Chasing Lines and Light

We arrived home from Eastern Oregon on Thursday evening and I’ve had a few days now to process the trip. I’ve been processing in more ways than one: Both editing the photographs and thinking about what I discovered about myself and my photography.

This was the first time I had ever traveled with other photographers for multiple days, with the express purpose of finding photographs. Sure, I’ve gone out for a day with photographer-friends before, and I’ve photographed over multiple days on trips with family and friends. But the purpose of this trip was all photography, all the time. That’s new for me.

So what did I learn?

First, I really enjoy traveling with other photographers, or at least these photographers in the PhotoArts Guild. They are respectful of everyone’s creative process. If anyone saw something that they wanted to photograph, they’d stop the car (as soon as it’s safe, of course). After we’d stopped, everyone went their separate ways, wandering back to the car when done where they patiently waited until the last person was ready to go. I sensed it as an unspoken rule: You didn’t hurry anyone along. You respected the creative process of each individual. After a while I stopped worrying about making anyone wait and just went with the muse… If I was inspired, I continued to photograph. If not, I hung out at the car, editing on my iPhone or chatting with the others. This approach meant that we didn’t always get to the destination that was planned for the day. It meant that we might miss dinner. But that was ok, because we were all doing something we enjoyed and were (hopefully) creating amazing photographs.

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I took only my iPhone, intent to continue learning how this little camera was going to work for me in new situations. It was a last minute decision to do it this way. I had my camera bag packed with dSLR + 3 lenses, along with my tripod, all laying by the door waiting to go. Then, the night before leaving I thought, who am I kidding? I haven’t been inspired to edit a dSLR photograph in months. Why not just take the iPhone? Why not just see if I felt limited or not? I’ve always thought the only way to really learn a new tool — camera, lens, whatever — is to use it exclusively for a while, and see where it works and it doesn’t. So I left the dSLR at home and brought only the iPhone and accessories.

I got some good-natured teasing from the rest of the crew, but as always, the iPhone worked wonderfully for me. The only times I felt limited were when I wanted to zoom in on something I just couldn’t get closer to, because it was too far or there was some obstacle in the way or it would change the angle too much. When that happened, I found I kept looking and discovered different things to photograph. Or I framed things differently. Or I discovered new ways to include the feature I might have zoomed in on, maybe with a foreground or some other feature included. It was a good challenge, and I found I wasn’t frustrated by the shots I couldn’t get. I was pleased with the ones I did get.

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I also had the chance to really work with the Photojojo lenses I bought a few months ago. I discovered that I don’t like them. Not because I didn’t like having other lenses to use, because I did like that. I just didn’t like these lenses. I didn’t like the sticky ring that you have to put on your camera; it fell off at one point and I had to apply a new one. I didn’t like the way the lenses have all of these pieces and parts you have to undo to put the lens onto the camera. I didn’t like the optical quality of the lenses. They are all fuzzy at the edges, and you have to focus in the center – which is not usually my composition style. I also managed to lose the wide angle lens, which screws onto the macro lens. That actually turned out to be a good thing – because it made it easier to use the macro lens and that’s the one lens I actually liked of the bunch. After playing with these I’ve decided I’m going to try the Olloclip instead. Fewer pieces and parts, no sticky magnetic ring and hopefully better optical quality. I’ll let you know how it goes in the future.

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I discovered that while I’m getting better at capturing landscapes and the wide angle view…

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…it’s still not my favorite perspective to photograph.

I prefer to get closer, and share a more intimate view of things. I find having parts of things included in my photos more intriguing than the whole. Photographing this boat one morning, one of the other photographers on the trip joked that I could stop taking pictures, he had already photographed the scene. I held up my iPhone and asked him, “But did you take THIS photograph?” He quipped back, “No, I managed to get the whole thing in.” We laughed, and went on. But the comment made me think. You see, I don’t WANT to get the whole thing in. The image I created with part of the boat is more compelling to me than the ones I created with the whole boat. That held true for most of the photographs I liked from the trip. They weren’t the big picture view; they were the small scenes and details.

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At first I attributed it to the iPhone, thinking that’s just the type of image it is well-suited for: Getting up close and intimate, since it’s doesn’t have a zoom. Then I realized focusing on the small scenes and details really comes from within me. It is my eye; my view of the world. Small scenes and details are what I have ALWAYS been drawn to, regardless of the camera I carry. So saying that the iPhone is well-suited to this type of photograph means that the iPhone is well-suited to my style of photography. Which must be why I don’t feel limited with this little camera in my pocket. In fact, I’m liberated, because it is always with me.

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I wasn’t sure I would find anything to photograph on this trip. I have to be honest, going to Eastern Oregon was not my first choice of places to go to photograph. If you asked me to make a list of places I want to photograph, this area wouldn’t have even appeared on my list. But these guys were going, and they said, “Want to come?” I had the vacation time, the family was busy with work and school, so I thought, Why not? Not only did it appeal to me to just go off and photograph for a few days, I wanted to get to know the other Guild members better and I held a bit of curiosity about the place that draws so many of them back year after year.

And while it wasn’t my usual subject matter, it grew on me. I discovered the sand dunes and the aspens and way of life that is completely different from mine in Corvallis. It showed me that there is so much to Oregon that I haven’t explored yet. So many places to go, so many things to photograph.

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In the end, I discovered that no matter where I go, or what camera I have with me, I will always find things to photograph and find ways to make interesting images. I am, at my core, a photographer. It’s just how I see the world: I’m always chasing lines and light.

A Changing View

The sun is shining, I had great creative photography excursion yesterday and last week’s pause is at an end. I have a great view today, but it’s a changing view. I’ve come through the other side of my little break but not without making some important discoveries.

You see, there was more to the pause than my Mom visiting for a week. Underlying the feeling was a growing sense of dissatisfaction with some elements of my creative life. It was as if I was seeing through a dirty window but could sense something more on the other side. After journaling about it the last few days and making some mental shifts and decisions, I want to share them here.

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For a little while now, I’ve felt as if I’m not using my creative time on what I want to be using it for. Here I’ve arranged my whole schedule, working part time at my corporate job and all, to give myself more creative time. And yet I’ve filled it with my “to do” list. Always more to do, isn’t there?

So I’ve taken a look at what I want to be doing with my time and what I have been doing with my time to see what is causing the tension. Based on that, I will be making some changes to create the space I feel I need to continue to grow.

What I want to be doing…

I want to continue to develop my art. I want to spend more time in developing my own aesthetic through study, creation of new work and exploration of print. How I do that is ever-changing and up in the air at the moment, but it requires time.

I want to be hiking in the forest regularly, for my mental and physical health. There is something about being among the trees that brings me peace and makes me feel alive. I want to do more of it, several mornings a week at least.

I want to continue to connect with other artists, both in person and online. The connection and inspiration I find through running my eCourses, my blog, Photo-Heart Connection, the Liberate Your Art postcard swap and interacting with local photography friends are all important and valuable to me, and I can see the value to others as well. I need time to develop these meaningful relationships.

What I have been doing…

I have been spending a lot of time with writing things that aren’t necessarily aligned with my personal goals listed above. Things like trying to blog daily, send a newsletter twice a month, and the Exploring with a Camera blog series. All are things that have been an important part of my creative journey in the past, but they don’t seem to fit the same way they once did.

My intention in the future is to blog when I have something meaningful to say, rather than as a daily routine or weekly/monthly schedule. I think the quality of what I share will improve, even if the frequency lessens. The one schedule thing that you can be sure of: Photo-Heart Connection will continue on the first of each month. Beyond that, I could be here 5 days a week or 1 day a week; we’ll just see what happens.

Exploring with a Camera is going on hiatus for a while. While I love this series and have never written one exploration I didn’t fully enjoy, as I look to the future I’m not sure I still have the inspiration to continue. At least, as I look at my personal schedule for the next few months, I feel overwhelmed when I think of this series rather than enthused. Beyond a few months, I’ll see how I feel. In addition to my own personal reservations for coming months, participation has been steadily declining over time, so I wonder if there is still interest out there. What I spend my time sharing needs to be valuable to both me and others, or there is no point in spending all of the time it takes to write if it’s not useful.

My newsletter will go to once a month for a while, too. I love being able to connect with more people through this method of communication, but it takes a lot more of my time than I’ve wanted to acknowledge. I also have to admit I’ve been overwhelmed by all that comes to my email inbox of late and I think about that for all of my subscribers too. I want any email I send you to be important and useful, not just because it’s on a twice-a-month schedule. Going down to once a month saves me the time of creating the newsletter and the burden on all of your email inboxes, while still keeping in touch in this great way.

I will also be changing my class schedule to give myself some more time off over the summer. Summer is gorgeous, but too short, in Oregon. I need to spend more time outside and less on the computer. It doesn’t affect any eCourses in progress or A Sense of Place (planned for April-May – registration opens VERY soon), but it will affect the schedule for the rest of 2013 beyond May. As I sort it out and finalize dates I will keep you informed through my blog, website and newsletter.

I feel good about these decisions and know they will allow me the time and the space for new things to grow. I’m seeing a little more clearly now, thanks to the pause and the needed introspection. I found out what was on the other side of that murky window I was looking through last week. It’s looking pretty interesting, too!

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Admitting some of these feelings to myself and deciding to make these changes has been an internal struggle. Many of these decisions run counter-intuitive to the common wisdom of running an online business, much of which advises regular interaction on a high frequency through as many channels as possible. The changes also mean mixing up things that have clearly worked for me in the past, and that’s always uncomfortable.

My heart is telling me to throw that common wisdom out the window and that it’s time for a new way of doing things. If I’m not spending the time I need to grow myself creatively — in the direction my heart tells me — then I’m not going to add anything useful to the conversation. And more than anything, I want to add something useful to the conversation of art, creativity and photography. For myself and for all of you.

It’s time for a Journey of Fascination

The course was inspirational and confidence building. It seems each of us have what is needed to be whatever our heart desires, we just needed a facilitator to draw it out.
– Find Your Eye Participant in 2012

It’s time for a new journey. A Journey of Fascination. I am adding a new course to the Find Your Eye series in early 2013, and you are invited to join the journey. The series begins with Starting the Journey from January 20-31, 2013, and then continues with the all-new Journey of Fascination from February 10 – March 9, 2013. Registration is open now.

The participant quote I’ve shared above really expresses what the Find Your Eye series is all about. It’s about building your confidence. It’s about inspiring you to be who you are in your photography. Finding your eye is no more complicated than that. Yet it’s still not easy, either. That’s why I’ve created these courses: to help you make the journey. The journey is your own, I just shine a light on the path in front of you, to help you move forward. And even if you are already moving along nicely, the courses accelerate your momentum.

My own journey has been an interesting one, filled with ups and downs, fears and joy, as those of you who regularly read my blog know. These courses come out of my own experiences. I find it interesting that I’ve added one per year… Journey of Recognition came out of 2010, Journey of Inspiration came out of 2011, and now Journey of Fascination has been born out of experiences in 2012. Each course is a different journey, taking you in a slightly different direction. I love how it doesn’t matter the order you take the courses, or if you are near the beginning of your own journey with photography or well under way, they always fit where you are.

I hope you will join me in January and February on this new journey. It’s exciting to be at the cusp of sharing something new. I’ve always thought there were more Find Your Eye courses to come and now is the right time for the next one.

I love this journey I am on. I love what I get to do in these courses, as a guide and a witness. I especially love that it makes a difference in the art and the lives of the people who join me. I’m excited to share a few other comments from participants in Find Your Eye courses this year, about their experience.

I love the interaction among the participants as well as from you, Kat. The assignments were challenging and pushed us to explore new purposes for taking photographs, but to also find meaning in them. [T]he level of interaction in this course is so much deeper and open than any other online courses I’ve completed.

I loved learning in a group, knowing there were others on the journey too and we could explore this passion for photography together. And my other favourite thing was having assignments which gave us plenty of direction but also opened up all kinds of creative possibilities.

I’ve done many classes and this one was the best, because it was a small group and because you, Kat, always give feedback and follow the group. It’s also unique, because it pushes you forward as a photographer.

[This course is unique because of] the great interaction around photo images. We all had a chance to learn from others because we paid attention to what everyone was doing not just on our individual work. It wasn’t only about feedback from you, Kat (which was very appreciated), but we seemed to get a lot out of feedback from everyone and you had an opportunity to react to some of the feedback, too. It was a group experience.

Whitstable Blues

Do you have people in your life who rub off on you when you are around them? I definitely do. I pick up a little bit of their happiness or enthusiasm when I’m around them. Whatever they have going on, I just can’t help but be swept up in their excitement. I’m continuing on to London today, sharing one final story of creative connection with a person who is like that for me: Kirstin McKee.

I’ve known Kirstin for a couple of years now. I first met her online through the Mortal Muses and we spent a weekend with her family in London while we were living in Italy. Since this trip back to England was all about connection, I was excited to reconnect with Kirstin. I stayed with her and her family for a couple of days between workshops. When she suggested we go to Whitstable, a little coastal town about an hour’s drive from London, I jumped on the chance. I’d never visited the English seaside! We lucked out with a gorgeously sunny day for our excursion.

Photo by Kirstin McKee

Kirstin is fun to be around because she is so full of enthusiasm for photography. Whatever she does, she does with gusto. She’s gotten into film the last year or so, and raves about it. It makes it hard for her to decide what cameras to bring though! On this day trip she carried four cameras: dSLR, 35mm film, Polaroid and iPhone. I was a-goggle with all of her camera bags! But it was fun to watch her choose between one camera or another, to hear why she would choose each one, and to see the outcome later.

Kirstin and her camera bags

We wandered along the shore and through the town, following our interest and whatever captured our eye. We spent a good long time at this house with the gorgeous blue shutters, which reminded both of us of Greece. She even had to run back later and photograph the window again, since her original Polaroid didn’t turn out quite right.

I look at her photographs, and I’m just in awe of what she does. And she is so humble about it too. She creates because she loves it, and follows her joy. What a great example for the rest of us.

Photos by Kirstin McKee

After wandering around for a while, photographing all manner of interesting things, we wrapped up our day with an amazing lunch at the Whitstable Oyster Company. There is nothing like a fantastic meal in a lovely setting to cap off your day.

The whole thing was so much fun. This is the best kind of photography excursion to me: Visiting a new place along with a friend who loves photography as much as I do. My photographs from this day are some of my favorite from the trip.

Photos, and Photo of Photos, by Kirstin McKee

Kirstin’s enthusiasm definitely rubbed off on me. While I haven’t quite caught her bug for film, I can appreciate what she sees in it. And after she saw me using my iPod Touch, she pretty much made sure I got onto Instagram while I was with her… and you all know what’s happened from there. A whole new world has opened up for me with mobile photography.

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Thanks Kirstin, for a lovely day, and for the enthusiasm you share with all you do. It was a wonderful reconnection and I already can’t wait for the next time. Where shall we visit next?

As I wrap up this series of posts, I am excited see how each of the creative connections I made on this trip string together into a story of influences. I can observe what I gained from each one and how they each are a little stepping stone on my creative journey. I would not be in the same place today without them. Thanks for joining me as I revisited my connections in England the last couple of weeks! I look forward to sharing more of my England photos over time.

What a Scooter Sighting can teach about the Process of Elimination

Oh, how heavenly it was, to be back in the land of scooters! I didn’t spot any scooters in my excursions around Yorkshire, but London had a nice selection of scooters to photograph. I’ve come to realize that my little scooter photography obsession is as much about place as it is about scooters. Usually when I’m capturing a scooter sighting, I try to find out if I can find an interesting composition that tells you about the place the scooter was parked, through the context I choose to include. Interesting scooters and interesting places, a perfect combination!

When I have a scooter sighting, it’s the perfect opportunity to use the Process of Elimination, which we’re studying this month in Exploring with a Camera. This wonderful scooter was spotted on the Hampstead workshop photowalk, just off Brick Lane. I thought it might be interesting to share my Process of Elimination for this image. All of the images shared are straight out of the camera except for the final edit.

The first sighting was from walking down the sidewalk behind the scooter. It’s an interesting scooter, not your usually cute one, but I thought the chairs would be great to include. It wasn’t a busy street (thankfully) so I stepped out across/into the street to explore the scene. The first shot I tried was vertical, going with the lines of the scooter.

The vertical orientation doesn’t include enough of the chairs, which really add interest to the scene. The background becomes more of a distraction with this framing, with bits and pieces of too many things. So, the next step was to try horizontal.

Better! Got the chairs, the interesting window with the reflections, the graffiti. But the scooter is too high in the frame. The foreground of the road is doing nothing for this image. I want more of the interesting background. As I framed up the next image, this guy walked buy. Quick, catch him in a good spot!

OK, I like where he is in the frame but this image is not really what I was looking for in the scooter sighting. He’s a distraction. So I capture essentially the same frame without the guy.

You will note that I included the car on the right in the frame. That was intentional. I had the framing mostly the way I wanted it, but including a little extra would give me the most to work with later for cropping since I didn’t have time to work the scene further. I needed to move on, as the rest of the participants in the class had moved way up the street and I was lucky I hadn’t been run over by a car by this time.

Into Lightroom for crop and edit when I got back home, and here’s the final image again:

An interesting scooter in an interesting place — I couldn’t ask for more in a scooter sighting! I’m going into scooter withdrawal now that I’m home. The only one I see is in my garage, and believe me, that’s not a place you want to see! If you sight a scooter, please share it with me on Instagram or Twitter using #scootersighting. I need to get my fix one way or another. :)

Have you been thinking about the Process of Elimination this last week? How has the idea of eliminating what is not essential to your message affected your capture or edit of images? Please share with us! You can link your exploration into the comments on the original post here. There are a couple of folks already linked in, so be sure to visit to see what they’ve found. And how do you like the process of linking into the comments? Would you rather have a linky? Let me know! I’m on the fence myself. I kind of miss the linky.

PS – I’m off to the Vancouver Gathering with David duChemin this weekend. Yay! I’ll be away from the blog for a few days, but I’ll tell you all about it next week!

At a Loss

Um. Hi. I’m at a loss for words today. I don’t know what to write. I’m sure the words will come back soon. They always do.

So I thought I would share another photo from Yorkshire today, since England is still on my mind. And will be, for the next several weeks, no doubt. I can’t wait to get back and capture scenes like this one, from York. Where else might I find a beautiful purple-paned window? Do tell, I want to visit if there are other places like this.

Since I’m at a loss for words here, I’ll also share a link to the interview with me that was posted on We Make London’s blog on Monday. I seemed to find the words for that, no problem.

*Sigh*

Words! Come back! I miss you!!