Photography Thoughts

Who ARE You and what have you done with…ME?

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So here’s the thing about rolling with the punches…

As an artist in general and a filmmaker and photographer specifically, things change on a daily, sometimes minute-by-minute, basis.  One has to learn to roll with the punches.  As I’m winging my way to an exhibition of my photographic works in New York City, I find myself not nervous at all that my reprinted works will arrive on time…the originals having been damaged and stolen simultaneously from the very crate I sent them in.  I console myself with a “huh…so my work was good enough to steal…cool!”

While it left me in a bind as to how I would get any reprints to the gallery on-time for my opening, everything seemed to work out swimmingly.  The lab actually reprinted my work for me - at no charge! - and shipped it the next day, the gallery is showing the one piece that did arrive separately and unscathed, and even though I’m missing out on three days of potential sales, my insurance company has taken the reins and all is well.  Sort of.

For some reason, all this mayhem started with a three week printing delay at my lab, a shipping disaster that culminated in my gallery having one of four pieces available to hang, and a phone call from the gallery saying my crate, which was huge (4’x6’!) and the work within was damaged badly enough that they couldn’t hang it and two other pieces completely missing.  Anyone would be justified in being a tad bit freaked out, but I have to say, I think I handled it pretty well.  I won’t say I took it “in stride”, but you get the idea.

In the past, I would have been screaming and yelling and carrying on.  Now, however, I owe my new found calmness to a colleague of mine who practices mindfulness to the nth degree and I find I’m learning the practice myself, whether through osmosis or just being in that type of environment, who knows?  She’s an inspiration and a source of strength that I had no idea I could even begin to possess. All it took was for me to make a few phone calls and everything was set, once again, in a positive motion.  Calm level-headedness prevails more often than not these days and I for one am very grateful.  

Rolling with the punches requires patience (which is in short supply for me some days, but I’m working on it), personal growth and an attitude that everything will work out as it’s supposed to.  And buckets of wine!  I tell this to my grown kids all the time - not the wine part - but what do I know?  I’m just their Mom.  Sometimes I wonder who this new person is and when did they inhabit my body?  Mostly though, I’m just rolling with it…whatever IT happens to be in that moment.

Until next time…


Wow! You Must Have a Great Camera!

I am extremely lucky to have several cameras, lenses, computers, printers and lighting packages. My favorite is naturally, my cameras. They range from a 1914 Autographic Kodak Jr. to a Pentax K3 and my iPhone (which I love!), though I do have my eye on a K1 and/or a 645Z medium format. I know...everyone reading this will probably think, why would you shoot with Pentax instead of Canon, Nikon, Sony or any other popular brand. Frankly, I've been a Pentax shooter since 1978 - way back in the dark ages - with real film and a real darkroom! Besides, I like the way it feels in my hand. I've tried two of the top brands and I didn't like them. Just personal preference. Not to mention they were almost double the cost of my trusty Pentax and the reviews state exactly that...comparable to the top brands, hands down, at half the cost. Also, I like being different.

All that said, it isn't the equipment, accessories and toys we buy that make the photographer, it's the skill level they possess. I can't tell you how many times I've had people say, "Wow!  Your work is amazing! You must have a GREAT camera!" Really? That's a bit insulting when you think about it. No one takes into account that you have to know so much technical stuff these days, in addition to the usual rules of photography. It makes me want to slap somebody when they say that!

Being a photographer is so much more than having great equipment and toys. First, we are visual artists. Yep, I said it...the "A" word! It takes an eye that most people don't have. People walk through their day and don't notice much of anything. Non-photographers hate going places with me since it takes two to three times longer to get anywhere because I'll see something and have to stop to shoot it - and not just with my regular camera, but usually also with my infrared camera and my iPhone. So when I stop to shoot something, most people tell me, "I didn't even notice that." Well, there you have it. An artist's eye is the first thing.

Next, we have to have a handle on the composition and light. I took a still life class once only to realize how much I didn't know about lighting, even though I had taken a lighting class previously. When looking at my work, the instructor would look and me, point and ask, "what is that"?  I'd look at it and say, "I didn't even see that." His favorite response was, "what else have you got to do, but see?" He was right. Seeing the image in the viewfinder in addition to the light in the scene is a major deal. Is your viewer going to look at your work and say, "what is that" or "the light doesn't feel right". Trust me, that's not a good thing especially when it's such an easy thing to fix. And incidentally, a portable reflector (preferably a 5-in-1) is a great accessory for your kit.

Finally, once the shoot is done, comes the post-processing. This is what comes after you decide which images make the cut once they're downloaded. Another instructor I had once said it's best to shoot in RAW (with the most information to work with), shoot clean, then make any [minimal] changes you need to in post. It's better to get your shot as close as you can to what you see in your mind's eye in camera, rather than try to achieve it in post. Sometimes it just doesn't work. I mean, really...who wants to spend hours sitting at the computer processing images? I'd rather spend my time out shooting. I have to wonder at people who have an amazing image and then they tell me it took them 20 hours(!) on the computer to get it the way they wanted it. Yikes! That's almost three whole days! On ONE image! Way easier on your numb butt to do it right in the first place, wouldn't you agree?

Generally speaking, my post-processing involves doing a minor exposure adjustment, if any, tweaking the shadows and highlights, blacks and whites, contrast, clarity and vibrance/saturation. 

Here's the process:

  • Shoot (in RAW)
  • Download
  • Embed your copyright
  • Do a general keyword pass
  • Do a quick pass of the downloaded images and star the ones you like, then step away for a couple of days
  • Post-process your images
  • Backup your work
  • Print (lab or your own printer)
  • Sell
  • Repeat
  • That's it...easy peasy.

So the next time someone says "Wow! You must have a great camera!", your response should be "no, I'm an artist with a great EYE and skill set!"

Until next time...



Infrared Photography

Recently I had my old camera converted into infrared - 720 to be exact.  I had no idea what to expect other than the infrared photography I’d seen done by some photographer friends was stunning.  I love the different perspective and colors that appear seemingly from nowhere.

Some images that I think will look great turn out to be not very special.  But I got some tips from one of my National Geographic instructors since she also loves IR.  And she was right.  One of the tips is that you never know where your focus will be even if you think that it looks right in the camera, IR will trick you, then whammo!…you download it to your computer expecting one thing and you have an entirely different thing. It can be exhilarating and frustrating, but I'm so enamored of what I do get that I'm very forgiving.  

The other thing is, it seems that the IR sensor only changes certain ranges of greens.  I was expecting ALL foliage to turn whitish blue and it doesn’t.  I’m delighted when it does, other times, not so much.  In addition, it turns blue skies brown or black.  And not a yucky muddy color either, but this rich, deep color that makes the clouds look so gorgeous you can't stop looking at them.  A lot of people turn their IR images into black and white versions, but I like them the way they are - straight out of the camera.

So, my advice to anyone wanting to get into IR is, don’t get all serious, because it will lead to frustration and ultimately you will end up hating IR.  Just play and let things happen.  You won’t be sorry.  It’s a whole other way to express your art and you will be amazed at some of the stuff you turn out.

One other side note…if you have an old camera that you want to convert to IR, choose the company wisely.  Do your research.  I didn’t because I was so excited to have it done and I paid the price - literally and figuratively.  Don’t fall for a slick looking website and a fast-talking rep like I did.  I’m not mentioning any names, but suffice it to say the company’s initials are LP.  Stay as far away from them as possible.  REALLY bad news.  If anything goes wrong, they will try to blame it on you when it’s really their fault.  And it doesn't stop there.  Fair warning.

I used Kolari Vision and they were fantastic!  I recommend them highly.  I dealt with Ilija and he kept me informed every step of the way.  It was an awesome experience to actually deal with someone who knows what they’re doing and what they're talking about.  Phew! That was a long side note. 

Let's just say that if you let your inner child come out to play when you’re out with your IR camera, you will never be sorry.  It’s way fun and like I said…exhilarating.

Until next time…