In this very room. . .

Memorial United Methodist Church, Thomasville, NC

Today in PHO 241 class we learned how to mask a photo using the graduated filter. I used the technique to bring out the beautiful sky behind this church. It is really cool to learn to make so so photos better and to make good photos great. I liked this photo already, but the little extra I was able to add to the sky makes it an even better photo of a special place.

This is my church. It is a place of respite, a place I call home and a place where the people are my adopted family. I have missed this place during the days of Covid-19. It has been a huge part of my life and my family’s life for a very long time. I recently was allowed to go in and photograph the sermon that is now shared online only. I had promised I would come in and snap a couple of shots and get out of the way. But just walking in there, felt so restful and reassuring, that I just settled into the choir loft and stayed the whole time. They didn’t mind. They know me there. That Sunday, back in my familiar space, listening to voices that nurture and support, I was reminded of a hymn our choir sings often. “In This Very Room”. The song says that in this very room, there’s quite enough love for all the world, quite enough joy for all the world, quite enough hope, quite enough power to chase away the gloom. For Jesus is in this very room. Covid-19 has reminded me that Jesus is not confined to a room, he is not closed up in the church and he is with me, even if I cannot go to my church home the same. Perhaps this is the time he is reminding us that the church has no walls.

This photo, that I learned to improve with the beautiful sky above, reminds me that Jesus is outside the church and everywhere I am. This photo, from the outside, reminds me that His room is much bigger than any church and he has quite enough for all the world, even when the world seems far from this very room.

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So This Was Cool

As a photojournalism major, I have to take a photo a day and post it to another blog. It is time consuming, makes me feel like I am bothering people a lot, and most days, I dread it. But I really do enjoy it when I find something interesting to shoot and I really enjoy meeting new people and talking with them. I head out with my camera and note pad and pray I run into something interesting to take a photo of. Often I find boring scenes and the images are not much good to anyone. I hate that.

This particular day, Friday, August 28, 2020, I was driving around desperately seeking something to take a photo of, and passed the courthouse in Thomasville, NC. There was a lady holding a bouquet and some people around her. The little fella in the photo was holding a tiny little point and shoot trying to take their photo. I saw an opportunity for a photo – even if I was crashing a wedding. (desperate times, you know). I jumped out of the car and asked if they minded me taking a photo, and they asked if I would take one for them on their camera too. I said, “Of course!” and told them I would send them the one I take on my camera too. They were thrilled. I sent them a few decent photos of their wedding day and felt for once like I had helped someone with my photo a day instead of just me.

It dawned on me later that I really enjoyed the feeling that MY photo made someone’s day. Made it better. Made a memory for them they would otherwise have missed. It felt good. I don’t think it is the best photo ever made by a long shot, but it reminded me that IF I can learn to be consistent and make good photos, I can use my skills to brighten the lives of others. And that’s a pretty worthwhile use of the skills I am learning at RCC.

Editing: Remedial Level

I believe it was Kirstie Alley who said in the movie “Look Who’s Talking”, “You don’t know how confusing it is when someone you love so much” (reminds you of something you hate.) Okay I changed it a bit for my purposes. She actually says looks like someone you hate. But I thought of that quote while I spent literally hours and hours editing, hours and hours more trying to get things to work like they are supposed to, enlisted the help of people more versed in Lightroom and Photoshop than I (which may include most of the human race), had every glitch PS and LR have ever had (that may be a bit of hyperbole, but I was close), a crashed computer, and so, so many issues. And I only had to edit 3 photos. I’ve heard people say they can edit one photo a minute. I hate those people at this moment. You can bet I will be hiring them to do my editing one day.

I was looking at my dear, wonderful, supportive daughter’s face, while cursing all things Lightroom and Photoshop this week. I really like her face, love her soul and admittedly never look at her and think of things that need editing. But editing was the job at hand and I tried to use every tool and trick and option I learned about this week, yet make sure I kept the photo looking like Payton. Here is the finished project.

Say a prayer for me. I understand next I will be editing Paul or Jimmy and I don’t even know them, much less like them already. My faulty computer may end up in a lake next week. Pray hard.

P.S. I don’t have Payton’s permission to post this. Sorry, Payton (you’re beautiful btw), but I had to post something from an assignment.

Getting the Bugs Out

As of the eighth day of school, I have experienced so many technical issues that I am starting to wonder if it is MY operating system that is outdated. It is no secret that I am not a spring chicken. I grew up in the days of analog. I didn’t get a smart phone until well into my 30’s. And when I was in college, the first go around, it was still being debated whether this whole PC concept would ever take off.

Fast forward to now, and my mind is blown by technology on a daily basis, particularly since I am enrolled in an extremely technical degree program like photographic technology. Everything is a computer, everything has its own kinks and particularities to learn, everything wigs out from time to time. I use multiple brands of cameras, sometimes in a pinch and on a deadline for the very first time ever. In fact, picking up a piece of completely unknown equipment and using it quickly and effectively in a rush is expected, required and graded harshly. To say it is high pressure would be an understatement. And I’m feeling the crushing weight.

Lest you think this is my first 8 days ever in the program, let me back up. I completed year one in July 2019 with all “A’s” and one “B+”. I was proud of my effort and work. I came in as green as grass, knowing pretty much nothing about photography and frankly, worked my ass off. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t want to learn and do well and I am willing to do the work. I had to take a year away to care for my mother and now am back into the program. I know the program is hard. I expected to take a minute to get my feet under me. I expected to play a little catch-up. I did not expect to crumble in a heap of tears twice already trying to deal with the stress.

What finally did me in yesterday was my laptop crashing the night before. I came on into school and scheduled computer lab time for after class to do my work. It would be fine, I told myself. I held it together and even enjoyed filming video all morning while that niggling fear, of how will I ever get my work done without a computer at home, floated around in the back of my head. Now, on top of assignments due, ingesting photos daily, learning editing, learning things called reviews that are brand new to me, picking up and using new equipment, writing blogs, taking photos that are now expected to be technically perfect (I still struggle with getting sharp eyes – which is kind-of basic at this point – this frustrates me no end), making and editing video, etc. – I HAD NO COMPUTER TO ALLOW ME TO WORK AT HOME! I went to ECO to checkout a school computer at 1pm and was told the first years were in the lab and I couldn’t use them. It was the straw that broke me. Computer lab time is already limited because the department closes at 4:45pm. It used to stay open until 9:45pm so there were hours of computer and lab time available. Thankfully, I was allowed to use one of the two computers in the PJ room. It isn’t my ideal learning environment for concentration, but I did what I could so I would use every minute of computer time possible. At 4:15, I remembered I needed to get my photo a day ingested and turn something in so I didn’t miss the opportunity and get a zero. The only photo I had was terrible – but I turned it in just to get done. Finally, I headed to my car, and completely lost it.

After a night of crying, leaning heavily on family members who helped any way they could and encouraged me that we would find a way, and talking to a very nice lady at Apple support for a long time (more learning about computers), we got my computer to work. But, of course, there is a catch. It is no longer using Mojave OS, it is using Catalina OS. Amanda told me yesterday that Catalina would not work with all my Adobe photo software and Photo Mechanic and I should never install it. I had a choice of that or nothing for now. Even if I bought a new computer, which was on the table at one point, it would have Catalina. So here I am, typing this blog on my Catalina operated computer. . . . . . waiting for another bomb to drop. I hate bombs. I hate the threat of bombs. Maybe I’m not outdated, maybe I’m just a technology pacifist. Is that a thing? I certainly hate all the misery they cause.

I am trudging forward, I am working hard and I will continue to give it my all. I miss my classmates from my first year who knew me well, knew my capabilities, knew my strengths and not just my weaknesses and struggles. I’m off to attempt some editing. If Catalina won’t allow it, I’ll be off to hopefully find a computer in the school lab to work on.

Wish me luck . . . . and peace.

I took a moment this morning to breathe deeply and get outside to clear my head a bit. I found this lovely and watched it flutter about and then take respite on a flower. I’m keeping it as a reminder to myself.

What do I want to be when I grow up?

Kona, the lovable, snuggley companion I’ve abandoned at home.

In class this week I have been asked a couple times already what my photography goals are for the future. Ummmmm….. I have no idea. You might think as a 57 year old woman who has seen a lot of life already, I may have figured something out by now. Silly you. I’m actually pretty proud that I have narrowed my focus to photography at this point. Figuring out exactly where I’m going with it might take me some time. I like to think of my indecisiveness as flexibility – that’s a good thing, right?

I know I want to spend time out in the world, with people, seeing places, telling stories. Photojournalism seems a great way to do that. I kind of feel I fit in with the photojournalist vibe, so, I have narrowed it down a little bit. But then, truly, photojournalists have to take portraits, and maybe a commercial shot or two along the way, which leaves me back where I started, I guess. I can think in so many directions that I’m hoping to thrive wherever I land.

This morning when I awoke, I found myself scruffling the necks of my dogs and thinking, “Why did I decide to go back to school?” Why didn’t I want to curl up with you guys and a cup of coffee and relax a little bit more? But it doesn’t take me long to remember that there is a big ‘ole world out there that I am not ready to stop participating in. I have something to offer, something to give back, something to say. And no one will hear me if I am just sitting on my sofa relaxing.

My Second Year of Photography School Finally Begins with Covid-19 Safety measures in place.

Dr. Shackleford, President of Randolph Community College, showing his school spirit and Covid-19 preparedness with an RCC orange face mask on the first day of fall classes, Monday, August 17, 2020.

My second year of photography school was a long time coming, but it has finally arrived! I am super excited to be back learning all things photography at RCC. This photo comes from a lab assignment on my very first day back. I needed some photos to use for a digital layout design and I happened upon Dr. Robert Shackleford in the hallway of the administration building. He graciously allowed me to make a photo of him and asked me to send him a copy.

To say that I am feeling rusty right now is an understatement, but when the president of the school asks for a copy of one of the first photos I take, I must admit I panicked a bit. I would need to first, take a sharp photo, then edit it without turning him green or something. Why on earth would you turn him green, you ask? I am colorblind. As a result, I desperately try to get photos right in the camera, so I don’t inadvertently cast a strange color spell in Photoshop when I’m trying to simply tone or improve the image slightly. After I toned the image, I asked for an expert opinion, made some changes and called it done. If I’ve toned badly, it’s too late – I sent the photo.

I do hope to refine my skills more this year so that I have the confidence I need to consistently present quality work. I’m reminding myself this was day 1.

Growth

“Putting our art out there is one of the biggest risks we can take. It’s a special kind of vulnerability. It takes guts to be an artist.”

Theresa R. Funke

With one week of summer classes to go and a mountain of assignments, tests and prints to complete, I am kind-of numb. Somehow I’m exhausted and exhilarated at the same time. Day to day I’m just trying to keep up and stay afloat, but as this semester ends, even when I goof something up and have to redo it another time, I am realizing that I’ve learned a great deal this year. I began last August as a complete novice and now I can look at some of my work and actually be proud that I did that! Of course, for every image I am proud of, there is a big ole pile of images I am completely aggravated, disappointed and annoyed with. Our instructors tell us that when sorting our photos, we should have a lot of one star images and very few 5 star images. Well, good news! I’m right on track.

For our Custom Color Printing class, I just had to create a small magazine and actually have it printed. It is far from perfect, but I am really proud of the macro photo of a bean seedling with its roots that I put on the cover. I still enjoy macro a lot and am thinking it is calling my name somehow. I am sharing the cover photo here with all the vulnerability of an artist. I hope it speaks to you. It reminds me of the lessons from grade school about the bean seed – The roots go down and the leaves go up. They just know what to do. It is in their genes. I’m hoping what I am supposed to do with my new photography skills is also somewhere in my genes and when the time comes, I will just know what to do too.

Cover for my First Magazine

It’s the Small Things

“Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.” -Mother Teresa

One of the assignments I enjoyed most this past year was our macro assignment. I think it must play into my science background. I like looking under the microscope, seeing things most of us would never see and taking the time to notice this amazing creation we are allowed to live in. I am constantly in awe. I also find comfort in the structure and balance we find in nature as it was intended.

Macro photography is super close-up photography. It produces images that appear larger than life. You’ve seen them. A fly’s eyes. A bee pollinating a flower. Those super zoomed in images of something we see all the time, but not really. I am not a fan of spiders, but even those little jumping kind are just adorable if you get close enough. In our day to day encounters we tend to miss the splendor, the intricacies, the design. I stand in awe of these things and even more so in awe of their creator.

When given an assignment to create a macro photograph, I got absolutely lost in it. In a good way. I photographed a dead carpenter bee I found – the live one wouldn’t cooperate. I photographed watch pieces, flowers, peppers and even a Lego Voldemort with Nagini. Hours passed and then I decided I should add some colorful light. OMG! It was magic. I think I could’ve photographed the tiny things for days, but I had to settle on one to turn in. I chose this mushroom. I love it. I can’t say that about many of the pictures I’ve taken for assignments so far.

Macro

I Got it from my Dad!

“Color! What a deep and mysterious language, the language of dreams.” – Paul Gauguin

It’s kind of hilarious that I am in photography school where we talk about colors and white balance every single minute it seems and I’m actually genetically colorblind. Red-Green Deuteranopia is my particular flavor and I actually had to inherit a recessive gene from both parents to get it. It can make color a mysterious language indeed. It is extremely difficult to help others to understand what I see. I am constantly asked, when it comes up, to explain what I see. Since I have no idea what you see, its is impossible for me to describe the differences any more than you can describe the difference in what you see. There are all sorts of websites where you can look up photos of the differences if you are interested. You will be able to see the differences – but both photos look the same to me. My instructor, Kevin Eames, pulled up an example of the Macbeth Color Checker that we use all the time in photography the other day to show everyone what we colorblind folk (shout out to MIA!) see. Of course I could not see it.

When I started photography school, I was really afraid to tell them I was colorblind. I kind-of figured it would come up at some point, but also figured I would wait to see when it did. Then, one day in design class that first semester, a second-year student dropped in for the day with this crazy photo of a sign in Memphis. It was wild. So many neon, glowing colors! I asked him if he took that photo – as I was very impressed. He explained it was for an assignment where he was given a copy of the photo with all the colors jacked up and then he had to “fix” the colors in Photoshop to match the original. I nearly had a stroke! This sounded like my worst nightmare!!! I can handle basic primary colors pretty well, but when you start talking about shades and tints and whatever the crazy colors in that photo were – that’s just out of my scope. I immediately went to Dhanraj and confessed and then I went to Kevin and confessed again – I cannot match ridiculous colors!!! They both assured me it would be fine and even though I may not do so well on some assignments, it would be okay. I took comfort and carried on. And now, that horrible assignment is upon me.

I would say at this writing, I have clocked well over 20 hours of editing on that @#&%!! photo trying to “fix” the colors. I no longer am impressed by the picture and I may never go to Memphis just on principle – it has tortured me enough. I’m sure my classmates will be glad for me to turn this in because I’ve asked all of them as well as several instructors for pointers and help. Hey does this look right? What do you mean there is too much cyan? How do those RGB numbers work again? What the heck is cyan and how can you possibly detect it in an orange building? The sky is purple?? Wait, what? It has been a challenge, but I think I’ve come pretty close in the end. I will turn in my best effort on Monday morning and hope it passes muster. I can honestly say I gave it my best shot. (I’m not sure I’m supposed to share the original – but I will share my edits to give you some idea of the challenge) As I look at it now, I think it needs another 20 hours! UGH!

Ugh. . .

OOF!

The end of summer session is approaching and I’m feeling a bit OOF! For those of you who don’t know what OOF means – it is OUT OF FOCUS! I’ve unfortunately had the term applied to many of my images this past year. I’ve often applied it myself with an addition F at the beginning. (This program has “enriched” my vocabulary more than I care to admit.) We are to decide which concentration we will pursue in the fall by summer’s end and I am struggling with the decision.

My options are Photojournalism, Portrait Studio Management, or Commercial Photography. Each has its own appeal and I actually enjoy parts of each, based on my exposure so far. I came to the program thinking photojournalism would be my choice since it involves digging deep and finding people’s stories, it is out and about and speaks to my sense of adventure and meeting new people. But then so does portrait and even commercial. Each just takes a different perspective on the stories, people and the adventures. I’m completely lost as to what to choose. It is almost as if I’m afraid I will miss something no matter what I choose. Can I do all three?

My quandary reminded me of our selective focus assignment from the spring. We used a lens baby, which is a super cool bendable lens, to focus on one part of a scene while blurring the rest of it. I had a blast using it and was wandering all over on several occasions focusing (sometimes unsuccessfully) on all sorts of objects and blurring out their surroundings. My final products reminded me of the Impressionist paintings of Monet, which I do truly love. I do hope to successfully figure out which part of photography I need to focus on in the fall and which parts to let blur off to the edges for a time.