Onyx Coffee Lab, Bentonville, AR.

All photos taken with David’s Nikon D850 and my 50mm f/1.4 lens.

Movement

The new year brings new resolutions, new words, new goals, new feelings awakening inside. Lately, I’ve been sensing a new something stirring deep inside me, an old sense of propriety about to be broken and a new freedom about to be discovered.

I’ve always taken photos that I considered “safe”: proper composition, proper lighting, proper focus, proper everything else. I couldn’t tap into that creativity that I sensed lay inside of me, if I even knew it was inside of me.

For a while I flirted with the idea of belonging to a 365 Facebook group to help me discover and dig further into this new being moving about inside, but left the group a mere 48 hours after joining. This journey that I’m on is mine to travel and figure out and I want it to be mine alone.

I need to be focused and not distracted, which is something that checking into the FB group daily would be. I have taken the beginning steps towards this creative self-discovery, writing out in longhand the means to get to where I’m going, 2018 looked upon as a planning stage to this larger journey I’m about to embark upon.

I want to give myself permission to be selfish this year, to walk upon the creative path by myself, figuring out what it is outside of photography that inspires me, the music, the colors, the people, the words, the moods of the world.

And then click it all with the camera’s shutter.

All the above images were taken with the Lensbaby SOL 45mm, gifted to me this Christmas by David and the kids.

Taking Stock

I’m not one to choose a word-of-the-year (I think I’ve mentioned that before), but if I had to choose one for this year, it would have to be “incredible”, and this is why:

1: I’ve journeyed so far out of my comfort zone that I can’t even see it anymore.

2: I’ve learned to take a deep breath, plunge in and swim for the deep end.

3: I’ve decided upon my goals, wrote them out on a pretty piece of note paper and thumbtacked them front and center on my bulletin board above my desk for me to see every morning.

4: I’m slowly allowing myself to believe that I am good, damn good, at photography.

5: I hit upon my “style” this year and the things I love to shoot: bright colors, joyful scenes and people, deep shadows, negative space, and a clean edit.

6: Mountain bikers are some of the coolest and happiest and most encouraging people I’ve ever met.

7: MY HUSBAND PUBLISHED A BOOK!!!!!!!!!!!!!

8: When I’ve felt overwhelmed and pressured by commitments, I’ve learned to ask for help. Nothing wrong with leaning on family and friends for an assist.

9: It’s also okay to say no if I simply can’t (or don’t want to) do something.

10: I’ve begun to stop worrying about the “what-ifs” . Those only get in the way and cause me to lose track of my end goal. In fact, I’ve begun calling the “what-ifs” “The Middle Man”, the guy that stands between you and what you want. I have to remind myself daily to not focus on The Middle Man, and I’m slowly beginning to listen to myself.

11: I’ve discovered that I love to photograph Life - - - my kids (when I can), scenes around town, the camaraderie of bike festivals, local parades, the girls at the sorority house and so much more. All those bring me such joy and lift up my spirits.

12. The thing I learned the most this year is that the only person holding me back is myself. Once I figured that out, everything got a little easier, still scary, but easier to walk into a business and leave my card, easier to write those “cold call” emails to race directors, easier to walk up to strangers at a photo session, smile and introduce myself.

13: On December 31, 2018, for the first time in my life, I’ll be able to look back over the year and say that I finally accomplished what I set out to do. And that’s a pretty incredible feeling.

I can only wonder what 2019 holds for me, but whatever it is, I’m ready to take it up a notch and swim even deeper into this wonderful life I’ve been granted.

Wishing you all the Merriest of Christmases and the Jolliest of New Years!




Along Block Street

Fat Bottomed Girls Cupcake Shop

Last week, I explored the cutest little cupcake shop just up the street from where Meghan lives. It’s a new-to-me shop, having opened up last year, I had just never ventured inside until last week.

I have no idea why it took me so long.

The store smelled delicious, was bright and cheery and had seating right next to the window so you could people watch while eating cupcakes and drinking coffee. They not only had cupcakes, but also kitchen towels with snappy sayings, little trinkets that would make great stocking stuffers, different flavored syrups and chocolate candies wrapped up in pretty little packages.

Lilly, the store manager, let me poke around and take pictures with my friend for as long as we both liked and we both walked out of there with cupcakes to bring home (my friend later texted me letting me know that her cupcake didn’t even make it that far, that she ate hers in her car on the way home!) and definite plans to visit the store again, but this time I won’t wait so long.



I Couldn't Agree More

The following is from a monthly newsletter I receive from an Australian photographer I stumbled upon during the food photography phase I went through last year. She’s a portrait photographer, and her site was mentioned on a food blog I was reading at the time. I clicked on the link, read a few of her posts and found myself nodding in agreement at what I read. And I have been keeping up with her ever since.

Valuable photography lessons from a basic point-and-shoot camera and Leonardo da Vinci
. . . The reason for this is that DSLR shooting was comfortable for me. I was getting lazy. It was too easy. I’ve been shooting with the same type of system for nearly 30 years. Switching to a small point-and-shoot mirrorless for personal projects taught me the following lessons...

The best camera is the one that you will actually use

I’m almost ashamed to admit how many photo opportunities I missed because I didn’t have my camera or couldn’t be bothered taking out my DSLR, attaching a lens etc. I carry my compact mirrorless everywhere, and this means I shoot more “just because”.

This had led me to change the way I see and shoot, and some of this has extended to my commercial style.

Easier and faster doesn’t necessarily mean better

Shooting with fixed frame (35mm equivalent) mirrorless has forced me to slow down and frame my images more carefully. I’m closer to the action which changes the energy of an image and the energy of the actual shoot. I’m also shooting fewer frames and trusting my intuition more.

Downgrading my gear and focusing on technique has been a gamechanger for me

This year I’ve invested hundreds of hours working on my personal project shooting technique and forcing myself to work with minimal gear. This has been the most important lesson for me. I’m trying to create better images with a single light and cheap modifier and basic camera system.

Slow Down. Do the work. Review. Rinse. Repeat.

Next year, I plan on working harder, more focused on technique and whenever I feel uninspired or lazy I’ll ask myself WWLD. (What would Leonardo do?)

If Leonardo was alive today, I’m convinced he would have a paint and paintbrush sponsor, gallery reps, agents and maybe his own line of brushes and paints.

In today’s world, it’s all about the tools. Everyone is looking for a shortcut or easy option “paint by numbers” way to success.
image
If Leonardo was alive today I’m convinced he would have a paint and paintbrush sponsor, gallery reps, agents and maybe his own line of brushes and paints. The tools make your work easier, hard work and repetition make your work better.

Leonardo da Vinci was a successful artist in his lifetime and could afford the best brushes and paints, but that’s not the reason he was such a phenomenal artist. The secret behind Leo’s success was the fact that he did the work.

Da Vinci was not only a great painter, but he was also a master drawer, studied the human anatomy, mechanics, architecture, drafting, and chemistry. It was his work ethic and curiosity that made him great, not the tools he relied on.

As photographers, it’s easy to get caught up in the hype surrounding all the new gadgets that promise to make us better photographers, but gear alone is not what will set you apart from the pack.

As 2018 draws to a close, I urge you to forget about gear and focus on the work. You don’t need to go to the extremes that da Vinci did to create great art. By committing to 10 minutes a day to improve one skill, take one photo or study the work of one artist you admire, will do more to enhance your work than investing thousands in new gear ever will.

The tools make your work easier, but it’s hard work and repetition that make your work better.
— Gina Milicia



Auti

The week leading up to this portrait session was rainy and dreary and cold, an early winter moving in. Auti’s mother and I were frantically texting back and forth days before, going back and forth on whether the sun might shine or if we should postpone yet another week. I was gung ho about moving forward, confident that the weathermen would be wrong (I have yet to meet a weatherman that is actually dead on with his forecast), but Auti’s mother was still a bit hesitant, but decided to trust me.

Meg was going to be my photo assistant for the shoot, Auti (and her mother) being good friends of Meg’s through her martial arts school she attends. Auti and her parents showed up just minutes after we pulled into the parking lot of the park we had decided upon for the shoot, and lo and behold! the sun broke through the clouds halfway through, casting beautiful golden light on the hills behind us and making the whole world glow.

Auti was a delight, always smiling and joking around. She’s a middle schooler attending the same middle school that my kids went to, and she’s into everything: gymnastics, running, martial arts . . . you name it, and she probably does it. I just had so much fun taking her portraits, and just like the sun making the world glow, so does this child. She just makes everyone happy to be around.