Hello everyone, my name is julieanne kost.
First of all, I want to thank Scott for letting me play in his sandbox today!
I imagine that the best way to get started is to tell you a little about myself. Then, I’d like to talk about a small number of images that I’ve chosen from some current personal projects. And finally, I’ll leave you with three suggestions geared towards staying creative. So now that we know where we’re going, lets get started.
I have always been interested in photography and grew up in a household that had the perfect combination of left and right brain influences. My father is an engineer: very logical, pragmatic and disciplined in his work and he always encouraged me to master the technology necessary for a particular field of study. We had a darkroom set up in the laundry room and he taught me how to develop and print my images. My mother is a creative, imaginative and free thinking artist who encouraged me to explore different ways to express myself and communicate through many channels including music, drawing and photography.
During college I continued taking both art and photography classes along with the required units to complete a degree in psychology. However, upon graduation, instead of continuing my education to become a therapist, I took a position at a medical imaging company where I was responsible for the capture, editing and archiving of a large library of ultrasound images while I pursued a degree in photography at a local community college.
In 1992, I learned of an opening for a Technical Support Specialist supporting Photoshop and Premiere at Adobe Systems and jumped at the opportunity. I have been with Adobe ever since. I spent the first two years in technical support, them moved to the Customer Education Team, and finally landed on the Photoshop team as a product evangelist. Although I am not technically using my degree, I still utilize my early study of human behavior to try to find ways to simplify complex techniques and procedures as I present seminars and workshops about Photoshop and Lightroom at industry events, workshops and schools around the world.
About my photography.
One of my longest, ongoing personal projects centers on photographing from airplanes. For as long as I can remember, I have been afraid to fly. Of course this presents a wee bit of a problem as I board a plane almost every week. To try to overcome this fear (or at least distract me from thinking too much about it), I started taking photographs of the view from the window seat. I discovered that putting a camera between myself and the (very distant) ground below, enabled me to separate myself from the scene and converted my roll as an active participant into a passive observer. After a number of years of shooting and editing, I published “Window Seat – the Art of Digital Photography and Creative Thinking”. But that didn’t end the project; today I still leave the window shade open preferring to watch the incredible view from 30,000 feet over the pre-packaged in-flight entertainment.
Needless to say, I have very little control over these aerial images. Certainly I choose when to shoot, how to set the camera and (sometimes) which side of the plane to sit, but I have no control over the route, the weather, time of day I need to travel, the clarity (or lack there of) of the window etc.. This is a very passive project; one that I thoroughly enjoy because flying is my time, as an introvert, to recharge. With earplugs in, I can literally watch the world go by, quiet and serene. I don’t allow myself to get frustrated if I don’t see something unique or if we fly at night. Instead I look at each image that I am able to capture as a gift that I am given.
Another personal project evolved out of a game that Jack Davis suggested I try. To get me to step out of my comfort zone, he challenged me to take photographs out of a moving vehicle – without looking through the viewfinder. I just looked at him. “Really?” I asked. “Take a photograph without looking at what you’re shooting?” It sounded like crazy talk. However, it only took one look at the images that he had captured, and I was converted. Now, I’m hooked and in the final stages of a book project.
Similar to the aerial images, I have almost no control when shooting from the passenger seat of a car or train. I have learned to appreciate giving up control in order to allow myself permission to simply experiment and take chances with my imagery. It’s the spontaneity and coincidence of this type of work that results in the gift of capturing a vision that would otherwise go unseen. The majority of these images have little work done beyond what could traditionally be done in the darkroom (cropping, dodging and burning, color and tonal corrections). All of the motion is captured in camera. I also uphold a self-imposed rule with this project – there are no “go-backs” – meaning that if I miss the shot when I pass by, I can’t have the driver turn around and try again. I encourage all of you to try this – but you must find SOMEONE ELSE to drive the car! I find that these personal projects are a fundamental way to keep myself energized, try something new and expand my skills. Plus, they help prevent burnout by means of a non-work related creative outlet.
The composite work that I do is on the other end of the spectrum. I am able to control the exact elements that I want to merge together to form a cohesive message. The interactive process of selecting and assembling images is one of the most challenging and thought-provoking aspects of my creative exploration. As a result, I am able to create a composite image more powerful than its individual parts. Although overall, the images may appear serene and calm, the act of creation is anything but passive. I begin with a concept in mind, yet I may not know exactly how the pieces will fit together at the end. As the image takes on its own life, I often allow myself to explore additional directions, sometimes finding that the final image only faintly resembles the one first imagined. This type of photography mentally challenges me the most.
With this type of work, the digital manipulation is essential to my process. Photoshop’s ability to layer images and blend them together seamlessly is critical. Obviously I’m not compositing images together to imitate reality. In fact, quite the opposite. I am creating my own. In these images, I am taking what I see in my mind, my dreams, thoughts and feelings, and making an image that communicates that concept or vision. Here, a computer isn’t merely a shortcut for what is possible with a camera. Instead, it’s about exploring what’s possible in no other medium and taking advantage of the flexibility and options for creative exploration. The computer has been properly relegated to being one of many tools in the process. However, with the digital realm being so forgiving and offering so many options for exploration, it is here that discipline becomes part of the challenge. The paint is never dry, the exposure is never fixed, and the print is never final. All of it can be done differently at any point. Here, the art form is knowing when to stop. It’s about realizing when you’ve said what you set out to say.
I have several goals that I try to accomplish every year that I would also like to share today. They may not be new ideas for most of you but I will challenge you to make them a part of your creative being. They have helped me to improve my photography, my outlook on life and (I’d like to believe) myself as a person.
1) Fix whatever you complain about the most.
Every year, this is the single most challenging task for me do. But I do it. I fix the most “broken” part of my life. I challenge you to do it too. First you have to identify what “it” is that you complain about the most. What do you spend the most amount of energy worrying about that is within your control to change? Make a list, and write them down. And don’t be concerned; the list is just for you so don’t be afraid to note whatever you’re thinking. Then, prioritize the list. Sleep on it. Finally, identify the one thing that you expend the most negative energy on and make it your goal to change.
You know that it will be difficult, but imagine how much more energy you would have if you didn’t have to worry about “it.” Think of the weight being lifted off of your shoulders (like taking off a soggy, musty wool coat). Consider how much more time you would have to spend thinking about the positive things in your life and how much more creative you could be without “it” bringing you down.
In the past, I have “fixed” a wide range of things that I complain about. One year it was my diet (eating healthy on the road is always a challenge but I found that it really can be done), last year I required myself to spend a predetermined number of hours in my studio working on my own personal projects (it is really helpful to make the goal quantitative so that you can easily measure your success).
This year, there are two things in my life that I’m “fixing” to free up my time and my mind.
1) The completion of a 5-year house restoration project. This year I renovated the garage and landscaped the back yard. It has consumed every bit of my time and will be such a relief when it is complete. I am anxious to shift focus and spend my evenings and weekends on other things.
2) I also finally took the time to have some basic legal documents drawn up – including all of those things that I didn’t want to think about such as power of attorney, wills and trusts, advance health care directives and burial instructions. Finishing this gave me peach of mind that if something were to happen unexpectedly that all of the necessary paperwork is in place.
What will you do?
2) Take up an interest in something that you know nothing about.
This is another yearly objective I take on. I was noticing that as I became more experienced in my career, I wasn’t learning nearly as much as when I was a beginner. And this wasn’t because I knew everything, far from it –it was because I had become hesitant to ask questions. So I took up something I knew nothing about so that I could be a beginner again and exercise my mind and think about new things.
This notion of continual learning isn’t new and, in fact, is very similar to the “do something different every day” assignment. This exercise challenges you to change something (no matter how big or small) every day. For example, you can change the route that you take to work, eat something different for breakfast, listen to a different radio station etc. Both exercises are designed to break you of your habits (and trust me, humans are, by nature, creature of habit!) so that you see things with a fresh perspective. This is why I go out of my to try to see different locations when I’m in a city. Visiting a museum or a park for example exposes me to new thoughts and ideas, enables me to look at things with a new perspective and perhaps makes it possible for me see things from another persons point of view.
Is there something that you have wanted to learn? What would make it possible to pursue? Could give up time in front of the TV in order to change your physical perspective by learning to scuba dive or fly an airplane; maybe you’ll change your mental perspective by joining a book club where they read autobiographies instead of fiction (or vice versa!). Maybe you’ll decide to try to view something from another person’s perspective by volunteering at a community garden or taking a class in another medium such as painting, pottery or woodworking. Remember the goal here is not necessarily to become an expert, but to learn about something new, something unrelated to you normal daily life to allow you to see things differently.
3) Master your tools.
If the reason that I suggested that you to learn something new is to broaden your view of the world, I must also ask you – even more fervently, to master the tools necessary for your craft. In photography, it is critical that you know your camera, lighting, and post processing in the most intimate detail possible. Of course (as most of you already know), mastering any skill takes time. Few individuals (if anyone) will “master” anything overnight. Dancers, musicians, writers, athletes, pilots- almost anyone who is at the top of their field will admit that they have devoted a significant portion of their lives to reach their peak. Sometimes it’s difficult to remember, in this day of instant gratification, constant distraction and over stimulus, that it takes time to really gain the knowledge necessary to excel in your profession.
Mastering your tools will make your life easier and cut down on the amount of stress that occurs when you are faces with a challenge in your work. For example, in my composite images, I know that if I truly learn Photoshop’s layering, masking and compositing tools then I will be able to create the image that see in my mind with the least amount of frustration. When I have a idea in my head, and I want to see it come to life in the computer, the less time I have to think about the technical process, the more natural the creative process can become. Knowing how the tools work also enables me to add my personal style and, when met with obstacles, give me the resources to overcome them.
And since studies have shown that we learn much more rapidly through play than through work – no matter what you’re trying to learn (perhaps the latest version of Photoshop or Lightroom), make it fun! Give yourself a personal assignment and be flexible so that you allow yourself to try new things. And don’t feel that you have to learn everything by yourself. Learn to collaborate. The successful photographers that I know freely share technical information with one another. They know that their most valuable assets are in the way that they are able to solve problems, their unique vision of the world and their ability to work with clients.
I think I’ve rambled long enough for today, so with that, lets call it a wrap. I hope you found the information meaningful in some small way and can use it to advance your personal work.
You can find more information about Julieanne as well as tips, tricks and tutorials on Photoshop and Lightroom at jkost.com, follow her blog, follow her on Twitter, or view her portfolio.