Under Water

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The weather has shifted in Oregon, and we are under water again. Grey clouds filled with it, dripping slowly down on our heads, forming puddles on the ground. It must be autumn.

I can’t say I’m all sad about this turn of events, as I sit here listening to the rain on the skylights and the cars swish by on the road outside. I have my hot tea, a quilt and a cat on my lap. I’ve broken out the cozy sweat shirts and slippers. I love a good reason to stay inside, snuggled up in my comfy chair.

And I think about warmth, and how sometimes it’s an inside out kind of thing. I can focus on the outside, trying to heat up the outer layers. Or I can focus on the inside, getting the warmth going internally before I worry too job much about what’s happening at the extremities. I am better able to withstand the cold if I’m working inside out.

I wonder if there isn’t an analogy there for life. How long did I focus on improving the outside of me, my external shell and how others perceive me, thinking happiness was derived there? If I could just get it right, get it perfect, life would be good. I lived in that belief a long, long time.

And yet, when I’ve worked on the inside stuff, who I am and want I to be at my core, more good stuff has come along. The external part just seems to happen naturally. It’s not perfect by anyone’s standards, but I am satisfied with what is. I am more willing to go in an unexpected, maybe nontraditional, direction. I can seek my own path.

I can better withstand the cold of other people’s expectations, my perception of their expectations, when I’m warming myself from the inside out. When I have that internal fire of confidence, knowing who I am, where I come from, and where I’m going, I can better withstand the storms outside.

The watery weather tells me it’s time to cozy up. After months of living on the outside, it’s time to bring life indoors. Time to get warm, and grow, from the inside out.

Stepping out of the Comfort Zone

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.
– Neale Donald Walsch

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Isn’t that quote brilliant? I saw it printed on a canvas this summer and had to buy it. It succinctly sums up what I’ve learned over the last five years or so: You don’t grow until you step outside of your comfort zone. That’s when life, with all of its thrilling ups and downs, begins.

Last week, getting ready for Philomath Open Studios, I discovered myself outside of my comfort zone. It snuck up on me. I wasn’t sleeping well, my mind was racing through this and that, I was on edge. I was as prepared as I could be for the event so it didn’t make any sense, until I realized — oh yeah, this is something new.

This is not just sharing my art with the public. I’m used to that. This is sharing my private space of studio and home with the public. This is the space I dream and create in. The space I live in. There is something a little more personal, a little uncomfortable with that. It’s one more layer removed between me and you. It’s one layer closer to the heart.

It’s one more step into life. One more step beyond that comfort zone. It’s funny, sometimes I can’t tell where the line of comfort is, until I move past it. Then I can only tell by my reactions, like last week’s sleep issues. Other times, I’m pushing so far beyond the edge, it’s obvious by the voice of fear in my head. It’s important to know the signals you personally get. Once I realized the reason for my discomfort, I could deal with it. At least journal about it, talk about it, stare it in the face and understand it.

It’s strange to think that just three short years ago — three years to the month, in November — I participated in my first exhibition, ever. My first two photographs hung on display. And here I am now, inviting people into my studio, calling myself an artist. How did I get here? It was one little step at a time. Each one taking me beyond the edge of the comfort zone, dragging that edge along behind me.

Don’t ever think this kind of growth is easy. It’s not. Each step brings up fear and doubt. Each step brings new challenges and frustrations, along with the triumphs.

Each step brings life. It’s worth really living, don’t you think?


There is one more weekend in the Philomath Open Studios tour! You can visit my studio in Corvallis, Oregon on November 1 & 2 from Noon to 5pm.

An Invitation to my Studio

This weekend starts the Philomath Open Studios Tour, and you are invited! For two weekends, October 25-26 and November 1-2, my studio in Corvallis, Oregon will be open Saturday and Sunday, noon to 5pm. I am one of 15 studios on the tour this year, with more than 36 artists involved in total. I will be joined in my studio by Marcella Henkels, a ceramics artist who creates gorgeous raku tiles framed in barnwood.

The tour is a wonderful way to meet artists, learn more about their art, and maybe pick up a few holiday gifts along the way. I’ve always enjoyed visiting artist studios in the past, and am excited to share mine this time. I look forward to welcoming folks into my space, sharing the process of creating and printing photographic work, as well as displaying some new work created since the summer. It’s also a great opportunity to show off our new kitchen, since we are so thrilled with the remodel recently completed by Kirk Design and Construction.

You can find tour maps and artist information at PhilomathOpenStudios.com.

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The tour also marks an anniversary of a new path for me creatively. One year ago, I participated as a guest artist in the same tour at David Paul Bayles studio. It was the first time I displayed my iPhone work to the public as a body of work. It was also the first time I showed more than just one or two pieces in a group exhibition, expressing my artistic voice. Wow, was it fun. The experience started me down the path of participating in art fairs, with a goal to dip my toe into the art fair world in 2014 by participating in two or three events this first year. I met that goal and more.

Philomath Open Studios, my fourth and final event of the year, wraps up an initial season which exceeded my wildest expectations. It’s been a roller coaster ride, and I’ve enjoyed every moment. In a couple of weeks I’ll pack the remaining art away in boxes and start looking to next year’s schedule. I’ll settle down to finish up the book manuscript that’s due in a few months. I’ll enjoy the winter trees and see what interesting art they bring with them this year.

But before then, you are invited to come by, and celebrate this amazing year with me.

The Kitchen Fix (A Mobile Tutorial)

Here they are! Photos of our new kitchen. We love, love, love it. I never dreamed of designing a kitchen from scratch, so this is the dream kitchen I never knew I wanted.

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I’ve been meaning to get good pics to share on the blog since the remodel finished. I was disappointed this weekend when, after cleaning and polishing the kitchen, I pulled out my dSLR and discovered I don’t have a lens with wide enough angle to get the whole kitchen in. With my small house, I couldn’t move far enough back to get the views I wanted. So I tried the iPhone, which had a wider angle to fit more in the frame, and I went with it.

Now, let’s get one thing straight right out of the gate: An iPhone isn’t the right camera for serious architectural photography. A full frame dSLR with a wide angle lens, some additional lighting and a tripod would do the job nicely. If you would like to see photos of our kitchen like that, you can visit Kirk Design and Construction’s website, here.

I needed to pull out some tricks to eke out the best from the iPhone instead. I thought I’d share a couple of the apps I used along with the pics today. All of these pics are in full resolution, so you can click on them to see a larger image. I wanted you to be able to see the detail I’m talking about.


ProCamera HDR

With the arrival of iOS 8, ProCamera rolled out a new version with an HDR upgrade option. For $1.99, you can add this new camera option to the already-great app.

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Use of the HDR camera is simple. Frame your photo, setting your focus and exposure as always you always do in ProCamera, and take your photo. (Instructions for using ProCamera are here, if you need them.) ProCamera quickly takes two photos, a light and dark exposure, and combines them. You are shown the preview, and you can toggle back and forth between the original and HDR versions. If you like the HDR version, you save, otherwise you can cancel.

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You have the option to select the HDR processing effect in the menu, choosing between Natural, Vivid, Dramatic, Black n White, and Faded. I like Natural the best.

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Having a quick HDR option within my favorite camera app is nice for those times when lighting conditions are especially challenging, like in the kitchen.

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The main challenge with any HDR app is stability between the two exposures. Slight shifts of the camera will cause blur when the two images are combined. If you click on the image above to look at it larger, you can see the focus is soft, most obviously on the right side of the stove, the clock and decorations above the cabinets. For perfect HDR, a tripod is really needed, whether you are using an iPhone or a dSLR.


Perfectly Clear

Since I didn’t want to pull out my tripod for a perfect HDR photo, I decide to go with my usual solution for high contrast, expose for the highlights and then edit.

I started with an image captured in the standard ProCamera, exposing for the highlights in the window which leaves the kitchen underexposed.

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I started with a basic edit in Snapseed, adjusting brightness, ambiance and contrast and cropping to remove the distracting lights.

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The image was still a bit flat, so I pulled it into the app Perfectly Clear. This app makes automatic adjustments to improve exposure, tint, noise and sharpness. You can then fine tune individual adjustments, using the Tweak menu on the right. Perfectly Clear allows you to see the before and after at the same time, a nice feature.

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The final image is definitely clearer. Perfectly Clear has a tendency to over sharpen, which adds noise, so keep an eye on that. Starting with an underexposed image, which has more noise, doesn’t help. This version ends up with more noise than I would like, but the overall exposure works. (Click on the image to see it larger.)

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This is a nice app to bring some clarity and finely tuned adjustments to iPhone photographs. I don’t see using it much for my artistic work, because I’m more often going for a soft, ethereal effect rather than the “perfectly clear” look, but it’s a useful app to have in the processing arsenal for those times when I want my image crisp and clean.


So there’s my new kitchen, along with a couple of apps to help you get better photographs with your iPhone. I hope you enjoy the apps as much as I’m enjoying this new kitchen! If you’re in the neighborhood, you can see the kitchen in person during the Philomath Open Studios tour the next two weekends, when my studio will be open for visitors.

A New Crush

I am one of those who has no trouble imagining the sentient lives of trees, of their leaves in some fashion communicating or of the massy trunks and heavy branches knowing it is I who have come, as I always come, each morning, to walk beneath them, glad to be alive and glad to be there.
— Mary Oliver in Winter Hours

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On a whim last week, I wanted to read some poetry. When I did a search of our online library, a few of Mary Oliver’s books popped up on the list. I like a lot of quotes I’ve read by her, I thought, so I checked out her book of essays and poetry, Winter Hours.

Oh my. Have I found a kindred spirit in Mary Oliver! Every other paragraph there is something I want to write down. She expresses in words what I feel about so many things, like the quote above. Did she reach into my head to extract that? No, no, of course not. It’s that she finds her inspiration in morning walks in the woods with her dog, creating beautiful and simple poetry and prose out of her experiences. She has followed her ritual long, long before I discovered a similar one for myself.

But the similarities mean that her words resonate deeply with me. She is someone I can learn from and look to for inspiration. Someone whose art speaks to mine. For aren’t poetry and photography similar? They are both made of fragments, a partial view of the whole, conveying an experience which must be expressed; can’t be suppressed.

Her creative philosophy resonates with me too. In an interview with her on NPR from a couple of years ago, she said, “I always feel that whatever isn’t necessary shouldn’t be in a poem.” And I thought, That’s exactly how I feel about photographs! In my imagery, I want to distill the greater world down to the essentials, keeping only what is necessary to convey something. Simpler is often better, I have found, for conveying emotion.
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What’s in a Masterpiece?

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In a recent interview for the Philomath Open Studios blog, I was asked this question: What, in your opinion, is the hardest step in creating a masterpiece?

That got me to thinking… What is a “masterpiece?” Have I ever created one?

I’m thinking a masterpiece is something that exemplifies the best of an artist’s work. A piece which reaches the height of communicating an artist’s vision. A piece that finds the perfect combination of subject, emotion and technique. Something that says, “This is who the artist is, or was, as an artist and as a person.”

If that’s the case, then can I really know if I’ve ever created a masterpiece? Or is that something for people to decide after I’m gone?

I don’t ever set out to create a masterpiece, that’s all I know right now. Can you imagine that kind of pressure? “Today, I’m going to create the best work of my career!” Let’s talk about a recipe for creative block.

I just try to keep creating. Sometimes what I finish is good. Sometimes it’s not. Sometimes I know right away if it’s my best work, but more often it’s hindsight that helps me see which pieces are better than others. I can’t predict, in the throes of creating.

Which is good, I suppose, because otherwise I would get to the point of “knowing” that a piece was destined for the trash bin and just stop. What’s the point of creating something, if you know it’s not going anywhere? It’s better to not know at all.

That’s why we can’t tell if we’ve created a masterpiece. That’s why others decide that. We have to keep creating, without the voice in our head telling us, what’s good or not.

Have I ever created a masterpiece? Will I ever create one? I’m not worrying about that. I’m just taking life as an artist one day, one piece at a time.

PS – Twelve days to Philomath Open Studios! Mark your calendars for Oct 25/26 and Nov 1/2.