Art Through Persistant Knowledge

by Becky on December 15, 2013

Photography.  What does that word bring to mind?  If you’d asked me a year ago, I would have told you key light, fill light, kicker light, background light.  Metering, composition, posing, color, zones –the technical.  Then, I attended ImagingUSA for the first time.  I did so to complete a goal, my goal of certification.  I wanted to go in, show my technical expertise, and go home.  I knew my stuff, I was confident I would pass the exam, and I was ready to just get it over with.  But, to hedge my bet, I enrolled in the Certification Preparation Class.  I sat in the classroom surrounded by award winning images by Gary and Kathy Meek.  Stunning images, images that pulled me in and made me wonder– How did they get a light there?  Which area did they expose for?  Is that even possible?   How much editing time was involved?  Technical stuff.

Part of the class involved study groups, and I groaned when Gary said this was one of the most important aspects of his class.  I HATE study groups – just a bunch of random people thrown together; none of whom would care as much as I.  It is embarrassing to type that now because the study group I lucked into (simply because of the hotel I’d booked at) turned out to be the greatest treasure from Imaging 2013.  I quickly realized that I was surrounded by true greatness; greatness of heart, greatness of mind, greatness of creativity.  Each one of my study mates taught me something during our three nights of cramming.  Amid arguments over circles of confusion, explanations of light ratios, and discussions of white balance; Jules taught me that anything is possible if you just do it, Cindy taught me that I need to chill out, Travis taught me to see beauty, Vickie taught me to be myself, Sheila taught me perseverance, Marco taught me to love where I’m at, and Marian taught me how much I needed friends.  Even after the class, we encouraged each other with image submissions, celebrated business victories, and consoled each other when goals were missed.  I consider these photographers among the best of my acquaintance and having them in my life has made me a better person.  ImagingUSA hadn’t even officially begun, and yet, I had learned lifelong lessons. 

Exam day came. Two hours later it was over, and it was time to head to “the show”.  We arrived just after the floor had opened and we descended the escalators with hundreds of others – a giant tsunami of photographers.  After visiting a few vendor booths, we decided to peruse the print competition display.  Large zig-zagging temporary “walls” were covered with hundreds of nearly perfect competition prints.  Again, I was blown away by the sheer technical genius!  But, as I rounded the corner of the loan collection I saw this:

Time Traveler by Richard Sturdevant

I grew up on a farm, and one of our most favorite pastimes was climbing trees.  One particular tree sat directly in front of our home and was designated as “The Climbing Tree”.  My siblings and I would see who could climb the highest, fastest, best.  I remember falling out of that tree one day; One second I was going up and the next instant I hit the ground, landing flat on my back. The air was knocked out of my lungs, and I was unable to breathe.  Seeing this image had the same effect as hitting the ground (without the falling part).  I couldn’t wrap my head around what was happening.  My brain wanted to analyze, but my heart took over – I was mesmerized.  This piece grabbed me.  And it didn’t let go:

Fire in the Sky by Richard Sturdevant

Defenders of the Realm by Richard Sturdevant

Sin City by Richard Sturdevant

My definition of “genius” was, in that moment, redefined.  The possibilities of photography as an art form expanded to infinite.   This artist had truly created a one of a kind piece.  Times eight.   In an industry flooded with photographers, he had separated himself not only through his camera, but by using all available tools.  My mind was blown.  Incredibly, I was able to meet the artist, Richard Sturdevant, just a few minutes later!  Richard had so many awards around his neck he was going to need a brace, yet he spoke to me with such a humble heart.  He congratulated my classmates and me on our completion of the CPP exam, and talked to us about our next step – print competition.  His heart for teaching shone bright and I am filled with anticipation of someday taking one of his classes.  Day one of ImagingUSA, and my heart was changed. 

The remaining days were filled with seminars and workshops with some of my idols.  Some of my idols were knocked down a peg after seeing the work of the Print Exhibit.  And I found new photographers to follow, photographers who cared about the industry and not just about making money.  Where I wanted my business to go changed over those three short days.  There is no way I could have anticipated that 2013 (with the assistance of the United States Air Force) would move my family to Turkey, that the best choice for my business  would be to put it on hold, and that I’d have to sit quietly by while other photographers paraded around me.  If I had not attended ImagingUSA 2013, if I had not met the group of people I had the privilege of befriending, if I had not taken the CPP exam, I probably would have folded everything – just shut it down.  But my study group friends give me inspiration every day, my new goal of my Master of Photography keeps me motivated, and my certification gives me confidence in my work.

Last year, if you’d asked me what photography means, the answer would have been technical.  Now, the word “Photography”, to me, means “Art through persistent knowledge”.  I am giddy with anticipation of ImagingUSA next month;  my study group will reunite as eight Certified Professional Photographers and we will lay plans to conquer 2014!  I hope to see YOU there!

The images in this post are used with permission of the creator, Richard Sturdevant, who is AWESOME! 

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Turkey Travels {Karatepe and Kilim Co-Op}

by Becky on December 14, 2013

Last week I was flipping through “The Happenings” (the on-base magazine for what’s going on), and saw that Outdoor Rec was offering a trip to Karatepe – in THE RED ZONE!  I had no idea what Karatepe was, but we jumped at the chance just to get into the red zone (the portion of Turkey we’re not allowed into as residents of Incirlik).  We loaded into the Outdoor Rec bus in the early morning cool; the sky couldn’t decide if it would rain or not the whole day.  On the way to Karatepe- an ancient Hittite castle ruin – we stopped at a Kilim co-op where we were able to watch the ladies tie a few knots, then loaded back onto the bus headed for the castle.  It’s amazing the hands-on access we have to artifacts here in Turkey – we walked all over the ruins through an outdoor museum and marveled at the history.  The day-trip was well worth our time and I think we might go again if the opportunity arises!

This kilim was being finished as we watched.


There were two ladies working on this kilim.


The room was full of these looms.




The different dyes used on the wool.


A Santa Kilim?!?


The kids enjoying some Turkish Tea.


Our Favorite (But not favorite enough to buy).


The dyed wool – the other side of the room was lined with iron ovens.


Tea Party is finished!



Ancient Lion’s Paw



View from the castle ruins.


The castle wall foundation.


My baby running through the castle!




The path leading around the ruins – very serene.


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We’ve been trying to make a point of getting out and about more frequently – short day trips for now.  On this particular Saturday, we packed up the van and headed to Ekotepe, an organic farm offering a breakfast brunch buffet and sweeping views of the hillside.  We enjoyed the farm for a couple of hours then continued our journey to find the James Bond Bridge (used in the filming of Skyfall).  I kept waiting to drive around a corner and see the expansive structure, but as we went further up the mountain and the road kept narrowing, I began to worry that we’d made a wrong turn.  Finally, we rounded a curve, we saw it, and while impressive it was, the movie had made it seem much longer.  Regardless, it was a fun day away from the base.

This was a “STOP THE VAN!” shot; I set up my tripod and wished for a wider angle lens.


Waiting for a train!


The impressiveness of the bridge’s height inspired more awe than the width.


Organic Farm


The outdoor eating area was serene and peaceful and a peacock even strolled through the garden.


Olives are one of Ekotepe’s products. The trees are lined in orchards.


Another great view from the hill



I had to smell the roses!


Keep checking back for more photos from our Turkish Adventure!


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Sabanci Merkez Camii

by Becky on October 24, 2013

This mosque is the symbol of downtown Adana.  Set in the middle of the city, surrounded by run down buildings, multi-story apartment buildings, and shopping malls, it is strikingly out of place.  When we were itching to get off base a few weeks ago, I declared it was “Take Photos of the Mosque” Day, and we set out in the scorching sun to walk the acres of beautiful park hosting the mosque.  Of course, as is always the case with me, I arrived at entirely the wrong time of day, so quality images were difficult to capture, and I knew as we were pulling away that I needed to return at night to capture the stunning gem set against the Adana sky.  We had a sitter last Friday, and Ryan was my body guard as I set up my equipment on the dark, empty Roman Bridge.  Fifteen minutes later, I breathed a refreshed breath as we put everything back in the van and returned home knowing I had created my envisioned image.



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It may seem early for this post, but I had time to write it and was inspired!  Enjoy!

Set Up for DIY Christmas Photos

Okay, so you didn’t learn your lesson from my do it yourself family photo debacle, and you’re determined to do your family’s Christmas card photos.  It’s ridiculous, you say, to spend $1500 on a photo shoot, you have a nice camera, and it’s decided; there’s no talking you out of it!  Well, lucky for you, I understand!  With all of the other holiday hub-bub, it’s difficult to remember to get your family portrait session scheduled.  Most professionals are doing Christmas photos in October or early November and you can’t squeeze it in, or maybe there’s just not a professional in your area you trust.  Whatever the reason, Becky is here to save the day with some more INCREDIBLE photo tips!

I know you’re going to think I’m a lush, but because this does involve the whole family – you’ll NEED a glass of wine.

Normally, I would suggest setting everything up and then, when your scene is perfect, inviting your family into the set.  However, we’re going in a whole new direction this time.  The first item on your checklist is to set a day and put it on the calendar.  Announce the date to your family; might I suggest the following, “Family, I have decided that Saturday hence will be Christmas Card Photo Day!”  (It’s much more effective when spoken in a British accent!)  Immediately after the announcement, take the family shopping.  Buy festive (inexpensive) shirts, garland, lights, tinsel, fun ornaments – anything that will add to the spirit!

Before the photo day arrives,  do a Google search to find a wireless remote that is compatible with your camera.  Most Canon and Nikon DSLRs have one available for around $20.  You might also be able to find one in your local camera store.  A wireless remote is almost a necessity.

The day before the shoot, charge your camera’s battery, make sure there is empty space on your memory card, and be sure you can attach the camera to the tripod (for some reason, I always lose the screw piece for this step).  If possible, ensure the whole family eats a healthy diet and gets a good night’s sleep.  Seriously.

Alright, the day is here!  I can feel your enthusiasm from across the web!  This is going to be the pinnacle of your acquaintances’ card collection – you just KNOW everything is going to be PERFECT!  Go drink that glass of wine.  Now.  With your tempered excitement, comment throughout the day about how much fun the photo shoot is going to be!  You really want to hype this up, we’re going to make it a blast.  Start singing Christmas carols!  About an hour before you’re ready to photograph, after you’ve all donned your holiday gear, set up your camera.  Start with the backdrop, you can use a wall, a large piece of fabric, or go crazy and build a set.  Invite the family to help you.  If you’re using natural light, you’ll want your family to stand just at the edge of the window, so your backdrop will need to be behind this area by at least two or three feet.  Next, put your camera on the tripod and get the settings dialed in.  Start with your white balance.  Try setting on ‘shade’, ‘cloudy’, and ‘daylight’ to see which you prefer.  Next, you’ll adjust your aperture.  If there are four people in your family, set the aperture to 4.0.  If there are five people in your family, set the aperture to 5.6.  If there are six, seven or eight people in your family, set the aperture to 8.0. The shutter speed should be set on 1/100th of a second (may display as only 100 on your camera).  Now, get your exposure to “correct” by adjusting your ISO – you’ll probably need a pretty high setting: 800 or even 1600. Ask one of the kids to stand in as a test subject, and make sure you like what you’re seeing on the back of your camera.  Because we are working with pretty small apertures  you *might* have to pop up a flash :(  If you do, manually adjust it so that it’s at half or even 1/4 power (use your camera’s manual to find out how).  You’re window is the main light, so you’ll just use the flash for fill light ( I know, that’s a pretty techie word, please forgive me!)  Look through the viewfinder and put some markers on the floor using tape showing what your camera sees.  This is just to give you some boundaries – everyone will know to stay between the tapes to ensure they are in the frame.  When you’re ready, turn up the Christmas music and place your family.

Wrap each other in lights and garland. Play, laugh, tell jokes, whatever needs to happen to make it fun!  And, while you’re having fun, point the remote at the camera every few seconds and capture the memories!  Ta da!  After the session, make some cookies and hot chocolate and put on a Christmas movie.  Maybe this could be a new holiday tradition!



I didn’t follow all of my own advice in the following photos (I left out the wine and the relax parts), but it was the most fun we’ve had with a DIY photo shoot thus far!  Also, I was using my studio lights rather than window lighting.  

Watch the little ones – they’re climbers!


My daughter is a fan of crazy faces!




…and the cat joined us!


One of my faves!


She had the remote and was so proud of herself!


A true smile on my face!


They are NOT going anywhere!! (I was handholding the camera for this one)


Bringing it all together for the Christmas card!


Merry Christmas!


Was this helpful?  Let me know in the comments!


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