Seeking the Heart

Maybe I think too much. Sometimes I’d like to go through life without a care in the world. Happily flitting from one attractive place to another, like a butterfly.

Abstract Tulip Oregon Kat Sloma Mobile Photography

But that’s not me. I sit and ponder. I think. I like to know the “why” behind things. I like to understand the connections and interrelationships. I love that “Aha” I feel when I’ve connected two new dots. That takes observing, thinking, and experimenting with ideas.

The outcome of all of that thought is often new ideas and ways of looking at things. In my photography, it’s new ways of approaching an image. Today’s image, Seeking the Heart, is an example. It’s borne out of blending experimentation last fall, visiting art museums in DC over Spring Break, an excursion to the tulips last weekend, an epiphany on a hike this week and more experimentation this morning. It’s the result of thinking about the art I love to look at, and thinking about how to create images that have the same elements and visual impression.

I love this.

Huh. Maybe I don’t think too much, after all.

Sure Signs of Spring

There are three things that are sure signs of spring in our house: My son’s birthday, tulips in bloom and taxes.

Tulip Festival Woodburn Oregon Kat Sloma Photography

My Saturday was filled with all three. First I was up early for a sunrise shoot at the tulip fields in Woodburn, Oregon. Too bad we never saw the sun! It rose behind clouds, leaving us with a rainy, overcast morning. Fun, but wet. I’m still going through my photographs for the best ones.

Then home, to my son’s 13th birthday. Yes, I have a teenager now! The afternoon was filled with teen boy energy, taking his friends to the First Robotics competition and then out for birthday ice cream. And filled with texts, lots of texts. Unlimited texting on his phone was our gift to him this year. It was fun to see his excitement as he heard that little chirp of the text coming in.

And then… Taxes. I had been dreading doing my own taxes this year, partially for the work and partially just for the unknown nature of what I would owe. This year was the first year since before Italy that I was on the hook for doing my own taxes, the company wasn’t doing them for me because of all sorts of craziness that happens with working internationally. Things have changed in our tax situation and I didn’t quite know how it would pan out. But, for all of my fears of what it would be, it came out ok. Whew, a sigh of relief.

Which made me think… All of this pent up dread and fear that I was carrying around the last few months as I thought of the taxes, both the dread of the work and the fear of outcome, and it was all for nothing. The work wasn’t that bad, just a few hours in total, and the outcome was fine, not significantly different from what it’s been in the past. After it was done, I felt so much better. I felt back in control, understanding this was mine to own and affect. I could make changes to affect the outcome, rather than sitting back and allowing it to happen to me.

How many other areas in my life am I carrying around unfounded worry? Are there places where, if I faced my fears sooner, I could leave all of that angst behind and create a better outcome for the future? Because all that worry was wasted energy. Completely wasted and misdirected. This experience was a little reminder that it’s better to face the unknown and take ownership, instead of turning my head away and avoiding it out of fear. Even if my worst fears had materialized, at least I would KNOW what the situation was and then could move on. I would be in control, making decisions on the next steps to change things in the future, moving myself ahead. Not stuck in that horrible place of inaction filled with worry, dread and fear. Blech, I don’t want to be there anymore. It’s time to take stock and make sure I’m not in that place with anything else in my life right now.

It’s yet another life lesson, found this time in one of my sure signs of spring. Next year I plan to skip the whole dread and fear part, move the taxes up to winter, and just enjoy the tulips and the birthday this time of year. I think that will be a much better way to celebrate spring.

Photo-Heart Connection: March 2014

It’s all in the light. Beautiful, heavenly rays of sunshine through the blossoms.

Spring Tree Blossom Oregon Kat Sloma Mobile Photography

I photographed a lot of tree blossoms in March. As I looked through the photographs, I realized the photographs were of the blossoms, yes, but they were also of light. Sunlight in the evening, sunlight after rain. The sunlight created the beauty, as much as the blossoms on the tree.

So many of these images were taken in what now seem to be fleeting moments. A chance encounter: Me, my camera, and the right light at the right time. A week or two later, the blossoms are now fading and the rains have returned. As I look at this dazzling beauty from a couple of weeks ago, I am full. Full of gratitude, for that brief moment in time, I was able to be fully present. Full of awe, for what I was able to create out of the experience. Full of hope, the hope that spring always brings along with it.

This is what life is about, isn’t it? Brief moments of time, lived to their fullest. Noticing the sunlight on the blossoms, when it is available. Being present and active and engaged in what life offers up, every day.

This moment in time is all we have. It’s where we choose to be; what we choose to see, to capture, to do with the moment that matters.

This month’s Photo-Heart Connection brings me an important reminder. I so often live in the future, asking myself, “What do I have to get done next?” No matter what I’ve completed, there is always, always something else on the list. But this morning I’m reminded by light on blossoms, blossoms and light now long gone as I write this, that I can’t always be thinking about what’s next. I need to be present in this moment, living fully in the here and now, to appreciate and see what life is bringing me. This is hard for me. So very hard. I think I’ll print and hang this image of light on blossoms in a prominent place to remind me of this month’s message: Be present.

What is your Photo-Heart Connection this month? Have you been seeing the light on the blossoms, or are you struggling through some darkness? Whatever the message, it’s important to listen to your heart — it’s speaking through your art. I hope you’ll share what you find with us.

Growing Slowly

I want you to look back, for a minute. Look back at where you were in your creative journey one year ago. Five years ago. Ten years ago. Where were you? What were you doing? Could you have imagined being where you are, today, from that distance in time?

One year ago, I was still in the throes of learning mobile photography, trying to figure out how it fit in with my photography practice. This month a year ago, I was in Singapore for two weeks and the Redwoods for spring break. I was in love with trees and the freedom of mobile, but had not yet let go of my security blanket of dSLR. I still toted it along with me everywhere.

Five years ago, I was getting ready to move to Italy. I was probably just back to Oregon after a whirlwind trip finding an apartment in Italy. and in the throes of figuring out what we were going to ship to Italy vs store for the duration of the assignment. I don’t think photography was anywhere on my mind, except maybe just the occasional picture of our lives in chaos. I had no clue what the future had in store for me, creatively or otherwise. But I knew I was at the brink of an adventure.

Ten years ago, I was probably just trying to keep everything together as a mom of an almost-three-year-old little boy. It’s hard to remember that time, it seems so long ago. My spare time (what little there was) would have included lots of playing with photographs as I created scrapbooks. Photographs mostly of family and events, documenting our lives. A few artistic photographs, that I didn’t know what to do with. Photography was a growing interest, but not the primary art form for me at the time.

Could I have imagined, five or ten years ago, that I would be here today? That I would be teaching photography online and in person? That I would be exhibiting my work in galleries? That I would be a keynote speaker at a photography conference? No, I could not have imagined. One year ago, the seeds were being planted for this year’s growth, so these things were within the realm of possibility. But five, ten years ago? No clue.

It’s been a journey of long and slow growth. I think “slow” is the natural pace of artistic growth, at least for me. This is what it needs to be. There are creative growth spurts for sure, I can point to a couple of them in the last five years alone, but these are balanced out with periods of slower growth. The slower times are needed for me to integrate what I’ve learned and figure out what I’m going to do with it.

Spring Tree Blossom Oregon Kat Sloma Mobile Photography

Growth takes time, often time where it looks or feels like nothing is happening. I look at the trees blooming right now, see their amazing blossoms, and think WOW! It seems as if all of a sudden, the buds appear and the flowers burst forth. But it’s not all of a sudden, is it? The tree was working toward this, for months. All winter long, while the tree appeared quiet and still on the outside, it was working.

Artistic growth is like that, too. It’s hard to internalize, because we might not see this part when we hear about successful artists. We might see an artist with seemingly overnight success, and wonder how they got there. As I meet and talk to more and more artists, working artists who are making their living with their art, I can see that true overnight success is very rare. Most artists achieve their success through hard work, over a long period of time. Their art is growing and changing, as they are, preparing themselves for the big break, if it ever comes. They may experience a lot of rejection along the way, but they keep working, keep growing. So when an artist appears to be “discovered,” when we finally become aware of them, they have likely been working for a long time to get to that point. It only appears as if they burst forth onto the scene suddenly, like the blossoms on the tree. The work to prepare for their success was going on, behind the scenes, when no one was looking.

There is an element of luck in artistic success too, don’t get me wrong. I heard this segment on NPR which talked about why some art becomes popular while other art doesn’t. The conclusion of the study was that there is some minimum level of quality, and beyond that, there is an element of luck and crowd influence that determines which pieces of art or artists become popular or successful. That makes sense. Haven’t we all seen art that is fawned over and said, “But Sally’s work is just as good. Better even. Why is that artist so successful while Sally isn’t?” It could just be that element of timing and luck.

Now, in all of this discussion, I don’t want to imply there is one definition of success here. Fill in your own definition of success. That could be making a living as an artist, or gaining some notoriety, as is implied above, or it could simply be creating art that expresses your vision. “Success” is a personal thing. Defining what “success” really means to you is part of the growth process, too.

So what can we do, to be ready for that success, however we define it? How do we prepare, if there might be an external element of luck or timing involved? All we can do is continue to grow. Continue to do the work of becoming better at our art. Continue to take one step after another on this creative journey. Slowly, surely, moving ourselves forward. Looking out for opportunities that may arise, taking risks, and trying new things. Showing up. That’s all we can do, day by day.

Sometimes, when the growth is slow, it may feel as if nothing is happening. But it’s when we look back — one year, five years, ten years — we can see how dramatically things have changed. And we can see where our hard work made that change happen. How our effort and growth got us to where we are today, artistically or otherwise.

So let yourself grow slowly. Be the tree that is getting ready for spring. Don’t worry if the tree next to you is blossoming, bursting forth into spring, and you are not. You are still getting ready. Your time to bloom will come.


We finally got a bit of the weather craziness that has been plaguing the rest of the US late last week, with fifteen inches of snow falling on Thursday and Friday.


Now, for those of you in cold, snowy places, fifteen inches is nothing. Having grown up in Colorado, I’m well aware of that. But fifteen inches in a place that usually sees rain year-round and has very few snow plows? Where the general population freaks out at a single snowflake? Well, kind of a mess. School was closed, and my workplace was even closed, which is a rare occurrence. Activities, including an opening reception for my latest exhibition, were all cancelled. The streets were deserted.


Suddenly, there was space in the schedule and a beautiful world outside to explore. I enjoyed it thoroughly.


You may be seeing snow pics here for a while…

Fading (A Mobile Tutorial)

We have been having some gorgeously sunny autumn days, which means the trees really get to show their colors here in Oregon. We have to take advantage of this photographic opportunity when this happens, because you never know when it’s going to rain again and knock the leaves off of the trees.

I haven’t gotten out to photograph nearly as much as I should, but the fall colors have turned my attention back to the trees and I’m having a fabulous time playing with edits. Today I’ll share a very easy mobile tutorial, combining two autumn images into this piece, called Fading.


The base image is of the tree branches, captured in ProCamera 7. It was a foggy morning and the fog hadn’t lifted yet, giving me a nice blank background.


I started with Snapseed, using the Grunge filter to change the tones. The Grunge filter can have dramatic effects, or can be more subtle when you dial back the texture and the edge blur as I did here.

Next, the image went into Distressed FX to add a texture. The bottom image is ready to blend with the top image at this point.


For the top images, I started with this image of leaves.


Starting with Snapseed again, I changed the tone and contrast. To do this, I used both the grunge and Retrolux filters.


I didn’t like how the leaves in the bottom corner were starting to distract me, and I didn’t think they would blend well, so into Handy Photo for some clean up. Amazing what you can do with this app, isn’t it?


Now the top image is done, so it’s time to blend the two in Image Blender. I adjusted the size and location of the top image relative to the bottom, so that they would overlap in a pleasing way.


I wanted more texture in the final image, so the last step was editing in Pic Grunger. This app is new to me and it gives some great texture effects. Here’s the final image again:


A simple yet effective use of two images to show the transition of the seasons. And now, I need to get out and get some more fall images, while I can!