In the studio: Mary Ellen Ryall

1 11 2013

Butterfly posterMary Ellen Ryall and I crossed paths more than eight years ago when I purchased milkweed seeds from her through eBay. This connection quickly morphed into a frequent e-mail exchange and a great friendship! I do volunteer design and photography for her environmental education organization, Happy Tonics. For several years, I designed and produced her quarterly 4-page newsletter, Butterflies & Gardens, as well as other marketing materials. I also designed a Monarch Butterfly Habitat Poster for her a few years ago. The poster included original photographs by me and my friends Brian K. Loflin (www.bkloflin.wordpress.com) and Jeff Evans (www.evanimagesandart.com).

I had the chance to visit Mary Ellen in her former home base in Minong, Wisconsin, in August 2011. (Sidebar: at the time I was making the three-hour drive from the Minneapolis airport to Minong, I called Michael and learned that I had just missed a big earthquake in the D.C. area; it was enough to scare both him and our cat, ZenaB, and for a vase to fall off a bookcase and break!). While in Shell Lake and Minong, I visited Mary Ellen’s Monarch Butterfly Habitat and met many of her friends, most notably Diane Dryden, a published author and feature writer for the Washburn County Register. Diane’s novels, The Accidental King of Clark Street and Double or Nothing on Foster Ave., are available on Amazon here.

About a year ago, Mary Ellen relocated to Fitchburg, MA, to be closer to her sister. She talked of slowing down, but I knew she wouldn’t—she’s brimming with far too many ideas! An author and truly dedicated environmental educator, Mary Ellen’s first book, My Name is Butterfly, was published by Salt of the Earth Press in 2011. This teaching book about a little girl and a Monarch butterfly was illustrated by Marie Aubuchon-Mendoza and is available here.

TwoBooksEarlier this year, I assisted Mary Ellen with producing The Monarch Butterfly Coloring Book. Written by Mary Ellen Ryall and illustrated by Moira Christine McCusker, It is available for purchase here. It is published by Mary Ellen’s new company, Butterfly Woman Publishing. Our next project is a plant guidebook, which we hope to debut in 2014. She visited the D.C. area a few weeks ago to attend a three-day conference for the North America Pollinator Protection Campaign (NAPPC). She is presently on a task force to design a smart app called S.H.A.R.E. (Simply Have Areas Reserved for the Environment). This app will allow gardeners around the country to list their habitats on a national map. Mary Ellen blogs about organic gardening and open pollination for diversity on her blog here.

After seeing the portraits I did of her while she was in town, Mary Ellen said, “now I see that I have to go out and buy a new wardrobe!” The outfits she is wearing came from my “modeling rack” as well as my closet. She feels I captured her energy in the shots—and if you’ve ever met her, you know how high-energy this woman is!

P.S. Butterflies are the second largest group of pollinators after bees. Butterflies as pollinators are in trouble too. The Monarch butterfly population is down to only five percent in 2013. The Monarch and other butterflies need native host plants. We need to plant native wildflowers to bring butterflies home. Milkweed is the only host plant of the Monarch butterfly. If you would like to be part of the solution to stop the decline of Monarch butterflies, plant some milkweed seeds in your garden! Mary Ellen sells seed on her website here.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

MaryEllenHeadShots

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Announcing nature and outdoor photography workshops with Brian Loflin in Virginia and Washington, D.C.

12 07 2012

My photography mentor and former employer, Brian Loflin, will be in the Washington, D.C. area in August to conduct a series of lectures and hands-on photography workshops. Brian and I are partnering with my friend, Rob Bergsohn, who founded the Northern Virginia Outdoor Portrait Photographers group at meetup.com.

I’ve worked with Rob on several small workshops for the group and we wanted to expand the offerings to include workshops conducted by Brian Loflin, who is a published photographer, experienced teacher and author as well.

MY GO-TO MENTOR
I’ve learned so much from Brian and he is my go-to mentor whenever I have technical problems or want to learn a new photographic skill. When I worked with him, I assisted with him on shooting everything from the world’s largest offshore drilling rig to a western clothing catalog to an aloe vera processing plant to an overhead view of a shopping mall from a small plane. He is an excellent teacher who makes learning fun!

PUBLISHED AUTHOR AND PHOTOGRAPHER
A master natural science photographer, Brian has photographed and authored several books with his wife, Shirley: Grasses of the Texas Hill County and Texas Cacti, both published by Texas A&M University Press. They have just completed text and photography for their next new book, also by Texas A&M University Press: Texas Wildflower Vistas and Hidden Treasures.

Brian Loflin is a seasoned photographic professional with a career that spans more than four decades in the advertising, aviation, bio-medical and publishing industry. As a graduate biologist with a background in marketing and communications, his early experience was as a medical photographer and a freelance photojournalist.

During his career, Brian’s photographs have been published in many international magazines as well as books and other publications, including major news agencies of the world. His work has won numerous industry awards and has won the admiration and respect of his clients. Those clients include leading names in the advertising and aerospace industry including: Bozell Worldwide, Milici, and Frye-Sills Advertising, Fairchild Aircraft, Aeritalia, Raytheon/Beech Aerospace and BFGoodrich Aerospace.

Brian has been active in several professional industry organizations, is past president of the Minnesota Nature Photographers and founder and current president of the Austin Shutterbug Club. He is now is an active photography instructor in the Informal Classes program at the University of Texas at Austin. Brian and his wife, Shirley, actively teach and conduct seminars and workshops in many areas of photography. They also lead nature photography tours to a variety of destinations. Below is a small sampling of his nature photography.

See his work at www.loflin-images.com and www.thenatureconnection.com. His blog, www.bkloflin@wordpress.com, highlights tools and techniques used in natural science photography, in both outdoor and studio settings. Below is a video that promotes his ongoing photography classes in Austin, Texas.

______________________________________________________________________

Register for the workshop of your choice by clicking the register link next to each course. Meetup.com will require you to create an account, which is very simple to do. Once you have an account, you may pay for the workshop through PayPal on the site. If you have problems or questions, e-mail Rob Bergsohn directly at rbergsohn@gmail.com.

These workshops are a fantastic value with an experienced and published photographer who is also a great instructor. August is fast approaching, so sign up today!

For more information, e-mail us:
Rob Bergsohn: rbergsohn@gmail.com
Cindy Dyer: dyerdesign@aol.com

The workshops below are listed in chronological order and some repeat more than once to allow participants ample choices to fit their schedules and interests.

SATURDAY, AUGUST 4

9:00 a.m. – Noon
$45/per person (Register here)

Macro/Close-up Photography Class
Location: Rob’s studio, located at 3106 Shadeland Drive, Falls Church, VA, near 7 Corners

This class will cover the skills and techniques required to enable the participant to capture photographic images of tiny subjects around us. It will illustrate the procedures and equipment to make images at- or near-life size or larger of various subjects from small plants and insects to postage stamps and miniature electronic components. Macro equipment need not be purchased prior to the course; the class will provide insight as to the appropriate equipment for each participant’s needs. Emphasis will also be made on how to construct many of the tools you may need. It is valuable to the film and digital photographer alike. (Photo of currency © Brian K. Loflin)

1 p.m. – 4 p.m.
$45/per person (Register here)

Nature Photography in a Studio Environment
Location: Rob’s studio, located at 3106 Shadeland Drive, Falls Church, VA, near 7 Corners

This course will cover the skills and techniques required to enable the participant to capture photographic images of natural subjects from the world around us without leaving our kitchen. It will illustrate the procedures and equipment to make excellent images of living plants and flowers, animals, patterns and textures. (Photo of ant © Brian K. Loflin)

______________________________________________________________________

SUNDAY, AUGUST 4

9 a.m. – 6 p.m. (lunch and beverages provided)
$90/per person (Register here)

All-Day Nature Photography Workshop at Huntley Meadows Park in Alexandria, VA
Lecture Location: Lecture at Rob’s studio, located at 3106 Shadeland Drive, Falls Church, VA, near 7 Corners.
Outdoor bbq lunch will be provided on Rob’s deck after lecture.
Photography Location: We will all meet at Huntley Meadows by 2:00 p.m. to begin the hands-on photography portion of the workshop. Huntley Meadows Park is located 12 miles from Rob’s house at 3701 Lockheed Blvd., Alexandria, VA. For exact directions from Rob’s house, click here.

This is a comprehensive hands-on workshop to teach the skills, tools and art of nature photography. A classroom discussion will cover the skills and techniques required to enable the participant to capture photographic images of natural subjects from the world around us. In addition to the mechanics of making a technically accurate nature photograph, the class will cover the tricks of the trade that will hone the understanding of the art of nature image design. Following the classroom discussion, the group will break for lunch and reconnoiter at Huntley Meadows Park. Brian will guide us through a four hour nature shoot, putting into practice the techniques during the morning class discussion. Participants are advised to bring a tripod. (Photo of dragonfly © Brian K. Loflin)

About Huntley Meadows:
Nestled in Fairfax County’s Hybla Valley, Huntley Meadows Park is a rich, natural island in the suburban sea of Northern Virginia. Its 1,425 acres harbor majestic forests, wildflower-speckled meadows and vast wetlands bursting with life. Some of the best wildlife watching in the Washington metropolitan area is enjoyed here. From the ½ mile wetland boardwalk trail and observation tower, you’ll have excellent views of beavers, frogs, dragonflies and herons. Huntley Meadows is well known as a prime birding spot, with over 200 species identified in the park. The Visitors Center has informative exhibits on local natural and cultural history, as well as the gift store featuring nature-related books, jewelry, and stationery. (Photo of dragonfly at Huntley Meadows Park © Michael Powell)

______________________________________________________________________

MONDAY, AUGUST 6

10 a.m. – 1 p.m.
$45/per person (Register here)

National Zoo Photo Safari
Location: National Zoo, 3001 Connecticut Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. (map)

Zoos can be a visually depressing environment for visitors, but animal photographs made in zoos don’t have to be! Learn how to make dynamic animal images at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. with Brian Loflin. Learn the tricks of avoiding cages, concrete and confinement as we spend time on our walking zoo photography workshop. You will learn hands-on how to take advantage of the best light, composition and use of lenses to improve on animal photography. Watch for the fleeting moment that will make animal pictures pop! Learn how to accentuate the positive aspects of animals in their existing environment in order to make effective and dynamic images.

7 p.m. – 10 p.m.
$45/per person (Register here)

Night Photography on the Mall
Location:
Meet at 23rd and F Streets, N.W., Washington, D.C., near Foggy Bottom metro, on-street parking available (map)

How do you make perfect pictures of cityscapes, monuments and other scenes at night? This class will cover the use of time exposures using manual exposure techniques to produce stunning nighttime images. Many photographers have never used shutter speeds longer than one second, and low ISOs to produce the perfect image. This class will break open the mystery of low-level and night photography. Participants must have a tripod available for the class. We will meet up at the corner of 23rd and F Streets N.W., and begin the class with a walk to the Lincoln Memorial.
______________________________________________________________________

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 8

10 a.m. – 1 p.m.
$45/per person (Register here)

National Zoo Photo Safari
Location: National Zoo, 3001 Connecticut Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. (map)

Zoos can be a visually depressing environment for visitors, but animal photographs made in zoos don’t have to be! Learn how to make dynamic animal images at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. with Brian Loflin. Learn the tricks of avoiding cages, concrete and confinement as we spend time on our walking zoo photography workshop. You will learn hands-on how to take advantage of the best light, composition and use of lenses to improve on animal photography. Watch for the fleeting moment that will make animal pictures pop! Learn how to accentuate the positive aspects of animals in their existing environment in order to make effective and dynamic images.

7 p.m. – 10 p.m.
$45/per person (Register here)

Night Photography on the Mall
Location:
Meet at 23rd and F Streets, N.W., Washington, D.C., near Foggy Bottom metro, on-street parking available (map)

How do you make perfect pictures of cityscapes, monuments and other scenes at night? This class will cover the use of time exposures using manual exposure techniques to produce stunning nighttime images. Many photographers have never used shutter speeds longer than one second, and low ISOs to produce the perfect image. This class will break open the mystery of low-level and night photography. Participants must have a tripod available for the class. We will meet up at the corner of 23rd and F Streets N.W., and begin the class with a walk to the Lincoln Memorial.

______________________________________________________________________

FRIDAY, AUGUST 10

10 a.m. – 1 p.m.
$45/per person (Register here)

National Zoo Photo Safari
Location: National Zoo, 3001 Connecticut Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. (map)

Zoos can be a visually depressing environment for visitors, but animal photographs made in zoos don’t have to be! Learn how to make dynamic animal images at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. with Brian Loflin. Learn the tricks of avoiding cages, concrete and confinement as we spend time on our walking zoo photography workshop. You will learn hands-on how to take advantage of the best light, composition and use of lenses to improve on animal photography. Watch for the fleeting moment that will make animal pictures pop! Learn how to accentuate the positive aspects of animals in their existing environment in order to make effective and dynamic images.


7 p.m. – 10 p.m.
$45/per person (Register here)

Night Photography on the Mall
Location:
Meet at 23rd and F Streets, N.W., Washington, D.C., near Foggy Bottom metro, on-street parking available (map)

How do you make perfect pictures of cityscapes, monuments and other scenes at night? This class will cover the use of time exposures using manual exposure techniques to produce stunning nighttime images. Many photographers have never used shutter speeds longer than one second, and low ISOs to produce the perfect image. This class will break open the mystery of low-level and night photography. Participants must have a tripod available for the class. We will meet up at the corner of 23rd and F Streets N.W., and begin the class with a walk to the Lincoln Memorial.

______________________________________________________________________

SATURDAY, AUGUST 11

9:00 a.m. – Noon
$45/per person (Register here)

Macro/Close-up Photography Class
Location: Rob’s studio, located at 3106 Shadeland Drive, Falls Church, VA, near 7 Corners)

This class will cover the skills and techniques required to enable the participant to capture photographic images of tiny subjects around us. It will illustrate the procedures and equipment to make images at- or near-life size or larger of various subjects from small plants and insects to postage stamps and miniature electronic components. Macro equipment need not be purchased prior to the course; the class will provide insight as to the appropriate equipment for each participant’s needs. Emphasis will also be made on how to construct many of the tools you may need. It is valuable to the film and digital photographer alike.

1 p.m. – 4 p.m.
$45/per person (Register here)

Nature Photography in a Studio Environment
Location: Rob’s studio, located at 3106 Shadeland Drive, Falls Church, VA, near 7 Corners

This course will cover the skills and techniques required to enable the participant to capture photographic images of natural subjects from the world around us without leaving our kitchen. It will illustrate the procedures and equipment to make excellent images of living plants and flowers, animals, patterns and textures. (Photo of leafcutter ant © Brian K. Loflin)

______________________________________________________________________

SUNDAY, AUGUST 12

9 a.m. – 6 p.m. (lunch and beverages provided)
$90/per person (Register here)

All-Day Nature Photography Workshop at Huntley Meadows Park in Alexandria, VA
Lecture Location: Lecture at Rob’s studio, located at 3106 Shadeland Drive, Falls Church, VA, near 7 Corners.
Outdoor bbq lunch will be provided on Rob’s deck after lecture.
Photography Location: We will all meet at Huntley Meadows by 2:00 p.m. to begin the hands-on photography portion of the workshop. Huntley Meadows Park is located 12 miles from Rob’s house at 3701 Lockheed Blvd., Alexandria, VA. For exact directions from Rob’s house, click here.

This is a comprehensive hands-on workshop to teach the skills, tools and art of nature photography. A classroom discussion will cover the skills and techniques required to enable the participant to capture photographic images of natural subjects from the world around us. In addition to the mechanics of making a technically accurate nature photograph, the class will cover the tricks of the trade that will hone the understanding of the art of nature image design. Following the classroom discussion, the group will break for lunch and reconnoiter at Huntley Meadows Park. Brian will guide us through a four hour nature shoot, putting into practice the techniques during the morning class discussion. Participants are advised to bring a tripod. (Photo of cardinal © Brian K. Loflin)

About Huntley Meadows:
Nestled in Fairfax County’s Hybla Valley, Huntley Meadows Park is a rich, natural island in the suburban sea of Northern Virginia. Its 1,425 acres harbor majestic forests, wildflower-speckled meadows and vast wetlands bursting with life. Some of the best wildlife watching in the Washington metropolitan area is enjoyed here. From the ½ mile wetland boardwalk trail and observation tower, you’ll have excellent views of beavers, frogs, dragonflies and herons. Huntley Meadows is well known as a prime birding spot, with over 200 species identified in the park. The Visitors Center has informative exhibits on local natural and cultural history, as well as the gift store featuring nature-related books, jewelry, and stationery. (Photo of Great Blue Heron at Huntley Meadows Park © Michael Powell)





Pressed plants as art

24 04 2012

These individual one-of-a-kind pieces of art are actual Texas wildflowers collected from the wild and pressed, dried and preserved as two-dimensional ecological décor. My friend, Shirley Loflin, is the collector and artist responsible for preparation of these most interesting botanical specimens. She is a naturalist and author. She and her husband Brian (who just happens to be a former employer of mine as well as my photography mentor) have written several articles and books on the natural science of Texas.

The concept of this art series grew out of the requirement to preserve “voucher specimens” for the herbaria at Texas A&M University and the University of Texas. A voucher is a botanical specimen carefully mounted on archival materials of high quality, and completely identified with both common and scientific names. These vouchers are documentation of plants photographed in the wild for their books: Grasses of the Texas Hill Country, Texas Cacti and their latest, Texas Wildflower Vistas and Hidden Treasures.

Shirley and Brian have been writing about and photographing Texas as a team for more than 20 years. In addition, they lead natural science photography tours and workshops in a wide variety of locations in the Americas.

See their work at www.loflin-images.com, www.thenatureconnection.com and www.bkloflin.wordpress.com. Their books are published by Texas A&M University Press and may be found at most major booksellers.

Shirley’s botanical art is available for purchase in her etsy shop, www.etsy.com/shop/thenatureconnection.





A meeting of creative minds

8 01 2012

On Wednesday morning I drove from San Antonio to Austin to visit my friends Brian and Shirley Loflin. The next day I had the pleasure of lunch at P.F. Chang’s in Austin on Thursday with four fellow creatives.

BRIAN LOFLIN
Brian is my former boss, photography mentor and friend of more than 25 years. He is a freelance photographer and photography instructor in Austin and his career spans more than four decades in the advertising, aviation, bio-medical and publishing industries. Brian is past president of the Minnesota Nature Photographers and founder and current president of the Austin Shutterbug Club. He is a photography instructor in the Informal Classes program at the University of Texas at Austin.

Brian and his wife, Shirley, actively teach and conduct seminars and workshops in many areas of photography. They authored, produced and photographed Grasses of the Texas Hill Country and Texas Cacti, two photographic field guides for Texas A&M University Press and available at most booksellers. They have just completed text and photography for their next book, Texas Wildflower Vistas and Hidden Treasures, also by Texas A&M University Press.

Visit Brian’s natural science photography blog here. You’ll find his commercial work here. In his other business, The Nature Connection, he provides photography and digital imaging services to biologists, professionals, educators and others involved in the natural sciences. He is also available for workshops, seminars and presentations, as well as group and one-on-one training in nature photography, macro/close-up photography, beginning digital photography, field photography and composition and light.

STEVEN SCHWARTZMAN
Austin photographer Steven Schwartzman began his blog, Portraits of Wildflowers, just eight months ago. He commented on my blog many months ago and we formed a sort of mutual admiration society and have kept in touch ever since. His work is beautiful and many times I have said to myself, “I would have shot that one just like he did.” I think that his style, composition and capture of light is so similar to mine.

I e-mailed him when I left Virginia and asked if he would like to get together for lunch when I came up to Austin. It was then that I discovered that he also knew Brian through the Austin Shutterbug Camera Club and the Native Plant Society. He said he was surprised to learn, via my blog posts last March after I visited Brian in Austin for a Joe McNally / Dave Hobby workshop on the Flash Bus Tour, that I had known Brian for more than 20 years!

Steven’s photography has been published numerous times in Texas Highways magazine. In 2007, his photograph of a basket-flower was one of a hundred finalists in Parade magazine’s photo contest on the theme “Celebrate America’s Beauty.” In 2009 and 2010, he was commissioned to provide all the photographs and text for three laminated wildflower guides for Quick Reference Publishing. He has contributed more than 200 photographs to the native plant database of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. His other interests include natural foods and language. I particularly enjoy his fascination with words in his other blog, Spanish-English Word Connections. He has written an excellent tutorial about his photography techniques on his blog here.

From Steven’s blog:
I grew up on Long Island and went to college at Columbia University, where I majored in French. Upon graduation I spent 1968 and 1969 as a Peace Corps math teacher in Honduras; I learned that I was good not only at math (which I knew) but also at teaching it (which I’d had no reason to suspect). It was also in Honduras that I learned the rudiments of photography and got my first “real” camera, a Pentax Spotmatic. In the late 1970s and early 1980s I did a fair amount of art photography and eventually published three books of 3-D infrared photographs. The combination of 3-D and black-and-white infrared was an unusual one but I was fond of it, at least in part because it was unique. My book
Bodies of Light won an award from the Printing Industries of America in 1981.

I moved to Austin on July 6, 1976, two days after my birthday and the 200th anniversary of American independence. In my early years in Texas I did some landscape photography, still primarily in black and white infrared. I was an early adopter of digital photography: in 1999 I launched into a project to produce a photographic CD documenting the Austin area. In the process, I grew increasingly aware of and captivated by the many species of native plants that grow here; they became and remain my primary photographic subject.

It was such a treat being able to meet Steven in person. He is the first fellow blogger I’ve officially met in person and likewise for him! I’m hoping to be able to do a mini photo field trip with Steven in Austin before I head back to Virginia later this month.

SONYA MENDEKE
Sonya Mendeke, a freelance print and web designer living in Austin, is my former college classmate, one-time roommate and lifelong friend. You can see her design work on her newly-redesigned website here. Her hobbies include painting, sculpting and photography. You can see her graphic design work here. She also created whimsical and colorful paper clay “Bugs with Attitude” as well as birdhouses and plant pots.

During our lunch, I shared one of my favorite memories of Sonya. When we were both in college, I lived with her in a large two-bedroom apartment not far from the university. Both of us made extra spending money by doing odd freelance illustration jobs. At some point Sonya connected with a cattleman who wanted her to do drawings of his prize sire bulls for a catalog he was publishing. She showed him her portfolio and one of her illustrations was done in an illustration method called stippling. Wikipedia identifies stippling as “the creation of a pattern simulating varying degrees of solidity or shading by using small dots. … the dots are made of a pigment of a single colour, applied with a pen or brush; the denser the dots, the darker the apparent shade—or lighter, if the pigment is lighter than the surface.” Folks, we’re talking thousands upon thousands of dots to create one illustration. Thousands.

The cattleman loved the stippling style and asked her to replicate it on at least a dozen or more illustrations. She recalls being offered something like $300 for the project. Since we’re talking early 80s, I’m quite certain it wasn’t $300 per illustration. It was most likely that much for the entire portfolio of drawings. With dollars signs in her twinkling brown eyes, Sonya jumped into the project immediately.

It wasn’t long before I heard sailor-worthy words muttered from her bedroom studio, occasionally drowned out only by the never-ending tap-tap-tap of her trusty India-ink-filled Rapidograph pen. Night after night I would find her, mechanical pen in one hand, cigarette in the other, endless cups of coffee nearby, stippling into the wee hours of the morning—exhausted, hopped up on caffeine and almost losing her (creative) mind. The illustrations were wonderful and she did get paid. Afterward, check in hand, she vowed she would never stipple again, no matter what the compensation. I’m sure that, to this day, she still hears the tap-tap-tap sounds deep in her subconscious. In addition to the stippling method, I doubt that she is so fond of things bovine either.

Two years ago, Sonya was interviewed in a video by Roy Gatling and Austin-Artists.com. You can view that video, Saving the earth, one piece of art at a time, here. Roy Gatling is Senior Manager, Project Management at Dell and the husband of another of my college classmates, Maria Gatling, also an Austin artist. Roy and Maria are the co-founders of Austin-Artists.com and Austin-Architecture.com. Check out Maria’s self-published notebook and workshop titled, Be Inspired—Creative Something Every Day, here and her creativity blog here.

PHIL CHARLTON
Phil is a friend of Brian’s and a professional photographer in Austin. He specializes in architectural interiors, but shoots beautiful landscapes and fine art images as well. I especially love his images of Thorncrown Chapel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas (at left). The chapel looks very much like Garvan Woodland Gardens’ Anthony Chapel in Hot Springs, Arkansas, which I photographed a few years ago on a road trip with my friend Sue.

From Phil’s zenfolio site
(www.philcharlton.zenfolio.com):
I am a native Oklahoman with a Cherokee heritage. After graduating from the University of Central Oklahoma in 1966 with a double major in math and physics, I moved to Texas where I entered the space industry at NASA. During my 17 years at NASA I worked in the Gemini, Apollo, Skylab and Space Shuttle programs designing and testing many systems essential to space exploration.

I left NASA for a second career in the computer business. I held positions at Compaq and Dell before taking early retirement. It was during my NASA years that a friend influenced me to buy a professional quality camera and that led to my current interest as a professional photographer.

My wife Amanda and I have lived in the Austin area for the past 18 years. We enjoy traveling the world and have visited many exotic locales such as Belize, South and Eastern Africa, United Kingdom, Peru, Czech Republic, Hungary, Austria, and Canada. The beautiful sites of these distant lands are inspirational to my photography.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





A brief lesson in composition by Brian Loflin

30 12 2011

Brian Loflin, a professional photographer living in Austin, Texas, was my boss umpteen years ago (I shant say how many lest I reveal my agedness) and is my photography mentor and lifelong friend. I met him when he was doing a fashion photo shoot for Jones & Jones, an upscale department store at La Plaza Mall in McAllen, Texas. This was one of my first jobs out of college and I was hired to do fashion illustration and write newspaper and ad copy. I was asked to assist Brian and since I had a yen for photography, I relished the chance to do so. Not long after, he offered me a full-time position, and despite the long commute, I accepted without hesitation.

I worked with Brian on myriad advertising and marketing projects and acquired so many skills in the year I was employed as both a graphic designer and photography assistant at his studio, Loflin & Associates, in Brownsville, Texas. I drove from my tiny hometown of Donna, Texas five days a week to Brownsville to work. It was approximately 60 miles each way, so that was a roughly two-hour commute, as traffic wasn’t heavy in that area. If I had to commute 60 miles in the D.C. area, it would take me well over two hours each way, I’m certain. I didn’t mind the commute (especially after my dad offered me his bright orange diesel VW Rabbit to lessen the cost).

Under Brian’s watchful eyes, I became very proficient at b&w film developing and printing, learned a lot about studio lighting for both products and people, went stark crazy learning how to spec type for brochures (this was covered wagon days, well before Jobs and Wozniak offered us Apple and desktop publishing), and accompanied him on unusual photography excursions such as the workings of an aloe vera plant from the field to the final product (fascinating!) and the christening and photo inventory of the world’s largest offshore drilling rig (exhilarating!).

In this recent posting on his natural science photography blog, he offers a brief lesson in composition. Enjoy!

http://bkloflin.wordpress.com/2011/12/29/its-snowing-somewhere/

Brian and his wife, Shirley, have published three books: Texas Cacti: A Field Guide and Grasses of the Texas Hill Country: A Field Guide, both published by Texas A&M University Press. Their latest book, Texas Wildflower Vistas and Hidden Treasures, will be hot off the press shortly. Their Grasses book recently received the Carroll Abbott Award from the Native Plant Society of Texas.





Photo assignment: Richard Reed, musician

1 09 2010

I recently returned from a photography assignment in Providence, Rhode Island. I was contracted by Cochlear Americas to photograph Richard Reed, a full-time musician who wears a cochlear implant and is the developer of HOPE Notes, a cochlear implant music appreciation program.

HOPE Notes (from the Cochlear Americas website)
“HOPE Notes is the first of its kind—a program uniquely developed for cochlear implant and hearing aid users designed to help improve music perception and appreciation using original songs, traditional Folk, Blues & Country styles and some familiar tunes played in unexpected ways. HOPE Notes includes a CD, DVD, and a detailed User Guide including lyrics designed to assist and enrich your use of the program. The DVD incorporates both visual and audio cues while the CD (designed for use on the go) focuses solely on the audio component of the program.”

To learn more about HOPE Notes or to order, contact Cochlear at 1-(800)-523-5798 or check out their website here.

A Life Without Sound
A late-deafened adult, Richard lost his hearing due to an ototoxic antiobiotic he was given to treat peritonitis in the early 1990s, when he was in his mid-30s. His hearing loss progressed from mild to profound over the next two years. Read more about his hearing loss in Rick Massimo‘s insightful article in The Providence Journal here. Carolyn Smaka from AudiologyOnline interviewed Richard in July. It’s an excellent introduction to Reed’s hearing loss as well as the development of HOPE Notes. Check out her interview here.

When I asked Richard what it was like as a full-time musician to not be able to continue in the field, he told me about playing one night after his hearing loss. “While deaf and using useless powerful digital hearing aids, I used to sit in with my brother Tom in various Blues bands or with old friends. I could feel the bass and drums—thought I could hear myself a little. One night in Newport, it became painfully obvious just how little music I could actually hear. During a piano solo, a cord to my amplifier came loose, but I kept right on playing—with no sound coming out!”

After he retired from performing, he worked in his sister Roberta‘s antique store “refinishing and painting warped and wild folk art furniture, which was therapeutic but unfulfilling.” He wore hearing aids during this time, but didn’t pursue the cochlear implant until 2002. Richard wrote, What It Feels Like…to Regain Your Hearing, in a 2007 issue of Esquire magazine here.

Return to Music
After receiving his Nucleus 24 Contour CI in 2002, Richard noticed a significant improvement in his ability to hear and understand speech, but found listening to music frustrating. With patience, practice and the help of his aural therapist, music became a source of joy again. Not long after his CI was activated, he stayed away from playing the piano because to him it sounded out of tune. He had to go back to the basics with scales and eventually made enough progress to start playing with bands again. Learn more about his journey back to the hearing world in the article, Hero Spotlight: Richard Reed, available on Cochlear Americas website here. In that article, he says, “As ironic as it was for a musician to go deaf, I realized, too, how many friends’ conversations revolved around music—what’s new, who’s good, who’s playing where. Losing music was horrible, but the loss of everyday conversation was worse.”

At Long Last—I’m a Band Groupie!
On my assignment for Cochlear Americas a few weekends ago, I was honored and excited to photograph Richard and a few of his fellow musicians at The Music Complex in Pawtucket, R.I.

His brother, Tom Reed, plays bass. At just 13, Tom taught Richard, then 12, his first songs on the organ. Tom plays freelance—backing up various bands from week to week—and teaches private lessons. He plays electric bass in R&B bands, and upright bass for Blues, Jazz and Rockabilly. He recorded some bass parts for Richard’s HOPE Notes project. (Photo, left to right: Mark Cutler, Jack Moore, Tom Reed and Richard Reed)

Drummer Jack Moore, a high school teacher by day, has played with Stevie Ray Vaughn, Roomful of Blues and many others. He currently plays with Robert Graves Leonard’s Slippery Sneakers, a Rhode Island-based Zydeco band.

Acclaimed guitarist and Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Mark Cutler‘s latest CD is Red. He has been the lead singer and songwriter for such renown rock bands as The Schemers, The Raindogs, and The Dino Club, and has toured with Warren Zevon, Bob Dylan and many others. The Providence Phoenix recently profiled Mark here. Cutler works in the software business during the week and reserves his very busy weekends for gigs with various ensembles. You’ll find Mark Cutler videos on youtube here. Richard has played many gigs as one of Mark’s sidemen—before going deaf and again post-CI.

Today, Richard plays two to three times a week in New England nightclubs, concerts and recording sessions. When not performing, he travels the world to lecture about his hearing loss experience and “CI music.” He recently returned from Europe, and played squeezebox on two-time Grammy award-winning children’s singer/songwriter Bill Harley‘s newest CD, tentatively titled Songs We Sing. Future travel plans include CI Music Workshops in Salt Lake City in November, Toronto and Orlando in February, then back to the UK in March. Richard is playing with Mark Cutler in a reunion of their old band, The Schemers, in Newport at an autumn festival next month. He says, “this time I’ll hear my piano parts!” When I asked him what inspired him to create HOPE Notes, he said, “it was a way to give CI users simple exercises to learn or relearn some basic songs and tonalities.” He has already starting writing songs for Volume II.

Upcoming Feature in Hearing Loss Magazine
Reed has written an article about his hearing loss and the development of HOPE Notes that will be published in the upcoming November/December 2010 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, which I design and produce bimonthly for the Hearing Loss Association of America. Donna Sorkin, Vice President of Consumer Affairs for Cochlear Americas, will contribute sidebars about strategies to appreciate music and another titled, “What the Research Says…and Why it Doesn’t Matter.” Some of the images from my photo session will appear in her feature article. Cochlear Americas manufactures Nucleus cochlear implants and the Baha programmable bone conduction system. My otolaryngologist, Dr. John Niparko of Johns Hopkins Medical Center, says that I am a candidate for the Baha system.

Behind-the-Scenes Photo Notes
For the jam session photos, I used the Nikon Creative Lighting System (CLS)—with three Nikon Speedlights (with color-correcting gels)—an SB-900 fitted with an Alzo Mini Softbox as my main light, an SB-800 on the Nikon D300 as the trigger and an SB-600 on the side with a snoot. For the portraits with the beige background (shot in Richard’s home), I used my Nikon SB-800 Speedlight fitted with a Ray Flash, which replicates the lighting effect produced by more expensive studio ring flash units. It produces a shadowless light on your subject and a soft even shadow around the edges. I was very happy with the results of the ring flash in this session. If you’d like to try this type of lighting, check out the Coco Ring Flash Adapter—at just $49.95 on Amazon, it’s well below the $199 I paid for my Ray Flash a few years ago. (Hmmm….which product came first?—The Coco Ring Flash is an almost exact replicate—but I do agree with many of the online reviewers that, for a non-electronic, purely plastic gadget, the Ray Flash is still overpriced at $199. Having said that, I did buy it and am happy with it. When it first came out, it was listed for $299.99. It’s plastic people, plastic—no electronic parts, no cords, nothing—as one reviewer commented, “they were probably shamed into dropping the price.”). At any rate, whether you splurge on the Ray Flash or spring for the “poor man’s” version (which I was unaware of at the time of my purchase)—the Coco Ring Flash—it’s a really fun gadget to add to your photographic arsenal.

Want to learn more about the Nikon Creative Lighting System? Check out the Nikon School Hands-on Guide to Creative Lighting DVD, featuring photographers Bob Krist and Joe McNally. Joe McNally’s book, The Hot Shoe Diaries: Big Light from Small Flashes, is an excellent resource as well. A lighting workshop with this master is definitely on my to-do checklist! Check out McNally’s excellent blog here and Bob Krist’s elegant website here. And for really comprehensive information on lighting, bookmark David Hobby’s blog, Strobist.

Whew! And finally, special thanks to my photo mentor, Brian Loflin, for his tips, troubleshooting and advice…and to Michael Schwehr for his service as my most excellent photo assistant.

All photos are by Cindy Dyer © 2010 Cochlear, Ltd.







Monarch butterfly habitat poster

25 04 2008

I recently designed this sample poster for Happy Tonics to use as an educational tool to show what native plants will be grown in the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary that is being developed in Shell Lake, Wisconsin.

You can learn more about Mary Ellen, Happy Tonics, and the Monarch Butterfly Habitat at http://www.happytonics.org/. In addition to utilizing photos from my own archives, other images were provided by Happy Tonics, Jeff Evans (http://evansimagesandart.com), and Brian Loflin (http://www.loflin-images.com/).

Learn more about Monarch butterflies at this site: http://www.monarch-butterfly.com/