2013 September » You Can Sleep When You're Dead: Blog by Colleen Miniuk

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Sep 252013
AHWP Womens Retreat_Silly

In accordance with tradition on all of my photography workshops, our group poses for a “silly” group photo on the shoreline of the Colorado River in Glen Canyon.

This past weekend, 17 enthusiastic women embarked on a remarkable four-day photographic journey to Page, Arizona on the third Arizona Highways Photography Workshops(AHPW), “Women’s Photography Retreat.”  Offered in a different location each year, this year our group marveled not only at classic locations like Horseshoe Bend and Lower Antelope Canyon, but also lesser-known spots like the depths of Glen Canyon on the Colorado River from a jumbo raft and the geological “teepees” of Little Cut.

AHPW_WPR_Everyones Own Vision

Everyone following their own vision while rafting down the Colorado River in Glen Canyon, Arizona.

During our location visits and classroom sessions, we reviewed photography techniques like conveying time through slowing our shutter speeds, getting closer to our foreground subjects and maximizing our depth-of-field, and taking test shots at high ISO speeds to determine the proper settings for long exposures of the night sky.  We also held discussions about we can gain inspiration from learning about the history of women in photography as well as how women photographers may see differently.  In between, we swapped “interesting” life stories (some involving things like cats and microwaves…) and loads of belly-aching laughs.  But most importantly, this workshop is – and has always been – about empowering women to try new things by pushing the limits of what we think we’re capable of in both photography and life.

Although the entire experience was unforgettable, what will certainly go down as one of my favorite memories of my photography career is our hike and night photography session at the Toadstools hoodoos in Utah. To watch the women light paint, photograph the Milky Way, and then hike back in the dark under the full moon light – all experiences some had never had until this past weekend – was incredibly rewarding.

We set out about an hour and a half before sunset to allow ample time to wander among this geologically rich area.  After photographing the hoodoos bathed in direct sunlight at sundown, the group refueled during our picnic dinner before starting our night’s activities.

AHPW_WPR_Wiggle the Pickle

While waiting for the night sky to fall and the moon to rise, we ate a picnic dinner on the rocks. Somehow, this led to a suggestion to “wiggle your pickle.” And if you’re going to wiggle your pickle among a group of photographers, someone is bound to get “THE” shot of everyone wiggling their pickle!

Since many of the ladies had never photographed in the dark or painted with light, we began with a quick introductory session around one of the clusters of hoodoos.  In a line, we focused (figuratively and literally) on composing the frame before losing daylight.  As the sun fell well below the horizon, the entire group tested their exposure settings starting at ISO 1600, an f/8 aperture, and 30 seconds shutter speed – an arbitrary setting to serve as a starting point for how much light our camera would collect during that time frame.  Based on the histogram, we could add or subtract light accordingly to record our vision.

As soon as everyone dialed to the right settings and achieved sharp focus, I counted “1-2-3” and everyone snapped the shutter at the same time.  During the exposure, I painted the hoodoos from the left side with about five to seven seconds of light from a strong LED flashlight.  After the exposure, we all reviewed our histogram to determine whether our cameras had collected enough ambient light and flash light.  Then, we’d repeat.

After a number of snaps, a large, unsightly shadow line revealed itself at the base of the tallest hoodoo.  Because the neighboring smaller hoodoo prevented the flash light from hitting the taller hoodoo, the light needed to originate from the front – not the side.  Because of the longer exposure, I could solve this minor problem by running into the frame with my flashlight while the group’s shutters were released.

On my first attempt, I painted the hoodoos from the side for a few seconds and then danced into the frame (“Like a gazelle!”), painting the tallest hoodoo at the base to eliminate the shadow.   A quick review of the photos indicated the tallest hoodoo had received an excessive amount of light, so we needed to repeat the process with less flash light time.

On the next attempt, one second I was painting the hoodoos as I had down countless times before.  The next second, I was chewing on sand.  By taking a slight deviation to the right in my path in order to distance myself and my flash from the hoodoos to achieve less light, my right foot dropped into a two-foot deep trench and my entire body fell forward into the higher ground on the opposite side.  Not wanting to ruin the entire group’s photo, I yelled, “I’m OK!  KEEP SHOOTING!!”

(The hilarity of this statement becomes more evident when you consider the entire group had released their shutter for 30 seconds, making any adjustments to their shot impossible.  What were they going to do then?  Change their ISO?!)

With the flash light still moving in my right hand, I used my left hand to pick myself up so that I could continue running across the frame to paint the shadow area with light.  After the exposure completed and many laughs about my tumble, “Keep shooting!” quickly became our trip’s motto.

And what a fitting rally cry this was not only for this trip and all the AHPW Women’s Photography Retreats, but also for life in general.  When something brings you down, hose yourself off, get up, and try again.  When something gets in your way, walk around it.  When something does not go the way you hoped, try something else.  No matter the situation or obstacle, personal growth and success comes when we keep going.  Keep trying.  And always KEEP SHOOTING!


P.S. If you or someone you know would like to join us on the next AHPW Women’s Photo Retreat in Verde Valley/Sedona in April 2014, visit the AHPW website at ahpw.org/workshops/2014/Sedona-Arizona-Womens-Photo-Retreat-2014-04-25/ for more information and to register.  This workshop sells out quickly, so if you’re interested, I’d consider registering as soon as possible to reserve your spot!

Sep 102013

My new book, “Photographing Acadia National Park: The Essential Guide to When, Where, and How” is scheduled for release in early February 2014!

Yes, it’s been awhile since I’ve last posted…

I could attempt to explain my temporary three-month absence from the blogging world with my normal, “Life’s so crazy right now.”  And indeed it is!  After making a temporary move to Oregon three months ago, my husband and I are finally starting to feel settled into our new surroundings (only to start discussing our plans for returning back to Arizona!). But for most of the summer, I’ve been heads-down, pouring my heart and soul into a huge project…

Since my first Artist-in-Residency with Acadia National Park in November 2009, I have dreamed of writing about my amazing experiences in the coastal park.  Initially, I thought an eBook would be the best way to share with the outside world.   During my third Artist-in-Residency this past January, though, I hemmed and hawed about whether I should produce “just” an eBook or actually print a real book as well as eBook (especially considering the incredibly positive, rewarding experience I had with my first book, “Wild in Arizona: Photographing Arizona’s Wildflowers, A Guide to When, Where, and How,” www.wildinarizona.com).

My husband and I talked through the pros and cons of such a massive undertaking.  After perhaps sensing what my heart truly wanted, Craig encouraged me (as he often does), “You know there’s only one way to do this.  Go big or go home.”

And so, in my enthusiasm to heed his advice, I wrote 27,000 words in the final two weeks of my Artist-in-Residency!

Since then, I’ve been hiding out to write, edit, write, process images, and write some more with the goal of publishing a new printed book (and eBook!) in hopes of helping others enjoy and explore Acadia National Park as I have fortunately done over the past four years.   We’re far enough down the path now that I’m happy to announce that my “Photographing Acadia National Park: The Essential Guide to When, Where, and How” is coming in early February 2014!

And “the band’s back together” too to make it happen!  As with our wildflower guidebook, our amazing focus group reviewed our layout mockups a couple months ago, offering much needed direction and suggesting interesting new ideas for my project.  A huge thanks goes out to Ambika Balasubramaniyan, Erik Berg, Jacque Miniuk, Bianca Antinore Miniuk, Denise Schultz, Kerry Smith, and Floris Van Breugel for providing their honest feedback.

As a result of their input, the completed book layouts look incredible, thanks to the efforts of my truly talented friend, graphic design extraordinaire, and fellow photographer, Paul Gill.  My unbelievably keen editor and friend, Erik Berg, is currently taking a red pen to my first draft as I plug photos into the layouts.  I’ll spend much of October in Acadia National Park finishing my research and snapping final images before sending the final package off to the printer in early December.

To help you plan your own photographic adventure to Acadia, this new guidebook will feature:

  • 224 pages with over 250 color photos.
  • 50 locations with historical/natural background information; seasonal events for flowers, fall colors, and wildlife; photography tips to get your creative juices flowing; and driving directions.
  • 18-page Photography Basics Section, covering exposure, composition, filters, natural light, reflectors and diffusers, artificial flash, and more!
  • 12 “Making the Photo” stories.
  • A “Shoot Summary” to help plan your trip.
  • A  6″ x 9″ soft, UV coated cover for easy toting in your camera backpack.

One of the highlights of my entire photography career thus far occurred during my second residency in October 2010, when I helped to establish the Photojournalism class for the Schoodic Education Adventure (SEA) program.  SEA is a residential program, where 4th through 8th graders visit the Schoodic Education and Research Center to learn about science and nature in Acadia National Park.  Because I believe in the profound difference this curriculum makes in our future generations, I intend to donate 10% of this book’s profit to the SEA program.  For more information about this program, visit www.nps.gov/acad/forteachers/classrooms/schoodic-education-adventure.htm.

In a few weeks, I will be kicking off an Indiegogo campaign in hopes of involving my valued community in this wild dream.  Aimed at raising money to fund the book’s printing, I’ll be offering the chance to pre-order books at a discount, purchase prints from Acadia for your home at a special price,  get your name listed in the book, and even schedule an all-inclusive 4-day photography workshop extravaganza with yours truly as your guide in Acadia National Park!

I’ll announce the timeline for our pre-ordering activities here on our blog as well as on our new website, www.photographingacadia.com.  However, if you’re interested in being the first to know, please shoot me an email at cms@analemmapress.com.