T Minus Three

It’s three days to my first art fair, the Salem Art Fair & Festival, this weekend on July 18-20. The art is printed, signed, matted and framed. The boxes are inventoried and packed. The checklist sits, ready to be checked off as I load the car. There are a few last things to finish up, but not many.

In three days, I will have done all I can. Then comes the test… My art, in front of the public, with a big “For Sale” sign on it. I’m excited, and I’m terrified.


This whole art fair business has been way more work than I anticipated. Putting together 12 framed pieces for a show is one thing. Filling a whole 10 ft x10 ft booth with your artwork is quite another. Isn’t that the way of most big projects, though? The vision at the end seems so clear, it’s the work to get there that isn’t fully envisioned. You start, with all of the enthusiasm of a novice, and realize what you took on somewhere along the way.

But it’s done. I’m ready.

And I very, very much hope to see you there.

The Salem Statesman-Journal newspaper did a very nice feature article on me as part of a series leading up to the fair. You can read it here. Check out the other articles in the series, too. They are all very interesting!

Smartphone Art 3: Creative Editing beyond Photography

[This week I am reposting a series of articles originally written for another site, because they are no longer available there. Note that some of the app icons have changed since these original screenshots were created, but functions are located in the same place in the app. Enjoy! --Kat]

It’s time to take your Smartphone Art in a new direction! In Smartphone Art 1, you learned how to get a good photograph with your smartphone camera, and in Smartphone Art 2, you discovered how to make that photograph even better with basic photo editing. In this installment, we’ll look at some creative editing apps that take your images beyond photography, and how you can combine and blend the output of different apps to create unique works of art.


One of the best things about mobile photography is the proliferation of apps that can quickly and easily take your photograph and transform it into something different.

It can be a painting…IMG_0786

App: Glaze

a drawing…IMG_0788

App: Portray

or something wholly new…IMG_0793

App: decim8

The apps range from simple one-click transformations, such as the Glaze app shared in the painting example above, to effects with multiple setting adjustments to customize the look, such as the Aquarella example below.


App: Aquarella

The outputs of these apps are fun, but I often find that the look of an image after processing with a single creative app is predictable, especially if it doesn’t allow customization. It doesn’t look like a unique piece of art to me; it looks like a photograph processed with an app. To go beyond the predictable, you can blend app outputs to create something new and interesting.

Blending Apps

A blending app allows you to combine two different starting images in a variety of ways to get an alternate effect. You can blend two different images, adding textures or creating collage effects, or you can blend two of the same image, each image processed by different apps to develop unique looks. This second way, blending the same image processed in many different apps, is typically how I use a blending app to create a finished piece.


The best blending apps will offer multiple blending modes (like multiply, darken, soft light, etc.), as well as masking and arranging/resizing of one image relative to the other. Image Blender, Juxtaposer, and Superimpose are all examples of iOS apps which have these features. (Note: I have not been able to identify a similar app for Android yet! Please leave a note in the comments if you know of one.)

My favorite app for blending images is Image Blender, so I’ll share a few instructions on this app. When you open the app, you first have to load your images. At the bottom of the screen, tap the empty frame on the left to load your bottom image, and tap the empty frame on the right to load the top image.


For this example, I’m loading these two images:


Bottom Image. App: Distressed FX


Top Image. App: Autopainter II

First, I select a blending mode. When you tap the blending mode icon, the menu shows up. Tap each blending mode to see a preview of the blend. When you find a blending mode you want to play with, tap the blending mode icon again to commit the mode.


Now, you shift the slider back and forth to change the relative blend of the two images. Some blending modes, like Normal, work the same regardless of which image is on the bottom or top. Other blending modes, such as Lighten, change depending on which image is on top.


If you have an area where you don’t want to blend the top image with the bottom image, you can mask the top image. Tap the Masking icon, and now you can erase parts of the top image from the blend. If you accidentally take away too much, you can tap the pencil to switch modes and add the pixels back in.


If you want to change the size of the top image relative to the bottom image, you can do that via the Arrange function. Pinch in or out to change the relative size of the top image, shift left or right, or twist to change the angle.


You can always reset your mask and arrange settings by tapping on the top image to get to the reset menu.


When you like the blend, you can save by tapping the Export icon and selecting the “Save to Camera Roll” option. From here, you can either play with more blending modes with the same two images, or you can combine the newly blended image with more processed images. To do this, you need to flatten the two images you’ve blended, which is done by going to the Export menu and selecting the “Flatten” option. After the image is flattened, you can import a new image to the top.

You repeat the same process of importing, blending, saving and flattening with a variety of processed images until you get a finished product you like. Don’t forget, your newly blended image can be processed through other apps and create even more unusual effects.

Variable & Unique

When you use this method of creating altered photographs, you come out with a distinctive image which varies greatly with the starting photograph and the apps used to process, along with the sequence and method of blending.


This is what makes each final image an inimitable work of art. Even for myself, I couldn’t exactly recreate the output for many of the images I create, because the sequence, blending mode and percentage of blend are not recorded.


To me, part of the fun is in the serendipity of the process and knowing that each piece I create is truly unique.


Now it’s your turn! Try editing your images with apps that take them beyond a photograph, and then blending them together to see what you can create. You may be surprised at how addicting this process can be!

If you’d like to learn more about blending apps to create interesting images, you can review the mobile tutorials on my site or take a Smartphone Art workshop with me in the future. I’d love to share more with you!

Smartphone Art 2: Improve your Smartphone Photos with Basic Photo Editing

[This week I am reposting a series of articles originally written for another site, because they are no longer available there. Note that the Snapseed icons have changed since these original screenshots were created, but all functions are located in the same place in the app. Enjoy! --Kat]

In Smartphone Art 1, you learned how to get a good photograph with your smartphone camera, and now it’s time to make that photograph even better with photo editing. In this installment I will cover the basics of adjustments, filters, and effects, taking your photographs to the next level.


Processing App: XnView PhotoFx

In all cases, I do my photo editing in different apps than my camera app. I choose my camera app for its functionality, and I want to do the same with my processing apps. I want full control of how the final image looks, often using multiple apps to get the right look. Most processing apps, even if they are considered a “camera app,” will allow you to import and edit a photo already saved on your device. Look for the icon that looks like two boxes overlapped, or the menu selection that allows import from your device’s image gallery.

Basic Adjustments

You don’t always get the perfect photograph out of your camera, and that’s why you need options for basic adjustments like brightness, contrast and saturation. My go-to app for basic adjustments is Snapseed, a free app available for both iOS and Android. It’s fast, intuitive and powerful.  I’ve tried many other apps for basic editing and they are definitely not created equally.

I’ll quickly share how and why you would want to do some basic adjustments in Snapseed. Here’s the starting photograph, captured using the ProCamera app:


It was a windy day and getting focus, exposure and composition perfect in the camera was nearly impossible. This image has great focus and the elements I want, but it’s too dark and the composition is not quite right, so it needs some basic adjustments. To get to the basic adjustments for your overall photograph in Snapseed, use the “Tune Image” option.


From there, by swiping up and down you get the menu of options to tune your image. Select an option from the menu, such as Brightness, and then swipe left to right to make the adjustment. You can see the changes real time and tap on the button for your original image to compare. You commit the adjustment by tapping the right arrow. If you are not sure what each menu option does, play with them. If you can’t see much difference, go to extremes to observe what the adjustment does. If you don’t like the result you can always cancel out by topping the arrow or “X” on the left to cancel.


To save your changes, save from the main screen after you’ve committed. It’s that simple!  Here’s the image after the basic adjustments, where I increased brightness and adjusted contrast slightly.


One warning about Snapseed: There is no “undo last step” button. If you make multiple edits using different menus you can’t undo the last one, you can only revert to the original image. I’ve made it a habit to save after each editing step so that if I want to “undo,” I can load a previous version of the image from my camera roll.

If you just have a specific region you want to adjust, Snapseed is one of the few apps that also provides a spot adjustment tool, and it works amazingly well. Go into the “Selective Adjust” menu and then tap the circled + Icon to add a marker. Place the marker where you want to make the adjustment, and then select the range of the adjustment by using a pinch motion. As you pinch in and out, you will see some pixels switch to red – these are the pixels you are selecting to adjust. Once you are happy with your selection, swipe up and down on the marker to select Brightness, Contrast or Saturation for the selected region, and then left to right to adjust. You can do multiple adjustments for each selection, and add multiple markers if you have more than one place to adjust.


Other basic adjustments within Snapseed include the cropping through the Crop menu, straightening or rotating your image in the Straighten menu, or sharpening using the Details menu. Here’s the same image again, after a selective adjust to brighten one side of the main flower, cropping to a square, and rotating 180 degrees.


The basic adjustments can take an image that wasn’t perfect out of the camera (too light, too dark, low contrast, etc.) and make it look great.

Processing with Filters and Effects

Now you have a nice photograph, but you may want to change the mood or the feel beyond what you can do with the basic adjustments. Maybe you want to convert your photograph to black and white, or give it a 1960’s vintage feel. How about making it look soft and dreamy?  For these types of adjustments, you’ll use filters and effects.

Las Vegas

Processing App: Handy Photo

Filters are automation which adjust the colors, brightness and contrast of your photograph to give it a specific look. Many photography apps also add effects such as textures, vignettes and frames. It’s like having the power of Photoshop or Lightroom in your mobile device. You can now do with a few screen taps and swipes what used to take expensive software and specialized training.

Just as with basic editing, not every processing app is created equally. The best apps will have:

  • Full resolution output. The files you save out of the app should have the same resolution of the files you load into the app, or you might find yourself with files too small to print.
  • Adjustments available for the filters. At a minimum, it’s nice to have at least an opacity or intensity adjustment available when you apply the filter, to tune the application of the filter for your photograph. The best apps allow you to adjust many different aspects of the filter
  •  The ability to apply multiple filters and effects to the same photograph. At worst you can save the image out after each filter is applied and reload it into the app to process further, but it’s nice when you can apply multiple effects within the same session in the app.
  • An ‘Undo last step’ option. When you can apply multiple effects within the same session, it’s nice to be able to undo the last step. You want to try different options without worry that you are going to lose a good edit by going one step too far in the processing. If the app doesn’t have an ‘Undo last step’ button, you can save your edit at various points so you don’t lose your work.

Every photography app has a different selection of filters and effects, so you have to play with the app to see what the app offers and when you might use them. Snapseed (iOS/Android), Pixlr Express + (iOS/Android) and iColorama (iOS only) are all great apps to get you started, since they include a broad range of filters along with effects such as textures and frames.

Since it’s a free app, Snapseed is a great place to begin playing around with filters and effects. It has an amazing array of filter choices which include adjustments, it saves full resolution files, and the app supports multiple filters/effects applied to the same photograph within the same editing session. The only thing Snapseed doesn’t have is an ‘Undo last step’ option, so be sure to save between your editing steps.

Just like the basic adjustments, Snapseed’s filters have a similar operation. After loading your photograph, start by selecting the type of filter you want to apply along the bottom menu. For the main filters, you can choose between Black & White, Vintage, Drama, Grunge, and Retrolux.  Other effects you will find on the main menu are Center Focus (for vignette and other edge-specific effects), Tilt-Shift, and Frames.


Within the filter menu, you have an array of selections. Look through the available styles and textures by tapping the icons on the bottom bar. In this example I’m in the Vintage menu:


Once you select a processing style, swipe up and down to see the adjustment options menu, and then swipe left to right to make the adjustment once you’ve selected the option, the same as in the basic adjustment menu. Once you like what you see, commit the edit and you will be taken back to the main menu. From there you can go on to apply additional effects. Here’s the final image, after all of my edits:


Pretty cool, huh? And that’s just a quick taste of what you can do in a single processing app. As you start to explore apps, you realize the possibilities are endless.

Finding and Choosing the Right Apps for you

Each available app is different in its options and operation.  The fun of mobile photography comes with trying different apps and seeing what they can individually do, and then combining them in creative ways. Each app has different strengths and weaknesses, and fits different styles. While it’s fun to explore new apps, it can also be frustrating to purchase an app and find out it performs poorly.

To choose an app, I recommend doing a little bit of research first. The amount of time you spend in research should be commensurate with the cost. If it’s free, just download and try it. If it’s a more expensive app or you have a limited budget, you might want to do the research to make sure it has features you want before buying.


Processing App: Alt Photo

How to find and research apps:

  • Look for recommendations from photographers you like. Hashtags in Instagram, tutorials on blogs, and app reviews are great ways to find new apps. If you like an image you see posted on social media, you can always ask what apps the photographer used. Most people will readily share which apps they used in the creation of an image.
  • If there is a free version of the app, download and try it yourself. Nothing is better than a few minutes of playing with an app to see whether it has the potential to be useful for you. If you like it, you can spring for the full version or make the in-app purchase.
  • If you don’t have a recommendation and can’t download a free version, then use the information provided in the app store:
  • Read the description for information on the included features, such as the ability to make adjustments, and supported file resolution. If it’s billed as a “camera app,” make sure you can upload files already saved to your device for editing.
  • Look at the images supplied in the app store previews. Do the example images fit your style, or can you see the potential to fit your style?
  • Read the reviews in the app store. You can get a quick feel for how well the app performs through the reviews. Often you get more information about actual app operation in the reviews than in the description from the app maker.
  • Search elsewhere for reviews and tutorials on the app. Do a quick internet search to find blogs or YouTube videos on the app. You can get a deeper understanding from an independent source who has used the app.
  • You can often find an amazing array of information on a single app, so don’t get too bogged down. Check a couple of sources and make a decision, and then get on to playing with your photographs.

    Because really, playing with your photograph is the whole point, isn’t it?


    Processing App: Noir

    Next time, we’ll look at some creative editing apps that take your images beyond photography, and how you can combine and blend the output of different apps to create truly unique works of art.

Smartphone Art 1: Getting a Good Photograph with your Smartphone

[This week I am updating and reposting a series of articles originally written for another site, because they are no longer available there. Enjoy! --Kat]

If you have a smartphone, you have an amazing creative tool available! Not only do you always have a camera with you, but you have a vast array of apps to create works of art by modifying photographs.

Smartphone Art Vanishing Kat Sloma Mobile Photography

Over the next few posts, I’m going to show you how to use your smartphone to go beyond snapshots of your family and friends at events, creating photographs and other pieces of art that can be worthy of artistic exhibition. The process of creating this type of art starts with getting a great photograph. Without a well-exposed and composed image, you don’t have the best start for creating app art.

With that in mind, today I am going to provide you with a few tips to “step up” the quality of the images you capture with your smartphone. Note: All images shared through the rest of this post are as-captured with an iPhone 5 using the ProCamera app, with no additional editing or filters.

1. Use a third party camera app to take the best photos

As amazing as smartphone cameras are, they are still a very limited camera in photography terms. No zoom, no depth of field control, no shutter control, limited low light response… you get the idea. You need the apps to help you get the most out this little camera. Your smartphone probably came with a camera app preloaded, but it’s not necessarily the best camera app available. Third party apps, those created for your smartphone by other developers, have more features to help you get the most out of your smartphone camera.

Some critical features to look for in a third party camera app:
- The ability to easily and separately set focus and exposure
- Anti-shake shutter options
- Image aspect ratio options (2:3, 3:4, 1:1, etc.)
- Full resolution support

I’ve found the most critical feature to be the ability to easily and separately set focus and exposure. This will probably have the greatest impact on your ability to get good photographs out of your smartphone camera. Typically, when you open a camera app, the focus point is set to the middle of the frame and the exposure (the overall brightness/darkness) is weighted for the whole scene. These settings often work ok, but they may not give you the best possible photograph, especially in high contrast situations where there is a dramatic difference in light and dark.

Here’s an example: In the first image, the camera set the exposure based on the overall scene, and in the second I set the app to expose for the sunset.



Do you see the difference? Because the camera app set the exposure for the overall scene in the first image, the sunset is brighter and looks washed out. In this situation with very bright and very dark areas an evenly lit scene is not possible, but the camera doesn’t know that — it only measures and computes based on its programming.

To get the tree in silhouette and the rich colors of the sunset, I have to tell the camera a little bit more about what I want it to do. I set the exposure point on the bright part of the sunset, telling the camera “here’s the part I really want you to expose for,” which shifts the entire scene darker. The colors become deeper and more vibrant.

After trying several different camera apps, I’ve settled on ProCamera 7. This app has all of the critical features I’ve listed above as well as an easy-to-use interface. Unfortunately, ProCamera 7 is only available for iOS, but for Android I recommend Camera FV-5, which has similar features. The ProCamera 7 screen shot below shows the key settings I use in the app.

Smartphone Art ProCamera 7 Screen Shot Kat Sloma Mobile Photography

The best part of the ProCamera 7 app is the ease of setting focus and exposure. With a quick motion, spreading two fingers on the screen, you separate the focus (blue square) and exposure (yellow circle) targets. From there, use your fingertip to move each target independently. Try it out – it’s amazing to see how much you can change the exposure of the scene by moving the target around.

If you know nothing about exposure and can’t figure out how where you should put the target to correct a problem if the photograph is too bright or too dark, remember this little tip:

  • If the area you care about in the photograph is appears too bright and you want to darken the scene, put the exposure target in a brighter area of the screen. 
    Too bright = Target bright.
  • If the photograph appears too dark and you want to brighten the scene, put the exposure target in a darker area of the screen. 
    Too dark = Target dark.

The camera will make the adjustment and if it’s not right, move the target to another area and try again. It really is that simple!

Another important aspect of a camera app to consider is the low light performance. Smartphone cameras are not as sensitive to low light as other digital cameras. The key issue for capturing a good photograph in low light, regardless of your camera, is stability. A smartphone camera is already inherently less stable than other types of cameras due to design, since you have to hold the camera out in front of you and you are often tapping the screen to take the picture. This makes the camera more prone to blur due to camera shake – the movement of the camera as you take the picture – and in low light it is even worse. Using the anti-shake shutter on your camera app will help, since the app won’t take the picture until it senses the camera is still. Propping the camera on a stable surface or using a tripod mount are other options to improve stability.

Smartphone Art Singapore Kat Sloma Mobile Photography

Depending on your smartphone and app combination, you may have an “ISO Boost” setting which can help you take photographs in lower light. ProCamera 7 on the iPhone 5/5S has this feature. If your favorite everyday camera app doesn’t have low light options, you can also look for camera apps specifically created for low light or night photography to extend your range.

2. Pay Attention to Resolution

There is a sneaky thing that happens in smartphone apps – they often default to a lower resolution setting than desired. The camera and app makers assume you will want to maximize your storage space and that you will only be sharing online, so they put default settings at lower resolutions to create small file sizes. If you are looking to create photographic or app art with your smartphone, these assumptions don’t hold true. If you create a great photograph or piece of app art, you want the highest resolution files possible so you have the option to print it later. Smartphone art can be amazing as prints! A few examples of prints from my smartphone art are below.

Smartphone Art Print Kat Sloma Mobile Photography

Check the resolution settings on the camera and post-processing apps you use. If there is an option to set the resolution, look for the “High” or “Best quality” setting and keep it set there. If there isn’t any mention of resolution in the app info or settings, consider that a red flag for resolution. When you can’t find a resolution setting, save an image out of the app and then check the resolution. On my iPhone, I use the PhotoSize app to verify the final resolution of the saved file. You may be surprised at how low the resolution is for some apps.

One other place where your resolution can be reduced without knowing it: Zooming with a camera app. Smartphone cameras don’t have zoom lenses, so using a zoom feature in a camera app means you are magnifying the image with software. In most cases, this means the image is cropped by the app which reduces the final resolution. For the best image possible, get used to zooming “with your feet.” Get closer to your subject by walking toward it and increase its size within the frame by physical proximity.

3. Pay attention to Composition

Now that we’ve gotten a couple of key technical elements for getting a good smartphone photograph out of the way, it’s time for the creative fun of my favorite part of photography: Composition. As with any 2D art, how you compose is critical to the effectiveness of the final image. In photography, you get to choose which elements remain in the frame and how they are arranged relative to each other. Even stationary objects can be shifted relative to other objects by changing your perspective, and moving closer or further away.

While composition can be a vast subject to learn, I’ll give you a few tips on composition below. To learn more about composition, download my free Digital Photography Basics eBook or review past Exploring with a Camera posts on my blog.

Composition Tips:

  • Pick your subject. Be clear about what you are photographing as you take the picture. Use a process of elimination to exclude as much as you can that’s not related to what you want to capture.
    Pulau Ubin Singapore Kat Sloma Mobile Photoraphy
  • Play with aspect ratio and orientation. One of the best things about using a smartphone is you can easily switch between photo aspect ratios (2:3, 4:3, 1:1, etc.) as you are composing your image. Does the image you are composing work best as a square? Or maybe the subject is better suited to a rectangular frame?  If you are using a rectangular aspect ratio, try both horizontal and vertical orientations for your image. Discover what works best for the lines you are working with and what you want to convey.
    Kat Sloma Mobile Photography
  • Explore balance of elements. How do the lines, shapes, and colors interact with each other? What happens to the elements if you move your point of view? The interrelationships within the frame, and the balance, will change.
  • Consider placing your subject off-center. A centered subject can work, but it’s very static and not as visually interesting in many cases. The “rule of thirds” helps you remember this tip, so use it as a guideline as you start to compose an image and go from there.
  • Explore point of view. A more interesting photograph may be just a few feet higher or lower than eye level. Most of the photographs taken in the world are from human eye level, so looking from a different perspective can surprise and engage the viewer.
  • Keep it simple. “Less is more” definitely applies to smartphone photography. Since you don’t have all of the standard camera controls available to isolate subject from background, the simpler you can make your composition, the more effective your final image will likely be.

Next time you are out and about and pull out your smartphone, consider seeing what you can do with this wonderful little camera! Whether you are sharing everyday events on Facebook and Twitter or you are using the photographs for app art, improving your smartphone images is not hard at all.

Photo-Heart Connection: June 2014

Unexpected. That’s the word I woke up with today, my Photo-Heart Connection already formed in my head. The last couple of months have brought much that is unexpected my way: A new job I wasn’t looking for; a whirlwind trip to Ohio and my deep emotional response; a kitchen disaster that has left my house in a state of disrepair. I couldn’t have predicted the events that have come my way. I couldn’t have prepared.

So it shouldn’t surprise me that my Photo-Heart Connection comes unexpected this month, too. I didn’t even have to choose this month’s photograph. I knew, last night, as I prepared my photographs for review. I knew, this morning, as I woke up with a word in my head.

Amish Farm Boy Holmes County Ohio Kat Sloma Photography

I love this photograph. I think, quite frankly, it might be the best one I’ve ever created. There is something about the composition, the light, the moment, the processing, which all work together beautifully to tell a story. For some reason, it brings to mind the Vermeer painting, The Milkmaid. I remember seeing this painting in person and being utterly amazed by it. Vermeer masterfully worked with the subject, the light and shadow, and the moment to tell a story that spoke to me centuries later.

So, similarly, this image speaks to me. But of what? An unexpected moment. A story to be told. A story of life, unfolding before us. A story of people, individuals, that cross our path and change things. A story of events that happen outside of our control. The question is, are we there to live it? Are we ready to capture it, no matter how unexpected, and hang on for the ride? Are we ready to be jostled and tossed about as we are pulled along?

I am getting better at being ready. This photograph proves it. The time, the place, the moment – all unexpected. But I was there, and responded.

And I’ll be ready and open for whatever comes next, however unexpected.

These last couple of months have been a bumpy ride, it seems. I’m one month into the new job and still figuring it out. Our kitchen is now marginally usable and we are still getting quotes to decide what we are going to do next. My first art fair is barely two weeks away and I’m spending much of my time to get everything ready. I haven’t had a lot of time or energy for my blog, or anything online really. But my photographs, working with the images from my trip to Ohio early this month, have been an unexpected creative bright spot. I have gained so much personally from working with them, seeing the stories within them. Stories of my father, my family, me. I am amazed and humbled by this art form, which is constantly revealing layers of my heart and soul.

What have you discovered this month? What is your Photo-Heart Connection? Share it with us here. I want to thank you all for your continued participation. I love how, regardless of how engaged I am at the moment, you continue to do this practice for yourself and share it with this community. This is not about me, it’s about each and every one of you. Such an amazing and humbling thing to realize.

PS – You can now link in with Instagram photos! Learn more here.

Telling Stories

I believe all photographers are storytellers. Whether we are telling the story of an event, of who someone is, or of beauty in the moment, every photograph is a story. As we put these individual stories together, they become the story of ourselves, the photographer. Where we come from, who we are interested in, what we see, how we choose to portray the world. Whether we realize it or not, we are in every photograph we create.

Returning from my family visit to Ohio, I realized that there is a story to tell in photographs that I haven’t told before. A story I was able to photograph for the first time since becoming an artist. In my few days there, I barely scratched the surface. I didn’t even really try to capture and tell this story fully, but I see it there, in the images I returned home with.

It’s the story of my family heritage on my father’s side: Amish.


But it’s not just the story of “the Amish.” I’m not an anthropologist or historian, to chronicle the timeline or study the culture. I’m not a reporter, looking to get the inside scoop. It’s the story of my father, my family, me. I want to understand how it all fits together; how it influenced who I am.


My father grew up Amish on a farm in Holmes County, Ohio. He was one of nine children: Eight are still living, seven are living in or near Holmes County, five remained Amish.

My Uncle Aden now owns the family farm, 155 acres in total, which includes 50 acres of woods, two farm houses, outbuildings, and a barn of which no one quite knows the age. My Uncle David estimates at least 150 years old.


Growing up in Colorado, we visited every year or two. We were suburban kids getting the taste of a farm life for a quick week. My dad pitched in with the chores and we could tag along in the barn, as long as we stayed out of the way or helped our cousins. We might get to feed the horses, the giant draft horses that worked the field or the buggy horses, almost dainty in comparison.


We might try milking a cow (by hand, at that time) or try to catch the wild barn cats who kept the rodent population in check. There were always adventures waiting in the barn, if you weren’t afraid to get dirty.


Those memories are just echoes in my head now. There are no cows left on the family farm where my father grew up. The milking stalls are empty.


The milk house is quiet. Left as if someone might come back, any moment, and start the operation up again. Maybe someday, one of my cousins or my cousins kids, will start farming here again.


It’s a hard life, but an honest way of life. You think, looking in from the outside, that it is so different from our modern lives, but it’s not really. It doesn’t have to be. Living simply, working hard, enjoying family, creating community… We can all have these things whether we have electric lights or not. They are all choices.

My father chose not to remain in the Amish way of life, but he chose the things that mattered out of it. And each of us, me, my sister and brother, have that handed down to us as well. We get to carry that piece of the Amish heritage with us.


This was the story that came out of my photographs. A tiny piece of who I am and where I came from. I didn’t know I was capturing this story, any story really, when I was there. I sometimes forget that my photographs are not of some random subject, but of me, no matter what thing is in them.

Looking at these images, I feel as if there are so many stories left, waiting to be captured. Waiting to be told. I feel a pull to go back, and explore these stories more.