Thursday, September 22, 2011

Creation Creating Creations

Ahh the art of creation.  When you think about it, everything in the universe is constantly creating... one could say that it's our divine purpose to create... that it's unavoidable.  As humans, we're blessed with the gift of conscious awareness that allows us to create at will.  I could go on and on about the philosophical nature of creation, but today I'm just going to focus on the creation of works intended to be artistic.  I phrase it like that "works intended to be artistic" because not everyone agrees on what can be called art.  Well, I'm suspending judgment, although I have my opinions on what is "good" or "bad" art, because for someone to take the time to create something means that they're sharing a part of themselves.  Intentional creations of things that don't necessarily need to be created--works of aesthetic or audible value designed to make a statement or elicit a feeling beyond mere function--are perhaps the strongest form of human emotion.

I sang the National Anthem this morning for the State of the University Address at UNLV, where I'm studying for my Master's of Music.  I didn't add any melisma or fluff, and I sang all the correct words the way that Francis Scott Key penned them.  It seems like often times, not to knock any large-event divas, the meaning behind the song is lost.  Raised in a military family, I can't help but imagine what it must have felt like to Mr. Key to be a prisoner, to have bullets and bombs percussing the air around his head, to fight for the freedom of his home, and to see the star-spangled flag being illuminated by fire in the sky.  He wrote those words to share his emotions, to convey what was going on to future readers.  He had no idea that his words would be turned into a song sung before sporting and other events.  But his emotions live on.  As a singer, it is my job to interpret and convey the emotions that both the lyricist and songwriter intended, regardless of the language or year of the song.

When I left the State of the University Address, I walked across campus and saw a friend of mine sitting under a tree.  When I approached her to say hello and pay her a compliment, I saw that her emotional state was less than happy.  She, too, is a musician.. a pianist and singer.  When I offered a friendly ear, through tears she explained that she was scorned by her piano teacher for missing a note in a piece she had been practicing for a couple of weeks.  She was questioning whether she wanted to continue with piano, or just focus on singing.  She felt like she is not really doing what she wants with her life.  After a few minutes of listening to her, I let her know that I knew exactly how she felt.  After I had what could be called bad luck with opera auditions in Europe (that's another story, but suffice it to say my music-tied emotions were shattered for a while), I left classical singing all together and ended up traveling the world.  Of course, I still felt a deep emotional connection to the world around me, and a need to create a shareable form of that connection, and thus began my photographic endeavors.

It is very difficult to be a good musician and not be in touch with your emotions.  Most of your free time is spent practicing, questioning yourself, doubting yourself, practicing more, getting nervous, and then finally performing.  Hopefully the performance goes well, which usually happens after enough practice, but even then you focus on the little mistakes you made.  Then, people from the audience tell you how great you are... very rarely does anyone say, "Thank you", or, "I really enjoyed that", or any other personal statement.  Personally, I don't like meet and greets after a performance for that very reason.  My performance is not about me, it is for you.  Sure, I place an emotional value on the music I'm performing,  but I perform for myself.  It is always up to me whether or not I want to share it with an audience (though normally I do, because I think the world benefits when people share what's in their souls).

Which brings me back to creation.  We all place emotional value on things, but often times we're a bit too lazy to do anything about that.  Now, granted, not everyone feels the need to create... not everyone has a "feeling" personality type.  But if you're reading this blog, you're likely someone who is at least intrigued by artistic creation.

"Wait a minute Nathan, I thought this was a photography blog!  What gives with all the music talk?"  Well, when people ask what I do, I tell them I'm an artist... then they ask what kind, and I modestly reply, "In every way that I can be."  I think in song, although I haven't quite honed my song-writing skills to the point where I want them.  Since I think in song, I try to convey a sense of musical motion in my images.  In this image I took at Cedar Springs, a farm I worked at in Sedro Wooley, WA, I can hear the raspberries and sunflower harmonize with the sunset in a soothing lullaby.

I think there are a lot of people out there like me, who think in song, and who feel connected to the world and sky.  But I also think that a lot of those people have been conditioned to live their lives based on the expectations of others, thus not allowing their souls to fully be expressed.

I was recently interviewed by Fine Art Photography Weekly, which was a huge honor.  The topic of conversation was "Do what you Love".  I think that is the underlying message of this post: Create what you Love to Create.  Here's the interview.  Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Procrastination and Publicity

Gosh, it's been a great summer!  So what have I been up to since May?  Well, although this is technically a "photo blog" I'm more than just a photographer.  I'm also a musician, and a procrastinating ranch-hand.  I spent my summer in beautiful Florissant, CO, helping my parents rid their ranch of Dwarf Mistletoe, and performing at the Midland Depot Restaurant at the Imperial Hotel in Cripple Creek.  I didn't do a whole lot of photography (outside of a bit of portraiture) during that time, as I was waiting for the wildflowers to bloom.

Like many of you, I'm frugal.  Unlike many of you, I'm frugal because I'm financially broke, as every penny I make goes towards student loans.  DON'T EVER GET STUDENT LOANS!!!  So, I didn't want to spend the gas and food it would take to go around and scout.  So, I spent many of my days practicing music, lumber-jacking, and working out using the P90X program.  I wrote in an earlier post about how I came across a guy buried in the snow while skiing at Sierra at Tahoe, which inspired me to get into better shape.  Well, I can gladly say that after 90 days of P90X I went from a skinny 6'3", undefined 170lbs to a ripped 185lbs of pure lean muscle, and my body fat went from 15% to 7%.

But back to Photography.  The Wildflowers finally bloomed in mid-July, and peaked towards the end of the month.  Using Andy Cook's book as a guide (A Guide to Colorado's Best Photography Locations), I decided to explore the San Juan Mountains.  I couldn't have been happier!  My goal was to get a sunrise or sunset image of Columbines in a field of flowers with a mountain backdrop.  I got more that I could have imagined.  This was the first image I posted to Flickr, which immediately got posted on Flickr's Explore.

Make sure to check out my printshop to download free desktop and smartphone wallpapers of some of my Colorado Wildflower images.  Or, you could even buy some prints for your home or office, please :-)

Here's a tip for photographing flowers... always bring either an umbrella, or reflector, or something to block the wind.  When photographing flowers, you will notice more then ever how much they move (Especially when photographing with auto-bracketed exposures).  Or, you could just count on your luck and patience... but best to be prepared, as both luck and patience tend to run out when dealing with nature.  

As I said earlier, I'm also a musician.  And although I was singing standards and strumming my guitar at the Midland Depot, I am classically trained, and sing Opera.  That being said, I have recently relocated to Las Vegas, where I'll be studying Vocal Performance at UNLV as a Master's Student.  That doesn't leave me a whole lot of time to get out and photograph nature as much, but I now live very close to Zion National Park, where I am considering hosting photo-walks in the future.

Here are some cool happenings too.  Since I returned to Vegas, I was contacted by Coffee Break Studios, informing me that my images have inspired them to create a new screen-saver App for Macs that will track your face movements, allowing you to look around the image as though you are actually there.

Also, if you live in Colorado, Colorado State University Extension has just created a promotional bookmark with one of my Columbine images for their website Planttalk Colorado, which focuses on horticultural advice for the state.

And finally, I am being interviewed by Fine Art Photography Weekly on Sept. 13 at 1:30pm PST.  Make sure you tune in to to catch that interview.  Or, just come on back to my blog afterwards where I'll have a link to the interview.