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Happy Anniversary!

Oh, dear! I forgot my parent’s anniversary. It was this past week, and I’ve been doing lots of stuff – between my own projects and this family photo restoration project… It just slipped my mind.

As a treat, I just finished this. I love this candid, street photography! The look on my mom’s face (my niece, Kat Hensch has that same facial structure and I’ve seen that look on her!)  I hope it works for making up for my slip up! I have heard that my dad was a “bad-boy” and my mom was so smitten! I think its funny that they aren’t holding hands! Too cool for that! I think this was taken around 1953. I think my mom was about 14, so I think, my dad was about 16! I remember, too, after we moved to San Antonio, Dad chasing Mom through the house and into the yard for a tickle fest. All us kids jumped in the middle that that too! Now, he gives her love songs for Valentines Day.

(Slide the vertical bar left and right to compare the repairs.)

 

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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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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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Family legacy

Topinka family from Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Topinka family from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

This is my Czech family (thanks to Lauren Snow for posting on FaceBook) from 100 years ago. And it is professionally photographed! The pose gives it away. I just love all the little details and to know that the little girl standing on the far right is my grandmother, Olga Mally. This is what leaving a legacy is all about. From diaries, taped voice conversations and photographs. Things to hold and cherish.
Want to leave a true legacy? Think of things to hold, things to pass down. Diaries and scrap books, framed portraits and lockets with portraits, all these things tend to gain sentimental value as time goes on. Electronic media changes. Let’s look at music in my lifetime as an example: 33 records (listened to my mother’s Elvis records as a child), then came 45 LPs, then 8 track tapes, then cassette tapes, then CDs (and now going back to LPs. My son in law collects them!), to iTunes and mp3s. And now – at the point that LPs are making a comeback, a collector has to be sure he/she can play them on something. Or else, they are just black coasters. Movies have a similar trajectory. As does photography. We have gone into a (nearly completely) digital age. It does simplify life, indeed. But it’s not better. How do you know that the CD or thumb drive full of images you have from your last portrait is going to be readable in 10 years? You don’t. Are you ever going to get anything printed from that portrait session?  You aren’t. But for your grandchildren’s sake, I hope so.

I offer digital “prints” as an add on, only after prints have been ordered. I want to be sure that the portrait we create is a beautiful legacy for your family. Remember, the investment you make today is for tomorrow’s enjoyment.

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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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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.)