shaking things up

I realize that I go through very specific spells as a photographer. I think we all do, all of us that photograph, that write, that draw, that create. When I first picked up my camera in late 2010, I shot landscapes, nature and macro, never even entertaining the idea of taking pictures of people, of girls making baskets on the court or boys making touchdowns on the field. I never thought about  hunkering down in weeds (and possibly poison ivy) along a single track of dirt hidden away in the woods in the middle of Red Star, Arkansas and taking pictures of mountain bikers barreling down on me, twisting their bike frames in mid air to make an epic leap over small hills even more epic. I never imagined thinking that food could be made beautiful, of all the hours spent getting the props right, arranging linens just so, of how detailed a photograph of milk and cookies could become. I also never imagined ever, ever shooting with artificial light, of going down that rabbit hole and finding out how fascinating off camera flash could be.

When I began learning about photography, I was happy taking pictures of sunsets and ladybugs, creeks and cows. 

But sunsets fade, ladybugs fly away, creeks dry up and cows move to different pastures and I moved on, discovering what a thrill it was to shoot junior high football, traveling girls basketball teams, high school softball and baseball.

And then I fell completely head over heels in love with photographing outdoor adventure sports. I got to get dirty, listen to the birds singing high above me in the tree branches and watch spiders spin their webs. Watching mountain bikers tearing it up on the trails, seeing the pure joy (okay, and a little bit of sheer terror) on their faces as they whizzed by me, some shouting profanely if their chains had popped off during the descent, others wearing big grins, made me feel so in the moment, happy that I caught them with my camera. And if I was out on the water kayaking or stand up paddle boarding with David and Joe, I got to get wet and play in the river. I basked in the wonderful isolation of just being.

But then winter and cold weather hit and I was driven indoors to figure out what else I could do while waiting for warm weather to return. 

That was when I hit upon food photography. I photographed food every day of the week for months. It was frustrating, exhilarating, tiring, but oh, so worth it when the picture in my head appeared on my computer screen afterwards. I discovered the thrill of thrifting, spending hours (and, ahem, quite a bit of money) mulling over teapots, creamers, spoons and rolling pins. I watched classes and read books, all trying to better myself at this new calling I had found. I thought I had finally settled on what it was I was meant to be photographing.

Once again, I have proven myself wrong. Food can be pretty, but let's admit it, it can be a little boring and predictable. My love of sports and off camera flash fascination never left me over the winter, and I found myself eager to get back to the trails, the water and the basketball courts. This past weekend, I cleaned out my food props closet, keeping just a handful of useful items I can use if I found myself shooting food in the future, gathered up all but two of my surfaces and donated everything to Goodwill Monday morning. I have to say, it felt very cleansing to do so.

Something else I realized about myself while taking this journey is I need challenges in my creative life, scenarios that makes me think and figure out a situation. The rush I get when I can stop a mountain biker mid-air with just my camera is indescribable. I get giddy when I pan a road biker , showing just how fast she's moving with that same camera. Those feelings just don't pertain to sports, either. I get the same excitement when I'm taking portraits of people, especially taking portraits and headshots. It's nerve wracking for me to ask someone to turn their head this way, their shoulders that way and then look at the camera. I'm not good with giving direction, but again, the challenge lies in swallowing down that fear in my throat to get the image that I want so badly. 

I'm getting used to being brave, I think.

I love shooting sports. I feel at home out in the woods and excited on the sidelines. I love the silence of the trees and the roar of the crowds. I marvel at what humans can do with their bodies, stuff that I could only hope to do in my dreams. The urge to cover sports, both conventional and not-so-conventional, never left me during the months when I shot food or nature or macro. I get happy when I see a team converge on a player, high five-ing them if they made a touchdown or scored the winning basket. I grin when I'm around a group of mountain bikers and get to overhear their banter, all eager to start their downhill descent along a narrow dirt trail, all of them giving each other a hard time, but all of them a team in their own right. 

Maybe it's because I was never on a team due to childhood asthma, but I feel a bit like an outsider looking in, as well as a welcomed member of the group when I have my camera to my eye.  Either way, I truly have found my calling and I'm eager to get going once again.


You may have noticed that I have changed my blog name back to "Kate Austin Photography". I did that to keep my website, my blog, and my social media accounts all uniform. I'm putting out feelers for more portrait/headshot work (because people are fascinating, too) and I hope to branch out in that area, thus the change in branding.