eureka!

I've always been intrigued by self-portraits. I think they reveal so much about a person, their life, their thoughts, their emotions. I've done a few, some pretty good ones, but some really, really, REALLY bad ones, too. Plus, I always feel silly and horribly self-conscious when I set out to try and capture myself.

That's why I always do self-portraits when no one is home.

The number one thing that I struggle with when attempting self-portraits is achieving sharp focus. I usually put a light stand where I plan on being, stand right next to it and measure from my eyes over to where the nearest knob on the stand is with my finger. I then go back to my camera and set the focus point on the knob, go back to the stand and place a piece of gaffer's tape underneath to act as my mark. I then get my remote, double check the focus, then very carefully remove the light stand and then place my feet exactly on that piece of tape, aim my remote at the camera and proceed to hope and pray that all that rigamarole worked. 

Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't and then I start all over again.

BUT! Today I remembered that I had a Nikon camera app on my phone that I've been reading about lately on blogs and Facebook group pages and decided to give it a go. I had just received my latest book order from Amazon and had plopped down on the kitchen floor to decide which book to dive into first (that really is the hardest part of getting a new book order. Same with a brand new pile of library books!). I thought that this little moment might make a good self-portrait project. This little corner that I'm sitting in is my "spot" in the kitchen: it's where I sit after my runs to gulp down Gatorade, it's where I sit and pet the dog, it's where I sit to talk to Meghan when she comes over, it was where I was when my BIL called to let me know that my sister had entered Hospice and she wasn't expected to live past the week. I sat in that little corner and wept for two hours after he hung up that afternoon. This little corner is very much a part of my daily living.

I set up my tripod on the kitchen bar with a sandbag anchoring it above me with my 24-70mm lens on my Nikon D750 set to 35mm, ISO 1250, f/2.8, 1/80 sec. I had gone into my camera's menu and had activated the WiFi on the camera, then I went into the settings on my iPhone and opened up the Nikon app and set the WiFi on there as well. This was the first time I had ever used my phone as a remote, and I am super excited to say that it worked like a charm. 

SO COOL!

You can change focus on the phone screen and use the home button to activate the camera's shutter (you might see my finger in some of the pictures below hitting the home button) and presto! chango! you just took a picture with your phone. I'm pretty sure Canons have the same sort of app since those were the cameras most mentioned in the articles I had been reading. And those of you that are reading this, you might already have known about this, but like I said, I had never used the app to the fullest before, but I know from now on, I most definitely will.

And for the record, I still haven't made up my mind as to which book to dive into first!

a quiet day

My days seem to be made up of peaks and valleys, of quietness and busyness. The weather has been much the same, brilliant warm sunshine and blue skies one day, hard freezes and dreariness the next. We're still wearing winter clothes and running the furnace most nights, but I did have a fleeting sense of hope the other day, bent over weeding my garden in the late afternoon, with a flyby of the first hummingbird of the season. My heart jumped for joy as my head tried to decide if it really was a hummingbird or a really large bumblebee.

My heart decided that it was a hummingbird in the end.

I have been doing a lot of shooting lately, and that has filled up my days. 

I have photographed sorority sisters, full of life and freshness and youth, their stories still waiting to be told.

I photographed a 103-year-old senior, whose stories have been told and whose story is still being told by the gleam in her eye and the smile lines surrounding her face.

I helped my best friend's little girl turn 5 years old after watching my own big girl earn her yellow belt in kenpo, the latest martial arts discipline she's going to master.

I visited the farmer's market for the first time this year, meeting a wood worker who made the most beautiful spoons out of persimmon wood, ash, and maple. She demonstrated how she carved the utensils, straddling her work bench and chopping away at a piece of wood with a small ax and I could begin to see the spoon coming to life. She wore a small stocking cap and work boots, her shirt soaked already from the early morning sunshine. I asked to take her picture and she said yes, swinging her leg back over her bench and showing me once again how she brings life out of wood. I purchased the smallest spoon made out of persimmon wood, the smoothness of the bowl reminding me of my silky blankie I used to use to suck my thumb with when I was a toddler.

Dave and I have been yearning to hit the open road, seeking out new places to explore on the back of his motorcycle. Tuesday evening the light was soft and golden as we meandered the backroads around nearby Tonitown, the dirt that his bike kicked up beautifully highlighted in the lovely light. We didn't really have a destination, taking turns deciding which dirt road to follow. We passed cows and new little calves, some shying away and galloping back to their mommas as the roar of the motorcycle passed their pastures. We came across a creek, an unexpected surprise, but one that David successfully navigated, giving me an excuse to wade across to join him, the cold water instantly soaking my shoes and filling me up with delight.

My weekend is full and the coming week looks to be filling up as well, as I begin to plan an upcoming photography project with a friend and take high school senior pictures for a neighbor girl. I feel blessed lately, blessed with all the goodness that seems to have enveloped myself and my family. I don't know if my sister has anything to do with it, but I like to think that she does, that she is looking down on all of us and taking care of us.

A certain kind of quiet guidance.

 

 

this post is brought to you by . . .

the words:

tenacity

determination

and sheer stubbornness (okay, so that last one is more than one word).

Have y'all ever heard of the t.v. show, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee by Jerry Seinfeld? It's a show that David and I began watching a couple weeks ago on Netflix on one of those nights that there was sheer drivel on television (not that this show is intellectual, philosophical or anything like that, but it was way better than say "NCIS in New Orleans"). Seinfeld picks up fellow comedians, actors and other fun people in these amazing classic cars, takes them for a drive and winds up in a random coffee shop, where they drink coffee and discuss comedy, life, parenthood and politics (just a smidge). Last night we watched the episode with David Letterman and I hadn't laughed that hard in, gosh, I don't know how long. David actually started laughing at me, which made me laugh even harder. I could hardly breathe and I began squeaking, which is always a good sign that I've totally gone off the deep end.

Or as Joey once said when I had an attack like that, "I think I broke Mom!"

Anyway, it's a great show to take your mind off the state of the world in its current condition.

The show has lots of scenes of cups having coffee poured in them, often in slow motion with that one wonderful drop splashing into the dark liquid below, making that beautiful little "plop!" sound. I'd been studying those shots, figuring out how to do them, and yesterday, while I had a loaf of almond bread in the oven, I brewed a pot of coffee, grabbed my fat white coffee cup and tried to replicate those shots I saw on television.

Well, two lenses and two cameras and 600 photos later (and a whole lot of swearing!), I got the seven shots that I'd seen in my mind's eye two hours earlier. I found out that it's a lot harder to do this on my own than I thought it would be, the camera has a hard time focusing on coffee inside the mug but a quarter placed in the bottom of the cup works well, as does a mark from a Sharpie. I'm happy with them though and feel good about trying it out. 

As David is fond of saying, "You'll never know unless you try!"

Cheers!

playing with light

Yesterday, I set out to understand the Inverse Square Law and how it pertains to off-camera lighting in photography. I also wanted to learn how to make a white background black, or at least darker, but realized that my office (Meghan's old bedroom) isn't big enough for that to happen, so instead I settled on a dark grey and was happy with that.

The inverse square law is complicated and full of mathematical equations and angles and squaring numbers and I think only rocket scientists can really understand it. Basically the inverse square law is:

any physical law stating that some physical quantity or strength is inversely proportional to the square of the distance from the source of that physical quantity.
— tutsplus.com

Like I said, it's kinda complicated, but when has that ever stopped me? And for a more detailed explanation, you can watch this 15-minute video by Peter Hurley which makes much better sense.

I understand it better than I did before I tested it out and got the background to go from dark grey to pure white, which was what I was after,  but I think I did it a little backwards, moving my subject back and forth instead of my light, but I still got the same effect that I was going for. And now that I know I did it a little backwards, when I go back later to try again, I'll have a bit better understanding as to how to achieve it the right way. And for the last photo, I had a second light behind Teddy to make the background pure white.

And as an added bonus, Joe agreed to let me direct him and take his portrait, helping me out with my headshot practice. I was so thrilled and giddy that he agreed, that I let the toothpick slide.

Sometimes, you just gotta let the little things go in life, right?

An Afternoon in the Park

Last Friday, I had the opportunity to tag along on a photoshoot with a friend I met through a Facebook group we both belong to. Sharon is house mother at one of the sororities on campus, and she was going to shoot Kailey, a sophomore majoring in psychology. Sharon had created two beautiful costumes, one made of tulle and the other (thinking outside the box, but really, really cool!) made out of a space blanket.

Sometimes I wish I was more artsy craft-sy and better with the sewing machine, but I suppose I'm just lucky that I made it out of Home Economics alive and in one piece!

Kailey was a wonderful model, posing this way and that, letting me practice on her with my home made prism, dipping her toes in the creek for us despite the chilly waters and breaking into some dance moves when a far off radio started playing one of her favorite songs. Francia, our trusty assistant and fellow sorority sister to Kailey, held the reflector and help schlep our bags and gear from spot to spot. She was a hoot.

It was a beautiful afternoon full of fun, laughter, and a near disaster involving myself, my bare feet and slipping in the creek (I had no idea I could still do the splits at 52 years of age, but I got the shot!). I had so much fun.

Thank you, Kailey, Francia and most of all, Sharon, for letting me play in the park with you!

After the Rains

We had afternoon rains yesterday, but right around supper time, the sun came out and the world lit up.

*****

All shot with David's camera, a Nikon D500 with my 35mm lens. I used a prism on the very last one for a bit of a creative flare. I'm out of practice with it, but spring and the longer evenings will make for some beautiful practice sessions.

PhotoCon 2018

Wow, I really don't even know where to begin, so let me just describe last weekend the best I can.

Oklahoma City. Peter Hurley. Dave Black. Learning the art of "the squinch" (it's all in the eyes). Light painting. Laughter. Learning. Hanging out with fellow photographers. Having somewhat more than an inkling of what was being discussed. Lighting set ups. Camera settings. Models. Understanding. A weekend getaway with David. Exploring Oklahoma City together. A private class with my very favorite photographer of all time, Dave Black (well, he shares my #1 ranking with Joe McNally). Feeling more confident behind the camera. Inspired to push harder, learn more, try out new things. Overcoming my initial response of saying no to new opportunities. Fellow photographers holding an impromptu photo shoot in the conference location's parking lot. Lots of "Ah-Ha!!" moments. A mental wish list of all the new lighting gear I'd like to acquire. Camaraderie. Realizing that my photos are meant to be shared, not for glory sake, but because I'm proud of what I make and those images deserved to be shared. The willingness to dive head first into shooting more people and portraits and maybe less food (people are far more interesting than food, I'm beginning to realize). A slow return to Instagram. Mentally exhausting, but in a good way. 

But most of all, last weekend was amazing because of all the enthusiasm and knowledge that was shared about this art, this craft, this passion, this beautiful hobby (for lack of a better word) that I get to share with fellow photographers. 

So . . . 

3, 2, 1 . . . SHABANG!!!

Amateur Hour

Amateur. You say that as if it was a dirty word or something, but “amateur” comes from the Latin word ‘amare,’ which means love, love. To do things for the love of it.
— "Mozart in the Jungle"

I visited the teeny tiny town of Prairie Grove Wednesday afternoon to do some thrifting and try my hand at street photography. All these photos were taken within a one block radius of where I had parked my car. A funny little story about the image with all the bright chairs lined up in front of the Ace Hardware store: as I was lining up my shot, an SUV stopped in the street to the left of me. I waved him on, letting him know that I could wait, that I was just wanting to get a picture of the colorful chairs. I saw him laughing as he pulled into the parking lot where I was standing and got out of his pick up truck, holding a camera, and told me that he wanted the same photo, too.

We both laughed and took our pictures, standing side by side. 

And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good
— John Steinbeck