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.
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!
It just arrived. My brand new Fujinon XF50-140mm f/2.8 lens and 1.4x teleconverter. Giddiness has ensued. I’m like that.
A brand spankin’ new lens is always exciting. It usually makes my heart go all a’flutter, I even get a little nervous. It’s kinda like a blind date:
“What if I don’t like you?”
“What if you don’t like me?”
“What if you’re too big and heavy?”
“Will we see eye to eye?”
“If I like you now, will I still like you a month from now?”
“What if we break up?”
Can you believe we’re almost done? Today is Day 9 in: “Finding Your Voice… 10 Days, 10 Concepts To Help You Find Your Photographic Voice.” And now…
The View: Wide or Macro?
Today’s exploration asks how you love to see the world. The wide view? Close up, contained and focused? Or somewhere in between?
If you’re like me, you love it all! I wanted to admit that right off the bat, in case you thought I was gonna say “Choose amongst them!” No… if you love all view, go for it!
Where you DO have to choose is in your composition. You have to, in a sense, justify what goes in the frame of whatever view you’ve chosen. For this series, that means make strong choices about that based upon what you love. The story you want to tell. The message, point of view or perspective you want to share… which has to all come back to what you love most.
Welcome to Day 7 in our series: “Finding Your Voice… 10 Days, 10 Concepts To Help You Find Your Photographic Voice.”
Today we get into an area that might seem a little more abstract to you, but I’ll give it my best shot at explaining how I see this one.
Here’s the fill-in: My favorite type of movement is_____________.
My own background shapes the way I see in perhaps a different way than a typical photographer: I was a dancer, a figure skater and a rider/horse trainer. Each moved in different ways, but each shaped my feeling for timing, rhythm, composition and story in photography. Continue reading “Finding Your Voice: Day 7. Movement”→
Welcome to Day 5 of our fun series: “Finding Your Voice… 10 Days, 10 Concepts To Help You Find Your Photographic Voice”
My Favorite Element is _______.
Let’s talk elements. I don’t ONLY mean the natural elements of wind, earth, fire and water. I mean MANY other elements that might be part of what you’re drawn to – that all contribute to finding your Artist’s Voice.
I’m in New York City! Woot! I’ll be here for 10 days.
What brings me here is Photo Plus Expo. Ever hear of it? It’s the largest photography conference and expo in North America. Yep, she’s a big’un.
Even more specifically, I’m here to speak as part of the Fuji-X Photographer team. Exciting!
By the way, I believe Fuji is printing this image for the show… and I suspect it may be fairly big. I haven’t been over to the Javits Center yet to see everything, so we’ll see! You know I’ll share that with you. We do, after all, have that ongoing conversation about the Fujis and large prints. Will they or won’t they? (I suspect they will, just fine.) 😀
I just finished some changes around here and feel downright ebullient about it!
Hey, I coulda said “zippy”, but that sounded weird. I chose “ebullient” because it means: “overflowing with fervor, enthusiasm, or excitement.” Bingo! That’s what I feel right now, because I just revamped the photography section of my website.
“Why is this such a big deal?” I hear you wonder.
Honey, if you knew what it’s like for me to organize or build ANYTHING… you’d get why I feel like I just remodeled the kitchen!
I celebrate these little things, because I know this for sure: big things are made of interconnected little things. And the little things are like wee mini Tinker Belles; if you want ’em to stick around and multiply, they need love and applause!
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.
I’m taking a deep breath. A really, really deep breath… because I’m going to talk about gear. Always dicey; it always incites such a ruckus, which is why I usually avoid it. Not to say I don’t have opinions! Mais non! I’m downright opinionATED, as anyone who knows me well can attest.
You may know I’m beginning a quest to find a light, mirrorless camera system that’ll lighten my gear load – but still allow me to create without compromise. I wrote a bit about it here and here. I knew this journey wouldn’t be easy – maybe not even possible! But I have to try. Today’s chapter: Sony & why it had to go back.
Carrying the weight of my gear is becoming an issue. My backpack full of my beloved Canon 6D’s and lenses has thrown me off-balance and taken me down a few times now. I don’t find that to be all that pleasant. Clambering over rocks, standing on ledges with 1000 ft drops and other landscape-y positions in which I find myself is becoming nerve-wracking. There are times I won’t even go for a shot I want simply because I’m scared that my pack with go all rogue and toss me over a cliff to an early death. That’s no good.
This was me, all clambered up in the giant granite boulders around Lake Tahoe. I had a smaller pack then and I had to be super careful… mine’s even heavier now!
3rd 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…
Photo Selections… The Mannequins
So, in yesterday’s post I mentioned that the owner of Coffeebar had some pretty clear ideas about this photo show of mine. He didn’t want to have final say about ALL of the images… but did point to a few in particular that he liked. There were the mannequins… which I’d taken some years ago, just a bit of whimsy that amused me:
1st installment in a 3-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…
Ever Wonder What It Takes To Do An Photography Show?
I sure did!
I’ll admit it – nothing makes me purr like the vision of my work on wall. Seeing, feeling, experiencing my soul’s vision taking physical form as a show is a dream. Of course, in said dream, the show is big… so are the prints. Gallery? Maybe. From my vision, I can’t tell what the venue is. My dream currently seems to include only the look of the thing – and the impact it has. It makes me smile really big whenever I visit it.
But while my work has been featured in a show, I’ve never done an official one of my own. Would I like it, I wondered? Would it be fun, or a big pain in the ass?
I might want to find out before fully committing to the BIG picture, y’know?
I found a new vantage point! Lake Tahoe is a HUGE lake (72 miles around)… but only offers a few spots where you can get a great shot. The east side is one of them. I love going back under different lighting and weather conditions – because it’s just never the same from visit to visit.
Sometimes I think that in an effort to always have that NEW experience, a lot of photographers run all over the world trying to one-up each other with even MORE danger, even MORE extreme conditions, MORE exotic locations and… well, you know the drill. But I don’t always see them exploring one area deeply. And I think that’s a shame. Not to say traveling the world isn’t awesome… but a sense of deepening is often underrated, IMHO. I’m trying not to make that same mistake – especially given that I live a mere 30 minutes from one of the most wondrous jewels of the world!
Whenever I post a photo of Lake Tahoe on one my social streams, there’s this one fella who always pipes up, “You sure like to photograph that lake!”
Now I ask you… wouldn’t you, if this were 30 minutes from your home? I mean, seriously!
I consider myself blessed. When I’m home, I actually DO go lots of other places around Tahoe area to shoot… but there’s just something so otherworldly and awesome about catching Lady Tahoe herself bejeweled in her aquamarine finest.
Panoramas photos are becoming all the rage now. On many mobile devices, you just hold up the phone and follow its direction to create them. They’re getting better all the time! However, at 72 ppi – it’ll look great on your computer monitor – but you won’t be printing a big one for your entryway anytime soon. For a mondo printable panorama, you really need to use a big-girl/boy camera.
A Little Trickier With a DSLR
With a DSLR, it’s not quite as simple as with your camera phone. You have to take impeccably framed multiple image, then “stitch” them together later in Photoshop using Photo Merge (or some software that specializes in panoramas), then clean up any aberrations, balance any lighting variations – and process the photo (if you so choose). It’s quite a process! You’re talking hours. Many photographers do them with 10, 20 or even more images – some of those guys are at it for days. I tried doing couple of panoramas a few years back… they didn’t turn out well at all. They actually stunk quite badly. But this day I was in the mood to give it a shot. Well, four shots. That was about all I was willing to commit to, just in case it blew. Keep it simple!
If you’re shooting sunset at a location that lends itself to moving around AND if you enjoy photo processing, here’s a quick tip for maximizing the impact of an evening’s shoot: MOVE your butt around – and process each photo differently. The latter is if photo processing is your bag, of course. All the image in this post were taken during the same sunset photo adventure. I made a point of moving as quickly as I could through the time before, during and after sunset to snag as much variety as I could. I’ll show you some examples next – clicking on the images will let you see them larger if you like, too.
And for the curious amongst you, the next 6 images were all processed as HDR images…
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