Technicolor Skies

We have been having some gorgeous mornings lately. Technicolor blue and yellow and pink skies. I am torn between being out, hiking and photographing, and staying in, journaling and editing. There are only so many free morning hours. This morning was an “in” morning, but I saw the pink skies out the window and found myself wishing I could be two places at once.

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I’m a bit out of sorts these days… My Smartphone Art workshop was last weekend (workshop report to come!) and there is always a void after completing a big project like that for the first time. Always a period of “Now what?” I have a number of possible things on the list, and the fall eCourse Journey of Fascination is coming up in September, but I’m really in an indecisive swirl. I’m telling myself to go play a bit more, see what bubbles up to the top, but it’s hard for me not to just jump on the next idea that comes along.

So I’ve armed myself with a few new apps to play with, and am looking through the list of random errands I need to run, and I’m trying not to overcommit in my desire to be doing something, anything, with intense focus. In writing this I’ve just realized: It’s so much easier for me to manage one big thing than lots of little things. I’m comfortable with intense focus to reach a goal where I’m not with scattered actions that don’t feel like they are moving me ahead.

But, I think I’ll stay here in this soupy mess of random actions and small projects for a while. I’ll enjoy the technicolor skies and the fleeting summer days. Somehow I know, it’s the little things I should be doing right now. No matter how uncomfortable it makes me.

Me and the Palm Trees

Wherever you go, there you are.

I had a wonderful weekend in Las Vegas, talking Photography of Place and exploring a new city.

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And what did I mainly photograph? Trees. Palm trees against the Las Vegas architecture. Shadows of palm trees. Palm trees against that amazing sky.

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What else could there possibly be to photograph in Las Vegas, but trees?

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I have to smile. Wherever I go of late, I find myself amongst the trees.

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Celebrating the Winners

It’s time to announce the winners of my 1000th Blog Post Celebration! But first I want to thank all of you who entered. 128 entries. Wow. I’ve never had so many comments on one post! It was exciting to see them come through, and to read such lovely notes. I wanted to reply to them but that would have messed up the count for the drawing so I had to resist.

So I’ll send out a global thank you here today. Thank you for being here, for your lovely words, and for the ongoing support which allows me to share something I love with the world.

Thank you. From the bottom of my heart.

Let’s get on to the winners, shall we? Drawings were done with the random.org random number generator and winners have been emailed. Join me in congratulating them!

Grand Prize: Winner receives a class registration of choice in 2013 and a matted print of the image of their choice from my work.
#108 Lee Pope

First Prizes: Each winner will receive a matted print of the image of their choice from my work.
#105 Elizabeth Gonzalez
#42 Stephanie
#88 Andrea
#44 Cheryl
#27 Stephanie Skiff

Second Prizes: Each winner will receive a set of 3 postcards from my stash.
#81 Kelley Fewer
#69 Bernell Lemaire
#22 Fiona
#84 Paula
#120 Els
#62 Becky
#73 Sherry
#38 Kathryn Dyche Dechairo
#58 Annie
#67 MG Atwood

Message Received

To put our art, our writing, our photography, our ideas out into the world with no assurance of acceptance or appreciation – that’s also vulnerability.
— — BrenĂ© Brown in Daring Greatly

I now know why I needed to hear the message from the universe yesterday. Why I started reading Daring Greatly this week. I’m having one hell of a vulnerability attack at the moment.

Let me explain…

This weekend is the Corvallis Fall Festival. After months of planning and preparing, I’ll be putting my art out there in the public eye, for sale, in a completely new way for me. It’s from the safety of a shared booth (4 other photographers along with me) and the safety of being close to home, but as I wrote out the email last night inviting friends and neighbors to visit me in the booth during the festival, I started to feel the fear. I started thinking, Why am I sending this? I don’t want to bother anyone with more emails. Will they even care? What if they don’t like my work? Maybe it’s better not to tell anyone. But I pressed send on the email anyway, despite my fears, because I know that most of these people want to see me succeed and will come by and support me even if it’s with a quick hi in the booth.

As I was reading this morning I realized where this feeling came from. I’m making myself vulnerable, by putting my art out there in a new way. And no matter how much I want and crave connection with people through my art, I also fear it. No amount of planning and preparing can eliminate that visceral response that comes from somewhere deep inside. The place that fears that I am not good enough. The place that fears rejection.

This vulnerability attack is made doubly strong by my trip to England next week. In the last couple of weeks, I’ve been stressing over what to wear for my workshops. I’m realizing now this is just a substitute worry for the bigger fear of putting myself “out there” in such a spectacular way. Want to know how the workshops happened? Earlier this year I said to myself, “I want to go to England and visit my friends! It would be cool to teach a couple of photography workshops at the same time.” And then started working on it. Once again, the planning and the preparing are the easy parts. It’s so, so easy for me to create a plan, a list of things to do, and check them off one by one. It’s a lot harder to deal with the emotions that come along with the actual event. Here I am, travelling by myself, staying with friends I know mostly from online interactions, offering workshops in a foreign country. Vulnerable? You bet.

With every step I take outside of my comfort zone, I open myself up to uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure. It just so happens that is exactly BrenĂ© Brown’s definition of vulnerability. I get it. I feel it, at my core, right now. Thankfully, these kinds of fears and emotions usually don’t come until I’m already committed, well down the road where it’s too late to turn back, so I keep putting myself out there in new and crazy ways. As I’ve said so many times in my writing here before, each little step you take expands your comfort zone. Whether it’s liberating your art as a postcard or in an art fair, it all takes courage and a willingness to be vulnerable.

I know intellectually that everything will be fine. Regardless of whether or not I sell a lot of my photographs at the festival, regardless of whether or not my workshops are full, I will have a good time. I will learn something in the process. I will grow.

Knowing it will all turn out ok doesn’t eliminate the feelings that exist today, right now, in my gut. But understanding where they are coming from, why being vulnerable has this impact on me, certainly helps. Thanks to the message from the universe yesterday, I was prepared for the panic attack of today. (Sort of. Talk to me about it tomorrow.)

Exploring with a Camera: Allowing Space

Welcome to September’s Exploring to a Camera! Today is one of the rare times when Photo-Heart Connection and Exploring with a Camera overlap, due to my crazy September schedule. You can link in to both today!

This month I am exploring space in my photographs. I’m looking at when and where allowing space in the composition creates a more compelling image.

Hot Air Balloons

The balloons at the recent Northwest Art & Air festival were a perfect subject for allowing space. There is an expansive feel of the balloons floating through space. Expansive, peaceful and calm are the feelings that often come from the photographs where I allow space.

How do you allow space? Is space only created by a big open sky? Definitely not! Let’s explore…


What is Space?

Almost every photograph has some element of “space.” Any time you have separation between objects within the frame, there is space. The space I’m talking about today is a little bit different than the emptiness you find between objects, I’m considering “space” as a visual element on its own. My definition of “space” is a single, continuous visual element in a photograph that fills more than half of the frame but is not the subject.

The wall in this image from Korkula, Croatia shows the kind of space I am talking about. The subject is the set of chairs creating an inviting place to rest in the alleyway. The wall is more than half of the frame. The emptiness of the wall both leads the viewer toward the chairs, and increases the sense of intimacy of the little scene.

This example shows that space is not just emptiness. Space as a visual element can have color, texture and variation. There area few ways that I’ve found allowing space is effective in my photographs.


Backdrop

The space in a photograph can serve as a backdrop for the subject. This is a very common way I use space. The example of the bicycle below shows the space as a backdrop. The brick wall has both color and texture, but provides a visual element that is behind and secondary to the bicycle. It is the canvas for the bicycle as a piece of art.

In this next image, the space of the wall serves as both background for the scene and backdrop for the shadow. The space in the photo allows the subject to be the shadow rather than the actual decorative tree. If more of the tree were in the frame, it would draw your eye.


Frame

Allowing space to fill an area entirely around the subject creates an effective frame. The textured yellow wall frames the decorative house numbers in this image, changing the strong color from a distraction to an element that highlights the subject by its contrast.

The blurred background in this image frames the detail of the flowers. Visual space does not have to be a physical surface or emptiness, it can be created through a shallow depth of field which blends different elements into one continuous element. The out of focus field of the background makes the tiny details of the plant more noticeable and dramatic.


Balance

Allowing space in the frame can balance busy elements. In this scene of the food cart, the blank wall allows space that balances the busy detail of the cart in front of the doorway.

The green door in the image below provides the space to balance out the other graphic elements of square, circle and line. Again, notice that the green is not continuous. It has variation and texture, but creates space in the photograph.


Contrast

Allowing space provides a contrast that helps the viewer focus right in on the subject. Along with acting as a balancing element, background or frame, the element creating the space often creates contrast too. The concrete wall in this image serves as both frame and contrast for the window. The color and detail of the window, with its reflection and plant in the windowsill, are emphasized by the lack of color and continuous texture of the wall.

The shape and color contrast of the leaf against the pebbly ground is one of the things that make this image effective. While the wet ground has lots of texture and variation, visually it serves as a background for the red leaf.


Allowing Space

So, how do you allow space? I must admit, I rarely think of allowing space explicitly as I’m framing a photograph. Space often finds it’s way into my photographs when I need to eliminate a distracting element (see Exploring with a Camera: Process of Elimination), or as a byproduct of combining other elements. The lonely bicycle in Bologna is a good example of unintentional creation of space. I wanted to capture both the interesting timeworn pillar and the lonely bicycle. The resulting photograph allows the space created by the empty wall. Effective, but not intentional.

In the image of this fun stoplight near our home in Italy, the space in the image comes from the need to avoid the distractions of the background. Any other perspective than looking into the sky would capture an ugly scene of roads, fences and apartment buildings.

Even though allowing space is not foremost in my compositional toolbox, I have used space to create a feel in a photograph, such as this one from Lake Garda in northern Italy. The space created by the water, along with the framing of the pier as a small, off-center element, provides a stronger feeling. What is your reaction to it?

Space can also create an interesting composition out of a relatively simple scene. The snow-covered spring flowers are interesting on their own, but I think the off-center composition, with the inclusion of the snowy space, makes the scene more interesting.


Isn’t it cool how this simple idea of allowing space can create an interesting image? As someone who often fills the frame, this exploration is a good reminder that sometimes “less is more.” I like the feeling of the images where I’ve allowed space. I’m going to have to use this effective concept more often.

Now it’s your turn to share. Take a look at where and how you allow space in your images, and then go out and capture some new photographs with these ideas in mind. I can’t wait to see what you find when you allow space!


Let Your Dreams Soar

It’s amazing how much a day makes a difference. Even when we try to repeat the same thing, each day and each moment are different. It never comes out the same. As a photographer, I am constantly reminded of this. The camera captures the differences in light and shadow, in my point of view. Our brains adjust and accommodate and affect our perception, but the camera tells it true.

The second morning of the NW Art & Air Festival was completely different than the first. Where there were clear skies, no wind and sunshine on Saturday, Sunday’s launch was in cloudy skies and slight wind. No morning sun on the balloons, no mass launch. One at a time the balloons filled and drifted off quickly into the cloudy sky. It wasn’t as much fun to photograph and yet…

…here is this image. My heart leapt when I first saw it. I knew some dreamy editing would be perfect. I am so happy with it I find that I can’t edit any more photos this morning. I am done. Satisfied. The words “Let Your Dreams Soar” came to me as I edited it, so that’s the title.

Thank goodness I went back the second day. Thank goodness it was different than the first. The morning that seemed imperfect turned out the best image of all. The camera told it true.


Since I love how this image turned out I created a Lightroom preset called Let Your Dreams Soar and I find I can’t wait for the next newsletter to share it with you! You can download it here. This preset will work in Lightroom 3 or 4. I thought you might like to see the original image for comparison. Quite a bit different, huh?