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One of a kind…

This is Jess Brown, and her dog Shortie, in her Petaluma workshop where she handmakes the most beautiful and ecologically fashionable dolls I have ever met. Her inspiration for the dolls came from too many cashmere sweaters shrunk in the wash and a desire to have beautiful, yet functional, handmade dolls for her daughter.

Why shouldn’t dolls wear silk and cashmere too? Especially when the fabric would otherwise end up in the landfill. Jess takes leftover fabrics from local designers and combines them with fabric cut from clothes she finds in local thrift store to make the hair and clothes for each doll.

Jess’s wonderful dolls are gaining a lot of attention, nationally and internationally, so our local artisan is very very busy these day. And my recommendation, grab one while you can, because they won’t last long. You can find Jess and her dolls (and lots of other ridiculously cute children’s clothing) at Maude, her store inĀ  Petaluma on Kentucky Street.

This is Mima, the original doll Jess created for her daugher, who has had lots and lots of love over the years. If you click on the photo, you can read the very cute note Jess’s daughter left on her sewing machine. It is written in Mima’s words.

Making Men in Hairnets Look Good….

My most wonderful friend Claudia, who was a classmate of mine at the London College of Communication last year, was getting married in June… and she wanted me to come back to London for her wedding. So as a way to get me there, she asked me to photograph her wedding. At first I said, “No way.” Because with the American dollar being almost half the value of the British pound, there was no way I could afford to go… but then I got creative.

Before I went to London, I sent out a few eager emails to everyone I know saying that I was on my way and ready to work. Luckily for me, I have another wonderful friend in London, and she works for Gabrielle Shaw Communications, a PR company that I did work for while I was living there last year, and sure enough they had some gigs for me.

The first of the two gigs was for Bio Green Dairy, they produce a yogurt drink and they wanted to have images that show that they are a small family-like business and that they do all the work from start to finish. The owner saw my website of children and weddings and (somehow) thought I would be a good fit.

I was very excited to go to a yogurt factory, it would be my first factory photo shoot. But as soon as I walked into the factory, I realized I had a big challenge ahead of me. How do you make an all white room, men wearing all white jump suits, and a white product look good in florescent lighting. And to make it more challenging, I arrived without a flash (because I was living out of a bag and spread between three houses, in three different parts of London, I didn’t have my flash with me… opps.)

So, with no other options, I put my camera’s ISO on 3200, my aperture as low as it could go and I held the camera very very still. And then when I returned home, I searched the Internet to find Photoshop techniques that would turn my horrendously lit and very uninteresting photos into something, anything more. Relying on Photoshop is something new to me. Up until now, I have not manipulated my photos, besides the typical darkroom maneuvers, but this was an emergency, and I have to say, I think it worked out better than I was expecting. If you are interested in knowing the Photoshop trick click here.

And this time, I am sad to say, the Rolleiflex did not succeed. There was just not enough light, color or contrast to make even a black-and-white film photo look good…. oh well, the Rollei can’t win every time.

On a sad note, the only cow at this once dairy farm is now on Bio Green’s truck. The cows, where Bio Green used to get their milk, are now gone and instead the rancher is raising horses. As a result of the loss of local agriculture, Bio Green now has to order powdered milk for their yogurt.

Which would make you want to pick it up?

So, it is cover time for Jonah’s book. They want color, veggies, something different, something to show the bounty of the farms and something to compliment the title, which is: Field Days.

This was my first attempt… any thoughts?

The one above would probably have some cropping. I don’t know if it is cover potential, but I am proud of it.

Then there is this field photo, or the one that I posted long ago…. click here.

Thanks for voting!!

Photo lessons

I have a fabulous young photography student, who I have been working with for probably a year if you add it all up. And today our task was to photograph one object in as many different ways as we could. So we played with one of her dolls, who was most agreeable, even when she was dropped on her head.

This cute doll, called “Girl in a Bear Suit” was made by a talented artist, Heidi Iverson, who sells her felted artwork at Knitterly in Petaluma. She was so cute that I couldn’t resist taking my own. It was a great lesson in product photography and finding good light.

Ecological Arts – Simple is Better

Recently I received a phone call from a young woman who asked if I could photograph her textiles. My immediate response was, “Well, you may want a studio photographer. Someone who is better at making things look perfect. I only use natural light and my favorite studio is a barn.”

And she said, “Perfect.”

Then she went on to describe what she does and I said, “Perfect.”

Rebecca Burgess is her name, and Ecological Arts is her business. Rebecca creates textiles with fiber that is produced and dyed using sustainable practices. An example of a sustainable fiber that she uses is vegan silk. Vegan silk is made from cocoons after the worms have emerged; instead of the traditional silk that is made by boiling the cocoons with the the worms still in them…. a fun new farming practice to add to the list.

So Rebecca is doing super cool work with communities around the world, including the community she lives in, and she is making beautiful works of art that she wanted photographed in a natural way…. so we went to the barn. I tried a couple of other spots first, and they were ok… but the barn was the best. Simple, complimentary colors, and without wicker furniture to move out of the way.

This last photo is cool, because she is dying the wool with native California plants like coyote brush and coffee berry. She wanted this photo to demonstrate how protecting our native plants and planting with our native plants is not only beneficial for the soil, water table, and native animals, but it also can be fun to use for your next sustainable wool creation. Yay Rebecca!

Featuring Bulky Knits

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These are some of the fun shots from our Wool Farm Fashion – Shoot #2 (to see session #1 click here.)This time we were doing product shots, which isn’t as fun for me as working with farmers/models, but it is still pretty fun. It is much harder than you would think to make everything look perfect but natural and beautiful at the same time. But I think we are off to a good start.

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Marlie was inspired by the rows farmers make in their agricultural fields near her home in West Marin for this sweater.

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Not only is Marlie a fiber artist, but she is also a fantastic ceramicist. So it is really cool that she has found a way to combine her two arts into one, like in the sweater above.

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And finally Cassie, the love-monster, helps us out by doing what she does best. Although, you can’t tell from the photo, Cassie is completely stressed out at this moment. I saw her sleeping there and decided it would be a good photo… and of course as soon as we starting moving unwanted background objects out of the way, she decided she should move too… so we had to convince her that staying still was a better idea. In the end, I think she understood us when we promised her lots of diet breaking treats as soon as it was all over.

To find more of Marlie’s handwovens and ceramic creations go to her store in Pt Reyes Station… Blackmountain Weavers.


Soulcraft meets the Rollei…

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and sheep….

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….and chickens.

I spent last Saturday hanging out with Sean Walling, the soul behind Soulcraft bikes. He wanted photos that were realistic and natural that he could use to promote his custom built road and mountain bikes on his website. But Sean was also open to playing with different set-ups and he was definitely into using the natural environment around his shop, which included lot of critters. The chicken photo is for Sean, because at this point he called me out by saying, “This is for your blog, this isn’t for me anymore.” And well, maybe it is a little of both. I mean who would not want to ride a bike that is chicken friendly. Everyone loves chicken. And we happen to live in what was once the chicken capital of the world, so really, it was unavoidable.

Unfortunately, there was not a cloud in the sky all day, so I spent most of the day setting up photos in the open shade behind the studio and working with the natural light inside his shop. But the real fun started as the sun was setting, and the photos I took in the final 30 minutes of sunlight with the Rolleiflex far surpass anything I captured in the 6 hours prior. Now I know why some photographers don’t even bother with the middle parts of the day.

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And now for a direct comparisson between the Rolleiflex and the Canon 5D…. Same settings, same light, same position…

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Which do you prefer?


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