Highlights from Fall

These are my 20 favorite shots from Fall in Charleston, West Virginia this year:

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Hope you enjoyed 🙂

Till Next Time,

Adri

@colormeadri

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My Personal History with Photography: From Point and Shoot and beyond

These days I’ve been doing a lot of camera day dreaming. I plan to do a separate post about cameras that I love but are beyond my price range. The more serious part of me is pretty sure that my next camera is going to be the Olympus OMD-EM10, which is more suited to my needs and desire to have manual control dials.

Photo from getolympus.com

While researching different camera brands I came across a number of comparison sites and photo blogs that I love, so I figure I’d share those links:

http://cameradecision.com/

https://www.youtube.com/user/DigitalRevCom

Mathieu Gasquet (youtube)

http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/

This list could extend on forever but I’ll just end it right here.

It’s no secret to those who know me that I’m very brand loyal to Olympus. I understand that they don’t necessarily stay on the cutting edge of technology in the imaging side of things, but quite frankly I’m just used to using these cameras and their stabilization and focusing capabilities are quite fast. Olympus produces lightweight cameras that are durable and relatively inexpensive compared to other pricier brands like Nikon and Sony.

My first ever camera was one of those old Nikon Coolpix point and shoots. I don’t remember what the model was even called, but since it shot at anywhere from 3-6 mega pixels depending on how far it was zoomed, the model name isn’t even worth the mention. Regardless I loved that camera. I loved having the option to take snapshots wherever I went. I was ecstatic at the time that I could take more than the 25 photos I would have otherwise taken with a disposable film camera from the grocery store. I could even print the photos at home on our printer, which was cool because we’d just recently upgraded to a color printer.

When I began painting in middle school I used these poorly pixellated paper printouts as reference photos for my equally bad quality landscape paintings. (You’ve got to start somewhere right?) Initially no one foresaw that digital cameras would ever surpass film in definition, color depth, and so on. Even as large digital SLR’s began to enter the scene I always assumed I’d continue to take snapshots on crappy 6 megapixel point and shoots, simply because SLR’s were quite costly and much too big for me to hold up for longer than 5 minutes at a time.

Enter the Olympus EPen 1, which I believe came out around 2008. It was one of the first mirrorless 4/3 digital cameras. It took a while for people to understand that this technology would soon take over the digital photography world and make it less and less attractive to own a bulky, boxy SLR.

My first high quality camera was the famed Olympus EPL1, which my parents graciously bought me in the fall of 2011. When I think back, having a decent quality camera really boosted the quality of my paintings as I could now actually see the details in my pictures. The EPL1 shot at 12 mega pixels and retained these pixels even with zoom, since mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras typically are used with optical zoom lenses instead of digital zoom (which crops to the center to zoom and thus cutting out digital data as one zooms further and further).

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Beautiful Low light performance from the Olympus EPL1 (Seattle’s Discover Bay in Winter)

It was a beautiful camera and it turned out beautiful Jpeg files, even more beautiful than any of the Olympus cameras I’ve used after it. It did lag quite a bit so when I got to college I decided to sell it to buy a camera with faster performance. My next Olympus camera was the Pen-mini 1, which was indeed a very quick and small camera. Even though the specifications for this camera looked similar on paper to the Pen lite 1, the mini had horrible white balance issues. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t anything I couldn’t fix in iPhoto but I hated just how much editing I had to do to each file just to get the picture to look normal again.

Even with its small size the Olympus pen mini is still able to create amazing results. I loved having my pen mini with me in Europe (even when my kit lens broke on me in Zürich).

This past spring I sold my mini to get an Olympus Pen Lite 5, which is an amazing camera. I barely have to edit the files unless I took them in weird lighting or at night. This model gave me an extra 4 megapixels which allows me to sell a considerable variety of print products on Society 6 and Redbubble. I couldn’t have enabled nearly as many products with the 12 mega pixels on my pen mini or my iPhone (which has honestly become my second favorite camera since it is the one I’m almost always guaranteed to have on me.)

It amazes me how far digital cameras have advanced technologically since those first micro 4/3 cameras came out. Sometimes I wonder if my pictures would be better if I bought the fanciest camera on the block or some extra lenses but new products are always coming out. There’s no need to go chasing after the next new thing. I’m sure it wouldn’t hurt to have the latest gear, but for now I don’t necessarily want a bunch of high res ultra focused shots. I don’t want to distract my eye from the compositions and the colors of nature that first drew me to photography. I’d rather make small upgrades in cameras then jump up to some ultra capable camera right now when all I’m used to is small mirorless models with the kit lens the camera was sold with. I am excited though to see how these technologies progress over time for when it makes more sense for me to own a fancier camera.

Stay tuned for subsequent posts and if you’re into instagram follow me there at: @colormeadri

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My thoughts on Old School vs. Modern Photography

I suppose I should preface this whole article by saying that I am a hobby photographer and I shoot currently with an Olympus Pen Lite 5, which is a great camera but honestly because the menu system is so complicated, it feels at times more like an over-glorified point and shoot with a lens screwed onto it. I do not possess the full technical vocabulary of someone whose life revolves around cameras and dials and technical specifications. I do however think I have a fairly good conceptual understanding of aperture, white balance, shutter speed and the like, but as my shooting priorities rest mainly on shooting as many pictures as possible while I’m out and about doing other things, I end up leaving my camera on automatic mode embarrassingly often.

Do I not want to improve? Of course I do. More than anything though I just want the shot. In that primal moment where I see something shiny that catches my eye, I revert to caveman mode. I revert to the abstract painter who only cares about lines and frames and focal points. I could care less in those moments about my exposure or shutter speed, because frankly due to Olympus’s excellent stabilization system, most of the time I won’t even stop walking to take a picture. Occasionally I’ll even take pictures in a bus or a car, and those moments are all about timing more than anything else. If I have to go back into Olympus’s convoluted unintuitive menu system to adjust the exposure I’ve already missed the shot.

I have my eye on the Olympus Omd 10 Mark II. It’s almost identical in specifications to my current camera, only it comes with dials to adjust controls manually. I want to make this trade because I think there are times when it’s worth it to have faster more accurate control over lighting and exposure time, especially at night.

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This is what happens if you try to take photos at night with a UV filter on your lens. Say goodbye to the stars my friend.

(A few years ago I bought a UV filter for my 14-42 mm kit lens and basically never took it off for years. I’ve always been very disappointed with all my night-time photos, even the ones with longer exposures, but the other day it dawned on me that the UV filter was obstructing most existing light from entering my camera’s sensor. I’m excited to try to shoot some stars sans UV filter someday soon).

I have a study abroad friend who recently enrolled in a film class. I love the look of her pictures, but I just don’t feel like film is for me. I’d love to have a viewfinder on my camera, especially an analog one, but I do like being able to use new developments like autofocus. A few weeks ago I also realized that with my camera’s touchscreen I can select a manual focus point. Just touch the screen and the camera will lock onto your selection. You can’t do that on an analog camera, (though Leica is making some really expensive but fascinating digital hybrids like the M9 which hold onto many retro manual controls while implementing new technologies).

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Thanks Olympus for your touchscreen focus that helped me capture these deer. I even had time to spare to capture a video clip of them running away from me!

I don’t think it’s bad that photography is advancing in automatic functions. It kind of reminds me of the disagreements between oil painters and acrylic painters. Oil painters tend to be a bit more purist and look down on acrylics because they’re synthetic and cold and the newer pigments aren’t what the Old Masters used. I feel that if you understand the past of painting and keep it in mind in your work, you can still be considered professional even if your methods are unconventional. Similarly for photography, if you at least understand how your camera works, how light and color work you shouldn’t be regarded as an inferior artist when you use new automatic tools to assist you. Now, if the final product even after post-production isn’t good, then that’s a different story, but we all have to try out new things and fail now and then, don’t we?

Also be sure to check out my new Redbubble account to see some of my better paintings and photos.

And to see photos of my travels be sure to follow my instagram at :@colormeadri

Have a nice day,

Adri

 

Rochester, NY and Niagra Falls

A couple months ago, my mom and I made a trip to Upstate New York to visit a study abroad friend of mine who lives in Rochester. One night we drove up to Lake Ontario to see a magnificent sunset on the beach.

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The next morning we stopped by Amanda’s house after eating a delicious breakfast at a local restaurant in Amanda’s neighborhood called Olympia. Then we went back to her house to meet her adorable cat, see the work her family had been doing installing new hardwood floors and to see her beautiful backyard.

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Surprise photo my mom took of Amanda and I 

Later that afternoon we drove up to see the famous Niagra Falls and it was even more beautiful than I expected it to be. The Canadians were friendly too as are most Canadians in general.

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After seeing the falls we stopped by the restaurant at the Niagra Falls Giftshop where I ate a soba noodle bowl dish and my mom had a butternut squash soup. Both were delicious.

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Stay tuned tomorrow for a post about our subsequent stop in Toronto!

I Caved Last Month and Joined Instagram

After many of years of pretending to be cool and unique by being a hobby photographer who didn’t have an Instagram account, I woke up and realized, wait this is actually really cool. You can put up pictures and people will actually see them and care! I expected to make my account and then get over it pretty quickly, but I am more or less still committed to updating it and seeing what other people put up, particularly accounts with nature photography.

 

My all time favorite Instagrammer is Konsta Punkka, a nature photographer from Finland. I am even more in love with his work now because a few weeks ago I commented on one of his photos (along with hundreds of other fans) and he responded to me! It’s the little things in life right? I first learned about him watching a travel vlog from the Vagabrothers on YouTube. Konsta is a magical human being who gains the trust of wildlife creatures such as foxes and squirrels and gets them to pose for selfies, albeit very professional and well edited selfies, but selfies nonetheless.

I was worried before getting the account that if I joined Instagram I would put too much weight on how many followers I had or care when I lost them, but that should never stop you from sharing your work with other people if that’s what you think you want to do, that is, if that’s where you are passionate.

Plus, did you know that a bunch of Instagrammers apparently use apps that automatically follow and unfollow people and comment random generic things on people’s photos? I always tell my friends I am for all intents and purposes a social media grandma, therefore I did not know this. So that’s another reason why you don’t have to feel upset if you wake up one morning and realize you’ve lost a few of your followers, because Instagram is after all an instant gratification platform with finicky users who may or may not actually just be robots at any given time. I find this of comfort at least.

This “advice” can stretch more broadly to day to day life. People aren’t paying as much attention to your every movement and flaw as you think so just keep on moving through your life the way you want to. Put out there what you want to and strive for the goals that you set for yourself. Aziz Ansari said in an interview last month that if he were going to fail at something, he’d rather “fall on his own sword”, that is, he’d rather fail delivering his own writing and jokes than to play it safe following the directions of others.

So all you artists and movers and shakers out there: keep making cool stuff, keep sharing it with the people you love (and also total strangers if you so desire), and keep on dreaming, even if you don’t make your hobbies into anything more than hobbies income-wise. We create to express ourselves, whether people are watching or not.

Witnessing an armed dispute in Santa Fe

Spring Break 2014: This is an account of an armed dispute I saw while vacationing in Santa Fe. It happened a while back but in light of the recent tragedy in Orlando, I am sharing this story to add to the discussion on gun violence.

What I wanted out of spring break was to relax, if only for just a day or a few hours. I headed out by car for the mountains of Santa Fe with my mom, ready to get out of Houston and away from the constant stress of academic life. The first day as we were driving across the vastness of the Texas prairie I still felt leftover stress, but I was hoping I’d get over it. The next day we made a stop at a Torchy’s Tacos in Lubbock. A uniformed man in line for food had a gun in plain sight strapped across the back of his belt. Of course this isn’t the first gun I’ve ever seen and in the US its completely normal for police officers to be armed. It’s part of their job to protect people, but that morning the sight of it bothered me, how it was a bit larger than other guns I’d seen, how visible it was. I tried to shove away my nerves but they hung around as I ate my greasy (but delicious) taco.

We hit the Texas-New Mexico border at a town called Farewell, TX. Sitting behind the wheel I drove a bit faster and thought to myself, Farewell Texas! I’m going to the mountains now. I had never been to New Mexico before. As we drove past, the great plains turned to flat, lifeless, yellow grass with bright red dirt. Desert scrubs and yucca. We gained altitude and peculiar dark green pine trees dotted the rolling yellow hills. We passed between desolate highway lanes, and the small roads of run-down and forgotten towns.

Then we hit Santa Fe, with its majestic mountains. Well-to-do people walked around outside of fake adobe houses. Santa Fe was very commercialized, the rich of the town appropriating Native American culture, decor and customs. My anxiety was still in full gear, but was tinged with a sense of excitement. Santa Fe had the wealth that those other small towns we passed on the way did not. I felt myself wanting to live there.

Until we were driving to our hotel and were stopped at an intersection. In front of us was a black SUV and a white 80’s Honda Accord stopped on the road. We thought perhaps the cars got in a wreck and the owners were about to exchange papers. But two men got out of the SUV and surrounded the white car. One man pointed a very large black gun at the window. It was the biggest gun I had ever seen (and I grew up in West Virginia where a lot of people own guns). Inside a Native American man with long braided hair sat still and silent. Then the gunman turned his gaze and met my eyes. What I thought could be my last moment instead became the moment that the men headed back into their car and sped away.Had we saved that man with the long braided hair?

The next day we learned from a cashier we recounted our story too that the event we witnessed was not out of the ordinary for the area. He leaned in close and confided to us, “It’s the younger generation. They like to race cars in the streets and get into fights. Don’t take the backroads and you’ll be fine. And if it happens again don’t tell anyone about it. Don’t call the police. You just look straight and drive away and you’ll be fine.”

We didn’t see anything else out of the ordinary for the rest of our stay and I was eventually able to enjoy some relaxed time in nature like I planned, but because of what we witnessed, the Land of Enchantment had lost some of its enchanting qualities in my eyes. But gun violence is not an issue pertaining only to Santa Fe. Far from it. In the aftermath of the recent attacks in Orlando I don’t quite know what to say, only that we shouldn’t look away. When things of this nature happen we should never look away. We must speak up. Even when we are afraid, we must tell someone.

Alexandria, VA Weekend Painting Workshop

I’ve just come back from a weekend visiting my sister in D.C. and going to a painting workshop at the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, VA, an incredible center for art. The class was on landscape and ran Saturday and Sunday from 10 A.M. to 4 P.M.

 

 

The instructor, Patrick Kirwin, was excellent. He introduced me to Acrylic Glaze.

This stuff is similar to oil mediums for oil paint, except that it is of course for acrylics. It makes your paint transparent and gives acrylics the ability to blend like you would not believe. Props to Patrick for teaching me how to use this formerly mystifying substance, which now opens up worlds for my future art.

On the first day he had me working on a picture of a blue spruce tree. I don’t have the photo on hand, but here is the painting.

The tree itself took the majority of the class to finish, and I suppose it could be more detailed if I devoted some more time. Still, this is far more detail than I ever put into most of my paintings. I like to tell myself that staying more abstract and expressionistic adds a unique quality to my work, (which for the most part it really does. I never want to completely lose that side of my art), but really I don’t usually go into much detail because of a weakness I feel in myself to create details. I lacked artistic ability in general when I began painting at age 13. I promise I was awful. Here’s a picture of one of my early paintings.

This picture makes me so sad 😦

There are worse ones that I’m too embarrassed to put onto the Internet for all to see.) I’ve always spotted a more general weakness in myself for all things that involve a close attention to detail such as math and science.

And the really funny thing about that is that when I was in elementary school and middle school, I was excellent at math and science and had no problem with using analytical skills. Even in high school I was still far more advanced at math and science than most of my peers, but as the math got harder and I found myself making more mistakes, I doubted my own abilities. I began to deeply fear the mistakes I felt I had no control over repeating over and over again, because I began to see them not as problems I could work toward reducing, but as innate flaws and a lack of ability within myself to achieve the perfection that people expected of me as a “gifted student”. I no longer felt worthy of my label as intelligent and since high school I’ve been constantly trying to prove to myself that I am worthy of my label. After all, what makes me so much smarter or more talented than anyone else? I still believe the answer is that I’m not. I suppose what I have on my side is luck and a lot of support.

I love to live in the world of wish-washy art, which requires me to develop skills and to analyze the world around me, but which need not be so exact and can’t be criticized as often for being incorrect.  I’m not saying art which is not realistic or detailed is lesser than detailed art. I’m not saying that at all. I love the more abstract and energetic pieces. But what I am saying is that even though I’ve improved tremendously in the last few years in my ability to render life with my brushes, I haven’t made many serious attempts to make detailed work, believing that it is beyond my own capabilities.

On the first day of my class, I was so surprised when at the end Patrick told me that I had a great drawing ability. I appreciate his class so much, because he did not judge. He was kind and also persistent about getting me to paint what he wanted to see.

“Go back in with the darks.” “Go back in and shape the background. Don’t get lazy. They have to look like trees. Make them look more…treelike.”

For faithfully following his instructions, I was rewarded with a decent painting of a pine tree and the unforgettable compliment that I, in fact, have “a great drawing ability”.  I was convinced for so long that I was deficient in talent for all things exact. I was so sure of it. After this first day, I was awakened. After so many years of feeling inadequate and talentless in multiple areas of my life, I became enough just the way I was. The chains of my own mind were broken. My limits were revealed as self imposed.

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Day 2: After Patrick went through some pictures I brought with me, (and I’ll never forget that he called them tremendous photos), he picked out two for me to work on. The first picture I spent most of the day working on.

Today he really made me work for details and softness, encouraging me by saying that he was asking for more from me since I demonstrated such an “ability for detail” the day before. I’m proud of this piece:

The second photo, Patrick really liked, so he told me to park my easel next to his so we could paint it together. We spent the last hour of class painting it. The class watched for about the first ten minutes, (the first time I’ve really been observed painting for more than a few seconds). I found I couldn’t even sense the presence of anyone watching me paint, because I was so absorbed in doing what Patrick was doing.

Although I was only asked to make a painting alongside the instructor because he really liked my particular reference photo, it still made me feel special that I got to sit next to him. It gave the illusion that we were equals, at least just for that hour since his art degrees and experience clearly make him far above my level. But nonetheless there was almost a sacredness in this hour session, the master teaching and the pupil following: knowledge being transferred to a new generation.

At some point in the day, he asked me if I was an art major at school, and earlier another student also asked me the same question. I was flattered at the thought of this kind of question being posed to me. I previously didn’t see myself as having what it takes to be successful studying art formally.

I’ve come out of this experience much more alive and ready to become a better artist and also a better student in all areas. I know now that most limits really are imposed by the mind and are merely constructs, a lesson I wish I would have learned earlier. I’m still young though so I’m sure there’s lots of time left to take advantage of what I now know to be true.

Adri is out :p
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❤ Color Me Adri

Summersville Lake

So today we went to Summersville Lake to celebrate my Mom’s birthday. It’s a definite summer hotspot for lots of people in Southern West Virginia. I’m not actually sure how I’ve never been since I’ve lived in West Virginia almost all my life, but we went today and it was soooo pretty.

 

 

I guess the thing that struck me most about the trip was that families were all there together enjoying the great outdoors and having a wonderful time with the simple pleasures of nature. Nature is quite under appreciated nowadays unless you’re at some really famous natural park like the Rocky Mountains or if you’re at the Grand Canyon. But here there were just lots of great local West Virginia families enjoying their own backyard and I think that’s fantastic.
How did you spend Memorial Day Weekend?
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❤ Color Me Adri