Monday, January 31, 2011

On Aperture

Went on a field trip to learn about aperture. Shot all these in A (aperture-priority) mode. I was so excited - bokeh! Oh my gosh, my little p&s camera was such a struggle to get any kind of bokeh - but today - NICE! Such a treat to be learning all this from Kat. Loving her e-class. Below is a pretty good example of the differences in aperture and how it dramatically changes the feel of the photo.

f/5.8, 62mm, ISO 200, exposure -1

f/8, 62mm, ISO 200, exposure -1

f/20, 62mm, ISO 200, exposure -1

f/25, 62mm, ISO200, exposure -1

I find that I prefer the short DoF photos - because I love bokeh and the blurry backgrounds. I also tend to like to take more focused close up shots on my subjects. But there are many applications for wanting the background to also be in focus. It was interesting to see how the as the entire picture comes into focus using f/25, how my subject of the grasses was lost and the houses across the lake became so much clearer. My camera goes from 3.5 @ 18mm to 5.6 @ 105mm. The aperture changing system on my Nikon D90 was a little troubling for me to work. I had to push the shutter-release button half way and hold with my pointer finger, then dial in my aperture setting with the middle finger of the same hand. I found I would take a scad of unwanted photos while trying to dial and hold at half on the button. *click, *click, *click - drat! Good thing I wasn't using film. Will take a little practice. UPDATE: OK, learned that I don't have to push 1/2 way on the shutter button - I only have to dial. Soooo much easier. I really couldn't understand why they had made that so difficult - but wasn't the case afterall - quite easy. Learning....

Overall - awesome day. Learning so much and feeling more confident.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Compostion and texture

Same building different views and vertical versus horizontal. Tried to apply the rule of 1/3s to keep the composition appealing. The street level was ugly, so I stayed above that when framing the subject. I had to crop in PSE in order to keep to the 1/3s compostion. I found that the sky was too stark so I added some textural clouds. Then, it seemed that desaturation was more fitting to the texture and the subject. Black and white was OK, but I felt that a little of the warm brick needed to be present.
In PSE these are the steps:
  1. import photo
  2. crop and adjust color
  3. copy a background layer (I use softlight for this layer)
  4. between the two layers, I added the cloud layer
  5. I added a levels layer
  6. I added a gradient map layer for b&w (I use normal and play with the opacity to achieve the level of desaturation I am looking for or just strictly b&w)
  7. the opacity on the background copy layer can be adjusted for opacity to acheive desaturation.

All this takes some time and some playing around with opacity and what type of layer you use. Its fun but it is easy to "over-bake" it. Many photos don't need this much work. Often, a level layer adjustment or a background copy to softlight is all that's needed. I'm hoping to get away from texturing this year and have more pure photography. I'm finding I can do this now, because my photos are so much better! New camera and new eye.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Artistic Inspiration

This image fits - fits my style - The elements that I love...color, texture, hidden interest and line. Read below how I'm starting to
find my eye.

Today I went on an Art Walk - just me, my camera and a notebook. I went specifically to The Grover/Thurston Gallery in the Pioneer Square area in Seattle. I was headed to see the art of American Folk artist, John Randall Nelson.

Hidden in the background of all of his works are words, textures, and pages of old books. These things are not visable from a distance. Only upon coming closer and really looking do you see what is behind the obvious. Each painting is a visual treasure hunt. I found myself drawn into the painting, looking beyond to the layers beneath. I loved that about his art - simplicity and great color on the obvious layer yet underneath as a reward to those who take the time - texture and hidden interest. All these elements inspire me and I find myself wanting to incorporate this in my own art - both photography and encaustic.

Above is the art of Terry Turrell - carved wood, mixed media. Again, all the things that draw me in... color, texture, hidden interest and line.

Of course I can't stay away from glass...

Overall, an interesting day with lots of visual stimulation to inspire. I have to say that I am glad that I waited to do this day - what seemed like falling behind, turned out to be a good thing. Yesterday, I had sat down and really analyzed my photography for one of Kat's assignments. I was feeling so all over the map with my artwork... so uninspired by me.
Yesterday - the AH HA, moment, the lightbulb going on... I found the common thread in my own work. I was feeling so much better. It also made me realize that my love for texture, color, line and shape has always been there. Its the type of art that I am drawn to and have always been drawn to. Its nice to define what seemed like all over the map. The interesting part is to realize that my style and my voice has always been there. I admit it, I never recognized it nor chose to take the time to see it or hear it. I chose to continue to struggle with me and my all over the map-ness.
I feel like I can focus now and let these elements openly define what I like in my art, rather than ride in the back seat undiscovered.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Sunset in Wax

I spent a few hours dabbling in the studio last night. This is what came of it.
I scraped in the round design with a grooved pottery tool. The groves are filled with red, orange, black and white wax kinda randomly. I scraped back to reveal the multi colored bands in the circle. The black flowers are silhoutte images from a photo I took during the summer. They are laser printed and transfered onto the wax.
Still working small... this one is only 3x3.
I was happy with it.

Inspiration File

color, line and texture
I had an assignment to set up an inspiration file. That was the easy part. Review recent photos I've taken and pick my favorites. The hard part was then really looking at the photos and finding the commonalities... what is the common thread that runs through the photos?
I also looked at the entire collection of 365 photos that I have taken over the past year. My first impression was that the photos are all over the map... subject, location, vantage point, color - all aspects. So this assignment has been good for me. Good for me to really look, to go beyond first impressions and really look deeper and see what I find. I had to mull this over a while because I was disappointed that I couldn't see a style and a voice that just jumped out. At first glance it looked like a jumbled mess of whatever.
I did notice that I like close up photos and nature. Not really quite macro, but in some cases yes. I like to fill the frame. But, why? To cut the crap? - yes. Do I focus too narrowly - not seeing the forest through the trees? - yes, sometimes. I had to think on this too. Do I need to stand back more and take in the whole picture rather than the detail? re-compose a little - yes.
My conclusion is I like three things in my photos - color, texture and either line or shape depending on the subject. When I take a step back and really look, I find these elements are dominent. I like to focus on the texture of the cool things in nature that I find along the way - thus the close up detail shots. I also tend to take photos as I am out walking the dog... which brings my subject matter and location to --> Urban nature.
The missing elements of design? Pattern and Form. These are good things to identify and give me a challenge to try and include more often. I also need to stand back more and see the whole picture. I'm chalking up my first year of photography as a year of exploration. No judging, just accepting the things that documented my year for what they were. This is the year to take what I learned and am learning and see what I can do. It will be interesting to see if I can clear my throat and find my voice this coming year. Will be it be tight and linear? Or bold and loud? Or colorful and exotic?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Just a little Reminder that it is important

What's with the inner critic thing? Anyone else noticed that feeling that you get:
  1. What am I thinking?
  2. I just really can't seem to do it
  3. I know there are about 4000 other things I need to be doing
  4. I'm tired
  5. I'm not trained properly. I need to read more, look at other's stuff more...
  6. (insert here your own)

Its overwelming. Its intimidating. Its really hard sometimes to get past the road block that we set up for ourselves. Those hurdles we have to jump over just to get started. Today I realized I am far too serious about this. I'm making it so hard and it doesn't have to be - its FUN for goodness sake! For some reason I feel that everytime I sit down I have to create a fabulous piece of art. I must be perfect, it must be good - because if its not good - why bother... right? This is the thinking that gets me in trouble. Its the thinking that actually gets me away from the studio rather than in there playing and learning.

Today I cut the 6x6 squares into 3x3 squares and worked in a smaller format. It took the preasure off. It is smaller, less white space, plenty of space to dabble and play and create. I didn't have to make that museum quality piece today. Today, I could have no agenda and just have some fun.

I made this little piece as a reminder to me that it is important

- ART -

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

More on Exposure

I had a cherry day today.

I woke to sunshine - amazing! Seems like forever ago that its been sunny, but I am probably being a little unfair to dear Seattle. However, for the most of my outing there was this cloud that just hung over the sun. Every now and again the sun would break through. The sky all around was blue - go figure.

I decided to take my camera exposure lessons outdoors today. I decided since I am so new to this that I would set my camera on bracket of 1. I have a feature that I can set the camera to shoot 3 photos - the first normal, the second exposure +1 and the third photo -1. I set up for continuous photo shots so it would be rapid fire and I would get three quick photos.

Here are two sets of three photos that really show the exposure differences - the photo above is Normal:: f/8, ISO 200, 1/1000

This photo is exposure -1, f/9, ISO 200, 1/1250

This photo is exposure +1, f/6.3, ISO 200, 1/640

Exposure +1, f/5.3, ISO 200, 1/80

Exposure -1, f/5.6, ISO 200, 1/125

Normal:: f/5.3, ISO 200, 1/160
I actually shot an embarassing amount of photos today due to the three per subject. My actual learning came in when I got home and loaded my photos into the computer. I could then see the differences, some very dramatic. I wasn't sure how to really use exposure outside. My take away on this day is that the exposure -1 photos for the most part were the best ones. There were some exceptions where the normal photo was good. Rarely were there any where the +1 photos worked. Bracketing was a nice place to start I think. I don't think I would go for a whole outing using it again. Today was really an experiment for me and an opportunity to "get some miles under my belt". I have to admit that because of the bracketing, I did not spend the time to look at each histogram after a shot. That will be next time. But, as for today, I have lots of examples, some pretty great photos and a new sense on how exposure works. Now I feel that I can be a little more creative with exposure in my future photos.

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Balancing Act

The Balancing Act
I had thought this one would come out a little differently. There were things I really loved here and things that didn't work. It started out as a vibrant blue and white background with a texture photo transfer. It looked pretty good. Then I added yellow which I really didn't like that well. So, I scraped back to expose some of the underneath. But still it left too much yellow I think in the end.
The photo is a laser print. First put in PSE and made into a smudge stick drawing. The first transfer was just OK. I was a little impatient and rubbed off some of the ink transfer. I put a layer of medium over the first pass and then added a second photo transfer of the same image. Again - oops, scraped through a little too hard and took off some of the ink layer. One more time, this time in color and lightened up quite a bit. I really like the result and the way the underlayers add depth and show through. However, I was disappointed in how dark the image got with no way back.
The balls are incised around round lids then scraped out all the way to the panel underneath. I then filled them with the colored wax.
Overall, I'm happy with parts, but unhappy with parts. I need to focus on the things I like about it and think about ways to improve for next time the things I don't like. I think I will work on it a little more and see what comes of it. Or maybe start over.. I'm not sure yet. I did learn a lot from this one which is what counts at this point in the game
Lessons Learned
  1. When doing the photo transfer to keep in mind the layering of several images looks cool but gets dark. Need to think through that with image choice, maybe only two layers...
  2. A light touch and patience is what matters for the removing of the paper from the image. Good burninshing too.
  3. Yellow is bright and makes a huge statement. Need to be warry using so much of it.
  4. The round dug out shapes are cool.
  5. Really think through and lay out the background before getting into the image transfer. There really is no going back and repairing it or doing it over without somehow going over the photo image too.
  6. More wax. Layer it up. It looks better and is easier to work with.
  7. Really work on acheiving a smooth surface. I actually think this is harder than I think. It will need some practice.

Learning about Exposure

Another challenging day for light. I thought it would be interesting to try practicing exposure bias with a white figure against a window setting. Chairman Mao gladly offered his service as key poser for my photo antics. The photo above is straight up with no adjustments to exposure. I like the way the trees outside the window have so much clarity, however the Chairman is quite shadowed and much detail is lost. f/5 ISO 200 exposure time 1/50

The second shot which is on the left above is exposure bias +1. Lets more light in and loses some of the tree detail. The right side is the same photo taken into PSE and level adjusted to bring up some of the detail on the Chairman and trying not to lose too much detail of the trees in the background. The is the "cake and eat it too" attempt. Original photo f/5.3, ISO 320, exposure time 1/30.

This last one I am adding in because I loved the drama of it. This is taken at exposure bias +4. I also opted for black and white to add a little more drama. However, I have to say that really, it was almost black and white anyway in its original format. I love the detail of the Chairman's face in its shadowy state and the way his coat blends into the background. Funny, but its my favorite and I would not have expected it to be. But as I got playing around with the photos, I decided that I really I loved the intensity and the super high contrast and exposure in this photo. It's hyper overexpsure but it seems to suit the Chairman. I might not like it so much if it were something else.
f/5, ISO 2200, exposure time 1/30.
I literally felt like a kid in a candy store learning all this today. Tomorrow is looking like sun breaks in the forecast and I'll be outside to try out my new learnings.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

On Light

I have been looking at light in photography a little differently this week thanks to Kat Sloma. She is offering a photo course through Wish Studio called Finding Your Eye. These photos are taken on our black lacquer table in front of East facing windows. The challenge this week has been sunlight.... virtually non existant in Seattle. We are really living up to our reputation here this week - rain, rain.........rain

But even with the challenge of the light - the soft light that comes from overcast days can add a moodiness it seems.

There was a Sun Break and I grabbed camera and snapped a few photos of the outdoor potted plants on the deck. I love how they look like stained glass.
I was asked to think about what it is about photography that floats my boat. Its taken me a whole day and a half to mull that over. Photography for some reason has really touched my heart this past year. To the point that I upped from a point and shoot and invested in a nice Big Girl Camera. So what's up with this? I've taken photos forever but never with this kind of inspiration behind it. My conclusion is that photography allows me to play, look at things a little differently and be in the moment. Maybe I need this right now, or maybe I am ready for it at this point in my life. I like to try to capture and experience the little things in life that are the wonder in this world - to me anyway. When I put together a file of my favorite photos today, I realized there are some lovelies. Lots of texture and color, nature, funny angles, highly cropped and other oddball things and subjects. I decided its because I love the small little offerings in this world. The things that catch my eye and keep me in the moment.
What about your art floats your boat?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Laser Photo Transfer

Tulli Snax
Originally uploaded by Rain City Girl

Tulli Snax
Today I needed some instant gratification + I just got my new color laser printer. So, the combo led me to try image transfer onto encaustic. Not hard to do but I did learn by mistakes along the way.
I chose my doggie, Tulli as my subject and picked a group of photos that I changed to black and white in Photo Shop Elements 8 (PSE). I started with my four color photos and added a layer - gradient map to each one. This will change the photo to black and white. I then added a levels layer and tweeked around with that to get higher contrast. Probably not the proper way to do it, but it works for me.
I cropped each of the four photos and then added them one by one creating the matrix in a new file. I'm sure there is some easy way to pop them into a foursome like this so if anyone knows - please share. I did it by resizing each photo. My board is 6x6, so each photo was 3x3.
I then flattened the image. When I printed it, it came out too dark. So, I added a brightness/contrast layer to the flattend image and cranked up the brightness - much better.
After preparring my panel with about 6 layers of medium I was ready to start. On the warm wax I placed my photo print (on regular computer paper) image side onto the warm wax. I then took a nice polished stone and burnished the backside of the paper. Then I added some water to dampen the paper and burnished lightly again. Then I soaked the paper and rubbed in little soft circles. The paper starts balling up and the idea is that the ink is transferred onto the wax and your job is to carefully with a light touch rub the paper pulp away and leave the image transferred onto the wax. I actually did this process twice with medium in between. I then rubbed some oil stick in burnt umber into the pocks in the wax. Heated again and voila!
Lessons Learned
  1. A light touch on the rubbing the paper off the back is very important. Too hard and the ink image will come up with the paper - not good.
  2. Burnish, burnish again and make sure you really rub it down well. Not too hard or you tear the paper or dent the wax.
  3. Patience is virtue - take your time, enjoy the process of removing the paper. Too fast and things don't work out.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Day 1

I was standing at the top of the basement stairs before heading down to the studio. I was thinking today is it... its the first day. The first day to really get started. What a feeling. Have you ever felt that way before starting something new? - like wow, I'm actually doing this. All this build up and work towards today has actually come to a peak at this very moment.
I sucked in my breath and thought- OK, I'm not going to let this overwhelm me, I'm not going to judge anything I do today. Its the first day after all..
This is the first draft, the first run at it. I can be kind to myself and just let ART happen. I promised I would share as I go - so here it is, early stage. Its actually further along than this, but I'll save that for later.
Lessons Learned
  1. Don't put a dirty brush into the clear wax pot - especially a red one. Think red sock, white laundry (not good)
  2. No matter how careful you are, paint has a tendancy to get places you don't want it. Think hair, table, clothes - where the heck did it come from?!
  3. The Procter Silex $20 griddle does not have an accurate temperature gauge. Maybe I should have splurged for the $29.99 model... Guess I've been watching too much Suzi Orman and was trying to be fiscally responsible. Don't think they'll take it back now that it has wax on it. 250 is the new 180.
  4. No matter how hard they try, kitties are no help.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Starting Something NEW

Originally uploaded by Rain City Girl

Its been really, really long time since I've been here. A lot has happened - all for the good (thankfully). Out with the old and in with the new. Lots to do this year - so lets get this party started!

This blog is going to be a new space, a new face. More on this as we go along. But today is just the first day and I don't want to overwhelm the process.

I'm trying some thing NEW - well, old technique actually - but TOTALLY out-of-left-field NEW for me. Encaustic painting. But what's the really cool part is that this is really not about encaustic painting. This is the medium that I have chosen so things may be a little skewed that way - but what its really about is sharing words and content that inspire. I'm going to share my learning process - yes, the good, the bad and the ugly. I'm a total beginner - I figure the only thing that can happen is that I'll get better..

My hope with this blog is that it inspires you to try something NEW - or perhaps work on something old. To stop thinking about it, and do it. Be a writer, a photographer, an encaustic artist for goodness sake - whatever inspires you. Its about taking a leap. Its about taking a chance and being OK with the fact that you're probably going to suck at it at first until you get some miles under your belt. Lets have some fun.

Join in with your something new, something old or follow along however you like. I probably won't be here daily but I promise to be here a couple of times a week with some fun inspiration.

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