Drawing Inspiration from Stress

What inspires you? This may be a loaded question for some, for others an easy question to answer. Then again, it may depend on the day, the week, the month, or even the year. It could depend on the weather, or your general state of contentment, or discontent.

I have found that inspiration can come from so many places. I have had a spark of imagination and ideas come to me in the classroom when discussing photography with my students, and I have had ideas come to me when talking to friends. I see creative ideas in everyday situations that inspire me – from the way light appears on an object, to the actions of someone I come into contact with.

What about stress? Some people say that stress puts a damper on creativity and the ability to generate ideas. I think there is some truth to that. When stressed, we tend to get a very narrow focus on life; we put on our blinders and set our sights on that one thing that really has us going. How can you turn that into something that inspires? How can you turn that into a creative endeavor?

I’ve thought a lot about this recently. Stress is a natural part of life, unfortunately, and sometimes we just have more than we’d like…we feel a little “put upon” because we’re dealing with more than our fair share. Heck, sometimes we even realize – we have that epiphany – that it really is all of our own making anyhow. My challenge to you, turn it into creative drive.

Find that one thing you can draw from your stress, and turn it into a creative project.

I’ve taken on my own challenge. I have a fun project I’m involved in right now, and once completed I’ll be sure to share. But, for the idea generating part of this project, I have dug deep into what I call my stress phantasms. Some people dream, some people have nightmares, I have neither (I’m talking dream as in REM sleep, not dream as in future goals)…I have what I like to call stress-related phantasms. If I don’t dream in my sleep, I’m a happy camper, so that said, when I do “dream” I would describe them more as stress phantasms. I’m drawing from this revelation and finding the positive side of it, the creative side where I can start to visualize ideas that describe what I “dream” about.

So far, it’s actually kind of fun to derive ideas from a place I might consider negative, as it helps me to put a positive spin on it. Really, in my opinion, a more healthy alternative when you think about it. So, think about that next time you find yourself wrapped up in a stress phantasm.
I’ll share a peaceful image and a great quote…

Autumn's Grace

Autumn’s Grace

“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.” – Dalai Lama XIV

Goodnight Irene!

One of those great things we say when exasperated! I’m sitting here fretting today about all my coastal family and friends. As I write, many are getting a mandatory evacuation notice as Hurricane Matthew barrels towards the southeastern coast. My aunt and uncle left their home in Pt. Wentworth, Georgia today to travel towards Atlanta. We have friends in Deland, Florida, and family just inland in Hampton, South Carolina.

There is so much I love about the Deep South, including what I have pictured here in two images I pulled from a collection made traveling along Highway 17 from Savannah to St. Mary’s, Georgia. The rural decay – once bustling towns now desolate as I-95 bypasses the old Highway 17 corridor. The low country marshes at or below sea level, where trees grow together into canopies and the thickets are so dense you can’t see through them. You can feel the humidity as it drips off every living thing but that light…now this is where you find that beautiful southern light. It manages to penetrate those canopies and glisten off everything that is even just the slightest bit damp.

Low Country Marsh

Low Country Marsh
Coastal Georgia

This whole area is under the current mandatory evacuation. Really, that’s what made me pull all these negatives and walk down memory lane today. I remember my passion and effort and, the numerous trips up and down this highway to complete my project. I shot the whole thing with a Fuji 6×9 film camera. This is one cool camera – the 90mm lens is sharp as a tack, and that 6×9 negative, well, it’s a 35mm on steroids! I love it! The details are exquisite and well worth exploring if you can get your hands on one.

I think a trip back may be in order in the not-to-distant future. I’d like to travel that route again, and take a whole new batch of photographs. Maybe this time, 4×5, or better yet, wet collodion!

Keep our coastal family and friends in your thoughts, and let’s all hope Matthew takes an easterly turn and heads out into the Atlantic.

Souvenir Highway 17, Coastal Georgia

Highway 17, Coastal Georgia

More Goals…

Good News

Okay, today I’m going to celebrate and brag just a little because I have exciting news to share. I have officially been accepted into the MFA program I applied to. I’ve been talking about this for years…a few at least. And, like most logical (maybe a little too logical like Spock) thinkers, I had to get certain other goals achieved and “ my ducks in a row” first. Spotted Dog Excavating has now been in business over 6 years and it’s doing beautifully. Randy and I have another venture we’re hoping to launch this fall to winter timeline. So, now was finally the time.

I did the research, and decided that I wanted my MFA to be in photography. What else is there?? After researching quite a few schools, I landed back on my own alma mater, The Savannah College of Art and Design, or affectionately known as SCAD. I received my BFA at SCAD, in photography, in 1992.

Since I was there 24 years ago, they’ve added a whole new eLearning program, and their MFA in photography is part of that new addition. So, I don’t have to pack up and move back to Savannah for this…just a few visits, which is great because two of my favorite people live in Savannah – Vicki and Phil, my aunt and uncle.

Getting ready to apply was stressful, but probably only because I am Type A when it comes to presenting my work to others. I had to fill out a rather lengthy application, update my resume, write a Statement of Purpose, provide a portfolio of 20 images, add an artist’s statement to that, and provide letters of reference and official transcripts. Whew…that was a lot, but once all was submitted, I just sat back and… nope, didn’t relax, not at all. Boy, that wait was tough. Well worth it, but tough!

I am very excited about this new opportunity and plan to start on January 4th , 2017, as SCAD is on the quarter system. Kind of interesting, because as I align my two school schedules (as a student and as an instructor), I’ll get two quarters just about completed in the time it takes to complete one semester at PPCC. So, all kinds of fun ahead!

Finally, this week, I’d like to take a moment to say thank you to all my family, friends and reference writers who helped encourage me, edited photos to pare down a portfolio of 20, proofread statements of purpose, and those who stood on the sidelines as all-around cheerleaders in my corner. You all know who you are, and you all rock!

Here’s to new adventure! Look to all the possibilities in life!

Sand Dunes


Inspiration and Happy Memories

Path Taken

A Path Well Taken

A good friend shared a quote with me this week, and after reading it, I realized how much it resonates with me. I proceeded to read it again, and again, and again.

Quotes…we all love to read a good quote here and there, by people we admire in our fields of interest, or just those that motivate, make us feel more positive, give us a needed smile, or boost of energy. This one certainly made me think.

“Did you use the time I gifted you each day to be a purposeful being? Did you follow your own path and make your time count? How faithfully did you tend to the dream I sowed in your soul?”

This comes from a book called The Motivation Manifesto by Brendon Burchard. Sounds like a very interesting book, one that I’ll probably wind up buying on Amazon. But, it’s the quote that really stuck with me these last couple days.

“Did you use the time I gifted you each day to be a purposeful being?” Time to reflect on this life and what I’ve done, and what I’m doing. I think teaching is purposeful, and I certainly enjoy it. I feel like I do things with great intention and purpose. I think (and analyze) through my choices, maybe too much, before embarking on new paths. But, for me, I do like solid goals and intentions.

“Did you follow your own path and make your time count?” This is a big one for me, because I’ve been known to leave a contentious meeting, or other unpleasant encounter, and grumble, “Well there’s another hour of my life I won’t get back.” We’ve all felt that way on occasion, but how do we make all the time count? Well, we enjoy our time with the people we love, enjoy life’s experiences and limit those moments that cause the grumbling to tiny blips on the radar. Follow our own paths, and don’t be swayed by what others are doing. What is right for one isn’t always right for another.

“How faithfully did you tend to the dream I sowed in your soul?” This is the time to remember all those dreams you’ve had, even as far back as when we were kids…what did you want to do when you “grew up?” What did you want to be? Where did you want to live? Well, no time like the present! Follow your passions and your dreams, and minimize those unpleasant encounters. We only get one life, make it count.

Frankie and Randy


I happened to be organizing some files on my hard drive and came across three photographs taken over the course of the past couple years. They make me smile. One a path well taken, and Kisses, two beautiful souls, and a time to celebrate the changing of the seasons! Happy Autumn!




Onion Half-plate Alumitype September 11, 2016

Half-plate Alumitype
September 11, 2016

One year ago this coming week I started my blog. I vowed to post weekly no matter how busy life got, no matter how tired I might be after a full workweek, no matter anything! Here it is, Blog Post #52!

Now for that second goal…I attended a wet collodion workshop! This is something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time, and after hearing about a good friend’s experience, and getting a taste of wet collodion one weekend in March (see The Best Kind of Learning Experience blog post March 26), I was hooked! And, for my birthday this year, Randy bought me a weekend-long workshop.

I attended the Wet Collodion Workshop at Studio Q in Denver with Quinn Jacobson. I can’t believe how much I learned, and how much this workshop really did confirm to me that my photographic future lies in the past.

On Day 1, we discussed making positives (alumitypes and tintypes for example), and the theory and history behind these processes. If you know me, you know how much I love the history. We had a great discussion on the evolution of these early processes and a further discussion on the “why”? Why do we want to continue to do this today? What will this type of art mean, and how do you put meaning into your creations?

We went from there into some demonstrations. Quinn made several plates, taking our portraits in his studio, and showing us both positive on metal, and negatives on glass. Through this process we saw him coat the plates with collodion, sensitize the plates in a silver nitrate bath, expose an image in camera, then back to the dark to develop the image and finally fix the image. In development, we learned to look for highlights, then mid-tones, and shadow details during a count to about 15. After 3-5 seconds, we should see highlights – if so, you’ve got a good exposure!

Speaking of exposure, your average light meters, and today’s UV-coated strobe lights don’t work well with collodion. Your ISO is about 2, sometimes it can be as low as .25 depending on the age of your collodion. And, the UV coating on strobe tubes lowers the color temperature of strobes to about 5500 Kelvin, slightly warming the light. Collodion is most sensitive to UV light; it actually likes the ultra-violet, violet, indigo, blue and green part of the light spectrum. Warmer colors are often rendered as black or not seen at all.

After learning more about equipment – cameras (oh, you have got to see those 8×10 cameras!), and lighting, we moved on to chemistry. Now, here’s where I had already read about things like Cadmium Bromide (lethal) and KCN (potassium cyanide, also lethal), so I was just a little hesitant. But, after a thorough discussion, safety information and actually using these chemicals, I relaxed. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have a very healthy respect for these chemicals, but I also now know how to handle them properly and I don’t fear them.

On Day 2, we made plates! All day, my classmate Tom and I, made alumitypes – we learned how to coat the plates, sensitize the plates, load them into the camera for exposure, develop and yes, fix in the dreaded KCN (again, a healthy respect goes a long way). We made still life images, and did portraits of one another. I have two here that I’d like to share – my two favorite images of the day.

My portrait of Tom – he is an interesting psychiatrist from Little Rock who is an expert in mental health, and an artist! You can guess we had some very riveting lunchtime conversations! And I’ve added, Onion, my favorite still life from the day. I made a total of six plates on Sunday! I’m hooked…now it’s time to find my own 8×10 camera, and the coolest selection of antique Petzval lenses that I can get my hands on, and oh yea, a portable darkroom! I’ll need one of those to take this show on the road!

See you in the field, under my dark cloth!

Tom Psychiatrist, Mental Health Expert, Artist Full-plate Alumitype, September 11, 2016

Psychiatrist, Mental Health Expert, Artist
Full-plate Alumitype, September 11, 2016

My Disclaimer…

Digital reproductions (i.e., shooting these with my DSLR, and/or flatbed scans) are NOTHING like the original. I have not mastered the art of reproducing the beauty of these plates when held in my hand to translate into the world of pixels!

Field Trips

David; Field Trip; Fall 2015

Who’s wearing those Chucks?

Do you remember when your teachers sent you home with that permission slip? You were so eager to get a signature so you could skip the classroom and go straight away to a fun-filled day off of school grounds? I remember those, but more importantly, I loved the ones – sans the permission slip – that I attended in college. You know, the ones where you talked to industry professionals, and learned things from an outside-the-classroom perspective.

I love field trips, and since I’ve had this opportunity to teach at PPCC during the past seven years (yes, seven! Time flies!), I’ve incorporated field trips into just about all of my classes…wait, yes, all of them! My biggest field trip schedule is in my architectural photography class, because let’s face it; you just need to leave campus to explore all the wonderful buildings around our community and make photographs of them. And, for my large format class, we get to visit a local darkroom at Bemis School of Art for a true 4×5 film processing experience. Now that I am teaching the product photography course, I’ve talked my good friend, Don Jones, into letting us invade his professional studio for some great lighting demos, and I even had the chance, about a year ago, to take my history of photography class to the archives at the Pioneer’s Museum!

Fall 2015 Field Trip


All of these opportunities are so much fun. Students get to learn from experts, have docent-led tours that discuss the significance of the architecture of certain buildings that we visit, and it’s a chance for some teamwork, bonding, professional “outside-the-classroom” perspectives, and fun. Yes, is that a bad word today in education? Fun? I don’t think so, and it really is amazing the amount of participation and great feedback I get in return from my students for organizing these outings. I love this opportunity to watch my students in action – shooting, asking questions, and making beautiful images. And, when they use the 4×5 camera for the first time that is just the best!

Scheduling my fall line up starts in mid-July! It’s a lot of work, making connections with local people in the community who support our program, and a lot of follow up, and, of course, thank you notes! See last week’s blog for details. But, no matter the scheduling snafus, possible fall-weather follies (that’s what giant golf umbrellas are for by the way), and hauling of equipment, I wouldn’t trade it for the world!

So, to mark the beginning of fall semester 2016, we visited Pikes Peak Regional Building on Wednesday – a great day! Hot? Yes! Lots of gear? Yes! Tons of fun? Heck yea!