Advice From an Avid Learner

Camping Myakka-30

Here’s something I question.  As an artist (photographer) we see things differently than others, and because art is subjective, there will always be works we like and works we dislike; I get that.  What I don’t understand is a photographer who has an eye for their subject, yet they don’t do anything to make their photograph exceptional.  I don’t mean necessarily over working it in processing, but just brining out details or taking it from a different angle.  I know I’ve been guilty of not doing much to photos, but I do try.  One of the areas I am a full believer in is learning, you must continually learn your craft if you want to be better.  You must have the tools to enhance and to make your photograph even better than what it shows in camera.  You must learn from those who are more advanced than you and have been around the proverbial block a time or two, and you must apply what you learn to your own style.

Here are some suggestions that may help: 

Follow photographers on social media who’s work you admire and try to understand why you are drawn to their work.  I personally follow many photographers, some are friends and some I simply find because I look for what appeals to me.  Join groups online and places like Flickr, NG Your Shot and a few other’s where you can follow the work of some GREAT photographers.  Join groups on Facebook, however, be warned if you post something be prepared for it to be torn apart by some not so friendly folks who feel their work is superior to anyone else’s.  I limit the groups I’m in to only those who are closely monitored, and where I can develop online friendships with some awesome people.

Join a club or group and get hands on with them.  Learn a new skill, take a class or just go out shooting with them; PAY ATTENTION and ASK QUESTIONS!  I love to teach and if you come across someone who won’t allow you to ask how they got the shot, then move on, be with people who are not afraid to share knowledge.  I shoot concerts and I am always willing to teach someone else how to get the shots I get.  Are there better concerts photographers than me……oh heck yeah!  I’m still learning, and improving with each and every click of the shutter.

Ask for advice, ask for critiques and always stay open minded about what someone tells you.  Have I gotten my feelings hurt? Oh you better believe I have, no one likes to be told their work is awful. However, I have a group of pros I know I can rely on to ask either for help or for a critique. They genuinely care and I trust them.   Leave your ego at the door, there will always be someone better than you are.

Stay away from photographers who feel as if they know everything and don’t need to learn any more; they are not the ones to help you to improve.

Be helpful to someone newly learning, don’t come across as a know-it-all.  A couple of people I have “mentored” over the past few years, are phenomenal photographers. One  is currently working with photographers on an NFL team and is doing quite well on his own, the other is learning and gaining hands on knowledge and improving daily.  They know when I critique their work or explain an improvement, I’m not being hurtful, I want to see them succeed. They will take their talent to new levels far surpassing anything I have done and I’m really proud of them!

Remember, posting a mediocre photograph on Facebook and getting the oo’s and ah’s and “Likes” from your friends is not a critique and can be more harmful than good; why? Because it will cause you to think you don’t need to improve.  I know this is harsh, but if you want to be a better photographer then you need to have people in your life you trust to give you the real, sometimes hard truth about your work.

Always remember “You are only as good as your last photograph” – Unknown

 

North Carolina Bound

I have not taken a vacation, a real vacation in more than a dozen years.  I carry a pretty heavy schedule majority of the time due to working a full time job and photographing events and concerts thought out the year.  But this year I decided I needed a break, a long two week break in the mountains of North Carolina.  My best friend of almost fifty years lives in a little town called Concord.  So on October 15 I boarded flight 818 and headed north. IMG_1422

It was a very short flight; less than an hour and a half and was uneventful.  We landed on and I made my way across the tarmac to my waiting friend.  I should mention that she too is a Debbie.  When I got off the plane the temperature was cooler, but still warm, however I was in for a surprise.

On Tuesday we took off on a road trip up through the Pisgah National Forest and up through the mountains searching for some color and some waterfalls.  The color was missing from this scenario as North Carolina had longer than normal summer temperatures which was keeping the leaves from changing.  Not to mention two hurricane’s had passed through the area.

Our first stop was a little diner where I enjoyed a nice plate of NC style BBQ, one word; Yum!  Our adventure continued as we drove through the mountains of the Pisgah National Forest and the weather took a turn and it started to rain.  This did not stop our trekking the beaten path to find a waterfall; not only did I find one, but a covered bridge too!  Giant score for me photographically speaking.  The rain was coming down pretty steady but my excitement built as I heard the sound of rushing water and once we arrived the sound became deafening, but in such a wonderful restorative way.IMG_1373North Carolina-3

This next week we stayed close to home and I was able to photograph some local birds and experience a change in temperature.  Then on Saturday our other best friend flew in so we made another road trip into Charlotte to pick her up. Did I mention she too is a Debbie? (North Carolina will never be the same).

 

That weekend we invited a few friends who live in the area over for a gathering, it was great to see them and to meet their families.  So much love in one place……incredible.

On Monday October 22 we three Debbie’s took off on a road trip once again.  We drove up through the Blue Ridge Parkway and I was able to find more color, the temperature had dropped from the upper 70’s to the mid 30’s and settled around 45 degrees.  For this Florida girl it was cold, but the crisp air, sharing time with my best friends and just enjoying the ride and the color seeping through the trees was something I can’t explain in words, only heart can.  We drove up to about 5000 feet, found a lovely little restaunt to have lunch  and then off to find Linville Falls.  We didn’t hike to the top, but I was happy with what we found.  Continuing our drive we found icicles popping out of the side of a mountain.  So we pulled in to a parking area and I hiked back to the area where water was seeping out of the rocks.  My lungs were screaming with the thinner and colder 37 degree air, but it was so beautiful.

I needed this time away, I needed to do some life reflection and to be with my girls who know me so well.  I have not laughed or loved like this in a very long time.  They are amazing; we are amazing to have had this friendship of 50 years that is so deep and unshakeable. The T-shirts Debbie brought us says it all the back has the three D’s and it says “True Friendship Grows Forever”.

I love these girls so much and I was sad to depart.  I will be back…..again.

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A Difficult Time

During the summer I don’t work much, I mean I have my day job, but I don’t get to shoot much and I end up just staying at home trying to come up with things to do.  I don’t do boredom well and tend to retreat into myself.  I miss shooting concerts, I miss shooting events.  I’ve done a few local bands, and I’ve taken on a fairly large project with a small business, but it’s just not the same for me.  In a month I’m heading for a vacation to North Carolina for two full weeks I’ll be in the mountains, breathing fresh clean air and capturing nature at her best, I feel this will be the renewing I need.

I know fall is coming and life will start to get crazy again and I will be in my happy place once more.  Until then… I’ll just keep going.

Review: Styx, Tesla & Joan Jett

On Sunday June 17, 2018 three iconic bands from the 70’s & 80’s took the stage at MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheater in Tampa, Florida.  Styx tours yearly and always has an incredible line up of stars with them.  This year was the band Tesla and Joan Jett & the Black Hearts.

Tesla opened their eight song set with a rocking start as lead singer Jeff Keith belted out I Wanna Live then went right into Hang Tough.  Vocally Jeff was strong as he worked his way across the stage, giving the audience a show of his still youthful moves and kicks.   Mid set they performed the iconic Signs cover from Five Man Electrical Band. It was an incredible fifty minute set.  Dave Rude (the only “new” member) is fun to watch on stage, he plays to the audience with flair.  Overall they were tight and the audience was into the experience.

Next up was Joan Jett and the Blackhearts.  I saw Joan Jett last year and wasn’t really impressed with her vocals, however this year she was on the money.  Her Vocals were strong and remained so throughout her sixteen song set.  She began her set with Bad Reputation and continued with several of her own songs and quite a few covers such as Cherry Bomb from her former band The Runaways,  The Arrows I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll and Tommy & the Shondells Crimson and Clover.  She also performed I Hate Myself For Loving You and Fake Friends.  Overall her set was solid and she performed well. Unfortunately there are no photographs as no one was approved for Joan.

Last up was STYX, iconic and strong and one of this writer’s favorite 70’s & 80’s bands.  This band does not disappoint. Lawerence Gowan (1999) is not just a great vocalist, but he’s an incredible showman and fits right in with James “J.Y.” Young (founding member 1970), Tommy Shaw (1975), Ricky Phillips (2003) and Todd Sucherman (1996).  STYX opened their set with Overture which showcased each member as they entered the stage and opened with Gone, Gone, Gone followed by Blue Collar Man and The Grand Illusion.  The set continued with them doing all of their best hits such as the rock ballad Lady and Too Much Time on My Hands.  We were waiting on founding member Chuck Panozzo to make an appearance; as he normally does and I heard he did in Oklahoma.  However, it did not happen in this show.

The only cover was Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody performed by Lawrence Gowan.  STYX closed their set with Come Sail Away  and encored with Mr Robotoyes, you read that correctly.  Renegade was their final number for the evening.

 

Over all this entire tour was fantastic and delivered all that was expected.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time Off

Autumn through Spring has me hopping when it comes to photography work.  Lots of concerts keep me from having very much free time and when I get any, it’s only for a few hours at most.  I do a lot of traveling and with editing my personal time is at a premium.

The past few weeks I have had completely free weekends and I took advantage and went camping.

My first adventure was over Mother’s Day weekend where I spent a lot of time with my youngest son Tommy Owen  at Trail Lakes Campground where I stayed in one of the wonderful cabins.We took an adventure and walked through an area where no one really goes.  It was around a lake that was full of alligators and nesting Green-back Herons.  Sometimes we didn’t really have a path to follow, we just allowed the lake bank to guide us.

 

 

We finished the day with dinner then off to Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk to attempt some night photography.

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The streak is an airplane

This past weekend I went camping at Myakka River State Park, it’s been a few years since I have been there and I made sure to secure my favorite spot.  The first evening was beautiful and I did a lot of shooting.

 

Saturday I went to The Ringling Museum for the morning and afternoon.

 

Upon returning to my campsite a heavy rainstorm ensued.  The rain continued all through the night and into the early morning.  I ended up leaving a little early because of the rain.  It was still a great weekend to be away enjoying the natural environment.

This weekend will be back to my concert shooting, so watch my Facebook page for some upcoming photos.  Until next time, from behind the lens.

Whirlwind Weekend

April – what can I say? It’s been one of those months and we are just halfway through.  My weekends are here and gone before I realize it, yet I’m invigorated by the bustle of it all.  I have had something every single weekend and will have until mid May.  I’m still booking portraits and other shoots on top of this during the week so my time to sit and write has been limited, but I wanted to share with you my audience what I’ve been about the past few weeks.

The highlight has been Stars on Ice.  If you are not familiar it is the Ice dancing show with our Olympic Champions.  It’s so exciting to mingle with these young people who are so passionate and excited about their sport, many fresh off the plane from PyeongChang at the 2018 Winter Olympics.  This was my second year being hired by Stars and it was even better than last year, the show was incredible!  The skaters so kind and friendly and fresh faced.  Adam Rippon (Silver medalist PyeongChangcame) up to me and introduced himself , Charlie White (Gold medalist with his partner Meryl Davis, Sochi winter Olympics) remembered me from last year and did something quite special for me……I still get chills thinking about it (you’ll see it in the photo).

Meryl & Charlie-3

I take nothing for granted, I know how special this is and I look forward to doing it again next year!

 

Writer’s Cramp or Brain Cramp?

I feel so inspired lately, so many things to write about yet I have a difficult time just putting it all down in the written word. It’s not because I don’t know how to start, or what to write, but the motivation to sit in front of the computer for another forty-five minutes to an hour after I get home from work is not something I want to do.  I’m on the computer all day at work, and when I get home even though I have a brand new shiny computer, it’s the last thing I look forward to.  I remember feeling this way when I worked a day job where I was on the phone all day, I would come home and avoid talking to anyone on the phone; I was burned out from answering questions and putting out fires eight hours a day.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the computer, the feel of my fingertips lightly stroking the keyboard, and as a trained typist, I enjoy the physical activity of typing. I enjoy the look of the words on the page, the satisfaction of seeing something I have created being posted for the world to read.

How do I overcome this aversion for my home computer?  I thought getting a new iMac would be the key to my success; nope, it’s not.  What about the prompts I try to write in my Passion Planner each week, that should do the trick, nope it didn’t.  Then what? What do I need to do to bring it all together and get the words jumbled up in my head down into written form?

I have to understand where my head is before I can get my behind in the chair and my fingers on the keyboard:

First, I feel if I’m not editing photos, I’m not being productive, or I get lured away to Facebook land and there goes my focus.  Second I need something to motivate me, something to lure me to log on and start writing. And third, it comes back to the mentality of maybe I’m not good enough to do this; the negative self-talk that undermines my confidence.  Understanding the few things I listed helps me to see what I need to work on to clear my mindset. How-To-Remove-Negative-Thoughts-From-The-Subconscious-Mind

Addressing the first issue is easy; I have to put in my brain that I am being productive when I write, it is part of my overall business of photography.  Next, I need to set a timer and not allow myself anywhere near Facebook until the timer goes off.  The second issue is I just need to stay ahead with some good content, blog my activities and where and when I’ve been photographing, add more reviews of the artists I photograph and the equipment I use.

But it goes much deeper than any of that; My self-talk is not always kind, and when it’s full-on beating me up, the doubt slides in and goes for home base.  A good friend of mine Karen Zeigler wrote a great blog a few days ago titled “Tired of Peeling the Onion? Stop Peeling the Onion, It’s Time to Fry it Up!” (don’t you just love that title?) you can check it out here: http://karenzeigler.com/stop-peeling-the-onion-its-time-to-fry-it-up/

Karen has been a great mentor for me, mostly from a distance, but she knows how to ask those hard questions, the kind that open you up piece by piece and help you get to the meat of the issue.  She has a way of giving me the words I need to hear, even if I don’t want to hear them, and she uses her God given gift of writing to do so.   I’m thankful for strong women like her who push me out of my comfort zone to do the hard stuff; digging deep and releasing what’s been holding me back, “Peeling the Onion”.

Until next time, from behind the lens.