SOOOO many fantastic conversations are going on lately, all stemming from the whole “artistic voice” idea. I see it in communities where participants from my workshops and retreats gather… and in the greater artistic community, who is experiencing an even more persistent “Ahem!” from their creative souls than ever before. Continue reading “And Now For A Message From the Creative Force”→
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!
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!
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”→
Postcards From France kicked off in beautiful Strasbourg. But first… I had to get there from Frankfurt by myself with an injured back. My hubby Joe had been with me for a week, which was beyond awesome! I’d been missing him so much – and we had a blast with our self-proclaimed Castle Tour through Germany. He also helped me with luggage and did all the heavy lifting that I wasn’t able do as I hobbled around in mega pain. Continue reading “Postcards From France: Strasbourg”→
Anytime I visit New York City, I always make sure I get into Central Park for some nice airing out. This trip was no different.
What WAS different is that I recorded a couple of quick video segments, sharing some thoughts I had about “when to photograph”… and about keeping eyes ears and heart open for special moments that happen along your travels, wherever they may take you.
Here at the start of our “Postcards From an Artist” adventure in New York, I couldn’t help but muse on new beginnings.
I mean, I’ve never done anything quite like this before. I’m excited, kind of nervous, imagining all the cool stuff that might happen, places I’ll see… the food, sights, sounds and smells I’ll experience and hopefully… the lives that will be touched along way. Including my own. I’ve assigned myself with ALOT to do on this journey… will I be able to keep up it all? Will everyone enjoy this experience and have a good time? Will an ihater barf on our parade at a vulnerable moment? WHO KNOWS! Continue reading “New York And New Beginnings”→
Today it begins! I’m in New York right now; later this week, Rome. After that, Germany, Switzerland and France. In all, close to 2 months, 4 countries and a world of experiences I can’t wait to embrace!
Here’s the thing. I didn’t want this to be one of those “Oh – Karen’s off doing her thing. How nice.” things. I wanted to be more inclusive than that. This experience is the result of a series of choices, decisions and life-changing events in my life that began years ago. I wanted this trip to account for all of them. But even more; count towards maybe giving ALL of us the juice we need to create a life more amazing than we ever dreamed possible. Maybe I’m a dreamer (Duh!)… but I know I’m not the only one. 😉
I just made this video this morning, introducing the whole idea. It’s super casual… I did it done on my iPhone, before heading out for the day.
We made it! This is Part 10 of: “Finding Your Voice… 10 Days, 10 Concepts To Help You Find Your Photographic Voice.” Our final day! Wow, what a journey it’s been… and I feel like it’s only just begun. There’s SO much more to talk about! As a final wrap up to this round, I leave you with some thoughts on voice… story… and you.
IMAGES TELL THE STORY OF YOU
At the end of the day… or 10, 20, 30 or 70 years from now… your images will tell your story. What do you want them to say? Do you want to look at each one with fond remembrance and say “Ahhhh, I loved that day”, warmed by the care you took to include your favorite things into each one in your clearest voice? Or be sad and think” Dammit! Why didn’t I take a moment before I pressed the shutter?” (worse yet: “What was I THINKING??”).
As humans, we’re hardwired for stories. Thousands of years of cave paintings prove that, if nothing else does. Each of us is living our own story, guided by our preferences, our loves, our aversions, our faith, so many things. Every moment is its own story, woven into the giant story-tapestry of time that contain all the moments that came before – and all that come after.
I can’t think of a time when I wasn’t an entrepreneur. Of course, back in the day we didn’t call it that. Yet, I built a profession of some sort within every discipline of my life; equestrian sports, acting, dance, figure skating, voice. By today’s reckoning I became an entrepreneur before I was 20. I’ve never stopped.
Lately – though I’m not sure exactly why now – I’ve been asked things like “What have you learned?”, “What do you wish you’d done differently?” and “If you could give advice to your younger self, what would you tell her, having all the knowledge and experience you do today?
So I got to thinking about it… and about her. I was surprised to discover how much more I love and treasure her special brand of badassery now than I did back when I WAS her. She was very angsty – and worried about EVERYTHING!
And yeah, I DO have some things I’d like to say to this younger, fiery, idealistic, funny, quirky, artistic and highly talented younger self ‘o mine. The advice is all about getting my mind right… because that was the one thing I wish I’d been better WAY at.
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…
You’ll probably think this is odd. But here it is: I sometimes wonder if I’m doing things “right”. Do you ever do that? I do, and it just never feels good. Thing is, I know that when I worry about doing stuff right – it always means I’m comparing, judging, negating myself in some way and it makes me feel like that stuff you scrape off your shoe. I know I’m not alone on this. I also know it’s not where I choose to reside.
The solution? It’s simple, if you’re brave enough to leap.
As a result I see ALOT of photographers’ and artists’ work. Some of them are amaaazing. If the stars align a certain way, it’ll mess with my head. The litany in there sounds something like this: “Oh god. Am I even doing this RIGHT?? Look what [he/she] did. I should travel more. Maybe I should just focus on one thing, post more shots of a me or a human subject standing in the middle of my shot, looking up.” (Oh, please, don’t get me started on THAT!)
On Contrast (It’s Not Just For Photography)
Point being… that inner yapping makes me feel lousy. But you know what? That is actually AWESOME! Because if all of a sudden I start feeling lousy (this stuff usually happens all of a sudden, if you’re paying attention)… it’s such a dramatic contrast to how I feel most of the time, I know something’s up.
And at that moment, I actually get kind of excited, because now I get to course-correct myself into something even better. Some of my most awesome creations began as moments just like this.
On Breaking It Down
Here’s how I break it down.
The Worst: Is when I feel crappy. Frozen with doubt. When that nefarious naysayer voice in my head is blabbing, telling me lies, making me feel small and “less than.” What do I see through this lens? Nuthin’. Nada. Zip. My reality selection feels flat as a pancake on a dirty street in horse and buggy days. I resist everything.
The Best: Is when I’m happy. Joyful. Light. Looking forward to all the wonderful things I get to create in this lifetime. From that feeling, my ideas are better, my work is better… I SEE so much better through my lens! Better things effortlessly come my way, more delightful surprises… surprise me. Magic happens.
Who can change worst to best: Moi. Me. Myself.
How: By shifting the thoughts I’m thinking and the feelings I’m feeling. People think their thoughts and feelings “just happen” – or worse yet, think they depend upon ANYTHING outside of themselves. But pick out some better thoughts and feelings to focus upon and Voila! Re-landscape your whole life. I’ve observed and experienced this enough now for it to be one of those “What I know for sure” things. It sure is important to know for your creative process… and in life.
The Bonus: Oh yeah. There are usually fun surprises…
What’s It Look Like?
The Worst: Me doing the old “am I doing it right?” trick to myself in New York. I was there to speak, to have some meetings, to shoot when and where I could in between. It wasn’t technically a photography trip. Rather than relaxing about that… I started feeling anxious about what I was and was not shooting. (Oh NOW it’s a photography trip? WTF?) Comparing myself to others who have so brilliantly captured this city. Freezing up inside as I wondered if I was doing ANYTHING right. Nice, huh?
Who can change worst to best: Me. I palm-slap my forehead. “Stop it!” I holler in a firm-yet-loving manner. I consider this constricted, icky feeling in my gut. It’s definitely a brilliant example of how I DON’T want to feel. So… what WOULD I like to feel? (That’s the important next question. My little kid always gets excited about it, which is a good sign.)
I answer: Happy. Fun. Full of life. Loving and loved. And… free of judgment about what is or isn’t the right way to approach photography. Feeling so grateful to do what I do and blessed to get to see the things I do. Loving my life and the beauty I see all around me. In my flow. Just thinking about that stuff make me start feeling better. To take it all a step further…
I decide to go visit one of my besties and forget about photography for an afternoon. Shift gears. OF COURSE I always take a camera… and since I wasn’t sure if it would rain or not I grab my Fuji X-T1 and 16-55mm lens (they’re weather-sealed) and head downtown.
On Allowing Flow to Happen
Erica Hill and I go back 17+ years to the TechTV days. TechTV was a technology television network based in San Francisco. I was hired as the network talent coach, to teach the tech folk how to do TV… and the TV peeps how to talk tech convincingly. It was a BLAST! I met 3 of my best friends there… Erica being one of them. It’s been so thrilling to watch her success and happiness grow since then.
We’re both so stinkin’ busy it’s hard to find time… but that day we MADE some and met up at her office at 30 Rock (NBC headquarters at Rockefeller Center). It’s always fun stepping into her world, where we’re as likely to talk seriously about things as we are to take silly selfies with a sock puppet and a microphone:
The Best: In that moment, I felt full and grateful and full of appreciation for this dear friend who sings me a song on my birthday (and vice versa), who always makes time despite a busy family, an impossible work schedule, travel and commitments… who talks with me about things that matter and who is always there for me. And vice versa. I found myself not giving a rat’s ass about what was “right”… I was just having FUN, feeling all those things I wanted to feel.
The Bonus: Something magical happened. (It always does when you let go, choose better thoughts and feelings and let inspiration come to YOU.)
I had the chance to do this: shoot this 3-shot vertical pano overlooking the skating rink. I didn’t expect it, it just kind of happened.
It was organic; a real moment from my life and no one else’s. I didn’t have to think about it, it came to me as an inspired moment; one worth sharing. One that will always remind me that I have a choice about how I think and feel – and that choosing BETTER ones will always change my life.
I think of this photo as a kind of life-as-art love child.
Know what else? It felt RIGHT… as a fershure, not a question.
Why Focus on All This?
Why deal with all this “inner voice” stuff?
Because as an artist, an expresser of things, you’re all you got. You ARE the instrument, the interpreter of what you experience – whether it be photography, art, life. Your camera, paintbrush, experiences are all just waiting for your inspiration and enlightened direction.
If you’re all plugged up with fear, doubt and worry (as my dad used to say)… you’re out of your flow. You can’t access your muse, your higher guidance, your inspiration… your real, true VOICE.
And that sucks.
The beautiful thing: all it takes to shift out of that mess is to think a better thought, choose better feeling… then another, then another… rinse, repeat.
OK, so it was a Monday, but nevermind that. Do you recognize this man?
Neither did I at the time. But now; to me, he is utterly unforgettable!
I spent one… make that two… of the most memorable mornings in Central Park with Paul Loeb and his marvelous wit, humor and awesomeness. And it was all quite by accident! (if you believe such things. Heh.)
Photo Plus Expo 2015 in New York City streaked by like a Jedi star cruiser! By that, I mean FAST. Really fast. Is everything gonna be like that now? Because if so, I need to get me one ‘o them speed suits like downhill skiers wear so I can slice the air more effectively. Sheesh!
Of course, I provided the titles and descriptions for each talk. They were:
“The French Mirrorless Diet”: How I shed pounds, freed my muse and discovered Raw truth in France with my Parisienne paintbrush, Lady Fuji.
“Find Your Voice, Free Your Soul” and
“Live Your Life As Your Art”:Your Soul’s Genius Unleashed
Yes, Fuji approved these beforehand! Besides their incredible cameras, you can perhaps begin to see why I love this company. It includes, but goes so much deeper than, gear.
The X-Factor is You
To me, the overall connective tissue amongst all of these talks is the real estate BEHIND the camera. (That would be you. And me.) It’s great to have “the best” gear… but what IS that, exactly? I looked around at the thousands of people streaming through the Expo over those 3 days and thought to myself “everyone here is seeking that magic bullet. Wants it. Desires that something ‘more’.” But do they know what it is? How will they know when they’ve found it? And what will they do once they have it?
Truthfully, IMHO the best camera is the one you have in your hands. If all you have handy is your phone camera… then by god, THAT is absolutely the best one! It is also true that if you actually find a camera that inspires and entices you… the way you see, the possibilities you consider, the creative roads you travel… will all shift. These are not mutually exclusive notions.
The wild card is YOU. What do love, what do you stand for? That’s where it begins.
I used lots of my own images as illustrations… and this was our fun and intimate stage.
It Boils Down To This
As I walked around the expo, I listened to snippets of how-to talks and gear presentations. Very interesting, all. However, I chose to make a different set of points.
Because, you see, I believe with all my heart that feeling fulfilled, creative, joyful and ALIVE… all starts here:
(My pal Laurie Rubin caught me doing that thing I love so much. The photo I was shooting follows):
That Print Question…
OH BTW – for those wondering how Fuji images look printed? Yeah, they look pretty freaking fantastic! This was the one I was so honored to see hanging right next to one of Bill Fortney‘s:
Why do I think any and all of this matters? It’s simple:
And that, my friends, is what I truly believe all those people wandering the hallways of Photo Plus Expo are truly seeking. That moment of beauty and grace that awakens THEIR soul to act and shed its magnificent light.
After all… photography’s raw materials are LIGHT and TIME. It’s what we work with… it’s what our cameras help us spin into our most precious message.
I debated about posting this. Had a little tussle with myself over it, in fact.
See, it’s personal. Very “behind the kimono”, to quote my friend Trey Ratcliff.
But then I realized that if you’re here, chances are great that you’re a way-seeker too. Maybe you’re multi-talented or multi-passionate (if so, you’re a “polymath!”). You seek inspiration, the “a-ha” moment, the brighter light and meaning of life and ways of weaving it together into something awesome.
This is a rant of sorts…although rants are usually negative. This anything but! It’s something I shared with a Mastermind group I work with. Then decided that it effects everything that happens next in my world – and you’re a part of it. Think of this as the Preface to a book that is being written in the stars NOW!
Don’t get me wrong. I loooves me a good carnival ride. I dragged my dad onto them every single birthday I could growing up! [he was a saint! And never once threw up afterwards, which made me admire him all the more.] But at some point I like to get off, stand still for a minute and have a corn dog.
I almost didn’t write this post. I mean, I’m no fitness guru… nor am I one to shake my finger at you if you’re starting to waddle and shun trekking more than the length of your house on your own two feet. Heck in the past couple of years I sprouted some new curves I hadn’t seen in YEARS… if ever!
Then I thought “Screw it. This story is knocking on my head to get out”… so here you go, small tale… be free!
Once I Was Strong and Invincible. And Then…
For the first half of my life, I was strong. Riding and training horses, figure skating, dance, running, teaching aerobics, working out… it was just part of my life. I didn’t have to think twice about being fit… LIFE made me fit.
I was sitting there, working. Behind the computer. For too long. Feeling totally depleted and not at all productive. Yet, there I sat, the early warning bells screaming that I needed to move, eat, drink some water, change gears! I wasn’t listening. Until…
My muse stepped in and smacked me upside the head. WHACK!
“OUCH!” I cried.
“What are you DOING??”she hollered. “You’ve sat here long enough, you’ve done enough. GET OFF YOUR ASS!
“I know, I know,” I interjected. “I’ll go. I just gotta…”
The Excuse Vs. The Real Work
See, “I just gotta” and “… let me just…” are my famous words du procrastination. They refer to stuff I think I just “gotta” do, which I don’t really gotta do, which always ends up with me NOT doing what I really oughta and most passionatelywanna do. Confused yet? Yeah. Welcome to my mind.
My real, true job: grab my gear and go catch some awesomeness. Hello monsoon season!!
The Mighty ACTION
I know this for sure: Dreams don’t come true without action. So out the door I went, lead by a burning desire for something really extraordinary to happen. I held this burning desire in place of positive expectation.
“WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEEEEAN?” I hear you shriek. (Have you been talking to my muse??).
OK, y’know how when you go to a movie that you absolutely, positively KNOW is gonna be great? You’re stoked to see it… and you’re all excited as you get your popcorn and stuff, because you know you’re about to have your socks knocked off? That’s positive expectation.
Then… when the movie’s All That and even BETTER than you knew it would be? That’s positive expectation, exponentially fulfilled.
Was it the movie – or your expectation that made the whole experience so awesome? Who knows… but one thing’s for sure: NONE of it would’ve happened if you hadn’t GOTTEN OFF YOUR ASS and gone to the movie!
See how that works? Write that down: Get Off Your Ass.
Back At The Bonsai…
Meanwhile, back in my movie… the afternoon turned out well. Not 5 star awesome, but definitely good. I made a point of seeing new things in the oft-photographed mecca that is Bonsai Rock in Lake Tahoe, Nevada side.
I was pleased. I’d gotten off my ass and my positive expectations were fulfilled. Yay for me!
Positive Expectation, Exponentially Fulfilled
Then it happened. That ‘thing’ that would kick the whole evening into that fist-pumping, big cheesy grin, hollering out loud “YEAH!!” experience. (i.e.: positive expectation, exponentially fulfilled.)
Suddenly and quite unexpectedly, 2 super-energized young men bounded onto the beach.
Their goal: shoot a concept photo for the cover of Adrian’s new album.
They had driven over 2 hours, got stuck in 3 traffic jams, nearly forgot the money outfit Adrian wore for the shoot and almost missed the light. But there they were, out of breath, moving as fast as they could, determined.
Adrian is blind in one eye – but Jason grabbed his glasses anyway. Hey, who needs to see as you rock-hop in barefeet in dwindling light if it means getting the MONEY shot??
Jason grabbed his gear and splashed into the water (discovering just how slippery the rocks underfoot really are!).
Adrian improvised on his guitar to get in the mood and… WHOA NELLIE!
The notes spun, ricocheted and bounced off granite and each other, amplifying it in wondrous ways. People started showing up out of the blue, drawn by this wondrous sound.
I made a few quick videos and SUPER quick-edited them together to give you an idea… (of course, I asked permission first to video and photograph!)
I instantly went from landscape photographer to BTS (behind-the-scenes) documenter in a heartbeat and LOOOOOVED it! It reminded me of that magical day in Paris at the Palais Garnier… another time I got off my ass, asked for Extraordinary and let it happen.. 😀
Jason balanced on rocks slippery as fish, whilst holding a camera, his flash rig… and got his shots without even falling in!
I gave all the images and movies to them both as a thank you. Because we became friends that night. Because after all they’d been through to get there that day, they deserved some evidence that something truly extraordinary truly did indeed happen.
Notes To Self
My take home:
1. Dream. Big, small, doesn’t matter… just never stop dreaming.
2. Always, always listen to my Muse. Especially when she yells at me.
3. Get off my ass. Often.
4. Expect greatness. Positively. Exponentially.
"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!"