Tuesday, May 10, 2016

May May Be Bright

Right now there's snow on the hills behind me and a rain/snow mix falling on my place. BUT it's suppose to warm and clear for this weekend. Just in time!

The Downtown Helena Fall Art Walk is on 13 May, and I'll be at SIGNS NOW and hope for sales, especially on the postcards I recently had produced. These are the images I used for the postcards--five of each. It will be interesting to see the interest and image preference.

The rest of the month I will be getting out with my cameras for pictures. I should get to Half Circle Ranch while some of the great Piedmontesse cows are still calving. Trips to Great Fall, Livingston, and Bozeman are good possibilities, too, weather and health permitting. 

Sunday, May 1, 2016

April Ups Downs and Ups

April started well with the Spring Civic Center show and good contacts and sales, including the large on-metal digital flower. That gave me a positive outlook. But I was still beleaguered by the health issues; I cowgirled up and got through it, but had to take another cycle of an antibiotic prescription. Well, one round every six months isn't too bad. Hopefully this will be the last.

Two positives were the notifications that I was accepted into the juried art shows I'd applied to. The first is the Depot Festival of Arts in Livingston, Montana, July 2–4. The second juried show is Art in the Park, in Lincoln, Montana on 13-14 August.

I wish I'd been more productive in April (I played more than 1300 games of Free Cell while I waited for creativity to override physical discomfort), but the last week I was full of energy and ideas.
That week also provided a sale through Genesis Gallery and Frame Shop. Someone visited the gallery when it was closed, looked through the window and saw my "Horse Herd 2." She called the gallery owner and bought the framed piece the next day. Maybe that's the start of some Ups for May.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

New Photo Product for Kae C's Images

The Downtown Helena Art Walk is only two weeks away. I wanted something different to present that also had a good sales potential. People are walking and talking along the street, in and out of shops, and most don't want a framed art piece to haul around. Something easily packed away, non-breakable, that represents my art work—that's what I needed.

The picture above is one of ten I used to create fifty postcards—five of each image. This is a new photo product for me. I had thought of postcards at other times, but couldn't find a company I wanted to work with. Now I have. MOO has been in the online stationery business since 2006, but I just learned about them. The site promises a lot, with the unique feature allowing clients to upload ten different images for one product.

I gave them a try; I held off talking about it until I received my order. It arrived yesterday (ahead of their predicted schedule) neatly packaged, and the cards are really nice. A heavy card stock, my ten images in good reproduction, and at a reasonable price.

I'm anticipating a good response from Art Walk goers.

If you're interested in postcards, note cards, business cards, et cetera, here's a 10% off coupon for first time users

I think I'll do business cards next, and stop making my own (print, cut, cut, cut, cut, stack).

If you're in Helena, MT on the evening of 13 May, stop by SIGNS NOW (300 block of Last Chance Gulch) between 5pm and 9pm to see my new photo product.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Dog Park Pictures

I had a half an hour free between running errands and attending the Helena Photographic Society meeting, so I visited Paws Park. The few other times I went there, no dogs and owners were present. This afternoon I found pooches running about and having fun. My first pics were blur-art images (or whatever it's called). Doing this has always been my motive for going to the dog park. My photog colleague Dutch Bieber has developed his skills at this and recently had an exhibit in Helena's Myrna Loy Art Gallery.

I was shooting with my D7000 and a 200 - 500mm lens.
390mm f/32 1/13s ISO 100
390mm f/32 1/13s ISO 100
390mm f/32 1/13s ISO 100

I have taken other images in this style. Different techniques can produce similar results, or very diverse images. It's fun to play with. Art Prints   Art Prints

I did take regular shots at the dog park.
200mm f/18 1/800s, ISO 1250
270mm f/18 1/800s, ISO 1250

I'll visit again soon—in the evening or weekend, when people are there with their dogs!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Blood and Bond Spring Special

The print version of Blood and Bond is now available, and with this promo code, KSLPKKXX, get a 20% discount when you buy it here. This offer is good only through 10 April.

Why a print edition of this title? The electronic edition has been available for several years, while the print edition has been out of print since 2009. I am providing a new, revised print edition because I always sell physical copies of my titles at art shows. My first show is on 2 April, and I expect a good response.

Positive responses to this story have already been registered at Amazon.com and Goodreads. Read a few of them here.

Here's the overview of Blood and Bond:
It's the 21st Century, but one rancher in Lamp Creek Valley is being harassed by the dark specter of a long-dead relative, and ancient beliefs that seem to be threatening the environment. He is compelled to face his past in order to quell the mystical chaos that is affecting three families--including his own.
Eddie CloudRunner's discomfort increases when local businessman, Pete Waldham, insists Eddie must save the Waldham family from an Indian curse that he believes was brought on by illegal hunting in the legendary canyon.
Then Beth Hardemann, Sean Waldham and Martin Bradley (three relatives of the purported defilers) arrive and spark disasters and revelations. Eddie finally admits his long-denied beliefs. While he delves into the mysticism, the capricious Rocky Mountain environment confounds the situation with harsh and unseasonable weather.
Blood and Bond contains family issues, a good dose of intrigue and some romance, too.
"A powerful, majestic and absorbing novel...just the sort of story that draws readers into it and holds them tight... "Richard S. Wheeler, author of more than 70 western titles
Don't forget: use promo code KSLPKKXX, for a 20% discount when you buy it here.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Springtime Weather

Yesterday I was happy to hear Meadowlarks singing and see Bluebirds. Plenty of sunshine at my house, although further east and to the south they experienced hail and snow and high wet winds. I experienced it as I was driving in that area hoping for some interesting photos.

One thing I did yesterday before I left on my drive was brush out some of the winter from my gelding, thinking mostly of the returning birds and how they could use the soft hairs in their nest building.

Then today, not cold, but windy. Snow arrived a bit before noon.

My horse trekked out anyway (he's a neatkin and won't poop or pee in his loafing shed).
Two hours later, nearly all the snow was melted off in the afternoon warmth.

These snow squalls are just what the botanist ordered, especially for my area that has been very dry since the winter snow melted three weeks ago. My trees are leafing and I was planning on watering them—not something I usually do until mid-April. Snow squalls are in the forecast through Thursday. I hope the wind doesn't blow too hard and evaporate all the moisture.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

New Group on Fine Art America

I sell my images online through Fine Art America (FAA). FAA has hundreds of specialize groups. None of which I normally talk about. But a new group UNESCO World Heritage Sites is moderated by my son. He also has an FAA page with his images from different places, including many Chicago skyline evening scenes.

His bucket list includes getting to as many UNESCO WHS as possible, and with all the world travelling he does, he's been to quite a few. The site has some nice images from around the world, presented by many FAA photographers. Check it out!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Finally Blood and Bond

My plans to have this second revised printing of Blood and Bond out by the end of January (and then February) failed. So many problems: cover, text glitches. Examining the proof took ages, but I'm now satisfied with the product. I even went into the eBook edition and made a few corrections, too.
It's the 21st Century, but one rancher in Lamp Creek Valley is being harassed by the dark specter of a dead relative, and ancient beliefs that seem to be threatening the environment. He is compelled to face his past in order to quell the mystical chaos that is affecting three families--including his own.
A more detailed overview is available at the sales page. Click here to read Chapter One. I've already ordered copies of this, and I hope they arrive in time for my first Art Show of the season on 2 April. I have pretty good print copy sales of my books at the art shows.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Bonuses from the Yellowstone Trip

When travelling with two other photographers along picturesque roads in south-central Montana, we certainly weren't going to pass up interesting photo ops. Some of the bonuses, going and coming, were the Big Horn sheep that regularly hang out in a steep area near the river south of Ennis. But before we got there, we were sidetracked by an interesting hole in the wall, and then by left over materials from railroad maintenance.

Photogs with back to sun to check camera settings
In the town of West Yellowstone, our command central, we made a Sunday visit to the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center. The animals weren't very active, but I sat in on an interesting presentation about raptors—nocturnal and diurnal.

Going home on Sunday, we hoped to visit a few galleries in Ennis. At Riverstone Gallery we met the owner, Bern Sundell, whose paintings and drawings of anything fish related have been popular with sportsmen for more than twenty years. His wife, Lexi Sundell is also an artist.

Although the other galleries were closed, we noticed a tasting room that was open. Wine? No. Beer? No. Willie's Distillery is one of a couple dozen Montana spirit producers.
The copper still vat in a display window got our attention, and with a little coaxing, the host let us take pictures of the distillery part of the establishment. We tasted, too. And I bought a Huckleberry Sweet Cream Liqueur. Yum.
(Click here for a list of Montana distilleries.)

We also stopped at the remnants of an old homestead. We couldn't get close because of fencing. The wind was blowing mightily, and I had to really concentrate to steady my long 200-500mm lens. We promised a return trip in early summer, when the trees will have leafed out and the grass will be green (too cool with grass on the roof!).

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Back to Yellowstone

HPS members at our hired snow coach
The first weekend in March I spent time in Yellowstone National Park (YNP) with five other members of the Helena Photographic Society. We hired a private snow coach so we could stop at will to take pictures.

The high on Saturday was in the 40s, which diminished drama in many pictures—no steam from bison nostrils, no frost fur of coyotes. But we saw more animals than I'd ever encountered in YNP: bison, elk, swans, coyotes were in abundance.
I captured some Big Horn Sheep about an hours drive before the park, too. We made the obligatory stop at Old Faithful (I was underwhelmed, as usual), and other landscapes were attractive.
Coyote, bison,  & hot-pot steam

A nice weekend, and I hope to go back next winter, too. That's my favorite season to visit Yellowstone.

Friday, February 26, 2016

First Presentations of 2016

I had a pleasant trip to Havre, Montana on April 22, 23. It was for Humanities Montana (HM) presentations of "Before the Horse, Lifestyles of the Northern Rockies". Monday I was at Montana State University-Northern; Tuesday I was at the Havre Middle School where I met with five different sixth grade classes. This is my second visit doing this duo, the first in 2014.

Several college classes had scheduled my morning talk, and instructors were present, too. A write-up about it was in the Northern Network News (the official newsletter of MSU-Northern), and on the Multicultural Center web site.

At the middle school, the three teachers of the five classes had prepared their students well. Along with a well-planned social studies curriculum, they had been reading chapters of my book Spotted Flower and the Ponokomita to the students. In 2015, the school purchased 90 copies of the book, so students were able to read along with the teacher, or on their own. I left the school feeling good about how all the classes went, and also with a big sheaf of papers from the students: thank you notes, pictures they drew of parts of the book, questions and comments. How wonderful!

I noticed, however, in reading these, the difference from when I and even my own grown children were in sixth grade. It was expected that we would write in legible cursive or with precise printing. That isn't stressed any more, probably because of all the keyboard use and even voice activated dictating. I wonder if someone will come up with software that will convert old-style physical cursive writing to digital print? It might be handy for old journals and other historical documents.

When planning for this Havre trip, I decided at the last minute to get a presentation at the Public Library. My University contact helped me with this, and I had a Monday evening presentation there. This wasn't a HM program. Since I was in Havre the last week of Black History Month, I dusted off my "Forgotten Trailblazers: 1800-1850" talk. It's about intrepid American Black pioneers and adventurers who trekked and lived in the West long before the Civil War. Unfortunately, the one-week advance time frame wasn't enough to get a big crowd, but I enjoyed the evening.

In all, a good two-plus day trip and a positive start for my 2016 presentation calendar.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Blood and Bond - Almost Here

The proof for the second edition of Blood and Bond is on its way. I expect to have it all finalized by mid-month. 

I don't have any art shows until April, and the shows are where I sell the most hold-in-your-hand copies of my books. They are all available in electronic editions, but many people still want an actual book.

An overview of Blood and Bond is on the Contemporary Book page of this blog and also at the book page on my website.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Writing and Photography in the 21st Century #4

Photoshop. Perhaps I should have a little trademark symbol beside that word. But actually, I'm using it as a verb—one that has become very popular in the last decade. "It's been photoshopped," someone might say, when looking at a picture—especially something of a unique design or quirky presentation. "Photoshop it," is phrase I hear among picture takers when they think something isn't quite right with their image. When used in these contexts the verb isn't referring strictly to the Adobe product, but to a process using any software program designed to manipulate and/or enhance photo images. Many of them out there: from Adobe, Corel, and other imaging companies that have been in the business for a while; Microsoft has one built into their Office packages; most digital cameras come with software specific to that camera and company, and they also offer limited editions of software from other companies.

I often hear viewers at art shows say—"Oh, it's been photoshopped."—usually with a roll of the eyes.

Taken with a film camera and "darkroomed."
Before all the digital cameras and the accessories that go with them, a professional photographer usually had darkroom skills, or had access to a tech with those skills. I had my own black and white enlarging setup and had access to darkrooms with color enlargers that I could rent by the hour. The darkroom was where the film was developed (a lengthy, chemical-laden process), and where the prints were made (another lengthy, chemical-laden process). Adjustments (or miscalculations) that would affect the images could be made in either or both processes.

Darkroom photo manipulation isn't out of the ordinary. While enlarging a print, the exposure time can be adjusted, filters added to affect the tone and color of an image, implements are used to dodge (keep sections from developing) or burn (enhancing the developing time). Enlargement exposure time could be increased of decreased to compensate for under- or overexposed frames. Negatives can be overlaid for double-exposures or a dramatic effect. Different types of paper gave different results; finishes can be added while the print was drying. I had special photographic paints that I used to touch up scratches, get rid of red eye or add some artistic effort to an image. I mixed my colors, had special brushes; the corrections were nearly impossible to see. Back then (a mere twenty years ago), many photographic enterprises existed, and were noted for their work with specific types of film, or producing unique products. Most of these have gone out of business or, like Kodak are struggling to find their niche in the rapidly changing photography scene.

But in the 130 years or more of what is now archaic print image production, clients, patrons and other viewers never grumbled, "Oh, it's been darkroomed."

Now many mid-range cameras come with built in darkrooms; after an image has been captured, the exposure, cropping, and even some special effects can be done in the camera before the image is ever uploaded to a computer (it's been cameraed!"). Most people who own a digital camera have the software that comes with it and can buy more of at any office or big box store. Software programs are also available online for download, several for free. Hence, photoshopping an image is not a big deal compared to the expense of the old-time darkroom.

As new cameras are developed, new software springs up, too. Special programs area available to use with imaging from for mobile phones and tablets.
Enhanced with digital painting and some "photoshopping."
At shows, when people study my work and ask, "Did you photoshop it?" I honestly respond, "No. I don't use Photoshop™." True, I'm playing a language game with them, but it gets their attention and allows me time to explain the software I use and how I choose my brushes and palette, decide on texture and digitally paint my own backgrounds. I tell them about the darkroom days. Several have looked again at my work and bought a print; many more leave with a different attitude—I hope.

What's a professional to do? Just as it is with professional writers, professional photographers have to be certain their craft is finely honed. Finding a photographic specialty is the same as choosing a certain writing genre. Once decided, pursue it to the hilt, and don't let naysayers bring you down. It is often difficult to find acceptance and affirmation of any type of artistic work in the general public. It's even harder now, when all the I-wish-I-could [publish a book, do photography] folks suddenly can.

Visit my galleries

Click WRAP in the labels on the right for more articles in this series

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Writing and Photography in the 21st Century #3

Technology in the 21st Century is making many things obsolete. My friend Mike Coleman, an experienced business writer, made an interesting comment on how his freelance life as changed. He has written copy on contract for ad agencies, PR firms, corporations--anyone with a marketing budget--for more than a decade. (You can find him on LinkedIn and his blog about his adventures in singing.) For him, the new technology has let him work independently from a home office with little travel and clients anywhere in the world. I have also experienced this. It's great!

He also said:

"I remember in the mid-90s when I started freelancing I bought a $700 fax machine and thought it was the coolest thing since sliced bread. My main client was SAP America, one of the leading tech companies in the world, and they communicated mostly by fax with me, marking up the copy I faxed them and faxing it back to me so I could produce revised drafts. How things have changed today. I junked the fax machine a few years ago, don't even own one now."

The changes will keep coming, and while getting used to them can cause a few headaches, the benefits are many.

Read more posts on this topic by clicking WRAP in the label cloud

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Writing and Photography in the 21st Century #2

Not to long ago, I had a conversation with a photographer who works in the advertising industry. He is often on location in a variety of settings. He began his career using film cameras. A shoot would entail having enough of the right speed film for the setting, taking and developing his images, culling the lot, making proof sheets, sending them to his agency...Perhaps if he were in a place with adequate facilities, this could be done in one-three days.

In the 2000s things changed. Good film became scarce, and high-quality processing even harder to find. He switched to digital.

Benefits: he can now shoot on location and change film speed as needed, cull and crop images right in the camera if he wants to, or work them in a laptop; no development costs, often no proof sheets to print since he can upload his finals to the agency with maybe only two hours from when he made the shots.


But he mentioned some not-so-terrific things, such as on-site agency people looking over his shoulder to see his pictures while he examines them; a lot of kibitzing; and once a company man held up a point-and-shoot digital to show him his own shot he thought was better.

He likes to be employed, so he didn't say where that little camera could be put.

I imagine that some small business have already decided that hiring a professional photographer seems redundant: "Here's a decent camera. Give it to Cathy, she has a good eye." And if Cathy's pics are just so-so, they get the secretary's grandson to "fix it" in Photoshop.

Ah, Photoshop (and other programs of that ilk)....Well, that's for another post.

To see more posts on this subject, click WRAP in the labels cloud.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Self Promotion - Use What You Know

I'm not one to hit the road on a big self-promotion tour, but I've found that the side route works rather well and can be used years after the book came out. That is, talk about and publicize the history behind the story and/or your experience as a writer.

For three of my historical fiction titles Hammer Come Down, Kansas Dreamer and Spotted Flower and the Ponokomita, I've developed presentations based on the history that is in the story. The Spotted Flower presentation has been picked up by the Humanities Montana Speakers' Bureau; that gives me even more visibility.

When I'm called for a presentation, I often arrange a book signing at the event or the local library. Smaller communities especially like this. I take copies of all my titles, and usually sell more than the title about which I spoke. I also donate 15% of the proceeds back to the Friends of the Library. By letting the organizers know I will do this, they often initiate a lot of advertising. I've had radio-spot announcements and newspaper ads that I never had to lift a finger to produce. So this becomes a double shot for the pocketbook: a speaker's fee and, quite often, decent book sales.

My colleague JR Lindermuth says: "Excellent advice, and the suggestion can be adapted to fit most any genre. On a smaller scale, I have used it with my historical novel, Watch The Hour, speaking to historical groups, libraries and clubs on the trials of the immigrant Irish in the coal region."