June 9, 2015

Different Hats

As you can see from the time lapse since my last post, I don't blog well.  Or at all.  I have things to say, anecdotes about nature, my (lack of) grace in nature, photography, and so on, but every time I sit down to write something I draw a blank.  I want to sound witty, smart, and thoughtful, but what comes out is disjointed and forced.  The pressure I put on myself to present insightful nuggets of truth has left me with nothing to say.  For those of you that know me, it is a rare day when I have nothing to say!

I have decided to lighten up and give this blogging thing a try...again.  This time I will write about whatever I want.  You see, I am not just a photographer.  I like to hike, love the sound of birds (and like feeding them in my backyard), I work out from time to time and am currently trying yoga.  There is more to my life than the pursuit of a beautiful photograph, so it would make sense that I could blog about more than photography.  Let's see how this goes, shall we?
Thanks for reading.

November 8, 2014

Where did you find THAT?!?

Some of the fun of taking pictures is finding a truly great composition of a beautiful subject.  Who am I kidding, that is most of the fun (for me at least!).  I love it when I finish shooting and I cannot wait to get home knowing I have something special on that memory card!  When I am shooting macro images, this happens much more often than it does for landscape.

It could be because I am normally looking at familiar subjects in familiar ways with an artistic spin.  Because I am able to turn it around and blur unwanted sections, I can take a simple flower and showcase it's beauty.  I really enjoy "discovering" a great composition on a very small scale.
Here's an example of a place I go often looking for subjects:  It is a planter box where there is a repeating pattern through many boxes of the same flowers and foliage.  I go from section to section looking for the best subjects with the best backgrounds.  I can normally find something worthwhile and on this day I came home with this:

Not a bad day!
So next time you are out, be sure to look closely at what is around you!

February 2, 2013

The Weight of the (Camera) World

Obviously NOT just camera gear...or is it?

Here I am in the first weekend of February and I have yet to really get outside and do some exploring.  The conditions today were not shaping up to be anything spectacular, but the weather was nice (it was a balmy 55 degrees today!) so I decided to head out.  There is a large plateau near my house with a large parking area and a straightforward hike up a dirt road.   I had driven past this location many times making a mental note to stop one day.  Well, today was the day!

I hopped out of the car with my camera pack for the first hike of 2013.  I started up the hill to the top of the plateau and I suddenly and shockingly realized that a month of sitting around thinking about going to the gym is NOT the same as actually working out.  I huffed, puffed and cursed my way up the hill to a decent view of Denver and the foothills, but I left with no images of the evening. 

Now I am home with my glass of wine and reflecting on the short trip, I realize my legs are actually sore from this little jaunt!  What!?!  Yikes.  I like say I would have been flying up that hill if I didn’t have my camera gear, but who am I kidding?  I was almost beaten by a 4 year old who was having a conversation all the way to the top; I could barely remain conscious! 

This is the time of year for making, breaking, and revising resolutions so here is mine: Lighten the load.  Not only do I need to be in better shape to move around in the beautiful areas of nature, I need to simplify my photographic mission.  My bag is full of equipment for all scenes: landscape, wildlife, and, of course, macro.  Who am I kidding?  I LOVE macro.  Absolutely love it.  More than all the other genres combined. 

Why do I insist on carrying a minimum of 3 lenses and all the paraphernalia they require?  Simple: I don’t want to miss “the shot” because I was too lazy to pack a piece of gear I already own.  It is time to dial it back.  Don’t hold your breath for a massive sell-off of lenses, they still have a place in my equipment stash, but I just do not need to carry them with me everywhere.   I need to allow myself to leave some gear behind and some expectations at home.  

 Stay tuned for images made with more imagination and less gear in 2013!

September 17, 2012

Anne McKinnell's eBook Sheds Light on Light

When I first started learning photography, I was told repeatedly that photography is "painting with light."  I understood that the light could change an image for good or bad, but it took some time to learn to see the value of all types of light.  Anne McKinnell's free eBook "8 Types of Natural Light That Will Add Drama To Your Photographs" clearly defines the many types of light and how to use them in your photography.

She touches on common problems with various types of light like lens flare in backlight and focusing difficulty in night photography.  McKinnell also adds a quick discussion on using the histogram to determine exposure accuracy.  What makes this eBook so helpful for beginners is its length and how easy it is to navigate.  The book is only 24 pages and covers the topic of light thoroughly without getting to involved in all the other aspects of photography.  Many photography instructional books are so long and involved, they are overwhelming.  Anne is a gifted writer who gets right to the point and makes the information understandable.  If you are newer to photography and are looking to improve your images, check out her eBook on Amazon or on her website!

September 9, 2012

Unwatched Space

Creativity abounds in an unwatched space.

From the time we are very young we are taught that someone is almost always watching our every move.  When a toddler trips and falls, their first reaction is not to cry, but to look around to see if anyone was watching (as long as it was a minor fall!).  If no one saw, the toddler typically gets up, dusts himself off, and continues on, but if someone is watching, he cries.  Whether he is crying out of embarrassment or pain, it is hard to know, but the reaction is markedly different.  We are trained from our early days to be aware who is watching and how we appear in their eyes.  As we grow up, we spend a great deal of conscious and unconscious energy managing our appearance.

As a photographer, the need to manage my appearance is even more pronounced.  In the presence of other photographers, I am overly conscious of what I am using, how I handle my gear, and I try very hard to look like I know what I am doing.  I am self-conscious that I do not have a professional-level camera and I make up for it by acting like I have everything under control.  That is sometimes hard to do when I leave the lens cap on or my tripod almost falls over!

Until recently, I did not realize how much this self-consciousness limits my photography.  Not long ago I was talking with other photographers about using a telephoto lens to get different views on wide landscapes.  My first thought was how crazy I would look to others if I pulled out a 400mm at an iconic wide-angle location like the Grand Canyon.  I could hear the hushed conversation between other photographers: “Hey, look at that chick with the telephoto.  Doesn’t she know the Grand Canyon is a wide shot?  What an idiot…” I have never actually overheard that conversation, but I it is loud and clear in my imagination.  Consequently, my telephoto lens stays safe in my camera bag and I take the shot everyone else is taking.  How boring.

When I know no one is watching, I am liberated from their expectations and judgments.  In an unwatched space, I am allowed to feel emotions and react to my surroundings to the fullest extent; there is no need for restraint.  I am free to truly be the nerdy, weird, and quirky true version of myself.  I ask the clouds to move, I curse the dead tree branch in the corner of my shot image, I cheer when the sun lights up, and I apologize for stepping on flowers out loud.  I play with different exposures, lenses, and compositions.  In general, I have more fun! 

My new goal is to create the feeling of an unwatched space wherever I go.  If I can focus my energy on enjoying the scenery as I would if I were alone, I will have more fun and, most likely, create better and more creative images.  When I am free to play with my photography and interact more fully with my surroundings, my creativity expands and I come home with more than good images, I have a memorable experience.

August 26, 2012

Macro is Easy

About a month ago, I read a blog post about the different stages people go through as they progress in photography.  I do not remember who wrote it or what the exact stages were, but this one blog post has haunted me for the past few weeks.  It stated that one of the defining characteristics of being a mediocre photographer is that your best image is a macro image because macro images are easy.  The author did not explain what about them makes the image less difficult than other nature photography; he stated it as if it was a simple fact. Quite frankly, this hurt my feelings and I have not been able to get it out of my mind.

This small statement has left me evaluating my photographic subject matter in even greater detail than I have in the past.  Do I concentrate on macro photography because it is easier than wildlife or grand landscapes?  Do I think it is easier than other disciplines?  Does my love of macro imagery make me a mediocre photographer?  After a month of deliberation, my answer to all of these questions is mixed.
I like to photograph flowers because they are pretty and they make me smile.  I know they serve a natural and scientific purpose, but, to me, flowers are nature’s gift to make the world beautiful.  I concentrate on a macro view of the world because I feel a sense of discovery in every landscape.  From a local garden to iconic vistas, I can find a view all of my own.  When you get close to these splashes of color, there is a tiny world of curves, light, and life that cannot be seen from 5 feet above.  While many people have seen a poppy in a garden, few have looked closely and seen that poppy at that moment in that light in that garden.  It is beautiful and fleeting and I love every part of creating that image (except for the bee that kept landing on my ear).

There are many things that make macro photography easier than other photographic pursuits.  My subject matter is more readily available in that I can find subjects literally outside my door and lighting is under my control.  Since my subjects are so small, I can use my hand to diffuse light or create a wind-screen.  Some subjects are for sale at the grocery store and I can photograph them at home relatively easily.  I do not have to wait for a beautiful sunset or get up before dawn to catch the sunrise.  Since I primarily photograph plants, they are stationary and I do not have to fear them biting or chasing me.  There are many things that do make my little world easier to see in beautiful light, but there are small struggles as well. 

One struggle I find is getting the camera in the perfect position for the shot.  My depth of field is typically only one or two millimeters deep and my camera must be in the absolute perfect position to capture the focus point I desire.  Another challenge is getting me into position behind the camera.  I am not very flexible by nature and it is something I have had to work on for those low and upside-down shots.  Another common struggle is the breeze.  Did you know that absolutely still air is almost non-existent?  It can feel like a perfectly still day until you set up your camera focused on a columbine and you realize that a tornado has hit your little patch of earth!  

Finally, the struggle with all photography is actually creating a beautiful image.  Macro photography is more than getting close to your subject just as landscape photography is more than getting wide.  An outstanding macro image is as hard to come by as any other beautiful image regardless of subject.  Composition, light, focus, depth, framing, and processing all play a part in every image to determine its success and macro images are no different.

Ultimately I do not consider myself a mediocre photographer.  I consider myself a work in progress and I do not see that changing any time soon.  As I learn more about myself and my surroundings, I hope to translate my understanding into art that is pleasing both to me and those around me.  After many scrapes and bruises, I still believe macro photography is easier than other disciplines, but I also believe that is because I love it above all others and it is easy to do what you love.