Sunday, November 24, 2013

Taking time to admire local artists

"Art is the stored honey of the human soul."  - Theodore Dreiser

There is no question about it, art inspires us, entertains us, engages us, consoles us. There is such a variety of art and artists and different media and finished art pieces speak to different people. 

The East Austin Studio Tour consists of over 400 artists who displayed a selection of their work for two weekends and posted a map making the general public aware of where to see some moving art.

The weather was cold and rainy yesterday and I thought visiting art would be the perfect thing to do...and evidently many others had the same idea.  My photographer friend, Marybeth, accompanied me and we set out first for the funky east 6th district where we found a lovely ceramic shop, Clayworks, that had gorgeous colorful sconces, tiles, murals and jewelry.  

We were invited to a behind the scenes look at the kilns and the workshop and I fell in love with their whimsical characters, rich colors and assortment of products. If only I had a budget to go with my cravings for beautiful art. 

We then headed to some photography exhibits. We began at Austin School of Photography (ASOP) where we saw some stunning student photography and had a long philosophical discussion with the owner, Andrew who takes an organic approach as he teaches his students to seek their vision and get beyond capturing a simple snapshot.

From there we found the Austin Art Photography Group Show held at a strip of stores near the train station on East 5th. Twelve photographers exhibited and their work was diverse - from a layering of x-rays and self portraits, to nudes to some photo realism.  Mark Heaps work has always appealed to me and he had an interesting selection of doorways from all over the world that worked well as a collection. He was also offering small prints for $5 that I felt was a great idea because it was affordable and, again, they worked as a collection, so you wanted to purchase more than one. Once again, I stopped to chat and had an awesome conversation about different opportunities on the photography horizon.

Marybeth and I both admired the work of John Steckl of nuderuins, not only for his daring in getting models to pose nude high up on roller coasters and in abandoned buildings, but also for his unique, fun framing using bright colors, metallic hinges and abstract patterns.

Marybeth Foley and Claudia Cobianchi admiring the work of John Steck

We headed north to have lunch and check out some group exhibits. Marybeth and I are both new to Austin, having moved here from the East, so we were selecting our galleries based on seeing and experiencing as many artists as we could. So we headed to the Austin Working Artists show on Thompson St.  This was a nice collection of very diverse artists and the setting was cheerful, welcoming and fun. A large hall owned by a classic automobile group, it was a great space for 25 very eclectic artists including a woodworker, several oil painters, ceramicists, several artist who worked with mixed media and a textile specialist.  We were greeted by the mesmerizing eyes seen below. 

Marybeth, with her organized, mathematical mind was drawn to the work of scultptor and designer Matthew Michael Warren.  He had an amazing portrait of Obama crafted out of plaster of paris and bubble wrap. He was happy to tell us how he crafted some of his very individual pieces.

We both enjoyed Eric Quinn's work - although she liked the abstracts and I liked the realistic portrayals of places.

Quinn is showing "Moulin Rouge" painted on a table top, with rich reds, oranges and golds. 

My favorite painting, by far, was this image by David Swantner. My photo does not do it justice - the colors were awesome and the detail and artists vision of a romantic, hip, chic, quieter Austin was just spectacular. Unfortunately, I will never have a budget to afford this, but I really did enjoy just staring at it, talking with the artist and enjoying all of it's rich details.

Our last stop was at Canopy - it was a very large group exhibit and it was mobbed. I personally found it overwhelming - too many things, too many people.

All in all, the day was a lot of fun and I am already looking forward to going next year and hopefully doing it for more than one day.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Speaking the language of photography

“What I like about photographs is that they capture a moment that’s gone forever, impossible to reproduce.”
Karl Lagerfeld

I attended the last session of a friend’s Photography 101 class this week.  The teacher, Kevin Gourley, who got rave reviews from his students, held a social night as their sixth and final class.  It was a chance to discuss what photography meant to each of them, individually, what they had learned along the way and an opportunity share their favorite images and their passion for photography.

There is something special about listening to the language of photography. I love hearing the enthusiasm of someone who just discovered what they could do by mastering the aperture setting, or the excitement of someone who just purchased a new camera or a new accessory.  Sometimes I forget just how much I have learned over the past few years – after all, photography is a life-long learning experience – we continue to learn new things as we pursue new subjects and new interests.

I was utterly amazed at the quality of the student’s images. One was a moth hummingbird  (I wasn’t even aware such a creature existed) with a long tongue poking into a flower. Many were of exotic places that I dream of traveling to one day. One was of a participant’s granddaughter that captured the light and bokeh beautifully. 

“The true gestation period of a photograph is not the seconds, or fractions of seconds, of exposure, but rather the years the photographer has spent on a journey that is both physical and intellectual before reaching the point when the shutter was opened.”
- David Ward

Watching this group of images was entertaining for me – I've always been a great audience for viewing good photography. It also made me recall some of my own favorite images – places that were beautiful or great sharing times that evoke an emotion.  I just panned through over 7,000 images in my Lightroom catalogue taken in 2013 and find it very difficult to select my “10 best.”  Some I like because it brings me back to a special place and time. Some just make me smile because of the memories of a person or people I love. Many remind me of chasing the moment – stalking the hummingbird, blowing the bubbles or playing outside late at night with my husband and a flashlight. 

All of my photographs are special to me and bring me great delight at reviewing them, sharing them, giving them as gifts.   I feel quite fortunate to have the gift of capturing the moment and it was a joy to see others recognize that they, too have that gift and want to get better and better at utilizing that gift. 

"Photography at it's most potent can transcend mere reportage and reveal our very souls like a magic mirror: to make us think, to make us feel, and to remind us always that we're all fellow travelers on this spinning globe." - Bill Wittliff

Monday, July 29, 2013

Acadia Revisited - Lessons That Bear Repeating

"Do not say 'this is how the landscape looks', but rather 'this is how I represent and interpret the landscape I encounter.'"


One of the best experiences in my life was going on a five day landscape workshop in Acadia National Park with photographer, Robert Rodriguez, Jr. I recently got to re-live that experience as I prepared a talk/slideshow to present to Austin Photographic Society. 

Acadia is located on Mount Desert Island, and with 108 square miles, it is the largest island off the coast of Maine. In 1901, George B. Dorr, worked tirelessly to preserve the land for perpetual use of the public. In 1919, President Woodrow Wilson signed an act establishing it Lafayette National Park, the first national park east of the Mississippi.
John D. Rockefeller Jr. endowed the park with 11,000 acres and in 1929, the park was named Acadia.  Acadia's landscape features the elements that have made Maine's coastline world famous, including rocky shores, secluded coves, roaring surf and tree-topped peaks.  It encompasses several different parks within the park, including Otter Cliffs, Sandy Beach, Jordan Pond, Eagle Lake, Bass Harbor Lighthouse, Cadillac Mountain and Bernard Harbor. 


• What does not add, detracts – less is more!

to the right and ensure that the brightest part of the image is either nearly or very slightly touching the right shoulder of the histogram. Don't clip the darkest colors or the lightest colors.

• Look at the scene and try to determine how you would caption an image. What’s the story? What’s the subject?

• Light is the key ingredient to a good image.
You can have an amazing subject but without good light and good composition it just doesn’t work.
Pay attention to the direction of light, the temperature of light, the quality of light:
Airlight occurs pre-sunrise and post-sunset, and produces soft shadows, reflection off sky;
Backlight – offers a strong emotional appeal;
Sidelighting – strong reds in the foreground that pull you in and allow the light to accentuate the landscape.

• Look for repeating elements 

• Create as much depth and dimension as possible.

Keep in mind the elements of visual design – line, shape, color, patterns and texture.
I went to a talk at Austin PPA last week and many of these same rules were repeated. I guess we all need to hear them again and again because they are simply the rules of making a good landscape image.

Happy shooting, friends!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Three things I learned today

To me, photography is an art of observation. It's about finding something interesting in an ordinary place... I've found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.   –Elliott Erwitt

I assisted photographer Tim Babiak this morning and learned some really important lessons about photography.  

• First, I got to see how he handles lighting when the sun is strong. I have always simply brought my subjects into whatever shade I could find but that is not the very best solution, because oftentimes there is no shade to be found, or it is dappled, making it even more difficult to get a nice shot. Tim brings along a giant umbrella that allows him to create his own shade. Actually, that was my task, to hold that umbrella over the subjects and make sure that they were fully sheltered from that harsh sun. He also brought a 30" softbox with two speedlights to provide his subjects some nice light. I enjoyed seeing the confidence he displayed with his subjects (something I don't always feel I succeed at). So, his setup allowed him to achieve a studio look, anywhere he wanted to set up.

The second thing I learned is how he shows his clients the images. Since they were from out-of-town, he downloaded the images to his laptop and showed the clients the photographs on-the-spot.  I was impressed with how quickly they were able to zip through the images and select their favorites. In less than 15 minutes, sitting in the shade with 3 of his subjects, they decided on 15 images that they absolutely couldn't live without. Awesome. I am determined to get more decisive and select a good "pick" and move on. 

• Third, and probably most important was feeling like I left a new situation, assisting a colleague, with a win-win feel. Tim was kind enough to show me some new techniques to improve my own photography. He knew I am doing a 365 Project and he challenged me to find some texture in a parking garage that I could use today as my "Photo of the Day."  I looked at the grungy garage and saw nothing. But I put on my 105mm macro lens and he lent me his Pocket Wizard transceiver and held a Speedlight to show me how much more texture I could achieve by incorporating that light. OK, so I got some texture, what the heck do I do with that? He explained how I could enhance an existing photo by using layers in Photoshop and "playing" with modes and opacity and getting creative. Cool. That made me come right home and try it out and I like the results. 

I've found that, on the whole, photographers are quite generous with their time and information. It was fun helping out and in the long run, I feel like I learned a lot and enjoyed the experience. 


Bad part of all of this, I want some new toys - new Speedlight, giant umbrella, and Pocket Wizards..... Photography is an expensive habit!

Happy shooting friends!

Be sure to check out my Photo A Day on Facebook.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Seek Inspiration

“We do not take pictures with our cameras, but with our hearts and minds.”
-Arnold Newman

I had the privilege of viewing the stunning black and white photographs of Arnold Newman, one of the great masters of the 20th and 21st century whose work has defined great portraiture.  The exhibit, Arnold Newman: Masterclass is free and open to the public until May 12 at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas campus in Austin. 

There were over 200 iconic photographs taken by a man who focused largely on capturing the essence of artists, cultural celebrities, movie stars, and political figure.  He insisted on shooting his subjects in their own personal surroundings.  Some of my favorites included Grandma Moses, Georgia O'Keefe, Marilyn Monroe, Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali, to name just a few.  Photography was not allowed, and I honor that. But to see some of his images, you can go to

He also had a lot of self portraits. I was so inspired, I took one of myself while still on the premises. 
I am not very strong when it comes to portraiture  - my talents lie more in candidly capturing my subjects. But I couls see how Newman has influenced some of my favorite portrait photographers today, Joe McNally, Matthew Sturtevant, and my good friend, Patti Hale. I really did enjoy seeing how he chose to meticulously capture each of his subjects and tell a story about them just by using his composition.
We are so blessed to have so many free resources available to us. There is never any excuse not to be inspired by something around us. 

Happy shooting, friends. I know I have been enjoying doing so with the 365 project I took on this year. I have been posting a Photo a day for the past 92 days. Sometimes extremely challenging, often lots of fun, I encourage you to check it out by "friending" me (Chris Davis Cina) on Facebook.


Friday, March 29, 2013

Taking a trip back to Ireland

I just reread the blogs I wrote in 2009 about our trip to Ireland.  An Irish shop I visited recently said they would be interested in selling my Ireland photos, so I have been revisiting the country via Lightroom. One of the great perks of being a photographer is reviewing the landscape, remembering the vistas and moments and mentally being able to recall a special place that brought us wonderful moments and memories.

I also discovered that with advances in technology and things that I have learned in post-processing, I had more pleasing images than I remembered. I also saw that I had a very dirty sensor, and so, I have been mentally "living" in Ireland as I revive some old images and fall in love all over again with the Emerald Isle.

I'm also trying to determine which images might sell, so I'd really appreciate your feedback. Which ones might you like hanging on your wall? 

This is all making me want another trip. Hopefully, the nice people at Sitric will purchase some of my images and other folks can enjoy the memory of Ireland as much as I enjoy it.

Happy shooting, friends and have a very happy Passover, Easter, Springtime!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Learning From Others

I always come away with some wonderful new tidbit of knowledge every time I go out with other photographers for a shoot. Can't say enough good things about Meetups - they sure helped me meet like minded people and helped my transition from New York to Austin, Texas go smoothly. 

For one thing, I am learning new parts of the city that I otherwise never would have explored.

This past Sunday, a group of us explored West 5th St. At first, it looked to me to be a very modern, somewhat boring looking section of the city. But, through the eyes of my new friends, I discovered it was as ecclectic as all the rest of Austin - old and new mingling with funky architecture and interesting characters.

I followed a woman who's photos I have admired on Facebook, Tracy and marveled at the things she discovered to shoot. She first set out for the skateboarders.

Then she was interested in reflections on buildings. I am generally taken by small details or large landscapes, so this was a fun challenge to see what I might come up with.  Here's a self portrait.

We found some beautiful old homes that had been re-constructed to be small businesses and then we found an old honkey tonk that was made up of train cars, now closed down.

The saddest buildings were ones that used to house a large art community that has moved to another location, but it's enormous, colorful buildings looked so sad. Wish I could renew the interest in a new artist community to go in there.

At any rate, I am glad to be a part of the photography meetup group. We gathered afterward and had a nice dinner. One photographer, a professional and also a college professor,  did all his shooting on the latest ipad and his results were amazing. So, the world is changing and I am having fun documenting it. Hope you are, too.  

Keep shooting friends.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

3 Important Things To Becoming a Better Photographer

This blog was originally inspired by the brilliant writings of Joe McNally and David Hobby. I had been reading both of their blogs religiously and wanted to reach out to an audience of folks who were just beginning with tips and suggestions so that they, too, would come to be inspired by Joe and David, who, to this day, remain my heroes.

I just read a McNally blog – do yourself a favor. If you  truly love photography, and hearing a good tale along the way – go read his blog and soon you'll find yourself buying his books and seeking his videos and You Tube.

But, if you are just starting out and are looking to become better, let me share the wisdom that was given to me years ago.

• Shoot Daily.  I once asked Michael Nelson to mentor me and he said "just go out and take pictures every day. Select ONE that you like best and throw the others away.  I did that in the beginning and I look back now and marvel at how I have improved over time.  Shooting daily is as important to me today as it was years ago - it allows me to see growth, it provides me with wonderful new opportunities, it challenges me to be proud of at least one image every day and it helps me to build a new and important portfolio. Check out my 365 Photo a Day Posts on Facebook.

• Less is More. Saw this on a t-shirt today and was reminded that it is the mantra of one of my very favorite landscape photographers, Robert Rodriguez, Jr.  Whenever you can, seek education with a photographer that you admire. Seeing how they work, learning how they see, immersing yourself in their habits is so important to your photographic growth. Rodriguez showed me that it is important to caption my vision - find a subject and try and capture the emotion I have for that subject by leading the viewer into the image with leading lines and light. I have been guilty of trying to grasp too much in an image, but my very favorite images are simple, elegant and to the point.

• You can't have a great image without light.  The word photography itself means writing with light. I've read many books about the importance of light but it was Rodriguez who finally allowed me to see the QUALITY and IMPORTANCE of good light. We all recognize how beautiful the early morning glow of sunrise is and how spectacular the colors of sunset are. But if the colors are flat, without the contrast of shadows and light, there is no drama and no practice of good photographic principles. Study light. Where is it? Where does it look best? What is it doing to the composition?

I could go on and on with tips but lets get back to number one - get out there and get shooting!

And enjoy your time while doing it. Life is about embracing the present and stopping to see it's beauty. 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

What Hasn't Made It

I have been enjoying posting a photo a day on Facebook, every day since January 1st. It is a challenge that is making me a better photographer and hopefully more in tune with new concepts and details.  Some days are frustrating and I feel like I have no pictures "good enough" and other days I get 3 or 4 great ones and can't choose which ones to post. Certain friends have suggested that I "save" those really good ones for the "less creative" days, but that feels to me like wanting to reread "Hamlet" and having someone hand me the Cliff notes. Not good enough. They are only MY rules but I have a sense of integrity and who am I cheating by posting an older image? Me, that's who.

So, I stick to my own rules - a new photo every day - TAKEN that day. So, what to do with the "good" ones that didn't "make the cut?"  I thought I'd show some here and discuss why they didn't get posted on Facebook.

 This one was a nice look at downtown Austin but, having photographed the skyline before, I felt I had many more compelling images, so this one just didn't feel like my very best work. Like, for example, this one that I took last year.

I like this Peace sign, and I can see myself in the reflection, so that is fun, but that day I was lucky enough to get several other imsges that I felt were more emotional and compelling. This was nice, and certainly would have been OK on a day I didn't grasp anything worthwhile, but it just didn't show off my photographic abilities and my grasp on how to see something that others don't necessarily see.

Really cool look at the inside of a pointsettia, but I got an even cooler version right after this one. (see next)

Another one I found a lot of fun was this one of a man riding a horse in downtown Austin.  I love the feel of it but I also feel that there is too much clutter in the image. Wish I could have gotten closer and gotten fewer signs and more Capitol Building. Makes me want to go back and try for it again.

Here's one from last weekend that I really liked:

Pretty but kind of cluttered and the subject really gets lost. Here's the one I chose from that shoot:

Strong subject, peaceful feeling, image I am really happy to have captured.

Thanks for visiting friends. Keep on shooting and improving and letting me know what YOU like and don't like.