New Year, New Focus

Every year I start out with, “I’m going to blog more, I’m going to shoot more and I’m going to post more”; then, reality hits and it doesn’t happen.  This year, because I want to take better care of myself mentally and not put the weight of this upon myself, I am not going to set any resolutions. However, my usual goal setting is going to happen, because I achieve more when I set goals, but they will be things that will enrich my life and not make it more stressful or things that won’t make me feel guilty if I fall through.

Another thing that is going to happen this year, is I’m going to focus my energy more in doing concerts and open myself up to doing more local band portraiture work.

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I also want to do more nature photography which takes me to my happy place.  I will continue to do the occasional wedding and portrait shoot; in fact I have a wedding on the books for August of 2019 and I know I will be photographing my favorite little and her family a few times this year.  I really want to focus on what drives me which is the music and being out in nature.

I want to grow my Instagram and will be focusing more on the concert side of that with my @photocreationsbydeb page.  I may create a new one for my own personal work with the natural environment, but time will tell.

The point is, I’m not going to goal myself to the degree where I beat myself up if I don’t achieve the goals.  I’m putting them out there, if they are completed, great! If not then that’s ok too and I will just work smarter on the important ones.

A Quick Look Back

In 2018 I decided to take a full vacation, somewhere other than Florida.  I went to North Caroline to spend time with girlfriends who know me better than just about anyone (and they still love me, imagine that!). I began planning early which made the excitement build.  It was such a wonderful trip with lots of mountain air to clear my head and exploring new and exciting places.

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I look forward to a wonderful and exciting 2019!

Happy New Year!

Advice From an Avid Learner

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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.

Music Brings Unity

Music is my first true love.  As far back as I can remember I loved to sing and to perform music and I even took a turn at teaching music.  I don’t get to sing anymore, but I now photograph musical artists as part of another passion; photography.

Music is a universal language, every culture has music and it brings people together in celebrations no matter what the reason.  I have learned something significant in being able to photograph concerts; people are happy when they are listening to music.  I photograph everything from Country to Hip Hop and I have found that people of all colors can come together, love each other and enjoy being in the same place with each other.  Last night was proof that multi-cultures can work together and treat each other like humans are supposed to. It was refreshing to be away from the political crap of division and to just be happy humans; A rainbow of humans out enjoying music.

“I’d like to teach the world to sing
In perfect harmony
I’d like to hold it in my arms
And keep it company
I’d like to see the world for once
All standing hand in hand
And hear them echo through the hills
For peace through out the land
(That’s the song I hear)”

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.

Another Year……Memories

Most of the time I enjoy looking back on my year.  However, this year I slacked, a lot, and I have to make some changes.  I just didn’t get out as much as I normally do.  Even during camping season it seemed it was always interrupted with something I “had” to do.  I wasn’t as intentional as I had been the past few years.  I didn’t create good content for my Facebook page and actually neglected it.  I had something happen that set me off into the “not good enough” thought process, which in turn caused me to  purge a lot of unneeded stress in my social media life. But I would go out and take photos and think, “these are not good, what am I doing trying to create good photos when I can’t do it?”  I really had to shake that mindset; I am my own worst critic.

Life was  disrupted with a move in the middle part of the year and it was during a very stressful time.  I’m still trying to adjust. Then, in September we were hit by one of the largest hurricane’s in recent history. Irma totally upset my world, but I came out a whole lot better than many of my friends did and I can tell you I am most grateful for that blessing.  Yet, the stress was still there and even guilt that so many lost so much and I didn’t.  I can’t explain why it was that way, but it was; again I am so grateful to not have had any damage.

Sometimes life gives you those old lemons and it’s not always easy to make the lemonade.  In fact, I have thrown a lot of lemons away because I just could not bring myself to make them work.  Ever feel like that?

I’m looking forward to a clean start with 2018, I won’t make promises I can’t keep, but I will put a lot more effort into making it an incredible year personally and professionally.

Here’s a look back on what I did accomplish photographically:

 

 

The Cat Knows

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Harpo laying his head on my arm while I’m working

Almost eight years ago I adopted a kitten. Okay he adopted me, because we all know you never own a cat, they own you.  However this little guy literally reached his paws out to me as I made my second pass through the pound.  How could I resist? I brought him home that day.  He’s not like any other cat I’ve ever been owned by, he’s different.  Different how you ask? He’s intuitive; he understands me and my moods better than just about any human I’ve ever been around.

 

On days I don’t feel well he sticks close by laying against whatever is ailing me at the time, headache, stomach, etc..  At times he will even lay on the part of my body which is hurting at that moment.  I don’t know how he knows, he just does.

Yesterday I had spent much of the day on Facebook (yeah I know, big mistake), but I had nothing really planned, all my work was caught up and I wanted to see what was going on with all the political rhetoric (again a big mistake).  I totally understand everyone has an opinion, and each side think they’re right and try to force it upon the opposition to prove their point, but there comes a time to just stop.

I woke up just not feeling right, kind of in a bad mood.  No one else lives with me, it’s just the cat and I, so I had to backtrack as to what triggered those feelings.  This morning I came to the conclusion of how much the negative noise of social media had really affected me over this past election and inauguration of our 45th President. When I realized Harpo had not slept on my bed or next to me all night, I knew he was sensing something wasn’t right with me.  He came in around 5:30 this morning, jumped up on the bed at the far right corner and barely acknowledged me.

How did this happen?  None of those posts were actually pointed at me, but something did happened at the end of the evening that set me off prior to going to bed.  Someone began verbally attacking one of my friends for something she said on a post I had made because she  didn’t agree with his philosophy, I immediately fired back and removed his post.  Harpo picked up on this and didn’t even sit with me on the couch as he usually does, he snoozed on the floor….totally out of character for him.  Somehow his instincts told him I was in a bad mood and he steered clear of me all night and all this morning.  He didn’t even beg for his breakfast, he waited patiently for me to feed him.  I left the house feeling bad, knowing I had upset my little black & white buddy.  He understands me.  I know he will be back to loving me tonight, I will make sure of it. But my point in all of this is, if a cat can pick up on the negativity, then how is it affecting each of us?  I know I didn’t sleep well, and I obviously was in a melancholy  mood, so now what?  First I prayed, asked for the spirit of negativity to be lifted.  Then I made a decision regarding reading what is on Facebook.  I will keep scrolling, if it’s political in nature, no matter what side it’s on I will steer clear and even hide the posts if needed.  I will not engage in any of the online badgering/bullying that is happening and I will choose to be joyful throughout my day.  This year I chose the word “Intentional” as my word for the year to work on in my own life.  I am going to be intentional in what I post, to make sure it’s free of negative language and to make sure it’s uplifting to whoever reads it.  I choose JOY! And I will listen more to my cat, because he knows.

If you would like to read more in depth on this issue, please visit Karen Zeigler’s post: Light, Love and Letting Go

Holiday Wedding

On December 30, 2016 My son Tommy and I photographed a wedding at one of the prettiest venues here in our Fort Myers area, The White Orchid.

This venue consists of a beautiful old Florida style home, with a courtyard full of native plants and flowers a beautiful fountain, and an expansive lawn which reaches to the Caloosahatchee River and a dock perfect for formal photos.

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Due to unforeseen circumstances the wedding party was unable to utilize the beautiful building, however the owner of the venue set up a tent and it was impeccably decorated, and the DJs up-lighting added to the ambiance of the day.

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Photo take by Tommy Owen

 

Our couple were from the cold north and enjoyed the comfort of a Florida winter day. However as the sun dipped into the horizon, so did the temperature, but the wedding party didn’t allow the cold to keep their party from heating up.

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As the formal photos were winding down, the sun was just beginning it’s show of magnificent colors.

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Photo take by Tommy Owen

 

This was the perfect ending to a perfect wedding and we wish Kaylynne & Ryan all the best for their future.

October Madness

October is the month where my photographic life starts to pick up. With the cooler temperatures come more outdoor events  here in the beautiful state of Florida, specifically South West Florida.  I shoot more concerts, festivals and portraits during the fall & winter months than any other time of the year, and some weeks it’s totally crazy.  I  don’t mind  the crazy because October is what I call my “sad” month; it’s the month my father passed away thirty-three years ago on October 17.  I have written before that he too was a photographer and I know if he could see what I have done with a camera he would be incredibly proud of me, but I miss him.  This is also the month my oldest son Jimmy turns 33; where has the time gone?  I was just a young girl of twenty-four when this all took place, truly a lifetime ago.

I have a lot of wonderful events on the books and I’m sure I’ll be writing more as they unfold, but for now………daddy, this one’s for you.

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My father Azle Marteney and my first real camera