and the weather was very mild and pleasant with highs close to 80 and lows in the 60's or so. It's also cloudy, it can be a cloud city which you should watch out for when visiting. While this can make for great photographs, it's very easy to get a sunburn since it's so close to the equator but the clouds mask the sun from your eyes. Even when it's cloudy, the sun can sort of sneak up on you and you can find yourself getting sunburnt very quickly. I know this because I did. Pack sunscreen, folks! Pack sunscreen and enjoy Lima, Peru because it's a wonderful place to visit.

Until next time...

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

May I Take Your Picture?

Portraits from Day of the Dead/Viva La Vida festivities in Austin, Texas for Dia de los Muertos
For a sentence as simple as, "May I take your picture?" I am often surprised by how much drama it can manifest for photographers. For starters, the words themselves make so very many photographers utterly uncomfortable. It's like we can't even say them. The words, why, they just don't fall from our lips. It's not an easy task to get them out. If that were not bad enough, even if you do manage to sputter and spew them out, the response can be overwhelming. I think there are few topics as difficult for a beginner, heck even a pro sometimes, to master, yet this skill strikes at the very core, the essence if you will, of what we do. Even if you do not take pictures of people, at some point in your photographic career, you're going to have to ask somebody for permission to take a picture of something and this can catapult you into the complex world of dealing with people's emotions. I'll be the first to admit that, even when the process appears to work smoothly, it can be daunting and leave you feeling unnerved.

It's very complicated yet somehow easy as pie at the same time. It seems easy. It seems like it should be the easiest thing in the world, to just walk up to somebody and ask, "May I take your picture?" yet, somehow you can get these words so easily caught in your throat. We know it's a skill we need to master yet, somehow, when it's time to do it, we pause. It can be really hard to actually do.

A while back, I went shooting with a friend of mine. He is one of those photographers, I've known him a while and he's really pretty good. He came up through the ranks about the same time I did, even studied under some of the same people I did. We are friends, if for nothing else than we've been shooting buddies for the better part of twenty years. I consider him competent, if not seasoned as a photographer. While we we out shooting, I happened to notice that he simply could not ask permission to photograph anybody we encountered that day. We had been out walking around, strange city for both of us, and I had decided I wanted to do some street type shooting, a bit more portrait oriented from what I usually shoot. He's a buildings guy too, there's no harm in that but, when I told him my plan of doing some portraits, he jumped at the opportunity. As we were walking, I got into the routine, into the flow if you will, of stopping, chatting people up, asking, "May I take your picture?" He had a really hard time doing it. He would either try to sort of "mooch" off the opportunity, taking the same shots I did, after I had taken them, or he would just fall back and not shoot at all. At one point, I realized he just couldn't get the words out. I was a bit taken aback by this, as I thought of him a better photographer, but he just couldn't do it. He couldn't say those magical little words, "May I Take Your Picture?" The words, why, they just wouldn't come. I was shocked that somebody who was totally capable of climbing around musty old buildings and the like couldn't simply walk up to a random person and ask a simple question but there you have it. And, I really can't criticize him, as it's not always an easy thing for me to do myself. Perhaps working with models and attending a bunch of workshops has gotten me over my fear in this regard but I can recall a time in my own not too distant past when I too was morbidly afraid of those simple little words, "May I take your picture?" It's like kryptonite to otherwise very superman photographers.

It can be a really difficult technique to master, asking that is. Now, I can teach you all about aperture and you might take a while to learn that but, once you know it, you kind of get it down. This business of dealing with people though, man, it never seems the same from case to case and you never really feel like you are fully comfortable. As soon as you feel like you've got it, somebody or something throws a wrench into the works and, boom, you are back at square one. I have found in my travels that there are a few tips I can offer. Maybe these will help, maybe they won't. I do wish you the best of luck in either case. Anyway, here goes.

1. You are going to have to ask. Repeat after me: you are going to have to ask. You are going to have to ask somebody at some point so you might as well accept that fact and practice in the mirror if you have to. Ask your friends. Ask you dog. Ask your dog's friends. You get the idea. Just ask. Get over yourself and ask already. Accept this and move on. OK, here we go....this is us moving on then.

2. Somebody might say, "No!" Newsflash, not everybody likes having their picture taken. Perhaps we are afraid of failure and this is why we don't want to ask but, see #1, you have to ask. Once you start asking, well it naturally follows that you are going to get a "No!" every now and again. Maybe sooner, maybe later but, yes, Virginia, there really is a "No!" in your future too. My advice here? Accept this and move on. I like to respect people's wishes, so I don't push. I tend to ask but not push. If you are the pushy type, why more power to you, I guess. For myself? No means, well, no. I accept it and move on. I don't have to take everybody's picture and there are plenty of fish in the sea as it were.

3. You can shoot first and ask questions later. This is something people often forget. When I teach or even go out with fellow shooters, I'm surprised by how many people don't practice this. I get asked a lot of times, "but, how do you get a candid shot if you have to ask first?" For me, the answer is, "what makes you think I have to ask first?" You can shoot somebody without them seeing you then go up and ask, "May I take your picture?" It helps if, when presented with this situation you even fire off an extra shot once permission is granted, even if you don't use it. Flash memory is cheap, finding models is not. You can always delete it later, right? And then there's the matter of, well, what if they say, "No!" after you've already shot? That one's easy too, just delete or don't use that frame. Again, move on. Keep moving, keep shooting all the time, just slow down and ask in the middle if you have to.

4. You can ask first and shoot later. Just as with #3 above, the reverse is also true. You can strike up a conversation with somebody, ask them, "May I take your picture?" and, if they say, "Yes!" opt for a posed/canned shot. You can then follow them or wait a few minutes, even "shoot through" the situation and wait for them to relax, to catch them a bit more off guard, if you want something a bit more natural. There's not really a rule that says once you ask, you only get 1 or 2 frames. Well, I think maybe there is but it only applies to like the Queen of England and you're probably not shooting her anyway.

5. Somebody might say, "Yes!" I know this sounds odd, but be prepared for somebody to say, "Yes!" as well as no. They might want your business card. They might want more photos. They might have questions ("What are you going to use the pictures for?" is a pretty common one.) Sometimes your innocent little question breaks open the floodgates. Best advice here, I believe, is to just be prepared, be honest, answer their questions as best you can.

6. As my Grandmother used to say, "You Catch More Flies with Honey than you do with Vinegar." What does this mean? Well, as my Grandmother also used to say, "it doesn't cost a thing to be nice." If you are anxious about asking people to take their photos, I recommend chatting them up a bit. Find something nice about a person. "That's a pretty hat you have on" or "I like your sunglasses." Saying something nice to people often helps break the ice. A smile and a compliment go a long way. If you are asking a person to photograph them there's probably something that drew you to them as a subject. There really is no harm in sharing what that might be. "I love your smile" or "You've got bright eyes" really goes a long way. Make them feel special because, why, they are and it might just make for that something special to be captured more easily on film (or flash memory as it were.)

7. Try not to futz with your camera. Too much. Well, maybe just a little bit. What I mean by this is that, it helps if you have your camera settings down before working with somebody. It doesn't waste their time, it doesn't waste yours. It allows you to focus on what's important, working the subject, as opposed to setting the ISO. I recommend you set the ISO first, when nobody is around and then only adjust what you need to once you've managed to wrangle up a willing subject. Having said that, I find it to be a good idea to also try a few different camera settings once I get a willing model but, here again, I try to move through settings quickly. If you don't have a good mastery of your controls, you might want to skip this part. I will frequently try a wide open aperture, then stop it down, move slightly, watch the background, try to get a little closer, do a little dance in place to try and work the angles and the lighting a bit better. And, yes, some knobs will get tweaked here but I don't spend the majority of my time in front of subject working dials. I like to talk to people here, especially if they have been kind enough to stop and let me work with them as a subject. Which brings me to my next point....

8. Most people can't read minds. Communicate. What I mean by this is that you might be working a subject and even feel like you're getting great shots but, if you don't talk to the person, they won't know this. It's hard for a professional model to know if what they are doing is what you want, if it's "right" for you or not. It's even harder for somebody you have just randomly stopped on the street. They don't know you. They can't read your mind. If something is working, tell them. If something isn't move, adjust your settings, talk with them, work with them and, if you still can't get past it, you might just have to take what the camera gives you and move on. Move on, yes, but be thankful.

Always be thankful. It's a wonderful thing, an honor and privilege to get to take somebody's picture. I love doing it even if it means I have to ask first. May I Take Your Picture? Why, I hope I can someday.

Until next time...

PS This one from the Day of the Dead parade. I call it "Three Heads are Better than One." Taken with the Canon 5ds and the walkabout lens.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Great Post 2016 Awareness Puzzle

Since holiday season is in full swing just about now and this tends to introduce a lot of stress into our lives, I thought I would share a more pastoral landscape image tonight. In keeping with my hectic schedule, this week alone I have about five holiday parties to attend, some of which involve alcohol, food, or possibly both which is both fun and a bit daunting for me at the same time. If you happen to bump into me this week, I'm probably either running to a party, actually at a party, running to the liquor store, or wondering when exactly my next party is and how I'm going to get there. All well and good as these kind of things make our holiday time interesting, no?

This holiday business has me starting to think about the end of the year and all of the usual fanfare this brings to the photography community and my little world in particular. The end of the year usually finds us doing a disproportionate amount of navel gazing. What was your favorite image? What was your shot of the year? What did you do right? What did you get wrong? Where do you want to go next year? What are you going to shoot? Ah, the mind boggles as I try to wrap my head around some of these questions and even, dare I say it, start searching for answers.

On the whole, I would have to say 2016 was a bit of a mixed bag for me photographically. I mean, I feel like I didn't do anything earth shattering, maybe made a bit of progress, probably could have done more, a heck of a lot more, but, you know got some results. I found myself going to Dakota, where this image was taken, landing in Peru unexpectedly, taking a tour of old school houses, working a couple of model shoots, doing a band shoot at a local nightspot, and the like. I did less night photography (in general) more landscape photography (in general) and a bit of travel with some architecture thrown in for good measure. I did a bunch of portraits in the unexpected camp some of which I liked, some I did not. I wish I could travel more, shoot more, always want to shoot more, and I think even Flickr says my top image from this year was something like #18 which is, you know, ok, but, heck, I didn't even land in the top 10 really. All of this "Meh" is just killing me at this point.

Looking at the web, I can spot a bit of a trend here too. While Flickr does tell me I'm sitting at number 18, I also haven't uploaded all of my shots. I'm very behind in post processing, which is not entirely uncommon for me but it does seem like I can't seem to catch and break and catch up any. I haven't been blogging as much as I should, I've been on Twitter/Facebook possibly more than I should. I've neglected Instagram and I haven't been showing as much as I normally do. On the flip side, I landed a magazine this year, got a nod in a couple of award type things, managed to sell a bit more work than usual and kind of almost felt like I was hitting my stride a bit or, you know, trying to start down that path. I guess I should not really expect to land an image in my top 10 if I don't post enough of them, right? If I'm sitting on some good ones, some that I know are good, and not getting it out there, I shouldn't expect results, but there you have it. I want my cake and want to eat it too, right?

Technique wise, I've stopped using the Lensbaby a bit and have grown used to the "big girl" camera, the Canon 5DS, along with the walkabout lens. It's not a gimmick and forces me to make "real" work, whatever that might mean. I've dropped some of the experimental things I used to do-no more shooting digital infrared this year but still shooting iPhone. Pretty much narrowed my kit down to the Canon 5DS, lens of choice, and the every present iPhone for good measure. I've been playing with apps a bit more on the mobile side and doing some experimentation there. I have a strong desire to paint again but I know that stuff can be toxic and time consuming so trying to avoid it if I can, for as long as I can hold off. Managed to work on the studio space and spruce up the home a bit. Feel better about that, but there's more to do and I'm not even done yet with the mini studio.

Taken all of this into account, I'd have to say 2016 was a very bipolar year for me. Mixed bag, mixed results, mixed blessings, some curses, some demons left to slay, and a bit of looking forward to 2017 wondering how, exactly, I'm going to piece all of that together. I guess, if I had to sum it up, 2016 has left me with a little "Yeah, what's next?" taste in my mouth which I can't seem to wash out, but it wasn't maybe as bad as it could have been. Ah, now there's a ringing endorsement for you. "Wasn't as bad as it could have been but still, you know, it was what it was." If I had to say it, yup, that's 2016 right there in a nutshell, man. Phew!

I hope your year in review finds you in a better course or at least, you know, knowing which side of line you're standing on as we hit 2017 with a bang.

Until next time...

PS This one from Dakota, with the walkabout lens, Canon 5DS and an open road will do that for you.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Ode to Dust Bunnies AKA Room - Interior View

I really wanted to title this image, "Dust Bunnies Have Risen Up and Taken Over Our Universe. Either that or maybe like we should vacuum more often, eh?" but I figured that was probably just a wee bit too long so instead I went with the more mundane, "Room Interior View." Boring I know, but there you have it. This was from a house in Dakota. I don't know why, I'm just in a Dakota mood tonight, so you're getting some of it too.

Funny story about that house. It had this cabinet in it. The powers that be had told us to, "leave everything exactly as you found it." At the end of the day, somebody asked, "Were were supposed to open the cabinet again? 'Cause, like I found it open but then closed it. I wanted a picture of it closed and..." This person was quickly interrupted by another who said, "I found it closed but opened it." Somebody else, across the room, "I found it open but closed it." This went back and forth and back again until we had all determined that the cabinet in question had been opened, closed, open again, closed again, open yet again, closed again, open for maybe not even the last time and so on. We think we left it open, "Special Force Dan" probably closed it again but, at this point, your guess is probably as good as mine. If you must know, I think I was in the "found it closed but opened it to photograph it camp" although, if I'm being honest, I must now confess, I probably should have left it closed, as my images of said cabinet were not to my liking. Eh, maybe next time, right? Knowing Dakota (and Special Forces Dan come to think of it) the cabinet's probably still there. And, probably still closed (or, was that open? Oh darn!) All well and good, it's only a cabinet, not the end of the world, right?

In other news, I met with the photo group tonight and I'm going to have a piece of work in a show come January. I'm going to have one piece (yes, I know I'm lazy) up at the Corridor of Art in downtown Austin. Details to follow and I know it's minor but, heck, it's show news, right? Evidence I have gotten off my butt and done something, oh joy! Possibly a bit more interesting than a cabinet in Dakota that's now properly closed (or, um, was it open?)

Tonight, we had our annual holiday dinner at the Brickoven Pizza place in Austin. Was a lot of fun. I got to catch up with old friends, meet some new folks (well, new to the group anyway) and eat some yummie rigatoni. Who does not like rigatoni, right? Holiday time brings good cheer. I know it's been a while since I've penned last. Still here, still here, and, um, not trapped in a cabinet in Dakota with some tasty rigatoni (at least not as far as I know anyway.) Processing images, still working on Peru, Dakota, the school house shoots, and Day of the Dead type stuff. Hey, I have been shooting a bit this year, haven't I? All that and, well, I think I once opened a cabinet in North Dakota.

Cabinets or not, I hope you have a wonderful, magical holiday season, enjoy some good food, catching up with friends, and, yes, go make some pictures too.

Until next cabinet....

PS This one taken with the Canon 5ds and the walkabout lens although, as you can probably tell from the shot, there's wasn't much room to walkabout in that place (what with all the cabinets in there and such.)