rideTZ | day six

day six entailed a 30-mile bike ride, a 3-mile hike up the usambara mountains, absolutely amazing views and most of the riders beginning to feel better.

so many majestic views along the way.


along with poor eugene getting attacked by a bush.

navigating through the herd of cows.

passing children on their way to school.

lunch break. barry was still really sick this day.

most were already exhausted, pre-hike.

after lunch, the hike began. what started out as a standard hike, ended up being the absolute toughest hike i've ever done.  probably one of the toughest things i've ever done...period!! we hiked / climbed for 4-1/2 hours -- 3200 feet up hill.

with about 1-1/2 hours still to go, we stopped at this man's house on the mountainside. he carried ake's backpack and led us up the steepest part of the mountain.

his wife and children.

this was a welcome message painted on the rocks, as we neared the end of the hike.

the views were beyond words. i wish i could have taken more photographs but the climb was so challenging, i could barely breathe, let alone breathe and take photographs.

the first thing we saw at the top of the mountain.

our campsite, at irente view point.

which as a non-rider, meant a room, a bed, a toilet and a hot shower for me :-)

and a group photo at irente view point.

two of the most wonderful, kindest people i have ever met -- kaitlin and meghann, of TFFT.



rideTZ | day five

day five took us to camp 3 along the pangani river.  day five also was the start of almost everyone in camp getting sick -- fever, chills and diarrhea.  i think there were only three who didn't get the bug.  thankfully i was one of the three.  it blew my mind how diligent the riders were --  not a single person got into the truck when sick. one of the villages we stopped at for a break.

another village break point.

they were making chapatis out of this hut and served us a banana wrapped in a chapati -- so yummy!


flat tire repair, which happened many times each day.

gretchen and mike posing on a termite mound during our lunch break.

at this point, the cars had to separate from the riders. i was told that i could walk to the campsite faster than the cars could get there. since i had done so much sitting in the car over the prior four days, i was excited to walk for a bit.  little did i realize...the walk would be SIX long and hot miles.

this was after the first three miles, at which point i had a blister on my heel the size of a quarter.

ake crossing another not-so-steady bridge.

most others decided it would be best to walk across.

these two (brother and sister) walked with ake and i the last three miles.  they were walking home from school and still had farther to walk, after we arrived at our campsite.

and finally back at camp! kaitlin led a session of yoga, for anyone that wanted to join her.


rideTZ | day two

day two took us from moji moto hot spring to a campsite near lake nyumba ya mungu (house of god).


along the way, we encountered this man at one of our break spots. he was a bit drunk, crazy and carrying a machete (as so many people carried along the way). while he looks a bit scary, (i think) he was pretty much harmless.

this was a church service nearby one of our break points.

at one point, we learned that one of the bridges was down because of the recent rains. so ake (our main guide) ended up having to negotiate with one of the local sugarcane farmers, to see if he would allow us to bypass the bridge via his land. it took a while, but in the end, we were able to pass through the farmer's land.

this man, from the village we stayed at while ake did his negotiating, provided drew a map in the dirt and provided directions for us.

while ake went to speak with the farmer, we were able to spend lots of time with these wonderful people.

the children so loved the beach balls we shared with them.

this was the bridge at the end of the farmer’s land.  it was a wee bit very unsteady and…scary. our landcruisers weren't allowed not the bridge so they had to take a really long way around.

entering another village district (karibu = welcome).

waiting for the cows to pass.

lots of falls. everyone crashed at least once.

our doc, who was the best sleeper and snorer. and a great doc too. :-)

our incredible guides.

the driver of the land cruiser that pulled the bike trailer.

the bike mechanic, who also took video and some photographs for adventure international.

getting our campsite ready. the guys worked so amazingly hard each and every day.

each day, the bikes were meticulously cleaned, inspected and repaired, if needed.

a few maasai men walking through our camp. you can see the batteries on the left, which were recharged daily by solar panels.

locals from the nearby maasai village…


a great way to start the week

it was a crazy week last week, with the kids on spring break and all.  lots of playing.  too much eating.  too much drinking.  and now it's time to regroup and get focused again.  and i can't think of a more better way to start the week than this... i'm a long time fan of mark tucker's. and it's posts like this one  that inspire me so much. the portraits he takes. the stories he shares. i love the way he really gets to know the people he photographs. he captures more than just a simple portrait; he captures their character...their soul.

and watching this video he linked to in his post, has tears strolling down my cheeks. i'd like to blame it on PMS, but that's not it. maybe lack of sleep. who knows? maybe it's the simple power of inspiration and sharing your gift with others.  indeed, a great and beautiful way to start the week...

Matthew Sherrill and Julie Lee from Mark Tucker on Vimeo.

thank you mark tucker!  for being you and sharing your incredible gift with all of us.

if you haven't seen this...

what remains:  the life and work of sally mann, i highly recommend that you should.  i rented the documentary via netflix quite a while ago, but happened upon this series, available on youtube a few weeks ago. it all makes perfect sense.

she's been such an inspiration to me, from the very beginning.  i hope that you enjoy it as much as i did.

a weekend of inspiration

to say that this past weekend was incredible and inspiring would be an understatement -- i had the awesome opportunity to spend the weekend with jock sturges in palm neach, where he was there teaching at FOTOfusion. we arrived saturday afternoon.  my kids were modeling for his ‘the meaningful portrait’ demonstration shoot. it was wonderful to hear his thoughts on shooting people and so great to see him in action. one thing that i really grasped onto is jock’s deep respect for the people he shoots.  he also stressed the importance of getting to know your subjects – something that i’ve always believed as an essential part of making a great photograph.

my kids and i also had the opportunity to visit the ‘full of grace’ exhibit at the palm beach photographic center, with jock.  the exhibition was so well put together and it was incredible to hear jock’s knowledge and thoughts on much of the displayed photographs.  he also took the time to teach and inspire my kids, who are now asking to visit museums here in tampa. if you happen to live in florida and can make the trip to palm beach, i so highly recommend the ‘full of grace’ exhibition.  i guarantee you will not be disappointed.

on sunday, jock and i spent hours talking about painters and their influences, not only on one another, but also on various photographers.  we began with cave paintings and journeyed through time – discussing artists such as sandro botitcelli, hieronymus bosch, jan vermeer, eugene delacroix, van gogh, picasso, piet mondrian and mark rothko. it was fascinating and something i plan to engross myself in, in the coming months.

we [my kids and i] then watched a slideshow of jock’s work, from the time he was a child through last summer’s work, sharing his thoughts and stories along the way.  it was impressive that jock knew every person’s name and many of them, he’s photographed for generations.

throughout the weekend, we laughed and shared.  he took the time to teach my kids – not only about photography and art, but also a few magic tricks, which of course, they thought was the best thing ever.  we left palm beach sunday evening and the first thing my kids said was, we really like him; when are we going to see him again.

jock sturges is one of the most kind, caring, giving people i have ever met.  he selflessly shared so much time, knowledge and information, asking for absolutely nothing in return. to think he’s a master photographer pretty much blows my mind.  he inspired me and encouraged me.  i'm not sure how i got so lucky, but i am beyond grateful.  he shared with me that he sees something special in my work and well, i’m not taking that lightly.  he had some recommendations for me, which i am going to see through.  one thing for sure, i’m going to make his time and energy spent worth it – i will not disappoint!

jock -- i can’t thank you enough for your friendship and the gift you have given me.  i feel more than blessed and i will make you proud.  my children and i thank you for a most-magical weekend -- a weekend we will never forget.

and a few photos from the weekend...

i love

i love when clients share their photo displays with me -- displays of photographs that i have taken.  makes my heart so, so happy. francesca shared these with me last week [all photographs from our session in chicago, this past october]...

and em sent this to me yesterday, sharing that it was her most favorite wall in her house.  the wall that makes her smile every time she walks by.  the boots and happy trash can photographs are enlargements made from polaroids i took, while in north and south carolina. the i love you so much print is from another artist.

seeing these has me longing to get my polaroid camera out this week.  i think i'll play a bit.

and you can see some of the photographs on the walls of my home, featured here.  i hope you are displaying  your family's photographs proudly.  if not, you should!

when you find me

when you find me: a short film inspired by eight winning photographs chosen by ron howard. the winning photo for the relationship category was captured by a local friend of mine, lexia.

and i just read on lexia's facebook that you can watch the film online HERE until december 19th.  this will be your only chance to see the film unless you live in one of the locations where the film will premiere, which from what i understand will be in the cities where the winners live.

here's the film trailer...

even though the movie should be coming to tampa, i can't wait to watch it online. congratulations to all the winners!!

retouching | what is too much?

my earlier blog post regarding redbook's faith hill [2007] cover photo seems to have gotten quite a bit of attention -- both positive and negative.  while i really do appreciate all comments, i feel it necessary to clarify and expand upon a few things... first, my parenting was questioned in a comment. and while you can attack almost anything about me, please don't question my parenting abilities [or my children] because you don't know anything about either. no, i DON'T let my kids read redbook or any similar type of magazine; however, they DO see these types of magazines every time we go to the grocery store. or maybe they're on the table at a friend's house. magazine covers can be seen all over the place. and it doesn't take my 8-year-old very long to read the messages on those magazine covers. i work very hard to actively parent and educate my children -- to the best of my ability -- which happens to include such concepts as self-esteem, confidence, health, inner beauty, etc.

regarding retouching...i do touch up people. i push love handles. i slim women's arms. i soften wrinkles. i lessen double chins. i'm absolutely NOT against retouching. but i do so within limits. i do so within reason. and i think that's really my point with faith hill's cover photo -- they went to excess. they gave her the arm and waist of a 10-year-old. is it really necessary to go to those extremes? is it necessary to make jada P's skin lighter, as someone commented? i guess every artist [or editor] has their own take on what is considered within reason. and i guess ultimately, as a fellow artist, i should respect that. but it doesn't mean i can't be bummed out that so many of our magazines are showing women, whose bodies and looks are absolutely unattainable.

why am i so sensitive about all of this?  because i am a woman who has greatly struggled with self-esteem over the years, especially as a teenager. and so yes, maybe that makes me a bit more sensitive to the messages that our magazines are sending to women, to men, to our children.

as a teenager and young adult, i very secretly suffered from both bulemia and anorexia [at varying times]. i wanted to look like the women i saw in these magazines. i wanted a tiny waist and big boobs. i had photos plastered all over my closet door -- longing to be thin and beautiful and sexy, like the women i saw featured in these magazines over and over again.

i'm not sure where i'm really going with all of this. and i'm not saying my opinion is the right opinion. but i do feel that media impacts our society more than many even begin to realize.

curious as to what others think about how much retouching, tweaking, liquifying, etc. is too much, i decided to pose the question on facebook.  here's a few of the responses [selected at random]:

i try not to unless a client requests it. Sometimes there's just a little something that is distracting so i'll clean it up. or for Boudoir shots, I'll do more retouching. But if i have it my way, i do none to minimal. i don't have a problem with retouching...it is a personal preference...but you can look at a photograph and see over-smoothed skin and over-processed eyes and it makes the person look all creepy..and i think most people, if they are being completely honest and objective, would agree that there is a 'too far' line and when it's crossed, it's really obvious.

I think that is the beauty of being an artist, deciding how you want to finish our canvas. For some the natural speaks to them and for others they love the heavy photo shopping. Clients are not forced to hire us, they hire us because they like our style. That's why it's great there is so much diversity so we can all choose what makes us happy. The second someone tells me what I should be doing, takes away the whole idea of being an artist!

I guess it's up to each of us as artists and to balance that with what our clients are expecting (if we're talking about portraits). But, my personal feeling is that I want to show true beauty and real folks in my work, not what I deem a 'perfected' version of them. I am not against PS for blemishes and such (things that aren't always there anyway), it's just not my thing to make people look different than they would in real life. But, to each their own...

Unless its a photo manipulation to create surreal things but with photography I do very little editing too unless you ask me to do a lot of editing but I like models to look natural if you use photoshop do use it to where you can't noticed its been use people over use the tools

you can't be serious

i cannot wait to meet this woman!  everything she does makes my heart so happy.  i can only imagine how incredible she is in person.  maybe next year i'll get to australia...just maybe. here's a wondrous promo video hailey made and recently shared on her blog. enjoy!

Billi Jade swimwear promo from hailey bartholomew on Vimeo.

hailey bartholomew, you inspire me so! thank you for sharing the gift that you are with all of us. and yes, i'm very serious.

newborn safety in photography

i wrote the post below for the creative mama today, but wanted to share it here as well.  i feel it's so very important that information regarding newborn safety in photography gets to as many photographers as possible.  please pass it on!! +++

It seems that there's a lot of talk happening right now regarding newborn safety, in regards to photography. And honestly, it's about time!!! Yesterday, a friend who is trying to spread the message of newborn safety, shared on her facebook wall, a photograph [from another photographer] of a newborn in a glass vase that looked very unsafe and quite scary!  As the photography industry becomes more and more saturated with photographers [many getting into business well before they're ready], I'm afraid this unsafe newborn posing might also continue to occur more and more. This message needs to be spread --no matter who we're photographing, photographers need to have safety as their number one priority.

Please know that professional newborn photographers, such as Baby As Art and Kelly Ryden Photography, always have newborn safety as their ultimate priority. These photographers have many, many years of experience, work as a team and they have the art of posing newborns and editing in Photoshop mastered.

Jodie Otte recently wrote this great article on newborn safety, along with sharing some behind-the-scenes photographs, showing how this baby on a guitar is actually a composite of a couple different photographs. Never was this baby balanced on this guitar alone, without the assistance of someone else. Please refer to Jodie's article in it's entirety, for additional newborn safety information and behind-the-scenes images.

And this article by Shoot Baby shares additional [frequently attempted] newborn poses, along with how the photographs were achieved, by combining multiple images in Adobe Photoshop.

Parents -- if you don't feel it's safe, you don't think it's right, it doesn't make sense or you're simply not comfortable with something during a photo session, please stop the photographer immediately. Always remember that you have commissioned the photographer; he or she is working for you!

ETA:  if you're going to pose a newborn in a bowl, in a basket, hanging in fabric, etc., you need to do it WELL -- along with the baby being kept completely safe and comfortable at all times!  with that being said, i just don't understand poses like sticking a newborn in a glass vase filled with gum balls [even when done well].  i know and appreciate that photographers have their own creative style, but some of the things photographers are doing with newborns these days just doesn't make sense to me [and often is not even done well, nor seems to be done safely].

and if you put your photograph out there [to the public], it's important to be open to feedback -- both positive and constructive criticism. know why you're creating the photographs you're creating and be sure it's for more than competing with other photographers.

being content

katelyn had contacted me a while back about doing photos of she and her husband. and then she saw i was coming to utah.  so she packed up for the weekend, did the six-hour drive, from colorado to utah, and met me there. katelyn's husband couldn't get away but i was able to photograph the beautiful katelyn. my hope was that i could show her in photographs the beauty, strength and peace that we all see in her in person.

and today, i received this beautiful note from katelyn...

I am writing you with tears of happiness and hope streaming down my face. I find myself sneaking looks at my computer throughout the day just to look at the incredible images you captured of me in Utah. It almost feels as if I am looking at someone who is not me- ALMOST. The person in these images looks so at peace... and strong. Two words I never thought could describe be.

For a large chunk of my life I was so concerned with what other people thought about me that I didn't think of myself and the actions I took were based on what I thought others would approve of. I felt I needed to look/dress/act/think a certain way in order to be liked. In trying to be like everyone else and fit this societal mold- I lost myself.

I've always had this idea of who I was but I was too afraid to let it show. It has only been within this last year that I have begun to figure out who I really am. In the past few months I have done so many of the things I've always wanted to do and I'm finally becoming Katelyn. I am on this beautiful journey toward being comfortable in my own skin and knowing that I am enough.

This is such a momentous time in my life and I'm so excited to have “proof” that I am content with being me.

I feel like there is no expression of gratitude that could even come close to letting you know how truly grateful I am for these images. Thank you for helping me to let go of fear and thank you, a thousand times over, for making me beautiful in my own eyes.

my wish is that every woman can make this peace with themselves. to see their own beauty and strength. to be content in their own skin...with who they are and all they have to offer. and always remember that each one of us is absolutely... beautiful and special and unique!

the entire weekend in utah was incredible. and powerful.  the land is absolutely majestic. the company was oh-so-inspiring. and hilarious (i haven't laughed as hard as i did that weekend, in a really long time). thank you girls for a magical weekend!! can't wait till the next time.


also, please don't forget that my mini-workshop registration opens tomorrow at 9 AM CST on the bloom forum. you must be a bloom forum member to participate in the workshop. to register for the bloom forum or for additional information, please click the bloom logo below...

The Bloom Forum

have you seen?

i think pretty much everyone has now heard of vivian maier.  but have you seen the new vivian maier site?  i swear i could look at her work all day.  and night.  it's mind blowing how talented she was.  and even more mind blowing how she shot for nothing more than herself and her love for shooting.  goodness...her eye. her composition. her timing. so much talent!!

i really would love to own any one of her prints but here's a few of my favorites from her new site.

i've seen this one before, but man, i love it so much!!

and this self portrait.  OMG!!!

i can't wait to get her book and watch her documentary (i donated to her project long ago on kickstarter and have both coming my way once they're done).  and one day...i will make it to one of her exhibitions.

who's bill cunningham?

saw this on cup of jo today.  there's a new documentary coming out (march 16th) about bill cunningham.  so who's bill cunningham? this is bill cunningham!  maybe you knew who he was, but i had no idea. and now...after watching the trailer, i absolutely can't wait to watch his documentary.  i wish we had more bill cunninghams in this world.  he seems pretty darn fabulous.

and darn it. these cool films never come to tampa. click here to see if the film is coming to a city near you.

although the site does say...

If you do not see your town listed please urge friends and family to request the film at your local arthouse venue. Arthouse theater owners/managers really like to know that their local audience is interested in a particular film. Theater managers can contact our theatrical booker Clemence Taillandier at clemence@zeitgeistfilms.com and we can work out a date to open the film.

maybe there's a chance.

life through a lens

i'm a photographer. and this is my work. some of it is this. and some of it is this. really great photographers can't stop taking pictures. they do it like other people eat and breathe. her whole life is her subject.

two quotes i loved from the video below.

annie leibovitz intrigues and fascinates me on so many levels.  i'm so grateful to have attended her exhibition in san diego a few years ago.

i just put the annie leibovitz: life through a lens documentary in my netflix queue. not sure how i missed that it back in 2008. and i think i'll sit with her a photographer's life 1990-2005 book this afternoon, while the kids are doing gymnastics.  i guess it's just an annie leibovitz inspiration kind of day.

sadly, i just don't sit with my photography books enough these days.

today's photos

that was the title of my email, back on feb 17, 2006 -- 1-1/2 months after purchasing a DSLR and deciding to pursue photography. my great friend and fellow military spouse, shawn, found the emails and forwarded them to me today.  it's just so crazy to see images and read my thoughts, from when i first started photography.  and to think about where i am today.  i just feel so grateful!!

i get a lot of emails, from people inquiring about tips, recommendations for learning, business advice, etc.  and time and time again, i tell them something similar to this...

my best advice is to study, learn and practice as much as you can, from as many avenues as you can (books, online, peers, mentors, etc.). learning photography and becoming a good photographer takes time, dedication and hard work (lots and lots of each).  look within and allow yourself to grow...from within.  be cautious in comparing yourself to others (often a big mistake in the beginning).  there's no secrets.  there's no magic.  be passionate, honest patient and work your ass off.

here's what i had to say and share back then, feb 17, 2006...

...for photos today. It all started b/c Ryder got into Sky's buggy and it was so darn cute. He was just sitting there in it. So, I pulled down my background, got him undressed, got my camera and put him back in the buggy. Well...now he didn't want to have anything to do with it. I snapped a few and my exposure was off. I did my best to salvage the buggy photo but it still looks yucky. So then I tried to put Ryder on the chair for an opportunity to practice. Ooooh, was he mad. This is what I got out of the five minutes. I still think I ended up with some cute shots. Love the last one...I was trying to shoot his feet b/c he kept putting them like that and at the same time, he was screaming. That was the end!

Now I'm off to take a nap. Those 1 AM nights are really catching up to me today. I'm tired, eyes hurt, headache...pooped!


and the next day, i wrote this...

Well, Sky was totally into photos today so I ran with it. YAY! We had fun and it only took about five minutes to get these shots. I'm so excited b/c I feel that each day, it's getting easier for me to capture some pretty special moments. We didn't do anything special today...in regular clothes, no fixing hair...just grabbed a couple chairs and started talking.

Enjoy! Deb

it's crazy to think about back then -- starting from nothing and working every single day to learn and grow as much as possible.  i am so grateful to all those who have encouraged and supported me throughout this most amazing journey -- especially my husband and kids.

here i am, today, proud to be a tampa children's and family photographer. i wouldn't be here without each and every one of you, who have been by my side...thank you!

and a couple photos of sky and ryder from earlier this month...

win a one-hour mentoring session

...with ME!! :-) jessica, from 503 photography, has been running an awesome series on the MCP actions blog over the past two weeks -- from hobbyist to professional. when the series was first in the works, jessica contacted me, inquiring if i would be willing to be a part of their series' competition and offer a one-hour skype mentoring session. i didn't hesitate for a second, especially after she shared it was going to be associated with step 6: believe in YOU!

so i hope you'll enter the contest.  it's so simple -- go to the MCP blog and comment, answering this question:

what is the ONE question you would like to ask a seasoned professional photographer?

winner will be announced tomorrow so be sure to enter today.  i can't wait to meet and share with one of you!

my WI friends

oh my freaky friends. i miss them so. already. their laughter is infectious and i try hard to still hear it. i want it engrained in my brain, so i can trigger it at will. a little shake of the head, flick of the fingers, whatever...i just never want to forget the joy. it was the most extraordinary weekend.  a weekend full of of craziness-- a whipping (not that kind of whipping) gettin' high (not that kind of high) trespassing a piercing (and a couple others that were almosts) gettin' naked (by accident) shooting lots of super yummy food and so much more. sounds fun, right? trust me...we had a blast!!

we laughed all weekend. and the energy was magical because they are magical. so full light, love and beauty.

i can't wait till the next time, which i am already trying to coordinate.

here's a few pics of these two fabulous women, from our shooting afternoon.

seriously love these two.  and a glimpse of what i so miss...

p.s. they're really not freaky at all but it was part of our weekend laughs.

call it what you will

if there's one person i stalk and pretty much obsess about, longing for his next post, it's zack arias.  i've probably blogged about him three or four times in the past.  and i'm not apologizing for blogging about him yet again. he absolutely blows me away.  so talented.  i attended his one light workshop a year or two ago and he is equally amazing in person.  love his wife too.

i feel like there's so much i can learn from zack--on so many levels.  i try to soak up every bit he's willing to share.  hopefully, when i'm in tampa and a lot closer, i'll manage to see zack a time or two (workshop or something).  i don't think i could ever learn enough from that man.

so now that you know my obsession with zack's work (hope i'm not scaring you zack and meg), let me share with you his amazing post from yesterday via his new 365 project blog, DedPxl.