Take Charge of Your Health

I’m disturbed by the observation of the decline of places that are open to people who need help with their mental healthcare. Healthcare overall is suffering funding issues and has for years but the biggest loser of healthcare has been mental healthcare. With our tech heavy sedentary lives coupled with the growing substance abuse and depression has resulted in self-destruction and senseless violence that has increasingly touched more lives. So what do you do? Take steps in your life and not only be the proprietor of your physical health but mental health as well.

 

I am not a professional psychologist by any stretch, but I know what helps me cope and that is getting outside and away from stressful things in my life. Photography has been that vehicle in which I use to get out and create images of nature. Finding subjects to create images from, is just half of the therapy with the other half being away from the noise, the electronics, and being surrounded by nature. I know that if I don’t get out on a regular basis I tend to get restless, irritable, and not too fun to be around. Prolonged absents from my favorite activities tend to eat at my motivation and desire to create while increasing my want to just sit and do nothing.

 

You don’t have to take up photography or a heavy physical activity to enjoy nature, just get out. I find the best way to start is to grab a friend and go somewhere you haven’t been before or in a long time. For me, exploring a new place is great distraction from the problems of the day. And discovery of new things along with the walking more than five feet seems to release the endorphins I need to better my mood. Once you have found a place that you enjoy, make it a part of a daily or weekly routine to visit. By establishing a routine of getting outside into nature you are taking charge of both your physical and mental healthcare in once simple activity.

 

In conjunction with getting out into nature, you could also surround yourself with nature in art form. Photographs, paintings and drawings of nature in your house can help you in between the times you are out experiencing it. By googling “Nature Art and Healing” you will find countless articles written by doctors of medicine and physiology of the effects nature and images of nature has on the healing process. I have observed in the two hospitals I’ve visited the number of nature related images have grown over the years.

 

Mental along with physical health is important enough for us to make it a part of our daily route. I see too many people in the ER who could have avoided it had they taken the initiative with their health. There are situations that medical intervention must occur but doing things before that benefit your health both mentally and physically will mitigate the more severe problems later down the road. So start by simply getting off your couch and take a walk in your favorite park. Whether it is in your neighborhood or one of the many state parks we have, just start now. And if you are looking for a park, visit Kepler State Park, it is one of my favorite places to be.

Kepler State Park, Fall of 2017

Kepler State Park, Fall of 2017

Day 10

I seem to have a couple of themes going in the past images and which one that appears to you will be in what state of mind you are in. I believe that art changes depending on the state of mind you are looking at it. This can have an effect on what you see in the image, if the piece resonates with you or not and that your preference for a piece changes not only with time but mood.  

For the creator mood on a conscience and subconsciousness level will often appear in the themes of their work. It is easy to attach the color of the pallet the artist might use to conclude what state of mind the artist could be in. The other method of understanding an artist just on their work is the subject matter and compositions of the subjects. For me I think I am starting to see my subconscious playing out. So without getting to deep here is what I am starting to see in my work.

First, I do not include people in my nature scenes. I want you to be in the work or view the work as if you are in the scene. It is a reminder that we are a part of nature no matter how much we try to deny it.  People for a long time have fought to extricate themselves from nature. We believe we can change nature to our will, we build cities that are full of glass and metal and pave it all. When we travel we use metal canisters get us there fast and in comfort and never giving a thought on the experience of our surroundings is part of the journey.

I don’t want the viewer to focus on things that are familiar but instead reconcile the things that aren’t. Things in nature are familiar to most people in the since they know what they are, but most people don’t have a relationship with it as they do with people. By taking the people out of the image you can’t, on some level, relate to it. And if we want to keep living on this planet we must be able to relate to nature as we relate to each other.  For most people it is a place to visit and when they are tired of it they can just go home. But truly there is no separation between the two and when Nature is destroyed then we will parish.

Second theme that is coming out is the framing that I see. I am attracted right now to natural and constructed frames. They draw attention and help focus the subject. Most of my fames help me or guide me to the importance of the composition. I am feeling I need that right now. I understand the big goal but sometimes the path is not always clear. Right now, I am starting down a path, emerging from a darkness of confusion and frustration on to the light that will guide me through to my success.

The last theme is an arching theme on the lack of color in most of my work. Color to me has too much emotion attached to it. As I grow older I move away of the emotion that made me rashly act out instead of looking at the structure of event that was before me. My emotions have lead me down some paths that hurt me more than helped me. Had I looked at the composition of life lessons and how it fits the bigger picture I might have the courage to pursue things I am only doing now. Understanding how to use emotions is like understanding when to use color in image with good composition.

Along the Path

Day 9; The Winding Road

I have come across this scene at least a dozen times and each time I had attempted to create an image I have been less than happy with it. However today was different. Today the quality of the sunlight as well as its position that had changed which had made all the difference. This is a perfect example where persistence, not giving in paid off.

I am drawn to this image because of the feeling of emerging out of the darkness into the light. Ironic, I feel I have emerged out of the funk I was in with this image, in to the light of success. My eye is drawn down the road which leads me to the detail of the trees in the shadows. I am also partial to natural framing and feel that I had accomplished that with the dark leaves surrounding the lighter leaves which in turn frame the trees trunks in the center of the image. A frame inside a frame. 

The park in which this road leads through is one that has a warm inviting light to it. A light that almost feels like home, a shelter away from the stress of the city, job and people. This park is a place I love to go to when I just need to get away from it all. I could live here all year around and never get bored walking round.

Winding Road

First Opening

The third and last image I felt was one for the hospital was this waterlily opening up for the first time. A new flower breaking through and opening up for the first time in the sun with some peddles not fully stretched out. Again, the spot light on its coming out with the pads playing a support roll.

Why I chose this one;

Like the last image this photograph has layers created by the light that gives subtle details pleasing to my eye. I find the reflection of the flower soothing as water can be in an image whether it is a painting or photograph and the bug in flight give scale to the subject.

Compositionally the motion of my eye is circular but I don’t have as much detail as I did in Waterlily; Absent of Colo, but that is not to say that this image is devoid of interest. The main pad that leans against the flower has patterns that pleasing both on the bottom and edge on to us. Moving along the edge I can see the motion of the bug in flight pushing me to the back and into the shadows and eventually around to the reflection of water. Reflections I find peaceful, calming element of water. Under the surface of the water is the pads moving to the edge of the main pad again. Like the one image before this works so much better in black and white. There is more depth to the story of this image without the color that I feel influents emotion and motion.   

What do you think? Now that I have shown the three images it is time to decide and maybe have a conversation the broader picture. Let me know what you think. Is there at least one image you believe is the best or maybe I should start over with a whole new set. Maybe I shouldn’t bother with it? Leave your comments or email me and the one you pick. One lucky person will be chosen to win their pick, enlarged, matted and signed.. Thanks again for your feedback and feel free to pass this or any other post along.

First Opening

Waterlily; Absent of Color

The second image I had chosen is this image of my waterlilies in my back pond. This was the template I had used in my head for the Yucca plants. The success of the direct sun and the dark shadows grabbed me. It reminds me of a film noir as far as the scale of gray tones from the dark shadows to the bright whites. This is probably the more successful tonal range in a black and white that I had accomplished.

Why I chose it.

Light, I chose to photograph this subject because the layering of light brings out and the details throughout this image that holds my interest. My eye is drawn first to the flower itself, bright, detailed and textured in the grayscale of the darker peddles. The lighter peddles has a look of collar, reflecting the light on to the subject of the darker and a separator from the leaves around it.  Though the flowers are in the spotlight my eye doesn’t stop there but move to the right and down following a circular motion of the leaves. Each pad having just enough light falling on it to give detail and motion from front and moving to the back into the shadows. With the light and softening of focus I can’t help feeling that there is depth to the composition that compels me to explore.  

I find beauty in compositions that have depth and motion pleasing to the eye and emotionally gratifying. I did not get the same feeling from the color version of this photograph, in fact I felt conflicted by the red of the flower and the lighting of the subject. I could not get past the red to explore the rest of the image. The red of the flower essentially flatten the composition and stalling the motion of the image. By switching it to black and white the image came alive, more interesting leaving me wanting to look from the bright whites of the flowers to what was hidden in the shadows. Like a good story, this image has layers that moves us through the image, to leave and return to discover more.

I know they are only flowers and the depth I see maybe self-serving but I do think this image has a story and moves the view not only to search the image but upon returning, find new details missed from before. To me that is what I am hoping for, an image that is not only pleasing but one that makes you want to look at more than a few times. This is why I feel it would be a good image to donate to the hospital.

What do you think? Am I reading too much into it? Is this a good image for the hospital or not? I’d like to hear from you, good or bad. Leave a comment or email me what you think so far and you could be picked to win a matted and signed copy of your favorite image.

Thanks again and feel free to share this or any other post.

Waterlily; Absent of Color

Yucca in Bloom #1

This is the first year I got out and photographed the Yucca Plant in Bloom and I am glad I did. Last year I did not take the time and create a group of proper photographs of the blooms as they should have been. The difference from this year to last, I think is the fact I took the time and had the vision of light I wanted. Of course, when the Yucca plant bloomed the light I was seeking wasn’t there and instead I got this spectacular light instead. Happy accidents are sometimes the best. 

 

This is the first of tree images I have chosen to donate to the hospital and here’s is why.

 

First thing that I am drawn to is the quality of light.  Soft, delicate light that wraps around the peddles of the flowers, pods and branch of the plant. The light’s ability to show the detail in the highlights, the ridges and lines of the blooms show up so well against the black background. This quality not only shows up in the whites of the blooms but the pods. The rich texture of the pod is captured so well in both the highlights and shadows of the image.

The subject matter is simple in composition which give a minimalist feel to it. As a viewer, I am not overwhelmed with what to look at. I can take my time and discover new details of the photograph without feeling the need to take it in all at once. I find it pleasing to start with the highlights of the blooms and move my way through the that detail then to the mid-tones and finally to details in the shadows. I also find the tonal range pleasing. The lack of great contrast between the background and subject matter give a since of peace, relaxed feeling when I view this image. Had I gone with a harder contrast I would have had a feeling of tension with this piece.

Finally, the composition; a soft diagonal line in a square format. The downward line of the main branch is not steep. This is repeated in the line of the bottom tips of the blooms as well as their positions and size on the branch.  For me this shallow line does not add tension to the image but helps the viewer slowly move through the photograph. Had it been steep I know it would have given an unintentional speed in which the eye would have traveled form the top to the bottom corner, while missing details.

Over all I find this image peaceful and would fit very well with what the hospital is trying to do. Beautify and give an emotionally pleasing image to help lift the spirits of their patients as well as visitors. I hope if this or one of the others are chosen that the views find it as pleasing as I do

Yucca In Bloom #1

I would like to hear from you. Help me choose one out of the three images and you could win your choice in a 8x12 (or 12x12) matted and signed. Just leave a comment or email me your choice and on Aug 12 I will announce the winner. Thank you for your help. 

The other job

I’d like to say that I am a professional photographer making a great living off the images I create. Maybe someday I will be able to say that but now I can’t. Instead, I can say I am an amateur photographer who has a job to help pay the bills and support my passion for photography. And I can say this knowing that I am not alone. Many photographers have jobs that has little or nothing to do with their pursuit of photography and that is okay. Well it’s okay for me now. But I do think that my other job is a good part of who I am. See I am, by profession, a Phlebotomist, a person who draws blood for a lab. In this case I work for a lab in a hospital and I love what I do. This profession has nothing to do with creating images directly but indirectly it does. This job is a part of who I am, a caring compassionate person who is willing to do what it takes to help you get better. 

My job is to collect the blood from the patients in the hospital, in the correct tubes with the proper amount without damaging the blood cells. Now overall it seems like an easy job but let me tell you it is not. There are many things that could go wrong; pull too hard and you can rip blood cells apart and depending on the test, you will have to go and recollect it. Blood bank tubes have to be perfectly hand labeled and if they are not then you must recollect. And for the obvious, no one likes you. You are the person who inflicts a bit of pain each and every time you visit them. So how does all this indirectly contribute to my images?

This job helps me see life in it fragility. Every day I can experience someone’s worst day and another’s best day all in the same 10-hour shift. In the ED I have seen the aftermath of gunshot wounds, stabbings, motor vehicle accidents, one’s own stupidity and much more. I have seen a fair share of people die and the devastation that has on a family. I have also experienced joy of a new member of the family in the birth center. The great warmth of love surrounding the new family member who is now in the arms of parents. I have also seen that love in the ending of one’s life. The family surrounding their parent or sibling who has lived with an illness and it is time to remember, laugh, cry, and let go. I have seen all that and it has left its mark on me changing me and the way I view life and my work.

I can’t say exactly what image best illustrates this, maybe I could say it is my Yucca or Lillie’s series that puts my experience in the art. I just know I am a different person because of this job and that I want to express that in my images or start to. I believe that if people were able to see what I see every day then we would change the way we treat ourselves and people around us. That we would take just that one extra moment to lend a hand to a stranger or do something healthy instead of sitting in front of the TV. Maybe change the thought that “we don’t matter” to others when we see the impact a suicide has on family and friends.

I might not be the most loved person in a health care setting but what I get out of my job is the satisfaction that I make an impact on lives as well as my job impacting me in a positive manner. Not many people can say that.

 

 

 

Not So Perfect

A few days ago, I created this image of a barren branch of a Yucca plan. With the peddles of the blooms all but gone I felt that this image was a statement on three levels about life. First is our need for everything to its perfection. Second is the fact that things in our personal life changes and the blinders we put on to the world around us in order to deal with it. And third, the beauty in death and the life that flourishes around it. I see these things more so now than I had before and it comes from the stage of my life that I find myself in. And because I see it in nature I feel I can draw comfort from it when it gets hard to press on. So here is what I see when I look at this image.

Perfection, or the lack of it. Normally when most photographers create an image they take in account the light, time of year, the state of the subject and the final image. If most of the criteria have been met then the image is created with the knowledge that any flaws found will be corrected in the editing stage. But I find that even in this stage of defoliation still to be a perfect image because it embraces the flaws as well as the beauty that surrounds. In society of today, we are so obsessed with perfection that we can’t tolerate the flaws in our lives. This is displayed so overtly in the way we present ourselves in public and on our social media pages. Anyone who doesn’t fall into our box of perfection is often shunned and relegated to the fringed where “those people” belong. We don’t even tolerate failure. Failure is the way we move forward and learn but to fail in our society risks a negative stigma therefore it is tucked away in a dark place. I have failed and I celebrate this not because I have, but because I learn and move on to succeed. If we just would open up and let people know that it is okay to fail and not to be perfect we may not have so many people to move forward in their lives.

This image conveys to me about personal change, and how we may feel isolated and things have stopped, but it doesn’t stop. If we just look beyond our bubble we can see the beauty around us and with that draw courage and comfort to move on.   In my life, there has been a lot of change that I have been processing, some of it well and some of it I choose to ignore. My first bit of change is the fact that my Son has grown and move out, which you would think I would celebrate and I am in ways. The part I find sad is that the time we had with him as a child is gone and as long as his childhood seemed, it wasn’t. Sometimes I think about in a few years we maybe involved in a wedding and then grandkids. On the surface that seems cool but it is just a reminder of my own mortality and that that my time is growing short with so much yet to accomplish.  

I also feel that this image is analogous to the beauty in the changes of life. Even in death, life around this barren branch flourishes and continues. Despite this branch looking dried and brittle, in a few weeks seed pods should be sprouting from them to begin life’s cycle again. This brings me to my thoughts of my parents who are in their 90’s. A part of me had always thought that my parents would be there for me, to be the solid foundation that keeps life stable. The subtle changes of aging are often missed as a child and sometimes a young adult. It is when you are not constantly around them you see the toll of years drawn upon them. Still we ignore the inevitable as way not to be paralyzed by their impending end, but a way we can celebrate the life together. I believe that is why a sudden death of a loved one or even an acquaintance hits us harder than someone who is suffering a terminal illness. With someone terminally ill we can prepare for the passing of them. Where is a sudden death we are still in the stage of denial that it will happen.

I know this is a lot to read into an image that is just a dead branch in soft lighting surrounded by green leaves, but that is what I see. I plan to do a series of these life and death moments throughout the summer and fall. Who knows I may put them together and build a book or hang them on the wall for a show. I guess we’ll see as the time comes.

My Favorite Image (for the moment)

I wanted today to write about my favorite image I have at this moment. I feel if I explain what I love about the images I feel are my best then as a viewer you may have a better understanding of my work and me. The photo I am going to talk about is one that I had created with an image in my head but when it came time to photograph it, well things weren’t exactly what I wanted. But that is okay because the image turned out much better than I anticipated. I could have waited for the right conditions but the subject matter had a short life span so it was a make the best of it situation, and I did.

So, what I love about this image:

The first thing that catches my eye is the soft light that wraps around the pedals of the flower. It is just the right amount so that the deals in the highlights are there. To many times I have blown out the highlights and the soft details are gone, spoiling the overall image but not his one. The softness of the light adds or enhances the delicateness of the flowers, even to the flowers that have expired. They too are soft even though their form has collapsed and dried up in their death. As soft as the highlights are so too is the shadows. I find the soft shadows of the blooms complement the contrast the highlights, soft and rich with detail. Had I used the sharp sun as I thought to, the harshness of the light would not have complement the softness of the subject thereby wrecking the whole concept of the image.

I also love how the darkness that frames the subject and gives an overall punch to the image. This is where the contrast is best as a frame and not in the actual subject. So many times, I have lost details in the shadows that could have made the subject more interesting but instead I used the dark or black as a complementing or secondary subject to give it a punch.

I love the shallow depth of field that I created with choice of lens. There is a vine growing in the back of the Yucca Flowers and in combination of defused light and shallow focus I got a modeled background that adds depth to the photograph. As the background is blurred so is the subject. The brightest and the blooms closes to us are sharp with the focus gradually softening the farther you look back. This to helps give a depth or dimension my subject that in concert with the highlights and shadows gives a feeling of realness to the photo.

I am also drawn to the fact that each bloom is not perfect. There are blooms at their best mixed with the ones that have expired. I see this as a metaphor for life for me right now. If I were to take one at either it’s best or worst, individually the image would fail but in combination it is successful. That is the way I feel about us. We celebrate and idolize the perfect person in looks or successes at that moment and not recognize all the failures and ugliness of what people go through to arrive to that moment.  To even expand it further, as a collective we move forward and succeed no matter what stage of life we are in the group.

If you like this or any of my images and would like a print, please contact me and we can work out the details. And as always if you like the post please share. Thanks!

Making of a Print #2

I felt that I needed to expand my previous post about making a print. I would like to say first that I have made many of my image into prints before but all of them were on photographic paper and not the watercolor paper. My favorite paper to print on is the Metallic Paper that Kodak produces. Talk about pop of rich colors and contrast. What I am inexperienced with is printing on different media of paper and inks and with the last image I learned I needed to do a little more research before committing to it.

So here is what I envisioned; I wanted this water lily printed on watercolor paper by an inkjet printer and have the look of a photograph. You know that pop of contrast of darks and lights. I wanted then to have ruff torn edges and then float it in a matte and frame it. I was excited about the image I selected and the proof was perfect in the look I wanted. A week after I dropped it off I picked it up and instead of being excited I was disappointed. It was not the printers fault. The image matches the proof but it did not have that pop I was looking for. And why? Because it is the medium I printed on. What I wanted this paper to do was not going to happen. My concept for the image was spot on but the reality was that what I wanted was not happing. All is for not. I will still matte this print and sell it because it is a great print even though it doesn’t fit my needs.  I will just make this image as well as the rest on photographic paper matte and frame them as normal and maybe explore this paper for other images later.

In this digital age, it is very easy to make prints on almost any medium you want. But as easy as it is to print, it can and will go wrong if you don’t choose wisely. The myriad of surfaces, textures, papers and even metals can be overwhelming with all the possibilities they offer. I had mentioned the Metallic Paper earlier; that is a great paper to make your colors and contrast pop off the walls in almost any light but I wouldn’t use it for a portrait of a person. I am sure that the watercolor paper I chose for this project would be great for an image that is soft and low contrast. It just did not meet my expectation in which I falsely had. So, I guess one of the lessons I learned and want to pass on is that you must be careful about what you print on. Do your homework on your medium before you print in order to get what you want. And above all print your work! Which leads me to this next thought.    

The digital age has hurt the art of photography by reducing the desire to print. It is so easy to create an image, work it in PhotoShop and put it on a social media site or two and wait for all to “love” it. Before social sites and digital images, we developed the film, worked the prints in the darkroom to then produce that image in quantities for our audience so they can hang it on their wall. Instead those walls are not at their home but their phone or Facebook page. And those walls are not just where art lives but family portraits hang there as well. Why? Is your family portrait not important enough to grace the walls of your home? I understand the need to carry their images of loved ones around. We have done this for ages but instead of phones it was in our wallets and billfolds. That still doesn’t explain why we don’t hang their images on our wall. Do we not love them enough? I wish I knew the answer.

In this age, many photographers are trying to be different by going back to film or doing tricky manipulations on the camera or in PhotoShop to set themselves apart from the rest. But not enough of us are printing our work. So here is a challenge I echo from a few others. Find an image you love, research the medium you would like to print it on and make a print. But don’t stop there you must matte and frame it to hang on your walls. It’s time to turn the tide of just having images on your phone and social media pages to having prints on your wall. And if your images do not move you to make a print of your best one then you are not making good images. When you have accomplished this task photograph it on your wall and post it on twitter with the tag #PrintingMyWork. I will look for it and post it on my page. Hell, all of us can retweet that to help spread the word. It’s time to start printing again.