What’s My 20?

This blog title is inspired by my dear friend with whom I’ve done a healthy share of traveling and merry making.  No matter where our adventures led, we always took our sense of humor and bits of useless knowledge to keep things light.

One of the useless entertainment bits that has followed us across the globe is our trucker lingo.  We took it upon ourselves to learn the entire phonetic alphabet (alpha, bravo, charlie, delta, echo, etc.) and some helpful phrases.

“Hey there Big Bopper, you’d better brush yer teeth and comb yer hair.  We got a bear in the air over the big slab.”  Something of this nature was among the favorites.  It translates to: Make sure you’re not speeding or doing anything else illegal as there’s a police helicopter flying above the highway.  And of course, you must say it with your thickest trucker accent (whatever that sounds like).

On our Florida Keys kayak trip in 2003, we picked up one other bit of lingo that hasn’t escaped my vernacular yet.  “What’s your 20?”  Translated, it simply means, what’s your location? Or, even more informally, where are you?  Today, it’s used mostly via cell phone when I’m trying to locate someone in a parking lot or shopping center; somewhere easy to get lost or misled among the masses.  A quick call is made, you ask for their 20, and you’ve found your place again.

Although I know there are no masses on my blog to get lost in – I have no great following to speak of – I wanted to offer my 20 to anyone who might stop by on occasion.  In case, among the masses of other entertaining blogs, there were a few people who found my musings… amusing.  In my most recent post I mentioned that the face of THIS blog was changing.  In fact, I was wrong.  I’ve chosen to begin a new blog.  I want to keep this chapter separate.

So, for my 20, if you’re interested in a visit, please stop by meganmusephotography.wordpress.com.  That’s my 20. It would be good to see you there.

whiskers-in-a-beard… over and out.

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Things… They are a Changin’

The face of this blog will be undergoing a major lift; as will its contents.  The photographic “beard” I’ve dreamed of, while not completely thick, full and rich, has finally grown in.  It was not last night.  It was not last month.  But there’s enough of it present that concealing it is no longer possible.

Tonight I publicly announce a proper photo blog will replace these reflections of my journey.  I guarantee this will not be a quick process… nor will it be beautiful at every step.  But I’m now far enough in to a business, a clientele, and a driving passion that my web presence needs to reflect as much.

I humbly appreciate you stopping by.

Merry Christmas!

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Good Gaps

It hit me the other day that there have been nearly seven weeks since I’ve last posted anything regarding this journey.  It was as if, after May 30th, all growth had ceased… or that my involvement in photography had waned as some hobbies do as you travel through life’s seasons.  My heart grew heavy and my first thoughts about this seven week gap were aimed at my lack of commitment.

As I was a few steps down the path of self loathing, however, I realized that my seven weeks have not been filled with a lack of photography to write about.  Quite the opposite actually.  They’ve been filled with an abundance of photography which, in truth, I can’t possibly go back and recount the details, tricks, skills, and techniques that have been acquired.

In this seven week gap I’ve photographed five weddings, a pre-school class, a family, my first expectant mother, and my first newborn in addition to honing in on a style that is consistent throughout my shooting (I hope) and returning to film… a bit.  I’m overwhelmed with the amount of information in my head and I can’t possibly process all of it as fast as it’s happening.

So instead of filling each week with a blog post documenting my learning as it happens, I’m trying desperately to not drown in all of this new learning.  It creates gaps, though.  But they’re good gaps.  These seven silent weeks might appear to be empty on the surface of this page, but in reality, they’re anything but empty.

Here are a few photos from my recent sessions.

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Playing With Apps

Even better than Hipstamatic is Instagram. They are used for different purposes so that claim is completely unfair. But my desire for instantaneous has currently placed Instagram at the top of my iPhone applications list.



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One of my favorite blogs to follow is a fellow named David duChemin.  He is inspirational not only regrading photography, but life itself.  He’s currently on a year-long trip around the U.S. living out of his SUV, taking side trips to foreign countries to teach photography workshops.

His latest workshop led him to Italy where, while trying to get the right angle on a shot, he took a nasty fall and broke a dozen bones.

The story of his heartbreaking fall and a timely post on taking life-risks can be found here: http://www.pixelatedimage.com/blog/2011/04/and-then-i-fell/

Related very, VERY loosely… I am in Australia at the moment.  A dear Aussie friend asked me to photograph her wedding and after considering the sacrifices that would need to be made both at home and work, I risked it.  It’s an opportunity of a lifetime and it’s what creates texture in our otherwise mundane lives.

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Framed-in Sepia

Tonight I decided to play with an aged color toning in LR3.  I haven’t made any color comparisons yet to some of my favorite photographer’s images but I know it’s better than I could have done last month.

There are tons of tutorials and action sets that coach us beginners through the sepia process via Photoshop but I have only found minimal (in comparison) tutorials using Lightroom.  Here’s what I did learn recently and here’s how I put that into action:

•Using split toning in LR3, add yellow to the highlights and red to the shadows.  Find your preferred saturation and balance of colors.

I did pull them all into PS2 (ancient, I know) and used a free border action from MCP Actions.

And… I’m working on less crappy borders which, according to Andrea Joki on our last one-on-one, I’m making decent progress.  That’s fantastic news!

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Shadow Boxing

As mentioned in a recent post, I was recently told I had “crappy backgrounds”.   It confronted me boldly and ever since I’ve been pursuing less-crappy backgrounds.  At some point, I think they will evolve to something grand.  For now, however, I’m learning to see them through my lens.

It’s funny how when you first look through your lens at your subject, all you really see is your subject; not what frames it or supports it in the background.  In the back of your head, you know you can move your looking glass to one side or the other to get the whole story.  But when you release the shutter, your frame freezes and you don’t have the same liberty when viewing the created image.  It’s frustrating when later viewing the image on your screen; you realize your subject should have been a little to the left, or that the blue recycle bin should not be peeking from behind the branches.  This leads to eventually understanding that what you want people to see in the final image must be all that’s in the frame when the shutter button is pressed.

One of the techniques used by Andrea Joki is what she calls shadow boxing.  It’s where part of the environment is in front of and behind your subject.  When framed just right, there are bits out of focus that frame the subject and some bits that are on the same focal plane as their eyes (if focused correctly).

Creating an interesting background seems simple enough.  But when I give it a try, I have to remember to combine an interesting and un-distracting background with the correct aperture, shutter speed, lighting, subject composition, and that I nail the focus.  It’s tricky.

So, while perfection hasn’t come overnight, I am seeing decent improvement in my recent work.  These are a few from this afternoon.  My daughter and I found a corkscrew willow in our neighborhood so we jumped out of the car and snapped a few quick shots.  This wasn’t an actual photo session.  In fact, the car was running the entire three minutes we were in this field.

There are still a few things with these images that I’m not completely stoked about but more factors than usual came together for me and for that, I am happy.

•All images at ISO 125


•1/800 @ f/2.8



•1/1250 @ f/2.8



•1/250 @ f/2.8

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“The Chair”

This is an exercise posted by Jimmy Beltz on his blog at http://www.phototips.biz.

I am running a super-abbreviated photography class with my seventh graders and these are our images from this exercise.  All images are taken with an iPhone by middle school students.

The idea is that you take one inanimate object and photograph it a number of times focusing on a few key concepts: lighting, composition, and perspective.

Because there was a deluge outside, we opted to experiment with our creativity indoors.  I’ve been told that my classroom closely resembles a scrapbook (and it does) so finding a solid background proved to be a challenge.  They did what all creatives do, however.  They improvised.

The images posted below are the favorites of each series of images taken by a group of seventh grade students… with my iPhone… in the dark… using a flashlight for illumination.

Here is the link to this exercise: http://www.phototips.biz/wp3/tutorials/tutorials-page-3




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Beach Boy

Growth always leads to a plateau for a period.  I’m standing there now; on this plateau.  There is a nice view down toward where I began this journey and yet I can still see a long ascending trail in front and above me.

Many good things can happen on a plateau: analyzing, self-reflecting, refocusing.  All these are good and necessary.  But during this inward glance, I am unable to reach outward.  There’s no striving.  No stepping forward.  No learning a new skill.

And sometimes, while resting on this plateau, I forget that only recently I was plowing up the hill to get to this point, and shortly, after a brief respite, I will be setting out again.  Right now I struggle to think that I will continue to get better.  It seems like I will be stuck in this place indefinitely; like this plateau is my final home.

I am committed to the process, however.  I will out wait this period of stagnancy.

On a side note, Andrea Joki and I had our 2nd of 4 web meetings.  They’ve been harsh and wonderful.  The last set of images I sent her had “crappy backgrounds”.  At first it kind of hurt to hear.  But I chose her because she’s truthful and I know there is no growing without being under that kind of fire.

The above set of images was an attempt at less-crappy backgrounds.

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Wrestling with Insignificance…

I struggle to find words tonight.  My heart is broken for Japan on so many levels and as each new tragedy for their people is announced, I am reminded that each of us is merely a speck on this planet.

Of what significance are the things of this blog?  And yet, we cannot stop in our tracks.  We cannot halt life where it wants to push forward.

With a heavy heart, I post this latest creation.

I was asked to take photos for our middle school’s wrestling team.  To give them a few options other than the usual 8×10, 5×7 thing, I put together a “memory mate” type page on Photoshop.  It will contain the athlete’s individual photo on the top and the team photo on the bottom as well as their first name across the upper left corner.

I pulled out the lights and played with some wrestling gear to use as the background image.  The head gear was too stringy, off color, and transparent.  The singlet was… uh… a singlet.  And all that was left were the shoes.  They’re not that telltale of the sport but they worked much better than my other two options.

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