The Fujifilm X-Photographers Nature and Travel Summit happened last week. So I packed up and headed out to Townsend, TN as one of four teachers for the inaugural event, held in the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains.
The Eastern Sierras of California have their own kind of magic. I’ve always known that. And of course, there’s a reason why Galen Rowell chose to call the town of Bishop in the Owens Valley home.
This past week, I ventured down that way as a sort of mini-retreat to clear my mind, heart and soul. After being nose-to-the-grindstone preparing and giving presentations, writing articles, birthing my newest work (which continues), getting ready for teaching travels to the Smoky mountains, Florida and France – AND masterminding new projects… I was ready to start singing the Inspiration Blues!
“Enough!” I cried. “It’s time for a pilgrimage!” (that’s what I call road trips.)
February, New York City. Fujilove LIVE. What the heck is Fujilove, you ask? Well, it’s a website, a Facebook group, a magazine, a podcast, an academy – a movement! It’s the passion and brainchild of professional musician and photographer Tomasz Trzebiatowski, who is one of the loveliest and most genuine people I’ve met in recent years. He lives in Lucerne, Switzerland – and we allllmost met when I was there last year. But a freak late spring snowstorm made me change my plans, so we missed like ships in the night. Continue reading “Fujilove LIVE, NYC: 2017”→
I just got back from New York. What a trip. It was as much about the inner journey as it was the outer one.
Let me start by saying 2016 was a packed year. Full of surprises, breakthroughs, a few frustrations, lots of growth and new experiences. And now… lots to think about, feel into and make decisions about.
And I’ll admit it, I took a blog break. Just a little one. Even I need to step awayyyyy and take a breath now and again. Y’know, get a new perspective. So I did.
The Value of A Personal Trip (for art’s sake)
New York was a personal trip. I made it with my friend Valerie Jardin. We thought it would be fun to just take a trip and not have an agenda (which turned out to be challenging for both of us!)… and just see what came our way.
Now, I love NYC, but personally I find it challenging. It’s alot; alot of energy, alot of distractions, alot of input on so many levels. Artistically and photographically, I find it harder to find my balance, focus and voice there than almost anywhere in the world. And that’s always bugged me.
So this time, I decided to “embrace the horror” (as a friend of mine refers to his approach to almost any challenging situation).. and let myself be uncomfortable. Dwell in possibility, not expectation. Allow things to happen in a new way. Ask to be shown the way. NOT KNOW. It all sounds so noble on paper… but it’s incredibly uncomfortable when you’re in the middle of a process like that. Days when you delete everything on your camera. Times when you feel like you suck at this and should just take up knitting. Moments of doubt and agitation on a level that have you questioning everything including your sanity.
Not that I speak from personal experience or anything.
Embracing The Horror Leads to New Perspective
So. New York.
Like I say, it was challenging for me. But I chose to embrace the horror, take no shortcuts – and was rewarded with a renewed (refreshed and deepened) perspective… which honestly, I can’t entirely put into words yet. It’s still unpacking into my being. I do see it in my photographs though. From subject matter to post-processing, I wiped the slate clean and did my best to follow the quieter voice on the inside. The one that never fails me. Tried new lenses, new approaches.
As an artist it’s how we expand and deepen our art.
As a human, it’s how we create a life we truly love.
It’s also how we survive in times that push us to our limits. We have to walk past the outer clamor and chaos, past the inner mind chatter and continue on till we find our stillpoint. Easier said that done. And even when you think you know how to do that… you have to then be willing to take it further than you ever dreamed possible.
So… this was my journey. Make of it what you will.
Comments, questions – as always, welcomed.
Love what you see? Well, join my tribe of light-seekers! When you do, you’ll get a free eStoryBook, textures, free quote images – plus 50% of any print from my Sunsets Aglow gallery!
Ever wondered how to find your artistic voice in photography – or anything else, for that matter? Well, I’ve got 3 ways to go about it right here. No, they’re not the ONLY ways… but what I’m beginning to slowly roll out is a system. A way of thinking about this – and system of working from the inside out to discover what it means for YOU. Continue reading “Finding Your Artistic Voice, 3 Ways!”→
Here’s a paradox for you: When I go out to photograph nature, landscape and this gorgeous world of ours – I luxuriate in the experience. Every blessed second of it. I feel like I’m standing in the heart of creation, where I can mostly clearly hear the voice of the Divine.
I’ll admit it: scouting locations for my “Finding Your Artistic Voice” retreat in France is FUN!!
The South of France is truly a glorious place to explore photographic artistry, find your voice (in art AND in life), deepen your connection to your health and most of all: your most expressive, artistic YOU. Everything here supports that and I couldn’t wait to come back for the Fall installment of this workshop. New people, new stories, new images, new places!
One really nice spot is up on a hill by a big cathedral. It overlooks Cannes Harbor in one of those “Look ma, a POSTCARD!” moments. I thought it was a fine place to kick off this chapter of “Postcards From France”. Of course, the sun was so bright I could hardly keep my eyes open as I made this first vid of the series for this trip.
NOTE: all of these videos are low res, since the internet here isn’t robust enough to upload anything wooftier. But you’ll get the idea…
I just love Grasse. It’s SO much fun to photograph! I had heard there was scaffolding set up in town though, so wanted to make sure our cinematic view wasn’t spoiled like rotten cheese. Plus, I wanted to test out the bus system from Cannes (read that as meaning: make sure I knew where it picked up, dropped off and didn’t smell bad.).
So Tanya Wallis and I leapt on the #600 bus that picked us up right in front of our hotel and headed up the hill.
We made a video too. Grin.
Verdict on Grasse: no scaffolds, bus smelled great and the place still ROCKS!
The Boat to Île Sainte Marguerite
Last May when I was here, I didn’t have time to take the 15 minute ferry ride to Île Sainte Marguerite. It’s a marvelous excursion and easy peasy to do. I’ve heard several people talk about it – so this time, I wondered if it would be a good place to take the group and decided to find out.
The island is home to Fort Royal, which was known to be inhabited in Roman times. It’s also where the real life “Man in the Iron Mask” was held for 30+ years in the 17th century. His cell is alot cleaner now than it was then… but you can go inside and imagine spending over 3 decades in a stone cell with a mask on your face. Suffice it to say I was happy to be outside again!
Here’s the thing: I’m not a huge fan of boats. But to see the island, you gotta float on the boat. Ain’t no way around it. I decided making a new “Postcards” video was a great idea. Turns out, it definitely was – but ARGH! the audio on the video from my iPhone went all wonky, rendering it impossible to use. I was going to toss the whole thing and had a very sad face.
Suddenly Tanya starts laughing in this funny out-of-context way (with a scary wicked gleam in her eye) and says “I know just the story I can tell with the bits that aren’t too bad!” She was guffawing so hard, I just had to let her create her (clearly) deranged vision, cause I couldn’t POSSIBLY have said anything TOOO “out there”! 😜
This is the result:
Verdict on Île Sainte Marguerite: We’re ON! This is an awesome place to visit! We literally had only an hour… and in that short time, unequivocally knew this would be one of the adventures the group HAD to have!
The Retreat Begins…
The moment arrived: scouting done, locations dialed in – it’s GO time!
More photos and videos to come! Time now to get back to living the experience… 😀
OK, I know you know where air and earth meet. But what I’m talking about is where aerial and terrestrial photography meet and have a common ground. Where they support each other. Serve one another. Yeah, I’m fancy that way. Continue reading “Where Air & Earth Meet”→
I never thought I’d put “Me” & “DJI” in the same sentence, but there you go. I’m in a new relationship: it’s a new beginning. 😉
Life In The Air Begins
Recently, I announced that I’d been chosen be part of DJI Global‘s brand new elite group of Master Photographers. Cool fact: I’m the only woman in this particular program! In case you don’t know what I’m talking about: DJI is the global leader in the development and manufacturing of consumer and commercial drones. I’m now a quadcopter pilot!
My goal is to create beautiful images and art with my Phantom 4, Bob. (that’s what I’ve named my bird: Bob. A story unto itself!). I’ve long wished I could levitate myself to the vantage points that called my name… now I can fly Bob there!
Trust me when I say, it is another world entirely…
Learning My Way, At My Pace
For this post, I thought I’d share my humble beginnings and first steps. I’m learning at my own pace and in my own way to get super proficient and expert at all this; I look with eager eyes towards winter in the Sierras!
So I get this box with my new bird Bob in it. I call up my brother from another mother Barry Blanchard, who works with DJI and teaches new drone pilots. It’s handy that he knows me so well… which means he got me off to a great start in Santa Cruz, CA. We went through the unboxing, got everything charged up and headed out to the bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
The first day, all I did was focus on flying, not photography – even though I did take a couple of pictures. At this stage, it was ALL about just getting a feel for this crazy thing!
It’s no secret that while these new drones are a cinch to fly; there’s a TON to learn when you pick up a flying machine that can chop off your fingers! Besides fast-tracking me through the do’s and don’t of the basic flying skills, Barry also educated me to the fact that we’re not allowed to fly over wildlife and protected areas, which is why I stayed over the land, not the ocean in this location.
I don’t claim this as a great photo… but it’s memorable to me as one of my very first!
Back Up To The Mountains
Next, I took Bob back home to practice. I knew from the get-go that in order to get good, you not only have to know the rules, laws and guidelines that govern flying drones… you also need some fine motor control and muscle memory in order to call yourself truly in control. And THAT has become second nature, to the point where all the correct instincts take over, even (and most especially) under duress or an emergency. My biggest concern: keeping an eye out for my beloved hawks and ospreys.
I discovered it’s alot like athletics: it works best if you use a set of drills and exercises to train yourself, which I began in my own yard. At first, I stayed within our fenceline, practicing takeoffs and landings, making squares and figures, turning and doing other simple maneuvers till I felt comfortable. Can you see me in this picture?:
I also discovered I get a bit of vertigo when Bob goes up high! That was funny to find out about myself. It’s getting better the more I fly, so once again, I just take my time and only fly where and how I feel comfortable. I feel no need to rush… and that makes me excited every time I go out to fly!
Documenting My Progress
The very first photo at the top of this page is not far from where I live. After practicing in my yard for a few times, I ventured out early one morning to a place I love, where I knew there wouldn’t be any people to worry about. I made this video just for fun, to document some of my early progress as I took my drills and new skills to a new location. It’s not fancy or anything… definitely not 100% smooth… but hey, baby steps!
I always take a progressive approach when learning something new. From years and years of being an athlete and teaching, I understand how to break things down so that the simplest skill drills build into major proficiency. I’m applying that here too; it’s no different than learning to ride, dance, skate or ski in that way.
Barry admonished me to concentrate on flying the quadcopter first, don’t worry about pictures. I get his point – and I do focus first and foremost upon flying. But hey, it’s not my fault that I live in an amazing place that simply throws beauty into my lens like a giant spitwad!
This particular day, I branched out to visit Lake Tahoe. I picked a morning with virtually no wind and very few people around (tourist season is over – yay!)… and explored from on high. It was amazing to finally see what I could only imagine from my many photographic visits here. The best part: taking it easy scored another successful mission!
This was totally unexpected… Kayakers! It’s just the type of shot (or one of them, at least) that has captured my imagination. I’ve seen photos like these from around the world… and Lake Tahoe is a muse’s delight in this regard.
Yeah, I overexposed it… that was part of my learning curve too. But I’m now getting better enough at minor multitasking to get that right too. But hey, I’ll take this one!
So there you have it for now. First steps with a quadcopter named Bob. Hehheh. SOOOO much more to come!
I’ll say it right here and now: “Good riddance, summer! Hello, sweet fall… ”
Sometimes, It’s Just Tough
I’ll admit it, summer sucked. I’m frankly stoked to be moving on from those hellish weeks. Over these past summer months, I needed to focus on backend admin/business systems stuff that had to be done, but am SO not gifted at doing myself, nor do I enjoy it. UGH! There were big learning curves and they were slooowww. But I plugged away at it for weeks – and eventually got it done. Not much photography got done, not much else besides slogging away behind a computer. REALLY not my happy place.
Where it went sideways was in my head for some reason; I had this weird stumble in terms of confidence and feeling good about stuff. Like, everything. It went to a dark place. Somewhere along the way, I got all off and judgy about myself, to the point of considering quitting and doing something else entirely. Luckily that last one didn’t last TOO long, only for the length of… summer! Blech! 😝
Mind you, I have really great self-care tools, from years and years of personal development work. I used ALL of them. Then had to get creative and develop a few more. Those voices in your head… man, you gotta stay on your toes to not start listening to them! I have a friend who says “My mind is out to kill me”. Mostly I think she overstates. But a few times over the past couple of months I actually thought she had a point!
Life itself really hadn’t changed, but suddenly I felt intense pressure about everything – and like a failure in certain areas on top of it. Like I’d made too many mistakes to recover from – and like my life just was never going to be as wonderful as I dreamed. And on and on from there. #Misery.
The ICK Overlay
At the same time, in the very same breath, I counted every one my blessings, looked around and saw the amazing things I’ve accomplished. What an amazing home I have, fabulous husband, friends. Yet, I couldn’t tell ANY of them how tortured I felt – and how I had feelings like nothing I do matters and how I felt like my dreams were slipping away.
It was like having this nasty overlay of ICK pressing down on top of what I really know is true and real in my life (the good stuff)… and having two clashing soundtracks playing LOUDLY at the same time. Definitely one helluva rackety dirge of misery!
My Bettylou-ism Of the Day
It was weird, I’ll tell you that. But something my mother taught me stuck with me (I call these “Bettylou-isms”). Even on the worst days, this one was my shoehorn into eventually allowing a shift: “If it makes you feel bad, it’s a lie.” I kept thinking; “OK, so here I am… a talented, blessed person who has friggin’ LIES spewing in her head 24/7, keeping her awake at night, gnawing at her soul by day. Awesome!”
But knowing they were lies helped. I mean, I’ve had times like this in my youth, but not in a loooooonnnnng time. Back then I didn’t know those nasty critical voices weren’t really mine. This time I did, even if they had me by the short hairs for awhile.
So I did the one thing I know to do: focus on the light of all-that-is and hang in there. Just… Hang. In. There. EVERYTHING gets better, everything changes… and I’m not in control of how and when. I just know I have to choose the highest Light and focus on that.
One thing I finally had to step back from: social media. It is so NOT a confidence builder! I even stopped writing here on my blog for a bit – and spent as little time on my computer as possible. Every time I sat down in front of either or both, the voices got louder. My skin felt hot and prickly. It made me want to walk away and never look back.
On the bright and somewhat amusing side: all this crapiola was certainly not without humor ( if a little dark) and the appropriate theatrical expression. You’ll appreciate that I have THE movie moment (it played in my head ALOT) for this entire episode. You know how I movie moments.
It’s from “Inside Daisy Clover”, starring Natalie Wood – complete with French subtitles:
Yep, some nutbar moments there. I love how it all happens in a recording studio, which is kinda perfect in my world! Anyway, there it is: my summer in a nutshell.
Now: I’ve rolled over the hump and am motoring down the other side. WHEW! I’m sooo freaking glad! Right now, I’m not back on social as much as I was and I’ve had to simplify things in my life. I’m getting back to my roots of photography… both on the ground and in the air. I’m starting to feel energy and excitement over what I do again… and about sharing it with all with you. I care about my purpose in life again… and love the way that feels in my veins.
So, bring it, fall… and HELLO to all the awesome stuff that has just happened and that’s coming up. KelbyOne, DJI, my Artist’s Voice Retreat in France, my stepson’s wedding at the end of October… me ‘n Valerie Jardin‘s photography project in Mexico in December, guest appearing on her new podcast: “Hit the Streets”. All upcoming, all will be shared… and all happening because I managed to remember a few simple things:
If it makes you feel bad, it’s a lie.
Focusing on Light is key.
This too will pass. (another Bettyou-ism)
My humble thanks to God and the angels… and to those who love for as I am. Not perfect, but amusing to hang around. 😉
PS… Here a couple new recent pieces (one impressionistic, one more based in reality) I made after NOT creating anything new for WEEKS. It felt really good. Welcome back, creativity!
Both photographed with my favorite camera: the Fujifilm X-T2. Love that little beast like the old country! It gives me ideas and encourages me to try things… DEFINITELY my happy place!
I have an announcement to make and a story to tell, complete with an accounting of personal miracles. (I loves me some good miracles, no matter how big or small.)
First the announcement: “The Artist’s Voice” photography retreat I’ve had scheduled for this October at La Pitchoune is now happening in a new format and a brand NEW location. We’ve moved down to the beautiful town of Cannes, right on the Mediterranean. There are 3 spaces left!
Click the image to learn more… then come back for the rest of the story. Or just read on…
This Postcard From France arrives by way of Cannes, home of the Cannes Film Festival. Which – get this – started the day of my very first visit! There were multiple visits… this was only the first. I’ll share the others with you too, of course. They’ll make you laugh! Continue reading “Postcards From France: Cannes”→
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Kelley Morgan, Portland OR
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Joe Hudspeth, Prineville OR
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"Karen, thank you for the wonderful two day post. Your insights are truly thought provoking. I have never been a teacher, nor will I ever be, but to see someone see the light is a wonderful moment. Thanks again."
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"Awesome story Karen — I loved reading about your life transformed. Of course I loved the photography theme and the geek in me is forever curious about the power of tech and the power of social platforms. But … for me it is the arc of lives transformed that inspires. Thank you so much for sharing. See you on G+ and in the Arcanum!"