For a sports assignment for school I’m following Cassi Ackels-Weatherby, a roller derby skater for Central Michigan Mayhem. The story and additional photos will be posted next week.
For this week’s assignment I decided to photograph some inanimate objects and do a still life. My boyfriend’s love for me is comparable to his love of coffee. A large portion of his coffee consumption he actually roasts at home. So we had these beautiful Ethiopian Yirgacheffe beans hanging around that had this amber brown shade to them and some still had the sheen of oil from being roasted only two days prior.
I really wanted to play around with using light to shoot from underneath which I did in the image to the right. I actually took the glass from my coffee table and and lined the underside with a white sheet to use as a consistent base but doubles as a diffuser and set my speedlite to aim straight up. I also had a second speedlite set up to light up the beans from the top. I really liked the detail it brought out with really defining the shape of the individual beans while also keeping a lot of the shadows on that center cut of the bean.
I decided to use a mirror as a base for a couple of the other images. I really liked the reflection of the coffee beans in the images and the extra bit of depth it added.
This video is part of an assignment for my journalism 521 class where I spoke about my experience with photography.
Glenda Bartel along with her best friend Melissa Collingham opened up the Livingston County Spiritual Center (LCSC), an alternative and holistic health service, to educate, inspire, and heal others.
The two provide services such as Reiki attunement, tarot and medium readings, and chakra and aura healing. They also teach classes and host workshops at the center.
One of the classes is Wicca 101.
According to Thea Sabin in her book “Wicca for Beginners: Fundamentals of Philosophy & Practice” Wicca is an evolving religion and a Wiccan is a person who has either formally or ritually declared themselves a Wiccan or simply is following the Wiccan religion/spiritual path.
Bartel is a medium/clairvoyant and though she no longer follows Wicca religion she still identifies as a witch and enjoys educating others about Wicca.
“I wanted to share my knowledge with people, because I know what it did for me,” Bartel said. “So why can’t this be for other people?”
Bartel said she first realized she was a medium when she predicted her grandmother’s death when she was 12 years old. At age 14 she saw her great-grandmother’s spirit, an encounter she described as “bloody frightening.”
As for being a witch, Bartel said she didn’t really know anything about Wicca until she was 22 years old.
“I noticed how sensitive I was with the moon phases,” Bartel said. “I paid attention. But I’m also a triple Scorpio.”
Howell resident Faye Sweeny attended the Wicca class to learn about the religion and satisfy her curiosity.
“It may sound selfish, but to get a better understanding of myself. What am I doing here, where am I going, what’s my purpose,” Faye said. “I think this will help.”
Bartel believes Wicca is a great stepping stone for spirituality.
“It gets you in tune with Earth,” Bartel said. “It gets you in tune with the elements, it gets you in tune with the universe. It makes you respect all living things. These are essential things to know and learn on any spiritual path, not just Wicca.”
Two years ago Bartel decided to stop following Wicca and explore other religions and her own spirituality. Wicca is still a fundamental part of her though due to her being a witch.
“I was looking for spiritual awakening, spiritual enlightenment,” Bartel said. “And that takes a lot of work outside of Wicca. And because it is a religion you do have things that you have to follow.”
The religion of Wicca is based on a simple moral code called the Wiccan Rede “An ye harm none, do what ye will.”
According to Sabin’s book, the earliest church documents mentioning witchcraft is in the “Canon Episcopi” which could date as early as 906 AD. “The Canon said, essentially, that witchcraft was an illusion that originated in dreams, and to believe in it was heresy, or against the teachings of the church,” Sabin said. So ensues the witch hunts and trials.
It wasn’t until about the 1950s that Wicca popularized. Followers began to make their own form of it and the faith made its way to The United States. Wicca made its way into popular witchcraft-based books and television shows, such as Bewitched, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Charmed, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Popular media featuring witchcraft is still prevalent but strong stereotypes still exist such as Halloween dressing up as the ugly witch with the face warts or calling someone who is being nasty a witch.
When asked about stereotypes and what people think about her being a witch, Bartel had a quick and firm answer.
“I don’t base my life on other people’s opinion because that means they control my life, not me,” Bartel said. “And I’m not giving people that kind of power.”
The Livingston County Spiritual Center is located in Pinckney, Michigan but Bartel and Collingham plan to relocate. Updates can be found on their Facebook page at facebook.com/livingstoncountyspiritualcenter/.
New semester started and it’s just as busy as the last! Since I last posted I have been working on starting a few project for video that I’ll be posting intermittently over the next few months.
I’ve also been shooting boudoir shoots lately which I’ve really come to enjoy. Most recently I photographed my friend Kendra who wanted to do photos for her boyfriend for Valentine’s Day and it gave me an opportunity to try out some new equipment. Out of respect for Kendra’s privacy I’ll only post some PG shots.
For school we were working with Canon Speedlites, really nice but easily $400+ a piece for the newer versions, or around $150 used if you’re lucky. I really wanted to invest in some of my own so I could shoot whenever I wanted and not worry about getting the equipment back to the school on time, but financially I couldn’t justify $150 for each speedlite at the time.
A while back I ordered an Altura Photo Speedlight for about $35. It kind of just sat in my spare bedroom that doubles as a make shift studio. I had a hard time getting it to fire not hooked up to my camera and I didn’t want to rely on it out in the field.
A little over a month ago I stumbled upon an Ebay posting for a set of five Pocket Wizards (the Plus ii) that was going for $130 at the time which is a total steal. I started price comparing and I ended up finding the Pocket Wizard PlusX for $55-60 used via Amazon, so I bought five. B&H sells a set of 2 for $145 brand new. I’m really happy with the PlusX, they have 10 different channels compared to the four channels on the Pocket Wizard ii and it also is compatible with other Pocket Wizards if you need to mix and match. What I also love and appreciate about the Pocket Wizard PlusX is that there is a battery life indicator. It has green, yellow, and red lights. It’ll flash green until the battery is below 50% then it’ll flash yellow until the battery life is below 25%, then it will flash red. I really appreciate this because then I don’t have to trouble shoot and spend time figuring out what isn’t working, I can just change the batteries and continue. Really love that addition.
The boudoir shoot with Kendra was the first opportunity I had to test the Altura Speedlite in the field and I was so happy with the product that I ended up buying a second unit for the next time I shoot. Compared to the Canon Speedlite series it doesn’t have the light up display that easily lets you see the screen in the dark and it also doesn’t adjust for distance with the flash, but it does allow to adjust flash output power and for $35 I will physically move the speedlite to save myself the money.
Loving dog mom Kendra, poses with Charlie after the boudoir shoot. One of the things Kendra and I have been chatting about was getting some photos with Charlie so this was a great opportunity. Charlie was so curious and wanted to know what was going on, but he behaved very well and just lay down beside the bed, only jumping up while Kendra was changing outfits. Boudoir photos aside, this was one of my favorite photos from our session, with these two together.
For our photo illustration assignment we had to shoot two different ideas. I originally struggled to think of ideas but then I struggled to think of ideas that I could do that wouldn’t cost money to go out and buy items that I wanted to use as props in the photo.
I knew I wanted to do something with food. I’m a server and I came up with the idea to photograph how silly I find it when sometimes customers cut corners saying that they’re eating healthy because they ordered a diet soda or get angry when we don’t have low fat ranch dressing- and then order an all fried meal. The most difficult part of this assignment was really just my boyfriend getting to the first round of donuts before I had a chance to photograph them. That, and now I’m finding bits of bacon all over the carpet.
“Cheating on your diet” A maple bacon blueberry filled donut wrapped in lettuce is still a donut, even if there is lettuce. Don’t cut corners, if you’re going to cheat on your diet then cheat. Web MD recommends not cutting out unhealthy foods entirely because it will lead to fixation and then splurging. This image was lit from the front left and another light to support and fill in the shadows coming from the right.
The inspiration for my second assignment was from an article I stumbled upon while scrolling through my homepage on Facebook. The article talked about this television show in Morocco that did a makeup tutorial for women to hide signs of domestic abuse. That really resonated with me about abuse being normalized and almost brushed under the rug and I wanted to do my assignment that showed the pressure women feel to keep quiet about abuse.
“Concealing the abuse” Merissa Faye models cosmetic makeup and makeup imitating what a punch may look like. Models Taylor Kring and Kendra Peabody mimic the “shh” gesture to the pressure women feel to keep quiet. Faye, Kring, and Peabody were each lit with two lights with snoots to directionalize lights on the faces and give the fade to black effect.
Class Photo Illustration
Our class split into two groups to compete against the other for who had the best idea and execution of the illustration. And though my team lost it has what I believe a strong message of dating, then and now and how drastically it has changed over the years due to technology and social media.
Marshmallows melt in a peppermint hot chocolate.
The hardest part about this assignment was figuring out what I wanted to do. There is such a wide array of options to do for still life and I tried multiple ideas from shaving cream and a razor, making my boyfriend model in his blue jeans, and trying to shoot coffee, but all of those things just weren’t clicking for me at the time. So I decided to go to Target to get a little inspiration.
Target was currently in the process of getting the Christmas decor out and I wandered around looking at everything, still in the mindset I was going to do something coffee related. Maybe a french press, throw around a couple whole beans, and a big beautiful cup of steaming hot coffee. But a good chunk of my mugs have chips in them so I knew I needed a new one. And as I was walking around Target I kept seeing candy canes, peppermint, and chocolate everything. And then I couldn’t get this image of a beautiful cup of hot chocolate with a candy cane sticking out of it piled high with marshmallows in front of the open fire. Well, I don’t have an open fire but I ran with it anyway.
Originally I loved the idea of doing an aerial shot and shooting the image from above. I’d assembled this sort of Christmas-y cheese tray with nuts and the sort but once I started shooting the cheese and crackers didn’t really seem to fit, so I just looked for other angles. Below is my awful scribbles trying to depict what I had envisioned in my head of what the shot could look like prior to actually shooting.
I had two strobes for this assignment, my main light coming from above and left of my subject and another from behind right. In the final image I noticed you don’t see as much of my backlight considering I actually had a pourer for milk directly right of the mug, so it blocked out a lot of that light. Still I’m happy with the result because I rather like the shadows caused by the candy cane and towers of marshmallows.