Archive for April, 2011

26
Apr
11

dogs in the vineyard!

A couple of years ago, I had the privilege of photographing some wonderful oil paintings to go into a book. The paintings are by Stuart Ferrell, an amazing painter of dogs – and other subjects. The story revolves around some dogs who go to work for an actual vineyard in Virginia. The vineyard, now under new ownership, has decided to use the image above for a wine label. I can’t wait to taste the wine!

In the picture above, the dogs, who have been hired to guard the vineyard, are asleep as a variety of creatures and critters look on. If you’d like to buy Stuart’s fabulous book, contact her at stuartcferrell@gmail.com.

Faithful readers know how much I enjoy doing headshots, and there are some lovely headshots in Stuart’s book, including my favorite one, below.

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14
Apr
11

an actress talks about her shoot

 A photo shoot can be intimidating for any of us, even those that are used to being in front of the camera – or on stage. In my studio, I’m aiming for a comfortable and relaxing atmosphere – this helps in creating engaging and natural images. Recently I had the pleasure of shooting with Alisson, a very lovely and accomplished actress. Alisson was kind enough to offer to write up her experiences of the shoot:

Alisson one

“A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to sit for Blake as a model.  While I had done some “modeling” before (it’s kind of a stretch to call it that—I had lots of photography major friends in college who needed someone, anyone, to take pictures of), it had been years since I did more than a casual shot for Facebook. 

Blake and Maria Dominici, a fabulous makeup artist, made the process fun and stress-free.  The three of us and Sam (an 8th grade student who was shadowing Maria as part of a career mentoring program at her school) talked through the ideas for the shoot—what Blake was hoping to accomplish, what I was looking for, and what Maria could bring to the table.  Blake started prepping the studio, and Maria started working on my face. 

Alisson two

I’d never had my make up professionally done before, and now each morning is a disappointment at my own abilities compared to Maria’s.  But she gave me some great pointers, and after Maria worked her magic and I looked in the mirror, I could not believe what she accomplished.   

Once I was made up and outfits were chosen, the shooting began!   Blake’s studio is neat, welcoming and only slightly intimidating (I had seen those big lights before), with big windows and beautiful natural light. 

Alisson three

By connecting his digital camera to a laptop, we were able to look at the images as we went along – shown immediately on a big 17-inch screen.  Not only was that helpful to me as a model to get the right pose (“Ok, I see—I need to keep my shoulder low”), it was also very reassuring—“Wow!  That’s a great shot!” 

 It helped me feel more involved in the process.  I felt like the photos were something Blake was creating with me, not of me.  Additionally, I got to choose the satellite radio station! 

The first order of business was to create a headshot I could use (as a community theater actress, I always need new headshots), which Blake was happy to provide.  It was a great way to ease into the day, as the photos were mostly me sitting and trying to keep my head straight.  Easier said than done at times.  But Blake was very patient with my crooked gazes. 

Then came the beauty shots.  The straps of my dress pulled aside for a classic bare shoulder look, and these amazing lighting effects Blake created—I looked flawless.  I was shocked, truly shocked, at how I appeared on the computer screen as he flipped through the photos.    Maria stayed in the room to reapply powder and help however she could, which made me feel quite comfortable and supported. 

Another change of outfit, beautiful red lipstick applied by Maria, and a green background—now some fashion work.  The idea of shooting fashion style

Alisson four

photos terrified me (um, no one is about to mistake me for a runway model), but it was nothing like I feared.  A cute dress and encouragement to smile and make funny faces ensured I had a blast.  And some absolutely beautiful shots came out of it. 

A final outfit change and more fashion full-body shots.  For this last look I refluffed my hair and got to work.  Spinning, laying down, sassy faces, and playing with my skirt ended the day with a final round of fun photos.

My day with Blake was filled with lights, lipstick, yummy cookies, hairspray, music, beautiful photography – and fun.  Blake and Maria were professional, patient and casual yet focused.  We were chatting and laughing throughout our time together.  It was a great day.  I cannot wait to go back for my next shoot!”

Alisson five

10
Apr
11

pilgimage to the holy land, part two

Caesarea

This is part two of our pilgrimage to The Holy Land. If you missed part one, see it here.

Ceasarea was a seaport built by Herod on the Mediterranean Sea, also used for one of his many palaces.

Aqueduct at Caesarea

Here’s the Aqueduct at Caesarea. It’s amazing to see the size and scale of these structures and realize they are 2000 years old. Herod named the seaport to honor his boss, Emperor Caesar; Herod was a crafty politician for sure.

Sea of Galilee boat

We took a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. Many of the Gospel stories about Jesus and his disciples took place on and around boats on this lake.  I didn’t notice this small bird on the bow of the boat until I uploaded the image to the blog page.

The Wall, from the Palestinian Side

The Israeli government has been building a wall, roughly going along the border between Israel and the occupied West Bank, according to the “green line” agreed to in the Oslo Accords of 1992. But in some places the wall zigzags into the West Bank, to encompass Israeli settlements, for example. We learned that the wall has made life extremely difficult for many Palestinians, cutting through neighborhoods or separating farmers from their fields. Pictured here is a section of the Wall in Jerusalem. You can see the barbed wire on the top of the massive wall, and the watchtower on the right. There’s a lot of anger and frustration expressed in the graffiti on the wall. I’m not sure what this white creature represents, perhaps the mean Israeli separating one Palestinian from his family or friends. 

child at the Princess Basma Center for Disabled Children, Mount of Olives

The Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem – yes, there are a few Episcopal or Anglican churches in Israel – supports many schools and health clinics.  We visited, on the Mount of Olives,  a school for disabled children. One of the charming young girls we met is pictured above.

The Jordan River

We spent part of a beautiful morning at the Jordan River, upstream a few miles from the place where Jesus is remembered to have been baptized. Our group renewed their baptismal vows and we were sprinkled with holy water from the river, from olive branches shaken over our heads. Many denominations would go for full immersion, but we Episcopalians are a bit timid  and tentative about these things.

As mentioned in my first post, we stayed in Nazareth at The Sisters of Nazareth Convent. It is unknown where Joseph, Mary and Jesus lived in Nazareth, but it was a small town at that time, with perhaps only 500 residents. So, we were likely very close to the home of The Holy Family. In the courtyard of the convent, there is a statue of the family. Here’s a detail of that statue. I love the expression on Jesus’ face, and the way in Mary holds one hand and Joseph holds the other arm.

If you have an opportunity to go to The Holy Land, don’t pass it up. It could change you life.

You can see more pictures, videos and articles by other members of our group here.

08
Apr
11

fabulous tips on creativity

These are great tips about creativity from Craig Tanner. See his website, www.tmelive.com. Craig is a terrific teacher – I’ve taken two workshops from him and hope to take more.
Here are some potentially powerful tips and suggestions to enhance your own creativity. (Not preaching! I need these tips as much as anyone).
 
What is your purpose as a photographer and artist? Create an overall purpose statement for your photography and art. Create a purpose statement for each individual shoot. Your purpose statements should generate powerful emotions within you. Great art stirs powerful emotions. If you are indifferent about your purpose for being a photographer how can you expect the viewer to connect in an emotionally powerful way to your work?
 
Knowing your purpose means moving away from reactive shooting and towards conscious practice. What is conscious practice? Conscious practice is knowing specifically what you are working on so that you can measure if you are in line with your intention. When you begin to consciously practice (instead of walking around looking for great shots) both happiness and progress will come in leaps and bounds.
 
Most of us as adults have been trained to try to protect ourselves by burying our emotions. This is a creativity killer. Great artists have a highly developed emotional life and are brave enough to give a heave-ho to the cowardice of the stiff upper lip. Let go. Smile. Laugh. Sing. Dance. Cry when you are sad. Create from the natural expression of your emotions.
 
Take more time to play. Play is an activity that has no purpose outside of fun. When we are truly playful we gain access to brain sates and mindsets that are documented and venerated to enhance intuitive thinking, flexible thinking, and help to renew both our physical and psychological energies.
 
When is the last time you were truly playful?
 
Frame all of your creative practice with positive experiences and thoughts. What does it mean to “frame”? Framing is what you do right before you do anything else. Here are three powerful framing tools for enhanced creativity.
 
1) Practice gratitude and share what you have to offer. To often we curse what we have and focus on our needs. Turn it around!!!
 
2) Practice vividly reliving in the present tense of your imagination past experiences where everything worked for you as a photographer. Make this work as palpable as possible by engaging as many of your senses as you can during this mental practice.
 
3) Use affirmations to positively frame your creative practice. Three of my all time favorite affirmations for enhanced creativity are (used in this order) “I am a magnet for creative ideas.” – “The answer is speeding its way to me now” – “I posses an endless supply of creative energy and tenacity”.
 
Make a habit of journaling. One of the top hallmarks of the highly creative person is a highly developed ability to capture ideas. We are constantly creating ideas. Unfortunately most photographers squander those gifts because they are not recorded anywhere. Brilliant ideas are soon forgotten – instead of recorded and nurtured. Your journal can also be used as a powerful envisioning tool. Project no images of the future. All envisioning work should be imagined as if it is taking place in the present tense. Journal the things you “experience” in the “perfect world” present tense explorations of the imagination of your visions.  When you begin to regularly journal you will notice a powerful shift in the flow of your creativity.
Use your journal to record negative limiting thoughts and beliefs. Make a conscious choice to work with these thoughts in a creative way to turn them around into ideas that are empowering. Click here to visit the website of Byron Katie and “The Work” – a powerful metaphysical tool kit for working with negative beliefs in ways that can change them from limits to doorways to joy and enhanced creativity.
 
Quit trying and start trusting. Trying implies there is some outcome in the process that is more important than the process itself. Trying turns us into vacant zombies always looking to the outside world and the future for the thrill that will finally bring us peace and joy. Trust is what happens when you know you are in line with the intention of your purpose. Trust is what happens when you reach the realization that great photography is not out there somewhere. Great photography and great art come from within you. Use quiet time and journaling to listen to the places where you find the heart of your work. Know your purpose and stick to it (until your purpose shifts). Be the purpose and the intention behind the purpose. If you are true to the intention of your purpose all of your photography and efforts have priceless value because they bring you the peace and joy in each moment that comes from being true to yourself.
 
Suspend judgement in the early part of your process. Make many attempts and collect many ideas. Ask “What if” questions? Look at the creative challenge in ways that abstract the challenge. Look at the challenge from a far distance. Look at the subject to be photographed and rename it in ways that make it less literal moving more and more towards the abstract.
 
Consciously introduce extreme limits into your creative process. Its a myth that freedom leads to creativity. Too much freedom in the creative process leads to artist’s block because it encourages us to look to the outside world for the “grass that is greener” to get started. Creative limits push us to say yes to the process itself. Creative limits remind us of what we far to often forget – the art comes from within. Mostly what we need is the permission to express what we already have and are….beings whose most basic and profound nature is unlimited creativity. Give yourself a very short time frame to produce 100 variations of a photographic subject or theme. Restrict yourself to one lens. Restrict yourself to an extremely small space. Combine multiple creative limitations. And then watch your creativity soar.
 
After giving yourself a lot of attempts from which to choose regroup and put on your logical thinking hat and make choices and commitments. Refine the project parameters and get focused on a specific goal…..but be open enough to recognize when the goal was just a permission to arrive at a much better idea altogether.
 
While moving consciously towards your goal make a habit  of being outrageously and unforgettably tenacious. One of my all time favorite affirmations for tenacity is “I refuse to accept undesirable circumstance as having final reality!”  (Uell Andersen – from the book  The Key To power and Personal Peace).
 
Practice being a flexible thinker. Highly creative people have developed a habit of being able to move freely from being intuitive and playful to being logical and judging. Both modalities are critical to enhancing your creativity and achieving your purpose. It is a myth perpetuated by deeply flawed science that human beings are either left brained (logical / sequential) or right brained thinkers (intuitive / holistic). We are all whole brained thinkers. Unfortunately most of us have practiced a lot more being sequential thinkers. We need to practice working with both modalities of the creative mind. Many of the things I have already mentioned will help you to exercise the more holistic, intuitive, and playful part of your creative mind. Journaling and quiet time, allowing yourself to be emotional, consciously setting time aside to just play, actively choosing to suspend judgement, recognizing limiting beliefs and working with them to go past your current limits.
 
Speaking of limits – when is the last time you took a big risk in the service of your dream? As adults we place way too much value on knowledge, competency, and security. To truly move forward we will have to become vulnerable beginners again. Mistakes are an amazing source of creativity. If we are only practicing when we truly know what we are doing and we are pretty sure of what we are going to get we run a big risk of our results becoming predictable, stale and boring for both us and the viewer. Truly going past limits involves discomfort, failure and mistakes. Are you willing to look foolish in the service of growing towards your dream? Are you willing to let go of security and self protection to be truly alive? Are you willing to reframe the discomfort (of imposing upon your own false sense of security) as the heightened state of awareness that you always experience just before a breakthrough? Are your willing to be a beginner again. Highly creative people allow themselves to have truly new experiences in the service of their dreams. Becoming a beginner again should be a regular part of your creative playground.
 
All art is communication. Communication is a bridge between you and me. When we communicate and share in a way where both you and me are better than we were before that is service. Service is our highest calling. What are the ways you can practice your photography and art where you, the subjects of your photography, and the viewer of your artwork are all better off than they were before your artwork was created and shared?
 
I hope these ideas challenge you and help you to grow your photography in ways that surprise you and allow you to have more fun and joy along the way.
 
07
Apr
11

pilgrimage to the holy land

The Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem

I’ve just returned from a two-week trip to The Holy Land with a group from my church. This was an exhilerating, inspiring, exhausting and life-changing experience. Rather than try to put it all into perspective, I wanted to just share a few images from the trip.

The Dome of the Rock, in Jerusalem, is a sacred place to  Muslims, Christians and Jews.  It is built over the site remembered as the place where Abraham almost sacrificed his son Isaac. This is also remembered as the place where the Prophet Mohammed took his final steps on earth. We visited on a rainy, dreary day, but the bright colors of the building still shone through vividly.

Young Boy prays at the Western Wall

Just steps from The Dome of the Rock is the Western Wall, formerly called The Wailing Wall. The wall is part of the Second Temple, which was destoyed in 70 AD, and Jews (and others) come to pray here.  There are separate areas for men and women to pray. Many people will put prayer notes on pieces of paper in the crevices of the wall. I did as well.

1st Century Rolling Stone Tomb

In Nazareth, we stayed at The Sisters of Nazareth Convent.  Some years ago, excavations were made below the convent, and a 1st century home and tomb were discovered. This tomb is exactly the same design as the one that Jesus was buried in, in Jerusalem. (That tomb has not been discovered.)  The body is prepared for burial in the main chamber, then placed in one of the niches visible beyond, and the niche is sealed up.

Icon from a Greek Orthodox Monastery, Zababdeh

In Zababdeh, in the occupied West Bank, we visited a monastery that sits over Jacob’s Well, where Jesus met the Samarian woman. We walked down to the well, in the basement of the church, pulled up a bucket of water and drank from it. This was just one of many very tangible experiences of connections to stories that are so familiar to us all.

Camel in the Judean Desert

Not much more to say on this one!

Judean desert, overlooking to Old Roman Road from Jericho to Jerusalem

We spent some time in quiet reflection on a bluff overlooking the Judean desert.  This is the Wadi Qelt (Wadi meaning a dried-up river bed) and it was the main route between Jericho and Jerusalem, traveled many times by Jesus  and his disciples.

Mosaic at Sepphoris

We visited Sepphoris/Shefaamr, which was a center of Roman administration during the First Century AD.  There were beautiful mosaics, such as the one shown here, that displayed amazing color, despite being 2000 years old.

Bas Relief in the Garden of Gethsemane

We visited a church at the Garden of Gethsemane.   This bas-relief on the wall of the garden caught my attention because of the expressive faces. In the garden, there were olive trees with root structures going back to the time of Christ.

Mount of Beatitudes

In the northern part of Israel, in Galilee, we had a beautiful Spring day walking on the Mount of Beatitudes, overlooking the Sea of Galilee.  This is where Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount. We read the sermon and shared the Eucharist, one of the very moving experiences for our group.

Rainbow over the Desert

This shot was taken from the Mount of Olives, looking over the Judean Desert. This is likely the area Jesus went for his 40 days and 40 nights in the desert.

On our trip, we learned about events from Biblical times, but also experienced what is happening in Israel and the West Bank today. The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is terribly complicated and well-entrenched.  Somehow, I want to hold onto the hope that peace is possible in this very special land. And this rainbow was sign of hope for me.

See part two of our pilgrimage to The Holy Land here.