Grateful

It’s a beautiful spring day here in Seattle. Basking in the lovely sunshine inevitably turns my thoughts to all that I have to be grateful for. I did a series of “grateful” posts back in August and it seems like an appropriate time to add to the list.

First up, I am grateful to Bryan Ohno. Bryan and I go back a few years when I was a part of his previous gallery. I was flattered that Bryan called me out of the blue nearly 20 months ago to invite me to be a part of a group show with my underwater photographs. I appreciate that Bryan was open to my new toy photographs even though it is outside of the art he normally shows. His openness to hosting  the upcoming show In LEGO, We Connect is testament to our mutual respect and I want to repay that faith by delivering a kick ass show.

Second on my list is my wonderful friends at KEXP. Throughout this stressful winter they have grounded me with their friendship, support and our mutual love of music. I know they have no idea how much they have helped me grow over the past six years of my near continuous volunteering and this is how it should be.  The many adventures and experiences I have enjoyed with them have tested me in ways I would never have thought possible. All the video I have shot with them has rubbed off on me and informed my photography in countless ways. It has truly been a win-win situation.

Third on this list is my amazing partners: Me2 and Avanaut.  Me2 deserves special thanks for giving me this platform to voice my artistic joys and doubts and share with you all that is wonderful about toy / macro photography. I am grateful for Avanaut and his willingness to say “yes” to both joining us here on the blog as well as in Seattle next month.  I look forward to meeting them both in two weeks(!!) and showing them my beautiful city and introducing them to all my amazing friends who have helped to make this all possible.

No matter how many doubts I have between now and the opening (and trust me there will be a few), I already know I have “won” because I have the most amazing people in my life… and for this I am grateful.

~ xxsjc

Who or what are you grateful for?

Exploring (robot courtesy of Gordon)
Exploring (robot courtesy of Gordon)

Grateful (1/3)

I’m out of practice blogging, but +me2‘s last post put me in mind of a series of posts about gratitude. I know it’s not the holidays, but sometimes it’s nice to sit back and take stock of where you are and why.

Even though I graduated from university with a degree in photography and had a successful art career, I never felt like I knew what I was doing. I would joke that if the subject wasn’t under water I wouldn’t know what to do. This was shockingly close to the truth. 
When my art career ended I was at loose ends and struggling to find my place artistically. Through a random series of events I ended up volunteering at my local independent radio station KEXP. The gentlemen I work with have been generous with their patience, guidance and willingness to share information. I felt like I was in school again. Over the past five years I’ve learned how to handle my dslr, light a room, video like a pro, work as a team member and most importantly travel successfully with nine distinctly different and mostly male personalities. 
Our last adventure together was to a nearby music festival, Pickathon. Since we always travel short handed I volunteered to not only help with video but to take care of still photos of the bands. Basically I would be doing double duty. I took all my lenses with me: 70-200 for video, my favorite wide angle lens, my go-to 24-70 and on the off chance I could sneak in a lego photo my 100 mm macro (which is also a great portrait lens).  The upshot of taking stills for three days, 100’s of photos and multiple lens changes is that I actually understand how and when to use each of these lenses. I also learned each lenses strengths and weaknesses. It was glorious. 
Since I’m an art / casual photographer I rarely have this kind of intense photographic experience. I left mentally exhausted but happy with my efforts. It was also gratifying to find out my current toy photography editing work flow also worked great in the field. It is mazing to me how much these two hobbies of mine, toy photography and music videos, inform and influence each other. In many ways I wish my stills could be as good as the work I turn in with video. I am sure in time it will.
In the mean time there is never a day that goes by that I’m not grateful by this volunteering experience. I have learned so much over the years, made friends and met more than a few amazing musicians. 
~ xxsjc
Where did you learn your photographic skills: traditional school or the school of hard knocks? 
Have you considered sharing your photography skills as a volunteer?
If you want to see the entire set of photos I took, look here.
Pickathon’s main stage at night.

A Case Study On Why You Should Use Your DSLR

For those of you out there with lovely DSLR cameras who are loth to use them because they are too large, too bulky, too cumbersome, too complicated, to whatever… I would like to relate a story that I hope will persuade you to get yours out and make friends with it.

Last spring I was getting tired of taking Lego mini figure photos with my iPhone. Yes, it has a great lens and yes it’s easy to use and the editing apps and the uploading ease to social media where unparalleled. But I was growing dissatisfied with the results and I was quickly realizing that almost all the really great photographers I admire on Instagram, were using full size cameras.

So I broke down and pulled out my full size DSLR camera. And yes its big and bulky with a complicated interface that sometimes makes my head swim. Luckily all that time I had spent volunteering at KEXP was coming in handy. The boys at the station had definitely been teaching me a thing or two about photography, so this time, the interface was manageable. I tried a few different lenses and settled on an inexpensive 50 mm macro and off I went. I loved the results! Sharp, clear, great depth of field; everything I had been lacking with my phone. I was in heaven!

But like most new photographers I was concerned about storage and file size. I shot my images on the small RAW setting which gave me a file size of 5.5M or 2880 x 1920. I figured this would be more than adequate for my needs and would allow me to blow my images up to a nice size like 8″ x 10″ (2.4m x 3m). I had a wonderful summer shooting with friends in unusual places and since I was trying lots of different things I was having a lot of success.

When the fall rolled around and I had a chance to show my work in a gallery I quickly realized the images I had created, like the one below, were too small to create the images I wanted to show. I tried in vane to recreate the shots, but like all good images, there was a certain serendipity that was not going to be replicated. So I had to admit defeat, quickly create a few new images and move on knowing I was leaving some of my favorite images on the so called cutting room floor.

So the lesson is shoot big, shoot for the future and know that as you are learning and enjoying the photographic process you will eventually capture great images. And wouldn’t it be a shame if that image was on your phone or a small compressed file that didn’t allow you to work with it as your other photographic skills grew?

So get out your full size DSLR’s, shoot on the largest RAW setting you have and invest in a good storage device (preferably with a back-up system). Because you are not only shooting for today, you are shooting for the future…and who knows what opportunities will come your way.

– xxsjc