Tag Archives: iPhoneography

Finding My Zen

In the midst of all the hate-filled rhetoric and fear going on right now in this country I have found a greater need to spend time out in nature in order to ground myself and find peace.

My goal is to share the beauty of nature with others so that they too might find that same peace and be encouraged get out and commute with nature themselves.

So, here are a few of my favorite Zen moments from my journeys.

All photographs ©Tracy J Thomas, 2016. All rights reserved.


Fall Colors

It has been quite some time since I have posted on my blog. I have been very busy teaching and exploring. I decided it was past time and wanted to share some of the beautiful fall colors I found while on a hike in the Sierras the other day.




Little Cabin in the Woods

  
At the outer edges of my noisy world exists a little cabin in the woods. A place where my soul can go to rest and reconnect with Nature and all of its beautiful gifts. 

 Whenever I go there it’s as if my soul does a giant exhale. A spewing out of all the damaging stress to make room for peace and healing.

   

“Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

   

“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” ~ John Muir

  

  
 

“All that live must die, passing through nature to eternity.” ~ William Shakespeare

 

“Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke

     “Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. … There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” ~ Rachel Carson

  
 

**All photographs and videos were taken on my iPhone. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2016. All rights reserved.**

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Purchase a copy of “Zen in the Garden: Finding Peace and Healing Through Nature” here.

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The Faerie Garden

  ©Tracy J Thomas, 2016. All rights reserved.

Spring is when I spend a lot of time in the garden kneeling down at eye level with all the flowers that seem to pop up and bloom overnight. I try to take some time daily to search for all the small details that are missed when caught up in our busy world. When you stop and look closely, it’s as if an entire parallel universe exists between the petals and stamen, the soil and grass. Sometimes while lost in a patch of Poppies I imagine a tiny world of faeries that flit about on lacy wings as they tend to the garden. If you look closely, you too might find them.

I shot these photos on my iPhone and edited them on my iPad with the PicFX and Procreate apps.

  

©Tracy J Thomas, 2016. All rights reserved.

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Pick up a copy of Zen in the Garden or send it to someone you lve as a gift: http://amzn.com/B00TN2GQHM 


Ode to Spring

  

“Ode to Spring” – ©Tracy J Thomas, 2016. All rights reserved.

March is a time for renewal, when the first buds of early Spring begin to push their way towards the surface. The days become a bit longer, less dark and bleak. Flocks of birds begin to fly overhead and make their way north after a long winter layover. Their excited squacks and cackles instill a sense of hope in my soul, but also a feeling of sadness that I never took the time to visit them while they were at rest here in our valley. My soul was tucked away in front of the warm fire, wrapped in reflection, which is where winter often sends me.

I stand in my backyard as a family of Sandhill Cranes ride a thermal right above me. Their giant wings glide in circles as their gutteral call rolls from their beaks in an ecstatic chorus. They circle and glide, resting for the long trip ahead, a momentary pause in their journey as if saying goodbye. A tear escapes my eye as I look up and wish them a safe flight.

The sun sneaks out between big white clouds and leftover raindrops that have settled on the new blooms begin to shimmer. My focus shifts from the vast expanse of the sky above back to the tiny things below me. The longer I stare, the more amazed I become. This micro world of color and light comes alive as if the entire universe exists in this few inches of earth within my vision. Life and death begin and end there. Spring approaches to remind us it is our job to live, to let go of the darkness, emerge from our coccoons and acknowledge the beauty in all that we have been given.

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Pick up a copy of “Zen in the Garden” here. 


The Party’s Over

  

“The Party’s Over” – ©Tracy J Thomas, 2016. All rights reserved.

My take on the current political environment and the 2016 elections. This was shot on my iPhone and edited on my iPad using the Juxtaposer and Procreate apps.


Constructing Reality Through Photomontage

  “Connected” – ©Tracy J Thomas, 2016. All rights reserved.

My imagination has always been very vivid. As a child I used to create stories in my mind, spending a lot of time daydreaming and constructing a new reality that was far better than the one I lived. As an adult, that imaginative mind and story construction is most often expressed through my art. Photomontage work is one of my favorite ways to decompress and become lost in a world of my own making.
These two new pieces are my creations from the past two days. I shot the background in each image in Northern Idaho this past year and the Native American subjects are from a photo shoot I did at the Kootenai Pow Wow. All images in each piece were shot with my iPhone and combined and edited on my iPad. 
“The Blessing” – ©Tracy J Thomas, 2016. All rights reserved.



Timber Men

  
The Timber Men. The burly men. The axe and chainsaw wielding men. The arbiters of a healthy forest.They prune and lift and fell when needed, like surgeons with their trusty tools.

  

  

  
  
At times they climb trees like Spiderman with their lengthy webs of rope. Just a little bit slower, and a lot more cautious. they face danger without much pause. 

 

  
Determined, they continue their dance towards the top.

  
  
Like Goliath, they possess a super human strength…

  
Whatever is taken, is given back , in order to enrich the cycle of life…

  
The Timber Men. The burly men. The axe and chainsaw wielding men. The super heroes of a sustainable forest.

   

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Pick up a copy of Zen in the Garden here:  


Street Visions

  
I wander the streets of the city and capture the quiet things that call to me in the midst of all the noise.

  
  

  
The messages are sometimes cryptic, sometimes clear.

  

  

Trust Your Struggle…

  
  
  
  
Shapes and patterns and colors all hold me spellbound. Mindful meditation magnets that drown out the noise and movement pollution all around me. I am sucked in, wondering whose hands painted, created, imagined the things I see.

  
  
  


2015 Mobile Photography Awards Results

  
I am beyond thrilled to receive an Honorable Mention in the Visual FX category of the 2015 Mobile Photography Awards for my photomontage “Mama Gaia.” Since it’s inception it has grown into the world’s largest mobile photography and art competition and touring exhibit. My congratulations to all winners and mentions! It is an honor to be among such amazing mobile artists.

To check out all the winners and mentions in all cetegories click here: 2015 Mobile Photography Awards.


Thanks – You Are Steller!

  
Just a quick post to say thank you all for your support for my recent post about my favorite mobile storytelling app Steller. My Steller story “Pow Wow” has received over 24k page views and yesterday it reached the #2 position of Most Viewed on Steller.

Now let’s see if it’s possible to double that! https://steller.co/s/5EeDxX32fH6

If you have already had the chance to view “Pow Wow,” here is a link to check out my latest, “Timber Men.” https://steller.co/s/5FwPcK3KhyH

 


The Port

  
One of my favorite places to wander and take photographs is along the Deep Water Channel across from the Port of Sacramento. The shipping channel was built in 1949 and is 30 feet deep and 43 miles long, running from Suisun Bay to an inland harbor in West Sacramento. The port was opened to deep sea traffic in 1963. Too shallow for container ships, the channel accommodates ships that carry bulk products like corn, rice, barley, almonds, and wheat as well as cement, lumber, clay, and metals.
Every time I visit I see something new. Whether it be another ship in port, a crew rowing a sculling boat, a fisherman paddling a kayak, or a calm reflection on the water, I am drawn to pull out my camera and capture the moment. 

   
    
    
   


Night Wanderings

  Tower Bridge, Sacramento, CA. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2015. All rights reserved.
It has been awhile since my last post due to an incredibly busy life. I have a lot of catching up to do since I have been doing a lot of shooting and little posting :). So until I have more time to sit down and write some thorough posts, here are a few recent night shots I took with my iPhone for you to peruse. I also wanted to take a moment to wish you all a very Happy Holidays!

 A quiet walkway in Old Sacramento along the Sacramento River. ©Tracy J Thomas. All rights reserved.

  The approach to the Tower Bridge along Capitol Avenue, Sacramento, CA. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2015. All rights reserved.
  The “Money Building” and CalSters reflecting in the Sacramento River, Sacramento, CA. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2015. All rights reserved.
  Downtown Sacramento and lighted Palm Trees. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2015. All rights reserved.


Back to My Love – Mobile Photomontage

 
When I started out in mobile photography about five years ago now I found great joy in expressing my creative urges through constructed photographs, better known as photomontage. This was a 360 degree move away from the straight black and white street photography I had been shooting over a three-year period for my MFA thesis project in Documentary photography.

At the point when I picked up my first iPhone and began to shoot and play with photography apps, I had reached the emotional burnout phase in my thesis project. It was an intense study and all I wanted and needed to do after presenting and defending my thesis was to play and create quirky, beautiful pieces of art. In a sense it was art therapy in order to heal myself from the stress of my project. That phase continued for three years.

It was a great time in my life. My photomontage pieces were being exhibited in galleries across the globe and found their way onto the pages of mainstream publications, while many pieces sold and ended up in private collections. I felt free to create my own surreal, entertaining worlds which provided me with a temporary escape from reality and I was in awe and surprised at the response these pieces received.

It has now been a few years since I have spent any focused time on creating photomontage works. For the past two years I moved back towards straight photography again with some street, documentary, and macro work. Recently I felt moved to create another photomontage piece called “The Butterfly Effect” which was highlighted on this blog after I reviewed the Juxtaposer app. I decided on a whim to enter this piece in a call for art for the Mobile Digital Art and Creativity Summit Exhibition that was going to be held in the prestigious Palo Alto Art Center.

Last month I received the news that “The Butterfly Effect” had been chosen as a finalist for the mDAC exhibition and would be on display at the Palo Alto Art Center through the month of August. I was thrilled. 

We attended the exhibition opening and had a great time soaking in all the amazing art created on iPhones and iPads. There are two categories of art on display. My piece is in the Mobile Photography Art category. The second category is Mobile Digital Painting for which I have a ton of respect. Below is a slideshow with some photographs of the event and a lot of the beautiful art created on mobile devices.

This latest experience has been a great motivator for me to create more photomontage pieces. I am currently working on a piece to enter for an upcoming exhibition that explores the imagery and concepts depicted by 14th century Surrealist Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch. Such a fun study!


Free Kindle Book

IMG_2189 You can download a FREE Kindle version of “Zen in the Garden” today and tomorrow only on Amazon. Here is the link to learn more about the book and to grab your copy: http://amzn.com/B00TN2GQHM. If you have already read it, please feel free to share this post or the link with your followers and friends.

You can also enter to win one of three signed softcover copies of this book on Goodreads. The giveaway ends on July 24th. Just click on the image below to enter.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Zen in the Garden by Tracy J.  Thomas

Zen in the Garden

by Tracy J. Thomas

Giveaway ends July 24, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

I will be journeying back into the woods for fifteen days beginning this Wednesday. I will post regular updates about my journey on Instagram, Twitter, and Periscope (search Tracy J. Thomas on Periscope app) so follow me on any and all for some peaceful nature photos/videos, hopefully some amazing wildlife shots, and quite possibly the Aurora Borealis if they all decide to cooperate ;).

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Do you like handmade Boho Chic jewelry? Then visit my Etsy shop and receive 50% OFF through 7/1. Just enter coupon code SUMMER15 at checkout: http://www.etsy.com/shop/ZenInTheGarden

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Favorite Mobile Photo Apps – Big Lens

  

 

One of my favorite mobile photography apps for editing product photos is Big Lens by Reallusion, Inc. Since I am exclusively an Apple finatic, I can’t speak to the Android version of this app, however the reviews on Google Play are just as solid as they are on iTunes.

I can’t quite agree with the Developer’s claims that this app will “turn your iPhone into a professional SLR camera.” Sorry, but there is currently no app on the market that can do that. There are indeed apps that will allow you to have some similar capabilities or at least mimic fairly well the capabilities of a lower end SLR, but the bottom line is there (currently) is no comparison between an iPhone or Android and a high-end DSLR. 

There are many in the mobile photography world who would argue vehemenently against the above sentiment, however, when it comes to straight shooting there can be no argument about the quality of the end result when comparing the unedited photos side by side. The high-end DSLR will win hands down. 

The beauty of the mobile photography movement lies in the ability to edit on-the-fly. Once a mobile photo is brought into a mobile app and edited by an experienced user it then becomes more difficult to distinguish whether it was shot originally on a mobile phone or on a DSLR.

When shooting product photography, depth of field becomes an important factor if you desire professional quality and a compelling photograph. In the past I have shot product photographs for Francis Ford Coppola’s Napa Valley wineries among others. Those shoots entailed blacking out my studio windows, positioning multiple lights, scrims, reflectors, and a plethora of high-end lenses mounted on my professional DSLR. This type of job required this type of equipment since the final images needed to be sharp and of the highest resolution possible. My iPhone would definitely not have been an appropriate tool for that particular task.

At this juncture in life, like many other crafty people, I have an Etsy shop. I like to keep my store stocked up with a variety of my handmade products so this requires a lot of product photos. Now I could go the route of spending all day setting up my studio and shooting each piece with my professional setup then spending hours on Lightroom and Photoshop editing my RAW files, but honestly, I don’t bring in enough money through my Etsy shop (yet) to pay for that type of precious time committment. So I shoot with my iPhone 6 and use wonderful apps like Big Lens to edit them into more professional looking images.

I utilize Big Lens primarily for its depth of field tools and occasionally its filters. There are several camera apps that allow you to adjust DOF in-camera while shooting, however I like to take straight shots in order to edit them any way I desire post shoot. Below I outline the process for how I use this app to edit a photograph of a piece of my handmade jewelry.

  
You can shoot with the Big Lens app but I prefer to shoot with ProCamera. When I am ready to edit my product photos I bring a photo into the Big Lens app by choosing “Load Photo” and import from my camera roll. The “Basic” and “Advanced” buttons are your choice for masking. I always use the “Advanced” button since it provides me with fine control over what I want masked in my image. 

  
Before I begin to mask, I choose the “Brush” tool in order to adjust the size of the brush. This allows me to better control the edges of the mask.

  
In the above screenshot, for the sake of example, I am only masking a portion of my bracelet. You can utilize the “Eraser” button to be even more precise with your edges or boundaries of your mask if needed.

  
I personally like to mask some of the foreground in order to create a leading line from bottom of the image towards the focal point.

  
The above is an exaggerated example of how the masking feature works. With the current settings The DOF is extreme and the transition is not very smoothe. The leading line is sharp focus and the edges fall off the cliff into an extreme blur.

  
This blur transition and intensity can be adjusted via the “Aperture” setting by choosing different F-stops and adjusting the slider until you are satisfied with the result.

  
Above is an example of the change from 100% in F1.8 to around 30% in F2.8. A bit smoother transition.

  
Once I have the DOF adjusted to where I desire, I then add one of the filters. I usually choose the “Vivid” filter so the colors will pop a bit more.

  
The colors are now popping after adding 100% Vivid to the photograph.

  

The app also allows you to adjust the “Lens” style. In other words you can create a circular blur, star-shaped blur, heart blur, etc. if you feel so inclined.  Additional tools allow you to adjust for focus and amount of blur.

  
 

There is also the ubiquitous “HDR” button on the top of the app. While some people like this feature, I do not like it in this app because it provides you with few options to adjust the intensity of the HDR effect such as contrast. Although the bright pink color is nice in the above photo, it is not true to the piece itself so I would not use this result to post on my shop.

  
One of the last wonderful things this app offers is the ability to save your images in full resolution. A very important feature when you want to present sharp, professional images.

Overall I would rate this easy to use app as a 4+. It is user-friendly, intuitive, and fun to use!

Oh, and you can purchase the handmade, hemp braided, beaded, Boho Chic, friendship bracelet featured in these photos on my Etsy shop along with much more here! 🙂

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Click here or on image to purchase your copy today!

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Birch Bark – The Gifts of a Fallen Tree

  
I adore Birch trees. The light coloring of the Western Paper Birch with its unique peeling bark and lenticels catch my eye immediately when wandering the forest. Their foliage turns a brilliant yellow during the Fall and the leaves make a beautiful rustling sound in the wind. These trees can grow up to 70 feet tall and 1-2 feet in diameter over 80+ years. 

The Native Americans utilized the Birch tree for a number of things. They used the outer bark for the skin of their canoes and to cover their wigwams. They made bark containers for collection and storage of food as well as for cooking. The wood of the Birch was used to make musical instruments, toys for children, and hunting and fishing gear. The bark was also woven into baskets and incorporated into their beadwork. 

  
Birch bark can be used for tinder to start a fire (even when it’s wet), as paper to write on, and can be woven into a hat or a pair of shoes if you find yourself lost in the forest. The sap from the Birch tree can be made into wine or beer and the leaves and inner bark can be turned into a detoxing tea or medicinal cream for issues with the skin.

It is never a good idea to peel the bark from a live, standing Birch. It can leave the tree vulnerable and sometimes it will die, especially if some of the protective inner bark is cut and removed during the process. It is best to remove bark from a fallen tree. Where there are Birch trees there are usually several that have fallen due to disease, high winds, or snow load. Occassionally a larger Birch may become a hazard tree and segments begin breaking off of the top and falling onto whatever is below. If the hazard tree is near a home or building or in an area with a frequently travelled trail, then it should be removed. 

While on our recent trip to North Idaho, a large Birch needed to be felled since it was close to a cabin and had lost several feet from its top, most likely due to disease.

  
As much as I do not like to see trees cut down for the purpose of encroaching on the forest for development, I do understand certain trees need to be removed when they become a hazard to people and other things in their surroundings. 

Although no longer standing, this lovely tree still had many gifts to give. We decided to collect the bark to use it for jewelry and other crafts. The trunk will be cut into slices to create beautiful side tables for the cabin and the main log will be milled into lumber for later use. Some of the smaller sections will be used to heat the cabin and the rest will decay over time on the forest floor to provide shelter to small animals and insects and nutrition for new seedlings to grow.

Below is a series of photographs illustrating the process we used for the Birch bark removal. You can use a carpet knife to score the section of bark you want to remove then use the same knife to carefully pull away the edges from the inner bark. Once the outer bark begins to release, slowly peel the sheet from the log. Store the sheets flat or use water and a heat gun later to flatten any curled pieces. And of course remember to thank the tree for its beautiful gifts :).

   
               

Here are two examples of pieces of jewelry I have made from this bark over the past few days.

The first is a necklace where I used pieces of bark that had lichen growing on them and incorporated it with earth-toned beads and silver wire.

  
The second is a pair of earrings I am still designing that mixes bark with metal and alcohol inks.

  

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** Click to purchase Zen in the Garden: Finding Peace and Healing Through Nature on Amazon. **


Photomontage – The Butterfly Effect

Here is a new photomontage piece, “The Butterfly Effect,” I created with the mobile photography apps Juxtaposer, Pixlromatic, and PicFX. The elements for this image are all from photographs I shot with my iPhone in recent years, combined in Juxtaposer and texturized in Pixlromatic and PicFX. You can read my review of Juxtaposer in my last post here.

 **”The Butterfly Effect” – ©Tracy J Thomas, 2015. All rights reserved.**


Favorite Mobile Photo Apps – Juxtaposer

  
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One of my favorite mobile photography editing apps is Juxtaposer. This app is the mobile photomontage artist’s dream app. It was Juxtaposer that first opened the doors of my creative imagination when I transitioned to shooting and editing with an iPhone. For years I had used Photoshop for traditional DSLR photography editing and had played with a few montage creations. However, I found the use of PS for this type of editing to be time consuming, tedious, and it had a steep and somewhat complicated learning curve for the tasks involved.

I first noticed a number of mobile artists creating amazing photomontage work on the iPhoneArt.com website back in 2011. I was blown away by what these artists were creating on their iPhones and ultimately iPads. I followed several conversations and soon learned about the Juxtaposer app. From the first day I downloaded the app I was hooked. At the time the app was iPhone only and the iPhone screens were not nearly as large as they are today. So imagine me bent over my miniscule iPhone screen erasing details of photographs in order to save one small piece as a stamp to combine with another background photo. Talk about tedious! But the fact I could use my fingers to pinch and zoom and an inexpensive stylus to touch up the details made the experience fun and a lot cheaper than Photoshop and a Wacomm tablet. Plus I could say that I created these pieces from start to finish on my iPhone!

 **A few of the pieces I have created with the Juxtaposer app and favorite texture apps.**

As time went, on my iPhone photomomtage pieces all created with Juxtaposer and a few texture apps, began to place in competitions and find their way into galleries, private collections, and publications around the globe. After taking a break from several productive years creating mobile art, I have recently migrated back to using Juxtaposer on my iPad to create illustrations for a new book I am in the process of writing. The fact I can edit with this app on my iPad has improved the user experience ten-fold. Below are some of the steps I took in the app when creating a piece for the book. **Note: this piece is far from finished but I thought it would be fun to share a work in progress while highlighting this app.**

First I chose the base elements that would go into my photomontage based on a concept I had in mind.  

 

**This is the background photo I chose. I shot this several years back in Baja, Mexico.**

 **I decided I wanted this baby carriage as part of the scene. I shot this photo in a vintage auto parts store many years back.**

I opened Juxtaposer, started a new session, and I chose my bottom and top images and imported.  

  

I needed to erase everything on the top layer but the baby carriage. To do this I chose the eraser button and began to pinch and zoom the top image in order to get in close to the edges for detail.

  

When I was happy with the results, I saved the top image as a stamp so I could use it again in the future. I also decided to flip the carriage so it angled towards the cactus for better composition (another tool I love in this app).

   
   

After saving my newly created base scene, I added my main character, The Borg, from my saved stamps.

   
  

 

I then began to add more stamps to the scene, in this case the hat and pacifier.

   
      

Now that I have incorporated all my main core elements I will continue to touch the scene up by adding shadows to anchor the carriage a bit better to the ground so it doesn’t appear to be floating plus a few more items to finish the scene to my liking. This will be followed by importing the piece into a few of my favorite mobile photo texture apps.

A few of the other tools in Juxtaposer are the ability to adjust brightness, contrast, saturation, opacity, blend modes, and brush settings. my favorite feature of all is the unerase button which comes in handy when attempting to erase close to the edges. Unlike a reset button, it allows you to unerase small parts of your top layer and does not reverse all the work you just painstakingly labored over.

  
All in all Juxtaposer is a fun app with an intuitive interface for both the beginner and advanced mobile artist.

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Goodreads Book Giveaway

Zen in the Garden by Tracy J.  Thomas

Zen in the Garden

by Tracy J. Thomas

Giveaway ends May 24, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to Win


Mira Mobile Prize and Author Interviews

  **”The Red Shoes.” ©Tracy J Thomas, 2015. All rights reserved.**

It has been awhile since I have entered my photography in a competition. For several years I was on a roll and found great success in international competitions while building my portfolio. Alas, that all came crashing to a halt when I had to deal with sudden health issues. Fortunately I have had a respite from those concerns and I am once again back on the creative path.

I recently entered the Mira Mobile Prize competition “Ruas do Mundo” (Streets of the World) and was ecstatic to learn one of my iPhone photographs was chosen by the judges to be included in an electronic display to be shown at the Mira Forum in Porto, Portugal. This display was shown alongside the featured printed work of the top 50 finalists. That news made my week.

 

I have also recently had the pleasure of two author interviews regarding my book “Zen in the Garden: Finding Peace and Healing Through Nature.” The first interview was conducted by the inimitable Melanie Rockett for her website Proof Positive. You can read the interview here.

  

The most recent Interview was for the website “Writer’s Interviews” and can be viewed here.

  

It was a year ago this month that I was diagnosed with skin cancer. That diagnosis resulted in an intense journey of treatment and healing that has literally changed my life. When I reflect on it now I can honestly say there were many gifts that have come out of that transformational  journey. The first being a reevaluation of what is important in my life and the decision to spend more time writing. I am honoring that decision and have four more books slated for publication this year. My hope is each one of you reading this blog post will follow your hearts and begin to live your lives with passion and peace.

** Click to purchase Zen in the Garden: Finding Peace and Healing Through Nature on Amazon. **


Zen Moment 4 – The Wisdom of Trees

  

I have been a tree lover since I was a child. During summer vacations we spent hours building tree forts in the field behind our housing tract with scavanged boards and nails from a construction site. The trees were a combination of old gnarly Oaks and towering Cottonwoods that offered much needed shade to a herd of cattle and a few horses that grazed in the field.

The tree fort was my favorite place to sit and daydream. It also served as my escape from a not so pretty home life. I remember the feeling of freedom it gave me to sit up high, lost in the cover of this massive tree. I felt safe and protected by its branches. If I sat still long enough I could hear what sounded like a chorus of ancient voices drifting through the leaves as they rustled in the wind. 

Trees are truly amazing gifts of nature. I have often pondered the thought of their longevity and wished they could tell us the stories of all they have seen over time. Some have been silent witnesses to centuries of history. Others, like the Ancient Bristlecones, have been on this earth for more than 5,000 years. Oh the tales they could tell.

Trees provide shelter and shade for birds and mammals. They help to cool the earth, remove particulates, and provide oxygen for us to breathe. Studies show that hospital patients who are in rooms with a view of trees heal faster than patients who don’t. Also, communities that lack trees have a higher crime rate than those that have them.

I proudly consider myself a “tree hugger” yet I do have a balanced understanding of the need for a percentage of trees to be cut and utilized for human needs. But I become saddened at the thought of our rainforests being decimated with abandon and cringe when I hear about large trees being removed for a development in my city.

If only the trees could impart on us the wisdom they have absorbed over time. Maybe we would understand the need to treat nature and other human beings with more kindness.

** Click to purchase Zen in the Garden: Finding Peace and Healing Through Nature on Amazon. **


Favorite Mobile Photo Apps – Periscope by Twitter

  

So there’s this new app by Twitter called “Periscope.” It is not a photography app per se, but it does utilize your iPhone’s  video camera and opens up the world of on-the-go live broadcasting. Normally, I am not an in front of the camera chat type. As a photographer I would much rather hide behind the lens unless I am connecting with clients over Skype or giving an online lecture or interview. But there’s something different about Periscope that has enticed me to jump head first into the world of live broadcasts.

The first thing I loved when I downloaded the app was the easy to understand interface. It is very intuitive with just three simple icons across the bottom. 

  

The first is a television icon which is naturally where you watch live and recorded broadcasts. 

  

The next icon is what appears to be a camera with a small red dot which when pushed takes you to the broadcast screen. The third is your standard people icon that provides you with a list of your Twitter peeps and those on Periscope who are currently the “Most Loved” (those who have accumulated the most likes over time).

  

When you are ready to broadcast, you push the camera icon. On the broadcast screen you will see a Google maps button if you want to broadcast your location, a lock icon if you want to invite specific followers to a private broadcast, and a Twitter button so a Tweet will be sent out to your Twitter peeps letting them know you are doing a broadcast. 

  

At the top of the broadcast screen you type in an enticing title or whatever you want, then click “Start Broadcast” and off you go, instant live streaming 

  

During your broadcast if you have been lucky enough to garner followers and users who see your live broadcast listed on Periscope or Twitter, their names will begin to pop up on your screen as they join in to watch. If they like what they see, your watchers can tap their screens multiple times and little heart bubbles will suddenly begin to appear and float up towards the top (kind of like a standing ovation). This of course is a great motivator to continue your broadcast. Your audience can also text you questions and comments while you are recording and you can interact with them instantly with your spoken voice.

   

   

 

When you are finished with your live broadcast all you do is swipe down on your screen and choose “Stop Broadcasting.” Your video will then save to Periscope and will be viewable for 24 hours under the television icon for people to view later. You can see the number of viewers that watched your saved broadcast when you click on the video in Periscope under the television icon. 

 

If you want to, you can choose to save all your broadcast videos to your own camera roll automatically as well. The only thing that won’t appear on the videos That are saved to your phone are all the hearts, user names and comments. So if you did a broadcast and had lots of verbal interaction with those written comments and you decide to post that video to your YouTube channel, you might want to preface it with a bit of explanation so viewers won’t think you have lost your marbles. Or not. It’s your seemingly one-way conversationS just might go viral :).

I encourage you to download this app and give it a try. I am having great fun with it and believe it to be an invaluable way to connect with your readers, followers, clients, or audience. The tagline for this app is “Explore the world through someone else’s eyes.” We each have our unique way of seeing and I look forward to experiencing the world as you see it. 

Feel free to follow me on Periscope. My user name is Tracy J. Thomas. I can use all the hearts you are willing to give. You can also connect with me on Twitter: @tjthomasphoto.


Reflections – Finding Beauty in the Small Things



** Snowy Egret, Petaluma Wetlands, Petaluma, CA. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2015. All rights reserved. **

There are days when I find it difficult to concentrate. My mind feels pulled in a million directions and I become frustrated with my inability to accomplish the things I need to get accomplished. This is simply part of being human in this day and age of overstimulation. Too much information coming at us from too many sources. It becomes difficult to filter and discern what is important and what needs to be discarded.

When I feel overwhelmed I know it’s past time for me to get out into nature. One of my favorite places to go is a local wildlife area that sits on the Pacific Flyway. Migratory birds of every flavor take refuge there. Some of these birds fly thousands of miles to reach their Winter or Spring destinations. They amaze me. Flocks of Snow Geese, Swans, and Sandhill Cranes fly right over our house this time of year while headed north to their Spring breeding grounds. Some nights I hear groups of Swans in the distance and if I am not too tired I stand in the darkness of our backyard and wait for their glowing white v-shape to appear over the rooftops. They fly So low you can sometimes hear the whooshing sound of their long wings as they pass overhead.

The Cranes fly by during the day and on several occasions I have watched them catch a rest on a thermal. Their distinct sound becomes more animated as they coast on these circular winds. At times they use them to wait for a few straggling family members to catch up to the group. Their cries become louder as the stragglers catch up. It’s as if they are overjoyed to be together again.

What amazes me the most is I can stand in the middle of this city and be touched by nature as long as I am open and willing to find it. It makes me wonder how many times in my life I have failed to see its beauty or hear it call out to me when I am lost in some shallow reaction to the self imposed stressors of my life. I can choose to be present each day while I am on this earth and embrace all the wonders that bring my soul peace. Or I can remain locked in a fruitless battle with the things that bring me angst and frustration.

As I sit here and reflect in the quiet of the night I realize how lucky I am. My life has not been one of ease. Like many, I have weathered my fair share of trials and tribulations and learned more lessons than I care to share. Yet I am thankful I can stand in awe of nature’s wonders and still find beauty in the small things.


Breathing My Way Into Spring



This morning I decided to heed my words from my little book “Zen in the Garden: Finding Peace and Healing Through Nature.” Being self-employed, tax season is always a stressor. Add to that the demands of work I perform for clients and my attempt to self-promote the launch of my new book and you have the perfect recipe for a potential meltdown.

But if I have learned anything on this journey it is the importance of placing a damper on stress, or at least the way my body reacts to it, before it has a chance to impact my life and most importantly my health. Today I woke up with a long list of to-do’s in my head. Not a good way to start the morning. I didn’t even take a moment to say “Hello world!” My first mistake. But since I have a forgiving heart, I gave myself a hug and decided to go out on a walk at a local nature trail for a quick attitude adjustment.

“Ahhhhh…” 

The minute I stepped out of my car and placed a foot onto the trail I felt relief spill over me. I could breathe again. There was a cool breeze that placed a kiss on both cheeks and the morning sun warmed the top of my big floppy hat. Whatever stress I carried when I left my house was instantly replaced with a calm peace as I began to notice the beautiful Spring blossoms that had begun to grace the trees. I felt a smile begin to creep across my face. This is how life is supposed to be. We are meant to be happy and to experience the joy And beauty of simple things.

As my day continues forward I carry that peace I found this morning and feel a renewed sense of groundedness and the ability to focus on my tasks. Do yourself a favor. When you begin to feel stress creep in take yourself out on a walk and find at least one thing you think is beautiful along the way. Take a mental picture, or if you have a camera take a photo and revisit that image throughout your day.

You can still download “Zen in the Garden: Finding Peace and Healing Through Nature” for free on Amazon through tomorrow.


The Little Kindle Book That Could



Life amazes me. Constantly. It is a roller coaster filled with ups and downs but it’s the positive moments that tend to surprise and help me to move past the more difficult times. One of those surprises has come from this little book I wrote and published on Amazon.

Zen in the Garden: Finding Peace and Healing Through Nature” was my way of moving on from recent skin cancer treatment. For those of you who followed my treatment journey you know it was not a pretty nor positive time in my life.  In the beginning stages of treatment I spent a lot of time taking photographs out in my garden and in nature. Once I became housebound during the eight weeks of topical chemotherapy I made a point to revisit my nature photos to remind myself of the beautiful things in life. 

Nature has always been the one thing in life that grounds me and gives me peace. When I initially began my career as a photographer my focus was on the nature and wildlife genre. That is where I have felt the most comfortable and connected my whole life, so it made since my foray into serious photography would be in that genre. It also makes since that I would circle back to my beginning, to my happy, healing, peaceful place to move forward from this unpleasant chapter in life.

When I wrote this little book it was a healing experience for me but I also had hope the words and photographs would speak to others. So I am amazed at the positive reception, reviews and comments it has received so far since its release. I am even more amazed to find it currently sitting in the #1 spot in two Kindle categories on Amazon.com. It has miraculously reached #1 in “Spiritual Healing” and #1 in Self-Help. 

** Screenshot from the book’s Amazon page and its current ranking. **



Zen in the Garden is now FREE for download in the Kindle store through March 4th. You can also purchase a paperback version if you prefer to hold a book in hand. If you do download it I would love for you to leave a quick review on Amazon. Even more I would love for you to share the link with all your friends :). 

You can get your copy now here: Zen in the Garden: Finding Peace and Healing Through Nature.


FREE Kindle Book Download – Zen in the Garden



This morning I woke up to find my little motivational book “Zen in the Garden: Finding Peace and Healing Through Nature” had moved back into the top 100 in three categories on Amazon. It had reached #6 in Spiritual Healing, #9 in Self-Help, and #25 in Short Reads Self-Help. This amazes me and makes me feel very thankful. I wrote this book after my experience with cancer treatment and my hope is it will prove helpful to others who may be experiencing stressors in their own lives.



** You can download the Kindle version for FREE until March 4th here: Zen in the Garden: Finding Peace and Healing Through Nature. Please feel free to share this with your friends or anyone else you think might benefit from this little book.


Favorite Mobile Photo Apps – Tintype by Hipstamatic



** “Santa Clause is Dead” – Shot and edited with Hipstamatic’s Tintype app. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2015. All rights reserved. **

Since I shoot a lot of mobile photos I decided to start a series of posts where I chat about my favorite mobile photography apps. This first post will focus on my current fave, the Tintype app by Hipstamatic. 

From the first day I downloaded this app to my iPhone I fell in love. It is a basic point and shoot app that captures in black and white and adds plate grain and depth of field with no on-the-fly in-camera adjustments. The true magic happens after you shoot your photo with the ability in app to edit such things as style (black and white, color or sepia), crop square, adjust plate grain, sharpen the eyes if it is a portrait, and adjust depth of field.



** “The Ticket Booth” – Shot and edited with Hipstamatic’s Tintype app. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2015. All rights reserved. **

I have used this app quite a bit for shooting landscapes and portraits but lately I have been using this camera app to shoot street photos. It has caused me to slow down and become a more deliberate shooter since it takes some time to save each photo to the camera roll. It gives me time to think about composition and to keep my eyes open to what is happening around me.



** “The Red Shoes” – Shot and edited with Hipstamatic’s Tintype app. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2015. All rights reserved. **

The app does not shoot well in low light. Under those circumstances, if you shoot with another camera app such as Manual or 645 Pro where you can make ISO or Apeture adjustments you can pull the photo into Tintype to edit and apply this wonderful vintage look later.


Writing is Good for the Soul



From an early age books swept me away to better places where magical things happened to innocent children. Where mean giants were slain, frogs turned into princes, and even a poisonous apple was not enough to keep love from prevailing over evil. 

I learned to read books about “Green Eggs and Ham” and as a four-year-old pondered the question “Are You My Mother?” Later in my pre-adolescence Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, the Chronicles of Narnia, the Lord of the Rings, Little Women, and Watership Down became my goto books for validation of a better life outside my mini-Universe.

These books stirred something deep inside my soul that felt like a perfect fit. I secretly longed to be a writer that would make a difference in someone’s life. For years I wrote in the confines of my private space, rarely sharing my words with others. These words were an integral part of me and who I am. I was terrified at the thought of releasing them for others to read. The idea left me feeling vulnerable. In ways it was as if I was offering up my soul on a platter to sacrifice for anyone who dared.

Jump forward to three years ago when I was handed an opportunity to contribute a piece to an anthology that was going to be published by Seal Press. I was asked by one of the Editors, Hollye Dexter, who had become aware of my writing through my blog, through the writing community of She Writes, and a few other places where I had become brave enough to post. I was humbled and blown away to be asked. The topic of the anthology was shame. God knows I have had plenty of that in my life. Haven’t we all?



The book “Dancing at the Shame Prom: Sharing the Stories That Kept Us Small” was published by Seal Press in 2012. My piece shares the pages with some extraordinary women. 0Being a part of that book has lead to some amazing opportunities for me like becoming a member of the faculty and speaking on the “Women Write Their Lives” speakers panel at the San Miguel Writer’s Conference in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico in 2013. But the best thing to occur was my newfound sense of confidence in my ability to write.



** From left to right: Samantha Dunn, Brooke Axtell, Sarah Stonich, Laura Davis, Amy Ferris, Hollye Dexter, Suzanne Braun Levine, Tracy J Thomas, Brooke Warner. “Women Write Their Lives” speakers panel, San Miguel International Writers Conference, 2013. Photo by Jon Ware. **

I definitely don’t strive to be the next literary genius nor to make it onto the New York Times Bestsellers list with anything I write. Those amazing writers are few and far between. My only hope is to entertain and help others through my words. That alone is my greatest reward. Although of course I would be happy with any royalties that roll in so I can continue to pay my bills :).

I was thrilled this morning to find my little motivational Kindle ebook, “Zen in the Garden: Finding Peace and Healing Through Nature” had moved up into the top 100 in the Kindle paid store for three categories on Amazon. It was perched at #32 in “Spiritual Healing,” #68 in Short Reads “self-Help,” and #78 in overall “Self-Help.” I am fully aware these rankings are precarious and go up and down on an hourly basis but am still giddy with excitement every time I see these numbers.



Whoever said “writing is good for the soul” was correct. Whenever I write I am immediately transported to my happy place and my soul feels renewed and quite often vindicated when I give it a platform on which to speak. My photography is on an even plane with my writing in regards to the cleansing of soul. Whenever I have the opportunity to combine the two I reach that elusive state of Nirvana. 

If you would like to download “Zen in the Garden” you can do so here: Zen in the Garden: Finding Peace and Healing Through Nature.

I welcome any reviews and would also love it if you would gift it forward if you feel so moved.


Zen in the Garden: Finding Peace and Healing Through Nature

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So I wrote and published a short little Kindle e-book called “Zen in the Garden: Finding Peace and Healing Through Nature.” I wrote it after my recent journey with skin cancer, surgeries, and chemotherapy. It is meant to provide inspiration and motivation through a combination of written words and my photographs. It also contains some gardening tips and nature challenges.

It was published on Valentine’s Day and has already reached the top 100 Amazon Best Sellers Rank in the category of “Spiritual Healing.” All I can say is “wow!” I am humbled and happy and hope this little book can touch the lives of those who are open to its message.

Here is where it ranked last night. It was at #43 in Spiritual Healing:

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If you would like to read a copy it is currently only $2.99 and can be purchased here on Amazon: Zen in the Garden. If you do purchase it I would love it if you will take a moment to give it a review. Even better, if you can think of someone in your life who might benefit from its message please gift it forward. You can do this by choosing “Give as a Gift” on the Amazon book page. Or simply share this post with your friends if you feel moved to do so :).

You can also view my Amazon author page here: Tracy J Thomas.

Here is an example of one of my photos that appear in this book combined with a snippet of my writing.

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Wandering the Streets Once Again

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** “The Red Shoes” – ©Tracy J Thomas, 2015. All rights reserved. **

It’s been a long few months but I am finally back out on the streets shooting again. For those of you who followed my journey through the end of 2014, you know this moment could not have come fast enough for me.

I was so happy to wake up to thick fog this morning. Not a typical response for most but in light of the fact I need to limit my UV exposure I was ecstatic. As I wandered the streets in this thick, wet, soupy veil of gray I felt more alive than I have felt in a long time.

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** “Old Choo Choo” – ©Tracy J Thomas, 2015. All rights reserved. **

People say cancer has that effect on you, well at least after treatment. It most certainly has proven to be true for me. Everything seems so vivid and tangible now. My senses are on high alert with these “new” eyes. Things I once failed to notice now grab my attention with an immediacy that I shrugged off before. Life looks different and it is.

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** “Gun to the Head” – ©Tracy J Thomas, 2015. All rights reserved. **


Skin Cancer Treatment – Fluorouracil Day 2

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Day two on Fluorouracil has been pretty uneventful. Last night my face tingled a lot and it felt like I had a mild sunburn (oh the irony). I sleep on my side so my pillow case kept sticking to my cheeks every time I went to turn over. I hear it is even more fun when your face begins to bleed and fester. Plastic covers under the pillowcases anyone?

This morning my face was still pink but the day was mostly uneventful with the exception of the fact I felt slightly irritated. More than likely not a side effect of the drug at this early juncture but feeling a little trapped by the thought of being a slave to this chemical for the next three weeks and not certain how intensely my skin is going to react.

There are a few tiny red spots that are already beginning to pop out on my forehead but nothing worth taking a photo of yet. So I decided to post some photos from my last nature walk this past Sunday instead.

It was my last chance to get in a good walk before starting the Fluorouracil. The medication makes you extra sensitive to UV rays. I have seen the photos of people who used the drug and made the mistake of going out in the sun. Even with sunscreen and short exposure times, their faces became terribly inflamed. Thus I have decided to become a vampire and go on walks after the sun goes down. It makes life more exciting that way :-).

So for now, here are a few iPhone photos I shot using the Tintype app by Hipstamatic. They were shot along the Barge Access Canal across from the Port of Sacramento.

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Honoring The Artist Inside

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Art has always been an integral part of my life. Through it I can make beauty in the midst of something ugly. Without it, I feel completely lost and void of purpose. With it, I feel at home, as if my purpose for living is tied in somewhere to the act of creating.

For me art takes on multiple iterations. Sometimes the vehicle for expression comes through my writing, sometimes it comes through the capturing of an image with my camera, and lately it has surfaced through working with clay.

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No matter which tool my soul chooses, I feel grounded and happy when lost in the moment of creation.

Since my diagnosis and surgeries I have experienced an extra strong desire to focus on my art. In the midst of these past few stressful months I found myself exploring macro photography, delving into play with clay, and most recently I have been drawn back into burying myself in words through the NaNoWriMo challenge. For those of you who aren’t familiar with NaNoWriMo, here is the description from the website:

“National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing. On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30.

Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought fleetingly about writing a novel.”

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I have had two novels simmering in the background for quite some time and 10 days ago I made the commitment to attack one of them by hammering out 50,000 words and the first draft by the end of November. I am already a few thousand words short of halfway on day 10. The accountability of recording my daily word count on the NaNoWriMo website has worked wonders for my writing habit. I have also felt a bit of urgency to write as much as I can to get ahead before I begin my topical chemotherapy today (more about that in my next post).

The majority of my freelance and published work has been in nonfiction. This is definitely my first serious push into the world of fiction. I have to admit, I am enjoying the journey. I believe I am enjoying it so much right now because it provides me a daily escape from reality and I am allowed to construct a world where my characters are free to roam without boundaries.

If I wanted to become all psychoanalytic about it I could probably tie it into my sudden lack of control over my physical body and the need to feel like the Captain of something once again. But meh, let’s not go there today and just say I am having a great time living in an alternate reality for around 2,000 words per day.

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I am definitely not a traditionalist. I have always struggled with being confined to an office in a corporate setting. Money never made me happy when I had a lot of it and the stress of the crazy corporate work hours just about did me in.

Of course I never wanted to be a “starving artist” but I have always wanted to make a living with my art. It is what fulfills me the most and definitely what makes me feel the happiest.

So here’s to always honoring the artist inside of you no matter how he/she decides they need to show themselves to the world.


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 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.


The Waiting Game

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

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

The past few weeks have been spent focused on design projects for clients while finding ways to keep my stress levels under control. Burying myself in “busy” is a great way to forget about the cancer but it doesn’t necessarily bode well for subconscious stress management. We have been having quite the heat spell here in California so I have not been spending as much Zen time out in the garden with my camera. Instead I have been starting my days off by making my way to the air-conditioned gym to pedal, lift, and sweat away all those ugly stress bugs.

"Cradling the Moon" - ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

“Cradling the Moon” – ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

The surgery to remove the cancer on my back is now scheduled for August 27th. The back surgery should be relatively straight forward with minimal recovery time. A lot will depend on the pathology report a few days following the excision. If the margins are not clear, then I will need to go back in for more. If they are clear then I will have 10 days to recover before the Mohs surgery on my face.

I am the most nervous about the surgery on my face. Most of that comes from all the unknowns that are tied in with this spot. They won’t know until they begin to cut away, freeze the tissue and look under the microscope how much they will need to remove that day. It could be anywhere from a few passes to an all day affair. It all depends on how far the cancer has spread beneath the surface. Once the surgeon gets clear margins I will then need to have reconstructive surgery with the Oculoplastics surgeon that same day. Again, how much reconstruction I will need is an unknown until the cancer is removed.

Hibiscus flower - ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

Hibiscus flower – ©Tracy J Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

On Tuesday of this week the U.S. Surgeon General for the first time ever issued a call to action to prevent this disease. This warning is long overdue. Hopefully it will have a strong impact on how people think about UV exposure and the real threat it has on their health. I know it took my own diagnosis to shake up my world and clarify for me the real dangers of tanning, whether it be from the sun or in a tanning bed.

Please wear your sunscreen and those big, floppy, oh-so-sexy hats. Protect yourselves and the ones you love. Pale is definitely the new sexy.


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.


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.

 

 


Back From My Sabbatical With a Bang

It has been quite awhile since I last posted a blog entry here.  Following my illness I spent a lot of time playing catch up on all the work projects that help to put the bread and butter on the table.  Therefore I have not spent much time on either my photography or my writing.  I viewed my absence as a sabbatical of sorts.  An attempt to regroup my creative juices.

Estrogenius

However, wonders never cease in regards to the creative energy I have put out into the world over the past year.  This month two amazing things have come to fruition from those past creative moments.  The first was news that my essay from the Seal Press book “Dancing at the Shame Prom: Sharing the Stories That Kept Us Small” was chosen as one of 8 pieces to be adapted for a stage production at the 14th Annual Estrogenius Festival in New York City.  The piece is being directed by Ashley Marinaccio, Founder and Artistic Director of the amazing group “Girl Be Heard.”  The performance will be on October 21st at 7:30PM at Stage Left Studio, NYC.

Creatives Rising

The second bit of news occurs tonight in New York City.  One of my photographs is being projected onto the side of the 42 story Linc LIC building at 43-10 Crescent Street, NYC for the “Creatives Rising” event. My work will also be shown in the See.Me Gallery, 26-19 Jackson on Screen 8. The event runs from 6pm-12am tonight and beyond.

I’m hoping to move back into creative mode now that my work projects and busy life have equalized and hope to post more regularly again from this point forward.