Project 365: Photo Texture Series

Day 5 of 366. Not sure how long I’ll continue the texture series, but I’m capturing new images every day. It’s amazing how quickly you can train your eye to look for specific things like light, texture, composition. It just takes intentional focus and practice. Every day.

Two questions for you to answer today:

What intentional steps are you taking to “see” differently?
Where do you find the perfect mix of art and fun?

Today’s texture is easy to identify… what you can create with it is limitless.

You may be interested in more tips and inspiration in this series from these articles:

ShootQ Grant Application and Voices of the Victims Photo Book

Have you heard of the ShootQ yearly grant for photographers? It’s a $12,000 grant given to a photographer to fund a project that raises public awareness about an important social, environmental or economic issue.

I applied. Can you guess the topic of my application?

Sure you can. Sex trafficking of young girls in Atlanta (and the United States). It was an obvious choice and near to my heart after creating the Voices of the Victims photo series and the short film “Numbers,” along with being involved earlier this year with Street Grace. I used my writing challenge to create captions for each of the 13 images in the series, as well as write a bio and proposal for the application.

Once I spent the time reviewing the images, statistics and videos again, I was even more committed to being involved in ending this tragic reality in our world and city. Say a prayer for me that I’ll be chosen and given the opportunity to raise awareness, as well as reach out and help unleash the true beauty of young girls caught in the web of sexual abuse and exploitation.

Inspired by the application process (and encouraged by a free coupon for an 8×8 photo book from Shutterfly), I decided to put together a book that captured my photo series and some of the thoughts and statistics surrounding the commercial sexual exploitation of children.

Won’t you take a look and let me know your thoughts? We are considering offering these books for sale and using 100% of the profits to help in the fight.

Click here to view this photo book larger

Voices of the Victims: “I’m Afraid of the Dark”

Many girls grow up with a deathly fear of the dark… for some it’s legitimate fears of what happens in the night, for others it’s fear of the unknown…

For girls on the street, it’s a fear they may never overcome.

Coupled with that fear is a pervading sense of loneliness and isolation.
Intimate friendships and relationships are near impossible without the ability to trust.
Shame is a constant companion.

Even when surrounded by people, the shadow of loneliness is always present.

I’m posting two images every day this week from the Voices of the Victims series of images I shot last month. The Teen Identity models stood in for girls on the street, giving voice to fears and feelings, hoping someone will listen.

Take action now… we are creating partnerships with organizations to find opportunities for photographers who want to make a difference by sharing their talents. You can sign up to learn more at photographers.teenidentity.com. Over 300 photographers across the nation have already joined the list… we’d love to have you join us too.

Photography Isn’t About Making Nice Images (D274)

You know about the crazy life of a creative, but do you know about the solitude? Do you live a life of solitude by choice or by design? Does your art require or dictate the way you interact and live in the world?

As I’ve been watching documentaries of master photographers from the past and present, I’m beginning to see a trend of broken relationships, art created alone, intimacy issues. I’m also learning about the way they see and interact with the world, including some profound ideas.

Paul Strand was a master photographer who fell in love with photography as a teen and hung on tight until he passed away. He went through three marriages and similar to Stieglitz, spent his honeymoon photographing instead of romancing. His images were innovative, contemporary, and challenged what people had seen in photography. His relationships were strained. At the end of his life, his wife said he patted his photographs like they were his children, because in fact, they were the love of his life.

He was a man who created in solitude, who loved spending time in the dark room creating images that would open the eyes of others about what was possible. He believed that photography wasn’t just about going out and making nice images, but it was about what you had to say about the world. You have to have something to say about the world.

This is what Paul Strand had to say about the portrait:

“The portrait of a person is one of the most difficult things to do because in order to do it means you must almost bring the presence of that person photographed to other people in such a way that they don’t have to know that person personally in any way but they still are confronted with a human being that they won’t forget, the image of whom they will never forget. That’s a portrait.”

What a beautiful way of expressing what a portrait truly can be for a person. Paul Strand also said that in the middle class we’re trained to be blind… and he started to photograph people in the Great Depression, to really see and show what was happening. I see that in the photo series I created for the Street Grace and 12Stone event to fight child exploitation and sex trafficking… I want to open people’s eyes to what is happening around them.

“The artist, like a true scientist, is a researcher, digging into the meaning of the world.”

How  will you dig into the world with your images? What will you portray in the portraits you take? What meaning will you uncover to open the eyes of the blind?

Technical Knowledge and Images: Read few pages in camera manual and looked at images on Twitter Tuesday from tasra365 photogs. Did you get listed?

Photo Series: Voices of the Victims

Injustice is an attack on God’s children.
If we do nothing, we stand with the oppressor.

Two months ago, we rallied around Street Grace to donate $100 to this organization fighting sex trafficking and child exploitation in the metro Atlanta area. Thank you to those of you who participated and helped us make it happen.

Last month, I shot a photo series representing the voices of the victims caught in this life not of their choosing. The series is being displayed at the Street Grace citywide event June 4th from 5 – 9 pm. It’s an evening of education, awareness and engagement… if you’re in the area, you won’t want to miss it.

Before the photo shoot, the Teen Identity team and models watched a trailer of the documentary Playground, so they would have a better understanding of what is happening in their own city. Then each girl chose her own statement and made her own sign to represent the voices of the victims trapped in this tragic life. Below are just two of the images in the series… I’ll post 2 new ones each day and hope they touch your heart and maybe even move you to action.

Take action now by getting involved at Street Grace. We are also creating partnerships with organizations to find opportunities for photographers who want to make a difference by sharing their talents. You can sign up to learn more at photographers.teenidentity.com. Over 300 photographers across the nation have already joined the list… we’d love to have you join us too.

My Philosophy on Sharing Information (D144)

Everyone has a different view on what, when, and how much knowledge and information to share. It’s a topic that can create quite a bit of hostility and heated discussion as well, at least in my experience. As I was looking for a shot today, I stumbled upon this rope I have on my dresser from an event I attended in 2008. Deciding to shoot it in various forms reminded me of the different philosophies each person takes when it comes to sharing information… so I thought I’d “share” that with you.

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MY HANDS ARE CLOSED

The first philosophy and one I think that many people hold is that I’m going to keep my information to myself. It’s a belief that there is scarcity of knowledge or that they will be harmed or impacted by sharing that knowledge. There are times when this is appropriate and when it can work to your advantage.

Apple comes to mind. Having worked there for a year, I know firsthand about the tight hold that is placed on knowledge and information—basically everything is on a need to know basis. No open discussions, forums or free conversations. That philosophy has paid off handsomely for them.

On an individual level, photographers for example, there are some who hold their information and knowledge tightly. Whether it’s the equipment they use, lighting secrets, processing, or business and marketing. Holding tightly to that information may be a way to distinguish themselves and separate their work from the competition. It can also be a way to isolate themselves and/or charge a pretty penny if they do decide to share. I’m not making judgments about that style, just seeing that mindset as one way of living and being. Feels like a tightly coiled rope with only one small end open to the rest of the world.

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WALKING THE MIDDLE GROUND

The second way of being when it comes to sharing information is more like walking the middle ground between sharing and openness – selective openness. It can come in as many variations as there are people, but chances are it will lead to less isolation and exclusivity.

When it comes to individuals, especially small business owners or visual artists, this philosophy may be very successful. On one hand, you keep some information and ideas proprietary, while extending the other hand in support and sharing. Who knows whether that sharing is something you do in an open and free forum, like a blog, podcast, or free workshop, or if it’s all information that people pay for. Either way, there is a greater sense of sharing and openness than the first example.

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BEING AN OPEN BOOK

The last example is the open book. As information flows in, this type of person lets it flow out to others in various ways. The space that is open leaves room for whatever might fill it. This reminds me of Chris Brogan and all that he shares on his blogs and videos. Every day he’s learning something new and turning right around to share that new knowledge with his readers. While you can purchase information from him, i.e. Trust Agents and workshops, it doesn’t seem to be what typifies his behavior.

On the photography side, I think of Zack Arias. When I was first searching for the confidence and courage to move forward with professional photography, I turned to Zack’s blog and critique videos over and over again. His humble and kind way of sharing information in an open forum, the way he responds to and really cares about the people who comment on his blog, and the time he’s willing to take to educate aspiring photographers in his critique videos is astounding. Of course he also has ways you can get more in-depth knowledge, by attending a workshop or learning from his One Light DVD. But there are many entry points to the knowledge he has that he shares without any type of payment, even down to the open house he hosts at his studio before his workshops – open to the public – and always an entertaining rant from Zack about his journey as a photographer.

So where do you fall in all of this? Where do you find yourself or relate when it comes to information sharing?

I find that I connect most with the last example, for a variety of reasons.

  1. I’m a teacher at heart – it’s who I am at the core, so when I learn something new, my first inclination is to share it. Since I’ve been blogging the last 3 years, that’s been my constant modus operandi.
  2. I’m not a salesperson – also at my core I dislike sales and the entire process of selling anything. Admittedly that may hurt the bottom line in my business because I give away more for free than I probably should, but it’s just not how I’m wired.
  3. I’m a coach – this ties in with my teaching, but goes a bit further. I have an inherent, idealistic tendency to see the very best in people, to latch on to their potential and not let go until I see them begin to achieve that.

Honestly, I believe that a good balance is the best way to live. I could maybe do with a bit less openness (or at least my budget could!). Or maybe it’s just that I could really use a person who has the sales mentality to help me uncover what information to give away and what to package to make it more accessible and user-friendly. I’m not really sure, just sharing my thinking process right now. What are your thoughts?

Manual: Page 22—Self Timer

Images: Nicole Wolf for her fisherman photo series she’s been working on for four years! That beats my four days of smoke trails hands down!

Want to Grow as a Photographer? Get Serious with a Photo Series. (D143)

Earlier this week I announced that I was embarking on a photo series of smoke trails. I wasn’t sure where it would take me, but I knew that I had just barely tapped the surface of my potential in exploring this type of photography. I also knew that if I just continued to try it haphazardly, when I felt like it, or was inspired, that I would never really master it. With that, I announced that I’d do a series, without knowing how long it would last or if I (and you) would get bored with the images.

To my delight and surprise, the opposite happened. Not only was I forced to see things differently, but I had to find new ways to keep the images and the shooting fresh for myself and my viewers. And isn’t that what we all need and want? Whether we are wedding and event photographers or senior portrait photographers, or aspiring mom photographers taking pictures of our kids for fun, or even engineers moonlighting as photographers by night… we all want to get better, to create and produce images that move and inspire us and those who see them. Am I right?

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After taking on this photo series of smoke trails, I’m convinced that if you’ll get serious about a photo series, you will grow as a photographer. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t even matter what you choose as the topic or focus of your series. It’s not about the content, it’s about the process and the method. It’s about the discipline of shooting the same thing, with different eyes, different lighting, different locations. Whatever you change, even if it’s just your perspective, it will change the output. And changing the output changes the image, which teaches you lessons you wouldn’t have learned if you didn’t pursue the same topic or focus for more than a moment as brief as the click of the shutter.

It’s similar to the value of undertaking a photo challenge like tasra365. Instead of going through life so quickly that you never stop long enough to realize what you’re doing or where you’re going, you stop and make some clear commitments about where you are, where you’re going, and the steps it will take to get there.

If you’re an aspiring photographer (or even a professional) chances are you’ve wanted to improve, went out and taken tons of images, but perhaps without a clear focus or direction. But when you join a 365 project and challenge yourself to get serious, you begin to see massive change. Even though it may seem small – one image a day, one page in a camera manual, one professional image to view – the small changes add up to more improvement than you’ve seen in the previous ten years of hoping, wishing, and trying.

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That’s how the series works. Instead of trying a shot of candlelight one day, then a shot of splashing water the next, then a leaf on the ground the following day, you choose a series. Don’t limit yourself to the amount of days, just let it flow. If you shoot it for 3 or 4 days and feel like you mastered it, move on. If you feel like there is more you could do and learn, then keep going.

Keep going until you’ve tried everything that you have in your mind to try. Keep going until you’ve worked those creative muscles to the point of exhaustion and need to give them a rest. Because I am convinced that until you stretch yourself creatively and have reached the end of yourself, you will never really know what you’re made of.

But if you do, you will come out on the other side a changed photographer, with a more clear perspective than you’ve ever had. And you can’t tell me that perspective won’t serve you well in your future as a photographer – aspiring or professional – in portraits, weddings, landscapes, architecture, anything.

Try it. You won’t be disappointed.

Here are my results from the last day of my smoke trails series. Compare them to the previous days and I think you’ll see the clear progression. I left many of them as they were shot, with slight editing in Lightroom to increase blacks and sharpness. Others I pulled into Photoshop to invert and adjust the color. If you missed the other posts in the series or want to know how I set up the shoot, check out Learning to Photograph Smoke Trails, Leaving a Trail of Smoke, Project Smoke: The Series Continues, and Beyond the Smoke & Haze: Do You See What I See?


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Beyond the Smoke & Haze—Do You See What I See? (D142)

I promise I haven’t been smoking or sipping anything. The only thing I may be under the influence of is too much incense, which can be pretty heady stuff. Seriously though, when I started processing the new smoke trails images, I began to see something else…movement, shape, water, fire, dolphins, lions, even eyes, faces…aliens? All have an ethereal quality to them, not unlike cloud gazing when you see ducks and horses flying through the sky.

Do you see what I see? Or something different? Take a look, then really slow down and look again. Be patient. Wait for it. Tell me what you see. I’m going to leave the comments open on this one because I am dying to hear your feedback on these images…even if you just want to say you think I’m losing it and need to put the incense down! I might have to agree with you!

If you missed the other posts in the series or want to know how I set up the shoot, check out Learning to Photograph Smoke Trails, Leaving a Trail of Smoke, and Project Smoke: The Series Continues.

Manual: Page 20—Digital-Vari Programs Explained

Images: Earlier today I posted a quote from Pep Bonet, featured photographer on Kodak Gallery. He said, “Strong photos come from living the experience and being able to capture the emotions.” He has some fascinating images, awards, and experiences you can read about. I love how he describes his photography:

Many of my photographs represent the unbalanced world in which we live. I could be photographing advertising, but that is not my passion. I want to give voices to those who do not have it. This helps me understand the unbalanced world. While my photos many not change this world it provides me with a peace of mind that I have been able to see the world this way.

Here are his NINE TIPS for how to be a better photographer:

  • Experience the photo first.
  • Hard work.
  • Feelings and Emotions.
  • Power of Suggestion.
  • A Signature of Your Own.
  • Talk to the Locals.
  • Taking Risks.
  • It’s All In a Word.
  • Make Mistakes.

D104: Death of the Marshmallow—A Series

I’ve been talking about creating photo series and tonight I started a new one, capturing the life and death of…

a single marshmallow…by roasting.

Roasting marshmallows brings back such warm childhood memories. I seriously have refined the art of browning the perfect marshmallow. Golden brown on all sides, melted all the way through to the center. (Okay, I admit it. I went off my mostly raw, vegan eating style for this event. Can you blame me?)

Others are not quite as artful and like to eat the charred remains of a marshmallow straight out of the fire. That’s what I captured in this series of images. Pretty amazing to see the marshmallow engulfed in fire.

When was the last time you roasted marshmallows? Are you a golden brown or charred marshmallow type?

Specs: Nikon D50, 50 mm lens, 1/100 @ f /2.8, ISO 800. Processed in Lightroom to sharpen slightly. No need for other processing, which is always a bonus!

Manual: Page 103—Settings.

Images: TIME Magazine released their Images of the Year in this week’s issue. Some interesting images.

D103: Starting a New Photo Series

For the past year, I’ve had ideas for different photo series I’d like to create. One of the recurring ideas is a series of battered barns. I’m not sure what draws me to them, but they always seem to capture my attention.

Today, while driving in the Tennessee mountains, I grabbed some images to start collecting and creating a new series. I’m determined to complete the series in 2010 and compile it in a book.

The motivation to start another series really comes from an incredible sense of accomplishment and pride in creating my first series that I published in a photo book, A Girl in the Big City—a collection of images from New York. I can’t tell you what a boost of confidence it was to look through that book for the first time and see my images in print.

Other series ideas I have are:

  • keys
  • locks
  • trees
  • water
  • bridges
  • teens
  • textures
  • dance
  • self-portraits

Those are off the top of my head, as well as looking through past images to find patterns in what I capture. Have you thought about what types of photo series you could create? I’d love to see your ideas in the comments. Maybe we can inspire one another to follow through with them next year!

Manual: Page 105—Lenses.

Images: While looking up the definition of photo series, I came across this series of modern day fairy tales. Fascinating.