Photo-Heart Connection: August 2014

Love Forest. Forest Love. Whichever way I write it, it’s true.

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I don’t know exactly where my love of the forest comes from. I don’t know when it formed. Maybe it was as a child, camping in the Colorado woods and going off with my Dad in the wee hours of the morning to find a good spot to fish for trout. Maybe it was in my mid-twenties, when the first home we owned was right up next to an 85-acre wooded park in Colorado Springs, a respite from all things suburban around me. Maybe it was moving to Oregon in my thirties, and discovering primeval-seeming forests with towering trees, that made me feel like I was a tiny blip on the historic radar.

It’s hard to think of a time when the forest didn’t play some role as backdrop to events in my life. But it’s recent, the last two years or so, that the forest moved from backdrop in key memories to a primary character of its own. The forest has become a staunch friend, a confidante. It is always there for me, ready to receive me, however I come to it. It teaches me, in its quiet way.

The tall trees remind me that there is more to life than my little worries. They remind me to stand straight, grow roots, take nourishment. When I do, it takes more than a single storm to knock me down.

The forest reminds me that it is an ecosystem. No one part can exist without the whole. I too, am part of the system. One small part of a whole. I need to rely on those around me, help those around me, as part of the system of human connection.

There is so much more I can say about my complex relationship with the forest, but I won’t. I will cut it short. Because this image reminds me it’s been five days since I’ve been in the forest. Five days since I’ve enjoyed the scent and the quiet and the feel of being part of something greater, bigger, older than me. Five days is too long, anymore. So I’m going to go now, and visit my forest.

Love Forest. Forest Love.


I’ve photographed this heart carved into the tree along the Mulkey Creek Trail so many times, it’s not surprising it would eventually become my Photo-Heart Connection. I know it’s awful, someone defacing a tree like this. But I can’t help but love it anyway, because it seems to encapsulate my feelings about the forest so well. It’s a simple symbol in a simple place, but it brings such deep feelings of connection to me. I’m not kidding about getting out and hiking now. I’m going to wrap up this post and enjoy Labor Day morning on the trail. :)

What have you found as your Photo-Heart Connection this month? What image or art did you create this month that calls to your soul? What does it have to tell you? Go through your images from August and find the one that calls to your heart. Write about it and learn from it. Share the results with us here.


Let’s Talk Mobile Photography

When you are in the middle of something, you don’t always notice how it looks from the outside. I have to keep reminding myself of this fact, as I talk to people about the possibilities of mobile photography in conjunction with the Expanding Vision exhibition. Most people don’t know that you can make art with a smartphone. Most people don’t realize that they have this amazing creative device in their pockets. We get so wrapped up in our little world, talking and working with others doing the same thing, that we forget that most people don’t know what we are doing in this mobile phtoography world.

And so it’s fun, really fun, to get to be part of showing them.

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Yesterday I was interviewed by the Corvallis Gazette-Times newspaper as part of a story on the exhibition and mobile photography. I got to talk about my experience with mobile photography, how the idea for the exhibition came about and what I learned from my view from the “inside” of an exhibition. Even though almost none of that was part of it in the end, it was a fun experience and a very nice article! You can read it here.

Oregon Art Beat also came to Corvallis to film a piece on the exhibition. Unfortunately I didn’t get to meet them – I couldn’t get away from my day job – but I look forward to seeing the piece. I’ll post that link when it’s available, too.

AND… we’ve added another date for the Intro to Mobile Photography workshop in conjunction with the exhibition. It will be on Saturday, September 20 and registration is here. The first class was last Saturday and I had 12 lovely participants, who are all taking the excitement for mobile photography back home with them! This three-hour class is a great way to get started playing around with your mobile device camera.

Finally, today is the Brown Bag Art Talk for the Expanding Vision exhibition at The Arts Center, 700 SW Madison in Corvallis. I’ll be there! Come and talk mobile photography with a number of the artists in the show. It should be fun!

Morning’s Gift: A Mobile Tutorial

In the past, summer has not been my favorite tree season. It seemed all the good stuff, those amazing lines, were covered by leaves. So I ignored the trees for the summer and played with other subjects.

This year, I challenged myself to create some summer Treescapes. Could I get to a similar style and feel with blue skies and trees with leaves? After playing around with them for several weeks, I’m figuring it out.

I’ve discovered that in the summer, the Treescapes are more about the light and the leaves than the lines. Maybe that was the key.

This image, Morning’s Gift, is a good example of what I mean. There is that gorgeous morning light, coming through and illuminating the leaves. There is the feeling that the sky is just lightening, the day is just beginning, and it’s going to be a good one. That’s what I wanted to highlight. Let’s go through how I achieved this result.

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Starting with this image, from an early morning walk:

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I wanted to shift the color a bit, so I pulled it into Mextures, an app I’ve had for a while that I recently rediscovered. They have added lots of new effects! Not only does it have good effects, it’s highly customizable. You can control the amount of the effect, rotate it, change the blending mode and then add more layers. Fun! Leaving the app the image had two Radiance filters and a Grunge texture applied:

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Now that I had some nice color shifts going, I wanted to mess it up a bit with an artistic filter. I used the “Benson” effect in Autopainter, one of my go-to effects:

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As I started to blend this version back with the original, I found it was getting too dark. I was losing the light. So I pulled the original into Snapseed and lightened it a bit:

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And then blended with the Autopainter output, in Image Blender:

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It’s getting there! But I wanted mor depth, and depth often comes with more layers. I started playing with it in Distressed FX, and found I liked how this filter warmed it up:

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This version and the previous version were blended again in Image Blender:

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I’m liking the color, the depth and the way the light comes through at this point. There’s just one tiny problem, some distracting leaves along the top edge. So, back into Snapseed for a little crop:

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And it’s done!

You see what I mean about Summer Treescapes? They are all about the light and the leaves. That was the key.

Expanding Vision Reception is Today!

After a year in the works, Expanding Vision: The Contribution of Mobile Photography, the exhibition I proposed and helped jury, is opening in the main gallery of The Arts Center with a reception tonight. Join us from 5:30 to 7:30 for some art and light refreshments.

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I’m so excited for a gallery full of people, seeing this work, and talking about mobile photography. I look forward to meeting some of the participating artists who are exploring this branch of photography I love so much.

The exhibition contains everything from straight, unedited photographs, to highly edited abstract works. If you can’t attend the exhibition, you can view the show virtually via the slide show here.

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It’s been a great experience for me, to see how an exhibition happens from the inside out. I’ll write more about my experiences there later.

For now, I’m going to enjoy the interactions at the reception and the art on the wall. And I’m going to take this moment and seal this lesson into my memory: Our ideas, big or small, can become something real, when we put them out into the world and act on them.

I hope to see you at the Expanding Vision reception tonight.

Rustic Living

A couple of months ago I wrote about the unexpected opportunity to remodel our kitchen. At the time, we had no usable kitchen and were just dealing with drying out the water from the leak and hadn’t yet decided how to resolve the issue. First things first, right?

Two and a half months later, we have a minimally functional kitchen and a plan for a full remodel. It’s amazing how everything snowballs. One little leak to a full kitchen remodel, flooring through most of the house and a fresh coat of paint through much of it too. It’s also amazing how long everything takes… First sorting out what we wanted to do (minimum fixes or full remodel), then getting the contractor bids, and on to decisions and orders. The decisions have been made, the orders have all been placed. Now we wait.

In the meantime, I thought I would give you a tour of some of the features of our interim kitchen.

Isn’t this a lovely storage unit? We have no water or drain hooked up, so the sink is really just there to plug the hole in the cabinet. We keep our paper and plastic ware stocked there, to keep us from dumping things into the sink. It’s amazing what a habit that is! Since there is no water or drain, we have no dishwasher either. We do our dishes in the bathroom sink. Kind of inconvenient, as it’s down the hall, but my son has learned a useful life skill (washing dishes by hand) so that’s a plus.

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Note the charming rustic finish of the window frame above the sink. Also the lovely grey countertops. Folding plastic tables fit perfectly on the cabinets as temporary counters.

We still have use of our cooktop, but the oven is currently unusable. In the effort to get the flooring up to dry out the subfloor, the range was moved and the glass on the oven door broke along with the handle. So we don’t use our oven at the moment, for fear of burning ourselves or our pets. No point in replacing it when you are getting a new gas range in a few weeks, right?

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Note also the rustic subfloor look we’ve got going on! Yes, it’s attractive, and matches that rustic window framing. A nice touch, don’t you think? I’m sure it will soon be all the rage.

There is one bright spot in all of this. We got our new refrigerator early, and so we actually have water in the kitchen now, from the water dispenser in the door. What a luxury! I’ve never had such a thing before. We don’t fill up the pasta pot here, but it’s nice to at least have a water source for little things. Like drinking.

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It’s not been optimum, but we’ve been making it work. If at the beginning we knew how long everything would take, we might have at least hooked our sink back up, but there’s no point this close to the end.

In about three weeks, the full demo begins and the remodel will truly be underway. We’ll lose our kitchen for a month, which at this point seems inconvenient but not insurmountable. Grill, crockpot, and microwave for cooking. Refrigerator in the garage, water down the hall in the bathroom. What’s a few extra steps to get dinner ready? It doesn’t seem so inconvenient, since we’ve already been living with a partial kitchen for two months.

A kitchen remodel wasn’t in our plans this year, so all of this certainly wasn’t the timing of our choosing, but we have adapted and are muddling through. At the end of all of the work, with a new kitchen, flooring and paint, our house of sixteen years will feel practically brand new. I’m not sure, after four months without a fully functional kitchen, we’ll even quite know what to do.

Certainty in Life

She would not turn back in fear, not desperately shape herself to fit into old, tightly wedged spaces. She never thought of herself as someone who would do anything other than what was expected of her, yet there was never really an arrival at any fixed point. All that wishing for certainty, all that belief in the clear path always visible up ahead. Here she was with life before her unknown, a reluctant yet inevitable traveler on the path still uncharted.
— Excerpt from Visible City by Tova Mirvis

There was a time in my life I longed for certainty. I made big choices, life choices, based on reducing fear of the unknown. If I could only follow a charted path, get further down the road of expectations, things would be certain. Then I could relax. My younger self was sure of it.

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I started my career in a time of uncertainty. In college, my family lost the business that had supported us through most of my childhood. I watched my father cast adrift, trying to figure out what he was going to do with himself without his business to run. I graduated in 1992, the middle of an economic downturn, where jobs were scarce. I was one of the lucky ones with an offer from a good company, a large corporation with a track record for stability.

Things were certain now, right?

Three months after I started there were layoffs. I wasn’t one of the ones who lost their jobs, although I was in fear of it for weeks, until one of the managers told me I was safe. “It would be cruel and unusual punishment,” he said of hiring then firing me in so short a time. Whew, I could breathe again.

Things were certain now, right?

This first job had an interesting demographic. I was the only woman in an engineering department of about 30 engineers. The closest in age to me was 10 years older, the average age was closer to 20-25 years older than me. In my quest for certainty, I looked at those older engineers with envy. They had it all figured out. Good jobs, families grown or nearly so, retirement on the horizon… To my mind, they had it all laid out. I wanted to fast forward to that point.

Things would be certain then, right?

Oh, my poor little younger self, in her quest for certainty. Now that I’m at that point I so longed to be, middle age, I understand just how uncertain life is. There is no path, no course where if you do everything right you will get the prize of absolute stability.

Life happens, life changes. Jobs go away, illnesses happen, loved ones leave us. All of the coworkers who I thought had life figured out had lots more life to live, lots more uncertainty to face, just as I did.

Looking back, I can see how naive I was to want to skip ahead. Life isn’t a destination or a goal that you can shortcut to, it is something to be lived. Something to be experienced, in all of its ranges of emotions and options. It’s the choices we make in the face of uncertainty, in the face of fear, and the lessons we learn from them, that make us whole people. It’s our struggles that make us human.

Fundamentally, uncertainty is what makes life interesting. It’s how we get to shape a life, and a self, that is wholly our own.

Like the character in the Mirvis novel, my younger self faced “life before her unknown, a reluctant yet inevitable traveler on the path still uncharted.” That young, reluctant traveler has, with time and experience, turned into a willing participant in the journey through uncharted territory. She has learned to face her fears and move ahead out of the “old, tightly wedged spaces.”

I have learned there is no certainty in life. That’s what makes it worth living.