Feature Friday: Photography Without Direction

Featuring photographers and their images is one of the most rewarding outcomes of my tasra365 photography project. It provides a voice to other artists on their journey, and offers invaluable inspiration to fellow artists.

I hope you are as inspired by these stories as I am. This week, Sandra Marek shares about her photographic learning journey.

It all started about 3 years ago when I wanted a nice camera to take “better” pictures for my scrapbooking hobby, so my husband gave me a Nikon D-80 for Christmas. I shot in Auto Mode for the first year. One year later, I purchased a used Nikon D-300. I started a picture a day project/blog about a year and a half ago, with a group of photographers of all skill levels.

Image © Sandra Marek

For the first year, I literally just took pictures. I had no direction, no guide and no plan. Pictures of everything and anything would make an appearance in my blog, once I even included my laundry. Most of these images were not very creative, just point and shoot, but I worked on learning something about photography every day.

On February 14, 2010 I came across Tasra Mar’s Blog in which she says that our photography will improve by 300% if we:

  1. Take at least one picture a day.
  2. Read at least 1 page in the camera manual
  3. View other professional images every day.

That day I signed on – I took the challenge. Six and a half months later I have completely read the users manual for the D-300 and I have followed her recommendation to become a better photographer. I have also taken on a daily challenge (The Daily Shoot) in which they give you a guide line for your picture of the day. My learning curve has tripled in the last six months.

Image © Sandra Marek

These are a few of the things I’ve learned in my photographic journey:

  • We all need a little help along the way and it’s o.k. to ask when you are stuck, there are people willing to help.
  • Challenges are good for growth, it makes you think outside of the box.
  • I can study other people’s work, outside of a classroom setting, and find out what it is I like about it, then “lift” my own style and include what I have learned from it in my own work.
  • The camera is only as good as the person holding it.
  • It helps me grow faster when I share what I’ve learned.
  • I have to have tough skin, if I want to continue on this journey.
  • It will all pay off in the end…

Image © Sandra Marek

I’m reading the book Vision Mongers by David duChemin and he puts into words what it feels like in my life every day.

It’s the calling, the passion, the vision. It makes me pick up my camera every single day, sometimes several times a day. It makes me look at objects/people and wonder how I can shoot it creatively. I do it because I cannot “not” do it. It may not always be my best but it’s my best for that day.

So I will continue to pick up the camera every single day, I will continue to take pictures because I cannot “not” do it. I no longer shoot in Auto mode and I see the world in a “different” light. I see colors, shapes, light and shadows. I see details. I have a greater appreciation for the world around me. I have found my passion and my drive.

Image © Sandra Marek

Where is the Love? (D332)

Apparently my husband was given an extra dose of romance the last few weeks. Not sure who doles out the romantic tendencies, but whoever it is, I say keep it coming.

When I returned from my trip to Seattle, I was greeted by a musical card and a beautiful bouquet of bright flowers from my husband. It may be the first time he’s given me flowers upon return from an out-of-town trip and it lit up my day. What could be more wonderful after a 4 am wake up call to catch the shuttle and a cross country flight, than knowing the love of your life was thinking about you before you even arrived? Not much.

Technical knowledge and images: I’m reading the manual and reviewing the training from CreativeLive. Viewing images has been constant, especially since I’m also reading a few of David duChemin’s ebooks on CraftandVision.com.

Growing Up Near the Water (D329)

According to my Mom, the first couple years of my life I spent almost every day by the waters of Greenlake in North Seattle. When I told her I was meeting a friend and going for a walk there during my visit to Seattle, she asked if I’d take a few pictures for her. She hasn’t been back there in decades.

Of course I complied and took a couple hundred pictures to capture the beauty and serenity of this amazing location in one of my favorite places on Earth!

As I captured and then processed the images, I did my best to remember what David duChemin taught us in the Vision Driven Photography workshop. I kept in mind what story I was trying to tell, then I eliminated anything that distracted from that story.

I’d love to get your feedback on what story you think I’m trying to convey with each image!

CreativeLIVE Photo Shoot Day 3 – On the Water at Lake Union (D328)

There’s nothing like a sunrise photo shoot on the beautiful blue lake waters of Seattle. That’s what we experienced for our third photo shoot at the David duChemin Vision Driven Photography workshop.

My focus was the water, reflections, and the beautiful blue of the water and sky, enhanced by the gold hue of the rising sun.

Almost caught up on my daily blog posts. Even though I shot pictures every day, I haven’t been able to post because of the weekend workshop. I’ve got another scenic batch of images from my walk around Greenlake today. Can’t wait to get all caught up!

CreativeLIVE Photo Shoot Day 2 – Gas Works Park, Seattle (D327)

What a whirlwind weekend with CreativeLIVE. What an amazing group of people behind the scenes making the weekend events happen for a worldwide LIVE viewing audience. What an honor to be in the studio audience!

If you watched the broadcast, you know we had a 5 am call time on day 2 to go to Gas Works Park in Seattle. We had a couple hours and shot a wide variety of images and subjects. Here are a few of my favorites that I chose quickly after we returned from the shoot. I’m looking forward to going through more of the images when I get home and have time to see what else I captured!

The spider web shot is my favorite because it came out of an exercise David duChemin challenged us with… to choose one theme or one word and shoot that for 30 minutes. I chose broken and spent about 15 minutes searching for everything broken. But after 15 minutes, I couldn’t do it anymore, I needed to find some beauty in the brokenness, so I changed my search. This spider web covers the brokenness behind it in a beautiful way and speaks powerfully to me of hope beyond and in the midst of any type of brokenness.

CreativeLIVE Photo Shoot Day 1 (D326)

If you didn’t already know, I’m in Seattle for the David duChemin Vision Driven Photography workshop being put on by CreativeLIVE. It’s been an absolutely astounding experience so far. Yesterday evening we went out on a photo shoot with mountain biking models and our fearless leader.

Below are some of my favorite images from the shoot… notice that most of the them are of fellow photographers rather than mountain bikers. I really gravitate toward capturing moments, emotion and people.

If you’re not watching this, you’ve got one more night and day to tune in for some amazing information, insight, and inspiration… and we’ve still got one LONG day left!

If you’re watching the broadcast, tell me what you’ve learned, what you want to learn, and what you think so far!!!

Blue Skies Are Here Again – Sprint to the Finish Update (D322)

The 75-DAY SPRINT TO THE FINISH has become a mere 6 weeks so I thought I’d give you an update.

If you’ll remember, the sprint to the finish is my way of ending strong, literally. I didn’t want to end what has been an incredible year photographically, to the detriment of my overall health and strength. So I committed to losing weight and getting back in shape.

Specifically, I committed to losing 30 pounds in ten weeks. That is a bit ambitious, I’m realizing. Honestly, even if I don’t make that exact poundage goal, if I come anywhere close and also fulfill my goal of building my strength and health, I’ll be happy.

So, update time…

I’ve lost 10.5 pounds in 4 weeks!

Thus the reason for the image and title of today’s article. I’m thrilled and it really does feel like blue skies are here again. Health wise I’ve been getting to bed earlier, not necessarily falling asleep faster but at least trying. I’ve been getting up earlier, with more energy and being more active. I workout at least 5 times a week for at least an hour or more. I’m a bit behind on my weight goal, but like I said, that’s okay with me when I see progress and all the other benefits.

So how are you doing with your SPRINT TO THE FINISH GOALS? I wanna hear about it!

Technical Knowledge: Watched David duChemin critique videos on YouTube. Getting geared up for my photo weekend in Seattle for the Vision Driven Photography workshop. Are you signed up to watch it for free?

How Clear is Your Vision? (D313)

With so much talk and buzz about VISION the last few days, I couldn’t help but think about my vision and your vision. What is it that drives you to pursue what you love?

Listening to a podcast with Seth Godin, I saw similarities in what he was describing about being a Linchpin. You can’t be a Linchpin without vision. No one just goes the extra mile or steps outside of themselves for kicks, there is always a vision, a purpose, a reason.

So what’s your vision? What is it that keeps you awake at night wondering how you’ll make it happen? What drives you to spend your free time studying or practicing photography (or any other pursuit)? What nags at you deep in your core that just won’t let go?

That’s what I want to hear about. Let’s talk about that!

Here’s my vision for today… re-reading David duChemin’s amazing book VisionMongers. If you haven’t read it, you should. It’ll inspire, challenge and set you on a course for living out your vision.

Technical Knowledge: Read page 3 in Canon EOS 5D camera manual since that’s my new (previously owned) camera! More on that later, but I have to admit I feel a bit like Pinocchio… “I’m a real boy photographer now.” Not to say the tools are everything because they’re not… as Chase Jarvis says, The Best Camera Is The One That’s With You. And as his iPhone pics can attest, talent goes a long way. But, I was definitely feeling like I had outgrown my camera. Like my hubby always says, “It’s the talent, not the tools.” Regardless of the camera, a talented storyteller and someone with a good eye can take amazing pics.

Images: Looked at images from Emerging Photographers of the Year since I submitted my portfolio to apply for one of the final few spots. Have you submitted your portfolio? What’s stopping you? Never hurts to give it a shot!

Becoming a VisionMonger (D311)

UPDATE: The final video is done! Make sure to read to the end and watch it!

We filmed a short video today with the Teen Identity girls and yours truly as an application for David duChemin’s Vision Driven Photography workshop happening this month in Seattle. David and the Creative Live team are selecting 6 photographers to join them for the workshop live. It’s similar to the lighting workshop Zack Arias gave a few weeks ago that I raved about for days.

Seeing as how Seattle is one of my favorite places on Earth (being born there and all gives it an unfair advantage), and the fact that I graduated from the U-dub (University of Washington) makes it a perfect destination. It was also while teaching in Lynnwood, WA and getting my masters degree in Education at Antioch University that my heart and passion for helping teen girls was ignited. My masters thesis was “Girls Team Up: Helping Girls Maneuver Adolescence.”

Since then, Teen Identity has emerged fusing my love for photography and my vision for helping teen girls find their voice and embrace their value. All that to say, we shot a 1-minute video today to apply for one of those six spots in David’s workshop. I would be over the moon to be able to sit at his feet and learn more about how to take my vision to the next level with Teen Identity. Especially after listening to his TWIP interview and then reading his book, VisionMongers: Making a Life and a Living in Photography, I know there is so much I could learn from his experience and approach to photography as a career and a passion. Blending the world of making a life and a living is an area I could definitely use some insight and direction.

The venerable Ron Dawson is generously working on editing the video as I write. It should be ready for prime time before the end of the night. Until then, you can see a self portrait I shot after the video shoot was done. Since I’d already done my makeup and hair, I figured I might as well make use of it and get a new self portrait.

Today was Theme Thursday and the theme was ENERGY. I figure this image fits that theme since it took a lot of energy to plan and execute the shoot… not to mention the energy it takes to change the world!

Stop Accepting Leftovers (D294)

Too many people, myself included, settle for leftovers in our personal lives. Often we expect the best when it comes to work or career ambitions, but when it comes to taking care of our personal lives, including our health, we accept leftovers. It’s time to stop.

We know that without our health, we’re nothing. But we also experience the common syndrome of, “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.” Based on the comments yesterday, it seems there is a similar theme… not enough time spent exercising or sleeping. Even if our eating habits aren’t great, the lack of exercise and sleep will aggravate that problem.

Today is a new day, this 75-DAY SPRINT TO THE FINISH CHALLENGE is a new opportunity for you to give yourself the attention you need. Say no to leftovers!


Technical Knowledge and Images: Looked through VisionMongers by David duChemin… great images, inspiring information.

Image specs: Shot with natural light outside with 50 mm lens. The colors were vibrant and bright but for some reason when I saved for web, they got completely washed out. If I wasn’t in a rush, I’d go back and figure out what happened. For now, I’ll have to live with it.

Stuck with diet plan all day… 1200 calories. Burned 500+ calories at gym with 90 minute workout.