Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Winter Solstice

Every year, I make it a point to go and capture the light when the days are at their shortest. This year, it turned out to be a vibrant, sunny day, albeit very cold, and I strolled down a country lane in Ohio with my plastic twin-lens reflex camera capturing these shots.

Monday, November 29, 2010

You Don't Cut Your Own Bangs - Why Shoot Your Own Holiday Portrait?

When my sister was about seven, my mom decided to trim her bangs for her. But my sister couldn't hold still, and kept drooping her head further and further down, until... When she lifted her face, she had a spiky, fuzzy buzz cut framing her forehead!

I told this story to my hairstylist, Eric Carter, the last time I was in his chair, getting my own bangs trimmed. I was laughing hysterically in the telling, as big sisters do at a sibling's hilarious misfortune. But Eric was not amused! In fact, he was cringing, and visibly uncomfortable, and saying, "People shouldn't cut their own hair," as he carefully attended to mine with obvious skill and practice. That's when it dawned on me that I feel the same way when people talk about using their point-and-shoot vacation snapshots on their holiday cards.

Sure, the likes of holiday card print services such as Cocodot, Mango Ink and Tiny Prints will help make the most of a pic with their lovely, colorful designs. But a poorly angled, unsophisticated composition or inauthentic expression will not improve itself simply because there's a pretty box around it, any more than putting gel in my sister's hair would make her bangs grow back.

A customized family portrait shoot with an experienced, professional photographer who can tell your family's story visually goes a long way in elevating the loving attention that will come across in your holiday cards. Why is this important? It is the one time of year when despite the ups and downs of life and between family members, many of us aim to truly connect with our loved ones, and show them the appreciation and love we have in our own lives by sharing it with them. In a lot of instances, we are doing this remotely via our holiday cards, and following up with a phone call or visit. Or, sometimes, it's just the card that has to do all the work of sharing the subtleties our life's loves and joys.

We live in a culture inundated with images. It's easy to take for granted that what an image says to us is being universally conveyed. Because we see so many images that have been carefully crafted to convey their message, we assume that it is simply "imagery" itself that conveys messages. However, a lot of craft goes into getting an image to express what one wants the viewer to receive, and just pointing the camera at the subject is not enough to make people understand the profound love felt for that subject. The skill to create a loving feeling, inviting the viewer to connect to the subject of a photo, is something that professionals dedicate their lives to developing the ability to do consistently.

While I don't expect that everyone will know how to appreciate my own photographic work from a fine art standpoint, I do see how it reaches them, in that ethereal way that art does. People may not be able to describe it in words, but they'll hold your card in their hands a little longer. It will be the one on the fridge they stop and stare at. It will touch them. They will know that you invested in trying to reach out to them.

When you take the time to connect with the people in your life this holiday season, make it clear that you've put in the effort to share a deeply caring feeling, expressing the essence of who you are as a family. To do that, I recommend sending a carefully crafted memoir of your life, and I am happy to speak with you about how to do so -- just email me. By the way, feel free to use Cocodot, Mango Ink or Tiny Prints. Their designs will look that much better accentuating a stunning family portrait.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Birth Annoucement Photography

Many of my clients ask me to come to their homes and photograph their babies when they are just weeks old, so that they can create a birth announcement featuring authentic images from the baby's first photo session. I wanted to share this particularly gorgeous design one of my clients found on Tiny Prints.

She used four different shots from my session with her, her first daughter, and the baby, to create this lovely arrangement.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Shooting with Sarah: Film v. Digital

For years, I apprenticed with photographers who shot on film, and glanced awestruck at the forever classic imagery in vintage copies of Life magazine, or of French street photographers like Henri Cartier-Bresson. By the time I finished college, one of my mentors was shooting half on film, half on digital. Five years later, the entire photo industry had "gone digital."

There are lots of reasons for this rapid change, many of which are echoed in stories of any and all other types of technology from iPhones to facebook. And, digital photography, like digital anything, does present certain advantages - so many that I needn't recount them here, but suffice it to say, that I bet you can hardly think of anyone under the age of 45 who doesn't have a digital camera of some kind.

What many people don't know, is that shooting on film has some wonderful advantages, as well, and not as significant drawbacks as one might suppose. I'm going to offer you a compare and contrast, so you can begin to decide for yourself if you have a preference one way or another. First, let's dispel a couple of myths.

MYTH 1: If you get your portraits shot on film, you won't be able to access them as easily.
TRUTH: Whenever I do a shoot on film, the images are scanned at the time of processing, and my clients get the photos on disk - there is no difference in the delivery technique whether I shoot film or digital!

MYTH 2: Digital technological is way better than film technology.
TRUTH: While digital creates images instantly, it still takes time to manipulate the images to their best potential. While digital has a higher resolution, this "benefit" is only really maximized for the likes of perfectly polished automobiles at billboard size. (I mean, do you really want to be able to see every pore on your face? For me, the fewer pores you can see, the better!) And, while digitizing images at some point of the game is pretty much essential because of the way most people store their images (on the computer), there is absolutely no reason why photos need to be captured digitally.

MYTH 3: More is better.
TRUTH: Many people will say, "You can shoot so many more photos on digital!" I would argue, that not only is that not better, it can actually be to the detriment of the uniqueness of the moments captured. For example, when a spontaneous expression happens, shooting on a seemingly never-ending digital memory card causes one to get a little trigger happy. Snap, snap, snapping away, desperate to grab something, not altogether conscious of what. On the contrary, when one is limited to a very small number of frames (depending on the length of the roll of film), one has to be tuned in, alert, and enraptured in the moment so as to hit the shutter at THE exact right moment. There is simply more artistry in the capture when shooting on film.

I learned to shoot on film, and have done my best to transfer the integrity of staying tuned in to a special moment to when I shoot on digital, but I am by no means perfect at this, and am still subject to the trigger-happy tendency digital encourages. I like to use slow-shutter speeds and other tricks to "soften" my digital images to emulate the ethereal look of film. Still, I think there are obvious visual differences to images that were recorded on film versus those on digital.

Nowadays, people are accustomed to seeing digital images, and the soft, artfulness of film may not be preferable, or even noticeable to the layperson. And, some people truly do prefer the incredible sharpness and vibrance digital photography provides.

How to decide?

Here are a few examples of similarly shot photos - one each on film and digital - so you can compare, and perhaps develop a preference. Please note: this is truly the connoisseur level of photography appreciation, and it may take a lot of attention and practice to truly appreciate the subtle nuances of the craft.

Black and White - See the way black and white film allows for much more subtlety in the gradations, particularly in highlights and shadows. Digital makes very contrasty black and white's.

Portraits - Note the extra warmth and softness on film; the impeccable sharpness and color balance on digital.

Bright Sunlight
- Notice how film captures details both in the highlights and in the shadows; digital features vibrant color.

Personally, the steadiness of mind called for to show up to the moment when shooting on film, along with its timeless beauty and slightly mysterious feeling, cause me to lean towards film artistically. That said, if the photos are needed in a hurry, or if there is a strong reason to need to be able to produce a lot of them at once, digital is the way to go.

If you're curious about trying a shoot on a medium you haven't tried before, please email me at rsvp at sarahsloboda.com, to arrange a shoot.

To view a personal project shot on 3 types of film, please click here to view my recent trip to Stone Barns, on facebook.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Brooklyn Music Factory

In 2001, after finishing film school, I spent a lot of time in the inspiring jazz scene in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where improvisational music deeply influenced my shooting style - both in terms of composition, and in terms of sensing the rhythm and spontaneity of a moment.

During that time, I had the pleasure of meeting Nate Shaw, while he has on tour with his band The New Power Trio. Nate and I got talking about Brooklyn, my future home, and where he lived and worked (and still does). We stayed in touch, and I shot photos for The New Power Trio's next album when I arrived in New York the following February.

Since then, Nate and I have collaborated many times. Nate has composed film scores for moving image projects I directed and produced (including both of my short films, "M├ętier," and "Spur,"), and I have photographed publicity photos for a number of his bands. Nate has that wonderful musician quality of saying "yes," nodding, and appreciating, always looking for the music - the art - in everything. He's also a father, and so his knack for drawing out art is naturally applied to kids.

I was ecstatic when Nate told me he, along with several of his musician colleagues whose talent I also know firsthand, were starting a music school in Brooklyn! It sounded like an amazing gift to bring to the community - a way of sharing their beautiful, musical way of approaching life with those with a budding interest.

At their end-of-season concert this past summer, I was floored by the cool way they showcase the talent of their students - beginners play a featured melody supported by the rhythm of drums, bass, and accompaniment of professional musicians - elevating the sound to a magical height, and giving the students a chance to understand that playing and performing go hand in hand.

If you have an interest in music for your child, or for yourself, no matter what your age - be sure to check out the Brooklyn Music Factory. There something really special going on there.
(The photos featured with this post are photos I shot in the studio during a typical day at the Brooklyn Music Factory.)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Getting Ready for Fall

Lately, the thought of where things come from has been fascinating to me. I like going to the farmer's market and buying my veggies from the same guy who works in the fields, feeling connected to the source of my sustenance. My friend Julie (awesome architect and "green adviser" at Go For Change) and my brother both turned me on to this 1970s BBC television show called Connections, that traces things through their fascinating histories, showing the subtle twists and turns in the evolution of thought that brought about things as we know them, in ways we might not realize.

Tangentially, I have been reading how to jar tomatoes and peaches, and thinking of how taking the time to prepare things at their natural peak -- with a mind for their future use -- will lead to delights down the line.

I took a walk to my local farmer's market this morning to get tomatoes, and couldn't resist some end-of-summer flowers for arranging and a decorative green squash. While going about these tasks, I started thinking about the vast garden of mint my mom has in Ohio, and how when I visit, I'd like to harvest it, dry it, and make mint tea.

Then, I decided to make mint extract from my fire escape herb garden, and this winter I'll make homemade candy canes from the homegrown mint extract. With the forethought to harvest the mint at its peak, my family will get some special confectionery treats this winter!

Mint extract requires vodka, and since I had more than I needed, I used rosemary and lavender to make vodka infusions. If you haven't had one - vodka infusions are excellent sipping drinks. They're typically served in a shot glass, and you just slowly sip to enjoy the taste.

And, who knows what these things will inspire....

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Governor's Island Field Trip

Last weekend, I took the ferry to Governor's Island, and was magically transported back in time. Luckily, my camera documented the entire experience on black and white film.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Chive Blossoms

For the past few years, I've kept a lovely little garden on my fire escape, including flowers and herbs like mint, chives, and rosemary. Recently, one of the chives sprouted beautiful, little white blossoms. This photo series is straight from the camera - the images have not been PhotoShopped or altered in any way. I'm offering these photos as limited edition canvas prints, as well. Please email rsvp@sarahsloboda.com, for more information.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

What are our children trying to teach us?

Are you enjoying and engaged in your own life the way your child is? Or, do you feel that sometimes the moments are just slipping by you? Are you simply trying to raise your kid, or does the thought occur to you, that this child came into your life to help you overcome your own shortcomings?

Look closely. What is it you love most about your child? Her soft skin? Her crystal eyes? Or is it something contained within her, which comes through in all of her features, something that you know, deep down, must be contained in you, too?

The love we have for our children is a deep and primal love that allows us to glimpse our potential, feel the true depth of our power, and acknowledge our own life force.
Allow me to make some mementos of that significance – photographs you will want to display and look at for long periods of time. Rather than grasping at those fleeting moments in your day, full of distractions, as one second gives way to the next, days turns into weeks, and months into years, you can hold them up, cherish them, and allow them to influence you for the better.

Notice the astounding effortlessness with which your child honors her own life, and the presence of those who love her. See the way she looks at the world, as a place for discovery and learning. Relish her unabashed delights, and her freedom to express her emotions, regardless of what anyone else thinks.

I create photos of children, not just so you can look back at when they were younger, but also to provide you with the opportunity to look more freely and deeply at your own life, now. It is my way of honoring the child in all of us.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Inspiration: The Nature of Things & Moments Past

Things have been catching my eye, so to speak. For awhile, I have been quietly obtaining objects for my home that relate in some way to nature, and to things of the past - whether they be actual plant life or antiques, or simply designs inspired by those things. I thought I would gather them together here in a photo essay, to see what visual relevance appears.