Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Constructive Criticism


I have always shied away from constructive criticism when offered in on-line classes. It isn't that I don't want to get better, because I do, it's because I am afraid that my fragile self-confidence can't take it. I would rather hear "That's beautiful", "Great Shot", "Well done". Or so I thought. But the truth is those kind affirmative comments leave me feeling a bit empty, like a whisper of air passing by my ear, but the words don't fill me. Instead, I want to know what someone sees or feels when they look at one of my photographs, does it resonate within them.


I just completed an on-line photography course called The Personal Project You Already Shot, taught by Pam Korman. The course built upon the weekly photography projects I had been doing. I liked this class because I didn't have to figure out what to shoot each week, I could look through the thousands of photos I already have stored in my Lightroom catalog, searching for project themes. It would also teach me more about editing and sequencing a project, something that caught my attention after watching a Kelby One course taught by Stella Kramer. I also had a chance to delete some hideous work from years past and make some extra room on my external hard drive.


It was a four week class. Two weeks to nail down your project's theme, and two weeks to get the editing and sequencing done. The third and fourth weeks we could take screen shots of our Lightroom grids showing our sequencing and get feedback from fellow classmates and Pam, the instructor. I was only too happy to review and comment on other's projects, but I stubbornly held my own screen shot back. After seeing everyone else's work, I was sure they would think "what an amateur" if I posted mine.

Finally, midway through the fourth week I gathered up my courage, opened Lightroom pulled up my project grid and took a screen shot. Before I had a chance to talk myself out of it, I clicked over to the Facebook Group and posted it.


I got amazingly helpful critique. One gal loved the anonymous feel of it. I loved the word anonymous. The best advice came from Pam. She said "It seems like at times your photos show you feeling stuck, but then you gather yourself up and move on, I would love to see some photos of movement in your sequence, the moving being the bridge between feeling stuck and progress." Once I read that I thought "yes that is exactly it." At times on the journey we make steady progress, but then we slow down or get stuck, but usually after a time of rest the journey continues.


We are often too close to our own work and can't see the bigger message. That's when we need fresh eyes, people who don't know us, to tell us what they see within us.

I am in the final stage of sequencing my project and hope to have a Blurb book completed by the end of next week. Work is also underway on a portfolio.

Looking back through my photos in Lightroom, I found a couple of other possible projects that I would like to develop for portfolio pieces. The journey continues...

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Sketches


I signed up for Vivienne McMaster's year long self-portrait photography class Body Peace 2017 when it was first advertised last fall. The first class started January 1st and ran for 15 days, then we had a 15 day break before the second one started February 1st. In my mind this was an ideal schedule; 15 days on, 15 days off to catch up on the few lessons I may have fallen behind on.

I started out strong, as I always do with on-line classes, obediently working on each day's prompt.


The class is intended to help us, especially women, to be more accepting of the body we have right now. Always the rebel in a group, I also choose to use the prompts as starting points for well-thought out, creative self-portraits. Now don't think that I don't have body issues I need to deal with because I do, but for me it is about becoming a better self-portrait photographer as well. It is amazing the details you pay attention to when you are the subject of your photograph.


My self-portrait creative perfectionism meant that I could only shoot with my Canon dSLR, no iPhone allowed. That perfectionism carried me for about three days, after that life got in the way, as it always does. I no longer had an hour each day to set up the perfect vignette. So instead of loosening my criteria and adapting to what life was at the moment, I quit. I didn't do any more lessons for January, and in February when life got even crazier, I didn't even start.

But here's the thing, I'm not a quitter. So when March 1st came around, I opened my Morning Pages journal and did some soul searching:

  • I paid for this year long class, so stop wasting the money
  • I enjoy the prompts - they make my creative mind start working again
  • I love the community and sharing with other classmates
  • I need to find a way to adapt
So I slid off my creative high-horse and I got out my iPhone, my GorillaPod tripod for my phone and my remote shutter release and set about doing the daily prompts.


When I was having my weekly Skype conversation with my friend Leon of Sea Blue Lens, I was lamenting to her about lowering my standards but at least getting it done. I also said, the ones I really like I can go back and take with my Canon. Then she said "It sounds like you're doing sketches with your phone". There is was! The artistic term that I needed to make it alright to shoot with my iPhone. I am an artist and I understand things in artistic terms, the term "sketches" made it creative. Thank you Lee, you are a Godsend, in so many ways.


So now I happily get my iPhone out almost every day, some days I have to do a couple prompts to catch up, but I am keeping up. When I have extra time I do get out my dSLR, making vignettes like the one above that actually made Flickr's In Explore, which surprised me to say the least.


But my favorite one thus far is this one, taken with my iPhone while messing around with the grand puppy. There is no way I would have been able to take this with my big camera.

The takeaway - If you need to give something a different name to make it work for you, do it! The most important part is not to quit. You will be creatively blessed by staying the course.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Scene & Story - February 2017


Deep breath and release.

That's how I feel now that February is over. What is usually the longest short month of the year due to Michigan winters has passed in one quick blink.

The weather in February was unnaturally warm, many 40 and 50 degree days, the average is usually around 20 degrees. We have had very little snow. I don't think I got the snowblower out once. We also saw more sunshine than all four winter months put together.

Big changes also occurred in our house. Our daughter moved into her own apartment with her dog. It is very weird to be living in a house with no dog, we have had a dog or dogs for the past thirty years, I am still getting use to the emptiness. I spent a couple of weeks helping her find furniture for her place and painting the dark brown walls light and airy shades of gray. All of this left me with very little time for exploring.

This photograph was taken on the second to last day of the month. My husband took the afternoon off for a date day. For Christmas we tend to do experiences instead of big gifts. I gave him 12 date days for 2017, one per month, vacation days were required. He always ends the year with too many vacation days unused, I plan to change that this year.

For our date afternoon we went to a Bar & Grill we had never been to for lunch, after that I made us climb 300+ stairs to the top of a small mountain with great views of a resort town and Lake Michigan. The day wouldn't have been complete without a trip to the beach. In summer you have to pay $8 to park at this beach, but off-season equals free. My husband and I explored a natural area at the end of the beach, and then wandered down to the lake. As my husband lingered on this path I captured the moment with my iPhone.