It is no secret that I love to travel and meet people, and boy do I like to talk. So stick me in a book store and call it a day. Even better if it’s a children’s book store where I can pick the brains of younger readers. And I have. I have learned much talking to readers in classrooms, friends from church, bloggers and convention goers. One that keeps coming up is technology in how readers experience their books.
As a big reader myself I have adapted a few techie things in my own reading habits. So here are FIVE of my favorite things.
I had known about this for a while but didn’t make use of it until earlier this year when I hot the road with a friend of mine. Driving around the country for almost five weeks we started quickly to burn through the few audio books we had brought through another fave website of mine, Audible.com (see #2). With audiobooks as long as 7-9 hours we easily listened to one book within a day’s drive so Overdrive came in handy. With their trustee app we were able to log in to our libraries and find what we were looking for, download or request it. We were never in want of anything. And if you swap card #’s with your friends, you get more to choose from.
Similar to #1, I am a sucker for audio books. And nowadays they just get better and better and cheaper and cheaper. Audible has this great Deal of the Day feature where every morning you can get an alert of what that day’s book is. Usually no more than $5, you can snatch up some great books without your wallet even noticing.
I am not a huge fan of their app, though it does come in handy, but moreover I like their website. I can look at lists of just about anything, see what books my friends are adding, enter some giveaways and all the while keep up to date on my Reading Challenge.
Ever loved that first line so much you wanted to share it with the world? Or how about that really great sentence that made you tear up? Now you can so easily and so quickly with InstaQuote. I have recommended this and use it with clients time and time again. Just remember not to spoil anyone.
Seems like now everyone is on Instagram but for book lovers this is our hub. We can share those instaquotes, pictures of our shelves and hauls, swoony fanart and what we’re reading then. It’s even great to use to keep tabs on your friends, authors and fave publishing peeps as they chime in from events, conventions or travels.
That title may be a bit misleading so let me clarify. Since Lauren Zurchin and I are on a month long trip through the USA and we make note to stop at our days off from driving or getting busts from authors for her fantasy calendar 2.0 to shoot some things I can use for my portfolio. That said, Lauren arranged for us to shoot with the AWESOME Harmony Sage who not only is a fabulous photographer and a photoshop guru I often look to for editing but also is a seamstress who was gracious enough to not only find us models and locations but also create THREE dresses for our models to wear. ACTUALLY, four costumes total since her fiance Sean was decked out in a ninja-bad-guys-villain you will see below.
So long story short, we had an awesome shoot and we shot in beautiful locations and with gorgeously costumed models who were lovely and fierce and brave to shoot in the cold, or wind, or the water. As we were wrapping up the shoot, we ended up IN the water. Sean in his ninja costume carries Whitney in her Ares dress and cape into the sea, like a villain kidnapping his beautiful victim. and the waves
The tide was coming in high and the waves threatened to crash over us while we were snapping away. I heard the wave coming from my left and as I pull the camera from my face to take a step back on the wobbly rocks the wave comes crashing into the back of my knees. At the same time I hear Harmony yell “Sean! SEAN! Whitney!” as our two models yell the same from their safe perch over us by the picnic tables. I look behind me and see Sean and Whitney quickly getting sucked into the tide, Whitney’s cape is getting pulled under and Sean is desperately trying to keep her from falling under. When the wave recedes and Whitney realizes that it’s safe she jumps from Sean’s arms with a triumphant “I’m DONE!” We crack up laughing, because even though they were too cold and too soaked to keep going we knew we had some epic images already. One of which is below.
So we thought it’d be fun for all three of us to play with the same image to show how many different ways one can edit the same image. Every photographer has a style, has a way of doing things.
So we didn’t look at each other’s processes or editing until we were all done. It’s fun to see how we all look at a single image and see different things in it.
So here’s the original and look at what Lauren, Harmony and I did with it. I had the girls send me the pictures along with a little about how they tackled the image.
I love color and I wanted to challenge myself with adding color and sharpness back into this image. I made it a tad dreamier and colorful than the real thing could be but the colors, complimentary, made the figures in the center stand out but I still needed a vignette to really tie it all together. Overall I was looking to make an image that would evoke the fantasy world that the costumes belonged in.
I wanted to bring out the dramatic moment of this image and also keep it imbued in the fantasy setting. I used the golden lighting to enhance the fantasy of the scene and the cyan water to heighten the drama and danger of the scene. This is a color theme frequently used in action cinema and that is the feeling I wanted to bring out of this image. To achieve this I used levels, color balance, and selective color to hone in the color of the image. I also used camera raw filter to initially contrast the image and then went in with brightness and contrast as well as shadows and highlights to fine tune it. After that I used the simple dodge and burn tools to add a few highlights and a light vignette.
I wanted to focus on the moodiness of the image, so once I brought the contrast back up to a normal range I desaturated the image, brought back up the colors on Whitney, and then fiddled with overall tones of blue, yellow and a touch of red. I finished with some slight lightening over the area of the subjects, and tweaked the contrast a bit more, and that was it. I think the colors and tones (or lack thereof) enhance the mood of the image and add to it.
So what do you think? How would you have edited the image? (in fact, take it and play with it as long as you give Harmony credit) What edit do you most respond to?
This might seem like a late post but it’s something that I’ve needed time to think about.
Here’s the thing you might not know about me: I am a pro multitasker. I always do two things at once: cook as I watch CreativeLive courses, edit photos as I listen to audiobooks or watch TV episodes, edit writing on one computer as I edit videos on another (what? rendering takes so long!).
So this year, I am going to hold myself accountable to be better focused and organized with my time. Here’s some of my goals for this year. I figure if I put them out there, it will happen.
Find better, more creative ways to create content for my client’s books. I am a visual person and I know that like most people, a message is better expressed through a visual medium much more successfully than words.
Gain more skills. Whether that is video, social media, or photography. I want to be able to get even better at what I do. I love learning and collaborating with others and this way I can do better by my clients.
Spend more time refining. I want to sharpen what comes out from VLC Productions which kind of goes back to the two points above. The better and cooler it looks the people will like looking at it.
Try new techniques. I have a studio. I have the outdoors. I have a camera and lenses and photoshop. So there shouldn’t be any limit on what I can do.
Do more fine art. I am done with school. I have a fine art degree. So why not create more of it? As a fellow photographer, Brooke Shaden, pointed out, there’s no shortage of inspiration. With that in mind, I’ve already started making a list of shoots I want to do. Also, how can I do shoots for clients that have a bit of a fine art quality to them? So keep a look out for some work this year from yours truly that is going to go in a slightly different vein than previous work.
Work on my fashion/commercial portfolio. Focus more on work that is commercially bent. Fashion has always been an exciting part of my work and something I have just recently gotten to exploring more.
Submit & Share. With any piece of work, once done so you’re happy with it, you go share it. I hope to be able to get to do some magazine shoots, some gallery showings, some book covers and if I was to keep it all on my computer, none of those things will happen.
Query. Or really, finish querying. Again, get this MS out and hopefully it sticks and someone likes it. If not, I got more ideas and I am already writing new stuff.
Learn. I want to learn more about the craft and therefore refine it. With photography and art and video, there’s so much I need to know and I want to put myself in the way of knowledge.
Write. Practice makes perfect right? Like my photography where I had a goal of doing a new shoot every week, I also want to have a goal of writing every day. Most days. My friend Lauren Morrill and I have Monday Nite Write at a local coffee shop and I plan on continuing to do AT LEAST that much during the week.
Work out and eat better. Let’s face it, being the type that sits and writes, edits, social media-izes (that’s totally a word, kay?) most of the day, it’s not healthy, so major major goal this year is to take breaks during my work hours and walk a little outside. This way I get refreshed, new ideas come, I am invigorated to better focus on clients. After all there’s so much staring at a computer one can do before eyeballs start falling out. Also, eating better. Daily battle and struggle but hey, we all need help.
Mental Health. My friend, Lauren Zurchin, told me while visiting her that via the advice of this self help book aimed for artists she does two things and those two things I want to apply for myself: 1) journaling every morning about the things of the day before and then some, and 2) taking one’s self on artist dates, meaning getting inspired once a week by just going out and experiencing something new.
Not hard right?
I really hope this year is the year that I grow and not just as a photographer but also as an artist, a writer, and a better human being. I want to get published, both my words and my art. I want to do a gallery show someday soon. I want to do new things and new projects and that is why I am back to writing, hoping that this fun multimedia venture book idea will happen.
What are your goals for the year? What are your dreams for this year?
I recently got to shoot the wonderful Briana here in Atlanta and we had such good timing, too. Fall had settled in nicely and the colors were just spectacular. We roamed around the trails at Soap Creek and WOW! I am so in love with these images!
Let me tell you a story of how I decided to shoot bubbles outside with wind. I did manage to freeze.
The day before the bro (^above) and I went to buy bubbles, bubble machines, and to find a wall plain enough that will allow me to photoshop with ease.
When we went out to shoot it, we were so ready, all excited for this shoot. I set up the two bubble machines on the right of him and had him stand in the frame of my camera that was on a tripod about 10 feet away. I use a tripod so there would be little movement later and the shots can blend seamlessly together but that wasn’t really needed in the end for this shot and I’ll tell you more later.
So I start the machines and the bubbles go and then pop almost instantaneously. Why? Because there’s wind. I am stubborn though and instead of giving up I shoot and shoot and shoot hoping to catch some bastards in my shot. Did it work? In the end, yes. I would have wanted more of the little ones up higher but that didn’t happen.
After getting quite a lot shot I decided to move him out of frame and shoot some with the same focus as if he was there. That way I could get his help. I had one of those old school bubble wands, the big kind, and had him blow while I shot. Because up until then I let the wind blow some as I held the wand with mu right hand and shot with my left. It was entertaining to watch, I’m sure.
Then we set up the two machines on the ladder near the camera and hot some closer to the lens. Then I took a whole lot more photos alternating the focus so some closer to the camera would be in focus as opposed to the ones that were closer to the wall.
I got a lot of shots. I pulled all the ones that had bubbles into a folder as jpgs and started photoshopping.
I chose the base image where my brother was as I liked him, the umbrella wasn’t hiding too much and his hand wasn’t in his pocket looking awkward but warm.
I copied bubbles out of all the other images and pasted them onto the base image and eventually it looked like this.
Yes, crazy looking I know. That is about 50 layers of bubbles. I must say it wasn’t as bad as I imagined it would be to photoshop all these bubbles in. In retrospect I would have kept the wall plain but maybe darker so the bubbles would stand out more.
So after masking each layer and clearing out the data from around the bubbles themselves I got this.
After some tinkering in post, color adjusting and highlighting the highlights of the bubbles, I got this.
I gotta say, despite freezing my trigger finger off I am mighty happy with the outcome. I hope you all like it too. Let me know if you have questions! And if you try this, please let me know since I’d love to see your image!
A few photographers lately I’ve seen talk about their growth as a photographer. Looking back on past work and comparing it to current work.
I think whether you’re a writer, an engineer, an artist or whatnot, it’s a good to make a point once in a while to reflect on how you’ve grown.
Lately I’ve been struggling with the notion that I am an artist. Sure I went to school with a fine art program, sure I’ll have a bachelor in Fine Arts, sure my stuff is pretty but is that enough? As a student of the arts I was always told that your art has to have a message, you have to tell people something. Yet, whether or not they see that is another story.
And then I got to thinking if that has to always be the case. Writers don’t set out to tell their story with a lesson and message in mind, so why should I? Is it necessary? Sure, I have a concept and idea when I go out shooting but what if what you see in my work isn’t what I see?
It doesn’t matter, I realized. As long as you love it you are in control of your work. As long as you have fun you and creating, who’s to say it’s not art. As long as you’re telling your story, it’s art.
So I went through past work and decided to do a little compare and contrast. Remind myself that I have grown, and hopefully gotten better.
Some of these are a little embarrassing to show, but hell, we all started somewhere, right?
A recent book cover for Erin Downing’s None of the Regular Rules: