Whats Hot

Wednesday, March 25, 2015


I've been in the studio a lot this winter. Which is odd because I don't have a studio. I rent studios from my friends, which is a great deal, but each studio has its own nuances and quirks. This studio is located in Layton, and is an all-natural-light space. This makes color-balancing tricky because there is bluer light at the floor and yellow light at subject-height. It is also a very forgiving light, and when chasing an almost-three-year-old around, it's nice not to have to worry about them running out of the light. This is my good friend and photographer, Erin, who is absolutely radiantly expecting her second daughter in May. Go check out her new website she's been putting long hard hours into updating.  photo 001-002_1.jpg photo 003-004B.jpg

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Creative Process

I've had many people ask me how I get my ideas, or how I get creative. So, since I just posted about print competition, I thought it might be fun to discuss how I do my conceptual images. The origination of an idea starts in a different place for each image. Sometimes, I draw inspiration from film or literature. Many times I am drawn to art history, or there is just a technique I want to try. In today's case, the inspiration began with a haircut. One of my good friends left her daughter in the care of a close family member, and came home to find out something had gone horribly wrong, and hair was lost. If you have had a child in the toddler years, chances are you've gone through something similar. When she posted on Facebook about it, I thought it would be really fun to document an event that could be taken as a negative experience, and transform it into a great portrait.

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After arranging a shooting time, I was thinking about mood, and style, and what I wanted the image to say. I decided I wanted something dark, not really pretty, very moody, timeless, and possibly even a bit disturbing (since that is how I felt when my own daughter cut her hair.) So last night I had 30 minutes between running kids to dance and karate to browse our local thrift shop, and I found a dark, old little dress (which I had to cut off the obnoxious and huge pink gingham collar) and some trim that would easily cover my hack job. I wanted everything to be done in harmonious color, so I stuck with the brown palette. Then I found an old copper pot and I got thinking it would amp up the emotion if I had something dead in the pot to add to the disturbing feel. Since dead things are a bit hard to find, not to mention icky, I grabbed an old sunflower that I found on my walk later in the evening. Then I changed venues from Memory Grove (where everything is beautiful and blooming right now) to Wheeler Farm (where I knew I could find a dark brown wall that would match the colors in the dress.) This whole thought process and execution took place between about 4:00-8:00 pm yesterday night.

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Today on the shoot, it was just a matter of putting everything together. Our little model wasn't very happy, but since that was the emotion I was going for, it was actually perfect. She hated the dress, and it took much coaxing and painting of stories to get her to wear it. Then I set up my strobe and soft-box to add a direction of light, and I noticed that the sun was bouncing off the white front of the box onto her in a perfect lighting ratio, so I just used it as a reflector and kept the power off.

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After that, it was just a matter of finding an expression (which, as I said earlier, was lots easier than asking for smiles.) and choosing my favorite image. I liked the hands in the image on the right better, and the expression on the left, so I did some Photoshop magic to make the final composite.

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Then it was tweaking the mood and lighting to suit the emotion I had in mind at the start, and voila! A portrait that I'm really pleased with. I loved creating something a little off my normal track, and pushing myself a little.

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Thanks so much, K for giving me full artistic license and trusting me to do it right! :-)

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Competition Season is here again

I love photographic competition. I hate it, and I love it. Of the 20 people who read my blog, most of you know I've been involved in professional competitions for almost as long as I've been shooting. I've had some really great successes and some pretty pathetic scores, but overall the experience keeps me pushing myself to become better - learn more. This year I am entering a whole new category called "Artist", as well as the Photographic Open at International Print Competition. This category not only judges your skills in photography, but compositing, painting, and other digital manipulation skills. I have never put so much time into images for print comp as I have with my Artist prints, and it means I have to come up with 8 prints instead of just 4 this year. It is a BEAST.

This last week I went to my adopted home - The Professional Photographers of Idaho in Boise. I have been a member of their group for three years now, and every time I make my Mecca journey north, I swear it's an energy-rich zone specifically for me. A lot of it has to do with the people (ok, most of it) but I think there is something geographically "hot" about Idaho that stimulates and inspires me like nothing else. The convention was completely tailored to me this year, with Painting and Compositing classes (Oh my word, thank you so much Nicholas and Cheri!) and I really wanted to test my print case locally before sending it on to IPC in June. I was fortunate to do very well in the competition (I was honored with Master Photographer of the Year, Court of Honor, and a Judges Choice ribbon plus the placings below,) but more importantly, I got some really good feedback on a few adjustments that I can make on my prints to improve their chances down the road. Three cheek kisses to all my Idaho friends. I love you guys.

I can't post my images on Facebook because I am friends with many judges, and I don't want them to have to DQ themselves from judging my work. So, since a few of my friends and family want to see my comp images, I'm posting them here (since I'm pretty sure the judges for IPC don't read my tiny little blog.) with my awards from PP of Idaho. So pretty much, this post is for my Mom. :-)

"Phoenix Rising" Category: Master Electronic Imaging - First place
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"Who Will Buy This Wonderful Morning?" Category: Master Electronic Imaging - Second place
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"Cold Shoulder: Category: Master Electronic Imaging - Third place
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"Somewhere in Time" Category: Master Portrait - First place
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"Return of the King" Category: Master Portrait - Second place
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"Quartet" Category: Master Portrait
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Sunday, March 8, 2015

Experiments in Old School

I have long been a huge admirer of Julia Margaret Cameron. When I was a university student, I was (unbeknownst at the time) extremely lucky to see an actual JMC print. It has haunted me ever since. She dressed people up in costumes and made portraits that evoked emotion and classic iconography. Is it any wonder I'm drawn to her work? Something about her total and purposeful lack of technical perfection is a siren song to me - who tries to micromanage every single detail.
I have done several photo sessions inspired by JMC, and after purchasing a fabulous lace dress from Hale Center Theater's costume surplus store, I felt it was time to revisit her again last weekend. I also felt like it was time to shoot film again after a 10 year break. I only have one yard-sale film camera (an Olympus OM-1n) so I bought me a roll of Kodak Tri-X and begged my youngest sister (who has always been keen to be my top model) to spend an afternoon breaking it in with me. Turns out the shutter sync is NOT 1/125th of a second as is evidenced in over half the roll of images which turned out like this: DOH!
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Ok, Perfectionist Kris, breathe!! It's all just for fun anyway. It was indeed fun to go back to the format I learned on (even though it was excruciatingly irritating to try to look at the back of the camera and seeing NOTHING but the back of the camera…) Some film images did get exposed well enough to be used. Here is a comparison of the same pose. The image on the left is a digital capture, processed in Lightroom and on NIK Silver Effects Pro (Tri-X preset). The right image is the actual scanned Tri-X negative. I posted this earlier on Facebook with a poll to see if anyone could recognize and identify the film image.
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To my surprise, the overwhelming majority incorrectly identified the LEFT image as the film image and the right as the digital capture. It was a fascinating result, and I'm not entirely sure what I'm going to do with this information, other than make sure I Google the OM-1n's shutter sync before I expose my next roll of film. I'd love to hear your thoughts on either Julia Margaret Cameron, shooting film, or your thoughts about my experiment in the comments below. Until next time! -Kris.