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Photography: Where to start?

Photography is a fascinating career. However, if you are just starting out with an interest in taking photos, the question sometimes arises – “What types of photos should I take?” This is not such an unusual question, after all, there are a multitude of interests in which photography can play an integral part. I usually divide photo-topics into three separate categories: People, Places, and Things. In fact, all my images are divided into these three file folders.

People

Bob Hotard
Bob Hotard

In order to begin to fill up this file folder you first have to honestly answer a very important question – “Do I like people?”. While this question may seem like a silly one, it should be answered. Are you a people person? Do you like meeting new people and enjoy making new friends and relationships? Are you the type of person who starts up casual conversations with people with whom you are sharing a checkout line, or waiting for a bus? If you are, then photographing people should be a natural direction for you. This type of photography could involve Portraits, Events, Photojournalism, Fashion, and many other styles that involve your camera and people’s faces, bodies, clothes and gatherings. It’s all about people. And, since there are over 7 billion people currently residing on this planet, you will run out of time before you exhaust the targets that your camera can photograph.

Places

Panorama made by Bryan Snow of SnowPro Photography. All rights reserved, (c)2010-2014
Panorama made by Bryan Snow of SnowPro Photography. All rights reserved, (c)2010-2014

This file folder is easy for me to fill. I like to record beautiful places, places that fill me with joy and bring tears to my eyes. I have been fortunate to travel many places, Taiwan, England, Ireland, Venice, Rome, but the most beautiful places that stir my passions are the National Parks in the U.S. If you love traveling, then this type of photography is certainly for you. In fact, this is an all-inclusive style that unites, people, places, and things in your repertoire of targets, and can be deposited in any of the three file folders. But for some, this type of photography boils down to what is referred to as Landscape Photography. This is the style we see from such greats as Ansel Adams, Eliot Porter, David Muench, and others whose books line the photography shelves in numerous libraries throughout the country. Some landscape photography concentrates on the grand sweep of nature and is best photographed with wide and ultra-wide lenses. Some landscape photography zeros in on the lichens, flowers, and the smaller, more intimate aspects of nature’s realm. Much of the landscape photography we see lies somewhere in between, and, depending on which part of the landscape the composition highlights, can concentrate on the sky, mountains, trees, water, or any number of features that can be found in any number of locations.

Things

Illustrative studio work
Things.

This file folder can contain just about anything that isn’t predominately people and places, and can include images of birds, beasts, and natural and man-made “things”. “Product Photography” can have it’s own sub-folder under “Things”, and can include products that clients need to advertise. These may be, but are certainly not limited to, Jewelry, clothes, kitchen utensils, sunglasses, soft drinks, Bourbon, automobiles, and anything that a client may need to photograph for advertisement. Another folder may include aircraft, boats, bicycles, or ceramic vases. The “Things” folder can become quite large with numerous sub-folders that all count as “Things”. As this article points out, photography has a wealth of targets just waiting to be “shot”. One thing that you should do first, sometimes even before you invest in a “good” camera, is to decide what type or style of photography you enjoy. Usually, this is pretty easy. You ask yourself, “What type of photography do I like to see?”. Once you determine your preference, it will drive everything else you do or buy in your quest to make the images that inspire you the most.

-Bryan Snow

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“Something’s happening here …”

Texas Bluebonnet peeping
Texas Bluebonnet peeping

Call it following my heart. Call it changing focus. Call it the call of the wild. What ever you call it, SnowPro is changing. 

When Bryan and I take road trips, (and we have taken several in the past 3 years) we talk & talk. One of the reasons why we are still together after 30+ years. We always have something to say. During our trek to Yosemite, he mentioned that the spark was gone from my eye for photography. Apparently, I used to get so excited designing lighting or if I would be able to manipulate the existing light that would help illustrate a client’s concept. I thought hard about that statement and I agreed. He asked why? What would bring it back? We talked about the subjects that excite me. Traveling, flowers, spring time, strength and consistancy. We were working on our macro floral project at the time, and we talked at length about that since it was in the working stages and is exciting and frustrating at the same time. I realized that consistency of my own vision was gone because I was always concentrating of creating someone else’s vision!

So we talked about changing the direction of SnowPro. Not that I didn’t enjoy the work I received (I did) or that it wasn’t rewarding (it was). I just felt there might be something more. Something that I had forgotten in my press to make a living. I felt that “something” was a deeper connection to the photography I was creating. As a commercial photographer, I never had a dog in the fight. I brought the tools and the know how, my clients brought the spark of inspiration and concepts. Sometimes it was conceptual or illustrative,  sometimes I simply captured what was in front of me without added art direction. But in reality, I had no “dog in the fight”.

Examples where I captured great images for someone else’s vision.

One of the other things that I felt strongly about is the apparent (to me anyway) loss of strong and feminine archetypes. Not strength via the body building type and not uber passivity, but the strength illustrated in some of the ancient, yet iconic mythologies of women. You may love her or hate her; but Angelina Jolie’s Maleficent was perfect. Those characteristics of being nurturing, providing safety, but yet, don’t F– with me, all rolled into one.

I have always drawn women. I have found the curves that are inherent within a female form easier to draw than the more angular masculine. I think that may be because I never studies life drawing more than what was required for my Graphic Design degree. Men simply mystified me. (Shocking but true). A woman’s face, the openness and the softness, the depth of spirit are simply easier for me to understand. Unfortunately, I stopped drawing altogether when I became a mother 27 years ago. Stopping was not a bad thing as doing a finished graphite fine art portrait was an emotional journey for me, and I had to place my creative energy, life and soul into moulding and guiding a tiny life! (Altogether a very gratifying experience – one that doing a fine art portrait pales in comparison too!) Simply put, I don’t think I had the stamina to keep it up.

Now that small life is a secure, talented, amazing young adult, I can turn myself back to my first desires. To illustrate and to create portraits of strong, archetypal women who may or may not be REAL women. BUT, make no mistake, the “models” I want to use are real women; my neighbors, my past colleagues, my past clients; I want to create soft yet strong, soulful and heartfelt fine art portraits of my amazing family, friends and future clients.

I am using our upcoming “road-trip” as a break to reset my mind and soul. To renew and refresh myself and to gather inspiration from the sights in Venice, Florence and Rome, as its a new way of photographing people for me in general (aka: going back to the basics and accomplish a complete new mindset for me) and in May complete a minor retooling of the studio and equipment used to capture the components of each portrait. SnowPro will continue to create photography to support my current & future clients but I, personally, will be concentrating on creating these fine art portraits of women: mothers, daughters, friends, old and young throughout the summer. I hope to share some behind the scenes videos and share some works in progress as I continue to grow and stretch and learn.

And to be sure, Bryan has supported me, and continues to support me in these endeavors. While his focus has been and always will be astronomy, astrophotography and landscapes, he supports my renewed vision. He is and always has been an emotional rock and steadying hand when I needed one. Without him, this new chapter would not be possible. I ask that you bear with me, and accompany me on this journey.

If you would like to be one of my models (I need several more), contact me! 

Contact me

 

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An Invitation

Just a quick post of what Bryan and I are up to this weekend. We’d like to invite you all to come to the On and Off Fredricksburg Road Studio Tour. We are thrilled to be included as  guest artists in this 8th year of this wonderful art walk.

We have worked on this series on display at Deco Pizzaria (located at 1815 Fredericksburg Rd. in the heart of the Deco District, 210.732.DECO) for the past two years.

About the series:

In this fine art photographic series, we explore the inner beauty of flowers. Each unique bloom is filled with fantastic color and texture. Since one cannot see these views with the naked eye, the Snows use special photographic equipment to help capture these sensual images, making the small details into works of art. Creating these intimate portraits stretched and ignited their imaginations — they hope viewing them does the same for you.

Georgia O’Keefe said it best:

“When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for the moment.
I want to give that world to someone else. Most people in the city rush around so, they have no time to look at a flower.
I want them to see it whether they want to or not.”

So, take a moment to stop and “smell” the flowers this weekend at the Deco District.

Preview of our show (this images are suspended in the windows of Deco Pizzaria and at a minimum are 20 x 30 inches.) You have to see them!

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Laguna Vista Ranch project

We just got back from spending some time down in Pearsall, Tx. We worked on a photographic project for an exotic wildlife ranch. Recently known as Knowles Laguna Vista Ranch, the new owners, Clark Keeshan and Sally Maxwell-Keeshan renamed the ranch to be simply: Laguna Vista Ranch. This place is 1500 acres of wonderful Texas wilderness. From wildebeasts, scimitar horned oryx, axis deer, elk, whitetail and zebra abound! They have a herd of bison, too!

 

In addition to their exotic animals, they have some “pets” that they just love! There are the two tigers: Willie and Waylon and the leopard: Hunter. They also rescued an antelope of some sort – but I cannot (for the life of me) remember what kind it is! These animals are used to people and will interact with you! (Keep your hands out of the big cat’s reach – good advice!)


 

They are working on their new website, and new opportunities to share their space. After we did some dusk photography, Sally served us her famous Cuban Chicken dish with plantains for dinner.  I must get that recipe. We stayed in the “Colorado” room – decked out in antique ski gear and rustic ski decor. Very comfortable, indeed.

After a good night’s sleep, we arose early and met Clark (after filling our mugs with coffee) out in the common area so he could take us to one of the many hunting blinds so we could do our own hunting but with our cameras.  The herds of elk, fallow deer, bison and oryx were out in force. It was a beautiful morning, although the wind kicked up and the clouds blew in. After about 3 hours, we returned to the lodge, and Sally had breakfast ready. Everything was so delicious.

If you are looking for a quick get away – even if you do not hunt – this IS the place to get away. They have a beautiful place situated on top of of the highest point around, perfect to view the sunset or the sunrise from their perfectly appointed patio, swimming pool or hot tup… Look for info about them at their website: www.LagunaVista.com. (We are planning on hosting a photography seminar and safari in the near future! So excited!)

Yes, the photos there are ours (theirs’!) and they have their work cut out picking out new ones. We created a library of over 1000 images for them. I can’t wait to see it finished.

 

 

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Find a way . . .

Macrophotography of Baby's Breath blossom.
Macrophotography of Baby’s Breath blossom.

“Either I will find a way, or I will make one.”
— Philip Sidney

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P Mode.

Choosing a photographer is tough. This is a question that has many facets. Back in “the day” before digital photography, photographers had to choose. What were they going to be. What kind of photography will they be practicing? Photographing people? Photographing landscapes? Things? Animals? These are all specialities. Ones that people chose “back in the day.”

I was always an artist first. From the time I was only a girl, I drew or painted people. Graphite, pen and ink and watercolor were my weapons of choice. I explored my world, my sensuality and spirituality. I drew my friends, my lovers and even my pets. But people remained my favorite to work on. Being able to capture someone’s essence well created such a satisfaction in me. To be able to work on a project and say, “Now, that’s well done”. Years later, I realized that without classic training in painting I couldn’t make a living at it. Being an “older student” with an opportunity to go back to school, I chose what i thought would be the next best thing: Commercial Art and Graphic Design. I worked hard, studied and realized that I had a knack for creating catchy designs. My talent was recognized, and I won several awards in the student division of the professional organization. But I never lost the idea of really wanting to study painting and paint people.

Tricia, Studio Glamour
Tricia, Studio Glamour

Flash forward several years: a marriage and a daughter. Around the time I started to create my family, I stopped creating my art. I picked up my sketch pad many times after my daughter was born, but never could get that old feeling back. I don’t know if it was because I was tired, maybe because my mind was scattered. I couldn’t get it back. So I set it down. And my dream of becoming a portrait artist, too.

I was thrilled for my family when I received an offer from a Fortune 200 company to work in their multimedia department. I had learned graphic design, information design and commercial art BEFORE there were computers on every desk. Before there was desktop publishing and Adobe products, there was CompuSet Type setters, the newest computerized typesetters. Before those, there were actual people whose jobs were known as Typesetters. They hand assembled each word, each phrase, each paragraph of each page you read of a magazine or Newspaper. Of each brochure, each flyer. The designed printed page was a true melding of artistry and skill. A collaboration of designer and typographer and pressman. But I digress. I learned computerized design by going BACK to school again, and learning (would you believe) AutoCad. It was taught as the ONLY computerized graphic design course. Of course, we fell into the danger zone because the teacher taught the program but not the good tenants of design. (Which is a problem today. No one ever wants to learn graphic design, they want to learn how to work in InDesign, PhotoShop and Illustrator.)

Classic Location portraiture
Classic Location portraiture

After a few years in that multimedia position, I had to make a jump. The department went through a major layoff. I survived the cuts, but only because I had many skills they could utilize. Other, more talented designers left, but because my familial background in photography (my dad owned a darkroom/darkroom supply store/gallery in the 1970s) I was seen as a person who could do “other duties as assigned”. 1 week after the layoffs, I was asked to “closed down the photography department and inventory everything, and to keep a bare bones photography system in place.” Within two weeks of this major change, veep of the department called me personally to ask that I grab one of the cameras, to go downtown and make some environmental portraits of their corporate attorneys. I didn’t want to do it. And the photographs were nothing more than snap shots. But I suppose they were “good enough.” It was a dilution of my talents and skill sets. To spend time on learning the tenants of good portraiture, I had to turn my back to keeping up my chops in Graphic Design. I found I enjoyed working with the people, so I chose, through necessity, to be a people photographer. I trained myself, at work and at home, by trial and error, and by lots of reading and study, to be a classic portrait photographer. Not necessarily because I wanted to, but because that is what my “job” at the time required of me, and once I relearned the basic use of the camera, I actually had fun! I realized that I was fulfilling my dream in a way. I was making portraits, albeit with different tools.

Editorial Portraiture in Studio
Editorial Portraiture in Studio

But your talent isn’t yours if you work for someone else. The buying public or the second level managers who you work for (or purchase your product) and people in general have “commoditized” talent. “Is it repeatable?” “Can you write down how to do that, so ‘Kyle’ can do that too?” How many times did my manager (while I was an employee) and then my contract holder say this to me? Too many times to count.

People confuse talent with skill. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard: “Hey – I have that camera.” It doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to learn ANY of this stuff anymore. There is no danger not eating if you blow it while trying to create the art/photography assignment for your final in school. It doesn’t cost $9.00 PER exposure (cost of film/developing/camera) to create portraits anymore. (Do the math for a 10 exposure medium format or a 24 exposure 35mm) And if someone decided to pick up a camera, then they, too, can become a photographer.

Classic location portraiture
Classic location portraiture

I left that company 6 years ago, to create my own opportunities. Over the past 5 or so years, they retained me as a contract photographer for overflow work. This week, my contract was dissolved with that company. Not because I am a shitty photographer or by my choice, but because, the management decided to handle contracts and all independent contractors through a 3rd party. I had 18 months left on my 3 year contract. I have been invited to join that talent /skill pool. I am not sure if I want to go back into that environment of “skilled work”.

I am writing this because I saw on FB, that one of my dear friends (who still works there) posted some fabulous photos of her taken by someone else. This “dear friend” has never hired me to do her family portraits even though I am also a neighbor. When I clicked on the photographer’s name, there were other portraits of this companies employees on his FB page. (Sharing like this got me in trouble with their attorneys..?? Head’s up!) I clicked on a specific gentleman’s photograph taken in front of his books stacks in his home because he looked familiar. The portrait was nothing special – no drama except ALOT of books, it was in focus and it was a good likeness of him. And indeed, it was one of my clients – who came to me, here in the studio last year, to have his portrait made. We even talked about doing this type of portrait in his library, although he hadn’t quite unpacked but he never called back.

Classic Portraiture
Classic Portraiture

In looking at his FB posting of the portrait that we made here in my studio along with all the comments, I took comfort in that everyone loved the portrait I made for him. “Good, classic portraiture.” was one direct quote.

I can hear it now: “Grow a thick skin, Dawn. Its business.” But all I can think of is that I am a good classic photographer, one that has “done” my time, and I do take it personally. I try to give my clients what they want, no fuss, and with a good experience. Personal service.

So, I suppose this begs the question, if proximity is key, and there is no longer any “loyalty” in return customers/clients: what is the point?   Why did these people go to another photographer? I think I know. But I welcome your comments.

(All the portraits shown here were made by me.)