Sunday, May 28, 2017

Photography Conference

Alley in Southbridge, MA

The last time I attended a photography conference/workshop my daughter was a senior in high school. To put that in perspective, she has been out of college for two years now.

At that time I worked part-time in retail, I shot in automatic mode, had no inkling that I would soon begin this photography journey, and had no idea what a blog was. Still, I agreed to join a friend who did know something about photography for a workshop in a place I love - Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. I was hopeful that I would learn a few things, and that my friend would pull me aside and clue me in on all the things I didn't understand. It was a great workshop, early fall in northern Michigan, the weather was perfect and the light...that was where I began my love affair with light. But...I felt like I was underwater, the instructors were talking, I could see the bubbles coming out of their mouths, but the words were garbled, a language I could not understand.

Over the years I have taken MANY on-line courses on every aspect of photography. Slowly the language began to make sense, and what I didn't understand I watched video after video on, until I did understand. Still, I continued to stay away from in-person workshops and conferences, remembering that underwater feeling.

Kelli and me

That all changed early this spring when Kelli DeWaal of posted in a Facebook group that we are both a part of about a Creative Photography Conference she was going to be teaching at in May. The conference was being organized by Hazel Meredith of Meredith Images whose webinars I have watched on Topaz Lab products and love her style. I also knew this was a direction I wanted to take my photography, continuing to build on the painterly style I have started to develop. One little glitch, the conference was in Massachusetts, I live in Michigan, no small trip. I set about convincing my husband that we should take a vacation to the east coast in May. We would vacation for a week first and then I would attend the conference while he relaxed and read his book for a couple of days. It wasn't an easy sales pitch, but in the end I wore him down.

We had a great vacation prior to the conference, full of adventures and stories. It was the time alone we needed for our marriage, even after thirty years you still need this kind of alone time. I will share in future blog posts more from our vacation, but I thought I would start with the conference since it is fresh in my mind.

The conference was May 20-21, 2017 in Southbridge, MA at the Southbridge Hotel and Conference Center, a beautiful hotel that is set inside an historic eye glass factory. Spacious rooms, and great conference facilities.

I went with some expectations of what I wanted to learn, mostly to learn more about painterly processing using Topaz Labs and other software plug-in programs that work with Lightroom and Photoshop. I take pretty good pictures now, no longer operating in automatic mode. I understand the f/stop, shutter speed, ISO language, but the creative post-processing in Photoshop is still is a little garbled to me.

The first day of the conference all seven of the instructors presented for an hour. They are all extremely talented, and there was a nice variety of styles amongst them. It was like being at a buffet of fine restaurants, seeing every delicious morsel and then choosing the ones that smelled the most enticing.

The surprising thing to me was that the painterly post-processing in Photoshop with Topaz Labs wasn't the most delicious morsel at the buffet for me. Instead it was Kelli's presentation on the iPad Pro with Apple Pencil, as she showed us the different apps she uses to create her image blended masterpieces. It was Michael & Suz Karchmer's presentation on iPhoneography, I loved this couple, they remind me of my husband and myself.  Gerri Jones' presentation was the closest to what I expected I wanted to learn, but it was her work with dog photographs and textures that made my heart flutter. I was expecting to learn textures and landscapes.

Photo Credit: Susan Karchmer - original before Snapseed
Susan Karchmer's edited photo in Snapseed with listing of steps

Day two of the conference we were able to select hour-long workshops with the individual instructors. I chose Kelli's Encaustic Wax class, she demonstrated her process and let us have a hand at applying the wax on a wood cradle board. I am going to need some practice. Then it was off to Gerri's Lensbaby Lens workshop, love my Lensbaby even more after that. Finishing with Michael & Suz's iPhone and Creative Apps class, an hour was too short. They demonstrated the Snapseed app for the hour, even though I use Snapseed on every iPhone photo I process, I still learned so much more, and it renewed my love of Snapseed.

Susan Karchmer's finished iPhone edited masterpiece

My edited version of Susan's photo from class - Snapseed and Stackables

I made a couple of new friends at the conference - Roberta and Dawn - if you two read this, please email me so we can stay in touch. I wish I had had my picture taken with them too.

The conference inspired me in so many ways: new ideas, renewed loves, new friends, surprises about where my creative heart really lies, at least at the moment.

The best part of the conference though, was that I am no longer underwater, I understood every word perfectly. I will not let seven years pass before I attend my next one. Actually it will only be a month. I have coerced my husband into joining me for a iPhone Photography workshop in Indiana at the end of June, and by join I mean he is taking it with me.

**A heartfelt thank you to Suz Karchmer for granting me permission to use her photographs in this post.


Sunday, May 14, 2017


"Constraints are the secret to creativity, to new ideas, to getting things done, and most of us want fewer of them, which is why we flounder. Creative freedom is found in choosing and embracing constraint and having the courage to see what happens."
                                                                              ~David duChemin 

I need constraints. I need one thing to focus on instead of twenty. I need time limitations and deadlines. I need to-do lists to get things done.

This has been my most productive year-to-date in my creative life; we won't talk about the household tasks. The reason why my creative output has been strong this year is because I am working under constraints, not always happily, but carrying on nonetheless.

In April I put the Lensbaby Velvet 56 lens on my camera, and I haven't taken it off yet. I am learning so much about composing, manually focusing, and the sweet spot of the lens. I am happy with this constraint, it is bringing my creativity to an exciting new level.

This week I have been participating in Susan Licht's #weekofdiptychs on Instagram. I missed it when she hosted it last fall, but I quickly jumped on board this spring. Diptychs are something I have always wanted to learn to create. What are diptychs you ask? Here is the definition:

a painting, especially an altarpiece, on two hinged wooden panels that may be closed like a ancient writing tablet consisting of two hinged leaves with waxed inner sides.

In this case it is two photographs paired together.

I have tried to create them in Lightroom before and ended up being very frustrated. Discouraged, I gave up. But I am not a quitter, so this time I gave them a try in Photoshop. One of the on-line classes I took last year with Christina Greve had the perfect tutorial for making them. I love lifetime access classes. I looked up the tutorial, followed it step by step, and conquered the making of a diptych.

I also wanted to have a better understanding of what images made good diptychs so I found these videos by Julianne Kost. I have been basing my pairings on color. Since I tend to lean towards neutral colors, this has been good for me to look at a wider range of colors.

Diptychs are a great storytelling tool, I have more to learn before I am anywhere near proficient. But I am enjoying this new constraint and have a feeling I will continue working within it, even after Susan's #weekofdiptychs is over.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Scene & Story - April 2017

Everybody's doing a brand new dance, now.
(Come on Baby, do the loco-motion)
I know you'll get to like it if you give it a chance, now.
(Come on Baby, do the loco-motion)

The song comes on the radio and I can't help singing along. Not out-loud of course, but mouthing it with all my might.

Today feels like a good day for antiquing. The rain has finally stopped, the sun is shining. I am on the hunt for things that make me happy. 

I am wandering the aisles of our local antique store. Fascinated by the items that find their way to vendors' booths. There are the objects I remember from my childhood; the avocado-green bun warmer my mom always kept our hamburger buns in, the black metal lunchpail with the silver ribbed thermos that my dad carried to work everyday. I wonder how these memories can be antiques, but then I remember that I am almost fifty, and these items were around before I was. 

I am on the hunt for a couple of specific treasures. First is a table for my daughter's dining room, we just finished painting the room, and now she is extra aware of how empty the space is with the much lighter color on the walls. She is anxious to get a table so she can stop eating her meals on top of the cabinet that covers the radiator. There was a time when I couldn't drag her into an antique store, who would want to buy something old and used. But now she understands the quality and craftsmanship that went into those old pieces. Her Pinterest boards are full of timeless antique objects. With age comes wisdom.

The second treasure I am hunting for is something I am always hunting for: green depression glass plates. I saw some once being used in a coffee shop and I fell in love with them.

There are a couple of table possibilities here, so I snap pictures with my phone and text them to my daughter. There is nothing else to do with that now, except wait. 

I am in the last aisle at the last booth and there in the open display case are two green, oval depression glass plates with matching cups. I lift them out and hold them in my hand, they are perfect. I look for a price, both on the plates and on the cups, no price. Then I see six more oval plates on the bottom shelf of the case, maybe they have a price, no such luck. One of the owners walks by, I stop her and ask about the price. She says, "Oh that gal is here today, I'll go get her for you." Hallelujah!

The booth owner comes to her space and I show her the plates and cups. She says, "I was just using those for display since there are eight plates but only two cups, I didn't think anybody would buy them." The cups are a bonus to me, I want the plates. She says, "I will gladly sell them to you, if you don't mind not having all the cups. How about $20 for the whole lot?" Sold!

Come on, Come on
Do the loco-motion with me

**In April I participated in Susannah Conway's April Love. I am also doing the #the100dayproject - This year I am doing 100 days of writing prompts. This photo and story were from the April Love prompt Patterns.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Velvet 56 Love

Late last fall, I purchased the Lensbaby Velvet 56. Lensbaby was having a pre-Christmas sale on some of their lens. I have always been intrigued by them, but wasn't sure if I was ready to be that brave and different. The sale was too good to resist (Merry Christmas to me), so I clicked "purchase", and waited for my new lens to arrive.

The demo video that sold me on it, showed beautiful, shallow depth of field portraits of people, hmm... self portraits? My daughter? and of dogs...Findley?

As soon as it arrived via UPS, I sliced open the box and put it on my Canon 6D. Findley...where was Findley? What I wasn't prepared for, was the manual focusing, and I total skipped over the fact that I had to manually set the aperture. Let me say, manually focusing on an energetic puppy, well...the photo says it all.

I slid the Velvet 56 into an empty lens slot in my camera bag, and returned to my 35mm auto-focus lens. The Velvet 56 would stay in the camera bag until this month.

April, a new season, and new subjects to photograph. I dug the Velvet 56 out of the camera bag. I did not go looking for Findley, instead I went to the garden center.

I do get frustrated with not being able to do something well, but rarely do I give up, so I watched some Lensbaby videos and actually learned what to do with the Velvet 56, there was that bit about manually setting the aperture.

A successful outing at the garden center, and I was ready to try the Velvet 56 on a trip. I was tagging along with my husband on a business trip to my favorite part of northern Michigan. A good place to try the lens, on things I know and love, and have photographed many, many times. I was looking for a different approach to these places.

The Velvet 56 stayed on my camera the whole time we were gone. This time the 35mm stayed in the camera bag.

I still have more to learn, more videos to watch, and more practice is needed, but I love the look I am achieving. The Velvet 56 sees the world the way I do - one spot of sharp focus and blurry around the edges.

My husband and I are leaving for vacation in a couple of weeks. We are going through upstate New York, to Boston and to a photography conference in another part of Massachusetts. I have a feeling the Velvet 56 will be getting a lot of use.

***Scene & Story Blog Link Up - Reminder that next Sunday is the first Sunday of the month and time to share your favorite photograph and a story on the blog link-up that I host along with my friend Lee of Sea Blue Lens. New here and curious what Scene & Story is - here is the link to last month's post.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Practicing Slow

I just finished a book that I can't stop thinking about, Chasing Slow by Erin Loechner. Erin is a Lifestyle Blogger who shows us through her blog what a beautiful life we can all have. The book however, takes us behind the curtain, into Erin's real life, a life anything but always picture perfect. Her honesty, and writing won me over from the first chapter.

But it is the title that I keep coming back to Chasing Slow, something I am forever doing. My middle name is Get It Done, I can enjoy it later. But what if later never comes, how many things have I sped through to cross them off my list...done.

Slow is never going to be easy for me. I take after my dad, a man in his eighties still out cutting firewood to add to the multiple rows of firewood he already has. And maybe that is what keeps my dad going and why he is still alive in his eighties. But when we were sitting in the hospital waiting room last summer we talked, there are so many things he wishes he had done. I don't want to have those same unfulfilled wishes in my eighties.

This week I took my first step toward practicing slow. I went to the Garden Center, to buy some plants for the weed-riddled flower bed I pinky promised my husband I would maintain this year. Instead of buying the first plants that met my criteria: full sun, not too tall, long blooming. I took my camera and wandered. I did ask permission to photograph first, which was met with a pleasant, "Of course you can, and if anybody gives you any trouble send them to me". My new best friend Kathy, doesn't know what beast she just unleashed.

What did I discover as I wandered? I love containers more than plants. Put a plant in a container and then I am in love with it. I never would have discovered this if I wasn't practicing slow.

 Photographing flowers in my own garden, or anybody else's garden will never delight me, but let me loose in a garden center with plants in pots, or just pots, and I could really start to enjoy gardening.

I am going to keep practicing slow at the garden center, because that weed-riddled flower bed needs a lot of help, and I want to see what other revelations slow reveals.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Make A Wish

Can you make a wish in a fountain that has no water? Is it the water that makes a wish come true, is it the penny, is it the fountain? Or is it the person who believes in magical things.

Standing with penny in hand, ready to throw, I ponder this thought.

The fountain in front of me is filled with last autumn's leaves, crumpled candy wrappers, and pennies from the past, but no water. Will adding my penny make any difference?

What things will I wish for if I throw my penny?

I wish...
--to stop trying to figure out either/or and be content being both a photographer and a writer
--for a long and happy marriage
--for my daughter to find someone who cherishes her. Don't we all deserve that?
--to travel near and far
--to have a dog like my dear Scout again someday
--to have a cottage on a small lake with a dock, where magical things happen
--to be involved in art retreats for women

We don't get all our wishes, and some of our wishes will change over time, but we must keep collecting those pennies and tossing them in fountains, whether they have water or not.

Sunday, April 9, 2017


I type the word Pleasures into the search bar at the top of my Pinterest page, a little afraid of what I am going to find. My writing directive for the day is Pleasures, and my notebook of pleasurable ideas is a little soggy at the moment, so I thought I would look and see what brings other people pleasure.

I click enter. The first photograph is of a well thought-out picnic on a riverbank; on a salmon-colored tablecloth sets a wicker picnic basket with a french baguette peeking out the top. There is another baguette on a wooden cutting board, partially sliced. There is a stack of salmon-colored salad bowls awaiting the freshly torn lettuce in the serving bowl next to them. Multi-colored cherry tomatoes sit on a cream-colored snack plate. Six glass jars hold various salad toppings. Salmon-colored linen napkins, along with real silverware are ready and waiting to be used. I find pleasure in this idlic scene, especially if someone else made all the food and laid it out for me.

Continuing down the page of pleasures, I see there are mostly pictures of food, apparently food brings a lot of pleasure.

Then there are fuzzy, yellow ducklings walking in a line down a perfectly mulched garden path, lush green grass on either side of the pathway. That would bring me pleasure too until one of the ducklings poops on the perfect path and ruins my photographic moment.

The next non-food photograph, sort of, is of three kids sitting on the tailgate of a vintage, red delivery truck, half slices of juicy, red watermelon in their hands. Their faces and shirts are amazingly juice free.

As I look at all these flawless photographs, I know that none of them would be the things that  bring me true pleasure, except maybe the picnic. But mine would be paper plates, plastic silverware, an old faded quilt, plastic red Solo cups filled with a favorite white wine, and plastic containers with fresh pasta salads from a local deli. Sitting on the faded, old quilt would be my husband and myself enjoying a perfect date day.