Archive for the 'creativity' Category


our perceptions of people in pictures

Today I’m posting three more images from my recent fashion shoot with Nicole. If you missed the post from June 15th, you can see it at Beauty Lighting.  If you go back and forth between the beauty shots and these images, the look is very different – not just because Nicky’s hair is pulled back in the beauty images. The lighting makes a huge difference in how we perceive a portrait image, as do many other aspects of the picture. I believe there’s lots of subconscious stuff going on as we view photographs.  The colors, the pose and expression, the closeness to the subject and our own experiences and memory of people we’ve seen in real life, movies, etc. all impact how we respond to an image.

Here’s an experiment. Choose one of the images in this post. Spend some time looking at it. Try to imagine what the subject – Nicole – is like. What is her personality? How does her voice sound?  How old is she? What are her interests? What are her dreams? I’m guessing you can conjure up a pretty full and detailed description of Nicole in your imagination. Now look at one of the images from the June 15th post. Does your perception of Nicole from the beauty image differ from how you imagine her after looking at the first photograph? How does it differ?

Let me know how this experiment turns out for you!


three teens surprise dad for father’s day!

Can you keep a secret? If you recognize these kids, do NOT tell their dad about these pictures! These teenagers (along with their mom) decided they wanted to surprise Dad on Father’s Day with some new family photos.

So, last week, we did a shoot at their home. It happened to be miserably hot, but the kids were just great – very patient and willing to work hard to get good images.

As any of you know who try to corral teenagers, it’s difficult to find a time where they are all available. 3PM in the afternoon was that time. I would have preferred to shoot closer to dusk, to get a warmer light, but these images worked out fine. We set up in open shade to avoid the harsh sun of mid-afternoon, and then used a flash unit on a stand to bring some light into their faces.

We mostly shot out in the yard, but did a few headshots in the living room, such as the one on the right.

With the group shots, I always take a lot of pictures. With three people, the chances that one person is in the middle of a blink or doesn’t have a good expression is pretty high. So, the more pictures you take, the better the odds are that you will have enough “keepers.” I took over 300 images in this shoot. As it turned out, I didn’t need so many – the kids were smiling and looking great in almost every picture. Isn’t this a fabulous looking trio of kids?


“Slinkies” recognized

My photograph “Slinkies!” won an Honorable Mention in the 53rd Annual Darien Art Show last night.  I’m honored and humbled! There is some great work in the show – painting, sculpture, multimedia as well as photography. The exhibit runs through next Saturday. For details, see Darien Art Show.


Dance Skirts!

This week, I had the pleasure of photographing dance skirts for my friend, Neeta Maniar. Neeta and a partner in India have a business selling beautiful Indian dance skirts. Their website is Taal Dancewear.  The images we shot will go on the website soon. For the shoot, Neeta brought in six models and over 20 skirts – a big production for my modest-sized studio, but somehow everyone fit in!

For each skirt, we shot one full body image, usually in a dance pose, and then one closeup shot of the lovely waist bands. Both images will appear on the website, so Taal Dancewear’s customers can really see the beauty of the skirts.

All of the models are experienced dancers and most had danced together many times.

For the lighting, I had two lights on the white paper background and two lights in front on either side, to provide a fairly soft, low contrast overall lighting setup, which I felt would be appropriate for the website.

I know very little about proper dance poses, so Neeta was just behind me, checking the view from the camera and coaching the models on the poses she wanted.

Neeta and the models could see each image on my laptop as we went along – a big help in getting just the right look.

The shoot was great fun for me and I think for the models as well. I truly hope these images will lead to a big jump in sales for Taal Dancwear!

In a few of the pictures the models hammed it up a bit. Wonder if this one will make it to the website? You can see more images from our shoot here.


pictures from in and around Santa Fe

I’ve just finished a week in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on a terrific workshop with Marti Jeffers.  Tonight we’ll post a few images I took during the week. The picture above was taken near Georgia O’Keeffe’s Ghost Ranch. Although I used a polarizing filter to punch up the color of the sky, it really was a rich blue. The light in this area is amazing and one can see how O’Keeffe chose this as a place to live and paint.

This is an abandoned building near Taos. It has apparently been for sale for many years. I have to be honest and say there was only one bird in the picture – I added a second one in Photoshop.

This was the exterior of a fancy hotel in Santa Fe. The luminaries are common throughout Santa Fe, as are, of course, adobe structures. For this image, I used a wide-angle lens and positioned the camera just a few inches away from the big luminary.

The sunsets in Northern New Mexico are fabulous. It may be the altitude and the dry air. This shot was taken on a hill overlooking Santa Fe. I haven’t shot many sunsets and vow to do more. You have to work fast, as the light changes very quickly.

And finally, below, taken back at The Ghost Ranch, is an image that includes a silhouette of your humble servant. As always, thanks for reading my blog posts!


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


fabulous tips on creativity

These are great tips about creativity from Craig Tanner. See his website, 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.