Motto e Motto by Brenda (Hartshorn) Licitra

As a photographer, it is very normal to go through periods of time where you don’t do any photography for yourself. If you’re doing projects for other people all week full-time, there can be little leftover for yourself. The work I do as a scientific photographer is very important, so a for a period of time I was fine focusing on just that. I lived by the motto of “Don’t be lazy.” Laziness could result in not getting data and often it doesn’t take that much more work to give the customer a high quality product. Endurance is key to the success in almost any field, and I needed to put my customers photographic needs above my own.

This can be very confusing for people who learn that I’m a photographer, because I don’t carry a camera with me 24/7. The mindset of people who enjoy photography as a hobby and professionals are not the same. Photographic gear is also not a novelty to me, it’s a tool. I don’t keep or buy old cameras- that’s not a useful tool to me as a professional. I need to spend money on changing technology that will keep me relevant in my career. I don’t carry my camera with me everywhere because I take the time to think about and plan for composing a shot. It is the difference of a painter and someone who doodles. I admit, sometimes that doodle looks pretty nice- but it’s on binder paper and you’re not going to make any money off that.

But when and where to begin again when you’ve been consumed by work? I live in a place I would describe as exhaustingly beautiful. A weekend day trip in the area to take photos is not as trivial as it may sound. The challenge? Do something different that hasn’t been done before. Tourists coming from all over the world just to take photos here. It was a hurdle that I felt overcome by for a while until the 6.4 and 7.1 earthquakes shook our town. Yes, I live in Ridgecrest and you now know where that is. And no, the aftershocks aren’t over yet.

I apparently needed the whole earth to shake me to snap me out of it. I was trapped in a way. The quakes broke me free of that and I have adopted a new motto, “So what?” This might sound like a pessimistic outlook, but applied appropriately it can be a positive impact because you don’t care what others think. This place, angle, season, and time of day may have been done before- but so what? The act of getting out there and just taking photos is enough to open up the possibilities of doing something that is captured in your own style or find something else unexpected.

Composition with Text

Ever look thru the viewfinder and think, “There’s something missing...” and not take the photo? Sometimes this is a good thing because we want to be conscious about the quality that we are producing, but other times you can be missing out on an opportunity. I had a photo teacher during college who was always quick to give feedback during class critiques. But once he gave pause when one of my photos popped up as the next slide in the carousel. “This may look like an image with too much foreground,” he said, “but it’s actually very intelligently done. Leaving room for a graphic designer to add text is the difference between getting your photo chosen for a cover and not.” This wisdom to leave room for the graphic designer has stuck with me throughout my career and helped me be a successful photographer. Something missing? Embody the new motto: “So what?” Ask yourself again, is the area that’s missing something uniform enough that you could place text there and it could easily be read? If so, you might have yourself a winner. In my experience, a cover photo pays 4-6 times more than a photo on the inside of the magazine. And that’s just for magazines- graphic designers make things for ads, billboards, trade show signs, packaging, and more. So maybe that nothing photo is actually $1,200.

My first major exercise has been to take photos and create my own text to go with them for different applications. I chose to use yellow-gold color to give it a classic California look and founds fonts online using Adobe Typekit.

Mock Poster

Mock Poster

Mock Book Cover

Mock Book Cover

Mock Map Cover

Mock Map Cover

Mock Editorial Feature Story Intro Image

Mock Editorial Feature Story Intro Image

In a World... by Brenda (Hartshorn) Licitra

The Eastern Sierra's are used as Hollywood's backdrop for films set in the Old West, Middle East, Asia, a land far-far away, and one where you may boldly go.  If you've traveled along HWY 395, it is easy to understand why.  Driving North, the landscape changes drastically over the time span of a few hours as the elevation raises from the tumbleweed traveling desert to the snow capped peaks which are the highest in the contiguous US.  I have a lot of exploring ahead of me and many more posts to come.

Tuffa mia!

The tufa towers and sand tufa at Mono Lake is something... something I'm having a hard time putting into words.  What's important is that it's different- go see it.

I first learned about Mono Lake after watching a KVIE special called California Gold on the location.  We periodically watched these in school to learn about California's history and everything it still had to offer.  All the kids would laugh, mock the opening credits, and kept each other's unspoken secret that we actually loved the episodes.  We grew up in Stockton, images of anywhere not Stockton was a treat.  The show was hosted by Huell Howser who was from Tennessee and was amazed by everything.  He would often derail his own interviews by being distracted by something.  It was hilarious.

San Simeon: Wrath and Wealth by Brenda (Hartshorn) Licitra

San Simeon

The different terrain and wildlife along California's coast has a lot to offer for exploration.  I stayed at San Simeon Creek Campground which has reasonable prices and clean faculties.  The campground itself has a variety of habitats of its own, ranging from being able to listen to the roaring ocean, croaking frogs, or the calls of many different types of fowl in the fields.  If you're a light sleeper, I would recommend the east end of the grounds as the frogs are quite loud and the waves crash all night.

Elephant Seals


These beasts are completely outrageous and I can't believe I had waited so long to see them.  This month the juvenile males are sparring by throwing their faces into each other's bodies and going in for the occasional bite.  They are getting ready for the big winter fight to become Beach Master or Alphas.  The sounds on the beach are completely ridiculous as they practice their battle roar.  All the while, the females and their pups are close by attempting to sleep.  They need to conserve as much energy as possible since they fast for months while molting their winter coat.  However, prime beach spots are hard to come by with all the commotion the sparring causes, so the females also get rather aggressive.  Not only towards each other but also any pups they see as getting in their way.  Taking children to see the ruckus during this season is a great for having a good laugh.

Architecture and Scientific Photography

When using photography for non destructive analytics of architecture, UV or thermal infrared are the methods that are normally used. UV can be utilized to show what parts of the building have been remodeled by showing different reflected amounts of the same material which changes over time from sun exposure.  Thermal infrared can be used to show many different problems, including water damage behind walls in civil engineering, finding buried structures in archaeology, verify temperature sensitive materials used for conservation of artifacts and artwork, and even in medicine to find abnormalities in circulation that can be caused by different health conditions or cancers.

After visiting Hearst Castle with my near infrared camera, I stumbled upon some interesting technical observations.

You can see in the image above of the front of the Castle with the detail of flowers on the stone barrel that reflect back a vibrant yellow.  I was perplexed as to what non-living things would reflect that high amount of near IR radiation.  In Optics, aluminum, silver, and gold are used to increase the transmission of a different wave lengths.  Gold reflects 96% of radiation from 750nm - 1500nm, which is perfect illustrated in the photo since near IR ranges from 750nm to 1400nm.

I had also finally pinned down the cause for the increased annoyance of flare while shooting in IR opposed to the visual spectrum. Scatter is the answer, and I only figured that out when reading more in depth about optics and gold.  In addition to vignetting, the center of the frame for some images has an even higher transmission of IR.  For scenes that had large amounts of foliage or natural uneven terrain, there does not appear to be an increased transmission of IR for the center of the lens.  However, in the landscapes with water or around buildings with large flat surfaces were acting like a reflector and bouncing larger amounts of IR back into the lens like lens flare even though the lens was shaded.

The estate of William Randolph Hearst is mind boggling.  His collection of artifacts and art make the "cottages" of the estate mini-museums.  What Hearst described as a cottage, is larger than most single family homes.  Hearst never finished building Casa Grande.  He was constantly buying, remodeling, and expanding on his estate for no apart reason other than he wanted it and had the means to get it (for a while.)  Eventually, Hearst hit some financial trouble and had to give up his polar bear and other zoo animals to get out of debt.  The estate is something worth witnessing as proof that it is important not to look for happiness in the wrong places (as it can lead to more dissatisfaction and possibly even trouble in the future.)