Friday, September 24, 2010

It's Been Two Years............

Next weekend I will be showing at my first art festival in two years. It's been a crazy week and I have been reminded why I decided to take a break in the first place. In between counting inventory and looking for my boxes, I have been home making prints and cutting mats when I would rather be in my beautifully lit studio, hand-coloring one my new images. To give you a point of reference - here are a couple of photos of what my office looks like right now.

Getting ready for this show seems more difficult because it’s been so long since I had to pull this together. When I was going to art festivals every other weekend and I had a van I used only for shows, it was a lot easier. Everything but the art was stored in one place, ready to go. I had a rhythm and a system. (To read the story about what happened to my van, click here: "Big Blue")

Now I need to bravely go into my garage to pull out display equipment, go down into the basement and look for all the supplies I stored two years ago and then climb a very tall ladder in my studio to take down the track lights I will need to light my booth.

I don’t mean to be complaining. One of the things I am excited about, is seeing many of my friends from the art festival circuit that I have not seen in two years. Making the decision to take a break was more difficult because of the relationships I formed in the eleven years I spent doing the shows.

But I also feel scattered and unfocused. Between this show, the event I had in my studio last month, and my recent road trip, I feel like I have veered off course. My routine has vanished and once again I feel like I am simply doing my “have to do now” activities with no vision or purpose.

I think I have shared this before, but I have a tendency to live in the world of “everything will be ok when………..” I feel like I am there right now. “I will get back on track after the show, the trip, the out of town visitors…………” you get the idea.

So enough of that…..time to buck up and get back to work so I will be ready to pack up my “mini” van and set up on Thursday.

I have a choice here. I can be overwhelmed, frustrated and not very nice to my husband, or be excited about seeing old friends, making new ones and sharing my art with anyone nice enough to step inside my booth. If you are in town, stop by the Sacramento Art Festival, October 1 – 3; booth #334 and say hello!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

I Am Disappointed............

© Patty Paige Short "Art Open" Neon Sculpture 36" x 49"

I am disappointed. It’s the media that I am aiming most of my finger wagging at, but I am also disappointed in the people that take what the media says at face value and make decisions based on stories meant to keep us on high alert at all times. I have been saying for a couple of years now that the news media played a huge role in helping our economy collapse and should be held partially responsible for instilling fear and panic in even the most levelheaded consumers. Bad news sells and people pay attention, but I am not here to talk about the economy. Instead, it’s a local news story that has me planning my next “news fast.”

We here in Sacramento, California have enjoyed for many years the monthly ritual known as Second Saturday. On the second Saturday of every month, art galleries around town have opened their doors and held receptions to showcase their artists and give the public a chance to bathe in the energy and vitality of the urban core of our city.

The last couple of years has seen a shift in behaviors and attitudes toward this event. Instead of the gentle stroll from venue to venue, it became a street party complete with live electronic music, street vendors (many of them from other towns) and young people looking to drink and socialize. I am not going to place any blame here, but it has been an accepted fact that patrons, collectors and artists themselves, were becoming more and more uncomfortable as the event headed into a direction far removed from the original vision.

So why am I disappointed in the media? Last Saturday (technically Sunday morning) a shooting took place, killing one young man and wounding three others. To call it a tragic event would be an understatement, and my heart goes out to the victims’ families. The coverage of this unnecessary violence however is what has me pecking away at my keyboard.

The shooting occurred in the area known as midtown, the heart of the party version of Second Saturday. However, the shooting took place a couple of hours after the galleries and shops had closed for the night. Why then did the local paper have the words “Second Saturday” as a secondary headline when the news showed up on the front page? It’s bad enough that an enjoyable, cultural occasion was already earning a reputation as a “crazy scene,” but now with the media’s twisted use of headlines and images of police attempting to perform “crowd control”, you can be sure that genuinely interested art lovers will stay away in droves.

I just overheard a conversation between a few people talking about the story and they kept referring to the shooting as “the Second Saturday shooting". Why? Because that’s how it was portrayed in the news. The mayor and all the other business leaders in the community can put their spin on things in an attempt to gain the public’s confidence, but it may be too late. I am afraid the damage has been done, the decisions have been made and other plans put on the calendar for future Second Saturdays. That will be the scenario unless we as a community do something.

I plan to attend the community forum scheduled for Saturday, September 25th at 9:00 AM at the Hart Center at 27th and J. (I originally saw it scheduled for 10 am, but click here to read the article that said 9.) This meeting is an opportunity for residents, businesses, artists and gallery owners to come together and seek solutions. As a group, I believe we can bring back Second Saturday, focus once again on the visual arts and create a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Infrared Magic

Busy week - recycling a post from early 2009 on one of my favorite subjects - Infrared!

I have been making infrared photographs for many years. I discovered early on that the surreal nature of infrared images made them perfect for hand-coloring.

I started shooting Kodak High Speed 35mm infrared and then found Konica's infrared which came in medium format as well as 35mm.

A simple explanation of infrared photography could be "it records wavelengths of light that the human eye cannot see". When shooting infrared film it is necessary to have a deep red filter over the lens. This filter makes for very long exposures, so a tripod is almost mandatory.

Konica stopped making their infrared film a few years ago, but for awhile I bought out-dated rolls on eBay. It was when this supply dried up that I finally gave in and "went digital".

The very first digital camera I bought was a Nikon D80 that I had converted so it only shoots infrared. Information on conversions can be found at and In addition to converting cameras, there are other methods you can use to make infrared images with your digital camera but I will save that for another post.

Shooting infrared film was a challenge but it could also be magical. The film had to be loaded and unloaded in complete darkness. This could be done using a changing bag or sitting in a very dark closet. The darkness became part of the ritual.

Another "issue" with the film was, since it could be difficult to get a correct exposure, you basically did what I called "bracketing like hell" with each shot. For those that don't know - bracketing is where you shoot the same scene using different exposure settings. With practice I soon knew approximately where to begin, but because IR film had a sneaky way of surprising you sometimes, I still wanted to cover my bases with a few extra exposures.

One of the things I liked about working this way was I became very picky about what I was shooting. Since it was possible to only capture 5 or 6 different images on one roll of film, and given the creativity it sometimes took to change a roll, I had to really slow down and then only shoot if I was very excited about what I saw. Using a tripod also helped to make this type of image making a meditation at times.

Because of the unpredictability of the film, I sometimes joked that I would set up a shot, pray to the "infrared gods" and click the shutter.

When I saw the negative of this image, "Tranquil Afternoon", it felt like Christmas! I was attracted to this scene because of the fence line but I had no idea the sky would come out like it did! One of the characteristics of infrared is the black sky and the amazing clouds which you can't really see with the naked eye. The drama of the sky is the reason this image remains one of my favorites.

Making infrared images with a digital camera has eliminated most of the challenges associated with shooting IR film. Since it's no longer necessary to use the red filter (on a converted camera), you can shoot without a tripod (although I always recommend using a tripod whenever possible). In addition, you get to see exactly what you got as soon as you take the picture. This can drastically cut down on the amount of exposures you have to make. Of course not having to deal with the fragile film to begin with makes life easier, especially when traveling.

As much as I love the ease and predictability of my digital infrared camera, there are times when I feel the need to slow down, think carefully about what I am shooting, and "say a little prayer". After that you might find me sitting quietly in a dark closet...........

You can read the second part of this post by clicking here: Infrared Part II

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Developing a "Style"

© 2010 Dianne Poinski

When I talk to photographers who are just starting out, my advice is always to shoot as much as possible. This is how I believe we learn to “see” and develop a style.

In my post a couple of weeks ago I showed an image that I felt was a little busy for my taste. A couple people commented on how they liked that photograph, which I appreciated, but I realized why I was never going to print it – it wasn’t my “style”.

What is a “style” of photography? (All of this could apply to any means of artistic expression by the way.) If someone is viewing one of your photographs, unaware that you were the photographer, but suspects that you may have created it based on the look and feel of the image, then you are well on your way to developing a style.

When I was still shooting film, I printed my black and white prints in a rental darkroom. Those of us who printed on fiber paper would squeegee our prints off at the end of the day and place them on drying racks overnight. It was during this time that I discovered I was developing a recognizable style. I would come in to pick up my prints and often someone who had seen them drying, would make the comment that they “thought those prints were mine”. This felt good. This also gave me direction as well as structure.

All young photographers should spend time shooting film if for no other reason than to learn how to make thoughtful choices about subject matter and quality of light. Because buying and processing film took quite a bit of time and money, I soon got to the point that when I looked through the viewfinder, I had to be fairly certain it would be something I would want to print before I released the shutter. This slowed me down and was a great way to begin to develop an eye for what I wanted to photograph.

Digital has changed this for me, or at least it’s trying to. That is why I had that shot I shared that I will probably never print. I am not as selective as I use to be. This has the potential to turn any photographer into a “point & shooter” and at times, I am guilty of that.

I still stand by my declaration to go out and photograph as much as possible, but eventually you want to start limiting your exposures to images that make your heart sing. You not only develop a style, but you also start to create a cohesive body of work, which is one of the most important elements of a portfolio that is ready to be shown to the world. Keep in mind that it’s almost impossible to not be influenced by other photographers and their work. I know I have been. It’s perfectly acceptable to use this as a starting point, but be creative and try to add your own signature to it.

Where am I headed with all this?

When I was in Victoria, we visited Butchart Gardens. Before the trip I mentioned my reluctance to venture from my current flower project. My floral images are how I am expressing my style right now, which is why after battling the crowds, it was hard to hide my delight when I found these begonias. (I think that’s what they are….. I probably should have taken notes…. If I am wrong, please let me know.)

Anyway, they were fresh with drops of water and beautiful soft light. The first one below is what it looked like before I made changes to the color. The second one was what I had envisioned creating and is more in the "style" of the work I am doing right now. One is not right or wrong or better than the other. I just find the second one "feels" better to me and works better with my other images. I guess that could be another definition of "style". I would love to hear other ways to describe "style" in regards to creating art...............

Also, keep in mind that styles evolve and change - they have to or you risk falling into a rut. If you are true to your vision, you will probably never drift too far away - just far enough to keep things fresh and your passion alive.

© 2010 Dianne Poinski

PS – If you haven’t already seen it, check out my interview on PanPastels new blog: