Photo Inspiration for the New Year

Are you looking for some photo inspiration for the new year? Doing a Project 365 is a great way to practice your photography and have doing it. Have you ever heard of Project 365? It’s a commitment that you make to yourself to take one photo a day, every day for 365 consecutive days and I suggest giving it a try. Don’t worry, it doesn’t mean you can only take ONE photo per day, but that is your minimum goal. It’s meant to encourage you to shoot, at least something, every day. Even on days when you don’t leave the house and there’s nothing interesting to shoot, you must shoot and document your photo. You will be amazed at what you will come up with, especially on the days when you think there is positively nothing to shoot. Those are the days when your creativity will be the most challenged and those are the days that you will grow the most as a photographer.

I, personally, have been doing one of these Projects every year for the past several years. I have to admit, they have become more about specific topics or exercises in my life and less about pushing myself as a photographer, but it doesn’t matter. The commitment of remembering to take a photo every single day (even with your phone) is a great discipline.

Aside from improving your discipline skills, giving you lots of practice shooting and pushing your creativity, there are some other added benefits to trying a project like this. As in my case for the past couple of years, it can serve as a photo diary, giving you a visual record of an entire year in your life. It is so much fun to look back and see an entire year pass before your eyes! Another great benefit to this project is that it will make you more observant. When you know that you have to take a photo a day, you’ll notice a lot more around you. You’ll find yourself looking for photos everywhere and seeing little things you wouldn’t have noticed otherwise. And THAT my friends is what is going to make you a better photographer! Even if you end up with 365 silly snapshots taken with your phone, the practice of remembering to take a photo every day will help you.

There are so many ideas to get you started. And don’t worry about not starting on January 1st. You can start anytime and just keep it going for a full year. Here are the projects that I have done over the past few years to show you how you can create your own take on this challenge.

One year I just took one photo a day of something that I wanted to remember about that day.

One year I documented what I was wearing every single day (and to really make it difficult I tried not to wear the same outfit all year. Boy was I relieved when that year ended!)

One year I really changed it up and decided to take a one-second video rather than a still photo. Much more challenging, but the result was fun and rewarding.

One year I broke my year up into 12 different themes and used things like “abstract, reflections, B&W, textures, etc,” changing them up every month. I planned out my 12 themes in advance so there was no downtime transitioning from one month to the next.
(Most of these photos are terrible, but keep in mind that the point of this is the exercise, not the finished results of the photos.)

One year I committed to captioning every photo with just one word (and again, tried not to use the same word twice all year). This got harder and harder as the year went but really forced me to be creative.
(sorry, no link to this project.)

Last year my theme was “my happy moment of the day.” This really forced me to be more mindful throughout the day as I searched for my happy moment.

View Project Here

As you can see, the possibilities are endless. Here are resources for further reading on the subject if you are motivated to give it a try.

Try using a different color each month as your inspiration.

project 365 ideascourtesy of http://www.positivelypresent.com/2012/01/365-photo-project.html

Or try breaking up the year into 52 weekly projects. Even if you just shoot 52 photos (one per week) it would be a great start.

Project 365 ideascourtesy of http://www.sarahhalstead.com/project-52-introduction/

photography project ideas

Courtesy of http://everydayeyecandy.com/16-photography-projects-for-2016/

Or if you really want to simplify it, try what I did and only pick 12 themes, on for each month. If you’re trying to improve your photographic skills here are some suggestions that you may want to try:

  • motion
  • abstract
  • macro
  • depth of field
  • low light
  • long exposure
  • landscape
  • portraits
  • story telling
  • textures
  • colors
  • B&W
  • street

A great free resource to keep track of all your photos in one neat and tidy place is http://365project.org/. What I love about this site is that it allows you to either use their free app and shoot directly from your phone or use their desktop website and upload photos from your computer – the best of both worlds!

I hope this article has motivated you to want to give it a try. Please join in on the fun!

Watercolor Photographs

I recently started taking a watercolor painting class. I have always loved watercolors over oil or even acrylic because I favor a looser more abstract look over realism. This is very evident in most of my latest photographic work. I just love altering reality and taking an otherwise common humdrum scene and transforming it with my camera into a work of art. A recent comment that I received on social media was,

“Almost anyone can take a picture that looks like what we see but it takes a master to create something fresh and different.”

It pleased me so much to know that people, even non-photographers, can appreciate what it takes to do this. It’s not as easy as “just taking blurry photos.” My husband used to always tease me about taking blurry photos. He would even say, “If you want blurry photos, just give the camera to me.” That, in a nutshell, describes the difference between haphazardly taking a purposefully blurry photo and an experienced photographer manipulating reality to create a work of art.

Blurring the Lines

This has become my biggest photographic goal. It is so much harder to bring a unique perspective and vision to what you are photographing over just clicking the shutter and capturing exactly what you see.

Look at what is in front of you as just the start of something new. Notice the colors, shapes, and textures and imagine how you can manipulate them. The photo below is the Rockland Harbor at sunset. The harbor was littered with sailboats, but I used a fast panning technique to “erase” them all. The end result was a surreal dreamy colorful soft ocean.

Calm Seas

It’s sometimes hard to imagine what your camera is capable of doing and the trick is to experiment like crazy. Just keep taking yourself out of your comfort zone. Keep trying new things and pretty soon you will start to understand what is possible.

For more photographic inspiration and instruction, please considering joining me for an upcoming photography workshop.

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Looking for Photographic Inspiration

The Maine landscape is getting duller by the day. The leaves are turning brown and falling at a rapid rate – especially on this very windy day. At times, I look outside and feel sad that the colorful scenery is disappearing. I know it’s going to be several months before I’m back outdoors. Sure, there will be those few snowy winter days that will inspire me to get out and brave the cold in my heated gloves, but nothing beats the colors of spring, summer and, fall in Maine. So what’s a girl to do to find some photographic inspiration?

Well, there are lots of other shooting options and the harder you look the more you may find. Recently, I decided it was too cold and damp to venture outdoors so I sat in the toasty comfort of my house and shot pictures through the window. Sure, it might have been a lazy cop out, but it beat not shooting at all.

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I really liked how the fog seemed to add a natural soft filter to the photos without any editing whatsoever. These photos are straight out of the camera, but they look as if they have been edited. I moved to another window in the house and shot a couple more pictures with similar soft (but in a good way) results.

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Another day, I was about to throw away a container that was filled with a soapy solution. The night before I mixed up this magical red wine stain remover (Please message me if you want the recipe. It was amazing!) and before I threw the solution out I noticed how interesting the bubbles were. I couldn’t help but to take a few minutes to grab my camera and macro lens to see if I could capture their beauty. I snapped a couple of handheld shots and decided that the scene warranted a tripod.

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The next thing you know I had the container propped up on books right on my dining room table. I even got a small LED flashlight and lit the container from below. The whole set up was quick and dirty with very little thought or effort and it produced some very cool shots.
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This proved to me that you don’t have to look very hard or dig too deep to practice your photography skills right at home. Look around you right now. Do you see something that might make a good subject? I challenge you to shoot something ordinary today and make it extraordinary! Send me a shot if you take my challenge. I would love to see it and share it.

If you enjoyed this article, please consider joining me for the Creativity Bootcamp next fall in Rockland, Maine.

Hanging on to Maine Fall Foliage

It’s hard to believe that the Fall Foliage Photography Workshop has already come and gone. Fall is my favorite time of the year here and it breaks my heart how fast the Maine foliage slips away. As I look out the window right now there are still lots of leaves on the trees, but with each passing day the colors are growing more dull. Soon we will enter the dreaded cold and gray “stick season.” It’s a good thing that I took lots and lots of beautiful photos of the glorious fall colors to look back on and remember when I’m trapped indoors under several feet of snow.

I couldn’t have asked for better weather or a better group of people to spend two days shooting with. We all had a great time capturing some of the surrounding beauty.

Maine Photo Adventures Fall Foliage Photography workshop

And there was beauty everywhere. From reflections of the foliage on the water . . .

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To pretty buildings along the roadside . . .

Maine Photo Adventures Fall Foliage Photography workshop

We really didn’t have to work too hard to find it.

Maine Photo Adventures Fall Foliage Photography workshop

Maine Photo Adventures Fall Foliage Photography workshop

There were many highlights of the event, but one of my favorites was visiting the wineries. (Don’t read too much into that!) The grounds at both of the wineries that we visited were gorgeous and offered so much to see and shoot. From striped cows and pretty trees to delicate grapes still hanging on the vines.

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Not only did the participants learn from me, but they also learned from each other. Nothing beats the group dynamics of spending time together and helping each other out.

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We shot everything from sweeping landscapes to tiny details. It sure wasn’t too much of a challenge to “pluck the details of fall” like I recommended that everybody do.

Maine Photo Adventures Fall Foliage Photography workshop

Maine Photo Adventures Fall Foliage Photography workshop

Maine Photo Adventures Fall Foliage Photography workshop

Maine Photo Adventures Fall Foliage Photography workshop

We went to many places and were on the go non-stop for two days. I don’t blame some of the folks for laying down on the job! It was exhausting.

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This next picture is symbolic of what my head felt like when it was all done.

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As tiring as it was, I wish I could do it all again tomorrow. Too bad we have to wait an entire year to get this chance again. I’m working on the 2017 workshop dates now. Please consider joining the mailing list to be kept informed of upcoming events. Just click the button below.

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Fall in Maine – It Has Arrived

It’s pumpkin season here in Maine! And I don’t mean the fake “pumpkin-spiced” everything season . . . I mean the real pumpkins and apples, the colorful trees and gorgeous landscape everywhere you turn. Anybody that lives in New England knows how exciting this time of year can be. We are so fortunate to be able to experience all the seasons. Even the long cold winters have their own unique charm. Granted, they are a little longer than I would prefer, but if I have to take the winters in order to get the autumns, I’m in.

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This past weekend I drove to the locations that are on the upcoming Fall Foliage Photo Workshop itinerary and, right off the bat, I’ve decided that the duration of the workshop needs to be increased next year! Two days is simply not enough time to see and capture enough of this beautiful landscape.

cute cow

I crammed almost the entire 2-day workshop into one day with the intention of just marking the GPS locations and talking to the managers and owners of the businesses we will visit. I didn’t really plan to make it a photography event, but I carted along my new mirrorless Lumix with me, just in case.

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The weather was dreary with completely overcast skies and at times, sprinkles of rain. As I drove along I thought, “Gee, I hope the weather is better during the actual workshop.” And then I started to take some longer exposure pictures like these and realized the lighting conditions were perfect.

Acorns in the water

Abstract reflection in the water

Trees reflecting in the river

Bright sunshine would have made shooting some of the water scenes very difficult and in some cases impossible, even without an ND filter.

Rushing stream

There is so much more you can do creatively with overcast skies and I really had a ball playing with some slow shutter abstracts.

Fall pumpkin abstract

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The sun only peaked out for a brief few minutes and the combination of light and mist made for some interesting shots too.

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These photos are just the tip of the iceberg for what’s to come. Please stay tuned to see much more of the beautiful Maine landscape in the fall. And there are still spots left in the upcoming Fall Foliage Photography Workshop taking place Oct 13 – 14. Please contact me directly if you are interested in securing a spot.

Playing With Macro

I’ve owned a macro lens for many years and never used it. In fact, I sold my first one because I was tired of storing it and never thought I would make good use of it. I’m pretty sure that I originally purchased it to shoot some product shots of jewelry that I used to make. Using a macro lens for that sort of work drove me crazy because trying to get the entire object in focus was a very big challenge for me. And I always thought that shooting with a macro lens required using a tripod – something that I dread.

Fast forward a few more years and the desire to own another macro lens recently came over me. I don’t even remember why, but I decided that a macro was a good lens to have in my camera bag. So I bought another one. And there it sat in my bag for the past several months, lonely and neglected.

It wasn’t until a recent Maine Media Workshop called “The Expressive Landscape” with one of my favorite photographers Eddie Soloway that I dusted off the macro and gave it a try. This time, instead of trying to capture all the details of a piece of jewelry in perfect focus I was purposely shooting most of my subjects out of focus. I was also going to shoot handheld, which is probably a no no for this type work, but rules are meant to be broken. I was going for a soft, pretty, painterly look and I wanted it all done directly in the camera with no post processing. I wanted to achieve this, not only because it was a good challenge for me, but also because I don’t have much time these days for any post processing at all. If I can learn to do things directly in the camera, all the better. So off I went to find some pretty flowers to practice . . .

I started off looking for pretty flowers.

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Then I started to just concentrate on color combinations.

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and then, interesting shapes . . .

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The more I started looking closely at flowers the more fine details my eyes started to pick up . . . like the tiny orange ant on this leaf.

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I quickly started to realize that this macro world was a whole new magical place that I never visited before. I often search high and low for interesting photos and sometimes feel that I need to travel to beautiful places, but the fact is that you can dive into this macro world anywhere you are. There is vegetation everywhere (well, almost everywhere – I don’t live in a concrete jungle) and when you get close enough to it, I mean really poke your nose into it, you see things in ways that you’ve never seen them before. It’s amazing and addicting and I could now get lost in a flower garden for several hours.

macro flower

The macro lens really makes it easy to have short depth of field and create soft backgrounds for the flowers to stand out from. Some of the effects look like paintings and again, these are straight out of the camera.

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Since I really love the painterly look and abstract art is starting to be my biggest inspiration, I started to really concentrated on that and make it my goal. I started off photographing these pink flowers and my first two attempts still looked very much like photographs.

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So I played a little more and got a little bit more creative with my focusing. This next result reminded me of an oil painting.

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And next, I attempted to throw the focus out even more and I think I achieved a more “watercolor” look.

watercolor flower photo

I may never be able to recreate this with a paintbrush, but that’s OK. This method is faster, cleaner, and much easier for me! Now I can’t get enough of playing with a macro lens. I encourage you to dust off yours if you have one that’s been sitting around. Just go out and play for the sake of playing. You might be surprised at what you capture.

Summers in Maine

Sure, the Summers in Maine are short, but they sure are spectacular. The weather is perfect and the scenery can’t be beat. The bay is usually littered with schooners, making the already pretty landscape that much more beautiful. We recently had a couple different schooner events that brought the entire windjammer fleet within a dozen feet of the end of the Breakwater lighthouse. You could almost reach out and touch the magnificent ships as they sailed by.

schooner at the Breakwater

Windjammers in Maine

The entire breakwater gets filled with spectators eager to gaze at the fleet under full sail. The truly lucky folks secured themselves admission on the various schooners and treated themselves to a day long regatta as the fleet raced across the bay.

Windjammers in Maine

Windjammers in Maine

Another big highlight of this time of year is the arrival of the puffins to the offshore islands. These magical birds come back to the same islands every single year to lay their eggs and create a whole new generation of beautiful creatures.

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If you’re lucky enough to visit one of these island to capture the puffins “on film” it will be an experience you won’t soon forget.

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They have so much character and they are the best models I personally have ever shot. They are so photogenic that it’s almost impossible to take a bad picture of them.

Maine puffin

Aside from the boats in the water and the wildlife on land, the flowers are out in full force creating a colorful and fragrant landscape.

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Aaaahhhh, the beauty of Maine in the summertime. There’s nothing like it!

Lobster Ride Promo

This year Maine Photo Adventures is a proud sponsor of the annual Bicycle Coalition of Maine’s Lobster Ride. In addition to our sponsorship, I will once again be shooting the event Tour du France-style from the back of a motorcycle. Although I would like to bike the event, the motorcycle allows me to grab some nice action shots of some of the riders.

Here’s the promo video that I put together from the footage I took last year to help advertise this year’s ride.

It’s a great event that takes place here in the beautiful Midcoast of Maine and you can find more information directly on the event website at http://mainelobsterride.com/.

Looking for Art in Unexpected Places

Sometimes you really can find art in the most unexpected places. During the recent Art is Everywhere photography workshop my participants proved it. Rather than visiting the Midcoast’s most beautiful spots, we spent time in some rather unusual places including, but not limited to the municipal fishing pier, the back parking lot of Main Street businesses and the water treatment plant. It’s easy to take beautiful photos along the coast of Maine, but finding pretty and/or interesting things in a dirty/ugly parking lot is a real challenge – one that everyone was up for and excelled at.

The simplicity and contrast of this single weed growing next to these mono-toned and rough textures jumped right out at me in the grungy back parking lot.

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Other items didn’t jump at all and were very easily missed, like this rubber mat laying out to dry. It was the glimpses of color peeking through that caught my eye.

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For sure the crew thought I was crazy when I led them to a lobster trap graveyard and a grungy fishing pier stocked with barrels of dead fish. At first it seemed like a joke, but sure enough everyone came away with interesting photos and had lots of laughs doing it.

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 We were all pushed beyond taking the obvious photos because there were no obvious photos to be found. Who in their right might would want to take photos of dead fish or a dirty fishing pier? Yes, we could have looked out over the bay and found some distant lobster boats on the water, but that wasn’t what we were looking for. Instead, we were looking for the less obvious. We were hunting for treasures that most people wouldn’t even have noticed.

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And when all else failed there was always the option to play with abstracts and just focus on colors and pattern as shown with these lobster traps.

Abstract lobster traps

We did also visit some beautiful places like the Camden and Rockport harbors, but even there nobody seemed too interested in shooting the obvious pretty boats in the harbor photos. We were on the hunt for colors, textures, shapes and shadows and those were lurking everywhere.

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One great exercise was to start to notice the reflections in the windows. Windows are everywhere and they almost always have some sort of reflection cast in them. This was particularly true for the shops on Main Street in the late afternoon. Everyone is used to window shopping and looking through the windows at the merchandise on display, but what we were shopping for were the pretty images being reflected back to us. They essentially created a whole new wondrous reality.

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And sometimes we broke down, looked through the window, and shot what was actually inside the building.

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While walking the “city streets” of the Midcoast we pushed ourselves even more. Shooting the reflections was fun and easy, but now it was time to try some real street photography. Everybody in the group (including me) was completely uncomfortable with this assignment, but we gave it our best effort and look what we found.

This image of a young girl sitting in her car is simply stunning!

DriverSince it’s just plain scary to point a camera at a stranger’s face and sometimes other parts of the body can be just as interesting . . .

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And then, of course, there are lots of things parked on the side of the road that can be art.

Img2016-06-10-135717 On the less grungy, prettier side of Art is Everywhere . . . we all played with our new abstract skills. All of these shots were taken during the middle of the day. Once you know how to play with your camera settings nothing can stop you from making abstract art!

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We had two fun-filled and challenging days of shooting and everyone came away with a new sense of “seeing” the world. I hope this post helped you to try to look at every day objects in a different perspective. Please sign up for our newsletter or Like us on Facebook to be notified when the next “Art is Everywhere” Photography Workshop will be held.

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Google’s Nik Collection Now Free

Google’s Nik Collection, a photo editing software package designed for professional photographers, once retailed for $149 is now completely free. Just a few days ago Google made this incredible announcement and if you haven’t already done so, head on over to their downloads page and get yourself this awesome software bundle. This software works on both Windows and Mac and is a plug-in for both Adobe Lightroom and/or Photoshop.

The Nik Collection is comprised of seven desktop filter application plug-ins that provide a powerful range of photo editing capabilities that can do almost everything including: improving color correction, retouching, creative effects, the ability to make adjustments to the color and tonality of images, and image sharpening that brings out all the hidden details. The plug-ins that are included are called: Analog Efex Pro, Color Efex Pro, Silver Efex Pro, Viveza, HDR Efex Pro, Sharpener Pro and Dfine.

From noise reduction and sharpening tools to optimizing color and stylizing options, this image editing suite is amazingly powerful. Imagine going from this photo . . .

Google’s Nik Collection

To this, with just a few mouse clicks . . .

Google’s Nik Collection

This is a deal you don’t want to miss. Who could resist free? The package works with both Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop and automates so many of the things that you need to do every day, as well as gives you the power to take your photos to the next level. The tools are so easy to use that you won’t be burdened with a big learning curve. In fact, you can just watch the comprehensive video tutorial below to get you started. It’s a little bit of a time commitment to watch the whole thing, but it will be one of the best hours you’ve spent this year.