Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Still Me...After All These Years

I've had the pleasure of working with Karen Walker on two separate occasions now. The first project was a novel entitled "The Wishing Steps". We collaborated on her cover and her author photo. It was hugely fun and my first stab at compositing. While I was nervous about it, it all turned out to be a fabulous project.

Karen is an amazing writer and with several other books under her belt, why wouldn't she be? It takes tremendous courage to put yourself out there in the world like that...way more than I have to be sure.

Now, Karen has put together another book...an anthology on aging which was a tremendous effort by 24 writers in total. This one is entitled "Still Me...After All These Years". Each essay contained within the anthology had to first be read, then edited, then the tough part...she had to decide whose essay would be included. That had to be tough!

Once again, Karen tapped me to do the cover and since she already had many author photos from our previous work on "The Wishing Steps", she chose a new one for her author photo. We had a couple of concepts for the cover, but in the end, this one was the most direct and poignant. After all, who hasn't looked back on their life and thought, "man, didn't those years go by in a blink."

Please join me in welcoming this wonderful compilation. It is available for pre-order on Amazon.

Until next time...

Please also stop by and visit my fine art website at  www.kathleenmessmer.com, my commercial website at www.kmphotographic.com, for fun stuff 
instagram.com/kmessmer53, and other work kathleen-messmer.artistwebsites.com

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Wow! You Must Have a Great Camera!

I am extremely lucky to have several cameras, lenses, computers, printers and lighting packages. My favorite is naturally, my cameras. They range from a 1914 Autographic Kodak Jr. to a Pentax K3 and my iPhone (which I love!), though I do have my eye on a K1 and/or a 645Z medium format. I know...everyone reading this will probably think, why would you shoot with Pentax instead of Canon, Nikon, Sony or any other popular brand. Frankly, I've been a Pentax shooter since 1978 - way back in the dark ages - with real film and a real darkroom! Besides, I like the way it feels in my hand. I've tried two of the top brands and I didn't like them. Just personal preference. Not to mention they were almost double the cost of my trusty Pentax and the reviews state exactly that...comparable to the top brands, hands down, at half the cost. Also, I like being different.

All that said, it isn't the equipment, accessories and toys we buy that make the photographer, it's the skill level they possess. I can't tell you how many times I've had people say, "Wow!  Your work is amazing! You must have a GREAT camera!" Really? That's a bit insulting when you think about it. No one takes into account that you have to know so much technical stuff these days, in addition to the usual rules of photography. It makes me want to slap somebody when they say that!

Being a photographer is so much more than having great equipment and toys. First, we are visual artists. Yep, I said it...the "A" word! It takes an eye that most people don't have. People walk through their day and don't notice much of anything. Non-photographers hate going places with me since it takes two to three times longer to get anywhere because I'll see something and have to stop to shoot it - and not just with my regular camera, but usually also with my infrared camera and my iPhone. So when I stop to shoot something, most people tell me, "I didn't even notice that." Well, there you have it. An artist's eye is the first thing.

Next, we have to have a handle on the composition and light. I took a still life class once only to realize how much I didn't know about lighting, even though I had taken a lighting class previously. When looking at my work, the instructor would look and me, point and ask, "what is that"?  I'd look at it and say, "I didn't even see that." His favorite response was, "what else have you got to do, but see?" He was right. Seeing the image in the viewfinder in addition to the light in the scene is a major deal. Is your viewer going to look at your work and say, "what is that" or "the light doesn't feel right". Trust me, that's not a good thing especially when it's such an easy thing to fix. And incidentally, a portable reflector (preferably a 5-in-1) is a great accessory for your kit.

Finally, once the shoot is done, comes the post-processing. This is what comes after you decide which images make the cut once they're downloaded. Another instructor I had once said it's best to shoot in RAW (with the most information to work with), shoot clean, then make any [minimal] changes you need to in post. It's better to get your shot as close as you can to what you see in your mind's eye in camera, rather than try to achieve it in post. Sometimes it just doesn't work. I mean, really...who wants to spend hours sitting at the computer processing images? I'd rather spend my time out shooting. I have to wonder at people who have an amazing image and then they tell me it took them 20 hours(!) on the computer to get it the way they wanted it. Yikes! That's almost three whole days! On ONE image! Way easier on your numb butt to do it right in the first place, wouldn't you agree?

Generally speaking, my post-processing involves doing a minor exposure adjustment, if any, tweaking the shadows and highlights, blacks and whites, contrast, clarity and vibrance/saturation.

So here's the process:

  • Shoot (in RAW)
  • Download
  • Embed your copyright
  • Do a general keyword pass
  • Do a quick pass of the downloaded images and star the ones you like, then step away for a couple of days
  • Post-process your images
  • Backup your work
  • Print (lab or your own printer)
  • Sell
  • Repeat

That's it...easy peasy.

So the next time someone says "Wow! You must have a great camera!", your response should be "no, I'm an artist with a great EYE and skill set!"

Until next time...

Please also stop by and visit my fine art website at  www.kathleenmessmer.com, my commercial website at www.kmphotographic.cominstagram.com/kmessmer53 for fun stuff, and kathleen-messmer.artistwebsites.com

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Infrared Photography

Recently I had my old camera converted into infrared - 720 to be exact.  I had no idea what to expect other than the infrared photography I’d seen done by some photographer friends was stunning.  I love the different perspective and colors that appear seemingly from nowhere.

Some images that I think will look great turn out to be not very special.  But I got some tips from one of my National Geographic instructors since she also loves IR.  And she was right.  One of the tips is that you never know where your focus will be even if you think that it looks right in the camera, IR will trick you, then whammo!…you download it to your computer expecting one thing and you have an entirely different thing. It can be exhilarating and frustrating, but I'm so enamored of what I do get that I'm very forgiving.  

The other thing is, it seems that the IR sensor only changes certain ranges of greens.  I was expecting ALL foliage to turn whitish blue and it doesn’t.  I’m delighted when it does, other times, not so much.  In addition, it turns blue skies brown or black.  And not a yucky muddy color either, but this rich, deep color that makes the clouds look so gorgeous you can't stop looking at them.  A lot of people turn their IR images into black and white versions, but I like them the way they are - straight out of the camera.

So, my advice to anyone wanting to get into IR is, don’t get all serious, because it will lead to frustration and ultimately you will end up hating IR.  Just play and let things happen.  You won’t be sorry.  It’s a whole other way to express your art and you will be amazed at some of the stuff you turn out.

One other side note…if you have an old camera that you want to convert to IR, choose the company wisely.  Do your research.  I didn’t because I was so excited to have it done and I paid the price - literally and figuratively.  Don’t fall for a slick looking website and a fast-talking rep like I did.  I’m not mentioning any names, but suffice it to say the company’s initials are LP.  Stay as far away from them as possible.  REALLY bad news.  If anything goes wrong, they will try to blame it on you when it’s really their fault.  And it doesn't stop there.  Fair warning.

I used Kolari Vision and they were fantastic!  I recommend them highly.  I dealt with Ilija and he kept me informed every step of the way.  It was an awesome experience to actually deal with someone who knows what they’re doing and what they're talking about.  Phew! That was a long side note. 

Let's just say that if you let your inner child come out to play when you’re out with your IR camera, you will never be sorry.  It’s way fun and like I said…exhilarating.

Until next time…

Please also stop by and visit my fine art website at  www.kathleenmessmer.com, my commercial website at www.kmphotographic.cominstagram.com/kmessmer53 for fun stuff, and kathleen-messmer.artistwebsites.com 

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

A New Year, A New Beginning

So here it is the third month (!) of 2016.  Can you believe it?  I remember being in elementary school and them telling us that there would be flying cars and all kinds of futuristic stuff by the time the new millennium rolled around.  Flying cars mostly. Well, we do have loads of futuristic stuff that we couldn't really conceive of as children, but it's not quite what they told us it would be.

That said, I spent most of today editing digital images.  Yes, digital.  Bear in mind that I started in photography wwwaaayyy back in the day. No really, way back when FILM was what you shot with and didn't know what you had until you got your roll(s) developed and had prints and negatives to look at. My instructors then told us that if you had two good images from a roll of 36 exposures, you were doing well.  TWO???!!! That could get seriously expensive!  Not to mention the many clothes I ruined in the darkroom from renegade splashes of developer, fixer, whatever.  AND my (then) wedding ring. No...we didn't wear aprons or gloves for protection.  Now we know better of course.  Mostly.


So, back to digital images...  I've been submitting my photography here and there and with the help of a Creative Consultant and a Design Consultant, have managed to get representation from a gallery in NEW YORK!  In the CHELSEA DISTRICT!  Can you say EXCITED!!!  Sorry for all the caps and exclamation marks.  I couldn't help it.  So, I submitted 16 digital images to the gallery via the internet and now I'm freaking out a little.  Well, more than a little.  Ok, A LOT!  I even had to do a new headshot.  No easy feat since I abhor having my picture taken, but I have a great friend (thanks Monica!) who did a phenomenal job.  Ironic, right?

I'm getting to show my "real" work in New York to people who might judge my work, judge me, and tell me I'm a fraud.  How have I turned into a neurotic artist?

I shoot lots of things - wildlife in particular, comes to mind - but my love and passion is abstract botanicals.  Yep - I said it.  Abstract.  Botanicals.  What the hell does THAT mean you might ask.  Or not.  But either way, I'm totally taken in by light, shadow, lines, texture and soft or vibrant colors. Especially in flowers and plants.  I love my macro lens and my 300mm telephoto.  If I didn't have to work, I'd be off somewhere different on the planet every day.  My boys think I'm crazy, but I think I've earned it.  I raised my family first and pursued my passion later.  I have these grey hairs for a reason and (mostly) wear them proudly!

So I'm going to show you some of the submitted images, but you are not allowed to judge. My Mom used to say, "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." You wouldn't want to bruise my fragile psyche, would you?

Until next time...

Please also stop by and visit my fine art website at  www.kathleenmessmer.com, my commercial website at www.kmphotographic.cominstagram.com/kmessmer53 for fun stuff, and kathleen-messmer.artistwebsites.com

Monday, December 28, 2015

Southwest Happenings

Since the last blog entry, I’ve attended some pretty epic things here in Albuquerque.

The first that leaps to mind is the LanternFest, which though I’d never heard of it, sounded kind of cool - so I went.  Apparently they put these festivals on all over the country, but if there isn’t one near you, find out where they are and go.  It was one of the most fun and amazing things I’ve ever done.

There was live entertainment... 

each attendee received a box filled with goodies (s’mores ingredients included!) 

and a lantern that you get to light and watch float off into the sky with thousands of others.  

Like I said…EPIC!

A little time passed and I once again I visited the River of Lights at the Albuquerque Bio Park and Zoo this holiday season.  If you haven’t been…go.  It’s truly lovely.  I was ooo-ing and aw-ing all over the place. While it was relatively cold outside, I was bundled up and trotting around the Bio Park like a little kid in a toy store.  It was like I’d see one thing, trot over to shoot it, turn around and trot over to the next thing and shoot it.  Talk about being a pin ball.  It would have been a really funny video.

Unfortunately, I neglected to put that image folder into Dropbox (since I’m out of town for the holidays) and can’t share them here.  : (

Winter Sunset at the Coronado National Monument

The last thing I did before leaving town to spend the holidays with my boys was to visit the Coronado  National Monument for a Christmas celebration.  While Coronado was a pretty bad guy, the site and ruins are very cool. The only word I can think of to describe it is, historic.  There was a local choir and the snack table was manned by some one of our military members.  Many of the decorations were the traditional southwest faralitos and lined all the walking paths.  At the end was a huge Zia symbol - outlined in faralitos.  All in all, really a nice night.

Although I’m not native to the southwest, we really do have some pretty cool stuff here in Albuquerque.  Especially during the holiday season.  Plus, there’s always Chocolate Dude to warm you up afterwards with the best latte and champagne truffles in town!

Until next time…

Please also stop by and visit my fine art website at  www.kathleenmessmer.com, my commercial website at www.kmphotographic.cominstagram.com/kmessmer53 for fun stuff, and kathleen-messmer.artistwebsites.com

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Saving Big Cats

I took a trip last month to Tampa, Florida, to visit the Big Cat Rescue for a photography tour.  What a great place!  It’s located on 67 acres in the Citrus Park area. They began rescuing exotic cats in 1992 and it is home for approximately 90 big cats, many of whom are threatened, endangered or extinct now in the wild, including: Tigers, Lions, Leopards, Cougars, Bobcats, Lynx, Servals, Ocelots & Caracals.


They have large enclosures that are similar to what they might have in the wild, with a few extras - like toys, swimming areas, platforms to be up on, etc.  The keepers NEVER touch or handle the animals in any way.  That way, they remain wild and don't learn to depend on humans.  They have "vacation" areas where they can go relax in an open area that's larger than their enclosure and are "transported" there via a series of tunnels placed from their enclosure to the vacation spot.  They are guided through so they can get there safely and the keepers are also protected.  Videos showing the process are on the website.

Snoozing Leopard

Mostly, their residents have been surrendered by owners who thought (or rather, didn’t use the comment sense they were born with) a big cat would make a great pet.  Others were rescued from drug dealers who thought having a “guard cat” was a good idea.  Some were removed from owners who forced them to perform, were retired from performing acts, were saved from being slaughtered to make fur coats, or rescued as babies after hunters killed their mothers.


They have onsite veterinary care and are keenly aware of the health restrictions and dietary needs of all the animals in their care.  In the instance below, skin cancer was removed from this rare white Serval's nose.  Their food intake is tracked meticulously…even if it happens to be an unfortunate turtle who wanders too close to a cougar’s cage.

White Serval

All that said, they are a 501c3 and run 100% on private donations.  ALL of the money donated or spent in their gift shop goes directly back to the animals.  It is accredited by the Global Federation of Sanctuaries and is certified by Independent Charities of America as a “best in America” charity.  They are also a member of the World Society for Protection of Animals.  In addition, it is rated four stars by Charity Navigator (their highest rating) and has one of the highest scores of any animal based charity.  They are also part of a global coalition including HSUS, IFAW, WWF, GFAS, Born Free and other animal protection groups who are working together to end big cat abuse.  It's called the Big Cat Act. Please click on this link (Big Cat Act) and be part of ending this cycle of abuse.

White Tiger

Some of these majestic cats have been "thrown away" because they're perceived as not being pure as in this example. The only crime this white tiger committed was being born with cream colored fur (instead of pure white) and brown stripes (rather than black) so she was not considered a "pure" white tiger.  And the image above indicates how she feels about it.

I was also made aware that there are NO regulations in place via the USDA regarding having big cats as personal pets, guard cats, or anything like that at all.  The cage below is the only "regulation" in place.  The tiger (or whatever big cat) only has to be able to stand, turn around and lay down. That's it...seriously.  Shame on us and whoever's brainchild this cage was! 

Tiger Enclosure

Big Cat Rescue does ask that you support their efforts to get HR3546 (Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act) passed if you’re so inclined. This is the most important piece of legislation to ever be introduced to protect lions, tigers and other exotic wild cats from being kept as pets and in miserable roadside zoos. It has more than 120 co-sponsors.

At the end of my tour, I could hardly speak because I was so choked up at the knowledge of the former lives of these beautiful, majestic animals.  If you go, ask for Chelsea.  She was a wonderful, compassionate guide and took her time so I could get the images I was hoping for.  I also sponsored a big cat (a black leopard) which while it wasn't a huge thing, it made me feel like I was at least contributing to the care of the big cats.  Go there.  It’s so worth the trip.  And the big cats will appreciate your support.

Until next time…

Please also stop by and visit my fine art website at  www.kathleenmessmer.com, my commercial website at www.kmphotographic.cominstagram.com/kmessmer53 for fun stuff, and kathleen-messmer.artistwebsites.com