Here’s a fact. I am not good at updating this, or any other, blog.

The funny thing is that I write in this blog almost every day… in my head. Yeah, a lot of good that’s doing anyone.

Yesterday I was driving home and I took another snapshot of a cloud formation that looked like something to me. I thought I should start adding this little collection to my blog. The day before I took some shots of some of the Speakers (a project I have been working on for over a week) for TEDxABQ 2011. I thought, “I should post these in my blog and talk about this process”. Last week I realized I have been having some issues with billing and accounts receivable, and I thought I should blog about that too. See a trend here? The road to getting nowhere is paved with good intentions.

So, I am going to try and push myself to get on here a few times a week. I enjoy the writing, I have just over-extended myself again and it’s hard to find the time. But I’ll try and make the time. I promiseūüôā

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Introduction

Hello all, my name is Crystal Vickrey, and I’ve been offered the very exciting opportunity to assist with writing for Dawn Allynn Photography’s Blog¬†=). But before I go on to anything else, I would like to share how I became acquainted with Dawn.

About 6-7 years ago I was a friend of her oldest son’s, and when Dawn¬†asked if I would be interested in modeling for a portrait idea she had been playing around with, I was estatic in the way only a vain teenager can be. Nothing spectacular as she had just started¬†exploring her interest with photography and her first camera, which I believe was a total whopping 3 mega pixels at the time and was the size of a square Kleenex box, though about¬†half as thick. It was a dark and moody portrait with black lace and she played both makeup artist and photographer. Took us several hours and¬†many side distractions¬†before we completed a couple of images that we were happy with. Though it wasn’t until after the shoot when she had uploaded them onto her computer that we realized even though she had successfully¬†given me a ghostly smooth, white complexion, we had forgotten my summer tanned arms and hands, which she had posed me laying my head on. An awkward looking portrait for sure, but a start non-the-less. Through the following years Dawn asked me a couple more times to pose for an idea here and there, but I found myself more and more attending her shoots not as a model, but as a very interested assistant. Many of¬†which involved a pre-shoot session with me as the guinea pig. Dawn’s creativity and enthusiasm for her work was contagious, and I found myself as an eager participant in the search for the right lighting to a scene, or for that missing piece¬†of the puzzle that was needed to impress upon the observer the emotion and story behind every photo, and every pose that had grown from Dawn’s very active imagination. Something that inspired me even more wasn’t just the extravagant scenes that¬†she was able¬†unfold before me and others, but the ones that she¬†could pull out of a normal day to day place, such as something from the side of the road, or outside her office window.

As a beginning photographer with an already¬†packed schedule as a full time office¬†manager and a large family,¬†even with a very supportive fiancee¬†the extra lighting set or essential tripod didn’t always enter into the equation.¬†However, Dawn is nothing but a genius when it comes to ingenuity. After bumbling our way through many “all most” make-up disasters (that¬†might have involved¬†gluing feathers my face), jury rigged shoots¬†with the assistance of many pieces of¬†insulation (cough) I mean reflectors, and¬†maybe¬†one incident¬†that involved a skunk,¬†Dawn has not only spread her wings as an artist but has also become a resourceful asset for the community.

The experiences that I have gained while working with Dawn are varied and wide in range, from start-up local models to professionals from out of the country, fairy tale childrens portraits to weddings that bring out the excitement of a new beginning, to the rescue of random wild life with no safe place to call home, and chasing down insects for a quick shot. It is because of these experiences, and the support of my sweetheart, that I find myself with a brand new camera, not only eager to start unfolding my own fairy tales and capturing my own precious moments, but to work alongside a very close friend with an exceptional (and slightly skewed) view of the world.


The Eclipse on Winter Solstice

When I first got my Tamron 70-300mm lens one of the first things I did was set up a tripod in my front yard and shot the moon. They were not the best photos, but they weren’t bad.¬† What was impressive was the amount of detail I could see from so far away.¬† It was an exciting moment for me.¬† However, there are so many lunar photos out there that I couldn’t see much use for the images, print or otherwise, so my excitement waned (pardon the pun) and I haven’t taken photos of the moon in a long time.

Last night found me in my front yard again, huddled in a bad mixture of clothing that made me look like some kind of reject from Northern Exposure. ( I loved that damn show) But I was comfortable sitting on the tail of my husbands pickup truck- and with tripod at the ready I was more prepared than I had been previously. This time I had gone online and printed some photography tips, approximate times for the event, and weather conditions.¬† So I knew there was a chance I wouldn’t see much, if anything at all.¬† And I knew the images were likely to be standard “moon’ photos.¬† But I loved the idea that I’d be possibly photographing the first Total Lunar Eclipse to fall on Winter Solstice since 1638 – – an event that won’t¬† be repeated again until 2094.¬† Not that you’d be able to tell that bit of info from the photos, but I’d know.ūüôā

I did a test shot or two, to get my setting range right.  I was fairly happy with the results considering my insignificant little lens.

As the event time neared, so the clouds began to thicken. Yet I manged to catch some pretty good shots though the passing ‘windows’ in the clouds.

So far my experience with the event was looking pretty good, and I had begun to allow myself a sliver of hope, and was starting to feel some twinges of downright excitement when suddenly the cloud-cover got so thick that the moon  and any sign of starry sky at all simply disappeared.

I stayed awake for an hour after that, checking often in hopes that my luck would improve.¬† My dear husband kept me company during my vigil, playing scrabble with me between my jaunts outside and peering with me hopefully at the gloomy Heavens.¬† Finally when the clouds did begin to disperse, I could see the moon beginning to wax white in a crescent again, and knew I’d have to be content with my early photos.

Was it worth it?¬† You bet.¬† I learned some things, I have some new gear on my wish list, and I had some fun … both with my photography and in scrabble.¬† I’ll chalk it up to experience and a nice evening to remember!


Ideas For Exercising Your Creative Muscle

If I get any constant compliment, it is that I am creative.¬†¬† I have had people ask me how I get my ideas, but more often people act like it is something I am gifted with that they don’t have access to.

Assuming I were to believe that (and I don’t… not at all) I still would suggest to anyone interested that there are a variety of ways to – um – work out your creative muscle.¬† I believe that the way we think is a great deal like the way we move.¬† The less we exercise, the stiffer everything moves, the more we push ourselves outside our comfort zones – the more limber we become.

As a kid I spent a lot of time alone, so I had to think up things to keep me entertained. So I have been ‘stretching’ my creative limbs for a long time.¬†¬† Yet, there are a few things I do that keep it fluid.¬† For the most part, I think these are things that could work for anyone.

(Above: This is me … embracing my oddballness.
Disclaimer: Not everyone embraces my creative side.)

Give Yourself Permission to Be Different:
This sounds like a no-brainer, but the truth is most of us are afraid to be diverse.¬† It’s outside the bounds of how we’ve been brought up to ‘fit in’. It’s how we function as a society. “You are normal, you do what is expected… so we’ll accept you.”¬† Except that kind of normal rarely gets a much attention. And the truth is, we get bored with commonplace.¬† And in our current society we are beginning to appreciate unconventional.¬†¬† Annie Lebowitz, Pablo Picasso, even Georgia O’keeffe all ignored expectations and dared to be extraordinary.¬† So remind yourself that in order to be creative you have to give yourself permission to be different.

Some of my first ‘portraits’ are a perfect example.¬† Face paintings and all kinds of exocitc weirdness.¬† My models and others around me told me this stuff was too off the wall.¬† The very same ‘off the wall pieces got me my first writeup and feature here in VerbSap for images like these:

Look at Everything, But Look for Another Angle:
Often what makes an image pop is an unexpected angle.¬† It is easy to get into the habit of shooting what we see from the point of view we are accustomed to seeing it from, but challenge yourself to try a different perspective.¬†¬† Lay at a child’s feet and look up at the from the ground.¬† Tilt the camera, tilt your subject, put your subject in unexpected places.

For the shoot below I stood up on a ladder looking down at my model. I could have taken the photo from ground level, but the effect would have been altogether different.

Be the Teacher – Assign the Lesson:
Sometimes when I have nothing to shoot and I feel like I need to push myself, I give myself assignments.¬† I have to get twenty great photos in a backyard, or the backyard.¬†¬† I have to find 15 food items in my fridge and get some professional images.¬†¬† I have to shoot at least 25 black and white images of things I am used to seeing in color, and so on.¬† If I can’t come up with a good assignment, I find one on the internet, even if I don’t intend to submit it to the website.¬† The simple practice of working on the assignment helps me stir the creative juices.

The egg below was an assignment many years ago on a photo site that had contests. I can’t remember the theme, but I do remember racking my brain for a way to make everyone look twice. This accomplished that:

Be Prolific:
It isn’t always true that the more you shoot, the better your pictures will be.¬† But the more you work at it the better your ideas may become.¬† Like many things, the more your are comfortable with your craft, the more you are likely to take some risks and try something new.

Look Over Someones Shoulder:
Looking at the work of others isn’t a bad thing.¬† Once upon a time someone saw and ate the first potato and liked it.¬† Other people saw that it looked good, tried cooking their own, and came up with thousands of recipes since then we all love and enjoy.¬† Get ideas, get excited… get inspired. There is a lot of great work out there by some really talented and creative people, try to put yourself in their shoes and see the world from their eyes.

There’s more I could add to this post, but hopefully my basic premise is clear here.¬† Some people may come by that creative gene naturally, and some people may have to work at it a little.¬† But anyone can learn to stretch their imagination with a little work and some effort.


Digital Photographer’s Checklist

I have been diagnosed as having ADD, and (true or not)¬† I have never been someone who could claim to ‘Have it all together’.¬† I lose and misplace things on a regular basis, forget stuff … any number things that constantly make my life far more complicated than it has to be. When I was younger this caused a much larger problem that it once did, but I have learned some organizational skills which have made these occurrences… well… fewer in number.

Fortunately for me I have a trusty side-kick, Crystal, who is both gobs more ‘together’ than I am, and willing to take on much of the burden of my forgetfulness.¬† However, for her sake and my own (I do end up shooting alone most of the time so she isn’t there to save me) we have a checklist I have printed, laminated so we can both refer to it before we head out for a shoot.

Not everyone has ADD, yet most everyone can look back on an occasion where they forgot an essential step or item that could have made a difference. (The internet is full of horror stories where photographers have made small mistakes that ruined an entire shoot.)¬† If that item is something like say… a notepad and paper, it might not be a deal breaker.¬†¬† If that item is an extra battery, the memory card, or remembering to reset the image size from small to large – it could be a disastrous.

We have several specialized checklists: for weddings,  model shoots, portraits, road-trip/ nature photography.  However the main checklist is fairly simple and looks like this:

BRING

Camera Bag:
‚ÄĘCharged batteries
‚ÄĘBattery Charger
‚ÄĘLens cleaning cloth
‚ÄĘLenses
‚ÄĘFilter Set
‚ÄĘCable release
‚ÄĘBusiness cards
‚ÄĘSpare car key
‚ÄĘTripod
‚ÄĘSD Cards
‚ÄĘBusiness Cards
‚ÄĘReleases

Before Shoot

Camera Settings

– Wht Balance
– ISO
– Mode/Size

Needs Kit

-Pocket knife / multitool
-Duct tape
-Clothes pins
-Cuticle scissors
-Notepad and Pen
-Zipper close freezer bags
-Flashlight

The Needs Kit is a small bag, already put together.  We just have to make sure it is refilled sometimes, and that it goes with us on the trip.

Printed on a small flashcard, the checklist is quick to scan, becomes second nature when you’ve had it awhile, and really can make a difference.


New Kids Networking Project

Lights Camera Action Kids!Just a quick note today to mention a new project I will be involved in. Barbra Portzline of Lights Camera Action Kids! (LCAK!) will be holding a first of it’s kind in New Mexico conference, to connect youth with agents, directors, advertising agencies, and other business owners interested in the performance industry. Scheduled for June 12, 2011 at the Marriott Albuquerque Pyramid North, it’s growing into quite the extravaganza that looks like it is going to be pretty exciting! I wish there had been something like this for my kids when they were little, can’t wait until June!