Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Are You a Nervous or Anxious Photographer?

I was anxious before my trip to New Mexico.  I wasn’t concerned about the flight, family, or the typically important things people worry about when travelling.  No, I was nervous about balloons!  Yes, really.  I wasn’t going up in one, I was simply going to take pictures of them…but nervous?!
I’ll never forget a similar feeling of nervous anxiety I had moments before officiating my first boys under-16 soccer match.  My mentor, a former FIFA referee, who was there to assist me along the touchline, told me that if I was excited, that was a good sign, and meant that I was ready.  In the early days of my referee training, this same mentor emphasized the importance of reading, and re-reading the Laws of the Game.  This, he said, will set the foundation for everything you’ll see out there on the field, give you confidence, and will prepare you to act decisively in the moment when the need arises.  
So let’s see… nervous excitement would be a good thing—meant I was ready, right?  But wait a minute, I haven’t touched my camera’s manual in months…do I know my equipment inside and out, ready to act decisively in the moment, when the need arises?  I want to say yes.  But truth be told, many of us learn enough about our equipment to get it out of the box, and the learning often stops there.  Experimentation and trial-and-error typically become our only learning method after that.
(Note to self:  find manual, read manual)
The other factor explaining my nerves was the pressure I was putting on myself to capture some amazing images. I had high expectations of myself—but wasn’t sure that I would live up to them.  I’ve watched a lot of video interviews of professional photographers (Silber Studios has some great ones), and there are two common messages of advice these photographers give:  1) take a lot of pictures, and 2) research your destination before going there.
To point number one, you may have hear that practice makes perfect.  Not true.  PERFECT practice makes perfect.  If you practice bad habits, you just ingrain bad habits into your workflow.  Taking pictures is the culmination of the visioning, techniques, and thought process that goes into the capture.  If you’re not working to expand your visioning or techniques, then you might not be advancing your photography.  It’s the practicing of the new learning that’s important.  When the pros say to keep taking pictures, they assume you’re interjecting learning into that process.
To point number two, researching a destination is more than determining where you’re going to stay and what you plan to eat.  Have you ever heard that luck is where preparation meets opportunity?  I like “happy accidents” as much as the next guy, and serendipity can play a part in your getting that amazing image.    But it’s the planning that sets us apart.  Professional photographers say that the difference between them and us is not that they take better images than you and me, but that they do it on a greater frequency.  It’s their planning and preparation that often makes the difference.  Would you go on a trip and not take an umbrella?  Ok, me too.
So, you want to be better, and more confident, then be a continuous learner and a practitioner of that learning.  Then couple that with planning and preparation prior to your photoshoots.  You’ll be amazed with how much better you’ll feel, and your friends/clients will be amazed at your results.

Feel free to contact me at CostaMesaPhotography@gmail.com or check out my website gallery at http://costamesaphotography.com/

(metadata 1/90 sec at f/4.8and ISO 200, focal length 13mm)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

40th International Balloon Fiesta

My visit to New Mexico included some great photographic opportunities including Old Town, Casa Rondena Winery, Villanueva, and Houser Sculpture Gardens.  But nothing quite says Albuquerque like the internationally renowned Balloon Fiesta.  Having grown up in Albuquerque, it was easy to take this spectacle for granted.  My first photoshoot of the balloons was in 1976, using Kodacolor film and my Pentax Spotmatic F.  A lot has changed since then.

Since the first “Balloon Fiesta” in 1972, which included only 13 balloons, the event quickly outgrew its original venue, and after moving several times has settled on a 360 acre venue (launch field alone is 80 acres) called Balloon Fiesta Park.  This year’s event featured over 700 balloons, and remains the only major balloon event where the spectators are allowed on the grounds with the balloons and their pilots and crews.  You can literally touch the balloon gondolas and feel the heat, and the roar, of the propane burners.  It’s hard to describe the combination of excitement and amazement, and the pictures barely do justice to the feeling of being there.  That’s why over 100,000 people pack the venue to be part of the action each day of the week-long event.  The attendance reported for the last day’s mass ascension was estimated at 130,000.

Feel free to contact me at CostaMesaPhotography@gmail.com or check out my website gallery at http://costamesaphotography.com/

(metadata 1/500 sec at f/5.3 and ISO 200, focal length 80mm)

Houser Sculpture Garden

Allan Houser was a prolific sculpter whose work can be found throughout the southwest, and on display from Washington D.C., to the Japanese Royal Collection in Tokyo.  I visited the Houser Sculpture Gardens during my visit to New Mexico last week.  The gardens, and the foundry used to duplicate the many works of art, is located south of Santa Fe, near Madrid, along what is referred to as the “Turquoise Trail”.  A short dirt road winds it’s way up to the visitor’s center, which is a modest building on the edge of an amazing garden of sculptures.

What we learned about Allan Houser, who died in 1994 of cancer, was that he was born in 1914 in Oklahoma to parents who were members of the Chiricahua Apache tribe.  Many members of the tribe moved to New Mexico to join the Mescalero Apache reservation, but it wasn’t until 1934 that Allan was enrolled in the Painting School at the Santa Fe Indian School.  After leaving New Mexico for some period of time, it wasn’t until 1962 that the family returned to Santa Fe when Allan jointed the faculty of the newly created Institute of American Arts.  It was from this time period through his death in 1994 that Allan’s artistic output blossomed.

This was an inspiring place.  It was hard not to feel connect to the deep emotions that the artist must have had when creating the many unique and incredible scuptures.  They call New Mexico the Land of Enchantment, and if you visit here, you'll begin to see why.

Feel free to contact me at CostaMesaPhotography@gmail.com or check out my website gallery at http://costamesaphotography.com/

(metadata 1/500 sec at f/5.6 and ISO 200, focal length 70mm)

A Simpler Life in Villanueva

As the name might suggest, a new village it isn’t.   Neither is it a place on the way to somewhere.  Off the beaten path, east of Santa Fe, New Mexico, Villanueva is a small community of less than 300, tucked along the Pecos River, in a valley cut between red sandstone hills. 
Villanueva is a quiet place.  It is also a friendly place, and yet a very simple place.  Mostly an agricultural area, this was a land where the beauty was in its authenticity.  A town with no pretenses, everything here had a purpose, a utility.  No frills here.
As the warm afternoon winds whistled gently through the trees, it was easy to feel like you were the only one in town.   Along the road you could see that some buildings and equipment had seen better days.  This tractor was a beautiful example, bright blue with the contrast of rusting red.  It's motionless state belied the work and productivity this ruggest machine must have accomplished during its life.  This place could grow on you.

Feel free to contact me at CostaMesaPhotography@gmail.com or check out my website gallery at http://costamesaphotography.com/

(metadata 1/750 sec at f/6.7 and ISO 200, focal length 70mm)

Yodelling Cowboy

If you haven’t been to Old Town in Albuquerque, New Mexico, then you’re missing out on a classic southwest experience.  The sights, sounds, and smells of the historic plaza surround you, from the mariachi band players, the wafting aromas of fresh tortillas and sopapillas from the local restaurants, to the vibrant reds of the drying chili ristras…this is New Mexico.
While visiting there last week, I was drawn to a western singer sitting on a stool with a guitar across his lap, and a can for collecting tips hanging from the headstock.  I'm not sure if it was his traditional attire, or his somewhat stark contrast to the native American Indian vendors around the plaza, but to be sure, his yodeling is what drew me in.

I asked if he'd mind if I took his picture, and without hesitation he welcomed me to do so.  I found myself shooting every angle, even changing lenses, but it was this final image that upon reflection evoked the great feeling I had in that moment.  This cowboy seemed larger than life, yet in the most simple way, he was life.  A man singing for his supper.

Feel free to contact me at CostaMesaPhotography@gmail.com or check out my website gallery at http://costamesaphotography.com/

(metadata 1/125 sec at f/5.6 and ISO 200, focal length 11mm)

Casa Rondena Winery

Nestled along the Rio Grande River in Albuquerque's North Valley are some of the oldest ranches in the southwest.  The transformation taking place in this increasingly valuable real estate market has resulted in the development of beautiful new estate homes intermixed with the old traditional farms.  Almost out of place, but in a beautiful way, is Casa Rondena Winery.
According to their website, Casa Rondena Winery was established in late 1995.  Their tasting room opened in 1997, followed by the winery building in 2004, and finally their barrel aging and storage facility in 2008.  Their grounds are quite beautiful, with an architecture inspired by traditional Spanish influences, but with a New Mexican flair. 
They make all their own wine on the premises, with grapes brought in from mostly southern New Mexico vineyards (in addition to some estate grown fruit).  Many of the visitors I saw appear to have been there before and were content to buy a glass of wine and enjoy the quiet shade of the rotunda. 
I tasted all of their wines and found that my favorite was their 1629 Founders Reserve, a Tempranillo/Syrah blend.
When you think of Albuquerque, you might not think of wine, but that could be changing...

Feel free to contact me at CostaMesaPhotography@gmail.com or check out my website gallery at http://costamesaphotography.com/

(metadata 1/750 sec at f/6.7 and ISO 200, focal length 105mm)