Photography Workshop - Expanding my creativity

Part of being an artist is challenging myself to learn and try new things. Whether that's a new technique, using new equipment, photographing a different subject or learning new photo editing skills. As a member of Professional Photographers of America (PPA), I have the opportunity to participate in classes twice a year through their super one day classes. These are mini workshops taught by fellow photographers all around the country. With a variety of subjects to choose from, it's the perfect time to hone skills or spread my wings and do something completely outside my box. 

When a fellow photographer Judy Reinford of Judy Reinford Photography  posted in a Facebook I belong that she was going to be teaching a 2 day class on compositing, I thought this might just be the class for me. I was a little apprehensive since this type of photography is so outside my box, but after thinking about it for a couple of weeks I thought, why not? What do I have to lose? I only signed up for the first day until Judy encouraged me to stay for the second day to make the most of the workshop. And I'm glad I did.

Compositing is a combination of blending parts of various photos together and "painting" to create an image that has an unlimited potential for creativity. I have so many photo ideas that simply can't be done just with one click of my shutter button. They involve things like elephants, dogs, firecrackers, bonfires, butterflies, fashion runways and so on and so on. Things that would never be at the same place at the same time. Which is part of the fun of creating composites. Letting your imagination run wild. 

However, it's not just as simple as taking say a photo of a suitcase, another photo of a dog and a third photo of a car and putting them all together. There are many elements to be considered, from lighting to perspective, to focal length of the lens. Then there are photoshop editing skills that need to be learned in order to blend everything seamlessly.

This isn't something I will learn with one or two attempts. It will take time to practice the skills and techniques I learned. But I'm really excited about the possibilities. And looking forward to some day sooner creating some of these images I've been sketching in my journal.  

And because no blog is complete without a photo, here you go! 

Izzy.goldenhour.bluesky-2.jpg

I'm not a creative type - or am I?

As a photographer, you would think I’d consider myself a creative person. But honestly, I don’t. Even though I create art with my camera. So this got me thinking recently, what are the traits of a creative person? With one google search I found dozens of articles with lists of traits typically found in creative people and tests I could take to determine how creative I am.

What really got me thinking about this was when I cleaned up my office recently. When I was finished, my desk was clean except for a phone, computer, keyboard, mouse, a lamp and a couple of wooden block sayings. I’d been pretty busy lately and things were scattered all over my desks, the floor and overflowing into my spare bedroom. This makes my brain feel cluttered, overwhelmed and I get discouraged if I try to get any work done. So once I cleaned up my space, I felt better and ready to tackle some projects.

But, if you believe everything you read, messy desks are supposed to help you get your creative juices flowing. And can be a sign that you’re a genius. Except I prefer that things be neat, tidy and organized in my home. So what does that say about me? I’m still not sure, but let’s take a look at some other personality traits common to creatives.

1. They observe everything. My husband jokes that if he does something around the house like vacuum, I notice it right away. And I do. If something is out of place, has been moved or is missing, It’s the first thing I see when I walk into a room. 

2. They work independently. I’ve been self-employed for over 25 years and I love it. While I do have a schedule to keep with regards to appointments and pet visits, I love that I can work when I want and can take down time when I’m not feeling productive. Many people don’t like the idea of working from home - too many distractions. But these things don’t bother me. I can multi-task by doing a load of laundry in between writing a blog post. Or go grocery shopping while I take a break from answering and cleaning out emails. I’m more productive when I do things on my own time, than when I’m told to work during certain hours.

3. Take time for solitude. I love the early morning hours when the world is just starting to wake up. I prefer to start my day with peace and quiet - no TV, no computer, no conversation. I really enjoy the silence as I go about getting my day started. It helps me stay focused and allow for some creative juices to start flowing. 

4. They get motivation from within. This is so true for me. I have followed my passion my entire life, working jobs not for money, but because it’s what I love doing. One of my all-time favorite sayings is “Do what you love and the money will follow.” I’d rather make less money doing something that makes me happy than work a job that brings me oodles of money but I hate. 

5. They are emotional. Ah, if I could have a dollar for every time someone told me I’m super sensitive, I’d probably never have to work another day in my life! I wear my heart on my sleeve. And I listen to my emotions. I don’t believe in bottling them up so they can sit, fester and one day explode. Emotions exist for a reason, pay attention to what to what you are feeling. If I feel sad, I let myself cry. If I’m happy, I’ll sing or dance even though I can’t carry a tune or shake my booty with any kind of rhythm!

6. They are day dreamers. You won’t find me sitting under a tree staring at the clouds like I did when I was a kid, but I create stories in my mind all the time. Before I fall asleep, when I’m driving on the highway, sometimes even after watching a movie. Some are based on news stories, others just come to my mind. Usually there’s some element of a hero involved, often because of a tragedy. Hmmm…I may need to pay more attention to what this might mean!

7. They are ok with being different. This is one trait that doesn’t fit me. I tend to like and follow trends. I never broke any rules until I met my husband. I like boundaries and fitting in with the crowd. I read bestseller books, watch movies that are big hits, listen to top 40 music on the radio. I’d hardly describe myself as unique and original.

After combing through a few articles, I realized I do have more traits in common with creative individuals than I thought. Is being creative something you can teach yourself? I think so. I've become more creative since I started studying photography more seriously in the last couple of years. Maybe, I just need to re-think how I think of creatives including myself.

office.work.space

Here's a look at the space where I do almost all of my creating after the photo session. Not quite the messy desk many creative types are known for. But it works for me!

Centre County PAWS 12th Annual Fur Ball

As many of you know, I am a huge supporter of PAWS. Not only do I photograph the homeless cats and kittens, my husband and I have fostered a few dogs and adopted one as well. It's a wonderful organization helping unite hundreds of animals with their forever families each year. In order to do this, they need the generous support of the community through donations. This Saturday September 23 is their biggest fundraising event of the year - the 12th annual Fur Ball. An evening of cocktails, delicious food, a silent and a live auction, the event takes place at the Centre Hills Country Club. Tickets are $125 per person and can be purchased by contacting PAWS or clicking HERE

I have donated a pet photography session for up to 2 pets and 2 people AND a 16 x 20 canvas wrap. This will be my last donation of the year, so if you've wanted to get photos of your furry family members and help a great cause, now is the time to do so!

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Then & Now

One thing I love about Facebook is the reminders of posts shared in previous years, you know - the "On this Day" that shows up first in your feed every morning. Earlier this week, I was reminded of a post from the day we brought our golden nugget Izzy home. It made me smile and was a great start to my day. But I was struck by a few things. One - how tiny she was. Two - how fast these 7 years have flown by. And three - the photos I took of her in those first few days. I remember being so excited to have a puppy to photograph again. And how I promised myself my shots would be better than the puppy pictures I took of Mika many years earlier. But I couldn't get over how much my work has changed and grown in these years.

A goal of many artists is to grow and create better work. Sometimes we feel stuck in a rut and not growing as fast as others in our industry. Sometimes that is true. But sometimes it's not. Yet it seems that way because we compare ourselves to others. Which in this digital age is so easy to do.

With so many blogs on internet, you can find plenty of material to read on this subject. And plenty of advice. Perhaps the best suggestion is to stop comparing your work to others in your field. Instead, concentrate on developing your own style and only look at work created by your older self. When you look back at art produced three, six and twelve months ago, you'll see how much you've grown. What once may have been a struggle to achieve, may now be ingrained in your technique. These accomplishments are something to be celebrated! 

As I took a trip down memory lane, reliving those early weeks and months with Izzy, I also found myself reveling in how far I've come since I first picked up a camera. Yes, sometimes I wish I was I better. But imagine a year from now looking back at the work I'm producing today. There's no doubt it will be something I will be proud of. Which makes me think of that phrase - "It's all about the journey, not the destination."

And so I will continue on this journey. Who knows where it will take me. I'm already producing work I never dreamed I would or could. I'm willing to bet one day I'll be creating images that I can't even imagine creating sitting here right now.

Here's a look back at the adorable puppy who has brought so much joy to my life. This shot was one of my favorites and something I was proud of at that time. Isn't she just the cutest???

Izzy.puppy.jpg

Here is an image from my most recent shoot which happened to be with Kita. I'm ashamed to say I haven't done a session with Izzy since we've been back from Florida. But I've got great things planned for her next session during fall peak season!

Kita.yellow.flowers.Penn.State.jpg

Thanks for reading and following along! I don't say this enough, but I really do appreciate the support, encouragement and comments I've received over the years! 

Why I Entered Print Competition

One of my goals this year was to enter a print competition. You can find photography competitions at all kinds of levels…from local camera clubs, to magazines such as Smithsonian Magazine and organizations like National Geographic and The Sierra Club. But the competition I wanted to enter was one offered by the Professional Photographers of America or PPA for short which I am a member of.

With over 29,000 members worldwide, and like most trade associations, PPA offers many benefits for photographers. From education, to resources, a community of like minded individuals and of course, print competition. Photographers can enter print comp, as it more commonly called, in local chapter competitions, state competitions, districts and international. All but the last level of competition are considered warm ups for the biggest one of all - International Print Competition or IPC for short. Most of us refer to it as the super bowl of print competitions!

All photographers, whether they are amateur or long time professionals, know that the art of a great image consists of a multitude of elements. These include composition, impact, story telling, and technical skills such as proper exposure and lighting. In IPC competitions, photographers can earn a merit based on the score that image received by the judges. To earn a merit, the artist (or maker) must successfully meet the criteria of 12 elements, some of which I've already mentioned. Merits earned during this competition are also applied toward a degree offered by PPA. 

I began my journey entering the Northeast district competition, which took place back in April. I had no expectations other than just to enter and get my feet wet. One of my images did very well and would earn a merit if I entered it at IPC. While I had no intention of entering IPC this year, I wasn’t going to pass this opportunity up! So I re-worked a second image I submitted at Districts and choose two new photos to round out my case of four (the maximum number of entries allowed in each category) and hit the send button. Judging took place earlier this week. 

Images are given a score anywhere from 67 – 100, with 100 being perfect. Any image scoring 80 or higher is awarded a merit. Images that score 85 and above move on to a second round of judging where they can earn a second merit, otherwise referred to as a loan image by PPA. If an image scores a 95 or higher, it is automatically awarded a loan - the best of the best. In 2016, almost 5700 photos were entered. Just under 2500 earned a merit and 1000 of these were awarded the loan distinction. That’s a lot of judging, don’t you think?

I’m proud to share that 3 of my 4 images merited. One of them was up for judging in the loan category, but did not make it. For my first time entering, I am beyond thrilled! I had no expectations and only entered because of how well I did at districts. But if I hadn't tried, I wouldn't have had this experience. 

While the merits are the icing on the cake, print competition for me was about pushing myself to grow as an artist. Photographers who enter competitions can choose to get a critique for an additional fee. This is an invaluable service especially for newbies like myself. It's an opportunity to learn what I did well, what mistakes I made and how I could have created a better image. Watching the judging take place is also a wonderful opportunity to learn from other photographers who entered. As judges challenge scores, there is always a discussion amongst them as they reach an agreement on what the final score should be. So not only do I learn from my own entries, I learn from my peers. Many photographers who have been competing in print comp will share that the fastest way to grow is by entering print comp. 

Already, I've learned so much and more than I ever imagined I would. I'm looking forward to getting my critiques and applying what I advice the judges have for me to my future work. Much like agility, once you go down this rabbit hole, there’s no turning back! I am now addicted and am looking forward to next year’s competitions. 

Here are the images I submitted for 2017's International Print Competition...

Kita.Big.Sky

Terra Firma

This is the image that did well in Districts and is the reason I entered IPC. Scoring an 86, it was my highest score of the competition.

chocolate.lab.puppy

Sweeter Than A Hershey's Kiss - scored an 81

labrador.puppy.chair

The Timeout Chair - scored a 79

black.lab.fall

My Hunting Buddy - scored an 81