"Welcome to my Blog! Here is where I will be posting information about my love of photography , which will include some of my Client portrait sessions , my favorite gear, workshops or just some thoughts about my life as a photographer. Thanks so much for stopping by and visiting, you are always a welcome guest! "
I just want to thank my 'Little Neighbor Bud' who has been a driving force in my photography for 14 years ! Little Cassa Marie Smith started modeling for me when she was only 4 years old. I was driving around the corner of my block when I saw this adorable little tow headed children playing in the golden leaves of a beautiful tree behind my neighbors house. It was such a joyful sight that I pulled over in my red Cherokee Jeep (which I drove at the time ) and asked little Cassa if she would run and ask her Mom if I could take some pictures of her and her brother. Cassa has 3 brothers , Micheal, John and Chris. (Chris was sick at the time and inside ) Cassa's Mom came out of her house (which was right across the street from the tree ) and she said "Oh! You're that artist ,I heard about ,that lives around the corner ain't you " I said "Yes, that's me". and she said she was scared at first, that some stranger would want to take pix of her kids, but she said she knew I was a photographer and she would be glad to give me permission . She asked if she and her fella could also join in for a family picture. I said "Well , of course " and that is how it all began !
I still have the very first pictures I took of Cassa and her family (except for little Chris ) on that day . They are on an old computer , but I will come back later and post them here for you to see how much she has grown and how far we have come together !
My daughter was around ten years old , at the time, and of course I really wanted her to be my 'model' but she would have nothing to do with the idea~! Although I did actually get a cover with an image of my daughter that I took the day she got braces . It was snowing and she was covering her mouth and I snapped a pix of her! Funny how that snap shot won a contest and ended up on the cover of "Digital Photo" magazine. So I did manage to sneak in a few shots, over the years with my daughter and a few did win awards and a couple of covers !
Cassa was such a natural in front of the camera, and I think it was because I was not her Mom, that helped her to just be natural and enjoy the experience. I do think all children are more self conscious when their parent is behind the camera. This is especially true in pre adolescent age and into the teen years.
In the first 5 years or so , of photographing Cassa , so many people just fell in love with the timeless images of her and many remarked , how nostalgic they were. I think , the fact , that Cassa and her brothers ,reminded folks of the innocence of a childhood playing outside , climbing trees and such experiencing a simple , outdoorsy childhood which seems so rare during these new times .
In 2007 when Cassa was around 8 years old , she was playing with an old Kodak 'Hawkeye' camera , just like the kind I played with as child . She was on my porch snapping and playing with the flash and having a grand old time watching the flash shoot across the yard. I snapped a picture of her looking at the back of the camera with a curious expression of "Where is the LCD?" Ha! I edited this picture in Photoshop adding a blue sky background . (which sort of became my signature look during those years ) and I entered that picture in the NAPP (National Association of Photoshop Professionals ) . My daughter came in the room just as I was about to hit the 'enter' button. ( she was 16 at the time ) and she said "That picture is going to win grand prize Momma!". I turned around and said "Do you really think so? This is an international contest and thousands of folks will be entering !" , she replied "I think that is the winner!" Yay ! Good vibes from my sweet daughter ! As I hit the 'send' button. I whispered "God send", and then went on about my life.
A few months later I got an email saying I had won the Grand prize , which was a trip to Rome , a thousand dollars and some gear ! I figured it was spam and so I deleted it. But the email kept coming and i was getting a lot of Phone calls from California that I did not answer , as I assumed it was a marketer .
Finally , when the nest email came, I answered by saying "Is this real?" and they replied "Yes, we have been trying to call you for like 6 times !" I was like "Okay, call me right now ." still not sure it was real. But when she called and said "Susi, all the judges just loved your picture "Little Hawkeye" and you are the grand prize winner !! I literally fell to the floor and tried not to cry!
I picked up my daughter from school and took her to 'Joey's Country Kitchen ' in Rural Retreat and as we were waiting for our food, I drew a map of Italy and an airplane on the napkin and scooted it over to her . I said "You were right about that picture I entered " . She looked at me with her mouth dropped and I jumped up and down and started dancing ! She said "Mother, please don't embarrass me." in true teen fashion ! HA!
The Photoshop User magazine sent us to Rome in July with a thousand to spend and asked me to submit a picture for the cover. I sent them a picture of my daughter. We had the most amazing time in Rome and we still wish we could go back and stay much longer ! A week was marvelous , but we did not want to go home so soon ! Its a trip and memory that will always be precious to my daughter and I!
After that big win, I started getting quite a following of folks in photography forums asking me to teach them Photoshop skills , such as the painting and background changing I was doing at the time. A photographer , by the name of Dave Harvey , who was a member of the 'Digital Image Cafe' , and whom had taken a liking to my work, called me and said "You need to be producing teaching DVD's !" I explained that I did not have a strong enough computer to carry the software needed to make screen videos. A week later , there was a huge box on my front porch! Not only did Dave build me a strong computer (which I still have ) but he loaded the software that I needed to make the teaching DVDs. There was a note that said " You owe me nothing , except to be the first person who gets your DVDs". Wow!! what a kind and generous man he was . (Dave unfortunately passed a couple years ago. He sent me a FB message days before saying "Be well, be happy'. ) I will never forget his kindness and Dave was a very talented portrait photographer , who taught me a lot about lenses and light and how there are no compromises with either. Thank you Dave! You were one of the best!
With my new DVD teaching Career I experienced , finally a comfortable income, and as a single mom, this was truly a god send. I helped put my daughter through college with the savings I put away and was able to give her everything she needed during those years . It was perfect timing !
Many folks still tell me they loved my "Norman Rockwell" images, which I always find extremely flattering , as he was my hero when I was a child looking through the Saturday Evening Post magazines . Cassa and her brothers, were the perfect subjects for this nostalgic 'look'
I recently took 18 year old Cassa , to my favorite place to take portraits , and that is the beautiful Reed Creek Farm, here in Wytheville, Va.
The farm is owned by Tom and Teresa Wassum and they are kind enough to allow me access to this 200 year old amazing location on the creek.
Here are some portraits taken of beautiful Cassa. (Click to see gallery )
Thanks so much Cassa , for all the wonderful years and your eagerness to participate in so many photo sessions and your natural charm and personality in front of the camera ! Love ya girl !
We have had some darn mild weather this Fall , on up till just recently ,the cold ,wind and snow has finally hit us ! It is quite a shock after having temperatures in the 70's and now I think it's 25 degrees out there !
I started PT on my shoulder last week and the therapist is pretty happy with my range of motion ,thus far ,and hoping to have most of it back by the end of March, which will mean that I will be fired up and ready to continue on with my book project and hopefully, see that to completion by Spring or Summer of 2017 ! I am looking forward to holding that book in my hands ! If you do not know of my project , please visit Singing At The Clothesline, to read all about it !
This time of year is when the portrait area , which is my main love and expertise, comes to a stand still, and I find myself wishing for someone , anyone , to take a picture of !
I do have some models here who , I know, would be eager to assist , (as they are awesome like that ) but I hate to ask them to pose in this kind of weather ! Last year, one of my models , Audra, actually did ballet in the snow for me, and the pictures were gorgeous of her, but I felt so sorry for her to be freezing !
Audra WhiteA beautiful courageous model !
I have some portrait ideas I do want to work on, just for my own personal vision and perhaps for posters or
future books. Mostly , I just love to create portraits ! I know that has always been my drive and addiction ever since I was a child and started drawing faces as soon as I could hold a pencil. Who knows where that natural passion came from, or why it is still there? All I know is I am driven to follow this inner urge to create impact via the camera and other humans !
How I wish I had a heated barn or rustic studio during the Winter months so that I could keep this drive and these ideas satiated ! I feel so intellectually and artistically starved during the Winter ! I guess only another artist can understand what that feels like . I guess it would be like taking the guitar away from a song writer and telling him , or her, "You can't have this back until the weather gets warmer !".
However I can get out and take landscape images and drive the country side and capture the way the light hits the land and the trees and how beautifully the clouds can provide such impact to the edge of a mountain or the spike of a steeple. So, I do still have some outlet for my photography and folks seem to respond just as eagerly to local sights as they do faces . I am sure , in fact, that there are many who would rather I post only landscapes ! As long as my little mini-cooper can make it down the country roads in rough weather , and I can brave the elements , I will continue to shoot local scenery !
Barn in Wytheville
Today I have been taking the time to read some photography magazines , which is always an inspirational way to pass the time and maybe pick up some tips and some educational info along the way ! Trying to get my arm back in shape will be a long process and has limited me in many ways. However, my lighter Sony gear has really been a god send in that area !
Well, I hope you are all off to a wonderful 2016 ! I know we are always looking forward to Spring, but try not to let that make you miss the beauty of Winter and a chance to slow down a bit and think of all of our many blessing that we all have in our life ! Such as LIFE!
Thanks for checking in ! :)
12 years ago I tore my right rotator cuff. I was shooting with heavy gear, sometimes as much as 15 lbs are more around my neck and , so it was no wonder that my shoulder muscles started to feel the strain!
My right arm ended up freezing on me and I had to work with my left arm only ,and was painting a mural at Scott Memorial library up till the day before surgery.
Department of Rehab , thank god, stepped in and paid for my surgery and saved my arm ! It was a very painful process getting the full use of my arm back with 4 months of PT and a full year to see 100% range of motion restored ! I want to thank Dr Morin for doing an excellent job on my shoulder and Dept of Rehab for stepping in, when I had no insurance !
Then, this March, the same thing happened to my left shoulder . I felt a sense of dread , as I knew what I was going to have to face again ! But this time I was to finally have insurance when I turned 65 on my birthday in July. It was another rotator cuff tear and an impingement, but thank god, it was not yet frozen and so recovery would not take as long !
I had surgery October 23rd. I will have to wear an Immobilizer for 6 weeks and then 3 months of PT.
I knew I could no longer keep my beloved Canon gear, that I have been such a loyal fan of for so many years. I started researching lighter cameras and was pleasantly surprised to see that Sony had launched a line of very light mirrorless cameras ! I decided to sell and trade all my Canon gear right away and and was excited about the new Sony system that boasted about a greater dynamic range and better ISO light performance than any camera on the market !
I decided on the new Sony A7Rll and the Sony A7S ( as a back up ).
It was rough mailing out my Canon gear to new owners, but I was excited about the new lighter gear which I knew I had to adapt to . As soon as I held the Sony A7rll in my hands with the amazing sharp Sony 55 f/1.8 lens and started shooting with it, I was in love ! I tried it out ,on some portraits of friends, in low light situations and was immediately impressed with the great shadow details and how the highlights were never blown out ! The little 55 lens was the sharpest I have ever used and the focal system of the Sony camera was spot on ! I love how I can now set the camera to focus only on my models eyes and it will nail it every time ! Sony also has a great manual focus system with manual assist using color peaking and a magnifier to really see what you're focusing on !
The older camera , A7S also has a lot to brag about ! Even though it is only 12 pixels (all I need) it has the best ISO performance I have ever seen! It is pretty darn magical if you ask me ! Low noise way into the thousands ! I love the ability to shoot in very low light and still have a clean image!
Both cameras, I chose, weigh at least half what my Canon 5DMKlll weighed and the lenses are tiny compared to Canon glass !
I was concerned that such light gear could never deliver the quality I am used to, but I have been blown away by the images I am capturing with this new technology ! I think this is where we are headed in digital photography and Sony is miles ahead of the Nikon-Canon market, which I never thought I would see happen !
Sony also has an adapter so Canon lovers can still use their current lenses ! But I decided to go 100% Sony and get full use of the lighter Sony Lenses and give my neck and shoulders a much needed break ! After all , this is my life and my love, I have no desire to ever give up this career or this way of expressing myself !
The question has now been put to rest! Size does not matter ! These little cameras truly carry the same punch or greater, than any DSLR out there !
I have had a few clients question my new gear, concerned about how I can possibly get pro images out of something so 'cute' as these little cameras. But then they see the final product, all fears are put to rest!
I was lucky that Sony developed this new technology right when I was needing it! I am so thankful that it all came together at just the right time for me ! There is no looking back ! I am now a faithful & happy Sony user ! Thanks Sony!!
Hey y'all , well here it is ! The Senior Mini Session that you have been asking for !
To be honest, I have resisted doing a Mini as I really like to take my time at a session and ensure my students are relaxed
and enjoying their time, which , to me, makes for a more natural session.
However, I have been getting more and more emails and Facebook messages from y'all saying
"Susi , I don't really want that much time and I don't want that many prints"
In fact some of you are saying that you don't need any 'warm up time and do not want a print package at all, you just want to share on
Facebook and on your smart phone and be able to print a few on your home printer .
I get this, as it's ,uh ,shall we say, more economical ?
This has been a tough call for many pro photographers as this is our living and it's hard
to turn over that print income to a 3rd party seller who didn't take the pix ! :)
But I know times are changing and I must adapt to them without feeling that I am selling myself short
or making my past clients feel that they missed out!
So, after thinking about this for a long while. I came up with a MINI Session that is for a 1/2 hour
and includes a Facebook Gallery, Phone App and 8 downloads.
This means that there will be no print package (although you will have the option of purchasing on my site )
You will also need to sign a waiver stating that you understand that printing at home or at Walmart
will not provide you with pro quality , or archival ink & paper. (That you get with my other sessions )
My other Pro Sessions with a print package will still be available for those who prefer a higher quality !
So there ya go!
If you want quick , affordable and complimentary downloads, then this package is for you!
I look forward to working with you! Email me or Facebook me to schedule !
Many of you, who are friends with me on facebook ,probably know that I have been working on a book called 'Singing At The Clothesline'
I have actually been working on this book for several years and I will be excited to one day see it in print . It's a book honoring the Appalachian Musicians of South West Virginia and neighboring regions. I have been interviewing and taking portraits of these amazing folks and hope to launch a Fund Raiser this year!
So please book mark the web site above and check out my blog there and the progress of this book ! Thanks so much!
Pictured below is the very talented Sam Gleaves ! I am now working on his new CD design called 'Ain't We Brothers'