karen casey smith photography: miniview

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i want everyone to visualize calm right now. let’s breathe in deeply through the nose and hold it for a moment. now, slowly exhale through the mouth. if it make you feel better, then i think you’re ready to look at the meditative work of karen casey smith. karen’s collection is filled to the brim with thoughtful, focused shots that lead your eye in and hold it, quietly. afterwards, whether you were prepared to do it (or not), you might find yourself a bit more relaxed afterwards, a bit more focused inwardly, a bit more healed – in a million different ways. it’s a zen feeling. and who wouldn’t want to know a little bit more about the brains behind that operation?

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q: where do you live and where do you create your work?
a: home is about 30 miles from chicago, in the northwest suburbs. my work is created first in thought, then with attention to my subject while making the photograph and then in my computer at home.

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q: your flower collection is pretty extensive. what is it about flowers that appeals to you most?
a: i love being around flowers. they are a miracle of beauty, and with closer attention even more amazing than anyone could know at first glance. throughout the ages flowers have been loved and given in love, to celebrate, to comfort, and to lift spirits. the beauty of flowers can be experienced directly, without words. when contemplating a flower, time seems to cease to exist and in that silent space you can experience the beauty to the core of your being.

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q: i think your mandalas are mesmerizing – can you tell us a little about your technique, and the reasons why you create them?
a: mandalas are so appealing to me. i’ve been working in that form since around 1995 when i first read judith cornell’s book, mandala. she teaches that creating and contemplating mandalas is healing at the deepest levels. each of my mandalas carries a energy or vibration uniquely its own. the mandalas are a way to share positive, healing energy.

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the mandalas are made with the aid of templates i designed myself. i first do any editing of the original photograph that’s necessary to make sure the contrast is good, and that all color is in gamut and printable. depending on the flower, i have different templates to choose from that have a varying number of divisions of the circle. in choosing the flower and creating the mandala, i work intuitively. the message or energy of the piece is revealed when it’s completed.

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q: what are you doing when you aren’t taking photographs?
a: sometimes i work with and assist my husband, and occasionally do freelance graphic design. i love photoshop, and am always studying and working to improve my skills in both photoshop and photography. currently you could also find me cooking, baking (sometimes in my solar oven!), gardening, playing my ukulele or djembe, practicing tai chi, and playing with our two cats.

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see more of karen’s work on her website as well as at her etsy and redbubble shops.

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thank you karen!


flickr friends: winnie’s human

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there are many pretty nature images out there, but they don’t sweep me off my feet like the ones in the simply stunning collection of pam ullman. i am easily, willingly, magically transported to a soft, sensual place when i look at these photos. i love the thoughtful compositions, the thorough attention to detail and the dreamy energy they possess, and her skillful techniques post production are really the cherry on the cake. pam leads us gently by the hand on a journey through her lens to fields, forest and sky. and here today, as it turns out, she leads us on a compelling journey through her mind too…

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q: where do you live, and where do you create your collection?
a: my husband and i live in central pennsylvania, about 50 miles west of philadelphia, and just on the edge of pennsylvania dutch country. it’s fairly rural, with wet autumns, short springs, sweltering summers, and wicked winters. we escape these extremes at the jersey shore, and in the south carolina lowcountry, my two favorite places to photograph.

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q: what first drew you to photography? Do you have a background in art?
a: (laughs) my path to photography was a pretty crooked one. i didn’t pick up a camera in a serious way until the summer of 2006. i’m a recovering lawyer, but i’ve always had a creative streak. i gave up lawyering in 2000 to pursue a passion for creative writing. i published literary short stories and essays in the years after that, and decided to pursue an MFA. when i was accepted into programs for both fiction and non-fiction, i found myself unable to commit to either. i was paralyzed with indecision when september 11 happened. in the aftermath of that, i published one more story and then decided to go back to work. the job was emotionally draining and i didn’t have the energy to write. i can’t say for sure what compelled me to pick up my camera, but i think that, instinctively, i was looking to replace one creative outlet with another.

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i’d always been a casual photographer, but didn’t know the first thing about photography as art. my husband bought me a DSLR, and for about a year, i took on-line courses at betterphoto.com, beginning with a class on how to use my camera. (laughs) i took a fairly intellectual approach to learning: i read books about photography and photographers, and for a long time, just studied other peoples’ images, trying to decipher what the best work, in all its varied forms, seemed to have in common.

ultimately, i realized that photography, like many other things in life, is best learned by doing. explore, experiment, edit. there is no one way to see and shoot something. you bring who you are to every image; it’s the ultimate in self-expression. i love the immediacy of it. and the sense of community i’ve found in supportive environments like flickr. most of all, i love that in photography, there is always something to learn. and always something to shoot!

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q: without giving away any secrets of course, can you tell us a little bit about your technique?
a: i assume you’re referring to my use of textures to render some images “painterly.” this is actually something quite new for me, and is inspired by the work of some of my flickr friends, like linda plaisted, michael ticcino, and pamela viola, photographers who trained in painting and other visual arts. they’re all very different, but they share a remarkable talent for composition that just bowls me over. another photographer who similarly inspires me is jody miller. she rarely uses textures, but the composition of her landscapes, indeed, all of her work, is decidedly painterly.

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i resisted photoshop for more than a year, but when i layered in my first texture, i was hooked. when i was very young, i enjoyed making mixed media collages, and making textures images really resonates with me. it’s highly creative, and giddy fun. i don’t have a specific methodology. i’m a bit like a mad scientist, or julia child on LSD. (ed. note: this is the quote of the week.) i usually make three or four copies of an image and work them all very differently until i see something I like. i play with modes and the opacity slider quite a bit. and when i’m going for something more illustrative than realistic, i like to cross-process. as in creative writing, sometimes the creation of an image is nearly effortless. other times, it takes hours to write the photographer’s version of a single paragraph. and i never hesitate, as we writers like to say, to “kill my darlings.” it’s painful to hit the delete button after hours of effort, but i do it.

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a few good and bad things i’ve learned about the process: (1) textures won’t make a bad photograph any better; (2) not every image lends itself to textures; (3) it’s easy to take textures too far; (4) textures free you up to shoot on days with bad light, and (5) they hide sensor dust. (laughs)

a word to the wise: textured images do not always print the way they look on a computer screen. i never add anything to my website until i make a print that i’d be happy to hang on my own wall. a successful print always feels like a lovely surprise.

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q: what is it about nature photographs that appeals to you most?
a: originally, i thought i would concentrate on street photography. watching life through the viewfinder felt very much like the kind of observing i’d been doing as a writer, and really, for all of my life. Walking the streets, i saw a story in every image; it just felt so natural. and i’m a huge fan of black and white photography, so i liked that about the genre. but with the camera to my eye, i felt exposed, and couldn’t overcome what felt to me like an invasion of privacy. i’m a very approachable person, and from time to time, had the pleasure of shooting with my subjects’ permission. but it still didn’t feel quite right, and before i knew it, i was standing more and more often in a field of wildflowers. (laughs) it was such a relief.

i’m a country girl at heart. i’m a person for whom silence is music. nature is a very meditative environment for me. i think i photograph nature because it’s where i’m happiest.

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q: what inspires your creativity? do you see yourself with a camera in your hands, say, 10 or 20 years from now?
a: it doesn’t take much to inspire me; that feeling of wanting to “make something” is always inside of me. first and foremost, i’m inspired by the light. i’ll shoot an old shoe in the road if it has great light on it. i’m inspired by beauty in the little things. by sunrises and sunsets. by small moments and grand gestures. by photographers who take the art to different places and new heights.

i can’t imagine growing old without my camera. it’s really become a part of who i am.

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see much more on pam’s flickr stream, and purchase your favorite pieces of her collection on her very beautiful website.

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thank you pam! (and many thanks to rachel for her great tip!)


snapshot saturday

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beeswax vase by studio libertiny

we are going to an opposite extreme from the previous post now with this pretty and intriguing honeycomb beeswax vase from tomáš gabzdil libertiny for his rotterdam-based studio libertiny. this natural beeswax piece was created by adding a red wax dye to the colony of 40,000 bees. it took a week to create, and i think is is so beautiful.

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they’ve only made seven pieces, which are available at moss. the price is available on request (which i am so curious to know but if you have to ask…).

see more design from tomáš on his website.


trish grantham paintings

loving this loose loopy style of painting from lovely portland artist trish grantham. i like that her simple characters belie a range of emotions much more complex than what appears on the surface. these pieces are made of vintage paper, acrylic, ink, watercolor and resin, mounted on wood.

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see more works from trish on her website, and see her etsy shop too. if you are in the los angeles area, be sure to stop by the loved group show at the lab 101 gallery (from august 16th, 2008 through september 10th, 2008). trish is showing there along with amy ruppel, keith obrien and julliana swaney.


paul pardue photography: miniview

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if you are a regular visitor here you know i like to talk about “falling into” the details of some of the artwork i feature. i liken it to walking around with peripheral vision and then finding something that you can focus on sharply as you stumble along your daily path. this is how i felt when i saw the work of paul pardue. the consistency within his collection is noteworthy. each photograph has a powerful combination of great framing, incredible lighting and compelling subject matter. i really enjoy his work, so i decided to investigate further…

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q: where do you live, and where do you create your artwork?
a: i live in sacramento, california which is where the bulk of my work is created, though if circumstances allow i do try and get out and shoot. most recently i went on a three day camping trip and visited two state parks and two federal parks. since i currently shoot digitally i do almost all my “processing” at home on the computer though i do have a laptop that i can take with me as a portable darkroom. i generally spend a lot of time on my photos, i may take a hundred photos and only work on a few. it really depends on the shoot.

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q: what is it about photography that you enjoy the most?
a: i love that in photography you have control over your final image, but at the same time you have zero control over it. it’s a balance where you’re forced to take what is in front of you and make it your image. being able to control your environment to suit your needs is a really cool thought, in some ways it’s like how a painter takes their scene in front of them and paints in as they see. the difference of course is that the painter is open to their interpretation and style whereas i am forced to the constraints of what i can capture through the lens and later, through the processing and printing.

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q: did you think when you were a little kid that you would grow up to be a photographer?
a: i remember as a little kid playing with my mom’s polaroid camera, even if there was no film in it. there is always something magical about photography, i really got in to it in high school and the thrill of watching a print develop in front of your eyes in the dark room is something that very few people get to experience. but, it wasn’t till high school that i really thought of photography as anything. as a kid, i’m sure i wanted to grow up to be an astronaut like all other kids.

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q: if you could shoot anywhere in the world, where would it be?
a: i’d love to travel and do more of the landscapes and visit the state and federal parks, and even leave the country, but until that day comes i’ll continue to shoot locally. i guess above anything else it depends on what i want to shoot, where i end up shooting. if i continue with the landscapes and such i can inevitably end up anywhere in the world or even all over the world on some world trip of photography. maybe once things pick up in the sales department i can consider planning a trip.

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see what’s available for sale at paul’s etsy shop. if you enjoy the human form, he also does fine art nudes, and that shop is here. view his full portfolio on his website and while you are at it, say hello to him on his blog.

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thank you paul!


flickr friends: la trollette

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there is more than one a gem of an artist photographer in the vast sea that is flickr, and when i find them, i want you to see them too. today, we kick off this regular series with some lovely french style from rachel osowiecki, aka la_trollette. whether rachel’s subjects are people, animals, places or plants, her photos are striking, vivid and balanced – and tell some beautiful stories. turns out rachel has a few tales to tell as well…

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q: where is your hometown?
a: i have lived in paris for 17 years now. my pictures are mostly taken from our windows, on our parisian balcony, in the public gardens and sometimes in the streets during public events or during concerts. when my husband and i visit our family, i can shoot in the east or the south of france. of course we always travel with our complete equipment, photography bags are always packed first!

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q: how did you get into photography?
a: i think i can say that love get me into photography. my husband is an amateur self-taught photographer. in the beginning of our relationship, he took me as his model. but i quickly wanted to know how this thing works on the other side of the camera. fred taught me everything he knew about photography, composition, DOF, etc… on his olympus OM-1 reflex camera. this camera was completely manual and was a very good way to understand technique. fred quickly offered me my own camera, a semi-automatic minolta x300s.

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a few years ago, we had a sort of black out. fred and i mostly did black and white photography, as fred developed the films in our tiny parisian bathroom. photography never was a cheap hobby but as digital snapshot cameras were getting affordable, silver-based photography became really expensive and difficult and we bought a sony cybershot. we mostly took pictures during friends and family events with a digital snapshot camera. and as i had some sad family events to manage, i almost abandoned practicing.

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two years ago, as i’m a little lazy and had enough to mail the same things to each of my friends, i started to write a blog. i talked about what i saw or what i read, who visited us, where fred and i went for the weekend… a simple regular “that’s my lil’ life” blog! as i read many other blogs, i quickly thought it would be cool to illustrate some of my articles with pictures, and why not my own pictures? i again listened carefully to my dear husband when he gave me some very wise hints to get better pictures. that’s how i got back into photography. i shoot and/or process on photoshop every day or so since.

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q: what do you enjoy most about it?
a: as a child, i secretly wanted to be a painter and a pianist. the thing is i’m not only a little lazy but i’m also very impatient. that’s not really compatible with the hours you need to learn painting and drawing or to practice piano. i tried of course but i didn’t try enough to be decent. maybe later, when i’m old enough to be less impatient ;o)

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but as i can quickly be a decent musician by singing in a choir, i can quickly express what i want to with photography. photography is also a good way for me to be connected to the world and at the same time to have some distance with it.

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what i really enjoy about photography is that i cannot control everything. i learn to give up with details, i learn to wait till the conditions are good enough so i must not give up with details… i learn to take my time as well as i learn to be very reactive. but i’ll never be able to control everything and i find it very comforting: photography remains bigger than me, something magic.

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q: what you are doing when you are not taking pictures?
a: processing pictures on photoshop, publishing pictures on my blog, reading blogs, a little drawing, writing to best friend, singing in a choir, doing the dishes, fixing dinner, buying food, ironing (not very often, i confess!), going to the museum, having lunch with friends, shopping, sewing some little things and send them to friends and, the most important thing: petting my lovely husband and my big fat grouchy cat. life is a full time job.

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q: if you could shoot photographs anywhere in the world, where would it be?
a: that’s a very difficult question… location is important of course and some day i hope i can go to japan, iceland or canada or go back to new york and new zealand. but what i really need is time to see these places live during seasons, time to see all the little things, all the details, time to meet people, time to capture the fleeting, time to live for the moment. i’m blessed, i can do all that right here, right now, everywhere i am.

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see rachel’s flickr stream here, and her blog over here.

thank you rachel!


bill fantini photography: miniview

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i am always on the lookout for beautiful sepia toned imagery and so when i saw these pieces from bill fantini, aka etsy seller houseofsixcats, i thought the mothership had landed. the lighting, texture and composition is so lovely in each and every photo. fortunately for us, bill’s skills are not exclusive to the sepia style. as i dug deeper, i found his shop to be a virtual treasure trove of through the viewfinder, sepia, black and white, still and urban photography. it is inspiring and impressive to see such a breadth of work in just one shop, which really got the old hamster wheel in my mind running, so i thought i would ask just a few questions…

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q: where do you live and where do you create your artwork?
a: well, presently i live in ossining, ny. that is in westchester county, about 45 minutes north of the city. but i have lived on both coasts and we are planning on moving back to portland, oregon in october.

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i don’t have any one particular place i create my art, i shoot in many different locations. i guess the one constant is that i use adobe lightroom and photoshop to help make the shots i took into images of art.

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q: how did you get into photography?
a: i got my first 35mm SLR, a Minolta X700, for my 16th birthday, and have been hooked ever since!

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q: browsing through your collection, it is clear that you have a broad mastery of several different styles. do you have a favorite piece of equipment, a location or technique you like to use?
a: thank you for the wonderful compliment! i really like shooting ttv, through the viewfinder, it’s great fun using the old argus 75 to compose the shot.

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i have to say my favorite shot is rusted gear (below), and it is also from my most unique location, an abandoned power station.

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q: what inspires your creativity?
a: that is the most difficult question. i really don’t have any one thing that inspires me. what i love to do is walk around a location and look for unusual angles or ways to shoot what i find interesting.

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q: if you could shoot anywhere in the world, where would it be?
a: the first place that comes to mind is japan, i love the asian culture, and from what i have seen that country looks fascinating. another photo journey i would love to take is to explore more abandoned buildings here and in europe!

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q: are any of the six cats in the house photographers too?
a: when i started my shop we had six cats, and i wanted a unique name that people would hopefully remember. since then two have passed, but i think it is a nice homage to their memory.

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see more of bill’s broad portfolio of work on his flickr stream, and purchase these prints and more at his etsy shop.

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thank you bill!


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