Category Archives: Photography

Hipstamatic Tintype

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This is just a quick share of some photos along with a quick update. I will write a longer post in the next few days with what I have been up to lately as well as a skin cancer update.

Since my surgeries I have not been out very much to take photographs. And honestly, I have also felt a certain lack of motivation and inspiration in the area of photography for a few months prior. A very normal part of the cycle of being an artist. There are times when I just need a break from the camera so I can begin to see things differently again.

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This short break away has been a good one for me. I find myself gravitating back towards my original love of black and white. I also recently discovered the new Tintype app by Hipstamatic and I adore it.

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These four photos were shot over the last two days with the Tintype app. I love the dreamy, vintage feel this app creates. It has also helped me to slow down again and really think about my composition before I shoot. If you love mobile photography and have not yet tried this app I highly recommend it!

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Of Fluttering Eyelids, Insomnia, and a Dose of Reality

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Most people despise insomnia. I rather like it. Yes, I said “I like it.” There never seem to be enough hours in the day for me to do all the things I want and need to do. For most of my life I have been the most productive during the still and quiet times of the night. It’s as if my creative switch jumps into turbo mode and I find the need to heed its call. When my body says “hell no” my mind persists until I fling my legs over the side of the bed and shuffle off to my office in the dark. Sometimes I am rewarded with a moment of brilliance. At others I simply stare and curse at my inability to lasso all the free-ranging thoughts and ideas that inflict bruise marks upon my brain.

This past few weeks I have had many of those sleepless episodes. When I view it with logic I attribute it to the need for a bit of overtime to make up for all those unproductive post-op days. I know my body needs the rest and I will still grab several hours even at my worse, but I have photos to edit, code to write, blogging to catch up on, and jewelry to design.

When I allow myself to ease into my emotions I realize it’s all just smoke and mirrors. Time is short. We don’t have forever to make a contribution to this world. My insomnia is my mind’s way of reminding me that all our days are numbered. The dark, vacuous expanse of the night forces me to hear my own thoughts after the noise pollution from my day has finally been silenced. It’s like viewing a full-frontal image of a life not yet fully well-lived. Parts of it are crumbling, parts of it have already died. All the promise of youth; the dreams, the aspirations, the convictions. Some of them accomplished, a few of them long forgotten. Some of them never to be revisited again. They now stare blank faced and wrinkled before me. Energy expended. Searching for the reserves. Is that really all it is? A constant struggle to remake oneself and whittle the vision down into tiny little achievable pieces until the very end?

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A little more than five weeks have passed since the Curettage and Electrodessication surgery to remove the skin cancer on my back and it has been four weeks since the Mohs surgery removed the cancer on my face. My body is healing well with a few exceptions. My energy level has not been the same but I attribute that to my body’s need to call on all reserves in order to heal itself. I suffered nausea and headaches for the first week and a half following my Mohs surgery but that has thankfully subsided to a day here and there. My back is still a bit tender as the new skin grows in to cover the hole left by the removal and I suffered a large rash around the area during the time I had to use bandages to cover the hole. Thankfully the rash is drying up. But I now have another curious growth below the scar that seems to be yet another Basal Cell (sigh). But the bruising and swelling around my eye that left me looking like a prize fighter or one badass hockey player is now only a dime-sized black and blue mark near my cheekbone.

The newest post-op symptom to arise is one that is driving me completely crazy. My upper eyelid has decided to flutter uncontrollably for the better part of every day, especially when I am attempting to get work done in front of my computer. It makes everything look like one of those flip book movies It doesn’t surprise me in that the surgeries (both the Mohs removal and reconstruction) took place on the Medial Canthus of the same eyelid. There are a number of nerves, muscles and vessels that pass through that area and my eye is working overtime to adjust to the trauma of the surgery itself. Fortunately the surgeon who did my reconstruction is an Opthalmologist and I have another follow-up appointment with him in three weeks. If the fluttering is still there at that time, he will be the best one to inquire about it.

Although I am not one to regularly kneel at the alter of vanity, my Oculoplastics surgeon did an amazing job of sealing the site. It looks like I will have a barely visible scar that gets covered for the most part by my eyeglasses. The scarring on my back is another story but the only time that area is shown in public is if I don a bathing suit and go lap swimming. And these days that is a very rare occasion indeed due to my need to stay out of the sun.

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I am a realist at heart. I love all my friends who live in the world of a glass half full and who tend not to dwell on any possibility that doesn’t fall into the category of positive thinking. I prefer to pause at that half full mark more often than not, but in the case of skin cancer I know it is a chronic condition and I am bound to have more lesions arise over time. The DNA damage was done during my careless and clueless younger years and I am just now reaping the “benefits” of all those poor decisions. It’s not an illusion or a conjuring up of bad things that are now bound to happen because of negative thought processes. This is my reality but I feel prepared. I am definitely more cognizant of what to watch for in order to catch things as quickly as possible should they arise. I have developed a great relationship with a group of wonderful doctors who are looking out for my health and are ready to conquer any new demons when they arise. I feel blessed that I wasn’t handed the diagnosis of Melanoma and happy that my tumors were caught in time before further damage was done.

The next step in my journey will be the Flourouracil treatment (topical chemotherapy) on my face, and later my chest. I am stalling a bit in regards to the start date of this treatment. I know it will be extremely uncomfortable at best and absolutely horrible at its worst. My skin is very sensitive and my Dermatologist says I have a lot of spots on my face that he is concerned about, so I have the feeling my experience with Flourouracil will not be a pleasant gourmet Sunday picnic.

I am taking this time during my healing from the surgeries to catch up on a bunch of projects and basically get everything in order for the four plus weeks I will be dealing with the Flourouracil treatment. I am not expecting it to be a whole lot of fun, but at least it will mark the end of a very long and trying year.


Of Frozen Peas and Prize Fights

Frozen peas are my friend.

Frozen peas are my friend.

Today I look like a prize-fighter. Fortunately my opponent looks far worse than I do at this moment in time. Yesterday’s surgeries went well. After a six-hour day of needles, scalpels, bandages, blood and stitches, I can now say I am cancer free. So this week I am focused on healing. Bags of frozen peas have become my best friend for reducing the swelling and controlling the bruising. Once I am fully healed I will move on to the topical chemo in a few months to eradicate any hidden gremlins that might be lurking in the shadows.

The scene of my Mohs surgery.

The scene of my Mohs surgery.

Thank you all for the kind words, prayers and positive thoughts you’ve sent me while I travel down this inconvenient but hopefully short side road along this occasionally convoluted journey we call “life.”

The reconstruction surgeon, Dr. J., who made me all pretty again.

The reconstruction surgeon, Dr. J., who made me all pretty again.


On the Eve of Mohs

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Tomorrow morning I have the Mohs surgery to remove the rest of the tumor on my eyelid (Medial Canthus). The length of the surgery is dependent on how wide and deep the roots of the cancer have grown. The surgeon will take a slice, bandage me up and send me to a waiting area while he freezes the sample and looks at the cells under a microscope. If the margins are not clear he will take another slice and repeat. This process will continue until he views clear margins. They told me it typically takes from three to five hours with most undergoing three passes of the scalpel, some much more.

Once the margins are clear he will inject a longer-lasting anesthetic, bandage me up again and send me on my way to the Oculoplastics surgeon for reconstruction and closure of the surgery site.

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After the surgeries I will have to ice my eye/face 20 minutes on/off for the first three days followed by warm compresses until the stitches are removed, keep the area clean, and put artificial tears in my eyes four times a day. I will have to sleep in a recliner to keep my head elevated and cannot lift much of anything, am not supposed to bend over nor do any exercise. Basically I am supposed to rest and let it heal.

My biggest concern is of course in which direction he will have to cut to follow the cancer. I am hoping it is away from my eye. My second concern is the amount of time my eye will remain swollen and how soon I will be able to wear my glasses. I am pretty blind without them.

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The surgery site on my back is healing well with minimal pain although I have been experiencing daily headaches. Yesterday I was able to go on an easy hike around Sly Park lake for a bit of pre-surgery nature therapy. It felt good to get out in nature but I was not feeling well by the time I got back to the picnic area.

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Tonight I am understandably a bundle of nerves. I am trying to keep myself grounded and positive but I don’t like the fact there are so many unknowns right now. Of course it will all become clear as the surgeon begins his task and I will walk away at the end of the day knowing without a doubt that all the cancer has been removed.

I will update you all as soon as I get to the other side :-).

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And So It Begins…

Surgical Lights. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

Surgical Lights. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

So yesterday was surgery #1 for the cancer on my back. After a long discussion with my doctor I chose one of three removal options. The options were by excision, through Immunotherapy drugs, or by Curettage and Electrodessication.

Since it is a larger basal cell, with an excision he would have had to cut about ten inches in length and go pretty deep for clear margins plus I would have quite a few stitches to contend with and the pain that accompanies it. The second option was Immunotherapy via Imiquimod used to treat advanced basal cell carcinomas. The drug uses your own body’s immune system to kill off the tumor but the regimen would require daily topical application for six straight weeks with pain and discomfort accompanied by flu-like symptoms. The third (which I chose) was the Curettage and Electrodessication method. It would not require a large incision or stitches nor the yucky chemo side effects. He used a sharp curette (a spoon-shaped instrument) to scrape and scoop the tumor out then used a machine with an electric current to burn away any excess cancer cells surrounding the tumor spot. So now I have a semi-deep, open spot on my back that simply requires cleaning, application of ointment and bandaging for the next several weeks. It stung quite a bit after the local wore off but I slept well last night after taking an Extra Strength Tylenol and today I only feel it a tiny bit along with a headache.

The surgery room. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

The surgery room. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

Although it does not have as high of a success rate as the Imiquimod, I decided the C&E method would be the best choice since I will have to also deal with the healing process, discomfort, etc. of the upcoming surgeries on my face which will be more involved and require stitches.

My lollipop following surgery.

My lollipop following surgery.

I also had another pre-cancer (Actinic Keratosis #20) frozen off my forehead right before the surgery. We discussed moving my topical chemo regimen forward to the end of October following my Mohs instead of waiting any longer since I have so many “spots” of concern on my face. So I have five weeks of possible Hell to look forward to after all this surgery. The level of that particular Hell will depend on how many sub-dermal spots turn up when I use the Fluorouracil. Common side effects of this topical chemotherapy may include: skin irritation, burning, redness, dryness, pain, swelling, tenderness, or changes in skin color at the site of application. Eye irritation (e.g., stinging, watering), trouble sleeping, irritability, temporary hair loss, or abnormal taste in the mouth may also occur. Oh goody!

Paraphernalia to make the owie all better.

Paraphernalia to make the owie all better.

So the lesson in this is WEAR YOUR SUNSCREEN and those big, sexy hats. It’s not “just skin cancer” that can be cut away and forgotten about. It is real, it costs time and money, and it wreaks havoc on one’s psyche.

That is all for now…


Respite in Yosemite

El Capitan. Yosemite National Park. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

El Capitan. Yosemite National Park. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

Last week I was “kidnapped” by my lovely partner and held hostage in a Yurt for three days right outside the entrance to Yosemite National Park. It was a much-needed respite in nature as my surgery dates approach.

The Yurt. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

The Yurt. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

I grew up near Yosemite on the Eastern side of the Sierras so I have been there many times. I never get tired of the beauty and majesty that this park bestows. I am always in awe and am often brought to tears by its magnificence.

A very dry Mirror Lake. Yosemite National Park. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

A very dry Mirror Lake. Yosemite National Park. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

Our days were spent hiking and taking photos. I felt completely energized and renewed while there and wanted to continue hiking and climbing even when I was at my most depleted state due to the higher elevation and lack of oxygen.

It was a wonderful escape from reality as well as an opportunity to reflect on the beauty in life.

The view of Half Dome and Yosemite Valley from on top of Glacier Point. Yosemite National Park. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

The view of Half Dome and Yosemite Valley from on top of Glacier Point. Yosemite National Park. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

This morning I am feeling tense again so I decided to look through my photos in order to go back to my “happy place” and ground myself a bit. That is a big part of photography for me. The ability to relive those moments captured in perpetuity. When I view them I can feel the wind on my face, the smell of the pines, the warmth of the sun (protected by SPF 50 of course), and am embraced once again by a feeling of reverence and an overwhelming silence.

"The Fallen." - Jeffrey Pine on top of Sentinel Dome with a view of El Capitan and Cathedral Spires in the background. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

“The Fallen.” – Jeffrey Pine on top of Sentinel Dome with a view of El Capitan and Cathedral Spires in the background. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

Tomorrow it all begins with my back surgery followed 10 days later with the Mohs surgery on my face. I expect tomorrow to be pretty straight forward with an excision and stitches followed by the waiting game for the pathology report. The Mohs surgery on the 8th is a different story. Too many unknowns for my taste. But I will try to stay focused on the beauty of nature and look forward to more trips to Yosemite in the future.

A Mule Deer in the forest. Yosemite National Park. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

A Mule Deer in the forest. Yosemite National Park. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

The majestic face of El Capitan. Yosemite National Park. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

The majestic face of El Capitan. Yosemite National Park. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

Bridge over the Tuolumne River. Yosemite National Park. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

Bridge over the Tuolumne River. Yosemite National Park. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

Granite and trees near lower Yosemite Falls. Yosemite National Park. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

Granite and trees near lower Yosemite Falls. Yosemite National Park. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.


A multitude of rock cairns below Half Dome near Mirror Lake. Yosemite National Park. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

A multitude of rock cairns below Half Dome near Mirror Lake. Yosemite National Park. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

Sentinel Dome from below. Yosemite National Park. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

Sentinel Dome from below. Yosemite National Park. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

Hiking down from the top of Sentinel Dome with Half Dome as the backdrop. Yosemite National Park. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

Hiking down from the top of Sentinel Dome with Half Dome as the backdrop. Yosemite National Park. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

Yep, that's a selfie on top of Sentinel Dome. Yosemite National Park.

Yep, that’s a selfie on top of Sentinel Dome. Yosemite National Park.


Fine Art and Good Wine

"Palapa at El Paraiso" - ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

“Palapa at El Paraiso” – ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

I don’t often do this but think this is an awesome promotion put together by Fine Art America and NakedWines.com. It also provides me with an opportunity to shamelessly promote my work for sale. Of course any purchase of my work helps to offset some of the costs I am incurring for cancer treatment above and beyond what my insurance currently covers.

SHAMELESS PROMOTION

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If you are a wine and fine art lover or you know somebody who is, if you purchase any one of my prints (any size and style) during the month of July from the link below you will instantly receive a $100 OFF certificate for NakedWines.com. To use the certificate you must be a new customer to NakedWines and it can only be applied towards wine purchases of $160 or more.

Even if you don’t drink wine you can always re-gift the certificate at the holidays. Better yet, give your loved one a fine art print and you can put your feet up and drink that $160 worth of wine that you bought for just $60 (plus whatever you spent on the print) :-).

DESCRIPTION FROM FINE ART AMERICA

“When you place an order on Fine Art America, we’ll e-mail you a $100 gift certificate from NakedWines.com… instantly. It doesn’t matter how large your order is on Fine Art America. If you order a single greeting card, you’ll still receive the gift certificate.

Once you receive the gift certificate, all you have to do is visit NakedWines.com, enter in your gift certificate code, buy some wine, and you’re done! Then, just sit back and wait for the wine to arrive on your doorstep. If the logistical stars are in alignment, maybe your wine and your order from Fine Art America will arrive at the same time!”

Below is the link to my Fine Art America store where you can order prints. I have also included the promotion information link on FAA. Who knows, you might also find some other wonderful artists’ work on the Fine Art America site worth collecting or promoting.

To buy a print and receive your certificate click here: http://tracy-thomas.artistwebsites.com/

For more information on the promotion click here: http://fineartamerica.com/winepromotion.html

NOTE: I most definitely will not hold it against you if you decide to share this blog post with all of your friends across the globe and on every one of your social media accounts. Honest I won’t and cheers!


The Better To See You With…

ophthalmologists Phoropter - ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

Opthalmologists Phoropter – ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

Last week I had my appointment with the Ophthalmologist who will be my Oculoplastics surgeon directly following the Mohs surgery. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I came to his office for the pre-op consult and examination. He examined my eyes closely with a numbing yellow dye and a split scope then took a ton of measurements of my face from my eye up to my hairline, from my eyelid to the area of the lesion, and across the bridge of my nose. He then took a lot of photographs of my face, especially of the area where the cancer lives.

Split Scope - ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

Split Scope – ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

Dr. J as I will refer to him explained the difficulty of the surgery based on the proximity to the eye. He told me when cancer is found on the midline of the face it is considered high-risk. The face is made up of different types of skin cells so grafting to the area where my cancer grows with skin from somewhere else on my face (i.e. behind my ear) would not do very well. Instead he will be pulling a skin flap over the open region with adjoining healthy skin. This may mean skin pulled over from my top eyelid, bottom eyelid, or down from the bridge of my nose or forehead to the area of the medial canthus. Part of the difficulty of reconstruction for this area is the fact it is a concave pocket and skin likes to grow in a straight line from point A to B especially when they use a graft from another area of the body. However skin cells used from adjacent areas can more easily conform to the natural concave shape of the area.

Anatomy of the eye - ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

Anatomy of the eye – ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

We discussed the unknowns including the fact they won’t know how much skin will be removed until the actual day of the Mohs surgery. Therefore Dr. J does not know how much reconstruction will be required until I make it to him following the first surgery earlier in the day. Such is the nastiness of skin cancer. It likes to take root and grow just under the radar beneath the surface of the skin. The beauty of Mohs surgery is their ability to remove a layer, freeze it, look at it under a microscope to determine whether or not they got clear margins all in the same day. That way you don’t have to wait two days and come back for more surgery. They just keep cutting away until the margins are clear.

I can’t honestly say my anxiety was relieved by the pre-op appointment. There are still too many unknowns at this juncture. I did receive the date for my Mohs surgery and reconstruction the day after my pre-op so at least I now have a target date for which to mentally prepare. The cancer on my back will be removed first in a few weeks by my Dermatologist, most likely through excision. I will then have a month or so to heal before my face surgery occurs on September 8th. Relieved to have a date, however the intensity of it all gave me one big headache.

Me getting rid of my headache with my Spa Comforts lavender eye pillow.

Me getting rid of my headache with my Spa Comforts lavender eye pillow.

Dr. J gave me a handout with post-op care instructions before I left his office. There will be a period of time I most likely will not be able to wear my glasses due to inflammation, swelling and tenderness. This is not a great thing since I am pretty reliant on my glasses to read and see. They told me to expect redness, bruising, and swelling to not only my eye area but my face plus the possibility of bleeding into the white of my eyes for a period of 4-6 weeks. I will need to sleep with my head elevated (yay for brand new, über comfy La-Z-Boy recliners) and I won’t be able to do any heavy work, bending over, lifting or exercise. In other words I am going to be bored for a bit :-).

However boredom is the perfect trade-off for becoming (fingers crossed real tight) cancer free.


Finding My Center

"Qi" - ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

“Qi” – ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

This past week I have been embroiled in a feeble attempt to find my center. There are moments when I feel like a derailed train that continues to move forward without a clear vision of my destination. There have been a whole lot of unknowns that surround my day-to-day. I float somewhere in this middle ground that follows diagnosis but comes before surgery and treatment.

I don’t do well with unknowns. What I do know is the cancer is still growing while I wait to have it removed from my body.

So, I spend an inordinate amount of time doing research on anything related to skin cancer, Mohs surgery and Efudex treatment. I have always been the curious sort with a need to know, oft-times to my own detriment. But I would much rather be educated than blind to the facts and possibilities before me. I suppose it provides me with some semblance of control in the midst of feeling out of control over the current circumstances during my body’s rebellion against the sun.

"Gazania 2" - ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

“Gazania 2” – ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

When you stop and read the statistics on skin cancer it is a bit astounding. One in five people will have some form of skin cancer in their life time. One in five. Yet we continue to have this sordid love affair with tanning booths and the sun.

Skin cancer is not just a simple trip to the Dermatologist to have a couple of bad cells scraped off or frozen away. It can be that for a few, but it also has the potential to be extremely disfiguring. And it can kill you.

We have been taught to shrug our shoulders and say “at least it’s just skin cancer.” In my mind this is nothing more than a statement of denial since we tend to place bronzed skin and vanity on a pedestal far above common sense. Skin cancer of any type can metastasize and spread to the organs if left untreated. I challenge anyone who thinks that skin cancer is “no big deal” to Google it and read the blogs and stories of people who have or are now going through it. It’s not pretty.

Black Beauty

Although I do feel lucky to so far avoided the diagnosis of the creeping black spider that is Melanoma, this in no way diminishes for me the seriousness of my own diagnosis. The fact I have any type of skin cancer at all increases the probability that I will have more in the future. All those days in my past spent carelessly soaking up the sun for the sake of vanity altered my DNA and have finally culminated in something not so pretty.

"Gazania 3" - ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

“Gazania 3” – ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

On Monday I meet with the Opthamologist/Oculoplastics surgeon for the pre-op appointment prior to the Mohs surgery on my face. Since this lesion is close to my eye and my eyelid it is considered high risk. I will need reconstruction surgery and most likely a skin graft following the removal of the cancer by the Mohs surgeon. I should know shortly after this appointment the date of my first surgery.

So, for now as I continue to ride the roller-coaster of stress and emotion and fumble for my center, I take trips out into the garden and attempt to focus on the beauty I see through my lens. When I do this I feel my whole body exhale. I feel my feet grounded on the soil below me. I begin to find my center. I forget, if only for a moment, about the ugly and garner hope for a future filled with the magnificence of the small things we are often too blind to see in this life.

"Emanating" - ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

“Emanating” – ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

You can now purchase any of the photographs from my “Zen in the Garden” series on my Etsy shop here.


Floating Weightless In-Between

"Winged Beauty" - ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

“Winged Beauty” – ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

I am the strong silent type. An observer from day one, I have always preferred to sit back and watch the world. To the dismay of the people closest to me, I crawl into my cocoon of thought and don’t emerge until I feel ready to talk about the things that have impacted my life.

"The Retreat" - ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

“The Retreat” – ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

Since my last post “A Million Angel Kisses,” I have been doing a whole lot of digesting. At this point I am floating weightless in-between. This is the waiting game before the surgery dates are finalized and the biopsy sites and Cryosurgery areas heal. I have traveled from the warp-speed moment of hearing the news to this point that feels as if I am stuck in some relentless traffic jam. I just want everything to be over so I can move on with my life.

"Hopper" - ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

“Little Hopper” – ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

I am not one who likes to have my body poked and prodded. Who does? I feel grief for the loss of control over what is happening to my body. Pieces of me are being removed and examined under a microscope. I don’t like that kind of attention. This makes me feel angry, then sad. Frustrated, then relieved that the prognosis for the type of cancer I have is very good. But there is still this underlying fear of an increased likelihood that more will pop up over time. And that “more” might just be the “bad” kind.

In the midst of my angst and fear I have blamed myself for all those times I basked too long in the sun for the sake of vanity. I suddenly felt guilt for the times I allowed those I love to do the same.

"Carnivale" - ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

“Carnivale” – ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

I am aware all of this is part of the process of reaching acceptance for the cards I have been dealt. This isn’t the first time I have felt this way. I have been through other struggles in life and was quite happy to morph beyond the ugly and back out into the light. Struggle has definitely made me a much stronger human being.

"Baby Snaps" - ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

“Baby Snaps” – ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

So, I continue to find my way back into the garden to clear my mind and find some semblance of peace. Little did I know when I bought my new macro lens and made my first “Zen in the Garden” post a month ago how healing that simple act would continue to be for me.

"Walking the Line" - ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

“Walking the Line” – ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

This past weekend we made a trip to the Sierra’s where I took a long walk in the woods and found plenty of beautiful things to photograph. I of course was slathered with sunscreen, wore my big sexy hat and spent most of the day in the shade, but it was just what I needed to rid myself of the angst I felt the week before. I still have moments of fear, especially during the quiet times at night.

There is still a bumpy little road that I need to travel over the next several months, but I will try to remain focused on the beauty that resides on the other side.


A Million Angel Kisses

©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

freck·le (ˈfrekəl)
noun
1. a small patch of light brown color on the skin, often becoming more pronounced through exposure to the sun.
synonyms: speckle, fleck, dot, spot, mole, blotch, macula

When I was a child, my grandmother used to tell me the freckles that appeared all over my face and body were the result of a “million angel kisses.” She assured me every opportunity she had that I was special and the angels had smothered me with kisses before I was even born. As time went on and more freckles began to surface, I was convinced it was simply a sign of their undying affections.

©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

I know now that my grandmother wasn’t exactly telling the truth about my freckles. Her diatribes about making her way to California from Cleveland, Ohio on a wagon train were also untrue. But that’s what Irish grandmothers do. They spin magical tales that captivate the wee ones who sit wide-eyed at their feet. When I think back on all her tall tales spoken in her dramatic half-cocked Irish brogue, I realize these are the best memories of my childhood.

In reality, freckles are pigmented spots that arise from sun exposure. Anyone can get a freckle, however some individuals (like myself) were born with the presence of the melanocortin-1 receptor MC1R gene variant. This genetic variant is why some of us end up with a ton of freckles as we grow and are exposed to the sun. When we are exposed to UV-B radiation it activates melanocytes which increases melanin production. This can cause freckles to become darker and more visible. So in essence, I am still special, just not angel kissing special…

©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

Not only am I blessed with the melanocortin-1 receptor MC1R gene variant, I am very fair-skinned and have hazel/green eyes. In other words I burn easily. I grew up at a higher elevation (4,500 feet) in a small community surrounded by mountains. Playing outdoors was all I knew as a kid. We climbed, we hiked, we skied, we swam, we did anything that had to do with outdoor activities. And we did it all without sunscreen and more often than not without a hat. I can’t even count the number of times I received sunburns so bad I blistered and eventually peeled. Those were the days when moms brought out the aerosol can of Solarcaine to soothe the screaming pain of sunburn. Oh if they only knew then what we know now…

Sun exposure, especially to the point of sunburn, can have a dramatic effect on the skin over time. It can actually change the DNA and result in skin cancer. You do not have to have fair skin to end up with skin cancer. Even dark-skinned individuals have been known to experience skin cancer. People who have sunburned at least once increase their chances of getting skin cancer by a whopping 50%. Imagine the odds if you have had multiple burns over time.

©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

Nowadays more young people are being diagnosed with advanced Melanoma, many of them in their 20’s. Pediatric Melanoma is also on the rise with some cases occurring as young as the age of 2. There is no cure for advanced Melanoma (Stage IV). There are a lot of experimental drugs, but no known cure at this time. The prognosis for Stage IV is usually 6-9 months. Grim indeed.

I have heard people exclaim “well at least it’s only skin cancer.” To me that is a pretty foolish statement. I suppose we like to remain in denial when it comes to the sun and like to think we can just run down to the Dermatologist office and have them scrape these little annoyances off so we can get back to tanning. Cancer is cancer and it can be unpredictable and ugly. Once you get skin cancer, whether it be Basal Cell, Squamous Cell, or Melanoma, the odds become higher that you will have more skin cancer at some point in your life. And if you are one of the unlucky, it will spread to your internal organs and you might die.

©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

Yesterday I had a follow-up appointment with my Dermatologist so he could check several other spots of concern on my body. This appointment followed my initial visit and biopsy of the first Basal Cell Carcinoma near my eye. I had eighteen Seborrheic Keratoses (pre cancerous growths) frozen with liquid nitrogen (Cryosurgery). Seven of the spots were on my hands, eight on my face, one on my leg, and two on my chest and upper abdomen. I also had one lesion on my back biopsied to check for cancer.

©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

My Dermatologist is very concerned about my face to the point he is putting me on Efudex (topical Chemotherapy) for 3-4 weeks in the fall/winter to fight off any pre-cancers or cancers lurking underneath the surface of the skin. Efudex is not a very pleasant experience. In his words: “Efudex is a topical chemotherapy, and, like many other types of chemotherapy, it is aimed at selectively destroying abnormal cells (in this case precancerous and cancerous cells). Over the course of the treatment we expect the affected areas to get red, inflamed, swollen, and sore. These areas may ooze straw-colored fluid, may bleed, and may become quite scabby. Some undergoing treatment will experience severe pain in treated areas. The reaction caused by Efudex in the skin can be quite dramatic and even alarming. For some people, 3 weeks of treatment is an impossible goal; for others it can be done relatively easily.” Let’s hope I am one of those “relatively easily” peeps.

Of course I was all over researching Efudex the minute I got home from the doctor last eve. I came across the typical horror stories as well as patients who had very minimal difficulty going through the regimen. Here is a video of one man who went through Efudex treatment. He is a fellow videographer and his production made me laugh and understand better what it is you go through with the treatment.

Today all the spots he froze have lovely raised blisters. They still sting a little bit but the one on my chest which was the largest pretty much burns constantly (see photo below). The biopsy spot on my back is also continuing to protest a bit. The last thing I wanted at this juncture in my life was to look in the mirror and see blisters staring back at me. But I realize the importance of attacking these cells before they have an opportunity to morph into something far worse like Melanoma. Indeed a small percentage of people who have Basal Cell Carcinoma have had their cancer spread to internal organs and die. But it is a very small percentage when compared to the rapid and difficult to control spread of Melanoma.

©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

Now I await the biopsy results for the lesion on my back. I am also waiting for the Mohs surgeon and Plastic surgeon to coordinate a date and time for my surgery. Plastic surgeon you say? Yes, I will most likely need some reconstruction surgery when they remove the Basal Cell on the bridge of my nose because it is so close to my eye. It will all depend on how much skin they need to remove on the surgery day. They won’t know until they start cutting and looking under the microscope. The thing about Basal Cell is its affinity for rooting out under the surface of the skin. It is not simply removing the exposed tumor on the surface, but more often removing tissue beneath or around the tumor until the margins are clear. They can be sneaky little bastards. The result can be quite disfiguring. Thus the Plastics surgeon…

©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

[Up on my soapbox now] – Please remember to use sunscreen; one that protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Limit the amount of time you and your loved ones (especially your children) spend in direct sunlight between the hours of 10 and 4. When you go outside, wear a great big sexy hat to protect your beautiful face and scalp. And please, oh please don’t be misled into thinking tanning booths are safe. They are not. They are responsible for a large percentage of the cases of Melanoma today. I don’t want you to have to go through what myself and millions of other Americans are going through on a daily basis. One person dies of Melanoma every hour…

Pale is definitely the new sexy.


More Zen in the Garden

"Twirling" - ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

“Twirling” – ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

The pain and limitations of my torn Rotator Cuff have caused me to slow down a lot when it comes to my photography. I can still use my iPhone with relative ease but my DSLR is a different story altogether, especially when I use my heavier lenses such as the 300mm zoom or FD macro lens. This past week I have learned to embrace my tripod all over again.

"Sleeping Beauty" - "Remnants of Wishes Unfulfilled" - ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

“Sleeping Beauty” – ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

Although a tripod increases your odds of taking a sharper image, I have always loved the freedom of shooting without one. Many years ago I spent a lot of time at several of our local wildlife areas shooting with a 50-500mm zoom. I learned to steady the lens with my elbows tucked tightly into my ribcage or resting it on a beanbag on the edge of my car window or hood. The types of shots I was after simply did not warrant the time involved to set up a tripod and get the camera tethered and setup properly. By the time the setup was complete, the bird or animal I wanted to capture was long gone or had stopped the behavior I wanted to catch. I tried to use a monopod but still found it to be restrictive in a number of ways. Eventually I sunk some money into a shoulder rig but still only used it on occasion because again, it still restricted my ability to react quickly when the need arose.

"Katydid Nymph" - "Remnants of Wishes Unfulfilled" - ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

“Katydid Nymph” – ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

Slowing down with macro photography in my garden has been good for me. I find I am searching and shooting with more deliberation and spending more time being focused on “seeing” the things before me. I now wander the garden with my big floppy UV protective hat and sunglasses like some crazy old lady on a make-believe safari in search of my next trophy. Crazy old lady or not, the act of wandering the garden has been very healing for the soul in the midst of the cancer diagnosis. When I have a bad day due to pain in my shoulder or when pondering the possible biopsy outcome of additional spots on my skin, I grab my camera, tripod and hat and am instantly transported to another place.

"Spring Showers" - "Remnants of Wishes Unfulfilled" - ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

“Spring Showers” – ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

Macro photography requires a large amount of patience and mental focus. When I am bent over my camera positioning the lens to obtain the desired focus and depth of field, I find myself taking several long, slow, deep breaths in order to release any tension and zero in on the subject at hand. It may sound funny to say it, but I find myself becoming one with the insect or the flower in front of me. The minute detail of these tiny subjects through my powerful lens astounds me. I find myself gasping on occasion at the beautiful colors and interesting physical structures that are hidden to the naked eye.

"The Pollen Gatherer" - "Remnants of Wishes Unfulfilled" - ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

“The Pollen Gatherer” – ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

All fearful thoughts or feelings of frustration are cast away on the breeze as I study the subjects in front of my lens. I feel a sense of amazement and a joy for life as I continue to wander.

"Remnants of Wishes Unfulfilled" - ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

“Remnants of Wishes Unfulfilled” – ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.


The Unexpected Twists and Turns of Life

doctor

Since my last post several weeks ago, Zen in the Garden, a lot has changed. I tore the Rotator Cuff in my right shoulder (my dominant arm) and was left pretty incapacitated for several days along with severe inflammation and pain. I have a fairly high pain tolerance and have suffered quite a few sports related injuries in my life including a ruptured Achilles Tendon that required re-attachment surgery. But nothing prepared me for the pain of this shoulder injury. The shoulder muscles are involved in even the tiniest movement of the body. So pretty much anything I did made me cry out in pain. The day I paced the living room like a panting canine with tears rolling down my cheeks was the day I finally gave in and called my doctor.

My doctor ordered an x-ray to rule out anything involving the bones and set up an appointment to meet with her following the x-ray. Let’s just say the process of my arm being placed in compromising positions from the point of removing my shirt, donning the robe, being repositioned during the x-ray, then getting dressed again was nothing short of Hell. My doctor then put me through a variety of painful strength and movement tests that confirmed what I already felt was true, I had torn my Rotator Cuff. Fortunately she felt I did not need surgery and prescribed a high level of anti-inflammatory drugs in order to get the fiery pain under control. She also gave me a few beginning stage rehab exercises to keep my shoulder from freezing.

doctor3

While visiting my doctor I took the opportunity to have her take a glance at a small wart-like growth that had appeared on the bridge of my nose near my eye. It started growing several months after last year’s bout with West Nile and has continued to get a bit bigger. She took one look and made an appointment for the next day to see a Dermatologist. There were also a few more dry patches and a couple clear wart-like growths near my hairline on my forehead but she wanted me seen immediately for the one growth and booked me into the single lesion clinic.

My Dermatologist took one look and said he was certain it was Basal Cell Carcinoma. He did a biopsy and sent it off to the lab. We then had the discussion about how common this type of skin cancer was and that the prognosis was very good. There are a small percentage of cases where the cancer spreads to organs in the body but generally speaking this is one of the less invasive forms of skin cancer. Because it was the single lesion clinic, I could not discuss any of my other concerns at the time.

doctor 4

Three days later the lab results came back and were positive for malignant Basal Cell Carcinoma. As an adult, I wear hats and cover myself with sunscreen when I spend time outdoors. Alas, all those hours spent in my youth lathering myself with baby oil and worshiping the sun for the sake of vanity are what finally caught up with me. I now await a call from the Mohs surgeon who will cut the tumor layer by layer until there are no cancer cells remaining. How deep they have to go can only be determined on the day of the surgery itself when they start the task. The beauty of Mohs surgery is the surgeon’s training in reconstructive surgery. If the removal ends up taking away more of my nose than the size of the growth itself, a few weeks later they are able to do a skin graft and rebuild the area with minimal scarring. I also have a follow-up appointment scheduled with my Dermatologist in a week for a thorough exam of my other points of concern and a search for additional carcinomas that weren’t addressed the first time around. I adore both my General Practitioner and my Dermatologist so I feel like I am in very capable and caring hands.

skin cancer

Alas, after a year of great health and feeling like the world is now my Oyster, I did not expect to be back under the medical microscope this soon in my journey. I definitely did not anticipate this new level of concern for my body and fear of things unknown. But the minute the inflammation was back under control in my shoulder, I made my journey back into the garden with my camera and began to focus on the small and the beautiful in life. I of course have to make some adaptations and learned to control and shoot my camera with my left hand (always on a tripod of course) while trying to keep my broad-rimmed hat out-of-the-way of the viewfinder. But my garden has revealed some amazing things these past few weeks.

Photography is a deep blessing to me. It has always allowed me to find beauty in the midst of turmoil and pain. It has helped to refocus my mind on the moment before me and provided respite from the barrage of fear based thoughts that sometime crowd my mind. It has been the basis for healing from a broken past and will undoubtedly continue to be a healing tool in my future.


Zen in the Garden

Pirouette - A California Poppy bloom. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

Pirouette – A California Poppy bloom. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

I have always been enamored with macro photography. Especially the up close and personal photos of insects with magnified detail that we don’t often see with our eyes alone. It’s the type of photography that requires great patience along with great breath control, a steady tripod, and the ability to twist and contort your body into positions that place you eye to eye with the most minute of subjects. It is also a great practice for slowing down and becoming more aware of the hidden things in one’s universe. Your whole garden becomes narrowed down to a little dewdrop on a tiny flower petal or a minute mushroom wedged between two blades of grass. For that moment, nothing else seems as important as capturing that scene with your camera.

Honey Bee on Salvia - ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

Honey Bee on Salvia – ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

Because we tend to run through life at breakneck speed for most of our adult years, a macro photograph can elicit endless “ooooohhhh’s” and “ahhhhhhhh’s.” We often fail to recognize the minute details and small things that make up the world around us. There is a very magical quality to macro photos that tends to put a smile on our faces. Maybe it’s because they remind us for a moment of our childhood days when everything was a fairytale. The times we spent all day crawling around on our bellies in the grass in order to explore the microcosm with which we felt so connected. Maybe it’s because as adults those images remind us to slow down a bit and realize it shouldn’t always be so much about the larger world around us. It’s a sudden realization that it might just be about the 12 square inches of earth that we are standing on in this very moment.

The Spider and the Fly - ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

The Spider and the Fly – ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

I have begun to spend a few hours of every day out in the garden in search of those tiny treasures. It has helped me to empty my mind of all the clutter and to refocus my energies on what is truly important in life. These have become my Zen moments. My way to connect with nature while living in the midst of the city. It calms me, inspires me, and opens my eyes once again to all the wonder I have at times failed to remember.

Japanese Maple Seeds - ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

Japanese Maple Seeds – ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

I feel like a kid again. The one who ran freely through the fields with a jar and a butterfly net. The one who spent hours having a stare down with a Wolf Spider waiting for the babies to crawl off of her back.

The Poppy and the Beetle - ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved

The Poppy and the Beetle – ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved

This practice of wandering the garden in search of tiny-legged creatures or pausing in awe of a flower petal as it is kissed by a ray of light, has become the ultimate of therapies for me. It is a meditation of sorts that reminds me that life is as beautiful and as awe-inspiring as we allow it to be.

The Unfolding  - ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

The Unfolding – ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.


Spring Has Sprung!

California Poppy. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

California Poppy. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

I am finally crawling out from under the pile of projects I have been focused on and have actually been shooting with my DSLR over the past few weeks. For the past two years I have taken a hiatus of sorts following the presentation of my Master’s Thesis in Documentary Photography and have focused entirely on creating fine art photographs taken and edited on my iPhone. It was a much-needed break from the heavy and oft-times soul crushing subject of my thesis project. That time spent with my iPhone also helped me to overcome a bit of burnout in regards to the arduous and time-consuming task of shooting and editing ginormous RAW files shot with my DSLR.

So, when Spring finally arrived in my part of the world I found myself pulled once again towards my dusty DSLR. I have recently noticed myself shooting more and more straight images on my iPhone and only using basic edits more inline with my street and documentary work form before. The sound of the Amtrak train whistle in the distance began to tug at me again and got me thinking about hopping the train to continue to build on the project that granted me my degree. Because of that pull I decided to start shooting with my Canon again just to get all the bugs out and I have been having a great time taking photos in our garden.

Butterfly Iris. California Poppy. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

Butterfly Iris. California Poppy. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

It took a few days but I soon found myself melded with the larger and definitely more powerful piece of photographic machinery. I realized after pulling up the first few photos in Lightroom how much I have missed the quality of photographs taken with a DSLR. Trust me, I am still a firm believer in shooting with an iPhone. My iPhone has awakened a creative side I didn’t know I had before I bought that piece of metal, plastic and glass. My two years spent shooting almost exclusively with my iPhone has actually changed the way I shoot with my DSLR. I now see things differently when I put the Canon viewfinder up to my eye. I feel more grounded and aware than I ever did before I shot with an iPhone. I am seeing patterns of light, shape, line, and form in a completely different way than I had before.

California Poppies. California Poppy. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

California Poppies. California Poppy. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

So along with welcoming Spring I am celebrating new beginnings in my journey of photography. I look forward to where this all will lead me over the next few months. I even bought a “new” used FD 100mm macro lens with a converter and extension tube. Time to get up close and personal with some bugs in the garden :-).

Honey Bee. California Poppy. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

Honey Bee. California Poppy. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.


Black & White Mobile Photography 3

My world has been filled with multiple projects mixed in with a not-so-fun head cold, so I am playing catch up on my blog posts this weekend.

Here are my most recent selections for the New Era Museum’s Black & White Photo-Action on Eyeem. As I have noted in past posts, I am honored to be a Founder Artist, Web Administrator, and Curator for NEM. The museum was originally founded by Andrea Bigiarini in Florence, Italy. Our goal is to support mobile photography and provide exposure for the multitude of amazing artists around the globe by providing an exhibition platform and education.

Here are my selections for “NEM black&white” 07:

NEMb&w 7

The featured artists clockwise from upper left: CRISTINA MESTURINI (@CRIBLUE), FAUSTO SERAFINI (@FAUSTO_SERAFINI), DARKO (@DARKOLABOR), BENAMON TAME (@BENAMON), YANNICK BRICE (@INNEREMOTION), NETTIE (LUMILYON) EDWARDS (@NETTIELUMILYONEDWARDS), LEE ATWELL (@LEEATWELL5)

Here is the link to view the gallery on the New Era Museum website: NEM Black&White Gallery 07

Here are my selections for “NEM black&white” 08:

Screen Shot 2014-03-15 at 4.15.34 PM

The featured artists clockwise from upper left: ARJAN VAN DER HORST (@AVDHORST), PHILIPPE SCHLOSSBERG (@SCHLOSSBERG), TRISH (@COURTANDSPARK), ALEX P (@ASTRALEIA), STEFANIE (@CHULAHOMA_CHICK), TRACEY RENEHAN (@TRACEYRENEHAN), DARKO (@DARKOLABOR), NATALIE PROSVETOVA (@NAPROSVET)

Here is the link to view the gallery on the New Era Museum website: NEM Black&White Gallery 08

Here are my selections for “NEM black&white” 09:

NEMb&w 9

The featured artists clockwise from upper left: LOST (@REFLECTEDDISTANCE), BY THE TWILIGHT (@VERONICAHASSELL), DAVID VALBUENA (@FOTOZOE), ♨ Λ L E X Λ N D E R (@NEOSEER), @BADGERBOI, GINA COSTA (@GINACOSTA2), TRISH (@COURTANDSPARK), ARMINEH HOVANESIAN (@ARMINEH)

Here is the link to view the gallery on the New Era Museum website: NEM Black&White Gallery 09

Here are my selections for “NEM black&white” 10:

NEMb&w 10

The featured artists clockwise from upper left: AMO PASSICOS (@MELLEAMO), BRETT CHENOWETH (@BRETTCHEN), YANNICK BRICE (@YANNICK_BRICE), DARKTURNIP (@DARKTURNIP), JQ GAINES (@JQGAINES), ANDREA (@SCHLAWINCHEN), PHOTOVIV@CE (@VOLOVIVACE), LORENKA (@LORENKA)

Here is the link to view the gallery on the New Era Museum website: NEM Black&White Gallery 10


Mobile Photography Awards – 2013

MPA_CoverRESULTS

The Mobile Photography Awards is considered by many to be the creme de la creme or the “Academy Awards” of mobile photography competitions. Last year I was pleased to receive two Honorable Mentions in the 2nd Annual MPA’s for my iPhone pieces “Illuminati” (in Visual FX) and “Rubber Band Man” (in People/Portraits).

I woke up this morning and was thrilled to discover I have received four Honorable Mentions in the 3rd Annual Mobile Photography Awards. This time for iPhone photographs in the categories of “Performing Arts,” “Photo Journalism,” “Travel,” and “Architecture.” I feel very honored to stand next to some of the greatest mobile photographers from around the globe. The winners and honorable mentions in all categories are fantastic and the art of mobile photography seems to be morphing in leaps and bounds each year.

I was even more pleased by the fact that Ed Kashi was one of the esteemed judges. Ed is an award-winning photojournalist who I have looked up to and followed for many years.

There are still a number of “traditional” camera photographers who are naysayers when it comes to mobile photography. In my opinion, as one who has played seriously on both sides of the craft, it would benefit those individuals to open their minds a bit more and pay close attention to some of the stellar work that is coming out of the world of mobile photography. Many are competing quite well alongside traditional DSLR and film pros in all areas. Mobile photography is not going away anytime soon.

To view the winners and honorable mentions in all categories click here.

"Músicos" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.  Honorable Mention in the Performing Arts category.

“Músicos” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved. Honorable Mention in the Performing Arts category.


"Dolls Para la Venta" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.  Honorable Mention in the Travel category.

“Dolls Para la Venta” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved. Honorable Mention in the Travel category.


"In Praise of Blue" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.  Honorable Mention in the Photo Journalism category.

“In Praise of Blue” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved. Honorable Mention in the Photo Journalism category.


"The Blue Room" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.  Honorable Mention in the Architecture category.

“The Blue Room” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved. Honorable Mention in the Architecture category.


Black & White Mobile Photography 2

I am constantly blown away by the incredible art that comes out of the mobile photography community. Many of the top mobile photographers have come from a background in traditional photography, though quite a few have had very little experience in the craft.

There is just something about that little piece of metal, glass, and plastic that frees up the inner artist. Part of the beauty of the movement is the fact these images are being shared across the virtual landscape in a constant stream via social media. This provides access to an endless library of inspiring images plus direct interaction with the artists who create them. The perfect recipe for learning how to become a better photographer.

I am blessed to be a founder artist and curator for the New Era Museum. One of my weekly tasks is to choose 8 images to feature on the NEM website from those submitted to the “NEM black&white” Photo-Pool on Eyeem. Awhile ago I posted the first few galleries of images here on my blog (you can view the post here). Each week when I visit the photo-pool I am faced with the difficult task of honing down a large number of amazing images to a mere 8. Curation is of course a subjective task. What I feel are the best 8 images based on my personal taste and experience in the field, may not be the same as that of one of my colleagues. But such is the reality of art world in general.

Today I would like to share galleries from weeks 3-6 for your enjoyment.

Here are my selections for “NEM black&white” 03:

NEMb&w3

The featured artists clockwise from upper left: YANNICK BRICE (@INNEREMOTION), @RIKKR, MANUELA MATOS MONTEIRO (@MANUELAMATOSMONTEIRO), DARKO (@KARKOLABOR), ALEX (@ASTRALEIA), ARWAN PRAMUDYA (@ARWANPRAMUDYA), ALON GOLDSMITH (@ALONGOLDSMITH), JEFF (@BLITZ_BW)

Here is the link to view the gallery on the New Era Museum website: NEM Black&White Gallery 03

Here are my selections for “NEM black&white” 04:

NEMb&w4

The featured artists clockwise from upper left: MARCO LAMBERTO (@MARCOLAMBERTO), ROBIN COHEN (@ROBINSCOHENPHOTOS), JV@NYC (@JEANETTEVAZQUEZ), ASLEEPUNDERCOLUMNSOVLIGHT (@COLUMNSOVSLEEP), ALEX (@ASTRALEIA), CLAUDIA FERNANDES (@CLAUDIAFERNANDES370), MANUELA MATOS MONTEIRO (@MANUELAMATOSMONTEIRO), BY THE TWILIGHT (@VERONICAHASSELL)

Here is the link to view the gallery on the New Era Museum website: NEM Black&White Gallery 04

Here are my selections for “NEM black&white” 05:

NEMb&w 5

The featured artists clockwise from upper left: ELAINE (@SUNFLOWEROF21), DARKO (@DARKOLABOR), MARCO LAMBERTO (@MARCOLAMBERTO), TUBA (@TO_BE), PATRICIA LARSON (@PATYLARSON), ALEX (@ASTRALEIA), TRISH (@COURTANDSPARK), GAETANA (@GAETANAYBRICE)

Here is the link to view the gallery on the New Era Museum website: NEM Black&White Gallery 05

Here are my selections for “NEM black&white” 06:

NEMb&w 6

The featured artists clockwise from upper left: @LORENKA, TRISH (@COURTANDSPARK), NATALI PROSVETOVA (@NAPROSVET), JV@NYC (@JEANETTEVAZQUEZ), @FRELU, @PHOT0BUG, @ILE

Here is the link to view the gallery on the New Era Museum website: NEM Black&White Gallery 06


Honored – Best Mobile Photography and Art Images of 2013

"In Praise of Blue" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

“In Praise of Blue” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

I am honored to have my iPhone photograph “In Praise of Blue” chosen by The App Whisperer as one of the “Best Mobile Photography and Art Images of 2013.” The honored images were culled from 5,500 favorites of an original 71,000 submissions and feature some of the very best mobile photographers from around the globe.

You can view the slideshow of the amazing collection of honored images here:

http://theappwhisperer.com/2014/01/05/the-best-mobile-photography-and-art-images-of-2013-theappwhisperer/


Breathing in the Landscape

Happy New Year!

I love spending time in nature. It always grounds me and helps me to remember the important things in life. During the last two months of the year I was able to refuel my soul with a visit to some beautiful places. Of course I am never without a camera, so here are a few of my favorite landscapes that came out of those journeys. All four of these photos were shot and edited on an iPhone 5.

"Tidal Plane Sunset" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013-2014. All rights reserved.

“Ebb Tide at Sunset” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

"New Melones Sunset" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013-2014. All rights reserved.

“New Melones Sunset” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

"Lonesome Oak" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

“Lonesome Oak” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

"The Fallen" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

“The Fallen” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

As a New Year’s gift to all my followers, here is a 40% discount code that you can use through April 30th to purchase my work. Just enter AUARGP in the “Discount Code” area at checkout. Here is the link to my store: http://tracy-thomas.artistwebsites.com/. These are direct ship prints so if you would prefer a signed and/or limited edition print, instead of purchasing through my store you can email me through the contact form on my website and we can work out the details. (http://www.tjthomas-iphoneart.com/#!contact/c175r)

Here’s to a beautiful new year!


Daguerreotype & Ambrotype Inspired Mirror & Glass iPrints

ipabadge

I first entered the world of iPhoneography after I stumbled across the iPhoneArt.com website. From the moment I opened the site I was hooked. I was blown away by the quality of art shot and edited on iPhones and iPads and displayed on IPA. I found inspiration, encouragement and friendship amongst this group of cutting edge artists. The first time I exhibited my iPhone art was at the LA Mobile Arts Festival in the Santa Monica Art Studios. It was one of the largest curated exhibits of mobile art to date, put on by the founders of iPhoneart.com, Daria Polichetti and Nate Park. The exposure for that event was global and it helped to legitimize the art form and create new opportunities for many of the artists who were on display.

Daria and Nate have decided to bring IPA to the next level and currently have a Kickstarter campaign that is very close to its goal. They have developed Ambrotype inspired iPrints that are printed directly onto glass blocks and Daguerreotype inspired iPrints that are printed directly onto mirrors or aluminum plates.

Check out the Kickstarter video and if you are moved to help them reach their goal, here is the link to the Kickstarter page.


Frozen – Macro Photography and the Ice Age

Since a recent deep freeze has engulfed much of the U.S. over the past week, I decided to take a series of abstract macros of the icy conditions with my iPhone and a Olloclip macro lens. During these severe weather changes a lot of us tend to focus on the negative impacts and inconveniences while few of us pause to consider the beauty that Mother Nature gifts us with in those fleeting moments. So here’s a slideshow of some of the smaller frozen moments that caught my eye, set to my favorite piece of classical music, Debussy’s Claire de Lune.


Black & White Mobile Photography

I have the distinct honor of being one of the Founder Artist’s for the New Era Museum, a collective of some of the best mobile artists across the globe. I am also part of the Founder’s Board, serve as the NEM website administrator, a member of the NEM Artistic Committee, and am Curator for the “NEM black&white” Photo-Action on Eyeem. On occasion I plan to post my selections for the “NEM black&white” submissions here on the blog. My intention is to share some of the amazing mobile art that is being created and to continue to support the mobile photography movement and the artists that are behind it.

Here are my selections for “NEM black&white” 01:

NEMb&w1

The featured artists clockwise from upper left: MICHAEL MANZA (@FIXIT_INPOST), FEDERICA CORBELLI (@LUBALUFT), @MARQUESADESOBRADO, DARKO (@DARKOLABOR), @RIKKR, PAUL GATTER (@PAULGATTER3), @MABADCA, @WANT_SNOW

Here is the link to view the gallery on the New Era Museum website: NEM Black&White Gallery 01

Here are my selections for “NEM black&white” 02:

NEMb&w2

The featured artists clockwise from upper left: NATALI PROSVETOVA (@NAPROSVET), JAC (@JACCARDOSO72), NIKKI (@NIXV1313), TRISH (@COURTANDSPARK), @LORENKA, ROGER GUETTA (@ROGERGUETTA1), STEFANIA P. BIGIARINI (@STEFANIAPECCHIOLI), ASLEEPUNDERCOLUMNSOVLIGHT (@COLUMNSOVSLEEP)

Here is the link to view the gallery on the New Era Museum website: NEM Black&White Gallery 02

If you are a mobile photographer and you would like a chance to have your black and white work featured on the New Era Museum website plus a shout-out across social media, submit your work via the Eyeem mobile app to the album “NEM black&white.” Hope to see your work there soon!


Fall Colors

I began my career in photography as a nature and wildlife photographer.  Over the years my work has morphed and touched just about every genre imaginable in the craft.  Lately I have found myself drawn back into nature, focused primarily on landscape photos.   In the past I shot most of my landscapes with my DSLR, creating moody High Dynamic Range images.  This time around I have been shooting exclusively with my iPhone and feel drawn to a combination of apps that create a more painterly effect on the final image.

Here are some of the recent landscapes I have shot during the Fall color change in the Sierra’s.

"Nature's Symphony" - Fall colors at Independence Lake, Tahoe National Forest, CA.  ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

“Nature’s Symphony” – Fall colors at Independence Lake, Tahoe National Forest, CA. ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

"The Change" - Fall colors at Independence Lake, Tahoe National Forest, CA.  ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

“The Change” – Fall colors at Independence Lake, Tahoe National Forest, CA. ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

"Into the Woods" - Fall colors on a grove of Aspens, Independence Lake, Tahoe National Forest, CA.  ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

“Into the Woods” – Fall colors on a grove of Aspens, Independence Lake, Tahoe National Forest, CA. ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

Below is a photo I shot last year that was recently part of “Creatives Rising” and was projected onto the 42-story Linc LIC building in New York City as well as part of the See Me exhibition on Long Island.

"Soliloquy 9" - Fall colors in the Sierra Nevada, CA. ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012-2013. All rights reserved.

“Soliloquy 9” – Fall colors in the Sierra Nevada, CA. ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012-2013. All rights reserved.

 

 


More Fun With Photomontage

My creative imagination has taken over once again and I have been having a lot of fun with photomontage.  There are times when I burn out on montage work because it takes a lot of time and is pretty tedious to create on an iPhone.  So, I take a little break and gravitate back towards straight photography.  But since I got my iPad Mini, my eyes are far less strained and I am able to do the more tedious editing on the larger iPad screen with the remainder of editing on my iPhone.

Here are some of my recent photomontage pieces.  Yes, I have a very unique and often quirky imagination. 🙂

"Remnants of a Happy Life" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

“Remnants of a Happy Life” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

"The Rabbit and the Wolf" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

“The Rabbit and the Wolf” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

"Aliens on Holiday" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

“Aliens on Holiday” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

"Phone Home?" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

“Phone Home?” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

 

 


Happy 4th and New Work

Happy 4th of July to my U.S. friends!  Still on the healing path and now waiting for word on the West Nile Virus antibodies test.  In the meantime, I have been focused on creating art by shooting with my iPhone and doing some of the editing on my iPad.  The iPad screen definitely provides relief for my strained eyes.

Below are two examples of the new direction that my photomontage are headed.  My photomontage pieces take a lot longer to create than my more straightforward app’ed images, but I have definitely had a lot of time on my hands lately :-).

"Owl Medicine" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

“Owl Medicine” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.  Apps: procamera, icolorama, pixlromatic, procreate, blender, superimpose.

"Mama Gaia" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

“Mama Gaia” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved. Apps: procamera, icolorama, superimpose, pic grunger, pixlromatic, blender

 


Healing in Nature – Independence Lake

photo(2)

“On the Mend” – Independence Lake, Tahoe National Forest, CA

I am still on the mend from this not so fun illness.  The mysterious polka dots still remains in smaller patches on my legs and arms but are fading daily.  The only symptoms that persist besides the rash is fatigue and a few achy joints.  I felt well enough this past weekend to escape to the Tahoe National Forest for a night of camping in “Lucy,” our vintage 1956 canned ham trailer.

We decided to check out Independence Lake, a pristine alpine lake that sits at around 7,200 feet in elevation.  The lake and surrounding acreage was purchased several years ago by the Nature Conservancy and is cooperatively managed by a number of agencies with the goal of preserving the area and protecting one of the last populations of native Lahontan Cutthroat Trout that live in the lake.

Our vintage 1956 Canned Ham trailer.

“Lucy”- our vintage 1956 Canned Ham trailer.

There is currently no camping adjacent to the lake so we chose the Little Lower Truckee River campground located off of Hwy 89 and within 10 miles of Independence Lake.

The five miles of road that lead to Independence is a rough and rocky ride that requires a high clearance vehicle.  The surrounding scenery was absolutely stunning with thick forests of pine that would occasionally open up into wildflower spotted alpine meadows and groves of aspen.

Here’s a very condensed version of the trip up to the lake:

In order to protect the lake from invasive species, no outside boats are allowed.  The Nature Conservancy provides the free use of a fleet of kayaks, fly fishing pontoons, and motor boats for anyone who would rather spend time out on the water than along the shore.

Following are a few of the photos I took while there.  I am experimenting once again with a variety of apps so each one is a bit different in look and feel.

Several of the free-for-use kayaks line the shore of Independence Lake.

Several of the free-for-use kayaks line the shore of Independence Lake.

"The Paddler" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

“The Paddler” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

"Just Fishin'" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

“Just Fishin'” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

“The Shoreline” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

It was so nice to spend some time outside of the house and out in nature again.  I look forward to our next trip to Independence Lake when I am feeling myself again and will definitely grab one of the kayaks and paddle around the lake and take a lot of photos!

**All photos shot and edited with an iPhone 5**


2013 iPhone Photography Awards – Honorable Mentions

I was more than honored to find out yesterday that I had received three Honorable Mentions in the 6th Annual iPhone Photography Awards.  This is an International competition that brings in a whole lot of global entries every year.  Three of my photos were chosen in the categories of “children,” “flowers,” and “travel.”

My photo “La Niña de las Flores” received an Honorable Mention in the “children” category.

"La Niña de las Flores" - La Parroquia, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

“La Niña de las Flores” – La Parroquia, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

My photo “La Novia y el Novio” received an Honorable Mention in the “travel” category.

"La Novia y el Novio" - San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.  ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

“La Novia y el Novio” – San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

My photo “Icelandic Poppy” received an Honorable Mention in the “flowers” category.

"Icelandic Poppy" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

“Icelandic Poppy” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.


Still Healing and Creating

Skin biopsy site with rash where the non-latex bandage was located.

Skin biopsy site with rash where the non-latex bandage was located.

Today is day #17 of the Great Pink Polka Dot Mystery.  The crazy rash is beginning to fade nicely after using the heavy-duty steroidal creams for the last eleven days but it is still pretty evident on my legs and inside of my arms.  It now looks like a bunch of faded circular lavender bruises.  Still sleeping about 10 hours a night which is highly unusual for me and am still feeling some muscle weakness and fatigue during the days.   However the fever, headaches and muscle contractions are now gone.  Still awaiting the skin biopsy results and have to go back in for more blood tests in a few weeks.  Bets are still on for West Nile Virus but the antibodies have not shown up in the blood tests as of yet (which is normal for several weeks after infection).

The past two days I have finally felt well enough to begin creating again.  My iPhone 5 arrived so I have been enjoying the much higher resolution over my antiquated iPhone 4.

Here are a few of the pieces I have created over the last few days…

"The Place of His Imaginings" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

“The Place of His Imaginings” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

“The Place of His Imaginings” was chosen for Pixels: The Art of the iPhone yesterday and was “Explored” on Flickr today meaning it was chosen as one of the top 500 photos out of roughly 4.5 million uploaded photos.  Quite exciting and as of this hour it has received over 100 “likes” and a multitude of comments.  You can give it a “like” too at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/tjthomas_iphoneography/9008848760/

"Where the Wild Things Roam 1" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

“Where the Wild Things Roam 1” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

“Where the Wild Things Roam 1” is the first photomontage I have had the energy to create in a while.  It was also chosen for Pixels yesterday:  http://www.pixelsatanexhibition.com/uncategorized/tracy-j-thomas-where-the-wild-things-roam-1/

 

"Butterfly Iris" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

“Butterfly Iris” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

I haven’t spent much time outdoors since my illness with the exception of journeys to and from my doctor’s office.  The other day I was going stir crazy so spent the evening in the shade of our patio and noticed the Butterfly Irises had begun to bloom.  I snapped a photo with my new iPhone 5 and went to town on editing it the next day.  It reminded me to open my eyes to everything that surrounds me even in my home.  There is always something picture worthy no matter where you find yourself.

"The Lifeguard Shack" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

“The Lifeguard Shack” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

The other day while sitting on my couch I found myself day dreaming about the ocean.  I flipped through my photo files from last summer when we spent time down in Santa Monica and Venice Beach for the LA Mobile Arts Festival where I had several pieces on exhibit.  I came across a photo of one of the lifeguard shacks at sunset and decided I needed to app it and keep it on my computer to remind myself of that fun trip and the healing vibes of the ocean.

Tomorrow my new iPad mini arrives and I am so looking forward to using it for a little videography as well as having a much larger screen with which to edit my iPhone photos.

 


Accolades to Boost Immunity

Still feeling under the weather and just waiting for more test results.  I haven’t had much energy to do any work, especially not of the creative kind, however over the past few days I have received notice of a few accolades for recent work that have helped to boost my spirit and hopefully my immune system as well.

"Tainted Beauty Queen" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

“Tainted Beauty Queen” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

My iPhone photo “Tainted Beauty Queen” was one of 8 chosen for New Era Museum’s “NEM memories” photo-action, curated by Jennifer Bracewell.  You can view all the choices here.

"Oasis" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

“Oasis” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

My iPhone photo “Oasis” was chosen as one of 8 entries for New Era Museum’s “NEM landscapes” photo-action, curated by Gianluca Ricoveri.  You can view all chosen entries here.

Artist of the Day at iPhoneArt.com

Artist of the Day at iPhoneArt.com

And once again (I believe this is my sixth time) I was chosen as “Artist of the Day” on iPhoneArt.com today.

I only wish my body felt as happy as my mind does with all these new accolades.


Featured in iCreate Magazine

The June issue of iCreate Magazine with a feature on my and my iPhoneography.

The June issue of iCreate Magazine with a feature on my and my iPhoneography.

I have been very ill this past week with a yet to be diagnosed illness after being bit by an unknown bug (most likely West Nile but time will only tell).  So yesterday I received a nice “gift” in the mail that lifted my spirits – the recent issue of iCreate Magazine with a two page feature about me and my iPhoneography.

The two page spread with interview, a few of my photos and some tips & fave apps.

The two page spread with interview, a few of my photos and some tips & fave apps.

You can also pick up an electronic copy of this edition in the Apple iTunes store.


Sipping Coffee With Maria Shriver

Maria Shriver at Capitol Park, State Capitol, Sacramento, CA. 2009 - ©Tracy J. Thomas. All rights reserved.

Maria Shriver at Capitol Park, State Capitol, Sacramento, CA. 2009 – ©Tracy J. Thomas. All rights reserved.

I have always been a huge admirer of Maria Shriver.  She has been a staunch supporter of many things that are near and dear to my heart such as Special Olympics, programs that support low-income and at risk youth, and she has provided major support for women through the annual California Women’s Conference.  To top it all off, she is also an extraordinary journalist.

In 2009 I spent a lot of time wandering Capitol Park at the California State Capitol while interviewing and shooting photos and video of homeless individuals for my M.F.A. thesis project.  On one sunny Spring afternoon I was fortunate enough to cross paths with Maria Shriver, then California’s First Lady, who was touring the grounds around the Capitol for the launch of her “WE Build and WE Garden,” a playground and community garden-building initiative for school-aged children.

Maria Shriver at Capitol Park, State Capitol, Sacramento - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

Maria Shriver at Capitol Park, State Capitol, Sacramento, CA.  2009 – ©Tracy J. Thomas. All rights reserved.

I stood there in jaw-dropping awe as I watched her interact with the media and a group of children who were planting in a garden plot set aside for the purpose at hand.  This iconic woman was so genuine, intelligent and warm to everyone that surrounded her.  It was an honor just to be in her presence and a privilege to capture several photos during those moments.

She was the type of woman I could envision grabbing a cup of coffee with just to chit-chat about the state of the world and what we can do to change it.  A big fantasy, I know…

But then it happened.  This year Maria Shriver read the book “Dancing at the Shame Prom: Sharing the stories that kept us small” (Seal Press) and her staff said she loved it!  Myself and 26 other amazing women just happen to have stories in this book.

So now I can more realistically envision Maria Shriver curled up in her big comfy chair next to her fireplace (if she has one), sipping on her cup of coffee (not sure she even drinks it), while “listening” to me “tell” her my personal story.  Wow!

"Dancing at the Shame Prom" on Maria Shrivers blog.

“Dancing at the Shame Prom” on Maria Shriver’s blog.

And now, our spectacular co-editors, Hollye Dexter and Amy Ferris have a piece about the book on Maria Shriver’s official blog! (You can read it here)

So, coffee with Maria Shriver, check! One more thing knocked off the old bucket list…


The Frustrated Painter in Me

"Waiting to Board" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

“Waiting to Board” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

The frustrated painter inside of me has decided to hang out for a while.  Since last Monday I have been ill with the lovely upper respiratory virus that has been making the rounds.  I feel as if my body has taken ten steps backwards following last Sunday’s wonderful 10K run under the giant Redwoods.  I am hacking and coughing and sniffling and am finding it hard to get enough rest.  To take my mind off the illness, I edited a ton of photos I had hanging out in my iPhone photo gallery.  Every single photo I edited ended up with a painterly feel.  I have learned to just trust my intuition when editing and go along for the ride for a while until my creative spirit takes another turn.

"The Orange Bag" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

“The Orange Bag” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

"The Runners" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

“The Runners” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

"That Way" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

“That Way” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

**All photos were shot with my iPhone 4 and the ProCamera app and edited with Camera+, Glaze, Laminar and Pic Grunger.

 


More Color and Texture

"The Farm" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

“The Farm” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

This past weekend I took Amtrak up to Arcata, California to spend time with friends and to run the Avenue of the Giants 10K under the giant redwood trees just outside of Weott.  It was great to escape to cooler weather away from the heat of the Valley and to spend time on the laid back North coast.  On my way home I took a lot of photos of the landscape from the train window and several photos at the train station.  The photos in this post are further experimentation with the use of color and texture which during the editing phase.  All of these photos were taken with my iPhone 4 using the ProCamera app and were edited in Camera+, Laminar, Glaze and Pic Grunger.

"Along the Tracks" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

“Along the Tracks” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

"The Terminal Stroll" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

“The Terminal Stroll” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

 

 


Playing With Color and Texture

This past Sunday we drove up to a lake in the Sierra Nevada mountains to get away from the abnormally sweltering Spring weather we have been having in the Valley.  I parked my chair in the shade and immediately felt the stress of past weeks subside.  I sat and walked and took photos all day long while breathing in the beauty of my surroundings.  Here are a few of the photos I created with a focus on playing around with color and texture in the editing process.

"The Docks" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

“The Docks” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

"The Peaceful Place" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

“The Peaceful Place” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

"The Kayak" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

“The Kayak” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

**All photos were shot with my iPhone 4 using the ProCamera app and edited using the Camera+, Laminar, Glaze and Blender apps.

 

 


iCreate Magazine Interview

©iCreate Magazine.

Photo ©iCreate Magazine.

A few weeks ago I was contacted by the Features Editor of iCreate Magazine.  iCreate is a print magazine based in the UK with a large circulation that focuses on everything related to Mac computers, iPhones and iPads.  The Features Editor came across my portfolio on iPhoneArt.com and sent me an email with the desire to feature me in one of their upcoming issues.

I was surprised and honored to say the least.  I continue to shake my head with amazement over the amount of exposure I have received for my work since I purchased my iPhone about a year and one half ago.  And to think I never thought I would take a single photography with my phone since I was a diehard DSLR user.  This whole experience has taught me to remain open to the possibilities in all forms of new technology.  I can’t wait now to play more with video and video editing once I upgrade to an iPhone 5, just to see where that experience might lead…


At Times Like This…

"Chi" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

“Chi” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

It’s at times like this when our country is left with the resounding question “why?” that we are reminded life itself is fragile and the moment of our death is unpredictable at best.  We have no control over our future and can only hope for the safety of our loved ones and ourselves as we journey along our paths.

During these moments it’s easy to dwell in the collective outrage that begins to surface and crowd our puzzled psyches.  It’s hard for the majority of us to understand how a human being can possibly be so evil.  We feel helpless.  We swell with sadness and anger and our wish is justice for those innocent souls who were injured or met with such an untimely and violent end.  We relish, at least for the moment, the fact that our own loved ones are still safe and within reach for us to embrace, to cherish, to love.

"Love" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

“Love” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

What we often fail to remember during these heart-wrenching times is the amount of beauty and good that still exists within our world.  When we contrast that with evil, it is easy to get swept up in the dark shadows that lurk along the edges.  But when we place our focus on the light, it’s harder to see those shadows and so much easier to heal our broken world.

"Healing" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

“Healing” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

With a background in martial arts, I am a firm believer in our ability to reshape energy (chi) both as individuals and as a collective.  When we focus on the beauty and kindness in this world we are giving our fellow humans the most wonderful gift.  That kindness and that love begins to swell and brings with it healing and a deep sense of peace.  We might never find all the answers to the questions we seek but we have the opportunity to make this world a much better place by remaining focused on all the good that is in it.

"Peace" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

“Peace” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

My heart wraps all those effected by the events in Boston with a blanket of love.  May you dwell in the kindness and the comfort of your fellow humans and find healing and peace.

 

 

 


Never Give Up

The Press

Have you ever had one of those weeks that was stressful for a variety of reasons and no matter how hard you worked it felt as if you were running backwards instead of reaching the target you were shooting for?  That was the type of week I had.  So, when more good news in the area of my art work began to flow in at the end of this week, I was reminded of the fact that hard work is eventually rewarded as long as you just stick with it and never give up.

To begin with, I had work chosen for “MobFORMAT: The Press” at the Format International Photography Festival in Derby, UK.  This was a unique exhibition deemed to be the first mobile photo press and curated by the festival goers themselves.  Over 6,000 photos were printed and displayed over a period of 30 days.  The concept was to “print out the thousands of photos being shared on EyeEm every day and create the largest interactive exhibition the mobile photo world has ever seen.”  Here is a time-lapse video from the event:

I was also informed that three of my images were chosen for the “Physical Streams 2” exhibition at the Overpass Gallery in Loano, Italy.  This is the second year in a row I have had images chosen for this exhibit of 100 mobile photographs presented in a giant mosaic.  Last year’s exhibit was also on display at the Nuovo Film Studio in Savano, Italy.

The poster announcing Physical Streams 2.

The poster announcing Physical Streams 2.

My three pieces chosen for “Physical Streams 2.”

"Rubber Band Man," "Illuminati," and "The Undertaker" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

“Rubber Band Man,” “Illuminati,” and “The Undertaker” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

“Illuminati” being printed for the exhibit:

©Alessandro Gimelli, 2013. All rights reserved.

©Alessandro Gimelli, 2013. All rights reserved.

The giant mosaic that hangs in the Overpass Gallery.:

©Alessandro Gamelli, 2013. All rights reserved.

©Alessandro Gimelli, 2013. All rights reserved.

And then today, I woke up to find out I was named “Artist of the Day” on iPhoneArt.com again:

Screen Shot 2013-04-14 at 12.08.54 PM

All is well within my soul this morning and I am ready to keep my nose to the grindstone and never, ever give up!  :-)…


Recent Exposure

"Wings" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

“Wings” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

On Sunday I was very honored to have my iPhone photo “Wings” chosen as a  featured photo on the Juxt 1000 Words Showcase.  Juxt is a highly respected site made up by some of the best mobile artists from around the globe.  You can view it along with the other amazing pieces chosen for the showcase here.

"In Praise of Blue" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

“In Praise of Blue” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

This morning, two of my iPhone photos were chosen for display on Pixels: The Art of the iPhone website.  “In Praise of Blue” above and “The Pleading” below.  I took these two photos last year at a local Color Run and just recently rediscovered them when plowing through all my photo archives.  I love the quality of light in each one and the energy of the subjects and used minimal apping with Laminar to create two images I am really happy with.

"The Pleading" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

“The Pleading” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

All three of these images seem to speak to my current personal spiritual journey as do several other images I have been working on for quite some time now.  It will be interesting to see how they evolve over the coming months.


Taking the Leap

"A Conference of Clowns" - Oakland, CA ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

“A Conference of Clowns” – Oakland, CA ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

I was looking through my photo archives for one of a series of photos I took a few years ago when I was documenting the “Occupy” movement with my big girl DSLR and I came across the following photos that I decided to share in this blog post.

My studies at the Academy of Art for my M.F.A were in Documentary photography and I still love taking photos of people whenever I get the chance to wander the streets. I do a ton of that street photography with my iPhone although until recently I haven’t shared much of that work since I have been so focused on creating and exhibiting my montage work over the past year.  But perusing through my archives this afternoon has rekindled my desire to delve a bit further into my street and documentary photography with my iPhone.  All my serious pro work has been captured with a DSLR but I think I am ready to take the leap as soon as my iPhone 5 arrives (yes, I get the upgrade this month finally!).

I was also extremely inspired by hearing Richard Koci Hernandez present at MacWorld.  A photojournalist by trade, Koci now shoots his street photography exclusively with his iPhone.  And God knows we need more women representin’ in the world of street photography.

©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

“Happy Hippy” – Oakland, CA ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

“Strike of the Sunflowers” – Oakland, CA ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

“Half and Half” – Oakland, CA ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

“The Thinker” – Oakland, CA ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

“Two for a Buck” – Oakland, CA ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 


Spring Hath Sprung

"Fire Poppy 2" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

“Fire Poppy 2” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

Ah Spring.  The beautiful awakening of flowers, pollen and the honey bees that still remain.  The the time of year I love to roam the garden and take photographs of all the pretty blooms that appear after a Winter’s rest.

This year we have Icelandic Poppies that we planted in the Fall and they seem to be very happy to be here.  So here are a few of my favorite shots for you.  The piece above “Fire Poppy 2” made its way onto the “Pixels: The Art of the iPhone” gallery website today (you can view it along with all the other wonderful art here).

"Fire Poppy" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

“Fire Poppy” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

"Poppies in a Row" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

“Poppies in a Row” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

"Spring Hath Sprung" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

“Spring Hath Sprung” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

"Spring Equinox 1" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

“Spring Equinox 1” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

"Spring Equinox 2" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

“Spring Equinox 2” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.


The Magic of San Miguel de Allende

©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

The cobblestone streets of San Miguel… ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

I know. I have been unusually quiet since arriving home from the International Writers’ Conference in San Miguel. Forgive me. It is hard for me to believe that it has been one month to the day that I was on a plane headed back to the U.S. Where did those four weeks go?

The interesting thing about social media and building relationships in cyberspace is when you finally meet in person, something truly amazing happens. In ways, my cyber connections have been afforded the chance to know quite a bit about me even before our first face-to-face foray. This allows for all those shallower “Glad to meet you, this is what I have done in the past, etcetera, etcetera” niceties to be cast aside so we can get right to the deeper, more meaningful conversations about life.

Although I had met several of my writing friends in the “real” world at previous physical gatherings, the conference in San Miguel provided me with the opportunity to be introduced to some of my life-long idols and to add new contacts to my growing list of wonderful human beings I am happy to know.

©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

La Parroquia in the Jardin.  ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

There are so many claims about San Miguel de Allende being “magical.” Some swear it is because the city is built on some mysterious bed of crystals. Some blame the 6,000 foot elevation that limits the amount of oxygen to the brain. Some attribute the magic to the number of Huichol Shamans known as “mara’akame” that reside in the area. Whatever the reason, it is beyond any doubt an astounding city. My personal experiences while in San Miguel were full of “OMG! This is truly a magical place” moments. And it has taken me four weeks to digest those experiences…

©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

The first bit of magic occurred the moment my shuttle dropped me off at the front door to my host’s beautiful home. As faculty members we were each offered the opportunity to be hosted by one of the many wonderful residents who are lucky enough to live in this mecca. When Barbara opened the door, I was immediately taken by her warm personality and the beauty of the courtyard that greeted me. I had my own room on the upper floor of her casita and felt so welcomed the entire time I spent there.

The faculty luncheon was held the day after I arrived and was hosted by the Mayor and city of San Miguel.  There was glorious food, margaritas and fabulous company.  I had the pleasure of eating lunch with Cheryl Strayed, author of the New York Times bestseller “Wild”; Amy Ferris, author of “Marrying George Clooney” and one of my co-editors on “Dancing at the Shame Prom”; Hollye Dexter the other glorious co-editor of “Dancing at the Shame Prom”; Sarah Stonich, author of “Shelter,” “These Granite Islands,” “The Ice Chorus,” and the recently released “Vacationland”; Samantha Dunn, co-contributor to “Dancing at the Shame Prom” and author of “Failing Paris,” “Faith in Carlos Gomez: A Memoir of Salsa, Sex, and Salvation,” and “Not by Accident: Reconstructing a Careless Life;” and Jody Kobak Feagan, original co-founder of the San Miguel Writers’ Conference and all-around wonderful human being.

From left to right: Hollye Dexter, Cheryl Strayed, Jody Kobak Feagan, Amy Ferris, Sarah Stonich.

From left to right: Hollye Dexter, Cheryl Strayed, Jody Kobak Feagan, Amy Ferris, Sarah Stonich. ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

And did I mention Cheryl Strayed???! ;-).  What a down to earth, fabulous and funny person!  I, who adored her book along with countless millions, never in my “wild”est dreams thought I would end up breaking bread with this remarkable icon of memoir.  Right off the bat I began to believe in the magic of this place.

Jody's table

Jody’s table. ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

And then there was Jody’s table…  Jody Kobak Feagan’s table in her beautiful home, served as a meeting place for an endless stream of amazingly creative human beings.  A throw back to the days of artist colonies and enclaves where conversations waxed poetic, philosophical, and occasionally surreal.  And oh yes, there was always an abundance of margaritas.  Perhaps that’s why some conversations felt so surreal…

©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

The grounds of the Hotel Real de Minas where the conference was held provided a wonderful gathering area during the afternoons.  Blankets and pillows were strewn around the shade covered lawn for reading and relaxing.  Those same blankets seemed conductors of magical experiences like a picnic lunch with none other Suzanne Braun Levine, first Editor of Ms. Magazine.  Now that is something I never imagined would happen in my own humble lifetime.  But it did!

Suzanne

Suzanne Braun Levine (middle), first Editor of Ms. Magazine. ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

One of the most memorable moments happened when I joined six other amazing women on the stage for the “Women Write Their Lives” panel that was moderated by Amy Ferris and Hollye Dexter.  The room filled up with 400 people who laughed and cried with us as we shared our lives and stories with the audience.

Photo © John Ware, 2013.

From left to right: Samantha Dunn, Brooke Axtell, Laura Davis, Amy Ferris, Hollye Dexter, Suzanne Braun Levine, Tracy J. Thomas, Brooke Warner. Photo © Jon Ware, 2013. All rights reserved.

Lucky me between Suzanne Braun Levine, first Editor of Ms. Magazine and Brooke Warner, former Executive Director of Seal Press and founder and Editor of She Writes Press. Photo © John Ware, 2013.

Lucky me between two of my idols: Suzanne Braun Levine, first Editor of Ms. Magazine and Brooke Warner, former Executive Director of Seal Press and founder and Editor of She Writes Press. Photo © Jon Ware, 2013. All rights reserved.

For those of you who know the story of my sordid childhood, this trip was akin to traveling full circle when I was introduced to a woman whose book literally saved my life back in my 20’s.  Laura Davis, co-author of the iconic book “The Courage to Heal” was not only a presenter at the conference, but was also on the “Women Write Their Lives” panel.  Laura’s book was the first I read that honestly propelled me into my own journey of healing from my ghastly past.  I got to spend many amazing moments with this wonderful human being and feel blessed to be able to now call her my friend.

Photo ©Erin Doyle, 2013.

Me and Laura Davis.  Photo ©Erin Doyle, 2013. All right reserved.

On Sunday I taught my “Dominating Social Media: How to market your writing to the masses” workshop that brought in a full house of eager and inquisitive writers which culminated in several private consultations.

Photo ©John Ware, 2013.

Me having a lot of fun teaching my workshop.  Photo ©Jon Ware, 2013. All rights reserved.

Luckily I had a few hours during each day to wander, take photographs and get to know this wonderful city on a more intimate level.  Those hours were by far the most magical.  I would spend time outside the small cafes that surrounded the Jardin, where I would sip Cappuccinos, breathe the people into me, and watch the activities of the day unfold before me.

One afternoon while wandering the streets in search of my next photo op I ran into “The Three Amigos.”  Jon Ware, John Drake and Ken Ferris twisted my arm and I joined them for a few cervezas and photography talk.  Jon Ware is a fellow photographer from Minnesota who is married to the wonderful Sarah Stonich, while John Drake and Ken Ferris are cinematographers who both have quite an extensive list of Hollywood accomplishments (just peruse the links from their names).  These three great, supportive men mesmerized me with their knowledge of photography and made me feel like one of the gang.

"The Three Amigos" - Jon Ware, John Drake and Ken Ferris.  ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

“The Three Amigos” – Jon Ware, John Drake and Ken Ferris. ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

The morning I had to pack my suitcase and catch the shuttle back to the Leon airport was a sad day indeed.  But there was to be yet one more moment of magic when I stepped into the van and found Amy and Ken Ferris being shuttled to the airport in the same vehicle!  It was like the icing on the cake for me.  A way to slowly and gracefully peel myself away from all the magic by spending several more hours in a peaceful transition back to reality with these two wonderful human beings.

I felt mesmerized with San Miguel.  I was smitten in a deep way.  Even now when I think back on my time in that beautiful city, I struggle to convey in words the impact this place and the people I shared it with have had on my soul.  It’s a quiet, deeply internal, life-changing, eerily mysterious, effect.  I get the feeling the true magic of that place will continue to be revealed until I find myself strolling along the cobblestone streets once again.

©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

Until we meet again… ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

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Interview on iArt Chronicles

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I was honored to be interviewed by Geri Centonze of iArt Chronicles about my iPhoneography and my creative process. You can read the article and learn a bit more about me here.


New Era Museum Founder Artist

NEM RoundLogo Transp

I am more than honored to be a “Founder Artist” for the New Era Museum, along with an incredible group of artists. Based in Florence, Italy, NEM is the first virtual museum devoted solely to mobile photography, and is the brainchild of Andrea Bigiarini.

NEM’s mission: “Promote the creation of visual art on mobile devices, in order to spread a form of active thought, which will help to build a new era in society, a new culture, and free our artistic expression even further.”

Click on the photo below to view a listing of the Founder Artists and click on each name to view their amazing work.

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I was also fortunate to have “Illuminati” chosen for the “NEM Fantastic Flickr 8,” curated this week by Roger Guetta. Just click on the photo below to view on NEM.

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Tienes mi Corazón San Miguel de Allende

The bride and groom of a traditional wedding leave the Parroquia in a horse-drawn carriage followed by a mariachi band. - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

The bride and groom of a traditional wedding leave the Parroquia in a horse drawn carriage followed by a mariachi band. – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

I arrived home this last Tuesday night after spending a week in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. I presented a workshop on social media for writers, gave private consultations, and was part of a “Women Write Their Lives” speakers panel during the International Writers’ Conference held in this beautiful city in the heart of Mexico.

©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

“Chicle para usted” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

For the past four days I have been catching up on my work, my sleep, and have been struggling to find the right words to describe my experiences in this truly magical place. So for today I will let a few of my photographs do the speaking for me until I find my voice again. To say that San Miguel de Allende won my heart is an understatement. The culture, the beauty of the architecture, the amazing faces, and the kind hearts of the people who live there will forever remain etched inside my soul…

"Flores en la Puerta Roja" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

“Flores en la Puerta Roja” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

"Músicos" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

“Músicos” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

"Cruzar la puerta de la iglesia" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

“Cruzar la puerta de la iglesia” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

"Dolls para la venta" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

“Dolls para la venta” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

"Esperando en la Puerta" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

“Esperando en la Puerta” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

"Sombreros y Bolsos" ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

“Sombreros y Bolsos” ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

**All images were shot with my iPhone4**

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This Thing Called Photomontage

"When Tempest Tossed," iPhone photomontage. ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

“When Tempest Tossed,” iPhone photomontage. ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

I stumbled across the world of mobile photography a year ago this month when I purchased my first iPhone. Yes, I was a bit behind the times in regard to the little rectangle of metal, glass and plastic that people have been addicted to for some time now.

When I first got my iPhone I had plans to use it for everything but taking photographs. Having just graduated with my Masters of Fine Arts in photography from the Academy of Art University the month prior, the use of my iPhone to create images worth keeping was truly a hard sell in my mind.

And then I stumbled across iPhoneart.com. To say this website was a life changer for me would be an understatement. The brilliant work I witnessed as I perused the galleries of images on this website blew my mind. How could this be possible? These images were shot and edited on an iPhone? Really??

I began to download photography apps and thus began my own addiction with my iPhone. Before long I realized it truly does not matter what tool a photographer decides to use. What matters is the photographer behind the lens, and the end result of its use. This has been true throughout the history of photography and the multitude of cameras made available to create photographs.

"Drowning in a Speed Queen," iPhone photomontage. ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

“Drowning in a Speed Queen,” iPhone photomontage. ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

Not everyone who picks up a camera of any sort can create images that can stand next to the best in regard to subject matter, composition, use of light, line, color, and texture. But those who understand the technical and conceptual aspects of photography and are blessed with a bit of natural talent can indeed create compelling images no matter what tool they choose. It doesn’t matter if that tool is an SLR that uses film, a pinhole camera made out of an orange juice can, a plastic Holga, expensive large format, Polaroid, DSLR, point and shoot, or an iPhone; all have been tools used by some of the greatest photographers in the world.

What I have found endearing in the world of mobile photography is the controversy in some circles surrounding composite photography, better known as “photomontage.” Photomontage is basically joining two or more photographs through the use of layers into an illusion to create a surreal or artificial virtual reality. Photomontage has existed in the world of photography since its beginnings, long before the digital age, and was still considered to be “photography” because it was, and still is.

A great example is the image “The Two Ways of Life” by Oscar Gustav Rejlander, created in 1857. This piece was assembled from 30 individual negatives and printed onto one large piece of paper. Rejlander’s piece was first exhibited at the Manchester Art Treasures Exhibition of 1857 and Queen Victoria purchased a copy for Prince Albert.

"The Two Ways of Life" by Oscar Gustav Rejlander, 1857.

“The Two Ways of Life” by Oscar Gustav Rejlander, 1857.

In the early 1900’s, the Dada movement out of Germany was instrumental in moving montage work into the limelight with their political protests against World War I via photographers such as John Heartfield, Hannah Höch, Kurt Schwitters, and Raoul Hausmann. The Surrealists and Constructivists continued the trend of photomontage, which has moved on into the modern-day contemporary photography movement.

From "The American Way of Life" by Joseph Renau, 1949.

From “The American Way of Life” by Joseph Renau, 1949.

From "Flying Houses" by Laurent Chehere, 2012.

From “Flying Houses,” digital photomontage by Laurent Chehere, 2012.

The grumblings in the world of mobile photography seem to arise from the lack of knowledge of the history of traditional photography. Some of the individuals heading the “movement” appear so caught up in the tool itself they seem to forget that it is just that, another tool to take photographs. It is really nothing new, other than being super portable with the all-in-one ability to edit photographs directly inside the same tool that takes the images. If someone uses an iPhone, it does not magically make them a photographer.

Photomontage, composite photography, photographs with a painterly effect, etc. are all accepted in the world of fine art photography and are exhibited in mainstream galleries around the globe. Photographs taken with mobile phones have also begun to show up in these same galleries with the same level of acceptance as traditional camera photographs.

"Rubber Band Man," iPhone photomontage. ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

“Rubber Band Man,” iPhone photomontage. ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

Of course there are rules and ethics surrounding composite photography in the world of photojournalism, as there should be. Yet, the remainder of the medium along with those who lend their support to photographers (whether film, digital, mobile or otherwise) should remain open to not only “straight” photography but also those who choose to express themselves by way of “fine art” photography (manipulated or not).

As others have stated before me, eventually all this brouhaha surrounding mobile photography will subside. The iPhone will be viewed along with all other cameras as simply another means to an end. We saw it happen with the Holga, the Polaroid, the first digital cameras. Before long, every digital camera on the market will have the equivalent editing capabilities of the mobile phone.

The most important change will occur when photographers who choose mobile phones as their primary tool begin to compete on the same level as the master photographers who have come before them. Many have begun to enter that realm already with success including Karen Divine, Chase Jarvis, and Richard Koci Hernandez. These photographers view the iPhone as another tool to take photographs and they treat this little rectangle of metal, plastic and glass in the same way as they treat their more traditional cameras. It is one of their tools of choice to create the compelling imagery that comes from a space of technical and conceptual mastery. It is as simple as that.

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Photowalk: Jenkinson Lake

Yesterday was another nature day. It has been warm and wonderful here this past week, actually climbing into the 60’s by midday. Warmer days means snow melt in the Sierras, that in turn opens up access to some of the recreational areas normally covered in the cold white stuff this time of year.

I spent the day wandering around Jenkinson Lake near Pollock Pines, a short 45 minute drive up Highway 50. The lake was created in 1955 when a dam was built to harness Sly Park Creek, a tributary in the Cosumnes River watershed. The dam formed a 650-acre reservoir called Jenkinson Lake. It was constructed primarily to provide irrigation water to a portion of El Dorado County.

I’ve spent a lot of time around this little lake, hiking on the trails and kayaking in its pristine waters. I always see something new when I go there that I didn’t see before.

Yesterday’s photowalk was all about capturing the familiar vistas as well as the smaller intricacies of nature that we often fail to notice while becoming smitten by her grandeur.

A duck flies across Jenkinson Lake near the marina and boat launch.  ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

A duck flies across Jenkinson Lake near the marina and boat launch. ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

A paddle boarder makes his way across Jenkinson Lake. ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

A paddle boarder makes his way across Jenkinson Lake. ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

Detail in rock found next to the lake.  ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

Detail in rock found next to the lake. ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

Rocks along the shoreline.  This one reminded me of a horse head.  ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

Rocks along the shoreline. This one reminded me of a horse head. ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

A piece of driftwood surrounded by colorful rocks at the edge of the shoreline.  ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

A piece of driftwood surrounded by colorful rocks at the edge of the shoreline. ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

Leaves and colorful shale.  ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

Leaves and colorful shale. ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

One of the finger inlets that feed the resevoir.  ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

One of the finger inlets that feed the lake. ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

The sky was on fire on the way home.  A dramatic ending to a perfect day.  ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

The sky was on fire on the way home. A dramatic ending to a perfect day. ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

[All photos were shot and edited on my iPhone4.]

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“Illuminati” – Honorable Mention in the Mobile Photography Awards

©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved. "Illuminati" - Apps used:  vintage cam, camera+, perfectlyclr, juxtaposer, pixlromatic, scratchcam

©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved. “Illuminati” – Apps used: vintage cam, camera+, perfectlyclr, juxtaposer, pixlromatic, scratchcam

My heart is beating double time. They just posted the “People/Portraits” category winners for the Mobile Photography Awards and my iPhone piece “Illuminati” won an honorable mention! So this piece, along with “Rubber Band Man” in my previous post will be on exhibit in the Soho Gallery for Digital Art in New York City at the end of February. An unbelievable honor to be in the company of the best mobile photographers in the world!

You can view more of the winners here: http://mobilephotographyblog.com/peopleportraits/


“Rubber Band Man” – Honorable Mention in Mobile Photography Awards

©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

I am beyond thrilled and honored that my iPhone piece “Rubber Band Man” has been chosen for an Honorable Mention in the Visual FX category for the Mobile Photography Awards! These awards feature the best of the best in the world of mobile photography. All those chosen in all categories will be on display at the Soho Gallery for Digital Art in New York City from February 22-28.

You can check out all the amazing works here: http://mobilephotographyblog.com/visual-fx/


Photowalk: Old Sacramento

After finishing up the class I have been writing for the University and finally recovering from a bout with the flu, I was able to get out on a photowalk this morning. I decided to photograph Old Sacramento with my iPhone and used my Hipstamatic App with the Tinto 1884 lens and D-Type plate. This combination seemed very appropriate for a place steeped in history.

The Sacramento River

The Sacramento River with the I Street Bridge and paddle wheeler boats docked in the distance. The Sacramento River was an important food source for the area’s indigenous tribes and became a major transportation and trade route during the California gold rush during the 19th Century. ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

The Tower Bridge

The Tower Bridge was built in 1935 and was the first vertical lift bridge in the California highway system. The center section of this bridge raises and lowers for large boats to journey up and down the Sacramento River. ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

The paddle wheel of the Delta King that journeyed daily between San Francisco to Sacramento from 1927 to 1940.  It is now a floating hotel and restaurant docked in Old Sacramento.  ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

The paddle wheel of the Delta King that journeyed daily between San Francisco and Sacramento from 1927 to 1940. It is now a floating hotel and restaurant docked in Old Sacramento. ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

The I Street Bridge has spanned the Sacramento River for 100 years.  The steel double-decker swing bridge was built by Southern Pacific Railroad and continues to carry trains and automobiles across the river to this day.  The bridge swings open for larger boats to go up and down the river.

The I Street Bridge has spanned the Sacramento River for 100 years. The steel double-decker swing bridge was built by Southern Pacific Railroad and continues to carry trains and automobiles across the river to this day. The bridge swings open for larger boats to go up and down the river.

A Sacramento Southern rail car sits on the tracks near the California State Railroad Museum in Old Sacramento.  The Sacramento Southern rail line was built between 1906 and 1912 and ran south for 24 miles to Walnut Grove and later became part of Southern Pacific.  ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

A Sacramento Southern rail car sits on the tracks near the California State Railroad Museum in Old Sacramento. The Sacramento Southern rail line was built between 1906 and 1912 and ran south for 24 miles to Walnut Grove and later became part of Southern Pacific. ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

A stack of freight sits near the Central Pacific Freight and Passenger Stations in Old Sacramento.  The station was reconstructed on the site of the original which was built in the mid-1860's.  ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

A stack of freight sits near the Central Pacific Freight and Passenger Stations in Old Sacramento. The stations were reconstructed on the site of the original which was built in the mid-1860’s. ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

The backside of the passenger train station along the tracks.  ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

The backside of the passenger train station along the tracks. ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

Looking toward the trains and boarding area from the passenger station. ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

Looking toward the trains and boarding area from the passenger station. ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

The Huntington, Hopkins and Company Hardware Store.  During the 1860's this company was a wholesale brokerage that supplied all of Northern California.  ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

The Huntington, Hopkins and Company Hardware Store. During the 1860’s this company was a wholesale brokerage that supplied all of Northern California. ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

Pioneer Park sits in an empty lot where City Market, a butcher shop, used to stand.  There are remnants of Old Sacramento's past throughout this park including columns that used to adorn the outside of buildings and ironworks cast in Old Sacramento in the 1800's.  ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

Pioneer Park sits in an empty lot where City Market, a butcher shop, used to stand. There are remnants of Old Sacramento’s past throughout this park including columns that used to adorn the outside of buildings and ironworks cast in Old Sacramento in the 1800’s. ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

A slab of granite, some ironworks, and the old brick wall of the adjacent building in Pioneer Park.  ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

A slab of granite, some ironworks, and the old brick wall of the adjacent building in Pioneer Park. ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

Closeup detail on one of the columns used to adorn the outside of business buildings in Old Sacramento.  ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

Closeup detail on one of the columns used to adorn the outside of business buildings in Old Sacramento. ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

A fallen column slowly being absorbed by a tree in Pioneer Park.  ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

A fallen column slowly being absorbed by a tree in Pioneer Park. ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

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