Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Onward and Upward

Happy New Year!

I have moved my blog over to Please note: if you follow this blog I will no longer be posting here. I will keep the sight live, however. If you have linked your blog to mine, feel free to update to the new link.

Thanks to those of you who have stopped by, read, shared, and supported since I started hanging out in the blogoshpere! I hope you will find the new site easier to make comments and more informative. Please do let me know if you have any questions about my business/work/photo life.

I am excited to now be working on a blog that is connected to my site and more in line with the look and feel of my brand. So, its been nice but I'm happy to (finally) be moving on. As my dad used to say, "Onward and Upward!"

xo ~ Judy

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Single Photo Friday:: Sock Monkey

Happy Holidays everyone!

Well, the holidays are in full swing and I know that not because I have a calendar in front of me but because the sock monkey has made its way out of a box and onto our tree. I'm giddy.

And note the blue lights in the background - a throwback to the Christmases of my youth. Big blue bulbs that overheated and matched the blue/green shag carpet of our home. I'm happy to see they have made a comeback, only now they are a little safer, less chipped, and seem to go nicely with the wood floors and orange walls. Oh, and of course they look great next to the Sock Monkey!

What kinds of things do you do that help you get into the spirit of the holidays?


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

What's in Your {Creative Endeavor} Blender?

What's in your blender?

People are always dispensing opinions and advice on how to get ahead, how to stand out, how to make your business successful, how to make yourself appear awesome in the eyes of others. I am active on social media, read plenty of blogs, and attend seminars all in the name of building and promoting my business and my brand. I am learning plenty about marketing myself, not to mention the art of developing a strong filter. There is a lot of junk out there, and yet lots of useful info that when put to use actually works.

Today I read a blog post that resulted in me rolling my eyes and wishing for those 10 minutes back. Then I read another post that made me jot down notes and filled my head with ideas that I can and will put to use in my life & business. So, it's a matter of finding what works for you.

One piece of advice I have heard over and over is: Position yourself as an expert in your field. This is how you will get noticed.

I totally get it. BUT I'm not buying it. People want me to, but I just can't. I do plenty of things well, but that doesn't make me an expert. I take good photos, I know my way around the gluten-free lifestyle, I can even sell you something you may not need. Maybe I'm an expert at getting things done in my pj's, though that's debatable.

The problem with the word expert is it seems so weighted. When you read something by someone who claims to be an expert, and you question their message or technique the trust is lost. So, where is the value in that? Still, I believe in leaving some things to the pros, (think electricians, roofers, hairstylists, photogs...) but I do not see the need to go around saying I am an expert Photographer Thinker Doer person. I know my stuff, yet I learn new things every day. And will continue to do so. Shouldn't that be good enough?

I guess some days it is, some days it isn't.

I think maybe some of these "experts" are taking themselves too seriously. That turns me off.

However, I will say I know my way around a blender and can make a delicious smoothie. I am often surprised when I realize the rest of the world is not enjoying a smoothie on a regular basis. What's not to like about a meal you can drink?

People ask me to share my smoothie secrets, wanting to know HOW to make the smoothie. Which to me is something I don't question, I just do. So, I am here to share with you, oh dear blog world filled with so much white noise and static, the joys of making a damn good smoothie. Enjoy my advice, put it to good use, but don't call me an expert. Maybe I'm really just an idea sharer.

A handful of years ago I got a basic recipe from Stacy that went something like this:

1 Banana
6 Frozen Strawberries
OJ (1 cup? half cup? I don't know...)
Soy milk (roughly same amount as OJ, but it's really your choice)
1 Serving of protein powder of your choice

This is just a starting point. I have moved in a few directions and experimented with many different products over the years. For me, the banana is crucial because it does something to the consistency, but I don't sweat it when it's smoothie time and we are out of bananas. My general choices now involve almond milk rather than soy, and raspberries rather than strawberries. And my protein powder is now something that is gluten-free. However, smoothies can be made with almost anything, the blender can handle it and your body will thank you. Here's a handy list of other ingredients I have used/love using/ encourage using (though not all at once):

Protein powder - your choice, and there are hundreds to choose from. I stay away from the chocolate ones, but that's just me. Watch out for too much sugar, not enough protein.
Milk - dairy, soy, goat, coconut, almond... your choice!
Juice - OJ is easiest, and perhaps cheapest. I love tropical flavors. If you have an actual juicer this will be the healthiest choice.

Mixed Berries
Frozen fruit makes the smoothie thicker, but fresh fruit is always great. Since I live in Maine fresh fruit is pretty expensive and not always available, soooo....
Ice will make things thicker if you are low on frozen fruit or using something fresh and therefore softer.

Peanut butter
Almond butter
Romaine Lettuce
Coconut/ Coconut oil
Avacado (will make it super smooth & creamy!)

Your cupboards and fridge can dictate what goes into your smoothie. I have my favorite things (banana, tropical juice of some sort, unflavored almond milk, raspberry & mango, half serving of protein powder, and sometimes almond or peanut butter) But I love to mix it up. Mint from your yard makes an amazing addition - and is my preferred ingredient throughout the summer. Coconut oil (which is actually a solid) is very tasty and has lots of health benefits, but should be put into blender and mixed BEFORE any frozen products. Otherwise it becomes one big clump which does not go down that easily. Plus, you can rub it on your hands and moisturize your skin while the blender is going. I love throwing greens into my blender as well. It's a great way to get rid of stuff that may be getting beyond the point of eating, but in blender and chopped up it doesn't go to waste AND you get the benefits of eating your greens.

One of the things to remember is to do what works best for you. Listen to some basic rules (if you want), but then change it up so it suits you, your tastes, your lifestyle. Be creative, experiment, make mistakes. Learn from it all. Make more the next day.

A mirror for life, business, & creative endeavors perhaps?


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Single Photo Friday:: Cake

I forgot to post on Friday, and now it's Sunday. I am happily celebrating my birthday all weekend long and thought this photo would be a good fit.

These are not my cupcakes, but ones my nephew decorated for his own birthday back in April. Still, I like the mood they convey - which is one of happiness and fun. And there's something about already blown out candles that create a feeling of moving forward, being ready for what's next.

So, here's to many creative moments in the year ahead!


Saturday, December 4, 2010

A Piece of America

Months ago I mentioned a trip I took to Virginia that brought me to the town of Floyd. My cousin Ron, who is a musician, square & contra dance caller, as well as husband, dad, and owner of a few self-serve car washes in Pittsburgh, brought me to this tiny town where music seems to thrive. I was excited.

First, I was excited to see him play. Plus, I love string instruments. I can't really explain it. I have no idea how to play them, but I am drawn to their beauty. I love the shape and look of the wood. I could watch people play them for hours.

Lightning Jack. His real name is Bill.

And he didn't stay seated for long.

At first I sat on a chair in the circle, next to Ron and Lightning Jack. But like Jack, I couldn't stay seated for long. Some moments could be captured from the angle the chair provided, but I quickly needed to change my angle, my viewpoint. Since I can't grasp what musicians are doing when they play their violins, fiddles, cellos, and guitars I tend to fixate on their hands. Which is where I end up pointing & focusing my camera.

Ron, keeping up with Lightning Jack.

When I look at these photos I can remember how Lightning Jack seemed to be playing off Ron the most. Perhaps because he was new and unfamiliar, but also because he seemed to like how he played. He got out of his chair and kept getting closer and closer to Ron as he played. He was listening to something I would have never heard. But I could watch. It was, for lack of a better description, pretty cool to witness.

People gathered to listen. Ron's face shows him listening to another man in the circle, who had not been playing for long. But I was focusing on Lightning Jack's hand.

Beyond the music circle you can see other musicians starting to gather in the streets. This is the scene on Friday nights in Floyd!

And how else would I have been able to witness this if not for my camera? There are details that present themselves when you have a camera that maybe you wouldn't notice otherwise. Not only did I spend a lot of time watching their hands, but also their eyes as they followed each other and tried to keep up or figure out each other's style. I noticed this ring Lightning Jack was wearing and took several shots trying to show it off. I kind of made my own assumption that there is a story and some meaning behind it. Just like so many things in life.

Ron and Lightning Jack playing off each other. At one point Lightning Jack stopped playing, smiled, and said "Man, where you from? I like how you play!"

I am not a musician, which may be why I am fascinated by watching those who can do this craft. I'm also from New England, and this scene was so different from what I normally see in my own town. But part of what I loved about this night in this part of the country was this sense of community. A small town community, a community of musicians and artists supporting each other - listening, playing, creating. It's the stuff that makes America great. And why it's so good to leave the comforts of home every once in awhile.

A piece of Floyd, VA - the country store where these musicians were gathered next to. Friday nights of music continue inside the store once it gets dark.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Single Photo Friday: Open

My neighborhood is looking festive. Shot on Nikon D3 ISO 6400.

I got a new camera! Well, new to me. It came my way when I wasn't in the market for anything (though visions of camera gear dance in my head on a regular basis). What once belonged to the fabulous photographer and storyteller, Jim Daniels (whom I worked for over 10 years ago and whose work I admire greatly), is now sitting here in my office with me. Check out his site, and get ready to be moved.

Jim passed away earlier this year after battling cancer. His absence is felt throughout the photo community, but especially in the homes of his family members, and throughout parts of the world where he has made an impact with both his photos and general being.

Using a piece of Jim's camera gear carries a decent amount of weight for me. I walked in the cool air last night, cranked the ISO up to 3200, 6400, and even 10,000(!!) and took a few shots of my little neighborhood. It felt amazing! I have been trying to justify the buying of this camera when I am worried about other things I need more, when Christmas is right around the corner, when I'm in the middle of upgrades to our new home, when I already have 2 digital bodies that work fine.

But sometimes FINE isn't good enough. Earlier that day I packed up my first digital camera (the Fuji S5 Pro) and shipped it off to KEH. I felt more relief than anything else. That camera and I were never an ideal fit. It simply couldn't keep up with me.

But Jim's camera (which I think is what it will always be called) is fast and shoots in low light and fits nicely in my hand and by my eye. It can keep up with me AND push me to the next level.

When I got home I stood in front of my house and just stared at it. There were a few festive lights in the windows and I found myself needing to pause and take in the moment. I just used Jim's camera, photographed in the dark, felt alive and grateful and inspired. I stared at the warm glow coming from parts of my house and felt a wave of emotion that let me know I made the right decision - both in moving to this home and in buying Jim's camera.

Being open can really pay off at times.


Friday, November 26, 2010

Single Photo Friday:: Thankful Tree

On this Friday after Thanksgiving I thought I would share with you what has become a new tradition in my family. More specifically, my brother's family. They bring construction paper cut into the shape of leaves to the big feast and we write our names on one side, and what we are thankful for on the other. Then my nephew (Monkeypants) and his mom (the Wild Weedin' Woman) find a branch in their yard and make a display in the house with everyone's thankful leaves on them. It's called the Thankful Tree.

They keep them from year to year, which partly tracks where my nephew is developmentally, but also where we all are/were as a family. Here is a photo from the first year we did this together.

The Thankful Tree, in its first year.

2007, and the leaf in the middle says 'Everyone is healthy' - which carried a lot of weight in my family at that time. My father died of cancer in early 2005, my brother was diagnosed with thyroid cancer just over a year later, my mother had a patch of skin cancer removed from her face not long after that. So, having everyone healthy was a big deal.

I can look at this photo and still feel the heaviness that followed me around during that time. The way Thanksgiving would sneak up on me and deliver a big plate of emotional overload. But this year things finally seemed lighter, easier. So, I'm thankful for that.

My nephew has been thankful for some other things besides the health of the adults around him, including (but not limited to):
Mommy, Daddy, Jakey, Jamma, Goat, and Juju (this would be his family)

and - one of my favorites - his hairstyle.

What's on your list of things to be thankful for?


Friday, November 12, 2010

Single Photo Friday:: Graveyard Walk

Many years ago, while attending Ithaca College as a photo major, I learned about a style of shooting known as 'shooting from the hip.' It is safe to say that this was a turning point for me in falling more in love with photography, and learning about my own personal style.

I can clearly remember doing the assignment with one of my classmates. While I got more and more excited, she got more and more frustrated. I had walked into my comfort zone, she was very far from hers. I would say it was a pivotal moment for both of us in that sense. She turned more and more to the lighting studio after that, while I kept my camera at my hip and took to the streets.

Shooting from the hip can literally happen with your camera around your neck, dangling at your hip and very far from your eye. Push the shutter without looking through the lens, develop your black & white film, and find 36 surprises. Or, so it would go back in 1990whatever. The element of surprise was part of what I loved about it.

The other side is how much it teaches you about your equipment. You start to see things in terms of whatever lens you are using, which is crucial for a photographer anyway. It almost seems to speed up your ability to learn about and make that piece of equipment work for you. Almost 20 years later and I'm still using the technique, though it varies and is often not dangling at my hip (except when it is). Lately, my camera strap gets wrapped around my wrist (just in case..) and that camera is put on the ground or into a bush or on some hard surface that has caught my eye. Pavement, rock and brick walls, rusted fences, piles of leaves... there are just so many places to try out!

So, the other day there was frost on the ground and an electrician in my house. When he shut the power down my camera and I went for a walk. I have often shot with a wide lens when shooting from or around the hip, but this time I put on the 85mm and walked through the graveyard. Yes, my camera went on the ground, into the frosted leaves, next to someone's grave, to get that shot you see here. It is my favorite from that day's photo excursion. And yet another reminder of why I love my 85 so much!


Monday, November 8, 2010

Neutral is Not Always Best

This photo cracks me up. I see future teenager mayhem when I look at this.

What images come into your head when you think family photos? Everyone dressed the same standing in a straight line? It doesn't have to be that way. Dressing in neutrals works well for some people, but it may not suit everyone. If your kids are colorful and energetic, perhaps they should be able to show that off to the camera.

I was a little obsessed with Natalie's shoes.

Corinne and Natalie came to me on Halloween weekend, in costumes, ready to laugh and smile. There is no way I could have rejected these outfit choices! They are, quite honestly, some of the best I have ever had the pleasure of photographing. They were both going as butterfly princesses, which is quite a difference from the standard toned-down neutrals intended to blend in to whatever landscape is nearby. Blend in, or perhaps just not stick out too much. You walk down to the beach with 2 little girls wearing wings, tutus, striped socks and sparkly sneakers and there is no blending in. All eyes will be on you, and everyone will want to somehow be part of the fun, even if just for a moment.

Strangers' smiles followed us everywhere we went.

People wanted to talk to us.

Natalie wanted to pet every dog she saw.

Corrine wanted to play and run and jump and climb and and and...

The light was slipping away, the air was getting cooler. I knew I had a limited window of opportunity before the fun drained, the light faded, and the cold air started wearing everyone down. But the other side of family photos is kind of letting things happen and seeing where the pieces come together. Capture them where they play, encourage them to show mom some love, try to get all eyes in the same place, all faces happy. But when girls are wearing butterfly wings and tutus, smiles and laughter come easily.

2 years ago, almost to the day, I photographed this family only Natalie was still a few weeks away from arriving. When I look back at those photos I see the same sparkle and sass in Corinne's eyes and smile. I love how her spirit unfolds in front of the camera. How she is often so aware of the camera, while her sister could care less if it's there.

Corinne ready to pose at every chance, Natalie waving to strangers as they walk by with their dogs.

I loved watching the two different personalities come through.

This photo makes me think we should all wear wings every once in awhile.

Telling Mom a secret.

Always ready to pose with mom.

Getting Natalie into the shot took a little more work. She has a pretty strong independent streak, which I love.

These photos would have been totally different had everyone been dressed the same, had the colors been more muted. And the bright color palette suits them and their personality. People always ask me what they should wear for family photo shoots. They see their friends' photos hanging on living room walls and think they should do the same thing, that if they dress like their friends did their family photos will come out as good, or the same. But that is not necessarily the best approach.

I continually laughed at her tutu being in her armpits, and how much she didn't care. :)

First, each photographer has their own style (hopefully) so if you want photos that look like your friends' you could hire who they hired, but realize different personalities mean different images. Whoever you are is going to come through, and you should celebrate it.

But more importantly, hire the photographer whose work speaks to you and who you want to tell your family's story. The story of YOU is important, not to be trusted to the inexperienced, and will come together easier if the person photographing you GETS you, gets your kids. I always tell parents that the photos are for them now, for their kids 20 years from now. Natalie and Corinne will not remember what they were like at this age, but the photos will tell the story.

Best. Shoes. Ever.


Friday, October 29, 2010

Single Photo Friday:: Cup of Coffee

It's not quite 5pm on Friday of Halloween weekend. I am sitting at my kitchen table pondering a late afternoon cup of joe. I can hear cars go by outside my window, and hear the distinct noise of tires going through water. It must have rained earlier and I somehow didn't look up long enough to notice.

I can hear the washer going in the basement, and U2 is playing softly. Soon I will hear the click of the front door opening as the Weekend Warrior makes his way into the house. These are the sounds of home. Tomorrow the sounds might be different when the electrician arrives and starts to bring our home into this century. And once that happens I will be able to move my computer into my office and off the kitchen table. Hard drives and all sorts of fun extras will get set up again and things will move forward and work will resume. I am so looking forward to that!

But for now, I think I will grab that cup of coffee. Here at my kitchen table by the window that lets me watch the sky shift colors as the sun sets.