Self Portrait for my Birthday

Self Portrait for my Birthday

Most days I feel like this image … it is my favorite self portrait for that very reason.

Am I waving to the person looking in on me? I don’t know.

Am I struggling to break out of my wooden surroundings? I don’t know.

Am I about to be transported into the center of the universe? I don’t know.

And that’s the truth of this image and life… I don’t know.

So much of life is lived under the illusion of control — under the mistaken impression of being able to be understood. But even in the moment, the moment is not always understandable.

As I face down 50 years of walking around on this planet … with three mostly finished college degrees, a genius level IQ and 20 years of entrepreneurship under my belt, you’d think I’d know something.

But here is what I have all that has taught me: I don’t know.

And so another chapter of my life begins. I wonder when I reach the end of my days, what will I know? Let the journey begin …

Sunflowers

Sunflowers

Grinter Farms (https://www.facebook.com/GrinterFarms) is this wonderful place near Lawrence, Kansas that willingly lets people wander around in their sunflower field. How absolutely AWESOME is that?

And there are a BOATLOAD (well, I would use a more colorful term actually) of people who come out and wander around amongst the big yellow flowers. This year, I and my cohort Jen Wewers were two among many.

It actually took us two trips — we had one quick “golden hour” trip planned, but that turned out to be a little off the mark. (This is what happens when you let two “Ps” out of the house together on a creative adventure — and if you don’t know what that means, let’s just say both Jen and I are easily distracted.) When we arrived, 90 minutes into the golden hour, there were so many people there was not place to park. Listen to that: there was no place to park in the middle of nowhere Kansas! No place — let alone a proper place. (And there are parking rules, Jen looked them up).

The second trip was way before the golden hour, and the flowers were a little past their prime, but it was still an amazing experience and I like the images I got while there. Have a look …

Dawn’s Horses

Dawn’s Horses

This is a composite image from several different scenes — Estes Park, Colorado, Canyon De Chelly, Arizona and the Black Hills of South Dakota plus a touch, just a touch, of Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming.

For the Photoshop aficionados, this is a layered file of 4 photographs with varying transparency. I then added a mask to each layer to bring out or hide the details I wanted. When I had the feel right there, I added a vignette. After the vignette, I compressed the layers, I duplicated that layer, added a dry brush filter, altered the transparency, merged those two layers, added a highlight edges filter, altered the transparency and then merged the layers again. I then go in by hand and do some touch ups. Viola, several hours later — Dawn’s Horses. I may still go back and tinker. I always save my layers in progress so I can go back to the bottom and start over if I want.

Below is a copy you can blow up by clicking on it:

Unplanned Cat Art

Unplanned Cat Art

Some days art just happens. It requires almost no effort – you just simply show up and it happens.

And when it comes to photographing cats, well, that’s the only way art happens. Anything else is just a struggle with mediocre results.

I have set up a little studio in my basement. It is the first time ever that I’ve had 24/7 access to set up lighting and a backdrop. Everywhere else I’ve shot with studio lights, everything had to be taken down at the end of the shoot. No  random playing without unpacking everything, setting it up, testing it, etc. etc.

When my latest administrative assistant quit,  I would get very sad looking over at her empty desk. I have been through more assistants than Murphy Brown — so many now, it’s both depressing and comical. So last month when I decided to revisit my Skulls and Flowers project, I decided to heck with it (I used more colorful language, actually), I’ll set up my backdrop and lights and just GASP leave them up!

Here’s how the cats got involved … There’s a table. There’s interesting things on the table like boxes and skulls and set up stuff, etc. And there’s cats in my basement. Two of them: Serena and Rose. Now, if you were to try to pose them — lure them into the backdrop, set things up for success, it would NEVER, ever work. There’s a reason why they liken impossible situations to “herding cats.” Cats do what cats do and that is that — and rarely what is on your agenda meshes with what’s on theirs.

The fun thing is, the cats do like the backdrop. They are frequently in it — when I’m on the phone, when I’m teaching a webinar, when I’m in the middle of a very long editing session with a client — they pose and play and generally look very enticing to my photographer’s eye and as soon as I hang  up the phone, close the class or finish the edits, they’re GONE.

This morning, I came down to do an editing session and just as I hung up the phone, Rose jumped up on the backdrop with Serena. My camera was literately inches from my hand. One flip of the light later and I had cat portraits. I snapped about 10 frames before the battery on my Cybersync shot craps. So off I went to edit what I captured.

When I pulled up the images they were pretty. BUT, I am procrastinating going to the grocery store (I’m actually procrastinating the getting dressed part of going to the grocery store), so I decided to play around with some Photoshop techniques. I love to layer filters in Photoshop with masks and varying opacities. Creating unique combinations of filters and masks can create some amazing results, I’m very happy with the ones from this morning. (For you PS buffs I layered a neon glow filter over my base photo, adjusted with opacity and a mask and then used the Shadows and Highlights adjustment to create depth and clean up my shadows) and then I did brush touch-ups to make it all work.

So there you go … unplanned cat art.

Click to enlarge images below. Scroll a little more if you don’t see them right away.

Serena SOOC (straight out of camera)

Rose SOOC

Serena with filers applied.

Rose filters applied.

Two Miles in Kansas

Two Miles in Kansas

Tonight when I stepped out on the front porch I felt it … I felt that first little hint that the seasons will change soon.

I know summer’s not over yet.

I know Autumn is a ways away — but I still felt it coming. Like a prophecy.

The cool breeze. The bluer than blue sky. The green of June turning to the ripe gold of October.

It reminded me of a walk I took a while back through the Kansas prairie. I thought maybe I’d see if you’d like to come a long with me as I remember strolling through the tall grass into the scant timber and past a simple creek …