The Annoyingly Simple Thing That’ll Change Your Art & Life

On Being “Right”

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.

Here’s an example. Photography & social media. I’m on Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, YouTube… and those are just some of the ones I’m more active on. Makes me dizzy sometimes.

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?

This:

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:

EricaKaren1

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.

30 Rock

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.

It’s shockingly, almost annoyingly simple. 😉

 

 

A New & Stormy Piece

A Stormy New Piece

I thought I’d keep it simple today. Simplicity is goooood. Simple for me today is posting one of my new pieces, taken a couple of weeks ago as the waves of thunderstorms we’ve been having lately first began streaming through. They’re the ones that make for BOOMING sunsets… and they only happen in just this way once a year. It’s been a particularly awesome season so far (it’s been RAINING! Yay!)… some say it’s because of El Niño and that we’re in for a record-breaking winter. True or not true? I dunno. But it makes me want to start battening down the hatches NOW!

This moment happened at Donner Summit in Truckee, California. It sums up how much I love it here… the expansive, soaring, so-glorious-it-makes-your-heart-FULL feeling I get whenever I’m home in the mountains. A single frame just wasn’t going to scoop it all up… so I created a pano image with right around 8 frames of super boomin’ sunsetty goodness. Even at that, there alot was left over. Hey, I’m not that greedy! Hope you enjoy…

California's Donner Summit, Donner Lake down below. Summertime thunderstorm pattern. Sunset. If anyone wants to know why I love living in these mountains, this would be my answer. Questions?9-shot panorama, Fuji X-T10

9-image panorama
Fuji X-T10
16-55 f/2.8 lens.

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The Art of Gear

Can We Talk?

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!

Lake Tahoe, Nevada side. The lure of the becoming-night sky, the warm air, the intoxicating aroma of pine trees and dirt and outdoors... all beckon you not leave! Come back. Never stop loving this place. Continue reading “The Art of Gear”

The Unbroken View

A World of Panorama

“Panorama” is defined as: “an unbroken view of the whole region surrounding an observer.”

I like this notion. It feels good, generally.
And I’ve always liked panorama photographs. I think alot of us do.
I’ve always heard what a pain in the ass it was to make them though… and how time consuming. It made me shy to try for a really long time.

Well, I’m amending my previous stance because I’m starting to fall in love with the mighty panorama. Making them, I mean.

I’ve been dabbling. First with my iPhone, which I’ve been doing for years. My iPhone 6+ kind of kicked that into new realms… with images like this from France, for example:


Continue reading “The Unbroken View”

Paris Opera House Magic

What Do You MEAN, What’s My Name?

I’ve had a bee in my bonnet to see the Paris Opera House ever since we missed seeing it when we were here in 2010. This day was a good day.

The place seems to have many names; As Wikipedia explains it: “The Palais Garnier is a 1,979-seat opera house, which was built from 1861 to 1875 for the Paris Opera. It was originally called the Salle des Capucines because of its location on the Boulevard des Capucines in the 9th arrondissement of Paris, but soon became known as the Palais Garnier in recognition of its opulence and its architect, Charles Garnier. The theatre is also often referred to as the Opéra Garnier.” And ummm… also known as: the Opera National de Paris.

Oh, how I love a place with identity issues!
Not to mention its very own Phantom of the Opera.

Digression aside… I got my wish on this trip. Woot! It was low-key.. I just happened to be in the ‘hood and thought I’d see if I could get in. I not only walked right into the joint, there really weren’t tons of people inside. Score! I grabbed an audio tour and took off, cameras in hand. Continue reading “Paris Opera House Magic”

Moon Over Manhattan

Surprising – and Panoramic – Moments

I keep saying I don’t shoot panoramas, then I go and shoot another panorama. Like this one, of the Manhattan skyline taken from Queens. It’s not the hugest panorama ever created… 115,000 pixels across… but it’ll fill up a decent-sized wall nicely.

It happened pretty much by accident too, which is one of the best things about it!

A long lookAt a big city, where being Mooned only makes it more beautiful.(6 image panorama)

When Music Meets Photography

It seems like minutes ago that the hubs and I were in New York. But it’s going on a couple of weeks now. Sheeesh! Time flies!
One evening, we went with Joe’s kid Caleb – who’s a badass drummer – to one of his gigs over in Queens. It was fun, at the L.I.C. Bar. That stands for Long Island City, which I guess is technically where we were.

It was a lovely, warm night… and we’d gotten there early. Caleb was all set up and ready to go too. He looked at me and said “There’s a really cool view of the Manhattan skyline at the end of that road”… pointing to that road… “Wanna see it?”

I said “Sure!”, thinking “What does the kid know about great views?”.
So he walks us down to this little park at the end of the road and my jaw dropped. Dropped, I tell you! Hit the ground. Full on gapeage.
The sight was spectacular! Of course EVERYONE photographs the Manhattan skyline, but I wasn’t about to let THAT stop me!

I thanked Caleb profusely (my respect for his artistic eye skyrocketing) and set about capturing this breathtaking vista.
It was a little before sunset, so I had a chance to scope for a bit. Then I went to town.

Close up, Far Away – Covering the Gamut

I photographed wider first, then as the sun started to create cool reflections against the buildings, went for color block close ups like this, which I shot with my Canon 70-300 f/3.5-5.6:

June...Both the month and the girlWas utterly over Manhattan, each in different ways.

And generally covered every bit of the scene at different focal lengths, different compositions.

Then I hustled back to C’s gig. It was only an hour and I wasn’t about to miss it!

Random note: I discovered a beer at L.I.C. Bar called Schöfferhofer Grapefruit Hefeweizen that I absolutely fell in love with! I’m not much of a beer drinker, but lordy, I could get used to that one!

But Then… the Night. Yummmm!

Gig done, sun was down, moon was up; Joe and Caleb wanted to go get a beer elsewhere. We ended up at a really nice bar at that same park I photographed in earlier. And guess what I saw:

This, a single shot captured with a Canon 24-70 f/2.8:

ManhattanSkyline

and when I looked to the right, this (same lens):

Queens, NYSet anchor, rest a spell.You may be out of your element, but you're not out of your mind.So fill up, replenish.You can take the world tomorrow.

.. and then I thought to myself: “Self. This would look amazing on a wall BIG.”
Self agreed.

So we photographed that sucker BIG. Made a nice panorama, 7 images across… complete with the moon, the reflection, the river, even the plane with its long exposure streak. (I could’ve eliminated the long exposure streak. But I like it. It makes it so… that moment.). Used that trusty 24-70mm f/2.8 with my Canon 6D, which is phenomenal at night! (which was also the reason I brought it)

So, I don’t know what to say about panoramas anymore. I guess I do them occasionally! HehHeh.

The Wide View

Another Panorama? Goodness, I’m on FIRE!

For someone who eschews the mighty panorama, I’ve certainly created a record number of them lately!
Mind you, two in the same month IS some kind of record for me… hahaha!

For some reason that I have not yet fathomed, I’ve been drawn to panoramacize certain scenes of late. This one – of the ocean just outside of Shark Fin Cove in Davenport, California, was taken on the exact same day as this image I showed you the other day. (and yes, I’m going to make the video I promised on that one… just seeking the time this week to sit down and do it).

Same Spot, 2 Takes

But where I was messing about with a 2-8 stop ND filter on the other photo to mystify and smooth out the water, I got a wild hair to produce this panorama as an HDR image. I just felt it would add to the wildness of the day. The water crashing and swirling, the sun setting so brilliantly (and so quickly!), so much going on all at once that I hardly knew what to look at! So I decided to bring the whole wide view home! hehheh.


Continue reading “The Wide View”

The Age of Panoramas

It’s So Simple On a Mobile Phone Nowadays

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!

Continue reading “The Age of Panoramas”