This Blog Post is Untitled, Okay?

Y’all sounds so stupid.

So Un-American.

I’m embarrassed for you. Like hot-faced, curl in on yourself embarrassed.

Really, most of you have no idea what you’re talking about: Shitting Facebook posts like a white boy after Mexican food.

You sounds really, really uneducated.

Just thought you should know.

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I don’t do impromptu.

The fickle (and brightly colored) parts of my brain that controls my nerves don’t appreciate being rushed. They tell me that everything must be planned out, in perfect order, first. For my comfort, things must be thought out, from every angle, planned, dissected, and then written down. If I could make an itinerary for every day of my life, I would. 

I like lists too.

Bu sometimes things just happen.

And by happen I mean my cousin coming over and saying, “Hey I brought my camera, let’s take some pictures”

WHAT?! Pictures?? Right NOW? What about my lists!? We haven’t planned anything out yet! We don’t have outfits, or makeup or even SOME kind of direction! We just can’t! 

Of course I didn’t say that….Instead I cooly shrugged my shoulders and said “Sure”

Meanwhile my anxiety had an aneurism and died on the floor. 

So yes, this photoshoot had no direction, or aim (I know! Awful right?!), but it still somehow turned out to be pretty gosh darn amazing.

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Katherine and I got half naked, slapped on some cool makeup and brought out my trusty (and well used) bottle of fake blood.

Folks, it was messy, it was sweaty and the fake blood burned our skin after a while.

We took turns using each others cameras so that all the good shots would be on both of them. (I think there may be some blood on my lens. meh)

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Shots of me courtesy of the lovely Katherine.

For editing I threw beauty out of the window. These shots were incredibly raw from the start, so I continued that theme when I sat down to edit. I didn’t edit out the flaws: The bags, freckles, pimples, age spots, blackhead, what have you. (It wasn’t laziness I swear! It was VISION! Honest…)

Instead I amplified the flaws. Mostly because I didn’t want these photos to turn into glamour shots, but also mostly because that’s just how I roll. There is a time and a place for blood and glamour, this night was not one of those times. 

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I didn’t want editing to take away any of the detail, to smudge, and heal the rawness from these. To me they are messy, and ugly, and REAL and beautiful.

And no, they don’t have a message or a meaning, because I didn’t plan them. But they SPEAK!

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This was one of the last shots and I think it is fitting. It was after 1am by the time we filled our memory cards.

After showers, we crawled into bed with visions of blood and awesomeness.

Amen peons.

Amen.

I’m waging a war today.

A war against people who want professional pictures taken, but don’t want to pay.

A war against chintzy app filters.

A war against iPhone Bob.

And I stand with professional photographers.

I have no issues with using an iPhone to take pictures. I do it all the time (I can’t very well tote my camera everywhere I go. It’s heavy, people).

My issue is with iPhone Bob stealing work from me. My issue is answering emails from prospective clients, answering a gazillion questions, setting up a date, settling on a price, only to hear those dreaded words:

  • “I’m on a budget” (Hinting at a discount)
  • “I have a friend with a nice/expensive camera who is gonna do it instead”
  • “We’re just gonna use our phone”

Aghrhsgsjejdndkfksodij!!

I’m seeing into the future, and it looks bleak. A future without the need for professional cameras and photographers. iPhone Bob is in this future and he is using Sepia. I shudder.

It’s these types of people who are putting us professionals out of work.

Photography is not an easy job. But it is a loved job. We put years into learning our craft, studying manuals, perfecting techniques, and then there is the brain splitting task of navigating Photoshop and Lightroom (which has left many with grey pubes).

And yet, I’m still losing jobs to people who don’t care about the quality of professional pictures. Here are some side by sides of photos taken with an iPhone 6 and a Nikon D7100.

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I see a future with our profession becoming obsolete.

Sure there are still those who respect the art, who appreciate the time and skill used, but there are others who feel we rob them, are overpriced and that anyone can do our job.

Screw you!!!

Every time I’m doing a photo shoot I’m thinking “I get paid too much for this”.

And then I sit down to edit and I think “I don’t get paid enough for this!”

But hardly anyone appreciates the time and skill. Why? Because iPhone Bob stands behind me at a wedding shooting the exact same picture and with a wink and a smile tells my client “I’ll text it to you later”.

And doesn’t that just make me look like a thief. 

Again, I’m not saying that great pictures can’t be taken with an iPhone. Camera phones are a great way to learn the craft. What I’m saying is that with camera phones being so accessible (in your pocket) it makes paying for a professional a little superfluous.

So I’m waging a war. 

“WE’RE HERE! WE’RE QUEER!” Oh wait…wrong one. 

How about.. “WE’RE HERE! WE’RE TIRED-OF-LOSING-WORK-TO-CHEAP-ASSES-WHO-DON’T-CARE-ABOUT-QUALITY!” Too much? 

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It’s a losing battle, I know. All I can do is keep pumping out beautiful photos for my clients and pray that new ones choose me over iPhone Bob.

I’m keeping the art alive.

I’m bringing back the term “Self portrait” and obliterating “Selfie“.

I’m kicking iPhone Bob in the shin.

The holidays are hard on everybody, but particularly hard, I believe, on parents.
There is just SO. MUCH. PRETENDING.
I could probably audition for Cats The Musical and get the lead role with how much acting I do over the holidays.
It’s hard.
I work a full time job, come home to take care of three little girls, run a farm, work my hands to the bone for my crochet business and after all that SOMEHOW have to find the time to be creative enough to be a photographer.
It’s sucks!! It blow!!! It does all the things in between sucking and blowing that are too x-rated to talk about!!!

The stresses of the holidays brought on this picture to my mind completely organically.

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I was up in my studio, laying flat on the floor, with James Blake blasting on the stereo. (James Blake inspires me) And an idea sparked inside the very grotesque and hilarious walls of my brain.

I haven’t felt like myself in so long. At work it’s fake smiles and gritting teeth while dealing with unruly clients. At home it’s reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar for the 563,023rd time with a smile on my face (while inside I’m taking my fingers and squishing that little fucking caterpillar into a squishy oblivion). And somewhere in between I’m supposed to still be me inside there. Somewhere. 

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I’ve always had the best epiphanies late at night. I’ve always been most creative when the house is quiet and asleep. Yo! It’s so hard to do that when the sandman impromptly sprinkles his sleepy dust on your ass at nine pm! Get the fuck out of my creative time Sandman! I’ll punt your ass into next year!! 

Of course that doesn’t happen. Of course I give in and close my eyes and all creativity leaves me. And of course I’m sitting in front of my computer at noon the next day going “Derrrr!!” without the lubricating juices of creativity to wet my vagina mind. WHY!!!?! 

It’s hard being an artist. It’s hard being creative. It’s hard finding the time to let my real self come out. Life gets in the way.

So this picture represent me. In all of my dried vagina’d brain, in all of my fake smiles, in all of the pure joy I bring to my children for the holidays (when all I want to do is sleep, poop by myself, and take creative pictures).

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This is me clawing at the part of myself that I’m not ready to let go.

This is all of us. Faking it for the sake of others.

Maybe I’m just a bitch. Maybe I just need to shut up and shove another dozen homemade sugar cookies down my throat. But maybe I’m right. 

And maybe I’m having a hard time telling which side of my face is the real me anymore. 

“Native American tradition provides that each person is connected with nine different animals that will accompany him or her through life, acting as guides.”

I wanted to do a self portrait that showed the inner workings of my soul.

I have a lot of pathways in my mind, different sides to me that speak to different animals or beings. To say I have only one Spirit Animal would be limiting myself to one type of being. And that I am not.

Peewee Herman is the Spirit Animal that speaks to my naive, childlike side.

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He is forever living inside a child’s brain, uncaring what the world thinks of him. Even as society continues to change around him, he stays the same. Like Peewee, it takes very little to make me happy, and I get overly excited over dumb things.

The Warrior Klingon, Worf, is the Spirit Animal that speaks to my angry side.

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Worf lives with the constant battle of taming his warrior ways to live among a gentler race. Like myself, he is a strong, brave man who burns underneath with unbridled rage. And he is forever struggling with control. In my life I find it hard to control who I am to live among people who aren’t like me. I understand his frustration.

John Merrick (The Elephant Man) is my Spirit Animal in many, many ways.

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John was a gentle soul. And an educated man. Smart, kind, peaceful and loving. But nobody saw that. All they saw were his deformities. This plight speaks to me. Even in my thirties I am judged for the way I look. I have been named druggie, lowlife, bad mother, freak. But had they taken the time to get to know me/him they would have found a deeper well of emotions and sincerity underneath.

Since I am relatively young (Shut your whore mouth!), I haven’t discovered all nine of my spirit animals. But there is one animal that I have felt connected to all of my life: The Horse.

I love to run. Sprinting makes me feel alive. And horses natural nervousness speaks to me. Safety in number. Flight over fight. That’s me.

Since I happen to have a few of these beautifully flighty animals in my backyard I have photographs abound of their natural grace.

The hard part was taking a picture of myself to match. I don’t look much like a horse (again, shut your whore mouth). But that’s not the point is it?

I’ve been struggling with time and inspiration. I just couldn’t find the time or the oomph to sit down and take a picture embodying my connection with horses. But THEN…..Bing! I remembered that Katherine and I did a horse/Indian photoshoot over a year ago and the amazing shots have been sitting in my computer just waiting to be edited.

Don’t you just love when problems solve themselves?

For this shoot we geared up in all of the amazing outfits and real props that Katty had. My outfit was pretty dang snazzy. Except when I bent over and my Mommy pouch (that flappy pouch of skin you get after having kids), sagged in all it’s glory. So either my Indian character was a mother of three, or I just had to stand straight the whole time.

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No biggie.

After dressing in the totally proper (and not at all offensive) Indian attire, we gallivanted out to the barn and began to shoot.

IT WAS FREEZING! If I had known my nipples would freeze and fall off during this shoot I might not have done it. But all photo shoots come with sacrifices. Hey, I said might! 

The shots were beautiful. But you can see the goosebumps on my skin. Sacrifices people. Sacrifices. (Speaking of sacrifices, Katty and I were barefoot. Think about that. Barefoot in a giant litter box with fresh horse apples squishing between our toes. Don’t ask me why.)

It was all worth it though, with the right amount of grain and carrots we scored some gorgeous pictures.

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Others…..not so much.

 

But in the end we got this shot:

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And I think it shows my love and revere for the equine species, the smell of horse sweat and flying. Maybe in the next thirty years I will discover more of my Spirit Animals as they become needed in my life. For now I am happy to have discovered the few that I have.

Happy shooting and happy editing.

 

 


A Picture and a Rant. And Being Humble.

It seems a lot of people aren’t too fond of my newfound confidence. I’ve been noticing more and more how my self-appreciation isn’t…..appreciated. Simple phrases like “I’m awesome” brings the smirk and comments like “Don’t let your head get too big”.

WHAT? 

REALLY? 

This makes me angry! If you know me, like really know me, you’d know how long it took me to get here. How hard my husband has worked to get me to this point. We’ve been married for eleven years, and the first ten were full of doubt, low self esteem and insecurities. Brett has worked his ASS OFF all these years to rid me of these afflictions.

It took Brett telling me every day that I am beautiful, smart, worth something, strong, amazing, lovely and sexy.

And one day I believed him. I woke up feeling beautiful, smart, worth something, strong, amazing, lovely and sexy.

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HOW DARE YOU TAKE THAT AWAY FROM HIM! I won’t allow it! I won’t allow other people’s insecurities to bring me down. Or to undo all of Brett’s hard work.

Would you rather see me walking with my head down? Hating my reflection? Losing faith in my awesome abilities? Downplaying all of my hard work? WHY? Why are we threatened by other people’s confidence? Why can’t I be a great photographer and my neighbor be a great photographer?

Shame on you!!

What is wrong with society when we aren’t allowed to have confidence in ourselves? When we are called vain for believing we are beautiful! Why are we put down for once believing we are more than the gossip of unhappy acquaintances?

THIS ENDS NOW!

I AM A GREAT MOTHER. I AM YOUR SEXY NEIGHBOR. I AM A CHILD OF GOD. MY HAIR IS AS BRIGHT AS MY HEART. I AM BEAUTIFUL WHEN I AM ANGRY. I HAVE NICE BOOBS. I HAVE CUTE TOES. I RUN REALLY FAST. I AM SUPERWOMAN. I AM SUPERMAN. I AM AMAZING. 

My confidence doesn’t have to be your insecurity.

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How’s my big head now?

You know that moment when the clouds open up, light pours out and you can hear the heavenly voice of the angels singing Ahhhhhhh? That scene has been portrayed a hundred different times in a hundred different movies. Why? If you ask me it’s because of the light.

Light. LIGHT! Lighting is used in movies, music videos, photography, etc. to show something important. (It also helps you to find your underwear at five in the morning when you forgot to put the laundry away and instead shoved it into a pile by your bed)

Photographers use lighting to create a mood. A feeling. An emotion. It’s not easy, trust me. As a newbie with studio lighting, I am just scratching the surface of what my studio lights can do for me. I have always been an advocate for natural light. God created the perfect accent, the perfect soft box when he created the sun. And God doesn’t make mistakes!

With that being said, natural light is fleeting. All photographers know about the “Golden hour”; That moment just before sunset when the light turns from harsh and bright to soft and gold, casting long, dramatic shadows. When the Golden Hour is gone you’re reduced to fixing grainy, dark pictures in editing (Which is stupid. So don’t do it. That’s an order)

This is the reason I un-puckered my ass cheeks and doled out Fifty bucks on a cheap lighting set up.

I bought these:

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Which you can buy Here.

They serve me well and give me so much control in my studio. For this set up I put my umbrellas on either side of the subject with the accent light to the right and behind (It get’s moved around to fullfill it’s masters needs).

A simple white reflector was placed in from of the subject to bounce light onto her face, since any one of the lights directly on her face would be too harsh. SIDE NOTE: My fancy “reflector” is a white piece of cardboard from the dollar store. I also have black and one covered in foil. Did I mention I’m cheap?

Speaking of the “Subject” she does have a name. This adorable little hooman is my second born and the destroyer of worlds. She is Benji, conqueror of all toilet seats and sports a face that is likely to send her Daddy to an early grave.

So now that you know Benji, let’s get started. The first setup I am going to show you looks like this:

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My drawings might just rival Da’Vinci, I know, I know. So these shots were created using the two umbrellas and the reflector ONLY. It creates a very soft even light.

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Simple, beautiful.

BUT if we add the accent light behind her (and to the right, remember?) it adds a dramatic glow behind her and places a beautiul shine to her hair.

Setup looks like this:

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By Golly I am amazing!

Pictures look like this:

It’s amazing what a little light can do for a picture.

For the next set up we put one umbrella in time out and had the accent light assassinated. Setup looked like this:example4

Doing this brought a nice one directional light to the picture casting dramatic shadows:

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This setup is nice for moody self portraits. But if you want even MORE drama (Because we are all basic and we all love drama *rolls eyes*) Then we can send BOTH umbrellas on a shopping trip and use ONLY the accent light.

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The outcome? Out of this world, dramatic, moody, dark….all the fun stuff. Mmmm.

It’s fun to play around with the lights and settings and come up with different moods. I switched between a black and white background as well, just to create a different feel.

(No editing was done to these pictures)

Hope this little how-to helps! Happy shooting and happy editing my peons!

Alillia – “I don’t feel like I’m more special than anyone else but I feel like I am JUST as special as everyone else

What is the most interesting thing about you?

“The most interesting thing about me is all the different variables that came together to make who I am. They’re kind of strange. Like I grew up in Phelan. Most people don’t know what Phelan is. Their like what’s that? Like a disease? 

And I’m black and from Phelan and people ask “Do black people live there?” A few.  And also I’m the daughter of ultra conservative Christian preachers, who believe in a form of Christianity that most modern people do not practice. 

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And then I turn out to be bi-sexual and pan-sexual, and poly-amorous and not christian at all. Kind of a freak. I don’t know how much of that is in reaction to the ultra conservative upbringing or not. It’s made me to be a very interesting mix of like black-womanist-hippie-alien child. 

Is there something that is special about you that you feel makes you more special that everyone else?

Well I’ve always been hoping that was the case. That I was more special than everyone else. And I keep waiting for my magical powers to appear. They haven’t yet. I figure there is still time you know. Thirty one is not too late to develop latent magical ability. I’ve been waiting. 

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When Harry Potter came out I was like maybe I’m just a late bloomer. Where is my letter? I know I don’t belong here. My aunt said when I was like three I knew how to use the telephone and I would call her up and tell her to come get me, and take me out of here. And I remember being depressed at three, like crying everyday and feeling like I couldn’t do everything that I was supposed to. Like I already knew then that I didn’t fit the norm. And I remember calling her and she would come get me and take me to work with her. She worked in Riverside with LGBT activists, and I was like the little office pet. 

I have magical listening powers! I know that is some thing really special about me. I am a safe place for people, a lot of people come out to me in various ways because they felt that I was the person who could handle that. I think that kind of translates to other part of me too like the way I emote through art and music. I don’t really know anyone else who does any of those things the way that I do. 

What makes me special? Oh god, hmm….I don’t feel like I’m more special than anyone else but I feel like I am JUST as special as everyone else.

I’m still here. That is something really special about me. I’m still here…..

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I love to laugh. And I like funny things.

I once thought about becoming a phlebotomist just because it’s fun to say.

Phlebotomy. Come on!

But humor, like beauty, is subjective.

I have never thought bum fight videos were funny, or laughed when people fall down and get hurt.

On the same note I find death, destruction and blood to be a beautiful thing. There is something to be said about the quiet death of a rabbit as you cull it for dinner. Not everyone finds beauty in that, and that’s ok. Like I said, subjective. 

The out-of-control, inevitable end we all face can be seen from a different light. And can be met with grace.

Flowers. Beautiful right? I have photographed lots of flowers over the years; Roses, dandelions, hibiscuses. And yet, they all seemed drab after staring at them on a computer screen, (probably because I can’t smell them).

So for this photoshoot I decided to take a different approach and add a beautiful element to flowers. I am calling this series “Copper and Blush”.

DISCLAIMER: I’d like to say that when I have an idea, I don’t usually google it to see others’ work or their version of it. It messes with my vision. So most of the time I don’t even know if my idea has been done a million times and a million times better. I’m not about that, and neither should you!

So after I bought two beautiful bouquet’s I set up the studio and went to work.

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I blasted Uematsu (only the best composer ever) as I got lighting all fixed up (an artist needs her music). I set aperture to 4.5 and shutter speed at 330 and pretty much kept those settings through out the whole shoot. I used my accent light only and just moved it around until I got the feel I wanted.

 

It took me about fifteen minutes of setting changes, repositioning the light and about twenty test shots before I was satisfied. (I was smart and put the kids to be before I even attempted this shoot). Then it was time to add the special ingredient.

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 BLOOD! Thank god for Halloween stores!!! One bottle of awesomeness to add that special something to the flowers.

I love fake blood. It has so many uses in my household.

It was messy (hence the bag), and my carpet may or may not look like an episode of Dexter. But hey! These pictures are a thing of true beauty for the lover of the dark and macabre.

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A little drippy drippy with a spoon and these flowers went from blah to beautiful in no time flat! Huzzah! I am the bringer of all awesomeness!

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THESE FLOWERS ARE SO METAL THEIR EYELINER IS DRIPPING WITH THE TEARS OF THEIR RUINED CHILDHOOD.

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Take a big whiff! Smell that coppery blood? Smell the aromatic scent of the flower? Smell the dance of these two scents swirling around in your nostrils? You can’t? Hmmm….maybe it’s just me then.

The sunflower is my personal favorite and is now the screensaver of my new iMac (This is the part where you ohh and ahh at how cool I am). Go on….I’ll wait. 

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My plan for these shots is to have them printed on canvas and hang them in the stairwell.

And if you might be interested in purchasing these I just happen to have an etsy set up (for all of my adoring fans).

You can find my etsy HERE!

Happy shooting and Happy editing my peons!