I confer a lot with my twelve year old on what’s hip, and what’s not.

Did you know that fresh actually means cool?

And did you know that tide pods actually taste like candy?

I sure didn’t.

So I asked my three daughters if they wanted to jump on the bandwagon of craft store photoshoots and they squealed with ear piercing glee.

Huh, who knew following the latest trends would make me the “Cool Mom”. 

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So off we went to Joann craft store.

I can see the allure of this type of shoot, and why the idea went viral. The lighting inside these giant craft stores are utterly terrible: fluorescent, flickering, dull, rage inducing. So the challenge is high to get shots that are exposed correctly, sharp focused, etc.

It’s also fun to “steal” these floral backdrops for a few minutes and then leave the store without actually buying anything. 

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I paid my twelve year old the sum of $5 to follow me around with my backup Nikon so I could clip together some shaky, yet useable, footage of this shoot.

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Enjoy Peons.

And here are the rest of the edited shots from this shoot:

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This is a birth story.

But this is NOT a story about giving birth.

We’ve all read a million blogs telling first hand accounts of their birth story’s. Contractions. Water breaks. Contractions. Pushing. Pushing. Contractions. Fart. Hemorrhoid. Baby. Tears. 

This is not one of THOSE birth story’s.

I mean, yes, all of that did happen……technically. But this story is a first hand account of birth from the other side (which I found much more enjoyable to be honest).

It all started the day before Katherine went into labor. We squeezed a short maternity shoot into our hectic schedules. We laughed through the whole shoot, and even harder and longer at the “unusables“. We laughed for over an hour.

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I still maintain that Katty laughed herself into labor because she went into active labor the next day.

I met her at her house around three where she was laboring at home for as long as she could. She kept saying  “I don’t think this is really it. You should go home

But I knew. I knew from the way she breathed, the white knuckled grip, the arching back; I wouldn’t be going home.

So I meandered around her house for the next seven hours, we ate beef stew and played dominoes. (I told her in a few hours she would be enjoying the stew again via vomit).

I encouraged Katty to walk around her house, to enjoy the quiet, the tidiness, the peace. Because her house would never again feel so empty.

She disappeared for a while, likely overwhelmed by the rush of emotions. There is always a moment when it feels like your world is crumbling around you. You know your whole life is about to be different. You know it’s too late to go back. It’s scary. And it’s overwhelming. But it’s also necessary. And when she needed a moment alone, to wrap herself in the realization that THIS was actually it, we left her alone.

Let’s fast forward to 10:00pm when Katherine decided it was time to head to the hospital.  I got lost on the way. I do that. When I showed up Katty was dilated to a 5.

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There is such a different atmosphere in birthing rooms, such a stark difference to the aura of sadness and anxiety that envelopes the rest of the hospital. Birthing rooms buzz with excitement and promise. I walked into Katherine’s room and a flood of memories washed through me. This was familiar. I’d done this before (Three times), and this time I didn’t have to be in pain. Can I get a Hallelujah?!

 

Still, as familiar as I was with the whole process, I had never experienced it from the other side before. I wasn’t prepared to be knocked on my ass by humility. I wasn’t prepared to feel frightened and inspired by Katherine’s pain. I wasn’t prepared to discover a whole new definition for “Awe”. But indeed I did.

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It was almost like a car accident. You want to turn away but you don’t want to miss anything.

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It was hard to watch. We all breathed with her during contractions and, in fact, I clenched with her as rode out the waves of pain. I started getting cramps before I realized what I was doing and mentally kicked myself in the shin.

Katherine rode the Pain Train for hour after hour. Andrew alternated between rubbing her back and letting her hang on him for support. Such a lovely team.

Although, we all kept wondering how Andrew could look so damn perfect and be so damn chipper.

He was practically vibrating with excitement.

Katherine….not so much.

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At this point we were all exhausted (except for Andrew who couldn’t sit still). It’s actually extremely hard to watch someone go through so much pain and not be able to do anything about it. Katherine’s mom, my aunt Teresa, had a grimace of pain in every picture. It made me wonder if I would be the same way if I were in her position and it was MY daughter giving birth. Teresa was there when I was born, helping my mother the same way she helped Katherine. I’d never seen my Auntie so quiet, offering the comfort and assistance that she couldn’t verbally. It was beautiful to watch; A night of action, not words.

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Things went from 0-60 real quick after the nurse told us that Katherine was fully dilated. Suddenly our weary bones perked up, the exhaustion left and it was time to rock and roll.

Thinking back to my own births, I didn’t remember being such a bad-ass. I mean, I’m sure I was, but I wasn’t concentrating on anything else but getting the damn parasite out of me. Looking at Katherine, gathering her remaining strength to push over and over and over, made me realize the strength of us women. We are awesome! We were built for this purpose, our bodies know how to take us through to the end.

As Spock would say “Fascinating”.

I wasn’t silent for the whole thing. My mantra for the night was “Katty stop holding your breath”. I may have said that 52 times that night. And then I shut up. Because she didn’t need me anymore, or Andrew or her Mom. I watched Katherine’s instincts take over, watched her body flow through the moves that billions of women had done before her. She had this.

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There were a lot of firsts that night, and I stood there humbled as we all experienced them together, in our own way. My plan was to take a picture of the clock on the wall, the minute Prestyn was born. But as I panned over I caught Andrews first moment seeing his daughter’s face.

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I often told Katty that there is no pain like the pain of pushing out your baby…..

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……and there is no moment quite like the moment you first see your baby. You only get to experience it once. The moment of awe.

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And the “We did it” moment.

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And all of a sudden, our family was a little bigger. 6lbs 11 ounces bigger. And Prestyn was just there, like she’d always been there. She wailed a hearty cry, covered in goo and sporting fiery red hair. And she was perfect.

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In some ways it was kind of terrible being the photographer in this particular scenario. I was the silent observer, trying with all my might to melt into the shadows, to keep my shutter clicks from bothering Katty. I didn’t help her rough through her contractions even though I wanted to. I could’t cry when Prestyn came out because then I wouldn’t be able to see through my lens. I feel like I missed out a little bit on the whole experience.

BUT (and this is a huge but), I got something priceless in return. Not only did I get to watch this beautiful little girl take her first breath, I got to photograph it.

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This little human who was brand new to the world had never EVER had her picture taken before. I was the first. That’s special. I will always have that.

As a photographer there is no greater honor.

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How quickly you forget how tiny they can be, how precious. And just how different your world feels afterward. 

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I went home to my own children with renewed vigor and the memory of what I went through to bring them into this world. I never knew how bad ass I was. I did this three times! and yet I didn’t fully appreciate it until I watched it from the other side.

I learned so much about Katherine and myself and life that night. But out of all the things I learned and forgot about my own births, I remembered THIS moment clearly:

Joy.

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2018 Photography Bucket List

A lot of my blog posts are fueled by anger. I usually sit my indignant ass down and let righteous anger fuel my fingers. Sometimes I even smell smoke.

Those posts are full of emotion. They’re funny. They’re meaningful.

Not this one. 

This one is just a list. 

A BADASS LIST!

But still….just a list.

JAKE SHOOTS PEOPLE 2018 BUCKET LIST:

  • 12 SELF PORTRAITS
  • WIN ONE CONTEST
  • WORK WITH MIKE GUASTELLA
  • PHOTOGRAPH A WILD ANIMAL
  • 3 BLOG POSTS PER MONTH (AT LEAST)
  • PHOTOSHOOT WITH PAINT
  • TAKE PHOTOSHOP CLASS AT VVC
  • GET PAID $100 IN BLOG ADS
  • MINIMUM 8 YOUTUBE VIDEOS
  • START SAVING FOR TAMRON 70-200
  • MINIMUM 8 INTERESTING PEOPLE INTERVIEWS
  • NEW BUSINESS CARDS
  • LEARN 5 NEW PHOTOSHOP TECHNIQUES
  • HAVE A POST GO VIRAL
  • GET PUBLISHED

I’ll keep updating this list as things get crossed off, or if I add to it.

Wish me luck Peons!

Your Overlord,

Jake

 

Guess what I did today??

I used my manicured nails to scrape $12 from the bottom of my bank account and bought a few Photoshop Action. PS actions, and PS in general is all new to me. I’m SO not used to having a handy dandy “easy” button set up to do my editing for me. So you can understand my excitement at having a time saver at my finger tips. Worth the $12 in my book! Which is the only book that matters.

DEFINITION OF PHOTOSHOP ACTION: An Action is a recording of a series of Commands in Photoshop to which you apply a name. Later on, you can play that recording back on a different file and have Photoshop do your work for you.

JAKE’S DEFINITION OF PHOTOSHOP ACTION: Woooooooooooo! A time saver! Lawd have mercy, a time saver! 

For those of you who know me understand how precious time is to me. By the time my head hits the pillow at night I am usually negative time. (Ah shit! I was supposed to give the kids a bath! I knew I forgot something…) So I usually get all giddy and swollen and out of breath when I discover something that saves me time. Can you imagine how excited I was when I discovered that crockpots were a thingFugetaboudit!

Remember a post I did a few months ago about Horse Photography? I spoke longingly about merging my two greatest loves in Photography: Horses and Fine art. I’m pretty good at my normal (read: boring) shoots, i.e. Maternity, family etc. But the money is really what gets my ass to sit down and edit.

When I do a Fine Art shoot everything is different. There is excitement, makeup artists, weeks of planning, models, sets, elaborate outfits and so so so much inspiration. And when I do these kinds of shoots I am dying to sit down and edit them. My studio/office calls to me throughout the day until I finally give in (and usually abandon an important project or chore. Meh). 

I went off topic (I’m harebrained. Sue me). My point is that PS actions might be that thing that will help me merge my two photography niches!

I asked my friend Julia to model for me (For more about Julia, scratch and sniff here), and her horse Pluto. She obliged because she is awesome and because old fisherman tell tales about my awesome editing skills in old, stinky bars by the sea. It’s true.

My vision was of a powerful sorcerous and her trusty steed, calm and collected, while she holds a ball of flaming magic.

HOT DAMN! We got the shot almost immediately!

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I wanna throw in a disclaimer real quick: I DID NOT just throw the photoshop action on top of this photo (as gorgeous as it is). I worked on this photo for days using several different editing programs. And then when I was 100% happy with it, I added the action. absolutely don’t want to become reliant on the ease of using actions (I used BOLD and italicize to provide emphasis Peons. Did you feel it?)

Now that that is out of the way, allow me to present you with the final piece.

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Damn I’m good!

My plan now is to recruit a few other horse owners and convince them to let me turn them into scenes from a fantasy story book.

Editing is life Peons! Learn it!

 

 

 

 

Isn’t it funny what life decides to throw at you sometimes?

Recently, Life decided to throw me a new horse (Which may or may not be the reason I’ve neglected my beautiful blog for two months. I am confirming nothing).

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But Life isn’t always a rude bitch (only mostly….), sometimes she decides to reunite you with an old friend. To the tune of horse manure and setting money on fire, Julia and I were reunited after a twelve year hiatus.

It’s been a fun vacation with Julia and my new horse but it’s time to get my ass into gear and continue blowing people’s minds with my awesome editing skills (Ha!).

So it wasn’t too long before I asked Julia to model for me (It was inevitable yes, but I waited till the third date like a gentleman), because hello, her face is like a warm crackling fire, or a cross between Joan Jett and fresh pumpkin pie (Or apple…if that’s your thing).

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(I mean come on!) 

Julia already boasts a successful modeling career so it tickled my behind to give ONE phrase of direction and we got the shot in five clicks of my shutter. That’s magic, people. Sorcery even.

I told Julia “Your’e an android. No emotion on your face, but you’re seeing your hand as if for the first time” And. that. was. it. She donned a black tube top, sat down and BAM! 

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My original idea was to have an android with all kinds of shiny mechanical pieces and moving parts, her hand would be dissolving into code of 0’s and 1’s. Kinda Matrix-esque only without the crappy sequels.

Buutttt as I sat down to edit my ego cowered in the corner and piddled on the floor. Yeah, I had no idea how to execute such an epic idea. My skills with GIMP are all but maxed out and I’ve been reluctant to venture further into using Photoshop.

Photoshop is hard to learn and I have about six and a half minutes of free time each day to learn new editing techniques (Eight minutes if I don’t poop that day).  So learning how to dematerialize a hand took me For-ev-ver!

I started in GIMP as I usually do, to remove any blemishes, and in this case make Julia’s skin flawless, because it’s 2017 and androids don’t have flawed skin or the right to vote yet. I used simple white lines to make her skin seem shiny and fake and settled on a soft green for the color.

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For a tutorial on how to change eye color in GIMP go Here.

Our next stop was Lightroom where I simply made the background black and made her skin more glowey. eyes1

I enrolled at Youtube university to learn how to dematerialize in Photoshop.

It took me about five tries (and some grey hairs and a hemorrhoid), and when all was said and done I still wasn’t happy with the way it came out.

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But I’m still considering this a win for me. I stepped out of my comfort zone, learned a little bit more about Photoshop and made a pretty awesome Android Portrait. Now all she needs is a name and a back story…..

Here’s a side by side because they are fun:

Happy shooting Peons!

 

 

 

 

Here’s a life hack: dont ever tell me an interesting tidbit about yourself and expect that I won’t want to photograph it.

I have an obsession with photographing interesting.

So that’s what happened when my friend Dave told me he used to pose nude at the college for art students.

Not a lot of men are comfortable in front of the camera, and even less are comfortable nude. Praise Jesus For such an opportunity! 

I needed him for my portfolio (which is 99.9999% women).

Of course he said yes. Who wouldn’t want to work with me? Who wouldn’t want to strip down (with the possibility of being drenched in fake blood), be yelled at and asked to do awkward things? Nobody! Because as hard as my photo shoots are to get through, the end results speak for themselves.

When Dave came over for the shoot he brought his confidence and his friend Jim Beam. Perfect. 

The great thing about my job is that I’m able to see past the fake smiles and what people try to hide. I make it my objective to shoot the expressions in-between the posed shots. Those tiny moments when real emotion seeps out.

                                         Posed is nice, but pensive is better. 

 

It’s taken me years to develop the skills to be able to bring these expressions out of people. The right questions need to be asked, the right tone, the right words. It’s a unique formula that I am still developing. The result…..

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…breathtaking. (Lets all take a moment to pat me on the back. Come on. Don’t be shy)

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Dave has a beautiful soul and I wanted to capture that.

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I have these moments during a shoot where I completely leave the world around me. My brain automatically takes control over the technical jargon that I’ve spent years and years jamming into my head (Don’t forget the rule of thirds, ISO, depth of focus, shutter speeds, apertures, angles, lighting etc etc). I’m glad my brain doesn’t need much focus for that stuff, because it leaves space for the artist in me to come alive. For me to become the character I want to portray.

And while I was shooting Dave, my brain ran absolutely wild with ideas. The mood shifted. And suddenly I had a story I wanted to tell.

“Don’t freak out” I told him. “I have an idea”.

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I am so grateful to him for not ruining my vision with awkwardness, and for not questioning my professionalism. Bless him for following my directions so perfectly (even when I was slightly manic).

Pretend you hate me. Pull my hair. Put your hands on my throat. Pretend you love me. Don’t worry about the pain. Squeeze my arm. Perfecto!

I become quite bossy when I have a vision.

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But Dave didn’t actually need too many instructions. As though being naked hieghtened all vulnerability and he was standing there with such raw emotions only inches under his skin.

Great stuff.

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This shoot could have gone south a bajillion times over (I mean, come on), but Dave’s natural theatrics came through and we were able to tell a beautiful story. These photos leave so many questions unanswered. They leave you feeling split open, melancholy (Hi Ali!), self righteous, angry. All the good feelings. All the bad feelings. All of them. And if I can do that, then I did my job. People say art needs to SPEAK. I say NAY!! ART NEEDS TO SCREAM. ART NEEDS TO SLAP YOU IN THE FACE. ART NEEDS TO LEAVE YOU BLEEDING. Because how else can you confront those emotions? Art, baby, art.

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My Aunt Zoila tried hard to get me into modeling when I was younger. That was until I found my calling behind the camera, and a style that might have looked a tiny bit out of place in a Sears ad. But I suppose I could be called both. I enjoy taking self portraits, I love conveying emotions in my pictures. Lately I’ve been trying to find models other than myself (I’m sure my readers are getting tired of seeing my face over and over again). But its nice to jump into a photoshoot every once in a while knowing I can put into it exactly what I need. Nicer still is to find people who can throw me such raw emotions, especially knowing what I usually put my models through.

Bravo Dave! 

P.s. I need to learn how to hide my shutter release remote better. You can see it in almost every picture! *face palm*

 

 

See these bad boys?

(click the image to purchase them for pocket change. You won’t regret it!)

These tiny things help me see into another world.

WHAT SORCERY IS THIS?! You ask.

Allow me to explain: These lenses screw onto my camera lens and open up a whole new world.

An alien world.

A world so full of the most minute detail that it gives me the heeby jeebies.

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Ewwww!! Who knew the Soul’s Window could look like a butthole!

Macro changes EVERYTHING. It brings out details that our own buttholes can’t see normally.

But macro photography is hard. I’m still learning the technique and what I’ve gleaned is that you MUST autofocus and you MUST NOT use flash. So when I have my subject in frame, even the smallest amount of movement ruins the focus. Usually I just lean forward or backward about 0.67354 of an inch at a time until my focus is tack sharp…and then I try not to move. Or breath. Or pass gass. Or blink. Or anything that would cause me to move and lose focus. 

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This little fellow was smaller than my pinky nail. Bask in his cuteness.

My garden hosts lots of tiny creatures that look like horrific beasts under the macro lenses. Unfortunately, the photos in this post are all I have as far as macro photography goes.

 

I don’t claim to be an expert in all areas of Photography. In fact, I probably know the least about macro photography. It’s a niche I have touched on but it didn’t hold my interest (for now).

For those of you who are interested in actually learning something from this post, head on over to Click it Up a Notch where you can get some real information about Macro Photography. Courtney has such a knack for the technical aspect where, sadly, I lack finesse.

Enjoy Peons. And Happy Shooting!


My cousin Katty called me one day to tell me about a wonderful photography opportunity.

Rebecca.

Rebecca, she said, had the most glorious waist-length hair. And was actually willing to let us photograph her. (Some people balk when they see my wild eyes and hear my even wilder ideas).

I love when opportunity calls. Or rather, I love when opportunity calls Katty, who then calls me. 

The Walking Hair showed up at my house, shiny, soft and connected to a shy, exotic face. My mind went full tsar bomba and exploded with possibilities.

We can have the fan blowing her wonderful mane around her face!

We can splay it around her head and shoot her from above! 

We can strip her naked and have her black tresses shield her private parts! 

As with all idea that come from my brain, some worked great! Some did not…..

I’ve never had long hair before so I wasn’t aware how heavy it would be. My tiny fan was NOT cutting it. Coupled with the fact that it was freezing that day, so my beautiful Hair (connected to Rebecca) was cold.

We stuck a space heater on Rebecca AND the fan, set up lights and got to work. (I’m surprised she didn’t leave my house with the sniffles).

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We are about 0.325 milliseconds away from blowing a fuse here. We used two umbrellas and an accent light, aka a hair light, to add a nice sheen to her hair.

I wished at the time the fusion of hot and cold air would create a tornado and swirl around Rebecca’s hair magically, but no such magic happened…woe is me.

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It was extremely difficult to get her hair to cooperate, and I remembered why I’ve always kept mine short. Still, the beauty of it, the flowing chocolate waves, were mesmerizing to watch. And she seemed to know how to tame it.

It took some finagling with the fan and positions but we finally managed to score some beautiful images.

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Soon after, we abandoned the idea of blowing hair (pouty lip), and took some glamour shots with her hair down and natural.

And then….oh! 

Magic! 

Rebecca reiterated over and over how she was not a professional model. That she didn’t know what to do, how to position her arms, her face, her hands. I was shocked by this. I thought she did amazing. Or maybe it was her quiet, shy nature that really made this shoot. 

I didn’t give her much direction with her face, somehow knowing her eyes would speak (which is usually the case with quiet people). And a reserved melancholy oozed from her skin.

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Suddenly the shoot wasn’t about her hair anymore. She was no longer a walking wig. Instead she became Rebecca, quiet, sweet, and full of a secret sorrow. Rebecca, who’s face tells the story we all want to hear. She was Rebecca, who just happened to have long hair. Ahh, the sweet bliss of a photo shoot transforming itself. 

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I am ashamed to say that I didn’t see it. I hadn’t met Rebecca before this day, I didn’t KNOW her, so I was dead set on shooting a beautiful girl with magical, Rapunzel hair. I never imagined it would turn into something more, (you’d think I’d know by now that my shoots never go as planned!). I’m not sad that it turned out differently. Just ashamed that it took half of our allotted time to see that this young (barely legal) girl could portray such emotion, and throw out such epic shots. Goosebumps.

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A waterfall of chocolate hair walked into my house, and a sweet, sad and brave girl walked out.

I only met Rebecca that one time. It’s been a year and I haven’t seen her since. But she taught me a lot!  Don’t assume. Don’t hold so tightly to ideas in your head. Don’t judge a book by it’s hair. 

 

I’ve been so fixated lately on finding models with an aesthetically pleasing quality. When the truth is, that beauty really IS on the inside. And sometimes it oozes out in time for me to photograph.

 

Photography can teach you many things.

Besides being an outlet for creativity, photography can help heal wounds, cope, organize your thoughts and teach life lessons.

It can also help you with perspective.

Have you ever had a problem so overwhelming you felt drowned? In the thick of a problem you sometimes feel there is no way out, no way around it, no other way but to trudge on through. And that my peons, blows. Blows hard.

Ass! No not ass….butt! No, not butt. BUT…BUT there is another way.

It’s called PERSPECTIVE friends. How you perceive something can completely change the outcome.

I suppose this is the part where I throw in a nifty example that totally correlates with this life lesson…hmmm…I got nothing.

Oh wait, I’ve got something. Once upon a time Brett and I made Hotel reservations in a part of the state we were not familiar with. Upon check-in we realized we’d accidentally booked a nice cozy little death trap smack down in the middle of Ghettosville. Our door had kick marks in it, three dead bolt locks, half eaten food on the bathroom floor and a TV that only half worked. Literally. Only half the screen worked.

All night we could hear fighting and stomping around the halls. And when we got in the elevator we gazed, in horror, at a sticker above the floor buttons. It read: EXPIRES 2012. Here we were standing in 2016 hoping the whole elevator didn’t come off it’s hinges, sending us crashing to our collective deaths. (Or maybe it was just me that thought that. I can’t remember).

Time for that head tilting, perspective thing I was telling you about. We could have run for the hills, screaming of bed bugs and expired elevators. But we did not. Instead we were kind of excited. Death was imminent. We were being adventurous. We don’t do much of the whole dangerous thing. Suddenly our trip was kind of exciting and we drove home with PTSD and the proverbial “I survived” mentality. Not to mention a cool story to tell.

See! See how perspective changed the way I viewed the problem and in turn changed the outcome? So let’s go ahead and relate this to photography, shall we?

Sometimes just tilting our heads a little, tweaking and turning, can completely change a picture. The photo of model, Leilani, jumping in the air was lackluster at best. I wasn’t even gonna use it….UNTIL I turned my head a bit, squinted my eyes and imagined it differently. Simply turning the picture upside down completely changed the feel of this picture. What once was a picture of a pretty girl jumping in the air (i.e. blah), transformed into a photo that makes you think. Is she falling to her death? Is she transcending gravity? How does one fly?

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With this picture of Jessi I struggled for hours on perspective. Each version spoke in different ways. Was the Jessi on bottom the real Jessi, trying to communicate with her own downtrodden self? If I flipped it to the side it seemed she was on the other side of a door, begging to come in. Flipping it again made it seem as thought she was listening to herself cry.

See what I mean about perspective peons? Taking a simple image and flipping it, or looking at it from a different angle can change is so drastically.

I encourage lots of head-tilting in these next few shots (and in life!).

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This demon, to me, seemed to be begging for something. Much like a dog. A demon dog begging for scraps. No one likes begging. Flipping it changed the direction the demon was focusing and now it seems as though she is gazing longingly at her own death.

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Turn your head to the left. That’s the original. It shows physical strength yes (How does she hold her whole body weight up??). But it is not as pleasing to look at. At the current angle it shows strength of a different kind. Like the whole world is pushing down on her. Like she is giving her all to hold the world up, and it could come crashing down at any moment. Crushing her. Splat.

In Photography, and in life, sometimes all it takes is a simple head tilt to see things from a different angle. And maybe things aren’t as hopeless as they look.

Different angle. Different perspective. Different outcome. It’s easy, peeps.