Saturday, May 31, 2008


Photography is all about light. Sometimes waiting for that perfect lighting situation can test even the most patient photographers. The making of "Illuminated" is a perfect example of this.

I took the original black and white photograph that became "Illuminated" on April 23, 2008. I was on my way back home from leading a class in hand-coloring at Marin Catholic High School. It was a perfect day - if you love clouds like I do.

I got off at highway 12 going toward the Sacramento Delta region of northern California. I made a right turn on this dead end road right around Suisun City. This had to be one of the longest dead end roads I had ever seen. I would pull over every once in awhile and take out my camera but I wasn't very happy with any of the shots I took. The clouds were keeping any of the light I so desperately wanted, off the hills. At this last stop, I shot a few photographs and then decided to wait and see if the situation would improve. After awhile I decided it was time to put my camera and tripod back in the car and get on the freeway and look for another location. This is an example of what I was seeing:

The clouds were great but without the sun hitting the hills, the whole image just looked flat to me.

As I was putting my equipment away I looked up to see the hills light up as the sun peeked through the clouds. I quickly got out my camera and decided to not even bother with my tripod - I had no idea how long this light would last. I took a few photographs before the sun went away and then got in the car. I couldn't wait to see what I had captured.

"Illuminated" is June's "Image of the Month" and is posted on the home page of my website as well as under "New Images".

I never did find the end of that road........................

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Festival Musings - Part 2

My first weekend home in 4 weeks. It feels good. Doing yard work, cooking, walking - I think these are things people do on the weekends when they are not getting up at 4:00 am to set a booth up in the dark. I don't have to get up that early for every show. As a matter fact I am trying to limit the amount of shows that I do that require a morning setup. This year I only have 3 shows on my schedule where I get to experience the joy of being half awake while I try and think about how to set things up. To add to the experience is knowing that I look like I have been up since 4 am and will probably wear my sunglasses and a hat all day to hide that fact as much as possible.

All of the other shows on my schedule this year, let us set up the day before. I love this! To be able to take your time trying to decide where your panels are going to go, setting them up and then changing your mind - can be a lot of fun. It's only fun however, if I am by myself. If someone is helping me they usually start getting irritated by the third design change. It's funny how I can set up an entire booth in 3 hours or less if I have to, but give me 9 hours and I will use almost all that time to create what I feel has the best flow and presentation.

The other advantage to setting up the day before is I don't have to worry as much about getting in a situation where I can't get my van out of a tight spot. I will usually get to the site as early as possible, unload everything and then move my van and breathe a sigh of relief. My show van is a 1990 Dodge Ram Van and while I have had it for 4 years, I still have trouble navigating it around other cars, backing it up and parking it. On more than one occasion I have let other people take over. They just jump in and seem to be able to slide in or out of what I thought was a very tight parking situation. Amazing!

One other thing that can stress me out before a show is the weather forecast. I start logging on to and then as early as 2 weeks before a show. I do this sometimes just to torture myself. They really don't know that it's going to rain that far in advance. All it does is give me another excuse to be obsessive. Did you know that accuweather can give you an hourly forecast? Does it do any good to know that there is a 30% chance of rain at 9:30 in the morning? Can I wish it away? No - all I can do is be prepared for anything - so that's what I do. It's all anyone can do.

Anyway, I am going to go take a walk - I think that's what people do on weekends.....................

Monday, May 19, 2008

Festival Musings - Part 1

I just finished a run of 3 art festivals, 3 weekends in a row and I am tired. This past weekend it was 100 degrees while we were setting up. It cooled down a bit for the actual show but it was still pretty brutal.

The thing is - you just do it. It is what it is. It's what I do and for the most part - I love it. Yes, it's hard work - physically and emotionally - but it is also rewarding in so many ways.

It's been fun all month to reconnect with old friends - artists I have met through the years while participating in the shows. It's like a family in many ways. We go through heat, rain, wind and recessions together. An artist friend was not feeling well this weekend so a bunch of us pitched in to help her tear down and load her van. (Actually, I wasn't that much help because by the time I finished tearing down and packing my own van, she had so many helpers that they finished before I did.)

Another example of the camaraderie we experience was at the end of the show, I left my booth to go check on my friend that wasn't feeling good. While I was gone a woman entered my booth and wanted to make a purchase. One of my neighbors, another photographer, noticed her and was ready to write up the sale and take her check for me when I showed up. I know for a fact that this artist did not have a good show and here he was, willing to do what it took to make a sale for me! Incredible!

I also have a good friend that has referred me to art consultants, coached me while I was on the wait list for a show I really wanted to get into (and did - thanks to her), and is always ready to share the wealth of information she has about what it takes to succeed in the art world.

I am not sure if this happens between competitors in the corporate world but I would be surprised if it occurred as often as it does between artists.

I am so grateful to be able to do what I do!

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Fight is Over

I mentioned in another post that it took me awhile to surrender and start exploring digital photography. I fought it for a couple of years. I love the smell of fixer - why would I want to give up the darkroom? "Real" photographers are still using film. Anyone can make a digital photograph - but you are an "artist" if you are still creating in the darkroom. I have since come to the conclusion that to make a compelling and satisfying image in Photoshop is anything but easy and takes quite a bit of knowledge and even more commitment and practice.

Of course my biggest obstacle had to do with hand-coloring a digital print. How I solved that problem was covered in another post. Now that I have a handle on that issue, I have fully embraced digital photography.

With this new found acceptance I have also experienced a renewed sense of passion and excitement about my work. I am taking more photographs and the more I shoot the more I learn. Every time I master something in Photoshop I get giddy and can't wait to try something else. While most of the manipulation I do in the computer is very similar to what I did in the darkroom - adjusting contrast, toning, and using filters - there are now more options that enable me to create an image that is close to what I visualized in the first place.

I do get asked all the time "are you still shooting film?" - and I feel like the "right" answer is yes. Until recently, I found myself getting very defensive. I would start explaining how my Konica infrared film was discontinued or how they stopped making my Agfa paper and on top of all that, I was becoming more sensitive to the chemicals. These are all perfectly good reasons to switch to digital photography. The truth is I am having so much fun and have absolutely no desire to go back into the darkroom. This is in spite of the thousands of dollars I have spent in the last year and the countless hours of frustration I have experienced. It's worth it!

I once read that if Ansel Adams were alive he would have loved Photoshop. If I were still making excuses I could use that little fact to justify my journey over to the "other" side. Why should I have to justify doing something that is giving me so much pleasure? I don't!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Time To Slow Down

Last weekend I was at the Saratoga Rotary Art Show. This was the first of 3 shows, 3 weekends in a row. I worked pretty much non-stop right up to the time I was leaving. This is my normal mode of operation during show season.

Saturday night I started to get a sore throat. "This could not be happening" I told myself. "I can't get sick!" Trying hard to convince myself it was just allergies, I attempted sleep. I was not very successful. Before the sun had a chance to rise, I accepted the fact that I was coming down with something and I would just have to power through and do the show. Fortifying myself with Advil and Sudafed, I managed to make it through the day, tear down and drive two and half hours home.

I woke up on Monday still feeling pretty lousy but there was work to do! Another show this weekend - no time to take it easy! I managed to get quite a bit done as I ignored my body's plea to rest.

Tuesday morning - I feel worse than I did on Monday. Exhausted actually. This was not part of my plan. The plan was to feel completely healthy by Tuesday. Oh well - I need to go to my studio. I have no choice - right?

Later on that day my printer starts acting up. Then it stops working all together. I can't get anyone over to look at it until the following morning.

As I am gearing up to go into full crises mode - it hits me. Getting sick was not enough to slow me down. The printer breaking down was a sign from the universe I could not ignore. Now I had no excuse. It was time to rest and that's what I did. Funny thing - I woke up Wednesday morning feeling much better!

I need to pay attention to this. I can get pretty crazy before a show. In response to being yelled at, my son would often ask me "do you have a show coming up". I am not proud of this. Friends come to see me at my shows because they know that's the only way they will get to visit with me.

I want to do things different this year. No one is forcing me to have a certain amount of inventory. It's my choice. I want to choose balance and fun over obsessive, frantic and stressed out.

I will report back and let you know how this is going. If you see me at a show and I look weary, remind of what I just declared.

I think I will go take a nap....................