Monday, February 10, 2014

my twentieth

My twentieth birthday was on January twentieth, so I knew it would be absolutely perfect. The entire United States also decided to celebrate, so we all got a day off of school to partake in birthday festivities. I have decided that the best kind of birthday is the one where I'm surrounded by my favorite people and we are all adventuring together. Last year my friends took me to a chocolate festival where we ate our body weight in pure delicious, so I wasn't sure how we were going to top it this year. But we found ourselves on the beach, on a particularly warm day, with the sun shining down.

For my own documentation purposes, we rode on a merry-go-round, explored the many shops in town, ate so much candy and so much food, and explored the beach. I am just so in love with the ocean and being able to be near it for a milestone day was a wonderful gift. That, and being with my best friends made it more than what I could have hoped for. For a moment, everything was right with the world.

Friday, February 7, 2014

for study // the process of coming up with ideas

The creative process, or coming up with ideas, is somewhat elusive to a lot of people. Over the years I've been able to figure out how to be able to come up with ideas on a time limit, and come up with several good ones for the same concept. Today I want to share with you my own process for generating ideas, whether that be photo concepts or story ideas or anything else.

Step One: Freak Out

Okay, now that we have freaking out--"Oh crap, I have two photo assignments due in one week plus a fiction writing assignment, what am I going to do?"--out of the way, we can calm down. It's hard to be doing several projects at one time, and the very first step is to freak out so that I can then calm down and focus and get to work. It's also good to write out a list and prioritize each task. Which one is due first, which one will take the most time, etc. are important questions to ask. When you figure out which thing you need to do first, then you're good to go.

Step Two: Brainstorm

A. I gain inspiration from many things. Music is a huge factor, as I often take lyrics and create photos based on them. In 2010 I even did a photo series based on a particular song, which was a huge turning point for my photography. Listen to music, listen to the lyrics, pay attention to how a piece makes you feel, and try to visualize something from the story it tells or how the harmonies affect you. Though it is a cliche, inspiration is literally everywhere. It's all a matter of opening your eyes, trying to look at things from different angles, and thinking to yourself, "How can I turn this situation or this scene into a great photo? A great story?" I like to call this method of being aware of the world "perceptive brainstorming". It's exploiting things already in the world--newspaper clippings, other photos, conversations, words, a mountain scene, anything--and transforming them.

Example one: The idea for this photo came about from the Red String of Fate, which I thought was a very beautiful concept. After I got the initial inspiration, I sketched out ideas, came up with camera angles and props, and went to work!

Example two: While I do sketch out a lot of my ideas, sometimes it's okay to go out without any plan in mind. There was an art installation on the university quad that I knew was too good to pass up, so I made my model interact with it to create this piece. It was in thinking about strings and people's reaction to the piece and how humans are connected that I came up with the title, "Societal Convergence" and I am sure there is a novel hidden in there somewhere.

Example three: This was the final photo in my 2012 365 project. Throughout that year I had been doing a series all about coming out of the fog or funk that I was in and stepping into the light. This was the first photo in that series, and the series was simply putting an image to my feelings towards photography and art.

Example four: This photo was inspired by this song. I wanted to do a photo with a train that would express the feelings I felt from listening to the song.

In taking my Introduction to Graphic Design class last semester, I came away with several other brainstorming methods that I now use in everyday life. These are from the book Graphic Design Solutions by Robin Landa, which is overall a great resource for creatives, even if you aren't interested in Graphic Design.

B. The first tool from the book to generate ideas is "Group Brainstorming", which is pretty self-explainatory. It's the idea that a problem is presented to a group, and when one person thinks up an idea, it triggers more within the group. To apply it specifically to myself, whenever I get a new assignment for my photography class, the first thing I do, even before I do perceptive brainstorming, is present the assignment to my friends. They all have varying degrees of creativity, which allows each of them to contribute something different. For example, my latest assignment was based on the prompt "A strange day, indeed." Super vague, right? This one was a challenge for me since because it was so vague, I couldn't really grab onto anything from the prompt to take it to something different. I thought of doing an alien photo like I did in 2010, but wasn't really keen on doing something like that. Everyone in my apartment wracked our brains for a couple nights, until finally one person thought, "Let's do something like Narnia!" It might have been a joke, but as I looked outside with snow starting to fall on the ground (a very strange thing indeed for this part of Oregon), and saw it swirling around the lamp posts, I knew it would be perfect (that photo will be released in the next couple of weeks!).

C. Another way to generate ideas is "Mind Mapping", which is a way to organize word associations. You draw a circle around a starting word on a sheet of paper, then let similar words branch off of those, until you have a map of many different avenues and streets.

D. A third way is to simply create. The best way to not have writer's block? Write! Sometimes you just have to draw out weird things that make no sense to get ideas. One thing I like to do is scribble on a piece of paper and then try to picture a scene from the nonsense. It's a fun way to come up with ideas.

Here's a quick example of mind mapping and scribbling. For the mind mapping, I came up with a silly portrait idea of someone holding melting ice cream, or an epic scene of someone traveling inside a dark tunnel, or the idea of how a forest fire is started by a single spark. For the scribbling, I saw the face of a cute old mountain man with birds and twigs and things living in his beard. In fact, I think there's a poem about that, which is another great place for inspiration!

Step Three: Be Brave!

Above all else, it's important to be brave when coming up with ideas. Don't let any thought be too out of the ordinary or too extravagant. And then go out and do it! I have so many photos that have never been published online because they didn't quite work out, but that's okay. I can revisit those ideas when I'm more skilled, and I know what I want and what I don't want from a photo. The point is to be brave and try everything.

Here was the complete process I went through to create this photo.

I freaked out a bit, because my birthday was coming up, because I had done birthday portraits for the past few years, and because I didn't have any ideas for this year's photo. Then I calmed down and thought. Last semester I did a research paper on Sylvia Plath's Bell Jar in which I discussed the separative self. I became obsessed with the concept because it had so many different facets to it--being different things for different people, having complex personalities, forgetting who you really are--so after I figured out I wanted to create a photo based upon that, I sketched. The top sketch was my first crude idea of going for a straightforward interpretation of the concept. The second sketch was a bit more detailed. I played around with lines a bit, and I also wrote some text to go along with the piece. The motif of water that I used in the text helped me determine the drips in the photo (which can also represent the disintegration of the internal self). Then I shot the actual photo. Once I finished shooting, I let the idea sit for a few days and then I brought it into photoshop. Here it is good to note that photoshop is another great tool in generating ideas, as oftentimes my initial idea for a photo changes when I bring it up on the program. This is a good example of that. You'll note that in the final photo, only three heads ended up being used. It's important to be okay with the fact that your ideas might change. In fact, it's likely that they will change, whether they be a photo or a story you're writing or anything.

And above all else, use the fear of failure as fuel to push you harder and farther. If you're afraid you're not creative or you don't come up with good ideas, put that thought in a deep, dark cave and burn it. Because generating ideas is nothing more than observing the world and making sense of the things we see. It may take a while, maybe even years to get to a place where idea-generation comes naturally. The fact of the matter is that it is natural, but too many people ignore that ability and become stiff. It takes a bit of time to loosen up the joints, but have patience, be brave, and have fun!

If you want to read a bit more about improving your creativity, be sure to check out this article as well.

Friday, January 31, 2014

January White.

dress: thrifted // skirt: modcloth // hat: forever 21

Honestly, I think January is my favorite month of the year. New beginnings, fresh snow, a chance to start again. It's the time to go back to school and work harder than ever, a time to look back on the past and look forward to future possibilities. Plus it's my birthday month, leaving it the ultimate nostalgic and contemplative month of the year. Beginnings are so beautiful to me, and January is a month filled with my love. Quiet snowfall, fresh snow, snow twinkling with what's to come. Wind blowing through trees and our bones, making the warmth of home ever sweeter. Then the magic of warm sun on a beach, a chance to be a kid again, sand twinkling with what's to come. Yes, I live for January. Here is a song for you.

I hope you have a wonderful day.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

william's senior photoshoot part i // anchorage, alaska

On an especially cold Alaskan day, my brother and I trekked to one of the many parks in the city to take some quick photos. I can hardly believe he's already a senior, and that I get to be the one to take photos with him. Hopefully when I go back up for spring break we will be able to take a few more, because he and I have some really great ideas for conceptual pieces. One thing I love is getting to make more creative works with seniors, especially if they are willing to do so!

Can't believe my little brother is a senior in high school! *tear*

Hope everyone's week is going good!

Monday, January 27, 2014

family shoot // anchorage, alaska

The same day as this shoot, I was able to take photos of this adorable family. I loved the love that they shared for each other, and they were so open about it, which made my job that much easier! This little boy was especially awesome. Immediately after I met him, he was ready for his close up. Such a photogenic little kid! Being around kids is seriously one of the best things ever, and I'm so glad I got to hang out with this one and his family for a few hours.

Monday, January 20, 2014

on the fictional; // today is my birthday

On the fictional;

We change who we are for different people, and as the separative self emerges, the chasm between who we truly are and our societal self becomes a river. Every drop of water has the kinetic energy to change our lives. Or this is our desire to please everyone. It stretches the self thin and shallow, but wide enough to cover those who don't care whether they are warmed by our blankets or not. When will the edges begin to fray?

On the reality; #1

People hide emotions. You never know what demon is haunting a stranger you brush shoulders with. One escaped word is a drop of water to change a life, either to create a chasm or fill a hole.

On the reality; #2

Years pile upon one another in a disorganized mess, but it is in cleaning up that we see each little drop of water shaped us. What could have been different? How might have life been life if? No matter. We control the effects of the water. Baptize us and make us better people.

Today is my twentieth birthday. I have taken photos for my birthday for the past several years, and it's a simple way to see not just how much I've grown physically, but photographically, technically, and so on and so forth.

On turning seventeen, I was in the height of exploring myself. I cut all my hair off, listened to weird music, and took even weirder photos. I was struggling to know myself, experimenting with art, and learning about everything I could.

On turning eighteen, I didn't know what I was doing, didn't know the direction I was going to go, and was scared of the future. I was dreaming of new opportunities and new adventures.

On turning nineteen, I was on the verge of those dreams, excited and confident in who I was, feeling like I had finally found my place in the world. I was seeking and growing and stretching myself like I never had before.

And on turning twenty? I find myself in a place of contentment, but also a place at the base of a mountain, gearing up to trek to the top. Twenty is a strange concept to me. Now I am no longer a teenager, and when I was younger, this was the moment I was supposed to have my life together. But I am still just as fragmented as ever, only now I realize it's okay. I don't even have to spend my life trying to put those pieces together, because maybe instead I'm meant to give them away.

But now we are going to switch gears a little bit, because an unspoken resolution for this year was for me to show you guys more behind-the-scenes and tutorial type things for every one of my personal photos.

These two photos are straight out of the camera, aside from a little bit of RAW processing. Though it appears like I shot in a fancy studio with fancy lighting, I actually shot this simply in a dark room with my laptop as the only light source. My laptop is fairly lightweight, so it's easy to move around and hold up for a photo. Alternatively you could use a cell phone light. It's a simple solution to the never ending problem of adequate lighting.

Other than that, I blended together the faces in photoshop, added the drops using a combination of the smudge tool, the paintbrush, and lots of curve adjustments. Then it was just a matter of adding the perfect amount of contrast to make the message come through.

Mouseover to see the before and after:

Thursday, January 16, 2014

family shoot // anchorage, alaska

On a crisp Saturday morning, this adorable family and I had a little adventure in one of the many parks surrounding the city. I am always so thankful for clients like these, because not only do they show me great locations, but because they are easy, stress free people, and share a beautiful love for one another, which I think is pretty obvious in these photos.

Thank you so much to the family for allowing me to photograph a small portion of your lives, and to potential clients, you can always check out my work and pricing information on my website.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

for study // all things grow

(the moment I knew what I wanted to do with my life)

I've actually been writing this post over several months, and requiring it for class only gives me the push to actually finish.

It's so strange and beautiful to me how little, inconsequential things in one's life can build up to giant things; how little actions you took as a child transformed you into the person you are today and prepared you for opportunities and challenges that you could have never dreamed up. For everything that I am passionate about, there was great influence to culture those passions from my childhood--specific, perfectly timed things that are only labeled after looking back.

For photography, I never considered it a possibility for someone to have a job taking photos until I was a junior in high school (about halfway through my first 365 project). I never imagined that the photographic medium would mean so much to me in my "adult" years, and yet I can see so many things leading up to this moment. I can remember spending summers in my grandparents' town when I was in kindergarten and first grade. We would go to the local walmart so I could purchase disposable cameras, and then I would consequently go home with literally hundreds of photos of the alley cats that I sought out. Hundreds. And of course there were the typical junior high dressing room photos and camp photos, and I loved making ridiculous videos with my friends and siblings. It wasn't until January 1st, 2010, that I thought, "I think I'm going to start a 365 project!". It was that insane, impulse decision that changed my life and sparked a passion that I'm seeking to exploit forever. Who knew that the crazy cat photographer would end up being a real photographer? It was because of other photographers who I met in real life after following online for years, the magazine publications, the clients who trusted me to take photos of important events in their lives, and the biggest Triple "S" Award that showed me that maybe I could actually do this. And in this day where everyone is a "photographer", encouragement is absolutely necessary. Photography is for the special few; it is a unique and beautiful opportunity, but it also is a great responsibility to bring along the people who can't be there in person. I want to have that responsibility.

For writing, its always been in my genes. My mother is a freelance writer (and on a separate thought, I recently learned that photography is in my genes as well--my late grandfather was a film photographer), and my little sister is also a writer. It's in our family and was a profession I always dreamed of doing. I've told this story before here, of when I wrote my first "story", but the answer to our assignment is this: I've always wanted to be a writer, and no matter how much I run away from it, it is in my blood. There was the typical elementary school writing assignment, and my teacher was so impressed that she had me read it in front of the class (that is the story I am still dreaming of to this day), then there was a different teacher in seventh grade who encouraged me to submit poetry (and then a short story) to an anthology book, then magazine publications, scholarships for writers conferences and specifically Caleb Breakey, who was one of my mentors and greatly influenced how I write, and the list continues ... Everything is a stepping stone, building up to this moment in life. Everything I've ever done builds up to the moment that I am living in now, and then that moment becomes a stepping stone for the next moment. It goes on and on until my life is complete.

Even with things like graphic design, blogging, and social media that I'm interested in today were stemmed from designing birthday invitations on Microsoft Publisher and creating Neopets layouts with HTML (ten year old Lauren was really popular, let me tell you), and keeping random diaries. Everything I've grown up doing has just been cultivated and honed into what I currently want to do--and what I hope to do in the future.

Recently I had to "defend" my two majors of English and Art in order to get financial aid (it was accepted, just for the record), and every day it seems, there is just one more thing that makes me realize that these two things of Writing and Photography are the two things I'm meant to be doing in life. From teachers and editors and colleagues and publishers and photographers and artists encouraging me, especially in times when I've doubted myself (and trust me, that happens nearly every day), I am reminded that everything in life happens for a reason, and my experiences and struggles and crazy hobbies all have a purpose.

I am so thankful that these things I am interested in are intricately connected. I need writing to portray my photo concepts, discuss methods and give tutorials, let people know about what I'm photographing, email clients, etc.. I need photography to help visualize writing concepts, for cover design, for description. I need blogging for both, to market myself, to show my work, and social media also helps in this way as well.

Okay, well I want to keep talking about this subject of growing passions from childhood, but I'm done talking about myself. I really and truly want to hear about the little things that brought you to this moment in life right now. From you bloggers and fashion people, to the scientists and writers, and everyone in between, let's continue this conversation! I know we've talked about passions before, but now I want to get into everyone's beginnings. Since we are all human and have a story to share--and deserve to have it be shared--let this be the place where it's shared. I would love to hear your thoughts!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

my winter break

with iphone photos

This morning found me waking up in a groggy haze, as I usually do when the buzz of my alarm goes off. Snow was falling as it usually does, and a cat was purring at my feet as he usually does. Only this morning I pulled a suitcase behind me, wore a new hat on my head, and kissed the head of every furry creature and loving human in my house. It always feels weird coming back home, like everything starts up again right where I left off. Who knows if hopping off the plane in Oregon will feel the same way, even though I've done this many times before. I'm always nervous-excited about what the future holds, even the immediate future. Especially the immediate future, when I know that one action will lead to the next one, then the next one, and before I know it my entire life will have passed by.

This upcoming semester I'm taking more classes for my majors, Intermediate Ceramics and Intermediate Photography, Studies in Writing and Writing Fiction, and then a Psalms class and Philosophy of the Arts. I'm also meeting with professors to hopefully audit (or do an independent study of) a Portfolio Development class, which I really hope I'll be able to do. I am always so excited to go back to college, but there is a part of me that will miss the mountains, the fresh salmon, and the ever changing northern lights. So many kids can't wait to get out of Alaska, myself included, but once you get out, there's always something that draws you back, and you begin to wonder why you ever wanted to leave in the first place.

This has been a good break though. I felt comfortable with being alone, kept myself busy at home, and was excited and engaging when I hung out with people. It's been a time to simply relax and renew, to take a deep breath before plunging into another semester and another year. Though I say it all the time, I am very excited to see what this year holds, and where my photography will take me.

For now it is taking me back to my beautiful state of Oregon, with its rolling hills and tall trees and perfect, perfect beaches. I am a hopeless romantic with everything in life, locations probably most of all. I am in love with every tree and mountain and vineyard we drive past, and being reunited with it all is one of the best feelings ever. Stepping onto the airplane in Alaska is sad, because I am leaving part of myself behind. Being in the air is pure bliss, because I find part of myself within the clouds and the unsheltered sunlight. Stepping off of the airplane and taking those first steps in Oregon is like falling in love, because part of myself is there as well, among those pine needles and ocean waves.

Honestly, I fall in love wherever I go. And though I am sad to leave my family and friends and state, I am very happy to be back in Oregon.