I first heard about this concept. Living the Photo Artistic Life, through Sebastian Michael’s course, Photoshop Fine Art GrungeHe later started a blog, entitled Quill and Camera. The blog, is all about living the Photo Artistic Life. The blog is a place to showcase his students’ work, especially those from his advanced program Awake. In this program, over the course of a year, students further their skills, including taking it to a professional level should they so aspire. He calls it, and challenges all the students to be, ‘Living the Photo Artistic Life.’ Each month, he interviews a student and among other questions, he always asks “What does living the photo artistic life mean to you?” These days, I am very focused on this question. I am not sure that I know the answer, but the question is right there, bidding me to explore it further.

Shift Art challenge
The Eyes of the Bridge. A Shift Art Challenge. They provide you with about 20 creative commons photos and you must compose a photo using a certain amount from each category. This is a composite of 5 photos by their rules.


I never thought of myself as creative. I remember playing Pictionary once and I had to draw the Eiffel Tower, or a close facsimile of it. Pretty easy for most folks. But there I stood, in front of the group for the elapsed time of 3 minutes, tapping the board furiously, pointing at that thing I had drawn in the middle of the paper. “Can’t you see it?” I thought as I tapped in frustration,. Okay, I’ll add the Fleur-de-lis. Not quite the flag of France, but I couldn’t remember what it looked like right then. “Still no? Are you kidding me? Just look HERE!” I thought as I tapped even more furiously, watching the sand slowly fade into nothingness. Times up. Now for the embarrassing moment. After telling them all it’s the Eiffel Tower, silence bestows across the room as they look, first tilting their head this way, and then tilting it that way. Right at that moment I knew art was not in my future. And with that, I closed myself off to any artistic endeavor. I was good at athletics, so I just defined myself as an athlete, competing in swimming, track and field, baseball, and soccer. I excelled in these. And I never looked back at art. Not once.

When I was first introduced to photography through Sue and our friends, back when I was only the chauffeur, I would have many debates about what photography was and was not. Even though I never picked up a camera, I apparently had quite a lot of opinions on this. I didn’t believe you should alter photographs. A true photo and a true photographer did everything in-camera and accepted the results that came out of the camera. Anything else, like mucking about in Lightroom or Photoshop with a photo, was crossing the line into another area, like desktop publishing, or magic or something. I didn’t even consider it art. It was just plain old cheating! That’s what I thought they were all doing, yes cheating. And I would tell them all around me, their photos did not deserve the awards, recognition and such, because they had cheated by adding contrast, vibrance and what-have-you. I wasn’t sure how to classify their work, but it was NOT photography!  Little did I know how much and how soon my opinion was about to change.

All it took was the introduction to Lightroom. I like seeing how a little contrast, bringing up the shadows and reducing the highlights and a tad of sharpening can really just ‘finish’ a photo, or so I rationalized. Then I purchased presets for Lightroom. Those single button access to hundreds of effects. It was pushing the envelope just a little, but it was still just adding those ‘finishing touches,’ or so I thought. Then all out denial was firmly put to rest though, once I started using the plug-in program, OnOne. This program allowed me to add single effects and filters, piling them up any which way I wanted. I discovered a world whereby creative ‘touches’ were added, that at times, could dramatically change the outcome of a photo. And that was the turning point. I loved what I was seeing and stopped the debating cycle. Adding textures, something you can’t do in-camera, just could no longer be justified. Yes, I was being hypocritical as Sue loved to point out during those times. Yes, I’ve changed my stance and my opinion, Sue and friends. People can change, grow and come out somewhere else. It’s progress!

So, it was easy for me to jump into Photoshop, Nik software and Topaz. I openly was talking about post-processing and where you could take a photo. Gone were the days of old simple photography, replaced by this very fun and intriguing foray where I never quite knew where I would land with a photo. So when I was introduced to Photoshop Artistry: Fine-Art Composition, it was just another small step to make to now creating composites. Besides having photos that looked different and definitely ‘cool’, I was having such fun. It was challenging to see what I could do and where I could go with photos. But the best part of it I was creating and being creative. I was told by Sebastian Michaels (the maker of the course) that it was art, unique, different and complete. A one-of-a-kind photo. Me. Yes, me! Sometimes I still have to pinch myself when I see what I have done and where I finally land with a photo. It’s not so much the visual, cause I’m still a baby at this and have more misses than hits, but it’s how I FEEL about it. I FEEL creative. I FEEL like an artist. This, in and of itself, has been very exciting for me. I had never, ever, imagined that I would create anything! But here I’ve been, feeling like an artist and creating art. How cool is that?

So thus far, when I think about living the photo artistic life, it means for me living in the feeling of being an artist and creating art. I’m not always able to find the time to create, the time to sit at the computer and just work with photos, but I constantly look around my world with new eyes, artistic eyes. I sometimes take photos for use in a future project, focusing on just a piece of that photo, maybe a bird or a person sitting on a bench. I see light now in a poster or in a movie and see how the maker used it for ambiance, or to highlight something and how the capture impacts the final result. It means thinking about the next project, video and/or lesson I have waiting for me and wondering what the assignment will be?  And most importantly, it means I am almost as excited to return from my road trip planned in the East Coast with friends this year, as I am to begin it. You see, it is because when I come back, I plan to renew my lessons and progress some more along the course of Photoshop: Fine-Art Grunge. And I will have so many new photos to use for my new composites and assignments. Living the Photo Artistic Life to me, means being excited with the anticipation of the next time I have when I’m not on duty or bound by obligations, to be able to sit at my computer and just play with photos and create. I can’t wait.

So what does living the Photo Artistic Life mean for you? I’d love to know.

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