Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Stolen Hearts

I have no pictures to go along with this post, because frankly, last night...there just wasn't the time! I'll be honest, I went into last night's session with the kids thinking it was Part 2 of my two part series and with my crazy schedule, would be a quiet departure and turning to the next project.

I arrived amidst chaos and took a deep breath, thinking "What have I gotten myself into?" As I watched two children get into a physical altercation and heard the attitude being flung towards the program leaders, it was clear the kids were having a rough night and they were more rowdy and aggressive than usual. I thought to myself "This is going to be a long hour." And yes, I was feeling a bit dark about the whole thing.

And then they gathered for their lesson. And they were silent. I started to share about my latest projects and what we would do for that night. And they were silent. I asked questions. Hands raised and they politely waited on me to call on them. I was awed that they were paying so much direct attention to me. They were interested! Then the really cool part happened.

We split into two groups and I took on the boys, challenging myself to overcome my initial dread and to be direct and open with the kids who were being the most aggressive. I opened my lap top and started to show them the pictures I planned to submit for my portfolio tonight, reminding them that I too was learning, had homework and had to put my art out there to be critiqued and judged. And then they started talking. Those that had been fighting were suddenly laughing and commenting on color, line and what they liked about each photo. They were hurriedly asking questions, excitedly encouraging each other to guess what I had photographed, listening closely when I told the story behind each one and how they could be encouraged to reach new heights, try anything and everything and know that if they believed in their art, that was all that mattered. That this belonged to them and what anyone else thought was irrelevant and that they should never be scared to try something new.

And then they took pictures. Last night's rule was: NO PEOPLE. They had to shoot whatever was in the room. I thought they might bore of this. Grumble and half-heartedly snap a picture of a can of soda. But again, they surprised me. They were each told to take a picture, bring it back to me, and then hand the camera to someone who was waiting to share. All of the sudden, I had excited children running back and forth, in nooks and crannies, up high, down low, bringing back pictures of flower arrangements, fruit, bottle caps, notebook spirals, apron print...you name it, they found it. And it occurred to me at that moment: I can't leave them.

These children have something to say. The roughest, toughest boy in the bunch has an artistic eye and is a creative visionary. I am dumbfounded. And moved. Deeply.

I finished my time with telling them I wanted to come back but needed to know who was willing to dig deeper, who was willing to work harder, learn more, challenge themselves to take on the tough stuff, who wanted me to come back. I was warmed to see many hands raise. So I'll be back. For as long as they'll have me. They have stolen my heart. And Melody's too. :)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Boudoir: Black and White

Four reasons why I loved my latest client:

1. She asked that all of her pictures be edited in black and white.
2. Tattoos. YES.
3. She has curly hair. DOUBLE YES.
4. She is smokin' crazy hot.

All of those made for an awesome session. I edited her pictures in a very ethereal light. It just seemed right that she look like she dropped out of heaven, all glowy and perfect. She is in one word: STUNNING.

And there is absolutely nothing I love more than someone who appreciates black and white photos. If I could, I would shoot entirely in black and white. They are classic, simple, graceful and truly seem to capture every detail about a moment. A freeze frame of life.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Giving Back: It's Your Turn

This week marked the first of a series of classes I have volunteered to teach for a local outreach program providing care and after-school services to at-risk youth. I was extremely honored to even be considered for such a worthy project and in the same breath overwhelmed at the responsibility of sharing photography with such young minds when I am still learning so much myself!

I brought along the lovely Miss Melody Gillikin to assist and give her kudos for managing to provide emotional and tangible support while I taught, while also managing to snap a few photos of the class and me in action. Thank you lady! You rock! And also a tiny kudos goes out to my other lovely assistant, my daughter Emily, who was a big helper and will be back next week as a willing model!

I started out the night sharing a bit about myself. I encouraged them to look beyond our class as just another activity in a maze of different programs they have taken part in. I challenged them to think about photography as a possible career, sharing how my adventures have connected me with professional sports teams, local heroes, families getting married, having children and other special life moments. I challenged them that they had the opportunity to explore and discover the artist within them and work hard to determine what they could do to massage and mold their art into a life-long adventure.

Each child was given a tiny mat board. "I want to see through your eyes. Show me!" A good portion of the class was spent holding up their mat boards, framing themselves, their friends, exploring different perspectives, heights, angles. To their surprise, there was no wrong answer! Of course, as kids, they were delighted to hear that the rules in photography were made to be broken. I could see the challenge in their eyes!

I learned a lot from that first class. I was reminded of life and all its obstacles, and even more importantly, the rare opportunities we have to encourage our youth to rise above, share a bit of themselves with the world, and take courage in knowing they are capable of doing something great. And even deeper, to take great pride in their view of the world. What they have to say is vital, beloved and valued highly.

There are two kids in the class, and I'll be the first to admit it, they were what I considered the most unlikely suspects, that have a great eye for photography and I see potential for something to grow with a little pressing and cultivating. A gentle reminder from God that my assumptions are generally wrong and He'll spark beauty and creativity in the most unlikely places and to wait on Him, pay attention, and not miss it when He reveals Himself in others.

I look forward to learning more from these children and have already expressed an interest in spending more time one-on-one with those that are interested in digging deep to explore the arts and how they can share their vision with the world. I am blessed to know them. I am blessed to have the opportunity to share my heart. Always, always, always be looking for opportunities to give back and to share your heart. It is vital as artists that we contribute meaningfully to the world around us, above and beyond those images we create for ourselves and our clients. We all need to dig deep and commit to doing more for those who would otherwise go without knowing what is out there for them. I promise you, it will be well worth the effort. I know we are busy, but we all have time to give 1 hour of our attention to somebody else. Whether it's photography, sports, academics, or just your interest, find some way to give back. You'll find you are on the receiving end more often than not.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Family Night...here I come!

I know I've been on a Jasmine kick, but jeez...I couldn't possibly fit all of the glittery points of wisdom I took from her session into one teeny, tiny post. So, here I go again.

Jasmine was asked by an attendee, "How much of your success do you attribute to your husband?" She quickly responded, "A LOT." Beyond his emotional and tangible support of her business, she felt that the depth of love they shared as soul mates only further equipped her to uniquely chronicle the love shared between a bride and a groom on their wedding day with depth and sincerity.

I found myself thinking about my husband and yes, got all warm and fuzzy inside in a rare episode of Katy mushness (and yes, mushness is a word). Although, truth be told, I think my got-it-all-together, tough exterior has warmed over the years, especially as I dig deeper into my art, and I might actually be more mushy than I think. Suddenly, I find myself giggling more, squealing over clients, and yes, I have developed a quite unhealthy obsession with the color pink. And reality TV stars in case you hadn't heard (watched the last episode of Real World this morning while blow drying my hair! Can I just say...Ryan...ummm...PSYCHO!).

Anywho, back to Jeff. My husband has an incredible capacity to relax. I am sure that surprises most of you as to what I choose first to describe my husband, but honestly, it is inherently his best feature. His life is so supremely uncomplicated that it blows my mind. Could we be more polar opposites with me as a crazed, obsessive-compulsive, overstimulated, overachieving stress ball? Jeff brings me back to center. In his quiet way, he demands that I slow down and look at life every now and again. Sit back, relax, breathe. Nobody will die if the house isn't clean, nobody will die if I take 5 minutes to kick back on the couch and close my eyes. Take your time, we'll get there when we get there. I can't say he is always successful in reigning me in, and I sometimes eye him with envy, but I do know he has saved me from spontaneous combustion into flames and has served as a wonderful example of what it means to be a parent and to remember to just sit down and play sometimes. Be silly.

And let me be clear, his calm quiet is not to be mistaken for weakness. My Mom said within minutes of meeting him the first time that she could see his power to reign me in and soften my rough exterior. I don't mean this in a controlling way, but any strong females out there get what I mean in that it takes a certain man to be the one that can persuade me to submission. And yes, I believe in faith that my husband is the man of the house and I should submit to him in devoted partnership (although I bet he'd laugh if he heard me say I submit...tee hee. Hey, it's a work in progress).

I am rambling, I know. I tend to be all over the place when I explain Jeff, all the amazing things about him and what they do to me. But know this, I wholeheartedly echo Jasmine. Finding your soul mate opens a whole new creative world when it comes to photography and chronicling the life and love shared by others. I believe my creativity radiates from my core, which is him. And my daughter. My wedding pictures reflect someone who knows true love and recognizes and celebrates it in others like kindred spirits joining together as those who know what it means to love and be loved. My portrait pictures, especially of children, reflect my life and love of my daughter, commitment as a mother and expectations for what those little bodies will become as they grow and develop. I see potential in their spirit and in their eyes and as a reflection of my own daughter, who is one of the most empathetic, tender-hearted, pure in faith dreamers I have ever met, know that having the opportunity to see who someone is well before they understand it themselves is a remarkable and rare blessing.

And with that tribute to my Jeff and my Emily, I celebrate Friday. It's Family Night!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

These are a few of my favorite things...

Pearls, cowboy boots, black and white, button down shirts with the sleeves rolled up, great light...seriously, could she be any more beautiful?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

"...because I don't want to outsource my life."

WPPI Road Trip 2010: DC
Monday, September 13, 2010

Well, to be fair, my "road trip" started on Sunday with the fabulous Melody Gillikin and the super-incredible Heather Hartsell. These two ladies are kindred spirits. I can't say enough about them. Beyond their photographic skill, they are cool people. My peeps. And after this weekend, I see a million more road trip adventures in our future as we continue to support and encourage each other in life, our art, and our businesses. It's a rare and priceless find to share true friendship and I am blessed.

WPPI was a variety of tech info, archiving, lighting...blah blah blah. Great stuff, necessary stuff, but let's be honest. I went because Jasmine Star was going to speak. And it comes as no surprise that she did not disappoint in the least. If anything, she more than exceeded my expectations.

Rabbit trail: Shameless confession time. I am a reality tv show junkie. Love it. Will watch anything. The Hills, Real Housewives, The Biggest Catch, Ice Road Truckers, Road Rules...seriously, anything. And to me, Jasmine Star is like a reality tv star, except in the blog world. So yes, I was a bit awed. Because she dazzles in that real life way when you see someone in the flesh that you have admired from behind a tv (or computer) screen for a long time. I know the name of her dog, I know what candy she likes, I know that her sister just got married. So there, I'm a self-professed stalker.

But in Jasmine's case, there is something special going on. It's beyond the glossy-eyed numbness of watching Lauren Conrad combat her latest catfight with Heidi and Spencer. I follow Jasmine because I am mesmerized by her commitment to making her life what she wants it to be. She is the biggest dreamer I have ever met. She follows her intuition and her heart and whether she succeeds or fails, she attacks every project, every idea, every dream with the same wholeheartedness and keeps herself intact along the way. I admire this. And in a lot of ways, I envy it.

To avoid making this blog a marathoner, I'll get to the point. I learned a few things from Jasmine this week, but the most important thing she said to me, was a response she gave to a question after her presentation. She was asked if she outsourced her editing, and I'll be honest, the question was slightly snippety in that "How much of your work is actually you?" kind of way. Without skipping a beat, Jasmine quipped back, "Yes, I outsource my editing, because I don't want to outsource my life." She made a choice that worked for her business because it worked first for her family. She values her time with her husband above all and she made sure to keep that priority in check.

I took a good dose of medicine from that one statement. Something I have struggled with over the past several months as my business has grown by leaps and bounds is time management. Yes, I am ultra organized and complete projects and my home is in order, we have a routine. But when it comes to organizing the time that belongs to my daughter and husband, I've been failing for a long while. I miss them, and I can see that they miss me. And frankly, that takes the shine off my business flourishing, if you know what I mean.

So, I'm making some changes. For one, Friday night has been declared Family Night. No touching the computer. No blogging. No editing. No booking. Nada. Family Night (and then Date Night later when Emily is in bed). I know one of the reasons a lot of people work with me is that I work quickly and can have turnarounds incredibly fast. I don't expect this to change a lot, but I do expect and plan to have it change a little. And I am hoping you believe enough in me as a photographer, a mother, a wife and a friend that those few extra days it may take to get your galleries up and your CDs burned will be worthwhile to you, because ultimately, if I take care of myself by taking care of my family, my heart and creativity will be refreshed and sustained for you in the very best way.

Jasmine's greatest lesson was to learn how to brand yourself. Not the snazzy marketing way (which of course she does and we all strive for), but what she was talking about was transparency. Branding YOU. In the heart sense. I'm continuing to figure that out and will explore some creative ways to share that more with you. I think most of you understand that I do this because I love the arts, love people, see the world differently, etc. etc. And I honestly hope and pray this is why you love my work. Because it is truly an extension of me. So, neat things are to come. More of me, more of life and ultimately, more of you!

Thanks to Jasmine for being stellar. She is a bright spot in my memory and an exceptional photographer, businesswoman, and most importantly, human being.

Thanks to Melody Gillikin for editing up this fabulous photograph that someone kindly snapped for us with Jasmine. Yes, I was psyched as I fulfilled my lifetime goal of being photographed with a celebrity. Tee hee. Shameless!!!!

PS. Check out Lindsay Adler. She was another speaker. I am amazed at how much she has accomplished in her life. She is awesome!


Here's some nifty snippets that I took away from the sessions:

You are never too educated.
Take care of your inspiration.
Your first impact is a lasting impression.
You might not like where you are, but like where you're going.
Find out how to be the best version of you.
Sacrifice produces amazing results: give, help, connect.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Little Miss Lily and her Flowery Awesomeness

By now you have heard me sing the praises of Stephanie & Mike a million times over. My very first wedding, my very first maternity, my very first newborn...They are about as amazing as clients can be. Supportive, encouraging, always talking me up and most importantly, constantly giving me new opportunities to share in their life and document the story of a happy family as they grow and build their future together. I am blessed to know them.

This past weekend was no exception. You of course remember Lily's newborn pics. For those out of the loop, how cute is this?

Well, I can scarcely believe it myself, but Miss Lily is already a whopping 6 months old! And look at how much she has grown!

I just can't get enough of her! She has changed and grown SO MUCH, I almost didn't recognize her! She has such personality and laughed and giggled her way through the fastest portrait session I've ever done. 45 minutes from the time they walked in the door, shared pleasantries, got settled, shot and then parted ways, and we got this...

There is a special place in my heart for this little girl and her big bows and flowery headbands. She brightens my day!

By the way, just as a special props to encouraging people to invest in proper editing software, Lily's newborn photos were edited in Lightroom 2. Great program, great picture, great result. BUT...seeing the two sessions next to each other! No comparison! While I am still fuming over some of the slowness and massively obnoxious delays with Lightroom 3, it is clear the upgrade is well worth it. Also well worth it, investing time and energy in practicing with your software and getting beyond just dragging sliders and clicking buttons, hoping for a good result. Learn HOW it works and WHAT it can do. Intimately.
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