Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Not-Forgotten Photography Blog

So I did it. I became that blogger that starts a blog with fervor and then lets life get in the way and allows their newfound blog to be forgotten. I have, however, been actively working on pursuing my photography goals despite neglecting my blog.

My last blog post alluded to a not-so-great photo shoot. I spent time (A LOT OF TIME) correcting and re-doing shots so as to assure the family had photographs that they were proud to share with their family for Christmas. I refuse to hand over photographs that I am "halfway sorta kinda ok" with sending out. This experience tested my love (and to be quite frank, my patience with photography). In the throws of painstakingly photoshopping out a cone-shaped winter hat that the client HATED, redoing prints (man oh man did I learn ALOT about color management, ICC profiles and RGB Values), downloading programs to use with professional printers and stressing about perfection I found myself NOT loving this photography gig at all. I had to take a few steps back - why did I start this in the first place? I was starting to feel stressed and crazy and frustrated. I considered why I was beginning to feel this way and realized I was starting to head down a path that wasn't my own. I found myself relishing in the affections other people had for my photographs and not creating them on my own terms. I started getting so excited about the response and the word-of-mouth over the photographs that I started feeling rushed and hurried to open shop and just do it FOR OTHER PEOPLE. But, I am not the type of person to work with other people's times schedules and desires - I needed to just stop. I went back to the books and started my research, learning and practicing my skills. I have only been doing this for 6 months now. I am not professional, I have a lot to learn and that's where my focus needs to be.

The photographs featured in this post are quite hodgepodge. There are a few from my FIRST attempt at photographs in the snow. I learned a lot about how critical white balance is for this type of weather. Many of them turned out pretty grey despite my attempts at adjusting the white balance, but, I did manage to create my first "stop the falling snow" picture!

I promised myself after this photoshoot I would be more diligent about using my 18% grey card (and what a difference it makes!) There are some that were just fun - a snow day out with my boys and a candid shot from Nolan's Birthday. Then there was a trip to the zoo! My sister, Sam, wanted to surprise her sister-in-law for her birthday with pictures of her nephews. It was freezing that day and the zoo personnel were quite anal retentive about my carrying in my small lightbox so I had to shoot on the fly without any fancy equipment and very cold bums... Now that I am learning how to manipulate light a little better it was quite disappointing to take such "flat" shots, but, I think their mom was happy and that's all right with me.

I also decided it was time to start practicing indoor photography (my love is natural light and environmental photography so this is tough, but, I don't want to have to take pause during the cold winter months either). We have a small house that is already brimming with relics of our daily life, but, I was determined to find a space... somewhere. So, I cleaned out my hall closet/entryway and painted the area stark white (and painted my front door shut in the process guess the side door is not the OFFICIAL entryway to the Bailey Household). This space is small, 39" wide and 6 foot long kind of small. My husband came home in the middle of my transforming this area (I decided this on a Sunday night and by Mid-Day Monday I was already halfway finished). He stopped and asked, "What are you doing to the closet?" I said, "Making it a practice studio." And in a nonchalant way he said, "Ok, then" and went about his business. I love him for this. Though he doesn't completely understand my answering the calls of my artistic desires, he understands my creativity is a large part of who I am and would never ask that I sacrifice this part of myself even at the expense of our hall closet and front door! I have shared a few photographs from my first trials with the Mini-Studio and Indoor Lighting Equipment. Indoor lighting is tough... definitely have a lot more work to do.

So, for now, I am leisurely practicing AND saving up for a Shed or Outdoor Garage. I eventually want to move away from the limiting dimensions of my front foyer and move to a big girl studio! And because the sharpness of my photos is a source of frustration for me... I want sharp, clean images - I also have my eyes set on a few new lenses. In the meantime, I will keep practicing with what I have and continue counting down the days until Spring when I can get my camera BACK OUTSIDE!  

Monday, December 2, 2013

Lessons Learned

It has been a whirlwind couple of weeks. Photography has taken an unfortunate backseat to the beginning of the Holiday Craze. During the past weeks, I had an opportunity to take Senior Pictures, photograph a wonderful family of three and started moving indoors to combat the frigid temperatures that have recently made an announcement. 

And in the same weeks I have made MANY mistakes. Wow. Cold temperatures and pressure to succeed temporarily allowed a feeling of failure to seep into my creative endeavors. A friend of mine asked me to photograph her nephew’s Senior Pictures. I was honored to be entrusted to capture such a significant piece of history for this young man. And scared to death. SENIOR PICTURES ARE A HUGE DEAL. The morning of the pictures made me wonder if it was the freshly turned cold or nerves making my finger shake on the shutter release... I wonder sometimes if I have gotten in over my head? What if I mess THIS up? These are his Senior Pictures for goodness sake. Upon meeting this young gentleman, many of my fears quickly eased. He seemed excited and open to the opportunity of gallivanting around town with a “newbie” photographer. I realized that morning that despite needing to respect the place photographs play as a timepiece in a person’s life, I also need to be true to my artistic path. I do NOT know everything. I am a work in progress. But, I know I can offer distinct and personalized images to others that have an impact on their life. This young gentleman was worthy of having a slice of history preserved. I saw potential in him and excitement for life that I hope will remain unjaded and steadfast for many years to come. I wish him luck and thank him for the opportunity to capture a few memories for him. 

Then a few days later, I am certain I made the most mistakes I have made in a single photo shoot To-Date. I did not communicate clearly how long a “proper” photo shoot takes, I forgot to turn off my Active D Lighting, I did not take control of my artistic vision, I tried to rush my photographs and settled for “snapshots” that any Joe Schmoe could have produced… all because I was very excited to have the chance to photograph a wonderful family of three. This mother and two children were so ecstatic to have their photographs taken that I desperately wanted to produce – so much that I just assumed it would “happen” within 45 minutes of a frigid evening in a small town. Immediately upon coming home, I realized the pictures were my WORST batch. I was not proud to show any of the photographs. I was so disappointed I almost cried. But, the mother texted in the morning and was so excited to see photos I had to give it a whirl. Six painstaking editing hours later, I had to admit that they just were not getting any better. I salvaged a few and promised to have a “re-do” session as soon as possible. If the weight of a photograph in a family’s life wasn’t heavy enough, it seemed more so after this experience. But, you know what? The drive for consistency in producing a good photograph was more impressive than it has ever been. I want to do this. I want to be able to preserve these memories and I want to do it in an artistically distinct way. From a technical aspect, I failed this time. But, I needed this moment to help me remember that photographs mean something to the people’s hands in which they are placed. They are not to be taken lightly and I will continue to strive to get better. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

One Cold Morning

My last photo shoot was with a fabulous family - my first family shoot, EVER! It was a joy, but, it was not without certain photographic struggles. I realized the importance of both face and camera angling in order to make four humans look their best in one photo is no small feat. I promised photos of the family, but, the reality is - I just need more practice and a lot more research. And a bit of new flash equipment! Which, of course, I shipped overnight from Amazon (yes, this is how a City-Girl gone Country survives - with!) I know I am on the right track with the lighting...  

Thankfully, my stepdaughter has a wonderful group of friends that are willing to assist in practicing with my new equipment. So, willingly, they set their alarm for 6:30 AM (yes, AM and they are in the 7th grade), woke excitedly and prepared to be my models. We spent a very frigid morning together in our local downtown area. I know many from this town believe it looks rundown and "dumpy" but I have been eager to unleash some of the beauty a midst the rough. I could not have done it without the help of this beautiful young lady. Never have I met a girl with such quiet grace. Her presence as an individual is both astounding and enviable.  I am grateful for the opportunity to have taken her photographs. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Reservoir

It has been several weeks since my last post and the reason is not because I fell out of love with photography or writing. The honest truth is – I was frustrated. I am sure every beginning photographer has had MANY of these moments, but, for me this was the first hurtle – it suddenly hit me that I was not going to be a perfect photographer overnight. To those that know me personally, they understand that I am a quick learner and I get upset when I set out to do something and the goal isn’t quickly obtained. I now understand fully why photographers take YEARS to hone their skills. I was not na├»ve, I knew there was actual science and physics behind this skill, but, wow – it truly is a well-crafted phenomenon with a brazen surface.  So, I went rogue and put down the camera and hit the books. I went back to learning the basics and trying to understand the science behind the art.

Then I received a phone call. In school girl like fashion, I was giddy to have a fellow mother wanting to have memories made of her daughter and son other than the typical sports team shots. I remember being in her shoes making the same phone call to a fellow photographer nearly a year ago. The moments are so fleeting and the days so busy; we are desperate to capture the times when our children still somewhat love us. And to mothers, our children have the most beautiful faces - no contest. I happily embraced the opportunity to practice again. I felt rejuvenated. 

With the help of a friend, I found a great reservoir near my own home. I am not sure the family of four knew what to expect at the reservoir, but, they were troopers! They did not bat an eye when I asked them to climb down some quite dilapidated rock and balance on concrete beams that would release you to the lake water with one misstep. They had faith that I kinda sorta maybe knew what I was doing. Even after an hour in the cold, runny noses and hungry bellies they were happy to have spent an evening as my practice subjects. There were a lot of firsts that evening for me – first brother/sister sibling shoot, first couple shoot, and the first family of four shoot! For now, you can enjoy the kids; the rest will be coming soon.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Small Town Treasures

I will be the first to admit that I still harbor many stereotypes of small town life. Despite being 7 years removed from city life, it is slightly difficult to completely purge my thoughts. I might get frustrated when my children need prescriptions filled at 3:00 AM and there is no 24-Hour Pharmacy in existence out here in the “boonies." I miss the Chicken Shawarma from a good city-style Greek Restaurant. I miss Target. And their modern-chic goodies.

But, you know what? NEVER in the city would a person run out of gas on a major intersection (and by “major” in country standards, I mean the one by the biggest grain mills and a few cornfields) only to find a pick-up truck drive up to you and offer up an entire gas can within seconds. No questions asked, no money exchanged. Just honest to goodness compassion. NEVER in the city would a burly man brazened with skull tattoos and gripping a Bud Light frantically drop his beer and scramble to the pavement to rescue a young boy’s goldfish flopping for life after the bag busted during the hometown fair. That man has a place in my heart as Pet Fish Wolfie's Savior. 

The goodness that is the country filled my heart again this week when we went on a "Scouting Mission" for quaint spots that may put my camera to work. My girlfriend is a local to the area and she willingly tossed me, my kid and my camera into her truck to look around town. It was intended I would practice different shots at all the different locations in which we traveled, but, my subjects fell fast asleep after filling their bellies with nuggets and chocolate milk. Though the actual camera usage time was truncated, I was filled with excitement as we poured over local history, scoured neat architecture and searched graveyards for local legends. Truly, there is beauty to be captured no matter where you live. Sometimes you have to push negative notions aside to see it.