The Art of the Spiel

Featured

That title only slightly makes sense in relation to this post, but coming up with clever titles is hard, y’all. I’m sure you feel my pain.

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If not, then feel this photo instead.

First of all, I wrote a really long post yesterday about an experience I had with a former blogger-friend of mine a few years ago, left it up for a few hours, then decided it wasn’t a good idea to say all that I did publicly about someone else even though most likely no one would have known who I was talking about anyway and took it down. So, if you read that post yesterday and are wondering where it went, then no, you have not lost your mind. I moved it back to draft status while I decide whether or not to let it stand (I am leaning towards not re-posting it). Moving on.

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No, the dingo didn’t eat your baby. I did. 

I also had a ton of new photos in that post, so I will be working them in to this one now, and they most likely will not relate in any way to the topic at hand, but so be it. Everybody up to speed now? Then let’s get started.

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So let’s discuss this instead: A while back, I posted about some more art opportunities that sort of came my way. I say sort of because, as was the case with art opportunities I’ve had in the past, these new ones also involved a bit of work on my part to make them happen, mostly because there was an assumption on behalf of the opportunity-provider that I know way more about all this photography stuff than I actually do. Because what I know is next to nothing. Which will become evident to you by the end of this post if it isn’t already.

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Green-eyed monster, anyone?

I recall another opportunity that came to nothing a few years ago, wherein the art gallery owner ranted on and on to me about how photography wasn’t real art (not really surprising, then, that this opportunity never came to fruition). Her observation was that, basically, the technology of photography is such that one doesn’t have to have much real talent or skill to be a decent photographer, and that in the end photography is just a matter of ‘standing around long enough with a camera until something interesting happens and then clicking the shutter.’

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Oh, THE DRAMA…

Not gonna lie, but this description, rude as it was, was also shockingly close to describing my entire creative process, so I had to give her credit for that while still considering her pretty bitchy and losing interest in working with her immediately. But I digress.

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Which leads me to a similar experience I had after being given the opportunity to submit a proposal to a local arts organization for possible inclusion in their programs, as I wrote about here and here. When I met with this woman initially, she was super-enthusiastic about my work and had lots of ideas of what I could do with it. I told her I’d mull her ideas over and see if I couldn’t work something up that fit into this organization’s structure, and over the weeks which ensued I tried my best to come up with something I liked.

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I sent her a few versions of my ever-changing proposal, and occasionally asked questions, but I tried to learn from past experience and not ask for help from her too terribly much. But in the end, two things happened to put a stop to the whole thing before it ever got off the ground anyway.

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First of all was the familiar fading of enthusiasm for my lack of experience. Sure enough, after the first round of questions or two, she started taking longer and longer to respond to my messages – which again, I tried not to make too constant – until eventually she stopped responding altogether. No surprise there.

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But the other thing that happened was this: I finally realized, after well over a month of trying to take what I do and fit it into what this arts organization did and failing miserably, that I actually did not want to work with them at all. I had no enthusiasm for it, and was simply trying to make it happen because, once again, I’d fallen prey to the belief that if I’m good at something, I have to turn it into a thing – a career, a job, a moneymaker, a thing that I do instead of the other things I do to make money that other people see as less glamorous or fulfilling or interesting.

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This happens to me quite often. I’m not talking about people who see my photos and, as a simple compliment, say that they think I could/should sell my work professionally and own my own photography business. I understand that when people say those things, they are being complimentary and nothing more, and I take it as such.

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But there are other people who take it a bit further, by comparing the job I actually do work at and comparing it to my art, and finding my work lacking. Why are you an English tutor and not a photographer? they will say. Why are you wasting time being a teacher when you could be a full-time, paid artist?

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I’ve noticed that the people who want to guide me away from teaching and into photography as a career are of two types, generally: people who absolutely HATE their own jobs, and people who absolutely LOVE what they do. The people who hate their jobs look at the way I have this totally separate thing that I do that looks so creative and fun and think, man, this woman must be crazy to do a boring old working-class job like teaching all day when she could go out and just take pictures instead; if I had a hobby like that I could easily turn into a full-time job, I’d do it in a heartbeat.

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And the people who just LOVE their jobs look at my photography and can’t imagine how something like teaching could be as awesome as taking photos, and they feel sorry for me because they imagine I must only feel passion for the thing that looks super-fun and relaxing without understanding that the fact it isn’t my day job is a big part of WHY it’s super-fun and relaxing in the first place.

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Found this dress at Goodwill for $25, and it was SO TINY I almost ripped it in half just trying to get it on. It did not survive the shoot.

Again – to any of you who have complimented my photos and said you thought I could have a career at it if I wanted one, please do not think I am talking about you. I am not. I’m talking about the people who see what I have chosen as a career as some sort of cop-out because I’m chicken or something, or lacking in motivation, or selling myself short because I lack confidence. Because that truly is not the case. Knowledge I may lack, but confidence I do not – or at least, no more than the next person.

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It became painfully evident to me while I tried to force myself to work up a proposal for this arts organization that it simply didn’t speak to me at all, and that I was only trying to force myself into it because I was giving in to the voices that told me I was doing myself some sort of disservice by not pursuing it. The woman who originally came to me with the idea – and she was a very nice person, who no doubt was trying to do me a favor – even told me that day that I wasn’t “hanging out with my people” and that I really needed to get connected to this local art community of which she was a member. Which was – odd, to say the least.

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See the wide neckline of the dress? It was NOT wide before I put it on. In fact, it came all the way up to my neck. I had to rip myself into it! Also, I couldn’t get the side zipper more than halfway up, but I think I concealed it well here.

I mean, really this woman didn’t know me at all, but the fact that I had artistic talent meant she somehow knew with whom I should have been hanging out. Interestingly enough, one of her biggest contacts she felt I should definitely be getting to know was the owner of the other art gallery, the one who insulted photography all the while knowing she was talking to a photographer. I disliked that woman immediately and immensely, yet because she was into Art-with-a-capital-A of course we should be hanging out and getting along.

Sorry, but I just HAD to include this

When I wrote poetry back in the 90’s, I often found myself at odds with what I was doing. I loved to read poetry, but I never cared much for reading it aloud, or hearing others read it. I wanted to hear it in my own head, and I really needed to see the words because the visuals were important to me (line breaks, etc.). But being a “poet” meant being a part of the poetry community – and while workshops always floated my boat because I loved picking poems apart and getting feedback about my own – listening to people at poetry readings or hanging out in coffee shops talking about how important poetry was always a bit boring to me.

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To love reading and writing poetry is one thing – but in my opinion, to feel that poetry is essential to life and that it held within it all of the secrets of the world was just too much. It was fine if someone else felt that way, but I didn’t, so eventually, my connections to the poetry community faded and dissolved (for this and other reasons not mentioned because they have nothing to do with the subject), and after a stint in the 00’s writing poetry online with a fair amount of success, I discovered photography, and that became my much-preferred creative endeavor.

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OK, I’m rambling here, so what is the point of all this? My point is this: number one, I am not only a good photographer, but I am also actually a very good teacher, and i very much enjoy tutoring. I am not only fine with it being my job, but I have actively chosen to make it so, and I continue to stick by that choice. It is rewarding and worthwhile and I am quite good at it. So, there’s that. And number two: just because I am good at photography does not mean it has to become my job or else I’ve wasted my talents. My art is my passion, but it’s mine, and no one owns it but me. It has nothing to do with how I pay my bills, and that is just the way I like it. When I shoot, I do exactly what I want, when I want, and how I want to do it. There are no demands – not on my time, or my level of effort, or my results. And often times, my results just suck, and that’s okay (good Lord, if I knew I had to get good results out of a shoot, it would be the end of me). The more people try to put my art into boxes that make them comfortable, the more I learn about where my own boundaries are around it. I don’t even feel much like I’ll ever want to take photos of other people at this point – for whatever reason,  I like using myself as my model, and so be it.

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And one more thing – I am just not a ‘joiner.’ I’ve found this in the current political climate, too. As I think I’ve made very clear, I did not vote for our current president. And after the election, I was as motivated as anyone to get more politically involved. However, what I’ve found is loads of groups that, while they do good work organizing and focusing on very valuable issues, also have a huge social component I just don’t care for. I struggled with this at first, until I realized that I just simply don’t need these big groups of people with whom I have some common bond, especially when that common bond results in large gatherings of people sitting around talking about the subject.

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When these groups go out and do things, I am game for coming along, but I don’t really want or need to have dinner with them once a month, or meet at their houses for lectures and meetings. So what that makes me is a much less active member in these communities, which before I really thought about all this made me feel like a slacker who wasn’t doing her part. But now I see it as being a ‘doer’ instead of a joiner. Let’s face it, if all that’s going to happen is a meeting where people talk about issues over dinner and drinks, I’d rather be at home in a wig taking pictures anyway. And so it is.

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Lessons Learned

Lots to discuss. Mostly photography nerd stuff, but some other odds and ends as well, so let’s get to it.

On the tutoring front, things are going well. Surprisingly, I have enjoyed working with my two new elementary-school students (grades 4 and 5), so much so that I plan to pick up more younger clients down the road – I just haven’t done it yet as I currently have 5 clients total and am happy with my workload for now. But when I am ready for another wave of networking, I am going to send out my information to the elementary schools in the area, which I have not done yet, and offer my tutoring to the older-level kids; I don’t think at this point I want to work with emerging readers at all, but by fourth grade kids in general are definitely reading on their own, which is the point at which I can step in and help.

And on the art project front, a longtime blogger and follower Charlotte Hoather presented an idea to me in a way that really made sense to me, and gave me a path to follow with some of the opportunities that are on the horizon.Not that I’ve actually put a package together yet; I am still working out the kinks of functioning productively with my new schedule (meaning for the most part, I am still wasting WAY too much time goofing off as opposed to working on projects) but even that is getting better. It’s been almost a year now since I left my former school, after all, so at some point I was bound to get used to my new life; it seems to finally be happening.

So now, on to the photos:

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I have been in a SERIOUS photo-taking mood lately; partly because I have had whole days to myself here and there, partly due to making some cool purchases lately I’ve been excited to work with (of the prop, costume, and software variety), and also due to learning some new techniques I am still perfecting. The results of all this have been mixed for various reasons, but the photo above is one example of a slam-dunk I’ve pulled off recently. Everything about that shot just works for me, and I’m really happy with it. Let’s get down to the specifics, for those that care. Or if you don’t, stop reading and just scroll and view the pics.
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There’s two wigs on my head in this shot

As far as props and costumes, back in December I purchased a few of these face crystal sets from Free People and I loved them, but they ran out and didn’t replace the few styles they had with anything new. The brand name FP was selling was called Body Baubles, and a quick Google search turned up a website where I could buy more sets to work with. I had a hard time choosing, but in the end I picked up 3 or 4 more sets to use (I can’t recall off-hand exactly how many). These first two shots above are using some of the “baubles” from that purchase. They are really great little accessories; the adhesive is pretty tacky (although I haven’t found them wearable more than once, and haven’t researched if there’s a way to extend their shelf life) so they definitely stay on for the duration of a shoot. I do wear them with a ton of makeup on, so maybe with lighter makeup they last for more than one wear. When editing photos, they are really easy to manipulate and move to different areas of the face, which is fun – I can put them on once and use them for several different looks, then change up where they are placed on my face via editing later. Sweet.

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A processing issue I’ve been addressing lately is my ongoing struggle with skin retouching. It’s so difficult to get it right, and for the most part the skin in my portraits has always come out too soft. It’s been bugging me for forever, but a few weeks ago I finally decided to do some internet research to try and add something to the skills I’ve already acquired via YouTube that could up my game. I found a pretty easy, albeit tedious, technique from another photographer that was pretty astounding in its simplicity – basically, you take a section of the skin that has good texture, copy it, run it through a few filters, and then paste onto sections of the skin that have lost texture and look too smooth. Not sure why I didn’t think of this before, except for the fact that it is very time consuming and boring to execute.

The idea is for the skin to be retouched so that unwanted wrinkles, shadows, and pores are minimized, which is what loads of filters will already do, but to keep the texture that makes skin look like, well, skin. Here’s an example of really amazing skin retouching, of the sort I still cannot do:

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And here is an example of ‘bad’ retouching  – no offense to the lovely ladies in the photos, of course. This is also what most skin smoothing filters will do to your skin, such as the ones you can use in a phone app or a basic photo editing program.

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I always say that portraits like this look like the subject has been sculpted out of butter; when you lose all the skin’s texture, and yes, even all the lines and pores, you end up with a photo that looks unnatural and blurred. So how to keep the lines and shadows and textures that you want, while still getting rid of the wrinkles, blemishes, and large pores that you don’t want? Well, that’s been my question forever; usually I end up somewhere between the good photo and the bad ones, but still too close to the latter for my liking.

The first thing I realized was that I needed to soften the photo less when working with the raw file, so I have more texture to work with from the beginning. The tendency is always to soften a portrait because in general that’s more flattering, but if a RAW file is softened too much you can end up without enough texture to use later. So, in my last batch of shots I was sure to keep the original sharper than I usually do, even though that means my original shots of my 47 year old skin are less complimentary than I would like. No one but me ever sees those, anyway.

The second thing I’ve been learning to do is add the right sort of texture back into the skin after attempting to retouch OUT the textures I don’t want. As I said, this can be tedious, especially if I have only really small patches of texture to work with and re-distribute over the face, but once I get this down I think the end results are going to be worth it.

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Some early attempts; I keep them bigger so hopefully you can see the skin. I think the second one is better than the first. I actually really don’t care for either one of these shots all that much. Nothing wrong with them, I just think they’re both kinda boring.

By the way, back to props: in the two photos above I am wearing this faux alpaca-fur scarf I saw a while back at Nordstrom; it really is that bright, and it is huge – when throwing it over my shoulders it looks more like a big, long fuzzy vest than a scarf. I saw it at the Galleria store and was dying for it, but it was too pricey for me at the time; later on I saw it on sale half off online and snatched it right up. I am glad I did, even though we have had NO winter here this year and I have had no reason to wear it out of the house.

All of this skin retouching stuff got me excited about working with portraits, so last Friday I decided to try another shoot and give myself some newer stuff to work with. I’ve got my Portrait Pro software down to the extent that, in most of these photos I’ve already shared, I had nothing but foundation, highlight and contour, and powder on my face in the actual shots. ALL of the color on the face, including the mascara and the eyebrows, has been added digitally. This really helps me with prep-time for taking self-portraits, as so often the amount of time putting on a full drag face is so long that by the time I am done applying, I don’t much feel like doing the work of posing for the shoot. Now I can slap on the basics fairly quickly and get to work, although applying more makeup on the front end is always going to be preferable  – something I REALLY learned in this last shoot.

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So, my basic idea was this: I’ve had some luck in the past taking half my face from one shot and layering it over another face to get the “perfect”look – in one case, for example, I loved the movement of the hair in a shot, but there was so much hair in my face it wasn’t usable as it was. I figured out how to take a section of my face from another shot and paste it over the hair-covered one, and not only did it solve the problem, it actually created a new-looking face that didn’t much look like me, but was still cool:

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You’ve seen it before, but here it is again

I am always looking for ways to make me look less like me, so I got this idea to take a bunch of shots of myself standing in the same exact position, wearing exactly the same thing, but making a ton of different faces, with the plan being to use my facial features like a digital Mrs. Potato Head during editing and just steal a nose here, a mouth there, and create all these different-looking people out of them. However, this did not end up being nearly as cool as it sounded.

The basic ‘pose’ was like the one above where I have on the head scarf: I wanted to be looking straight ahead as that is the easiest way to edit using Portrait Pro as well as being the easiest way to pose in general, which I thought would help me keep all the different shots uniform. It didn’t though – you’d be amazed how much you actually move your damn head around even when you think you’re being perfectly still! So, there was actually a lot of variation among the different shots as far as exactly where my head was positioned, which altered the light and shadows hitting the faces, too.

But that could have been worked with – here was the real problem: these shots, even though they served their purpose of having at least somewhat interchangeable facial features to play with, were basically, well, boring. I am not sure why I decided to go with a head scarf instead of a wig, except that I must have thought the presence of wig hair would either be too limiting visually or just get too much in the way of the face. That makes sense, but then I should have gone on to do some shots looking at the camera wearing some sort of hair, because while it was interesting to mix up my facial features on different shots, the end results were just lame. Just me staring at a camera with a head scarf on, period. Very little color and no point of interest, unless like me you are able to look at them and appreciate the subtle differences in my face taking the Potato Head approach renders. Which, honestly, wasn’t even THAT interesting to me! So, I found myself spending a TON of time Potato-Heading myself only to end up looking at a pretty boring photo. As a result of that, I started to add a ton of weird textures and overlays just to cure my own boredom, which isn’t really something I care to look at in the end. I love filters and overlays, but I prefer to use them subtly so that the end result still looks somewhat ‘natural’ – in other words, the filter enhances the photo without overtaking it. In these shots, I got so bored that I let the filters take over.

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You’ve already seen this one, but I’m showing it again because it’s the best example of the problem I created for myself. Although, I WAS briefly interested in the fact that I inadvertently made myself look like Ivanka Trump. 

One other thing I did during the shoot to liven things up, but that also didn’t work out all that well: a few times I held up some props to my face, thinking I could edit those elements out of the shots and apply them to my experimental faces as well – sort of like Mrs. Potato Head bonus features, if you will. But even that was primarily a fail; even though there wasn’t much going on in the initial shots that I had to deal with when compositing later, there was enough that it made it hard to use the props without them being obviously pasted onto my face. For example, I thought sticking a peacock feather over my eye would be kind of awesome; on its own it’s not such a grand idea, but if the peacock feather could look like it was actually growing out of my face it could be kinda cool. Except, when I held the feather up to my eye I didn’t center it properly, and when trying to move it around on another head shot, all the places in the original photo where the head scarf and parts of my face showed through the spines made it impossible to work with without looking totally ridiculous and I am not talented enough to highlight and copy something this intricate without screwing it up royally. To compensate for that, I filtered it to death, and what I ended up settling for in the final version was pretty much laughable and lame – when I look at this, I just think, and why does this photo even exist, exactly? It literally serves no purpose whatsoever, except to confuse the viewer as to why the photographer even wasted her time on such foolishness:

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So, Ivanka Trump, in what appears to be a swim cap, sticks a peacock feather in it and then, what, takes a shower? Gets caught in the rain? WHY AM I LOOKING AT THIS?! And why is that peacock feather looking so much like a fish skeleton – I NEED ANSWERS!

Then there’s this beauty – that’s a Christmas tree ornament I held in front of my face in one shot, that once again I failed to put properly over the eye and had to adjust for that error:

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For fun, I actually took the pink center of the star, stretched it out into a lip-like shape, and stuck it over my real lips. Then I stretched it out even more and put the glitter pattern of it into the head scarf. All of this took a crazy amount of time, and in the end helped the photo not one bit. Still boring. Although, I continue to be impressed with how good I can make fake makeup look.

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Over-edited heavy filter compensation photo. There are actually elements of this one I like, but still, they don’t go together at all. Once I got the idea to use these different wall textures on it, I wished I hadn’t worked so hard to get that star placed on my face, because it literally makes no sense with what else the picture has going on.

Now, this next one I think was somewhat more successful. The placement of the silver tree branch was more workable, and the end result of putting it up against my face in a different shot is more interesting. My goal was to make it look like the branch was actually growing out of my face, but I’m not skilled enough at Photoshop to have made that happen in any convincing way, so I kind of abandoned the idea and decided to just say, hey, here’s me with a silver branch in my face. Enjoy.

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At the time of editing, though, I wasn’t as satisfied with this as I am now, because I actually kept going with the filters until I’d gone WAY too far. Remember, I’m still getting used to the novelty of being able to use all my software on my new laptop, so I do tend to get carried away. Thankfully I saved a copy of the version above and didn’t totally trash it without having a backup to that previous, much less chaotic version.

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Sinead O’Connor hiding out in the forest? Stop, already. Just stop. 

However, all hope was NOT LOST! Apparently I’ve learned something over the years I’ve been doing this (well and now, I’ve actually learned more, namely, that taking 50 photos of myself standing in the same spot wearing a swim cap is a bad idea) because I did take the time to throw on a few wigs, and some of the new Goodwill costume purchases I’ve made lately, and get some interesting shots before I packed it in for the day. So at least I can have fun editing those. Although – I can’t say editing this one was an easy ride:

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It seemed I was just determined to make life hard for myself on this day, because right before I called it quits I decided to throw on some crazy makeup and take a few shots with it – I managed to draw those thick black lines onto my face PERFECTLY, then decided to try and blend them out a little with black eye shadow and effed that one over the eyebrow COMPLETELY. I was able to fix it in Photoshop, but it was a huge pain in the ass and took forever, so I’m not sure I’ll edit any more shots from this part of the shoot. That’s probably fine, though, because this is a pretty distinctive look, and I don’t think anyone needs to see more than one of this. Not sure I should have kept the brick wall effect on the orange and yellow eye shadow, but I am a bit obsessed with that particular texture and how I can cleverly incorporate it into shots without allowing it to take over. And that top is AMAZING for photos – it’s big and sheer and very caftan-y and it was only $3.99 at the Goodwill up the street.

Now, last but not least – from the ashes of a basically failed photo session comes this lovely Phoenix!

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BOOM! Take THAT, Mrs. Potato Head! In reality, this wig is a dishwater-looking blond with a very drab green, although a bit of teal and yellow shows up in the underneath side of it. But using Photoshop I was able to draw out a ton of beautiful color, plus I feel like I really got the skin texture right here, if maybe a bit TOO textured. All of the makeup was added in PS, and the hair is actually taken from two different shots of it while I was blowing it around with a fan (the bit where it’s curling up towards the ceiling is from one shot, as well as the bit that is swooping over my forehead and back over my shoulder; that big swoop at the top is from another shot where it was almost falling back off my head, as well as all the strands coming forward onto my shoulders). Even the cheap cotton-knit yellow dress I’d just picked up at Goodwill and put on backwards (since that’s where the interesting detail was) really worked with the wig far better than I thought it would. I absolutely love this shot, at least as much as the very first one I posted in this long-ass thread, so, lesson learned – when it comes to portraits, I really need to start with some color, and some movement and interesting poses that I can enhance in Photoshop, rather than starting so basic that I have to rely on editing to do ALL the work. A little bit of PS magic is fine and fun for me, but if it’s ALL the photo has to work with to make it successful, it just isn’t my bag. Some people are really great all of that image manipulation, but it turns out that I do have my limits. So, onward and upward; more wigs it is!

Speaking of wigs, I did buy three new Rene of Paris ones over the weekend – a Zuma, a Sonoma, and an Evanna. I got one of them in the new pastel blue, then the others are in some of the new brunettes they came out with. The prices are very nice, which helped me decide to make the purchases. I should have them in to review soon!

Valentine’s Fray

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For starters, I’ve been sick with one thing or another since January 1st, and it’s getting old. First there was the shingles, which was miserable, and after that there’s this recurring UTI I can’t get rid of that I’ve dealt with twice already,  and then this week I picked up a wicked head cold that has me sneezing and snuffling and feeling generally miserable. My tutoring business is finally picking up, and there are a few potential projects I’d like to be focusing on right now, so constantly feeling like crap is both slowing me down and pissing me off. Not to mention the ongoing daily Trump assault that often finds me darting out of the house in no time flat to go protest some new executive order President Steve Bannon shits out over breakfast.

Speaking of projects, I’ve had this thing that keeps happening to me and it’s starting to work my last nerve. Someone will contact me about my photography – either offering to put me in a show or asking me to participate in some project – and when I express interest but request assistance because I’ve never had a gallery show or engaged in a photography project, the person who proposed the idea will be super-helpful for a day or two, then steadily lose interest in working with me until communication is cut off entirely and the whole idea fizzles. I am not sure why this keeps happening, but I can only assume it’s because these people don’t want to work with me if I need a lot of help to meet the requirements of their project, and while I can understand being hit with a bunch of questions over something you thought you could just throw out to someone and have them run with it is annoying, I hardly feel like the questions I’ve asked or the assistance/information I’ve needed has been excessive.

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For example, several years ago a friend of mine contacted me about possibly having a show at this gallery of which she was a board member. I was excited about the idea, but never having had a show I had no idea what it entailed, so I asked her how such a thing would come together. She informed me that when the gallery worked with artists, the framing (or in the case of photography, the printing and framing) of the pieces would be taken care of by the artist and delivered to the gallery. OK, so what are the requirements for printing? She didn’t know, but directed me to another photographer who’d had several shows at her gallery and said this person could probably help me. So, I contacted that person and after hearing back from her I asked several questions, such as – what size prints do you use, and how do you frame them, and what service do you use to get these things printed? She answered me noncommittally – something like, well I think I’ve done it this or that way, but I don’t really remember – and then she disappeared. I had a lot more questions for her, but after emailing her two more times I figured she wasn’t so game to help me out, and by that time, neither was the friend who’d originally made the offer. So, that was a dead-end.

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Now I feel like the same sort of thing is happening again. Three weeks ago, someone I follow on Facebook contacted me to ask if I ever did anything professional with my photos, and a conversation struck up around that. She was very enthusiastic about my work and asked if we could meet for lunch. We did so, and during that lunch this person was insistent that there was a market for my photographs through this nonprofit that offers art workshops to places like women’s shelters, halfway houses, nursing homes, etc. That may sound strange, but a perusal of their website shows that artists get hired by these places to offer workshops about, say, sculpting or poetry writing, where they teach the participants to do these things over the course of several hours. There was a wide variety of workshops offered, and it sounded like a cool thing to do that not only could pay me well for my time and provide me opportunities to photograph people other than myself, but that it was performing a nice service for people in need as well.

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My ‘workshop’ would have to be a bit different, though, because instead of having the participants make something, they’d just be posing for a portrait; a portrait I would work my Photoshop magic on and give to them as a fun picture of themselves looking in some way unusual and fun. It’s a nice idea, but I’ve struggled a bit with how to structure such a thing, and I’ve had some questions and I’ve been trying to put a proposal together for my friend to show to the organization. Logistical stuff, mainly, like how long can I really spend with each client if there’s just one of me and I have to shoot 10-12 people in a session, and how do I get their makeup done too without it taking forever to pull off? And how can I personalize these photos so that when I work with them I can incorporate the subjects’ personalities into them? Should I provide some sort of lesson or lecture about my portraits, portraiture in general, or sit down with each person and get to know them a little so I can include what they tell me in the final product? How much input do I want these people to have in the final result, and how much input is realistic given the time constraints?

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I also had questions about the proposal itself – how much should I charge, what additional fees should I include? How does any artist put a proposal like this together? How do you package and promote your artwork for different audiences without your art becoming something you no longer enjoy doing? OK, that last question is more just for me, but all of the others are genuine confusions I have about putting something like this together, so on occasion I’ve asked my friend some of them to see what she thinks. Keep in mind she was very, very enthusiastic about my chances of finding a niche with this organization when we met for lunch, so I’ve assumed she’d be willing to help me out as far as getting things together, but I may have been wrong about that, because in the last week or so I haven’t been hearing from her much, and her responses have been pretty brief. I’ve only contacted her with questions twice since we met, although I could definitely have asked her more, but I’ve been trying not to overwhelm her with requests for assistance.

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Still, I think I may have derailed this project somehow anyway, without meaning to do so, and I’m not sure why this keeps happening. Maybe because they like my photos people assume I know more about marketing, promoting, or even just printing my photos than I do, or that any 47-year-old woman should be able to figure this shit out for herself without needing help – I dunno. It’s not like I’ve been sitting around dreaming of the day I was able to work for a nonprofit taking portraits of people in nursing homes or shelters, and had an entire proposal at the ready  in case I was ever asked. It’s not like I’ve been preparing for the day someone gives me a gallery show, either, so when someone asks me if I want to do such a thing I’m all ready to do that, too (in fact, when it came to the gallery show, I did learn that I hadn’t even been editing my photos properly for printing anyway, and nothing I had up to that point would have worked).

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Come to think of it, though, I bet that’s exactly what these people have assumed. They see me as a photographer, not a hobbyist, so they do assume I already know these things and are ready and waiting to jump at the first offer I get. In fact, that’s probably what they would expect of any artist, since for many of them they are ready and waiting for someone to ask; I just never have been. I’ve never given these sorts of propositions any thought at all, so when someone presents me with an opportunity I expect them to help me get my shit together to pull it off – which I guess isn’t really the deal.

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On the flip side of that, though, is the thought that I’m not really sure this nonprofit thing is something I want to do. I’m not sure what I do is as right for their purposes as my friend thinks  it is, although she herself gets work through them and thinks I am a good fit. I just feel lost trying to put something together for it for one reason or another  – one reason, for example, is the fact that I think I’d have to bring a makeup artist with me to these sessions, and I don’t know any makeup artists. I’d also have to supply all the costumes, which includes accessories and wigs, and I’m not real sure how to package all of this stuff into a workable, time-efficient program. I feel like I need someone to bounce the whole thing off of, and my friend clearly isn’t going to be that person (one recent feedback she gave me was that my prices were “VERY reasonable,” which I took to mean I wasn’t charging enough money for my services, but she didn’t tell me what she would have considered reasonable).

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Lordy, I just don’t know, but I feel like my window of opportunity for this is narrowing, and I still don’t have a clear picture of how it should work. And this is on top of being sick in one form or another for a month straight, dealing with a sick father-in-law who is in the hospital, the daily Trump outrage, and juggling new clients, so that days go by right now where I haven’t even given the project any thought and don’t much feel like doing it, either. I don’t feel I’ve got any sort of grasp on it at all, which knocks it down to the bottom of my to-do list on a daily basis. You know how that goes.

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Anyway, in other news, I’m excited for Rene of Paris to come out with several new wig styles this month. There are several I’m waiting to try, and the company has some gorgeous new colors they’re adding to the line also (a pastel blue that looks fabulous and several delicious new brunettes). And as usual, they are keeping prices reasonable, which is great. I really want to try Sonoma and Evanna even though, being Rene of Paris wigs, they will probably be waaaaay too huge on me; ROP really goes overboard on the curls and swirls, but whatever. I haven’t made any videos in quite a while because I haven’t bought anything lately, but I will definitely be trying these two out and filming them in the future.

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As you can tell from these photos, I’ve been enjoying playing around with some of the Photoshop plug-ins I purchased but just couldn’t use with my old laptop; the Topaz Glow, Impressions, and Textures plug-ins in particular are really floating my boat right now, and I’m so happy to be able to use them again.

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I think this about catches me up for now; hope your February is moving along nicely and that you are having some sort of winter wherever you are. It was 85 degrees here today, which is depressing; aside from one weekend of freezing temperatures we’ve had no cold weather here at all this year, and I can’t remember the last time winter was so warm (that’s actually because it’s never happened; we’re breaking records for highest winter temps almost daily, it seems).

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New Year’s Devolution

Welp, 2016 finally pissed off, but not before bitch-slapping me one last time on the way out the door.

Over the winter break, Free People kept having all these awesome sales, and I ended up buying WAY too much stuff but it was all really inexpensive so no harm done. Of the many things I bought, there were these “body baubles” I kept scrolling past on the sale page; they were little face jewels pre-packaged into interesting shapes, and after much hemming and hawing I eventually put some of them in my cart – they were on sale for about six bucks a bauble, so I figured why not. They came on a thin adhesive strip, so all I had to do before the day’s shoot was peel them off their backing and stick ’em on my face. Easy-peasy.

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I took all of these on December 31st, and this was one of those shoots where everything worked – I used the right lens, my lighting was on point, and I went ahead and used my DermaBlend (which I usually just use on my neck and chest)  on my face since last time out my Smashbox foundation didn’t work so well, and it did the trick. I put on a decent amount of foundation and highlight/contour, as well as lot of liner and mascara, but I purposely went light on the rest of the cosmetics so I could really play around with PortraitPro’s makeup effects on a cleaner canvas than usual (foundation is always a must, though – I’ve learned that the hard way).

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I didn’t just play around with makeup in PortraitPro, though; I broke out a really long wig and really flung it about when posing – something I don’t do as often as I used to because, quite honestly, it’s a pain in the ass. You have to stop and re-brush the wig every few shots or you end up with an ugly, tangled mess, not to mention all the wig hairs that get in your eyes, your lipstick, the fan that’s blowing your wig around (it doesn’t just happen to Beyonce), and, of course, it gets hot. My laziness lately has pretty much led me to forgo long wigs for shorties that are colorful and easy to play around with, but this long ombre pink one made for some amazing movement shots – in fact, I have already edited a HELL of a lot of the long wig photos and am still going.

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PortraitPro can also change haircolor, so even though all these long hair shots are the same wig, I managed to make it look a bit different using the software. I really can’t explain how much fun all this stuff is for me to do – as a kid, I used to get fashion magazines and lay them out on the floor, then get colored markers and ‘improve’ all the models’ makeup and hair. So with Photoshop, I basically get to do what I enjoyed doing so much as a kid, only with more effective results, which I think is pretty damn cool. Technology, yay! Although, I still do miss the JC Penney catalog I used to deface year after year. Moving on.

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I made sure to do a few costume changes so I’d have lots to work with, but I didn’t really think about switching out  the ‘body baubles’ once I got to the multi-colored set you see in most of the photos above. I wore the silver ones with the blonde wig and the polka-dotted PJs (yes, they do have feet in them, something someone on Facebook guessed without me telling them – is it that obvious?) and then switched to the colorful ones for the long wig, and kept that set on for two more costume changes, leaving out the green set I got entirely (after a few hours with the adhesive on my face, it was starting to itch, so I decided to stop and save the green baubles for another shoot). So, while I had some different wigs and outfits to play around with when editing, I had the same bauble-face in most of them. Enter Photoshop again:

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Aside from eyeshadow/mascara, I didn’t add any makeup to this shot – I started to, but for some reason it worked better without added blush and lipstick

Yep, I realized that it was super-easy to copy the face baubles in PS and paste them onto other parts of my face as much as I wanted. Score! So that gave me plenty more ways to take shots from the same set and make them look a bit different. I also worked the hell out of the makeup tool in PortraitPro – when using the tool, you can only add one eyeshadow color at a time, so I usually use it to add to existing color and move on. This time, I kept using and re-using the tool to get all these different colors of eyeshadow on my face – it’s tedious work, because every time you load PP you have to move the guide points around the subject’s face to get all the outlines right, and on my poor old laptop (got a new one on the way, thank god) the software slows to a crawl. But using PortraitPro and Photoshop’s blending tools, and a LOT of patience, I was able to create some pretty realistic and different makeup effects from photo to photo.

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I purposely left off any eyebrow liner or pencil when putting on my makeup, because I knew I wanted to play around with my brows, and I do not like using the glue-stick drag-queen trick to block my natural brows out and draw them on higher (tried it once and it yanked out a lot of my already-sparse eyebrow hair). In some shots, I was able to remove the brows entirely and use copied and pasted face baubles in their place (like the photo above with the short purple wig), while in others I used Photoshop to raise them high, drag-queen style. In the shot directly above, all of that eyeshadow was done via editing: my first round with PortraitPro added the green-gold shadow, and then I went in a second time to add the copper color on the lid. You can choose whether or not to make the shadow matte or shimmery, and you can see in that shot how realistic the shimmery shadows look. Each photo took hours to work with this way, but as I mentioned already, I was having fun doing it, so no problem there.

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You can imagine how long this one took to edit, with not one or two but THREE eyeshadow colors happening. My dedication is real, people. Another fun PortraitPro makeup fact: Because I lined my eyes using white in the waterline and bringing the dark liner down below (another drag queen trick to make eyes look bigger and change the shape), I was able to use the software to apply lashes and mascara below the dark eyeliner – something I could not have done on my own (drag queens can do this with false lashes, but I was already risking it with the bauble-adhesive on my sensitive skin and wasn’t gonna go there). I think if you scroll back up to some of the previous pictures, you can see the effect of this better than you can in the shot above, but it is amazing how realistic the eyelashes look. I also used PP to over-whiten the eye area to increase the big-eyed effect. So fun.

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OK, I already had a strange look on my face before editing this shot, but by the time I was done, I literally looked NOTHING like myself. And I didn’t even edit this one nearly as much as the others! Go figure. I think it’s because it’s an angle and an expression I don’t normally do. 

But wait – I started this post saying 2016 kicked me in the ass one last time on December 31st, but so far everything sounds hunky-dory. So what happened? Well what happened was this: after I took about 400 shots, and my face started to get itchy, I called it a day, uploaded my shots, and removed all the makeup from my face so I could start editing. And a few hours later, I started to get – itchy. But on my chest, not my face. I was so focused on the photos that it took me awhile to notice that I’d gotten SO itchy I was scratching my right side, right around the rib area. Then I felt a big old bump, like a huge mosquito had bitten me (not an unlikely thought, since it was about 84 degrees around New Year’s, and there actually WERE mosquitoes outside). I went to the mirror to see how bad the bite was, and YIKES. It wasn’t just one bite – it was whole cluster of them! No wait, upon further inspection – there were TWO clusters of bites on the right side of my chest.

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I realize this photo in no way goes along with the story I am telling – but trust me, THAT photo you don’t want to see.

I showed Doug, and he agreed that they looked like some kind of bug bites, which was freaking me out more than the itching. I hated to admit it, but they sure looked like bed bugs. Bed Bugs! Ugh! I freaked out and washed a LOT of shit in hot water that evening, not gonna lie, even though it was not logical that I would have been bitten by bed bugs all over while my husband had none anywhere, or that I wouldn’t start feeling them until four in the afternoon. Could we have fleas? How was this possible with all the money we spend to keep our totally-indoor pets flea-free? Or – was it actually an allergic reaction to the adhesive, and if so, why was it on my chest and not my face, where the baubles actually were glued? The mystery, and the itching, deepened.

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One of my faves from this set so far – I love the tones in this one

As I’m typing this, I’m wondering if it’s even a good idea to share it at all – but, the real story turned out to have nothing to do with bugs. I loaded up on Benadryl to get through the night, then realized in the morning when the bites hadn’t changed a bit (they hadn’t gotten worse, but certainly were no better) that I was going to have to hope against hope that a clinic somewhere was open on New Year’s Day so I could find out what was going on (isn’t it always the way that you develop some weird something or other on a holiday, or a weekend when doctors aren’t open?). Thankfully, a RediClinic was open in our local HEB and I headed up there, along with every other sick man, woman, and child desperately looking for emergency care on the first damn day of 2017.

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Lots of added face baubles in this one, and you gotta give me credit for using PortraitPro to create that ombre lip. Fake makeup takes work, people!

Anyway, long story short (too late) – the doc takes one look at my chest and identifies the rash immediately as shingles. Something I have never had – and three days in, I hope to God I never have again. The rash has not spread – but oh my GAWD is it painful. Not to draw too clear a picture, but I eventually had to cut the right side out of a t-shirt just so I could be somewhat covered up around the house because I cannot stand to have any  fabric touching my chest right now. And of course, it finally decided to get cold here in Houston today, so I not only have on a t-shirt with the right boob cut out of it, but a legwarmer stuck on my right arm to keep me feeling somewhat covered since I had to cut the sleeve out too. That’s right people – the glamourpuss in the photos above is currently typing this blog post in a green, half-ripped t-shirt, with her rashy right boob hanging out and a brown legwarmer on her right arm. Earlier, one – ONE – hair from my head fell onto my chest and it felt like someone rubbed sandpaper on it, that’s how bad it is right now. If ANY fabric from this ripped-up shirt comes close to the danger zone, I feel it, and it feels awful.

So, day one of 2017 found me in a clinic getting diagnosed with shingles. And I was so ready to hit the ground running this week too, to finally buckle down and get my tutoring business up and running. Instead, I’m hiding out in the house dedicating all my time and energy pampering and protecting my chest. I blame Donald Trump. But hey, I’ve had plenty of time to play around and edit my pictures! Notice I’ve already processed ELEVEN of them, and I just took the shots four days ago. That’s gotta be a new record for me.

Candid Christmas

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My sister-in-law asked me to bring my camera Christmas Eve, so she could get a few quick shots of her family. I’ve gotten to where I generally don’t bring my camera along to such events, because going into photo mode gets distracting and becomes a chore. But I actually hadn’t taken any photos of the fam at Christmas for a few years, so I decided to bring it along and see how things turned out.

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The family in question – my brother and his wife and kids

I tried to learn from past mistakes and bring along a few different lenses, instead of just picking one that I think will work and only bringing that one along. In the end I took everything with my trusty 50mm, but I brought along my wide-angle lens in case I needed it in  small spaces. In the end, the 50mm worked fine (one lesson I’ve learned from my recent outings with the 17-40mm is that it just doesn’t take people photos all that well, and if I can ever get by without it when taking people shots – which I can’t always do – I should).

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For the most part, I was able to simply pull out the camera on occasion, then put  it aside and partake in the Christmas cheer. I think I’ve gotten better at discerning when it’s time to take photos and when it’s not necessary, so that I’m not constantly snapping away because of a misguided belief that if I stop, I’ll miss out on some amazing shot that I would totally regret not taking if I put the camera down to eat a tamale or something (if you do not eat tamales with your Christmas dinner, well then, you’re not from Texas). I think years of leaving such events with thousands of photos that are basically the same thing over and over has finally taught me to relax a bit and not try to shoot everything.

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For the most part I took pictures of people as they arrived, which, in my family, is a fairly spread out affair because at least half of them have no concept of time. Usually when someone is planning a get-together, they don’t even bother to tell anyone what time to show up, and if you ask, you get an estimate (and an apathetic one at that) rather than an actual starting point – just be there around 4 PM, or you know, whenever.  The problem is no one wants to eat, or in the case of Christmas, open gifts, until everyone has shown up, which as you can imagine becomes a problem. This time, we were told to be at my sister’s house at 4:30. Doug and I arrived at 4:30 on the dot and there were already three other groups of people there. Then guests were trickling in all the way until SEVEN-THIRTY PM, all done while periodically texting the hungry, prompt participants that they were ALMOST THERE. One of my  nieces texted her mother that she was about twenty minutes away, only to post a photo to Facebook five minutes later which clearly showed her still in her bathroom at home getting ready to leave. All this to say that I decided to just break out the camera every time a new group of people arrived, and then tuck it away until the next round of entrances occurred. Since people were wandering in for about three hours (and of course, as soon as the last tardy group arrived, people immediately started to leave) it made for a relaxing evening of picture-taking, with lots of downtime in between to just sit and chat. So, win?

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Another lesson learned (and man, it sure takes me a long time to learn such things, doesn’t it? I’ve been taking pictures for at least 7 years) is that I simply cannot edit every single photo I share with others, nor do I need to. In considering the purpose of taking such photos, I realize that most people just want to see some recorded moments of the event, and would be perfectly happy with iPhone shots so therefore do not need perfectly lit, color-balanced, and perfected photos – that shit just takes way too long, and people don’t care anyway. So, for most of the Christmas family shots, I just uploaded them straight from the camera into Photo Ninja (the camera RAW editor I use), cropped them, sharpened them a little and did my best to color balance, then loaded them immediately onto Facebook. And everyone was happy. I did, however, choose to edit the pictures my sister-in-law wanted of her family, since she was going to print those and use them as family shots, and there were a few others I liked enough to also give the Photoshop treatment. All of the big ones I’ve shared here were edited, but most of the ones in the collage were not.

And of course, being me – I just had to play around with Portrait Pro tools on at least one of them! In this cause, my niece Chana gave me the perfect shot for some Photoshop trickery:

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Her original hair is fun, but I just wanted to see how many different colors I could make it in PortraitPro (answer: many). And it was too easy to add makeup for me to resist. Not that there was anything wrong with the original shot – I just wanted to play around a little.

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My new less-is-more philosophy also came in handy when I went with my father out to IAH today to watch some planes land. Since I have over a zillion shots of United Airlines planes landing and taking off (IAH is one of their hubs) and I’ve plane spotted there plenty of times, I no longer go completely insane when I get there and feel like I have to snap everything. It was a pretty slow day, being a weekday and all, but they were using the good runway (over the parking lot with the port-o-potties – very handy) and I managed to snap a few non-United planes without going too crazy. Sure, I still ended up taking about 1,000 shots, but that’s easy to do when using high shutter speed, and in actuality I only shot about 20 planes total. In the past, I’d shoot as many as 4,000 shots out there, and end up having way too much to sift through when I got home. This was much easier, and there were a few planes I didn’t shoot at all, and just sat back and watched land over my head alongside my dad.

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So, in spite of feeling recently like I’ve become pretty bored with taking photos, I’ve actually taken a ton of them lately. I also gussied up in some of my new Free People stuff (because they KEEP HAVING GOOD SALES, dammit) to show it off, but I haven’t processed those yet because then our impromptu plane-spotting trip came up instead. But I’ll get to those soon. If I don’t pop back in here again before the weekend, happy new year everyone. Here’s hoping 2017 is better than the shit show 2016 has been, but I kinda doubt it. But that’s for another post. For now let’s enjoy this one last week of peace on earth and good will towards men before that all goes to hell in the new year, shall we?

Reaching Back and Catching Up

First of all, I got in my new Vuitton from Fashionphile last week – and it is GORGEOUS. photo-dec-06-10-39-04-am

One thing I love about Fashionphile is that because they are selling high-end luxury goods, their descriptions are really REALLY picky – way more picky than I am about a handbag with pen marks or smudges. As I’ve mentioned before, I am hell on a handbag, so the random discoloration or crease doesn’t bother me one bit. But it’s important when selling a handbag that costs an arm and a leg USED, much less new, that the seller list every single little thing that could be considered a flaw. Fashionphile has five categories to describe the condition of the items they sell: brand new, excellent, very good, good, and fair. I’ve never bought anything from them in the ‘brand new’ category, and I’m not sure I’ve ever bought something that was labeled as ‘excellent’ either (since those items are going to be the most expensive, obvs), but I have bought handbags that fall into the other three categories, and the only one where I saw anything amiss was when I bought one that was labeled ‘fair.’ The ‘very good’ and ‘good’ ones I’ve purchased have looked almost perfect to me, and I’ve had NO complaints about them whatsoever. Usually, the interior of a very good or good level handbag will be dirty or marked up, but as I’ve mentioned before I could care less about that. And this one, for example, was categorized as just ‘good’ due to some slight marks and discolorations on the exterior, but I swear it looks good as new to me. Whenever I buy something labeled ‘good’ or ‘fair’ I always worry what I’m going to get, but I have only been disappointed once, and in that case, it wasn’t that Fashionphile had mis-labeled the bag but rather, had labeled it accurately as just fair (whereas usually when they label something ‘good’ I get the bag in and think, good lord, what exactly did they even think was WRONG with this thing?). So all that to say that yeah, this one was a hefty price tag for me, but I am still so happy I bought it. It’s beautiful and I’ve wanted one of these Empriente Artsy bags for years, and never could have afforded it new. If I had any complaint at all, it would be that it’s heavy. It’s already big and will carry a lot of stuff inside, which adds weight, but the hardware is heavy and the handle is thick which makes it more so. Plus, it’s a fairly heavy (but deliciously soft) leather too. So, heavy, but still worth it. Moving on.

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I edited some more photos from the shoot I did a few weeks ago, and while I came across a few more interesting ones, for the most part I’m already bored with them. Kind of a shame, since I took over 500 photos that day, but once I started getting bored it at least inspired me to go WAY back into the past and re-work some of the earliest photos I ever took. I do this from time to time, but I’ve never gone back quite as far into the archives as I did this time – some of these were taken way back in 2011 when I first started shooting, and was still using a VERY old Canon Rebel XTi that someone gave me for free:

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One thing I will say – as an editor, wow. My face has changed a LOT in six years! It’s pretty astounding to go back to some of these (like that top left one, which is definitely from a very old shoot when i was just getting started, because it was when I shaved my head that I started wearing wigs and taking pictures) and notice how much less wrinkled and saggy and sun-damaged I was back then. I’m not criticizing myself here, just noting it from an editor’s perspective. Up until my forties, I just didn’t notice myself aging at all; I felt I looked the same from  year to year. Once I hit forty though, the changes were exponential – every year I looked different, every year I could see how my face was changing. And pulling up photos from when I was 41 really hits that point home for me. It’s fine and it doesn’t worry me, but it is really noticeable when looking at these shots, and it still kind of amazes me to see it happening.

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These were all done shortly after I got my Canon 7D and was so excited to be able to do movement and motion shots, as well as getting my wide-angle lens and being able to take full-body shots in my tiny little office. I can’t help but notice how much less enthused I am about the whole process now; back then I just hadn’t done any of this stuff and every shot was so new to me – seeing how I could capture movement of fabric or hair or the body was such a revelation every single time, whereas now, it doesn’t feel all that revelatory. For the most part, I don’t even have much enthusiasm for doing it anymore, whereas back then every wig or prop or piece of interesting fabric I could get my hands on was a new adventure. I’m not complaining really; it’s part of the creative process to burn out or run out of steam and find a way to push past it to create new things, but part of my problem is not wanting to shoot myself so much anymore and not having much luck getting other people to pose for me. Everyone I know is so busy, and when they are willing to do a shoot they have specific desires for what sort of photos they want, and I end up doing a bunch of plain old portraits instead of any fun stuff. However – I have taken thousands upon thousands of photos over the years already, so I can always dip back into the archives and work with older stuff while I wait for some new angle to strike me.

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This is from my latest shoot, however; it’s one of my favorites so far. Everything really worked here – the light was right and the focus was clear. A lot of the photos from my last shoot came out really soft, or the lighting wasn’t doing what I wanted; but for some reason the pics of me in this wig and dress (which is another one I put on backwards to get the effect of the ribbon) all worked together really well. I was playing around with light a lot during this set, and that made for a lot of less-than-perfect shots when I didn’t get things right; but this was one where it worked (probably because I did nothing fancy here and stuck with my usual setup).

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Other than that – I’ve been on a real Free People and Oh My Gauze kick lately. OMG came out with some new styles and colors for the first time in A YEAR, and I was so thrilled I snatched up a bunch of new things as soon as I saw them on their website. I’ve gotten better with them about knowing what to avoid, though; a lot of their tops are just too big for me and unflattering (especially their longer tunics, it’s just too much fabric for my small frame), and they have some standard cuts that I’ve tried before and not liked. So, in my latest shopping spree I was able to pick and choose a little better what to get without so many fails (although I had a few). And Free People keeps having sales and I keep getting hooked into buying more items; I’ve discovered I love their t-shirts more than anything, and since quitting work I’ve been much more of a t-shirts and jeans gal than I was last year, so I’ve acquired quite a few cool ones from them lately. That picture above is the t-shirt that got me going – it was the first thing I’d bought from FP in a while and I loved it so much I keep going back and finding more I want to try (a really bad shopping habit of mine – find one thing I love, then immediately want more of it). I hemmed and hawed about getting it, because it was NINETY-EIGHT DOLLARS for a damn tee – but I adored the color combination and the mix of patterns. The logo is stupid (All’s Fair in Love and Combat Boots – WTF) but it does also have these little embroidered flowers all over the front, and it’s really thick and sturdy and comfy and basically perfect. Hm. I may do a quick photo session to show off some new clothes, since I haven’t done that in awhile; maybe that will jump-start some photo-mojo for me.

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I snagged these crappy screenshots real quick from the Oh My Gauze website; all of these are new styles I’ve tried in the new colors. I particularly love the light lavender (which they call ‘flamingo’) and the soft gray; those two colors look beautiful together. The skirt is really cute in real life, although that color I don’t care for (I got it in black), and the pants in the lower right-hand corner are truly beautiful on (got them in both the flamingo and the grey). That top is one of the few I decided to try, because as I said, most of their tops don’t work on me; the photo isn’t very flattering, but in reality it’s another winner. That color is called ‘blonde,’ and in reality it’s got more yellow to it than you can tell in the pictures. By the way, I often dislike how the OMG website puts their outfits together and how they accessorize; it just isn’t at all the way I would wear this stuff. They often pair their tops with a really basic straight leg pant that’s pretty blah and it just does nothing for the outfit overall (like they did here with both the yellow top and the flamingo tunic), and sometimes the shoes or accessories they use don’t look right for the styles at all, IMHO – like those brown sandals with that skirt. That skirt needs a fun and funky shoe, and why the dark brown? And the random, generic belt? No, just no.

Now, this hot mawma on the other hand – she knows what she’s doing. If you’re going to wear this lagenlook stuff, you have to WEAR IT:

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And no, I don’t know this woman, but I wish I did as I fully intend to turn into her as I age. She models a lot of stuff for a store called Watersister that sells on eBay, and she is EVERYTHING. Keep doing what you do, red-hot mawma! And send me the name of your hairstylist.

Suiting Up

Welp, it’s been over a week since the US election, and while I am still mortified, I’m also motivated. I’ve joined a few local groups and have already been involved in some planning sessions. Meanwhile, Trump is giving white supremacists high-level appointments and blocking the press from attending his meetings with international leaders while allowing his daughter, who has no security clearance and serious conflicts of interest to boot, to sit in. Oh, and of course he’s still lying on Twitter. Yeah, we’re off to a great start.

But enough about that for now. Monday afternoon a friend of mine asked if I would take some photos of her to use on her professional website and LinkedIn, so we made a day of it. She threw a few outfits into her car and we drove around the area looking for good locations. The neighborhood she lives in has a ton of great locations, but unfortunately we were out and about at the worst time of day for outdoor shots and the sun was incredibly bright. A few of our indoor locations worked well, and we managed to find ways to get into the shade and do our best, but a lot of the photos are requiring some major Photoshop magic to get them to work. Fortunately I am up the task:

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This was probably the trickiest one I’ve worked with so far. It isn’t perfect, and truth be told I could have just ignored all these park shots and edited photos from other locations (I’m far from done working with them and will have to more to share later) but I wanted to see if I could make one of the blasted-out afternoon outdoors shots work. For reference, here’s the final shot up against the original:

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She was standing in the shade, so while the light on her was pretty dim, behind her you can see how blasted out the color was from too much sun (oh and also, one of her other tops was sitting on the bench behind us, LOL). I managed to use both PortraitPro and LandscapePro to bring her into the light and add some color depth to the background; PortaitPro in particular has been helpful with these shots, because among other things you can completely change both skin tone and light on a subject to compensate for lighting problems in the original. Very useful here.

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This lovely flower wall was inside a greenhouse facility located in the community center of a neighborhood near my friend’s house. It’s a fairly well-to-do, brand-new development, and the whole community center was amazing. We would have taken a lot more shots there, except wouldn’t you know that within 15 minutes of our arrival, a huge group of elementary school kids showed up for some reason and we felt it best to leave. It was disappointing, because the whole place was fantastic. It had a greenhouse, two clubhouses, and various garden areas with very nice seating arrangements. The buildings themselves were made out of a variety of stone and steel and dark wood, with a huge lake and fountains in the background. There were also large balconies, winding staircases, and lovely outdoor sofas and rocking chairs and the like that provided lovely interest to the photos. One of the big balconies even had a glassed-in fireplace, and the fireplace was lit and roaring even though it was about 85 degrees outside (it was November 16th, so I guess they just decided screw it, we’ve got this damn fireplace, let’s use it anyway). In short, it was an awesome location, and I hope to go back there soon to take more photos as for a shoot, you really wouldn’t need to leave this place at all to get tons of interesting shots.

Anyway, you know I love a good B&A, so here it is for this one:

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Again, there were a ton of shadows on her face that needed to be eliminated, but PortraitPro came through for me again. And let me just say that working on a 33-year-old face is a hell of a lot easier than editing a 47-year-old one; her skin tone on its own is so much more uniform than my multi-colored, splotchy one (not being self-critical, just stating a fact). I often will have 4 or 5 different colors happening on my own face that I have to correct, and she basically has one. The shadows created problems for sure, and it was still tricky to get the skin tone even and bright enough, but at least I didn’t have to contend with any sun damage!

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This was a candid I took while she was fluffing her hair for the shot; I was just testing the lighting but I liked the photo so I edited it anyway. This is also taken at the community center; it’s a second-floor open balcony overlooking a large rest area around down below. Opposite where she’s sitting here is the fireplace I mentioned. You can really tell how nice the place is – just an awesome spot for a photo shoot! I had brought a few floaty dresses along so we could perhaps take some levitation shots for me to work with, but we basically blew it off and just focused on getting pictures of her in her regular clothes. I just didn’t feel like setting up such shots, and she wasn’t much in the mood to change into a real costume – it was 85 degrees out, remember, and this is Houston so it was also humid.

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This was our first location – the county courthouse. It was already around noon so the light was already an issue, but she’s standing under the front awning of the building here, which made it work. I added some light glow to her hair to accentuate that, since I thought it looked pretty, but I tried not to overdo it so she could use this as a professional photo. It was hard though; I get so into the fun of editing that I tend to over-do it at times. Still, I really like the end result of this one.

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We also went inside to take shots; one thing I like about Candace is that she isn’t inhibited about posing for photos in public or basically wandering in anywhere to do so. We strolled into the courthouse and just started snapping away; something I might have been cautious about doing without her just going for it. There were people around, so when we passed by the receptionist we asked if taking photos was OK, but we’d actually already taken a bunch and the woman said it was fine anyway. I tend not be as confident and feel awkward about going around taking shots in public, which is something I need to get better at, but it is what it is.

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Without the light and shadow problems we faced outside, the indoors shots were easy to pull off. I’ve only edited this one for now, but I’ll work on a few more later. She wanted to be sure she came off professional and not too “pretty girl,” which is always a tough balance to strike when you are, well, a pretty girl. If you’re too pretty you risk not being taken seriously, but you still have to look well-groomed and professional. Honestly, after finishing up for the day (we took about 1000 shots) we realized she should have put up her hair for at least some of them, because the long flowing locks can read too young or “sexy” which wasn’t what she was going for, obviously. But we didn’t think about it at the time, and as a photographer I am such a sucker for long flowing locks, especially with the sunlight hitting it as it was on this day, that the idea of pulling it all back bores me. But there were plenty of shots like this where her hair was pulled to the back for the most part, and it did help make her appear, not older necessarily, but just more mature. She still gets mistaken for a high school student at times, even though she’s 33 years old, so it’s something she still has to contend with (I reassured her that at some point, yes, even she would no longer look ‘too young,’ which is definitely a mixed bag. In a way it’s a good thing, but it also means you’re starting to look ‘older’ which can still suck. Anyway).

Remember when I said I was a sucker for  long flowing locks in the sunlight (and if you don’t remember me saying that, I’m a little worried for you, because I just said it in the previous paragraph)? Well, here’s one of those instances where the hair totally gave me what I am always looking for. I told her I was going to edit some of the photos just for the hell of it even though she probably wouldn’t want to use them for professional stuff, which she was fine with (she doesn’t care how much I edit or mess with her shots for the most part), and this was one of them.

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This was another outdoors shot, so as with the others light was a problem, and I used various Photoshop tricks and tools to get the effect of a sunrise instead of it being three in the afternoon, like it really was when we took it. I mean, the light in the original was really awful, and I really wasn’t sure when we were taking these if I’d be able to make them work:

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In some cases, though, my editing madness ran amok and I totally overdid it. This usually happens when I work on too many photos in one sitting, because I start to get bored with making the same old edits and changes and become too experimental; I really shouldn’t work on more than three in one sitting because that’s when I start to go off the rails. This last one is a pretty good example of that.

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It’s interesting how different it can  be to work with a different face. Her face is very round whereas mine is long and oval; and there are little edits I’m so used to making to positive effect that I really thought doing the same things with her portraits would also work, and none of them did. Her hair color, skin tone, and eye color are all so different from mine that I had to play around with new techniques to make any changes. Her eyes, for example, are such a dark brown as to almost be black, and her pupils really don’t show in photos, which isn’t nearly as effective in a portrait as being able to see the color of the iris. But lightening them too much made her look a little strange, so for the most part I accommodated for it by adding light reflections in her eyes to give them depth rather than too much iris-lightening. Changing her eye color for fun was also more challenging than it is with my eyes, which are much lighter in color. And other little tricks I use on my own face, like accentuating the cheekbones by adding shading and light, I had to use very sparingly on her; my little cheekbone trick, on her round face, tended to make the face look rounder and more full, which wasn’t flattering on her, and whereas my pretty small, close-set eyes look better when I add the makeup and mascara enhancements PortraitPro provides (they are a miracle for my beady little peepers) most of that overwhelmed her, so I kept it minimal. Blush, in particular, she just didn’t need, and her big eyes looked too ‘done’ with the mascara enhanced, so I ended up barely using those tools at all. And even when enhancing the light and shading on her face, the effects I tend to use on my own just didn’t work on her. None of it was a problem, it was just interesting to play around with.

All that said – ugh. I don’t like this last picture at all. I used a lot of the techniques I use on my own portraits but they just didn’t work here. I tried to change her hair color, for example, but it wasn’t very successful, and as I mentioned before, her eyes came out more freakish than I intended. Basically I played too much and somewhere along the line I think I ruined it, so I added some texture to it to detract from its flaws (not sure that worked, because I even over-did the texture) and called it a day.

In closing this post, I realized there were two selfies I took recently that I never shared here – well, we can’t let that stand, so here they are:

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I took these in October, actually, so I’m not sure how I missed getting them uploaded. That fuzzy yellow jacket thing I found at Goodwill for 99 cents and after shooting a bunch of videos I decided what the hell, since I had some heavy makeup on, and I threw the vest on with a wig I’ve had for a while and some yellow lipstick. I didn’t take too many shots, since I planned to only edit one, but I did do a few wig and lipstick changes so as to get more than one pic out of the whole shoot. The one above was definitely the best of the bunch, though.

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I’m basically in the exact same pose here, just with a different expression, so yeah, not really all that exciting. But here it is anyway.

Sharp Tutor

Like Sharp Shooter, get it? Moving on. A few random updates, with a few random photos thrown in for good measure.

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First of all, WTF with WordPress all of a sudden wanting to SCHEDULE all my blog posts instead of just PUBLISHING them? It’s annoying as hell, and it’s something that keeps happening randomly and I always have to go dig through the help forums to figure out how to correct the damn problem. I tried to un-schedule it just now, and ended up publishing it instead when the post only had two sentences written. So if you got an email update that I’d published something earlier, well, I hadn’t. I was just trying to un-schedule it. Thanks, WordPress.

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U.S. Air Force, 93-0604, Boeing C-17A Globemaster III

The Wings Over Houston airshow was this past weekend, and as usual my father and I were front row for the whole show. It’s a lovely little bonding experience we get to have every year, and I really enjoy it. The weather was perfect – not too hot, not yet cold – and there were a lot of unique planes I hadn’t seen before. I haven’t yet heard any estimates about the crowd size, but it was massive. There were people everywhere; we stood in line for an hour to get onto a shuttle bus after the Blue Angels finished their demonstration, then it took another hour for the bus to push through the traffic back to the parking lot. Then, since I live on the opposite side of town from Ellington Field, it took me another hour to drive home (my dad lives much closer). I’d left my house at 6:30 AM that morning, and didn’t get back home until almost 8 PM, so it was, to put it mildly, a long-ass day. But it was worth it, as it always is. Even if you’re not as into airplanes as we are, it’s really amazing to see what some of these planes can do. The aerobatic planes are always a thrill, and the powerful jets on display are awe-inspiring to see. I think only the diehards like my father and I get there as soon as the gates open and stay until the whole thing is over (and honestly, with the way the crowds have grown over the years, I think I’m going to have to start insisting we leave early to beat some of the throngs to the shuttles) but even to just show up for the main events and hang out a few hours, it’s a fun thing to experience at least once in your life.

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For something different, I took my wide-angle lens this year and just shot photos of the planes when they were on display before the air show began. I figured two years’ worth of photos of the (mostly) same planes in the air doing (mostly) the same things they do every year was enough, and that it would provide me some different material if I got shots of the planes on the ground instead. With my 17mm I was able to easily get full shots of the planes in the frame, and it’s a lens that shoots lovely color, too. At first I thought these photos would be pretty boring, but then I remembered I could use my Landscape Pro plugin to jazz them up, and it was off to the races.

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There wasn’t one cloud in the sky this time around, and even though that’s great for the show in general, it doesn’t make for very interesting photos, so I’m really thankful that I can use the plugin to add such details. I also used to it to spruce up some of the people photos I took, like this one of my dad talking to a pilot:

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These are the only shots I’ve had time to edit so far, but I’m sure there will be more later, because I’m really having fun playing around with them in Photoshop. And because you all know how much I love a good before-and-after, here’s some collages of all these photos as they came out of the camera vs. after my treatment with Landscape Pro. I also discovered that the new Topaz Glow software I purchased comes in quite handy with these as well; by reducing the opacity of some of its dramatic effects I can add a painterly quality to the photos. I think you’ll see how much I actually did to them in the B&A’s below:

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In the top shot, I didn’t do a whole lot of alteration beyond adding clouds (I think you can really see how much better a plane shot looks when there are clouds in the sky there) and added a slight glow effect to get it more drama. Landscape Pro also added nice detail to the concrete; I believe I used an effect that creates the look of wet pavement, but again I reduced the opacity of it so that instead of looking wet it just showed a lot more detail. Then of course, there’s the bottom shot – the original wasn’t very interesting to me, but I liked how the nose of the smaller plane was pointing right at the nose of the larger one, and I got the idea to try and edit the people you can see in the original out of the shot so that it might kinda look like they were in the air (which would actually mean they were about to crash, so I guess that’s actually kinda morbid). It was just an experiment to use a night sky here, but I liked the effect enough to keep working with it. I’m not sure it’s totally successful on its own, but I do like showing the B&A of it as an example of what the software can do. It’s pretty fun stuff.

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I struggled to decide how to edit the photo of my dad (he’s the one in the big brown hat), but when I found the right sky, the rest of it came easy – it needed some retro tones to work, and then I used a pretty heavy glow filter to give it an oil-painting quality. I still reduced the opacity of it, but I kept the effect pretty heavy here, as it seemed to work better that way. The bottom photo is a good example of how to use all these effects in a more subtle way – although you can see a dramatic difference in the concrete, where I used the ‘wet’ filter again for added detail.

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Sprocket is glad there’s no “wet dog” filter

But about the title of this post: I wanted to talk briefly about the whole tutoring business-thing, because it’s finally starting to take shape for me. I am taking a certification course for Academic Coaching, and along with the course comes a lot of great materials I can use when I’m ready to get started. I’ve completely re-structured my pricing model and parts of my professional website to reflect the things I’ve learned in my class, and am really enjoying going through the class and learning how to apply these tools to students’ needs. I even had an interview with one potential client, but it didn’t go so well – no big deal, I just hadn’t ever had a consultation before and was still quite unfamiliar with the program I’m learning about, so I didn’t do as good of a job as I think I’ll do next time, and the student didn’t sign up in the end. I’ve also been attending some online conferences about online tutoring, and am really excited by this idea – my goal is to be doing 100% coaching, with all of it being online, within a year. Working from home and using something like Skype or Zoom to coach students would be the perfect solution for me, and I’m excited that it is actually starting to feel feasible for me.

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But for now, I am still offering English tutoring services as well, since that is actually something I’m in a position to do right away. I’ve had one consultation so far for that, and I have to say, it didn’t go well either. But this one was not my fault; I don’t want to say too much about it at the risk of being unprofessional, but let’s just say the student was less than ideal for me to work with. Even though the kid’s mother was sitting right next to him while we met to discuss his situation, that did NOT stop this boy from being completely rude and disrespectful – rolling his eyes, shrugging his shoulders instead of actually using words to answer my questions, and pretending like he had no idea what I was talking about  when I asked him what his struggles were in English class, just to be difficult. About halfway through our consultation, I just stopped and said to him, look. It appears to me you really do not want to do this (for most of the conversation he literally had his head down on the kitchen table) and if you aren’t into it, it isn’t going to work. Then I told him to think about what he wanted to do over the weekend, and let me know by Sunday if he wanted to work with me. At the time, I only did this because he was making it so obvious that he could have cared less about getting a tutor, and the fact that his mother wasn’t even trying to get him to be polite was also a concern; clearly this kid is allowed to act that way all the time, so what made Mom think I was going to be able to get more work out of him than she could is beyond me. It was later that I realized I may have come across as bitchy, but ultimately I decided I was OK with that. If the kid HAD agreed to work with me, he would have done so with the understanding that he would have to take me seriously and treat me with respect, and I think it would have been fine. But since I didn’t hear from him after our first meeting, I figure I dodged a bullet, and have come up with some new ideas and approaches to try and cut to the chase with the next potential client sooner rather than waste too much of anyone’s time. I didn’t leave the full-time working world to get myself back into a situation where I don’t have choices about who I work with, after all, and part of the reason for having a consultation with a student before starting to work with them is so I can be sure I want to work with them, just as much as to see if they want to work with me.

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Do I really want to stare at this every week for an hour? No, I do not.

One other thing I thought I’d mention: I finally starting tracking my daily calorie intake and exercising every day, as well as kicking the Coca Cola habit (which I’ve done several times in my life already – I’ll go for years drinking nothing but water, then fall off the wagon and get back on the soda train). When I’m teaching, my weight tends to dip really low due to all the constant activity and the complete lack of time to eat all day; when I quite working last May, i was down to about 112 pounds, which is actually a little light for me. The last time I quit working was when I was in graduate school back in 2010, and I was about 112 back then, too. It took two years, but by the time I went back to work in 2012 I’d gotten up to 130 and gone from a pant size 0 to a size 6 – and that’s a bit too much for me. I’m a skinny bitch by nature, and once I start to get past 120 I start to get uncomfortable; a few weeks ago I started to notice my fairly new size 4 pants I’d had to buy to replace all the zeroes that no longer fit were starting to get a little snug, and when I stepped on the scale I was up to 122 with no signs of stopping. So, I finally downloaded an app (My Fitness Pal) and started counting calories. The app recommends I consume about 1260 calories a day, which felt RIDICULOUS at first, but I’ve now found ways to do it most days without being uncomfortable or unhappy at all (although there are days where it goes out the window, like today when I had lunch at the Cheesecake Factory, but I am fine allowing that every once in a while as long as overall I’m eating better). To be honest, I don’t see any difference when I step on the scale yet, but when you’re only trying to lost about 5 pounds it’s slow going, and honestly I would be OK if I never lost any weight and just stopped gaining. I have clothes that fit and I definitely feel much better, so that’s the main thing. Oh, and I also discovered that swimming burns way more calories than walking or riding a stationary bike, so I am taking advantage of the fact that it’s still summer weather here right now and swimming for 30 minutes every day to burn some calories off (which I put back on when I eat my 4 gluten-free Oreos every night, but whatever).

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I’m only supposed to consume 1260 calories a day. Cheesecake Factory Sweet Corn Tamale Cakes have 1750. I ordered them anyway.

Oh and next week I plan to do this color to my hair, because why not? It’s something else I could never do because of my job, but now my job is my own so why not do something a little different:

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It’s actually fairly subtle, so I think it will work. I also like this, but my hair is really too dark for it:

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I just like the color here, not the cut. Those bangs are not for me.

Happy Wednesday everyone!

Fall Space

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It’s been another minute or two since I updated; nothing is wrong (although to those of you who were kind enough to ask, thank you for thinking of me), and it’s not even that I’ve been overly busy – it’s just that I suddenly GET busy every time I think about blogging, and it gets put off again.

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Me every time I try to write a blog post

For example, the moment I sat down to write this Saturday night, our dog Penny started having a seizure. She’s been diagnosed with epilepsy for about two years now, so it isn’t that this was a surprise; it’s just that it takes time to deal with. She only has them once every few months, so for now at least it isn’t anything she needs medication to deal with. And in fact, most of her seizures are fairly mild, although still upsetting to witness, and the most maintenance we have to do comes after the fit is over. Penny regains awareness fairly quickly, but then there’s a long period of time where she is disoriented and agitated and just wanders around the house endlessly and anxiously. One of us always stays nearby and tries to soothe her with comforting talk so she’ll feel safe while she recovers; since she normally has seizures early in the morning (between 1 and 5 AM, usually) this leads to a long night, because it can take her over an hour to calm down. Then of course there’s always the housecleaning that has to be done since she always pees when she seizures (all over the carpet as well as herself). But it has to be done, and by the time she finally fell asleep Saturday night I was too tired to continue writing.

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I think I’ve written about Penny’s epilepsy before, so I won’t go on about it again. It’s really just an example of how I keep getting sidetracked from posting anything. I keep totally forgetting to share pictures on Flickr, too, which is weird. I used to be meticulous about posting a photo every day at around the same time, but in the last year that has really tapered off, as has my photo-taking. For the most part it isn’t something I’ve felt super-motivated to do, even though I could certainly make time for it right now. I’ve got a lot of wigs I could review also, but I haven’t had the focus to do that either; I’ve mostly been doing lazy things like spending too much time on Reddit’s RuPaul’s Drag Race sub (All Stars 2 is underway, and it is fabulous) or shopping online. Then I look up, and half the day is gone, and I spend the rest of my time trying to get errands done or work out a little bit.

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I do have a client now for my business, and I just met with the student this past Wednesday for the first time. I say it’s the first time, but this is a student whom I worked with at the school last year, so it’s not like it was my first time working with this kid. In fact, it was really nice to see him again and feel useful. I think the main reason for my slowdown in creative productivity has been anxiety over the whole business endeavor. I was fine not having clients in July, but as September kept unspooling I began to feel the lack of activity, and began to worry (well, worry more, I guess it’s better to say). I didn’t want to get inundated with clients once I emailed some schools and placed a few ads, but I didn’t want to have nothing on the line, either. So the waiting for something to happen started to mess with my mind a little bit and push me more towards mindless activity rather than creative ones. That’s why all the pics I’m uploading today are old ones – some of these were shot as long as five years ago, but were never edited.

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I took them long ago, but I’ve been playing around more with this Topaz Glow software I bought for $50, along with my Portrait Pro and RadLab I love so much, and going way back through past photo shoots for test shots on which I could experiment. For example, my makeup was so NOT green in this shot, or even anywhere close. In fact it  was just a test shot taken as I applied my makeup and to set up my lighting.

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Not only have I been getting sidetracked by random urgent business that seems to come every time I sit down to write, it also seems that every step of getting my own thing going involves learning 20 or 30 new things when I’ve assumed it would only take ten minutes to take care of it. For example, last week I decided I wanted to place some ads in local papers – something I thought would take perhaps 30 minutes at the most – and discovered I knew nothing about the different types of ads one can run or the specs required to submit them. I know how to use Photoshop for editing photos, not publishing, so just putting two different ads together took hours. I had to figure out how to get the files in the exact measurements and other details such as dpi, but that wasn’t really the worst part – the worst part was figuring out exactly what the hell to say. I’ve been slowly developing a clearer picture of how I want this business to look as I move forward, but I’m still struggling to define it for others. And that’s something you kind of have to be able to do to run a damn magazine ad.

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Realizing that I am still struggling to define my job led me to the conclusion that I would, in fact, go ahead and pursue Life Coach certification. It’s something I considered doing over the summer but decided against because I didn’t think I needed it. I do have a Master’s in Counseling, after all, and Academic Coaching is what I did for kids the past two years at the school, but in the end I’ve come to realize I really could benefit from pursuing official certification and learning how the pros do it, so I can do it properly. Maybe it’s still not necessary, but for my confidence level to be where it needs to be, it’s something I want to do. So, I went ahead and signed up and my course starts the first week of October.

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I also realized recently (well OK, so it was pointed out to me specifically) that I didn’t exactly celebrate finally landing my first client. In fact, I pretty much swept it under the rug and refused to give it a second’s thought – and when it was pointed out to me that I was behaving this way I had to consider why that might be so. And what I realized was that I didn’t want to celebrate it, because I wasn’t particularly proud of it. Deep down I’ve been considering this new endeavor to be a demotion; that it’s something I shouldn’t feel too proud of because it isn’t a legitimate “job.” And as I said to someone recently, anyone can call themselves a Life Coach without being the least bit certified or qualified, so to announce to the world that it’s what I’m now doing felt silly and wrong. I am much more invested in the validation of having an employer who chooses me to do a professional job than I am of going out on my own and advertising and drumming up business. I still have that old-school mentality that says the only legitimate jobs out there are the ones that involve me getting hired and receiving and steady paycheck; and that anything else is just pretending. I don’t know why I am so subconsciously committed to this idea, but apparently I am, because it’s been holding me back from embracing this whole thing.

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Once I realized I was treating myself this way, I forced myself to stop doing it. I purposely made an announcement about getting my first client on Facebook, even though it embarrassed me to do it, and I’ve been watching myself when I talk to people about it and being careful to not get sheepish or self-deprecating about it. The truth is I can do whatever the hell I want to do with my life and my time, and there’s nothing to be ashamed of even if this new career path wasn’t blessed by an organization or corporation that marks me with a big old stamp of approval.

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Of course, advertising makes me uncomfortable. I perfectly enjoy keeping myself private (in spite of the blog), especially in my own neighborhood. But my neighborhood is, of course, the best place to get clients, so I’ve been putting my name out there in spite of my reluctance to do it. I didn’t go so far as to put a picture of me on my ads, although several friends suggested I do this as it would get more attention (kind of like how realtors always put their photos in their ads). I’m really  not ready for people to recognize me that readily, but I do need to get comfortable asking them for business and working with them when the occasion arises.

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So, the past few weeks have been all about moving out of my summer phase, which was one of letting go of the past, and moving into the fall phase of focusing on and growing my business. It is nice, though, to finally feel like I am in the new phase instead of still feeling so hung up on how things went down at my former place of employment. It definitely took all summer to get here, but here I finally am. Now when I’ll have time for more photos or videos I am not sure. I’m still kind of not in the mood for either, but perhaps once the weather changes and I get a break from the oppressive Texas heat that will change.

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For now, it’s old photos and no videos though. I do see Jon Renau is coming out with a fall line soon – dare I to hope there will be at least one that’s affordable? Raquel Welch’s fall line literally made me laugh out loud at the prospect of paying almost $400 for one of their synthetic wigs, but Renau will usually come out with at least one non-monotop that’s reasonable, so here’s hoping that ONE is worth trying. Other than that, it would be nice to see some new Rene of Paris, Noriko or Amore styles coming out soon, and damned if I don’t keep forgetting that I still have an order of custom Laine wigs that are supposed to arrive soon. I’m surprised I don’t have them yet; this order seems to be taking longer than any other custom deal I’ve tried before, but perhaps that’s because they have to make 5 instead of 3 this time? I don’t know, but it feels to me like I should have them by now. I’ll check again with Gallery of Wigs to see how it’s coming along.

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That’s it for now, folks. Happy Monday!