When editing becomes the inspiration, and a song pops into your head.
When editing becomes the inspiration, and a song pops into your head.
It’s been a long, dark, and damp (if not, drenched) winter in the Pacific Northwest. Many friends have expressed everything from annoyance to pure hatred toward our recent weather behavior. They’ve questioned their decision to move to this far corner of America, asked for advice about the best “happy light”, expressed wanting to fry under said happy light, and explained how this winter has brought out a level of S.A.D. we just didn’t think would exist. It’s so bad people are almost self-diagnosing themselves as depressed. So far, the people I know are okay and are managing as best as they can.
Though I consider myself a native, I have never really fully appreciated the grey season (which is about 6-9 months of the year, depending on science). I have expressed a spectrum of emotions about how it feels like I’m in a rain cloud prison. With what little energy I can muster I’ve found that reaching out to friends is good. Getting together with them is better. Sun lamps can kind of help. Taking a vacation to the desert is better. But this is all a roundabout way to say that creativity can take a back seat to pure sadness and lethargy (bears get to call it hibernation). This is all to say that my editing process has be skewing more dark and delicate than usual.
These tulip petals say a lot about how I’ve been feeling both physically and mentally: drained, dropped, and working in a shallow-depth-of-field.
March 13, 2017
In an experiment to transfer a photo onto wood, I was left with the paper I had to rub off to expose the print. It was fairly successful, but not perfect. Of course, I then found the shreds more interesting.
Amidst a family reunion of sorts, I decided to slip out the front door and chase this one winter sunset.
I’ve been wearing glasses since I was 6 years old. I remember my mom asking my brother to take me to my class on the first day of school and seating me closer to the front because I was having trouble seeing. Since then, I’ve gone through dozens of pairs of glasses. The 80s were a hideous time. Looking back to the 90s and the thin-wired frames make me shudder. The 2000s brought plastic rims and wire temple combos and thin plastic framing.
By the 2010s, a vintage renaissance seemed to have begun, and horned rim frames started coming back. Companies got innovative and metal was no longer restricted to tubular thin wires wrapped around a lens. It was flattened, widened, and flared. Those with smaller bridges could get the style, and benefit from the nose pad support. I was an eager customer. But as lovely as they are, after a few years comfortably flashing this look, I craved getting a pair plastic frames. I wanted the heft, the substantial luscious look. So a little over a year ago, I visited the eyeglass store and looked around.
Plucking a Kate Spade here, and slipping on pairs of the latest ProDesign frames there, a pair by Masunaga caught my eye. It was two-toned, a 50s corvette red that faded to a delicate cream. They were daring, sturdy, and forgive the pun, eye-catching. I worried that they’d be too daring. But at the time, I so very much wanted to live louder and more badass than I had been. So bought them, I did.
Here, I tried out some product photos of my eyewear. The selfies are from the archives, modeling each pair.
I loved these when I got them. A sold dark bronze color with those diamond cutouts on the edges of the prominent horns that reached out to the corners. I wore these at my wedding, against the opinion of many. But I insisted. My glasses are such a huge part of my identity, and as I’ve gotten older it’s been difficult keeping my eyes moist (that said, my tears on that day could have fixed that!)
The Legres proved pretty deep in lens height, so I went slimmer. These grey ProDesigns had a lovely matte finish. And the purple trim was a nice touch. With my very strong prescription, I had to actually go back and get high definition lenses that made the focus area wider than with regular high-index lenses. This made them lighter and thinner, and they looked like I wasn’t even wearing lenses.
What I wear now. I got my red luscious look going. I took the selfie right after i picked them up from the shop. I paid a little extra to get nose pad extensions (extra plastic) so they’d sit further from my face. What I like about that, is that the integrity of the style is retained, and the frames don’t look rigged. The case is gorgeous and is a great travel companion.
Last week I got a recorded reminder from my eye doctor alerting me that it’s time for my yearly eye exam. I will probably put it off a little longer. I’m really enjoying my little red corvette frames, and think I’ll wear them till the novelty rubs off – or my prescription changes.
Today was a tough day. It probably rained three inches total today, it was so rainy. I can’t say that the darkness of winter doesn’t affect me. It affects me greatly. So, I made a visit to a friend’s house where she had a shoulder to cry on and a baby for me to be my muse for the day, and distract me from my not-so-great mood. This kid is just so darned delightful. There was no way I was leaving that house feeling better than I walked in. Thanks to this kiddo and his family for always being there.
The other day, I took a trip to the local Fisherman’s Terminal to pick up some salmon for dinner, and thought it might be fun to do a short photowalk through the shipyard. September has been cool and sunny, and the light gentle, yet intense. It turned out to be a meditative escape in a playground of shapes, texture, color, and light.
Sometimes I think I can take photographing for granted. With easy access to any kind of camera, we can capture what we want when we want. It’s easy. It’s fast. It can sometimes be more of a reactionary response, or a “this might look good” moment. I don’t discourage myself from just shooting because sometimes those moments turn out really well. Some of my favorite images are things I caught by luck or random happenstance. But the amount of snap-shot/just because photos I have can totally burn me out. I tend to get bored and frustrated. Where is the work I’m dying to make? The work that really stands out for me that isn’t just another random image? That’s when I realized: My mind is not always in it’s prime state when taking photos. Simply put, there are times I am present with my camera and the moment, and there are times when I am not. I want to strive to be more present. Not only is this healthier for my mind, it yields my more thoughtful and impactful images.
As I continued my walk through the shipyard, I felt every step on the wooden pier, took a breath and stabilized my feet before every shutter release, thought about how a subject might look at different angles, remembered to consciously practice things I learned in school like hyper-focal distance focusing, and visualized how I might want to process a moment differently than how I saw it at that moment. I was patient with myself. I let myself try. It was one of my more immersive photo walk experiences. I was eager to edit what I had shot, because I knew I had good things to share.
So, I’d like to ask you: What intention (if any) do you set for yourself when you go out shooting? When do you think you feel disconnected from your work? When do you feel connected with your work? Do you practice a sort of mindfulness when you are shooting? And just for fun, where are some places in your hometown that you can always go to to explore your creative seeing? As someone who can struggle with creativity and finding inspiration, I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Exploring negative space.
In high school, before digital, we shot black-and-white film. It was a meditative practice. Five years ago I took some photography classes and one of my instructors was an incredibly passionate and experienced photographer. No-nonsense, hard-core, bad-to-the-bone master printer, Jhanavi Lisa Barnes taught us the zone system and helped us understand highlights and shadows. How to accomplish these things in-camera (film), and later on in the darkroom. There is nothing like a print that comes from film and developed on paper. I do miss the luxury of it, and have a total respect and appreciation for the process. (Alas, I’m an impatient type. Also, the cost of purchasing film, paper, facilities rental, gas, parking, etc. just isn’t economical or convenient).
So, how do you visualize, take, and process an image so that it looks like it imbues the tonality and contrast of black and white film? I continue to hone and refine my skills in digital photography, and feel I have a good grasp on how to adjust tone, saturation, and highlights through the various color channels and tone curves. I push myself through the grey of an image. With the Zone System in mind, I work to keep, but not blow out, my highlights. I nudge my shadows, blacks, and exposure sliders to keep the shadows from becoming too muddy. However, if I’m going for a specific style, I will push the highlights and/or muddy the contrast if it communicates the feeling I want for it to radiate. Finding balance in the light is something I love to work with.
Here’s a little slide show of people and places where I’ve worked the light to suit the image captured; keeping in mind the feelings I remember having when developing black and white prints.