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.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Scene & Story - March 2017

Too bad you can't take a photograph of accomplishment, because accomplishing things has been my goal in March, and I have succeeded.

This might be one of my all time favorite photographs that I have ever taken, it was taken with my iPhone and edited with the app. Stackables. It was taken on the first day of March, thick atmospheric fog enveloped objects along my walk to the beach.

I love everything about it - the pier posts dancing in the water, the buoy that looks like a bobber, the two mallard ducks that flew into my frame at the perfect moment, the leafless trees, the processing that lends that perfect foggy morning feel.

One of my accomplishments in March was to get this photograph printed. I must admit I have never had many iPhone photos printed, and the ones I had done I wasn't that impressed with. But I think that was my early tendency to process everything with an overly warm cast. I have since developed my own slightly cooler style.

I started with having a 5 X 7 printed, big enough to get a good feel for the photograph, but not too expensive in case it was a disappointment. It was not! So I thought I would push it and try an 8 X 10 and an 11 X 14. Both are fabulous! The 11 X 14 is in a black frame with white matting waiting to be hung on the wall in the family room. The family room is waiting to be painted a nice Simply White. That will be next month's accomplishment.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017


When I am feeling stuck I like to make lists. They bring a sense of calm and order to my life. There is something about writing my tasks down, getting them done, and crossing them off, that gets my life flowing again.

I have recently started a new weekday routine. I make two lists each morning. The first is called Domestic Tasks and the second is called Creative Tasks. On each list I write down things I would like to accomplish for the day. I usually start with creative tasks because I am my most creative in the morning, and I feel better about those nasty domestic tasks if I have been creative first.

I know there are apps on my phone for this kind of list making, but I prefer making my lists on separate small yellow legal pads. Writing in pencil, numbering each task and when it is completed, crossing the task off with a colorful Sharpie marker. Both lists sit at the end of my kitchen counter so I have to walk past them numerous times throughout the day.

Lately the Domestic Task list has been longer than the Creative Task list. At first I thought it was because I was letting the Domestic list rule, but then I realized I have actually been accomplishing many of the things that have long been on the Creative list. Now I am doing things that should have been part of my daily routine all along: writing, photographing, walking, art journaling, selecting photos to be printed. I am between photography e-courses at the moment, so I don't have to add daily assignments to the list, but I have finished all of the work in both of my recent on-line courses thanks to my Creative Task list, something that rarely ever happens.

They say it takes twenty-one days to form a habit. I wonder if that is longer when you take weekends off. Weekends are just for fun.

**Reminder - The next Scene & Story blog link-up will be this coming Sunday, April 2. Wondering what Scene & Story is? Visit the last link-up here.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Constructive Criticism

I have always shied away from constructive criticism when offered in on-line classes. It isn't that I don't want to get better, because I do, it's because I am afraid that my fragile self-confidence can't take it. I would rather hear "That's beautiful", "Great Shot", "Well done". Or so I thought. But the truth is those kind affirmative comments leave me feeling a bit empty, like a whisper of air passing by my ear, but the words don't fill me. Instead, I want to know what someone sees or feels when they look at one of my photographs, does it resonate within them.

I just completed an on-line photography course called The Personal Project You Already Shot, taught by Pam Korman. The course built upon the weekly photography projects I had been doing. I liked this class because I didn't have to figure out what to shoot each week, I could look through the thousands of photos I already have stored in my Lightroom catalog, searching for project themes. It would also teach me more about editing and sequencing a project, something that caught my attention after watching a Kelby One course taught by Stella Kramer. I also had a chance to delete some hideous work from years past and make some extra room on my external hard drive.

It was a four week class. Two weeks to nail down your project's theme, and two weeks to get the editing and sequencing done. The third and fourth weeks we could take screen shots of our Lightroom grids showing our sequencing and get feedback from fellow classmates and Pam, the instructor. I was only too happy to review and comment on other's projects, but I stubbornly held my own screen shot back. After seeing everyone else's work, I was sure they would think "what an amateur" if I posted mine.

Finally, midway through the fourth week I gathered up my courage, opened Lightroom pulled up my project grid and took a screen shot. Before I had a chance to talk myself out of it, I clicked over to the Facebook Group and posted it.

I got amazingly helpful critique. One gal loved the anonymous feel of it. I loved the word anonymous. The best advice came from Pam. She said "It seems like at times your photos show you feeling stuck, but then you gather yourself up and move on, I would love to see some photos of movement in your sequence, the moving being the bridge between feeling stuck and progress." Once I read that I thought "yes that is exactly it." At times on the journey we make steady progress, but then we slow down or get stuck, but usually after a time of rest the journey continues.

We are often too close to our own work and can't see the bigger message. That's when we need fresh eyes, people who don't know us, to tell us what they see within us.

I am in the final stage of sequencing my project and hope to have a Blurb book completed by the end of next week. Work is also underway on a portfolio.

Looking back through my photos in Lightroom, I found a couple of other possible projects that I would like to develop for portfolio pieces. The journey continues...

Sunday, March 12, 2017


I signed up for Vivienne McMaster's year long self-portrait photography class Body Peace 2017 when it was first advertised last fall. The first class started January 1st and ran for 15 days, then we had a 15 day break before the second one started February 1st. In my mind this was an ideal schedule; 15 days on, 15 days off to catch up on the few lessons I may have fallen behind on.

I started out strong, as I always do with on-line classes, obediently working on each day's prompt.

The class is intended to help us, especially women, to be more accepting of the body we have right now. Always the rebel in a group, I also choose to use the prompts as starting points for well-thought out, creative self-portraits. Now don't think that I don't have body issues I need to deal with because I do, but for me it is about becoming a better self-portrait photographer as well. It is amazing the details you pay attention to when you are the subject of your photograph.

My self-portrait creative perfectionism meant that I could only shoot with my Canon dSLR, no iPhone allowed. That perfectionism carried me for about three days, after that life got in the way, as it always does. I no longer had an hour each day to set up the perfect vignette. So instead of loosening my criteria and adapting to what life was at the moment, I quit. I didn't do any more lessons for January, and in February when life got even crazier, I didn't even start.

But here's the thing, I'm not a quitter. So when March 1st came around, I opened my Morning Pages journal and did some soul searching:

  • I paid for this year long class, so stop wasting the money
  • I enjoy the prompts - they make my creative mind start working again
  • I love the community and sharing with other classmates
  • I need to find a way to adapt
So I slid off my creative high-horse and I got out my iPhone, my GorillaPod tripod for my phone and my remote shutter release and set about doing the daily prompts.

When I was having my weekly Skype conversation with my friend Leon of Sea Blue Lens, I was lamenting to her about lowering my standards but at least getting it done. I also said, the ones I really like I can go back and take with my Canon. Then she said "It sounds like you're doing sketches with your phone". There is was! The artistic term that I needed to make it alright to shoot with my iPhone. I am an artist and I understand things in artistic terms, the term "sketches" made it creative. Thank you Lee, you are a Godsend, in so many ways.

So now I happily get my iPhone out almost every day, some days I have to do a couple prompts to catch up, but I am keeping up. When I have extra time I do get out my dSLR, making vignettes like the one above that actually made Flickr's In Explore, which surprised me to say the least.

But my favorite one thus far is this one, taken with my iPhone while messing around with the grand puppy. There is no way I would have been able to take this with my big camera.

The takeaway - If you need to give something a different name to make it work for you, do it! The most important part is not to quit. You will be creatively blessed by staying the course.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Scene & Story - February 2017

Deep breath and release.

That's how I feel now that February is over. What is usually the longest short month of the year due to Michigan winters has passed in one quick blink.

The weather in February was unnaturally warm, many 40 and 50 degree days, the average is usually around 20 degrees. We have had very little snow. I don't think I got the snowblower out once. We also saw more sunshine than all four winter months put together.

Big changes also occurred in our house. Our daughter moved into her own apartment with her dog. It is very weird to be living in a house with no dog, we have had a dog or dogs for the past thirty years, I am still getting use to the emptiness. I spent a couple of weeks helping her find furniture for her place and painting the dark brown walls light and airy shades of gray. All of this left me with very little time for exploring.

This photograph was taken on the second to last day of the month. My husband took the afternoon off for a date day. For Christmas we tend to do experiences instead of big gifts. I gave him 12 date days for 2017, one per month, vacation days were required. He always ends the year with too many vacation days unused, I plan to change that this year.

For our date afternoon we went to a Bar & Grill we had never been to for lunch, after that I made us climb 300+ stairs to the top of a small mountain with great views of a resort town and Lake Michigan. The day wouldn't have been complete without a trip to the beach. In summer you have to pay $8 to park at this beach, but off-season equals free. My husband and I explored a natural area at the end of the beach, and then wandered down to the lake. As my husband lingered on this path I captured the moment with my iPhone.

Sunday, February 19, 2017


I use to occasionally paint for others. By paint I don't mean a landscape painting, I mean painting their bathroom, their bedroom, their living room. It isn't that I love to paint, but over the years of painting all the rooms in our houses multiple times, I have my system down to a science, and a little extra hobby money never hurt.

I went through the faux texture wall application phase, I went through the focal wall a bold color phase, I went through the colorful walls phase, and now I am settling into the simply white walls phase.

Over the past two weeks I have been doing another painting job, and this one is without pay, at least in the monetary form. But it also a painting job that brings me great joy. For the past two weeks I have been helping my daughter paint her new vintage apartment.

My beautiful girl is moving out, and most likely for the last time, with a taste of true freedom I doubt she will return. I had a moment the other day while driving to her new place when it hit that this is it and I could feel the tears well up. But I pulled myself together and said she is only ten minutes away, not like college when she was eight hours away, she can stop by any time...

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Scene & Story - January 2017

It was about this time last year that I began to become disenchanted with iPhone photography and the driving force of social media linked to iPhone photos - Instagram. I can't put my finger on one specific reason for the dissatisfaction. Two things do stand out though. First - I had grown extremely lazy with my photography. My iPhone and various apps. could do everything for me and fix almost any technical error. Second - Instagram, something that had once been a community of "my people"  had turned into one more way to prove my self-worth based on how many "likes" a photo received. I was posting to post and to get likes, not to create and that bothered me.

Over the course of the year I continued to fall off, at one point even temporarily suspending my account, I needed a break for a while. Eventually I did reinstate it, probably prompted by a class that encouraged Instagram sharing.

Some really good things have come out of this disenchantment; I use my big camera on an almost daily basis now, as opposed to my phone, I also feel my photography skills have grown with my recommitment to my dSLR. Using my Canon has also made me strengthen my Lightroom and Photoshop skills, as well as, learn some new programs like Topaz Texture Effects and Impressions. I have also rediscovered Flickr and some pretty amazing groups there.

A couple things I have missed with my iPhone: the easy portability, and apps. like Stackables, iColorama, and Brushstrokes. I will probably never return to the level of obsession I had before, but I am slowly finding a place for it in my life again.

This photo was taken with my iPhone on a cold, damp, foggy day in January at the Lake Michigan beach near my house. The day was too cold to lug my dSLR around and freeze my fingers off fiddling with dials. Seeing the potential in this shot, I did some editing in Snapseed and Stackables and created the image at the beginning of this post.

No matter the camera device or the editing software, I still love the creating.

Sunday, January 29, 2017


It has been an unusual January here in Michigan. We have had a couple of cold blasts and enough measurable snow to break out the snowblower a time or two. But for the most part the days been a dull gray with temperatures hovering in the 30's and 40's Fahrenheit. There was even a day that it reached into the 50's.

Photo Credit: Glen Huizenga
I have a gym membership for the rainy days, the snowy days and the bitter cold days, but given a choice I prefer to be outside. The need for fresh air, natural light and wide open space is irrepressible. Most of the year I am happy to walk along the beaches near my house, but in the winter, when I am craving creative visual stimulation, I hop in my car and drive to our thriving downtown.

I begin my walk in near darkness, the sidewalks illuminated by street lamps, car headlights and the lights of store window displays. It is the window displays that draw me downtown, so much creativity and imagination goes into each store's presentation of who they are. Following the holidays, my mind seems to be empty of creativity. I walk, I look, I dream, I am inspired.

Photo Credit: Glen Huizenga
There are also office buildings at the east end of our downtown, many of the offices have windows looking out onto the main street. As I walk past and the lights begin to come on, I see the photographs that adorn the desks and walls of these spaces. The smiles of children and spouses often shine bright from the desk or the shelves behind the desk, my favorites are when the family pets have their own framed portraits, this office belongs to someone I would like to know.

The walls though are the most interesting, family photographs tell a part of their story, but what about the artwork on the walls. Did they get to chose their own pieces? Or did the interior designer chose what should adorn their walls? I like to think if you have to look at it all day, you get some say in it. Judging by the variety I have seen, it seems most people get to pick their own, to me that tells another part of their story.

Some have large, matted realistic photographs of the big red lighthouse near our local beach, a much photographed icon in our town. But the pieces that catch my eye are the painted canvases; open fields with rustic barns in the distance, painterly lake shores with iconic lighthouses. I always wanted to learn to paint, lacking the patience for that, I became a photographer instead.

I have many empty walls in my own house. I have talked for years of printing and hanging my own work, and I have done some over the years. What I mostly print is realistic photographs and then frame those 8 X 10's in 11 X 14 matted frames. They have never stirred me. The few canvases I have had printed of creatively altered photographs are the ones that move me, and the bigger the better.

You can guess and assume what your preferences are, but until you actually take action you don't really know. By seeing my small 8 X 10's printed I found out I prefer bigger prints. Realistic photographs don't thrill me, creating painterly images from my photographs in Photoshop and Topaz Labs programs, that makes me happy. Taking that knowledge and the inspiration from those downtown offices, I ordered a 24 X 36 canvas of a digitally altered portion of snow fence I shot in December. For the first time in almost fourteen years in our house, we finally have something on the wall above our bed. I kept waiting to find the right thing, little did I know I just had to create it myself.