Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Focus On: posidonia

The Eye

den·i·zen [den-uh-zuhn]
1.  an inhabitant; resident.
2.  a person who regularly frequents a place; habitué: the denizens of a local bar.

I frequent that part of Etsy where you will find the work of the POE Team, so you see; I am what you might call a denizen of the Etsy POE Team.  As such, I encounter the work of a good many of our members, probably even yours.  And it is that familiarity with the art and artists that make up our team that has been the source and inspiration for the selections I have made to populate this feature.

That is, up until now.

I’ve noticed, and perhaps you have too, how often the same names appear on any given Etsy search for work by the POE Team.  Bounce the names you regularly see against the list of team members, and you’ll see, as I did, there are many more names on our roster than ever appear on a POE Team search.  So, I decided to take a stab at our roster, a literal random stab at our member list, to come up with someone that I was unfamiliar with to Focus On this week.

Mònica Castelló is the woman behind posidonia, and I recently had the pleasure of an extended conversation with her; I would like to share that with you now. 

Rain Walk

Steve:  I see a lot of photographs that I find interesting, and this makes me wonder about the person behind the camera; who are they, where do they come from, what is it in life that has made them who they are and put them on the path to what they do. So, my first question to you is this: who are you, where do you come from and what's your family like?

Mònica:  First question and first dilemma!  Who am I?  Our particular vision of the world makes us what we are.  Maybe I can show you a bit of me through my photography.

Photography allows me to show a bit the world through my eyes.  Some say I'm very variable, or even affectionately my friends say I'm a bit loony.  I am passionate and when I like something I don’t stop until I get what I propose.  But I like many things and sometimes I leave them unfinished (I hate that dark side of me!).  I never realize that I can’t cover them all...

My interest in photography and art in general started very early.  I remember as a child always asking my parents for a camera, and it took me a long time to get it.  I think the first shots I took were of my end of year tour at the end of primary school.  I was very upset when I opened the camera without rewinding the spool and most photos were lost.

It was my father who awoke my interest in art; drawing, photography, ceramics, and it was he that taught me to take photos with my first SLR camera…with the photometer broken!  Even now I laugh, the camera was a Russian Zenit, and it weighed a lot!  Even so I managed to manually calculate the shutter speed and lens aperture depending on the conditions.  I felt happy when my classmates asked me for copies of my photos of trips.

Foggy Days

Besides all this...what can I say about me?  I was born in Barcelona, as were my parents. I live in the seaside neighborhood of Poblenou.  My life has always been related with the sea, and I enjoyed growing up near it as I did with my sister and my parents.  

Today, I have two children, my son, the oldest just turned 5 and my daughter will soon have her first birthday.

After a few years in "stand by" mode I, with the encouragement of my husband, regained my interest in photography, and now my son is becoming a young photographer too!  I love to watch my son taking pictures and I'm always surprised by his criteria and his particular vision of things.

Even though I may still have a lot to learn, photography is my hobby and my passion.  My professional life, on the other hand, has very little to do with photography. As a marine biologist I work mainly in science communication.  The truth is that I like my job, and perhaps what I like most is communication about biology in its various aspects.  In my free time (oh? what’s that?) I enjoy music, photography, ceramics and drawing; just various ways to express a part of me, a part of my world view.

At the age of 45, my father gave up a career in informatics to become a ceramist; following his example, it is my dream to devote, little by little (when the feeding bottles and the work of biologist allow) more time to photography.  I love experimenting with textures, macros, with lighting or some techniques I learned from flickr's photographers like HDR.  I don’t have so much of a unique style; my photography and techniques are varied, perhaps as variable as my character and passion for different things in this life.

Old Barcelona Street

S:  What was it, do you suppose, that first got you interested in photography?

M:  Undoubtedly, one thing that greatly helped spark my interest in photography was when my uncle gave me my first camera, the Russian Zenit I spoke of earlier.  It was hard and heavy, but it was what I learned the basics of photography with.

Initially, I think photography for me was principally about collecting moments in time, moments with family, friends, and of places I visited.  Soon it became a quest of capturing the beauty of nature and its people and the small pleasures of life.  It's like a game for me and my husband, like a sport.  We love walking the streets of Barcelona and looking at the little things and details to photograph.  I enjoy the fact that taking pictures is a pursuit, not only a destination.  Sometimes we have to say to ourselves: stop!  

Sometimes I wonder why I have such a big urge to take photos.

S:  Have you taken any photographic instruction, or are you self-trained? Have you ever had an opportunity to process your own film and prints?

M:  Unfortunately I have not received formal training in photography more than a year in high school.  I had to learn on my own with the help of books, practice and following the example of other photographers.  When I met my husband, he rescued my passion for photography.  On weekends we got up early and went out hunting for pictures.  My husband (then my boyfriend) and I also rescued an old enlarger with which we started to print our own photographs.  We had fun during those times.  We put our parents’ house upside down to create a dark room and almost intoxicate ourselves with developing solutions.  We experimented a lot with the black and white photography, making reservations, adding different types of textures, playing with baking paper and others to blur the image...

The Field

At the University, when I was studying biology, I had the opportunity to reveal my photographs.  In this case pictures were taken with the microscope, even with the electron microscope.  The truth is that they are true pieces of art, including bacteria, mitochondria, diatoms or animal tissues...

S:  You know, Mònica, sometimes you learn more by teaching yourself.  It certainly sounds like you had some experiences that you would not have had if you had received formal instruction.

What are your favorite things to photograph?  What inspires you most?

M:  Clouds, clouds, stormy days and more clouds...  Well, I like the landscapes with clouds, especially large fields and its changing colors depending on the light and season. I also love the old part of Barcelona, with its old houses and streets.  In general I like to photograph the old and decadent part of the cities.  I also enjoy photographing people in action or in their daily work but I repress a lot because I'm embarrassed to photograph people directly.  But a nice shot with people is very satisfying to me.  You end up with little pieces of history; of feelings... you have captured an image of an unrepeatable moment.

S:  When you go out to shoot, do you usually have something in mind that you want to capture or do you take it as it comes?

M:  It depends on the day.  Sometimes I take the camera in search for whatever comes. But sometimes I go out thinking about HDR.  For this type of picture not everything is valid, neither every kind of heaven.  In that case I look for certain corners in the city, or abandoned or decadent sites, or certain landscapes with clouds that are the ones I like for these photographs.  To make a HDR I usually make three shots (rarely 5) of the same thing.  Then the combination of these three shots with different exposures results in a HDR photo (High Dynamic Range).  Not everyone likes the HDR; there are both fans and detractors of this technique, but I like the amount of detail and colors that you can see a photo of this type.


S:  High Dynamic Range is a very interesting technique; how did you get started doing that?

M:  The first time I saw pictures in HDR was browsing flickr photos.  I was impressed with images full of detail and color in both the highlights and dark areas.  I saw these pictures were tagged as HDR, and so began my research into this technique and practiced what I learned on the web.  I especially liked the pictures of Stuck in Customs (Trey Ratcliff), Kris Kros (Joe), MorBCNdespedazator (Héctor Martí) and Ásmundur Þorkelsson.

S:  I'm always curious what tools people are using, so tell me, what do you use? What's in your camera bag?

And if money was not an issue, what one thing would you like to add?

M:  A few years ago, I used to carry in my bag, a tripod, the camera, a filter holder, a polarizer, a flash, a couple of zoom lenses and a macro ... sometimes even I used to shoot underwater photographs with my prehistoric Sea & Sea Motor Marine (before the digital age!) but now, usually with a baby on my back, I carry only my Canon 450D with a 18-200 zoom lens. Sometimes I also carry the macro lens when my biologist persona emerges and I'm going to hunt bugs, or botanical details.

What I would like to add now is an 11 mm wide-angle.


S:  It sounds like you've got a very nice setup!

What do you suppose has been the most important factor in the development of your style and your art?

M:  Honestly, I'm not aware of having a unique style. But I guess it is undeniable that in everything we do reflects part of ourselves.  However, if there is something that has contributed to the style of my photos, it is the opportunity I have to do many different projects in my work, and having worked alongside designers.  This, along with my curiosity and passion for new things has allowed me to learn Photoshop and other tools useful in photography and digital retouching.

S:  Mònica, as a photographer I'm sure you look at and appreciate the work of others; who are your favorite photographers and how have they influenced or inspired your work?

M:  I love the originality and the audacity of Annie Leibovitz.  Also, of course, the fantastic black and white landscapes of Ansel Addams.  I love the way Robert Doisneau has of capturing the essence of daily life in his photos.  Also, as a biologist and not just a lover of photography, I admire the prolific work on travel and nature from Oriol Alamany , a Catalan photographer of great talent.  And as for underwater photography, I'm a fan of Norbert Wu; I am impressed by the sharpness of his submarine images. Although my photography really has little to do with all these great artists, and I am very far from reaching its high quality, I admire their wonderful work.


S:  It's always enlightening to me to find out which photographers have inspired others; I love it!

So, Mònica, tell me, where do you want photography to take you, or where do you want to take it?  What does the future hold for you, photographically?

M:  Good question ... I don't know, I haven’t given it any serious thought, but for now, I know that I enjoy photography.  For me and my husband it is like a game and we love researching and learning new techniques.  Sometimes I think I'd love to devote myself fully to photography and, above all, to have a studio; a space dedicated exclusively to my files and photography and digital retouching and other artistic hobbies I combine with photography.  But I would miss marine biology.  So for now, I hope to reach more people with my photography and organize an exhibition or even consider publishing some book (although I still have a lot of work to do to achieve it).

Dancing Jellies

S:  You know Mònica, it's perfectly alright to have more than one passion, and I'm not aware of any rule that states that a person must relinquish one before taking up another. So, you go ahead and pursue your two passions; you'll be happier, and we'll be able to enjoy the fruits of your photography.

Thank you for taking this time with me, I've enjoyed it very much!

M:  Steve, it has been a pleasure to have this conversation with you!


PhotoGrunt is Steve Raley, a photographic documentarian from Seattle, Washington.  He captures images wherever he goes, and he  frequently even uses a camera.  His work can be seen on his websiteblog and his Etsy shop.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Mosaic Monday: Before The Snow Flies

Snowy Lantern by JMcGuinness
Moonlit Embrace by shashamane
Little Lady by CreateLoveLaugh
Arctic Thistle by DayView
Winter Goldenrod by timkantphotography
Vanilla Dream by jennifersquires
I can see a better time by dylanmurphy
Winter Berries by soularchitect
Two Little Birds by enchantedpond

Pat of photogenicgallery lives in the Northeast USA with her husband, 2 great dogs and "Rocky" the kitty.   Every day is an adventure and every capture with her cameras are happy moments.  

Our September slide show is LIVE!

Created by Taryn of BornBarefoot.

The theme is Bodies of Water. There were over 80 photos submitted for this slideshow. Taryn did her best not to forget anyone. Here is a selection of beautiful images from our very talented team of photographers on Etsy! Visit Etsy and search POE team for more great photography!

This is a reminder for anyone who didn't get the message about the October slide show. The theme is "Architecture" and the deadline is October 3rd.

If you haven't joined the yahoo group / mailing list yet, here is the link, all of the slide shows are listed on the calendar there and each month 2 reminder messages are posted.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

New Works - Cozy Fall Edition

I am feeling a little under the weather ... fighting off the first of the fall/winter season's cold, perhaps. Add to that the cooler weather and the beginning of gorgeous autumn-colored trees here in the Boise, Idaho area - and I am inspired by comforting, cozy images this week. Take a look below at the cozy new works from the Photographers of Etsy. And of course, you can always find more photography here.

Morning Coffee by Kristybee

Morning by ValeriaH

tea time by stephmel

Vintage Rolleiflex and Rose by StephsShoes

Discussion by jenniferdennispotter


New works is compiled by Jessica Torres. Jessica lives in tiny little Kuna, Idaho with her husband and three rambunctious kids. She tries to ignore housework while taking pictures of whatever is near - her family, the Idaho landscape, random objects collected by her and her family. She loves visitors at her website and her shop.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

From the Collaboratory

Heart by artocard

Good Glass!

I'm dreaming of the perfect lens.

Leopard Cub by NolderPhotography

If only I knew which one it is!

It's pretty much gospel in the photography world that having high-quality lenses matters more than having a high-end body. (A good tripod is also a plus, but that's a subject for another day.) The question is: What lens is best-suited to the work I do?

Right now, my workhorse is the Canon 28-135mm IS USM zoom. Great lens for general shooting. But for wildlife photography, I need a longer focal length (except for those times when I get very, very lucky).

The high-end professional telephoto lenses, like the 600 or 800mm, are too heavy for me to lug around, and too far out of my price range even if I wanted that much exercise. I also want flexibility, so that if a white heron flies into a landscape I'm shooting, I can get good shots of both.

Grizzly Sow and Cub by MyPhotoArt

So, Canon shooters, what works for you? Is it the 70 - 200 f/2.8 L IS USM, maybe with a 1.4x or 2x converter? Or an EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM like Chuck Nolder of NolderPhotography used to capture Leopard Cub (above), maybe also with an extender? Or a second camera body with a telephoto fixed lens?

Sea Otter at State Beach by Heidesphotos

I'm not familiar with the gradations of other brands, but the principle is the same.

Please join the conversation. I'm sure other neophytes like me would love to hear from you!


Gomez the Iguana by Jhoeymonster

Nakedeye17 (Su) thinks of photography as a wake-up call: "Hey, everybody! Are you seeing this?" She loves to capture humor, too, and anything wondrous strange. Find Nakedeye17's shop here.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Mosaic Monday

White Pumpkin
Please Don't Fall
Autumnal Tea
Red Season
La Tour aux Rosiers
3 Kittens of Hydra Harbour
Orange Chimes

Pat of photogenicgallery lives in the Northeast USA with her husband, 2 great dogs and "Rocky" the kitty.   Every day is an adventure and every capture with her cameras are happy moments. 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Focus On: artinmind


We all shoot where we are.  Sometimes it's where we travel, but mostly it's probably where we live.

The person I've focused on this time out has a lot to choose from when it comes to subject matter.  Annie Bailey of artinmind hails from Bozeman, Montana, and while some might think the Big Sky has a whole lot of empty, the discerning eye knows that "empty" is chock full of subject matter to fill a viewfinder with.

Annie's work first caught my eye early in my Etsy career; in fact, her "Big Sky Highway" is one of the first items on my Favorites list.  I recently had an opportunity to have an extended conversation with her and I’d like to share that with you now.

Steve:  I see a lot of photographs that I find interesting, and when I do I wonder about the person behind the camera; who are they, where do they come from, what is it in life that has made them who they are and put them on the path to what they do. So Annie, my first question to you is this: who are you, where do you come from and what's your family like?

Annie:  I was born in Montana and grew up on my family's ranch in the Smith River Valley.  I like to think that it was the ranching environment that gave me the eye for photography; Montana has so much to offer. Even when it's miserably hot or below zero, there's beauty to be found.

Big Sky Highway 

I grew up riding four-wheelers, feeding orphaned calves from a bottle, riding horses, and shoveling poop out of the barn.  Growing up, I always had my own camera.  When I got older and got my driver's license, I decided that there was just too much beauty in Big Sky country to ignore. I saved my money and got a new Nikon digital camera with all the bells and whistles. I got lenses for my birthday and Christmas and the rest is history.

My dad is a big kid.  We like to joke that he's never progressed past the age of 3, even though he'll be 60 next year.  I think he really is the one responsible for my love of the open fields and sky.  He abhors being enclosed in tight spaces, and I think I've got a lot of that in me.  

My mom is an excellent photographer, although she'll never admit it.  They're support has always been unfailing.  They’re always asking if I've been taking pictures, like they're making sure I do my homework!  My best friend, who I consider my sister, is an amazing artist.  We like to push each other to keep thinking and trying to maintain a quality in our work, to never do anything half way.  I think I've been working towards photography, very slowly, all my life. Now it's something I can't live without, and there's always that need to document what I see.

S:  What a wonderful way to grow up! Are you still living and working close to the land on the family ranch, or are you making your living in town? And what do you do for a living, by the way?

The Great White

A:  Yes, I'm still close to it. I live in Bozeman, which is just over an hour drive back to the ranch. I lived there over the summer, helping out a bit. I'm actually going to school at MSU for architecture at the moment. I make a living my selling my photographs, and I also paint. I sell my paintings here in town and sometimes other towns here in MT. I have a photography show at the college in December and I'm very excited about it, as they're all new photos taken over the past year. 

S:  Congratulations on your upcoming show; I hope it goes well!

Photography AND painting...impressive, and how fortunate that you've been able earn a living at both. Was it the painting that led to the photography, or the other way around? And what about training? Are you self taught or have received instruction?

A:  I would say that the painting came first. I was more serious about painting before I was serious about photography.  I took pictures of grain elevators and landscapes to paint, but then I started getting really hooked on photography because of that.  Now I think it's the opposite.  I spend more time on photography than painting; it fits me better, but I love all kinds of art. 

I haven't taken any classes on photography. I believe that people have the ability to see things without teaching them how.  Maybe it keeps you from worrying about being "proper".  As far as how a camera works, I had to read books and then read the entire manual, learning how to use my Nikon.  I'd never used an SLR before, just a point and shoot in high school; man, that changed everything!

S:  What are your favorite things to photograph?


A:  My favorite thing to photograph is large beautiful white clouds over an open field. The sky is definitely an element that I most often incorporate in to my photographs. 

I also like to capture one strong object in the frame, say a funny looking tree or an old barn.  To me, the best photographs are when you can use both a strong "object" and the sky as a wonderful backdrop that adds such depth and, in secretive little ways, tells more about the subject than it would be able to tell on its own. 

Giving a spatial context to the subject is also fun. Here in Montana, there's usually so much space around the subjects I photograph that it's fun to show just how alone they are in the landscape.

S:  Looking at your work and considering where you're from, that totally tracks!

Black and white seems to be your favorite medium; is that the case, and if so, what is it about black and white that attracts you?

Winter Coat

A:  B&W is my favorite medium.  In photography, it's easy to rely on color to do the work for you; I try not to be "lazy" that way and simply take a brightly colored photograph. 

It's weird because sometimes I feel almost ashamed taking a color photograph. Nobody told me one was better than the other, but I picked b&w somewhere along the way as the better method. What might have been an influence was that my family has tons of old black and white photographs of ancestors, relatives, etc. I love to look at them because the emotion in their faces is beautiful, and more easily noticed when there is no color distraction.  I love history; maybe it's a way of paying homage to it in some form. I can't pass up photographing old buildings, trains, and the like.

S:  I totally agree; B&W is my favorite medium as well. Sometimes color is required to make the statement, but all things being equal, I prefer B&W.

I know you said you had a Nikon with all the trimmings, but let's get a bit more specific; what's in your bag, and if price was not an issue, what one thing would you like to add to it?

A:  I have two lenses that I use regularly.  The first is the Nikkor zoom lens 18mm-200mm and the other is the Micro-Nikkor macro lens. My brother was kind enough to get me a Lensbaby, which I love. I haven't gotten around to using it much, but believe me, I will! It's so simple, and yet it really brings some cool things to a photograph.

Support Systems

What would I add?  I'd love a good telephoto lens.  In Montana, much of the land is privately owned, so you can't just go trouncing across a field, because it could be somebody's backyard.  I know how annoyed my family gets when people trespass, so I try not to.  I'd love a lens that allows me to get pretty much anywhere from a legal spot. 

I also need a better tripod. I always have a tripod and a remote control for long exposures. I'd also like a couple of larger memory cards. You know how it is, there's always a long list of thing you want!

S:  Sounds like a nice setup, and you're right; no matter what you've got, there always seems to be at least one more item that would be nice to have!

What do you suppose has been the most important factor in the development of your style and your art?

A:  I would say the biggest factor that has led to way I like to take photographs is my design background.  I like to work with compositions. I always hear these rules that can't be broken, and then I like to try it just because someone says not to. Like the law of thirds, which does have merit but the horizon chopping off the photo right through the middle can be powerful too. I think too many rules creates situations in which everyone's work looks like everyone else's. 

Cut, Bound, and Dried

I really only have an interest in certain things.  I'm not very into pictures of flowers.  I think that some are definitely very beautiful and pleasing, but I wouldn't want to take pictures of them as a main object.  I look at photographs like they're going to be movies about the subject.  I start with what I'd want the opening shot to be, and then take a still of it.  I would like to make movies. Sometimes I think film is just the only way to show what you're thinking.

S:  I'm pretty much of the same mind. The "rules" are there because they work, and those just starting out would be well advised to pay attention to them while learning their craft.  However, once you've got a handle on things and you know what the rules are and how and why they work, it is possible to take those rules and not so much flaunt them, as turn them inside out, reverse them, bend them to your own design. It's a fine line, but one that can pay dividends.

As a photographer, I'm sure you have an appreciation for the work of others. Who are your favorite photographers and what influence would you say they've had on your work?

A:  Geez, there's a lot of photography I love.  I'm a big Minor White fan.  Diane Arbus is great too.  Portraiture is something I could really get into, and she set the bar, in my opinion.

Going Nowhere

As far as Etsy goes, there are several I love as well.  SoZeSoZe is one of the shops on Etsy I loved as soon as I signed up and started looking around.  He's got these great moody ocean side photos that really evoke some emotion. 

I always enjoy Irene Suchocki's stuff, and of course there's always the Godfather, Ansel. I heard somebody bought some of his tin negatives at a garage sale. Man, why couldn't that have been me?

S:  What does the future hold for you and photography? Where is it taking you? Where are you taking it?

A:  I would like to try some different things. Portraiture is something I would like to try. Not like a portrait studio, but some candid photos of people in their lives. I know so many interesting people (in my opinion) just from growing up where I did. They are a tough people who can make it through pretty much anything just because they know they have to. They are incredibly strong, more so mentally in my opinion. It does leave scars though, and you can see it on people's faces; hard lives of physical labor and worrying.

White Light

Mother Nature can be hard to work with, but it’s part of life in Montana.  I would like to approach it as a "documentation" of the last cowboy generation; I would really love the chance to do that. It's in the works. I actually photographed a guy I've known all my life; his face is full of character.

S:  You know Annie, that's a project I would really like to see. Thank you so much for taking this time with me; I've really enjoyed it.

A:  Thanks Steve, I enjoyed your questions.


PhotoGrunt is Steve Raley, a photographic documentarian from Seattle, Washington.  He captures images wherever he goes, and he  frequently even uses a camera.  His work can be seen on his websiteblog and his Etsy shop.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Mind's Eye - Recognition

Over the past several years, I have come to realize that abstract images intrigue just as many people as they bother.  Some folks can't shake that need-to-know {what the object is} feeling.  Personally, I am on the side of being intrigued.  Instead of feeling like I need to know what the photo is of, I enjoy the what is of the image.  Ceilings become graphic designs, household items-beautiful contrasts of light and dark, rusty metal can mimic a painted landscape, a stairwell can appear to be a watchful eye, etc...  Here are a few examples to relax those need-to-know synaptic connections.  Simply put, here is some candy for your eyes.

  "Four Points" (Above) and "Woven Steel" (Below)
Both images by lizgrandmaison

Interestingly enough, just like with the split between people who see things one way and those who see them in another, there is a similar split in the listings of these Etsy photographers.  Some of these photos come from shops in which most of the photos are abstract.  Some, however, are shots from shops in which abstract art is just a fraction of what these photographers see through the lens.  I encourage you to look at these artist's shops and see for yourself.  I think that all photographers at some point have their eye caught by the small details, the seemingly insignificant parts of items.  Sometimes it's not only until later that we see our subject as an abstract photo.  Sometimes it's not until we see our final image that we question what the subject is.  See?  Intriguing...

"Mind's Eye", by Anika Toro, is a monthly post focusing on abstract and manipulated photography.  Anika lives in TN with her baby, husband, and two naughty cats.  She loves taking photos every moment of every day.  
Anika shares her photography in her shop, on her blog, and invites you to collaborate.