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.

Introducing the Lytro Illum Lightfield Camera by Brenda (Hartshorn) Licitra

New Toys!

Why yes, Christmas did come early.  I've been keeping an eye out for prices on the Lytro Illum and I was able to get it for a steal off last month.  I started playing around with different scenarios captures to see what this new technology had to offer.  
Lytro is attempting to brand the concept as Living Pictures, but let's get it straight.. it's a lightfield.  

With the Illum, there are many small lenses over the sensor to be able to capture the light rays from different positions.  In theory, this allows the software to be able to estimate depth so that the user can click on different areas of the image.  When the file is processed and exported, it allows the user to change what they would like to focus on and also allows for slight changes in the viewing perspective to create a more engaging experience.  However, with all new technology- there are going to be some bugs.  Where to do I file my P0s?  I'm not saying it's horrible, on the contrary- it is actually a very impressive piece of equipment for how small and user friendly it is.  But it's far from being professional publishing grade.  I do however think the Illum will end up being a very good preview tool by professionals in this new technology.  Much like how Polaroid was used as a preview in studio photography for large and medium format cameras back in the silver age of film. And for those of you hipsters out there that keep saying film is making a come back: No, son... just no.

Since the Illum is attempting to estimate depth in it's processing, I decided to push the device to its limits by putting it in various tricky scenarios and visit some of my favorite places in the process.  This will be the first of a many part series going over the subject of lightfield subject matters, processing, and user experience.  However, as an introduction I am going to proceed with this post as editorial on the location so you can create your own first impressions.

Welcome to Main Street

I hadn't visited Chinese Camp for nearly 15 years.  With all the housing development that has occurred in California over the last 10 years, let me tell you: Chinese Camp was not one of them.  The only thing that changed was the fact that the mummified bat that hanging in the window of an abandoned building had fallen down.  You read that correctly, mummified bat.  When I had first visited, one of the locals approached my dad and I awkwardly with the amazement and excitement that they would be actually able to speak to another person that day.  He gave us a short tour and pointed out that I should take a photo of the bat.  It had gotten trapped between the screen and the window and overtime naturally dried out entombed in the attic window.

During the Gold Rush, Chinese Camp was actually a significant town as it is located at the intersection of HWY 49 (which connects all of the major mining towns) and HWY 120 (which was the supply route from Stockton.)  It was originally named Camp Washington, but grew to be known as Chinese Camp as it was home to 5,000 Chinese during the Gold Rush.  It was also home to one of the first Tong Wars in California that consisted of 2,000 people from 2 rival clans.  However, because there were only a few firearms were used during the fight and weapons used were mostly handmade knives and mining tools, there were very few people that died although many were injured.

Today, Main Street is a whole one block long.  The whole town consists about 8 blocks total and a population of 126 according to the 2010 census.  However, those numbers could also be contributing from the surrounding rural ranch areas.  I would say about half of the town itself where the post office, fire station, and gas station are located are abandoned buildings.  Most of these buildings have boarded up windows and have walls that have fallen down.  They would seem completely uninhabitable and probably are condemned, I did however observer evidence that someone was taking shelter in one of the old buildings.  Despite their deteriorate state, they are protected from being torn down or remodeled because it is considered a historic site.  I would understand if this was a state/county/national park or if the city took the effort to attract tourists to the area that these buildings should remain intact.  However, the current condition of them are so poor I can't imagine they are doing anything good for the community.  There are many other mining towns in the area that have kept up the look of their downtown's, host festivals, and attract a number of people on their way to the snow or lake, who like wine tasting, enjoy little shops, or want to get a feel of what the gold rush was like.  As much as I do enjoy taking photos of rust, property value and a healthy economy is something that comes to the front of my mind when looking at these depressed places.  Or a more pointed question: Who would want to live out here?

Click the arrow to go to the next lightfield in the gallery.