Learning Photoshop and Android Skin

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!

 

 

 

 

Photoshoot fun. And Midnight Nudes.

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*

 

 

Photographing hair. And Rebecca.

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.

Photo Shoot Fun: Let’s slap some blood on that shit.

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.

Convenience vs. Quality or iPhone vs. Nikon.

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.

A Picture. And editing your fake away.

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. 

My Spirit Animal.

“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.