Saturday, February 26, 2011

What is Real?

As a photographer of sorts, mainly of landscapes, I am asked often "How did you take this picture?" It seems that many times what they are really asking is, "Is this real?" So when I was working on photos from a trip I took last year, I got to thinking about this question and it led me to write this.
When I look at this photo taken on Maui, I wonder - Is this real? Was the sky that color? Was the tree that perfect? Did I use some trickery - or in photographer language - did I "work" this image in some way? The answers to these questions are: yes; mostly; yes; and to the last question, sort of. But it really is all in your perception of an image, I suppose. This is what I "saw" when I came out the door one early, early morning in Maui. It was raining over the mountains in the distance and the sky was on fire with colors reflecting off the low clouds as the sun was coming up. The sky over me was that beautiful sunrise blue. I had to lay down on a chaise lounge to get the angle I wanted with the blue meeting the tree in just the top third - rule of thirds, remember? - and the other colors just swirled into place. Now, I don't recall the purple being so vibrant but it is what it is.

So to answer the question that is asked so often these days about photography: Is it real? It is as real as my mind's eye saw that day and as unreal as digital photography allows us to make it...hmmmmm.

Monday, February 21, 2011


I read the most perfect poem today - it was about two wonderful things: Coffee and Nostalgia. I read it once and then again and again. It touched a chord in me for some reason. I am not sure why except that I love coffee as anyone who knows me will testify. I drink it morning, noon and night without regard to what effect the caffeine might have on my ability to concentrate or to sleep.

What is it that I find so wonderful about this simple black liquid? I love the feel of a sturdy mug in my hand in the morning and in the evening it is even better to have a beautiful china cup that I can hold delicately by the handle...ahhhh. I love the taste of it, mixed with cream - the color is so important - I love the smell as it drifts up from the cup and into my waiting nostrils...pungent and full-bodied. The scent conjures up memories of other cups of coffee in my life - my first cup of coffee, sweetened to a syrupy consistency and consumed at the diningroom table with my dad; the cups I drank with a friend at Denney's when I was just a teenager, bitter and stale; my first "coffee house" cup, smooth and delicious years ago, long before Starbucks appeared; the first cup of coffee after too much alcohol the night before, "Oh coffee, help get rid of this headache, please." There are coffee memories of snow storms and beach sunsets, early mornings out in the wilderness and even of my husband's famous "camp" coffee. There are coffee memories of people past and present too. What a perfect drink. What perfect memories.

So as I said before, this is a poem about coffee and nostalgia - or is it?

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

She Knows

her hands
cool silk

cupping his warmest thoughts

in their deepest recesses.

gone now

by decades,

but those cool hands

part time

sink inside

the folds of his mind.

a silver spoon

stirring the moon

into his coffee,

lifting velvet kisses

to his lips.

she knows

he thinks of her

even now.

wraps her

cool silk hands

around a

warm china cup,

purses velvet lips

gently blows

steam from her coffee.

she smiles as

vaporous lovers

swirl and dance.

she knows

and drinks him in.

by Karen Suriano

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Artistic Grief

Sometimes we are just too hard on ourselves. Did you know that? I have a problem with never quite measuring up to that fictional image of perfection - you know, the one that someone painted for you as a kid or even as an adult, I suppose. I find myself being particularly critical of my artistic abilities. I have tried to let go of this many times over the years only to have that evil image raise it's head when I least need to be reminded that I am, indeed, not perfect. But then again, many times it has told me that I suck when I actually don't...
So, tonight I was combing through image files from the last six years looking for a few pictures that might be worthy of a photo competition I am interested in entering. As I was looking and scanning, opening and closing, and clucking and sighing, I happened to open some files from a concert I attended in 2008. There amid the normal concert stuff - rock stars grinning and posing, drummers drumming wildly and women swooning - there was this one image. I don't remember seeing it when I went through my photos at the time and yet it is a really good image that conveys the moment it was taken perfectly. The singer leaning way back with his hand to his head, pure emotion in his voice and body, a red spotlight shining right through him. I didn't print this one and it is not to be found in any album. I never shared it with anyone. It has just been languishing on my hard-drive for almost 3 years, unlooked at and unappreciated. I remember thinking when I originally reviewed these images that I had really not done a very good job ("as usual" said that little voice in the back of my head). I just filed the images away in case I could use them at some future date. It is something that we all do - file it and forget it, right? Not good enough. Not bright enough. Not talented enough. Not pretty enough. I guess we see what we expect to see. I was looking for perfection in my work. I didn't find it so the images were not good enough. So is this image perfect? Nope. Is it a really good image? Yep. I really need to cut myself some slack! What about you?
Happy New Year.

Friday, December 24, 2010

New Eyes

Christmas Eve and all is quiet. Too quiet, if you ask me. With all my children grown and gone there are no kids, no wrapping paper scattered around, no dirty dishes in the sink, no voices downstairs playing video games and no traditional sticky spaghetti for dinner. Life is an ever changing canvas, isn't it?
The other day I was shooting portraits of my granddaughter - she's a bouncing, laughing, always in motion little girl of 26 months. Smart as a whip and a lot of fun to try to lasso down for some photos. I found myself fuming as I snapped frame after frame of her, trying to catch her at rest - to freeze her in that moment. I finally said in a stern voice, "Look at me WITH YOUR EYES, Alex." This is what I got. Okay, not what I thought I asked for but you have admit pretty darn funny. It wasn't until tonight that I realized how much her reaction to my request is how I should look at the changes in my family and life.
So what if the holidays and life in general are different now? It is how you perceive it that makes it okay or not okay. Alex heard me say something about looking at her eyes, so she pointed to them! I say I want my holidays to be loud, full of my kids and family with messy paper and ribbon all around. Well, its probably never going to be that way again so I should listen to what I really mean. I want the feeling that goes with all those things. I want to hear their voices and know they are happy and safe. That is do-able no matter where in the world they are on a particular day. I just have to remember to smile and pick up the phone or turn on the web cam. And, oh yeah, I can always make sticky spaghetti - it's my specialty...Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Fire Monster

What is it about fire that fascinates human beings? Is it the heat, the color, the power that emanates from it? The pulsating of the flames, the sound of the cracking destruction that it causes? I watched in awe as our solstice bonfire kept us, the entire lot of us, at bay around the flaming monster that was created when twigs and branches were thrown onto the almost living, breathing entity. A few of us were baiting it - loading it with fuel and then raking it down into a glowing circle only to reload it with crackling and sparking wood, watching it grow powerful and bright again.
As I stood just outside the glowing circle of light, I realized that there was a predictable cycle of flame and fire, sparks and embers. When the fuel was tossed on, the fire would first go down and then sparks would fly into the black of the night sky just before the roar of a renewed flame would fill the air and smoke would come next, sometimes a lazy white curtain, sometimes a black dense fog. Then it would settle into flames that were low and in same ways softly comforting only to eventually need to have more fuel loaded onto it to get the embers back to flame. And the cycle would start all over...Why are we so fascinated by fire? I think it is because in a lot of ways it is like our lives: Light the fire, feed the flames, tease back to life and rake out the coals. Predictable? Yes. Boring? Never.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Inspiration Hits When Least Expected

Inspiration - where does it come from? That's what I am thinking about tonight. Sometimes it hits you at the oddest times - a phrase, a ray of light or even another person can trigger it. Anyway, I was already thinking about this earlier today after someone mentioned that they had been inspired to do something by the grey, rainy weather. Seemed odd to me but, heck, who am I to decide what inspires someone? So, I brought these thoughts home with me as I drove through the foggy downpour and suddenly I felt inspired myself. I became all wrapped up in the idea of photographing our Christmas lights in the rain. Not a truly wise activity if you value your camera equipment but that didn't seem important at that moment. I was intrigued with the thought of encasing my gear in plastic and putting myself in my waterproof shoes and just going for it! So when I arrived home, I dragged everything out into the waning light of the winter afternoon, rain pouring down from the heavens - my camera wearing it's lovely shower cap cover and I took photos of those darn lights from every angle. Hmmm. Nothing I had photographed was turning me on and discouraged, I found myself getting ready to quit. Then out of the blue "IT" happened - I forgot to remove the plastic shower cap from in front of my lens before snapping the shutter one last time. What appeared on the back of my camera was an abstract image that was exactly as I was seeing the image in my mind's eye! I was excited again! So, off I went to re-take all the images I had already done - happily dripping wet and cold but my soul singing - INSPIRATION! It sometimes comes from accidents of life and an open mind....ah, inspiration!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Christmas Cards and the like

CHRISTMAS CARDS - Two words that either inspire great dread or great joy depending completely upon your mindset. I am going to admit right here in front of all of you who might stumble upon this blog, that I love Christmas cards. I do. I love creating my own personal greeting card for those I care about, using my limited abilities as an artist but enjoying the tactile feel of the papers, the inks and oh yes, the glitter! Every year I spend hours combing through my photo files looking for the one or two images that convey the way I feel about the season. Sometimes I choose a simple landscape - snow on my house or a pine bough covered in white. Sometimes I chose an event - the stagecoach in town giving rides for free or my husband dragging the Christmas tree along the path after cutting it down fresh. This year I went in a slightly different direction with my choice but it is a clear picture of life these days - I took it while snowshoeing last winter - a lone person in the distance making his way up the glittering ( oh, yes, there has to be glitter!) mountain trail toward a patch of blue sky. A hopeful photo, I think. We all need a little hope; some positive energy; some beautiful sky to head toward! I always like to end the year with a smile and a look back but then I move forward toward whatever waits out there for us all. Ah, Christmas cards.