Every week in our fun 8-part series, I throw out the invitation to ask questions, make comments and share thoughts. THANK YOU one and all for doing so! As part of the awesome shares, a question was raised I thought warranted its own post. Thanks to Elizabeth for posing it! Continue reading “The Everyday Genius of Your Artistic Voice: Q&A”→
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 tend to think of reality as basically a really slow-moving state of flux. (slow relative to the speed of light, that is.)
You know how people once thought of solid matter as actually… solid? Only now we now that if you zoom in far enough, you can see that matter is made up of particles that are constantly moving. They have space in between them. Which means the whole mosaic of solid matter isn’t solid at all!
What’s more, if you apply say, heat to solid matter, many types of it either melt, cook, or shift into another form of matter altogether.
I tend to see reality the same way. Changeable. Shiftable. “The result of” something, not “what IS.” So if I don’t like my current reality selection – or want to refine it into something more pleasing to me – I apply my own kind of heat. That could be different thoughts, actions, feelings… because those are the ingredients, that when combined, become my current reality selection.
In my photography/art, I love creating different realities. I wish I could draw well enough to do it when it comes to art – but instead I use my camera as a sort of basic paintbrush and go from there. Sometimes the results look like what many refer to as “real”… sometimes they’re completely outside those lines.
I love both. Because I know that each is simply a different arrangement of molecules… with a different amount of “heat” applied… changeable at any moment.
Just like life.
Cue the credits…
The “Reality” Selection: “Haven in the Woods”. Viewable here. The Solid Matter: Really cool house in the woods in Soda Springs, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California. The Paintbrush:Fujifilm X-T1/16-55mm lens. ISO 200, f/11. The Easel: Really Right Stuff TVC34 tripod, BH-40 ballhead. The Heat: Adobe Photoshop, Topaz Impression (a couple of different filters), Macphun Aurora HDR Pro, Alien Skin, NIK’s Viveza, my own textures. The Result: Joy, happy heart, pleasant surprise, eagerness to do more; scene expressed in my own voice – as it wanted to be heard that day. If I did it again on a different day – it would likely be completely different.
I ended last year and started this one thinking about how much photography is embedded in who I am. It doesn’t define me, but it’s definitely woven deeply in my soul. It’s how I see and relate to everything; from the most poignant & breathtaking moments, to awe-inspiring, mind-expanding flashes. Photos are like flash cards to the past that have recorded life-changing milli-seconds that I want to last forever.
I’ve also been mind-blown lately at how far photography has come technologically since my humble beginnings – and can’t wait to see what comes next.
THE BEGINNING: I BLAME THE NORWEGIANS!
My story with photography started way before I was born. My mother had photos of the Norwegian side of our family coming to America on a big steamer in the late 1800’s. There they were… smiling, having fun, looking like people you might like to know, but from a completely different era. The prints were incredibly well-preserved, like they were taken last week. I felt like these distant relatives could step out of the photograph and shake my hand and that thrilled me to the core! That was when I knew I didn’t stand a chance when it came to photography. It’s bigger than me. It’s in my blood.
AND MOM, OF COURSE…
My mother documented everything with her camera. She never had a chance either, because her family documented every move she made, as evidenced by this photograph of her from the 1920’s Great Depression era in San Francisco:
Through every decade of her life, my mother’s family photographed her. Small wonder; she was the perfect statuesque muse, every stitch of modelesque clothing handmade by her grandmother.
Best as I can tell, these photos were taken with one of the cameras you can see on these pages… from the 1930’s and 1940’s.
YOU SEE WHY DESTINY RULED…
By the time I came along (the little one on the front), we used Brownie cameras. (I mean seriously… how can you NOT love taking pictures with a camera named after your favorite dessert??
I mean, if Ozzie and Harriet used Brownies, they HAD to be the best! This commercial was current about the time the photo above was taken with this very same camera:
My mom had albums upon albums of photographs. Pouring through them repeatedly, memorizing every image, picking out my super faves was my favorite pastime. They inspired me, excited me – made me want to make my own photographs.
Of course, the Momster was all too happy to oblige, giving me her old cameras as hand-me-downs… starting with the Instamatix in the ’60’s. TOTALLY revolutionary! And the flash cube was the BOMB!!!
It took pictures like this (that’s me in the middle):
And when I got my own Kodak Ektralite 110 I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.
(Then again, I always felt like that… and so very “can do” when it came to Michael Landon):
THAT’S IT. I’M GOING PRO!
By the time I got through high school, I determined that I wanted to be a professional photographer. I was given my favorite hand-me-down of all: The Minolta SRT-102:
I had a medium distance and a telephoto lens and they became like a second skin. I loved that camera SO HARD!! I did all of my junior college class assignments with it and developed the images in the school darkroom, including this one for the assignment: “Self Portrait”. hahahaha!
THE HAY HOOK SELFIE:
I had a wicked sense of humor back then. I lived on a ranch and we had horses. The movie “Psycho” had come out in 1960, so by 1974 it had had a chance to become part of our culture. I had what I thought was a brilliant idea: blend the “Self Portrait” assignment parameters with the “Psycho” movie vibe and place it all in my own world.
I was so excited! Staged it carefully. I set the camera on an upside-down feed bucket, grabbed the hay hooks and crawled into the tack compartment of our horse trailer… camera on timer. I had to do it a few times to get the timing right – so you can only imagine my glee when I saw the image come up perfectly in the darkroom!
I began plotting to build my own darkroom at home. Dreaming the images I’d create… both in color and black and white. Started talking to my dad (who could build ANYTHING) about where on the ranch we could create it.
THE END OF A DREAM
Then it happened. The blinding headaches, the debilitating nausea. It was the darkroom chemicals. I didn’t give up without a fight. I tried being super organized and minimizing my time. Cutting sessions short. Skipping days in between. But it got worse and worse until even stoic Me couldn’t’ take it anymore. I had to give up photography.
I was devastated. Thought I could just take the photos and let labs do the processing. But the prints just weren’t the same. They weren’t MINE. A good portion of what I loved most about photography was the darkroom creative processing. Without that, it felt empty. I had to move on.
I followed other dreams: figure skating, dance, continued with my equestrian career, acting, singing… and teaching all of these on a professional level. I photographed all along, with whatever crappy camera I could get my hands on… because photography was in my blood. I couldn’t stop.
I watched the development of digital cameras with hungry eyes.
The first digital images I saw were garbage… but knew the day was coming when they would rival film. So I waited. And waited. And friggin’ WAITED!
THE DIGITAL PARADE BEGINS!
Finally I jumped. My first digital camera was an Olympus Camedia, I think it was the C-900, with a whopping 1.3 MP resolution! Its specs are here.
The images weren’t great, but I just couldn’t wait any longer to see how far away Nirvana was. Meaning, did digital even enter the ball park of film yet? Answer: nope! But I was in the game and it was entertaining.
Then “Prosumer” hit the market in the form of the Sony F707 and F717. I had both. With a staggering 5 MP (you better be giggling about now!), plus then-craaaazy zoom ability of 5x (38–190 mm equivalent optical zoom)… both cameras had a 2/3-inch sensor and an articulating barrel.
I wasn’t yet willing or able yet to spring for a digital camera with interchangeable lenses. I really couldn’t afford it – nor did I think the images were good enough yet. But the price point on these prosumer babies meant I could actually feel like I was holding a real camera again!
(Images courtesy of DP Review)
They made me want to get out and capture the world again… (here, taken with the Sony F717).
When it was time to move on from my F717, bigger still wasn’t an option for me. So I went smaller. Looked for the best lens I could find on a pocket camera. I spotted Carl Zeiss on Sony units and jumped! First, with the Sony DSC W1. Still 5mp, but LENSES! Telephoto and wide angle. I even got a slave flash for it. Pimped to the nines!
These were the fancy pants lenses:
It took pictures like this with it:
I shot alot of flowers and macros back then. Partly because I love them – but it also wasn’t really the camera to make landscapes sing. Closer up worked better for composition and storytelling, which I was happy to work on.
I had a ski coach (I was a black diamond skier back then) who said that a good skier can tackle “any mountain, any condition.” It was an awesome goal – and I always tried to apply that to both my skiing and my photography. Any camera, any condition. I applied the rule every time I picked up my wee photo unit. Composition was and always will be king. But I was getting an urge… beginning to want gear that put no limits on what I could create. The artist in me was stirring.
Then my beloved W1 died. I howled at the moon! Soon, though, the 12MP Sony WX200 caught my attention. Good images, small and discreet and it would keep me humming for now. When you have a camera this small, you’re forced to move your feet, get creative and compose your ass off. I think of it as my 40 days in the desert. Only with a better camera. This is what it looked like…
And some of the results:
THEN… IT WAS TIME.
By now, just about every photo I took was accompanied with a resounding whine: “It’s just not what I’m seeing in my mind’s eye! I want more. I need a better camera!” Digital was getting damn good – and Photography wanted back IN to my life in a big way. I was having the visions – I wanted to see if I could make them! I waffled on my choice, I researched, I waffled some more.
Then on Christmas 2009, my husband gifted me with a Canon T1i and said… “You keep talking about the images you see in your mind… I want to see them too! Now go get ’em.” I wept. Hugged him… hard! Then headed out the door on an adventure that is still the most awesome EVER!
After the T1i, it was the Canon 5DII, the 5DIII, then the 6D… and now, my beloved Fujifilm X-T1 and X-T10 awesomeness. I feel like, over the years, my cameras have gone up and down, up and down… kind of like breathing. Or really bad weight swings. Right now, I have exactly what I need to create exactly what I want. It’s smaller… but who know’s what’ll be next? Truth is, the next level for me is already whispering in my ear.
TECHNOLOGY & THE ART OF LIFE
I can’t help but I look around and marvel at how photography itself has grown. It too has expanded – in both big and small ways. No longer is it a question of “which camera is best?” Now it’s a matter of deciding what you want to do with a one, because chances are someone makes an awesome camera that does exactly that – whatever it is!
There’s brand new, jaw-dropping technology like what the Light Company is making with the Light L16. Their small camera technology has 16 built in lenses, and uses 10 simultaneously to capture the detail of your shot at multiple fixed focal lengths. Seriously?? Who DOES that? And yet… there it is. Check out their story. I love “Outside the box? Let’s blow UP the box” stories! And I’d bet there are other innovations being dreamed of and worked on as we speak!
Full frame cameras, Medium format cameras… something for every budget and need. The number of images on the internet is unprecedented. An entirely new art world has been born before our eyes over the past few years in photography… life as art!
Thanks to what technology in photography can do now, I feel like I have a paintbrush of light in my hands. My sister is an artist, but I could never draw like her. And oh my, I wanted to with all my heart! Little did I know, LIGHT was my real, true medium… I just had to live long enough for the brushes to get AMAZING!!
And they have. In a few short years, I’ve been able to spread my wings, see the world, carve out a niche and express the what I’ve held in my mind and heart… for all to see. Some of it is strictly photographic, some of it mainly art. To me, being able to do that with technology’s help is nothing short of fantastical! Second chances DO exist! It’s all completely miraculous to me… and the journey continues.
Finally, here are some of the images that have evolved since moving from pocket cameras to DSLRs…
I love celebrating awesomeness, whether it’s something that happened for me – or a friend!
My good friend and incredible artist Keoki Flagg is a fine art and adventure photographer. He has a gorgeous gallery in Squaw Valley, California… if you ever get there, you MUST stop by and say that I sent you!
He most recent creation is a book called “Elemental“.
The other day, I went over to congratulate him on this huge accomplishment and buy the book, since it’s DEFINITELY one I want in my “inspiration” library.
Seriously, I was so excited about this you’d think I’d written the thing myself! I’ll tell you one thing; I truly believe that the more we focus upon the kinds of events and things in life that feel good, the more goodness gets created all the way around. This success of Keoki’s makes me feel AMAZING… I’m so happy for him, proud of his accomplishment and I’m celebrating!
Here’s the book… along with me and Keoki, standing in between a couple of my fave images of his.
Then he wrote an awesome dedication in it for me. It says:
Life is an Adventure, the World is our Stage.
What a pleasure it has been to share this journey with you.
Live, Love, Laugh, Play… Every Day
KEOKI ON THE CHAT
Some of you may remember my introducing you to Keoki via The Chat, my online show (on hiatus now), wherein I chatted with creatives who “live life as an artist… or better yet, live their lives as if it IS their art.” It’s a notion near and dear to my heart.
I thought you might enjoy visiting or re-visiting them. Heck… you might just be inspired!
I’m going to talk a little gear today. Those of you who know me know I usually avoid this topic. Gear conversations in other places online typically devolve into name calling with a giant gooey dollop of puffy false bravado and well… snore. We don’t do that here. Thank you for that!
I’ve been engaging is some gearspeak over the past couple of months, on account of my switch from DSLR to Fuji mirrorless. It’s been a really personal journey and your response to it has been awesome. 😀 Think of this as part of that mindstream.
As you may know, after Fuji-cizing in Paris, the next big question on my mind was whether these cameras would make my heart go pitter-patter in landscape. Well, maybe I’ve just got palpitations, but I gotta say… YES! My jaw is still dropping at these images! And can I just say… lightweight is goooooood. I haven’t been thrown down to the ground from the weight of my pack in weeks!! I almost miss it. KIDDING!!
Since being home, we’ve had the weather conditions that have had me out workin’ it… so my test results are pouring in. Here’s one… but believe me, more are coming!
NOTE: This is a lengthier post than usual. It’s a summary of how the Fuji gear I took to France and I got along. (Famously!). It’s not meant to be camera “review”. It’s one human’s experience of being on a mission of art and heart; and the gear that helped bring it all to fruition. I’ve had a ton of questions about whether I’m sticking with Fuji after this… I think this will answer them all. 😀
For the record, I carried a Fuji X-T1 and X-T10, with the 16-55mm f/2.8, 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8, 10-24mm f/4 and 27mm f/2.8 lenses.
Well, I’m back. Back from Paris, back from the glorious countryside of France, the incredible almost-a-month experience that began with some trepidation and ended with my not wanting to come home!
I had big ambitions to stay on top of blogging, video-ing, Periscope-ing, posting and all that ‘share every second of your life’ stuff we do nowadays. But y’know what? At a certain point I just had to surrender to the experience and let myself sink deeply into all that it had to teach me. There are times I just can’t talk about stuff; I have to live it. Words come later. This was that.
I went to France seriously in need of a break. Mostly from myself and the treadmill of self-made deadlines, high expectations; the pressure and anxiety spin cycle that I just couldn’t shake.
I’m definitely a believer in “wherever you go, there you are”… there’s no running away from yourself. But I also know that sometimes you have to change things up. Do something radical. Dip yourself in a new fondue.
So… Paris beckoned. Then it spoke; of passion, of art, of finding the wonder in all things. I listened.
Thus, filled with intent to experience miraculous and wondrous things, I departed.
2nd installment in a 4-part series of “Living Your Dreams… Lessons Shared”, featuring much of what I learned and experienced whilst putting on my first photography show in Truckee, California…
Sharing – and Vulnerability
As artists – and as entrepreneurs – we have to put our work out there. HAVE to. There are many, many ways to do this… and for me this month, doing my first-ever official photography show is part of the equation. Will I like it? Hate it? Will it be effective? Will I want to do it again? All things for me to discover. But in order TO discover anything, you have to set both feet in and embrace the opportunity wholeheartedly. For me, that also means sharing the experience. 😉
Aside from all the STUFF you have to do, there is one really important aspect that we must never forget. What we are doing here is sharing our art… sharing ourself. We’re putting it all out there; heart, soul, vision, love. We’re being vulnerable. Being authentic. It’s necessary – and for me, the occasional discomfort that goes along with really showing up is all part of it. If it makes me squirm, well, so be it. Because I’m not willing to stay small and safe in the hard candy shell of pretend-safety. If there were ever a time in our world to shine a light – this is it! However you can do it, with whatever part of you that can truly show up authentically and do that – you have to do it.
For this reason – and for this aspect of what putting on a show means – I’m sharing an incredible TED Talk from Brené Brown about this very thing. It might just change your life!
Lesson: Being vulnerable can be a superpower. In art… that’s necessary on SO many levels!
Tomorrow: Part 3
Selections? Print lab? Sizes? How many? Presentation? Ack! These are just a few of the issues you have to solve when putting on a show . Tomorrow, I’ll show you how I went about it. It might just give you some ideas for a show of your own!
I thought this summer might be relaxing, once I got past installing my photography show here in Truckee. That’s this week! More soon…
Then new stuff sprouted. You know the seeds you plant in the fertile earth, that with sufficient light, water and loving care eventually poke their heads above ground? Yeah, that stuff.
In my case, these sprouts (the ones I can talk about, anyway) are:
Here’s The Short List:
1. A new website is officially underway. But not just ANY website… it’s the first one in my history that’ll bring together all my worlds. Photography, voiceover, speaking, The Chat, teaching, LIL Galleries, products, blog… all under ONE ROOF!! But wait, there’s more! This site is being done with my absolute dream team of a web designer, programmer and copywriter, who will all help make the vision behind it all come to life in a way I’ve never quite managed before. It’ll contain fabulous functionality, be fun to interact with – be abfab in every way.
2. I’m working on a new collection of photographic art. This is one piece from it:
(Working title: “The KHutt Collection”. hahah! I’ll probably change it, but that entertains me right now.)
I not a huge fan of making art using someone else’s art. It’s not a moral judgement or anything, it’s just that any artist puts their own blood, sweat and tears into their work… and it’s theirs, not mine.
By the exact same token, there are moments like this one. Where the person’s work is so strong it makes a statement above and beyond the piece itself. Those are moments that simply must be shared! Especially when they’ve signed their name on the work. In that case, you get to Google Tristan Eaton, discover this amazing artist and all that he has accomplished at such a young age… then share him AND your moment with your friends.
Meet Tristan Eaton. Also meet my own vision of what art next to life sometimes looks like in his gorgeous mural of Audrey Hepburn gave me this day at the corner of Mulberry and Broome streets in Greenwich Village, New York. It took 12 days, 500 cans of spray paint and 4 people working 12 hour days to finish the ginormous, 8,000 square foot piece. Here’s an article about it, from when it was created last year.
I’ve had this feeling over the past months. Something inside wanted to be outside. (it was a good thing, this isn’t a weird sic-fi psycho drama unfolding here or anything!)
I thought it was my inner muse… but even she seemed curious too. We both waited. And waited.
This “feeling” wanted to create images that were different from what I’ve been doing. Not instead of… but in addition to.
“Oh goody!” I was excited. Eagerly awaited these new ideas and vision. Then… nuttin’, honey.
I’m not the most patient sort by nature. But I decided that I would be this time. So I waited. Asked around. Here’s what I heard from:
The Muse: “Hey, I can’t wait to see what it is, either!”
My Intuition: “Oh yeaaahhhh… this is gonna be GOOD!”
So I waited. Kept the wheels in motion, making photos, making plans, learning, growing. You know, the usual.
The hubs and I saw “Saving Mr. Banks” the other day. LOOOOOOVED it. Bawled through about a third of it, truth to tell – which we didn’t expect AT ALL! But when something rings true in music, film, theatre, art… well, turn on the waterworks! I’ve always been like that.
There was section of the movie, where Tom Hanks’ character is talking to Emma Thompson’s. (can you say “perfect casting”??). He’s finally “gotten” her. Understood why she’s been so difficult. Is eye to eye with her, talking quietly, from his heart. He’s sharing his deepest purpose for what he does.. and says,
“…That’s what we storytellers do. We restore order with imagination. We instill hope again and again and again.”
My heart soared. My breath stopped. My eyes leaked. Yes! Yes!! That describes it perfectly… from the joy and sense the world made when my Mother read us stories as kids… to the way I feel about my art now, 50+ years later… that’s a beautiful summary. It’s what keeps me coming back, pouring my heart into the work I do – whatever it is. Because everything I do is about the story. But not just any story… the story of Uplifting.
Annette and I met up on a 2-day fairy tale photo shoot at Castello di Amorosa in Calistoga, California and sat down in the Great Hall for our Chat. There could be no better place to talk about the transformational power behind her famed fairy tale photo shoots, the power of prophetic words and how they saved a nation, the role she believes artists play in culture, how she sees her work as prophetic art, her orphanage in Uganda and the importance of believing in yourself.
Every time I talk to Annette I walk away inspired like crazy! This was no exception… except that this time I get to share it with you.
We’d actually been trying to do this episode for MONTHS! Originally, I’d planned on doing The Chat as a Google+ OnAir Hangout series. But once I got a taste of having them on-location it was so awesome, there was no looking back!
Annette was part of my original group of scheduled guests… but every single time we’d try to connect via Hangout to do our episode, there’d be some problem. Computer, connection, internet, you name it – something always glitched and hamstrung our attempts. Looking back, think it was because if we were going to talk about such royally inspiring and uplifting things, THIS Chat just HAD to be done in a castle! Hahaha!! It was entirely worth the wait!
Big, huge mega-thanks to Dave Bell for his help with cameras and audio. We did 3 Chats that day and it took two sets of brains and hands. Dave was – as always – totally awesome!
Today I’m in the mood to share a couple of things: first, a brand new photo. It’s from my trip to New Zealand earlier this year for Trey Racliff’s New Zealand Adventure in which I co-taught. We visited Milford Sound, of course… got rained out one night, but woke up to a properly mystical morning!
The Chat with Annette Biggers: Sneak Peak!
Then… this coming Monday is an all new episode of The Chat! They just keep getting better and better… and more and more fun. This one was no exception… but add “inspiring as all get-out” to the mix. heh. My guest is photographer Annette Biggers… who is also an artist, humanitarian and Deep Thinker About Life.
In this clip, she talks about her belief that “artists are the creators or life in culture”… and explains what she means by that. You might find yourself agreeing with her! It was certainly true in the Renaissance… and I think its as true now as it ever was then! As artists, I personally think we need to consider carefully what we’re putting out there.
There was such a great response to my recent episode of The Chat with Keoki Flagg! Thanks to all of you who watched and appreciated. Keoki has such depth to his talent and perspective that it’s always a treat to chat with him. In the course of his episode, he shared so many awesome ideas and tips that I just had to highlight a couple!
This is just one of them… and perfect byte-sized minute for anyone who hasn’t seen this episode yet, or just want a reminder and a “think about it” moment to take home with them:
There are abandoned train tunnels in Truckee. You used to be able to drive through them, but they got tired of towing folks outta there that didn’t belong there in the first place, so now you can only walk. Or ride a bike. But it’s really, really cool. If you’re by yourself, it’s kinda spooky… some folks say it’s haunted. I do know it’s part of the first transcontinental railroad, and this section was known originally as the “Pacific Railroad” and later as the “Overland Route”. It was the first railroad to connect the Pacific Coast to San Francisco – then join up with the rest of the already-built railroad system that ended in Utah. Continue reading “Graffiti Art and The Transcontinental Railroad”→
"Love your blog. I stop by for the photography, I linger for the philosophy."
Kelley Morgan, Portland OR
"A beautiful mind will produce beautiful results. And to say the least, yours is a beautiful mind! Thank you for your wisdom and your inner "speak," as they both produce true art from the heart …"
Joe Hudspeth, Prineville OR
"Thank you Karen. A wonderful story but only the tip of the iceberg, the bigger part below the water is all the thousands of photographers you have inspired to chart their own journey, I know as I am one of them."
"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."
"As usual, another terrific story. I’m glad I found you but I have to be honest. I didn’t find you on Google + but did on Scott Kelby’s “The Grid”. Thanks for the inspiration in both images and by the pen/keyboard."
"Gads-what a girl! Thanks for the story, it is beautiful."
"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!"