This Photo Shoot Took Two Years to Plan… Here’s Why:

I had an idea two years ago, where I built a blanket fort in the woods and dressed people in pretty clothing and made the space all misty/dreamy. But, I didn’t have the means to complete my vision, which included lots of pillows, sheets, string lights, a generator and a fog machine.

Yeah, that’s a lot of stuff for one shoot. Not to mention pricey. I’m not rich, so I had to purchase these items over a long period of time.

So, for the past two years I’ve been hoarding slowly collecting the things I needed for the shoot. I learned how to use studio lights, which gave me a way to photograph the scene in the dark successfully, and I became a better photographer overall. I was ready to finally do this thing.

Since I’m working on my dream series, I figured the beautiful scene I imagined would be a good fit. But, a few weeks before the shoot, I had a cool idea: gas masks.

Surrealism is oftentimes executed like this:

one object + another object that doesn’t make sense with the first object = surrealism.

(It’s a teensy bit more complicated than that, but you get the jist.)

I’ve been waiting two years to execute my idea, and last night I was finally able to bring my vision to life.

This shoot was super fun and the results were unexpected. I had the pleasure of shooting with three lovely young ladies who I had never met before, and I had help from a photojournalism student who shadowed me for this shoot. Plus, my boyfriend was there too, and being helpful is part of his job description.

The finished product wasn’t exactly what I had in mind, as I had a fog machine. But, when plugged into the generator, the lights would shut off. I had to make a choice, so I chose the lights. Plus, by the time we started shooting, the lights were turning off and on and eventually shut off completely. The generator called it quits, then my light kit called it quits, and then we finally called it quits.

I was going for creepy, and I definitely created that feeling with the harsh, straight-on flash (which was also positioned on the ground firing on about a 45 degree angle,) which created the flashlight-under-the-chin look. Y’know, like when you’re eight and telling spooky stories? Am I explaining this right?

Oh, did I mention the whole thing took almost seven hours?

Thank goodness for Caroline and her large car. I warned her I had a lot of stuff, but seeing it all in one place even surprised me. Setting it all up was even more of a task. It was super duper freaking cold a little chilly, and we had to take a break at one point because we couldn’t feel our fingers or toes.

Also, don’t let my sweater fool you: I had eight layers on under it.

Or, you can let it fool you and imagine me to have cold-resistant super powers. Your choice.

After hours of setting up, we did the shoot, and celebrated by sitting in Caroline’s warm house drinking hot cocoa and eating warm pizza. It was a wonderful, yet exhausting, shoot.

It feels good to achieve something you worked on for a long time. Try it sometime, but try not to do it at the end of November in the northern part of the world. It’s a bit rough.

Happy Shooting!

September’s Photos

September is over, as is summer, and I’m getting close to the end of my “Carrying Around a Camera Everyday” project. Or, maybe not, maybe I’ll do this forever. Or I’ll get really ambitious and do the 365 project (which is a terrifying prospect, but doesn’t that mean I should do it?) Anyways, enough of me figuring out what to do with my life- here are some pictures:


I took a lot of my pictures at ArtPrize in Grand Rapids, because really, there is so much to see. There are a couple hints from my most recent photo shoot concerning dreams, but you won’t be seeing the results of that for a long time- so enjoy the teaser.

Well, that’s all for now. Happy Shooting!

I Accidentally Photographed the Universe

So, I accidentally photographed the universe. Maybe.

I’m a little bummed because I haven’t really created any pictures in a few days, so I was reminiscing about my photography career in the form of going through my files and being a critic about everything. A walk down memory lane is never complete without crippling self-criticism! But then, I discovered this:

I know this is from my first roll I ever shot on my Voigtlander Brillant v6, but I guess I dismissed it because photos of red phone boxes were more interesting at the time.

Look familiar?

Here, let me help you out:

Yeah, the Eagle Nebula’s Pillars of Creation aren’t actually in space. They’re in my camera from the 1940s.

Take that, science.

Happy Shooting (or discovering that your camera is majestic!)

P.S.- Here’s more proof, another image from the Eagle Nebula:


Just Good News

Hey everyone! I don’t have any images to share with you, but I do have good news and happy thoughts. (:

Last week I was involved in a student art exhibition, where I entered three of my “Fictionisms” pictures. It was appropriate for me to submit them, because the theme of the show was “A Picture is Worth 1000 Words.” Since I attend Michigan State University and our mascot is the Spartans, I won “Most Spartan Spirit” for my submission. I think I won it because my images portray college-aged students reading and writing, but who knows, really.

The Winning Images

So that was a pleasant surprise!

Another art-related happy thing that happened was one of my sculpture pieces, a series called “Her Body is Not Her Own,” made it into the Undergraduate Show at my university. This is a huge honor to me, since my work gets to be shown next to the work done by my skilled, enthusiastic peers. It’s a huge honor to me, and it’s validating for me as an artist to have a “fine art” piece be selected for a show. My main medium is, of course, photography, but it’s also nice to be acknowledged for another skill!

My last and most exciting piece of good news is I get to do an independent study in the fall with one of my photography professors. He gave me permission to experiment more with analog processes like film soups, Polaroid transfers, and I’ll even get to learn how to use tungsten film and maybe even infrared. I’m going to be pushed hard because I requested that I be able to learn about the analog process on a professional level, since I hope to be a photography professor one day. So exciting!

I just wanted to share my good news with you all. I’m always happy to hear about other young photographer’s getting their work seen and having more opportunities to explore and learn. I may be far from successful at this stage, but reading about the success of my fellow amateurs motivates me to keep trying. I hope that you all keep trying, too.

I read my horoscope every once in a while for fun, and recently it told me, “Sometimes the biggest component of achieving something you really want is persistence. Even if you don’t have all the resources you want or need, and even if you don’t have the connections that would help you get ahead, making the commitment to keep trying until you achieve a goal is priceless. You may think that attaining a current goal is a longshot, but you’ll dramatically improve your odds if you don’t give up.”

I don’t think this advice is exclusive to my horoscope; it’s words of wisdom that anyone who is an aspiring photographer, singer, actor, musician, etc should take to heart and follow. Don’t stop, don’t be discouraged by those who are already successful, and don’t lose confidence. Keep going.

Because for all you know, the moment you quit could be just seconds before your hour of success.

Field Study #9

Time for something kind of different!

I did a project for one of my classes with the theme Environment. I had to locate a space and find a way to bring a sense of the place into the classroom. So I did a mock field study. Using the Lomochrome Purple XR film and my imagination, I created a purple forest. As a field scientist (as a pretend field scientist, rather,) I documented my stay in the Purple Forest through journaling, taking samples, sketching, and making sound recordings. I tried to bring a sense of my imaginary place into the classroom my using 4 of my 5 senses: hearing, touch, smell, and sight.

So this is what I did: I went down to the river on my campus, to an area that has no trails and isn’t frequented by students. I took pictures, made sound recordings of the birds and the river, and I took leaves and berries from the area. I altered the recordings I made to include choral, heavenly sounds. I took the leaves and berries and I put them in jars with colored water, to give the effect that the leaves were purple or pink. I also took strawberry extract and said it was a “river water” sample, so my imaginary place smelled like strawberries.

Here is my field guide that I put together.

My handwriting is a little hard to read, but no worries: it’s typed up and ready to read in the Undergraduate Work tab.

As usual, things didn’t go as planned. My first roll of film gave me a world of trouble. My camera refused to rewind it. So I had to do it the old-fashioned way (turn off all the lights hide under numerous blankets and use a pair of scissors to ease it back into the camera…) Because of this, a lot of my roll got over-exposed and turned magenta. I scanned them in and did what I could to salvage them, but they just weren’t to my standards. I printed them on normal paper and pasted them into the field guide, and moped. And moped. And moped some more. Then I got mad, grabbed my camera, and re-shot another roll. And they turned out beautifully.

I’m super bummed I only have 2 rolls of the Lomochrome Purple XR left. I’ll need to order some more soon.

In other news: my blog is a year old! Yay! It’s incredible to look back and see how much work I’ve done this year. It’s inspiring and humbling all at the same time.

Well, that’s all for now. Now that my finals are over and I’m on break, expect more blogging from me!

Post Apocalyptic Capitalism

Happy Halloween! In the spooky/creepy Halloween spirit, I present to you my first ever film, Post Apocalyptic Capitalism. Please click the link below to view my film from my facebook page, since I’m a poor college student and cannot afford WordPress’s rates for a video upgrade.

Post Apocalyptic Capitalism

I returned to the ruins of the Packard Plant in Detroit to create my film for an experimental art class I’m taking this semester. I had never made a film before, so it was exciting, new, and daunting. I was making it up as I went along, keeping my theme in the back of my mind.

There are some interesting stories gathered from this particular trip to the Packard. My friend Alison was my protagonist in the film, and we had to wrap her up mummy-style, as you can see. So, Alison and I were gallivanting around this ruined building with my scary-looking uncle while my mother watched the car. About an hour into filming, we got a phone call from my mom saying that security was there and we needed to come back. Since we were technically trespassing, we listened to her and came back to the car straight away.

The security guard was not a security guard, but a homeless man acting as security. He approached my mother’s car and she talked to him through the window and called us back to the car so she could get him to leave. My uncle is a very scary looking guy (he looks like he belongs to Hell’s Angels or something,) and as soon as we approached the car the “security guard” says, “Wow, he looks really mean,” to which my mom replied, “He is.” So, Alison, my uncle, and I jumped in the car and drove away to find another part of the Packard to explore without being bothered by false security guards.

At the other end of the plant we encountered some Michigan State grads who were there with their son, who was also working on a college-art-school-project. It can be a small world sometimes. My mother was able to chat and be in a group of people (safety in numbers) while we shot some more, and after the grads and their son left we were on our own again, but almost done shooting.

We entered the building again and found a room that had scarves dangling from the ceiling, and the ground was covered in trash. I was setting up to film in that room when we heard a voice say, “Hey! Get out of there!” Uhm, not exactly what I want to hear in a creepy, possibly haunted, and definitely dangerous building. We ran out of there and encountered a big dude, who did not look homeless, but said he was security. Sound familiar? He told us that he found two dead bodies in that room earlier in the week, and that we shouldn’t go inside because the Packard has become not only a dumping ground for urban waste, but also bodies. Detroit, as you may have heard, has filed for bankruptcy, and one of the many services that was shut down was waste removal. You see, there are designated places in Detroit where you can dump stuff and it will be picked up. With this service gone, people are starting to dump bodies.

He was telling us all his credentials like how he is an army vet and what not, but we were approaching the car to get out of there. When he asked if we were carrying weapons, we knew it was time to go because no one asks that out of the blue without having questionable intentions. So we hopped in the car and left the Packard site for good. We came to the conclusion that both of those “security guards” were working together to possibly set people up. When my mother was in the car with the first security imposter trying to talk to her, she said he got on a cell phone with someone and said things like, “Yes, she’s still here. Yes, she’s in the black car.” Dude, next time you’re trying to set someone up, make sure you’re out of earshot.

So that was an adventure. And I was so glad it was over because I was seriously spooked. BUT GUESS WHAT?

A lot of my files were somehow corrupted, and I had to go back to re-shoot. I was not pleased, because I had to leave school and come back home again to do it. My friend Alison had to work the only day I could re-shoot, so I had to be the post-apocalyptic creature while my mother filmed me, with careful instructions I was shouting through my papier-mâché headpiece.

This second trip to the Packard was just as eventful as the first. When we got to the site to re-shoot, I had some seriously bad vibes. My mother also had these bad vibes, but we didn’t say anything to each other until after the fact. So, we got my shots I absolutely needed and were in a hurry to get out of there. There was one scene I wanted to re-shoot for a few reasons. (I will not share these reasons because it’ll point out flaws in my film and I want you all to think it is wonderful.) It was the last shot we were going to do, and as we were getting started, my uncle, who was on watch, heard a truck. He turned to look and- I kid you not- a big truck filled with some scary dudes came rolling into the building, and fast.

You have never seen three people from the suburbs run so fast. We didn’t even look back, because let’s be real, someone driving into a building- a building that is notorious for bodies showing up there- is up to no good. So we rushed back to the car and took off.

I got my shots, my film works, I’m happy, my classmates and professor were happy, and I don’t plan on returning to the Packard again, unless I have a small army of ex-convicts there to protect me.

If you read all of that, kudos. I thought my lengthy tale with all of its creepiness and sketchiness fit the holiday.

I took some still photos on my first trip to shoot the film. I shot with three different film cameras: my Holga TIM, my Weathermatic A, and my Minolta X700. Below are the images from the TIM. I’m waiting to fill up my 110 film from the Weathermatic A and I have to send it in for processing, which will take up to a month, so those photos will make an appearance in the future. As for the X700 photos… Well, you’ll see soon.

Happy Halloween everybody!

Trying my Hardest

I just really, really love photography.

When I signed up for my photography class in high school, I had no idea that I would fall so in love with it. If you asked 15 year old me what I would be doing as a career someday, the word “photographer” would have never escaped my lips. My passion for this craft has become so deep, I sometimes feel ill.

Sometimes there’s this crushing weight on my chest when I can’t seem to get it right, when I can’t edit something just the right way, when I have no idea how to translate something from my mind to the lens. Sometimes when I see people who are younger than me producing work that is mind-blowing and creative and filled with wonderful technique I just want to curl into a ball. It gets painful at times because the thought of quitting never crosses my mind. I know how I have to keep going, and sometimes that’s scary.

I can’t focus on things. When people are talking, my mind wanders. I think of props, places, people, costumes, compositions, series… Instead of paying attention in classes, I make lists. When I’m not thinking about anything in particular, my mind wanders and somehow ends up on photography. When I’m on the computer I have my wordpress, my fb page, lomography, flickr, and tumblr open. I’m always looking for inspiration, trying to find out new things I could try. Tutorials and experiments are a few of my favorite things.

Sometimes I sit back and think, “I’m doing a good job.” and other times I say to myself, “You’re terrible. This is no good.” When I see something someone did and I don’t know how they did it, I try and try and don’t stop until I know how they did it. I want to be good fantastic. I know I could be.

It’s hard to have this sort of passion and no one to share it with. I wish I had close friends who were fanatics like me, someone who I could bounce off ideas with and talk the lingo and figure out new things together. Because, sometimes, I don’t think the people around me get it. They just look at my pictures and say, “Wow, this is really great!” They don’t see the hard work, the sweat, the hours of photoshop. They don’t see the layers, the developing, the anticipation of waiting for prints. They don’t know. And I want someone who does. I want someone who will kick me when I’m comparing myself to others and remind me I don’t have time to waste.

I’m not going to stop trying. I’m young and ambitious and I dream big. I may not have the resources that fantastic photographers my age have, but I have a lot of heart. Sometimes people say that’s not enough- but they haven’t met me yet. I’m going to get it right. I’m going to pick myself up off the floor when I can’t fathom how people can be so talented. I’m going to keep trying and trying until I can get the lighting just right, until I can make that surreal image look crazy enough. I’ll keep learning about photography and all the things it has to offer. I’m going to be one of those names that photographers bring up in conversation.

I’ve been trying so hard, and not for naught. This past year alone I have improved at an incredible rate. I might not be where I want to be yet, but I’m getting there. I started this blog, I update my facebook page weekly, and I just started using my flickr more regularly. I’m getting my stuff out there- I mean, here you are, someone I don’t know, and you’re reading my blurbs and looking any my work. That makes me ecstatic.

So, when I’m out there trying my hardest and getting discouraged and getting inspired and not quite making it but almost making it, I will remember why I love this craft so much. I love it because I can’t stop.