I knew I would be bad at keeping up with a blog! Especially during a pandemic and major social upheaval...
The gear I was mentioning in the last entry was a Nikon F6. This is my official review:
It. Is. AMAZING.
I'll get into more details later, but I just developed 2 rolls of film that I took using it and I had way more photos I was pleased with than usual. The light metering, autofocus, and focus sensors are impeccable, and it just feels so good to hold and shoot. Being able to program multiple exposures is so convenient. Old manual Nikon F lenses work extremely well on it too, which is great because I have several of those that I like to shoot with. If I get D series lenses for the F6, I can use them with my Mom's old film camera that I have as well. It's the perfect blend of modern-ish technology and old school results.
I've also gone down the rabbit hole of Polaroid Land Cameras and peel apart "pack film" shooting, including medium format cameras with pack film backs. While the cameras themselves are *relatively* inexpensive (I'm starting to amass a nice little collection), the film is quite pricey and it's all expired with no more being produced, so I need to learn how to use a light meter so I don't waste any shots. There's a lot of potential for cool images (and manipulation to create cool effects) and I'm very excited to explore this medium more.
While I'm playing around with film and old eBay cameras, Jimmy is really getting into drones and aerial photography. I'm getting into it a little bit as well, but not as much as he is. He's also getting pretty good at photo editing. He's capturing some amazing images, and I have some ideas for art projects combining his gorgeous, high def panoramas and my instant photos. It's so much fun to be able to compare images and editing notes with him (for the record, he's much better with technical stuff and Adobe Lightroom than I am). I hope he submits some of his pictures to magazines or local galleries.
Speaking of galleries, I recently had an image accepted into the SE Center for Photography's upcoming exhibition "Instant." I'm incredibly excited to be involved in another "brick and mortar" gallery showing this year, and I'm curious to see how the other artists frame and present their work.
I'll leave it at that for now, I hope everyone is staying safe out there!
Finishing up my first round of classes, the beauty of the mountains slowly becoming green again, and the gradual opening up of society has me wanting to get out and take more photos. This, combined with the fact that my old landlord mailed out my security deposit today, resulted in me making a bad (good?) decision....it's gear related. I'll post when it gets here. I can't wait!!!
I bought Jimmy (my partner/man/baby-daddy/hubs; I will probably refer to him as all these terms at some point during the course of me writing this blog) a drone for Christmas and he's been getting out and flying it when it hasn't been too windy. He took a really cool video of the area around our house, and it's making me want to learn how to fly it as well. I would love to get some aerial shots of some of the mountains and waterfalls around here!
It's been a long time since I posted! This is probably a good opportunity to share a little bit of my horticultural work with you, since that's what I've mostly been focused on these past two months.
I recently took a position as an Urban Horticulture Extension Assistant in the Horticulture Department at North Carolina State University teaching online plant ID courses in partnership with Longwood Gardens. Plant ID was my favorite subject as a student, and my favorite subject to teach as a TA during my graduate work, so I'm very excited about this position. Here's a link to the classes I'm teaching: https://extensiongardener.ces.ncsu.edu/online-non-credit-courses/
We'll be adding some others as well. Classes started two weeks ago, and it's been really fun so far. I love how a plants and gardening can bring together people of incredibly diverse backgrounds. I have students of all ages, professional backgrounds, and walks of life. Another one of my favorite aspects of horticulture is how it's the perfect blend of art and science. I find that working with plants is very therapeutic, and stimulates my creative side.
I think I'll keep it short and sweet for now, but I'm looking forward to working on some new photos and exhibit submissions. I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy!
Sometimes certain calls for entry really resonate with me and spark my imagination. I'm looking forward to going out and taking some new photos for this particular one, called plant petter:
In this call, we are specifically looking for ways of utilizing photography to illustrate the ways that people physically touch plants and fungi and nature with their bodies. The demonstration of interspecies relationships forms new pathways for thinking about our role in the Anthropocene and the climate crisis. Touching & stroking, observing & creating curiosity expands our conscious & subconscious relationships to our everyday environments.
The selected photos will be printed in a zine in April.
For fun I thought I'd share some of my favorite instant photos that I've taken of flowers at the top of this post. Something about instant film conveys a certain moodiness or sense of nostalgia to me.
Another aspect of why I enjoy shooting film, aside from its aesthetic appeal, is because all my film cameras (except for one good deal I found on eBay) have come from important people in my life and I think about them whenever I'm shooting with their camera. Even though there aren't a lot of differences between the cameras in terms of specs, they are distinct enough that each reminds me of its original owner's style and personality. One is from one of my favorite professors at NCSU - when I use it I think about him using it to do plant research in the field. Two others are from my good friend, mentor, and Master's advisor, who used them for research in the same lab I worked in as an undergrad and Master's student. Lastly, I have my mom's old camera that she used to take pictures of me and my sister when we were babies, in addition to bird watching and everything else she used it for. How wonderful it is that I can use her camera to take pictures of my baby now (2nd picture), so many years later, as well as pictures of my loved ones, outdoor adventures, and artistic shots.
One question people often ask me is whether I use film or digital and if I have a preference. Overall I prefer film/analog, especially for any work that I'm classifying as "art." I think 35mm film has a quality that is lacking from digital and enhances the feel I'm generally trying to go for in an artistic shot. There is also an element of happy accidents or surprise in film that rarely occurs for me in digital. With a 35mm camera, this is because I can't see the shot right away and try to perfect it; with an instant camera, this is because the film is relatively expensive and I don't want to waste the film by taking shot after shot to get it right, and because the viewfinder doesn't correspond perfectly with what is actually being photographed. With instant film especially, things frequently don't come out how I had in mind, but often these happy accidents lead to images that are better than my original vision, due to unexpected aspects that end up working well. The majority of the photos I've had accepted into juried exhibitions or competitions have been 35mm or instant film, probably in part because that particular aesthetic suits my style, and/or because of surprise elements that made an aspect of the image unexpected and interesting in some way.
Another question I get asked as a follow up is if I develop my film. I have, both color and black and white, and I greatly enjoy it. The ability to develop the film and digitally scan the negatives gives me a lot of control over the finished product, as well the ability to create different effects. (One effect was when I wiped my negatives with a paper towel, not knowing any better, which left tons of lint behind. When I scanned the negatives, the lint gave the images an interesting, vintage look that could be cool in the right setting. The first image posted above is one of those linty shots.) Developing is an area that I'm looking forward to getting back into once I have more space to set up a work area. When I'm not developing my film I usually try to find a local shop to do it (this was easy when I was in Blacksburg), or I send it to Darkroom Photo Lab (not a sponsored link). I've mailed all of my most recent rolls to them. I'm always happy with the results, and the last scans I got looked great at 11" x 14". Another thing I like about digital film scans is that I still have the ability to edit them in Photoshop, so I'm kind of getting the best of both worlds. I don't usually edit a whole lot (I'll write another post about editing), but I made a few tweaks on the last film scans I printed, and was quite pleased with how the end product looked. (Having a good printer helps a lot with this - I'll talk about printing photos in another post as well.)
That's not to say I don't use digital, though. I use it all the time, much more than film. I'm a lot more likely to grab my digital camera if I'm doing nature photography (particularly sunsets, waterfalls [second image above], or animals), night photography, real estate photography, or conference photos/events. If I were doing things like wedding photography or senior portraits I would definitely use digital, and maybe add film as an option if the client wanted it, since I tend to prefer film for portraits. Digital is also my go-to if I'm looking for a "quick fix," creatively speaking - meaning, I'm in the mood to do something creative but want some immediate results to work with (Instant film fulfills this urge sometimes, but sometimes leads to me wasting film). It probably goes without saying, but I find digital to be useful when I'm looking to perfect a shot, when I want the capability to do more editing, or I'm looking to "practice" some shots and play around with angles, lighting, find the best spots at a certain site, etc. I recently went to this really interesting spot where some old cars are sticking out of the riverbank. It was cold, I was vaguely worried about people thinking I was trespassing, and I wasn't looking to spend a lot of time setting up the best shot, so I just grabbed my digital camera and the lens I thought would work best and waded up the river to explore what was there, see what good shots I could get before my feet got too cold (I had muck boots on in the river, and splashed some water in the boots as I waded), and plan for what I would need to bring when I go back in warmer weather to do a shoot with both digital and film. I ended up coming away with a greater knowledge of accessing the site, lighting issues, an idea of what lenses work well, "trouble" aspects to watch out for next time (like power lines, traffic, and extra junk in the background), and I also got a shot I really liked that turned out well after some post-processing, which made it into an exhibit I entered. I wouldn't have been able to do all that so easily with a film camera.
Friends and photographers - can you tell which photos on my page are film vs. digital? Do you have a preference in your own work if you shoot both? Do you have a preference in my images?
I've reached a unique point in my life - I work completely from home now, with flexible hours. I never really saw myself being in this position, but it's fantastic so far! Since all of my positions have an online promotion and marketing component, I was thinking that maybe I should apply that to my artistic endeavors as well, and maybe I'll learn something that I can transfer to my jobs, or vice versa. I was originally intending this site just to be something basic I could list on exhibit applications or social media to direct people to my best work consolidated into one place, but maybe it will be more interesting and useful if people have a better sense of me and my process as well.
So...I'm here. This is my blog. Now what? I guess I'm not sure what to talk about that hasn't been said before by someone else. But then again, my art is different from theirs, so maybe it will be new by virtue of that. Right now I'm thinking I'll talk about projects that I hope to get started (new art, solo exhibition proposals, selling art in local galleries, framing and matting, etc.), gear and editing (or lack thereof), website management/design/content creation, inspiration, artistic style, and maybe aspects of my family and work life as well, since they're all interconnected.
One thing I'm worried about is not posting on a regular basis. However, one of the things I'm enjoying about staying at home with my family and working flexible hours is that I have a lot more time and energy (well, as much energy as I can with a 4 month old) to devote to thinking about art. Plus, I'll already be on the computer a lot for work, so I can work on this as ideas come to me. I've often found that I like to think about scientific things and artistic things at the same time, which is a topic I plan to write about later.
I think I'll end it at that for now. Keep checking back, and feel free to comment if there's anything you'd like me to write about!