Monday, August 29, 2011

Prepare, But Be Ready for the Unexpected

When I am hired for an assignment, whether I'm hired by the University, a business, or a family, I mentally prepare by visualizing the types of images I might make and what the experience will be like. This doesn't mean the photographs I will take are set in stone, but it's just my way of prepping myself for what I might encounter (emphasis on the might). I imagine many photographers do this to some extent, as do people in other fields. Sometimes, I even go as far as sketching out my ideas. Other times I just visit the location in advance to think about options. 

I do this mental preparation with the understanding that there will still be "unknowns" and surprises. This is a good thing because it allows me to create images spontaneously. Somehow, this mental preparation for what I think I will encounter helps me better prepare for the unknowns. What do I do, then, when the situation I had mentally prepared for doesn't actually happen? This is when I rely partly on my experience and knowledge, but mostly I decide to be flexible and just go with the flow to capture the new situation.

I recently had this experience while on assignment. I had mentally prepared for a certain type of image-making but when circumstances prevented that from happening, the client asked if I would play the journalist role to capture the event as it was happening. My response? Sure! How did I mentally prepare for this? Well...there wasn't much advance mental preparation I could do for this. My job became keen observer. Watching, waiting, anticipating and absorbing what was happening around me.

How does mental preparation help in your work? Does this advance prep help, even if the situation is nothing like you had imagined? I'd love to hear your comments!

You can see more images from this assignment here.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Ricky Padilla - Brown Water Coffee

This is Part II of a new portrait project about people in Bozeman who are doing great things. Please check out Part I here.

Clean water. It's something so simple that we never even consider it unless it's taken away from us due to a natural disaster, flooding, etc. These circumstances are pretty rare for most of us so it's more than likely we will never experience the inability to have clean water during our lifetimes. If we do, it will be for a limited time. Imagine, though, if one of your major daily struggles was to locate, gather, and transport water for your family that is dirty and contaminated and puts your family at risk...but you have no other choice. If you are a female, you will begin this task at a young age and will likely lose the opportunity to go to school to perform this simple task.

Ricky Padilla and his wife Tana are passionate about helping people have access to clean water. The mission behind Brown Water Coffee is to provide a high quality product to its customers while also funding non-profits for clean water. Brown Water is set to launch this Friday, August 26, 2011 with a line of ground and whole bean coffees. From every 12 oz. and 1 lb. bag they sell, they will donate $2 to help a community get clean water. They have decided to use these proceeds to fund Living Water International who take a sustainable, community-based approach to provide mechanical wells and pumps so communities can have access to clean water. 

Each bag of coffee you purchase will be made to order and shipped within a timeline that provides optimum flavor. The tagline for Brown Water Coffee is "Drink brown water so others don't have to." Be sure to check out the launch of Brown Water Coffee this week!

Ricky Padilla, CEO Brown Water Coffee
©2011, Leslie McDaniel

Ricky's office is decorated with photographs from Living Water International that serve as a reminder of his mission
©2011, Leslie McDaniel

The office of Brown Water Coffee
©2011, Leslie McDaniel

Ricky's favorite blend is Guatemala - check for it online Friday!
©2011, Leslie McDaniel
Ricky demonstrates the taste-testing process of the beans he has just finished roasting and grinding.
©2011, Leslie McDaniel

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Guest Blogger - John Felkins

Today I'd like to introduce you to John Felkins. I have known John for many years and have only recently learned of his love of photography. John is an amatuer but he is like a sponge for photography knowledge. I try to answer as many of his photography-related questions that I can and he's definitely asking the "right" questions - things that really matter and that will help him to improve his photographic skill and vision. His main interest in image-making is landscapes and since his somewhat recent move to Nashville, TN, he has taken an interest in photographing a Hackberry tree right next to his house. Today he shares with you his personal project and his goal to capture this tree in a variety of lighting and weather situations while also using it as a subject with which to experiment and try out the things he learns about photography. I hope you enjoy his project and maybe it will inspire you to start your own personal photography project!

The Laboratory
by John Felkins

Behind my house is an old Hackberry tree. When I say old I mean about 40 years old which is how old I am so it's not really that old! But like me it's a gnarly old tree and has some good character - worthy of photographing. My photography is in it's infancy and as such I'm still exploring "my style". The old Hackberry tree has provided me with a great subject on which to try different techniques and has kinda become a teacher to me. Everything from different lighting situations, different perspectives, and even painting with light have been attempted. 

The tree is so nearby I can walk out the back door and just try something new. I like exploring new areas all the time but it is nice to be able to just go out the back door and start making photographs and the Hackberry has been a good canvas for that. It helps me to make pictures as often as possible. Daily is great. At first I thought I'd get bored with one tree but as I began to photograph this one tree I started to notice things a lot more. The sameness of the tree accentuated the changes around it. Light, seasons, and weather all became a lot more apparent to me. It was like I was paying closer attention without being told to do so. I felt more connected with what was going on around the tree and that encouraged me to look closer and find new ideas about how to photograph the tree.

I started with closeups and worked towards photographing the entire tree. One night a saw a lot of lighting bugs around the tree and had to get some pictures. I ran out the back door, forgetting to spray my legs with insect repellent, and started shooting away. Setting up my tripod and shooting as the sun went down, I ran out of options when it got dark until I thought of something I had seen in another picture. I yelled for my daughter to bring me a spotlight and I tried painting with light a little. I got some cool shots that and sadly I also got a good batch of chigger bites! 

©2011, John Felkins
©2011, John Felkins
©2011, John Felkins
©2011, John Felkins