In June of 2012 I embarked upon a journey that changed my life with regards to mentoring… I applied and was selected to participate in Ron Clifford‘s 10 Week Photography Mentorship as part of the G+ Mentorship Program for Photographers. This post contains the full story… enjoy.
Moment of Mentorship
As a representation of where my creative eye has me at the start of this mentorship, I share this photo captured in April… it was one of many I’ve taken recently that have my camera all up in the grill of the neighborhood flowers, aperture wide-open, shutter on auto, white balance set for cloudy (‘cuz it is the Pacific NW after all), ISO as low as can go, and much fiddling with the exposure compensation to keep the colors deep (sometimes too dark, yet fitting to my mood, so I rolled with it). All were taken tripod-free (honestly, I haven’t successfully used a tripod, so that’s my whole portfolio to this point) and I didn’t even hesitate to shoot when the shutter speed dropped to 1/20… I know, I’m such a rebel. ;o)
So there ya have it… next it’s back to AUTO, joy, joy! Making subjects want to wither and hide… is my specialty. Thanks for the ‘gimme’ this Ron, can’t ya see it in this camellia’s eyes, or was it a wink? I will let you decide.
Making One’s Subject Cry; ‘No More’…
That was the assignment, right Ron… or was it to make me the photographer weep in frustration? As life presented for me, I was tasked by my first client to compose a shot with one of my trinity rocks, an image to help her build a personal brand around… a brand offering angelic messages. My client is an author and pens much about children, their life lessons that can help us all, and asked if my daughter’s hand could do the offering. Thus became my very own ‘trinity’… on auto, a rock in hand, and my own 5-year old learning/teaching life lessons on what it means to be ‘helpful’ and how to ‘relax’.
The photos that trinity produced are a great start and I look forward to sharing them with my client… yet it was the interactions between my daughter and I that were the true gift. After several attempts at holding the rock, trying to genuinely portray the feeling of ‘giving’ with just her hands, she finally GOT IT… got that the ‘harder she tried, the harder it was’, to ‘NOT think about it, just relax’, and that being helpful isn’t about doing it ‘her way’.
“Be relaxed. Don’t try hard, because it is through relaxation that you can become aware, not by trying hard. Be calm, quiet, silent.”
It’s Always in The Eyes
Mission 1… Back to Auto
It is a great honor to share my top four photographs from this week’s G+ Mentorship Program for Photographers with Ron Clifford, Tamara Pruessner, and Robin Griggs Wood… they had us going back to auto. We were asked to ‘wake up our eyes’, to focus on seeing and not thinking about settings, to keep things simple, to shoot a subject til it got ‘sick’ of us, and I took Ron up on the challenge.
I had three opportunities to ‘wake up’ and boy oh, boy were they enlightening…
- an angelic offering,
- King Tutankhamun Exhibit, and
- Pacific Science Center Butterfly Exhibit.
What did I ‘wake up’ TO you may wonder… well, my eyes were returned to freedom and I fell back in love with my camera. There is much freedom in surrendering to your camera’s settings, to letting go and pressing the shutter button at will, in not questioning whether you ‘got it right’ or if there is a ‘better shot’ hiding in some magic configuration of the dials/functions, and having the ‘order’ to keep at the subject until exhaustion set in or one of us cried ‘mercy’… knowing what’cha get, is what’cha got.
Well, here’s what I got!
Summer Explodes in the Pacific Northwest
Mission 2… Depth of Focus
Which drastically shifts the focus of life here in Seattle and although the weather was PERFECT, it has me firing this week’s G+ Mentorship Program for Photographers top four off later than ideal. Ironically, the common theme among our mentorship group was a compete lack of focus, somehow the assignment to selectively focus with a large aperture, to use the focal point of an image to tell a story, etc. universally became blurred by our lives.
For me the first contradiction arrived with America’s celebration of independence. Although Ron Clifford‘s tips to capture great fireworks had my camera at the other end of the desired aperture settings, I tried not to completely loose focus… I captured as much of the lights reflected in the lake water as possible and gained more experience with shooting outside my comfort zone (i.e. aperture wide open).
As a bonus, my daughter got a lesson in focus too… she learned to focus on the beauty. For the last several years we’ve been going to a little-known lake-side park that is positioned close to a private display of fireworks. Until this year my daughter was always very ‘scared’, but this time with her noise reduction headphones in place, she shared just how beautiful they were… she had successfully shifted her focus from the physical feeling to the visual feeling and I was sooooo proud of her.
Up next was my family covenant circle pool party at my place, my naivete had me thinking capturing the experience with a wide open aperture would bring the water activities to life… until I lost focus with being a polite host. The small quantity of captures were challenged by direct sunlight and my concentrating on interacting with my extended family.
The next mission we’re working on perspective… looking forward to where that takes me.
Not Just Another Sunset
Mission 3… Perspective
When I accepted this week’s G+ Mentorship Program for Photographers challenge from Ron Clifford on ‘perspective’ I had no idea of where it would take me… little did I know it would take me through time. I had been tasked with finding a unique point of view that enhanced elements in a picture, to guide my viewer on a journey through and with my images, to exaggerate/add drama, and most importantly to shoot things from a different perspective.
As events aligned I found myself free on Monday night, with chatter on Facebook mentioning the possibility of a beautiful sunset, I was transported back nearly three years when MY journey began… the night I watched the sun set and knew my life was never going to be the same. As per the custody agreement drafted in the days prior I had to leave the house for the evening, I had just returned from my dad’s bedside as he died, and work was letting me go without warning and/or cause… so I found a park to visit the sea, a place to rest my head as I cried.
Many times over these last few years I returned to this view, have captured great skies, men fishing with their young boys by the final rays of sunlight, birds in flight, etc… all while the waves soothed my soul and tears fell from my eyes. In that time I transitioned my daughter’s life into two happy homes, maintained a healthy relationship with her father, built a business/became an artist, came to accept my physical disabilities, and transformed how I viewed the world around me.
When I returned this last Monday, I was tasked with taking a new look and although the cloudless sky spoke of little drama my new eyes saw much potential. I put myself at sea level, deepened the tone of my camera, and played with the sun. As I sought out the perfect sun stars, I reflected back on all of the lenses we view life through and the fences that surround our hearts, the beauty of grass blowing in the wind, and the simplicity of the light on the sea. With every powerful image that displayed on my camera’s screen, I saw a new perspective, found a beautiful expression of what it takes to transform one’s soul, and was grateful for everything this journey brought to my life.
May we all be blessed with a new perspective and remember…
“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”
Mission 4… Composition
It is official, this G+ Mentorship Program for Photographers has proven to me that time is relative… as the mission this ‘week’ was all about maintaining composure for weeks. No easy feat! And I don’t mean the time-warp-factor, that was a piece of cake… no it was the maintaining MY composure that required the most focus and that wasn’t even part of the assignment. Focus was two weeks back… I mean a month ago. DOH!
The mission introduced the term ‘composition’, which means ‘putting together.’ We were explicitly asked to conform our photographic expression to three ‘rules’ this week. The first being ‘The Rule Of Thirds’, whereby you divide your photograph into thirds first vertically and then horizontally… what you end up with is a grid where the intersecting lines are points of interest for the placement of your main characters. The second rule had us applying ‘The Golden Mean’ also known as the Fibonacci Spiral, which is a spiral-shape pattern that is mathematically identifiable and is repeated abundantly through out the world and even the universe. The third called for the idea of a foreground, middle ground, and back ground… by composing with these elements as strong and well defined ‘layers’. And the last, thrown in as an option should one of the three not be possible, had us shifting the horizon up or down from center on a sunset or landscape depending on what was most important.
Ron warned us these ‘rules’ were challenging, even warped time to accommodate… in the last ‘week’ I made over 1,600 captures, had three separate opportunities to shoot, and yet my composure is seriously lacking. I combed through the photos, stared at the computer screen with ruler guides, spiral overlays, applied the ‘rules’ as best I could… and felt frustrated & uninspired. My previous experience with composition rules kept coming to mind… I had attended a photographers critique session on the subject, it called for pieces that BROKE the ‘rules’, and I met that challenge with ease. Hmmmmm, no comment.
Soooo, the take home messages this ‘week’ are… time is relative and rules can be broken.
“Without accepting the fact that everything changes, we cannot find perfect composure. But unfortunately, although it is true, it is difficult for us to accept it. Because we cannot accept the truth of transience, we suffer.”
‘Why Don’t You Just Paint The Roses’… Pink?
Mission 5… Color
This week’s G+ Mentorship Program for Photographers has us coloring the world ‘Wonderful’, admitting color perception is subject to emotional, cultural, experiential influence, and embracing our unique style/personal perspective… so this Alice decided to ‘paint the roses’ PINK. For the simple reason, pink is a combination of red and white, the color of universal love… said to evoke feelings of caring, tenderness, self-worth, love, and acceptance. So if I am the painter of my world, I choose to spread the message of compromise and love… not to mention this Alice never was one to cater to royalty and don’t get me started on how ‘painting’ is not even scientifically possible and toxic to roses, no those are stories for another day.
As evidence of our trek into Wonderland, we were tasked with sharing the following ‘color schemes’…
1. Primary – an image that has predominantly primary colors.
2. Secondary – an image that mainly uses secondary colors.
3. An image that uses complementary colors to create impact.
4. Harmonious or analogous colors used in a photograph.
5. A monochrome image.
6. An image of the photographer dressed as ‘Alice’ (just kidding).
So after much frolicking in Wonderland, like the rest of you… I offer you COLOR, just in time for tea!
“No great artist ever sees things as they are. If he did, he would cease to be an artist.”
Goin on a Wildflower Safari
Mission 6… Space & Patterns
This week’s G+ Mentorship Program for Photographers had us stalking patterns and making negative space positive. My opportunity to commit a felony on nature and perform visual reverse psychology was focused around my first annual photo safari I host for members of my church… and mother nature was fully compliant to my invasion. Actually, she went so far as to strut her stuff… on the date offered up for auction last fall the convergence of perfect weather and a wildflower extravaganza lie in wait for my fellow stalkees, so we went on a Wildflower Safari in Mount Rainier National Park.
My mission was to maximize the space around and supporting the main subject in the image, to fill the space with dramatic contrasts, to comply with one ‘rule’ of leaving space for an insect to take off into, and find patterns (Ron promised they’d be ‘everywhere’). At first the patterns seemed elusive, then BAM, I began seeing them lurking in my space… they were there waiting to be made positive, so I was more than happy to comply.
“The adventure of composition is a mystery. The muse has her ways, she hides from you, comes for you in the middle of the night, at midday, at dawn. You must believe wholeheartedly in this divine power. Its an elusive gift that can appear at any time, anywhere. Artists are in awe of it.”
Power of Emotions
Mission 7… Emotions
This week’s G+ Mentorship Program for Photographers (okay… really it was weeks ago, I’m just playing catch up after back-to-back road trips) had us capturing emotions, reactions, & responses. As my life would have it, this assignment arrived right before I loaded a van with gear and my nearly 6 year old daughter for a road trip to Newberry Crater in Oregon and several days of lake-side camping. On our way we stopped off to pick up my best friend and her 4 year old son… can you say ‘smorgasbord of emotions, reactions, & responses’?
Hope you enjoy the captures as much as I did the trip…
Then & Now
I have to be jenuine and say… the G+ Mentorship Program for Photographers ended WEEKS ago… yet as life would have it be, the piece that signified the ‘now’ that the program helped me become did not arrive until yesterday. A huge part of my mentorship was Ron Clifford‘s introduction to Lightroom, he offered some minor instruction, and empowered not only the quality of my photos… he gave me a new perspective on ‘workflow’. Although if I were to be completely authentic, the biggest shift in my photography occurred that final assignment, when I got back behind the camera to capture the heart’s-n-soul’s of those people that matter in my life… and this, my final assignment (albit late), showcases some of those people.
Quite literally on the very day Lightroom arrived on my doorstep to be installed (a belated birthday gift from a dear friend), I stepped out the door to perform in the role of a ‘professional photographer’… and I could not have been capturing a better group of people/musicians. It may come as a surprise to some that one of my many indulgences in life is to sing & dance and I frequent an Irish pub to express that side of me. Coincidentally, right before my birthday last summer I came across an amazing Celtic Night experience and fast became acquainted with the musicians. They too were artists working to make it in the world and this mentorship opened my eyes to the realization I missed capturing PEOPLE… and that right before my eyes was a means to use my newly found talents to give back to a group of men who graciously created a sacred space for me to dance, sing, & smile my cares away.
It was the amazing generosity of the photographer community that helped enlighten me to my fullest potential, they so powerfully adopted the mentality of lifting those around you higher, that by working together each had a greater chance for success, they helped me become more jenuine… so as part of this final assignment, I set out to spread some of that in the world’s of those that have given me so much in song & dance. Therefore, last night for no other reason than I care… I performed the role of ‘professional photographer’ for a group of men who deserve to soar!
And today I used Lightroom for the first time to produce my final post introducing…
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