Monday, December 2, 2013

More Tools...

So here it is, almost the new year. Man, did this year go by in a blink or what?  I vote for "or what", but that's just me.  I believe my last post was about tools in the toolbox, so let's talk about that a little more, then I promise I'll shut up about it...

When a professor was asked by one of his students what the best camera was, his response was not the name of any particular brand, but rather, "the one you have with you".  I agree.  It's not always about the latest and greatest , but the one that gets the job done.  (Though I feel compelled to admit that I am lusting after a 40mp medium format DSLR right now!)  I don't know about you, but I don't always (gasp!) have all my gear with me - mostly because of the weather extremes where I live - negative numbers in the winter and triple digits in the summer.  So what's my "go to" tool in most circumstances?  Well, my iPhone, of course.  Yes, I said iPhone!

Here's the thing...the camera isn't terrible and it gets the job done.  I believe it challenges me to be more cognizant of my image composition, light and shadows and makes me a more well-rounded photographer.  Since it doesn't have all the bells and whistles of my DSLR, I have to improvise and stop to think about what I'm doing.

What story do I want this image to tell? Is it abstract?  What app am I going to run it through to get the results I want? Do I even want to use an app or leave it alone?  There are so many things to think about, all before I release the shutter.

All of these things are more "tools" I have access to and use as needed.  I love having the option to use whatever I want to use to create my art.  That's what it's all about, right?  Art and personal expression?  Say for the sake of argument, we told a painter he was only allowed to use the color blue; one shade, no variation, to create his masterpiece.  What would he do?  He'd probably use a few well placed hand gestures,

tell us it couldn't be done,walk away and think we were crazy for sure. And he wouldn't be far off.  So why, pray tell, would anyone want to limit themselves to only one set of tools as a photographer, as an artistic soul - when there are so many wonderfully creative options available to us?

Bear in mind that this is an old argument that has been going on since photography's inception.  Many of the greats thought there was only one way to do things when photography was in it's infancy.  Many artists wouldn't even acknowledge the medium of photography as art!  We've grown so much since then - as photographers and yes, as artists. We're so much better than that now.  Better than narrow mindedness, better at seeing the potential we all have as artists, better at helping and encouraging one another. And all because we have a very cool toolbox to play with.

My advice (not that anyone asked) is come out and play and have some fun!!!  And by the way, all the images in this post are 100% iPhone.  Fun right?

Have a fantastic holiday season and I'll see you in the New Year...with some more tools...  Just kidding!  

Please stop by and visit my galleries at, and  I'm also on Facebook and Twitter @kmessmer53.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

It's Like...Magic

I really like to play with and manipulate some (not all) of my images to see what they can become. Now - I know full well that there are photographers out there who will tell you that that's not really photography, but I beg to differ. Post-production software is just another tool in the toolbox.  It doesn't mean that just because you have it you have to USE it.  To me, it means that if I feel like doing something to an image, I can.  It's not a crutch, it's a TOOL...just like any other piece of equipment in my kit.

It never fails to amaze me how some images, when I start experimenting with them in Photoshop or in an app, seem to develop and have their own energy.  They flow and caress the lines and light and shadow, all of their own accord.  I'll try something and when I'm done I look at it and think "whoa!". Then I'll try something else and it's "whoa!" all over again.  They seem to have a mind of their own.

I was walking my dog a while back and there were all these pieces of broken rock laying around on the trail we frequent.  Now granted, this is the land of sand and cactus and brown abounds.  So these rocks were, you guessed it, brown.  Different shades for sure, but brown nonetheless.  I just happened to have my camera with me and started shooting the rocks.  I thought, "well, what's the worst that can happen?  I'll just delete the crummy versions and keep any I think work."  This is what I got after I played with them in post.  The first one in both of the following sets is the original.


If it had been the non-photographer me walking on that trail, I wouldn't have thought twice about stopping to shoot these rocks; I would have walked right on by.  But there was something about them.  The texture kind of grabbed me.  The lines and edges were unique as well.  Turns out photographers seem to see things in objects that other people don't.  So what happened?  This...


Then of course, there are iPhone images.  Again, there are folks out there that will say iPhone imagery is not "real" photography, but who can argue with the many amazing books out there on that very subject?  And not only that, it takes a bit of talent to produce a great image with a mobile phone, given their limitations.  So, here's another tool for my toolbox.  When I initially took the images below, I thought, "well, that didn't work."  But just in case, I kept them on my phone and when I stuck them in one of my handy-dandy apps, I got these cool abstract images that I could have never imagined in my head.  The original was a really terrible  (yes, we all have a few of those - we just don't like to talk about it) close-up image of a silk and plastic iris.  I threw it into an app called TangledFX and the first one was the resulting image.  After that, I played with it in my filters app, and voila!  A beautiful abstract image from something I thought was a throw-away.


I'm no Picasso, however, I do want to point out that even if you think you shot crap on any given day, keep the images!!!  You never know what result you'll get when you start playing with it in post-production software or an app. may even turn out to be THE image that gets you into a show. Just sayin'.....

Please stop by and visit my galleries at, and  I'm also on Facebook and Twitter @kmessmer53.

Sunday, October 27, 2013


Next week is Halloween.  Can you believe it?  I sure can't.  Somehow, Halloween has always signaled the beginning of the holiday season for me.  Then Thanksgiving and finally, dare I say it?, CHRISTMAS!!! Nooooooo!!!!!  New Years doesn't count because, well, it's a new year. Anyway - back to Halloween...

When my kids were little, we did the usual Halloween fare, costumes (which I made myself when they were little), candy, pumpkins, black cats, bats, get the idea.  While I participated then, I never really had the urge to traipse all over town to the various pumpkin patches taking pictures.  Currently, I make a point of turning out all the lights, locking myself in my bedroom and watching a movie, all in an effort to make sure no one comes to my door because I'm a bad neighbor on Halloween and don't have any candy to give out in the first place.

Well...that's all been relegated to the past as of last week.  This year, suddenly, I had this urge - kind of like wanting massive quantities of chocolate - to drag my camera out to the nearest pumpkin patch and shoot pumpkins!  Good grief!  What the hell is wrong with me?  I'm having serious pumpkin urges!  Am I sick?  And why now when my kids are grown and have been long on their own? No munchkins running around my house - only a dog and two cats - who have no cravings for Halloween candy or pumpkins whatsoever!

My housemate accompanied me (grudgingly, I'm sure) to immerse myself in pumpkins, cornstalks, and various kinds of squash - large and small, smooth and bumpy, round and crook-necked.  There were various farm-type animals in attendance as well and small humans accompanied by the larger variety.  My camera was happy and I had a blast!

My first surprise was a really cute little goat with horns!  Since when do goats have horns?  Maybe I'm sheltered with regard to farm animals, but I was shocked.  And not only that, this little guy was scratching an itch using his horns.  Who knew that was even possible?

Next came the pigs.  Well - I've only ever seen pink pigs and when I was in school and we had to draw pictures of pigs, they were always pink.  Apparently they come in other colors.  In this case, black.  Again, totally uneducated where pigs are concerned.  But the biggest surprise of all was a furry cow!  Now, admittedly this was probably a baby cow, but it's hair was long and fuzzy.  I've never seen anything like it.

There was a corn pit (who knew such a thing even existed?), miniature tractors, stuffed scarecrows and even some that were cute...not scary at all.  There were kids dressing wooden farm-kid statues in overalls, dresses with pinafores and cowboy hats. Windmills that were spinning at a ridiculous speed because the wind in the southwest desert is crazy strong, cornstalks were blowing in the wind, corn ears were bright fall yellow and wagons were full of pumpkins of all varieties, though no red Radio Flyers that I could see - a disappointment for sure.

When I'd had my fill of the pumpkin patch, we walked to the car, tired from the encounter with all that unbridled energy of the young'uns.  On the way, my housemate (a Canadian) informed me that he'd never experienced an American pumpkin patch. Who knew?  I was happy to assist in broadening his cultural experience of America. Bottom line for me is...and this is going to sound really bad...I think I enjoyed it so much because there were no small humans that I was in charge of.  It was just me and my trusty camera who was definitely not going to disappear around the nearest corner or get lost in the giant bins of pumpkins or crawl into the stalls with the farm animals.  It was truly liberating. However, I still can't explain the pumpkin cravings...

Please stop by and visit my galleries at, and  I'm also on Facebook and Twitter @kmessmer53.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

An Incredible Gift

There's something about abandoned buildings that patently arouses my curiosity.  I like to try to imagine what the building might have been used for - if I don't already know - and see if I can create an image that speaks to why this building has been abandoned, misused, abused, left to its own devices, etc.

I was in Louisiana a while back and did the touristy thing of touring all the plantations - at least the ones in the brochure.  Some of them, Oak Alley in particular, was beautiful and stately and worthy of all the praise heaped on it when it appeared in "Gone with the Wind".  I took the requisite image of the mansion from the far end of the walk (which used to be dirt, of course).  It looks like a postcard.

Then I visited the Laura plantation.  The main house was decidedly NOT so stately, though very colorful, and there were many slave quarters and other outbuildings scattered around the grounds. While they are a bit old...ok, really old...they were in a sorry state of repair. These buildings are historic and one would think they would be maintained, if for nothing else but their historic value. Alright, jumping off my soapbox now...


These sad buildings made for some wonderful imagery. However, what really shocked me when I saw the resulting images, was not the sad state they were in, but how proud they were.  These abandoned, neglected buildings oozed pride.  Weird, right?  Somehow, if you look really hard, you can see the people who lived there and how hard they worked and how much they took pride in what they did - regardless of the task. And they did it without all the modern conveniences we have today. Certainly no easily accessible cameras with which to record their day-to-day lives. They were people, plain and simple, trying to make a go of it in times when it was so much harder than it is today to eek out a living and take care of their family.

So, the next time I'm in Louisiana, I'm going to pretend to be a tourist again, take another tour of the plantations, do the appropriate ooooing and ahhhing, and see if I can get a few more prideful images of the now abandoned buildings and the emotional connection I received from these.  It was an experience like no other and an incredible gift.

Please stop by and visit my galleries at, and  I'm also on Facebook ( and Twitter (@kmessmer53).

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Aversion Therapy

I recently read a book by Chris Orwig, entitled "People Pictures".  It's about portraiture, a subject I am loathe to pursue. However, I am forcing myself to because I want to expand my horizons and grow as a photographer. In his book, Chris says that "photography requires more than a selective mind, it requires a selective refers to the way we use the space within the frame." He goes on to say that "composition isn't reckless, but well thought out. Great composition brings order and peace to an otherwise cluttered and confusing world."

Well, I agree...mostly.  There are times when I'm out shooting where I just want to see what happens. Shooting floral abstracts in macro requires intentional composition.  The line and flow of the image as well as the flower itself can provide an absolute meaning or an abstract one (metaphorically speaking).  It isn't something to be figured out; rather, it requires a different way of seeing...or feeling. This is how I feel about portraiture.

I went to Old Towne in Albuquerque, New Mexico, a few weeks back to practice "shooting" people.  I pulled out my telephoto lens and away I went.  It was a weekday toward the end of tourist season so I was surprised at how many people were there.  Once I parked, I walked a short distance to find a group of local musicians playing.  I sat and took a few shots trying to be inconspicuous, but really, how inconspicuous can you be with a ginormous lens on your camera?

From there, I went over to the church, then ambled around the plaza. My goal was to practice shooting people pictures, since that's my least favorite thing to do. Armed with my telephoto lens, I soon discovered I didn't have to be right in someone's face to shoot them and get a relatively decent image.  That's what's great about shooting with a telephoto lens.  Since you're relatively far from the subject, no one pays attention to you and their actions are natural and unimpeded by being consciously aware you're there and taking their picture.  There were all manner of interesting sorts out that afternoon: artisans, more musicians, tourists, homeless folks, restaurant workers, families, people who lived nearby and me...trying to be as unobtrusive as I could.

As it turned out, it was a really fun experience.  I captured some truly candid shots and while they weren't anything I can add to my website or portfolio (yet), I can use them here in my blog to hopefully encourage another photographer (professional or otherwise) with the same "people portrait" aversion I have, to get out there and give it a try. You might find that you actually like it and decide to add it to your repertoire.


While the above images are not on my website, you are still welcomed to visit my galleries at, and  I'm also on Facebook ( and Twitter (@kmessmer53) if you want to stop by and chat.  I could talk about photography all day long!  :)

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Why Photography?

Someone asked me recently, "why photography?"  Why did you choose photography over all the other arts out there?  Well, the answer for me, is easy.  And while I could go on about how it's my passion, how it feeds my creativity, blah, blah, really does.

My day job in the entertainment industry, which I truly love, is great.  However, it doesn't allow me to be creative in any sense of the word.  It's logistics, plain and simple.  So, photography feeds me creatively.

I was never interested in the other arts like painting, primarily because my artistic talent for it never evolved beyond stick people.  And when I go to museums or see the "great" masters in a book I have to stop myself and ask, "why is THIS good?  A first grader could paint this." (HUGE eye roll here.) Admittedly, I look at some of the really well known photographer's work and ask the same thing.  It's not that I don't appreciate great art, but my perception and (naturally) my opinion play a definite role here.

Consequently, I'm always hyper critical of my own work.  Weirdly however, I love getting critiques (though I HATE art speak) because it forces me to see another's point of view and puts me on a path to improvement. Even now, after all the art education I've had, I'm still surprised at what comes out in the image I thought I saw through the lens.

When I'm out shooting, time, people, sounds, thoughts, all disappear and it's ALL about the photography. From the time I first picked up a camera, it was always a surprise to me that what I saw in the camera and resulting image was similar, but somehow different.  It either made me feel something emotionally or it didn't. What does that mean, you may be asking yourself.  Well, it means that while I may have an idea in my head when I begin, it may or may not follow my thought process in the way I thought it would when I was looking through the viewfinder.  It may be better or worse than I expected, but either way, it's something of a surprise.  It produces an emotion.  Whether that's a good or bad thing, is in the eye of the beholder.

Early on in grad school, I started shooting artificial flowers for a project.  I had an idea in my head, but the result was entirely different than what I had in mind. The images below prove my point precisely. The color image is what I saw through the lens.  The sepia version is end result.

I am passionate about photography because even though I like to think I'm in control, I so am NOT. The camera continues to remind me that it is my nemesis AND my friend.  It's almost as though when I think I'm moving right along, it slaps me upside my head to remind me that I need to stay on my toes to be (and become) a great artist.

A very good writer and photographer friend of mine once wrote, "find your passion and embrace it...passionately!"  I do.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

My First Time...

Blogging is very new to me.  Technologically adept, I'm not.  I do know a bit more than some folks, but the average 12 year old on the street could probably sit down at my computer and whiz right through all this stuff without batting an eye.  So - this is my first attempt at making a coherent statement about a subject I am more than just a bit familiar

I've been involved in photography in one way or another since I was about eight years old starting with my Mom's Roleiflex.  I was fascinated by the fact that the image was upside down in the viewfinder and it was fun to try to tell if the upside down people were actually going to be that way in the picture.  Well...duh!

Everything was black and white and as Paul Simon says, "everything looks worse in black and white."  Well, not in my opinion.  Maybe those shots were, but as I became more and more familiar with the process, I fell in love with black and white images.  I took my first formal photography class in 1978 and discovered Alfred Stieglitz.  It was over.  His images bowled me over.  Then, of course, there was Henri Cartier Bresson and Ansel Adams.  "Heaven, I'm in heaven..." or so the song goes.  Then I discovered all the alternative processes that had been practiced in the history of photography and I was enamored all over again.  There is no end!

That, naturally, was during the "olden days" when we used film.  I loved working in the darkroom with all the stinky chemicals and papers and enlargers.  The hours passed like lightening.  Fast forward to 1998...I got my first DSLR.  At first I was completely intimidated - you know, technology and all - until I realized it was just a camera and instead of film and stinky chemicals, I now had all that built into a single device!  What will they think of next?

Now I am thoroughly in love with my DSLR and the images I can produce without ruining clothes, wedding rings, my know, the important stuff.  I can sit in the privacy of my home office and fiddle as much or as little as I like with my work, post it nearly instantaneously on my website (yes, I do have one!) or send it to friends, family, clients and colleagues.  I love technology! spite of myself.

Come on over and see my work at